In Paul’s Defense

A Facebook friend of mine, Jenn McClin posted this the other day, and I asked if I could share it here. It stretches what needs stretching in the Church right now.

Enjoy…


Pretty interesting to read Paul defending his own ministry from other believers who probably spent a lot of energy critiquing his every move, method, weakness, fault. I wonder what he felt when he wrote this to his brothers and sisters at Corinth. (2 Corinthians 10)

I also feel convicted at how often I do this toward my fellow brothers and sisters without even batting an eye, overly zealous to find fault or cracks in one’s theology and therefore dismiss their entire ministry. Seems like a pretty faulty way of measuring, especially since God decided to utilize human beings as vessels of His Hope and Glory haha!

As someone in ministry, it’s a fine line to know when to address the whispers that go on about you, or how to hand them over to the one who Defends and Upholds my cause, and who knows intimately the condition of my heart toward Him and toward His beloved creation. Paul thought it was appropriate to address this issue with the Corinthians and impart a little truth. Thankfully, He knows where and from Whom his commendation comes from, and it’s in this thought that we (ministers of God’s Word and commission) take refuge! Don’t listen to everything so closely that the enemy can use it to destroy you! God is good.

Paul’s Defense of His Ministry – 2 Corinthians 10

By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you–I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. – 2 Corinthians 10:1-18 NIV


Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise–why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool–why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.

Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful than ten rulers in a city. Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.

Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you– for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.

All this I tested by wisdom and I said, “I am determined to be wise”–but this was beyond me. Whatever exists is far off and most profound–who can discover it? – Ecclesiastes 7:16-24 NIV

The Finishing Touch

Today we lightly esteem blessing. We blurt out “God bless you” when anyone sneezes with a sort of–this is my ministry–attitude. But blessing is no small commodity.

Think with me about the first recorded blessing.

BlessedGenesis 1:28 (NASB) God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Here what jumped out at me. Look at what it’s made of.

What are you going on about Ben? It’s not made of anything. It’s just words.

Oh?
Just words you say?
Whose words?
And what else did He do with His words in this chapter?

The same God and Father of us all spoke the worlds into being now creates a destiny for his creation. The blessing is part of His creation. His finishing touch, you might say.

So could blessing be more than just a happy thought or good wishes? Could it be as real and substantial as light and sky and land?

It’s time for us to take blessing more seriously.

Blessing carries with it an assignment. God has a dream and He created you to carry it and walk it out.

Blessing carries the authority to complete every phase of His assignment.

Blessing bestows ability. With any mission God initiates, He equips his servants to bring it to completion.

What about our words? Our words have power too. We have the power with our words to create reality in people’s lives. Our God-inspired and anointed blessing is a powerful creative force able to assign, authorize and equip those God has put in our care.

Let’s not just toss words around. We should bless as we see Father blessing, and walk in the blessing He poured out on us.

cropped-BenHeadshotHey, thanks for stopping by.

See you again soon.

Ben

A Walk with the Father

God revealed something really special to me recently out of Genesis 3. It’s in God’s initial reaction to Adam and Eve’s sin.

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” – Genesis 3:8-9 NASB

I get the sense that this was a daily meeting of the Father and the first family. They regularly walked in the garden. The Father created them for this very reason, to commune with them, to walk with them. He wanted to hear their thoughts and wanted to share His heart with them.

But on this day, He showed up for their walk and they were hiding from Him. (That makes me chuckle a little, hiding from God.)

Was God aware of their sin? Yes.

Did He know where they were? Yes.

Here’s the thing that blew me away… Even though they had sinned, God showed up for their walk in the garden. He didn’t hide from them, they hid from Him. He was there, like the Father of the prodigal, ready to have them back. His heart was already set on reconciliation before the full weight of what they had done began to dawn on them.

This stands out to me.

The Fathers reacted to sin with remedy and reconciliation NOT wrath and retaliation. Again, as with the prodigal, He stood at the end of the drive watching for His son and daughter to come back to Him.

There were consequences for their actions, but God did not cut them off from communion with Him. He came to them, the same way He had forwho knows how long. How long before they sinned? Days, weeks, years, decades? I guess that’s none of our business, eh?

Today, don’t let sin stand between you and God for another minute. He has already taken down the wall that separates you by the blood of Jesus. He’s standing at the end of the path just waiting for you to turn back toward Him. His arms are open wide and He’s ready to throw the best party at your return.

He’s not angry with you. Not even a little.

…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:19 NASB

Come home today.

cropped-BenHeadshotSee ya’ again soon.

Ben

Alert

Will you allow me one more note from Colossians 4:2?

