It’s About the Call – Mark 1:16-20

It has been almost a year since I started working at Harvest Time, and recently I was thinking back to where I was a year ago. I’ve come a long way! A year ago, I was working at a daycare, I wasn’t in ministry, and I was living in a low-income based apartment with two of my friends from college. I remember when I talked with Pastor Glenn for the first time about ministry and about the college age students at the church, and I remember preparing to visit the Northeast.

It is weird to think that it has been almost a year since I left that life I knew behind.

It has been quite an interesting year. Not only did I start a ministry from scratch, but I also had issues concerning my personal life right after I moved here… oh yeah, did I mention I moved across the country? I packed up everything I owned and went to a place I had only experienced in a weekend. It was stressful and one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life. I just remember in the fall having a constant feeling of stress and anxiety because of everything I was going through.

New ministry. New friends. A new life.

Sometimes I forget that following Jesus has a cost. I know that I am where God wants me to be, but sometimes it is hard. Sometimes I don’t want to be in Connecticut. I want to be in Ohio or Oklahoma with my family, or in Missouri with my friends.

Sometimes following Jesus has a cost, and when we are down or feeling worn out, we need to remember that we are called by God.

Mark 1:16-20 – “16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”

Jesus was revolutionary in how different his calling was, and he is extraordinary in how different his calling still is.

Jesus’ call is different in who he calls.

I don’t think it is happenstance that Mark positions this section and the next section of his gospel together. I find it strange that Jesus would go to the Sea of Galilee to find disciples, and then in his first miracle, he is seen expelling a demon from a man in the synagogue. But Mark is trying to show that Jesus is unlike any other teacher or rabbi that the reader has ever seen or heard before!

While rabbis would gain disciples from frequent attendees at the synagogue, Jesus went to tradesman. I think there is an echo here of when Samuel was trying to find the successor of Saul in the Old Testament. God said, “You look at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.” The fact that Jesus Christ found his followers who would change the world from everyday tradesman is not only revolutionary, but it is inspiring.

Is there someone who you once thought was a lost cause that is now serving at the church? It is so amazing to see how God can take broken and messed up people and restore them and use them to further his kingdom. Let us remember that no one is too hopeless and that the calling of God can meet a person anywhere in any situation. Jesus’ call isn’t only different in who he calls, but…

Jesus’ call is different in how he calls.

Like I said, Jesus went to fisherman to find his first disciples. Not only is his location for disciples strange, but it is also strange because Jesus was the one pursuing these men. He was asking THEM to follow him. Wouldn’t you think it would be the other way around? What kind of teacher finds his own pupils?

This isn’t like high school honors students or star athletes getting recruited by different colleges. This is like an Ivy League school going to a sweatshop or a construction site and finding random people of age to go to their school.

Do we wait for people to come to us who want to grow spiritually, or do we try to find people who we can pour into? If we only reach towards those who are reaching towards us, we might miss an opportunity to disciple and help people grow who wouldn’t have been discipled otherwise. But Jesus’ call isn’t just different in how he calls, but…

Jesus’ call is different in what his call costs.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that I am going to say that it costs nothing to follow Jesus. While it is true that our salvation is a gift from God and we can’t do anything to earn it, here Jesus isn’t offering salvation – he is offering men to follow him on his mission. There was a cost for Andrew, Peter, James, and John.

James and John are seen leaving their father, their helping hands, their boat, and their business in order to follow Jesus. In the future, all of the disciples will be seen giving their time and their energy. By following Jesus, they were offering their lives to God, and ultimately, all of the disciples besides John gave their lives for the cause of Christ.

It was rough leaving the world I knew behind. There were days I wanted to give up. There were days I wanted to be home. There were days I felt uneasy. But I knew that Christ had called me. He brought me here, and by His strength I pressed on.

Maybe you have given up something in order to follow God’s call. Maybe you gave up a career or time with your family. Maybe you are still giving up things like days off and going on vacation in order to serve Christ and build his kingdom. Just remember who called you. This calling isn’t your own. You were sought after. And it is worth it to follow the call.

