It’s hard for them rich folk!

gold

 

In Matthew 19 and Mark 10 we find the story of the rich man whom Jesus told to sell everything he owned if he wanted to be perfect (spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character *amplified).  The rich man went away grieved and in distress because he didn’t want to do what Jesus told him to do.

Many of us know this story.  I’ve read it many times but as I read it again recently something caught my eye that I want to share.  After the encounter Jesus turns to his disciples and tells them that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go into the kingdom of heaven.  They were astonished as rich people were generally considered to have it all together, hence the material blessings, and said if that’s true then who can be saved.

But I think they missed the point as I think I have up until now.  The man approached Jesus looking for the one thing he could do to assure eternal life.  Jesus tells him to follow the commandments and he tells Jesus that he has his whole life.

I get the impression that the man wasn’t really expecting an answer to his question.  I think he thought that he had everything pretty much together according to the law and his place in the kingdom was secured.  But Jesus told him to do something that wasn’t in the law; something he didn’t expect at all–Sell all you own.  I think he might have been looking for a pat on the back and got a very difficult word instead.

Up to this point Jesus seemed to always be looking for a way to point conversations to the state of people’s hearts and I think that’s what he is doing in this encounter.  When Jesus talks about how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom I don’t think he is talking about money at all and I don’t think his request to the rich man was about money.  I think it was about the complete surrender of his heart.  I think Jesus was saying, “give me your heart instead of your works”.  Jesus invites the man to walk with him.  But the man left.  Maybe he came back later after selling everything, but maybe not.

When Jesus refers to the rich I think he is talking about people who think they have everything they need, and that’s people in the church as well as out.  Sometimes we can look at the many things we are doing for God, our theology, doctrine, ministry, successful careers, families and consider ourselves so rich that there couldn’t possibly be anything we lack.  But what does Jesus see in our hearts that we don’t?  What did he see in the rich man?  Maybe someone going through the religious motions but unwilling to truly invest his heart.

Jesus says in Mark 10:24 how hard it is for those who trust in their riches to enter the kingdom of heaven.  I think he was saying, how hard it is for those who believe they have it all figured out to enter the kingdom.  Jesus came for the meek, broken, hungry, thirsty, poor and sick.  And we all are, or have been, each of those things at some point in our lives.  Are you willing to ask God to reveal the areas of your theology or doctrine thats wrong, parts of your ministry that are not of him, behavior that makes him sad, careers that he doesn’t want you in, etc.?

 

Jesse and Kara Birkey

www.reflectministry.com

jbirkey@reflectministry.com

jessebirkey.wordpress.com

twitter.com/JesseBirkey

http://www.facebook.com/LifeResurrected

The Problem With Being A Servant

 

serving

 

We know that serving others is something running through the entire biblical narrative.  It’s woven throughout the whole thing.  To love is to selflessly serve others amongst other things.

It can certainly be one of the toughest things to live out.  But we can’t get away from the teaching.  Jesus came to serve.  He didn’t come to condemn but to save and He saved by serving.

One of the most amazing (and hardest) things we see in scripture is Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.  Washing someone’s feet was just about the lowest thing someone could do in the culture at the time.  Jesus went to the extreme to show us how we should serve and He didn’t do it just to prove a point.  He did it because He wanted to do it.  He loves us so much that it’s His desire to serve us in that way.

This can be very difficult to understand especially when we understand that to see Jesus is to see the Father.  We know Jesus is the exact representation of God.  So to see Jesus washing our feet is to see God the Father washing our feet.

For many of us that picture of God doesn’t mesh with the perception of God we have grown up with.  But the truth is if that picture of God makes you uncomfortable then there is a problem with the reality of God you have accepted.

So we are to be imitators of Christ therefore we are to serve each other.  But something I have noticed makes me think we have missed something.  I have experienced teaching and talks about serving and while I can’t say every time, most times being a servant is related to serving those in authority over us.

Sometimes it seems like it’s very difficult to lovingly serve those in authority over us.  Also, it just kind of makes sense to relate serving with those in authority.  But if that’s the only way we relate it, talk about it, seek to understand it, we are missing half of it.

As Jesus clearly showed being a servant doesn’t mean just serving those over us but also those under us.  Throughout the New Testament we learn that whenever power is used to rule (whatever that might look like) we are missing it.  Instead, this idea of mutual subjection runs rampant throughout.  One example is in 1 Peter 5 in which Peter warns the spiritual elders and leaders not to be domineering, coercing, overbearing or dictatorial but instead to lead by their life’s example.  In fact, Peter tells them that if they lead this way they will receive the conquerors crown.  How about being a conqueror by serving?  In other words, instead of making people serve the poor go out and serve the poor yourself and invite others to come along if they want.

