Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

“You can’t know how Great God is until you first realize how helpless you are.”

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Jesus says this in the opening line of the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”

One time, Jesus was walking with His disciples and a group of people come up to Jesus and want their children to be “blessed”. Now, I don’t know what you have heard about this passage is found in Matthew 19, I’ve always seen pictures of Jesus placing his hands on children’s for heads, possibly making across somewhere… saying a fast prayer and then considering the children blessed, but I really have a hard time with this picture. Maybe it’s because I actually HAVE children and know that that would in no way shape or form “bless them”.

When I think of Jesus, or anyone for that matter, “blessing kids” I always picture him picking up a child, tickling them, and then throwing them up in the air as high as he possibly could. This would be that height where your stomach actually turns and you feel like you’re about to throw up in your eyes grow three times the size is normal as you are praying with all that you have that this person would actually be able to catch you before you splatter on the ground below.

Naturally, Jesus would catch them at the last minute and then throw them back up in the air again. This makes sense to me, both because the children would be blessed as well as the fact that the disciples always seem to be disturbed that Jesus would spend his time doing such things. I mean, seriously, what’s the big deal about taking a few minutes to put your hands on a few kids heads and say fast prayer… But rolling on the ground and throwing them up in the air???  I can understand why the disciples would question whether or not they have the time for this. Here’s what the passage says:

Matthew 19:13-14

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I love this passage. What I love about the passage the most is really what it’s saying between the lines. You see, children have nothing to offer except themselves! They don’t have a lot to bring to the table in a relationship except for their love, their acceptance, and their spirit. They don’t come trying to “teach” things. They don’t come to help you get ahead in life and they rarely come critiquing you. They basically come with empty hands. They’re just glad that you want to spend time with them!

I’ve Been Thinking This Week About Being a Shepherd

I’m a pastor. I shepherd God’s flock. I lead them. I care for them. I keep them healthy by sometimes correcting and other times by steering them into “greener pastures.” If we all lived in the days of Moses and Aaron, I would represent the people before God and visa versa. I guess in today’s world it’s still a little like that.

 

I’m called to feed the sheep.

Feeding God’s sheep means that I have to possess the food in the first place. This means I need to spend the time devouring God’s Word. I need to allow it to be digested, making me strong and healthy. Then, and only then am I able to feed those in my care. Feeding the sheep also means that I need to be sure that they are getting a balanced meal. It means that it’s my job to be sure that they’re eating their brussels sprouts along with their sweet potatoes. There are certain things that God wants us to know that are easier to swallow than others. My job is to make sure that we eat everything on the plate.

 

I’m called to make sure the sheep are healthy.

As a pastor, I stand before God to how obedient the sheep are living. The reality is, it’s very possible to over feed the sheep. It’s really not healthy to allow the sheep to stay in the pen. They just get fat and lazy. It’s my job to do whatever I can to get the sheep moving. Get them out of the pen to burning off some of the food they’ve been gorging on before they get too lazy and begin to expect more than they need.

 

I’m called to care for the sheep.

Caring for them is different than just doing a job. It involves personal attachment to the sheep. It’s what drives the shepherd to go the extra mile for the one that has wondered off. It’s what drives the shepherd to give up time and sleep to care for the sick. It’s not out of duty of “obligation”… it’s out of love for God’s sheep. It’s choosing to see them for the beautiful creatures that God sees them to be.

 

Sometimes, I’m called to be willing to break a leg.

I have to be honest, I love this! I have never heard ANYONE preach on this one! Often times, when a sheep would constantly wonder off, the shepherd would have to take some drastic measures for the sheep’s on good. He breaks one of its legs. Yep! The shepherd would break one of the sheep’s legs and then pick the lamb up, dress its wounds and then carry the lamb close to himself until the leg healed. In the process of healing, the lamb would also build an attachment to the shepherd. This attachment would create a bond that couldn’t be broken. As a shepherd I have to be ready to make the hard decisions. Sometimes, it’s tough when you know it’s going to hurt in the short term, but I have to be ready to commit to the sheep for the long haul.

 

I’m not going to address all things that a shepherd shouldn’t do yet. I think I’ll save that for another conversation since it’s a whole conversation in itself. But for now, I just want to be sure that I’m a good shepherd of the sheep God’s given me.

