The Fear of Finding You, The Surgery Series

Surgery: The Fear of Finding You

In the last post we considered the preparation phase of surgery.  Dealing with the fear of surgery may not be a separate phase per say, but it is definitely its own area of discovery.  It is in fearful situations that believers will often be able to measure their degrees of trust and faith.

Fear is present where knowledge is absent.  

In other words, it is the not knowing with surety that often causes us to have fear.  In the surgery will the one conducting be properly equipped with instruments and aid?  Will the surgeon be ready?  Did she have enough rest so that their mind is sharp?  These are just some of the preliminary areas of fear that I have heard some talk about.

The “real” areas of fear are much more personal.  Will I feel anything?  What will it be like afterwards?  Will this work?  Will I be the same?  Will I be able to do all things I was able to do before?

The fear of loss causes people to stay in pain significantly longer.  We will often do more to avoid pain even when the source of pain is causing loss.  Loss of what?  Loss of who we think we are…

Fear is present where understanding and wisdom are absent.

The surgeons as well as other doctors and nurses can offer comforting words but apart from faith they are just words.  In like manner, yet with infinitely more reliability, the Scriptures offer promises to find “you” if we go through the procedure that will cause of to lose our “self”.  These too are just words apart from active faith.

It is important to understand that finding you (or being on a search to find you) is suggestive that the “you” that you think you are is not the “you” that is intended for you [Col. 3:3]. Something must die for your surgery to be successful.  The fear that causes us to hold on to something that is dying, or that is causing us to die, is the fear we have to find “you”.

“You” is the name God names us in Christ.  It is the name that is declarative of the finished victory upon which we are awaiting.  It is the name that is declarative of our status of righteous having been justified.  It is not a description…it is not an attribute (a what) of who we are.  It is the essence (the who) of our being.  “You”.

Fear is present where faith is absent.

Many will neglect surgery because in their fear they decide that it is better to be who they are now than to see what they will become after the surgery.  To desire to be the same person you are before and after surgery is oxymoronic…for by natural generic definition surgery is an intentional activity to cause change.

Fear should not cause to avoid the inevitable surgery we face.  Something must die for your surgery to be successful.  The fear that causes us to hold on to something that is dying, or that is causing us to die, is the fear we have to find “you”.

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Preparing for the Inevitable, The Surgery Series

Surgery: Preparing for the Inevitable

There is nothing like detecting a pain or discomfort in your body.  For many of us we will do our best to navigate life with the physical pain (although physical pain is not the only that requires surgery) because we do not “have” time to really “address” the issue right away.  In our minds we hope that the pain will eventually just subside for a while and ultimately go away.

Some of us have lived with a particular pain for so long we have deemed it as our “normal”.  We are so used to dealing with the pain that without the presence of the pain we don’t feel “right”.  We and the pain are one and being separated from it would be like cutting off a limb or vital organ.  Life and pain are one and the same.  Pain then becomes the evidence of life.

Many of these pains, and the normalcy thereof, prove to be life threatening when left unaddressed.  They can be fatal to life.  Sometimes surgery is inevitable.

Though not necessarily direct to the scope of our context here, it is important to acknowledge that everything that is fatal to life does not cause feelings of pain.  Because of that they will go undetected for months, years, or even decades.  The absence of pain then is not an indication of good health.  Sometimes surgery is inevitable.

Recently I have been with and around several people that have had to go through some type of surgical procedure.  The type of surgery that was to be conducted would dictate what a person had to do in the months, days, hours, or minutes leading up to the time of surgery.   In all cases I found that preparing for surgery is physical, mental, and emotional.

The idea of surgery is applicable for the follower of Christ.  In the process of becoming Christ-like God’s scalpel meticulously incises the heart of our redeemed soul in order to sculpt us into the conformed image of His Son.  A surgery such as this also requires preparation: physically, mentally, and emotionally as well as spiritually.

Preparation is unavoidable where surgery is inevitable.

The preparation requirements often tell of the simplicity or complexity of what one will face in their surgery.  Some preparation will not require much alteration to a person’s daily living while other requirements are both intrusive and disruptive.  This could be telling of how long a surgery is intended to take, whether you will be in and out, or even connected to the expected length of recovery.

