Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Meaning of "Amen"

It’s the day of the week where many Americans gather in their respective houses of worship and repeat the same word: amen. But what does the word mean? And why do people say it?

Amen is commonly used after a prayer, creed, or other formal statement. It is spoken to express solemn ratification or agreement. It means “it is so” or “so it be.” Amen is derived from the Hebrew āmēn, which means “certainty,” “truth,” and “verily.”

In English, the word has two primary pronunciations: ah-men or ay-men. But it is one interjection that is expressed in endless ways, from a soft whisper to a joyous shout.

Amen is found in both the Old and New Testament. Modern worshippers of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all use a version of the word, and records indicate that it has been used as an expression of concurrence after prayer for centuries.

In Judaism, congregants say amen in response to the words of the rabbi, or spiritual leader. The term appears as part of a number Jewish prayers. In Christianity, amen occupies a central but often spontaneous position at the end of prayers or as a personal expression of affirmation for another’s words during a sermon or other religious discourse. Islam, like Judaism, incorporates a more formal use of the word into ritual but also deems it an appropriate way to end any sort of prayer. Rather than “amen,” Islam generally says “amin.”

Amen is also used colloquially. For example: “Dinner is finally ready — amen!”

The opposite of “amen,” arguably is cursing. Yet both cussing and prayer have the same roots in the three major monotheistic faiths. Click here to read how these sacred and profane words derive from a similar source.

In Egyptian mythology, amen, or amun, was a deity represented by a ram, the god of life and reproduction. A controversial theory posits that amen derives from the Ancient Egyptian.

When we pray, almost anything goes: dancing, whirling, kneeling, or swaying. And words of affirmation are almost always spoken. Amen is certainly one. What are others?

(On a side note: If you ever hear scientists talking about the “God Particle,” this is what they are talking about.)

*** This is a direct copy and paste quote from the Hot Word Blog, all credit and origin go to them. I just thought it was an interesting post and would share it here. For the direct link to the post, click the link below.

If you pray and say “amen” at the end, what does it literally mean? The Hot Word Blog

Being Well Endowed

Ever wonder what will be said of you after you die? Most funerals have a time of testimony where those in attendance share about the great things the deceased have done. These consist of positive memories, funny stories, or even the impact their belated loved one has had while living in their world. Without sounding too morbid, I hope my funeral will be difficult and hard on those who attend. Mountains of Kleenex will abound as the tears flow missing me. The time of testimony I hope will be forcefully cut short, as people cannot stop sharing the meaning and ever lasting effect I’ve brought to their world.

In his new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller says that part of living a memorable life (or a life that others will want to be a part of and hear about), is to let your life tell a good story. The elements to telling a good story according to Miller isn’t that complicated, and can be boiled down to one sentence. To tell a memorable story, the character must want something, and overcomes conflict to get it.

With that said, I wonder about one of the most famous stories of all time: the life and times of Jesus Christ. The gospel of John says that Jesus left such an enormous legacy, that it’s impossible to pen all of his endowment (John 21:25). I wonder… if we apply Donald Miller’s elements of a great story to the life of Christ, do the gospels depict the world’s Savior as a character with a goal who experiences opposition while attempting to accomplish his mission? If so, what is this goal, and what sorts of thing stand in his way? And lastly, how does Jesus overcome his opposition?

What about you? When you read the Gospels of Christ, do you find any of the above questions applicable to the life of Christ? If so, how might those questions be presented?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Naturally Enhancing The Body's Performance?

A number of months ago I was struggling with how I best enhance the ministry of the church. 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the church being like a human body. The human body has many parts to it. Each has a primary responsibility or task that is uniquely separate from every other individual part. Yet they serve an overarching purpose and without that individual function, the body’s entire function/purpose would be in jeopardy. The apostle Paul relates this to the ministry of the church.

He says there are certain things needed in the church in order for it to function properly. Such things include apostles, teachers, leaders, helpers and the list goes on. I personally believe everyone can be used for ministry. Part of the Christian life is figuring out where you fit in the Body of Christ. How your gifts, talents, and abilities enhance the ministry of the church and enlarge the Kingdom of God.

During this time I invited a pastor friend over for a coffee visit. One of the things he suggested was that my mission is to serve those of the disability/special needs community. This was a natural place of ministry for me. I had an “in” that he didn’t. I am a special needs individual. I am one of them. This gives me a voice that others don’t have. As an able bodied person, whenever he talks to someone that uses a wheelchair, crutches, a walker, etc, etc, it just goes in one ear and out the other. The pastor furthered his point by saying this is because an able bodied person doesn’t understand what it’s like to live with disability.

I wonder if this attitude is reflected in the psalms. For example, check out psalm 73:

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Psalm 73:1-6 NIV

I also wonder if that’s what Paul meant when he wrote:

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 NLT

What about you? What do you think about this?

