Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hope for iPhones & Hope For Sinners

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; 
old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
I love rice!  What would a spicy tuna roll be without rice? For that matter what would most Asian and Cajun food be without rice?  What else would we really want to throw at newly married couples?  Now there is, in my opinion, conceivably the most beneficial use for rice.   Saving the lives of wet iPhones!

In March, Apple announced that approximately 108 million iPhones have been sold worldwide.   Most people who don't have iPhones have phones that are trying (and often succeeding remarkably well) to be like iPhones.   Most are so close to their phone that the thought of losing it is devastating. 

"I'm melting, melting!  
Oh what a world what a world!"
- Wicked Witch of the West

I've jumped in the water only once with a phone and it's a horribly helpless feeling.  You've never seen a man swim to dry land so fast!   I haven't jumped in water since without a quick panicked feeling that maybe my phone is in my swimsuit pocket.  Last week my friend jumped in the deep end with his iPhone 4G and thought it was ruined.  Bummer!

Upon learning of his all too common mistake I remembered what my sister-in-law, Karen, told me was the remedy for his soggy phone:  IMMERSE IT IN RICE IMMEDIATELY.     First turn it off, then put it in the rice for at least a day or so.  Evidently the dry rice draws out the moisture from within the iPhone.   The iPhone is literally suffocated in the rice as the rice has it's way with the iPhone.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  - Rom. 8:13

Being buried in the rice draws out what was destroying the phone.    If my flesh is defined as those thoughts and impulses "which when conceived give birth to sin" (James 1:15) and consequently, numb my senses to the presence of God's Spirit within me then what my flesh really needs is death.   But how?

The great paradoxical mystery of the Cross of Christ is that although it is a static event that happened nearly 2000 years ago,  it is also a dynamic reality that draws me into it's miraculous power NOW!

He who is drawn into this paradox will experience not only the guilt-cleansing (past) and fear-relieving (future) power of God's grace in Christ but also the present-working power of His Spirit within which empowers him to put starve the flesh.


In The Normal Christian Life Watchman Nee explains that if he folds a piece of paper into a book and mails the book across the country, he who receives the book will also receive the paper because the paper has been folded into it.   This is the mystery of a life in Christ.    To the degree we are "folded into it" we also participate in His death and, praise God, His resurrection life!

Thus my flesh is put to death to the degree I am found "in Christ" or, to jump back to the iPhone analogy, immersed in Christ.  The sacrament of Baptism is so powerful for this very reason.   Your "old man" goes down beneath the water where your deeds (sins: past, present and future) are forgiven and forgotten by God.  Subsequently your "new man" rises to walk in a new life reconciled to God by the sacrificial act of our high priest, Jesus.   From then on in God's economy we are "hidden in Christ".   God does not see our sin and disobedience.   Instead He sees only His Son's sinless life and perfect obedience.

And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created
in righteousness and true holiness. 
- Ephesians 4:24

The central theme in Paul's letter to the Colossians is what it means to be "in Christ".   For example "in whom we have redemption" (1:14), "in him all things were created" (1:16), "rooted up and built in him" (2:7), "you have been filled in him" (2:7) and "triumphing over them in him" (2:10). 

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 
- Galatians 5:16, 17 

Jesus returned from the Garden of Gethsemane to find the disciples asleep even though He'd asked to stay awake while He prayed.   He then declared, "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak"(Matt 26:41).  

The disciples were unable to obey Jesus because they were in bondage to their weak flesh.   They were operating by their willing, but ultimately powerless, spirits.   They were at that point not "in Christ".    But post-resurrection they were given His Spirit and it was, as they say, a new ballgame!

To "put on" the new man is to recognize that though our flesh be strong, His Spirit is stronger. Though our sin be great, His forgiveness is greater.  We are justified in Him, sanctified in Him and sin is mortified (put to death) by Him.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. - Colossians 3:3

The scripture above confounds the entire world.   It is simply too staggering and unbelievable for any human to understand unless The Spirit of God illuminates their hearts.   The inner-working of The Trinity within brings the spiritually dead man to new life and goes on to deliver him daily from his bondage to sin.  This is salvation.   This is The Gospel.   

Be immersed!


P.S. Shelter from the Storm.......

This Week... 

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am, Wednesday AM - Kings Cross Chapter 14
   @ 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* The Magills share with The Tyler Girls Shelter - Saturday 3pm
Please pray as we're meeting with lots of couples this week.....

Next Week...   

* Men's Lunch @ Dakota's in Tyler, TX - Mondays @ 12pm - Keller's Kings Cross - Chapter 12


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blessed to Be Outsiders!

