Friday December 7, 2007

I once had a jeep Wrangler.  It was loud on the inside. It was slower than I like to go on the freeway.  It was somewhat cold in the winter.  It was a rough ride on  pavement.  But it did have it’s advantages.  For one, owning a jeep comes with an automatic membership in the “Aren’t We So Cool To Drive a Jeep!” club.  Members rarely pass one another on the road without a lazy wave or slight nod of the head.  Driving with the top off during warm Summer days is one of the greatest feelings in the world.  But the true advantage of a jeep is that you can pretty much go wherever you feel like going.

I hauled lots of people in that jeep.  Whenever I had to hop a curb, climb a hill, traverse  gravel,  conquer snow or bid farethewell to mud I’d turn to my passengers and say, with a devil may care grin,  “Advantage Jeep.”  Then I’d kick that sweet little ride into four wheel drive and away we’d go.  Then it was look out Lizzie cuz here comes craiggy.

About the only thing I couln’t do in my jeep was to cross oceans, seas or lakes.

“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side…”

Then Jesus turned the cult of celebrity on its head.  He Himself bid the multitude farewell.  This was after He sent His entourage to the hotel-before Him.  Jesus was the main attraction.  Jesus was the one who had done the hard work of teaching.  Yet, He took care of His bodyguards before He took care of Himself. 

He also took care of the people who had gathered to hear Him.  Instead of a disembodied voice booming over the loudspeakers, “Jesus has left the building!” Jesus mixed with the crowd.  He touched them.  He mingled with them.  He answered their questions.  He hugged them.  He bid them a good night. 

Afterwards, Jesus took time to work on His relationship with His Father.  He climbed a mountain to pray.

Meanwhile, back at the lake.  Perhaps with thoughts of bed and rest the disciples had been rowing the entire time.  Alas, the wind fought them every inch of the way.  Even the professional fishermen among them were having a hard time of it.  All that straining,  and they were still so far from the goal.

Jesus headed for the lake after finishing His prayer.  By this time the hapless disciples should have been asleep in bed.  Instead,  Jesus could clearly see them from where He stood on the shore.  Jesus hiked His robes up, put one foot in front of the other,  and soon He was walking on water.  As he neared His friends He made some quick calculations.  Jesus was making such good time walking on water He knew He’d reach the other side before they did.  What to do?

“He intended to pass by them.”  Why?  Maybe He wanted a good laugh.  By the time the disciples reached the other side Jesus could be waiting for them- in bed.  Then He could stretch, yawn,  then ask, “What took you guys so long?”  That would be funny.  On the other hand, maybe Jesus wanted to get to the other side first so He could turn the lights on, turn the beds down and have a nice fire going for His companions.

I don’t know for sure why Jesus “intended to pass them by.”  I can’t help but think that He looked at them, looked at His feet, looked at them again, and looked at His feet and said, “Advantage Omnipotence!”  Then He kicked those sweet feet into aqua drive and away He went.

Without a doubt He would have beaten them to the other side if the fraidy cats hadn’t caught sight of Him and freaked out.  Jesus being Jesus took care of their needs first.  “Advantage Savior.”

Thursday Dec. 6, 2007

“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

“To and fro” is ceaseless activity.  A never ending quest.  There is a yearning quality to it.   The Seeker can’t wait to find someone to support.  He is excited to do it.  He wants to support somebody.  I ache to be that somebody.  I want His support in all of its  strength. 

As I imagine His eyes searching the earth I want them to notice me.  Like a marooned person would frantically signal a search plane I’ll do anything.         Jump up and down.         Scream, “Over here!  Over here!”      Torch the island.         

Often I end up shaking my fist at the sky while moaning, “Why can’t you see me?  I’m right here.”

How can I get His attention?  How can I get Him to notice me?  How can I get His eyes to do a double take and  cease their to-ing and fro-ing?  I know…

I’ll preach loud sermons.  I’ll go to the mission field.  I’ll quit this and start that.  I won’t ever commit that particular sin again.  I’ll read my Bible everyday.  I’ll pray without ceasing.  I’ll keep a spiritual journal.  I’ll have a specific quiet time everyday for the rest of my life.  I’ll work on my marriage.  I won’t miss church services again.  I won’t speed anymore.  I’ll forgive the one who hurt me so.  I’ll…I’ll…I’m exhausted and depressed. 

