Posts

Be Known

Our Innate Desire To Be Known

I have been thinking recently about the seemingly growing mass of people who do things just to be known and noticed. The examples are so numerous that it is hard to decide which ones NOT to mention. Just think on some headlines over the last few months. Add to that the countless people who still go on shows like Jerry Springer, or people who play to the paparazzi just to keep getting noticed – Lohan, Hilton, Kardashian, etc, etc. On the far more tragic side I was reminded recently that when Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon on a New York sidewalk the first thing he said was, “I shot John Lennon.” He wanted to be famous and the closest he could get was to be infamous.

So, what is it about us that we have this growing need to be known, to the point that we do the ridiculous (or even the tragic) just to have our proverbial fifteen minutes of fame? I think at the heart of it all, it goes back to the biblical story of Adam and Eve and our rebellion against God. The point of the story is that human beings are in some sort of rebellion against God and this rebellion, known as sin, has had cosmos altering consequences. We have become alienated from God and from one another. That alienation has produced fear and insecurity, loneliness and shame. You might be thinking, “Hey, we have always had alienation, fear, and insecurity. What’s different now?” What is different now is two-fold.

First, there have always been other social institutions that helped us overcome our alienation and fulfill our need to belong and be known. Once upon a time the tribal group (or community/family) gave us a sense of security, identity, and purpose. We knew people and they knew us. Not simply in the informational sense of knowing, but in the deeper heart sense of knowing. It is more like the sense in Dutch and Afrikaans of “ken” as opposed to “weet”. Weet is informational knowledge, you know about something or someone. Ken is heart knowledge. It is what the Bible speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13:12 when it speaks of a longing for a new day,

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

The more mobile and isolated we become, the more we run the risk of being alienated, yearning for connection.

The second factor is the divine element. During the rise of the modern era, and the commitment to science as having the answers to all our problems, we put God and spirituality on the shelf. We further isolated ourselves from the needs of our soul. Eventually people began to sense that modernism and science did not have all the answers and so an outbreak of being “spiritual” but not “religious” has been sweeping western culture. Why? Because we still have the deep inner need to be known and to know, especially by something or someone greater than ourselves.

In search of that need to be known, to be significant, many have taken a decidedly neurotic path. Others have taken a more reasonable and socially acceptable route. The rise in popularity of social media like Facebook or LinkedIn, is in part an attempt to stay connected or reconnect with people who are important to us. Such social media can be a great tool to keep and grow our relationships, giving us a sense of place and belonging. Of course it can also fool us into thinking that we have deep and meaningful relationships just because people see our status updates and we have hundreds of friends, some of which we have never actually met.

Ultimately, all our efforts to connect with one another, to be known by one another, to feel like we are significant and that we matter, will fall woefully short if we do not address the root cause of that alienation. We are alienated from one another on a horizontal plane because we first became alienated on the vertical in our relationship with God. We can have all the human connections we want, but until we are connected intimately with God, we will still be lacking and still looking for more. Blaise Pascal said it best: “We all have a God shaped vacuum in our soul that only He can fill.” When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about being known, he was speaking of the longing to be known by and to know God in as intimate a way as possible. All our searching for meaning, fame, security, belonging, and connection is at its core the result of a need to know that we are loved by God and to experience that love in deeper and deeper ways.

Amelia Earhart

What The New Amelia Earhart Can Teach Us About Being A Christian

William Shakespeare posed an interesting question once when he wrote, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” I have often wondered if a name truly speaks volumes about who a person is. Those of you who have kids, perhaps you remember picking out a specific name for your baby because of its meaning. Or, perhaps, you recall not choosing certain names because of who that name was associated with in your past. We place such importance on names in our society, but what role do they play in our day-to-day lives?

