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The Problem Is…

I think I’ve figured it out…

“Figured what out?” you ask? Glad you asked.

Now, I’m hoping I’m not just having a backsliding attack of “Omniscience”… (see earlier post). But I’ve been wracking my brain for a while now, trying to figure out what’s wrong. What’s wrong with the world? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with the Church? What’s wrong with my clients? What’s wrong with life?

All that.

I know I share those questions with a lot of people. Grandparents, pastors, teachers, ministers, moms and dads, civil servants, even teenagers…

A lot of the time, I hear people opt for the answer, “Culture”. That what is wrong with all those things is our “Modern Culture. The degradation of moral values due to the proliferation of electronic media, materialism, instant gratification, television, internet, etc. etc. etc.” Dunno about you, Gentle Reader, but I hear this argument all the time. Pulpits, talk shows, you name it….

Never been a big fan of this position myself. For one thing, “culture” is inescapable. Anyone’s culture is comprised of the norms, values, and mores… the folkways and traditions… of a particular people in a particular time and place. If you or I suddenly found ourselves in 18th Century Japan, we would not “fit with the culture”, we would be considered “odd”, and if we refused to adapt we would be considered, at best, “handicapped”. Religious practices are an element of one’s culture, but do not comprise a culture in and of themselves.

Nope, never been a big proponent of “throwback vintage” philosophy… “If only life were like the ‘good old days’ (whenever those were)… everything would be fine.” OUR “good old days” include things like Viet Nam, World War II, the Nazi Holocaust, the Russian Revolution, The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, The Great Influenza Epidemic of 1911-1918… just TONS of “good ‘ol stuff” I’d just as soon give a miss, thanks.

Somehow, deep down, I’ve always known (even as a little nipper) that the key to “what’s wrong with stuff”, wasn’t a matter of culture, nationality, or era. It was deeper than that, simpler than that…

And finally, today, as I helped another counselor understand their client’s needs… it just slowly dawned on me. God just rang, in that still small voice He uses sometimes, and I felt such a solid affirmation on this that I knew I had it. I had the answer. And it was now, for me, forever more “figured out”.

The answer is deceptively simple, and I think I’ve even mentioned it here before… God’s said it to me before… long about New Year’s or so I think.

What’s wrong with…. fill in the blank?

We are systematically losing our sense of the Sacred.

We are raising entire generations without ever communicating to them the truth that, being created in and by the Holy Hands of God, ALL creation… ESPECIALLY PEOPLE… wondrously and marvelously fashioned in and by His Potter’s Hands… are SACRED!!!

A friend told me today how amazing she found it, that people all around her were such “Takers”. That their entire value systems were based on the presumption that they were entitled to take as much from as many as they could, without being stopped. This doesn’t just mean illegal activity… this is a worldview. This is the worldview of entitlement… that for whatever reason or justification someone puts on that… education, occupation, breeding, good judgment, or just blind luck… that that person is innately better than someone who does NOT possess those traits, characteristics, or blessings. And, in that view, the “superior” is entitled to more than the “inferior”, and even entitled to take what “lesser beings” have. She noted that people were incredibly obsessed with only the “Now!”, no past or future, just what they could have and get for themselves right now. .

Some of this rang with me. Some of this didn’t. I admitted that the Lord has been spending many many months now, helping ME learn to focus on the “Now”. But in a very different way than she meant it. God focuses me intensely on the “Now”, because THIS is the only moment we have… to be Present with Him… to love Him… to flow His love and grace forward to others. That so much of theology and religion loves to focus on the “then” (in the past), or on the “out there” (in the future in heaven)… that we utterly neglect the Now… this moment… this person, this relationship, this love, this grace, this blessing, this mercy. It is so easy to be a “theoretical Christian”, rather than a “practical one”. James addresses this with eloquence.

I told my friend I knew what she meant, but I didn’t so much see it as a problem of the “Now”, as a problem of the “Take”, rather than “give”. “Now” is the moment God gives us, gifts us with, to pour ourselves out in blessing to others. It is NOT the moment to exploit others and the world for our own use, pleasure, gratification. That is the essence of Vampirism… to draw life into oneself at the expense of another. We are to provide others with waters of life, welling up from an inexhaustible spring within us…. not draining others dry.

