Paradox

The one thing I love about Jesus is the fact that He showed what a Godly life on earth looks like.  And with that, He confuses us terribly.  He kept on saying things to crowds that made everyone leave.  It is not really what we want.    You should bring in the crowds, not chase them away!  We want stuff to have a logical path and conclusion.  None of this “for whosoever will save his life shall lose it” stuff.  And what about “the cross” and “life in full”?  What is all that about?   Perhaps God knows something we don’t? 

I’m going to quote the wise on this subject matter.  Read it carefully.  “Why is God like this?” And perhaps just as important: “Do our lives resemble this strange Godly upside-down-daily-living in ANY way?”

‘A real Christian’ is an odd one anyway. They feel supreme love for ONE whom they have never seen, talk familiarly everyday to SOMEONE they cannot see, expect to go to heaven on the virtue of ANOTHER, empties themselves in order to be full, admits they are wrong so they can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when they are weakest, richest when they are poorest, and happiest when they feel the worst. They die so they can live, forsake in order to have, give away so they can keep, see the invisible, hear the inaudible, and know that which passes knowledge.” – A.W. Tozer

If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully—the life you save may be your own—and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get, and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.  –  Frederick Buechner

Come and join the crazy people!!  It’s the only way to sanity 🙂

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My faith heroes (part 5)

Mike Yaconelli

If you do not know who this man was, I’ll try to explain why you should care 🙂

Mike Yaconelli was born on July 24, 1942. 

In 1969 he co-founded Youth Specialties with Wayne Rice.  It is a Christian ministry that trains and provides resources to youth church workers.  They train about 100,000 youth workers a year through seminars, conferences, resources and a website.

In 1971, he and Wayne Rice took over a publication called The Wittenburg Door, which originated in Los Angeles, and turned it into a bimonthly religious magazine.  Mike said they used the magazine speak about the stupid things the church does and generally made fun of the church because they loved the church.  Mike was editor for twenty-five years.  In 1987, he gave up his editing position and in1996 he donated the magazine to Trinity Foundation in Dallas.

He also pastored a small church in Yreka, California.  He called it the slowest growing church in America.

He wrote two books called “Dangerous Wonder,” published in 1998, and “Messy Spirituality,” published in 2002.

While moving Mike’s father, Mike made an accident while driving his father’s pickup.  He died the following morning on October 30, 2003.

He left behind his wife Karla, five children and four grandchildren.

What Mike did for me.
Let me begin to say that if you have not yet read his books; “GO AND BUY THEM NOW!!!”

The day I heard that Mike had died, was probably one of the strangest days in my life.  I remember reading about his death.  I remember telling my wife.  I remember that she held me in her arms while I was crying like a baby.  I remember that I was thinking “What the hell is happening to me?  I’ve lost it, whatever “it” was.”  I was in mourning for about three days and sad for about a week.  This for a guy that did not even knew I existed!  I think I mourned “for” the church.  I remember thinking that the church were so much poorer for losing a guy like Mike.  I mourned for the fact that a lot of people did not even know that we were poorer.  I mourned for his wife Karla and their children.  I mourned for myself. 

But why did he have this effect on me?  He was a great storyteller.  Mike gave words to my heart.  He lived a life of wonder and amazement at God’s grace.  He had a child-like wonder, was full of surprises and expectant that he just might find God everywhere.

He showed me the upside-down kingdom of God.  He saw God in the undervalued, the overlooked and the underdog.  He fought hard for the unknowns and tried to give the invisibles a human face.

He never claimed to be perfect and he was brutually honest about who he was.  He never covered up his cracks and believed that brokenness, difficulty and loneliness were the places where we could meet God. 

He challenged me to look at the people in the Bible we call saints.  Their lives were muddled, disordered, disorganized and messy.  The Bible presents a wonderful story of a very messy faith.

He understood grace.  He was the first person to use words “terrifying”, “love” and “God” in one centence.  The subtitle of Messy Spiritually nearly was “God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People. “

He was a wild man.  A joker.  He belonged to a group called the “notorious sinners”  He loved to create situations that kept those around him off balance.  And he loved to play. 

I could add a lot more, but I am going to leave you with his words.

