Don’t “Rescue” the Church: Rediscover Your Unique Mission

The story is well known in many churches across America. Churches that were once large and effective are in decline. Attendance is down. Money is down. People have circled the wagons for survival to stave off the congregation’s demise. The goal is survival: more people in the pews, more money in the bank account, and maybe young people who will step up and take over. Saving the congregation is the goal. The problem with this is that God calls us into missional communities not into institutions. People outside the institution and most inside the institution really won’t give of themselves to save the church. Congregational survival is not a compelling reason for people to go beyond themselves. If survival was compelling them, the declining churches would soon thrive again. If survival was compelling them, the remaining few leaders would not be tired and worn out trying to save the congregation.

People will connect with and give of themselves to something that is compelling, something that is bigger than they are. Even in our consumer driven culture of entitlement, people can go beyond self for a greater mission that is compelling. Every church has a unique Code–a unique DNA that God has brought together for a compelling purpose. Rediscovering that compelling missional reason for existence is the first step in turning a church from an ingrown fellowship to an outwardly focused mission. Rediscovering the compelling purpose for a congregation will be the key to connecting people to God in big and bold ways.

When a congregation knows their unique code, their compelling reason to exist, then three things happen:

1. A Compelling Purpose stimulates excitement for the present and future.

When was the last time the members of your congregation invited their friends and neighbors to church? Many people are not excited about their church, which means they don’t have a reason to invite others to worship or to a ministry event. But when the purpose of the church is clear and compelling, then the members are connected, and excited, and they naturally want to tell others. A Compelling Purpose increases evangelistic outreach.

2. A Compelling Purpose stimulates commitment.

When a congregation has a compelling mission that is bigger than self, people are more motivated to give of themselves in service to the mission. People want to be a part of something that is making a difference for God in their community. People want to know that they are giving of themselves in a significant way. A Compelling Purpose increases the amount and depth of service in the community.

3. A Compelling Purpose stimulates generosity.

We know all too well that people hold very tightly to their money. If the church’s budgetary needs were all that was needed to motivate generous giving, then churches would simple share a need and the money would flow in abundance. We know this does not happen. What we do know is that people will become generous if the mission/ministry they are giving to is truly making a difference in the lives of others.  A Compelling Purpose increases giving.

It is counter intuitive, but it is true that the church that focuses on survival will die, and the church that puts a compelling mission in front of all else will grow more effective as they make a difference for God in their community. Rediscovering the unique missional code of a church and then inviting people to connect to and align with that mission must be at the center of any transformation for a declining church. It is then that the call to love God, to love neighbor, and make disciples will thrive. And the local church may just thrive too.

 

*Resource: John Holm blog or visit John at http://www.transformingchurch.net/

It’s For You, God’s Calling!

“Did you get my message?”  We live in the information age and messages, IMs, instagrams, tags etc… are constantly being sent back and forth.  A missed message could mean a loss of business or tyme.  Wartyme stories abound of missed messages among commanders resulting in confusion and loss of life.  But the worst “missed messages” are the ones we get from God and fail to grasp or heed.

What do I mean?  I believe that God places in the path of His people certain messages, instructions, or encouragement to equip us to do His will.  I illustrate this by using the scripture of Moses and his burning bush.  I have always been intrigued with this passage.  I have heard or read many messages on “The Burning Bush.”  One of the best is by George Whitfield, in which he compares the bush to the church.  It is truly a great message.

One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is the one of the burning bush.  It’s an amazing story of God calling Moses to fulfill a plan and a purpose.  But my interest in this story has been more toward God calling and equipping His servant for a specific task.  There are many parallels with Moses and today’s Christian worker.  As we examine this passage we find Moses in a difficult place in his life.  He has felt the call to help his kinsmen in the flesh, the Jews, but he has made some mistakes. He tried to accomplish the work of God in the flesh and ended up killing an Egyptian and hiding his body in the sand.  He fled Egypt and spent the next forty years “on the backside of the desert” in hiding.  Such a scenario is enough to make most people quit on God.  What a mess Moses had made of his ministry.  Such was his condition, until he happened upon a certain “burning bush.”

