Invited but not welcomed

Luke 7:36-38 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.

Jesus had already begun to incur the wrath of the Pharisees. Simon, who was a Pharisee, invited Jesus to a meal at his house. We aren’t told what his motive was, and perhaps it isn’t fair to assume that he had hostile motives, but in a time when hospitality was important, it seemed overwhelmingly unimportant to Simon on this day.

Jesus didn’t say anything about the omission, but sat down at the meal He had been invited to. He could have called Simon out for his lack of hospitality, but He didn’t. Not until Simon began (in his thoughts) calling out the hospitality of another.

This sinful woman, an uninvited and unwanted guest, humbled herself that He might be honored. Her tears, her hair, her kisses, her perfume…all at His feet. For her to do this for Him she had to go low…something nobody else in the room had been willing to do.

Simon may have invited Jesus, but this woman welcomed Him.

I sat and wept as I thought of Jesus being dishonored by Simon. And then I realized that I am Simon.

So knowledgeable. So religious. Sitting at the table with Jesus as though an equal. Just one realized that the only appropriate posture was face down.

There are far too many Simon’s among us…inviting Jesus in with no concern to make Him feel welcome.

Who I am

Daniel 6:12-13 And they went before the king, and spoke concerning the king’s decree: “Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” So they answered and said before the king, “That Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, does not show due regard for you, O king, or for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

Can you sense the disdain in their words – “that Daniel”. At this point Daniel had been in a position of governmental authority for somewhere around 50 years. Yet they’ve identified him not by his accomplishments, but as one of the captives from Judah. It’s true that’s where Daniel came from. But God had worked in this man’s life mightily, and he wasn’t a teenage boy from a foreign land anymore. He was a man greatly gifted and used by God to help govern the affairs of the most powerful kingdom in the world. But the enemy who was trying to destroy him was also happy to humiliate him in the process.

We’ve all got a few skeletons in the closet from our old life. Before I became a new creation I was an old wretch. But those old things don’t define me. That might be where I came from but it’s not who I am. Only one thing defines me – Christ, Who is my life.

We can’t control what people think about us or what they say about us. But if we are walking with Jesus the testimony of that life will speak louder than anyone’s words.

Shame on who?

Colossians 2:15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

I remember the first time I heard that Jesus was crucified naked. Being a modest person myself, the thought of being so publicly exposed was horrifying. Wasn’t it enough that He was beaten beyond recognition and condemned to die as a criminal?

But really, this is standard operating procedure for the enemy. Not content with merely destroying your life, he will attempt to do it with as much humiliation as possible. The more public, the better.

Shame is a very effective weapon in the enemy’s arsenal. Many people’s entire purpose has been derailed because they feel like the shame of their failure makes it impossible for them to continue in the things of God.

But if you can just receive the strength of God to continue on, it is the principalities and powers who will be shamed. It’s okay to despise the shame. It’s not okay to let it triumph over you.

If you’ve experienced failure, welcome to humanity. It is the common condition of us all. Let the Holy Spirit pick you up, dust you off, and put you back in the game. Your life is now a greater testimony of the grace of God than it has ever been.

In His most shame-filled moments Jesus was thrashing hell. Maybe we can do the same.

The sorrow of the tamed

I went to the zoo a few years ago with my family and have tons of happy memories. But there is one sad memory that I’ve never been able to shake off. The gorilla exhibit. I don’t know if I can adequately express what I saw in the eyes of that animal. If I had to describe it, I would say it was sorrow… a resignation to a life that wasn’t how it should’ve been. He was meant to be wild. He was meant to be free. But he is not allowed to be that and so he sits and looks at those who stop to look at him. He even seemed to pose for the pictures. What else can he do when his life consists only of what is inside of walls and gates and bars. But the look in his eyes seemed to say that he knew his life should have been something other than that. It was the sorrow of the tamed. I’m sure he was well taken care of. He doesn’t have to search for food or shelter. But he wasn’t meant to live a tamed life inside the walls of a zoo. And the nature within him would’ve told him that it wasn’t meant to be that way. I walked away feeling very sad in my heart. Not for the gorilla, but for the church.

Because to a great degree this gorilla story is a parable of much of the church. So many people sitting inside the walls… so comfortable in a climate controlled environment, the padded pews, well fed from the pulpit. Just enough God to get them to heaven but not enough to bring heaven here. I read the book of Acts, the church in the very beginning, and those were some wild people. Preaching everywhere. Defying death to make Jesus known. Risking everything. Think back in your own life when you got saved. Most of us offended our whole families by telling them they were going to hell. We lacked wisdom, but there was a fire in us for Jesus. But then some time passed and we learned how to be proper Christians… and became tamed.

