Friday, 26 February 2016

Lent 2016: Know the Word and Do the Word

There's something we lose over time as Christians. It's so subtle we don't even realise we lost it, or that we ever had it to begin with.


Sounds odd to say, but we lose sight of recognising what the Word actually is.

John reminds us in the passage we hear at school Christmas pageants (in England anyway. I know the American system is too afraid of Christianity to allow it to be taught in public schools. Yes I know I just lost the American readers.) or blown with hot air from the pulpit during December but it gets forgotten the rest of the year.

In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. (John 1:1 Amplified)
It's so subtle we overlook it. The Word was God Himself.

John goes to great lengths in his opening chapter to remind his readers that Jesus is the Word. He point out that the Word is God, not something apart from Him, but fully God.

We lose sight of Jesus as the Word most of the time. When our Sunday School teachers say we must learn to know the Word they mean almost invariably that we must memorise chunks of scripture to repeat to our parents.

We don't recognise that the physical Bible, whilst it gives us a window into the heart of the Word is not the Word. Jesus is, and knowing Him comes through allowing the Holy Spirit to live in and through us as we read the book.

It means learning the heart of God and seeing with His eyes the way Jesus did.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. (John 14:9-11 NKJV)
 Jesus is explicit about His unity with the Father. The intertwining of Jesus and the Father is repeated three times in these three verses. Jesus takes this moment, just hours before He will be arrested, to remind His friends who He is - and they still miss the point after the arrest.

I take great comfort in the humanity of the disciples. Specifically their fallibility. They make mistakes. Thomas doubts. Peter hides. Philip asks dumb questions.

I take comfort because I doubt. I hide. I ask really dumb questions.

God chose to build the Church on people like you and me. Flawed and fallible, capable of intense love and unspeakable cruelty. I guess James and John didn't get the nickname "sons of thunder" because they were timid.

So Jesus invites us to know Him intimately. Far more than an intellectual study of translations of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, He invites us to know His character. He longs for us to see His personality.

John Eldridge, an author I have enormous respect for, wrote an amazing book a couple of years ago looking at the personality of Jesus. "Beautiful Outlaw" breaks the mold of the dusty Jesus from the church I grew up in. The sallow features and spotless robes with sandals perfectly laced and a neatly combed haircut looking remarkably like a refugee from the 1970s singing "Stuck in the Middle With You" alongside Gerry Rafferty and Stealers Wheel were shattered for me when I read it and recognised the Jesus I'd met and given my life to. The character of the God I adore is a perfect version of humanity. With all our emotions, all our passions, Jesus is a real person. He's approachable.

I met a great teacher called Mike Yaconelli in 1991. Sadly he's no longer on this earth, and I believe the church here is poorer for it. He was a key speaker at the Greenbelt Art Festival in the UK that year. His messages inspired me and I bought a copy of his book, "Yak, Yak, Yak" and the tapes of the meetings. I took the book with me to a talk he was giving and afterwards went up to ask him to sign it. Not being the extrovert I am today I was nervous about this. I tripped over my words and dropped the book and the pen I had and felt like a complete fool. Composing myself I gathered up the pen and book and apologised for being nervous. He flashed a smile with a twinkle in his eye as he saw my pen - a white ball-point with a big fluffy purple head stuck to the cap. I'm a big buy - six feet tall and almost 200lbs then - and he chuckled and said "If I looked like you and had this pen, I'd be nervous too!"

It completely broke the barrier of nerves I'd had. We chatted for a few minutes and he signed the book. In that moment, the real nature of God broke through my nerves and I saw this man not as "The Teacher", but as my brother. It was a pure work of the Holy Spirit shattering my preconceptions about him and myself.

In him I saw the character of Jesus. Almost mischievous in nature, breaking boundaries and conventions set up by men to bring real laughter and joy into a moment.

In that moment - and hundreds of others - I got to know the Word as He inhabited us.

But simply knowing isn't enough. We need to do the Word.

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name [as My representative], this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified and celebrated in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name [as My representative], I will do it.  (John 14:12-14 Amplified)
Jesus invites us to do what He does. Just like He was doing what the Father did, He invites us to do the same and even more than He had done.

Now I don't know about you, but I've not (yet) prayed for someone to rise from the dead. I've had occasion to pray with the sick and lay hands on people - with mixed results - and I've had people pray for and lay hands on me for healing of everything from sprained ankles to diabetes - again with mixed results.

I've never commanded a storm to be still or walked on water (I don't think ice skating counts) and I'm often at a loss for words - believe it or not.

In spite of this I'm getting bolder. I'm making steps - albeit small ones - towards where I believe God is calling me and what I'm supposed to do when I get there. I don't imagine when Peter climbed out of the boat his first few step were confident strides, and that's how I feel right now. There are storms blowing around me right now which may mean me uprooting my life in South Africa and returning to England for a while. But I'm trying to do what I believe Jesus would do if He were here in my place with the gifts I have and the resources I can access.

I don't mind admitting I'm nervous, but I'm excited as well.

I've mentioned in other posts that I'm having counselling for PTSD at the moment. It's traumatic and I'm having to re-live parts of my past I've tried to bury for three decades, but I can feel Jesus in this time coming in like a balm on an open wound. I cry for the loss of my brother now, something I've not been able to do for 30 years - and although it hurts, it's cleansing. It involves allowing the Word to work in me and heal parts of me I've not allowed Him access to.

It allows me each week to be a little more whole than the previous week, and a little more able to do things Jesus put on my heart to do that I've been putting off in some cases for years. It allows me to do the Word as it is written in my Heart.

So I pray for friends in trouble. I offer help where I can. I do what I believe Jesus would do.

Writing this blog is a part of that. The other projects I have lined up are also a part of it.

We need to - as a group, a body - do the things Jesus did. It's not just a select few who are called to pray for the sick and see them healed. Jesus never told someone who came to Him with a need to wait. He never said "You need to learn from this". His actions were a perfect reflection of the Heart of the Father. He healed the sick, restored sight and hearing, cast out demons (yes I believe there are literal demons and a literal Hell) and restored the brokenhearted.

It's time we start doing that. The early church were called Christians because it meant "little Christs" or "little anointed ones". They did what Jesus had done. The blind saw, the lame walked, the poor had their needs met by their more affluent brothers and sisters.

We need to do the Word. So we need to get to know Him.


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