For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. ‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon?
God when its Pants
We are living in exciting times. Stuff is going down in Wales and more recently in Runcorn.I’ve just come back from a great meeting hosted by City Church Leeds where we waited on the Lord and He moved in our midst and healed people (PTL). But sometimes its not like that…
Sometimes people don’t get healed…
Sometimes we doubt…
Sometimes we hurt..,
Sometimes we lose our jobs…
Sometimes life is pants…
There is a line of a Bethel song which says “It’s always like springtime with you. You make all things new”. What this is talking about is the new life we receive in Christ but sometimes we can feel like it should always be springtime in every area of our life.
But sometimes its not. Sometimes it rains and sometimes it snows.
The church must be a place where we can come and be brutally honest with one another, there should be no walls put up in our family. It’s not always springtime. And if we can’t admit that in the church then where can we admit it?
There is a twofold danger I think when we put on happy, smiley faces because we’re Christian’s so life can’t possibly go wrong. The first danger is that we bottle up our emotions, don’t deal with them and they fester. The doubts we are too scared to express eat away at us. The pain hurts but we hide it away till it consumes us. The second danger is for those outside our community, they look in and see a group of people who seem to have it all together. They then look at their own lives and don’t see it match up. They are afraid to join this “perfect” group of people because they don’t want to mess it up. When we are honest, when we express our emotions, when we admit that life is sometimes pants we help both ourselves and those outside.
And the beautiful thing is we worship a God who knows exactly what its like. Sometimes life was a slog for Jesus and sometimes it was downright pants. Do you think when his mate Lazarus died he just shrugged it off? No, he wept. Do you think when his best friends betrayed him he told everyone life was great? I doubt it.
And then on the cross as he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” he experiences the worst feeling that humanity knows; that of “God-forsakenness” the feeling that we have been abandoned by God. The question “Where is God when I’m hurting?” that we have all asked at some point was asked by our Lord and King on the cross. As Greg Boyd says:
“The authenticity of the Jesus’ abandonment on the cross means that God is a God who is entering into and embracing our hell. And its only because of this that we can be confident that God has poured himself out completely in working to redeem us from our hell.”
This is why we can be honest when life is pants. Because in the incarnation we have a God who enters into our pain and is with us in it.
Not Ashamed x3
Just read a post by Rachel Held Evans who has become one of favourite bloggers over the last year. It was called “Why I dont witness to people on airplanes” and describes some of my thoughts on mission and evangelism over recent times.
As the title suggests this is kinda a third blog over a year period as I wrestle with this idea of sharing our faith (Part one, Part 2.) Over the course of this year I have started to be much more vocal in sharing my faith and have become the person that does now chat to people on airplanes, the guy who approaches strangers and ask them if they have some time to talk about God.
For some of you reading this both Christian and non-Christian your heart might sink a little at this confession. “Surely Theo you haven’t become one of those?” For others you may be rejoicing at my new found zeal.
If I’m honest I feel both of these emotions.
I guess I question the value of “cold calling” evangelism but at the same time know the dangers (all too well) of saying I prefer “friendship evangelism” when really I just want an excuse never to share my faith cause I’m scared.
Some of you will encourage me that I am “planting seeds” and fulfilling the Great Commission. And yes I believe this is the case. As I was reminded by a friend when I shared these thoughts the other day at the very least I’m obeying Jesus’s command to go and tell.
However, I also agree with R.H.E that
“At the end of the day, the gospel doesn’t really fit on a billboard or a Facebook status or an elevator pitch; it has to be experienced, in community, through the day-in-and-day-out work of following Jesus. That’s what makes it different from just another product; that’s what makes it better than follicular unit extraction ”
As people see the gospel lived out in community and experience the love of Jesus I am convinced that we will make disciples. I think the gospel is much more effectively shared when it is experienced rather than taught. The recent baptisms at my home church testify to this as three broken people experienced the love of God through the faithful lives and witness of a godly couple.
I’m just trying to be honest and admit the dilemma within me. However, until I resolve it I will continue to be committed to sharing a reason for the hope that I have. The joy, peace and love that I have experienced compels me to share even when I’m not sure how to do it.
People need to figure out how to be human again. So many parts of our lives have been turned into commodities have been turned into markets, have been turned into things. There are whole industries created to install desires within us and tell us how to fulfil them. We never to get to ask the question is the way we arrange ourselves something even something that produces something beautiful and human? We don’t ask those questions.
