Thursday, June 29, 2006

Midpoint reflections

Last night was our first Men’s gathering and it was a smash success. You could see the hunger in men’s hearts for God and for Godly leadership. I believe that we are off to a great start and the potential for our men is there to be realized. Tonight we roll the same meeting out for our second group of men.

We are now half way through a month-long push to reengage the masculine life-giving spirit of our church. This month’s emphasis is meant to be a launch point for a much longer journey for our men-a journey to discover and live out an authentic manhood. God has been speaking to us about challenging our men to step into their roles. So we chose to reject passivity and accept our responsibility to provide courageous leadership for our men.

We are casting a vision for authentic manhood, introducing a code of conduct, and challenging men to give themselves away to a transcendent cause.

It is important that we all see the critical nature of what we are doing. Through this initiative we will prevent divorces, suicides, addictions and depression in our men. With God’s help we will heal deep wounds, build strong friendships, receive vision, and a sense of our destiny.

We will teach men how to treat a woman and how to be a father. We will show men by example how to be a loyal friend. We will teach the satisfaction that can be found in a hard day’s work that is done for the Lord.

Most of all we will offer men what they need most-a vital connection with the Father of us all. Only He can ultimately bestow an authentic masculinity upon our men. Only He can truly call them out to take their place in the world.

We have made a definite decision to turn the thermostat of our church away from passivity and toward initiative and challenge. Someone once said, “The church has asked nothing great of men and so that is what many of them are giving-nothing”. Jesus was challenging to men if He was anything. Men wanted to follow Him. Why? He led them!

I do not want to fail our men by providing passive leadership. I don’t want to fail our men by not calling them into their responsibilities. I intend to lead courageously. I also expect God to reward us all as we rise to meet our challenges as men and women in this place that the world knows as “sin city”.

May God bless us all as we honor Him!


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Believe in the wrong Jesus?

“Submit to God's royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of your pursuits— for his anger can flare up in an instant. But what joy for all who find protection in him!” NLT Psalm 2:12

Could some of us have believed in the wrong Jesus? Surely the Jesus of the New Testament would not give birth to such a passive church. Open the Bible to the Gospel of Mark and you immediately see a Jesus who commands the respect of leaders, fights the devil, and influences men to drop everything to follow him wherever He goes. I submit that some of us have been led to believe in a “nice” Jesus instead of a “good” Jesus. A nice Jesus would be afraid to tell people to quit jobs, spend extended time away from family, knock on doors unannounced, and die martyr’s deaths.

No, Jesus is not nice. He doesn’t play by the rules. He confronts people, is opinionated and filled with strong will. He threatens preachers who are in religion only for the money. He calls His disciples slow learners, wondering out loud how much longer he’ll have to be with them. People are always trying to trick Him so he shows them up publicly and calls them names like snakes and hypocrites and worse!

He verbally rebukes government officials. He says things at church services that basically disrupt the entire meeting. One time he said something so hard that many of His disciples couldn’t take it and left him for good. What did He do? He just watched them walk away. Instead of nervously explaining himself, he turned to the rest of them and asked them if they would like to leave as well.

I think that some have unwittingly recreated a savior who doesn’t really exist. Thus many have believed in a wooden Jesus who was “perpetually somber, consistently robotic, and consummately nice.” This Jesus would not think of using sarcasm or being critical because He has nice manners.

Many sermons (including some of mine) have been designed to spin for us a Jesus who is always approachable, always calm, and endlessly patient. In his book, “No More Christian Mr. Nice Guy” Paul Coughlin says that kind of Jesus is “fiction right up there with the Da Vinci Code” he also says that Jesus was a dissident and “brought the world both-the kind of conflict and division needed to shake things up for our own good.”

Jesus was not nice. He was GOOD. Good is the opposition of Evil. You overcome evil-you are not nice to it. In order to overcome evil you must take a stand against it. That was what Jesus did. He was a fiery revolutionary with clear goals and a focused mind. If you opposed Him or got in His way, He could put you in your place right quick-even if you were his “friend”. OF COURSE Jesus was compassionate and forgiving, he could weep and display love, but He was also unpredictable and people (including His disciples) learned very fast not to mess with Him.

