The Love of a Savior

Photo credit unknown.

Photo credit unknown.

One of the tenets of Christianity setting apart from other world religions, is the love of a savior. Christianity alone has at its center a God who loves his creation enough to call them children and to die in their place in order to satisfy his wrath upon sin.

Jesus himself draws the stark contrast of this revolutionary approach to life when he comments that few people would die for a good man. What isnt said there, but what is certainly hinted at is that we are not good men. We are sinners. We live in a fallen world and we are bent towards sin. Knowing this, and loving us anyway, our God sacrifices himself to pay the penalty for our sins.

This act is so revolutionary, so extraordinary, so out of the box we as a humanity can scarcely grasp the full weight of what he did or why he did it. Paul writes in Romans, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still in opposition to him. He loved us enough to move towards us. To take the first step to have a relationship with us. Which is a second tenet separating Christianity from other world religions, God desires to know us personally. He doesn’t sit on a throne far above in the heavens looking down at us, waiting for us to screw up so he can capriciously punish us. Rather, he engages in our lives with us, walking alongside us each day. In fact, his desire is to dwell within us. To live in and through us. Paul also write in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, that as Christ followers we are temples to the Holy Spirit (God’s spirit he sent to dwell within us). In this particular passage, Paul was correcting the Corinthians on their sexual immorality, however the idea that our bodies are temples of the spirit of the almighty God should have broad applications in our lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that God is glorified by our actions.

As we prepare for today and this weekend, ask ourselves this question: Is God glorified in the way I am living, in my habits and daily routine, in my work, in my attitude and in the way I treat others? If not, now seems like the right time to reorganize our priorities.

Spiritual or Spirit-Filled?

So I went to this new thing we are doing at h2o church called M.o.G. or Men of God. BTW, I made a Spaceballs joke about a mob, part man part dog and got absolutely nowhere with it. I was instantly disappointed at that. Whatever.

Anyway, at this M.o.G., I realized that I have been chasing after the wrong thing. I have bee trying to be a spiritual man. The kind of dude that reads the Bible alone and with his family and who prays alone and with his family because that’s what you are supposed to do as a Christ-follower and someone who works at a church. I wasn’t trying to do it and instill those habits in my boys because it is a part of who I am, but because it is the ‘right thing’ to do.

Who I want to be is a spirit-filled man, not a spiritual man. I want to be the kind of guy who is just like Jesus. I want to be the kind of guy that people look at and they can’t help but to see God overflowing from my life in the way I respond to my wife, kids and anyone else I encounter daily. I want to be the kind of guy that prays and reads the Bible alone and with his family because it is an integral part of who I am. It is a part of me as much as my heart or lungs are a part of me.

I want to be a Christ-follower first and everything else second.

Are you chasing after trying to be spiritual or spirit-filled?

Addicted

There seems to be lots of talk these days about people have addictive personalities. I don’t know if there is such a thing or not, but it seems to be aptly descriptive. I feel like I might be one of those with an addictive (or maybe just obsessive) personality.

Let’s talk about coffee for a minute. In a substance abuse counseling class I wrote a paper that compared my addiction to coffee to a meth-head. The prof didn’t see the comparison. But I found (now that I drink coffee again) there is almost no coffee I won’t drink and no time I won’t drink it. Take my in-laws well watered, uncleaned (granted the water is hard and has sulfur so is rough on a coffee pot) that I have fill with gluten-rich creamer to drink. It is literally killing me. Yet I drink it anyway.

Or what about 7-11 donuts. Also chock full of gluten and I eat them way too often (a problem I had overcome until we moved next to one again). BTW, 7-11 is the sbux of central Florida… They are everywhere.

Also, soft drinks or pop as we call it. Heartburn, here I come! Thanks again 7-11.

Anger, hatred, jealousy and resentment would also make the list of addictions. Fear, anxiety, distrust too. Strangely absent are things like unconditional love. Peace. Joy. Satisfaction no matter the circumstance. Those qualities are present in my life, not with the same regularity.

Why is it so easy to gravitate our addictions towards the things that literally kill us rather than the things which give life?

Who are we cheating with our addictions? Ourselves or our God?

