Meeting Jesus [John 1]

When Jesus met Peter he didn’t need an introduction.

This one’s for my peers. For the twenty-somethings, the teens, the church-grown pew-lings who grew up in his fan club but haven’t actually gotten to meet Jesus. They taught you Jesus-theory but failed to show you Jesus life. My heart breaks for you.

My heart breaks for you because I am you.

I grew up on Christian theory and equations for being good and doing the right thing. I know about feeling guilty because I know my parents want me to go to church but it just isn’t working for me. I know what it’s like to come to that point where you know you have to make your own decisions about Jesus, Christianity and church instead of just doing what your parents do.

But let me introduce you to Jesus.

There was this preacher guy named John, and people listened to what he said. One day he saw Jesus walking by and he said to two of his fisherman-punk-followers, “Look, there goes the Lamb of God,” and they left John and they followed after Jesus. Jesus was like, “Hey guys…what are you looking for?” and they just kind of had a social fart and blurted out, “Where do you live, teacher?”

Jesus just smiled and said, “Come and see.”

One of these young fisherman punks was Andrew, and when he knew where Jesus was staying he went off and told his brother Simon that he had found the Messiah, so Simon came back with Andrew to meet Jesus.

“You are Simon the son of Jona, but you will be called ‘A Stone’ (Cephas, Peter)–”

–As soon as He “beheld him”.

Jesus saw Simon coming toward him and he said, “Hey, I know who you are, and this is who you will be.”

I know you probably don’t get it yet. But meeting Jesus–really meeting Jesus–is more like being reintroduced to yourself. It’s like nothing you’ve learned in church because when Jesus meets you it isn’t theory anymore, it’s him, and he knows you.

I want to say the real question is “Will you let him in–let him speak,” like you have any say over him. But that’s not it. He didn’t ask Simon’s permission or even wait to be introduced (how did he even know Simon’s name?) The truth isn’t those formulas you’ve heard. The truth is, Jesus is going to meet you and he’s going to speak the truth of who you are and who you will be. The truth is he’s speaking it now–right now, here, in this moment, where you are right now. The truth is if you listen now you can hear the Creator breathing your heartbeat, and only you can hear it. It doesn’t take a good speaker or an emotional worship leader, all it takes is for you to stop and listen for the voice that you know deep down can’t really be just your head talking back, and believe him.

A few days after Peter met Jesus, Nathanael came along. It went like this; Jesus found Philip who lived in the same town as Andrew and Peter, and Philip ran off to find Nathanael. So Philip tells Nathanael that they’ve found the prophesied Messiah and Nathanael incredulously comes along to see. As soon as Jesus sees Nathanael coming he says to the others, “Look at this guy, he’s a true Israelite, there’s nothing fake about him.” Nathanael maybe still sounds a little incredulous as he says, “Dude, how do you even know me?” We’ve never met before. Jesus says, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip even called you.”

Boom. Nathanael proclaims Jesus Messiah, Son of God and King of Israel just like that.

Jesus grins, “You believe in me because I told you I saw you under the fig tree?! You’re going to see things way better than that; soon you’ll see heaven and earth collide.”

There’s so much I want to tell you that I don’t know how to yet. But one of the most important things is Jesus is a person! He’s real and actual! You can hear him if you listen; you can feel him if you reach out your hands. And soon, maybe tonight, maybe later on, maybe in the middle of the biggest storm you’ve ever faced, you’ll hear him. He’ll say “Child…I know you, I’ve seen you when you think no one is looking; here is who you are going to be.” And Jesus won’t be the same to you again.

Because when it comes to Jesus, you can’t just go on what someone else says; John pointed Jesus out to his disciples as the Messiah he had been heralding, but their lives only changed when they left John to meet Jesus personally and individually. You just have to meet and experience him for yourself and I promise you this: ‘He is not a tame Lion, but he is good;’ and you won’t walk away the same.

 

 

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More Than Reputation

I’m recalling a dream I had some years ago. It came to mind recently because of an encounter I had the other day that opened my eyes a good deal wider than they had been. It was a short and very revealing discourse that took place over a couple hours on facebook between someone and myself about grace, works and our responsibility as Christians. I’ll begin by describing the dream:

I don’t recall the details now (they are probably stored away in some old journal) but the main points I remember vividly. I was at the Adventist church back in Hazelton. I’d had this dream while still a part of that congregation. I don’t remember having been inside the building at all, only outside where it was very dark in the parking lot, and a particular pastor–the person I had my discussion on facebook with–(not associated with the Adventist church) was there with a worship band. They seemed to be playing on a stage in the middle of the parking lot, although it wasn’t clear what they were up on because all around them was a fire burning which did little to display the darkness, and if anything only added to it with black smoke. As I got closer I was compelled to get into the fire–although I don’t know why. I somehow got into the flames and rolled through it. There were other people on the ground burning in the fire; all I saw were charred, black bodies. I didn’t feel any pain from the burning, and got out of the fire without being harmed. I would describe this entire scene now–the band, the fire around them, the darkness, the smoke, and the literal heap of burned bodies on the ground–as wholly demonic, though this view isn’t entirely necessary; suffice it to say, something was seriously wrong with the goings-ons.

I left the parking lot and walked over to the lawn where I found a lot of people who seemed to be just milling around. It wasn’t dark on the lawn–in fact it seemed to be broad daylight. And then an angel showed up–bam–or maybe it was Jesus, but I don’t think so, because he talked like a messenger, although I don’t remember what he said–just that he was dressed in white and he was definitely heavenly.  He handed me a blowtorch, and when I took it I began running through the crowd catching people on fire. But this wasn’t a burning like what had been happening in the parking lot–in fact, I don’t remember seeing a flame on anyone. This was different; more real, more holy. I don’t know how to describe it–those don’t really come close to the feeling that came over me in that moment.