It is this Jesus that I am coming to know better and better. He rejects passivity and leads courageously. He rocks boats that need rocking and boldly speaks the truth in a very powerful and loving way. He commands respect and makes a difference. From a place of strength not weakness He “turns the other cheek”. He has a good and dangerous heart that fights evil. He fought for my heart and won it. It cost Him a great deal. It is in honor of such bravery and great sacrifice that I surrender my heart to Him.

This is my only hope to emerge as a strong man. Apart from Him I can’t do much anyway. I must submit to Him and receive strength.
“For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.” Phil. 4:13
No man wants to be weak. Men want to be dangerous and good. I submit this Jesus to you. Believe in Him. The real Jesus can change your life! He will show you who you are, and He can make you dangerous!


Monday, June 26, 2006

Breaking the curse

I was having a conversation the other day with a couple of men, and I asked the question, “When did you become a man?” There was a long pause until one shared the story of his father. He was the classic few words kind of man who grew up in the thirties and forties. He also was in the Navy. When my friend became old enough for the draft, his father drove him down to the draft board. He parked the car got out and did something he had never done before. He looked his son directly in the eye, shook his hand, and then just said, “Goodbye son”. My friend told me that his father had never shaken his hand before. He said that it was a moment that he has not forgotten. It was a moment that told him he was now transitioning into manhood.

Can you imagine that? Something seemingly as small as a hand shake can send a powerful message to a young man? I wonder if we had even more “intentional” moments (as other cultures do) where we create memories and teach lessons, we could change the course of our children’s lives. Many young men are getting no messages from there fathers and are left to themselves. I believe that the cause of Christ suffers greatly because of the present confusion concerning real manhood. In fact the Good News when received is intended to have a direct impact on fathers and their children.

"He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse ." Mal. 4:6

The lack of connection between fathers and sons in our culture, made worse by broken homes and the busyness of our lives, has left many young men with a masculine identity crisis (the curse). Our sons are looking to their fathers for direction. Fathers are searching for real answers in their attempts to not only express an authentic masculinty themselves, but also guide their sons into manhood. This is the critical issue we are seeking to address during this season at New Community. We believe we have good news for men.
In his book, “Raising a Modern Day Night” using the example of the knight, Robert Lewis shows a way to point our sons to manhood with clear ideals:

  • a vision for manhood
  • a code of conduct
  • a transcendent cause

The pattern of advancement from page to knight provides fathers with a coherent process for guiding their sons to manhood. The numerous suggestions for ceremonies equip dads with a variety of means to celebrate and validate their sons' achievements. I recommend this book to all who are raising boys in this challenging culture of masculine confusion.

But before we raise our children to be healthy adults, we must do some work ourselves. This is why we are calling all men to join us in the resistance. The pull of gravity on men’s hearts is strong, holding many down. That is why we have designed this entire month’s church-wide emphasis encouraging men. We are seeking to fire our engines and get off the launch pad with as much thrust as possible to break the force of gravity and create positive momentum forward for as many men who will go on the journey. We intend to break the curse and connect men with a clear vision of authentic masculinity.

I invite all of our men to be present this Wednesday or Thursday night for our first of three men’s gatherings. Only one night is necessary (unless you are hard-headed).

Dinner and part 1 of “Uncovering Authentic Masculinity” @ 6:30-8:00 PM.

Ladies please do everything possible to make easy for your husbands to attend. Men I’ll see you there!


Friday, June 23, 2006

Clearing up the confusion

When we look around in our world today, we see a landscape quite different than the original design that God intended. Wars, violent crime, disease, corruption, etc. How did we get here? One man did not fulfill his role. Adam.

When a man chooses to be passive and irresponsible, women are left to be the primary leaders and decision makers. While women certainly are intelligent and able to provide leadership, that is not their primary design for society as a whole--men were designed to lead.

Men are the bearers of destiny. As men go, so goes society. A close reading of Genesis 2-3 shows that man was created by God with a unique social and spiritual leadership in mind. Defection from this leadership spells trouble for all of us.

