Friday, November 18, 2011

Cracks are where the life gets in.

Vulnerable, not something most of us like to be, I'm terrible at opening up to people, even to my wife sometimes.  The enemy puts all kinds of junk on us to try and crush us and keep us under his thumb.  Our nature is for self-preservation, self-protection, self-reliance, self-esteem and selfishness so it's easy for him to keep us in that spot, it's easy for him to keep us fighting a battle we're never going to win on our own; keep us focused on us and him so we never think to turn to Jesus for help, or to a friend for prayer or to a church for support.  Being vulnerable means we open up spaces in our self to be hurt; physically, emotionally and spiritually.  No one wants that so we often choose to build the fortress that attempts to protect us from the possibility of being hurt.  'If I just become guarded and independent and strong and unreliant the enemy can't defeat me, the people around me can't cause me harm.  Unfortunately this really only leads to two outcome. a) we attain that lofty mission, we become cold, lonely and self-righteous or 2) we miss a spot in the wall, a little crack, a back ally way, a secret tunnel we'd forgotten to back-fill and our fortress eventually falls.  The enemy is sneaky, he'll find the crack.  The enemy is dark, he'll sneak down the ally and you won't even see him coming. The enemy is dirty and persistent, he'll crawl on his belly in the mud until he gets through that tunnel.  He's tricked the world into thinking that self-anything is the greatest goal, the highest importance is self-whatever.  He hasn't tricked the world into thinking God doesn't exist, he's just tricked it into thinking self is greater than Him.  

But God’s nature is greater than our enemy or our nature; his nature takes the place of our self-nature if we ask him for help.  When that happens - when God shows us that He is Love, we start to understand that by his power and spirit in us - God lets us experience what love really is and we're able to be vulnerable with him.  His spirit and power in us teaches us that he's never going to hurt us, he's never going to let us down, so we can become more and more dependent, reliant and open to him.  We hear his voice more clearly, we know what his plans are for us, we know his love.  He begins take apart those walls we build to keep the enemy out, because they were keeping him out too.  But as Leonard Cohen says "There is a crack in everything.  That's how the light gets in."  If you make yourself vulnerable to him, his light will flood your heart.  Jesus is light.  Bill Johnson says light doesn't debate with darkness, when light comes on darkness goes away.  It's that way with Jesus.  The more you become vulnerable to him, the more you say, 'Jesus I trust you are good, I trust you love me', the more he will flood your heart with light.  Darkness will flee from you; the enemy will go back to crawling away in the mud.  He might keep throwing mud at you but Jesus will keep on washing it off.  You'll experience total safety in the midst of danger or fear or trial or pain.  You'll experience freedom in the face of temptation and persecution and failure or loss.  
But you won't only experience it with Jesus, you'll start to feel so safe, you'll know his love is so strong, you'll know his power is so great - beyond anything you can imagine - that that vulnerability will start to spread out to people around you; people you pray with, people you worship with, people you live with, people you work with.  You'll choose to make yourself secondary, you'll choose to make yourself lesser, you'll choose to make yourself available.  You'll choose to share how Jesus changed your heart, how he got you through, how he forgave your mistakes and failures.  Someone else will experience that same floodlight that got through your cracks because someone else knowing Jesus will be so much more important than your reputation or your safety or your self.  Your venerability empowered by Jesus will not be a weakness at all.  He'll fill those cracks in your walls and He will become your greatest strength.  The cracks in your walls will start to bring life. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Check out Romans 8, nothing in all of creation, can separate you from God’s love.  Sin, death, demons, life, angels, mountains, valley, flat tires, crying babies, speeding tickets, winning the lottery.  God just loves you.  The entire universe is wrapped in a big ball of the love of God.  You can’t escape it, you can’t hide from it, and you can’t lose it.  Right?
So why don’t we live like that?  Why don’t we wake up every morning without a single worry, without any other thought except that the Creator of the Universe loves us?  If you do you should give me the secret after you read this.  But I’m sure I’m not the only one who wakes many mornings and my first thought is something like, “I have so much to do today” or “I hope  Gemma’s not still upset about that stupid thing I did, or that thing I was supposed to do that I didn’t do.” Or “man I blew it again, God must be really mad at me.”  We let all kinds of things cloud the fact that God just loves us because that’s who he is.  We believe lies that if we’re not living a perfect life, if we don’t have it all together, if we’re not meeting some imaginary standard that the church has created then God does not love us.  That if life is not in some kind of cruise control with things falling into place, God doesn’t love us.  We let our mind be tricked into thinking that the junk in our life means God loves us less which leads our heart to refuse receiving God's love. 
If  you feel that way, if we’ve made you feel that way, I’m sorry.  God loves you, and if you ask Him today if that’s true, I’m certain the spirit will reveal it to you.  
But those things we think affect God's don’t affect God’s love, his love is constant and unchanging and absolute.  It doesn’t mean there are no consequences for our choices, but God’s love is not changed or measure by our choices. 
If you’re here today and the love of God is a just  “concept” to you, if it’s just an idea you’ve grown up hearing about in Sunday School but you’ve never experienced it or you’ve never received it, I hope you don’t finish this post without stopping to pray that God will reveal himself to you.   Do whatever you need to do to receive his love.  Because you can’t love God until you know He loves you first.  I struggled with this for a long time after becoming a Christian because my earthly relationships distorted what I thought a relationship with God was like.  My issues with my earthly father caused me to have wrong view of what my Heavenly father is like. 
The great thing is God never stops loving us.  He never stops reaching out to us.  The problem is we don’t receive it.  We let all those things Paul mentioned, and a million more get between us so we can’t receive God’s love.  We let our mind and our flesh win out over the unchanging love of God.  Earlier in this passage in verse 6 Paul says this.  “If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace.”  Our mind is easily fooled.  The enemy tricks us all the time.  Most of us know we’re not perfect, unless we’re self-righteous Pharisees- then we have a whole different problem to deal with.  But most of know we’re messed up, and so we go out striving with all our might to be better, and to do more and get more, and to be more obedient.  That way we’ll know God’s love more, we’ll be OK with him.  Don’t let your mind trick you into thinking that God’s love is dependent on anything you can do other than receiving it.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that you will get closer to God by more striving.  It’s backwards.  It’s False.  We love because he loved us first.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Remain in His Love

