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LifeSpots 2011

LifeSpots 2011

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Published by EdGallagher
Scripture counsels for Christians on the move. Pithy, one-paragraph thoughts designed for personal spiritual growth and church bulletins. Challenging, incisive, encouraging.
Scripture counsels for Christians on the move. Pithy, one-paragraph thoughts designed for personal spiritual growth and church bulletins. Challenging, incisive, encouraging.

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Published by: EdGallagher on Feb 13, 2011
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11/20/2011

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Praying Church
DOA or DNA?
Is the praying of your church DOA? “Dead On Arrival.” What kind of prayers die beforethey reach Heaven? The Bible names one kind—prayers that demand God’s blessing, butreject his training. These are prayers that refuse to do the hard work of confessing sin;prayers that reinforce religion but don’t reform the life. See Isaiah 59:2 and Micah 3:4 intheir contexts. Have you experienced a congregation coming together to confess its sins,crying out for forgiveness and cleansing? This is not a DOA-praying church but a DNA-praying church—a church with prayer embedded in its “genes and chromosomes”. For achurch like this, all Heaven breaks loose with blessing. See 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Fellowship of Confession
For most of us, the idea that sin should be confessed corporately—that is, among us as believers—is repulsive. Who would show up if we called a prayer meeting to confess oursins out loud? But corporate and public confession was in the heart of the Old Testamentchurch, and it’s clearly described in the New Testament. See James 5:16 and 1 John 1:3–10.Wondering what kind of sins warrant corporate confession? All sins that directly damagethe church as “the body of Christ”. Expressions of pride, arrogance, criticism, impatience,division, doubt, crudeness, and judgementalism—here’s a starter list that could keep uson our knees together for a while. The fellowship of confession. It’s tough work. Butthere’s nothing like it to break down barriers, unite a congregation, and bring revival.
Church Growth Jesus
ʼ
Way
When Jesus—as much on fire as we’ve ever seen him—stormed into the temple to restoreits primitive beauty as a house of prayer, his first objective was to get rid of the majorityof so-called worshippers. Matthew 21:12–14. The noisy majority left. Then the humbleand desperate minority who were excluded by church policy quietly slipped in, and Jesus healed them. This is not how we would grow a church! But it is church growthaccording to Jesus. It might be time to ask Jesus to take some of our church business anddrive it outside, so that primitive wholeness can be found inside. Then we can fulfil thecharter given to us by God—to live and act as a refuge of prayer for all people.
The Kneeling Role
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25. This is whatmakes our efforts worthwhile. It’s what keeps us going. If Christ loved his church, wecan love it too. The essence of Christ’s love is servanthood—”giving ourselves up”. Onour knees, meeting the needs presented to us. Our highest role is not officiating orpreaching or orchestrating. Our highest role is the kneeling role—praying and serving,serving and praying. When prayer stops being mere ritual with which we begin and endour meetings, and instead becomes the full
character
of our times together, we will seethings we’ve never seen before. The kneeling role in our church DNA—let’s stoop to that!
LifeSpots 2011: Scripture counsels for Christians on the move
Page 1Copyright © 2011 by Ed Gallagher, Auckland, New Zealand. Individual “LifeSpots” may be used for non-commercialpurposes without specific permission, with the acknowledgement: Ed Gallagher. / Unless otherwise noted, Scripturequotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 byInternational Bible Society. Used by permission. / *The Message. Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright ©1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
 
