A Deeper Walk
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away… But if I go, I will send him [Holy Spirit] to you.” Jesus (John 16:7, 32-33)
I don’t like writing about the Dark Night. First of all, I feel very uncomfortable equating my experiences with those who have experienced a true absence of God’s presence and extended season of desolation, especially when it is accompanied by persecution, oppression, and other tragic or “dark” encounters during the course of their Christian journey. I often feel like a novice as I read the journals and memoirs of those great saints who have traveled the road of faith before me. I do not feel qualified to talk at length about some of my experiences and when I do, I feel as though they sometimes seem trivial and fall short of a reputable example for the subject that I might be speaking about.
On the other hand, I process my thoughts better when I write and talk about them. It puts me in a vulnerable spot, but I suppose that is the risk and trade-off for trying to figure out my spiritual journey. The end result is that I might not know what I’m talking about at all, but I’m willing to take the chance for the hopeful promise that I might make a step or two forward in my understanding of who God is, who I am, and who we are together. Sometimes the risk is in proportion to the reward, so I write…and I talk…and I think, out loud.
The past few years I have met seasons of loneliness, times when God felt distant, feelings of being misunderstood, times of discontent, days of melancholy, stretches of spiritual grief, attitudes of apathy, and bouts with depression. There are probably a few other “attitudes” I have encountered, but these are some I have most commonly identified. These times are always troublesome for me. I think it goes without saying that one reason would be the overall discomfort they bring. Another reason is the doubt that invariably comes as part of the package. I do not like to feel bad…ever, and I certainly do not like feeling bad within the context of my own spirituality. Moreover, I have an especially strong distaste for these things when they are accompanied with self-doubt.
What goes on during these seasons of the soul? What is it that makes us feel so lonely and lost? Why is it, try as we might, that we cannot seem to go back to a “healthier” time in our walk with Jesus? I do not think I can speak definitively to all these questions, at least in a way that is sufficient to answer the questions for every person who may ask them, but I feel confident in sharing my own experiences and some of what I’ve learned through the process.
Studying and learning from the great spiritual masters has benefited me greatly; in particular to this writing, the journals from St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila have been most helpful. Also, there have been several contemporary sources that have helped my understanding as well: Dr. Gerald May, Dr. Bruce Demarest, Dr. David Benner, and a few others. So, what is it that I have learned or perhaps better asked, what is that I am learning?
God loves me. I love God. These are two guiding principles for my existence. These principles are challenged by issues in remediation. God wants my love to be perfected and is active in leading me in the ways of perfection. I am damaged goods on the path of restoration. While there are a number of issues that challenge me in my Christian journey, there are a few that manifest themselves as “root” causes for most of those challenges. I believe I could narrow them down to pride, independence, and idolatry.
Pride is a serious challenge. I believe the fact that on any particular day I can wake up and feel as though it has been conquered serves me as evidence that it has not… been conquered at all. Pride is a most subversive agent; it often hides in plain sight. It was pride that served as the seed of humankind’s fall; its root runs deep and its fruit is plenty.
Independence is another great challenge. Not only are we hampered by pride in overcoming independence, but we also face the challenge of the great American culture that teaches individualism and independence as virtues for which everyone is to aspire. Independence is antithetical to the very nature of our communing Triune God who is a community Himself. It was God, who when creating humanity, said that it was not good for man to be alone.
Idolatry might be the greatest challenge of them all. I recall a quote by John Calvin, who said; “The human heart is a factory of idols…Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” I am unsure if idolatry gives birth to pride and independence or if it is the other way around. These issues are so closely interrelated it is difficult to determine where the beginning point is.
How do these character challenges affect the “Dark Night” or a sense of God’s absence? What do they have to do with God’s apparent silence?
I believe the Bible teaches us that God desires each of his children (me and you and every other created soul) to be wholly complete, as He first imagined us. This, I believe, is part of the order in God’s plan of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. Therefore, God has enacted a means of being reconciled to Him through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, but that redemptive act is just the threshold—a wonderful and mysterious threshold, but a starting point nonetheless.
As we journey with God on the way of restoration and wholeness, being transformed in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, we encounter the challenges and their myriad manifestations I mentioned earlier. I could write and talk at length about so many of these challenges, but I would like to address the connection of “Dark Night” and absence/silence of God with wholeness and restoration.
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
I don’t like the idea that I am an idol factory or idolater. However, if I am honest and objective, I am an idol maker…and will likely be until Christ’s return or my life ends on this side of eternity. Perhaps a bit of clarification is in order. While God allows us to know Him, our knowledge is imperfect, although as we seek God with pure hearts in spirit and in truth, He reveals more and more of himself to us. Still, this revelation and knowledge is imperfect and incomplete. This imperfect and incomplete knowledge of God introduces a problem to us; many of us are not satisfied with incomplete pictures/images. The remedy for this problem of incomplete image is to complete it and I believe this is what many people try to do…complete the image of incomplete knowledge. This is a form of idolatry.
No matter how pure my intent and no matter how mature my spirituality is, I form an image of God in my mind and heart based on what I know of Him. I do not necessarily believe this is blatantly wicked, nor do I believe that in itself is separating from God, but it can and does create strain on our relationship with Him which has potential to lead us away from Him.
How it Works…
As I avail myself to God’s Self revealing through His Word, prayer, interacting with other believers, indwelling guidance from Holy Spirit, and many other means of revelation, I am able to form an understanding of who God is…I form an image of God. Now, some of this image may be true, but being incomplete, the best I can do is to create a “wire-frame” image of God. There are elements missing, dots remain unconnected. I have two choices at this juncture; I can continue my journey with a limited and incomplete God based upon my partial image of Him or I can complete the construction of my wire-frame with my own embellishments. Both of these options are not always done intentionally, but the process of completion often takes place nonetheless even despite our best efforts to prevent it. The end result is a god of our making whom we will often project on to others through teaching, witness, or other lifestyle actions.
