Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

marketingI know it feels like marketing sometimes, this “evangelism” or spreading of the gospel, the good news. Back in the day, it was a little different since communication was a personal craft. People who could speak well or or turn a phrase, or read, were the ones who led the way. People who had miraculous experiences were quick to tell (for a season) and eyewitnesses retold what they saw and/or heard again and again. But, have we been playing “chinese telephone?”

The Lord has commanded us to do this. Remember His words:I have appointed you a light to the nations beyond Israel, so you can bring redemption to every corner of the earth.” [Isa 49:6] These words created two strong reactions. The outsiders were thrilled and praised God’s message, and all those who had been appointed for eternal life became believers. Through them the Lord’s message spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders united the aristocratic religious women and the city’s leading men in opposition to Paul and Barnabas, and soon they were persecuted and driven out of the region. They [Paul and Barnabas] simply shook the dust off their feet in protest and moved on . . . [Acts 13:47-51a]

Oral traditions are powerful. The personal telling of a story or episode is always more compelling than a newspaper article or textbook telling of the same event. We have all read about the execution of 6 million Jews in the second world war, but meeting and speaking with even one survivor of the Holocaust will sear the mind forever.  Just last week, two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, we were appalled and even fascinated, watching hour after hour for the smallest bit of news. And yet, the reality of that story was much more immediate when I spoke to Mary whose daughter was in the race. She was there.

Over the Easter season, I watched the old movie, The Robe, again. The phrase that keeps ringing through my mind was, “Were you there?” And this was the point: being “there,” being at the crucifixion was the turning point for Marcellus Gallio [Richard Burton]. And, in the end, when he finally embraces his first hand experience, he is changed.

It is our own first hand experiences that change us as well. Some of those sagas are dramatic and others are not. We cannot all have a “road to Damascus” [Acts 9] story. And yet, there is something personal that moved us from one place to another, from one belief to another, from one understanding to another. Each moment is different and even unique. When did you come to believe?

But I urge us all to take care. We are not longer living in an oral society. We are living in the Twitterverse where Google and Facebook have become verbs, where the image now trumps words, and “reach” means how many “eyeballs” we can accumulate and entice to land on a web page or a flat screen.

The gospel is not a show. It’s not some event that we are “marketing.” The gospel is only as dynamic as your story is for you.

The rest is hype. And just as you get sick of seeing the same commercial over and over again, so people grow tired of hearing and seeing the canned gospel.

If it really means something to  you . . . to me, then that is story I have to tell. And if it resonates, that’s great. If not, then I simply knock the dust from my shoes and keep on keeping on. Because I know my story is true. I cannot convince anyone to believe it. It just is what it is for me.

Read Full Post »

followHow many times have you heard someone say that he/she is leaving one church or another because of not being fed. Really! What does that even mean? You see, I can be indignant about this point of view because I was one of those people. And it was stupid and prideful and totally off base.

Honestly, is the gospel message so complicated that it requires years and years of Sunday sermons and adult Sunday School to get it? Is sanctification about learning the words or something else? Is it about memorizing the verses or walking them out?

Paul says, about his own journey . . .

I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. . . . For now, let’s hold on to what we have been shown and keep in step with these teachings. [Philippians 3: 12, 16; The Voice translation]

It’s application. Plain and simple. It’s practicing the message. It’s acting like a real human being.

How hard is it to understand this: “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” [Luke 10:27] The words are simple, the message is simple, and the doing? Not so much. If I could just love and love love, that is, really love, so many other things would fall into place, wouldn’t they? After all, love covers a multitude of sins.

Here’s another complicated one [NOT]: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” [James 1:27]

Or maybe we’re not reciting the Apostles Creed enough, to remind ourselves of what we believe. Or the Nicene Creed. Or, if that’s not enough, we can review all the ancient creeds and the articles of faith and the statements of faith of most major denominations HERE. That will keep anyone busy for a week or so. Study on.

But will any of this additional teaching make me a better follower of Christ, a transcendent soul? If I “feed” on more messages of some of the greatest theologians or influential preachers of all time, will my heart and soul be on fire for God more than it was before . . . because of the teaching?

Or can it really be more simple than that?

I think most of us get the “message” within the first year or so of a committed relationship with Christ (either through fellowship, church, or bible study). We understand the gist of it from the beginning. We just don’t want to do it, to live it, to walk what we understood from the beginning.

