Posts Tagged ‘Church’

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What’s Your Job Description – John 11:47–48

March 22, 2020

“So the chief priests and the Pharisees called together the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs! If we allow him to go on in this way, everyone will believe him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 

Have you ever considered that the religious leaders of Israel were right?  

  • They lived upon a powder-keg of insurrection and rebellion.  
  • They lived in a conquered nation, ruled by the super-power of the age.  
  • They lived with the task of controlling a population, in order to preserve it.

Consider what happened when they failed.  The religious leaders of Israel failed to suppress the rebellions leading into 70 AD.  Their fears, expressed concerning Jesus, came true when the Roman General and future Emperor, Titus, destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, effectively taking away their place and nation.

Israel was never the same. The concerns of the Pharisees and Sadducees were valid.

They could not have been more right while being more wrong.  Their job was never the practical machinations of political power.  Their job was to shepherd God’s chosen people in truth and love; the 1st and 2nd greatest commandments.  

They utterly failed at their true job description with the gravest of consequences.

Let’s not make the same mistake.  It is easy to get led astray by valid realities and misplaced responsibilities.  Those realities never overcome the truth of scripture and the power of God.

https://ref.ly/Jn11.47-48 via the Logos Bible Android app.

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“ENSLAVED” – Feb. 24

February 24, 2020

“Then He said to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.'” Matthew 22:21

close up photo of woman with her hands tied with rope

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

I am a slave,
but I am not unique.
I am a slave,
but so are you.
We are slaves but
not in the way you think.

We are slaves of many masters.  We serve them all, typically without title but all hidden while still in the open.  Yet, their authority is enforced when the bounds of their reigns are transversed or challenged.  We were born into the bondage of our initial master, whose realm was established at the beginning, when it demanded our lungs to accept this new product called air.  Next, the bounds of nutrition were delineated through pangs in the belly.  The bounds of consciousness were defined by the needs of sleep.  As we mature, new bounds were yearly discovered.

We all labor to serve the Master of Flesh.  Our bodies demand obedience to biological needs, requirements for the preservation of life.  This realm redefines slavery as “self”.  You may say, “my body is not a master,”  I say, “are you free from it?”.  Try not obeying the Master of Flesh.  Try to exert your freedom from hydration.  Try to exert your freedom from food.  Soon, your flesh will punish your liberty with pain until you yield or die.  The Flesh is an unyielding task master.

Many live their entire existence solely under the tyranny of Flesh, laboring to satisfy its demands.  Some even cede more authority to the Flesh through addiction and/or neurosis.   Yet, all yield to the essential demands of the Flesh from the dawn of every day to its setting.

However, the flesh is not our only master.  As we mature, we enter the realm of another, the Master of Work.  Work’s realm includes all those activities mitigating Flesh’s tyranny.  I want leisure.  Therefore, I must work to be able to take a vacation.  I want amusement.  Therefore, I must work to be able to have a hobby, go to a movie, eat gourmet food.  I want more comfortable housing.  Therefore, I must work to be able to have a better home.  I want to be happy.  Therefore, I must work to be able to consume and feed my craving for happiness.

Work is not a private affair.  Work is a public engagement and therefore ruled by the cultural and governmental masters.  This realm redefines slavery as “citizenship”.  You may say, “my government is not a master.  I live under a constitution.”  I say, “are you free from it?”.  Try not obeying the Masters of Work.  Try exerting your freedom from taxation.  Try exerting your freedom to take another’s property.  Try exerting your freedom to live without clothing.  Try exerting your freedom to cry ‘fire’ in a fireless theater.  Transverse the bounds established by the Masters of Work and you will find your time relegated to satisfying the Master of Flesh.  You will become preoccupied with the necessities of existence because the means to mitigate the tyranny of the Flesh will be removed by the tyranny of Work.  Work is an unyielding task master.

We all yield to the essential demands of society in order to have a slice of the prosperity ensuing from our obedience as cogs in the economic mechanism of Work’s realm.  Even if Work could be freed from the Masters of government and culture, it can never be truly free because it resides in the realm of a third master.  Work cannot be free because work is not an end in itself.

The extent and quality of freedom in the flesh and work can only be experienced through obedience to the Master of the third realm in which we all reside.

