Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Possibility of Intimacy

Many years ago my Pastor(Paul De Jong)made a statement that has become a life theme for me: "The challenge of possibility lies in the challenge of intimacy". I was arrested in my seat and immediately I thought of Daniel 11:32 which says, "But those who know their God shall be strong and do great exploits...". If you represented it visually, it might look something like this:

How many amazing faith stories have you read or heard about? How many times have you thought "wow" - God never uses me like this! We often relegate stories of faith to "Superchristians" ...surely not us!

The whole key of doing great exploits is linked to being intimate with God. Its effortless really. Fall in love with God and learn to know his voice and stuff will happen!

There are 3 Keys to Knowing God
1. Desire/Motivation
Ex 33:13 - Moses motivation was more of God in his life rather than the big name or ministry

God longs to be intimate with us...there are so many facets of him ... father ... saviour ... friend ... Lord ... (to knock a few sacred cows - MOTHER!!!) and ... the lover! One time I was at One Tree Hill in Auckland. I was sitting in one of the blown out craters with my ipod and a journal just needing some time out. It was a beautiful winter day and as I sat basking in the sun, alone with my journal, I had an overwhelming sense of God's presence. It was almost tangible - just wave after wave of his love washing over me. I became aware of his voice saying, "I am SO glad you are here Sarah. I can't think of anything I would rather do right now, than be here with you". This took me into a whole new 8 months of discovering God as my lover. The one who longed to be with me ... to have me to himself ... to walk with me and talk with me ... to love me. It was a wondrous thing. I have never loved or been loved like that.

2. Determination
As we press in to know him he will be found by us
Hosea 6:3; Jer 29:11

3. Drive
How much do we want to know God and at what cost? In Phil 3:10, Paul said that he wanted to know Christ and share in the fellowship of his sufferings. That personally challenges me.

Getting to Know God
It is very difficult to get to know someone if you don't spend time with them. God wants us to spending time with him and put him first in our lives. These both cost!

4 Results of Knowing God
The more we get to know God the more we get to love and fear him. Often this fear the Bible speaks about comes from the word which means to reverence him. One of the meanings of that is to so love someone, that you fear doing something that would cause them grief or hurt.

1. Known By God
1 Cor 8:3 - Those who love God are known by God. How cool is that!? The one who put the stars in the sky and calls them out by name, knows YOU! KNOWS you!

2. Pleasure To God
Ps 147:11 - The Lord delights in those who fear him. I love this word "delights". It makes me think of first time parents. Everything that baby does, they are in raptures about. "Did you see him? Did you? He just stepped!" "Did you see that? Did you? She's amazing. She just said her first word!" No kidding ... I have even heard parents drawing attention to some of the grosser things like - "Wow ... did you see that nappy? Did ya? That was something else!" God is like this with us. He looks and says to the great cloud of witnesses we have (see Hebrews) ... "Did ya see that? Did ya? Look at Amy. Did you see how she just did that? Wow ... she's amazing. She's mine." What a mind blowing concept to know that we can bring him pleasure.

3. Purpose

1 Chron 28:9 - When we love and fear God we will want to serve him

"Living in the secure intimate place with Jesus brings forth an overcoming spirit that is mature in the things of God; a strong, militant spirit of faith that can break through anything. Faith that doesn't give up because deep down it doesn't want to ... its motivating force is a deep love of God..." (Stephen Bennett)

4. Prepared or "Equipped" For Great Exploits
1 Cor 2:16 We have the mind of Christ!
"In this place of intimacy we get the mind of Christ which brings our minds into right thinking, setting us free..." (Stephen Bennett)

1 Cor 6:17 We are united with God - one in Spirit

1 Cor 1:7 No spiritual gift lacking - study note states "gk indicates gifts of grace - a manifestation of his enabling us to minister..."

Watch out for the next post to find out how intimacy leads us to Great Exploits!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Modern Day Vampires

Okay ... this is probably not going to be the most thought provoking blog! But we might draw something out of it ... let's see how it unfolds! If not thought provoking, it will share a wee cultural experience for you.

This morning I had to go to the hospital for a blood test. Just a wee blood test ... but for me ... a HUGE deal! I absolutely hate needles - I am phobic about them. Probably being held down to get shots as a child and having people LIE to me, telling me that it won't hurt a bit, did not help. Last night I had vivid dreams. I dreamed of people shoving drip needles into my hands and me freaking out! I woke up and didn't even make the connection until I was on my way to the hospital. Suddenly I put two and two together (DUH) and realised I was stressing while sleeping!

So, a blood test in Korea. Let me educate you! If you have been for a blood test in a western country, you are probably used to walking in to a soothing office. You wait in the waiting room, and then are gently ushered into a room where you sit on a comfy chair with a padded arm rest. You are gently reassured and blood is drawn. Not so in Korea! Let me describe my morning!

