The Wednesday Writers: Cody Neal

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (2)

Gentle Reader,

It’s The Wednesday Writers!

No idea what I’m talking about? Read this.

Today we hear from my fellow Society of Evangelical Arminians member, Cody Neal.

Boasting in Christ

The first quarter of 2018 is over. A few months removed from 2017, I reflect.

There are many expectations and hopes that we all have for ourselves and others. If you are anything like me, you probably understand the disappointment in yourself when you feel as though you have not turned out to be the person you wanted to be during the previous year – or that your expectations were not quite met. I admit, I have been disappointed in myself. Whether it be with trying to control my anger and impatience, controlling my tongue, fighting off lustful temptations, and just generally being a man of noble character – I have known disappointment this time around again. I wanted to be so Christlike that I would clearly look back on a year of much improvement, comparatively, to the years before. And maybe there was an improvement in some areas of my life, but, perhaps I have foolishly had the wrong perspective.

One thing is for certain, I am weak, you are weak – we are all weak. Yet a greater truth is that Jesus Christ is not weak. What He did on the cross reveals His strength and righteousness. How beautiful it is that His righteousness has been assigned to us (only by His strength).

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.’

– 1 Corinthians 1:28-31 (NIV)

This shows us that all that humans can boast in, whether it be status, talents, wisdom, or characteristics, is utterly worthless in all that God has done. Our own capacities will fail us and even worse, our confidence in our own capacities will inevitably fail us. So what else do we have to bank on? We must bank on this fact: Christ is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption! Therefore, we must boast (or as in the Greek, glory) in our Christ!

Truth is never novel – it has always “been.” Truth can only be presented in fresh ways. Perhaps you have heard or read something similar to what I have presented so far. If so, then this serves as a reminder – we constantly need reminders. I find this evident in my own life because, after several years of being a Christian, I still find myself baffled at how foolishly I forget the truths of the scriptures. Let this serve us as a reminder for the upcoming year. If there is any hope for our expectations being met this year, let it begin in Christ. In the words of John Wesley:

We must be cut off from dependence upon ourselves, before we can truly depend upon Christ. We must cast away all confidence in our own righteousness, or we cannot have a true confidence in his. Till we are delivered from trusting in anything that we do, we cannot thoroughly trust in what he has done and suffered. First, we receive the sentence of death in ourselves: Then, we trust in Him that lived and died for us.

I believe Wesley hit the nail on the head. We must quit selfishly placing our confidence in ourselves, it only leads to selfish disappointment. Yes, we will mess up, but have we forgotten the truths of the scriptures? Christ has become our righteousness! It is by His righteousness that we have been saved. And to be saved is to be a child of God.

I’ll close with this. Jesus told His disciples they must become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, and likewise, that applies to us. (Matthew 18:1-5) Do you believe that you are a child of God? If so, then start living into that fact this year. When I was a young kid, I remember being a huge Spiderman fan. I was such a fan that I remember “playing Spiderman” out in the backyard and attaching multiple belts around my waist and to the top of a large dog kennel gate to act like I was swinging around like Spiderman does. That definitely was not as glorious as the films or comics portrayed, nevertheless, the inspiration was so strong that I tried any way I could to be like him. Likewise, I wonder what it would be like to have that kind of childlike inspiration from Jesus? Granted, Jesus is obviously far more important and real than the Spiderman character.

I’m still trying to figure out how to live into what Jesus says in Matthew 18:1-5. What I do know is that we are called to be utterly dependent on Christ. This year, let us remember the scriptures, remember what Christ has done, and remember who He has become for us. Let us boast (perhaps externally and internally,) “This is who my Christ is! This is what He does! So I want to be like Him!” And as the old saying goes, “The rest…will take care of itself.”

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Cody currently resides in Wilmore, KY with his wife, Mary (and their three crazy cats). He enjoys reading, guitars, baseball, and is passionate about the Wesleyan tradition. He currently holds bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is in the process of earning a Master of Divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary.

 

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Today is the Day

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JesusHe will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

…Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man,and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.[d] And he called His name Jesus.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.

– John 1:1-5; Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20; John 1:14; Isaiah 9:2 (NKJV)

Merry Christmas, dear ones! May you day be filled with great love and laughter.

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Photo Credit: Josh Boot

 

Five Minute Friday: Alive

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Kate asks us, on this Good Friday, to contemplate being: alive.

Go.

I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but confronting mortality changes a person.

Another round of blood tests in a couple of weeks. My hope and prayer is that the effort I’ve put into exercising and the changes I’ve made to my diet across the last two months has made a positive impact. Honestly? I’m not exactly holding my breath. I know that God can heal me through whatever means He chooses in this life. I’ve seen Him step in and do His thing. But just because He can doesn’t mean He always will. That’s part of the mystery. Part of the working out of His plan that we can’t understand this side of eternity.

It’s a strange place to be, this holding on to hope but knowing that the news may not be good.

If I’m going to go down, I’m sure as heck going to go down swinging. This stupid liver is not going to rob me of my joy or sense of identity and purpose. It’s just an organ. Just a ridiculously malfunctioning, swollen organ. Whatever.

And so I move toward the Lord, begging Him for the grace and strength for every step. I fail often. I indulge in crabbiness. I have to apologize. I have to repent. He is faithful. Every day, I see a little more clearly. I’m learning that phrases like “ain’t nobody got time for that” and “do it anyway” pack surprising punches of truth.