Father, forgive me for being an idiot and a moron.  I am a failure as a Christian.  I have failed my church, my family, myself and you.  Every promise I have made to you I have broken a million times over.  Every good habit I sought to attain lasted a few days at best, while the bad ones got badder.  Now, I’m going to stay in my little cave for awhile until I have enough energy to start over.  If you will overlook the eighteen month gap in my prayer journal I’ll…I’ll…Forget it Lord.  No more deals.  No more promises.  No more lies.  This is all I know…I love you more than anything in the whole wide world.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, I know, but you are the best friend I ever had.  So here is my prayer, Father, more than anything I want to want… to surrender my heart completely to You.

Father, why are you looking at me that way?

The Secret.

`I’ll begin with a confession.  I’m  not a big time reader of self-help or devotional type books.  I prefer mysteries and thrillers, histories and biographies.  I have read my share of self-help and devotional books, but after awhile they sort of run together.  I’ll read anything Brennan Manning writes.   Beyond that I am very, very picky. 

In my experience the books rarely deliver what the jacket promises.  When a self-help book claims that whatever I need help with is a matter of follwing a step by step process my eyes begin to glaze over and I curse the day Robert Ludlum died. 

Because of my past experiences with how-to’s and self-help books I’m predisposed to doubt.    Therefore I had no desire to read The Secret.   However, because it was getting a lot of press I just had to know what the “secret” was.  So, standing in a Wal Mart I skipped to the part of the book that said “here is the secret.”  If the secret had been a technique for brainwashing others into giving me money I would have bought the book on the spot.  That’s a secret worth paying for.  However, after I read what the purported secret was I’m afraid I found it a bit anti-climatic.  It’s no secret.  I’ve heard it before.  And paid for it before.  It just had a different title.

As you probably know by now the “secret” is the “law of attraction.”    In other words, you attract  the things you want – if you are positive you will attract positive – if you think successful you will attract success…etc.  The vibes you emit have a lot to do with the vibes you receive.  Not to mention money, success, possessions and health.  Healings in fact.

Sounds good, but I don’t think it works that way all of the time.  If the secret is true then…

-Jesus hated people deep down because hate is what He attracted.

-Jesus was abusive because He attracted abuse.

-Jesus was a liar because He attracted all sorts of lies about Himself.

-Jesus thought poor thoughts because He attracted poor people, and was materially poor Himself..

-Jesus was a negative, gloom and doom sort of guy because He attracted death at the age of 33.  Even Elvis lived longer and he was way more gloomy than Jesus during the last few years of his life.

-And what of God’s people throughout the ages?  “…others were tortured, not accepting their release, IN ORDER THAT THEY MIGHT OBTAIN A BETTER RESURRECTION; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being DESTITUTE, afflicted, ill treated.

Were they full of these thoughts and thus deserving of what they attracted?  I think not.  In fact the Holy Spirit said of them they were “people of whom the world was not worthy.”  Now that resonates with me.  See, as it is I already have enough of a struggle thinking about myself and what I want more than what’s healthy for a fellow.  The life of Christ, the examples of my brothers and sisters in Scripture and the words of the Holy Spirit are more fulfilling. They roll like gospel thunder across the plains of my inner life.   They shake me out of my selfishness.  They inspire me.  They challenge me to a life of sacrafice and service.  They cause me to focus on the Lord (not me me me)  and how He wants me to live.   NO MATTER WHAT IT ATTRACTS. 

“The Secret” is part of the problem I tried to point out in Danger!  Danger! Will Robinson.  At the precise moment we should be preparing ourselves to be destitute, afflicted and mis-treated for our unyielding allegience to the one, true God we are once again being tempted into thinking about ourselves and our gotta haves. 

I didn’t read the entire book.  Perhaps it explained why sometimes good, honest, godly people attract harsh treatment or unfair conditions.  Maybe it presented the reason why the most wonderful, positive man who ever lived, who went about doing good to all people, was despised, rejected and murdered.  If it does I apologize for the rant.

Of Him it is said, “He had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be ATTRACTED to Him.”  But some of us are attracted to Him.

We have been instructed to test the spirits.  Whatever “The “Secret” is it is a world view.  It is a philosophy of life.  It is in competition with the ministry and philosophy of Jesus Christ.  So I end with a passage from I Jn. 4.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the anti-christ, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.  You are from God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.  They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, AND THE WORLD LISTENS TO THEM.  We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us.  By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

Craig, who are you listening to today?

Good night Gertrude! and Great gobs of goose grease!

Yesterdays post was ready to go before the reaction to my Memorial Drive post was known to me.  So this one really should be the one that follows it.

This is really weird.  I’ve only been blogging for a few weeks.  When I began,  I wrote knowing very few people would actually read what I was saying.  But I blogged away because it was good for me.  And I rekindled some relationships.  Trey.  John. Dusty. And a few others.  I also made some new friends.  Tucker.  Brenda.  And a few others. But, yesterday and today.  Wow!  All of a sudden I feel awkward.  It’s a feeling you have when you open a door and walk into a room full of people.  Who are staring at you.  Who are waiting for you to say something.  And I’m thinking, “Lord, please help me NOW I’m too dumb to know what to say.”  And I can’t stop crying.  Good tears.

My silly little blog was visited 499 times yesterday.  At noon today (Fri) it already stood at 400. 

Here’s what I want to say.  Aren’t we blessed to have Jesus as our Lord and Savior?  He’s too good for all of us.  But, it doesn’t seem to bother Him one bit.  In fact, oftentimes I think He has even forgotten that he is a king.  The King of kings.  Or maybe he doesn’t know a king is supposed to sit on his throne, as his subjects grovel at his feet and beg for mercies.  Because I am so unsteady on my own feet I feel as if He has sat me, a nobody, on his very own throne.   I guess He is kneeling before me so He can look me straight in the eye.  I guess His hand is touching my filth because He wants me to feel the power of his words.  “Craig, I love you more than you will ever imagine.  All of you.  No matter what.  Forever.  You mean the world to me.”

Here’s what I want to say.  Aren’t we blessed, so blessed, to have each other as brothers and sisters?  Isn’t the church beautiful?  She is lovely beyond compare.  She is you.  She is us.  And I love her.  Which is to say, I love you.

I’m overcome with emotion.  And relief.  My heart aches over the things some of you are struggling with right now.  A few readers shared some things with me which reduce my story to triviality.  There simply is no comparison.  The pain many of our brothers and sisters are enduring right this moment breaks my heart.  I want to be Jesus for you.  And there are others who feel the same way.  Please let us love you “as is.”  Please give us the highest honor we could ever receive, an opportunity to be just like Jesus.  Please.

Here are some prayer thoughts I have, conversations with Jesus.  They are deeply personal.  They are not meant to offend.  They don’t have to be read.

Craig, unity movement?  Forget about the church in a distant city.  Or, even the one right around the corner.  Every single person in your life was placed there by me.  No coincidences.  Your words are robbed of their power to effect change, and your motives are exposed as hollow, when you can’t even practice unity with the people you worship with week after week.  When you can’t be united with the people in your life how can you do so with those you have never met?  Or will?  Craig, you need to major in the people I have surrounded you with.  You need to work out your “stuff” with them.  Craig, when you do that then we’ll talk about the other.

Craig, progressive?  Here’s what I wish you would progress in.  Unconditional love.  Unconditional acceptance.  Unconditional grace.  I want you to progress in loving the lepers, the lame and the blind.  I want you to progress  in the things that were important to me.  I need you to do this.  You are my hands.  You are my feet.  You are my heart.  Please help me to do this.  And Craig, I have to be honest. no matter how great your worship is, no matter how wonderful and progressive your Sunday morning worship may be,  it falls flat with ME,  if you are not doing the important things.  The ME things.  I want you to progress in loving the Judas’ of your life.  Craig, when you are making progress in these areas, then we’ll talk about the other.

Craig, emergent?  Did you know that you are currently worshipping with people who are too afraid to emerge from their shells?  Because of you.  They are afraid of your reaction to the filth of their lives.  Filth which I embrace.  When you have helped me… and I know you can do it because I live inside of you…when you have helped  every last one of these precious lambs emerge from their hiding places then we will talk about the other.

Craig, I love you.  And I AM THE King.   My love is all that matters and MY WORD is LAW.  Now, get to it…and have fun doing it.  That’s an order.

 I guess He does know He is the King of kings.  Which makes His love all the more remarkable.

“Yes Sir!”

Jesus+Coward = Mass Evangelism

This post is one of the reasons I prefer for Jesus to tell me who I am.  And what I believe.  I was in a dark place.  I read the gospel of John over and over.  I said, “Jesus, this is the truth of who I am.”  And He said, by way of Nicodemus, “Craig, Be Astonished!  You’ll never believe what I can do with smoldering wicks and cowards.”

Jesus, I am astonished.  And I do believe.

In my early days as a Christian we went “door knocking” quite often.  Anyone remember?  I was a terrible door knocker.  My heart made more noise then my knuckles did.  I hoped no one would answer the door.  Ok, I confess. I prayed no one would answer the door.   It  didn’t take much to discourage me from bypassing certain doors either. A barking dog, no matter the size, was a sign from God to flee. Or the dog could have been put there by the devil as an effective ANTI-  door knocking campaign. It  was VERY effective as far as I was concerned -from a safe distance.  When I was running I liked it better if my partner was a girl.  Then the fleeing had a noble and romantic quality to it.  Kind of like a knight in shining armor.  When she dropped me, however,  the romance was usually over before I hit the ground.  I do have my limits.

 I also liked it when the sun began to set and we no longer had the time to have actual conversations with lost people. All we had to do, we were told, was to put the literature between the door and the screen.  Or on the door step.  But never in the mailbox.  No more door knocking.  Bomb and run. More my style.  Because I’m a coward.

As an adult – Still true.  Still me.  I’ve  had some wonderful opportunities to talk about Jesus in front of a few crowds.  Loud and Proud.  But as I flew to those places I would “sleep.” Or I would put my headphones on so I didn’t have to talk to the soul strapped into the seat next to mine.  And I did the same thing on the way home.  Post loud and proud.  Because I’m a coward.

I don’t want to be afraid.  I want to shine in the workplace.  And in my neighborhood 

But I’m a coward.

Are you?

Nicodemus was a coward.  He was afraid to be seen with Jesus. In the light.  Yet, he was also interested in some of the things Jesus was saying.  So, “he came to Jesus by night.”.  He admitted to Jesus, “you have come from God.”  This he confessed  in the dark.  He wanted to understand Jesus.  In the dark.  He wanted to ask Jesus some questions. In the dark.  He wanted to be a disciple.  In the dark.  He wanted to be a Christian.  In the dark.  Because he was a coward.

  How did Jesus respond to Nicodemus?  

As I listen to the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus it is what

I don’t hear

that welcomes me. 

Why didn’t Jesus tell Nicodemus to go home and return in the morning so everybody could watch them talking together?  Especially his co-workers,  who happened to be the pharisees.  Undoubtly,  Nicodemus would have been a “big catch.”  It would have created a lot of buzz and done much to “get the name of Jesus out there.”  So, why didn’t Jesus tell Nicodemus  the same thing He told the Twelve about getting His name “out there?”  Why didn’t  Jesus tell Nicodemus, “a city on a hill can’t be hidden?”  Why didn’t Jesus tell Nicodemus, “You must let your light shine before men?”

Nicodemus was afraid of the light.

Jesus is simply brilliant at knowing when to “pour it on” and when not to.  It all depends on how fragile our hearts may, or may not be when we seek Him.  Jesus knew Nicodemus was near the point of being snuffed out-  forever. And he fanned the flame to life.  Jesus knows the exact moment when He can push, and push hard, to make us grow.  And he also senses the moment when a hug will do just fine.  

Jesus does not extinguish smoldering wicks.  It’s against his religion.

And, there’s more.  Be astonished!  See what Jesus can do with smoldering wicks and cowards.  He turned Nicodemus into a lion.   One whose roar is still reverberating in the realm of men.   Can you hear it? 

As I listen to the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus it is what

 I do hear

that redeems me.

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

I bet it’s the most famous verse in the whole world.  And has been so for centuries and centuries.  It’s the first verse many people memorize.  Now, think about this – John 3:16 exists because a coward wanted to talk to Jesus.  In the dark.  John 3:16 exists because Jesus welcomed the coward – listened to the coward – and answered the coward’s questions.  In the dark. Only Jesus did not see a coward.  He saw a smoldering wick.   Jesus also saw –  past the dying flame – one of the greatest evangelists who ever lived.  How many souls do you suppose began their homeward journey because of Jesus’ response to a coward? 

Many, many, many are saved because a coward went to Jesus “as is.”  In the dark.  And Jesus hugged him.  In the dark. “As is.” 

It is what I don’t hear AND it is what I do hear…

that saves me 

From my cowardice.

Now can you hear Nicodemus roaring? 

Finally,  if you’ve ever wondered what God thinks of cowards, ask him.  He might tell you He loves them. 

Especially.

Cowards buried his Son.

Jesus+you = Mass Evangelism