Manhood is in a state of confusion. Roles and models are constantly shifting and even switching. We now have for ourselves a new model of manhood emerging-the “Metrosexual” (met.roh.SEK.shoo.ul) n. An urban male with a strong aesthetic sense who spends a great deal of time and money on his appearance and lifestyle. You might think he is gay, but he is not. He is metrosexual. Like I said, manhood is in a state of confusion. While we do not need stereotypes, we do need some sure foundation to stand on to help us define our own masculinity and clear up some of the confusion.

Confused men create major problems. The overwhelming majority of crime and other societal ills are the result of men searching for something. They end up finding the wrong things in the wrong places at the wrong times. Deep wounds are taking place in the masculine soul as a result. Most men never receive healing and continually medicate their pain. A viscious cycle is tearing through the heart of the American male.

Confused men settle for less. They do not take their place in the world. They watch TV. Many have no compelling vision for their lives beyond the acquisition of things, sexual prowess and recreation. Families suffer because men are suffering. Young men have no rites of passage and thus struggle to receive their own manhood. Many remain grown boys who marry their mommies.

We don’t want to just curse the darkness. We want to light a candle. What we are seeking to do is change this for our men. We desire to give men a clear definition of manhood. To help them make some significant personal discoveries about themselves. To give them some good friends for the journey and help them receive a vision for their lives as well as devise a plan to achieve it.

Join us this weekend as we continue “You’ve Got Male”. Don’t forget that our midweek men’s gatherings start next week as well. Wednesday or Thursday at 6:30-meal provided.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

what is a real man?

What is a real man? I want to know! I am currently reading four books on this subject. The other day I googled “authentic masculinity” and spent hours reading the different ideas and opinions of writers and bloggers. Later today I am going out to do “woman on the street” interviews asking this question to the women of Las Vegas (could be interesting). I must say that the last 40 years of change in sexuality and sexual roles have left many men wondering. They have also left many men feeling emasculated.

“What’s a real man? He's not a bully or a wimp. He transcends his own ego, his own fears, his own selfishness, and sacrifices himself as a gift to those he's called to protect.” Dr. Philip Mango

So often we see men swinging between these poles “a bully or a wimp”. To be a man certainly does not mean to twist the purpose of masculine strength to oppress others for selfish or insecure reasons. No doubt insecurity is at the heart of many masculine perversions. I can see that my journey toward a more whole expression of masculinity has been through wrestling with and overcoming my fears and insecurities. By the way, at their core, that is what men are-afraid. Afraid they won’t measure up. Afraid they might not have what it takes. Afraid of rejection. Afraid of failure-I could go on.

Often a man can swing the other way into a wimpish looking passivity. A place where he never disturbs the status quo. In one way it feels safer for him but in his heart that was designed by God to initiate activity and fight injustice he begins to feel a deep sense of inadequacy. Deep inside he desires to offer his strength-to make a difference-to show the masculine image of God in himself but how?

For me the answer is found in transcending self and fear through sacrifice. To “lose myself” for the sake of another. I have never felt better than when I’ve forgotten about myself long enough to focus on others. Men discover the truest expression of masculinity in giving themselves away. They are never more admirable than when they offer their strength in compassionate, unselfish, giving of themselves-especially when it causes them pain to do so.

To me this is why Jesus is the most compelling man ever. He is the ultimate male. He gave us the example of authentic masculinity to follow as He courageously went to the cross. His security in who He was, His purpose, mission, life, teachings, and sacrifice give me a clear definition of what it means to be a man. I want to follow His example.

“The truth is, a kernel of wheat must be planted in the soil. Unless it dies it will be alone—a single seed. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who lose their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus


Monday, June 19, 2006

why men hate going to church

Why do many men hate going to church? Can I be honest? How many people do you know that enjoy being reminded of their failures? The church symbolizes for many a place where they are reminded of how poorly they are performing as a man. A man needs to know how to succeed in his future not feel like an idiot about his past. I know better than anyone how much I’ve blown it! Yes, I understand that at some point I need to admit it. I don’t want to just act like my failures never happened, but more importantly I need inspiration, leadership, and equipment to help me forward.