Sometimes surgery is inevitable.  And remember, preparation is unavoidable where surgery is inevitable.

In the preparation phase of surgery a person is often asked to refrain from eating so many hours before the surgery.  This is an attempt to allow the process of the surgery and all of the aspects of the procedure to be completed as smoothly as possible.  Similarly, the follower of Christ may enter into a fast, intentionally or unintentionally, before the incisions of the Lord begin.  This is only in preparation for the inevitable because sometimes surgery is inevitable…and preparation is unavoidable where surgery is inevitable.

Preparing for the inevitable.  This is but the first phase in surgery.  There are others…facing the fear of surgery, the table of surgery, the bed of recovery, the seat of recovery, and the path of recovery…and these we too shall consider.

 

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The Tragedy of Favor

The Tragedy of Favor

The favor of God is something that I often hear about from professing believers.   I am especially interested in hearing how believers explain the experiential aspects of the favor of God in their life.  It is often correctly associated with the grace of God, being described by some as “awesome”, as a “special anointing”, or selfishly as “unfair”.  The latter is not to suggest with sarcasm that favor is “fair” but rather to draw out that this phraseology is often associated with favor from the perspective of some personal blessing or season of blessing that one is currently experiencing.

Now I do not intend to delve into a deep theological discussion about favor.  Rather I intend to present a perspective to some that may in hearing the above descriptions of favor become, or have become, discouraged thinking that God does not favor them because they are not experiencing some thing which they are using to compare or measure God — who is not a respecter of person — and His love for them.

I will however make the statement that the above descriptions of favor do not capture a correct understanding.  The favor of God is not manifested in physical “blessings” (an interesting sidebar to consider is that many things people say God blessed them with are the things they refuse to give back to God for His use — they are often things that take them away from God…).  The favor of God is rooted in our position in Christ not just what “we get” out of being in that position.

While we can see the favor of God when we eat everyday, when we have a closet full of clothes, a job, a job that pays us significantly more than we need, a place to sleep, a car, etc., we must ask is this a good biblical understanding of the idea of favor?

I contend that the most favored of God are those that suffer tragedies.  It is in the tragedy that the favored is being prepared for service.  It is in the promised tribulation that the favored of God is recognized not in the abundance of physical blessing.  Consider the Christ who through suffering was glorified by the Father.  Was Mary favored (Luke 1:28-30)?  Was Stephen favored of God (Acts 7:59)?   Was Paul favored (Acts 9:15-17)?

The major problem that we have here is that “favor” has been categorized, in our Western cultured approach to the Scriptures, primarily as visionally prosperous and “favor” as attributed to sufferings as a secondary possibility.  The Scriptures declare the favored of God are hated by the world not rewarded through it (John 16:33).

It is a shame that so many professing believers have turned their back on God because God has not poured out “favor” the way they think He should.  They essentially live in judgement of  the God of their souls — to them He is Unjust and so they will not serve Him until He serves their portion of “favor” to them.  This is the detriment of improperly defining and presenting what the favor of God is.

It is the tragedy that produces the manifestation of favor.  If Moses does not suffer the the tragedy of the desert the favor of God on Israel is not manifested.  If Joseph does not suffer the tragedy of rejection by his brothers which lead to his temporary imprisonment, even being forgotten by one whom he helped out of the very same prison, then the famine of Egypt would claim the lives of two nations, both the future Israel (Jews) and Egypt (Gentiles).

It is tragedy that manifests the favor of God.  If David does not suffer the tragedy of being pursued by Saul, keeping in his mind the necessity to honor the Lord, then there is no covenant made between him and God that would promise the eternal kingship of the Christ.  If the Christ does not endure the tragedy of being beaten and murdered by His creation then there is no Calvary, no relational reconciliation, no eternal life, no hope.

These and many others provide a piece of a historical narrative that is The Tragedy of Favor.

