disciples

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Are You a Wedding Crasher?

Published August 10, 2017 by Dawn

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:29-30).

I’ve been in four weddings, none of them my own. I have thus far only been a bridesmaid. I have always loved getting the call to attend the bride in some capacity, though one thing is always abundantly clear from the get-go: it’s HER big day. Her day. All that I did in preparation for each wedding was with “her” wishes at the forefront of my mind. I wore the dress “she” picked out, put on make-up, let someone else fix my hair how “she” wanted it. I loved every minute of it.

Each time I walked down that aisle ahead of “her” big moment, I walked next to a man “she” chose (or her soon-to-be groom, as it were) and stood where “she” wanted me in the front. I was simply there to see my beautiful friend get married to the love of her life.

One thing a bridesmaid knows (or should know) instinctively is that this day is not about “you.” It’s about “her.” Wedding etiquette might be a short list, but there are definitely a few things you don’t do:

  • You don’t wear white. EVER.
  • You don’t propose at someone else’s wedding/reception.
  • You don’t argue with the bride or groom … it’s “their” day, not “yours.”

John the Baptist used the analogy of a wedding to explain his relationship to Jesus when his disciples became concerned that Jesus was stealing John’s thunder. John simply said, in effect, “it’s not my day, it’s his.” All that John did in ministry was to point others to Jesus. His heart’s desire, and great delight, was for other people to be a part of what Jesus was doing. Everything John did was for Jesus to be noticed, loved, celebrated, etc. John knew wedding etiquette and he knew his place.

Proverbially speaking, John went down that aisle first, looking, speaking, and acting just as Jesus wanted him to. But he wasn’t the main attraction. He was simply the prelude. At this point in his ministry, this was the moment when he would have been approaching the front, stepping to the side and taking his position next to the man of the hour: the bridegroom.

I’ve never seen it done, but I’ve read horror stories of brides and/or their grooms being upstaged at their wedding. Unfortunately, some people can’t stand to be in the background. I found a group of such people as I read further on in John today. Chapter 11:47-48 tells it like this: “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

You guessed it … it was the Pharisees. The Chief Priests. A little to smug in their positions, they had forgotten their calling. You see, the Pharisees had taken pride in their positions, forgetting that they were called for one purpose: to draw attention to God. To magnify God. To exalt God. To lead people to God. They had a really hard time stepping out of the way so the Lord could have a personal relationship with His people. They upstaged the bridegroom, so to speak, and it really upset them when He tried to take his rightful place. They were afraid of losing their influence in society, their positions which had always made them feel superior to the people they ministered to, and all the finery that their position afforded them. They didn’t want to be servants, because that was too humbling. They wanted the center-stage with lights, and they wanted the love of the nation to bolster their pride.

Which are you: friend or foe? Do you live to make Jesus known, or yourself? Is the ministry God has called you to “your” ministry, or His? Take this test: if God told you to step down tomorrow and live in obscurity doing menial tasks in the church – or no tasks at all –  how would you respond? Don’t hide the truth from yourself, get real!

I believe we have to ask this of ourselves often in the ministry: what is my motive in this? Who gets the glory? If the answer isn’t Jesus, we’re not being a very good friend of the bridegroom. Our callings get us up out of the pews and a little closer to the limelight, but that spotlight isn’t ever for us. It’s to draw attention to Jesus. To direct the gaze of others to their beloved groom and watch in fascination and awe when their eyes meet for the first time. If we go beyond that, we have sinned greatly against our Friend, at the least. We may lose our position in the ceremony and be thrown out, if we aren’t careful! Take heed, and be a true friend of the Bridegroom!

Judas is Alive and Well

Published June 23, 2017 by Dawn

“Then Jesus said also unto the twelve, ‘Will you also go away?” (John 6:66-71)

Am I the only one who reads this and immediately asks, “Why didn’t Judas go then?” He had an out, and obviously no fidelity to Christ, so why didn’t he take this opportunity to turn away? I’ve spent hours studying this and I think it’s because Judas had access through his relationship to Jesus, to something that greatly benefitted him. His image, and thereby his ego: He was the keeper of the purse … and he was a thief (John 12:6).

I can’t imagine he was comfortable in his position. After all, Jesus alluded to him early on by saying that one of them was a devil (John 6:70). Did this memory ever prick Judas? Did it come to mind as he reached into the purse while no one was looking? Did he remember Jesus calling him out while he stood in the shadow of the synagogue waiting for his thirty pieces of silver?

Obviously, Judas was a snake in the grass all along. I mean, I imagine when Jesus sat down to eat with Pharisees, Judas sneered and jeered right along with them. We get a glimpse of his true colors when Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with precious perfume … Judas couldn’t imagine a bigger waste. “Why wasn’t this sold and the money given to the poor?” He couldn’t stand her devotion to Christ, but he covered his hatred with a piety that likely caused division in the room. His comment likely sowed seeds of distaste among everyone there. After all, the poor were a Godly consideration, were they not? Her humble way of honoring Christ was disputed and I can’t help but wonder if Judas leaned back at every table they supped to with his arms across his chest waiting for an opportunity to condemn the graciousness of God for the sake of the law.

