Being Obscure, Just Like Jesus

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But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.

Mark 10:44

I am processing something right now. I suppose its implications have the potential of turning everything ‘upside down’ for me at least. Some scientists have postulated that our planet is due for a complete magnetic switchover. This is when north becomes south, and vice versa. My issues at this moment are not quite that cosmic, but nevertheless my own world is being ‘rocked.’

There are 7,000,000,000+ people now alive on this planet.

Sometimes I wonder if many of my issues come from not seeing this. It seems that there is an intoxication of success where we become increasingly confused and self-deluded over ‘who’ we are. We think it’s about our efforts, our giftedness. We are specialists in attaining and ascending. Pride often drives us, even among mature Christian believers.

3 “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

Philippians 2

Jesus was not driven like we seem to be. We truly think we need to be assertive (at least the Christian version of it) and push our way forward. Jesus’ message and teaching were all about emptying Himself of being God, and becoming a servant of servants. And this is the arresting item we fail to consider–

Jesus did all of this while wearing a towel, not a crown.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet.  

John 13:3-5

He easily could have just did a ‘teaching’ on servanthood and I’m reasonably certain it would of been more than sufficient. But instead Jesus went to the uttermost and put ‘skin on His words’ and actually got down on His knees to wash dirty feet.

6 “Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
 he humbled himself in obedience to God
   and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

How can we not do this? This is a hard question to ask, but does our own discipleship include emptying self out daily? Can I find peace and fulfillment by becoming an unknown? Is this what we’re missing?

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart, It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”   

Andrew Murray

 

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(All verses are from Philippians 2, NLT, unless noted.)

 

 

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Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son

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Rembrandt, “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” c. 1661
“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to  one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:11-24, ESV

Two hundred and eighty-nine words– these describe the life of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. These 289 words reveal to us a God who loves far too much, way too easy— and maybe far too extravagantly for human beings to understand. Perhaps we sort of expect that he will ‘appropriately’ punish his son– at least put him on probation at least. It only makes sense. But we find that is legalism talking.

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Many of us have lived in prodigality, and some of us for a very long time. We have spent our inheritance like ‘drunken sailors’ and have nothing at all to show for it. The prodigal, completely destitute, takes the only work he can find. (Imagine a good Jewish boy feeding hogs.) He is so far gone that he starts inspecting the filthy slop buckets for something to eat.

Many of us will understand his despair. Often there comes to us a crystalline moment of broken wisdom. The prodigal, sin-crusted and impoverished, still has a lingering memory of the Father’s house. The servants there had far more than him right now. Sometimes I wonder if in our captivity, we instinctively want to go home, if only in our minds, to be a servant there.

The Father has dreamed of this precise moment. The parable says, “He saw him–felt compassion–ran out to him–embraced him–and kissed him.” The Father is a whirlwind of agape love. In moments we see a swirl of servants who completely overwhelm an already overwhelmed son. I’ve read the Parable of the Prodigal Son a hundred times or more. It never loses its punch. I simply want to bring some observations: 
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  • We see that his father receives him with a tender gesture. His hands seem to suggest mothering and fathering at once; the left appears larger and more masculine, set on the son’s shoulder, while the right is softer and more receptive in gesture.
  • The son’s head is downy, almost like a newborn’s. We must enter the kingdom like little children. 
  • The Prodigal Son seems to be protected by his father. He snuggles near the Father’s breast. It’s love that holds him there.
  • Consider his sandals. It has taken a long time for him to come home. 
  • Standing at the right is the prodigal son’s older brother, who crosses his hands in stoic judgment; we read in the parable that he objects to the father’s compassion for his brother.
  • We see his mother in the background in the painting, and a seated steward or counselor. One stands in profound joy, the other in sits in stunned perplexity.

Rembrandt had painted the Prodigal once before, when he was considerably younger. And it is a very good painting. The prodigal is happy and gay; there is absolutely no indication of the consequences of sin. He is a charming young man at the height of his popularity, and we see him at a happy party. He is spending the inheritance of his father.

But Rembrandt chooses at the end of his life to re-paint it to reflect reality. This is one of the last paintings he will do, and it is the Prodigal Son–destitute and repenting. I can only imagine; the years have taken a toll and he doesn’t really feel his first painting is enough. He wants to paint what is true. He is painting now the spiritual condition.

We are given a work that some critics call as the greatest painting ever completed. The painting is now in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is seldom seen by visitors. It is a clear echo of the grace of God for fallen men and women. Like the father in the painting, He’s ready to forgive every sin saturated son and daughter.

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Pure Depression [Diagnosis]

depression

I am not a psychiatrist or a licensed therapist. I am just a ordinary pastor serving God’s flock. Yet if I were to speak I would speak on the subject of clinical depression. The stats are pretty grim. Depression affects 16.1 million people, or 6.7% of the population every year, age 18 or older. The median age is 32.5 years old. (These are just U.S. stats only.)

I’ve come to understand this much through my own struggles. It seems that there are three types of depression to consider.

These ‘big three’ seldom stand alone; they mix or overlap each other to make diagnosis difficult. Only a doctor can make that, but we can at least know that these three are most likely behind our issues. You can have these three working against you at once.

  1. Guilty depression- when our behavior hasn’t been what it should be (sin), this is the source of condemnation. Jesus forgives us, so we should forgive ourselves. Guilty depression is very hurtful and damaging to our spirits. Often our healing will come when we draw close to the Lord Jesus.
  2. Organic depression- when it’s built into our DNA and part of our very being; it becomes fundamental to your personality. You can compare it to  someone who has diabetes or MS. We live in a fallen world and genetics affects us at this core level.
  3. Reactionary depression when we react to some bad news or injury, or working too much with no time off. We react to difficulties in this way when outside forces infringe upon our inner heart. Often God sends us an elder or a mature believer to come and help us out.  This is fortuitous indeed to have someone to speak through our confusion.

Each of these are different, but identifying them could help you move through them more gracefully. The three can overlap. Perhaps it’s helpful to see reactionary depression as the most common, while guilty depression can be the most hurtful to the believer’s heart.

Satan is involved in the intensification of each– he creeps in and slowly strangles all hope. Worship and the Word is critical and necessary weapons for us out us to walk-out clean and clear. We must defend ourselves (and others) with these weapons that the Father has given us.

Knowing the type of depression will give you understanding and perhaps this will help you defuse the situation. These things have helped me personally to work through my own issues.

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”

Proverbs 12:25

 

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Statistics in opening paragraph from Anxiety and Depression Assn of America. These numbers are just for the U.S. Here is their website: https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

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