Bring me the books and something to write on

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. (2 Tim. 4:13)

Paul knows his time is short. He is in prison and near the end of his appeals process. It doesn’t look good and execution is close. With this end in sight, what does he focus on?

Continue reading “Bring me the books and something to write on”

The surrender of discipleship

I love the phrase I learned years ago: As a leader you have to give up to go up. As a leader you give up “rights” and “privileges” so you can keep growing as a leader. The whole point was to keep “rising” as a leader.

Over the years I’ve realized that “rising” as a leader has a lot of different definitions, and I didn’t hit the “right” ones apparently. Yet, in reading 1 Corinthians again and seeing Paul trying to navigate his way through some very murky waters in regards to sexual activity, idol worship, meals, etc., he carries with him a sense of wanting to be fully surrendered to Christ and in doing so HE is willing to “give up” things so others can keep growing.

If I could modify the above maxim, I think I would change it to this: “Be willing to give up so OTHERS can go up.”

All things may be “lawful,” but why use that as arrogance? Also, why “give up” in a way that I brag about how “good” I am so the “WEAKER” brother can have his way? (And out of pride, I emphasize my absolute humility and the poor brother who is so weak he obviously needs my help to get better in his walk with Christ.)

What I need is an absolute surrender of all I am to Christ so I can live in all he has for me. There will be times when my “liberty” needs to be set aside to help others along… and I don’t need to brag to the “WEEEEAAAAAKKKKKKEEERRRR BROTHER” what a privilege he is getting for my sacrifice!

I need to be willing to give up so others can go up. Lord, help me understand the power of true leadership.

 

Praying the prayers of Paul over people

There are times when I need more than, “Lord, just bless them,” as I pray for people.

There are needs to pray for in people’s lives, to be sure, but there are BLESSINGS to pray into people’s lives as well.

Colossians 1:9-14 has a beautiful prayer to pray on behalf of others. I have found it to be a great guide in truly asking for something a bit deeper than “just bless them.”

Am I praying for someone that they may be filled with the knowledge of his will? I am praying for spiritual wisdom, along with understanding, in their lives?

Am I asking that they live lives fully pleasing to the Lord (and not to me)? Do I ask the Lord to strengthen them with ALL power? (Or, do I want to have slightly more power and recognition than them?)

I have a hunger to pray blessing into the lives of others and ask they be filled with ALL that God can give them.

 

The Difference Between Knowing God and Knowing ABOUT God

I am preparing for my Acts class this week and find myself in Acts 19, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.

The sons of Sceva always intrigue me. They are the picture of spiritual formulas. This is the picture we get when we are so caught up in the design of a program rather than the power of the gospel. We have a hammer, so everything is a nail.

Their formulas had worked to that point. They saw Paul as another magician, so they try to get some clues as to how his power seems to be a bit greater. When they hear him use the name of Jesus, they figure they have another key in their arsenal. Another password to pull out and use.

They found out there is a difference between knowing about the Jesus Paul preached, and knowing Jesus.

We need to understand this in our own lives, and we need to understand it sooner rather than later. We can get by on formulas for awhile, but there will be a time when we have to go beyond praying a prayer we heard someone else pray, or saying a part of a Scripture we heard someone else say.

Here is the scary thing I meditated on today as I read this story: There will be a time when we hit a spiritual brick wall and we need to know God rather than know ABOUT him. And in that day, we need to truly know him, or it might be too late. The sons of Sceva found that out.

Don’t settle for formulas in your life. Do NOT settle for formulas in your ministry. We need to know the living God, not just know about him.

Speaking the Truth Doesn’t Always Work Out

25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money,boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Tim. 2:25-3:5, NIV)

There is a need to stand for truth. There is a need to understand the truth of the Kingdom of God and stand. But there are harsh realizations, and Paul is unafraid to state them. We may be bold in proclaiming what is right, but that doesn’t mean people will readily listen. There are times people respond to the Spirit… and there are times they do not.

It’s not our call. Our call is to keep speaking the truth in love and living out Kingdom rightness. Our task is to believe and proclaim. The Spirit is really good at sorting out the rest. Let him.

Paul, Calling, Servanthood, and Apostleship

Our journey through the New Testament takes us through Romans, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon.

Just starting with Romans 1:1, I am struck by how Paul describes himself.

A Slave
Many translations say “servant” or “bondservant.” The word can also mean “slave.” He is shackled to his Savior in service. “Slave” isn’t a very safe word in our modern world, but it is a necessary word. Paul knew he was not just in a volunteer proposition where he would be able to negotiate obedience. He had Christ as his Master. When the Master gave the command, he would be the one to respond as obediently as possible.

An Apostle
He also knew his authority. He would describe himself as one called “out of season,” but he knew he was called. He was driven in that call. The gospel was to be preached. As a Jew, he also realized the Lord had called him to the Gentiles. It was all new territory. Yet, that is often in the role of an apostle. They set new paths. They head into previously unmarked territory.

Set Apart
Paul was different. There are people who are different. They are hearing things on a different frequency. Paul was that way. Most of us hear noises and sounds around us, but there are some who hear at a different range and can pick up things. Most of us as believers will do good to read the Word, pray, learn to discern as best we can, and life in Christ is good. Then, there are others who are on a different wavelength. They have opened up their lives to God in a more intense way, and the Spirit seems to direct in a way that, quite frankly, most others just don’t understand.

I have a missionary hero I only got to know when he was retired from missions work. He wasn’t retired from prayer. The man was addicted to prayer. You could ask that man, “What is God doing in the world today?” and he would be able to tell you. He was on a different frequency.

Early on in his missions career, the Lord had called him to radical trust. In our denomination, missionaries raise their own support. They spend four years on the field and come home for a year of itineration. They are supposed to book church services and go like maniacs during that year raising more support. This missionary came home one furlough and the Spirit directed him to simply pray. If he would give his life to prayer, he would not lack for a service. He never made a phone call that year to ask for a service, and he was busy every Sunday of the furlough.

When the Lord told him to fast and pray, he didn’t negotiate for how long or what kind of fast. He simply started fasting and would go until the Spirit told him to stop. Church leaders actually tried to get him to stop that because they were concerned for his health. I think they should have been concerned with other things.

Set apart.

WE are set apart, or we are supposed to be. Set apart from this world. We are called to follow Jesus and by virtue of that call, we should be as odd to this world as that missionary was to most of the church. When we follow Christ, our cues are simply coming from another direction… or they should.

I pray for courage to be truly SET APART.