Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jesus-pod ministering in the Haute?

That’s right folks, at this minute God’s Word may be ministering to a petty thief in the Haute. This morning I walked out to my car – which was sitting on the street – and noticed my glove box open, dome light on, and door slightly cracked open. Short of dusting for prints, I believe this adds up to nothing short of the handy work of a common criminal.

But this servant found the sliver lining through it all. That $149 Jesus-pod (iPod Nano) was chocked-full of nothing but Jesus music, sermons, and inspirational leadership speeches by some of the best writers and speakers of our day. So even though I was robbed, could it be that somebody was saved? Will this common criminal turn my Jesus-pod on and hear something that will bring him/her to the Cross? Rather than being infuriated by this callous act, I will rejoice in the name of Christ and pray that it was God’s will!

Join me in this prayer brothers and sisters. Perhaps I’ll buy another Jesus-pod and leave the car unlocked again!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Yes, or no? Which is it?

“Extra, extra, read all about it!” shouts the newspaper vendor from a corner newsstand in downtown Manhattan. As the world shuffles-bye at break neck speed, today’s headlines are fast-becoming tomorrow’s history lessons. Topics that don the cover of semi news worthy outlets like the New York Times, will typically not survive tomorrow’s oil spill or political fraud in Washington, D.C. However, there was something remarkable that took place nearly two-thousand years ago; a ‘news flash’ was delivered to a land of thousands of people made-up of: fisherman, tax collectors, teachers, and soldiers; just to name a few. It was an event that some scholars say lasted for several days, not mere hours. The event was The Sermon on the Mount, and it was preached not by a typical leader of that day. Instead, it was delivered by a man from Galilee; the son of a carpenter who, to everyone’s amazement, taught a new way to live; a way that nobody had yet conceived.

While The Sermon on the Mount covers many topics of righteous living, as defined by Jesus of Nazareth, there are two I would like to examine here: 1) vows, as taught in Matt. 5:33-37, and 2) Fruit in ones life, as taught in Matt. 7:15-20. Let’s examine vows here:

Throughout Matthew 5:33-37, a common theme – I initially see – is keeping your oath. As Jesus says, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37, NIV). This statement is very clear cut and does not warrant the need of theologians or biblical scholars to interpret; perhaps this is why it speaks to me! That being said, I can glean from those words, this: when I say I’m going to do something, I need to, and thus should, do it. Our society today covets swearing ‘on somebody’s grave’ or ‘to God’, that we saw this or that; that we really were here or there. Jesus’ words are simply implying that if we are men/women of integrity and sound speech, there should be no reason to promise and/or swear on anything, for we should simply never go back on our word.

Think how our world would look if politicians kept their ‘Yes’ promises, and had the gull to say, “Honestly, that is just not doable sir, or madam.” Talking points and political mantra – combined with promiscuous affairs and deceitful, lewd acts – have forever given politicians a bad name. Even members of the clergy have fallen prey to the evils of the love of money, greed, and sex; casting a shadow on the good that spreads distrust in the hearts of both parishioners and the lost, all over the world.

On my next posting, which may be in a few days, I want to examine Matthew 7:17 a bit. But for the sake of time, considering the thousands of busy people reading this, we’ll conclude.  God bless.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Does He break us, to fix us?

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NIV)

Once this was in place -- firmly ensconced in the fabric of my soul -- there became a proverbial automatic desire to seek God and all that He has for me. I say this not to speak on behalf of mankind, but rather speaking of my own experience(s). When I was living my life prior to God becoming the central figure and primary source of all my direction, I was merely living with no known purpose. This changed however when my acceptance of Jesus Christ occurred –- happening from within.

I say this to mean just that: the acceptance of Christ felt as though it happened from within; like something I did not actively do as just a desperate attempt at saving myself. This is a process known as plenary, or, God-breathed, which is how many believe to be the inspiration in the Holy Scriptures. I was broken and sought materialistic means of salvation and fulfillment by a series of bad decisions. While alcohol may have been that primer, I by no means closed the door to other sin. Thus, accepting Jesus as my personal savior honestly felt like my soul crying out Him – not just my mouth.

Does God work towards moments that allow us to become broken? Perhaps He does not actively work towards those moments, but I think there are times He allows us to get the tools out and ‘fix it’ on our own –- knowing that we will ask for Him to take over in due course. Whether this is our moment of salvation or merely experiencing His grace, it by no means ends there for Him. Once we return to Him, or in the very least, acknowledge Him, He can then begin to lead our lives down the road He has prepared especially for us. That road may not literally be revealed to us through His voice, but rather through answered prayers or time spent in His Word.

However God ultimately chooses to speak to us, I believe we must extend our hands to Him, first. Then He then will respond and do the fixing –- based on where we are in life. I find evidence in this belief through listening to the testimonies of different people. We all have a testimony that speaks differently to the attention God showed us the very moment we needed and felt His presence. Have you forgotten yours? Hebrews 10:35 says, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”

Friday, July 16, 2010 Paul?

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Romans 7:24, NIV

I felt this Scripture very worthy of reflection in the life we must learn to understand – once clothed in Christ and adopted into His Body, as this verse resonates with me and how I wrestled with my new life -- saved in Christ.

The apostle Paul is reflecting on his life – in Christ Jesus – and yet still writes “what a wretched man I am!” Now, the first time I heard this preached I said to myself, “Ut oh. While I don’t know much about Paul, given that he wrote a lot of the New Testament, if he considers himself ‘wretched,’ then what does that make me?” I would not have necessarily considered myself wretched, however in comparison to Jesus, who among us is not? And He is the only reflection and comparison for us all – is He not?