As we explore the topic, I wonder if you have heard of the rather fascinating story making it’s rounds amongst internet circles – it’s one that bridges history with the present and it all revolves around the story of a young fearless woman with the very unique name: Amelia Earhart. The historical Amelia Earhart was first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and, today, her name is remembered for the legacy that she left behind which inspires woman to achieve greatness – whatever that greatness may be. However in 1937, as Amelia was bravely attempting to fly around the globe, she never completed her mission as she disappeared,  never again to be found. In fact, that very tragedy is still considered a mystery to this very day. Now, over seventy-five years later, another woman wants to fly the same route and essentially finish Amelia’s original dream. The catch? This new young traveler is also named Amelia (Rose) Earhart… but shares no DNA relationship to the first pilot. Amelia Rose will be the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe in a single-engine aircraft if she completes the flight plan of her role-model’s quest. She explained, “By recreating and symbolically completing Amelia Mary Earhart’s flight around the world, I hope to develop an even deeper connection to my namesake and also encourage the world to pursue their own adventures. Amelia believed that, ‘adventure is worthwhile in itself’ and it is that type of attitude that spurs us to seek the unknown, push our limits and fly outside the lines.” Therefore, truly, a name contains within it the potential to evoke emotion or even inspire average people to do great things.

Amelia Rose was inspired to fly because of her name and I wonder that if as Christians, have we generically labeled ourselves without truly being inspired to  fly outside the lines for the name of Christ? The name Christian means to be ‘of Christ’ and this means that there  is much expected of us when we say we are a Christian. We are, in effect, telling those around us that we are not only connected to Christ, but that we are of the same nature. It should be no surprise to us then that we are often called hypocrites by people far from God as we continually fall short to very definition of our name. Yet, the truth is, we aren’t defining ourselves by one mere act of bravery, such as Amelia is by flying around the world. Rather, we are labeling ourselves after a perfect man, in all His characteristics. It’s no wonder we are called ‘flawed’ so often! Yet, this is no excuse to sour His precious name. Like Shakespeare concluded, a rose is sweet regardless of what you call it and a true Christ follower displays His character despite the label. So, the question begs to be asked, are we living up to the name God has given us as His children? Are we following in Jesus’ footsteps, continuing to pursue the metaphorical flight plans that He wants us to finish? Are we seeking out the adventure He has for us? Are we honoring His name when we tell others that we are a Christian?

I have come to find that there is a lot that goes into a name and while we do come up short, as Apostle Paul also concluded in scripture, this does not mean that we give up. We are carrying the torch, leaving a remarkable legacy as we join our dying flesh with God’s sovereignty. We become a new creature, given a spotless name and a new start. We are Christians, not because we are good, but because we are His. Therefore, we must begin to make a conscious effort to give Christ’s name the honor it deserves, representing it well at all times. Paul encourages the new Ephesian Christians, who were once Gentiles like us,

“to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

We must remember that our name is tied to a new person, no longer bound by our former sinful ways, but rather evolved from corruptness to holiness because of God’s righteousness. This is the beauty of a name and the legacy that goes with it. While we may never fly across the globe and proudly boast that we have a heritage of adventure embedded in our name like that of Amelia Earhart, I would argue that we have something far greater and extremely newsworthy. We are Christians. We date back to the most remarkable time in history, when a perfect man asked a few average men to follow Him. Through this lineage, we are made into true followers and “Christians” – being of the very nature of God. How fascinating of a story is that? We bridge the history of one spotless man with the present and it all revolves around the very unique name we all share: Christian.

Christianity

Are You Taking Jesus Out of Christianity?

Recently Bruxy Cavey (teaching pastor at The Meeting House) shared,

“Christianity – Jesus = Hate empowered Religion”

When I heard this, I had to write it down and reflect on it. The issue Bruxy is digging into is how we love people. It reminded me of something I was reading this past month –  how easily people can shift to a form of Christianity which fully excludes the basic teachings of Jesus. It left me perplexed by the cultural and spiritual connection we hold to the term ‘Christian.’ How can a person call themselves Christian if they also overtly and outwardly deny the teaching of Jesus? Bruxy summarizes it well in saying that taking Jesus out would result in hate-empowered religion. Some might look at this and get bent out of shape on the suggestion made, but consider a few passages:

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

Do we apply the principal of loving others or are we filled with the idea of “them vs. us?” Do we really understand the teachings of Jesus and apply them to the life we lead and our desire to follow Jesus?

Here is a unique approach to answering those questions. Read the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-11 and honestly react to the following questions:

-How does this change my attitude?

-Does my heart understand Jesus?

-How do we follow His teaching?

Once you have gone through the exercise, leave a note with your answers – I think you’ll be surprised by your own response.

