Thursday, May 29, 2014
Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. So, does that mean we need to love ourselves before we can love others? Listen as Keith explains the meaning of this passage and connects it with the Leviticus 19 teachings on the "Shalom Community".
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
One aspect of the Incarnation which fascinates me is how God, in human flesh, manifested Himself as a common, simple person born into humble circumstances who traveled the countryside telling stories.
Jesus was a storyteller. He was a creative personality. His stories were allegorical snapshots of what life inside the Kingdom of God was like.
Only one of his stories, which he called “Parables”, was ever actually explained to his disciples. All the rest he left up to interpretation and discovery.
The Parables of Jesus provoked thought and invited those who were curious to explore for themselves what the Kingdom of God was really all about. By internalizing the search for Truth contained in his stories, Jesus entrusted the human mind with the task of working it out in due time.
Jesus was comfortable with loose ends. He didn’t feel any anxiety over how many understood the parable. He knew that those who were truly hungry for real spiritual sustenance would discover what they were craving after in their own time.
There was an organic quality to the ministry and teaching of Jesus that appeals to me in ways that are deeper than I can even comprehend at a conscious level. He had ideas that were subversive to the status quo of the culture and he transmitted the code of this social rebellion through simple stories about farmers, widows, travelers, sons, fathers, and fields.
Jesus was comfortable with unanswered questions. In fact, I think that many of us who call ourselves his followers could learn something from adopting his style of asking questions and telling stories without getting hung up on the answers.
Too often we in the Church are too quick to provide answers to questions we’ve never been asked. That is a serious problem, in my mind. It paints us as people who are more concerned about results than we are about other human beings. We provide answers without taking the time to really listen to the questions being asked. Often we are answering the wrong questions.
For example, no one cares about your answer to spiritual poverty if you have yet to address the very real physical poverty all around you. When you show an indifference to the very real poverty that is easily detectable with the naked eye, it doesn’t paint you as someone who is particularly skilled at relieving poverty. Your poverty-relieving skills come into serious doubt.
Those who have yet to embrace Christ are skeptical of the slogan- “Jesus Loves You” when those who claim to be transformed by this love look and act just like everyone else.
It matters, then, who we are and what we do. Our reputation has become soiled. This is what makes the pursuit of personal Holiness and ethical behavior essential to the Christian life. Not just for our own personal need for sanctification, to be transformed into the image of Christ, but for the purpose of demonstrating that Jesus does indeed change lives and make us a new creation.
It shouldn’t take faith to believe that Jesus has the power to set us free. It should not take faith to accept that Jesus is capable of making us into better fathers and mothers and employees and citizens.
Our lives should serve as proof that Jesus is alive and transformation is possible.
Monday, May 19, 2014
"You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out..."
We do this all the time in our spiritual life. We surrender to Jesus on Sunday, and we take it all back on Monday morning. We mean well. We intend to serve Jesus with our life, but the daily pressures of life wear on us and we end up returning to the old patterns of life.
The good news is, God knows that we're dust. He knows we're weak. He understands that the flesh is willing, but the maturing of our spirits takes time.
"If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself."- 2 Tim 2:13
God is patient with us, and because of this we still have hope.
"...you put your right foot in, you take your right foot out..."
I've been tested lately about some of the same things I've been through many times before.
Why does God keep putting me through these tests of faith? I look to the sky and ask, "Haven't I already learned this lesson three times before? I thought I passed this. Why are we having to go through this again, Lord?"
A dear friend reminded me the other day that God's purpose for allowing challenges in our life is to draw us nearer to Himself. "We just want God to fix it, or do it, or make it better, but God wants us to take His hand and walk through these things alongside Him," my friend said.
Still, I'm weary of putting my faith into action again and again. I'm tired of wondering if God will work this miracle and save my family (again), or if this time we'll have to endure the pain.
God whispers to me, "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all of these things (food, shelter, daily needs, etc.), "will be taken care of as well."- Matt 6:33
So, I do my best to seek the Kingdom of God. I try to focus on Him instead of on my own challenges. But still I find myself drifting back to the question; "What if this time God doesn't rescue us?"
