Seedbed http://www.seedbed.com Gathering, connecting, and resourcing the people of God to sow for a great awakening. Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:00:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Including Diverse Instruments in Worship http://www.seedbed.com/including-diverse-instruments-in-worship/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=including-diverse-instruments-in-worship http://www.seedbed.com/including-diverse-instruments-in-worship/#respond Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:00:12 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com/?p=60401 CWC-Harmonium2“What’s that you’re playing?” It’s a common question asked of many of my church’s music volunteers who have recently learned to play the Harmonium. The Harmonium is a keyboard instrument in the aerophone family which uses air traveling past different sized (tuned) metal reeds to create sounds; think pump organ or accordion. It became popular in the West in the 19th and 20th centuries because it was cheaper than a pipe organ and was easier to transport for missionaries heading east. In fact, many Harmoniums today are made in a case with a lid and handle—just take the top off your suitcase and there sits an organ!

Over the past century the Harmonium has seemed to find its home in India, even after a period of nationalistic resistance to Western culture. It has become a frequently used instrument in many Indian ensembles. So, why have over 15 people at my midsized church in the Midwest learned this instrument? There are many reasons, some weighted differently than others depending on the type of instrument you might choose to incorporate into your church. For the sake of illustration, I’ll continue to use the harmonium as an example.

  1. INCLUDING MORE PEOPLE: The Harmonium fills a lot of the empty space similar to the function of a keyboard or synthesizer but with a rather unique acoustic texture. It only uses one hand (since one hand is used to pump air into the instrument) and you could successfully play it by just droning the tonic the entire song and maybe throwing in some partial chords here and there. All that to say, it’s an easy instrument to start on with a lot of possibilities. There are people learning to play it that aren’t ready to lead any sort of rhythm from a piano, some who are competent in piano that we want to include on a week that someone else is already playing piano and then others who play it because it’s just a really fun instrument to play. Therefore, the Harmonium’s unique sound has been added to our “norm” as well as the many volunteers (youth to senior adults) who can now play it.
  2. EMBRACING THE KINGDOM: Diversity in music can be a beautiful thing; however, if after reading this you throw away all your instruments and resort to just Tuvan throat singing on Sunday morning, you may have misunderstood me. The Kingdom of God includes more than our “normal” but that doesn’t mean you have to carry a weight of owning every culture that exists. Instead, small strides, like including a “different” instrument than your congregation is accustomed to in your worship time, help congregations lean into contexts outside of their own. It reminds them that they are part of something greater, something bigger than themselves.
  3. CREATING A MUSIC CULTURE: When you take a popular song from Hillsong or Elevation Worship or you open your hymnbook to some good oldie and you use a Harmonium, people react (and I don’t mean react by burning the instrument because the song no longer sounded like the radio version). When you do songs with different instruments, you begin to form your very own music culture and people feel belonging and value when they get to be a part of something unique. No one else does music like your church—literally no one—when you’ve made it distinct by the instruments you include. But the uniqueness of your music is not a ploy to grow your church, instead it is a ripening—a blossom of a church discovering their distinguishable identity within the context they have been called to.

CWC-Harmonium1When it comes to music we use in worship, contemporary culture oftentimes prescribes the songs we should use, the type of people we should use, and the style we should use.   Expanding the types of instruments we use can be a means of freeing us. Worship is not prescribed by contemporary culture, but our culture should be prescribed by our worship. As worship leaders we are called to tell the story of God and facilitate a response to that story, involving as many people as we can from our local churches while leaning into the beautiful diversity of the global Church. When we include different instruments, we’re teaching our congregations that worship is more than a musical style and that it is a place for belonging—belonging to the story of God. Age, race, gender, and cultural—it all has value, so value it on your platform! Diversifying your instrumentation is a great place to start.

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Building a Culture of Equipping Lay People http://www.seedbed.com/building-and-equipping-ministry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-and-equipping-ministry http://www.seedbed.com/building-and-equipping-ministry/#respond Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:00:06 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=60270&preview_id=60270 Throughout scripture, God’s leaders equip others for ministry. Moses prepared Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promise Land. Jesus trained his disciples. Paul mentored young Timothy. If we want congregations filled with disciples who live into their calling, church leaders need to focus on equipping lay people for the work of ministry! What are the foundations church leaders should lay in order to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4)?