Covenant

The Importance of a Covenant

“Do you promise?” Have you ever been on the receiving end of this question? Have you ever broken a promise or had someone break a promise to you? I am sure at one point or another we have all had our fair share of heartbreak when it comes to this word: promise. Thankfully, our relationship with God is not based on a halfhearted promise. Jesus didn’t pinky swear that if we loved and trusted Him, He would be in a relationship with us. No, instead He made much more than a promise, He made a covenant.

A covenant is different from a promise. A promise can be one sided and a promise is not dependent on another party doing anything. For instance, I can promise my husband that I will do the laundry and then not follow through with it. As you can quickly gage, a promise in today’s world does not mean it’s a guarantee. However, a covenant is much different. A covenant is made between two parties and is meant to never be broken. An example of this would be a marriage. However, because we live in an imperfect world, marriages sometimes fall apart. Yet, this is not the will of God. God desires marriage to be a covenant that reflects the relationship we have with Him. Often times in Scriptures, God refers to marriage as a picture of Christ loving His bride (true believers). Here is just one example of many,

 “Husbands. Love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church….” (Eph. 5:25)

Therefore, because God made a covenant with us, and we are not in a one sided relationship that is based on promises, we must learn the value of what a covenant truly means for our walk with Christ.

Throughout The Old Testament Scriptures we can study many covenants that God made with men like Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses and David. The significance of these covenants still echo out and affect our faith today. However, the more I began to study covenants, the more I fell in love with the God I serve. I would like to share what I learned through a covenant made between two treasured friends: David and Jonathan. Here is what happened to signify the covenant that was transpiring,

“Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.” (1Sa 18:3-4)

Now, at first glance, this may seem a bizarre way of beginning a covenant. Yet, this was very much based upon how God made covenants with men. Here are some questions you may be asking that I would like to answer:

Why did Jonathan exchange robes with David? What does this mean?

David was who God had appointed to be king of Israel through Samuel’s anointing. Yet, Jonathan was rightfully the next king in line. By exchanging robes, Jonathan was showing a sign of surrender, which was a way of giving his robe, or identity, away to David. In fact, as we go on in history, we see that Jesus, part of the Davidic family tree, did a similar thing for all of us. He became a man and took on our form  in order to cleanse us from sin. He humbled Himself and gave away His rightful rule and kingship (see Heb 2:14 and Luke 22:20).

What did the exchange of armor, sword and bow in 1 Samuel 18:4 symbolize?

When Jonathan gave David his weapons, it was a form of partnering and defending each other. Clearly, this was a risky move as David was still being sought after by King Saul. Yet, a crucial part of a covenant was protection (as the Scripture clearly stated). Likewise, Jesus came to defend and protect the weary and downtrodden, ultimately rescuing us all from our sins and becoming our one perfect defense.

David and Jonathan are good examples of keeping a covenant and understanding the importance of surrendering identity and defense. Likewise, we can see, with the example of a marriage, the importance of becoming one and honoring the other person by protecting their interests as your own. However, no covenant can be more powerful than a covenant with God. Think about the significance of God making a covenant with man (Abraham and therefore us also). When God made a covenant with Abraham there was one final step that must be mentioned: the shedding of blood.

In Gen. 22, when Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son Isaac, a covenant is being made,

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you. Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you. Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.”

Abraham was confident that God would keep His covenant with him and provide an offering. There is power in a covenant and it cannot be easily broken. God Himself shed precious blood to provide not just a promise of Heaven to those who believed, but a covenant that they would be forever marked His beloved.

My hope for you is that you recognize through the example of marriage, friendship and God’s sovereignty with man through the shedding of blood, the significance of a covenant between two parties. We are able to enter into an impactful relationship with God because He exchanged garments with us, giving us new life for our old sinful rags. Additionally, Jesus became our defense to God, reconciling us back to Him. He shed his blood, a perfect sacrifice, to do much more than make a promise to us, rather He made a lasting covenant with us calling us His chosen people.

