Partners in the blessing

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

I assume most of us consider the gospel to be a blessing.

The good news of Jesus Christ has saved us, set us free and redeemed us. There is rich language we use when we talk about the gospel’s work. It all incorporates how we experience the presence of God. So, considering God’s willingness to offer the gospel to us, of course we are blessed. We have received a most gracious gift.

The blessing, then, is what we receive. That idea is easy for us to consider. For example, we accept a new job as a blessing. A gift from a friend is a blessing. Having the opportunity to do something you love counts as a blessing.

Of course, we do receive more and more blessings. But we also take part in them.

More specifically, considering the gift of the gospel, we share in its blessing. The apostle Paul reminds us of this. His ministry mindset is to be a “slave to all” (1 Corinthians 9:19). That is, to share the gospel, he has become all things to all people. To do so requires to let go of your ego. You have to put behind some of your assumptions about what is proper or even ideal. You might even be uncomfortable at times.

Sometimes Christians carry the notion that we meet people where they are to bring them up where we are. That’s pretty presumptuous. We meet people where they are to share what we have learned about the goodness of God. The blessing is not that they start going to your church or start singing your songs. The blessing is the gospel has shown one more person the great love of God.

Now, there are many Christians, many churches that don’t even meet people. Do they know they’re missing half the blessing of the gospel? Paul says, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:23). Other translations draw our attention to the partnership language Paul understood. and used.

That part of the blessing of the gospel is our willingness to join its mission. Not just to receive it for our benefit. Not just to talk about it. But to submit our lives to its purpose. We are partners with God, and that is part of the blessing!

Stay blessed…john

Let the ark go

Genesis 8:1-5

Probably every generation has looked for Noah’s ark. Of course, the technology we have makes it an even more attractive quest. We have so much more at our disposal now. And every few years some group tells us they have found it. Others believe government officials know where it is and refuse to let the world know. Apparently, that’s how they keep people from believing the Bible.

Proving the Bible isn’t on my radar. I’m not convinced the Bible asks to be proven.

That’s okay for me because I don’t know anyone who was one biblical proof away from believing in Jesus. Our hope, after all, is in our blessed assurance that Jesus is ours not in our scientific validation.

If you’re hoping to expose a governmental cover up, I suppose looking for the ark has its merits. Otherwise, let the ark go. In the account of God and Noah, the ark seems to disappear. It served a purpose. There were specific instructions on how to build it and what it was for. After that, it’s anyone’s guess what happened to it.

Noah could’ve used it for firewood.

As God’s people, we could learn to let go a little more. We’re prone to hold on to what was helpful or meaningful to us a little too long.

Listen, I get it.

We like what we like, especially if it’s been good for us. The danger, though, is what happens all too often. When we hold on too much we fashion new idols. I appreciate how one pastor says it: An idol is usually a good thing that we make ultimate. Plus, holding on to our things and our ways too tightly makes our churches pretty territorial.

Lost in that is the mission God gives the church. Again, not to prove the Bible by what ancient artifacts we can discover. But by living the faith the Bible depicts. What made Noah so important? He was righteous even when no one else was. 

Learning to let go doesn’t mean we go without. It keeps our focus on the fullness of God’s kingdom, actually. And it helps us keep our attachments in check. God knows what you need today just as much as God knew what you needed before. Letting go is learning to trust God’s goodness today. You will not be without.

The Lord commanded Noah to be fruitful and multiply when he came out of the ark. When we let go, that’s what we can do. We share the abundance of God with more people. We give them a chance to receive the blessing of God.

Stay blessed…john

No escaping

John 10:31-42
I’m not sure if John is being dramatic or not.

We’ve seen Jesus in similar situations like John 10. There are people who want to get their hands on Jesus. Somehow, he escapes. Is that a narrow escape? Does Jesus run from his accusers? How does a holy escape play out?

Whether Jesus offers a great getaway scene or not is not what’s important. But it’s fun for me to think about. 

What is important is the accusation religious leaders make against the Lord. They say, “you…are making yourself God” (John 10:33). They had to discount any good work Jesus did because of what they misunderstood about him. In their minds, killing Jesus was the holy thing to do. As a side note, you and I are quick to criticize religious leaders who want to kill Jesus. The reality is this kind of religious zeal is a part of the Christian tradition, too. You can hear echoes of it today.

Let me affirm my stance. Killing someone you disagree with is wrong. Killing someone you think thinks is God is wrong. 

Now, what we miss is what the religious leaders misunderstood. Jesus didn’t make himself God. God sent him. John made that clear to us in his first chapter. He said, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). That’s significant. It reminds us not of one man who thought too much of himself, but of God who thought much of us. Remember, God loved us and so “gave” us Jesus (John 3:16).

Our Lord made sure to connect his Sonship to the “many good works” he did. That is, because he was from the Father, he was able to offer miracles and signs. 

That makes me think about our works. In a real sense, God gives the church to the world. Not in the exact manner of Jesus, of course. But when we hear Jesus tell us to take up our cross and follow him, we should sense a similar calling. Doesn’t that elevate our sense of ministry?

Much of ministry today points to the church. Much of ministry for some time has done that. We want to get “people to church” or “help the church” with some new project. Those may be noble efforts. But they can also be misguided. The church isn’t called to point people to itself. Our calling is to point people to Jesus. He is the one God sent to us all. The difference is transformational. 

If we want to be faithful in our calling as a sent people, there’s no escaping our mission to point people to Jesus. They’ll follow you to church after that.

Stay blessed…john