Sundays With St. Paul: “Covenant Blood” Similarities…

This is part of a series I’m writing for Near Emmaus. Feel free to read it there or read other posts by other bloggers.

During my reading for this week, I was struck by this passage from Frank Thielman:

“[Jesus’] reference to covenantal blood in Matthew and Mark takes the form ‘this is my covenant blood’ (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24) and in Luke, ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood’ (Lk 22:20). Paul’s version of the statement in [1 Cor.] 11:25 is so close to Luke’s that the slight differences cannot be detected in translation. The version in Luke and Paul make explicit what the one in Mark and Matthew imply: Jesus interpreted his death as the establishment of the new covenant predicted in Jeremiah 31:31 and understood the blood shed in his death as analogous to the blood that, according to Exodus 24:8, Moses sprinkled on the people at the establishment of the Sinaitic covenant.”[1]

For one thing, I had never thought of Jesus’ “covenant blood” as mimicking or relating to Moses’ sprinkling of blood as a mark of the covenant. I think I tend to focus too much on the vampire-like aspect of drinking blood for communion.

For another thing, I haven’t studied the similarities between Luke and Paul before and I found Thielman’s insight interesting. I have heard before that, according to tradition and a mention in one of Paul’s letters (I forget which one), Luke was a traveling companion to Paul (at least at one point). What I’m wondering, though, is why, as Thielman says, Mark and Matthew would imply this analogy of Jesus?

Ever since college, I’ve been fascinated by the subtle, yet significant differences between the Gospels. Or, rather, the Synoptic Problem (so similar, yet so different). Any time the first three gospels (and occasionally John) flow stride-for-stride and then one deviates slightly, I’m compelled to wonder what might be implied. Yet at the same time, I know that not every difference within the Synoptics is for a specific, significant reason – an underlying message, if you will.

So that’s why I’m posing the question to you all: Do you think something’s intended by Luke’s subtle deviation from Mark and Matthew or is it the other way around; are Mark and Matthew intentionally distinguishing their account of the Lord’s Supper from that of Luke? If either of those is the case, what might be the reason? And do you think Paul had a strong influence on Luke’s account?


[1] Frank Thielman, Paul & the Law: A Contextual Approach (InterVarsity Press, 1994), 105

Advertisements

On Being a Seminarian: Power of Nuance…

This is my first post as a part of Near Emmaus. Feel free to view it there or view other posts by the other bloggers.

Three years ago around this same time I was in Eugene finishing up my final year at the University of Oregon. Since my final two required courses I needed for my communication studies minor weren’t offered until the spring, I was spending the winter term taking a couple electives from Dr. Daniel Falk. One was Early Christian Religion and the other was Dead Sea Sectarian, an area of expertise for Falk.

In both classes we were required to write 10-12 page research papers and the topics were relatively open-ended. For an English major who was used to one or two prompts to choose from for a 4-5 page argumentative essay, finding a topic was a bit of a challenge. However, after reading the Community Rule from the Dead Sea Scrolls, something caught my eye:

“And when these become members of the Community in Israel according to all these rules, they shall separate from the habitation of unjust men and shall go into the wilderness to prepare there the way of Him; as it is written, Prepare in the wilderness the way of … make straight in the desert a path for our God,’ [Isa. 40:3]. This (path) is the study of the Law which He commanded by the hand of Moses, that they may do according to all that has been revealed from age to age, and as the Prophets have revealed by His Holy Spirit.” – Column VIII, lines 14-17 (about)[1]

Recognize anything – particularly from Isaiah? This same exact verse is found in the Gospels: Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:4; and John 1:23 (John’s own version, of course). However, the Gospels obviously interpret this verse differently. Instead of beginning a new community out in the wilderness, it is John who is already in the wilderness “crying out.” And instead of launching God’s movement through a stronger devotion to the Sinaitic Law (“by the hand of Moses”), it was announcing the arrival of Jesus, the Christ.

