Archive for May, 2009

26
May
09

Complete

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One of my favorite stories about the ministry of Jesus is found in Mark 5. It is the story of a man who was a complete mess. I’ll let you read it for yourself to get all of the details, but the bottom line was this. Things were so bad for him that he was actually living in a cemetery among the graves. He was so mentally imbalanced that he was running around naked, attacking anyone who came too close to him. But Mark records, in verse 15, that after his encounter with Jesus the people were amazed because this crazy man was sitting listening to Jesus teach, clothed and in his right mind.

I like this story for a number of reasons. I like the fact that Jesus made it a habit to hang out with people that society had written off. I like it because Jesus never came across a situation that was beyond His ability to produce change, as long as the person wanted change. I like the story because the implication is that Jesus is always calling people to something better.

There are some reasons I’m not crazy about the story as well. They are basically the aforementioned reasons. If I’m really trying to be like Jesus I need to be more aware of those who have become invisible to society. I’m going to have be willing to divest myself of time and material resources to make a difference in other peoples lives. And I’m going to have to accept the call to the better places Jesus is leading me to.

Why would that be a problem you ask? Let me sum it up this way. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4 NIV) The word “complete” in this verse literally means “meeting all expectations, with integrity, whole, undamaged, and/or intact.” The implication is that when Jesus comes into our lives He wants to fix everything that is broken in us, not just what we want him to fix. The reality is we have become comfortable with some of the dysfunction in our lives. It’s kind of like a story I heard about a man that didn’t want healing for a an injury he had sustained at work because then he would have to quit drawing disability and go back to work. Spiritually speaking, we get lazy that way sometimes. We want to continue limping around, spiritually disabled, rather than accepting the wholeness (spiritual, emotional, relational, behavioral, etc.) that has been provided for us.

As Erwin McManus, in An Unstoppable Force, put it, “A person who is growing in spiritual maturity is developing emotional health. A person who is growing in spiritual maturity is healing broken relationships and building healthy ones. A person who is growing in spiritual maturity begins to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and no longer allows the imaginations of the heart to run riot. A person who is growing in spiritual health begins to treat his or her body as the temple of the Lord and establish disciplines that result in overcoming such vices as gluttony.”

In other words, Jesus wants to do more for us than take us to Heaven, He wants to make us complete people.

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18
May
09

Interesting, Very Interesting

rwandaI heard an interesting question asked today that any sincere follower of Christ needs to consider. It went something like this. “Is the blood of tribalism thicker than water of baptism in your life?” The question came from someone who is intimate with the genocide in Rwanda in which Christians, who were part of one tribe, have killed people who were members of another tribe simply because of their tribal affiliation.

Let me begin my thoughts by explaining what I think tribalism is. Simply stated, tribalism is the culture that defines us. To some of us it might literally be our tribe, or as we call it, our family. Others find their tribal identity in a brand of theology, or church affiliation. For others our tribe might be our political affiliation. Then there are those whose tribe is their union. Still others define themselves by their ethnicity. Some would define their tribe as one form or another of modern culture. And others by geographical considerations. (How long do I have to live in Michigan to actually be a yankee?)

All of us can find parts of our identity in all of the examples above, but the question posed has to do with whether or not we allow our other affiliations to take precedent over our identity as Christ followers. I’m sure that the majority of those reading this blog are not guilty of genocide, but have there been times when the opinions of our “tribal influences” have differed from godly precepts? Which did you choose?

In other words, who has the final say in the decisions that we make? Is it the community of Christ, represented by; the Scripture, mature believers, and godly leadership, or is it one of our other tribal affiliations? Jesus said “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 The Message)

So what is it ultimately that defines you? Is it one of the tribes above or is it your identity as a wholly devoted follower of Jesus Christ?

11
May
09

How Great Is That?

When was the last time you thought to yourself, “How great is that? That was really cool God, thanks a lot.”

I woke up that way this morning. It’s not that I don’t have things to complain about. I could start a list and probably spend the rest of the day lamenting all that’s not as I would have it to be. Honestly, there are those days when I can get caught up in that pretty easily. But for whatever reason I started my day today thinking about all the things that I have to be thankful for. I could make a list for you, but there is something more important to talk about. I have discovered something that, I think, is very important. It is the key to having “inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).

Despite conventional wisdom, I don’t think this kind of joy can be had simply by “count(ing) your blessings, name(ing) them one by one.” If you want to get into an argument with negative influence, sooner or later you’re going to get tired and/or run out of things to be happy about. Besides that, counting your blessings, the way most of us who struggle with carnality from time to time do it (if you’re already glorified, just disregard that last part), can turn into a pretty self-centered activity rather quickly.

So what is the key I mentioned earlier? For me, it starts by remembering it’s not about me, it’s about God. Specifically what I mean is this. When I am using the gifts that God has deposited in my life the way God intended me to use, namely to serve others, them I’m happy! Pretty simple I know. But the fact of the matter is I have proved this principle over and over again in my life. For me, when I am preaching I have the greatest sense of fulfillment that I ever know. And when someone confirms that God has used me to meet a need in their life, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude beyond description!

If you haven’t already, try it sometime. Figure out what God created you to do, and then do it with everything you’ve got!