Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I LoVe studying the Bible

I am very slowly studying Philippians. This morning I finally got around to considering the letter's importance in God's plan to create a community of redeemed people for his glory through Jesus Christ. I'll share my answer in a second, but about what I most get excited is the thoughts that come out onto the page! I think and hope they have been produced and guided by the Spirit, because I certainly can not come up with something that good on my own. Maybe because it's related to God's plan for redemption, but I get SOOO excited when I read it, it gives me such vision for life. Here's my little summary:
Paul periodically points his readers to "the day of Christ" - the completion of the good work began, recognition of the lordship of Jesus, the fate of destruction for enemies of the cross, and the hope of transformation for their bodies - keeping them focused on the goal. He begins the letter by telling them that God has begun a good work in them and it will be completed in the day of Christ. The rest of the letter encourages the readers to press on and "work out" their salvation until God completes the good work begun. He encourages them by mention of the many benefits they have, as Christians, in the current era/kingdom (Proclaimed Kingdom) - the help of the Spirit, their citizenship in heaven, the exaltation of Christ's name, the peace of God that is available now. In light of these benefits he challenges them to press on and work out their salvation, awaiting the Savior, Jesus. Paul summarizes these things in Philippians 3:13-16.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Moving and looking forward

If I were to be completely honest with you, I would say that October has been a month of polar opposites—appointments and no appointments, fun and heartache, freedom and worries. I know all of life is like that, but October has been to the extremes. Thank you for praying for safe travels to and from my conference. It was a great trip—very encouraging for the MPD and personal finance areas of my life. It was also great to see some friends from New Staff Training—I miss them a lot, but the phone helps some. However, home life seems to have been unraveling—my grandma is having physical health issues and it has stirred up things that were already difficult for me. Finally, I have made it home to do MPD. It is SO wonderful to once again be a regular attendee in my home church, to see my Family every week and to be encouraged by them. One family in particular are an incredible blessing, as they are housing me and making me a part of their family. :) On the flip side, being in such frequent contact with my family has intensified some of the personal difficulties I’ve been having. In summary, I praise God for moving me forward in the MPD process, but it has come with many personal difficulties, which have been almost impossible to separate from negatively affecting my MPD efforts.

So as I dream about future ministry, one particular group of students with whom I am most excited to work is athletes. “[A] coach or group sponsor will ask the [SV] staff to be part of the team or group.  The staff has the opportunity to get to know the students, speak into their lives, and most importantly, to share the gospel with them. This is a significant SV strategy, and we have seen evidence of its effectiveness for many years.” This brief explanation from our National Directors is what I have a passion to do. I recently heard a story about Chris McClelland, who is on staff in Cincinnati. Chris has been able to volunteer with the freshman football team. Recently, he was able to share the gospel as part of a pizza party outreach for the team. “I told them about my athletic career in high school and how I always hoped sports would bring me lasting meaning and satisfaction, but it never lasted. I then explained how some friends in college explained to me how a relationship with God through Jesus Christ was the only thing that would satisfy me.  I think the team was shocked that my past success did not satisfy me. They asked lots of questions about my life back then. At the end of my talk I explained how they could begin a relationship with God.  Five of them prayed to receive Christ! Praise God!” Stories like this fire me up and remind me of the passion that drives me forward. I cannot wait for the day when I will be sharing with you a story like that—and it will be to your credit. I sometimes get distracted by the dollar signs, but Paul helps remind me that I do not “seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit” (Philippians 4:17).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The cross was for God first?

"Am I excited about the cross because there God makes much of me, or am I excited about the cross because there I was purchased and freed to enjoy making much of the righteousness and the glory that is vindicated there, for me to see forever and ever? ... It is so liberating because I cease to be the foundation of my salvation. Rather the infinite worth of the righteousness of of God becomes the basis of my salvation. God's unswerving allegiance to uphold and to vindicate his glory for my enjoyment, is the foundation of my salvation. ... When God's exaltation of God in Christ is your joy, when God's exaltation of God in Christ at the cross is your joy, your joy can never fail."

