We’re Not Past the God of the Bible

My man & I believe our lives are often a parable. There’s a saying we’ve heard many times: “the man is the message”. It strikes us being completely true. The bare naked truth. We can’t explain many things in our lives. Some of which we endure, some of which break upon us, some of which we seems to be an evident display before the people around us. God speaking in subtle ways. But why?

“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again and be forgiven.”
 Mark 4:11-12

We’re not past the God of the Bible. We haven’t outlived the God who speaks, moves, and acts boldly. Jesus didn’t come to appease a wrathful God. Jesus came to represent a loving God, but a Love which we’re not familiar with. An enduring love.

But I’m not sure how much modern Christianity teaches us to pay attention to God (and God’s heart) except in our time of need. It’s like God is a given. There’s no need to stir ourselves to deeply consider God’s heart. Or so it seems that this is the message which we are given.

Yet God longs to be acknowledged. That is a constant theme throughout the Bible. When we forget to acknowledge God we don’t even acknowledge one another, at least not as that which God has created us to be. Instead we use a doctrinal filter to look at one another and decide if any given person is correct or correct enough (ect). All too quickly we don’t even see another person. We see a problem, a solution, a teacher, a heretic, but we neither see nor hear God’s heart about the person in front of us. A problem which started when we stared using God as pintrest board.

I know people often don’t see us or believe us to be much of anything. Yet I believe that God causes for us to live as parable to many.  A different parable to many different people, but I think God is speaking.
I suppose we so often missing seeing God because we often believe that we are God’s representatives and we don’t look for God among “the least of these my brethren” (Matthew 25:31-46). We believe we are bringing Jesus. Sometimes we do, but not quite the way which mission trips would have us to believe.

For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!  To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.  And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure;  being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.

 – 1 Corinthians 4:9-14

Sometimes we are a parable.
He who has ears let him hear.

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Becoming Less

One thing that I really love that I was taught from growing up in the church system that I did, was servanthood. To be honest, I think it was in-part an accident that I learned it. I remember one year at teen camp where I thought, well either we’re going to be serious about this and put into practice now, in this safe place, or we’re all liars.
That year that teen camp was said to have been a powerful one for most of the small group of attenders.

My big strategy for putting things into practice? Simple. I held the doors for everyone whenever we went to group functions. This simple act actually bother some people (as I did it everyday for the next 4 days).  A few asked me why I was holding the door for others. A few would take the door and hold it, but after two more people they let go and walked in themselves. Many said thank you.

It was such a small thing. A tiny way to practice servanthood that week, and to make it into reality instead of just theory. It wasn’t contagious. There wasn’t an outbreak of door holding or acts of servanthood. It was just me…practicing. Practicing for something bigger.

That week, I remember a bunch of us teens getting caught up in the worship time. We felt really bonded to one another.  And yet servanthood? Well…

There’s something strange about the idea of religion making you a good person, and you spend most of your concentration of religious thoughts upon your self. Things like getting to heaven, getting raptured out of the time of great tribulation (or wrath), developing spiritual fruit or gifts, seeking God’s will for my life, attending church/reading bible/praying regularly.

I suppose they’re all good things. Yet they seem so internally self-focused. Does it change history to make these things our focus? Or maybe God and religious things aren’t really about affecting history anymore..?

In my own life, as I’m turning away more & more for the traditions of church system Christianity and becoming more on the fringe and dependent upon God’s mercy alone, I’m becoming more interested in being less of the central part of God’s stories or Jesus’ parables.

I’m becoming less interested in being the younger son or the older son (from Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32) and more interested in being the servant who brings the robe that the Father calls for.  I’m becoming less interested in whether I’ll make to heaven, and more interested in whether or not the next generation will be able to perceive truth by the time the great 70’s Jesus Movement children pass away.

I’m becoming more interested in God’s story, God’s wisdom, God’s heart, and a little less interested in God fitting into my life, me trying find nuggets of applicable verses, and whether my heart and mouth are perfectly clean.

The more I find myself wrapped up in this greatness of what God might be up to, the more I think I’m probably becoming less Christian (according the religious systems). I’m failing. And it feels wonderful. I’m so free!

I’ve stopped caring so much about what will send me to hell (and there’s a good chance I’ll go) and I’ve started caring what is God doing. What is this mega plan that we find ourselves in if we look up and look around and notice the God fingerprints & patterns. There’s something beautiful happening in our ugly times around us. It’s unfathomable! It’s so tiny, it’s so easily missed, but if you’re looking for it, it’s so obvious that you could never just miss it.

There’s a turning aside to see.

Just like Moses in the desert. Out of God’s plan. Out of his own strength. …and yet, exactly at the place where God intended to meet with him. Just like Moses felt unfit for the role which God was sending him to preform, I’ve got nothing. I’m not qualified.
But slightly different than Moses’ story at the burning bush, I find I have this compelling willingness.