Of course, I’m relating this with the bias of new understanding. I’ve since found my place to be well outside of the Adventist church–well outside of any religion, really. But this pastor? There has in years since passed been a reputation of being alive surrounding his church and ministry. It’s where I got some of my very first tastes of Christianity outside the religious box.

This isn’t a personal thing, my focus isn’t even really on this particular person–although I’ve had a lot to think about over the last couple days–but I will say that I saw some deep cracks going through his foundation, and I was surprised at the opposition and downright scorn I received for my stance on grace. I was surprised because of the reputation I had grown to be familiar with over the years.

You’re probably wondering by now where the heck I’m going with this, because I’m having a little trouble getting around to the point in a way that feels right. (I just don’t have the words). What I’m realizing is that God has his own plans for me–not within the religious, not within circles of people who have reputations of being alive but aren’t. His plans? His plans don’t have anything to do with human organization be it religious or otherwise. His plans involve me seeing Him–not just angels–face to face so that I would be like him. His plans? His plans are so much better than anything I could ever contrive or hope to bring about by associating with the ‘right people’. Because I’ll be honest, I’ve thought many times that if I could just find the right people to associate with–if I could just find that perfect life-coach-slash-mentor-slash-father-figure-slash-saint to raise me up to conquer my fears and failures and do great things for God–

It’s a bunny trail.

And I think far too many young Christians like me are on it, and it won’t ever work for them. I had to leave the church building, leave behind everyone and every circle of people I thought were good images of living Christianity… Because the only person that God wants us to be like? Is Himself. And the only person I can look to to be like God, is Christ. And Christ’s work was perfected in me at the cross and when I am in Christ and he is in me…

All the Father sees in me, is Christ perfected.

Interpreting Jesus – Intimacy

That title really doesn’t do it justice.

I’ve been reading Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge, and following a recent 11-part podcast series by John and Craig of Ransomed Heart on interpreting your world, I’ve been enjoying revisiting this alternative, ulterior – yet so much more real – interpretation of Jesus that Eldredge presents in his book. It’s been altogether refreshing.

And I’ve gotta be honest. I haven’t been viewing Jesus right. I cringe as I think about that last sentence because I’m realizing something; I’ve been viewing Jesus. Viewing. Our relationship is well defined in that word, because that’s where it ends. I mean sure, I pray. I talk to him regularly. Often I hear him speaking back. But my attitude has been that Jesus is no more an interpersonal being than I am a jackrabbit.

Maybe I’m a jackrabbit.

I just don’t have an interpretation of Jesus that allows him the proximity which I believe and know (in my mind) that he wants to me. Perhaps I don’t feel significant enough for that; my interpretation includes a busy Son of God (how he is busy while chilling at the right hand of the Father I don’t know). Too busy to be intimate with me.

But Jesus, I need you to be intimate with me, My heart cries. But not only do I not have an interpretation that allows for an intimate Jesus, I don’t have any interpretation that allows for any man being intimately involved in my life. It just doesn’t exist. I won’t go into the blaring details of a confused childhood and the consequences which led me on into adult-hood without having that category of interpretation. Suffice it to say, I don’t think I know how to let Jesus be intimate with me; I don’t think I know what that looks like.

My 20 minutes of oil-pulling have somehow morphed into 25-going-on-30 – it’s time to lay this searching heart to rest.

Jesus, show your intimacy to me? I want to know you in the proximity that you want to know me. I’m not satisfied with this distance anymore.

Tears (Encounters I)

Crimson tears were all she cried. They fell to stain the dirty carpet of her room. It was all she could do to forget–or was she simply fighting the comfort of feeling? Her brother was dead. Her sister also; she died in her arms–the poor fragile thing. She had tried to stop them but in the end the only gain had been more scars, and blood which was not her own. And then they had raped her there in her sister’s blood. Her father was beating her mother when he wasn’t drunk, and beating her when he was. Her mother blamed her, continually reminding her that she had ruined this family and caused the death of her siblings–nobody would even say ‘murder’. But she couldn’t leave, and that’s what no one understood; she just couldn’t.

I don’t want to die–

I want to feel alive.

Her eyes were dry and she wept all the more, the dirty-yellow streetlamp outside the window casting an ugly yellow glow onto the floor in front of her. Oh for just one touch of the cold moon. But there was nothing left now. She didn’t want to die; she wanted to be alive. She had lived this way for as long as she could remember, sometimes living at home, sometimes on the streets, sometimes with her uncle who had taken her innocence and damaged it almost as often as her own father had. She pressed the blade a little further and though she winced a little, the pain never lasted long. She was desperate; she needed to feel.

I don’t care anymore–

No one even knows my name.

It was getting late–even for her. Sleep rested heavily on her tortured eyelids and threatened her waking conscious. But she wouldn’t sleep, not now. She needed to wrap the fresh inflictions she had opened; the blood had already begun to dry. she would do no more tonight, but had it ever felt good–relieving–fulfilling. Relief existed only in each cut. It didn’t take long to wrap her arms. She ran her fingers over the thin bandages and the scars of various ages. She didn’t care who saw anymore; no one even knew her name.

Lauren–

Show me your scars.

“April.” She started, hurriedly pulling the loose sleeves of her hoodie–a form of apparel Webster’s still hadn’t given the proper assertion to–down over the bandages and the scars. “Lovely April…” She was sitting in the middle of the floor facing the door, yet the speaker was behind her. She didn’t turn around.