Yes-forward. That is where a man wants to look. He wants to know that something good can be pursued, fought for or achieved. Give me some simple instruction and good tools to work with and let me do my thing. I was made to accomplish some things in this life.

I need to be reminded that the good news is for people who blow it. Babe Ruth was the most prolific home-run hitter of his day but he also held the record for strikeouts too. Thomas Edison had thousands of failures before he invented the light bulb. Michael Jordon played several losing seasons with the Bulls before winning six championships. They just kept trying until they succeeded. I want a church that will inspire me to keep trying until I succeed.

Even Jesus looked like a failure before His powerful resurrection. I so admire the perseverance and courage of Jesus as He faced head-on the brutality of the cross.

Hey you out there-yes you sir-the one feeling like you have blown it. I’ve got great news.

For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. Rom. 3:23-24

I need to be reminded that “all”, not just me, have blown it. I want to be a part of a group that will not magnify my sin for me. I want to be a part of a group that helps me win and then emphasizes my success. You see as a man one of my greatest needs is to be affirmed. Affirmation is like high octane fuel in my tank. It helps me to perform at peak levels. Guilt, shame and criticism cause my engine to be sluggish and underperform.

As a man I need for others to see my undiscovered potential and my hidden talents. I also need to be challenged from time to time. I can get lazy and really do need someone to call me out-to get in my face-to remind me of what it takes to win. I don’t need someone to get in my face and tell me I’m losing. Tell me there is a winner inside of me. Tell me I can win. Show me how-don’t just tell me-show me-give me an example.

Isn’t that what Jesus did? He did not say to men, “Come have an intimate personal relationship with me. If He had, only women would have been His followers. Men want a leader not a lover. Jesus said, “Come follow me”. He also promised to teach them by example how to become leaders of other men. Men need a church to teach them how to lead. Leadership is an innate desire placed in the masculine soul. A man instinctively knows he should lead. He just needs a compelling vision and examples to follow and he can get the job done.

If we can address these issues, I believe men will love coming to church and it is my intention to do so.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

The kind of man I want to be

We have begun a month-long discussion about masculinity. If you will permit me today, I would like to tell you the kind of man I want to become. I suspect other men have similar desires. After all, no man wants to be a loser. He wants to be a winner. I think what sometimes happens to us as men is our vision gets blurred after a few hard years and hard knocks that life inevitably gives us. We can lose sight of what is most important.

For over fifteen years now I have admired a particular man that embodies so much of what I want to be found in my life. King David from the Bible is that man. A Warrior poet is the best way to describe him I think. He had a heart as big a Dallas and fierce desire. It is no secret that his desires got him in trouble from time to time but his desire always led him back to God whom he had learned to love and trust deeply.

David was not afraid to fight for what he believed in. He fought many battles throughout his life. Often he was out-gunned, out-matched, but still faced the odds and prevailed. In spite of early success, for many years David probably felt like a failure as he waited for his dreams to be realized. It was during these difficult years that he developed his ability to write incredible music and literature. David had a passion for the arts and still inspires people today with his amazing work.

I connect with the desire to fight and inspire. I want to fight for the hearts of men and women-to inspire them to pursue God and His vision for their lives. I enjoy artistic expression and believe it is a gift from God to be used to lift people-to speak to their lives and call out the best in them.

I also want to be an unselfish lover and friend to my wife. I desire to deeply enter into our relationship-to explore her heart like I used to explore the woods near my house for hours on end as a boy. She truly is an amazing woman who has much to offer to so many. I am amazed by her as I watch her continually blossom as a person and pursue her goals. As her friend I am learning to support her dreams as if they were my own. Don’t get me wrong, I can just as selfish and insensitive as the next guy but that is not who I want to be and I am learning to do so much better in our marriage. I want her to truly know that I love her. I want to stay with her for the rest of my life.

Another desire I have is to be a strong and compassionate father. My son Sam is calling new aspects of my heart forward. The way he looks at me is humbling-I have no other way to describe it. He depends on me. He trusts me. He admires me. He sees me as his model replicating my moves and behaviors-yikes! He needs my strong heart to emerge. He needs my interest, attention, affirmation, wisdom and my compassion. Am I up to this? I had better be!

