Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day 4 Philippians 2:3 "always check your motivation"

(So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.)
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

Friday, February 27, 2009

Day 3...Philippians 2:3 "be of one mind"

Philippians 2:1-2
(So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…)
Verse two
…make my joy the ultimate joy and bring it to completion! My joy is this, that on the day you stand in judgment you shall be deemed innocent of all charges of sin. How can you fulfill the purpose of my joy? By having a genuine common mind; sharing interests, ideals, goals, ambitions), having a mutual love and working in complete harmony. You must do this!

Paul is very clear today on the purpose of Christ’s love, comfort, fellowship with the Holy Spirit, sympathy and affection. Often we focus on what Christ did (putting aside the pre-existing glory He shared with the Father) and forget to ask the pressing issue why it was done.

I often ask followers of Christ why they think Jesus drank to the dregs the cup of wrath that He was given (Isa 51:22). As I am sure you would guess the common answer is “love” quoting John 3:16. True, but this is half the answer. It was for love, but not for ours alone. It was done to glorify His name. Christ died for us so that we might in turn die to ourselves so that we might, as Jesus did for us, live for others. We share in the sufferings of Christ in this mortal life, as did Paul, to bear witness to Jesus.

How can humans have the mind of Jesus and be as unified in purpose as the Holy Spirit is with the rest of the God Head? How can those who have all turned to their own desires and purposes (Isa 53:6) be of one mind? The key lies in Romans 12:2. In being transformed (the word that is used here is the one from which metamorphosis is derived), there is a “great reversal” in that the heart/mind that was bent inward to the self for fulfillment and desire is pointed outward to God. The word used in Romans 12:2 is a passive imperative, giving the weight of “it must be done to you”. It is a work that we cannot accomplish ourselves.

So, Paul is telling us in verse two that the fulfilled joy of Christ in him is to see His people unified in Spirit living as an organic body, which will bear witness to the world that with Christ, nothing is impossible. Living in such harmony without being transformed is impossible.

Are you living in harmony with God, with your family, with your community? Paul urges us here to not to change the other, but to examine and change yourself. We are to love when hated, sacrifice when taken advantage of, forgive when assailed….for this is exactly what Christ did for each and every one of us.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Day 2; Pilippians 2:1 "We are the mission field"

I had a friend who was suffering from a devastating disease. The Lord blessed him with two years of life when his physicians told him he had six months to live. During those years God did amazing things, from shrinking his tumors, to making some disappear, to melting hearts and bringing people to faith.

I went with him one day on the hour long ride into the City while he had a treatment. We talked about big things, we talked about small things, we sat in silence. "I wish I could go (he said speaking of my work in Tanzania). I wish I had my Africa." On that cold, dark morning he realized what Paul had, that our lives and how we live should have an impact on others.

What he didn't speak then, although he was living it, was that his very body was the "Africa" that God has chosen for him. It was the place that God would show forth his glory, not so much how he lived, but rather how he died and suffered. This was the call on Paul's life and it is what he is exhorting the church in Philippi to take comfort from.

We don't like affliction, we would rather chose comfort. Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked that the measure of a man's character is judged not when he is in comfort, but how he reacts with adversity. This summarizes Paul's theology of the suffering of Christ, himself and the church.

2:1 opens with the word "if", a subordinate conjunction. This has the weight of "if you are encouraged by may actions in my imprisonment and the sufferings of Christ". He does not say you must have a lot, he adds "any", like the faith the size of the mustard seed God will multiply it.

If any..encouragement; the act of emboldening an others faith or course of action. Like Job, his life (and ours) are sign posts to those around us. How we suffer points to our convictions. We don't trust ourselves, but rather Christ. This is the foolishness of the Cross, to put power in the one who was crucified. His humility and self-imposed subjection to the Father gave us the way follow.

