“With Me”

I feel like I am at the center of a merry-go-round. The world is spinning around me and if I step out from this center, where already my head is spinning I will get swept to the non-existent corners of the spinning circle. These two words in combination have unlocked some of the most profound mysteries of the Christian Faith that I am still only in the seedling stages, but if you will permit me I’d like to share just what these two words entail as I muse on the meaning of this in my life.

The first thing to note is that the Me is a capital “M”. That means whenever the phrase is used, it is being said by God to the one who is listening. That is the first earth shattering fact. God speaks. Did you know that? The same God who spoke into the darkness and said, “Light, Be!” can speak in your hearing if you have the heart to wait in the silence and listen? The Phrase “With Me” is something He said to me as I was pre-writing a story for a beloved woman whom I love more than anyone else in the world . . . that’s my wife in case you’re wondering . . . and she was trying to understand some things about how faith works. Well, I haven’t written the story yet, but this phrase with all its earth shattering implications can still carry meaning in other less storied ways, although it seems to be a favorite way of God’s to show us what things mean by putting them in a story. After all God had the Bible written, a story with 40 authors that spanned all of time to it’s eternal beginning and ending, but through it all these two words resound with the eternity and temporality of both. “With me.”

Another thing to note is that “With Me” is something God can say to the one who is acting, so that he will act “With Me.” It’s kind of like you’re pulling on a rope to heave a boat onto shore, and He comes up behind you and tells you to do it “With Me.” meaning as He Himself is acting behind you, and it is His strength that will accomplish the task, not your own. He isn’t saying this because he doesn’t have enough strength to do it, so he needs you to do it with him. No, no, no, no, no. You are his representative in any given situation. Most of the time when God did something miraculous he did it through the hand of Moses, or Elijah, or one of his servants. Did Moses strike the Nile and turn it to blood or did God? The answer very simply is both of them. Was it God’s power that accomplished it or Moses’ power that accomplished it? Well obviously it was God’s. But why did God have Moses do it with him?

Part of the idea communicated in the phrase “With Me” is making sure that you are whole-hearted in acting with Him. God is 100%, and you get to be 1% of that percentage in an action He is doing, because you are his creation, and God is moving His creation with His creation. It is what He does, but I want you to understand this. People say you need a lot of faith. Even Jesus said, “You don’t need a lot of faith. You could have mustard-seed faith and it would be enough to move a whole mountain.” You don’t need a lot of faith, what you need is complete faith. God being represented 100% is the mystery of faith in you who are whole-hearted in submission to being “With Him” as He does it.

So here you are in the midst of a situation beyond your control, and your heart is afraid, which by the way is a division of your heart from God. When you’re afraid, you are not 100% whole heartedly devoted to God. In fact, if you were whole-hearted you would have no fear except fear of God. But you’re in this situation, where you need a miracle, and you are crying out to God, but you don’t cry out with your whole heart. You hold back part of your heart so that if the answer does not come you won’t be disappointed. God does not answer prayers with that lack of faith. It is when you completely, whole-heartedly, soundly and with all your being are swept up in the hope and desperation of believing that only God can save you, and only God can answer you, that you can appreciate the level of faith with which He does things.

I’m sorry what was that? God has faith? Faith is the fruit of the Spirit, and God is full of Faithfulness and Love. When he says, “With Me.” He is offering himself fully to be present in that situation with you with all the power you need. All that remains is your complete total faithfulness of heart to Him and it will be accomplished. It is when He says, “With Me.” That He is inviting you to “Go! You have the green light. I’m ready when you are ready. I am fully present, and if this is what you want with all your heart, I am ready to do it with you.”

Faith is more appropriately understood through the phrase, “With Me.” Because when you are in a situation and you must act, to do the impossible, like lift a gigantic bolder off of a crushed human being, or calm a storm, or to act in some way that seems impossible, the only way you are going to accomplish it is by totally being present in the situation, and totally being submitted to what God is doing in the situation. He may say “With Me.” in a rebuking tone depending on the heart He is speaking to in order to communicate, “Stop your way. Do it with Me, as I do it My way.” And when you stop doing it your way, and do it “With Me.” you will know the power of God and your own powerlessness.

This level of powerlessness, I think is why we don’t want to be “With Me.” We don’t want to hang out with the Super-impressive power-holder, because next to him we feel insignificant. Pride and fear water down faith. They take that 100% concentration of a human fully submitted to God, and reduces him to a corrupted image that lacks in the glory of God. The risk we experience whenever we step out on faith, whether it be embarrassment, or lack of confidence, this risk is the temptation to see if your heart is utterly devoted to God, or if you are asking with any hint of selfishness. If there is any unsoundness in your faith, it will falter. It takes total surrender, and un-distracted boldness to stare Him in the face, who with a flinch of his face has the power to render you empty.

So God calls you in faith to do what must be done, “With Me.” that means furthermore, and much to our rejoicing, that He is active in accomplishing Good in the world. He is working. Just as Jesus said, “My Father is always working.” (Jn 5:17) And he said, “I do nothing except what I see my father doing. Whatever the father does, the Son also does in like manner.” (Jn 5:19).

This is the secret of faith. God is working. You are His child. He has the power, so do things “With Me.” as He calls you, and commands you to do them. It is the Father telling his son, “Join me in my work, that you may grow up to be like me.” as Jesus demonstrated for us. And Jesus was destined to be firstborn among many brothers. So don’t think that Jesus was the only one who had miraculous powers. The Apostles got to do everything Jesus did, and more. Miracles still happen today, but the true miracles are ones that re done, “With Me.”

So, how does one grow in the ability to answer and act in power when God speaks to you and says, “With Me.” The simple answer is something I heard Leonard Ravenhill quote once. He said, “Sinning people stop praying. But praying people stop sinning.” How do you get to do things “With Me.” By simply abiding and staying, “With Me.” Go where He goes. Speak as He speaks. Listen as He listens. See as he sees. Do as He does. Think as He thinks, Feel as He feels. This is the spiritual calling for every believer. You are his image on earth. You are a little Christ. You are to be about your Father’s business proclaiming the Kingdom, healing the sick, preaching the good news to the poor, setting the oppressed free, and proclaiming the time of God’s favor, and calling the world to repentance.  But you cannot do that and you will not do that, and you will not even WANT to do that until you are resolute to stay with Him.

