Wednesday, October 13, 2010


We live in a generation dazzled by “star power” and impressed by title, status and position. Being the ambitious, self-aggrandizing creatures we are, we are also often driven to grasp at title and position for ourselves, perhaps feeling that these enhance our status in the world. And if we cannot garner these for ourselves, then we try to maneuver ourselves alongside somebody who we perceive to be in a position of power, in order to boost our own sense of importance and bask in their reflected glory.

How does this human tendency correspond with Scripture? The apostle Paul, in his many letters to churches and individuals, frequently referred to himself as a “servant of Jesus Christ”. The sanitized English word “servant” does not quite do the original language justice. Paul originally wrote in Koine Greek, and in this language called himself a doulos, meaning a common “bond-slave” belonging to his master, Jesus Christ. This was the most abject term the Greeks used for a slave who was bound to his master until death, and served his master’s interests at the cost of his own.

Yet Paul went even further than that in describing his role in God’s kingdom. He also called himself a “minister of Jesus Christ”. Aha! we may exclaim, is “minister” not a title? Not in the language Paul spoke and wrote! Rather it is the Greek word huperetes, meaning a third-level under-rower, a galley-slave on a ship. These were the lowest class of slaves, chained to extremely grueling work, rowing to the beat of the slave-driver’s drum.

Having established that this man who wrote the bulk of our New Testament and who had such powerful influence and spiritual authority, called himself nothing more than a “slave”, we then pounce on the word “apostle” and claim, “But Paul did have a title! He was the Apostle Paul!”

However, yet again we misconstrue the meaning of the term “apostle”. This is the Greek word apostolos, which has been transliterated into the English “apostle”. However, the original word means one who was sent on a commission to represent another person. It is not a title at all, but a function whereby one lays down the right to self in order to serve the interests of another. Similarly, the word “pastor” is the Greek word poimen, meaning one who takes care of sheep belonging to another master. The job of shepherd was regarded as the lowliest of all. Again “pastor” is not a title, but a function involving servitude. It was a job that was lonely, harsh, and often involved danger from predators.

What Biblical basis then, do we have for taking to ourselves self-aggrandizing titles? The answer is, none at all! In fact after his conversion, Saul most commonly used his Gentile name Paulos or “Paul” – a name that means “little” or “the least”!

Where then, does the modern grasping for title, status and position come from? Much of it is borrowed from corporate culture, where people jostle for position and mercilessly step on others to gain their own advantage. However, the Bible, and the way it teaches us to conduct ourselves in life and ministry, is counter-culture. It reveals to us God’s way of doing things! Even more seriously, we see in its pages that the tendency towards self-aggrandizement originates with Lucifer, who then proceeded to tempt humanity to follow his example. The stories of the fall of Adam and Eve, and the Tower of Babel demonstrate this.

There are few who walked in greater spiritual authority than the apostle Paul. That authority stemmed not from a self-assumed pedestal, but flowed out of deep humility and recognition of his position in Christ Jesus. This is the only position we should aspire to! The Bible shows us a “new and living way” – that the way to spiritual authority is through humility.

Jesus has the final words on this. Speaking to His disciples, who later became the apostles, He said: “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and He is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” Matthew 23:8-12.

Common bond-slave, under-rower, galley-slave,
emissary, under-shepherd, of my Master,
Jesus Christ

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Over and Under

Vacations already seem to have faded into the haze of summer past; children are back at school; churches and ministries are gearing up their Fall programs and new seasons of ministry; college classes have started; stores are already enticing us with goods for thanksgiving and Christmas…  All the activities and responsibilities of the new season can leave us feeling already overwhelmed!
How often do you use those words?
“I feel overwhelmed.”
“I am overloaded… over-burdened… over-exhausted… overanxious… overstressed…”
 Alternatively, because of all the circumstances of life that seem to be getting on top of us, we may feel as if we are under a great weight, or even under oppression or depression. Perhaps there is tension in a relationship, and it seems that there are undercurrents. Or maybe it seems that your reputation has been unfairly tarnished, and now you feel that you are under a cloud.

