Mutual, I’m sure

Everyone wants a label. A title. We want to be called by a name that defines us. That announces us. That lets everyone else know who and what we are. If someone doesn’t have a label, we immediately want to give them one. A singer. A banker. A president. A streetwalker. An addict. A hero. Once given, we are usually disinclined to offer another label unless that person makes a grievous error or heroic effort. Then the original label is nearly impossible to get back.

While being known for one big thing is not an issue, carrying multiple labels tends to be. It’s confusing. Are you one thing or are you the other? Honestly, we can all be, and should all be, more than just one thing.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

John 13:14-17 (NIV)

Through his teaching, Jesus gave his disciples all sorts of contradictory labels. Be a teacher, but be a student. Be bold, but be humble. Be a leader, but be a servant. Matthew Henry said that duties are mutual; we must both accept help from our brethren, and afford help to our brethren. 

By disrobing, getting down on his knees, and washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus displayed for all of us the example that a man can be both a leader and a servant. His entire ministry, he was leading people to serve. These things are not exclusive, but as Matthew Henry stated, mutually inclusive. All of these things that may seem contradictory are in reality complimentary.

One cannot teach without a willingness to learn. One cannot be bold without truly knowing what it is to be humble. One cannot lead unless they understand how to follow.

We can call Jesus Lord, and that wouldn’t be wrong. Neither would it be incorrect to call him Savior or Son of God. But we cannot stop there. Jesus doesn’t fit under just one label, but many. He is also a servant to mankind. He is a follower of his Father. And because Jesus did, so that we may follow his example, so should we be called by many things, and possibly the greatest of which being servants.

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.

Matthew 20:26 (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 7-9, John 13:1-17

Close the gap

For thousands of years there have been gaps between generations. The younger ones always assume that the older ones have never gone through what they’re going through. They’re all alone in their experiences with no one to guide them through it. But if every generation feels that way, wouldn’t it stand to reason that they actually know exactly how you feel?

My younger friends poke fun at me all the time because most of my social circle is made up of women at least twice my age. While one can’t help but see age when you’re looking at wrinkles and white hair, I see more. I see myself surrounded by people who have lived. They’ve experienced. They’ve learned so much more than I have and possibly ever will. Each person has a different life experience, but we can learn from all of them. When I’m sitting in a room full of old ladies and spinning wheels, I’m in a room full of centuries of lessons learned. I’d be a fool not to take advantage of them.

A long time ago, there was a young king who failed to see the wisdom in listening to the counsel of his elders.

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his life time. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.

1 Kings 12:6-8 (NIV)

Rehoboam, a young king, foolishly rejected the counsel of the men who had advised his father, Solomon. He chose not to follow the words of the men who had worked closest to the wisest man to ever live. Instead, he chose to take the advice of his buddies—probably as excited as Rehoboam to flex this newfound power.

If you are of a younger generation, do not scorn the advice of your elders. They may not have lived through the exact thing you are living through right now, but they have lived. Some things don’t have to be experienced directly for wisdom to be gained. Spend time with, listen to, and ask questions of those who have lived longer than you.

If you are of an older generation, don’t write off the kids and young punks. If you don’t teach them, who will? It is the responsibility of every generation to teach and train the ones to follow. The simple fact that you have lived means that you have something to give. So give it. Keep communication open between you and those younger than you. You may even learn something yourself.

Read: 1 Kings 12-13, Luke 24:36-53

Teach. Pray.

It is our duty as believers to pray for one another and to pray for the Church. Prayer is good and it is right, but it cannot take the place of teaching.

Near the end of Samuel’s life, he has a heart-to-heart with Israel. He’s been their spiritual Father for many years. He’d made his fair share of mistakes. So had Israel. But at this point in time, Israel was on the road to repentance. What Samuel really wanted to do at times was walk away from them as a parent might wish to walk away from a belligerent child who just can’t seem to learn his lesson. But because the Lord was faithful to Israel, Samuel would be, too.