A little further understanding of this verse comes through reading not only Romans in its entirety, but through reading more of Paul’s writings. He is not just reflecting on himself [here] as wretched, rather having been the man he was (i.e. Saul) he is still burdened by that past and thus is reminded, perhaps daily, by that past. He carries the death of Stephen in his mind; he carries the authorization of many deaths and vile acts with him as he grows and prospers in his new life; he shoulders the burden of having destroyed families that were worshipping the way he now too worships. That is a lot of pain, and thank God that he shares it, here, with us!

I cannot compare my life with Paul, for I am not Paul. I cannot compare my life with my pastor, for he is himself and I am me. I am either: right or just, wrong or wretched, in the eyes of my Judge; the Creator and Father. I thank God too that I don’t just ‘forget’ that which gave me cause to come to the Cross and beg for forgiveness. I thank God for that pain in my life still; that I can reflect on His grace and mercy and that I can continue to grow in Him; He never lets me forget so that I may continue to help those that need to hear the Good News. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14, NIV).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Christ-centered living: can you live it?

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:34-36)

This to me is what it means to be a Christian; to follow Jesus, and not yourself. The essence of denying to ones’ self is easy on the surface, and yet an altogether different, and extremely difficult, thing to do. A call to serve Christ is not for the faint of heart – for it will bring difficulties and strife that not everyone can bear. I myself have felt the plenary calling to serve the Lord.  Yet in doing so, I have distanced myself from the vulgar jokes and lewd behavior that once typified my daily course in life. In answering the call to serve Him, it has been both easy and difficult. William Barclay wrote:

“Jesus never sought to lure men to Him by the offer of an easy way; He sought to challenge them, to waken the sleeping chivalry in their souls, by the offer of a way than which none could be higher and harder. He came not to make life easy, but to make men great.” (1962, page. 206)

The final verse (v.36) is such a powerful question in that it takes much effort to truly grasp. To think of all the people over time who have given so much of their lives to a: business, endeavor, dream, team, and for the sake of fortune and fame lost everything that remains but a wishful thought every night for a childless couple or lonely soul. I know that Christ can truly fulfill our lives in ways that many think is just fairy tale. For them, all I can do is pray and mirror the life God has shown me in His son, Christ Jesus.

Barclay, William. (1962). The Gospel of Mark: The daily study bible. Scotland: St. Andrew Press.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Know Your Place, Women!

“We not only find instructions concerning the overseers and “deacons” of the church (I Tim./Tit.) but also guidelines for women, slaves, and worship” (Schenck, 2009, p. 413).

I believe that there is something both missing, as well as slightly misleading in the author’s assessment here. While I don’t dispute the charge by Schenck, two things should be addressed:

1) The message in Titus actually addresses how ‘all’ Christians, rather, all aspects of the Body of Christ, shall live; this includes men, or those at least of the male gender. I think that the way Schenck depicts [Titus] as “guidelines for women, slaves, and worship,” thus leaving out men altogether, only perpetuates a problem in the church today: men, at least those in leadership roles, often feel superior and women often feel overlooked.  Furthermore, women have had to overcome a lot in our church and have every right to be heard, teach, and preach.

2) I feel that to write in this nature is disregarding (women) from an author that certainly is a respected theologian and thus seems to write very even-keeled. Women have a very important role/place in the church, and always have. To read the words in Titus – where Paul addresses women in particular – with a 21st century understanding, one might feel very domesticated or ‘traditional’ in keeping with the words. But to view the words with a Greek understanding and through a lexicon, the woman’s role is not to be ‘barefoot and pregnant’ or simply ‘obedient’ to men.

Why do I write this? Not merely to find something to pick apart in a superior analysis of this NT book. Instead, I feel it is important to properly understand the Biblical language and intent of the author; simply stating something the way Schenck does is not necessarily intentional however. But by omission of the male gender – while referencing a book that specifically addresses the way MEN too shall live – new Christian men, perhaps reading a book like [Schenck’s] early in their walk of faith, could lead to a misunderstanding of the role of men, as well as women, in the church.

Again, this is not intended to discredit the author, merely to examine a thought I had while reading. What do you think? Let me expound a bit more on my understanding of Titus:

Titus 2 uses some specific language aimed at men and how they shall live; that is, characteristics of a godly young man: “Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance” (v. 2), and “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech…” (vv. 6-8, NIV).

These are things that must not be overlooked and should thus be properly understood by all – especially those teaching. While I am newer in my walk with Jesus, Titus is one of those books that often overlooked on Sunday mornings; unlike the Synoptic gospels or Paul’s letters to the churches (i.e. Romans).

Now, I understand the roles of deacons and overseers in the church – especially in the days in which Titus was written – were strictly relegated to men. Furthermore, deacons and overseers are the only men being addressed by Schenck; not withstanding slaves. However, I am sure that not all men were deacons or overseers. Instead, many were simply parishioners.

Therefore in the 21st century, I believe we should hold a more uniformed and inclusive language; one that includes women. Perhaps I’m being too critical or over-analyzing? No, I think these are just musings and thoughts conveyed during a road trip while stuck in the back of a mini-van – trying to tune-out children and in-laws. Your feedback is appreciated and welcome.

Schenck, Kenneth. (2009). Jesus Is Lord. Marion, IN: Triangle Publishing.