High-Beam Headlights

Have you ever been driving at night and found your eyes momentarily blinded by the piercing stream of light from the high-beam headlights of an oncoming vehicle? Many of you have. What’s your first reaction? Do you give a quick courtesy flash of your lights back to the driver coming your way in hopes that they dim their lights and pass you by? Or, do you return fire with fire and burn your halogen bulbs at full candlepower until the other person gives in and relents to your stunning retaliation?

The apostle Paul has received word about a “high-beam” situation infiltrating the church in Corinth. Various groups within the church were beginning to “flash their lights at each other” over who they were following along with reports of sexual immortality, lawsuits and other troubling activities. Paul deals with the first issue of divisiveness before the others in chapters 1:20-4:21. He describes the problem in 1:12, “What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another “I follow Cephas”, still another, “I follow Christ.” 

The opening of Paul’s letter “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people” was a call to unity where disarray was brewing. “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you.” What was Paul’s plan? How in the midst of disagreement can the church come together in love for one another? 

Paul outlines four methods for us to “dim the lights” and foster an attitude and environment where unity can flourish. 

First and foremost, Paul instructs the people to focus on the cross of Christ. (1:18-2:5) Simply put, the Corinthians have lost sight of the cross, their “high-beam” focus on other leaders for power and authority has to be refocused, the need to return to the truth of the gospel message. It is not about them but all about Christ. 

Second, He speaks to the truth of spiritual wisdom. (2:6-16) Without the leading and guiding of the Spirit in all matters of faith in life as believers we will fail in our own weaknesses. He reminds us of God’s wisdom as revealed by the Spirit. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (2:10b)

Third, he speaks to the true equality of all believers. (3:1-23) Paul uses two metaphors, one of farmers in a field and another of construction workers building together. He stresses in verse 9 that we are “co-workers” (working together) in God’s service. 

Lastly, Paul speaks to the true nature of leadership. (4:1-21) Called by God, the leaders are his faithful servants; “This then is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.” (4:1) In short, Paul highlights the truth that Christ is to be exalted over his chosen leaders (servants), while at the same time given the respect they deserve because of their calling. 

Having been momentarily “blinded” by the powerful lights of an oncoming car I will admit I’ve responded to the situation with both a quick courtesy flash and more aggressive retaliation. For all of us, whether sitting in the driver’s seat or walking through other events in life, Paul’s timeless reminder to “dim the lights” and focus on the cross and listen to the leading and guiding of the Spirit will do us well.  

The Letters of Life

There are letters of recommendation, letters of acceptance, letters of commendation, letters of refusal, hate, inquiry, love, complaint or concern. Although very different in the nature of their content each of these letters has a common purpose, they are written to communicate a message or to its intended audience. When we receive one of the above letters we know there is a certain “tone” associated with them. For example, a love letter will have a much different tone than a letter of refusal and a letter of hate will communicate a message clearly different than that of concern.  
2 Corinthians is a letter written by Paul to the church in Corinth. His letter varies in tone and subject matter as he try’s to communicate a number of things to the people. This is a letter written to commend the Corinthian church for responding to his earlier plea to love one another in Christ’s name and to remember how much He loved them. Paul wrote in order to help prepare the people’s hearts to live and give generously and with joy so that the work of spreading the good news of the Gospel would continue. He conveys a specific message surrounded by urgency and warning about understanding and recognizing the teachings and tactics of false teachers and prophets that have made their way into this family of believers. Paul writes with incredible passion, deeply rooted feelings and divine inspiration. He is writing from the deepest depths of his heart, a heart that has been radically transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.  

Preserved in the Bible for thousands of years, the words of Paul have been interpreted, read, taught, lived out and spoken to generation after generation of people. The message communicated to the people in Corinth is a message that continues to cross cultures even today. It’s timeless reminders and commands hold true to who we are called to be as followers of Christ. This letter and many like it in scripture have the power to transform lives. As followers of Christ who have experienced this transformation we must continue to “eat, sleep and breathe” these inspired words from God. What does that mean for you? For me, right now, it means that through the work of the Holy Spirit my life I must follow as close to that of Christ’s life as I possibly can.  

The Three C’s of Gospel Communication.

