Tonight was our church’s annual “Chili cook-off and Dessert auction”. I love this event. Its always fun.

We gather around and sample the chili’s that have been submitted. We laugh, we talk, we tease, we praise. Its a good time.

Then comes the dessert auction. This year we raised $900 on 14 desserts.

The money goes to support our mission trip — this year we’re traveling to Orange, TX, to repair damaged roofs. Orange was hit by hurricane Rita in the summer of 2005. They still have a lot of damage.

I like that we can engage in a fun activity that helps promote work in God’s Kingdom and the Body of Christ. I hope all churches can experience both the love and fellowship we have and the pure joy of service that comes from helping the people who need it most.

Acts 9:1-3 details Paul’s commissioning to persecute Christians. Actually, it says he was given license “so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way,” he could kill them. Notice, these earlier believers “belonged to the Way.”

Acts 11:26 tells us of an important change that took place in Antioch. Here, those who belonged to the Way were dubbed “Christian.” This development is VERY important for a subtle reason.

You ARE a Christian. It is a passive state of being. I have become a Christian, like I have become 37. It happens to you, in spite of you. It involves passive receiving of the Word of God, and not much more.

When you belong to the Way, however, you are in an active state. You are engaged in following the One who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” It happens by overt life changes. It involves active living like the Word of God, actively seeking to please Jesus.

So, are you a passive Christian? Or do you actively belong to the Way?

In the US Army, combat orders are given in a standard format called the OPORD (operational order). The order has 5 “paragraphs” that contain certain information. Paragraph 1 gives details on the current situation (both the good guys and the bad guys). Paragraph 2 tells you your mission. Paragraph 3 explains the way you will execute your mission. Paragraph 4 goes into who will support
you and what they have to offer, and Paragraph 5 explains any special procedures for communication and coordination.

What’s most interesting to me about paragraph 3 is that it always starts out with “Commander’s Intent.” That is, an overview of what is really important to the commander. The purpose of paragraph 3a is so that, should a better solution arise on the fly, you have the opportunity to take advantage of it. If you know what the commander is really after, why he/she is doing things the way they are, then when things go to heck in a hand basket you’ll still have a general idea of how to proceed.

“So what?” you say! Well, without knowing the commander’s intent, its very easy to get off target on your mission. The Bible has a word for being of target. That word is hamartia which is usually translated as “sin.”

To avoid sin, we must know THE Commander’s intent. Our Paragraph 2, as Christians is well known, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV).

Without the intent of God, this mission statement becomes a numbers game. Or worse. Too many “Christians” take this Mission Statement as “take God out to the world.” The problem with this interpretation is that it assumes that God is not already out in the world! It assumes that we are God’s keepers, and that we’ve got to go get the heathens and bring them into the sacred space of the church to meet the Lord.

But Jesus gave us a very clear Commander’s Intent. He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV). We are to share God in love, not power (that’s God’s part). We are to love people to Christ, not to fill seats!

The difference is attitude. If we remember the Commander’s Intent, then we don’t preach at people from a “superior” position. If we don’t assume that we are “taking God to them,” but rather that they already know God, they just don’t realize it, then we approach them differently. If I alone know God, nothing you say matters, it’s deception anyway, so I’ve got to ram God down your throat and tell you how you’re definitely going to Hell unless you listen to me. (Not very attractive, is it?)

BUT, if I assume that you know God, you just aren’t aware of it, I dialog with you. I listen to what you have to say, looking for those clear God experiences, so that I can show you the God you’ve always known. I help you to see, in cooperation with you, not in spite of you.

If I love you, I’ll listen to you. If I listen to you, I’ll hear how God is around, in, and involved with you. That builds not only your faith, but mine. Are you listening? I am (now!).

Colossians 3, in The Message Remix 2.0, it says this:

12-14So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Too often, IMO, we choose other designers for our wardrobe. Tall Skinny Kiwi even confessed (in a brilliant piece) that sometimes he dresses like a pagan. Sometimes, the devil is really in Prada! When we let Calvin Klein, Polo, Izod, Guess, etc. be our primary wardrobers, we often find that we are not dressed in compassion, kindness,
humility, quiet strength and discipline. Sometimes, yes, but not quite as often as we like to think.