The greatest foundation for equipping ministry is Christ-like humility. Scripture clearly lays this foundation throughout the New Testament, and Paul continually uses humility as the one of the primary expectation of Christian living. He writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 4:3-4).

It is almost always easier (in the short-term) for us to complete a task on our own. We know how we want a job done, and we don’t have to expend energy teaching others how to do it. Unfortunately, this approach places the emphasis on us individually and leads others to believe that we are the only ones who can work for God’s kingdom. This is not the model that Jesus set forth at all. In fact, it runs entirely contrary to the tone and instruction of the early church.

As a paid staff member in my congregation, it is easy to think of myself as a seminary-trained, ministry expert. But this is not what God desires. Instead, God wants me to consider the gifts that others bring to ministry. Rather than looking for ways to accomplish a task quickly by myself, I need to seek ways to include others in my work. As a church leader, I should equip laity to do the work of ministry. In this way, Christ-like humility draws the attention away from me. It points my work to others and ultimately to God.

All Christians are called to be ministers. This second foundation is woven throughout Paul’s writings. Notice that more of Paul’s letters are addressed to entire congregations than are written to individuals. Second Corinthians 5:20 states, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” First Peter 2:9 refers to all Christ-followers as part of the royal priesthood. Paul is not just talking to pastors here! The role of church leaders is to equip all Christians to live into their callings.

To to understand ministry in its fullness, we need to truly embrace the fullness of the body of Christ. Ministry that is built around individual gifts does not represent God’s desires for the church. Romans 12:4-8 reminds us that there are a variety of gifts that God has given us. Individually, no one possesses all of the gifts. Therefore, lasting ministry cannot be built around a single personality. If the church is to reflect the body of Christ, we need to let others use their gifts for ministry. Ministry that is built around one person’s efforts will eventually fail. In the 1700s, John Wesley equipped lay people to expand the work of the Methodists. However, George Whitfield kept most of the responsibilities of ministry to himself. Wesley’s efforts have been sustained until today, but Whitfield followers disbanded not long after he departed. In his book Transforming Discipleship, Greg Ogden says that effective leadership is proven by “what happens after the leader moves on to his or her next ministry” assignment (p. 134).

As a ministry leader, I need to delegate responsibility. I’ve found that I often must give up some of my preferred ministry tasks in order to allow others to fill those roles. Consider what forms of ministry you can give away. The staff person in charge of the youth ministry at our church has the opportunity to teach our students three times a month. He loves teaching, but he has chosen to hand one of those weeks of teaching over to students, thereby equipping them to lead. While he misses the opportunity to teach on those weeks, he is constantly reminded of the good work God is doing as he leads beyond himself.

The third foundation for an equipping ministry is to invest in people. Christ-like humility coupled with the belief that all are ministers needs to be expressed in discipling others. Discipleship happens best in relationship. Jesus invested in his disciples. He gathered with them in relationship in order to teach, restore them, and encourage them. Discipleship has a lot less to do with the transfer of information, and more to do with the formation of Christian relationships for accountability and encouragement. I often find myself creating short-term programs in hopes that they will produce immediate results. However, genuine relationships take time to form. Discipleship occurs slowly. People might not even be aware of the growth in their own lives. But when they are released for ministry as they grow, the kingdom of heaven notices. God notices, and God rejoices over his people living into the reality that they are the church.

Finally, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:19-20 reminds us that the same power which raised Christ from the dead lives in those of us who believe. Nothing is possible in our own strength, but all things are possible for us as we draw from the power of the Spirit. When people are equipped for ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit, God will move in miraculous ways. We must not act in ways that reserve his calling and power for only those of us who are paid staff, but rather, seek to find ways to release his power in equipping every disciple in our churches!

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Forming Partnerships (Episode 17) http://www.seedbed.com/forming-partnerships-episode-17/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forming-partnerships-episode-17 http://www.seedbed.com/forming-partnerships-episode-17/#respond Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:00:03 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=61025&preview_id=61025 This week we sat down with Justin Bradbury to talk about the importance of forming partnerships when planting a church and ways to do so.

