Slow to Anger, Great in Power

An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh. The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.
(Nahum 1:1-9)

We were studying the book of Nahum last night in our Bible class. Nahum was sent to pronounce the final judgment upon Nineveh and Assyria. Jonah had been sent around 100 years prior to this, and the people of Nineveh repented. However, they have gone back into their violent and wicked ways. God was slow to anger, but now there is no remedy. He will come at them with an overwhelming flood of judgment and punishment.

The phrase I want to focus on for just a moment is that God is “slow to anger but great in power.” A question that was posed last night in class was, “What if God was fast to anger and great in power?” We all agreed that there wouldn’t be much left of us and it wouldn’t take long for God to do it. He would snuff us out in a hurry.

Look at the passage above. Nahum asks, “Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the heat of His anger?” When God is full of wrath, there is no place to hide nor any shelter strong enough to withstand the blast (except the shelter of the blood of Jesus, of course). “His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken in pieces by Him,” Nahum added.

Are you great in power? What I mean is, are you in authority over people? At work? At home? In organizations? How about in the church? What do you do with that authority and power? Do you run rough shod over people? Are you quick to anger, or are you slow to anger like God is? Is your wrath poured out quickly and instantly known by others (Proverbs 12:!6)? Are people around you intimidated and scared to set you off? Do others walk on egg shells around you because of your hair-trigger temper?

God is great in power, but slow to anger. He has the power to do whatever he wants to you and me, but His lovingkindness governs His power. Have you ever driven a truck that had a governor set where you couldn’t go over a certain speed? I think we need something like that with our anger and all our passions and emotions. What regulates my power and strength? Does God’s love, mercy and kindness rule my authority so that I do not take advantage of those who are accountable to me?

The people under your authority may not be able to escape. They have to endure that anger and face those blasts of wrath because they have to keep coming to work everyday or they have to live with you everyday. When you go off on a rant, they may have to just stay there and take it. But that isn’t fair to them is it? Should they have to endure that kind of abuse because you can’t control your temper?

If you are that person who has that kind of anger issue, please work with God to get to the root of the problem. Sit down with wise, godly people who can help you work through your anger and give you the tools to control that anger and put it in its proper place. It will take humility to admit you have a problem, and even more humility to seek out help to work through it.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:19-22)

Being a Shechaniah

We were very blessed over the weekend to have Andy Harrison with us. He led our men’s study on Saturday about the power of having a very close intimate brother in Christ. A brother to whom and with whom we can be accountable and vulnerable. Someone who can help us grow to new heights in our walk with God.

Andy used as one of his key examples the man named Shechaniah in the book of Ezra. I encourage you to read Ezra 9-10 and meditate upon it.

The people of Israel returned from captivity, and over time returned to the same sins that sent them away into captivity in the first place. Jewish men who were to be loyal in heart to God were marrying pagan idolatrous women and they were going down the same old road to destruction. When Ezra heard about this he was so sad. Ezra was overwhelmed to the point of being despondent.

Andy pointed out that if you listen to the words and emotions of Ezra in his prayer of chapter 9, one thing you will not see is hope. Ezra is pretty low at this point, and understandably so.

While Ezra was weeping and praying, a great assembly of people gathered around, and one man stood up and spoke up. Look at the progression of what happens; listen to what is said. Take note that Ezra at the beginning is weeping and praying, and at the end he is weeping and acting. It took a Shechaniah to stand up and support Ezra. Shechaniah showed leadership by being a phenomenal example of follower-ship.

Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, “We have trespassed against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.” Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath. Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity. And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem, and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the instructions of the leaders and elders, all his property would be confiscated, and he himself would be separated from the assembly of those from the captivity.
(Ezra 10:1-8)

What can you see in the words of Shechaniah that would have meant so much to Ezra in his leadership?