The burning bush represents the specific, personal instruction from God to his servant. We are not alone in our service for God.  God wants to lead and direct us in our Christian journey.  I believe that our Heavenly Father sends us “burning bush” experiences today through the preaching, teaching and study of His Word. But even though God may not talk to us out loud through a literal burning bush, the truth is we all have a burning bush. The burning bush occurred in a moment when Moses wasn’t expecting it.  He was just going about life, doing his thing which was to tend the sheep.  He was probably doing what he was comfortable with, what he was skilled in.  This may have been, in his eyes, the “perfect” job.

But suddenly his world is interrupted.  He sees fire coming from this bush and is amazed at the fact that it doesn’t burn up.  How can this be?  He goes over to inspect it and that’s when God calls to him out of the burning bush. I have tried to put myself in the shoes of Moses.  If I heard God calling my name out of a burning bush would I respond as he did?  He answered, “Here I am.”  It was as if he was saying; here I am God at Your service…ready to do your bidding.  There seemed to be no hesitation that it was actually God talking and not some prankster.

God would begin to tell Moses how he would help lead the Israelites out of bondage and out of the hands of the Egyptians.  Now of course the response Moses gave could be a whole different blog but for the purpose of this one, I just want to concentrate on the symbolism of the burning bush. It represented God’s plan for Moses life.  He had something specific.  He was calling Moses to do something that he had never planned for nor did he really want but it was God’s will for his life.  Would it turn out to be something hard and difficult?  Yes it most certainly did.  Did God equip Moses?  Yes He definitely did!

Pay very close attention here, it was not until Moses took the tyme to stop what he was doing and pay attention to the sign before him (a burning bush that was not burning out) that God spoke to him. God gave Moses something to pull his focus off his daily tasks and put full attention to God! As Moses we too must be aware of the “Burning Bush” that God sets before us. We must be prepared to see the indicators that God sets out for us to Stop what we are doing and focus our full attention on Him.

During these “Spiritual Off-Seasons” we must take the tyme to stop, look and listen to God! In my case God allowed catastrophe in order to force me to slow down and realize I was out of control. Do you feel like you’ve been in a dry place?  Forgotten?  Left alone?  With all your hopes and dreams gone? Do you feel that no matter what you do nothing seems to change in your finances or your life? If so, it’s tyme for you to have a burning bush experience. Everything turned around for Moses in one day and God can and will do the same thing for you. God didn’t bring you this far to leave you. You’re coming out of Egypt (not enough). Through the wilderness (just enough) and you’re moving into the Promised Land (more than enough). You are just a few feet away from your burning bush experience.  Here are seven practical keys to your burning bush experience.

1.         Move outside your comfort zone. You will not find nor seek your destiny while residing in your comfort zone. Exodus 3:2 in the Amplified Bible says:

“The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, yet was not consumed.”

I realize you’re probably super spiritual . . . but let’s get real.  How would you feel if you’re on the side of a mountain. . . one where you’ve walked for over 40 years. . .then all of a sudden you see a bush burning. . .but not being consumed. You might be tempted to say, “What the what . . .”

Exodus 3:3 in the Amplified Bible says:

“And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”

I would say you’re willingness to answer curiosity . . . definitely moves you outside your comfort zone or what was familiar to you.

2.         Be willing to seek God. Let’s be honest! You’re standing in amazement watching a bush burn continually when a voice in the bush calls out your name. At that point,  I’d probably be calling out God’s name to protect me from whatever I’d gotten myself into.

Exodus 3:4 in the Amplified Bible says:

“And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the midst of the bush and said, Moses, Moses! And he said, Here am I.”

Without hesitation Moses said, “Here am I.”

In the midst of every circumstance. . .good, bad or indifferent. . .your automatic response must be to seek God.

3.         Give Him the reverence He’s due. Exodus 3:6 in the Amplified Bible says;

“Also He said, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”

Our reverence for God should be a 24/7 experience.  He’s not a spare tire to be rolled out when we have a flat on the highway of life. He deserves better.

When we enter into His presence we should always enter with reverence and thanksgiving.

4.         Obey your instructions. Over the last few months, I’ve repeatedly taught seven words that are the key to success and experiencing the God kind of life.  Those words are:

“Read your Bible do what it says.”  There will be tymes when it seems that our Holy Spirit inspired instructions are not logical and they’re not at least to a natural mind.  However, we need to do what He says when He says regardless of how we feel it may look.

