Selflessness: Imitating Christ in a Selfish Culture

 
We live in a culture that’s saturated with selfishness. From all angles, we are thrusted toward self-seeking lifestyles and attitudes. Some would argue that this evaluation is pessimistic and would point to the actions of others displayed in crisis. However, it’s easy to notice that it takes catastrophic moments to compel us to selfless acts from our apathy. For we know it will not take long for us to move back into our usual self-centered habits. Read more…


The Exclusivity of Jesus

On Monday morning while preparing for the day, I witnessed on television the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel. During the dedication ceremony, a Southern Baptist pastor from Dallas, Tx was invited to pray at the opening and concluded his prayer with the phrase, “in the name of Jesus.” For Christians, such as this pastor, this expression points to the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way to relationship with God. As you could imagine, some backlash would follow from media outlets and politicians, including politicians who aligned with the pastor’s own political affiliation. Nowadays, as Christians, we are not surprised at the hostility toward the exclusivity of Jesus, but even simple moments such as this might catch us off guard. Has the truth claim of Jesus Christ really become that offensive in American culture? Will this hostility continue to expand in the coming years? Read more…



Force-Fed Religion?

 It’s quite possible you’ve heard the notion that Christians “force religion down the throats of others.” At this moment, we confess that at times over the centuries some in the name of Christianity have very well use power to force supposed conversion (emphasis added). However, in observing the ministry and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, we witness that Jesus didn’t conquer by force, but by engaging hearts! Even Napoleon, the renown French Emperor took note that Jesus was a different kind of king with a different kind of kingdom. Even when standing before Pilate, Jesus declared that his kingship had nothing to do with force-fed religion but had everything to do with finding willing followers. Even when Jesus was falsely accused or mocked, he never fought back and didn’t push himself on anyone.
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God’s Not Wearing a Kilt! (Ephesians 1:4)

“…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love…”

 

In one of the great action movies of the last 25 years, Mel Gibson stars as the Scottish rebel, William Wallace, whom through bravery in battle is leading Scotland to freedom from oppression. Following a great victory, William Wallace meets with the other clans and is crowned the “Main Protector” of Scotland. However, hoping to gain his allegiance, the leaders of the clans begin to ask for his support for one of their clans to be the line in which the new king comes. They begin to argue and fight over this “election” of king, until they are silenced by William, and are reminded of the need for freedom and the responsibility of the king, to free the people. Read more…


Why does it even matter?

Ephesians 1:3 (NASB)

(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…

 

            In at least two separate scenes within “The Fast and the Furious” movie series, the actors are seen eating around a table for dinner in which beforehand, they express thanksgiving to the “car gods” by saying grace. During this prayer of sorts, they thank god for the food and primarily for the different car parts they have in order to win drag races.  Though they try to approach the prayer somewhat seriously, they still joke about it immediately following. The audience to which Paul is writing to was not much different than these individuals in the movie a few years before the writing of this letter. Before they became a Christian, they prayed and were devoted to other gods, practicing magic and other rituals, in order that their fortunes would be good for their crops, trade, and daily life. However, due to their conversion to Christ, Paul reminds them of the new, transformed worldview they now have as Christians. Read more…



My Prayer for You (Following Paul’s Example)

Colossians 1:9-14 (ESV)

9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

           Foremost, thank you for your patience with me in regards to my attempt to start a college ministry for our church. I pray that I will be able to schedule and find ways to encourage you and hopefully strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ. Please pray for me that I will be the example in character and in love that I should be for you for the glory of God. As I am preparing to spend some quality time this weekend with my wife, I was thinking about all of you and came across this passage in Colossians where Paul is expressing his prayer for these Christians he has probably never met before. I’ve met you. I know you. All of you have meant so much to Amanda and I. In considering this, these verses which express Paul’s prayer for these believers is my same for you.

 
           Foremost, pray that I will continually pray for you even when you are absent from your homes in the Concord area and attending colleges and universities across the United States (1:9). Foremost, I pray that “you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (1:9).” I pray that through the study of God’s Word while in college and seeking Him through prayer and other disciplines, that you may be “filled” with God’s will. That you would know how to live for God while on your campuses, interacting with friends and peers, being a part of clubs and activities, even in how you study. I pray that you would be able to withstand the pressures of the non-Christian culture around you by living out what you have read and studied from God’s Word.
           
          Why do I pray this for you? In order that you may “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing to him (1:10).” I pray that in everything you do, every action you take, every word you speak, every thought you dwell upon, that you would please God. I know none of can be perfect and will ever be perfect until we are resurrected, but my hope is that your motive is to please God in every way. My prayer is that your deepest desire is to please God in every situation you face.

