Thursday, March 26, 2009

WWJD?????

This post will be more on the theme of living upside down, but first a personal note to invite your prayers. I received news last week that due to deep budget cuts the "paid part" of my role with my denomination will cease to exist as of the end of the month. I am so "upside down" in my thinking that when I heard the news I got excited because I found myself wondering what God will do next! And my joy and peace have increased since that time, even as I have also been reminded by Papa to treasure my wife as she processes this turn of events. Since she processes change differently than I do (big surprise, eh?) I sense Papa telling me to honor her in this and to do everything I can to ease the transition (we will have to downsize our house, etc.). Your prayers for Jettie as we walk through this season will be greatly appreciated.

Okay, now to more upside down thinking. I trust that most of you recognize the acronym in the title, and I begin my comments with some highly insightful comments from The Shack (p. 149).
"Mack just like love, submission is not something that you can do, especially not on your own. Apart from my life inside of you, you can't submit to Nan, or your children, or anyone else in your life, including Papa."
"You mean," Mack interjected a little sarcastically "that I can't just ask, 'What Would Jesus Do'?"
Jesus chuckled. "Good intentions, bad idea. Let me know how it works for you, if that's the way you choose to go." He paused and grew sober. "Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to 'be like Jesus'; it means for your independence to be killed. I came to give you life, real life, my life. We will come and live our life inside of you, so that you begin to see with our eyes, and hear with our ears, and touched with our hands, and think like we do."

WWJD? Wrong question! Well meaning but wrong. The real question, dear ones, is always "What is Jesus doing, right now, in me and around me, that He is inviting me into?"

He lives in you! The question, "What would Jesus do?" implies that He is external to you and locked in the past somewhere! It also leaves you in charge: you decide, apart from Him, what you think He would do. To help you understand this, picture Jesus asking, "What would Father do?"!! Never would have happened. Jesus knew that Father was in Him, and He was always aware of what Father was doing in Him and also what Father was wanting Him to partner with Him in.

Believers can live with an almost constant awareness of what God is doing, so there is no need to ask this question, folks. Indeed, if you find yourself asking this question, I recommend that you stop and still your heart and listen and watch. You will be amazed at what Jesus is doing!

That's it for this time. May you hear Him well (and remember, if you are listening to Him just to get directions or hear correction, you will miss 90% of what He is saying to you!).

Tom, Abba's Little Boy

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Joyfully Upside Down, part 2

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (I Peter 3:15-16 NIV).

Recently I have been sharing the following phrase with people: "Our lives become a paradox that gives rise to a question that creates an invitation." What I mean by that is that our joyfully upside down lives, so upside down from those who don't live in intimacy with God, are a mysterious paradox for those who don't live this way. And this paradoxical way of living inevitably, in my opinion, gives birth to questions in the hearts of our observers. This then may give opportunity for an invitation to consider a different way. This, of course, is the essence of what Peter is writing in the verse quoted above. Our loving, joyful, hope-filled lives become the best possible "witness" to the kindness of God.

There are many passages that suggest how this upside down life unfolds, of course. I Corinthians 13 comes to mind, but I want to focus on another passage that has become increasingly a reality for me and has given life to my joyful upside-downness. It's Philippians 4:8 where Paul says, “To the extent that you are able, sort out your thoughts so that you let your mind dwell on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.” Now in a world that gravitates towards the opposites of these things, having God shape our thoughts to the extent we spend most of our time focusing on such things is upside down for sure.

When most people read Paul's words here they start to imagine how they can force their minds to focus on such things, and it soon becomes an impossible concept. But what if, since we have the mind of Christ, we are already predisposed to think this way as believers? What if the secret is not "mind-control" but "life surrender and God-inundation"? What if learning to allow God's Spirit and His word to saturate us gives birth to this kind of thinking? Indeed, who can be God-blinded and not think this way! When we see the world as Jesus saw it, "God-bathed and God-permeated" as Dallas Willard suggests, how can we not begin to find ourselves seeing goodness and beauty everywhere? Just a thought. :-)

And where does this kind of wholesome thinking focus? I suggest the following. First, we begin to discover ourselves thinking more and more like this when we think of God. What? You already always do think this way about Him? You might just want to check that. Ask the Holy Spirit to monitor and expose what you really think about God and you may be surprised.