Maybe some of both…

Aliens & Strangers… pt 3 of a Royal Priesthood and a Precious Cornerstone

As I finished up my last post on the ideas of being able to overcome the community-busting sins listed in the first several verse of 1 Peter 2, it occurred to me that I wanted to share a few more thoughts on the ideas of being aliens in this world.  This is terminology that has always appealed to me and sounded familiar yet at the same time difficult to comprehend.  We are not made for this world.  We are made for something bigger, something greater, something else.  We are made for another place.  One of my favorite aliens is Thor from Stargate SG1.  (I snatched this from http://www.newanimal.org/aliens.htm)  I don’t think this is what Peter is talking about when he says we are aliens in this world.  We are not aliens in the sense that we are from another planet, but we are from another ‘place’.

What is it that Peter meant by being aliens and strangers in this world?  He meant that we are created for more… I know I already said that.  It is often missed though.  As I write this, I’m listening to the Catalyst Lab by Alan and Deb Hirsch.  They are talking about various things that we allow to crowd out God and become idols to us.  That’s why realizing we are aliens in this world is so very important.  When we forget that we don’t belong in this world, we allow this world and all it has to offer to become an idol or a myriad of idols to us.

We are not to make our homes here in this world with the things of this world.  Jesus tells us,

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

Matthew 6:19-21

If this is true, then when we live as though we belong here then our treasure and our hearts are here in this world.  If we live as though we belong in this world, then we have created idols of the things of this world.

I like what the Scottish theologian William Barclay had to say regarding the need to abstain from the fleshly desires because we are aliens in this world.  He points out that it is essential for us to remove the fleshly lusts from our lives because it further prohibits us from living in the kind of community that Christ calls us to. The fleshly desires Peter talks about is what Barclay enlightens us to know are the human nature apart from God.  It is the unredeemed nature of man, it is the characteristic of the fallen human nature.

This is why it is so critical for us to leave these fleshly desires (which includes malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, slander) in order to be able to build the community that Christ calls us to.  If we haven’t left these out, and other sins for that matter, how are we going to be able to act and live as a holy nation and a royal priesthood?  We can’t, plainly put.

How well we are able to remember and live as aliens who are just passing through directly correlates to how well we are going to be able to function within our calling to be a light shining in the darkness of this world.

Are you living as an alien and stranger in this world, or have you made this world your home and thereby created a life of idols with little to no room for God?

Aliens & Strangers… pt 3 of a Royal Priesthood and a Precious Cornerstone

As I finished up my last post on the ideas of being able to overcome the community-busting sins listed in the first several verse of 1 Peter 2, it occurred to me that I wanted to share a few more thoughts on the ideas of being aliens in this world.  This is terminology that has always appealed to me and sounded familiar yet at the same time difficult to comprehend.  We are not made for this world.  We are made for something bigger, something greater, something else.  We are made for another place.  One of my favorite aliens is Thor from Stargate SG1.  (I snatched this from http://www.newanimal.org/aliens.htm)  I don’t think this is what Peter is talking about when he says we are aliens in this world.  We are not aliens in the sense that we are from another planet, but we are from another ‘place’.

What is it that Peter meant by being aliens and strangers in this world?  He meant that we are created for more… I know I already said that.  It is often missed though.  As I write this, I’m listening to the Catalyst Lab by Alan and Deb Hirsch.  They are talking about various things that we allow to crowd out God and become idols to us.  That’s why realizing we are aliens in this world is so very important.  When we forget that we don’t belong in this world, we allow this world and all it has to offer to become an idol or a myriad of idols to us.

We are not to make our homes here in this world with the things of this world.  Jesus tells us,

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also

Matthew 6:19-21

If this is true, then when we live as though we belong here then our treasure and our hearts are here in this world.  If we live as though we belong in this world, then we have created idols of the things of this world.

I like what the Scottish theologian William Barclay had to say regarding the need to abstain from the fleshly desires because we are aliens in this world.  He points out that it is essential for us to remove the fleshly lusts from our lives because it further prohibits us from living in the kind of community that Christ calls us to. The fleshly desires Peter talks about is what Barclay enlightens us to know are the human nature apart from God.  It is the unredeemed nature of man, it is the characteristic of the fallen human nature.

This is why it is so critical for us to leave these fleshly desires (which includes malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, slander) in order to be able to build the community that Christ calls us to.  If we haven’t left these out, and other sins for that matter, how are we going to be able to act and live as a holy nation and a royal priesthood?  We can’t, plainly put.