Judas had:

The best Pastor

The best Leader

The best Teacher

The wisest

The best Friend

And he Failed

Sometimes, the problem isn’t the Leadership

or the church you go to.

If your attitude doesn’t change or

Your character transformed.

You will always be the same…

–  unknown

Sometimes I feel like one of the Prophets of old

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Sometimes I feel like one of the Prophets of old. Growing up as a kid I vividly remember hearing stories about Elijah, Elisha, and the others in Sunday School and if I am completely honest I have to say that I still get them all mixed up from time to time.

The role of The Prophet was simple: they are the mouthpieces of God. God told them what to say and they passed the message on to the people that God chose to hear the message. As a kid, that sounded really cool. It’s kinda like they have a direct link to God. Now that I’m older, and have experienced the life as a pastor for the past twenty plus years, I’ve come to realize that being the mouthpiece of God can really suck sometimes.

People like to do their own thing. Most people have a pretty good idea of what they like and what they don’t like. They have a good idea of how they like to spend their time and how they don’t. So basically, as a prophet your job is to go to people who have their life plans set and tell them that they’re going to have to change it… because “God says so”.

The Church I Dream About

I often tell people that I share a similar story to that of Samuel. I was only a few weeks old the first time I came to church. If the doors were open… my family was there. Much like Samuel, I was raised in the church. It’s impossible for me to think back on my childhood and not be bombarded with memories of sitting in the second row of pews on the left had side of the sanctuary. I remember Pastor Greening, preaching all the stories of the “Saints of old”. He had a rule of thumb he followed, “preach in a way that 10-year-old would understand and you’ll catch everyone else older as well.” I loved listening to his messages. They were always a balanced mixture of stories of Biblical heroes of the faith and modern day heroes we called missionaries.

The first Bible verse I learned was John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The second verse was Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” From a very young age I learned how simple it all was; God loved us so much he sent us Jesus and now we’re supposed to take him to the ends of the earth. I knew Satan was real and this message we carried was the most powerful message on this planet and with it we could defeat Him. We (the church) were God’s army behind enemy lines. We were to never forget that our enemy roamed this earth and controlled just about everything we could see.

In the seventh grade, I read the book Through the Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot and knew from that day on my goal in life was to be one of those missionaries tromping through the Amazon basin delivering this message of hope to a broken world. This goal led me to stay in the best possible shape. I played three sports all through school. I enlisted in the Army National Guard at age seventeen. I went to Bible college and traveled on mission trips to nine countries including the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Through God’s sovereign hand he led me out of the jungles and into the local church. I’ve served in churches with a weekly attendances of about eighty as well as in churches with several thousand on any given Sunday.

I have to be honest though, after 20 years of ministry, I now find myself wishing it was all as simple as when I was a kid, “God loves us so much he sent us Jesus and now we’re going to take him to the ends of the earth.” I’m not really sure how I ended up where I am, but I’ve seem to have found myself where most pastors my age have found themselves; spending a lot more time “doing church” than “doing the work of the church.” The pastors I grew up with led the charge up each hill. They were front and center as we stormed the gates of Hell. Most pastors today seem to be more of referees for the righteous than they are leaders on a battlefield. Too many churches seem to be sitting in the rear, no longer waiting to be called to the front. If there’s one thing I’ve learn in the Army it’s that an Army sitting idle gets into trouble. They become self-centered. They fight and bicker with each other. They snipe at one another and find ways to discourage instead of locking arms and moving as one.

I find myself thinking like when I was kid… daydreaming about an “Army of God” behind enemy lines. I think up stories in my head about men and women carrying this powerful message of hope with them everywhere they go in their backpacks, briefcases, and suitcases. What would that church look like? What would it look like today to have a church, the whole church, focused on making disciples of all the nations? What if everyone was sold out to the mission given to us by God Himself. The church I dream about is an army sold out to this mission. They’re selflessly abandoned to the the task of making disciples of all the nations. They teach these things diligently to their children and are committed to raising up a younger generation of Spiritual champions. They care for one another, love one another, and sacrifice for one another. This church is known for locking arms and storming the gates of Hell. They’ve committed all they have to this mission. A 10% tithe is the floor to their giving not the ceiling. Their worship is uninhibited and unbridled. They’re the movers and the shakers of their community and their immense compassion for the broken is noticed by all. Their leaders, lead from the front and everyone carries his or her share of the load. They love mercy and seek justice.

This is the kind of church I dream about.