Archive for March, 2009

Faith that impresses the Savior

Posted in Devotions on March 31, 2009 by jaymallow

                                                Faith that impresses the Savior

 

What kind of faith impresses Jesus?  What sort of faith amazes the savior?  In the gospel accounts, only two individuals truly amaze Jesus and Luke records one of them in Luke 7:1-10. 

            To start off we need to know that Luke is writing this account in a specific manner.  From the start Luke would have us know that this is not a normal encounter for Jesus.  First off, Luke starts the passage “…he entered Capernaum.”  Now the city of Capernaum is significant because this was a large metropolitan town.  Jesus normally stayed and ministered in the rural back country of Judea, but in this instance He enters this large metropolis.  Not only was Capernaum a large town, but it was the main port city for the region.  All goods flowing in and out of the region came through Capernaum and it even lay along the trade route from Babylon to Egypt.  It was primarily for this reason that Rome had decided to make Capernaum it’s capital city in Palestine.  In fact one of the reasons we know that Pontius Pilate was an actual historical person living as a governor at the time of Christ, is that archeologists have uncovered a cornerstone to a coliseum Pilate built at that time.  This was not only a large, wealthy city, it had begun to be Romanized.  If you will, it was a “modern” city.

            So now we see Jesus entering this large, influential, and modern city only to be met by the town leaders.  This again was unusual.  The Jewish leaders were doing everything to distance themselves from seeming to support Jesus and His ministry.  Yet here we have the town elders approaching Jesus with a request.  Even more odd, it’s a request from a Roman Centurion.

            To the people of this time it would have been more understandable if the “request” had been delivered by a squad of soldiers at spear point. Rome didn’t “request” it demanded, it conquered.  This was still the time where under Roman law, a soldier could compel a non Roman citizen to carry his burden for one mile in any direction on a Roman road.   Yet here we have this Roman General asking for Jesus to come and heal his servant.  Not only that, but the leaders implore Jesus to grant this man’s request by appealing to this man’s character.  They point to his love of the Jewish people, (they would see this as a love for God)  and the fact that this General built a synagogue. (essentially he built a church)  Again it would have been uncommon for any Jew to praise a gentile much less a Roman.

            The question at this point is what portrait is Luke trying to paint of this individual?  We now know some key things: 1. He was a man of power in an important city.  More than likely he was the second most powerful man in the region.  2. He was a man of great influence.  This Centurion was able to persuade the Elders of this town to approach Jesus. (something they probably weren’t excited to do)  3. He was a man of  proven character (again He BUILT a CHURCH)  4. He was wealthy (refer to point three)  All of these factors make the request even more amazing.  Why?  Because He could have approached Jesus very differently.

            It is at this point that I am personally convicted and wonder, how many times do I just simply ask?  How many times do I come to God demanding, expecting, cajoling, bartering on my character, service and sacrifice.  Yet this man comes to Jesus with just a simple request.

            But it wasn’t this that amazed Jesus.  Jesus agrees to go with the Elders and on his way is met by friends of the Centurion with this message:  “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.  Therefore I did not presume to come to you.  But say the word and let my servant be healed.  For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  At this statement Jesus marveled.  What about this was so amazing?  I believe there are three things, 1. This mans view of himself. 2. This man’s view of Jesus. 3. This man’s desire in this situation.