“But no one knows my name?” It was a question to herself and she only thought it, but the calm male voice from behind answered all the same.

“I know your name,” he whispered, seemingly almost from within her head. Still she did not turn around, but subconsciously was glad for her hair which covered the scars across the back of her neck. “Lauren April Mason… Show me your scars.”

I can’t let you see–

Then let me show you mine.

She turned around finally, slowly at first. Young–somewhere in his mid-thirties, she guessed–he was kneeling but a few feet behind her, dressed simply in a light plaid long-sleeved button-up t-shirt, and weathered blue jeans. His skin was rough but his eyes were kind and something else–love? She had never seen eyes like that. “Show me your scars,” he repeated himself.

“I can’t let you see,” she replied, pulling her sleeves down further. That look in his eyes, it went right through her, but she couldn’t wear her scars in front of the one who knew her name.

“Then let me show you my scars.”

By my wounds, Lauren–

Not your own.

Till now she hadn’t taken notice of his hands, but now he moved them toward her, gesturing, and she couldn’t help but be a little curious. There in the center of each palm was a deep piercing which may have gone even completely through his hands. And then she looked up to his face and saw now–though she had not before–the marks on his brow and the scars where the flesh had been torn away. And now he took her hand in his much larger and she felt the scar in his palm. And he brought her hand gently to his side and she felt the ancient wound there. He rested his hand on her shoulder.

“You’re alive by my wounds Lauren… not your own.”

You know my name?

I created you.

“Who are you? How do you know my name?” she inquired, unable to take her eyes off the scar in his hand. “You don’t know me directly, but I’ve known you all my life–and it’s been a while,” He smiled warmly, and she thought she caught a comical twinkle in his eye.

“That doesn’t even make sense–you’ve got to be like thirty years older than me,” She thought he must be crazy.

“Not to you, but it’s true all the same,” And she knew it was. “I know all about you Lauren. I know your name because I created you.”

I’ve seen everything you’ve done–

Now let me see your scars.

She shrugged his hand off her shoulder. She’d heard things like this before growing up in Sunday school, but now she wasn’t sure what to think.

“Where have you been when I needed you? Where were you when my sister was dead in my arms and they came after me while I was still soaked in her blood? When I’m on the street? Where are you when Uncle and my–my father are…” he brought his finger to her lips in a gesture of silence,

“Whether you believe it or not Lauren, I’ve always been with you. I’ve seen every moment of your life from the time you were conceived to now. I’ve seen all the things that have inspired those wounds. I’ve seen everything you’ve done. But you live in a broken world, and you don’t see me as I want you to see me. But I came to give you an opportunity to see me as I would have you see me always–and forever! Now… let me see your scars,” he replied tenderly. She turned around again to face the opposite wall. She wanted to–maybe–but she couldn’t. She wouldn’t be that weak.

I just want to hold you…

I just want to be held!

“Lauren… let me heal your wounds. I mean only the best for you,” she glanced back at his face; his eyes were entreating–pleading with her to break—and she wouldn’t. How could she? Her only comfort, her only measure of being alive–of living–was the pain and the blood, and yet she was ashamed to stand before her creator with these selfish mutilations. How could she open them up? She couldn’t. “Stop fighting it Lauren. You are accepted the way you are–I accept you… I just want to hold you!”

“I just want to be held!” her will broke and she turned around. Tears like tiny crystals welled up in her eyes though she tried with a last standing effort to keep them back.

“Let them go Lauren, they are your healing.”

I’m not just your creator–

You’re my Father.

She fell on his neck; she couldn’t help but. He embraced her, his huge arms encompassing her; she had never felt so safe. She clung to his neck and wept on his shoulder. It came hard at first; she wanted to fight it, to stop these tears, but the more that the warmth from his heart radiated into her, the less control she had.

“It’s alright, let it all come out,” his voice was even softer now in her ear, and the tears only came harder and more freely.

“Please don’t leave me,” she choked, the tears finally slowing a little.

“I will never leave nor forsake you, Lauren, my promise hasn’t changed even in two thousand years,” he soothed, “be still now.” Her sobs slowed and she raised her head to meet his eyes with hers. “I’m not just your creator, Lauren…”

“You’re my Father,” she declared quietly and then, “Okay… I’m ready.”

What about your scars?

Forever.

She slowly pulled back both sleeves of her hoodie to reveal the bandages and the scars. He stroked her black hair back from her face gently, revealing the countless marks of abuse.

“The men in your life have hurt you; your spine was out of place and would have caused you much pain because of what they did to you. It is better now,” and she had felt the vertebrae coming together into their correct places once again. Lovely Lauren. “Your healing begins,” he said, “Your scars will heal–”

“What about your scars?” she cut him off

“My scars will never heal; they will remain forever, to remind you of my love for you–I do love you, Lauren.” Forever? That meant forever loved. Forever.

You’re beautiful–

Don’t be ashamed any more.

He touched her arm, felt her scars. She wanted to pull it back, hide her shame within her sleeves. He laid his other hand on her shoulder,

“Stop fighting it. I accept you, Lauren. I accept you with your scars, new and old, self-inflicted and those given you by others. I made you. I never wanted this to happen to you, but I have a new body waiting for you without spot or blemish; the body I purposed you for.” The tears began to seep from the corners of her eyes again, and he wrapped his huge, strong arms around her again. “You are safe. You are free. You are beautiful–don’t be ashamed anymore.” She wept with full abandon, no desire left to control it. This was healing; this was life.

