Praise, Prayer, and Presence – November 26, 2022 (349-350/365)

Many pastors feel utterly drained from ministering to the sheep. This is because the top-down model of ministry requires constant monitoring and control. It’s exhausting. No one can mind the sheep as well as the Good Shepherd. If only there was a better way.

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Cor. 12:24-25).

There should be no division, says Paul. No clergy/laity distinction and no distinction for gender or race. Each part should have equal concern for one other. Paul is describing a partnership or fellowship where each member is a blessing to the other members. Just as there is no division in a body with some parts more important than others, there should be no division in the church.

“Each member belongs to all the others.”

It is unbiblical to say some people rank higher than others or that men have spiritual authority over the women. If the great Apostle Paul refused to let others put him on a pedestal, we should be just as reluctant to elevate any man into a position of headship.

Let Christ alone be the Head of his church, the only Husband of his bride.

Paul Ellis

Just in the last article I was droning on about how I could employ a mindset similar to that of Mr. Beast’s; That is, recognize projects for what they are and to understand they have their beginning and their end, and they have their investment and return. As such, you put things such as ministry and other passions in their place and are able to handle them accordingly.

However, in this here snippet I got from Paul Ellis, I’m getting reinforcement for going back to the basic practice, the basic approach of giving thanks, and in so doing, acknowledging God’s sovereignty in what we are going through, whether good or bad. See, I feel as if any changing of approach or perspective with regards to the work we have been entrusted helps to mitigate the draining of our energy – but if we were to approach… well, anything, with an attitude, and a mindset of gratitude towards God’s love enduring through all we behold, we would have something far greater than relief, something much more compatible to rest – that is, peace.

There’s peace to be had in gratitude. That peace ministers to us, telling us that Christ, as Paul Ellis says, is the Head of His church and the only Husband of His bride. To thank our Savior, to thank Jesus Christ in the middle of everything is our open and public acknowledgement of the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End – The Good Shepherd, present in ALL we experience.

I was telling the kids earlier in Chapel Time, of my thoughts on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, where Paul expresses how we ought to ‘rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.’ In this season, we’re seeing much more to be had in our giving thanks to God. For besides what I mentioned regarding acknowledging the presence of our Savior in all things, we see here: If we thank God, we’re also automatically rejoicing. And if we’re thanking God, we’re also automatically praying to Him – So it holds that if we give thanks in everything, we are essentially praying without ceasing, and rejoicing always!

I don’t know, I suppose I just wanted to add to whatever I recently shared. I’ll just say that whatever we’re feeling, and whatever we’re going through, no matter how deep it runs, or no matter how we’re unsure what to think or feel – we would do well to run to the throne of grace at our time of need, and one way I guess I’m suggesting we get to that stance is by giving thanks. You thank God until you feel better, and you thank God for feeling better. You thank God when you don’t feel anything, and you thank God when you finally feel something. You thank God when you don’t know what to think, and you thank God even more when an idea comes into mind.

We may be a people of praise, a people of worship, but, in the light of, what, 2-3 articles running – there seems to be a need for us, in this selfish and anxious world, and in this turbulent and fearful reality, to give thanks.

Gratitude trumps complaining. I mean, take some time to see where you’re headed. You give thanks unto peace, and you apparently complain unto restlessness.

I think this is a good thing to keep in mind when it comes to communicating, especially considering that people can see if we are at peace or when we are restless; and it’s not only in our choice of words, but in even the smallest of our actions. Joseph Prince likes to share how even a sigh reaches the Throne of God… well apparently, even a sigh can be read and interpreted by the people around us as well.

I’ve often wondered how to advertise, and how to promote the projects I’ve been working on. Whether its my ministry or my visual arts, I’ve always thought it was sufficient for me to let the quality of my work do all the talking… and sure, it has, but I’m thinking there’s a lot of returns to be had if we threw in a bit of marketing. Yes, this coming from the guy who hated to make sales during his time as a technical support agent, and still does cringe at any attempts at marketing, dismissing them as ‘tooting his own horn’.

But I do see an opening here. A possibility, an approach to marketing that makes sense even to me – that is, to approach it, first and foremost, with an attitude of gratitude. We would bring those who interact with what we create into a sense, an environment of peace, to comfort them from their restlessness.

Yes, that seems very top-down and high level, but it’s a good thing – it’s the first step towards something.

