“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed His glory; and his disciples believed him.” (John 2:11)
“For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5)
Chewing on some serious bread here: “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5). I realize the metaphor extends to the primacy of the community, the universal church and all who are called into that great assembly, although I cannot help but consider how this plays out in my personal commitment to the Bridegroom (Christ Jesus) and as a part of “the Bride” (Church) myself. How consecrated (solemn dedication) am I? What does my dedication look like in my daily life? I think about how I look with love, appreciation, adoration, and delight over my wife, Laurie, and think about how God looks over His Bride, the Church… and me. Yes. Praise Him. Amen.
Prayer for the 2nd Sunday following the Feast of Epipany
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your word and sacraments,, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reign one God, now and for ever. Amen
Miscellaneous Thoughts from 20JAN2013
I sat in on Bob G’s class today in church and still cannot get the ideas of holiness, sanctification, spiritual formation, and any other euphemism that describes what it means to become Christ-like out of my head… I just keep on thinking about this and take a moment to put down some of my ideas here.
Jesus, as the living personification of God (John 14:7-9), is our model for what it means to “imitate God” (Ephesians 5:1-2) and “Be holy as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13-16). The Bible teaches us that our attitude or minds should be like Christ; “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5-7).
- Begin with an attitude of complete humility
- Maintain a mindset of openness
- Choose your will to be completely surrendered
- Determine that you will be unconditionally obedient
I believe that Scripture teaches us the Christian journey will not begin in earnest without this process (listed above) and attitude of mind/heart being implemented first (see John 12:24-26, Luke 14:25-28, Mark 9:35). In my opinion, the most distinctive “outworking” of this selfless and surrendered humility is found in the apostle’s definition of love (1 Corinthians 13).
13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails.
More to come.
Readings: Exodus 7:14—12:30
“…and we will not know what to use to worship the LORD until we arrive there.” (Ex. 10:26)
These words “jumped” out to me this morning during our morning reading. As I was considering them and asking the Lord why they caught my attention, I started to think there are times I get into routines (I like routine) and I believe that I know how God wants me to worship Him. Like, I’m positive that I know what will please Him each and every time, so I only “bring with me” what I know He wants.
O, presumptuous me.
I think, what I take away from these words today, is that I should bring all of me each time I come to worship the LORD. If God determines it is praise He desires from me, I will have it. If He desires my tears or my laughs, I will have them too. If He wants my adoration or my silence, those I will have brought as well. I bring everything when I bring all of me…all that I have and all that I am.
I’m sensing the point of this Word to me is this: I am all too often caught up in myself, my agendas, and my routines, such that I presume to know all that is in my heart and exactly how God wants me to worship Him with it. I hear God speaking to my spirit today that there are areas of my heart that need uncovered still. He wants those things uncovered and brought into the light as my acceptable worship. I can only presume to know what these things are and how God intends to have me use them as sacrifice and worship before Him. I will; however, know for sure when I “arrive there” with all of me in tow.
“If you want to live a devout life, you are not only required to stop sinning but also to lose your appetite for it.” -Francis de Sales
I am still working on finalizing my personal rule of life for 2013. I don’t know how long it will take me, but I do not feel the need to rush it. I will do my best to remain faithful in the areas I sense the Spirit leading me in now. At the moment, I have shifted my focus and devoting more attention on developing healthy habits—a new diet, exercise, and attention to a few other mind and body details. As a result of this new focus and initiatives, my blogging, reading, and writing habits have been lacking in regularity. I believe this is okay for now, especially while I form new habits and make adjustments to my lifestyle that will reap healthy benefits in my future, God willing and helping me.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world. A light no darkness can extinguish. In You, O LORD, I take refuge. Let me never be put to shame. In Your justice, set me free, hear me and speedily rescue me. Be a rock and a refuge for me, a mighty stronghold to save me, for You are my rock, my stronghold. For Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me that my actions might bring glory and honor to You, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit who reign eternally together. Amen.
An Epiphany Reflection
“Among you stands one whom you do not know…” (John 18:26)
“In the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.” (James 1:11)
My reflections during this season of Epiphany have been spent on much personal examination. As I practice spiritual disciplines, there is the expectation that measured growth should be manifest from them. While I do these types of examinations throughout the year, the year’s end and the early New Year are times when this examination is much deeper. I am in the process of finalizing my updated Personal Rule of Life; at least what will begin as my rule of life for the 2013 year. This personal rule of mine is not chiseled in stone, but serves as a guide and is subject to change as God’s Spirit would lead and I would obey.
