Wednesday, November 18, 2009
So it is what it is... in Connecticut strip bars are legal under the guise that all parties concerned are "willing" I suppose. But God hates it, and I will make no apologies about that statement. God hates the fact that His creation is being sold or rented for use outside of His beautiful original intent. I hate driving by larger than life signs on the highway telling me what "love" is about. I have a wife and two young daughters, one is two and a half, the other is 14 weeks. Each time I see a billboard about "love" or "dancers" I think of mom's and dad's who drive by these signs who have children caught up in this exploitation. I'm not looking forward to the day when I have to tell my daughters about these signs they see everyday...it's called sin kids and it destroys lives, homes, families, dignities...and it's really ugly and why is it allowed? Because most folks in pews like to sit in pews...
So I followed a sign yesterday after finally being convicted that I live a life of "it is what it is" by simply driving by these signs and complaining and doing nothing....I pulled off the highway on my way home from a meeting. I had tons of things to do but that was a lame excuse to not help break chains of exploitation. So the place was right off the side of the highway and I parked my truck in a central location, dropped the tailgate and sat there in my collar praying for an hour in silence; I prayed for the girls who were being exploited and the men who were exploiting them, for a state government that makes money off this exploitation, for the wives of the men who saw me and stuck their ring fingers inside their pockets, for the kids who went the to Subway next to this place and saw all this action, for my daughters, for the parents of the girls who worked in places like these, for parents whose sons went to places like these, for the kids who's mom's worked in places like these, for the kids who's dads went to places like these...and I began to day dream of a day when the Church would rise up and hate the things that Jesus hates....not the people, He loves them, but the ugliness that we have all become blind to.
Thankfully nobody approached me (I was ready but scared) I sat shivering from the cold, hyperventilating in nervousness, and thankful that God has so transformed my life that I hate the things that He hates....
...so i sat their praying, not yelling, carrying tears on my cheeks, no sign in my hands...and by God's grace perhaps one person saw the love of Jesus saying no....and was changed
So it is what it is,
It ain't what it's gonna be (when Jesus makes all things new)
So what are you gonna do about it?
I can't take any credit for what i did...
...see I met a bunch on 2o something kids last year at a youth conference (Rock the World) who stood against a wall outside the strip district in Kansas City every Thursday night for a year...they took in prostitutes and helped them get their lives back...this kids inspired me
...i also know of a bunch of people in a small church who are planning to minister at a truck stop in the center of the country that is known as the second largest hub of human trafficking in the country. These are people you would never expect to do this, but they are getting ready.
...all these folks understand what it means to hate like Jesus....to love the broken caught up in the horrible ugliness of this broken world, to see the cashmere under the burlap, and what to pour the love of Jesus on those whom have had a truck load of crud poured on them...
So what are you going to do about it? It doesn't have to be big, but it does have to be something...and it has to be in love...
I was changed yesterday...my heart broke a little more, my prayers became a more focused, and my priorities in life shifted..
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Not such a nice thing to say to someone. I remember this as being one of the earliest playground put-downs I ever learned. You'd tossed it out on the kids you didn't really like, often paired with a "your-mamma joke"...."your mamma tells you there are cookies in the street for you!" I think that Christians should play in traffic! Not that I don't like them (well, some I do not), but too many Christians are content to live in the parking lot, waiting for the service to start, their Bible Study friends to show up, or to set-up for the pot-luck, or whatever. Parking lots are nice, safe gathering places. You pull in, get out of your car when you want, get back in when the whatever-thing is over, and drive home...
But life is lived in the street, with everything flying by. Here is today's foray into traffic. It started out with a phone call while my family and I were away for a short trip up North. We have a connection with a woman who runs a yearly childrens tagsale that involves 80 sellers. I walked up to her two years ago when we visited the sale and asked if the sellers might consider donating her leftovers to our ministry efforts. She normally splits the donations between myself and a social worker in town but this year we were given all of the items! I had to laugh as it was just last week that we cleared out our garage and thought it would be empty for some time. My daughter (2 yr old Olivia) thought it was nice that "there was nothing up front!" and she could get to her bike by herself!
Whenever my garage is full, I know the Lord is about to send someone our way. Her name was Katiria, and she had gotten my number from a pregnancy crisis center. She's expecting a baby girl in a few months and didn't have any baby furniture...all she needed she told me was a baby bouncer; I showed up with a bouncer, baby bath, highchair, exercise seat, play mat, toys and a box of winter clothes. I would like to make a shameless plug here for the Honda Ridgeline Truck! I replaced my Toyota Tacoma (you may have seen it in previous blogs) a couple of months ago after I looked in the rear view mirror at my daughter sitting wedged between bags of donated cloths. The Lord sent this truck our way and it is perfect for our ministry! The back seats fold up completely in less than a minute so I can make deliveries in poor weather without a tarp!
So with the the truck full of blessings I left the parking lot and went and played in traffic. This portion of my ministry rarely takes me more than 10 miles from my home but I am always astounded by where I end up. My GPS has a little flag that pops up on the screen and tells me I have arrived at my destination...but until I walk in the door I never know what it will be like.
So this morning I found a pregnant mother with her young son and her mom living in an apartment with a couch and a couple of speakers...no table or chairs, lamps, picutures....nothing...well there is now a pile of things for the baby coming. So I passed on the blessings, talked about life, shared about Jesus, and prayed for them...and made a mental note of what they needed so I could get back. This is traffic people, and it's where followers of Christ need to play...get out of the parking lot, for the sake of Christ and those who have yet to see or feel His goodness and Glory...
It's not easy, and at times it's not fun...even dangerous. I always wear a collar when I drop off by myself. But it is always right and it always changes me...and the traffic never stops. As I was leaving to make the delivery my cell rang. It was a woman who I had helped about a year ago when she got her first apartment and she had no furniture for herself and her son. She is expecting another child and was perhaps looking for a crib...she wasn't sure if she was going to keep the baby as the financial burden is great. I don't have a crib for her right now, but I told her that I would buy her one tomorrow. She said to wait, and not spend the money as she would think about it. I prayed for her and told her I'd call her....the traffic doesn't stop.
Your faithful servant of the Most High God,
Thursday, October 8, 2009
So this is what my little back patio looks like this morning. I picked up a bed, lamp, shelves and a few other items last night with my dad. I had a referral for a single mom who had to leave her apartment because of black mold. She had to leave everything she had behind...everything that is accept for her four children (4,3,2 and one month old).
This is what my garage looks like. I've got another twin bed, a TV, a couple of chairs and a number of other odds and ends that were donated to me to help out the folks I'm in contact with. That blue plastic thing on top is my oldest daughters pool...you can't see her wagon underneath the pile.