             If you’re wondering what this would look like, it can be found in this: “bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father (1:10b-12a).” My prayer is that your lives would be filled with good works and that you would continue to grow in your good works as you grow in the knowledge of God’s will through His Word. I pray that through God’s spirit, you would be endure in your faith in the midst of pressure to do otherwise. That you would have patience and trust that God cares for you and will take care of you. I pray that daily you would express your thanks to God for what He has done for you through His Son Jesus. That you would daily thank him for His love, forgiveness and grace. That you would never forget what God has done for you.

            I know this is long, but this is truly my prayer for you today as I sit here in this Starbucks and going forward. I pray that God would remind me to continually to pray for you like this daily. That my heart for you as students would be for you to strive in your growth in God and for God and that my life in some way would display this same transformation. I pray that I would live out what I ask and pray of for you. I ask this in Jesus name, to His glory and fame, Amen.

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Water, a Towel, and Some Dirty Feet

John 13:1-11 (ESV)

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

 

Considering our upcoming time of worship on Maundy Thursday, I would like to encourage you to read and think about this passage. I believe we sometimes read about this act of Jesus and really don’t think about the message He is trying to convey to his disciples.

 

John is the only Gospel writer to mention this scene. Why? In order to explain the cross, the imminent death of Jesus that will follow this scene (13:1-3). Though his disciples don’t understand why he is washing their feet, Jesus assures them that afterwards, i.e. after His death, they will understand (13:7; St. Helen’s 147). As well, Jesus washing the disciples’ feet is an act of love, but His ultimate act of love and sacrifice is found in the cross. Only slaves would wash the feet of guest and yet Jesus humbled himself to wash their feet, even the feet of Judas the betrayer. In performing this act of “cleansing,” Jesus was showing that unless I cleanse you, i.e. wash away your sins, you cannot be his disciple. Peter’s reaction during the scene is somewhat comical, but Jesus used his second response to teach that his death is sufficient. Once you are forgiven, you remain clean. However, we are to stay dependent on the cross for our forgiveness, because we can pick up “dirt” on our “feet” as disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

Growing up, I was apart of a tradition that practiced foot washing like it was equal to baptism or Communion. Though I don’t believe it is necessarily “wrong” to practice foot washing, I believe we sometimes miss the full significance of Jesus’ example and teaching in this passage. After Jesus’ finishes washing the disciples’ feet, he puts back on his garments and commands his disciples to serve just as He served them. Jesus didn’t die for our forgiveness in order that we can be complacent with our lives, but in order to give our lives over to Him in service. Jesus’ has sacrificed for us. In turn, we are called to sacrifice our lives for Jesus and one another. The Christian life is not about you or me as an individual, but Jesus, His sacrifice, and the call to sacrifice our lives for Him and others. During this spring semester as you work day-to-day on your studies, participate in clubs, activities, and sports, and mingle with friends, find ways to sacrifice your life them. Find opportunities to display Christ’s love toward others in service. Subsequently, God might use your service to open the door to a conversation about Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for them.



Don’t be like Evan!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

James 1:19-21 ESV

(19) Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (20) for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (21) Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

 

You might have heard of this phrase if you are familiar with the sport of basketball: “Be like Mike.” Michael Jordan, current owner of the Charlotte Hornets, is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. Not only was he talented, but he was constantly obedient to practicing the basics of the game. His athletic ability was not the primary reason why he won six NBA championships, but his obedience to always improve his basketball skills. Unlike Michael Jordan, Evan Baxter in the movie “Evan Almighty” does not was to be obedient. In the beginning of the movie, “god,” portrayed by Morgan Freeman, instructs Evan to build an Ark. Though “god” reveals himself many times to him, he still intentionally avoids obeying the command to build the ark. Though it’s funny to watch the scene, I wonder whether or not sometimes as Christians we do the same thing as Evan. Read more…



Friday, January 2, 2015

James 1:13-18 (ESV)

(13) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. (14) But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (15) Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (16) Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. (17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (18) Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

James 1:12 (ESV)

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

Earlier, we saw James encourage believers to endure “trials” with joy for the purpose of persevering in our faith (1:2-4). Now James picks up this same concern by reminding these Christians that in persevering through difficult times, God promises reward. James urges us to endure these times with faith and commitment to God. Through this perseverance, there are two effects: 1) growth in Christian character (1:4) and 2) God’s blessing. This blessing is two-fold as well: 1) spiritual joy now (not happiness) and 2) “the crown of life.” This is similar to the everlasting crown that is described by Paul (1 Cor 9:25) and promised by Jesus in Revelation to suffering faithful Christians (Rev 2:10). Though I tend to believe that this “crown of life” is particularly eternal life, the reason for this promise is to encourage Christians. In thinking about Heaven’s reward, it inspires us to faithfulness in the difficult times. The future blessing motivates us to live our lives with spiritual integrity.