Debunking (part 3)

 Katherine wondered when this post would come out.  Well, here it is at last.  You can read the first part here and the second here.  As I’ve said, relationship entails a variety of components.(Read part 2)  Perhaps then, we should be more watchful when we say “christianity it’s a relationship.” 

I would like to suggest that we change the word relationship for the word friendship.  Jesus had all kinds of relationships with the people He met.  (Ask the pharisees what kind of relationship they had with Him.)  But He called His disciples friends.  The implications are staggering.  He simply did not come to rule over people.  The people wanted Him as a ruler, but what He wanted was friends.  How lonely He must have been at times.  He had all these expectations of the people around Him, but they all missed the fact that He wanted to be a friend.  He had to state the obvious to His disciples, otherwise they probably would never catch on to it.  Joh 15:15  I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father.

Of course His Father was a Friend to Abraham.  Isa 41:8 But you, Israel my servant, you are the people that I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham, my friend.”  He spoke to Moses as a friend. Exo 33:11  “The LORD would speak with Moses face-to-face, just as someone speaks with a friend.”  When we look at the Old Testament, God as a friend, is often overlooked.  Again, I think it is overlooked, because we do not expect Him as a friend.  Our point of view simply do not allow God this close.

Lucky for us, the Old Testament has a lot to say about friendship. 

Pro 16:7  When you please the LORD, you can make your enemies into friends.

Pro 17:17  Friends always show their love.

Pro 18:24  Some friendships do not last, but some friends are more loyal than brothers.

Pro 27:6  Friends mean well, even when they hurt you.  But when an enemy puts his arm around your shoulder—watch out!

Pro 27:17  Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

Now of course, the some of the drawbacks in relationships are also found in friendships.  You get artificial friends.  Some stick with you, but when hard times come, they betray you.   Proverbs 14:20 says,   “No one likes the poor, not even their neighbors, but the rich have many friends.”  Does that rich person have an intimacy with his/her friends, or are the so-called friends waiting around just for the feast?  Mmmm.   Perhaps the word friendship is also to easily used.

But friendship implies closeness.  It entails intimacy.  There is a familiarity about the “feel” of the friend.  As friendships grow, we begin to open doors to each other that we do not show to other people.  If we know Jesus as a friend, we know Him in ways that makes no sense to others.  2Co 4:8-9  “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair;  there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.” 

Jesus knows something about friendship.  He met strangers and called them to follow Him.  He spend 3+ years with them.  They became His friends, but when the big test came, they faltered.  What they did not know was that He fullfilled Joh 15:13  “The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them.” and when they thought it was all over, He came back to them and told them that He will always be with them.

What a friend we have in Jesus!!

In these three posts I’ve tried to show that we sometimes use a sentence without really thinking on the message we send out.  We latch onto the newest cliché without it being relevant in our lives.  We prefer that our mouths do the talking, instead of our lives.  Christianity is not a religion, it is a friendship.  Can we throw this sentence at others to show that we have a superior faith?  Yes, we can, but when we do, we are no friend of Jesus.

Question 10 + 11

These questions were triggered by Barb‘s latest post.  You can read it here.

What bothers me is the tendency of people standing up in church and then say stuff like “God is going to do a new thing“, or “God is going to do a big thing” or “God is going to do a new big thing next year” or “God is going to bless the next generation“, or “Soon, God is going to pour out His blessings in an unprecedented way“.  etc. etc. This seems to go on year after year after year after year after …

These then are my questions…

Does this mean, what God is doing NOW, is not good enough?

or

Do we have any idea what God is doing NOW?

And then I cried

Last week, Ann Voskamp wrote a post entitled “Seekers, Repenters, and Love” and I do not really have an idea why, but it touched a nerve and I cried….at work….surrounded by students.  Luckily, there are spaces in a library devoid of student activity and I quickly went there in search of a book and to finish the tears. 

