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Christian Life, Commentary, Evangelism

When People Get in the Way

November 23, 2015

People are inconvenient. They keep you up late, stay longer than you’d like, talk louder than you want, don’t get what you’ve been trying to communicate, and cause a thousand other problems.  People are also who God loves, who he sent his Son for, and who we’re called to disciple, and it’s in those times of inconvenience that there is the most potential for God to work greatly. The question is, how will we respond in the moments when we’re inconvenienced and our plans have to be trashed?

Several days ago I listened to a great message from Christine Caine given at Bethel church on some lesser-observed pieces of Jesus’ feeding of the 5000. What she said sparked some thoughts that have caused me to reevaluate how I respond when I’m inconvenienced.

Here’s the scene: Jesus’ disciples have just returned from their first solo (and by solo I mean apart from Jesus, not alone) missionary trips. As usual the crowds are surround Jesus, asking for healing, wisdom, and whatever he’ll give. His disciples are working like crazy, so much so that they don’t even have time to eat. Remember, all this is immediately after their first missions trip. They’re wiped. Jesus, knowing his disciples are tired and in need of rest decides to escape away to somewhere that they can chill for awhile.

The people, however, have different ideas. When Jesus and the disciples arrive at their retreat spot all ready for some peace and quiet there are literally thousands of people waiting for them, clamoring for attention. Jesus and his team came expecting dinner and possibly a day or two or rest and peace. What they get is people. Inconvenient, plan-shattering, energy-sucking people.

Here’s where I want us to zoom in and watch closely. How do the disciples respond to this interruption? How does Jesus act? How should we respond when we encounter situations like this, albeit (most likely) on a smaller scale?

Mark writes,

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
Mark 6

The Disciple’s Reactions

We don’t get their initial response in Mark’s writing, but the way the disciples come to Jesus a bit later and drop not-so-subtle hints by saying, “This is a remote place…and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can get something to eat” speaks volumes.

They came for a retreat and for some rest. People are getting the way of this, so the disciples cunningly use the people’s hunger as an excuse to get what they want. “Jesus, the people are hungry. Send them away.” But who’s really hungry here? We see a few verses earlier that the disciples are the ones who haven’t even had time to eat. It’s probably safe to assume that at least some of the crowd had eaten whatever the last meal was and had thought about food on their way into this “remote place.”

Unlike Jesus the disciples are focused on themselves and their own plans and needs. These lenses only let them see the crowds as a problem that needs a solution – in this case, to be gotten rid of. To them the people are an inconvenience, and when people are seen through the lens of a problem to be solved or an inconvenience to be removed, we’re blinded to the places where God often does his greatest works.

Jesus’ Actions

In contrast, Jesus’ response to this “inconvenience” is compassion. He sees the crowd not through the lens of “what do I want” or “what are my plans,” but through the lens of the love that asks “What do others need?” and the faith which wants to know “What are God’s plans?”. For Jesus, the crowd isn’t a problem to be solved; it’s an opportunity for demonstrating the Father’s character and power.

Because he sees this “inconvenience” as an opportunity rather than a problem, a miracle happens. He submits to God’s changing of his plans and the disciples get see the glory of a God who provides abundantly for thousands.

The question for us is, whose perspective are we living with? The disciples’ or Jesus’? When inconveniences come our way are we living in the self-absorbed world of the disciples, eager to remove any obstacles to our plans and expectations for our lives and ministries? Or are we living in the faith and love of Christ and seeing through God’s eyes, viewing every inconvenience as an opportunity for God’s glory to shine through?

In his essay “On Chasing After One’s Hat,” G.K. Chesterton puts it well when he says,

Most of the inconveniences that make men swear or women cry are really sentimental or imaginative inconveniences–things altogether of the mind. For instance, we often hear grown-up people complaining of having to hang about a railway station and wait for a train. Did you ever hear a small boy complain of having to hang about a railway station and wait for a train? No; for to him to be inside a railway station is to be inside a cavern of wonder and a palace of poetical pleasures. Because to him the red light and the green light on the signal are like a new sun and a new moon. Because to him when the wooden arm of the signal falls down suddenly, it is as if a great king had thrown down his staff as a signal and started a shrieking tournament of trains… An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.

