Fully Human and Fully God

One of the things I love so much about Jesus is His humanity. Jesus is God the Bible does not leave room for any other option (see here) but He is also human. One of my favorite theological terms is the hypostatic union of Christ. It a really fancy term but it just means that Jesus is fully God and fully man and these two natures do not diminish each other. Really cool right? Sometimes I am so in awe of Jesus as God that I forget about some of the important human features of Jesus.

When we ask the question WWJD (what would Jesus do) we sometimes think about how He would trust God and have hope or something else. These are true statements but there is also so much more that Jesus would do and in fact so much more that Jesus did do. Hebrews 4:15 says that we have a high priest (Jesus) who can empathize with our weaknesses. He can understand our humanity. He knows the human condition because He while being fully God is also fully human.

This sounds comforting and it should but for it to be truly meaningful we need to look at Jesus’ life to see how He expressed His humanity. Warning this is not for the faint of heart because for some it might shatter your expectations and show you a whole new Jesus, but that’s OK because we are always seeing Him in a new and more glorious light. We move from glory to glory and faith to faith. We need to always study Christ and when we do, we see more of Him that we did before. So, what would Jesus do, and what did He do?

He called His friends dull and foolish. In Matthew 15:16 Jesus tells the disciples a parable and they just are not getting it. Jesus asks Peter if he is still dull. The Greek for the word there is asynetos and can mean without understanding, foolish, and stupid. Jesus was asking Peter how he could still not get it.

Jesus would flip tables and get mad at people who were stopping others from coming to the Father and I think we all know that story.

He asked the Father for another way. In the garden we see Jesus praying, sweating blood, and asking the Father if there was another way to do this. In the end, He accepted the Father’s will but still, there was a moment when His humanity wanted to know if there was another option. He was honest with the Father about His feelings. He chose obedience but He was still honest with the Father about His emotions.

He did His job. This should probably go before the last one, but Jesus did His job. He knew what was coming and in Luke 9:51 it says He set His face towards Jerusalem. Again, here we see Jesus choosing to make the choice to do His job.

He wept with those who were weeping. Every child’s favorite verse to memorize is John 11:35 “Jesus wept” but this is a huge statement. We do not need to get into why Jesus was weeping right now but what we can see is that He wept. I think it was Charles Spurgeon who said, “a God who never wept could never wipe away my tears.” Jesus can comfort us in times of crisis and pain because He felt crisis and pain. Jesus knows what it means to cry. He knows what sadness feels like. He knows what it is to be broken-hearted. He understands. That is huge, and it gives me great comfort.

He knows what it feels like to be alone. I could talk about the disciples fleeing but instead, I would say look to the cross. In Matt 27:46 Jesus does not say “My God my God why have you forsaken me” He cries out in a loud voice. Those are two very different things. I cannot even express how important that is. Jesus in the middle of His pain and suffering cries out God, where are you? He is feeling alone, and, in His pain, He yells out. This is huge and should give all of us comfort and hope. I don’t care how big you are, how tough you are, or what a fake face you can make, at times we all feel alone and confused. Jesus says Yes, I get it! He knows that feeling and when you feel that He is right there with you saying it’s OK to let it out.

We could go on, but the point is that Jesus expressed the full range of human emotions. He gets it. He understands. He empathizes with us. Because of this, there is nothing you cannot take to Christ and have Him help you with. He is fully human, so He gets it, but He is also fully God, so He is present with you. He is able to understand and be there.

Back to the question. What would Jesus do? He would be honest about how He is feeling. He would be straight with the Father and say I am scared, I am hurt, I am feeling alone, I feel abandoned, I would prefer another way. Whatever it is He would be honest about how He is feeling. That is the Savior we have. We have a Savior who can completely understand what we are dealing with. We have a God who can relate to us because we could never relate to Him. We have a Comforter.

