Sunday, November 14, 2010

I need to remember this blog title...

 ...because often enough I try to just let Jesus come to me.

I sit in church on Sunday mornings, I play bass guitar, I baptise (which was awesome...Christopher Brian is now a baptized member of our church family!), and I listen to one of our teens preach the Sunday morning sermon...I spend a relaxing afternoon hanging out with my brother, and then I lead almost 20 teens in a study of Chan's book 'Crazy Love' before shipping them all back home to start their weeks.

Sounds like a great day...until I realize that I've forgotten to spend time alone with God.

In the middle of doing so much work for the church, I forgot to invite God to spend the day with me. It happens far more than I would like to admit. I get too busy, I get too tired, I get too...something. And I let my first love slide.

So this is my friendly reminder to you all. Don't let the opportunity to spend time reading God's word slip by. It's too good to let go. It's too important to put off. It's too vital to not drink in every chance you get.

So go find your bible and read for a bit.

Philippians 2: unity in the Church

First, I apologize for my GEPC negligence. I was sick this week. But also just lazy. Neither are really good excuses. I've missed it. 

Philippians 2 is one of my favorite chapters ever--verses 6-11 in particular. 

 Who, being in very nature[a] God, 
   did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; 
7 but he 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 
   by becoming obedient to death— 
      even death on a cross!

 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place 
   and gave him the name that is above every name, 
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
   to the glory of God the Father.

I memorized verses 7-8 when I was a young girl but seeing them in context is incredibly powerful. Verses 6-11 were required memory for everyone in the worship arts program at SAU--under the belief that our lives as worship leaders ought to be lived in complete humility. 

We are called to be like Jesus--not just to read these verses and be moved by the humble choices of the Son of God, but to be driven to action. Jesus was willing to become our only hope of accessing the Father--by coming to earth (that had gone from perfection at creation to sinful and polluted), in the form of human being (GOD in the form of the created), lived the life of a servant (the lowest status of human life), and obediently followed his Father's will to the cross (a sinless man dying a death of the worst criminal). FOR ME. For YOU. 

But back up few verses---"your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (which is described in verses 6-11.) woah. Talk about high calling. 

Back up a bit more--to the beginning of the chapter. Paul is beseeching the church body to live in unity, in love, all for Jesus. How often do you encounter conflict in the church?--most likely over issues that should not be issues at all. Gossip over this one thing this one person overheard this one time. Assumptions in the reasons for changes made by the leadership. Hurt feelings and no willingness to resolve conflict. I can imagine Paul's frustration with at least a handful of the churches he's shepherding. THE POINT IS JESUS, PEOPLE. It's not about YOU. or ME. We are to go out of our way to live in complete humility alongside each other; to pursue our own interests last, to rid ourselves of our desires and pursuits of selfish gain. We are to be like minded--to be focused on Jesus only. And subsequently living out the purpose of Jesus with selflessness and love. Because the point of your entire LIFE is Jesus. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

That little two year old in your ear...

You know, the flu did something to me this week.  It gave me time. I had a ton of time to sit around, lay on the couch and lie there. The first day this was great, we caught up on some TV we'd been meaning to watch, maybe a movie. Then day two...and day got a bit boring.

So I immediately started trying to think of things to do, things I could be productive on. I tried to stay busy. Problem was that I was so sick there wasn't a whole lot I could do. So I ended up lying around, sleeping, and reading.

There is a question that I had in all this though...Why don't we like to be quiet? Why don't we like to be alone? Personally, I was forced to face my inner toddler. And I don't like listening to him.

My inner toddler may be an odd way of phrasing it, but that's what I call the corner of my brain that says 'Why? Why? Why?' constantly. Normally this isn't a problem because we can just drown out our inner toddler...but every once in a while, I slow down enough he starts it up all over again.

