Monday, April 25, 2016

Raising the Bar - 5th Sunday of Easter

Acts 11:1-18
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

“When you lower the definition of success to such a level that any person can reach it, you don’t teach people to have big dreams; instead you inspire mediocrity and nurture people’s inadequacies.”  Shannon L. Alder

In more than one instance, Jesus proclaimed – or instructed His disciples to proclaim – that “the Kingdom of Heaven has come near”.   Yet we have been taught by tradition that when Messiah returns, the age of the Eternal Kingdom will be upon us.  Until then, we are instructed to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). 

We should also understand that the emphasis on this Commission is in teaching – not in telling these new disciples what they must believe but, rather, showing them what is worth believing and how believing and trusting it can truly change one’s life. 

The Great Commission is the marching order of the Church.  It is the basis and the foundation of our very existence, that being our mission, and it has everything to do with how the Church is to order its daily life.  If something is being done within any particular church that does not meet the criteria of the Great Commission, that practice or policy must be revisited, adjusted, or outright eliminated – if there is no evangelistic component to the practice. 

Evangelism is the heart of the Great Commission, the task of the whole Church rather than a few individuals.  It is not about preaching from the pulpit or in the street.  It is entirely about living the Message we have been entrusted with – that “the Kingdom of Heaven has come near”.  Anything short of this is a betrayal of that which we claim to know, to trust, to believe.

I’ve always been curious about the nearness of the Kingdom.  Does this mean “close but no cigar”?  Or does it, can it mean the Eternal Kingdom is entirely within our grasp in the here-and-now?  What we choose to believe has everything to do with how we will conduct ourselves, how we will go about our evangelistic mission to make that very declaration.  Or we will continue to believe “our” church to be our own private club to which only a select few are invited or even welcome - and a hobby we attend to as time allows.

If the Kingdom of Heaven has “come near” – and this must be true if Jesus is Messiah – what does this mean for us?  For the Church?  For society in general?  It does not change the nature of the Revelation, of course, because we are being told about a time in which the reality of the Kingdom will leave no doubt.  What we see in The Revelation, I think, is the fulfillment, the perfection of The Lord’s desire.  This perfection, however, is not quite yet.

So … what do we do until that time?

I think our clue is in Jesus’ encouragement to His disciples.  It is a strange thing that Jesus would deem His commandment to be “new” in any sense of the word since the Great Commandment requires that we “love our neighbors as we love ourselves”. 

Easier said than done, to be sure, especially when said “neighbor” is not quite loveable, but the principle is a necessity for the well-being of the whole community, the whole congregation, the whole ekklesia.   

In this regard, then, there is nothing “new” … unless we consider that the standard of “love” has not quite changed but, rather, perhaps shifted; and the bar has been raised.  It seems clear that in a most general sense, we don’t really know what “love” is; hence our Lord’s “new” commandment.  It is “new”, perhaps, to us.  We have allowed the word to be hijacked by force and redirected against its own nature.  We think “love” is an emotion, how we “feel” about any particular thing or person.  So if we ain’t feelin’ it, we ain’t doin’ it!

Christians cannot take this position, however, without denying Christ altogether.  We cannot claim to “believe” in Him or “love” Him if we are unwilling to listen to Him, unwilling to trust Him enough to follow Him in daily living and interactions with even what we deem to be the worst among us – however we may define “worst”.  We cannot claim to be disciples ourselves – let alone “make disciples” – if we cherry-pick only those portions of Jesus’ life and teachings that please us as individuals.

So we cannot pretend Jesus was referring only to that particular gathering, that particular crowd.  And it may be less than honest to think Jesus was suggesting this depth of love can only be extended to those we claim as our own – whether it be family or members of the same church or close personal friends whom we choose while keeping others out.  And the reason we cannot make that claim is because the depth of Jesus’ love is measured not only in what He taught – but in what His teachings led to: The Cross.  His Cross, of course; but no less our Crosses.  Those who mocked Him, those who spit on Him and even cursed Him; even these Jesus lifted up to the Father in His final moments: “Forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing”.

