Used Tool

tool

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

There is worldly power and there is heavenly power. Worldly power is wielded by men. Heavenly power is wielded on them.

My wife loves power tools. If I’m looking for a gift, Home Depot or Lowe’s are the first places that come to mind. She builds stuff; tables, counter-tops, chairs. She even built me a multi-dimensional chess board. Should have seen her when I bought her a new table saw. (Just imagine a kid in a candy shop with the ferocity of a warrior.)

For my wife, tools are special because they increase her power to build desire into reality.

The disciples desired to see something built, too.  They longed for the kingdom to be re-built or re-established in Jerusalem.

It’s why they asked Jesus “Will you now restore the kingdom to Israel?” after He told them they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (v.5-6).

Did they view this promised power from on high like my wife views a gift-box labeled “Husqvarna”?

“With the power of the Spirit, we’ll eradicate Roman rule, fortify our nation and build the kingdom prophesied to come!”

Jesus seems to respond sharply “This is not for you to know.” Instead, He redirects, “When you receive the power of the Spirit, you’ll be my witnesses.”

They would soon learn that the Spirit wasn’t a power tool for them to possess for re-building their kingdom. Rather, they would be possessed by the Spirit to build His.

That’s a big difference.

There is worldly power and there is heavenly power. Worldly power is wielded by men. Heavenly power is wielded on them.

It’s no less dangerous than it is easy for Christians to believe that the Spirit is a gift of power for them to use in building a ministry, a business, or a social network to do good.

But the Spirit is not a tool in our hands. Rather by the Spirit, we’re the tools in His.

I know. No one wants to be called a tool. Fewer want to be one. Tools are used. They grind. They beat. They crank. They get dirty. Sometimes they break.

What does all that have to do with being His witness?

The word witness is μάρτυς mártus. It doesn’t just refer to one who announces the tidings of the Gospel but one who suffers death as a consequence of sharing that Good News. It is where we derive our word, martyr.

Being that kind of tool requires more than having power, but being possessed by it. That’s the intent of the Spirit. That’s the kind of tool that will have greatest impact. When things are difficult and dirty, not only is His tool still a witness, but the difficulty and the dirt make it a better one.

Consider this. The impact of sharing Good News when your worldly circumstance is good is like that of a rich man promising a poor man that he too can someday be rich. But sharing the Good News when your worldly circumstance is poor gives hope to those who share in that poverty and humbles those who don’t.

The disciples thought that the Spirit was coming to give them position and poise rather than to persevere for His purpose.

They would soon learn what you and I must. Witnessing is less about you doing something than it is about allowing something to be done with you.

Willing?

Finish Now

finish

Luke 24:39  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Life is a race. We can either run it frantically with our “Tyranny of the urgent” t-shirts or we can run it in a totally different way; “Already won.”  

There’s this life and there’s the next. Understanding where one ends and the other begins is vital for victory.

The competition in our small community race every year is pretty fierce. Some of them are truly running to win. If you’re like me, you may not compete in races like that because first place chance is pretty slim. And yes, I like to win. Don’t you?

Imagine you’re in a race and one hope has etched this mental picture; your body lunging through and breaking the tape at the finish line. The crowd roars. Flowers are thrown appearing to fall from heaven and the trophy is yours.

You’re running hard for that but half way through the race, stronger, faster competitors begin to pass you by. One. Two. Three. Four. After a handful eclipse you, you quit counting. You’re gasping for breath and it seems the dream is certainly out of reach. You approach a hill and everything in you says, “Quit!” You look up, questioning the purpose of continuing when you notice a group of people running toward you.

“Wrong way!” You’re too out of breath for your voice to reach these crazy people and they continue approaching. You notice some of them are carrying items and as they get closer, you see two holding a long red ribbon and another cradling an object in his arms. Behind these, you notice a great crowd of people following them down the hill.  As they come to where you are, the two stretch the ribbon out across the road. You can see the trophy. The crowd awaits just beyond the line with flowers in hand. They’re all watching you with great anticipation and cheering you on, calling your name. As you break through the finish line, the crowd erupts. That thing you dreamed just came true.

How?

The finish line moved to you.

Let’s talk life. Where is the finish line?

