Wednesday, November 23, 2005

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves.

“God helps those who help themselves.”

Many people shriek, “That’s not in the Bible!!” Well, … it is, too! I can think of at least 3 places in the New Testament where we read those words. Read Matthew 7:7,8; John 4:10; and John 7:38.

It is very unfortunate that the principle quoted above has been so maligned through the years; it is really sad, considering that it is very true! Allow me to explain. First, some terminology, namely, “help themselves.” In the original language it means “to avail oneself of,” or “to take advantage of.” For example, nowadays we hear that phrase used at mealtime. The cook (in my house, it is primarily my lovely wife) assembles the family and guests at a neatly set table and proudly hails, “Everybody help themselves, … there’s plenty!” The cook graciously and freely offers her bounty to all present.

So, in the case of this principle, “God helps those who help themselves,” a clearer rendering might be: “God shows immeasurable grace to those who simply help themselves to it.” Consider the 3 references above. The John passages liken the grace of God to water and say there is enough to go around, and then some! There is almost a silliness to it! If you or I were to see a $1 hundred bill lying on the ground, would we need to be coaxed into retrieving it? Never!

Such is the grace of God. Such is the nature of God: generous, fatherly, gracious, giving, lavish, extravagant, unconditional, caring, rich, adequate, satisfying, eternal, sure, trustworthy, committed, loving, confident, personal, tasty! Thus, we read the final words of John, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

The Bible is a book about God, God is the hero, and the story is about Him. It was written so that you and I might come to know Him (Jn 20:31!), come to experience intimacy with Him, come to be loved by Him, come to drink deeply at the well that is Jesus Christ – come to help ourselves at the banquet table of His bounteous grace – and then, and only then, gush over with grace into the lives of our friends. This is what it means when the Bible says, “… By this all will know.”

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Have You SEEN Jesus?

I am thinking about a conversation last Sunday night. What is it going to take for us to be a healthy, growing and ministering church?

I really believe it has to do with individuals (both individually and in groups) seeking to be with Jesus, starting to “look like Jesus” (transformation), and then being Jesus for others to see.

This is how conversion happened to each of us. We were drawn to Jesus by way of the Jesus in one of our friends. We were attracted to the love (and “God is love.”) shared with us in a relational way. Now, we have the honor and privilege of becoming Jesus for our friends!

For the church to “succeed” (I put that word in quotes because of the relativity of the definition of the word; although it is true that the church can experience true success!), she needs simply to be full of people who have been with Jesus!

We have to have seen Him! Psalm 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” God is great about giving us images we can understand to describe intimacy with Him. Tasting and seeing we know full well. I am thinking about how good Breyer’s ice cream or one of Marilyn Broussard’s small group goodies tastes!

And, seeing is believing. Those of us who have been to the Grand Canyon know the frustration of telling someone who has not been there what it is like. We invariably say, “You just gotta go there for yourself and see it!” When I finally went there myself and saw it, I could claim with authenticity that I had SEEN the Grand Canyon!

Seeing is a deep thing. Some see and don’t see – the psalmist says of the heathen, “They have eyes, but they cannot see” (Psalm 115:5b). Many claim to have seen Jesus, but the light is not in them and the church does not grow.

The Bible says that even when we do see, the sight we have is not fully complete. “For now we see I a mirror dimly, but then face to face,” Paul told the Corinthians (1 Co 13:12). Our view of God in the Person of Jesus Christ is limited and incomplete, but it can improve with time with Him!

Think of Linus this past week. He faithfully traipsed out to the pumpkin patch and sat in the cool night air with high hopes to see the Great Pumpkin. Though he for years on end has failed to have his goal met, he is buoyed by the fact that if he were not to show up for a viewing he surely would not see the Great Pumpkin.

To see we must simply show up and look. Linus will not see the GP if he does not position himself. And the great news is that, unlike the GP, when we position ourselves to see Jesus, WE WILL SEE HIM! Through the prophet Jeremiah, God tells us, “I will be found by you” (29:14).

I believe the first step to a healthy, growing and ministering church is individuals and groups of Christ-followers who smell, look like and taste like Jesus! The mist of our dim view of Him right now can be lifted as we become still enough to know that He is God.

How can you and I take steps into the pumpkin patch of hope right now?