The faces in New York remind me of people who played a game and lost 
- Murray Kempton 

We're all outsiders in a way. We're all alone and can become very lonely.
- Hugo Weaving
Megan and I were blessed to return to our old home this past weekend and take another bite out of The Big Apple.   New York City was home to us for 8 beautifully difficult years.  It was in NYC where we learned to love one another, seek Christ as adults and be continually challenged and blessed by a community of flawed but repentant friends.

During our visit we hardly left the Upper West Side (our old neighborhood) except to go to the Upper East Side to sing in a wedding at The Carlyle Hotel and then play at Central Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning.

From the minute our feet hit the ground we were grabbing coffee, dinner, lunch and breakfast with old friends in new stages of their lives in the same old city.  

A string of thoughts danced through my mind while we were back in the city.  First, the friendships we had in New York City were full of profound depth, grace and compassionate love. Second, the friendships we now enjoy in Tyler, TX are also deeply trans-formative and founded in the shared knowledge of the grace of God in Christ Jesus.  Finally, God is faithful to meet the needs of His people through His body.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. 
- Phil. 4:19

In moving from NYC our fear was not learning to drive again after years of using only public transportation.  Neither was it the fear of not knowing what to do with ourselves after 10pm (dinner often began around that time in the city).  What we really feared was not connecting with new peers in the same trans-formative way.

Two years after our move we returned to a city that was ambivalent to our ever having left.   Indeed the city goes on without us.  Though our old friends made us feel welcome, upon our return we were once again outsiders.   Similarly, in moving to Texas we went from being New York insiders to Texas outsiders.

Megan and I now see how great a gift this transition has been.   In identifying ourselves as outsiders we partake in the life of Christ more deeply and see ourselves as we really are.   The Christian life is a paradox.   At once we are both complete outsiders in the world and total insiders in Christ.  

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 
- Matthew 8:20

From His birth to His death Jesus did not fit in.   How could he?   Though He was a man, "in him all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form"(2 Col 2:9).   He was the ultimate outsider who came not to be received but to be totally rejected and in being rejected He became the cornerstone of our faith (Acts 4:11) and our only source of true power.

God knows that the deepest desire of every human heart is intimacy - to fit in.   Our every urge is aimed at achieving some kind of connection by plugging into something larger than our selves.   Who of us cannot recall our earliest memories of rejection?   Either being looked over at recess when football teams were picked (that's me!) or your first heartbreak over unrequited love.   An eternal desire can never be satisfied through worldly means or in relationship with other humans.

Philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote that there is "a God-shaped hole within every man".   We are psychologically fragmented and know our selves only to the degree that we know the one in whose image we were made and were created to worship.   It's not hard to see the desperation and despair in those who have sought out intimacy, meaning or security in the things of the world only to find their "God-shaped hole" growing larger and emptier.   

Zacheaus was a Jew who robbed his own people partnering with the Roman officials in a corrupt taxation system.    What an outcast he must have become to his own people.   Yet with radical grace Jesus calls Zacheaus to "make room for Him" saying, "I must stay at your house today!" (Luke 19:6).

Bringing an outcast into the love of God is always Jesus' aim.   Tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, prodigals and outlaws - The New Testament and the history of Christianity at large is littered with desperate fools who knew not the way to act but called on "the only name by which men must be saved" - the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12).

It is indeed the experience of "outsider-ness" that brings us closer to the knowledge of the universal call (inclusive) found only in Jesus (exclusive) who alone brings us the perfect intimacy we all so deeply desire and are destined to suffer without.  God's imprint has been left on us all; we are created in His image but often estranged from Him experientially because of our sin.

“At the root of all our disobedience are particular ways in which we continue to seek control of our lives through systems of works-righteousness.  The way to progress as a Christian is to continually repent and uproot these systems the same way we become Christians, namely by the vivid depiction (and re-depiction) of Christ’s saving work for us, and the abandoning of self-trusting efforts to complete ourselves. We must go back again and again to the gospel of Christ-crucified, so that our hearts are more deeply gripped by the reality of what he did and who we are in him.” 
- Timothy Keller

Christians are called ministers of reconciliation because they know Jesus not simply as a good teacher, nor just a model of moral behavior - a perfect man submissive unto death.   We know Him as the very bridge between God and man.   The Christ, The Messiah, The Savior of the World.   We receive Him as such every time we are intellectually honest about how displaced we are apart from Him.