Don’t leave me alone!

I never have.

She knew it. With him she felt it could be true; she could be beautiful, if not for these scars… but perhaps it was like he had said about his own. Perhaps the scars were only a reminder of what she had overcome; the healing that she had only begun. She could almost feel the shame melting away within her, and she was free. Completely free!

“It’s time for me to go. You are beautiful Lauren, my love makes you so. Remember that,” he said, lifting her head and stroking back the hair again from her small face. She looked into his eyes. Love emanated from those eyes.

“Please don’t leave me alone,” she pleaded. He smiled.

“I never have Lauren, not once.”

He was gone, and she only now noticed how much brighter the room had been while he was there. I never have Lauren, not once. Could it be true? And then, yes… She knew it was, just as she had known every word he had spoken was true. And she could almost hear his voice now,

“I’m always here with you Lauren,”

Always

Grace Opportunities

Well this is the time of day when you ought to be getting excited–I know I am, it’s peak-thinking time! Alright, alright, most of you are probably off in the land of Nod by now and I can’t say I’ve had too many fantastic thoughts running through my mind any time of day for the last couple months. Yeah that’s right, the last couple months. I’ve been channeling most of my creative energy into drawing. I say ‘most’ but I haven’t had much energy to begin with–I guess I need to get back into the Word!

Alright, so enough with the prelude, something’s been tossing around my head today and it all came together when I went out for coffee with a friend. It’s roll-up-the-rim time at Tim Hortons and as we were getting ready to go we took a look to see what we’d got. He didn’t get anything, but I got a free coffee. And I shrugged and threw it out.

Now I’m going to stop my soul-thought right now, because in that moment and even as I reflect back now all my mind wants to do is make up excuses as to why I didn’t cash in on my free drink. “Well I never go to Tim Hortons anyway / I don’t play roll up the rim seriously (does that even make sense?) / I’ve never done this before, what the heck to I do with it?!” Those were the kinds of things running through my mind. But as I was reflecting back on it afterwards I had a thought. I don’t cash in on most of the opportunities God gives me–and my soul makes excuses for me to feel okay about it. How many of you can say “Amen” to that?

How many can but don’t want to admit they can say “Amen” to that?

That’s alright, because I’m not here to shame anyone about their shortcomings. They’re my shortcomings too. And this is so ridiculous! I mean, who doesn’t like free stuff? I know I do. So what is it that stops me from receiving from God? He’s there going “Hey, free coffee right here, I got your free coffee” and I’m like “Psh. I don’t drink coffee, dude.” And He says “Well alright, I’ve got a free hot chocolate right here (though I really think you should try the coffee!)” and I’m like “No thanks dude, I don’t need that.”

And I already know, deep down, why I don’t take opportunity. I’m afraid.

Fear is a fine paradox; it drives us. But it doesn’t take us anywhere. It might take you backwards, back to where you were last comfortable. But never forward. So my soul makes up all kinds of fine excuses as to why. “Oh, I don’t want to make a scene and look foolish / I’m not comfortable doing that / What if that’s just my own thoughts I’m hearing / I don’t want to intrude on anyone / What if I miss it!?”

What if you miss a Godly opportunity?

Peter just about missed out on an opportunity. Grab your Bibles and take a look at John 13 (I’m going to be reading from the New King James tonight):

13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”

Now let’s give Simon a break – he didn’t understand what was going on. Jesus knew that. But if Peter didn’t get it with Jesus kneeling right in front of him with nothing but a towel on ready to wash the filth from his feet (and I’ve heard feet weren’t a pretty sight back in those days), how much more can we expect to understand everything God is longing to do for or give us? Peter flat-out said no.

But oh, the grace of Jesus. He knew pebbles don’t move anywhere fast on their own.

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” John 13:8b

And then it clicked. Or maybe it didn’t – I don’t know if Peter immediately understood it all – but he trusted Jesus, and if Jesus says ‘you won’t have any part with Me unless…’ then you better believe Peter’s gonna make that ‘unless’ happen in a heartbeat a thousand times over if his body will handle the heat! Alright, so maybe I’m exaggerating, but I see Peter as a pretty radical guy, and it shows all so clearly in his response in verse 9:

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”

Peter was all over that thing. I don’t know what made him say no–maybe he didn’t think Jesus ought to be doing that, maybe he was offended. He didn’t understand what was going on, but Jesus knew, and when Peter realized that his relationship with Jesus was jeopardized you better believe he changed his mind right quick and then some! And Jesus was like “Whoa, slow down dude, we’re still cool if I just get your feet from now on.” Man, Jesus and Peter were tight.

There’s something deeper I want to explore here, along the same lines as what I began with but a little bit deeper. See, I don’t believe Jesus was just telling Peter about physical cleanliness or servitude, I think Jesus had something more in mind, which he alluded to in verse 10:

“He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean … “

This is new covenant stuff right here, and it’s something that I’ve seen people have a hard time grasping as they’re transitioning from old to new covenant thinking. See, Peter had been with Jesus throughout His entire ministry. Luke’s account of their meeting has Jesus just striding up and saying, “Hey guy, let me get in your boat and push me out into the water so I can preach to all these people here,” and afterward, “Hey guy, take your boat out and throw the nets in the water.” And Peter’s response? “We worked hard all night and didn’t catch anything–but if you say so, I’ll do it.

What? Just like that? Yeah, really. Check it out in Luke 5, cause I’m just going to paraphrase this. And by the way, when Peter’s nets filled with so many fish he had to call for help to bring them all in, he repented right there. He said “Lord, leave me, I’m too great a sinner for you to be around!” And Jesus was just like “Don’t be afraid Dude, from now on you’re gonna be fishing for people!” and just like that, Peter was hooked; as soon as they landed he and James and John who were his fishing buddies left everything to follow Jesus:

 1 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.        