When Samuel Wise Bennett was born I named him after Samwise Gamgee in “The Lord of the Rings”. He was such a loyal friend to Frodo that my heart was deeply moved by his example. No one achieves anything of consequence in this life without key, difference-making friends.

According to scripture a “faithful friend” is hard to find and my greatest desire for Sam is my own personal desire-to be a good friend to those close to me. I have failed at this a couple of times. I hope I have learned better as I move into the future. I want my friends to know my protection, support and encouragement. I also want to be their friend for the rest of my life.

Most importantly, I want to be a committed follower of Jesus. I want to honor him throughout my life and grow to become like Him. His challenge to come and “follow Him” is without question the hinge upon everything else I have mentioned today swings. If I fail here, then I will likely fail everywhere else. His teachings are filled with wisdom, encouragement, and demand discipline and focus. I want pattern my life after Him.

Jesus was the most courageous leader the world has ever seen. He took ordinary men like myself and caused them to believe they could do the impossible. He was not afraid of anyone or anything. He took risks and made decisions. He developed people who changed the world. The church that I lead deserves Christ-like leadership and I want to provide it. I want to influence the world around me for Jesus Christ. I want to be a courageous leader who makes a difference in this world.

This is the man I want to become. Will I make it? By God’s grace I will!


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Scaring men away?

“Tony went to a men’s small group at a church—once. First, the men sat in a circle and sang songs for about ten minutes. Tony was then suddenly asked to introduce himself and “share” about his personal life. Next, he was paired with another man he had never met and asked to “share” one of his deepest fears. Then, everyone was asked to share a prayer request and a praise report. Then men read out loud from the Bible taking turns around the circle. Finally, the men stood in the circle and held hands for what seemed like hours, while one by one they publicly bared their souls to God. One man was quietly weeping. The man next to Tony prayed for ten minutes straight, and his palms were sweaty. Once the meeting was over, Tony didn’t stay for cookies. He hasn’t been back.” (Excerpt from “Why Men Hate Going To Church”)

As a pastor, I can see this happening and can feel Tony’s anxiety for him. I am not saying that the things Tony experienced are necessarily bad, I am just saying that the typical male does not readily connect with this kind of environment-the typical female does. The irony is this: Men who were created to be strong, brave, protectors are actually intimidated by feminine environments. We could be scaring men away!

As I began to say in our last blog, “Where are all the men?” our churches are unconsciously designed to connect more with the female. This has contributed to a decline in men in our churches.

Our music tends to be more feminine than masculine. Songs are more likely to emphasize intimacy, tenderness, love, etc. rather than victory, mission, etc.

Our message is also more likely to be cleansed of themes like God’s awesome power, wrath, and swift justice or even fighting for the oppressed. The modern church’s message is largely about God’s “softer” attributes such as mercy, compassion, and grace.

Our male models and metaphors need to be brought out of the church’s closet, dusted off and REpresented if we want to be “fishers of men” in American culture.

The Old Testament is filled with men who are kings, warriors, fathers, priests, prophets, teachers, farmers, and the like. Additionally, Jesus came from the Father as a man who was the Son of God and is coming again, according to Revelation, as a dragon slaying warrior with eyes of blazing fire and a sword coming out of His mouth to mete out justice against the enemies of God and their leader, the Dragon Satan.

Throughout the pages of the New Testament there are repeated metaphors to the church as an offensive force storming the gates of hell, an army battling evil, a team disciplining itself for competition, etc.

As a man, this is the church that I can more truly connect with, and I believe that many absent men will too. I am not saying that we ignore the things that are currently more likely to be emphasized, I am suggesting that we give much more consideration to the masculine life-giving spirit that God has intended for His church to have. The feminine qualities of the church are just that-qualities. They are firmly established and are not going anywhere-nor do they need to. We need only to balance them and complete them with God-given male strengths as well. Then and only then will the church truly advance victoriously the way God has intended.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Where are all the men?

On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches. This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands. Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants. The majority of church employees are women (except for ordained clergy, who are overwhelmingly male). As many as 90 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it by their 20th birthday. Many of these boys will never return.
More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only two out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.