Told her just what’s being said here now, that it seems that the single, simple, “problem” with… well… EVERYTHING really… is the loss of the awareness of the sacred… and, with that… the treatment of all things, and people, as “profane” and insignificant.

Whether on the world stage, in the national arena, our communities, our homes, our workplaces… when is the last time you saw true acknowledgment and reverence to the sacredness of anything or anyone at all?

I’d love to say our Churches were a key to reversing this trend… the lynchpin of the solution. I’d love to say that… but is it not the case that for all too many churches, we are not so much part of the solution as we are of the problem?

Oh yes, we may hear the WORD “Sacred” within such hallowed halls… but listen more closely and see WHO is sacred. God… yes, certainly. And then “Our Clergy”… ok. And then “OUR Members”… all right. And then MAYBE “Other People Like Us, who Think like us, who worship like us!” And… that’s about it. Anything and anyone not “In Here” in “Our Sacred Space With US”… is soiled, profane, sinner, wrong… to be shunned or “ministered to” with rubber gloves, spiritual disinfectant, and a ten foot pole. THEY… are NOT Sacred. They will BECOME Sacred when they “get like us”, “sort themselves out”, “surrender to us”, and “enter our sacred space”.

I’m not saying this is true of Your Church, or My Church. I’m just saying it is true of a multitude of churches I see, hear, and pass through. Oh, you won’t see it on their bulletins or leaflets… but you’ll see it in their foyers and doorways when “the wrong sort” deigns to try to attend. You’ll see it in their deacons’ or ministry meetings. And you’ll CERTAINLY see it in their Business Meetings. When I trained as a “Program Evaluator”, we were taught to “read everything, all the promotional material a program wants to hand you. But, when you want to know what their REAL values are, don’t labor over their ‘Philosophy of Care’ or their ‘Official Statement of Values’… spend your time analyzing their Budget. THAT’s where you see the Board’s real Values reflected.” That’s true of more than community programs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyhow, just thought I’d share these reflections with you, Gentle Reader. Want to change the world? Treat EVERYONE as the sacred child God has fashioned them to be. Sinner or saint, they are more likely to respond to love and respect than to anything else. Let young people know, there is not only a “God out there”, but that He is here, too… and we are surrounded by the wonder of the sacred.

And if, just maybe, you happen to be in or near one of those “There’s US…. and There’s THEM” type Churches? Well, maybe you can help them remember who Christ came to heal, to save, and to live among. (The sick, the sinners and lost, US!) How amazing is it that the King of All, the Lord of Hosts, would lay all that down to come be Light in OUR darkness.

How fabulous… that while we yet rejected and despised HIM… He and His Father freely chose to treat us as Sacred.

I’m yet such a work in progress, Gentle Reader. Keep me in your prayers, and thank you! Blessings and Grace to thee!

Little Monk

 

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The Hidden Agenda

Gentle Readers,

It is Resurrection Day, and I cannot yet begin to describe what I awoke to this day. Wondrous, incredible, God is soooooo…. Grace-Filled and Filling…. only words I can find. Still sorting things out a bit, but here’s a joyful laughing lesson I can share with you for sure! You probably realize by now… (cough)… I am a bit “old”. Not like, decrepit-hopeless-hobbling-around kind of “old”… but “old” like, “How do those kids not just fall flat on their faces with their britches down around their knees like that?” (said with a tone of true confusion and wonder) – kind of “old”.

Anyway, here’s the thing… I went to church today pondering this wondrous new life and new day… and they played this Track, this Contemporary Christian (*cough* REGGAE… song)… and the lyrics PERFECTLY EXPRESSED this incredibly profound truth that God broke on me today about Him, and about His Name! But… but… this isn’t a “hymn”. It isn’t even PASSINGLY CLOSE to a “hymn”. It’s… it’s… well, you’ll just have to listen and judge for yourselves!