Any encouragement of love...increased perseverance from the selfless acts of Christ and Paul

...any participation with the Spirit; acts of participating for self-interests. The Spirit is working the power of sanctification and glorifying the name of Jesus while Paul is allowing God to use his life (of which God alone saved) for the advancement of the Kingdom

...any compassion or mercy. This is deep-seated compassion, it's the source of the mercy not the mercy its self. The word refers to the inner bowls, where the ancient mind felt compassion came from. So, if these "transformed guts", or "new creation is in you and working"...

Paul understood that he was "Africa" and derived his strength, encouragement, desire to love, fellowship, his ability to go any where, do anything for the Gospel from the Cross.

Do you have this mind in you? Are you allowing God to use your life as "Africa"? Do you find it within you to share your confidence in the trials, or do you complain like the world? Where is your trust, your hope? Do you believe that all the troubles of this life pale in comparison to the all surpassing joy of knowing Christ (Phil 3:8)?

"Surely this man was the Son of God"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Messsiah's humility; Philippians 2 day one

For friends outside of New Hope Church, we're collectively reading chapter two of the book of Philippians as an act of adoration to God during Lent. Why? In this letter, and in particular chapter two, Paul gives us a clear picture of what the humility of Jesus looked like, why He had it and what it should do to us. And this my friends is what Lent is all about. We're going to focus on one verse a day. I'll be translating from the Greek Text, so you'll be reading the "Bryan" translation. The result won't be heresy! What you will see, or rather feel, is what the Holy Spirit does with Holy Scripture.

The Greek that the New Testament writers used is highly inflected, that is to say the words have a sense of dimension. Most often there isn' t just a 1:1 ration of translation so much is lost in simply defining the words. Don't worry! This won't be hard! You aren't going to be asked to translate the Greek! But we're going to look at the text as it was meant to be a commoners language, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and breathed of God.

On this first day (or perhaps two) we need to look at the context of this letter. Context is ALWAYS key to understanding the Bible! We can't allow our feelings to dictate what we think the Word of God ought to say! The time, date, place, settings that I will be alluding to are held by tradition to be true. Tradition is not a "stiff upper lip" word, but rather that these beliefs have been tested against Scripture for a very long time and with good use of biblical theology have proven to be true.

Where Paul wrote the letter from is debatable for some; Cessarea, Ephesus or Rome. It is clear that this is one of Paul's "prison letters" (1:2-6) and that is was penned out of the experience of sustained imprisonment. Paul is not just saying "I understand your troubles", he is writing from the heart of the maelstrom. This gives him the authority to speak to Christians under persecution.

He was writing to a group of gathered followers of Jesus who had been meeting to pray, read and study the teachings of Jesus in the influential center of Philippi. Philippi was a powerhouse in terms of influence, and as such so were the residents. It had the special status of being a Roman Colony and carried with it all of the rights and privileges. They were under Roman law for administration and taxes. It had a history of being settled by battle proven and privileged veterans. It was Roman to the core (see Acts 16:20-21). When Paul arrived his original preaching was to a pagan culture. There and found Lydia and other women by a river in prayer (Acts 16). When he left, there was a strong devoted Christian core, most of whom were Gentiles.

This letter was written for a number of reasons; it gave thanks for gifts, explained which brothers were coming and going and why, warned of Jewish legalism, encouraged the community to live bravely and to urge them to live in the unity of the Spirit. The church need to be reminded how to endure, and Paul pointed to the humility of Jesus as the model, source and power.

It's all about living a humble life, a life submitted to God, a life of trust and obedience.
So, as we start out on this study get honest with yourself (God knows anyway). Are you humble like Jesus?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Shack: Week Three

Meet bear. Bear is the love of my daughter's life. We don't remember who gave him to her, but he is the center of her little 22 month old universe. We tried (unsuccessfully) to find a "back-up bear" once only to discover that he is a "retired" beanie baby. We found one that was close on eBay, but Olivia didn't buy it. She actually calls it "more bear". He's cute, but nothing really special...see he wasn't a big seller and was sent out to pasture...kinda the land of the misfits toys.