"...you put your whole self in, you take your whole self out, you put your whole self in, and you shake it all about..."
God wants all of me. He wants all of you. He wants my time. He wants my heart. He wants my trust. He wants my entire life. He wants my "whole self in".
Surrender to Jesus is, in reality, a gradual exercise in trust. It would be wonderful if that one time I went down front and bent my knees on the altar was enough. I wish it were true. Maybe for someone else it is true, but for me, I must confess, I'm still daily learning to bend my knees, surrender my heart, and trust Jesus with my life...with my entire life.
Maybe, in some strange way, the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?
"You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around. That's what it's all about."
NOTE: Originally sent to the faithful subscribers of the [subversive underground] on 3/28/06
Friday, May 16, 2014
The Incarnation – by which we mean “God coming to dwell with us in the person of Jesus” – is God’s radical act of peacemaking. God subverted every expectation humankind had for what peace would look like; what the Messianic expectation was. The people of Israel were expecting a warrior King. Someone who would come to save the people through a military victory over their enemies and rule as this righteous warrior King. God subverted their expectation by coming in the form of a vulnerable and dependent infant.
For Christians, peacemaking begins with the body of Christ; with this child Jesus who has subverted every expectation we have for what peace – “shalom” – will look like.
Shalom is this state where “all is well”; where people have access to the food they need, the healthcare they need, the opportunity for just relationships with one another and with God and with the Earth. It’s more than what we think of as “peace”. It’s more than a cease fire. More than a starry night and songs around the campfire. It’s something much more holistic. Much more grand and whole. It’s God’s vision for the Universe as He created it to be. So the work of peacemaking, the practice of peacemaking, really begins there.
It’s about imitating Christ who is “the revolutionary face of the God of nonviolence.” I love that because it really encapsulates that this person of Jesus, this reconciling activity that God is doing in Jesus, is more than what we could have expected. It subverts our inclinations towards violence. And it subverts our idolatry of fear. That we would raise our fears to a level of an idol. That we would need to respond violently because we are so afraid. Because violence does reign in our world. And that’s a reality that we can’t escape. But we have the opportunity as Christians to choose not to idolize our fear. To choose instead to worship the One God who made heaven and earth and who’s vision for us is “shalom”.
Jesus tells a parable about a woman who puts just a little bit of yeast into a bowl of many measures of flour – enough for many dozens of loafs of bread – and he says, “This is like the Kingdom of God”.
So, I think about yeast as this tiny little speck of life, this little growth that, even though it is tiny it can give life and leaven to the whole batch. So, I like to think of our acts of peacemaking – the Body of Christ in the world – as this little bit of leaven that, as small as it may seem in a world that is so incredibly violent, in a world that is at war, it is enough and more. It will give life and leaven to the whole creation. God has promised that it will be so. That what is small – these daily acts of peacemaking; those moments where we chose to not to say what we might have said, not to send the email that might have damaged a relationship, not to retaliate when we are provoked –those seemingly small choices give life and leaven to the whole bowl of wheat; the whole batch of creation.
God does not come as a warrior king. God comes as a baby. God’s power is hidden under the signs of vulnerability. God comes in poverty. God comes to a young woman who had no status in the community. God’s glory is hidden in the ugliness of our lives. In places of violence, in places of suffering, God is there, hidden among us. This is the theology of the cross. That in the horror of the cross, in the violence, in the ugliness, and the weakness of a man stripped and beaten and hung to die there is something more powerful at work. Hidden under these signs of weakness is the glory of God.
So as Christians we refuse to take up what the world sees as signs of power. We refuse - we don’t always, we fall short in this - But we want to say, “We refuse to be oppressors. We refuse to be dominators. We refuse all of the signs in the world that make for power.”
Instead we choose weakness. We choose vulnerability. We choose to love. To have our hearts broken. We chose this because we know that under those signs, in the manger, among the cattle, on the cross, among the poor, God is there. We are not afraid of being poor. We are not afraid of imprisoned. We are not afraid of standing on the side of those who are weak. We are not afraid to be with God’s little ones. Because there is vulnerability, there is the glory of God. Where there is suffering God’s peace is stronger. No matter how hidden it may seem. In death there is abundant life.
