Let Him Flow!

WARNING: THIS POST INCLUDES LANGUAGE SOME OF YOU MAY FIND OFFENSIVE.
READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

Jesus is Alive!

Jesus is Alive IN YOU!

I was reminded of this truth again this week, and feel the need to share the story with you. Here’s what happened: On Monday morning I was riding public transit (BART) to work. I generally spend the commute doing what most of those around me are doing—reading, checking email, or “connecting” on social media. As I did this Monday I came upon a FaceBook post from Sunday afternoon which was a question . . . a very good question! While the friend who posed the question is a skeptic, I sensed this was an honest question—“Why the phrase, He is risen? Why not, He was raised or some such?” As I pondered the question, the doors closed . . . the train was again underway.

I was about 10 minutes from my stop, and I have learned that—with FaceBook as with life—moments come and go quickly: About a week earlier I had seen a post by another friend and wanted to “comment,” but felt I didn’t have time right then; when I went back later that day, her post was gone. Opportunity . . . lost! This post from Sunday afternoon had only a few comments: One asserted it was all myth, another labeled it “a bunch of religious shit,” while a third offered a link to a Wikipedia piece on the origin of the tradition. The question sat . . . unanswered. I thought something like “Jesus, use me” and clicked “comment.” . . .

Put yourself there. If this was your friend, what would you write?

Lighthouse

Here is what I wrote:

Good question. And since you asked, it is because he was not merely resuscitated back to this life only to die again, but his body was transformed into a non-perishable one–thus he remains risen. His bodily resurrection tells us this life is not all there is; there is much more–for although he was the first with this experience, he won’t be the only one, such life is available to all as a gift because of him.
Far from myth, such bodily resurrection is “far and away the best historical explanation for the early church” (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, “The Surprising Story of Easter”).
Feel free to message me if you want more.
Hope you all enjoy a great day in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

I haven’t heard anything more from this friend, but the question and responses are still in his timeline.

After I hit “Post” and was through the exit gate at my station I realized: This was why I had been prompted to read from N.T. Wright the day before (and take note of particular phrases and chapter titles)—not so I could send an email on Sunday afternoon as I had supposed, but so I could respond to this friend’s question!  As I walked and thanked Jesus for enabling me to proclaim resurrection truth, I thought on the Sunday prompting, struggles with phrasing, words, and expression and began to understand: Papa used those experiences of Sunday afternoon to prepare me for those fleeting moments on Monday morning, when Jesus would love my friend through me.

Your response to my Monday morning experience might be something like, “John, I can’t write like that!” To which I reply, “Neither can I!” For it really wasn’t “John” who offered that answer, it was Jesus in John. And that is the real point of this email: Papa has prepared you in special ways so—as you face the moments in your day—Jesus in you can be seen by others, heard by others, felt by others. Jesus is putting you in the midst of particular moments because people you will encounter in those moments need Him Who Is Life to show up. And His plan is to show up in you! As He did when a friend was moved (while walking on a rocky beach) to arrange some of the stones into the form of a flower, . . . and as another put paint to canvas, . . . and when . . ..

With all this (and more) fresh in my thoughts, I was moved to joyful tears on Tuesday night through the lyrics of an “oldie” (Naphtali) by John Fischer:

We have the One, Who created the world,
Living inside our bodies.
There should be rivers, mountains, and oceans
Flowing from our lives.

. . .

So let the One, Who created before,
Create again in you.
Songs and poems, painted expressions,
The glories of His Truth

. . .

O God, we thank Thee,
For Thou hast given us of Thy Spirit,
That all our living might be
Expressions of Thy love.

 The Resurrection of Jesus occurred in history, but His Resurrection Life is to be lived-out in the fleeting moments of your daily experience—for The Risen One lives in you. He IS risen!

Let Him flow!

For the Joy Set Before Him

The Cup.

The Cross.

The Tomb.

. . .

The Thousands upon Thousands—beyond number—In Christ.

 

As I pointed out last week, in the Gospel record we see Jesus consistently coupling the cross with rising again from the dead. Thus, although His followers were decimated by His death, He had told them repeatedly of His resurrection. While I encourage you to contemplate the greatness of His provision for us through His death, I encourage you to also contemplate the goal which took Him through the Cross. In my mind, I see Jesus, moved by the utmost love for each individual comprising “the whole world,” looking right through the Cross in the foreground, out through the empty tomb, and on to all the Saints of all the ages—including you! As the writer to the Hebrews expressed it:

For the joy set before Him,
He endured the cross, despising the shame,
And has sat down at the right hand of The Father.

