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Invincibility: Life or Death… I’m Good

Paul went from persecuting the church to being a persecuted apostle of the church. After his arrest in Jerusalem, during his first imprisonment, he wrote a letter to the Philippians in which he boldly declared this short but profound line…

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (1:21)

In other words… “If I live, I get to be all about Christ. If I die, I get to be with Christ, so either way, I’m good.” Here’s the thought that hit me – Paul was pretty much invincible at this point. Kill him and he’s with Jesus. Let him live and he’ll just live for Jesus. You can’t really hurt Paul.

I can think of plenty of things that could hurt me. Take away all my money, my time, or worse yet, take away my family and I’d be hurting. But I’d only hurt temporarily, or physically, or emotionally. Eternally? I’m good. We’re good. I won’t take money home with me and my family will meet me there.

Let me ask you an extremely important question… if someone took your life, would they be hurting you? If they let you live, would that cause pain for you too? Or are you firmly grounded and settled in an eternally secure relationship with Jesus?

As far as eternity is concerned, I’m invincible. Seems like I’ve always wanted that special power!

Meekness is the Leverage of Leadership

In today’s world, meekness = weakness. God does not view it that way, however. The Bible says of Moses,”Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) And in a world where power is everything, Jesus entered the scene in a wooden manger surrounded by barnyard animals. He grew up in an humble village, the son of a carpenter, of modest means. He lived His life serving others, yet Jesus was certainly the most influential leader in all of history.

If you study the lives of Moses and Jesus you’ll find something interesting – they were both great leaders. Both were willing to boldly confront sin and error. Both would rebuke those who believed and lived lies. Both were willing to venture out into the future with faith. Yet they were the meekest men in history. How can this be? You see, we’ve misdefined meekness. Biblical meekness is not weakness, it is really just the opposite.

The Bible’s word for meekness is used in reference to a broken horse, which has all the power to destroy its rider but refrains out of respect for authority. The word is also used to refer to a soldier who has all the might to take on the enemy, yet submits himself completely to the authority of his commanding officer. Meekness is the key to having leverage in leadership. It’s the refusal to demand respect in exchange for commanding it with a life of integrity. It is “controlled power.” Meekness is the willingness to supress those urges to lash out at the wrong time, opting instead to wait for further orders from our commanding officer, Jesus.

Is meekness displayed in your life? How can you submit yourself to Jesus more today? How can you lead others with boldness and courage?

Who Is Jesus? The Head of the Church, Pre-eminent In All Things

My favorite term referring to my role as a Pastor is the word undershepherd. I’ve been assigned the task of leading and feeding a flock, a local body of believers. And while I seek to lead with vision, with integrity, and with faith, I readily recognize that I am not the head of Grace Hills Church. That’s Jesus’ job. So I shepherd the flock, but I do so under the direction of King Jesus, the Chief Shepherd.

Paul reminded the Colossian believers that “Christ is also head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.” (Colossians 1:18 NLT) It should be noted that Paul wasn’t claiming Jesus was the first person to rise from the dead. That had occurred several times in history, even under Jesus’ own quickening power. The Apostle was simply making it clear that Jesus is first in priority, in authority, and in importance.

When I speak of the “church,” I am not referring to an abstract, invisible, universal, and completely unorganizable collection of all believers everywhere. Instead, I refer to the church with the understanding that it’s usage in the New Testament is almost exclusively in reference to a local church or to the local church as an institution. This is why we Baptists have no bishops, cardinals, or Popes or any other kind of denominational hierarchy. Each local church stands on its own feet, autonomous and independent under Jesus, but also recognizing our mutual interdependence and need to cooperate in unity with other churches to fulfill the Great Commission.

And to be honest, my favorite aspect of this great truth is that at the end of the day, Grace Hills is His church, not mine. We fulfill His mission. We follow His example and initiative. We seek His will at every moment of decision. We obey and teach His Word. When things go right with the church, He gets the credit. And if things happen that are painful and hard to endure, it’s His church and He feels the greatest weight of the suffering.

As a Pastor, I’m committed to leading Grace Hills forward in faith, out in mission, and onward in the purposes of God. But I do so in service to the King and under His authority and direction at all times. And someday, I’ll stand before Him and give an account for everything I’ve taught, counseled, and decided on His behalf. That’s a thought that scares me and comforts me at the same time. That’s why it’s absolutely vital that we see Him as first, pre-eminent, authoritative, and the ultimate Head over all things.

Think about it. Is He your Head? Is He first in your life? Are you willing to recognize the absolute authority of the risen Savior and King, Jesus Christ? He rose from the dead in victory, in power, and with the promise that He will in fact rule over all things, and He will rule with truth, justice, and grace.

Who Is Jesus? He’s the Visible Image of the Invisible God

One repetitive theme of Jesus’ teaching to His closest disciples regarded His oneness with the Father. He once said to them, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Then Phillip brilliantly asked, “Jesus, can you show us the Father?” Uh… “If… you’ve seen ME… you’ve seen the Father…” (That last part was my interpretation of what Jesus might have been thinking – you can read it in John 14.)

We still struggle with this concept today in religious circles. Major religions that try to identify as Christian present a Jesus who is a whole lot like the Father, somewhat close to the Father, but not exactly one with the Father. Paul addressed the teachings of these factions in his letter to the Colossians when he said, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.” (1:15)

So here is the basic truth. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. Each of these three are distinct personalities occupying distinctly different roles within the Trinity, but each one is as fully God as the other, and there is only one God. The Son is the one member of this Trinity who became visible when He was born to Mary in Bethlehem. From that moment on, He is the one and only snapshot we need to physically, visibly represent God. His humanity never diminishes His deity.

When we get to heaven someday, we’ll see God in Jesus. If you want to know what God’s character is like, read about Jesus. And if you want to know the Father, there is only one Way, and His name is Jesus.

Who Are You Hanging Out With These Days?

Jesus, Hanging Out

When I was a college student living on a Christian college campus, I fell into the trap of often staying in the safety of the bubble. On campus, there was a bit of a micro-economy that remained pretty safe. You could eat, sleep, and study on campus and ‘do life’ only with those kids who were also Christian college students. While I wouldn’t trade those days, I wish I’d chosen to venture out a bit.

If anyone could have lived in a religious bubble, it would have been Jesus. But instead, He repeatedly chose to live life around people who were defined by their culture as “sinners.” Mark records that, “as he reclined at table in [Levi the tax collector’s] house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'” (Mark 1:15-17 ESV)

If you’re a Christian and you hang out in Christian bookstores a lot, attend Christian conferences, purposely shop and eat at Christian-owned places, make sure you have a Christian doctor, a Christian dentist, and a Christian lawn service, you might be missing the point. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things in particular, but in America, Christians on the whole are guilty of retreating into the bubble where we forget how to relate to a lost world.

Here’s some food for thought. All of your Christian friends are already going to heaven. And hopefully they’re in a church that helps them grow. But there’s a whole community full of lost people around you that need a friend. They need you to get out of the bubble and do life with them. That doesn’t mean you have to spend Friday nights in clubs and bars. It just means that living by the Great Commission compels us to get out, to go meet people, to share God’s love and the good news of Jesus in a relatable, loving way.

So who are you hanging out with these days?