People are inconvenient. They’re slow to understand, they don’t follow expectations, want help with the most ridiculous things and don’t seem to grasp the simplest of truths. But people are who our Father has sent us to, and it’s in those inconvenient places that we are given a choice to focus on ourselves or to walk in love and faith.

Let’s be like Jesus, looking over the crowd with compassion. Let’s be the boy at the train station, full with wonder and expectation that God is in every crack just waiting to do something glorious. Next time someone gets in the way of your plans, follow God’s lead. See an adventure rather than an inconvenience. Who knows what will happen. You may end up feeding thousands.

Christian Life, Commentary, Spiritual Growth

Obedience vs Association

November 18, 2015

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.

Luke 11:27-28

Jesus’ response to this interruption teaches us something very important about what it takes to be a “blessed” person. “Blessed” here doesn’t necessarily mean saved. Jesus uses the same greek word in the beatitudes. This kind of blessing is more about having good fortune, being happy, and being in favor with God. And who doesn’t want that?

Blessed is the mother who gave you birth

Much like popular opinion seems to say today, the woman in the crowd assumes that blessedness comes by association. Jesus’ mother must be blessed because she knew Jesus so intimately and was relationally close to him. The frequent church attender must have a favor with God because they’re in his house regularly. The pastor must be blessed because he has a position that associates him closely with God.

Blessed are those who obey

Jesus, however, responds by declaring that the path to blessedness has little to do with association. Blessedness is determined by obedience. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

It’s not those who hang out with Jesus and are buddy-buddy with him that are blessed; it’s those who hear what he says and do it. It’s not the Bible knowledge guru that has favor with God; it’s the man or woman who acts in accordance with the little they know. According to Jesus it’s better to know little and obey much than to spend time with him every day without acting in accordance with his commands.

Do we hear the voice of God? Good. We’re halfway there. Now for the hard part. Do we obey?

If we aren’t obeying God’s word the world will never come to know Christ. Not only that, we will never know the blessedness of walking closely with our Lord. When Jesus says that blessedness comes from hearing and obeying we ought to do as Hebrews 12 urges us to do and cast aside anything that keeps us from running in the path of obedience.

It’s good to listen to Jesus, but it’s much better to obey. Christine Caine said it well in a recent Facebook post when she wrote, “If God instructs us to do something—whether through His Word, a prompting of the heart, or the words of a godly adviser—we must quickly obey. Obedience may be as simple as sending someone a note of encouragement, apologizing to a friend for being short with them, or even crossing the street to lend a helping hand. Let’s all make plans to take steps of obedience tomorrow.”

Amen. Let’s do it, and as we do so we will step into the blessedness that Jesus says is reserved for those who both hear and obey.

Commentary, Culture, Leadership, Threshingfloor, Verge, young adults

8 Things Learned in 8 Years of Young Adult Ministry

October 27, 2015

This fall, perhaps more than any previous, has gotten me thinking over the past. Threshingfloor celebrated five years of ministry to young adults in the Fargo-Moorhead area a couple months ago. In just over a month I turn 27. It was over eight years ago that I started ministering to young adults as we moved our little college-age/young adult Bible study from our church in Baxter to downtown Brainerd and watched it grow to something amazing. Since then I’ve done dorm-room Bible studies, spent countless hours developing leadership teams, discipling all manner of people, and launching disciple-making communities.

A few days ago as I thought back over the years, I noted down a long list of the things I’ve learned that might be helpful for others to know. After an hour or so of sifting and boiling things down, I’ve narrowed it down to 8 things, one for each year I’ve been working among young adults. Here they are.

  1. Deep community beats amazing production. Every time.

I can pull my iPhone out of my pocket and watch any show or movie I want at any time, contact people almost anywhere in the world, or enjoy any of the tens of thousands of incredibly well-produced apps that are available to every other American with a smart phone. Young adults don’t need (or, in many cases, even want) a great production or another event. Our hearts long for deep community where people truly know each other, engage with the hard issues in life, and work together to make the world a better place.

2. Always try new things.

One of the best ways to keep young adults engaged is to try constantly be trying something new. Better yet, let them try something new. Whether it’s a new “experimental” style of Sunday school, launching a new service, starting a new community in a different part of town, or simply a different take on a section of scripture, most young adults are quick to get on board with something that’s new. Take advantage of that.

