Finding Good Help

Good help is hard to find. That’s how the cliché goes. The part of the world in which I live, this is shockingly true. The jobs aren’t scarce, and people aren’t scarce. Those willing to work are rare indeed.

Jesus found a lot of people, or, rather they sought Him out. He had plenty of faces from which to choose ones in whom He would invest. He chose 12, like His Father through Jacob.

A character study of these 12 is worthy, and, if you have, or can find, a copy of Foxes Book of Martyrs, you can read one. In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, the Twelve are listed in nearly identical order. But in Mark, we are given insight into Jesus giving three of them different names.

To Simon he gave the name Peter; to James and his brother John, the sons of Zebedee, he gave the name Boanerges (that is, “sons of thunder”);

Mark 3:16-17 NET

Simon becomes “Rocky”, and James and John become “Ragers”. You don’t see it? Petros is Greek for rock, and “sons of thunder” puts James and John the “category of those who are angry”. It really should be “anger” or “rage” instead of “thunder” (according to Strong’s Concordance). Maybe “hot heads” would be better, but you get the idea.

The rest are set off without much explanation:

and Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Mark 3:18-19 NET

There are some questions about Thaddaeus’ name, like what was it really. There are questions about whether Simon was really a “zealot” in the historical sense. And there are questions about Bartholomew being Nathaniel from John 1.

But set those questions aside for a moment. Matthew, a tax collector, sits with a “zealot”? Even if Simon were simply a fanatic for Jewish independence, and not one of that political movement/party, he still sits with Matthew. And sit those two with a couple of “hot heads”, “Rocky”, and the others, what do you have? Pandemonium!

And yet, Jesus keeps them all together, they seem to be at peace with each other (those stories aren’t told, probably), and they seem united in their devotion and awe of Jesus. It’s remarkable, or should be.

So, when you look for a church, a Bible study, a “small group”, or other religious group to join, are you looking for where you can get along? Do you tend to avoid potential confrontation by only associating with those with whom you can already get along? May I recommend a different approach?

Get involved where your Master places you, among those He places you, and don’t try to “figure it out”. “What are my spiritual gifts?” “What is my temperament?” “Where do I fit in?” are all about you, and miss the focus on our Savior.

I get it though. Who wants to be a part of a group that is rude, fights all the time, and where a “bully” surfaces to run things? I don’t. And, sometimes, this is what churches and small groups become. And sometimes, Jesus wants to gain control of those He loves dearly, and heal those angry bullies.

With all the churches from which to choose, among all the small groups from which to be a part, how do you know which one(s) your Master is leading you to be a part? I’m sad to say there is no formula. I wish there were, because that’s my temperament. But there isn’t. He simply lets me know one way one time, and another way another time. It’s really annoying. Honestly, for you, He may have a formula.

The point is to be obedient to the Holy Spirit when joining any group. And then, once you join, being obedient to the Spirit of Jesus in your participation. Really, that’s it. He chooses who makes up the groups. He chooses ones He knows will mix together to accomplish His purposes.

He chose twelve that didn’t mix well, including one who would betray Him. Use that as your “litmus test” of a group that He chooses. It’s not how we would do it, which is probably part of the point.


Passion Week XIXd

“You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30 NASB)

I can only assume that Judas has left by this time.  Luke never tells us that.  In fact, none of the Gospels, except John, tells us when Judas leaves to get the soldiers.  These guys were just squabbling about which one was the greatest, and then Jesus tells them they will judge the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  Without the detail about when Judas leaves, it might cause one to wonder if Judas would also be a judge.  Probably not.

This statement of Jesus is full of surprise.  These are the guys who have stood by Jesus in His trials.  Although they’re getting ready to jet later that evening.  There is some translation “wiggle room” in verse 29.  The ESV has “and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom.” The problem is that “kingdom” is the direct object, but of which verb. It can be paired with Jesus’ granting the disciples, or with the Father granting Jesus.  It occurs at the end of the phrase, so its position in the sentence leaves some ambiguity.  The Greek texts have no spaces nor punctuation, so that sort of thing is left up to translators.  As you can see, they disagree somewhat about whether the disciples get a kingdom or not.  An additional issue is that verse 30 begins with a subordinating conjunction denoting purpose (“hinna” clause).  So the ambiguity continues with the context supporting either Jesus’ receipt of a kingdom enabling the disciples to eat at His table, or that the receipt of a kingdom by the disciples enables them to also/therefore eat at His table.  If your eyes haven’t crossed or you haven’t moved on to another blog, then you’ve survived the technical portion of today’s entry.

I think it makes more sense for the disciples to receive a kingdom because the following comment about them judging the tribes of Israel.  If it weren’t for that, I’d go with just the dining experience, but I think there’s more to it because of the role of judge.  Having said that, the meal with Jesus also means something.  We think of “kingdoms” in a way like an autonomous ruler having total control over the “kingdom”.  When I believe Jesus has the cultural understanding of a subordinate kingdom, like the one Herod had under the Roman governor of Judea.  I get this from the use of the word “grant” or “appoint” that Jesus (or Luke) uses here.  But it also comes from the close relational implication of sharing a “table”.  The type of kingdom and the way in which they administer such a kingdom implies a close subordinate role under Jesus.

Now, consider that in less that 30 verses Jesus will be betrayed, alone, and in chains.  And Jesus knows this.  Here He tells these guys who are about to desert Him that because they have stood by Him in His trials, He will grant/appoint/bestow a kingdom.  They are already forgiven for their fearful desertion of their Master.  Think that through.  Jesus doesn’t wait for them to come back around before telling them about a kingdom waiting for them.  He doesn’t wait for them to earn it in any way whatsoever.  We think of grace because of Jesus’ death, or His resurrection, or because He intercedes for us from the right hand of the Father to where He ascended.  But grace is a fact even in the past because of what Jesus would do in the near future.

