Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Intimacy again!!!?

I was going to go on a "rant" this week, but Papa had other plans. I was going to vent on how/why I have come to detest the term "missional" -- a term that for me still misses the point of what God is really saying to His people these days. Perhaps God will allow me to address this at a later time, but for now it's still percolating.

So...this week I have a couple of "guest bloggers" who both address a favorite topic of mine and God's: intimacy with Him.

Our first guest has been "absent from the body and present with the Lord" for hundreds of years. But like Abel he still speaks (see Hebrews 11:4). Brother Lawrence once wrote of the marvel of God's love to him in a way that continues to drill me to my very core. Listen to the wonder in Brother Lawrence's heart as he says the following (from one of his letters): "I consider myself as the most wretched of men, full of sores and corruption, and who has committed all sorts of crimes against his King; touched with a sensible regret I confess to Him all my wickedness, I ask His forgiveness, I abandon myself in His hands, that He may do what He pleases with me. This King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as His favorite. It is thus I consider myself from time to time in His holy presence."

Brother Lawrence got it! He knew by experience how to "live loved." And his writings (never intended by him to be published) continue to influence people towards intimacy with God hundreds of years after his death. Amazing what one life, lived loved, can do!

Our second guest is very much alive and well. Dee and her husband Dave are new friends of mine whom I have met only via email. They are true heroes of the faith in my book, really living by faith and following Jesus wherever He has led them. They currently serve as missionaries in Guaymas, Mexico. Dee recently wrote me her thoughts on intimacy, and I told her they were so good that I was going to post them on my blog. Here they are.

"Like you, our primary focus is encouraging intimacy in a relationship with the Lord. So many of us are religious, going through the motions, because we've never had a real, life-changing encounter with Him (or knew we could!). But if we aren't connected to the Source or eating from the Tree of Life (as opposed to the knowledge of good and evil), or whichever of the many ways we'd prefer to say it, then our lives are going to be lacking the abundant life that Jesus came to bring all across the board. We'll be living our lives according to what we think we're supposed to do, or according to tradition, rather than according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We'll live our lives depending on other people to guide and direct us and tell us how to think. Then we disciple and train up others the same way, and the whole scenario just perpetuates itself. And personally, I think that is one of our greatest problems in the Church today! Generally-speaking, we are well-meaning but lacking revelation, and have a form of godliness but lack the infusion of His power into our lives that He purposed for us, because WE DON'T KNOW HIM."

I could never say it better. Everything flows from intimacy folks--everything.

I welcome your thoughts (from the 4-5 of you who read this thing! :-))

Stay lost in His love,

Tom, the least of Abba's children

Friday, March 21, 2008

Does He Really Love Me?

Does God really love me? This question often hangs in the back of the mind of everyone, believer and pre-believer alike, including those who are not sure what or whether they believe. The next time you ask yourself this question, consider the following—something that has been triggered in my mind by the season we are in (I write this on “Good Friday,” and my mind last night was drawn to the Garden of Gethsemane).

There is only one place in the New Testament where Jesus refers to his father as "Abba" (which as many of you know is the equivalent of our "Papa" or "Daddy"). That one place is recorded in Mark's Gospel and is found in the prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 15:36). I have no doubt that Jesus often called his father "Abba," but it is hugely significant to me that the one place where this is recorded is the time when Jesus cried out to his father in the Garden of Gethsemane. There in the garden, when Jesus in his humanity was most afraid of what was before him, he called out to his father in the most tender, childlike terms to ask his daddy if it were possible to take away the awful cup of suffering that was in front of him. "Daddy, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

Does God love you? God's answer is found written in blood and sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane as well as later on the cross. For here in the garden we see a dearly loved son calling out to his father, using the tenderest word possible: "Daddy." There has never been, I am sure, in all of history a prayer that Father God wanted to answer yes to more than this one. But he did not. Why? Because of his great love for you and me. No one loves Jesus more than God the Father. And yet with all that infinite love for His son, the Father chose to say "no" to his son's request to take this cup away. Why did he do that? Because he loves you. There are some who might say that it was "easy" for God to say "no" to the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane because God knew the outcome. Oh how terribly mistaken such a thought is! Such thinking greatly underestimates, infinitely underestimates, the infinite price that God the Father and God the Son paid in order to express love for us through the cross. Knowing the outcome did not in any way diminish the pain of the most loving Father of the most beloved Son, but because He loves you, Father and Son embraced immeasurably great pain.

