So Saul headed toward Damascus. As he came near the city, a bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. 4 Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
I’m thinking that an awful lot of my life has been filled with these inconvenient interruptions. I like a certain order, and schedules and keeping appointments. I’m not a rigid person, but I can become mildly annoyed when my life becomes ruled by these unplanned intrusions.
However, at times an interruption can be quite productive. Often when my plans are set aside, I get the opportunity to see the Holy Spirit step in. He does things that are eternally true and special.
Scriptures are saturated with ‘inconvenient interruption.’ Mary, whose life was jolted by a visit by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-31). Paul, on the road to Damascus was overwhelmed suddenly and converted (Acts 9:1-9). The virgin Mary would have a son, and Paul would shake the world with his preaching the Gospel of Jesus.
There are many others who had their calm lives ‘turned upside down’ by our tumultuously peaceful God.
One could almost say that the Bible is a book of this ‘blessed interruption.’ I’m thinking right now of Moses, whom God shook and completely altered his life in just a few moments. And of course we read of Abraham, suddenly leaving everything to follow a promise.
I tell you, God has a flair for the dramatic. He often steps into the lives of His people. We might get irritated, frustrated, ‘owly’ and a little bit afraid. They can’t keep Him away; here he is again to save us!
But the question is this– can the Spirit disrupt you?
Perhaps this is the next lesson in your discipleship. You will need to be a servant. The most profoundly Christian people I know are those whose lives can be side-tracked. I encourage you, look for God’s purposes behind your next interruption. Let Him arrange your schedule.
Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!”
We are for the most part anyway, eager to please God. We are Jesus’ people with the occasional brush with sin. But hey, who doesn’t? But that attitude must be questioned.
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.”
1 John 2:1
John hopes that his readers would make a choice— not to commit sin. After all, what soldier goes into battle with the intent of getting just a little wounded? Often we will sin just because it seems so inevitable, and we feel we can’t help ourselves. (But the reality is that we can.)
But the Holy Spirit now lives inside. Cooperation with Him is needed. Often we will work ourselves into a ‘no win scenario’ where we believe that sin rules. We can’t beat it, so we stop trying. That is common, and sad.
‘Passivity’ is defined as notparticipatingreadilyoractively;inactive. When we are passive spiritually, we disengage ourselves from any effort of living holy and pure lives. Not being ‘hot’, but content to be lukewarm. At this point sin becomes, reluctantly, tolerated. “After all, I’m a sinner, what else can I do?”
Mentally ill people are often passive. We are told that we have an uncontrolled illness which dictates that we act ‘irresponsible.’ Our depression often escalates and we feel victimized by it. My experience has taught me that there are three kinds of depression:
organic depression, or the ‘biochemistry’ of the disease,
guilty depression, the kind that feels bad because of what we’ve done (or didn’t do),
reactionary depression, the type we feel when experiencing a loss, a loved one, or a job
Depression will almost always fall in these three categories. And passivity plays a part in all three. We frequently feel victimized and ‘acted upon.’ When it comes to our discipleship we don’t act, we react. We are utterly convinced of the Bible— God’s truth, but we are so sporadic we can’t seem to get it to work for any length of time.
Yes, we are believers. And yes, we have issues. We’re waiting for a miracle, and hope we get a breakthrough soon.
At the base point of our lives, quite often, there is a passive attitude. Passivity aggravates our depression or mental illness. It deepens, spreading through our lives like a contagious illness. Our discipleship sputters and stalls. We no longer act on God’s Word, but we find ourselves fabricating a faith that makes allowances for our situation.
But we must ‘act the miracle.’ Everything God gives… everything… must be received by a convinced faith. We must be persuaded to give up our flawed ideas, and believe God for the real thing. I opened up this with 1 John 2:1. But there’s much more to this verse:
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father,Jesus Christ the righteous.”
I don’t want you to sin. Avoid sin. But even if you do— we have someone who will plead our case before God. He stands and argues our plight. He loves us that much.
“Messy Spirituality:” A Book Excerpt by Mike Yaconelli
“For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a godly person. Yet when I look at the yesterdays of my life, what I see, mostly, is a broken, irregular path littered with mistakes and failure. I have had temporary successes and isolated moments of closeness to God, but I long for the continuing presence of Jesus.
Most of the moments of my life seem hopelessly tangled in a web of obligations and distractions. I want to be a good person. I don’t want to fail. I want to learn from my mistakes, rid myself of distractions, and run into the arms of Jesus. Most of the time, however, I feel like I am running away from Jesus into the arms of my own clutteredness. I want desperately to know God better. I want to be consistent. Right now the only consistency in my life is my inconsistency. Who I want to be and who I am are not very close together. I am not doing well at the ‘living-a-consistent-life’ thing.
I don’t want to be St. John of the Cross or Billy Graham. I just want to be remembered as a person who loved God, who served others more than he served himself, who was trying to grow in maturity and stability. I want to have more victories than defeats, yet here I am, almost 60, and I fail on a regular basis.
If I were to die today, I would be nervous about what people would say at my funeral. I would be happy if they said things like “He was a nice guy” or “He was occasionally decent” or “Mike wasn’t as bad as a lot of people. ”Unfortunately, eulogies are delivered by people who know the deceased. I know what the consensus would be.“Mike was a mess.”
