Friday, May 31, 2013

Has the King Marveled at You?

The word pleasure in the New Testament is often used to describe “a gratification of the natural desire or sinful desires.”  Perhaps, the phrase "pleasure-seeking" has a negative connotation to us. But, there's also pure (as opposed to impure) pleasure: the Lord takes pleasure in His people and we take pleasure in our King. (Psalm 149:4) God is a pleasure seeker and a pleasure lover. 

Have you ever delighted in someone- your spouse, your child, your grandchild, your friend, your parents, even a someone you don't personally know? Has it ever made you happy that someone else was happy? God takes pleasure in His people and He delights in our delight. Neither our pleasure in Him or His pleasure in us is coerced. The admiration is free and mutual. The King is good and fair and His good people admire His good reign. The people turn to the King and the King turns to the people. Without each other they are not who they otherwise are.

God is not static. He is dynamic. If God were a stretch he would not be like the one where you stand straight-legged and reach for your toes for a minute. He would be like the high, straight-leg kick. God opens Himself up to be affected by us, like a husband is affected by his wife and his wife is affected by her husband.

In Luke 7:1-10 a Centurion's slave was about to die and Jesus was asked to save his life. The Centurion sent his friends to say this to the on-route Jesus: "Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed." Jesus marveled at Him and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, "I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith." Imagine Jesus standing there silent, jaw-dropped, in awe of the Centurion. He was astonished and admiring a person.

This is a paradigm shift because we are familiar with standing in awe of God, mind-boggled by His wonder- silently astonished by all that is. But, God is willing to find pleasure in our creations and interactions and take part in awe and wonder. Has the King marveled at you?

C.S. Lewis said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures…” I’m not 100% sure what he meant, but God does not appear to our dissatisfaction and displeasure. Those who trust in Him are not, and will not be, disappointed. If we were in a city the corner of God would not be void of pleasure, but brimming with it more so than any other part of town. The life we enter is abundant. The house we dwell in has more pleasure than the seductive or possession worshipping house. We don't worship pleasure, but the one who is pleasure who gives pleasures forevermore. 



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Queen West, Toronto and the City of God

I recently read an article in National Geographic Traveler magazine about Queen West, a vibrant part of Toronto, Canada. It was heralded as the place you wish you were, the place you should go. If you are in Queen West you won't miss anything, the author wrote. I was ready to book a flight mid-article. Queen West is diverse, innovative, upbeat, artistic, earthy, maverick, upscale, inclusive, hip, fashionable, cultured, creative, colorful, passionate, bohemian, communal, international, experimental, wildly independent, contemporary, ecofriendly, bustling, retro, musical, urban, a culinary hub, reclaimed, social, free, vibrant and interesting.  

Although this may be a description of Queen West, it is a description of the city of God (and New Jerusalem.) The city of God, or kingdom of God, is the epicenter. It’s all that Queen West is and more. It’s the place we should want to be. It’s the place you should go. It’s the one place you can be where you won’t miss anything important. Liberality reigns in the kingdom of God- nothing good is withheld and there is excess of all that is good. It's hedonism at it's finest.

I wonder if we think of the kingdom of God and the New Jerusalem less like that and more like a grey, ancient, archaic, stale, somber, bland, smug, conservative, boring part of town. If so, we have wrong ideas about it. The kingdom of God that impinges on our being and seeps into our world is the bustling creative epicenter that Queen West wishes it was. 

(*Painting from: http://contests.citytv.com/tourismtoronto08/shop.html)



Monday, May 27, 2013

Thy Kingdom-Come-World: Where People are Fed, Clothed and Healed

A long day was ending (Luke 9:12) and the twelve said to Jesus, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.” But He said to them, “You give them something to eat!” and He multiplied a few fish and loaves so there was enough to feed 5,000 people. Jesus didn’t want a preached-to crowd to leave on empty stomachs. The people ate and were satisfied. (9:17)

Jesus cares about people's physical needs. So we, as His hands and feet on earth, should help meet people's physical (and emotional) needs. Simply put, being fed, clothed and healed is how people are treated in the kingdom of God. No one is deprived of basic needs in heaven or will be at the resurrection, so they shouldn't be here and now. The kingdom means we enact the ways that last forever now.  

Our underlying principle is “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Feeding and healing (listening to, remembering, loving and caring for) people is more than acting in love or obedience and carrying out good ideas or spiritual disciplines. There are greater, more robust, transcendent reasons. 

