Archives For Johannine Theology

Feeling Like a Drain Plug

February 1, 2013 — 3 Comments

The Christian’s life is a fickle thing fraught with interesting turns and challenging twists. One day we feel like God is our BFF and nothing can separate us from His abundant love and the next day we feel like there is a cosmic chasm between God’s grace and the fate of our everlasting souls. While taking a bath today after a somewhat intense workout I put my hand over the drain and felt the pressure of the water weighing heavy on my hand. I thought about what a perfect metaphor a drain plug is for the Christian life because of one major fact: WE ARE OFTEN STUCK IN BETWEEN.

You read that correctly. If you are a Christian then you understand there comes a time where the tension of the drain plug becomes the very definition of our souls. Because we are so close to going down the drain but we, for some reason, are alive but the weight of the water (the world) is pressing down on us. So there we are, stuck between being flushed and holding the world and the pressure is too much to bear but alas, we are stuck.

Yet…

To relieve the pressure the plug must be drained. The plug cannot pull itself, it must be pulled. Jesus died so that all the pressures of this world can go down the drain (Matthew 11:28-30). Did you know that a drain is not designed to go down the drain? We are not designed to be flushed, drained, evacuated, disintegrated, bombarded or discarded.

WE ARE DESTINED FOR GREATER THINGS.

We are invited to participate in the kingdom of God and to reign-in what God is doing in heaven so that it can be established on earth and the chains of spiritual warfare cannot have dominion over your souls. We are promised an eternal kingdom where the apostle John tells us that the second death will not reign over our souls (Rev. 20:6). Did you catch that? Jesus is pulling the plug and all of the worldly sorrows are flushed.

So what do you need to let go?

What do you need to focus on? In what ways are you experiencing (not?) the abundant life (John 10:10)?

In what ways are you feeling sorry for yourself and not allowing Jesus to change your life?

Feel like a drain plug?

Allow Jesus to pull the plug.


Great day I experienced with classes, super-sessions and keynote messages from some of the finest people in Christianity. I typed 10 pages of notes yesterday so I cannot include everything here but I want to give you some highlights that stood out to me.

Tuesday Morning, Mike Cope “Spiritual Intubation: How Community Keeps Us Alive” The Wizard of Oz: Revelation’s View of Community

  • “No church ever existed in a pure state. The church is made up of sinners. The fleas come with the dogs.” (Eugene Peterson)
  • Four characters who are known by their deficiencies. Much like Christians today.
  • Showing of who Oz really is. “The great Oz has spoken, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
  • Pergamum
    • It’s a great distance from Colorado Springs to Pergamum.
    • In Pergamum it was very, very different.
    • Everywhere people went they told two stories: the power of Rome and Greek gods and goddesses. Everywhere they went they are told that they are caught up in and how could they not believe it. It “has to be true.”  Every market, athletic event, silver item told them about temple worship.
    • Where is the Pergamum church of Christ?
      • A tiny…insignificant few.
      • Imagine holding on to the story of Jesus while walking among the temples and other places where the minority is huge.
      • Have you been the minority?
      • Power, honor, identity was wrapped up into gods and Rome not Christ.
    • Persecuted Christians get it
    • “Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw he saw no creatures so wild as one of his own commentators.” G. K. Chesteron
  • Deep Community is anchored in Jesus
  • Deep community has to be eschatological in nature.
  • Deep community is at its best when it is part of a mission…a larger story.

Tuesday Morning Keynote Kurt Johnston @kurtjohnston “Deep, Redefined”

  • Have you ever stopped and thought about all the things in youth ministry that you don’t do very well? We are great at trying to control the perceptions of other people. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great at creating perception of us.
  • Four truths I have learned that have 1) pointed out my shallowness and 2) led him into a deeper experience in faith.
    • Life is a squiggle
    • I need a travel partner
    • Busyness will keep you in the shallow end.
    • When you begin to have a long view of youth ministry

Tuesday Super Session Frank Viola @FrankViola “The Missing Ingredient”

Observations about ministry to young people:

  • Catch30 Crisis – Human beings go through developmental stages as they get old. When they are 30 they reassess every decision they made in their 20s and they either abandon what hey believed or abandon them. You don’t know where someone is spiritually until they are thirty. You could not serve in the house of God until you were 30. Jesus did not begin his ministry until he was 30. Young people need to be prepared for this.
  • There is a difference between youthful enthusiasm and spirituality. Most of the big Christian movements are built on youthful enthusiasm. The problem is that many operates on youthful enthusiasm and the well runs dry
  • You can’t pass on to those whom you minister to what you have not experienced yourself.
  • I have to prepare them for the forgotten beatitude. Blessed is he who is not offended by me.