1.      This man’s view of himself:  This is summed up in four words, “I am not worthy…”  Now because of our culture I believe I need to clarify this statement, because this is not a man grappling with self esteem issues.  I really can’t imagine a Roman soldier, much less a commander, just really needing a hug.  And, it wasn’t like this man’s house was a wreck.  The spirit of this statement isn’t, “Listen, Jesus, this really isn’t a good time.  I’ve got friends over, servants dying on me, if you could just heal from there that would be better.”  The only illustration I can think of is this. (it’s far fetched so try to use your imagination)  Imagine the President of the United States calling you up and asking to stay over this weekend.  Now for one small second some of you might think, “Sure why not?”  Some of you have really nice homes. (even by California standards where, let’s face it, a million only gets you so much) But as soon as that second passed and you start to think, “Alright we’ll have to clean out the guest room. No scratch that.  We’ll sleep in the guest room and He can stay in the master bedroom.  We’ll have to change the sheets…”  Now we’ve gotten into the absurd.  Why?  Because it’s the President!  And it’s not just Him.  It’s security issues, the Secret Service doing background checks on all the neighbors you’ve been trying to witness to, bomb sniffing dogs intimidating your dog, etc. etc.  Now what are we saying?  Are we saying that your home is worthless?  That it isn’t good for anything?  Absolutely not!  What we all know, is that while your home might be nice for you and your care group, it’s not exactly Presidential.  The President because of who he is deserves more than what you have to offer.  This is the attitude the Centurion has towards Jesus.  “You deserve more than my hospitality.  You are worthy of more than what I have to offer.”  (again amazing that THIS guy is saying this given what we’ve learned)

Now would Jesus not only approve of this attitude, but teach His disciples (and by extension us) to have this attitude?  And would this attitude lead to a greater faith?  Skip over to Luke 17:5.  The disciples ask “Lord increase our faith! (good question don’t you think?)  Jesus responds: “If you had faith like a grain of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.”  Now this is encouraging.  I could go into how small a mustard seed is, and how extensive the mulberry tree’s root system is, but that isn’t what struck me about this passage.  Notice that Jesus continues on without changing the subject:  “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing in the field or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down at table?’   Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink?’  Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?”  What?  How in the world does this increase faith?  Here we were all warm and fuzzy thinking about mustard seeds and mulberry trees, and building Christian spice racks, and now Jesus is talking about kicking some poor guy of the couch after a hard day of work, making him wait tables, and not even thanking him!  What’s the point?  “So you also when you have done all that you were commanded say, ‘We are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty.”  Here is what I believe Jesus was teaching.  Folks if we, by some miracle of grace, were able to actually love God with all that we are, and at the same time simply love those we know (in this room) the way we love ourselves, we’d still be unworthy servants.  Because God is worthy of more than mere obedience.  Now how does this increase faith?  Our faith is increased when we come to the realization that there is only one for whom the cry of heaven is at this very moment, “WORTHY, WORTHY, WORTHY, is the Lamb…”  There is only one who after obeying perfectly went one step further.  He took upon Himself our UNWORTHYNESS and INABILITY and gives to us His RIGHTOUSNESS.  Our faith is not focused on how wretched we are but upon how excellent and sufficient He is.  We are at best unworthy servants trusting in His worthiness.  (Point of application:  This attitude underlies all of the New Testaments exhortations.  Thinking of others, not judging, laying our lives down for one another, etc. etc.  Church doesn’t happen apart from this view.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the church like nothing else gives us “Lay-Z-Boy moments”.  It’s just when we want to kick back and chill when we get challenged.  I think it also important to note that this whole exchange got started when Jesus was teaching on forgiveness.  In this subject alone we are most likely to say “They don’t deserve…”)

 

2.      The Centurion’s view of Christ:  Interestingly this man actually identifies himself with Jesus.  “For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me…”  Now this is a statement that is a little difficult.  At first glance it would make more sense for him to say, “For I too am a man IN authority…”  But he specifically doesn’t say that. (the Greek here is actually VERY specific)  I actually didn’t get this until I was in the military myself. (I was in the United States Marine Corps Reserve for six years)   What this man is referring to is a military concept called the chain of command.  This is how the chain of command works:  Authority is given over resources to enforce the will of the one in command.  It worked like this for the Centurion:  The governor has a will, (that the streets are safe, that taxes be collected, etc.)  therefore the Centurion was placed under the governor’s authority and given authority (over soldiers) to enforce the governor’s will.  Now this honestly is what I believe to be close to what was in this man’s heart as he addressed Jesus,  “I say to this soldier ‘Go’ and he goes.  YOU heal people.  I say to this one ‘Come’ and he comes.  At YOUR word demons flee.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this’ and he does it.  At YOUR command the wind and the waves become silent.  I’m guessing you don’t answer to Caesar.  I presume that you are a little higher up the ‘Chain of Command’.  And if I by MY word can enforce the will of the one who has given me authority, then LORD say the word and my servant will be healed.”  It’s not enough to see the savior as worthy, faith sees him as ABLE.

