Monthly Archives: June 2015

Expanding Our God-in-the-Box

You put God in a box. And so do I.

We don’t do it on purpose, or even consciously, of course, but because we are finite beings it’s impossible for us not to. And all our boxes look different; they’re constructed by our upbringing and our church backgrounds (or lack thereof); by our relationships and our media consumption; by the way we read Scripture and pray (or don’t do those); and by a host of other things which would be impossible to name them all.

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These boxes say “God is like this, but not like that” or “God does this, but doesn’t do that” and such things. And invariably they contain both a lot of truth about God and a lot of untruth, even lies.

But because our boxes are all made up differently and because we all carry one, one of the great things that I’ve noticed about including more people into my life and into the groups I’m part of is that our “God-in-the-boxes” crash against each other. And as they crash together my box actually expands and grows – even splinters, and cracks open. And God becomes bigger in my life. Becomes more of who He is and who He wants to be in my life.

Now, if this is true for me then I can reasonably expect that it is also true for you. While this doesn’t mean we will always agree with everyone, which is a good thing, it does mean that we don’t need to be hesitant to include others. Rather, we should be eager to do so, knowing that we will see more of God because of them.

It also means that we need to learn to listen well. Not to discount or shrug people off when they don’t agree with us. Part of what breaks our boxes as they collide is our differing opinions. So, what does the Indigenous Christian, or the Latino Christian, or the Indian or African or other non-Western Christian say about God? What does the Calvinist or the Arminian say about Him? What do poor or wealthy Christians say? What do LGBQT Christians say about God, even?

One of the beautiful things about the Kingdom of God is its diversity – which we’ll finally experience to its full extent at the End of Time, when we’ll be able to say with St. John:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!””

god-box

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Jeremiah Speaks to the Modern Church

It’s been a long time since I read any of the prophetic books, and honestly I don’t like reading them that much compared to the NT, but I knew that I should, and I randomly chose to read the book of Jeremiah. And I find that as I’m reading it I’m thinking about the Church a lot. Specifically, the Church in North America, but my own local congregation as well.

Publication1While Jeremiah was speaking to a specific people in specific contexts, three passages have especially stood out to me so far as being especially relevant for us today:

Jeremiah 2:13

“For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—
the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
that can hold no water at all!”

When I read this I was again reminded of how we have a great lack of the Spirit’s power in our churches today (and indeed, also in my own life). We have abandoned prayer and dependence on God and instead have turned to the methods and practices of the world – especially the business and entertainment worlds.

A great example of the latter is the Global Leadership Summit, put on by Willow Creek every year. Its target audience is church leaders, and its speakers are high profile church leaders and successful business leaders. Many of the business leaders they have speak are not Christians, and their talks focus on how to be a successful & productive manager/CEO of the church, using secular business models.

Examples of the former include things like sermons that aim to be relevant and accessible (and are generally about having a better/happier life – “5 Keys to a Healthy Marriage” – as opposed to pointing us to Christ and His work on our behalf), and worship songs that make the singer the main subject (as opposed to God). Some of these songs don’t even mention God, preferring the pronoun “you,” and are generally indistinguishable from pop love songs on the radio.

This is a problem on so many levels. But enough ranting there.

Jeremiah 16: 11-12

“Then you will give them the Lord’s reply: ‘It is because your ancestors were unfaithful to me. They worshiped other gods and served them. They abandoned me and did not obey my word. And you are even worse than your ancestors! You stubbornly follow your own evil desires and refuse to listen to me.

I’m ripping this passage even more out of its original context (God is spelling out what Judah’s idolatry is leading to: lots of death and eventual exile), but this passage made me think of how, as a young believer I yearned for godly mentors and leaders in my church, who would take me under their wing and show me what it means to be a Christian (having an unbelieving mother and a new-believer father myself). Mentorship is so important!

And I think about how my current church has prayer meetings that only two or three people attend, and how the love of Jesus is not very evident in our midst, and how our media habits and our life-goals are not any different than the worlds, and how this is the example we’re giving our young people of what it means to be a Christian.

And so if we get it so wrong, how much more will the next generation? This breaks my heart. However, I am solaced with the thought that God always preserves a remnant for himself. What we will have to answer for though!

Jeremiah 14: 19-22

Although our sins testify against us,
    do something, Lord, for the sake of your name.
For we have often rebelled;
    we have sinned against you.
You who are the hope of Israel,
    its Savior in times of distress,
why are you like a stranger in the land,
    like a traveler who stays only a night?
Why are you like a man taken by surprise,
    like a warrior powerless to save?
You are among us, Lord,
    and we bear your name;
    do not forsake us!

This is the prayer that I prayed for myself, my church, and the Canadian and U.S. Church after I read it. I’ll continue to do so, and I invite you to pray it with me.

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Doing What We Can

So I’ve been going through a pretty difficult time of depression over these last few months, worse than it’s ever been actually. I had to step back from my job even. And while I’ve gotten some encouraging emails and coffee times with friends, one of the things that has sustained me throughout this time is a little comment Jesus makes in Mark’s Gospel, that jumped out at me as I was reading through the book. I keep going back to it in my mind, repeating it to myself, reminding myself. Here’s the passage it comes from:

“And while [Jesus] was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:3-9)

2 Women with Jesus The Anointing

Sometimes the needs in the world can seem so overwhelming, and we think “what can I do? What difference can I make?” On top of that, media & social media both tell us that we must do grand acts – help rebuild an earthquake-devastated village or cycle across the country to raise funds for a charity or things like that – in order to do something worthwhile or to be counted as anything.

But Jesus’ words here give me great comfort – while I cannot easily do grand and elaborate acts to help the world, I can do small and simple ones right here, right around me, and with what abilities and resources I already have.

And when I’m going through a season of depression, even the smallest act – taking a shower, for example, can take an enormous amount of will-power (those of you who’ve experienced the black dog know what I’m talking about). But it helps. And writing & reading helps. And prayer helps. And I try to do these in his strength.

“Whatever you did to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). It doesn’t matter how small or mundane our acts are; it doesn’t matter how we’re feeling or what we’re going through; Jesus knows what we can do with where we are and what we have, and he accepts it as worship. And more than that even, he accepts it as done to him himself. Even small (by the world’s standards) and mundane things are holy.

 

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