Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When Treasure Becomes Trash

Pastor Jake Magee

“Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3:7).” 

In this passage does Paul mean that he had to give up a bunch of really good things in order to follow Jesus?  As if those “gains” were truly worthy competitors for Paul’s pursuit, genuine “profits” that Paul must forfeit if he was to gain Christ.

It’s not uncommon for people to regard repentance of sin and faith in Jesus as giving up something really good for something that is either a little better or something that will eventually become better. Or sometimes repentance of sin and faith in Jesus are the “necessary evils” that must be done in order to avoid the terrible consequences that will result from the things in life that are really good but are unfortunately labeled as taboo by God.  As such, the transition from faithlessness to faith in Jesus can be viewed more as a lateral move than anything; worse yet it is viewed as a step down.     

So, is Paul saying, “I had to give up a bunch of good stuff and now am suffering this depravation for Jesus’ sake” (Like a wife who sacrifices and goes without for the sake of her less than adequate husband)?  Or, is Paul saying that all so-called “profits” (or “gains” or “treasures”), when placed next to Jesus, come to be viewed as they really are – big time losses?  So, when earthly gains are presented as “competitors” to Jesus, the contest is over before it begins.  To get Jesus, and as a result end up losing the greatest earthly profit, is in fact to lose nothing.  How can you lose anything when you have everything in Christ?

Paul’s intention is clearly the latter.  Paul explains in verse 8 what grounds his evaluation of both his prestigious past and difficult present.  “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  The worth of Jesus, given the backdrop of other supposed gains, is not a comparable worth, or a competitive worth.  Jesus’ value “surpasses” (is super eminent over) other gains.  How much does Jesus surpass other gains?  Look at the following clause.  Paul says I count them the treasures of this world as trash, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…”   “Trash” or “Rubbish” is the translators’ gentle way of not saying “excrement.”  "Excrement" is the word that Paul felt best described the best the world offers when compared to the best heaven offers.  This means that the value of Jesus is so massive…so great…so unimaginable that when he is placed against any and all the greatest competitors in our life that we could ever imagine having and enjoying, all these so-called gains, all these so-called treasures, are at their best just a big steaming pile of….”


“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead.”
                                                                        -Rhea F. Miller

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You Know You’re Becoming a Religious Christian When… | Pastor Jake

There is both a positive and neutral way to use the word “religion” or “religious.”  But it’s certainly no secret that the term can also represent that which obscures truth, ruins people, and grieves God; and all this done "in the name of Jesus."  As such we have to fight against it in our hearts, homes, churches, and culture.  But before we take on the world, let’s start with you…with us.  How do you know you’re becoming religious Christian?  Here are 10 indicators: You know you’re becoming religious Christian when…

  1. You find yourself increasingly bending Scripture to fit you rather than bending yourself to fit Scripture. 
  2. You find yourself excusing sin in one area of your life because you serve God in other areas. 
  3. You find yourself becoming more and more distressed that you don’t look better than someone else when you sin rather than experiencing more and more distress at disappointing God.
  4. You secretly take pleasure in people’s sin because it makes you feel better about how you’re doing spiritually. 
  5. You secretly hate it when other people do great things for God because that tends to take attention off of you. Or, it highlights what you’re not doing.
  6. You find yourself so busy serving God that you don’t have time to love your neighbor.
  7. You major on the minors and minor on the majors when it comes to matters of theology and ethics.
  8. You are becoming confused about rituals and relationship; rituals for God are thought of more and more as a relationship with God.  Hammer is mistaken as house, instrument as what the instrument serves.
  9. You are becoming an expert in spotting sin in others and a master at rationalizing your own.
  10.  Your acts of “repentance” aren’t meant so much to mourn personal sin as they are to gain approval and notoriety from people around you; this is your way of showing people you have what it takes to confess sin.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Making God's Love Known in Romania" by Alyssa Isgett

Praise God for a joy filled time spent in Romania.  This was my third journey to Romania. Each time, I am amazed by what God is doing and the ways he is moving particularly through the younger generations of people. This time, I was yet again amazed by the fire he has instilled in the hearts of Romanians in the younger generation to serve Christ and his love at all costs.

