Sunday, October 31, 2010

How did I end up here? Part I

There is a common feeling that when things are going really really well than 'look out below' - something bad is about to happen. Most Christians will scoff and call this a superstition or lack of faith. Actually it is a Biblical concept- for believers and non Christians alike. Today I should like to offer the Christian some insight to this pattern and in my next posting will attempt to shed some light for  "searchers" that find themselves in an unknown place.

Mark I

"And it came about in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him; and a voice came out of the heavens: "Thou art my beloved Son, in Thee am I well pleased." And immediately the Spirit impelled him to go out into the wilderness, And he was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to him. "

The assumption for many Christians that Jesus always knew his relationship with the Father and the fact that he was the Messiah even at Mary's breast. Yet we know that in certain instances and categories Jesus chose voluntarily NOT to know certain things, as in the day and hour of his return. Of course that is used as fodder by some: "See he is not God"!!  The other extreme has Jesus stumbling into Jerusalem having no clue that the cross awaited him in direct contradiction to the Gospel accounts of his often cited predictions of his impending death. The truth is clearly taught that Christ is the God-man and what balance of knowledge he chose to have revealed was between the Son of Man and his Father.  I have surmised that he often left a little off the table in order to walk by faith so it could be written in Hebrews 4: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin."

Jesus gets the public and miraculous confession of his Sonship at his baptism by John. Talk about things going well...but notice the speed in which the Holy Spirit acts to bring Jesus to his next destination- just as in  his coming out of the water brought joy "immediately" so Jesus is led to his place of trial "immediately" . I may stray off the reservation a bit here but this is the way I see it unfolding- Jesus, coming to understand who he really was has an outward sign that confirms his self discovery. Jesus never seeks any declaration by word from his Father or deeds that he performs to affirm who he is to himself. In fact he seems to prefer not to have signs but rather lives by faith that he is in fact the son of God, based on the Word of God. He is often the reluctant miracle worker. Remember his attitude when being asked by Mary to turn the water into wine!  In the desert he will get his chance to prove his faith- this walking by faith and not sight that he asks us to do. . Here the devil challenges Jesus to prove to himself  that in his desperate circumstances of living a 40 day nightmare he is in fact the Messiah. Satan knows FULL WELL who Jesus is. "IF you are the Son of God then turn this stone into bread.. " and Jesus responds that he must live only "by the Word of God",, i.e., by faith.  His self knowledge must finally be based on what the Word has to say about the Redeemer.

So we must not be surprised that at the very moment we may have had that moment and sign of clarity from God, that yes, this Christian business really is true, that we are soon swept away by God the Holy Spirit into a place of darkness where the only thing we have to cling to is  a string of faith. It may be that any of us in this situation should do a personal inventory to decide if our trial is one of being disciplined by our loving Father or is to test our faith- so that we may grow in our knowledge of His utter dependability and steadfast love irrespective of what we may or may have not done. That as Paul, having experienced "the third heaven" may be knocked down a notch from some glorious insight back to the dirt of this earth and the endless thorns in our sides.

As you see friends and loved ones go from spiritual highs to lows it is not our job to act the part  of one of Jobs foolish friends and advisers but rather comfort the afflicted and confused.  It is our duty to confess that  only thing we are certain of is that God is good and his love is not dependent on where we are on the road- whether it seems spiritually high or low.

How did I end up here? It is God's plan that I be here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Would you like to amaze the Son of God?

"Amazed" is a strong verb. It is defined as "To affect with great wonder, to astonish" . Using the concordance one will see a multitude of its usage in the Gospels as an apt word to describe how one felt as a witness to the miracles and power of Christ.

And yet there is one passage that describes the  Son of God as being filled with great wonder at a soldier in the Roman army. What a legacy to leave - that the one who raised the dead and turned water into wine would be astonished at the words of a Roman officer, one who had never even met Jesus.

You probably know the story- A God fearing Roman Centurion has a very ill servant for whom he cares greatly. He has heard of Jesus and presumably had learned of his ability to heal the sick: Luke 7

When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed." For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one. 'Go,' and he goes; and that one. 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant , 'Do this,' and he does it."
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said,: I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

What this Centurion understood and believed meant so much to Jesus that he turned to bellow it out to the crowd following him- as if to say, "You want to be a follower of mine, you want to be a believer in me? "Then understand as this Gentile understands. "

And so it follows, that if we would want the Son of God to be amazed with us individually and as a body we must believe and confess Jesus Christ's authority over all the elements and  principalities that he himself created. That God is God and we are not. That although he is not here to physically touch or to speak to us it does not in one iota effect his ability to affect every detail and needs of our perspective lives. That our desires and hurts are his concern and no occurrence in life is random. Because as the Centurion understood, he is the Lord of the Universe and under him he has  power and control over all his creation.

In an episode that presumably took less than an hour from start to finish, this Centurion had "showed up" all of those that "knew" and had followed and had touched the Son of God. This story is in stark contrast to the panicking disciples in the sinking boat- his own hand picked followers.

And so we must be careful on how we use terms like "our walk with Jesus" and "discipleship training" when what most glorifies him is the spontaneous faith of the Centurion, who had never met nor touched the living Lord, but nevertheless believed in Him.

"...blessed are those that have not seen and yet have believed."

"Let us come boldly then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in the time of need.'

Saturday, October 23, 2010

No more "I's" in hymns

So often after partaking in the Lord's Supper whereby we admit and confess our sins, i.e, lit. "missing the mark" and receive the free grace of Jesus Christ by embracing His death for us we immediately follow with a hymn that denies our very need!!

Have you ever noticed the irony? Something like; " I will never let go of you Lord" "I love you completely"

If we loved him completely we would not have had to come to the Table in the first place, nor would never had to pour himself out nor give of his flesh in the first place.

So let's consider singing hymns that confess our brokenness and his forgiveness and the fact THAT HE WILL NEVER LET US GO, THAT HE WILL NEVER STOP LOVING US, even as we fall short of the mark every hour of every day.