God has already done the radical, the subversive revolutionary act of peacemaking and reconciliation in Christ. God has made peace between Himself and Creation. There’s no bigger gulf than that. There’s no bigger disconnect than between the Divine and the Human. All we have to do is make peace among human beings.
God has done the radical thing. We just have to live into that promise.
- Mary Emily Duba
Thursday, May 15, 2014
My friend Paul was sharing with me a story about a recent trip to the mountains where he had an odd spiritual experience. It all started while walking with some of his friends along mountain trails on their way to an overnight camp out. As he was crossing over a stream along the way he randomly picked up a rock to take along with him, something he did quite often on treks such as this one.
It wasn't a particularly interesting or colorful rock. He really had no specific motive for picking it up initially other than that it was black and it felt good in his hands. Almost reflexively he pulled the rock from the cold water, dried it on his shirt, and placed it in his pants pocket as they continued up out of the stream and up along a newfound trail.
As the group of friends made their way up the mountain they happened to pass an older gentleman coming down the same trail. After a brief bit of friendly chit-chat one of Paul's friends asked the older man if he had any words of wisdom for their group.
"You mean, like a mantra or something?" the old man asked. "Yeah, something like that," Paul's friend said.
The older gentleman took a short moment to reflect and then he said, "I’ve got just two words for you," he said. "The first is 'Immanuel', and the second one is 'Maranatha'". The group nodded their heads and smiled, and after a bit more brief chit-chat the two groups parted. However the conversation in Paul's group shifted to the words the older gentleman had shared with them and what they could possibly mean.
Eventually the group arrived at the cabin where they had planned to spend the evening. One of the women in the group asked Paul if he had ever prayed before. He said that he sometimes meditated in the mornings, but had really never prayed before. Something about the interaction with the old man made him feel like he should start to pray, or at least to try, the next time he was enjoying his morning meditation.
That very next morning, Paul woke up and went about his usual routine of meditation. He began to think about what had happened the previous day, and did his best to pray about those words and what meaning, if any, they might have for him. He was also holding on to the rock he had found in the stream the day before. The rock that he had selected at random and placed almost absently into his pocket was nestled into the palm of his right hand as he sat, eyes closed, on the floor.
Suddenly Paul felt the urge to open his hand to look closer at the rock. As he opened his hand and looked at it closer he almost did a double-take. There, clearly and naturally formed across one side of the stone was an unmistakable form of a cross.
Paul sat silently and looked at the rock. He wondered now even more about the meaning of the events of the previous day.
Sitting in my living room, telling me this story, Paul pulled out the rock and handed it to me. I was amazed at his story, and even more amazed to actually hold this rock in my hands. The shape of the cross was unmistakable, but clearly not man-made at all. The shape had been formed along the surface eons ago when the rock was first formed, and etched by the constant erosion of the stream it had been pulled from only weeks earlier. Now it was in my hand and I could easily imagine what Paul must have felt when he first opened his hand and realized the significance of the stone and the image that marked it.
I was reminded of the Proverb that says, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of Kings to search it out." (Proverbs 25:2) Paul and I discussed the method that Jesus used to teach people about the Kingdom of God during his ministry on Earth, how he told stories that made people wonder and how he never seemed to answer a question unless it was with a question of his own.
Paul had been given a riddle of sorts and now had the privilege to work out what it all meant. Paul shared with me that, so far, all he knew for certain was that he was supposed to tell his story to people, and not just anyone, but people who would be likely to appreciate it. I felt honored to hold this stone in my hand and to have heard Paul's amazing story. It was with some reluctance that I handed it back to him.
In his search for the meaning of his experience, Paul had printed out the Wikipedia definitions of the words "Immanuel" and "Maranatha" and he unfolded the papers and passed them to me. He and I talked about these words and I expressed to him my sincere curiosity regarding his journey to discover the meaning of this rock that had found him in the stream. In many ways I envied my friend Paul for his opportunity to learn the meaning of this mysterious rock and the two corresponding words left to him by a stranger on the side of a mountain.
