In the World, Not of It?

You’ve heard the phrase “not of this world?”

It’s a clever concept. The idea is simple, that we wouldn’t just float about, being swept up in the whims of culture and friendly persuasion, but would stand immoveable upon the bedrock of Christ.

I entirely agree that Christ should always serve as our compass, but I also would argue that that compass has changed shape over time, depending on our surrounding environs. Deuteronomy was written in the style of a Semitic covenant renewal. John borrows heavily from the gnostic tradition. Zoroastrianism helped open the gates to our understanding of Jesus and Satan as the champions of light and darkness, respectively. The revelations and manifestations of the most Holy God change and mutate depending on the setting in which the authors find themselves in, yet all of these experiences are ultimately submissive to Christ, who is the author and editor of our individual and collective faith journeys.

Lemme put it this way: if God were to come up to Adam and Eve and tell them about Tweeting, they would be utterly clueless, but instead He revealed Himself to them in a way they understood and that understanding continues to change over time as we as a corporate human race continues to change.

God is the God of past, present, and future. He is not confined to one cultural understanding of Him. He offers Himself to all people at all times through all ages and shall continue to do so until the return of His blessed Son, Jesus. He desires to be known and for none to be lost, going to any and every extent to fulfill those means, even coming in body, suffering and dying, and rising again so that He would experience everything we would experience and also rising above it into His blessed Kingdom.

Let us look with open hearts and minds and ears to how God wants to reveal to Himself to us today.

Strength is a Process

There’s a rumor going around. It’s the “get (fill the blank) quick” ghost. It sounds great. Eat this thing for a week, chant this mantra, do this exercise, and *bang* you’re healed.

Yes, maybe over time it will make a difference. And yes, sometimes there are stories of instant success. But for the most part it takes a while.

Think about growing up. It takes time to walk and talk and chew your food and pretty much everything else. You may skip a step, but it still takes time.

This goes the same for strength building of any kind. People say it’s a no-brainer. Do this thing, change this factor, and everything will just work out. I say, it takes time.

You want to get to point B, even Z. You have to start with A. You start with nothing. You’re broken and you’re scared. Then it’s on to damage control, picking up pieces and seeing if the ground will hold me. Then, once things begin to get okay, you start to get comfortable. When you start getting comfortable, then you can start taking risks, because there is the notion that there is some semblance of net to catch you if you fall. It’s not a chronological process. You’ll go back and forth all the time. Maybe you’ll skip lots of steps and then something happens and you’ll sail back even behind where you started. It happens. Trust the process. Keep going.

Allow others the same grace. Oftentimes, we forget how far we’ve come and how long it took us to get here. To us, it’s overnight. But remember that it wasn’t. Be gracious and encouraging. Let others know your story. A realistic view of life helps more than you know.

Together, we can build a stronger, more beautiful world, except you gotta be in it for the long haul to make it happen.

 

Jonah 4

You may or may not be familiar with the life of Jonah.

Jonah was a prophet way back when. God tells him to go to a place to Ninevah to preach to the people there, that they would stop doing all the bad stuff they were doing and instead do good. Jonah receives his mission and runs away, taking the soonest ship to the furthest town. En route, he hits a storm and, in a moment of conviction, asks the crew to throw him overboard. Not knowing what else to do, they do just that. Jonah is swallowed by the sea creature a la Pinocchio and spends three days in the belly of the beast. At that point, he has a change of heart, asks God for a hand out, and God does just that. The creature spits him out and he high-tails it over to Ninevah to ask them also to turn their lives around. In no short time, they do.

And all ends happily ever after, right? I wish. No. Many retellings of Jonah’s life end there, but his life extends to another chapter. In this chapter, he is sitting on a hill looking over the just-saved city of Ninevah, hoping that God will change His mind and blow it up.¬†“Please, Lord, isn’t this what I thought while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster. And now, Lord, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live,” says the prophet.¬†Despite all that Jonah has been through, he still wants the Ninevites to die and for God to take him with them.

Fortunately, God doesn’t grant Jonah’s request. Instead, he lets Jonah sit in the hot sun for a good, long while until Jonah is about to faint. Then, He grows up a plant to cover Jonah’s head. Jonah loves his plant because the comfort it provides him. God allows him a moment of solace than kills the plant.

Jonah flips out. When God asks him if his anger is justified, Jonah is 1200% sure that it is. At this, God asks a follow-up question, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in the night and perished in the night. But may I not care about the great city of Ninevah, which has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?” With that, God drops the mic and Jonah’s story ends there. We don’t know how he responded. In truth, we don’t need to. This is God’s question to us. We all have plants in our lives, things we put in priority over the people all around us. Are we brave enough to let them go and selfless enough to see the needs of others, even if those needs belong to those we don’t see eye to eye with?

The challenge is simple. God is waiting for the answer. Don’t be a Jonah. Answer the call.

Stumbling Block

We are always moving

Society has things to do

In the process, things fall through the cracks

people fall through as well

And the natural reaction is “awww shucks, maybe tomorrow”

So, to elicit change

You must inherently be in the way

To be present in body and soul

Then, even if you are not seen, you will be encountered

You will be known, if only as an nuisance.

Anything you want to get done

you cannot sit idly in the shadows and wish for,

even pray for,

you must become an active participant

and stay consistently present

in order to make your presence known

 

The Moment Before

Why is it that, in Exodus, God tells us that

They created the deaf, the mute, and the blind

yet in Leviticus we turn around and push them aside?

Why is it, in Genesis, that God creates

both man AND woman in Their own image

yet we get bogged down in gender roles

and social norms?

Why is it, in Romans, that we can bank

our entire faith on the fact that Abraham

came before Moses

and so are justified by grace alone,

rather than by works,

yet keep trying to earn our salvation

and set up obstacles for others to jump over to do the same?

God is calling all of us into immediate and total reconciliation with Himself.

Are we bold enough to take Him up on His offer?

The Heart of Man

This is the match to burn the heart of man

to ignite the coal dust

to cleanse the impurities to make it sparkle

and shine

revealing the diamonds

hidden neath the mountains of pressure and age

This is the match to make new life begin

and make him beautiful again

just as he was meant to be.

Chutes & Ladders

We all have flaws

Things we need to work on

but if we start with a mindset of brokenness

We’ll always be swimming upstream

Exhausting yourself

trying to keep up with the invisible Joneses

Instead, focus on Jesus

approach life with a perspective of self-love

Then life will become more a celebration,

and invitation

Rather than a do-or-die situation

where every failure

sets you back a billion paces

This is not chutes-and-ladders, folks

It’s your life

Live it well