Let me, for a moment, seem to digress and ask a question. It is a question posed to me some years ago and it’s one of those questions I have to keep asking myself.  “What have you stopped praying for?”   I don’t mean the things God has given an answer to.  I mean, what have you at one time earnestly prayed about and now, well, you just don’t bring it up?  The reason I ask is this.  In my own life too often the defining line between “God hasn’t.” and “God can’t” is very fine, and my heart can subtly move towards the latter.  Now to say “God hasn’t” is a statement of fact, to say “God can’t” is to believe a lie from the father of lies himself.  And let’s face it, it isn’t even a good lie.  I mean if you’re going to begin to believe a lie, believe in a lie that at least has the possibility of being true.  I’m speaking from personal experience here:  I’ve looked at my account balance while ignoring a call from a creditor and thought, “There’s no way I’m ever getting out of this.”  I’ve worked two part-time dead end jobs at the same time and thought, “This is all I’m good for.”  I am right now thirty years old, still single, and not one girl that I have ever been interested in has returned that interest. (I’ve even calculated the time from where my interest starts, to when she eventually marries someone else. It’s about eight months to a year.)  I don’t say any of this to engender sympathy. (in fact I’m preaching to myself) The fact is, my personal history doesn’t mean that God CAN’T.  Just because He hasn’t doesn’t mean He isn’t able to.  Sometimes I have to step back and really evaluate what I believe about God in a situation.  Do I really believe that the God that INVENTED MATH looks at my account statement and goes, “You got me, I have no clue…”  Do I really believe that the God who directs the course of nations and took twelve mostly illiterate guys and changed the world, looks at me and says, “I have no idea how to use you…”  This is deadly important.  There is a reason we are constantly encouraged to pray without ceasing.  For if the enemy can get you and I to doubt in just one small area, our faith is a house of cards waiting for a stiff breeze.  

A worthy savior is not enough, I need an ABLE savior.  If your primary vision of Jesus is that of a dying, beaten, helpless, MAN on a cross, (as mine too often is) then you only have half of the story. (and there is  good news)  A dead savior, (even one who died for you) can’t help you much right now.  BUT if your savior is ALIVE, if He is GLORIOUS, if He is POWER INCARNATE,  if He is seated at the RIGHT HAND OF GOD ALMIGHTY,  and if ALL POWER, DOMINION, AND AUTHORITY have been given to Him, well that changes things doesn’t it?  WITH A WORD  The same word that spoke and galaxies leapt into existence, the same word that breathed life into inanimate clay, THIS WORD STILL SPEAKS.  WHAT CAN’T HE DO?  This is what gives prayer infinite, omnipotent POWER. Now I know the automatic response, “If it’s so simple why hasn’t he?”  The truth is, I don’t know.  That’s something you’ll have to ask Him about.  But I do know He’s probably looking forward to that conversation.  Because often in my life, sadly, that’s the only time I talk to Him.

 