In this God focused life, we don’t care so much what we wear, but how we wear it. That is, we don’t seek to impress, but to serve. Jesus, if you will recall, dressed to serve. He even told us, The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest
among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”

That’s the backwards ways of the Kingdom of God. The first are last, the greatest are the servants. It sounds absurd until you try to live it — then you truly find that the greatest fulfillment comes from emptying yourself. The greatest joy for yourself comes from seeking joy for others, and not for yourself. The greatest love truly is laying your life down for others.

So today, I’m going to make sure I put on my best clothes. I’ve got my compassion shirt, my kindness hat, my humility pants, my shoes of quiet strength and my belt of discipline. I’m going to put my coat of love on over it, and I’m going to get dirty. I’m going to serve people today. Not for myself or my joy, but for God. Today, I will live my life for my Creator. How about you?

I’m still working my way through Colossians, and today I read the 2nd chapter in The Message Remix 2.0. In verses 8-10 it reads:

Colossians 2:8-10 (The Message)

8-10

Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness
of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

Wow! I love that! “You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ.” Sometimes, I think we’re all like this guy:



Urban Cowboy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

We’re looking for love in all the wrong places. Jesus isn’t hiding from us, whether you believe it or not, most often its us who are the ones hiding. Even back in Eden, God wasn’t the one in the fig bush.

Over at Jesus Creed there is a post about Trumanistic Christianity. The Philosophical Pastor retorts with a wonderful metaphor here. I think they are both hitting on a pulse in North America –we-re becoming theological ostriches! We’ve got our heads so far buried into our doctrinal bubbles that we’re missing Jesus! He’s everywhere there
is need. You don’t need to look far off to find Him! He’s just around the corner!

We spend so much time wrangling over what is and what is not “essential” to our Christian faith that we don’t see Jesus standing just beside us. We put the Bible under a microscope trying to find the Man at our shoulder! We’ve got to get our heads up and see Jesus!

I’m discovering that Paul’s admonition — “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” — applies to Christian theologians, too. I’m discovering that when someone has to really try hard to emphasize their point, when they go to great lengths to show that their view is the most “logical” interpretation of the Scriptures, they are often (even though usually
unaware of it) trying to take you captive.

The Bible needs to be read and studied. The Bible needs to be interpreted for our day and place. But if the interpretation is convoluted, or a logical equivalent to a dominoes puzzle, beware! Jesus not only SHOULDN’T be that hard to find, He AIN’T that hard to find.

Look around, you’ll find Him near you, by your side. You don’t need fancy tools or philosophy. You just need to want to see Him.

TallSkinnyKiwi posted this link, worth considering. The call is to “Take The Pantry Challenge”.

In this world where waste is common, and in North America where our poor would be upper-middle class by most of the world’s standards, maybe this is a way for us to reach out by first reaching in. To see what its like to live only on food that is in your pantry you get an idea of just how hard it is when you have little/no choice in what you will eat. Secondly, you get to see just how well off you really are.

The money you would normally have spent on filling your own pie-hole could be spent helping out those in need. What a great idea. Give up some of our abundance to alieviate someone else’s poverty. I point you to here and here for
proof that this is not a new idea.

Maybe they’ll know that you’re doing this for Jesus. Maybe, you’ll meet Jesus while your doing this. Just a thought.

After my morning work-out (its still January, too early to quit on my resolution!), I read Colossians 1 in The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language, I was struck by its take on verses 9-12. They read:

9-12Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not
the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

Too often, in my obviously correct opinion :-), we get this picture of Christian endurance:

Grim determination!

When, if the Message translation is correct, we should thing of this:

Joyful endurance!

Ours is not a weight to bear, but a joy to serve. We don’t lift these weights alone, but with Christ, who strengthens us– allowing us to move mountains and endure ALL things! Ours is a joyful lifting, because God gives us a supernatural strength– when we let Him.

And that, in part, is what it means to love God. It means allowing Him to help. It means humbling ourselves and saying, “I can’t, but God can.” It means letting Him into areas of our lives that we normally keep Him out of. It means allowing His strength to be our strength, and our strength to be dedicated to serving Him.

So let’s lift joyfully! Let’s NOT grit our teeth but let’s laugh and say, with joy, “not my will, but Yours be done!” That, today, is my prayer for all of us.