 It has occurred to me lately, however, that even this profound depth of love can come to mean even more to us as The Body of Christ, the Church.  I used to work with a guy who was a master picker, a teaser who took great joy out of just trying to get rise out of people.  He was a good, hard worker, but he also loved to play with people.  He would do anything he could for anyone he could (call this “love”), but he also enjoyed his life and his work because he enjoyed people by his active engagement in these people.

He came to mind as I listened to a eulogy this Sunday past about a dear lady who fully “enjoyed” life.  She “enjoyed” her family, she “enjoyed” her church … she “enjoyed” her husband and her life with him.  Honestly, how many of us can say this?  That we “enjoy”?  I don’t mean “patiently tolerate” – because “enjoyment” means active engagement.

I have no doubt we love our spouses and we love our friends and we love our church, and we find enjoyment with them here and there, but can we honestly say we always find enjoyment?  Because it seems to me that any relationship lacking this component – pure enjoyment – is lacking in something else altogether; something that can degrade the relationship or enhance it. 

It is possible to become a little too “comfortable” in any relationship to the point that we begin to take that relationship for granted.  We assume too much and, consequently, neglect the better part of those relationships.  This is true not only of our human relationships but also of our relationship with Christ and His Church.  These are not mutually exclusive, for one cannot claim to “love” Christ Jesus while regarding His Body the Church with disdain! 

It is written in the Proverbs (27:17 NRSV): “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wit of another.” 

What this means for us – for the Great Commission, for “loving one’s neighbor”, for enjoyment of all that is before us – is not merely “patient tolerance” but active engagement.  If we are not happy with our spouses, perhaps it is we have somehow disengaged at least on some level and stopped trying.  If we are not content with our church and we find more reason to cast blame than to look inwardly, we have disengaged.  If we are not getting from our friendships all we hope or expect to get, perhaps we’ve placed too great a burden on them – on all these, in fact – to somehow make us enjoy them more fully.  We have removed ourselves from the dynamic and placed the blame for our lack of enjoyment on others.

It has been said that, “The greatest sweetener of human life is friendship.  To raise this to the highest pitch of enjoyment is a secret which but few discover.”  Joseph Addison

So how do we “raise the pitch”?  By demanding more?  By expecting more?  Or by giving of ourselves more freely?  When we consider that Jesus was speaking to everyone equally by issuing this “new” commandment, we have to consider that our Lord would say the very same thing to us today.  And this “commandment” cannot be construed to mean we should raise our expectations.  Rather we are to raise our level of engagement, for this is the very heart, the essence, of Christian love; not to expect or demand but to give … and to give freely and fully.

This is the life we are called to, not the life that is called to us.  We have to make these things reality not so the Kingdom can come near but because the Kingdom already has come near.  And those who are invested in the reality of the Kingdom are invested in the reality of human relationships.  And if we are not enjoying those relationships fully, it is because we are not invested fully in those relationships.

This, I think, is the “love” that seems so “new” to us because we have forgotten what it means to truly and fully love.  Love has nothing to do with what we can expect or what we think we can demand; it has everything to do with what we are willing to give.  And give according to what has been given to us.

We must therefore love freely and fully in order to find that elevated standard of enjoyment our Lord has intended for us.  There is no reason for us to be miserable, and there is no biblical call for us to not enjoy discipleship and the relationships encumbent to that life of devotion.  So we must resolve to “give, and it will be given.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.  For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:38).

Glory to You, Lord.  Amen.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Voice of Reason - NOT!

Acts 9:36-43                                                                                                                              Revelation 7:9-17                                                                                                                                       John 10:22-30

“The choice we face is not, as many imagine, between heaven and hell.  Rather, the choice is between heaven and this world.  Even a fool would exchange hell for heaven, but only the wise will exchange this world for heaven.”  - Dave Hunt

I would also add to Mr. Hunt’s observation that we must remember the time for choosing is present and constant.  I also think if we were to connect the reading from John’s Gospel directly to the reading from The Revelation, we may come to understand the context of the “Great Tribulation” or “great ordeal” - that which these who are before the Throne in St. John’s vision had faced and overcome, not succumbed to.

The passage from John’s Gospel beckons disciples into a relationship we do not always understand or fully appreciate.  That is, we have convinced ourselves we need only to identify as “Christian” or as members of a church we offer only lukewarm support to, if even that.  Yet when the full context is understood, we may discover that what Jesus is calling us into may not be as comfortable or even as appealing as we may imagine. 

