Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Bread and the Blood

I had an interesting reflection last Sunday. I don't want to call it a revelation, as it wasn't that strong or clear. More of just a thought or reflection. Maybe I'm off track, or maybe I just wasn't hearing God's voice that clearly...

Anyway, we had our 5 year anniversary at Solid Rock Easter weekend and last Sunday was kind of a family chat going over the direction the church is heading. We then went into Heb 12:1 and Matt 18:1. Afterwards, we took communion as usual.

At Solid Rock communion is a little different. While the worship band plays, everyone goes up to the tables as they choose and goes back and has communion by themselves. It is a personal time with God as opposed to a corporate thing as with every other church I've been a part of. Personally, I like it. The lights are down low and there is ample time to get right with God.

As I was sitting there reflecting on the message and praying, I sensed that God was moving me away from the usual focus of the Bread as Christ's flesh and the Juice as Christ's blood. Not to start heresy, as I firmly believe that the bread does symbolize Christ's body and the juice (wine) the remembrance of Christ's sacrifice for us. The washing away of our sin by His blood. But I felt that He was opening my mind to a more personal and practical application of that truth.

In 1 Corinth 10:16, Paul refers to the communion as the fellowship of the body and blood of Christ. Later in 1 Corinth 12:27 he refers to us as Christ's body, with each of us having a part.

God took me to a place on Sunday where I took my focus solely of Christ's body and saw what he was doing through His Church. Again, this isn't taking anything away from my devotion to Christ, but a recognition of His work through the body of believers. It is Christ who came to teach us how to live a life acceptable to God, and it is us who are walking that life out. Christ ministers to other's through us. Christ ministers to us through others. Not only are we a part of the body of Christ, but we need the rest of the body to be complete.

Where I had a problem with this reflection was with the blood. There is no way that we, a broken and sinful people could ever wash away the sin of others. It is Christ's sacrifice alone that allows us into the presence of God. His one-time sacrifice was sufficient for all. Christ's sacrifice has ushered in a new covenant between God and the follower's of Christ.

But there is still a part for the church to play in the blood and this new covenant. Yes, communion is in remembrance of his sacrifice and the washing away of our sin, but it also is a reminder for us that we are to help administer that forgiveness to others. While we can't wash away any one's sins, we don't have to hold their sins against them. We are to help the lost understand what Christ has done and prayerfully lead them into a saving relationship with Christ. We are to come alongside struggling Christians and help them walk through the issues that they are struggling with and administer His healing balm.

Just as Christ loves us we are to love others. If God has forgiven a sinner, who are we to hold their sin against them.

The next time you take communion, after a time of personal reflection, take your eyes off yourself and look at the big picture. Look around you at the Body of Christ and ask God what He is doing and what part you are to play in it. Where are you to spread a little of that precious blood?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Love of a Father For His Son

Amazing how time flys when you are sick. I've been fighting the crud and allergies since my Birthday. Ain't 51 fun...

I've been contemplating Easter for several days and wanting to look at it from a very simple, human perspective. It's easy to get too bogged down in the Theological particulars and ramifications, but we often overlook a very simple, yet challenging fact. The love of the Father for his son and how that relates to us today.

To set the stage, I called my own father when my son was about one. I was in tears as I was overwhelmed by my love for my son and the awareness of how much my father loved me. Prior to experiencing it for myself, I couldn't comprehend the depth of that love. It was different from any other love I had experienced. Certainly different then my love for my parents or siblings, and even different than my love for my wife. And it was much more tangible than my love for God. But it also gave me more of an awareness of how much God loves me.

It dawned on me that the exchanges and emotions we shared are given to us by God and are a reflection of Christ's obedience to His Father and the love of the Father for his son, and by extension, His love for us.

Christ went to the cross not so that he could defeat Satan, although that fact is true. He went to the cross so that we could be restored into a relationship with our heavenly father. It was the only way. Our sin separates us from God. His justice demands that sin be atoned for. But His mercy desires that none should perish. God has provided a way for all who believe in Him to not only avoid Hell, but be in a loving relationship with Him. While he died for our sins, His victory is that He rose from the grave. That is the significance of Easter. Christ defeated death and sits at the right hand of God.

Christ loves us so much that he was willing to take our sins upon himself so that we could have that relationship. God loves us so much that he provided the way for His Justice to be served and His mercy to be realized. What is so amazing to me is that God knew all of this before time as we know it began and Christ knew that I would continue to sin even after accepting salvation. Yet He still took my sins upon himself and died for me.

No matter how far our sins have separated us from Him, when we make that simple confession with a sincere and contrite heart that we are sorry for our past lives, acknowledge our need for forgiveness and salvation and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, then we are restored back into that relationship with the God of love.

