Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Church is Not an Option

Many are the times I've heard someone say something to the effect of "I don't need to be part of a church. The forest [or mountain or beach or prairie] is my sanctuary. I can worship God wherever I am."

True enough...if we just consider the last sentence. But if we are to worship God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24)  -  with our hearts, yes, but also rightly/Scripturally  -  we cannot do it completely on our own.

And I'm not just talking about checking off church membership on a list of required duties. There's something in it for us besides just keeping a rule or obeying a command. In The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee writes about the personal benefit of being a Christian as part of a larger group.

Romans 12:3-6 draws from the figure of the human body the lesson of our inter-dependence. Individual Christians are not the Body. They are its members, and in a human body "all the members have not the same office". The ear must not imagine itself to be an eye. No amount of prayer will give sight to the ear  -  but the whole body can see through the eye. So (speaking figuratively) I may have only the gift of hearing, but I can see through others who have the gift of sight; or, perhaps I can walk but cannot work, so I receive help from the hands. An all-too-common attitude to the things of the Lord is that, "What I know, I know; and what I don't know, I don't know, and can do quite well without." But in Christ, the things we do not know others do, and we may know them and enter into the enjoyment of them through others.

Let me stress that this is not just a comfortable thought. It is a vital factor in the life of God's people. We cannot get along without one another. That is why fellowship in prayer is so important. Prayer together brings in the help of the Body, as must be clear from Matthew 18:19-20. Trusting the Lord by myself may not be enough. I must trust Him with others. I must learn to pray "Our Father..." on the basis of oneness with the Body, for without the help of the Body I cannot get through. In the sphere of service this is even more apparent. Alone I cannot serve the Lord effectively, and He will spare no pains to teach me this. He will bring things to an end, allowing doors to close and leaving me ineffectively knocking my head against a blank wall until I realize that I need the help of the Body as well as of the Lord. For the life of Christ is the life of the Body, and His gifts are given to us for work that builds up the Body.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...we are all individuals, and God certainly saves each person, not just a faceless group of people. But the New Testament tells us nothing about such a thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. As Nee puts it: "God does not blame me for being an individual, but for my individualism. His greatest problem is not the outward divisions and denominations that divide His Church but our own individualistic hearts."

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Wind Ran Out of Breath

Mark 4:35-41 (The Message)

Late that day [Jesus] said to [the disciples], “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”

They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”

From my journal, December 7, 2000

I'm trying hard to imagine what that was like: fearing for your life because of a big storm and the next minute, at the command of your friend, the storm stops and you're safe.


Astonishment bordering on disbelief.

You'd try to be happy about it, but it was all just so  -  so  -  so STRANGE that all you can do is drop your jaw and gape.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...we've done a pretty good job over the years of making Jesus less and less astonishing (see a previous post about that thought HERE). To counteract that, try reading the Gospels as if you were one of the participants.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Problem with Watchman Nee

I'm almost done with my re-reading of Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life and I've got an issue I don't think I can solve.

There's so much really good stuff in this book, and it really does take a few pages to lead up to Nee's strong conclusions and statements...it's impossible to do his thoughts justice in the limited space of a blog post.

So rather than attempt to fully support any overarching theological pronouncement, allow me to sprinkle some salt here in hopes that it will create a thirst for reading the whole thing.

*  Just as no man could ever commit suicide by crucifixion, for it were a physical impossibility to do so, so also, in spiritual terms, God does not require us to crucify ourselves. We were crucified when Christ was crucified, for God put us there in Him. That we have died in Christ is not merely a doctrinal position, it is an eternal and indisputable fact.

*  There is an old world and a new world, and between the two there is a tomb. God has already crucified me, but I must consent to be consigned to the tomb. My baptism confirms God's sentence, passed upon me in the Cross of His Son. It affirms that I am cut off from the old world and belong now to the new. So baptism is no small thing.

*  [God's] finger will touch, point by point, everything that is not of Him, and will say: "This must go." Are you willing? It is foolish to resist God, and always wise to submit to Him.

