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

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The Problem with Misunderstanding God

confused man

 

“Too many Christians and even Christian Theologians make the mistake of confusing God with Satan.” – Greg Boyd.

That is a powerful statement and one that caused me to reflect for some time.  What I found was that there were some areas in which I was confusing the two.

I’m sure that many of us would all say we know the difference between the two but the quote is meant to challenge that.  Do you really know the difference?

But how does that happen?  What causes us to confuse the two of them.

I think that a big part of it is that we seek to understand God backwards.  Jesus said that    He and the Father are one and that to see Him is to see the Father.  The writer of Hebrews said that Jesus is the exact representation of God and Paul says that Jesus is the exact representation of the invisible God.  Everything that the Bible says about God is lived out tangibly through Christ.

So wouldn’t it make sense to seek to understand God by seeking to understand Jesus? But so many times we do it the other way around.  We allow hard passages of the Old Testament, and also some of the New, to create an image of God the Father for us instead of Jesus.  We also allow the behaviors we have learned growing up and impressions of other people to shape our image of God instead of Jesus.

But we can start with John’s words “God is Love”.  But that’s not quite good enough is it because we need to know what that looks like.  But we have a model.  We have the life and ministry of Jesus to show us what that love looks like.

Healing for example.  In Matthew 8, Jesus is approached by a man with leprosy.  The man tells Jesus that if He is willing He can heal him.  Jesus takes his bare hand and touches the man with leprosy and tells him that He is willing.  Then Jesus heals the man. Is God willing to heal us of our sickness and disease.  Jesus said, “I am willing.”  The greek word for “willing” means to delight in, would love to, prefer to, inclined to, and most often a strong desire, etc.

Now is this statement meant to be comprehensive?  I think it is.  It’s the same word used in 1 Tim 2:4 when Pauls says that its God’s will that all be saved.  There is no record of Jesus turning someone away without healing them.  God is willing to heal us period.  So here’s where it gets tricky.  We pray for healing and it doesn’t happen.  God didn’t heal.  Why not?

Sometime we explain it by saying God wanted to teach us something and that’s why He didn’t heal us.  But that statement isn’t compatible with “I am willing.”  Either He strongly desires to heal us or He strongly desires to let us suffer in order to teach us a lesson.  It can’t be both can it?  I don’t believe the perfect love of 1 Cor. 13 and the perfect love modeled by Jesus allows it to be both.

Would we be willing to let our kids get hit by a car in order to show them it’s not safe to play in the street?  Would we be willing to let our kids shoot heroin in order to teach them that drugs are bad?  I hope not.  But if our kids were dead set on doing those things could we stop them without jeopardizing free will?  (Yes I’m using human relationships to prove a point but so did Jesus in Matthew 7)

So what is it?  Not enough faith?  Maybe.  Personal sin?  Maybe.  Natural Consequences?  Maybe.  The state of this world?  Maybe.  The kingdom of darkness?  Maybe.  But all of those things have nothing to do with the intentions and desires of God’s heart.  They have to do with us, the world and the god of this world.

My intent isn’t to challenge you on healing.  My intent is to challenge your impression of what a loving Father is.  My intent isn’t to try and explain why bad things happen.  My intent is to challenge what kind of God you believe in because it’s critically important.  So many times what we consider love to be isn’t really love at all.  The “Whys?” start not to matter as much when we understand that if we don’t get healed, it’s not because God didn’t earnestly desire to heal us.

When we allow anything other than the life of Jesus to shape our impression of God, we are going to get it wrong.  So let’s right the ship.  Start with Jesus.

Jesse and Kara Birkey

www.reflectministry.com

jbirkey@reflectministry.com

jessebirkey.wordpress.com

twitter.com/JesseBirkey

http://www.facebook.com/LifeResurrected

 

 

Lay Hands On The Feet!

dirty feet

 

I encountered a woman the other day who was suffering from neuropathy.  Her feet were angled slightly inward and had lost much of their feeling.  Her toes were bandaged, covering sores trying to heal.  She moved with a cane and leaned on it heavily when she walked.

As I talked with the woman, I began to feel like God wanted me to pray for her feet.  I was thinking, “OK, I can pray for her feet.  I’ll just put my hand on her shoulder if that’s ok with her.”

But then I heard the Lord tell me to lay hands on her feet.  Are you kidding me?  I really didn’t want to put my hands on her feet.  That’s just gross isn’t it?  It doesn’t really matter whose feet they are it’s not normal to go around touching others feet.  That kind of activity gets a person pepper sprayed.  How do you even ask someone if you can put your hands on their feet?  Weird.

But then I thought of Jesus on His hands and knees washing the feet of His disciples.  Can we even imagine how gross their feet were?  Think about kind of shoes fishermen would wear.  Their feet were probably nastier than any of our feet have ever been.

But that didn’t stop Jesus.  His love for them was greater than the condition of their feet.  He wanted to serve them and a little grime wasn’t going to stop Him.  That’s a mighty kind of Love!

So I looked at the woman again and asked her if I could put my hands on her feet and pray for them.  She said “yes” without hesitation.  I prayed as I felt the Lord lead me to pray.

When I was done I asked her if anything felt different.  She told me that when I was praying she felt shocks going through her feet.  The sensations were great enough to cause her to open her eyes and look down.

I asked her to stand up and see if anything felt different.  She stood up and without the assistance of her cane walked back and forth in front of me with a look of amazement on her face.  She even bent over and picked up a can off of the ground just to see if she could do it and she did without problem.

