Saturday, March 19, 2011

Becoming all things to all people

There was a story circulated a few years ago of a man who had superficially converted to Judaism to try to convert Jews to Christianity. The community of Jewish people were outraged at the deception and insincerity of such an action. The man based his actions on a passage from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, specifically verse 20 which says: "to the Jews i became as a Jew, in order to win the Jews.".
The man may have been sincere, but it was very bad interpretation and it was also lying about his motives and intentions.
What does it mean to become all things to all people? What is it that Paul was talking about to the Corinthians? Was he speaking of deceptive tactics to "win" people to Christ? Probably not. So what is the point of this passage and how are we in the 21st century to apply such a grand idea?
Here's the text that we read from:"For though I am free from all I have made myself a servant to all that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law(though not being myself under the law)that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law( being outside the law of G-d, but under the law of Christ)that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings."
This just might be one of the most profound ideas in Pauls theological thinking and understanding. I believe Paul truly understood the incarnation of his Messiah. Paul I think, has an incarnational understanding of Jesus that bursts through so much of his writings and also in his life. He believed Jesus came in the form of a man, servant, under the Torah of G-d, lived and died with and among his creation.
Although Jesus was without sin, he identified with his people, and in his baptism there was an identification with sinners and a validation of his son ship.
I think it is important to understand that Paul did not pretend to be someone else by putting different hats and masks to try and become like someone to win someone by deceit. Paul did not go to parties and get drunk just win someone in an inebriated state. He did not join himself to a prostitute just to convert her to Jesus. That would be ludicrous!
Paul did however, enter into relationships with all peoples despite backgrounds, cultural differences and religious differences. We find Paul throughout the book of Acts meeting every kind of person and people group. He dialoged and reasoned with his own people, and spoke with the intellectual elite at Mars Hill in Athens. He sat and wept with the Phillipian Jailer who was suicidal and then rejoiced at his conversion and new birth.
Pauls life was about living out the gospel of Christ Jesus, not about putting on masks and phony deceptions. He never sought to win a convert by pretentious ways, but rather he wept with those who wept, rejoiced with those who rejoiced and praised G-d with those who praised G-d.
This is what I want my life to be, a life of coming into peoples lives, waking with them, listening, learning and loving them. And the best way I see in loving them, is by embodying this incarnational idea of "becoming like" my brothers and sisters. I am no different from the rest of humanity, but I have been given a new spirit by virtue of Jesus' power and resurrection. The power and testimony of this kind of love is the most caring truth when speaking the gospel.
May the Gospel of belief and repentance through Jesus come only by way of truth and love and the power of the Spirit of G-d.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Do I trust you Lord?
Do I trust in your word?
Do I trust you Lord and have
faith in your works?
Do I trust in the fact
that you have made me?
Do I trust you Lord that
you've saved me?

Every thing's all right
it's all OK, as long as I
can see the other side.
Storms start to gather feel
I'm tossed around, like Peter
and the disciples in that boat
wishing for safe ground.

You bid me to come and you
call my name.
Your hand reaches forth
with the promise you're always
the same.
I will never leave you,
I'm always here.
I;m in the wound of your sorrows
and your wettest tears.

Now I reply with my small faith,
I trust you Jesus, in you
I am safe, Now I sing...

Yes I trust you Lord,
I trust in your word.
I trust you Lord and
have faith in your works.
I trust in the fact
that you have made me,
and I trust in the fact
that you've saved me.
Yes I trust you Lord.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Change of Mind