For instance, if I'm being particularly angry at someone, and I'm reveling in my sense of injustice...the toddler ruins it all by sneaking up on my psyche and asking 'Why?'  The conversation would go something like this:

Me: I'm so ANGRY how could they POSSIBLY think this is a good idea! Are they crazy! I'm so MAD!
Inner Toddler (IT for short): Why?
Me: Well because they're doing it WRONG!
IT: Why?
Me: Because my way is better!
IT: Why?
Me: Because it works better! We have to do it the best way!
IT: Why?
Me: We can't just do it a way that isn't the best!
IT: Why?
Me: Because...*stomps off angrily*

See, I'm convinced that if you listen to your inner toddler enough, you'll realize eventually that 90% of the things we get all worked up over are really not important. So what if you have a better way of doing things? Maybe it's not the point. So what if someone else is immature and hurt you? If it's on purpose and they refuse to apologize, there's nothing for you to do but let go, forgive them, and hope they realize their mistake later. Anything else and you're just not obeying God.

So often we work and work at maintaining our sense of 'us vs. the world!' mentality. We've got it all worked out...and if other people would just listen...

But here's a question: How often do you think other peoples' Inner Toddlers defend you? 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Washington Monument

Something has been bugging me lately...I've been hearing quite a few people ask me why God allows bad things to happen. How in the world can an all-powerful God who loves us allow life to be such crap sometimes? (no, this isn't brought on by my recent bout with flu, but it's hardly an antithesis)

I know all the standard replies...God loves us, but He doesn't control us, so other people can make bad choices that hurt us...or maybe it's a result of us not making the right choices, and God doesn't take away consequences...or maybe we just don't have enough Faith and God is trying to make us better people.

They all have an element of truth in it (huge pun there that you may get in a bit here), but I've had something else strike me recently. And it came in the form of the Washington Monument. (Don't worry, I'm speaking metaphorically, I didn't actually get hit in the face by a piece of weighty American History.)

Did you know that the Washington Monument isn't made entirely of stone?  Did you know that the cap of the monument is made of pure aluminum? As in the stuff that we use to wrap up our food before we stick it in the oven? Even more strangely, did you know that Aluminum was more valuable than gold at the time the Washington Monument was built? (click for details!)

True story.

The obvious question is WHY.  Why was aluminum so valued, when we use it and throw it away now? You have to admit, it's pretty...but it's also common. The reason aluminum was so valued was that it was hard to make pure. Aluminum ore was easy to get your hands on, but the process of taking a rock with some aluminum in it and making a block of pure aluminum was difficult and expensive.

The reason aluminum was valuable was that you had to work to get it just right. (obvious spiritual metaphor enters the scene)

But because I don't like leaving even obvious corollaries goes nothing.

Maybe there's evil in the world partly because God could make right behavior easy...but it's more valuable if we have to fight for it. We all know from personal experience what happened to that wonderful cap of expensive aluminum on the Washington Monument...aluminum became easy to get...and it became cheap. Shiny...but mostly worthless.

Who would really be all that irritated if someone stole a wad of aluminum foil? Probably not so much.

So here's my thought. Belief in God is cheap. The bible says that even demons believe. But right behavior isn't cheap. Obeying God in the face of evil in the world is hard. Trusting in God no matter your circumstances is hard. It takes work, it takes time, and it takes a deliberate Faith.

There's a quote from a movie that I like watching...based around a guy who turns his world upside down by "letting that which does not matter truly slide."

So here's my question: Does evil in the world matter in the long run? If we can agree that evil in the world is a product of sin, which God shouldn't change our opinion of Him. Our life shouldn't be about trying to fix this world, but bringing ourselves as close to Him as we can, and dragging as many people along with us as possible.

Evil in the world makes truth, light, and right that much more valuable. Righteousness is worth something not just because it's good...but also because it's not evil. It's in direct contrast against everything we see, so we cling to it.

So go and do good today in the face of evil...because it's hard...but it's the right thing to do.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Galatians 3

I am totally loving Galatians 3. This passage connects to Genesis 15, Levitcus 19 and Romans 4. In college I spent hours and hours dissecting these pericopes in completing my exegetical assignments. I absolutely loved it! I could spend hours more diving into this chapter, but I'll restrain myself. 

Yes, this chapter in Galatians is a bit ridiculous to follow--what with Paul's commentary style--but its words are so freeing! How similar are we to the Galatians? We are constantly striving, forgetting how we've been forgiven, neglecting the power of Christ and the Cross. How dare we! Paul gives these people (and us!) a smack in the face to bring them back to reality. Of course it's not because we follow the law that we've been justified and forgiven or seen miraculous signs! That's nonsense. God does not give us His Spirit because we have suddenly because completely adept at following the law. Not even close! 

