Monday, August 1, 2011

Can We Talk?

That’s what Joan Rivers says when she wants someone to get serious and be honest with her. I heard some things in church this morning that I need to get off my chest. Sorry if it departs from the intended continuity of this blog.

I got “saved” in June of 1982, so next year will be my 30th anniversary in the church. Add to that 12 years of Catholic school and it means I’ve been hearing about the Good News for two thirds of my life. I say this like Paul in order to qualify what I’m about to say. I’m a water-baptized, spirit-filled, bible-reading, tithing, homegroup-hosting, worship-leading, mission field-experienced Christian looking for evidence that we’re becoming like Jesus. In 42 years there should be some sign of that, shouldn’t there? It's true I don’t lose my peace as quickly when someone cuts me off on the parkway, but is that the best I can say? What I'm looking for is some victorious living in the body of Christ - people operating in the power and authority that Jesus promised and not just talking about it. Are we doing what it takes to see that happen? I have friends who struggle with chronic depression, debilitating physical conditions, and lifelong addictions. They've been in church all their lives and nothing they do seems to help them. People keep praying for them because a famous church leader once told us, "If healing doesn't come in 99 tries, try 100". I’m happy to hear about successes in Africa and Bolivia, but if healings are proof that we're moving into Christ-likeness then I'd like to see it happen for someone I know - at least someone who knows someone I know. Even if I don't see any healing miracles it would be nice to see a church full of genuinely joyful people - not acting like it while inside they're just trying to get by.

Today in my church our pastor told us not to lose our faith if we're struggling. He said we need to keep obeying God's word and circumstances will change because this world isn’t our home. Is that really what the Good News has come to? The moral structure of our society has collapsed along with the economy and there’s little hope for a recovery of either. We have enemies all over the world at a time when turning the other cheek is nothing more than an ideology that Christians don't even believe. The world is going to hell in a hand basket while we wait for Jesus to come and do something. Can we talk about all this without someone denying it and telling me if I exercise my faith I’ll see all the good things that are happening in peoples’ lives?   

Dr. Charles Stanley (whom I like very much) says the purpose of life is to come to the fullness of Christ-likeness - not signs of Christ-likeness - FULL Christ-likeness. Paul told us that we are NEW CREATIONS who have the MIND of CHRIST. These are lofty things that I’ve heard all my life. But what do they mean? And does it really happen to anyone? Just this morning in church we declared the following things in our “worship” songs. “I’m so unworthy”, “Lord you’re all I need”, and “I will wait for you to come and rescue me”. Is that the mind of Christ talking? God himself is alive in us yet we continue to speak separation into existence and wonder why we have no joy and no power. When are we going to come to our senses?

The good news is science is beginning to show us there is no separation between us and the source of the joy and power we seek - only a one-ness that Jesus talked about in the Gnostic Gospels. The bad news is we aren’t allowed to believe what Jesus said in the Gnostic Gospels because they weren’t inspired by God. How and why this awesomely narrow-minded position has been supported without question throughout church history is beyond me. The recognition of our identity in God is the key to our transformation and the answer to all our questions. Thankfully there will come a time when it becomes an accepted truth. Until then, no matter what lip service the church gives to the Holy Spirit, the present truth is this: We can’t move in power because we think it comes from somewhere outside of us. We pray for things in Jesus’ name because we don’t understand the authority of our own. I’m so thankful for his amazing, God-realized life, but Jesus didn’t intend to be idolized to the extent that we are helpless without him.  

There’s a Zen parable that illustrates what I mean.

The teacher’s dog loved his evening romps with his master. The dog would bound ahead, fetch a stick, then run back to wait for the next throw. One evening the teacher invited his brightest student to join them, a boy troubled by the seeming contradictions of Buddhist doctrine.

“You must understand”, said the teacher, “that words are only guideposts. Never let words or symbols keep you from experiencing the truth. Here, I’ll show you”.

With that the teacher called his happy dog. “Fetch me the moon”, the teacher said to the dog and pointed to the full moon. 

“Where is my dog looking”? asked the teacher of the bright pupil.  

“He’s looking at your finger”, the boy said.

“Exactly. Don’t be like my dog. Don’t confuse the pointer with the thing being pointed to.”

I’m not sure about this but as a child of God, and under the trusted guidance of the Holy Spirit for 30 years, I can’t help thinking that we’ve missed the point of Jesus’ life. In adoring him as the only begotten Son who atoned for man’s sin to appease a wrathful God, we’ve completely missed the fact that he beckons us and empowers us to be more than human life has yet been. He is calling us back to a place of unity and wholeness that existed in the beginning when there was nothing separate from God - back to an awareness of our true identity. It is in this place that we fully experience God. It is only from this place that we will realize our fullness in Christ and begin to see evidence of the joyful and victorious lives we seek.

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