The two sides

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said the following. 

 Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when He called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called….

Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called — the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ.

Amen

A new beginning

Usually towards the end of the year and the beginning of another we take time to reflect on what was and what is coming. 

For me personally 2007 was a good year.  We had the privilege of making new friends and got reacquainted with some old friends.  Actually, it was as if they’ve never left.  My wife finished her first year studying as a CA.  She enjoyed it a lot.  Our kids are growing up to fast.  I have no idea how to stop it. 🙂

For some of my friends 2007 was not a good year.  One of our lady friends had to make peace that she would probably never have children.  One friend’s wife got cancer.  A few months later his dad was also diagnosed with lung cancer.  Another friend had 2 operations to remove cancer growths.  Other friends take their struggles into next year.  Loneliness, health and children are all part of their struggles.  But none of us know what next year will bring.  We have hope that 2008 will be a better year for all of us.

During the past month I’ve listened to a lot of preaching of people who know God’s plan for the future.  They are sure of what’s to come.  They have it all together.  They have the answers.  Some of them are my friends.  That’s why I listen to them.  I struggle with the certainty of a plan.  I struggle when friends come to me, proclaiming to have all the answers.  The Plan involves a lot of doing.  It involves movement.  “This is God’s movement”, they proclaim.  Look at the fruits!  We will win this town/city/country for God.  It sounds a lot like me a long time ago.  What happened to me?  Is my faith wavering on the eve of what God is doing?  Why is there no appeal for me in the plan….in certainty?

Probably because uncertainty is no longer the enemy.  Doubt is no longer this “thing” I have to fight with.  Nothing can separate us from God, doubt included.  We’ve gotten glimpses of Jesus that we’ve never seen before.  If we had to change the world, how would we do it?  Well He did it and He never seemed in a hurry.  He stopped to talk to widows.  He let a prostitute wash his feet.  He allowed tree climbing people to interrupt His life.  He ate with the wrong people.  People came to Him at night with all sorts of questions.  He was kind and gentle.  He did not even have a home!  How could a homeless Man change the world forever?  What authority did He had?  He had friends, but they fell asleep when He needed them.  He washed feet.  He did not throw stones.  He forgave again and again and again.  He told stories.  Sometimes He left listeners with more questions.  What kind of a God is this? 

Is He the God we want?  Or is He an offence to “how things should be done”? 

In 2008, many of us will speculate what plan God has in store for us.  This plan we envision, will have specifics.  Stuff like where, what, when and how.  Take those 4 words away and what do we have left?  WHOM.  Our Whom is a Person called Jesus.  The Hope of our lives as well as the Hope of the world. 

My prayer for everybody that reads this blog is that you will not find God’s plan in 2008.  Instead, I pray that you will find Jesus in His completeness. 

“What makes God laugh? People who have plans!” Anon

The love of God (part 2)

If there is one thing I consistently do, it is the trap of thinking that Jesus is like us.  That what we do, changes Him somehow on the inside.

Henri Nouwen tells the following story.

An old man who used to meditate early every morning under a big tree on the bank of the Ganges river. One morning, after he had finished his meditation, the old man opened his eyes and saw a scorpion floating helplessly in the water. As the scorpion was washed closer to the tree, the old man quickly stretched himself out on one of the long roots that branched out into the river and reached out to rescue the drowning creature. As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively the man withdrew his hand. A minute later, after he had regained his balance, he stretched himself out again on the roots to save the scorpion. This time the scorpion stung him so badly with its poisonous tail that his hand became swollen and bloody and his face contorted with pain.
At that moment, a passerby saw the old man stretched out on the roots struggling with the scorpion and shouted: “Hey, stupid old man, what’s wrong with you? Only a fool would risk his life for the sake of an ugly, evil creature. Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?”
The old man turned his head. Looking into the stranger’s eyes he said calmly, “My friend, just because it is the scorpion’s nature to sting, THAT DOES NOT CHANGE MY NATURE TO SAVE.

During this time of getting to know Jesus all over again, there is one thing I’ve learned.  God is not like us and neither is His Love.

The love of God (part 1)

I’ve read a lot of books, blogs and articles.  This could be one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

Brennan Manning gives this glimpse out of His life.