The Master of the Divine inhabits a realm that was before the Flesh and before Work.  This realm defines the freedoms of those realms and our allegiance to those Masters.  God created the realm of the Divine.  He is the Master of all.  Yet, Satan rebelled against Gods’ rule and when he fell so did all of humanity.  You and I have been born into rebellion against the Master of the Divine.  Yet, we were not born free.  We were born under the tyranny of Satan, who bent the Masters of Flesh and Work into wicked task masters.  It was never meant to be this way.  The Divine has been redefined as “enlightenment”, “science”, “atheism”.

Our inward desire for liberty is an echoing call of creation.  We misunderstand it to be an inherent right of mankind.  It is actually a memory of creation, longing for a world ruled by the true Master; longing for a world where the flesh and work have no power to harm.  Our desire for freedom is incomplete.  It actually is a desire to be completely free to serve the Master as we were created to serve.

low section of man against sky

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Freedom is the freedom to do what we want.  When we are truly free, our nature takes us fully to God, the Master of the Divine.

So, I am a slave.  I am a slave to the Master of the Divine.  I live as an ambassador in the realms of the Flesh and Work.  I pay the requisite requirements to inhabit these realms, but they are not my Master.  I owe them no allegiance.  I will readily say my farewells to the Master of Flesh when the Master of the Divine bids me to return.  I will readily give what is due the Master of Work and give unto God what is His.

I am a slave to only one Master and He is good.  I will serve no other.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for serving other Masters.  Forgive me for forgetting that you have set me free to serve you fully as I was intended.  Thank you for binding me to yourself.  Lord, you know that I am prone to wander.  Let your grace, like a fetter, chain my wandering heart to you.  Take my heart and seal it in servitude for your courts above.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 3)” – Sept. 21

September 21, 2015

“It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:26-28

Thank you for sticking with me as I have reflected upon my experience at the 2015 LOTOJA.  You can find part one and two here:  No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 1); No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 2).lotoja map_thumb[2]

I surmise that the general impression from the reading of my LOTOJA experience will be viewed as rather negative.

The LOTOJA is a very long bike ride on which you experience many emotions.  I experienced spectacular vistas, exceptional volunteers, and the exhilaration of achievement.  Yet, those experiences are not what come to my mind as I reflect upon the LOTOJA.  I have to consciously push aside my memories of frustration to mine the positive from my LOTOJA experience.

This reality demonstrates a distinct failure on my behalf. 

I allowed the behavior of others to dominate my perception of an epic ride.  I grumbled through seventy-five percent of my LOTOJA. My grumbling was fixated upon actions that demonstrated a disregard of my expectations.  I realize that the recounting of my fellow riders may characterize them as being rude.  However, it is not an entirely fair characterization.  They are good guys.  I never perceived any ill will through our trip.

Therefore, I choose to view my LOTOJA as a case study in differing expectations.

The term domestique, in cycling road racing, refers to the cyclist who works for the team and team leader.  They are the cyclists who carry the water bottles and food and do the work of pulling team members through difficult sections.  The French word, Domestique, is translated “servant.”

I had the expectation that this ride would consist of a team composed entirely of domestiques.  We were going to be servants to each other in order that we would all finish together.

981002_10201434224324276_965735367_oApparently, my team did not share my expectation.  They held an understanding more typical of cycling racing in which a domestique is dropped when he ceases to be useful.  My grumbling originated in the offensiveness of being treated as a domestique.  No one waits for a domestique and I had expected someone to wait for me.

I grumbled away the blessings of an epic ride dwelling upon unfulfilled expectations.

I confess that the LOTOJA is not the first time where I have allowed my grumbling to dominate the perception of my life.  I have expectations, like most people.  Those expectations typically reside upon people who are close to me.  I have expectations of family, friends, and Church fellowship.  I have the most expectations of those who have joined me on this spiritual journey called “life.”

I have relatively few expectations, beyond lawfulness, of those who are outside the immediacy of my life.  I don’t have a problem with them treating me as a servant.  If a person is not a Christian, I don’t expect him to display the fruits of the Spirit.  As John Newton  stated, they warrant my deepest pity, kindness, and prayers.  If he is a Christian, I seem to be more inclined to extend him grace because I don’t know his level of spiritual maturity.

I struggle most when those who are close to me treat me like a domestique.  I am referring to those situations when someone we consider a teammate in life acts upon differing expectations or fails to live up to our standard.

