That loud crowd

Read: Leviticus 15-17, Matthew 27:1-31

A crowd is contagious. At the moment, much of the world is currently wrapped up in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Once every four years, I watch winter sports. In the past few days, I have been wrapped up in snowboarding hearing terms like chicken salad, 1440, goofy-footed, McTwist, amplitude, and pretzels. I can talk about the sport like I actually know something about it—which I don’t. But I’m part of the crowd, cheering on anyone wearing a maple leaf whether I’ve heard of them or not. I have jumped on the Olympic bandwagon just like I do every other year.

A couple of thousand years ago, there was another crowd of bandwagoners. Whether they shared the opinion or not, a group of people gathered to shout and, eventually condemn an innocent man to death.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Matthew 27:22-23 (NIV)

I don’t know if the crowd just happened to be there, or if they awaited the annual customary release of a prisoner, or if they’d been paid to be there by members of the Sanhedrin. But they were there. They were loud. And none of them could answer Pilate’s question—at least not loud enough to be heard. They shouted for the sake of making noise and, because they were so loud, anyone who could have been able to speak against them was either drowned out or too afraid to speak out.

Still today, there are a lot of people out there making noise for no other reason than to make noise. They like the sound someone is making, so they join in the cacophony. If asked why they make noise, they just get louder.

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, where were all the people who had welcomed him into the city just days before? Where were all the people who had been healed and set free? Jesus was not to ineffective in his ministry that there would not have been enough people to speak up for him.

But Jesus was passive. He was quiet. We should emulate him.

Yes, we should be like Jesus. As much as possible, we should strive to be just like him. But this moment, during and after his arrest, was the only time when Jesus was quiet. He knew what he had to do and he had resigned himself to it without putting up a fight. At no other point in his ministry did Jesus ever sit down and keep to himself in the face of lies.

If you know the truth that could set someone free, why not shout it out? Even if the crowd is loud, we should be louder because we know why we shout. The Book that we hold in our hands is not mere platitudes, but it is life. If you would only step out of the shadows and speak up, perhaps another person would find the courage to do the same. And then another. And another. And soon, the crowd proclaiming the truth will be louder than the crowd making noise.

Church, we should never, ever let that loud crowd shame or bully us into keeping quiet.

All of my life in ev’ry season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

Brooke Ligertwood, Desert Song

The reason and reward

LOVE: In a general sense to be please with; to regard with affection, on account of some qualities which excite pleasing sensations or desire of gratification.

ENDURANCE:  Continuance; a state of lasting or duration; lastingness. A bearing or suffering; a continuing under pain or distress without resistance, or without sinking or yielding to the pressure; sufferance; patience.

What do love and endurance have to do with each other? Paul takes these two seemingly unrelated words and puts them together in a single statement.

May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God and the endurance that comes from Christ.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NLT)

Why would we need to have a deeper understanding of God’s love as well as endurance? Could it be that the two are not as unrelated as they would seem? As far as Paul is concerned, they go hand in hand.

As Christians, we should always be striving to have a deeper understanding of the love of God. After all, it’s the reason we’re Christians in the first place. Without God’s love, we are nothing.

So where does this endurance come into play?

In his letters to various churches, Paul has made it pretty clear that we can expect pressure in our walk with Christ. (If you never experience pressure because of your faith, you should probably rethink your faith.) Because of this pressure, we will require endurance, continuance, the ability to go through pain distress without sinking or yielding. Anyone who has no reason to endure pain or distress will most likely give up easily. Why bother if there is no reason or reward? But we have both reason and a reward to endure.

When we have that ever deeper understanding of the love of God, we have a reason to endure. We know what we have been rescued from and we know whom it was who rescued us. It is because of the love of God that we can endure. He is our reason. And, as we endure whatever trials the world may throw at us, we become stronger in God’s love and gain an even deeper understanding of who He is and all He has done for us. His love makes us stronger. His love is our reward.

Without a revelation God’s love, endurance is pointless. But as we are brought into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God, we understand why we must also know the endurance that comes from Christ.

He is our reason. He is our reward.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 3-4, 2 Thessalonians 3

One more reason

Since reading Ecclesiastes 5 several weeks ago, my outlook on work has changed. And not just a little bit, but drastically. To help you understand, allow me to explain my current work situation.

Some friends of mine from church own a cleaning business. Work started to get a little crazy, so they brought me on to help them out. Do I love to clean? Not at all. Ask my mother. But it’s a job with a paycheque and the whole starving artist thing can only work for so long.

We clean new construction only. Meaning we get new houses and apartments ready to be moved into after the build is complete. Our current contract can be explained as less than ideal. We’re working on the second of what will be a three building apartment complex. The first building is complete and occupied. The building we are in is supposed to be occupied in a couple of weeks. The roof was two months late getting on and, as a result, every other trade has been pushed back. But in an effort to maintain the move-in dates, everyone is working at the same time. Drywallers are tripping over painters who are working over carpet installers who are working around guys pouring concrete who are working beside men trying to finish the siding. I think you get the picture. It’s a gong show.