Scriptural Considerations: John 16:25-33; Acts 5:41, 9:15-17, 14:21-23, 20:22-24; Rom. 5:3, 8:17-18; 2 Cor. 1:1-8, 6:4-10; Phil 1:29, 3:10; 2 Thess 1:3-7, 1 Tim 4:10; 2 Tim 3:12; Heb. 5:8, 11:24-26; James 5:10-11; 1 Pet. 5:8-10

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Its not you Its Me

No, It’s not you…It’s me

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine posted on facebook a response to a comment where the person suggested that they were the type to quickly snip people from their life  at certain crossroads.  His response indicated that he was guilty of holding on to people and relationships far past their “expiration date”.  So that started a reflection process for me.

Change is the only constant that we truly experience in our lives.  Change is guaranteed to happen whether we like it or not.  Generally I embrace change.  This is true in almost every area in my life except relationships (I realize that I am probably the only one that is like this).  This has deep roots for me.  It is not with all relationships that I have this struggle but it is for a significant amount relationship types.

My general thought is this: there are some people that I want to do life with.  The key word is bolded.  A more accurate statement is that these are people that have obtained a certain status with me based on history, circumstance, like minded-ness, etc.  The bolded word is simply the indication that I, like most, do not expect that everyone that I am in relationship with will be life long…many will be seasonal.  No, I am not completely crazy…

That being said changes in relationship with seasonal people is always fairly easy.  This is true with considering relationships with organizations.  Our commitment to organizations may be based on several things which may provide a particular perspective to be formed about our relationship with the organization.  This simply means some places we can leave with no problem while other places require more motivation and thought before making changes.

As I reflected on my friend’s statement I saw a major flaw in me.  ( This doesn’t happen often 🙂  At least, I consider it a major flaw.  I, like my friend, held on to relationships beyond the expiration date.  My question to myself was “why”?

The answer was very simple.  As a matter of fact the spirit of the answer was similar to another life motto that governs me “don’t listen to what people say, watch what they do”.    The same is true in relationships.  You are to people who they “say” you are.

My biggest issue is with me.  Not that I didn’t know the above before, because I did.  I recall getting upset with people because they changed how they interacted with me.  I chose to hold on with an expectation and hope that the relationship could be salvaged or restored.  Truth is people have the right and prerogative to change decide how they will relate to me and anybody else…even if I am the perfect friend that you should never want to be without – LOL.

Actually, my disappointment in myself was not any “new” revelation that a person has this right and privilege.  My disappointment was that I seemed to expect those that I have chosen to do life with to define what that looks like the same way that I do.  That is my major flaw (well, one of them:).

Ultimately it doesn’t change me completely but it certainly changes something in me…I am just not sure what that is.  What I do know is that before I give the “life-tag” to anyone I need to make sure we are defining the term “do-life” in the exact same manner.

My commitment to people, organizations, etc. is not rooted in them but rather it is how I am wired.  Being vulnerable is a willing side effect to the desire I carry to build life relationships.  I do not believe that all changes in life change relationships.  I do however, recognize that people change based on their circumstances and that can be a catalyst for changes in relationships.

Well, I have no idea what all this means LOL… I hadn’t written on the blog for a while so maybe I just needed to write something.

I do know this though…  I am retiring the “life” tag for a while on any relationships – Business, Personal, Ministerial, etc.

No, It’s not you…It’s me.

Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

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Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

The chants rang from state to state “Yes We Can!  Yes We Can!”  It was to be one of the most celebrated days and historic moments in a country plagued with the -isms; Racism, Classism, Elitism, Exclusivism, and so many more.  But now there was to be a new day for America.  A new kind of United States.  We would now become a country that finally had a POTUS that could and would speak for the people…or so many thought (me not included).

Yes, it truly was a historic day back in 2008 on the 4th day of November. The Pride of a people that had suffered Prejudice for so long finally had a face that looks like ours, a walk that looks like ours, a struggle that at least sounded vaguely familiar.

Now we would experience the Pride of believing that slogan of victory.  Not a victory that would last for an evening but that would ring as far as the classrooms of the inner cities, where African American children could see that anything is possible; after all everyone needs to see something to believe that it is possible…right?

Well, at least a real life representation of what I can become is better than pipe dreams being sold to me at some MLM meeting where only the people who are at the top make the money…oh wait a minute

Anyway, this was to be the working class’ President.  One where the middle class would finally become the middle class because, as so many said, “he’s got our back.”

It is true that President Barak Obama and his presidency is an inspiration to many — but especially those of us in the African American community.

