Leaving a place I never wanted to be but seeing God in the rearview mirror. A little video post.
The first question and a good one I might add is why do a character study on Ananias of Damascus? A good second question might be what is a character study? Another well thought out question dear reader. To answer the former, I will say that the Lord revealed some things about Ananias to me and I thought it only fitting that I share them, and as to the latter I am referring to the character of the man Ananias, not the character named Ananias for that makes it sound more like a study on Bugs Bunny and while interesting that is not my aim and he is not just some character but a real man.
There are two other Ananias’s mentioned in the Bible the first is the man who he and his wife lied to the Holy Spirit, and the second was the High Priest. We are not speaking about either one of these men. The only Biblical references to Ananias of Damascus are found in Acts 9:10-18 and Acts 22:12-16. From this text, we are able to tell some important things about this man.
First, he was a man of faith in the Lord Jesus, verse 10 of chapter 9 tells us he was a disciple of Jesus, and 22:12 tells us he was devout and highly respected. The fact that he was a disciple was evident from his response to Jesus calling his name when he responded with “Yes Lord”, unlike Saul who answered, “who are you.” Ananias knew who it was that was calling him and answered the right way “yes Lord” oh if we would answer that way every time the Lord called our name. If we would say “yes Lord” maybe we would be able to better receive what He wanted to say to us.
Second, he was a man who could be trusted by the Lord to do His will. Not only did Jesus reveal to Ananias what He wanted him to do but Jesus showed Saul in a vision that Ananias would come. He was a man that could be trusted by God to do the will of the Lord. That says a lot about a person, and I can say that I would like to be that person. The kind of man that God can come to and say, “Mike this is what I want you to do, and I have shown someone in a vision that you would be coming.” What a time that would be. Ananias could be counted on.
Thirdly we can see he was an obedient man. When the Lord told him what He wanted, Ananias told Jesus that he knew of this man Saul and that he knew he was there to arrest men like himself. He knew that the man he was being sent to lay hands on for healing had been sent to lay hands on him for imprisonment. This was not an easy task. We sometimes struggle with praying for someone in the body who God directs us to. But this would be like living in Iran and God telling you to pray and lay hands on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei the supreme leader. This man Saul was bad news, he was the one at Stephens stoning, the one who testifies of himself that he persecuted the Way. Ananias’s faith and obedience in this situation should not be quickly overlooked. It is something that we should strive for, something to be sought after.
Fourthly we will quickly look at the fact that he was bold. Acts 22:14-16
“Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.
What a statement! Did you catch it in verse 16 get up and get baptized; this was not a man who would dance around the point. He knew what he was directed to do and boy oh boy did he do it. I am not sure if I could accurately convey the point of that passage so I will not try other than again saying that Ananias was a bold believer who knew his mission and would do it.
From these texts, we can see that he was a true disciple who could be trusted, had faith, and was bold in mission for the Lord. What separated him and us? What made him so special? One word…Nothing!
That’s right he lived the life that you can live, the life I can live. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
Did you catch that; He (God) has given (past tense) us everything we need to live the life He wants us to live. We must simply (and I use that word very loosely) walk in it. We must walk in the power He has already bestowed on us. If we want the life of abundance that Jesus promised in John 10:10 than all we have to do is walk in it. That does not mean there will not be hardships, or trials, or difficulties, but it does mean that we can get through all of it by His grace and for His glory.
One last thing about this great man of faith named Ananias; he was martyred in Eleutheropolis sometime in the 1st century. He faced a trial and problem, but he met that one with the same faith as the one in Acts with boldness and faithfulness to his Lord and God. May it so be with us.
Just a thought,
p.s. this is an older study from about 8 years ago but I just re-read it and thought it worth sharing again.
It was nine months ago that we go the call. It was not the first time we had received the call, but we thought it would be the last, at least for a while. “We have a little boy who needs a home are you available?” yes of course we are. We were prepared and had everything ready. A few hours later we met C. It was love at first sight. He was the most adorable thing we had ever seen. He looked at me shot a little sideways smile and my heart melted. I knew I was in for a world of hurt. Within two weeks we were ready to keep him. We knew instantly that if he needed a permanent home he had one with us. Our goal with fostering is to give 100% of ourselves to the kids because they need it. Granted we have not done this for that long but it was still our goal. So, he got it all. All the love he could handle and trust me he can handle a lot of love.