The world is crazy, and people will hurt you. Dreams and people will die but Christ gets it. He knows what you are feeling so do not go to Him, run to Him. Do not say God where are you, let it out and cry out God I need you!

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Dreams and Service

What do we do when we are faced with opposition to the dream God has placed in us? We have a lot of options but not all of them are right. Today I want to take a quick look at Joseph because Joseph had a dream. In Genesis 37 Joseph has two dreams and while we can debate on whether he communicated those dreams to his family properly the point stands God gave Joseph a dream. God gave Joseph a dream and he was excited for the dream God gave him. The dream, in essence, was that he was going to be over his family. He had no idea how this was going to come about and I can only imagine that in his foolish youthful mind he wanted to see his brothers literally bowing down before him. He was one of the youngest, so it is not like he had the opportunity to lead the family.

Joseph has this dream in him but how will it play out? How will God fulfill it? When will he see it come to fruition? Will he reign in the land he is in? Where will it happen? Will he know it is starting to come to pass? These are only some of the questions I imagine young Joseph thought about. But none of those thoughts matter because Joseph is thrown into a well and then sold into slavery. From there he is brought to Egypt and sold again. Joseph at this point has this dream but now he is a slave. A slave in a new land. So, what does Joseph do when he is faced with opposition to the dream God gave him? He sees an opportunity to serve and honor God.

That went well for a while but then Joseph is framed for rape and thrown into prison. His situation goes from bad to worse so what does Joseph do when he is faced with opposition to the dream God gave him? He sees an opportunity to serve and honor God. While in prison he is able to interpret dreams for two other prisoners. He asks the cupbearer to not forget him but as you can imagine he is forgotten. Two whole years pass, and Joseph is still in prison. How many times have you and I felt like our dreams are in prison?

Joseph finally gets the opportunity to stand before Pharaoh and interpret his dreams. Finally, he is put into a position of authority. After years of suffering, he is put in the place where the dream God gave him can come out but now, he is different. Not only is it time for the dream to come out but Joseph is not the man who he needed to be for the dream to come out. In the waiting, in the difficulty, Joseph always chose to see an opportunity to serve and honor God while waiting.

So, my question is this, has God given you a dream? Has God places something inside of you? Has God given you a calling? I know God has placed something in me. God has given me a dream to tell everyone about who He is and how wonderful this God I love and serve is. I want to see the whole world fall in love with my God. I want people who are hurting, lost, broken, and confused to see that God is there for them. That they can have a relationship with the one who holds the universe. How will that play out? I have no real idea. I have some ideas and I can see doors God has opened but the situation in the world confuses me right now, but I hold on to the dream of telling everyone about this amazing God I love and serve. That is the dream.

I want to challenge us today, you and me to see the opportunity to serve and honor God in the midst of challenges to the dream. To choose to believe that God sees the end and whatever situation we find ourselves in today that we have the opportunity to choose to serve and honor God. I want to challenge us, you and me, to see adversity not as something that stands in opposition to the dream God has placed in us but as an opportunity to serve and honor God. I find it amazing that Joseph is not living out his dream. He is a slave and a prisoner but during that time he is helping others understand their dreams. His dream is deferred but that does not stop him from helping others understand their dreams. He became so focused on serving and honoring God that he forgot about his dream as we will see later.

Maybe the opposition we see is not opposition but an opportunity that forms us into the people we need to be in order to allow the dream to come to pass. Maybe the delays are not delaying but opportunities for growth. How we respond could very well determine how many more so-called delays we have. Do we respond with service and honor to God or something else? I am sure Joseph cried at times, maybe when he was in that well, or in prison but in the end, he chose to see an opportunity to serve and honor God. What about you, what about me?

I think a big part of the key for the dream to come about was timing. Yes, there is the obvious part that the famine needed to come on the land but there is also the timing for Joseph to be ready. In Genesis 42:9 it says that when Joseph saw his brothers, he remembered his dream. He was just doing what he needed to do. He was honoring and serving God in the midst of his situation and he finally became the man that he needed to be for his dream to come about.