God’s best is for us to know Him in Spirit and in Truth. The evidence of Scripture and the reality of the Incarnation teach us that God wants human beings to know Him. I think it stands to reason that God desires our knowledge should be true and not manufactured by us, so as we journey with Him along the way of restoration, He leads us into places of wilderness, Gethsemane gardens, and hills of Golgotha. Each of these places are defining moments for us and can be places of barrenness, loneliness, anxiety, doubt, fear, the sense of God’s absence, and places of extreme silence. It is in these places where the student is tested… the Potter beats, moulds, and shapes… the Metal smith fires, forges, hammers, and sharpens… It is in this place where false images are erased and idols are crushed.
It is important to know this defining place is not a place of punishment, but a process of refinement. It is my experience too that it is not a “one and done” visit. It seems with each visit and increasing awareness of God’s character, there is an eventual follow-up encounter for pride smashing and idol crushing. I think the process will continue until… I also believe this is a natural spiritual order.
What has been my greatest understanding as I’ve encountered these seasons of absence and breaking? Probably among the most important things I’ve come to realize is that God loves me so much that He will not leave me with a false image of Himself as long as my heart is pursuing Him. True knowledge of God is conditional; we have to be pursuing Him with humble heart and pure intent. Otherwise, even what we think we know of Him will be taken away and will lead us to our own destruction (Luke 8:18 NLT).
“God who is everywhere never leaves us…Yet he may be more present to us when he is absent than when he is present.” -Thomas Merton
I am also learning that God never, ever, truly departs or is absent from us—what leaves or betrays us is not God, but our [false] images, concepts, and sensations of God. It is here in God’s “silence” or “absence” where He can usually be found speaking His loudest. Here is the time where it behooves us to exercise our best listening skills, here in the quiet of God. In the times where we feel that God is absent, it is the time and place where we often find even greater intimacy with Him. Do not despair in the moments of desolation and loneliness…for it is here that God’s presence is even more manifest.
Jesus cried out with a loud voice: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
In the ancient Palestinian wilderness, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Golgotha’s Hill—God spoke with non-words and was present in His absence. As paradoxical as it may seem, I believe there are times when God is even more present in His absence than He is present in His presence.
God is specially present in the hearts of his people by his Holy Spirit. Indeed the hearts of holy men are truly his temples. In type and foreshadow, they are heaven itself. For God reigns in the hearts of his servants. There is his kingdom.” -Jeremy Taylor
Lectio Divina: Luke 19:28-44
“…because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” (Luke 19:44 NRsV)
These tragic words fall at the end of the narrative in Luke’s Gospel describing the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Triumphal Entry, sometimes I wonder if that really is the best description of what takes place in this account, but I’ll save that thought for another time.
These are horrific words coming from the mouth of Jesus. The strange, if not ironic thing about this indictment, is that the people were recognizing something about Jesus, but they failed to recognize THE THING about Jesus. It is apparent in their accolades, greeting, and cheers, they wanted a savior, but they were not interested in a visitation from their God.
As I read this account, the tragedy here was not so much the “wrong want” as much as the big miss. I think it was natural—is natural—to wish to be freed from oppression and injustice. Desire for a leader to push back the Roman was an acceptable want. The heartbreaking reality is in the course of intently searching for a fix for their desires they missed the greatest blessing of all: God was in their midst.
The focus of their search was no longer vertical, with eyes looking to and for God, but horizontal…toward an immediate and felt relief of their most obvious aches and pains. I think, had they been looking for and attentive to God, they may have realized their deeper needs over their felt needs and had both met…instead of having neither met.
Herein lies a broader lesson for me. The people onsite for Jesus’ triumphal entry had no realization of their true identity. They thought they were the people of God; yet, on another occasion Jesus had told most of them they were deceived even calling them sons of the devil (John 8:39-47). They did not know who they were, so they did not know what they needed…consequently, they were not looking for the right remedy for their true need—
And they did not recognize the time of their visitation from God.
I wonder how many times a day this happens to me. God is omnipotent, imminent, and transcendent. His Spirit is everywhere and sustains all things—even in me and sustains me as it did those ancient Jews present on the day of Jesus’ return to Jerusalem. How often do I not recognize my own personal visitations from God? Am I present to His grace and nearness, His voice of guidance and comfort, throughout my day? Too often, I might be found looking for an immediate fix for my most present desires; I’m probably looking for the wrong need in the wrong place. The truth is that I rarely understand any of my real needs without first opening myself to God and consequently I do not recognize the time of my visitation of God.
O Gracious and Eternally Present God,
Help me to be attentive and open to You always. I know I am easily distracted and often mistake what my needs are. I know, O God, that you are my sustaining Bread of Life and Eternal Living Water. Help my heart to remain focused upon You, so I might never miss Your visitation. I need You and You alone ever present and always the center of my days. Thank You for Your mercy and thank You for Your grace. All glory and honor to You reigns eternally together, The Father, The Son, and the Blessed Holy Spirit. Amen.
Devotion that Keeps Me From Straying
“They are a people whose heart goes astray, and they do not regard my ways.” (Psalm 95:10)
As I begin this journey into the Lenten season, there are a few things I need to be aware of—a caution or two that I will add to those I mentioned from yesterday. When I read the line above from the psalm this morning, my immediate response was a bit judgmental and flavored with disdain. You know, something like, “How could those ungrateful people be so quickly led astray from God?” It didn’t take very long before the Spirit began to unravel some of my judgmental attitude and reflect it back to me. We can all become fragmented in our attention and led astray. Emilie Griffith speaks to this with her words here:
“For many of us the constant onslaught of errands and duties may pile up until it becomes a wall between us and God. We do not consciously turn away from God. Instead, we drift away, like ships without rudders, with no particular aim in mind. Therefore, one thing we can do in Lent is to make a deliberate return.” -Emilie Griffith; Small Surrenders
Little by little, the worries and distractions of life can turn our attentions away from devotion to God. We think we are still being attentive to Him by acknowledging Him with our lips, but the reality of our living and lifestyle do not reflect one who regards His ways. We think, like Peter did, with the mind of man… and this earned him a rebuke from Jesus, who called Peter “Satan.”