Such a slight variation in interpretation is a prime example of what’s called “nuance.” Regular readers of Near Emmaus probably know this word quite well, but for the newcomers (kind of like myself), its literal definition is “a subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning, response, etc.”[2] This particular nuance in utilizing Isaiah 40:3, the focal point for both my research papers that winter term, was what really piqued my interest in the academic side of seminary – and in the world of biblical literature beyond the Bible. Barely over one semester into George Fox, I find myself fully immersed into that academic world.

Yet, and I imagine many have similar stories from their respective seminaries, I have also found nuances in the spiritual side of life here. Hearing all the stories I have from my classmates, I often find myself amazed at the diversity of life experiences that brought everyone here. Many of them similar; not quite satisfied with the “real world,” so trying their hand at something more fulfilling to them. And yet there is such rich flavor in their various ways of perceiving their world.

I mentioned something along these lines in my reflection over fall term at George Fox; that my perspective isn’t yours and that our real challenge in the midst of such diversity is to find the beauty in each other’s point of view, each other’s nuance. Whether it be the text of Scripture or our own personal stories, the power of nuance – of a slight, subtle difference in expression – speaks volumes to the expanse (and complexity) of our God. And what’s driving my studies through my second semester (coincidentally enough with two 10-12 page research papers, also) is every little nuance I find. They’re kind of like breadcrumbs.

Tomorrow I’ll share a few notes from my class’ discussion of Paul and the nuances in the way he uses “law.” I’ve already begun that series over on my own blog, but I’ll share that post here as well.

What are some nuances you’ve discovered in your own studies? Your community? How have they guided your life?


[1] Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Penguin Classics, 2004), 109

[2] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nuance?s=t (emphasis mine)

Meeting People at Their Well…

I’m relatively new to John Green. I think I knew of him for a while, but never actually listened to any of his vlogs or read any of his books. But when I moved in with my current roommate, I was practically forced to watch Green’s “Crash Course History” videos, which are pretty phenomenal and in no way do I regret watching any of them.

One video that I recently watched was Green’s commencement speech to the graduating class of 2013 at Butler University. If you have twenty minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching it. It is well worth the time. What I love about this particular speech, though, was how he described the college graduate life – or as he said, “the hero’s journey.”

“We are taught the hero’s journey is a journey from weakness to strength. [From having no money to having a lot of it, etc….] The real hero’s journey is a journey from strength to weakness.[…] You are about to be a rookie.”

The idea here is that the college graduates he was addressing are about to go from being the most informed at one of the best colleges in the country to being a nobody (to paraphrase his words) – someone who gets coffee for other people “if you’re lucky.” And even though he was talking to the 2013 Butler graduates, I couldn’t help but listen as a two-year graduate from Oregon. Much of what he said throughout that speech is still true to this day despite being out of school for two full years. But where he turns next, the advice that he bestowed upon the Butler grads, was where I listened as a follower of Christ.

“The gift and challenge of your … education is to see others as they see themselves.”

This morning at Emmaus Life we read from John 4:11-18, which is in the middle of the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. I’ve written about this story before, but it is worth re-visiting. As Scott told us, it wasn’t common for someone to be drawing water from the well in the middle of the day. Because of the heat, people typically drew their water either in the morning or at night when it was cooler. So it was particularly strange that she was there at midday.

As Jesus converses with her, talking about living water and becoming a spring of water that wells up to eternal life, we come to find out this woman had been with five husbands and was then seeing someone who was not her husband. The text isn’t explicit; we don’t know exactly why she had all these men in her life, but we do know that she had them in her life. And it isn’t going too far to suggest that perhaps her “well” that constantly made her thirsty was relationships; perhaps she thought that if she just found the right husband, she’d be okay. She’d be happy. As it turned out, though, her pursuit of the right husband led her into a life of avoiding public ridicule – hence why she arrived to the well when she thought no one else was there.