Can We Love?
A New Commandment
We can’t add to the Ten Commandments, but Jesus can. Here’s his unsettling addition:“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this will allmen know that you are my disciples.” John 13:34, 35. Sadly, people who would neversteal, commit adultery, or disregard the Sabbath, break Jesus’ new commandment almostdaily. Whispered comments that tear someone down. Phone calls that assign the worstmotive to an innocent act. Emails that criticise a leader acting by conscience and best judgement. Let’s follow this classic advice: “Resolve to be tender with the young,compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Some time in life you will have been all of these yourself.”
Testimony for the World
There’s good reason why Jesus said that society would know Christians by their love.The reason is that pure compassion is largely absent from other public contexts. Politics,academia, business, sports, entertainment—despite some worthy goals, we know these by their patterns of criticism, pride, greed, competitiveness, or amorality. The greatestway the church can stand out and testify to the character of God is through love. This iswhy the dark side tries to get church members into society’s unkind patterns. Unselfishlove is not normal, it’s not natural, and it’s not expected. It’s a miracle, and a powerfulone. “Therefore . . . clothe yourselves with compassion.” Colossians 3:12.
Healthy Church
It might be good for congregations to read sections of Matthew 18 every time they meet.A summary: “Who’s the greatest?—a humble child. If you look down on or hurt anychild of mine, there’s serious judgement for you. Has a church member wronged you?Reconcile with him first, before you spread it all over the church and the town. What if hekeeps it up? Take a friend or two, and try again. Then forgive him. Offends you again? If it’s a huge spiritual issue, the church might eventually have to part ways with him. Buteven then, forgive the offender again. And again. And again. The same as I forgive youagain, and again, and again.” This is healthy church, delightful in the eyes of God.
Antidote to Criticism
There’s no church without leadership, and there’s no leadership without pain. Everyonehurts, and the more public the role, the more private the hurt. It would be good if thosewho criticise leaders could have the veil pulled aside, to see the blood from their daggerwounds. But of course they cannot see, or they would not criticise. There’s an antidote forcriticism, and it is prayer. “Pray for us!”—a leadership plea appearing four times in theNew Testament. When prompted to criticise, re-shape your criticism into prayer. Youcannot at the same time open your heart in prayer and open your mouth in criticism.Your prayers might change the leader; they will definitely change you.
LifeSpots 2011: Scripture counsels for Christians on the move
Page 2Copyright © 2011 by Ed Gallagher, Auckland, New Zealand. Individual “LifeSpots” may be used for non-commercialpurposes without specific permission, with the acknowledgement: Ed Gallagher. / Unless otherwise noted, Scripturequotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 byInternational Bible Society. Used by permission. / *The Message. Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright ©1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
 
Counsel for Crisis
Gift of Peace
The world will enter “a protracted period of peace.” This hope was expressed in 1970 byUS National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, along with President Richard Nixon. It’slaughable now, but tragic too. As Jesus wept over Jerusalem, we grieve over a world thatconvulses from one calamity to another. Earthquakes, floods, terrorism, poverty, disease,ethnic hatred—these are our story, even while our knowledge and technology go onwardand upward. The higher our enlightenment, it seems, the deeper our darkness. But hoperemains—“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the worldgives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27.
Three Realities
“Will we ever get back to normal?” During calamity, that’s our question. But what isnormal? Uncertainty and loss appear to be the prevailing pattern of life on Earth—something we can easily overlook when we’re blessed by years of stability. The twinrealities of Hebrews 11:32–40 help our understanding. The first reality is God’s gift of victory, fulfilment, strength, and miracle. The second reality is suffering, destitution,desperation, and death. These realities are two parallel tracks on which we make our waythrough history.
But we are making our way!
—to a third reality, a destination. “God hasplanned something better.” Then comes this counsel (see Hebrews 12:1–3): “Let us fix oureyes on Jesus. Let’s fill our minds with him, so we will not grow weary or lose heart.”
One Safety
Fresh on the minds of some in Jesus’ time was a nasty incident. A tower fell on 18 peopleand killed them. Jesus made two points from this. First, he corrected the view that those18 must have been extremely bad sinners. This is important. Bad things happen to badpeople; bad things happen to good people too. Second, Jesus said calamity is an urgentcall to life change for
all
of us. He invites us to himself now; because in this world ourpossessions and our safety are not guaranteed. “Don’t be filled with anxiety; be filledwith God. God notices the sparrows, he nourishes the lilies, he knows you intimately, hevalues you highly. Make God your only treasure and your refuge.” See Luke 12 and 13.
Character Revealed
You won’t discover your true character when things go well. You’ll discover your truecharacter when things fall apart. Patience, resilience, resourcefulness, faith, hope,courage, integrity—like the pearl in the mollusk, these are refined and revealed when wecome under irritation or attack. Equally important is compassion. Can I act withcompassion when I’m suffering? More pointedly, do I act with compassion when I’mcomfortable? Tragedies in our sphere of influence are opportunities to respond as Christwould respond. “Lord, break the stranglehold of selfishness in my life. Make me aninstrument of your peace. Lead me to act with your compassion for a world in need.”
LifeSpots 2011: Scripture counsels for Christians on the move
Page 3Copyright © 2011 by Ed Gallagher, Auckland, New Zealand. Individual “LifeSpots” may be used for non-commercialpurposes without specific permission, with the acknowledgement: Ed Gallagher. / Unless otherwise noted, Scripturequotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 byInternational Bible Society. Used by permission. / *The Message. Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright ©1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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