Friday, June 23, 2006

"Do You Trust Me?"

“Do You Trust Me?”

I hate it when someone asks the same question over and over and over again.
“Are we there yet?” “Did you take out the garbage?” “Do you like me?” “You’re not going to wear that shirt, are you?”

I hate it when someone asks the same question over and over and over again.
It usually means they aren’t listening or they don’t like the answer. “If I keep asking, maybe I’ll get a different one,” seems to be the thinking.
“What do you want for supper?” “I don’t know, you choose.”
“What do you want to do for supper?” “I don’t know, I said you choose.”
“Hey, what are we going to do for supper?” Sigh.

I hate it when someone asks the same question over and over and over again.

So you can imagine my surprise when the “someone” turned out to be God.
“Do you trust me?” “Lord, of course I trust You.”
“Do you trust me?” “Lord, I said I trust You.”
“Do you really trust me?” Sigh.

You get the idea. On and on it has gone for over a decade. That quiet, inner soul-voice keeps asking.

“Do you really trust me?”
“Okay, Lord, I’m getting the feeling You’re probing for something here.” I can be dense, but I eventually catch on. “Alright, Lord, it seems obviously must be some ways that I’m not trusting You. So, SHOW ME!” I try not to yell at God much, but He can get pret-t-t-ty frustrating.

So He showed me. All assortment of ways I need to trust Him more. In the early days of this saga I’d think, “Okay, God’s identified it. I’ll trust Him with this and we’ll be good to go.” Sometimes I’m dense, but I finally caught on. This question is not going to disappear. “Do you trust me?” is laser burned into our conversation. So I’ve taken to responding with, “Yes, Lord, I trust You. Show me how to trust You more.”

During one prayer conversation a picture popped into my mind… I was standing on a narrow bridge, very much like the Indiana Jones movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” as Indy attempts to cross the bridge over a deathly deep gorge. The bridge is narrow and camouflaged to look like the terrain below. Standing on that narrow piece of rock (with my fear of heights fully flourishing, mind you), I looked up to see Jesus saying, “Do you trust me?” Changes the flavor, don’t you think? “Yes, Lord.” Then a new wrinkle sprung to life as I heard, “Just keep in step with me.”

Pause the tape for a second. We find in Galatians 5:25 these words, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (NIV) I LOVE that scripture. Having been in high school marching band, I had always pictured Jesus at the head of the Christian band and we Christians marching in step with Him, being sure to look to the side to match strides with the Holy Spirit. So when I heard, “keep in step” that is the image that came to mind.

Restart the tape. I expected Jesus to turn His back so I could keep in step. Instead, He continued to face me, holding out both hands for me to grasp. Locking eyes with me, He took a backward step, clearly inviting me to take a step forward. “Trust me,” He seemed to say without speaking. It wasn’t long before I looked down, down, down, down, waaaay down, to the treacherous bottom of the crevasse. As soon as I did, I heard, “No! Do not look down.” I knew better before my eyes dropped and I half expected the correction to my deep fear. But then came the unexpected, “Just keep looking into my eyes. Keep in step and keep looking into my eyes and I will guide you across.”

I confess, saltwater seeped past my clenched eyelids as God spoke so clearly in the depths of my soul. Nothing audible, but absolutely unmistakable. I was overwhelmed by God’s message, the love behind it and the assurance He promised. That picture has changed how I see that scripture and how I hear that persistent question, “Do you trust Me?” No longer is it a disconnected COMMAND by a drill sergeant, but rather an INVITATION to walk through anything and everything this life throws at me. In the middle of danger, confident, strong, bold, focused, resolute, courageous.

I still hate it when someone asks me the same question over and over and over again. So don’t even think about it. Except when that someone is spelled SOMEONE and reminds me to grasp His hands, keep looking into His eyes and keep in step with Him.

Boldly, Herb

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Greatest Group Ever

“The Greatest Group Ever”
Frankly, I don’t NEED to be part of one more organization that sucks the life and time out of my schedule. I’ve had the chance to serve as a volunteer and a leader in enough ‘til death do us part. Most involve committees. No one aspires to committee membership. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Never in the history of human existence has a child or adult answered with, “I want to be a committee member.” Why? Because it usually comes down to attending meetings at which few meaningful decisions and even fewer accomplishments are made. Necessary, but not necessarily pleasant.
Is that what the church is all about? Sadly, for many, that is often what it becomes.
Is that what Jesus intended? Not in the least.
In Dan Brown’s book and the recently released movie, “The DaVinci Code,” the church is portrayed as an organization made up of power grabbing men. Our experiences can perhaps identify with that – bureaucracy, institutionalism, do’s and don’t’s. Sadly again, that is too often true. But not in the true church.
In America, if you ask a person, Christian or not, about a particular church, they will direct you to a building. Nearly without fail. You may even be wondering why I mention this. Isn’t the church a building? Sadly, we have gradually exchanged an understanding of the Biblical church for a cultural one. A little better is when people refer to a particular church as the organization that meets in the building. Closer, but no prize.
So what is it?
The church is ALWAYS people, never a building or organization,
God’s means on earth to reveal Himself and to do His work
The Church for whom Jesus gave up His life to create, to whom He sent His own Spirit to empower, to whom He has left the promise of His return and reward is not an organization, it is an ORGANISM. A living, growing, changing, dynamic group of people in relationship and on mission.
The Church is the creation of God to reveal His wisdom to demons and angels.
Eph 3:10 (NIV) "His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,”
The Church is the creation of God to bring Him glory forever and ever.
Eph 3:20-21 (NIV) "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
Here are a couple of pictures the Bible gives us of the Christ created Church.
a The “Family” of Christ
Mat 12:49-50 (NIV) "Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.""
A family to provide relationships that can be “closer than a brother,” united for eternity. We were created for relationships, we desperately need people who love and accept us for what we are. Kind of like “Cheers” only so much better.
a The “Army” of Christ
Eph 6:11-12 (NIV) "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
An army to battle the devil for the souls of people, to be the Army Seals that will rescue those who are captured by sin and headed for Hell in eternity. We are left here to be on that mission.
Either of those pictures sound like committee meetings in any organization you’ve been a part of? Jesus created the church as a group of people with whom we can share deep, meaningful relationships and accomplish the most important purpose on earth or in eternity. THAT’S the church.
You may be thinking, “Herb, you are looking through some glasses pretty deeply colored rose. You’re awfully idealistic.” Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. I’ve been in this church going business for nearly half a century and will soon “celebrate” a quarter century of leading congregations. I’ve seen the worst and the best. And, now more than ever, I believe in the Church Christ created. I just now know that it takes more effort than I ever imagined. Worth it, but full of ups and downs.
Imperfect? Yes. (Find one that is perfect, join it. But be forewarned, as soon as you do, it will no longer be perfect. Because of YOU. Sorry.) But when you find one that is striving to be God’s church in relationships and purpose, you’ve found a treasure. No matter how imperfect.
The church is the church when it being and doing what God through the Bible instructs. When it ceases to do so, it is no longer God’s church, just another human organization. Commissioned to do the work of Christ in His Power, in His way/ to make a difference in eternity and to rescue those captured by sin. Because it is made up of humans, it must always be held against the pictures given to us in the Bible.
If you’re part of one that is close to the Biblical picture, thank God and then give yourself fully to it.
If you’re not, do not rest until you find one, because you will never experience life as God designed until you join the family and the army.