“Christians who permit themselves to be shaped by secular culture are guilty, not only of betraying God, but losing their own true selves. -W. Paul Jones
What is the remedy for this? I believe the first step is awareness; knowing that the possibility of distraction is real and can affect even the most resolute person of faith. Secondly, I think having a regimen or established discipline is helpful to keep us tethered or grounded in our devotion. Some of these disciplines can seemingly become rote acts of devotion, even appearing to be dry, lifeless, and fruitless. I suppose that can be a real concern, but in my life’s experience I have found even in the rote acts I am tied to the God I am devoted. This devotion stems from a desire to follow Him and know Him with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. Through faith, I believe He honors that devotion…even if it is sometimes shared in a rote act. That action, no matter how dry it might be, is still an act of devotion born of the desire to remain connected to the God who created me and it keeps me from becoming so distracted that I stray and fail to regard His ways.
“Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, ‘Come, let us worship other gods’—gods you have not known before—do not listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul.” -Deut. 13:1-3
This is kind of scary; maybe it even seems a little tricky and unfair to us. The LORD says He will test us to see if we will stray. He will test our love and devotion. This provides me with all the incentive I need to stay on my toes and remain alert. It is precisely the reason that I need disciplines…rote or otherwise to keep me rooted, grounded, tethered, and anchored to the God of my faith.
A couple of other thoughts occurred to me while I was in Scripture today. While reading a text from John’s Gospel, these words stirred me: “When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’” (John 1:38)
I found these words encouraging. As I follow Jesus into this season of repentance and reset, I hear him asking me; “What are you looking for?” I believe as we journey together, I will be able to identify what I am looking for…and I will be able to communicate that to him. Actually, I believe as I walk with Jesus, he will help me to realize what I’m looking for…and realize I have found it fully and completely in Him.
“God’s way can be grasped only in prayer. The more you listen to God speaking within you, the sooner you will hear that voice inviting you to follow the way of Jesus. For Jesus’ way is God’s way and God’s way is not for Jesus only but for everyone who is truly seeking God. Here we come up against the hard truth that the descending way of Jesus is also the way for us to find God. Jesus doesn’t hesitate for a moment to make that clear.” -Henri Nouwen
Finally, another word, this from the apostle Paul to the Titus, lifted my spirits as well. I know; experience has shown me, that I will get tired during these 40-days. I will go through a bout or few of depression and even may get a bit discouraged by my own weaknesses. I may begin to doubt that I will accomplish what God desires for me. These following words will serve me as a reminder to be encouraged during these low times:
12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11-13 NRSV)
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord have mercy.
O God, Maker of all mankind, give the rewards of joy, grant the gifts of graces, dissolve the chains of quarreling, and bind fast the agreements of peace. Almighty God, ever-lasting Father, your love was poured forth upon our world from the cross. As we have come to know the grace of our Lord’s resurrection, grant that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we may rise with him to new life. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.
Shrove Tuesday: Resolve and Recommit
O LORD, I call to you; my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry; lest, if you do not hear me, I become like those who go down to the Pit. Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies.
The expression “Shrove Tuesday” comes from the word shrive, meaning “confess.” Related popular practices are associated with celebrations before the fasting and religious obligations associated with the penitential season of Lent. The term Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.
The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of Confession and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the custom for Christians to be “shriven” before the start of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is the last day of “shrovetide”, somewhat analogous to the Carnival tradition that developed separately in countries of Latin Europe. The term “Shrove Tuesday” is no longer widely used in the United States or Canada outside of Liturgical Traditions, such as the Lutheran, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic Churches. (Ref. from article on wikipedia)
This is a season of transition for me and I think it appropriate to make mention of it on this Eve of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season. I am in the midst of transition with my health, realizing the need to pay closer attention to the changes in my body, the genetic/hereditary gifts passed on to me, and the wear that comes naturally with advancing years. I am also in transition as I stand at the threshold of new chapters in my life…that is, transitions into my future. While I do not feel anxious or nervous about these transitions, I am very aware of their gravity and all the myriad effects they will have upon me and those people who are closest to me.
“You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell, for I the LORD dwell among the Israelites.” (Numbers 35:34)
I believe this is a critically important time for me spiritually. There seems to be a sweep of urgency that has washed over me during the past several weeks…and I’m not sure I was aware of the arc of its reach until even now as I write these words.
I believe I am sensing the call of the Spirit to focus upon my commitment and consecration to God’s rule in my present life and my future life. During the period of Advent and Epiphany, I spent much time in reflection and meditation about my present state (mind, body, soul, and strength). I allowed God, the Holy Spirit, to take inventory and guide me through the areas of my life needing attention and I trust the things that were revealed to me are the things I need to take action. I have reordered my personal rule and presently active in pursuing God’s action plan for me.
This focus seems to be a natural fit with the theme of Lent; and as such, I will employ the time, tools, and the effort to reset, resolve, and recommit myself wholly to the purpose and process of God’s working in and through my life.
“You refused to go into the ‘land’ God has already given to you… you grumbled about where God was leading you… God says; ‘Have no fear, I go before you, but in spite of this, you have no trust in the LORD your God.’” -Deuteronomy 1:19-33
The past couple days have been interesting reading in my Bible. Yesterday, I was spending time in the closing chapters of Numbers and the following words, “You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell, for I the LORD dwell among the Israelites” (Numbers 35:34) stimulated many thoughts…
Meditating on how this Word extends into my/our world today. Considering the immediate applications in sustainable living, processed food diets, physical health. Considering the socio-political ramifications… and considering the state of my spiritual ecosystems. Much that can be said and much that can be done to right errant courses. Praising God for His good Word to me today.