A Key To Longevity In Youth… [Err, um ALL] Ministry

It’s said there’s 52 weeks in a calendar year…which accounts for 13 months instead of 12 by the way, but I digress…

So by that count, I’ll be celebrating a rather unique anniversary in the next week or two. The end of July is when I first moved into my own place. Since that time life has been a whirlwind of adventure. Without getting into too much detail, I can in retrospect say there were times when I was so busy I very nearly experienced burnout. I can recall at least three times this past year, if not four, I’ve had to put the breaks on, isolate myself, and recharge my batteries. There’s nothing wrong with that; Jesus modeled it during his ministry.

He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone… Matt 14:19-23 NIV

This time, I decided to turn off my phone, lock my door and read through a selection of psalms. I open the book and begin reading the first psalm when my eyes come across this:

His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:2-3 NIV

In college we were told the longevity and sustainability of your ministry, what ever it may be, is directly connected to your relationship with God. If you’re feeding that relationship by spending time with the Lord in prayer and reading the scriptures, then your ministry will flourish. If that relationship is stagnant, and you’re not including the use of scripture and/or prayer in your daily activity, your ministry will suffer; and even become stagnant itself.

Whenever I read that in a book or heard someone else say that, I would make time to read my bible and pray. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be too long before that discipline would taper off and I’d be doing things in my own strength, treating my prayer and bible reading as a panic button or a glass case containing a fire extinguisher. In case of emergency break glass!

Now that I’m out of college and been in ministry for approximately a year. I can say without a doubt that taking time to nourish your relationship with God is a key to a successful ministry. I would even venture to say any activity suffers if you neglect to “… delight in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

I have to admit though I do feel like a hypocrite saying this as its not something I continually practice. So if you come across this, I would ask that you pray for me. That I would regularly take time to read the word of God and pray, so I don’t experience burnout as much, and can have the strength to face the day for the many moons ahead of me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Get Your Boogy On Y'all!

get up and dance! PAR-TAY!

Chains of Glory

My best friend and I are living proof that opposites attract. He’s tall, I’m short. He’s skinny and I’m not. He’s quick and impatient but I’m slow and take my time. Our differences couldn’t have been more obvious then this past weekend. We spent an afternoon together hanging out in his basement suite. Around dinner time he suggested we head to a nearby burger joint to satisfy our hunger. He told me it was within walking distance and would only take a few minutes to get there. So I grabbed my crutches and away we went. A block and a half into our journey, I’m sweating up a storm but going as fast as I can. My best friend is resting half a block away waiting for me to catch up.

What was a 5 minute walk for my friend ended up taking about a half hour! The walk was quite a challenge for me and when I got there I was dehydrated and in desperate need of a drink. In a few days I was scheduled to do a 10KM road race so I treated the walk as training for the upcoming event. It wasn’t until our journey back that my friend starts to realize just how challenging this trek for burgers is for me.

It starts settling in that he has a much easier time getting around then his little friend on crutches. After seeing the workout I’m getting from a proverbial “run to the store,” he starts running on the spot. By doing this, he figures he can get the same effect I am. That day he had a lesson in humility and a lot more to be thankful for when he went to bed.

When people first see that I have a disability, they have an automatic inclination to find out what happened. I usually tell people I was born with a disability and wouldn’t have it any other way. Life with disability is all I know. Unlike someone who ends up paralyzed after birth, I have nothing to compare it too so I don’t wake up wishing I could walk again.

Viewing a disability as good is not a universal stance. Being in a wheelchair 24 hours a day is a source of pain for many. I once met a girl in a wheelchair who wants to be a scientist so she can find a cure for her disability. Doing so will free her from the prison that is her disability. Even though I consider it a joy to be in a wheelchair, there are some days I agree. Because of my disability, I am in prison. During those times, I’ve found comfort from the apostle Paul:

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. Philippians 1:12-14 NIV

Paul writes this while he is in prison awaiting trial in Rome. “He had been allowed to arrange private lodging for himself; but night and day in that private lodging there was a soldier to guard him…” some in the church might view his imprisonment as a bad thing, so he writes this to let them know exactly the opposite has happened. Whenever Paul had a visitor, he would preach to them about Christ. Because a guard had to be with him at all times, it meant the guard’s duty was to watch and, consequently, listen to everything Paul was saying. This happened on and off over a two year period. During that time it became abundantly clear to everyone that Paul had a relationship with Christ. In Paul’s eyes this was how the Lord was advancing the gospel.

Paul’s prison term had another advantage. “…because of Paul's imprisonment in Rome many people had heard the gospel who would not otherwise have heard it.” Acts 28:17-30 tells us who these people are. Unbelieving Jews and Gentiles were among those Paul preached to. Other Christians were also encouraged by Paul’s boldness in sharing his testimony. This is how Paul can praise God for such dark circumstances.