As I think about the sacrifices that I would make for my son, it humbles me to think of the depth of the sacrifice that Christ made for me. I would do anything in my power to give Timmy that which I felt the strongest about. But I could never do what Christ did.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Love Your Neighbor

It's been an interesting week, capped by a wonderful message at church today. the Men's retreat at Sunriver was good. The topic was 2 Peter, and God used me to reach out to an old friend in a time of need. That was cool. The scripture given on Friday nights session was the very scripture needed in a phone call later that evening. It was nice being open and vulnerable.

I had hoped to be able to post during the retreat, but couldn't get a good enough internet connection on my iPhone. Oh well.

Tonight at church Jose Zayas spoke on one of my life scriptures, Luke 10:25-37, The Great Command and the story of the Good Samaritan. He spoke on how our technology has hampered our abiity to communicate with others.

He looked at Jesus command to love our neighbor, and at the parable. The Priest and Levite were too distracted and self-important to be bothered with the wounded man, but the Samaritan took time out of his busy day to not only help, but get involved in his life.

God is after our heart, not our knowledge of Him. He wants us to be dependant upon Him and to use us to touch others.

This tied back in to how God used me over the weekend in Sunriver was encouraging.

With SendOutCards I am finding a wonderful vehicle to allow God to use me to touch others. I see it as more of a ministry than FDI, or even my mortgage biz. Hopefully it will also become a revenue source, but that's becomong less of an issue.

My desire is to wake up each morning and ask God for a prompting on who I should send a card to. I'm even now getting a prompting to send a card to President Obama. Who knows...

Lord, thank you for reopening my eyes to the heart of Luke 10:27-37. I acknowledge that I am far from truly walking in this and ask you to change my heart and desires to truly love my neighbor as myself.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Child-Like Faith

Tonight my son and I were laying in bed. Mommy's working so it's just the 2 of us. I was reading out of his Boy's Bible about "Dirty Coats, Palm Branches and Noisy Rocks" from Luke 19:28-40. It was a fun, loose translation of the origional, but geared for a little boy.

He had me repeat the title until he could say it and then said that it didn't make sense. I agreed, but mentioned that it was just the title and that it sounded pretty cool didn't it. He agreed.

We went through the story and at the end discussed the meaning, in a simple 5 year old way that we praise God in everything we do.

Tonight he wanted desert because he was good today. He got a little. Then tonight, I explained that when he was good today it was a way of praising God. He gave me a big hug and fell asleep.

Wow, to live so simply.To receive truth so readily. To be able to not be distracted by the cares of the world or the temptations that surround us all.

Yesterday I made a decision to spend time from 11 PM to 12 Am with God. Guess what. I forgot and didn't start until about 11:45. Amazing. Forgive me God!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Lose My Soul"

God has been tweaking me lately. Ever since I first heard Toby Mac's "Lose My Soul" on the radio it has touched me. Well, the other night I got a FaceBook update from Toby Mac's fan page. Of course, it was the video. I watched it and started sobbing. About that time my wife and son came downstairs and it got even worse.... an out of control, deep in my soul, cleansing outburst. I haven't had one of these for several years.

Of course Laura was concerned. Through the sobs, chest heavings and tears, I tried to tell her that it was a good thing. God was doing something in me that needed to be done. I don't know that she has ever seen me when God has truly broken me. Not sure what she thought...

Anyway, here's the lyrics that have consistently touched me.

"Father God, I am clay in your hands,
Help me to stay that way through all life's demands,'
Cause they chip and they nag and they pull at me,
And every little thing I make up my mind to be,
Like I'm gonna be a daddy whose in the mix,
And I'm gonna be a husband who stays legit...
...I don't want to gain the whole world, and lose my soul,
Don't wanna walk away, let me hear the people say." Toby Mac

One of my greatest fears is that I fail in my role as a "daddy whose in the mix". It is one of the strongest commands of God, that we are to teach our children about God. Deut 6:7, Deut 11:19, Lev. 10:11, and on and on... But this is more then just a teaching, it's supposed to be a leading into a vibrant relationship with his creator and the lover of his soul.

My fear is that at some point Timmy will turn from Laura and I, and walk away from God.

I see it so often in Christians who are strict in their discipline and judgemental towards the world. They do and say all the right things and yet their kids either walk away from their god, or they become just like their parents, either judgemental. Another type is the christian who lives a god life with no real passion or commitment. Their kids grow up going to church but then are lured away by the pleasures of the world. I was in this 2nd group.

One of my greatest desires is to see Timmy walk with God, not because we tell him to, but because he has developed his own relationship with Jesus. This needs to be based on love and a grateful heart, not on trying to please mom and dad.

It is such a challenge for me right now because he watches my every step and listens to my every word. Even today, Laura was having a bad day with a "customer service" rep and Timmy walked up to her and put his arms around her as she sat in the chair like I would do.... And he also is proud of the noises his body makes...

I am so torn right now over my love for them and my need to spend more time being the provider. Business is slow and we have CC debt that I'm afraid will get out of control if the rates adjust. I want to be that dad that whose in the mix and that husband that stays legit...

