Posts Tagged ‘Epiphany’
“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.
An Epiphany Reflection: Christ in me–Christ in you
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. (Isaiah 60:1-2)
Today the Church recognizes the Epiphany of Jesus; “Christ, brought to light.” Epiphany is the season of enlightenment, which we focus our attention on Jesus and the unfolding manifestation of his glory. There are four core events at the heart of Epiphany relative to the observance of the Church; these events are the birth of Christ (although this event has been removed since the fourth century), the visit of the Magi from the East, Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River, and Jesus turning the water into wine at the Cana wedding. The word “Epiphany” comes from the Greek verb phainein, which means to “cause to appear” or “to bring to light.”
I am thinking about what this season means to me. As we process the season of Advent and we “wait expectantly for the Light,” now the Light has appeared. Christ has come. In what ways do I see Him and what difference does this make in my life. The challenge I have extended to myself during this season is to make every opportunity a manifestation of the Light. I want to be able to “see” Jesus in every human encounter—to see Christ in others, no matter who they are—we are; after all, created as imago dei, the image of God. I want to be a conduit for Christ as well; this means I am a manifestation of Light too. As a Christ follower, people should be able to witness Christ in me. This will be my practice and goal for the next five weeks.
The Rule of Benedict reminds us that we should make every effort to receive guests (others) as Christ, because He will say: “I was a stranger and you took Me in” (Mt 25:35). And let due honor be shown to all, especially to those “of the household of the faith” (Gal 6:10) and to wayfarers. These will serve as strong reminders and encouragement to me during these days of Epiphany along with the very words of Jesus, also from Matthew’s gospel; “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). Finding Christ in the other and exhibiting Christ to the other are moments of Epiphany.
If you love God, you will do everything possible to serve and please him. Love is impatient to do good. It is also quick and active and observant. Faith will encourage you. Hope will set you spinning like the spring in a watch. Reverence for God will rouse you out of your sleepiness. Enthusiasm for spiritual things will set you on fire. The more aware you are of God, the more involved you will be in working for him. Those who trifle lose their labor. -Richard Baxter
I think…Epiphany finds us most profoundly when we practice one thing, to love God will all our heart, all our mind, all our soul, and all our strength.
Almighty and ever-living God, we confidently call you Father as well as Lord. Renew your Spirit in us to make us more perfectly your Light, shining and illuminating the darkness around us. May you be ever present and complete in us, so we might be the Light of your holy city on a hill.
If indeed I am to radiate your light to the world, Lord Christ, then let that light burn within me to purge and purify until I know only you and seek only you and, finding you in everyone I meet, enable them to find you even in me.
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who reigns and lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
[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. 5 [16JAN2011]
Practical Witness – Practical Insight
As I’ve been considering the Word became Flesh for the past several weeks, there have been a number of passages of Scripture “speaking” to me and fueling my meditations. I decided to post a few of these and share some of my “soul food.”
Submit to God’s royal Son…What joy for all who take refuge in Him (Psalm 2:12)
He will be victorious (Psalm 110:7)
Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. (Joshua 1:8)
There is no place where God is not. Where I go, there God is. Now and always He upholds me with His power and keeps me safe in His love. –Anonymous
One morning my selected reading was Psalm 18. It was pretty early and I transposed the numbers in my mind and turned to Psalm 81 instead… Regardless of my state of mind and how “accidental” it seemed, I’m believing it was providence and the Spirit of God who guided me. Here follows the passages that grabbed my attention:
5 I heard an unknown voice say:
6 “I removed the burden from their shoulders;
their hands were set free from the basket.
7 In your distress you called and I rescued you,
I answered you out of a thundercloud;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.
What I considered about these words was this; this is our God. He hears our cry as he heard the Israelites in Egypt. He relieves our distress and rescues us from the burden of our sin; he sets our feet on the path to deliverance and the Promised Land… and along the way… He tests us. He purifies us of anything that would betray our faith. He proves our love and allegiance to Him as genuine, or not. The reality is this: if we will be rescued, we will be tested (1 Peter 1:6-7). Will we pass? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
8 Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
if you would only listen to me, Israel!
