Monday, July 28, 2008

The Abyss

Originally the location drew me to it because of the history surrounding it. Kealakekua Bay on the beautiful island of Kona in the Hawaiian island chain, also known as the Big Island, was the location of the murder of Captain John Cook. You know, the famous explorer who traveled the world during the 18th century, the Cook Islands are named after him. He met his fate when the Hawaiian’s finally figured out he wasn’t a god and had enough of him pushing his beliefs and ideas on them.

The main reason I wanted to go to the Captain Cook Monument was to go snorkeling, supposedly it had some of the best snorkeling on the island. We chose to rent kayaks and paddle the mile across the bay to the monument side – the other option was to hike down the 2.5 mile jeep trail and then hike back up it, a 1,000 ft. elevation drop and gain – I’d rather kayak. As we paddled spinner dolphins swam with us, sometime getting close enough you felt you could touch them with your paddle – it was amazing, probably my most memorable experience in Hawaii. We got to the other side of the bay and began to snorkel, probably my second most memorable experience in Hawaii. The color was vibrant, the fish were abundant, and the water was cool and refreshing. After an hour or so of snorkeling I felt the itch to swim out to deeper water and try to swim with the dolphins. As I swam further from shore the cliff dropped dramatically and I went from swimming calmly above coral and tropical fish to feeling lost above a blue abyss, thoughts of a barracuda coming out of nowhere or a reef shark coming in to feed, or even a dolphin swimming towards me freaked me out, so I quickly returned to the comfort and safety of trumpet fish.

God is a lot like the abyss: deep yet intriguing, sometimes He is so scary that you feel like just swimming back to shore. Especially when he asks you to do something that doesn’t make sense.

Jesus equated himself to water on a few occasions. To the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus said “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” John 4:14. Then again in John 7:37 he says “If anyone is thirsty let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the scriptures has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” And again in Revelation 22:17 “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”

Christ is a little scary too, just read all of Revelation. He says himself that He didn’t come to offer peace, but the sword. And as Beaver says in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, “He isn’t safe, but he’s good.”

As soon as we start to believe we think we understand the Abyss, as soon as we think we know something about God, we need to check ourselves. God is beyond our understanding, and that is what is so remarkable about faith: to truly grow in our relationship with God, you have to step out in faith to grow your faith, you have to swim after the dolphins, you have to swim into the unknown.

When I was in my masters program for teaching I learned about a theory on learning: to truly learn you must get out of your comfort “box” you must learn in an atmosphere that forces cerebral transformation. I think it was Palmer or somebody. (The ironic thing was that I learned that by reading a book and then sitting in a classroom with 30 other would-be-teachers discussing it, not exactly stretching the educational atmosphere.) You could apply this theory to faith too – we’ve got to swim into the abyss if we want to be able to truly know our God, to fully understand Christ. It may be scary, it may not make sense, but it is the only way.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Waiting instead of working

Calgary has been very good for me. It has been the first place we have been where we have no idea what we are doing. We got here with nothing but us. No plans and no contacts except for a random connection to stay at a random church, right in the heart of downtown. We have been plopped, by God, in an position where we could either wait to hear what He has for us or we could work our tails off trying to figure things out ourselves.

Our question when we got here was, 'Why are we here God? Show us where you want us.'

My first reaction is to try and figure out things, or ask everyone we see what we can do to help. You know, make myself feel better by doing something, even if it is futile and meaningless in the eyes of God. I like to busy myself when I don't know my purpose.

But here in Calgary I felt the Lord put the pressure on me to lay off and wait for Him to work. That is really hard to do. The enemy asked me over and over, "What are you doing anyways? You should be doing something." And for the first time, I could say, "I'm waiting for God. That is what I am doing!"

The words in 1 Cor 3:11-15 jumped alive to me this week.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

I can't imagine having to escape the flames of my work. What a loss! To come to the Day and see that everything I had done was completely worthless! Why must we hurry up and do something?

My foundation is Jesus Christ. For me to run around and try to build on this without Him is sillyness. Even if I put His name on it and say that I'm looking for ways to "increase the kingdom", it will be burnt up. I need to wait. And as I practice this, I can feel my ears getting keener to His voice. I can feel my heart joining with His and I can feel His peace as I stand in confidence in my position.

I am enjoying my relationship with Him again. I was in tears the other day because I felt far away from Him. Waiting has brought intimacy back between my Father and I. And intimacy with God is the way to bring the kingdom near.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Loss for words

I have been at a loss for words lately. It's not that I haven't had good ideas to write about, I just haven't had the desire to write them. So, I'll plagarize some really good stuff I have been reading from Oscar Romero, he called himself the "humble echo of God" and from what I have read, I agree:

Here are two messages he used in his sermons prior to his martyrdom

Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed,
of laws to be obeyed,
of prohibitions.
That makes it very distasteful.
Christianity is a person,
one who loved us so much,
one who calls for our love.
Christianity is Christ.

We should not wonder that a church
Has a lot of cross to bear.
Otherwise, it will not have a lot of resurrection.
a church that seeks prestige
without the pain of the cross,
is not the authentic church of Jesus Christ.

I have been thinking a lot about what our calling is, and the Lord has given me the same words over and over again - you should be "agents of resurrection." We should be bringing LIFE with us everywhere we go. Life is the redemtive power of Jesus Christ through the blood of the cross. Are we bringing that Jesus with us? If we are, we should be filled with grace-giving, poor and marginalized-loving, peace-embracing LIFE! We should be filled with Jesus, Life!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Hard pressed on every side

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed: perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

A new friend of mine brought this verse to my attention when we were discussing our recent “disunity” as a group. We have felt the enemy (or as Paul uses in 2 Corinthians “the god of this world”) attack, attempting to create dissention, anger and resentment, but we are not crushed, we are not in despair, we don’t feel abandoned, and we are definitely not destroyed.

I went back and read the entire passage of 2 Corinthians 4 and it has some significant truths about ministry. I talk a lot about transparency, about the need to be open and honest, or what we do is shallow and easily rooted up. Openness creates deep roots, it fosters connection and meaningfulness.

My flesh wants to sugar-coat things. I want everybody reading this to think that doing ministry on the road is easy, that everything is going smoothly. I want to put on a happy face and send out another smiling update letter. I’m new at this, but I think that is where missionaries have to get burnt out. This is where ministry becomes shallow. If truly following Jesus is like picking up our cross, then we are going to run into rough times, we are going to be attacked with disunity, we are going to feel “pressed,” and “perplexed” and “persecuted” and “struck down,” why would we continue to communicate that everything is OK? At the beginning of 2 Corinthians 4 Paul writes:

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

My pride wants to write blog posts about all of the wonderful things God is doing, about the people God has saved through our ministry, about all the people who have been clothed, fed, and loved along our journey thus far, but I think in actuality, that would not be the whole truth, it would be deception if that was the only stories we told. The road has been tough, and much different than we ever could have imagined. Ministry life with kids, on the road, in an RV, with a team of people who have differing personalities, compounded by 100+ degree heat, has been very difficult.

Thankfully though, “we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (4:5). Our power does not come from us, we are simply jars of clay, with cracks and breaks. We (our flesh) create disunity, resentment, and anger, and only when we allow Jesus to shine through our cracks can we demonstrate “that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (4:7).