What is the “land” ??? My physical neighborhood. My social groups/communities and relationships. My physical body. The playground of my thoughts–my mind. My children and my progeny. The places/lands where I have influence in the global arena… and how do my living and consumer habits affect societies and the “land” that extends beyond my immediate borders? There is much to consider.
My reading from today was no less impacting… continuing in a similar line of thinking I was reminded of the Israelites unwillingness to enter into the “land” God was leading them. I note they grumbled and complained, and seemed ill prepared to “follow” him. Their attitude revealed at its foundation a complete lack of trust in God.
I absolutely do not want this in my life. I believe Christians are guided by the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If this is true, then the urging and unction…the readings and revelations are guided by Him. If this is true, I have the choices of obedience and following His guidance or disobedience and refusal to go into the land He has given to me.
Where is this “land” God is drawing me to? I’m not entirely sure of those specifics, but I’m not fearful either. I think; however, in my case, I identify more with Caleb and Joshua (Deut. 1:34-40) than I do the belligerent Israelites of this story—I believe the “land” is good and God goes before me—although I do believe that I need to strengthen my resolve…I need to be more forthright and focused, determined. I need clarity of vision in order to make the transition to this “land” God leads me securely and successfully. I need good health, a clear mind, and a full spirit. I need eyes that see and ears & heart that hear—I need sensitivity to the Spirit’s Wind no matter the direction or degree that He or She may blow.
“You will seek the LORD your God, and you will find him if you search for him with all your heart and soul…because the LORD your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you or destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them.” -Deuteronomy 4:25-31
This Lenten season will be time for me to reset, resolve, and recommit to the transition of a new chapter of life for health, ministry, relationship, and community. I am positive this is the “land” God is leading me to…I will prepared, commit, and follow. May God be glorified. Amen.
What needs to happen for you to go deeper with God?
Turn to God quickly and completely. Be converted to him. Do not keep procrastinating. It is a huge sin to expect God to me merciful while we continue a sinful life. It is a common mistake to think that the mercy of God is so great that there will be no punishment. We live in a tiny moment of time. All of our time, compared with eternity, is nothing. It is a serious waste to let a day go by without allowing God to change us.
Conversion is a total turning to God. This means we turn away from the world with its sin. If we choose to turn away from God we ignore the good that never changes. Our affections and our behavior need to be changed. You will be converted when you have made a complete turn toward God. Your mind will meditate upon him. You will understand that you live your life under God. The psalmist writes, I have set the LORD always before me. Notice that he says “always.” This is different from an occasional glance in God’s direction while preoccupied with the things of this world.
Again, the psalmist declares, My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. These words make it clear that if, we do not habitually focus our interior eyes on Christ, we will be caught in the snare of temptation. In fact, if our soul’s attention is not riveted on God, being completely converted to him, there are going to be some traps along the way for us.
Many claim to be willing to turn toward God but believe that responsibilities in this world prevent it. If they were touched in the slightest way by the love of Christ, they would immediately try to find a way to serve God. They would keep looking until they find it. -Richard Rolle; The Fire of Love
Putting Jesus in the Friend Zone
Readings: Exodus 12:30—27:21
As I continue reading through the Bible and the Book of Exodus, a picture has emerged in my mind as I reflect and consider the passages I’ve read in parallel with life and culture. I would caution about reading too much into my metaphor of “Friend Zone,” but it seems an accurate assessment if not taken too literally. #enddisclaimer
One theme I know is true, but never seem to remember how boldly it is proclaimed is God’s call for purity, fidelity, focus, and detail with the scope of relationship between God and man. God establishes laws, boundaries, and instructions for every aspect of living in community with Him and even extends the same measure of detail for living and relationships for the community itself. Essentially, after freeing the covenant peoples of Israel, God defines the relationship; He dictates the conditions to Moses and Moses reads them aloud in painstaking detail to the people.
“Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people: and they said, ‘All that the LORD as spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.’”(Exodus 24:7)
Even with the oath and proclamation of obedience by the people, God knows in advance they will not “be perfect as He is perfect.” He establishes a means of forgiveness and cleansing for the sins of the people in the system of sacrifices and offerings; therefore, when the people fail to follow the rules of relationship, there is a means of reconciliation in place to prevent fracture and break-up and provide restoration.
As the years pass, so does the honeymoon stage of the relationship between the covenant people and God. The relationship itself is taken for granted by the people and the sacrificial system becomes a justifying means to an end. The attitudes of the people become apathetic, non-committal, and adulterous toward their God. The sacrifices necessary for redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of the people mean nothing to those who offer the sacrifices and ultimately mean nothing to God (Isaiah 1:11-12; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21).
I hope I’m not reading too much into what I’ve perceived, but it seems to me that the trajectory of the relationship was something like this: God establishes and defines the relationship between He and the Israelites; the Israelites agree to the lifestyle of purity, civility, and fidelity God defines; God provides a means for the Israelites restoration when they fail their commitment. As the timeline continues and the commitment made by the Israelites is diluted through their generations, the people move from offering sacrifices for their failures to not recognizing their failures at all. In effect, the people, by the association of their actions, redefine the relationship with their God. What God calls sin, the people fail or rarely recognize as such. The people boldly engage in worship of false gods, mistreat their fellow human beings, lie, cheat, and steal from one another…and more, all of which were clearly defined as abhorrent and unacceptable to God. It appears a combination of things occurred in the hearts and minds of this former covenant keeping people; one is that they stopped caring about the Creator God who had rescued and provided for them all the years of their existence, and another is that it appeared they no longer considered many of their actions sin.
Years pass and Jesus steps into the scene. No longer, does man have to live behind the blemished façade of a false self; God comes to dwell amongst men and provide them a means to be wholly reconciled and fully restored to the imago dei (Image of God). Man no longer has to live in sin (hamartia: missing the mark of God), but God in the flesh shows man the way to accurately reflect and embody the divine nature.