After 45 years of trying to follow Jesus, I keep losing him in the crowded busy-ness of my life. I know Jesus is there, somewhere, but it’s difficult to make him out in the haze of everyday life.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a godly person. Yet when I look at the yesterdays of my life, what I see, mostly, is a broken, irregular path littered with mistakes and failure. I have had temporary successes and isolated moments of closeness to God, but I long for the continuing presence of Jesus. Most of the moments of my life seem hopelessly tangled in a web of obligations and distractions.”

I want desperately to know God better. I want to be consistent. Right now the only consistency in my life is my inconsistency. Who I want to be and who I am are not very close together. I am not doing well at the living-a-consistent-life thing.’

When I was younger, I believed my inconsistency was due to my youth. I believed that age would teach me all I needed to know and that when I was older, I would have learned the lessons of life and discovered the secrets of true spirituality.  “I am older, a lot older, and the secrets are still secret to me.”

Here’s the reality—we do not believe in grace. We are scared to death of grace. We are worried that it is going to be abused or misused. And of course, we only worry about that after we are in. And then we decide to help God by becoming grace monitors and grace police and by sort of saying, “God’s really busy and he has got a lot to do, so we will make sure that nobody else gets in.” We make all of these rules, just like the Pharisees did, that determine whether or not you are functioning in grace.

That’s all about a worship of power, when the church should be the place where we evidence our powerlessness. And in my church, which is the slowest growing church in America—we started with ninety, sixteen years ago and now we have thirty. Because we have thirty people, everybody matters. Everybody knows everything about each other. They care for each other. They read about each other in the paper and send each other notes and encourage one another. We are all accessible and knowable. Numbers are not neutral. Size is not neutral. When we are big, we give up a lot.

Messy spirituality describes our godly incompetence. No one does holy living very well. Spirituality is the humiliating recognition that I don’t know how to pray well. I don’t understand or know how to navigate God’s word properly, and I don’t know how to competently live out my commitment to Christ. Messy spirituality affirms our spiritual clumsiness.

Jesus is saying, “Abandon yourself to the One who will never abandon you.”
Truth is, most of us have lost touch with the childlike experience of abandon. We believe in Jesus, we love the idea of Jesus, we try to do what we believe He wants us to do, but abandon everything? Abandon our job, our security, our nice home, our parents’ expectations for us, our future? Sounds scary. To be quite honest, abandon sounds irresponsible and crazy.

Abandon is definitely unpredictable, a loose cannon that could go off at any time. We can’t have people running around discarding responsible behavior in the name of Jesus. After all, every society has rules. Rules are the structures that protect us from anarchy. They tell us how we are to behave and what we are supposed to do and when we are supposed to do it. Rules and laws protect society from chaos and confusion. We can’t have people breaking the rules in the name of Jesus, can we?

Our world is tired of people whose God is tame. It is longing to see people whose God is big and holy and frightening and gentle and tender…and ours; a God whose love frightens us into His strong and powerful arms where He longs to whisper those terrifying words, “I love you.”

When it comes to the spiritual life, I am amazed how many of us don’t know how to dance. We stand before God, the music starts playing, and we are embarrassed by our incompetence. The Church has communicated that competence is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and therefore spiritual people are supposed to live faith competently.

Lost in my thoughts, I was sitting in a hotel ballroom with fifteen hundred college students participating in a college weekend faith conference. On the last day of the conference, with classes starting the following Monday, the students made it clear they wanted to prolong the conference as long as possible. They wanted to party, to dance the afternoon away, to celebrate the Lord of the dance – to resist going back into the busyness and demands of college life. The morning general session turned into a spontaneous celebration. Young men and women raised their hands, stood on chairs, shouted, cried and laughed, and suddenly a conga line broke out. Within seconds hundreds of students were weaving in and out of the room in long, raucous lines, praising their God.

An older man with cerebral palsy sat in a motorised wheelchair, watching while everyone else partied. (He wasn’t a student. Technically he wasn’t even supposed to be at the conference.) I was seated next to him, watching the students celebrate, when suddenly the wheelchair lunged forward into the celebration. The man’s arms were waving, his chair was careening around the room with a jerky, captivating motion, his mouth was struggling to open and shut, making incomprehensible sounds. Somehow a man who couldn’t dance had become part of the graceful dancing of the crowd.