I was thinking and planning on writing on a different topic this week. I had it all written out and ready to go, but conversation at the dinner table last night invoked other ideas.
Sitting at the dinner table with my family last night, I listened and observed the actions and responses from each of the children. There were constant remarks about each other, usually negative and sometimes just mean.
The topic somehow turned to the idea of what ifs and the different scenarios of the imaginative life. Their speech and thoughts were totally self centered ideas. Everything was about what they wanted.
I processed as long as I could and threw in a hypothetical; and I asked a very serious question to each of them. "If we were going to move, why do you think your opinion would even matter? If we stay and decide to live with the poor and minister what right do you have to say no?" "Who are you anyway? What right do have in this house to put any demands on me or your mother?" I waited for responses from each of them. I explained to each of them that their mother and I put a roof over their head, supply food, clothing and all the necessities they need and more. Then I asked them what their contribution was in this house as to put forth a valid opinion on what we should or could do. No response.
Rather harsh sounding I know, but then I led them to reasoning which I was actually working through in myself at the time. I explained the best I could that this life that we have is not about them, it is not about me. This life is not about what we want. I gave an illustration of the planets and how they revolve around the sun. The sun I said does not go around the earth, but we act like life, people and even G-d should revolve around us. We are not created for G-d to serve us, rather we are made to worship G-d, serve each other and love the way Jesus Messiah loves us.
I was angry not only with my children s attitudes, but also with my own. I would say out loud that I seek G-d and his will, but really I would like for his will to be my own. How stinking selfish is that?
We went back to the story of Cain and Able, and how Cain rose up in jealousy against his own brother and committed the first murder. The question was asked by G-d to Cain,"where is your Brother?" The response from Cains resounds so clear today in each one of us;"Am I my brothers keeper?"
Our response in this life is not a matter of our opinion, which we might think, because we are who we are, might carry some weight, matters for nothing. Who are we to think that we can mistreat each other, slander, abuse and hurt one another?
This life that we have is given by an all powerful G-d who alone holds the opinion that matters. Let us be willing to be conformed to this truth, to understand that this life consists of loving G-d and loving people. If we love G-d, we will love people like G-d loves us. This life is about G-d, knowing the one who made each of us and expending our energies loving our neighbor as ourselves. G-d matters and this life is a gift and it is to be given away freely.
I don't know what is going on in my children s hearts this morning about what was spoken last night, but my own heart is convicted and I am saddened at my own attitudes and opinions. I am once again brought to the light of truth, and this that I am dust and clay, and that I must repent and follow the footsteps of the Master and His instruction and not my own ways.
I'll end here, because I must cook pancakes for my kids, but this thought of keeping my heart right comes from my reading this morning. I just finished The letter to the Hebrew and this passage in Chapter 12 is very fresh in my thinking."..Let us also lay aside every weight and sin which cling so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of G-d."
Somehow that statement holds a lot of opinion with authority. Let's keep looking to and following His steps, because that matters most.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Always an adventure

My eyes opened at 4:37 this morning, this is the usual wake up time for my biological makeup. I am pursued by two cats that act like they have not been fed for a week, a dog that if he could, would cross his legs and do the potty dance. I am in demand.
My coffee is brewing, I am walking my dog in the 20 degree frigidness and my praise begins.
This is the start once again of Noels big adventure. Thank G-d! As I am walking I am talking and praising His Holy name. I do not start off with request or petitions, but just praise and thanksgiving. What a beautiful beginning to a day that is full of surprises.
You would think however, that how in the world could you get ready for "surprises"; it already sounds repetitive and mundane, the same routine. Where is the adventure, the mystery? How could this be exciting?
Let me just start off with what I know; I know that there is a god, The G-d! I also know that this G-d has breathed everything into existence and anything that is is only because of G-d. I know that this G-d is still ever present in this world and is active. I know that there is a verifiable Savior, Jesus Messiah, who once walked this earth, was crucified and buried and rose again. I know that this Jesus took this man who has been alive now for almost 42 years and made me alive through a wonderful faith in his work.
You see, just that in itself is an adventure. To know that G-d is active in this world and to be able to wake for one more day, which could be my last, and praise Him for all His work is FANTASTIC!!
With what I know of this revelation, I enter my routine with expectations of my work schedule and regular life, but I know that there are encounters along the way. I do not know what encounters, I don't know with whom the encounters will be with. My thinking in all this is not searching for G-ds purpose for my life, but rather that I am G-ds child and I will do whatever is before me with purpose.
This is the adventure! To have my eyes opened, a heart directed towards Jesus, and hands and feet to be used for the reasons of heavens mandate. My adventure begins each day with the still loud command of Jesus to his disciples, of which I am also, to "come, follow me". How awesome is this?!! As a matter of fact, I am going to clean all eight of the bathrooms at my church this morning. Who knows what could happen along the way, or who I'll meet or be able to talk to. I will come home and be entertained by four completely different individual children who call me dad. I will also be able to hug the woman who is carrying our fifth child; AWESOME!
I used to think that my life should be full of craziness, stunts and whatever might be full of energy and creating an adrenaline rush, but the truth is, that there is no greater rush than to serve and be used in revealed ways of the masters footsteps in whom I follow.
If we just seek to do whatever it is that G-d has said to do,and by the way this is not hard, G-d already tells us what to do;" justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your G-d.", we just have to step forward and be willing and G-d will open the door to the adventure of a life time.
May we all journey together in the grace and mercy of an adventurous G-d. Amen!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Being Jesus

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christs afflictions, for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from G-d that was given to me for you, to make the word of G-d fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now revealed in his saints." Collosians 1:24-26

