I long for the Word Incarnate

“Too often the living Word made flesh is desiccated into propositional corpses and then sorted into exegetical specimens in bottles of formaldehyde. We end up with god-talk. T.S. Eliot put it like this:

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word…
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
— Eugene Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire

Words that are capturing my heart

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3: 7-14, NIV)

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The uncomfortable places

I was sharing our story with a new friend yesterday. He asked how we had come to reinvent ourselves as a church and how that led to the building of the coffee shop.

As I shared our story with him, I was reaffirmed in our calling as believers. Not just Heights Church. Believers.

We are to engage our culture. We are to enter into the tough situations and have the hard conversations. Our consumer-drive Christianity has inoculated American Christians from that process. We think we’re “challenging” people, but we’re not. We are sheltering people in our political/theological ghettos and lobbing theological grenades at straw men for arguments. (Excuse me… straw people, since we’re good at being equal opportunity grenade throwers.)

Over 18 plus years of ministry in my city, I have come to a place where I see incredible opportunities in places most American Christians now fear. Last year I remember a conversation with a couple while traveling who actually thought Minneapolis was under sharia law! Why? Because FoxNews told them so.

You know what I see? I see an opportunity for the Prince of Peace to actually have an encounter with a lot of Muslim friends now… because of ISIS. And I see it because I have Muslim friends. I have these very uncomfortable conversations. They are “uncomfortable” because it challenges me. It puts me in “tough” places. I have to think more about my answers, my tone, my language… and as a result it takes me deeper into Christ rather than farther away from him.

What I was reaffirmed in by the Spirit in that conversation yesterday was we are calling believers to a new level of engagement. It is almost always uncomfortable. But those are the places where we get to know Christ more. 

I have an incredibly brave church. It’s not “one of the bravest.” I am not ignorant. There are far more dangerous places in the world. But brave in the sense that this church chose to move away from comfort and trust Christ. It is the opportunity to trust Christ not just for themselves… but for a community that needs Christ. We get to walk that out daily.

Over the years of ministry in our city, I find ways to get out and meet new people all the time. In the past three days I’ve expanded that circle far more than I could have imagined just by sitting in the coffee shop we created. It’s a new level for me. Whole new areas of possible discomfort. But this adventure is great. And it’s all because Christ is great. I don’t want “comfort” in this cultural sense of “normal.” I want the Comforter empowering me every day in the tough situations because it is there I know his presence even more.

It is in these “uncomfortable” places I have become more secure in Christ than I could have thought possible. Ministry is engaging, empowering, and energizing once again.

All because we chose to be “uncomfortable.”

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The knowing beyond the knowable

The task is odd, almost illogical. Well, it IS illogical.

This is part of Paul’s prayer:

18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:18,19)

It’s like saying, “I want you to know something you can’t know… but you’ll know it when you realize it’s past knowing…”

Our call to partakers of the divine nature is immense. It is truly beyond the ability to put into a formula and “know.”

This is the boldness we need. We need the boldness to climb the mountain we can’t conquer. We can never fully know God, but why should that stop us from making the attempt?