She left that day carrying her cane instead of using it.  We must not let outward circumstances prevent us from loving as Jesus did and does today.  Our model continues to point us to life.  If Jesus did it then we should be doing it too!

Blessings,

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

Failed Prayer for Healing

confused-man

 

There are times in which we pray for someone in need of physical healing and the person does not get healed.  These can be hard times as we struggle with the “why” questions.  But we must not automatically equate no healing with failure.

On day at work I encountered a woman who had broken her femur.  She tripped and fell and was in a lot of pain.  Those who have broken their femur know what a terrible injury this is.

We gave her pain medicine as quickly as we could and did our best to be gentle as we splinted her leg.  Even with the pain medicine on board it was still very painful on any kind of movement.

It took a little time but we got her all fixed up and into the rescue (ambulance).  On our way to the hospital I was moved by compassion as the Holy Spirit nudged me into action.  I was riding in the back with my partner who is also a believer.

I was actually holding the splinted leg as the road bumps were causing some movement and more pain.  I looked at her and, with discernment from God, asked her if I could pray for her leg.  She looked very surprised and told me that I could.

I put my hands gently on her broken leg and prayed the words God have me to pray.  The praying lasted only for a few minutes and when I was done the leg was still broken but something else happened.  Peace filled the rescue and joy filled the woman’s heart.  She was very touched by the love God showed her in the middle of her crisis.

The rest of the ride went very well as the woman had realized God was there for her even in this.  We transferred her to the care of the ER and on the way out stopped by to check on her.  Her husband was there and sincerely thanked me for praying for his wife.

That simple act of obedience made such a great impact on the couple.  There is a reason-and most likely many reasons-why God nudges us to do things.  In this case the reasons were outside of instant healing but it was by no means a failed encounter.

So be encouraged that if you’ve prayed for someone to be healed and they weren’t, God still did something special.  Blessings,

 

 

Jesse and Kara Birkey

www.reflectministry.com

jbirkey@reflectministry.com

jessebirkey.wordpress.com

twitter.com/JesseBirkey

http://www.facebook.com/LifeResurrected

Anxiety Gone!

peaceful

I was in the middle of checking my rescue (ambulance) one morning when a car pulled up to the station.  An older woman got out and quickly told us that her neighbor was in the car in need of medical help.

We hurried over to the passenger side of the vehicle to discover a young woman having a severe anxiety or panic attack.  Anyone who has panic attacks will tell you that they can quickly become completely incapacitating.  The young woman was on the verge of losing control completely meaning the only way to calm her down would be to medicate her.

We helped her to the stretcher and loaded her into the rescue.  We did our routine things like starting an IV and hooking up the monitor, all the while trying to calm her down.  Nothing was working as her muscles began to spasm uncontrollably.

We pulled out of the station and made our way towards the hospital.  The patient’s heart rate was 130 beats per min and she was breathing very fast.  She was also unable to lean back on the stretcher because her body was so worked up.

At that point I felt the familiar nudge of the Holy Spirit asking me to pray for the woman.  I looked at the women on the verge of complete collapse and asked her if I could pray for her.  She nodded her head yes.  I asked her if I could put my hand on her should and she told me that I could.

Over the next few minutes I prayed the words God gave me to pray.  I prayed against the spirit of fear and commanded it to leave.  God also gave me some insight into her life and I prayed about those things.  I asked the Holy Spirit to fill the rescue and rule in her heart.

As soon as I was finished I looked up to see the young woman breathing normally and relaxed against the stretcher.  Her heart rate was 80 beats per minute and the muscles were no longer having spasms!

We talked a little bit more and she had a big smile on her face as we entered the hospital.  A while later I walked by her room to see her sleeping comfortably.

 

Jesse and Kara Birkey

www.reflectministry.com

jbirkey@reflectministry.com

jessebirkey.wordpress.com

twitter.com/JesseBirkey

http://www.facebook.com/LifeResurrected

Always Be Ready

getting ready

I had the unexpected opportunity to pray with a co-worker who doesn’t know the Lord the other day that was really great.  My partner and I had just dropped our patient off in the hospital when my partner noticed one of our co-workers laying in one of the rooms.

There are many people who work for the fire department and, to my recollection, I hadn’t met him before.  But my partner knew him and struck up a conversation.  He told us why he was there and it was a pretty hard story.  The man was going through some pretty hard times.

As we listened I sensed the familiar nudge of the Holy Spirit to pray for the man.  I had a short silent discussion saying, “I don’t know him and I don’t know if he is a believer.”  But the Lord told me, “Pray for him.”

So I looked at the man and asked him if we (my partner is a believer) could pray for him. His eyes widened in surprise and said, “absolutely”.  So I asked him if I could put my hand on his shoulder and he told me yes.

We prayed for him and asked the Lord to touch his heart and heal his body.  I prayed as the Lord led me to pray, talked a few more minutes and then left.  On the way out my partner thanked me for praying for the man and that the two of them have had discussions about God.  My partner told me that God had really been pursing the mans heart lately.

There is great purpose for the things God nudges us to do.  We must take great courage and respond.  We won’t always get confirmation that we did the right thing but sometimes we do.  We must always be ready to be used by God.  He loves the stranger next to you just as much as He loves you and maybe, just maybe, He wants to use you to reach the strangers heart!

Jesse and Kara Birkey

www.reflectministry.com

jbirkey@reflectministry.com

jessebirkey.wordpress.com

twitter.com/JesseBirkey

http://www.facebook.com/LifeResurrected

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