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Serving Secretly in Plain Sight

May 14, 2011 1 comment

Matthew 6:1-18

Hiding in Plain Sight

A distinguished minister and two elders from his congregation attended an out-of-town meeting that did not finish until rather late. They decided to have something to eat before going home, but unfortunately, the only spot open was a seedy bar-and-grill with a questionable reputation.

After being served, one of the elders asked the minister to say grace. “I’d rather not,” the clergyman said. “I don’t want him to know I’m here.”

Hiding in plain sight.  That’s the spot the minister in the joke was in.  Haha.  And I know that most all of us have been in the same exact position he thought he was in.  We all know what the trouble with the argument is.  God’s all seeing.  But the focus for this weekend isn’t about doing wrong things in secret thinking no one will see.  It’s a little bit of the opposite.

Jesus had a particular battle he was thrust into while in ministry for three years.  There were a group of religious leaders that loved the spotlight.  Many of the Sadducees and Pharisees loved to be the center of attention.  They were the rulers.  They carried the big books.  They were able to hand down consequences if rules from the books were not followed.  They had power.  They had followers.

Reminds me of something we’re all beginning to see on TV and hear on the radio.  We’re on our way to the 2012 elections.  It’s campaign season.  We will hear a lot about what people have done, the money they have, the power they wish to gain…or already have taken, and the influence they want.  Character will be talked about, but it will not be center stage.  Reason is, character is all about who people are when no one is watching or when no one cares.  We will hear people talk about values and morals and ‘religion’ and such.  Many of these people will become known as someone who wants to be seen and heard.

Jesus has an opposing view.  He saw people of that day either following wannabe leaders, wanting to be those guys, or cowering in fear around those guys.  Not good.  Not the way of the Kingdom.  Jesus spoke up about this in Matthew 6 when he basically said, “Don’t be like those guys.”  ‘Those guys’ were not happy with the way they were called out.

Jesus said to do your good deeds in secret.  Serve quietly.  Love your neighbor and don’t announce it in the local paper.  Help the local needy without fanfare.  Give without expectation of being given anything in return from those around you.  Give because you love to give.

What Jesus was pointing out was what is at the heart of the matter…the heart.  The religious leaders would fast on the street corners…loudly…drawing attention to themselves.  Purpose?  So people would give them praise.  This is not pure giving or pure sacrifice according to Jesus.  In fact, He said that they have received their reward in full…the praise of men.  They’re power came from what man gave them.

It’s completely a motive thing with Jesus.  The question for us is simply this.  Why do we serve?  Do we serve and love and sacrifice so other people will give us ‘pats on the back?’  Do we serve and love and sacrifice so people will consider us ‘good’ people?  Do we serve and love and sacrifice so that we will be lifted up as ‘approved’ or ‘worthy?’  Yes.  Many times we do that.  Our motives were not in line with how God unconditionally loves people. You see, unconditionally loving other people goes two ways.  We can unconditionally love someone…someone who hasn’t been nice to us, or who doesn’t do anything to help themselves, or who doesn’t appreciate our attention.  But we also love unconditionally because we aren’t receiving anything in return…from them or those that see or hear about us.  Jesus wants us to love without the condition that we hear clapping hands, receive gifts or gain fame from people around us.  Jesus wants us to love because God loves.  That’s it.

Our light will shine brightest to the ones we serve.  Those we serve will see God when we serve as Jesus taught.  We do not let our light shine for ourselves.  We shine our light so that others will be able to ‘see’ in the darkness that surrounds them.  The ‘light’ Jesus was talking was not self light.  It is the light shining through us … God’s light.

I love the story about how George Washington became a leader in  the army and as president.  He was called.  He didn’t go out of his way to campaign for the positions.  He was asked.  He was sought out.  People knew his character before he even had the chance to explain it publicly to anyone.  He served and moved with wisdom not because he wanted people to see him…but because it was just the right thing to do.  Paraphrasing, his response when asked to be president went something like this, “This is not something I want or something I’ve searched after, but if you think I’m the man, I’m ready to serve.”