We will have discovered the so-called “prosperity gospel” at the hands of wealthy TV preachers to be a big, fat lie, and yet it is a lie we have bought into at a base level.  We will have discovered there is a profound difference between discipleship in pursuing things of the Kingdom - and being merely believers (i.e., “cultural Christians”) more fully invested in and devoted to the so-called “American Dream”.

UMC elder JD Walt put it this way when he wrote: “I would have to put myself in the category of those who take Jesus seriously … at the conceptual level, but in reality ... not so much.  So how is it [we] can excuse [ourselves] so readily?  Here’s my theory.  [We] can excuse [ourselves] for inward activity (evil thoughts) that does not lead to outward reality (evil deeds) because [we are] deceived into believing it’s only about me; that [evil thoughts] do not hurt anyone else.  [Our] big problem is [we] think sin is more about [individual] failure than [the injury of others].  [We] think purity [and holiness] are personal issues rather than relational ones.”

It is like the Jewish idea that the “blood crying from the ground” at Abel’s murder may not have been strictly Abel’s own blood as much as it may have been the blood of his line – and The Lord’s own creation - which the world has been denied, entirely obliterated by the will of only one jealous man. 

One cannot help but to think about the “blood” of the tens of millions of unborn children who never saw the light of day, the “blood” which also cries out to The Lord and has entirely “polluted” and “desecrated” this nation (Numbers 35:33; Psalm 106:38). 

The connection is made at a fundamental understanding of the “great ordeal” or the “Great Tribulation” as the life we currently live rather than an obscure concept of a restricted time in the distant future in which the antichrist is active – and we think we will know the antichrist on sight, all evidence to the contrary.

I am more and more convinced we have managed to fool ourselves into believing everything we will face – such as the “great ordeal” – is some future, cataclysmic event we need not prepare ourselves for since it will all be outside our control.  We have managed to convince ourselves that justification without sanctification is entirely our option.  As one preacher (not United Methodist!) put it: we can choose to be seated at the Great Banquet Table – OR – we can settle for merely being a doorkeeper to the Great Banquet Hall. 

Either way, we’re not in hell.  But this goes back to Mr. Hunt’s observation.  No one – not even the demons of hell themselves (Mark 5:10) – would choose hell!  Yet when we are constantly challenged to choose the things of the Kingdom or the creature comforts of this world, we have fully convinced ourselves we can somehow have both despite Jesus’ direct words to the contrary (Luke 16:13).  As JD pointed out, we believe Jesus conceptually … but not really.

It is not always an easy thing to be compared to “sheep” – or the more derogatory term of “sheeple”; alluding to the mindless, reason-free animals who follow Jesus without question in total submission.  We can easily argue we still are in complete control of our faculties and that we are not “mindless” when we follow Jesus, but we are compelled by the Scripture to ask ourselves: Who are these who are before the Throne in The Revelation?  Who are these who devote themselves fully to worship of The Lord in St. John’s vision? 

Are they mere “believers” who once got “saved” or baptized or confirmed but refused afterward the accountability of the Church?  Are they the ones who convinced themselves one does not need to attend worship and be active in the Body of Christ in acts of justice and mercy to be a Christian?  Are they the ones who convinced themselves that salvation/justification precludes a genuine and earnest love for “strangers”, “foreigners/outsiders”, and even one’s enemies? 

Are they among those “believers” who managed to convince themselves Jesus did away with the “old law”, despite Jesus’ direct words to the contrary (Matthew 5:17-18)?  Are these whom St. John sees in his vision the ones who gladly and joyously worship The Lord in the “New Jerusalem” but were entirely indifferent and completely detached in this life?

There is a lot more to Jesus’ words in John’s Gospel than being culturally identified as “Christian”.  The reference to “sheep” is entirely about following Jesus constantly, pursuing only that which the Great Shepherd will lead us to, and foregoing the opportunities we often have to stray from the path and the pasture for what we may believe is greener grass which turns out to be only a septic tank.  Discipleship trusts that what the Great Shepherd leads us to is more than we will ever need and involves desires that flow from the very Heart of Christ Himself … always toward others.

