Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Old and the New

This morning as I was in a time of prayer I was drawn to Matthew 9:14-17. In this passage we find the disciple of John the Baptist questioning Jesus. Their question was essentially this: “Why don’t you do things the way we do?” Jesus’ response to them is challenging my perspective today. This is what He said. “ No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

The first picture He paints for them is of a piece of old clothing that is ripped or damaged. He tells them that if they try to fix the damage by patching it with something new it will not fix the problem, it will only make it worse. How often do we do this in the church? We notice that our old systems are damaged or less effective than they were 10, 20, 50 years ago and we try to repair them by placing a new “patch” on the old “garment” and the result is often a greater tear in the fabric of that church. A patch has to be comparable to the material that it is patching and you cannot make an old garment new by using a new patch, you can only destroy the old garment. If you want a new garment you start from scratch with fresh material.

The Second image that Jesus gives them is of an old wineskin being filled with new wine and as a result rupturing, both wasting the new wine and destroying the old wineskin. The thing about wineskins is that every old wineskin began as a new one. When it was new it has a certain amount of elasticity, it could stretch. Over time that wineskin would begin to harden, it would loose its ability to flex. The thing that stuck me today as I read this is that Jesus didn’t condemn the rigidity of the old wineskin, He didn’t say that the old wineskin was useless, He just reminded them that you can’t put new wine in it. In fact, He tells them that by putting new wine into new wineskins you save the wine and the wineskin. There are times when The Father desires to do things in a new way, and when those new things begin to happen we, too often, try to contain them inside of the way we have understood old things up to that point. We say things like “How does this fit into what we are doing”. We try to force it into a context that we understand and, as a result, we damage the old wineskins and we see that new wine soaked up in the dirt. When we begin to ask God “How does this fit into what we are doing” We need to be willing to hear Him say “It doesn’t...this will need a new wineskin.” When we are looking at the old things and saying “how can we make them new” We need to be willing to hear Him say...”Start from scratch”

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Solitary Place

Lately I have been surprised by how much “noise” there is in my life. I am not speaking strictly of the auditory types of noise that surround us everywhere we go, though that is a part of it. I am speaking more directly to the fact that, in this age of technology, we are constantly bombarded with information. Most of us have access to unlimited amounts of data anytime day of night. We get our phone calls and emails whenever and wherever we are. We are connected to the world in ways that we never could have imagined twenty years ago. If things get too quiet I open my laptop or look at my iphone. There is a lack of times of inactivity. I fear that in the midst of all these great strides in technology we have forgotten something that is vital to our own humanity. We have forgotten how to unplug. Jesus was great at unplugging when he walk on the earth. I mean look at Mark chapter 1:35: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He (Jesus) went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” This was not an isolated event for Jesus. He regularly slipped away and shut out the “noise” of the world for times of Solitude with the Father. When you look at this in light of the rest of Mark 1 you find that Jesus had been doing a lot of great things for people. Everywhere He went people were looking to Him for something and He was there for them. There were so many voices calling to Him, so many things that were requesting His attention and He slips away to find a solitary place. In the midst of doing so much good He realized that sometimes you have to set aside the busyness for solitude. I love the clarity you see in Jesus when his disciple finally track Him down.
v.36 And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. 37 When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”
When Jesus came away from His time of Solitude with the Father He was able to say “there are many good things that I could do here, but I need to go other places now because that is why I’m here.”
When we disconnect, when we find a Solitary place to be alone with God, we find a renewed clarity about life. We get a fresh reminder of what are we supposed to be doing, where we should be focusing our energy, what is really important right now! When we turn off the “noise” we can clearly hear the Father’s voice. I believe that is why Jesus could make statements like “the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do...” - John5:19

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Subdue it!

Recently I was reminded of these words found in Genesis 1:28 "Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." 
What struck me as I though about it was the word "subdue"  The Hebrew word for subdue used here is Kabash which is a verb meaning to conquer or bring into subjection. The noun form of this word Kabesh can be translated to mean footstool. There is the associated image of a conquerer placing his foot on the neck of one who has been conquered. We see something similar to this in Isa 66:1 where is says "Thus says the LORD:" Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool." (Do you get a sense of God telling Adam something like " May My will be done on the Earth as it is in Heaven"?)

God didn't just create man and then throw him in a garden full of tame things with nothing to do. He created man and then gave him a challenge. He said here is the earth, fill it up and conquer it. Make it your kabesh. God knows the innermost parts of man and He knows that we need a purpose. Man without a purpose becomes bored and destructive, our conquests become carnal and and inhuman. Proverbs 29:18 says "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law." When we walk with God and our vision is revealed by His Spirit our challenges are those given us by God and the result will be His will being established in the Earth. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spiritual Children

In the late 20th century there was a term in many church circles that has faded from most conversations today. The term was "spiritual children". You might hear someone say that Bob was their spiritual father, or this is Julie, she is my spiritual daughter. Often church leaders would encourage people to "go out and make spiritual children". The idea was that you could reproduce yourself in the lives of others and,in some way, impart into them things of significance that God had done or was doing in your own life.
In Jesus' day this act of creating "spiritual children" went by a different name. When Jesus encouraged His friends to make "spiritual children" He said "Go and make disciples".

To me, when I think of making disciples I cannot get away from the idea that the primary model of discipleship in society is the picture of a parent with their child. The child is born, grows, and matures all under the guidance and influence of their parents. That child's parents will mold him and instill principles and morals into him that will forever shape his life and one day that parent will see their child arrive at a place of full maturity and hopefully watch them repeat the process with their own children.The difficult part of parenting is that each child is different. What is effective in training one child may drive another to frustration. What may cause one child to thrive may have the opposite effect on another. Even two children with the same parents, and the same instruction will still, upon adulthood, be two totally different people. As parents we look for ways to train our children to do right and to live lives pleasing to God, and we help them learn to apply those truths in a way that they can appreciate.

Proverbs 22:6 Tells us to "train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he won't depart from it". When we read this verse it is easy to buzz through it and say "If we teach a child right and wrong and to be a good person he will turn out all right in the end." To an extent this is true, but their is more to this than that. It is a parents job to help a child become the best "them" that they can be. A large part of that is helping a child to identify his passions and gifting, and teaching him to engage in those things in a healthy way.

Shouldn't the church be taking the same approach as we make disciples?