Archive | January 2013

Everything I once held dear

So, now that I have a newborn son I’ve found that my concept of “morning” and “evening” are getting somewhat skewed. I wanted to start this blog by saying, “This morning while I was spending some time with God and holding my son…” Only to realize that what I thought was morning was actually 1pm. Things are getting weird around here! Little Isaac is bent on making midnight his bedtime for now. Thankfully Tuesdays are one of the few days where I can sleep in.

…This afternoon while I was spending some time with God and holding my son, the song, “Lead me to the cross” came to mind (by Brooke Fraser of Hillsong). I have found it a valuable practice not to consider such “random” songs as distractions during my quiet time, but instead assume that the Holy Spirit is at work and that I should flow with what He’s doing. I have found spontaneous, private and acapella worship has added much to my fellowship with God.

One line in particular stuck out to me in this song:

Everything I once held dear, I count it all as loss…

 

Click here to listen to the whole song.

If you are unaware, this is taken from a verse in scripture. Phil 3:8

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

I have had this impression that this verse is often translated and applied like this:

My past life that I thought was awesome (you know, drinking, sleeping around, drugs, violence, and killing puppies) I now consider lame when I compare it to being in relationship with Jesus.

We want to make sure everyone knows that life with Jesus is SO much better than the life of sin we lived before He destroyed our sin nature (Romans 6:6, Galatians 5:24) and breathed His own nature into us (John 20:22, Romans 8:9). Unfortunately that’s not what Paul was actually talking about here.

The apostle Paul was not comparing a life reeking of sin against a life with Christ, no he was actually comparing a life of religious piety to life with Jesus! Check it out:

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised (a religious ritual thought to make you right with God) to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! Philippians 3:2-4

Paul was one of the most “Christian” people of his time. He followed all the rules, went to “church” all the time, fasted on a weekly basis, memorized tons of scripture and did everything “right.” He was required to be ceremonially clean and could not participate in “sin.” Let’s not forget that this life of apparent self-righteousness was the very life that Paul said he now considered a loss. Loss = negative, in the red and anti-productive.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. Philippians 3:7-10

Our hope is built on nothing else. Not our righteous Biblically-based laws, not our abstaining from sin, not our ability to figure it out and get everything right. Our hope is built on a belief that God can be trusted. We need to believe in the promises God has made and live as if they are true. Every amount of human effort is worthless. In fact, Paul says that the human effort of law-following had to first be discarded as garbage before he could gain Christ! This is so different that what many of us have been taught.

Communion is awesome

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Hmmm… white wine and wheat thins. Might not be “approved” communion elements. Then again, I’ve remembered Christ’s death with lemonade and goldfish in a pinch before!

Among those who grew up in the church, there can be mixed memories of taking communion at church. For some it meant that the service was going to take 5-10 minutes longer than normal… an eternity for a 12 year old who is supposed to sit still and do nothing for an hour. For others it meant that there was a snack this week in “Big Church!” Score!

Last year while I was deployed I had a bit of a revelation on how amazing communion really is. I’d love to spark a discussion on how you have been impacted by it, or maybe if you have struggled with the ritualistic nature of it and, in fact, haven’t found anything life-giving there.

This last week we partook in and discussed the intricacies of communion in the discipleship community that I am a part of (immerse). There are so many deep things behind this sacrament and we dug in as deep as we could. It helped to have a seminary student in the group. It also helped that everyone was passionate about Christ and was hungry to partake in the fullness of salvation (with all the toppings!)

Here is what I would like to contribute to this conversation:

Grain for bread is easily crushed, so he doesn’t keep on pounding it. He threshes it under the wheels of a cart, but he doesn’t pulverize it. Isaiah 28:28

When reading this passage a while back I asked God for more insight. Suddenly I found myself in this crazy thought-pattern evaluating the different uses of seeds, Christ’s work and sacrifice, and our place as seeds for producing fruit.

  1. There are two uses for grain (seeds). One use is to crush the seed and make it into flour. The other use is to protect the seed, preserve it, and keep it away from moisture until the right time for it to be put in the ground so that it can grow and produce more seeds.
  2. Jesus is the seed that was crushed. He was made into flour, so to speak, and prepared as a grain offering to God (Leviticus 2). A grain offering consisted of some form of grain or bread that was prepared with oil and frankincense as a thanksgiving offering to God for His mercy and goodness given to us by allowing a good harvest so we won’t die of starvation.
  3. We are the seed that is protected and kept whole so that we, at some point, can choose to “die” for someone else in order to produce fruit. We are not a seed to be crushed in order to somehow be made right with God and “appease his wrath.” Jesus alone is the sacrifice that makes us right with God. God protects us, heals us, makes us emotionally and spiritually healthy and provides for us so that at some point we can lay our lives down for someone else and serve them selflessly. Our hope is that our selfless service will fall on good soil and produce fruit in their lives, advancing the Kingdom of God.

