Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Chewed Up and Spit Out

Darkness surrounds us, but it does not own us,
Not anymore
It’s been swallowed up by Mercy and Grace.
It’s been chewed up and spit out
When he looked into the eyes
Of one who’d never heard a noise,
He spit in the face of the one who poisoned us. 
He breathed the sigh that opened the gates of heaven and set a man straight, "Ephphatha,"
A sensation of sound serenaded this sinner who suffered in a state of acoustic darkness
Mercy chewed up his affliction and Grace spit it out.

Darkness surrounds us, but it does not condemn us, not anyone
It’s been devoured by Hope and faith
It’s been chewed up and spit out
When he looked into the eyes
Of one who’d never see a sunrise,
He spit in the face of the one who blinded us
He wiped on mud that cleaned out the dirt stuck on the souls of men to set a man free, “Siloam”
A sensation of sight saturated this sinner who stumbled in a stupor of visual darkness.
Hope chewed up his infection and Faith spit it out

Darkness surrounds us, but it does not defeat us, not anymore
It’s been destroyed by Truth and Life
It’s been chewed up and spit out
When he looked into the face
Of the one who came to erase
The sons and daughters with lies and disgrace.
He made a public spectacle of just how weak his enemy’s greatest move was. “teleh'o 
A symphony of spiritual song burst forth when sin seemingly succeeded but a resurrection set it in its place
Truth chewed up death and life spit out. 
Death has been swallowed up in victory
Oh death where is your victory?
Oh death where is your sting?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The After Easter Breakfast Party

A few days after everything went down - arrest, beating, crucifixion, death, resurrection - Jesus starts appearing to His friends.  If you have ever lost a close friend or family member, you know the days and weeks following are kind of surreal.  You do not know which way is up for a while.  You have to figure out what the new normal is.  Imagine the state these boys are in.  Young men, some of them still teenagers, have just watched their best friend die and come back to life.  He has basically turned everything they learned as kids about life, religion, culture, God, on its head.  And now he starts appearing to them and giving that power to them by the Holy Spirit.  That is a crazy week.

We catch up with some of the guys in chapter 21 with John's telling the story.  Peter, who seems to have risen to the top as the leader, despite his obvious shortcomings, says 'I'm going fishing' and the rest of the boys decide to go too.  That is what I would do.  The whole world just got extremely crazy for a while, I need to do something that is familiar.  I am a fisherman, I am going fishing.  I need some sense of normal in my life.  I cannot handle anymore supernatural, high intensity, life changing things.  I cannot handle anymore emotional roller coaster.

Of course, Jesus is always in control and had a plan for the morning. So they fished all night and did not catch anything - that is kind of normal.  Jesus is waiting at the shore at daybreak and shouts out to them, "boys, got any fish?", a frustrating question after you have been out fishing and come back empty handed.  'Put your nets down on the right side of the boat, I think you'll find some there now.'  Of course, some of them had heard that before, a few years back and it worked.  They put down the nets and bam! 153 large fish.  More than the nets would normally hold, but they held.  John clues in, "it's the Lord".  Peter freaks out and jumps in to swim to shore - he tends to be a little overly spontaneous at times.  They get to shore and drag the fish in and guess what is waiting: breakfast.

This is what I love about this situation.  The boys have had the most intense time of there life in the past week - spiritually, mentally, emotionally - and do not know which way is up.  Jesus shows up and says, 'boys, let's have breakfast.  Let's sit here, chill out and do something normal, and I'm here to hang out with you.'

Life is like this; highs, lows, roller coasters, normal, mundane... it's just life.   Here Jesus is showing up in powerful ways with the Holy Spirit, and in everyday normal ways with the Holy Spirit.  It's the same for you and I as it was for the disciples.  We go to conferences and have amazing spiritual experiences then Monday morning we have a spiritual hangover.  We feel drained.  Our head is spinning from the things we heard and experienced.  We need to know Jesus is there in those times too.  We have amazing spiritual experiences where we hear the Holy Spirit telling us he loves us or he has some task for us or some word to share, the next day we're questioning if that was really Him.  We need to know Jesus is there in those times.

After Jesus says, "come have some grub”, I love this line.  "None of the disciples dared to ask Him, 'who are you?'.  They knew it was the Lord."  The same Holy Spirit that let them in on the secret that Jesus was the Messiah was telling them now that this was Jesus.  Sometimes (often for me), after we have these spiritual experiences with Jesus, we get a little voice of doubt brewing up.  You will recognize it - it sounds like you saying, "was that real?", "was that really Jesus?", "would Jesus really use me that way?", "could He really love me that much?"  That is not the Holy Spirit.  That is the other chump that Jesus made a public spectacle of at the cross when he took God's wrath against our sin, gave up his life and then didn't stay dead. 

I am certain the boys were hearing some of those voices the night before when they went fishing.  I would bet they were questioning some of the stuff they saw and experienced in the past 3 years.  Maybe they figured it would be easier to just go back to being fishermen if all that stuff Jesus had told them was coming true.  But Jesus had a plan for these guys and he has plan for you too.  What you need to know is that He is with you the same way in the spiritual battles as he is in the mundane breakfast.  He just loves you so much he wants you to know He is with you whatever you're doing;  preaching the Gospel to the masses or catching fish to pay the bills, healing the blind or coaching soccer, walking on water or walking the dog.  If Jesus is in your life, he is your life.