9 You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not worship any god other than me.
10 I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
There is nothing new under the sun, says the Teacher in Ecclesiastes. And, the stubbornness and rebelliousness of people is unchanging as well. As “bullheaded” as the people of ancient Israel were, so are we today. God has given to us a clearly defined way of living, going as far as showing us himself (Jesus) how to live and abide in relationship with the Triune God. We continue to make idols for ourselves in the trappings of our lives or we cut right to the chase and crown ourselves as our own lord our god. This will not do. God Almighty speaks to us now as He did then; “I am the LORD your God, I am your Deliverer.” We would do well to heed His Voice.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it with good things.
How vulnerable we would be going through life with our “mouth” wide open… or looking ridiculous if not vulnerable. God calls us to trust Him and Him alone. He will guide us and He will provide for us. He tells us in another place that a good Father does not give His son a stone in the place of bread… In this word He simply tells us to “open wide” and He will fill us with good things (Matthew 7:9-11 and Luke 11:11-13).
11 “But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.
13 “If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways
The great burden of my own heart is that our stubbornness will be our undoing as it was the undoing of Israel. We will continue to refuse our will to God and He will allow us the right of refusal. He will let us choose our own way…a way that ultimately lives in bondage to our sin and ends in death, physical and eternal. Our devices are instruments of destruction… God’s way is the only Way, Truth, and Life (“If my people would only listen to me, only follow my ways…”).
And finally, I haven’t been able to shake this passage from my memory… it has been lingering in my heart and on my tongue for almost a week now.
“When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the temple of the LORD. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the temple.” (1 Kings 8:10-11)
I wonder… what would happen if we had an experience like this one mentioned in 1 Kings 8:10-11… God’s Presence, the Glory of the LORD GOD Almighty, filled our sanctuaries across the land? Would we even allow something like this? Would God’s Presence in this capacity be welcome? This would wreck the order of our service programs and Sunday morning Christian entertainment. I wonder…
Here this passage tells us the priests could not even continue their service because of the cloud of God’s glorious presence… I wonder… Oh. My. Glorious. Wonderful. Awesome. Heavenly. Incredible. Marvelous. GOD. Jesus. Creator. Sustainer. He is what everything is about (Colossians 1:15-20). How easy we forget this; assuming we ever knew it in the first place… I mean know it in our hearts and not merely confess it with memorized words from our lips.
Our God is what we are about. God is not about us. When (and if) we ever get this right, there will be revival amongst humanity that will make the angels in heaven jealous.
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…
As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m trying to be more intentional about my meditation through Scripture and focus on the liturgical year. We are currently in the season of Ephiphany as we rapidly approach Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season. My posting on the blog regarding my meditations has tapered off a bit, but my personal devotions have not… It may sound weird or contrived, but I have never felt so spiritually alive and awakened in all my life; with each new day it seems this awakening becomes even more profuse. This is not to say that I don’t have times of fatigue, doubt, frustration, sorrow, grief, anger…etc, but I’m learning that God, the Holy Spirit, is leading, teaching, and revealing Himself in the midst of every nano-atom of matter, life, time, space, and eternity. If I am alert and intentional in seeing Him in every instance of life…in every moment of time…I do; see Him. I “hear” Him. I am instructed, and discipled, by Him all through my day. This is truly Ephiphany; the great “awakening” and walking in this heart, soul, mind, and strength attitude seems that each day is even more ephiphanous or epiphanic.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” ~~Jesus (Matthew 5:14-16)
And isn’t this what an “awakening” or revelation (epiphany) is about; showing it and revealing it to others? New life. Awakened. Reborn. Recreated. Redeemed. Reconciled. Restored. Reunited. I get excited just writing these words. How much more should our excitement be to reveal the HIM in us to the world around us? Honestly, can we keep HIM in us from being revealed? I don’t think so.
It was with great delight then when I read the following excerpt from this post from my “new” friend, John Armstrong’s blog:
“But apparitions, in the sense of purely private revelations intended for private use, seem to me to be unknown in Scripture. All epiphanies include a message for the whole community of God, underscoring the nature of Christian faith as personal and communal but never private and gnostic.” ~~John H. Armstrong
I “discovered” John through one of the blogs (euangelion) that I regularly read. This particular post was reviewing his upcoming book, Your Church is Too Small. I am thrilled to say that I will be reviewing and posting my thoughts from this book in the near future. Until then…continue to live in the revelation and let the LIGHT of HIM in you be revealed and displayed before the world. Praise Him!
and for your “earworm” pleasure that will do your “heart” good…try this from the CD “HYMNED” by Bart Millard of MercyMe