Exodus 3:5 in the Amplified Bible says:

“God said, Do not come near; put your shoes off your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.

The only way you can do what He says is to know what He’s saying. That type of revelation comes from being in His Word and His Presence.

5.         Don’t question your direction. Exodus 3:10-11 in the Amplified Bible says:

“Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.

“And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Now let me get this straight you’ve been talking to a Voice in a burning bush that has not turned to ashes and you question His instructions.  That should show you how out of touch you can become. I heard it said years ago, that God’s calling is His enabling.

If God gives you a vision He will also give you the ability and opportunity to achieve it.

6.         Know you’re not alone. Exodus 3:12 in the Amplified Bible says:

“God said, I will surely be with you; and this shall be the sign to you that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain [Horeb, or Sinai].”

Before we’re so quick to question, mock or condemn Moses’ lack of faith let’s examine our attitudes. God tells us that He will go with us wherever we go but yet sometymes we don’t act like or seemingly have confidence in His Word because we want to ‘play it safe anyway.’

What God spoke to Moses His Word speaks to us.  I could give you a dozen or more verses to emphasize this point however, I’m only going to give you the last half of Hebrews 13:5 in the Amplified Bible which says:

“. . .for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]”

7.         Recognize your power. Exodus 3:19-20 in the New Living Translation says:

“But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand forces him.  So I will raise my hand and strike the Egyptians, performing all kinds of miracles among them. Then at last he will let you go.”

There’s an old Pentecostal song entitled “You’ve Got The Power.” Moses had the power. . .but are you ready for the good news. . .so do you.

Acts 1:8 says:

“… ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you … (then) ye shall become witnesses … .”

The power Jesus promises after the Holy Ghost comes upon you in enabling power (Dunamis). The Greek word Dunamis means “ability.” So let’s look at this verse again as I expand the paraphrase for you.

“You shall receive the ability after the Holy Ghost has come upon you, and you will be able to witness of me simultaneously in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Now let’s look at Dunamis as it appears in Luke 10:19 where God has given to us total power over the devil.

“Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

The first word in this verse that is translated power is the Greek word Exousia.  It means “delegated power” or better said “authority.” The second word translated power is the Greek word Dunamis which as we’ve just learned means “ability.”  So notice carefully what God is actually saying.  “I give you authority over all the ability of the devil.”

Are you getting a hold of all of this?  You have total authority over all the ability of the enemy.  Remember, “nothing shall by any means hurt you” Luke 10:19.

The Bible literally says nothing shall hurt you.  It also says you have total power (authority) over the devil.  You never have to lose again.  You can always conquer and always triumph in all things. As I think back over these seven keys. I just have one question for you. Are you ready for your burning bush experience?

Now my question to you is what is your burning bush?   What is God calling you to do?  How will you respond?

 * Resources: Harold Herring, Robert L. Cobb &  Stephanie Romero

Are You A Superman or Wonder Woman in Gods Kingdom

Are you a superman or has God‘s balancing factor been applied to your life? When I say superman or wonder woman I’m meaning, as a Christian, we are living on the mountain top all the time or we believe we’re there. The one thing we must learn is we can’t stay on the mountain top all the time. The Lord has made it so that we experience mountaintops and valleys in our lives regularly to keep us balanced.

So if you are considered the superman or wonder woman in your life and those you influence, know that God holds the kryptonite (the balancer to your strength!) For example, Elijah kills all the prophets of Baal, a great exploit that he has done for the Kingdom of God.

But God allows the kryptonite (opposition, hardships, trouble, persecution) in his life that keeps him balanced.

Jezebel threatened to kill him and he flees for his life. He’s so discouraged he wants to die. The story ended as God strengthens Prophet Elijah and sends him help.

By the way, a part of his help, Elisha was one of the most famous and studied armor bearers in the Bible, who goes on to become one of the most famous prophets. Not losing my point, after such a great feat and mountain top experience the balancer was allowed and Elijah regains perspective. The balancer or the balancing factor keeps us dependent on the Lord.

The Word of the God says, “My grace is sufficient for you My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

II Cor. 12:1-10 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ, who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heavens.

