Us versus Them

Terry Pratchett is my favorite author in the whole wide world.  I think he is a genius.  When it comes to faith, I think I learned probably more from him than any other person.  He is however, not a christian author.  And he seems quite sceptical when it comes to religion.  He loves to challange the status quo and has lots of wisdom when it comes to the human race.

 This is a quote from one of his books Jingo.

It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do the bad things.

 Us versus Them.  What is it that we pray for?  “Please God, make Them like Us.”  Show Them their faults.  They must believe like We do.  This could be exactly what They pray for Us.    Just who are They?  Perhaps They are Us.  🙂

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In the beginning (part 3)

Let’s get practical. How does a life in Jesus look like? I hope you don’t want the principles again.  I know what it looks like for me.   I have no idea what it will be like for you.  I will share a little bit of my journey. But it is MINE. If you want one, go find your own. I know I sound selfish. You are born into this family, but it is you who will have to recognize the voice of your Papa. It is you who have to learn to crawl. Your christian parents will take care of your crap and guide you because they love you. It is you who have to learn to walk. By the way. You will fall during this process.  You family will try to be there every step of the way. Loving you enough, not to come between you and our Father. And sometimes they will fail you. They will disappoint you. But you are stuck with them. You are family.

What happened with us (my wife and I) were a realization that there has to be more of God that we were experiencing. The question that kept nagging was; “Is this it?” We stopped going to the organized part of church. Then went through a time where nothing was happening. A most depressing time. A struggle of nothingness. What do we have to offer Him? Mmmmm, nothing??

“Come to the quiet,” I would call it. A place where we found out how self-centered we were. A place where we had to acknowledge that we did not know Him very well, if at all. There is a second part of “come to the quiet”. That would be “and rest.” How difficult can that be? Very. No direction. No vision. Just us and Jesus. We read some books. Talked to friends.

Slowly Jesus became visible in our everyday lives. In the friendships. In the caring for-and by friends. The need for surety died. We did not know where Jesus was going with us, but it did not matter. He began changing us from the inside out. We found that we have more grace for people. And more grace for ourselves. How did Wayne Jocobson put it? Living loved. Church became a matter of being, and not doing. How did Jesus put it?

Joh 7:37 And in the last, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, `If any one doth thirst, let him come unto me and drink;
Joh 7:38 he who is believing in me, according as the Writing said, Rivers out of his belly shall flow of living water, (We can only give what we have, because of what we are.)

(How do you put something into words that you did not think out, or consciously do, but it happened anyway?) Jesus became more, and in that process we became more “real”. And this is not something I can produce. This is a natural outflow of living in Him and He in you/me. Everything becomes holy, because He permeates life. We begin to love, because He loves. It is His doing.

Have we arrived? Are you kidding? Jesus is too much mystery for us to comprehend. And that is OK. He told us to rest, didn’t He?

In the beginning (part 2)

In part one I’ve talked about “good and evil” versus Life. I will now give examples of how we mess things up.

God is alive and what he gives us is alive as well, but usually not very manageable. What we do then is to turn “that which is alive” into “how this stuff works”.

  • Example. Revival. Usually, what happens will look like the following. God will do amazing stuff. Others will hear about it and come. They will study what is happening and then try to apply the same principles that they saw. Want revival? Follow the 10 steps. Books will be written. If you follow these steps, God will follow. Look it’s written in the Bible!!
  • Example. God will tell someone. “When you are in trouble, I want you to praise Me with songs.” Every time this person praises, God comes through for this person. Now this person writes a book about it. It now becomes a guideline. When you are in trouble, you must praise God. The person who buys the book does not need to know God anymore, because they now have the principle of what worked in somebody else’s life. And they will follow it and have no results, because that is not what God intended for them. He wants the relationship, but we want the results of the relationship. There is a difference.
  • Example. God comes and tell you that He loves you. But it is not enough to be loved by God, is it? NO. You have to do the right stuff. Stop doing the bad stuff. Only THEN will God love you. When we do this we fall into the performance trap, because a christian is supposed to look like a christian.  And this is difficult.  When we fail at being holy, we fake it.
  • Example. And I personally hate this one. How to be a successful Christian. When you follow these principles, God will make everything better. You will have a successful marriage and you will have beautiful children and they will have good grades and you will never get sick and you will always be cheerful and you will live in a nice house and your neighbours will be nice and you will be safe from harm and you will have a good income and you will go on a cruise every 2 years and the stock market will not crash and…… God becomes your personal stepping stone to finding happiness here on earth.
  • Example. This is what happens in teaching. Look at the life of David. He did this and this and this and these were the results. In order to have these results, we have to do this and this and this. We treat the Bible like a math book. 1+1+1 = 3. If you struggle, do what Job did. Look, it worked out for him in the end!! Everybody will tell you that there is a big difference between theory and practicality, but in church there seems to be no difference.

We nail “that which is alive” down. We do not like a LIFE God who does not follow the rules. That is just plain scary. No, we need the other tree. The one that tells us what to do. The one where I can measure my performance. The one where God is small enough to fit into.

