Monday, August 13, 2012

"These Little Ones...."

Reflection: Today’s theme is one of preparation and judgment. Usually there are two equally opposite errors churches and leaders make regarding end times. One is that they become so transfixed on it that they forget to labor in the Vineyard, and use the time they have left to be productive to bring more people into God’s kingdom. Or two, they say, since we don’t really know when the time is we can relax and not really worry about when Jesus is returning! It is His work anyways so why worry about it!

We know God is sovereign as it is says in the psalms, “The Lord reigns” And He will, “Judge the peoples with equity” This teaching reminds us that all of Creation should be glad and rejoice for He is coming to judge the earth. And His judgment will be in righteousness and in regard to our faithfulness.

In Luke, Jesus is moving toward his time of departure and leaves the disciples with teaching regarding the Coming Kingdom, which He inaugurated with His coming, and will further brought in with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He gives two warnings to the new community of believers. First, he warns them from causing any of the “little ones” to stumble. By little ones, he could literally mean the children in the community, or those who are young spiritually and just starting to grow in their faith and understanding of Jesus.

When we become believers we are bought with a price, and we no longer just live for ourselves, but in community with others in the body of Christ. As we live lives of faith, one of our responsibilities is to not cause others to stumble, especially to someone who is younger than us in the faith either by age or maturity.

This has practical application to parents who raise their children in the faith. We have seen in the past twenty years that the model of dropping your kids off at church for them to “get faith” doesn’t work! We know that the parents’ modeling of faith is what makes faith “sticky”. Children learn a lot more as they see their parents living out their faith on a daily basis, and as they are vulnerable about their own challenges and how Jesus helps them to make daily decisions about important matters. This day to day living out of faith will profoundly affect our kids and the next generation.

The churches that are reaching younger generations have heavily invested in them, listened to them, and empowered them to serve in meaningful ways both at church in issues that affect the world. Even their worship services reflect an orientation to their heart language. I just spent last Saturday night worshipping at Rock Harbor, a church here in Southern California that has done a great job reaching out to the “twenty-something” generation. I can see why they like the church. It is not pretentious (read authentic), and the worship and teaching are very honest, inspiring and full of passion. The service lasted two hours but I did not check my watch once!

Of course this is the positive side of not “causing little ones to stumble”, but there are certainly more than enough examples of leaders whose moral failures have had an effect on these “little ones”. We all sin, and until Jesus returns we will battle our sinful nature, but for those who lead, we are called to serve in humility laying our lives down for those we wish to reach. As Jesus reigns in our hearts and lives, we are free to give our lives in service and humility following the one who led with a towel and went to the cross to show us the full extent of His love for us!

Where is God calling you to serve? Where is God calling you to humble yourself and lose your pride to show who you serve so you might reach the next generation of “little ones”? Revelation 2:10 reminds us to serve in faithfulness and humility until our death, and we will receive a crown that will never fade away.

Psalm 96:10-13
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Joshua 19:40-21:8
Towns for the Levites

21 Now the family heads of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of the other tribal families of Israel 2 at Shiloh in Canaan and said to them, “The Lord commanded through Moses that you give us towns to live in, with pasturelands for our livestock.” 3 So, as the Lord had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance: 4 The first lot came out for the Kohathites, according to their clans. The Levites who were descendants of Aaron the priest were allotted thirteen towns from the tribes of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin. 5 The rest of Kohath’s descendants were allotted ten towns from the clans of the tribes of Ephraim, Dan and half of Manasseh. 6 The descendants of Gershon were allotted thirteen towns from the clans of the tribes of Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan.
7 The descendants of Merari, according to their clans, received twelve towns from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Zebulun. 8 So the Israelites allotted to the Levites these towns and their pasturelands, as the Lord had commanded through Moses.

Luke 17:1-10
Sin, Faith, Duty

17 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. 7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.” Jeremiah 2:2

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10

Holy Spirit, on this anniversary day we remember how you spoke to our ancestors in faith 285 years ago. Continue to speak to us and speak through us as we share your love with the world. Amen.

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