Whether it was in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows such a one was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things. Things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.

Even if I should choose to boast I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three tymes I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me: My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ sakes I delight in weaknesses in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

My pastor has talked about the balancer or the balancing factor that the Lord applies to our life many times. He would say that the Lord allows the hilltop experiences and the valleys in our lives to keep us balanced. Often praying, “I pray that my highs won’t be so high and my lows so low.”

“You know, so we won’t get the big head,” those are my words. I believe the Holy Spirit is saying. Paul the apostle had so much power through Christ from going into the spirit realm and seeing things that he couldn’t speak of to such powerful revelations that the Lord had to allow a balancing factor to his life  to keep him grounded. In the same way, as powerful men and women in Christ on whatever level you are operating on, Father God allows the balancing factor to ground us.

On the other hand, as Christians, we can be so heavenly that if we aren’t careful we can be no earthly good to anyone. As a mature Christian, we must consider when some attacks come, sometimes it may be allowed of the Lord to keep us balanced.

You might be one of those saying, he sure talks about his pastor a lot. I speak of my pastor a lot because I have one. On another note, I believe everyone should have a pastor even if you are called as an ordained minister. You still need that covering, that fathering spirit watching over your soul.

Back to my question to all the super men and wonder women has the balancer been applied to your life? The Apostle Paul called it a thorn of the flesh or a messenger of Satan. If you are walking in God’s power and His anointing, it’s bound to happen. Remember, we can’t stay on the mountain top; but we walk through the valley some time.

I know the first thing you want to say is ‘get thee behind me Satan’. (Me, too.) But remember Apostle Paul said it three times and what was the Lord’s reply? My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in your weaknesses.

Let’s define weakness: lacking mental firmness or character weak minded, nerveless, fainthearted, irresolute, nervous, spineless, unstrung, palsied, wishy-washy, hesitant, vacillating, frightened. Do you recognize any of these in your walk through your circumstances, your troubles, persecutions, hardships and afflictions?

No you don’t have to admit them to me or anyone else; just admit them to the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit sent here to help you will help you apply God’s grace to your weaknesses. After that exercise of humility, we can truly say like the Apostle Paul said, God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.

As a Christian, superman or wonder woman, if you have experienced the mountaintops and hilltops then gone through the valleys, God’s grace is made perfect in your weakness; this is a promise of the Lord. So the next time you feel a persistent pain and you’ve asked the Lord three times to remove it and you get no response. Or you have said Satan get thee behind me three times or more, just remember the balancing factor may have been applied to your life; His grace is sufficient and his power is made perfect in weakness.

*Picture-Resource: Varn Brown & Joesph

The Cost of Discipleship

If Jesus were to appear in front of you today and tell you: “Come, follow me!” what would your reaction be? Would you immediately say “Yes” or would you ask Jesus for some time to settle your personal and family affairs? What are you prepared to give up in order to follow Jesus? When Jesus told His prospective disciples Peter and his brother Andrew “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men”; they got it, and immediately left ALL and followed Him.  That is the cost of true discipleship, leaving ALL for Christ, expecting no limelight, and offering no excuses.

What is the cost of discipleship? Today’s gospel gives us a very clear picture of what is required of us. It can also be frightening picture. The gospel story tells us that we must be prepared to give up all things that we value in order to follow Jesus. No value, no ‘good thing’, no person, can take precedence over the call to follow Jesus and become his disciple. As we examine the gospel story, we see three different scenarios:

Jesus’ answer to the first question that although all other creatures may have a home, the Son of Man himself has no permanent home, highlights the point that a disciple needs to give up all forms of security in order to follow Jesus. What are some of our securities – it may be a good job, or a good education, or a good family.

The second man excused himself from following Jesus immediately because he expressed his need to fulfill his filial obligation to bury his father. For the Jews as well as for the Chinese, looking into the funeral arrangements of one’s parents is one of the most important duties a person must fulfilled. Yet even this, according to Jesus, does not take precedence over the call to follow Jesus.