One word.  We hide in plain sight because of humility.  Without humility, we are lifted up.  With humility, the light of God is shown brightly.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

Ed Barnes

Questions that can lead to change if you let them:

  • Does your personality lead you more to being center of attention or a background person?
  • Jesus created us with our specific personalities.  Why do you think some of us struggle more with wanting to be heard and seen?
  • Is it possible to be a leader and be humble?  Examples that you know of?
  • What should our response be when we do receive the praise of men?…when our actions and behaviors and service is noticed by men on a public platform?
  • Who has served you in secret?
  • What are you going to do this week in secret? Plan it out.  We can talk about this…but if we’re not proactive about the planning…well…it might not ever happen.  We will have only had a good talk.
  • Why is this approach important as we are living in the Kingdom of God?
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Paths – Which one are you on?

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been slowly reading a book by Andy Stanley titled, “The Principle of the Path.”  It’s a great book with one simple message.  Andy is very easy to read as well and he’s full of funny stories.  I’ve passed this book on to many people because of its very simple message.  Oh, in case you were wondering, Andy is the son of Charles.

Over the last few years I had the opportunity to work a couple side jobs that gave me the chance to travel throughout the country.  I would jump on a plane and head to another airport, jump off the plane into a rental car, then begin travels to a church building to speak or a store to install a computer/printer and do some training.  I had a phone installed with GPS, so before taking off, I’d type in the address of my destination.  That way, when I took off in the rental car, the phone would already be telling me what turns to make and when to make them.

GPS worked well, but there were those times when I found myself in a vacant parking lot in a empty side of town calling the church or the store to get different directions.  GPS just didn’t get it right.  Mostly it was an old business address or a difference in zip code or just something random.  The principle of the path would say this though.  The road I was on did take me to where I was going…might have been the wrong destination…but that stretch of pavement took me somewhere.  Isn’t that true in life as well?

The road we’re on will always take us to a destination.  It might be what you’re expecting and it might not be, but the principle of the path always holds true…you will always get to where the road you’re presently on leads…for good or bad.  Unfortunately, many of us get to the destination before we realize we’ve been on the wrong road.  So what road are you on?

The Bible says this, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  The point is, it’s like we’re in the middle of the maze…we think we have a plan…we know our situation…but God is looking from above and can see the direct path we need to take to get to where He wants or needs us to be.  If we don’t look up every once in awhile and say, “Left or right?”, then we will make a choice based only on our intelligence and wisdom…and even though we all think we’re smart…haha  you can finish this sentence.

Have you ever had something happen to you and you put your hands on your head and shout, “How did this happen?”  Well, more than likely it’s because of the left and right turns you’ve taken.  It’s a principle.  You’ll always go where the path leads.

Choose God’s ways.  If you say that you’re not yet familiar with His ways, then look them up.  A great place to start is the book of Proverbs.  Lots of basic life stuff in there.  All given from a guy who had all of God’s wisdom, but not much of God’s intelligence.    He’s writing while looking back on his life and realizing all unintended places he ended up while not following God.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

Not Alone


********
One Line Wisdom:
·         Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me the heck alone.
·         If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
·         Always remember that you’re unique. Just like everyone else.
·         Hedgehogs – why can’t they just share the hedge?
·         I don’t have a solution but I admire the problem.
********
Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of humanity.  God created them, male and female, is what Genesis teaches.  The other thing, very obvious, is that this male and female lived with God, their creator.  The three spent time together in the garden.  Discussing things face to face.  Enjoying each other’s company face to face.  Then sin creeped into camp. 
From here on out we have skewed images and understandings of what it means to be human.  The devil has put thoughts in our brains that have become “law” to us, when they are really lies.  We’ve believed them through thousands of years and they’ve just become part of our nature.
As I write this, there is a teenager who is lost at sea in the southern Indian Ocean.  Abby Sunderland, 16 years old, is breaking all sorts of age related sailing records.  She’s by herself.  Well, that’s what we’re told.  Her boat was tossed by 30 foot waves and damaged to the point where she needed to put out “distress signals.”  The first reports were filled with fear.  Then a rescue plane made radio contact with the brave teen late yesterday (Thursday evening).
Abby seems to be on top of her game.  She knows what she’s doing.  And low and behold, she’s a Christian.  Does she think she’s alone?  I’m anxiously awaiting her interview after the rescue.  There are boats on the way and should be to her within the day.  I’m nearly positive she’s going to say she was never alone….just a guess on my part though.
Being lonely is a part of humanity.  Being by yourself is part of humanity.  But the stinking Devil has created this concept that we are “alone” if we’re lonely or physically by ourselves.  It’s completely not true.  If we have Jesus, we’re never alone.  The Holy Spirit is with us.  When we have the Holy Spirit with us, we’re part of a family, the church.  In this church, this family of God, we’re connected by spiritual gifts and works and prayers.  We’re linked whether we like it or not. J  I’m assuming that if we really understood, we’d always like it though.
So, the simple lesson here is that we need to let reality sink in a bit more.  We need to focus and live the Truth a little more.  Some of us do this very well.  Some of us need more help.  And some of us really struggle with our alone, single, or lonely times.  Some of us have a weak spot that Satan knows very well.  BUT…Jesus knows us better…He created us.  That’s Truth.  He’s always with us.  That’s Truth.  We are never ever, ever alone.  That’s Truth.  Satan lies.  That’s the Truth.  We are part of a family.  That’s Truth.  We have significance.  That’s truth.  We are instrumental to his church.  That’s Truth.  We are a part of His Kingdom.  That’s truth. 
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No Pain No Gain

