The ‘Insignificant’ Church

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“He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant.”

(Isaiah 42:3)

Somehow, and someway we often get ‘side-tracked’ in our thinking. We get confused and the enemy makes sure we don’t walk in the truth. At this present time, it does seem like some of the Church is nothing more than an exclusive club for the wonderful. It seems that those who attend are the ‘achievers,’ those who have somehow arrived at a certain acceptability. They are there for social reasons–they eschew any real intimacy with Jesus.

For many of us, we are taught that we must have it all together; more or less complete and functioning at an acceptable level to follow Christ. We keep thinking if we work really hard then we just might arrive at a place of acceptable ‘perfection.’ This has become our religion now, this “gospel by achievement.” It has definite rules and guidelines to keep. We try to manage our guilt somehow.

We are the weak and fallen

But what about the broken? The ones who are messed up, big-time? We’re the depressed, bipolar, the confused, the discouraged. Some of us are disabled, and weak. We’re the chronically ill. Some of us must be medicated to function properly. We are ‘zero’–there is nothing that will commend us to God. Often we have the impression that we are ‘second class’ believers, who really don’t fit into the modern Church. We are the ruined ones.

But does Jesus agree? Is His Church made up of ‘completed’ people, those who have it all together? Do we need to become accomplished before we are acceptable? (I guess this is a time for serious questions.) Perhaps we need to find some answers. Perhaps we won’t like what we find.

After 40 years of following Jesus (most of the time in ministry,) I’m starting to realize that I’ve had much of it all wrong. I’ve read that Jesus receives the lame, the tax-collector, the leper and the whore. He deeply loves the unlovable (in spite of what the Church might say.) I happen to believe that true grace is ‘foolish’ to man, and avoids human attempts to explain it. (Forgive me God, for not seeing this before.)

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

(Zephaniah 3:17)

His love is completely undeserved. It comes without preconditions. He loves us when we are terribly fallen. It’s ‘agape,’ which is a totally different kind of love. It has no bounds or limitations. It is unconditional. It is strong. It grabs us and takes us to a place we’ve only dreamed about. We are irrevocably changed when we touch His grace. We discover an intimacy that will meet every need we have while here on earth.

It is a relationship and not a religion. We’re so easily confused about this. This ‘world-system’ desperately wants to confuse us. We quickly discover that Satan doesn’t just dislike us, he hates us, he detests our intimacy with the Lord Jesus. He marshals all of his demonic strength in order to obscure this truth. It’s funny, but Satan likes ‘religion.’ And he hates our nearness to Jesus. (2 Cor. 11:1-3).

We do see our need, and we must cry out for mercy. We come to know the forgiving Lord. Our faith in Him must be true–tested. There are some who know the ‘furnace’ of weakness or disability. Others discover that they’re messed up inside. Life can get intense sometimes, and without Jesus we would have destroyed ourselves.

All of us are seeking forgiveness, and yet somehow we think that He won’t accept us. Often we more or less stop going to church, pray or read His Word. We are becoming hardened, and it seems like we are slipping into some sort of a ‘spiritual daze’. Our spiritual malaise is starting to look like it’s permanent.

I must tell you that God loves you insanely. He is completely enthralled by your faith in Him. He certainly doesn’t pull away from the ‘sick’ and the weak. You must understand that intimacy is Jesus’ idea to ‘heal’ you. He daily draws us to a place of friendship with God. Intimacy with Jesus is God’s exclusive way of ‘turning us’ holy. That’s why Satan militates against “first love” faith.

You’re the Church. You’re the “audible/visual” part of a fellowship.

We fully understand that we are the weak and the flawed. And yet you are a declaration of grace to all who really can see. They’re looking at you and they want to see the Father’s loving acceptance. We maybe the fallen, but we’re never the forsaken. We ‘show’ the deep love of Christ to even the ‘uttermost,’ even as we enter the room.

There is a repentance in all of this. We need to change our mind about the sinfulness that we have been committed to for so long. But I truly believe it’s genuine intimacy with Jesus that cures us, not keeping rules or having excellent doctrine. We will never be ‘good’ enough, but amazingly, even in our ‘unfixedness’ we are deeply loved.

“He knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. “

They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”

(Isaiah 40:29-31, Message)

A brother who is incredibly loved,

Bryan

I have a new site and I hope you visit: redletterstudy.wordpress.com

Intimate Discipleship

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It’s all about Jesus

There is much good about the emphasis that the Church puts on discipleship.  We pray, fast, and study the Bible better than any other generation.  We have as our pastors and teachers men and women who have been equipped in seminaries and educated in counseling and church growth. And we are doing missions better than ever.

But I think there is something missing.  I seriously believe we have misplaced intimacy.  Our worship services seem mechanical.  We are no longer in a wild love affair with the One who really matters.  We no longer dwell on Him, crying out for His grace and mercy.

