Thursday, September 25, 2014

Taking on the form of a servant

I have found that at different times in my life I have picked different people to emulate. There was something about each of them that I liked and I wanted to “take on their form”. For example, I love singer/song writer John Mayer and his way of talking about life in his lyrics. He speaks of having a quarter-life crisis (as opposed to a mid-life crisis), understanding the heart of life, of how fear is misunderstood, of stopping this train of life, and having to grow up. Because of my passion for life and relationships, I want to articulate words in that unique and special way too. Sure Mayer’s character has boldly shown his flaws like his lyrics boldly speak of life. But I wanted to “take on his form” of communication. At other times I wanted to “take on the form” of those that were athletically driven, those that were health conscience or financially wise, and the list could go on. These may all sound like models, and they are, but “taking on their form” is important for our discussion this week.
A form is the shape or configuration of something. Configured is usually a term we use for cars, video games, or our computer, but configuring ourselves means thinking through the things that define us and how we are made. This is why when we look at different “forms” of people we have a tendency to draw conclusions of what we like or don’t like about them. Since each of us have different interests, different forms are found in many different facets of life. That’s why when we talk about Jesus emptying himself and taking on the form of a servant, it is a challenging concept. It is challenging because most forms, models, or configurations are upgrades, but in this case, it seems to be more of a downgrade.
One of the greatest debates on the Philippians 2 passage for this week has been around the Greek word for “empty”. Some have questioned whether the section of verse 7 that says “…but emptied himself…” means that Jesus gave up His deity or lost His nature of God. Theologically, we know this is not correct. There are so many ways Jesus shows us He is still God while He was on earth, but this does bring up an important point in understanding this passage. He had to empty himself. He had to humble himself, to take on the human nature and the form of a servant. He came down, giving up His high status, to be in the form of a humble servant. These are powerful lines as we compare it to our nature and drive. Jesus’ form of a servant means a rescuing power for us. We are no longer bonded to our selfish nature to make ourselves better. We now can take on the form of becoming a servant to others. This weekend we’ll spend time talking about how that change in form, or change in configuration, takes place.  Jesus’ powerful work is now alive in us and His emptying is the filling that we needed.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Waging War

In college when I went back to work at Petco, it was easy to pass judgment (like we talked about last week). I had made the choice to work, but I realized that many of my co-workers didn’t have that choice. They had to work. Also, I had more education than most of them, and often worked harder. I was even commended for the way I turned the cans to show the label. All these things, and more, could have supported the thought that I deserved to be paid more than most of them.

In California on the way down to Laguna Beach, Mindy and I would see workers waiting at a certain spot to get picked up for work. Trucks would stop, pick up the number of workers they needed for the day, and head off to their job site. I am pretty sure none of them cared what the others got paid; they all just wanted to work. They were desperate to feed their families and to take care of their needs. When you are desperate you have less time to worry about what others are getting. They were all in the same boat and on an even playing field.

I think this is one of the most powerful pieces of the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard from Matthew 20. The disciples were asking Jesus about order and who gets what when Jesus tells this parable. I think they knew this concept – most people needing work are not worried about what others are getting paid, especially when they are desperate.  All you want is your need to be filled.

If you look far enough back in my Facebook pictures you will find me handing Bibles out to kids in Belize. I remember how desperate they were to hear the Gospel. They loved the knowledge of Jesus. They loved it because most of their worlds were full of parents who were promiscuous and often had little time for their kids. The parents often turned to substances to escape their life. Sadly, if you went just down from the village you would find beautiful condos built for tourists who certainly couldn’t understand that desperation.
The thing about sin is that we are all desperate.  When we finally come under the covering of God’s grace, it is a relief – a need fulfilled. Jesus needed to get His disciples back to that desperation. He needed to remind them of where they were when they started. He needed them to stop waging war about titles or wages, and move into the place of grace. This weekend I pray we all move into that place of grace.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Passing Judgment

Every day our world gets better and better at passing judgment. This week was a week when most football fans rejoiced that the NFL is back in full swing.  Yet it was also a week where a star player was faced with public ridicule. Of course the crime was horrible. It was painful to see the abuse Ray Rice’s fiancé suffered.  The interesting part was listening to the sports writers and regular news people talk about who is to blame. Some have asked the NFL commissioner to step down. I even heard it said that ESPN is to blame because it is like a gossip magazine for guys. Men get sucked into the drama and can’t wait to see what happens next. I have to admit I fall into this category as I watch the sports news. Right now the world waits to see what judgment is passed and to hear the reactions.
This happens every day of our life – people passing judgment on others. The truth is, most of us worry about it even when nobody is talking. We worry what others will think. How will that judgment affect my life? Ray Rice thought his judgment was already passed until the rest of his video came out. The reality is, if people had video of the ins and outs of our lives the headlines and news stories would not be so good either. They might not be as tragic as the Ray Rice video, but it would certainly show our struggles and sins.
In his wisdom, Paul begins to teach us about this in Romans. He helps people understand the judgment we pass and how often we find ourselves talking about others. Paul helps us see areas we need to work on and how we need to stay focused on our relationship with Jesus.
Here is the great thing. After seeing the video of our lives, Jesus could have come in and passed judgment. Instead, He passed on passing judgment and took our judgment on Himself for us. Amazing how a world caught up in this passing judgment thing is missing the solution! This weekend we focus on how God’s passing judgment is just what we need.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Trusting Leadership

There is nothing that brings the Hulk rage out in me more than one of my kids asking me why they have to do something. Now, I am not talking about why we put gas in the car, but things like why we have to brush our teeth. The problem is that most of the time this question is not posed in a delightful and loving way. It is posed with a deep disdain for what they are doing. It doesn’t matter whether it is my two-year-old or my six-year-old, this question comes across in a challenging manner for me. I want to look them in the eye and tell them because I know what is best.
It is funny how this happens between parents and kids, yet eventually kids see the wisdom of their parents. This was one of the funniest parts of watching high school kids go to college and come back. They had a new perspective on their parents’ leadership in their lives. Sure, there are certain situations where parents are not guiding their kids in good ways, but often that leads to less complaining by the kids and quicker results with their issues. This does not only happen in the parent and kid relationship, but in every aspect of leadership. They say leadership is lonely because so often as a leader you are making decisions that others don’t understand. And most often like parents, you are making decisions based upon what is best for the group as a whole.

I love the scene from Bruce Almighty where Bruce gets to be God and answer all the prayer requests. He firsts starts by answering them all yes. Conflicts arise when everybody starts winning the lottery and their other desires are granted. This is exactly why Paul would spend time writing a passage like Romans 13:1-10. Our world is quick to question leadership. He knew as humans we are constantly like my kids asking why. Sometimes the why is cleared up, but there remains struggles with the leadership. As Christians we trust that God has put those people in place, and while we know they are sinners and will make mistakes, we trust God has ultimate power. There will still be days and issues where we will want to shake people with that Hulk rage, including our leadership, but we get to set the example to trust God and the leadership.