                      – Luke 5:1-11

Faith in Jesus followed by repentance for sin. That’s how the new covenant works. That’s how sinners become saints, disciples, set apart. See, I think this moment is what Jesus was alluding to as he was preparing to wash Peter’s feet, because this is the moment when everything changed for Peter. This is the moment when he repented, and because of his faith in Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith – God counted him righteous from that moment on. He got his bath among the miracle catch. And because God considered him righteous, the only further cleansing Peter needed was his feet–the part of him that connects him with the world, that place in him where the flesh still has a foothold (I’m just laying the heat on the puns tonight oh boy!). Because the truth is, all Peter’s sins were forgiven by faith when he repented, and in deed at the cross when Jesus paid for everyone’s sins – past, present and future. His future sins were forgiven because he was going to sin in the future–until Jesus comes back to deal with the world there will still be sin trying to gain a foothold in your life. The only thing left for Peter was to remain in relationship with Jesus, and to let Jesus do whatever cleansing was needed. Notice, Jesus washed Peter’s feet for him. Peter didn’t even have to repent of his dirty feet, Jesus just did it, because Peter already repented that day in the boat. And Jesus didn’t give him a full re-baptism either, even at Peter’s request. It wasn’t needed!

How many of you believe your future sins are already forgiven? How many of you don’t think that could be right? In perspective, how many of you think that Jesus must suffer death again and again each time you sin, so that your sins can be forgiven? Does that seem right? See, when Jesus gave up his spirit he said, “It is finished.” Either he paid for all your sins, or he didn’t pay for any. Either he paid for the sins of the future, or your sins aren’t covered by his blood. Think about it; you are now 2000-some years into Jesus’ future; if Jesus’ sacrifice didn’t cover future sins, not even your past sins would be now covered by the blood of Jesus. But Jesus suffered for all your sins–past, present and future. I cannot emphasize this enough; all your sins are forgiven.

BAM.

But some will pass up such an opportunity of grace just as I threw out that free drink, or pass up the opportunities God brings me daily. They will make excuses, saying that they have to repent again before their sins will be forgiven. Brother let me tell you, after you repent the first time for your sins, repentance is no longer an issue. I’m not advocating a once-saved-always-saved attitude, don’t misunderstand, but like Peter, you don’t have to turn again from your sin – you already abhor sin! That’s why it’s on your conscience now! You don’t have to have your whole body washed because your spirit is now the Spirit of Christ. All that you now need is to accept and trust the active work of the Spirit of God in your life. Your body is already clean, it’s just your feet that are a little messy, and that’s okay because Jesus is ready and waiting, kneeling at your feet to wash the daily grime off. Keep saying you’re sorry; everyone needs to hear and say that more often. But know that your sins are already forgiven, and it’s not about what you do anymore, it’s about who you know, and who you know will change what you do. Who you know will change that soul-man to desire to do the things that please God instead of doing things against God.

So here’s your opportunity. Will you take it? It’s not about you anymore, it’s about Jesus.
Jesus will deal with the sin in your flesh – just let him wash your feet.

For Those I’ve Left Behind

Close to two years ago I spoke in front of my now previous church. I shared a dream I’d had some time prior, and a vision. I spoke from my heart about the generational divide that church had been experiencing for some time and the response I received was phenomenal. But my question today is, what happened? What happened to my vision of a united body of Christ? And what happened to the seed that I scattered? Did any of it make it to good soil, or did it fall where it only withered away? Something I’ve learned is that humans cannot be entrusted to your dreams; they will fail. I’m not cynical (I don’t think) just a realist. Thank-you Father that You are faithful!

I just want to lay out a bit of my heart tonight in reflection, so if you’d rather read something educational or logical this might not be the post for you.

I know I slacked off. I phrase it in that way because 1) that’s how the voice in my head says it and 2) because saying it that way shows me the realities of the works-based strongholds still remaining in this old man. I never thought about it in this way before, but satan is continually condemning me with a works spirit, and that has been the case in these years since I gave that message. When I look back and question why it didn’t “work”, satan says, “You didn’t carry your end through..no wonder it never lasted.”

I rebuke you devil in the name of Jesus whose blood has done the work for me. Go back to your pit; Christ has granted me DOMINION over you.

But really now, why didn’t it work? Or perhaps I should ask, why did nothing appear to change? Because being led by the Spirit, anything I step out in faith to do works, because He works. We’re getting really deep into the works here but just bear with me (and no puns intended!). So I can assume that because I followed the promptings of the Spirit, the purpose was complete, and the outcome is in His hands because that is where I left it.

But what those who heard that message that day don’t know, especially considering my recent departure from them, is that my heart still has a place with an ache for them. And it only became stronger the more truth I learned, the more I allowed the love of Christ to love them through me.

This, I suppose, is why I wonder at all in the first place what became of those seeds that I scattered there.

The nature of that system was that it never really took much to scrape through the superficial surface and start dealing with root issues, because people are always real people – you just have to go deep enough. But deeper was rarely an initiative, because deeper means change, eventual discomfort, vulnerability… oh that they could have the heart for themselves as I do now. Oh that they could have the courage to step outside of the mold and feel the vulnerability and the discomfort–and the life more abundant–that cannot reach them in their doctrinal coffins.

Because they have many fundamentals to wrap around themselves to keep the unpredictable, uncontainable wind of the Spirit out, but Christ only required two: “Believe in Me, and love everyone the way I love you.”