Fast Forward Some More
Here we are; today, the world in which we live. It often seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. From ancient middle-eastern culture to modern western society, the attitudes and excuses of living and life seem to spring remarkably from the same headwaters: selfish pride. We enjoy having “God on our side.” We like the benefits of name-dropping; “Yo, me and J.C. are tight.” It is comforting to us to think we have an omnipotent God to turn to when the pressures of life squeeze tight. While we might not say it, we often treat God like our “Ace in the hole” only calling Him out when all our other “cards” fail to produce the winning hand for us. Many of us, calling ourselves Christians, live a dual life—keeping God separate from most of the messier areas of our life—our relationship with God resembles the “pretty room” many of us might remember we or our friends had as kids growing up. You know the one I’m talking about; it’s the room that was perfect that no one was allowed to go in or sit on the furniture and strictly made for looking at…no practical function whatsoever. Yeah, that’s the sum of much Christianity today, except that in reality it is not even pretty to look at if we are truly honest with one another and it certainly doesn’t look like anything passable for the Christianity that is modeled in our Bibles.
What Is Wrong
My opinions are my own, but I would like to offer them for consideration. I think there are several factors that are damaging the cause of spiritual transformation in the image of Christ. The first problem is a theology that has deviated from the Trinitarian example of our Lord Jesus. Many people seem to have abandoned the God of the Old Testament entirely or relegated Him to “mean and angry old God” status, openly thankful that they do not have to deal with that God now that Jesus has “taken over.” This attitude and belief is a form of Marcionism, which was denounced as heresy as early as the mid second century. Interestingly enough, this belief seems as strong and prevalent as it ever may have been if not stronger. Other heresies involving Jesus that have significant impact on how we respond to God and His work of spiritual transformation in us include forms of Docetism and Eutychianism, both of which argue points of Jesus’ nature of being fully man and fully God. The damaging point for us as followers is that embracing these beliefs (even through ignorance) presents challenges that can be almost impossible to overcome. I have heard it said many, many times from believers; “I cannot follow Jesus and be like him. Jesus was God and I am not.” While Jesus is God and I am not is a true statement, the greater truth is that we can follow him. God has imparted the divine nature to be shared in us (2 Peter 1:3-7) for the very reason of walking as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6).
I think the bottom line after accounting for the ignorance of our beliefs and heresies, is that many of us have not “died to self,” which is arguably the first step to becoming a disciple of Christ and becoming transformed into the image of God (Luke 14:25-27). Without this critical first step, we remain in charge of ourselves and constantly redefine the relationships (be that as it may) that we have with the Trinitarian God to suit our own needs at the time whatever they may be. This is not Christianity—it is Meianity and it doesn’t fly with the call of Christ to “Follow Me.”
God Almighty came to this earth setting aside his divine right, so we might become one with the Godhead (Philippians 2:5-7; John 17:20-23). It is the desire of God to share intimately His oneness with us, but there are conditions and distinctives He has given us for that level of relationship to be made true in us. We, listen to the words of God who defines the relationship and become dismayed, but we like Jesus…we just don’t want to marry Him. Jesus wants intimacy and monogamy, we do not want that level of commitment and want to be free to do what we want when we want. So, we respond; “Jesus, can’t we just be friends?” I believe the Bible teaches us that proposition is rejected, at least in the sense that we mean it. Being friends with Jesus inside the marriage relationship is good and “yes.” Trying to be friends with Jesus outside of the covenant of marriage with Him is difficult to impossible and in my opinion an emphatic “no.” Truly, we cannot relegate God to the “Friend Zone” and expect to be a part of His Kingdom. The teaching of the Bible does not support that ideology (Matthew 7:21).
Advent: Year C [04DEC12] Theme for week 1—Waiting & Hope
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? Says the LORD… Trample my courts no more—I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean …cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. If you are willing to be obedient, you shall eat the good of the land. (Isaiah 1:10-20)
God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. You are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us. (1 Thess. 1:4, 10)
Happy are those who delight in the LORD and meditate on his word both day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither… –Psalm 1:1-3
It strikes me, as I read these words, the key to obedience and “leaves that never wither” is a hearty knowledge and intimate relationship with God. “Cease to do evil—learn to do good;” says the LORD. Then the psalmist writes meditate on God’s word day and night; those who do are like the “trees planted along the riverbank.”
But you, O LORD, you are my glory -Psalm 3:3
I remember this past summer traveling to the arid regions of Eastern Washington State. The hills, valleys, and plains were brown and sparsely vegetated. We visited an area around the Columbia River, a town named Wanatchee, where there were acres and acres of orchards—apples, peaches, cherries, and more—all planted along the river and producing hundreds of thousands of bushels of wonderful fruit. The juxtaposition of all the green foliage against the backdrop of dry, brown, terrain was very vivid and still has a very strong imprint in my memory. I think about my relationship with Jesus as I think about those leaves that never wither and those orchards planted along the Columbia River in Wenatchee. I want to be like those trees. I want strong roots that reach deep into the water table. I want to meditate on God’s word day and night….learning what it means to do good and not simply follow religiosity for the sake of being a rule follower. I desire to dance with the Godhead in delight that never grows old, but is fresh every day…like the trees along the riverbank whose leaves never wither.
“We preach not one advent only of Christ, but a second also, far more glorious than the former. For the former gave a view of his patience; but the latter brings with it the crown of a divine kingdom.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem
Today I think about how Advent waiting teaches me the discipline of patience, and I believe patience is as much a discipline of grace as it is a gift of love. Patience is a necessary component of love (1 Cor. 13 “Love is patient”) and must be cultivated in the life of every believer-follower if we are to truly bring forth the type of fruit that lasts, the type of fruit we were chosen for. Waiting teaches us patience and patience bears fruit. I think there is also a certain reciprocity in learning patience too. Waiting teaches me patience, but patience developed helps me to wait with confidence and an air of calm—capable of performing daily tasks and living with purpose even when I am still waiting, looking forward for what is to come. Waiting and patience… two sides of the same coin?