He encourages the people to set aside all idols and worship God alone. He tells—he teaches—Israel the right way in going about life as God’s chosen people. Prayer is all fine and good, but if someone is never taught the right way to do something, their chances of getting it right are slim. In addition to praying for them, Samuel chose to tell Israel what to do.

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.

1 Samuel 12:23-24 (NIV)

And he prayed that God would help them to do what is right.

Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Obedience and faithfulness must first be taught. To neglect teaching it to remain ignorant and immature.

Then we must pray that those lessons we have learned take root and grow and become fruitful. Once we learn what God says and how He says it, our prayers allow us to hear His voice so that He can continue to train us in the way we should go.

Read: 1 Samuel 10-12, Luke 13:22-35

Lessons learned

There are many ways that people learn. Some learn in certain ways better than others or by a combination of methods. Some of these methods are:

  1. reading
  2. speaking
  3. hearing

I was homeschooled in my early years. Once I could read on my own, I could go off, read my lessons, and complete my assignments. I still love learning through reading.

Once I began public school, I learned that not everyone could be so easily self-taught. Some of my peers struggled through silent reading time. There were kids in my class who had to hear the lesson in order to retain the information. And there were students who had to repeat main points back to the teacher to ensure that they grasped the concept. And there were some still who used a combination of these things, as well as others, to learn.

In the days of Moses and Joshua, silent reading was almost unheard of. When the Book of the Law was read, it was read aloud.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

Do you know that only 19 percent of churchgoing Christians read the Bible daily? (A Christian is considered to be churchgoing by attending church just 3 of 8 weeks.) It is no wonder that the Word of God has so little power in our lives.

Consider this, if every professing Christian were to read a portion of the Bible every day, how would you expect the world to change? If we all read the scriptures out loud, would there be even greater change?

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17 (NIV)

If just over 7 percent of Christians read their Bibles daily, it is no wonder the church has lost its influence on society. It is no wonder we are perceived as weak hypocrites.

There is a reason why God was so emphatic about Joshua keeping the Book of the Law near him.

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

Joshua 1:7 (NIV)

Our success, both personally and as the body of Christ, I believe, is based entirely on our grasp of the Word of God. Most Christians have never seen a move of God. They don’t even know what it’s supposed to look like because they’ve never read or heard about it. The more I read about all that God has done, all the miracles Jesus performed, the power that came with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the more I crave those things. I yearn to see God move the way He did in the days of the early church.

Our mouths are required for a move of God. We need to open up our mouths and pray. We need to speak the Word of God with boldness and courage. We won’t see the Word come to pass until the Word passes our lips.

Read: Joshua 1-3, Luke 1:57-80

He learned

Jesus, while he walked the earth, being completely God, was also completely man. And, being a human, he was susceptible to all the things we humans are, too. He had to learn the same things we have to learn. Even obedience.

Look at a toddler. No one has to tell you that a small human being needs to learn to be obedient. Left to our own devices, we will make poor choices doing whatever we want whenever we want to do it. But, learning to be obedient to our parents and those in authority over us also teaches us how to make better decisions and makes us far more useful than a selfish toddler prone to tantrums.

So even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.

Hebrews 5:8 (NLT)

In an earlier verse in this same chapter of Hebrews, the writer talks about the high priest in the temple and how, because he suffered the same things that everyone else did, he could deal with the people and their sins with more grace. He endured the very same things. In order for Jesus to be able to extend grace to us, he had to experience what we experience. And he did. He was bombarded with the same temptations we face every day. The only difference is that he did not succumb to them.

In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.

Hebrews 5:9 (NLT)

If Jesus, as a human being, was able to learn to be obedient—even unto death—so we too, can learn obedience. We have the Master to learn from. Jesus, who learned perfect obedience, is waiting as our High Priest both to forgive our sins and to teach us to avoid them altogether. The requirement on our part is to get close to Jesus. Spend time with him. Mature in our relationship with him. Be more like him.