Lord, I need you. Help me to keep my eyes on you. Help me to trust that you will continue to be our provider and shelter. Help me to trust that as I walk with you, and put my family first, you will continue to provide for our needs. Lord I love you.

well, once again, it's late.

Here's another video of the song

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Search for Intimacy

This place I'm yearning for, or seeking, could best be described as a desire for intimacy with God. But what is intimacy in the biblical sense and is it possible to have intimacy with God?

The view coming out of the 18th century Enlightenment was that God was an absent clockmaker. He set the universe in motion and went about his own way. He was distant and not involved in our lives. Enlightenment-influenced theologies have started with humans, built a system of morality that suits us, and then tries to tailor God to fit our morality. This is not God-centered, but man-centered. It is hard to find true intimacy with an absent God. At best, we want God to meet us on our terms, and when He doesn't, we stop trying.

Extreme Calvinists believe that before time began, God predestined some to Heaven and others to Hell. Those who are destined for salvation cannot resist His irresistible grace and those destined for Hell have no ability to make it to Heaven regardless of how good they were or how many times they expressed their belief in Christ. The choice has already been made. This also rings of an absent-clockmaker who determined who was on His team and who wasn't.

To set the record straight, I believe that God is alive and well. He spoke creation into existence and is still involved in every aspect of it today. He is the Alpha and Omega, omnipotent and omnipresent. He has predestined that the way back into a relationship with Him would be through Jesus Christ's atonement for our sin on the Cross. Basically, our sin separates us from God and someone has to pay the price. Sin must be punished. God's justice is at war with His grace. His solution was for Jesus to take our sins upon himself. Jesus, in essence, took the bullet for us. Since God is omniscient, He ultimately knows who will choose salvation and who won't. While His desire is for all to be with Him in Heaven, ultimately we get to make that choice.

All this to say that if God is distant, intimacy cannot be found. It would be nothing more than a feeling at best, a psychosis at worst.

Again, I believe the evidence best supports that God is alive and well. He is active and wants to be a part of each of our lives. He wants to have a personal relationship based on mutual love. But, and this is a huge but, it must be on His terms. He is God, we are not.

I'm the father of a 5 year old. Timmy tries to meet me as an equal. While I enter his level at times, ultimately, I am in charge. My decisions override his when his are not in his best interest, or against my desires. I am older, wiser and more mature. I see cause and effect that he cannot see. My love for him precludes me from letting him harm himself. But I also know that he needs to grow up and learn. I will allow him just enough rope to hopefully learn right from wrong. I rejoice when he makes a right decision and hurt when he doesn't. God is much like this, only much wiser.

Just as Timmy can't comprehend my love for him, I cannot truly comprehend God's love for me. I didn't understand how much my dad loves me until I had a son. It blew me away. My greatest desire for Timmy is that he continues to love me, to do what is right and be my best friend. I can't force it, but I can be there for him and woo him. Could this be how God views me?

Anyway, it's getting late.

Sign of the Times

Our church, Solid Rock, has been going through the Book of James this year. It has been interesting and timely. It seems like each week's news was custom made for the next Sunday's sermon. Here's a link to the series. http://tinyurl.com/dk8rcc

We are finishing up James 5. http://tinyurl.com/a9njal

We are living in a time where our greed has caught up with us. It has affected all political parties and people. I don't care your beliefs, if you live in America, you have been caught up in it. I know I have.

We are seeing our wealth eaten away, not only because of Wall Street greed or political bumbling, but because we also invested in things that were temporary. We like things. We are a consumer nation. We like instant gratification. We also like to think that we are not part of the problem. But we are.

While we might not be the wealthy CEO, greedy sales rep or insensitive government employee, we all have helped support those who do take advantage of the poor, needy or helpless. Either through action or inaction. Who has ever bought something from China or another impoverished country? We might not like the conditions, but we love the products and prices. Who has truly lived out the Shema? To love God with all your Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength and to love your neighbor as yourself? Who has consistently looked after the poor and needy? The widows and orphans. Who has ever walked by someone in need and not done what was right?

God is calling the world to account for it's greed and lack of concern for those in need.

But he also gives hope to those who love Him. In vs. 7 we are told to be patient and wait. The illustration is that of a farmer waiting patiently for his crops to be ready for harvest. The farmer waits with anticipation for that day when all his hard work and toil bears fruit. We are also asked to endure. While it is not comfortable, God will give us the strength to endure.

I have had a tough year with work and finances. While I still have a job, my circumstances have prevented me from earning a living. While this is about to change, it has been hard. It has been easy to say "Why Me?"

What I feel God is asking me to do is to simplify my life and spend more time with him. To stop planning and start trusting. To do each day what I know I need to do and let Him provide the clients and finances. To replace planning time with prayer time. To replace striving with seeking Him.

This isn't new to me. I have done it in the past and it has worked. As I have drawn closer to God, He has always provided.

Lord, give me the strength to change my habits yet again.

Anyway, it's late and I need to sleep.