give up what is lesser; receive what is greater

I’ve started a pretty intense and consuming project. It’s exciting but has distracted my attention for the moment from the series I started (and will **fingers crossed** continue soon) here on Organic Church Life.

In the meantime, I’m in the gorgeous downtown library here in Nashville. It’s a favorite spot of mine and I’ll likely be here a lot these next few months.

2013-08-23 14.24.49

I was digging into some things today and read a quote that I found to be challenging and beautiful. I decided it was worth a quick share…

“The Lord, Yahweh, is not portrayed as a God that Abraham already worshiped. When he appears to Abram he does not give him a doctrinal statement or require rituals or issue demands; he makes an offer. Yahweh does not tell Abraham that he is the only God there is, and he does not ask him to stop worshiping whatever gods his family was worshiping. He does not tell him to get rid of his idols nor does he proclaim a coming Messiah or salvation. Instead, he says that he has something to give to Abraham if Abraham is willing to give up some things first.”

Walton, John H. 2000. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (p. 46) Inter Varsity Press.

The Lord chose Abraham, not because he’d been living a holy life devoted to the Most High God. He was an idol worshiper (see Joshua 24:2, 14).  But the Lord saw beyond the limits of time and space. He knew who Abraham (who was Abram at the time) was in Him. He knew who he’d be and what he’d walk into. He didn’t demand it all at once. He didn’t tell him much about himself. He knew Abraham would experience who Yahweh is, over time. In effect, He simply said, “I have great things for you, if you will walk away from the lesser things. Come. I’ll show you.”

This is what the Lord says to us today. He doesn’t hand us a list of does and don’ts, hammer us with statements of doctrine, or demand religious sacrifices or rituals. He simply asks that we give up what is lesser (our lives) to receive what is greater (His life).

Abraham’s story is a shadow of our reality, and it’s glorious.

The person of Christ–God himself, alive.

I’m currently reading a biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ve always been inspired by that man and today is no different.

In this lecture, Bonhoeffer tipped one sacred cow after the other. Having dealt with the idea of Christ as no mere great ethicist, he proceeded to explain the similarity of the Christian religion to other religions. Then he came to his main point: the essence of Christianity is not about religion at all, but about the person of Christ. He expanded on the theme learned from Karl Barth that would occupy so much of his thinking and writing in the years to come: religion was a dead, man-made thing, and at the heart of Christianity was something else entirely—God himself, alive. “Factually speaking,” he said, “Christ has given scarcely any ethical prescriptions that were not to be found already with the contemporary Jewish rabbis or in pagan literature.” Christianity was not about a new and better set of behavioral rules or about moral accomplishment. He must have shocked some of his listeners, but his logic was undeniably compelling. He then aggressively attacked the idea of “religion” and moral performance as the very enemies of Christianity and of Christ because they present the false idea that somehow we can reach God through our moral efforts. This led to hubris and spiritual pride, the sworn enemies of Christianity. “Thus,” he said, “the Christian message is basically amoral and irreligious, paradoxical as that may sound.”

Metaxas, Eric (2010-04-20). Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (p. 83). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

The person of Christ–God himself, alive. That is ALL we need. ALL. Because He is ALL. Jesus is ALL.

May we see Him as He is and see ourselves as He sees us today! {Humming… Oh, How I love Jesus…}

Happy Tuesday!

clarity // TRUST

Have you ever said, “Pray for me to have clarity.” or “I just need God to give me clarity about what I’m supposed to do.” or “I can’t move forward until I have more clarity.”

Chances are, you’ve picked up on that language and that idea over the years if you’ve run in Jesus loving circles. But, I’m starting to wonder if we’ve really gotten this idea FROM Jesus, or if we just made up this “need for clarity” on our own.

I’ve been reading a book called Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God. In it Brennan Manning recounts a story of a man (John Kavanaugh) who spent some time working alongside of Mother Teresa. She asked him one day, “And what can I do for you?” and his response was “Pray that I have clarity.” Mother Teresa’s response was an immediate and emphatic, “No, I will not do that.” She explained to him the reasons why she would not pray such a prayer: “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of. […] I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

Manning goes on to say that…

Craving clarity, we attempt to eliminate the risk of trusting God. Fear of the unknown path stretching ahead of us destroys childlike trust in the Father’s active goodness and unrestricted love.

“We ourselves have known and put our trust in God’s love toward ourselves” (1 John 4:16). We have a God who LOVES us, no less than he loves the men and women listed in Scripture. Think about Hebrews 11 and the list of people of great faith it contains. Think about their stories. Do you think they had clarirty? I had never thought through that before, but stopping to think about that… No. They lived in great uncertainty and confusion never knowing what was going to happen next or how exactly it was all going to work out … but in the midst of that they found great faith… great trust in the God they knew was with them… and that TRUST took them beyond their unclear circumstances and into LIFE with God!

Manning, Brennan (2010-10-12). Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God (pp. 5-6). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

expecting Jesus to do and say things that blow us away | Narnia

I have a feeling that in the days to come there will be many Chronicles of Narnia inspired posts appearing here. This shall be the second. :) I read The Magician’s Nephew this week. It’s been YEARS so it really was like reading for the first time, almost. I just love the characters. Reading their story is like spending time with friends. They make me laugh and they teach me things.