This is my "office" in the basement. I keep baby clothes, diapers and formula on hand. As a dad of two kids, I know how expensive these items are so whenever I am refereed to a family I ask if diapers or formula would be helpful. Now, I'm not trying to come across as a super-apostle that everyone should emulate. I've been given a very specific task and am trying my best to make "much of Jesus and much of His cross"
So as you can see, we're a little pressed for space with our ministry. Our second daughter, as small as she is, takes up more room that I thought. We've been tossing around the idea of looking for storage space but never seriously...until this morning. I found a space at a self-storage facility that seems like it will fit our needs. It will cost us around $125 per month to rent. Not too bad, but the question soon came up with my wife and me "who will pay for it?"...our ministry funding? Our personal giving? Some friends who know our work well?
I was struck by how fast the question came up...even while I was unloading my truck this morning my neighbor and I had a talk about my work (she loves it) and I mentioned our need for storage...and her remark was "who is going to pay for it?"...
Now here's the problem...this very question Jesus constantly gives me...how far and I willing to be put out for the sake of the Gospel and for the needs of others? And the Holy Spirit reminds me of how far Jesus did....
Friday, August 28, 2009
It's not a make-over. As a Western American Culture we're all about makeovers. We can watch as friends send your name and video of your "pathetic" style into What Not to Wear and have Stacy and Clinton convince you that yes, you were a slob, just look in the 360 mirror...
Or we can go a step past that and stick you in a fish-tank on the middle of a sidewalk and have complete strangers tell you that you look at least 10 years older than you really are...and then have all kinds of chemicals dumped on and in your body so you look that magical 10 years younger
We watch houses, living rooms, closets, backyards, lives made over so...but does it last? I watched Stacy and Clinton the other day (oh yeah, I need fashion tips) and they were doing over this guy who was really honest in the end and said "I don't think two years down the road I'll keep this up, but it would be good". They both flipped and had him "rewind" and say "oh yes, I will do my best to keep this up!"
Makeovers don't get down to the foundation...except for extreme home makeover I should say...it's a cover up for what we can see, clothes that cause the illusion of losing weight, makeup that makes us look well rested when we work far too many hours...
No, only reformations get to the root, and that's a task too big for ourselves to do. And it's too big a task to ask others to do alone as well. So that's where our big Compassionate God comes into play, empowering us to love and do the things He would like us to love and do, by changing our foundations. It's a process, see. God has planted His son in me, and the Holy Spirit is working to illuminate my heart and mind.
So for me, it's been the call to deeper prayer in Scripture so I can pray the will of God into my life and the lives of others. I've launched into a book by D.A. Carson (Call to Spiritual Reformation) that's taking me on a journey into the heart of God. It's changing me, from the inside out. It's causing me to love those I didn't.
Carson writes "we shouldn't put anyone down, unless it's on our prayer list". So I'm finding myself putting lots more people and things down on my prayer list. Things like politics (secular and church) that I didn't want to think about because it took me off my track of "being spiritual" are now on the top. And I'm learning how to pray with an honest bipartisan heart...not the fake bipartisanship I had before.
So, I pray this reformation will have it's way with me. It's uncomfortable, since it's shifting me around. And I'm putting lots of people down along the way. And Jesus, I am sure, is really happy about that.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
For Christ's sake, I learned about furniture shopping this past week! You can't just walk into a store anymore and buy a bed and drive away with it in very many places. So I spent a few hours running around looking for a bed to take care of someone...
For Christ's sake, I had enough in donation fund to buy Donna's little two year old daughter her own bed. She was still sleeping with her mom. Donna works full time, and a good nights sleep is really needed, so a "simple thing" like a bed really goes a long way.
I was able to find Donna through one of my contacts who performs home visits. She's a member of the growing population of working poor in America. Although she works hard and tries her best it's just not enough any more. There is always something coming up, always a decision to make, something needs to be purchased and someone or something always has to do without. So Donna's gave up her own comfort because she couldn't buy a bed for her daughter.
That is sacrifice. Hard as she tried, it just isn't enough.
There is an myth that the Albatross pierced it's breast and fed their y0ung with the blood. It was the iconic image of self-sacrifice, and as such the early church picked up on it and used to to explain the substitutionary love of Christ's sacrifice. He gave up His live and was pierced, He fed us with His blood.
So we, as followers of Christ, are called to pierced ourselves for those who are crying out for food...
Not just a little pin-prick, but a real piercing...
So, for Christ's sake, and to help out Donna's daughter, I chased down a brand-new twin box spring/mattress and frame, a set of girlie sheets, a new pillow, and pink side bar so she wouldn't roll out in her sleep. I took a bit of work to get everything, to get the funds, to find the person, but Jesus did a bit of work for me...
...did God work in the midst of this, for Christ's sake?
He did, as always. Donna shared that she was not working yet as she was high risk and had lost two children seven months into her pregancy. So I shared the story of my son Samuel...and then told her of my eight-day-old daughter, Hannah...which means "God is Mercy". I was there I told her, because Christ had given me everything, and I wanted to others to feel His presence.
So for Christ's sake, God led me to a woman to bring a bed for her daughter, share a story like hers, and talk about Restoration.
And all simply because I went furniture shopping, for Christ's sake!
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
So years ago when I was like 9 or so and looking way to much like Danny Partridge, I visited a friend of my uncle's while staying with him one Christmas. He was a hoot this guy...he kinda looked and sounded like a character from one of the old-school claymation Christmas Specials... I remember wire glasses and a plaid vest...
He was (or is if He's still alive)...a crazy rock collector. He had everything from beach pebbles to hunks of rock from African diamond mines that actually had diamonds in them! His house was FULL of this stuff!
He took me around his house and my eyes must have been big as dinner plates...we ended up in his shop where he cut and polished the precious and semi-precious stones. He looked right at me..."Bryan, take any rock you want..." I kinda lost my breath...he was being honest too, no little game for a funny little overweight, freckled, redheaded kid...
I reall don't know why, but in the midst hundreds of really expensive rocks i picked up this one...it's Colorado Agate, a semi-precious gem stone...and it's not even completely polished! The bottom is still rough as well as the top corner that you can see.
"Really....you really want that one?"....yes, what is it?
So I've had this half-done rock that's not worth much that I picked out from amongst the largest collection of perfect and expensive rocks....
I keep it now right in front of me on my desk. It reminds me of myself you see, and all of those I find, and all of those whom Christ died for...the unfinished, un-perfect, in-expensive, diamonds-in-the-rough (i could have picked one!)
Micah 5:2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
1 Corinthians 1:26 - 2:2 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-- and the things that are not-- to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." NIV 1 Corinthians 2:1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
So, thank God that I am not finished with, yet chosen to polished into the image of the Author of Faith...
"do you really want THAT one"....
...you see, i know the answer is yes...