Jesus says this in Johns Gospel, 15: 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my loveJesus loves his friends the same way the Father love Him; without discrimination or condition, without performance or production, with their faults and failures, the good the bad and ugly.  Before Jesus ever did a single miracle or preached his sermon on the mount, before he washed his friends dirty feet or washed away their sins with his blood on the cross, His father in heaven loved Him.  Long before any of this the Father said, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased."  That’s the way Jesus loved his friends, even the really rotten ones, while they were still sinners, because his Fathers nature was love. 
I think John got it.  Somehow, following Jesus around, he understood that the Father was love.  Maybe Jesus treated him differently, maybe he was modern man in touch with his emotions, maybe the spirit was already at work on his heart.  It seems like he got a head start on that process of God’s spirit at work on us, that’s why he could refer to himself as “the beloved” or “the one Jesus loved”.  I used to read that and think, man this guy is full of himself, I bet the other disciple want to beat him up when Jesus wasn’t around... the one Jesus loved, get over yourself Johnny boy, Jesus loves us all.  But he wasn’t full of himself, He recognized that Jesus loved him for whoever he was.  Maybe he was the biggest screw up of the bunch, maybe he never got anything else Jesus said, maybe he never cast out many demons or healed many sick people when Jesus sent them out, maybe he couldn’t throw a Frisbee or play the lute (well he did write a few important books, so I guess he might of had something going for him).  But most importantly, he knew that Jesus was from God and that he was loved by him.  
Philip didn’t get it; he was there from the start and he didn’t get it.  He said if you just show us the father that’ll be enough.  And Jesus said, look at me, look at what I’ve shown you, look at how I’ve loved you, that’s what the father is, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen him.  Jesus first words when he started his ministry were repent, the kingdom is near.  I think he was saying “everyone stop looking at the world, stop looking at your sin, stop focusing on imperfection, stop trying to figure out how not to be punished.  Look at me, I’m here, I am the kingdom of heaven, watch me, I’m going to show you how the kingdom works, I’m going to show you who the father is.  The Father is love, the kingdom runs on love, I’m going to go to the cross to show you how perfect and wonderful God is. 
Once he showed them all this stuff, Jesus said to the disciples “now remain in my love”, I love this statement.  I’ve read that statement before and thought wow, Jesus just put a requirement on the disciples, a pretty big one at that, but it wasn’t a requirement of them, it was his stamp of approval that they would remain in his love; just as he had remained in his father.  I think this was a promise from Jesus.  He knew they’d never measure up on their own, I think he was telling them that they were secure in the love he was offering them. 
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  One command, love each other, that’s how we stay in God.  Love each other without any conditions, Jesus just loved them, he knew he would be betrayed, he knew he would be abandoned, he knew they didn’t understand who he was or half of what he was saying, but his Father is love.  So he was the embodiment of the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth to show us what the full expression of love is.  If you’ve seen the way Jesus loved, what he was able to do because of love, then you’ve seen the Kingdom of Heaven and the spirit can start that process of filling you with the fullness of God, the fullness that surpasses our human concepts of love, something only God’s loving spirit can do within us. 

John 15:9…
10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love.11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.