As far as I could see things, Paul had been given the words, "Immanuel" (which means 'God with us') and "Maranatha" (which means 'He has come'). He had been given a rock with a very obvious cross on it to accentuate those two words. A rock which he would not have picked up had they crossed the stream a few feet to the right or to the left, and which he admits he might not have picked up at all considering the randomness of his choice of stones there in the stream. He was also, finally, encouraged to pray and that next morning all of these various elements converged together to spark his imagination and his journey of discovery regarding the meaning of the message.
This is why Jesus loved to use parables to teach his disciples, so that when the meaning was finally discovered, the person would own the truth and treasure the revelation. When someone gives you the answer you don't value the information as much. When you're handed the keys you lose the thrill of the chase and the joy of discovery.
I pray that even more people will discover a stone in the stream or cross paths with wise old men bearing clues to the journey of life. We all need more questions to work out with fear and trembling. We all need to seek the Truth. Maybe the clues are already all around us? Maybe we're just not paying enough attention?
All creation cries out and pours forth speech, day and night. Sometimes even the rocks cry out.
[From the book, "The Gospel:For Here Or To Go?" by Keith Giles]
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
As I’ve been reading on the early church, I’ve come across a great saying used by the church fathers and I’d like to make it my own.
The phrase, “Conversatio Morem” can be translated two different ways, depending on the context. The first way is, “Death To The Status Quo”. I must say, I love this. It embodies the counter-cultural aspect of Christian discipleship that I long to embody and to inspire in others. If I ever have a tattoo, it will be of this statement.
The second way to translate this is, “Constant Conversion”. Again, I resonate with this sentiment very much. After studying the writings of Peter, James and Paul I see that they’re idea of salvation was very much a process. They all speak of “being saved” and seem to understand that following Jesus involves a gradual, daily transformation into someone who is like our Lord, and closer to someone who is fit for Heaven.
Our modern understanding of salvation seems to be much more about a single day or event in our lives where we went forward, said a prayer and maybe even filled out a little card. After that we can, and often do, live out the rest of our lives any way we want. If we get into trouble, or need some advice or a miracle, maybe then we will pray and ask God’s help, but mainly our lives after this sort of “conversion” are our own.
Paul, Peter and James see salvation as a lifelong process. All through the book of 1 Peter we see the famous disciple speaking of salvation as something which is occurring to us, or that we are in the process of receiving every day. "For you ARE RECEIVING the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:9, etc.) Peter doesn't see salvation as something you take possession of until the day you’re actually at the Judgment Seat of Christ and it is then He saves you, in that day.
Paul especially sees salvation as being tied to our worship and our worship as being tied to our being living sacrifices (Romans 12). He also is pretty clear that “Your life is not your own; You were bought with a price.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)
We, of course, have the hope and the promise of salvation, but just like the Gospel, it’s about a daily, ongoing submission to Jesus.
I’m trying now to get my head around a daily, “constant conversion”. The Kingdom is about following Jesus, and Jesus said we can’t even begin to follow Him unless we daily take up our crosses and die to ourselves. (Luke 9:23)
Somehow, looking at my own walk with Jesus as an ongoing conversion helps me to maintain this counter-cultural mindset in my own life. Now, I understand now that "Death to the Status Quo" is really a personal cry for revolution in my own soul. It is my status quo that needs to be put to death.
Instead of seeing salvation as that day I came forward at the Lighthouse Freewill Baptist Church in Eagle Pass, Texas at the age of 9, now I see it as a daily surrender to Jesus. I walk the aisle every morning. I bend the knee every sunrise and give Him my heart, over, and over again.
NOTE: Originally sent to the subscribers of the subversive underground newsletter on Dec.21st, 2005.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
APC: Power Is Our Middle Name
Very excited to share yet another example of my "day job" with you.
This time our client, APC, came to us wanting a video that established them as the "go-to" provider of computer network power supplies.
I came up with the tagline: "Power Is Our Middle Name" (which I was amazed no one had thought of before), and the client loved it.
I also wrote the script which remained totally unchanged (except the word "dream" was replaced with "envision") from concept to final version.