And the ARTIST! I learned this incredible Theology Lesson today in church, through this song… I learned, once and for all, EXACTLY why I was created! I KNOW now, absolutely and positively, God’s entire AGENDA for Creation itself! And how the Resurrection fits, and how all of scripture fits… the awareness, the Truth of all this just kept rolling and rolling in on me, filling me with total joy and amazement!

So I came home, and found this cut, this recording, on YouTube… and I SAW THIS GUY!

You’re KIDDING ME!

Soul patch! Long hair! Baseball cap on cockeyed!

Really? REALLY???

Just HAD to share this song with you… Had to praise a God so incredibly patient with me… Had to thank this unbelievably talented and obedient Theology Teacher who has now blessed my life with this revelation of God through the gift of his song!.

And you know what? I just HAVE to wonder, if he sometimes wears his jeans so loose he struggles not to trip! But quite clearly, God doesn’t care a bit… and from now on, neither do I.

NOTICE: This will open the song in a separate window. All that follows this link to the song, are the lyrics. But JUST LISTEN and marvel with me!

https://www.youtube.com/tv?vq=medium#/watch?v=LrT7sqV14_E

Made To Love Lyrics

Artist:TobyMac

Verse 1
The dream is fading, now I’m staring at the door
I know its over cause my feet have hit the cold floor
Check my reflection, I ain’t feelin’ what I see
It’s no mystery
Whatever happened to a passion I could live for?
What became of the flame that made me feel more?
And when did i forget that…

Chorus
I was made to love You
I was made to find You
I was made just for You
Made to adore You
I was made to love
And be loved by You
You were here before me
You were waiting on me
And you said you’d keep me
Never would you leave me
I was made to love
and be loved by You

Verse 2
The dream’s alive with my eyes opened wide
Back in the ring You’ve got me swinging for the grand prize
I feel the haters is spittin vapors on my dreams
But I still believe
I’m reachin out, reachin up, reachin over
I feel a breeze cover me called Jehovah
And Daddy I’m on my way
Cause I was made to love…

Chorus

I was made to love You
I was made just for you Made to adore you
I was made to love and be loved by you

You were here before You were waiting on me
And you said you’d keep
Me never would you leave
I was made to love and be loved by you

Bridge
Anything I would give up for You
Everything, I’d give it all away
(Repeat 3x)

I was made to love You, I was made to love You
I was made to love You, I was made to find you
I was made to love You, Made just for You
I was made to love You, Made just for You
I was made to love You, Made just for You
I was made to love You, I will love by you

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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To Love Enough to Lose

As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (John 6:66-67 NASB)

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:9-15 NASB)

Gentle Readers, we are this day in an extraordinary memorial time… Holy Saturday… the Sabbath Day between the Crucifixion and the glorious Resurrection Day of Easter. We have come through what is, in many traditions, a time of preparation called Lent. In my own life, this has often been an extraordinary time when God teaches and transforms, renewing the mind and deepest recesses of my heart bringing some new understanding of life, of love, of Him, to this ever-so-stumbling child that I am.

Now, this year has been more extraordinary than any other, and I’m not going to try to describe here the picture God has carefully been painting, stroke by stroke, layer by layer, onto the canvas of my soul. For one thing, while I can now discern its outlines and contours, the work is not finished yet… and description would be incomplete and inappropriate.

But I CAN testify, and glorify Him, and witness to the marvel that is His grace and patience teaching so slow a learner as I… and share just a glimpse of the texture He weaves through Scripture and His Heart.

Without bogging down in detail, God has drawn a number of incredible threads and themes into my life across recent months… and been braiding them, harmonizing them, into a challenge that I understand, comprehend, embrace deeply into my heart and spirit, the texture of HIS heart regarding love, forgiveness, wholeness, healing. Everything He has taught, everything He has challenged, everything He has illuminated in scripture has keyed on a singular theme… “Relationship”. On “love as I love”. On how HE sees sacred lives, on how He defines relationships, and how He commands communion.