Other Notes from class…

  • If you cut the bible in any place it will bleed Jesus Christ.
  • Moses and Christ
  • Creation and Christ
  • Isaac and Christ
  • Jacob and Christ
  • Conclusion  – #1 – Find Christ in the bible. #2 – Do business with the Lord

Tuesday Afternoon Class 1 Josh Graves @JoshGraves “The Bible Jesus Read: Genesis 1-2”

2 Timothy 3:14-17; John 5

  • We need a more mystical understanding of Scripture. But also how it calls us to new spaces.
  • “All Scripture” does not exist yet and he has in mind Torah.
  • Inspired…he does not infallible, inerrant. They never show up in the bible. Sometimes the most important work we do is not learning new things but relearning old things.
  • 2 Timothy is not about proving Scripture over science but it is about inviting people into God’s world in order to see the world differently and “to do something about it.”
  • These stories carry the freight in any given culture.

Genesis 1

  • God can’t help but to create. He is in control. The things God creates would not be believable if we have not seen them.
  • Everything else that has creativity or imagination that somehow it is all linked back to the God who started.
  • One of the ways Genesis invites us to go deeper and that we live in a good creation. Does not deny the dark side of life but he made everything and called it good.
  • Most people who tell the story of God begin with Genesis 3 and not Genesis 1.
  • We have to introduce paradox to our students. Life is full of joy and pain. Paradox is one of the greatest contribution to the Western world.

Tuesday Afternoon Class 2 Sally Gary @centerpeaceinc “Reaching out to Teens Who Identify as Gay and Lesbians”

Many who struggle with same sex attraction but still love the Lord.  Struggles do not divide us.

Starved for Intimacy. Facebook and its struggles for intimacy. Question is: How can we meet this need? This desire for community. There is a great need for this connection.

What teens learn from the world: Glee, Modern Family.

What teens learn from the church: Nasty messages about homosexuals from the church

What they need is looking for a safe place.

How to be a safe place?

Deal with our own fears.

  • Change our thinking
  • Change our language
  • Listen
  • Be consistent
  • Model the Love and Acceptance of Christ

Tuesday Night Keynote Frank Viola @FrankViola “God so loved the world vs. Love not the world.”

The world in the New Testament is used in two ways…

  1. Speaks of the material universe. Jesus of Nazareth is this world’s true Lord.
  2. A system or network or order of things designed to draw us away from God.

Historically Christians have taken two postures: 1) Retreated from the world’s system (Isolationism) 2) Enmeshed by the world and married to it.

The most miserable person is a Christian who is living in a way where deep inside them they are told to give something up and they can’t. When we are in community with other Christians the Holy Spirit is clearest.

The Holy Spirit will reveal to you what is of the world.

2 Kind of legalists: 1) Salvation by works 2) I am going to take what the Holy Spirit has shown me personally and make it a law to you.

“The gospel spreads best not through force but through fascination” (Shane Claiborne)

Dinner in Colorado Springs: Uchenna Ethiopian Restaurant

This was ranked #2 in Colorado Springs by TripAdvisor and it was awesome. I had Yebeg Alecha which was tender pieces of lamb marinated with butter then sautèed with ginger, garlic, and 12 spices. There were no forks but you had this roll that you put the meat and the sauce in. It was excellent. The owner’s name is Maya and they cooked everything to order so it took a while but the food was worth it. They have mostly organic food and a substantial vegetarian menu. I have never tried authentic Ethiopian cuisine but this was a must! Went a left the owner looked at me and said, “Go in peace.” I love her already.

 


This is the last post of this series and I have valued all of the comments tremendously.  The series started not as a defense of social drinking but merely was it ok to be present at a location as a means of mission to people.  Sometimes posts have a mind of their own and it just leads in a different direction.  I loved it though because topics like this need to be discussed in a thoughtful, biblical and humane manner.  Too often we ignore something based on our assumption that it has always been a certain way so we need to keep it that way.  We should never dismiss comments or questions because we assume we are right on a subject.

The poll, to my surprise, indicated that most of you (66%) believe that it is ok for a Christian to drink in moderation.  This topic will surely find no resolve in the coming words but I wanted to share some observations on our discussion.  Hope you enjoy these.

  • A helpful study of the original words does help in our theology but we must do our homework.  Don’t assume a word means something without looking it up in some of the major lexicons and dictionaries.
  • Image is important but image is not everything.  Sometimes our perception of what a Christian should be is (ironically) the opposite of what Jesus said a person should be.  I wonder if Jesus would have been disfellowshipped in some of our churches today for what he would do?  Just a thought….
  • In regards to social drinking one must consider his or her motives.  I still can’t get away from this.  Why are you drinking?  Is it to feel a feeling or, like Samuel Young said in one of his comments, is it to appreciate something God made?  Motives are important.  It is doubtful someone would use Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to use wine for his infirmities but they may be looking to clear his or her conscience.  But…
  • We need to be careful where we place our judgment.  This issue is not limited to social drinking but many other aspects where we may be quick to judge before we consider the evidence.  We will know people by their fruits (Matt. 7:16).
  • Be careful about building-up straw men or chasing red herrings.  Arguments like, “What about all of the bad affects of alcohol?” is still side-stepping the real issue.  I heard one person give all of the statistics about the negative uses (abuse) of alcohol like car accidents, marriages, etc.  While I agree with that negative component of alcohol I also think they are simply chasing red herrings.  I wanted to ask him, “How many people die of heart disease from not eating correctly?” (TV, music, etc.)  The issue is, what does the bible say about it not society’s abuse of it.
  • The principle in Romans 14-15 needs careful consideration (especially Rom. 14:21) before anyone considers to take a drink.  I think if we practice self-denial on behalf of others then it might be our spiritual service to God (Rom. 15:1-2).
I will conclude with something from Isaiah.  In Isaiah 25 we come across a break from the woes and destruction of life for a vision of what life will be like in the last days (eschaton).  In discussion of this Isaiah talks about what life will be like post-destruction.  He writes:
6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.