How well we are able to remember and live as aliens who are just passing through directly correlates to how well we are going to be able to function within our calling to be a light shining in the darkness of this world.

Are you living as an alien and stranger in this world, or have you made this world your home and thereby created a life of idols with little to no room for God?

A Royal Priesthood and a Precious Cornerstone pt. 2

In my last post we looked at Peter’s call on our lives to remove/overcome malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy and slander.  We posed the question of how to do that.  Here we begin to look to some possible ways.

One way that we may be able to overcome these sins is by realizing who we are called to be.  Peter goes on to give us an idea of who need to be and a small snapshot of how get there.

2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

The first and sort of common sense way for us to rid our lives of these sins is to crave the word of God.  The closer we walk with Christ, the closer he is to us.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4:8

In order to have clean hearts and minds we have to mold our minds like the mind of Christ Jesus.

Craving the Word of God is kinda a no-brainer for us.  We have to dig a little deeper and get further into why it is so important to remove these sins from our lives.  As we previously discussed these are sins that are community-busters.  When we get a little further into the text, Peter reminds us that we have a specific calling on our lives as Christ-followers.  Look at where Peter goes in verse 9:

But you are a chosen race , a royal priesthood , a holy nation , a people for God’s own possession

Peter reminds us that we have a calling to be a part of a community.  We ARE a chosen race, we ARE a royal priesthood, we ARE a holy nation.  We ARE a part of a community that is bigger than ourselves.  We have to rid ourselves of these sins that affect our ability to have community because this community is of the utmost importance for us to be able to.  More than just being called to be a part of this community, this community is special, unique and has its calling rooted in God (verse 10 tells us: for you once were not a people , but now you are the people of God ; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy), and we are a community that has a purpose.  God has called us to reveal his excellencies, reveal the awesome gift of salvation, reveal to a world full of darkness that there is a way out, a way of hope amidst the chaos that surrounds our life.

so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

As Christ-followers, it is our responsibility to engage and be active in a community of believers, it is our responsibility to actively partake in the action of proclaiming the saving grace and incredible work that God has accomplished in us through his Spirit and son.

Community-busting sins have to be removed, because when they are allowed to fester they become like cancers eating the body from the inside out.

Think about your faith community, is it being all that it can be for God?  Or is it plagued by the community-busting sins? If your community isn’t moving forward or making any progress for the Kingdom of God, it might be time to look inside and cut out the cancer that is destroying from the inside out.

Are you willing to rid yourself and your community of these sins?

A Royal Priesthood and a Precious Cornerstone pt.1

1 Peter 2 has been and probably always will be one of my favorite chapters in all of scripture.  I like it because it points us several things that boil us down to the reason that we exist here on earth.

Peter starts off by encouraging us all to:

1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander,2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

Peter calls our minds back a few verse where he discusses that we have been born again of a seed that is imperishable.  It is because of this rebirthing that we must remove these sins that easy hold us back from seeing the glory of God and understanding the call he has put on our lives.  Each one of these sins (and that’s what they are… not just human emotions that we all feel and therefore can’t escape, they are sin and a hindrance to the work God is doing in our lives) is potentially devastating.  By themselves they are deadly and paired together, they are insidiously deadly.  Look at them:

  • MALICE- a desire to injure others (directly contrary to the Love that God instructs us to show to others)
  • GUILE- a trick, scheme or a snare, the NIV says deceit here (this is purposefully leading someone astray or tricking them to take advantage of them)
  • HYPOCRISY- this is a two-faced faith for show only, meaning you say you love God but your actions deny him, also the root word for where we get our word actor… so a hypocrite is one who plays a part (obviously, this is when we try to present to God and others that we are something that we are not… this is the opposite of authenticity)
  • ENVY- an ill will towards other because they have something that I want (this again plays into not loving people, for no reason other than you want what they have and you foster anger towards them because they have it and you don’t)
  • SLANDER- talking in order to do damage to others on purpose (like malice, except instead of actions you use your words to destroy and maim)

It is very easy to see how Peter says if we have been born again, then it is not possible for these types of behaviors to rule in our lives anymore.  They directly contradict and destroy unity and community.  When these are present it is not possible for unity and community to also exist.  Peter tells us to remove these from our lives as though we are removing muddy dirty clothes that we have to peel off of us.  Or to remove them as though they are obstacles that try to trip us up.