Jesus is The Gospel that welcomes the outsider in all of us.    Jesus is The Good News.  To be fully known in the midst of our inequity and sin and loved anyway by the God of the universe is the grace made possible by Christ's death and made known to us by His gift of the indwelling Spirit.

We find a home in Him because He gave up His home for us.   We have eternal intimacy with The Father because He gave up intimacy with His Father for us.  This was, is and will always be the joy all believers from Texas to New York and to the ends of the earth share.   Those who know His all-encompassing power are never alone and though they be counted as outsiders in the world's eyes they are eternal insiders in the loving arms of God.

Grace and Peace,

 This Week... 

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am, Wednesday AM - Kings Cross Chapter 13
   @ 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* The Magills - God's Way Celebration Concert @The Good Samaritan Outreach Center,
200 N Beckham Ave (corner of Beckham and Ferguson) - 6:30pm-9:30pm, Saturday Night July 23rd - Tyler, TX (for tickets - reach out to me @ mpmagill@gmail.com

Next Week...   

* Men's Lunch @ Dakota's in Tyler, TX - Mondays @ 12pm - Keller's Kings Cross - Chapter 12


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mowing Down The Competition!

My lawn is in a constant state of readiness! 
- Hank Hill, King of The Hill
I cannot tell you how many times I'll mow my lawn this summer.   My best guess is somewhere around 35-45 times.    Here in Tyler, TX most homes are surrounded with plush St. Augustine grass.  Native to Mexico, St. Augustine grass thrives in hot temperatures and grows thick and fast.   And so I mow, I mow, it's off to work I go.   Through July and August it's nearly twice a week! 

It seems like I've barely begun to enjoy the way my lawn looks when it's time to mow again.   There's nothing I can do to slow down the growth.   It can only be trimmed with discipline.   That's the only hope for a well-maintained (read: "Hank Hill-esque")lawn.

The Gospel has a similar effect on my all-too-often "over-grown" heart.....     

But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown it brings forth death. - James 1:14-15

It's hard to miss James' description of the botanical nature of sin which "grows" like a weed around our hearts choking out life and bringing only spiritual death.  Only a to the degree that I am moved by the knowledge of the truth of The Gospel is Christ's power unleashed in my life.

Thus, it seems like all I speak about these days is The Gospel.   Over and over again I find myself  quoting the same authors' and preachers' quotes about The Gospel, thinking the same thoughts about The Gospel and searching for presence or the absence of The Gospel in films, songs, and even television shows.   I can't get enough of The Gospel and I'm not just saying that..... 

I preach to you today not because I fully believe The Gospel but because I don't fully believe The Gospel.  I'm not just preaching to you - I'm preaching to me.  
- Tullian Tchividjian

It's actually true that though I accept The Gospel intellectually I find myself rejecting The Gospel through my thoughts and actions daily.   After all what is sin but a rejection of the idea that I have been purchased at the greatest cost by the one true God who loves me enough to not only provide salvation but also deliver me now from bondage to sin by the power of His Spirit.   Sin is my saying to God, consciously or sub-consciously, "I'd like to do it my way because You don't have all I need".

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. - Rom 6:3-4

I have to keep running The Gospel over the terrain of my heart because my flesh grows grows so fast in the climate of this world.   The world tells us "look out for number one", "you can't love others unless you love yourself first",  and "seek your best life now".   But The Word counters these claims confirming the truth about Christ in 1st John 4:4, He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world.  These selfish worldly philosophies have been judged and found wanting by a God who has with total selflessness laid down His own life to reconcile Himself to us.

The truth is in God's economy sin no longer has dominion over my heart because of the faith I have that Christ's (past) death on the cross has eternally (future) atoned for my sin and his (present) presence within me provides power to enjoy and glorify Him through my obedience to Him and for the sake of The Gospel.  Praise God that my "old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin" (Rom. 6:6).

So utterly dominating is Christ's love for me on the cross that He has literally mowed down the competition eternally.   This is why I preach to myself again and again the power of His finished work that I might know to my core that I am being protected against the wiles of the enemy,  prodded by His Spirit towards a firmer faith in Him and preserved for a place of eternal union with my Heavenly Father.

If God is for us, who can be against us - Rom. 8:31

How many more times.....will I preach it, hear it, sing of it, read about it, write about it and search for signs of it?   Answer: By His grace daily until The King calls me home or brings His kingdom here.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. - Rom. 1:16

Peace and Grace,

This Week... 

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am, Wednesday AM - Kings Cross Chapter 11
   @ 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* The Magills @ Central Presbyterian Church - NYC, NY - Sunday at 11am!