His provision at the Cross was, without doubt, to pay for our sins, cancel the debt, remove Sin from us, and cleanse us from the guilt and shame. The importance of His provision for us in these matters is beyond words . . .. Such a result is certainly cause for great joy! Yet, paying for our sins (the attitudes and acts) and removing Sin (the thing itself) and guilt was not the fundamental goal of His plan for us! Dealing the death-blow to Sin was a very costly and absolutely necessary first step toward the achievement of His goal, but His goal was far more than “sin removal.” Beyond paying the penalty, removing the guilt, and destroying the power—all accomplished at The Cross—His goal was not so much removal as impartation. He came that we might have LifeLife to the Fullest—by His rising out from among the dead He made possible new birth which furthers His new Creation in which we actually become the born-ones of Father God, the Dwelling Place (“home”) for His Spirit, so that The Risen Christ can live in and through us—bringing our identity, thoughts, desires, and actions into complete congruity with Christ Himself. This impartation of His Risen Life to us and our resulting growth in grace and experiential intimacy with Jesus is not something we will ultimately receive only in some futOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAure existence after all things are made new; such vitality of union and communion with The Risen One is for us to enjoy now, in our mortal bodies (as the Scriptures attest).

As you contemplate Jesus on The Cross—the very dying form of One, . . . Who suffers there . . . for me—ask His Spirit to grant you His view through the Cross and the Tomb, on to the joy He anticipated. The joy of hundreds of thousands who are not only freed from Sin (Oh, happy condition!), but who have become the very real embodiment of The Risen Christ! Jesus fully alive in the here and now. His joy is to accomplish this goal in us . . . in me, . . . in you, . . . and in each of His beloved ones—so that we speak His words of truth and love, so our hands bring His touch to those who are broken, . . . the lame walk, the blind see, those who were in bondage are FREE!—Jesus in us bringing Life out of death. That was the joy for which He endured that old, rugged cross! Are you living in such a way that His joy is being made full? How few of us go through our day conscious of such continued incarnation, which brings me once again to the words of Richard C. Halverson (of which I was reminded yesterday):

You go no place by accident. Wherever you go, Christ is sending you.
You are no place my mistake. Wherever you are, Christ has placed you.

You go nowhere by accident–you are nowhere by accident. Wherever you go–wherever you are–Christ is placing you or sending you, because  Christ has a job He wants to do where you are and He can only do it in your body.

Think–wherever you are, Jesus Christ is literally present in the flesh. Believe that, and go in that confidence.

 

May it be so.

 

I Must Suffer AND Rise Again

This is the time of year when Christians around the world focus particularly on the death and resurrection of Jesus. Over the past several days I have been reminded again that, most often, when Jesus spoke of His death He coupled with His resurrection. He consistently coupled His suffering with rising out from among the dead. Despite this, His disciples had “no clue” about what He meant; Luke tells us explicitly, but they didn’t understand any of this (18:34, NLT). I don’t know that we understand it either!

In several of his books N.T. Wright provides a detailed historical analysis of the views of resurrection prevalent in second temple Judaism of Jesus’ day. He explains that their views involved a spiritual after-life followed by a physical resurrection—what he calls “life after life-after-death.” We get a glimpse of this in the conversation Jesus has with Martha about her recently buried brother, Lazarus, when she affirms, I know that he will rise again (Lit. “rise out from among the dead”) in the resurrection at the last day (John 11:24). She was looking to a future time when the righteous ones from all the eons would be raised “out from among” all of the dead. Such anticipation Jewish Catacombsof a physical resurrection is part of the reason cremation was shunned by Jews and early Christians—a hope of bodily resurrection which also gave rise to the burial caves we know as “the catacombs.” So, if the disciples had a view consistent with Martha’s, they might have heard His words as predicting the “resurrection at the last day” would follow His death by only three days! . . . But they understood none of this.

During the week before His death and resurrection, Jesus offers another picture. While Jesus is in Jerusalem, a group of gentiles approach Philip and ask to see Him. When Philip goes to Jesus on their behalf His response is: Unless a grain fall into the ground and die, it remains alone, but if it dies it brings forth much fruit.  For those who understood nothing of His prediction of death and Wheat grainrising from the dead, I wonder if death as the necessary gateway to fruitfulness puzzled Philip.

Rather than expressing my thoughts of these couplings of death, new life, and fruitfulness—which I will do next week—today I prefer to simply raise some questions for us—for me and for you to ask, but not for us to answer. I propose that we proceed in a manner I often use as I journey together with others in Life the Jesus Way: Rather than relying on our own capacity to understand, ask Jesus about reality. We do this by talking with him, posing questions, and listening. Sometimes He answers immediately; other times He brings us into a situation or conversation and, after we experience the answer, His Spirit within reminds us of the question and we see what has happened as His answer to our question (such a way of learning is very Jewish); still other times He gives the answer in some other way—a word from a friend, a verse of scripture, or any other way He chooses. The point is, we need to ask and then open ourselves in faith, believing He will answer.