If one form of violence is ineffective-say, a machine gun up against a tank- few people would argue that violence itself is ineffective. Rather, they argue that a new, more improved form of violence needs to be discovered and employed against the tank. However, and contary to that notion, if a form of nonviolence-say a boycott- fails to achieve its goals, the entire idea of nonviolent resistance is indicated as ineffective and, hence, the entire notion of nonviolent resistance is discarded.
Jake Bugg and the Search
Been listening to some Jake Bugg recently before we get too serious go check him out he’s super talented singer songwriter. But here I want to focus on the lyrics of one of his songs called Simple as this.
The basic theme of the song is that he has been searching for something. He starts by searching in himself but is unsuccessful:
“Mining for treasure deep in my bones that I never find”
He then looks to drink and drugs
“Went looking for reverence tried to find it in a bottle and came back again. High on a hash pipe of good intent but it only brought me down”
Bugg then turns to religion and philosophy
“Tried insitituions of the mind and soul. It only taught me what I should not now”
“Memorised the mantra Confucius said but it only let me down”
But then Bugg reveals that he has finally found what he is looking for and that it “something as simple as this”:
“I’ve been falling, crashing, breaking. All the while you were stood here waiting for me girl”
For Bugg this girl has provided him with that elusive component that he needed in his life. Unfortunately for Bugg this isn’t the answer.
The writer of Ecclesiastes in the bible goes on a similar journey.
He builds houses and vineyards, he plants gardens and parks. He buys slaves and has more herds and flocks than any king before him. He is the richest ruler. He has women aplenty. In fact he says that
“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure”
And for a time it works “For my heart found pleasure in all my toil”. And yet ultimately it didn’t satisfy. “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
And unfortunately Jake the same is true for you and the same is true for me. We will not find this thing we are searching for in drink, drugs, work,money or girls. We wont find it in philosophy or empty religion. We will only find it in Jesus Christ who said:
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life”
So Jake I’m sorry but your search is not yet over.
In the meantime keep writing great songs
“I rise as You are risen
Declare Your rule and reign
My life confess Your Lordship
And glorify Your Name
Your word it stands eternal
Your kingdom knows no end
Your praise goes on forever
An on and on again
No power can stand against you
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone
I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin
But now I rise”
My main man Matt Hebert on the radio chatting about life, Africa, religion, spirituality and Jesus. Lot of time for this guy and love what he says about Jesus in this clip. Check him out
The calling to seek first the reign of God and God’s justice means orientating our public deeds away from imposing our moral will onto the social fabric, and toward giving tangible experience of the reign of God that intrudes as an alternative to the public principles and loyalties.
Today is Palm Sunday, the day in the Christian calendar where we remember Jesus entering Jerusalem. Mark tell us that as Jesus rides in on a donkey the crowds shout:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
This is the arrival of the messianic King. The one whom they had been waiting for. The one who was to restore the Kingdom to Israel.
There is a old school Hymn which is sung on Palm Sunday which says this:
Ride on, ride on, in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die!
O Christ! Thy triumph now begin
Over captive death and conquered sin.
As we sung it this morning I was thinking about these words and the story of Palm Sunday. I expect there were those in the crowds who were disappointed in Jesus. The political Zealots who were expecting the overthrow of Rome. The ones who were waiting for the military leader who would start the revolution.
What Jesus does is by riding in on a donkey is redefine and subvert triumph and majesty. The Romans when they conquered a territory used to have victory parade and procession. This is Jesus’s equivalent and yet it looks completely different. He makes us re-imagine triumph.
As Rachel Held Evans says “when God strapped on sandals and walked among us, God rode a donkey instead of a war horse.”
We see this Jesus in Revelation. The one who is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom strength, honour, glory and praise is the Lamb who was slain (Rev 5v12). This totally subverts our understanding of Kingship. The Lamb who was slain is worthy. This is not Kingly, triumphant majestic imagery.
We want a lion who kills, not a sheep who allowed himself to be killed.
We pledge allegiance to a King who triumphs by suffering. And as we follow him and take up our cross we must realise that the way we join in Jesus’ victory might not always be in the way we expect, the triumph may involve suffering.
As we remember the King who rides a donkey it causes us to re-imagine triumph.