We don’t clothe and heal and feed people to feel good about ourselves or look good for others, but because we are trying to live in the Jesus inaugurated society where none go hungry or unclothed or unhealed.  We are trying to make a home where we live.

In Luke chapter 9, the apostles wanted to send the people away thinking they had done their part. But, Jesus says emphatically, “Give them something to eat!” I wonder if we, in our beliefs and ministries, neglect the importance of meeting basic physical and emotional needs of others at the expense of evangelizing/gospeling/witnessing/preaching. Jesus might say to us, “Give him your time and ear! Give her your extra sweatshirt- it belongs to her! Be kind to that person you don’t like I love them! Love that person, help them mend! Live in the new world! Give him your shoes- they belong to him! Buy her lunch!” What good is it if we say “God bless” but don’t bless? Jesus goes so far to say what we have done to the least among us we have done to him.

Jesus seems to believe the kingdom of God is upon people simply because they are fed a can of beans and blessed with an old sweatshirt. Feeding, healing and clothing, to Jesus, is ministry because it’s the kingdom come- it’s His will being done on earth as it is in heaven- which means every basic need under the sun is met.

In giving the hungry food, the unclothed clothes, the broken healing we are doing for others what God does for us- we are being like Him.

(*Pictures from HildebrandArtGallery.com) 


                                           

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in our right minds

“Great are the deeds of the Lord: He sent redemption to his people!” (Psalm 111)

In Luke chapter 8 Jesus healed a naked crazy man who lived in the tombs. When the man was bound he broke the chains and was driven by the demon into the desert. After Jesus happened to Him “he was sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.” (8:35)

This is a picture of us- crazy people on the go. We are wandering, driven into deserts, not fully clothed or in our right minds. We, like him, need to undergo Jesus’ healing, sit at His feet and repeat “Great are the deeds of the Lord: He sent redemption to his people!" Humanity has redemption not because of our abilities, but despite our inabilities. We have redemption because God works redemption. It pleases God to be merciful, to love the unlovable. It pleases God to give the messed up His kingdom. Our good fortune can be attributed to the Father's good pleasure.

We, like the crazy man, depend on what God did (and will do) for us. Too often we work to bolster our resume instead of being blown away by God's. There's freedom that comes with knowing we can't do enough. Jesus did it for us, so we spend time at His feet doing nothing else except being there.

Doing-nothing-freedom goes like this: You don't have to do anything...now, what are you going to do? Doing-nothing-freedom actually prompts us to do a lot, and for the right reasons. Yet, often we (I) don't start out of that freedom at Jesus' feet, because (with busy lives including smartphones) we occupy the time we could spend doing nothing at Jesus' feet doing something (maybe even something for God.) We are addicted to always doing something and it's no small problem, because that makes it hard to reflect on and live out of Psalm 111. 

Sitting at the feet of Jesus is a prelude to being changed, changing others, and changing the world. The one who sits at the feet of Jesus doesn't only do it for themselves, but does it for everyone. When we sit at Jesus' feet we lead others to. How many times have the kind words and actions of others led you to Jesus? If we aren’t sitting at the feet of Jesus how can we lead others to?

Here’s a journal entry from about two years ago:

What it means to be called by grace, apart from anything we have done or could do, is hard to understand. Self-salvation and self-initiation are our default settings.

But, when we understand what it means to be called by grace we are swept up into something much bigger than us. This can’t be because of me, because look at me, I’m a wreck, all I can do is ride this tidal wave. The inertia is supernatural. The movement's origin is not in human’s will or it would have failed. We are used to carry out the will of Him who started the tidal wave which we cannot flatten despite our counterproductive behavior. He who has swept us up in this unmistakable, weighty and irresistible movement, has given us the privilege to do work that exceeds our purpose and efforts.

We are called and compelled apart from our initiative and exertion. The initiative and exertion is from the one who called us according to His purposes by His grace.





Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I believe in THE IMPOSSIBLE: Resurrection is a Cakewalk

Incomplete and uncertain I walk across the street reflecting on the last twenty years in five seconds. Feeling like a cat with three legs unsure how you perceive me. My body language is theirs to discern, to possess. How trusting is every step? Facial expressions and body languages are not safe in the hands of women who get their purses caught on chairs and men who color their hair.

Our bodies do well at their job of staying alive without calculated effort on our part. Whose life is this of mine which I neither created nor destroy?