Wheat_Fields
Thus, I express the questions in a prayer. Perhaps you will word the questions differently, or add some of your own. The point is to ask Jesus, then listen. So you may wish to pause after each question, or even spread the questions and your listening over several days. Join with me:

Lord Jesus, thank You that You have given Your Spirit to take us into all truth—to take all that is True of You and show it to us. I admit that I have repeatedly heard or read of your death and resurrection, to the point that I don’t really think much when I hear the words. Despite my “familiarity” with the words, I doubt that my current understanding is all You intend. So, as Easter approaches this year, please reveal to me Your Truth. Specifically,

  • What connections between death and resurrection do I not understand?
  • Where in my thinking am I experiencing “death” but ignoring the “rising” You will bring?
  • In what ways am I limiting my view of “rising” to bodily resurrection in the distant past or sometime in the future, rather than seeing “rising” in my experience with You today?
  • What pains am I resisting as an unwanted “death” which You intend as a gateway to fruitfulness?

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your answers. Thank You for Who You Are—Resurrection and Life.

       John 

Living Truth

Yesterday I read an article about the agony of a couple in England who, for ten months, pursued a painful course of treatment for their five-year old son—believing all the while his condition was terminal. chemo But, . . . the diagnosis was wrong. Their son’s condition is not terminal! So, the treatments have been . . . an unnecessary agony which also delayed appropriate care for the child’s real condition. I think I understand something of their anger over the needless suffering. Yet, . . . their son’s situation parallels that of many Christians. I heard it again on the radio earlier this week—treating outward acts as the sin to be confessed, turned from, and guarded against . . . without ever addressing the real illness—disbelief of God’s words about being His child.

Do you believe what He says about you? Can you affirm His Truth, expressed in the words:

I am a . . . child of The King.

I am not talking theory, I’m talking Truth. Not what some call “positional truth”—something treated as if it were true despite appearances—but, rather, I am talking about something which is actually true. Thus, I bow before our loving Father God, our Papa in Heaven, and ask that as you read today He—by His Spirit—will enable you to receive what He says about you as actually, really, simply, . . . true.

God tells us repeatedly, through several writers of Scripture, that all who believe in Jesus as God’s provision for putting all things right are brought into His eternal family by new birth. Failure to believe we have actually been “born of God” results in our speaking and living as if sinful acts remain “natural” to us, as if we are beggars, as if a mind in the gutter should be expected. But those are lies! We are not “only human.” As those born of God we are to enjoy a life of wholeness, holiness, obedience, and selfless love—for, as His true children, we have become partakers of His divine nature. (II Peter 1:2-4)

You are probably familiar with the words of Jesus to Nicodemus recorded in John 3, that belief in Him results in being born again—being born a second time, born of the Spirit of God. God speaks similar words through Peter and John in their letters as well. Listen to Him:

. . . love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible .  . . (I Pet. 1:22, 23)

. . . Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called offspring of God, and such we are . . . (I John 3:1)

. . . Whoever has been born of God does not habitually sin . . . because he has been born of God. (I John 3:9)

It is easy to read these as mere words conveying some lofty ideal. But they are more than words, they reveal God’s Truth about you. As believers in Jesus, you and I have actually been born of God. You and I are each His child—born of His Spirit. And it is that Truth, that reality, that fact, which under-girds His call for our living whole and holy. Did you notice it? Our fervent love is to flow because we have been born from above; we can live free of habitual sin because we have been born of God.

Living whole and holy is enabled by His indwelling Spirit and the reality that you are God’s child. Just as these grape buds—which will mature over time grapebudsinto full-formed fruit of the vine—the Truth of who we already are will become increasingly evident as we mature in Christ. Thus, throughout the writings of the Apostles we are called to live consistent with who we are. What theologians call “sanctification” is not a process of learning to overcome our old nature, but rather the process of growing up as the born-ones of God we already are.

How tragically painful when our spiritual relatives (often with the “help” of well-intentioned “doctors”) treat the symptom as if it were the disease. Yet, if we fail to believe and live the reality of having been born of God, that is exactly what we do—we treat our acts of sin as if they are still natural to us—delaying our growth in wholeness, holiness, obedience, and selfless love.  Dear Ones, may we walk in Truth.