One of the points of my rule for 2013 is my Bible reading. One reading plan I am engaging in is a morning devotional my family is participating in together (The NRSV Devotional Bible). We have just finished reading the Genesis narrative and I have been captivated once again by the incredible relational nature of our Eternal God.
Understanding the great attributes of God, and I use that term “understanding” loosely, it seems that God could have used any number of means to effect His great plan of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration… any of which did not have to include the weak link that is humankind. But He chose to partner with humanity anyway at incredible risk to His Name, His purposes, and the general nature of His plan. Adam, Noah, Abraham…Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph were all frail and imperfect role models, but God chooses to partner with them for the sake of His plan and for the sake of you and of me.
This is one of the primary thoughts that has been camping out in my brain. The “relational” part of our relationship with God is one thing I believe we often take for granted. I believe it is easy to assume much of the responsibility of our discipleship and restoration as images of God is placed upon God. Many us will assume any transformation we experience in our lives that resembles Jesus Christ is the work of God—and I believe that is true, but we also bear a certain amount of responsibility in the process of this transformation. We surrender to the work of God in us as we engage in the process ourselves.
Partners with God
Part-ners: Each “ner” has their respective part in the outworking of God’s grand narrative.
“A child that does not grow bigger is pathetic. Soil that does not produce vegetation is sterile. The tree that is barren is cut down. Unless we go forward, we slip backward.” -John Jewell
We cannot afford to take our “parts” and our roles lightly. As we journey with Jesus on the path of spiritual formation and Imago Dei transformation, we share in the process and responsibility of our discipleship. It is not all the responsibility of God; He enables, empowers, and provides as we surrender, submit, obey, and engage. Hear again, it is God who empowers and enables; it is the Holy Spirit who guides and comforts; it is the Spirit of Jesus Christ who walks alongside us in the process. It is the believer-disciple who bears the yoke of obedient surrender and engages joyfully in the process—making plans, strategizing, and taking the appropriate steps to become more like Christ. Restoration and transformation to the image of God does not just happen. The transforming journey of sanctification is lifelong and often fraught with difficult challenges. We engage and we fall down…we get up to engage again. It is through the surrendered looping process that we eventually and ultimately succeed. We celebrate our victories along the way as God celebrates with us and we begin again
If you have lived far from God, you may think you are very near him when you finally start a life with him. The peasant thinks he has been to court because he saw the king pass by one day. New Christians give up their worst sins and beak fewer laws than they once did, but they are still attached to the world. Instead of judging themselves by the gospel, they merely compare themselves with their former lives. If today is better than yesterday, they think this is enough to make them saints. If they can tell you the time and place of their salvation, they probably see nothing remaining to be done. Such people have a long way to go. -Francois de Fenelon
I pause and reflect on God’s life-giving presence in every part of my body, in everything around me, in the whole of my life. The world I charged with the grandeur of God. I dwell for a moment in His presence, all around me and within me as well. The Holy Spirit is deep within my being. I remind myself that there are many things God has to teach me yet, and ask for the grace to hear them and let them change me.
To You, O God, our praise is due. To You we pay our vows, You who hears our prayers. To You all flesh will come with its burden of sin. Too heavy for us, our offenses, but You wipe them away.
My soul yearns for You, O God. My soul thirsts for You, O God; when can I enter and see the face of God? O God, You are my God, for you I long and only you alone. Glory to you, Source of all being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
Book Review: Living the Christian Year
Author: Bobby Gross
Publisher: InterVarsity Press ISBN: 9780830835201
I don’t know why I haven’t shared my review of this book sooner. I’ve owned the book since it was first published in August of 2009 (actually, I bought it from Amazon.com in mid-September 2009), but I bought it almost as soon as it was available. The reason I take the time to write the review now is because of the cumulative effect and influence this book, along with a few others, has had with shaping my Christian spirituality.
Although I have espoused Christian ideals most of my life, my church tradition has never practiced the church calendar (Liturgical Year) faithfully; consequently, my first real introduction to the liturgical calendar was back in 2007 when I purchased a copy of Thomas Oden’s Ancient Christian Devotional. Following this first elementary introduction and remedial practice year (for me), I started to self-educate and learn more about this ancient discipline of living the Christian year.