It hurts when those expectations are not fulfilled. 

It hurts to be disregarded.
It hurts not to be valued.
It hurts to be perceived as useless.
It hurts not to be included.

It hurts to be treated as a servant.

long_road-aheadI have wasted too much of this epic life grumbling about being treated like a domestique.  I know of too many circumstances where someone has allowed an offense to linger for years because of a failure to meet an expectation.

I have no solution to avoid the hurt.  We live in a messy world.  Those who are close to me are imperfect humans with indwelling sin.  I am an imperfect man in need of sanctification.  We will let each other down and treat each other in ways that are perceived as undeserving.

Our fundamental problem is that we don’t inherently want to be treated as a servant.  We get our feelings hurt when we are not appreciated or valued or included.

We grumble when we are actually treated like the very person we have been called to be.  Many Christians are comfortable with the title of servant just as long as they are not treated as such.

Ideally, we would live in a community abounding in the fruit of the Spirit where everyone has a servant’s attitude.  It would be like the perfect group ride where we are servants to each other in order that we would all finish well together.  That perfect world is coming, but it is not here today.   Our reality is that sometimes our teammates lose their servant’s attitude and do not reciprocate our expectations of servanthood and we are left feeling like a lowly domestique.

USAPCC_2Jesus called himself a domesitque.  Jesus did not come into this world to be served but to serve and he continued to serve even went He was treated like a servant…and worse.

We have been given an epic life to live.  Don’t allow the behavior of others to dominate your perception of value.  There are those in this world who may treat you like a lowly domestique.  Are you living for them?

God calls the true domestique great.  Greatness in the eyes of our Lord is our goal.  May we be true servants; in actions and attitudes.

PRAYER:  Father, forgive me for so often taking title of servant, but not the attitude.  Forgive me for allowing the opinions of others to dominate my perception.  Forgive me for not seeking first your kingdom and greatness in your eyes.  Help me Lord to be a servant in actions and attitude.  Help me to be joyful in being treated as your Son was treated; like a servant.  Give me a heart that values your approval above all others.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 2)” – Sept. 18

September 18, 2015

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I apologize for the length of this recounting.  In the spirit of Treebeard, the LOTOJA (Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming) takes a very long time to ride, hopefully, it is worth taking a long time to recount.   You can find part one here:  No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 1).
lotoja map_thumb[2]

After catching up with my team at the top of Strawberry Summit, we pedaled on as a reduced team of four.  We had two more climbs and about 60 miles until our next stop in Afton, Wyoming were we would meet our own support crew.  It was so nice to work within my own team.  I slowed my pace to fit the team as we all took turns pulling the group in order to conserve energy.  My irritation evaporated with the increasing temperatures of mid-day and the friendly chatter within the group.  We stopped for about 20 minutes to fix one team members shoe cleat but other than that we made good time.

We passed over Geneva Summit without much problem and headed into the last major climb after stopping to allow a couple of the team members time to recover.  I have a climbing cassette (12-30 gears) on my bike for rides like the LOTOJA.  It allows me to keep my cadence up on climbs without burning out my legs.  I can spin freely but I don’t go very fast.  As a result, I was the last team member to summit the Salt River pass.  My climbing cassette had worked wonderfully but the heat and duration of climb had still taken it out of me.   I rolled into the rest station to find one team member anxious to get off the pass.  I acquiesced after taking on some water but not fully recovering.  It is all downhill into to Afton, so I thought I would be fine.

The descent off of Salt River is fun.  It is a wide highway with long, sweeping curves that allow you to really let loose.  Since my legs were still a little fatigued, I let the team go on the descent at 40 mph.  I figured that we would regroup at the base and pedal into Afton together.  However, I was dismayed to see my team about a quarter mile ahead of me when I came out of the tuck of my descent.  They had jumped onto a group of other riders and were pedaling away.  I dropped into an aero position with the intent of trying to catch up but that was when the headwind hit me.

There would be no catching up with this head wind.

I finally soloed into Afton, exhausted and infuriated.  My team never waited for me and as a result I had expended precious energy bucking a headwind mostly by myself.  I tossed my helmet onto the ground as I approached my team already recovering in the park.  I thought I was done and I was ready to quit this so-called team.  I sat down and began to indignantly eat through my weariness.  Fortunately, my self-control returned just prior to my ability to coherently communicate so I was able to restrain myself from expressing my consternation in a manner that I would later regret.

