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Tag Archives: humility

Living Like the Community We Are

Here are five suggestions toward living like the community we are as the church that I mentioned in my sermon this past week.  If God has created us as a new sort of revolutionary community, then we need to inch toward that reality in our local churches.

What would you add to this list?

  1. Stop trying to find the ideal church – the church is not an ideal to be grasped but a divine reality that exists – as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says: “By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world”[1]
  2. Recognize what the church is – it is God’s creation not ours; He created it at great cost; appreciate the church don’t deprecate the church
  3. Find reconciliation at the Cross – we all come into the church with baggage but we need to bring it to the Cross of Christ who is our peace (Ephesians 3:14); there is not place for smugness, pride, arrogance and ethnocentrism in the church
  4. Love the diversity that God loves – Be grateful for the ethnic, social, class, economic, and academic diversity in the church; it is a reflection of the Revelation 7 picture of the church; let’s appreciate it now
  5. Love one another (Ephesians 4:1-3) – learn to love through the strenuous way of humility, gentleness, and patience that Paul describes

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 27.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2010 in Discipleship, Eastbrook

 

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Facedown: A Lesson in Humility

Not too long ago, I was speaking on the topic of humility. That is a challenging message for me to give because I so often find pride more evident in my life than humility.

As I prepared for the message, I found that God was giving me all sorts of opportunities to be humbled in front of Him and others. My wife, Kelly, half-humorously expressed that she would love for me to do an entire year of speaking on humility, since she was enjoying the difference in my attitude.

As I was praying about the message and humility in general, I thought about the images of humility in the Bible. One of the things that is most striking to me about people’s encounters with God throughout the Scripture is that they end up on their faces before the greatness of God. We see it both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Consider Isaiah, who exclaims: “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). We may also look to John who stands face to face with glorified Jesus on the island of Patmos. He describes his response this way: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid'” (Revelation 1:17).

Matt Redman has a wonderful song called “Facedown” that says (you can view the video below):

Who is there in the heavens like You?
And upon the earth, who’s Your equal?
You are far above, You’re the highest of heights.
We are bowing down to exalt You.
And I’ll fall facedown as Your glory shines around.

God intimately loves us, but He is also the only Awesome One. He is beyond our ability to comprehend Him. “The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power . . . Therefore, people revere Him” (Job 37:23-24). What is our response to Almighty God?

When is the last time you have fallen face-down before the utterly great glory of God in reverent silence and stillness?

Why not do that now?

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2010 in Discipleship, Worship

 

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Self-giving Love

Every Sunday morning before church, I have been reading through chapters from the book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross. Each week, I am struck by the different facets of Jesus’ sacrifice and how that reflects the tremendous love of God. I have also been thinking about how my life should reflect Jesus’ pattern of self-giving love.

Jesus’ death on the cross is, at one level, an amazing illustration of His words that no one has greater love than to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). The cross was transformed from the most brutal image of death to the most shocking illustration of the love of God.

To what lengths will God go to show His love?

Beyond what we can imagine.

How much will He give?

All.

And after taking up the humble task of washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus says to these His first followers, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them” (John 13:15-16).

Jesus gave.

He gave completely.

His giving was an act of divine love.

We too should give.

We should give completely.

Our giving should be an act of divine love.

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17).

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2010 in Discipleship

 

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The Great Must Be a Servant

Jesus called them [His disciples] together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:42-45

How do we connect Jesus’ words on greatness with many of the current prescriptions on leadership today? For Jesus, greatness and being first means:

  • Being a servant of those around
  • Being a slave of all
  • Giving our lives for others

Does this mean not leading, or not exercising authority, or not wanting positions of power? Is it about power or about the approach to power?

Clearly, Jesus led others. He taught. He rebuked those who needed it. He set His agenda for ministry (in concert with the Father). Jesus was a leader, but His way of leading and exercising power was, to cite someone else’s wording, ‘downwardly mobile’. He focused on His Father’s agenda. He was often interrupted by people while working toward another goal.

For Jesus, leadership was all about following the Father and His will, and laying down His life for others as a servant.

What about us in the church today? Do we emulate Jesus’ model?

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2010 in Ministry Reflections

 

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Distracting Fireworks

There’s something about fireworks that just mesmerizes me. This last July 4th, we watched fireworks over Tichigan Lake with some friends.