When 2009 arrived, and I started my search for Liturgical Year devotional material and other resources I could use in my education, Living the Christian Year by Bobby Gross appeared near the top of my Amazon search. I appreciated and respected a number of the voices offering endorsements for this book, so I purchased it. I can report that this has become one of my favorite book purchases from the past three years.
Bobby calls this book an introduction and devotional guide and this is an honest and faithful representation of the book. Those words; however, do not share the richness and overflowing experience that Living the Christian Year offers to the person who hungers for a deeper and more meaningful understanding to the Story of God lived out daily in their life throughout the year.
There are a total of eight chapters in Living the Christian Year. The first chapter serves as an introduction to the Christian year and an overview of the practices observed throughout the year. Following the introduction chapter, the book is sectioned into three parts which outline the primary movements through the Christian year. Part one is the Cycle of Light and teaches the seasons of observances of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Part two is the Cycle of Life and the observances of Lent, The Paschal Triduum, and Easter. Part three concludes the seasons with an explanation on the observance of Ordinary Time. As mentioned earlier, the book is much, much more than knowledge teaching about this discipline. There are 52-wks of devotional reading, exercises, and prayers to assist the reader-observer through the practice of living out the Christian Year. I used the book for both purposes; (1) as a learning tool, (2) as a devotional help. I cannot express enough how blessed I was with this book as my companion through the 2009-2010 Christian Year.
The years that have followed my first reading of this most excellent devotional guide, has found me pulling it from my library shelf again and again. Such is the case and the impetus for this review. We are approaching the 2012-2013 Christian New Year and I am preparing for what is now a regular discipline in my life… living, observing, and practicing the Christian Year as a means of staying connected to the Universal Church and the God who reigns over it.
This truly is a fabulous and beautiful resource for Living the Christian Year. It has become a staple in the list of growing resources I have for practicing this ancient and rich Christian discipline. I continue to recommend this writing as one of my top resources for learning about the Christian Year.
Book Review: Ancient-Future Time
Author: Robert Webber
Publisher: Baker Books ISBN: 978080101759
This is actually my second time reading this marvelous book. I think more than reading this work by Robert Webber, one lives through it. This has been my experience…a life-changing experience.
I think one of the greatest gifts to Christian spiritual formation is the Liturgical Calendar or Christian Year. This claim says a lot coming from a Protestant Evangelical. I can say without equivocation that this observation and living into the seasons of the Christ life have done more to grow deeply in my faith than any other discipline I have observed during the course of my spiritual journey to date.
I have a number of resources teaching about this particular discipline and practice. I appreciate Dr. Webber’s contribution among my favorites for several reasons. Reason One: He speaks from an Evangelical position. I like this not because of a particular disposition or doctrine, but because I am familiar with his language as he is my own. Our “family of origin” is similar. Reason Two: the book is written very clearly, concise, and linear. I did not have an innate sense of what the Christian calendar was all about, having never practiced living through the seasons. This book provided the framework and detail necessary to build out from; other books have been helpful in ways that added texture to the work Dr. Webber has provided here. Reason Three: The tables, charts, and recommended resources (additional reading suggestions), Bibliography, and Notes section have proved themselves invaluable in my continued learning on this great discipline.
I do not think I could provide better insight to the value of this book than the words of the author Robert Webber, who writes the following on page 22:
In the early ’70s I came upon an ancient discipline for ordering the Christian life. It is the spiritual discipline of living in the pattern of Jesus’ saving life throughout the year. This discipline is so filled with depth and so challenging to the spirit that I feel I have, after a number of years, only begun to scratch the surface of its potential. It has the power to call ethical behavior into conformity with the pattern left us by Jesus. It has the power to construct a view of reality that is thoroughly Christian. But more, it compels us to live, die, and be raised with Christ. Through the discipline of the Christian year, we can experience the power of Christ within the community of the church, through its worship and in our life twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
I think I noted that Robert Webber wrote those words thirty years after first practicing this ancient discipline—and he was only beginning to “scratch the surface of its potential” for Christ-like development. I would echo the same words, but feel embarrassed to put myself anywhere near the place of Dr. Webber. I have only been practicing this discipline in earnest for five years.
I cannot speak highly enough about this book or the others that have introduced me to this ancient practice. I would say that this should be one of the books that holds a prominent place on your library shelf.