Could it be that the evangelical church in America has passed its expiration date?

Perhaps we have grown confused, and have struggled with an emptiness that is at the core of a legalistic and a works dominated life.  We do not cry out with a passionate love for Him who desperately wants to hold us close. We miss out on so much.

The Old Testament book of the Song of Solomon is the love story between a shepherdess and her beloved.  This love is a love that first envelops and then controls a person’s entire being.  Her love is intense, as well as thirsty.  She needs her shepherd.  There is an element of being ‘lovesick’ and never settling for a second best relationship with her beloved.

Biblical discipleship must always be intimacy with Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul writes about his deep concern for that particular Church,

2 “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.”

There is jealousy involved here (which is suspect by us) and foolishness (which is embarrassing) and is emotional (not at all what we think.)  This passage suggests a higher and purer following of Jesus that Satan wants to corrupt.  Paul was concerned that these Corinthians would not be a pure bride.  He got jealous over their vulnerability. He believed that they would miss the bridal love that they once knew.

I want to challenge you to keep the innocence of your relationship with Jesus. Guard it and refuse to be led away from its simple devotion.  Love Jesus with a white-hot love. Eternity is a long time to spend with someone who you feel ambivalent about.

Learn the language of romance again and remember that your discipleship is not an end in itself.  Biblical discipleship is nothing more than intimacy with Jesus. We must settle on this in our hearts. The true foundation of discipleship can only be a kind of ‘first love’.

 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Rev. 2:4

 

P.S. A fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you.

 

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Jesus is Our Closest Friend

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“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

John 15:15

Jesus Christ is our closest and best Friend. He definitely intends to provide everything we need. No want can be unsupplied. No sorrow will go uncomforted. Truly nothing dark can master us. For time and eternity we are safe in his care. It will not be the streets of gold, and the gates of pearl, and the river and the trees, that will make heaven for us—it will be the companionship, the friendship of Christ. Our hearts can never find true peace without Him drawing close to us.  He is aggressive in this, Jesus pulls Himself as close as we allow.

flourish-65 “…The consciousness that Christ is our Friend and we are His should check every evil thought, quell every bitter feeling, sweeten every emotion, and make all our life holy, true and heavenly.”

J.R. Miller

It is a joy to Jesus when a person takes time to walk more intimately with Him. The bearing of fruit is always shown in Scripture to be a visible result of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Oswald Chambers

“O, the fullness, the pleasure, the sheer excitement of knowing God here on earth.”

Jim Elliott

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Mary Magdalene and Jesus

“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

John 20:15-16, NLT

 A word, a name– and when He speaks it, it crackles.  “Mary!”  His recognition and affection saturates His greeting.  And instantly Mary ignites.  Her love for Jesus breaches the chasm.  Her heart bounds to Him, and she can see no one else.  Simply, “Mary”, and her routine universe is changed forever.

The Lord does not see masses, or crowds.  He sees people, individuals that have names.  He simply doesn’t accept the idea of mass communications to make disciples.  His heart is for individuals.   He does not make styrofoam cups, He makes individual people. And that is exactly how He responds.

Her immediate response is just as forthcoming.  “Rabboni”.  The simple Hebrew word for “teacher”.  Obviously her relationship with Jesus has infused this word with much more then meets the eye.  As we trace her history with Jesus we develop a deep understanding into her psyche.And much more, her walk.

You might say that Mary was well acquainted with spiritual things– for her it was almost exclusively evil. Mark 16 tells us of seven demons that tormented her. Jesus had cast these dark powers out of her. She understood.

Just one word,’Teacher’.  The word has deep and strong connotations.  Primarily, it has the concept of someone superior and yet exercising that gift in a quality way.  Mary has been given a quite exceptional gift.  An opportunity to be a student who sits at Jesus’ feet.  She now knows God to be enfolded into flesh and blood.  She is perfectly aware of Jesus as human.  She makes her faith ‘jump” to deity level.  She believes He is much more then what is visible.

Her ‘turning’ to Jesus is remarkable, in that she is still not quite there yet.  However she turns to look at Him who now has risen out of death.  She already has evaluated all of this and she decides to ‘turn into the wind.’  She is now ‘ready to launch’.  Mary has arrived at the very place Jesus has intended.  She now launches, against the wind, and really because of the wind.

Jesus fully intends to make us disciples.  A significant step is simply to glorify Him who means so much.  Embracing Him as God is a serious and brave step.  Actually, it is a ‘reality shifting’ concept that will change us.  That does not mean we can stop struggling, or wrestling (or whatever we want).  But what it does mean is that certain things are now established.  We can now flow with Him who will take us to the true hope that waits for us in eternity. Will you trust Him that far?

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