Many men attend church out of habit, unaffected by what they hear. Quite a few men go to church simply to keep their wives/mothers/girlfriends happy. The majority of men who attend church do little or nothing during the week to grow their faith. Relatively few churches are able to establish or maintain a “vibrant” men’s ministry (including our church).

The question I am asking is: How can we return an authentic, life-giving masculine spirit to our church without running off the women? Or could that attract even more women?

How did Christianity, founded by a powerful man and his 12 male disciples, become so predominantly female? Jesus was a magnet to men but the modern church is not-what’s changed?

Try to see church through the eyes of a typical guy. It’s intimidating for a man to hold hands in a circle, to cry in public, or to imagine falling deeply in love with another man (even if his name is Jesus).

Jesus had no trouble captivating men with a compelling vision. Fishermen dropped nets full of fish to follow Him, but today’s church can’t convince most men to drop their TV remote controls for a couple of hours a week. God’s vision for the church needs both men and women. We must reengage men if the church is to accomplish its mission of expanding God’s Kingdom around the globe.

If we’re going to be fishers of men, we’ve got to do a better job considering men’s needs and expectations. Jesus did it; so must we.

For the next month we will be addressing this critical issue of men and their vital roles in today’s world. Join us in our weekend services for the series “You’ve Got Male”.

Today’s article inspired and adapted from the book “Why Men Hate Going To Church”


Friday, June 09, 2006

It does'nt have to end like this

“Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels sitting at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. "Why are you crying?" the angels asked her. "Because they have taken away my Lord," she replied, "and I don't know where they have put him." John 20:11-13

Mary outside the tomb crying, overcome with grief, things not turning out like she had hoped. No doubt, in this moment, she probably felt life was turning out quite the opposite. Would the dream of living life with Jesus once again be replaced by the old nightmare of abuse and demonic torture? Would all of this just end like this?

Life for many comes to points just like this-heartache that leads to despair. Some even live with a continual sense of grief. Relationships have been painful, financial pressures overwhelming; they look into the past with regret and look into the future with anxiety. If only things could turn out differently. If only I had made different choices. Where is God?

We must remember that for Mary the story doesn’t end there.

“She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn't recognize him. "Why are you crying?" Jesus asked her. "Who are you looking for?" She thought he was the gardener. "Sir," she said, "if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him." "Mary!" Jesus said. She turned toward him and exclaimed, "Teacher"! "Don't cling to me," Jesus said, "for I haven't yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God." John 20:14-17

How many times do we just glance and not recognize the truth-the truth that our grief can be turned to joy. Did you know that the resurrection of Jesus means that life can turn out differently. The resurrection means that we are never without hope. We are never without promise of a future.

“His anger lasts for a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning.” Ps. 30:5

I have come to these places of discouragement many times. They are a fact of life. What I have learned is that Jesus has overcome this world and its sorrow and pain. Each time Jesus has shown Himself to be who He said He was. Each time He has delivered on His promises. In a time of discouragement he once said to His disciples:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I don’t know where you are right now but I do know that if you are trusting in Jesus the story does not end here. Take a look around with eyes of faith. Look for Jesus. Pray and ask Him to show Himself to you. No one who hopes in the Lord will be disappointed! It does not have to end like this! Look for your blessed Hope!

“You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy when you see me again.” John 16:29


Did God Become A Man?

So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.
John 1:14

No doubt this is one of the most amazing scriptures in all of the Bible. I do not claim to fully understand it. That God could humble Himself and become a man blows me away. The all-knowing, all-powerful One who spoke the world into existence now needs to have His diaper changed? God Himself nursing in the arms of a loving young mother? God the toddler discovering His own creation?

Muslims deny that Jesus could be God in flesh. They agree that He was a great prophet, but they clearly deny His divinity. One of the reasons is Muslims are taught that God is infinite and that He could not become a finite man. They say it doesn't make sense. How can God who is dependent on nothing, then become dependent as a man. They say that by definition God is not dependent upon anyone, therefore to become dependent is impossible.

Many religions of the world have pathways for men to become gods, but in Jesus Christ we see the reverse-God became a man.