I know I made it all more complicated. I spent so much energy looking for a shortcut or an inside track or a supernatural anointing, as though walking a life of faith is magic. It’s not magic and it’s not about the miracles. It’s just being real and authentic and transparent. And it’s living the paradox! That’s why it’s called FAITH. And for that reason, because the Christ life is woven in with the paradox [another word for true love] (with Bible examples like turn the other cheek, pray for enemies, walk the extra mile, and care about the other person more than self), I keep trying to work the system, the institution, the traditions, the rules.

And Jesus says to me today, “Just walk what you know.” Do that? And your understanding will be sunshine on a Spring day.

 

Read Full Post »

Photo by IrmBrown

Photo by IrmBrown

God is Spirit and Light and Energy and Good and more. So, how are we to imitate that kind of existence? No one can see God, nor really, feel God or smell God or taste God and despite all the talk, we don’t really hear God either, not literally. Just like we cannot see Light, we see its reflection; so we experience God.

So imitate God. Follow Him like adored children,and live in love as the Anointed One loved you—so much that He gave Himself as a fragrant sacrifice, pleasing God. [Ephesians 5:1-2, The Voice translation]

Over the centuries of the revelation of the One God, there came a moment in time when Christ [Messiah] appeared,  transmuted as a human for our sakes. Besides the need to reconcile human beings to the original covenant, this block of time was an opportunity to have many three-dimensional adventures. But, like everything else in “time,” this was a brief interlude. Now, all we have are Story and Spirit with which to interact, to learn what it means to mirror God and reflect God to the world around us.

The Bible, a compendium of poetry, history, letters, reflections, worship, and imagery, is that Story.  Scriptures talk about the 3-D stuff, the behaviors and thoughts that can help us experience what it means to walk in God, permeated by the Holy Spirit.

To “live in love” is the bottom line of imitating God. And anything else, is a betrayal. It is Judas we become if we know God within, but behave differently.

How can I change? How can I be this reflection successfully? I want to but I grow weary and unsure of myself. I hesitate. I don’t go “all in.” I am not alone, I know. And so, Paul reiterates the call to imitate God and Christ, by imitating him [I Corinthians 11:1]. Paul is not available to me either, but there are other Godly ones among us, even today. When I need a 3-D connection, then I look to that person today whose likeness mimics a soul on fire, a spirit in union with Jesus, a heart beating for God.

 

Read Full Post »

Painting by Dorothy J. Ross

Painting by Dorothy J. Ross

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:13-14]

The prize is not death alone. If that was true, then we’d be lining up for the “big shot” (which is what I used to tell my children when our very sick dogs or cats had to be euthanized — probably not the best description). But if death itself was a prize, we would be racing toward it.

No, it’s not any death, it’s a death that is drenched in the Spirit of Christ and when that happens, death is a doorway.

But that’s not the most important part. At least, it can’t be for me. I am already so results oriented, I don’t really want to add another “ending” to which I am “straining” as Paul states. Instead, I want to be present in the process of knowing Christ. This is a way of living that is not dependent on circumstances. It’s a place so secure within that nothing can shake it loose. This place, this Presence, is the source of love and miracles.

It’s not that “last” death but the small dying to self each day so that God, in Spirit, is more. Or, unified, who I am is not lost entirely but married to the One. We are called the bride for a reason. But until then, we are still guests at the wedding, relatives at the ceremony, even witnesses. The prize is in the marriage vows and certificate. The prize is becoming one with the Christ Spirit within.

 

Read Full Post »

This is another place where modern Human trips up. An indestructible life smacks of Superman and other “super heroes.” Miracles in general are not the food of modernity. We are all about logic and facts and evidence. But, I can only ask those who cannot fathom the miraculous, what if?

Hebrews 7:14-16
For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.

What if there was that indestructible one who wielded enough power to sustain life (and that crosses all dimensions of living), forever?

In these mid-range chapters that I am studying in Hebrews, the writer (and personally, I don’t hear the voice of St. Paul at all), the whole point is to examine the believability of Law changing because the priesthood was changed forever with the coming Messiah. That Jesus, as Messiah, was of another tribe (Judah) and like Melchizedek (who is mentioned several times in Hebrews 7), the ancestry does not line up with the law of the time. Melchizedek had an unknown genealogy while Jesus was affiliated by his birth mother to the wrong one and the next leap is Jesus’s true genealogy as divine.

It’s funny really, the ancient peoples struggled with Jesus’s genealogy while modern people struggle with the supernatural. The people of Israel had a history of miracles; this they could accept, but his lineage was a huge problem if he was to be their true priest-king with the authority to change their laws, the foundation of their faith. While today, that’s a more insignificant problem, it’s all the other stuff: virgin birth, bringing dead people to life, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and of course, resurrection.

