Friday, January 24, 2014

Are we serving God or playing God ?


      The Spirit leads Jesus into the desert where He is tempted. Satan tempts Jesus to settle a little identity crisis in an easy way, by acting out His divine nature, and to leave His humanness behind. Jesus' options come down to this, He could use His Godly powers or He could remain in His human form. Keeping his human form was a tough, but necessary decision for Jesus to make, if he was to fulfill His role as the Messiah. These were not easy temptations for Him. Lucky for us we are human and have no choice in the matter. So, we don't have to deal with these terrible temptations.

      Except.......We do. It has been that way since the very beginning of creation. We all know the story of Adam and Eve, and the serpent, and that darn fruit. You know, the only kind of fruit that God told them not to eat. How did the serpent get them to eat that fruit? He promised them that if they eat the fruit they will be just like God. Even though we would die if we fell from a high building, even though we can't turn stones to bread, and even though we can't control the empires of the world, we continue to be tempted to play God.

      The problem isn't that the things we try to do as God are bad, like feeding people, or maybe stopping oppressive forces. The problem comes in when we are playing God, then we are not worshiping the true God. If we speak as if we are God, then we are not listening to the voice of God. I recently heard a story about a man, who was very popular in the marriage ministry, was getting divorced. When he told everybody about it he referred to a story about a shoemaker who was so busy that his wife went without shoes. He said that he has been that shoemaker, so intent on being a god, that he forgot about following God with his wife. That is another problem with playing God, it not only distances you from God, it also distances from other people. We place ourselves above them in ways that prevent true equality that we long for in the Kingdom of God.

      It is very easy to find these public examples of people giving into temptation, but what about us? Surely, as humble Christian folk, we know better then to try and play God. Don't we? We don't pick our stance on an issue and then go pray and search scripture for confirmation that we are right. We don't go on crusades for our cause, not paying attention to the destruction we leave in our wake. We don't get so busy with all of our good works that we forget to even talk to the One that has called us to do good. Well, maybe every now and then. The brownies you can hide, but that forbidden fruit dangles out there in the open, all of the time. Being human is such a rough deal sometimes. We let our egos get in the way, even when we are doing something as seemingly selfless has helping the poor. Are we serving God, or playing God? Sometimes it is a difficult distinction to make, but I think the way we treat the people around us can give us a good clue. When we remain humble in our own humanity as we look to serve God, we can recognize and respect that same humanity in the people around us.   

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why was Jesus Baptized

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. (Mathew 3:13-15)

I have been asked by a few people that if Jesus was sinless, why did He need to be baptized? I will tell you why I think He was baptized and I hope it helps.

When John was baptizing people, it was a baptism of repentance. But, Jesus was sinless and had no need for repentance. Even John was surprised and confused by Jesus coming to him. John knew that he was a sinful man and in need of repentance himself, and was not fit to baptize the spotless Lamb of God. John said I need to be baptized by you, and you are coming to me? Jesus replies by saying it should be done because it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.

In my view there are few reasons why Jesus would come to John to be baptized. Jesus was about to start out on His ministry and it was suitable and proper for Him to be recognized by the one who baptized before Him. John was the voice crying in the wilderness that was prophesied by Isaiah, calling people to repentance to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. By baptizing Jesus, John was letting all know that here is the One they have been waiting for, the Son of God. The One he had said would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. This is also when Jesus would recieve the Holy Spirit, when Jesus came out of the water the heavens opened up, and the Spirit of God descended on Him like a dove. There was a voice heard from above that said This is My Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased. (Mathew 3:16-17)

I think that the baptism of Jesus also shows that he identified with sinners, and by that baptism He was taking our place, Jesus took the place of sinners when He came to John the Baptist that day. It says in 1 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And His righteousness would fulfill all the requirements for sinners who could never hope to do so on their own.  Lastly, I think that by Jesus coming to John He was showing His approval, that it was approved by God in Heaven.

This is what I got out of my reading and studying of scripture. I have no formal training and just post what I feel in my heart. I hope this helps anyone in anyway to come closer to God and experience the love that He has for us....

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Who do you want to be in 2014

Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone, Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

       I overheard a conversation the other day about how people are meaner and more aggressive these days. I didn't want to believe it, it couldn't be true. But, the next day I was driving to work and this car cuts me off, I had to hit the brakes so it wouldn't hit the front of my car. It keeps changing lanes and getting right on the rear end of other cars, trying to make traffic go faster. It darts in to the right lane as traffic comes to a fast stop, the driver had to slam on the breaks to keep from hitting the car in front of it. The lane I am in starts to go a little faster, and as I pass the car I glance over and see that it's a little old lady who can barely see over the wheel. That same day I am at the store standing in line, and it is very busy. They had 15 lanes that could be open, but they only opened 3. The lines at these 3 lanes are so long they are going down the aisles of this store. After a few minutes of standing there I hear a man in another line start complaining about how slow it is, berating the cashiers and calling them names, displaying this attitude of meanness, and impatience towards others. Christmas is over so I guess the spirit of kindness is gone and people are reverting back to their old ways.

     This is why the reading from Colossians fits perfectly with this time of the year. The new year has arrived and people have made resolutions. Many people try to reinvent themselves this time of year. They make resolutions about their health, their jobs, or maybe even their attitudes. But, let me ask you this. What kind of person do you want to be in 2014? Today I bring you seven new years resolutions, seven things you can strive to be as people of God. In the reading today these resolutions are described as items of clothing, and God is saying that how people are treating other people is wrong, and here is how you can change. Here is how you can start over just like buying a new set of clothes. Look in verse 12, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. These are 5 articles of clothing that you don't want to leave home without.

      First is compassion. A compassionate person is someone who wants to help the people around them. What is happening with the people at church, what is happening with my family, friends, neighbors, people at work, or the guy holding the sign on the corner. What can I do to help you? Clothe yourself with compassion.