I arrive at the international clinic and am taken around to a cashier to pay. We then walk to the blood test area and as we round the corner, I smell it. The smell of the antiseptic solution they wipe your arm down with. The smell of fear. I walk to a machine, take a number and then sit in a chair to wait. What is my view? The busy corridor of a hospital ... people strolling past in pajamas ... drips attached ... braces on ... all sorts. This is fine. What is not fine, is that in front of me through the glass, like two sides of a square is a production line. Modern day vampires ... whipping out big shiny needles ... vaccumn tubes ... tying rubber tourniquets around people's arms ... squeezing the life out of them ... barbaric needles biting into veins and blood spurting ... all of which is highly reassuring to someone with a needle phobia. I really have to psych myself up to do these tests and it does not help doing it in such a public forum. One day I even had a Korean man standing over watching it all with great interest (yes blood from a white person is the same colour sir ...) and LAUGHING at my distressed face. This morning, my vampire was in a hurry. I stopped her and made her look at me ... I am a person and I am worried. I conveyed this by pantomime and she stopped enough to say, "don't worry" before sticking me with the needle. Vampires ... I shall go with garlic and crosses next time.

Can I make a spiritual parallel here? Yes I think so ... we all have blood and we all have time. Today I had my blood sucked, but everyday we have our time sucked! What drains your time? Are you over committed? Do you have people who you are trying to help who continue to drain time from you and never change? Are you drained? You need to take charge and be careful. Like blood, time is limited ... be careful how you use it!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Life Legacies ...

Two weeks ago my uncle died. One month ago, over the summer break, a work colleague died. Two people. Very different lives.

My Uncle (Dig) was actually my great uncle. I loved him. He was a wonderful man. He was kind, gentle, loving, had a wicked sense of humour, loved nature and rugby and was an outstanding piano player. My uncle got to live a long life. He lived the 80+ years that we all feel we will get.

My work colleague's name was Yun Jin and she was a wonderful young woman full of promise. She loved God ... loved people ... had a lovely gentleness about her and there was not a mean bone in her body. She was a woman without guile. Yun Jin had a wonderful smile that lit up her face. She married another work colleague at the beginning of summer. Their lives stretched out before them and then the unspeakable happened on the way back from their honeymoon. There was a car crash. Yun Jin died after 20 days of marriage, leaving behind grieving loved ones. A life cut off.

When my father died at age 49, I learnt a little about death. Death strips away all the pretenses that we have. It brings us back to the raw. To the basics. We seem to have this expectation that we will get our 80+ years. The thing is that life is uncertain. We don’t know what it holds. Life is an amazing thing. It is beautiful, tragic, joyous, ugly, magical, wonderful, sad … Life is life. With all the joy and horror that can be found in each day … it’s life. We can not have the good parts and leave the rest. We all live and … we all die. It’s a certainty. The thing I learnt through my Father’s death is, it’s not about how many days we get. It’s about what we do with our days.

The loss of my Uncle and Yun Jin has caused me to think and reflect on something I have been thinking about over the past 4 – 5 months. Legacies. What are we building? What are you building? Yun Jin lives on. She poured her life into other people and left a legacy that will continue in the days, months and years to come. Her life is in her legacy. My Uncle lives on in his children and the lives he touched with his kindness, humility and humour.

What is life about really? Is it about the treasures that we store up … the riches? Or is it about love? What endures after we die? Treasures are often fought over … love? Love multiplies … it bears fruit … and … love endures.

What really matters? Love. The rest of life? … Its just frosting. We cannot shut ourselves off to love for the fear of hurt that comes. Life is about love … we are made to connect … we are made to love. We are also created to leave legacies in the lives we touch. One of my favourite questions over the past few months is to ask friends what legacy have they inherited from their parents lives? … From other significant folk in their lives? If I look at the legacy of my father and summed it up in one word (and there is so much more I could say) it would be Integrity. My mother’s legacy? Strength and the ability to travel lightly holding little in the way of grudges and offenses.

Jesus tells a story in Luke 12:15-21. It is a sober warning for us to think about what we are building. Take 5 minutes today to be still and reflect on your life. What are you building? If you were to die tonight … what legacy would YOU leave?

Sunday, August 12, 2007


What is worship?

What do YOU worship?

How do you worship?

Do you worship?

While staying with my friends in the USA this summer, I went to an evening service at their church. Their church is awesome. It has a great heart and is impacting its community with the love of Christ. It is a big church of national influence. However, several things got my brain ticking over. Their worship (like many big churches) is outstanding musically. Top quality musicians, full on sound and lights and 5 large screens to boot! I know their worship leaders have a heart for God. Yet, in the midst of it all I was disturbed. I saw a lot of people really getting into it and yet I craved just one space to be able to be still and be reverent. Don’t get me wrong … I love loud worship times … I have led worship and played in worship bands in big and small churches. Mostly though, I love being in God’s presence. I love those times when people are just caught up in reverence of God … times where we are still … when no words suffice … all we can do is stand. Stillness is not something many of our churches are comfortable with. If there is a space, the temptation is to fill it! What do we think worship is? I am concerned that many people are worshipping worship – not God. We need to be careful. Are we being mindful or mindless in worship?