Click here if you want to listen to the whole message and meditate on it yourself. Following is a very poor attempt to regurgitate Piper's message for you in briefer form and some of my reflections.

In this message, John Piper juxtaposes two "mindsets." By "mindset" he means mindset, emotional set, attitude set - a set all inclusive of our selves and our attitudes, which determines the way we view, respond to, and feel about the world - it is an orientation to the world. These two mindsets are the Biblical mindset and the secular mindset. The latter is one that begins with man, measuring all things by humanity, while the former begins with God, measuring everything by God. The one that you employ will determine everything you think and feel about everything, and Piper's message here is specific to the cross of Christ - what is the problem God is trying to solve in the sending and bruising of his son? Piper uses Romans 3 as his text for this message and speaks about God's righteousness.

"This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Romans 3:25-26

There we see the answer - This was to show God's righteousness. The problem was that his righteousness needed showing, because he had passed over former sins.

Whoa. Take that in for a second. He had passed over former sins. So why is that a problem? God is being kind and that's a problem?

YES. God's righteousness would have gone down the tubes, so to speak, if he had not judged and convicted all of those sins he once "passed over." All would fall apart! By passing over our sin, God would be agreeing with our exchanging the glory of God for other things - the low value of his glory.

So Jesus came and was bruised so that God could glorify himself? Boy, that sounds egotistical, right? Maybe, but Piper argues that God's self exaltation is loving. And here we return to where we started.
When God's exaltation of God in Christ is your joy, when God's exaltation of God in Christ at the cross is your joy, your joy can never fail.

The cross was for God's sake, then ours. And it is for our sake because our joy is (or should be) in the worth and righteousness of God. *sigh* That's still a lot to take in. And the bottom line? It may be evident - it's all about God (the Biblical mindset).

So am I excited about the cross because there God makes much of me, or am I excited about the cross because there God makes much of himself? Oh, how so many view the former - the prideful, self-centered "gospel," and I admit to often being one who has held that view. I am prideful, and God, the past 6 months or so, has been revealing just how prideful and self-centered I am. The problem is that we often reduce the Gospel to a means to pump up our self esteem. Here in America it's all about how much good we feel about ourselves, especially for women, and there are always new confidence boosters and builders to self-esteem. But what's it worth, and more importantly, is it really working? I say no! When we base the cross on us we demean it's power and worth and validity. When we base the cross on us, our need for salvation, we ruin it for ourselves, especially our self-esteem. Because one day when we have a down moment, we realize we are not worthy of such sacrifice, and then it doesn't make sense to us and our self-esteem no longer has a basis. In reality, we have never been and never will be worth that sacrifice! But God's righteousness was worth it and it is to our benefit - to find life and love in God upholding his worth and glory and righteousness. AND THIS IS WHY our joy can NEVER be destroyed because God IS righteous and glorious and ALWAYS worthy. And our identity is in him and from him, and that should be from where we derive our confidence, our "self"-esteem - from God - God-confidence, God-esteem.

I could probably blabber on in circles with my unedited thoughts but I will spare you, hoping that this is plenty about which to ponder. Maybe when it has settled more in my mind and heart I will write further.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

MPD follow-up conference

Yesterday I returned from a five day endeavor to Norcross, GA for my MPD (ministry partner development) follow-up conference. The main purposes for this conference was to follow-up the training I received this past summer in Colorado and also provide some stewardship training. Some added benefits included seeing NST (new staff training) friends and reconnecting and deepening those relationships. I think the MPD process groups were my favorite parts of the conference. During these times we got into small groups and discussed our experiences with the MPD process. It was encouraging to hear other encouraging stories and other discouraging stories, as well as sharing my own. The best part, however, was just being able to laugh with others about our experiences. Experiences that, outside this group of comrades, would not be seen as humorous. The evaluation of some of my presentation and MPD process was affirming. Throughout the conference we spent a large amount of time on stewardship training. I added many things to my knowledge of the topic and am excited to pursue some practices that I have not been doing. All in all, the conference was a great time of encouragement and fellowship. I have returned recharged and excited for this next leg of the MPD process!