Monthly Archives: December 2004

Jesus Was Fully Man

Hebrews 4:15 (King James Version)

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Sometimes I look at the life of Jesus in the Scriptures and tend to think of Him like some sort of super hero. This causes me as a mere mortal to dismiss any notion of every being really like Him. Jesus could bring people back from the dead, mysteriously hide himself (the first cloaking device), feed thousands with a few fish and loaves, walk on water, change the chemical compound of substances, perceive people’s thoughts, and of course, make a nifty bookshelf or table. Jesus had skills. I on the other hand am a simple writer.

But as I search the Scriptures, I have come to see that Jesus had weaknesses. His divinity did not remove His humanity. He had pain, knew what it meant to be hungry and homeless, cried for friends, and had to deal with the same distractions that everyone else has. With his charisma and power, you can be sure that woman were ready to throw themselves at his feet and do whatever He said.

Jesus encountered people flattering to Him, lying to Him, trying to manipulate Him and even trying to kill Him. Jesus had times where He asked tuff questions of God. He knew what it was like to be disappointed and overcome by the circumstances of life. He had feelings and even knew the agony of being separated from the Father.

Having left the glories of heaven, He knew sacrifice and living for something greater than Himself. This is the Jesus that really makes the Christian life full of hope. I have a savior that knows what I am going through. Jesus shows the way by His life. And it is not a model that is too complex, advanced or beyond my ability to live.

Jesus said that all things are possible for those who believe. While I can never be God, I can become like Him in godly character. As I yield to God’s power in my life, I can do greater things than even Jesus did. Why do I think that? Well, that is what Jesus said. Jesus not only have us a model to follow. He also gave us power and guidance from the Holy Spirit to pull it off.

Jesus said that He is the firstborn of many brethern. That means that He wants us to follow His lead and and look like the rest of the family. Just like a little boy always wants to be like His big brother, that’s how I feel about Jesus. I guess that Jesus came down so that I could really look up to Him. He’s walked in my shoes. He has been there and done that. And He’s come out as the champ. This gives a whole new meaning to the words, ‘I want to be just like my big brother when I grow up.’

3 Elements of the Christian Message

2  Corinthians 13:14

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

The above Bible passage encapsulates the whole essence of the Gospel and the heartbeat of the Christian life. Paul used it as his final reminder to the church in Corinth. It is so simple. You can almost read over it at first.

As I read it this morning, I was overcome by the deepness of the Christian life and the power in the message. The three elements are grace through Jesus work on our behalf, receiving the love of God and walking in communion with the Holy Spirit. Grace is receiving something you don’t deserve. And in this case, grace includes cleansing past sins, purification in the present, everlasting life, and God’s power to live a holy life. God never asks us to do something that He is not willing to help us live out. God knows that we need His help. And He is prepared to give it.

Secondly, we must receive God’s love to grasp the real intention of the Gospel. God does not love us because we are cute and adorable creatures. No, God loves us because He is love.

God loves even the worst of the worst. Many people chase around all their lives looking for love. But they never find pure love. They have a hard time really believing that God loves them. Love has become almost a dirty word to them. As a result, they miss out on the love that would have made them secure. God’s love makes us OK with ourselves and removes our insecurities.

Thirdly, communion with the Holy Spirit is a must if we are to live the life that God intended. God designed us to be spiritual men and women. The spirit is that part of a person that connects with God. It is hidden deep within a Christian. It is the still small voice that will guide us to make right choices or perceive hidden dangers.

The reason that Jesus was able to do great miracles and always seem to know what to do was because He was full of the Spirit. The same Holy Spirit is available today to any followers of Jesus. It guides in truth and righteousness. It gives power for the mutual edification of God’s people and the service of His kingdom. Today, very few people walk in communion with the Spirit. Instead, we tend to experience the Spirit on retreats or rare occassions. Really spiritual people may encounter the Spirit throughout the day. Very few stay in constant awareness of the Spirit, even though it is always there. The Spirit is always available to those who will listen, submit and let God’s power flow.