This is what what a person interacting with G-d and His word live for, and that is the passage that makes you stumble, trip and skin your brain. This is the live action wrestling match of the homemade bible interpreter.
There is a problem when I go after trying to understand scripture, and that is, when I have come to a conclusion of interpretation, I am forced to pursue the inevitable; application of the principle before me.
I must confess that this passage truly challenged my thinking and theology. Scripture does that if you are honest with it and try not to manipulate it to make it say what you want it to say, although it is easier that way.
Without going to deep into the background of the letter, I will say that Paul the apostle is making a case for the supremacy of Jesus Messiah over the elemental practices of groups swayed to asceticism, such as this group witch is kind of a combination of gnostic(which was not yet fully developed at this point) and the dead sea community, or Essene type group which really got into ritualistic observances.
Paul does this by elevating Jesus with the truths of him being "the image of the invisible G-d, the first born of all creation"...."all things were created by and through him"..."he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the first born form the him all the fullness of G-d was please to dwell....making peace by the blood of the cross.". In other words, Christ is the man!
Paul, who has never been to the city of Collossae, or even met the people except for Epaphras who was the elder or pastor as so it seemed from the letter, was encouraging this assembly to hold fast to the Savior who was all these things that Paul was describing. He then adds this sentence that has so much meaning and implication, that to miss it would be such a travesty of omission in our lives.
Let's start with the beginning of v.24;"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake..". At first glance, I almost assumed that Paul might have been talking of his imprisonment, which is where he wrote a majority of his letters, but these sufferings are from his heart for the people of concern for which he was writing. This really shows the heart of a man in love with G-ds people. His sufferings, or affliction of emotion and human passion was bubbling over towards the progress of these called out ones.
Paul then throws in this statement which is utterly amazing!!;" my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christs afflictions for the sake of His body,...". At this point, you can say with me;"WHAT!!!!!?"
My first question in this was what is lacking in Christs afflictions? Was this speaking of his death and atonement for sin on the cross? That was supposed to be a perfect and completed work, right? Jesus himself that his work was "finished". So what is lacking here?, and what is Christs afflictions?
I will take a swing at this and try to understand what needs to be understood. The lacking means or conveys the idea of that part which is like baggage lagging behind, or the failing of meeting a standard. The afflictions of is defined as a result of being squeezed or put into a narrow place, hence trouble, distress or afflictions.
Just after Paul says such an amazing statement, he goes onto to say that it is for the sake of his body, the church or assembly of believers. In v. 25 we get the clue to understanding of what is lacking;"of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from G-d which was given to me to fulfill the word."
The word stewardship in the Greek means the act of making visible that which was not readily seen. How awesome is this?!! This means that what is lacking in this world is the real physical presence of the Lord Jesus. His glorified body now in heaven, waits until the revealed time of his glorious appearing in triumph to rule the nations. Until this time comes Paul expresses the part of which we all play and that is to be and to act as Jesus' body in this dark world of chaos, dismay and unbelief. We are to fill up in our flesh, my flesh the passions of Christ. That kind of passion calls for a life devoted to serving, giving, instructing and even dying to this flesh for the sake of even just one person or to the whole body of Christ.
This flesh which we give over to the fulfilling of G-ds will.
We are to be Jesus in this world!!!! This is absolutely nuts! I ask myself,"Did I really need to know this? Did I really want to understand this?" Now however, with this interpretation I must therefore act on it, because it is G-ds stewardship that I am responsible to live out.
If we all take to this responsibility of this revelation, what great things can be done for the kingdom of G-d? Let us go forward with G-ds strength and find out.
Follow with me and let us be Jesus to this world.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Crazy Faith

I am learning what faith is all over again. Kind of a strange reality. The scriptures declare that "the just shall live by faith.".
Let me give you a hint as to what I mean. I have told my wife for months, quit your job, and get rest for yourself and the new baby which will soon be here. I told her that G-d would surely bless and take care of things.
I also mentioned to her that G-d would bless us with plenty of work for me to provide for the family.
Honestly, I do not know how I can possibly do all this!....Oh wait; G-d said to trust Him. This, this is the hard part. Trusting the unseen hand of G-d.
You know what is crazier! Not trusting in this unseen G-d!! We have tried for so long to push through this life by hard work and stupid efforts that have cost us dearly. To not trust G-d is CRAZY.
I think the normal action for us is to trust G-d, but to go about life trusting in ourselves is just STUPID.
"Seek first the kingdom of G-d and all these things shall be added unto you."
Trust in Messiah always. Amen!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Daily Moments

Psalm 90:12 "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."
Maybe my days would be filled with more praise, thankfulness and productiveness if I truly took this to heart.
Maybe I nee to be reminded of what G-d can do instead of what I cannot do.
Every moment could and should be given as it were, the blessing that it could be the last moment and thus blessed.
Our days are not only numbered by the sovereign Lord, but they are also ordered. This order is to do that which is good and right in the sight of G-d.
The apostle Peter comments about out time and purpose on earth in 1 Peter 1:17,22-25 which says;"And if you call in him as Father who judges impartially according to each ones deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile..... Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born from above, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through living and abiding word of G-d; for all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever."
The ultimate in this obedience is not that we have done much, but rather that in the obedience we have been establishing the ordered days of our stay which is in the "word of the Lord which remains forever.".
May I always be awakened out of a slumbered tolerance of self indulgence to the magnificent works of G-d. Although my flesh may fall limp as the flower that fades, my soul shall forever be sealed in in Jesus Messiah.
Bless His Holy Name. Bruch HaShem