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There are so many ways that we can educate ourselves about the art of communication. A quick Google search will list a variety of websites that gives us information like this: “The Three V’s of Communication” (visual, vocal and verbal), “The Three Dimensions of Communication” (miscommunication, attitude and mindfulness) and “Three Dominant Styles of Communication” (passive, aggressive, and assertive). All these tools can be helpful in understanding how to communicate effectively but when it comes to the gospel message the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy gives us some great keys to communicating this life changing message. I will call the them the Three C’s of Gospel Communication.

Christ – “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead… This is my gospel, for which I am suffering.” (2 Tim 2:8,9)

Confidence – “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so through me the message might be fully proclaimed.” (2 Tim 4:17)

 Courage – “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Tim 1:7)

Without Christ, the gospel message would not exist. Knowing, trusting and participating in the absolute truth of the reality of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection is essential to communicating its significance and its transformational power. When we put our full confidence in Christ (knowing he is standing beside us) our lives become rooted in His word. With confidence, we can stand firmly on the promise that he will never leave us or forsake us. He works in us so that the message of his word will be proclaimed. We are given the power of the Holy Spirit through Christ and the confidence we put in Him. Sharing the good news of the gospel takes courage, a power that we alone cannot produce. God, through his son Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit gives us the courage (power) to stand against the forces of evil that work so powerfully to try and put a stop to the proclamation of the message of the gospel.  Through Christ, confidence and courage the message of the gospel will continue to be spread.

Communication

Communication


How do you communicate with others? I am thinking about how communication (written, verbal, nonverbal and visual) happens in our culture today. Of course, technology plays a big part in how we network with each other today. There are a multitude of companies and applications  like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype and Facetime help us communicate in our digital age. Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t know how I would survive without my phone, it connects me to everyone and everything.”

Reading through the book of Ezra I was reminded of the “roots” of communication. We still write letters (5:8-17), we issue decrees (7:21), send memorandums (6:2) enforce stop work orders (4:23) and issue proclamations (1:2). Each of these communication methods serve a purpose today just like they did centuries ago, only today we have a different system to employ them. Consider for a moment how you use technology today to communicate and then continue reading.

God’s Word, the Bible, is one of the ways that He communicates with us. As the grand author, He inspired each and every word that is written for us to read today. The book of Ezra begins with a proclamation given by King Cyrus, a declaration that came from the Lord as He worked in Cyrus’ heart that allowed His people to return to Jerusalem. “The Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing” (1:1) God inspires (moves our hearts) His people today in much the same way. Through His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, God leads and guides hundreds of thousands of leaders across the world to bring the truth of His word alive so that people will know Him. We are called to be communicators of His word, called to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15). Technology has changed the way we communicate; the message of the Gospel has not changed, the call to go into all the world has not changed. The work of the Holy Spirit continues to inspire and help us work out how we can best steward what God has given us (technology) to spread the message of the good news.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Have you ever put the “cart in front of the horse?” This phrase is commonly used when someone breaks the conventional rules of order and does something opposite to what we would consider a proper order. A classic example might look like this: We just past tax time and some of us are waiting for that big refund cheque to come in. Some will likely spend the money before it comes in only to find out that there was some “minor” adjustments made to the numbers and we fall a little short of affording our new found treasure. Well, we have put the “cart before the horse”.

Adonijah was is one of those people who put the cart before the horse in life. Here is what scriptures says: “Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be King”. So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men ahead of him.” (1 Kings 1:5) Adonijah had a personal vision, one that he convinced a few others to follow and sets himself up as King. Adonijah was confident in his plan, he even went as far as throwing himself a party to celebrate the occasion. As David’s oldest surviving son, Adonijah may have had the right to become King one day, he may have even been looking to the best interests of his father and his people. As the narrative continues in 1 Kings we get a hint of the guilt and fear that surrounded Adonijah and his followers. Upon hearing the news of Solomon’s appointment as King “all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar.” (1:50) It is my opinion that Adonijah knew what he did was wrong and was seeking sanctuary or safety from the hand of Solomon.

There is no doubt in my mind that Adonijah put the cart before the horse in this account.He did what any visionary leader would do, he gathered people around him that would support his vision, only his vision was self-serving and had a very narrow focus. Leading and casting vision in the church today cannot be self-serving or narrowly focused. Our vision has to be Gospel-Centered, focused on sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Our job as visionary leaders is to live out the command of the great commission found in Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Let’s not put our own plans before that of God’s plan, there is great wisdom in seeking God’s leading and guiding as we plan and cast a vision that ultimately leads people to Him.  

