Ferociously Following

We are told to throw off or cut away everything that hinders us, but we create space for God to do something greater. Creating space opens the door for Elisha to…

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Ferociously Follow—As 2 Kings 2 opens up after months, maybe even years of training, and it is time for Elisha to take over, and for his mentor to be taken into heaven, the rumor has spread that he isn’t going to die but God is going to take him. (best retirement plan)(2,4,6) 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jericho. And he replied, “As surely as the LORD and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho. 6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to the Jordan. “As surely as the LORD and as you live, I will not leave you.” Three times Elijah tells Elisha to stay and three times he refuses.  His commitment is tested before God commits to him a new opportunity. God knows that in every opportunity that we want there will be obstacles—he had been following for months but would he follow to the end, even when he didn’t like what was about to happen?

(8-12) Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”  11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. Continue reading “Ferociously Following”

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Mark My Words

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Keep in mind, Jesus healed some of the sick and hurting, solidifying his identity, showing his power, but he came not just to prolong an earthly life, but to bring eternal life. His purpose was allowing the once hurting to be part of healing— and as the ministry picked up steam, the demands increased, the crowds expanded, and it was there that Jesus reveals the source of his strength…

Inside to Outside (Mark 1:35-39) 35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

How does Jesus keep going?  Continue reading “Mark My Words”

Empowered: These Ain’t Your Momma’s Results

Encounter

Continuing through the events of Pentecost have revealed some amazing transformation in the face of simple tradition. Through the power of the Spirit, we see the radical changes that take place in an instant—changing a ritual into a way of life, and moving the presence of God from the walls built by man to the walls of our heart built by God, and finally we see that…

THESE AIN’T YOUR MAMA’S RESULTS (Acts 2:5-13)Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

When the unexpected occurs, it causes bewilderment, shock, amazement. I have seen this even in Franklin—They see flashing lights, excitement, hear a loud noise, and they all come flocking to see what happened. Sometimes you’ll even have a traffic jam, not because a lane is closed, but because everyone is driving by peering off and slowing down to see the wreckage on the side of the road. In the same way the people have heard the noise, seen the tongues of fire which have rested on the people, indwelling in the first believers with amazing results- Suddenly they are speaking in tongues—languages that are foreign to them.  In fact, the results although a shock to the first Christians, were predicted by Christ who said in Mark 16:17- “These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages.” As they speak suddenly, the diverse listeners hear the message of Jesus Christ in their own distinct dialects, languages, and tongues.

Wives if your husband looks at you at times like you are speaking another language the results are in! A UK experiment found on a test of 40 men and 40 women, that men were more inclined to hear “masculine” words such as beer and football—the words peaked their memory and stayed with them longer. Yet, ladies before you go elbowing your husband in the ribs to punish them for this selective hearing, the experiment found that women are just as likely to have selective hearing for “feminine” words such as chocolate and shopping.

In truth, the experiment found that with all the competing messages vying for are allegiance, we only hear the messages that we find appealing or credible. Think about your friends or family outside of church— During these same hours—something else won out—extra sleep, work, exercise, family time—Yet just as God used the Spirit to add credibility and credence to the cross of Christ and unify the believers in the first century—allowing the miraculous to invade the everyday…. Paul in 1 Cor. 6:10-11 shows us how the Spirit still adds credibility to the message today—: 9Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. (That use to define us—sin which would lead to death) But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God… 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

Although the changes that happen around us, some slow and some fast, may rock our world—-in Christ, the greatest change of all is what happens in your heart—your allegiance, conviction, your worldview. As we move forward as the body of Christ, there will be times where you might be frustrated with changes, you might be angry with new initiatives, you might be frightened by unique directions, but know that THIS AIN’T YOUR MAMA’S CHURCH—and that is okay—because it is Christ’s church—that as we change, we do so to fulfill the same unchanging mission, with the same unchanging mission, and that the methods—-whether we join together on two wheels or in a tin hut, are only momentary—while the changes of the Holy Spirit are forever.

