Revelation 2: I see what you’ve done…I see where you live…I see everything you’re doing for me.
In his Revelation John has a message for seven churches. Each message follows a similar format: a description of Jesus as conqueror followed by a declaration that he sees what’s happening in the churches. Then there’s a word of encouragement followed by a word of correction followed by a call to response. Finally, there’s a command to hear these words and respond by taking action. These churches are operating in some extreme circumstances with lots of opposition both inside and outside their number. There are enemies of Christ dressed up as apostles and there are those who are trying to blend Christianity with the local religion. As the church stands firm in the faith and stands up to these deceivers the Lord is pleased. If the church fails here it places itself in danger of being something other than Christian. The thing that stands out to me today is that the Lord sees all this. He wants the believers to know that they aren’t operating out in the darkness apart from him. He also wants those who are dabbling in some of these beliefs and practices to know that he knows what they’re doing. It’s good to remember that our labor for the Lord doesn’t go unnoticed. As I faithfully serve him he takes note and wants to encourage me. It’s nice when people tell me I’m doing a good job. It makes me feel good, even appreciated. However, whether that happens or not there’s One who sees what I’ve done, where I live, and appreciates what I do in his name. Ultimately, that’s the only thing that really matters.
Take Away: Even if no one else sees the Lord sees. In the long run, that what matters.
Thank God for spiritual heroes
Philippians 2: Give him a grand welcome, a joyful embrace!
When the church at Philippi heard about Paul’s imprisonment they wanted to do something tangible to help him. They decided to send one of their own, a man named Epaphroditus, to Paul, likely carrying an offering for him. The arrival of this good man warmed Paul’s heart, greatly encouraging him. Then, to his dismay Epaphroditus became ill, sick enough to die. Although it was touch and go for a while Epaphroditus recovered completely. Now, Paul’s writing a letter to the Philippian church and he intends to have Epaphroditus deliver it, returning home. The Apostle tells them that Epaphroditus is a real hero, a great man of God. He urges them to give him a hero’s welcome, telling them “people like him deserve the best you can give.” As I read about Epaphroditus today I’m reminded of some spiritual giants I’ve known in my life. A few of them are well known, at least in some circles. They’ve received a fair amount of deserved recognition. Several, though, never made it to the big stage. In my case, they’re some pastors I’ve known, either during my growing up years or as co-workers in the Kingdom. Some of these good people never pastored large churches and as far as I know never received any denominational rewards. Still, they’ve encouraged me and I’ve seen in them the heart of Jesus for their people. Today I remember a pastor who took time to sit down with a boy to explain sanctification in a way he could begin to grasp. I also remember a pastor who always had a smile on his face and a kind word to say to others even though he was going through some hard times. These are spiritual heroes who deserve a “grand welcome, a joyful embrace!”
Take Away: Thank God for the spiritual heroes who have influenced your life.
God bless the singers
1 Chronicles 6: These are the persons David appointed to lead the singing in the house of God.
As I read page after page of “Chronicles” I meet lots of people. There are fighters who cried out to God and received his help, farmers, potters, and linen workers. Now, I’m introduced to some professional singers. These are the song leaders who served during David’s reign. Here’s choirmaster Herman and his associate Asaph, the writer of some of the Psalms in our Bibles. These singers were faithful to their assignment and, now we see them included in the list of people in the opening pages of 1 Chronicles. Music has always been important to the people of God. David, a song writer and musician himself, didn’t want to take any chances with the worship music of his day so he appointed people to give their full attention to it. I don’t want to carry things too far here, but it’s good to remember that the music of worship is worth our best effort. That doesn’t mean that any one style is the right one, but it does mean that our music is an offering to the Lord and we want to give him our best. Personally, I’m thankful for the talented musicians and singers and song writers who have blessed me and helped me focus on the Lord. This Sunday it might be a good idea to let these folks know they’re appreciated.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for those who lift our hearts to God through their music.
Thank God for plumbers and roofers and carpenters
1Kings 7: Hiram was a real artist — he could do anything with bronze.
Solomon presides over some of the most impressive building projects imaginable including the construction of beautiful palaces and the impressive gold-inlaid Temple. He’s the architect, the mastermind, of these great projects. But he isn’t the workman. He recruits a man named Hiram from Tyre to do the bronze work. This guy and some other key people are craftsmen with extraordinary abilities. Under Hiram’s expert guidance durable, functional, and beautiful artifacts are created. I thank God for people like Hiram: people with practical knowledge and skill, people who have God-given gifts willingly given to the work of the Lord. As a person who just barely knows which end of the hammer to use, I’ve come to appreciate those who bring their practical abilities as an offering of love to God and his Church.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for dedicated people who willingly give their skills to the work of God’s Kingdom.
Exodus 39: Moses saw that they had done all the work and done it exactly as God had commanded. Moses blessed them.
God gave the construction plans, Moses passed it on to Bazalel and company, and the people brought the materials. Everything from the frame of the Tent of Meeting to the Ark of the Covenant to the clothing of those who will serve has been crafted precisely to God’s design. Moses inspects the work and sees that it has been done well. Then he blesses them. Sometimes, the job of the leader is to point people in the right direction and then get out of the way while they do what they’re gifted to do. However, the leader’s job isn’t over at that point, in fact, that’s just one of a pair of “leadership bookends.” The other bookend is found in Moses blessing the workers at the end of their task. Leaders are to lead in appreciation as well as vision. As a pastor, I often point people in the right direction, whether they’re singers or electricians. Both are doing things that are beyond my capability and I certainly can’t micromanage their efforts. However, once the job is done, it’s my job to be the “lead appreciator” in the church. Every leader needs to be an expert in showing appreciation for the efforts of those we lead.
Take Away: A real leader knows how to lead in public appreciation of others.