I’ve been thinking about Jesus in the Manger recently, and how deliberate it was. We are often confronted by an image of no room at the inn, and a desperate Mary being rushed into the stable to give birth to our Saviour. However, from the time Caesar Augustus called the Census, to the actual birth of Christ in Bethlehem, everything was carefully managed by God, and with good reason: For Jesus to identify with fallen humanity and the poor of the World, the Manger was the only option God had in His mind.
If Christ was born in a palace, could He have identified with the needs of the broken? Could He have looked into the eyes of a demon possessed man, or that of a Prostitute with any conviction or empathy as to their condition? I don’t think so. In order for Jesus to be able to engage the poor, He had to be one of them.
The circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth mirror that of Paul’s first journey to Europe. Prevented by the Spirit of God from ministry in Asia Minor (Acts 16), the apostle then has a dream of a man from Macedonia, asking him to come help. This then opens up the gospel to great cities such as Rome and Philippi. The coming of Christ liberates humanity through the power of His cross, but it starts with His incarnation first; arguably the most radical and powerful theology in any religion.
Like Jesus, Paul’s options weren’t limited by circumstance, but fell into the perfect will of God.There was a needy people in Roman occupied Europe, as there is today. In my own life, doors have been shut to ministry opportunities or jobs I was convinced were right, only for God to open a bigger door elsewhere.
Remember, God has a plan for all of us, and it may not be where we think it is, or at the times we imagine. Open your heart to the bigger picture, and allow Him to shape you right thinking.
My Father, ‘Charlie’ Dillon as he is affectionately known by many, is a great Sports Coach. An avid sportsman from a young age, he recently ran a fun run for charity at the age of 79, in which he finished the 5km ahead of two-thirds of the pack. 20 years ago, he was approached by the Cricket Federation for People with Disabilities (CFPD for short) to help develop young cricketers. A National Cricket coach himself, Dad took on the role, and soon found that this job wouldn’t be an easy one. Working with disabilities can be hard in whatever context, but he persevered, spending many hours teaching them how to hold the bat straight, or how to throw a ball properly. He has been rewarded by seeing those same players go on to represent their country at a National level. Like my Dad, Jesus was a great ‘Coach’ of others, despite the many struggles he went through with them. Today, we’re going to explore what made Jesus such a great ‘disciple maker’.
1) Jesus was a DISCIPLE HIMSELF. The Bible clearly says that Jesus and the Father are one (John 14:20), and that He would never do anything that the Father had not commanded (John 5:19). Like a loyal soldier, Jesus would go where His Father would say, and in His time. This would often bemuse people, including His own family.
When Christ started to acquire a following, His brothers implored him to go ‘national’ with His ministry, but He wouldn’t (John 7:3). In Acts, Paul and his companions wish to travel into Asia Minor, and other parts of what we call Turkey, but the Spirit stopped them (Acts 16:6). What happens next? Paul has a dream where he sees a man from Macedonia (Greece) beckon him to come minister to them (Acts 16:9). The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
2) Jesus inspires us with a VISION. In verse 16, we see Jesus walking by the Sea of Galilee. He calls Simon and Andrew, two fisherman, and also James and John using just two words: Follow Me. Indeed, Peter later says to Jesus that they have given up everything to follow Him (Mark 10:28). This isn’t a call to attend a meeting, or to subscribe to a website. It is the call to unite ourselves with a person, and to do what he does. It’s the same with marriage. I remember hearing a Canadian preacher once declare that no woman will follow a man who is nothing more than a ‘parked car’. He told us to get a vision that she will follow, which certainly made me laugh. Following Jesus is not about comfort, but about sacrifice. Notice what happens with James and John. They are called out from their Father’s business to serve Jesus’ family business of becoming fishers of men. Like many in Vietnam, they were expected to carry on the traditions of others, but chose to sacrifice their lives to follow Jesus. This is true bravery.
Today, many are looking for purpose in their lives. People stuck in dead-end jobs, frustrating relationships, and hopeless situations. Jesus inspires us to dream of something better. For so many, life is boring, but Jesus says that He has come to bring them life to the full (John 10:10). Does this mean constant partying, or an easy existence? No, but it does mean an adventure with God, who can transform our lives into something more.