Lastly, the third man who meets Jesus receives the answer that if one has begun to follow Jesus, there is no turning back – “once the hand is laid on the plow, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

These three men and their different situations are used as examples to illustrate the high cost of discipleship. They are not to be read literally. Jesus is not asking us to be uncivil or to discard our obligations to our parents and elders. Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus tells us that service to God should never be used as an excuse to escape from one obligation to one’s parents. But the meaning of the present gospel story is that one must be prepared to die to one’s own personal likes and dislikes and personal agenda in order to follow Jesus. In other words, today’s gospel is related to last week’s gospel where Jesus tells the disciples: if you wish to be my disciples, you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me.

In the first reading, we see Elisha, after having answered the call of Elijah, slaughter the oxen and burns the plow which represents his past profession. This action of his is very significant. It means that he is giving up everything: he is abandoning for good his life of rich farmer and he is embracing a new profession: to be prophet in the following of Elijah. This is a sign of firm commitment. Once we have decided to follow Jesus, there is no turning back. We must burn our bridges and our boats that we have left behind. This is the meaning of Christian commitment and Christian discipleship. Let us pray during today’s Mass, that we will receive the strength and the courage to follow Jesus and also be firm in our commitment. “Once our hand is laid on the plough,” there is no turning back.

I believe this willingness to give God control of one’s life is what Jesus means when he tells his disciples, “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” Perhaps he does mean to sell everything ― as he instructed the rich young man who wanted to join the kingdom. But maybe it means to “let go and let God.” We do not lose control of our lives, for we are finally freed from sin’s bondage to enjoy them. Nor do we become poorer in doing so. Everything we have (including our lives) already belongs to God. We share in spiritual richness as we become God’s children and Jesus’ siblings!

What is it that you are hanging on to today that keeps you from becoming a true disciple of Jesus?

Two-Hundred Proof Grace

Pour me a double dram of that intoxicating Spirit of grace! Served neat. And not mixed with any of those deadly Mosaic law bitters.

I have a pastor friend who always says “50% of the tyme we need to smoke what we sell, and 50% of the tyme we need to sell what we smoke” regarding the need for Christians to share their faith and the impotence of trying to do that without actually having a vibrant relationship with Christ. I think it’s funny that we like comparing Grace with illicit substances – it has a lot in common. Addictive, life altering, perception altering…etc. good tymes

The Reformation was a tyme when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medieval-ism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace–bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel–after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, not the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case. (Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three, pg. 114-115)

Reflecting on this quote, John writes, “Sola Gratia, Grace Alone, was not merely a leaning of the Reformation… it was a pillar. The reformers trumpeted God’s grace as the only Christian method, with no compromise. The Gospel was being unleashed again, not reinvented, but rediscovered… the unending love of God, freely given to the undeserving. The truth–so scandalous, so surprising, our hearts have to be sitting down to hear it… God saves sinners single-handedly, He will not be needing our help. In fact, diluting the Gospel with our own help is precisely why grace ceases to amaze us. So busy trying to help Jesus help us, we hardly ever taste His gift and we remain unchanged and unmoved by it. Over tyme, our blended, balanced, watered-down cup of grace leaves us cynical and sober. We want so desperately to mix in some of our rule-keeping or our performance… we’d give anything to add something of our own label! But it never turns out as we had hoped. We start to feel like we can’t keep up our end of the bargain – we feel as though we’ve failed. But… what if we don’t need our own label? What if Jesus kept up our end of the bargain for us? Those who are broken and bold enough to ask the questions, find themselves seated at a table with smiling sinners – too drunk on grace to remember the rules, and yet, they all seem to know them by heart. We’re served glass upon glass and something happens… the Gospel becomes the power of God and the wisdom of God. The power of God, because we taste something strong enough to save us. The wisdom of God, because we taste something good enough to change us. The bar is always open and the drinks are all paid for–just thank the Bar Tender, raise your glass and drink it straight. It’s all Grace.”

Are you busy mixing or do you drink grace straight? Are you always in a spiritual hurry or is your soul free to rest and raise a glass? Is it possible that free grace in Christ causes people to love like Christ?