Today, let us choose to honor and serve God so we can become the people we need to be to have the dream come about. Let us be so fixated on Christ that we see nothing else but Him and His ways. Let us become the people we need to be.

Just a thought,

Mike

Praying to the God who sees

There is so much craziness going on right now. We can look around and see panic, fear, and uncertainty. If you watch the news for a few minutes and you would not be faulted for feeling like the world is a scary place. Not only this but if you wait just a few minutes it can look even scarier. So, what do we do with this? How do we combat the panic, fear, and uncertainty? What can we do in the face of all we see around us?

There are of course many things we can do but only a few are worthwhile. We can respond in fear. That is a natural response. We can see the chaos and turn inward in fear and let the uncertainty make us feel helpless. We can withdraw and let the fear dictate our response. This is not a good response. Fear will make us do all sorts of crazy things. We can let that fear grow and start to see new scary things. When we do this, everything becomes scary. We can give in to the fear and start to be overly concerned with ourselves. We can start to hoard things and feel like we have to make sure we have enough even if this comes at the expense of others who are in need. We can start to think only about ourselves and our needs forgetting that there are some who have nothing. Those who have little or nothing are especially vulnerable in times of crisis because they do not have the means to turn inward. These are things we can but should not do.

Then there are things that we can and should do when we see the chaos and uncertainty. We can reach out to those in need and provide comfort, hope, and support. We can see the chaos and choose to love. This can look like a lot of different things and yes there may need to be cautious but we can still choose to love and provide hope for the hopeless. But there is also something else we can do. We can pray.

Christians talk a lot about prayer, but I am afraid, and I speak from experience, that we do not always pray as we ought to. I would like to propose that because we can see everything going on, we take the time to pray.

In Genesis 16:13 we get the story of Hagar after she runs away. I have read this story many times and it always gets stuck in my head. There are a few reasons for this, but one is that Hagar names God. This is the only time in the Bible that a human names God and it is a pretty big deal. In the Bible, God gives many names for Himself. He self-identifies in all sorts of ways but here Hagar names God the God who sees or El-Roi. She makes this great declaration that He is the God who sees her and that she sees the one who sees her. It is just beautiful.

We can look around at the world and see the panic, fear, and uncertainty and start to worry and become fearful, but we must be like Hagar and remember that God sees too. God sees the world and everything going on and He does not see if from a distance. He sees and cares, but He also wants us to see Him and that is where prayer comes in.

When we pray, we put our eyes on God and focus our attention on Him. We take our eyes off the chaos and fix them on Christ our King. We take the worry and give it to Him. We take fear by the collar and drag it before the King. We take panic and submit it before God in submission. We pray because God sees, and we need to see the one who sees.

If you are on some form of social media, you are aware there is also some new challenge or another going on so here is one; a prayer challenge. I want to challenge you to pray for an hour. Why an hour because it will take work, sacrifice and it will restructure your thinking. I know what you are thinking, and an hour is a long time. Yes, yes, it is. Thankfully there are some great tools to help. One we use and I just finished doing is the prayer wheel or prayer cycle.

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It is pretty simple and straight forward. You set a timer for 5 minutes and pray through 12 different steps. After the 5 minutes of 12 steps, you have prayed for an hour. I have an image below but also a quick breakdown with some thoughts.