3) Jesus’ AUTHORITY came from INTIMACY with God. Not only does Jesus inspire His immediate followers, but He inspires those in the Synagogues too, both with His teaching, but also with His ability to cast out demons. This ability to inspire people with His message comes directly from His intimacy with His Father. He is an Ambassador for the Kingdom. What does that mean? It means that just as a Prime Minister or President or Monarch sends an envoy to speak on their behalf to another country, He has the authority to speak for His Father. He forgives sins, commands storms, and speaks for God, because He is God, and has spent time with God. Paul says that we are Christ’s Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), as if He God Himself were making His appeal to the human race through us personally.
To be an Ambassador of Christ means to be a disciple of Christ. To be a disciple of Christ means to imitate what He says and does because we have seen His example. Therefore, I would argue that noone has the right to speak for God without first listening to what He is saying. The prophets of Jeremiah’s day prophesied falsely when they told the people that all was well in the land (Jeremiah 28:15). Jeremiah preached the truth, despite his unpopular message. He was hated, but had God’s authority. Popular opinion is not a sign of God’s anointing. For us as believers, as in verses 22 & 27, spending time with our Heavenly Father in His Word and in prayer is the most important time we have during the day, because then we teach with authority. It is through this time we get to know His heart, and the things He is passionate about.
In Acts 4, the Pharisees take note that the Apostles ‘had been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13). They knew them, and what they stood before, and despite being unlearned men, the presence of God was with them as they boldly proclaimed the resurrection. Why? Because they were witnesses of it (Acts 1:22). They had heard, and they had seen, because when Jesus was raised to life, He continued to teach them things about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). However, like any top athlete, there is only so much we can do on the training ground. We are called to real life, and Jesus, on leaving the Jordan, and later the Synagogue, is confronted by hell’s finest.
Following God is costly, as many of us discover soon after we become Christians. For me, it was the challenge of being the first member of my family to accept Christ, but for others it may be different. As Jesus showed, being faithful to the Word of God is more important than being loved by people. A servant is not above his master (Matthew 10:24). If they insult us, it’s because He was insulted. Immediately after His baptism, and what would be quite a high point in Jesus’ ministry, He is sent by the Spirit into the Wilderness to be tempted by the Devil (notice He is not sent by the devil, but by God, and for God’s purposes). This doesn’t make sense to us in the natural, but to be a disciple is to be faithful to God’s purpose in the midst of adversity, and to allow that adversity to help draw us closer to God, as muscle is built in the gym. God shows us His love through chastening and discipline (Hebrews 12:6), and here, Jesus’ love of the Bible will strengthen His resolve, even when, at His lowest point physically (Jesus hasn’t eaten in 40 days, remember?), He is tempted to satisfy His earthly needs and desires for fulfilment and power.
As we meditate on God, we take on His strength (Isaiah 40:31). Of course, the way of God is always going to be hard, but ultimately worth it. He knows the authority given Him from above over the power of evil, and also the affirmation that comes from being God’s Chosen Son, as we saw in the last chapter. The friendship of God is given to those who Fear Him with awe (Psalm 25:14). Why does Jesus do so well? Ultimately, discipleship is about imitating God, as dear children (Ephesians 5). In fact, the word Disciple in Greek refers to someone who imitates another’s work. In Thomas A Kempis’ famous book ‘The Imitation of Christ, he says:
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, save to love God, and Him only to serve. That is the highest wisdom, to cast the world behind us and to reach forward to the heavenly kingdom.” (Thomas A Kempis- The Imitation of Christ).
One man who knew the experience of serving the vanity of this world was Solomon, the great King of Israel, who in some ways ‘imitated’ his own father David by chasing other women (1 Kings 11:1). The Bible says that he loved them so much that he gave himself to their gods. He chose to allow them to ‘disciple’ him in the ways of idols like Ashteroth and Molech (verses 5-7) when he should have been a devoted follower of the One True God Yahweh. At the end of his life, he laments his actions in the Book of Ecclesiastes (1:1-3).
To conclude today’s study then, the reason Jesus was so great at discipling others, I believe, is because He Himself was a great disciple, and a Follower of God. He always does as the Father does. He never deviates from the course, even when He is tempted. Is this a blind faith? No, it is because He knows the goodness of His Father, and that temporary solutions to life’s problems will not in the long run provide long term change. Remember the words of Christ in John 17: And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:5). This is someone who trusts because He knows that all outside is mere vanity. Jesus chooses the cross, because it pleases the Father. A disciple wants to please His Master, so let us do the same.