You might say Christianity has a tradition of messy spirituality. Messy prophets, messy kings, messy disciples, messy apostles. From God’s people getting in one mess after another in the Old Testament to most of the New Testament’s being written to straighten out messes in the church, the Bible presents a glorious story of a very messy faith. Sounds like you and I are in good company.
A few years ago, I was introduced to a group of uncouth Christians who call themselves “the Notorious Sinners.” These are men from all walks of life who meet once a year to openly share their messy spirituality with each other. The title ‘Notorious Sinners’ refers to the scandalous category of forgiven sinners whose reputations and ongoing flaws didn’t seem to keep Jesus away.
In fact, Jesus had a habit of collecting disreputables; he called them disciples. He still does. I like people who openly admit their ‘notoriousness’—people who unabashedly confess they are hopelessly flawed and hopelessly forgiven. Graciously, these men invited me to be a part of their group. The ‘Notorious Sinners’ meet yearly at spiritual-retreat centers, where from the moment we arrive, we find ourselves in trouble with the centers’ leadership.
We don’t act like most contemplatives who come to spiritual-retreat centers— reserved, quiet, silently seeking the voice of God. We’re a different kind of contemplative— earthy, boisterous, noisy, and rowdy, tromping around our souls, seeking God, hanging out with a rambunctious Jesus who is looking for a good time in our hearts.
A number of us smoke cigars, about half are recovering alcoholics, and a couple of the men could embarrass a sailor with their language. Two of the ‘Notorious Sinners’ show up on their Harleys, complete with leather pants and leather jackets. I admit I run with a rough crowd—Christians whose discipleship is blatantly real and carelessly passionate, characterized by a brazen godliness. Unafraid to admit their flaws, unintimidated by Christians who deny their own messiness, these guys sometimes look like pagans and other times look like Jesus.
They are spiritual troublemakers, really, which is why they look like Jesus (who was always causing trouble himself ). They are full of mischief, laughter, and boisterous behavior, which is why they look like pagans. Truly messy disciples. The ‘Notorious Sinners’ are definitely a bizarre mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly, living a spirituality which defies simple definitions.
Oh, and they are some of the most spiritual men I know.”
Messy Spirituality [Book] by Michael Yaconelli, Karla Yaconelli in Books
By Michael Yaconelli, Mike Yaconelli, Karla Yaconelli – Zondervan (2007) – Paperback -192 pages-ISBN 0310277302
I Guess I’m Not a Very Good Christian . . . Do you feel like: I don’t pray enough I don’t read my Bible enough I don’t share my faith enough I don’t love God enough I’m not committed enough I’m not spiritual enough Then this book is for you.
Messy Spirituality was written for the silent majority of us who have been convinced that we just don’t do Christianity right. We spend most of our lives worried about what we don’t do instead of what we have done, focused on our imperfections instead of God’s fondness for the imperfect. Why?
Because we’ve been bombarded with books, tapes, talks, seminars, and movies convincing us that real Christianity is all about perfection. Michael Yaconelli dares to suggest that imperfection, infiniteness, and messiness are, in fact, the earmarks of true Christianity; that real Christianity is messy, erratic, lopsided . . . and gloriously liberating.
What if genuine faith begins with admitting we will never have our act completely together? Maybe messy disciples are exactly the kind of imperfect people Jesus came to earth for and whose company he actually enjoyed–and still enjoys.
If you want to find Jesus today, look for him in the midst of burned-out believers, moral misfits, religious incompetents . . . men and women whose lives are, well, messy.
Messy Spirituality is a strong antidote for the spiritual perfectionism in us all. Here are truths that can cut you loose from the tyranny of ought-to’s and open your eyes to the deep spirituality of being loved, shortcomings and all, by the God who meets you and transforms you in the midst of a messy and unpredictable life.
An Archbishop was given an ultimatum by the Huns who surrounded his cathedral. “You have 24 hours to bring your wealth to these steps”, the war-leader declared. The next morning the Archbishop came out leading the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lunatics. “Where is your treasure? Why have you brought out these, people?” The Archbishop calmly replied, “These are the treasures of the Church— these who are weak are our valuables. They make us rich.”
As Christians often our theology tells us that mental illness: ADHD, depression, and bipolar disorder have no place in the believer’s life. Physical illnesses like fibromyalgia, migraines, diabetes and epilepsy are denied. So we hide, sneaking into our sessions with our therapists, and our doctors appointments. We change the subject to minimize our exposure to direct questions. The pressure to hide is very strong.
But I would suggest to you that it is perhaps we who are closest to the Kingdom of God. It is far easier for us to approach the Father, in our brokenness, humility, and lostness, than whole people can. We understand we have needs; a sound mind, a healthy body and we know it. We have no illusions of wellness, nothing can convince us that we are well. We are not. We are broken and only our loving creator can mend us.
You might say that the Church needs us.
But I am afraid the the Western Church no longer sees its “treasures” like it should. In our pride and self-centeredness we have operated our churches like successful businesses. We value giftedness more than weakness. We definitely have no room for the desperately sick or weak. Maybe it’s time for the Church to begin to act like Jesus?
Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church should be a verb. Church is who you are. Church is the human out-working of the person of Jesus Christ.