Stories That Don’t Trend

by Dan Behrens on October 19, 2021 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

The following scriptures are not exactly trend-worthy. Perhaps no scriptures are trend-worthy. But these here, for instance, include the kind of scene that would hardly (even at best) nudge our interest. And there is offered nothing near our regular fill of cynicism, skepticism, scandal, spite, malice, sordid gain, or that insatiable lust for back-biting. We are hard to please.

What we do find is a revolutionary response of early church believers to persecution. Less than a year after Jesus of Nazareth has been crucified and rumors of resurrection from the dead float about, there’s been a wrongful incarceration, interrogation, and intimidation of apostles Peter and John at the hands of the Jewish elites. Peter and John have been taken into custody on allegations of speaking about the crucified Jesus of Nazareth and proclaiming a resurrection from the dead for anyone who believes in Him. The charges are true. The response is real — “Many who heard their message believed, repented, and were baptized”(Acts 2:38; 4:4). To be clear, this newly formed society of Jesus followers overwhelms us with praise unto God, repentance from sins, solumn committments to the Christ life, and a self-incriminating faith that leads only to ostrosization from family and friends. More than mere response; this is a revolt!

Acts 4:23-31
23Upon their release, Peter and John returned to their own people and reported everything that the chief priests and elders had said. 24When the believers heard this, they lifted up their voices to God in one accord, saying "Sovereign Lord, You have made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 25You have spoken by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Your servant, our father David:
      'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
      26The kings of the earth take their stand
      and the rulers gather together against the Lord
      and against His Anointed One.'
27In fact, in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate conspired with the Gentiles and the people of Israel against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed. 28They carried out what Your hand and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29Now, Lord, consider their threats, and enable Your servants to speak Your word with complete boldness, 30as You stretch out Your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of Your holy servant Jesus." 31After they had prayed, their meeting place was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

For us in our day (the grandchildren of this suspect society of Jesus followers) the very same witness is at our mouth at any given moment. Our very lives are miracle. And miracle, on any grounds, only underscores our tremendous value to God. We are loved like infants, commanded like soildiers, tested and proved like seasoned adults, that whether hill or valley, joy or sorrow, saftey or sacrifice, this Jesus of Nazareth “God has made both Lord and Christ”(Acts 2:36) over us. Either this is true or it is not. And no amount of trending can ease the burden of belief upon our own free will. This is our great revolt.

Overwhelmed by such blessed assurance, are we really to plod on with merely our own cares and concerns at heart? Is there not much more at stake than simply our own moral development? No and Yes. The truth in either case is that we are not our own. We are witness evidence of the Divine. God is alive! He has made His home inside us. You and me both have all of God within (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The last thing you would ever want for yourself or for anyone you truly love is to hide this truth under cover. The world around you is dark and pain-weary, and you yourself hold light in your hand. Let it shine. Be one who will not stop talking about all that God has done in your life this year, this week, this day. Be one who lifts up his/her voice for something that will never fade away.

Why All the Tears?

by Dan Behrens on August 27, 2021 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

Why all the tears? Well, for me (and so many others) this has been a season of losses and a season of gains. A season of weeping and laughing. Of disappointments and miracles. Nights of anxiety. Mornings of joy. The ebb and flow of it all has been prolonged and tiresome. Personally, I can only really describe these pandemic months as a season of loves and losses.

There were times when Jesus positioned himself among those who felt lost and knew they felt lost. The tired. The poor. The sick. The hopeless skeptics. Descendants of all the collateral damage scattered across Palestine’s turbulent history. It was among these that Jesus revealed mysteries, parabolic tales of persuant love, that ancient longing to go out and look for and openly receive that which was lost, to see that which was dead and gone.

Luke 15 - Lost Sheep. Lost Coin. Lost Son.
 
At that time, several tax-collectors and other sinners were drawing near to Jesus to listen to him teach.  Seeing this, Pharisees and Scribes began talking among themselves and grumbling ‘This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them.’
 
Knowing in his heart what these teachers of the law were saying, Jesus told them these parables:
 
‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing just one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost?’
 
‘Or what woman, having ten silver coins and losing even one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?’
 