1) Who are the people you try and imitate? Are there any negative influences that you need to surrender?
2) What does it mean to ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28)?
3) Would you consider yourself to be a disciple?
4) How can you become a more devoted disciple of Jesus?
This post has been adapted from notes I used to speak on my time in Vietnam at Oasis Lunch Club at All Saints, Wellington (13/09/16). All scripture references are from the ESV.
Acts 8:1-22: The Power of Connections.
Today I would like to talk about the power of connections. Connections are important. As a former Councillor, and someone who loves networking, connections are vital for business, politics and communities. Often, we think of connections as being important with regards to a person’s status. For some, lunch clubs for the elderly like these are lifelines for people who need social events to help them integrate better with others. I thank God for the work here.
In today’s reading, we read about Philip the Evangelist’s encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch (a man with a great connection to royalty). Philip, as we will see, was a man who loved to connect people to God, and to the wider Church.
In Acts 6, when it seems that prejudice is starting to creep into the Church because of problems with the distribution of food to Greek-speaking widows, Philip and a few others are drafted in by the Apostles to help solve a problem. Sadly, many communities are defined by racism or other prejudices, but of course, we must never in the Church allow ourselves to reach this point. We must break down barriers to inclusion in our Church community in order to maintain our integrity in witness to others.
Further on, in Acts 8:4-5, Philip goes to Samaria to connect the enemies of the Jews to Christ. This was a direct command by Jesus Himself in Acts 1:8, where Jesus told the disciples to make more disciples of those outside of their own community. Philip gladly does this, and sees fruit that is later confirmed by Peter and John. For some, mission is to those in our close communities, but for others it is further afield.
For me, my role was to help influence the next generation of Vietnamese leaders through English Teaching, and serving in Ha Noi, Vietnam, as part of a missions programme to the City, through Lichfield Diocese’s St Chad’s Trust. This organisation connects young people aged between 18-35 to wider mission opportunities, including our partner dioceses in Singapore, Canada, Germany, South Africa and Malaysia (hope I didn’t miss anyone?!)
Vietnam is an amazing country of some 90 million people, with a strong history of conflict (China, France and America), but also one of traditional family virtues and ancestor worship. A one-party communist state, it has seen great poverty since the Fall of Saigon in 1975, but currently looks to develop thanks to greater ties with the U.S. and Britain etc. Amazingly, the gospel seems to be less restricted now than it was, and I thank God for the witness of faithful Christians during the last 40 years.
My role as an English Teacher was to help connect the Vietnamese to better standards of living through ESOL. There is a great demand for the learning of English, and I was privileged to be able to teach not only children, but also adults through discussion groups. I also helped prepare some Vietnamese young people for an English Summer Camp in Singapore.
Ultimately,the vision is to shape Vietnamese culture for Jesus, connecting people to God, and Vietnam is seeing new generations responding to the love of Jesus Christ. But what does this mean for us? Is mission just in Asia, or Africa? No. Mission is where we are now. You and I are called to connect people to Jesus in our communities also. When I was in Vietnam, I felt very isolated, and in a sense felt pretty disconnected to various people. Who are the disconnected in our community? Maybe you feel disconnected or alone… I often felt alone, but our connection to Jesus keeps us. It is our responsibility to identify these people, and find ways to include them by learning their language.
Moving to our key passage in Acts 8, Philip meets an individual in a desert. Sometimes, God sends us to places that don’t make sense. Philip is leading many to Christ, but the Spirit tells him to go to an individual. Why? Because individuals matter to God. Philip then uses the Old Testament to connect them to the story of Jesus, who in turn uses his influence to potentially shape a country. The desert place makes no sense strategically to us, but God values individuals. Whether it’s the disabled or elderly etc., people matter to God. Don’t underestimate anyone.
Finally, he comes near to the man to connect him to God’s Son Jesus. The Eunuch naturally makes a connection between water and baptism into God’s family (amazing that God sends Philip to a desert, but next to a water spot!) Our relationship to God is the most important connection we can ever make, but it can only be made by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Psalm 145 encourages us to declare God’s acts to future generations. If you’re a believer in Jesus, keep looking for people to connect to God’s story. That might be your neighbours, or God might send you overseas. Who knows? It doesn’t have to be preaching; just share your story of how God impacted your life, and how through His cross and resurrection He transforms those with no connections or many. If you’re not a believer, I want to encourage you to connect to Jesus today, by asking Him to forgive your sin and come into your life. Will you do that today?
