Tag Archives: incarnation

day 19: nothing

Philippians 2:5-11

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of aservant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself bybecoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  ThereforeGod hashighly exalted him and bestowed on himthe name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ isLord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:5-11

Jesus “made himself nothing.”  that phrase jumped out at me.

how could someone make themselves nothing?  obviously, jesus wasn’t nothing.  He was an actual historical person.  He was something, in fact the very “form” of God himself – not form in the sense of outward appearance (which would be the greek word “morphosis”) but form in the sense of the very nature or essence (“morphe”, which is the greek word used here).   the word for “a thing to be grasped”, “harpagmos”, can have the meaning of “a prize” to hold, which makes sense given the context of what He was.  So at the very least He was God before becoming a man.

so did he cease to be God when he made himself nothing…or when He became the essence of a servant, born in human likeness?  there has been much debate over this passage.   the word for “nothing” used here is the greek word “kenoo” meaning “to empty.”  it seems a word that means that whatever the case it involved choice and action.  the context teaches us a lot of what it may mean for Him to have made Himself nothing. 1) if we read what came before this section, Paul had described how we ought to live – how we ought to imitate Christ…giving us a clue to what this “emptying” would look like.  v.3 says “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but inhumility count others more significant than yourselves.”  it is not that we/Christ are/is nothing, but that we “count”, or consider, others as more important.  as i’ve learned from luke 9:23 it looks like disregarding our own personal interests for the sake of another.  laying ourselves and our egos down.  2) if we read the section after v. 7 we see that Jesus’ act of humility and pure obedience paradoxically made Him great.  for some reason i’ve read this passage in the past as: he humbled himself…SO God exalted Him.  but that is not what it says…it says “therefore”…which gives a reason…not necessarily sequence.  this makes sense in the sayings of Jesus that those who are least ARE the greatest…not will be.  Everyone…myself…and satan himself…wanted to reach for greatness…which is what makes us not God.  Jesus laid down his greatness…which points to the fact He is God.

although He rules everything He made himself nothing…for us.  this makes Him everything to me.

if God himself, who is everything important and good, laid down Himself….how much more should we, who derive our very existence from Him, lay down our own lives?  Especially when Jesus and Paul remind us to follow His example.  How can i make myself nothing, consider others as more significant, this day?

thank you Lord that you made yourself nothing for us


day 18: God

John 1:18; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-4

No one has ever seen God;the only God, who is at the Father’s side,he has made him known.” – John 1:18

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” – Colossians 1:15

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.  After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” – Hebrews 1:1-3

Jesus of Nazareth is God expressed.  when we read one of his titles, “the firstborn of all creation”, we are tempted to think He was born but “firstborn” means supremacy in the family.  He, in fact, “created” all created things and, like the firstborn of the family, inherits all things.  He made and owns all things, yet He comes into what He has made, lives among us, cares for us, cleanses us by dying for us that killed Him.  although He is over all things, He comes under us and serves us.  what does that say about God?  about us?

if Jesus is “the exact imprint” of God, why do we still look for God elsewhere?  why do we continue to insist and live like He is far away when He has come to be one of us?

thank you Lord that you are God…and the man.

day 14: incarnation (God as a human)

Isaiah 11:1-9; John 1:14; John 8:12

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump ofJesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” – Isaiah 11:1-5

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” – John 8:12

the artist joan osborne once asked in a song “what if God was one of us?” God actually gave us an answer: i was and i am…his name is Jesus of nazareth. it is a wonderful and terrifying mystery that God became a human being. so it begs the next question: what was/is He like? well if we use the scriptures listed above we learn that at the very least:

1) He has insight and understanding into ALL things. His discernment goes far beyond physical sensory perception…He sees beyond appearances. He does not make decisions like men do. who really knows anything to the heart, really, except God himself?

2) He really likes being in awesome reverence of God. its strange because even though He is God, He delights in God, and reveres God. maybe this means He has a totally right view of Himself, He is at total peace with himself. who has total insight, even into themselves, and still has total respect for themselves and are at peace with it?

3) He focuses on the poor and the meek. with all this power and authority, this is who He spends time with and lives among? its preposterous…it hurts our pride…its true…precisely because men wouldn’t do that. who, having all the authority and power of the world at their disposal, would give themselves to the poor and the nobodies?

4) His words have such weight people can die from just being in its presence. forget about that dos equis most interesting man in the world…He IS The Man in the world. people are cut to the quick by His words. no one can escape them. we’ve tried to hush them up, ignore them, or get rid of them for over two millenia…they just won’t die. whose words mean anything these days…who actually sticks to them…who actually has any authority to carry them out?

