Equipping The Saints

Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong.

He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ.

-Ephesians 4:11-12 (CEV, MEV)
The ministry of Christ is meant to be done by the people who make up the church, who are ‘the Saints’.  In Christ, we are all saints.  Get rid of the legalistic idea that you are ‘no saint’, because in Christ, we are all saints.  
The issue is being in Christ.  If you aren’t in Christ, you simply are not a Christian, because that is what a Christian is.
Now, there has been a battle raging over ministry.  This issue was not solved during the beginning of the Reformation.  It is the church’s “third rail”.
In order to really come into what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4, professional ministers who’s vocation is ‘ministry’ are simply going to have to step down.  They need to step down and be on the level with the whole church.
The ‘org chart’ of the church is flat, with one line pointing up, to Jesus.  He leads and builds and we all serve and we all do the ministry.  All of us.
The New Testament does not inaugurate a priestly class of people who are ‘the ministers’, that is 1, 2, 3, or 4% of Christians.  Everyone is a priest and everyone is a minister.
For various reasons, around the 2nd or 3rd century, this problem started.  The church invented the clergy/laity split that is not at all envisioned by the New Testament.  The Reformation, with Luther and the others, did not finish reforming this issue; but it started to.  That is when we started rediscovering the idea of ‘the priesthood of all believers’.
Many Christians nod to this while not being in favor of the concept of ‘every member is a minister’.
Ephesians 4 teaches us that all Christians (the Saints) are the ministers, in the church.  Some people are ‘equippers’ or ‘trainers’, for the ministry done by others.  These are people called apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, or teachers.  That is what APEST stands for.
There has also been a debate as to whether Paul is talking about four or five groups of people.  Are there pastors and teachers as separate categories or is it pastor/teacher as a hybrid?  Both are probably true.
An aspect of the fierce debate is that the vocational ministry side, which is multifaceted; says that all pastors (ministers or preachers) have to be teachers.  Their argument is linked to the idea that pastors (vocational pastors, ministers, or preachers) are elders and elders must be able to teach.   That is true, but you can not superimpose that idea as your interpretive key to Ephesians 4.
The topic of Ephesians 4 is Christ and the church.  Paul says that Christ has made some people equippers, so that the rest of us can do the ministry.  This runs counter to the idea that the clergy do the ministry and the rest of us give them support money and passively receive their ministry.
Vocational ministers are defensive about Ephesians 4.  Besides discounting the idea that ministry belongs in the hands of everyone, another point of contention is that these are not five equipping ministries, but four.
But the truth is that there is pastoral ministry that does not involve teaching and there is teaching ministry that does not involve pastoring.  There are people who are gifted as pastors, who are not gifted as teachers.  They would not be qualified to be elders.
It is that simple.  Pastors who are not teachers are healers or caregivers.  A hospice worker or chaplain, for example.
Some teachers are not pastors.  They are outstanding at teaching, but do not have a shepherding giftedness.  
We are all called to bear the fruit of the Spirit, grow in godliness and become Christlike.  But some people are not the best ones at certain things
Ephesians 4 tells us that there are people who are in the five offices mentioned (APEST), who know their stuff so well that they are gifted to train the rest of us in how to effectively minister in that realm that they know.
When we look at the five APEST ministries, some or one will stand out for each of us in being what we are for or passionate about.  Taking an APEST quiz might help you get in touch with what kind of ministry you are passionate about or feel designed to do.

Do Not Forget The Poor

Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.

-Psalm 82:3

God’s heart is for the poor.  Whatever emphasis that we have or our ministries have, we must never forget the poor.  Benevolence is something that all believers should have in common.

If you do not care about the poor, you have no connection to God.  God’s heart is for the poor.  The worst form of injustice is when the weakest people are not helped by those who have the power and resources to help them.

Your calling or your ministry could be any of a thousand things, but do not forget the poor.

You may be in any of the thousands of the different denominations, non-denominations, tribes or movements in Christianity.  But remember to not forget the poor.  God’s heart is for the poor.

You yourself may have a lot or have a little.  You may have many friends or a few.  You may be famous or unknown.

Just do not forget the poor.

Defend, vindicate, stand up for, be fair to, do right by and give justice to:

  • The needy, the poor, the weak ones, the helpless, the lowly and the defenseless ones.
  • The fatherless and the orphans.
  • The forgotten, destitute, the afflicted, the wretched and the oppressed people.
  • The disenfranchised, suffering and powerless children. 
God’s heart is for the poor.  Our hearts in God’s will be for the poor.  This is a marker of the authentic people of God.
____________________________________________________
Notes:
A few New Testament passages and verses on serving the poor:

Luke 10:25-37; Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37; 10:1-8; Gal. 2:10; 1 Tim 5:3-16; Jas 1:27; 2:15-16

Blessed Are The Pure In Heart

The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God.

-Matthew 5:8
How we see is connected to our hearts.  I used to think that this verse meant or only meant that the more pure my heart was, that I stood a better chance of seeing God.  The song, “Open The Eyes of My Heart”, by Paul Baloche, from 1998; exemplified this.

I wanted to see God.  My goal was the know God, like the title of the best selling J.I. Packer book.  I also thought that the second part is indeed, “to make Him known”.

Knowing God and making Him known still sounds good and that was my motto for many years.  And that is how I saw purity of heart.

But what I have learned in this middle season of my life, is that God is about making me be like Jesus and experiencing the life of Christ all the time.

I have learned, been learning, that God cares more about how I live all the time.

