Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Complete Joy

Recently this passage of scripture came to mind. Why I’m not quite sure, other than there are days that my joy seems less than complete. Likely it’s because I’ve not talked to God or asked anything in Jesus’ Name.

John 16:24 Jesus tell us; “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (NIV)

For years I’ve had a struggle with this verse. For one, I think I’ve asked for many things in His Name and have yet to receive them all. Frankly few have been answered as I’ve asked. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt God’s veracity to answer prayer, but I do often wonder about my alignment with the divine equation necessary for COMPLETE JOY.

First let me say, as this passage is read from the New International Version it’s very clear that complete joy is the intention of God delivering on our requests. But the question is: do we have pure motives when we ask?

Therein lays the challenge.

Jesus’ half brother James tells us that often we ask God for something and the answer is delayed or not given because our motives are NOT in alignment with God’s.

James 4:3 “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (NIV)

It seems that the only pure motive to ask is when it’s not for our pleasure. And my pleasure is NOT the kind of joy Jesus is talking about. Jesus is referring to a joy that is other-centric not ego-centric. Jesus is speaking of the advance of His Father’s Kingdom. Not ours.

The issue really seems to be about if we are for the Father’s Kingdom or ours? And at the rate we’re going these days, I’m not sure if I can realistically sort out the two.

I mean if I can market a great idea, people may buy it and I will feel blessed and will feel joyful, but is that the kind of joy that Jesus was speaking about?

I’m still thinking about these matters. I’m still thinking about COMPLETE JOY and what that looks like on a day to day basis for the average Christian. Not just the super-Christian that has a lot of things going for them, but the kind of Christian that has a job that sucks and lives in a not so nice neighborhood and drives an old car and has a wife and kids that gripe and complain that they want MORE in life, but the average Joe-Christian just can’t seem to deliver, beyond the simple pay check.

Sometimes I think that we’ve taken the people who would be type-A driven achievers anyway and stood them up as God’s-examples-of-successful-Christianity. And I’m not sure if that’s who He sent Jesus to actually find?

I heard somewhere (a John Maxwell conference I believe) that only 7% of the world’s populations are born leaders. The rest of us are born developmentally and leadership skill challenged. Oh there is no doubt about it that we can increase our influence and success quotient by hard work and tenacity, but COMPLETE JOY? That’s a whole other ball game.

Some weeks back I had a chance to visit an old friend that was and still is a member of a church I had the privilege to pastor. This dear saint has little to nothing in life. She never did and in her later days will not. BUT, she lives with COMPLETE JOY. Not because she has a fancy home to while away her retirement years in. On the contrary, she lives in a small low income elderly housing apartment. She can hardly walk or speak anymore. Bad knees and a stroke have all but incapacitated her. If it were not for her lift chair and walker she would need 24 hour assistance.

Yet while we visited, she wept at how good God has been to her. She prayed for me and my family and asked God to bless and favor us. She even prayed in tongues and worshiped God in celebration of our time together. It was sweet and POWERFUL.

If I were to compare this woman’s life with many of my successful Christian friends and pastor friends; this woman would have zero for stuff amassed in life or influence on humankind. In terms of COMPLETE JOY and treasure stored in heaven; that’s another story.

So the next time you ask the Lord for something, check your motives and ask yourself if you are asking for the COMPLETION of your JOY; or for your own PLEASURE. There is a big difference.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Just Make it FUN - Part 2

Okay, based upon Ruthie’s commentary on me making commentary on FUN, I thought I’d better run this thing through the wringer one more time and see if we can squeeze any more thoughts out.

For those of us who are arm chair theologians, there can be no mistake about it, the Bible does NOT teach anything about FUN. For that there should be no question, but YES the Bible speaks volumes to the subject of JOY.

Both of which are NOT synonymous. I point that out because one can have both joy and fun in life and even simultaneously, but fun IS NOT an indicator of true joy, nor is joy and indicator that one is having fun. “Are we having fun yet?” - Said the missionary candidate while slaving in the hot sun.

Having a sense of joy unspeakable or joy that is beyond explanation is far more satisfying than just having fun; and having fun while possessing the joy of the Lord is a phenomenal thing. It tends to buoy ones soul like nothing short of the flaming touch of the Holy Spirit in any given situation.

But please STILL don’t miss my point.

Fun as defined by our modern age is something far different than godliness with contentment as great gain. We live in an age of over stimulation and dissatisfaction. Therefore humanity, especially the younger generations in the US-of-A, are in constant pursuit of happiness or something FUN.

Now granted, Ruthie’s guffaw at the idea of Russell challenging the concept of FUN was indeed ironic, but therein lies challenge.

Does anyone really know what Russell considers FUN?