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
We will be able to purchase 700, not 400 nets due to great work by the clinic director in finding a new supplier a town away (still a full day drive). I will be traveling to Arusha to purchase the nets, and while I am there will visit with the Compassion International Program. They run a net distribution program as well and I have discussed possible grants with them. It will be a blessing to see what they are doing. On a personal note, Lisa and I have sponsored a young man, Ali, in this town through Compassion for eight years! Unfortunately, this trip was planned just a week ago so I will not be able to have a vist with him. They need six weeks for planning sponsor visits. We will return from Arusha with an engineer and his wife who are spending time in the diocese developing and building water storage cisterns. This will aid greatly in saving water, keeping water clean, and reducing the open water sources! I will be able to travel to several villages with them to help build these, what a great blessing!When I return to Tabora, I will be spending time in the clinic at the dispensary helping out. I have asked for a full immersion language experience (as little English as possible). I will also be travelling to the mobile clinic in MShindaye to see how the nets are distributed and then out on local home visits! Finally, Lord willing, I'll be in Tura for a couple of days visitng the church planters whom I have been praying for so deeply to worship with them and encourage their work. I will be staying in the diocese's guest house when not travelling and will preach on Sundays. A full trip! Please keep my family in your prayers while I am gone. I will have limited email access but will try to keep folks informed!Blessings to you all!Asante Sana! Jesu ni Bwana! (thank you very much, Jesus is Lord!)Your fellow servant of the Most High GodBryan
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I handed a couple of thousand dollars of tag sale money to the teller and she had to ask what I did to get such a large stack of singles...ahhhhh! I love to talk about our work in Africa!
I told her about the nets I purchase and the population we serve and she started to tell me her story:
She always dates guys that are either abusive, addicted or gang members. She's devote in her religion, helped out in the church and up until her husband left her was working with the youth in her church. She met him at one of their yearly festivals: the Holy Spirit Festival... he was drunk.
She eventually got him sober, but his temper didn't temper. They split. Seems like she always ends up with the bad guys she said. Then she told me of her latest dream;
Satan had control of the earth and she and three others were left to defend the world for God. The battles raged and they grew weary. All the others were taken so if they fell, then God would loose and Satan would claim the entire world. In her dream Satan tried in vain to pull them apart, and when she woke up her hands were throbbing and cramped.
..."so, if you fail, if you let go, God looses...sounds like God can't do it without you. That's a heavy burden. I wonder if God met you in your dreams to tell you to let go and watch Him work in His power"
So, the bank line kept moving around us and the Holy Spirit fell and I invited her to accept the full freedom of God and to rely on Him and not her own power. I told her that God found her majestic and radiant, made in His image and that He can love her like no other man ever could... that God alone had the power to save and change her.
Have you spread that message today?
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I attended the town's Sunrise Service with all the other clergy in town. I had to leave my house pretty early to get their so I didn't have a chance for breakfast much less the "proper amount" of caffeine! So I stopped and got an Americano..then on to "that other place" to get an egg sandwich (oh how I miss my days on Long Island...real egg sandwiches!).
I was walking into DD when a guy in his pickup shouted something my way out his window. I didn't hear what he said so I walked right up to him. "Your fingers must have been cold up there!" he had been shouting. He had gone to the service too. I played the music on my guitar and yes, I couldn't really feel my fingers. I noticed he had a fishing reel on the seat of his truck so we talked a bit about fishing and weather and his job and such....hey, are you going in and staying he asked as I headed in. I'll come in with you...and he brought his doughnut and coffee back in.
We sat and talked for about 45 minutes ab0ut everything from his work recycling, to fishing the Naugatuck River, to his dad dying from cancer...so I asked him what brought him to the service. "I don't know. I've never been before. I just had a feeling yesterday that I should go. I don't go to church or anything."
So we talked about God ordaining days, about trout and salmon, gold feebies and cancer, about an empty tomb and Resurrection, trailer parks and salvation. He didn't know the Great Story, and he had been looking for it for a long time. He had been to a couple of churches along the way after being stirred watching TV preachers...but each time he went he felt like he didn't fit...so we talked about New Hope and our vision. turns out he went to the school where we meet along time ago...
...I'll see ya next Sunday, he said. I hope so...I prayed for him before I left.
I was struck as I drove away that the Master had given me an Emmaus Road meeting right there in Dunkin Donuts over an egg sandwich.... what a joy it is to be able to share with all those in "Jerusalem" what had happened so that their hearts might burn...
So Easter is "over" but not really....what are you going to do about the empty tomb?
Friday, April 10, 2009
This image has been sitting over my desk since May 29, 2007 when it appeared in the New York Times. I have the original clipping and the paper is yellowing and the image is starting to look hazy now, but I find it as striking as the first time I saw it.
To me, it resonates with my understanding of Jesus, especially today on Good Friday. It was the day when in fear all those who had witnessed first hand the power of God unleashed through His son broke in fear.
They forgot that the winds obeyed Him, they forgot that disease obeyed Him, they forgot that Death obeyed Him.
And in the Garden as they came for Him, they forgot that He had come to do His Fathers' will. No one had power over Him but His father in Heaven.
Spend some time with this picture today and ask the Holy Spirit to quicken your heart to the unflinching faith Jesus had in the chaos...the chaos that He entered into to pull you out of the battle.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
So I'm off to Tabora, Tanzania in 39 days! Before I go each year I ask my friends if I may please have thier spare change and things around the house. The change I cash in and take with me, the things around the house I sell at a "leftovers for passovers" tag sale. I sell the "leftover" stuff to buy mosquito nets so malaria can "passover"... our goal is 400 this year to be distributed in areas around Tabora, Tanzania. They go to the high-risk population in this order: pregnant women, children under 5, compromised immune system patients. We tell them about Jesus, the "Big Passover"... but no matter what they say they get a net. We also pay for malaria testing and treatment for pregnant women and kids five and under. To date we've enough for 3,447 life-changing tests/treatment and to purchase 299 nets that will cover 1,196 people! Please keep praying for us!
Monday, April 6, 2009
... if we're honest, we spend most of our time worshipping Mr. Potato Head "god". He's a "god" of our own creation. He may very well be made with legitimate attributes of the True God, but we put him together in an image to suit our needs and desires with pieces that we pull out of our...well, do you remember where Mr. Potato Head's pieces are stored?
Some folks don't even do this on purpose. They may have had a true experience with an attribute with God, say a physical healing. There is such adoration with that one attribute that the "big picture" is missed. We do that with relationships that are based on our personal needs. Broken people tend to attract the parts that are missing. "I really love that about him!" means "that characteristic makes me feel good or legitimizes my own beliefs".
This makes many churches collect people who see one attribute or picture. Now, I'm not saying there are other "gods" or that we can have many theologies of God, but what I am saying is that we make God to look like what it is we want Him to look like instead of letting God make us what it is He wants us to look like. Why? Because we're afraid that to the world we might look like a messed up Mr. Potato Head!