God cares about how I treat people and how I see people.  We see people, have a thought and take an action.
Christ followers have given God their hearts.  Our hearts overrule our minds.  Our thoughts are governed by our hearts.

If our heart is not in the right place, our thoughts will be askew.

God wants us to look at people from mercy filled hearts that are standing with righteousness.

If we are on our way to seeing God, because of the clearness of the lens of our hearts, we are going to see people more and more, the way that God does.

Jesus is Lord and King, but he is also the servant.  In Christ, we are meek and lowly, always trusting God and at the service of others, while not at all striving, but resting in the Father (Matt. 11;29).

I am learning that God wants me to see people the way He does.  I am also learning to see God the way that Jesus does.  The life of Christ, the Christian life, is the life of seeing God and seeing people.

In each interaction with people.  As I witness others in their speaking and acting, and in how I react or respond; the question is, “Am I seeing them as God sees them, from a pure heart?”

A pure heart is a heart that loves God.  The outward life will match the inward life of a lover of God.

The person who loves God with all their heart, soul and strength (Deut. 6:5) will show it in not just what they say or do; but in how they live their life, seeing God.  This is what Hebrews 11:27 is saying:

By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for Moses persevered as one who sees Him who is invisible.

Seeing God has always been the highest goal.  It is a goal that is only fully realized in the afterlife.  Our whole lives are lived as ones who desire to see God.

Seeing God is an “already and not yet” concept.  In the now, God is changing, purifying our hearts, so that we can see how He sees, and then in the future, we will see Him clearly.

Right now, for the most part, we are seeing Him who is invisible.  And He is training us to see how He sees.  Jesus is also training us to see and do what the Father is doing (John 5:19).

Each of the beatitudes (fortunate states) build upon each other.  They are circular and organic, like art or music.  Purity of heart is the result of something.

People with pure hearts have already gone through something.  They already have other processes happening in their lives.

These five blessed states of good fortune (beatitudes) have already been going on, in the person’s life, who has purity of heart:

  1. The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. 
  2. Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted. 
  3. The gentle are blessed, for they will inherit the earth. 
  4. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled. 
  5. The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy.
Each verse sounds good alone and people might quote one of these on a card or for an encouragement.  But they were given in a certain order and in a context.  The sixth blessing or blessed state of purity of heart comes after the previous five.
A person who has a pure heart:

  • will fully see God one day 
  • sees as God sees 
  • sees God working in other people today

That person is in a transformational process.

The first three beatitudes are about our realization of our need for God.  We are powerless and we are not God.  We who have been through the doorway of the first three blessings have become convicted of our personal sin.  
We who have realized we are poor in spirit, mourn and have taken on a life of meekness, because of the humility he have from being humbled to know our weakness, have come into a place of hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
This is very different than someone who ‘parachutes in’ to Christianity and says that they hunger and thirst for righteousness.  That person is something different, from the one being described here.  

It is from the place of humility that the meek person thirsts and hungers for righteousness, that God fills.  That person, in turn, becomes a merciful person; who receives and gives, then gives and receives more mercy.

And that person becomes the person who sees God.

If you do not see as God sees, with mercy, then you may have forgotten or are forgetting how much you need God and have stopped living in humility, and may even have stopped hungering for God’s righteousness and have become enamoured at you own.

Have you stopped being humble?  Have you stopped mourning?  Have you become so strong or knowledgable that you are no longer meek, gentle or kind?

That is the kind of person who can not see God.  They think and say that they see God and are telling us that, but they are seeing with distortion or with their own imaginations.  Because you can not have the good fortune of seeing God, while neglecting or forgetting your own bankrupted state of depravity or insubordination, outside of God’s grace that comes only to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).

The people who have pure hearts are people who have been mourning about the impurity in their hearts.  Vision of God comes from acknowledging that I am blind.  Seeing people the way God sees people is the result of my grieving that I don’t see them and I don’t get them the way God does.

And this is not a formula, but a life.

When I realize that God loves me, I become secure enough to see God’s love for others and see others through the love of God.  If I a not secure in God’s love, if I do not know He loves me and if I am not living as one who is loved; then I am going to have real problems seeing other people through God’s love.

In these profound sayings, the beatitudes or blessed states or good fortune; Jesus says how the life works and how it works is inside-out.

The pure heart comes from this place of humility and absolute surrender to God.  The work that is already going on in a person, results in purity of heart, which gives a person vision.

If you can not see what God is doing or if you can not see a person with God, then you have a heart problem.  When I am critical of someone, ungracious, not generous, impatient, or oppositional; I might not be seeing the person with God.

God is after changing our hearts.  We don’t want to be people who do the right thing or say the right thing, but have not been transformed in our hearts.  

Ministers of The Light of The Gospel

Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up. Instead, we have renounced shameful secret things, not walking in deceit or distorting God’s message, but commending ourselves to every person’s conscience in God’s sight by an open display of the truth. But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
-2 Corinthians 4:1-6

The light of Christ is shining.  Letting that light into our hearts is the beginning of and the way on in the life in Christ.  The light is that God has now acted in history to change humanity through Christ.

Being a believer is not about going to heaven, but about being transformed by God and then becoming an agent of God.  Being a believer is not about doing the right thing, but about knowing God and acting according to that knowledge.  Being a believer is to be a person who’s life is centered in and has come under the rule and reign of the kingdom of God, empowered by God’s Spirit and living in and for God’s glory in Christ.