3. Have high expectations and make them clear.

As you invite young adults to join in and take leadership roles (or any role), make it clear that your expectations for them are high. Make it clear means telling them face-to-face what you expect and repeating it frequently. For those in leadership roles it’s best to have them sign some sort of agreement so that they know what’s expected of them and when. By putting the bar high you’ll inspire many to reach levels they didn’t even know they could. I’ve been consistently impressed with the amount of time, energy, and passion that our leaders – all of whom are volunteers – put into their communities and disciple-making. Having the expectations spelled out explicitly also gives a platform to have the hard conversations when people aren’t meeting them.

4. Prepare to be disappointed but don’t lose hope.

Of course, it doesn’t always go how you want it to. People will inevitably fall short, stumble back into sin for the fortieth time, or act like twelve year olds who aren’t getting their way. Prepare your heart to be disappointed in a way that keeps you from losing hope. It’s ok to be frustrated at people’s slowness (Jesus was!), to be tired of dealing with the same issues, and to long for something more. Just don’t lose hope. God is always working, even in the midst of apparent failure.

5. Trust the Holy Spirit

How do we know God’s working, even in those times of disappointment? Because he’s sent his Holy Spirit. Rather than clamping down and trying to control the difficult situations and people, throw yourself into prayer and trust that the Holy Spirit can work in young adult’s hearts too.

Time and again I’ve been ready to write someone off as too stubborn or just scrap the ministry and start over. The Holy Spirit has always intervened in those moments, working transformation in my heart and the hearts of those around me. Trust him.

6. Teach, demonstrate, and coach.

The postmodern wants no teaching because it’s too authoritarian. The professional wants no demonstration because it’s too time consuming. The attender wants no coaching because it’s too invasive. Jesus, however, clearly demonstrates all three all throughout his discipleship of the twelve.

Take the time to teach your people, but make sure that you’re actually demonstrating what you teach. Don’t teach on evangelism if you’re not going to go out and demonstrate what evangelism looks like. Don’t do a study on prayer if you’re not going to demonstrate prayer in your own life. Then after demonstration, coach your people until they are able to do what you’ve demonstrated. Don’t move on to the next subject until the teaching has become living.

7. Knowledge doesn’t cause change.

Coaching is so important. In a world where information abounds it’s becoming increasingly clear that knowing more about something doesn’t always change you. A six month curriculum on financial responsibility doesn’t guarantee that the attendees will use their money wisely. It’s in the doing – in the developing of new habits and practices – that the life change comes. Focus on and celebrate obedience more than understanding.

8. Vision matters more than rules.

In a back alley near downtown Fargo, in angular, hasty letters someone spray-painted, “I follow dreams, not rules.” That phrase captures the heart of most young adults today. They are ready and willing to leave their job, city, and even their friends and family if their hearts are captured by a vision. They’re willing to change their habits if they catch a glimpse of what life on the other side looks like.

Rather than emphasizing rules and “thou shalt”s, paint pictures of what life will be on the other side. Rather than hammering, “you need to read your Bible more,” declare and demonstrate the joy of connecting daily with the Creator. Instead of bludgeoning people towards purity, give them a vision of the joy and freedom of walking in step with God’s plan.

 

 

Those are eight of the many, many things I’ve learned in my eight plus years working with teens and young adults. Did any of them resonate with you? What have you learned in your time working with millennials? Share it in the comments!

Best Of, Christian Life, Commentary, Relationships

Love Promoter

October 19, 2015

We Christ-followers should be known for our love. Known for the way insults and offenses simply slide off of us. Known for our imperturbable friendship. Sadly more often than not we’re known for our bigotry, bias, judgment, and being easily offended.

Let’s take a moment and soak in the wisdom of the words from Proverbs 17:

Whoever promotes love covers over an offense,
but he who repeats the matter separates close friends. (NIV)

Or, put another way,

Whoever conceals an offense promotes love,
but whoever gossips about it separates friends. (HCSB)

Which are you going to operate as today? A love promoter or a friend separator?

Follow the leader. Take your cues from Jesus. He paid with his own life to silence Satan’s repetitions of our sins, casting them away beyond anyone’s reach, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103).

Jesus’ primary act of love wasn’t his healing or his teaching; it was his covering of our offenses. In the same way, your ultimate act of love today will be the way you pass over the offenses that come against you.