In these last intense weeks approaching tomorrow, you may recall my struggles with the idea of “forgiveness” when called to work towards the healing of victims subjected to unspeakable offenses. How do I love the “offender” as strongly and purely as the “victim”? For so Jesus has challenged me to do. How do I grow strong enough to absorb an indescribable amount of vicarious hurt and damage from innocents as I work with them, without reflexively curling up to defend my trembling heart to shield it in an armoring layer of “professionalism” and “clinical detachment”? How do I answer a challenge to take no offense at anything at all, to pour myself out without hesitation or reservation, in a pure one-way flow of grace and love… regardless of feedback? How does one yield sufficiently to “Christ in me, the hope of glory”… to Christ-likeness… to the Indwelling Spirit… that one gives, one loves, one speaks the words one is called to speak, that one embraces any and every sacred child of God equally and infinitely, without even KNOWING OR CARING whether they receive and respond to that love… or reject it… or even reject you and your heart and motives entirely and vilify, accuse, and alienate from you instead?

So big… the picture of God’s heart. Too big to get down here.

But a couple bits, a couple strokes, will fit on this page.

“Relationships”

That is a contour we can fit here.

And this… a strange one… “I don’t care!”

I found myself saying this a great deal a while ago. I would struggle with challenges… tasks or frustrations or obstacles that seemed to entwine themselves and keep me from meeting my goals. And I would ponder and fret, trying to find a solution to situations or problems that seemed too convoluted to untangle. And I would find myself figuratively throwing up my hands in frustration at my own inadequacies, saying “I don’t care” HOW this is supposed to work out, I’m just going to move forward step-by-step, blind as I am, following what dim light I can make out, and not care about outcome, process, or mechanics.

The phrase made me uncomfortable.

“I don’t care,” is not a series of words that fall frequently from my lips. They reflected a deep sense of weakness and sense of inadequacy. I am not accustomed to a sense of “incapacity” or futility, and the jarring nature of hearing such words in my ears made me stop and examine… was I leaving the path? Was I tarrying in darkness or shadow? Was I yielding, in my pain, to a sense of despair or doubting of grace and God’s sovereign capacity? I offered my heart, this weakly pulsing, perhaps doubting, heart to Jesus, asking, “If I am out of order, if I am looking elsewhere but You, please recapture my attention and focus!”

Jesus comforted…. that no, I was not disoriented… I was yet securely focused on Him, but we were passing through a dark place and I did not yet understand, did not yet see, what He was trying to teach and show me… but it was a process, and this was all progress, and I was to be patient… both with Him and with myself. That yet, He Himself, was teaching me the phrase, “I don’t care”. But that I, of my humanity and experience of life thus far, took the phrase to mean I would not pour myself out for others, that I did not or would not love or allow grace to flow through me to others. And that perception and perspective was NOT me or my heart.

But Jesus challenged me to embrace the phrase, not reject or deny it, but allow it… realizing that it had another meaning as well. I had only seen half the story. To wait, to keep allowing, keep absorbing, keep embracing anything and everything He brought into my day, and allow Him to grow me to see the phrase another way.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yesterday, Good Friday, I got it. I understood.

Tomorrow, Easter, I will understand more.

But to wrap this up…. to invite you along, Gentle Reader… on this journey and challenge, here’s what I have come to understand as of yesterday!

The verses quoted at the opening of this post reflect an amazing truth. They say, through Jesus’ very words and actions….

“I don’t care!”

That is, they point out that Jesus’ is going to think, do, say, and love PRECISELY as the Father does, wills, and flows through Jesus. What Jesus thinks, does, says, and how He loves…. has NOTHING AT ALL to do with how His disciples, now “friends”, respond to that.

Whether they come or go. Whether they believe or deny. Whether they obey or sleep. Whether they remain with Him or flee into the night….

JESUS DOESN’T CARE! HE JUST LOVES THEM, AND LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THEM.