John 1:16-17, Luke 10:38-42, Ezk 36:26-27

*Resource: Robert Capon

Your Enemies Have Purpose

While the women folk had their fellowship, We men went out to get a bite to eat! I was with two friends of mine in which they happen to be pastor. And like most of the tymes our conversations often return to what we’re a studying, what lessons we’re about to teaching or something that God gave us that made us go HMM! One night we had a quick discussion on the difference dealing with Peter & Judas & how they sinned Jesus. And I realized that I never really study much on Judas, with the exception of the basics at Easter tyme.

**Side note! And not really dealing with the blog. To be honest I had no idea there where 7 different Judas’s in the Bible:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1. An ancestor of Jesus in the line from Nathan through Mary. The son of Joseph and father of Symeon, Judas was the seventh generation from David’s son Nathan and so lived prior to the Babylonian exile. Lu 3:30, 31.
2. Judas the Galilean, referred to by Gamaliel in his address to the Sanhedrin. Ac 5:37 At the time of the registration identified with Quiriniusgovernor of Syria in 6 C.E., Judas led a Jewish uprising.
3. One of the 12 apostles, also called Thaddaeus and “Judas the son of James.” In the listings of the apostles in Matthew 10:3 and Mark 3:18, James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus are linked together. In the listings at Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 Thaddaeus is not included; instead we find “Judas the son of James,” leading to the conclusion that Thaddaeus is another name for the apostle Judas.
4. Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon and the infamous apostle who betrayed Jesus.
5. One of Jesus’ four half brothers. (Mt 13:55; Mr 6:3)
6. A man of Damascus who had a home on the street Straight. While blind immediately after his conversion, Saul (Paul) resided in Judas’ home, and it was there that Ananias was sent to lay his hands on Saul. (Ac 9:11, 17) The account does not say whether Judas was a disciple at the time, but this seems unlikely since Ananias and others who were disciples hesitated to approach Saul in view of his reputation as a persecutor, yet Judas accepted Saul into his home.—Ac 9:13, 1426.
7. Judas, also called Barsabbas, was one of the two disciples sent by the governing body in Jerusalem to accompany Paul and Barnabas when they delivered the letter about circumcision (c. 49 C.E.). Both Judas and his companion Silas were considered “leading men among the brothers.” (Ac 15:22)

This Thursday, I offer the following meditation on Jesus’ love for Judas. Going all the way back to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had taught his followers that they should love not only the people who are good to them but also those who hate them and do them harm. This was not a new teaching. Loving one’s enemies was taught in Exodus 23:5 and Proverbs 25:21. However, many leaders had interpreted Leviticus 19:18 (“love your neighbor as yourself”) to mean that we only need to love those who are with us, so to speak, in heart and spirit. They considered our neighbors to be those who love our God and fit in with his people. Jesus taught that such teaching went against the heart of God, who does good to those who love him and to those who do not love him.

We are to do the same Matt Matthew 5:43-48. There are many things about Jesus & Judas that intrigue me.  Jesus chose Judas to be an Apostle knowing he’d betray him (Omniscient).  Jesus put Judas in charge of their money knowing he was an embezzler Jn 12:6.  That Jesus sent him to preach the Gospel knowing Judas was a traitor from the beginning Jn6:64.  Jesus even gave Judas “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, & to heal every disease & every affliction” Mt 10:1-4.

Judas was present when Jesus feed thousands… healed the blind & lame… cast out demons… walked on water… & raised the dead.  For three years Judas heard Jesus Himself teach!  For three years Judas watched & heard Jesus pray.  Not only that, three times Judas had the Passover meal with Jesus! Jesus gave Judas every opportunity to believe.  Every chance to do the right thing.  Jesus trusted Judas… encouraged Judas… & cared for Judas.  But consider Jesus chose Judas precisely because of  and for what he would do… betray.  Jesus chose Judas on purpose Jn17:12.

It was during the meal that Judas left & went to the Pharisees to receive 30 pieces of silver to betray Christ with a kiss on the cheek.  I believe Judas will show up one more time… Matthew 7:21-23

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, & cast out demons in your name, & do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  (Judas will probably be leading this argument.) It was this evil despised individual that Jesus served… by washing his feet.  It was to this traitor that Jesus showed us how to love our enemies.  Let’s stop right here… right now… & think about our enemies.  People that don’t like us or have hurt us deeply!