3.      Faith sees the Savior as worthy.  Faith sees Him as able.  And Faith desires for Him to receive the glory:  

What does this Centurion want?  Obviously for his servant to be healed, but there is a dynamic at work, that this man is aware of, that we need to see.  In his culture for a person of superior rank to visit a subordinate’s house the honor would go to the lesser, not the greater.  Think back to my imperfect illustration.  If the President were to actually stay with you who would be honored?  Who would, if you will, receive the glory?  You would!  I mean the man flies around in the most technologically advanced aircraft known to man, your entertainment system isn’t all that impressive.  Just imagine the slant of the local news.  About 5% would be about the President and 95% would be about you.  The Centurion’s statements of, “I’m not worthy to have you come to my house.” And, “Don’t trouble yourself…”  Belie a greater desire.  Essentially, “Do not let me rob you of any honor that is due you.  Don’t let me take any of the glory that you deserve.”  We’ve been learning about Paul in Philippians having joy in the midst of his circumstances.  This is where most of it comes from. “If I die I go to the Lord, God is glorified, if I stay the gospel still goes forth and God is glorified, and if I’m released we reunite and God is glorified, my joy is in His glory I don’t matter.” Now I know that’s uncomfortable and if you say something like that it feels like something has died within you. (that’s OK it’s a good thing)  But really wouldn’t it be the most liberating thing to not be concerned with yourself?  Seriously think about it.  Wouldn’t it be so refreshing not to be worried about what other’s think about you, or weather your “career track” is going to “fulfill” you, or weather “you” are going to meet “your” financial goals?  (See Matt. 6:25-34)  Faith looks to the Savior and says, “All honor, glory and power belong to you…”

 

Finally, the Centurion still asks.  With all of this faith and a more clear vision of who Jesus really is than even Jesus’ own disciples he still asks, “Would you come and heal my servant…”  Faith asks for two reasons, first faith knows that not asking says something about God.  When we don’t ask what we are saying to God is, “I don’t really think you can handle this, so I’m going to carry it.”  Weather big or small we say, “ I really don’t trust you with this, so I’m going to keep it.”  If we truly have a worthy Savior, and an able Lord, why wouldn’t we ask?  What better place to find the answer?  Second, faith asks because He cares.  This is the most amazing thing, the incarnate WORD still speaks at the right hand of the Father.  But what is he saying?  He’s interceding on OUR behalf, saying, “Father bless… Father provide… Father strengthen…”  Peter 5:7 exhorts us to “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”  One of the reasons we have cares is so that we can experience His care by giving to Him the things we were never meant to carry in the first place.  We learn that we don’t have to carry our burdens (how amazing is that!), and that He loves us enough and is strong enough to carry them for us.

 

I believe this is meant for two groups of people, one you’ve slowly begun to carry more and more burdens.  Maybe you haven’t even realized it till reading this, how you’ve seen yourself as able, seen the Savior as unable, maybe you’ve been living for your glory.  And you wonder why you’ve been so tired lately?  You hear Ron on Sunday morning talk about Joy and you think, “I had that a year ago… Where did I lose it?” 

The second group is made up of those who’ve carried a burden for so long you hardly recognize it.  You get up in the morning it’s there.  You go home at night, it’s there.  You see your relatives, it’s there.  And you can’t remember the last time you prayed about it. You’ve had it for so long that it feels like it’s apart of who you are.  Now, the thought of giving that up feels like you would be giving up a part of yourself.  Like a part of you would die if you trusted this to someone else. (that’s OK that’s a good thing)  But what would happen if for just a little while you weren’t so concerned with yourself?  If this wasn’t apart of you, how free would you really be?

The invitation to both groups comes from Jesus directly:  “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Come along side me as under a yoke and learn of me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls. (and in case you are concerned)  For MY yoke is easy, and MY burden is light. (I carried the weight of your sin, what do you really think is too heavy for me?)”  (Ref. Matt. 11:28-30)

 

 

 

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Fellowship the supreme spiritual gift

Posted in Devotions on March 31, 2009 by jaymallow

Fellowship the supreme spiritual gift

 

Rom. 1

 

In Paul’s letter to the Roman’s He opens the letter with both a heartfelt and somewhat peculiar manner.  He states to this church, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.  For God as my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.  For I long to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you-“

Let me stop there for a moment and ask the question, if Paul were writing to us what would we expect him to say next?  We believe in spiritual gifts so what would we anticipate this gift to be? 