Who told us that our lives were supposed to be ordinary, normal and safe? I don’t believe it was God. You may have had people tell you that you need to be balanced and to be careful that you aren’t so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good. I reject that entirely. The Bible tells us to seek those things which are above, to set our minds on things above. The balanced life that we need is to seek Jesus and be about His business morning, noon and night.

I can’t think of a single place in the Bible where we are commanded to protect and guard our lives. But I can think of many that tell us to lay our lives down, pour ourselves out, give ourselves away for the sake of Jesus and his gospel. If you love your life in this world, you’re gonna lose it. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to drop dead on the spot but that you’ll be reduced to a mere existence. Tamed.

Too often we content ourselves with reading the stories of people in other ages that have done great things for God. Always watching other people serve the Lord. Feeling a sense of envy but not the willingness to do what they did and risk what they risked.  We live without the supernatural touch of heaven on our lives and learn to lean on our own abilities and talents. God wants to be glorified through our lives, but it will only happen as we live supernatural, Holy Spirit empowered lives. The only reason we don’t have that is that we just don’t want it badly enough to press in for it.

So we will live and die… and make very little impact on this world for Jesus. Because it’s not just going to happen because you became a Christian. The impact of your life corresponds to the fire that burns within you.

I remember several years ago hearing a preacher make this statement, “if you want to go to the place where you will find the most potential, go to the graveyard. Most people died with theirs untouched and unused”.  And I remember the cry that rose from my heart… Oh God… please don’t let that be me.

The greatest sorrow of the tamed will be when they stand before Jesus. You are a steward of the gift of your life. You will spend the remaining years of your life deciding what to do with all that time.  Choose wisely.

We spend far too much time and energy getting comfortable in a temporary dwelling place.  Invest your life in eternal things.   

The King’s purpose

Daniel 6:3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.

It was immediately after this that the governors and satraps that Daniel had distinguished himself above, conspired together to bring about his downfall. Unable to find corruption in him, they prepared a trap for him through a decree they suggested to the king:

Daniel 6:7 “All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.

They knew Daniel was faithful to his God, so this was the trap they devised for him. And sure enough, he continued to pray and was thrown into the lion’s den. The next morning he emerged unharmed, his enemies were destroyed and the last verse of this chapter says:

Daniel 6:28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

This is my point – though enemies may rise up, the purpose of the King will stand. You may have to pass through some difficult things on the way, but every lion’s mouth will be shut by God Himself.

Proverbs 19:21 There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel–that will stand.

The ability of God

Daniel 4:18 “This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare its interpretation, since all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you.”

There is an ability that resides in the life of the believer and it is the ability of God. His Spirit takes up residence in us to make the impossible possible and through His activity in our life, to demonstrate the power, wisdom and greatness of God through His people.

We see the working of God in the life of Daniel because he was put in situations that were impossible for him. It was in these moments that God’s ability burst onto the scene. And when God was doing through Daniel what others were unable to do, even King Nebuchadnezzar realized Who the source was and what the difference was between Daniel and the other wise men in Babylon.

We may also desire to see such things through our own life – the power and wisdom of God on display, mighty works being done through us. Yet we are unwilling to let ourselves be put into impossible situations. It’s scary. It’s uncomfortable. And we just don’t like to be either scared or uncomfortable. So we continue on in our nice little Christian life and see very little of the power of God working through us.

1 Peter 4:11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Not the ability you were born with. Not the ability you have acquired. But the ability that God supplies, totally apart from your own efforts – this is what glorifies Him.

Are you willing to step out, beyond your own ability, and into the ability of God? There’s no guarantee that it won’t feel intimidating. But it will be glorious.

The board room and the birthing room

Proverbs 10:16. The labor of the righteous leads to life

I was very encouraged when I read this verse recently as I have been learning new things and stepping out in areas that have made me uncomfortable. And I rejoiced to read this verse that our labors for the Lord will lead to life. Isn’t that what we want? Christian blogger, isn’t that why you write? Isn’t it about more than just getting your thoughts and opinions out there, but about affecting lives for the kingdom of God?

For this purpose we make plans and labor to learn technology and setup platforms and produce content. This is the board room – the place of planning and activity. Without the labor in the board room there will be nothing to present to the world.