8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. (25:6-8)

Sounds a little like Revelation 19-22…the new heavens and the new earth.  Blessings.

I close this series with joy filled in my heart anticipating Christmas day.  I long for the time with family, the meals, the happiness, the presents but also the knowledge of why we are there.  “Advent” is a word that comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming.”  It is the Latin translation for the Greek word parousia which is used in the New Testament most often to describe the Second Coming of Christ (see 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11).  Apparently advent was started in the 18th century to recognize not only the birth of Jesus but also the coming of the Lord.  We live in a tension right now that all Christians live in from the time Jesus ascended in Acts 1 until the time of Jesus returns.  The tension is entangled in mystery and wonder knowing that God has wrought a day in which the Lord will return and we shall be like him and dwell forever.  But not yet…not now…not here…not long.  The advent season is about recognizing and celebrating the birth of Jesus but paradoxically anticipating the return of Jesus.  The fact is…Jesus is here and there are implications for you and I.  To really celebrate Christmas is to subvert the consumerism that society puts out and to make it more than simply “HAPPY HOLIDAYS.”  I saw last night where the ACLU sent memos to Tennessee schools warning them of celebrating one religious holiday to the exclusion of others.  That’s fine but the celebrations typically seen are incorrect for the real point of advent is to show that everywhere and anywhere Christ is the Lord who was born of a virgin from the seed of David.  Caesar was not Lord nor is the president today.  Our idols of power, freedom, pride, consumerism and safe-living all miss the mark for the only true Lord in this world is and was Jesus Christ.

So celebrate appropriately.  Decorations are only a hint of the beauty of Christmas as we celebrate the coming of God himself.  We celrbrate that JEsus is Lord.  We anticipate that one day all wrongs will be right and that true peace will reign at the coming of our Lord.  We long for that day but know there is much work for us to do while injustice and evil still reign.  Jesus, we welcome you in our lives as Lord.  Thank you for coming down to this earth and relinquishing your God-abilities to be human.  We recognize the work of your Father as the work we adhere to.  Forgive us this season for our consumerism and allow us to celebrate what is most important beyond the toys, decorations and false narratives sent by society.  Allows us to celebrate you.  Thank you for coming.  I love you.  Reign in my life and let my breath breathe the air that comes from only you.  Amen.

Below is an advent poem by W.H. Smaw and then a couple of songs I thought were worthy of note.  Peace.

I am. I was. I will be.
I am not coming soon I am here.

I was born on a cold night in a cold place
Unnoticed, unheralded by cold people
Who turned my mother away.
On that night were you listening?
On that night the “least of your brothers” was me.
Now do you see, do you hear and do you care?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In your life do you see me
In the ragged men and women
Who search the cold street
Looking for my reflection in your heart?
Do you hear my voice in
Their muttered plea or in their tear?
I am not coming soon I am here.
Do you hear me when your friend turns to you
To ask forgiveness and trust?
Do I not forgive you always?
Do I not give you a merciful ear?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In this season I was born unto you
Fulfilling the promise of God’s care.
Look for me, listen to me…
I am not coming soon I am here.


Moving from Iraenaus’ claim to the apostle John we find comfort in knowing that it was God who came down to be one of us…to be one with us.

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.  (John 1:14-18)

A few things to note about this text that is worthy of reflection and devotion.  First of all, the Word became flesh.  Describe this?  I am not sure what happened but I know that he “emptied himself” (Phil 2:7) which means, in my opinion, that Jesus abdicated his rightful place on the throne of God and took on the form of something lesser…us.  Secondly, Jesus did this so that we would receive grace and truth.  Without this moment we do not have access to the father.

13For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb. 9:13-14)

How is this possible? Because it was the plan altogether (see John 1:1-4; Col. 1:16-17; Heb 1:1-2).  During this time of the year we celebrate the plan that God wrought through His son.  We celebrate the plan that Jesus executed as he was executed.  No matter how you put it, the birth of Jesus points to the death of Jesus.  In the season of giving presents, decorating houses, drinking hot cocoa, eating fruit cake and kissing under mistletoe isn’t it much more meaningful (although I do like kissing under mistletoe) to recognize the Savior of the world?  Tim Keller, in a context of discussing reasons for the existence of God, reiterates the importance of Jesus coming to this world:

In the Christian view, however, the ultimate evidence for the existence of God is Jesus Christ himself.  If there is a God, we characters in his play have to hope that he put some information about himself in the play.  But Christians believe he did more than give us information.  He wrote himself into the play as the main character in history, when Jesus was born in a manger and rose from the dead.  He is the one with whom we have to do.[1]

Amen. 


[1] Tim Keller, The Reason for God, (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008): 128