  1. Personal accountability. Shechaniah admitted the wrong, and took responsibility for it. He also made himself accountable to being fully supportive as they worked through solving this problem.
  2. Yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Even the greatest leaders can sometimes get hopeless and despair in situations. Paul did (2 Corinthians 1) and so did Elijah (1 Kings 19). Ezra needed hope, he needed Shechaniah to show him that all is not lost. There’s still hope! Don’t we all need that sometimes?
  3. He was willing to help Ezra lead the people in this solution. “Let us make a covenant with our God.” Shechaniah stood up for God and Ezra by being the first to stand up, confess, and show true humility.
  4. Ezra’s advice was valued and promoted. Shechaniah said, we’re going to do this based upon your advice, Ezra. Think of the power that gave the leader when his leadership and his advice were valued.
  5. Shechaniah reminded Ezra of Ezra’s responsibility. As a leader, he needed the reminder that this is his gig and no one can do it for it. “Arise, for this matter is YOUR responsibility.”
  6. Shechaniah gave further encouragement and support that “we are with you!” Ezra couldn’t lead if no one followed, and he had the verbal commitment and encouragement he needed now to stand up and do the hard things. How much power is given to you to perform the hard things when you know that there are brothers in Christ who are “with you”? I mean truly with you. You can run through a brick wall if you have the right support and encouragement. Shechaniah was that person for Ezra.
  7. Ezra rose up (vs. 6,7) because Shechaniah spoke up (vs. 2). Please contemplate this today, men. You need to be that Shechaniah for somebody. There is an Ezra out there who may be giving up hope and you can stand with them to support them in carrying out the mission God has given them. Give somebody hope, support and encouragement today. It may be a church leader. It might be a parent or a spouse. It may be a caregiver. It might be your boss. But be that Shechaniah today.

Saying Goodbye to Gramma

This is a letter a good friend, Abe, wrote to his mother about the passing of his Gramma Bettye. She passed from this life over the weekend, and Abe’s thoughts are very helpful for us all. With permission I am sharing this letter with you.

I typed this this morning before I went to work. Wasn’t sure if I would ever share it. But maybe knowing Gramma (really GOD through Gramma) did one more great thing in my life will be comforting.

Saying goodbye to Gramma was hard as I left the nursing home Sunday afternoon. For some reason I thought it would be much easier since her eternity was settled, and she had already lost so much in this life in the last couple of years or so (None of those losses matter now:-)

But I am so glad that I got to whisper in her ear: “I love you. I am glad GOD gave me you. You have done your job. You gave us your faith. You have run the race. Now go rest. It’s okay to go. Go get the prize! Bye Gramma. See you soon.”

Goodbye is hard.

It feels like such a long goodbye. But it really won’t be too long!

There was such value in sitting by her bedside (Ecc 7:2). That value was not in comforting HER (which I believe was my original intent). Instead, in one final 7 day period she gave back once again and refocused my life on things not of this world. What a remarkable woman. What an Amazing GOD.

For 7 days, in her toughness while she lay in a room lacking all possessions, to me she demonstrated how fleeting even a 91 year life is (James 4:14). We entered this world with nothing and we will exit with nothing (I Timothy 6:7). And that truth was there for my eyes to see.

In our last moments all that matters is our rock solid faith (Matt 7:24-25) in a Loving, merciful GOD who causes all things to work together for good…for HIS purposes (Romans 8:28)…..Who desires us to be with HIM, worshipping in HIS presence for eternity (Rev 5:9-14). WHAT A GREAT TIME THAT WILL BE!

Indeed, there is great value in experiencing death while on this earth. I thank GOD for Gramma and this week of watching her enter into HIS rest. She finally gets to rest. She made it!

