Archive for August, 2007

I Desire Mercy

August 25, 2007

Moment of confession: My spirit has been numb for a while. I’m pretty sure I know some of the reasons why, too. Your spirit, like your body or your mind, has to be used, and it has to be fed. I haven’t done much of either lately, though. I haven’t made time for it, and this is the result. I guess you reap what you sow.

But lately I find myself regaining an appetite for the Lord. I don’t mean that I want to read more theology or debate more with people about epistemology or christology or anthropology (sorry, guys!) . It’s just not where I am right now. I’m rediscovering my need to have actual interaction with my Maker. My insides don’t work right without that.

I’m reading the gospels lately, particularly a blending of them entitled The Greatest Story. I love this book, because it mixes together all four gospels, without the clutter of verse references next to every line (never fear, theologues; if you glance over to the margin you can find the source references for each section). This way it all reads as one story, instead of four. In reading this time, I find myself asking more pointedly than ever before: What is this Man like? I want to meet him again and know him better.

I must also admit that my reading of the gospels (this time) is coming on the heels of my having read The Secret Message of Jesus, by Brian MacLaren. In all honesty, I don’t share all the same burdens that he does, yet I always find him to be thought-provoking. Nothing he writes is parroted or un-thought-through. I like that.

Today I read two stories from Matthew 19. In the first one, Jesus and his disciples were walking through a field, picking heads of wheat and eating them right off the stalk. When the pharisees chided them for breaking the Sabbath, Jesus retorted with “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” His words fell on deaf ears, of course, because sacrifice was what his detractors were all about.

(That’s what the text says, guys. I don’t care what the Dead Sea Scrolls make it look like. The gospels are clear about who angered Jesus the most, and what their issues were) They were all about “doing it right.” I think any of us can honestly identify with that from time to time. But what matters most to him is that we care for one another. That’s snapshot number one of his heart. He is all about mercy.

The next story exposes the superficiality of the religious mind. As Jesus set out to heal a man who had a crippled hand, his detractors once again prepared to blow the whistle on him. They asked him a question designed to trap him: Is it legal to heal on the Sabbath?

What a question! Is it legal? How can you even ask if it’s okay to heal someone? To make matters worse, their implied answer must have been “no,” otherwise it wouldn’t have been much of a trap.

Well, Jesus turned the tables on them and asked a totally different question: Is the Sabbath for saving life, or destroying it? They had no answer to that question because it wasn’t one of the questions they learned to answer.

Behold the religious mind. It is not capable of thinking for itself. It cannot answer new questions. All it can do is move within the grooves already cut for it. It does not go to the root of righteousness. It can only stand outside of it, mimicking what it sees on the surface. True holiness, true righteousness, issues from a deeper place than that.

Let us love one another, because that’s what he is like. He is mercy. So now are we.



August 21, 2007

Forgive me the plagiarism of quoting a brother in my church, but I thought his rendering of several verses in Galatians was excellent. It’s a dynamic paraphrase, in the spirit of The Living Bible, only I’m calling this the Kyle Justice Version (KJV). Wherever the Law is mentioned, he was to insert something about that thing that has become “Law” in our day:

“No one is made right with God by trying to be a good Christian.” Gal. 2:16

“In fact, trying to please God is an impossible task. When I quit trying, then I really began to live.” Gal. 2:19

“If I could have pleased God by trying hard enough, then Christ’s death would have been unnecessary.” Gal. 2:21

“See your Lord on the Cross and think about it for a moment. Did you receive the Spirit by trying hard or by simply trusting Him? Do you really believe that you can improve on what the Spirit began in you? Does God continue to bless you because of His grace or because of your determined effort?” Gal. 3:1-5

“Trying to live the Christian life is a miserable curse. Christ removed this curse from us by swallowing it up on the Cross. Now, by simply believing and trusting Him, we have an invitation to enjoy every spiritual blessing with all the saints.” Gal. 3:13-14

“But I will say this about trying to be a good Christian. It will sooner or later drive you closer to Christ and to your brothers and sisters. You will finally give up trying and find peace and rest in His Body. At last, in utter freedom and full assurance of your place in God’s family, you will cry out, ‘Abba! Father! I am your beloved son!'” Gal. 3:24-29; 4:6

“Christ has truly and completely set us free, so stop trying to please God by doing all the right things. Let the Spirit lead the way. He alone can live the Christian life.” Gal. 5:1,18

Thanks for sharing, Kyle.

Following Jesus

August 11, 2007

Something occurred to me in the shower the other morning. I don’t know about you, but I often get my clearest thoughts while showering.

Jesus’ earliest followers discovered that following Him involved moving around… alot. The guy hardly ever stayed put. When you think about it, it’s not surprising that following someone means actually following Him. For those original men and women, it meant traipsing around Galilee and Judea and getting into all sorts of unexpected situations.

But is it really any different for us? We don’t wander Palestine on foot, following an itinerant preacher up and down dusty roads. But as I really try to know the Lord Jesus well, I find that He never stagnates because He never sits still. The way I knew Him in the past remains precious to me, but I know in my heart that there’s always more. There are more places He wants to take me. There are more sides to Him that I can know. But I should expect a journey into the unfamiliar.

I know that there’s something in human nature that craves the familiar. The controlled. The predictable. I’ve got that in me, too. But imagine living in a vast and beautiful territory for years without ever leaving a one square mile plot. What a waste that would be. That’s what God is like. He means for us to discover those valleys and mountains, rivers, and deserts (ever read Hind’s Feet on High Places?).

So that’s where I am at present. I think from time to time I am sensing a call to go on a hunt to find where the Lord is going to express Himself today. Maybe it will be in a dangerous place. Maybe a quiet place. Maybe even a place I’ve been before, but never with Him. I dunno. But I know that nothing else will satisfy my hunger for adventure.