We rolled out of Afton as a team.  I realized that my appreciation of landscapes was declining in direct proportion to the accumulation of miles.  Beyond 120 miles, I had to remind myself to periodically look up and behold the beautiful country that we were cycling through.  We were now focused more on the 8:30 PM cutoff time.  One team member abandoned the ride in Alpine so we were down to three.

I was concerned about the cut-off time so I took the majority of the pulls after Alpine.  I had gotten my second wind and was feeling pretty strong.  I pulled our group through the out-skirts of Jackson, Wyoming, accumulating slower riders who jumped on as we passed them.  I took a break after a particularly long pull, falling behind my two remaining teammates.  While I was still recovering, we passed over a drainage grate when I heard twang-clank-clank.  I wasn’t sure what happened but everything seemed fine and the sun was setting.  So, we pedaled on.

I realized something was wrong when my turn to pull came.  Pedaling had become really hard.  I was struggling to keep the pace of my team.  I fell to the back and did everything I could to just hang onto the wheel ahead of me.  The sun was going down and my team members turned on their headlights.  I didn’t have one.

We approached a slower rider and my team accelerated around them.  I tried to go when it was my turn but I didn’t have anything left.  It was taking all of my effort to just keep the pedals moving.  They were quickly 100 yards ahead and I had no voice.  I watched the light of their headlights flicker into the distance.  They had left me, again.

I rode on alone doing everything I could to maintain 12 mph worried that they were going stop me due to the darkness.  I surmised that I had expended too much energy trying to get us to Jackson before sunset and was now tanking out.  The last fifteen miles to the finish line were the hardest I have ever pedaled.

I crossed the finish line exhausted.  After dismounting, I started walking in the direction of the guiding volunteers.  I went to pull my bike alongside me but the rear tire would only skid.  I pulled harder and the tire rolled but again began to slide.  You don’t think very clearly after 200 miles so it took me a little while to realize my problem.  I could now see in the illuminated dark that the twang-clank-clank I heard at sunset was the breaking of a spoke on my rear wheel.  I had just ridden 10+ miles on an out-of-balance wheel, which was rubbing against my brakes.  That is why it was so hard.

The overwhelming feeling that coursed through me as I was handed my finishing metal was:

“I’m glad that is over.”

I learned a lot on that long ride through three states.  In the next post, I will share some of the reflections that a clearer mind has sifted through.

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“No One Waits for a Domestique (LOTOJA Part 1)” – Sept. 17

September 17, 2015

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

The LOTOJA (Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming) is an epic cycling event.  The ride takes you over 205 miles, three summits, and through three States, all in one day.lotoja map_thumb[2]

It is a very long day.

Accepting the challenge of the LOTOJA seemed like a good idea in March, but as September approached my trepidation grew.  I found confidence in the fact that I was part of a team.  We had five riders and we were going to stick together so everyone would finish.  We were not concerned about any time other than the cut-off time.  As a team, we could cross the LOTOJA off of our individual bucket lists.

That plan fell apart from the start of the ride.  Some of our team members are not morning people and as a result we got to the starting line with just minutes to spare from our 6:27AM start.  This was also the time when my decision to drink another cup of coffee while waiting made its presence felt.  I hurriedly sought out a Port-a-Potty.  I did all that I could to hasten this untimely call of nature but by the time I got back to the starting line they were already lining up the next wave of riders.

My team was gone.

I started my LOTOJA by cycling through Logan, Utah in the dark.  I pedaled along, slightly consternated about being abandoned, but I figured that they would wait for me at the first stop in Preston, Utah, 33 miles ahead.  I rode by myself for about 15 miles until another group came along and I was able to jump onto their pace line, which took me into Preston.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

I rolled into my designated feed zone at Preston with the surprise of not seeing any familiar faces.  I wandered around for a while in search of our support crew until I finally resorted to my cell phone.  Fortunately, the support crew was still there but it was disheartening to hear that my team had just left Preston within minutes of my arrival.  I was on my own, again, until the base of Strawberry Mountain, where I was told that they would wait for me.