Everyone who has met this little man has fallen for him. He walks down the hallway at church and almost everyone stops to say hi and give a high five. He puts a smile on everyone’s face and brings joy to everyone he meets. At the grocery store, he is king of the isles. I’ll be honest because we have different skin tone we were so nervous we were going to get questions and stares, so we wanted to keep a lower profile. I would have hated to have to slap a fool. C did not care. He wanted everyone to see him and us. He would kiss and hug me in front of anyone. He just wants to see the whole world smile. And they do.
Today he comes back from a weekend visit and then he will be leaving in a little over a week. I am so glad that he has a family to love him and I am heartbroken that I will not see him anymore. I honestly feel like I am going to die. He brought so much joy into my life for these nine months and I will never forget that, but it does not do much to soften the pain. I wanted to give 100% of myself to him and I did. Now part of me is leaving with him. It was hard when the last placement ended but for different reasons. This is torture. The waiting for him to go. The knowing the end is near and never showing him. Knowing each kiss goodnight is one less I get but making him feel like each one is forever. I have to be honest this hurts more than I ever knew possible. But again, he gave me joy and so much more.
Through C God has shown me more of His love than I ever understood before. Through C God has shown me His heart for me. Even when he is a little punk I love him. Even when he tests I love him. Even when he is just a two-year-old I love him. Nothing will change that. God has shown how He feels that infinitely more towards me. My joy is torn just like this picture C made and then broke. It serves as a reminder of what it means to love. Love means putting yourselves out there being willing to be hurt because it is worth it.
Kids are worth it. People are worth it. People need love and yes, they can hurt you, but they are worth the risk. You cannot reach everyone. Sometimes no matter how hard you try there is just no getting to them, but we cannot let that stop us from loving someone else. We are called to walk like Christ and Christ loved Judas knowing he would betray Him. Jesus loved enough to be hurt and so can we by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I know I am going to be a mess when C leaves but that is because I love him and I am OK with that. Foster care is hard and sometimes it just sucks but they are worth it. Loving people is hard and sometimes you don’t want to do it, but people are worth it. If we just try and protect ourselves from getting hurt we may succeed but at what cost?
Just a thought,
I just completed repairing a table for someone. It was a good time because I like doing things like that. It was a fairly easy project. I just had to drill out the old dowels, sand off the old glue, cut new dowels, re-glue the seams, and clamp it all together. All in all, it was an uneventful project except for what I felt like God was saying to me…
One of the reasons I like doing little projects like this is because I often feel God speak to me during them. Not in an audible way but in my soul. Some of my biggest revelations about God and myself have come from one project or another. For some reason, God chooses to speak to me through my physical actions. Maybe it’s because I am a bit thick in the head and when I am working on something I am a little freer to hear from Him.
As I was sanding off the old glue I was getting pelted with hot glue bits because apparently a Dremel will melt glue and shoot it at you. This is a good tip for the future but as I was being assaulted with hot glue buckshot I understood something about God and myself on a deeper level. In going to the cross Christ took my sin and that sin was costly, and it hurt. It was brutal, and while my hot glue barrage does not compare but it did make me think. He took that pain because I needed that sin removed. In order for me to have the ability to be reconnected, or reconciled, in a proper and fitting way like the table legs the old had to be stripped away and it did not come without a cost. Now I know this because 1 Peter 1:18-19 among other verses tells me this but it is one thing to know it and another to understand it. We always have to remember that it was for our benefit that Christ died. He was perfectly fine before the incarnation, but He desired us. He desired to reconcile us to the Father. It was that desire and the will to carry it out that gives us life. Jesus desired us so much it moved Him to participate in humanity and literally put some skin in the game.
