Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Crowd & A Cripple

Mark 2:1-4 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
There are two sets of people in this story. The first set, the majority, is a crowd that has gathered at what seems to be someone's home to listen to Jesus teach. The second set is a group of ragamuffins who were committed to any length, including digging a hole through a roof, to realize their NEED for the very TOUCH of Jesus to heal their broken crippled friend. Jesus loved, and gave to both crowds the need they had come to have fulfilled. To the crowd he gave teaching, the cripple he gave a new life.

There are two sets of people in the story that is God's church. The first set, the majority, is a crowd that gathers in what seems to be a public facility to listen to the teachings of Jesus. The second set is a group of ragamuffins who will go to any length, including digging their way out of the world around them, to realize their NEED for the very TOUCH of Jesus to heal their broken crippled lives. Jesus loves, and gives to both crowds the need they come to have fulfilled. To the crowd he gives teaching, the cripples he gives a new life.

Set around Capernum that day is a world that needs Jesus' touch. This story is about poverty. It is about the poverty of the crowd, the poverty of their neighbors, the poverty of broken lives. The crowd can not see their own poverty, the crowd can not see the poverty around them. That motley crew seeking Jesus' touch feel the pulse of poverty. They feel the poverty of their friends crippled legs. They tear the roof off the status quo of the crowd around them, to bring that poverty before Jesus. Jesus doesn't see a ruined roof instead he touches and heals the poverty.

Set around us is a world that needs Jesus' touch. Our story is about poverty. It is about the poverty of the churches, the poverty of our friends, the poverty of our world. It is about the broken lives in the parts of town good Christians avoid. It is about the brokeness hidden behind the shuttered windows of good Christian homes. It is about the hopelessness that leads to an AIDS epidemic, and a nation of orphans in Swaziland. It is about the economic inequality that leads to Jihad in the Arabic world. It is about the oppression of girls in the Asian sex trade industry. It is about the forgotten children enslaved to produce our chocolate and our apparel. It is about the lepers dying on the streets of Calcutta. It is about... Poverty is the all pervasive state of a fallen world. The crowd can not see their own poverty, the crowd can not see the poverty all around them. Those seeking Jesus' touch feel the pulse of poverty. They feel the poverty of an entire world fallen from life, community, and peace with it's God. These vagabonds tear the roof off the status quo of the church around them, to bring that poverty before Jesus. Jesus doesn't see a ruined roof instead he touches and heals the poverty.

Which set is your life in? Are you the crowd who goes to church on Sunday and Wednesday to get a dose of Jesus' words, or are you a rouge to this world, who is willing to dig through the barriers separating you and the brokenness of an impoverished world around to altogether get to the abundant life that comes from the healing touch of Jesus? Which set reflects your church? Are you a crowd of listeners, or a brotherhood of friends willing to carry each others brokenness to Jesus?

One set got a goodly lesson that day, the other got a new life.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Depravity In Adulthood

"I ran across an old box of letters
While I was bagging up some clothes for Goodwill
You Know I had to laugh that the same old struggles
That plagued me then are plaguing me still"
- Caedmon's Call

I would like to tell you that after facing the humbling reality of my depravity in my teens years I went on to stop chasing the slavery that I was in bondage to. Although it was on that day, I decided to stop the diet pills and caffeine, I did not let go of the myriad of other addictions that had led me to abuse the substances. I certainly had a problem with speed, but I had a much bigger issue with this unyielding desire to impress people. The addiction to being admired was entrenched much deeper than any substance abuse. Admiration fed the demons of control and social position. These three formed a mighty beast of self satisfaction in me.

Unfortunately, that beast was not slain as easily as the substance addiction. That beast slipped back into the recesses of my mind where he still preys on my fears and insecurities. My carnal nature is never further than the recesses of my mind which I have not yet let the Kingdom of God be formed in.

To give you an example as recent of a few weeks back. I spoke on Saturday afternoon at camp. After my sermon was dinner time. The closing prayer was concluded and the entire camp went off to line up for supper. Not ONE person came over to make any compliment what so ever of the message. Even my own wife, did not give me a "Great Job!" My depravity crept out of it's cavernous abode and began to torment me. Feeling unappreciated and socially diminished I was blessed by God with a vision to illustrate the damage I was allowing in my mind. There stood this dragon pulling me apart, one limb at a time. I had to choose in that moment to let my enemy lure me back into the danger of his self promoting cave, or to let the Kingdom be formed over the wound. I had responded to the Spirit's leading and preached the message he gave me, so this was should never have been about my pride in anyway.

I give this example because it is visible, still I struggle everyday with my needs for appreciation, control, and social struggle. The recognition of our depravity, is not a one time obstacle that once overcomes raises us to a higher place in the journey, instead it is a parallel road that appears less treacherous and more appealing.
Matthew 7:13-14 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
I have seen the hell my mind becomes separate of the redemptive forming of God's Kingdom. I therefore recognize my depravity daily and choose to walk through the gateway that leads to life. This narrow road leads me to the alien, the cripple, the beggar, and the orphan because I acknowledge that in my own power I can be nothing more than they are.

"Lord God, let me never see my self as anything other than a stranger, given citizenship in your Kingdom; a cripple made to walk in your light, a beggar living off the wealth of your grace, and an orphan adopted to be a prince of the King. Let me also never forget that you are always found in the midst of these peers."