[08JAN2012] Basking in the Light
♦ Gospel -Mark 1:4-11
Lord, I will sing of your power; every morning I will sing of your faithful love. Let us live as children of light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true. Amen.
Today has been a day for me to bask in His glorious presence and light, the light that is epiphany and revelation to me. This is the awareness and awakening that shook me to my core over a decade ago… a “shakening and awakening” like none other I experienced in all my life of knowing about Jesus. Knowing about him was nothing compared to knowing him. I am grateful beyond words and any human expression for the grace and mercy he showed to me when he revealed himself in light and in truth. Praise Him! My prayer today has been expressed in the joy of these words from the psalmist from Psalm 139:
For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonders of all your creation.
Already you knew my soul, my body held no secret from you… when I was being fashioned in secret and molded in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes see all my actions, they were all of them written in your book; every one of my days was decreed before one of them came into being.
To me, how mysterious your thoughts, the sum of them not to be numbered! If I count them, they are more than sand; to finish, I must be eternal, like you.
—as read from the Anabaptist Prayer Book: Take our Moments and our Days
[07JAN2012] Epiphany—The Cycle of Light
Yesterday marked the official ending of Christmas and the beginning of the next celebration and observance according to the Christian calendar with the coming of Epiphany. Christians around the world celebrate this day with various traditions (you can see photos of some celebrations around the world here). The observance of Epiphany, for some believers, extends beyond the observance of a day and continues to Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the Lenten season leading to Easter.
“…for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” -Simeon (Luke 2:30-32)
Epiphany (Greek; phainein—to cause to appear or to bring to light); for 2012 Cycle B, Epiphany is observed from Jan. 06, 2012 to Feb. 22, 2012 Ash Wednesday. Thus begins forty-six days of focus, reflection, and practiced living and following the life of Christ. Epiphany is also marked by three primary events in the life of Christ, which are: The visitation of the Magi, the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, and the wedding feast with miracle of Christ turning the water to wine.
Seeing the Star, the Magi said: “This is the sign of a great king. Let us search for him and lay our treasures at his feet: gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Alleluia.
Epiphany is a “season of enlightenment.” During the weeks (five to nine depending on the moveable date of Easter) of Epiphany, believers focus their attention on the life, teaching, and unfolding revelation of Messiah Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of the World. As we invest and immerse ourselves in the life of Christ during this observance, we simultaneously realize the coming of Christ and revelation of Christ in us—and as this revelation is realized in us, it is made manifest to those who are in our immediate circles of influence. The appearance of Christ to men; the revelation of Christ in men; the manifestation of Christ in men reveals the Christ to others… and this is the Cycle of Light that is Epiphany.
We who have seen the light of Christ are obliged, by the greatness of the grace that has been given us, to make known the presence of the Savior to the ends of the earth…not only by preaching the glad tidings of His coming; but above all by revealing Him in our lives… Every day of our mortal lives must be His manifestation, His divine Epiphany, in the world which He has created and redeemed. -Thomas Merton
Observance and Practice
There as many ways to observe, experience, and practice the Life of Christ as there are people…but we can learn a lot and develop solid foundations as well as regain our spiritual footing by following traditions of the church. It will be my practice this next forty-six days to immerse myself in the life and teaching of Jesus through study and reading of the Gospel according to Luke. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I had acquired The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation by N. T. Wright and Luke: The Gospel of Amazement by Michael Card. I am using these books as a means of entering the story of Jesus through the Gospels. Reading, reflection, and prayer are just one component of this Season of Epiphany; the other component is practice and transformation. Acting upon the Spirit’s urging in our life is the expected participation during this Ephiphanal exercise…with the expected outcome being transformed more into the likeness and character of Jesus.
May your Epiphany be an enlightened one.
Christ is baptized, the world is made holy; he has taken away our sins. We shall be consecrated by water and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia.
O God of light, your rising reveals all things in their true proportion. Illumine our lives, that we may see rightly, love deeply, and act justly. In the example of Jesus, we pray for the advent of your reign:
Our Father who lives in heaven, holy is your Name. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours are the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and for ever.
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Amen.