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The Highest Hypocrite – Galatians 2:11-14

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” – Galatians 2:11-14

It isn’t easy being a pastor. I haven’t been doing it long, but I now understand why many young college graduates don’t stay in it for long. Don’t get me wrong I love what I do. There are just a lot of things I didn’t expect about being a pastor. Many people don’t understand the work put into ministry. A pastor never truly has a day off. Statistically it is one of the lowest paying professions. Not to mention the toll it takes mentally and spiritually to look over and disciple a church.

The hardest thing I have faced since starting in ministry has been my appearance to those in church. In a sense, many pastors are seen as the prime example of Christlikeness. Many expect the pastor to be perfect, which makes sense since the pastor should have the characteristics of Christ. Unfortunately, pastors, like all people, are fallible. They may get life mostly right, but they will still mess up. They will get angry for unjustifiable reasons. They might hold false opinions that they think are in line with Christ. But people don’t expect a pastor to be human. They don’t think of him or her as a person who needs time on their own. They don’t think of them as someone in need of a friend.

My biggest struggle is wrestling with this balance of being seen as the closest representative to Christ to my congregants while dealing with my own humanity.

It is rather scary.

Peter was the person in Acts whom God revealed the revelation to about eating animals. Peter was the one who shared with the other Christians that God had repealed the food laws of the Torah. While this revelation to the apostles opened up the realization of the Gentiles’ inclusion into the faith, it also freed the Jews up from the Law as well. Even Peter broke these old food rules and started eating like the rest of the world.

But at one point, a group came to Peter while Peter was in Antioch, and they roused Peter into eating with the Jews again. Even though Peter didn’t follow the food laws, he broke away from his mixed Christian group of Jews and Gentiles, and he went back to the non-Christian Jews of the Temple. This caused a huge divide between the Jews and Gentiles as many of the Jewish Christians started excluding their brothers in Christ for their former brothers of the Jewish faith.

When Paul got to the area he couldn’t believe what had happened. In Galatians, Paul writes that Peter stood condemned before God! This is a heavy accusation to put on this pillar of faith. But Paul was right. Peter had not only gone to the former way of living, but he had also caused a rift between the People of God. Paul was not pleased! He called Peter out for his hypocrisy. He called Peter out for his humanity.

This passage is a good reminder to me that even the greatest pastors fail. Not only so, but if you follow Acts, it seems like Peter repented and that all was right in Acts 15 and throughout the rest of the book. Paul was willing to write about this pillars disobedience. Peter was willing to change.

It is a great picture of love, of accountability, of humanity, and of repentance.

Are there areas in your life where you are hypocritical? Do you have a higher standard for others than you do for yourself? Do you love some more than others? Do you have grace on some while condemning others? Or are you like Peter, and exclude people who don’t fit into your circle?

Remember that it is okay to fail. It is okay to mess up. Even Peter had faults. I know I need to be reminded of that sometimes. But don’t use your humanity as an excuse to sin and act hypocritically. Find accountability. Change your ways. Love God and love people.

Personality Tests and Remembrance – Galatians 2:10

“Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” –Galatians 2:10

I really enjoy personality tests. I think it is because of a few students who came to my college my junior year. They really enjoyed the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, and through their excitement the whole campus gained an understanding of the test. Through taking the test I learned that I was a highly intuitive person and very thought driven. Because of this, I am not as sympathetic with people, and my mind tends to be looking towards the future and not back at the past.

My life started making more sense after taking the Myers-Briggs. For example, any time I have ever moved or gone anywhere new, I forgot what I left behind. Many friends that I have made growing up I have grown apart from, because sometimes my mind is so forward driven. If I get too busy I sometimes even forget to call my family! It is one of the negative sides of my personality, and it is something I am working on.