Second, we begin to discover ourselves thinking this way about our circumstances. Yep, it's possible to do that in the most barren circumstances, but by surrender, not by trying harder. Third, we discover ourselves thinking more and more these kinds of thoughts about ourselves. This is wonderful news, I think, since so many folks seem unable to escape the negativity of things said to them in their past. But Papa has a way of reshaping our thoughts to such an extent that we begin to believe what He says about us! Then finally, as our thoughts about God and circumstances and self begin to line up with God's reality, we also think that way about others. Amazing how that works.

Can't do any of this on your own, though. Find brothers and sisters who will walk with you in this by encouraging you, and invite Father God to inundate you with His life and lead you into His word in fresh ways. You will soon find yourself living upside down (or more accurately, right side up in an upside down world!).

Just a few thoughts from your truly upside down brother.

Tom, one of Abba's little boys

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Judgment?

I had hoped to write more about living loved this week, expanding on the joyfully upside down life, but that will wait until next week because some have asked me to write a response to yet another prophetic blast of judgment on the USA (from David Wilkerson). My friend Larry Silverman has some thoughts similar to mine, but I will add some of my own. You can read Larry's blog at http://www.larrysilverman.blogs.com. (Click here to read it in a new window)

For many years, David Wilkerson (whom I greatly respect) and others along with him have prophesied various disasters coming upon the US and other nations as God's judgment. Along with these disasters comes a warning to Christians to stock up on things, etc. (why? So we can share with our neighbors who didn't hear the warning? I would hope that would be the case!). So what are we to make of these warnings? Here are a few brief thoughts.

First, we should note that a lot of predictions of disaster have come and gone without fulfillment. And although some may have indeed sensed disasters like 911 and Katrina, most of the rhetoric about these and similar disasters seems to follow them rather than precede them (hmmm, something to think about, eh?).

Second, the Bible does clearly teach that as the time of Jesus' return draws near there will be lots of disasters of various types. Jesus Himself taught this and you can read some of His descriptions of things in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. And no matter what one's view of The Revelation is, it does clearly seem to indicate a lot of bad things happening as the end of the present age draws near. So...to think that nothing bad will even happen and that things will continue on as they have is probably a bit naive. However, as Larry points out, New Testament prophets didn't function like Old Testament prophets. There are probably lots of reasons for that, but perhaps primary is that the OT prophets were functioning as prophets to the nations of Israel and Judah, reminding the God's covenant people of the covenant to which they had committed themselves and of the consequences of breaking that covenant, etc. NT prophets are prophets to the people of the Kingdom of God, the ekklesia ("church") who are from all the nations of the earth and who are called to transform society by living transformed and transforming lives.

Third, it seems that the focus of prophecy and even response to it changes in the New Testament. Agabus, for example, does predict accurately a coming famine but he didn't add any interpretation to it about it being God's judgment, and the believers, instead of stockpiling goods for themselves, sent an offering to the poor saints in Jerusalem! (see Acts 11:28-30). Think about this a little and see if it seems a wee bit different from the fear-filled strident voices out there right now.

Fourth, I do believe that nations can remove themselves from God's protection and that the US and other western nations have done so. But even in recognizing this we need to remember that God would have spared the very wicked Sodom and Gomorrah if only 10 righteous people had been found there. God's preferred method of bringing people to a change of heart and thinking is kindness (Romans 2:4), so He seems to use the removal of His protection (which leads to disaster) as a last resort (which is apparently what is described in The Revelation). Yes, He will use pain, and He has and He is (most of us know this!!), but I believe that when He does it is also possible to hear His voice in the pain, so that even in disaster His wooing people to Himself can be heard and responded to. On the other hand, when the destruction is wanton and random, my sense is that this is the result of the enemy of us all, who is called among other things, "the destroyer" (God takes no pleasure even in the death of the wicked, remember? Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11).

Finally, are things being shaken? Absolutely, and one would have to be hiding in total denial to not realize this. And there will certainly be more shaking, because God is wooing people to Himself and away from trusting in anything besides Him. And as Larry Silverman writes, judgment when it comes will come first to God's people, not to punish but to purify so that we can be blessings to those around us by being freed from ensnarement to our culture and its warped values. For me, I believe that God is calling us now, with the music of invitation, so that when disaster comes in any form, we will be ready because of His deep deposits of love and generosity in Him, not by stockpiling goods (go ahead, though, and do this if God and not fear leads you to do so).

