A little poetry to encourage you today.
Everywhere I look mercy enthrones,
grace overthrows disaster and
love distracts my soul.
As Christian walked long ago,
toward the Celestial City,
so too I walk,
smelling its distant shore,
it’s thrilling kingdom and
it’s alluring pleasures.
Failure is certain, but
failure be damned
in the presence of the Holy One.
Men throw insults,
thoughts momentarily distract,
yet when I gaze upon the Man,
the Man who marred my soul,
bypassed my heart and
enlivened my mind
I care little for the entailments
of this world.
What story has found me,
what life I enjoy.
I know I love imperfect, but
certain I am that I love today
more than yesterday.
The nectar of life,
the fulfillment of dreams
has come to completion
in the ultimate love story
the ultimate drama
and the ultimate fairy tale.
This is too good to be true
Yet good to be true.
October 7th is quickly approaching and we couldn’t be more excited. We have been busy this summer meeting together, praying together, and laying the foundation for what our church will look like come Fall. There are so many things that go into planting a new church! Each member of our team has a to-do list that only seems to grow, and in the midst of all the excitement and busyness we can easily fall victim to the trappings of the hurried, noisy life. As in every area of life, we find the perfect example of how to manage and balance the complexities and busyness of life and ministry in the life of Christ.
The Life and Ministry of Jesus
If you’ve ever sat down and read through the entire gospel of Mark in one sitting, you will notice that by the end you might be breathing heavy. The pacing of this gospel is unbelievable. You will find the word “immediately” repeated over and over to describe how Jesus and his disciples went from one encounter to another. This pattern starts early on in the first chapter where we find Jesus teaching in the Synagogue on the Sabbath and then after he is done immediately leaving and entering the house of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was ill and we read that immediately they told Jesus and he promptly heals her. When evening came the whole village shows up at their door with all the sick and those who were demon possessed. Jesus heals many and casts out many demons, and apparently labors long into the night. At some point he goes to slept, because we read in verse 35:
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
The Act of Seperation
This is astounding to me. Here we have Jesus who taught all day in the synagogue, then ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of the entire village long into the night, yet he still felt the need to get up early in the morning, while it was still dark to meet with God. How many hours of sleep could he have gotten? Possibly 3 or 4? Now some of us might be tempted to say, “He was God in human flesh, it was easier for him”. But know this, when Jesus entered into our world and walked among us as a man, he was indeed fully God, but he was also fully man. He took on the limitations of a body when he became a man and that included the realities of fatigue and exhaustion.
What strikes me most and has helped me to begin to remedy the pitfall of the hurried life is what comes next. In verse 36 we read:
And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.”
Did you catch it? The disciples seek out Jesus and the first thing they say is “Everyone is looking for you.” Why were they looking for him? Because there were people who were still in need! There was still work to be done, still people to minister to, still a to-do list that demanded his attention, yet Christ saw it absolutely necessary to put those demands aside and spend time alone with God in prayer. There is a tyranny of the busy life that many of us are held captive to. That tyranny acts like a weed in the garden of your life to suck up all your time, energy, and resources until there is nothing left. Christ understood that and it compelled him to step away from the busyness of ministry to be renewed and strengthened by God.
Recovering from the Hurried Life
Many of us are running in a continually state of emotional, physical, and spiritual exhaustion. Please hear this and take it to heart: God is giving you permission today to set aside the to-do list for a moment and spend time alone with Him. He wants to renew you and fill you with his spirit. He wants to reveal things to you and warm your heart with love for Christ. All these things are absolutely necessary. You cannot truly live without them.
If you are anything like me, and think there is always one more thing you need to get done, you will find that this will be the most productive time of your entire day. Please join the conversation and share some words with The Branch community in the comments section!
I received this in my email box yesterday:
Did you know 1/3 of all abortions in Oregon are currently being funded by taxpayers through the Oregon Health Plan? This amounts to about $1.5 million in public funds being spent on about 3,500 abortions every year. Or to put it another way, 9 abortions TODAY will be paid for with your state tax dollars.
I’m inviting you to be part of this Oregon 2012 grassroots movement to send this email to 1 million Oregonians within the next 10 days. With your help we will meet our goal of gathering at least 150,000 signatures by the July 2 final deadline to place Initiative #25 on the November ballot.
The defense of the unborn is a top social issue for us here at The Branch. This is a great and easy way we can lend our voice of opposition for the killing of the unborn. This grassroots effort is being put on by the folks at Oregon2012.org.
What You can Do
Share this post with all your social networks using the share buttons on the right sidebar, then download and print the petition, fill it out, and mail it to: P.O. Box 1620, Corvallis OR 97339
We want to be a community of believers who are so captivated by the Gospel that the natural outflow of that is love for God and love for man. This love for man will manifest itself in many ways, one of which is through putting the needs and wants of others ahead of our own. In light of this, our identity on campus will in large part be shaped by our interaction with students through acts of service and love. These acts of service act as a bridge to proclaim the good news to students who might otherwise have no interaction with an authentic follower of Christ.
We have been working hard to find meaningful ways to focus this love for our community and campus. One simple way we plan to do that is through providing a free cup of coffee to students holed up in the library studying for finals. We are praying that God would use this small act of generosity and service to plant seeds in the hearts of those we will interact with.