Jn 4:23-24
For the time is coming when the true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the father seeks. God is spirit and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be the kind of worshipper that God seeks out. If God seeks out the type of worshipers listed above, then lets see what it actually means to worship this way. A scripture I used a few blogs ago is highly applicable here.

John 3 (The Message)
Everyone who makes a practice of evil ... addicted to denial and illusion ... work can be seen for the God work that it is

What does it mean to worship in Spirit and Truth?

We are exhorted to worship God in Spirit and Truth. If this is what God is looking for ... shouldn’t this be something that we pursue?! I want to pick up on two things here ... HONESTY and WORSHIP. This last passage from The Message has the phrase “addicted to denial and illusion ...fearing a painful exposure ...

I discussed this Scripture and the temptation to live in denial and illusion in Get Real. Basically, two questions arise when reading this scripture … (recapping here)
1. What is it that causes us to live in denial and illusion and why do we fear exposure?
Often we take the obvious answer ... “if people really see us as we are they won’t accept us”. This strikes at one of human kind’s most basic needs - the need to be loved, valued and accepted - we are created for relationship.

2. What causes us to live in denial to ourselves?
Self protection. If we admit that we are weak or fail - admit our issues and struggles then maybe we have to admit that everything else WE’VE built (facades ... our life in our control) is built on a lie. The fact is we are not self sufficient. We must be dependent on God. This brings us face to face with who we are and who God is - can be quite a scary thought!

It is only when we step into the exposure of the light that God can begin to clean us up and craft us into his art pieces. The Message goes on in this passage and says “But anyone living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God work it is. We will be seen as God’s reflection rather than ours!

There is such release in this. Breenan Manning in his book Lion and the Lamb says, “God’s love is based on nothing and the fact that it is based on nothing makes us secure”.

Jimmy Abegg says, “we are Ragamuffins, much loved by God in the midst of all our short comings and failures”.

I love the statement that Rich Mullins makes ... God does not call us to be angels; he calls us to be HIS.

This is the heart of worship ... to be captured ... to be Gods. I was reading in Psalm 45 the other day ... “be here” - the King is WILD for you - since he’s your Lord, adore him”. Its all about him. To worship we need to be vulnerable, We also need to be focused. Where is our mind - our heart - here in the moment, or off on the things we have waiting to do!

John 4:23 in The Message says “your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the father is looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in worship ...”

Lets break open that scripture
Engage: employ (use time energy etc to good effect); become interlocked; come into battle with, pledge oneself;” Become interlocked - we connect to God - become one with him. Worship is intimate. Engage is also an active verb not a passive one. Worship is active - a bit like a car - until the gears are engaged the car goes nowhere - we must engage our spirits.

Spirit:- Pneuma. Breath - like wind - it is akin to the Hebrew for ruach - the very spirit, life essence of God.

Truth:- Aletheia: - the reality lying at the basis of an appearance; the manifested veritable essence of a matter”. focus on the first part - reality lying at the base of an appearance - come back to being engaged and being HERE - what do we look like and what are we doing on the inside?!

Worship:- What does it mean to worship?
“Proskuneo” - the actual picture for this word is like a dog licking it’s master hand - the translation coming from this picture means “to kiss, to fawn or crouch - prostrate oneself in homage”.

Have you ever had a dog? When you have been out and come home that dog is so thrilled to see you - in that moment ... in the NOW, nothing exists for the dog but the fact that you are here - licks, bounces ... great joy! But in addition to this a well adjusted dog will generally roll over on its back - it submits to you. This single focus and submission are key parts of our worship.

The other thing you often catch dogs doing (well mine used to) is sitting close and gazing at you - David is like this in Psalm 27:4 ... One thing I ask of the Lord - one thing I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord ...” Mary had caught this as well - she sat at the feet of Jesus while Martha ran around!

Worshippers - “proskunetes” - means to be an adorer!

Seek - “Zeteo” - to seek for - to desire - to covet earnestly - require or demand. The Oxford adds an extra component to this definition - single out for companionship”.

If I was to rephrase John 4 incorporating all those meanings it would come out something like:
True adorers of Jesus will adore, worship, kiss and submit to the father with all that they are - with the very essence of their being - no appearances. What you see is who they are - no pretence. This is the type of person (an adorer) the father covets, These are the ones he will single out for companionship”.

Jn 3:24 (The Message) says: God is sheer being himself - Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves in adoration”.

This is deep calling deep, the essence of God calling from the essence of man - the thing we are - the aletheia - the reality lying at the basis of our appearance - is our spirit. So lets reach out and be honest and vulnerable and engage with God - make him our single focus as we seek to worship him in our lives.