So, how does this tie into communion? Well, Jesus is our grain offering. Jesus Himself is our offering of thanks to God for everything He has provided for us. When the Israelites harvested their crops they would bring a few sacrifices to offer to God. One of those was a portion of the very food that God had blessed them with, the grain offering. A portion of the portion they brought was then burned up (Jesus’s body) for God, and the other portion was given to the priests as their food for daily living.

So, when Jesus invites us to eat of His flesh, He is inviting us into the priesthood of believers mentioned in 1 Peter 2. When we partake of Communion, we are partaking of the portion of the grain offering that was reserved only for those who were set apart as holy as priests of God.

This is a solemn and holy thing! It should not be treated as common. If we are priests, we confirm that as we partake of his body and should act like it. Well then, what should we expect to do as priests in this Kingdom? Well, a priest helps people encounter God and be made right with Him.

So, the next time you partake in communion, consider the fact that you are affirming your role in the Kingdom as someone who is to help others encounter God and be made right with Him. There is always an “other-focused” aspect to the priesthood. Remember, the priests wore the names of all the tribes of Israel on their chest to remind them that they represented the whole community in their worship. (Community : Communion… interestingly similar word)

The offering we help others present to God is always Jesus and the mode by which we present it is prayer. Good luck being priests!

Share your thoughts below.

Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Luke 4:4). Jesus himself is that word (John 1). Jesus himself is our sustaining portion, our daily bread and our grain offering of thanksgiving.

Child of Promise

Isaac and daddy 2Today I met the fruit of God’s promise to me.

At 6:30am Saturday morning on Jan 12, 2013 Isaac Hawk Banker was born into the world. 7lbs 12oz of God-given blessing. 21 inches long.

Issac:

God promised Abraham and Sarah a child. Abraham tried to fulfill God’s promise on His behalf, through his own human effort. The result of that attempt is symbolic of religion’s attempt at earning our way to God. God alone fulfills His promises.

The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. Galatians 4:23-24

God spoke to me over a year ago about having a child for us even though we had been trying on our own effort to get pregnant for two and a half years. Today God fulfilled what he had spoken to me. Even though I was never fully convinced that I had actually heard God (until we found out we were, indeed, pregnant), I told God that I believe Him. I doubted my ability to hear His voice, but didn’t necessarily doubt Him. I’m convinced that faith doesn’t mean we have to be convinced about our ability to follow Him (i.e. do everything right), but instead have faith in His faithfulness and take Him at His word. So, even though I doubted, my doubt was in myself and He remained faithful to what He was telling me. Faith means trusting God to be faithful to His word. Faith doesn’t mean conjuring up a self-imposed belief that requires unquestioning loyalty to said belief in the face of all opposing facts. Faith is relational.

Isaac was the name of Abraham’s child of promise whom God provided supernaturally in His timing. Our own Isaac is also our little child of promise that God fulfilled in His timing. Our pregnancy was impressed on our hearts months in advance and confirmed by a prophetic word just days before we found out about the pregnancy. Isaac is a child of promise.

Hawk:Isaac 1 day old

When going through Prayer Resolution prayer-counseling, God had broken the power of a lie in my life that was in regard to my identity and we had asked God for a truth to replace the lie. The picture that I ended up getting was of a hawk. God used this imagery to show me who I am and who I am not.

My dad was always really good at spotting hawks on street lights and in trees as we drove around when I was young. I seemed to have inherited his special skill. Every time I see a hawk I am reminded that God spoke to me and is concerned about my identity being properly founded.

I like seeing hawks in the middle of the city. They don’t seem like they fit here. Something about the wild side of nature thriving in the middle of our fake concrete jungles. A reminder of the God-created way in the face of our man-created “prosperity.”

I want little Isaac to know that His identity has been determined and it has nothing to do with the world that surrounds him. He is valuable and full of worth right now, today, before he has ever had a chance to do anything good or bad and before anyone else can do anything good or bad to him. He is who he is and that’s all he is ever supposed to be.

We are praying that someday little Isaac will choose to enter into another family. His heavenly Father is the one who created this little one with so much value and worth and we are all looking forward to and longing for the day when this child chooses on his own to enter into intimacy with God Himself through faith in Jesus Christ (not human effort). And, if He chooses otherwise, his value and worth haven’t changed a bit.

Banker:

That’s our last name. It only makes sense.

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