While in Romania, we traveled to the mountains for a camp with college aged students.  We spent the week building relationships with local missionaries and Romanians.  We got to work with one church in particular that was very similar to Oasis.  We immediately made connections and began working our way into the hearts of the young adults.

My prayer for the months leading up to this journey was that Christ would make his purpose for me on this trip very clear and specific.  That I would know exactly why I was in Romania and what it is that He wanted me to learn.  It was not long into our first full day that I began to realize why I was at this camp and what Christ had in store.

I met Este. Este is a severely Autistic girl that I was able to spend time with.  My heart and soul is to serve the disabled community.  When I met Este, I immediately knew she was the one person I would seek out.  Este’s caretaker, Alex, came to the camp with Este. She does not know Christ. She is not involved in a church. Each time I spoke with her, she would shut me out and say, “Oh, that’s Este’s thing.”  So I began to pray.  Lord, open my eyes. Open my heart. Why am I in this place and what am I supposed to do. 

It was not long after that, that Christ showed me exactly what he wanted.  I took Este away from Alex so her friend from the church, Ana, who she already trusts, could share God’s love.  I was able to show Este God’s love in our talks and the little songs I learned in Romanian. Alex was able to break away from her workers mentality so that Ana, a leader from the church, could share God’s love with her.  Through this interaction, many meaningful conversations rooted in Christ took place.

I do not know if Alex is saved.  But I do know that she heard the Gospel, quite possibly for the first time.  I know that Ana will continue to pray and pour into Alex, as well as Este.  As for Este, well, let’s just say she is full of joy and one of the sweetest girls I have ever met.  Christ is working in big ways in Romania.  Not only in churches, but in the disabled community as well. My heart definitely longs to be back in Bucharest where God’s love is moving. I cannot wait to see what else he does.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"God At Work In Romania" by Jessica Jarvis

Romania was amazing! There's really no other way to descibe it. It was so special to watch the Lord at work with the young adults we worked with. There was one particular girl who captured my heart. Her name is Teo and she is 16 years old. Her zeal for life was truly inspirational. She took on every obstacle at camp with such determination. But Teo was very quiet. She seemed closed off. I later learned that this was commen among the Romanians, as they did not trust people very easily. I met Teo on the train ride into camp. 6 hours of playing cards, talking, and trying to pass the time. And I felt God tugging on my heart that she was the one I was supposed to focus on that week. God used our long, seemingly never ending train ride to accelerate relationships, and by the end of day 2 at camp, Teo and I had become friends.

I feverently prayed for Teo the entire week at camp. Whenever I had a spare moment, I would stop and pray that Teo would come to know Christ this week. I braided her hair every day, which gave us along time to chat. The language barrier was difficult with Teo because she did not think her English was very good. She would hesitate to talk, and often go seek a translator. Despite this, I learned about her likes, and her dislikes. I learned a little bit about her family and friends. And I learned that she did not attend a church. It was difficult to peel back the layers of Teo. And often when I brought up the message from the night before, Teo would leave. At Wednesday night's service, I just cried and prayed for Teo. I prayed God would break down her barriers. I prayed that God would touch her and she would experience God like she never had before. I prayed she would accept Christ. I found out Wednesday night after service that she had.

I cannot begin to describe the joy I felt with this news! But when I tried to talk with Teo on Thursday, she didn't want to talk about Jesus or the message or the night before. But Teo was so joyful on Thursday, and throughout the rest of the camp. Her persona was so different from the previous days. Teo had been changed. Teo was no longer shy and closed off, but would seek us out to talk to us. Teo and I continue to talk online. I sometimes feel discouraged because she avoids any questions I have about attending a church, or if she has prayer requests. But I am persistent in praying for Teo. I know God did tremendous work in her heart at camp. And I just know he has such great things in store for this remarkable girl.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Loving Someone Enough to Confront Them | Pastor Jake

Is “Love” masked exploitation? 

