Thursday, February 23, 2012

Saul Stunned...Ananais Answered

You know the story in Acts 9...
Saul's been going out of his way to persecute Christians. After receiving permission to continue his mission against the Way in Damascus, he was confronted by Christ, struck blind and ordered to a house on Straight Street in Damascus. We learn from the text that he was there three days.
Within that time, when exactly we do not know, the Lord called for Ananais and he responded, "Yes, Lord." Worth noting here is that Ananais immediately recognized the Lord's voice and made himself available. The Lord told him to go to Straight Street, find this Saul from Tarsus and restore his sight. (The Lord had already prepared Saul for this by telling him a man named Ananais would come and restore his sight.)
Ananais wasn't sure this was in his life plan. We talk often about his shock at being told to visit Saul. I like the "But haven't you heard" incredulity in his response. Though scripture doesn't record it, do you think he may have debated it a bit? After all, Saul was there for three days! Did Ananais take a day or so to visit his intercessors group, call his pastor for a bite of hummus and pita chips, or see a lawyer to get his will in shape? Without corroboration from the text we can only assume he heard, "Go!" and he went. And, by going, he received the blessing of helping Christ restore Saul to a right relationship with God and be instrumental in moving the Word to the world.
Ananais recognized, responded and received. Am I missing a blessing because I don't know what the Lord's voice sounds like enough to affirmatively answer immediately? Or, am I hearing the call and telling him why it can't work thus missing the blessing of his plan for my life? Which leader of the next generation has God prepared yet is not seeing today because I haven't responded? I pray the SOAP Journaling taught by Wayne Cordeiro in his book, The Divine Mentor, will help me recognize, respond and receive all Jesus has for me in this life.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Again, With the Wait?

Again, with the wait? What's this all about? Why, so many times this week, have I heard, "Wait."? Perhaps I'm missing something. (As I write this, I recognize I start many of my pieces this way. Hmmm? What am I really missing?)

At the end of his time on earth, Jesus instructs his people to move out, mobilize, carry this message of repentance and baptism to all people's near and far (Matthew 28:18-20, MSG).  I can't imagine a more motivated group of disciples. They had seen the Risen Christ! They knew it all to be true. They recognized all of their time traveling and ministering with Him was preparation for this command. Jesus said this was God's message to them and He would be with them all the way. "Let's hike up our robes and go!"

But then they hear Jesus saying, "Wait, on no account are you to leave Jerusalem" (Acts 1:4) . I'm trying to reconcile their minds at this time. They had a story of love and deliverance to tell. They had been commanded and given authority to go. Some may have already given up their livelihoods, said goodbye to their family, put the granola and olive oil in the rucksack and were ready to head out. But now, "Wait?" "For another baptism?"

I don't think it was unusual for them to be asked/told to wait. Several instances are recorded where Jesus said to wait while he went away to pray. They knew the scriptures which would have included David's reminder in Psalm 27:14:
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

So, how did they wait? The only cue we have is that they were "together in one place" (Acts 2:1). I am willing to wager they were eating together and worshiping together. After all, it was the Feast of Pentecost. But, how long they waited, how they spent the time, what Scriptures they read, what stories were reminisced, and so on, all unknown. Did God wait until they were all in one place and "all of one mind"? We only know they obeyed the second command and waited for the One Jesus promised.

And they all received the same blessing! The baptism of the Holy Spirit!

How often do we seek to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) without seeking the fulfillment of, in my opinion, the promise of the Holy Spirit in our life? I know I am a Type A kind of guy. Give me a command; give me a task and off I go. This is a time of waiting for me, but am I spending it anticipating and growing or just waiting?

How are our churches any different? We struggle with the near and far command and tend to disregard the wait command. We have factions on both sides competing for hearts, minds and dollars. Can we do both at once or are they mutually exclusive? Can we go and wait? Can we serve and seek? Can we bless and be blessed? After all, the harvest is ready!

Now, here's the cop-out. The answer is not clear to me. I only know they waited...together. They received the promised presence of the power of God to fulfill the Great Commission...together. Once that happened, there was no holding a single one of them back!

The British author James Stalker wrote, "Waiting is a common instrument of providential discipline for those to whom exceptional work has been appointed." So, I return to David: "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Not quitting; but seeking, serving, and waiting.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Living Lavish in the Community

Last fall, I looked forward to FirstB's study of the important discipleship issues within the book of Ephesians. I am always blessed when reminded of God's delight and pleasure in choosing to love us lavishly (vs. 1:8, NIV) through the hope (1:18) to which He has called us, our rich inheritance in the saints (1:18), and His incomparable power (1:19) for us who believe.

The first four chapters remind us of our life in Christ and the unity of the body. FirstB focuses on our response to the 4B's (Belong, Believe, Become, Beyond) and Paul concludes Chapter Four with, in my opinion, several foundational discipleship principles necessary to maintain the community:

Ephesians 4:25-32: "put off falsehood and speak truthfully"...Persons belonging to a community cultivate complete honesty. We don't lie to ourselves.

4:26: "In your anger do not sin." A community can withstand appropriate expressions of anger that maintain community and do not allow Satan a "foothold" (4:27).

4:28: "Work...with own hands,...share with those in need." A community survives by going beyond itself and cultivating equal commitment though our gifts are not equal.

4:29: No unwholesome talk, "but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs." A community edifies and grows each other. This takes us from belonging through believing to becoming.

And, finally, perhaps the linchpin:

4:31-32: "Get rid of all bitterness", etc., "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you." Just be nice, demonstrate grace and continual forgiveness.

I am called to prayer to thank God for these reminders and for my response and application.

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