Tug-of-War

tug-o-warTug-of-War… The classic game of strength, teamwork, grit and for the inexperienced, rope burn. The game pits two teams against each other for dominance and bragging rights and the satisfaction of dragging the other side through the mud. It has been some time since I anchored the end of the rope but the thoughts bring back some fond memories of the many church picnics and tug-of war competitions I joined as a kid.

The Galatian people in some respects were participants in a sort of Tug-of-War when it came to the truth of the gospel. Remembering that Paul was writing to Christians, imagine if you can two ends or sides of the rope stretched over a line. Faith being on one side and works on the other, each pulling for your attention.  When we read through the letter to the Galatians Paul has some strong words for the people, “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse.” (Gal 1:9). Paul is saying to the people that there should be no contest, there is only one gospel anything else is “variant message” an “alien message” (1:6 MSG).

Paul continues throughout his letter to remind and teach the people that it is through faith in Christ that we are saved, not through the works of the law. He digs deep into the roots of their past and reminds them of the covenant (promise) given through Abraham, a promise of one who will come to redeem us and give us everlasting life through him. Take Paul’s concern for the Galatian people and fast forward generations and centuries to our day and age now, these same principles apply. There are many things in life today that pull for our attention, things that distract us from living fully in life by the spirit.  Like the people of Galatians, we need continual reminders that Christ is the center of the gospel message. When it comes to winning the game of Tug-of-War I am reminded of Romans 8:1 “If God is for us, who can be against us?” I want God on my team.

“To Be Continued…”

tobecontinuedOne on my pet peeves is seeing these three words “to be continued” as they appear across the screen at the end of one of my favorite television shows. There is usually a good reason for it but it really irritates me. I think it has something to do with leaving me hanging on the edge of my seat, I need, well OK, I want resolve. I want to know what happens next. The unexpected pause in the story has to wait for another time.

There is a momentary pause, a “to be continued” when we reach the end of Luke’s Gospel before we get the continued story in Acts. If we read scripture as it is sequentially laid out in our bibles today, we read through John’s Gospel before Luke continues his account of Jesus’s life and mission. Luke’s introduction in Acts chapter one sets the scene for what will be the continued work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles.  Acts 1:1-2 reads:” I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen”. When I read these two short verses my attention is drawn to the word “began”.

I am reminded of the commonly used phrase “to get the ball rolling”. Luke’s Gospel, his account of the life of Christ and his ministry among us is the momentum that moves us to want to continue sharing the same good news that Jesus proclaimed. The “to be continued” in this sense becomes dual purpose; first, Luke continues his story and secondly, we like the apostles are called to move with and maintain the momentum of Christ’s work here on earth. The book of Acts gives us a clear picture of how this work is to be done, not on our own power but through the power of the Holy Spirit. The work that Christ began for us and in us will carry on as described in Philippians 1:6, we need to walk in confidence that He (Christ) will complete His work when he comes again.

Immediately: im·me·di·ate·ly /iˈmēdēətlē/.

timeWe all have an expectation when it comes to time. There are many things in life that we have come to expect with a sense of immediacy. For example, if your waiting more than a second or two for your webpage to load or your search results to return you might be prone to wonder if there is something wrong. What about instant messaging? We send a message, we can see that it was delivered (sometime we can even see when it was read) and for whatever reason we expect a message to come back right away, after all it is supposed to be instant.

The one part of the story of Mark that continues to astound me is when Jesus calls his disciples, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him”. The “at once” can also be translated immediately. Simon and Andrew are two fishermen who dropped their nets and followed Jesus, just like that. We see it again when he calls James and John, “without delay” … these guys left their dad in the boat and followed Him. When I consider these accounts of obedience in God’s call on their lives and their immediate response I think about the significance and priority of the message they were called to teach and preach.

Jesus goes from place to place calling people to follow Him, He displays his majesty and power so that people will believe in Him. He has the power to change peoples lives on the spot. The question I ask myself is is this: how am I living out my calling today? Do I do things for the Lord without delay or at once? These are difficult questions and honestly I think I can do better at listening to what the Lord is calling me to do and follow through on it sooner. Sometimes we really wish that our efforts would produce results in an instant, we can all think of that “lost” person who if they only found Jesus right now would be so much better off. God’s timing in all of life can’t be forgotten; we work in different realities of time and through His leading and in His time He will use us to accomplish His will.