Being a Christian is not being an evolved or enlightened Jew or a Gentile who has joined the true Israel, who is now able, through Christ and the Spirit of God dwelling in them, to live a lawfully wedded life to God and serve Him for all his or her days.  Being a Christian is to be a person who has placed not only their faith in Christ, but has given their whole lives to God, in Christ, and have become vessels or agents of God’s Spirit in the earth for the sake of the gospel.  Being a Christian is to be a person in whom the light of God has shone and is now shining.

The light of Christ comes as a blinding light to some, like how when Paul was blinded by the light of Christ, on the road to Damascus, which was a part of Paul’s dramatic conversion.  For others, the light of Christ is like what a poet called “the hound of heaven”, that is there in a person’s life, continually pursuing them, until the person gives in and lets the Son shine in.  T-bone Burnett has a song, where he says that God’s love is relentless; and Francis Chan describes God’s love displayed in the light of Christ as “Crazy Love”.

A Christian is a person who has gone from darkness to light, through a work done by God.  A Christian is a person who was once in the dark but now is in the light, and it only and completely happened for them because of God’s initiative.  A Christian is not involved now in a self-improvement program, but has seen the light of God in Christ and is now in a death, burial and resurrection process orchestrated by God and modulated by their own desire to know God more.

To be a Christian means one has encountered the light of God and been regenerated or born anew into everlasting life through Christ.  And just as the sun and all the stars did not come out of nothingness by themselves, but were supernaturally created by God; so too, people only become saved or are regenerated and born anew by the supernatural work of God.  Christianity is not something we thought of, that we made and that we do; but being a Christian is something that only God can make you through a supernatural creative work that only belongs to God.

Being a Christian is to be in Christ and to be in Christ requires a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Christianity is not a philosophy or religion that one accepts, adheres to, practices and participates in.  Christianity is part of the new creation of God that only begins and lives through the supernatural, creative life of God.

The whole of the ministry of Jesus Christ is to be agents of and participate with the work of the Spirit of God, who shines the light of Christ, to be seen by people, so that they will come to know Christ and then be transformed.  Ministers are agents of the grace of God, who though flawed, God mercifully uses to share and shine the light of Christ.  We see the light, but many are blind to it and will only see when the Spirit of God does a work in them to cause them to see the light.

We can not make someone see who is blind, but only let the light shine through us and welcome those who respond to it or begin to see the light through the working of the Spirit of God in their hearts.  We can love, help and speak to spiritually blind people; but only God can open blind eyes.  As agents or heralds, it would seem that we are calling attention to our selves; but we are only drawing attention to our selves in order to point to or shine the light on the one we are serving.

The beauty or handsomeness, the talent, the engaging personality or the lovableness of the minister is for one purpose, and that is to promote Christ.  Yes, follow a person, but only as they follow Christ.  Yes, listen to a person, but hear Christ.

If Jesus constantly pointed people to and reflected his Father, then we should copy Jesus and constantly point to him and to our Father.  Ministers are servants who serve on someone else’s behalf, and reflect their master.  Ministers are faithful slaves, who announce, promote, and reveal the light of their master.

I Saw The Light, by Hank Williams

I wandered so aimless life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Just like a blind man I wandered along
Worries and fears I claimed for my own
Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I was a fool to wander and a-stray
Straight is the gate and narrow the way
Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Help People In Real Need

Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.

-Psalm 82:3

Defend the poor and the fatherless.  Vindicate the weak and fatherless.  Give justice to the lowly and the orphan.

Be fair to the poor.  Defend the weak.  Defend the rights of the poor and the orphans.

Do right concerning the poor and fatherless.  

Give fair judgment to the poor man, the afflicted, the fatherless, the destitute.  

You’re here to defend the defenseless, to make sure that underdogs get a fair break; Your job is to stand up for the powerless, and prosecute all those who exploit them.

Stand up for the weak and for children whose fathers have died. Protect the rights of people who are poor or treated badly.

Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Maintain the rights of the afflicted, the lowly and destitute. Defend the helpless and everyone in need.

Protect the rights of the poor. Defend the rights of the poor and suffering. Uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

I get it, that the life in God is a life of serving the needs of people in need, who do not have.  I get it that God’s heart is with the fatherless, the orphan, the homeless, the afflicted, the weak and everyone in need: tangible, real, hungry, scared, naked, sick, insecure, shaken, in misery.  That is what God is looking at.
Can I see?  Will I do something?  This is what God cares the most about: people in real need.


Hope Floats

I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing;
I have come into deep waters, and a flood sweeps over me.

-Psalm 69:2
Do you have sinking feelings?  Are you bogged down by adversity, loss, failure or depression?  Have things just not gone your way in any of a hundred ways, in your life and you feel like there is no end to your troubles?
Many of us understand, because we feel that way some times.  Many of us do.  I think it is just the length, pace and depth of this feeling of no bottom, ‘overwhelming-ness’ and ‘adrift-ness’ that varies among us.

To myself and to any of us who are feeling down or adrift, I want to say these two words:

Hope floats.

In the midst of everything, how ever bad, there is always hope.  The hope that is always there for us is in God and Christ.  There are all these sinking feelings and overwhelming feelings of loss and a lack of grounding, but hope floats and we must get a hold of hope and let it give us buoyancy, a lift, and let it be our life’s preserver.

Everything we face or go through leads to a “but”, or a “yet”; that is hope in God and Christ.  And here is the second piece: God and Christ do not negate your pain, but they enter into it and save you with their redemption.  Triumphalism is not the gospel.