Acts #3-Mission Possible

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As we continue in the book of Acts, we have seen from Luke the necessity for the church to focus on the life of Jesus, to harness the power of Christ, and finally we see the “so what?”- the call to adopt…

 The Mission of Jesus- (Acts 1:6-11) 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

The power of Christ is meant to be experienced by the followers of Christ!  As his apostles and the disciples of Christ, Dr. Luke makes it clear that the Spirit was meant for a very specific reason- it would be the means of “receiving power” to be witnesses to in Judea and Samaria—to the Jews and the ends of the earth-to a world full of Gentiles.  Yet what does it mean to be a witness? It brings to mind Law and Order or Court T.V. —or if you are a movie buff it may bring to mind “A FEW GOOD MEN”—Jack Nicholson plays a Marine Corp Colonel—on the stand being battered by Tom Cruise, the defense attorney—who is demanding answers, demanding the truth, when finally Nicholson’s character famously screamed out, “YOU CAN”T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” The truth which Dr. Luke reveals is a tough one, that being a witness goes far behind giving testimony and goes to the point of giving your life. He uses a very specific word for witnesses- μάρτυρας—martyrs—someone who gives their life for the mission! Why did Christ give us the power of the Holy Spirit? Not so we could stand motionless staring into the sky after him, but so that we could be empowered to serve like him! So that by our words, witness, by our works, by our very lives, we would be literally dying to self to be raised up like Christ in hopes of bringing others to Christ!

 What you see as the purpose of the church leads directly into what you expect from the church! Sometimes parents will send their children to church hoping it instills moral framework or foundation! Sometimes married couples come to church wanting the spirituality or religious nature to save their marriage! Others come wanting church to be a place of connectivity or a trampoline to hitting their 5, 10 or 15 year personal plan! A place that offers self-actualization or gives motivation with a heavy hand of inspiration- a place to feel good.

 In truth, church is none of those things and each of those things! The church fundamentally, is a place of mission! We are called to take the Good News to the world, but it is the only mission that doesn’t come at the expense of its servants, but instead at their benefit! The church is a place that offers relationship with Jesus Christ first and foremost, and the rest come as result. It is relationship over research, it is imitation over simple admiration, and it is words and works that go together in a holy knot that is impossible to pull apart.

Through the Holy Spirit we find the power to do what alone we would be unable to do—Just as Dr. Luke found an adventure that took him beyond the halls of study into the streets with the Spirit, by following his lead, embracing our Savior, we are empowered to join in a mission that will make history!

Acts #2-Turning on the Power

Dr. Luke took up the task yesterday of playing scholar reminding us that the church exists to point people to Christ, realizing it was impossible to separate Jesus words from his works, but now we move from lecture hall to power house! Seeing that it is all about…

The Power of Jesus (Acts 1:4-5) 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Dr. Luke, shifts from information about Jesus’ life to application for ours! In fact, this was a very personal experience. He didn’t research in an office, library, or sitting in front of a computer to figure out whom Jesus was, but instead he traveled with the Apostle Paul. As Paul worked, Luke worked and wrote, when Paul got beat up or battered, you can imagine the doctor as his side ready to stich him up to keep him moving forward! We are told through church history and early tradition how Luke’s ministry and his work ended-“Having neither wife nor child, he served the Lord without distraction. He feel asleep in Boeotia (Greece) at the age of 84, full of the Holy Spirit”  (www.brittanica.com). For Luke he not only wrote about the power of Christ, but he died full of it- never detracted or turning to the left or right!

Through his experience, the risk of having admiration without moving into imitation comes to the forefront.

I saw this kind of admiration without imitation play out first hand my last year of college. It was while I was finishing a religious studies requirement.  I went to a Lutheran college, took an American Catholicism class, my professor- a bright woman was a well-regarded scholar on the topic of American Catholicism, had been invited to speak at Notre Dame University, flight and travel expenses paid for by the school, given Catholic references, and acclaim—but during the class she made a strange revelation—she is a Quaker! She doesn’t believe in Catholicism, in church doctrine, in church teaching, it is only her professional pursuit! There is clear admiration, without any desire for imitation! She didn’t want it to change her life!

The reason that we struggle sometimes, even in the church, with imitation is because we start looking at Christ like Superman—we say fully God and fully man, but we picture Jesus like Clark Kent—only wearing humanity as the casual day suit over his Superman divinity- constantly going to the phone booth and Superman S underneath–allowing him to do things we all respect- live a sinless life, honoring his parents, serving the poor, fighting off temptation. Yet we need to ask where does Jesus get his power?  Jesus being fully God- had at all times the power to go to his divine attributes; however, he didn’t.  What is amazing is a quick survey of scripture shows that Jesus relied on the same explosive power of the Holy Spirit that is offered to us today:  1. Jesus was conceived by the Spirit 2. Baptized by the Spirit coming down like a dove 3. Led by the Spirit fighting temptation 4. Came into his power via the Spirit 5. Rejoiced in the Spirit 6. Was anointed, empowered and tested by the Spirit!

Jesus whole life on earth is the only full testament to power of the Spirit lived out! Although we may struggle to live perfect lives, we can continually live more empowered lives! We must turn the power on, going from simply admiring what Christ did or said, to the point of imitating how he lived–who he served–and the length to which he went!