Speak Faith

Read 1 Peter 1:1-12

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand- new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven– and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all– life healed and whole. I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. 1 Peter 1:1-12 (The Message)

There is rarely a day when I don’t encounter someone who has reached a point of desperation and is need of healing. There is a lot of brokenness in this world and I’ve got a front row seat to witness it day after day. People often come to me looking for answers.

They ask, “Why is this happening? Why has God given me such a burden to carry? Is it true that God will never give us more than we can handle, because I’m not sure I can handle this!?”

Honestly, most of the time I have no idea what to do or say except to proclaim the promise of God and pray. It may seem like a religious copout, but that is not it at all. It is difficult for anyone to live into the promise of God without first clearly hearing God speak. So I speak the promise and pray in faith. It’s not a copout at all. In Romans 10 Paul says this:

How can people invoke His name when they do not believe? How can they believe in Him when they have not heard? How can they hear if there is no one proclaiming Him? 15 How can some give voice to the truth if they are not sent by God? As Isaiah said, “Ah, how beautiful the feet of those who declare the good news of victory, of peace and liberation.” 16 But some will hear the good news and refuse to submit to the truth they hear. Isaiah the prophet also says, “Lord, who would ever believe it? Who would possibly accept what we’ve been told?” 17 So faith proceeds from hearing, as we listen to the message about God’s Anointed. Romans 10:14-17 (The Voice)

Jesus, who might need to hear your promise proclaimed today? Help me to listen well to those I meet today as I listen to your Spirit. May your word proclaimed instill faith in those who hear it today.

Slave to Son

Read Philemon

This letter is written to a man named Philemon who is a leader in the church at Collosae. From the way Paul addresses him, he seems to be a person who is really taking hold of who he is in Jesus and has demonstrated that through the way he has expressed love and encouragement to Paul and others. But at the heart of this letter is an appeal to Philemon on behalf of a man named Onesimus. Onesimus is a slave in Philemon’s household… except it appears that he has run away. Can you imagine what it would be like to be a slave? I’m not sure that any of us can really understand what that would be like, but I can imagine what it does to a person when their identity–at least as defined by those who hold the power– is property… which to Philemon is exactly what Onesimus was. To Philemon, Onesimus’s identity was slave. But when we look at how Paul talks about Onesimus in his letter, he identifies him as something quite different than a piece of property. In fact, he calls him, “my son.” That’s quite a contrast to “slave.” But what Paul understood, that Philemon apparently did not yet, was that in Jesus

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11).

WHAT PAUL UNDERSTOOD IS THAT IN CHRIST, WE ARE ALL ON EQUAL GROUND.
So can you imagine what it would have been like for this man Onesimus, who had been a slave, to come to the realization that no matter what anyone else has ever told him, that in God’s eyes, his identity is just the opposite. He is not a slave… he is a son… he is a child of God… he is a child of the King… he is part of the royal family. Can you imagine how Onesimus’ life became different as he began to live in this truth. He who was once powerless now had claim to all of the power and privilege of one who is royalty. Can you imagine what it would be like to experience such a transformation?

The question that immediately comes to mind for me is, if Onesimus is now free… he has become a follower of Jesus… he has made the transition from slave to son… if this is the case, then why on earth would Paul send him back to his “owner?” Why do you think this might be? Well here’s what I think: I think the reason is actually two-fold, but they are both ultimately about, again claiming their identity. 1st) For Onesimus, through his relationship with Paul, as we’ve been saying, he has come to know who he is. He has a new found identity in Jesus. But I think in sending him back to Philemon, Paul is saying to Onesimus in effect, “You will never fully know and experience your new found identity in Jesus… and you will never fully embrace the power and authority that comes with it, unless you are able to claim this identity as a child of God in the place where that identity would be questioned and challenged the most… in the household where your identity has always been “slave” not “son.” 2nd) For Philemon, and the rest of the church there, I think that Paul is in effect saying, You will never fully know and experience your new found identity in Jesus… and you will never fully embrace the power and authority that comes with it, unless you are able to claim this identity as a child of God by accepting one who had been your slave… your property… as a brother… as a fellow child of the king… a member of the same royal family. So in sending Onesimus back to Philemon, he is imploring them all to be who they really are… and “who they are”, remember is a people for whom there is no SLAVE OR FREE… but there is family… and that changes everything.

So, can you see the implications something like this might have for people like you and me? It means that just like Onesimus and just like Philemon and just like the Colossian church… whatever it is that enslaves us… or keeps us from claiming our identity as children of God… and all the power and authority that comes with it… this means that we can look whatever has held us in captivity right in the eye and say with confidence, YOU HAVE NO CLAIM OR AUTHORITY OVER MY LIFE. I AM FREE BECAUSE OF WHO I AM IN JESUS. It doesn’t matter if that which holds you captive is self-image, or lack of knowledge, or finances, or sickness, disease, or whatever. None of that stuff can in any way shape or form tell us who we are. We, like Onesimus and Philemon are children of the king and that creates possibilities beyond our imagination.