What might this look like in our lives?  What would it look like to serve your kids, employees, students or whoever else you feel superior too or that you have power over?  How could that change the way you treat and interact with them?

In order to truly be a servant as Jesus was we must begin to serve those under us just as much as those over us.

Jesse and Kara Birkey

www.reflectministry.com

jbirkey@reflectministry.com

jessebirkey.wordpress.com

twitter.com/JesseBirkey

http://www.facebook.com/LifeResurrected

An Important Lesson From Our Friend Job

 

I found myself really having a desire to read through the book of Job.  So I did.  I split it up into two days and holy cow, what a rough season Job endured.  I’ve read Job before but I’m not sure how anyone could read it and not be affected every time.

Job is relatable because he suffered in many of the same ways so many of us have or are right now.  I’ve found that Job is, while it may appear to be a straightforward narrative, a very deep and complex book that needs a lot of attention to truly understand what is going on.  Especially at the end when God responds to Job.

There are many important lessons that can be taken from Job but one stood out to me in particular.  Job repents for behavior that I believe many of us (myself included) are guilty of.

Chapter 42 verses three and five find Job trembling after listening to God for four chapters worth of discourse.  Throughout those four chapters God really does a number on Jobs theology.

In verse three Job states that he uttered things that he didn’t understand.  In verse five Job states, “I had heard of you only by hearing of the ear, but now my spiritual eye sees you.”

I believe the lesson here is simple but profound.  How often do we form our reality of God by what we only hear with our ears?  So many times our impression of God is formed by what others teach us or tell us.  We often fail to seek God for truth on our own.

It’s not that we shouldn’t learn from others but that we have a very real and significant responsibility to ask the Lord to confirm truth by what we find in scripture.  I’ve been guilty of adopting theology that I didn’t seek out for myself.  Instead I just believed what I was told.

Job built his life on a doctrine he received from his ears instead of his spirit.  That led to an intense conflict that he was tormented by for 37 chapters.

Over the last year or two God has really pressed on my heart the importance of searching the scriptures for myself when it comes to my impression of God and His character.  He has led me to consider the whole of the Biblical narrative when considering an interpretation.  As a result I’ve taken everything I believe before scripture.  Some things remained the same and some things changed.

I encourage you to do the same.  Blessings,

What doctrine have you accepted without personal investigation?

Jesse and Kara Birkey

www.reflectministry.com

jbirkey@reflectministry.com

jessebirkey.wordpress.com

twitter.com/JesseBirkey

http://www.facebook.com/LifeResurrected

 

 

Fireflies and the Presence of God

 

One of my favorite, and also least favorite, things to do when I was a kid was to go outside at night and catch fireflies or lightning bugs.  It was great to see them all light up at different times inside of my jar.  The only down side was that they made my hands stink.  That’s why it was also one of my least favorite things to do.

A couple weeks ago I was spending some time with the Lord and He showed me a picture.  The picture He showed me was a firefly.  I felt the Lord begin to press something important on my heart.

The light a lightning bug produces is small and alone it can only light up a small area.  However, get hundreds of lightning bugs together and you will see a much larger area lit up.

We are the light of Jesus and we are commanded to take that light into a dark world.  Alone we can certainly light up an area and bring change of some kind to our immediate surroundings.  But there is certainly power in numbers and when the church stands united in Christ large areas of darkness can be changed to light.  I believe Jesus spoke some to this principle when He taught when two or more are gathered He is in our midst (Matt 18:20).

A week or so after the Lord showed me this I had the opportunity to see it in action.  I am the only believer at my fire station.  I do believe that some change has happened as a result of the light shinning through me but it is a pretty dark environment.  Now we have another believer at our station temporarily and I have seen a pretty amazing difference.

The atmosphere around the station is changing in ways that some might not see but are obvious to me.  A marked improvement in purity and holiness has caught my attention.  The change is because there are now two lights in a very dark area where there used to only be one.  We are praying together every shift and doing our best to let the light shine through us and God is being faithful.

Most will notice a single firefly light up in the dark.  However, most will stand in awe when hundreds light up together and then will be drawn to investigate.  Again, there are times God can bring amazing change through a single light but there are also times that the power of darkness is so great that a unified body of believers is needed to bring the desired change.  There are many examples of single people who challenged very dark areas and failed miserably.

We must put aside petty differences and stand together in our love for Jesus to advance the kingdom of God.  Pray that God would send you help in whatever dark place you find yourself in.  If there are other believers, engage them and pray together.  Let your lights shine bright!

Please leave your comments below including any testimonies of the light of Jesus bringing change!

 

Jesse and Kara Birkey

www.reflectministry.com

jbirkey@reflectministry.com

jessebirkey.wordpress.com

twitter.com/JesseBirkey

http://www.facebook.com/LifeResurrected

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Miss Your Opportunities!