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Review: The Blessing by John Trent & Gary Smalley http://www.seedbed.com/review-the-blessing-by-john-trent-gary-smalley-review/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=review-the-blessing-by-john-trent-gary-smalley-review http://www.seedbed.com/review-the-blessing-by-john-trent-gary-smalley-review/#respond Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=60719&preview_id=60719 When I was in high school, I vividly remember my mom reading The Blessing and weeping over it. She wistfully said to me in my senior year of high school, “If only I had this book when you first entered youth group.”

Knowing I was going into youth ministry at that stage of life, I mentally put a check on that book to check it out for ministry purposes. Little did I know that in the fall of my freshman year of college, The Blessing was actually one of my required reading books for family ministry and counseling class. I read the book at that time, and then Gary Smalley, one of the authors, came to my University to speak about it.

Over the years, I have recommended it to many parents and taught workshops based on it. At my church, it is now a requirement for parents to read and talk through with me in a class as their students go through confirmation.

Keepers

  1. The content on what exactly a blessing is from a Biblical perspective is on point. I love that the book dives into the first blessing and breaks it down explaining each part of it as an example.
  2. Dealing with our “stuff.”  Parts of the book talk about children who miss the blessing. It forces parents and leaders to deal with times they may of missed their own blessing from parents. This helps them identify any bad patterns and generational repetition that is not good, forgive their own parents, and correct any mindsets that may have trickled down.
  3. Homework assignments are easy. As you read through the book, it is easy to try out the different elements of the blessing on students. You can immediately see results in students countenance changing, as well as behavior because of a simple change in action or word.

Changers

  1. I believe the elements of the blessing could be condensed into one chapter covering each one instead of two chapters covering each one. When I have used it in lessons or for a class, I combine those chapters and teaching together.
  2. I find that it is at times similar to the Love Languages books. If you or your parents have read those then this may be repetitive.
  3. Sometimes parents need a little help writing an actual blessing for their student. Providing some questions to help parents be able to process what exactly their hopes are for their students, as well as special attributes or “gold” in their students is necessary.
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When Jesus Supports the Death Penalty http://www.seedbed.com/when-jesus-supports-the-death-penalty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-jesus-supports-the-death-penalty http://www.seedbed.com/when-jesus-supports-the-death-penalty/#respond Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:00:41 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=61068&preview_id=61068

August 30, 2016

Matthew 18:6-9

6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

CONSIDER THIS

Hyperbole, by definition, is an exaggerated statement not meant to be taken literally. Something tells me Jesus was not using hyperbole in today’s text. I may be wrong, but I think he wanted to be taken literally. Why do I think this? This is no ordinary hyperbole. What he is saying is so far past hyperbole I don’t even think it qualifies as hyperbole.

it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

I think this is the most emphatic, sober warning in all of the Bible. Yesterday, children served as an analogy. Today they are the subject. Let me translate: Jesus affirms the death penalty for those who take advantage of children. Crucifixion was the most horrific death a Jew could imagine. Jesus turns up the horror a few clicks by describing a Roman death penalty technique. Get a picture of a very large stone wheel in your mind. Now imagine that being tied onto your neck and being thrown into the sea. It’s the mafia equivalent of concrete boots.

Now get this. Jesus is saying this kind of punishment would actually be merciful compared to the kind of wrath God would unleash on such a perpetrator. It’s called hell.

When we look at this from the flip side we get a glimpse of the extraordinarily high status Jesus confers on the most vulnerable people. In essence, he seems to say if you mess with them your are messing with me. It’s the flip side of yesterday’s text, where he said, And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 

Three things we can deduce from today’s text. Jesus loves children in an extraordinary way. And whether we like it or not, Jesus believes in hell. Finally, Jesus says there is a special place in hell reserved for those who cause children to stumble.

It strikes me to note the inverse is also true. Those who give themselves and their time and their resources to seeing after the welfare of children are doing some of the most important work in the Kingdom of God.

It doesn’t take long in reviewing the daily news to come across an image of a child suffering the horrors of war or famine or disease somewhere in the world today. It puts us in a hard place. We know we can’t solve the problem. We know we must do something. We don’t know what to do. If you are anything like me, I let my grief-stricken ire rise up and then its on to Wheel of Fortune. That’s not OK. I wonder if my omissions could be cause for their stumbling. I wonder.

