“Pray for us, for we are convinced that we have a clear conscience, wanting to conduct ourselves honorably in everything. And I urge you all the more to pray that I may be restored to you very soon.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Why do we pray? What should we pray for? There is wisdom on this throughout the Scriptures. Here, we see a couple of things as specific examples. With only one more stop on our journey through Hebrews, this morning, let’s take a look at the author’s final prayer request and talk about prayer in our own lives.
“For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another,” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Today, I want to do something a little different. I am not going to analyze or invest very much time in unpacking this verse. I’m not going to review anything. Hopefully I’ll get to see the new Black Panther soon and will review that. Instead, I want to tell you about something I saw this past week that struck me as profound and worth sharing. I was treated to an example of love in action in a way I didn’t expect and haven’t seen very often. This is something a lot of people don’t even think really exists nowadays. I want to tell you that it does and that I saw it.
“Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. . . .Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
There are several passages like this scattered across the New Testament. Given the position in which I serve, I pretty unfailingly feel really uncomfortable talking about them with other people. As someone who Paul would have (hopefully) identified as one of these leaders, it feels terribly awkward to me to imagine myself standing in front of my congregation and telling them, “you should submit to and obey me.” And yet, passages like these are nonetheless in here, and we have to deal with them. Let’s talk about what this means both for church members and also for church leaders as there’s a little something for everyone here.
The world hates judgmentalism. The idea that someone would loo kat another person, assess their behavior or lifestyle choices, and enforce some sort of negative relational or social consequence on them absolutely makes our blood boil. And there is no institution in the world more associated with this kind of thing than the church. But what if this all-too-common image of the church wasn’t actually rooted in reality? No, I’m not saying the church hasn’t ever been judgmental in the past (or present). It has. A lot. We’ve worked hard to earn our reputation. But what if that wasn’t how things were supposed to be? What if Jesus hated judgmentalism just as much as – or more than – the world does? What if several of the common negative perceptions of the church fell along about the same lines? This week we kicked off a brand-new teaching series looking at this very question. Join me as we look at what the world thinks, what Jesus said, and what this all means for the church.
On Specks and Logs
Used to be, if you wanted to be someone in this culture, you needed to be a part of a church. It didn’t really matter much which one, you just had to have your membership in their record books and attend just often enough that people knew your name and thought of you as a member. Of course, if you wanted to really achieve something significant in the culture, you had to be more than just a member. You had to be an active member. You needed to be on a key committee or two. Bonus points were definitely given if you were a deacon. You also needed to be fluent in the language of faith. Now, whether or not you actually believed any of this was an entirely separate matter. In fact, it was often better if you didn’t, because then you could keep your eyes on the prize you were seeking without worrying about God coming along and messing things up by calling you in a different direction. Whatever level you wanted to achieve, though, being a part of the church was the entrance gate. Today…not so much.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
The day is almost here. We’ve been waiting for it for what seems like ages. It almost seemed like it was never going to arrive. Three more sleeps and we will wake up to all of the energy and excitement of…the first day of school (imagine loud cheers and applause in the background). What? Did you think I was talking about Christmas morning? Well, minus the whole Jesus thing, the first day of school is kind of like Christmas morning for parents. Don’t get me wrong: I love my boys. But the consistency the school schedule brings back to our lives is awfully nice. And, I know we’ll be counting down to the end of school with the same energy and excitement on the other side of the school year, but for now, we’re just going to enjoy this moment to the fullest. The start of school in a couple of days, though, got me thinking this morning. This is one of the times of the year the church can really shine. Let’s talk about why.