Posts filed under: Church/Ministry

 

As we continue our journey to Resurrection Sunday, we find ourselves in the middle of “Maundy Thursday” of “Holy Week.”  It is a remembrance of when Jesus Christ shared a final meal with His disciples before His crucifixion.

The word “maundy” is derived from the Latin word for “command.”  John’s gospel gives some details that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) do not have about this moment.  One was the picture of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet as a sign of what every follower of Jesus should do (serve).

I give you a new command: Love one another.  Just as I have love you, you are also to love one another.  (John 13:34  CSB)

This is the command that is referred to with the name “Maundy Thursday.”  It was thought that Jesus gave this command on the day/night before He was arrested.

The big thing that is associated with this day is the institution of the Lord’s Supper.  It was on the night before Jesus was betrayed by one of His closest followers that Jesus celebrated a final meal with His disciples.  It was at this meal that Jesus set a mark that would be carried out by the Church ever since.

It is interesting to me that for His final message before betrayal, Jesus chose to use the classroom of a table.  He didn’t go to the Temple or a synagogue.  He simply gathered those who would be responsible for carrying on His mission, and He got them around a table to share a meal.  The table is a place where your guard is down.  The table is a place where you share and talk about what’s at the depth of your heart as you fill your stomach with that which is provided by God.

On that night, Jesus used a very common scene (dinner around a table) and a common meal at that time, and He made the ordinary extraordinary.  He would take a common piece of bread and break it before His disciples to show what was about to happen to Him.  He wasn’t looking forward to it, but He didn’t want His followers to be scratching their heads when God’s plan unfolded.  He would take a cup of wine and use it an illustration for the blood that He was about to shed for the forgiveness of sins.  One of the greatest teaching moments ever was done around a dinner table with friends.

What does our dinner tables look like?  Are they just a place that we run to in order to fill our stomachs?  Do we take the opportunities that are right in front of us to gather around a table and share moments, dreams, heartaches, and more?  Jesus did, and I’ve always thought that He was a pretty good example to follow.  Remember, the command that He gave that day was to love one another as we were loved by Him (John 13:34).  Take time to make the moments around a table with family and/or friends one that will be remembered for much more than the food that goes into our bellies.

As we come closer and closer to the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we find ourselves on a very interesting day in history.  This day of “Holy Week” has been called various things throughout the centuries.  The one name that has always struck me as unique is “Spy Wednesday.”

When I think of spies, I think of James Bond and others like him.  Those who go undercover to find out some information.  This seems a little strange to think that there might have been some 007 action going on around Jesus, but we see from the Bible that is exactly what happened.

Then one of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you? ” So they weighed out thirty pieces of silver for him. 16 And from that time he started looking for a good opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14-16 CSB)

What would cause one of the men who had traveled with Jesus for so long turn on Him?  Judas Iscariot saw Jesus do the same miracles that the other disciples saw.  He saw the healings… the dead brought back to life… the blind receive sight… the lame walk… Yet, he still was willing to sell Jesus out.  Why?

The answer to that question is found in the verses preceding those mentioned earlier.  In Matthew 26:6-13, one will see where a woman comes and anoints Jesus.  She was preparing Him for what was to come in just a few short days.  This woman’s worship was misunderstood by many around her.  They thought it was a waste.  The perfume could have been sold and the money used to help those in need.  It sounds good, but it was not what God wanted with that offering.

How quick are we to just rush into what sounds right?  Do we take the time to ask God what His desires are with our gifts?  We may just find out that His desires are not ours.  We may find out that what God wants doesn’t make the best sense at the time.

Judas Iscariot had been the disciple that was in charge of overseeing the finances for the team (John 13:29).  When one reads of this anointing account from John’s gospel, it is revealed that not only did Judas oversee the finances, but he frequently helped himself to some of the goods (John 12:4-6).  By this we see that one thing that led to Judas’ betrayal was the fact that Jesus had affected his pocketbook.

What areas in your life are there that if Jesus were to mess with would give you problems?

The Bible tells us that the saying of the Christian’s heart is “Jesus is Lord!” This means that He has complete control of everything… even the areas that we really don’t want Him messing with. Let us examine our lives today and make sure that there are no corners of our lives that we have said “no trespassing” to Jesus with.

As we bring every area of our lives under the Lordship of Jesus, we begin to see all the little moments like a “waste of perfume” as the beautiful moments God intends them to be.

 

As the Passion Week rolls on, we find ourselves at what has been called Tuesday.  Because of the difference in Jewish, Roman, and even our calendars today, being sure that the days of Passion Week line up today as they did back then is difficult.  The Gospels of the New Testament are also not written in a chronological manner, so this makes placing certain events on certain days even more trickier.

Even with all of the difficulties at hand, it is believed that the first “Holy Tuesday” was a busy one for Jesus Christ.  Tuesdays have always been interesting to me.  You are over everything from the weekend, but not close enough to the next weekend to really count.  It is believed that this Tuesday so many years ago held many confrontations with the religious leaders of the day (the Pharisees and Sadducees) over various topics for Jesus.

