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Mental Chiropractics…

Why is change so hard? Why is it so hard to change our mental patterns? How can we say we believe the gospel yet still struggle immensely to believe it and live it out?

I think some insight can be gleamed from a recent chiropractic visit for my 10 day old daughter. Screenshot 2015-02-11 14.07.00Chiropractic adjustments are adjustments that are done to the alignment of our bodies to set them back into a proper place. Unfortunately they don’t stay there but slip back into misalignment. That is why continual adjustments are necessary and eventually the body responds. This is the same idea as braces which continually straighten the teeth. For my 10 day old daughter, she’s already needing regular adjustments.

Might not the same thing be true of our thought patterns? We can temporarily have them corrected in the midst of a good counseling session or gospel presentation. We can feel the relief, the freedom yet within hours we fall back into unhealthy and untrue thought patterns. Might even our cognitions need continual adjustment? It seems to make sense to me.

12858_173635305958_173634495958_2990062_3049209_nThe difference is, while are bodies often need to be adjusted by others, we can eventually be taught to regulate our own thought patterns. It just takes time…usually longer than all of us would like. This is yet another reason why community and time in the word is so important. We are often the hardest on ourselves and we need the truth spoken to us both by brothers and sisters in Christ, and by Jesus, the Word.

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True Spiritual Food

John 4:32-34
“I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, jesus“Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

So when Jesus says in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work,” he means, “My food is to give eternal life.” That is, my source of strength to give eternal life is to give eternal life. I give life because I am life. I am the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). My food is to be what I am. And I am life. Living water. Bread from heaven. I don’t just eat food. I am food. I don’t get life. I give life. – John Piper Sermon1

These verses are hitting me in a new way today.  I’ve been thinking a lot about discipleship and what that looks like.  I get excited about helping and meeting with people.  And yet Iw older…where am I going to find the time, or the strength to do all those things?  I think part of the answer is found right here and it isn’t something the commentators have really hit upon.

But first a brief glimpse back.  I remember looking at guys at Mars Hill that were in leadership and wondering how on earth do they do all the things that they are doing and keep their devotional life up and their walk with God intimate.  I think there is a great gospel truth here.  Is there a danger in never spending time in the word and meditating on truth…absolutely.  But let’s look at Jesus’ words here.

“I have food that you do not know about”

and

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me”

Most of the commentators will sayt that Jesus was placing the spiritual needs of the wold over his physical.  I think that certainly is a valid interpretation, well it is at least true of Jesus.  But I think there is something more profound in these verses.

I think that Jesus is showing us a spiritual truth by using a physical example.  He does this all the time.  But what is he saying?

That he should not eat?  No.  That we should not be concerned with eating?  No.  What he is saying is that eating food is strengthening and nourishing tot he physical body in the same way that doing the father’s will is to the spiritual body.

Let’s look at the obvious role of food in our lives.

1.  We need it to survive.
Food sustains us, gives us energy, nourishes our bodies.  God designed us to not be self sustaining but to draw upon God’s good gifts of food to sustain us.

2.  Food is delicious
Do you know that God didn’t have to give us taste buds?  Now are there “evolutionary” steakreasons for begin able to detect, tartness or sweetness.  Sure.  But our taste buds do so much more than that.  We can enjoy delectable desserts and delicious ribeye teaks seasoned perfectly..mmm.  Food is also a gift to us.  It speaks of God’s glory.  After all he thought up flavors.  I mean just watch the food network for a few hours and marvel…and salivate.

So food performs at least these two functions for us physically.  Nourishment and enjoyment.  Now let’s transpose this into the spiritual realm  Jesus is saying that doing the Father’s will is just like food.  Doing the father’s will is our spiritual food. Then it fulfills those same two functions:

1.  It sustains us, it nourishes us, it strengthens us.
2.  It is something delicious to be enjoyed.

Now what is the will of God, the Father?  Isn’t it the gospel?  That sinners would be saved?  That eternal life would be given?

So then, in the context of discipleship, discipling others isn’t necessarily a drain on your life, it is actually life giving.  It sustains you, and it allows you to marvel and enjoy God.  It is a gift.