When I went through one of the most painful seasons in my life.  My urgent prayer was for God to make the pain go away.  Instead, this verse, 2 Corinthians 12:9, was given to me personally: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

God enters into the lives of us who are experiencing heartbreak, brokenness, and humiliated weakness; and loves us unconditionally and teaches us the way.

You may know this praise song, by Robert Davidson:

As we gather may Your Spirit work within us
As we gather may we glorify Your Name
Knowing well that as our hearts begin to worship
We’ll be blessed because we came 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end,
They are new every morning
New every morning
Great is Your faithfulness, 0 Lord
Great is Your faithfulness 

These words, the second part, come from Lamentations 3, from the Revised Standard Version.  The next verse says, “The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” (RSV); or, “I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.” (HCSB)

And before Jeremiah writes about the steadfast or faithful love of the Lord and putting his hope in the Lord, he writes twenty verses about his troubles, then turns a corner, and in verse twenty-one writes, “Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope”, or “But I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope”; and then gives us the beautiful line that is used in the song above.

Jeremiah shows us that hope floats.  Here is the context, in the HCSB:

ז Zayin

Remember my affliction and my homelessness,
the wormwood and the poison.
I continually remember them
and have become depressed.
Yet I call this to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

ח Khet

Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for His mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness!
I say: The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in Him.

ט Tet

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
to the person who seeks Him.
It is good to wait quietly
for deliverance from the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is still young.

There is another scripture on hope, that I personally love, and it is this one, from 1 Corinthians 13:

When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man,
I put aside childish things.
For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part,
but then I will know fully,
as I am fully known.
Now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love. -1 Cor. 13:11-13

Another scripture passage on hope is this one from 1 Thessalonians:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.  Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. -1 Thess. 4:13-14

Do you remember the quoted scripture, by John, in John 2, when Jesus cleared the temple area of the money changers?   John wrote, “And His disciples remembered that it is written, “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”  That is Psalm 69:9, the same Psalm where David is writing about feeling overwhelmed.

It is amazing how John takes a line from David, who had moods and went high and low, and in the midst of thirty-six verses of this Psalm, he makes the statement that, “Zeal for Your house consumes Me.”  Take note that the Temple had not been built.

David was talking about God’s presence, the place where God dwells, whether in heaven or on earth.  You might be having set backs, troubles, failures, disappointments or betrayals; while living under the banner of zeal for God’s house.  You identify with David and Jesus also is identified with David, by John and his other disciples.

Hope was needed, for floating, for David, as he was going through troubles while he wrote Psalm 69.  And hope always floated for Jesus, as he went through his life, including what he did with the money changers in the temple courts.  Inspired by God, John sees Jesus as zealous for God’s house, and touches that back to David, who was going through a time when he needed hope to bring him up.

And, if you read all of Psalm 69, or at least up through verse nine, to get the context, you will see that David is calling out to God, asking that his followers would not lose their hope because of all that had befallen him.  Here is the context:

Save me, God,
for the water has risen to my neck.
I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing;
I have come into deep waters,
and a flood sweeps over me.

I am weary from my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.
Those who hate me without cause
are more numerous than the hairs of my head;
my deceitful enemies, who would destroy me,
are powerful.
Though I did not steal, I must repay.

God, You know my foolishness,
and my guilty acts are not hidden from You.
Do not let those who put their hope in You
be disgraced because of me,
Lord God of Hosts;
do not let those who seek You
be humiliated because of me,
God of Israel.

For I have endured insults because of You,
and shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my brothers
and a foreigner to my mother’s sons
because zeal for Your house has consumed me,
and the insults of those who insult You
have fallen on me. -Psalm 69:1-9

I underlined verse two, which is my jumping off point; then verse six, that mentions hope; and then verse nine, that is the line about zeal for God’s house.  You might be a person with zeal for God’s house and be very down and discouraged.  In your prayers, you ask God to not let your journey and it’s mishaps to hurt those who have followed you, are in your care, or of who you lead relation-ally.

A certain percentage of ventures, including starting churches or ministry outreaches fail.  Faith involves risk and sometimes risks fail, but God loves people who exercise faith and risk in doing so.

Praying for anything is an example of exercising faith.  Doing anything in the kingdom also requires faith, and true faith always has risk.  As leaders, we always have concern for others, that when failure or disappointment comes, that they do not lose hope.

And all of us are leaders, except the newborn babes among us.  You lead your friends, your co-workers, and you lead in your family.  The task of Christian leadership is service.

Service is always for the sake of others.  And when we care about others, our service is to help them in their relationship with God.  My leadership is to serve you, to help you connect with God, and become who God has made you to be, as your destiny.  My back and my shoulders are for you to stand on, to see God.

You might be passionate about your ideas about God.  You might be concerned for your followers, people you lead, or people in your care; just like David was.  That is good, that is Christ.

Zeal for God’s house is what eventually got Jesus killed.

Is zeal for God’s house worth dying for, to you?  And as you live out that Zeal, are your people very important to you?  I mean, are you living out Jesus’ life that says, “This is my command: that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.”

We not only want hope for ourselves, but we want it for others.  In Christ, we begin to care more about others than our selves.  We lead by saying to others, “How are you doing?”, rather than being centered on our selves.

We realize we need hope and take hold of it, when we are flooded by troubles.  Then, we immediately turn our concern to others.  It is like what they tell you in the emergency instructions, when you fly: first, get the oxygen mask on your face, then help others.

Do You Love Me? Feed My Lambs

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”” Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Feed My lambs,” He told him.