I pedaled on, jumping onto other groups of cyclists when I could and pedaled solo when I couldn’t.  I passed a rest station at the base of the first small climb.  There was no team waiting for me.  My irritation grew as I watched the miles accumulate on my odometer.  I pasted over the summit of the first climb to find it vacated by my team.  “Surely they’ll wait for me at the bottom of the descent”, I thought.

1Buff Bill SH near UXU RncUnsurprisingly, there was no team at the bottom of the descent.  I started the ascent of Strawberry Summit with the realization that I might just have to finish this ride solo.  After riding through beautiful farm land and into rolling mountains canvased with a stunning combination of pine and deciduous trees, I came to the rest station at the top of Strawberry Summit.  To my surprise, there was my team getting ready to leave.  It had taken about 60 miles but I had finally caught up with them.  This time they waited but there were only three cyclists.  One team member had decided to drop them and ride solo.

I thought that odd.  This is not what I had expected from a team ride.

(The LOTOJA is a long ride.  It probably shouldn’t be surprising that the recounting of it takes a long time.  Therefore, I am breaking my tale up into a series of post.)

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FEAR OF FALLING – Sept. 8

September 8, 2015

“Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.”  Joshua 23:11

DSC_0011-ZF-5601-95690-1-001-010I recently returned with my family from our vacation to Northern Idaho and Montana.  A highlight of this vacation was ziplining within views of Coeur d’Alene Lake.  It was thrilling to soar from treetop to treetop, unencumbered by the constraints of the ground.  A zipline may just be the best substitute for wings available to man.DSC_0019-ZF-5601-95690-1-001-018

 

This activity was a huge accomplishment for my wife who has a fear of heights.  Her fear of heights is a misnomer.  She has a fear of falling.  Therefore, I appreciated the care taken by the tour guides of Timberline Adventures.  Our guides were very careful to make certain that we were always secured from falling.  We had safety harnesses that were always attached to the trolley, a tree, or a railing.

DSC_0021-ZF-5601-95690-1-001-020TheDSC_0023-ZF-5601-95690-1-001-022y were very careful because the danger was real.  That danger could have kept us from soaring.  It could have kept us from experiencing th
e heights.  It could have prevented us from encountering the freedom of an eagle.

 

By being very careful, we were prevented from falling and we saw the world from a new perspective.

The word “careful” has been resonating in my mind as I have observed the revelations and opinions spilling into the public awareness after the disclosure of the Ashely Madison registrants.  The mere existent of a website like Ashely Madison is a stark reminder of the current condition of our society.

We live in a careless culture.

Consider the habitual attitude inhabiting a mind, long before a person registers on a site like Ashely Madison.  Those exposed in this latest of scandals probably embraced the carelessness of our culture long before any action was taken.  This revelation is not an abnormality and not limited to the secular world.  The majority of professing Christians that I know, myself included, live in a morass of careless and muddled thinking.

I believe that careless minds devastate more Christians than anything else.

So, what causes us to be careless?

I am careless when I don’t perceive danger.  I am careless when I am comfortable, confident, and certain.  I am careful when I am fearful of falling.  I am careful when I sense danger.

My carelessness rises in direct proportion with my freedom from fear.

Joshua warned the Israelites to be careful.  He warned them to be careful because they were in danger.  The danger that they faced was from not following the commands of God.  The Israelites were warned many times to fear God and be careful to obey His commandments. Some will argue that the fear of God is an Old Testament warning.  However, consider Jesus’ warning to the disciples:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  (Matthew 10:28)

I know that a lot of people struggle with the ideas of both loving and fearing God.  I have reconciled these two seemly contradictory concepts by equating the fear of God to the fear of heights.

I don’t fear heights.  I fear falling.

I don’t fear the majesty or glory of God.
I don’t fear a God who is merciful and gracious.
I don’t fear a God who is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
I don’t fear a God who forgives iniquity and transgression and sin.

I don’t fear God. I fear falling away from God.

I fear the indwelling unbelief of my own heart.
I fear the unbelief that prefers the trinkets of this world to the glory of God.
I fear the unbelief that the pleasures of this world are better than the love of God.
I fear the unbelief of a lukewarm faith.

We live in a spiritually dangerous world.
Yet, many live in careless tranquility.

We were meant to soar in the love of God. DSC_0026-ZF-5601-95690-1-001-025

However, I don’t have the ability to stand in God’s presence on my own.  I will certainly fall without the power of the Spirit working in my life.  It is those thrilling heights of God which increases my fear of falling from His presence.