The Lord does not listen to the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. His yoke is easy, his burden is light. If you will surrender your many heavy burdens and those grooves in the rock you’ve been chiseling for yourself to have some grip of safety should a whirlwind come, and you leave everything behind and follow Him with everything and not turn back. Then you will begin to see more than just life being aligned in pleasant ways. You will see more than just a wisdom that is not your own, guiding your decisions. You will see more than just smooth places where you felt only thorns before. You will see more than just clear opposition from friends and enemies which prove you to be His disciples.You will see more than the depth of your own human depravity and that of your fellow man. You will see more than just hard situations which need miracles supernaturally resolved. You will see more than the supernatural physical healing. You will see more than the demons being cast out. You will see more than than the dead being raised. Beyond all these things, you will know the fullness of Joy being in the presence of your loving God and will walk the path of life with Him forever. And best of all you will see God.

How do I know? Because Enoch walked with God, and God took him. Elijah and Moses sought to see God, and Moses got to see His back, and Elijah was carried to heaven in a whirlwind, and they were ontop of the mount of transfiguration where they got to see the glory of God’s face in Jesus’ face. Because Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

As I finish this article, one final note. “With Me.” isn’t something we can manipulate God into saying. It’s not something He says all the time. He says it whenever He chooses. And He invites you on His terms, when He wants to speak it. I have heard Him say it to me only in an instructive way, and in this instructive way I communicate it to you, dear reader.

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Marks of God’s Servant

To be God’s Servant, you must give up what most people think of as living ordinarily: You do what you want and serve yourself and serve whoever you want to and enjoy life wile you have it. Such a life is utterly sinful and warrants the total death of the fruitless tree. You are a fruitless tree.

What characteristics mark the Servant of God? Well, let us look at the life of one of God’s greatest servants, through which God showed much of his own character. That was Moses. And Moses was a servant whom God raised up to do a marvelous work through, but Moses was not perfect. In many ways he was a man just like us. And yet Moses got to stand with Jesus on the mountain top in glory, with Elijah, another great servant of the Lord. What allowed Moses to be on that mountain top with Jesus, I believe, was that he had sought to see the glory of God face to face, but the Lord told him, “You shall not see my face because no one can see my face and live.” (Ex 33:20) Elijah went to the mountain of God seeking out God wanting God to give him an explanation for what was going on around him. “I’m all alone,” he said, “And they are seeking to take my life.”

I tell you one of the marks of God’s servant, is that others will seek to take his life. In the life of Moses there were two times, well, I mean there were many times that Moses’ life was in danger, but there were two times when he was threatened explicitly or on the verge of being killed. Once was after the 10th sign Moses performed for Pharoh. It was the 9th Plague of Darkness, and Pharoh said, “Don’t you dare show your face again, cause if I see you again I’ll kill you.” Moses said, “Indeed you will not see my face again.” That was the first time. The second time was after the 10th time the Israelites had tested God. It was right there at the edge of the promised land in Kadesh, in Numbers 13 and 14. The people had complained and tested God 10 times in the wilderness, and each time God disciplined them, slew them, gave them what they wanted, and Moses interceded for them. Now at last, this one final thing that the people of God were supposed to do: Go in an enter the promised land. Trust God that He is going to do it! Well, they hadn’t learned to trust God and instead they said in Numbers 14, “Let us go back to Egypt.” And they got ready to stone Moses and Aaron.

What happens next in Numbers 14 shows another mark of God’s servant. And that is God will only talk to you. He is selective of the company He keeps, and it says in the Scriptures that “He is intimate with the Upright.” in Prov 3:32. It also says in Amos that, “Surly God does NOTHING unless he first reveals his secret council to His prophets.” Ps. 25:14, “God shares his secret council with those who fear him.” Only those who fear God, those who are upright, only those whose hearts are pure can abide in His holy Hill. (Ps 15) A pure heart that seeks to know Him, and clean hands to fear Him and Obey Him.

The servant of God Moses goes in to talk to the Lord. Because of His closeness with God the people have sought to kill him, and because of his closeness with God, God will only speak his deepest feelings and thoughts with him. God tells Moses how he feels, and speaks plainly with him. It says in Exodus 33:11 that God spoke to him as one speaks to his friend.

What gave Moses the right to be God’s friend? Moses was a sinner. Moses was also more humble than any man alive. Moses knew his place with God, as humanly as he could know it. It is humility that grants you an audience before the Lord. He does not recognize the pompous or the arrogant, because they are nothing like him. He does not recognize the self-seeking, or the fool-hardy. He will not listen to the complaining, and whining of undisciplined children who aren’t getting their way, at least not without being ready to lash out with anger. If you find yourself grumbling, take heed to the warnings given in scripture. Let us not grumble as they did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. (1 Cor 10:10) It is the fear of the Lord and obedience to the Lord that is humility. Humility rightly takes its English shape from the same latin root as the English word Human. It is because humility is rightly understood as the art of being human. Jesus showed us what God is truly like– he showed us what true humanity looked like. He showed us why God doesn’t recognize the proud, and the reason is because God is nothing like that. The humility of God is shown in God’s servant. Humility is the basic shape a human must take if he is to have any sort of relationship with the God who made him in his image. Until he sloughs off his serpentine shape of a beast rearing its head up towards heaven fangs outstretched, he will not be able to bend low enough to avoid being eclipsed by the enormity of God’s magnanimity.

God talks with Moses and rescues Moses from being killed because he is His friend and he is humble. He tells Moses in Numbers 14 verse 11, “How long will this people reject me? How long will they not believe in Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?” If you look at the accounts of Exodus and Numbers at the miracles God did in their midst: 10 times, and the amount of times Israel rejected God they’re the same: 10 times. 10 is a mark of completeness in the Bible. God has completely done all the sufficient wonders to woo back his people, and Israel has completely done everything possible to reject God until now. God is just and He has borne with these people and he is finished he has it up to here: it is His holy, just, righteous character that even Pharoh recognized after the Seventh sign, that He be done with these people. He says, “I will smite them with pestilence and  and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

This is where we see the mark of God’s Servant and that is intercession. For the very people who seek to end his life, Moses relates here and also earlier in Exodus, that he would rather that his own life be ended than for theirs to be ended. (Ex 32:32) The level of “Let me take their place.” that Moses claimed is nationwide, but God doesn’t take him up on it. He listens to his friend Moses, and pardons them, and relents in the disaster, but just as with Egypt the Firstborn generation was slain, so Israel will also suffer the consequences of their utter rejection with the death they have chosen over him. What is remarkable about the servant of God, is that he has learned to choose God over everything else. He has chosen God over himself, he has chosen God over his livelihood, he has chosen to serve God completely, so that in a moment of intercession, there is nothing between him and God. He has allied himself with the ultimate power-holder in the universe, with the humility that qualifies him to wield it, and he says, “I even choose that your people should live instead of me. I would gladly give my life, so that these people may live.”