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Pain in the Side

At Sunday School they were teaching how God created everything, including human beings. Little Johnny seemed especially intent when they told him how Eve was created out of one of Adam’s ribs. Later in the week his mother noticed him lying down as though he were ill, and said, Johnny what is the matter? Little Johnny responded, “I have a pain in my side. I think I’m going to have a wife.”

Ok, that was more a cute one than a belly laugh-er. But it does bring out a point that we are going to work through this week. Sometimes we misunderstand pain and suffering. The little boy just put two and two together and got a wife. Often times, we humans tend to put pain and suffering up there with most unwanted things in life. It’s natural to do that. My knee doesn’t like to be bent backwards. My finger doesn’t like it when I’m less than accurate with a stapler. When my toe rams itself into the table leg, I scream…and maybe say some other things in my brain. When I have a headache, I take aspirin. When my acid reflux boils, I remember to take my little purple pill. When I slam my hand in a door…I remove it quickly.

We don’t like pain. We pull away from it. We take stuff for it. We yell out at it. Pain is sometimes useful, as in when a splinter is in our heel, but it still hurts. We want it gone.

This brings up a problem. Sometimes it hurts living Christ-like. Sometimes it feels as though the world is against us…not tolerating Jesus followers (pressed on every side). Sometimes we don’t understand why God is allowing us to go through something (perplexed). Sometimes we’re made fun of or taken lightly or threatened when we live out Godly morals and values (persecuted). Sometimes we here of Christians in the world who are imprisoned, beaten, and killed (struck down). By a human standard, Christianity is not too appealing. Through the eyes of God, our pain is our gain…and Jesus’ gain as well.

The more we’re able to withstand pain, confusion and suffering, the more the light of Jesus shines through us. Some people will not see Christ in us. Some people refuse to see it. Some will shut us out. Some will jump on board with both feet! We take that risk. Chapter 4 verse 4 says that the god of this world has closed the eyes and ears of unbelievers. With this Biblical revelation, we see that we’re not fighting against people. Our pain is not coming from people. Ephesians 6:12 and following says that we’re in a spiritual battle. It is a battle for souls, and with that knowledge, my understanding of pain changes. Pain is worth it. Through my pain and suffering Jesus can shine…maybe bright enough and loud enough to get through to those Satan has influenced.

As leaders, our followers need to hear of our pain and suffering for Jesus, and they need to see it. They need to see that it is OK and worthwhile. We are the church. The gates of Hell cannot stand against the church. Therefore we need to live like that. 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God did not give us a spirit of timidity. God gave us His spirit…which is a spirit of power.

I often think of sports illustrations. I used to run a lot. Running down a road for 5 miles at a time…not listening to anything, not talking to anyone…taught me a lot about life. There are safe pains and not so safe pains in athletics. Most cramps are not debilitating, you just need to run through them. If you don’t, they clamp down stronger. Some leg cramps are debilitating. You need to stop immediately and let it run its course. When running cross country and track, the mindset was to blow through a shoulder or abdomen cramp. You pushed through and actually came out better. It spurred you on.

Jesus went through a lot of false accusations. He walked through a lot of criticism. He was captured, beaten and then killed on a public cross. He died. I think my pain is worth it. His pain was. What are you willing to go through to get the Truth to someone’s heart?

Teaching it: This lesson lends itself well to discussion groups or pairs. People could share their personal times of hardship for Jesus. Not all hardships are because of the Gospel, though, so one needs to be able to separate these things. Focusing on what is growing in us…the spirit of Life, Christ himself, is a skill to be passed on and talked about so that when that growth begins in other, we can help them recognize it and nurture it.

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