Archive for December, 2008

moving from life to eternal life

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Ron Martoia wrote an interesting post regarding how we understand the world and how that understanding should be reshaped by following Jesus. You can read it here.

Although I struggle with Ron’s choice of language because it feels “new agey” to me (which may come from my conservative religious background), I think he makes a very good point. In my opinion it ties directly into the nature of eternal life.

Throughout the gospels Jesus uses metaphors to describe what the community that he is creating is supposed to look like. Key to this concept is the fact that it is impossible for an individual to experience the kind of life Jesus is describing on their own. It takes the work of Jesus in one’s life.

This is where Ron’s post comes in. There’s another side to this coin. True, it is the Holy Spirit that works in us to transform us so that we can experience what Jesus is describing. With that said, however, God chooses not to force us into this experience. We have to choose to trust him and follow him. In point 2 of Ron’s application he talks about removing negative self-talk. This is an issue of trust. Jesus has promised that the experience of new life, eternal life, the kingdom of God (all of which I believe are metaphors for the same experience) is available now. Yet, we don’t live it. We don’t experience it. Because we don’t believe it. Instead we tell ourselves that it’s not for us. It’s something we’ll experience in heaven. It’s for the super-spiritual. It’s an ideal that was never intended for us to experience.

Do you trust Jesus or not? Do you believe his promises or not? Look through the gospels and see what Jesus has promised you. Stop telling yourself that you can’t trust Jesus and walk in the life that he has given you.

God can’t help it

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

I’ve been reading Revelation over the past couple of weeks and I can’t get past how much God’s love is revealed in it. I guess I shoudn’t be surprised. It’s just that it’s counter to my presuppositions about the book. I’ve read it before but never seen how much his love explodes off the pages. God just can’t help himself. He loves his children too much to not try to save them. This hit me particularly hard this morning as I read chapter nine. As all of these horrible calamaties are being poored out in judgment of sin one two little sentences grabbed me.

“The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”(NIV)

In the midst of judging the world for sin, God is still looking for people to turn to him. He still wants to save people. He loves them too much. He can’t help it.

This really encourages me. God is looking for chances to draw people into a relationship with him. All I have to do is show up and be available, God is going ot work to draw people to him.

This also makes me love God even more. By this time I would have given up on all these people. Let ’em go to hell. They’ve chosen it. I’d never give someone that many chances. But he’s God, I’m not. He’s infinite in love.

On my worst days, I’m a selfish jerk. On my best days, I love so much it hurts and despeartely want to see people experience God’s love. The fact that God loves this much makes me love him more and love the people that he loves more. It makes me embarassed of my selfish jerk days. It makes me want to grow closer to God so that I’ll have more love so much it hurts days.

I challenge you to pick up a Bible and read the book of Revelation. Look for God’s love in there. I bet you’ll love him more for it too.

Christmas is over

Friday, December 26th, 2008

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is attending Midnight Mass. I’m not Roman Catholic. I think that’s one of the reasons that Midnight Mass is such a great experience fro me. It takes me out of my comfort zone (although I only missed on step in the dance this year). It forces me to think about God in new ways. Since Roman Catholic Mass is so different from the church in which I serve, it keeps me from playing the comparison game too. It allows me to focus on worshipping God without any distractions. Every year it recharges me. It refocuses me. It is one of the most important Christmas triaditions for me spiritually.

This year in particular was a great experience. The focus of the Mass was on Jesus being born in our hearts. That is beautiful language and a beautiful metaphor for Christmas. Birth is a beginning. It’s a start. It’s a genesis. That is what Christmas should be for us. Too often I feel like Christmas is an event. We read Luke chapter 2. We exchange gifts. We give a special offering to the church or our favorite charity. Then it’s over. The event has ended. For a lot of people this leads to a post Christmas low. A friend of mine on Facebook called it post-partum “Christmas blues.”

But Christmas shouldn’t be an event. It should be a starting point. It should be a chance for Jesus to be reborn in our hearts. (Don’t give me a hard time on the theology there, it’s a metaphor!) That is what Midnight Mass did for me. It was the beginning of the next season of life and of ministry for me. Christmas isn’t over. It isn’t an event that ends. It’s a starting point that leads us to a deeper relationship with God. It leads us to grow closer to him. It leads us to follow him more completely. Don’t let Christmas end for you. Make it a new beginning where you commit your life more fully to following Jesus as God and King.

Penn on evangelism

Friday, December 19th, 2008

If you haven’t seen Penn talk about proselytizing, you need to. This should be very encouraging and convicting to anyone who says they are a Christ-follower. It’s one thing to hear a pastor say stuff like this. It’s totally different when you hear it from an atheist that doesn’t have a problem making fun of Jesus or his followers.

I don’t want to be a pumpkin!

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Preschoolers are a wealth of insight aren’t they? I had an interesting experience with my almost three-year-old daughter today. (Brenda turns 3 on the 22nd.) On our way to preschool this morning Bren was visibly upset. That’s unusual for her, because she loves preschool. I asked her what was wrong.

She told me she didn’t want to be turned into a pumpkin. We’re still trying to figure out how the idea that someone might turn her into a pumpkin entered her mind. This wasn’t a passing fancy though. When I picked her up this afternoon the idea that someone might turn her into a pumpkin was still bothering her.