God’s servant is not a relished or cushy position. It may sometimes mean waging your eternity for the salvation of another. But you know something, that level of “I would gladly go to Hell so that they may live eternally knowing you,” is the very spirit in which Jesus Christ came to this earth to intercede on our behalf. And it was the mercy of God that he didn’t send Moses to hell for Israel’s sins. He sent Jesus to Hell for Israel’s sins, and for the sins of the whole world. And because Hell could not contain him, he left with the keys to the grave, and told his disciples, his friends, his servants, those with whom he was closest, that I have all the authority in heaven and on earth. And whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Now we see, what only a true servant of God can see. No nominal Christian will stare this ugly truth in the face and let it reflect in his own. A Servant of God isn’t one who let’s Jesus do all the suffering for him and that’s the end of it. A true servant of God realizes that pregnant truth which Jesus told his disciples, “Remember what I told you, no servant is greater than his master.” (Jn 15:20). “If they persecute me, they will persecute you.” If they seek my life, because I am so closely resembling the one they hate from the bottom of their heart, they will seek your life because you will be so closely resembling the one they hate from the bottom of their heart. Somewhere in Nominal Christianity we got the idea that Christianity is about Christ suffering for us so we don’t have to. But Peter knew better when he said, “As Christ suffered in the flesh, You also arm yourself with the same purpose.”

The Servant of God is self-sacrificing, humbly interceding for the ones who are seeking to end his life. He is so intimate with God that he knows the Heart of God, and lets his own heart break with it. The Servant of God suffers, for the very reason Jesus suffered, “so that others may live.” The servant suffers all the harms the world has to offer natural, supernatural, internal, external, bleeding, beating, blaming, shaming, isolation, excommunication, rejection: everything we have done to God and would do to God if we sinners had the chance. The Servant of God gives the world a chance to respond to God very clearly. Either they will join him in His suffering, or they will seek in the end to kill Him by killing you.

Why would anyone want to be a servant of God? It truly is as preposterous as it sounds for someone to want to be God’s servant. That is why it takes the call of God to raise up such a person to die to self daily. But I tell you, what I have been describing so far in this short article is not something different from Christianity. God’s Servant is anyone who represents God rightly. And the only human being to do this perfectly is Jesus Christ. The Christ is the Anointed Servant of God who rules as King the way God rules. Let me ask you, What is a Christian? A Little Christ. A replica, a reproduction, a fellow anointed servant of God who rules the way God rules. Let me ask you this. How did Jesus, who rightly represented God rule? He served. How did he conquer? He gave Himself. What power did he have? Only that which flowed from the Holiness of the Spirit within him, which the Father gave him to accomplish His will.

One of the final thoughts I’ll leave you with for now about the Servant of God is something I have been hinting at this whole time, and it may be obvious once I say it. It is only God’s servants who are authorized to wield God’s power. The Holy Spirit fills the believer with power to accomplish God’s work supernaturally. If you are looking to be filled with supernatural power than become God’s servant in truth from the heart. If you want to wield God’s mighty demonstrations of healing and miracles, recognize this is your price tag. To represent Him in power, is to know Him in pain. To know Him in the power of His resurrection, is only possible through knowing the fellowship of His sufferings.

O God speed the day! Raise up true servants of God, so that the world can be reminded in living color how You look and move and feel for them. God give us servants, give us prophets, give us those with whole lives devoted to serving you in the power of Your Spirit. Give the church your benchmark for holiness, so we can know that the Kingdom of God is NOT in words but in power! Call Your people to repentance. Call your people to Obedience. Call your people to Seek you. Call your people to Faith, believing and trusting and knowing You. And Lord give us hearts utterly devoted to serving you again. And let the world be drawn to you by the light of our fires, so they may see our good works and glorify You our Father who suffers with us.

God’s Servant, It’s Time to Love God F.O.L.K.S.

To be God’s Servant, you must give up what most people think of as living ordinarily: You do what you want and serve yourself and serve whoever you want to and enjoy life wile you have it. Such a life is utterly sinful and warrants the total death of the fruitless tree. You are a fruitless tree.

So how shall God’s servant represent His God? It is in this Acronym. It is first by Fearing Him, Obeying Him, Loving Him, Knowing Him, and Seeking Him.

Love
Obey          Know
Fear                               Seek

In brief, this is what each word entails as you go up the mountain to the pinacle: Love.

 Fear— Depart from Evil (Prov. 16:6)
        Obey— Do Good (Ps 34:14)
                 Love–With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Deut. 6:5)
        Know–Intimately share (Phil 3:10)
Seek–Turn toward, look to learn (Jer. 29:13)

Starting with the bottom of the mountain:

  • Fearing God means you recognize Him as Holy, Just, and Powerful. He is good, and that is a terrible thing for us, because we are not good. We fall so terribly short and lack so severely the glory of His Image with which we were first endowed, that we deserve nothing at all but the tormenting fires of hell, reserved for everything the bears the Evil One’s resemblance: corruption, weakness, selfishness, and sloth. Therefore, depart from evil, which receives from God the just recompense on anything unworthy and oppressive to what is good.
  • Obeying God means serving Him as your Ruler, your master, your Captain, your boss. In obeying him, you recognize your responsibility of being His image bearer on earth. He is the one you represent, therefore do as He does! He is the Sovereign lord of creation, and he has made you sovereign lord over the earth as His representative, so serve as He serves, work the ground to bring forth life the way He does. Do good to your neighbor as He does. Outwardly and temporally and definitely show the world who God is by doing the good that he commands you to do.

From the other direction:

  • Seeking God is more than just looking for Him. It is trying to find him. Seeking recognizes that God is infinite and you are finite, and so you are like a cup constantly dipping into the ocean of His eternity, but simply for the reason you want to Know Him. Seeking the Lord means turning your face upward to behold him, it means looking for Him trusting that He will reward the one who diligently seeks him. (Heb. 11:6)
  •  Knowing God means intimately sharing with God all that you are, and allowing Him to share all that He is with you. It recognizes that you are related with Him, and He wishes you to know Him, just as you wish to be known. (1 Cor 13:12) To know Him, is to be familiar with Him in relationship as a friend, as a confidant like the disciples were to Jesus while He walked among us on the earth.