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Depravity of the Good Kid

I was a good kid. I got good grades, was involved in extra curricular activities, held down a job. I did it all, and maintained a good relationship with church and parents. I was a good kid.

I also had an addiction. It isn't the kind of seedy addiction you are expecting in this confession. I am a speed addict, but by that I mean I was addicted to high caffeine drinks and diet pills. I used them to maintain all the good I was. I wanted the good grades, the praise for my accomplishments in theater, and the spending money from the job to look the fashion of the world around me. I wanted all this, and all the praise I got at church and from my family for being such the good kid. So I took diet pills, and slammed them down with super caffeinated beverages. Still, I was a good kid.

In my mind, at that time, I would have never called myself an addict. In fact, I thought I was the very model of youth perfection. I had it all together, I was the kind of kid other parents used to shame their own. I was proud of my life, my accomplishments, my faith, my perfection.

The minister at the church I spoke at on Sunday came out after my message and asked me how to connect the principles of my message to the people who have never done anything really bad. I found this to be an intriguing question, since had you asked me even the day before I was forced to face my depravity, I would have surely let you know I was that person.

Then came that lunchtime where I faced my blackness. Between the work of advanced placement classes the production we were working on for theater, my job at the movie theater, and watching late night television; I was not sleeping. Adding to that stress, I was out of money, and therefore had not purchased my daily supply of diet pills and Nitro. I was strung out and stressed out. Sitting at the table behind me was a mentally disabled student who laughed incessantly the entire lunch period. The laughter grated against my strung out nerves like nails on a chalkboard. After twenty minutes of this I could not take another moment. I grabbed the closest metal utensil to me, and proceeded to propel it backward to stab him in the back. As the fork and my hand flew toward his back, one of my table mates grabbed my arm, and stopped in midswing I dropped the fork to the ground.

I sat, stunned with a groundswell of shame and guilt. There was nothing in this moment that looked respectable, admirable, or in control. I had tried to injure a person most of society strives to protect. In one moment, I stood toe to toe with my depravity. I stood face to face with what my need to be the model of the good kid had led to. I looked as pitch black and broken as all the people who lives looked very different than my own. One second difference in my life, and I would have been on my way to juvie.

My addiction was respectable, in fact my entire catalog of addictions were encouraged. Yet here I stood in their wake with nothing to cling to. The grades, honors, clothing, church standing, parental approval it all meant nothing as I looked at the depth of brokenness I held inside me.

The "good kid" looks good because he has spent his entire life building a castle of cards on the praise of men. The "good kid" looks honorable because everything he does revolves around holding onto that honor.
Luke 10:39-41 Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.
God's plan to clean us from the inside out starts when we realize how dirty and stained the inside is. So long as a person is basing life on what the people around him call goodness and success, they can not see that God starts his healing and release from bondage when we venture out to join him from the home of depravity. When I am able to see myself as broken and poor, I can join God in his Kingdom of paupers, whores, and cripples.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

RCC Columbus Day Audio

I have the talks from our retreat this weekend. If you would be interested in what we were doing with the teens this past weekend, this would be the place to find out.

  1. Stephen Lamb – A Brief History of God
  2. Glen Fitzjerrell – Jesus Mission & Ministry
  3. Kevin Bowman – A Master and A Slave
  4. Rob Carris – A False History of God
  5. Glen Fitzjerrell – My Limited Belief
  6. Glen Fitzjerrell – Salvation In Our Context 1
  7. Rob Carris – Salvation In Our Context2

Monday, October 06, 2008

Why God Wants All of Me

A friend of mine texted me today to let me know that he had not been fired over a poorly made decision at work. His decision was not malicious, it was just poorly thought out. It was the end of the day on Friday he was worn out and his blood sugar was low and in a moment of lesser thought he made a decision he regretted only moments later, and was thankful today to let me know the consequences were not more outstanding. Like my friend, my body often causes me to act contrary to how I know I should behave. Likewise my Spirit and my mind do not always agree.

Our body, mind, and spirit are all realized perfectly in the 3 persons of our triune God. In the person of God the father, we see the very mind of God. In the person of Jesus, God the son, we see God's physical presence. In the person of God the Spirit, we see the dimension of God's spiritual manifestation. We are truly made "like us in our image" as the Godhead agreed to do in Genesis 1.

Yet, in the perfect triune nature of God, He is always in agreement. There is no challenge for control in God. The father does not usurp authority over the son, the son does not act independent of the father, and the spirit too aligns perfectly the will and activity of the father and son.

That fact inspires me to understand why God leaves us with the words of the greatest commandment. "Hear, O Israel: The LORD (YHVH) our God, the LORD (YHVH) is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart (Spirit) and with all your soul (Mind) and with all your might(Strength). " Since there is no division in God and his body does only that which is in perfect agreement with his mind, which is at perfect peace with his spirit. That means that all of God loves me with the radical love that caused Jesus to give up the wealth of heaven for less than the poverty of humanity, but a humanity destined for death to self. God loves me with the kind of love where the master becomes the slave. God loves me with the kind of love that cost heaven it's beloved on a gamble for the earth. God loves me with all his heart, soul, and strength.

The invitation is to allow my lover to come in to me, and prove his love by placing the seed of his love to be formed as a new life inside me, a life that loves him with all my body, mind, and strength.