Some say that this belief in the diety of Christ was made up later by the disciples of Jesus and was not at all what God intended or what Jesus taught. However, many times Jesus referred to His own deity. In Mark 14 He infuriated the Jewish high priest by His claim and it drove the Jewish leader to want to crucify Him for such blasphemy. Jesus often interchanged the titles “Son of God” and “Son of Man” to refer to His duel nature and on several occasions used the phrase “I am” to refer to Himself-a phrase every Jew understood to be attributed only to God. Jesus also specifically states that He and the Father are “One” (John 10:30).

Perhaps the most significant was Jesus’ acceptance of worship (Lk. 5:8, John 20:28). The fiercely held “One God” foundational belief of the Jews absolutely forbade worship of anything or anyone but God, yet Jesus did not correct those who worshiped Him.

The fact that God would desire for us to know Him so much that He became one of us is revelatory of His character. A character of deep unconditional love and boundless compassion. He totally identified with us by becoming one of us.. He entered into our struggle. He faced our fears. He overcame our sin. He became our sin.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor. 5:21

Maybe what blows me away the most is not that Jesus would become a man, but that He would become sin. He loved us and became one of us. He identified with us and took our sin from us. No one can fully comprehend this no matter how long they try. Only God can understand the kind of love that He has for us. What an amazing God!

“And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Eph. 3:17-19 NLT


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Jesus' secret marraige?

The Da Vinci Code’s Claim: “Mary Magdalene’s most important role was being married to Jesus.”

So we are asking, “Were Jesus and Mary Magdalene married?” And if they were, would that somehow discredit Jesus’ claim of deity? Was the word "companion" synonymous with the word "spouse" during the first century? And if Mary was married to Jesus, what was her last name? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Most men in Jesus’ day were married, but not all. Brown suggests that since most men were married, then Jesus must have been. While that is true, there was precedent for single men, especially at the community of the Essenes. In the Bible, the prophet Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul were single. Paul even said in 1 Corinthians 7:1: “It is good for a man not to marry.” Remember, Jesus often did things that were contrary to cultural expectations. If Jesus was married, Paul would have said so. In 1 Corinthians 9:5, Paul argues that it’s OK for the apostles to be married and cites those who had spouses: “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?” Paul most certainly would have referenced Jesus being married if He had been because it would have bolstered his argument that marriage is a good thing.
The question of whether or not Jesus was married is an interesting one for sure. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Would being married somehow make him something less or even sinful?

There is nothing that I am aware of theologically that would preclude Jesus from being married. Marriage, and sex within marriage, is a gift from God and is perfectly holy. If we were to find some sort of archeological evidence today, (I can’t imagine what), but something that proved without a doubt that Jesus was married, or specifically that he was married to Mary Magdalene, it would not change my faith one iota. I base everything on what Jesus said and did (The resurrection being kind of a big deal to me) not on whether He was married.
Marriage is a holy covenant between a man and a woman, ordained by God in the very beginning. (See Genesis 2:24) The Bible has only the highest view of marriage."Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure." Hebrews 13:4Sex in marriage is a Holy thing…there is nothing wrong or sinful in regard to sex. If you doubt me about that, just read Song of Songs in the Old Testament. God created sex and all the pleasure and beauty that go with it in the context of marriage.For it to be wrong for Jesus to be married and experience sex in marriage would mean that there was something inherently sinful about marriage and sex, which there isn’t.Now, I don’t think that Jesus was married, but why would it undermine His deity if He was? What does a single Jesus do for you that a married Jesus doesn’t?

Having said that, I discussed this yesterday with pastors Gary and Tim, and we all agreed that there is great significance lost to the “Bride of Christ” if Jesus did marry. We know through scripture that we are all going to be wedded to Him in a glorious moment in the future. And it is our conviction that Jesus is saving himself for that day. And what a Day that will be. Mary will get to take part in the ceremony I’m sure.

Dan Brown is wrong about Mary Magdalene. Her importance is not in being the wife of Jesus. Her importance is in being the first to proclaim a message that is still changing lives today - “I have seen the risen Savior!”

If Mary could speak to us today I am sure she would say something like, “Look at Jesus not me!”