Oh, God, may my life consist of the three elements in this verse. May I be full of grace, living in your love and walking in communion with the Spirit. Help me to be holy as You are holy. May I be free from any insecurities because I am loved by You. Your love is perfect, absolutely flawless. May I be a spiritual man with my soul and flesh brought under subjection to my spirit. And may my spirit be guided by the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Assurance Cloaked by Mystery

“God is our mystery, and at the same time, He is our assurance.” – youth speaker, tonight at 180

These profound words brilliantly capture much of my journey over the last year. The more I dive into my relationship with God, the more I discover that I don’t know.

With every question, I become more resolute in my faith. I can’t explain it. But I just know that I know that I know that the Christian faith is true. It is the only way to live life as God intended. God is connecting the dots through Scripture, current culture, nature, life circumstances, and His Church. I can’t wait to see where the future goes!

Rethinking Evangelism

The other day I had the opportunity to have dinner with an old friend. His name is Ryan, and he is working as a producer and video editor in Hollywood. Ryan and some friends are about to launch a movie project. I asked him if it was going to be a Christian movie. He kind of smiled and said, “No it’s just enough to be a Christian in Hollywood.”

As we talked about his life in California and what God had showed him, I was struck by his clear understanding of how to engage the culture. Instead of make a cheesy, B-grade movie with an evangelistic theme, Ryan believes that God has called him to impact the culture in Hollywood by simply being like Jesus. Ryan never passed judgement on evangelistic films or the typical outreach playbooks used by many Christians. But he does seem to be taking them to task by his lifestyle.

In many circles, modern evangelism seems to center around an event, ministry, service or program. Evangelism must be pre-meditated, convenient. Typical evangelistic outreaches include some kind of performance, free food, “Christian” music, free childcare, activities, etc. People come, give their hearts to Jesus and go. It’s so efficient. While there may be follow-up, most people focus on the event and the connection is typically lost. It may have been a great thing. But it could be so much more.

By comparison, Ryan’s approach is more relationship based. It is slower and may not be easy to quantify. But it makes a long term difference in a few lives. This could produce a ripple that impacts thousands.

It’s not that one approach is right and one is wrong. They both have their place. But I do feel that the modern Church has ignored relationship evangelism in favor or evangelistic events and crusades. Quick shots are not what many need to really hear the message of Jesus.

Thinking about the Hollywood that Ryan described. It is a place were celebrity is everything. There is very little loyalty and no real sense of family. He wants his production company to be a place for people to encounter a better way of doing business. Instead of yelling at people and using intimidation to get things done, which evidentally is typical for Hollywood, Ryan hopes to bring a sense of respect and community to his work. In Hollywood where there is a lot of fear because people mainly work on projects and have long period of unemployment or odd jobs, Ryan hopes to model a life of faith. In an industry full of drugs and escapism, he intends to show these things as mere counterfeits for the Holy Spirit and God’s power.

Our coversation is really making me rethink evangelism. Maybe my mission field might have been under my nose all along. Maybe it is every place I go and encounter that I have. Evangelism is not an event or campign. It is a way of life.

You can find Ryan’s Web site at: Tandem Arts

What Does It Look Like to Live by Faith?

Delving into the past can be a very dangerous thing. This is especially true when the past belongs to a stalwart in the Christian faith. Sometimes these heros of faith seem larger than life. They lived in a sphere that I wonder if I will ever reach. I have been thinking about faith today as I have been reflecting on the life of George Muller. Here is a man who truly lived by faith. And my best attempts at living by faith seem like faint shadows by comparison.

Mueller walked away from financial security to follow the dreams that God gave him. In college, Muller walked away from a woman that he loved to answer God’s call. From moment to moment, God continued to sharpen Muller’s vision and faith. Muller left sure things time and time again for the unknown of trusting in God.

Muller became a preacher and immediately went to work tearing down things He felt were not Biblical. He convinced his newly married bride to give up all of their fine things to provide for the poor. He abolished the practice of pew rent where the rich families paid a fee for the best seats. Muller did this because he thought the practice was favortism which went against the practices outlined in James’ epistle.

