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!