But, I say again, what if that kind of power did exist? What would we do in the face of an indestructible life, that is, directed, perpetual energy?

Read Full Post »

Empty Room by Tom Burke

Believing in a future is part of the faith package. We can’t know what that future will actually hold for us, but that does not preclude us from embracing all the possibilities. So much of tomorrow hinges on today.

Philemon 20
And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

Paul believed he would be cut loose from prison. He asked his friends and his followers to believe the same thing, despite the circumstances.

I can function fairly well in this part of the equation, but I’m not so good when that future I had prayed about, asked for and even envisioned, doesn’t happen. I am disappointed. This is a trap for me.

Intellectually, I understand what it should be. I can preach about it and I can teach about. I can offer all kinds of advice, quotations, and scripture references. Honest, I get it. But the reality of living the other answer is not always my best day.

Instead of disappointment, when the alternate future presents itself, I need to joyfully envelop it and give thanks because God, all sovereign, heard my prayer and took my future onto a different way. When I don’t get “out of prison,” when I don’t get the job, when my kid doesn’t go to college, when my project is not accepted, when . . . when . . . when, it’s no less intentional from the God perspective.

I’m reading a book by Steven Furtick called Sun Stand Still. He’s a young, exuberant pastor from Charlotte, North Carolina, who planted a church that grew into the thousands in a very short time. He’s all about audacious prayers and expecting God to do impossible things. He has seen such prayers answered every day. His faith is infectious. He challenges his church to do the same, like Paul, he says, “do as I do, believe as I believe, trust as I trust.”

Have a I become too jaded in my walk to drum up this kind of enthusiasm? I don’t know. It’s not that I don’t believe God can do great and wondrous acts. God can and does. But I want to be able to walk on through despite the outcomes. I want to have a faith that isn’t wrapped around the answers. Because, quite honestly, my requests are not always in the best interests of the whole picture; I know that instinctively. I can only dream my dream and put my desires out there. But I could be way off.

When I was younger and went through those terrible years of barrenness, I came to a peace when I accepted the reality of my body. It was no less God’s plan and, in the end, we built a family through adoption, three kids who didn’t know that God had prepared a room for them here.

Everything is connected, every dream, every future, every room. Keep me mindful Lord, when I step into the room prepared for me today, that I don’t forsake it just because it’s not painted the color I had imagined or it’s not furnished with the expected furniture or populated by certain people.

Help me dream and even dream big still, but help me engage in today fully as well. Today is part of yesterday’s dream.

Read Full Post »

Can I be honest about what I see when I meet someone? I’d love to say my eyes go inside and seek out the “sacred other” but no, not usually. I’m still assessing the outer shell. It happens in a flash, whether it’s chewed down fingernails or Jimmy Choo shoes, my first impression rules the day.

Philemon 16
. . . no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

Haven’t we all played that first impression game with people who have developed into friends?

“Oh, when I first met you, I thought you were a snob . . . or a slob . . . or whatever.” And then we laugh and say how wrong we were, how we had misjudged, how we had missed the clues of the truth inside. It’s all so funny, but is it?

Or what about those times I’ve yelled at a driver or gestured inappropriately or intentionally cut one off as a payback. Yeah, and then we both drive into the same church parking lot. That’s humbling. What did we see? What will we see next?

I work in a community library and we deal with the public all day long and sometimes, it’s not always pleasant. Patrons “swear” they returned a book only to find it later under their son’s bed; or they adamantly deny the water-damage happened during the three weeks they borrowed it. Bottom line? They lie and lie and lie. And often, they don’t just lie, they yell and threaten too. Just such an incident happened last Friday to my colleague and sure enough, they met up again in the same pew on Easter morning. Nice first impression on both sides. Not.

In this letter to Philemon, Paul is asking him to “see” Onesimus, not as a slave, but a “brother” and even moreso, as a man.

When Jesus came to the Jews, he turned their belief system upside down, announcing himself as the Messiah, breaking the dietary laws and traditions, and advocating for grace over legalism. Then, Paul comes along and moves into the Greek and other Asian cities nearby. If we think following Christ in those places was any less disruptive, that’s just wrong. Hierarchy and class ruled those cultures and now, they were being asked to set those traditions aside as well. A slave is a person, a human being, and if that man has entered the life of Christ, then how is he different from you or me?

Some weeks ago, a friend shared this video with me about Narayanan Krishnan, a successful restaurateur who decided to return to his native city in India to feed and care for the poor, some of them untouchables. Who did he see?

CNN Video Story about Narayanan Krishnan [2.5 minutes]
Is it not the Christ?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,761 other followers

%d bloggers like this: