Sunday, May 31, 2009

Submission and Fear

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15
"How fully have you welcomed what God has offered through Jesus (Heb. 9:15)?" (Beth Crawford, Bible Studies as a Follow-Up to this Week's Sermon May 30-31, 2009, Vineyard Church of Columbus)

I'm praying about volunteering just a little time with a ministry I believe strongly in. However, my past in similar experiences creates a fear in doing so. Can you relate?

Rich Nathan made this statement last night:
Receiving Jesus as Lord is not a true/false test. It is a yes/no test.
In other words, proclaiming to have Christ in me is not about whether I believe Jesus is Lord. Proclaiming to have received Christ is about whether I have submitted my life fully to Him as my Lord.

What does that have to do with my struggle of volunteering? Christ in me means I have been set free from past sins. The past experiences that created this fear came from attempting to do the right thing with my own knowledge rather than acknowledging the presence, power, and counsel of my Lord in the midst of that experience. 

I realized I'm having a hard time hearing his will in this decision because I'm holding on to the fear. 

The question is not so much do I believe I should volunteer? The question is will I submit fully to God in the process - the entire process from decision through involvement. Will I welcome what God has offered through Jesus - a clear conscience so that I can hear and serve with clarity.
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:14

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Christian Life - Boasting in Weakness

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28
"Which of these might have discouraged you from serving Christ any more?" (Beth Crawford, Bible Studies as a Follow-Up to this Week's Sermon May 23-24, 2009, Vineyard Church of Columbus)

Why is it that I so desperately want to think the Christian Life is easy if I do it right?

Paul warns about false teachers in 2 Corinthians 11. These false teachers weren't teaching stuff that was easily recognized as bad. They were masquerading as "apostles of Christ" and were perceived as "servants of righteousness." 

Paul calls them "super-apostles" which makes me laugh. Have you ever praised the messenger more than God who empowers the messenger? Some of us err on the side of wanting to learn how to be like that person. Others err on the side of thinking they could never be like that person. Few praise with the desire to be like the one they know has suffered greatly to be who they are.
I once idolized a person in my church - I'll call her Sandy. Every time she got up to speak, I thought, wow, I'd like to be like her. She was always smiling and positive. Her voice was perfect for a speaker. Her style of speaking was warm and inviting. She seemed to have so much wisdom. I wanted to be a speaker just like her.
The true servant of righteousness knows that his righteousness comes only from Christ - it is absolutely nothing that can be earned by human efforts. Therefore, the true servant of Christ boasts only in Jesus Christ whose life consists of great suffering from beginning to the end of this evil age.
I took Sandy out to lunch. I wanted to find out all I could about her so I could be like Sandy. Again, she impressed me by always turning the conversation back to me. She found out much more about me that day than I found out about her. She quieted every attempt to praise her by turning the conversation back to who God wanted me to be.
Right now, we are between two worlds. We are in an evil age with the power of the "age to come" available through Christ in us. The problem is that most of us want to live as if we are in the fullness of the age to come - no pain or suffering. Sometimes we attempt to smooth over the edges of this evil age hoping to make the two ages blend. They are not going to "blend."
Sandy spoke at a women's event - gave her personal testimony. I listened intently about the pain and suffering she had endured at the hands of others. I realized if I wanted to be like Sandy, I was going to have to be open to suffering.
"We suffer to show that the world continues to be hostile to Christ. It's not us they are against. It's Christ." (Rich Nathan, Vision for life: Seeing the Big Picture (Colossians) Series - Portrait of a Pastor, May 23-24, 2009, Vineyard Church of Columbus)
Sandy's suffering had little if anything to do with being a follower of Christ. But her suffering led her to the wisdom of Christ's suffering. She learned to trust and depend fully on God regardless of her circumstances.
Are you discouraged by suffering? Sit down with the written history of Jesus Christ. Read through the book of Mark (or one of the other Gospels) in one sitting. Then check out Acts. Warning: you may discover your life is too easy to claim to have Christ in you.

Suffering, boasting in weakness. I'm not sure I'm there yet. But I want to be. 

Knowing the suffering of others who shine with Christ gives me hope. The hope of knowing that Christ in me - including his suffering - is the hope of glory, the hope of God's presence here and now in this evil age.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Good according to who?

Do good to your servant according to your word, O Lord. Psalm 119:65
Hmm, ever been frustrated or angry at God because he wasn't being "good" according to your perspective. Been there, done that. Really helps to check out life according to HIS Word.

Friday, May 22, 2009

N.T. Wright

"And the problem is not that people disagree with me. That is what one expects and wants. Let’s have the discussion! The point of discourse is to learn with and from one another.... We need other minds on the job, to challenge us, to come back at us, to engage with our arguments and analyses. That is how the world goes round." (N.T. Wright, Justification, IVPress, 2009)
Ah, this is why I love to read N.T. Wright.

Check out the video clip and excerpts from his new book Justification at

Friday, May 08, 2009

Reality Check from Southeast Asia

" be able to minister to both sides of the problem, is the only way that this will ever end." Season of Light
What's bothering you today? Do feel you've been treated unjustly? Did someone cut you off in traffic? Did a friend or co-worker hurt your feelings, damage your ego? I invite you to check your priorities and attitudes as I have done today reading through the blog posts listed below.

Season of Light is one of my favorite bloggers on the issue of human trafficking. She has posted difficult to describe commentary of her trip to southeast Asia with Love146.

I suggest you read them in order (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3). They are lengthy and you will most likely need to take a break between posts to allow the emotional impact to settle. If you read them too quickly, you may become immune to what you are reading. Please don't do that. But please do read all the way through them even if it takes you a few days.

Love146 Partnership Trip: Day 1
Love146 Partnership Trip: Day 2
Love146 Partnership Trip: Day 3

The reality for me is this, most of the stuff I get upset or stressed about in my daily activities is extremely insignificant. Whether it is combating human trafficking or making a decision on  a work or church project, the significant issue is not my perspective verses the other persons. The significance is working together with God to bring His kingdom (his reign - his way of doing things) right here, right now. That's what Jesus did and if we profess to be Christ-like, that is what we are to do.

Our Father in heaven, forgive us for making such insignificant things a priority in our lives. Open our eyes to your kingdom here and now. May we do only what we see you doing so your reign will break through in the midst of This evil Age.
"your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mark in "one sitting" - What Crime Has He Committed

One last thought from my "one sitting" reading.

When Pilate was asking the crowd what to do with Jesus, they shouted, "Crucify him!" To which Pilate responded "Why? What crime has he committed?" (Mark 15:14)

Celebrating (lifting up) Christ responds to all the problems of this world. Why do we fear speaking of Jesus Christ in our increasingly diverse religious marketplace as if the truth of Jesus would be offensive?

I want to be bold not for my glory but for the glory of God. I want to be bold not for my comfort but for the peace available to every person who lives in fear or who questions the purpose of living. When I step out to share who Jesus Christ is to me there will be some who argue. They can disagree with my perspective but when they take offense to Jesus, I want to be bold enough to ask "Why? What crime has he committed against you?"

The image of Christ during his "trial" is of one who does not attempt to argue, persuade, or sell an idea to anyone. There are some who are searching for truth and others who just want to stir up trouble. Jesus responds to sincere questions with truth in very few words and allows the other person to accept it or reject it. 

That certainly goes against the norms of our image saturated culture. Wouldn't it be nice if businesses gave us the simple truth and then allowed us to accept or reject their product or service instead of trying to persuade us with flashy ads repeated over and over?

Now, the challenge is on you. Go read through the Gospel of Mark in "one sitting." Notice the flow of the life of Jesus. You might be surprised at what you find. 

Visit to hear Rich Nathan's sermon from May 2/3, 2009, 
titled "How Do We Respond To So Much Religious Diversity?" 
(online sermons usually posted by Thursday).

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Mark in "one sitting" - Passing Time with Pain

This is the second in a series of interesting connections revealed from attempting to read the Gospel of Mark in one sitting.
Mark 14:35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.

Mark 15:23 They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.
The New Scofield Study Bible footnote states: "Wine and myrrh mixed together composed a stupefying drink which was sometimes given to those who were in great pain in suffering such as must be endured in crucifixion."

When I want to avoid something, I'm more likely to pray the hour won't come at all. When I know I must do something uncomfortable, I pray that the hour will come and pass quickly.
This reminded me of my son's birth. The nurses were telling me mid-morning that it looked like he would be born before lunch. As the pain increased I chose to have an epidural (pain killer). My son was born after 7:30pm.
In reading about Jesus refusing the pain killer, I wondered how often I pray for God to relieve my pain at the cost of extending my suffering. Yes, it is in suffering that we develop perseverance (Romans 5:3), but suffering itself is not the goal. Christ was wise enough not to ask for pain relief. He was willing to get it over with so that he could get to the purpose of the suffering.

The image of Christ I'm getting here is that he did not intend to wait for a more comfortable solution. Accomplishing God's work was a greater motivator than avoiding the pain.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mark in "one sitting" - The Other Side of Suffering

We live in a visual information culture. In no other time in history has there been such an explosion of visual images. And yet we seem to pay little attention to them, we do not always "understand" them, and most of us are largely unaware of the power they have in our lives, in society, and how they function to provide most of our information about the world. (Jonathan E. Schroeder, Visual Consumption, Routledge Interpretive Marketing Research)
This weekend, Rich Nathan addressed the issue of living in an image saturated world by challenging us to read through the gospels, replacing the images of the world with the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15)

I took on his challenge and read through Mark. I wasn't able to do it in "one sitting" but I was amazed at what I saw by reading with the intent to get through the book in as few sittings as possible. 

Over the next few days I'll share a some things I wouldn't have noticed in reading smaller segments over a long period of time. 

Mark 9:23 "If you can?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."

Mark 14:36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
It is often taught that Jesus was asking God if there was an easier way. In this teaching we assume that Jesus thinks like many of us that would like to avoid pain at all cost.

I wonder if Jesus was simply acknowledging the Father's ability to do what was to come. Was Jesus saying "take this cup" - I'm giving you all that I have left. "Yet not what I will, but what you will" - I'm not doing this for me and my glory, Father, it's all for you.

You see, one of the last life lessons from Jesus is in Mark 12:43. He tells his disciples that the poor widow, "out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on." 

Jesus knows that everything is possible for him who believes. He only does what he sees the Father doing (John 5:19). He instructed his disciples to ask and it would be given to them (Luke 11:9).

The image I'm getting of Jesus is to seek God's will above all else and don't avoid the pain because the goal is on the other side of suffering.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Visual of Human Trafficking

Please read this Season of Light post. It is an extremely well written visual of a life many would like to ignore.

Jesus Christ gave up his divine life to walk among us, to change our life. Are we following His ways or are we choosing to remain in the comfort of our own self-fabricated "divine" life? Will you at least weep for the condition of mankind of which you are included?
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

Copyright 2005-2010 Lisa Biggs Crum
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