My willingness doesn’t compel me to be front & center or to seek big numbers of followers, but this willingness that’s still growing in me… it wants attempt to be the servant of all.

Yet the reality is I hate being a servant! I took care of my elder grandmother for one week, and I really how much I suck as a person. She needs some help. I can do that. Yet when everyday she asked me all-day-long if the dog has been fed or has the dog been outside recently, I thought I would lose my mind! My grandmother is so much like my dad, that I thought I’d bite my tongue off.

I’m not a good person. I am not the servant of all. I don’t even have the willingness to be the servant of all when presented with such situations. …and yet…
My theological perspective of God, Israel, the church, the nations, and creation continues to morph to something that I don’t hear others talking about. And all I want to do, is follow Jesus’ example of “bringing many sons to glory”. I don’t feel compelled to always be considering if I am a good example. As a matter of fact, I am beginning to think I am nothing more than a catalyst.
I’m happy that way. I understand who I am with this perspective. Servanthood makes sense to me.

I may not be able to master all forms of servanthood, for certainly I am no Mother Teresa, but something is changing. What’s important is changing. What I am observant of is changing. How I think is changing. My importance is changing. and it’s good. It might be miniscule, but it’s good.

Matthew 20:20-23

There’s something I love about “the Sons of Thunder”. In the Bible, around Matthew 20:20-23  these two men/disciples come before Jesus asking for one of the highest honors they could possibly fathom.
Now most of modern day Christianity would consider them selfish jerks for doing that, but what I love about it…they were totally sold on whatever Jesus was doing. They were in for the long haul -whatever that would look like- and they wanted to be two of the biggest supporters Jesus would ever have. Okay so maybe it sounds a little selfish. But it also sounds completely dedicated.

So Jesus asks these two brothers, do you really think you follow me down this path?
And they both wholeheartedly agree that this is exactly what they mean to do.
I imagine at this point Jesus might have let off a little chuckle. He could see their dedication, and he could understand how innocent they were to the things that were coming. Jesus was able to look into their hearts, past these words and outward brashness, and see that they really did mean to follow him committedly to the end.

While they might have had some trip-ups along they way these brothers became renown for their lives as disciples. As a matter of fact, out of the twelve apostles James was the first one to be martyred and John was the was one. I’ve often wondered if that’s just what Jesus meant when he answered them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with

Although they may have not reached the highest honors in the way they conceptualized, I imagined they reached higher honors than they hadn’t previously imagined in their younger years.

I suppose this is one of the things that God does for us. Although our ideas of glory maybe over-simplified, God often sees and understands our hearts, and as long as our hearts remain willing, God helps leads in a way that does bring a true honor or a true glory. Better than we’d previously dreamed.

 

Not Superheroes, Just Friends

About a month and half ago, a friend of ours confessed he need to turn himself in for DUI. We prayed with him and have prayed for him since then.  A few weeks after that, another friend told us about his agonizing relapse, we listened, and he asked us to pray he’d get into detox. Maybe a month later, a different friend of ours found out his wife was cheating on him and planning to leave him. We were able to be with him that day, and spent the night keeping him company and being available.

We’re not miracle workers. We don’t change the world with our prayers. But we believe this is who we are meant to be. We believe this is what resurrection life looks like. We are thankful for those who will let us know when their life isn’t perfect and they need some support. Not everyone will tell us, not everyone will let us help or pray or sit with them and listen. Not everyone can trust, hope, or call out for help. We are thankful that God has made these friends strong enough to include us.

Somehow, I don’t think people imagine this as the good Christian life. We don’t evangelize (as its known to be), we don’t seal them with cliches, we don’t tell them everything will be okay. We just try to be available, try to pray, try to believe with them.
…and personally I can’t imagine much else to be the “Christian thing to do”.

We’ve never once stopped to think or accuse the devil. We’ve not yet become overwhelmed. Instead we thank God that these fine people have entrusted us with their tough situations. We thank God that we’ve been able to look into their faces, and hear it from them. We’ve thanked God that we are able to pray with/for them, and fully believe God will strength the weak hands and feeble knees. We know they need the prayers. We all do.

My husband and I are searching for a new place to live, and it’s frustrating. We haven’t found an open door, and we start to get a little put out with God. What does he want from us anyway? We’re trying! Then something happens… not to us but to whom we love …and we get quiet. We remember to be thankful. Although our current residence is limiting, and we’re ready to move forward, we are still a part of life. Life is not out there, somewhere, someday, instead…it is today. With all the bad and good and waiting, it still counts as life.

If I have to take a moment to remember this, to think about it, and to let the gratitude sink in, then I’m sure I’m not the only one.