How do we find out about this, though? How do we come to know that she had had five husbands? Jesus tells it to her. Because he saw her as she saw herself, Jesus was enabled to tell her what she needed to hear – that the well she kept drawing from was never going to satisfy. But she was also enabled to listen to what he had to say.

Of course there are several lessons within this passage of Scripture (e.g. What well are you drinking from?), but what has stood out to me today was how Jesus shared Himself with others; how there was no contract to sign, no belief statement to make, no ritual or sacrament to conduct, no strings attached. All she had to do was ask for the water which Jesus freely and richly supplies.

“Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water,” 4:15

Scott pointed this out; that Jesus doesn’t require this woman to prove her faith in Him like we might in our modern day with baptism, communion, belief statement, tithe offering or whatever. He gives it out freely. “Isn’t it interesting that Jesus is more liberal with salvation than we are?” as Scott asked.

Why is that? Why is it that Jesus, who we say we’re following, often ends up being more freely loving of others than we are? Why do we demand that people come to our church to be saved rather than us going out to them? Jesus met this woman on her level, in her weakness, where she sought escape from the realities of this world. And that’s where He turned her around. If He hadn’t done that, then it’s quite possible that none of the people with whom she shared the gospel would have ever heard of Jesus. Instead of being the strong man and seeing people from the outside, He took the weak approach and saw them how they saw themselves.

“The weakness of God is stronger than men,” – 1 Corinthians 1:25

As John Green described the hero’s journey, Jesus exemplifies as the Christian’s journey; that we’re supposed to empathize more than everyone else, to utilize our revelation in Christ to see others as they see themselves, and to make that journey from strength to weakness. In so doing, as Paul says, we become strong in the Lord.

John Green describes this whole process of becoming weaker as the college graduate’s journey (through a metaphorical use of “the hero,” of course). But Jesus shows us that if we wish to follow Him, this is the sort of thing we must do. We must cast aside our poster boards and signs telling others they’re going to hell and instead pick up our cross – willfully carrying that which makes us weak in the eyes of society – and share the living water, the abundant life of Jesus.

Maybe we’re not the judgmental type of follower. Maybe instead, we’re the ones continuing to come back to our particular well, despite never being satisfied by it. In that case, perhaps it’s time to step back, look around, and engage the people there with you – just like Jesus.

Meet people like Jesus did: At their well.

God bless.

God’s Newsfeed…

A strange thought came to me earlier today. I was sitting at Subway eating my usual foot-long Black Forest ham on Italian herbs and cheese when I happened to notice a lady sitting across the restaurant from me staring out the window. She had finished her sandwich and was munching on a cookie while sipping her soda. Every thing about her suggested that she wasn’t in a hurry; she chewed slowly, sipped sparingly, and sighed heavily, almost as if she was bored. By all appearances, she was lonely. I wondered, if God had a Facebook account, would she be in His newsfeed?

Obviously she would be – more so because God doesn’t need Facebook to see what’s going on in everyone’s lives, but even if He did need Facebook, she’d show up in His newsfeed. Heck, He might even have it set up to be notified every time she posted something (a feature I found kind of pointless due to the fact that everyone I received notifications about popped up in my newsfeed). But God sees the good and the bad; popular and unpopular; and the befriended and lonely. And careless of popularity points or approval ratings, He loves each and every one of them.

Loving others like God has loved us, to put it mildly, is exceedingly difficult. Not only is it within our nature to be around people who make us feel good or accepted or validated, but our selfish, “independent,” American culture has trained us to instinctively care for ourselves before we care for others. It has taught us “out with the bad and in with the good” so that we just might attain that level of happiness we desperately pursue. And as evidenced with Facebook’s newsfeed settings (as confusing as they are), we’re able to pick and choose the people we care about and the lives we affect.

I really wish I had acted against my selfish tendencies at lunch today. I really wish I had sat down next to her to eat my sandwich and make some empty comment about the weather or allergies or whatever just so that she’d know I at least saw her. Jesus says in Matthew 25 that He’ll welcome God’s people for having visited people who were sick, estranged, or in prison, something kind of like sitting with someone who looked lonely and commenting about the weather. No, I’m not beating myself up for a missed opportunity; I’m saying it was missed opportunity because I want to get it right next time and every time after. I want be effective at loving others as God has loved me.