C.S. Lewis describes the different perspectives so well and he explains, “For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.” How true that is. Our perception is determined by: 1. Where we’re standing. 2. Who we are. And depending on how those two factors come together, we MAY have a totally false perception of reality. Like Uncle Andrew…

Describing Uncle Andrew, Lewis writes, “Now the trouble about tying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.” You see, suddenly they had found themselves in Narnia and Aslan had just chosen some animals to be Talking Beasts. Everyone but Uncle Andrew saw the beauty, but he was too caught up in being frightened and, long story short, he convinced himself that nothing but roars and growls could come from animals. So, while Aslan was making beautiful music and he and his Talking Beasts had much to say, roars and growls were all Uncle Andrew ever heard.

Later on in the story, Aslan explains, “He has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh, Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”

And it got me thinking, I wonder how many times in my life I have failed to hear what God was saying because I’d convinced myself that what I was hearing was just something else. I wonder how many times God’s creations (people) have spoken beautiful truths to to me, but I didn’t hear it because I was only expecting growls and roars – so to speak.

I pray that we will continually grow in walking with our spiritual eyes and ears open and expectant. Life is so much fuller and richer when we remember that God gave us those (spiritual eyes and ears) and that He has things to say to us, really and truly.

We are far too good at defending ourselves against all that might do us good and would do well to stop and listen and look expecting Jesus to do things and say things that blow us away.

… but we choose to stay in ours. | Narnia

I decided it’s time to read through the Chronicles of Narnia again. I’m starting this time with Magician’s Nephew. And I’ve been thinking a lot about a line that little Digory says:

There’s not much point in finding a magic ring that lets you into other worlds if you’re afraid to look at them when you’ve got there.

It seems to apply to so much in my life right now and to life in general.

So often we want to live meaningful adventures, and yet we stand frozen with fears or apprehensions when adventurous possibilities stare us in the face.

We want the benefits without the risk or hard choices or sacrifices that will be needed to get to them.

And so often…

God opens up His World to us, but we choose to stay in ours.

WHY

do

we

do

that

?

WHY ARE YOU GOING? Forget about where.

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted and I feel like I should have something to say, so I sat down and… nothing…

I have a folder filled with random notes and thought processing. I looked there. It’s all too big. Too much to unload right now. I have another place filled with quotes from books and blogs and conversations. And that’s where I said, “Got it!”

The following comes from Chasing Daylight, by Erwin McManus.

You would think if anyone knew the will of God, it would be the apostle Paul. After all, he was God’s instrument for writing much of the New Testament. … Yet, what you find is that Paul was as uncertain about which way to go as many of us are in our life journeys.

In many ways Luke’s travel journal is a divine comedy. It tells us that Paul had no idea where he was supposed to be going. At first he was sure Asia was the right direction, then he redirected to Bithynia. And only when he was unconscious did he finally understand that he was supposed to go to Macedonia. It took the whole Trinity to keep Paul from going to the wrong place. On top of that, while Paul was conscious, he just couldn’t get it.

Paul didn’t know where he was going, but he did know why. His compass was the heart of God. He was fueled and driven by the passion and urgency that God had placed in his heart – to take the life and freedom that comes in Jesus Christ to every person on the face of the earth. What God makes clear is that when we’re committed to seizing His divine moments, He’ll make sure He gets us to the right place at the right time. What God can do through a person who’s willing to act is limitless.

I love that. I’m SO thankful for the story of Paul’s life (for this reason, and SO many others!).

So today, that’s what I have for you… Just passing on some challenging encouragement.

And here’s my question, to you and to me: WHY ARE YOU GOING? Forget about where. Let’s just think about WHY. And when the answer to that is right, God will take care of the rest. And it will be stinkin’ awesome when we get there. Hard. Pretty sure about that. But stinkin’ AWE-SOME!

think different | boxes

Today, I watched this video:

Do you think differently?

On July 25th, flying from my Asia home back to my America home I wrote this:

I don’t like staying inside of boxes. I think the world is much prettier outside of them. (I’m not talking about cardboard here…)

That was probably one of the biggest challenges I faced here, living in a culture that often finds its identity inside of the boxes. People are taught to never think outside of the established boxes. They are taught that the world outside those boxes is a dangerous place.

I was told by the leadership of my University once that I needed to CONTROL the thinking of my students and not to “let them think too much.” I should not allow them to get too creative. It might cause a rebellion. Honestly. They said that. We also were told on another occasion that activities we wanted to do with students might make them TOO happy and that they might start riots as a result of their excessive happiness.

And, you may imagine… I didn’t much like being told such things. I’m an advocate for all of the opposite. I want my students to be creative, to think out of the box, and to be happy! I also want them to be smart and disciplined and not to be rebellious or to start riots. But, I’m pretty sure they are capable of doing all of that at the same time. I really often just had to laugh. This fear of thinking just seems so ridiculous to my mind and way of seeing things. But I took it as a challenge to creatively encourage THINKING and CREATIVITY as much as I could.

But now, as I’ve been anticipating the return to my home culture… one that, in many ways, values creativity and thinking outside of the box… I’ve found myself recognizing OTHER boxes that people in America live inside of… and those boxes frustrate me… But then I catch myself and I ask the Father to help me walk in humble grace and to see the boxes that I too have found comfort in staying inside. And I pray that He’ll continue to open my eyes and expand my vision and teach me to live a life that isn’t afraid to ask questions, to challenge the status quo, to go to new limits, to dream beyond…

So today,
I am challenged to think differently.
To be crazy enough to think that things can BE different.
And to resist the comfort of staying inside of boxes.
Not to create trouble for the sake of trouble…
But to not be afraid of the good kind of trouble… 

And that reminds me of a song:


Josh Garrels, Resistance