In the beginning (part 1)

This is going to be lengthy….

I don’t think we know Jesus at all.  We know of Him.  We know His likes and dislikes.  We know what He wants.  We know what He said.  But do we know Him now?  There is a big difference between What Would Jesus DO? and Watch What Jesus Does.  I think our problem with this has something to do with the beginning of the story.

You know.  The garden with all it’s trees.  In Eden was lots of trees, but one we could not eat.  The tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Basically, the tree of rules.  It was a lovely tree.  (There was another specific tree in the garden.  The tree of Life.)  Adam and Eve ate of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” and then suddenly a lot of stuff went wrong.  But the one thing that is in every person born since that day, is the curse of that tree.  It is our driving force.  It keeps us alive.  It is the one place we return to for every answer for every question asked.  Right versus wrong.  What is right?  What is wrong?  It is ingrained in our humanity.  It is the source from which we live.  How did the humanists put it?  –  “That we should try to live happy and fulfilled lives and help others to do so and the way to achieve this is to live responsibly, thinking rationally about right and wrong, considering the consequences of our actions and trying to do the right thing.”  I like the “trying to do the right thing” part.  Doing good things.  Who will decide what is good for whom?  All the ethics can be tricky.

As an example, look at children.  When they play a game there are certain rules.  And oh my, watch what happens to the child who does not want to play according to the rules.  They make up rules as they go along.  Was any grown-up involved in the standardisation of those rules?  Nope, don’t think so.  Then where does the rule-making come from?  Something inside themselves?  Check yourself.  You live in a certain way.  The reason for that has to do with a combination of your inborn personality, the environment you came from and the surroundings you are currently a part of as well as the values you believe in.  Is there any person in the world that agrees 100% with what you believe?  It could be close, but there would be some differences.  The post-modern person will say that truth is all relative.  I agree, but watch what happens when my relative truth crosses your relative truth…:-)  People really know how to fight over something that is relative….:-)

We see right and wrong in the movies.  There is this constant battle between good versus evil.  We see it in everyday life.  More important, we see it in ourselves.  And it goes a little further than that.  In the eastern philosophy we have the dual concepts of yin and yang which describe two primal opposing but complementary principles or cosmic forces said to be found in all non-static objects and processes in the universe. Ying and Yang entwined.  The one cannot get away from the other.  We have sayings like “opposites attract.”  Day, night.  Sky, earth.  Beauty and the beast.  There is a time for everything.( Ecc 3:1)  You name it.  We assign consciously and unconsciously duel meaning/truth to everything we encounter.  Off course there are lots of instances where we haven’t made up our minds yet, but the seeds are there. 

What has this to do with knowing Jesus?
Well, Jesus came and said the following. 
I AM the living bread
I AM the light
I AM the door
I AM the good shepherd
I AM the resurrection and the life
I AM the way, the truth, and the life
I AM the true vine

Please notice something. 
He did not say.  “I will show you A way.”  He IS The Way. 
He did not say.  “I will show you how to get life.”  He IS The Life.
He did not say.  “I will show you what the truth is.”  He IS The Truth. 

Joh 15:1  “I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener.
Joh 15:2  He breaks off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit.
Joh 15:3  You have been made clean already by the teaching I have given you.
Joh 15:4  Remain united to me, and I will remain united to you. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine. In the same way you cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Jesus was there from the beginning.  The tree of LIFE.  A different source of living every day, lies in the Person of Jesus.  Something that cannot be contained by right and wrong.  Something that cannot be contaminated by right and wrong.  A God of LOVE and LIFE.

This then, leads to a few questions.
Question 1.  “What do we, as christians, have to give those around us??”  Do we give them rules?  Rights and wrongs?  Or do we give them Jesus?  Remember we can only give what we have.  This is really a scary thought.

Question 2.  When you look at yourself, what/who do you see?  A new creature? Someone born again?  Out of what???

Joh 3:5  “I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus, “that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.
Joh 3:6  A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit.

And this new baby. Are you considering that this baby has to grow? That this baby does not know everything? That he/she needs family to care for him/her? That this is a journey? That this baby will only know LIFE by living in HIM? This is not instant process. It’s a lot like everyday living. Everyday you learn, through experience, something new. Do you know with all your heart that you are loved? If Jesus is the best thing that happened in your life, and He is all about love, what keeps you from Him? A voice telling you, you are not worthy? That Jesus’s standard is to high for you? Where does that voice come from, because it is definitely not His voice.

Question 3. Where does that leave the church? Is the church a place of rules? What do we hear when we go to a meeting? The correct things that must be done and the wrong things that must be eliminated? Is that what we hear when preaching is done? The reason I am asking is the reason for this post. (This has nothing to do with the preacher.  It has to do with our hearing!!)  When Jesus says something, what do we hear? When Jesus says: “Come to me”, do we hear “ONLY WHEN…” added?
E.g. “ Come to me ONLY WHEN you’ve stopped smoking.
Come to Me, ONLY WHEN, you’ve stopped being hopeless.
Come to Me, ONLY WHEN, you’ve stopped lying.
Come to Me, ONLY WHEN, you’ve stopped being useless.
Come to Me, ONLY WHEN, you’ve stopped sinning. etc. etc.
Is the church people where all people can find a place of rest? Where their burden is off-loaded? Or is the church a like the older brother, angry, that any prodical can just arrive as if nothing has happened.