How much more so for us?  Consider where you may be in your relationship with Jesus.  What you see is nothing compared to what Jesus sees.  Where we see failure and disaster, Jesus sees princes, princesses, kings, and queens.  Where we see impoverished faith, our Master in heaven sees riches beyond imagination, where gold is the cheap stuff we use to pave streets.  Redemption is now a reality because of what Jesus has done.  We may not feel it, see it, taste it, or even hear it; but we are redeemed right now.  Struggle with Jesus.  Wrestle with the Almighty!  Rage against the rebel within!  Obedience and faith are won on the spiritual battlefield, fighting the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realms.  We can fight side-by-side, together in the ugliness of war.  Together we will then eventually see the light of victory before the throne of Jesus.  The point is to continue the struggle.  It only looks like we’re losing right now.  Eventually a kingdom waits for us (not one of our own necessarily), where we will experience the salvation of the presence of our Savior, Redeemer, and King. To help us see this, Jesus speaks of the end as if it’s already a reality; which it is.

We can’t see it ourselves, but it’s a done deal even so.

What’s your view through your knothole this morning?

Rules For Apostles

 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’  And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.  And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.  (Luke 10:5-7 ESV)

Regardless of what you think the term “apostle” means, at the time of this event in Jesus’ ministry, the term was derived from the verb used for what Jesus did, “sent out” seventy.  So, if this is a special term for a special office for special people for you, keep in mind it meant something else before it ever meant that.  This passage is part of the set of rules for those being sent out by Jesus.

In Luke, this is the second “sending”.  The other writers have the sending of the Twelve, and so does Luke.  They record some of these rules there, and Luke includes some there, some here, and some that make it into both.  Luke is much more detailed in the rules in this second sending of so many more.  And this passage is one of those places of greater detail.

There are really two elements that different here.  First is the direction to bless the house with your peace.  The second is about the eating whatever is placed before them.  The third element of remaining in a single house is in both of Luke’s “sendings”, and Matthew and Mark.

The direction to bless the house with peace is interesting to me because of the way it’s described.  “If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him,” means that there is this understanding that hospitable people may also be peaceable.  If so, then the peace of the one following Jesus will rest there enhancing the peace.  But it also says, “But if not, it will return to you,” which means that hospitable people may not be peaceable, but they are to remain anyway.  Let the peace return means that the only peace in the house may  be the sent-one, and they are to be okay with that.  So, it may be a hard situation to be a part of, but they were to remain with it nonetheless.

The second element is repeated again in verse 8, eating whatever they set before you, but with a different emphasis.  In these verses, eating what is “provided” is a command to receive because their work is worth the “pay” of a meal.  Which means that “ministry” is understood by Jesus to be a sort of service worth a wage.  That a debate continues to rage as to whether ministers should be paid or derive their living  from it is really ironic.  But that could be because sometimes ministry for some stops being a “service” worth a wage.  When ministry becomes a regular routine where little is rendered to those “attending” then really nothing is gained, so where’s the return on the investment?

This is an embarrassingly easy trap to get caught in.  Ministry can be hard, should be hard, and sometimes taking an easy path becomes not a momentary rest, but a ministry approach.  Excuses are easy to come by, but the reality is that ministers can and do lose their first love of Jesus and His people.  Think of what it would mean if the first element were also a part of ministry.  If your “sheep” aren’t people of peace, let your peace return to you.  But you still minister in peace, even when you are the only peace present.  Can you imagine?  When the going gets tough, you remain the person of peace.  That gets difficult to sustain, and can only be done when ministering in the power of the Spirit, rather than ones own.  But when done, is worth being paid for.

So, what do I see here?  An excuse for not giving?  If you saw that, you will be punished.  You may see a reason to “garnish” wages, but not to limit giving, as you give to God, not to a minister.  What do I learn of peace?  If I am a man of peace and other aren’t, I am to remain a man of peace.  Wherever I am sent, whatever I am sent to do, I go and do in peace.  I share the peace, but retain it if it’s not received.  The peace I have in my Master remains regardless of those to whom I minister.

I also learn that what I do for others as a servant to my King must be of value.  I can’t simply go through motions, providing nothing enriching to their lives.  As my Master enriches my life, I need to share that with those to whom I minister, not hoard it.  As I do, there is a give-and-take of riches, spiritual for material.  On the other hand, I have eschewed material gain for ministry.  From my past experiences, I have lost my trust for any body of believers.  From this passage I see that I don’t really have that luxury.  Which I really don’t like, at all, not even a little.  I get that though.  The minister can then focus their attention to the ministry without distraction; and they are motivated to do good work (provide a marketable service?) because their living depends on it.

I feel like I’ve looked through the knothole and saw an at-bat I was trying to avoid seeing.  I suppose that indicates growth, or at least does if I permit what I learn to sink in and germinate, take root, and grow.  Well, what did you see through the knothole?  Something easier I hope!

Ministers, Women

Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.
(Lk. 8:1-3 NASB)

From the very beginning of my religious education, I opted to focus on Biblical languages. My intent was to understand the problems and arguments of thorny issues within my denomination and Christianity as a whole.  I never thought I’d resolve the issues, but I figured I’d at least be able to come to some sort of answer for myself.  As opinionated as I am, I found I was right, I did come to conclusions.  I also found that, each time I approached a Scripture, I felt compelled to change my conclusions.

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