This is the second post of an e-book I wrote during my time in Vietnam. All bible verses courtesy of the English Standard Version. You can find the pdf. version at about.me/jeremydillon.
DAY 2 THE LEADER’S IDENTITY Mark 1:4-11
Affirmation and encouragement are really important for leaders. Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by those who, even though others may not have seen it, affirmed my potential as a Leader. The first people to influence me for Christ were obviously in my first Church back in the UK. The Rock Methodist Chapel was quite an exciting place back in the day, with around 40 people gathering for worship near the Estate I and my friends grew up on. It wasn’t a particularly rich area, and a number of people I know have died through drug or alcohol misuse, but it was the place I called home. I had spent the previous two years in hospital after an horrific accident that left me partially sighted, and with huge anger and identity issues. However, as I became a Christian at the age of 18, God really started to speak into my life through leaders, and to begin to affirm my identity, and my calling into Christian Leadership and Ministry. However, as we will discover, the calling is not always clear, so let’s take a look at what our reading says about encouraging and affirming others:
1) Leaders encourage and affirm others in their love for God and His people (verses 2-3). John was called as a Prophet to the nation of Israel, calling them back to God. His was an unusual ministry, but affirmation of young leaders often involves us being able to discern what God is doing in a new generation, as we will see later. It is vital to healthy Churches that we encourage youth, and the Bible does much to point this out to us, as well as ways that they in turn can encourage older generations. In fact, John’s ministry would seek to unite generations, and we must do likewise (Malachi 4:6). One of the most famous leaders to encourage God’s people was Moses, who encouraged the Israelites to remain loyal to the Lord as they entered the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy, he affirms Joshua as a Leader, but also declares that Israel should choose between life and death, and follow the Lord wholeheartedly, lest they fall into idolatry (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). In the New Testament, Paul spends time encouraging young leaders like Titus and Timothy to continue the good work he started throughout the Roman Empire.
2) Leaders have a healthy sense of calling. John the Baptist was different, but had a really great understanding of his place in the story of God. He was, like Jesus, a miracle baby (Luke 1:13), but when his younger Cousin shows up, he concedes that his ministry is to promote the work of Christ, and not Himself (John 3:30). At a time when the spiritual and political life of the country is in turmoil, and pretty corrupt, John appears, minus the ego, to ‘prepare the way of the Lord’ (Luke 3:1-5). A healthy sense of self means that when someone comes along that ‘threatens our ministry’, we are not worried about others stealing our ‘position’. In John 3, when his disciples see Jesus having success in baptising people in the Jordan, John reminds them that He is just a messenger (John 3:28). It often amazes me how John can be so humble, given that he is, in effect, giving his ‘Church’ away.
3) Leaders know who they are in God. The Bible says that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, to be baptised by John (1:9). As we know from the conversation between Philip and Nathanael, Nazareth was a dump (John 1:45). Many of us often feel that our backgrounds are a barrier to effective ministry, but God chooses us because He loves us (Ephesians 1:4), and not because we are special (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Look at what happens in this chapter. Heaven opens, and the Guy from the bad neighbourhood is revealed by A Heavenly Voice to be the Chosen One of God! Talk about a recommendation! There is a famous saying in England that you can take the man out of a place, but you can’t take that place out of the man, meaning that your background defines who you are. Not for Jesus, and not for the believer either! King David was a Shepherd boy who became a King. Levi was a Tax Collector, hated by the Jews, who becomes an Apostle and whose name will be written on one of the gates of Heaven. Paul was a persecutor of Christians, who murdered the very friends of Christ, and yet God made him into a best-selling author and master church planter! The first verse of this book proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ. What is the Good News? That God has come, in the form of a Human, and given people like us the right to be the Sons of God, through our faith in His work on the cross (John 1:12)! It doesn’t matter if you come from Hanoi or the outskirts of Harlem, NYC; God wants to use you! However, Mark, the writer of the gospel we will be studying through this book, was originally NOT affirmed by the Apostle Paul. After deserting Paul and his Uncle Barnabas on their first missionary journey around what is now Turkey (Acts 13), the latter decides to give him a second chance, and encourages Paul to do likewise (Acts 15). However, rightly or wrongly (and there are arguments for both points of view), he decides to say no, which leads to a huge