Without warning, the man’s motorised wheelchair lurched forward to the base of the stage, racing back and forth through a series of figure eights, twirls and circles. He was laughing, lost in the joy of the Lord. His joy had taken a cold, ugly piece of motorised machinery and transformed it into an extension of his unconfined worship. He and his wheelchair had become one, a dancing, living thing. This man with a crippled body found a way to break free from the rigid, cold, restrictive wheelchair, and was dancing the undance-able.

I envy the man in the wheelchair. I want my crippled soul to escape the cold and sterile spirituality of a religion where only the perfect, non-disabled get in. I want to lurch forward to Jesus, where the unwelcome receive welcome and the unqualified get qualified. I want to hear Jesus tell me I can dance when everyone else says that I can’t. I want to hear Jesus walk over to me and whisper to this handicapped, messy Christian, ‘Do you want to dance?’

Dilemma

We have a loose fellowsip on Sundays evenings and we usually go to the home of our friends Karl and Saroné.  Well, Saroné is sensitive to the people around her and she has a dilemma.  She wrote to me about it in the comments of my post Tempted into doing what we’ve always wanted to do.  You can read her comment here.

 What happens when you are in a fellowship and all the parties do not agree on a lot of stuff?  Where does it place the people who do not really have made up their minds on what they believe?  And what about the people who have made up their minds?  Do they have permission to speak what they believe?  Is it necessary for the fellowship to agree on everything?  What keeps such a fellowship together?  

I thought I would open it up to everybody that reads this blog for some input.  I’ve asked her permission.  What would you do in her position?  Here is my response.

To Saroné,

if we condense the message of Jesus into three centences, it would probably be these three.

Mat 22:37  Jesus answered, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
Mat 22:39  The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’
Joh 15:12  My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you.

All my life there were 2 choices.  Right or wrong.  But during the past 6 years a new choice came into my life namely…LIFE/JESUS/LOVE.  Now I believe certain things.  Some of our friends believe different things.  Sometimes totally opposite things.  Does that matter?  Not to me.  What matters to me is “Can I love them as Jesus loves me?”  My choice is not right or wrong.  My choice is LOVE. 

Now I do believe strongly in the stuff I believe in, but it is a pale comparison to the person in front of me.  The person in front of me is loved by God.  Does God only love those of us with the right belief system?  I hope not, otherwise I am screwed.

My advice, don’t choose.  As with the choice between right and wrong, you do not have to choose between what I believe or what our friends believe. Find Jesus, but don’t go to Him for wisdom.  Don’t go to Him for knowledge.  Don’t go to Him for assurance.  Don’t go to Him in order to find the right belief system.  Go to Him, because He loves you.  Find rest in that.(This can take a while.)  Write me a post on why you are God’s favorite person in the whole wide world.  What’s your name on the white stone?  (Rev 2:17)(I asked, but I do not want to know.)

Please, for the love of God, don’t believe what I believe.  I cannot give you what is only available to you, in Jesus.  You are this tree, grass, birdy, mother, wife, arty, mountain person.  Love us then, as only a tree, grass, birdy, mother, wife, arty, mountain person can do.  Love us, as the broken people we are.

Wine

I tend to agree with Frederick Buechner.

Unfermented grape juice is a bland and pleasant drink, especially on a warm afternoon mixed half-and-half with ginger ale.

It is a ghastly symbol of the life blood of Jesus Christ, especially when served in individual antiseptic, thimble-sized glasses.

Wine is booze, which means it is dangerous and drunk-making. It makes the timid brave and the reserved amorous. It loosens the tongue and breaks the ice especially when served in a loving cup. It kills germs.

As symbols go, it is a rather splendid one.”

Jip, I tend to agree 🙂

Tempted into doing what we’ve always wanted to do

I’m going to babble a little bit.  