But you, O LORD, you are my glory -Psalm 3:3
As I consider hope today, I consider whether a person can have hope without having patience as well. I do not believe it possible…I don’t think it is plausible for a person to have real (TRUE) hope without having at least a modicum of patience. Hope is seasoned by the grace of patience and learns not to be intemperate or anxious in the throes of waiting. A “patient hope” helps me in the seasons of cold, the dark, and dry to look forward to seasons of fruit-bearing and seasons of harvest. Hope helps me to hang on for days, weeks, and/or months of doubt, because hope is also rooted in patience, sustaining the wait no matter the length of its season.
But you, O LORD, you are my glory -Psalm 3:3
You, O Lord, have promised to come and make all things new, to dwell among us as our God and embrace us as your people, to wipe every tear from our eyes, and remove from us all pain, so that we may live forever in peace and security. Renew in me, O Lord, the hope of the new day and renew in this new day the hope of a new heaven and a new earth where you will reign in light and we will live in peace.
Help me, O God, to learn patience as I rely on you for my daily bread; waiting with hope for your kingdom to come and your will to be done on this present earth as your will is done in heaven. O God, your seed has been planted in me—may it be fully formed, matured and bringing forth the fruit of Christ’s glorious image formed in me while I wait. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus, come.
Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
But you, O LORD, you are my glory -Psalm 3:3
A Week (weak) of Reflections & Examinations—Jeff’s Journal
I’ve been reviewing and reflecting on the writings in my journal from the past several days. As we approach this season of Advent, the season of expectant waiting, I notice in my writing the tension of a long period of waiting already. I am not sure if the analogy is an appropriate or “right” one, but it goes something like this. Many of my spiritual days over the past few years have been spent as if I draw in a deep breath, hold it until almost blacking out and then exhale with loud, “wooshing” sigh—feeling tired and almost spent—then deeply drawing in another big breath to hold…starting this exhausting process all over again. I think this sounds something worse than it actually is, but there is a certain “yes” and “not quite” that I experience on the way of my Christian journey that is difficult to explain. I “see and hear” these deep inhales and exhales in my writings…I’ll let them speak for me.
(17NOV12) To whom shall I go, O Lord? You alone have the words of life, and I have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God. Praise be to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory. Sometimes though, I admit, I get tired…I get tired of praying, I get tired of waiting, I get tired of looking. But I will keep on praying, watching, looking, and waiting because as Peter said to you, “I have nowhere else to go.” Even as you are God in flesh, Jesus, You know all the sufferings and loneliness that a man will face. You were driven into the desert wilderness, You were rejected by your people as well as your closest friends…and you were also given over to the cross to become an innocent—murdered for the sins of humanity—even my sins.
You are God… Teach me to count my days that I might gain a wise heart. Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love, so I might rejoice and be glad all my days. (Ps. 90:2, 12, 14)
(18NOV12) “This is but the beginning of birth pangs.” -Jesus (Mark13:8)
(20NOV12) As I sit here, the beating of my heart, the ebb and flow of my breathing the movements of my mind are all signs of God’s ongoing creation in me. I pause for a moment, and become aware of this presence of God within me and respond with these thoughts… I am the reflection of Your image, O God, as broken and fragile as I am, it is amazing that I still bear the image of the great God who created me. I ask for Your help and Your forgiveness for the many ways I “miss the mark” of Your image and thereby sin against You and Your image. I pray, O Lord, for more of Your presence and more of Your Spirit in my life—a reminder that You are always near—forever with and within me, faithful to complete the good work You have started in me. I pray that I might see all You have planned and foreordained for the people who follow You and proclaim You as their God. Amen.
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the LORD, is my strength. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
(21NOV12) In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I will ask God’s help, to be free from my own preoccupations and pretensions; I will ask to be open to God in this time of prayer, to come to love and serve Him more. Help me, O Lord, to be ever more conscious of Your presence. Teach me to recognize Your presence in others. Fill my heart with gratitude for the times Your love has been shown to me through the actions and words of others and help me to be aware of the times it is You who works through me. I believe and trust in God the Father Almighty; I believe and trust in Jesus Christ His Son. I believe and trust in the Holy Spirit. I believe and trust in the Three in One.
I will study the way that is blameless. When shall I attain it? (Psalm 101:2)
And this is part of my heart’s cry… I think it is what drives me to the place of mourning my own “unworthiness” of poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3-4). I read the remaining words of the psalmist from Psalm 101 and he asks; “When will I attain the way of blamelessness?” Here follows his list of “ways to walk.” (1) with integrity of heart (2) no evil or wicked thing before his eyes (3) avoid the works of those who are not on-the-way (4) steer clear of perversity and evil (5) no slanderous talk (6) refrain from haughty and arrogant attitudes (7) no quarter given to any lies or deceit (8) seek to eradicate evil and evil doers. I like to tell myself that I am onboard with this list, but every time I take inventory and do a sweep of my heart, I find another pile of this junk. Ugh! Is there no end??? I will study the way that is blameless. When will I attain it?
My eyes fail from watching for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise. Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes… My eyes shed streams of tears because your law is not kept. (Especially with me) Psalm 119:123-124, 136
From James (James 3:13-18) come additional words that can be helpful for cleaning crud from my heart. James says; “Show your good life with works done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts do not be boastful and false to the truth… Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” I pray, O God, You to help me act on these areas you bring notice of in me. Help me to yield and be open to all the areas that need refining within me. Do Your work and help me to partner with You in the ways that are blameless and in some way… through the suffering You endured, attain the righteousness You impute to me. I pray Your help. Amen.
(23NOV12) “Hear my prayer, O LORD: let my cry come to You. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call. I do not sleep; I am like a lonely bird on the housetop. (Psalm 102:1-2, 7).
Pray always—and do not lose heart—will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night? …When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth? (Luke 18:1-8)
James (James 5:7-8) continues his wise counsel to me; “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord, The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” I’m learning patience, with fits and starts, stumbles, crumbles, and some successes…I’m learning to wait. Perhaps the tension will always be with me; I don’t know how it will all work out, but I do know that in the tension and with the wait God is near and within me. It is with this knowledge and affirmation of His word that I will persevere. Where else can I go?