Muller took such a bold move even though it could his largest source of income. He had to trust that people would freely give. Some did. Some did not. Muller’s decision has a profoundly negative impact on his salary. But he continued resolute in his decision. One time he and his wife sat down at the dinner table with nothing to eat. They went ahead and prayed thanking God for His provision. After they finished praying, they heard a knock at the door. There was a man standing there with a ham for them to eat.

A few years later, he ups and moves to Bristol after hearing from God. In Bristol, Muller goes to pastor another church. This time he takes no guaranteed salary, splits the pulpit with a dear brother in Christ and abolished pew rent there too. God provides turn after turn. Then George gets a “crazy” idea to start serving breakfast to homeless children and share the Bible with them every morning.

Before long, the Muller household is filled with homeless, poor children each morning. George and his wife did this in faith even when they barely had enough food for their family. God always provided. Money and food came from nowhere. Then George had his wildest idea yet. He opened a school, orphanage and missions fund. Each of these endeavors took off even though there were a lot of naysayers along the way.

Through losing a child to enduring his own personal health problems, George Muller trusted God. He went and ministered among the sick in England when a bad cholera epidemic broke out. He did so even though it presented great risk to his own health. Reading about someone like Muller helps me see how small my faith is and how bit it could be.

I will never ever be George Muller. And I should never really compare myself to other Christians even though it is perfectly safe to be inspired by them. My only measuring stick is Christ. And while nothing I do is more than enough, He is everything I will ever need.

I am both humbled and challenged by Muller’s story. And yet, I must be careful. Muller’s story could condem and crush me if I am not careful. The devil would love that. I should not use it as fuel to go off and show God how serious I am about doing stuff to please Him. Earning God’s approval is something that I can never do. Instead, I should see it as a marker of God’s faithfulness and provision.

Muller’s story shows how much God believs in us. God invites us to be part of His miracles. I should recognize that Muller could have done nothing significant without God. My God is really just that big. And there is nothing impossible for those who believe.

Jesus, I believe. Help me with my unbelief. Forgive me for fearing man, debt, failure and the future. Build up my faith in You. Thank You for believing so much in me. May I hold nothing back from You. Keep me from being double minded. May I have singular vision, walking in faith and not by sight. May this all be done to Your glory. Amen!

Moldable

“We view Christianity as a set of facts that we are supposed to believe, instead of as a lifestyle we are supposed to engage in. So when we read scripture, we look for propositions to give our assent to, and completely miss the activities that Jesus did, over and over and over.” – Steve Bush, steve@reconstruction.us from Next Wave

Can we really divorce belief from action? Jesus asked if He would find faith on the earth when He returned again. While it can be real easy to say that we believe something, it can be very hard to actually act upon that belief. James’ letter makes the claim that faith without works is dead. You can say whatever you want. But your actions reveal what you truly believe.

I want to believe the words of Jesus and the doctrines described in the Bible. I mentally assent to them. I try to believe them, but somehow I tend to waver and fall back into the mindset described by Steve Bush. I can relate to the man who said to Jesus, “I believe. Help me with my unbelief.” Even our faith is a gift from God, because we are unable to truly believe apart from God’s work on our behalf. God gives us the strength and ability to trust Him and be the person He desires us to be.

My faith doesn’t have to be perfect. Neither do my actions. God has made provision for sin and faithlessness. There is always hope for those who fail in deeds yet hold to God’s truth. The only time we are really in trouble is when we stop getting up or start thinking that we are never wrong. God can always work with someone who is moldable even if there are lumps in the surface.

Rotten Apples

Rotten Apples
12/28/2004
Proverbs 25:11

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

Oh, why do I tend to throw rotten apples at others instead of offer life giving words of encouragement? Lord, help me to understand my own sinfulness that I can truly receive your righteousness. Let me understand the depth of my depravity and the awesomeness of your salvation. For in me is no good thing, yet in the new me all things are made righteous by Your hand.