What are the WAYS of Jesus?  I’ve heard a few sermons over the years, talking about the ways of Jesus.  I have no idea what His ways look like, but I have a pretty good idea what it does not look like.  I’m writing this in response a post by Former Leader.  “She ends her post with these sentences.  “Then why do I not know? What is wrong with me?”  I think it is a common struggle for us.  I mean “What do we have to show?”  And by “we”, I mean the people that left the organized part of church.  Most of us are not the victorius christians you hear of every day.  Most of the time we represent the little shitty christian life.   We constantly hear messages of people who are very self-assured  that they are doing God’s will.  They have the proof.  They know the way of God.  They will do whatever it takes to get the job done.  “Join us!” is their call.  “Look, God is doing something new!” “God is doing something big!”  I’m going to represent a different perpective 🙂

First of all, I am going to take you to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.  The one in Matthew 4:1-11.  The devil waited until Jesus was at His weakest and the came with a few suggestions for Jesus.   How royally do you think Jesus looked after 40 days and nights of fasting in the desert?  He was without help, exhausted, filthy, starving, and dehydrated.  The devil seized the opening. In quintessence, he said, “Let me show you an approach to accomplish your heart’s desire.”

The first temptation
“If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.”
A few things come to mind, when I read this.  The devil temps Jesus to be what He is.  A God.  “Act like it, for crying out loud.  Be something.  What’s this hunger thing?  You don’t need all this aggravation Jesus.  Come on!!  Draw on the power You have.  Satisfy Yourself.  Save Your own life.”  Jesus did not eat for 40 days.  His primary need was for His biological needs to be met.  Maslow would call it “physiological needs”.  Stuff such as oxygen, chow and water.  Jesus says there is more important stuff than that.  The devil says; “I see You are hungry.  Now you know what it feels like.  There are a lot of people out there that are starving.  You can fix this.  People are sick, cold and homeless.  You can make this world a better place.  Come on Jesus.  What are You waiting for?”“Use the shortcut method, Jesus.”  What was Jesus waiting for?  Why did He not help Himself to some bread?  Why did He let go of His power to save Himself?   

The second temptation
Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple,  and said to him, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says, ‘God will give orders to his angels about you; they will hold you up with their hands, so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’

The devil was probably reminding Jesus of the prophecy in Malachi (Malachi 3:1 The LORD Almighty answers, “I will send my messenger to prepare the way for me. Then the Lord you are looking for will suddenly come to his Temple.  The messenger you long to see will come and proclaim my covenant.”)  which had led to a common conviction among the Jews that Messiah would unexpectedly come into view at the temple. 

He wants Jesus to jump from the top and make a show that will capture the people’s imagination.  He will surprise, astonish and fulfill their expectations, all at the same time.  “Be a showman Jesus.  Show Yourself to everybody.  I quoted from the scriptures Jesus.  Look it is in the Bible!  And we all know the Bible is inerrant.  Come on Jesus.  Draw attention to yourself.  Show Your power.  Go on an ego trip.  Draw attention.  God loves You.  He will not let anything happen to You.  Don’t be afraid.  Test God.  Let Him prove His love for You.  Oh come on.  Think of the people down there.  You could awe them into respect and obedience.  Using only this one demonstration, You can capture their allegiance forever.  Who knows, You could be a world wide success.  Come on, I’m giving you this on a plate.  What more do You want?”

The third temptation.
Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness.   “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.”

This time the devil takes God out of the loop.  “OK, Jesus, I see You are a tough nut.  Join me and I help You rule the world.  You are a ruler after all.  With Your wisdom and my cunning, we will make a great team.  What are You willing to do in order to establish the kingdom of God, Jesus?  Come on.  Think about this.  You can have splendor, instant power and significance AND You can have this while You are building the kingdom of God!  If You oppose me, there will be misery, revolt and sadness.  But do not think about it in that way.  Liberate Israel from Roman rule.  Establish righteousness and justice in the world.  Pay attention to the poor.  Bring about world peace.  Do it successfully!  Do it now!  You can do it all.  You can have it all.  Why are You content to serve God alone?  He is taking His time and He seems too have a slow and vague system of achieving results.  Let’s leave God out of the picture.  Let’s go for success and power first.  Afterwards you can bring God in on the deal.  We can leave God out for practical reasons.  Come on Jesus, you want a kingdom.  Does it matter how You acquire it?  I will use Your zeal for God and Your best side to help You get what You want.”

We will also be tempted, so what does the temptation tell us?  I think it is important to note that Jesus rejected the ways of the devil and that suggests that the devil will go on using them.

The devil will offer us the following. 