Unable to shake his disapproval, Judas eventually stood in the outer court and pilfered Jesus out to the highest bidder. He was willing to deliver this man who called him friend. Why? Satan had entered him. How can Satan enter someone who is walking next to Jesus every day? All he needs is an opportunity, it seems. Judas provided that opportunity by esteeming his position and his access more than he esteemed his Lord. His rebellious nature was evident in the way he questioned Jesus instead of rejoicing with him. He welcomed Satan by refusing to submit to Christ as his sovereign Lord. To him, Jesus was a man. A man he hardly valued. Thirty pieces is a small price to exchange for eternal life and everlasting love, but Judas took it and betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Let’s pause here and notice the kiss: Judas betrayed Jesus, but still acted like his friend up until the very end. I have thought about this part all day long. How did Jesus respond to this betrayal? I reflected on it first by asking, “How would I?” My immediate response would have been to steel myself against the blow; act as if the crushing weight of it hadn’t affected me at all. As I thought about this, I realized that this approach is the place bitterness firsts digs in. When I have been betrayed, my response is to ignore the feeling of it. But the result is not what I imagine it should be: with every memory, the pain hits me fresh and I have to bury those feelings again. No, Jesus did not respond like that because such a response inhibits immediate forgiveness. To feel such betrayal is sometimes unbearable, but I have intentionally felt betrayal, to see what can be done and there’s only one thing: to cast that upon the Lord (1 Peter 5:7), or be crushed by it. I know this is what Jesus did. It’s very scriptural. He felt the betrayal wholly and then cast it immediately upon his Father so he could stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13). After casting betrayal on the Lord, His help enabled me to forgive, and I know Jesus immediately forgave Judas for hurting him because holding on to hatred is sin and Christ was without sin (1 John 3:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

As Christians, we will be exposed to the person of Judas in one of two ways – I won’t exclude the possibility that we can be exposed to both.

Firstly, we can be a Judas, loving the office in God’s house more than we love God. Loving the attention and the access more than we love and honor our Heavenly Father. We can be Judas by hating in our hearts those in the church who display any kind act toward Jesus, and justifying our hatred by drawing attention to the folly that often accompanies their efforts because God knows how to humble people. We can be a Judas by betraying Christ, or his workmen, by something as seemingly innocuous as slander or undue suspicion. God’s children do well to cultivate self-control under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, to avoid doing harm to His Son!

Secondly, we can be exposed to Judas through others. Every church has a Judas, and every individual will know one. Here, we have to lean upon the example of Christ. Jesus allowed him the money bag. His thievery was evident to all but ultimately, between him and God. Jesus allowed him to self-implode. Judas no doubt experienced deep conviction while traveling with Christ. Jesus was holy and shared a message of righteousness. Judas had opportunity to repent, but embraced his sin instead. Jesus let him. Jesus didn’t turn away from Judas’ kiss, which I am sure made the impact of Judas’ betrayal all the heavier to bear. Jesus heaped the burning coals (Romans 12:20); he didn’t respond to betrayal with hatred in like manner. Jesus defended the innocent from Judas’ charge, but he didn’t berate Judas or publicly humiliate him.

Jesus was (and is) in all ways gracious to everyone, including Judas. This means two things to us: God’s grace will forgive the Judas in us, and we should be gracious when hurt by the Judas in our lives. This much I know is true: Judas is here to test and betray us. Jesus calls him the devil (John 6:70), and the devil “has come to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). However, Beloved, Satan could not defeat Christ, and he cannot defeat those who are completely surrendered to Jesus and sheltered by the Almighty! Don’t be Judas, and don’t be defeated by him either.

Another Pentecost

Published June 8, 2014 by Dawn

Peter walked briskly through the dusty road, his hands loosely swinging by his sides. His pace let everyone around him know his was on a mission and soon, there were several following his lead. They’d seen the look of determination on his face before and knew exactly where he was going: the upper room.

Peter swatted at the fly darting annoyingly at his face, and whispered to himself, “Jesus.” He immediately felt the aggravation melt away, but his attention caught the edge of Mary’s flitting skirt and his muscles tensed with that familiar ache. He forced his face forward and whispered again, “Jesus.” He walked faster, watching his feet move through the street to avoid the constant distractions. Then a scream pulled him from his concentration and he looked up just in time to avoid the donkey barreling toward him, dragging its harried owner. Peter breathed hugely and whispered, “Jesus.”

By the time Peter made it to the upper room, he’d endured a solid hour of temptation and distraction. The name of Jesus had become like the pulse of his heart, gushing from his lips. Never had he felt so attacked … or determined. He settled himself near the window in the upper room and closed his eyes as others trickled in. They whispered in wonder, and he continued to press in despite the hissing noise that was trying to tear him away. “Jesus.”

