Try to get onto any military base in the United States and you will get questioned as to your business, that is unless you have a military identification card. The guards at the gate are given a great deal of authority to allow cars to enter, to pull to the side and receive a pass, or to be turned away all together. Responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the base lies at the highest echelon of command on the instillation, but the authority is filtered down through the levels of command to those standing guard at the gate.
The guards that occupy the east and west gates of our community are no different. They have been given the authority to allow entrance or turn away cars. In both of these examples, authority is used to protect individuals from evil in our midst.
When Jesus cast a demon out of man who could not speak and was blind (Matt 12:22) His authority was questioned by the religious elite – the Pharisees. They accused Jesus of casting out demons in the name of Satan, from which He (Jesus) received the power and authority. We can almost laugh at the blindness created by their hatred for Jesus. He had already cleansed a man of leprosy, a disease considered to be caused by egregious sin against God. To be cleansed, divine intervention had to occur, and then the circumstances of the cleansing had to be investigated by the High Priest, according to the Levitical law. If the High Priest questioned Jesus and the disciples about the cleansing (and we must assume there was an investigation), it would have been determined the only logical answer was to acknowledge Jesus’ divinity. But as we know, instead of adoration there was only accusation by the religious leaders.
So here we have Jesus casting out a demon under very specific circumstances (mute/blind person) – an act only the divine could perform. Instead of praising Jesus and acknowledging Him and His authority over all of creation, they accused Him of deriving His power from Satan himself. We can shake our heads, but their denial of this miracle and the power of Jesus AND the Holy Spirit was an egregious sin in and of itself.
Do we have the authority to do things in this world? Authority can be passed down as in my original example of the guards on a military base. But has authority given to Jesus been passed down to us?
Jesus told His disciples just before His ascension into heaven “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore to and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt 28:18,19). Jesus gave His disciples the authority to spread the Good News and do many things, and it is the same authority given to us today.
We need to acknowledge not only the power we have to move mountains, but most importantly the Person from which we derive this power!
Some of you may remember a song released in May 1971 titled “M. Big Stuff.” Jean Knight was the vocalist and sang “Mister Big Stuff! Who do you think you are?” It was a song sang from a woman’s perspective toward a man who strutted around trying to attract the attention of the ladies. He was different by the way he walked and the way he talked. He was different and he knew it. But the ladies weren’t falling for the flamingo-like attitude.
When Jesus began His ministry, the religious leaders of the day asked Jesus questions very much like the one Jean Knight asked, “Mister Big Stuff! Who do you think you are?” The question was the same, but the motive was certainly not. The ladies in the song chided the strutting man for breaking ladies’ hearts. Jesus was also different but the Pharisees and other religious elite didn’t see Jesus as a threat emotionally, but a threat to their power, position, and authority. They tried to catch Jesus at every turn and even dispatched spies to collect information. But every time a question was posed by the “plant in the crowd,” Jesus would answer using the words of the Law or the prophets – the very words they should have recognized and understood. But their ego and self-infatuation made them blind, so they could not see the one who was standing in front of them was the Messiah himself.
I’m reminded of another song when I think about how Jesus came, how he walked, and how he interacted with the people in the villages, hillsides, and lakesides. The song is “Humble and Kind” by Tim McGraw. Jesus knew He had an uphill battle, a mountain to climb as the song says. He knew there would be those who would accept Him and those who would reject Him. All along His journey, even to the point when being beaten and having thorns pierce His scalp, He never lost His humbleness.
Sometimes it’s hard to be like Jesus, humble and kind. When we realize there are just some things over which we have no control, and there are some people who are determined to have a bad day and share it with everyone, being humble and kind in the face of adversity will have a greater impact on the world we live in. Our health will be better, our friendships will be stronger, and our relationship with the Heavenly Father will be sweeter because we are becoming what He wants for all His children – to be like Jesus.
Since my wife and I have moved out into the country, things have gotten much quieter. We do miss some aspects of being in a subdivision, one of which is Halloween. Before we moved, we lived in a city north of Little Rock where Halloween was a big deal. People would bring their kids to the entrance of the neighborhood, park their cars, and everyone walked from house to house. It was like one huge block party, and much safer for the young ones concentrating on the treats and paying no attention to the traffic.
Some years we would sit out front in lawn chairs and just enjoy the sights and sounds of giggles, laughter and excitement of the children. But I think the best interaction with the trick-or-treaters came when you waited inside for them to ring the doorbell. I would open up the door and pretend to be scared if there was a monster, impressed if it was a superhero, or in awe if it was a princess standing on our doorstep. No matter what the costume was, the question remained the same – “Now who are you?”
We label ourselves as adults with many titles like Mr., Mrs., Doctor, Professor, Sergeant and so on. It seems we get our identity from the jobs we do. People can relate to what we are easier than of who we are. I had an encounter with a famous person once, who quite frankly was very demanding. When he didn’t get the “responses” he thought he deserved, he asked me, “don’t you know who I am?” I answered, “With all due respect sir, I know what you are. I don’t know who you are.” Taken aback for a moment, he listened as I went on to explain that I was very familiar with the job he did, but as a person I didn’t know him. While I wasn’t being confrontational, I was not going to play into the “greatest of all” attitude either.
The Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes opened the door when Jesus came before them. They asked “now who are you?” Jesus was constantly teaching and referring them to the words of the prophets when He was attempting to open their eyes. Try as He may, he couldn’t convince them He was truly who He said He was; the Messiah!
Was it the arrogance of the religious leaders, or were they so ingrained in thousands of years of teaching, memorizing, and study of the law? Many times, they even approached Jesus with an attitude of, “don’t you know who we are?”
It is so easy to be superficial. But only going to that level prevents us from learning about others, and truly getting to know the treasures God has placed in our paths. Get to know people, and who they are, not just what they are. If we will, our friendship list will grow exponentially. Be kind, be caring, and show the love of Christ this week to others.
I must explain up front – I’m not a contractor! Even though in my young age I worked with my father to renovate homes, I don’t believe I could build one from “the ground up.” A common phrase (the ground up) we hear applied to a lot of processes which refers to a beginning or starting point.
Again, I’m no contractor, but I’ve never seen a house being built from the roof down! It would be ludicrous to even think a home could be built in this fashion. As we travel around the Village, we can spot a new home being constructed simply by recognizing the starting point – the foundation.
The individuals who construct this important part may be the most important contractors in the entire home-building process. Water lines must be laid, gas lines, and sometimes electrical lines for in-floor receptacles. All of these must be precise, and then the foundation is poured. A solid, level, accurate foundation is essential to move on to the remainder of the house. A weak foundation will eventually rear its ugly head through cracks in the interior and exterior of the home. Yes, the most important part of the building process is a firm foundation.
When Jesus began His ministry, a foundation had already been laid. His cousin John had been calling people to repentance, to be baptized, and to prepare themselves for the one who was to come – who was already among them!
John had one purpose in his life and one purpose only which was to lay the foundation for the Messiah. He never set himself as higher or even on the same level as Jesus. When Jesus appeared that day to be baptized, John’s foundational ministry was coming to an end.
John the Baptist closed an era of prophets who foretold of the coming of the Messiah. But unlike other prophets, John saw his prophetic preaching come true. And when John sent word to Jesus from his prison cell asking if He was the one or did they need to look for another who was yet to come, Jesus’ answer left no doubt in John’s mind. He was the one!
Jesus built His ministry on the foundation built by John. But what of our ministries? What foundation do we have to build upon?
We have an even more solid foundation than the one John built. We have a foundation laid by the creator of the universe, the one who creates in perfection. We are all called to be “doers of the Word.” If we build upon the foundation laid by Christ, and not one of our own construction, the structure we build will be glorifying to the only one who can give us a perfect starting place.
Our starting place is to give everything we have to Jesus every day, and ask Him through the Holy Spirit to guide our steps. What better foundation upon which to build up the Body of Christ, while we eagerly wait for His return!
One of the items that suffers a quick destruction on Christmas morning or at birthday parties is the wrapping paper. The gift recipient rips the paper from the present to see what is hidden underneath the wrapping. And then the paper is discarded in multiple directions. For those of us who have seen many Christmas mornings, there is a distinct difference between the tearing of copy paper and the sound of wrapping paper being torn.
Of course, there are those who meticulously finds the tape holding the paper together, and they carefully remove the tape. When all the pieces of tape have been removed, the wrapping paper is gingerly unfolded from the gift, then re-folded and laid to the side – almost ceremoniously! The paper almost seems to be part of the gift itself! I’m not this person!!
Regardless of the fashion of unwrapping, there isn’t a gift remaining under the tree or in the stack of birthday presents left unwrapped. It would be unthinkable to suggest we NOT unwrap our presents, right?
Call me crazy, but why do we do exactly this with our spiritual gifts? We receive the most precious of gifts from our Heavenly Father when we give our lives to Christ; sort of a “rebirth day” present. The gift we receive has been carefully picked just for us by the Father for the purpose of building up the Bride of Christ – the church. But imagine if we don’t use our gifts in the manner they were intended? After all, they didn’t come with written instructions!
God wants the church to function as a healthy body, with all the body parts doing their part. For the last several weeks, my arm has been in a sling following shoulder surgery. My good arm had to pick up the slack and try to perform tasks normally accomplished by the arm in the sling. Even though I’ve tried as hard as I can, there are some tasks only my sling arm can do. Members of the body of Christ are no different.
When we exercise our gifts given by God, we fit into the body of Christ perfectly. While others may try to pick up the slack when we don’t use our gifts, they can never be a complete replacement for us. Remember, our gifts were specially chosen by God and given to us. No one has a gift exactly like ours.
A thriving, healthy, growing church is one who recognizes individuals and their gifts. But most importantly, individuals recognize their own gifts and are compelled by the Holy Spirit to put them to use.
Do you want to bring glory to Christ and honor the giver of our spiritual gifts? The best way is to find a place in your local church and open your gift. If you really feel God led you to your church, He had a reason for it! Bless Him by blessing others!