The Individual Gospel

Searching over the commands of Jesus, I find they are made mostly to the individual. He was not concerned about a community, it was all about a one on one relationship with God.

It is completely within God’s power to visit the sick, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. He has armies of angels and He owns the “cattle on a thousand hills.” So why is the command to do these things given to the individual human, to me? Because His commandment is not so that people will be visited, fed and clothed, but that I will do it, and in so doing, I am changed (just as I am changed by prayer). They, too, will be changed, by receiving the love of God. However, that is not the significant part, angels could also show God’s love. Yet He chooses me, the individual, to accomplish His noble calling.

God certainly speaks through circumstances and other people, but decisions should not be based on what “they” are doing. There is no such thing as a “social gospel.” I ought to respond to the will of God in my life. That will motivate me to reach out to others, but not because they need it, because the love of God and His Spirit compel me to do it. Serving God does not mean finding like minded people, it means serving God. Most often that will be with like minded people, but they are not my motivation.

I cannot view the world as the world views itself. I cannot make judgments based on worldly wisdom. I must follow Christ’s example and God’s will for my life. I am only (yet ultimately) responsible for myself.

I put this in the Politics category because it has a lot of obvious political implications.  I know this sort of thinking will upset a lot of people, so all the more reason to put it there.

The Kenoō of Greatness

The church we attend teaches exegetically. Yesterday, we happened to be in Philippians 2 (especially note v. 5-8).

I guess it comes as no coincidence that later in the day I was contemplating what makes a man great. My mind wandered through all the history I have read and learned. So, without any prejudice from me, pause for a moment, and think of some yourself. What makes them great?

I think we have a very distorted sense of greatness. We inflate the actions of men and their results to be a substitute for true greatness. Of course it all comes down to just how do you define greatness.

Jesus (who I will use as good source for definitions 😉 ) put it this way “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12

I must be emptied of self before I can ever be great. And my model is Jesus.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Kenoō is the word Paul uses there to signify the emptying that He had to do, cramming the essence of God into a slave who willing died a torturous death.

Great men are not ones who use their will to bend others and shape the world around them. Great men are those who can abandon their own will to become tools to be used by God for His purpose. That may not be how everyone else measures greatness, but then, does that really matter?

Boot Camp

Last week as I was talking to a friend who questioned the wisdom of our choosing to serve God in Africa. He acknowledged that he did not have any personal insight into our call, but he did not think it was the wisest thing to do.

This friend served in Vietnam as a member of UDT. I had the pleasure of hearing much of his life story. It would make a very interesting book, he even served as a SEAL once they had been created. He talked about his troubled youth, entering Navy service and going to boot camp. I asked how that went and he said, “Fine. I knew how to keep my mouth shut and do what I was told.” To which I replied, “Well, you know, that is the whole point of boot camp, to teach people how to shut up and obey orders.”

I then realized that he could easily understand why we were going to Africa. We are obeying orders. The “why” decisions are often “above our pay grade.”

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing. Philippians 2:12-14

When you know what you are supposed to do, shut your mouth and obey.

The Will of God

A long time ago I wrote a post titled “The Voice of God.” I think that goes a long way to describe my understanding of how God interacts with us. I wanted to take it a bit further. I also wrote that what the will of God is would make a good post. Here it is.

What is the will of God? How does one figure it out? I think we can look at this two different ways. First, there is the general will of God. What God wants from us all. I think that is outlined very well in scripture. There are many scriptures that deal with this, in fact, the whole of the Law outlines the will of God for His people. Paul tells us in his first letter to the Thessalonians, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” and also “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” There are many other examples, and I do not think there is a lot of disagreement about this.

It becomes a more difficult subject when you ask the specific question, “What is God’s will in my life, right now?” In order to understand that, you need get to know God on a personal level. It works much like any relationship. However, the best example is the most intimate, a marriage. It is no accident that our relationship to Christ is described this way.

When you first meet someone, there are some things you can just know. People like certain things, they like to be told you care about them, they like to be served. God, too can be known this way. You can know scripture, you start with the general will I mentioned above. Beyond that, you have to start out asking all the time. My wife still hears the question “What do you want?” more often than she likes. However, in time you learn certain things. Something happened, so she would really like it if I took the kids today, or if I offered to get dinner. You learn what they want.

How do you learn? Spend time with the person, listen, observe. Try something out, you may get corrected, but then learn that for the next time. Learn to react without having to ask all the time. You also have to learn someone’s voice, their tone and choice of words. You know how you can say, “That sounds like Bob,” or “That really doesn’t sound like something Frank would say.” Learn the voice of God. He uses different ways to speak to us, learn them. Sometimes it is through someone else. Sometimes you will have a thought you know is not from you (by the way, if you want to do it, it is probably not God).

Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2 that they way to learn God’s will is to first become a living sacrifice, give it all up. Then, do not be like everyone around you, renew your mind. Listen, observe, learn. He loves us beyond all measure, what He wants is best. Let us live in His best.

Morning Star Children’s Home

One of the things I really want to do while I am in Nairobi is to improve the conditions for the kids at Morning Star. It is a children’s home that is being run by a Pastor that I know well. They currently have 30 kids in a very small facility, and are working on building a better home outside the city a little. You can track the progress of it at a website I have just started to set up for them.