            We first have to acknowledge that Paul is obviously psyched about this church.  Some years ago I was at a conference where it was announced that there was going to be a new church plant in New York City, in Manhattan.  The response of the crowd was electric.  And why not?   New York is a happening town.  Well take that kind of excitement and multiply it times ten and you may get close to Paul’s reaction to this church.  Rome was it.  All roads led to Rome. (Literally)  Rome was the seat of power, influence, culture, and knowledge for the known world.  Imagine hearing that there was a new church in that kind of a place.  I can imagine that this letter was written not long after hearing this news.  You hear Paul’s desire in the statements, “I thank God… for all of you… without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers… I long to see you…”   We can also see Paul’s heart in the content of this letter.  This is the longest and most theological of all his epistles. 

            But we come back to the question, what is this spiritual gift?  What would Paul desire to give this young and promisingly influential church?  Let’s start by asking what would we expect?  What if this were addressed to us?  Obviously teaching leaps to mind.  “Week long conference!”  Take time off, in fact if your job doesn’t allow you to take time off, quit your job.  We’re providing childcare, making tapes, in fact we’re not even breaking for lunch and dinner, we will have food catered in!  This is Q&A with Paul people!  But He doesn’t specifically say that.  How about evangelism?  We know that Paul has a heart for evangelism. Let’s reach Rome for Christ!  We’ll do debates at the Forum, skits at the Coliseum…  Or what about miracles?  What would strengthen this young church more that to see the power of God visible in their midst.  Or even leadership?  Having Paul recognize and train worthy men to continue the building and edification of the church.  Rome Theological Seminary!  Talk about strategic placement to influence the world!

            But Paul doesn’t say any of these things.  This is what He says, “… that is that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”  The NAS puts it this way, “that is that I may receive from you and you might receive from me our mutual faith one to another.”   What?  This is the spiritual gift that you so long to give Paul?  I mean compared to the list above this sounds like, “ that is,  that we might… I don’t know… hang out… maybe grab a pizza, you guys know some great Italian restaurants right?”  Paul, you want to come and, share your faith?!? That’s your strengthening spiritual gift?  Fellowship?!?!?  I think if we consider closer what Paul is saying we may not only see what Paul means, but what fellowship really is.

            “That I might receive from you”  Regardless of the translation the language suggests that Paul sees the Romans as having something to offer him.  Essentially “You have something to give to me.”   Again this is Paul, not young new in the faith Paul, but established affirmed apostle Paul.  Yet he still sees the Romans as having something he lacks.  What does Paul see that we so often don’t?  I think that this is one of those things that because it simply is a fact of life, we don’t see it as extraordinary.  Let me try to elaborate:  Years ago I toured a factory that rebuilt Chevy 350 engines.  Now the tour itself was forgettable, but I will never forget one person we met on the tour.  This was the guy who put lifters on the cam shaft of the engine.  He had a small cubicle and we were shown how the cam shafts came in on one conveyer belt, he put on the lifters, and when he had filled another box he sent the box onward.  What struck me as I left the factory was this, “There is NO WAY I could do that job.”  Putting the same part on the same part for eight hours a day, five days a week, would drive me nuts within two hours.  But that folks is a picture of efficiency.  That is really how an assembly line works, you get enough people doing the same jobs, in the same way, and you end up with the same result.  How in the world does this apply to what I’m saying?  Simply this, God isn’t efficient.  If God wanted to, we would all have the same expeiereince of Him at the same time.   But that isn’t the case is it?  We all know that if we stood up and simply told our own stories we’d be here forever. Why?  Because we all have a different story.  Not only our conversion, but even what God has revealed to us in the last six months would vastly vary.  (and how long have we been going through Numbers?)   But God doesn’t do things in the same way, at the same time.  He isn’t efficient like that.  Instead He is extravagant in His grace. 