Mack was confronted with this kind of love in chapter six this week. "

No matter what God's power may be, the first aspect of God is never that of absolute Master, the Almighty. It is that of the God who puts himself on our human level and limits himself"

My daughter chose the least desirable as the sole object of her affection. When that happens to humans, the response is multifaceted; disbelief, humility, gratitude, adoration. The list goes on and on. Our response is natural, we are loved and in return we want to love back to the same degree, if not more so. now what am I supposed to 're not supposed to do anything (replies Jesus), you are free to do whatever you like..well (Mack replies) I sort of feel obligated to go in and talk to him, er her..Don't go because you feel obligated (Jesus replies). That won't get you any points around here. Go because it's what you want to do..(p 89)

Here's the rub. Obligation. Are we obligated to do anything after we come to fall in love with Jesus. This question has spilled much real blood and I do not wish to spill anymore. Let me say this;

If you have honestly come face to face with the reality of 1) your spiritual condition and position before you answered an invitation from Jesus 2) understand that it is by grace you have been chosen and given that right then I doubt that your heart will desire to do anything but run to this Merciful God and offer all that you have.

Anything else to me seems like you either expected God to do things for you because you deserved it or that you didn't really need God to do anything for you that you couldn't do for yourself.

How would you respond if someone bought you a used $1,000 car as apposed to a new Porsche?

Have you responded...did you run out of love or obligation? Do you really understand the gift?


Friday, February 13, 2009

week two in the shack we launched off into week two with a couple of new faces; one that i've known for twelve years and another who's interest was peaked while waiting for his drink at the espresso bar...
So there we were, ten of us last night, and out of that ten nine had a personal "Great Sadness" story. I'm never surprised when i see this, in fact i'm more bothered when it doesn't happen. I mean, Jesus came for the sick, right? So if you're really living on the edges where Jesus seems to be most often you'll be in the same company.
Oh, i'm not saying we're all walking around like major headcases, just that some people understand the deal a bit deeper than others simply because they fell a bit deeper than others...that's all.
Grief was the topic, deep grief that hangs on your soul like a soaking wet t-shirt that makes that hollow sucking sound when you pull it off your clings to your back so you can't pull it off, and when you finally do pry it over your head it hits the floor with a thump. Left unattended it grows into a smelly pile of have to deal with it...
Great Sadness grief isnt' a "get-over-it-kind-of-thing" is it? It makes you do a gut check; who is with me, why did this happen, where am i? Too often well-meaning folks come along side you and tell you the old familiar lies; "i know how you feel, it will be ok, it was for the better"...
but there is good in the dark in that our eyes automatically search for the light. There just has to be something besides this. We weren't made for the dark places, we were made for the glorious light...we just got lost. So as we fumble in the dark we hit walls and other people...and we're called to help others out of the shadows...
When the Great Sadness's descend, we need to hang together, just like God hangs with us. He promised to never leave us or forsake us even thought at times it seems as if He did...
that's when we need to turn to each other and simply say by our actions "i'm staying with you..i'm not going. I i'll be here beside you and wait."
wait for what? wait until we cry "uncle"...and let the light flood in
so what is your Great Sadness? How did God respond? Are you still waiting and trying to fix it yourself?

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Shack

New Hope, the church that i'm pastoring, just launched into a study of this book. Thought you might like to join us.

First to be up front, as a man who has suffered the agony of the death of a son I was able to enter into the Shack by the front door. My story is different and the grace that Papa gave me and my wife was as thick as the Spirit of God (for that is what it was) but i wore the interpretive lenses of Mac. We all do, if we have the guts to be honest. Some are just a bit thicker than others.