Epiphany Meditation: The Word Became Flesh – Pt. 4 [14JAN2011]
Christ revealed, but largely unseen…
“Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” –Isaiah 6:9-10
While my meditation into the Word became Flesh has been enlightening and edifying, it has also had an effect on me that has brought on burdensome lamentation. Much of the past week I have experienced deep sadness over the state of “Christ revealed, but largely unseen.” Spending much time in thought over the prophetic promises of the Savior Christ coming to dwell with men is encouraging and hopeful, but to realize it in the full with the Nativity stories narrated to us by the Gospel authors is even more so still. Continuing the journey through the gospels, walking alongside Jesus as we read, we sense the close embrace of our God with us today… the warming of our souls heated with the very Breath of God in the embodiment of the indwelling Holy Spirit within us. God is with us. The promises, all true, are our hope for abundant life today and eternal life tomorrow. The kingdom people of God, those who live today, stand on the shoulders of the saints who have walked before us carrying on the missio dei of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration in the now.
Or do we?
And, this is my lament… Why, if Christ has been revealed, do we see so little of him amongst those who profess him so loudly?
My question, and my continuing commentary, is directed toward the majority of professing Christians located primarily in the Western world… I realize there is a small minority of Christians who are revealing Jesus to the world through the lives they live and the lives they aspire to live. On the whole, though, we are failing the mission and commandments of the Lord we claim to be following and representing.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus—(John 13:34-35)
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Jesus—(Matthew 7:15-23)
The statements above come from Jesus describing his true followers and those “not so true…” When I think about what the Bible teaches us, in particular the gospels, about the ways of Jesus and the kingdom among (in) you life, I am hard-pressed to reconcile the way we live with what He teaches. This problem grows exponentially with our acknowledgment of it followed by the calm dismissal of our responsibility to change from the way we do things and move to a more Jesus-designed way living and responding to humanity and creation.
I consider the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7) as the template and outline for kingdom-living followers of Jesus; a high bar to say the least, but the Christ standard nonetheless. I also consider the prayer of Jesus (John 17) indicative of his deepest desire and expectation from and for his followers. Filling in the details of this “template” from Jesus are the teachings, epistles, and letters that complete the Canon of the New Testament. The Church, as I have been exposed to it, fails to live up to the teaching of this book. Why?
1. We treat it as an ideal. My experience has conditioned me to believe that most Christians (those I have met) understand the Bible as a “best case scenario” way of living. They do not really believe anyone can truly live out the teachings of Jesus; consequently, no one makes the effort to do so.
2. We misinterpret and inaccurately redefine God’s grace. Although Scripture argues against sin increasing so that grace may abound, our general propensity is to live contrary to that argument. We go to great lengths with very impassioned pleas that the “Law” was destroyed with the new covenant of grace… things like spiritual disciplines, sacrificial acts of love toward others, and moral, ethical, and social rules are all “works based” acts of that “ugly” word “religion.” We redefine grace to mean we are free to live as we wish under the banner and blessing of Christ’s shed blood; which covers the multitude of our sins, both of omission and commission. In this, we trample the cross of Christ under foot.
3. We make ourselves the center of the salvation message. I do not think all the streams of Christianity are guilty of this one, but my limited experience within the ranks of Protestant Evangelicals leads me to include this reason. Whether it is intentional or subconsciously inadvertent, we have made the majority of the teaching about the user experience. The worship among many (if not most) Protestant Evangelicals is consumer driven. As a result, the “Christian shopper” matches their personal preferences to their “wants” with regard to their perceived spiritual needs. The church perpetuates this errant and heretical teaching by catering to it and designing “worship experiences” for the sake of the “seeker.” We dumb down the teaching of God, we streamline and glitter the “performances” and we outsource our discipleship. Jesus teaches self-denial while his church teaches self-survival.
4. Everyone thinks their way is right and everyone else is not: aka pride. How else can we explain the disparity in our doctrines, the division within our ranks, the refusal to work through disagreements? I refer back to Jesus’ John 17 prayer and his comment, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Why, in the name of Jesus, can’t Christians get along?
5. We are idolaters. We chase after and profess faith in our ideals and the god we have imagined Jesus to be. When and where the “Bible Jesus” or God of the Bible does not conform to our imagined god, we dismiss that idea as something false or unattainable. Consider the WWJD questions we ask… why do we need to ask “what would Jesus do?” If we are following the examples of His life and living with His Spirit guiding our own… well. I think the greatest reason we fashion our own god (and call it Jesus), is the fear that comes with following the true Jesus. The fear that we have is the fear of losing ourselves… what it will cost me, what will “that” Jesus ask of me? The answer? He will ask you for anything and everything that will be a stumbling block between you and Him. Somewhere in our core, we know this and avoid having to answer the question by creating our own jesus who never asks us anything that overly complicates our life.