At last the Summit:

  • Loving God is the final goal: It means to live for Him, where He is your everything, and everything in your inner and outer life is completely devoted to Him. Love means, you wouldn’t do anything that would be against Him. Love means that everything you do is for Him. Love means you are actively engaged in seeking Him out and pursuing Him. Love means you treasure the intimacy He shares with you with a tender and faithful heart.

All five of these dimensions are indispensable to fully representing God.
Fear acknowledges, “I am sinful.”
Obey acknowledges, “I am purposed to do good.”
Love acknowledges all these things and says, “I am Yours, You are my God.”
Know acknowledges, “I am related with Him.”
Seek acknowledges, “I am finite.”

You cannot say you love God without fearing and obeying Him. You cannot say you love God without seeking Him and knowing Him. Most of us will rise up the slope to the summit of love from one direction, but without the Moral and the Relational, without the Internal and the External, without the mind and the heart, without the soul and the strength, our love will be only one-dimensional or two-dimensional. Never will we represent our God fully as His Image bearer on earth as Jesus did.

My call is to you–you who wish to be one of God’s servants as described in Isaiah 42. Grow in the fear of the Lord, and seek Him while He may be found. Obey Him to share His work, and know Him to share His heart. Above all let it be love which crowns you with the seal of His image.

Answer: The Cross

“By His stripes we are healed.”
There it is again.
I’ve heard that so often, like I’ve heard, “By the atomic bomb Nagasaki was destroyed.”
Let me rearrange it:
We are healed by His stripes.
Let me take care of the pronouns.
We are healed by Jesus’ stripes.
Let me personalize it for this blog.
I am healed by Jesus stripes.

Why? What about Jesus getting beaten senseless is so healing for me? I’m sick. I consider the deepest cause of my sickness is my own self-salvation, my own self-righteousness, my own self-service, or simply, my own “sin.” Is it just a matter of Jesus being beaten for that, that I am healed?

“The stripes that wound scour away evil.” All the brokenness of the world He scoured away in his body. There is something to that, because His resurrection proved that God was coming not just to crucify the world, but resurrect the world. The world will burn. The world will be remade. We will die. We will be changed. Every pain I face isn’t just a reminder that it hasn’t happened yet. It’s a chance to go to the cross and embrace it and say, “I accept your mercy to righteously judge my brokenness and my sinfulness because of your great love, and I lay down my life again, the way Jesus did on the cross, and ask you, that I may take it up again to serve you a little longer.”

The Cross is the door; only the dead can pass through it. That means I can’t save myself, I can’t heal myself, I can’t rule myself, I can’t love myself, or keep my relationships or my family, my church, even my own life for myself. “God you can have me, but you can’t have my family.” You haven’t gotten a hold of it yet. It’s Christmas, the “Family Holiday” it has become more so than Thanksgiving. Everything needs to be nailed to the cross, even family. Right?

So how does this practically apply? I am going to wait patiently for the Lord to completely heal me. Seems simple. People of the “Faith” tradition will say, “Proclaim it!” I do indeed. Just remember God doesn’t listen to the proud. He listens to the humble. 🙂 The humble are those who embrace the cross. It’s perfectly in keeping with God’s plan for the world to work supernatural healing in the world. I kinda want someone to come to my house and teach me a bit more of how this works, but the cross takes care of all sickness. And if there’s a sickness still, then He’s bringing part of the world to the cross, until it’s completely put to death. I guess.

The Cross is the answer. Thoughts?

The Problem: Self-Salvation

Thanks Tim Keller for helping me with that phrase.
– – Dear Reader,
– – You have read lots. Here’s something else. I’ve been sick with a grueling fever for the past week or so, and I’m tired of it. As soon as I sit up, I start throbbing in my head. People are depending on me for so many things. I have responsibilities. Children to lead in song, home-bound family who need to go into town, and this is not to mention my truck which needs fixing, my laundry needs to be done, and I have about 2 hours of upright energy a day before my fever goes up a single degree. Thankfully my family are around to care for me, and take care of pressing needs as they arise. Things came to a pretty weepy head today when I had to skip work at school. I cried out, “God please come get me!” from my curled up blanket on the couch, wracked with weariness and worried-ness.
– – Finally. He really does listen. He just listens better than we do to ourselves. I could tell you countless times I had asked him to heal me because people depend on me. But now the problem comes down to just me living with me. What kept crushing down on me was the weight of everything I had to do, and just could not do. I had to partially delegate it to my boss.
– – I know He listens every time, but He responds to honesty. Suddenly, in that moment, I found myself writing in my journal, “Thank you for saving me from my own self-salvation.”
– – I like to think I can fix things. I can do it. I can handle life. I can face challenges. I can manage my time, my relationships, my money. And so I can, or at least act like I can. But what happens when all that power is gone? You go to your power source and have the balls to ask him, “Get me more power, so I can take care of things myself, so I will not need you to save me, cause if you save me, that means I have to completely serve you alone.” That’s what I’ve been doing anyway. I wrote this down after that realization:
“Let’s face it. We’re all a bunch of sucky self-saviors.” I slept with peace after that, ’cause I know my Savior is real. He won’t save everything important to me. That’s not His job. His job is sustaining the cosmos, just like he showed Job. And in the End his Wise plan is best.

 

The Tuner

There once was a tuner who walked down the street tuning every instrument he could. The thing was that everyone knew him to be a tuner, so not everybody liked him. Some avoided him because he made them feel out of tune. Others were happy to have someone who would help them stay in tune.

Still, he yearned for harmony everywhere he went. He knew that instruments on their own weren’t as beautiful as they were when they played together. He could tell if any note was not ringing true from the instrument’s most vibrant register. He also wrote music for each instrument to play to let their tuning really shine. He believed that if every instrument was tuned to itself, since the Composer also made very instrument for his world-wide Symphony, then it would sound more fitting and glorious with the whole symphony than it would with just standard tuning in that part of the world. He knew that every instrument needed to be in tune in order for the Great Symphony by the Composer he served to sound as glorious as it could be.

Because of his tuning skills, he found it easy to match any instrument’s tone with his voice. But this tuner, did not always know what pitch the instrument was naturally supposed to tune to. At first, he did not even know what was Standard tuning for instruments in that part of the world. But he checked other tuners to learn and seek agreement.