The one request that Peter, James, and John ask of Paul and the others is that they remember the poor. Why is this their only request? Who exactly are the poor? And what does it mean to remember them?

Many commentators and pastors try to make this statement about the spiritually or the monetarily poor. And it very well might be about them! There was a famine that was going around Jerusalem at the time, so it would make sense for the apostles to remind Paul of that. But why would Paul mention this statement as the apostles’ only request? It wasn’t a very subtle way to ask for money. Though a monetarily poor can make sense here, there would be better ways to articulate this idea aside from using the vague word “remember.”

“Remember” in Greek can carry the same idea as it does in English. It might not be that the apostles were asking for Paul to give money, but to just keep the poor in their thoughts. So what does this mean then? Should Paul just think about poor people?

I imagine a Sheryl Crow song playing as the montage flashes in Paul’s mind.

What would make more sense would be if Peter and the others were telling Paul not to put his mission to the Gentiles above that of the Jews. It is like they are saying: “Paul, don’t be so busy ministering to the Gentiles that you forget about your people – the ones who are poor in spirit.” It fits in context. The poor here is definitely referring to those in Jerusalem. And the sense of the word “remember” is continual – that Paul might continually remember the “poor.”

Peter and the others might have been afraid that the Jews would be forgotten about once the message of the cross was brought to the Gentiles. Just like I move on with my life and forget about those that I love, the apostles were afraid Paul might do the same and forget about his people – the Jews in Jerusalem and throughout the Roman world. The one thing they wanted him to remember was that his mission wasn’t just to the Gentiles. It was to all people – both Jews and Gentiles.

Who do you need to remember? Is there a loved one who you used to pray would find the Lord that you have long forgot? Do you find your time invested into only trying to reach one people group – whether it is divided by age, race, or economic income? God is reminding us to remember those we have forgotten. Find the physical and spiritually poor. Maybe you forgot about those that are outside the church altogether. Don’t expect to find the poor at church. Be the church – the hands of Christ outstretched into the world.

Will you remember the poor?

Entrusted Not Entitled – Galatians 2:7-9

“On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” –Galatians 2:7-9

I love coffee, and I like plaid, and I love to play acoustic guitar. I think that makes me a hipster. Or at least that is what people say. At first I would respond back the same way most hipsters respond: “I’m not a hipster.” Then when I realized that is what hipsters did, I just accepted the title. Now I think it is funny. And though now the fad is fading away, I’ll just about fitting this stereotype as long as I can.

It is strange to me that Paul would go from talking about a unified gospel to talking about a split gospel. Paul’s whole focus is to show that there is one gospel and no others. So now why is he saying there is a gospel to the circumcised and one to the uncircumcised? Why does it seem like he is contradicting himself?

Paul might be in a 50’s style gang fight – a greaser fight. Maybe what Paul is saying is that since the men who came to Galatia came from Jerusalem, they don’t have a right to preach the gospel to the uncircumcised. The Jewish disciples from Jerusalem would only have a right to preach the gospel to the circumcised. Paul might accusing these men are on his turf. Paul might be saying only he has the authority to preach to the Gentiles in Galatia.

Also, this is one of the only times Paul refers to Cephas as “Peter.” Everywhere else in Paul’s letters he refers to the head apostle as “Cephas.” This is telling for Paul. Maybe these aren’t necessarily his words. This could be what the pillars said; this could be what others in Jerusalem said. The change of name could hint to that. This would make sense if Paul used sarcasm or the words of others to drive his point.

Regardless, Paul is showing that his calling from God holds the same authority as does Peter’s. This would make Paul’s gospel message the true gospel. His authority isn’t below Peter. His authority is equal to Peter. They both have a calling and a purpose. And no one should question Paul’s authority – not the Galatians or the false teachers in Galatia trying to sway them.

Paul was pulling a hipster moment. He knew there wasn’t more than one gospel, but he used what people were saying to drive his point. His authority is on par with that of the apostle Peter, and that the church in Jerusalem gave him their right hand of fellowship. They saw Paul as a friend and a companion. They saw him as someone capable of sharing the gospel.

Another astonishing point is to note that the apostles physically saw that Paul was entrusted with the gospel (v 7). They didn’t hear that Paul was entrusted. They didn’t get insight. They saw that Paul was given authority from God.

I wonder what exactly they saw.

What do people see in you? Do they see the love and power of God? Do they see the gospel message? People might see me as the coffee drinking, earth tone wearing, crazy person, but I hope they also see a reflection of Christ.

Live in such a way that people see God in you.

The Who and Those Who Seemed – Galatians 2:6

“And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.” –Galatians 2:6

The Super Bowl is a weird national event. Millions of people watching this game, the commercials, and the halftime show. It must be hard for whoever puts the event together to find a way to satisfy all the people watching. Basically every American demographic watches the Super Bowl. I started noticing how the Super Bowl tries to promote to various age groups in their halftime show. There always seems to be a weird collage of contemporary and classic music artists. It is a rather awkward appearance, and as a result, no demographic seems to ever be pleased.

Sometimes watching the halftime is a sad sight. I know you are probably thinking of the “wardrobe malfunction” of Janet Jackson in 2004. I am thinking of a more recent show of The Who from 2010. You would think that a band with a track list like The Who would be able to pull off a great show. I mean… they are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Unfortunately for every rock n’ roll fan and every one watching the Super Bowl, The Who aren’t who they once were. They got old. They might have been great at one time back in the day, but who they once were meant nothing to those watching the 2010 Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Paul is trying to make himself seem independent of the pillars in Jerusalem while still being respectful towards them. Some may say he executed this perfectly, while others may disagree. But he does make sure the audience knows what he is doing. He does this pretty well in Galatians 2:6. In this verse, Paul starts a sentence, interrupts himself with two other completely separate ideas, then he finishes his thought. He kind of finishes his thought. Verses 6-10 of chapter 2 are all one big sentence in the Greek.

Paul’s interruption has the idea that the apostles were once important, but who they once were now makes no difference to Paul. He is playing with the idea of the past and present. He is trying to say that just because these disciples once walked with Jesus doesn’t mean that they now hold some status over Paul. He just recognizes that others hold the pillars in esteem. He wants to show he preaches the same message as them while keeping his distance. Paul knows God called him, and God shows no partiality.

Paul is trying to point out to the Galatians that God doesn’t recognize human status like many on earth do. Who someone is, how much money they make, or how much influence they have doesn’t matter to God. Paul is saying that if God doesn’t pay attention to human status, then neither should the Galatians. They shouldn’t listen to these false teachers that have come and claimed authority from those in Jerusalem. Paul is claiming his authority from God.

Do you show favoritism? When I moved from a relatively low income area, to a relatively high income area, I realized that I showed favoritism to those who were of a less fortunate economic upbringing. This might be backwards from many in America, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the wealthy. I had to learn how to get over that.

Do you treat pastors different than prostitutes? Do you open the door for some and not for others? Do you flirt with waitresses and get angry with immigrants?

God views all people equally.

How do you view people?

Surrounded for Supremacy – Galatians 2:1-2

“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” –Galatians 2:1-2

College was a time where I grew in every area of my life. I was learning every day. My job was teaching me to have a work ethic. Classes were keeping me punctual. Spiritually I was growing every day through chapel. Being in such a concentrated environment was nourishing for my growth as a budding adult.

One of the greatest lessons I learned from college was to be surrounded by people in every area of my life. I learned that to be an effective leader, I needed to mentor people, have peers, and be mentored as well. It was while I was at college that I really understood how important this was to my personal growth. My senior year, I would meet with certain professors once a week for mentorship, I would have friends I could confide in, and I was an example of leadership to those in the student body and my hall – I was Student Body VP and a Resident Assistant.

Though I don’t think this was Paul’s emphasis in Galatians 2, I think it should be noted that he has all types of people mentioned in the first few verses. He has the pillars in Jerusalem with whom he was checking his gospel. There was also God who gave him his gospel. There was Barnabas who was seen as an equal to Paul. And Paul mentions bringing Titus along. Paul mentored Titus, and Barnabas possibly mentored him as well. Not to mention that Paul’s whole mission is to share the gospel with the Gentiles. That is a lot of people whom Paul is influencing.

It might not be the foremost focus here, but Paul is trying to stress his independence while showing those who are in unity with him. There are those in places of authority who agree with Paul. There are also those who are willing to stand along side Paul and preach this gospel – even another noteworthy Jewish Christian, Barnabas. There are also those who are willing to follow Paul to learn from him.

Do you have people who surround you along your journey? It is easy to lose your direction in life if you don’t have focus. Having people in front of you that you can look up to reminds you that there are those who have succeeded. They give you credibility. Those who are with you help you and challenge you. Iron sharpens iron as you fail and succeed together. They truly know where you are, because they are there too. Having people with whom you can influence reminds you of your purpose. When you want to give up, they are a constantly telling you that what you are doing is worthy.

This is true for teachers, preachers, coaches, dentists, and doctors.

Make sure you are surrounded. Use those around you as a support system. Use them to learn. Use them to grow.

Independence and Immunity – Overview of Galatians 2:1-14

Galatians 2:1-14

My family loves the show Survivor. Though it has been a couple years since I’ve watched the “reality show” that was the catalyst for them all, I still love the show. The strategy and deception that goes on in the tribes is suspenseful. To win, one needs to be good enough to win competitions and nice enough to have friends, but they can’t be too good or too nice, because then people will vote them out because this “nice guy” is a threat.

Every season, Survivor is in a different location. There are usually entirely new people every season (except for a couple fan favorite seasons). CBS has done a pretty good job balancing out having a general theme, but changing the show enough to where people stay interested. There is one challenge that the show seems to have every year. It is one where the contestants balance on a pole in the water. This is usually one of the last “immunity” challenges the contestants have. They have to stand on a wooden pole in the water, and whoever can stay up the longest makes it to the next round. While the show may change throughout the seasons, most serious watchers know to look for this competition at some point every year.

Though my whole family doesn’t have a big party celebrating the finale anymore, I’m sure the show still holds a special place in all my family’s hearts as it does mine.

In the second chapter of Galatians, Paul starts a balancing act of his own. Paul’s main aim in this section is to show his independence. He is trying to show that his gospel came directly from the Lord and hasn’t been changed by anyone. He is trying to show that his gospel is the same as the church in Jerusalem while stressing it is his own gospel, and not theirs that he is preaching.

It’s a tough situation for Paul to balance. If he seems too independent, the false teachers in Galatia will call Paul a rogue and dismiss him. However, if Paul seems too dependent, the false teachers will call Paul a liar and say that their message is really in line with those in Jerusalem. It is almost a catch-22 for Paul. He needs to show the Galatians that his gospel is his own, while also showing that it is the same gospel the pillars in Jerusalem preach. These pillars are Peter, James, and John.

If Paul seems too independent of Peter, James, and John he might not get their approval. It isn’t that Paul needs their approval to be validated theologically. Paul knows the authority of his gospel. It came from God. Paul knows these men are seen as “pillars” of the Christian faith just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were the pillars of Israel. To lose their approval would be detrimental to his mission not his message. Not to mention it would cause disunity, one of the biggest issues Paul addresses in his writing.

We need to make sure we have the same thing in our life. We need to have a faith and a relationship with God that is our own, but we need to surround ourselves with people to make sure we don’t start thinking Christianity is something it isn’t. In verses 11-14, Paul talks about how even Peter stood condemned for excluding the Gentiles by eating with a group called “The Circumcision.” We must balance how we handle ourselves in situations, we need to balance our message of hope, and we need to help others to stay balanced as well. We are in this to win immunity – eternal life in Christ. Will you keep balance?