There was a time, a long time ago, I decided I will never cry again.  That day, I became the mask and decided I will never allow anyone to hurt me again.  In a sense, I killed who I was.  From that day onwards, I was the good friend, the one who was there for people, but never allowed anybody close.  I stayed in the shadows.  I knew I was worthless.  Other people had value, but not me.  I carried this burden, always smiling, always looking happy. 

And then one day God came and told me He loves me.  I told Him He was nuts.  I can understand Him loving other people, but me??  Come on!!  Why me?  I fought Him, tooth and nail.  But He tends to be persistend and I lost the battle.  Since then, He dit that Ezekiel 36:26 thing where He “give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  And slowly the crying became more….and more frequently.  These days I’m useless when I try to stop the tears. 

Tears.  Salty water.  Funny enough, I’ve seen more healing taking place with tears than with good advice.  Perhaps I should tell you this story…

A few years back, we had this weekend camp where we introduce God the Father to people.  Somewhere along the weekend, we give people time to share their hurt and ask God to heal them.  There was this guy(let’s call him John) who came forward and shared how a few years back, his best friend commited suicide in front of him with his gun and how he felt responsible for his friend’s death.  This event shattered his life and it effected him in ways that he did not understand.  His marriage was falling apart and he did not know what to do.  There were about 30 of us crammed into a small room.  We prayed and asked God to do what He wants in this person’s life.  We sat on a bed and I remember a great sadness coming over me.  I went on my knees, held his shoulders tight and I began to cry.  Big drops of tears began to fell on him and my crying increased in intensity.  I remember thinking after a while, whats going on?  I’m bawling.  I cried till his back was soaked with tears.  I could not stop.  All the while, the sadness stayed.  After a while wailing stopped.  Then the tears became less and less.  Finally I looked up.  I was a mess.  Everybody was in tears.  He looked up…and smiled.  God, our Father, is a good God.  The sadness was gone.   I’m not sure what happened, but it felt like God came and with His tears, washed away John’s sadness.  (Don’t ever believe that God doesn’t feel what you feel.)  Without any advice, John’s life was changed.

There is more to this story.

One of my friends told John that God said their marriage was like the three little pigs’ story.  First, they relied on straw and then they relied on wood, but now God will give the a house of bricks.  His wife laughed and said that this camp was their last try for their marriage.  They have been seperated twice before.

That’s about it.  It’s been 6 years since.  Two weeks ago, I spoke to John’s wife and the bond between them is stronger than ever.  It seems their marriage finally found a home made of bricks 🙂

Tears.  Salty water.  It’s one of the reasons we are the church.  To hold people tight and let God love them… with His tears.

This and that and leadership

Sorry for not posting the past week.  Sometimes computers break down or the electricity goes down or the server burns down and sometimes all three happen at once 🙂

Brant talks leadership as in “LeaderMan vs. Servant Leader” and I think he has it spot-on.  So what’s the difference between the two?  Here is his words. (I’ll highlight my favourites.)

Servant Leader:  Has something to say
LeaderMan:  Wants a platform on which to say something

LeaderMan:  You almost feel you know his family, because he’s your Leader
Servant Leader:  You allow him to influence you, because you know his family

LeaderMan: Wants you to know he’s a Leader
Servant Leader:  You’re not sure he knows he’s a leader

LeaderMan:  Loves the idea of the Gospel, and the idea of The Church
Servant Leader: Loves God and the actual individual people God brings across his path

LeaderMan:  A great speaker, but self-described as, “Not really a people person.”
Servant Leader:  Makes himself a people person

LeaderMan:  Helps you find where God is leading you in his organization
Servant Leader:  Helps you find where God is leading you

LeaderMan:  Gets together with you to talk about his vision
Servant Leader:  Just gets together with you

LeaderMan:  Resents “sheep stealing”
Servant Leader:  Doesn’t get the “stealing” part, since he doesn’t own anyone to begin with

LeaderMan:  Wants the right people on the bus
Servant Leader:  Wants to find the right bus for you, and sit next to you on it

