Saturday, February 18, 2017

Wild Streams: An Analogy for the Church

I felt led to take the family down to Spokane Falls last Sunday in order to see what the Falls could teach us about "Church" and the ways God works. The snows have begun to melt and the Spokane river is swollen as it rages through downtown Spokane.

As we listened and reflected, my son Samuel came up with this wise observation:

"Though the waters are wild and uncontrolled, they are contained within boundaries that have been formed over long periods of time."


I thought of how the Trinitarian Life of God is gushing and ever-flowing, transforming disciples of Jesus and overflowing into the world around us. I thought of the variety of traditions that have tapped into this river over long periods of time. I thought of the wonderful life-giving wine in a variety of wineskins and I feel a sense of awe and humility. 

May our unity as God's people be that we drink from this wild stream together and not that we worry so much about the containers. As we gather together, we join a stream of Life that is far older than our particular tradition, stretching beyond time into the Eternal heart of God Himself.
"Today a mighty river of the Spirit is bursting forth from the hearts of women and men, boys and girls. It is a deep river of divine intimacy, a powerful river of holy living, a dancing river of jubilation in the Spirit, and a broad river of unconditional love for all peoples. As Jesus says, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.' (John 7:38)" (Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditiosn of Christian Faith, xv.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Some Thoughts on the Body and the Kingdom of God

A dear friend and I were recently discussing a statement I had given him regarding the role of the body in the Kingdom of God:
"I am God's will in the place and time where I currently am in my embodied self, holy and pleasing to him, bearer of the Kingdom of God in my body to those around me."

This statement brings together several key Scriptures regarding the body:

Rom 12:1-2
​ (cf. Rom 6:11-14)

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (ESV)

Hebrews 10:5-7
​ (cf. Ps 40:6-8)​

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’”
​ (NIV)​

My body is the place where my will is done
​Apart from
 the mind, 
​the body 
is the only realm I have direct control over. It is my 
power pack,
 my only faculty for directly affecting the world around me
​. Through my body, my kingdom relates to all other kingdoms. The body provides a physical boundary/border between persons, which is why physical and sexual abuse are so damaging to the soul - they are profound violations of personal kingdom.

We were created to have bodies surrendered to our 
 under God and his goodness. When we surrender and are "aligned
" then the boundaries between my will/kingdom and God's will/kingdom begin to blur
​, mesh and interpenetrate​
. This is PRESENCE
​, and it takes a lifetime to develop (usually through much suffering!)​
. We bear in our bodies the presence of the Kingdom
​ of God​
 to the extent that they are surrendered to
​- and abiding in- ​
and his will.
​ This is why, in practicing the presence of God, Frank Laubach learned to focus on doing the will of God every minute.​

"Although I have been a minister and a missionary for fifteen years, I have not lived the entire day of every day in minute by minute effort to follow the will of God. Two years ago a profound dissatisfaction led me to begin trying to line up my actions with the will of God about every fifteen minutes or every half hour. Other people to whom I confessed this intention said it was impossible. I judge from what I have heard that few people are really trying even that. But this year I have started out trying to live all my waking moments in conscious listening to the inner voice, asking without ceasing, “What, Father, do you desire said? What, Father, do you desire done this minute?” It is clear that this is exactly what Jesus was doing all day every day." (Frank Laubach, Letters by a Modern Mystic, p.6; entry for January 20, 1930).

One of my favorite quotes from Dallas Willard's Knowing Christ Today is relevant here:

"With these two preliminaries in place—and when they are in place we will certainly be aware that God is acting in us—we grow in our knowledge of Christ-with-us by, first of all, constant expectation of him in the place where we are, wherever that may be. “The sacrament of the present moment,” as it is sometimes called, is from the human side nothing but the invocation, expectation, and receptivity of God’s presence and activity where we are and in what we are doing at any given time. Then we steadily grow in graceful interactions with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They gradually take up all of our life into their trinitarian life (John 17:21–24)." (p.153)

​Further, the statement above alludes to the fact that the body can only be present to its surroundings; there is no past or future except what our minds introduce. The place and time that is currently occupied by my body (and interacting with my body) are the only conditions that exist in which to seek and find God's Kingdom, the only conditions in which I can taste and see, test, discern and prove.​

Monday, February 06, 2017

The Resolve of Vision

"God, I want to give You every minute of this year. I shall try to keep You in mind every moment of my waking hours. I shall try to let my hand write what You direct. I shall try to let You be the speaker and direct every word. I shall try to let You direct my acts. I shall try to learn Your language as it was taught by Jesus and all others through whom You speak - in beauty and singing birds and cool breezes, in radiant Christlike faces, in sacrifices and in tears. It will cost not only much, but everything that conflicts with this resolve." (Frank Laubach, Frank Laubach's Prayer Diary, 5.)
Two phrases from this luminous quote strike me:

"I want" (1x)
"I shall try" (5x)

Desire, born out of enticing vision, gives birth to intention and means. Commenting on the parables of Jesus, John Ortberg has said that "the mark of a transforming vision is its ability to elicit unforced desire." (See here for one version of this statement) We cannot just read a quote like the one above and "try" like Laubach did. We need to get behind the "try" and seek a vision that would naturally lead to such efforts.

From this statement, what would you say was Laubach's view of God? of himself? of the world?

How does this compare with your view(s)?

Spend some time in silence and solitude this week and allow your heart to mull over these things.

Lord Jesus, heal our vision. We are so narrow and shallow with our eyes. We only see what we want to see; we only see what will help us regain certainty, exert control and indulge comfort. Disrupt our lives so that we might entertain new thoughts, emotions, ideas and images. Let us linger over disappointment, suffering, mystery and beauty to see what they can teach us. Set us on fire with a vision of the nearness and goodness of your Kingdom such that we might live lives pleasing to you, lives that take on the epic qualities of your mind and heart.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Give Me Faith

"Give me faith now to believe that thou canst be all in all to me, according to my need, if only I renounce all proud self-dependence and put my trust in thee.

Forbid it, O Father, that the difficulty of living well should ever tempt me to fall into any kind of heedlessness or despair. May I keep it ever in mind that this human life was once divinely lived and this world once nobly overcome and this body of flesh, that now so sorely tries me, once made it into thy perfect dwelling place."

(John Baillie, Diary of Private Prayer)