He’d been up for hours now, unable to sleep. Finally, he responded to the Spirit calling him and he went to the upper room. Although everyone was wondering why he was there and if he had something to share, he kept his eyes closed and his mind on Christ. Eventually, they all followed suit and began to pray with him. Their eyes were no longer on Peter, no longer on each other. Like a mantra, they whispered throughout the room, “Jesus.” Time lost all meaning, and Jesus was now on their lips, now on their hearts and minds. Then suddenly, Peter felt the wind began to blow gently and peace descended on him. As the breeze picked up, he felt the strangest mixture of heaviness and lightness all at once. He opened his mouth to breathe deeply, and after one huge inhale, words began to spill forth. Strange words. Words he had never heard before, but felt from the depths of his stomach came rushing out of his mouth, accompanied by the greatest power he’d ever felt. It reminded him of Jesus.

The room erupted. Noise came from every corner. Peter opened his eyes to see fire hovering above the heads of his friends and family, and incoherence spilling from their mouths. Still the power coursed through him and he lifted his hands and refocused his mind on Jesus. Before long, he heard a huge commotion in the streets below. He looked out the window and was greeted by a thousand astonished faces. Some were snickering, some snarling, but many were simply perplexed. He heard one say, “They’re all drunk!” And those around him laughed. Suddenly, fire filled Peter’s heart and a flame touched his lips, and he leaned out the window and said loudly, “Men and women of Jerusalem! These men are not drunk as you suppose! They are filled with the Spirit of God!” The crowd instantly fell silent, listening intently to the melodic sounds coming from the upper chamber. Then one shouted jubilantly in Greek, “I know that language! It is my own!” And others throughout the crowd, who’d only journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks, shouted in their language as they recognized their words spilling forth from men and women of Galilee and Nazareth. And within minutes, a great throng of people heard about Christ for the first time, in their own language and from the mouths of everyday townspeople! Peter, pulsing with the power of the Holy Spirit, became animated and began to describe emphatically the life and death of Jesus, refute the accusations and lies of the Pharisees, and proclaim Christ to the multitude. When he was finished, many walked away with something to think about. But three thousand gave their hearts to Christ, repented of their sins and were headed for the Jordan to be baptized!

**************

This is fiction, I know, but it’s on my heart today. Today is the anniversary of Pentecost. Happy birthday, church!

One thing I noticed about the church, though, is the way it’s changed over the years. It all started out as a gathering of prayer. Check out Acts. It was all about gathering with fellow believers and praying. The evangelism was a small part of the church. The prayer was as common as breathing itself. The men and women who began what we call church today were men and women without titles, without degrees, and without any other motive in gathering but to pray, exhort and encourage one another. They weren’t the most prestigious in the community, and they weren’t the pageant winners. They were the hungry, yearning for something more than what the Pharisees were doing in the synagogues.

Poor Jesus. He used to be the focus. He used to be the purpose of the church. Without realizing it, church has become so much more than it’s humble beginnings, and because of that, so much less. Miracles are no longer common occurrences, the anointing is so faint we can barely recognize it, and when we do get a healthy dose of the Spirit, we are so uncomfortable, we shut Him down and toss Him out quick so we don’t lose anyone. It seems we’d rather come in and go through the motions than wait on him in a very vulnerable, humble atmosphere of prayer. Are you still wondering why the church is incredibly ineffective in today’s society? Could it possibly be that instead of pressing in to know God and hear His heart for the world, we push in to the pews, settle our bums there and listen for the “in closing …” announcement of the pastor. Do you really think Satan would have a fighting chance in a society that has decided to pursue Christ alone? Peter saw three thousand saved one day and five thousand the next. We aren’t lacking the numbers, church. There are just as many unsaved sitting in our churches, and billions more who don’t bother with church at all. If this is war, we are the laziest, most selfish soldiers who ever enlisted.

Oh, the truth hurts so much. I’m not pointing fingers, for sure. I’m just as guilty. But for once, I’m suffering from some major motion sickness. As much as I love the gathering, the praise and worship, and the encouraging and uplifting message, I’d trade it all for some heavy anointing and glory to the degree that the only thing I can do is lay prostrate at His feet while He cleanses me, restores me and fills me up to overflowing. I’d like to be so full of the Spirit, I change the world without saying much of anything. Simply being here, walking among the hurt and the lost, and dripping the condensed power of God all over their circumstances. Not because of who I am, but because of who He is in me. Peter’s shadow healed people! Renew your works in our days, Lord!

What’s it going to take? I could be wrong, and realize an opinion isn’t worth much, but here’s mine: It’s going to take some people who are willing to admit that what we are doing isn’t working all that well. Sure, it’s cool, and it’s good for us. The Pharisees thought what they were doing was also cool and good for everyone. But was it powerful?

In closing, I’d like to say this: we all keep talking about revival and we are yearning for something more. I just wonder, what will it take for us to humble ourselves? Will it really take catastrophic events, or is it as simple as the church coming together to seek His face. Not just talk about how it’s the best thing we can do, but really doing it. Calling off the masquerade, dropping our masks and getting real with God. Losing our self-righteous veneer and getting real with each other. Humbling ourselves, repenting and turning away from the sin that we are steeped in, and seeking His face. This is how we take America back, church. Not with another program, but with another Pentecost.