Promises – Promises
I’ve had Psalm 119:50 pinned with a post-it note to the screen of my laptop computer for a couple of weeks now. I haven’t wanted to take it down as I continue to receive “comfort” and fresh insight from it.
“This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life.” Psalm 119:50 NRSV
What are the promises that give me comfort? Well, there are many, to be sure, but in particular, there are two specific promises that have become my anchor. There is one promise that I call the promise of eternity past and another I refer to as the promise of eternity future; eternal promises that give me life today…on this side of eternity, while we wait.
The First Promise
The first promise or what I refer to as a promise is the world as God originally created it. This is the world of Eden as depicted in the early chapters of Genesis (Genesis 1:26-31). This is the world before sin entered. Regardless of whether you accept these passages as literal or metaphorical, the intent of the story is clear; this is a world and humanity that is created in the image of God and in its present state is perfect and able to share complete fellowship with its Creator. I suppose the “state of something” is not technically a promise, but it occurs to me that to know this was God’s intent for His creation is to also accept this as a plan or destiny for all His people, “Be fruitful and multiply…fill the earth…” (Genesis 1:28). The first promise is God’s intention of peace, perfection, and eternal fellowship with the Holy “Us” (Genesis 1:26).
The Second Promise
Promise number two is found in Revelation 21:1-22:7. Again, this is more a state of being than it is a contractual promise. In this account, we are taught that the fulfillment of all things has taken place and a new heaven and new earth have been ordered. “The home of God is now among His people; death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). This is something the Lord promises will happen; He says, “These words are trustworthy and true…” (Rev. 22:6).
“This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life.”
If these “promises” are my comfort, what is my distress?
My distresses are often petty things like unmet expectations, self-imposed religious rules, and judgmental performance metrics for me and for others who “aren’t like me.” My distresses are sometimes significant and serious things like wondering how to pay a doctor bill when there’s no insurance, trying to figure a way to get a child home for the holidays from college when there’s no money in the bank, and the ever constant battles involved with “denying self” daily. Then there are the tragic distresses that rage daily, broken relationships, sickness, death…deceit, the oppression of people and children, poverty, famine, and war. It can be, and often is, so tiring and overwhelming.
We’re hopeful people though, we Christians. We wake up and try hard to do the right things with expectations that things will get better, but sometimes they don’t. We raise our children in the church with the hopes they will follow the way of Jesus on their own someday… some kids do, while others do not. We hope by “right living” and honoring God that it will go well with us; meaning, we will live prosperous, healthy, and meaningful lives—sometimes this is true for people and other times it is not.
We tell ourselves and try to believe that God is with us. Somewhere deep within, our soul we say, bears a witness that God is with us… “we know that we know that we know” or something like that. When we read or hear God’s Word, there is a resonance that it is True, but God is invisible…except for the tangible things He has provided (air, gravity, water…etc.). Faith is tough and can be the source of distress sometime. Jesus said it was better for Him to leave us, so the Holy Spirit would come to indwell each and every believer. I believe this is true. I believe God indwells me. I believe God directs me, guides me, comforts me, and “speaks” to me. But all of this can be a source of distress to me at times.
I have been created in the form of flesh. I have multiple senses; touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing… God created and God given. So many times though we speak of God in esoteric terms and we act as though Invisible God is the normal way for Christian believers to interact with God and speak of Him. We end up living our lives in some weirded-out metaphor. I think speaking honestly about our state of present being is better than trying to deceive ourselves into believing otherwise. I realize my words sound depressing, but really they are not.
My distresses are real, but so are my joys and so is my hope. My hope and my joy are found in the promises I mentioned earlier where the promise of eternity past and the promise of eternity future are reconciled and joined. In the middle of this time… between the bookends of these promises, I learn to live with an attitude of holy indifference knowing that God is present even if I do not see Him. God loves me even when I do not feel His hug. I learn to look for the presence of Christ in the smells, words, and actions of others; His Spirit, after all, animates them. I learn to accept the down payment of promise of eternity future in the things I can accept today. I live as a kingdom citizen today while I wait for the kingdom of tomorrow. When I grow weary I remember the way things were and the way things will be.
“This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life.”
Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus, Come.
Seasons. Cycles. Ups, downs, and plateaus. Times of plenty and times that are lean. Times of good and times that are not-so-good. This is life. Sometimes we don’t notice it as such because we are so involved in the race of life itself …it can be difficult to notice the cycles, but they are always there.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. -Philippians 4:12-13 NIV
While seemingly written to address life in general, I think these words of Paul might be equally applied to the seasons of life and the seasons of the soul. I am hopeful that I find, one day, that same place of quiet, peaceful, comfort, and assurance.
I wrote a few days ago about the invisible God. Some of the thoughts I was having then were sparked by the same things going on in my soul even now. As I said then, I will say now; the condition of my soul is good. I have this assurance and peace that is faithful and solid, but seasons are still what they are and they are uniquely different, one from the other.
I don’t think I would classify my current season as a season of “dry” or “dark.” I know there have been seasons where my journey with Jesus has been nothing short of electrifying and there have been seasons that have been varying degrees less than electrifying, but still very much alive and active. I’m speaking in terms of the “felt presence of God” or other tactile senses…”feelings.” This, my present season, is not one of those times.
Although the reading of my spiritual landscape seems less busy and more quiet, it isn’t so in terms of God’s nearness to me. He manifests Himself in countless ways throughout my day and week. It’s humorous to me that just this week a friend from my small group emailed me a video lecture of a man who was speaking about the very nature of this spiritual season I might be experiencing. Serendipity? Coincidence? Providence? I had to chuckle as I was watching and listening to it.
