Thursday, March 26, 2015

Believing God for Great Things

In his new book, Nobodies For Jesus, Dr. Chuck Lawless shares how God longs to provide our greatest needs, while we are focused on pursuing greatness for ourselves.
"A distraught father whose son was possessed by a demon brought his boy to Jesus’ disciples (Mark 9:14-29). Under the demon’s influence, the son often threw himself into fire or water to destroy himself. From his childhood he had been in this condition, and nothing was changing. We have to believe the father had sought for years to find any solution to his boy’s tragic condition. Any caring father would have done the same.
The father must have heard that Jesus (and apparently his disciples) had power to heal. In desperation, he brought his son to Jesus’ disciples – and the tragic words of a defeated father speaking to Jesus echo loudly from the pages of the Scripture: “So I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”
But they couldn’t.” It is hard to find more tragic words about God’s followers when hurting people turn to them for help. God’s power was available to the disciples, but they somehow missed it. They had previously dealt successfully with demons (Mark 6:12-13), but not this time. In fact, his disciples were both faithless (v. 19) and prayerless (v. 29) even as they confronted the spirit that controlled the man’s son. We can only hope that Jesus’ words – “You unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you?” — pierced them, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
Sometime later, Jesus retreated with his disciples and taught them about his coming betrayal, death, and resurrection (Mark 9:30-32). Perhaps not surprisingly, the disciples did not fully understand what he was teaching. He had previously predicted his death and resurrection (Mark 8:31-33), and Peter had aggressively rebuked him for such teaching. Their leader didn’t “get it” before, and now the whole group still didn’t fully get it.
Here’s what is amazing, though. In the very next passage, these same disciples were debating over who was the greatest: “When He was in the house, He asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest.” (Mark 9:33-34)
Say what? The disciples likely were clinging to a hope that Jesus would be a political king offering them a cabinet seat, but their misunderstanding only magnifies their arrogance. Cast out a demon? They couldn’t do it. Comprehend Jesus’ teaching about his death? They failed. Understand the nature of Jesus’ kingdom? Not yet. Willingly follow Christ’s model of service? Not even close.

And these men were arguing over who is the greatest in a kingdom they didn’t even understand? Yep.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though. We are not always that much different. Sometimes we love our positions of power in the church even when we know we lack the power of God in our own lives. We strive for teaching positions without recognizing our own unwillingness to learn. Lesson after repeated lesson, we still don’t get it. Our pride keeps us from admitting our lack of understanding even while our powerlessness keeps us from being effective. In all of our supposed greatness, God help us if we come face-to-face with a boy possessed by a demon."
PLEASE plan on attending the special Spiritual Warfare Conference with Dr. Chuck Lawless at Maywood on April 11 & 12.  The focus will be on Becoming a Church that Threatens the Enemy.  Please visit our church's website for details--on the front page.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Humility Led Christ to the Cross

It is easy to talk about the significant need for humility as it is taught in Scripture, and yet it is an entirely different matter to practice it.  Each day I am challenged to remember that I serve best when I practice the humility that Christ practiced, which always placed the concern, interests, and needs of others before my own.  He taught this so well in Philippians 2:1-8 when it says that He became a servant and humbled Himself even to the point of death on the cross.  Believers are challenged not to have a "me mentality" but an "others mentality" and that takes a great deal of prayer and work because it does not come very naturally for us.  I can be too interested in my own ideas, desires, schedule, and needs that I don't want to see the needs of others.  Others can truly become an inconvenience, which is so contrary to what Christ taught through His life.  Most of us truly believe we deserve so much more or that we should be treated so much better.  I'm thankful that my Savior and Redeemer did not take the attitude towards me.

Solomon says in Proverbs 13:10 that "Only by prides comes contention".  Whenever there are difficulties and contention amongst people, it is not necessary to look very far because the root problem is pride.  It was pride that cast Satan from the Garden of Eden.  It was pride that caused Adam and Eve to think they could have so much more.  It was pride that caused Cain to murder his brother Abel.  It is pride that caused the disciples to be concerned about greatness in Christ's kingdom.  Pride is just the opposite of humility and yet it exists in our lives and churches much more often than humility. 

If humility is what Christ prizes and Scripture commands, then the question must be asked:  Do we pray for humility or for God to help humble us so that He might be glorified through our lives?  Too often we desire to have our feet washed by others when we really need to be the foot washer--at least Jesus thought so.  Pray for God to grant us the humility that would lead us into sacrifice, concern, and love for others.