Well, that's what the disciples thought about Jesus on Good Friday. Their Mr. Potato Head image of God didn't fit on the cross. But God's image of Himself did..... this is the end of Philippians chapter two. Jesus allowed God to have His way with him in complete obiedence. And the world has never been the same. We need to let God do the same us...because when we try to conform ourselves to His image on our own, we end up looking like Mr. Potato Head to God and to the world.
Friday, April 3, 2009
..."but I understood that I needed to send Epaphroditus, my brother in the Christian Family, fellow worker in spreading the Gospel, and soldier in the spiritual battle whose honor is equal to the king, and messenger who is of no great status, and a minister to my needs
for he has been longing to see you all, and has been deeply troubled in spirit because you were all so worried about him because he was ill.
you were right, he was was sick and near death and in fact almost did die, but God had mercy on him and me; sparing him from death and me from more grief than I could bear.
So I am sending him back with special urgency (understand that I am giving my best away!), so that you may see him for yourself and rejoice so that you can be free from worry for him and yourselves as you see with your own eyes the power of God to save!
So receive him in the Lord with all joy and delight, and highly value such people as him! People like him who don't think about themselves, who are free from worry! He risked all danger and even death for the work of Christ...and this was not even the task he was assigned, but the one you could not complete!"
I just returned Sunday night from an event called Remix put on by Rock the World Ministries. The event is a time of prayer, worship and study where High School and College Students are trained to turn the world upside down for Christ in their generation.
One of the breakout sessions was led by a couple who have a passion to help Christians understand what it means to live as free people who are still bond-servants to the King of Glory.
Thier ministry "Free-people-Free-people" follows the life that all our players in the last reading in Philippians led; Jesus was free through His relationship to His Father to pour His life out as a ransom for many. Paul was set free to pour his life our for the Philippians and Epaphroditus did the same for them all....the ones that were set free enslaved themselves to those who were not free yet so that they might be free.
Have you ever heard the Negro Spiritual "follow the drinking gourd"? It's a song that was sung in the slave quarters down South, a freedom song sung to the captives that the way to freedom was to follow the "drinking gourd" the Big Dipper, for it was North, and there is where freedom was to be found.
How did these slaves learn of the song, and of the direction of freedom? Slaves who had realized that freedom was worth dying for risked their lives, literally, to return and show the captives the way to freedom. Free people free people.
Jesus, the First Fruit to break free from sin and death, returned to tell Paul on the road. Paul risked death to tell the slaves of sin that the drinking gourd had come; Jesus, the Well of Life, the Living Water.
Have you found your freedom? Are you still sitting in the Promised Land, or are you going back to free others?
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
"...But Timothy's actions in all manner of life have proved his devotion and dedication to Jesus. He is so devoted to him because he understands Jesus' devotion to himself! See, he's acted like a bond-servant to us both; Jesus and me for the work of the Good News! I know he will bless you and if it is the Lords will I will send him to you to as soon as I can. I really believe God can take care of all this so that I will see you myself soon!"
Our lives are proof. It's not a sense of works righteous that says "you must do this for me!". But if someone honestly, gut-deep believes and has even a slight grasp on the message of the Cross, their lives are going to look radically different than the world.
I had a professor in Seminary say all the time "our salvation plays it's self out in the day-to-day tasks of the world; changing diapers, shopping, cleaning". Isn't this what Paul said in the beginning of this letter? Do everything without grumbling? So here we see Timmy whose life is proof that the Cross has penetrated his life.
The word used for his actions in serving Paul means that is once and for all a bonded slave to him, that he has been given his chance at freedom at the year of Jubilee and he said "No, I love my master I will not leave"
This is the dedication that the Lord needs, it's the one that was shown by the disciples who did not leave in the Upper Room (John 6:68), it was in the hearts of the women at the cross (Jn 19:25).
It is the dedication of the Lord Himself (Deut 31:6, Jos 1:5) This is the God who told us He is with us always even until the end of the age (Matt 28:20)
So, do you live out your day-to-day life as if God is in the midst of every action, or does the world bug you? Do you live it out as if the Lord has you there for a reason, or if it's just a pain. Are you bonded?
Friday, March 20, 2009
Paul uses very strong and concrete language throughout his letters. Very early on in my faith. I got the image of a little guy excitedly jumping up and down yelling "be like me, be like me!". Then someone would walk up to Paul, pat him on the shoulder and say, It's OK, calm down buddy! I've come to understand Paul's passion and zeal more and more....and this study has let me look at it afresh. Paul uniquely understands the Judgment and the Mercy. He was the pre-eminent Jew who encountered the resurrected Jesus. He met Mercy face to face and He told him to preach to the Gentiles.
"....everyone else is passionately driven and seriously strives"...here Paul is using concrete language like my two year old daughter does. Paul is speaking about all the teachers of the Law he had encountered. Remember he held a high position in the courts and had been given clearance to wipe out followers of The Way. He studied under the best of teachers, he knew the Meta-Narrative of God's people and he sat in the position of power. He was accusing himself and those who taught him. He's pointing the finger literally back at himself before his conversion.
"...passionately driven and seriously strives for..." the form of the Greek word used here is found in a number of places; Herod, after he heard that a King was born was filled with this level of self-interest. It led him to murder all male children born around the predicted time of his birth. Jesus tells His followers that they must seek after His kingdom and His righteous with this level of passion. They must forsake all other things, put down their lives and take up His cross. It is a call to a deep level of conviction, of pressing on and forsaking. How can this come about?
"...not those of Jesus Christ"... have you ever heard it said that God "cares more about our character than our comfort?" This is true in this world, but not in the next! God cares so much about our eternal comfort that He sent His only begotten Son to die in our stead! In this world there will be difficulties and trials and many of them will test our faith. Not test in the sense that God does nasty things to us to see if we hold on! That is the type of testing that Satan tried with Job. The testing of God strengthens our faith much like steel when it is heated. The interest of Jesus in our lives is that we should come to understand the faithful, loving mercy of the Father. As Jesus prayed in the garden "not my will, but yours" so we are to pray.
Do your prayers sound like that, or do your prayers sound like they are trying to manipulate the things that cause you grief in the outside world? Are you asking the Lord what it is you are to learn, for the patience to endure under the weight? Yes, the Father desires good things for Children, but are we the ones who determine what is good? Ask for the Lord to help and give the bread when you ask for it, not the stone!
How can we pray for the things we are ought to? By praying in the Spirit of God. Verse 2:20 uses one of the very first Greek words that ever captured my attention. The word is also used in 1 John 1:5. The word sounds like "ew-do-mia" and it means that there is not even the possibility of something to happen. It means there is absolutely no way, like light escaping a black hole. 1 John 1:5 reads then "In Jesus there is not even the possibility of Darkness to be"...this is the resurrected Jesus that has born and been purged of all sin. The resurrected mind that thinks only of the One sitting next to Him whom all the company of Heaven are worshiping. Now, we can't in this life obtain this level of single-mindedness but we are called to try. And when we blow it, the Loving God picks us up and fills our cup again because He is kind and merciful!