It seems as though I might be complaining about the state of my soul, but I’m not… well, not entirely anyway. I feel at peace, but I feel a bit restless too and I think this is the nature of my complaint, if there is one. I’m troubled by my restlessness. I have God…and I think, God has me. What else is there? I am aware that not a moment of my life escapes me that God is not with me. The presence of God is within me; guiding, teaching, comforting, protecting, nurturing, restoring, healing, and so much more. Why, then, do I feel restless? God is enough! Isn’t he?
I “stumbled” over some prayerfully encouraging words from Teresa of Avila earlier this week that have comforted me. I was also led to read from Psalm 149, amongst others, which led me to some other words and thoughts that have been my prayer this week.
Teresa of Avila writes; “Let nothing disturb you; let nothing frighten you; the one who clings to God, will lack nothing… God alone is enough.” I have been letting these words play again and again through my mind and heart, letting them become the prayer of my breath since reading them earlier this week.
Another prayer I wrote in my journal a couple days ago continues to be a life-giving reminder to me.
I forget; the LORD takes delight in people… I forget; the LORD takes delight in me.
God is with me; but more, God is within me. I dwell for a moment on God’s life-giving presence in my body, in my mind, in my heart, as I write these words even now. I will close out the noise, I will rise above the noise—the noise that so quickly intercepts and separates, the noise that isolates. I need to always and only listen to God, who is always with and within me.
I remind myself that the LORD takes delight in his people… I remind myself the LORD delights in me.
I remind myself that I am in the presence of the LORD always. I will take refuge in His loving heart. He is my strength. He is my Comforter. He alone is always enough.
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O LORD, make haste to help me! Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You. I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my Deliverer; O LORD, do not delay! -Psalm 70:1, 4-5
Today, more than some others, I appreciate the tone and desperation of this psalm. Every other line ends with exclamation. The psalmist prays with intensity and urgency… NOW, is not soon enough for the deliverance of God to come for him. Only God is enough. Maranatha… even so, come Lord Jesus, come.
Jesus for President? Probably not…
Political Post Warning…
I’m feeling frisky, so I thought I’d share some musings on this day, our presidential election, in our United States of America. Since I am unashamedly a follower of Messiah Jesus, I thought I’d post a few thoughts from a Christian perspective.
I’ve seen quite a few thoughts around the web that invoke the idea of “vote for Jesus” or “Jesus for president” and other similar inferences like making the most “informed Christian” vote (that is assuming your or my vote would be most closely aligned with who Jesus would vote for. And this assumes He would vote at all—but that is another conversation).
First, let me say that I voted and I believe in the process, even as flawed as it might be; I’m glad I get to vote on the leadership in this nation.
Now, onto the idea of Jesus for president…
Really? I wonder how long Jesus would last if he were really voted in. Let’s hypothetically assume the United States is a Christian nation, and let’s take it one step further and assume that every United States citizen professes themselves aligned with Christianity as their faith affiliation.
First, it is my opinion that Jesus would not be voted in at all if the things he taught and the things he did were reported through the media as are most other presidential candidates.
If good communication skills are a prerequisite and being able to clearly dictate a position are necessary to win over voters, I don’t think Jesus would have scored very high even though we call him a great orator. He said that he chose to deliberately speak in parables so some people would hear him clearly and others would not (see Luke 8).
According to the gospels, Jesus doesn’t seem to be very keen on capitalism, free market systems, amassing fortunes, or retirement plans. In fact, he once told a story about a man who had raised a bumper crop of wheat. The man figured he’d done well and could retire on his efforts and earnings only to be called a “fool” and have his life taken by God that very night (Luke 12:13-21). Additionally, the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere in the gospels seem to favor Socialism over the Free Market system that fuels most of the American Dream.
Many people like to believe that Jesus is “fair” and universal in his approach toward helping humanity, but the gospels teach differently about this perception as well. Jesus was often in the midst of great crowds, but we’re only told of two accounts where he fed the masses. I’m reasonably sure there were more than three people that he was aware of who died in the places he traveled, but we’re only told of three that he raised from the dead. In the early pages of Mark’s Gospel we read that Jesus healed all that were brought to him in one day, yet on the morning of the next day, he left people who wanted and needed healing with their disease and sickness telling his disciples he had to go to the next city… “this is not the reason I have come” (Mark 1:29-39). Then there was the scene at the pool of Bethseda; where John recounts there were “many invalids there,” yet Jesus chose to heal only one… (John 5:1-13) and this does not even take into account that Jesus broke the law of the land to heal this man by healing him on the Sabbath.
Certainly my words sound somewhat facetious; it is a literary tool to help us consider our own motives and political positions, but in reality Jesus was a radical that not too many people would be happy with as a president. What if he came to you and demanded you sell all your possessions to give to the poor? What if he advised you the only way you could be part of his country/kingdom was to give up all your status and become a servant to all? What if he announced the only way you could keep your life was to sacrifice it for someone who despised you? I think most people would say; “Jesus, you’re out of your flipping mind…” kinda the same way people thought when he told them his body and blood were real food and drink (John 6:22-59).
He tells us if someone asks for our tunic, give it to them and your shirt too. He says if someone asks you to carry their load a mile, carry it two. If someone cracks you on the jaw, turn your cheek and offer it to them so your bruising will be symmetrical. People say Jesus never wants anyone to be a doormat for others, but this is exactly what he made of himself….and still does today. He is the gate and the doormat to the kingdom of God and He invites us to follow Him.
I think it sounds nice and spiritually self-righteous to say “Jesus for President!” I don’t think it is very heartfelt or realistic, unless of course it is some other Jesus that we are talking about that isn’t the Jesus mentioned in the Holy Scriptures.
Oh, and don’t think for a minute, that I’m not talking about myself here too. I’m as guilty as the next person who wants their proverbial “cake and to eat it too.” I want to follow the Jesus in the Scriptures, and I call myself trying, but I also see the enormous chasm between his teachings and my reality. If Jesus were on the ballot, I’m not sure I would be prepared to vote for him…especially after reading his campaign promises in the gospels.
Jesus for president? Let me think on that awhile.