Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Counting Dead Fish part 2

I can't believe that it's been this long since I last wrote about this chapter. Life has been busy! I leave for Haiti in the morning. Very excited and nervous at the same time, more excited than nervous though! :)

This part of the chapter isn't even 2 pages long, but I think it deserves its own separate post. It starts out with,"we usually applaud any gesture of intimacy toward Jesus." Okay you might be like, "yeah. Intimacy toward Christ is great!" But then the author writes about the brothers, James and John.

Jesus asks them, "what is it you want Me to do for you?" They told Him they wanted to be seated on His right and His left in His kingdom. He told them, "no." A few verses later a blind man is calling out to Jesus and His disciples tell him to be quiet. Jesus asks him the same question He asked James and John. "What is it you want Me to do for you?" The blind man says, "I want to see." Jesus heals him and he followed Jesus, praising God.

What was the difference? James and John wanted places of honor and power. The blind man wanted to see and praise God. Mark Buchanan writes, "we typically applaud people who want to get closer to Jesus. But that in itself tells only half a story. The movement toward Jesus begs interpretation. The motives need to be searched, parsed."

I think the original reason someone comes to Christ needs to be examined. The rich young ruler came and wanted to know what he could do. Some may come so they can do the "right" thing. Some may come for what they can get from Jesus. Some may come for the "power". Some, of course, come for a genuine transformation through His salvation.

Even after we come to Christ we need to continue to reevaluate our own motives. Just the other day I found myself thinking more of how I would look in a particular situation. I was focusing on how good I would look. Thankfully, it was only for a few minutes, before I realized I was focusing on me in the situation and not God. I repented and thanked the Holy Spirit for convicting me. I want to be closer to God. I want to be more like Him. But I still need to make sure my motives are pure. Like Mark says at the end of the chapter, "'What is it you want Me to do for you?' Jesus asks. So much depends on our answer."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Counting Dead Fish part 1

Have to admit and "eww" came out of my mouth when I read the title of this chapter. Then I was excited to find out what those dead fish could be about.

I to confess that the calling of the disciples confuses me. It seems like some are called in different ways from one gospel to the next. In this chapter, is the story from Luke that tells about when Peter, he was still Simon then, was out fishing and they didn't catch anything. Jesus comes along and tells them to try again. Peter protests but he does it, and then they bring up nets full of fish. Then he falls on his face and says, "depart from me for I am a sinful man."

Peter had just witness Jesus heal his mother-in-law, heal the sick, and drive out demons. It wasn't the first time he saw the power of Jesus. The author, Mark Buchanan, believes this is when Peter realized that Jesus was calling him to follow him. Peter realizes that Jesus didn't do this to promote his business. He wasn't going to be apart of Peter's life to do miracles for him. Jesus was calling Peter to follow Him. To promote His business. To be a part of His work.

Jesus may come into our daily lives and fills up our nets. We might get a promotion at work, a new home, a new car, or a raise. Our response is usually "Thank you Lord, depart from me." We are thankful but we want to hold onto what he gave us. We want to enjoy our blessing. But if we need our nets full again we will be glad to let him back to fill them up.

Recently I bought a new house. It was a long wait and I truly believe that it is a gift from God. I was in my house for only a few days and realized that the house didn't bring me joy. I love this house! I am thankful for this house! But I know this house is a gift. I know that living here is more about Him than me. I believe He will use this house. I look forward to seeing how. Is that frightening? Will He ask me to leave my comfort zone? Yes and Yes, but I want to follow Him.

If Peter had refused to follow Him he would have been left counting dead fish. If I refuse I will be left to count dead fish. Yeah, I hate fishing so counting dead fish doesn't appeal to me.

There is so much more in this chapter. I would love to share, so I guess there'll be a part 2 of this chapter too. :)

Monday, July 11, 2011

The God Who's Not Safe part 2

Yesterday I started writing about this chapter and realized that I couldn't do it in just one post. I underlined so much in this chapter and still won't be able to touch on all of it. The third story in this chapter is from Judges and it is about Gideon. The funny thing is it reminds me a little bit about what I wrote before about Saul in an earlier post.