Servant Leader:  Shows you his whole heart
LeaderMan:  Shows you a flow chart

LeaderMan:  A visionary who knows what the future looks like
Servant Leader:  Knows what your kitchen looks like

LeaderMan:  If it’s worth doing, it worth doing with excellence
Servant Leader:  Not exactly sure how to even calculate “worth doing”

LeaderMan:  Talks about confronting one another in love
Servant Leader:  Actually confronts you in love

LeaderMan:  Impressed by success and successful people
Servant Leader:  Impressed by faithfulness

LeaderMan:  Invests time in you, if you are “key people”
Servant Leader:  Wastes time with you

LeaderMan:  Reveals sins of his past
Servant Leader:  Reveals sins of his present

LeaderMan:  Gives you things to do
Servant Leader:  Gives you freedom

LeaderMan:  Leads because of official position
Servant Leader:  Leads in spite of position

LeaderMan:  Deep down, threatened by other Leaders
Servant Leader:  Has nothing to lose

And from Daniel Partin in the commentaries:

Leaderman: talks about an open door policy
Servant Leader: is an open door

I enjoyed Brant’s post a lot.  So, what are your favourites and what can you add to these?

Words from the journey

I have a friend, Christo, and he talks about the lessons he learned(or not) along the way.  I love the following 2 paragraphs.  I think he has a lot of wisdom for us on the journey.

What is unknown to me is not unknown to God. Yes I know you have learned this in grade 1 and never forgot it. But I am starting to believe this: That I do not have to understand the situation to enter into it, that sometimes, well most often, understanding the situation is irrelevant.

It seems that the situation was created for me to find God there, not to solve it, not to understand it, not to learn something form it, just simply to find the Lord there. And He is there!! This is an amazing discovery for me. Venturing out in faith does actually mean just that!!  No guarantees, no security, no hope, just the PROMISE that God is there too, and He can be found there.

You can read the rest here.

Be more than you are (Becoming real)

To do for yourself the best that you have it in you to do – to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst — is by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still. The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the holy power that life itself comes from. You can even prevail on your own. But you cannot become human on your own. –  Fredrick Buechner

We grow up.  While we do, we learn.  We learn how to survive in this life.  We do what it takes.  Some of us have a lot of learning to do, for others… not so much.  As Fredrick Buechner has said “we clench our fists and grit our teeth.”  While we are learning to survive, we are also losing.  We lose what God has made.  We lose ourselves.  We may look good to others, but that what God has made, is covered by years of prevailing. 

I believe God made us and what He made is good.  But the world continuously tells us that we can be more.(The devil said so it in the garden.)  If you look like this…If you wear these clothes…If you drive this car…If you have this income…If these people are your friends…If you go to this university…If you buy my product…If you sound like this…If you do these things…you can be more.  More than what you are now.  The message constantly is…you need to be more special that you are now.  And we oblidge by chasing after all these things or people. 

The same message is being proclaimed in the church.  Give yourself to Jesus and He will make you a first-class person.  The more time you spend with Him the more “super” you will become.  You will begin to shine.  You will be seen.  In short , you will become a good person that does a lot of good things.  That’s how a real christian SHOULD look like and that is what WE EXPECT from you.  So we become people that look good.  Since we have a relative idea what good looks like, we then start to replicate acts of goodness.  Jesus only loves good little boys and girls, remember?  We become concert-driven christians giving a performance of goodness.  Because this goodness comes from us and not from God, we can measure ourselves against one another.  We can measure our humbleness.  Take pride in what we have accomplished.  There are levels of “goodness” that can be accomplished.  The more you do, the more you are.  Look at the successful christian.  Look at his car.  Look at his house.  You should be more like him/her.  Look at their smile.  You too can be this happy.  You can be more than you are. 