You see fun is relative to where one is in their soul health. Fun 27 years ago was splitting a bottle of Yukon Jack with a good friend or two. Fun 27 years ago was stoking a bowl of high test pot while mellowing out watching MTV. Fun 27 years ago was attempting a smoke bomb blast that would fill a city block so as to ruin a senior recital of an avowed enemy.

Yet 15 years ago fun was fasting and praying until the Holy Spirit came so powerfully that no one in church could stand it. Fun 15 years ago was championing the cause of holiness amongst the brethren so as to open the heavens above this state. Fun 15 years ago was feeding my son a fresh bowl of rice cereal then giving him a bath. Fun 15 years ago was laboring my way through the first few credit hours of a Master’s degree. Fun 15 years ago was getting together with all the ministers from Section 7 for a killer Christmas party and laughing until someone wet their pants.

Fun today is having work to supply my family with food, clothing and shelter. Fun today is seeing God move in a dark and dry place called the souls of my unbelieving friends. Fun today is being debt free and loving it. Fun today is having the strength and wherewithal to keep up with my son on our dirt bikes. Fun today is having a romantic dinner out with my wife and knowing the kids are at camp for a week. Fun today is being able to still sing like Larry Norman and David Crowder while gargling with Mountain Dew.

FUN IS RELATIVE. But soul health IS NOT.

So when I write about child centered parents who think or demand that their kids have FUN at church, I do so with an understanding of their relative soul health. Not with disdain.

I will be thinking more about this thing called FUN and I plan to share more as the Spirit leads or my funny bone dictates. This second post was Ruthie’s fault so hunt her down. She lives somewhere in the western part of Iowa.

So whatever you do HAVE FUN… but know there will come a day when FUN is not the main thing.

LOL – What does that mean anyway?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Just Make IT FUN!

Far too often I’ve heard young parents talk of how their kids want church to be “fun” and able to keep their attention. Fun is not one of those words often found in the Bible.

As a matter of fact, “fun” is only used in the NIV in regards to the mocking that occurred on the day of Pentecost, when the 120 were filled with the Holy Spirit and the crowd mocked them or made “fun” of them for the supernatural languages they were uttering.

You see the culture we live in demands life to be “fun” and unfortunately it’s often not. That’s right; forget going to church if it’s not fun. Forget reading my Bible if it’s not fun. Forget the prayer meeting if it’s not fun. Take me to Chucky Cheeses! Not church.

But “fun” is never mentioned anywhere in the New Testament. Ever wonder why? Maybe it’s because in the first century life wasn’t much fun. It was substance living and survival under the tyranny of Rome and the Pharisaical order.

Most of us crave some level of fun because we use fun as our Sabbath experience. We cry for or demand to chill out and have fun in life. Yet God never tells us life will be fun. God does promise that life will be just that, life; and that in it self will be full of trials and tribulations.

Have we come so far from the main reason Jesus came that all we are concerned about is having “fun” when it comes to the things of the Kingdom of God? Granted, Jesus told us that He came to give us Life and Life more abundantly, but fun?

Next time you think you want life to be fun, think of all those saints mentioned in Hebrews 11. No fun there, just lots of FAITH.

Maybe we should JUST MAKE IT FAITH… and forget the fun?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Peeps, Chocolate Bunnies or the Bloody Cross

I suppose I’ve pondered many of the aspects of this particular weekend, but only in the last 24 hours have I had these particular thoughts on the subject.

Around the globe people are joining together to celebrate Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday as some call it, and that’s fine. Really, I mean it; it’s all well and good that we celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. And even that He provided the promise and process for us to experience eternal life, but the Resurrection is meaningless and maybe even a tortuous insult IF ones sins are not dealt with.

Do you know why Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden? It was not solely because they disobeyed God and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but it was because God in His infinite wisdom and mercy did not want humanity to live eternally with the painful and destructive weight and affects of their sin.

That’s right; had God not cut off their access to the tree of life, humanity could have lived indefinitely with the horrific consequences of their sin, and that would not be an expression of wisdom or mercy on God’s part if He were to have allowed that condition to continue unabated.

So the real crux of the matter, as far as I’m concerned; Good Friday IS the Key. For if Jesus had not become the Lamb led to the slaughter for my sins, my pain, my confusion, my darkness and my pride, resurrection would have been A) impossible and B) eternally painful and incomplete.

Hey, who wants to live forever with the weight of their sins and brokenness? I sure don’t and my prayer is that you don’t want that either.

So the next time you have scrumptious thoughts of Peeps and chocolate Easter bunnies stop yourself. Easter is far more than new clothes, early breakfast services, egg hunts and an empty tomb made of papier-mâché. Easter is the bonus and reward for a Christ who died for my sins and yours. May we NEVER forget that fact.

Ecce Signum He Lives!