Thursday, December 6, 2012

Live Second : 365 Ways to make Jesus First by Doug Bender is a 365 day devotional book based on the concept of the Original I Am Second book released earlier this year.  The cover depicts an empty, modern white leather chair, in an empty ominous dark room, with nothing but a bare industrial flouresecent light- contraption affixed on the ceiling.  The spartan, lonely emptiness of the room is reminiscent of an interrigation room.  The modern, yet minimalist black and white photography conveys a sense of urgency and seriousness. In a world that often dismisses God as being quaint and antiquated- this outreach strategy gives faith a new credibility and presence for today's generation.

The book is divided into 12 session, which can be divided among 12 months. Each month is a larger theme with four related themes for each week.  There seven days of devotionals dedicated to each weekly theme. In contrast to traditional devotionals, organized and identified with a particular month and day, this book - in keeping with the modern minimalist tradition, identifies the days and months by simply by sessions and issues.  The book is intended to lead the reader on a personal spiritual journey.  This book encourages personal and individual participation rather than simply passive reading. Each week begins with a code reader in which an oline video can be accessed by using a smart phone.  Each day ends with a "Talk to God", "Live it", and "Tell It" prompts to enable the reader to apply what is read.

Blog Entry #1
The following four blog entries starting December 9, 2012, will chronicle four days of my spiritual journey applying the principles of Live Second. The selected blog entries will be based on Session two: Issues which covers weekly topics on "Open People", "The Story", "His Story" and "Ask God". 
The section on issues addresses one of my favorite passages of the bible, where Jesus delivers the sermon on the mount and addresses the crowd about faith, worry and material things.  Jesus urges us to have faith that God will provide rather than spend our life worrying about food, clothing, wealth and treasures.  He goes on to explain that if God cares for and feeds a lowly, worthless bird such as a sparrow or adorn the wildflowers with beautiful colors, then how much more will he provide for us, people who are made in his own image! Session two touches on the very issues that occupy each and every one of us!  We are called to have faith and seek the Kingdom of God first.  In other words we are called to Live Second, and then God will provide. 

Day 5: Enslaved
Beginning with Romans 6:19, it is clear that each and every one of us is enslaved in one form ir another.  In fact anything that comes before God, becomes an idol, whether it is drugs, food, entertainment, hobbies, wealth or fame- to name just a few. We can become esnlaved by our habits.  Our focus changes from God, to our manmade idol.  Our pleasure and selfish ambition comes before God.  Anything can become an idol if its importance becomes paramount to God in our lives.  To break this cycle we must Live Second.  We must place God first in our lives and abandon our man made idols.  God requires our worship alone!
And how can I live second today? I can begin by reducing my faith on personal possesions, and to be content with what I have.  Rather than worry about money to pay for bills or grocery shopping- and rather than making a worry become an all consuming  pursuit I can have faith that God will provide.  By becoming second and living second, I can trust that God will provide as God becomes my focus.

Blog Entry #2
week 8: Day 4 Treasure

So many people put money first in their lives.  It makes sense, I suppose- considering in modern society you can not do a thing without money.  You can't eat without money, you can't keep warm without money or survive.  Money is needed for all the basic neccesities- and the non neccesities.  No wonder most lives center around the pursuit of money.  In fact money and material things have become status symbols in this society.  Yet the bible talks about having an unhealthy perspective about money.  In fact so many worship money turning it into an idol.  So many are addicted to the pursuit of material wealth and treasures.  Rather than storing treasures in heaven, so many are content to build worldly treasures- comfort, clothing, cars, homes, jewelry, gadgets and toys- all become statuse symbols and idols.  Material possesions are given the worship that only God deserves.  God knows about loyalties.  We can not serve God and money- we must chose one or the other.  And regretably so many choose to serve anything else but God.  Yet the bible tells us material possesions and idols will ot last- they will eventually corrode, or be lost.  When we put our selvish desires first, then we place God second.  Yet when we Live Second, we gain eternal life.  We can live life with an eternal perspective.

Blog Entry #3

Week 8: Day 6 Naked
The wise teacher in Ecclesiastes and Job recognised that we can not take wealth and material possesions with us.  Ecclesiastes 5:15 explains that we enter into this world as babies, naked- with nothing and likewise, when we depart, we can not take anything with us either.  Jesus calls us to build our treasures in heaven rather than amassing material wealth here on earth. How many people go through life with no regard for eternity!  So many people's lives center around material things and the ambitious pursuit of wealth and material things.  Yet, even the wise teacher in Ecclesiastes recognised that the pursuit of pleasure and material wealth dies not satisfy.  In fact, if we are simply trying to fill that void with things, we will never be happy apart from God.  Only with a personal relationship with God can we ever be spiritually fufilled.  We have a longing for eternity and for personal companionship with God.  try as we may we can never fill this void with things or pursuits apart from God.  When selfish ambition and personal pleasure come before God we will never be happy: we will never be prepared for eternity.  Only when we Live Second can we be truly fulfilled and prepared for eternity.  I need to keep this perspective in my own life when I find I am discouraged by what I lack.  With Jesus I am spiritually rich.  When my treasures are stored in my heart and in heaven, I will never lack. 

