Tuesday, December 23, 2014
No Reputation: The "Gift" of Christmas
“Christ Jesus . . . made himself nothing.“He made himself nothing, he emptied himself—-the great kenosis. He made himself no reputation, no image.“I can recall my father shaking his head and repeating over and over to himself, ‘If only I knew what this meant. There is something powerful here. If I only understood it.’ Maybe that is why this Scripture has glued itself to my mind and equally disturbs me. Reputation is so important to me. I want to be seen with the right people, remembered in the right light, advertised with my name spelled right, live in the right neighborhood, drive the right kind of car, wear the right kind of clothing. But Jesus made himself of no reputation.”
Friday, December 12, 2014
My Annual Christmas Post--the Mystery of Christmas
Since I started this blog about 10 years ago, I have posted a piece I wrote around Christmas 2003. It kind of sums up for me what is the "Mystery of Christmas" as I meditated on the Incarnation and its implications for humanity (and perhaps for God as well!). The very idea of God becoming "one of us among us" (Immanuel) still fascinates and overwhelms me. God, the creator of all things, humbled himself, became of no reputation, and entered his own creation so as to renew and to redeem us (and, ultimately, to do these things for all of creation as well). God, the Creator of all things, became flesh so that he might be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. The God who never knew death would die for us. The God who never knew sin would become sin for us. What amazing love! Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! As you celebrate the first advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, I hope you enjoy this rerun. Feel free to make comments if you'd like.
A little over 2000 years ago, a tiny child was born in some pretty bleak conditions. Oh, he wasn’t the only one born in a bad state. In fact, in some ways, he was one of the lucky ones. He and his mother actually survived childbirth and thrived. Still, this story is unique and amazing on several levels.
First, this child would literally change the way time is reckoned in the world. His life and abilities would so impress generations of others that a brand new movement would be created, one that would radically change the very face of the earth (sometimes for good, sometimes not). His name would become recognized among the names of the greatest of humans, yet he never forgot his humble beginnings or lost a sense of who he was.
The second thing about this child is tied to the first in that this baby, this helpless lad full of spittle and mush, was born as the very Son of God. When Mary held his little head to her breast, he drank human milk. Yet, he was (and is) the God of the universe. Can you picture this simply ridiculous yet somehow poetic scene? God, who calls the stars by name, pressed to the human breast for sustenance. Humble yet awesome, is how some folks would no doubt recall this child.
A little over 2000 years ago, God proposed that the only remedy for the human condition of sin would be if he humbled himself, stepped out of eternity and into human flesh, and suckled at Mary’s breast in preparation for the greatest, most impressive conversion of all. God, in Mary’s arms, toddling around Joseph’s home, learning to talk, learning to walk, tasting and touching things with human hands! As the Psalmist says in Psalm 139, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for us, we cannot contain it!”
God knew that the only way to redeem us was if he did it himself. Haven’t you ever had that thought? You know, the one where you say, “If I want something done right, I’ll just have to do it myself?” Imagine God having that thought about bringing us to proper relationship with him. Imagine again that the only way he knew he could do that is if he came to earth as a baby. Think of it—-how vulnerable the almighty God was at that moment, how paradoxical that the God of all creation had to learn to walk! And why did he put himself in this situation? Out of his divine sense of justice and righteousness, out of his inexpressible love for each of us he acted in this manner.
God humbled himself. In a sense, he took on our insanity so that we may be sane. He became flesh so that we might walk in his Spirit. He became sin that we might be righteous. He became poor so that we might be rich. He who had the reputation of Creator became a humble servant with no reputation. He became a toddling, dribbling, helpless babe so that we could become mature humans in the image of the almighty Son of God. What wondrous love! What humility and service! How then can anything he asks of us be too difficult?
Lord, in this Christmas season, remind us of your sacrifice and love so that we might be a light shining in darkness to others. Teach us to live a life of humble service like your Son did on our behalf so many years ago. As we celebrate the babe in the manger, may the glory he revealed in his life shine through us towards others that they may know God. May the grace of God and the peace of Christ rule in our families and our lives.