Oh if they could see that freedom lies beyond the fog, that following Christ is always a hardship, but never a burden.

But the flames that I saw for a moment flickering to life, they died down again. And I’ve wondered, why doesn’t such change last there? If I could only make a difference, tear a hole through the veil covering the sonlight… And that old devil comes back and whispers suggestions to me, “Well do something–oh, but you can’t do anything.” And the truth is, I can’t do anything. I can’t do anything, but I don’t need to. Because maybe there are still seeds waiting in good soil for the rain, for the Spirit to pour Himself on them. Maybe the more that I ask, intercede and agree, the more good soil those seeds will be given, and the sooner will come the rain. Maybe I’m still planting though I might not realize it. Because the truth is I can’t do anything, but the Holy Spirit can do everything.

And so I will take up that armor, it’s all I can do to put on the helmet which is salvation and the defense against my enemy’s attempts to discourage, the breastplate which is righteousness and the defense against my enemy’s attempts to dishearten, the belt of truth which upholds, the sandals which are peace, that I would go in peace wherever I go. The shield of faith, which covers all again, and finally the sword which is the Spirit, because every warrior needs a weapon to fight with. And this is when I relate with Romans 8:26, because I don’t know what to pray. Not for myself, not for my wife, not for that people on my heart, not for anything.

So Spirit, make intercession for me. I don’t know what to pray, my mind only gets in the way. But I’ll speak it and agree, if You will put it in my mouth.

Love Notes from Faithful and True

Being yet rather encumbered several years back by a debilitating inability to cook, I one day had made myself a rice casserole. Back then–those were the dark ages–if I had to cook for myself, it was pretty basic, and I held primarily to those staples I could actually make something of, being rice, potatoes and pasta. Needless to say, most meals weren’t too exciting.

Anyway. I had gotten rice pretty well down to a science and after devouring half the pan I reasoned that I would have eating for another meal–hurrah! The next day I spread the rice back out in the dish and put it back in the oven. Once it was heated I commenced to eat the other half of the casserole, roughly the same amount as the day before.

And when I was finished, there was half a pan of casserole left.

In fact, from taking the pan out in the first place I’d noticed a general full-ness going on in my meager lunch plans. So I said–paraphrasing–“Thank-you Jesus for more than enough,” and went on to eat my fill. The day after that I had my third meal of rice casserole.

Yeah, so God might’ve just multiplied my least favorite food.

That’s just the trivial part of the story. I just happened to throw up a comment to my Facebook profile saying something along the lines of “God just multiplied my rice”. It might’ve been more in-depth than that, but you’ve already got the gist.

Someone whom I had respected and looked up to for some time (who will of course, also remain nameless) commented on my post and basically discredited the whole thing with an attempt at a natural explanation. I immediately felt about 2o founds lighter as I heard my respect hit the floor.

Bam.

So that’s what you think of the goodness of God.

I wasn’t devastated. I knew not to put infallible stock into a person. But I was surprised and my eyes were opened; previously if anything I would have expected some positive affirmation from this person in particular. But now I realized something: faith bigger than a mustard seed misses God’s romantic subtleties.

Let me explain why I use this expression.

I looked up to this person because I perceived that they had a lot of faith–and I still believe that they did. They’d been into God’s presence and seen some mighty things–movements of the Spirit, healing, hearts changed.

But where there is no doubt, where there is no weakness, where there are no visible cracks, there is that much less room for the goodness of God to be manifest fully.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t desire faith, strength, or even perfection. I’m not condoning the idea that being under grace, we should sin to increase the power of God. That’s not what I’m getting at.

What I mean is simply this: God spoke to me in a little thing. He wrote a love note to me in rice and veggies and signed it with a wink because just maybe He saw the humor and the irony in me eating rice for three days instead of two, and challenged me to accept His goodness as it comes new every day.

And the miracle was passed over by this one who was more interested in moving mountains. But what they never knew was that it was more than just a little extra rice for another day, it was God showing up in the white noise of my doubts.

I don’t look at people the same way any more. I don’t look up so much to those people that are on the “cutting edge” of Spiritual moves of God. I look at people who hear God in the silent moments, in the small things. I look at the man who said “Lord, I believe; help now my unbelief!” and the man who said “Lord, forgive me, I’m a sinner.” when the “leaders” around him waere standing tall to boast of what they had accomplished for God, to boast in what they were and what they were not. Those Pharisees missed Jesus in the minute things, in the sparrows and the lilies of the field dressed more radiantly than King Solomon. And it seems to me, that people missed when Jesus said “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” for a meal for 5,000 from five loaves and two fish.

Reunited With I AM (The New-Covenant Sinner)

One question in various forms I’ve heard over and over again is, “So you’ve done away with the law – now you can freely do whatever you want without consequence because grace means tolerance?” The thought is that discontinuing observance of the Law is the same as being without moral and free to do every wrong.

I respond to this testing question with a resounding “No. No. No!” I am not preaching freedom to do anything you like! If you’ve ever read James, you’ll see that grace does not now allow us to live in sin and still inherit life. Paul did not preach this belief that grace licenses us to live in sin and lawlessness either.

A regularly-quoted scripture showing this is Romans 3:31 which says, “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” Now, many people jump in with this verse alone to prove that the old covenant Law is still in effect, but they miss the rest of the chapter in which Paul declares that the purpose of the law is to show sinners how sinful they are, and that they need Jesus Christ’s free gift of righteousness to be righteous before God. The Law was never intended to make us righteous but to show us our unrighteousness. Does Romans 3 prove that the Law is done away with to those who keep the new covenant? Not necessarily, but I’ve covered scriptures that do in previous posts so I won’t go into detail on it here–that’s not where I want to focus today. Suffice it to say, the Law was meant for those still outside of the new covenant, to guide them to the new covenant.