The Tuner regarded his tuning fork as his most precious possession. The Tuner’s standard for his tuning was the Ancient Music for which all instruments were originally tuned, as well as being in constant conversation and concert with the Composer of it.

The Tuner could play anything joyfully and skillfully, but since the tuner did not know, or often accept Standard tuning, he did not see himself as “a tuner.” He played at his job more than toiled. His favorite thing to give people was the understanding to be in tune with themselves, the joy of harmony created by playing with other people, and the wonder of the grand Symphony of which they were all a part.

His greatest fear was for people’s trust and willingness to tune to him to create discord, disharmony, and disunity within a person, among the instruments, and within the Symphony itself. It would disqualify him as a tuner worthy of the Composer, and he would be worth nothing but to be fired.

Yes, I am the Tuner.

 

The Cross and Discipleship

THE CROSS

                At last! Through the muddiness of modern Church teachings, and the simple complexity of everyday life as a human, the Spirit has guided me to a galvanized understanding of perhaps the most fundamental tenet of Christianity. Now I can not only distinguish Christianity from all its counterfeits, but I can package it clearly for other people to understand. This won’t make me wealthy. It will make me poor. It will not make me famous. It will make me a criminal. It won’t make me live large. It will bring me down to the scum at the bottom of stagnant ponds: like Jonah in the belly of the whale. “Salvation comes from the Lord.”

Without further ado I will share this glistening gospel gem with you, dear reader. I don’t think it will take long. Let’s start with Paul’s first letter to Corinth. In response to a report that the church in Corinth was divided, he said, “I’m glad I didn’t baptize any of you, so that you would think that I had saved you.” But he goes on to say,

17 For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. 18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” (Isaiah 29:14)

20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.

24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. [1]

What is this “message of the cross” that invalidates all the wisdom and strength of humanity? It became clear to me when I recently saw a post by a friend of mine on Facebook. A certain elected national leader had a hammer in his hand and was captioned to say, “I don’t like losers.” And in the background you could see Jesus hanging on a cross. This picture, as you may guess, was controversial, but what really struck me was not the controversy of the religious leader’s respectability, but the cloudy misunderstanding surrounding Jesus’ death on the cross. This post by my friend helped me galvanize a scriptural principle that I believe gets to the heart of the message of the cross.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.[2]

Here, Jesus points out that the cross will cost the most fundamentally important relationships a human can hold: family. As he ended in this passage, the first principle can be stated The Cross requires everything even something as precious as family. The message of the cross indicates that there is only one doorway to salvation. It is the door Jesus made by hanging on the cross: total surrender and death to one’s old life, to one’s old self out of humble submission to the Righteous Judge.

This part of the teaching is not as offensive. Some people would say, “I have heard this before, and have even implemented this principle in my life.” What I think most people fail to acknowledge is what this level of surrender, death, and submission will actually cost them. The principle I discovered was this.

Jesus’ time on earth shows that there are two kinds of people in this world: those nailing Jesus to the cross, and those who are being nailed right up there with him.

There is no third option. That means you, dear reader, are either one nailing Jesus to the cross as His judge, or the one being nailed right up there with him under God’s righteous judgement.

What? Really? That sounds harsh. Yup. Now I’m going to go through what I believe to be four kinds of people who may read this and find it unacceptable:

  1. You may say, “I am not getting hung on a cross, but there’s no way I would do that to a fellow human being!” No? Imagine a great political leader told you that there was a man who was bewitching the population, and determined that he had to be exterminated. Also imagine that this political power said, if you follow him or are associated with him, you too will be exterminated. Chances are you would not stand up for the guy even if you thought his teachings were alright. In not siding with him though, it is like the bully beating up the kid on the playground while you watch. Your inaction is a choice to act in favor of the bully.
  2. You may say, “I identify with Jesus, so if the time came I would be willing to be crucified with him.” Really? What if that meant leaving your family behind with no one to care for them? What if that meant being villainized and falsely accused of being a socially morally unacceptable thing like a pedophile? Would you still identify with him then? The question is not about “if the time came” The question is about right now. It is foolish and naïve to believe that you would die for Christ, if you do not truly exclusively live for him now. This is the message of the cross. You who identify with Christ, do you share the burden of His sufferings even leading up to the same way He died?
  3. You may say, “God wants me to be happy. Jesus already died on the cross for me so I wouldn’t have to.” You are partially incorrect. God wants you to be happy in eternal things. If your happiness is in anything that money or time on earth can afford you, then you have missed the point. Furthermore, Jesus death on the cross wasn’t to “take your place,” like many churches espouse in their sermons assuring forgiveness for sins, which of course is there. Jesus’ death on the cross was to “make your place.” Persecution, self-denial, suffering wrongfully as a doer of righteousness—these are the inheritance, function, and purpose of the believer in this life. Power, wealth, fame are temporary substitutes for what brings lasting joy. If they are given in any fashion to the believer, they are a means to the ends of Him who “though He was rich, for your sakes became poor.” This is the oneof whom you are becoming a mini-version, by becoming a “little-Christ.” You may say, “If my sins are forgiven why do I still need to get on the cross?” Because Jesus did, and you are not more righteous than He are you?
  4. You may say, “I have enough smarts and heart to know that letting anything like that happen to anybody would be tantamount to unthinkable.” That line of thought is patterning after a character sketch of “a captain of his own ship trying to find his way in the world with his conscience in tact.” What such a man would have to appreciate is that the message of the cross requires the denial of one’s right or ability to be Judge. Even if you judge righteously, you still are the one in need of being judged. Salvation is only to be found in the submission to the Judgment of God, who is not only the True Judge, but He is also a righteous judge. You may not understand or believe in His justice, but if you live in the world long enough you will be faced with a choice to recognize how irreversibly broken the world is. The only doorway to life is through the cross, where everything is submitted to God’s lordship, and whatever is of God will survive.

The reason there is no third option, I can articulate better after talking with my fiancé about it. She heard my bolded principle above, and shared, “Or perhaps the third option is, you are both.” That is indeed what I am saying. Every one of us have been a crucifier of Jesus. You are either the one Crucifying Christ, or the Crucifier of Christ who has surrendered to the death you are worthy of. And this is no cheapening the value of one’s life to ending it frivolously wrongfully like in suicide. This is the re-valuing someone’s life as in itself being worth nothing, but in right humble standing before God worth giving up for salvation of ourselves and others.