Paul hits home with these Jewish believers when he reminds them of their forefather, Abraham. It is with him that the plan of redemption started rolling. God gave Abraham a promise--that ALL nations would be blessed through him. It's a little bit impossible to be the father of all nations, don't you think?! But God knew better. His plan was greater and widespread. 

While the world was waiting for the Seed, the Son of the Man, the Messiah to show up, the law was in place. This law wasn't instituted as the end-all of salvation. It was necessary to keep us sinful humans under control. But the law became something God never intended it to be. Staunch Israelites and Jews made adherence to the life the goal in and of itself. They became nit-pickers. They lost the spirit of the law--that God wants us to be holy as He is holy

When Jesus showed up on the scene, He became the fulfillment of the promise God gave to Abraham. No, this fulfillment did not oppose the law, but in fact brought it full circle. NOW, everyone could become heirs in the promise of Abraham and subsequently become his offspring. The law was no longer the point. Salvation by faith in Christ was the purpose of God's plan for our redemption. Christ did not abolish the law but gave us a means of actually achieving what the law was set up to do--make us holy. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Galatians 2

This chapter seemed totally new to me. I know I've read it a hundred times, and I've quoted many of it's verses, but the context of the words seemed to have escaped me. Here's what I observed in my morning reading of Galatians 2--

Paul had a FEAR! This stuck out to me a new way because most of Paul's writing describes the boldness or peace that comes from God. Even in times of trouble, he shows how graciously God wants His followers to live. Paul's been through so much as described in brief in I Corinthians 4:11-13, but this is the first time I remember Him admitting fear. He was fearing that his work was in vain--even after he penned the words, "Your labor for the Lord is not in vain" in I Cor. 15:58. This gave me a bit of comfort, realizing that Paul is, in fact, human.

On top of that--they were dealing with spies. Yes, SPIES! And these particular spies were checking up on the "freedom" they had in Christ. This makes me think the spies and their leaders were straight up jealous of the lives led by the disciples of Jesus. Sure, they wanted to take prisoners, but that's beside the point (or at least beside my observation. ha!)

-God works in the Jews AND the Gentiles. vs. 4
-I want to be known as a pillar of the faith. vs. 9
-I love how they slip this in--remember the poor always. vs. 10 
-It's kind of entertaining to read as Paul gets caught up in his former Jewish zeal. vs. 11 and on. 

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Paul's consistent theology--that the law is not what redeems us, but it is Christ who came to fulfill the law in us (that is, to have us be seen as holy before of God.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Galatians 1

Starting today I am joining Jenilee and Christina in their month long study of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians--Pauls Epistles. These are four of my most favorite books in the Bible. I have spent much time in them in the past--but it's been a while. I look forward to revisiting their truth and application to my life. 

I love the contrasts between verses 3-5 and verses 6-9. Paul begins this chapter by greeting the Galatians with the grace and peace that accompanies any follower of Christ. He gives the Gospel in a nutshell--"Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present age." This sets me up to believe the Galatians a great godly people. But NO! 

In the next paragraph, Paul wastes no time. He immediately jumps down their throats for their disdainful decision to believe in a different Gospel. Though Paul does admit that they've likely had the wool pulled over their eyes by another who calls himself God's servant, that is never an excuse to abandon the Gospel of God. 

He says even if Paul himself or an angel begins to preach a different gospel they should run from this falsehood, and the preacher will be eternally condemned. This is not a light matter. 
I love verse 10b--"If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." It is the perfect introduction to the next section. Paul was quickly becoming one of the greatest Jewish leaders of his time. He had a zeal that could not be held back. He believed in the strict enforcement of the ancient Law of Moses and he would stop at nothing to see "justice." This included the persecution of the followers of Christ Jesus. 

But then, Paul himself received the call from God. He immediately gave up his status among men and began preaching the Gospel of Christ. He was no longer living to please men, but to serve God. 

This is the concept that strikes me at my core. We followers of Christ are not called to live out the American dream. We are not called to be comfortable. We are not called to be rich or famous or noteworthy. Though many of us would desire the praise of men, the entire point of the life of one called by God is to boldly preach Christ crucified and to live out the changes only God to bring to a life even in this "present evil age" (vs4)