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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Learning to Speak All Over Again

One thing that has really amazed me the last few months in my classes is just how accessible the gospel was in the 1st century. Living some 2000 years later, we have accepted some of this jargon as typical speech when it comes to the Bible, but many of these phrases were cutting edge material in the first century!

Did you know that the fastest growing "religion" is the 1st century was the emperor's cult? It was basically the Caesar's attempt to get everyone to do what he said. But within this spreading national religion of Rome were embedded some significant words. Everyone was to proclaim, "Caesar is Lord!" The spread of this religion was known as spreading the gospel of Caesar.

The apostle Paul then, among others, would grab these phrases that were on the minds and the hearts of the people and turn them into declarations about Christ. Another significant example would be the prevalent theme of "wisdom" in 1st century philosophical circles. Again, Paul is intentional about using this concept, but developing it into the "wisdom of God."

Here's what I'm pondering today. Phrases like this made a ton of sense when they were first used. Yet we still use them to speak about Christ today. I'm wondering if some people have little interest God, Jesus, or the Bible, because they don't speak the language. We expect people to relate to some of these phrases that mean little to them in our modern culture. It is almost as if people would need to be experts in 1st century Roman culture to really appreciate the message about Jesus. This is bad. We need to change our vocabulary so the timeless message carries real force again.

Isn't it about time we learn to speak a new language? Isn't about time that we learn to speak about Christ and the hope he offers in ways that grab the hearts and minds of people today? I'm wrestling with this thought today. If proclaiming "Jesus is Lord" was a direct affront to Caesar's religion in the 1st century, what would that look like today? Thoughts?

What are other phrases that Christians use that have very little meaning outside of a church building?

What phrases could we begin to use?

On your journey, may you walk with a Christ who is as relevant in 21st century America as he was in 1st century Rome.

Jesus is my president,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Your Life: A Copy Machine

Whether we like to admit it or not, we are influencing other people to become like us. We can't really help it. When we are in friendship or close relationship of any kind with another person, we can't help but rub off on them a little bit and influence who they are because of who we are.

We see this all the time in our own children. When my 4-year old repeatedly toes the line between obedience and disobedience with me, I can't help but see reflections of how I must have been as a child. I hear her use words and phrases that I know are fairly unique to my vocabulary. She gets excited about things that excite me. (How many 4-year olds do you know that can go to a high school track meet and jump up and down in the stands shouting, "Go runners!", as if she's at the greatest sporting event in history?)

I wish this kind of influence was confined to my children, but I know it's not. While I may not have this same level of influence in other relationships, I am aware that who I am shows up in ways both large and small in the lives of others. My life is like a copy machine. So is yours. Whatever we set down on the glass gets duplicated onto the pages of other lives, sometimes clearly and other times a mere blurry reflection. But a copy nonetheless.

Which has me pondering today- what am I duplicating? E. Stanley Jones, a missionary pioneer to India in the early 1900's, once wrote, "O Christ, I want the Spirit within me to duplicate nothing- nothing except You." That seems like a prayer worth praying. For in all that I am, very little is truly of lasting value. My interests, desires, hobbies, etc, will one day be only memories. But the person of Jesus, his character and his love, will endure. To what extent does my life reflect this? And how do I live more intentionally so that one day my daughter loves Jesus more than running? How do I live this way so that what "rubs off" of me onto others is more of Jesus and less of the books I'm reading or the movies I'm watching?

What do you think? I think Paul in the New Testament gives us a hint. He says in I Corinthians 11:1- "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." Paul recognized that the only basis he had for asking others to follow Him was his own pursuit of Christ. I believe this is also true in our lives. We will duplicate the love and nature of Christ to others only so far as we are pursuing this love and nature in our own lives. Kind of gives new purpose and meaning to the old "personal quiet time" idea. I guess in the end our pursuit may be personal, but it is never for our benefit alone.

May you consider on your journey today what kind of copies your life is making. If this thought scares you, don't hesitate to call in the Master Repairman. His work is free, but not cheap.