‘Or in the case of a righteous father to his eldest son, we had to celebrate and rejoice over this brother of yours, because he was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’

I think we all can agree that these deeply layered narratives arise in our own lives as we inevitably intersect deep love with sudden loss. Loss is part of the natural pattern of this earth. Our response to it is not of this earth. Our response to loss is much more like that of heaven in agony–a deafening silence in the midst of paradise. The single greatest indication of our love for someone or something is our response to losing it. Confusion. Anger. Silence. Rage. Disorientation. Grief. Love.

If the mysteries of Jesus reveal anything, they reveal to us the literal, tangible, practical weight of compassion standing alongside our immeasurable grief. Even now you feel Him, don’t you? The gravitational tug of His presence among our losses and gains, our weeping and laughing, the disappointments and miracles, the anxiety, the joy. We are at loss. But we are not alone. There are multitudes out looking, searching the cliffs and crags, sweeping the rooms of the house, running down the tree-lined lanes. Don’t dissuade them. Join them. Weep with them. Then celebrate with them when at last they find.

What We Think We Know, We Don’t Know. We Are Not All Doctors.

by Dan Behrens on July 28, 2021 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

All of us are doctors. All of us give our diagnoses. All of us recommend effective treatment. And all of us are right. Let’s be honest, as well-intentioned Christians, aren’t we pretty much experts in our field? –knowing with utmost certainty everyone else’s sin, suffering, and pain, any precursing causes, accompanying symptoms, what scans or tests should be ordered, what environmental or experiential factors can be ruled out, and where persons ought to begin educating themselves for the rough road of recovery? Yes. Here’s the point where we’re most practiced–so and so’s suffering from this; here’s what they should do. We even weigh in on the most complicated cases from time to time. And on this point, I tell you I’m far from being extreme.

Only a day ago, perhaps even today, perhaps everyday, you and I share with someone a complicated instance or intimate experience that weighs heavy on our heart–a struggling marriage, an estranged child, a sick friend, a tensious interaction, a hidden sin, a buried distrust of God and his goodness. We are no more than a few words or a few tears into our confession and someone is already dialing up a wholistic remedy that will surely take away our pain and mitigate any lasting effects. The feeling is emptying. We can hardly escape. And now I can hardly escape this paragraph without committing the very offense I aim to expose. I am (perhaps we both are) just as easily either party in my example. I have been worked over by friends, family, and well-intentioned Christians without having been truly heard, understood, accepted and loved. In turn, I have done the same–sought answers, considered solutions, offered counsel, and maintained confidence, all without engaging any sense of bedside manner.

In fact, we do not have license to practice spiritual medicine. Not on others. Not on ourselves. For one thing, whether pastor, leader, prayer warrior, or long time Christian, we are not so good as we suppose at identifying underlying issues. Christ Jesus, who sees his patients not under a microscope of judgment but through a lens of compassion, has adequately dealt with what really ails us. And besides, so much of our heavenly Father’s care plan for this world is intimately tethered to time, patience, rest, surrender, and perhaps eventually, a few feeble steps with the aid of crutches. The immediacy of Jesus’ miraculous wonders here on earth were not a prescription for how healing occurs but that healing does occur. This is what we truly fail to see.

So we’re not doctors after all. Our situational and relational diagnoses are nearly bankrupt. We’re not always right about those around us. Even less so about ourselves. Still, in light of these realities and the even more severe realities of sin, sickness, hurt and pain, we are not rendered helpless or hopeless. We are the body of Christ the bible says. We are the hands and feet, the head and heart of Him who heals all wounds. For whoever has any measure of faith, we know the Great Physician will be along shortly. In the meantime, we have tremendous charge to attend the long-term care of those whose lives are dropping out from under them. What an underestimated privilege it is to intently listen, to truly hear unbelief, to remain vigilante without seeing notable progress, to confidently hope when no real change is detected, to rest assuredly when awkward silence is deafening, to enduringly endure when the Healer himself is seemingly delayed. As I said previous, we can hardly escape. And we are not as good as we suppose at seeing what God sees, including how incredibly grieved He is over those harsh, misguided judgments we rail, above all else, against ourselves. For we are not dumb sheep. We are beloved lambs. Oh what the Son of God has left behind to come find us.

“Come to Me” Jesus says, “all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11.