Let’s learn how to let the small frustrations go and instead find joy in Christ. Let’s learn how to address the big issues honestly and then forgive them, covering them with grace for the sake of love, never bringing them up again. Let’s become the kind of people who others know they can entrust themselves to as close friends.

When that happens they can’t help but meet Jesus. Let’s be love promoters, not friend separators. In Jesus’ name.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Discipleship, Evangelism, Theology

God On Mission

October 14, 2015

The Father didn’t send Jesus on vacation; he sent him on a mission. Throughout his adult life, Jesus had a goal. He wasn’t dropped randomly in an inconsequential place at an inconsequential time. Quite the opposite. Jesus was sent on a mission by God the Father “at just the right time,” and he was sent “not to be served, but to serve.” After his resurrection Jesus appears to his disciples and says to them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21) Wonder of wonders, he says to his disciples that they’re being sent in the same way that he was, on a mission.

Jesus wasn’t doing something new in his mission-oriented life. From the very beginning – even before the fall and sin – God has been on mission. His goal: that the earth be “full of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” or, to put it as he did to his image bearers Adam and Eve, “be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” Jesus, however, gives us an extended, up close, and truly human glimpse of what it looks like when God shows up on mission.

I want to take the next several paragraphs and zoom in on a specific scene from Jesus’ life that I believe gives a beautiful picture of God on mission in all it’s wild and frightening strangeness. From this scene we’ll see six things that are always present when God is on mission. The characters: Jesus and twelve young men – a few fishers, a tax collector, a zealot, and some others. The scene: rural Israel in the first century.

 

Read the full post at the Verge Ministries blog

Christian Life, Commentary, Spiritual Growth

Blessed Is

August 17, 2015

Whether or not you’re having a good day/week/month/life is a matter of perspective. If you’re judging your life by comparing it to those around you, you’re setting yourself up for a roller coaster that will flail you from satisfaction to frustration a few times a day, and that’s no fun, even if you are someone who likes roller coasters. It’s also not what God has in mind for his people. We aren’t supposed to be tossed around by the waves and winds of fortune (James 1). Our evaluation of whether life is going well or not isn’t meant to be based on the same criteria used by the world around us. Quite the opposite. Our criteria for evaluating whether or not our life is a “blessed” one is meant to be grounded on the solid rock of Christ – anchor in the storm, oasis in the desert.

We need a new perspective on blessedness. Listen to David’s definition of blessedness;

Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
Psalm 32:1-2

Have you been forgiven? Has Jesus covered your sins? Has the Father put away all condemnation and instead seated you with himself in heavenly places (Eph 3)? If so, you’re blessed, regardless of what else is going on in your life. You’re living the good life, regardless of circumstances.

More to do at work than you can possibly achieve in your 8 hours a day? You’re blessed, Jesus is with you in the midst. Lost your job and having trouble finding a new one? You’re blessed, God’s working good for you. People making fun of you, talking behind your back, and persecuting you? You’re blessed and they are making deposits in your eternal reward (Matthew 5:12).

Whether or not you’re having a good day/week/month/minute/hour/life is a matter of perspective. Don’t settle for any perspective other than God’s about the state of your life.
Preach yourself into this perspective of blessedness; “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”

Why ride the roller coaster when you can sit in peace and in the place you have already been given in Christ, seated at the right hand of God in the pure light of blessedness? Regardless of what takes place today, you’re blessed. Believe it.

Christian Life, Commentary, Discipleship

The Voice of God

June 29, 2015

A disciple-maker’s greatest task is to help the people they are discipling hear God’s voice and do what He says. The goal isn’t to fill people with exhaustive knowledge of the Bible or get them to lead a city-impacting ministry. It’s to bring them into a space where they can encounter God and get to know him on a level where they are able to discern His voice and obey His commands.

Samuel was one of the great men of the history of Israel as both judge and prophet, one of the few that remained faithful throughout his whole life. God anointed David as king through Samuel’s ministry, restored Israel to worshiping the true God, and judged the nation. None of those things would have taken place if it hadn’t been for the instruction he received in his childhood that helped him discern the voice of God.

In 1 Samuel 3, Samuel, still a boy, lies down to sleep in his usual place in the temple. As he’s lying there a voice calls his name. Thinking it’s Eli, his master, he runs to Eli and asks what he wants. Eli tells Samuel to go lay back down – he didn’t call him.