Life, your burden is a gift. “John, you have life in you again today for no blessed reason other than to adore Heaven’s eternal merciful love!"

No person knows me in my entirety, but an all-knower does. Let me quick envision every second of my life. I would either be locked in my book or move freely in the grace that is the air. I'm of a dying seed, but you water me because you love me.

There is one who makes it okay to be me- in my incompleteness. Walking I am scared of your thoughts of me and my own thoughts of me and my thoughts about what you are thinking about me. Chains. But, I choose that which can’t be, but is. I BELIEVE IN THE IMPOSSIBLE. Who we are is more than meets the eye- bone and flesh on a bus headed off a cliff. I CHOOSE THE IMPOSSIBLE.

I'm a confused, hurting child in the seer's arms so fixated on my hurt and confusion I can't see or feel their arms. Can you believe the one that’s makes it okay to be you is the one sees all?

Illuminated by the only minor star out of 100 billion burning orbs in our galaxy, spinning at 1,000 miles per hour and 68,000 miles per hour through space we see because of our impossible and automated eyes. All that is was impossible without God. For God, who made an infinite space, resurrection is a cakewalk.
 





 


Monday, May 20, 2013

People of the Person of Jesus

“Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” –Frederick W. Faber

When we lived in Colorado I was talking to a client about church history. She said Christianity would not exist today had Constantine the Great, a Roman emperor, not converted to Christianity, thus popularizing it. I said “that’s not true.” I stewed over our conversation for days, then sent her a long email telling her the Jesus movement is grassroots and not on the radar of those not in it...since it is not recognized from a secular vantage point it can't be traced.  

My email ended our relationship. She said she wanted to quit being my client. I felt awful for days and still regret it. Yes, I told the truth, but the tone of my email revealed I was more zealous to be right than to imitate Jesus.

We would generally agree it’s good to have zeal. Yet, in Paul’s zeal for God he persecuted Christians. The Christian’s zeal is often for the wrong things too. Are we zealous for predestination theology without being passionate for Jesus? Everything we are zealous about should be mingled with our ardor to imitate Jesus.

Too often we are like Paul was: “people of the book” (the Bible) instead of “people of the person of Jesus.” (Brian Zahnd) (Technically, the person is "the book," but we often seperate them.) I think we can trace back every bad mark in the history of Christianity to failure of being the people of the person of Jesus. Paul wrote from his own experience in 1 Corinthians chapter 13: if we have all the answers and all the faith, we are empty if we don't have love. I've heard the Word preached before but the person who is the Word and the Truth (Jesus) might say to the preacher "I don't know you and I'm not present in your word" because the truth is not spoken in love. 

Power, in the kingdom of God, does not come from being right. The power of God is kindness. We can chalk up the church’s poor job of dealing with homosexuality to our lack of kindness: our need to cast moral judgment first, the need to draw lines and stand on the right side. Being right (good apologetics or accurate Bible translation) should notcome at the expense of being kind and Christlike.

Frankly, proving we are factually right to someone means nothing to them. Deep down people want to be known and loved, and treated like Jesus would treat them- not as projects but as people who need compassion- just like we do. People want to be related to not handed gospel tracks. Just like we are offered free love without any strings attatched so are they.

If we think Christianity is primarily a set of beliefs we give intellectual assent to we will be inclined to try to convert people to a set of beliefs. If we think Christianity is meeting Jesus we will be inclined to introduce them to Jesus. It's more organic than mechanical. More relational than technical. We get so close to Jesus we can see His lips move, His iris's sparkle, and His dirty feet.

We forget, “It’s not the integrity of our theological system that saves us, it’s Jesus." (Dr. Don Payne) We claim to have encountered the risen Christ, just as Paul did on the road to Damascus, and that is the reason we are Christian.

Am I playing up following Jesus too much? I don't think so. He's God's sole, definitive and decisive disclosure of Himself. Sitting at the feet of Jesus is the same as obeying God. Brett Byford wrote, "If you become like Jesus you'll certainly do what God wants you to do." Sitting at the feet of Jesus means we have been adopted by our Heavenly Father and have the helper and keeper- the Holy Spirit. In Christ, we are taken up into an intimate relationship with the Triune God.

Brian Zahnd said he’s met people who are “zealous for God’s word, but are as mean as a box of snakes.” That sounds a lot like the people that hated Jesus the most- the Pharisees. I wonder if we are fascinated with Jesus or have only found substitutes that make it look like we are.