So...check your motivation...have you ever felt like a church hasn't been "feeding you?" ... are really saying "I want my God to fit my agenda" rather than "I want my God to assist me to fit His agenda?"
Thursday, March 19, 2009
It's all about replication, do you see? This chapter focuses on how Jesus, by living a humble life under His Father is the example and power for Paul, who is the example and power to Timothy, who is to go to the fledgling church in Phillipi and be their example!
But in order to trust, to follow their lead, we need proof that the ones we are following has our best interest in mind, don't we? The leader needs to be completely devoid of any personal agenda or gain. Jesus proved his genuineness with the Cross. Moses did when he still led the people to the promised land after he was told he could not enter it (Duet 4:22). After he had been left for dead and had nothing to gain Joseph healed his families starving bodies and sin-sick souls (Gen 45 ff.)
Where are these leaders today? Where are the ones who have grasped the Servant Model of Leadership that Jesus calls us to? Has God stopped caring for His people? Has He stopped sending people to lead others back to Him?
Have we forgotten how much He cares for us? Have we forgotten how He provides everything for us? Have we put too much trust in our own abilities?
Timothy is said here to have the same concern for them as Paul did. The Greek understanding behind this word for concern is used throughout Scripture to point people away from their situation and to rely on God....don't worry about what you will eat (Matt. 6ff), don't worry about how you will defend yourself (Lk 12ff).
Do you have the same selfless love for others, more so than yourself? Now, don't go and sell all you have and give to the poor! Wait, didn't Jesus say to do that?! Yes, he did to a man who wanted to justify himself! He lacked one thing, and that was trust that God was his portion and provision!
Do you trust....have you really asked God to reveal His dedication to you in the Cross? Have you used God's dedication to you for personal gain, or has it released you from yourself to live for others?
...are you leading? Do you trust the scandal of the cross?
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Have you ever met someone whose faith caused you to desire to seek the Lord deeper? Have you ever met someone face-to-face with a trust and unwavering faith in the goodness and mercy of Jesus that they would put their all out for the Gospel?
We are supposed to live lives so that we will encourage each other on to run the race with strength and courage. Meet Anthony and his family. He is a lay-evangelist in the Tura region of Tabora, Tanzania. They are standing in front of their house which is in the middle of a dirt lot on the grounds of a cement factory. They are there to plant a church and reach the workers with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Two weeks before I met these beautiful people they had been given an emergency food drop from the diocese because the crops had failed. They don't want to leave, they don't want it easy. All they want is Jesus...and for all those around them to experience His love and grace.
It's because of people like these that allow me to look at my life in perspective. If they trust the Lord and continue to follow Him in conditions like this, well I can press on a bit more!
Have you ever introduced someone to Jesus and run into them years later? What does it do to you when you see that they are chasing Jesus just as passionately?
Our lives are connected, we are one body. So run the race so as to encourage one another. If the person who first told you about the grace and mercy of God would come to your house today, would they be encouraged?
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I woke up way to early this morning and couldn't get back to sleep, that is my excuse I guess for the video. Actually, I guess it's because I've got a group of friends that are trying to hash out what the Gospel is and to be honest it's kind of driving me nuts.
This is the Gospel and our response in dominos...Jesus fell to bring many of us back to the center with God. Then we go back out to do the same. If we hadn't been hit by the Jesus domino, we'd all be standing in the same place unable to get to the center.
This is why Paul is rejoicing today...happy falling people!
Monday, March 16, 2009
(shine so that you may be seen as a rescued one of Christ! Why? )
...so that when Jesus returns to bring justice and judgement of the Day of the Lord I may make my Master proud that I have born fruit for His glory! Your holding firm to the Gospel you will have heard from me will be the proof! Even if I am called to so spend myself for the sake of your glory that it is if my lifes blood is poured out upon the sacrificial alter just like the bulls, rams, goats and birds were in the Temple, so be it! I will be glad and rejoice with all of you in the Kingdom after that! Philippians 2:16-17
I subscribe to a Christian magazine called Relevent. It's rather cutting edge and current, but I wouldn't call it trendy. It does a great job of looking at Christ in Culture, and I encourage all folks to at leaset look at it once. There is a small piece in it this month featuring a discussion with a man who used to play in a band called Korn. He looks like the kind of person you would run away from in an alley; long braided hair, body piercings, tatoos covering his body. He used to play in a band and live the lifstyle of those in The Darkness, now He is a Child of Light and is a Christian.
In the piece he talks about about being involved with a campain in Texas called "I am second". It focuses on proclaiming and living the reality that if we are God's, we are called to live selfless lives for others (does this theme seem familiar yet?) This guy litterally had to walk away from everything he ever knew. Sure, you might say he should have and horay for him and that would be true. But he left every bit of security he knew, everything that was familiar, all of the things that defined his identity. He left them all for the new one, the Risen One. It cost him his life.
Have you gotten to the point where you could look in the eyes of Jesus and say you would do the same?
Saturday, March 14, 2009
2:15...in order that your outward appearance may be lived out like your inward reality; blameless and guiltless as far as evil is concerned in the eyes of God. You are adopted children of God, without any spot or blemish in the midst of countless people who are covered in blemishes. You shine like a man without pigment in the midst of a race of dark-skinned people!
This is why God saves and empowers His people. He loves all of His created and uses a type of "domino effect" to reach them all. This is in fact the understanding behind the verse "you shall do greater things than these!" As we die to ourselves and live for the Master we are like Jesus when he said a seed must die and fall to the earth...so that it will happen all over again.
The generation of eyewitness to Jesus as He walked physically on the earth is long past, we are to take up the mantle in a very real sense! We are new creations, temples of the Holy Spirit! Washed clean and made whiter than snow! When we live out this position we are seen as counter to the rest of society as a day-glow object in a darkroom where there is not even a hint of light!
And, just like that that day-glo object we have no light in and of ourselves. We are mearly radiating the light we have been exposed to. This is the Greek behind the word used for "shine". It is a passive shine, like the moon. The moon does not generate any light, it simply reflects the light from the sun. It shines only in the darkness when we cannot see the sun, but my how bright it is! I've love to be outside on huge full moon nights! I've actually climbed rocks and surfed during full moons! You can seen clearly in the darkness, so that even in the dark the Sun's glory is seen!
One last image; Have you ever heard of bio-luminescent algae? There is a natural chemical in them, like fireflies. When they are ruptured, they release their luminance. When you surf through a mass of these on a full moon night you can actually see a light trail of where you have been. It is amazing!
This is the thrust behind the passage today. We are illuminated by Jesus, no light of our own. As we live it out and offer up our lives in the darkness, they will see the light and where we have been. And, just like a moth will naturally seek out the light. The dark can see that we are not like them.
are you bright in the dark places or keeping the light to yourselves? What's keeping you dark?
