Saturday, October 13, 2007

You've got to read this:

by Robert Knighton

In the first weeks of my course on Spiritual Formation, the class was encouraged to take this phrase and meditate upon it. So simple. I belong to God. Actually, I preferred the longer version as found at the beginning of the Heidelberg Catechism: My only comfort is this: that I am not my own –but body and soul, in life or in death, I belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. Connie and I meditated upon the word ‘belong’ – and ultimately connected it to the verb ‘to long (for)’. Our deepest longing, that which drives us outward for meaning and reassurance, is to belong. We are hardwired for this – that’s why the cartoon ‘the Ugly Duckling’ stirs so many tears.

The timing was important. Over the summer, I had not been able to go to music camp as planned, to finish well my connection with official SA. Belonging became an issue again. I had not ‘belonged’ within the SA for fifteen years, then suddenly I ‘belonged’ again – what a grace and joy. God redeeming the years the locusts ate. Now I didn’t belong again. Defined out of existence. My ministry taken over by the Area Commanders.

I belong to God. Isn’t it interesting how we can allow ourselves to get distracted from this? At root, I know that anything I am or do is energized by belonging to Jesus, belonging to God. The LORD is God! He created us, and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep in his pasture. (Psalm 100) And that nothing, ever, nowhere can pluck me out of his hand, remove me from his care. But in practicality, we interpret this through relationships with people, and organizations, and through circumstances and fruitfulness. Good things all – but potentially distracting.

Now these words penetrate my heart: I belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, salvation is portrayed as having our feet set on a broad plain. Free from smallness and restriction, alive to potential and possibility. The green pastures of Psalm 23. God leading us out of pasture land too long grazed, no longer capable of supporting life abundant, and setting us in limitless time and space. Then exhorting us to roam, to discover, to graze afresh, to rest – always secure in His care. How many of us feel that way? Mary, when confronted by tidings of the impossible answered "I belong to the Lord, body and soul, let it happen as you say”. (Luke 1:38)

Over the six weeks of living with these words of God, I have found so many ways of losing touch with this reassurance. Of feeling like an orphan. Or, like Elijah on the mountains Carmel and Horeb, alone and buffeted. Paul knew this feeling so well and spoke the words which break through the storm:. Whether we live or die, it must be for the Lord. Alive or dead, we still belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:7-8) Frankly, I prefer the alive. Yet sometimes the Deceiver suggests ways in which I am dead. “Whatever”, I say – “I belong to God.”

Now that God has called my attention to these words, this assurance, my meditation has been upon them as well. What are the fruits of belonging? What are the implications? The service possibilities? I now understand ‘the renewing of my mind’ as being given eyes of belonging rather than any consciousness of alienation. A couple of years ago, I took as ‘my verses’ Matthew 11:28-30 from The Message: Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. … Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." I now understand them as ‘belonging verses’ -that just like God used to walk in the garden with Adam and Eve, because they belonged to Him, so He wants to walk with me, because I belong to Him.

Paul once exhorted the Corinthians, everything is yours, including the world, life, death, the present, and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. (1. Cor. 3:22-3) When I am discouraged through a sense of any lack, that is not the Spirit alive in me, but the Accuser. ‘My father is rich in houses and lands.’ And I am the child of the King. How weak are the measures which we use to evaluate this richness– material goods, release from sickness or pain, important ministry! Everything belongs to us because we belong to God! No room whatsoever for the benighted philosophy of scarcity – our lives can speak in all ways the wonderful assurance of abundance. We are not people terrorized by the ‘bottom line’ – but as those who belong to God we are resourced by the fullness of God’s riches.

(A new covenantal catechism) Question 1. Who are you?
I am a child of God.

Prayer: Lord you are my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? You are the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! O God of my salvation! (Psalm 27:1, 7, 9f)

Question 2. What does it mean to be a child of God?
That I belong to God, who loves me.

Prayer: You O Lord have done great things for us, and we rejoice. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb. May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. (Psalm 126:3-6)

Jesus my Lord will love me forever,
From Him no pow'r of evil can sever;
He gave His life to ransom my soul -Now I belong to Him!

Chorus: Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me -
Not for the years of time alone but for eternity.