Just some rambling thoughts. For me, I am choosing to listen to God's voice so that I can be fully present in each moment for whomever He may lead my way. I hear Papa inviting me and all who have ears to hear to transform my world, not judge it. :-)

Living in faith, not fear (at least most of the time!),

Tom, one of Papa's little boys

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Joyfully Upside Down

This past weekend I was with some dear friends (long-time and new ones) to see what Papa would do among us. It was a joyful time, and it emphasized to me how "joyfully upside down" God has caused my life to be. Indeed, "upside down" is a phrase that seems to describe much of what I sense God doing in the world today for those who have hearts to hear and see what He is up to. And compared to my view of things about five years ago before my Secret Place encounter with Him, and compared to how most believers seem to view things, I am indeed completely upside down! I felt that I should share some of the things that are core to this new joyful upside down state. I may elaborate on some of these over the next few posts. For today, I will mainly just list them. Partly this is for the benefit of those whom I served this past weekend, but it will also give us lots to dialog about, methinks!

The Bible really is true, and it is true for all who will come on the journey with Jesus. In other words, when the Bible says that the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power, and that the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc., it means that every believer, without exception, can indeed live a life characterized by love, joy, peace, righteousness, power, etc. This raises the obvious question of why so many believers' lives don't match this reality, which I will not try to answer in this post (check out some of my earlier ones). My intention at this point is to simply state what is now a continuing and increasing reality in my life and the lives of many others I know.

To use Wayne Jacobsen's term, "living loved" is the key to everything. For many reasons, many followers of Jesus struggle with the foundational reality of God's delight in them, His unrelenting commitment to do what is best for them always because of His infinite, unchanging love for them.

Those closest to us should be the primary recipients of all the good that God is doing in us, not the recipients of “leftovers.” Think about this one and you will get it, I trust!

It is possible to live in a place of peace that is so deep and pervasive that any attempt to push, coerce, point to myself, impress another, etc., is instantly noticeable. This is where I am occasionally privileged to live. Peace, as readers of this blog know, is becoming the compass within me that lets me know if I am walking away from dependence and surrender and heading back into self-effort.

It is possible to live, at least most of the time, from a perspective that is always able to see that God is working in every situation (and if you do, it becomes almost impossible to worry or do anything but rejoice!). The whole earth is already full of His glory, already God-bathed and God-permeated. The reason Jesus was able to live as He did was that He saw the glory (the goodness!) of God continually. (I am grateful to Dallas Willard for most of these insights.)

Every person we meet is a treasure, and remembering this changes everything and enables us to treat everyone with honor and become fully present as we listen to them.

Every follower of Jesus can hear His voice all the time (John 10:27) and indeed, this is essential to this lifestyle of joyful upside down living I am describing.

Authority, true authority flows from humility and intimacy, and humility is a crucial measure for how much we should trust those who lead us. We were created for intimacy with God and one another and it is God's desire that all doing will flow out of being, with Holy Spirit inside of us leading and supplying all things. We really can do nothing apart from Jesus, the Vine!

The life of following Jesus is a dance and a delight rather than duty. Anytime I feel duty or obligation beginning to form in my thinking, I need to stop and re-center my life!

Invitation is much preferred to confrontation. Much of "Christianity" in the past has been, unlike Jesus, based on confrontation (He saved that for the religious people of His day), rather than invitation. Our joyful, peaceful, loving lives are to be a paradox that becomes an invitation into this journey.

Delighting in His Word, having it truly in our hearts, is easy if we are living loved and delighting in Him and it is also essential to living this life.

Prayer for me has now changed. I now find myself praying while I am standing in the stream of God’s goodness and/or praying with God on one side of the table, me on the other and the person I am praying for between us (think about it).

Okay. This is a boatload of some of the things that Papa has been doing in me, showing to me over the past couple of years. They are submitted to you for your pondering, for your comments.

I close with an interchange between Papa and I on December 24, 2008 (from my journal).

Ah, Papa…David said, “I delight to do your will…”
“Yes, child. That is my desire and my plan for you and for all my people. Many serve me, but few do so in my ways, from delight and wonder, as my children. Most serve me from duty and responsibility and that accomplishes some good things, but how I love it when my children dance with me as they watch my kingdom explode in and around them! Yes, child, I continue to move you from duty to delight, from obligation to desire, from walking/trudging to flying! Fly, joyful yet fierce Eagle, fly!”

Stay lost in Papa's love!

Tom, one of Abba's little boys