Blessed are the Meek

Blessed are the Meek

Have you ever given deep though to what Jesus meant when he said in Matthew 5:5,

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”

You see, being meek is simply not valued in the 21st century. It is not a character trait that parents try to instill in their children. Yet, Jesus holds up meekness as a character trait that is to be valued and one that God rewards. A large part of the reason for this negative reaction to meekness has to be rooted in a false understanding of what meekness really means. Meekness has the dubious distinction of sounding far too much like weakness. What we need to understand from the start is that meekness has nothing at all to do with weakness. Meekness is much more about humbly knowing your place as you stand before God. I love this quote from Matthew Henry,

“The meek are those who quietly submit themselves before God, to His Word, to His rod, who follow His directions and comply with His designs, and are gentle toward men”

If you can stand before God knowing that you are a sinner who has nothing in yourself to commend you to God, yet also knowing that you are deeply loved by God and made in His image, then you can stand humbly with dignity.

So much of the violence and strife between people rests in the desire for respect. How often have you heard of violence being justified because someone felt “disrespected”? When people are shamed, ridiculed, put down or otherwise written off, there is a natural reaction to fight. People who do not fight back, or assert their rights, are viewed as weak. Yet look at Jesus and look at his journey to the cross. He did not fight back even though He had ten thousand angels waiting for him to simply say the word. He did not assert His rights even though the trial he endured was as unjust and illegal as they come. He did not cry out in protest even though His very words carried the power to bring the entire charade to a crashing halt. In spite of His refusal to respond, Jesus was anything but weak. He was meek in the best sense of the word, but He was also in that moment the strongest person on the planet. He had the strength to give His life for the very people who were shouting insults and pounding the nails. That kind of strength and courage only comes to those who have a humility that places the needs of others above their own.

How did Jesus do that? He understood who He was and what His relationship was to the Father. He was confident in His position before God. He was not boastful about it. In fact, He humbly set aside all notion of leveraging that relationship for His own benefit. But because of His love for the Father, and for people, Jesus meekly went to the cross.

But did he inherit the earth? Oh that and much more. In Paul’s Letter to the Philippians we are told that He has received a name above all names and that at the name of Jesus every knee will bend and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Jesus has received the place of honor on the throne of the universe and all will worship Him and give glory to the Father forever.

If you recognize that you are poor in spirit (what I call being spiritually bankrupt) and that recognition leads you to mourn your sin, then you will be humbled as you stand before God. You will know that you have nothing to bring and must fully rely on the grace of God. That meekness will also give you the strength to put others before yourself. The reward of such meekness is that the world, and all that is in it, really is yours. It is your inheritance for eternity. Jesus said that no matter what we have given up to follow Him we will have fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers and homes and blessings beyond measure.

Meekness is not weakness, it is a humble strength that comes from a knowledge of our sin and at the same time our acceptance by God our Father.

Questions

Focusing On The Right Questions

I was reminded this morning, during a time of worship and reflection, the importance of asking ourselves good questions. On a sheet of paper I was handed a list of questions and passages to reflect on. Here are those questions:

  1. What place is my heart in these days?
  2. What am I holding onto too tightly?
  3. Where can I be distracted?
  4. Where do I find my joy?
  5. Am I sacrificing in joy?
  6. What do I need to reminded of?

I sat there and stared at this sheet, frozen with the inability to think of ‘my answers.’ Have you ever felt the same way? Literally stuck in a moment where the obvious was so unclear? For me, the question then shifted to: how did I get so wrapped up and tired that what should be easily answered became the unthinkable?

This simple little exercise reminded me of how we often approach our discipleship journey – a loving God wants nothing but us, even in our flaws, to drop everything and follow Him – yet we stand still. Think about Matthew, the tax collector. Jesus walks by him at his booth and says “come follow me” and he drops everything he was doing and follows. Why do we negotiate with that same question? When we are called to follow Him, that means follow Him and leave everything behind. I have had a month where I can honestly say I was doing ministry well, but not being spiritually discerning to what God was leading me to do. I believe that I was walking behind Him, but not ‘following’ well.

For me, in preparation to write this piece, I had to repent of my attitude and reflect on necessary changes. Here is a great quote from Scot McKnight that speaks well to this idea:

“‎Those who aren’t following Jesus aren’t his followers. It’s that simple. Followers follow, and those who don’t follow aren’t followers. To follow Jesus means to follow Jesus into a society where justice rules, where love shapes everything. To follow Jesus means to take up his dream and work for it.”

Discipleship, or following Jesus, requires not only that we ask ourselves questions, but that we invite others to ask us questions as well. We must be constantly immersed in the idea of what it means to truly follow Jesus.

How can we continue to challenge each other along these same lines each and every day?