Therefore, we must be careful to secure ourselves to His presence by being careful as to where we allow our minds to settle.  That is why we need to be careful.

It is easy to be critical of those currently blushing due to the revelation of their sin.

I cannot cast a stone.  I have too much carelessness in my own life.  For me, the Ashley Madison revelation has been a good admonition to renew a healthy fear of God and increase the carefulness of my own daily walk in the Spirit.

By being very careful, we abide in the Spirit and are secured to God’s presence.
There is no greater height than the throne of God Almighty.

So, before you start throwing stones, ask yourself:

How careful are you?
Where do you allow your mind to wander?
Do you allow your mind to settle on the things of the Spirit or the things of the flesh?
Are you aware of the dangers of your own unbelief?

PRAYER: Lord, I pray for all those whose carelessness has resulted in such a devastating sin as adultery.  Father, I ask that your healing and restoration will abide on all those caught in this sin who call upon your name.  Lord, I ask that you will raise up within your Church, followers who excel in self-control.  I ask that you will grow in me this wonderful fruit of your Spirit.  Help me to rely upon you in all things.  Help me to be aware of the danger.  Help me to be careful to love you with all of my heart, soul, and strength. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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ENCOURAGED TO DO – Nov 29

November 29, 2014

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-25

long_road-aheadAs the remaining days of adequate daylight dwindled, I abandoned running in preference to cycling. My goal of cycling over 2,000 miles in a year was within my grasp so I filled those precious post-work hours on the bike. I happily pedaled past 2,000 miles until daylight-savings snuffed out anymore evening bike rides.

However, the consequence was a complete lack of running for about a month. It is a common story for me. I will abandon running to the most insignificant of excuses. I am not a person who experiences the runner’s “high”. Therefore, a run does not hold the promise of an endorphin fix. It is just a rather uncomfortable workout.

cold run 1Since the season of outdoor cycling has passed, I have reluctantly returned to running. I am too inconsistent on the treadmill so I decided to do evening runs at a local track. In my new found dedication, I completed a couple workouts but quickly found it hard to persevere in my commitment to running in the dark and cold. I could feel all the excuses sapping my resolve. Inconsistency was once again lurking around the corner ready to devour my motivation.

A runner friend discovered my activities and began to join me. Around and around the track, we run in darkness. I hear his breath and adjust my pace to the beat of his footfalls. I run faster. My lungs burn and my legs sting but I push on just a little longer because… he is still going. These have been some of the best workouts I have had and some of the most enjoyable.

cold run 2I have enjoyed it so much that a polar vortex and snow have not kept me from the track.  I ran in 13 degree F temperatures when, in the past, threatening clouds kept me in?  The question is why?

I have read books and articles on running.
I have listened to running experts.

I know how to be a better runner.
I want to be a better runner.

I could benefit from a coach but knowledge is not my primary need. Knowledge is not what keeps me from being a better runner.

A lack of running has kept me from becoming a better runner.

My greatest need as a runner is encouragement to run – encouragement to do. I went out in 13 degree weather because someone came by my office door and said “you coming?”. It was as simple as that. I would not have persevered in doing what I need to do if it had not been for that simple encouragement.

I tell this story as an illustration of what I believe to be the Church’s primary need.  In my last blog (The Fall of the Homely Handy), I pondered how the Church might want to respond to the information age that we are currently living in.

OpenBibleWe live in a time when the internet delivers into our homes some of the greatest Spirit-inspired teaching of the centuries. We can listen to teachers from across the globe that have been powerfully gifted and called to eloquently preach the Word of God. I can easily research any theological question that might be troubling me. We can maintain a near constant hearing of the Word of God.

I asserted that in the typical Church, the majority of their activities revolve around education – presenting the Word of God to the ears of their congregation.

Yet, is that our greatest need?
Are the ears of the typical Christian suffering
from a lack of hearing the Word of God?

I believe that no Christian has the excuse of inadequate teaching. We live in a wonderful age. We can easily supplement any inadequacies that may come from the teaching of our local Church. Therefore, I don’t believe that true followers of Christ are suffering or should suffer from a lack of hearing the Word of God.

Yet, I do see a lack of doing.
I do see a lack of perseverance.
I see a lot of folks who are hearers of the word but struggle at being doers.