Sometimes I feel like a third-grader reading a book together with the rest of the class when the teacher asks for a volunteer and I’m simply avoiding eye-contact so I won’t have to read. But instead of the teacher asking for a volunteer, I am asking for a volunteer. And instead of reading a book, we’re helping people. And instead of avoiding the teacher’s eyes, I’m avoiding God’s eyes because I am asking who’ll feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the lonely, heal the sick, and so on and I can feel Him looking right at me. I don’t want to turn around because I’m afraid it will be me having to help.

In Mark 6:30-44, Jesus’ disciples seem a little upset that their rest was being disrupted by the thousands of people eager to hear Jesus teach. They told Him to send the crowds away so they could eat, but Jesus flips it around on His disciples: You give them something to eat,” (6:37). His disciples are dumbfounded and tell him no one could afford that much bread. All the while they forgot the Apostles were empowered to cast out demons and heal sick people – literally the same chapter. But I guess feeding people is more challenging than casting out demons…

My point is that we have a tendency to sit around and wait for someone else to reach out to the socially unfavorable while God is looking us in the eye saying, You go and do it.” And then we have the audacity to say, “But God, there’s no way I could reach them; I’d have to hang out with them and learn what they like and maybe even root for a sports team I hate. Clearly, you got the wrong guy.” All the while we, just like the disciples, ignore the power God has given us – a power that compelled Paul to say, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” (Phil. 4:13).

If it sounds like I’m a little frustrated with myself, I kind of am. I’ve been at this Christian thing for eleven years and I’m still making rookie mistakes. But like I said above, I’m not writing about my failures to beat myself up; I’m trying to get them right. Of all the things in the world that I could be good at, loving as God has loved me is the most important. As Paul says:

If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing,” – 1 Cor. 13:1-3

It’s all for nothing if you don’t love. And I don’t mean loving those who love you back or the popular, rich, and powerful. I’m talking about the ones no one else sees. We – those among us who proclaim Jesus as their everything – are the light of the world; therefore, we see everyone, not just the people we want to see.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” – John 1:5

May we take a lesson from Mark 6; that our lives are not about ourselves, but rather the people around us. And it need not be more complicated than asking someone how things are going or talking about the weather. Love ’em, for the love of God.

God bless.

“I Remember the Day…”

Writing admission essays to seminaries is, in small ways, declaring your identity. In the act of answering questions or prompts, you find yourself defining what you believe as concisely as possible and mapping out what you hope to achieve with a degree from the seminary you’re applying to. Who I am and what I hope to do have been milling through my mind a lot recently, which I think is why I haven’t written anything for a small while. Yet during Sunday morning’s message from Scott Lamb, I think I finally got something settled.

He was speaking out of John 3:1-8, a conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. This is also a passage I had studied a while back when I was writing a research paper on Christian baptism. Although most of the scholars I read who had commentary on this passage said Jesus wasn’t discussing baptism in literal terms, it’s still an important passage for Christian identity. As Scott told us Sunday morning, there is more going on in what Jesus says to Nicodemus than baptism or any religious rite for that matter.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3:3

Such a puzzling thing to say. You see, Nicodemus didn’t inherently understand Jesus as saying that one needs to become a Christian in order to see God’s kingdom; “born again” did not yet equate with “Christian” – if “Christian” was even a term used in their time. So what on earth could Jesus possibly mean by telling Nicodemus he needs to be “born again”?

Something Scott mentioned later in his message gave me a clue. He was talking about identity and how we try to find it in strange places. He said, “Do you find your identity in what you can do or do you find it in what Jesus did?” In other words, do we try to find our identity by what we do, what we have, who we’re friends with, or what people say about us? Or do we find it in what Jesus did, what He has, who He is, and what He says about us? Being born again isn’t simply getting baptized; it is accepting Jesus’ words over us.