It's not often I am so excited about something I did for a client at work, but this video makes me smile.
Hope you like it.
Monday, May 12, 2014
"Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury." - (Lev. 24:20)
What if God's intention with this law was to inspire His people to realize that if they injure another person (take their eye out, for example) that what they're actually doing is taking out their own eye?
Isn't this just the flip side of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?" It seems like just another way to phrase the same idea, doesn't it?
I can't help but wonder if this is exactly what God had in mind. The reciprocal nature of these commands seems intended to evoke such a response.
So, if I harm another person, I'm also harming myself in the exact same way. This should have inspired people to refrain from harming others because to do so would be to harm themselves.
It also helps us to realize that their pain is my pain, and that my pain is theirs. Especially in the "shalom" community in which people were often very much connected to one another for generations, the command in Leviticus seems designed to remind people that to harm others is to harm yourself.
Of course, Jesus takes it another step forward and says, "Bless those who curse you." (Luke 6:26-27)So, he is advocating for a proactive love rather than simply a passive refrain from harm or evil. But it's still two sides of the same coin, I believe.
The command in Leviticus seems almost like what you'd expect God to say to a people who didn't yet have the Holy Spirit living within them. In their flesh they should have understood that to take someone's eye, or their tooth, or property, etc. is to harm themselves and to lose their own eye, tooth, or property, etc.
Once Jesus arrived on the scene He expanded this idea to include proactive love and further pressed the concept of our connectedness as human beings.
"You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." (Matt. 5:38-39)
Jesus raises the stakes. He compels us to reject the simple "eye for eye" approach, perhaps because it was not producing the desired results. People were still focused more on the post-violence retribution than on pre-violence restraint. Therefore, Jesus turns it all around and commands us to accept the violence done against and refuse the right to do violence in return.
Why? Because we are all children of God made in His image.
Under the Law of Moses, then, if I harm you I am harming myself in the same way.
Under the Law of Love, if you harm me I turn around and bless you as if you were my friend or my brother.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)
Dear Lord, Jesus, give us eyes to see the truth in your words. Help us to love as you love. Teach us to abandon the "eye for an eye" approach and begin to practice proactive love.
Friday, May 09, 2014
Fly Higher: A Partner Program With Altitude.
My "day job" involves writing copy for an in-house marketing agency.
This video is the launch of our new partner program and I think it's the single best thing I have ever done as a professional copywriter.
From concept to script to final product, I had a hand in the entire process and it was very satisfying to see the final product turn out so pure.
Hope you like it!
Thursday, May 08, 2014
What has convicted you lately? Sometimes it’s good to take note of the places God has pointed out to you that need growth or correction. For me, it’s been my heart for sinners. Or actually, one particular sinner.
When there’s someone you’ve been suspicious of and then those suspicious are confirmed, it’s hard not to take an “I told you so” attitude. I mean, it is hard for me.I know what I’m supposed to do. I know I’m supposed to instantly offer the person an opportunity to repent and to surrender to Jesus. I know I’m supposed to point to the mercies of Christ and extend a compassionate hand. I know.
But that’s not what I did. And that’s what the Lord has been convicting me of.In Micah, God tells us what it is that He requires of us. If you've never read it, the list goes like this;
"He has shown you oh man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).
“Doing justice” is not too difficult for me. It simply means recognizing injustice and working to make it right again. When we see someone being oppressed, for example, we speak out. When we see someone without enough to eat, we take care of them. I get that.
The second part is to Love Mercy. That's not the same as "doing mercy". We're just told to love it. That means, when we see someone who doesn't deserve a blessing being blessed, we should rejoice. But, honestly this is where I struggle the most.
When I see someone who has done evil suddenly get a break or receive undeserved grace, my first reaction is usually not "Oh, Yes!"
Not at all.
I tend to yell and scream and cry foul when that happens.
Yet, when God shows mercy to me? Oh, then I tend to get excited and share my joy with everyone. “Do you know what God did for me?” I tell them. “I deserved nothing and God gave me a blessing so big and fat and wide I couldn’t contain it.”