My wife and I experience this regularly.  We have people over and just talk.  Talk about CommunityGroups_slide3-1200x600God about Jesus about what is going on in our lives.  Or in our CG every week.  As much as we may dread it before hand.  There has almost never been a time where we didn’t walk away more energized and excited about God.  That is a great truth that we find in the bile.  The things we actually think will drain us, fill us up.  And the things we go to to fill us up actually drain us.

Let us meditate then long and hard on Jesus words.  This was Jesus’ food and it is our also.

http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/the-food-of-christ-is-to-give-eternal-life

Idols? I don’t bow down to a stone statue…

I love Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods.  In it, he dissects our common belief that idolscgods are a thing of the past.  Idols are little wooden or stone statues that people believe are gods and bow down to, worship and serve.

Surely we don’t do that today.  Especially in America and Europe where we are so scientifically advanced.

Yet in many countries today this “ancient” form is still widely practiced.  Talk a walk around in India or other hindu/buddhist nations and you will see this very thing.  Household gods.

idolBut what about us in America, does this talk of idols and idolatry in the bible have any significance to us.  Tim Keller, presbyterian ministry at Redeemer Church in New York City, says yes and he defines an idol as:

“whatever you look at and say, in your heart f hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.”

That is a devastating definition if you read it carefully.  What are you living for?  What do you strive for?  What is driving your life?  It could be sex, money, fame, prestige, success, being good person or parent.  We must honestly assess ourselves and answer this question.

The Bible then says that if anything other than God is the center of our life, then we are in trouble.  You see the problem is that God has created us for himself, and put “eternity in our hearts” so that only and infinite being can fulfill and eternal whole.  The problem is Idols can’t deliver, the promise satisfaction, but they can’t deliver.

C.S. Lewis says it this way, “A car is made to run on gas, and it would not run properly on anything else.   Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself.  He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food of our spirits were designed to feed on. ” (Mere Christianity p. 50)

Now the truth is Idols today have become much more subtle or have they?  Idolatry is not merely a surface thing, it runs deep into the human heart and can manifest itself in material ways and often does.  But the cruelest and the darkest idols are buried deep inside of us.

So although we may not bow down to the God of Mammon, do we worship money today? money Though we don’t bow down to the Goddess of beauty, how much money is spent on trying to make ourselves look younger and more beautiful?  Though we don’t bow down to the God of sex, are we consumed with finding our next mate?  Or are we locked to computer screens worshiping the unlimited amount of images available to us?  Though we don’t worship the God of Success, do we spend our whole lives trying to achieve something, neglected our families, friends and even our own health?

The truth is Idolatry is running rampant in America today.  Just turn on the television to be bombarded with images of what we “ought” to be like.  Idolatry.  Go to any magazine rack and see all the promises portrayed on the cover, Be a better loverGet the abs you’ve always wanted, How to make your business succeed.  And here’s the real kicker, every week, every month its the same promises.  But they never deliver.

Now let me say this before we close.  The things that we idolize are not in themselves bad things.  Sex is a good thing.  Success is a good thing.  Money is a good thing.  These things become idols when they are elevated to supreme position in our lives, when they sit on the proverbial throne of our lives.  A place that is meant for one being; God.

State of the Heart

state of the unionI was just watching President Obama’s State of the Union and was struck by the aim of most of the corrections mentioned for our nation.  Education, Jobs, Prevention, Rights…etc.  None of these things are bad, but none of them reach out deepest need: A new heart.  What good is it if a man gains the whole world but loses his soul?  CS Lewis puts it well in his book Mere Christianity, basically saying that education doesn’t change a man’s heart it only makes him more sinister and efficient in his evil.  The problem is not how much we know, but the orientation of our hearts.