That is, unless you are an African American Christian that believes in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures.  If you are one of them then you may find yourself in the midst of no small dilemma — considering what has taken place since that historic day (well if your like me there is no dilemma at all but that may just be me).

The dilemma is the Pride you have in the first African American President and the Prejudice we are to have regarding the Word of God.  This is a new Pride and Prejudice.  There is certainly Pride in the history of the events of November 2008 however, we find so many actions and decisions of the President juxtaposed to the commands of God.  That is, a professing Christian President…(Colossians 3:17)

Interestingly there are several congregations of believers whose earthly Pride have essentially allowed them to jettison the words of our Holy and sacred writ to which we Prejudiciously commit our fidelity.  And this they do shamefully tearing down the Glory to remain in allegiance with the Pride of their current existence.

But isn’t it our Prejudice that produces the banner under which we are to walk.  Yes, indeed it is that Prejudice that is foundational to the very salvation through Jesus Christ that speak and model our lives in word and deed.  Not a prejudice towards any people or sect but a Prejudice of allegiance to the supremacy and absolutism of God Most High and His Word respectively.

Unfortunately, the years of suffering under the hands of the -isms has indeed given many in the African American community of Christ followers an attitude that has produced the idea that “we have waited so long for this, I don’t care I am going to enjoy this” or ” ‘they’ did it to us so long, we deserve this…” while neglecting to even acknowledge that “they” will also stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ (Romans 12:19).

Pride and Prejudice…A measure of faith that asks are we first believers (a nation of heirs to life) or African-American (an allied ethnic sect within a fallen nation )?

I indeed pray for MY President and his family, but even more for the church that follows after him often expensing the truth of Him by whom they’ve been redeemed for the sake of yet another -ism — even Ethnocentrism.

 

 

 

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Cultural Christian

Cultural Christian

What does it mean to be a Christian?  There are certainly several opinions of what it means to be a Christian today.  We are most definitely in a Postmodern society and often it appears that the approach to the Scriptures for some has “evolved” into what is more palatable within the constraints of societal popularities.

There is a view that the Postmodern Christian must be able to operate themselves in the context of what is acceptable while keeping their “values”.  A great example of this is the way the media made a mockery of Tim Tebow, essentially to prove that a Christian must “stay in the closet”, but adversely proclaim the heroism of Jason Collins.  Since we are a civil and supremely intellectual society I am sure there was no intended double standard — and everything on the internet is true.

The Cultural Christian is an interesting species.  They reduce the gospel to a message of values and principles.  For the Cultural Christian “judge not lest ye be judged” is the sum of the biblical message which, in the context of modernity, is applied to the disregard for the biblical standard of holy living.

The Cultural Christian strips the truth of the Gospel message in order to be acceptable to those that reject it.  The Cultural Christian embraces the environment often at the expense of the responsibility of being the “salt of the earth”.

It is definitely a strange time that we are living in if you are “Bible Thumper” — essentially that means that you believe in the Holy Writ and the message of Jesus Christ and that you desire, as God does, that none should perish so you tell other people of salvation through Christ Jesus.  We live in a time where we are to accept everything and stand for nothing.  We live in a country where there is free speech with the following disclaimer – as long as you don’t say anything about morality as described in the Scriptures.

Cultural Christianity is practiced by people in every facet of American society.  From the pulpits through the pews… From the outhouse to the White House.  Cultural Christianity holds a doctrine that focuses on following the teachings of Jesus and not Jesus.  It sounds the same but it is vastly different.

In its subtlety following the teaching Jesus is not the same as believing on, trusting in and relying on the finished work of Jesus at Calvary’s Cross ( a fairy tale story for the enlightened ) since does not require a commitment beyond a statement that Jesus had a good message and He is the Lord.  Following the teaching of Jesus does not change the heart of a person, as we can see by the actions of several high ranking officials that claim to be Christian not excluding the commander in chief.

It is however in this modernity that people will quickly attempt to impute Matthew 7:1 because of in retaliation of my previous without considering the basis of the statement — even James 2:14-17.

But I digress… The point is not to solicit opinions but merely to expose this Gnostic sect that call themselves Christians.  Well I am not a Christian if this is the “new normal”!  I declare that I am a Follower of Jesus Christ!