(Top image taken from Studio Shex




Saturday, May 18, 2013

Jesus died and rose because our lives suck.

In Rock Bottom Eminem reaches a high by reaching a low:

My life is full of empty promises/ And broken dreams/ I'm hoping things will look up/ But there ain't no job openings/ I feel discouraged hungry and malnourished/ Living in this house with no furnace, unfurnished/ And I'm sick of working dead end jobs with lame pay/ And I'm tired of being hired and fired the same day/

Chorus: That's Rock Bottom/ When this life makes you mad enough to kill/ That's Rock Bottom/ When you want something bad enough to steal/ That's Rock Bottom/ When you feel you have had it up to here/ Cause you mad enough to scream but you sad enough to tear/

Too often we deprive ourselves of the truth that life sucks. (I use “sucks” as slang for it's hard and it hurts.) Because God thought something was drastically wrong He sent His son. If God liked what He saw He wouldn't have promised to redeem us via Israel. If life didn’t suck we wouldn’t have three quarters of the Psalms.

Disowning the obvious is a great disservice to our suffering and sufferers. To deny our suffering means we don’t think it has worth and redemptive quality. To embrace it is to befriend the redemption that redeems it. We are not friends of peace if we don’t embrace the awfulness that necessitates our need for it. 

Our first ideas about life constructed by TV, culture, and false suppositions needs revised. (Yet, that idealization is an echo of the desire we long for, were created for and are destined for, but we can’t achieve it by ourselves.)

Relationships are harder than they should be. Someone once said, "People get into relationships to avoid loneliness, but they often leave us more lonely." We often live with a quiet demoralization and disheartenment caused by hopes and dreams shattered by reality. Quiet because our social norms prevent honesty because of how we want to be perceived by others- perfectly put together. We don’t want to be embarrassed. BUT, WE DON'T HAVE TO PRETEND- THE NAKED, UGLY TRUTH SETS US FREE.

If you think life is all cake and convertibles put yourself in someone else’s shoes or just wait around in your own. Not only is our income less than we dreamed, but bills are more. Stress comes with our jobs and obligations. Even our blessings become burdens. Our best laid plans are thwarted. Our moments of ease are precursors to pending frustrations. We see little fruit of our labor and even that seems to evaporate. How do I get away with saying life sucks as a Christian? Because God said something a lot like it:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life…By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground.” (God to Adam in Genesis 3:17-18.) A lot more came with that: the bad kingdom that is no kingdom would be able to act like one because it infiltrated the world through humans who turned away from God. Post-fall women and men would be able to have free will to do what they like even if it’s not what God wants. Enter death and the treachery that runs through our minds and world.   

The global community that consists of unique individuals, God’s offspring, has estranged itself from God. There is an enmity between us and God, but Jesus makes peace so life doesn't just suck. It sucks BUT has a real, present and future hope. So, even if our life sucks it doesn't suck because life with God cannot suck.  

If we are totally cool with how life (in the world) is as it is something is seriously wrong with us. Jesus didn't come, die and raise from the dead just for fun, but because He thinks humans deserve better than frustration, uncertainty, disease, terrorists, poverty, violence, injustice, tyrants, calamity, starvation, tragedy, futility, hurt, brokeness and death.


                                                                                                                                                   

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Death by Avalanche, Life by Jazz

When we run into problems we find ways to cope. Many ways are harmful to us and those and us around us.

Our dilemmas snowball because of our tendency to cope in unhealthy ways. Avalanches start with a small movement. It’s the same with us- one small movement or thought, good or bad, leads to more movements and thoughts.  This is how people’s entire lives become unraveled or faithless. Not trusting God is a slippery slope. If we exclude God here, we may there. Also, when we feel less and less human and less and less loved we will do things people do when they don't feel fully human or fully loved- we resort to lower level living- a life divorced or estranged from God.

Can’t we see how the landscape of our life (and others lives) is altered by not trusting God and failing to act in trust? Momentum that is of God pushes us certain ways. Momentum that is not of God pushes us too. Either momentum becomes a habitual meal.

I've been the calm man walking out of the dark quiet church after a time of prayer and I've been the lunatic in a fit of rage driving by him. To be human is to be a paradox.

If we are having a meltdown bring God into it, even though it’s easier to leave God out. If we cope with God in a meltdown we will be less inclined to punch someone, smolder in a quiet untrust of God, eat an entire chocolate cake, commit adultery, or drink a 1.75 of Vodka. God is like an avalanche stopper in this sense.