  • Praise – Praise God for who He is and what He has done.
  • Waiting – this one can be hard for some people. I like getting on my knees but do what you need. Sometimes I lay down. Just wait on God.
  • Confession – this is not just confessing any sins you might need to but confessing who God is. Paul says that we confess that Jesus is Lord (10:9). Confess sins if need be but also confess faith.
  • Read the Word – pretty simple and straight forward. For 5 minutes read your Bible. I recommend out loud. I also caution against reading off your phone as there can be distractions.
  • Petition – this is asking God for what you need. Be honest and bring things before the King who sees you!
  • Intersession – this is praying for others. You will run out of time before you run out of people and things to pray on behalf of.
  • Pray the Word – this is finding prayers in the Bible to pray. I like Psalms because it is a prayer book. Pick a Psalm and then read it like a prayer. Psalm 23 is a good one but so is Psalm 31. If you finish before the end of time keeps praying the Psalms.
  • Thanksgiving – do we have any shortage of things to be thankful for? Thank God for all that He has done, is doing, and will do.
  • Singing – just praises for 5 minutes. I use music but whatever works for you.
  • Mediate – think about the things you have read and who God is. Think about Him and who He is. Paul tells us to meditate on the good things of God. Mediate means to think deeply on.
  • Listen – this is like waiting. You are expecting God to speak. Maybe He does or maybe He does not but how will you know if you are not listening?
  • Praise – we end where we started because God is worthy of praise! Praise God for His goodness, power, love, and so on. Give God the praise He rightfully deserves.

That is it, if you do that then you will have prayed for an hour. You can do a lot of things in an hour but are they all worth doing? I would challenge you to do it today. Take the time today to spend an hour in prayer. Take your eyes off the things in this world for just an hour and see the God who sees you. If for some reason cannot pray for an hour today, then do it tomorrow. Do not wait, do not think you will make time later. Be so determined to pray for an hour and turn your gaze to God that nothing will stop you or hinder you. Be so determined to seek God that you are willing to wake up an hour earlier if you need, whatever you need to do then do it. I beg you to turn your eyes to God and see the God who sees.

What is Partnership?

Sometimes I think it is important to clarify terms because words find their meaning in context. We can say words have concrete definitions but that is only because we have agreed that specific sounds in specific contexts mean certain things. If you have studied communication, then you know this goes even deeper. Generally, we agree on the definitions, but we do allow for a certain amount variation as long as it is not too different. For example, when I say black, I might include a range of dark blue and purple colors because they are all dark. You might have a better understanding of color and give each a different name. We can discuss the differences but, in most cases, it will not make a huge difference. Sometimes however the slight differences we give to words make an important difference. Today I thought I would define some words as I use them because I use them a lot in the context of missions and other ministry work. The word I want to look at today is partnership because a lot is going on in those three syllables.

What is great about this word is that whether you use the biblical word (koinōne) or you look at the standard English meaning you can still roughly get the same idea. The biblical meaning of this word just carries additional meaning and fills in some gaps. In general, the word means two or more people engaged in the same activity. That is pretty good. If you think of a team you need all the players working together to reach the desired goal of winning. That is not bad. So, if we decided to define the word this way then when I ask you to partner with us you can think “OK we want the same thing.” The problem is you can be partners to work towards the same goal without intimacy. I can play on the same team as someone and not like them. You can work with me but you might have a sub agenda and I might not be working towards that agenda. We can work together and not be together.

Koinōne comes to the rescue and fills in the gaps. This word means partnership but adds intimacy. It means we are not only working together towards the same goal but for the same reasons and we care for each other. This word gives additional responsibilities to each person on the team saying they need to look out for one another. They need to have the interest of the other as their own and that is what I mean when I say partnership. I am asking you to join with us for the same goal, with the same motives, and have my back. In turn, I am promising to have yours. I am saying that I want to work with you towards your goal and I care for you. It is not a light thing to join in partnership or koinōne with someone. This, by the way, is why the Bible talks about not partnering with sinful things. But that’s another story.

So, what makes up a team with this understanding? If we have defined partnership as working together towards the same goal, with the same motives, and having each other’s interest at heart, then who does what on a team? Well in missions and ministry there generally two roles: goers and senders. Each one has a different job, but both are vital and important.

