Monday, March 12, 2012

The Word

I haven't posted in quite a while.  Not because God hasn't been doing some work in my life, but because He has.

I simply haven't had the words to share.  I still don't.

Not that I ever doubted, but I'm convinced more than ever in the transforming power of the Word of God.  The God of the universe, our Creator, the One who gave Abraham a son, who parted the Red Sea, who fulfilled the promise of land to His people, who sent His Son into our filthy sinful world to be our Rescuer, who raised Jesus from the dead so that death would have no grip on us . . . This is the One who is speaking as I read the Word.  Speaking to me.

It seems so crazy as I type it.  Why would He speak to little ole me?  How could I be worthy of hearing from God Almighty?  And that's just it.  I'm not worthy.  It's all by His grace.  Amazing grace that He would speak so clearly through His Word, speaking Truth into my life, desiring that I glorify Him in all I do.  I'm humbled that any little or big thing I could do to point to His glory would even matter, but it does.  Otherwise He wouldn't waste time with me, but as it is, He is present and powerful and gracious through His Word.

So that is why I've been quiet the past month.  He's been talking.

I still can't even take it all in or process all that He is teaching and challenging me through the Word.  But I want to share because maybe He's speaking to you too.  Or maybe you aren't listening and you should be.  :)

For the past month I've been reading in Luke, John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and then He has taken me to some other random places in Scripture too.  I just want to share some of the verses that God has been using to refine me.  I don't have a lot of commentary (yet) but the Word will definitely speak for itself.

And I know there are some of you who will look at this long list of verses and think, "Yeah, yeah . . . lots of verses . . . good stuff I'm sure" but not take the time to actually read the Word.  Don't do that!  You'd actually be missing the point.  The power is not in anything I have to say (which isn't much), but is in the Word.  Read it!

32  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33  Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  Luke 12:32-33

I wrote about God speaking in a profound way through Luke 12 in this post.  Still wrestling with that one, but I'm half way through the purge of our house!

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.  1 John 2:4-6

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.  1 John 2:28

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  1 John 4:9-10

Put that with . . .

29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  Luke 5:29-32 

Jesus, God Incarnate, did incarnational ministry.  Could that be what my/our ministry should look like?  Hmmm . . .

8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
   and to walk humbly[a] with your God.   Micah 6:8 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 

The only way God can be just in forgiving our sins is because the debt was paid by Jesus.  Simple, but this has overwhelmed my heart with gratitude.

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  John 12:24-26

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
     to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[a] go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
     and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
     and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
     the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
     the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10  if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.     Isaiah 58:6-11

There is more, but these get at the core of what has been gripping my heart and messing with my nice little life. :)

I've also been reading 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  God and Jen . . . ganging up on me . . . seems a little unfair!  Seriously though, this book has been great at helping me process what God is speaking through His Word, fleshing out what obedience looks like, driving the nails in deeper. 

I just read a section this afternoon that sums up what I've been wrestling with.  It's long, but worth it.

This is the feast of the redeemed; Jesus made it possible for the wretched to dine with the Most High, neither offending His holiness nor compromising His justice.  The currency of salvation includes blessings, redemption, fulfillment, peace, healing, sustenance, forgiveness, and hope.  This is indeed the feast, and to celebrate it is utterly Christian.  But the feast has a partner in the rhythm of the gospel: the fast.

If we ignored the current framework of the church and instead opened the Bible for a definition, we find Christ followers adopting the fast simultaneously with the feast.  We don't see the New Testament church hoarding the feast for themselves, gorging, getting fatter and fatter and asking for more; more Bible studies, more sermons, more programs, classes, training, conferences, information, more feasting for us.  

At some point, the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts.  We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the costly discipleship required after consuming.  The feast is supposed to sustain the fast, but we go back for seconds and thirds and fourths, stuffed to the brim and fat with inactivity . . .

Not so with the early church who stunned their Roman neighbors and leaders with their generosity, curbing their own appetites for the mission of Jesus.  They constantly practiced self-denial to alleviate human misery . . . 

What would the early church think if they walked into some of our buildings today, looked through our church websites,  talked to an average attender? . . . I think the early church would cover their heads with ashes and grieve over the dilution of Jesus' beautiful church vision.  We've taken His Plan A for mercy to an injured lost planet and neutered it to clever sermon series and Stitch-and-Chat in the Fellowship Hall, serving the saved.  If the modern church held to its biblical definition, we would become the answer to all that ails society.  We wouldn't have to baby-talk and cajole and coax people into our sanctuaries through witty mailers and strategic ads; they'd be running to us.  The local church would be the heartbeat of the city; undeniable by our staunchest critics.

When the fast, the death, the sacrifice of the gospel is omitted from the Christian life, then it isn't Christian at all.  Not only that, it's boring . . . The church the Bible described is exciting and adventurous and wrought with sacrifice.  It cost believers everything, and they still came.

I'm simply not living a life as a biblical follower of Christ.  I'm not satisfied.  Not because Jesus isn't satisfying, but because I'm not looking solely at Him to satisfy.   I've missed it.  Missed the portrait we see in the Word of a follower.  

He is worth giving up everything for.  Selling everything I have to buy the treasure hidden in the field.  Giving up what has become the normal and safe way of discipleship and instead diving into the adventure of following Jesus . . . hated, misunderstood, no where to lay His head, compassionate, loving, life-giving.  He is worth it.  Whatever it looks like.  He is worth it. 

Do I really believe that?  Do you?

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