Divine Wisdom defies and confounds human reason (1 Corinthians 1:18), and I think Mr. Hunt takes that into account when he observes that it is the “wise” who will always choose Heaven over this world because it is the “wise” who can discern between that which the world deems good but which the Kingdom of Heaven deems to be spiritual poison

What Jesus is teaching in the Gospel of John and what The Lord reveals in The Revelation is intimately connected in such a way that we very often cannot begin to conceive of.  We reason – only to ourselves because “outsiders” clearly do not believe our shallow witness – and hope there is a measure of truth to the so-called “prosperity Gospel” that we can “name it and claim it” of our heart’s deepest desires without offending The Lord – but failing to realize our deepest desire is to see Heaven’s Gate … but only after we are dead.

Nothing less than the soul of The Holy Church is at stake, but it has nothing to do with the national election; for if our earnest and most profound hope for the future is invested in one candidate or the other, then it may be said we have already strayed completely out of The Great Shepherd’s pasture and are in mortal, spiritual danger. 

Above all else, we must consider whether the Voice of the Great Shepherd drowns out the human “voice of reason” that somehow manages to convince us that where we currently are spiritually is “good enough”.  Our Savior did not settle for anything less than His entire Self given fully in love.  That is the Voice which beckons.  It is the Voice which saves.  Amen.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Need to Know

John 21:1-19

"You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”  Woodrow Wilson

In a well-known political scandal and investigation, we are becoming more and more familiar with “classified” information even though there seems to be no real understanding in the media of what “classified” actually means.  In the case of government and/or military communication, there are various levels of classification that boil down to a “need to know” basis.  “Top Secret”, the highest classification, means very few have a “need to know” … and many more must never know.

Although there are no “secrets” in Christ, there are “mysteries”; and yet disciples have a “need to know”.  What we must come to know, however, is not imparted to us instantaneously at baptism.  What we “need to know” comes only through active engagement and spiritual discipline.  Spiritual growth in discipleship will not come from a void nor can there be real growth based only on what we choose to believe. 

For instance, Jesus is specifically quoted in Matthew’s gospel: “Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets” (Matthew 5:17a).  Yet a general conversation among many Christians may turn about in this way: “Jesus did away with the requirements of the Law”.  It would seem those Christians with such a narrow understanding of Jesus’ life and purpose beyond merely dying “need to know” quite a bit more than they claim to know.

By the same token, it may seem even The Lord has a “need to know” from time to time.  Abraham was called to sacrifice his beloved Isaac in the wilderness.  We know how the story turned out, and we may question whether The Lord had His doubts about Abraham’s fidelity.  A closer look, however, may suggest it was not so much The Lord who needed to know more but perhaps Abraham, in this experience, would come to know more than he had previously known. 

More about The Lord?  Perhaps.  But almost certainly Abraham came to know more about himself … and even more to the point, Abraham came to know more about himself in relation to his God.  And this, I think, is the basis for every thought, every action, every prayer, every tithe, every other offering, and every spoken word of every disciple.  Who are we IN our GOD?

If we are children of the Living God, if we are truly disciples of the Risen Christ, our entire being is informed not strictly on what we think we know about The Lord nor exclusively what we think we know about ourselves.  Our “need to know” is entirely about what we know about ourselves in The Lord.  And all this in accordance with the Written Word.

Peter loved Jesus; of this there can be no doubt.  We have no reason to question this even though we are also aware that in Jesus’ weakest moments Peter failed Him.  What we do not often consider, however, is how deeply Peter failed himself because of what he did not know.  Peter had no doubt about Jesus as the Son of God (Mark 8:29), and Peter even tried to defend Jesus at His arrest (John 18:10).  Peter knew enough about Jesus at the point of risking his life to protect Him as He was arrested.

Yet when the cock crowed, as Jesus predicted would happen (Matthew 26:34), Peter also discovered that as much as he thought he knew about Jesus, he knew very little about himself IN CHRIST.  And this, I think, is what we are finding on the beach when Jesus questioned Peter repeatedly.  Over and over our Lord asked Peter, “Do you love Me?”; and over and over, Peter insisted his love was genuine and true.

