12 July 2014

Time to Plant a Church!

26 May 2014

A Surefire Way to Get God's Attention

Have you ever found yourself wondering if you really have God’s attention? Maybe as you look up at the sky, from your morning bus ride, or commute, have you ever wondered, “Does He see me?” I mean, how could anyone on a planet of seven billion ever presume to be noticed by God?
The answer to that very human longing has been the occupation of my week. But before I even begin to try to tell you how to attract God’s attention, I’d like to tell you about a kind of tale that I like…

It's where the prince dresses himself to look like a commoner, and he goes out of his palace and walks through his realm, and nobody knows it’s the prince, because he’s wearing the very same clothes as all of his people. And he strolls through their streets and slips into their offices, and their classrooms, and their places of worship, and he takes it all in, like an anonymous spectator, watching the lives of each of his subjects.

Really, that’s a perfect description of what happened in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made flesh. And you can hear a hint of that in the title he often called himself: the Son of Man, which was almost like Jesus’ way of saying, the Son of God in disguise.

As I think about that, imagining the son of God hidden in plain view, maybe eating a hot dog on one of our park benches with his cap pulled down to hide the lightning in his eyes, you know what comes to mind? Luke 18:8. This haunting question that was once asked by our prince, a question that for me, pulls back the curtain on his own inner longing.

It started with a parable. A story Jesus told to the effect that we ought always to pray and not be discouraged. That parable went like this…

“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected people. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect people, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not wear me out with her unending pleas.’”

And that’s it, that’s the parable. If Jesus had stopped right there, I can only imagine the muddle we’d be left in as to how to apply it. But thank God, He followed up. He said, “Think about that story. If an unrighteous judge will give justice to someone he cares nothing about, will not God, who is by definition, the most righteous of judges, also give justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he long delay to help them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Which is to say, He will give justice at exactly the right moment.”

Now get ready, here comes that haunting question…

“Nevertheless,” Jesus said, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Strange, isn’t it? How does that question connect with the parable he just told? Think about it with me. Picture it in your mind. Jesus tells this parable about the unrighteous judge, and then he explains it to assure his hearers that God is attending to their prayers, and then he asks, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?” 

Where was this question coming from? What did Jesus mean? As you look at the flow of what he said, the way each thought follows what came before, it becomes clear that Jesus was saying something like this: you people are looking for assurances in your relationship with God, but has it ever occurred to you that He might be looking for something from you?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again right now: How interesting and how stirring, to hear the heart of God spoken from this vulnerable, human perspective. 

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

All of our looking up to Him as we struggle through the tangle of life, all of our praying, sometimes from the very edge of despair, looking for some token of His continuing presence with us, and all the while, even as we look upward in longing, the Lord is looking down, with a longing of His own, searching the earth for hearts upturned in faith.

Relationship with God––it moves in both directions. Because you know what?––we aren’t the only ones looking with longing for the actions of another. He is looking too. That is the lesson of Jesus’ question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” 

I wonder what you think of when you hear that word. What does faith really mean to you? Is it about a warm feeling you carry inside? Is it about convincing yourself of something you have no reason to believe? Is either of those things what faith really is? Not according to the New Testament. 

Faith, in the New Testament sense of the word, isn’t about a warm feeling you carry inside, but the actions that come out of that feeling. Faith, in the New Testament sense of the word, isn’t about convincing yourself of something you have no reason to believe, but casting yourself completely on Someone in Whom you do have reason to believe. Active devotion and reasonable trust: that is the essence of New Testament faith, and that is the jewel that Jesus is seeking. 

All the different people we try to impress, all the different ways we try to win ourselves attention, and all the while, Jesus Himself is watching, just looking for relationship, just looking for faith. You want to know how to get God’s attention? Then give him yours. Your reasonable trust. Your active devotion. Give him the attention of a New Testament faith.

20 May 2014

When You're Lost In the Dark

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him––these things has God revealed to us through the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to exist before the creation of the universe. What if you were there, just a mind in the void, and then a voice came to you––a message from God––that something was coming… altogether new. What would you imagine? As you strained forward to picture this approaching creation promise, how far short would your thoughts fall from grasping the see, hear, taste, touch, and smell of physical reality?

And then, “Let there be light!” And BOOM, the birth of time, matter, and energy, and you would look back on your previous anticipation with a breathless chuckle, laid low in worship before the creativity of God.

Sometimes I wonder what it was like for the Jews, looking forward to the fulfillment of promise. Those shadowy texts about a wonderful counsellor, a prince of peace, one pierced for transgression, and then, “Let there be life!” And BLIP, a fertilized egg, the soul of which was informed by the very Son of God, spoken into the womb of a female peasant. Could any longing Israelite have guessed just who was coming? Could you have pictured Goodness himself, out for a stroll by the towns and shores of Galilee?

Sometimes I wonder about the end. Or the new beginning. I’ll be walking in the grocery store, and just get stuck over the idea of eternity. How is it that things will just keep going forever and ever? What does God mean by “a new heaven and a new earth?” How do I picture it, and take hold of that promise?

The truth is, I don’t have a clue. Nor would I have before that first creation––the universe––or that second creation––the man Jesus, the heaven-sent Son. My eyes have not seen, my ears have not heard, my heart cannot imagine… but it can do something. Reach out to Him who exists and who rewards those who seek Him. Reach out in prayer to this God who seems to delight in bringing new life and light from situations of darkness for those who love Him.

Reach out to Him right now, from your grayness, your darkness, wherever you are. He is really, truly there, rewarding those who seek him.