Now the second thing is that it hurts me too. If the wood could speak (and had feelings) it would tell me that this burns and it is painful. It would probably ask me to stop because this process is uncomfortable, however, because I know what it takes to reconnect the legs in a permanent way I persist. It might be painful for a moment, but that moment will pass, and it will be stronger than it ever was before but first, it must undergo destruction of the old. We are being conformed to the image of the Son and don’t think for a second that is not a painful process. Old things from you are being stripped away and torn off. It is painful and that is OK. God is trying to make you fit where you belong. He is trying to make you fulfill your purpose, but you have so much junk on you that cannot stay that way. Sure, He could patch you up and send you along, but He would rather do things the right way. God prefers to sanctify us. Yes, there is an instant part of sanctification but there is also this ongoing process of maturing and setting apart (sanctification).
I know the Bible says that our righteousness is like filthy rags and I agree but God still created you and built you for a purpose. You are handcrafted and on your own, you cannot do it, but He can. You cannot clean yourself up and make yourself fit with Him. He needs to remove all that sin and selfishness, so you fit like you should. Both Christ and we have skin in this process. That is not something that can be understated.
I am so glad that Christ took my sin and I am so sorry that I still fall short and sin. But I know that He has not given up on me. I know He is working to accomplish His good pleasure in me. I know that He has work for me to do that He has predestined for me to do. I know I am not worthy of it and I don’t even know what it is, but I trust Him. Let’s let Him clean us up. Let’s let Him rebuild us into what we were made to be. Yes, it is painful but never forget it hurt Him first.
Just a thought,
Every once in a while, I like to get a little personal and today is one of those days. Lately, I have realized I struggle with some time anxiety. I hate wasting time. I am not entirely sure why but something about wasting time just feels so wrong to me. I feel like I have so much to do, to learn, to give that wasting time feels wrong. Because of this, I feel overwhelmed by the number of things to do, to learn, and the needs that need to be met. It does not help that I am a doer either. I am able to get things done and usually in a short amount of time. People usually pick up on this (at least at work) and come to me for help and to take things off their plate. This too only exacerbates the problem.
Lately, the problem is only growing because we are getting ready to move to Knoxville. I am going to go to school full time so I can finish up my degree in 2 years. The idea of working at my current job which is very time demanding and going to school full time has sent my time anxiety into overdrive. I have been trying to find a way to not have to work but unless $10-20k shows up in the mailbox I am stuck. So, what do I do? I start spiraling into time issues. I won’t have enough time to study, to fellowship, to learn, to enjoy my wife and daughter, to enjoy the process, and so on. It quickly becomes overwhelming.
It is not that this is a new revelation to me but there is something that is new. Last night I realized this again but also had a thought of “this is not good; God I need you to help me with this.” It was a moment where I realized I had a choice to make. I could again acknowledge my time issues take, God’s grace in the moment, and move on only to face this again next week or I could receive His grace to work through the problem. I want to work through it.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:5
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. – Ecclesiastes 7:14
These verses spoke such life into me because I was reminded of three things. First, God listens not looking down on us because we are weak but wants to answer the prayers of His children. Second, I need to seek Him to help me with my problem. Third, time is His to hold and command not mine. I want to enjoy the process, but more than that I want to enjoy God. I want to feel His presence, His nearness and know that even when I don’t feel Him He is near.
So now what? Well, I am a firm believer that God will always continue the good work He starts in someone. So I am going to try and keep coming back to Him every time I start to get overwhelmed. I am also going to try and start coming to God before I get overwhelmed and put my “schedule” in His hands. If I trust Him like I say I do then I need to be willing to give Him everything and that includes my time anxiety.
It does not mean it will all just go away because usually, we find that we are actually working through bigger issues but I am OK with that. I trust that God knows best and that He will lead me through my time anxiety. I trust that He wants to mold me into something better. I trust He is good and that He has a plan. I trust that He is God.
Just a thought,
One of the most common questions asked when people meet each other is “What do you do?” and I have decided that by and large I am going to stop asking that question. I think there are some good reasons to ask the question and I think there are some appropriate situations to ask the question, but I don’t know if it is the best question to ask in normal situations.