Thanks for reading!
Merry Christmas! May you know the blessings of the God who humbled himself and served!
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Some thoughts today . . . Community, Truth, Humility.
We speak of truth and lovely things, but transparency and honesty can sometimes be messy. It is fine, though, God doesn't mind messy.
If Jesus is truth, then why are we so quick to lie to each other as Christians? Are we really that concerned with how we "look" to others?
Too often I compare myself to others whose situation is no better--without Christ, they are also nothing. Jesus is the Model to imitate.
Church should be community, and community is sometimes messy. Unity only comes when we humble ourselves and serve others.
Unity is not uniformity. My brother/sister may look quite different, but our unity is based on what Jesus has done and the example he set.
Come to grips then with this truth--you are not God, but you need God. The only way God fills your need is by Jesus, his Incarnate Word.
If you find a substitute to fill your void, you will always have "less-than-God." This idol will always fail. It cannot do anything less.
God became one of us to reach us. He served humbly, what more can he ask of us? To love one another calls for humble service. It is enough.
Thanks for reading!
Thursday, October 09, 2014
Responsible Christian Freedom: August 10 Sermon
About a month ago I was asked to preach on 1 Corinthians 10 at my church, Gospel Community Church. Our pastor, Andrew, has been doing a series on 1 Corinthians called "Healthy Christian, Healthy Church." The link above will take you to the audio for this sermon (while there you can search for the rest of the series if you'd like). Below are my notes for the sermon. I hope they are a blessing to you!
1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1
Coming off the heels of a discussion concerning the Lord’s Supper/Communion in contrast to the ritual eating of meat sacrificed to idols in the pagan temples, Paul uses the idea of “meat sacrificed to idols” to round out his discussion of Christian freedom. Just as eating in a pagan temple involves a “communion” or “agreement” with demons, so eating the Lord’s Supper (bread and wine) involves a “communion” or “agreement” with the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. In other words, there is a corporate and public aspect of faith as well as some communal implications of behavior in a public setting. Now, in the last section of ch. 10, Paul returns to the idea of being careful about how our behavior affects others. He does this in the context of a private meal or in the context of table fellowship at home. ()
So, Paul reminds us that "With great freedom comes great responsibility!" We cannot expect to live the life of Christian freedom if we continue to live selfishly. When we place confidence in self, we are bound to fall. When we place confidence in Christ, we have a chance to stand and be free. Selfishness and arrogance lead to death, humility and service lead to life. .
Principle 2 (10:25-27): Accept others as they are, and let God make the change. In this section Paul essentially says that if you find yourself in a social setting with unbelievers, eat and enjoy whatever they put before you. No interrogation is needed, just eat what they offer and thank God for the good food. The principle is this: When dealing with unbelievers, don’t try to fix them. Don’t put up walls to the relationship, but build a relational bridge that allows the opportunity to tell them the gospel. Live the love of Christ and it will be easier to share it (cf. 2 Cor 5—love invigorates us—it gives life and the power to love others, it makes us representatives or ambassadors for God). .
Remember, "With great freedom comes great responsibility." We cannot expect to draw non-Christians to God if we don’t know any. We must be relational, we must serve them as Christ served us. Paul calls us to be free in seeking to share the grace of God with those who do not know him yet.
Principle 3 (10:28-30): We are free, but we should NOT be selfish ( ). Be careful that your liberty doesn’t become a trap or an offense. Be discerning in your relationships with others. Remember, it may be permissible, but that doesn’t mean it is helpful or edifying. After telling the Corinthians that they can eat whatever an unbeliever places before them (“Everything is permissible”), Paul now offers an exception (“But not everything is helpful or builds up”). The context here may refer to both believers and unbelievers, but the point is the same. Accept people as they are without interrogation. If they offer information, work with it and act with discretion (“A healthy Christian is a cautious Christian”).