Upon reading verses such as “Love is patient, love is kind…it always protects, trusts, hopes, preservers. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4 & 7), some have concluded that the contents of this chapter are not so much a recipe for a good marriage or healthy relationship, but for exploitation. Friedrich Nietzsche more than once made statements like this:
"I regard Christianity as the most fatal and seductive lie that has ever yet existed--as the greatest and most impious lie…”
Nietzsche’s rationale for this scathing declaration was rooted in what I perceive in the following areas. The Christian ethic, namely, the Christian notion of love is...
  • foreign to nature
  • an assault on individual expression
  • an assault on personal fulfillment
  • an endorsement and reinforcement of the slave ethic.
The believer readily admits that agape love is foreign to nature; nature here being clearly defined as creation in the throes of a curse - a curse that moves humans imprinted in the image of God to bite, kick, scratch, harm, maim, and murder like their animal subordinates who have no divine imprintation. Nietzsche has got us on this one.

The Christian readily admits that agape love is an assault on individual expression; it tells them to stop biting, kicking, scratching, harming, maiming, and murdering when you want to give vent to your “nature.” Nietzsche has got us on this one too.

Now, we’re a little bit more cautious to conceding to Nietzsche the third accusation: agape is an assault on personal fulfillment. Certainly we would admit that turning the other cheek doesn’t pay immediate dividends of pleasure. However, Nietzsche would be the first to concede that within his own experience, there are certain pleasures that may be immediately experienced and enjoyed by someone, yet that same pleasure may be an obstacle to a greater pleasure that yields greater satisfaction that is gradual, not immediate. I derive immediate pleasure in watching TV. However, to turn off the TV and discipline myself to practice an instrument or read a book sets the stage for great satisfaction - a satisfaction that may be delayed. In the same way, agape is an assault on the pleasure of personal fulfillment. But agape says that pleasure of self-absorption is inferior to the pleasure experienced in communal engagement - a pleasure that pays dividends gradually.

Lastly, the believer refuses to accept the last charge: the Christian ethic of love is pure exploitation that those in power wield to paralyze their subjects. True love, Paul insists, is zealous about fairness and truth.

Love Delights In and Upholds Justice and Truth

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”- 1 Corinthians 13:6-7

Paul declares to the Corinthian church that Love is Zealous for:
  • Right Living (Justice) – the opposite of evil
  • Right Thinking (Truth) – the opposite of falsehood.
Which is to say, whatever “patience, kindness, trusting, believing, hoping, enduring”mean, it can’t be taken to exclude notions of justice and truth. I would even suggest that it is quite likely that the Corinthians believed that Love somehow excluded the emphasis on right living and right thinking. Paul seems to be referring to something that this church is doing which they suppose to be loving, pure, holy, right, good, but upon apostolic examination, they are delighting in evil and rejecting the truth.

Corinthian Love | Non-Controntational 

In some chapters earlier, Paul sharply rebukes the church for tolerating the sexual immorality of a particular member of their church. Paul says that they had become arrogant and boastful about this matter. At first this seems odd that a church would boast in the clear violation of Scripture in their midst. But upon further examination, it is easy to see how the church settled for pseudo-love believed to be biblical. A love that...
  • Celebrates individual expression, no matter what it is
  • Embraces and does not challenge wrong living
  • Embraces and does not challenge wrong thinking
  • Is non-judgmental
  • Is non-confrontational
  • Is intolerant of intolerance
Is this Corinth or California? Both I suppose.

True Love Confronts

For Paul...
  • Love doesn’t celebrate individual expression no matter what
  • Love challenges wrong living
  • Love challenges wrong thinking
  • Love is compelled to make judgments about moral issues
  • Love is compelled to confront
Loving People to Life

We are called to pay an intolerable compliment of confrontation to one another- to love each other so much that we will confront one another when necessary.

Proverbs 27:5 - 6 Open rebuke is better than secret love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

Psalm 141:5 Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; It is oil upon the head; Do not let my head refuse it, For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.