Many of us tend to live in extremes.  Sometimes it seems like balance is very difficult to find in our lives.  I know it has been for me.

Even as we view the history of the church it’s easy to see the pendulum swing from one end to the other.  Years ago an extreme repentance message was preached commonly referred to as Hell, Fire and Brimstone.  There was a lack of love and grace being preached in many cases.  Many were very damaged by that movement coming away full of condemnation.

Now it appears that an unbalanced Grace message has permeated the church and the message of repentance has been missing.  This is equally unacceptable as repentance is a foundational block in the gospel message.  The hard truth is needed but it needs to be wrapped in the spirit of Love as Paul says “it’s the kindness of God that draws men to repentance”.

We also noticed the extreme tendencies when we seek to be used by God in the lives of those around us.  The two positions seem to be complete passivity in which we never take opportunities to minister to others, and creating our own opportunities to minister in whatever way we determine is appropriate.

Both of these positions are damaging as passivity will cause the person needing ministry (encouragement, prayer, service etc.) to miss what God wants to do for them and creating our own opportunities will make many people hate you with legitimate cause.  Creating our own opportunities will surely offend many and make us the least favorite people in the room.  In addition to the lack of love it shows to speak into someones life without permission, it’s rebellion against God because He calls us to obedience.  Obedience means responding to God rather than trying to make Him respond to us which is what happens when we create our own opportunities to minister.

The balance I have found in this has been to wait for God to present ANY opportunity and then take advantage of that opportunity.  A couple of weeks ago we were called (I’m a firefighter/paramedic) to help a woman who was having severe trouble with anxiety.  As I interacted with the woman I had to check my zeal to minister to her and wait for God to present the opportunity.  At some point she looked at me and said, “It feels like every demon in hell is after me”.  That was the opportunity and I took it. I was able to speak into her life what God gave me to speak.  It was an awesome experience.

Opportunities can look very different in every situation.  It takes patience and guidance from the Holy Spirit.  If that person opens up their life to you in any way you have an opportunity to minister the love of God to them however that looks.  It could be just a word of encouragement or even just being willing to listen.  There is no formula.  The important thing is that we are showing Jesus to the world and that can look different in each situation.  It’s looked very different in many of my ministry opportunities.

I know this, when people know that your going to wait for permission to speak into their lives they will feel so much safer around you and open up to you so much more.  That, in turn, will provide many opportunities to minister to them.

So let’s find balance and wait for God to make a way for us but make sure we are taking the opportunities God provides for us!

Have you missed opportunities because of passivity?  Have you turned people off because of your zeal?  How can God bring balance to your heart?

Please leave your comments below!

Blessings,

Jesse and Kara Birkey

www.reflectministry.com

jbirkey@reflectministry.com

jessebirkey.wordpress.com

twitter.com/JesseBirkey

http://www.facebook.com/LifeResurrected

Is God Just a Projection to You?

Projection

 

What would happen if you suddenly realized that the God you believe in isn’t really the God of the bible after all?  It’s a scary question isn’t it?  I think its a question that none of us would really like to spend anytime considering.  But I do think it’s an important question to think about for a moment.

Those of us who love God have, at some point, built an idea of who He is and how He is.  Over the course of time our perception of God becomes our reality of God.  The problem is that some of our reality of God might have nothing to do with truth.

The truth is that our search for who and how God is must not be done apart from Jesus.  We can only understand God to the extent that we understand Jesus.  Jesus is the exact representation of God and if we see Jesus we see God Himself.  Everything invisible about God was made visible in Jesus.  

The point is that our reality of God should only be based on Jesus.  Is that true for your life?  It wasn’t for mine.

I have found that as I grew my reality of God was built by things other than Jesus.  I didn’t look to Jesus for my understanding of God.  I looked to myself.  In other words, I projected on to God every “good” I thought He should have.  For example,

1.   Vulnerability is weakness so for me God is above suffering and unemotional.

2.  Lack of control is unacceptable so God is controlling.

3.  Failure is unacceptable therefore I must never fail to be accepted by God.

4.  Physical fitness is the only acceptable option therefore I must be physically fit to be loved by God.

5.  Perfectionism and being driven are essential qualities therefore I must strive and Drive and be perfect so that God will be happy with me.

I have only listed five but I’m sure there are more.  In fact you might be coming up with more right now.  But lets look at what my reality of God was based on my projections.  To me God was Unemotional, controlling, harsh and I must continuously earn favor with Him by doing and being successful.  

But we must take our “lists” and place them on Jesus.  Does my list line up with the heart, intentions and desires of Jesus?  Let’s see,

1.  Jesus displayed true emotion and suffering many times

2.  Jesus offered what He had but never made or tried to make to choice for anyone. I don’t see any evidence that Jesus was controlling.  Perfect love offers choice not control.