I am no stranger to being an encouragement to people. One time it happened while I was at a conference in a local church. Sessions were held all over the place. Some were in the basement while others were held atop numerous flights of stairs. Stairs are not an issue for me, so I was a trooper and climbed them as necessary. At the beginning of the second day, I ended up chatting with a gentleman who attended the conference while staying at a homeless shelter. He told me he was hesitant in coming the night before; until he seen me going up and down those stairs on crutches still smiling. He went home that night and thought about what he’d seen. Considering the joy in the midst of the struggles I had, he decided to return for the rest of the conference hearing the Gospel of Christ he might otherwise have not been exposed too.

In 2 Corinthians 12, we learn that Gods power is made perfect in weakness. In sharing his weakness with the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:7-10), Paul tells them having the weakness keeps him humble. Any good that he accomplishes doesn’t come from any merit of his own. It is God being gracious to him and using him in the moment. Sometimes God does that with us.

He gives us a weakness to keep us humble. Anytime people see something good come out of it, we are shocked. How such good can come out of our seemingly dark circumstances? It is because God is using us in ways that at the end of the night when our head hits the pillow all we can say is “praise God!”

What are your weaknesses? How might God be using them to open doors to share what Christ is doing in your life?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Joy In The Morning

“There’s something different about you Tim, your not like most people around here… more people should be like you, a fighter!” I learned a long time ago that encouragement is one of my gifts from God. So comments like this shouldn’t amaze me but they always do. I struggled to find the right words as a neighbor shared this over coffee last week, and all I could come up with was “thanks.”

I would like to take credit for the times people see me as a power house, source of strength or what have you, but the truth is that strength is not my own. Psalm 121:2 says:

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!

I have a couple “friends by book” … I guess they are more appropriately “friends through circumstance,” who share the same scenario as mine last week. One of these friends is Joni Eareckson Tada. Being asked the same question she often shares this story:

After my husband, Ken, leaves for work at 6:00 a.m., I’m alone until I hear the front door open at 7:00 a.m. That’s when a friend arrives to get me up…While I listen to her make coffee, I pray, ‘Oh, Lord, my friend will soon give me a bath, get me dressed, sit me up in my chair, brush my hair and teeth, and send me out the door. I don’t have the strength to face this routine one more time. I have no resources. I don’t have a smile to take into the day. But You do. May I have Yours? God, I need You desperately.’ I turn my head toward her and give her a smile sent straight from heaven. It’s not mine. It’s God’s. And so,” I said, gesturing to my paralyzed legs, “whatever joy you see today was hard won this morning.”

One of my newer “friends via circumstance” Nick Vujicic says, “Anything good that you see in me, is not me as a Christian, its God being gracious and showing up in me.”

I too echo the words of my comrade’s. My life isn’t always a bed of roses. I have days where I get down in the dumps and go through the motions, just waiting for the day to end. In my life its true, any strength or encouragement you see in me, does not come from me. It’s God using me in the moment. The reason and how fore is meaningless. Your strength or encouragement is all that matters.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Beware The Pharisees, Not Every Miracle Is Given

This past Sunday I turned on the TV and decided to take in one of the many televangelists that take the airways each Sunday. Being a stranger to early morning TV, I decided to check out Reinhard Bonnke’s program. Like most televangelists, Bonnke shows up on the screen and encourages people to call his toll free 24/7 prayer line. With the number scrolling along the bottom of the screen he tells people if they’ve been asking for a miracle they are to call and receive their miracle today.

This may be true. You could call his prayer lines, talk with the person on the other end, pray for a miracle and receive it. But there’s a danger in this line of thinking. Not everyone who asked Jesus for a miracle received one. Consider Mark 8:11-12

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.”

If you read Mark 8:1-10, you’ll see that Jesus just fed 4000 people with a few loaves of bread and a couple fish. Jesus performed miracles prior to this mass feeding that confirmed his claims and authority as the Son of God. After witnessing these miracles the Pharisees still had unbelief in validity of Christ’s claims. They do not need another miracle; they have plenty of evidences to decide whether or not there is any integrity in Jesus being the Son of God. So he tells them no and walks off with his disciples.

Jesus then warns his disciples about the Pharisees. This is because the Pharisees belief in God was so futile. They demand strict obedience to Jewish law yet when they are under fire, will abandon God entirely. So am I saying that Reinhard Bonnke is a Pharisee, false prophet, or someone who can’t be trusted with the Gospel of Christ? I honestly don’t know my only exposure to him is a half hour TV program one Sunday morning… but that’s the impression I get. So I’m more likely to say yes, but I am a human who isn’t perfect and could be wrong. Reinhard Bonnke as a pharisaical false prophet is a decision all your own.

Friday, July 2, 2010