-John 21:15
Being a Christian is all about love: being loved and loving others.  Being a leader is all about serving others, through love.  We have his love and we show his love by serving others in practical ways.
The basic and indispensable qualification for Christian service is love.  In this conversation between Jesus and Peter, we learn again, that love is the foundation of the Christian life, of the good news, and of Christian service.  
Peter might be identified as a leader or even the leader in the church. We have an obsession with leadership in the church today.  But there is no calling to leadership, but only a call to service.
Jesus says to me and to any of us who are his followers, just like he said to Peter, “Do you love me?  Then feed my lambs.”  Something to always remember is that the people are his.  Even our children, our husbands and our wives are his.
“Feed my sheep”, is a word from the top, chief shepherd, to the rest of us who might be in the shepherding role.  Feed them (and tend them), and they are his, not yours; so keep that in mind.  We have here a description of “the ministry”, because the context of Jesus’ words are Peter’s reinstatement into the ministry.
Peter had already met with Jesus, after the resurrection.  Peter had his faith intact.  But he might have been still hurting over how he betrayed Jesus and he might have felt like a failure.
Peter may have disqualified himself from being a person who could lead others to Jesus and share the good news and encourage them, because he felt like he totally blew it.  But Jesus comes along and has a pow wow with him, and it is in front of the other guys.  In Peter’s mixed feelings of despair and awe in the Lord’s presence, Jesus says, “You love me right?  (pause)  Then feed and take care of the people who believe in me.”
Peter’s response is, “Of course I love you (but)”.  I put the ‘but’ in parentheses, because he was maybe thinking a ‘but’.  His ‘but’, might have been something like, “I can not believe he asked me that, and I think he is probably not going to want me to serve him or his people in any capacity, after what I did on the night he was arrested.”
Jesus is love.  Jesus being with Peter was loving.  I bet Peter knew Jesus loved him at that moment.
Jesus did not say, “You know I love you”.  Instead, Jesus asks Peter that question, not because he was after information or he doubted Peter’s love.  Peter was crazy in love with Jesus.
When someone loves you like crazy and you ask them, “do you love me?”, they might be taken aback, or a little bit offended.  That’s when we say, “I can’t believe you are asking me that!”  But Jesus can ask anything he wants to and it is always a good and meaningful question.
In other words, Jesus is not insecure and he is not playing a game.  There is absolutely no guile in his question.  Everyone knows that Peter is a lover of Jesus of Nazareth.  There is no doubt.
So, why oh why does Jesus ask this (crazy sounding) question?
Peter might have answered the question more fully with, “yeah, I love you, sure I do (what a weird question!); but I am pretty sure I blew it and you don’t want me to represent you in any way, while I still believe you do love me and I also believe you forgive me, but being the guy people look to for learning about you, I am pretty sure you don’t want me for that.”
To that, Jesus simply says, “Do you love me?  Then simply feed my sheep, and care for them”.  Yes, the light is green.  Jesus says, “Take your love for me, and love my people and look after them”.  Behold, Jesus’ description of pastoral ministry!
Here is the message for all of us:  Do you love Jesus?  Then feed his lambs.
This scene, this story, on the beach, between Jesus and Peter, is a message for all Christians, especially to ministers.  Peter was just a man, just like we are just men and women that do Jesus Christ’s ministry on earth, today.
I believe that the ministry is Jesus’ ministry and he calls us all into his ministry.  There is no pyramid shaped hierarchy in the church.  But there is one at the top, God in three persons, and then the rest of us; all the way from Peter to me.
The (corporate chart in the) kingdom is flat.
Peter here is being called, again, after his mishap, to service.  Peter is special in that he was one of the founding Apostles, but he is never called to be a special ruler, like a king.  In Peter’s mind, and through his words, Jesus is the only head, chief, senior, or lead shepherd (see 1 Peter 5:1-4).  
The rock that Jesus’ church is founded upon, is The Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God.  From Christ, we love, and we serve: feeding and caring for his people.  That is the ministry.
Whatever your failure, your mishap, or your detour; and even if your wandering feels like you are lost from the ministry, the church, your calling, your destiny, or simply a happy life of service to God:  Hear Jesus’ words to you:  “Do you love me?”
He simply asks, “Do you love me?”
Some of us might have a hard time even with that question, because we equate love with performance.  We are all tied in knots, because we judge our selves, our performance as poor.  We say to ourselves, that we really must not love him AS WE SHOULD because of our failures.
Real love is not tied to success or proved by winning performances.  Real love is based on no conditions, but is a choice to love that person.  We never define or gauge God’s love for us, based on our victory or defeat, success or failure, and applause or boos from people.
The word is simple.  Do you love him?  Get past your performance orientation, ambition, competition, need to look good, low self-esteem, and ego-mania.
Get past it, does not mean pretend it is not there, but it means to acknowledge it and let it go.  Set it down at the cross, release it and embrace Father in his unconditional love.  The only way to live, which is the way of Christ, same for Peter and same for us, is to live loved.
After clearing the way, you can say, “I do”.  I do love you.  Yes.
He has brought me back to the center.  My bad is not the center.  Me is not the center.
My “I” is now filled with his light.  It is a little light most of the time, but his light is there in me.  In that light, I know I love him.
He loves me and I love him.  Truth!  Now that we have that clear, and we might have to go back and forth a number of times, because of my stuff; I hear him say these simple words: “Feed my lambs and tend my sheep”.

Servants Rule!

The greatest among you will be your servant.