There’s two ways of “not caring”. One is not to love in the first place, and to refuse to put oneself out for the other. The second way is to pour oneself out fully for the other, give oneself with abandon, to God’s expression of love to and for the other, without counting the cost or conditioning that by what we “get back FROM the other”.

Jesus, without hesitation, condition, or remainder, literally poured out His life’s blood for…

His friends the disciples (all but one of whom abandoned Him in His loneliest hours)… for you… for me… (and I’ll confess, I’ve never come CLOSE to being His most grateful friend)… for the jeering crowds surrounding Him who blasphemed, spat upon, and threw garbage at Him… and, frankly (scripture says)… for all who fell in Adam. (As in Adam all men sinned… so…)

Bottom Line: “I don’t care” is an incredibly important phrase that I needed to learn to embrace.

GRACE FLOWS ONE WAY ONLY! Father to Son. Son (through Spirit) to us. And then… in Him… from and through us to others and into the world He provides around the creation that is our lives with which He graces us each and every day.

It is the same lesson with which He opened His ministry at Sermon on the Mount!

I am to LOVE. I am to FORGIVE. I am to BLESS. I am to SPEAK FORTH THE GOOD NEWS OF HIS HEART. Wholly, totally, and without remainder, condition, or measurement of the cost or the nature of response of the “sacred other” with whom I am relating.

Why?

Because this is how He loves us. This is how He loves me. And, if I am His, then I am to love others… ANY others… ALL others… exactly the same way.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Keep me in your prayers, Gentle Readers. Yet a work in progress. I can almost see the picture now. Just a few more brushstrokes and He will be done. When? When will I get to see the unveiling? When He says so. And how soon is that? Exactly what will it all look like?

I don’t care.

And that, is good.

 
 

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Does God Think Upside Down?

Ever had those days where God is teaching you something… or rather… He HAS TAUGHT you something… and you get it (you think)… but He just keeps teaching it to you over and over again as if you had never heard Him in the first place?

This happened to me once before, years and years ago, when I was listening to some teaching on an audiotape about forgiveness… and the speaker said this phrase, this critically important phrase… and I GOT IT… I thought. But God just kept saying, “Nope, you missed it. Rewind. Play it again.” And He just kept on keeping me at this for 30 minutes, until finally it was like a dam burst in my soul and suddenly I really got it, all the way through me, and my life was never the same. I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to share this phrase with the rest of the world. The phrase, by the way, was…

“The power of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the strength of His blood and forgiveness, was so complete and so perfect that it forgave all sin for all time, past, present, and future… and removed it from us, as far as the east is from the west… such that there is no further room in the life of the Believer for any ongoing sense of sin, guilt, or shame.”

And while my “head” and my “mouth” could have said this for years, I’d always secretly lived in the little “Perry Mason Heresy”… thinking that while I would, indeed, get to heaven because I belong(ed) to Him… I was still going to have to go through some ridiculous and shameful “courtroom scene” when I died, trying to justify or explain all the stupid things I’d ever done in this life. Somehow I had managed for years, even in ministry, to miss the significance and implications of “take away sins”, or “washed whiter than snow”, or “putting on the righteousness of Christ”.

I was free! Totally and utterly free! Free to respond fully and wholly to the magnitude of such love! O my… changed me forever.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well, that was a long time ago… and yet, here I am again, hearing the truth, knowing the truth, believing the truth, and yet hearing God say to me… “Nope, you missed it. Hear it again!”

Perhaps ye can help me, Gentle Readers, for I truly think I’ve “got this”. And yet… I am convicted that I’m missing its true significance.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What am I missing, you ask? Glad you asked.
* hears echoes of ‘what then do I yet lack?’ *

It’s this truth…

God… forgives… FIRST!

I mean, it’s simple and obvious, isn’t it?

“God so loved the world that He gave…” (Jn 3:26)

or “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 NASB)

Tol’ja it was simple, didn’t I? And yet… and yet… I’m not getting it, not fully, not yet.