The voice calls a second time, and Samuel again runs to Eli to ask what it was that he wanted. Eli sends him back to bed. Then it happens a third time, and Eli realizes something bigger is going on. “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” (1 Sam. 3:7)

It’s not until Eli tells Samuel that it’s the Lord calling him that Samuel is able to identify God’s voice. Samuel listens to Eli and believes him. The next time he hears the voice he responds by saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” and the Lord declares the first of many prophecies to Samuel.

This incident is the launching pad for Samuel’s ministry. Eli’s brief instruction apparently reveals the word of the Lord to Samuel and enables him to discern God’s leading for his life – a leading that shapes the course of Israel and ultimately leads to the messianic line being established.

Teach the people who you are discipling to discern God’s voice and obey; his voice both in the written word and the word that he so often speaks to us through the Holy Spirit on a day-to-day basis. As we and those we are discipling learn to hear, discern, and obey, we will encounter God in massive new ways that will radically shape our future and the futures of the people around us.

The goal of discipleship isn’t to get people to do what you want them to do or be who you think they should be. It’s to empower and release them to do what God has called them to do. Let’s be that kind of disciple maker.

Christian Life, Commentary, Theology

Reason and Mysticism

June 15, 2015

What strange kind of man spends days sitting around reasoning and debating, giving cogent arguments for his position, and then goes all mystic one night, has a vision, and lets that direct where he lives and what he does for the next 18 months?

The kind of guy who is like the Apostle Paul.

Acts 18 starts with Paul in Corinth, spending his days off work in the synagogue reasoning and debating, giving argument for the truth of the Gospel. After a couple weeks of resistance from the Jews, Paul moves next door to a non-Jewish guy’s house and continues preaching. One night God speaks to Paul in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”

Because of the vision Paul stays in Corinth for a year and a half.

Are we prepared for both of those things? Would we be able to reason and debate? Would we be able to receive a vision from God and obey?

Our modern world has pitted reason against mysticism. Someone who believe in miracles, visions, angels, and demons must be unreasonable. The woman of science and logic must inevitably reject the supernatural as something that never existed or perhaps existed back in the times of Jesus.

We need to break down that false dichotomy. We need a new framework – a new plausibility structure – that can encompass both the miraculousness of the resurrection and visions from the Lord that are meant to guide our day-to-day life as well as the depth of logical thought and reasoning that can lay out why the Gospel makes sense.

I want so much to be a person that bridges the gap that satan has driven into the heart of the church that separates the “charismatic” from the “evangelical” and the gifts of the Spirit from the word of God. Let’s be rid of the lie that separates truth from power and logic from passion.

I want to be someone who knows when to leverage reasoning and mental powers that God has gifted his people with and when to simply say yes and obey a dream or vision that God has given.

It’s that kind of person that Jesus formed his disciples into in the first century as they followed him from town to town and village to village, with him repeating over and over again “I only do what the Father tells me to.” That’s the kind of person that Paul was. That’s the kind of person that will be fully equipped to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel boldly in a society that is increasingly devoid of the trappings of Christendom and firmly against Christians.

I’m praying for it for myself, for Threshingfloor, and for God’s people across this country and world.

Best Of, Christian Life, Commentary, Spiritual Growth

Search Among the Dead

June 8, 2015

In Luke 24 a few of the women that had been following Jesus, including Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ mother, go on the morning after the Sabbath to embalm Jesus’ body using spices, as was the Jewish tradition in that time. They arrive to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. As they stand and wonder what in the world happened (Did someone steal Jesus’ body? Why? Who would do such a thing?) Suddenly two angels show up on the scene and ask a very important but often overlooked question;

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

– Luke 24:6-7

After the angels ask them this question the women remember Jesus’ words about his resurrection and return to tell the disciples, with no little excitement, that Jesus was alive.

The question that the angels ask the women at Jesus’ tomb is a question God is asking you today. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? Don’t you remember what Jesus told you?”

 

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

On a human level the women there at Jesus’ tomb had good reason to linger, search, and wonder what had happened. The situation made no sense and looked like the work of grave robbers desecrating their friend and son’s corpse. On a human level it was another thing to mourn.