                  I am a dearly beloved, . . . blood bought,
. . . child of The King.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

 

 

Multifaceted Treasure

MultifacetedWonderOne of the great experiences God has granted me over the past 12 or 13 years is an appreciation for the depth and treasures within the many Christian “traditions.” Because many of these teachings or practices gave rise to some new “branch” on the Church tree, I had too long viewed them as reasons to divide; Christ has helped me see they are, rather, things to savor—particularly those which center on Him. With this—Father God’s Multifaceted Treasury—in view, I share with you some words of a dear friend, brother, and fellow-laborer in Christ’s field, included by him amid his expression of thanks for my last post on the body and blood of our Lord (I share it only with his permission). May God grant us all an appreciation for the richness of His Truth as observed throughout His Eternal Family:

“There was a common theme in my journey of appreciating what was then for me the remembrance, and  is now for me the Eucharist. I remember in seminary learning of Transubstantiation and thinking about John 6 in my Greek class contrary to my peers, and I remember braking those ‘crackers’ as an elder and thinking there is something that I am seeing through a glass darkly here…. Maybe that… they were just crackers… as in, He did not say, this is a symbol of my body, take eat…..

“This hunger continues in the Catholic faith where I met Christ in the Mass and now am nourished by the sacrament of the Eucharist. As He says this is my body, this is my blood, I am able to take in and feast as never before. In this sense it is Impossible to forget as it is impossible to forget to eat, to feed, to live and grow, in the life of faith working through love.  When the ‘remembrance’ was a mere symbol to me it was easier to forget, but my spirit was restless and unsettled that there was some greater purpose.”

As He shines through you, I encourage you to be feasting on Him. Always.

Don’t Forget to Remember!

Last Sunday I had one of those “Remember!” moments. The earliest ones that clearly come to mind happened when I was in high school when, as I was leaving the house for a good time with friends, my dad would say: “Remember who you are.” I’m sure there were more detailed reminders before this because, by my high school years, this phrase was a kind of verbal “shorthand” between us, by which he reminded me that I was a “representative” of the household, a visible manifestation of what it means to be part of his family, his son. Through the years Abba God has given me similar “shorthand queues” to not forget Whose I am. It happened again last week.

Our conversation over the past month or so about the reality of Papa’s love for us, our (near desperate) need to experience His love for us personally, and our responsive obedience had brought us to another essential point in our personal awareness—we are His. This is expressed in various ways in Scripture, such as the words of Solomon’s Song (chapter 2), converted to the more modern lyric as “I am my beloved’s, and He is mine, His banner over me is love.” But in the “me first” world in which we live, our thoughts are often corrupted—as evident by our speech: Let me check my schedule; well, at my church we . . ., how was your day? I know, I know: these are just expressions! But words are powerful in their influence, at times shaping the way we think and how we perceive life’s moments. It is possible for us to know something to be true, even be fully convinced (in contrast, perhaps, to believing it to be true), yet not behave in a way consistent with that truth. I’m not the only one who has done that, right? I know I’m not! This is one of those convicting points of life where a truth shared by Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz must be faced: “We don’t believe what we say we believe, we believe what we do.”

So, as of last Sunday, I had been thinking and praying—on and off for a week—about how to express the love-based truth: You are not your own, you have been bought with a price—the precious blood of Jesus. The words are fairly familiar to most of us, perhaps so familiar that even now you react with something like: “Yeah, yeah, I know that.” I know it too, but I don’t always live it and, thus, if I apply God’s criteria as expressed through Miller I come up short: If I don’t live it, I don’t really believe it (even if I “know” it). So, anyway, I’ve been thinking about this, ruminating on it, giving thought to how to express it and . . . walking (late) into a worship service I’m offered a little plastic cup half full of pale red liquid and a tiny, tiny, square cracker. It has been a long time since I Remembered Him with one of those little cups: For the past several years I have Remembered Him in procession, been offered “Christ’s Body, given for you.” which I received and dipped into a cup, extended with “Christ’s blood, shed for you.” (followed usually by my response, “Walk in New Life.”). Over those same years I have also invited wine and breadothers, many times, to lift their glass and Remember Him over a full meal, or with something baked from grain and a 4 ounce glass of dark reddish-purple juice as part of a meal. . . . But last Sunday I was standing there, holding that little cup and tiny cracker when, as the band played and choir sang a song I didn’t know, Papa reminded me of another day, years before, . . . so I wouldn’t forget to remember.

His reminder was simple, yet profoundly significant for me. He simply said, put a drop on your right ear. I don’t know if this is because in my reading the events of Aaron’s anointing were not that many weeks ago, or whether something else which triggered the memory of a time I was privileged to regularly lead others in Remembering Him and (at least one time I faintly recall) invited each one to place a touch of the Remembrance on their right ear and right thumb, or whether this was simply His way of saying—Let Me remind you, before you remind others. Having often encouraged folks to listen, then do what Papa is saying, I did what He told me to do. I touched my finger into the pale red Remembrance and touched that drop to my right ear lobe. “You are Mine. You are not your own. You have been bought with a price, My precious blood. . . . Because I love you that much.”

Father God, Abba, Papa, . . . Dad. Remind us regularly please, in ways especially meaningful to each of us personally, that we are indeed a dearly beloved, blood bought, child of The King.
Remind us, so we won’t forget to remember.

Thank You Jesus.

John