I don’t have time for drama. Have lost my patience for histrionics. My focus is drawn elsewhere.

I don’t want to exercise, because it hurts, but I do it anyway. Get out of bed, put on the tennis shoes, move the body.

Being alive means something different to me now. I long both for the problem to be solved in this moment and for that moment when the Lord shall return and I’ll have that new body with perfect organs and two functioning eyes. I want resolution in the temporary but my eyes look farther ahead, into eternity.

I might have five decades left on this earth. I might have five years. I don’t know. Nobody knows. I set my eyes upon Jesus, looking into His beautiful face. And I know that, whatever happens to my body, I will be truly alive with Him forever.

Stop.

We call this day Good Friday, and yet for it to be good we must confront the full horror of the Cross. Of the Man hanging there, pouring Himself out. Becoming the very essence of sin itself. Our sin.

There is no Easter without the Cross.

Sit in that darkness with the disciples for the next two days. Allow the Lord to search your heart and draw to the surface anything that’s holding you back from Him. Let yourself accept the fact that you aren’t perfect and can’t save yourself. You simply are a sinner. Admitting that fact brings such freedom! For this Jesus, this Christ, gave Himself for you. He saw you and did everything necessary to save you. He alone can fix the problem that has plagued mankind since the Garden.

True love died for you.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo credit: Jean Gerber

What Depression Means to Me: Neither This Nor That

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Gentle Reader,

Though clinical depression is a distinct physical problem, it is definitely fueled by emotional issues. One of these issues, for me, is a nagging sense of never being able to fit in. Of never feeling comfortable in my surroundings or within my social/family group. This is partly due to the fact that I’ve learned how to be annoying ingratiating (i.e – a stereotypical and severe people pleaser), but it also comes from the fact that, well, I don’t exactly fit in anywhere. Now, I realize that everyone struggles with this to one extent or another, but experience up to this point as often affirmed my place outside the circle.

For example:

1. Politics – “Christian = Republican.”

I have a secret: I’ve never voted straight Republican. Ever. In fact, my politics are so “radical” as to prompt me to support gun control, more funding for libraries and tighter environmental restrictions on manufacturing.

I have another secret: I’ve never voted straight Democratic. Ever. In fact, my politics are so “conservative” as to prompt me to support pro-life legislation, especially in regards to minors.

A third secret: I tend toward a sort of Libertarian philosophy. The less government the better. This doesn’t mean I agree with all the tenants of Libertarianism, but it does mean that I try very hard to vote my conscience based on a Biblical worldview. This is what I believe a responsible Christian citizen of any government must do.

2. Christianity – “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”

This cliche drives me absolutely bonkers. Do I have a relationship with Jesus Christ? Yes, I do. But I most definitely have a religion, which is defined as:

a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs…a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects

I’m willing to bet that you have a religion, too.

We Christians, particularly those of us within the Protestant vein, have got to stop being afraid of this word. We’re so jumpy about appearing “Catholic” (the worst possible thing in the world that we could be perceived as, of course) that we distance ourselves from the sacred. We downgrade our interaction with God to something common and ordinary. Prayer becomes nothing more than chatting with Buddy Jesus. Bible study revolves around proving political ideology rather than opening our ears to hear what God has to say.

Isn’t there some sort of midway point between this lax attitude and that of intense formality? Isn’t it possible to know Christ as Best Friend but also as Supreme King? There has to be. Perhaps if we were more willing to explore the part of the definition highlighting “devotional and ritual observances,” we would find it.

(As a side note, I have begun to occasionally make the Sign of the Cross when I pray. Also, if I had the money,  I would want to buy this prayer shawl).

3. Marriage – “Women need love. Men need respect.”

Women and men require love. Men and women require respect.

I would not feel that my husband loved me at all if he didn’t respect my thoughts and feelings. It means a great deal to me that we discuss things, whether its finances, politics, theology or what to have for dinner. Even if he completely disagrees with me, I highly value the fact that he considers it important to ask me what I think. Knowing Chris as I do, I’m pretty sure that he wouldn’t feel respected if I didn’t take the time to do little “lovely” things like leave him notes or make him breakfast.

I don’t know much about marriage, but I know that it’s not an either/or.

4. The sexes – “Men are visual, women are emotional/relational.”

I acknowledge that there is a large slice of truth here. However, I’m a visual creature. God did give me eyes, right? I like it when my man dresses up all fine and puts on that cologne I love. This whole visual thing goes farther than just human appearance, though. There are times when we both pause to appreciate the beauty of a sunset or sigh with contentment at the sight of a clean house.

Chris is quite emotional. That doesn’t make him a weakling. In fact, it is my opinion that he’s all the stronger for knowing exactly how he feels and being comfortable enough to express it. He’s like David, the Warrior Poet. This is an area in which I have a lot to learn from my husband.

What I’m trying to say here is that I’m weary of attempting to fit myself into these narrow, predefined boxes. It doesn’t work. If I’m going to be outside the circle, I want to be content with that position. It means…well, I guess it means that I think for myself. Maybe it’s good to be neither this nor that, but to instead be…me.

My journey to faith. (15)

 For all the posts in the What Depression Means to Me series, go here.