I felt like a little boy kneeling at the seashore. Little waves washed up and lapped against my knees. Slowly the waves grew bigger and stronger until they reached my waist. Suddenly a tremendous wave of concussion force knocked me over backward and swept me off the beach reeling in midair, arching through space, vaguely aware that I was being carried to a place I had never been before—the heart of Jesus Christ.
In this first-ever-in-my-life experience of being unconditionally loved, I moved back and forth between ecstasy and fear. The moment lingered on and on in a timeless now until without warning a hand gripped my heart. I could barely breathe. The awareness of being loved was no longer gentle, tender, and comfortable. The love of Christ, the crucified Son of God, took on the wild-ness, fury, and passion of a sudden spring storm. Jesus died on the cross for me!

What more can we say?

So what’s the difference?

What is the difference between our love and good intentions and God’s love? I think I will start with the first rebellion that ever took place. You know the one in the heavens. Satan was the second in charge. He started to look at himself too much in the mirror. He was soooo cool and sexy. When he went to the beach, everybody gasped when he flexed his muscles. Clever too. He had a very high IQ. He was big mac in town. And could he make music!! So he started to think. “Boy, am I ready to be worshiped.” He started to move to the center of his own universe. That throne should be mine! Me, myself and I, became words he got used to. So he started a war. But he lost. He did not like that. It hurt.

Then God made creatures with free will. What was God thinking? The Devil was still angry. He could not make creatures of free will. But free will was a flaw in the design of these creatures. They should never have gotten the chance to choose. But then, how will you know that you are free if you cannot choose? Anyway, the Devil tempted these creatures. They chose to question the Love they had known.

What was the first thing Adam and Eve did after they chose poorly? THEY LOOKED AT THEMSELVES. Suddenly words like me, myself and I became their focus point. Woops! I’m naked. I am afraid. I have to protect myself. I have to hide. Suddenly the “us” concept was broken. “It was not ME, it was HER!! No, it was not ME, it was the snake!! The devil was happy. The creatures started to look at themselves. He knew it would not be long before they wanted a throne and started to move into the center of their own little universe. Doing their own thing. Doing stuff their own way. Everything they did from that day on was motivated by the love they had for themselves.

Jesus came and said the following:
Mat 22:37-39 And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

I want to talk about the second part. The “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” part. Jesus knew that the highest love we are capable of, was the love we had for ourselves. But our love is still centered around ourselves. When I love you, I expect something back. You should love me back. At least you should say thank you or give me a nod. Any appreciation will do. Our love needs affirmation. At our center, is me. I. Myself. If I give you something you should acknowledge my existence. If I do good things, it is not because I am good. It is because I will be valued. People will see me.

In a dictionary you will find the following words: “Self-actualization, self-admiration, self-appreciation, self-assured, self-centered, self-composed, self-concept, self-condemnation, self-confident, self-conscious, self-denial, self-dependence, self-destructive, self-discipline, self-doubt, self-employment, self-esteem, self-expression, self-gain, self-hatred, self-indulgence, self-interest, selfish, self-made, self-mutilation, self-pity, self-preservation, self-regard, self-reliance, self-renewing, self-respect, self-seeking, self-serving, self-sufficient, self-supporting, self-surrender, self-torment, self-mentoring, self-treatment, self-will” There are more….:-) What is the common denominator? SELF.

But then Jesus gave a new commandment. Joh 13:34. And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, so you must love one another.

What??

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.

Can You say that again?

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.

But You died!!

YIP. (RIP HA-HA-HA)

That’s not funny.

NO SENSE OF HUMOR?

But you love wasteful!! You love even those that don’t know it.

YIP.

But your love is hopeless!! You love those that do not acknowledge You.

YIP

But You love sinners!

AND YOU ARE??

But You mingle with them! You spent time with them!. You ate with them! It is almost as if You have a softspot for them.

YOU KEEP ON USING THE WORD “THEM”.

This love of Your’s is not rational and thus not easily understood. Perhaps I can work out some sort of vision statement with a few pointers on how to love like you love.

YOU WANT THE 5 STEPS ON HOW TO LOVE LIKE I DO?

Yes, please.

HA-HA-HA. HA-HA-HA.

What’s so funny?

SORRY, I COULD NOT HELP MYSELF.

No plan?

NO PLAN.

This is going to be tough.