If he learned, we can learn to.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 49-50, Hebrews 5

Tell me about it

When was the last time you got excited about something you experienced? For me, it was last weekend. My football team won. And not only did they win, they kicked butt. They walked all over my pastor’s favourite team. This was no ordinary win, either. This win marked the first time in several years that my team didn’t have a losing record. Our wins and losses for the season are currently tied. Halfway through this season, they’ve now tied the number of wins they had all last season. I was pretty excited. So what did I do? The next day, I donned my jersey, my team-coloured flip flops, my team cap and bandana. I waltzed into church and waited. I knew my pastor would notice. We’ve got quite the rivalry going—especially since his team had played the first seven games of this year undefeated. He noticed. I didn’t have to say much, my clothing and smirk got the point across.

My point in all this? I experienced something exciting. I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to let people know that my team isn’t a losing team anymore.

If I can get that excited over a bunch of grown men throwing a ball and launching themselves at each other, how much more excited should we all get over eternal salvation? When something good or exciting happens, we should talk about it! We should let everyone know!

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts.

Psalm 145:4 (NLT)

It may be in style for parents to let their kids make all their decisions on their own, but where does that get you? Kids make poor choices. You don’t even have to be a parent to know that. How do kids learn to make good choices? Their parents tell them. They talk about good choices. They talk about the rewards that come with making good choices. Their parents lead them and guide them along the path that leads to a good, healthy, and prosperous life.

There may be those that would say loud proclamations aren’t for the Church. We should be humble and quiet.

Praise the Lord!

How good it is to sing praises to our God!
How delightful and how right!

Psalm 147:1 (NLT)

Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue;
I will proclaim your greatness.
Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness;
they will sing with joy of your righteousness.

Psalm 145:6-7 (NLT)

How will the world ever hear about all the good things God has done if we refuse to tell them? I believe that the measure we talk about what God has done will be the same measure in which we will experience God. The more we talk about miracles, the more we expect to see miracles. But if we never talk about it, how will we ever learn to expect it?

All of your works will thank you, Lord,
and your faithful followers will bless you.
They will talk together about the glory of your kingdom;
They will celebrate examples of your power.
They will tell about your mighty deeds
And about the majesty and glory of your reign.

Psalm 145:10-12 (NLT)

If God has done something, anything, in your life, talk about it. Ask others what God has done in their lives. Talk about it. Boldly share the story of God’s wonderful goodness and just see if you experience more.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 145-147, 1 Corinthians 11:1-15

 

Come Ye Sinners

The Church is great. The Church is growing. We’ve got mega churches! We’ve got satellite churches. We’ve got multi-site churches. The Church is great. Fantastic. Never been better.

So then why did I hear just this week about someone who was afraid to come into a church building for a function because of the things that person had done? What has the Church done to make sinners believe that they are unwelcome in a church?

Because the church has made sinners unwelcome.

I’ve also heard of a local church that insists that any homeless person who wishes to attend a service has to sit in a different room where the message is streamed on a screen. We wouldn’t want to offend the regular members, would we?

Have we lost the focus of what church is all about? Church is all about sinners. People who were sinners and have found salvation and people who are still sinners who are looking for salvation. The Church, in many cases, has effectively cut off the supply that that Lord has given us.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
for with the Lord there is unfailing love
and an overflowing supply of salvation.

Psalm 130:7 (NLT)

Where is this supply of salvation for the lost? Where is this supply of salvation for the lonely? Why has the Church hoarded it for themselves?

If we have been so greatly pardoned, why would we not want to lead others to receive that very same pardon?

Lord, if you keep a record of our sins,
who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
that we might learn to fear you.

Psalm 130:3-4 (NLT)

As often as we can, we should be flinging wide the doors of the church calling to the hurt, the lost, the lonely, and the sinners.

Come ye sinners the poor and needy
Weak and wounded sick and sore
And Jesus ready stands to save you
Full of pity love and power

Come ye weary heavy laden
Lost and ruined by the fall
And if you tarry until you’re better
You will never come at all

Come Ye Sinners, Dan Hamilton | Joseph Hart | Robbie Seay | Ryan Owens | Taylor Johnson

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 128-131, 1 Corinthians 7:25-40