What’s the difference between a Timex and a Rolex?  Both will tell you the time, but one is mass produced in China, and the other is crafted in Switzerland.  One comes off a factory, and the other is hand crafted by a master watchmaker.  One contains generic parts, while the other has individual jeweled mechanics.  One was inspected by number 523, the other has the makers mark etched into the casing.  One might last for six months to a year, while the other is guaranteed to NEVER fail to do what it was created to do.  We all know that the most valuable things aren’t necessarily the things that are made in the most in efficient manner.  This is what Paul sees when he looks at the Romans.  Individuals crafted by a master artist.  He sees an extravagant God that pours out His grace in individual lives.  And because the Master leaves His mark, they have something to offer Paul.  Paul is aware that, regardless of his own experience, God is bigger than his experience.  There is something of God that these new believers have seen, that they have experienced, that he hasn’t experienced.  And therefore Paul is eager to come to them. 

How does this apply to us?  When we look at those around us as being recipients of an extravagant God, we desire to know them.  We come to church and care group, eager, longing to be reminded that God is bigger that our experience.  If we congregate, for no other reason, than to discover and be reminded that God is bigger than our own personal experience than it is time well spent. 

And I believe there is even more: Note Paul’s language, “That I may give some spiritual gift to you- that is that I might receive from you…”  ‘I want to come to YOU that I might give YOU a gift to strengthen YOU- that is that I might RECEIVE from YOU.’   In essence, “I want to come to you, to strengthen you, that is that you would give to ME.”  How does this work?  Paul is aware that putting himself in a position to be encouraged and strengthened actually strengthens and encourages those he is receiving from.  Another scripture puts it this way, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  This does not work without an extravagant God.  The fact is that this isn’t a zero sum game.  It’s not like there’s only so much grace to go around.  Instead it’s like a catalyst. One person humbles themselves to receive, than another exercises their faith to give and an explosion of grace ensues.  If you’ve ever encouraged someone, or prayed for someone, or counseled someone you know what Paul is getting at.  I know in my own life I’ve had times that I’ve walked away from an encounter saying, “I don’t know if that helped, but I sure feel better.”  If this really is the most effective way we can strengthen those around us, why wouldn’t we do this?  May we never look forward to care group or church the same way!  Because this is how great meetings happen: One person humbles themselves and shares that they are struggling.  Then another offers an experience of how God met them in a similar instance.  Then another person gives an encouragement as to how they see God working in this situation.  Then someone suggests that everyone pray. (All the while the leader is praising God that he doesn’t have to ask a question and endure five minutes of awkward silence)  And people start praying.  And someone has a word from scripture.  And another steps forward and prophesies.  And then someone starts praising God.  And everyone joins in.  And people end up driving home saying to each other. “Why can’t care group be like that every time?”