 

Jesus could have demonstrated eternal life by appearing to His disciples in spirit. He could have sat with them and discussed life, death and truth with them as a ghostly apparition instead of in flesh. In spirit form, He could have talked with them about heaven and that He’s going to prepare a place for them confirming eternal life after death. All that would have been very good and would have left you and me with a great assurance in the afterlife. Our theology would then espouse that once we die, we join Jesus. Once we die, it is finished and the next life begins. Once we die, we enter eternity.

But Jesus wasn’t resurrected in spirit. He was resurrected in flesh. Wouldn’t God have been able to more clearly communicate life in the spirit if Jesus had appeared in spirit? What was the point of resurrection in the body? Aren’t these just fleshy tents doomed to fail in a fallen world anyway?

Consider this. Jesus’ crucifixion without a physical resurrection would support that at death, a person can enter eternity. But resurrection in the flesh means eternity can enter the person.

Today people often consider the finish line a physical death, like a ribbon that marks the point between this life and the next. Jesus really messed that theology up. He brought the finish line to you, where you are, right now today.

Jesus didn’t just say, “He who believes in me will live even if he dies.” He finished, “And everyone who believes in Me will never die.”

Two thousand years ago, it was finished. He has brought that finish line to you and me today and eternity is on the other side of it. Cross it. Finish now and live in that “Already won” victory today.

Resolve Regret

regret

Luke 23:48 All the crowds that had gathered for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, went home, striking their chests.

If you truly regret something you’ve done, then it means you didn’t fully know what you were doing.

Imagine yourself there.  You heard that Pontius Pilate wanted to release Him, but the crowds shouted insistently for His crucifixion. You’ve gathered with hundreds of others for the “spectacle.” Jesus hangs on a cross and you begin joining in with the others hurling insults at a man you assume is a criminal, an enemy of Jews. Maybe you’re one of those casting lots for His clothes.  And then suddenly the sun grows dark, the earth shakes, and when the son of man breathes His last, you realize He was also the Son of God. Your actions over the last few hours that seemed so justified now wreak of injustice. You committed them and there’s nothing you can do. As sorry as you are, there’s no way to take them back. You have to live with them.

Regret. It’s what caused them to go home wailing and “beating their chests.”

The word comes from reagain, once more” and grata to weep, groan.” To weep and groan again and again. This kind of inescapable pain can be horrific and it’s common to suppress it.

I meet people regularly at the mission struggling with chronic substance abuse, mental health issues, poverty. Much of it is rooted in great regret, lost in hopelessness that’s commonly expressed, “If you only knew what I’ve done.”

You’ve felt it; something you said or did that you’d do anything to take back. How can something that is “water under the bridge” wash over you again and again? How do you live with it?

You can’t. No one can truly flourish under the weight of regret. So what’s God expecting from us?

He wants us to receive the very thing that He prayed from His cross for the crowd before they went home filled with regret.

Forgiveness.

“Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”(v.34)  Do you think, if they could have had a glance into their late afternoon on that day, that they would have joined in the jeering? Do you think they would have cheered His murder if they could have had just a foretaste  of the regret that would fill their mouths later that day? The answer is “no” and that answer is intrinsic to the nature of regret.

If you truly regret something you’ve done, then it means you didn’t fully know what you were doing. You mis-projected some outcome or miscalculated some result. You just didn’t know. Jesus knew. He knew that if that crowd fully understood who He was and what they were doing, they would never have been a part of it. He forgave them.

He’s forgiven you, too. Regret is not a part of His Kingdom or His plan for your life.

Take a few minutes and think about any unresolved regret in your life.

Did you make a decision once that you feel changed the direction of your life off God’s intended course?

Have you broken ties of a relationship you wish still existed?

Have you hurt someone in a way that seems irreparable?

Maybe you’re still carrying some of that “chest-beating” woefulness. If so, it’s keeping you from living the fullness of the new life Christ died for you to have. Remember, God is more than a redeemer of lost souls. He’s a redeemer of lost routes, lost time and lost dreams, too. Make amends as you need, let Him be your redeemer and receive His forgiveness in full.

They went home striking their chests that day for something they were a part of that they thought was irreversible. If they had only known, Sunday was coming.