The anti-avalanche approach is the hard approach. The avalanche approach is easy- we all have that down. Christianity is hard.

I was on my way home from work during a meltdown the other day and I put on some Jazz. God is like jazz- a smooth, audible solace in a chaotic world.





Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More than Student Athletes

In 2004 I had posters made of myself to put in Lincoln coffee shops to promote an album I recorded. That year Cooper Fitness, my personal training business, was on a radio commercial that ran frequently on the most popular stations in Lincoln. I was also in a commercial for a cable company in my Cooper Fitness shirt.  

I was feeling great about the name I had made for myself. My objective was self-promotion. But, a person’s self promotion means nothing. It's the person God promotes who is promoted.

I don’t say these things to say look at what I did, but to demonstrate God saves us from the people we would become. In 2004, my self-promotion and success were driven by my insecurities and lack of identity. This demonstrates how easy it is to create a false self, an invented self, a self-made person. When we get patted on the back it encourages us to continue to be that self-invented person.

Last week I saw Magic Johnson talking at halftime of an NBA game and wondered: Does Magic Johnson know himself only as former Laker, league MVP, NBA Champion, and flashy point guard? Is that all Magic Johnson is to himself? I hope not, but many people go through life believing they ultimately are who they have, or have not, made themselves to be. We are more than athletes, students, millionaires, poor people and musicians. We are children of God.

Thank God He intervenes. He saves us from our own schemes and dreams. He says we are more than we can ever make ourselves.







Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tussling with Grace and Lies with Peach Tea

Grace is not something that just clicks and we understand it once and for all. We wrestle continuously with it and come to understand it in waves. It’s the same with lies. They are just not all of sudden gone when we become Christian. Here are the thoughts from a Sunday afternoon tussle with grace and lies:

The only way out is to pull myself up. How is a person not overwhelmed by what they are omitting? What I should be doing verses what I am. I have no desire to do what I ought- so I feel less human and less important which makes me want to do what I shouldn’t.

How much is my sense of it all wrapped up in my initiatives? My world crashes and rises with my actions. Here I am, doing nothing. If I was trusting in God and His sufficient grace would I feel terrible about what I should be doing, that which I could easily do? I feel inauthentic, like a player, a poser, a hypocrite. In fact, I am those things and I should boast in such weaknesses, but I’m not there.

Comfort, I have made you god. Maybe once and a while I go out of my comfort zone to justify myself to myself. I need to at least believe that I believe God is my Lord, not myself, my comfort. Self rages like a hungry fire.

Are you the God of a white middle class (filthy rich compared to most of the world's population) man who doesn’t love his neighbors as himself and is self-absorbed and makes comfort his god? I keep my hands relatively clean. I believe, sometimes. I worship. But, there’s a hole where I haven’t done what I ought. Omissions are haunting. Have I neglected the weightier issues of society, the injustices- what have I done to stop them? Nearly nothing, save a few hundred bucks. My body ought to be spent, my mind fried, all of my money shared, my heart shattered, but they’re not. Is my prayer life a form of self-justification to cover my unadmitted omissions? I love your Psalms and your words. But, I wonder if I love you as much as I love the idea of you. Is loving mental stimulation the same as loving you?

Must I have a dying orphan in my arms to please you, or am I accepted in a lawn chair in the sun sipping peach tea? I write about light and Jesus. Meanwhile, my greed rages like a hungry fire. My pride is inflamed. My feet are stuck. Is my love dead?

I am experiencing the goodness of God, but am not good. It seems if I was truly experiencing the goodness of God I would stop at nothing (much less a peach tea) that others would experience it, via clean water to drink. 

If you threw a banquet for sinners I wouldn't come because my pity is deep. Floundering in pity, but cherished, but it’s not enough. I need to feel good like I did yesterday. It’s a feel-good gospel, right? Self-evaluation rages like a hungry fire. What I do I assign too much weight too- I’m tied down as if a Pharisee were over me. I experience little freedom in Christ and little rest from His actions. If I were paralyzed would I accept my acceptance? If I were unable to do a thing would I trust I was beloved? If I had not good schemes and good prayers would I believe our Heavenly Father loves me?

Who is this God that accepts me so blindly? Does He not know of my negligence, my judgments of others, my darkness, and my peach tea? Who is this God who has compassion on those who are not compassionate, mercy on those who are not merciful?