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, addictions and cheaters, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

And this is why we believe that we are already part of the resurrection life. In life we feel pain, we share heartbreak, we hope in unseen circumstances, we fall and get up again, we sorrow, we rejoice, we try. WE do this together. We include one another in these adventures -which at times seem to lead nowhere- and we pray. We include God.

When saints pray for a common hope, I believe it’s like going to a concert with a beloved band on stage. It feels like everyone is singing along, the crowd is pressing forward, strangers become friends, there is strength in numbers. There’s also that one weird person who has to yell something like “marry me” or “I love you” to one of the band members…but that’s easily ignore or laughed away.
In a concert like this, people are sweaty, smelly, sometimes pushy, close and pressing closer. Some yell the whole song, some sing, yet we all seem to lose our voice by the end of the night. And we love it! It’s like a sign of hardwork well accomplished. Not only did the band get on stage and perform, but we were all a part of the concert tonight…and it was beautiful.

If you’ve never been to a concert like that, you’re missing out. If you’ve never lived a faith like that, then you’re missing it…missing everything.

One or two of these friends (from the previously stated stories), said to us something along the lines of, “I don’t deserve friends like you” to which my husband perfectly replied, “Everyone deserves friends like us.”

We’re not superheroes. But in real life, we are friends to real people. We love our friends. We are proud of our friends.Our prayers for them pour out more regularly than prayers for ourselves. We are thankful for those who have allowed us to journey with them. We know these aren’t just bad times, but these are times where God is working.  We press on, carrying the burdens of our friends. Hoping. Rising…one more time. We will try. Together we will walk through today.

If this isn’t what faith is suppose to look like, then God help us. It’s the best we’ve got thus far.

Remembering the Resurrection Life

You know how it is when you hear the amazing stories of faith? Not just the ones out of the Bible, but the ones where the Body of Christ is actually acting like the people of God without a second thought. Have you heard any of those recently? My husband & I use to listen to this one preacher who was able to tell many stories where God’s people provided for one another.
One lady who was working full-time and raising her three kids could barely afford rent, and so an older couple in the church asked if they could meet with her and seek God’s will on these issues. She agreed and they setup an evening to meet. The couple arrived to her apartment to pick her up and drove a few block away to another house that the lady didn’t recognize, where they all get out. …And then something crazy happened. The older couple hand her house keys and said to her, “it’s yours, the deed is in your name.” The older couple had bought it out right and given it to her, so that she wouldn’t have to worry about housing bills anymore.

We’ve heard stories about “ding dong ditch” in the fashion of people leaving groceries on the doorstep of families in need. We’ve heard about a single-mom who received a car (fully paid for) so she wouldn’t have to worry about getting to work, or spending obscene hours on a bus instead with her kids. And the preacher who told most of these stories simply said “it’s living the resurrection life”.

I remember these stories from 4 or 5 years ago, and I remember my husband & I saying that we wish we were part of something like that. But God said to us, at that time, “You are the resurrection life for the people around you.”  I guarantee we’ve never bought anyone a car or a house! But we have bought or shared groceries from time to time. We did help someone who wasn’t sure where money would come from. We have assisted people setup their weddings, so that they could enjoy it all the more. We have paid for a few things here and there … but really… does that compare to the stories we’ve heard?

In some ways, my husband and I are becoming poorer in earthly things, although we still have many things and God has provided for us. We have worked hard for the little we have, and we have been still and learned to deal with less. We have enjoyed all the seasons of these last 7-5 years. We have learned much. Possible the greatest thing we have learned to is pour ourselves out as a drink offering (Philippians 2:13-17 & 2 Kings 4:1-7). Meaning that as long as we have something to ourselves, we are still willing to give and to share what we have.

Having less things and dependable income possibly allows us to share more of who we are and our heart to those who are willing to receive such a thing. We do realize that some people don’t want to share in deeper things, but for everyone who doesn’t want that there are many more who are crying out for it. God hears this cry, I believe, and sends us (and our prayers) to these different people. Right now, I wouldn’t say that my husband & I have touched many lives with this “resurrection life” which we are called to, but for the few we have, they have impacted us to greatly that we are only more willing to be lead by God. Even if our leading is to be in the wilderness as some of the prophets and men of God were in their days. It’s amazing that where ever we might be, we believe that God means to use us and our prayers to bring this “resurrection life” to those who have been crying out for it in the night.

We all want to know that if there is a God, that it’s a Living God who cares. What better way for a relational God to express this, than through his people who have already put their hope in him?
I want be part of the living expression of a God who cares. Just like the great stories of faith of people both from the Bible and from our day and age, I want to be a willing vessel who believes in God more than earthly circumstances around us. There’s so many people who need to know that God cares and he’s real, that it seems just ridiculous to be watching out for our own selves as number one.

Love is made perfect in the sharing, not in isolating until perfection. Resurrection Life can only be made real in the living, because it takes more than good words to prove the legitimacy of these most sacred things. Let’s try this together.