fight between two men who have suffered together for the gospel. Barnabas and Mark head for Cyprus, and Paul recruits Silas to journey with him, sent out by the grace of God (Acts 15:39). Paul’s attitude toward John Mark is quite incredible really, given that when Paul was looking for refuge with the disciples, it was Barnabas who listened to his story, and took him to see Peter, convinced that Paul was legitimate (Acts 9:26-27). Barnabas, which means son of encouragement, was the affirmer in those early days, and probably why the disciples chose him to affirm the work of the Holy Spirit among new converts in Antioch (Acts 11:22). Paul does change his attitude later, however, as he declares to Timothy (another young man he wants to affirm in his leadership gift- see 2 Timothy 1:6-9) that Mark is now useful to him in his ministry. It may take years, but sometimes we need to acknowledge and affirm others in their God-given role. All credit to Barnabas. He saw potential in Mark, and had the patience to train him. As I said earlier, I have had many people both encourage and affirm me in my calling, but also who have had the patience to train me, despite my many issues, and in spite of what I would call quite an unorthodox path at times. A few years ago, despite the fact that I was at my lowest place emotionally and spiritually in some ways, God called me to be involved in pioneering ministry online with my previous Minister, Rev. David Lingwood in Stoke-onTrent, UK, who had the breadth of understanding to see what God can do through technology. He retires this year, but will always thank God that he gave me the opportunity to explore ministry and what God can do when we are open to His call. I thank God, that in many ways, the Church here in Vietnam actively encourages the contribution of youth, and is actually forced to rely on its young people, given its unique mission. It is my prayer that all generations will be involved in seeing a Church that impacts the City, and that more people will be released into their God-given calling.
1) Think about leaders in your own life. Who affirmed you? Who didn’t? 2) What do you think are the effects of affirmation on an organisation? Does it matter? 3) What areas do you feel you could be more encouraged or affirmed in? 4) How can you be more affirming?
During my time in Vietnam, I undertook a 7-month writing project for young leaders called “Rethinking Leadership”. This is a daily devotional based in leadership lessons from the Gospel of Mark. I have decided to post each day here on this blog, along with some pictures of beautiful Hanoi. Due to sensitive material, some names and places have been edited. It is also available as a pdf. at about.me/jeremydillon. All scripture courtesy of the English Standard Version (Crossway).
RETHINKING LEADERSHIP DAY 1:INTRODUCTION:
Recently, my Sister asked me a really difficult question. I had messaged her to display my frustration at the direction my life was going, and how my true passion lay in leading Churches. What qualifies you to be a Leader?, she asked. Wow, I thought. That’s a good question, and impossible to answer without sounding like I’m applying for a job, or trying to sound important. So, what does qualify me as a Leader? Is it my experiences in political office, giving speeches and talks, or working with churches around the world? Is it my training in community leadership, pioneering online ministry, or mentoring youth? Partly, but that’s not all there is to it. Firstly, because we are all leaders in one way or another. In the Church of England, there is often a mentality of ‘Clergy first, Lay people Later’. However, this is most unbiblical. The scriptures declare that we are all part of the Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5), and ALL have a responsibility for influencing others. Influencing others is why leaders exist. However, the Church does need great leaders, and we can learn from leaders throughout history, if we are to build a strong legacy for the future. The Bible is full of Leadership, both good and bad, but I felt led to write this after speaking on the Book of Mark during a year serving in Hanoi, Vietnam, and to look at the way Jesus’ leadership ministry can help us today. Hanoi is the perfect place to rethink most aspects of life, given its troubled past and developing nature, and so I decided to write some thoughts on the subject, both for local youth there, but also for anyone willing to listen. As a daily devotional, it uses the scriptures as the foundation for individual or group study, with questions after every chapter. Despite the fact that God has ordained certain people to have authority over the Church (Ephesians 4:11-14), it is for the very purpose of releasing others. Jesus released and empowered people. He didn’t amass a following for His own sake and fame, but saw the potential in others to help build His Church. Remember Simon Peter? Not exactly the ‘Leader of the Year’ award candidate, was he? And yet, everyone has the capacity to lead others. Are you a Parent? LEADER. Are you the only Christian in your place of work, or University? LEADER. You see where I’m going with this, right? My Sister would give many leaders a run for their money as she balances being a Mother and Wife, with the pressures of serving a ministry outreach for those with learning difficulties and other problems.
