Title or Towel?

In a wonderfully God- orchestrated series of events, I visited New Community Church. The short version is that on the way home from a wedding, Mike and I stopped to eat at a restaurant where I left my credit card. When I finally tracked down the lost card, I noticed the restaurant was less than a mile from New Community Church.

The reason New Community Church is special to me is because exactly a year ago, our 2 friends took a leap of faith and left our church to plant this church. As a result of the stressful event of losing the card, God allowed me to see His grace at work in this new community of believers. Adding to my blessing and excitement, I learned New Community is planting another church.

The sermon series was a call to be ALL IN as we follow Jesus, The message asserted that radical followers of Jesus radically serve. Whoever would be great among you must be your servant -Mark 10:43. In the eyes of God, greatness is not designated by a title but by a towel.

Jesus has some pretty amazing titles – Son of God, Messiah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet he performed the lowliest of tasks – washing feet. The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many -Mark 10:45.

Unfortunately, even churches seem to focus on titles and talent. (Small group leader, coach, worship team, director, coordinator- to name only a few). It’s easy to find our identity in those things but doing that may deter us from the greatness the Lord has for us in learning to serve with the love of Jesus not only our friends but the ones who will flee or betray.  

Lord, how can I serve more like you?

Here I am

Hineni. This Hebrew word is usually translated, “Here I am.” Abraham responded to God in this way as did Moses, Samuel and Isaiah long before the Lord began to accomplish mighty works through their lives.  Interestingly, we also find the widow in 1 Kings 17:12 uttering this phrase to Elijah when she brings her last bit of flour to the prophet with very little hope having enough to sustain her even until the next day. Here I am.

Hineni (hee-nay-nee) differs from po ani. The later also means I am here, but the former implies not only I am present, but I am listening, and I am willing to do whatever you reveal next. I will engage with everything I am.

On Thursday, the Jewish people celebrate Yom Kippur- which we translate “Day of Atonement” – the most holy day of their year. I learned when the rabbi prays at beginning of both the feasts, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah (the feast of Trumpets celebrated earlier this month), he utters the word “Hineni.

Hineni can be a response to our Lord’s calling to action or Hineni can be an invitation for Him to reveal of transgressions. Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24

When I come before the Lord, is it with an attitude of po ani or with the posture of hineni?

Here I am Lord. With everything I am, I am yours.

Lost in Church

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I was participating in a Zoom Bible study with people I had never met. One of the participants shockingly stated, “The church pews are one of the most fertile mission fields.”

A lot of people in church don’t actually know Jesus.

There are 2 ways to be lost. We can be lost in obvious rebellion from God, or we can be lost in our own self-righteousness thinking we are “good enough” and therefore not mindful of our desperate need of God’s mercy. Jesus made use of at least two parables which demonstrated this.

The first is of a Pharisee and a tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) which Jesus told to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous yet viewed others with contempt. When the Pharisee entered the temple to pray, he recounted his good deeds before God while the tax collector pleaded, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” Jesus tells his audience that the tax collector who humbled himself was right with God, not the one trusting that his position and good works made him acceptable to God.

Even more well known, is the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32. By requesting his inheritance and leaving home, the younger son clearly dishonored his father and wasted the blessings his father had bestowed upon him, but what about the older bother? He lived day after day in his father’s household, but he did not emulate the character of his father. Instead of feeling joy when his brother returned home, he was angry that the prodigal was being celebrated rather than chastised. He did not share his father’s generous heart. He too failed to treasure the blessings his father had generously bestowed on him believing he was worthy and deserving of his inheritance.

In the days of King Josiah, the priest, Hilkiah, found the Book of the Law hidden inside the house of God. This seems unimaginable that the words God had given Moses to record were somehow buried underneath other things and forgotten. Even so, I wonder if a similar circumstance has occurred today. The words of the Bible are buried underneath and crowded out by other sources of wisdom such as books written by spiritual men and women of our day, knowledge found in the theories of scientists, or the alarming circumstances broadcast by journalists.

Jesus gives us a stern warning in Matthew 7:21,24, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter…. everyone who hears my words and acts upon them may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

Our previous pastor often said, “You can miss heaven by 12 inches.” The distance between our head and our heart is about a foot. We may sit in church hearing truth and learning more, yet a true disciple daily puts the words of Jesus into practice and continually seeks to be molded into the character of our Heavenly Father.