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; – Colossians 4:2 NASB

I commented briefly about being devoted to prayer, but Paul gives further instructions regarding our prayer that needs our attention.

keeping alert in it.

It’s far too easy to let prayer become talking at God.

Let’s think in the natural. If I’m broadcasting a news report, I can just read it to you and I’m good to go. I have communicated to you. I have not communicated or communed with you.

This might be the way some pray, but it’s not the kind of prayer God desires. At least it can’t be our entire prayer life.

Paul, here, is exhorting us to get up close to the Father and be with Him. When we pray, we must keep our ears attuned to Him. Give Him our attention. When we cast our cares on Him we must keep paying attention to His Spirit’s whisper. He may give us solutions or strategies as we pray.

One of my favorite prayers these days, especially when faced with a difficult situation, “Lord, teach me to pray,” or “teach me how to pray for this.” And then—it’s time to listen!

Ok – simple and obvious, right. But I’m learning.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for stopping in today.

Have a great Lord’s day.

Ben

Devoted

There’s a bit of rhetoric going around these days that goes like this.

You can tell how popular your church is by how many show up on Sunday morning. You can see how popular your pastor is by how many show up on Sunday night. You can find out how popular God is by now many people show up at prayer meeting.

Catchy, and probably intended to carry some “you ought to” with it. Hey, it could be that prayer meeting is a miserable time. Maybe the intercessors of your church are the depressing–God’s glass is almost empty and His bowl is almost fullkind of people. Maybe the prayers offered carry so little faith that it actually leaves you less in love with God than when you came.

And yet, Paul says this:

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; – Colossians 4:2 NASB

Hey–I know you can pray in secret. I know prayer meetings can miss the mark. I know some people loath praying out loud. I know some people (I’m sure there are those who would point this finger at me) seem like they love the sound of their own voice.

But we must pray.

It’s the first thing to slip in our lives.

Private, personal prayer is the first thing to go as we drift.

The first thing to slide in the Church setting is corporate prayer.

My inclination is to end with a “you oughta’…” but instead, I’m just going to ask you to meditate on this one phrase today:

Devote yourself to prayer…

And see where it takes you.

cropped-BenHeadshotHey – thanks for coming by.

Shine on!

Ben

Paul’s Prayer Request

In Colossians 4 Paul asks the folks in Colossae to pray for him.

He finds himself in prison, and like any of us, he calls on those men and women of faith in his life to pray.

He prays, as I surely would, for an open door.

But I’d be asking the church to rally and pray for my release.

Wouldn’t you?

Not so with Paul.

praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; – Colossians 4:3 NASB

Want some open doors in your life? Join with Paul in prayer.

What some more freedom? Pray that you find an opening for the gospel.

What to be more Christ-like? Rather than looking for a way out of your circumstances, be thankful in them and look for a way to use your current moment to make Christ plain to those around you.

cropped-BenHeadshotSomething to chew on, anyway.

Blessings,

Ben

Unity

church13I just want to throw down a quick thought for the day.

Unity is NOT built on agreement.

It’s natural to come to the conclusion that if we gather with people of the same mind, there will be unity. But that is more like conformity, and honestly, it’s not healthy.

Paul tells us in Colossians, we can choose unity, and it’s all about what we’re wearing.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. – Colossians 3:12-14 NASB

Let me give you that list of clothing again.

  • A heart of compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience
  • Bearing with one another
  • Forgiving each other

And–beyond all these things (does this mean as an overcoat, or as underwear–I’m not sure how this should work in the analogy–anyway)–most importantly…

  • Love

Yep–unity comes from putting others first and turning your love on. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to be the same. We just have to love.

cropped-BenHeadshotGive it a whirl.

Thanks

Ben

Nailed It

There is a chunk of Colossians 2 I used to think went too far. I thought it was giving people a license to sin. It was just too much freedom. (I kind of felt that way about the entire book of Galatians too, if the truth be told.)

But reading through it today, I’m seeing something wonderful.

Let’s read together, with a few observations as we go. I promise, I’m not going to try to add to scripture, I just process verbally. Feel free to throughout the stuff that rubs you the wrong way. I won’t be mad. I promise.

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh,

These transgressions were against the law God gave Moses. It was good. Every word inspired. But according to Romans 8:3 “it was weak” because it depended on us to keep it so it could not save us.

 He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,

OK, we get this. We’re forgiven because Jesus died for our sins on the cross. Yes, yes, we all understand this.

Or do we?

Jesus is the Word of God. If we look at the Word of God, pre-gospel, we will find that a huge portion of that Word is either the law or men missing the mark and suffering the consequences. Every day, because of the law, we (men and women) were getting deeper in debt to the law. If it weren’t for the law, we might be able to have a relationship with God.