When we are able to rid our lives of these destructive sins, then we can begin to have community with each other and with lost people.  How do we do that though?  How do we remove sins as dug in and hard to remove as these?  It reminds me of the movie the Predator.  When the special forces dudes raid that village they track down all the soldiers in it and chase down one last one to a machine gun nest above them.  Jesse the Body Ventura’s character comments that he is, ‘dug in like an Alabama tick!’  Malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy and slander can manifest in our lives in such subtle ways that we don’t realize they are there.

Overcoming these sins is a step towards becoming more like Christ.  What are ways you overcome these sins in your life?

 

What Defines Me?

So a great friend of mine emailed me this the other week. She and I share a passion for Brennan Manning and realize as she says, when he speaks you listen. Here is a portion of her email to me:

Got this from a friend and “thought” of you so I am forwarding it on:

Just thinking….cause you HAVE TO every time you read anything that Brennan Manning, writes!

…The Rabbi (that would be Jesus for us western/modern Christians) implores, “Don’t you understand that discipleship is not about being right or being perfect or being efficient? It’s all about the way you live with one another.” The success or failure of a given day is measured by the quality of our interest and compassion toward those around us. We define ourselves by our response to human need. The question is not how we “feel” about our neighbor, but rather what we do with that “feeling”, for him or her! We reveal the person of Christ every time we bear an injury, share our resources with the indigent, or our time with the less fortunate. It’s easy—read the RED LETTERS and do what He did!
But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to You, What I have vowed I will make good. Jonah 2:9

Here is how I responded to her… then some further thoughts:

Just read this… when I perceive an email to have a MSG that I wanna ponder, I’ll wait to read it until I can ponder it. I saw Brennan Manning & decided to wait.

Very powerful. I instantly think not just about my neighbor but to my family. My family is the biggest legacy I leave behind. (been reading a lot on this orange thingy so it’s got me all choked up on the role/responsibility of Godly parenting)

We define ourselves by our response to human need… sadly by this definition I don’t amount to much often.

More thoughts of mine:

So I find myself implicitly aware of my own crappiness. I find that I too often get hung up on the sinner that I am and I don’t think about the saint that I am when I allow the blood of Christ to permeate every aspect of my life. Paul reminds us on multiple occasions not to think too highly of ourselves, but I think that he would also argue that it does no good to be so consumed with our brokenness that we don’t allow Christ to use us. If I wait until I’m ‘fixed’ enough to be used, God will never use me… because until I die and go to Heaven I’ll never be that fixed.

Reminds me sometimes of the song that goes,

Sometimes I don’t mind
How hateful that I can be

Sometimes I don’t try
To make you happy
I don’t know why I do the things I do to you but…

Sometimes I don’t wanna be better
Sometimes I can’t be put back together
Sometimes I find it hard to believe
There’s someone else who could be
Just as messed up as me

