Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jesus' Baptism: Reflection on a Humble God

Luke 3:21-22

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized to.  And as He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

 This is one of those passages you read in Sunday school picture books.  You see the picture of Jesus waste deep in water wearing a white robe looking up to parting skies and smiling at a dove descending.  I don’t really remember what I thought of this as a kid, if I thought anything about it, but reading the story recently struck me as much more significant than it ever had before.  I started with a pretty simple question; why did Jesus get baptized at all?  Baptism is symbolic of a washing away of sins, of repentance; Jesus is without sin, so what was the point?

 I think the key to understanding at least part of His purpose is in the phrase “when all the people were being baptized…”  Jesus had come to be one of us, human, and in getting baptized by John, He was identifying with those He came to save.  Amidst the rebellious crowd in desperate need of the baptism He would provide, Jesus humbles Himself and is baptized.  This was scandalous in many ways.  John himself tried to deter Him, saying that things should be the other way around (Matthew 4:14), but Jesus insisted.

I’m always amazed at the moments of humility Jesus displays in scripture.  As if leaving perfect and close fellowship with the Father to become human was not enough, He lived in poverty, He lived perfectly, He lived like us, He suffered for us. 

This is what changes us.  God’s Law reveals our need but it can’t save.  We become Pharisees, assured by false righteousness, or we become prodigals, burnt out with trying, choosing to live in any way we please.  But for the love given by a God Who stepped out of heaven to live with His creatures we’re changed.   

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Advancing the Kingdom: Reflections on Work

Matthew 6:33
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

It's been a strange couple of weeks for me.  God told me "no" to a deep desire of mine, then almost immediately turned around and gave me a different position at the company I work for, moving me away from the front desk and the phone to HR.  I've been training the new girl and doing my own training and planning Marvel Movie Nights (yes, I've seen The Avengers and embarrassing number of times in theaters, don't judge me) and all the time wrestling.  I've been tired and stressed and praying for direction from the Lord.  My foundations are being shaken to no end as most of the things I hope to happen fall flat.  Nothing I've assumed God would "do for me" by now has come to fruition.  I have a passion for youth work but find myself exhausted at the end of the day and putting off serving them for my own personal time.  This often causes me to resent my day job.

But really I am doing kingdom work.

I've always had this understanding that if you do whatever it is you do for the glory of the Lord then you are doing kingdom work, but I'm not sure I've ever really believed it... or at least never applied it to me.  That may sound strange, but I've always thought I'd end up in vocational ministry because of my passion for it and so I always sort of viewed secular jobs as a means to an end; tent making; something to trudge through so I could go on with my life after the eight hours were over.

I've had the wrong attitude.

Sure, this job can support the youth work I do, but at the same time, I can do kingdom work all day long.  I can work to make communication between all of our offices go well to bring stress levels down, I can be organized so that my supervisors don't have to worry about employee records, I can be a listening ear when the office experiences heart ache, I can pray, and I can always be a friend.   This is kingdom work: showing God's love to people, doing a job well no matter what that job is, seeking to honor those made in His image even when they are having a grumpy day and don't quite respond the way I might want.

My feelings may not follow as quickly as I'd like them to, but viewing my work as His work, seeking to serve Him by serving others will eventually change my attitude and ultimately please Him.  I know I can do this because I'm not having to fight for His affection.  He's already blessed me with that, with His love, and He has promised to do what is best for me.  I am so thankful that His plans are better than mine and that even tasks that might seem menial can have eternal meaning if done well and for His glory.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things: More Reflections on Joy

In college, a time when I struggled the most with depression, I tried to make a habit of spending my mornings thanking God for the things He's given me.  Lately, I've been trying to get back into that habit.  What's really cool is that god often surprises me with little things that give me a great deal of joy.  Here's a list of a few little things that just plain make me smile:

Listening to Led Zeppelin on an evening jog

Decorative Toms

Unexpected presents (for those who can't tell, this is a sunflower magnet with a bee: I LOVE bees and sunflowers)

Gray skies with surprising splashes of color.

Crack cookies (read: chocolate chip cookies)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Refusing the Easy Way Out: Reflection on the Cross

Mark 15:22-24
22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh,(R) but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots(S) to see what each would get.

Jesus was about to suffer greater agony than anyone has or ever will suffer.  From the beginning He had perfect communion with the rest of the Trinity, He followed the law to its very heart, and on the cross He was going to experience complete separation and wrath for that which He was not guilty.  No one will ever understand this kind of pain, not even those who suffer in Hell.  Yet, Christ refused to even take a bit of wine mixed with myrrh to try and dull the pain.  I don't know that it would have worked considering the sort of suffering He was going to experience, but I know it would have been tempting.

Why did He refuse something that might have eased His pain?  To remain fully conscious for the ordeal? To suffer fully that righteous justice might be satisfied fully?  To give up His spirit rather than allowing it to slip away apart from His will?  Honestly, I'm not entirely sure.  What I am sure of is that facing this sort of pain for people in rebellion against Him is so baffling that it almost seems absurd.  It's the foolishness of the gospel: The King laying down His life for the least and the lost.

This last weekend I went to see The Avengers.  In one scene of the movie, two characters have a conversation about what it means to be a king.  One asks the other if he believes himself above the human race, and when the other responds that he does, the first responds in a rather profound way; that this mentality proved he was not fit to be a king.  The true King, the Lord of the Universe, is above us, yet He brings Himself low that He might draw us to Himself.

I want to reflect on that more, especially when someone is treating me unfairly or I'm going through some sort of "pain".  If the God Who created all things could become a suffering servant, how much more should I die to myself and show mercy and grace to others?

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Small Bits of Joy: Fondant Expedition

Lately, I've been a little obsessed with a blog called a site that gives me a good laugh almost every day with horrible, hilarious cake disasters.  However, on Sundays, the author posts truly incredible examples of absolutely amazing cakes.  This always makes me hungry, and inspires me to want to attempt an amazing cake on my own.  This week, I attempted to make fondant cupcakes.  Needless to say, if I were a professional, what I made today would definitely be considered a cake wreck.  But it was still fun, and tasty.  

Chocolate cupcakes with regular frosting

"Decorated" with'll probably take some practice.  Next time I'll at least dye it...that might cover up the ugly.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

In All Circumstances: Reflection on Giving Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:18
give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

My question is, can I give thanks and submit to God's will while seeking to change my position?  Joseph did not hesitate to ask the Chief Cup Bearer to remember him when he got out of prison (Genesis 40) and even Jesus asked the Father to take the cup from Him, so is it wrong for me to do the same?  I'm not in prison, I'm not about to suffer the way Jesus did (none of us ever will), but I am amidst circumstances that are highly stressful and frustrating.  Can I be thankful and joyful for a situation I work to be free of?

Have you ever struggled with something like this?  How did you deal with it?  What did God teach you through it?