I almost know where my problem is. It’s this little niggling hiccup… like a tickle in the throat. It’s this temptation to say, “Yes, but…” in recognition of our traditional thinking that says, “in order to be forgiven, we have to be sorry, we have to say so, we have to feel guilty, and we have to resolve never to do it again!” I mean, if we don’t do all those things, if we don’t beg God on our knees for His gracious forgiveness, trembling in fear… then it can’t really be God, can it?

I mean really, be honest, aren’t you cut from the same cloth? Isn’t there this little knee-jerk conditioned part of you that says, “Well, grace is all well and good, but after all… not even GOD can be THAT Good! I mean, we’ve at least got to feel bad and be sorry… even if we don’t need to totally BEG!”

I mean, really… we must have to do SOMETHING… haven’t we? I mean, we can’t be supposed to really just depend on GOD… HIMSELF… ALONE… to deal with our forgiveness and redemption, are we? He must need us for SOMETHING, doesn’t He?

Here’s the essence of my niggle and conscience.

I get it… I do… really… Grace. God Alone. God did it. God does it. His sovereignty. His authority.

And yet… and yet…

God says, “Nope, you’ve missed it. Go back over that again!”

And so I do.

And it is just so amazing, I guess I struggle to let my head wrap around it.

We get it so backwards. Like that WE have to start all this. WE have to conceive of a grace and love so big it encompasses the possibility of forgiveness and redemption. WE have to suggest it to God. WE have to persuade Him to this path. Like its all OUR idea rather than His.

Really? REALLY??

How can I even START to think this way!?

But even now, God says…

“Behold…”

And this singular image comes to my eyes. Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing…”

And I ask myself, “How many of THEM are sorry or seeking that forgiveness? So… Who does that forgiveness depend on, them? Or Him and HIs will alone?”

So… which came first… Contrition, or Forgiveness?

Is it possible, is it just possible, that perhaps it is God’s forgiveness, the grace that flows from and through that, that makes it possible for us to experience repentance and contrition?

Am I the only one who tends to think backwards?

So a work in progress, Gentle Reader. Keep me in your prayers!

Grace to you!

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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How Big is Your Elephant?

ELEPHANT AND THE BLIND MEN
Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”
They had no idea what an elephant was. They said, “What’s an elephant?” and decided, “Even though we will not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Every one of them touched the elephant.
“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
“Oh, no! it is a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
“Oh, no! it is a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
“It is a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
“It is a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
“It is a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated.
A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree on what an elephant is.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched only part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said, but is yet much more.”
“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.
.
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. [1 Corinthians 13]
.
My little perspective and experience of my Infinite Elephant is far too small and limited to argue with anyone else’s. How’s yours?
.
Grace to you, Gentle Reader.
.
Little Monk
 
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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Quiet Time, Uncategorized

 

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Gratitude is Foundational

20121116-185923.jpg

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Mustard Seed

Mustard seeds, and “mustard seed faith” is so written about, and so preached about, I almost shrink from the prospect. But the other day I was sharing with and listening to an “almost Believer”, and this idea of the very tiniest spark of faith… of faith the size of a mustard seed… suddenly loomed very large and important in my spirit. I hope I can express myself clearly here.

We spend our lives, you and I, helping people enter into a Living Relationship with an Intimate and Immediately Present Christ. That is, Jesus, right here, right now, in HERE (points into the chest). Many Christians, good and loving children of God, worship a God who is “up and out there” somewhere… sitting on a celestial throne, floating on some beatific cloud. The God they worship is far away, very busy, and totally solemn. Nothing WRONG with that God, you understand. There is the Isaiah God in all His splendor, and that is certainly a true and good expression of the Person of Holy God.

Together, my friend and I began out in the Cosmic Void… that scary place where you just stand naked before All that Is, or Was, or Would Ever Be… and you feel so small and so very very Alone. And then we conceived of the possibility of God, a Creator, one who was willing and able to speak into existence… Reality. And then we fast-forwarded to what we know from the Bible… the Old Testament God, the Law and the Prophets, and history culminating in the Gospel, the Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ. That God could so love us that He gave His only begotten Son up as sacrifice, as means, the Way, to come into Union with Him.