We too often have an abundance of reasons to linger among the graves of our past failures, wounds, and struggles, mourning what we have or haven’t done and what has and hasn’t been done to us. For the man whose father never showed affection, the natural reaction is to let that shape expectations for rejection in the present. For the woman who has gone through failed relationship after failed relationship, it’s natural to look back on those gravestones and feel the overwhelming thought that she is the problem that can never be fixed.

But we serve a God who isn’t confined to a human level. He’s not satisfied with his people operating on a human level either, to the point where he will send two supernatural beings to rebuke the women at Jesus’ tomb for their lingering at the grave. Catch that – God is rebuking the women for lingering at their son, friend, and leader’s grave. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

These woman should have known better. We should know better. They’d been with Jesus for years now, heard him teach, seen him raise people from the dead, heal the deathly ill, walk on water, and so much more. We’ve been with Jesus for years now and have seen him transform lives, heal, restore, and faithfully shepherd us through every trial. Why do we linger among the graves? That’s not where Jesus is! He’s had a plan all along, in every trial and every darkest moment, it’s been according to plan. We just need to remember.

 

Remember how he told you

“He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’”

We, like the women at Jesus’ tomb, need to bring to mind the words that God has spoken to us. Jesus had explicitly told them multiple times that he was going to die and that he was going to rise again. Heck, he’d even given them the timeline (“on the third day…”). They shouldn’t have had to stand around in the graveyard pondering – they should have connected the dots and begun rejoicing!

Just as Jesus made promises to his disciples about his resurrection, God has made promises to each of his people about his plan for their lives. Remember, he said

  • Everything will work out for your good. (Romans 8:28)
  • He will provide for every need you have (Philippians 4:19)
  • We will live eternally (John 10:27-28)
  • He will be with us all the time (Matthew 28:20)

and so much more! Remember what he’s told you. When you find yourself lingering on failures, wounds, and struggles, call to mind what God has promised. We can, like Jesus, go with confidence into situations where we are rejected, abused, and even killed if we will remember.

When we remember what he’s told us it won’t be possible to search among the dead and the gravestones any more. In our excitement we’ll join the women of Luke 24, drop our burdens, and run to tell others the amazing news of what has happened.

Jesus has gone before us and purchased for us the fulfillment of every one of the Father’s promises to us. He’s spoken them over you and speaks them over you every moment of every day. Stop trying to find life among the dead. Leave that graveyard behind. Remember what he told you. Jesus has risen, and we shall indeed have life in him – life to the fullest. Leave the graveyard with joy and proclaim to all the good news of this glorious Gospel!

Christian Life, Commentary, Spiritual Growth

Draw Near and Listen

March 18, 2015

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.

Ecclesiastes 5:1

 

We are quick to sacrifice for God, probably because we assume that that’s what he wants. We think the thing that will most honor and please the Lord is us giving up our time to “go to the house of God,” whether that be spending time in church, reading the word, serving the poor, or an action that is considered God-glorifying.

The writer of Ecclesiastes challenges the assumption that God primarily wants something from us when he declares that “to draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools”. According to Ecclesiastes 5:1 God doesn’t want something from us, He has something for us.

We are to come to the house of God to listen and to receive, not to give. As Psalm 40 declares, sacrifices and offerings aren’t what God’s after. He’s the one who create. He’s the own who owns all things. He’s the one who is infinitely rich, powerful, joyful, and satisfied. He doesn’t need some foolish offering from us. Our time, money, energy, and even our worship ultimately don’t add anything to God. Those things, though good, aren’t the true core of what he’s after.

What he wants is people who will come before him and listen to his voice. He wants us to enter in to his presence and enjoy companionship with him. As we sit there, in the house and presence of God, love is planted and grows like the mustard-seed kingdom of heaven into a plant that bears the fruit of spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God rather that the sacrifice of fools.

Since the gathering of our Threshingfloor community last Thursday I committed to let the 75% of my prayer time that I normally spend talking be replaced with listening. It’s been so good so far. The peace that is poured out by the Holy Spirit when we take time to draw near and simply listen in the Father’s presence is exactly what so many of us need in our chaotic lives.

Let’s sit down and shut up for awhile. It’s better to drawn near to listen than it is to be constantly offering stuff to God. Let’s be the people who carve out time to come before God not as fools but as blessed sons and daughters who delight in their Father. We won’t be disappointed.