THE PRAYER

Lord Jesus, thank you for the way you lifted up children and protected them and accorded them status in a world that did not. Give me eyes to see these “little ones,” not just in my neighborhood but in some of the most desolate and dark places on Earth. Even where there is seemingly nothing I can do to help, give me the courage and resolve to do something anyway. I ask this for the sake of your great name. Amen.

Daily Text MATTHEW 08-30-16THE QUESTIONS

1. Have you seen images and examples lately of children throughout the world that raise your ire at evil?

2. How can we do more to protect and preserve the lives and welfare of the most vulnerable people among us who are so often children?

3. If Jesus is so emphatic about this, why aren’t we?

—————-

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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Christ-Centered Mentality (Episode 79) http://www.seedbed.com/christ-centered-mentality-episode-79/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=christ-centered-mentality-episode-79 http://www.seedbed.com/christ-centered-mentality-episode-79/#respond Mon, 29 Aug 2016 09:00:20 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=61241&preview_id=61241 Join Jeremy Steele as he sits down one-on-one with Ryan Pendergraph to talk about transitioning your youth group from being a crowd mentality to a Christ-centered mentality.

Click here to subscribe via iTunes.

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Men: Trade In Your Man Cave for a Study http://www.seedbed.com/men-trade-in-your-man-cave-for-a-study/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=men-trade-in-your-man-cave-for-a-study http://www.seedbed.com/men-trade-in-your-man-cave-for-a-study/#respond Mon, 29 Aug 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=60421&preview_id=60421 In a play on the beatitudes, some have quipped the geek shall inherit the earth. It’s certainly true that our post-industrial Western culture greatly values information—and those who possess it. To get ahead in life, you have to know your trade; not only your trade, however, but also an array of other subjects. The nigh-ubiquitous liberal arts education requires one to know a major and minor content area, yes, but it further mandates “general education requirements”: history, mathematics, literature, music, etc.

It takes time to master such a wide range of topics, and that’s why I believe it’s time to reverse a growing trend. Men, it’s time to trade in the Man Cave for the Study. Man caves—rooms dedicated to things considered manly (primarily, it seems, sports of all types, hunting, fishing, beer, cars, and of course, large TVs and entertainment sections)—have become the “in” thing. Men can come home from work, enter their cave, and emerge rested and restored, complete with a fresh coat of masculinity. They’re mainly a way to decompress and spend time in a world devoid of anyone else who might lay claim to its denizen.

While there’s certainly a need for those private moments, here are the reasons why I believe the study to be the better option.

1. Man Caves Inhibit Self-Growth

Man caves are designed to preserve the personal status quo, to be sanctuaries of the self as it currently is. Little to nothing about them is designed to better yourself in any way. Studies, on the other hand, are for doing precisely that. In a study, a man can learn, grapple with fresh ideas, try on new thoughts, and develop new skills. The information we gain in study helps us become better citizens, better Christians, better family members, and better workers. In short, studies help men become better men.

2. Man Caves Are Selfish

Everything about a man cave is catered to the tastes of a single individual. No other person in the house (and few guests) are comfortable in them. They represent large investments in the life of a single individual to the exclusion of others—not a solid basis for a healthy family dynamic. Studies can be used by anyone who wants to enter them, thus enriching and connecting the entire family.

3. Masculinity Mutates

If man caves are bastions of masculinity and nothing else, the décor is going to have to change frequently. What society deems necessary to or representative of maleness (the hegemonic masculinity) varies greatly over time. Knowledge, however, is timeless. Studies help ground us in reality, giving us fixed points upon which to form stable identities and which further serve as solid foundations for our interactions with the world.

4. Man Caves Are Isolationist

In keeping with my first three reasons, I believe man caves are overly exclusive and isolationist. When a man is in a man cave, the rest of the world ceases to exist; the entirely of creation is contained in man and his cave. The man can remain in his oasis indefinitely, ignoring duty or remaining ignorant of other events. Studies do the opposite, connecting us with a larger, not smaller, world. As our knowledge expands, so does our world, and we experience life in deeper, more meaningful, more effective ways. Our heart grows and loves more the more we know there is to love.