When John is writing this little account of what happened (and at other times) he refers to himself as "the one Jesus loves".  It always bugged me when I read that.  I thought John was pretty full of himself and the other guys must get annoyed by this.  But now when I read it I realize, John just got it.  He understood, long before the rest of them, that Jesus really loved him.  He loved Him when he made him, he loved him when he left heavens glory, he loved him when he called him to come follow, he loved him when he went to the cross on Friday, he loved him when he got up from the tomb, he loved him when he gave him the Holy Spirit, he loved him when he made breakfast and hung out on the beach (when he could be hanging out in Heaven with his father and the angels).  He loved him when he was a broken young man, he loved him when he was old and tired.  He loved him when he took him home.  He was the one Jesus loved.  And so are you.  Say it out loud.  I know it feel weird, I know it feels undeserved, but it is true.  I am the one Jesus loves.  You are the one Jesus loves.  He loves you enough to show up in your life when it is a great day or a terrible day.  He loves you enough to give you the Holy Spirit and have breakfast with you.  He loves you enough to rescue you from sin and death and every other affliction that comes your way.  He loves you enough to lay down his own life so you can have an abundant one. 

You, me, John, Peter, it does not matter, we are all the one Jesus loves. 

While Jesus is hanging out with the guys he turns to Pete and says, Rocky do you love me?  He says it three times in fact.  I imagine Peter was getting annoyed by the third time.  But I think this was kind of a trick question and Peter didn't get it at first (the way most of us don't get it).  I think Jesus was trying to show him the truth that we only love Jesus because he loved us first.  John would have got it the first time.  I think the hidden question for Peter was, do you know I really love you.  None of us can love God unless we know we are loved.  None of us can understand how any of this following Jesus thing works except if we know Jesus loves us.  None of can see the kingdom of heaven at work until we get some revelation that Jesus loves us.  None of us can serve God unless we know he has served himself up in the greatest display of love the world has ever seen.

You are the one Jesus loves.  Read the rest of His story and see just how much.  Have breakfast with him this week and see what he says. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Faith in 4D

Driving past a pond yesterday, I saw a couple Canada Geese swimming around, doing what Geese do. What marvelously annoying creature they are.  Where I grew up, a huge flock would hang out in the harbour for a while every year before making their expedition south for the winter.  Most mornings they would wake me up at dawn with their incessant honking; remarkably loud when there's 500 of the buggers. Anyway, these two were just minding their business swimming around. When I saw them I remembered this line from a cheesy football movie. Coach McGinty (Gene Hackman) says to Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), quarterbacks are "Like a duck on the pond. On the surface everything looks calm, but beneath the water those little feet are churning a mile a minute." Imagine God being able to speak to people through cheesy football movies and honking geese; but he does, and he did.  

I really love this verse in Ephesians where Paul writes to his friends and says, I want you to experience how long and wide and high and deep Jesus love is for them.  Sometimes, if I'm honest, I feel like a duck.  My faith has a two dimensional quality.  Things on the surface look fine, all the while, I'm paddling like a mad duck to try to get anywhere.  I know Jesus didn't intend for my faith to be played out that way, he's got way more for me that that.  Lot's of Jesus followers get trapped in this idea, they get trapped part way into really experiencing God.  Somehow, the idea that being a Christian means you've got it all together, or at least have to make it look that way on the surface.  That idea doesn't come from scripture and it certainly doesn't get us anywhere with our Father in heaven.  But there we are, paddling around on the pond, all the while having no clue that the pond is deeper that we can possibly imagine.  

Lot's of folks can get trapped in flat, square surface faith.  Maybe they know scripture well.  The words on the page are important and meaningful but that's where they stay.  Stories in a book.  Rules and regulations to govern life.  Codes and laws to keep us with in the bounds.  Flat and square, defined edges you can't see past, right angles to keep you from getting crooked.  

But Paul says they're more.

Sometimes our faith makes it to three dimensions.  Boxes.  A place where faith can be contained.  Some semblance of structure and usefulness.  Somewhere to hide if the world gets too scary.  Somewhere to store things in case you need them later.  Building blocks in monuments to remind of a past time when things seemed alive.  

But Paul says they're more.

Paul wants his friends to experience another dimension of their faith, another dimension of Jesus.  Depth is something much harder to define, much harder to nail down.  Depth seems something much more vast and mysterious than Length and Width and Height.  Finding depth seems to take an endless life long exploration, especially to Paul's friends in Ephesus.  Ephesus was a coastal city where people knew what it meant to plumb the depths of the Sea.  Paul knew what it was like be shipwrecked in the deep bottomlessness with only God to cling to for life.  He knew the utter depths of joy in the midst of pain and trouble.  He knew there was something well beyond the faith he once had; of rules and laws and ceremonies and knowledge which he then counted as something but now as trash compared to the love and grace and mercy of Jesus.

Paul made no allusions to having it all together.  If you saw Paul, you wouldn't likely think that dudes got this "Christian walk thing" figured out - at least by our North American, reformed, respectable, sanitized version of Christian walking.  Paul was put in jail, beaten up,  run out of town, abandoned by his friends and arguing with other Christians.  He was a drifter who talked too much, didn't have a suit and tie, no Christian fish decal on his donkey, bad at small talk, and said really politically incorrect things about other peoples religion... but he was real - kind of like Jesus.  He talked about his faith, he lived his faith, he experienced his faith. AND he really wanted everyone to do the same with their's.

Paul also knew that this ability to grasp all the dimensions of the love of Christ comes not from us, from our ability or willingness or capacity to figure it out, but by the power of God, through the Holy Spirit.  These dimensions aren't something we ascertain by our goodness, they aren't earned by our obedience, they aren't won by our efforts.  They're part of the free gift of Grace because of what Jesus did in his life, death and resurrection.  They're part of the deal.  They're what God wants us to see, know and experience in our life with him and he's given us his own Spirit so that we can have the power to understand what is incomprehensible on our own.  But it is possible with Him.  And it's His great desire that we take him up on the offer.  

So, like Paul, I "pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with powerthrough his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Be Blessed.