Perhaps I should say at this point that I do believe that God changes us into better people, but there is more to that.  I believe He changes us into REAL people.  When we meet Him, He slowly and surely takes us back to the person He has made.  When we meet God we begin a journey that is best descibed by John Newton “I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am”  We begin to find out what it means to be “what I am”.  “Throughout the Bible, God shows a marked preference for “real” people over “good” people.” Phillip Yancey

In this process we find out that we have become strangers to God.  We present ourselves to Him in a way that will impress Him.  We believe that WHAT we are, is not enough.  Somehow we need to be more.  Do more.  We try to show Him our best.  We put on a nice friendly do-gooder mask when we approach Him.  When we fail we hide from Him.(Did it work for Adam and Eve to hide?).  We play the game of performance and pretense. 

It was Blaise Pascal who said, “Not only do we not know God, except through Jesus Christ, we do not even know ourselves except through Jesus Christ.”  Thus begins a journey with Jesus where we begin to see God for the first time and in the process we begin to discover who we are.  Jesus comes and puts us in a place of brutal honesty.  We discover that we cannot impress God with our goodness.  We discover that we cannot MAKE God love us more with all our effort.  We come to a place where we discontinue any hope of pleasing Him.  Our goodness is simply never good enough.  We come to a place where we acknowledge our nothingness.  This happens at the cross when the whole person dies.(We keep on thinking that the cross is only for bad people or the bad in us.  This is a mistake. Our good also have to die.)  J. B. Phillips said this, “The “good” man, the man whose god is righteousness, has as his life’s ambition the keeping of rules and commandments and the keeping of himself uncontaminated by the world. This sounds admirable; but, as the truth of Christ showed, the whole of such living, the whole drive and ambition, the whole edifice, is self-centered. That entire process of effort must be abandoned if a man is to give himself in love to God and his fellows. He must lose his life if he is ever going to find it.”

Our lives are lies, consisting of masks that we put on for every occasion.  And all those lies encircle the lie that, what God made, is not good enough.  Of course many of us have strayed so far from Jesus that we have no idea who we are any longer.  We’ve become the lie.  In this life, we will never think of being “what God has made”, because I have to be better.  It is this life we have to lose.  The false front has to die.  As Garrison Keilor said, “Give up your good Christian life and follow Christ.” Or as Brennan Manning put it, “The preoccupation with projecting the perfect image, of being a model Christian and edifying others with our virtues, leads to self-consciousness, sticky pedestal behaviour, and bondage to human respect. As my spiritual director Larry Hein said…'”Give up trying to look like a saint.’ It’ll be better for everybody.”

Why is this so important for us in the church?  Again Merton, “Man is not at peace with his fellow man because he is not at peace with himself; he is not at peace with himself, because he is not at peace with God.”  We, in the church, are not at peace with God.  We proclaim Him to be the life-enhancer.  He is not.  He is the Life giver.  We come and ask Him to bless our deceitfulness.  And yes, we are just that.  False.  What do we give the people around us?  Fakeness?  The church is exceedingly good with fabricating illusions of wellness.  We constantly struggle to become……better, but we do not know that the greater struggle is to become REAL.  “Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy…He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone. Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  A friend of mine, Albert, says the following.  To be humble is to be known for who we really are.  Do we know who we really are?

Philip Yancy said this, “We must first receive before we can give, must possess in order to give up, must have a place before leaving it. Many Christians, diminished by misguided theology, need a healing emphasis on self-possession before they can think about self-sacrifice. Wounded children must be healed before becoming capable parents.”  Perhaps this is what this post is all about.  We tell christians to give God’s love, but we live lives that do not know His love.  We are not rooted in it and because of it, we constantly tell people to become better people without knowing what we are asking them is unworkable. 

What then, does God give us?  I think He gives us the gift of what He has made.  He gives us the value of “what we are”.  When we acknowledge our brokenness we become owners of loved lives.  We can give people “what is real” because we no longer live in the realm of “you should be better.”

WE SIMPLY SEE PEOPLE FOR WHAT THEY ARE AND NOT WHAT THEY CAN BE. 

Will we allow God to peal away all the layers of protection and show the world the person He has made?  Perhaps then, we can agree with Soren Kierkegaard who said, “Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.”