So we met last night at a coffee shop, most of us getting jacked up on espresso, others on the company. God was i'm sure rather giddy about the whole gathering, i mean, it was quite the eclectic group with crazy stories of where we had been, where we were, and dreams of where we were going. So we took up most of the shop, more of the tables, and an hour of time.

I asked a simple question: "we've read the first chapter, what hit you?" We didn't even get past the forward.

"...Mack has been married to Nan for just more than thirty-three mostly happy years. He says she saved his life and paid a high price for it. For some reason, beyond understanding, she seems to love him now more than ever, even though I get the sense that he hurt her something fierce in the early years. I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside..." pp10-11

Now, i'm not saying that Young meant to say this, but as i stare again at this passage I can't help but see you? See, Jesus began his public ministry at the age of thirty, and preached, healed and did other Jesus-type stuff for three years, making him how old when He breathed this last and gave up His Spirit?

Still not there? Perhaps you've forgotten the high price paid for your life by the one who saved it?

...and it's beyond your understanding that God called Israel to be His, and yet they rebelled...still Papa demonstrated His greatest love through a very personal gift. But that doesn't make much sense. That's grace from the outside...

...and it is so true that our hurts and healing both come through relationships...we died because of our actions and we are made alive because of His...

How many missed these few sentences i wonder, in their rush to get into the story? To be honest, i did, but today it seems clear as day...and they make all the differece. So let me ask you this:

Are you reading too fast that you miss the grace throughout your life?

Are you part of the hurt or part of the healing?

What price are you willing to pay to save someone or something?

Do you think that price is too great? Remember what it cost Papa...

blessings friends...and grace for the journey


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

all dressed up, now what!

So i took my daughter out for daddy-date-day this week. I learned about date-days from the Sr. Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle...the whole philosophy is that if dad's take their daughters out for dates when they're young, they'll have a standard for how Godly men should treat them. We have a blast. We get up, eat, get dressed and figure out where we should go. We hit parks on sleds, long slow trips through the grocery store where we pick up and move everything, bookstores...

This past week we had a mission to get her hair cut. My wife and I don't dare do it so we take her to this place that's like Chuckie Cheeses, only you get to play with scissors. It's a good drive from our house so i brought along some gifts cards that were given to her so we could pick up a few things for her to wear. When i stopped my truck she was little-miss-sleepy-girl snoozing away so i scooped her up and shopped while she snored. She popped up just in time to give the checkout girl my credit card (foreshadowing?), get some stickers and grab her bag and walk out of the store looking like a buyer for Saks. It was like she was a sea turtle, i mean, she didn't have to be taught to throw her bag over her shoulder and strut...she woke up from a snoozing stupor and slid into the job.

...have you ever met a follower of Christ who has done the same? i mean, as soon as they wake up from their stupor and enter into the radiance of Jesus, they just flow? Most of you haven't i would guess, and i'd lay money that it's not because the person didn't exhibit a natural desire to put on the new clothes they were given by Jesus. When the Holy Spirit begins the process of sanctification it is decisive and immediate. The dead are alive, the old is new.

What happens most often is that when sleepers awake, those that thought they were the "spiritual alarm clock" try and make them fit into thier idea of what a buyer for Saks should look like...and most often it's when these new lives that have been redeemed by God start off to tell of the wonderful things God has done, they get told to wait and clean up first...

This was not the case when Jesus woke them up, as with Peter's mom when she was sick (Mark 1:29ff). As soon as the fever left her, she got up and began to serve...just like that.

I guess I'm a little sensitive in this area as i've been blessed to see many people wake from their sleep and then head off to a church only to be told to calm down, clean up, look like us. Now I know that we are called to live a life inline with the Spirit of God and at least not resist transformation, but i've seen too many people get pumped for Jesus, run to the church...and then run away....why is that?

Here's your challenge. Look around your church next time you are there. What do they look like, how do they serve God, how did they come to faith?

wake up sleepers, the Lord wants to send you redeemed shoppers...are you ready?