So, you tell me… do you see Jesus being manifest in the full in this world? If yes, please give me the example. If no, why do you think that is?
Epiphany Meditation: The Word Became Flesh – Pt. 3 [07JAN2011]
Yesterday many members of the Church celebrated Epiphany, the day celebrated and recognized as the appearance or manifestation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus. This is an incredible thing, this revelation…epiphany, and God’s manifest grace permitting mankind to recognize the person of the Word who became flesh. This seems the perfect place to pick back up our meditation on the Word Became Flesh. I wish to focus in this installment on what it means for the Word to dwell among us and in us…
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14-18)
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him (Matthew 9:9). Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him (Matthew 4:22). My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27).
What does it mean to be “called” by God? I think the question is relevant because ultimately each of us is called by God. We are called to be, first, reconciled to Him. Secondly, we are called to be people of blessing, people that bring holistic (“whole-istic”) healing, and we are called to be administers of grace. All of this is for the sake of God’s image which we are created in. Now, some of this or even most of this would be agreed upon by many people professing Christian beliefs. In fact, if you are a fly on a wall in the church social areas on any given Sunday, you’ll hear this type of inspiration and encouragement shared in conversation between “believers” egging one another on in the perseverance of their faith. This is good; except… in the Christian communities that I have traveled and belonged to, this is predominantly where this encouragement begins and ends… with talk. These are the “right” words to share with our Christian brothers and sisters, but we don’t really mean them.
“The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that he might bring us to be even what he is himself” (Ireneaus)
“For He was made man that we might be made God” (Athanasius)
Why do we do this? Why do we speak words we really don’t mean? I think I have a pretty good theory on the answer to that question. My theory is that we want to believe them; that’s why we say them. The tragedy is that as a general group of people we don’t believe they are possible. We stumble through our lives of faith hoping for something we don’t believe is attainable. A very large percentage of people instead believe the lie that we cannot be like Jesus. The reality is that the thing we so desperately hope for, being like Jesus, is attainable and in this physical life. This is what the Word became Flesh is ultimately all about, the man and woman created in the image of God becoming again whole and healed, reconciled and restored to the glorious image of God who is visible in the person and image of Christ.
What is our stumbling block?
As I said, I think the primary stumbling block to our flesh becoming the Word is our belief that such a transformation is unattainable in our physical lives. I think this belief is faulty and stems from two wellsprings; one is ego, selfishness, and the desire to become the designer of our own destiny. Second, is our faulty (even heretical) theology; we attribute an errant sense of divinity to the flesh and blood Jesus and elevate his life to something unattainable by mere mortals (us). This perspective of Jesus is a form of Gnosticism and Docetism… (note: not exactly like either, but a form of both). Update: (Jan. 08, 2011 — While reading some of my favorite blogs this morning, I stumbled on a pretty good explanation of Gnosticism and Docetism from the Resurgence site. You might also find some of the other false beliefs informative from their series here.)
The incarnation is one of the great mysteries of God, seemingly full of paradox with the idea of Jesus as fully man and fully God. The concept certainly does not seem congruous, but that is one of the great doctrines of the church. It is difficult for us to comprehend a God with our frailties and afflictions; I’ve heard people preach that Jesus never was sick a day in his life. I don’t think Scripture speaks to this aspect of Jesus’ health one way or the other, but we know he hungered, got tired, was angered, exasperated, grieved, saddened, bruised, bled, and died. I can’t imagine that he suffered these other physical attributes yet he was never sick, but I digress. It is also difficult for us to imagine a human being, born of a woman, who is also the Uncreated and Immortal God. Yet, Scripture and Jesus testify to this being true in the person of Christ. Consequently, as “believers,” we struggle with these dynamics in the outliving of our own faith.
So, what’s the problem again?