Friday, March 13, 2009
...so, in everything you do in life (yes folks, EVERYTHING!) you must do it completely divorced from petty behind-the-scenes-water-cooler-type-complaining or clever reasoning as to why you shouldn't do what you are being called to!
Back in seminary I had a friend named Claudia. She's an awesome woman of God with a gift of expressing the joy of Christ by her presence, even when she's having a tough day. We were in a preaching class together and our small group was working on how to preach the parables. We each took turns preaching to each other to gain feedback on how effectively we could communicate the truths in Scripture. She got up in front of us one night and began to preach on a passage calling the hearer to abandon everything to God...."and everything means EVERYTHING people! I looked it up in the Greek!" she exclaimed with her characteristic bright eyes and ear-to-ear-grin. There was no hint of anything but joy in her voice as she told us to leave it all behind.
And so Paul is doing the same to us in this passage. He's finished showing us the reason behind being humble: the newly defined way of discipleship as revealed through the actions of Jesus so as to prove to all corners of the universe that God has the final control. Now we are told to live it out and why. Our lives are to be an example to the rest of the world. Many times Christians will be the "only Jesus people will ever see". This can be frustrating! Often folks complain "I'm only human" or "I hate living life under a microscope!" but that's what's going to happen. Just as Paul says look at Jesus, Jesus says look at my people.
So Paul tells the Church to live out their salvation without complaining behind each others backs or petty reasoning. No compromise folks. We can't complain about the job, the driver in front of us, the government. AHHHHHHHH! Why? Because we are called to submit to the Father's will just like Jesus had. What happens in this world that is not under His will?
But Bryan, I hope some might say, aren't we called to test the spirits, help each other live accountable lives and beware of false prophets? Yes, we are. But we need to check out motivations at the door! Most times, if we are honest, we engage in self-justifying behavior just as the young man did in the parable of the Good Samaritan. We, life he did, want to justify ourselves, to prove our actions.
This passage clearly tells us that we can't but not to worry or try to justify ourselves. Can't. Cross did. So we can live it out without arguing or grumbling because God isn't justifying the world, He's redeeming it. So in the midst of it all, let God be God. Be still the Psalmist wrote. Be joyful in surrendering everything my friend pointed out, because Jesus did just that for us.
A final say here people: be merciful to yourself and full of grace on this one. Don't beat yourself up, but try your best. God's Word is a book about God being kind to the complainers! If you mess up go to the person and ask forgiveness of them and God. If you find yourself talking about people all the time go and reconcile to them or dig deep in yourself and ask if the problem isn't really with you. (most times it is)
Are there things you are talking about at the water cooler? Do people see you as a complainer or a truster? Are you really trusting or trying to appear like you are?
Thursday, March 12, 2009
(Every one will confess the Truth because of the Cross. So work out your salvation with fear and trembling when you are in the alone places of your life)
...Why? Because all that is happening to you and around you is under the control of God, remember? God is continuously working in you through the implanted Spirit. This is so you will be given the grace and power to desire and really want the things that are His will and purpose. These things are to to bring your salvation to completion! Don't fight it, it's His will!
I was sitting in a math class a half a billion years ago when the teacher (I don't even recall what grade it was) explained this theory of Greek thought called an asymptote. It suggests that if you travel toward a fixed point and continuously half the distance, you will never arrive at it...it's quite maddening really, especially to a young boy sitting in a math class.
There are few "problems" with the logic primarily that you have to never allow yourself to cheat in your imaginary walk over the next allotted "half distance". ..you walk five feet to an object ten feet away, then 2.5...and so on. Of course when total boredom sets in you just want to jump to the line and be done with it! Like with the old tootsie pop ad with the wise old owl.
This is what is happening to humans in this verse actually. God has implanted in us the Holy Spirit so that we would have the will and desire to continue to follow God's will in our lives. The ultimate goal is our sanctification, or becoming like the image of Christ. Since this image is ultimately unattainable (we can never be fully like Christ) we in effect are "halving the distance" to an point that is infinitely away! Ahhhhh! Since we have free will, we get bored and will never allow the God's desire and will to have it's way in and with us. We cheat and bite the Tootsie Pop...
God's desire is that we remain steadfast and under His will, just as Jesus did and not fight it (Romans 7:15). The mercy and grace is that He forgives us even when we cheat. His desire for us is that we finish the race and get to goal of sitting at the Throne of Grace forever enjoying the Father. Far better than the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, eh?
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
This verse tends to upset, no, freak most evangelical Christians out. Why? They misundertand what the "work it out means". The theology is simple "your theological indicative (the position of being adopted and ingrafted to God through Jesus by His work and grace) demand an ethical emperative (now, you MUST live like the free adopted children of God!) We obey our parents, right? So why do people get so nuts when God askes you to do the same, right? It's not a "if you love me you will do this" but rather "because I love you will you do this". It's not "if you love you you would do this" but a "I see how much you love me i want to do this!"
This friends, is the whole power behind the cross. Watch the video. It nails it. For those who are new to blogs and videos, please turn your sound on and simply click the arrow in the center of the picture. And may the Holy Spirit convict you too of His mercy and grace
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
..and also every single created being (angels, demons, humans) will use their respective languages to openly declare and profess that this action has proven that Jesus is indeed the Savior, the Anointed One of God. This declaration is the final judgement and is the Goal of God the Father.
This verse expands upon the reason for the humility of Christ; to bring judgment and salvation, and to reveal God's position as King of All. The fact that every tongue will confess that Jesus is indeed God does not point to universal salvation but rather to ultimate judgement.
Judgment is a loaded word for humans. We see and feel behind it all of our perceived failings we have placed upon ourselves. We hear in it the biting words of those who have tried to elevate themselves by bringing us lower. We hear self-righteousness by those trying to gain their own sense of worth. It is used as a weapon in the hands of most humans, but in the hands of God it is meant for Glory.
How can this be? The judgment of God (Day of the Lord) will pronounce guilty the things that warred against His people as well as declare innocent those whom He has saved. The humility of Jesus proves that nothing can judge nor control Him. God and God alone has the power and say over all creation from the heavenly realms to the realm under the earth. As far as East is from West.
This is what was revealed to John when He was caught up in Heaven and given his revelation:
Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation..." This is the song sung by the four living creatures and the elders seated around Jesus in the Throne Room (see Revelation 5). These are the tongues of the Heavenly Beings indeed agreeing that Judgement has come through the cross, and that it brought both victory and defeat proving God's rightful position.
This Judgment which is indeed the Good News (we have been saved and can have access to the Father) is not just for the Second Coming but for today! This confession occurred even before the Resurrection in the river water with John the Baptizer when the Holy Spirit convicted of sin and righteousness. It fell upon the people after the Resurrection in Acts 19:18 when many confessed and repented of their evil deeds. It happens daily around the world and it should happen daily in our lives. This is what it means to die daily and take up our crosses.