5. Man Caves Have Little Room for God

Like my previous reason states, man caves are solo endeavors, existing to cut off the rest of the world, and that includes God. Man caves are shrines, to be sure: chapels to taxidermied animals, holy sites of fast cars, Churches of the One True Sports Team. With so many idols permanently fixed in the home, how can a man pray? Where is the spot for your faith? By contrast, a study provides a place for private worship (although families should worship together in the home, too). Here one can read his Bible and other books on theology, church history, Scripture, you name it. As we learn more about God, our love for Him deepens. The quiet of the study provides an ideal place for prayer and reflection, too, things which are impossible in a man cave.

Ultimately, the fifth reason is enough for me. If anything inhibits my relationship with God, it has to go, whether that’s man cave, study, or something else entirely. Man caves may not affect you in this specific way, but I still hope you’ll reconsider it in favor of a study.

After all, we can’t effectively witness to the world if we stay in a cave.

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5 Ways to Love Your Pastor’s Spouse http://www.seedbed.com/5-ways-to-love-your-pastors-spouse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=5-ways-to-love-your-pastors-spouse http://www.seedbed.com/5-ways-to-love-your-pastors-spouse/#respond Mon, 29 Aug 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=60287&preview_id=60287 I’ve been a pastor’s wife for 25 years. Truth be told, I wrestled with the notion for a long time because I observed the pressures (and judgement) people tended to have for our pastor’s family growing up. Honestly, I really believed that only sweet petite soft-spoken ladies who played the organ and never expressed opinions could be pastor’s wives. My problem was this:  I was most certainly not that lady! Over six years of dating and several proposals later, I finally said yes to my husband…and to God. It’s been a wild ride.

For the last 20 years, I’ve also been a pastor alongside of him in ministry. Together we have served in urban, suburban and rural settings, all bringing with them their unique flavor of culture and perspectives. This has fleshed out differently as the seasons of our lives have flowed into different ministry settings. Many years this meant being on paid staff, while other years I worked jobs in the marketplace and pursued ministry within the community directly.

Many pastors’ spouses feel misunderstood and often their distinctive needs remain hidden in their hearts. There are blessings for sure, but there are also heavy burdens. This calling is not a cake walk, but you can actively play a part to help make it easier. If you desire to support your pastor’s spouse, consider these five ways to begin. If you are already in process of living these things out, thank you!

1. Pray for Them, Their Marriage and Their Kids.

Working on the spiritual front lines comes with constant attacks on every side. It seems that if the enemy can’t win by attacking one part of our lives he tries another. Prayer is the primary front line offensive! Pray for the protection of their hearts and minds, and for the Holy Spirit to be a very present help to them every day.

2. Free Them to Live Out Their True Selves.

Integrity is living in truth. When you live in truth, you are truly free to be who you are. Allowing them to live this out means honoring their choices, what they agree or not agree to do, and embracing real messy life with them. They are sinners saved by grace too, which means they will make mistakes like every other human on the planet. They might be cranky in the morning, enjoy activities you can’t stand, or occasionally choose alone time instead of being social.

  • Love them for who they are today, and who God is shaping them to be. They are not you, nor should they be pressured to conform to what everyone else thinks they should be.
  • Encourage them to serve out of their passion, whether or not it matches up with your expectations. This will be their happy place of service. Celebrate it!
  • Honor their limits, and allow them to set their own healthy boundaries. Recognize that there are seasons of life when they can give more and other times give less.
  • Understand they are not extensions of your pastor. They are uniquely created by God to live out His purpose for His glory. While they support their spouse in 1000 ways, they are not the pastor’s personal secretary, nor do they know every detail about what’s happening at church.

3. Resist Blowing Second Hand Smoke.

Second hand smoke is another way to describe when people place unfair expectations or guilt trips on you. Their “smoke” blows in your direction and you can’t breathe. Everyone experiences this to some degree, but for pastor’s spouses it often hits them very personally, or in a passive-aggressive way behind their backs. The better way is to allow God to speak to them, and let Him lead them into how they will commit. Here’s a challenge: if you are tempted to think “the pastor’s spouse really should do _____ or attend _____,” stop to consider maybe God is actually calling you to do it.