The next time you hear a child say "Daddy" or "Papa" or something similar, I encourage you to remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, calling out to his father in the most intimate of terms, "Daddy, please take this cup from me!" And then remember that because of his great love for you, because of their great love for you, the prayer that Father most wanted to answer yes to was answered "No!"

Are you thinking that this is all well and good for everyone else, but that God doesn't really love you? I close with something I recently heard Bill Johnson say, "You are not that special!" To suggest that God would make an exception to His love for you is to greatly overestimate yourself in the scheme of things! :-)

So get lost, stay lost, totally immersed, in His love,

Tom, Abba's least child

Saturday, March 15, 2008

How ever will we learn to get along!!

First, for those who want to read more on how "safe and healthy" The Shack is, please check out Wayne's Jacobsen's thoughts on his blog. Wayne was intimately involved in the birthing of this book, and his words will further confirm how unfounded the fears about it that some are generating or feeling. You can get to Wayne's article on this topic by clicking here.

Now for my thoughts. This week my heart was grieved by the struggle of some who are close to me to come to the place of unity and relational depth that God desires for us as His people. Because part of my wiring is that of a peacemaker, I immediately wanted to fix things. I have also been pondering a lot lately about how we really can come to live in harmony with one another in a way that reflects Jesus' New Commandment. As I was reflecting on all this in Papa's presence, He showed me the following.

First, He showed me that my prayers for peace were not "listening prayers" but anxiety-filled attempts to fix things because of my own distaste for conflict and fear that things wouldn't be resolved. Ouch! Then, as if that weren't enough, He suggested that I check my motives as I was praying. Was I praying for my friends because of pure love for them or because of my own desire to be free from a point of concern? Ouch again! But I am happy to report that I did find some love for my friends in the mix of motives! But the bottom line is that only those who "live loved," those who are truly trusting in and experiencing Papa's love for them, are really able to love others in a way that is truly like Him. (By the way, when God shows me this kind of stuff, He is remarkably kind and encouraging--I never feel discouraged or punished, just lovingly adjusted! If His correction to you feels otherwise, you may want to check to be sure it is He and not someone else doing the talking!).

Then, just in case I didn't quite get the message, He led me to "accidentally" read an old journal entry. The following is lifted from last year's journal.
I see in Philippians 2 that all the good stuff: our amazing blessings in you, are listed before Paul's admonition about unity. Wow, wow! We know, Lord Jesus, that you knew by experience, without a doubt, that Abba loved you and could be trusted completely, that is how you were able to serve and pour out your life. But we think that we must somehow be different for us, that we must do this apart from this experiential knowledge of Father's goodness! Big thought!
I had always thought and taught that unity comes from humility -- but now I see that this is only partially true. The basis of Paul's appeal is not humility but everything we have in You! Both unity and humility flow from this amazing and continuing experience of your love and blessing.

Just some rambling thoughts, I guess, but maybe they will be of some use to you. I close with this quote from So You Don't Want to Go To Church Anymore that underscores the same thought (page 75): "Until you learn how to trust God for everything in your life you will constantly seek to control others for the things you think you need." Hmmm, after reading that one I find myself asking Papa often, "Okay, Father, what am I not trusting you for that is causing me to push on this person?"

Just some thoughts. May Papa God keep pursuing us with His love until we learn truly how to love and finally "get along"!

Learning along with you,

Tom, the least of Abba's children