Emotional Futility

After years of going through countless feelings and emotions, I have come to the conclusion that feelings are something we can’t really change. All we can do is yield them to God and ask him to do something with them. Sure, we don’t have to act on our feelings. We don’t have to be ruled by them. But we can’t really change how we feel.

Consider these words by Henri Nouwen in The Road to Daybreak, “Oh, I am so little in control of my feelings and emotions! Often I have to just let them pass through me and trust that they won’t hang around too long.”

I am also reminded of what C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him…They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feelings in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did…Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it.”

Both of these famous thinkers touch on the fact that I can’t really change my emotions. Sure, I can mask them or ignore them for a while when distracted by something. But once I think about the thing, person or situation that I don’t like, the negative feelings tend to come back. My emotions seem impervious to my will or desire. They have a mind of their own. All I can do is disregard them and do what I know God wants me to do. Then, God changes my heart as I take a leap of faith and act in the proper way regardless of my feelings.

But Why???

It only takes a little while around a small child to see the deep human need to understand why something is true. Even at a young age, we want to know why things happen. Little kids love to ask, “Why mommy?” when they hear or see something that they don’t like. For a while kids can be put off or even satisfied by a simple, “Because I said so.” But eventually children demand more information even from their all-knowing, larger-than-life parents. Try pacifying a teenager with the power pull and see if it works for long.

When it comes to the interaction between God and man, many of us tend to like act like teenagers. We don’t like the reality we see. Not everything fits into easy to categorize and figure out boxes. God is indeed bigger than our preconceived ideas. And when we stop to ask legitimate questions, all we hear from God is static. Or like Job in the Torah, God answers a favored man by asking him questions. And in the end, God never tells Job why he had to go through the loss of his family, wealth and health. While God does restore, He never answers the thing that Job wants to know the most.

Michael Card recently wrote in Discipleship Journal magazine, “I beg to wonder if the deepest source of Job’s pain was not the murdered children or his wrecked health, but rather the terrifying prospect that the true God might indeed be nothing like the god of his old definition.” When reality destroys our preconceived notion, it can be hard to recover. People tend to ask the question, “Why did a good God let this happen to me?” Usually, there are no real easy answers for this question, which explains why sometimes it is best not to ask it.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus continues the pattern of using mysterious ways to achieve heavenly goals. Jesus had a knack for upsetting people and doing things completely different than what they had expected. Jesus was the master of the surprise move. He did many things that were counterintuitive from a worldly perspective. And He was always willing to upset people if it accomplished a higher purpose. From waiting to visit Lazarus to harshly rebuking Peter, Jesus never shied away from confrontation or making the tough call. Yet, He always did it in love, hoping to draw others closer to God and further from evil.

I’m starting to believe that maybe the human psyche was never intended to ask why. The ramifications of the questions are just too great for us. Looking back at the story of Job, would Job have understood if God had stopped to explain everything to him? I certainly have a hard time understanding it, and I have much more information about the situation than Job had. Sometimes I too feel like a pawn in a cosmic game of chess between God and the devil. The good news is that I know who wins in the end.

Is God Really Here?

Visit the linked picture before reading the meditation based on this image.

Garage ImageThe faint buzz of the florescent lights, the screech of cars on a lower level, the knawing blah of a hum drum, ordinary scene from life. Is God really there? Is God really there in a public parking deck at night? Or is God only in a rainbow or the sky on a sunny day?

There are a lot of major moments that have probably taken place in this garage. A couple have made out in their car. A woman was mugged while trying to get into her car. A parent and child had an argument over something petty. A stock broker sat in his car after being fired and tried to think what he would tell his family. Tons of people parked here while shopping for things they didn’t really need and two days after opening didn’t want. Each car tells a story.

Seeing this picture made me stop and realized how many times that God has been there all along but I have missed Him. I saw just a parking deck. But it is really a moment in time where God is there and wants me to recognize His hand, His presence, His very breath filling me. God actually likes my company and desires to be involved in everything.

Am I grasping for revelation? Am I just looking for something spiritual in plain picture? I don’t think so. Maybe I am just now starting to see clearly. God exists everywhere, including the ordinary things of life. I just have to choose to see Him.