      Second comes kindness, I also saw an example of this at a store. A women's little child reached over from the cart and pulled big bag of candy off the shelf and when it hit the floor the candy exploded all over the floor. One of the young people working at the store came running over there and said, "Don't worry about this ma'am you go right on with your shopping and I will clean this up." Clothe yourself with kindness.

      Next comes humility. Being humble means that you recognize your own weakness, you don't think about how great you are. About 5yrs ago, when I got laid off, I thought they were lucky to have me, that I was the best maintenance man they had. I was smarter and worked harder than anyone else. I was really into myself and only focused on my own greatness, and when I lost that job it taught me a lesson on humility. Do you know who in the Bible is described as the most humble person on the face of the earth?  We can find that answer in Numbers 12:3, Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.  I am sure he recognized his weaknesses pretty fast, as he tried to lead 2 million people through the dessert. Clothe yourself with humility.

      Then comes gentleness. Gentleness is not road rage by a little old lady, gentleness is not the man ranting and raving about having to stand in line for too long. I remember the first time I held my new born daughter. I was never more gentle in my life, I was so afraid I would drop her or break her somehow until I gently handed her to my wife. I was so careful as not to hurt her or disturb her in anyway. That my friends is exactly how God wants us to treat others. Clothe yourself in gentleness.

      The fifth article is patience. Patience is when the grocery clerk has no clue. When it's the bank teller's first day on the job. Patience is when the guy working on your car tells you that you need an air filter, even though you just changed it last week. Be patient with the people around you, even in trying times. Patience is a calm endurance based on the certain knowledge that God is in control. Clothes yourself in patience.

      These first five New Years resolutions are very important. Instead of being mean and aggressive, I resolve in 2014 to put on these new articles of clothing. This is who I want to be in 2014. I will be compassionate, I will be kind, I will be humble, I will be gentle, I will be patient. I will deal with people in a new way, a nicer way, a way that pleases God and witnesses my faith in Jesus Christ.

      Now comes along the sixth item of clothing. It is set apart from the others so we can spend a little more time looking at it. Verse 13 says, Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have with each other. A grievance is a legitimate reason to be mad at someone. If someone promised to pick you up, and they leave you sitting out in the cold, you have a grievance. Ladies, if your husband promises you he will clean the kitchen, and then falls asleep on the couch, you have a grievance. I am pretty sure we could all come up with a legitimate reason to be mad at someone, but in 2014 I want to be a forgiver. I want to forgive whatever grievance I have with other people.

       So, what does it mean to forgive? Let's look at the last part of verse 13. It says, Forgive, as the Lord forgave you. Jesus has many legitimate reasons to have a grievance with us. All the things that Jesus tells us to do, and we don't do them. All the things Jesus tells us not to do, and we do them. But, Jesus forgives us. It's like a bill collector who sees all your debt you piled up. He sees your passed due credit card bills, your late hospital bills, and that bill collector tells you that as of right now your debt has been wiped clean, you are debt free. That is how Jesus has forgiven you, He wipes all that sin off your account, He holds no grudges. Jesus doesn't say I forgive you for what you said to your wife the other day, but I will remember it. No, He says I forgive you and forgets it as though it never happened. That is how Jesus forgives, and that is how He wants you to forgive others. Sure, you may have legitimate reasons to be mad or upset with someone, but Jesus says forgive. Forgive them the way I have forgiven you. Completely wipe that grievance away and hold no grudges. This is who I want to be in 2014, I want to forgive as Christ has forgiven me.

      Fianlly in verse 14 it says, And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. This is the seventh and biggest item of clothing. After you have put on compassion and kindness, humility and gentleness, patience and forgiveness, then, over all these you put on love. So, what kind of love are we talking about here? When we think of love we probably think about a 2 way love, Phileo is the Greek word for this kind of love. In other words it means you love me and I love you back. I love you because there are certain things about you that are good, and you love me back for the same reason. A 2 way love. But, that is not the word for love used here. When the verse says overall these virtues put on love, it's talking about a special kind of love. The greek word for this kind of love is agape, meaning a one way love. You love me, even if I don't love you back. This is the kind of love that God has shown the world, even though the world didn't love God. God loved the world so much, that He sent us His only Son. And even though we didn't ask for it, Jesus died for us on the cross. God loves us, even though there isn't anything good about us to love. That is the kind of love God is talking about here, a one way kind of love. Love someone even though they are unlovable. Even if there are a million reasons to not love someone, love them anyway. And over all these virtues put on love, which bounds them all together in perfect unity.

      So, where are we to get the strength to carry out these seven new years resolutions?If you are always mean, aggressive, and proud, how can you just throw those old clothes away, those old attitudes? How can you suddenly put on these new attitudes of compassion, kindness, and humility when just last week you were yelling at someone who cut you off in traffic? How can you throw that attitude away and put on gentleness and patience? Christ will help you, spend time with Christ in 2014 and He will change you. Spend time learning about His humility in the manger. Spend time learning about His compassion at the cross. Spend time learning about how He has taken away all your sin, and how far He was willing to go to save you. Spend time with Christ in 2014, His forgiveness will turn you into a forgiver. His one way love will turn you into someone who will show one way love to others.

      This my friends is the most important New Years resolution a person can make, to spend time with Christ in 2014. You can't do these things without spending time with Christ, and so my resoloution this year is to spend more time with Jesus in His word. I will not make excuses, I will not allow my culture to tell me that the word of God is not important. I will sacrifice things in order to spend more time with Jesus. I will hear His word at worship, and I won't let anything get in the way. I will set time aside during the week to study His word on my own. I will spend more time with Jesus and He will change me. Who do you want to be in 2014? Amen.