Example

Michelle and I are part of a discipling movement called 3dMinistries. One of the things we have learned through that movement is the importance of modeling in discipling relationships. We follow Paul’s lead in 1 Corinthians 11:1 and simply invite people to follow our example, as we follow the example of Christ —even though our example is by no means perfect. The point is simply that discipling someone is more than an information exchange. It involves giving people access to our lives in such a way that they can see what we do in following Jesus and learn to do the same.

For some time now Michelle and I have taken on the discipline of getting up early in the morning to pray spend time reflecting on scripture. Our kids, however, don’t always make this practice very easy. They are early risers and it often seems like we can’t wake up early enough to get the time we need. It’s a challenge, but we stick with the discipline of it all. An interesting thing has happened over the last week, however. Zachary has taken a real interest in what we are doing. On Monday, when he came out of his room waaaaaaaaaay too early, we just prayed a little prayer together and I gave him my copy of the Daily Texts book I use. Even though he can’t read yet, he sat down on the couch with the book open and “read” for about 10 minutes. He’s done the same thing a few other times this week. Today Marin (our 3-year-old) joined in (again waaaaaaaaay too early) when she sat down with Michelle’s Bible and “read” during our morning time. We get up in the morning because we need and value that time. Until this week I’m not sure I had given much thought to how what we have been modeling for our kids might actually help them develop similar disciplines over time. Maybe I’m a little slow. Seems like I should have thought of that by now.

Thank you Jesus for meeting me in these morning times. Thank you for the way you speak to me in the quiet. Thank you for the way you are speaking to our kids through even our imperfect example of following you.

20130801-065727.jpg

New Nature

Read Colossians 3:1-11

10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. — Colossians 3:1-11

This is the challenge I butt up against daily. What does it look like to put on my, “new nature?’ It seems I can fall effortlessly into the old, but the new takes effort and intentionality. What are the behaviors that I might embrace to put on this new nature? Are there habits I need to address or reform or abandon altogether? What new habits do I need to form?

One of the things that has been helping me in this pursuit latley is a liturgy written by Aaron Niequist. Aaron is a songwriter and worship leader who has created a series called A New Liturgy (www.anewliturgy.com). His latest offering (A New Liturgy #5) is divided in two parts. The first part is intended to be spoken and sung at the beginning of the day on the way to work. The second is to reflect on the day during the commute home. It is a series of songs and prayers that gives voice to the kind of prayers my heart longs to pray. “What do you want me to create or build today? Who do you want me to serve? May these small hands help build your Kingdom today.” Powerful.

The liturgy is built around a song called, “Here are my Hands.” This is my prayer today as I seek to put on my new nature and know my creator.

Here are my Hands
aaron niequist

here are my hands
they’re small, they’re small and
here are my hands
they’re small and trembling

here are my arms
they’re weak, they’re weak but
here are my arms
they’re weak but willing

here are my eyes
they burn with memories
here are my eyes
they’re teared and tired

here are my feet
they’re slow, they’re slow but
here are my feet
they’re stumbling to You now

and God, i know
there still is so much i just don’t know
and God, i believe
Your Kingdom can still be built in me

so here is my heart
here is my soul
take me in part
take me in whole, whole, whole
i want to be whole, whole, whole

here are my hands
they’re small, they’re small and
here are my hands
they’re small and trembling

here are my dreams
they’re me protected
here are my dreams
so please be gentle now

and God, i know
there still is so much i just don’t know
and God, i believe
Your Kingdom can still be built on me

so here is my heart
here is my soul
Your kingdom come
my kingdom go, go, go
i’m letting it go, go, go

I want to know my creator and be renewed in him. Help me understand more fully what this looks like today. Your kingdom come. My kingdom go.

What are the practices/habits that help you put on and embrace your new nature? How are you learning to know your creator and becoming more like him?

Clear

Read Philippians 3:12-4:1

12 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. 13 Friends, don’t get me wrong:By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward– to Jesus. 14 I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. (Philippians 3:12-14 MSG)

There is an axiom Michelle and I follow that goes, “We are not perfect examples, but we are living examples.” By no means do we have everything figured out. The reality is, each day is new opportunity to learn more fully what it means to follow Jesus. One thing we have learned, however, is we cannot let our imperfection paralyze us. Our inability to get it right all the time… and even our inability to sometimes know what is right cannot hold us back from proclaiming the good news of Jesus with our words and our actions.

15 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision– you’ll see it yet! 16 Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. (Philippians 3:16-16 MSG)

Help us, Jesus. Clear our blurred vision and keep us on the right track today and always.