The power of might

Matthew 23:37-24:14

The Power of Might is a sermon title I’ve juggled in my mind for many years. When I was reading today’s passage from Matthew, it stirred again. As Christians, I’ve often wondered if we’ve connected power and might in misguided ways.

Scripture affirms God as The Almighty. And we know God’s power and might is something referred to repeatedly. It stands to reason, then, we take on those attributes. We are, after all, God’s own. The problem with that is the Bible doesn’t call us to take on the might of God. Instead, our calling is to take on the mind of Christ.

Often, when we strive for God’s might, it looks like ours. So, God’s power comes in forms we can achieve and control. Politics becomes a game of this kind of might, for example. We need to win to exercise the right kind of authority and power. A great many Christians let this lie fuel their political ambitions.

And as we rack up this futile might, we can’t let it go. And the effort we need to preserve it keeps us from taking on the humble, compassionate and selfless mind of Christ.

Maybe we don’t know scripture or the power of God (Matthew 22:29).

So, what is the might that has the power for us Christians? It’s the opposite of what a lot of us have assumed. The power of might is the uncertainty and mystery of our life with God. Yes, we’re overly convinced of too much. Too much certainty has actually damaged our wonder at the mystery of God. Too much certainty about things God never gave us certainty about.

The power of might is allowing ourselves to struggle with uncertainty and confusion. Yes, this might be a word from God. This might be a movement of the Holy Spirit. This might be the way we should go. It might be, but it might not be. We should be careful how we choose our convictions when the reality is we don’t always get answers. And we need to be okay with that.

Does that sound frustrating? Scary? Good.

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Those are familiar words to many Christians. But we often sing them with more conviction than we live them. We best understand what the blood and righteousness of Jesus are when we take on the mind of Christ. The power of might sets us free to experience the grace of God. That’s not the mighty power the world dominates with. It’s the wonder of mystery that moves us closer to the will of God.

Stay blessed…john

Receiving gifts

2 Kings 5:15-19

Apparently, Jesus said, “it’s better to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).

Many of us know that better feeling. It’s the first time we were able to treat our parents or pay for someone else’s dinner. I believe most people want to do good. They don’t always know how they can. So, the church should be a place they learn how they can bless others through sacrificial giving.

Still, it’s better to give than to receive. But that doesn’t mean to receive is bad. If someone has put thought into something they want to give you, do you want to take that blessing from them? If God nudged them to give of themselves, should you tell them you don’t need anything?

Giving is better because it muffles our selfishness. It reshapes our understanding about possessions and money and our life’s purpose. But receiving is okay, too, because it also teaches us. We learn that God provides. God’s people are listening to how the Holy Spirit is leading them. Generosity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. So, let others be generous to you. There’s also something humbling to learn about receiving a gift.

When the man of God, Elisha, healed the commander of the army of Aram, Naaman, there was some giving and receiving. Naaman’s desperation first turned to hope. Anger replaced his hope when Elisha didn’t even come out of his house to speak to him. Help from his servants overcame his reluctance and Naaman was healed.

His first response was an acknowledgement of God’s superiority. Then he wanted Elisha to have a gift. He had brought silver, gold and some nice clothes. But Elisha wanted none of it. Even after more urging from Naaman, there was no gift.

Now, the prophet had his reasons for not receiving. But Naaman didn’t mind asking for a gift. He asked if he could bring dirt from this holy place back to his home. Then he asked if he could be pre-forgiven. The text doesn’t tell us if Naaman got the dirt. As for the forgiveness, we do know Elisha told him to go in peace (2 Kings 5:19).

Naaman wanted the chance to give. It was a response to his miracle. That would’ve made him happy. While he didn’t get to give any of the gifts he prepared, he did leave with the prophet’s blessing. And that was something worth receiving.

Stay blessed…john

Caught and taught

Psalm 66:1-12

Faith is caught not taught. I’ve read that to parents before as an important lesson. The idea is to consider the importance of living out your faith. Your children watch what you believe more than they listen to what you say you believe. Their inquisitive minds will notice when the two don’t match. And your example will cement to them what faith truly is.

That’s a great responsibility.

Of course, faith is both caught and taught. Yes, your example is a great and true teacher. But we also teach our faith in other ways. Think of all the sermons you listen to as a family. What about family devotionals? Then there are the conversations you have after watching certain movies, listening to some songs or living some experience together. Sunday school, Bible study and even daily text messages about faith from a preacher are all ways we teach and learn faith as well. We don’t neglect any of those means of grace simply because our witness may or may not matter more.

I noticed this in today’s psalm reading. Most of us know the words of the psalmist. We use them when it’s time to sing and most of us don’t feel comfortable doing so. “Make a joyful noise to God,” we’ll say. We’ll joke about it being more noise than anything, but watch what the psalmist does next. I assume the writer will lead by example and sing with joy.

But then he tells the people what to say. He teaches them how to make a joyful noise and what makes the noise so joyful.

Then he invites God’s people to “come and see what God has done” (Psalm 66:5). The people don’t have to guess what exactly that is. The psalmist tells, or teaches them what God has done.

Finally, the instruction is to bless God. Why should they give thanks to God? Once again, the psalmist teaches them how the Lord has sustained and delivered them.

By now, if you’re a regular reader, you know how much I value the church’s witness. What we do means quite a bit to the work and ministry of God’s church. But discipleship is two-fold. When we follow Jesus we’re learning a new witness. Learning a new way of living. That is both caught in the people we see living faith around us and taught in all the ways we come to understand how good God is.

Stay blessed…john