I love you Mom. Your….what was it….25 years of service to her were amazing. What an awesome example you and dad have been (Philippians 2:3-7, 2:17, Romans 12:1)

Abe

 

Go home to your friends, part 2

And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:17-20)

Everyone marveled. Yesterday’s article was about the formerly demon-possessed man who was sent by Jesus as an evangelist to the region of Decapolis. A man who at one time went around naked, screaming, breaking chains, howling at the moon, and scaring a lot of his neighbors is now set right and cleansed by Jesus. He was commissioned by Jesus to go home to his friends and talk about the Lord’s goodness and mercy. His message clearly had an impact.

A friend, Matt, followed up with me yesterday and sent me this note, and I wanted to share it with you today.

Here’s one of my favorite parts of that story. We don’t really know where the region of the Gerasenes was, but I think scholars think it was in Decapolis. Then in Mark 7-8 Jesus goes back to Decapolis and what do we see? Tons of people coming to Jesus. That’s where he feeds 4,000. I’d like to think that’s because of the demon-possessed man!

Great thought!

Here are two more examples of the impact someone can have on those around him or her.

How about the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4?

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
(John 4:28-30)

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
(John 4:34-42)

Take note of what Jesus just said. “Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” The apostles were going to reap what the Samaritan woman had sown. Look at the very next verse: “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” What one woman planted led to a harvest of souls for Jesus. Remember that woman was a Samaritan woman who had been married and divorced multiple times!

Is it possible that the reason the Samaritans in Acts 8 were so receptive to the gospel is because of the initial work of the Samaritan woman years before to bring so many to hear Jesus?

Is it possible that the reason so many in Decapolis were receptive to Jesus was because of the demon-possessed man who went there and told everyone about what Jesus did?

Yes, it is certainly possible, but regardless, we know that each passage shows immediate impact and influence for Jesus.

Here is another example: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. How much do you know about Andrew, other than he was an apostle? He doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the New Testament. Really the only time he is specifically mentioned in the book of John, he is bringing people to Jesus (John 1:40-42, 6:8; 12:22).

Think about Simon Peter. Peter was without a doubt one of the pillars of the church. He was one of the most influential people in the New Testament and the early church. Question: who brought Simon Peter to Jesus? His brother Andrew.

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
(John 1:40-42)

Can you begin to quantify the impact that the Samaritan woman, Andrew, and the demon-possessed man had on generations upon generations to come? How far did that influence spread? I heard a statement long ago that you can count the seeds in one apple but you can’t begin to count the apples in one seed.

Do not minimize the impact that one seed planted for Jesus has. Plant that seed today, brothers.

Go home to your friends

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:18-20)

Here is a very rare occasion where Jesus told someone he healed to go out and tell everyone about it. Usually Jesus strictly and sternly forbade anyone he healed from going around and talking about it (Mark 1:34,43-45; 5:43; 7:36; Matthew 12:14-21). Of course, no one really listened to Jesus and went out and told everyone anyways!

Whenever someone would broadcast the news of a healing, Jesus would be so crowded and pressed about that he could hardly move. But in this situation in Mark 5, he was leaving the region. The formerly demon-possessed man really wanted to go with Jesus. I think we can understand that. Not only did this man have a really bad history with the people in that area, but come on, it was Jesus, of course he wanted to go with Jesus. He could go get a fresh start with Jesus.

But Jesus wanted him to stay put. “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” Isn’t that a very simple plan for evangelism? Go to your friends and talk about how God is good to you and His mercy is great upon you. And look at the impact this man had on the people in his region. They believed!

So guys, let’s take that simple thought with us today out into the world. What was asked of this formerly demon-possessed man is the same thing asked of each one of us who were bound by Satan and sin. Talk about the goodness and mercy of God.

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
(Psalms 96:1-4)

Holy Ground – My Influence

In Monday’s article, we looked at the event in Joshua’s life when he was asked to remove his sandals from his feet because he stood on holy ground. Here are three observations we made Monday:

  1. God is holy.
  2. Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.
  3. Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

Today we are going to take those concepts and apply it to how we view our relationship to the world.

