Hope Hijacked

  

S (Scripture): Jude 1:3 Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain men have secretly slipped in among you – men who long ago were marked out for the condemnation I am about to describe – ungodly men who have turned the grace of our God into a license for evil and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

O (Observation): Jude is following Peter as an overseer of various churches.   He wants to write about their “common salvation,” the Gospel that joins Jew and Gentile alike, but now he must address the issue of false teachers.  

Their message has been hijacked!

Has someone actually outright denied Jesus as Lord?  Probably not. But that may be Jude’s interpretation of what’s happening. 

A (Application):  What does American Christianity look like?   Does it look like the words and actions of Jesus?  If not, then I’d say, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Of course Christianity in America is SO diverse, but the central point of God’s grace rings true for all.  Grace saves.   How and when we can receive this grace is the subject of much debate, however.  

For me…

I feel like our hope in Jesus Christ has been hijacked, with all of the terrorist attacks of late – and as I write, I’m just learning about the hostage situation in Mali; some 130 held hostage.  

I believe that we are called to defend the weak and helpless, support them, find them shelter.   But so many are afraid.   

Many Christian folks want closed borders and to live in fear.  Don’t we have a better way?   Yes, I love my family, and my neighbors, but I will not live in fear.  Should I (or they) die at the hands of terrorists, I / we would be that much closer to meeting the Maker face to face.  As such, I will not lose hope.   

Should we resist evil?    Yes.  How?   That’s the tough part.   The quick answer, by Christians and non-Christians is to take up arms and return violence with violence.  

Perhaps we should…but this worldly resistance we bring has its limits.   Collateral damage will occur.  Innocent lives will be lost during retaliatory strikes.  And the ideal of terrorism will not die with terrorists.  The ideal will live on. 

And so will we…with hope.  

Hope has been hijacked by false teachers and terrorists and television and news stories.  

But every morning, as I go through these devotions, I read of a God who is doing great things, has done great things, and will do great things.   I read of God’s people doing well, getting off track, being saved.   Over and over again.   

I live in hope.  And I thank those who protect me from terror strikes and protect our country.  But let’s not lose sight of the fact that our God does more for our protection and salvation …

John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die”

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us steadfast in our faith toward you.  Amen. 

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Next Steps

  

S (Scripture): Daniel 4:31b a voice came down from heaven: “It is hereby announced to you, King Nebuchadnezzar, that your kingdom has been removed from you!…”
33 Now in that very moment this pronouncement about Nebuchadnezzar came true…
34 But at the end of the appointed time I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven, and my sanity returned to me. I extolled the Most High, and I praised and glorified the one who lives forever. For his authority is an everlasting authority, and his kingdom extends from one generation to the next.

O (Observation): King Nebuchadnezzar is told that his reign will come to an end, and it has!  Daniel was given the prophetic words to interpret King Neb’s dream, and lo and behold, the words held true.  

King Nebuchadnezzar was brought down from power, soon after he heard God speaking directly to him. 

Then, he proclaims, outright, that God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – is indeed the one true God.  

A (Application): Whose job is it to convert people?  Ours?  God’s?

Daniel had a role to play as a prophet.  We are not just like Daniel, but I certainly believe that some are called to be prophets, even today – sharing revelation from God in various ways. 

Did Daniel convert Nebuchadnezzer?  Not directly, but he had a role.  Prophets typically give a “wake up call” to us to shake us from our complacency.   Nebuchadnezzer was alerted to who God is…and when God spoke out to him, he knew who was speaking. 

We all have a role to play in sharing God’s love: some as prophets, some evangelists, some shepherds, some teachers, and some apostles.    

Now, how does that play out in terms of the myriad issues we face with refugees and terror attacks?

My hope is that we can all use our callings in response.   That prophets call us to the truth of caring for our neighbor, for the foreigner, for the widow and orphan.   That apostles would create new ways to help settle refugees.  That shepherds would gather with immigrants and refugees to make them feel welcome.  That evangelists would gather us together to serve one another.  That teachers would be able to teach the world about the ways we can all pitch in and help, or help refugees with “next steps” in this country.  

We have lots of ways to help, based on our callings.  In the midst of living out our callings, we are helping people to keep an ear out for the Lord.   

(yes, we need to be cautious…but we also need to be compassionate.)

What is your calling?  What role have you played in bringing people to listen for God?

P (Prayer):  God, help us to follow our callings and help us in the midst of crisis.  Amen. 

