We Should Be Leading Worship and Praise To Honor Jesus Every Day.
It was my second pastorate and, like many pastors, I had a few nagging insecurities about other churches in town that were outstripping us in terms of head count. To compound my sense of inadequacy, one of those churches took great delight in flaunting their success, with “KOKOMO’S LARGEST SUNDAY SCHOOL” painted in large letters on their buses as they trundled around town each weekend. They were laying claim to being the best church in town. Which meant, according to their self-promoting boasts, that we weren’t the best church in town. That bothered me a little!
To make matters worse, on one Easter Sunday morning they announced an Easter egg hunt on their front lawn to attract even more kids and to no doubt become the “largest” largest Sunday school in town. “Aha!” my evil heart thought, “Now everyone will see how shallow and commercial they are.” I was convinced that my orthodox stand against trivializing the Resurrection with Easter eggs on church lawns would win the day. Then “Kokomo’s Largest Sunday School” church decided to also make that Easter “Friendship Sunday.” Which meant that their members would invite friends—some of whom were members of our church—to this Easter-egg hunting, fastest-growing church in town. To top it off, a prize would be given to the person who brought the most friends. I must admit that their competitive spirit had my spiritual britches in a bunch.
On that Easter Sunday night, before the evening service, I was getting a drink at the drinking fountain in the hallway at our church when I heard someone approaching. I stood up, no doubt with water dripping from my chin, only to be assaulted by a very intense woman.
“Pastor,” she began, “do you know how many people were at that church this morning? They had 1,500 people there. And you know what really bothers me? Some of those people were from our church. They should have been here this morning!”
I’m not always this spiritually good—especially when it comes to dealing with Easter-egg-hunting-friendship-churching competitive Christians—but I had recently been studying Philippians 1, so the Spirit immediately brought verse 18 to mind. “Wow!” I said, “Are you telling me that this morning 1,500 people in our town heard the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Doesn’t that just thrill your heart?” Needless to say that was a real “show stopper” for her.
The apostle Paul was no stranger to the rivalries and factions that crop up in church-world. Even while he is imprisoned for the gospel, he tells the Philippians that other Christians are slandering his name and seeking to profit from his incarceration by competitively seeking to outdo him. And yet Paul, in a staggering moment of humility, says that ultimately it doesn’t matter. All he cares about is that the gospel is being preached. He is nothing, and the good news of Jesus is everything!
So let’s measure our attitudes. Do you mutter when you hear news of the success of other churches or get upset when your friends go there instead of to your church? As Paul reminds us, envy and jealousy have no place in God’s kingdom. The stakes are too high for us to focus our energies on interchurch food fights and petty rivalries.
The reality is that when other biblically healthy churches grow, the kingdom grows. It’s not about “they win” and “we lose.” Rather, it’s a genuine win-win situation. Be a cheerleader for the gospel in your town!
Jesus’ parable of the talents recorded in Matthew 25:14-30 was a warning that it is possible for us to misjudge our capacities. This parable has nothing to do with natural gifts and abilities, but relates to the gift of the Holy Spirit as He was first given at Pentecost. We must never measure our spiritual capacity on the basis of our education or our intellect; our capacity in spiritual things is measured on the basis of the promises of God. If we get less than God wants us to have, we will falsely accuse Him as the servant falsely accused his master when he said, “You expect more of me than you gave me the power to do. You demand too much of me, and I cannot stand true to you here where you have placed me.” When it is a question of God’s Almighty Spirit, never say, “I can’t.” Never allow the limitation of your own natural ability to enter into the matter. If we have received the Holy Spirit, God expects the work of the Holy Spirit to be exhibited in us.
The servant justified himself, while condemning his lord on every point, as if to say, “Your demand on me is way out of proportion to what you gave to me.” Have we been falsely accusing God by daring to worry after He has said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”? (Matthew 6:33). Worrying means exactly what this servant implied— “I know your intent is to leave me unprotected and vulnerable.” A person who is lazy in the natural realm is always critical, saying, “I haven’t had a decent chance,” and someone who is lazy in the spiritual realm is critical of God. Lazy people always strike out at others in an independent way.
Never forget that our capacity and capability in spiritual matters is measured by, and based on, the promises of God. Is God able to fulfill His promises? Our answer depends on whether or not we have received the Holy Spirit.
Not By Might
From: Streams in the Desert
Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts (Zech. 4:6).
–The Life of Fuller Purpose
From: Through the Bible
Joshua 4:23-24 (NIV) 23For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”
When Israel was prepared to cross, the Levites carried the ark into the Jordan River at flood stage. As soon as their feet touched the water it rolled back like the time they crossed the Red Sea. The Levites stood there with the ark while the whole nation crossed. Then a man from each tribe picked a stone out of the riverbed to make a memorial. When the ark was carried to the other side, the water returned to flood stage.
It’s humorous to hear people try to give physical reasons as to why that happened. I think they are desperate to say it wasn’t an unexplainable miracle. Does it really matter? It would be just as great a miracle if some physical event caused it at the very moment the feet of those carrying the ark touched the water. It is as if we do not want to acknowledge that God can do anything He wants any time He wants. That thought makes God so much greater than we usually think of Him. It humbles us. Flesh doesn’t like to be humbled.
God did it that way to show He is powerful and that you might always fear the Lord you God. God is on the throne of heaven and can do whatever He wills. Learn to love it now, because it will be that way forever.
Meditation: Our God is an awesome God!
Mark 14:70-72 (NIV) 70Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” 72Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Peter, bold, blustery, confident Peter didn’t run like most of the disciples. He followed Jesus to the home of Caiaphas. John was there too. John was known by the priestly family and not under the threat that the other disciples would have been. As Peter warmed himself by the fire, he could probably hear talk of taking this prisoner to Pilate for permission for execution. That was a dangerous place to be. Execution Roman style meant unspeakable pain, the most excruciating death imaginable. To sit there by that fire in the enemy’s courtyard was really taking a chance. Peter had promised he would not leave Jesus alone, but then he was spotted. “Aren’t you one of them? You have a Galilean accent.”
The third denial came with curses, anything to get out of being caught right there and then. He denied any knowledge of Jesus. Then the rooster crowed just as Jesus had predicted. Luke wrote that at that moment Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter. Peter broke down. He was not as strong as he believed himself to be. Neither am I. Neither are you. Without Him we can do nothing. We can make all the oaths we want, but without His power we will never keep one of them.
Have you sat in that “courtyard”? I have. As I waited on a customer, they began to speak about the “born-againers”. Would I remain silent and deny that I knew Him to remain in this person’s favor? Silence is denial. When I stand to pray at the graduation, will I say the name of my Savior or give in to the demands that I use the generic “god”. JESUS! What a name! It brings division. It stirs up emotions. If I remain silent, I should weep with Peter. The Lord turns to look at you and me also. Don’t deny that you know Him. I hope our lives are a dead give away that we are one of His disciples. I hope there is enough evidence to convict us of being His.
Prayer: Lord, help us not to deny You!