After John the Baptizer pulled the confessing people from the cleansing waters, he admonished those on the banks to live lives (bear fruit) worthy of repentance. This was a call to jump in the water and claim the cleansing of Jesus.
Every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord. Some for good, some for not. If you are following Christ today, I beg you to take the time today and thank Him for defeating all of the forces that competed with Him against you. Thank Him for your freedom and salvation. Thank Him for giving you the good profession in your soul, for no one could have called Him Lord, Lord without the sacrifice of the One Holy Offering.
Monday, March 9, 2009
when the title of Jesus is mentioned in the heavenly realms all the transcendent beings will assume a bowed posture in reverence and submission and when the title of Jesus in mentioned on the earth, all those beings that are opposite to the transcendent beings will assume a bowed posture as well, and even those who are apart from them both will do it too!
It is reversed, all of it, at least what we can see and understand in human terms. Jesus, the Anointed One of the Most High God redefined the way of discipleship as to "come and die" and so live. By following this trail to it's penultimate, Jesus placed His full trust and obedience to the Father. He cut the lifelines.
And God proved Himself to be faithful to His covenant to never leave. (Romans 14:11) As Jesus rose from the dead as the first fruit for those to come afterward judgment was passed so that all the powers that raged against God were proven defeated and they bowed in submission to the vanquishing King.
God's sovereignty reaches to every corner of the earth (Ps. 139), and with it He brings pardon and judgment. The grace and mercy we have received is that we are able to be in the heavenly realms with those bowed around the throne, as opposed to the defeated who bow not in humble adoration but in defeat.
What does this do to you? Do you understand the mercy and judgment? What has God's mercy and judgment done in your life?
Spend some time repeating this verse and ask the Lord to give you an understanding. Say it out loud to yourself, or at least move your lips. Actively seek God's will and word.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Jesus alone could reduce Himself to the point of the lowest of lows. Why? Because He was in communion with the Triune God-Head in totality. This allowed Him to be able to fully make Himself void of any type of glory for He understood it was not His (something to be grasped), He could not hold onto it (it was given to Him) and that it was out of His control (all things had been given to Him by His Father).
When we try to follow we have so many barriers, don't we? We fall prey to low self-esteem. We pretend to be humble but then either use it as a club to beat the other person over the head with or use it as a badge of courage. We can't lower ourselves to the point we are called to simple because we are not Jesus.
But we are still called to try. Why do we do it? Because Jesus did and showed us we are to do it as well. And we follow because we are in love with Him and what He has done for us....and when trials come, and frustration and anger, the Holy Spirit is sent to aid our feeble attempts. And at the end our attempts we shall hear "well done, good and faithful servant"...not perfect and successful!
The lowly way, the way of the cross, this is the way of Jesus. There's a seminary in Kentucky that has a statue of Jesus in the garden that is looking down at an angle. The only way to see His face is to contort yourself in such a way that you are on your knees looking up.
This is the way of the cross. This is the only way to see Jesus. This is how we are to gain a piece of the exaltation and name.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
I have been waking up most mornings to meditate, study and journal on this devotional reading through Philippians around four am. It's had a tremendous impact on my life, this simple act of putting aside rest to come into the presence of the Living God. I have a toddler in the house, and another one on the way, so part of this act is due to time, but I adore this early morning time. It reminds me of my days in seminary when I would wake up early and have a quite time before chapel and class. I made sure I did that so that my devotional time would never become a time of study, but time would remain time with the Author and Perfecter of my salvation.
As I sat this morning, the Spirit brought to mind the story of the first miracle Jesus performed at the wedding in Cana in John 2. The wine steward, the keeper of the treasure as it were, bore witness to what we read today in Philippians 2:8. As Jesus made water into the wine (furtherest from wine to wine it's self) God makes the lowest (Jesus in human form) into the highest (exalted one). This is what He does when we (sinners/haters of God) are made righteous through faith and profession in Jesus. The dead are made alive via adoption.
It's this great reversal that is the stumbling block for so many: lowest to highest, first to last, death to life. All this is from God to prove that it could come from no where else. In this verse God is telling us that because Jesus was so able to separate Himself for all "earthly desires", as He first did in resisting temptation after His baptism, and was able to be so fully obedient to the point of death, God raised this God-man to the highest of highs and made Him the first-fruit. He was the once-for-all-sacrifice needed.
Can we? If we could there would have been no need for Jesus to die. Can we now after His death through the indwelling power of the Spirit? No, for then we would be equal to Christ, not like Him. But we are given the ultimate example we are to follow.
This my friends, is the true depth of "giving up" we are called to in Lent. Jesus didn't give up His favorite food, smoking, TV....He laid down it all and never picked it back up again.
Are you prepared to do the same? Why not? Are you clinging to the glory you have on earth? Don't you see, this is our cross...
Friday, March 6, 2009
And this is what we read today:
…but He fully made Himself void of His glory, and received the appearance of a bonded-slave and birthed Himself into the lineage of fallen men. And being found in that appearance, He reversed His status; the Master of all things created placed himself under it’s power and became obedient even to death (which He had crushed), even a humiliating death on a cross.
This is the ultimate example of “humility”. Death, the conquered foe, appears to be given the upper hand. Christ, the victor, placed Himself under its weight upon the cross in obedience to His Father’s will so that those who could not bear the weight of death could gain the fruits victory.
…and He did so in full view of the world in a manner reserved for the lowest of lows. Most times when theologians and pastors try to explain the cross they tell of the whips, the scourging, the blood, death by asphyxiation but they never talk about how ridiculous and ironic it was. Here was the Creator being manipulated by those whom He created (or so it seems. That is a HUGE discussion). The crowd at His feet understood how audacious His claims to Kingship were when they cried out “you saved others, now save yourself!”. Some powerful God! What an idiot! He could have gotten out of this! He didn’t even die like a semi-important man! He gets a slave death! Ha!
Why did He stay there? Well, many songs sing that “love held Him there” but the truth is it was His obedience to the Father and His covenant to us. We call it “love” but God called it His promise when He spoke to Abram. It was the ultimate act of humility, of being obedient to the Father’s will.
Are you willing to “die” to bring others to glory as well, or are you afraid that someone will call you a jack-ass too. Is your pride in the way? Are your plans in the way? How else will the world see the Truth of Christ’s victory unless we live into it?
Thursday, March 5, 2009
...but he decided that it would be robbery keep hold of the pre-existant glory He had with the Father and Holy Spirit. Instead He deliberately grasped onto the form of what he knew was the polar opposite. He let go of the Throne and walked into darkness. He clothed himself in appearance of a human, sinful, mortal, a slave to sin and death. He chose to walk in the form of the fallen.
