08 April 2010

Humility is the Freedom in Which God’s Glory Flourishes

I Peter 5:6-11

 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The last 24 hours have been a whirlwind that taxed my physically and spiritually. Conflict resolution is a part of life, and yes it is part of the church. But to see God work so gloriously in the lives of people who take scripture as their guide, and submit to the authority of Christ in their lives is so totally inspiring, I looked forward to the extra time and effort required to make my rounds with great joy.

That being said, I never take counseling lightly. One simply can't. As an emissary of God's word, a re-teller if you will of the biblical principles that God has outlined in scripture as our life's guidelines, all I can do is my absolute best to maintain the biblical standard that God has set. I have learned that to be effective at this, or for that matter to be effective at anything you would do on behalf of the Lord is what Peter begins with here in this section of scripture today. You must humble yourself.

Few things are more problematic than a mentor or leader giving direction to another when what they are saying comes off as arrogant or condescending. When that happens you may as well be speaking gibberish or in a tongue that no one understands (with no interpretation) because no one is going to hear what you say. Oh, they'll hear you speaking. They'll know that you are talking. But the words that you are sharing and the supposed guidance you are trying to give will be most likely ignored.

One thing I try to constantly reiterate when counseling is that all counseling is about restoration. That has to be the goal; restoration of relationships with others, and even more importantly restoration of our relationship to God. Why is this so? Well, for the obvious reason that we all need to feel that closeness of our Lord and most especially in times of need. But more importantly, that no matter what path we take, or what path the Lord leads, so that HE might get all the glory.

Peter tells us to cast our cares onto Him. To humble ourselves. To be sober and vigilant. All these things are required to have God lead you, and receive the glory for the work that has been done to and through us. How can God be glorified if we take the credit? How can God be glorified is we are bragging about our role in the restoration? How can God get the glory of He has called us to lead in an area and we drop the ball? If we are carrying the weight of all the problems that jump in front of us in the world today, or all the weight of those brothers and sisters that confide in you for help, how is that casting your cares of Him? Will that bring God the glory of we are carrying the burden? No.

As Peter says, when we get into a place like that we are ripe for the picking. If you are old enough to remember Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, there are two things that stand out in my mind about that show. One is Marlin Perkins side kick always having to do the dirty work like jumping out of flying helicopters onto a running moose or something. Ugh. The other thing is that the slow, wounded, hurt animals were the ones that got eaten by the other animals first. If we are not healthy, we are ripe for the roaring lion to pick us off one by one. We have a roaring Lion in Jesus; the Lion of Judah. The enemy can act like a roaring lion, but he can never be one. Seek that protection from the King of the Jungle, the real King of Kings in Jesus. In Him is our only protection.

Pride comes before the fall. Humility is a quality that Jesus can use. Give it to Him, and He will.


07 April 2010

Open Heart, Eyes to See

Luke 23:34

"Then Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.' And they divided His garments and cast lots."

This past Sunday for our Easter service we took a look at the characters that were present at the crucifixion. There were about 18 or so groups or individuals there, and I felt like the Lord wanted me to focus on the crowd, their reaction, and we as individuals and the church corporate relate to that crowd. Chances are, we would have been one of those in the crowd either jeering at Jesus, or just wondering what to do. But personally, I was intrigued by two people at the scene and these are the only two that made professions of faith. The Centurion, and the thief on the cross.

All throughout scripture, there is one theme that comes out a couple of times in the gospels. This is when Jesus looks at the crowds of people and we are told that He has compassion for them. This compassion reigned throughout all of Jesus life. Jesus told us that He would be with us 'even unto the end of the age', and proved His willingness to do just that as He showed compassion on those who nailed Him to the cross, and most especially to the repentant thief.

The Centurion had a lot more to go on. He was there from the trial to the crucifixion. He was able to observe Jesus through the whole process, for a great deal of the time probably just trying to get into Jesus head a little bit. What is this guy thinking not answering the questions? Unaware of how deeply Jesus was delving into the soul of Pilate in his quest for truth. Being a Roman, a passive path towards conquering is not in his vocabulary. The very idea of doing nothing in the face of aggression was completely foreign to his nature. But then again, seeing one lay down His life so that another might live, or so that a Kingdom might be furthered made complete sense to him. That, reinforced with the fact that the skies went dark, and the earth shook violently as Jesus death gave the Centurion faith to believe.

But what did the thief have? What drove the thief, who knew he was guilty of a crime punishable by crucifixion, what did he do or see that caused him, unlike his cohort in crime, to cry out for mercy, and see Jesus for who He was?

The thief had no prior interaction or knowledge of Jesus. All indications seem to show that he and the other thief were already on the cross when Jesus got there. The thief also saw the darkened sky (that we always assume is a thunderstorm), and felt the earthquake. But all this happened after the Jesus committed his spirit unto the Father, and more importantly, after he had made his profession of faith. So what could have convinced this particular thief that Jesus was his salvation? It can only be one thing: The very words of Jesus.

Dying an agonizing death of crucifixion, one is in pain beyond measure just to take another breath, let alone speak full sentences or carry on small conversations. The thief knew this because he was living it (or dying from it whichever way you look at it). But he was able to look over at another human being, going through the same torture as he was and see a loving and forgiving heart. And that was what convinced the thief that this man had already overcome all the evil that was thrown against Him. Not only that, facing the same outcome, he wanted some of that for himself.

They were jeering at Jesus, spitting at Him, had beat Him beyond recognition, cursed Him, blasphemed Him and probably every other vile thing you can think of. And then as He hung there dying, He prayed to the Father, "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do." The thief is thinking how can any man ask for forgiveness for the people who had done what they had done to Jesus?

In a similar fashion to what the Centurion experienced: His heart was ready. Scripture tells us that the Centurion "looked upon Jesus" or "saw Jesus" or "saw what had happened" (Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23), the thief listened to Jesus, and saw Jesus, even nailed to the cross 'walking the walk' of true Christianity. Forgiveness is more powerful than anything you might know, because true forgiveness requires pure unadulterated, uninhibited uncompromising love.

I want to present to you the idea that humble forgiveness in the face of your enemy, even when they are fully wrong, may be the best witness you can ever show of Jesus. On Golgotha it converted two men from lives that could not be father from seeking God then they were when that day began. But the moral to the story is: nothing works unless your heart is prepared to hear, see and act upon God. And that's your choice. Out humility and tenderness in our witnessing is important. Never, never compromise truth for any reason, but always be prepared to show the love of Jesus in humility.