The Israelites were delivered by God out of Egyptian slavery and were on their way to the Promised Land of Canaan. In both places, Egypt and Canaan, wickedness and idolatry filled the land. Read the following passage from Leviticus 18.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 18:1-5)

Look at the “you shall” and “you shall not’s” in this passage. Pretty simple: don’t do what they do, don’t walk in their ways, instead, walk in my rules and my ways. If you do this, you will live.

When God prepared Joshua for leading the people into Canaan, his instructions were the same.

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel…Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:1-9)

Don’t turn from God’s law, to the left or to the right. Meditate on it day and night, in doing so we will be careful to do all that is written in it. This will take a great deal of courage, but remember that God is with us wherever we go. He will never leave us or forsake us. So, don’t be afraid.

God places us in this world today, and His encouragement is the same. Even though the temptation may be great to look around the world, try to fit in with the world, and follow the world, we must turn our eyes to Jesus and His ways. When at work, school or in our communities, do not turn from God’s word, to the left or to the right. Do not be afraid of the world, don’t be so enamored with all they have to offer. It may even be intimidating at times when you feel outnumbered and alone. Sometimes the threats are real, and you may want to cave in and forsake God’s rules. But remember to turn your eyes back to Jesus. He is there. Remember His promise: He will be with you always (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5-6).

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Phillipians 2:14-16)

Standing Like King Hezekiah

We are currently studying the life of King Hezekiah in our adult Bible class at the church building. Last night, we were impressed with King Hezekiah’s leadership, his full-blown commitment to following God, and his trust in God.

Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place. For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the LORD our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD and turned their backs. They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the LORD came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes.
(2 Chronicles 29:1-8)

Here are a few quick observations that we made last night:

  1. Hezekiah chose a different direction than his father. Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz, was the wicked king who defiled and defaced the temple, and he closed its doors. Hezekiah watched his father do great wickedness, but he chose to listen to God and His word. You do not have to follow in your family’s footsteps, if they are not walking with God. You can choose your own direction like Hezekiah did.
  2. Hezekiah was prepared to serve when the time came. When Hezekiah became king at 25, he hit the ground running. The first month of the first year, he started making changes. That tells us that before this time, he was preparing his heart to listen to and serve God. It’s not like he didn’t know what to do when he became king; he was already prepared in heart and mind to make the changes God required. He was ready because he was informed, and he was informed because his heart had been searching out the word of God.
  3. Hezekiah did not waste time cleansing the temple and restoring the worship back to God’s way. Again, it was the first year and the first month. It’s like Hezekiah was watching all of this wickedness happen, and the moment he had the reins of power, he starting taking care of business. “This changes today, now!” He had a sense of urgency about getting things right with God.
  4. Hezekiah was young, but made no excuses for it. I’m sure that there were several of his father’s advisers around, and plenty of older men and women around him that were fine keeping things the way they used to be, but that did not deter Hezekiah. Even as a young 25-year old, he stood for God and led a whole nation in restoration. Just like Timothy, Josiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and David, young men can do incredible things for God. There is no defined age for leadership.
  5. Hezekiah made changes that no leader before him made. The Bible said there was no king like him, before or after (2 Kings 18:1-6). 2 Kings 18 tells us that he destroyed the bronze serpent that Moses made because the people were worshiping it. Think about that – it had been 700 years, and no leader between Moses and Hezekiah had destroyed it. Hezekiah went all the way when it came to obedience to God. It didn’t matter how long people had been practicing something, or how deeply entrenched the people were in a religious practice, his commitment was to completely following God’s word.

He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered… (2 Kings 18:5-7).

The Barnabas Touch: How to Be An Encourager

Gentlemen, we have considered this week the importance of being a humble servant as we follow the example given to us by Jesus (John 13:1-17).  I came across an article (written by Jason Moore) I was provided many years back and in reading it I wanted to share it with you today as we wrap up our week.  I hope you find it encouraging and invite you to take today and the weekend to consider the importance of our encouragement to our Brethren and the impact this style of living will have on those we encounter in the world.  Have a blessed day!