4. Support the Role of the Family

The healthiest perspective of the pastor’s family is to embrace this idea: God has entrusted their spouse and children to the pastor’s care first and foremost. They are the pastor’s number one priority as resident spiritual shepherds. Love on their kids, no matter how they behave. When you love their kids unconditionally, you love them too. Grant them space and time to take care of their family, and be okay with the phone going to voicemail. Remember, there is only one God and your pastor is not Him.

5. Welcome Them Warmly into Your Tribe.

Being the pastor’s spouse can often be lonely. Everyone needs a place where they are accepted and understood for who they are. Most people assume the church is automatically their tribe, but sadly it is sometimes the opposite. I’ve talked with pastor’s spouses who feel like a 2-for-1 deal and treated like an employee, others feel they will never fit in with the congregation’s culture no matter how much they try, and plenty who struggle to have their own identity. (i.e. pastor’s spouses have names!)

Pastor’s spouses often wonder who, if anyone, they can trust with their heart. They not only wrestle with what others say about them, but bear the burden of hearing criticism about their husband and worse, their children. The weight of it can be crushing. They need you to be a true and faithful friend, the kind Jesus describes.

Sit with them in church. Invite them out with you or the group to simply have fun. Refuse to listen to or offer gossip, instead offer your support. If they entrust their heart to you, don’t betray their trust. There are deep wells there, and sometimes they can share while other times they cannot. Trust is fragile and is earned or burned over time. The level of their vulnerability will be determined by how safe they feel. Some things are sacred, between only them and their Savior.

Pastor’s spouses serve but also need people to minister to them. You can be a part of building them up! Trust me, it means the world.


Michelle Marx is a regular contributor to Soul Care Collective. Thanks, Michelle!

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When Jesus Gives an Ultimatum http://www.seedbed.com/when-jesus-gives-an-ultimatum/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-jesus-gives-an-ultimatum http://www.seedbed.com/when-jesus-gives-an-ultimatum/#respond Mon, 29 Aug 2016 08:00:21 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=61066&preview_id=61066

August 29, 2016

Matthew 18:1-5

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

CONSIDER THIS

Six words stand out in today’s text. They are bold words. They are hard words. They are uncompromising words. We get them in two phrases of three words each. Did you catch them? Try reading back through now and see if you can spot them.

Jesus says hard things like this all the time but we have an easy way of reading right past them. Our understanding of grace is so easy and so free and our understanding of God’s love is so forgiving and kind that our minds have a way of dismissing the kind of hard and unequivocal things like we see in today’s text.

As an example, remember the time Jesus taught us how to pray? Near the end of the prayer we call the Lord’s Prayer he says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In case we missed it, at the end of the prayer he comes back around with this: For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Are you kidding me?! God will only forgive us to the extent we forgive others? That just doesn’t sound like the songs we like to sing at church about grace does it? Friends, we must take Jesus more seriously. If the idea of the grace of God somehow negates the notion of the fear of God then we have gotten the wrong idea of the grace of God.

O.K., now to those six words in pairs of three words each: 1. Unless. 2. You. 3. Change. 4. You. 5. Shall. 6. Never. If you missed them, go back and spot them now. We must learn to hear these words as though Jesus were speaking them to us face to face—because he is. Have we left on the mountain that small three word commandment he gave us at the Transfiguration? Remember it? 1. LISTEN 2. TO. 3. HIM.

So of those six words in today’s text, which one would you consider the most significant? If I’m taking #1, “Unless” and #6, “Never” seriously, then I’d have to vote for #3, which is Change.

So what is this change Jesus references? Become like little children. I used to think that meant break out the Crayolas. Our big interpretive problem is we tend to read this text from our own vision of a highly coddled middle class six year old living in the suburbs somewhere in the United States. When Jesus placed the child among the disciples, he was identifying the lowliest, status-less, unseen, person in the kingdom of the world as the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is not about playing dress-up. It’s about dressing-down. This is about becoming profoundly humble.