Before we look at goers and senders let us first clarify one more thing. Prayer is the one thing that we all do on the team. I pray for you and you pray for me. I love prayer and believe it to be vital to life. It is life and breath, food and drink, comfort and request. Prayer is the beginning, middle, and end of everything we do. I will sprinkle that idea through the rest of this because it is that important.

Ok, on to the goers. That is us. We are going somewhere to do something. This is exciting and great and terrifying and a host of other things. It means giving up everything we know and moving to something we do not. It is exciting but it is also a loss of so many things. A loss of comfort and meeting with friends. A loss of knowing how to do even the most basic of things that we instinctively know how to do like who to acknowledge in public and who to avoid eye contact with. Going means leaving and leaving means loss but also means learning and sharing.

As we go into a new thing, we get the opportunity to tell people about Jesus. We get to bring light into darkness and hope into hopelessness. We get to bring truth. It is an honor and a privilege and a command. It is worth the loss because of what we are doing. In this one thing that we do is pray and we pray a lot. But we do not just pray for the things we are doing or the people we are interreacting with we pray for you, our friends and family. Your churches, your children, your small groups, your jobs, all of it. We do this for two reasons. First, because you are worth it. We want you to be blessed and walk into all that God has for you. Second, because it keeps us connected to you and ensures we have your best interest at heart. We as goers do not just go, we pray for those who send.

Senders are such an important part of the team. If we did not have senders, we would not have much of the New Testament. The letter to the Philippians is Paul writing to a group of people who sent him out to plant more churches. The letter is Paul giving them an update and talking to his friends. It is like a newsletter. In Philippians 4:15 Paul writes to his friends who sent him.

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only

Paul is acknowledging the partnership and at the beginning of the letter, he tells them that he prays for them often and tells them what he is praying. This, by the way, is why I text people that I am praying for them. I think it is so amazing when we pray for each other and then let the other person know. It does something to you and breathes life into your day. It tells you in an instant that you are important to someone and they have your back.

So just like the goers, senders pray. When we say we want you to be praying or us it is not a plow or a subtle plea to then ask for money. No, we want and need prayer. I am not subtle about asking for finances.

We need finances to go. There are no two ways about it. Money is required in ministry because while God owns the cattle on a thousand hills a lot of that cattle is under someone else’s care. Money is not a dirty word or a wicked thing. It is a tool that is to be used. Enjoy it, spend it, buy stuff, but also use it for greater things. There is something amazing that happens to your prayers when you are financially tied to the mission. You are now connected to it in a new and deep way. It moves from being something someone else is doing to something you are doing as well.

Some will say, I can only pray. First, let me say there is nothing only about prayer. I think by now you know I think prayer is powerful and important. Second, that is OK because we need people praying. If you want, I can add you to Julie’s prayer emails. She sends out emails more often than the newsletter and gives more specifics about things we are praying for. We want to be praying for you too so let us know. Prayer partners are partners and important ones.

Others can partner financially in addition to praying, and this is needed. We have people we partner with financially and it has made a huge difference in the way we pray for them and the way we pray in general. It takes that prayer to another level because you are literally invested into it. You are tied to it differently. You rejoice differently and you mourn differently. When we give to something with our finances, we want to see it happen, so we talk about it more, we give to it more, we pray more, and when it happens, we are so excited.

So that is what I mean when I say partnership. It is not just working towards the same goal, I am asking you to join with us for the same goal, with the same motives, to have my back, and to know that I have yours.

So am asking you for money? Yes. No two ways around it. But more than that I am asking you to partner with us as we move towards a common goal, to have each others backs, and be in this thing together.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Past Provision

The disciples were confused about Jesus’ ability to provide so He asked them “Do you not yet understand? (Mark 8:21)” Honestly I feel like Jesus asks me this same question. When I look back on all that He has done how can I not trust Him to take care of anything? Yet sometimes I forget. Sometimes I have a week memory. Sometimes I do not understand.

