June 24, 2011

Prisoner For Christ VIII: Sometimes Love Is All You Have

Having read and re-read Philippians 1 and 2, I come to the conclusion involving certain applications in my life. I resolved in 2008 that no matter what happens I was going to carry the torch for Christ whether He needed me to or not. I applied this modus operandi then-and I continue to apply it now. My intent was and is in line with Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:27 that, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” As it will be revealed over the next few paragraphs, I consciously and consistently take time to reach out to those disenfranchised and marginalized by the world. I make it part of my schedule, I make it part of my life. I plan it that way and I will continue to do so. I will be helping out at the Pottstown Sports Camp on the last week of June. It is a camp for urban and inner-city youth that have broken homes and the like. This is only one aspect of a complete change in my way(s) of life. I have become the guy I had always heard about:

“Oh yeah, you know the dude... Andy Pierson from the second floor engineering department at Mack Trucks? He left his career at 39 years old and went back to school to get a Masters in Theology to become a pastor.”

That was always someone else's father or someone other dude, not me. I left a career of 22+ years to pursue the ministry and I am already starting to see the fruits and the changes in my life in the form of speaking engagements in different churches in different denominations. These churches realize that my theology is sound. They know I love the Lord. They know I will not compromise my character because I will not do anything to bring shame to myself that will subsequently bring shame to the Church and my family. It is in conjunction with the support of my wife, fellow members of the Body of Christ and friends that any of these speaking engagements are possible. As more opportunities arise to preach and teach the word of God, I am continually confronted with the fear of delivering God’s word to people. It is a hefty responsibility and I do not want to mess it up, so I do the best study and interpretation I can and I continue to do so. I am always delving into God's word or studies of it by those I trust. I then exegete or interpret the audience I will be delivering to so that I can figure out the best way to give them God’s message whether it be in the form of a sermon, Sunday school or a men’s Bible study. This is an ongoing and constant process. This work has now turned into the chance to speak in front of congregations (even to my surprise). This takes a load of planning and ironically…application. For me it is consolation to know that the Spirit is with me in these situations and I pray that He stays on me through it all…and to somewhere far beyond. I don’t know that there is anything else I would be happy doing anymore.

The paramount application and embodiment of a piece of Scripture (for me) lies in the Kenosis of Philippians 2:5-11. I latched onto this passage not long after my conversion. Although I didn’t initially understand it, it was working in and on me from that point forward. It wasn’t until its work had already begun to change and morph my heart and mind through the Spirit that I was able to actively participate in its rework of who and what I am (i.e.: sanctification). It is in the act of humility that I have really begun to sense dramatic paradigm shifts in my new existence in Christ. Although I have not suffered persecutions similar to early Christians, the idea of emptying self to be filled with God and lifted is profound and real. The act of humility dramatically accelerates the killing off of the old self and the growth of the new. Humility is the stimulant for growth of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)

I now purposely set forth in my interactions with people to serve not be served. It begins in my home. I have asked my wife directly, “What can I do to bring you honor in the Lord?” I have also discussed with my wife the best behavior to approach the kids with so that I do no exasperate them and provoke them to anger. What tact best lifts them up and exhorts them in the precepts of the Lord without bludgeoning them over the head (Ephesains 6:1-4). I purposely step outside myself in emotional situations and make deliberate conscientious efforts to take nothing personal. To take something personal implies a self-worth that thereby gives birth to an attitude and often times this attitude is a bad one.

I have also taken this outside of my home into the world-at-large. I have served others within the Church. I frequently chaperon in children ministries, lead adult growth groups as a teacher/mentor, teaching Sunday school, Bible studies, community mission/outreach to the homeless in Pottstown and surrounding area, etc. This is changing me at the core of my very being. I cannot even look at society through the same eyes anymore without seeing the irreparable damage sin is causing at the individual and community level. This act of willing service to others inevitably serves me in the task of becoming more Christ-like. I will continue on this path since I believe these actions refine my purpose in Christ and by doing this I am “working out my salvation” that the Lord has already deposited in me. I believe these things are part of the sanctification process. They are a reflection of the condition of my heart. Many of these things I would’ve never even  have considered doing in the past because I felt I was “too good”. Now…I cannot fathom doing nothing, it is not a reasonable option for me. Inaction and apathy are not Christian traits. This then segues and leaps over to the next application in the very following units.

For my third and final application I will now combine the ideas of Philippians 2:12-16 concerning obedience and how they produce the sanctification previously mentioned. I not only obey in my individual personal deeds and disciplines I have begun (and it appears the Lord has also) to take the next step of refining and improving my relationship with Him and His body. I am beginning to see more direct actions of God in my life towards others at a communal level of the Church. It is here that I begin to see the tiny minutiae of everyday life that leada to God’s purposes for the Church as a whole. It seems the more involved I have become with the Church and its functions the more aware I have become to things I have not seen or dealt with before. More and more people are coming to my wife and I for support, counseling and advice both biblically and every day issues, even those notably older than us. People seem to view us more as sources of sound biblical knowledge and reasoning. We have decided to devote even more time to the needs of the Church (both ours and others) at all different levels. I am now acting in a capacity of intellectual and emotional support for three churches. As can be expect it started in my own home congregation and has now spread to Harvest Fellowship Cafe who have asked me to speak on June 4th in the evening and a new church plant in Boyertown that is of the Lutheran persuasion…even though I am Baptist. I am not quite sure how much of this application is actually me and how much is the Lord. It feels as if the Lord is quickly moving pieces behind the curtain so that they pop up at exactly the right place at the right time to keep be moving forward at an accelerated pace. I pray often to assure these things are the correct actions to take since it is clearly unsettling to a person who, until recently, hadn’t seen a lot of active movement by God in his life. It feels as if I am now standing in the center of a whirlwind. I guess the true application here for me is that the process of working out my sanctification directly corresponds to my increasing work in the body (as mentioned in application involving Phil. 2:5-11). My ability to do this properly directly corresponds to my relationship with Christ. That relationship directly corresponds to my prayer life. These things are intrinsic to one another and work symbiotically. It is indeed a progressive and ongoing process. It also appears to be accumulative. As Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” ~Luke 12:48

Fee, Gordon. Philippians. Ivp Academic, 2010. Print

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