If someone invites you for a meal, don’t ask where the meat came from. If they tell you, “This meat is dedicated to a god other than Jesus,” then politely refuse to eat it. If they volunteer this information, then there is an issue. Be careful, don’t let your liberty become a trap or become an offense. Christian freedom requires us to make wise choices based on the situation in which we find ourselves or based on the needs of those around us. As stated earlier, we must look out for the good of others. Avoid living carelessly or flaunting your liberty (e.g., alcohol) without regards for how it may affect others. You can do the right thing and still cause hurt. Being “right” is not the issue, being “righteous” is. To be “righteous” means to act like Jesus.
"With great freedom comes great responsibility!" If we are made free in Christ then we have much more to consider than our personal happiness, fulfillment, or freedom. Just because we have a right to do something that does not mean that we should do it. Sometimes the greatest freedom is expressed by not exercising it (cf. Phil 2:5-11). We are free to serve, but to serve requires us to put our personal “freedoms” or “expectations” aside so as to meet the needs of others. To lay down your life for a friend is a good thing, to be willing to do it for an enemy is a “God” thing (Ephesians 4). .
Principle 4 (10:31-11:1): .
What does it mean to do all things for God’s “glory”? “Glory” in the Bible has beauty and danger. God's glory can bless you, but it can also wreck your life. “Glory” is honor.
In creation, Adam and Eve were clothed with God’s glory (Psalm 2), but when they sinned they exchanged that glory for leaves and ultimately for animal skins (cf. Romans 1). Remember Moses and the burning bush, cleft of the rock, and his experience “glory”? The Jews (freshly rescued from Egypt) saw that glory on Mt. Sinai when God gave Moses the Law. It was frightening, weighty, overwhelming. They didn’t want to get too close.
Oswald Chambers: "We have a tendency to look for wonder in our experience, and we mistake heroic actions for real heroes. It's one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us. . . . The true test of a saint's life is not success but faithfulness on the human level of life. We tend to set up success in Christian work as our purpose, but our purpose should be to display the glory of God in human life, to live a life 'hidden with Christ in God' in our everyday human conditions (Colossians 3:3). Our human relationships are the very conditions in which the ideal life of God should be exhibited. . . . Beware of posing as a profound person--God became a baby."
When Solomon built a temple for God, God's glory showed up and was so heavy that the people couldn’t even move to worship. They were overwhelmed. In Ezekiel, this “glory” of God is seen leaving the temple. In John’s Gospel, refers to an event when Gentiles came looking for Jesus. Jesus says, “Now is the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He then predicts his own death and resurrection and the fruit of those events. He also encourages his followers to participate in God’s glory by laying down their lives to be like him.
Jesus’ humility is God’s greatest glory (Phil 2). If we want to glorify God in all we do, then we must learn to walk in humility as Christ walked in humility. If we intend to bring people to salvation, we cannot get them there by pride or arrogance. We will always be judged by others, so we ought to avoid unnecessary offenses that would cause them to judge us unfavorably. The offense of the cross is enough, we shouldn’t compound it by having bad breath. Col 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
“Become un-spectacular/give no offense/do not cause anyone to stumble” (v.32) The word picture is of someone trying to get a look at God, but they can’t see God because you keep stepping in front of their line of sight so that it is blocked by your presence. Sometimes we need to get out of the way. The path of humility is the path of life. The love of Christ obligates us (and ought to compel us) to be humble servants to bring God’s life to others (2 Cor 5). Paul says that his goal is to see people “saved,” or to see them brought into a proper relationship with God through Jesus. He further invites them to imitate his life as he imitates Jesus’ life.
Can we say the same thing as Paul? Are we living so that others can know God through us? Would we want others to imitate us? Again, Paul reminds us that in order to do this we must put the needs of others first, and there is no greater need than salvation. "With great freedom comes great responsibility!" .
. Notice the people who seem overwhelmed, angry, distant, sad, or those who look wounded. You can’t serve them if you can’t see them. Pay attention. Listen. Love. Serve.
