Not At or To, But With and With Him Within

There are many ‘greats’ of history that we love to look at. People whose lives have made a difference in the history of the world, people we love to study and figure out what made them tick, what made them significant, whether their significance was for good or evil. Then there are those we look not so much at, but to. They inspire us, they make us want to change, to be better people ourselves. These are people who are not just worthy of our study, but indeed our emulation. As a bass player I have always looked to John Entwhistle from my favourite band “The Who”. Ever since watching The Who’s farewell tour in 1982 (the same year I started playing bass), his style and standard of playing has been the goal I set for myself, and of course never reached. However, looking at his life, and at his death (involved cocaine and adultery), I’d rather not look to him as worthy of emulation!

People relate to Jesus in these same ways. Some look at Jesus, studying him, trying to figure him out.  We see this in the Pharisees and Saducees and teachers of the law in the Gospels.  They were looking at Jesus trying to figure out who he was, how and why he was doing what he was doing, and ultimately how to get rid of him.  People still study Jesus today with much the same intent including how to ‘get rid of him’ or minimize His influence.  Then there are those who look to Jesus.  They are inspired by Jesus’ example of compassion, morality, and keen sense of justice among other things.  They follow his example and strive to be like him as best they can.  We can think of the disciples while they travelled with Jesus as examples of those who look to Jesus as well as many people today, manyof whom would go by the name ‘Christian.’

But there is another way to relate to Jesus.  Rather than merely looking at Jesus, or even looking to Jesus, we can now walk with Jesus and with Jesus within.  This is altogether better and made possible by the event we call Pentecost (see Acts chapter 2), when the Holy Spirit was given, indwelling the believers then, and ever since.  It is interesting to compare the disciples before and after Pentecost.  Before Pentecost, when their relationship with Jesus could be described as that of looking to Him, they were striving but often struggling.  They lacked confidence, they all fled at a crucial hour.  Peter, the most vocal of the bunch, and the most vocal of his loyalty to Jesus become the most vocal in his denial.  But following Pentecost there was a new confidence not seen before.  They were no longer striving to be like the one they looking to, they were now showing success at being like the one they are walking with though the Holy Spirit.  Peter lived and died for Jesus with great passion.  What a change!

And what a change that can make for us.  If the Christian life seems like a struggle at times, it may be time to check our relationship with Jesus.  We might find that we are merely looking to Jesus, or worse, at him, when through the ministry of the Holy Spirit we have the opportunity to walk with Jesus and with the recognition of Him  within.  We may find that we are striving to follow the example of Jesus when we are called to follow Jesus himself.   We might also add that you can look at, or to Jesus without ever uttering a prayer.  But walking with Jesus begins with prayer and continues with prayerfulness.

Jesus is not just one of the ‘greats,’ the people we love to look at and sometimes to.  He is ‘The Great One,’ who makes his home in our (not-so-great-sometimes) hearts through the Holy Spirit.  He is the One we walk with, with Him within.  What a wonderful opportunity.  What a wonderful Saviour and Lord we serve!

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Sent In, But Not Settling In

You could always tell who the new recruits were.  The newest stood out the most as they lacked uniforms identifying them as an Air Cadet, and the haircuts were a disgrace to the corps.  I learned the hard way as a recruit that hair off the ears meant no hair on the ears.  The more established recruits continued to stick out, even with uniforms.  Train tracks would give them away, those horrible double creases from ironing gone wrong.  Only recruits would dare show up like that.  Only recruits would show up with dull boots.  And only recruits would dare to be out of step with the rest, or worse yet, ‘bear’ march (as happens when one swings the wrong arm while stepping out with the wrong foot).

They were sent in.  Sometimes perhaps by mothers who thought discipline would be good for their new-to-the-teen-years youth (or better yet a hair cut).  Some of us were sent in by our passions and goals, mine being to become a pilot.  But eventually we didn’t stick out anymore.  Train tracks gave way to fine creases.  Dull boots gave way to boots you could use as a mirror (and often would before a parade).  Awkward drill routines gave way to polished manoeuvres.  We settled in, we blended in, we ceased to stick out like sore thumbs.

This is, and isn’t what the Church is to be like.  Jesus prayed “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18)  We are sent in, sent in with a different perspective, with a different set of values, with a different set of goals.  We should not be surprised as Christians to find ourselves terribly out of step with society as we truly are marching to the beat of a different drummer.  Tragically, for many Christians individually, and dare I say it, entire churches, the train tracks give way to sharp creases, dull boots give way to shiny ones, awkward drill gives way polished routines.  We get in step with everyone around us.  The ‘sent in’ become the ‘settled in.’

What to do?  Look for answered prayer!  Specifically, look for the answer to Jesus’ prayer for the disciples in John 17:  “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (John 17:16-19).  Being ‘sanctified‘ has the sense of being ‘holy’ or set-apart’ for holy use.   Just as the priests from the Old Testament were set-apart, easily recognized as different, and clearly called to do something special in service of God and community, so too is the Jesus follower set apart.  Can one look at you and see an answer to Jesus’ prayer?  Do they see someone who has been sent in, and set apart as different?  Or perhaps they don’t see you at all.  You’ve settled in, blending in with the crowd.

May people always thinks you are a wee bit weird.  That just may be an answer to prayer!

Our Wee Robins and a Good Question

I have never felt so close to nature in any home I have lived in as I do now. In walking to the boys’ school we spotted a beautiful fox and her baby. The boys have since confirmed that they have seen a whole family, in fact one of them wandered through our backyard last week. Then there are the frogs. The biggest frogs I have ever seen, and the noisiest I have ever heard. I didn’t realize when we bought the house that it came with a pond in the back yard complete with frogs. With the good weather upon us we have now emptied the pond and discovered the pool underneath. At least one frog has found its way back in. Then there are the mice. Feeling a little too close to nature for my liking on that one. The mice are now gone, but several cats now regularly drop by for a visit. We don’t discourage them. And there are hawks circling around too.

But my favourite animals around our house are the robins. One had built a nest in our porch, much to my wife’s disgust, but to the fascinated delight of the boys. Our youngest named the robin Noah which stuck until Noah laid an egg. Three eggs actually, judging by the three little beaks that you could see straining to get a worm from the mommy or daddy robins. And how quickly they grew! The three little beaks we could see gave way to three little heads and before you knew it, three whole bodies flapping around jostling for position within the ever more cramped nest.

All this experience of nature led me to praise God and marvel in His creation. How amazing it all is!

But the amazing growth of the baby robins came to an end. One morning we were horrified to discover a mix of feathers, blood, and robin parts scattered on our porch. The end of ‘our’ robins seemed too early, too violent. My amazement at God’s creation gave way to wondering why it had to be this way. And our grisly discovery cannot compare to the terrible discoveries that often occur in people’s lives. We are left with a good question: ‘why?’

The book of Job poses that very question. But it never answers it. Following all the stabs at “here are the reasons you are suffering, Job” given by his friends, God finally speaks with His word on the situation. And it is not an answer at all but question after question, four chapters worth (chapters 38-41). Through God’s questions, Job realises that God has done and does so much that is beyond his comprehension:

Then Job replied to the LORD: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. (Job 42:1-3 NIV)

“I know you can do all things”: God can be trusted. Even when we don’t understand, God can be trusted. Even when the question “why” lingers through our lives with every grim reminder, God can be trusted. Let’s not be afraid to live with the question. Job was at the time the most righteous person on earth and he asked it. But may our trust in God overwhelm it.