Everyone on the planet has some kind of influence on other people. Many people who live in Hanoi come from small provincial towns and are first-generation believers, but it is my desire to enable them to think much bigger about their place in the world; to empower them as leaders in a changing nation. To think of themselves as leaders, and not followers. And yet, as I said earlier, God does call certain people to lead His Church. However, this book is not just for Church leaders. Many in the Church are called to lead in the workplace, and many of the lessons here can be translated into the context of business. As a former politician, and someone who has studied and worked in the media, it is my passion that the Church be active in these areas, as well as in education, sports, and other areas of influence. As a volunteer for the Diocese of Lichfield’s St Chad’s Trust, I am privileged to serve under my current Pastor. These are exciting days, and it is my prayer that in this new season, both he and the young people he leads would discover God’s ongoing will for a Country that is changing all of the time. I thank him for the opportunity to serve his congregation, and for his sacrifice to bringthe good news of Jesus to the people of this beautiful nation. Let us learn to lead together.
1) What is a leader in your mind? 2) Do you consider yourself a Leader? If so, why? If not, why not? 3) Who are the leaders who have most influenced your life? 4) Take a look at some of the famous leaders in the Bible in the list below*, or in society that you know of. Discuss why they are positive or negative examples of leadership. What inspires you about them? What do you dislike? * David, Moses, Deborah, Paul, Peter, James the Lord’s Brother, Ahab, Saul, Samuel, Nehemiah, Ezra, Miriam, Aquila and Priscilla.
During my study for a book I’m writing on leadership, I felt led by God to look at the nature of love between the man and his wife. For this study I looked at Song of Solomon and Proverbs 31 (I want to encourage you to read these, because they say a lot about what we need to look for also). As someone in my mid-thirties and single, I’m not an expert on married life, but there are lessons from these scriptures that we can apply to our journey together as a Church, and also whether we are single, dating or have been married for years.
You’ve heard about the Proverbs 31 woman? The woman all godly men want to marry? The woman all godly women want to be? Well today, I want to introduce you to her husband: The Proverbs 31 man. Let’s take a look at Proverbs 31:11-31
An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates. (ESV)
Wow! What a Woman! I can hear single guys the world over fighting to get a look at this magical lady, and wondering how they can get her phone number hehe. However, to be the kind of man that even stands a chance with this wonderful lady, you’re going to need something special. To be a Proverbs 31 guy, we will need three qualities.
1) Trust. Verse 11 says that the man trusts his wife. Trust is key in any relationship. The kind of trust that Peter showed in Jesus when he was called out upon the water, and the kind of trust shown by the Wife in Song of Solomon (2:5-6). Many relationships can be harmed by a lack of trust, especially if there has been something to damage the relationship. I have struggled with trust in previous relationships, especially if my partner’s previous boyfriend’s are still close to them. This can also be true of our relationships in Church, where someone may have hurt us, or abused our trust. We must forgive for the sake of our relationship with each other, and also our relationship to God.
2) Release. Being able to trust others means that we can release them in to the calling that God has for them. Verse 23 says that the man is a City Elder, known throughout the land. This is a hard job, full of pressure and responsibility (I know, because I used to do this job!) However, because he trusts in his wife to build their home and to bless the community, he doesn’t stop her from fulfilling her role as provider. In fact, he is fully aware of her abilities, and lets her get on with it. Empowering is also important in the Church, as we recognize other people’s ministries. John the Baptist could have held on to his ministry, but knew Jesus was going to fulfill His role as Messiah, and not John. This is hard if we don’t trust others, but it is something we must do, unless we discourage them, and kill the seed God has planted in their heart.
3) Affirm. Verses 28-29 say that the family rises up to praise the wife for her great job well done. Affirmation is something sadly lacking from many Churches (and marriages), but it is really important if we are to encourage each other in faith. Married men, do you praise your wife? Do you tell her she is beautiful, and that you wouldn’t wish for any other? Do you comment on her great cooking, or her devotion to the Lord, or do you put her down? Do you criticize her, or do you let her know that you are thankful for her role in your life? If not, do it. Why? Because God is all about affirming His creation. In Genesis, it says God called His creation good. He delights in it. Zephaniah 3:17 says the Lord dances over us, because He delights in us. When He creates Adam, he says that he is made in the Lord’s image. He affirms His creation, and pours into him his purpose and divine love. Adam then follows by saying the same thing about Eve, that she is part of him. Telling people they are special, whether it is the love of your life, or the Pastor for preaching a great sermon, or for those who serve us on a Sunday is okay, as God wants us to encourage each other. Today, I want to encourage you all to live lives of love, and to seek God’s best, whether single or married. Amen.