I love the fact that the conversations of adults and the activity of kids is tamed down to ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at the show before us. I love it when a resonant boom echoes across the terrain to take my breath away. I love it when the spreading firework explosion steadily crackles down to earth.

But there was also something that I found particularly annoying as we watched the fireworks this year. Even as the main show was going on, people around the neighborhood were occasionally continuing to launch their own fireworks that would go off at closer range than those that were the main attraction. I don’t mind it when people are doing all sorts of other things before the fireworks start, but I found these other fireworks to be just plain distracting.

As I watched these neighbors incessantly launch off their wimpy fireworks in front of the larger show, I couldn’t help but think about two things. The first is that we all want to be a part of something that is bigger than us. Even though this professional show was going on in the background, these folks launching their Roman candles and bottle rockets in front of us were echoing something we all feel. We all want to be a part of what’s happening. When something big is happening, that desire only grows. There’s not really anything wrong with this in itself.

But it is the second thought where we run into problems. You see, as I was sitting on the blanket watching these fireworks going off, I couldn’t help but think that I was watching a competition. Everyone in the park was there to see the show being put on by the professionals that was breath-taking and awe-inspiring. But these other guys just wouldn’t let  us do that. They were getting in the way. They were taking away from the main thing. There is something wrong with that.

It made me think of John the Baptist. Work with me for a minute. Here is John the Baptist standing by the river and hundreds of people are coming out to be baptized by him. This is a real religious movement, and it seems like John is the main attraction.

But when Jesus comes on the scene it becomes pretty evident that John is not the main attraction. He is just the pre-show warm-up. Jesus is the main attraction. John describes his relationship to Jesus this way: “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).

John is an excellent picture for us as followers of Jesus. He helps us remember that we are not the main attraction. Jesus is the main attraction.

So, when we’re tempted to keep lighting off our fireworks in life, we need to beware of becoming distracting. People don’t need to see our Roman candles and bottle rockets. They need to experience the deafening booms and earth-shattering explosions of God.

He must become greater. We must become less.

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Posted by on January 4, 2010 in Discipleship

 

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What I Learned from ‘Leaving Church’ (pt 2)

Recovering the mysterious fear of the Lord

There is a phrase throughout the Bible that we tend not to talk about a lot these days in church: “the fear of the Lord.”  In many ways, it is understandable. The word ‘fear’ does not offer a lot of positive connotations for us. Who wants to connect with a God who we are supposed to fear? However, the richness of this phrase is something that we avoid to our harm in the spiritual life.

Barbara Brown Taylor gets at this in her book Leaving Church through a curious experience. I’ll leave it to you to soak up the whole experience of her husband, Ed, and a group of Native Americans celebrating a Sun Dance ritual. But it is through that experience that Taylor recovers a sense of the risk inherent in approaching God. She writes:

For many Christians I know, the idea of divine dangerousness went out of fashion shortly after the book of second Kings was written, or the book of Amos at the very latest. In the traditional understanding, Jesus put an end to all that by volunteering to satisfy God’s wrath, and since then those who follow him have had nothing more to fear from God. God has become a great friend who would like to get to know us all better, if we can find the time. And if we cannot, God loves us anyway. ‘The fear of the Lord’ has become as outdated as an ephod. (189)

If you don’t know what an ephod is, well…you get the point exactly. Taylor goes on to explain how the Native American ritual helped her get a glimpse of where holy fear and holy love connect. Again, she writes:

Because their fear has proved to be the means of their transformation, they do not want to get over it. (190)

The sense that Christ has done all that needs to be done on the Cross can at times create an unhealthy easiness about Christianity. It is true that in Christ God has reconciled us to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18). It is true that Christ offered Himself for sin once for all (Hebrews 9:26). It is true that we are saved by grace alone through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

But these truths are not easy truths. They do not negate the fact that God was called “the Fear of Isaac” (Genesis 31:42) in early days. These truths do not nullify the proverb that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). These truths do not blot out the New Testament admonition to “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

Sometimes it takes a moment of drawing aside from what is familiar to see what is blazing before us. That is what Moses needed to do when an apparent hallucination about a burning bush ended up becoming a breath-taking encounter with the living God.

Leaving Church helped me to remember that worship of God is never without risk. Although Christ has made the way clear for us to worship, we are still dust-hewn people approaching the only awesome God.

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