Secure in Love

Not long back I read a lovely article about grace from a fellow writer. But as I was scrolling down to leave my response I couldn’t help noticing a comment from another reader.With all the respect due (and I’m sure they believed they were doling out nothing but perfect wisdom) but it was full of warning as I understood it, for being too free. Now truthfully, it was a mild comment and I might have been able to agree with it, but it reminded me too much of the spirit I’ve seen all too often in the church against the liberating grace of Jesus.

I’ll pre-warn you; this is a little bit of a rant.

You’ve probably heard it, too – comments such as, ‘Oh you’d better be careful, make sure you’re still in the will of the Lord, you don’t want to go from one ditch to the other–greasy grace will let you slide right into hell,’ and the sentiment that it is the church’s job to frighten people into right living–because frankly, they can’t fathom any other way to do it than fear and the fiery brimstone of excommunication.

Let me put it another way; the church has been hell-bent on trying to make herself perfect and holy and righteous like it’s the highest calling, and people who embrace grace get the scourging sooner because we’ve stopped trying to be perfect, and it doesn’t compat with the system.

But the thing you have to understand, Church, is it’s all about the love of Christ. It’s all about the love of Father and pursuing him. Here’s how the surety of righteousness and perfection works: we fall in love with Jesus (because he first loves us with an everlasting all-consuming love) and we declare him Lord of our lives (because who wouldn’t let the King of Love be Lord when they realize it’s themselves he loves?) And he begins to transform our lives. The church is there to encourage and build up (and she needs to realize that not everything she says encourages or builds up) but the job of making us clean and pure and a beautiful bride belongs to God. His spirit comes to live in our hearts and from that point on, he holds sway. No, we’re not perfect, but it’s not our job to become perfect anymore.

It’s all based on relationship, you see. I fell in love with Jesus, now his desires become my desires, his perfection my perfection, because I love him and of course I want to live right–my whole body and being was created to do so, and I love him.

‘But how do you expect to stay disciplined? How are you going to stay out of the ditches if your fellow church members don’t tell you where they are?’

The fear-mongering in the church makes me mad–it makes me angry. And truly–Jesus didn’t dig ditches along the straight-and-narrow; the church did that herself. Why are you so afraid of freedom, Church? Stop burdening the children with fear; fear is worship to demons. A love relationship with Jesus leaves room for mistakes, but not fear–perfect love casts out fear. So if you aren’t here to encourage, please;

Butt out. The only counselor I need is named Wonderful.

The state of it is simply this: a relationship with God–with love–means safety; it means freedom to learn, grow and be transformed glorious by Holy Spirit (take it from one who has a growing relationship with him). So the question is, do you trust his love to guide you? Do you trust Holy Spirit’s holiness to transform you? Do you believe Holy Spirit’s holiness is transforming–and if so, why would you even consider yourself great enough to affect His transformation by accident? There is grace; His love and His heart is safe.

To Die Is Gain

“I used to be afraid to die…” I began.

I went on to explain how the truth and faithfulness of Jesus had won out in my story over fear and death and fear of death. The truth is, I really did used to be afraid to die.

And I’d heard that line Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi over and over but the reality is you just don’t know you don’t know till you know; unless you know Jesus personally, you can’t understand the strength and courage and peace behind the words of someone who knows Jesus personally–it’s just words.

19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For[c] I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

 – Philippians 1:19-24

But for me, to live, Christ! To die, gain!

Why is living Christ? Because I live by Christ’s life. Why is death gain? Because death is the end of this sin-riddled flesh, but only the very beginning of Christ’s life. Why does that mean anything? Because I want to know Christ!

It’s something I’ve been thinking quite a bit about lately–particularly after a friend recently announced the death of his grandmother–and death doesn’t scare me anymore (if anything scares me it’s decay; growing old and turning to mush). I don’t fear anymore either, the possibility that I could die and end up in hell for some unrepentant thing, or for exploring too far–grace and truth gave me a new security in my life now hidden in Christ; love.

And that’s the thing: if you’ve chosen to follow Jesus and you’ve been baptised, symbolizing your acceptance to share in his death and new life, then where, oh Death, is your sting? Where, Hell, is your victory? My hope is hidden in the Lord, the King of Glory, the King above all kings, who was and is and is to come! And it goes right back along with the deep question, “Do you really trust God?” Is your hope in him? And could it be that the hymn spoke of a true hope?

We have this hope that burns within our hearts / Hope in the coming of the Lord / We have this faith that Christ alone imparts / Faith in the promise of His word

– We Have This Hope [Wayne Hooper]

But it’s even better than the words Adventists still sing–better than maybe Mr. Hooper ever knew; because Jesus is alive in me and in every Christian who has shared in His death and resurrection and proclaims Him Lord. I understand now why Paul was able to make such a bold statement about his uncertain future, because I now know the One who he was talking about.

Beautiful Bones

Last year a couple of tree planters made me a necklace/pendant/thing–I’m not entirely sure what you’d call it.

I guess I shouldn’t say ‘tree planter’–after all, tree planters are people, too. Actually the truth is I’ve met some very interesting–no, interesting doesn’t do justice–intricate individuals who were tree planters. But back to the necklace.

It’s leather, with a large flat cut stone overhung by a copper skull with hearts for eyes and a flower (or maybe it’s a sun, I’m not sure) on the forehead. But what was interesting was one response I got to it which was a microscopic cringe. You know – cause bones are gross.