Gideon is in the winepress threshing wheat. Notice he is in a winepress threshing wheat, not on a threshing floor threshing wheat. He is literally in the winepress hiding. Threshing floors are open so that wind can come through and blow away the chaff. The winepress is closed in and the chaff isn't blown away. I don't know much about threshing wheat but I do know that you don't want the chaff. Why is he hiding? The Midianites come down every harvest season and plunder the wheat. So he's hiding his wheat from them. (This is what reminds me of Saul, the hiding.)

An angel comes and says to Gideon, "Hail, Mighty Warrior." Gideon was not a warrior, and certainly not a mighty one. He is a farmer hiding from his enemies. So why did he call him a Mighty Warrior? God knew that Gideon would become a mighty warrior. So what does God call you? What does He know you will become?

Mark mentions that before Gideon was given the task of leading an army against the Midianites he had to destroy all of his idols. I know many of us don't have actual idol figures but we do have idols. God wants to use me but I need to find those idols and destroy them. Then Gideon had to build a proper alter to the Lord. Here's the catch, he did all that, but he was afraid of his family and the men of town so he did it at night. I would love to say, "what a wimp!" but I can understand it. I know there are things God has asked me to do but I have feared family members' reactions and what others would think.

Mark wrote, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, this God who claims us so completely, uncompromisingly, that He often puts us at odds with family, with the men of the town. This God brooks no rivals and orders us to tear them down with our own hands. this God calls us out of secluded winepresses and into open battlefields." and then "Why ruin the idols of the safe god and risk our good standing in the community?"

The safe god was the god who allowed Gideon to thresh wheat in the winepress. He's the god who wants us to be cowards. He wants the chaff mixed in with our wheat. He wants us living under oppression.

But God wants me to be a mighty warrior. He demands full allegiance. Idols smashed. Chaff free, full harvests. Living in freedom through Him.

Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course He's not safe. But He's good. He's the King!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The God Who's Not Safe part 1

There are three stories told in this chapter. One is from 2 Samuel, the other is from The Chronicles of Narnia, and the last from Judges.

In 2 Samuel the story of Uzzah is told. Well, it's not really all that long and you really have to understand the law to understand God's reaction. David is kin of Israel, the Ark is brought to Jerusalem and he is dancing before it and worshipping. But the Ark starts to fall off the ox cart and Uzzah, the priest, reaches out and stops it. Then he's dead. Yup, dead! God struck him dead for what?

Well, God told them exactly how to carry the Ark. They were supposed to use poles that priests would lift up and carry the Ark. Notice in the story the Ark starts to fall of the ox cart. Oh, so they weren't following the direction of the Lord. When Saul was king the Philistines captured the Ark and after they kept dying from having it in their town they decided to send it back. They placed it on an ox cart and sent it back. So Uzzah must have thought that was a more convenient way to transport the Ark. The priests didn't have to do any hard work they could just walk beside the Ark.

That is why he was struck dead. Because he decided that the directions, the law, of the Lord was inconvenient and he could do better. The Israelites wanted to be like other nations, remember they want a king like everyone else. Uzzah thought that the Philistines had a better idea then God did so he made a new tradition.

That is one thing that we humans do we make traditions. We get caught up in the traditions or the trying to be innovated, like everyone else around us that we forget to look to and dive into God. We are like Uzzah, who tried to protect the Ark of the Lord from falling and hitting the ground. We make traditions to make God look good. We focus on His mercies, and he is merciful, but we don't focus on His justice. We don't focus on a God who sent His Son to die. I never thought of it this way until a few weeks a go when Clayton King preached at church, but he said God killed His Son. Yes, He killed Him. I can't wrap my brain around that. That doesn't seem like the God I should want to follow. Isn't a safe God better?