YIP

Ok, I guess, first of all, I have to earn your love.

YOU’RE KIDDING RIGHT? ARE YOU SURE YOU DON’T HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR?

But, don’t I have to be a good person in order to receive you love?

NOPE, I’M STARTING TO BELIEVE YOU ARE FUNNY.

But, what is your love like?

HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE? OOPS, NOT GOING TO TELL YOU.

That is not funny!!

FOR YOU, IT WILL TAKE A LIFETIME. MOSTLY, BECAUSE YOU ARE SO SLOW ON THE UPTAKE. HA-HA-HA

That’s not funny!!

MY LOVE IS RELENTLESS. IT IS DANGEROUS. IT WILL KILL YOU. IT WILL TAKE YOU OUT OF THE CENTER OF YOUR OWN UNIVERSE. MY LOVE WILL MOVE YOU BEYOND YOURSELF. YOU WILL LOSE CONTROL.

That sounds painful. Can’t I just be a good person with good intentions?

NO.

Please?

NO.

I don’t know what to say.

SAY “YES”.

Yes to what?

THE GREATEST JOURNEY YOU WILL EVER HAVE. THE JOURNEY WHERE YOU WILL KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE LOVED. THE JOURNEY WHERE YOU WILL LOVE WITH A LOVE THAT CANNOT BE TAINTED BY YOUR EGO.

A JOURNEY THAT WILL TAKE YOU INTO ME.

Feeling lost?

 This from Rich Mullins(Hard to get)

“I can’t see how You’re leading me, unless you’ve led me here, where I’m lost enough to let myself be led.”

I know some of us know this feeling all to well. 😉

What’s in a name

A few names came up when I started thinking about blogging.  What to name the my site?  
Here are three that were seriously considered.  

Under the radar
About a year ago, I met a longtime friend on steps at the university’s auditorium. After we greeted each other, he asked me the following question.  “So, are you guys going to a church or are you still flying under the radar?”  I was a little stumped and for a few seconds angry.  Going to church?  Still flying under the radar?  What answer would make him happy?  He is one of the leaders in his congregation.  Nope, mmm, still flying under the radar”  “Oh”, with a hint of disappointment, was his reply.  Pleasantries followed and each went his own way.  That evening I spoke to Anette about it.  I was angry.  It bothered me.   We follow Jesus.  We are visible to Jesus.  We do not need to go to a congregation to have value and purpose.  Perhaps I felt labeled.  I don’t know. 😕

We talked to friends about it and along the way it became a way of referring to ourselves.  We started to use it as a slogan of sorts.  “We, flying under the radar, love Jesus.”  Ha-ha.  Then we started to tease one another.  If one of my friends would come for advise, I would say, “why are you coming to us? We are under the radar.  Perhaps you should go to the “above radar” people. 🙂 It is now used as a common joke in our circle of friends.  But still, it is a very good description of how we are perceived and that is fine with us.

Life in oncoming traffic
Try to live in a town that is very religious.  Our university developed out of the Theological School of the Reformed Churches in South Africa in 1869.  Lots of conservative Christians.  Then, try and explain when somebody asks you  “to what church are you going?” that no, we are not going someplace.  We believe we are the church with all the other believers. 🙂 You can actually see people’s brains trying to comprehend.  Oh, you are one of those??!!  Then I put on my explaining face and tell them about the past 20 years and how we came to this point.  I usually try to go out of my way and accentuate that we do not believe other people should do the same as us, or that we believe we are on the right track.  This is usually met with relief.  But usually it will be us doing the explaining.  Next time, after I’ve explained, perhaps I should ask why they go to a congregation? 🙂 For us, it’s life in oncoming traffic.

Uncertain Certainness
During the past 6 years of getting to know Jesus AGAIN, we discovered something about God.  Life with Him is not really this “planned-out life”.  He does not give us a sense of certainness.  What I mean is that although He becomes a Certainty, all other things become less certain or perhaps just less important.  What will happen tomorrow?  I don’t know, but I do know that He is there.  I need Him.  All that I need is found in Him, but that does not mean that I will have a life that makes sense all the time.  He does not give guarantees, except perhaps, that He will be with us always.  I always believed that when you come to Him, He will give me direction and a specific purpose.  Something that I can work on.  A vision.  A mission.  Something I could explain to people e.g. “My ministry is this or that”.  Or perhaps something like “God put it in my heart that I should care for the poor people.”  This has disappeared.  I try to cling to Jesus and see what flows out of that.  I now have purpose and function, but I cannot tell you what it is.  I can only point to Jesus.  Explaining becomes difficult.  Words are not enough.  All I know is that now, we have this Life of uncertain Certainness.