This seems to be where I’m headed to when it comes to what I’m going to be sharing tomorrow, at church. See, for the entire month of November we spoke, or rather I attempted to cover my personal considerations for the following: (November 6) Who God Is, (November 13) What God Has Done, and (November 20) Who We Are (considering What God Has Done).

Up until now I’ve been in a bit of a bind as to how to usher in what I had planned for tomorrow – What We Do (Considering all that’s been discussed since the 6th); but now, in my relaxed state of mind, I’m thinking it isn’t an accident that we’re talking about that in, of all days, the first Sunday after Thanksgiving.

You can skip all this if you’ve been following along with me since the beginning of this month.

I started off by talking about how Paul spoke to the Greeks about the ‘Unknown God’. He took their wanting to worship even the unknown, or ‘everything else’, all as an opportunity to introduce God, who (in his words) created ‘the earth and everything in it’. Consequently I took this as an opportunity to tell the congregation that we could all agree on three things regarding the God we believe in: (1) He is our Creator, (2) He is visible, and (3) He is detailed.

God made the earth and everything in it.

We continued, just as Paul continued. God sent His Son into the world to bear witness to His righteousness, and as I understand it, He proved the validity of His claim, and the integrity of His witness, by raising Him from the dead.

But it doesn’t stop there. This was a message Paul mentioned specifically to his Gentile audience. However, it is only part of a greater message, one that has been mentioned by Christ Himself, to Nicodemus; that is, that God so loved the world, that He gave us His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes shall not perish but have everlasting life. We behold God’s glory in all of creation, but we also see God’s everlasting love expressed by no less than Jesus Christ.

We talked about exactly how much God loves us – it was expressed by the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, which we remember by partaking the bread in Holy Communion. To remember that Christ lay His body down means that He gave all of Himself – not merely His garments, not just part of His body, but He lay down all of Himself to be nailed to the cross. All of Him to take all of our sin; Christ loved us by becoming sin.

It was also expressed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which we remember by drinking the wine/juice in Holy Communion. To remember that Christ shed His blood means that He committed Himself to be with us forever. The blood of bulls and goats was enough to remove the sins of the nation of Israel for a season, but the blood of the Lamb of God proclaimed righteousness for all nations who would believe, now and for all time. Christ expressed His mercy upon us by proclaiming us righteous.

His love never ceases.

His mercies never end.

It’s in considering who God is and what He has done, that we discover our own identity. Off the top of my head I don’t remember the Scripture I used, but I had the congregation consider that we could draw common points as to our identity from the songs we sing… in consideration for all that Christ has done.

For example, we can proclaim who we are from the song God You’re So Good, made firm through what Christ has done –

We are blessed, because Christ took on our curse.

We are called, because Christ was rejected.

We are healed, because Christ took on our afflictions.

We are whole, because Christ was broken for us.

Highly favored, anointed, because Christ took on our being forsaken, and accursed.

We can go through all of the praise and worship songs we’ve sung for years to get a broader idea of who we are… but I will say that we can draw a condensed, summarized picture of our identity in Christ through what Joseph Prince says in his church:

We are no longer in possession of mere earthly nature: No, we are greatly blessed!

We are no longer apart from divine influence: No, we are highly favored!

And most important of all – We are no longer prone to sin and opposed to God: No, we have been made righteous, knowing that we are deeply loved by God!

Now that I look at it, we’ve been taken out of the Greek ‘sarx’, and brought into the Greek ‘charitoo’.

We are greatly blessed, highly favored, and deeply loved….

…and it’s all because of Jesus.

Now, with all of this in mind, what is there to do? Well, we can answer that question in so many ways depending on how each and every one of us is uniquely built with our own unique experiences… but there’s still a common ground we can all agree upon… and it’s in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I shared a little more about what I understood was the story of the first Thanksgiving, to the high school kids. Without going through the entire (flawed) recollection, I arrived at the point of saying that the Puritans has all the reasons to complain and to go hostile. Squanto and the rest of the Wampanoag (?) tribe also had all the reasons to drive these foreigners from their land… but I suppose it was some realization of the goodness of God that had them not only relinquishing these reactions, not only responding in benevolence, but coming together in mutual gratitude.

They may have praised. They may have prayed. But they definitely gave thanks.

So we’re coming back full circle, and that’s what I’m going with for tomorrow.

It’s good timing. I haven’t been feeling very… lively lately.

Until the next post, God bless you.

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