Wednesday, June 26, 2013


No one who brought a person to Jesus in Mark's Gospel is ever given fame or even identification.  They are nameless, anonymous servants who will never be known. At least not by human history.  On five different occasions, these unknown servants introduced hopelessness and despair to eternal hope and power found in Jesus.  The recipients included the sick, the demon possessed, the deaf, the mute, the blind, a seizing boy, and a paralytic.

It took a great deal of effort and courage for them to bring people to Jesus.  We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that it was easier in biblical times.  But it was probably more difficult.  The effort demanded the pursuit of an unknown Source.  We have the benefit of 2,000 years of history of that Source, Jesus, being fully known. Imagine lugging someone across town in full view wondering if you might be returning the same way embarrassed, frustrated, and result less.  The faith of those who brought people to Jesus was probably greater than those they were bringing.

There is a difference between significance and fame.  We can get these two mixed up if not careful.  Significance occurs when another person finds greater value in Jesus as a result of our interaction with them.  Fame occurs if a lot of people hear about it. Significance without fame is the biblical norm in Mark.  The Kingdom of God flourishes through nameless, significant people that are empowered by God to bring others to Jesus.  When we are fame chasers, our acts of significance become nothing more than fronts for selfish gain.  We end up wanting to hear people say our name not His.

There is no such thing as significance without inconvenience.  We often want one without the other.  And when lack of fame is added to inconvenience, the non-compelling combination of these two often renders us stagnate.  And those who are lost or sick or hurting or lonely or just too broken to bring themselves remain in hopeless isolation.  In right theological thinking, God does not need us to bring them; He does not need our help.  But God dwells among us and in that dwelling, He orchestrates opportunities for us to be bringers.  We are not forced often selfishly avoiding the opportunity.  But God compels hearts by His Spirit and for His purposes. And Jesus is still changing those being brought.

To bring is to express faith boldly.  It is a selfless act full of mystery and complexity.  It is not for the faint of heart but for those who proudly walk in the tradition of the earliest bringers in Mark.  Bringers who discovered that significance is better than fame.  And that bringing is sacred.  Bring.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden        

Friday, June 14, 2013

Act With

Unrighteous motivations are fun and delicious.  We salivate for them the same way we do harmful foods and habits.  There is a special energy in unrighteous motivations that deceive us into justifying their existence.  We get comfortable with them and wrongly interpret the energy as good due to its power and effectiveness.

Solomon describes the wise as those who "act with knowledge (Proverbs 13:16)." Doesn't that sound boring and old?  Isn't it more fun to act with revenge, anger, jealousy, greed, deception, opportunism, raw emotion, hatred, self-pity, selfishness, immediate gratification, or any other counterfeit expression of the heart?  The problem is that it is more fun.  We sin because we want to.
When we act with a primarily unrighteous motivation a spirit of falsehood attaches itself to us.  And falsehood has an intoxicating effect.  It lures us into believing that our perceptions and actions are valid when in actuality they are askew.  And no one can convince us otherwise.  Falsehood's appetite is never satisfied once it starts hanging out in our hearts.  It slowly grows and redirects us almost undetectably until one day in the far off future we discover our waywardness.  And it is in that moment we realize the empty path of unrighteousness.

Our tendency is to spend much of life evaluating personal acts with either celebration or regret.  What if instead we focused our time evaluating motivations?  This was the shift Jesus introduced in the Sermon on the Mount.  True righteousness begins in the secret places of the heart.  It's a spirituality that moves us into a place of greater honesty and draws us closer to the kindness of God.  For God alone knows our hidden motivations and yet continues in His steadfast, gracious process with us.

The trickery of our Adversary is to cunningly cultivate familiarity and fondness within us towards unrighteous motivations.  This is why we almost proudly say things like, "That is just the way I am," conceding to an identity that God never intended for us.  Yes, it might be "just who your are right now" but no, it is not "who you were created to be in the Lord."

God has given us the gift of His presence and an invitation to be still in it.  It is there that our unrighteous motivations can give way to a purity and hopefulness that brings life.  And joy springs forth in unpredictable ways.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden    

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Direction Is Enough

We regularly wish that God would reveal a particular destination before we begin moving.  That is, of course, how we humans do it.  We decide we want to visit or move to location X and than we head in that direction.  In fact, to do it any other way would justifiably violate human wisdom and probably draw warranted criticism.  Can you imagine leaving for vacation traveling West without pre-knowing your destination?

There are unique times where God operates in a similar way.  He says, "I want you to go to Nineveh," as in the case of Jonah.  But most of the time God desires us to trust in Him, and as a result, He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5,6).  Sounds like a great deal until we actually realize what it means.  We will live much of our lives on this side of eternity not knowing the next stop on the timeline.

Well we are not very good at trusting and moving without knowing where we might land.  We would prefer God to say this, "I am going to bring you to place X, job X, relationship X in 1, 3, 5 years.  So trust me as you go towards that destination." Instead, God says, "Trust and walk with me.  I will make sure you are headed in the right direction.  And the next ________________ will present itself at the appointed time."  Very few things are more counter-intuitive for us to do than this.

God is interested in who we are becoming and where we are going but in that order. Becoming has to do with the sanctifying process God desires to unfold in us.  Arriving has to do with a new season for which the Lord has made us ready.  And impatience voices its opposition through it all.  Patience is a fruit of the Spirit not to merely keep us from getting angry in long lines but to keep us in God's timing.

The germination period for mature expressions of righteousness vary from person to person but is commonly longer for most of us than we think.  Peter thought he was ready now.  But Jesus knew some more work was needed in him before the fruitful Day of Pentecost.  So he kept Peter in Him, walked him through episodes of sin, repentance, and victorious living, and pointed him in the right direction.  And Peter eventually collided with Acts 2.

Direction is enough when we find ourselves securely in Christ.  Do not despise a day full of process and void of conclusion.  It is good.  It is ok.  It is His work.  Destination might be near or far but the right path is available now.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden