The Great Revealing

God is mysterious.  Anyone can tell you that.  God in the Old Testament revealed himself in creation, in his dealings with a select few, and in the Law, but allowed a shroud of mystery to remain.  The mystery of God pulled a good many into communion with Him through sacrifices and priests, but there was always a point where the face-to-face encounter with the Holy One was just not possible.

Many people, when asked the reason they got divorced, cite something along the lines of “the mystery was gone–we just knew each other too well.”  Mystery is never meant to be lost, it is meant to deepen.  The mystery shifts from being self-oriented to being togetherness-oriented.  Before, the mystery was rooted in “I wonder what else I don’t know about you”, but now, the mystery is “what has and is happening between us that continues to bind our hearts together?”

Mystery leads us to worship and acknowledge him from a distance–leaving a place for honor and awe.  Hidden-ness leads us to desire to know that which is kept secret, which is a good thing.  But only in intimacy is there the ability to create a life.  Only in vulnerability and being known is true strength.  It’s the dynamite to the universe.  God revealing himself–that single act created the universe, gave the law, gave Jesus, and provided the indwelling Holy Spirit.  God seriously couldn’t get any closer.

He unveiled himself, and asks the same of us–His Bride.  He is asking us to give in to the call to intimacy with Him.  He is asking us to honor Him by allowing Him to weave our hearts with His.  He could have remained the God on a hill–the God behind the veil, but he chose to become a God revealed–the God alive within our very skin, sharing our existence.  When we say “yes” to vulnerability with Him and allow the closeness to invade our space, He floods us with all the creativity of a God who is always dreaming.  Through that imagination, we will see the true majesty of the Holy One–face to face, displayed in the world.

There is a good, great power in mystery; but the creative potential of intimacy is unlimited. Take the risk. God did.

Thank you Father that you’ve revealed yourself first.  Help me to say “yes” to your intimacy.

Man Overboard

This is more of a personal journal entry, but I want to make it public:

“But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”  They answered Him, “No.”  And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.  But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish.  Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken.  Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.”  John 21

Peter is hilarious.  He saw it was the Lord and he jumped out of the boat to get to Jesus.  The other disciples took the small boat in with them–like normal people–but Peter took off before even thinking about it.  Then, when Jesus told them to bring some fish in for breakfast, he brought in the whole net single-handedly, which let’s not forget, is so full that it would have sank the boat the other disciples were in!

I feel God calling me today to be a little more like Peter–to jump out of the boat when I see him on the shore, throwing caution to the wind, going all-in, casting away any sense of “dignity” and not caring about the consequences of losing “control”, trusting Grace to catch me and keep me sane.  So here goes:

I’m diving headlong into the river.  The anointing oil is washing over me.  I am choosing today to embrace the mantle that has been on me since before I was born (Jeremiah 1) and will be the prophet he is calling me to be.  I am leaving all else behind.  I relinquish control of my mouth, my eyes, and my self and give in to the Grace that will keep me.  Father, topple the first domino.  I’m ready to go wherever you lead me.

Let it be so.  Amen.

Thy Kingdom Come

“So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’  He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

The disciples had a question.  A good question.  Jesus had gathered them in Jerusalem, he had risen from the dead, he was obviously the Messiah, which means that it was time to restore Israel.  That’s what the Messiah was supposed to do, right?  He was going to spearhead a political (or at least spiritual) revolution, or so they had been told.  The fulfillment of thousands of years of longing and hoping was standing there on the Mount of Olives, finally ready for action.

When Jesus was asked directly “Ok, when will you be doing your Messiah-ing, Messiah?”  He responds with the truth:  “you will receive power…”.  Indeed, the fulfillment was standing on the Mount of Olives–but it wasn’t going to be Jesus himself who would fulfill this promise.  He made the way for the Kingdom to come, ushered in the new covenant, and completed the work of full redemption on the cross.  But his disciples were the ones would would establish the Kingdom here on earth, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit came to empower us, comfort us, and teach us how to advance the Kingdom here on earth.  As we receive the Holy Spirit, we are filled with the spirit of God himself, who inhabits us with all the power of creation and redemption coursing through our veins.  We are partners and heirs of the Kingdom, agents who come in the name of the Lord, Jesus, to proclaim his truth and cram every corner of this earth with his healing, justice, and mercy.  We tell of his past, his present, and his future.  We infect the world with light until everything becomes alive again.  We are his friends, having died and having been raised with Christ, and now having received the Spirit of the Living God, we boldly call back all that is lost, forgotten, wounded, and enslaved.  We bring the Kingdom by partnering in His Messianic work.

Thank you God that you have entrusted such a task to us, your friends.  And thank you that you never leave us alone, but labor with us together to bring in the Great Harvest.  We are your resting place, Holy Spirit.  Come live within us.

Sacred Interlude

The eve of Pentecost.  The day before everything was about to take a violent lurch forward.  The followers of Jesus were waiting–exactly for what they weren’t sure–but they were waiting.  Jesus made it clear to them that the Holy Spirit is coming to fill them with power and they were going to be witnesses.  The past few days had been uncomfortable: knowing that something’s coming, but still reeling from the aftermath of Jesus’ death, the resurrection, his appearing and teaching, Judas’ betrayal of the disciples, and Peter’s reinstatement.  They were happy to be together, but there was a lot of healing and processing that needed to happen.

God allowed this sacred interlude as an act of grace.  The disciples needed time to draw conclusions, digest this new truth, rebuild trust where it had been broken, mourn the death of Judas, and prepare to move forward.  Jesus could have introduced the Holy Spirit in person, but he chose to allow the disciples to experience the Holy Spirit in a unique, powerful, experiential way.

God often allows us a moment to pause–to rest, to process, to prepare–before he does something amazing.  He planned it into the Jewish calendar with the “counting of the omer” between Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost), he planned it in nature with the establishment of the sabbath, he allowed it between the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit, and he allows it now between Pentecost and the second coming of Jesus.

He pours his water–his grace–onto the seeds that have been sown in our hearts during the resting time.  Every seed has a different gestation period, but the moment it breaks through the soil and the warmth of the sun hits the tiny sprout, the confusion of waiting is forgotten and the future is embraced.

The challenge tonight is simple:  feel the stillness.  Receive the gentle rain of grace in the last few quiet moments.  Silence your heart and feel the holiness of the anticipation God feels.

Thank you Holy Spirit, that you do not forget us in the interlude, but respect us enough to allow us to be a participant in the silent preparatory work you do.

The Justice of the Resurrection

“Social Justice” is a hot topic in the post-modern world.  It seems that everywhere you look, you see a new, freshly-branded, shiny charity with one mission:  To set the wrongs in this world to right.

We, as Christians and humans in the world, ought to strive to release the captives, love those who have not been loved, feed the hungry, care for widows and orphans, etc.  But what about the “facts of life”?  People we love die.  People get sick–really sick.  There are car accidents and fires and tsunamis and earthquakes.  There’s corruption in every form of government.  Some people can’t have kids, and sometimes the ones that do don’t want them.  If you follow each bloody blow dealt the earth to conclusion, you will find yourself staring in the face of a risen Jesus.

The justice in the resurrection is this:  All that has been lost has been found.  All that has died will be raised.  All that is wrong has been put to right.  Everything that has suffered without dignity will be honored.  All that is destructive will be destroyed, until the only thing left standing is life itself.  Social justice alone is empty.  How about full justice?  The cause for every sorrowful tear, the reasons for silent, inward weeping, the “yes-but-not-yet”, the “how long Lord”, are met by the Spirit of Life, screaming and streaking through time, invading our present moment with the truth of comfort.

So go find your dark places–the bag of hidden anger you’ve kept somewhere in the back closet–and drag it out.  Bring it into the light, dump it out in the yard.  Allow Him to answer your aching heart with the only response that matters:

I love you.  I see you.  And I’ve made a way.

He never negates or explains our pain.  He made a way that all that was lost to be found alive and well again.  All will be raised.  All will be restored.  All will be right.  He, Himself, will take the guns out of the child soldier’s hands, he will break into brothels and rescue his children, he will drench the sky with light, he will run through the graveyards screaming and leaping for joy, and he will leave in his wake the greenest green trees and the brightest blue flowers.

That’s the answer to our deepest sorrows:  He is redeemer–past, present, and future.