As I was laying her down for be tonight, she emphatically reminded me that she wanted to be “just Brenda” she didn’t want to be a pumpkin. I, of course, reassured her that all she ever had to be was Brenda because that was who God made her to be.

That started me thinking though. How many of us would rather be pumpkins? Okay none of us aspires to be a vegetable but somewhere between 3 and 30 the desire to be “just Brenda” changes and we start desiring to be something different. For many people it’s a specific someone different. For others the difference doesn’t matter just as long as it’s different. We want someone to turn us into a pumpkin. We’re tired of being “just Brenda.”

What’s your pumpkin? For me it changes pretty regularly. Every time I go to a conference, or pick up a good book, or listen to a good podcast I find a new pumpkin. I’m one of those that has a specific pumpkin in mind and I see it all over the place.

That’s part of my problem. I see pumpkins all over the place and I wrestle with being “just Bryon.” Yet, the best thing I can be is “just Bryon” because that’s exactly what God created me to be. I’m in the process right now of wrestling through what it means to be “just Bryon.” I’m tired of looking at pumpkins and asking God to change me into one. I’m committing myself to being “just Bryon.” Being a pumpkin won’t fulfill me but being “just Bryon” can lead me to the abundant life that Jesus promised.

What about you. Have you figured out what it means to be “just you?” Are you happy being “just you” or are you trying to get someone to turn you into a pumpkin? If God wanted you to be a pumpkin he would have made you one. He made you to be you. Be “just you!” Be the best “just you” you can be!

Journaling

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

I’ve gotten into a bit of a rut lately. For the past couple of years I’ve been journaling devotional thoughts about the passage of Scripture that I read that morning. That has gotten a little stale for me. It’s become too much of a mental excercise. I’m trying to liven things up a bit. The past two days I’ve written out a prayer as if it were a letter to God. It’s been a much more positive experience. Anyone have any other thoughts regarding journaling?

Evangelical Manifesto?

Monday, December 15th, 2008

This is very interesting to me. The top search that people have used to find this blog has been “evangelical manifesto.” Tell me, what are you looking for and what are you finding?

What is the gospel?

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you’ve seen several posts wrestling with the nature of the gospel and the polarization that is happening between the emerging and evangelical views. This is something that I’ve been working through for a while as I try to be true to God’s call and be more effective at communicating who Jesus is. There is a recent post on the Acts 29 blog by Tim Keller that addresses this. It is a very well thought out critique of the topic. If you’re at all interested in know more about the gospel or learning how to better communicate it to those around you, this post is a must read.

Monkey and the Fish

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Dave Gibbons’ “Monkey and the Fish” is both thought-provoking and inspiring. In it Gibbons presents a new metaphor for ministry. He focuses on the concept of third-culture. Third-culture is a phenomenon that is noticed in the children of missionaries and military families that live in different countries. To survive and thrive in the new culture these children learn to adapt to different cultures by assimilating into the new culture without rejecting their original culture. Such children tend to adapt and thrive easily in differing contexts because of this third-culture ability.
Gibbons argues that the church should reflect this third-culture and be able to adapt and thrive in any context. One of the great historical weaknesses in the church’s mission has been the meshing of Christianity and culture. There is a tendency for missionaries to expect new believers to conform to their culture. George Hunter III describes this of the Roman Church’s method of evangelism ca. 400 AD in “The Celtic Way of Evangelism.” The Roman missionaries expected the Germanic and Celtic people to become Roman before they could become Christ-followers because they believed that their culture was inferior and unable to mesh with Jesus’ teachings. This is the same problem many evangelical churches have today. They confuse their culture with the content. They confuse how they communicate the gospel with the gospel. A third culture church sees value in other cultures and seeks to become a part of the new culture to communicate the life-giving, life-changing message of Jesus in that context.
There is one concept in Gibbons’ book that I’m struggling with; his emphasis is on multi-culturalism and investing in the under-resourced. This has much to do with his background personally and in ministry. Third-culture is not just a way to get more diversity in a primarily white suburban church. Third-culture is a new metaphor to describe what in the past was known as incarnational ministry. The goal is to present Jesus and his love to people where they are at, whether it’s the single mother in a subsidized apartment, a corporate executive living in a large house in the suburbs, a Midwestern farmer, or a tea grower in East Asia. All are loved by God and we need to reach them with the message of Jesus where they are at, not bring them into our western culture then share Jesus with them.
With that said, “Monkey and the Fish” will encourage you to reach out to the people around you in new and fresh ways and give you practical steps to help you focus yourself and your ministry on the gospel and how to communicate it no matter the culture into which God is calling you.

1 John 2

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

The teaching in 1 John chapter 2 is a familiar yet hard teaching. Following Jesus is all about love. True love. The God kind of love. I know when I’m experiencing this kind of love because I can feel my heart expand in my chest. I thank God that I’m experiencing this kind of love more and more towards more and more people. But, I don’t experience it often or consistent enough. I don’t because the corollary to experiencing this kind of love is denying the false loves in our lives. Too often I love stuff, or how people think of me and I pursue those kinds of love. That’s not God love. That love originates in me, finds fulfillment in me, and glorifies me. Ultimately this selfish love, this sin, cannot be fulfilled because it is forever seeking more of the same and it devalues me because it pulls me away from the only true source of fulfillment and value. I need to reject it and remove that love from my life and allow God to replace it with His love, so that I can have a more intimate relationship with him and be a more committed follower of Jesus.