God is the single greatest gift and need that our hearts need.  A Godward heart will lead to a lot of the reforms that these other attempts are aiming at.  But they cannot give us a new heart.  One that genuinely looks outward, and thinks not of self.  This is godliness and not something that can truly be achieved without the redemption accomplished by Jesus and the application of it to our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  So that we are not constantly concerned with our needs and wants, but rather how much we can give.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us…

how_deep_coverBeing father has some really neat moments when you get a glimpse into the heart of God.  I like to take my daughter on walks around the neighborhood.  She’s one and a half and walks around in control, for the most part.  It’s fun to walk up and down the sidewalk and explore the trees and flowers, and bits of trash we find.  It’s really one of the most enjoyable things I get to do.

Sometimes we have to cross the street and I get to explain to her how to be safe, looking both ways and then holding daddy’s hand.  But I had this terrifying thought the other day…what if I were to look outside and see her straying towards the street with a car zooming down it.  There couldnt’ be a stronger force in me moving me to get to her as fast as I can to save her from destruction.   Any father knows what this rush of terror and adrenaline feel like.

I would gladly throw myself in front of the car for her life.  I would sacrifice my life and health in an instant if it would save her.  Then it occurred to me, this is exactly what God, the Father, has done for us through Jesus.

Think about that.

We were all kids straying into the busy street, and Jesus went for us to die in our place, so that we could live.

Amazing…

The blessing in trials…

handsThere is a radical thing that happens to you when you are a Christian.  The hardships, the trials, the turmoil that comes in the midst of life, is seen as a blessing and we can actually thank God for these things.  These hard decisions that draw us to Him.  To plead for His action.  To realize that he really is true and present.

The world sees these as inconveniences and as threats to peace.  But the Christian can know that it is the very trials that are bringing us to Jesus.  They give us opportunity to trust Him, to really trust Him with the uncertain circumstances that we all face from time to time.

Learning about God in seminary is one thing, learning about him in real life, with real, hard decisions to come to him with and to trust him with: Those are gold.  gold

Wisdom is better than much silver and gold.  Wisdom says, “trust me, I am God, I am the creator, I am the sustainer, I am the provider.  I provide not only the circumstance, but the way out.”  And in that God gets glory.

Oh how deep is the Christian life.  Our trials are turned into blessings, occasions for growth.  And our faith does grow.

My faith is growing.  We don’t have to worry, but we get to wonder.  How is He going do it?  How’s God going to provide this time?

These are precious answers.  And God is the precious remedy.

Thankful, in the midst of great trial and uncertainty.

Cades Cove

What difference does Jesus make?

christ_mosaicI find myself considering this question more than I like to admit.  When people who don’t know Jesus seemingly are so happy and fulfilled I wonder, what difference does it make that I claim allegiance to Jesus?  This is especially true when I’m having a hard day, or when my wife and I are struggling with something.  Why do we need Jesus?  What difference does he make, here and now?

1. Jesus gives us a deeper, enduring Joy

There are a plethora of joys in the world, anyone who denies that is self deceived.  Sin is appealing no doubt, it feels good, it brings pleasure.  But it doesn’t bring lasting pleasure.  In fact, anytime sin is involved we will see two things happening.  One just as your tolerance for caffeine goes up the more you drink so too with the pleasures of sin. joy_stone3 You will find yourself needing more and more of it to get to the same point of pleasure.  This is in a sense true of Jesus also, but the difference is Jesus keeps on giving.  In fact the more you enjoy Jesus, the more you are able to enjoy Jesus and on and on it goes, actually to eternity.  This is kind of like a positive feedback loop.  Loving and enjoying Jesus only leads to more loving and enjoying Jesus, on forever.

2.  Jesus relieves of the need to hold grudges.

Here is an amazing fact.  In the gospels we read about Jesus forgiving sins on the spot.  Now have you ever thought about that?  Jesus comes a long and forgives someone’s sin against someone else.  It would be like Jesus coming into a situation and forgiving a thief for stealing right in front of the person who was robbed.  The person who was robbed would be like…what?  What about me?  This cost me something, where’s my retribution.  But this is the beautiful thing about the gospel.  Jesus paid the price for everyone’s sins.  We can also be free to forgive the ‘thief’ because Jesus took the punishment he deserves.  This means we don’t have too seek revenge.  Justice has been served, punishment has been delivered.