So now we’re getting in on the new covenant, Jesus has saved us, cut away our sinful nature and we find rest abiding in Him. Do we now do whatever we wish? Certainly not! Then are we still living in accordance with the Law? Some may see it that way, but no; we live in accordance not with the Law of the old system, but rather with the Spirit of God.

Let me take you back a while – a long while – to understand this. We’ll look right back to the garden of Eden when God placed Adam and Eve on the earth and directed them to rule and reign. This is something I’ve had on my mind for a few days, and shared briefly the other day. I’ll go a little more in-depth here.

In Genesis 2:15-17 we find God’s commission and command to Adam: 15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

God gave Adam charge of the garden and gave him a command: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat … “

Genesis 3 tells the saddest tragedy we all know – the fall of man, the moment of sin’s entrance into a perfect world. We’ll take a look at verses 1-13.

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

                                                  –  Genesis 3:1-13

Here’s my first question: where is the sin in this picture? I’ll tell you this, the problem was a lot bigger than Adam’s wife eating a bit of fruit. We see the real root of it in the serpent’s first words: “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”He brought into question God’s knowledge and understanding. And when Eve confirmed that God had, indeed, said this, the serpent came back with “You will not surely die.For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And that certainly was what the tree would give Eve – a concept of right and wrong. But we see the sin in the next verse, the rebellion and separation from God’s instruction in the next verse:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

So when the woman saw. What did she see? That the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise. This is, I believe, where it all took place. Eve chose to disregard the instruction of God (based, might I add, on His understanding of His own creation) and trust her own understanding of how things were. She disregarded God’s understanding and chose her own understanding, which seems to have been rather limited. She deviated from God’s direct instruction and took her own perspective from what the serpent had said; that the tree was good food, pretty, and desirable to make her wise. And so, having chosen to rely on her own understanding rather than the understanding of the Creator, Eve at the fruit–and then gave some to Adam who was right beside her, and he ate some too.

And did the tree work? You bet. Suddenly they realized they were naked–and afraid–and they made clothes out of fig leaves to cover themselves.

Suddenly they realized something was wrong–something was missing. And they happened to notice they were naked – that must be it! Let’s fix up some fig leaves, maybe that will help our situation. But then God came along, and they hid from him. Alright, what? They hid from God.

I laugh a little at this – Adam and Eve were so innocent. First they hid from God, and then when God called for him, Adam goes “Hey, I’m right here… hiding from you…” The wave of knowledge and emotions that must have hit them that they had no idea about…

Verse 10 says Adam heard God’s voice in the garden and he hid, because he was naked and afraid. What has happened here? Adam and Eve are in the garden, they’ve realized they’re naked. They’ve probably realized a lot more than that but don’t have any idea what all these other things they’re experiencing even are, they’re practically children. Adam knows two things: he is naked and he is afraid. Why afraid? Probably because now he has a concept of right, wrong, and consequence, and that the wrong he’s done will be followed by consequence – death. (whatever that is?) And not only is there a sense of right and wrong but there is a sense of inadequacy, the real problem behind the nakedness. Why inadequacy? Because they chose separation from their Beginning and End. Choosing to step away from God meant choosing to step away from their completeness in Him. It may have only been a small thing–the choice to disregard one instruction–but the sense of separation it brought them, having never before felt any amount of separation from God, must have seemed massive. Oh, to be so innocent, so sensitive to such separation!

So to finish out verses 10-13,

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

There’s one more effect of the tree; neither Adam nor Eve could give God a straight answer.

God: “Adam, where are you?”
Adam: (doesn’t really answer the question;) “I heard you coming; I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
God: “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree I told you not to?”
Adam: (still avoiding the question) “The woman that you put here with me gave me the fruit and I ate.”
God: (now to Eve) “What have you done?”
Eve: (definitely avoiding the question;) “It was the serpent’s fault, he tricked me into eating it.”

They couldn’t outrightly admit to God that they had eaten from the tree. Adam even completely overlooked God’s question of who had told him he was naked. Now as a brief aside, who did tell Adam he was naked? Was it the serpent? If so, it’s not recorded, but I’m sure the serpent didn’t need to tell Adam that. It was the tree that opened their eyes to their own nakedness, and this is the nature of the old covenant Law also, that it opens our eyes to our inadequacies. Keep that in mind for later. Now, I don’t know how things were back in the garden, but I can guarantee Adam and Eve’s circumstance would have turned out a lot different if they had come right back to God to say “God, we ate from the tree and now something’s terribly wrong and we don’t know what to do, we’re scared, please help us.”

But it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, they continued to rely on their own understanding of what was happening to them, rather than going back to the Creator to get His assessment of the situation. At this point perhaps we can derive a basic definition of sin; since God is, in essence, life, and sin leads to death (the wages of sin is death) then the core of sin in action must be willful separation from God, from life. This was the root of Adam and Eve’s problem when they chose to go by their own understanding rather than God’s instruction.

To say more I would have to begin repeating myself. So going back to Adam’s nakedness and the Law, the purpose of the Law was to show us our sin, as Paul teaches in Romans 3:19, 7:7-10 for example. The law’s purpose was to give us knowledge of sin versus the perfection of God, just as the tree’s purpose was to give knowledge of good and evil–the difference between ‘sinful‘ and ‘sinless’. So we see that the Law and the tree had the same purpose. The law was given to show the people of Israel that sin was still an issue, otherwise they wouldn’t later understand the need for Jesus to come.