—-

Barnabas was conspicuous for his encouragement of others. An examination of his life teaches us the skills of an encourager, the job of every believer. The apostle commands, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).  Barnabas illustrates the commandment:

  1. Get off your island. Barnabas was born on the isle of Cyprus, but left Cyprus for Jerusalem (4:36), Jerusalem for Antioch, the third largest city in Roman world (11:22), and Antioch for the world (13:2). Encouragers are not just naturally gregarious people—that’s a myth. The essential qualification is unselfishness. Encouragers leave their comfort zone to go help. It’s the best cure for self-pity and any “self”-ish tendency.
  2. Build a bridge. Barnabas believed in men like Saul and John Mark even when others didn’t (9:26-27; 15:37-39). He risked his own reputation in reaching out to them. Bridge building is hard work and there is always the risk of falling. But encouragers run the risk of seeking, finding and enfolding folks whom others have isolated or who have isolated themselves.
  3. Spread good gossip. Barnabas told Saul’s story to the apostles (9:27), Antioch’s story to Saul (11:25-26), and the Gentiles’ story to an assembly in Jerusalem (15:12). A gossip likes to tell the bad he knows about others while an encourager likes to tell the good. An encourager can’t keep the story of others’ growth or progress to himself. He broadens their influence by telling something good on them.
  4. Lead the line to lend a hand. Barnabas led the file to relieve needy saints on at least two occasions (4:36-37; 11:30). It’s not that the encourager is always the first on the scene when a need arises, but he is always out of breath when he gets there. The promptness of an encourager says that his service is a privilege and not a burden.
  5. Acknowledge an effort. The word of God commends Barnabas as a “good man” because of his encouragement of the church in Antioch (11:23). The Holy Spirit acknowledges him for his acknowledgment of the efforts of others. At least three steps are involved in mastering this skill.
    1. Be watchful. An encourager is observant of the progress of others, however slight.
    2. Be thoughtful. He finds new ways to say, “Good job” and “I appreciate you.”
    3. Be impartial. The encourager never reserves his encouragement for just his circle.
  6. Go out of your way to involve another. Barnabas went looking for Saul in Tarsus in order to bring him to Antioch (11:25-26). Seeking someone’s partnership in a project says, “I need you,” or, “I believe in you.” Both of those are encouraging sentiments. The essential element in this skill is the nonverbal message sent by going out of one’s way to solicit another’s help or participation.
  7. Keep your commitments. Barnabas built a reputation for dependability (11:22, 30) and for fulfilling his mission (12:25). He always got the job done and often exceeded expectations. Over-commitment and empty promises encourage no one; quite the opposite. They cool enthusiasm. Encouragers honor their commitments in a timely, unimpeachable fashion.
  8. Don’t forget your family. John Mark was Barnabas’ kinsman (15:39; Col. 4:10). That surely was not the only reason for his peculiar encouragement of him, but it also wasn’t a reason to ignore him. Family members frequently air their complaints and criticisms, but neglect the custom of encouragement. Happy is the home where mutual encouragement is a habit. Miserable is any abode in its absence.
  9. Be a sympathetic ally of the leadership. The apostles gave Barnabas his nickname (4:36). He was their A Peter and Paul need encouragement as much as a John Mark. And a Barnabas needs it too. Leadership is far more resilient and confident when others stand with them. Leaders are also far more willing to hear the criticism of the encourager than the whine of the complainer.
  10. Always leave people better than you found them. The apostles, the poor saints in Jerusalem, Saul of Tarsus, John Mark, the church in Antioch and many churches abroad were bettered by the Barnabas’ touch. Midas was the fabled king of Phrygia to whom Dionysius gave the power of turning all that he touched to gold. Encouragers have a golden touch too. But they invest themselves in people, not trinkets. And they enrich others and not themselves.