. Be considerate. Put others before yourself. Hold the door for someone. Help someone unload their car. Let someone go ahead of you in line. Be considerate of the person behind you in a line, or the person waiting for your parking space, or the person walking behind you. Treat those who wait on your table with respect, tip them well. Listen carefully to the person who is sharing their story. Weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice. Maybe there is an act of kindness you’ve been putting off. Just do it. Serve those who simply cannot pay you back! Be willing to be inconvenienced so that someone else can be served!
. Develop the habit of asking, “How might this decision or action have an impact on others?”
. Don’t be shy. Your story of what God has done matters. God saved you, and he may use your story to bring life to someone else. Be bold!
Live free, serve others, be imitators of Christ.
Live your Christian freedom responsibly!
Thanks for reading!
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Some Random Quotes . . .
"I think that if it had been a religion that first maintained the notion that all the matter in the entire universe had once been contained in an area smaller than the point of a pin, scientists probably would have laughed at the idea." Marilyn vos Savant, The Guinness Book of World Records Hall of Fame holder of the Highest IQ at 230. Parade, February 4, 1996, p. 7.
"Beware of ideas others come up with for rescuing you from the river, especially if they involve dropping a heavy stone right on you." Eeyore
“There's right and there's wrong. You gotta do one or the other. You do the one and you're living. You do the other and you may be walking around but you’re dead as a beaver hat.” John Wayne, as Davey Crockett in the movie, The Alamo.
Thanks for reading!
Monday, August 11, 2014
Don't Shoot the Wounded: Our Role in Accountability (Galatians 6:1-10)
Galatians 6:1-10 "Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won't be tempted also. Carry one another's burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he is deceiving himself. But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else. For each person will have to carry his own load. The one who is taught the message must share his goods with the teacher. Don't be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith."
Don’t Shoot the Wounded
Our Role in Accountability
False accusations and a wounding
Loss of fellowship and misunderstanding
The Story of Chuck Girard
b. Contemporary Christian musician
c. Late 70s
d. Leaving the music business
e. A bout with alcoholism
The Song: "Don’t Shoot the Wounded"
Galatians 6:1-5, 9-10
Our role in accountability
1. Passionate involvement
2. Radical hospitality
3. Extravagant Generosity
4. Intentional Discipleship
5. Risk-Taking Service
1. Accountability is being Passionately Involved in each other’s lives
Caught in a Trap (James 5:19-20)
a. Note that this is a “brother”—accountability works best where relationship exists
b. We are family
c. Note that this sibling is “caught”
This is not a perceived sin
There are no “gotchas” in the body of Christ
Don't Shoot the Wounded: develop a relationship with them to restore them
2. Accountability requires us to practice a Radical Hospitality
Spirit of Gentleness (Ephesians 4:25-32)
a. Accountability works best where love exists
b. This restoration should not be done with a harsh attitude
c. Accountability requires a level of trust and grace
Watch Out! (2 Cor. 2:7-8; 2 Thess. 3:14-15)
a. Accountability works best when we are paying as much attention to our own failures as to those of others, we must have an intentional discipleship for ourselves
b. Remember that you are most likely to see problems where you struggle the most
Don’t Shoot the Wounded
They need healing and help: Accountability should lead to restoration
Someday you may be one
3. Accountability requires an Extravagant Generosity
Bearing Burdens and the Law of Christ (Romans 15:1-2; John 13:34-35; 15:12-14)
a. Accountability works best when we build up instead of tear down (Hebrews 12:12-16): We must be ready to strengthen others and to help them in their weakness instead of looking for opportunities to make ourselves look better in light of the failures of others
b. Bearing burdens requires effort on our part. We may actually have to lift and carry. It is not passive.
