Take chances. Abandon all the rules. Ditch the recipe. Color outside the lines.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monsters Under the Bed

What is it with us humans and our general lack of ability to vulnerable and authentic? I mean really, what’s with that? Why are we so scared to just be honest about our struggles? We all know they exist. It is blatantly obvious that each and every one of us struggle, and yet we are terrified to admit our own battles.

Christians? Oh yeah, we’re the worst about it. Our churches have become spaces of structure and regulation that leave little room for messy people. Somewhere along the way religion became tangled in the expectation of doing everything perfectly and sabotaged the ability for people to be real with one another. And don’t go thinking it’s just the “religious types” either because it’s not. Us grace gospel types can fall into this same trap, talking about grace like it’s just a Theological concept instead of what (for some of us, most of the time) is the only thing that gets us out of bed in the morning.

I think we're just afraid of our own ugliness. So then it's easier for us to be enraged about the "big" issues in our world, to throw a fit over unisex bathrooms, to spew hatred over people's choices at the polls, and to mock legalistic pastors. It is much easier for us to face the monsters we see in the world than it is to face the ones under our bed.

And in neglecting to face the monsters under our beds, we effectively sabotage the great story of redemption. For it is only in the most desperate and most unmanageable of moments that we can truly see the ineffable glory of grace and its ability to conquer even the most ruthless of foes.

Maybe that's what Jesus meant when he said, "those who have been forgiven much love much." Maybe his words were not meant as qualifiers of the greatness of one's love but rather exposers of the depth of one's need.

Only when we are brave enough to come out from under the covers and meet the monsters we imagine to be formidable face to face are we able to see them whimpering and wailing under the rescuing fist of God's grace. It is inevitable that in these moments we will be brought to our knees once again in awe and wonder of a God who transcends our situation and yet is intimately aware of our pain.

We want to tame grace, to lasso it, and tie it down to the pew next to us. It bucks and jumps and lays to waste the structured box of a building we’ve placed it in like a bull in a china shop. Grace is not safe. It saves. There’s a big difference between the two. It will hazardously force you to have to face the monsters under your bed but it will also rescue you from them. I wish we would allow ourselves to be brave enough to look under our beds. Then maybe, just maybe, in being honest about the monsters under our beds we might find that the ones in the world aren’t as big as they seemed.

I hope God’s grace makes your life dangerous today.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why I Stopped Pursuing God

Pursue God. Pursue Jesus. Pursue intimacy with God. Pursue righteousness.

All of these directives seem good and honorable, and they are taught as such. Many a pastor and Christian teacher has used them as mission statements and explanations of the “good Christian life.” We are taught that pursuing God is something we should always be doing.

Chase after Him. Look for Him. Be in pursuit of God. What you do when you find Him no one has quite figured out yet, but what everyone knows for sure is that we should be pursuing Him. Unfortunately, what that sounds like is that He's hiding away somewhere, tucked just out of sight, and waiting for the magical day when someone's worthy pursuit ends at the finish line of Him. If you listen to this message long enough you will eventually come to the conclusion that you will never get to the finish line (at least not in this life), but you must, by no means, ever never stop running. Keep doing. Keep working. Keep trying your hardest, putting forth your best efforts, and stretching your farthest towards godliness.

For all of humanity's existence we've been trying to claw our way up to God. We've built towers and constructed temples all under the banner of "pursuing God." The temptation of Adam was "God likeness." He pursued God to the point of his own death, sacrificing abundant life to gain it himself. Sounds like pursuit of God didn't work out so well for him?

What if all this time we've been pursuing God and missing the point all along? What if the Christian life is not about our pursuit of God but rather God's relentless pursuit of us?

Jesus was presented with the same temptation as Adam, but instead of pursuing God likeness he relinquished it to the point of His own death, sacrificing His life so that we could have it abundantly.

Maybe our problem is that we see Jesus as an example for us. We see him as a standard we should in some way model or live up to, and yet that was never his purpose on this earth. Jesus did not come to show us what we should try to be like. He came to show us EXACTLY what God is like. He came to set the record straight. He came to silence the very first lie that ever slipped off the tongue of the serpent, that God is distant and withholding, and show us exactly how excessive and gracious God really is. Jesus came to make an unfathomable God tangible. He came as a flesh and blood representation of God's stubborn delight in a people hell-bent on independence. What an audacious reality, that the God of the universe we try desperately to work our way towards, instead slips into the fragile skin of our humanity as if to say, "No, children, let me come to you."

Oh how generous and glorious a God! How inexpressibly thankful I am that He pursues me. Because, if I’m being honest, I’m much more likely to be found cowering in my nakedness behind some fig leaves than running after Him. Still, He comes, walking through the cool of the garden, to pull me close and silence my shame for He has never been scared away by sin. If I’m being honest, I’m much more likely to be a petulant and stubborn child of Israel who rather be oppressed once again under the shackles of Egypt than to trust God’s faithfulness to fight for me. And still He comes, parting the sea of my struggle and drowning my bondage in perfect love. If I’m honest, I’m much more likely to be an idol worshiping judge, a depressed king, or a doubting disciple than I am to be trusted champion of The Kingdom. And still He comes, calling me to care for His people.

So, I've come to the decision to stop pursing God and instead rest every day in the awareness of His pursuit of me. It’s time we all stopped running. It’s time we gave up on pursuing a God who is already closer even than the skin on our bones. It’s time we chose to stop pursuing God and rest in THE pursuing God.

May you come to know the reality of an intimate God that has pursued and embraced you.