The GOD of the Towel–Day 3

The verses under consideration this week, John 13:1-17, concern a physical demonstration of the humble service of Jesus and a practical lesson for all of us as men. Today we are thinking about our kids…and they might be our own children/grandchildren, or nieces/nephews, or children at church, or many other circumstances we are in a position of influence in their lives.

The bottom line for today is does our “demonstrated behavior over time” match what we are called to be as humble servants in Christ? Our words matter for sure, however, if young eyes are watching and our actions are not consistent with our words or change over time, doesn’t that have a profound effect? The kids in our lives know who we are in terms of the position we hold in their lives. For the most part, kids who are taught properly know their position in relation to those older than them and the respect and attention they ought to provide. They have expectations of us. They want to see what right looks like. They are going to assume what you are doing is what right looks like. So we ought to be careful to ensure we are not only talking about being humble servants in Christ Jesus but acting that way too. Again, they are watching!

Jesus taught extensively using the spoken word. What Jesus also did was amplify and solidify His lessons in His actions. We see that in this passage. In verses 4-5, Jesus gets up to serve and in doing so to teach. This action was not inconsistent with His teaching and was not inconsistent with the other actions He took in His ministry. It is a beautiful scene and is a continuance of what He had already done in Heaven…it is what Peter wasn’t yet going to understand…but when Peter had matured and grown up spiritually, the lesson would be profound. Just as Jesus rose up, laid aside His physical clothes, took a towel, girded Himself and went forth to cleanse their feet…He had rose from His kingly throne in Heaven, laid aside His royal garment, took on the towel of humanity, and ultimately poured out His precious blood making it possible for us to be cleansed! Jesus consistently demonstrated humble service and though not everyone understood this, they were not going to be able to find fault in it and/or any version of His words/actions that didn’t match or wasn’t consistent.

Also notice Peter’s words. “Lord, are You…”. Peter knew who Jesus was. “…washing my feet?”. Peter knew who he was…and as we know from the passage didn’t think it appropriate that Jesus be doing what He was about to do. Peter’s pride dictates the terms…but Jesus’ humble attitude and mission of service remained the same and He wasn’t going to alter that because of misplaced ego or pride. Jesus works for us…He serves us because He loves us and chooses us. Christ is saying to Peter and to each of us “Me for you”.

So why these two points?

1.  We have to be humble, we have to serve, and we have to be consistent for our kids. We have to love our wives in a way God has called us to so our boys will love/honor their mom and might one day love their wives that way…or so that our girls will know what a Godly husband looks like and seek out her own man who loves God before he loves her. These are two of many scenarios that apply. And we can be honest with ourselves and easily see if something is amiss in our behavior. If I see one of my boys quickly losing their temper or yelling at their siblings…I might want to consider if they learned that from me? Am I setting a bad example with how I control my temper or am I modeling patience and meekness? You get the picture. Think about it. How are you doing?

2.  Our children are little people and they develop their own personalities and their ego, hard-headedness, know-it-all, selfishness, etc. can keep them from seeing the service or leadership you are providing in humility and love…just like Peter didn’t quite understand what Jesus was doing. Does that mean we get mad and stop? No. We can be angry and disappointed…for sure…but we should strive to be righteous in that and remember that we are giving a little bit of ourselves…for them…because we love them and we want them to be safe…to be ok…to learn…to develop into what God calls them to be. And I have been told…when they get older and more mature…they will come to understand what we are doing just as Peter came to understand what Jesus was doing and how that shaped his life and ultimately the lives of others…for the sake of the Gospel.

So think about this. Think about your “demonstrated behavior over time”. Think about what might derail you from providing the kids in your life the modeled humble service they so very much need. Pray about it. Talk to brothers be vulnerable. We are in this together and we don’t always get it right…but we are called all the same to humble ourselves and serve…we could make the case our children need it the most…and we have an awesome example of all of this in Jesus.

