Monthly Archives: March 2014

Bring A Gift When You Visit

Who was your favorite person to have visit when you were a kid? I honestly can’t think of one favorite. I loved it when Grandparents came; not because they necessarily brought some gift, but it was exciting just having them come. Of course whenever cousins came to visit there was great fun playing together, but even when just the uncles or aunties would visit I distinctly remember it being something we looked forward to with great eagerness. Why? Again they didn’t usually bring gifts or treats but I wonder if it had something to do with the spiritual gift they brought with them?

In Romans 1:11-12 Paul expresses his eagerness, in fact a longing to come visit the Jesus followers in Rome and to bring to them a spiritual gift. He’s not speaking of the “gifts of the Spirit” rather it is singular, bring them a gift. What gift is that? It is a gift that will strengthen their faith. Actually the word is far stronger than that. It indicates a setting fast, making them unshakable, unalterable, focused and single minded in their devotion to and love for Jesus.

Wouldn’t you love for someone to bring you that gift? Wouldn’t you love to have a gift to give that could bring that for others?  What gift could possibly do this? Paul describes it as being “mutually encouraged” by each other’s faith. On the surface that kind of feels like one of those gifts where it’s not quite what you hoped for, like underwear for Christmas, but you know you should be polite and grateful anyway.

But look deeper. “Mutually encouraged” is actually one word. It’s a compound word and the base of it is the same word Jesus uses to describe the Holy Spirit; comforter or counselor, or advocate or helper. The implication in Romans is that the gift Paul brings is the ministry of the Holy Spirit who through Paul brings strength and healing and purpose and greater devotion to Jesus in the people whom he visits.

This is not a gift that only apostles or pastors have to give. If you are a Jesus follower you have this gift to give. Paul indicates it goes both ways; he to them and they to him. When you engage in a conversation ask God to give this gift through you. It can happen in any conversation, but it is most profound when both parties are intending and expecting to give and receive a spiritual gift.

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Life Is Like A Truck Overflowing With Canola

This is canola seed.  Dumping canola into a truck from an overhead bin is fascinating, almost mesmerizing to watch.  Because it’s not being moved in segments with flighting like in an auger, but in one pouring in a continuous stream it behaves very much like a flow of thick liquid.  A tandem truck can be filled in less than a minute.  It is very cool to watch, but it also behaves much like a liquid, cascading over the sides when the truck gets full, which isn’t nearly so cool to watch.

Just to clarify I personally haven’t ever had that happen, but that picture is useful to keep in mind as we seek to understand what Jesus meant when he said in John 10:10 that he had come to give us “abundant life”.  The canola picture describes “abundant”, but what did Jesus mean by “life”? To grasp that it’s helpful to know that the New Testament uses three different words to describe “life”.

The first word is “bios” which you could understand in a timeline.  I was born, lived in these places, accomplished certain things, earned this much money, etc.  “Bios” quantifies life, but it doesn’t tell who I am or what my nature or character or personality is like.  That word is “psyche” and it’s used to describe the sort of person I am.

But the word Jesus used in John 10:10 was “zoe.” In the Bible “zoe” is always used in connection with the life of God.  We all share “bios” and have “psyche” but “zoe” is a gift from God, by faith, that we receive from Jesus.  Certainly “bios” and “psyche” are from God as well, but until we receive “zoe” we don’t recognize that.

“Zoe” is the term being used whenever you read “eternal life” but, while it certainly includes that, it also indicates the very nature, or righteousness of Jesus himself, a nature that he creates within us.  It is also the term used to describe streams of living water flowing out of Jesus followers, which brings us back to the picture of the canola.

Abundant life is not found in “bios”, a life of accumulation and accomplishment.  It is God’s life within us that boils out of us like canola overfilling the truck, and it is expressed in various ways.  Here’s two.  A couple of verses later in John 10, Jesus states that he lays down his life (psyche) for us.  We in turn spend our “bios” and “psyche” on serving others too.

Another expression is found in Romans 4:12.  Here Paul talks about the secret of being content regardless of circumstance.  That secret?  Abundant “zoe”.

(For a much fuller dealing of “life” in the New Testament I encourage you to read the essay Life In Three Dimensions. You can find it here: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=06-03-017-f )