(Formless Foundation, repurposed for today’s service)
Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”
Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart does glad, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.”
Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Family, it is our goal in this service – from our worship to the word to share to you today – for us to overflow from the new hearts we have with Christ, speaking to you this afternoon. Sit back, relax, sleep if you want to, and let our pleasant words from a merry heart minister to your spirit and soul. Hear the Word of Christ today, and let faith arise.
So our church is going through what our administration is calling decentralization. So far this is looking like each service, or each time slot every Sunday here in Baguio, is converting to standalone churches, with their own lead pastors, council and congregation.
Three things I have in mind right now:
- According to how I think decentralization should look like, then each service, or each church should allocate even distribution of resources to every other ‘node’ in the network.
- If we were totally rigid about it then that’ll sound more ideal than practical. But look at what it says in Acts 4:32-35: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.“
- There was still some sort of ‘central’ administration to do the distributing. But consider Proverbs 3:27 (“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it“), as well as 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.“).
- I am not saying decentralization is not superior over centralization, nor is centralization superior over decentralization. These concepts are tools – some will be more useful than others, yet it will all depend on the seasons and other things we wouldn’t be able to tell with our own understanding.
- One leader in the past says we move as one. Our directive in the present says for us to decentralize. Should we follow one or the other? I say “yes”.
- This prospect of decentralization should challenge our theological perspectives. I used to say, we shouldn’t be singing the bridge of the famous song ‘Jesus At The Center’ as enthusiastically as we used to sing it – swap it, sing ‘From the Heavens to my heart’ instead of ‘From my heart to the Heavens’.
- I’m not bashing how we sing ‘from my heart to the heavens’ – we are temples of the Holy Spirit after all, living praise lifting praises to God. It’s just that we would be doing ourselves a favor if we also rested by celebrating Christ who came to us, ‘from the heavens to my heart’.
- So what is it? Should we sing ‘From my heart to the heavens”, or “From the heavens to my heart”? Again, I say, “yes”.
- Before we make any moves to ‘decentralize’ our services, perhaps we ought to work on our own autonomy.
- Are we able to stand on our own in this world? Can we provide for ourselves before we are able to provide for others? Can we stand, before we are able to help others to stand? Before we share power, provisions, and position, are we in a state which allows us to stand, ourselves?
- On one side we would never know the answer to this through self-assessment. In other words, the only way we know if we are able to stand strong enough to help others, is when we help others. I’ll be honest, I’m sharing that in conflict, because I used self-improvement as an excuse to isolate myself (okay part of it was the ridiculous increase in gas), but now I cannot avoid a certain glaring truth – we help ourselves best when we help others. Christ certainly lay everything down for all of us, and in the end everyone won.
- Or, I don’t know. Since the second half of February I’ve been putting some effort into investments, thinking that I wanted to stand on my own before I would help others stand financially.
- I guess what I’m trying to point out here is the same running idea that seems to be popping up out of all this. What is it? Do you help yourself best by helping others, or do you help others by helping yourself first? Again, I say, “yes”.
An absolutely decentralized network will not work. Nor will an absolutely centralized system. There are times one scheme works over another one.
I believe that as the body of Christ we must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in discerning when to entrust resources to a ‘central’ authority, and just to be ready to share when we catch word of legitimate calls for help.
There will be times that we would overflow with joy in our hearts singing to the heavens. There will also be times that we need to be filled with the Truth of the heavens coming down to us, in the form of Jesus Christ.
But I’m taking it even further; we can sing ‘Jesus At The Center’, but the reality is Jesus is fully alive in every entity. Jesus is not only in the center, but in ALL. All aspects of our being, and all aspects of the body of Christ HAVE Christ in full. Kind of opens your eyes to what Paul really meant when he was exhorting about how deep, how wide, how long, and how high Christ’s love is for us, doesn’t it?
Finally, you will burn out if you focus solely on helping others, and you will explode if you focus solely on helping yourself. There are times one approach works over another one.
It is Christ who takes precedence and priority over every resource, tool, and strategy in our disposal. Christ is the Life infinitely superior to our resources, Christ is the Way infinitely superior to our tools, and Christ is the Truth infinitely superior to the facts that we gather.
Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Last Thursday, March 17, people all over the world, and particularly in Ireland celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day. I can think of no better way to end this than by sharing one of his prayers, one close to my heart, and one I declare and proclaim over all of us.
Saint Patrick’s Breastplate / Lorica
Christ with you, Christ before you,
Christ behind you, Christ within you,
Christ beneath you, Christ above you,
Christ at your right, Christ at your left,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of you,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to you,
Christ in the eye of every man that sees you,
Christ in the ear of every man that hears you.
The strong power of an invocation of the Trinity,
The faith of the Trinity in Unity
The Creator of the Elements, be bound to us today and forevermore.
Salvation is the Lord’s
Salvation is Christ’s
May thy salvation, Lord, be always with us!