No one on site is really happy about the situation. Myself included. I’m the peon on site. The lowliest of all the trades. It’s my job to clean up the mess everyone else left behind. Almost every day, I hear from another trade that I shouldn’t be there. I know that and they know that, but I’m trying to do my job just like they are. I could very easily take offense. I could very easily allow the situation to frustrate me and get me down. But since reading Ecclesiastes 5:19, it all rolls off.

And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 (NLT)

I don’t take for granted this incredible gift that God has given me. Every day I walk on to the job site with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. (Most days those songs come out of my mouth, too—I’m pretty sure the site supervisor was laughing at me yesterday when he caught me singing to myself rather loudly.)

I’ve said all that to say this, God has given us so many reasons to praise Him. I praise Him daily because He has given me an inexplicable gift of joy that allows me to enjoy my work in what can be a rather hostile environment. And the reasons to praise Him keep on coming.

The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us everything he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God.

Ephesians 1:14 (NLT)

After all that God has done for us, He sent His Spirit as a guarantee that He will do all He has promised. I guess I have just one more reason… to praise our glorious God today! What’s your reason?

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 16-18, Ephesians 1

Power to the people

As a church leader, it always surprises me when I hear Christians say that they have no need of the local church. They’re good to worship God alone in the privacy of their own home. I don’t disagree with private and personal worship, but I strongly disagree with individuals distancing themselves from the group that Jesus himself ordained.

Reading through the Book of Acts, I am more and more convinced of the benefit as well as the need for Christians to be a part of a local body. In an article titled 4 Reasons Christians Need the Church, the following reasons are given:

  • We need other Christians. If you want to know what you believe, listen to what your friends say. The more time we spend around people who ridicule God, the more we allow their attitudes to affect our thoughts and attitudes. The more time we spend with God’s people and in His presence, the more like Jesus we become.

  • We need opportunities to discover our spiritual gifts, Every one of us has a skill God wants to use to help others know Him and follow Him. We will never uncover what God has equipped and called us to do if we don’t get involved.

  • We need authority. We don’t have to believe anything anyone tells us about God. He appointed men and women in the church to lead us and to teach us. God gave us the Bible and the church so we can know what’s from Him. Through the church’s authority structure, we can test and see what’s of God and what isn’t when we can’t tell on our own. When we’ve prayed, read the Bible and still aren’t sure what to do, the church is where we go for advice.

  • We never stop needing grace. Church people are not perfect people. No matter how long we’ve been following Jesus, we are going to screw up, fall short and sin. And when we do, we need a place where we can come to be healed, restored and renewed. That place is the church.

I believe there are a few other reasons why Christians need the church.

  • We need to see signs and wonders. That I can find, the Bible has no record of a single person going around performing miracles with absolutely no support system. Miracles, signs and wonders are always tied to a group of people serving God. When we see God move, our faith is stirred to see Him move in more and greater ways.
  • We need accountability. Try driving your car down road a dark night with no moon or stars, and no headlights to light your path. How long are you able to stay on the road? Our church family is there to help keep us on the road. Do we always like to be corrected? Certainly not! But it doesn’t mean we don’t need it. By walking out our faith together, we keep each other on the right path. Alone, people have the tendency to wander and get lost.

And finally:

  • There is great strength in numbers. Study revivals. Study the great evangelists of the modern era. When people gather with a common purpose, God moves in mighty ways. When God moves mightily, people will come to watch. Soon those people have been added to the Church and more people will come to see what’s happening. Yes, the church can grow by individuals discipling individuals. In fact, we need mentors. But we also need numbers. The Great Commission is not a solo project. It is a global project.

Meanwhile, the apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people… And more and more people were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came in from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.

Acts 5:12-16 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Esther 1-3, Acts 5:1-16

All the reasons why

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 (NLT)

In my life, I think I’ve been both Martha and Mary. I’ve been concerned about getting everything just so and complaining about the people who sit around seemingly doing nothing at all. And I’ve been the one sitting and drinking in what is being offered rather than running around making sure everything runs smoothly.

If you’re a Martha, you’re not necessarily wrong. Notice that Jesus didn’t rebuke her. He didn’t tell her that what she’d been doing was wrong. He told her that there were more important things.

If you’re a Mary, I believe that there are some times that we need to look to Martha for direction. But, Jesus knew he would only be with these people for a short time. He had to teach them as much as he could before his time on earth was up. Mary was right to pay as close attention to him as she did.

In our Christian walk, there is a time to emulate both of these women. If we act like Martha all the time, we can very easily fall into empty works. We get so busy doing that we can forget the reason why we’re doing it in the first place. If we act like Mary all the time, we risk becoming spiritual gluttons. If you’re always being fed and never doing the work, you become at fat and useless Christian because you will never be able to fulfil the Great Commission of bringing the Gospel to a lost world.

If you’re working, take a break to refresh yourself in the Word of God. If you’re being taught, go out and put what you’ve learned to work. Whether you’re Martha doing the work or Mary being taught, don’t let yourself forget all the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Daily Bible reading: Judges 18-19, Luke 10:25-42