The problem with this confusion about Jesus is the way that it impacts how we live our physical lives. Most people who are “believers” will concede that Jesus lived a “perfect” and “sinless” life. Although the majority of those people do not believe they have the ability or empowerment to “follow” after Jesus in this same capacity, but Scripture teaches otherwise.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12)
“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6)
I could continue to cite supporting passages from the Epistles of St. Paul, but I’ll leave those to your own reading. The point here is that we are intended to live a life as Jesus lived while he walked the earth. His nature as God and Man are real, but he “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:5-7) and became as us, so he could be the perfect sacrifice for our sin. In emptying himself, he showed us the way to walk, led by the Spirit of God, in unbroken fellowship with the Godhead (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit), so that we too can walk as glorious reflections of God. The prayer of Jesus in John chapter seventeen speaks to this very idea. The following passage speaks to this unbroken unity:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” –Jesus (John 17:20-26)
What do you believe about this Epiphany? How does the Word became Flesh impact your flesh becoming his Word? Stay tuned; more to come…
Christmastide Meditation: The Word Became Flesh – Pt. 2 [01JAN2011]
I ended the first post about the Word became flesh sharing the idea that I believe we obsess over the event of salvation and with rare exception fail to live as Kingdom ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2) on this side of eternity.
“The glory of God is a human fully alive,” Irenaeus
I wonder… How many Christian people, Protestant Christians in particular, are still considering the incarnate birth of Jesus Christ? I realize that the day we celebrate his birth (Dec. 25th) is simply a calendar mark chosen by men, but nonetheless, it is the day we have chosen to begin celebration and meditation upon the Word becoming flesh. In Church history, the people of God have traditionally focused upon the revelation of the birth of Christ through Epiphany or Theophany a date that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Following Epiphany, some traditions in the Church continue to celebrate the Word became flesh through the first Sunday in February. So, I wonder; “How many Christians are continuing to ponder the great mystery of the Word became flesh?”
The Immortal became mortal…
The Unseen became seen…
The Uncreated One became as us…
Pure Spirit was revealed in flesh and blood…
The greatest Mystery in the history of Creation deserves more than one day to reflect on. Even more tragic is the reality that most Christians may have only given a fleeting thought or moment to this great mystery. I’m sure some celebrated the obligatory “Christmas Eve Service” or Christmas Mass, but if we are honest… how much more of our precious time did we give to pondering this great gift of God to mankind? This very weekend most of the world has celebrated the beginning of a new year and by the start of the next work week, the majority of people will have moved well beyond the thoughts of Christmas and the Word became flesh.
“Not only has the usefulness of foregoing examples served for calling us to eternity, but the Truth Himself has even “appeared” in a visible body.” –Leo the Great
The “tip of the iceberg”
I mentioned in the last post that I believe most people who profess knowledge of God through the Salvation Experience live the majority of their “earthly salvation lives” on a very small portion of real estate that exists in the kingdom of God. It seems that many Christians tote their life in Christ around with them as if it were a “safety base” or “yoga mat.” They will live in the world completely oblivious to the leading of God, and largely unresponsive to Him, until a crisis or otherwise selfishly motivated reason arises which prompts the “safety base” or “glory mat” to be unfurled. Then, the crisis-motivated “believer” will draw on the depths of their knowledge to proclaim the protection, leading, blessing, etc. of God for their need. Once the crisis is removed, the “base” or “mat” is picked up and “life” can resume for the “believer.” The salvation experience for this type of “christian” is event based; it was a one-time initiation into the “club” that will ultimately culminate in a heavenly experience after this earthly life is over. Not at all what God intends for His children…
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –Jesus (John 10:10)
I think that many of our “family of believers” suffer from heretical beliefs. This occurs in large part because of our unwillingness to truly grow in deep relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We rely on our event-based salvation and continue the pursuit of knowledge instead of focusing on the Wellspring of all Known Things. This is a form of Gnosticism. We think we become more saved as we gain more knowledge, but that is simply not true. There are not degrees of salvation. There is one salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ. We receive that full salvation when we choose to become fully and sacrificially obedient to Him and His Way. Only first through the “death of self” can we begin the journey of becoming a Christian-fully-alive in the person of Jesus Christ. This is the Mystery revealed. This is where God’s grace is explained in the Word becoming flesh in us, HIS FOLLOWERS.
When we fail to fully engage the roles God has destined for His people, we are not His people at all. If we do not become the Ambassadors of Salvation ourselves, if we do not leave the old self, if we do not embrace the changed heart and life that is the New Creation… we attempt to accept God’s grace in vain. Effectively, we trample the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ underfoot. Knowledge does not save. Salvation is not an event. Grace saves and is evidenced by the salvation experience completely and utterly consuming the old life of a person and presenting it with something new that is manifest as the Word becomes flesh in you… and in me.
More thoughts on the Word became flesh in the coming days; stay tuned for part three…