“The bible is full of contradictions” say those who have not read it so they don’t have to!
Well, there are actually contradictions in the bible, most notably the contradictions of the human heart. These words from Jeremiah 6.16 (N.L.T) were in my readings today:
“This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’”
I knew well the “Stop at the Crossroads, ask for the ancient paths etc.” part of the verse but had somehow forgotten the response that follows: “No, that is not the road we want!” My thoughts then went on to these words of Jesus from Luke 5:39 (N.L.T.)
“But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘ The old is just fine,’ they say.”
As I thought of these different verses, I remembered a remark Bishop David Pytches made across the lunch table at New Wine in Shepton Mallet, for no apparent reason; I guess I must have been looking or sounding frazzled from ministry:
“Who would be a leader, Kenny ? ”
I was at a church not long ago which stands for the ancient paths, for godly, but vibrant and relevant and Spirit filled ways. The blessing of God is flowing there. I heard the leader say to younger members who had expressed some level of dissatisfaction about their church, “I mean what do you want me to do for you? Do you want me to turn cartwheels?”
More recently I was at a church where the congregation was being encouraged into new things, new kingdom ventures in the Holy Spirit. One could sense that not everyone would embrace the new ventures with enthusiasm. Many congregations prefer to “stick with the old wine/ways.”
It can be a frustrating thing being a leader, you know. Jesus put it like this in Matthew Chapter 11:
“To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’”
There are about five bits of advice I have kept in mind for the last few decades as a church leader. One of them comes from Rodney Howard Browne; “Sheep bleat. That’s ok! It does them no harm. It’s what sheep do”
So if you are a leader who this very day under the guidance of God called the sheep back to the old ways or into New Kingdom Life, well done whatever you were doing. If there was some bleating in the response, well it’s what sheep do. Don’t let the bleating depress you. Pray, lead and keep going! Try and not let the bleating spoil your Sunday lunch or intrude into your family time or invade your sleep.
If on the other hand you are a sheep (and for some reason these days it is difficult to find sheep who don’t think they should be leaders or shepherds), is God calling you to the ancient paths, or to new ventures in His Kingdom in the enabling power of the Holy Spirit or to both? I hope it is both as you can’t really have one without the other, or so it seems to me.
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