*  Man's thought is always of the punishment that will come to him if he sins, but God's thought is always of the glory man will miss.

*  Because the Lord Jesus died on the Cross, I have received forgiveness of sins; because the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, I have received new life; because the Lord Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of the Father, I have received the outpoured Spirit. All is because of Him; nothing is because of me.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Truth is...I was thirsty for a rebirth of my appreciation for what Jesus has done for me and what He is doing through me. This book is a large glass of cold water.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Running On Empty?

While raking the leaves in my backyard a week and a half ago, I was listening to a Pandora station that I've titled "Three Dog Night Radio". It's full of music from the Seventies...but that's okay, because so am I.

Jackson Browne's song, Running on Empty, came on. It's always been an enjoyable listen, but with the earbuds in, I could understand the lyric better than ever before.

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields
In sixty-five I was seventeen and running up one-oh-one
I don't know where I'm running now, I'm just running on

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I'm running behind

Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive
In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don't know when that road turned onto the road I'm on

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I'm running behind

Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don't know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that'll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
Look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I'm running behind

Honey you really tempt me
You know the way you look so kind
I'd love to stick around but I'm running behind
You know I don't even know what I'm hoping to find
Running into the sun but I'm running behind

Truth is...In sixty-nine I was turning twelve and called neither the road nor much of anything else my own. Teenage angst was a couple years away and mid-life despair was unimaginable. But I consider these words now and feel empathy and compassion for those who don't know how they ended up on the road they're on...those who "don't even know what [they're] hoping to find" and constantly feel like they're running behind. I understand and ache for those who "look around for the friends that [they] used to turn to to pull [them] through; looking into their eyes [and] see them running, too."

If you find yourself at that point of your journey, I invite you to click on the "Hope" label and see what this blog has had to say about all that.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

That's My King!

Voting booths vanish. Ballots are blotted out. Opinion polls and expert analyses are absolutely inconsequential...compared to a certain Galilean carpenter.

I wish I could describe Him to you (like Dr. S. M. Lockridge does)...

Truth is...no matter who wins today's election, Jesus is still my King.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Imagine No Religion

I know, I know...everybody thinks John Lennon's song, Imagine, is so beautiful and peaceful. It's kind of become an anthem for inclusiveness and acceptance.

But have you ever paid attention to the lyric?

You've heard about Coffee With Jesus in this space before (HERE and HERE). Well, the folks at Radio Free Babylon took the time to notice Lennon's words and have them coming out of the appropriate character's mouth...followed by a fitting response from Jesus.

Then Satan just keeps pushing his point...

...until Jesus points out the irony in the whole thing.

Truth is...religion probably DOESN'T do all that much for world peace and love and brotherhood. But then, religion is only mankind's pursuit of God. Christianity, however, is the story of God's pursuit of mankind. A world full of Jesus followers whose allegiance is untarnished by man-made boundaries and anti-Biblical traditions would be a world worth imagining indeed. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Joyous Surrender

You know what an oxymoron is, right? It's when two words of a common phrase can be seen as contradicting each other. For example:

  • Jumbo Shrimp
  • Civil War
  • Political Ethics

In the worship song, Hear Our Song, Jadon Lavik, Marc Byrd, and Steve Hindalong have given us a two-word phrase that just may be asking for inclusion in that list: Joyous Surrender


joyous (joi-uhs)adj. 1. Having a happy nature or mood;  2. joyful  Synonyms: cheerful, ecstatic, exuberant, festive, jubilant, merry, upbeat

surrender (suh-ren-der) verb  1. to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; deliver up possession of on demand or under duress;  2. to give (oneself) up, as to the police;  3. to give up, abandon, or relinquish (comfort, hope, etc.)  Synonyms: abdication, capitulation, relinquishment, succumbing

And now...consider how the phrase is used in the song:

Truth is...while giving up seems like a negative thing that certainly wouldn't result in an abundance of joy, when a person stops fighting against God and instead trusts in His perfect love and says, with the Apostle Paul, "To live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21), there is a deep joy that surpasses the fleeting happiness of happenstance.

And so I joyously say...I surrender all.