Blog Entry #4

Week 9: Day 5 Advocate

The Holy Spirit is the ultimate advocate.  In the worst of moments, is when I most need an advocate.  It helps when I direct my thoughts were drawn to Jesus - and that long, dark, lonely night he spent in the garden of Gethemsane. Jesus was God in the flesh, divine in spirit. Yet, at the same time Jesus was fully human- with a body subject to the same pains, discomforts and sensations as the rest of us. Though he was God, he was also a man. He was subject to human emotions: pain, grief, fear, thirst and forboding. With his divine nature, Jesus knew exactly what he was about to endure- a torturous death on the cross filled pain, suffering, humilation, shame. In fact the pain he was yet to experience in a few short hours was described in explicit detail by David in the Psalms and the prophet Isaiah! The torurous, sensations of drowning in one's own fluid filled lungs, in a prolonged death of asphyxiation, stretched out on the cross, was described by David. Isahiah and David fortold of the nakedness, shame, and humilation and abandonment that Jesus was yet to face at the cross. The sensations of thirst, pain, flesh stripped to shreds- to the bone, and even the shame- all fortold! Jesus was fully aware of what he would endure. Jesus was griefstricken, sickened, lonely, and axious. And who wouldn't be in the face of death on the cross? We complain and bellyache about much less! Jesus, in his despair and pain pleaded with God to take the cup of suffering away- three times! Jesus asked his apostles to have the strength to remain awake. But they could not remain awake. They simply did not have the strength. Blood stained sweat dripped from Jesus as he fervently prayed. (Whoever painted those santised, artistic renditions of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, depicting Jesus wearing a freshly pressed and laundered white robe, with a pensive yet peaceful look, in Italy in the 1400s, probably never read the actual biblical account. ) Yet, God gave Jesus- the supernatural strength he needed to persever, and Jesus responded "not My will but Your Will."

The power of the Holy Spirit is very real. The Holy Spirit is here and alive and ready for us. Not many people meditate on the significance of the Holy Spirit. Yes it is true, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity. Intellectually many people are aware of the fact. Every Sunday morning, we are reminded. Yet the significance is enormous! When you consider the Holy Spirit- which is in fact God (just as Jesus is God and the Father is God), then the true meaning and significance become more apparent. It is nothing short of miraculous! God is with us through the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit of God is no less real than the presense of Jesus Christ in ancient Palestine, or the presence of God, the Father in his throne in heaven. All three are God, and the Holy Spirit is essentialy God with us- here right now. It is the Holy Spirit that gave Jesus the strength to endure his fate on the cross. It is the Holy Spirit that helped Jesus survive 40 torturous and lonely days & nights in a dry desolate dessert, parched and hungry in the face of the devil's temptations. It is the Holy Spirit that gave a band of unlearned men. the apostles, the strength and wisdom to persevere and spread the good news of the gospel message. This same Holy Spirit strengthened the early believers to face a painful death, being torn to shreds by wild animals, as the were marytered for entertainment at the hands of the ancient Roman government. That same very Holy Spirit can help each and every one of us, infusing us with supernatural, spiritual strength to persevere, even when our minds and our bodies fail us. This is not about our own will power. It isn't about keeping a new years resolution or being tough and independant. This is not simply another self help type of advise that is contained in countless dieting, and relationship and other self helpbooks. This isn't like having a voice in one's head telling us what to do or what not to do. This is about the power of the Holy Spirit that helps us, when we are at our weakest. We don't muster this strength on our own merits, but rather by placing our faith in God.

Jesus explained that we must not live by bread and food alone but by the word of God. The word of God is more important than the food and water we need for our daily sustainance! Certainly food and water keep our physical bodies alive and functioning, but there is something much more important than the physical body- and that is the spirit. Our spiritual health is more important to true life than merely our physical state. And, even when our bodies betray us, when our physical bodies fail us and shame us, we can find renewing and refreshing strength that we need from the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has the miraculous life chaging power to renew each and every one of us spiritually. Replace the expression or term "Holy Spirit" with "God" and it will become clear that God himslef has the power to renew and restore our spirit in order to give us the strength we need to endure and persevere. With God at your side, who needs a counselor or physchologist? Pills, doctors, drugs and medications pale in comparison to the power of God himself through the Holy Spirit! Everything is second place- money, prosperity, career, selfish ambition- its all a counterfit when it comes to the power for peace and strength. You can spend hours in psychotheraphy, you may spend lots of money shopping, or to go on drinking binges, or mind- numbing outings at bars, parties, clubs, sports and other entertainment- all these things may numb the pain or provide diversion- but none of these things can heal. Only God can heal. The power of the Holy Spirit can heal the sick and weak spirit. The power of the holy Spirit can changes lives- no matter how many days you have remaining before you- whether its one day or 70 years. We don't need to be vampires to live for ever, nor do we need superheros like Superman or Spiderman to save us.

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