The Diary of God… Prophet/Priest

Yesterday I was having a conversation and I used an analogy to describe me that I had not in some time. I spoke of Ezekiel and his call to be a prophet. “Zeke” as I like to call him had been called as a priest into the priesthood. The problem with that is the whole Babylonian captivity thing. Zeke thought he knew what God had planned for him until one day God changed his mind… or should I say that God changed Zeke’s perception of what his ministry was going to be. Check out Ezekiel 1:2; 2:3; 3:2 for more of the story according to the Scriptures. I wonder if the Scriptures were kinder to Zeke than reality was. It seems as though he went to the new path willingly with no complaints. My journey has not been so easy going. There have been many days of second guessing, rethinking, looking back, and wondering if I had done the right thing. Every time I wrestle with this question God seems to work in my life in a way that allows me to see how he has me where he wants me. My plan wasn’t always to go to Bible College and then go into ministry. But I ended up there and then what you do after that is go into ministry. My ministry experience has been tumultuous. And after graduating Bible College and struggling to find my way in ministry, I fell into case management. I have had a few experiences recently that have been encouraging me in the path that I find myself on. I’m not sure why I constantly struggle with whether I am in the right place or not as far as God is concerned. In the last year I really feel like God has lead me to where he needs me, he is constantly deepening my passion or purpose for the children, youth and families that go unnoticed in the world. There is great ministry to be done by working at a church in vocational ministry, but there is a vast, untapped source of ministry outside employment at a church. This is what I call secular ministry. Watch out for the book about it one day. I often feel that being able to do the ministry of the church is easier when not employed by a church. Honestly, there is a precipice that must be overcome before you can begin to realize this type of ministry. It is real easy to be employed by a church and talk about passages like 1 Peter 2:5 about all being a holy priesthood, but it another thing when we are faced with the task of finding ourselves on the other side of the ministry coin, trying to fit into the ministry of the church. It is not always easy, it takes effort to force ourselves out of our comfort zones in order to minister to those around us. I remember when I was a Campus Minister at UGA, I used to tell our student leaders that it was imperative for them to meet the new visitors. I can meet visitors all day long, talk to them, and take interest in them… I’m a Campus Minister, I get paid to care about them. Therefore it means a ton more when one of the student leaders, just another college student like them, genuinely cares. The same is true about people in general. The “clergy” is paid to care about the world, when one of normal joes do it is out of the ordinary. I was reading a Brian McLaren book a few years ago and I think it was him who pointed out that the Jewish Rabbis didn’t get paid to be Rabbis. They had to work and ind money other ways in order to be able to be Rabbis. This changed my life and my view of ministry. A passage of Scripture that God really laid on my heart several years ago is Proverbs 24:11-12. I have kind of made these my personal mission statement verses. They are the ones that have held me accountable over the years as I have chased after God and attempted to understand the journey he has lead me on. Being a Priest is cool, but being a Prophet is better.

Fast forward two years to where I am today and the story is not over… I am now working a church fulfilling the ‘priest’ aspect of God’s calling on my life.  Why am I here?  Hopefully, to use the skills and knowledge that I gained from the secular ministry in the vocational ministry.  I find that even in vocational ministry it is often hard to do the real ministry of the church.  We get caught up in doing the work of the church that we don’t do the Work of the Church.  Make sense?

Being a priest is great… not everyone is called in that way though…

If we take ministry (prophet or priest variety) seriously, it is hard.  Long hours, hard work, little thanks and lots of hurt feeling because people lash out at you.  People get mad cause they don’t get it.  People want someone to blame when you force them out of their comfort.  People  don’t like being pushed.  People like to be a Christian as far as it doesn’t cause and real discomfort.  People like being a Christian as long as they don’t have to change anything.

In some ways, I hate being a Christian and being in ministry… it challenges me to think of others over myself.  Selfishness is destroyed.  I don’t have the right to be selfish… But then again was God selfish?  Philippians 2:4-8 — 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!

Spiritual Discipline vs. Physical Discipline

I just ran 2 miles and completed half of the P90X chest and back workout (thanks to a crying toddler and baby I was unable to finish it all).

It occurred to me I wonder which I really believe to be more important.  If I truly believe spiritual discipline and my spiritual life to be more important than my physical life, why do I spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about, planning and living out my physical discipline over my spiritual ones.

This may be over-spiritualizing the issue but I suspect for some, like me, the idea of being able to control and not be controlled by the whims and desires of the body becomes a spiritual issue.  For me, Dr. Pepper and Krispy Kreme hold immeasurable power.  I can’t help myself when they are in play.  Not to mention, I know coffee and gluten (found in my most favorite foods like aforementioned Krispy Kremes and bread) are highly toxic to my body both physically and mentally, yet I find myself unable to resist the urge to consume them at times.

Is there a weight limit to gluttony?  I don’t think so, it is when the foods begin to control you and you become addicted in some way to them.  No, not addicted in the classic sense of the term because there is not a psychological-chemical dependence with withdrawal developed to a donut, but there is a craving and addiction that occurs.  Also, factor in elsewhere in the Scriptures where we are encouraged not to be drunkards.  One could easily argue that this command also includes being controlled or over taken by any substance (otherwise meth is ok by the Scripture’s standards, cause one gets high not drunk from meth). 

So if we are not to be controlled by any substance and gluttony is closely knocking on the door, does that then make physical discipline a matter of spiritual discipline?  For me, I argue yes.  Does that let me off the hook for not spending the appropriate time in prayer and in the Scriptures? Of course not.  Makes me realize my slackerness and desire to do and be better.