1. Power, authority and influence to do what we want.  “Of course we want what Jesus wants.  Who can be against you when Jesus is on your side?  And Jesus is all about power, ain’t He?  Come on, Jesus, be all You can be, in order that we can win and beat back our problems.  Be bold, rise up, and be obedient to the voice of the Lord. As you do, you’ll discover new strength and freedom like you’ve never experienced before, and you will discover the champion in you!”

2.  Instant results.   “Quick answers.  Working rapidly for the higher good.  “Get a successful ministry now! Not later!  Pursue these methods and the size of your youth group will double, even triple.  Raise your family this way and your children will be obedient and follow Christ.”  Remember, it is all about results.  No results indicate, you are probably not on God’s path.  Who wants to go to God with empty hands?”

3.  Significance, splendor and importance.  “Who achieved anything with anonymity and obscurity?  Be significant for God.  Become a leader in your church.  You will have the respect that you deserve.   Have an impact for Christ.  That’s what successful Christians do. If Jesus is in your life, you will be able to dazzle people.  You will have friends in high places.  You will be popular.  One day you will stand and preach to the people and be as important as the guy/lady currently doing it.” 

4.  Recognition and definitely no suffering.   “God wants you to be blessed.  Expect happiness and prosperity.  Enter this ministry and find fulfillment like you’ve never had before.   Remember, big is better.  Large can be seen.”

5.  Self-indulgence and possessions.  “Get a vision for your future! Get a vision for increase! Get a vision for abundance!” God delights to see you prosperous and successful. When you choose to think God’s thoughts and choose God’s way, you’ll see that increase and victory in every area of your life!  Don’t let yourself have a barely-get-by-mentality. Jesus came so that you can live an abundant life! That means an abundance of joy, an abundance of peace, an abundance of health, an abundance of finances.  There are incredible riches available when you invest in your relationship with God by spending time in His life-giving Word.  When you show God that you’re trustworthy, you remove the limits of what He can do in your life. This is the way to blessing and increase.”

6. Promise of security.  “You will be safe.  God will keep you.  He will protect you.  Go and read Psalm 91.  Ever heard of positive confession?” 

7. A chance to test God.  “Go on, give a tenth of what you earn.  It starts with your response to God’s offer to test Him in this area by giving to Him first.  Look it is in the Bible for crying out loud.  Give and you will receive.  Come on, test the Eternal Slot Machine.” 

8. A chance to use the kingdoms of the world to advance the kingdom of God.  “That’s right.  You can use what the world uses to help people.  Now that Jesus is on your side, you can do it better than the world.  The world likes to make noise.  Hell, we will make more.   Money?  No problem.  God is richer than anyone else.  We’ll show the world how to spent money.  We’ll show the world how to use power.  We’ll get everybody on our side by promising them security.  We can play on their fears, or appeal to their greed.  What matter are numbers.  We are partakers in the prophecy in Rev 11:15  (Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.)  Again, are you not paying attention?  It’s in the Bible!!  We will reign.  We will be rulers over all.  Come and join us in this fight.”

I could probably add a lot more.

The danger of temptation is that most often tempts us to the good or what we perceive as good.  It will never come to us and say, “Hey, want to wreck your own life or some other lives?”  We would probably decline.   Temptation usually shrouds itself in something harmless, even worthy, leaving the destructive cost in the small print that few of us bother to examine. 

Furthermore, temptation may come from a source that we do not expect. Look how the devil offered himself to Jesus. He acknowledged Jesus as God’s Son. He understood that Jesus could do wonders. He cited Scripture.  He came to Jesus in His moment of trial.  He presented to Jesus a way to accomplish His ministry.  He appeared very helpful.

God’s way is a problem to the devil.  The end does not justify the means.  We are mostly tempted towards good ends.  Why not take the good parts of being human without the difficult?  As followers of Jesus, that’s something that we often long for.  We want God to win and we want to win with Him.  Jesus was tempted to wear a crown but not a cross.  If we want to be Christ’s disciples who do God’s will, we must be cross bearers. Our temptation, like Jesus’ temptation, is to always go an easier way.  God’s way seems different.   For some reason He chooses a strange, unhurried, unobtrusive, low profile, shy, unassuming, humble, meek, ordinary love affair. 

NOW, listen again to the messages you hear.  WHAT are they telling you?