Not Easy to Wrap Your Hands Around Him

It is not easy to wrap your hands around a God who is evident in all of creation, who when asked for a name says, “I AM.” It’s not easy to grasp a vision for the world that is a kingdom or an empire bigger than Rome and as small as a mustard seed. (By the way, the word Jesus used for the Kingdom of God is the same word that was used for the Roman Empire – basilea). It is not easy to fully know and understand God’s plans and His purpose for the world and the Kingdom within the world – let alone His specific plans for our own lives. Ah! But, who ever promised that this would be easy.

God is God and we are not and part of the fun – yes, I said “fun” – of walking with God is working to wrap the finite around the infinite, the temporal around the permanent, the finite around the infinite. And, to discover that it is not easy to wrap your hands, or your understanding for that matter, around Him. He is not your best friend. He is not the big man upstairs. He is not a heavenly butler who waits on you and meets all your needs. He is not the answer man for every problem and issue. He is not who you want Him to be justifying your way of life regardless of what it is. He is God! He is GOD! And, He did not come to earth as Jesus to help you feel safe, secure or comfortable.

This Jesus did extraordinary miracles which resulted not in peace and happiness but “shock and awe.” Onlookers are “amazed” at His first healing. They are “overcome with amazement” after the raising of the dead girl, “utterly astonished” at His walking on water, “greatly astonished” at His teaching on wealth. Even worse, the disciples are “frightened” after Jesus’ stilling of the storm and “terrified” at the transfiguration. The woman healed of a blood flow is at first filled with “fear and trembling” and on the first Easter morning the witnesses are seized with “terror and amazement” and they run from the tomb “for they were afraid.” (all from the Gospel of Mark) This is not “Jesus meek and mild” or the good, old plastic religious Jesus.

This Jesus apparently either shocks people into stupification or frightens them so that they run for their lives. Sounds almost like the God of the Old Testament but He roams through the pages of the New Testament – a testament of love and forgiveness. He swirls, a tornado touching down, lifting homes and businesses off their foundations, leaving only bits and pierces of the former life strewn along the path. Maybe because as I write this there are reports on the news of a tremendous afternoon and evening of multiple tornadoes touching down in Massachusetts west of the Boston area … but it strikes me that Jesus is like a tornado ripping through what is and overturning much and often creating tremendous shock and awe and little comfort or security.

Trying to grab hold of and understand God (even when born as a man) is like trying to wrap your arms around an F5 tornado.

Stealing Your Soul

If you talk to most believers or Christians they will quickly come around to telling you or talking to you about all the things they are involved in at their Church and with their Church. If you talk to Christian leaders – it is even worse. As a leader how they are doing (a personal question) and they will tell you how their ministry is going, how many were in Church, what they are preaching on (a professional answer)… Everything is related to being busy as if it is an indication of our spiritual life and right relationship with the Lord. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I discovered long ago that if the devil can’t steal your soul, he will just keep you busy doing meaningless church work. And, many believers are too busy doing “church work” which, of course, is endless. There is always one more need, one more event, one more meeting … not to mention that Sunday pops up every seventh day. So, although your soul is still intact – often frazzled and worn out however – you really don’t have much of a personal relationship with the Lord. And, the devil has you, at that point, in his hands and you are in trouble…in spite of your busy schedule of ministry and church activities.

It is time for all true disciples of the Lord (different than being a believer or a Christian) to look at their involvements and activity levels and do some pruning and cutting back. It is time to consider your soul’s health and not just your physical well being. It is time to look at what you are doing (and dare we say what it might not be accomplishing) and simply start saying “no” to things that are not productive and fruitful. And, while we are at it, let’s define “productive”…

The Church has one task in the world according to the Bible – to seek and save the lost. Everything we do as disciples within the fellowship of the Church should be geared to equipping us for that task and releasing us into the world to fulfill that mandate from the Lord. Anything else is “busyness” and simply maintenance – not ministry. Think about it – most activities we undertake in the Name of the Lord simply maintain what we already have and thus is not true ministry – but is simply maintenance. A lot of time and effort goes into maintenance and this daily activity can “steal our souls.”

However, if the Church leadership is doing their job (Ephesians 4:11-18) then you are not busy in the maintenance department but you are being equipped for the work of the ministry – and ministry (as contrasted with maintenance) takes place outside of the fellowship and outside of the four walls of the building we call the church. It is accomplished in our homes, in our work places, and wherever people gather to talk – coffee shops, restaurants, funeral homes, cars, theaters….

Don’t become so busy with the Church that you are not working with Jesus doing what the Church has been called to do – seek and save the lost. Time to slice and dice when it comes to your involvement in the maintenance of the Church and to add some quality time to be involved in the ministry of the Church – evangelism.

Believers, Activists, Lovers

I have to state it and state it bluntly – believers are a dime a dozen in the church. We don’t need more “believers” who are simply sitting there doing nothing with what they believe.