 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

But there was actually more working against us than our own flesh in its losing battle to keep the law. The enemy and all his forces of darkness knew the law and knew man’s weakness. So he (they) wielded the law against us like a sword, like a hammer, breaking generation after generation.

So then, the cross had another effect. Not only did God forgive us, but by nailing the Law (His Word– AKA Jesus) to the cross He robbed our enemy of His greatest weapon, the law.

 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. – Colossians 2:13-15

What is there to say then except WOW (ok – there’s always HALLELUJAH!)

The law of God is intended to give you a glimpse of God’s nature. He displays His character through His ordinances. This word picture of God could never give us an understanding of God’s nature. The law and the prophets failed to reveal God in a way that could tranform us. Instead, it condemned us.

So…

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. – Hebrews 1:1-3

And once He finally communicated His nature to us in a way we could comprehend, through the life of Jesus, He nailed His clearest and most precise image to the cross. His own Word, His own flesh and blood, to demonstrate that there is no longer anything keeping us from relationship with Him.

The law prevented us from knowing God, so God destroyed it. He took that wall down, once and for all.

It’s down. He took the law and nailed it to a bloody tree so that we can know Him.

It’s too much to fathom.

Give Him praise today, won’t you?cropped-BenHeadshot

Thanks as always

Love you

Ben

Blood in the Sheets

At first I thought it was my time of month.

Blood in my sheets.

I am so tired of blood in my sheets, but now I am too weak to even care.

My little one was only three then; now she is a young woman, and she is probably finding her own blood in the sheets. It’s strange to think of my daughter in that way, but to me it is always blood.

I have not been able to live with her in over a decade. She and my husband live in town, in our little home right down from the market. Oh how I miss the market!

I was selling my olives there when I first noticed the twinge of pain I now know is my hemorrhage. It was the first night of thousands strung together to make up who I am, who I have become.

I was Gilda the olive girl. I sold olives in the market. I was beautiful. People always remarked about the color of my eyes. They said my eyes matched my olives.

I can’t remember the last time anyone even looked at my eyes.

Now I am forgotten.

This blood—this hemorrhage—has robbed me. It’s as though a thief broke in and took everything.

Not my silver, and linen, and fine china, though those are all gone, too. We sold it all to raise money for the doctors. The doctors couldn’t do a thing. I went to doctors in six villages. I even went down to the hospital in Capernaum, but I returned much as I’d left, only bruised and penniless.

The thief I speak of did not walk away with my possessions; he stole my family, my dignity, my humanity, my identity. I was Gilda the olive girl. Now I am no one. I am invisible. I am a scar on the roadside, to be stepped around, avoided. Who am I? I don’t have an answer.

Not long ago, some lepers were talking about a man. This man, I overheard, was wandering all over the region of Galilee, doing things I’ve never heard of before except at the storyteller’s. Jesus, they call Him. He was opening the eyes of the blind, healing all manner of sickness, and even cleansing some lepers.

Oh that name! Jesus! The LORD is salvation. O how I need a Savior!

When I heard the stories, I felt something deep in my chest, something I had not known for ages. I felt hope. After twelve years of blood on the sheets, after a decade alone, an outcast, forgotten, I felt hope.

My first thought was to go to Him. I must have Him put His hands on me and command this blood to stop. But my own husband was unwilling to touch me. The last time he came and held my hand, they would not let him back in the congregation for a week.

The stories kept coming. He healed everyone in town, laid hands on the sick folk there. I even heard He forgave a man’s sins just a few days back.

Who is this Jesus?

I began to wonder if I could get to Him through the crowds that are always thronging Him. I wondered if I could get close enough to touch Him. I remembered a story from my childhood of the day they threw a dead soldier on the corpse of an old prophet, and the soldier came back to life.

If this Jesus is anything like the old Elisha, I bet just touching the hem of His cloak would be enough to stop my bleeding. As soon as this thought entered my mind, I felt warm all over, like the healing had already started, like the LORD Himself was telling me to do it.

I knew what I had to do. He was walking by, and the crowd, as always, spread around Him like a river flowing through the street. So I went for it. I wrapped my tattered robes around me, covering as much of myself as I could. I kept my eyes to the ground and edged my way into the mob.

I could not see Him yet, but I knew He was only a few paces ahead of me. I kept saying to myself the words I’d heard deep inside my soul: “Touch the hem of His cloak. Touch the hem of His cloak.” It was all I could think, all I could hear.

Then I heard a voice right in front of me.

“Master, where did Jairus say he lived? Do you think it is much farther?”