-Matthew 23:11
How is your serve?  I was thinking about the phrase kids use to brag that their group is the greatest, like, “nerds rule!”  It’s like “we’re the best”, or “we’re the greatest”.
And it is true that Jesus said that servants are the great ones in the kingdom.  Kingdom values are different, even upside down from earthly values.  We are kingdom people first and church members second.
The way that Christians are governed is by kingdom values inside and outside the church.  It does not matter if you are thinking of “the church gathered” or “the church scattered”.  Jesus, who is the builder of the church, says that his people will not be like the world or like the religious institutions, of his day.
Jesus said that there is no hierarchy and no corporate flow chart.  There are not special people who are heads or positional leaders.  There are no officials or officers.
We’re just brothers and sisters, with Jesus as our head, Lord, teacher, and leader.
Serving is it.  Jesus said he came to serve.  Father sent Jesus to serve.  
And Jesus says to us, “As the Father sent me, so I send you”.  What does he send us to do?  Serve.  Who does Jesus make us all to be?  Servants.
How is your serve?  
I see Jesus inviting us into his life of service.  I see Jesus building his church through servants.  And the servants are in on Jesus’ secrets (John 2:5-9).
You can be a pastor, a preacher, an evangelist, a prophet, an apostle, or a teacher.  But you will only be great in the King’s sight, if you are first a servant.  Servants serve, they do not feel entitled to being served in any way.

Servants rule!

Principles of Christian leadership: Notes from Green’s “Thirty Years That Changed The World: the Book of Acts for Today”

Brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you, leading you, and instructing you.
-1 Thessalonians 5:12 (CEB)
Picture: Pixabay
My notes and Green’s quotes:
Principles of Christian Leadership:
Leadership is a gift from God
-Leadership is a gift of God to his church.  Leadership is not some office you train for, but a leader is someone God raises up.  Divine

charisma is a prerequisite for anyone exercising effective leadership.  Divine enabling precedes human recognition (ordination).

Leadership is shared
-Leaders do not operate solo.  They work in teams.  Elders is always plural in Acts and in the rest of the New Testament.  Plurality of leadership preserves the church from imbalance and undue dependence on one individual leader.  Plural leadership preserves the individual leader from megalomania and from burn out.  
(pp. 209-11)
Qualities in Christian leadership (Acts 20)
Do they walk with God?

“Unless there is a fundamental dedication to the Lord, all Christian leadership is a sham…There is only one reason that will bear the weight put upon it.  And that is a call from the Lord, a deep love for him, and a passionate determination to serve others for his sake.”
Do they believe in shared ministry?
“There is no room today for the ‘one man band’.  Nor was there in the first century… In our situation, we place enormous pressures on people by expecting them to exercise a one-person ministry, or at best, ministry with one assistant.  This is fundamentally unbiblical and misguided.  I would want to ask any applicants for Christian ministry today whether or not they believe in shared ministry.  And this includes shared ministry of men and women.”
There are no women presbyters (elders) in the New Testament, but there are many examples of women ministering.  Jesus set the example of being accepting or affirming women as equal before God.  And we do find women as deacons and in a variety of ministry roles and functions in the NT.
Can they inspire others?
“The function of leadership is proistasthai, ‘to go out in front’.  It may mean going out on a limb.  It certainly means to inspire and challenge.  Leaders need to lead.  If that is not your gift, do not aspire to leadership.”
Do they pray?
We are fond of quoting Paul, but do you follow his example in prayer?  Paul was steeped in prayer.  Paul prayed with and for other leaders.  Are you steeped in prayer? 
Are they humble?
Humility is not about self-denigration but recognition that any gifts you have come from God.  Humility says that all our enabling comes from the Lord.
Are they enablers (of others)?
“The essence of NT leadership is to be an enabler of others… This is not a notable characteristic of today’s leadership.  There are too many stars around, and not nearly enough equippers… The supreme privilege for anyone in leadership is to  equip others to make their offering of ministry to the Lord and his church.”
Do they care about people?
“Modern pastors must love people – more than books.  If not, we will fail comprehensively.  Christian ministry involves the application of the grace of God to real people.  And if you do not (really) love them, that is something you cannot do with any real credibility.”
Are they examples?
“It is very sad when a work of God shrivels away because of the poor example of the appointed leaders.  What we are does in fact speak louder than what we say.  There is nothing a church needs more than the holiness and example of its leaders.
What do they believe?
Do you believe the faith of the New Testament?  Will you preach, tell people, the whole council of God and call them to repentance?  Are you willing to ruffle feathers and take on contentious and painful issues?  Real leadership is not afraid to do so.
Do they make the scripture their guide?
Do you take God’s word with the utmost seriousness?  Do you study the word so that you can open it up for yourself and to others?  Do you believe the scriptures contain God’s ideas about man and his salvation? 
Can they teach?
Leaders must be able to teach.  There are three ways of teaching.  Number one, we teach by the example of our lives.  
People will do as we do far more than do as we say.  Do you have children?  A minister who says a lot of right stuff but lives badly is called a hypocrite, like the Pharisees.
Number two is public teaching.  Do people learn when you teach?  Do you maintain people’s attention and is what you say memorable?  Do you have a passion for studying something in order to present it to others, like a good cook serves a delicious meal?
Number three is visiting.  Are you comfortable mentoring people in their homes or in another comfortable and close up setting?  Are you comfortable being a leader in person?  This is essential.
What is their attitude to money?
“Paul left a considerable fortune when he became a Christian minister.  As such he had no regular income apart from what he earned in tent making.  He might well have been tempted to avarice… His own industriousness provided enough not only for his own necessities (not luxuries) but for those who accompanied him and who presumably did not have skills that could be put to use in almost any location, like tent making (Acts 20:13).”