Holding-Grudges_largeThis means so much in the context of marriage because husband and wife will daily sin against each other.  And the only thing that can clear the obstacles of resentment and anger is realizing that Jesus paid the price for the sins committed.  This really only works when both husband and wife are believers.  But thank about that.  When we believe that Jesus takes the penalty of sin, it relieves us of the need to seek to hurt or seek retribution from the other party.  This is freedom indeed.

And what results when both parties do this is actually a deeper intimacy.  A deeper friendship.  Only Jesus can turn sin and use it for good and godly purposes.  This is amazing.  Whatever happens in a nonbelievers union the compromises made will never reach the depth that the atonement achieves for us.

Jesus says we are free, and we are free indeed when we believe in Him. This is great news.

3. Only Jesus fulfills the truest and deepest needs of our souls.

All of us are all the time seeking our deepest pleasure.  We may work a job we hate, but deep down we are choosing to do that so as to avoid the worse consequences of being unemployed.  We may go out and party with our friends, drinking and carrying on, because we believe that will fill the gap.  But it doesn’t last.  The next morning we have lost the high, or worse yet we may be in regret.

The truth is that the desire that manifests itself in us, is actually pointing to a deeper Happiness-1truth.  CS Lewis has said it best, hunger does prove that such a thing as food exists, but it certainly proves that such a thing ought to exist.  So to, if nothing in this world can ultimately satisfy us, the only logical answer is that we were made for another world.

We were made to know, love and enjoy Jesus.  Only this will severe the intense longing to fulfill our souls.  To be sure we will continue to seek pleasures and continue to seek Him more, but at last our hunger will start to be truly satisfied, and will reach full satisfaction in the age to come.  That is perhaps the most striking answer to why we need Jesus.  We are a people that are looking forward to the age to come.  Like an engaged couple anxiously awaiting the joys and pleasures of their wedding night, so too we long and wait for the eternal joy that is to come to us who believe, when Jesus, at last comes back.

That is our hope.  That makes all the difference.  We are not suffering in vain, but all has meaning.  All has purpose.  All is for our good and God’s glory.  That is a precious truth, and a truth that the world, with all it’s promises can never trump.

Thank you Jesus for your truth.  Thank you that you are  the truth.

God’s Filling up…

In the book of Exodus there is a long section that describes the construction of the Ramtabernacle and the holy garments of the priests and their consecration and such.  Exodus 28:41 reads “After you (Moses) put these clothes on your brother Aaron and his sons, anoint and ordain them.  Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.”

D.A. Caron in his commentary1 notes that the hebrew word here for ordain is not ordination in the modern sense of the word, but rather the filling up, or the supplying of their needs.  Literally the word phrase means, “you will fill their hands.”  The subsequent chapter describes short term how that plays out with the sacrifice itself describes becomes the food for the priests and thus the Lord is providing for their needs.

This got me thinking, because later on the the OT we find that it is the Levitical Priesthood who’s needs are provided for by the tithing of the Israelite nation.  Their job was simply to administer that sacrifices and to care for the tabernacle (A kind of OT church building).  For me personally, as I inch closer to ministry I am praying for God’s supplication of all or our needs.  Right here in this verse I get to see how he did that thousands of years ago…and I’m comforted.

The reality is with the coming of Christ, all Christians have become priests (1 Pet 2:5-9) and therefore all Christians are ‘ordained.’  Or to take Carson’s interoperation, all Christians needs are provided for.  What this means is as Christians we don’t have to focus on our daily supplication, what we will eat or what we will drink (Matt 6:1-33) but we can focus on the Gospel and on Jesus and use all of our energy to introduce people to Him and his great provision.

He has provided himself as the sacrifice for our sins and has provided the Holy Spirit to guide, instruct, convict, transform and empower us.

HandWe don’t need to worry about our practical needs, God will provide for those, he knows what we need.  But we are invited to put him first, to serve and love Him and to seek the lost.  What freedom!  What glorious news!  We can be all about Him because he has promised to provide for us and that he will never leave us.  Thank you Jesus for this vivid Old Testament example of your generosity and grace!