What is the Law of Christ?
a. The Law of Christ is Life (Romans 8:2)
b. The Law of Christ is Love (John 13:34-35; 15:12-14)
c. Accountability works best when love is present (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Love is patient, transparent, does not try to belittle another
Love is willing to be wronged rather than to do harm
Don’t Shoot the Wounded
Love Requires that we deal with the problem and not ignore it
Accountability should lead to restoration, not death
4. Accountability requires an Intentional Discipleship in our own lives
Humility or Pride? (James 1:25; Phil. 2:3-4)
a. Accountability works best when we operate with a realization of our own sinfulness instead of a perception of our own superiority
b. We must learn to put the sincere needs of others ahead of our own needs
c. We must not presume sin, but neither should we ignore it
d. If sin is clear in our hearts, we must confess
e. If sin is clear in others, we must confront BUT with love
Bearing Burdens, Part 2
a. Accountability works best when we are brutally honest about ourselves and to ourselves
b. Before Christ we are responsible primarily for our own actions, not the actions of others
c. I am responsible to God for what I do, not for what others do (Speck and log)
Don’t Shoot the Wounded
Seek to offer the help you want when you are injured
5. Accountability involves a Risk-Taking Attitude of Service
Don’t Lose Heart, Don’t Grow Weary, Don’t Give in
a. Perseverance counts in helping others
b. The end result is worth the effort (Hebrews 12:12-16): Sanctification
c. Satan doesn’t give up, neither should we!
Do Good, Not harm
Take advantage of opportunities
a. Do not go looking for “bad situations,” but look for a chance to do good
b. Keep an eye out for things you can do to bless others
Don’t shoot the wounded
Do no harm
Do as God has done for you
What does accountability look like?
First, choose partners wisely
Pray and wait
Don’t rush into this relationship
Keep the group small, no more than 3 or 4
Second, meet regularly
Set a date and keep it
Third, practice transparency
Tell the truth about your own struggles
Fourth, keep confidences
Fifth, practice hospitality and acceptance
Don’t shoot the wounded, love them back to health
Thanks for reading!
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Happy Birthday USA! A Fourth of July Repost
Well, the USA is celebrating yet another birthday, and although some people think that the brightness has worn off this "city on a hill," I'm not ready to read her obituary yet. I went back into the archives to find some quotes for you today. The first one comes from John Wayne. In the movie "The Alamo," Duke plays Davey Crockett, leader to the Tennessee volunteers. At one point in the movie he gives a speech about the USA and the idea of a "republic." Here is the excerpt I liked the best:
"Republic. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Republic is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat - the same tightness a man gets when his baby takes his first step or his first baby shaves and makes his first sound as a man. Some words can give you a feeling that makes your heart warm. Republic is one of those words."
Finally, I wanted to share some song lyrics with you all. Johnny Cash was a singer/songwriter whose music I heard a lot growing up. I think my dad had every Cash album ever made! At any rate, Johnny Cash has a song that I think is appropriate for this day. It is entitled "Ragged Old Flag," and here are the words:
I walked through a county courthouse square,
On a park bench an old man was sitting there.
I said, "Your old courthouse is kinda run down."
He said, "Naw, it'll do for our little town."
I said, "Your flagpole has leaned a little bit,
And that's a Ragged Old Flag you got hanging on it."
He said, "Have a seat", and I sat down.
"Is this the first time you've been to our little town?"
I said, "I think it is." He said, "I don't like to brag,
But we're kinda proud of that Ragged Old Flag.
"You see, we got a little hole in that flag there
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing 'Oh Say Can You See.'
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams.
"And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the Texas flag, but she waved on through.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville,
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on that Ragged Old Flag.
"On Flanders Field in World War I
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood red in World War II.
She hung limp and low by the time it was through.
She was in Korea and Vietnam.
She went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam.
"She waved from our ships upon the briny foam,
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home.
In her own good land she's been abused--
She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused.
"And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land.
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin,
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in.
'Cause she's been through the fire before,
And I believe she can take a whole lot more.
"So we raise her up every morning,
Take her down every night.
We don't let her touch the ground,
And we fold her up right.
On second thought I do like to brag,
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag."
I close these verses with a poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "A Nation's Strength."
What makes a nation’s pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?
It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.
Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.
And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.
Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor’s sake
Stand fast and suffer long.
Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.
Happy Birthday, USA!
Thanks for reading!