Just some thoughts for you as you consider you ‘Anglican identity’.
The History of the Church, whether Anglican, Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist or whoever is really all about connections. Recently I have been studying the book of Ephesians, and realised that Paul is incredibly clever at connecting the history of the people of God to modern day thinking.
In this wonderful letter, Paul starts by telling Ephesian believers, who are under persecution in a City run by idols, that they are connected to an all-powerful and loving God, who forgives and blesses. Knowing we are loved and supported is important, especially when we come under attack. He then talks about how Christianity is related to the story of the Jews, which is really important because some of his audience were Gentiles, who had never known what it meant to be from that culture. They didn’t have a history of godliness but Paul had to use his great skill to connect the dots for them. He wasnt preaching something totally new, but something that built upon prophesy in the Old Testament that pointed to Jesus. This stops us from going off-season, and into error.
We are not called to hide, but to go out and change society. We do this by being committed to the Church, which is God’s body, and allowing ourselves to be shaped by teaching (Ephesians 4:11-14). How connected are you in terms of bible reading, fellowship groups or even encouraging others? Affecting culture is very key to Anglican theology, as it teaches us that we are not alone, but part of a wider network. The Anglican Church here has two congregations, connected to a diocese, a province and a communion of 85 MILLION people. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!! The book of common prayer also connects us to our rich history, and we should not lightly throw it away just because we see something new. Always check things with scripture, like the Bereans in Acts 17:11.
However, not only are we connected to God and to the Church through the cross and the Spirit, but we are also connected to a world mission to our communities. For Paul, it was Ephesus; a really important city of trade in their region. For you it’s one of the fastest growing cities in South East Asia! Are you excited?? In Ephesians 3:10, Paul writes that the Church is God’s microphone to the world, which shouts about the love and hope of God we see in chapters 1 or 2. This hope is for Jew and Gentile, Black, white, English, Vietnamese, Singaporean and even the Chinese! As Anglicans, you are connected not only to a rich history of tradition and culture, but mostly to a God who wants you to impact your country for Him. Amen.
Just reading Jeremiah in my daily devotion, and thinking about leaders. Please feel free to comment:
Everyone of us, whether a parent, teacher, pastor, lawyer or even a friend has the power to lead and influence others. Today’s reading shows how seriously God viewed the role of Israel’s leaders, and blamed them for the downfall of the country. Let’s take a look:
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.” Jeremiah 23 ESV
Whether it is a church, business, school, family or friendship, we believers have the responsibility to speak God’s life into situations and our areas of influence, even if it means being unpopular. Israel failed because its leaders were ungodly. This affected everyone. How will you lead today?
When you think of Heaven, what comes into your head? Angels? Worship? Noise? The Bible is full of pictures of Heaven, and they are usually about sound and lots of people making noise. In Revelation 8 though, it says that for 30 minutes, there is silence.
Silence makes some of us feel uncomfortable. I need sound to feel safe, and often turn on the TV just for some sound. However, silence is often a great chance for God to talk to us. We often think of prayer and worship as a time of loud singing or dancing, like when David danced before the Ark. This leads to many thinking that silence means our faith must be dead. But the same man who danced before the Lord also wrote that he would keep a quiet heart. Both are important, as in Psalm 23, it says God led David before ‘still waters’.
Why is silence or stillness important? It is because God wants to show us or give us something new. For the Angel in Revelation 8, it is a bowl to fill with the prayers of God’s people, which eventually show God’s power. For Elijah in 1 Kings 19, it was to give him a new mission after seeing great power against the prophets on Mount Carmel.
Silence before God means turning aside to hear God’s voice. Moses ‘turned aside’ to see the burning bush in Exodus 3, and even Jesus turned aside to see Bartimeaus healed from blindness. If we are to see great things, let us spend time in quiet and silence with God’s word, that He may show us something new. Amen.
Been back in the UK for a few days, and thought I would give you a glimpse of Vietnam, including Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Vietnam is changing fast, and is so different to how we imagine it from TV or Hollywood. The West is opening up to her, and challenges lie ahead for this developing nation, fresh from 40 years of poverty. More thoughts to come soon…