Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Ultimate Christmas Present

“In Him, in bodily form, lives divinity in all its fullness, and in Him you too find your own fulfillment, in the one who is the head of every sovereignty and ruling force.”

Colossians 2:9-10 (New Jerusalem Bible)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Shrink Wrapped to God: Philippians 2:5-7

We’ve all seen shrink wrapping. The wrap is made to conform to an object by creating a vacuum between it and the object. Sometimes the result is near perfect, other times there are wrinkles, but either way the wrap adheres to the object wrapped, giving the wrap a shape, purpose, and foundation it would otherwise lack.

God call us to be shrink wrapped to Him. Philippians 2:5-7 tells us that we should follow Jesus’ example; He “emptied himself” by completely conforming to the Father’s will (New Jerusalem Bible). There was a perfect vacuum between Jesus and the Father becuase Jesus did nothing apart from the Father. See John 5:19, 30, 8:28-29, 10:30. Indeed, Jesus was so closely conformed to the Father that he could truthfully say that we see the Father when we see Him. John 14:8-10.

Following that instruction is difficult but essential. Nature abhors a vacuum and human nature abhors giving up “rights” to conform to God’s general precepts and specific plans. And unlike Jesus, we will not be able to perfectly conform to those precepts and plans. But we will come closer to God if we ask for His help and that is always better than the alternative—being a thin membrane attached to nothing of consequence.

(Images about conforming/yielding to God were posted September 12a, 18a, 18b, 18d, and 23; October 3 and 3a, November 6; and 21, December 8, 12, and 15, 2004 and January 10d, February 18, May 11, June 18 and 27; August 21 and 27; and October 3, 2005.)

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Prayer Request

I am entering a very demanding period in my work and family life that is likely to last several months. I would be very grateful for your prayers, including, especially, prayers that I and the others involved in those situations respond in the spirit of Philippians 2:3-5:

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…"

Thank You.

Effective Christians are Like Good Snowballs

Effective Christians share two characteristics with good snowballs.

First, they have to be shaped. You can’t throw a handful of snow very far or very accurately. Instead, you must shape it into some semblance of a ball to have any prospects of reaching the target.

The same is true with us. God has to the scrape off things in our lives that make us unstable projectiles and form us into new shapes to put us on target. We have to yield to His shaping to get where He wants us to go; otherwise we fall short of the mark.

Second, good snowballs must be squeezed. A loosely formed snowball has little impact because it’s mostly air. But when pressure is applied, that air is removed and the same amount of snow will make a much greater impression. That increased impact can only come through pressure.

Once again, the same is true of us. God has to let us go through some tough situations to squeeze the fluff from our lives. It’s not easy, but it must be done if we are to have the impact He wants.

(Images dealing with winter related themes were posted September 12a, November 27 and December 12, 2004.
Images about conforming/yielding to God were posted September 12a, 18a, 18b, 18d, and 23; October 3 and 3a, November 6; and 21, December 8, 12, and 15, 2004 and January 10d, February 18, May 11, June 18 and 27; August 21 and 27; and October 3, 2005.)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A Gardener's Prayer

(God, through scripture, repeatedly analogizes His people to a garden or plant He hopes will produce pleasing fruit. See e.g. Isaiah 5:1-2; Matthew 21:33-34; John 15:1-8 and the notes thereto. The following is a prayer inspired by those analogies and a lot of time in vegetable gardens.)

Father, conform me to Your garden plan so that I am used to the fullest, with no wasted space, to produce what You want. Your plan is perfect; help me to remember and accept that, even when I don’t understand the details.

Give me all I need to produce the crops You want and help me to use those things to the fullest, with no waste.

Help me to yield exactly the crop You want, precisely the quality and quantity You are looking for. Help me generate fruit so pleasing that You can't help but smile.

Protect me from anything that would interfere with that result; keep those things away from me, but if I must be exposed to them, cleanse and heal me from their adverse effects.

Give me patience to get through the times when You want me to develop roots, stems, or leaves instead of fruit, and through the times I must lay fallow.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

(Images about gardening or soil related themes were posted October 3c, November 21, December 8, 2004 and February 28, June 11, 13 and 24, 2005.
Images about conforming/yielding to God were posted September 12a, 18a, 18b, 18d, and 23; October 3 and 3a, November 6; and 21, December 8, 12, and 15, 2004 and January 10d, February 18, May 11, June 18 and 27; August 21 and 27; and October 3, 2005.
Images about patience/waiting on God were posted October 1, November 21, December 8, 2004 and June 11, 18, and 24, 2005.
Images about the benefits of eliminating things that distract us from God/His purposes for us were posted September 18d, October 3a and 14, November 21, December 8, 2004 and February 28 and August 3, 2005.)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

What We Can Learn About God From Being Parents: Seeing Our Behavior Through the Father’s Eyes

Children’s attitudes towards their parents can fall various places on a continuum, causing differing responses. Sometimes they are disobedient, triggering concern and annoyance. Other times they are obedient, but otherwise oblivious to them. But sometimes they are loving, showing affection with hugs, kisses, and words. Parents know how much joy that gives.

God, our heavenly Father, likely views and responds to our behavior in similar ways.

At times we are disobedient. We violate God’s general rules or disregard His instructions about particular situations. That must irritate and concern Him, just as our kids’ misconduct bothers us. But He doesn’t stop loving and caring for us, just as we don’t stop loving our kids when they mess up, even intentionally so. He just corrects us and, if we accept it the correction, we’re both happier.

Other times we are obedient but otherwise indifferent to God. We stay within the limits laid out in His word and go about doing what He’s called us to, but don’t give Him much thought. That’s probably less distressing than disobedience, but is probably emotionally neutral for God, just as our kids’ self absorbed, but otherwise appropriate, behavior is for us.

But those times we let God know how much love Him must be very pleasing to Him, just as our children’s outpourings of affection are to us. That’s called worship. It can take various forms: living in continual and grateful communication with Him, doing things specifically to please Him, offering loving words in prayer, heartfelt liturgical and musical praise. That's what we should strive for.

(Other images comparing our relationship with God with our relationship to our children can be found at What We Can Learn About God From Being Parents.
Images about forgiveness were posted on November 27 and December 2, 2004.
Images about the importance of exercising the spiritual disciplines were posted September 17a, 18a, and 18d, and October 3a, and 8, 2004 and January 10d and August 27, 2005.)