According to Jesus, unless I seriously humble myself I’m just playing the game. Until humility is our honest posture before God, it will be a mere pretense before others. Humility is an all consuming mindset. And without rival, the most pure, unadulterated, example of humility is our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Just as he places the child before us, so he places Himself. This cannot be under estimated. Now, if I could be so bold as to give you an assignment for the rest of your life it would be this one. Build your life on the unshakable foundation of Philippians 2:5-11. Start by reading it aloud every day through the end of this year. ;0)

THE PRAYER

Lord Jesus, thank you for being so clear about your vision for our lives. You want me to be humble. I confess, apart from you, I will never find that way; for as sure as I think I am becoming humble, it’s the surest sign I am not. Come Holy Spirit, and help me change, day by day, from one degree of humble glory to the next. And all of this for the glory of your name, Jesus, Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

1. Compare and contrast a 21st century child from suburban America with a first century child who would have been considered more as property than as a person.

2. How are you relating to what is really an ultimatum– Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

3. Do you identify with this way that we can so easily pass over some of the seriously difficult teachings of Jesus? How do we allow ourselves to do this? How can we do better with this?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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The Risen Christ in a Broken World http://www.seedbed.com/the-risen-christ-in-a-broken-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-risen-christ-in-a-broken-world http://www.seedbed.com/the-risen-christ-in-a-broken-world/#respond Sun, 28 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.seedbed.com?p=60697&preview_id=60697 August 28, 2016

A reminder to readers: We’re in the thick of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will continue to cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months.

Mark 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

CONSIDER THIS

Most of you will remember hearing your parents or grandparents tell you fairy tales when you were a young child. They often contain stock phrases, like the opening phrase, “once upon a time” and the closing stock phrase, “And they all lived happily ever after.” The purpose of a stock phrase like those is intended to create a sense of closure and well-being: Victory achieved, justice served, mission accomplished, love found. It is all summed up in the phrase, “and they all lived happily ever after.” The dragon was slayed, the moral compass of the universe was righted, and the prince and princess have been united in nuptial harmony as the king sits on the throne.

Now, even though these are fairy tales, it has a strong influence on how we think about real history. We like positive resolution. We don’t like things unresolved or left hanging. When you read Matthew, Luke and John you come away with a strong sense of completion—the historical equivalent of “and they lived happily ever after.” Matthew recounts for us the Risen Lord in Galilee issuing the Great Commission: Go and make disciples of all nations…” The church is streaming forth to every ethnic group in the world. Luke and Acts triumphantly declare to the gathered disciples: “You are my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” John offers: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” These are huge, grand statements to reconciled disciples who are now preparing for a global mission. Satan is vanquished, the Faith of the Apostles is vindicated, Christ is on the throne, death is overturned, and the church is on the move!

However, our series is on Mark’s gospel. Mark does not have such a neat resolution. It ends abruptly with verse 8: “Trembling and bewildered the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.” This is why we have four gospels, not one.

Mark, like the other three gospels, clearly proclaims the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel is fully present. But, what we do not have at the cross or at the empty tomb is—from the human side—a triumphalistic ending, or any tidy resolution. This is really important to remember, especially today when the church is in such disarray. Brothers and sisters, hear Mark’s account of the Resurrection: Jesus is Lord even when we don’t know what’s going on! Jesus is still the Risen One even if we are scared and afraid! Jesus has still conquered death even if we have deserted him and fled. The gospel is God’s wisdom even when the so-called wisdom of this world can’t see it.

The gospel is bigger than any story we can tell. In a way, this is what makes Mark’s gospel one of God’s greatest gift to us. He reminds us afresh that we are witnessing God’s redemptive actions. He reminds us that we live in a world which could not save itself and couldn’t think its way to the gospel. Mark reminds us that God is at work, even when human institutions stumble. Mark reminds us that the gospel is much bigger than any story we can tell.

This is why the message from the angel is so important: “Do not be afraid! You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified—He is Risen!” This is the angel’s way of reminding us, even in our fears, that Jesus holds the keys of death and hell. Jesus has conquered sin and vanquished death. Through Jesus, sinners have been redeemed. The blood of the Lamb has made us more than conquerors!

Praise God for this good news. We serve a Risen Savior and He is greater than any of our fears!

This concludes this 30 week survey of Mark’s Gospel. I hope you have been blessed.

THE QUESTIONS

1. Do you need to remember that God has conquered sin and death even if we don’t always feel very victorious?

2. Does your church reflect through word and deed that Jesus is alive? If so, what are the signs of this? If not, what are ways this can be made clearer through the life and witness of the church?

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The Sunday Daily Text through Mark’s Gospel is written by Timothy Tennent. Visit his blog here.

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