They know what they need to do to better follow Christ.
They want to be better followers of Christ.

I know that every Christian can benefit from Spirit-inspired teaching but I don’t believe that more teaching is the primary need of the typical believer. Hearing the word of God is not what keeps me from being a better follower of Christ. A failure to do is what keeps me from being a better follower of Christ.

Therefore, how do we become better doers?
If this is the primary need of Christians,
then how can the Church better meet this primary need?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

I assert that the greatest need of the typical Christian is encouragement; encouragement to persevere through difficult times; encouragement to love; encouragement to good works; encouragement to DO; encouragement to take what we have heard, what we know, and to actually DO it.

The author of Hebrews is encouraging the Church to come together for the purpose of motivation – to stir one another up and encourage each other to be DOERS.

So, what might this look like in our information age?

Ironically, I suggest that we learn from the example of David Dickson in his book “The Elder and His Work”, first published in America in 1883. He provides practical advice of an elder’s call to the ministry of shepherding Christ’s flock, which is really a description of how we are to practically encourage one another to be DOERS.
Here is how I will summarize this example from the late-1800’s that I think we can learn from:
  1. TEACHERS SHOULD TEACH: PreachI am not suggesting that pastors should abandon the preaching and teaching the word of God. That would not be Biblical. Our Lord has gifted and called teachers to speak the word of God to our ears. They need to be faithful to their calling. Our local pastors have the opportunity to speak from the Word to the direct needs of their congregation. That is something that no podcast can do. In addition, I believe that teachers have a responsibility to teach the Church how to wisely and safely use the resources that we have available to us in this informational age. We know that all that is on the internet is not good. Therefore, we need to be shown where to go and how to discern the information that we might come across.
  2. SHEPHERDING SHOULD BE VALUED: shepherdI am suggesting that the shepherding of the congregation should be valued as much, if not more than, preaching and teaching in this informational age. I am arguing that the greatest need of today’s Church is for followers of Christ to become better DOERS. I believe that will be best accomplished by practical encouragement – shepherding. Therefore, local Churches should evaluate how they are doing the ministry of shepherding. They should be particular and specific in dedicating resources to this desperately needed ministry. They should be practical and organized so that people in their congregations don’t fall through the cracks and be overlooked.
  3. SHEPHERDING IS A TASK BEYOND THE PASTOR: IS4086RF-00038636-001There is no pastor that has enough time to practically shepherd a congregation. I believe that shepherding should be the primary task of the Elders. It seems that the primary task of many elders has become the purveyors of budgets and bylaws. This is where we can learn from our past and the example of David Dickson. In the 1800’s church in Scotland, the families of the congregation were divided amongst the Elders. Each elder was responsible to shepherd specific families. He regularly visited those he was shepherding. He knew them personally. He knew their struggles and trials. Therefore, he was able to give that needed word of encouragement and when necessary a word of admonition or correction that might be received. He was able to see where additional teaching would be beneficial because he knew where they were spiritually. He was able to effectively disciple which requires an involvement in people’s messy lives beyond what can be accomplished by a Sunday morning greeting. By this organizational structure and division of responsibilities, the elders were able to practically shepherd a large congregation.
  4. SHEPHERDING IS A TASK FOR EVERYONE: I have focused on elders in this discussion because I believe the Church needs to be organizedEnglish: A man helps a friend along at the 200... so that shepherding actually happens for the entire flock of Christ. However, I hope it is clear that the ministry of shepherding is something every follower of Christ can provide to each other. It is not a ministry that is reserved for the elder or the pastor of our Churches. We should all be encouragers. We all should excel at stirring each other up to love and good works. Imagine the draw of our gatherings if when we came together our primary purpose was to encourage one another. I cannot help but to think that our Churches might be closer to meeting our primary need – encouraging one another to finish the race and to persevere all the more as we see the Day draw near.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the church.  Thank you for our pastors and elders you have called to their specific ministries.  Thank you for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  That you for those who are encouragers.  Help me to be an encourager.  Help me to be an encouragement to my family and friends.  Help our churches to be places where we are encouraged to persevere.  Lord, form our churches so that all of our needs are met.  Don’t let us forget our own faces.  Give us the strength and motivation to faithfully follow you through anything.  Give us encouragers.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

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