Remember at the beginning I said that we do not know Jesus? What do we give to the people in our lives? Usually, only what we have.

The 101 of discipleship

Grace has a interesting post today on discipleship.  You can read about it here

These are my thoughts.

 What is discipleship?  Well, my definition of discipleship will probably be.  Helping people/babes grow in Christ. 

 You know the verse.  Mat 28:19  Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Some people immediately link discipleship to mission.  I am not sure I agree.  Or perhaps I agree, but we tend to speed things up, and in that, I have a problem.  I’ll explain.  After Jesus died, the disciples had no clue on what to do next.  No mission, no vision.  Think about it.  Should they not have been better prepared?  Surely Jesus wasted a lot of good “teaching time”.  What was it then, that Jesus gave them during the 3 and a half years He walked with them?  I think He gave them, Himself.  They had to walk a very long time with the Person in order to get to know Him first.  Dare I say,  Discipleship is the natural outflow of a relationship with Jesus?

Discipleship has it’s problems today, probably because we have very few mature christians left.  And by mature, I mean people who have themselves grown in Jesus.  The mature christians is usually so tied up in christian programs that they simply do not have time to walk with the people around them.  And we have a lot of mature christians that left the organized part of church, but they tend to find themself in a wilderness for a very long time, because they long for a “better, old time” and do not see what is in front of them.

If Jesus forms the primary pattern of disciple-making for the church, then maybe we have to open our eyes.  He walked with 12 people for three+ years.  That  equals 4 people per year.  One betrayed Him after that time.  Do we really believe we can do a better job than He did?  How many people can you/I walk with in a year?  Get to know me/you?  See the Father in me/you? 

When we give people the principles of discipleship, rather than Jesus, we have what we call today “the church”.  We have no clue on how to help people grow in Christ, because we have never done it ourselves.  And we simply do not allow people to mature from babies to fathers and mothers.  That is the problem of discipleship today.  We speed things up.  We are to thankful for new converts.  We tell the babes, “You were born yesterday, today I want you to run.”  That is impossible, but we do it none the less.  Have you ever seen baby being born?  They have no clue on what is happening.  After being born, they have to bond.  It is crucial for the rest of his/her life.  They learn what it is like being loved.   It’s an intimate process.  It takes quite a while before they can feed themself.    And a whole time longer to take care of themself.  And  even more time before they can take care of others.  Why are we so slow in regonizing that we have to grow?  And growing is what you do in a family. 

 Discipleship is a natural christian phenomenon.  It the instinctive process of growing as a Christian.  And if we do not experience it, we will struggle to mature.  And that, has it’s own consequences……..

Clutter of words

Sorry about the “not writing” part.  Sometimes I get a “cynical spell” on the use of words.  It happens from time to time.

 It is so difficult sometimes to convey the love of Jesus to the people in my life.  What can I say to them?  That Jesus loves them?  That sentence is a cliché.  It is true, but all our talking have watered it down to the point where I only see sceptics looking back at me.  How can I show people that they are loved?  How can I tell them that I “see” in them, what they have not even begun to fathom in themselves?  All they see when they look at themselves is ugliness, and all I see is beauty.  How do I convey what I see?   By using words?  All the empty talking, and talking, and talking have numbed our senses to the love of a scary wonderful Jesus.  The One that can truly make our lives ALIVE.  Are words the best way to convey the love of Jesus?  I wonder…..

How did we get to a place where something which was once alive to where we are now?  Perhaps this illustration of Mike Riddell is a good one to use.

   “A great explorer once returned to her people. They were eager to know all about her adventures, and in particular about the mighty Amazon which she had travelled. But how could she speak of the feelings which had flooded her heart when she saw exotic flowers and heard the night sounds of the forests; when she sensed the danger of the wild beasts or paddled her canoe over treacherous rapids? She said to the people “go and find out for yourselves.” To guide them she drew a map of the river.

   They pounced on the map. They framed it in their town hall. They made copies of it for themselves. They studied it night and day and became experts in interpreting the river. They knew its every turn and bend, they knew how broad it was, how deep, where the rapids and the waterfalls were. And yet not one of them ever left the village to see the river for themselves.”
 

What happens when we never leave “what we know”?  What happens when we do not go “out there” and do the exploring ourselves?  What happens when we are content to sit and listen to the wonderful stories explorers tell us?  What happens when the explorer decides to settle?  And most important, what happens to us when we are content to listen to the wonderful storyteller who has NEVER LEFT the villiage?  We know everything, but are experiencing nothing.  Jesus is real.  Have we any idea what it means? For us and the people around us?

 I don’t think we know the implications of a Jesus that is actually alive.  But what I do know is that words are not enough to convey it.