Some appropriate situations would be industry conferences, networking events, and similar situations where people are gathered for the purposes of business. If I am walking a trade show floor and speaking with other industry professionals, then what do you do is a very appropriate question. After all, we are all there to find out what other companies offer, and people want to know what you do for your company. Sometimes it is so that the other person knows if you can help and sometimes it is to see where you rank but more on that later. If you are at a networking event the whole purpose is to know what other people do so you know if you can help each other. These are great reasons to ask someone what they do because in these situations you need to know what they do. What they do defines the relationship you will have.
What about a BBQ or a party? Why do we ask people what they do at a party? Sometimes the question is asked because you are interested. You meet a person and there is something about them that jumps out at you, so you ask, “what do you do?” Sometimes it is asked out of habit and in innocence. You are really not sure what else to say so you ask the fallback question. Usually, it starts with the phrase “so.” So is a great way to start a question you really don’t care to know the answer to. So, how ‘bout them Sox.
The Bible says in Philippians 2:3 that we should “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” and that “as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. (Gal 6:10)” We should be looking for ways to do good and build up other people. But what does this have to do with asking people what they do when you meet them?
For starters, do you care when you ask people what they do? I know, to be honest, sometimes I do not. I don’t really care what you do for a job. When I ask this question without caring I will probably walk away from the conversation and forget what you do. Or I might walk away and remember what you do but forget who you are which is far worse.
Sometimes, I think this question is asked to see how you stack up against the other person. It is an uncomfortable point, but I think a true one nevertheless. Sometimes this question is asked so you know where on the social scale you and this person are. Are they above you or below you. Who is better? Which one of you has more clout and pull in the world. Asking what do you do helps define the relationship in a way that places priority over a relationship. I could get into some details on this but it would take up much more space than we have and would turn into an article on social stratification. In short, if we ask the question in order to establish priority over relationship we have done an injustice to the person we are meeting.
We should never ask the question to see where we stack up. We should also never ask the question if we are just trying to see if we can get something out of them. I think sometimes the question is asked so we know if this person would be a good resource for us. I really dislike this reason for asking. It turns people into a commodity and strips them of their humanity. That’s right I went there. Asking what someone does in order to know how you can use them (or if you can) takes away who they are as a person and turns them into something to be used. They are no longer a human being they are a resource for you to use. A thing to be taken advantage of. When asking for this reason you might as well just ask them “what value to you have to me? Are you a top-shelf tool or something I leave in my junk drawer only to move around when I am looking for something more useful?” As Christians, we believe that people are created in the image of God. People are image bearers of the Almighty and to reduce them to items and resources is not only a tragic waste of relationships but a desecration of someone beautifully made.
That all being said I think there is a better question that can be asked. I think if we really want to get to know a person and we really want to show interest in them we can ask a better question. A question that cuts through the murky wishy-washiness of social interaction, social stacking, and gives them their proper place as an image bearer of God. The question is “what do you like to do?” now granted you might have a better question but I am going with this because the focus is put on them. It takes the focus off of comparisons and place on their personhood. It says to the person you are a person and I want to know more about you. I have tried this out a few times so far and it has worked wonders. I met a man who likes to fish and hike. I have met quite a few people who like to play video games, some who like to play music, and many who just like to spend time with their families. A fair amount of the time I find that people will tell me what they do (as in how they make money) when telling me what they like to do but that is no longer the point. The point becomes relationship. If someone likes to fish I say hey I like to fish (I am not any good though) and we can talk about something they enjoy which can move us into other conversations. The question of “what do you like to do” opens up a whole new world of conversation that would be otherwise closed if I only cared about their ability to make money.
Like most things, it is about the intent. What is the intent of asking a person what they do or what they like to do? What is the purpose of having a conversation with someone? Are you trying to just be nice? If so then be nice and ask them about what they like to do. I don’t think we should define people by how they make money or what value they have to us. We should be looking to see who they are as human beings created in the image of the Almighty God. That would be nice. So let’s be nice and find out something about someone today.
Just a thought,
Today I want to look at Philippians 2:1-11 which is called the self-emptying or kenosis of Christ. This one gets a little wild but I promise you I won’t waste your time. Just push through to the end with me.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any conciliation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on the goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility considers others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not for his own interest, but also the interest of others.
Make your own attitude that of Jesus,
Who existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.
Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross.