Truth?  We Are Sinners, All

  

S (Scripture): 2 Peter 2: 19 Although these false teachers promise such people freedom, they themselves are enslaved to immorality. For whatever a person succumbs to, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if after they have escaped the filthy things of the world through the rich knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they again get entangled in them and succumb to them, their last state has become worse for them than their first. 

O (Observation):  Peter continues to rail against false teachers some more.   This time, he works on the immorality of these false teachers, how they will return to their immoral behavior time and again.  

A (Application): The truth of these words to me are not about how I can differentiate between myself and other people…but about the fact everyone one of us – Christian or not – struggles with these issues.  We all desire to do that which pleases us, and we return to that sinful behavior time and again.  

What do we do with this?  We repent and believe that the Kingdom of God has come near.   We pause and reflect on our own sinfulness and seek God’s mercy. 

I could us this text to put myself on the opposite side of those that Peter talks about here, but I just can’t go there.   Too much of my sinfulness is on “repeat” for me to put myself above another. 

And yet, I feel that Jesus is the one that keeps me going.  Jesus is the one that catches me when I fail.  Jesus is the one to guide my steps.  He lets me fail, but he always picks me up.   He always calls me.   Sometimes I listen; sometimes I don’t. I’m not proud of that, but that is truth.  

I just hope that my God is bigger than my failures. 

How about for you?   In which camp are you?  Christ-follower?  Sinner?  Both???

P (Prayer): Lord, keep me in your care, sinful being that I am.  Amen. 

What’s Your Calling?

 
 S (Scripture): Ezekiel 3:1 He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you see in front of you – eat this scroll – and then go and speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth and he fed me the scroll.

3 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving to you.” So I ate it, and it was sweet like honey in my mouth.
4 He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak my words to them.”

10 And he said to me, “Son of man, take all my words that I speak to you to heart and listen carefully. 11 Go to the exiles, to your fellow countrymen, and speak to them – say to them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says,’ whether they pay attention or not.”

O (Observation): Ezekiel, like all of the prophets, is equipped to do God’s work.  He is called and set apart to receive God’s Word, and act on it.  

So Ezekiel is equipped.  He is not necessarily some all-star who made the cut.  He is simply chosen by God to be a prophet – a truth-teller to Israel, on God’s behalf. 

How is he equipped?   What words will he use?  God gives Ezekiel a scroll.  And Ezekiel is to swallow that scroll.  Yeah – WEIRD!  And yet,…that scroll tastes sweet – like honey.   

God’s Word is sweet to this prophet’s lips.  He has the words to share, whether Israel wants to hear the words or not.  But then, Ezekiel’s job is to speak the hard truths…not to make others believe what he says.  

A (Application):  Some are called to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some shepherds, some teachers.  So says Paul in Ephesians 4:11. 

In the book, “Building a Discipling Culture,” by Mike Breen, the author uses the pentagon shape as a tool to remember these 5-fold callings.   I thought about that shape this morning, thinking about what Breen says about our callings in life. 

For Ezekiel, the grace that was being poured out for him was in the calling of being a prophet.  He probably had to spend some time in the other 4 callings, but for this season of his life, he was mainly a prophet.  

The truth is, God calls each of us into one or more of these callings, regularly.  The way Breen describes the discernment for each calling is that God is always pouring out grace and we just have to hold our bucket in the right place to grab onto that grace.  

So, if God is pouring out grace in the area of Prophet for me, and I’m holding my bucket under Apostle, then I’m missing out on something.  I’m hoping for the Apostle calling, but God is calling me elsewhere.  And when we do hold our bucket where God is pouring out grace – that is, if God is pouring out grace in the area of Prophet, and I’m holding my bucket there, I’ll be able to speak some truths that I am typically unable to share.

God poured out grace for Ezekiel to be a prophet, and Ezekiel held his bucket there.  For the most part, God calls me to be an apostle – breaking new ground, being a trailblazer.  

In what way is God calling you?  Where is God’s grace being poured out in your life? 

Wanna find out what your main/base ministry is?  Check out this free online assessment to discover how God has been calling you. (Don’t worry, you won’t get junk emails from them.  The folks that host the survey are good folks.)

Click here for the 5-fold survey tool. 

Please post your scores below.   (Also, they give you a description of the 5 callings, as a helpful reminder of what the different callings might mean for you.)

P (Prayer):  Lord, sometimes we hold our buckets in the wrong places.  Guide our hands and hearts to follow where you lead.  Amen.