Earlier, before Scott’s message, we sang a song that hits pretty close to home for me. A couple years ago I was on a retreat with Cross Training and when we sang that song, which I had only heard a couple times before, I had certain flash backs to earlier points in my walk with God. The song is called “I Remember,” and it was written by a few folks from Enter the Worship Circle and mostly by a man named Aaron Strumpel. According to their website, the song was inspired by Psalm 77, which, after reading it late last night, I have found to be a wonderful declarative statement. As for the song, though, its words and melodies struck chords in my heart as we sang on that retreat two and a half years ago.

“I remember the day You called my name, You said I was Your child” reminded me of the night I had been praying at another retreat and saw visions of myself as a child running into my Father’s arms – a sensation I had never experienced. It was a night I wept for joy at being named a son of God.

“I remember the day You wrote the words, You wrote the book of love” stirred deep emotions over the numerous times I’ve read verses and passages that moved me beyond words and drove me into deeper studies of God. As many of you know, I love to read, but there has never been nor ever will be a text that evokes so much emotion and intrigue out of me as the Bible does. I know it’s confusing and mysterious and sometimes outrageous with what it says, but I love it. I cannot not read it.

“I remember Your deeds, O Dad, my God, I think I’ll trust in You” stirred so much in me that night. “Your deeds” sent a flashback to the night in middle school when I sat alone in my room with a pair of scissors in my hand ready to kill myself. “O Dad my God” is such a painfully wonderful phrase. Painful because I’ve never called anyone “dad” and wonderful because I get to call God my dad. Even writing about that last line now simply stirs so much inside me.

Heading into Scott’s message, I was already emotionally engaged due to that song. So when Scott asked us if we find our identities in what we do or in what Jesus did, I knew what Jesus was talking about when He said we need to be “born again.” Whatever we were, whatever we had, whatever we did, whatever other people once said about us (and we believed) – it’s been tossed in Jesus’ empty tomb. We are sons and daughters of God.

“If there’s anything you take away from today’s message – know that Jesus is desperately in love with you. And that is all you need to know,” Scott told us yesterday.

We live today because God loves. He loved us before the world saw the light of day, before sin came along and messed it all up, and before we decided to turn away from Him. He loved us in the most crucial moment: on the cross, begging that we be forgiven for we know not what we do. So whatever job we have, whatever profession we give ourselves, or whatever degrees we may attain – we are sons and daughters of God.

Our identities begin and end with Him. Not us.

“Doves You send to fly overhead/My son I am so well pleased,” – “I Remember,” Enter the Worship Circle

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?” – Psalm 77:11-13

God bless.

A Lesson in Loyalty…

Two years ago today, Calvary Fellowship was my church home. We had grown smaller than previous years, but closer as well. Thinking back to the years when we had two services every Sunday and then something going on Wednesday nights, having a smaller body was actually a benefit. Maybe I’m different, but I feel as though I grew more as a person in the last two years of Calvary than I ever would have if the larger numbers were still present.

What has really changed for me, though, is my involvement with my church community apart from Sundays. Back then, I felt as though I had to defend why I continued to go to Calvary or even listened to Danny O’Neil’s preaching. My faith didn’t revolve around self-defense, but it was a large part to how I communicated my thoughts and feelings about Danny and Calvary. It’s different now because I don’t have the same pressures I had back then.

I don’t have friends asking me why I still go there or pastors telling me that if it were them, they would have left. In a way, I don’t have the same distractions I had back then; I’m able to soak in the church experience for all that it is, all that it should be, and leave behind the religious garbage. Not to say that that is how I think of Calvary nowadays, but to say it was a unique challenge that the people of Calvary Fellowship had to work with. Emmaus Life doesn’t have that element. We’ve got all new people and all new challenges.

