Wednesday, November 25

A foolish tale of a weak people…

"The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong; and the lowly things of this world and the despised things God has chosen, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him."  (1 Corinthians 1:25, 27-29)

"We live in our forgiveness, clinging to the assurance of salvation and hoping for the Lord's return," T.M. Moore, Principal of Crosfigell, the Fellowship of Ailbe, writes, "with almost no vision for what we're supposed to be doing to turn our upside down world rightside-up for Jesus."

Salvation is only the beginning of the journey that we undertake when we come to that place where the Spirit speaks to our heart, to the very essence of our desires, worries and fears. The transformation of our hearts is instanteous, God reaches in and replaces without scars, without instrumentation, our corrupted and diseased heart with a heart burdened with only Him….a heart beating as it was meant to beat, in step with the plans and desires of the Creator. Our story becomes a sub-plot in the larger story of mankind's redemption; not designed to be some bit-player who comes and exits after a few moments of dialogue to propel the main character into greater depths but rather an active, supporting role that brings sharper focus and attention to the main character, Jesus Christ.

It is an involved role, one that requires our active participation in the blank pages of our chapters within the book. Some come into prominence during the battle scenes, some during the love portions and others in the destructiveness of the opposition. If it were simply a bland story where everyone played a recurring theme, what a boring story it would be and it would languish on the dusty shelves of the local bookstore without notice. If it were only about salvation, it would be a short story indeed…..for salvation comes only once in the lives of those who have tasted its tart-sweet flavors. There is much more to the story, though, than many of us believe when we 'taste the Lord' and find that He is good.

For those who realize this, too often we seek to forcibly write the next event or situation for our new life. We seek to make an impact, not only in our own portion of the tale, but also in the broader and universal context. We come to a place when we do that where we begin to doubt the heartbeat within us, sorrowing that we will never ever achieve true spirituality, true understanding simply because the logical progression of what we believe our faith is to follow is foolishness…..illogical to our humanity and weaker than the strength we feel is necessary for its achievement. Worship becomes mundane, service an anchor to our drowning souls that brings no true joy, only sorrowful and methodical requirements to be checked off on the 'to-do-list' of our devised plot outline. Our attempts to transform the people we love, the community we live in and the world become a disjointed, dysfunctional and offensive force that ends in sorrow as lives turn away from Him rather than towards Him. We then seek to bunker down in a community of the faithful where we don't have to focus on the disjointed feeling of spirituality mundane but can just have moments of forced joy in messages of love, of prosperity and of enjoyment.

Then, as we walk out of the buildings beautifully appointed and step away from the cushy chairs of our sanctuaries, our eyes glaze over and we rejoin the world disappointed in a God that would subject us to this plot line and throw off our cloaks of many colors in favor of the bland greys of a world in rebellion. We don't see the needs, the opportunities and the provisioning that God lays out in our world for us to but grasp with hands not our own, with a strength that is weak by human understanding and a joy that defies the wisdom of our own cultural upbringing.

"There comes a place on our spiritual journey where renewed religious activity is of no use whatsoever." John Eldridge writes in his devotional The Ransomed Heart: Too Easily Pleased, "It is the place where God holds out his hand and asks us to give up our lovers and come and live with him in a much more personal way."

We are called to battle from the moment our eyes open in our bedrooms of our homes, turning and stepping into the shoes of peace and donning the breastplate of righteousness. We put on the helmet of our salvation and girth ourselves with the belt of truth. We pick up our defense, a shield of faith and our offensive weapon….the sword of the Spirit and begin the battle in ourselves each day. Epic tales of struggles and trials are for some of the Body to write, others to live and yet more to gather strength in the tales of our weakness being strengthened by the hand of God. We were made to bear the image of God, our personalities and how we relate not suborned by this new heart but blended into it for the purpose our story is written.

In the mind of our own humanity, this story doesn't have any depth or glory or even a happy ending. It never will, for humanity a long time ago took the writing of this epic out of the hands of the Author and Finisher and decided to write it on our own, according to our rules, our understanding and our desires. But, with the heart of renewal in our bodies, our minds are injected with the mind of Christ and we begin to see how our humanity is corrupted, our logic flawed and our desires of the biased evilness of our sin. Our natural selves cannot live in the supernatural world of God…..only Christ can and through Him we find the tale of our faith written with bold and descriptive, never dull, strokes of the heavenly penmanship of the Author once more….

"A natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?"  But we have the mind of Christ."  (1 Corinthians 2:14, 16)

Our story, the smaller part of the larger complete story of God, becomes something other than mere religious activity……more than just a Sunday hour of forced joy and worship….and becomes the tale of bards and harpists, echoing throughout the halls of the faithful gathered for joyous celebration of victories amidst defeats and love in the midst of hatred. Glorious song breaks out among the battered, scarred and famished warriors of the gathered army… the round table of the battle room of the Lord. Laid out before them are all the humanity of their fallenness, the brokenness of their spirit, and the desires wrapped in the corrupted stench of their selfishness. The great among them wash the feet of those freshly from the battle for their souls, the first among them with gladliness surrender their place next to the Captain for those lastly come….for in His shadow shines the light of victory, the peace of overcoming and the taste of complete joy. And each warrior approaches the King, the Captain and the Victor with their crowns in hand….setting them down at His feet because there is nothing in this room worth holding on to in the light of His sacrifice.

"so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another. And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching; or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting: he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another; in honor preferring one another; in diligence not slothful; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing stedfastly in prayer; communicating to the necessities of the saints; given to hospitality. Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not. "

(Romans 12:5-14 ASV)

That is the stuff that the epic tale of God's redemption is written with……and our contribution to it is by no measure small. The cultural, moral and redemptive revolution began in each and every one of our lives, purchased and owned fully by the Author of our salvation begins with our surrendering of taste, diversion, working styles, relationships, stewardship and conversation. Lives completely and utterly transformed in the foolish weakness of our God to write a grand tale of love, provision and glory of a people restored, redeemed and purposed.

Shield and sword hand in hand for the battle.

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