Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. 1 John 3:2 (NLT)
As soon as I read this verse, I knew why it bothered me. John says that when Christ appears, “we will see him as he really is.” Inherent in this phrase is the fact that right now I do NOT see Him as He really is. And how can I? How can my puny, finite eyes really see and understand the infinite reality of our God-become-man-become-Savior?
How do I see Jesus? Usually, I see Him as I’d like to see Him—friendly, forgiving, easy to get along with, gently prodding me along to become a better person but mostly agreeing with my hopes and ambitions. I like to focus upon His place as King (Zechariah 14:16) because it gives me hope and security, but don’t spend too much time on His position as Judge and Lawgiver (Isaiah 33:22). I don’t like thinking about the many ways I’ve broken His law, and I can’t help but think that the final review of my life will be a disappointment to Him. And to me.
Furthermore, I don’t spend time seeing Him in light of my own desires and lusts. It is just too hard to imagine He ever had THOSE thoughts. Until, that is, I read Hebrews 4:15, which reminds me that He was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” Yes, Jesus was even tempted with THOSE thoughts. But unlike me, He never gave in.
It seems I’m a master at creating Jesus in my own image and likeness, making Him the type of God who comforts, forgives and accepts me, while at the same time rejecting my enemies (Now I like to see Him as Judge. Is it awful to see God only in the ways that suit me?). Continue Reading
For four years I was an Assemblies of God minister AND a monk with the Brothers and Sisters of Charity in Eureka Springs, AR. This is an excerpt from my book about that experience called “Taking Off My Comfortable Clothes: Removing Religion to Find Relationship.”
I was in Bible College when I first heard the saying, “I’m a Christian and I don’t drink, smoke, or chew, or hang around with those who do.” We often repeated this little ditty tongue-in-cheek, but there was an element of truth to it, also. Although we knew abstinence from those things didn’t make us holy, we also had to sign a form that said we would not partake in those vices while we were students at the college. I suppose they were fine rules as rules go, but like any law, they only dealt with the outward appearance of holiness, and did nothing to address the matters of the heart.
At the core of that saying is the idea that we can obtain instant holiness if we will simply avoid certain habits. Furthermore, it was expected we would not have friends who engaged in such questionable practices. Somehow, we’ve equated the God-ordained gift of instant salvation through faith in the work of Christ with holiness on demand—my church demands certain practices (and abstinences) and I am holy if I follow those rules. My church says don’t _______ (fill in the blank), so I don’t _______ (fill in the blank) and I feel justified. Or, the church says don’t go there, sinners are there and they will ruin your walk with Christ, so we avoid going to certain places.
That last one has always confused me. If the sinners are not coming to church, I always felt we should go to where the sinners are. After I left the Little Portion, I stayed in Berryville and continued going the Assemblies of God church. Needing a place to live, I put in an application for an apartment and used my pastor as a reference. The owner of the apartment called my pastor and asked him about my character, wondering if it was me he saw coming out of a party in town. My pastor assured the man I wouldn’t have been at such a gathering.
I took that as a compliment. Sort of. Why wouldn’t I go to such a party? Isn’t that where the sinners are? Continue Reading
“O LORD, God of heaven…listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel” – Nehemiah 1:5-6
I read six verses into the book of Nehemiah the other day and couldn’t continue. What struck me were Nehemiah’s passion and purpose, and the fact that both produced in him a prayer that continued night and day.
I’m lucky to find something to pray about that will last me fifteen minutes, much less day and night.
For all my talk about my desire to teach Scripture and seeing people fulfill their God-given destiny, of equipping people for works of service, of hoping to have more of my writings published and to see my church home grow with new Christians, I still don’t have the passion to pray day and night. With all those things on my agenda, I would hope that I’d have a more dedicated prayer life.
I want to, but I don’t. The paradox, naturally, is that I am writing about prayer instead of actually praying. Perhaps my writing is something I need to pray about!
I did study further to see what it was that caused such a stir in Nehemiah’s spirit. A citizen from Judah visited Nehemiah in Babylon and reported that the walls of Jerusalem were still in disrepair since their destruction by Nebuchadnezzar 130 years before. Because the walls were down, Jerusalem was defenseless against her enemies. Spiritually this was a disgrace because it reflected upon the character of God. Jerusalem was the place God chose to place His name (Neh. 1:9; Deut. 12:5). To allow it to stay in such disrepair was to bring shame on the very Name of God.
Nehemiah was able to pray day and night because he understood the heart of God. This challenged me to consider what things I want and what things God wants. Continue Reading