5) He is righteous and faithful. who is righteous and faithful? stop. ’nuff said.

6) He is full of grace and truth. He does not lie…He cannot lie…
He only speaks and lives the truth. yet, even though He knows all the truth about all of us, He overflows with the ability to give us good when we deserve the worst. whom of us pour forth only truth and always chooses to offer grace?

7) He is the guide to life. who can make the guarantee that where they are leading is absolutely the right way? only God who walked the way Himself first.

for reflection i’ll ask the same question joan osborne asked: “…if God had a face what would it look like / and would you want to see / if seeing meant that you would have to believe…?”

thank you Lord for showing us yourself.

blessed are the poor?

why and how are the poor blessed?

for so many years i’ve only heard the matthew beatitude expounded as those who are “poor in spirit”…spiritually poor.  though that may be true, i am learning from scripture (OT law, OT prophets and the heart and nearness of God to the poor, luke 6, james 2, to name a few), and some of my experience has confirmed, that the disciples of jesus who are physically poor indeed experience a unique blessing.  as i was reminded by a sister’s wonderful testimony of the transformation of her alcoholic father that her family left 8 years ago, those who are poor recognize their great need and can experience our great God to meet those needs.  for someone who has experienced an empty cup, how great is their treasuring and joy when it is filled to overflowing?   this is opposed to someone who has only known a full cup, not recognizing Who has filled it, and is consumed with keeping it full rather than consumed with the One who fills.

i am reading “companion to the poor” to try to learn some of what it means to have the heart of Christ and for the poor to be blessed.  according to viv grigg: “poverty is not blessed, but the poor are-those poor who become disciples…because of their poverty, they trusted God in a spirit of dependence.”

“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples,and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor,  for yours is the kingdom of God.'” – Luke 6:20

what i can learn from those who have less

to see poverty is one thing; it is a whole other thing to live in it.  its been more than a week since i returned from a 3 week trip, living in a squatter community in the philippines.  it was dubbed a “slum retreat”, kicking off the two-year urban poor internship i am now a part of, as a way to find out more about ourselves, the urban poor outside of the u.s., and ultimately about God.  it was intense but also a paradoxically rich experience (in the non-monetary sense of course).

FIRST IMPRESSIONS (mostly taken from journal entry 8-25-11):

view of botocan

Botocan is a little barrio rectangle about 32 acres housing about 8000 people

poverty living conditions pretty surprising in its “slumness” like a flavela (of Brazil)

with makeshift looking houses very closely packed together

dogs, cats, (and) chickens in the streets

trash thrown about with no visible trashcans

pathways within community to get to our various homes like cutting through

alleyways and backyards but are public walkways

lots of children running around

air pollution from myriads of motorbike taxis, trash burning

lots of mini home-store-front shops

clothes hanging from windows over walls

tiny living areas visible from street, many packed w/ people

occasional animal feces on the ground

(roaches and rats scurrying about, even in the homes)

mostly concrete and sheet metal

8pm can hear people singing karaoke like its in the next room

random people trying to say hello, children touching, reaching out hands to you…

(*to think that there are many more in countries around the world that live in even more intense circumstances…with much less…it blows my mind.)



–    if modern distractions are taken away (internet, facebook, movies, mp3s, etc.), I am more likely to spend time with God

–    i realize i’ve come to feel entitled to respect (especially since for the past several years i’ve been in the position of a leader more than primarily a learner)…this is arrogance.

–    i learn, understand, and care more about people by hearing their stories

–    i like to talk a lot and I really do not need to do it so often, esp. when it takes away from allowing others to talk

–    i do not take the time to actually get down to the root of the problem, especially if I know it makes others uncomfortable…so I am satisfied with surface compromise

–    i am afraid of letting the people i lead make mistakes (which are such valuable opportunities to learn and grow).  in leadership development / disciple-making i need to relinquish my control and create spaces for opportunities for others to lead, whether everything is all put together or not.


WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE POOR (where i stayed):

–    they value people over productivity

–    they are much more generous then those who have a lot to give

–    they realize they are in need of God, without the distractions and delusions of having lots of stuff

–    they do not have the luxury to hide their brokenness or joys so both are shared with great impact

(an example of the latter: less than two years ago Reymon’s life was transformed by God and is now a leader with vision -> Jio, a gang member, saw this and surrendered himself to God, leading his first bible study a couple weeks ago -> Allen saw Jio’s transformation and is now hungering for God, sensing God calling him to step up)

reymon (red) -> jio (green) -> allen (blue)

in essence they taught me the potential of what a community in Christ can share

“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” – James 2:5



– he hears our prayers and would open the doors if we just asked

– he loves the poor (scripture, circumstances, and prayer walk reminders)

– he has woven together such unique stories in our lives on our journey with him


INCARNATION IS… a commitment to bring the life of God to an area of need by living amongst it

where my wife and i will be for the next two years (or more)…

So, I have been working in the inner city of LA for 8 years now, as a high school teacher. What has brought me here and kept me here for this long is the conviction to serve the under-served in life – that there are unjust things in this world and as far as I am given the grace to do so, it is my duty as a human being to do something about that. It has been quite a journey…it has not been easy. In fact it has been consuming.