My challenge today is to really try and remember all the different ways and times He has provided for me. To let His past provision help me understand who He is and what He is capable of. To remember who the Lord is and who I am.

Just a thought,

Mike

Good Calories

The Word of God is powerful calories. Jonathan Trotter points out that sometimes we just need calories so we should be ingesting the Word of God daily. It should be a constant source of nourishment. There are times when I start reading and find myself in awe of God’s miracles power. Times when I pick up my Bible and it feels like the Word of God was written just for me. That God looked through the ages and said, “Mike will need this.” It makes me feel so connected to God that I want to shout. There are other times when I read my Bible and feel convicted. I start to feel I am so unworthy of the love of God. I cannot understand how God could love me.

Then there are times when I read my Bible and think “yup, that’s true.” Nothing amazing, no trumpets, no revelation, just truth. These (and others) are valid. The power of Scripture does not rest in its ability to make me feel good, it is in the fact that it is the reliable Word of God. Sometimes you just need to eat.

New Year, New Word – Present

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard-pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

Philippians 1:21-24 ESV

Paul understood that there is a tension between staying and going. Between what you are doing and what you want to do. Between the now and the future. My tension is not as great as Paul’s, but I live in this tension of now and future. Maybe it’s my personality, my history, or something else but I live in an almost constant state of now and the future. On top of that, I am a pretty busy man. I have many demands placed on me and sometimes, oftentimes, get distracted. I am a dreamer too so that can be a problem.

Each year my family and I pick a word for the year. Last year I picked willing. I wanted to be willing to do hard things, willing to take chances, willing to have my plans changed (and they did), willing to hear new things, willing to be a better father, a better husband, a better friend, just willing and open.

This coming year should bring about some amazing changes. We are working on something with our organization and hope to announce our full plans very soon. Being willing opened a door we would have never sought out on our own. Being willing gave me eyes to see how I do not control the future and take time to be a better father, husband, and friend (I hope).

This year I want to be present. I will have more demands on me than before and I will be in new and exciting situations. Because of this, I want to be present. I want to be in the moments and not just going through the motions. When I spend time with the Lord, I want to really be present. When I am with my wife, I want to be real with her. When I am with my kids, I want to be with them fully. Whatever I am doing I want to be focused on that thing. This is going to be hard for me, but I want to do it.

Being present is hard for me. It will take work and determination, but I believe it is worth it and I will be better for it. I believe this is an area I need to grow in. The great thing is I have all year to work on it and unlike a resolution, I can fail multiple times and still be working on it. In fact, every time I fail, I get to see how I need to keep working at it. I get new opportunities to be present.

What about you? When 2020 ends and the year is just a memory what do you want to know you grew in? What word do you want to summarize your growth? Maybe it’s independence and you grew in finances and the knowledge that you are free from your past. Maybe it’s determined and you want to know you pressed harder than before and found new strength to accomplish things and saw God be a rock like never before. I don’t know but I am sure there is something. I believe there is some word that you can want to sum up your relationship with others and God. Some word you want to choose to define you and your year. That is what this is all about choosing how to grow, choosing how to move forward, choosing what defines you. Choose wisely but make a choice.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Maintenant pour mes amis français. Chaque année ma famille et moi choisis un nouveau mot. L’année dernière j’ai choisi prêt ou volonté. Je voulais être prêt pour tout ce que Dieu voulait que je fasse. Je voulais être prêt à être un meilleur père mari et ami. C’était super. Cette année je choisir présent. Je voudrais être présent dans tout ce que je fais. C’est dur pour moi mais je pense que c’est bon. La vie est très très occupée mais j’ai besoin d’être présent. Si je ne le suis pas alors à quoi ça sert ?

Je vous mets au défi de choisir un seul mot. Un seul mot pour travailler cette année. Un mot qui vous rapprocher de Dieu, à grandir dans vos relations, à grandir en tant que personne.

Juste une pensée,

Mike