Avarice: insatiable greed for riches; inordinate, miserly desire to gain and hoard wealth.

 Scriptures that meantion avarice:

But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.

 But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.

(Ex. 18:21 & 1 Cor. 5:11)
Michael Green: “There is a terrible danger of being in Christian leadership for money.  Covetousness still accounts for the downfall of many in the ministry.”
  • It is dangerous to require payment for preaching a sermon.
  • Integrity in finances is imperative for a leader’s credibility.

Dare they face unpopularity?
“We love to be loved.  But sometimes, if we are faithful, we have to confront…   For leadership requires courage to do the unpopular thing if necessary.”
Can they endure hard times and suffering?
If you endure suffering, to follow what you believe the Lord is calling you to; then you will have earned authority for people to follow you. (My summary of Green).
Are they wholehearted?
Do not get into Christian leadership for financial rewards, prestige, popularity, or as a “job”.  Only a passionate (wholehearted) calling to serve Christ (and his bride) will suffice.
  • It will be very hard.
  • You will be very disappointed at times.
  • There will be defeats and failures.
  • You will be tempted to give up.
  • You will have sleepless nights.
  • You will cry over people often.
  • You need a burning commitment to your calling.
  • Above all you must be wholehearted toward the Lord.
  • You also must be a person of rest, who knows the value of and how to rest in the Lord.
  • You also must know how to have fun, in the Lord, or the ministry will crush you.

Are they able to receive ministry from others?
  • Admit your need for ministry from other humans.
  • Come down off any pedestal you or others have put you on and admit your failures.
  • When you are honest about your weakness and humanity, you gain respect and authority.
  • Let people love you, the real you, not just ‘the minister’ you.
  • If you are honest with people they will be honest with you (and visa versa).
  • Accept ministry from those around you.

Are they truly open to the Holy Spirit?
“That is the vital ingredient in all great leadership.  We need to be full of the Holy Spirit of God, so that it is not so much our leadership as the leadership of the Spirit through us.”
  • We need to be bound in the Spirit (Acts 20:22).
  • We need to listen to the Spirit (20:23).
  • We need to obey the Spirit.
  • We need to experience the Spirit of God making people leaders.
  • We must lead in the wisdom, love, courage, and power that the Spirit supplies.

“There is no substitute for Christian leaders who are full of the Holy Spirit…. These are some of the leadership qualities set before us in this wonderful chapter (Acts 20).”
(pp. 214-25)

Compelled

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.-Matthew 5:38-42 (NKJV)

Photo: Pixabay

Question: How do you do, when someone else takes over your control?  How do you do, when someone forces you to do something that was not your plan?  How do you react when someone else’s action impinges upon you?

The way of the world is “tit for tat”, resistance, or taking offense, when someone impinges on our control.  Generosity exists in the world, but it seems that Jesus calls his followers to a lifestyle of giving and lending freely.  He calls us to a love life that goes beyond the love of the world, where we sacrificially let others impose on us and put others first, in a spirit of meekness, without offense.

When we read Jesus’ words in his sermon on the mount, we have to keep in mind that he never calls us to a new legalism.  The Christian life is not a set of “do’s and do not’s”.  The Christian life is a life in Christ.

Christ lives through me, as I die.  I have to die, my self has to die, for him to live.  Holiness comes through his life, living in my life; not through being good, myself.  My self is called to die, so that he can live through me.

I am focusing on this statement of Jesus:

And if anyone compels you to go one mile, go with him two.

We call this, “Going the second mile”.

I am on my journey in life, with all the things I do.  I have places to go and people to see.  I have work, I have meetings.  I have all the things and relationships that make up my life.

In the midst of all that is in my life, someone, and they could be a someone I already know, or a stranger; comes along and “forces” or “compels” me to go in a direction I was not planning on going.  We could call this a life interruption.

Jesus says that a person living through him goes along with the detour and does it double.  We generously go above and beyond what is asked.  It is not an exact thing, but a heart and spiritual attitude of character, lived out.

Jesus’ saying about allowing yourself to be compelled or forced to do something that was not in your plans, comes in a paragraph or section where he says to have a generous lifestyle.  We don’t retaliate or selfishly defend our selves.  The central operating principal of our lives is not self, but Christ.

The verse that describes the gospel message, so often quoted, is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…”  It is a message of giving for the sake of others.  Jesus gave his life, and we follow him, giving our lives, our time, our attention, and our stuff.

We are not robots, but people being transformed into the image, being like, Christ.  And so he lives his generous, loving life through us.  All the while he takes good care of us too.

Every verse in the sermon on the mount is best understood within the whole context of the whole sermon or collection of words from Jesus.  An outline, suggested by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jone, is as follows:

Matthew 5:3-10, The character of the Christian in and of himself.

Matthew 5:11-12, The character of the Christian, proved by the reaction of the world to him.

Matthew 5:13-16, An account of the relationship of the Christian to the world, OR the function of the Christian in society and in the world.