Nevertheless, especially this year, I have felt the limits of my work. There are still too many students who are fighting me and cursing me out as I try to help them in the classroom. I have talked with my co-workers about it too. We are pouring out so much of our time and lives, but are we really making a difference…an impact in the inner city? Of course people can say we are doing something (my school has undergone major transformation and has made great gains in test scores) and that the fruit of a teacher’s work is not seen until years later. But we are still so far behind. We are still losing students to the cycle of despair, drugs, violence, and the life of the streets.  Our young dads are still making children and leaving them unfathered. Our young students are still getting in trouble with the law. Our students’ families are still experiencing such brokenness and instabilty. I feel like we’re just putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. Our young students need so much more. I want to do more. Yet, I still live in a different community and I still go to church in yet another community. About two years ago I also got married.  I want to start a family…which will have its own set of needs.

With all this brewing in my mind and heart I was seeking out something different, I just didn’t know what. Then a friend of ours studying educational leadership laid out a crazy idea: for inner-city schools to be changed, the middle class needs to move back into the inner city (not to gentrify but to share resources).  Sounded good…but insane. Would we send our own children to an inner-city school?  What is most important?  We started sharing this idea to our other friends.  It got us thinking.

Before we knew it, we were actually considering it, and praying about it. But we felt alone…and totally unprepared. Around February a friend of ours, who knew we were interested in urban service, invited us out to spot in LA’s Eastside where some one would be sharing about the work that he was a part of in that community.

We went. We saw. We heard. There was a team of people living, working, and serving…all in the same neighborhood. People in the community were being empowered and stepping up to make a difference…in ways that were not someone else’s agenda but were their very own convictions. Everything we were talking about was coming together right in front of us.

Now several months later, we have already found a new place to live in this community, we have let our church know that we are moving to a different church in this community, I have already put in my notice that I will not be returning next year to my school, and must now look for a new job near this community.

Here’s where we’re headed and why:

WHAT: I will begin a two-year unpaid internship which will basically be like a 2 year mission trip where my wife and I will have jobs in the community. The internship starts with a 3 week trip to an urban slum in the Philippines.

WHO: Servant Partners – a mission ministry with a focus on the urban poor of the world

WHERE: Lincoln Heights, in LA’s Eastside

– near where the 10 and 5 freeways meet, right behind the LA County / USC hospital

– it is among the lowest in median household incomes in LA city and county ($31,000)

– it is among the lowest in % of residents with a 4 yr degree in LA city and county (6%)


1) we will be living in Lincoln Heights, with a team of at least 3 other interns

2) we will be attending a church in Lincoln Heights (a church plant of Servant Partners and Epicentre Pasadena called Epicentre Community Church *New Life Community Church as of fall of 2014)

3) we will be working in LA’s Eastside  (my wife will continue to work at Cal State LA as a professor / I need to find a job, one with a little less hours <would appreciate prayers, in this regard especially>, as I will also be taking classes twice a week to learn about urban poor ministry)

WHEN: Starting August 19th, 2011 (Philippines from 8/24-9/12) to Summer 2013

WHY (for the 2 years): We are hoping through this process, amongst many things, to

a) see if urban poor ministry is something for us

b) see if full time ministry is something for me

WHY (what God has been laying on our hearts through His Word):

1) Christ has led us to love the city: Loving Los Angeles (Jer 29:4-7)

2) Christ has led us to care for those in need: Social Justice (Isaiah 58, James 2:5-8)

3) Christ has led us to share our lives: Incarnation for understanding and discipleship (Heb 13:11-14)


– my wife and I need to raise about $5600 (for the 3 week mission trip to the Philippines for my wife and I, as well as for my ministry education for the next 2 years)

if you’re led to give financially please make checks payable to “Servant Partners” with “Intern: Kitani” written in the memo line and send the check to: Servant Partners P.O. Box 3144, Pomona, CA 91769

– We need your prayers!! Also let us know how to pray for you!!

– Let’s keep in touch (updates, encouragements, and prayer requests)!

Email: dkitani at gmail dot com

Blog: (subscribe to this one!)

*updated 16.12.07