We also maybe have too many “activists” in the Church today. Believers who are very actively involved in helping the poor and other social gospel activities and outreaches. Those who are labeled “activitists” and are very busy helping others in their communities. Much is happening in charismatic churches as they embrace the social gospel and become involved in social justice activities.

I am not speaking against anyone or anything – just expressing a concern. My concern is simple – Maybe we need less “believers” and fewer “activists” and more “lovers.” I agree with an author I read recently when he wrote, “…I think that’s what our world is desperately in need of – lovers, people who are building deep, genuine relationships with fellow strugglers along the way, and who actually know the faces of people behind the issues thay are concerned about. We are trying to raise up an army of…lovers – a community of people who have fallen desperately in love with God and with sufering people, and who allow those relationships to disturb and transform them.”

I have just been on Skype with Daniel – a 16 year old, passionate, on-fire lover of Jesus. He is a skateboarder who took seriously my challenge when in his city, Vladimir, Russia to seek and save the lost. He is a tremendous young man who is reaching out to those who are into skateboarding. He is planning an outdoor skateboarding park (he already built a winter one inside a desertd airport hanger), and is trying to reach out to all the youth of his city. Because he is not from the Orthodox Church he is declared a heretic and simply written off by many. However, he is finding that some of the youth he approaches and shares the Gospel of the Kingdom with are receptive and have not rejectd him or the message.

We are first and foremost lovers of Jesus. This is why we are His disciples. This is why we obey Him – He did say, “If you love Me, you will obey Me.” This is why we risk being ridiculed and even rejected – because we love Him. This is how people who don’t know Him will know that we do know Him and know Him intimately … “they will know that you are My disciples because you love…”

As lovers of Jesus we must love as He loved and love those He loves – those He came and died for – the lost, the sick, the lonely, the marginalized, the rejected, the hurting, the lonely, the neglected. Ther are many that believers and activists are not touching or reaching with the love of God as found only in Jesus. There are millions – no billions – who are not becoming known to those who call on His Name. Not known, not loved, not reached… And, this must change.

My heart was warmed when Daniel shared a few minutes ago that after a comment I made about passports that his youth pastor did apply for and received a passport. Now, his youth pastor is in the place where he can obey the Lord. You see, Jesus said “Go into all the world and make disciples….” and without a passport you simply cannot do that. If you don’t have a passport you are either in willful disobedience (rebellion) or you simply don’t care about the lost and perishing or you are not really a disciple of the Lord – a lover!

Time to have a good look at your heart and life and see if the world can truly know that you are a disciple of the Lord by looking at your relationships and your lifestyle. Can and do they see your love for Jesus in the way you interact with others who do not know Him?

Love In the Nude

God states “Vengeance is mine” but have you ever thought that you just might like to be about the Father’s business? Have you ever wanted to lash out at someone – letting them know what you really thought of them and doing so in no uncertain terms?

We can learn from the bloody pages of history. The more vigorously we try to root out evil by force, the more evil will escalate. For every Muslim extremist killed, another is created. Likewise, the more passionately we love our enemies, the more evil will diminish.

This, of course, is also the story of the Christian martyrs – for every Christian killed at the hands of evil, another would rise up, converted by their faithful self-sacrificing love. A good example of that would be Saul who approved of Stephen’s killing by stoning. He approved of Stephen’s death and watched as it happened – he even heard Stephen pray that God would forgive those who hated him and were killing him including forgiving Saul – just as Jesus had prayed from the cross – and shortly thereafter Saul had an encounter with the Lord on his way to Damacus and became Paul. From persecutor to preacher because of the death of one martyr who did not seek revenge but simply loved unconditionally.

It is easy to hate and very natural. It is hard to love and very supernatural. In fact, the only thing harder than hatred is love. The only thing harder than war is peace. The only thing that takes more work, tears and sweat than division is reconciliation. I like what one author stated when he wrote, “But what more beautiful things could we devote our lives to? Until the courage that we have for peace surpasses the courage we have for war, violence will continue to triumph, and imperial execution rather than divine resurrection will have the final word.”

One of those World’s Best Video clips captured a hockey game in which one of the key players went for a shot, and then everything went crazy and erupted in a brawl. This player was famous for his gentle spirit and love for the game. He hated it when players fought, so when the fight broke out, he pulled aside. And as it excalated, he decided to create a distraction, so he ripped his clothes off and started streaking around the hockey rink. As you can imagine, the fight didn’t last long. Love in the nude.

We too can cause a distraction when tempers flare and fights break out – we can simply refuse to fight and immediately pour on God’s love. Love never fails and it will end the fight quickly when applied in liberal doses.

What Does God Bless?

Too often we just do what makes sense. As believers we simply plan, pray and move forward into what we want to do and ask God to bless it. In the Beautitudes, God tells us what God blesses – the poor, the peacemakers, the hungry, those who mourn, those who show mercy – so we should not ask God’s blessing on a declaration what we have made regarding what we plan to do “in His Name” and what makes sense to us….