Living Above Our Culture

Our culture seems to be changing at an alarming rate.  At best, God’s standards of morality are seen as “old fashioned” and treated like a joke and at worst, they are seen as racist, hateful, destructive ways of thinking.  I struggle with how I should respond to the world around me.  Should I speak up, speak out and get involved politically?  Maybe I should bombard Facebook and other forms of social media with articles and bible verses hoping someone will listen.  Most of the time I want to gather my family and close friends and go form a commune in the mountains in order to escape what is going on around me.

I’ve been reading through Daniel and noticed some things that have helped me.  In Daniel six, Daniel’s peers put a target on his back and devised a plan to bring him down.  They said in verse five, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.”  Then they convinced King Darius to institute a ridiculous 40 day statute that forbid anyone to make a petition to any god except the king, knowing that this would set a trap for Daniel.

Verse ten records Daniel’s response and says, “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.” 

If you’re familiar with Daniel six, you know how the story ends.  Daniel’s enemies catch him praying and rat him out to the king.  Even though Darius is distressed and tries to find a way to rescue Daniel, he has no choice but to throw him in the lion’s den.  God delivers Daniel, his enemies are disposed of, and Darius writes a proclamation to his entire kingdom that everyone is to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel.

Let’s consider a few simple observations about Daniel that could be helpful.

No Ground of Accusation:

If my life was put under a microscope, what would my enemies find, what accusations could they make?  Would they find jealousy and lust and greed and anger?  Would they find pride and arrogance and self-righteousness?  Or would they see kindness and patience and self-control?  Would they see generosity and hope and love?  In other words, would my life look any different than the world around me?  I’m not talking about perfection; I’m talking about a course of life that strives to imitate Jesus Christ.  In the end, when all things fall apart, I pray that the only accusation that will stick is, “He’s a follower of Jesus!”

As He Had Been Doing Previously:

I’ve always been impressed that, in the face of the new statute, Daniel didn’t have to change his behavior.  He didn’t become aware of the attack by his peers and suddenly amp up his righteousness.  As Daniel’s environment became more hostile he simply continued in the pattern of godliness and faithfulness that he had previously been dedicated to.

What does my walk with God look like?  Do I have the pattern of faithfulness in the times of peace that will see me through the times of distress?  We must devote ourselves daily to God, cultivating a deeper relationship with Him, so that our foundation of faith is prepared for whatever lies ahead.  If I’m walking with my God daily then I have no need to worry about what might be coming next.  I will simply take each day as it comes and take the next step of faith.

Praying and Giving Thanks:

Daniel knew the document was signed when he went up to his roof chamber that day.  He knew what the likely consequences would be when he got down on his knees and prayed.  I’m amazed that verse ten highlights “giving thanks” as the focus of Daniel’s prayer.  I’ve got to be honest; I’m not sure how much “giving thanks” would have been taking place if I was in his situation.  There would have been a lot of, “save me” and, “this isn’t fair”, and “destroy my adversaries”, but I’m not sure about thanksgiving.

I believe the depth of Daniel’s relationship with God is seen in his focus on giving thanks in a time like this.  Despite his circumstances and the evil motives of the men around him, he could still clearly see God for who He is and His worthiness of our thanksgiving.  As I contemplate the world around me and watch my nation grow more hostile towards God, my kneejerk reaction to everything should be the giving of thanks.  The darkness that grows around us should make us appreciate the light of Jesus Christ more than ever.

Above all else, Daniel understood who he was.  He lived and worked in a foreign land, far from home and surrounded by ungodly people but he knew he was a descendant of Abraham, a child of God, and in a covenant relationship.  It would have been easy for him to look at his situation, focus on the temporary, and just blend in but he chose the harder, higher path.  He looked at the eternal and lived above his culture.  If we do the same, the God that delivered Daniel will also deliver us. Amen.