For this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow- of those who are in heaven and on earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
What does Christ emptying of Himself mean?
This is called the kenosis or self-emptying of Christ. This was the cause of many heresies. Heresies are great because sometimes to help understand what something is we have to know what it is not.
Docetism – (dokeo seem or appear) this is a late first-century heresy that said Jesus only appeared to be a man.
1 John 4:2 Every Spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.
1 John 1:1 That which is from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim to you.
John 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, “put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Ebionism – 2nd century heresy that says Jesus was adopted by God at His baptism. Also known as adoptionism.
The seven I Am statements of Jesus which are Jesus claiming divinity.
The recording of the Virgin Birth.
John 10:30 – Jesus says He and the Father are One.
John 14:16 – Jesus says the Holy Spirit is another helper. This implies Jesus and the Holy Spirit are of the same essence or homoousios (same substance) as opposed to the same homoiosios (similar substance).
John 10:33 The attempted stoning of Jesus because He claimed to make Himself equal with God.
Isaiah 42:8 – I, the LORD, am one, and I won’t give my name and glory to another, nor my praise to idols.
God does not share glory. To say that Jesus was adopted as God’s Son would be to say that God does share His glory because Jesus says in John 17:5 that He has and had God’s glory. 1 Peter 1:21 says that God glorified Jesus.
Arianism – Jesus was the first created being of God. This is also modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses. Somewhat like Mormonism that says that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers in the sense that they deny the trinity and the Godhead.
Colossians 1:15-16 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the first board over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Arians and JWs argue that right here it says that Jesus was the first born but that is a legal term indicating rights of inheritance. The image reference means exact representation something along the lines of looking in a mirror.
John 14:9 – Jesus says “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.
Also, as we already looked at God does not share His glory.
There are other heresies we could look at, but these are still some pretty popular ones. But again, the point at looking at these is to get an idea of what the Kenosis is not. So, what is the Kenosis of Jesus?
First, we have to understand that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. He is not a divided or mixed man but fully God and fully man. The Kenosis of Jesus then was His laying aside His divine power and rights in order to sympathize, save, redeem, and live forevermore as a High Priest King.
Jesus in taking on humanity made it possible for Him to die as a man taking the weight and wrath of sin upon Himself. As a man who is now raised to live never to die again He is able to live forever as priest and king.
In setting aside, His deity He was able to live like you and me. He did not stop being God He stopped using His powers so that, in part, He might demonstrate dependence on the Father and the Spirit. Jesus showed us what it means to live obedience to the Father. Jesus rarely used His own divine power while on earth. He chose to humble Himself and we can now live in that same way.
What do we do with this?
The next question we should ask is what do we do with this? I have already spoken somewhat on this (here) but Paul says that we are to serve one another and we can do this by looking to the example of Christ. Jesus had the rightful place to rule from where He was (in heaven) but He chose to come and save us. He chose not to use His divinity but instead humbled Himself. He chose to be weak so that we might become strong (in Him). He chose to serve. We can see this when He washed the disciple’s feet. He had the right to demand and instead He took served. He had the right to command and instead took request. He had the right to judge and instead took the judgment.
Jesus could do this for a few reasons. First, He was secure in who He was. Jesus is God. He knew this before He took on the form of man and He understood this during His earthly ministry (I Am statements). He could serve and be humble because He knew who He was. When we understand who we are (children of God indwelt with the Holy Spirit) we can be confident and when we are confident we can be humble.
Second, Jesus was aware of and sought the Fathers glory. Jesus said I and the Father are one I only do what I see Him doing. When we understand that God is good and that He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called by His name we are able to see others because we want to see our Father glorified.
Third, Jesus trusted in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew the Spirit was on Him. He was aware of the leading and power of the Spirit and He trusted the Spirit to do His work. When we trust the leading and power of the Holy Spirit we can be humble and serve others because we know that the Holy Spirit is working in or on them.
The purpose of all of this is to serve others in Jesus name. We are called to love and build up others. In our understanding of who we are, who God is, and the power of the Holy Spirit we can build each other up. We must do this even if it costs us. Jesus left us no other option.
Just a thought,