Thank you Jesus, that you do not forget the dead and lost, but honor me by placing your longing for justice deep within, answering loudly with the resurrection–now and not yet.

The Creative Embrace of Uncertainty

Jesus didn’t leave any instructions.  Yes, he provided a mission–“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”–but this was in no way a job description.  I’m sure, had I been there, I would have been yelling after Jesus as he flew through the clouds, “How??  What do you mean??  Where am I supposed to go?  With whom?  Hello!  Who were you talking to exactly?  Me, John, or Peter?  I’m confused!!”.

Jesus didn’t create an organizational hierarchy chart before he ascended, as far as we know.  He didn’t assign roles, he didn’t set up weekly staff meetings in Jerusalem, he didn’t give any instructions on how to back-fill the vacant position of 12th disciple, and he certainly didn’t take a map of the world and divide out each disciple’s territory like a salesman.  When most would be busy starting the Church, he made breakfast.  Instead of creating job descriptions, he went for a walk with his friends.  Jesus took no organizational responsibility whatsoever.

He didn’t seem to mind the questions forming in the disciples’ minds.  The disciples had been together for some time now, but they were known to bicker and vie for position.  His startling response to this issue was to leave, go to the Father, and allow the usually-invisible, generally-inaudible, and yet-to-be-experienced Holy Spirit to come and breathe his creativity into their uncertain hearts.  That’s pretty gutsy, if you ask me.

The creative wind of the Spirit would embrace them with love, power, and direction just days after Jesus ascended.  He would peacefully, joyfully, kindly lead them into their destinies, skillfully crafting every corner, nook, and cranny of the Church from the ground up.  Jesus could have micro-managed, but he chose to allow the Spirit to breathe creativity into his partners and see what came of it.  He respected the creation, the Creator, and the Creativity to produce beauty that could not be replicated or manufactured.  This original handiwork would speak more of the Good News than any organizational flow chart ever could.

He allowed uncertainty on purpose–to show His love and respect for his partners and to “air it out” a bit.  Yes, it would cause some stressful moments (hello Peter and Paul!), but without that tension, the world would not know about the One who redeems all things.  The disciples eventually found their niches, their roles, and their destinations.  Today, the challenge remains for us modern-day disciples: Allow the loving, creative embrace of holy uncertainty to grip your heart and call you upward into partnership with the One who guides into all truth, in order to redeem all things–even the uncertainty itself.

Thank you Jesus, that you respect me enough to partner with me and are comfortable with uncertainty that leads to a new expression of your truth.  Holy Spirit, give me the courage to relax into the embrace of creativity and walk with you, the surest thing of all.  Bring me through, God.  Beauty and glory belong to you forever.  Amen.

Fish

The disciples had seen Jesus alive.  They knew he was around, but he kept appearing in unexpected places and at unexpected times.   A few of the disciples, needing to clear their heads and not knowing what else to do, decided to go fishing.  Many of them were talented, experienced fishermen, but somehow they hadn’t caught anything all night.  Even with all their skills, their labor was now fruitless.  They had “hit the wall”.  They were tired, frustrated, and confused about the future.

Right at their moment of confusion, anger, and exhaustion, Jesus appeared–just beyond their ability to see him.  He had walked on the water before, but this time he chose to stay on the beach and call out to them.  He was about to go to the Father, and he needed to establish the new “normal” where they would have to rely on knowing him and hearing him without always seeing him with their eyes.

Everything had changed.  They knew how to catch fish, and Jesus knew that they knew.  But he asks one obvious question:

“Children, you do not have any fish, do you?”

That one question would be the foundation for their continued post-resurrection ministry.  He didn’t leave them hanging, but gave the biggest catch of their lives in one fell swoop.  He was showing them the way their ministry will be: fruitless unless directed by Jesus, who is in the Father, and the Father who is in him and in the disciples, like Jesus had explained in John 14-15.

Do you hear him asking today?  In what area is he saying “You don’t have any fish, do you?”  He’s not accusing you of not being skillful.  He’s not asking so he can condemn you.  He’s asking so that the communication lines will be established.  He was getting them ready to receive the Holy Spirit after he had gone.  Let him prepare you to hear the Holy Spirit today.

Thank you Jesus, that you take on the burden of making me fruitful.