Saturday, September 08, 2007


Do not become a Christian if you have the idea that Thing Number One is your happy life. A fork is only happy when it is of some utility in a person’s hands. A fork was not made for itself! First Corinthians 6:19 tells me: “You are not your own.”

Churches, yes CHURCHES!, do not get this one! “Send for this prayer cloth, send in tons of money and receive abundant blessings!” Huh? I send you money and God, in turn, sends me money? Why don’t I just keep my money and we’ll call it even!

The prevailing IDEA is that the Number One Thing God is here for is to make my life work.

Sorry, bad idea!

Cutting to the chase, refer to Romans 8:29 and read: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son." YOU AND I ARE HERE TO BECOME LIKE JESUS! We’re forks in the Hand of God!

What was He like? For one, He was a sufferer. Here are His own words: “… The Son of Man [that would be … Jesus, Himself] is going to suffer” (Mt 17:12).

Paul commends the Thessalonian believers (1 Thess. 1,2) for responding to the Gospel, becoming like Jesus and enduring suffering!

For those whose idea it is to be honored by being among those chosen by God to be among His eternally safe children, to bask forever in the very Presence of their Creator Abba, to belly-up to a Banquet Table whose fares never end, to see Him face-to-face, suffering is but a “momentary light affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17).

You and I will suffer. When we do, and as we persevere and refuse to curse God by making personal comfort The First Thing, others will see Him in us.

And, we will be honored to participate in cosmic history as ones who have been used (God’s forks!) to build God’s Kingdom here on earth!

Personal comforts (blessings) do not satisfy – in the Biblical sense. Hear the words of Isaiah (in 55:2,3a)

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live….”

It is no wonder the church is anemic these days. She is telling her people that suffering is a must to avoid, when in fact it is part and parcel of becoming Christ-like!

I wouldn’t become a Christian either if those words were being drummed into my head every week. I SUFFER! I’VE TRIED TO AVOID IT! I CAN’T.

The church follows: “OH! What have you done wrong?! Better get on your knees and confess, better try another recipe to avoid the pain.” Is it any wonder that those suffering through, marriage problems for example, have to LEAVE the church because of all the extra grief they get saddled with?

Get your ideas straight … and live! Read Paul.

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

What is suffering to the self-absorbed? Out of the question.

What is suffering to the one who knows Christ?


Monday, September 03, 2007

On IDEAS . . .

A new idea dawns on me: I am not, after all, a “Christian performer” here on Earth to do Christian acts. I am here to become holy, to become like Jesus and minister like Jesus so that God’s kingdom is extended.

A crisis immediately ensues. Do I want to be holy? And, if I do, how do I become holy?

Another new idea: Becoming holy is not something I effect upon myself; I simply give myself over to God who, in turn, makes me holy.

(I am here, by the way, to become holy, not to become happy. This idea-shift is revolutionary and freeing in that pain, for example, becomes something to embrace rather than avoid! Pain is God’s way of … making me holy!)

Another crisis: Hmmm! Do I really want to do that? Do I know Him well enough to give myself totally and unconditionally to Him? Am I willing to trust that my current “happiness” is worth the sacrifice?

Part of the answer lies in what I see in other people, namely those who are a few cobblestones further down the path to holiness. Am I so attracted to what I see in them that I want it for myself – will their holiness lead me to trust?

Community (deep and trusting friendships) is therefore a necessary ingredient in making you and me holy and, therefore, to the building of God’s kingdom.

Good news (another new idea): I do not give myself over to God, a God I barely know, alone. I go there with those with whom I travel right now, some who are “further along” than I.

Add the idea which says, “I will take you there. My power will sustain, enable and lead you.” This power comes from the Spirit of God working both in you and your traveling partners.

What choices do I make – what ultimately depends upon me? Answer: nothing and, yet, just a little bit. It is entirely a work of God’s grace. But, somehow, mysteriously, God has designed this thing called choice. He tells us to “… work out your salvation,” in Philippians 2. My decisions matter.

I think it is a bit like canoeing. I buy the boat, take it to the river, get in, give a semblance of paddling, and the river, the Mighty River, takes me! This is great news for the Christian! To discipline myself is better described as “positioning myself” for a work of God! All I have to do is show up! Piece-of-cake! The hard part is turning off the TV, putting on those running shoes, pushing away that Twinkie, talking to that person you work with about meaningful things, sitting with your Bible for 15 minutes.

We are still at a crisis point: Do I want this? Another pitch for community. We can admit our fears to our friends and still be accepted. We can wrestle with our confusions and reluctances in a safe environment. If I am not becoming holy (and only you can answer that), it is because you do not want to.

How do I come to want to? A couple of operatives here. One is the holiness of our friends. We see others becoming holy and want that for ourselves. Two, we, as Paul said to Timothy, “discipline ourselves for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). It is precisely what we do when we do things – like exercise or diet – that hurt for the moment, but payoff in good ways. We do something because we “know it is good for us.”

What comes before the “want to”? The want to “want to.”

Try this. Take 15 minutes and be alone. Make every attempt to stop thinking. When you get as close as you can, ask God to do something. Ask Him for the gift of becoming holy. If you don’t want to become holy, admit it. “God, right now, I like to run my own life.” Ask Him for the desire to become holy.

Then, sit there for the remainder of the time and keep on not thinking. When the time is up, go on to the next thing. And, be assured that your prayer is being answered!