How do we stab our brother in the front (rather than the back)? To ensure that we’re not loving people to death by an unrestrained regard for truth and justice, we must answer these questions:

Do I receive the intolerable complement when made by others. “I can give it, but not receive it?”
Do I put much prayer and thought before confrontation?
Do I know the person well enough?
Do I have enough information?
I’m I tethering truth with love and humility?
I’m I being Punitive or Restorative?
I’m I willing to go through the complete process of restoration?
Loving People to Life by Death

To love people to life, we are called to die. We are called to lay down our lives in paying this intolerable compliment of confrontation. Sure, we’re not called to be a doormat, but sometimes we’re called to be a stepping stone for others. There’s nothing more difficult, nor more loving then bearing with someone’s dysfunction, sin, and character flaws as they make movements of progress, and relapse, and movements of progress, and relapses. But that’s precisely 1 Corinthian 13 love.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

5 Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Get Well | Pastor Jake

5 Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Get Well 

In John 5 Jesus is walking through Jerusalem’s skid row, a placed filled with men and women crippled physically and emotionally.  Jesus was drawn to one particular man who had been an invalid for 38 years.  Jesus asked, “Do you want to be healed” (vs.6)?  This seems like a profoundly silly question.  Or course he wanted to be made well!  Right?  Well, maybe not.  If all sick people want to be healed, why ask the question? Why press the point?  I want to suggest that sometimes people don’t want to be made well.  Whether that was the case of this guy, we don’t know.  Nevertheless, this question is not profoundly silly; rather it is simply profound, especially when we apply it to sickness of the soul.  It has been my personal experience that there are many folks who don’t want to be healed.  Here five reasons why:

1. Sometimes people love the thing that makes them sick more then they hate the pain of their sickness.  They’ll take the highs of their drug, even if it comes with significant lows. 

2. Sometimes people fear the responsibility of being healthy more than they hate the disability of the sickness.  With a new set of legs, they would be expected to walk and work. 

3. Sometimes people are resigned to their sickness.  After thirty-years of disability, health had become a non-issue for this man.  To entertain it is to set oneself up to the pain of disappointment.   

4. Sometimes people derive their identity from their sickness.  They deep down want the attention of others and find that it is secured when they are constantly in need.  To get well is to be lonely.  To be healthy is to be ignored. 

5. Sometimes people don’t recognize that they need to be healed.  “Do you want to get healed?”  “Yeah, if I were sick.”  “But I’m fine.”  For these, their sickness is the norm; their unhealthy is health.         

Remember when Jesus told the Pharisees and Scribes that he came as a physician of the soul for folks like the tax-collectors and prostitutes, he certainly didn’t imply the health of these religious leaders.   Rather he was implicating their ignorance and/or unwillingness to say “yes” to Jesus’ question, “Do you want to be healed?”  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Children: Clay or Play-Doh? | Pastor Rob King

Clay or Play-Doh?

If you were to ask an artist, the favored and resounding response would be "CLAY!" Why clay? It is such an unattractive and unimpressive blob. However, the properties of clay make it a medium that brings desired results of an artistic vision, something of a sustained legacy of the brilliance of an idea or revelation. While malleable for a season, the clay will retain its desired strength and permanency after being adorned with an envisioned application of glazing and intense firing. Once completed, the artist's workmanship becomes a fixed interpretation that lacks the ability to be changed or improved, short of breaking.

On the other hand, Play-Doh, a colorful product that has endless possibilities lumped into a small yellow container, has the ability to repeatedly become whatever the artist so envisions it to be. Play-Doh can be shaped and reshaped, as the artist desires. On a daily basis, young artists create masterpiece-like elephants, snakes, pancakes, smiley faces, and the like, only to be able to refashion the creation a moment later. However, Play-Doh does share a property with clay. Play-Doh can and will become brittle and crumbly if left unattended and exposed to the elements.

Our children are like that Play-Doh. They are taken out of that small protective container several times a day. They are being shaped and molded at every turn. Parents, teachers, friends, classmates, others in their sphere of influence, and yes, even the world, are constantly at work to create a masterpiece of artistic impression. The upside to this is that your child comes home to you at the end of their arduous day and has one more opportunity to be divinely fashioned by a loving and Spirit-led parent before being placed back into the protective container for nightly safekeeping.

As an artist, per say, take every moment to pray and seek guidance from Christ on how to best fashion your entrusted masterpiece. Do not squander any opportunity to teach your child of God's love and the attitude of the heart that needs to be developed in order to reciprocate His love. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 instructs us,
Ò[6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (ESV)
Be diligent. Fashion your children after the likeness of Christ.