If you have spent any amount of time around me you will have undoubtedly heard one of my "can I ask you a question" stories. This is my favorite string of six words, even better than "you have free pizza for life" or "the surf is really big today". I hear these words after the Holy Spirit has fallen upon a heart of flesh and the person wants to hear the Name of Jesus pronounced out loud.
Today's verse is the best way to describe the Love of God. It's selfless love and sacrifice, it's choosing to take the shoddy and give away the shinny, it takes the coal and gives the gold.
It's an action that selfish human hearts can understand: firefighters who run into burning buildings to save a helpless baby caught in the flames. It's a person running to a burning car on the side of the highway instead of away from it. It's a soldier carrying in his buddy who is "hurt worse" only to die outside the OR waiting for his buddy to come out. It's a mother saying "take my life, but save my baby".
The "hero story" stirs every soul, it's an echo of the image of God lost deep within us. God reminded us of it through Jesus. He could have grasped the brass ring, but he chose to pay the debt for the next ride and give the free one away.
There are two people on Scripture other than Jesus and one in my life that I have seen this lived out.
Moses, after he was told that he personally would not enter the promised land continued to love those whose disobedience cost him his own glory. Paul said he would give up his own salvation so that others would be saved. The one who I watched in my life live it out has forever changed my selfish heart.
That's what is supposed to happen. Has it? Do you really understand what Jesus did for you? Has His example led you to run into danger to save others? Why not? Do you think you saved yourself? Do you think you really weren't in danger? See, Jesus really did it friends, and we are to be as bold in our lives.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
You followers of Jesus must let the same kind of thinking dominate you that dominated Christ Jesus: whose outward appearance belied the fact that He was the pre-existent Triune God. He had never in the pre-creation “world”, nor does He in this tangible present, nor will He ever until the end of ages consider the fact that he was in ALL ways equal to God something that he could claim as His own right or even hang onto! He would have thought that robbery!
This my friends is what a real “Amplified Bible” looks like. The popular one for sale expands certain words that have multiple meanings in Scripture. They are honest and true translations of the word used. How can it have so many meanings? Koine Greek, the guttural, colloquial language of the common person used to write the Greek New Testament from which all modern translations derived was a highly reflective language. That sounds more impressive than it really is! What that means is that words had different meanings in different contexts. A modern equivalent is the use of “bad” a number of years ago. Depending on the context of use, “bad” could be either awful, good, or even the greatest! Inflection and tone of voice aided as well. American Sign Language has some similarities in that some hand shapes may have the same shape but different meaning in context and the “degree” of meaning varies in how they are expressed.
Today’s passage is a prime example. If you read and Amplified Bible, you would find a number of different meanings for the word. But when you look at the word used in context throughout the Bible, it becomes clear that it has (as it only can) one very clear meaning (although interpretation may vary on what that is). When this is done, you see a power in the words that are “lost in translation”.
These two short verses tell us a number of the greatest truths in all of Holy Scripture as well as our reaction to them.
Our lives are to be an expression of our relationship with Jesus. The NEB translation states: “Let your bearing towards one another arise out of you life in Jesus Christ.” We are called to focus on personal holiness, to worry less about others sanctification and more about ours.
Jesus is in very nature God in a 1:1 relationship. Yet He chose to limit His glory to bring about the plan the Redemptive Salvation History
This glory was nothing He could steal
We are called to do the same with the aid of the Holy Spirit
What do you say, care to come along?
Monday, March 2, 2009
Now, since you are modeling your unity after Jesus’ love for you and in the power he has bestowed upon you, each and everyone one of you should not pay careful attention to your own lives, interests, or even take notice of what you think you need. All of your thoughts, actions and attention should be completely on others without even a hint of regarding yourself! Philippians 2:4
Paul concludes this section by underscoring the fact that the only way to obtain the unity Jesus prayed for His disciples to receive (John 17), was through a chain of humility, which brings unification.
They needed to first place themselves under the lordship of Jesus. This is what humility means. Being allowed to do so is a gift as it takes a regenerated heart to love God. Since Jesus was fully humble to the Father’s will, we are then vicariously as well through him. Only when this occurs can humans who by sin-nature are self-serving and inward focused turn to live lives completely focused on interests other than their own. This does not mean we are incapable of “sliding out” from under His will, but rather that we are able to love and do these things at all.
How can we let go of our control of trying to meet our needs? Trust.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Matthew 6:25 ff.
Are we called to lives of abject poverty? Some are, most aren’t. Look at your lives; check book, furnishings, vacations, leisure time, what you do at church, even food. Are you taking care of yourself or others? Be as honest as you can and compare your life to Christ and to the saints. Feel convicted? Welcome to Lent…ask for forgiveness and the power to change and it will be given.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Years ago I began to teach people how to see the providential hand of God in their lives through an exercise of prayerful thanksgiving. Each person is given a piece of paper and a pen and asked to close their eyes and in their mind “walk through” their houses room by room and visualize what is there. Open the drawers, look in closets, and count the number of pairs of underwear, the number of forks, cans of soda. They are given only five minutes to complete the walk. I set a timer, say go, and watch the race! At the end everyone in unison prays aloud “thank you Father for giving me”…and read their list. It’s life changing actually, to intentionally look at everything you possess and place it against what we as Anglicans say each Sunday “all things come from thee oh Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”
Here in verse 3 Paul is telling all followers of Jesus to prayerfully walk through their motivations and honestly look at why they did them. It’s a call to live a very intentional life, isn’t it? Try it out. Think about every decision you made yesterday from the time you woke up to the time you went to sleep. The very first waking thought. The word used for “nothing” means “nothing”, not a single action should not be checked to see if it for our own glory.
The selfish act is self-seeking; as in seeking political office for personal gain. This self-seeking leads to strife within the body (see Cor. 13). Vain glory is focused on me, humility is focused on others. As I mentioned yesterday, it is impossible to have this outward focus without inward transformation. This “other-serving” community is so counter-cultural that it is a principal witness to the world (see Romans 12:5)
But isn’t humility like being a doormat? No, only in New Testament literature is humility expressed in a positive tone. Why? It was the position Jesus took with His Father, and it is the one we should take as well. This act of putting our actions into captivity is liberating. And, it is grammatically, and thus ethically, imperative, to place yourself under Jesus and then others. You are to see them better than yourself, as you are called to see Jesus better than yourself.
We keep journals of calories, of expenses, of time, why are we so remiss to keep track of our actions? It is difficult as fallen humans. We innately self-justify our actions; “that woman, who you gave me, she made me!” Adam and Eve weren’t framed, we framed ourselves. What should the response be? The same as the prodigal who returned to the Father after he realized the motivation of his actions. Realize our selfishness and ask fo for forgiveness. This is very purifying. Then, when we are persecuted, it will be easier to tell if it is from doing good, or evil. Critical self-examination, confession, repentance, asking for forgiveness…and receiving it. That is the work of the cross. It is the process of sanctification for the world to see Jesus