Do you catch yourself thinking or saying words like these?
“I’m under so much pressure…”
“I am understaffed… under-represented... underprivileged… underrated… underestimated… underemployed… undervalued… And all I need is for someone to understand!”
God does not intend for us to live overwhelmed, overstressed, under pressure lives. This is what Jesus said about it: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew11:28 – 30).
“Come to Me…” That is the first step towards freedom from feeling overwhelmed and under pressure. When we come to Him, we find a place of stillness and peace, a place of confidence and strength. We find the reality of His promise: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
He is the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God! He can certainly command peace in our lives and circumstances – if we submit ourselves to His sovereignty, rather than being governed by our circumstances.
When we come to Him, we also discover that the Bible promises that rather than being overwhelmed these things that are over us instead:
His banner over us is love! (Song of Solomon 2:4). A banner both signifies victory, and sends an announcement to the rest of the world as to who you are – the beloved of the Lord, under His protection and provision!
“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5). “Oil” speaks of joy and anointing!
The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand” (Psalm 121:5). Nothing falls outside of His care, covering and protection.
These are just a few of the “over” scriptures in the Bible. Because of these promises to us, we are overcomers who overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)!
The Bible also promises that instead of being under pressure, these things that are under us instead:
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). He carries us through whatever circumstances we might be facing!
“He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4). Peace, safety, comfort, strength!
“For He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care” (Psalm 95:7).
“Because You are my help, I sing in (under) the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 63:7). Not only joyful, but carefree – free of care!
Perhaps instead of looking at the circumstances and declaring them overwhelming, we need to re-focus our attention on all that God is and all He has given us. He is far more overwhelming than any circumstance! He is capable of overwhelming any seemingly overwhelming circumstance with His power, His glory, His victory, His sovereignty, His magnificence, His radiance, His peace.
Instead of thinking and saying, “I am overwhelmed and under pressure” we will be singing, “The splendor of the King… How great is our God!” Instead of being harassed by our circumstances, we will become divine change-agents of the atmosphere and the world around us!

Repairer of Broken Walls Ministry

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fear Not, Little Flock!

Repairer of Broken Walls Ministry

This is my first blog posting. In this blog I intend sharing in a transparent way, thoughts from my personal devotional life and ministry:  

I teach at a Bible College part-time, but in the summer when classes are out, I do not receive income from the college. The small amounts that trickle in, come from itinerant speaking/ministry commitments. Nevertheless I have had an enormous amount to accomplish this summer, including the work on my PhD., and have been feeling additionally driven to generate income, barely being able to allow myself to rest. On the weekend just past, I experienced one of the worst fibromyalgia “wipe outs” I have had in a long time.

However… for several weeks now, the words of Luke 12:27 have been going around and around my head: “Consider the lilies of the field: they toil not, neither do they spin…”

This passage is so familiar, that I did not really pay attention, other than to think that I might put it on my Facebook ministry page sometime. I also took a picture of a lily in full bloom. This is an “Easter lily” that someone gave me several years ago. I have kept it, and it continues to flower every year, with more and more blooms.

Then, on Sunday night and Monday morning this week, Psalm 23:1 kept going around my head. Again, a very familiar passage, but I felt that I was to pay attention to just verse 1. On Sunday night, before I went to sleep, I said this verse aloud, as a declaration, from the Holman Christian Standard Bible: “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” I repeated this declaration several times, each time actually naming the things I do not lack: health, provision, etc.

On Monday I felt that I should look at this verse more closely. Prayer time was so filled with the Lord’s presence, that I really, deeply, profoundly knew that “because of my position within the fold of the Shepherd, there is nothing I lack” (my words). In looking up the word that is translated “want” or “lack” in that verse, I discovered that it means, “to lack what one needs.” And so: “because of my position within the fold of the Shepherd, there is nothing that I need, that I lack”!

I looked at the commentary in various study Bibles, etc. and found this in the Life Application Bible: “… sheep are completely dependent on the shepherd for provision, guidance and protection… As the Lord is the Good Shepherd, so we are His sheep – not frightened, passive animals, but obedient followers, wise enough to follow one who will lead us in the right places and in right ways.”

On Tuesday morning, again in the tranquility of the Lord’s presence in prayer, the passage from Luke 12 returned very persistently to mind, and I finally “got it” that the Lord was speaking to me very specifically. I read Luke 12:24 – 34, and without quoting the whole passage, these are the things that stood out (again I was using the Holman CSB as my primary text): 

1. v. 29 in this translation reads as “Don’t keep striving for what you should eat… don’t be anxious… "

2. v. 30: “… your Father knows that you need them”

3. v.31: “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided…”

4. v. 32: “Don’t be afraid, little flock…”  Aha! The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I lack! Hearing “little flock”, a Jewish audience would have immediately made the association with Old Testament references to the Shepherd.

So, for me (and for you!)… I don’t have to strive for provision, or worry about it – the Father knows, and as I continue to make His kingdom the priority in my life, He will provide all that I need. I do not have to fear that He might not come through, because the Shepherd promises that because I am His, I do not lack anything I need!!

The Message paraphrases part of the Luke passage as follows, which helps to clarify this concept: “Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday concerns will be met.”

It took being laid low for a few days, for me to “get it”! And I was reminded, once again, of the statement in Graham Cooke’s book, “Crafted Prayer”: “We can thank God first, in every situation, because every problem we encounter comes with His provision attached to it.”

He is THE Good Shepherd!

And always utterly worthy of all praise!!

Be excited in watching the Shepherd accomplish more than we could ever ask or imagine!

From the Fold

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