It’s the time of year when we are supposed to welcome the thought of the birth of Christ and the Salvation He bought us.
What generally happens is we get bombarded by the World and we take it. Usually without a word.
My mum got a card – I’m not going to call it a Christmas card – from a friend of hers in the UK a few days ago. The message on the front: “Merry Winter Festival”.
It was bad enough when cards went to “Happy Holidays” a few years ago. Now it’s “Winter Festival”?
We’re losing the Christ in Christ-mas. It’s being irradicated and we do nothing.
It’s not the actions of a first century Believer. But we Twenty-first Century types are more “sophisticated” and “educated” than St Paul.
Oops. Did I step on some toes there?
We need to get our toes stepped on. In the UK a few years ago it was a Muslim group that complained when a Cross was taken down at the local cemetery as Jesus is one of their prophets. It was returned within 24 hours. The Christian community said little and did less.
What’s wrong with us? There’s a difference between “meek” and “weak”. But that’s been lost too.
“Jesus, meek and mild” is the image the artists paint. The bathed and sanitised Jesus in the cleanest stable you ever saw comforting the nervous adults. (Thanks John Eldredge for reminding me of this in “Beautiful Outlaw”)
Seriously? Baby Jesus needed his nappy changed. He fed at Mary’s breast, and I guarantee He burped, farted and did all the things a normal baby does.
The First Century believers knew that. How have we lost it?
Simple. We stopped expecting.
We are losing the power in the Word of God because we stop expecting it to produce fruit. Our prayers for healing, prosperity, even salvation have become weak.
The Disciples expected to see Jesus return in their lifetime. They were eager for it. I’d even use the word desperate to describe their actions. Peter stands up and gives a sermon after being filled with the Holy Spirit and 4000 people join the Church. The Disciples are so filled with God’s Power and Spirit that people thin they’re drunk! In the 1990’s there was a revival movement in Toronto that touched a lot of people, but the dilution started almost as soon as the news got out about what was happening there. Holy Trinity Brompton created the “Alpha” courses in reaction to inspiration from the Holy Spirit and it’s a movement that still touches thousands of lives each year.
But even there in these “power-houses” of the Church there is not the level of expectation we need.
I want to know the passion for my Saviour that Peter had. I want the kind of mind-blowing revelation that knocks me off my donkey like Paul. Every day.
Recently my wife and I decided due to expenses mounting up that we would move in with my mum for a while and leave our home of ten years – our entire marriage. In the last month we have effectively been put out of business due to our landlord at the business premises failing to meet fire safety minimum requirements. Although the Fire Department have now given us leave to re-open the damage is done. Short of a miracle we will be forced to close within a month and our options in the natural sight we have will get very small very soon. We’re looking at probably moving back to England for a while and working there, probably for several years which is not ideal for either of us.
Now I’m open to a miracle, but to be honest, I don’t think I expect one.
And I don’t know why.
There’s a story I recall of John Wesley travelling by boat to the Americas when a storm came up. In the middle of it he heard some Moravian Christians in a nearby cabin singing praises and worshipping with all their might. When he spoke to them, they replied “any moment now we will meet Him face-to-face”. I can’t remember if it was 1990 or 1991 and either Mike Yaconelli or Tony Campolo who told the story. (1990 & Campolo I think) with such passion that it was infectious.
But I never got “eager” in my expectation.
What do I need to get the sense of urgency Peter and the other disciples had that allowed them to see the results they saw?
Hunger. Realisation for a millisecond that I have a more fundamental need for Jesus than I do for oxygen.
I can hold my breath for about 80 seconds, and I can exhale and hold out for about half that. Then my whole body screams for me to breathe again.
The realisation that I may need something as desperately on a Spiritual level never really hit me until recently.
We need to draw a line in the sand. To say “This far and no further”, and we need to draw it where we are standing right now. Just like the first century followers.
“Christians” was a nickname – literally “Little anointed ones”. I’ve met one or two who could lay claim to that, and had the priviledge of spending time with them, but the majrity of us blunder about with no expectation of power or change.
We pray ineffectual prayers. Peter saw the man at the Temple healed because he expected the power to flow and the cripple expected to receive something from him. We speak, but we don’t eagerly expect an instant response. In fact, the World has done a great job in the last 150 years of beating us down and diluting the message – with a few exceptions – that we don’t expect anything here, but everything will be resolved “when we get to heaven”.
I’m tired of waiting. And the more I read the Gospels the more convinced I am that Jesus is tired of waiting for us to wake up! He gave us authority to raise the dead, heal the sick and prosper the poor in this life. Yet we abdicate the responsibility. Forget raising the dead – it’s too much to ask. Clearly the lights in Heaven will fuse if we ask that. Healing the sick? It’s been replaced with telling them where to find a good doctor. Now I don’t have a problem with doctors (being married to one), but the Church is empowered to Heal. We abdicate it. The Church is empowered to demonstrate prosperity and pass it on. Instead we direct the poor and broken to the welfare system of whatever country we’re in. Here in South Africa, they’re probably better off not using the system as it doesn’t work. The average income from the “welfare” here for disabled people cannot feed them for a month, never mind pay their rent. And the church – not all of them by any means, but a large proportion – sits and says “be warmed and filled” then goes home and does nothing. While they fill their own bellies and throw away leftover food that could have fed those same poor. Scratch that. We not they. I’ve been guilty of it and fallen into the trap.
There’s noe expectation of the need being met. There’s little expectation of any real power flowing.It’s like being given ownership of Fort Knox and all it’s bullion, then locking the door and begging for scraps on the road outside.
How are we so blind? How have we lost the Vision?
People perish for lack of vision says Proverbs, but we seem oblivious to it. We die by degrees every day and don’t even realise.
We need to return to the simplicity of the men and women who walked 2000 years ago. My wife and I don’t watch TV. We have a dvd collection we use, but the broadcast television is so depressing we stopped watching. The news stories are full of atrocities, the “reality” shows are about greed and the search for mammon to satisfy the need the greed has created. Programs like “Survivor” which I used to enjoy made me realise that actually it promotes deception, betrayal and selfishness to win the approval of the people you’ve lied to, betrayed and trampled so they’ll give you $1000000. Then they come back the next season to try to do it again.
I don’t miss it. I thought I would, but it’s not in me now. There’s a few dramas we watch, “24”, “Bones” & “Stargate” being the most recent. The attraction is the flaws in the characters are shown as that: flaws. None of the characters is portrayed as “whole” and they are written and played in such a manner that the characters come to life as believable because they are flawed and they know it. Their greatest struggles in the series are not with terrorits, serial killers or aliens, but their own past actions. Jack Bauer weeps as he sees what has happened. Brennan and Booth wrestle to heal her pain from childhood and his guilt from his time as a sniper. O’Neill wrestles with his son’s death while the rest of the teaqm have their own grief to come to terms with.
But although we enjoy the shows, the thing we keep in mind is the nature of ourselves reflected in the characters.
They don’t expect to ever overcome their past, only to live with the pain constantly until the sweet release of death.
And so do we.
I realised that God will not disappoint us. He will give us what we expect Him to give us in our heart.
Be it Everything in His Kingdom, or nothing at all. We will receive what we earnestly expect from God.
That can either deliver us or crush us.
But the choice is ours.