But the Law wasn’t given as the solution. God did not give the Law as the solution to the sin problem! He gave His only son to do that. When Jesus died, He restored our right–which Adam lost–to approach God freely and blamelessly. Because our original position with God is now restored, we live in a similar state to that which Adam and Eve held in the garden. No, the world still is not perfect – yes, there still is sin and satan’s judgement has not been passed. But God has called us righteous and blameless through the blood of Jesus Christ, and if we believe in the name of Jesus then that is what we are. On our acceptance of Jesus’ free gift for us, we receive the Spirit of God who dwells in us, and we abide in Christ through God’s spirit. The Spirit of God produces good fruit in our lives–the works which James declares keep our faith alive–and we live once again complete in our Creator.

Now here’s the crunch: Jesus removed the sin separation problem and invited us back to God; this is the new covenant. The tree of Life–the other tree in the garden that we so easily forget about–was there to provide eternal unification with God. Jesus fulfilled the old covenant and brought in the new – essentially uprooting the tree of knowledge and replanting the tree of Life for all to eat from. And it isn’t that the tree of knowledge wasn’t good–God declared everything he had made to be good. It was that the tree of Life was so much better, and of so much more importance. The Law is of no purpose to the one who believes in Jesus. It is and has always been about our reunification to I Am through Christ, and since Christ’s death, we are united with God in Christ through His blood.

So what does sin look like in the new covenant? Choosing again our own knowledge, as Adam and Eve did in the beginning, and stepping out of unity with Christ. That doesn’t mean stealing, killing, committing adultery and all the rest are now justifiably right, it means that we get to the root of the problem now, while all those things were only ever the after-effects–mere evidences–of the original sin separation problem begun by Adam and Eve in the garden 6,000 some years ago.

The final question is, where then does that leave our morals? At the root of the tree of knowledge. All Adam and Eve had to know about right and wrong was that God knew and would do what was best for them. In essence, by stepping into the new covenant we put the knowledge of what’s right and wrong back at the throne of God where it belongs, and put our entire trust in God to direct us step by step in what is best for us.

I think part of what makes this so difficult for others to understand is that I live this in theory; this is the goal I aim for, and while the work of the Spirit leading me to perfection is not yet complete, and I can’t honestly say I live moment-by-moment with 100% of my trust in God’s knowledge of right and wrong for me, I’ve come a long way, and at the end of the beginning of the story, I’ll be right back where I belong. But this IS the good news, that the focus is no longer on my knowledge of right and wrong but on God’s knowledge of what is best for me, since Christ made it possible for me to be once again completed in my Alpha and Omega, Creator God.

Intimacy = In-To-Me-See

 “God, You are my God, and I will ever [always] praise You

   God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You [right now]

   And I will seek You in the morning [before all else]

   And I will learn to walk in Your ways [teach me]

   And step by step, You lead me [I follow]

   And I will follow You all of my days [forever].”

I will follow You Today.

If I call [cry] He will answer me–will not be able to resist answering.

If I speak audibly He will respond audibly.

If I speak clearly and with clarity, He will respond with clarity.

This is what I wrote in my prayer journal on November 18, 2011, about the kind of intimacy God wants to have with me:

“God is indescribable. He is amazing. He is wonderful, beautiful, incredible… My Father…

“This is what He showed me last night. I was praying and thinking about how I wanted to hear Him audibly. And so I asked Him out loud, “God, if I speak audibly to You, will You speak audibly to me?” I asked three times before I suddenly heard… this ticking of a clock.. the babble of my artificial waterfall… even my own heart-beat crying out “Yes!”

“I had just turned out the light when I heard the puppy crying in the entryway. God told me to go minister to the puppy, and as I walked out to the entry He gave me the scripture to use–“Be still and know that the LORD, He is God.” After declaring this to the puppy several times I went back to my room and God began speaking. The puppy had begun to cry much louder after I left and I could hardly resist. God showed me that it is the same when I cry to Him; He can’t resist coming to me when I cry to Him like that puppy did.

“A little while later I asked Him a question and I wasn’t sure what He was saying, my mind became so boggled. And so I asked Him this. “God, if I speak with clarity will You respond with clarity?” and I made sure to talk audibly and ask clearly. He said yes. Then I asked Him my question again, with clarity, and He gave me a clear, clarified answer.

“Thank-you Jesus. I am learning to speak sincerely with You in the secret place. You are amazing… More than amazing!”

—–

The new covenant is chalk-full of this intimacy:

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

–Jeremiah 31:33 – 34

God promises essentially to personally teach us His ways; “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts.” Not only do we receive His direct instruction, we receive it deep within us, written on our very hearts. God promises personal relationship with everyone, made possible by Christ’s offering on the cross which bridged the gap between God and man. Now, all have an opportunity to know God personally. And the final promise: “and I will never again remember their sins.” There is no longer condemnation (Romans 8:1, 33-34) in this relationship; God is free, even in all His holy justness, to be intimate with men–even such as you and I. And there isn’t a thing in existence that could ever separate us from this love God has for His people, revealed in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:31-39). I used to think Paul left out the obvious; that I could, if I wished, choose to separate myself from God’s love. But how can I? How high, how wide, how deep is the Father’s love for us? It is displayed in all creation. As long as I live in this universe, I can’t get away from the reality of God’s love for me. And there is only one separation from God – the eternal death of sin, which none need fear who belongs to Christ.

BAM! Take that.