I feel too bad about myself to let you wash my feet and I don’t feel like giving you 90%. So, what claim can I lay to you? To the kingdom of God? To heaven? I suppose it’s the other way around- you lay claim to me, but what little sway you have. I am safe and quiet in the sun with a rum and coke. I know fulfillment comes from expenditure, not retention, but I don't want to let go of myself, my time, my comfort.

I only realize when I’m not doing what I ought to how much I trust in what I do. I feel guilty for not doing what I should be doing. There are letters to send, neighbors in need, community at large.

Confusion and deception are winning. I can see that much. Oh, failing, I am not you and you are not me. Oh, works, I am not you and you are not me. Perceptions, you are winning. Calling me out, putting me down, telling me lies dressed in truth. Oh, the bad things about me are true, but I am more than a man of sins of omission. I am self-seeking through and through, and I continue to insist, but you won’t let me be what I am. In your stubbornness you say I am not who I am- beloved. Even though I won't accept myself as such you do.

I am ugly and repulsive, but you refuse me as such. I am what I am only because you have called me what I am not. You see clear, perfectly clear. You know me and love me as I am. My hands are not holding a dying orphan- they are clutching lemonade. So, I want to sacrifice my body, my hands. I want to get to work, to feel good, but you sacrificed and worked for our freedom.

I am so much unlike the one who accepts me. Good thing. It would be easier to accept my acceptance if I was more like God, and that’s the problem. I get a hold of the God in me and distort Him to make Him like me, and He turns out unlike Himself, so I end up serving myself- my self-made God.

Don't tell me you are fast and deep with grace- that you stroll hand and hand, stride for stride with Grace Himself all the day long- He is elusive to those who hold so fast to themselves. 

As for today, I lack resolve. I can't even force myself to lay broken on the cement at His feet. Bit, I know I am both wholly unjustified and wholly justified, only because the justifier justified me. I’m accepted by the acceptor no matter what I think, feel or believe. Oh, weary soul, say "Have mercy on me, a sinner. Rest in what has been done on your behalf. Revel in the scandal that is Christ crucified for you with peach tea in hand." 
 




Saturday, May 11, 2013

A God-Seeking State of Mind

I mentioned to someone my wife and I want to go to Greece. She asked what we wanted to do there. I said we wanted to explore, eat, and experience the culture. Like a person seeks Greece we should seek God. Just like we want to immerse ourselves in the history, sights and sounds, music and language, restaurants, and ocean breeze of Greece we should seek to experience God in the same way.

Greek words translated to seek are used about a million times in the New Testament. It means to “Strive after, to endeavor, to desire. To covet earnestly. To search for diligently."

"...Eagerly I seek you: my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water." (Psalm 63) The seeker is desperate for God because he has nothing else to trust in and he knows the delights and comforts of God are better than anything else he could seek. 

Seeking God is a state of mind and soul. We look and long for God. We have a hunger for God. We seek God to make sense of our lives and others lives. We seek God to live. We go to Him quiet and listen. In our seeking God, who is always there through the, we ascertain meaning: a glorious meaning to a perplexing existence.

“The seeking of the Lord in the Old Testament meant entering into a covenantal relationship with Him. The prophets often used darash as they called on the people to make an about-face in living.”

Seeking after God means to turn to Him. I broke the glass in a picture frame playing baseball in the house when I was about 8. When I tried to hide it I remember feeling so guilty I couldn’t look my Mom in the eyes. When we feel like there is space between God and us, maybe because of something we’ve done it’s hard to turn to Him and look Him in the eyes. That’s part of what it means to seek Him: to turn to Him, face to face, not wanting space between you.

There are as many reasons why we don't seek after God as there are people. But, I know that if we seek Him we will find Him and it will be the best experience of our life. See if God tells the truth, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." (James 4:8)

We don’t get to Greece by sitting on our couch, and we don’t get to God by not going to God. To oversimplify it we don’t connect with God, by not connecting with Him. We don’t explore God by not exploring Him, we don’t get to hear about Him by not hearing about Him. We don’t immerse ourselves in God’s culture and language and music and world by not immersing ourselves in those things.

It's easy to forget it's a gift that God makes Himself seekable. His availability is a great gift.