So, if God expects me to “love mercy” then that means I need to rejoice whenever someone who doesn’t deserve a blessing receives one – even if that person isn’t me.
When God allows His Mercy to fall on anyone – regardless of who they are or what they've done – I’m supposed to cheer. I am called to love that. To love it just the same as if it had happened to me.
Finally, God tells me to "walk humbly.” Also not easy.
Humility is about surrender. It's about being weak.
It’s about admitting that you don’t always love mercy, or do justice, or rejoice when someone who deserves a swift kick gets a big kiss instead.
Jesus, please help me to learn how to love mercy. Teach me to do justice. Transform my prideful heart into a humble one that is surrendered fully to you.
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
I’ve discovered something that surprised me recently. It turns out that, for most Christians, the hardest thing isn’t loving their enemies or serving the poor, it’s obeying Jesus’ command to love their own brothers and sisters in Christ.
Over the last few weeks I’ve witnessed this phenomenon first hand, and it really disappoints me. What I mean is that when another Christian hurts our feelings, or even just disagrees with us about something, most find it easier to just walk away from that person, or even an entire church community, rather than go to that person and try to work things out.
Of course, the question for us shouldn’t be “which is easier”, it should be, “what does Jesus expect of me?”
So, instead of telling one another the truth about how we feel, or what we believe, we’d rather just pretend to have unity and fake our faith in the teachings of Christ.
Jesus wants us to actually put His teachings into practice. He expects us to leave our sacrifice at the proverbial altar and make things right with one another rather than go through the motions.
If we decide to ignore Jesus, it doesn’t solve anything. It only makes things worse. We carry around our hurt when we show up at the next church fellowship we enter. We begin to mistrust other Christians because we bear a constant reminder of how much it hurts to experience deeper fellowship. We get to be pretty good at faking our emotions, even faking the fruit of the spirit - joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control - rather than actually obey Jesus and allow His Spirit to create these within us for real.
Maybe this is why Jesus commands us to love one another? Maybe it’s why Jesus expects us to make things right between our brothers and sisters? So that those boulders of unforgiveness that are holding back the flood of His Spirit can be removed and we can start to actually live the Christian life and experience the indwelling life of Christ within.
Here’s what I do know: I know that Jesus isn’t glorified when we fake unity. I know that God doesn’t want His children to pretend they are obedient. Pretend obedience is more correctly called “disobedience” and nothing good can come from this.
I know that Jesus commands us to love one another, and I know that love includes forgiveness and reconciliation.
If you’re pretending that everything is ok, and you know deep in your heart that it really is not ok, then you need to go and make it right. You need to obey Jesus and make peace. You need to make reconciliation a priority. You need to stop pretending to love people, and start actually loving people. You need to stop faking unity with your brothers and sisters, and start living in actual unity.
Because who wants to pretend to follow Jesus? Who wants to fake their faith? Who wants to go through the motions?
Hopefully, none of us.
Monday, May 05, 2014
It's always exciting for me to learn something new, especially when what you learn is something more about who you are as a person.
I was reading the book, "U2 by U2". It's a fascinating, inspirational, and surprisingly moving account of the life of the band that is U2, as written in their own words.
Whether or not you agree with me that U2 is the greatest band in the history of rock and roll (I do realize that taste in music is subjective), you would hopefully agree that no other band has had such an impact on music, culture, politics, art, and faith as they have.
There are several astonishing quotes and stories in this book, but one that spoke to me was a comment made by Bono regarding his fascination with people like Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. He admitted that his attraction to them was largely due to the fact that they were all such men of peace and he knew that deep inside he was a man of violence and anger. He was attracted to these men because they embodied virtues that he himself lacked.
That started me thinking. I have a friend who is always pounding the table about the lack of virtue in modern society. He is quite eloquent in the discussion of character and morality. Yet I've observed that this person is not really the moral giant one might assume he is, based on his passion and his convictions. I realized that, perhaps my friend is so obsessed with the issue of character and morality because deep down inside he realizes that he has a flaw in this area.