We walked, (rather quickly, really), through all of this. And my friend “believed”… “almost”. His mind could conceive of the truths of this. But his heart could not comprehend or accept the actual love, the actual personal relationship of it. It was actually a very strange moment. It was as if he and I stood, hand in hand, at the foot of the cross… gazing upon Jesus and all that love… and he couldn’t… quite… connect it to himself. And I was very frustrated (with myself, not him) because I couldn’t find the words to help.

He could believe in the love of God. He could believe in the Person and Nature of Jesus. He could believe in God’s love for creation… the cosmos… humanity… the Church… all of that. But somehow his spirit just seemed to “stop short” at connecting that love to him, himself, personally.

I asked him what it would take for him to “bridge that gap”? What was missing? What did he need?

And he said… “Faith.”

I realized how right he was. Suddenly years of “theology” and “training” just seemed to click into place in an entirely new way. My friend, a brilliant young man, had spent his whole life approaching Jesus with his MIND. Now, here, today, with me, he wanted and needed to connect with his HEART and we were failing in the attempt. And I saw why. And I understood. We needed… a mustard seed of faith.

So I challenged my friend. He knew all these things ABOUT God and Jesus. He knew the relevant scriptures. He knew “what to say”, and “how to pray”. But he did NOT know how to “surrender” or to “yield”. He did not know how to “trust”. And without learning to “trust”, he could never know how to love, or how to receive love in return.

We discussed this, and my friend admitted that he lacked trust, and that it seemed he simply lacked “faith” and did not know how to get it. Without a sense of confidence in true connection with Jesus, he wasn’t at all sure there was any point in praying for it, either. (Interesting little puzzle, no?)

And we ended our time together with this challenge I made to him. That when we say the word “infinite”, we communicate effectively and speak meaningfully, even though admittedly we cannot “comprehend” “infinite”. That is, we cannot “contain” the meaning of that word in our minds. We cannot, EVER, count up to infinity. Same thing with the words “eternal’ or “eternity”. In fact, this is the same with almost every word that applies to God.

Truth: “We can conceive of, and embrace, the reality of concepts that we cannot entirely comprehend or contain in our own minds.”

We do this all the time, though we seldom think about it.

I asked him how we do this? How does he ascribe any meaning at all to our conversation, when we use words like “infinite” or “eternal”? And we discussed this a bit. From there I pointed out that he had, and has, no problem or discomfort using these terms because he has learned to “embrace” some truths that he cannot “comprehend”. He can accept these concepts as being “real”, without EVER being able to “prove” them or “demonstrate” them.

So I challenged him simply to embrace the reality of Jesus on the Cross… of all that Love… all that forgiveness… all that Intimate Presence and caring in and for him individually and his life… without comprehending it. To deal with Jesus not just as an “infinite concept”, but a PERSON, a “relationship” as mysterious as “love” itself (which cannot be fully comprehended).

I asked my friend if he felt he could “embrace this truth by decision and choice”, rather than depending on “comprehension” and “rationality”. That he would be doing no more than we do in considering any other limitless truth. But this time, realize that he was embracing not just an “idea” or a “concept”, but the Living God and His love for my friend in direct relationship.

He said yes, he could and would do this. We shall follow up together next week.

But when we were finished, and the Lord and I discussed this whole encounter, Jesus showed me… a Mustard Seed. He said this… this little tiny spark of faith… this simple willingness to believe, if not belief itself… this was the difference between death and life.

We come to the Cross the first time, dead. We gaze upon the Love of God, the Person of Jesus, and He says He loves us. We don’t believe it. We CAN’T believe it. It is not yet IN us to believe it. But it is true. We are not equipped to accept, understand, believe, or receive any of that, not Him or His love. BUT… all it takes… ALL it takes… is the tiniest spark of faith… the WILLINGNESS to embrace that which we cannot comprehend or yet believe… and everything changes.

It starts as just a mustard seed, and as He renews and transforms us over time, we can develop into mountains of faith.

I never valued so small a seed so highly before.

Blessings and grace to all!

Little Monk

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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