Like the guy who always has his radio tuned to the Dodgers games we should set our dial to God. Like the person who is looking for their lost iphone or dog (not that God is lost) we direct our hearts and minds towards a singular goal. John Piper wrote, There is always something through which or around which we must go to meet him consciously. This going through or around is what seeking is. We must go through and around obstacles.” TV, smart phones, internet, writing (for me), email and Facebook can kill our God-seeking. In order to draw near to God it seems we have to distance ourselves, intellectually and emotionally, from other things. Sometimes God seizes us, but many times we have to open ourselves up first. 

We left our place in Estes Park early one morning to hike Flattop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. On our way to the trail we had to stop for road construction. I was ticked off because the construction was keeping me from the mountain. We should have a certain disdain for things that keep us from God also. 

But, isn't it only Monks and weirdos who seek God constantly? No. Piper wrote, “God calls us to enjoy continual consciousness of his supreme greatness and beauty and worth."  We were meant to encounter God more than once a day, one a year or once a decade, but perpetually. Rather than sitting and staring at a wall all day and seeking God we learn the art to seek God and His Kingdom in all we do.

If we seek God He confides in us. He discloses a brilliant world that joins with this one. He divulges awe-inspiring realities and also what breaks His heart.

Frederick Buechner put it well, “It is not objective proof of God's existence that we want but the experience of God's presence. That is the miracle we are really after and that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get." If we seek Greece we might be disappointed, because a hundred things could go wrong. If we seek God we will not be disappointment because He is there when we search for Him. 


Friday, May 10, 2013

How can we seek a non-physical entity? What is His kingdom made out of?

How can we seek His kingdom first in a "world we are supposed to hate" (John taken out of context) and "not consider home?"  

Living Jesus’ mystery of seeking His kingdom first only works if we love this world and give ourselves up for it, as He did, and consider His Kingdom, which is already here, home. There are whole branches of the tree that is the church wary of valuing anything physical. But, of course, the earth God made is physical, the work we do is physical, our bodies- the most “spiritual” things imaginable for they are holy temples- are physical. It's very odd to deny the holiness of physicality in theory, but not in practice. But, that message comes directly, and most often indirectly, from our pulpits and books. It's vision that doesn't see what it's looking at, which makes it impossible to realize the importance of it.

The kingdom of heaven is as ordinary as backyard bushes and passing the potatoes. It’s closer than close. It’s the words on your lips and that phone call you haven’t returned. We seek the kingdom of heaven and have access to it through physical things. If we think the kingdom of heaven is not make out of simple things then we will want to get out of here to place where things are more important and more "spiritual."

Drawing a firm line in the sand between the “spiritual” things and “physical” things comes out of a school of thought that owes little to Jesus. Our propensity to draw this line does not come from embracing mystery, wonder and truth, but from avoiding them.

Be leery of a Christianity that discounts physicality because we worship God with our brains, legs, hands and lips. Be leery of a church that says they are Bible-believing but does not emphasize the kingdom of God, because that was and is nearest and dearest to Jesus'/God's heart.

Yes, hate the destructive ways of the world because they are harmful, but love the new ways in this realm. Isn’t that how Jesus did it? Yes, “fix our minds on heavenly things.” But, does that mean gaze skyward (or peer into our souls) and then when we look back down (or come out of that meditation) we are done with that spiritual discipline? No, we find "heavenly things" all around, it's a matter of sight. 

If going to heaven when we die is our main objective for our Christianity what happens to our thoughts on Jesus' kingdom? "Going to heaven when we die" as the reason for being a Christian would be foreign to Jesus, Luke, Matthew, John, Peter and Paul. So we can go to heaven when we die” is never the answer in the New Testament, because "How do I get to heaven?" is never asked.

Heaven is the byproduct of a restored relationship with God that starts now. “God does not save your eternal destination. He saves you,” as Brian Zahnd said. Heaven is where the life that begins now is intensified and satisfied. The new heavens and new earth are the crescendo.

Yes, “our treasure is in heaven,” but bumper sticker and tattoo theology do damage to those who think it's an impetus to hate this world, which Jesus loves so much He died for and hangs out in 24/7.

In the hands of line-drawers, grid specialists, transaction seekers, reward hunters, and escapists (all of us are) “the gospel” undergoes reduction after reduction until it's flesh and meat are off and all that remains is it's skeleton. We are more than pulled out of a pit, sat on the edge and stamped "save for later." A broad story with many themes, a full-bodied drink, a vast celebration is constricted, watered down and isolated.
If Jesus has said “Follow me” to you salvation (the kingdom of God) has come to you, you don't have to wait until it's put around your neck when you die.