No, he's not. That god doesn't give us anything and doesn't ask anything of us. He never brings us to our knees in desperate prayer. He never makes us bold enough to dance or sing or shout or do anything for anyone else. He only tells us nice things, sweet things. He doesn't ask us to give up anything or to even grow up. He likes us stuck in the muck, in the pit, in the borderland.

The second story is from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The children are with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and they tell them about Aslan:

"Is-is he a man? asked Lucy.
"Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion-the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh," said Susan, "I thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver, "don't you hear what Mrs. beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the king, I tell you."

I am thankful that my God is not safe, but He is good.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Refuge of the Stuck

Okay so it's summer and I'm supposed to have more time to read and blog, but not so far. :) I was at the mall today looking, failing, to find pants for Haiti and passed the Christian bookstore and went in. I wanted to see if they had Sons of Encouragement by Francine Rivers. It is a compiling of 5 of her books The Priest, The Warrior, The Prince, The Prophet, and The Scribe. I loved her book A Lineage of Grace which is also a compiling of 5 of her books. She is an amazing fiction writer! I can't wait to read my new book!!!

Chapter 1 of Your God is Too Safe tells about this amazing place called Busia which is a border town between Kenya and Uganda. When I think of a border town I think of all the times I went to Canada when I lived in NY. There is usually a small space between the two countries and sometimes a bridge, but that is usually it, well at least in NY. This is different in Busia, it's an actual city of sorts. It is about 100 yards wide and 300 yards long but it has residents. People who actually peddle things, hawk things, and beg there.

When you live one of these two countries you have to walk, yup not drive, through Busia to the other country. There are no laws. You could be robbed, beaten, and even killed and no one would do anything about it. The guards at both country's border patrol will do nothing. You are on your own. I can't image the fear of crossing such a place. Yet there are people who live there! They choose to live there. That is what Mark is describing in the first section of this book. The borderland that some of us live in, that fearful place, that we choose to live in.

If you're thinking "no way" really think about it. How many times have you not been able to let go of the past? Hurts? Fears? Even joys? I know I have! I think we all have. As I read this book I realize how many times I have done this. I realize how much I currently am doing this.

Mark says that this place is actually safe. It is familiar, you know what to expect, what to do to survive. He says it takes endurance to live there but not much else. "Life there requires no discipline but falls into neat routines. It's domesticated lawlessness. It's chaotic, but predictable. Borderland might be dangerous, but even more, it's safe." That description sounds like a terrible place, but if you feel stuck, blah, in a rut, that is probably where you are.

In the introduction, Mark talked about becoming a Christian and jumping in enthusiastically, but they it didn't last. The fizzle happened and it just became stuff he did. That's it I guess, we keep doing it. We keep working at that job that we can barely get out of bed for: teaching that Sunday school class with the same stories year after year: being in that relationship where you give and the other person just takes; and so on and so on.Sometimes the thing we are stuck in isn't bad, like Mark said he did. He still taught the youth group and volunteered for church events, but he felt stuck. It's not about the thing we are stuck in but about our relationship with the god we created, the one who is safe.

Mark talks about how some of the most stuck people are those who know a lot about God. They may have gone to Bible colleges, seminaries, theological schools and learned all about God. They have an intellectual view of God. They talk about God a lot. But they don't know who God is and they don't talk to Him. This isn't just for Bible students. We go to church, we sing, we pray, we listen to preaching, we talk about God, we volunteer, etc. But when we step out of the church doors we go back to life as usual.

I love this part so I will just quote it. "Down in our bones, mingles with our blood, silent and potent as instinct, is a dread of God...I'm talking about something more primal: a deep down craven terror, a black hole of unknowing." Mark is talking about how we fear God. Not the fear of the Lord that is mentioned in Proverbs. We know we should want Him, but part of us wants to run from Him. We want to see God works and miracles, but we don't want Him to work us in our lives. We are like the Israelites who wanted to hear from God but they didn't want to do it themselves they wanted Moses to listen to Him and tell them about it. (Exodus 20:18-19) They knew that God is a holy God and they were unholy. We know that too. I know that too.