While those are important, there is yet another event that is attributed to that Tuesday that stands out like a flashing neon sign.  It is found in both Mark and Luke’s Gospels.  I would point to Mark’s account here.

Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little.  Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had ​— ​all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44 CSB)

Jesus is sitting by watching people come and go as they bring their monetary offerings to God.  This is a practice that is still done some twenty centuries later.  The time of giving is a time of worship and devotion as one brings a portion of what the Lord has given to them for the use of Kingdom work.

Jesus notices those who were considered “well off”.  These are the ones that did not have to worry so much about how to pay the bills or where the next meal was coming from and so forth.  Jesus never condemns their giving, but He did make an interesting observation.  He noticed that as the large sums of coins were placed into coffers there was a notice that was sought.  It could have very well been that these people had deliberately brought many coins to be noticed as they “gave unto the Lord.”  I can almost see Jesus sitting there just shaking His head.

But then a “poor widow” came to give, and everything changed.  Jesus did not let this moment escape with teaching His disciples the principle here.  I can see Him rise to His feet and even point towards the widow (I know, pointing isn’t polite, but it’s Jesus…so).  He makes the statement to His disciples that this poor widow has given “all that she had to live on.”

God does not need our money.  The truth is it all belongs to Him anyway (Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1).  God gives us an opportunity to express our faith and trust in Him by giving to Him.  We see this poor widow teaching all who would take notice a great lesson: It is not about the amount you give; it is the faith attached to it that matters.

Widows during this time period were seen as some of the most needy people in the world.  They were at the mercy of family members and friends to care for them.  This woman had a faith in God that moved her to action.  She understood that all that she had belonged to the Lord and came from Him.  She used this moment to express her dependence upon God… and God took notice.  God has this way of seeing what no one else can (or wants to).

As we proceed through this Passion Week, what is the motivation behind what you do for the Lord?  Is it to be seen (by Him and others) or is simply a way to say ‘thank you’ for what He has done for you?

Today is what has been commonly called the “Holy Monday” of the passion week.  It refers to the Monday that follows Palm Sunday where Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the final time before going to the cross.

One of the biggest events that took place on that Monday was a visit that Jesus made to the Temple that day.  Here is what happened:

Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves! ” (Matthew 21:12-13 CSB)

Not your typical visit to church, eh?  Jesus didn’t go into the Temple for the ordinary worship.  He was on a mission.  Sadly, the worship of that day had become somewhat of a show.  There were those who were buying and selling materials that were used in the worship services, but these people many times took advantage of the worshippers by inflating prices and such.Jesus was not pleased with what was going on in the house of worship.  It was to be a place that was for people to come and draw nearer to God not be taken advantage of.

I often wonder if Jesus were to come into the doors of our churches today, would there be some “overturning of things”?  Would Jesus find what He intended to be there?  I certainly hope so.  I also hope that if He didn’t like what He would see that He would do the necessary “rearranging” that was needed.

As we draw nearer to the celebration of the resurrection, let us do an inventory of what is present not only in our churches but our own lives.  It may be time for some spring cleaning to take place.

 

Spiritual gifts is a topic that has intrigued many throughout the ages. There are various thoughts on how they work, are they still around, when a Christian gets them, and more. As the jacket of the books states, “pastor and author Sam Storms offers practical steps to understanding and exercising spiritual gifts in a way that remains grounded in the Word and centered in the gospel.”

I was interested in seeing what stance this book was going to take on the subject of spiritual gifts. In my experience, spiritual gifts is one of those topics that is very polarizing.  The forward written by Matt Chandler (whom I respect greatly) made me want to see what this book was about. 

The topic of spiritual gifts has interested me for some time. I have heard the arguments about how some spiritual gifts are no longer needed or in use today (cessationist view). I have also heard of those who believe that the gifts are all still in use today among the church (continuationist view). 

Sam Storms is one who holds the continuationist view, but presents his convictions with a strong use of Scripture.  He writes in the conclusion, “The foundation for the experience of spiritual gifts is and always must be inerrant truths articulated in the Bible. Any attempt to move forward apart from the parameters set for us in the [New Testament] will likely lead to experiential excess, theological error, and an unbridled fanaticism that will serve only to bring disgrace on the name of Christ and do damage to those very people you are trying to serve and help” (237).

The manner at which Storms takes the Word of God and uses it as the starting platform and guardrails makes this book and great and reliable tool.  The words and thoughts that are presented in this book are ones that are backed up with Scripture. 

One of the only issues that I had was that there was not equal attention given to the gifts mentioned in the book. I know that to write a full work on each gift would be too much for one book. I even get why Storms chose the gifts that he did in this book. I just didn’t get why three chapters were devoted to “prophecy” and one to the others. 

Recommendation

As for a recommendation, I would highly recommend Practicing the Power by Sam Storms to the Christian that is looking for answers to the question of whether some particular spiritual gifts are still at work today. I believe Storms gives some great insight and uses Scripture to show that you do not have to check solid, grounded in the Word theology at the door to believe that the Holy Spirit is still distributing the gifts that some think are long gone.