But there in another labor that must occur….this one in the birthing room. All our blog posts, podcasts and videos become merely more cyber clutter without the touch of God upon them. We can work ourselves into exhaustion in the board room but if we neglect the birthing room of prayer all our labors will be ineffective and lifeless.

The board room is organized and professional looking. Everybody admires the work done there. But the birthing room is a place of groaning, sweat and tears that we often would prefer to avoid. But we must have both.

In the board room, we bring things forth. In the birthing room, God gives them life.

Unity, not uniformity

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

When 1 Corinthians 12 lists the gifts of the Spirit, this verse follows:

1 Corinthians 12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

Each one in the body of Christ has giftings given by the Holy Spirit. All these gifts work in a beautiful unity of purpose to glorify Jesus and edify the church. But the gifts differ from person to person, and the operation of the same gift may vary greatly in different people.

We are called to unity, not uniformity. Here’s a quick definition of uniformity – freedom from variation or difference; sameness of action, effect, etc., under like conditions.

The only person we are to seek uniformity with is Jesus. When we try to preach like someone else, pray like someone else, or write like someone else, we lose the unique manifestation of the gifts that the Spirit wants to bring through us.

While we should all come together as the body of Christ in unity of purpose, there will be a variety of functions. Yet the function of each contributes to the unified purpose of all.

There is something that the Spirit of God has gifted you to do. There is grace on your life to do that thing. And the body of Christ needs you to do that thing in the way the Holy Spirit moves through you to do that thing.

It’s so helpful that Paul used the analogy of the body. We think about people that we might consider the mouth or the eye or the ear. Their use is so noticed and valued by all. They may be appreciated and praised by the body and their contribution honored while you might feel like the appendix. Tucked away in some hidden recess with seemingly no purpose. But just let that appendix get inflamed and the whole body is going to be affected.

Whatever part the Lord is leading you to play in his great mission in this earth (building the kingdom of God by winning souls, making disciples, and edifying the body of Christ), let your life be set on fire with a holy passion to do it. Inflamed by the Spirit of God, even a little appendix can have a big impact 😊

When the power of God hits YOUR life

Daniel 4:2-3 I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.

The entirety of Daniel chapter 4 is a letter written by King Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man in the world at that time, to “all people’s, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth” (v1)

He isn’t telling the story about the miracle God worked for Shadrach Meshach and Abednego. Now he has a testimony of what God has done for him and he basically was telling the whole world about it.

You may be amazed at the miracle God works for someone, and the testimony of God‘s power displayed in someone else’s life, but your human mind will often find a way to reason around it and discount it. But when it happens to you, you can have no argument against it.

Consider Paul. He heard the gospel that Stephen preached because he was standing there as Stephen was stoned. He heard the testimony of Steven and still continued to be a persecutor of the church. But when he had his own encounter with Jesus, it changed the course of his whole life.

This isn’t a second hand gospel and God doesn’t have step children. He wants each of us to have testimonies of our own (and we need to have them) of His power to save, heal, provide and deliver. And then He wants us to tell the world about it.

When the fire has no power

Daniel 3:27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.

There was nothing shocking about these three men being thrown into the fire. It was just another means of execution. But even the king couldn’t help but notice how they walked in that fire and who walked with them.

The fact that the fire had no effect upon them drew the attention of those around them. And while these three men were inspected and their condition considered, God received the glory.

Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!

When we go through life’s trials the same way the world does, it draws no attention and brings God no glory.

Some people bear the marks of the fire through the rest of their lives. They spend much time describing its heat and displaying their scars. And it is the fire that gets the glory.

Followers of Jesus are called to a different way. Even in our trials and suffering we are to set our mind on things above (Colossians 3:2)

The fire may be able to touch our outer man at times, but it can only touch our inner man to the extent we yield ourselves to it.

Consider how these three men conducted themselves and how this might apply to us and the fires we walk through:

Daniel 3:25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

They were not bound up and hindered and stifled in life because of the fire. They were not paralyzed or immobilized because of the fire. They weren’t damaged by the fire. They didn’t come out so traumatized that they were unable to even toast marshmallows again. And it was perceptible to all who looked on that they were not alone. The presence of Jesus in the fire with them was unmistakable.

It is never easy to go through a fiery trial, but if your life finds you in a particular furnace at the moment, don’t let it be wasted. Walk through that fire in such a way that when you come out on the other side, people will marvel at the gracious God who brought you through.