And to be honest it’s one of those things I’ve felt almost a little rebellious walking into some places with around my neck. I mean after all, bones are gross.

Bones represent death. Darkness. Evil. Maybe Ezekial thought so, too, when he looked out on that valley full of bones. Or maybe he just thought, “Oh look, a valley full of old dry bones.”

But like Ezekial we’ve only been seeing one thing, and could God be asking, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

For a long time now (it’s a very long process) I’ve been learning to see, not from a different viewpoint–for the viewpoint I want to see from is so much farther above me–but that there is another viewpoint; God has his own viewpoint, and he doesn’t look at things the way I naturally tend to. I see dry bones, he sees an army and a promise of hope for his people. I see ragged dirty weed-smoking hippie tree planters, he sees–well, I’m not sure what all he sees there, but I know he sees children who he longs to father.

There was a childrens’ book called “Beautiful Bones and Butterflies”, and I wish I could remember what it had to do with bones, but the more I’ve thought about it the more I say, “Well, why not?” It’s probably one of the levels where we all are most alike. God made bones, and they are beautiful–I can’t accept any contrary thought anymore. And sure. There’s flesh, and blood and sinews and ligaments on top. (But after all, God doesn’t look on the “outward” appearance anyway, right?) But more importantly, there’s always another viewpoint; one which sees beautiful bones walking, hippies bringing revival out of the wilderness, and maybe there’s something in store for these bones, too.

Be a Lover

Something recently triggered a shift in the way I view God; I’ve always known the common imagery–“Father”, “Bridegroom”, “Comforter”, et cetera–titles that put God on an intimate level in all his persons, but it was all head-knowledge. But I read something in an article from Steve McVey and I can’t remember the exact wording but it was to this affect: the Bible isn’t a guidebook; it is a deeply intimate love letter–to me (and you).

I grew up under that notion–that the Bible was an instruction manual for getting through life. The problem with that view is that it just isn’t a very good instruction manual for my life (e.g.: ‘Judas hung himself’–‘go and do likewise’ is a common ‘Bible joke’). And when you begin to view God as a Lover to the core, the Bible looks less and less like a study guide, and more and more like a lovestory.

And I think, Church, that this is where you go off, because you’re having an identity crisis because you don’t understand God’s identity as a lover. Love–not rule and correction–ought to be your first response. And don’t give me that old excuse that discipline is love; it may be true, but you don’t know how to discipline. When I feel the most filled with the love of Jesus all I want to do is go out and spread that experience, not tell people how wrong they are. Truth can condemn, or Truth can set captives free.

And I think, Church, that this is why you leave, because you’re having an identity crisis with your split-personality-church-bodies that can’t catch your visions because they don’t have your fresh perspective (and may think your fresh perspective is sin); it’s frustrating I know, but you were called to follow Christ, not Christians. You can’t disown being the Church – it’s still who you are.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I’ve come to the question: who is God if not an intimate lover? If that isn’t your view of him, what is there left for him to be that remotely meets your intimate needs (let alone the rest of the broken world)? I never realized how bleak my world was (even with ‘God’) without a Lover King, till now.

And there’s another thing, you know; I never connected Father, Spirit and Jesus like this before. I’ve always in my mind put a chasm between them to say ‘Well this is Father’s characteristic,’ or ‘This is Jesus’ characteristic,’ or ‘This is what the Spirit does,’ but to realize that each of them have their intimate titles–Abba, Daddy; Bridegroom, Lover; Comforter, Inhabitor–God in all through all a lover, a Father, a Bridegroom, a Comforter–a hugger, a carresser. When you hear, “This is my son (or daughter) with whom I am well pleased,” the Father loves you. When you hear “Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away with me,” the Bridegroom, Jesus, the Romancer loves you. When you hear, “Peace, be still,” and feel the warmth of his heart, Holy Spirit loves you.

So, how do you experience God? There is no wrong answer to that, because your experience is still real whether it is a completely acurate experience or not. So, how do you experience him? Who is he to you? Does the God that you see meet the needs that you have according to his glorious riches? Is his character true across all his persons? Does he love you with an everlasting love? Read the Song of Solomon and tell me God doesn’t have an intimate sense of love and romance. Because I’ll tell you something (and this is another gem Leif Hetland teaches about), there has been a reformation to bring the loveletter back to the people; there has been a reformation to bring Holy Spirit experience back to the people, and those were good reformations. But there is another reformation coming–I believe it is already here–to bring the Father’s heart back to the children, and Grace and Truth back to the bride.

Jesus, I long to know true love, deeper than the love found on earth. Take me into the King’s chamber; cause my love to mature.

Let me know the kisses of your mouth; let me feel your warm embrace. Let me smell the fragrance of your touch; let me see your lovely face. Take me away with you – even so Lord come. I love you Lord; I love you more than life.

My heart, my flesh yearn for You, Lord; to love You is all I can do. You have become my sole passion; cause my love to be true

True Love, David Ruis

What would it look like to experience Jesus’ love–the love of God–so radically? What does it look like? Can you imagine? Or does it seem too sacrilegious or irreverent to you? Even I feel a little out on the deep end–but O how deep the Father’s love for us, that we would be called Sons.

So here’s my challenge: view God as a lover, Father son and Spirit. View the Bible as a love letter to you. Find out what that love letter has to say to you. (How would that change your perspective on things?) And then? Love like no other, because there is no other love like Father’s in you.