A Story, I hope will illustrate this principle better. A soldier had been nailing criminals to the cross his entire career, until one day He had to crucify a righteous man. The man looked and saw that the righteous man did not deserve to die, but saw that he himself deserved it. He cast aside his armor, and ordered his men to nail him to the cross right next to the man. All who passed by mocked him, but some of his men wondered: what solidarity could a man claim with a righteous man wrongfully condemned to death?

It is this solidarity with Christ that the cross represents. Jesus bore the sins of the whole world on that cross. We carry around in our body the dying of Jesus, just as Paul wrote about his apostleship:

For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.[3]

The message of the cross is offensive: You’re either embracing Jesus’ death yourself, or you’re the one swinging the hammer.

DISCIPLESHIP

Allow me then to share this pattern for discipleship, based upon the life of Jesus which leads to this proper understanding and manifestation of the cross in a person’s life.

SCRIPTURE: First there is a catechesis stage, where the student (disciple) is familiarized with the basic teachings of the Gospel in the Old and New Testament. This is the stage for listening, asking questions and increasing in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man.

CONVERSION: Second, there is a baptism wherein the Spiritual journey begins with the Lord sending His spirit upon and into an individual. This is the point I would call Conversion.

SPIRITUAL POWER: Third, there is a time for the Holy Spirit’s leading to temper all fleshly, proud, and sinful passions in the heart and body. This is where the disciple learns how to pray, how to hear His voice, to face his own sin, and to grow in Spiritual strength and power and prepares the disciple for the end purpose of his life: The cross.

COMMUNITY: Fourth, there is the accountability to a local church body, in which after these things have occurred, the disciple reveals to them what God had shown him to be true, and what is that mission into which he will be walking. This is where the disciple learns his proper place in the Church as a part of a body of believers, and applies the giftings and power of the Holy Spirit.

SERVICE: Fifth, this disciple will begin implementing the mission and investment of the Holy Spirit in him to serve the body of Christ, and the world and the poor in the community around him.

WARFARE: Sixth, is the standing up for the poor by going against those who abuse them. This is where the social activism will doubtlessly make enemies in the established religion and the government.

PERSECUTION: Seventh, is the point when the disciple fully comes to display Christ: The Cross. When the Believer is not able to dissuaded from his aggressively loving opposition of the enemies of freedom and peace, there will be no choice but to kill him. This is the end of a disciple’s walk here on this earth. While it does not always end in death at the hands of enemies, “He who endures to the end shall be saved.” “And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith.”

The result: He who has walked all seven of these stages is a Christ-ian indeed, because he has denied himself, taken up his cross, and done as Jesus did. And unless you are walking according to this principle, and the cross is where you are headed, then you are simply striking the hammer deeper into the flesh of the son of God, who loves you and gives himself for you still today, along with all who bear His name.

For those carrying the cross now, one parting word of encouragement from Peter.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

[1] 1 Co 1:17–25. NLT

[2] NASB Mt 10:34–39.

[3] 1 Co 4:9–16.

[4] 1 Pe 4:12–14.

My Truck

Pretty as a 19-year old model
Shiny like she’s brand new
Bright red like a fire hydrant
Big like the King of the road

An 8-foot bed huge loads handles well
Her gate well-oiled snugly shuts
A bed liner makes the whole body protected
Its ridges guide the water out straight

Beneath the shine, a villainous corrosion
An oxidization made brittle by city salt
The frame has holes and cracks that deepen
Every bump it takes, and puddle it fords

One bump, the spring shackle bracket broke
And the left back corner of the truck bed sank
Suspension, transmission all put under tension
And the metal floor of the bed began to scrape

ACH! That noise! That digging scream
That cried for repair before the break came
It would punch a hole in the 8-foot bed,
If it was not healed with the Welder’s flame.

BREECH! That bump cost far too much
Too long the scream went unacknowledged
And now silenced the dagger is still
Jutting up through the floor of the 8-foot bed.

The frame now bears weight on the bone of the Truck
And the bed liner is not pierced but raised from the floor.
But a once water-tight 8-foot bed has a leak,
And the moaning continues as the hole gets bigger.

Aiee! Ach! That shameful burden stabbed
My heart to know my own neglect
Caused one small problem to cause many more
And now the damage cannot be undone.

But repair can be made by the Welder’s flame.
The community shop can raise up her frame
Line up the spring shackle bracket again
And solder it back to shoulder loads well again.

The hole in the 8-foot bed can be patched.
And the scar will still hold the water inside.
In fact, the strength lent to this space may be needed
Should any further breech occur beneath.

But the rust still needs to be arrested.
Or the problems will continue unless dealt with

How Personal is He?

There’s a post on Facebook that has been floating around for a while that I have a real issue with. This is an article about my issue with it.

The post is a cartoon drawing with two scenes. The top scene is a man on his knees praying toward the Clouds of Heaven asking, “God, please speak to me!” The next scene is a large hand reaching out of the clouds to hand him a Bible. While I get the point (if you want to know what God said, read the Bible. “G-doi!”[Little shout out to Wreck it Ralph for that one.]) I immediately reacted against it. “Oh come on! God is a lot more personal than that!”

Isn’t He?

A certain man had two sons. He was a busy man, and worked in his office with the door closed. One day, one of his sons knocked on his office door, and asked to speak with him. In response, the man slipped a piece of paper to his son that said, “I love you, son. If you have any pressing concerns read my notes I left you.” The son left and went to read his father’s notes. A little later the other son knocked and asked to speak with him. Immediately, the father swung open the door, and invited the child into the office and showed him what he was up to.

Which son did the man show more love to? Which one do you think will continue the family business when they are older?

Consider this verse: John 20:31–“These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

I learned this verse in AWANA, a program for children to learn Bible verses from an early age, based on the idea of 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show yourself approved, a workman that needs not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of Truth.” Though I barely understood these words as a 7 year old, I did understand the idea of Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed: AWANA. I got the Citation for completing the whole program and purchased the white gold citation ring with my name and that verse on it, as a reminder of my pledge to “rightly divide” His Word.

It was in Seminary that  this”training” came into question. I heard a professor from Wheaton, John Walton,  say these words which would shock most of my many self-proclaimed fundamentalist friends:

“The Bible was not written to us. We believe the Bible was written for us, like it’s for everyone of all times and places. But it wasn’t written to us. It wasn’t written in our language, it wasn’t written with our culture in mind or our culture in view.”