Next we see Paul’s view of himself in this “transaction”.  “and you might receive from me,”  Paul knows that he has something to offer to this church.  Of course he has, he’s Paul, but I believe his confidence is not ultimately in his being an apostle.  We see where his confidence lies in verse 11. “that by God’s will I may come to you”  What gives Paul his confidence that he would have something to impart to the Romans is his awareness that the only reason he would be among them is that God had put him there.  Again this is something we too often forget.  We fail to acknowledge that the only reason we are where we are, with the people we are surrounded by, is for one ultimate reason: God has put us there.  Seeing ourselves as not having something to give isn’t humility, it isn’t a low view of ourselves, it’s a low view of God.  Has God done anything in your life?  Have you experienced His grace in any way?  Has He directed your life to this place?  Then you have something to give!  God means for us to be something to those He has put around us.  And He calls us to offer not just our interests but ourselves.  Our problem is that we too often see the church as just a community.    A community really is just a gathering of people with similar interests.  As long as the church caters to and meets our interests (worship, speaking style, friends, etc)  we’re there.  When our interests change, or are not met, we look elseware.  But Paul over and over again describes the church as a body, as an organism.  You can’t become part of an organism without giving something to that organism.  (actually you can, from a medical standpoint something that only consumes from a body is called a parasite)  Paul’s confidence is that he knows that if God sovereignly places him in a body of believers there is no way he can join that body and not give to that body.  C.S. Lewis describes what this “organic” relationship is like.  Lamenting the loss of a friend he consoled himself with the thought that he would now get more out of another friend.  Surprisingly Lewis found that without “JR” he experienced less of this other friend not more.  He found that there were things “JR” brought out of both Lewis and this other friend that only “JR” could bring out.  We all have seen this in our own lives, we’ve all hung out with a person only to later see them around a very old friend or spouse and said to ourselves, “I didn’t know they were like that.”  This is the kind of giving Paul is talking about.  The kind of giving that affects those around us to the effect that without us there is discernable lack.  Paul knows that he is going to challenge, encourage, affect, and provoke this church in a way that no one else can.  In the same way that he knows that this church will affect, challenge, provoke and encourage him in a way he has not experienced.  To hopefully finally drive this point home let me tell you about a friend of mine Jose’.  I had already been a member of Sovereign Grace Chesapeake for several years when Jose’ started attending.  Jose’ was… well… a unique individual.  He was “special”.  The consensus (although we never actually had it confirmed) was that Jose’ was mildly retarded.  Nevertheless Jose’ became a fixture at church and eventually at my care group.  In fact I ended up driving him to and from care group.  Now I could relate how this affected me personally but I think it more profitable to tell you how this affected the group.  Jose’ became a part of the group and it was noticeable when he wasn’t there.  We might have had a more serious discussion, but we didn’t laugh as much. (because Jose’ laughed at everything weather it was funny or not which actually made everything funny) I’m sure you could go up to almost anyone who was at that church at that time and simply say, “You remember Jose’?”  and they would respond, “Oh, Pleeezzzeee…”  (which was Jose’s response to everything)  Jose lived for church and care group.  We had care group every Wednesday and without fail I would get a call in the afternoon, “You coming to pick me up?”  “Yes Jose, I’ll be there just like last week…”  And if I was five minutes late, my cell would go off.  “Jose I’m outside your house right now.”  Jose couldn’t tell you who the president was but he knew the names of every single person in his care group.  And their birthdays, because he had decided that it was his job to make sure everyone got a birthday card on their birthday. (and sometimes even if it wasn’t their birthday)   He would also make sure that everyone he knew signed that card. (sometimes twice and sometimes you ended up signing your own card)  Eventually Jose’ expressed a desire to join the church and there was real discussion as to weather or not Jose’ was a believer.  He was given membership and one of the biggest reasons was as one pastor put it, “I just don’t think he would have stuck around for this long, and affected so many people in the way he has without the grace of God in his life.”  Even as I relate this I’m convicted in my own life.  If Jose’ can have that kind of an impact, (without even knowing what he was doing) what impact am I making?   When I think back I realize that Jose’ had it right, and I so often have it wrong.  I am reminded of Paul’s charge to Timothy, “Let no one despise you because of your youth but set an example…”  Our modern English doesn’t convey the power of what Paul was charging Timothy with.  The term “set an example” literally translated means “be a die.”  (a die was a tool pressed into wax to make an impression, most often a seal or signet.  Think ‘die cast’)  What Paul is saying literally is “Timothy be something that so affects those around you that they are shaped by you.”

Ultimately this is about God.  This is about a people being built together, receiving and giving to one another, and growing into a likeness of the one who saved us.  This is where we use the gifts that we are given to strengthen the body. (see 1 Cor. 12)  This is the vehicle that God has chosen to display to the universe the greatness of His grace and goodness.  This is where we come together and see a God that is bigger than our own experience.  This is fellowship, and make no mistake, it is a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit.  Without the Spirit we continue to put up a false façade of  individual independence.  Without the Spirit we hesitate to commit because we fear the future unaware of a sovereign, good, loving God who has us where we are for a reason.  The question is ultimately what do we believe about God and what do we believe about those He has placed us with?  And are we willing to act in faith?

 

Ok so I started blogging

Posted in Randomness on March 31, 2009 by jaymallow

I decided to start blogging to push my writing and publish more than on Facebook.  Disclaimer- this is meant to be a “free flow” blog and will at times be random. But hey that’s me.  I’ll start by publishing some older stuff and we’ll see how it goes from here…

Hello world!

Posted in Devotions on March 31, 2009 by jaymallow

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!