Want to join us?
Tuesday, March 20th @ 6:00PM
We will meet on the first floor of the OSU library
I have just started taking classes at Golden Gate Theological Seminary, and one of my first assignments was to write a response to a commonly held belief that Jesus was a moral man but not God. So how can we respond to such a belief? How would you respond?
We could appeal to the Bible and point out all the verses where Jesus tells us that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), or the God claim he made when he said, “before Abraham was born, I AM” (John 8:58). But they might respond by saying the Bible is unreliable. We could appeal to faith, but they might respond by saying that faith is not enough. So where then can we go from there? Is there another compelling argument we could share with them in our effort to persuade them to turn to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:11)?
I believe one of the most compelling pieces of evidence to the deity of Christ is found in the analysis of the behavior of the early church fathers. We could point to their willingness to die for this man whom they clearly believed was God in human flesh. This is documented from external Biblical sources and is not a contested fact. The objector, however, might then say this only requires blind faith. Christians all over the world are willing to give up their lives for what they believe, but that doesn’t mean what they believe is true.
And here is where things get very interesting. Imagine for a moment you are a first-century Jew and an eye-witness of Jesus. You have seen him perform miracles and preach with authority and make claims that only God can make. You have seen him die and rise again three days later in accordance with the scriptures. You have witnessed all of this first hand. Would you be willing to die for this truth? Absolutely. But what if none of it was true? What if you had seen that he did not perform miracles or preach with authority or make claims that only God can make? What if you saw him die and were part of the team that stole his body from the tomb at night? What if you were in on the planning process of how you and the rest of his followers were going to come up with an elaborate theology that claimed he was the Christ? And what if one day you found yourself in front of the Jewish religious authorities and were commanded under the threat of death to come clean and admit to the lie you had been perpetuating?
Would you be willing to die for something you knew first hand to be a lie?
It amazes me how God can put desires in our heart, to where we own them, and it then becomes our desire. When I began the adventure of seminary in the bay area in January of 2007, I had not much of a clue in what manner God would have me serve Him. All I knew is that He was worthy of my life, and in my heart I knew I would be settling if I were to pursue any other vocation.
In my first semester, I was taking a course that was aimed at laying the foundation for our future ministry. One part of this course was to seek, pray and ultimately discover what our personal values were, and what it was that would “make our hearts sing” in ministry. I remember pouring much prayer and thought into those moments, and in those moments arose within me desire. Desire that I believed God had placed in my heart.
The interesting thing is that I didn’t think too much of that activity the rest of my days in seminary. To be honest, it was a fun-filled, busy time. I was a full-time husband, youth pastor, worship leader, Starbucks barista, student, friend, eventually dad, you get the idea. To think again and again about that process and arrival was not something that crossed my mind much, if at all.
I’ve always been curious about what theologians call our union with Christ. Actually, the words ‘in Christ’ occur 242 times in the New Testament. So, what does this ‘in Christ’ mean? What are its implications on our identity? How does our union with Christ impact our daily lives? These are just some of the questions I have thought through in reference to this key theological concept. A few months back I read a book by J. Todd Billings called Union with Christ. In it, Billings uses a parable from Soren Kierkegaard which was wonderfully helpful and illuminating. He states:
“Imagine a day laborer living in a great kingdom. The day laborer never dreamed…that the emperor knew he existed, who then would consider himself indescribably favored just to be permitted to see the emperor once, something he would relate to his children and grandchildren as the most important event in his life. But suppose the emperor did something scandalous. If the emperor sent for him and told him that he wanted him for his son-in-law: what then? Quite humanly, the day laborer would be more or less puzzled, self-conscious, and embarrassed by it; he would think the emperor wanted to make a fool of him, make him a laughingstock of the whole city. In this parable, the day laborer recognizes the high and exalted place of the emperor. An occasional encounter with the emperor would be delightful—enough so that the day laborer could keep his own comfortable life, keep his friends, keep his identity, yet have it embellished by the honor of the emperor. But what if the emperor wants to make him his own son? The prospect of adoption in this sense is an offense. It is too much closeness—it is the sort of closeness that requires giving up one’s own identity. Yes, it is a high and exalted place to be the child of the emperor, but king of the land, that is too high and exalted. Wouldn’t he lose all that is precious to him if he were to ascend to be the king’s son? It would be wonderful if the king would send him some money or a letter to cherish as a relic. But the king is asking for much more. The king is asking to be more than an accessory to his identity. The king wants his full identity, his entire life—wants him to be exalted, the child of the king.”
Have you ever watched someone sculpt? It looks quite random, as each thumbed impression of clay seems like a pursuit in futility. But then over time patterns arise, mosaics become clear and chance gives way to providence.
Our story, the story of The Branch is very much like a piece of clay; not much to look at, but given the right Sculptor becomes a beautiful tapestry of God’s unfolding grace in the lives of His children.
So, in 2011 and as Providence would have it, three families embarked upon a curious journey, ultimately unfolding in the conception of The Branch.
Though the story of The Branch has but merely begun, we take pleasure in knowing God’s molding hands are at work, sculpting an unbelievable story, about an unbelievable Man who redeems an unbelieving world.