Jesus came and did the miracles and the people loved Him for it. They wanted to follow Him. And then He did the unpredictable, unsafe thing and said "follow me." He asked people to give up what they knew, and they went back to it instead. He said leave your job, and they headed back to fishing boats and carpentry tables. He said leave your family and they went home. He wasn't safe. They wanted to be lead to freedom, but didn't want to do what was necessary to get there. They didn't want to follow the One who would take them away from the borderland and into the holy wild.

I so understand!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Slow and Burning

I had plenty of time to read the other day when I was traveling from Charlotte to Ithaca. I spent many hours in the airports, with three short flights in between. I finished the Introduction and read the first chapter. I made myself stop after that though. Partly because I don't want to read way beyond what I am blogging about and partly because sitting around airports had made me very sleepy.

Mark tells the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He tells how they walked with Jesus and tell him all about how Jesus was crucified and now His body is missing. Jesus says, "how foolish you are and how slow of heart." Then goes on the explain the Scriptures of how He had to die to fulfill the prophecies. Then as they have arrived at Emmaus and are eating and Jesus blesses the food they recognize Him. Then He disappears. They say that when He was speaking didn't their hearts burn within them.

Our relationships with Jesus can often be the same as these disciples. He walks the road with us, we are looking right at Him but don't recognize Him. He opens up the Scriptures to us. Then the scales finally fall from our eyes and we see Him. And sometimes we, just like the disciples, say, "didn't our hearts burn within us?"

That is what Mark says our heart condition is like today, well during the stuck in the borderland part of it. Our condition is slow and burning. "The burning heart keeps us going on the journey. The slowness of heart makes the journey wearisome. A burning heart inspires us to run. A slow heart discourages us sometimes from even trudging. And sometimes it tempts us to run, yes, but away....It will usually call for resting when we think we should be striving, and wrestling when we just want to sleep." (I figured I couldn't say it better.)

I don't know about you, but I know exactly what Mark is talking about. I have been there, more often then not. Maybe that is why I felt a longing to read this book again. There are times when I feel so stuck. I want to want more of God. I know I need Him, more of Him. That might be the problem. I "know" I need more of Him. It needs to move more from being something I want in my head to something I want more in my heart.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Your God is Too Safe

I have not abandoned Joshua, but I had a longing to reread this book. I've read it a couple of times before and love it. Do you ever feel stuck? Do you want to go deeper into what God has for you? Yes, well then you may enjoy this book too.

I decided that I need to break it up, because there is so much in this book. So I read just over two pages from the introduction and decided it was a good place to stop and blog.

Mark Buchanan starts the book with "I'm stuck." He wrote this book because he totally understands the being stuck stage. I love author's who are real! I love ones who let you know they are human and struggle with the same things that I do.

He goes on to say that when he gave his life to Christ he was on fire to do whatever he was even a little bit good at. He then goes on to say that the zeal fizzled. He still many of the things he started out enthusiastically, but it just wasn't the same. He was stuck. He mentions that he slipped back into some old patterns, like cynicism.

Ever read about Huck Finn? He was adopted by the Widow Douglas. Huck has to conform to her rules and standards. He does it for awhile and but then he leaves and returns to his old life. He tells Tom Sawyer that to get out, that it just wasn't for him.

That is exactly how Mark felt. He found it easier to gossip and grumble than to praise, easier to be selfish than a servant. He felt that the Christian walk had become legalistic and he couldn't stand it. Like I said he kept doing the church things but he felt tired and fatigued.

He ends the two pages, not the introduction, with "I was stuck, and though I was often lonely in it, I wasn't alone." I know exactly what he means! I often feel lonely in what ever area of struggle I am experiencing, but I am not alone. There are others who have the same struggles.

Now this book is not all a downer, but it does start out making the reader really look at his or her life in the Borderland. But then Mark takes you into the holy Wild. Now that's a place I want to be!