For the cultural christian church is something you  fit into your life, for the follower it, like the Synagogue, is at the center of your life.  More clarification is needed here but we will save that for another time.

Here’s to being a good old fashion sold out believer in the life and timeless work of Jesus Christ for the salvation of those that will submit to His Lordship believing against the practical-ness of life on a Hope that can’t be explained or learned but that must be revealed! (Matt. 16)

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A Traditional Death

A Traditional Death

A couple of weeks ago I had an opportunity to read an article at Christianity.com by a former Professor of mine, Eric C. Redmond, titled “When You Sense Your Church is Dying“.  He also wrote on his blog under the same title where he referenced the article and gave some other comments and indicated that he had recently had an audience of three new believers within the 25 to 35 age bracket.  I do not know if that age bracket was the intended target audience for the article.

As is my experience with the Prof his article was thoughtful and thought provoking.  Ironically, a few days before I read the article I tweeted the following message “I would rather watch a church die from the outside than be apart of its death process“.  After reading the article my position remains unchanged.  That is not because I didn’t think the article had validity.  I know it does and I would encourage many to read and take heed to what is being communicated.

Redmond’s article encourages us to stay in a dying church situation providing us six considerations: 1) review the basics if the gospel 2) look for signs of self-interest 3) be slow depart 4) seek ways to give sacrificially 5) Avoid grumbling at all costs 6) pray for a Spirit-wrought revival.  These 6 things are all important (read the article).  The third is one of the most important in my opinion because I believe that in our culture today we move now and think and consider others later (Eph 5:21).  This way of responding counters much of the gospel message.

While there are several things I thought the article brought out I can’t say that I completely agree with everything that is said, at least without considering other contexts that people may be enduring.  The article seems to assume something about the person that is considering or in the process of leaving a dying ministry.  It assumes that the person is not being led by the Spirit.  Again, this may very well be an intended assumption and I readily admit that some are not but I don’t assume that most are not.

Many local assemblies operate in some form of denominationalism and/or traditionalism.  I attend such a church.  When a church is dying I would suggest that we look at why are they dying.  Why does it seem that so many churches that are preaching the gospel (the sound doctrine of the gospel) are finding themselves dying?  I would contend that many churches that are dying find themselves dying because they are stuck in “doing church our way” and are unwilling to make real significant changes to lovingly engage this dying culture (1 Cor. 5:9-11).  Oddly, this attitude of separatism is centered in today’s culture. (note: separatism should not be understood in the same light as sanctification — that is be separated for holiness unto the Lord for His purpose)

Unfortunately, we ask people to just accept the church as is and we often ridicule believers that want more out of their church experience.  I am the first person that will encourage a person to stay since their Spirit-given gifts can aid in turning around a dying situation.  However, if the board and congregation continue resist using a person then they may need to go where they can exercise their gifts.

The “this is the way we do it here” heart is not a godly heart at all.  Most churches do not even consider that several things that we call tradition are less than 100 years old; certainly less than 200 years old.  What was church like before then?  This also means that someone was a church innovator and took the way “we do church” and showed them  “a better way”.

Were these now traditions based on a response to the culture in which they lived?   It is more than likely.  Have we considered that at one time having an organ in the church was considered demonic?  Today you will be hard pressed to find a worship service without music because the dying churches died.

Should we allow traditionalist to thwart emerging leaders under the guise of “you have to put in your dues”?  The funny thing is the “dues” are rarely, if ever, defined.  They are often an ever moving target that is finalized by the death of the predecessor.  Many churches lack leaders because we resemble the world in our qualifications.

I agree that we should very carefully consider the body of Christ when making a decision like leaving a church.  I also believe that we must carefully evaluate the willingness the leadership and congregational culture if we are considering staying in a dying situation.  An unwillingness to move forward kept Israel living between the Red Sea and the Jordan River.  That is, they were exiled from bondage but unwilling to go into the Promised Land therefore they were living between the rivers (that would preach).

In tradition we find the richness of church history and doctrinal formations and positions. But when tradition becomes the only way we do church because “this is the way we do it here” then we could find ourselves dying a traditional death. When this is the case I would rather watch a church die from the outside than be a part of its death process.

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