Rather than do what makes sense to us and ask God’s blessing, we would do better to surround ourselves with those whom God promises to bless, and then we need not ask God’s blessing. It is just what God does because He said He would in His Word. We would find ourselves in the midst of what God is already doing and thus already blessing.

Recently while overseas ministering I was greatly ministered to. I was on a “day off” which was spent with 17 others all of whom were in full time ministry. Not good ingredients for a day off. On our way to where the afternoon was to be spent we stopped at a rehab center headed by a young man who I have ministered to prophetically several times. He is living out the beginning of his prophetic words. In this rehabilitation center – originally a place where people dumped their garbage – 17 men lived as they followed a spiritual program to be freed from their addictions. 17 men in a very small house… a small office and guest room combination; a bathroom (size of a broom closet), a bedroom for three guys, and then a larger bedroom for 14 men. There was also a small kitchen and a room just added on which served as a place to eat. Outside there was an outdoor kitchen and an outdoor shower… In my country the building would not pass inspection.

This was a place of great blessing. The Lord’s presence was very tangible. The power of God was at work helping to free 17 men from lives of addiction. At their daily Bible study and prayer time God touched and changed lives on a daily basis. These men were content with what they had as little as it may actually be. They were excited to have a home off the streets and a place to sleep each night that was safe and warm. They were proud of their “home” and what was being accomplished there. No need to plan something and ask God to bless it – just walk around, look, watch, speak to those who were not out at work yet for the day – and actually be a part of what God is already at work blessing and doing so in a big way.

After getting back in the car to head to our afternoon of fellowship around a great meal of Kazakhstan food on a boat out on a man-made lake (a very large body of water) … I was thinking that if my home in Canada had the same number of people per square meter as this rehab center did – I would be living with approximately 187 men and some tremendously powerful blessings…

Christianity is not…

There is an awakening to the fact that the Church is called to be making disciples. Jesus said “go into all the world and make disciples…” He did not say ‘go into all the world and plant churches, make converts, make Christians.’ He was very specific – make disciples.

The Church has failed in many ways to make disciples. In general, most people become converts to the Christian faith. They come to a place where they believe the facts about the Christian faith and say yes to who Jesus is and what He did for them. They believe the basic teachings of the Church. This makes them a Christian they are told. But, believing facts does not make you a disciple – even the demons believe, James tells us in his small book of the Bible and they were not part of the Lord’s disciples nor are they going into Heaven.

Others have said a sinner’s prayer and are told they are now born again. No conviction or even understanding of sin; no conviction with godly sorrow, no repentance – thus no salvation. That is what the Bible states – “without repentance there is no salvation“. So, we now have a convert – and a false convert to a religion at that.

Many believe that only the elite – the leaders – need to be discipled and they are great and okay as normal Christians doing the things Christians do – prayer, Bible reading, tithing, and Sunday worship. So, they have added a few new behaviours to their life – and maybe even adjusted a few former behaviors to come more in line with what they believe to be a Christian lifestyle – and thus, voila, they are a Christian. Forgetting or never knowing that Christianity is not a matter of changing people’s behavior.

Someone who becomes a believer becomes a disciple. They become a follower of Jesus Christ. They begin a journey to become like Him and to do the things that He did … to continue His work in the world which is to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The Christian faith is more than believing, more than belonging to the Church, it is becoming more and more like Jesus by following Him. It is being a disciple.

The Christian faith calls believers to go into all their world and bring people into a life-giving and life-changing reality of Jesus – a relationship with God through His Son Jesus. To become disciples – not Christians, not Church goers, not converts, not believers … disciples. And, we are responsible to see that these people that we reach are discipled – set on the path to becoming true disciples or followers of Jesus so that they can be with Him, be like Him and do the things that He calls them to do – including going back into their world and making more disciples. This is the work, the task, the ministry that we all picked up when we became disciples of Jesus… assuming you are a disciple.

When I was born again many years ago no one volunteered to disciple me in the ways of the Lord. But, because I had an encounter with God and His Son Jesus I simply went about getting to know them and experiencing them in my daily life. I learned to listen and thus to hear the voice of God. I learned to share my heart and listen to His heart. I learned to witness to others about the need to be born again and have your sins forgiven and become a disciple. I was hungry and I was thirsty spiritually and so went about finding food and water. So, you may say that no one told you that you needed to be a disciple and be discipled. Or, you may say there was no one available to disciple you when you were first born again. True facts maybe – but never an excuse. You are responsible – you will be accountable.

If you have not become a disciple of the Lord – today would be a good day to fall on your knees and ask Him to make you like Him. If you are a true disciple of the Lord and have never discipled another person – today would be a good day to get down on your knees and ask God to forgive your rebellion and disobedience and begin a fresh start obeying Him and going into all the world to make disciples. God will certainly answer either or both those prayers.