Sunday, September 30, 2007

oil for your brain

So I'm here in North Africa, and it'd be appropriate to blog on my experience so far. It's been good. I love my team and the people. I will blog more fully on my experience soon. It's been a growing experience already, and it hasn't been easy. At the same time, I know God has called me, is giving me what I need for each day, and it feels right to be here.

What I really want to blog on is a religious word that I've been mulling on. There are some religious words nearly everyone has a good idea what they mean: sin, crucifixion, righteousness, faith (I think most of us are wrong in our definitions of these words, but we are still pretty close to the mark). There are other words that are pretty much only known to religious people, and even then their definitions vary between persons and denomination.

I spent some time Saturday morning looking at the word 'anointed.' Below is a word study/short essay . I start with its use in the Old Testament, pre-Christ era. Then explain how Jesus and anointing work together, and finally, I discuss how the word applied to Christians, and how it can be use to trap individuals in a spiritual rat-race, or free them to express the gifts God has granted them.

In the Old Testament, people and objects were anointed in a material sense for practical purposes with oil. Wounds would be covered in it for their protection and healing (Is 1:6), and bodies and weapons for effective combat. Objects were anointed with oil to symbolize that they were dedicated to religious use (Ex 30:26-30). People were anointed when they entered a special office, such as a prophet (1 Kings 19:16), a priest (Ex 40:15), or a king (1 Sam 9:16).

Enter Jesus. He fills all three posts, he is a prophet (in Matt 25 Jesus gives a prophecy of the end of times). He is the Priest of all who trust in him (Heb 3:1). He is King of all – not just those who trust in him – (Ps 2, John 18:32-38 – read this one and think on it if you like). Finally, “Messiah” or “Christ” actually means “Anointed One.”

Enter the Church, and all those in it who are trying to figure out what anointing means to us, and all those outside of the Church trying to figure out if we're crazy. Well, for starters, sick people are anointed with oil like in the Old Testament, except the oil is used during prayer. Now this oil is symbolic of the healing power of the Holy Spirit, who goes about supernatural work of God (like healing) on earth.

What about Christians, what kind of anointing can they experience? 2 Cor 1:21 is clear that all Christians experience anointing in through the Holy Spirit, who abides in and can empower any Christian for obedience,

2Co 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us,

2Co 1:22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

This is important. If the Holy Spirit lives in you, the same Spirit that anointed Christ (Lk 4:18), then Christians can expect to be empowered to do similar work to what Christ did. Indeed, that is what we are called to do, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” (Lk 9:23,my italics, Phil 3:7-14 is good too).

I think everything to this point is pretty solid and basic, but I still welcome corrective criticism. Now what about a special anointing? Do some Christians have a special anointing for great acts of obedience from God? Do they attain it through a lot of prayer? Are they simply given/burdened with it regardless of their choice?

1 Cor 12:7 “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good... to one... wisdom... knowledge according to the same Spirit... to another faith...”

No one is special. If you're a Christian you're within the same “Spirit-bracket” as everyone else. Now your gifting may stand out, because it is unusual. You may preach, and thousands convert. Praise God, you're not special. God simply chose to use you as an instrument of this grace. Be thankful and humble, as Paul commands us to in 1 Cor 4:6-7, “that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another... For what do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

So, I have done my best to lay out in a bloggable manner what has been written. The scripture should caution us against views of anointing that promote someone to special reverence in the Church, or to “deeper, more spiritual” experiences of being Christian. None of the cases of anointing I have read or reproduced here have advanced the spiritual state of the person, only the Church (1 Cor 10:7).

More importantly, in my opinion, this scripture should free us to practice our gifts as God has called us, and not be self-conscious about “showing off.” We are wondrously equal in God's eyes, and we should not be ashamed to express our love, hospitality, writing, knowledge, prophecy, witness, preaching, healing, leading, administrating, service, tongues (oh yes), and whatever the Spirit has chosen to apportion to us (1 Cor 12:11).

Hope that helps give a clearer conception of 'anointing' to any who read it. It's a great word. Again, I welcome input and helpful criticism.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

something's in the air

I leave tmrw for North Africa. It's a pretty crazy thinking that I'll be in a totally foreign country for a year. I've been going through periods of anxiety and anticipation. It's not a terrible experience, just different. One interesting thing is I've been doing some weird stuff. Yesterday I not only tested my vertical jump onto a window ledge, I also tried to remain on the narrow ledge. A lady from our church decided to stop by our house at that moment and saw me doing it. Earlier in the day I had stuck my cat on my shoulder and was walking around with him, like a parrot. My neighbor saw me doing that. It was good that people saw me, it helped me look at my actions a little more objectively and realize that I was acting kinda crazy.

One thing that is cool is everything that matters becomes a little more precious. I'm treating my family with super respect, and saying good-bye to friends I haven't spoken to in a while. That's been cool. Hopefully I can remember to try and value people this much more often.

That's it, just thought I'd let people know how all is going before I headed out. I think I will continue blogging throughout my North Africa experience.