I am inclined to agree with him to a point. If the Bible was written “to” us (and for this writing, I say us representing American, technological, free people) it would have been written in English, and He probably would have used emojis. 🙂 Just saying. The Bible records two very distinct conversations: The Old Testament records God’s personal involvement and conversation with the people of Israel as a testimony to the Nations of His Goodness and unfailing love for all who would Hear His voice and keep His word; the New Testament records the conversation between Jesus Christ, the Son of God, his followers, and the people of the whole known world at that time. Even this verse in John 20:31 is written to John’s audience at his time. Just because it has been translated into English does not mean that it was written directly to “you” O ye noble English speaker.

Let me put it this way. Which is more meaningful to you: to get a letter from a friend with inside jokes and shared understandings? Or to read a letter from your dad to your older brother who are both fishermen who talk about life using fishing metaphors and you’ve never been fishing a day in your life? (A little shout out to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs for that one.) “Better is a friend who is near than a brother who is far away.” Solomon said to his son.

I’ve been deep in the languages, and submerged myself into some of the contexts of the Bible. The Word of God is so much more profound than in English: but it’s also a lot simpler than most teachers make it out to be. What really gets me fired up about this, is It’s also a lot more interpersonal than most Christians think it is, and also a lot less intrapersonal than most American Christians think Let me explain.

I have sat under teachers who have said, “You have got to have a relationship with this book.” I cringe every time, because a book can’t talk back, can’t hold you, can’t convict you, except on your terms. It’s a lot easier to tie yourself to a book than it is to stare into the face of another human being eye to eye. Especially if the book isn’t even written directly to you in the first place.

On the other hand, I have watched my fellow believers swaying to complete misappropriations and misapplications of the Biblical Text. As a result they emotionally mislead many and themselves to their own disgrace. It’s a lot easier to read whatever you want into the words of the Bible than to read it as a conversation between two other people, in which you hopefully know One of the parties very well. Or rather in which One of the two parties hopefully knows you very well.

Both of these approaches are shallow and lead to error. One sucks all the blood out of a body, the other suffers from internal bleeding. What is the answer? Is there a third way?

Yes.

Paul, suffering persecution unto the end of his life, passed the torch to his “son in the faith” Timothy saying this, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ JesusAll Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

“From whom.” I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure what Paul means here. One helpful note from translation: the “Whom” is plural! That throws out the idea of it all coming back to God teaching you, which is what I thought at first. Paul is writing a letter, so it could be he’s referring to something or someone not referred to in the text like teachers in the past, but . . . The word could be translated “who” or “what.” And directly after he says “knowing from ‘whom’ (pl) you’ve learned it he goes on to describe  the “sacred writings” of the Old Testament.

This is common sense. Interpretation is not a science; it’s an art. In electricity, energy passes from a positive electrode to a negative electrode. Interpretation is like tracing the path of the bolt of lighting between them. In communication the positive electrode is the speaker, the negative electrode is the listener. The meaning is the spark they share between them.

Many people would love to load a bunch of meaning into 2 Timothy 3:16 as the verse for the authority of the whole Bible: Old and New Testament. Paul wasn’t referring to his own letters, he was referring to the sacred writings of the Old Testament. To say he meant more than that is to set up another negative electrode with which there is no “spark.” The New Testament is gonna have to look somewhere other than this statement of Paul for its authority, which I do affirm.

Let me share my interpretation of this passage: Paul is praising Timothy for how he has grown in Bible study. This is an older man commending his follower in how well he has followed him. And when Paul is gone, Timothy will 1. Know what he’s been taught. 2. Be deeply assured in faith about it, and 3. Know the sources that it is based in.

You have read so far so kindly, let me pause for a second. Is he talking about teachers or scriptures? Both are valid interpretations. We do need multiple teachers just like we need multiple eyes to see 3-D, and two people to verify truth. The grammar of the language Paul used to write this thought to Timothy could go either way, but the usage of the words for “learning” really make it sound like he’s talking about people. Multiple teachers.

So, he goes on to continue the same thought of 1. Knowing what he’s been taught, 2. Being deeply assured in faith about it, and 3. knowing the people who taught him. 4. by discussing the sacred writings. Aha! And how do these writings function? One thing to note is that, Paul at no point of this passage does Paul refer to the Sacred writings as God’s Word to Timothy. The Old Testament served the purpose of “giving wisdom that leads to Salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

We see from this snippet of conversation why wisdom is important (because it leads to Salvation), but how do the texts give wisdom? Could it be through seeing how the spark of meaning jumps between God and His people in a specific and personal way? Is it wisdom to take a letter between two people talking about cars, and put yourself in the position of the recipient, when you have no idea what a carburetor does? Or is it more humble to say, I would rather see what the letter meant to the original recipient before trying to understand what it meant. Which way is more human and accurate?

And what about this “faith” thing? Faith is internalization of truth as reality that externally shapes your world around you. But truth that is not kept between two people is not truth. It is a man talking to himself, and you can find that in any insane asylum. Faith is like putting your weight on a rock while climbing a cliff knowing it is sturdy enough to hold your weight. Woe to those who put faith in an engine to start that has only positive electrodes distanced from the negative ones. Because such an engine will not combust with true fire.

The beauty of the divinity of the Scriptures (which is absolutely true, and attested by Jesus Himself in conversation in the book of John), is that God speaks by divine revelation communicated very humanly between at least two people. Search the Scriptures and see if you find anything that is not written or spoken from one person to the hearing of another. Hint: before you go thinking about Proverbs, remember it was largely written from a father to his son. Kings, Chronicles, Samuel? Nehemiah? Hmmmm.

All of the sacred writings of Scripture have the very breath of God in them. When God breathed in the second chapter of Genesis it was to put life into the man. If you are reading the Old Testament, and you are not feeling the life in them, perhaps it is because you’re trying to suck air through a hole in God’s cheek, instead of aligning yourself with the person on the other end of God’s breath to whom He is speaking, and feeling in that moment “the cool of the day” in Eden, “the whirlwind of the storm” in Job, “the gentle whisper” to Elijah at Mt. Horeb.

It is because of God’s breath/spirit in these passages they are profitable for teaching, exposing, improving, and training in righteousness.  Without God’s breath, they are not. Without God’s spirit they will not make the man of God fully complete to outwardly complete every good work.

