Friday, June 01, 2007

Guest Blog From Robert

Connie’s challenge has stayed with me throughout this month. Since it is true that, until it can be said of me “In him is life” and of our churches “in them is life”, we are falling far short of the glory of God which He intends for us, we really must have the fullest possible picture, expectation and reception of life.. Our weakness in witness to the world, in fellowship with each other, and in communion with God spring from our want of life. So what is life?
I have become convinced in my heart that Jesus’ own preaching of the Kingdom gives us the best picture of the life he himself experienced and which he was bringing to the earth. For example, according to Matthew and Luke, when John’s disciples came to inquire into the nature of Jesus’ messiahship, the Master replied "Go back and tell John what's going on: The blind see, The lame walk, Lepers are cleansed, The deaf hear, The dead are raised, The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. (or, in Luke, The wretched of the earth have God's salvation hospitality extended to them) Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!" (Mt. 11, Lk 7 TM) Again, Matthew records as part of the feeding of the four thousand, When the people saw the mutes speaking, the maimed healthy, the paraplegics walking around, the blind looking around, they were astonished and let everyone know that God was blazingly alive among them. (Mt 15, TM)
Life as Jesus lived and as He gave to others is the ability to notice, appreciate, celebrate, incorporate and participate in what God is doing in the world each and every day. That is why Jesus portrayed his ministry as giving eyes and ears, tongues and limbs, why He healed outcastes and embraced the ‘poor in spirit’ including them out of their exclusion from worldly society. That is why He gave life to dead people, to nephesh met, dead souls.
I do not believe that abundant life has anything to do with material affluence. The so-called health and wealth gospel was devised for the itching ears of North Americans and is a travesty of the truth. I was formed with the expectation that life is about noticing and appreciating what God is doing when I was twenty-one, and on Youth Service Corps in Fonds-des-Negres, Haiti. I encountered so many Christians who celebrated the richness of life in Christ while having literally none of earth’s goods, nor having expectation of them! The witness of these simple, ‘poor’ people was not based on ignorance but upon richness of vision. The prevalence of voodoo was the parody and corruption of the spiritual energy which we felt in the church – sort of like the Garden of Eden experience all over again. Many of our people knew themselves to be walking and talking with Jesus each day- the flip of this is that some were tempted into embracing a more controllable spiritual experience, a magic, through voodoo.
Life at its foundation is the ability to notice God and what He is doing. At a church in which there is life, the time spent together is all about noticing God – whether it is a liturgical church filled with Scripture reading and written prayers and sacred service, a Quaker community waiting on the Spirit, a contemporary fellowship with great singing and gifted worship leadership or a traditional congregation with eyes open and ears ‘dug’ for them by the Spirit. As people leave a living church service, they are convinced that they have noticed God in the compassionate fellowship, the corporate attentiveness, the joy, the love, the grace, the hope expressed. “We have together been with God”.
Living Christians spend moments during the day, and time at the end of the day, just to record on paper or in memory all of the gracious sights and sounds of God at work they have noticed, in all of the various and surprising ways He has shown Himself to them and spoken to them. Not likely in Theophany but through intentional and ‘serendipitous’ contact with people and situations, by momentary glimpses and fixed vision. And living Christians pray with passion and purpose “ see Thee more clearly…day by day.” Abundant life is about the richness of the vision- the quality, the clarity and the breadth of that which we hear and see. Jesus taught His followers over and over, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father…I only do what I see the Father doing, so to see me at work is to see Him at work”. This remains the first part of the paradigm for life. And as Jesus suggested to John’s disciples, it is here and now for us a gift of God that we who otherwise would be blind see and we deaf hear.
Over the years, the most common spiritual lament I have heard as a minister is that people no longer ‘see God.’ Try as they might, whether they run to the east and then to the west, God seems far away. A famine of hearing has overtaken them. They cannot find Him- He seems to be hiding His face from them. Praying the Psalms which speak directly to this difficulty is a help. But so is sabbatical and Sabbath, time bought out of the busyness of the market place, time of obedience to God, and the discipline of writing down everything which comes to our notice. God will be in this. God will always honour our discipline of notice.
We notice because God helps us to notice by His Spirit. This ‘Friend’ specially given to us in the Church is for the purpose of our vision, But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won't draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I've said, 'He takes from me and delivers to you.' "In a day or so you're not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me." This is the beginning of the reality of “In _____ is life.” He or she or they notice God.
And taking notice, living people and living churches ponder these things in their hearts, they consider the ways of God, they reflect, they contemplate, they search for truth. Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!" The Spirit does indeed bring discernment, but life is also about our disciplines of contemplation. We need the word of God to dwell in us richly. Life absolutely requires examination and consideration, it does not happen by some kind of spiritual osmosis. If we desire life, our schedule must reflect this – in time for private personal contemplation, in time for corporate study and prayer. There is no such thing as life Lite, available to us through reading a good book in our spare time, or listening to Christian radio on our way to work.
Jesus regularly led his followers away from the hustle and bustle to specifically consider the ways of God. Living Christians and living fellowships and churches must do the same today. Even when we discipline ourselves to write everything down, if we don’t then study what we have written it becomes, as James said, like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. Investing time to consider what God is showing us is our critical contribution to life. Jesus often castigated his followers for their lack of understanding – they just were unwilling to pay the price of considering The Way which they were being shown.
Wisdom is God-breathed, as is ‘heart’. But both happen as part of disciplined spiritual lives in which churches and individual Christians place themselves under the tutelage of the Spirit, to consider and appreciate the things they are hearing and seeing. God has made it clear that His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. And yet He graciously allows the transformation to happen, the renewal of our minds, until this mind is in us which was in Christ Jesus. That is the gift of life - that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. A knowledge which engages us!
A chronic weakness in the church and in individual Christians today is the lack of such integrated knowledge. Somehow, Jeremiah 31:33-4 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts… No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD has been extrapolated to mean that all of this life wisdom comes passively, perhaps ‘charismatically’, without any work on our part. A Great Lie from the Deceiver!! There is a cost to life – there is work to be done! How gracious of God that such work can be so joyful and ‘heart-warming’ when done in fellowship!


Calvin Wulf said...

Your word is so right. We receive integerated truth from the effort of meditation on the word of the Lord. It is important to practice the Christian spiritual disciplines as spiritual exercise for grwoing to be like Christ. Christ-likeness is not a passive pursuit.

Thanks for the reminder,

Calvin Wulf

yemek tarifleri resimli said...