Archive for January, 2010

25
Jan
10

a person, not a cause

How do you explain the process of living out your faith? I was reading Oswald Chambers’ devotional guide, My Utmost For His Highest, recently and he wrote, “Paul was not given a message or a doctrine to proclaim. He was brought into a vivid, personal, overpowering relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul was devoted to a Person, not to a cause.”

That, no doubt, is what explains Paul’s radical lifestyle.

There are a handful of us who can be very fanatically committed to an ideology. This is especially true when we are young. It seems youthfulness often produces an ideological zeal for all sorts of causes, worthy and misguided alike. However, as we grow older, it seems other things begin to take precedent in our lives. Before you feel too guilty about this or make some kind of somber vow that this will never happen to you, consider what things generally take precedent – family and friends; in other words, relationships.

Let me say again – Don’t be depressed about this and feel like you are selling out to commercialism, consumerism or a lifestyle of self-gratification. (Unless, of course, you are; in which case, stop it and do something significant with your life up until you draw your last breath.) Here’s what’s really cool about this – our passion doesn’t really have to change, it just becomes grounded in something (a relationship) that is much more sustainable than a cold, sterile ideology. Think about it this way – Is it easier to give to the poor, like both the Old & New Testaments tell us to do, because we have been instructed to and we want to fight for social justice, or because we actually know a poverty stricken person and we are concerned for them because they are our friend?

That’s what Paul meant when he said, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2 NIV). What he meant was, “I am devoted to a person, not a cause.

20
Jan
10

take root, flourish & multiply

Do you remember what the first commandment God gave to us was?

Genesis 1:28 – God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

I know that often when we think of this passage we do so in terms of procreation. There is no doubt that God had that in mind, but it is clear from the verses following this that he was thinking in a larger context as well. In the second part of verse 28 through verse 30 God gives humankind responsibility for all creation. We know from later verses in the creation story that it was Adam’s responsibility to take care of the garden and see to it that productivity was maintained.

If we jump ahead to information we have about the “new heaven and new earth” we are told that we have been made “a kingdom and priests” to reign upon the earth (Revelation 5:9).

So, if in the beginning we were to manage well the parts of creation that had been entrusted to us, and in the end we will be doing the same, what do you suppose we should be doing now? I think it is clear from Scripture, especially the teaching of Jesus, that we should be living our lives with intentionality that yields productivity.

Too many followers of Jesus have the idea that they’re just suppose to hang out until he comes back. Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus teaches us that we should be having the same impact on our culture that salt has on food and light has on darkness. Jesus and Paul both teach us that our future responsibilities and rewards in the Kingdom will be predicated on what we did with the responsibilities assigned to us here now.

For anyone who has read Scripture at all it should come as no surprise that God’s intention for his people is to “Take Root, Flourish & Multiply.”

13
Jan
10

Dad

Did you know that the word Jesus uses in addressing God, in Mark 14:36, is a term of endearment equivalent to our word dad, or daddy. It’s the Aramaic word “abba”. Paul teaches us to use the same word when we are addressing God in prayer. In Romans 8:15 Paul tells us, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. {Or adoption} And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” He echoes that teaching in Galatians 4:6 when he writes, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

I know some of us get a little uncomfortable thinking about God in these terms. That’s one of the things that got Jesus in so much trouble – he displayed such intimacy with God, and taught others to do the same. That was completely unheard of in that day, and it was completely unacceptable to the religious leaders of Jesus’ time. They preferred to keep their relationship with God on a formal level that made it easier to control God (so they thought) and the people. We do that because intimate relationships can be very messy and complicated.

Case in point. If we truly learn to relate to God in these terms then we have to accept everything that is included in that type of relationship. For instance, Proverbs 3:11, 12 states, “do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” The writer of Hebrews quotes these verses in chapter 12, verses 5 and 6, and then goes on in verse 7-11 to remind us that, if anything, godly discipline is even more applicable for New Covenant believers, who have become the natural children of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 1:12).

It’s great to think of God in terms of intimacy when we need comforting and encouragement. However, we are not as thrilled with that intimacy when God demonstrates his love for us by correcting us through his wise and loving discipline.

05
Jan
10

happy new year

Blame it on middle age, but I just can’t help over analyzing everything at this stage of my life. I have come to that place where I realize how valuable every moment is and I want to try to make the most of it. In doing so I realize I am making myself, as well as people closest to me, a little crazy; but, if you don’t mind, indulge me for a moment.

I understand that 2009 was a tough year for all of us financially, but what successes did you enjoy? Did you reach any goals you had set for yourself? Did you pass any great milestones? Were any of your life-long dreams fulfilled? What did you learn from those things? What new perspective did you gain as a result of those successes? Did your attitudes change? Did you grow in any way?

What about the setbacks you endured? Deaths, sicknesses, and financial setbacks all are a common part of life. The question is how do we respond to these situations? In other words, do we grow from them and become more mature in our understanding, or do we just keep responding in an inappropriate and detrimental way?

Which brings me to 2010. Have you set some goals for this year that are going to help you deal with life, both the ups and the downs, in a way that produces spiritual and emotional maturity in your life, encourages others and honors Christ? The Scripture assures us, “If you plan good, you will be granted unfailing love and faithfulness” (Proverbs 14:22).

So what’s your plan? I know the thought of goal setting freaks a lot of people out. There are a lot of reasons for that, but perhaps the most common is failing to understand the purpose of reasonable goals. If we focus on what our preferred future looks like (taking into account the purpose of God for our lives) and determine and implement the necessary steps to arrive at that future, then the process is really not that intimidating and will produce fruit that brings peace into our lives.