 I hope to write about the hope in Windblown Hope in the next 2 weeks.  Stay tuned.

The dark night

I’ve been away on holiday.  Camping out and swimming in hot water pools.  Came back very happy and tired.  After a holiday, you sometimes need a holiday.  During one of the nights, a severe thunderstorm broke loose.  Thunder and lighting.  One of our ladyfriends in the tent next to us, send us a sms.  It said:  “I am afraid.”

Life is strange indeed.  One moment we are free and enjoy every moment, and then sometimes, in the blink of an eye, everything changes.  Life becomes dark and terrifying.  There is now way out.  No help.  No hope.  Alone.  We cry to God for help.  But there is no answer. 

 Did life happen to Jesus? 

A few years ago I discovered the following out of a book from Hans Kung.  The title is “On being a Christian“.  It was then, that I realised that I do not know my Saviour.  Wrapped up in my own little world, I did not “see“.  He actually experienced life!!  He was not protected against life.  He lived a life for all to see and when it came to loneliness, humiliation and suffering, His life became a spectacle.  I can see the newspapers, magazines and television, shouting to the world, that “the Prophet has been proven wrong”, the day after His crucifixion. 

Perhaps this is what Jesus felt…

Jesus’ unresisting suffering and helpless death, accursed and dishonored, for his enemies and even his friends, was the unmistakeable sign that he was finished and had nothing to do with the true God. His death on the cross was the fulfillment of the curse of the law. ‘Anyone hanged on a tree is cursed by God.’ He was wrong wholly and entirely: in his message, his behavior, his whole being. His claim is now refuted, his authority gone, his way shown to be false. . . . The heretical teacher is condemned, the false prophet disowned, the seducer of the people unmasked, the blasphemer rejected. The law had triumphed over this ‘gospel.’
Jesus found himself left alone, not only by his people, but by the One to whom he had constantly appealed as no one did before him. Left absolutely alone. We do not know what Jesus thought and felt as he was dying. But it was obvious to the whole world that he had proclaimed the early advent of God in his kingdom and this God did not come. A God who was man’s friend, knowing all his needs, close to him, but this God was absent. A Father whose goodness knew no bounds, providing for the slightest things and the humblest people, gracious and at the same time mighty; but this Father gave no sign, produced no miracles.
His Father indeed, to whom he had spoken with a familiarity closer than anyone else had ever known, with whom he had lived and worked in a unity beyond the ordinary, whose true will he had learned with immediate certainty and in the light of which he had dared to assure individuals of the forgiveness of their sins; this Father of his did not say a single word. Jesus, God’s witness, was left in the lurch by the God to whom he had witnessed. The mockery at the foot of the cross underlined vividly this wordless, helpless, miracle-less and even God-less death.
The unique communion with God which he had seemed to enjoy only makes his forsakenness more unique. This God and Father with whom he had identified himself to the very end did not at the end identify himself with the sufferer. And so everything seemed as if it had never been: in vain. He who had announced the closeness and advent of God his Father publicly before the whole world died utterly forsaken by God and was thus publicly demonstrated as godless before the whole world: someone judged by God himself, disposed of once and for all.

And since the cause for which he had lived and fought was so closely linked to his person, so that cause fell with his person. There was no cause independent of his person. How could anyone have believed his word after he had been silenced and died in this outrageous fashion? It is a death not simply accepted in patience but endured screaming to God.”

Brennan Manning in his book “Signature of Jesus” said the following: 

The Cross is both the symbol of our salvation and the pattern of our lives. Everything that happened to Christ in some way happens to us. When darkness envelops us and we are deaf to everything except the shriek of our own pain, it helps to know that the Father is tracing in us the image of his Son, that the signature of Jesus is being stamped on our souls.

I find it very comforting that we have a Saviour who walked the walk of life.  We can never accuse Him that He does not understand or that He does not care.  When life happens, we are not alone.