1New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. Efdited by Carson, D. A., R. T. France, J. A. Motyer and G. J. Wenham. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

 

God’s gracious depression

Ray-Rhodes-Sign-of-Depression

 

Depression sucks.

One of the ways that I know that i’ve seeped into it is I’m trying to everything I can to prevent it.  There is an uncanny (and unhealthy) inward orientation that seems to take place.  If I was self focused before, when depression hits I am ultra self focused.

Everything gets the volume turned up.  Suddenly i’m wondering if that persons look towards me meant something more, or if someones comments were aimed at me.  It’s a dark and brutal palce to be.  Everything becomes more difficult.  I don’t want to get up, I don’t want to work…I don’t even want to do the things I love.  My cravings are amplified…I want comfort, sweets, ice cream, soda, pizza…all these things I reach out to.

I am in the midst of this at this very moment.  During my morning walk I was thinking and it occurred to me that I prayed a prayer that I would not be disconnected from God during seminary (which can be a very dangerous spiritual place).  It occurred to me that had I not felt this depression I wouldn’t be taking time out to talk with God.  I wouldn’t be taking time to commune with him, to cry out to him, to be in his word.

Seminary can be deceptive because you spend a lot of time reading about God, or reading about those who really walked with him, but you’re not necessarily communing with him.

I haven’t been taking the time to meet with him daily in his word.  (There’s so much to read!)  For that I do confess, and repent.  But at the same time I marvel at how God uses something like depression to draw me in to him, and to answer that prayer.  For that I am grateful.  And I will sit in Him, waiting, worshipping until the darkness lifts.

What I don’t know about leading…

I am passionate about leadership, and leading.  Probably partly so that I will look good.  But there is a part of me that wants the organization, the team to run smoothly,  to overcome obstacles, to be united in our efforts.  To overcome.

In a lot of ways…this is all of life.

When I worked at the church, I learned a ton about leadership.  But I wasn’t particularly good at it.  For the first time I was aware of my many faults as a leader.  It was interesting to me though, that I learned more about leadership in 2 years of ministry than I did in 10 years in the Navy, at least I learned to put words to what I was lacking.  I think that is because as John Maxwell puts it, in ministry all you have is ‘the power of influence,’ no pay deductions, no disciplinary action, no rank degradations.

And so I am in the ‘Do…learn…Do’ model.  I ‘did’ leadership for 4 years or so in the Navy, then I learned about leadership (and did a little bit) in ministry, and now I have the opportunity to ‘do’ leadership again.

What is the deal?

It’s starts with a vision.  At Starbucks, the vision is ‘inspiring and nurturing the human spirit, one cup at a time, one person at a time and one neighborhood at a time’.  This vision is supported on 6 pillars (which I won’t go into.)  The challenge is to see how restocking shelves, taking out the trash and cutting off personal employee conversations fulfills this grand mission.  How do I inspire people to do the tasks set before them?  Not glamorous tasks, not even fun tasks (at least most of them).

I would venture to guess that it will involve bringing everyone continually back to the reason why we are doing any of this.  I have found that to be true in ministry.  Biblically we are too all be reminded of the glory of God and that it is all about Jesus.  But in our spiritually lives something even more radical is going on.  When we become Christians, we spend the rest of our life becoming like Christ, not because we have to (Jesus already did) or because we need to fulfill what is expected of us (Jesus fulfilled everything) but because we have actually been given a new nature, a new heart…we are new creatures, we actually want to obey God.

For me, I think leadership starts with prayer.  That I would live days of self-forgetfulness and that God would give his mercy and grace to me.  I can also be praying for the people that I work with.  One thing I learned in Toastmasters is that the less aware you are of the fact that you are giving a speech, the more natural you will be, and the better your speech will be.  But the more you are focussed on ‘doing a good’ speech, the worse that speech will actually be.

As humans, we need to be pried off of our self-focus.  That’s what Jesus helps us do.  That is also what helps us love and lead others.  It is not about us, or how well we are doing, but it is genuinely about the people you are leading.