What sparked this whole reflection of what life was like two years ago was – surprise, surprise – an episode of The West Wing. Near the middle of season three, Leo McGarry (President Bartlet’s Chief of Staff) was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee as to whether or not the President deceived the nation by not disclosing his disease, multiple sclerosis. After the first part of McGarry’s testimony (it was two parts due to a pause issued by the director the committee), he was offered a deal; his testimony along with the testimonies of every Bartlet staff member would be forgotten in exchange for a censure (official public reprimand) of President Bartlet.

All of this is to set the stage before what Leo did. He said no. He said that he takes bullets for the President; not the other way around.

What I saw and felt in that moment was a sense of loyalty, a sense of relentless commitment, to a leader. It was the same feeling I had whenever someone talked about Danny’s beliefs or how Calvary Fellowship was a misguided church or whatever other rumor was floating around. In those days, not even a full two years ago, my loyalty was put to the test. It was a large element in my church experience. Not having my loyalty to friends and family tested is kind of refreshing.

Bear in mind that, back then, I did not see it as my loyalty being tested; but rather a friend – and by extension my entire church family – being maligned. Rumors, gossip, slander all destroy a church body and I didn’t want that to happen to Calvary. The church closed, sure, but it wasn’t because we were divided. In fact, in those last years and months, I think we were more united than ever before.

And I think it was because, as McGarry saw President Bartlet, Danny and his family were (and still are – I’m just describing how we saw them back then) worth taking a bullet for. Heck, they’re worth dying for. Why is that? Because, if you actually got to know them (and you still can), they’re a Godly family.

Thinking back on it now, we were kind of spoiled at Calvary. We had a team of pastors who were above reproach – not caught up in some secret, sinful lifestyle – and they were all following Danny’s lead. I mean, how many pastors resign because of an addiction they’ve been keeping secret? How many pastors take the Gospel and make it about success, possessions, and material blessing? How many pastors take their platform and make it about themselves, their books, and their whole agendas? God blessed us with the O’Neils at Calvary. And if I had to do it all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Adjusting, though, is still difficult. Those of you who know me personally know that I tend to be an argumentative person – even though I’m wrong quite a few times (maybe most…) – so not having someone to defend, someone to argue in favor of, takes a little getting-used to. But I have been blessed immensely again with Emmaus Life and the Lambs.

Once again I have a pastor who’s above reproach; probably makes mistakes here and there (I say “probably” because I lack evidence), but there’s no secret sin. There’s no agenda he’s trying to promote; no book of his that he’s trying to sell. None of that garbage. He’s simply a guy following God.

And yet, I have to attribute my appreciation for Emmaus Life to my lesson in loyalty at Calvary. Another way of putting is to say that I would not cling so quickly to what we have with Emmaus Life if it had not been for what I went through with Calvary. I wouldn’t have learned that to be loyal to someone or a group of people isn’t defined by what that person or group is against, but rather what they’re for. And what Calvary was for and Emmaus Life is for is real, genuine life. Such a thing can only come when all pretentions and facades are cast aside.

My encouragement is this: Be loyal.

Be loyal to your spouse, family, pastor, church, and even your coworkers. Practice loyalty because in our day, it’s so easy to jump ship. It’s so easy to have a “new favorite.” It’s so easy to have a new pastor, church, job, etc., instead of sticking with somebody for the long-haul.

Life with Jesus is an endurance race. Staying the course oftentimes means running with the same group of people for a while – even a long while.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” – John 15:13

May we all experience such a depth of loyalty.

God bless.

P.S. Leaving a church does not necessarily make you disloyal; many who left Calvary left for the right reasons (weren’t being fed, felt called to a different city or church, etc.). I don’t wish to throw anyone under any bus; I wish only to say that loyalty is worth it.

Exhaustion by Full Engagement…

Between Friday and Saturday I worked nearly 24 hours (22 1/2 to be exact). When I woke up Sunday morning for church, it took every bit of will power not to go back to sleep (well, will power and knowing that someone was getting pranked by chocolate-covered meatballs tossed in powdered sugar – I’ll explain later). All throughout the morning I was flat-out exhausted.

