Tuesday, February 27, 2007

To Joy

It's all about ideas - beliefs that we have accumulated like barnacles from the open sea. And, for the life of us, we have no real idea how and from where we got them.

Slim young ladies think they are fat. Most of us think we're "ugly." Barney Fife thinks he can sing. You and I can think that we have no value or that no one really likes us. And, just like barnacles, wrong beliefs can be our undoing!

We're in good company. Two of our traveling partners had their stories plastered on the pages of the New Testament.

One is in John 5 at the pool of Bethesda. A poor fellow had been abandoned for 38 years. He had contracted a belief like so much gossip that God was holding some sort of contest so that the “first one in” wins the healing prize. How lame an idea (no pun intended)! Certainly the place was rife with blind and cripple… those whose infirmity made sure they weren’t the first ones in.

Interestingly, the belief did not start as a boldface lie. How many of our ideas about church, the spiritual life and God are merely truths one degree off center? Hmmm! How many beliefs do we hold tightly and tenaciously about ourselves that are like the ones of the fellow at the pool?

The embarrassment comes as he lives out his idea. Verse 7 tells us that he is so misshapen in his beliefs that he deigns to teach, to correct God! Read it!

How misshapen are you and I? And, how hard are we willing to fight for wrong ideas about ourselves knowing that, although the ideas “protect us” from harm, they are infantile at the very best.

Great news: God is both aware of our ignorance, patient with our self-protection, and yet eager for us to learn the freeing truth! Read the rest of John 5:1-9!

The second story is in John 4. I tell this one second because there is a hopeful admonition right in it that gives you and me great hope.

The story is not unlike the Bethesda one. A lonely young lady encounters Jesus and talk about wrong ideas…! He promises her eternal and consummate joy, and she thinks He is about to drill an artesian well! (I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that we are “far too easily pleased.”). Sad thing: She believes that if she were to have more water and a better well, things would be alright.

What about you and me? If I only had ______, if only _______ would happen, then all would be well. Would it?

Here is the key – the hopeful admonition! Read John 4:10. “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’” Again, “If you and I knew Him (the antidote for bad ideas and beliefs), we would ask (our behavior would change; prayer would be paramount) and He would give (us Himself, first and foremost!).

We get Jesus! Love Incarnate! I read this on a grave marker written by Thomas Merton: LOVE IS OUR TRUE IDENTITY. WE DO NOT FIND THE MEANING OF LIFE BY OURSELVES ALONE – WE FIND IT WITH ANOTHER.

I close with a prayer I wrote a dozen years ago.

Dear Father,

Indeed, we don’t know what to do. Becoming like a child involves much un-learning. Being humble means I must forsake those structures I worked so hard to erect, and on which I so desperately depend. Ironically, those are the very structures I built in order to avoid the very fears that will inevitably flood my soul upon their destruction. But, I must realize that there is nothing to fear in nakedness – and that only in You will I find my rest (Your rest given by grace).

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28,29.

I am not somebody because of my own merit and possessions – be they mental, physical, or spiritual. I am somebody because You are my Daddy!

Lord, I must come to You, abide in You, be with You, grow to know You more, bask in Your immense love for me… rest in You.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

On Knowing God

I have said:

Men will wrangle 100 hours planning, organizing, marketing, promoting, and gathering the refreshments for one program to assemble a group of heart-guarded believers before they will invest 5 minutes heart-sharing with one friend ... the true and redemptive work of the church.

Charles Caleb Colton said:

Men will wrangle for religion, write for it, fight for it, die for it; anything but live for it.

Why? WHY is that? WHY do you think that is true? Does it not bother you that the world, the Christ-following world, is like that? Does it alarm us that WE – you and I - are like that?

And what can be done?

A few years ago, I hammered out my ecclesiology. Take a look.

We live to bring glory to God
by building His Kingdom
by becoming like His Son Jesus
by abiding in Him (in other words, “knowing God.”).
All the while we
Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength;
Love “one another” (the Body of Christ, His church); and
Love “outsiders” (those outside His Body) by fulfilling the Great Commission.

The Church is the Body of Christ, those individuals – Christians – who have been saved by the finished work of Christ on the Cross and have been adopted as children of God, and whose purpose, again, is to bring glory to God by building His Kingdom …;
The collective nature of the church is, in sum, to incarnate God
by bringing the knowledge of God to an un-knowing world
through Encounters with God in
Worship (anything that directly makes much of God),
Community (the fabric of relationships on which life is sewn), and
Service (expressing the love of God by meeting the needs of others).

It is the responsibility of the church to reproduce itself – indeed, it is the nature of survival (analogous to the physical world of plants, animals and humans), making plain the place of for Discipleship (which includes the fundamental ministry of Evangelism) in the building of God’s Kingdom.
The greatest gift that can be offered an un-believer is the gift of eternal life (Evangelism) and to bring that individual to maturity in Christ (Discipleship) through investing Relationships. Thus, that individual becomes a reproduce-er him- or herself, thereby building God’s Kingdom.

Bottom line: You and I, we, do not live for God, do not do the hard work of the gospel, because we don’t want to. And, the reason we don’t want to is because we have a weak, diminished, incomplete and maybe even false knowledge of God. Note: I am not speaking simply of intellectual or cognitive knowledge of God. I am speaking of a “knowledge” that is of the heart and reflects a deep intimacy one with another.

Conversely, were we to know God better, for Who He truly is, it would change the way we live our lives.

Read Paul and the way this principle bears out in his life!

DUH! Read the words of Jesus in His big-time prayer to His Father (John 17:3):

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.


I have written much about knowing God. Others have. For this moment I want to condense it into 2 words… COMPANY and COMMUNITY.

You and I have to do the counter-intuitive: We have to keep COMPANY with Jesus (Mt 11:28-30 in The Message). Not DO for Him, primarily. BEING with Him changes our beliefs about Him (Romans 12:2). When this happens, we will nearly automatically DO for Him. Keeping company with Jesus is tantamount to the ancient - and should be contemporary - disciplines of SILENCE and SOLITUDE. God get a copy of Ruth Haley Barton's book titled "Invitation to Solitude and Silence" and READ IT!

Secondly, we get to know Jesus better as we see and experience with Him relationally in the lives of our Christ-believing friends. In a word, COMMUNITY. As you and I INCARNATE Jesus (BE Jesus, in a sense) to and with our friends, we all will, as a result, know God better. It's called life sharing. It is deep, costly, vulnerable friendship.

Another DUH!

All this ain’t easy. Our “old” nature wants to BE God and to live in a little safe and manageable shell. By the way, this is why RELIGION works – you can go to heaven and stay in control at the same time! Another lie.

COMPANY and COMMUNITY is hard work. It will be painful. That is why Hebrews 12:3 says “Consider Jesus.” The Greek word is the word from which we get analogy. We are to analogize Jesus – compare ourselves to Him, the Supreme Sacrifice. Jesus gave His life so others could know the Father. It caused Him immeasurable pain. You and I have the same honor as Jesus.

We can KNOW the Father, become like the Son (know imcomparable JOY – John 15:11), in fact, we can become Son’s ourselves (John 1:12)!, inherit eternal life, and participate in the building of God’s kingdom here on earth.