“Patience, Peter.”

That voice! The heat in my body doubled, and I knew it must be Him. I dove to the ground, my outstretched hand barely brushing the fringe of His robe.

Everything stopped. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest.

The Master stopped. The crowd stopped. My heart stopped.

To my horror, Jesus turned around and said:

“Who touched me?”

Peter laughed. “Who touched You? Everyone touched You. Maybe You should ask who didn’t touch You.”

“Someone touched me. I felt power discharging from me.”

I knew I was caught. I knew He was talking about me. I had broken the law. I had come into the crowd, making them all unclean like me. I had touched Him, and not only was I not allowed to touch anyone, but to touch this man who was not my husband . . . They could arrest me, or excommunicate me, or even stone me.

I was already on the ground, so I found my way to my knees, buried my face in my hands, and blurted out the whole thing.  I waited for His verdict. What would He do? What would He say?

Then there was that voice again.

“Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”

Then I understood. The heat I was feeling was right at the source of the bleeding.  As the heat faded, the trickling of blood I’d felt for twelve years was gone. I knew right then and there my nightmare was over.

That was yesterday.

Today I awoke on my cot, and there was no blood.

Today I will return to my home, my husband, my beautiful daughter.

Today I will return to my life, my identity.

When Jesus healed me, He didn’t just stop my bleeding. He restored everything the thief had taken.

What manner of man is this?

~~~
To read the original story, see Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43,
and Luke 8:40-56.


This is one of the forty stories from my book, Encounters with Jesus: Forty days in the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. It’s a great way to rediscover the life of Jesus with stories spanning His life from conception to resurrection.

Get yours now in Paperback or Kindle.

Zion

I’ve heard folks say… “I read the end of the book and…God wins!

True enough, but there is some other stuff in the end of the book that is a little mind blowing. 

If you know me, you know I’m pretty jazzed about the fact that God takes up residnece in the believe’s life. 

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. – John 14:23 NASB

Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that Jesus, by His shed blood, breaks down our walls and fits us together as a dwelling place for the Father.

I pointed to Paul’s statment in 2 Corinthians, pulled forward from Jeremiah and Ezekiel that He would be our God and we would be His people.

Well guess what! That is were the book ends, and with a bang.

Check this out:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. – Revelation 21:2

Wait—what? The bride of Christ is what? I thought I was the bride of Christ. I thought the Church was the bride of Christ. What am I missing here?

I want to show you something wonderful. God’s deepest desire for man, from the day He breathed the breath of life into Adam and made him a living soul, was to walk with man, to dwell with and in man.

The greatest picture of this is Jesus, the God-man. As man as man can be, and yet all the fullness of the Godhead dwelled within Him. All man. All God.

Jesus came as our Savior, God taking the punishment for sin upon Himself.

Jesus also came as a picture of God’s desire for man. Christ in you, the hope of Glory (or can I tweak it a tad and say, Christ in you, the fulfilment of Glory’s hope.)

So here it is, in the 2nd to last chapter of the whole book:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, – Revelation 21:3

This is not the echo of those other word, they were a foreshadoing of this moment. The moment when God reveals the bride, the wife of the Lamb!

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, – Revelation 21:9-10

The bride is a city! Jerusalem, the city of the great King. Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God Himself.

This triggered something huge in my heart. Jerusalem, sometimes called Zion, represents the body of believes, the bride of Christ. Jesus perpared this dwelling place for the Father by His blood and through His body on the cross.

I promised I would change the way you read the Psalms, well, here it is.

Next time you run into a reference to Zion in the Psalms, plug yourself, and your local community of faith into the text and see what happens in your heart.

Here are a few examples to chew on.

“But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” – Psalm 2:6

Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad. – Psalm 14:7

Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, The city of the great King. – Psalm 48:2

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth. – Psalm 50:2

His tabernacle is in Salem; His dwelling place also is in Zion. – Psalm 76:2

The LORD loves the gates of Zion More than all the other dwelling places of Jacob. – Psalm 87:2

Hope there’s a wow in your spirit as you ponder this.

I have to tell you, believers need community. You’re a building block, a part of the body. Don’t live your life like a lone leggo lying on the living room floor. God’s plan includes you, fitted in place.

To be clear–I don’t care if you sit in a pew or a coushined chair and “attend” a Sunday meeting. I don’t care if your community meets in a living room, a hotel conference ceter, or a diner. You simply need to live life with other believers. 

You need to “one-another” somebody.

We are the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, Mt Zion, the Holy City, a dwelling place for the All Mighty!

Hallelujah!

Thanks for stopping by today.

Shine on!

Ben