In all honesty, I like those days. Working eight, nine, or even twelve hours in a single day gives me some weird sense of joy and accomplishment. When I was thinking about it on Sunday morning, though, I didn’t really understand why I was so tired. Sure, I was clocked in for a long time Friday and Saturday, but the actual amount of time that I worked was about two-thirds of the time I was clocked in. It simply didn’t feel like I did very much. And then my pastor, Scott Lamb, told me why.

“It was because you were fully engaged for that time.”

Why did this stick with me? Because deep down, mixed in with the desire to go back to school, is the desire to work. I know, who actually wants to work? Work is lame. You have to, like, work and stuff. Yet every time I envision where I am in twenty years or what I’d like to be doing, I picture ten and twelve hour days. I picture myself coming home being almost completely drained. Yet, the more I think about it, I don’t want a job or a career. I simply want something in which I am fully engaged.

Minutes after my chat with Scott, he gave a message out of John 1, talking about how Jesus became fully human and yet was fully God (still a difficult concept to grasp). “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” (1:14a, NIV). There was no part of being human that Jesus did not experience. Toothaches, stomachaches, heart breaks, hunger, thirst, loneliness, betrayal – you name a basic human emotion or physical feeling and He probably felt it, “yet without sin,” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV). In other words, in Jesus, God was fully engaged with humanity, yet fully Himself.

A show that I have recently been in love with is The West Wing. I know it’s fiction and I know it’s a very sugar-coated style of politics, but I freaking love it. Why? Because throughout the average day of anyone in the West wing of the White House, there is never not something going on. Meeting after meeting, speech after speech, crisis after crisis – President Bartlett and his staff always have something to tackle. “What’s next?” is President Bartlett’s go-to phrase. Every day that they show up to work, they have to be fully engaged. Otherwise they won’t be able to do their job.

Why should it be any different for me? Or for you? Or for anyone who dares to follow God to the places and people He’s calling them? Why should our purpose be pushing the cruise control button and sitting back to relax? Sure, most days are kind of boring, but that should never be an excuse not to be fully engaged with what we’re doing. And yes, I have used that excuse before; I’m not calling anyone else out except for me.

Josh Lyman, a character on The West Wing, said something during the first season that I’ve since found challenging, “The White House can affect more change in a single day than the average person can in their entire lifetime.” When it comes to living God’s kingdom and making earth “as it is in heaven,” shouldn’t the Church (the global body of Christ) be the ones saying that? Shouldn’t we be able to affect more change in a single day by the power vested in us – the Holy Spirit – than someone without Christ can in their entire lifetime?

No, I’m not saying you’re doing things wrong if you aren’t making big changes at a rapid rate. One element to the way God brings about change in someone’s life is time. He is incredibly patient and I am incredibly stubborn – having taken years and years to understand very simple truths, like loving my neighbor and regarding others as better than myself. God is all about the long-term growth, the kind that perseveres trials and tribulations. Sure, He gets excited when someone suddenly comes to Him, but only because He can begin His long-term plan with that person. What that long-term plan requires, though, is our full engagement.

Being fully engaged is at the core of being Christian. We’re supposed to be tuned in when our coworkers, friends, and spouses vent their frustrations and anxieties. We’re supposed to have the heart and mind of Christ when someone wrongs or hurts us – even when they try to blow us or others to pieces at a marathon. And we’re supposed to have the compassion of God for others as He has had for us. Being awoken to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, to the presence of the Lord God should be reason enough to be fully engaged with the world around us.

No, I’m not saying everyone should work themselves for the Lord until they’re completely exhausted. I’m simply saying we ought to be ready in season and out of season to share the good news of God – that there’s something better waiting for us than the greatest things of this world. God’s got something up His sleeve and He wants us to be a part of it. All we have to do is submit our whole selves to Him. We have to be fully engaged.

“‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these,'” – Mark 12:29-31

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, and whomever you’re with, fully engage yourself.

God bless.