Is it possible to read the Scriptures and miss God’s breath entirely? Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”

Let me regather: The point I made in the beginning is God is more personal than to hide himself behind words distant or disconnected from our own hearts. The way we handle the Bible: Old and New Testaments must be human/humble acknowledging that God spoke directly to others, and we can get in on that spark if we just line up the electrodes and watch the meaning unfold. That’s where the fire is! I’ve seen it! It’s real! He is real! Not only this, but God still speaks directly to us! He still directly speaks to each one who has the ears to hear, as the Holy Spirit living within His people guiding them into all truth, especially the truth of the Holy Scriptures. But the question of this whole grappling is “How personal is He?”

You see, dear reader, one of the reasons I hate sin so much, is it blinds us to the Goodness of God. That is why the “goodness/kindness/loyalty of God leads us to repentance.” And is it in a father’s accessibility to his children that we recognize God’s own goodness, or in a father’s cold detachment through a book that once meant something and is supposed to mean something again. Whenever I have gorged myself on the empty pleasures of this world, whether food, movies, wrongful sexual stimulation, it is SO hard to see Him. And I hate that. Because when I see Him, I enjoy His likeness in all things, especially in the face of another human being. That is where the same spark exists. Love is the true fire between two faces that kiss, and don’t let anyone tell you that physical touch means nothing to love.

It is exactly my point that God’s engagement with the people of God in the Holy Scriptures is just as personal as a kiss between two lovers. He made them, breathed into his nostrils, clothed them, spoke to them, instructed them, led them, said “please” to them, shared His secrets with them, performed great miraculous wonders for them, showed Himself to them, pursued them, wanted to be pursued by them, grew angry with them, was grieved by them, disciplined them, brought them back to life, saved them out of slavery, fed them, gave them water, adopted them, taught them, fortified them, fought for them, protected them, beautified them, glorified them, and sang songs of gladness over them.  And that is just some of the things we have recorded! Then He walked among them and touched them, gave himself up for them, won the victory for them! He was their friend, their father, their God, their beloved. How much more personal can you get? Why would you think that God would be any less personally, actively involved in your life?

I think I’ll close this grappling with just one more thought. If the people of God represent God in the world, then they must pay great heed to this question. We become like the One we worship. And if we worship a God who is like a book, then the church will see itself as a book that the world can pick up and read and be saved, or a book that can be overlooked and rejected. If we worship a God who is personally, actively engaged with us in the same way He has been personally, actively engaged in the pastthen we are going to go after this world. Why? Because that’s what Jesus did. He went after the world so that the world could have life through him, not through a book. It was Jesus the people of Israel rejected, not the Scriptures. It was God’s last demonstration of His forbearance to the people who had killed all his servants and been exiled and returned enslaved: “I’ll send them my Son. Surely they will hear Him.” Let those of us, who have been entrusted with the very gates of the Kingdom of Heaven, with which little children are so familiar, not be included in this woe: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”

Some Thoughts on Depression: Children, Brokenness, Humanity, and Work

I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who hasn’t wrestled with this. Except maybe a few kids. That’s telling.

If there’s anything a parent wants for their children, it’s that they be happy. But so often, the way they try to ensure happiness for their kids is to avoid every hardship. “Let not my children know poverty, except from the safe distance of a charity event.” “Let not my children be offended, or they will grow up with self-esteem issues.” Other parents are tempted to overlook their children’s imperfections, because it’s so hard to face their own. “They’ll get better. One day they’ll learn.” But if they listen with humble ears to the honesty of youth, they will hear that the children know there’s something wrong with the world, and they know there’s something wrong with themselves.

Consider this truth: A person who does not grapple and come to terms with the brokenness of this world can never be truly happy. The very simple reason why is because if he does not, then he will never be able to grapple and come to terms with the brokenness of his own soul. To do one is to do the other. The brokenness without is the brokenness within.

I was about 14 when I walked through my Grandfather’s 100 acre baby-tree-field on a cloudy day. I had come so far to a point where all that was around me was six-to-seven-foot high thorn-thickets that smelled of stale weeds as far as I could see in front of me, and the cave grove of trees I had just left left behind me. I could have turned back, but I deeply felt that the Lord specifically called me to go through the thorn thickets. All I had on were shoes, short-shorts and a tank-top. I had no cell-phone, no water and I had left my canvas poncho on the dirt-road. I faced the thickets with an internal resolution: I could make it through. Why? Because He had told me to. In my hand I had a staff that was about 4 1/2 feet high. I knew there had to be a way. So, I got an idea, and I laid my staff up against the thorns, and lifted up my sneakered foot to press down the thorns. It made a dent, with only a little stinging scratch on my leg. It took forever. In those moments of toil, we know a taste of eternity. But after about one and a half hours of repetitious picking up the staff and laying it back down, I made it through the highest thickets to the lower thickets. Still could not move very quickly. Behind me lay a trail of broken down briers made by the staff in my hand which could take the thorns. And I finally made it where the staff in my hand was able to beat down the chest high brambles, and then I made it where I could steadily walk through careful to avoid the waist-high thorn-weeds. Then, I saw the dirt road and jogged to it, and plopped down on the ground to rest staring up at the bright-grey sky above me as grateful quivers of laughter shook my teenage frame.

Depression comes when humankind refuses to acknowledge their brokenness, and neglects to cry out for deliverance, and instead surrenders to the lie that God does not care enough about my brokenness to reach out his Hands to touch and heal, therefore I don’t care either. Read the Gospels: Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and he touched and healed people. In doing so, he showed humanity the Love of God for the world (yea even the whole world) because it was beautiful in His eyes when He made it. The Kingdom of Heaven is not some elusive abstract disconnected from the world. The Kingdom of Heaven, is Eternity fixing time. It is Power strengthening weakness. It is Goodness conquering evil. It is Grace overcoming guilt. It is Truth emancipating people from lies. It is healing eradicating sickness. It is Heaven restoring the earth.

Work is magical. It is through work that a human being extricates what is good in this world and makes it into something better. This is why hard-work is part of the cure for depression. It is the image of God to work, because it is God’s eternal power at work through His representatives on earth in time. To work is to enter into the timeless blessing of humanity in Genesis 1:28: Subdue the earth. And it is hard. Why? Because we as humans have made it hard. The ground is cursed because of us. The reason why we have “hard” work, is because our sin has made it hard, but the work is ever blessed.

Why are you downcast O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, I will praise Him. He is my Savior.