If we’re to partake of the Lord’s Supper with the right attitude, then we’re to take seriously Jesus’ model!  Look at v 15!  Who has hurt you?  Caused you trouble?  Wounded you?  Made you grieve?  Was it a parent… sibling… friend… boss… co-worker… or someone else? If we’re believers… according to Jesus in v 15 how are we to treat our enemies?   If we refuse to follow Jesus’ example, what does that say about US?!  And what should we then do?

When he was finished washing their feet and explaining why he did that, Jesus sat down to eat with them, and announced, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me” (13:21). Now watch carefully what happens next. “His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which one of them he meant” (13:22). What does this detail tell us? Jesus loved Judas so warmly, so consistently, so devotedly, that no one could tell by Jesus’ behavior who the betrayer was. Think about this for a minute. If you were living day in and day out with eleven friends and one enemy who you knew would betray you to a horrible death, how difficult would it be to love your enemy so well that your treatment of him would be indistinguishable from your treatment of the others? Jesus knew what was in Judas’ heart, but he had not tipped his hand by subtly mistreating Judas. That tells us a lot about Jesus. Jesus’ treatment of Judas is a volume of teachings all on its own.

Take a moment  to prayerfully reflect on Jesus’ love for Judas.

  • Is there a Judas in your life? How are you treating him or her? Ask God’s help to be like Jesus.
  • How have you been like Judas in the lives of others? Seek reconciliation quickly.
  • How have you been like Judas in your treatment of Jesus? Judas set into motion his own agenda against God’s desires. Humbly seek God’s forgiveness for the ways in which you have done this.
  • Worship at the feet of the one who washed others’ feet, including those of his enemy.
*Resources: David Beck, Ron Reflection

Great News! You’re Pre-Approved

Great News!
“You’re Pre-Approved!”

Have you ever received one of those annoying credit card applications in the mail with a phrase like that? It certainly is an effective marketing tool because it catches our attention. You starting thinking of what bill to pay off? Or what gadget or toy you think you need? There are questions to be asked regarding interest rates, credit limits, late fees, and so on. What’s the catch? With the current economic state, we are probably paying more attention to money matters than ever before.

It’s nice to know that you’re pre-approved. Doesn’t that sound welcoming? You’ve got it, if you want it! Guess what? I’ve got some infinitely better news, “a better offer.” You’re pre-approved for salvation and Heaven. Every person who has ever walked the planet was/is pre-approved. We don’t even have to fill out an application. We simply need to accept the offer of Jesus Christ.

Christ has already gotten all of us pre-approved on the cross!

God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus. Through his faithfulness, God displayed Jesus as the place of sacrifice where mercy is found by means of his blood. Romans 3:22-25

We are indeed pre-approved for God! Don’t wait to approach God until you have become pre-qualified. Run to God because you’ve already been pre-approved by Christ. But the same way that pre-qualified is not pre-approved, pre-approved is not approved. We still need to approach God, ask to be approved because of Christ and receive grace upon grace. But we have been pre-approved! All we need to do is to boldly approach God and embrace him and his grace. We are approved! Christ is risen!

But even this is not all! The very same grace that saves us will continue to work in us. It educates us to live in God’s way. It transforms us into Christ-likeness. It readies us for the life in heaven. All this by grace through faith in Christ. All this free for all!

The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It educates us so that we can live sensible, ethical, and godly lives right now by rejecting ungodly lives and the desires of this world. At the same time we wait for the blessed hope and the glorious appearance of our great God and savior Jesus Christ. Titus 2:11-13

Someone once said that the biggest sinners make the best saints. Maybe it’s because they realize how far they’ve come. When we hear that people ask for a sign from God, perhaps He gave them a sign… a stop sign — to stop sinning. God will give us strength to resist temptations.

I get excited talking, or in this case typing, about Jesus. His message is simple, pure and loving. It deserves to be shared. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have all the answers, but I know who does. A favorite text of mine is found in Jeremiah 29:13: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Why wait? This life is temporary and problem-filled. Why not accept God’s pre-approved offer of salvation? Life is much better with Him in your corner. Plus, there are no credit limits of God’s endless and abundant love. Accept the offer today, simply pray.

You’re pre-approved…Now go and share the Good News: From under-qualified to approved by grace through faith in Jesus. What a gift!