As my wife and I were discussing this, she admitted that she finds people who are quiet and patient to be quite fascinating, specifically because she knows that she lacks patience and can sometimes find herself talking very loud without realizing it. She is not a quiet person, although she loves the quiet. I am often asked to switch off the cd player in the car so that she can enjoy a moment of peace.
All this made me realize that I myself have an attraction to people who have a compassionate, servant's heart because I know that inside I can be a desperately selfish and self-centered person.
As an only child, I suppose I didn't have much of a chance of not being self-centered growing up. I enjoyed being an only child, especially because it meant that I got everything I wanted for my birthday and for Christmas. I never had to sacrifice my wants for a sister or a brother. Usually, if I want something, one way or the other, I will find a way to get it.
It's quite interesting to discover that my passion for serving others is rooted in the repulsion I have for my own selfishness. In some paradoxical way, if I weren't so sick of my own selfish heart, I would probably never have developed a heart for others.
My attraction to people with an outward focus is part of the reason I married Wendy. When we were first getting to know each other, in college, there was a time when we walked down to a nursing home to visit some people there. In all honesty, I was only going along because she was going and it gave me the chance to hang out with her.
I remember we walked up to the door of the nursing home and I instinctively rushed past an old woman in a wheel chair who was sitting outside the door, heading straight in to do my good deed for the day. However, when I grabbed the front door and stood there holding it open for Wendy (to show her what a gentleman I could be), I realized that she wasn't there. I turned around and I saw her, down on her knees, looking into this woman's eyes with genuine love and compassion. She smiled at her and gave her a big, warm hug as I stood frozen in place, holding open that door for no one.
In that moment I knew that I loved this girl. I had never witnessed such simple, sincere compassion in my life before. I wanted to know how she could do that. I wanted to know what it would take for my heart to be so changed that I would also love others this way.
Maybe that's why, after all these years of marriage, I am a different person than I was in college. All I know is that my heart for others has been radically changed by my relationship with Wendy. I have also been eager to learn from people like David Ruis, Greg Russinger, Jackie Pullinger, and several others, about what it really means to live a life of love and selfless giving.
I know I still have a long way to go in this area. I am still a student of compassion and a large part of my walk with Jesus is wrapped up in discovering how I can be, like Him, a loving, compassionate person who is more interested in serving than in being served.
I've not yet fully realized my desire to become, like Jesus, the servant of all, but I do know that there is a part of me I wish were not there. I wish I had come "out of the box" as a more giving, sharing, compassionate person.
This is the part of me that I have to work on, and the great thing is, somehow, at the end of my life, by the Grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, I will be like Jesus.
*Note: This article originally appeared on the [Subversive Underground] newsletter.
Friday, May 02, 2014
Jesus said that, “apart from me you can do nothing” but for once I need to disagree with him on that one.
I mean, that’s simply not true. I know from firsthand experience that there are loads of things that Christians can do apart from Jesus.
For example, Christians can do these things without any help from our Lord:
· Start a church.
· Hire a pastor.
· Buy a building.
· Create a program.
· Launch a ministry.
· Market the Gospel.
· Promote themselves.
· Attract a crowd.
· Grow their church.
· Sell a lot of books.
· Host a conference.
· Plan a church service.
See what I’m saying? There are actually a whole lot of things that we can do without Jesus.
So, maybe what Jesus meant was that we can’t do anything of any real Kingdom value without him?
Or to put it another way, the things we can do without Jesus may appear to be important, but as far as He is concerned, they are all worth nothing.
The best we can do is, of course, the best we can do. But, just imagine for a moment what it would be like to raise our expectations a bit?
What if we started praying for things that were impossible to achieve? What if we began to expect the miraculous? What if we really started acting as if Jesus was actually living and breathing within us?
If we can dream a little bigger and embrace the bigger vision for accomplishing things that we know we could never achieve apart from Jesus, then we’ve automatically put ourselves in a position where we either trust Jesus or we’ll never make it.
That way, if these things get done we will know – and everyone else will too – that it was only Jesus who made that happen.
If what we can do apart from Jesus is really “nothing” then let’s ignore all of that and start shifting over to what can be accomplished when we abide in Christ, which is unlimited and eternal.