Matthew 5:17-48, Particular examples of how the Christian lives in the world:

  • A general description of righteousness.
  • His relationship towards: 
  1. Murder
  2. Adultery
  3. Divorce
  4. How to speak
  5. Retaliation & self-defense
  • Emphasizing the spirit over the letter: the Pharisees emphasized the letter only.  The details (letter) are an expression of the spirit, the transformed heart.
Matthew 6, The Christian living his life in the presence of God, in active submission to Him and entire dependence on Him.
Matthew 7, The Christian as one who lives always under the judgement and fear of God.
  • The fear of God, for the Christian, is not being filled with fear, but reverence filled with love.
  • The world lives in fear of judgement, while the Christian lives under the judgement of God.
The whole sermon on the mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or a new law.  Jesus is talking about the character, inside out, of his disciples.  Jesus teaches about the spiritual life of his disciples and how they will behave, under certain circumstances, because of the life they have within them.  
The sermon on the mount is about life in Christ.
Being compelled to do something you were not planning on is an imposition.  Will you respond by being offended, in a “How dare you”, sort of a manner?  Will you resist and selfishly not comply with someone else’s wishes, spiraling into fear, hurt, and anger?  Will you “hit back” when you feel slapped?
These are all natural reactions, right?  Once again, context is a huge key to these verses.  We must have the beatitudes going or the transformation into Christ-likeness, through becoming his disciples and denying our selves, in process in our lives; because only his life in us can live the life he promises and desires and calls us to.
We can not “drop in” to Matthew 5:41, while skipping 5:3-16.  We must be people of 5:3-16, to live or function in verses 17 onward.  The person who does not take offense, who is generous, and when imposed upon, injured, and affronted; is loving and faithful to Christ, is a kingdom person.
Kingdom people have the central organizing factor in place in their lives of the Kingdom of God, and they behave in kingdom ways, under kingdom rule and reign.  Kingdom people became kingdom people through Christ.  The experiential doors-ways or experiences of becoming kingdom people who are in Christ, are described in the be-attitudes in Matthew 5:3-10.
If one has not entered into life in Christ and gone through these doors, hall ways, or experiences; then they will never stand a chance of behaving in Christ-like (life-in-Christ) or kingdom ways, in their lives.  When we have one of these situations come up in our life, like someone imposing on our time or plans and forcing us to do something different, and we resist, hit back, or get offended; and fail the test, we don’t give up and run away, but we run back to Christ, to him and away from our selves, and re-apply and become reconciled to the beatitudes again and again and again.
Here they are:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

It starts with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  When I fail, and I fail every day, I am in touch with my poverty of spirit.  The fact that I admit that, means that I get to experience the kingdom of heaven.  It is now my inheritance.

Conversely, if I don’t see my poverty in spirit, if I think I am ok, maybe not perfect but just ok, and the problem, my problem is these other people, and I want God to do it my way; then I do not have the kingdom and am not being and becoming a kingdom person.

“Poor in spirit”, does not mean self pity or that I am a victim of circumstances and that I am not getting what I am entitled to.  It means I lack heavenly resources to live a life before God.  It means I have realized that I am bankrupt.

“Blessed are those who mourn”, means people who feel bad about unrighteousness, their own and others.  Remember that Jesus himself was a man of sorrows.  He was deeply saddened by mankind.  He was grieved.

The mourning for us is linked to our poverty of spirit, our spiritual bankruptcy in and of or selves.  As we mourn, in our lives, we are comforted.  The selfish person is not comforted in their anger about not getting their way.  Their reservoir of anger fuels depression with is not mourning of the need to come into Christ and become kingdom.  Their mourning is over wanting to be king or queen.

“Blessed are the meek”.  The person in Christ is meek.  They defer to others, they don’t need to be first or in charge, in control, or up front.  They gladly serve as leader if need be.  But they don’t lead or serve out of selfish need.

Non-meek means proud and selfish.  The non-meek person needs to have their way and to be in control.  The person under Christ’s control does not need to be in control.  The controler controls because they are afraid to not be in control.

The ‘controller’ may have a control issue that stems from childhood abuse or neglect where they were left out of control, when their caregivers were not caring.  Most people had imperfect parents who failed in some ways and some had horrific parents.  Either way, Jesus can heal and redeem lives and makes provision for your unmet needs and your childhood trauma.

If a person does not accept their poverty of spirit and their utter sinfulness of their self and mourn that, the kingdom in inactive in their life.  They are unable to live out Jesus life, because their un-dead selves are ruling the day.  And we all are in this process.

When we fail the test, when we are not living as Jesus describes the life, we circle back to him for continued transformation, living through him, in his grace, and letting our self life go.  Every failure is not the end, but part of the process.  That was the message of Peter’s fall.

The truth is that he is right next to us, with us, in our failures or learning experiences.  We choose to realize he is there or push that reality out of our consciousness.  His disciples are people who practice his presence, in victory and in failure.

When we fall off the path or fall out and fail in the life, it is not over, but is part of the transformational process.  It is non-linear and circular.  We circle back to Christ and embrace him and the kingdom and let him restore us and transform us and intercede for us and the beatitudes become more a reality and then we become the persons described in the rest of the sermon.

The Christian is a person who allows themselves to be compelled, to be imposed upon, to be forced to do things to help others with what they see as important.  And this is descriptive and an example, not a prescription, rule, or law.  We have a spirit within that is being transformed and that spirit is one that goes “the second mile”.

We allow ourselves to be compelled to go the first and second mile, because that is the heart of God, and the heart of Christ.  We don’t insist on our own rights and wrestle control from others.  We are ok with taking a low seat and not speaking out and up immediately.  We may be a bit further along in the life in Christ, and we make way and go the second mile with the weaker brother or sister, without judgement and with graciousness, treating them as full brothers or sisters who are equal heirs in the kingdom.

_______________________________________
Bibliography:

Studies in the Sermon on The Mount, D. Martyn Llyod-Jones
The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard
Matthew, Donald Hagner

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