3.  Jesus continued to accept and love those who continued to fail around HIm.

4.  There is no evidence Jesus didn’t love or accept those who were out of shape 🙂

5.  Some essential qualities to Jesus were humility, patience and rest.  He only did things as God directed Him.  He reacted to God and didn’t strive or drive.

My list does not line up to Jesus.  Jesus is the standard when it comes to understanding God.  So I encourage you think about God for a moment.  Write down your thoughts about who He is and how He is.  Then look at Jesus and see if they mesh.  

Throw out whatever doesn’t line up with Jesus.  Thanks to Greg Boyd for helping me see some of this in his book Is God to Blame?

What are some things that you have projected onto God?

Jesse and Kara Birkey

www.reflectministry.com

jbirkey@reflectministry.com

jessebirkey.wordpress.com

twitter.com/JesseBirkey

http://www.facebook.com/LifeResurrected

Wrestling With Humility!

Jesus humility

For the last couple of days I have been wrestling with the massive issue of humility.  I was spending some time with the Lord the other day when I came across a passage on humility that rocked my world and I really haven’t been quite the same since.

Paul make some pretty huge statements in Philippians 2:3-9 (amplified).  It’s in this passage that we are taught what the true spirit of humility is.

Paul tells us that we should view ourselves as lower than others.  He tells us to hold others as superior and to view ourselves as inferior.  He says that is the true spirit of humility.  When I read that I had all kinds of objections which I will explain later.

Paul also instructs us to not be merely concerned with our own interests but also the interests of every other person.  Then Paul supports his instructions by pointing us to our model Jesus in perhaps the most dynamic passage on humility I have ever read.

Paul tells us that Jesus didn’t regard equality with God as something He wouldn’t give up.  Instead, He gave up His privilege and dignity to become like us.  In an amazing display of humility and love Jesus lowered Himself and became human.  He was willing to become equal with us.  

For me and maybe some of you that’s where I used to stop.  I found that my ultimate victory was in my heart that said, “I’m not better than others I’m equal”.  But there is a pretty big problem with that.  It’s not where Jesus settled.  Paul tells us in verse 8 that after He was born He humbled and abased Himself still further and carried that humility to extreme death.  WOW!

The ultimate victory of humility doesn’t come when we consider ourselves equal with others.  The ultimate victory comes when we are willings to actively place ourselves beneath others.  Isn’t that what a servant does and aren’t we called to serve?  

Like I said, I had some objections to this dynamic teaching and here they are:

1.  If I’m always considering others superior to me then I’ll never get anything I want.  To answer this God led me to verse 9 and showed me that because Jesus stooped so low God exalted Him higher than any other name.  God reminded me that He is the giver of good things in our lives and He wants to give to us.  We are not to rely on the world to give us the things we want.  If we seek the kingdom first God will take care of us.  I just have to believe God’s promises.

2.  If I follow this teaching my interests will never matter.  God answered this for me by reminding me that Paul doesn’t say we shouldn’t have our own interests.  He just says don’t let our own interests be the only ones we consider.  

3.  If I follow this teaching it will lead me to compromise my beliefs because I’m around people who don’t love Jesus and have poor interests.  This could certainly be true and that’s why we have to be careful.  There is nothing in the Bible that condones sin so if we are letting this teaching take us into sin we are missing it.  I’m free to consider others as superior and consider their interests but that doesn’t mean we have to blindly serve them with no discernment.  I’m not going to give a homeless man my last $100 if my family doesn’t have food (unless God told me too in which case I would trust Him to provide).  But that doesn’t mean I can’t serve that homeless man in some other way.  

4.  If I follow this teaching it’s going to do damage to my sense of worth, value and love.  How can I consider others as better and yet not have it affect my self image?  This was the biggest one for me and the answer came when I was sitting in a room full of people yesterday.  The Lord spoke to me and said consider them as more important than you.  So I did.  Then the Lord asked me if I felt less loved, valued and worthy.  The answer was no.  If fact I felt the opposite.  I felt more love flowing through me in that moment.  

Our love, value, identity and worth is to be in God and only God.  It is not designed to ride the roller coaster of mans acceptance and rejection.  My value has nothing to do with how I view myself in relation to others.  My value is to be detached from those influences.  Therefore I can hold myself as the least important thing on this earth but it doesn’t change how much I am loved, valued and cherished by God!  We are not to play our value, worth and love on the worlds scale.  

If fact, the only way I can be free to follow Jesus’ example of humility is to have my identity in Him and only Him.  

What do you think of this?  

What do you agree with and what do you struggle with?

Do you have any other objections?

**Don’t forget to click the follow button if you like it**

Jesse and Kara Birkey

www.reflectministry.com

jbirkey@reflectministry.com

jessebirkey.wordpress.com

twitter.com/JesseBirkey

http://www.facebook.com/LifeResurrected