After Peter first answered, “Yes, Lord, I love you”, we might have responded in this way: Well, then, why did you bail on Me when I needed you most??  But this was not Jesus’ response.  Jesus’ answer goes deeper, much deeper than a mere one-on-one “personal relationship”.  This passage is generally understood as the “restoration of Peter”, when he was forgiven for denying even knowing Jesus – and this may be so at least on some level – but there has to be more to this exchange if it is going to have any meaning for us … right here … right now … and well beyond this hour of worship.

We and The Lord know we have bailed on Jesus plenty of times, and we’ve often done so as an impulse, as a part of who we really are - as a part of our being that was engaged in a particular moment and answered the best way we knew how.  This was certainly Peter’s response in the face of imminent danger!  Yet even in those moments we did not knowingly deny The Lord or our belief in Him.  Betray Him?  Well, that may be another consideration even though we still certainly did not mean to. 

We did not set out to turn our backs on our Savior, our Lord, our Master.  I think, however, we often act so carelessly and thoughtlessly because even though we think we know ourselves well and we may think we know all we need to know about The Lord – YET we probably do not know much about ourselves IN CHRIST.

In point of fact, it may be considered that when we receive the Eucharist of our Lord, we are not completely engaged in the act itself because we are almost completely unfamiliar with who we are IN CHRIST.  We know – or should know – that the act of receiving the bread and drinking of the Cup is of no effect if we are not fully connected and unwilling to be so intimately connected, but that connection must transcend mere “belief”.

We are, in a manner of speaking, consuming Christ by partaking of His flesh and His blood.  We are internalizing our Lord for spiritual nourishment just as a meal strengthens our own flesh and bones.  This nourishment, however, does not do much for us if we purge the meal as soon as we return to our seats by spiritual neglect.  That is, in failing to even try to understand the fullest meaning of the Sacrament itself.

This is all connected to our own efforts and our most intimate desires.  Just as we teach our children there is always something new to learn, so we must also understand that spiritual growth is not only a matter of learning or memorizing the Bible; it is much more about what we come to know about the Bible, The Lord, and ourselves as all connected.  It is necessary for us to know more and more about ourselves IN CHRIST, how we relate to The Word, and how The Lord feeds and informs our very being in all we say and in all we do.

So when Jesus repeatedly asked Peter about his love for Him, He was not only talking about how much Peter loves Jesus; Peter was being shown how an earnest love for The Lord is to be conveyed in “feeding” and “tending” The Lord’s own flock.  That is, telling the world how much we love Jesus is not going to go very far with them OR with The Lord if we do not also “tend” and “feed” the other of those who also belong to The Lord – whether we think they do or not.

What we “need to know” about The Lord and The Law in the Holy Scriptures is not nearly as important as knowing who we are in The Lord and The Law; for if we are not The Gospel, if we are not striving to become the Good News in all this, there is much more we “need to know”.  And our Lord will show us what we “need to know” … if we let Him.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

The Invitation

As it goes, typically in Protestant churches, toward the end of the worship service, the pastor will issue an “invitation” to the congregation.  Those who desire a relationship with The Lord are invited to come forward and commit themselves to Christ through His Church. 

What is also typical is the invitation to recite the so-called “sinner’s prayer” as a matter of confession with the understanding it is this prayer which summons The Lord to “come into one’s heart” to become one’s “personal” Savior and Lord.

None of this is bad … on the surface.  Yet when we look more closely at the state of the Church today and witness the continuing exodus from the Church of the so-called “none’s” and “done’s”, primarily of the millennial age (18-29), we may discover there is nothing beneath that surface if those who accept the invitation (and those charged with supporting these new catechumens) fail to go deeper.  Accepting this invitation is only the beginning of an exciting, sometimes dangerous, often uncomfortable, yet always fulfilling adventure in discipleship; i.e., following and learning from Jesus through the Written Word.

Having been raised in the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), most of this is still somewhat strange to me even these many years later as a United Methodist pastor.  Not bad, not good; just different.  There is a structure in place in the RCC that maintains a certain - often perceived as rigid - discipline.  Deliberately learning about church doctrine and moving into the Covenant is the essence of the sacramental process in the RCC (Protestants typically refer to this process as “unnecessary works”).  The invitation is answered at baptism when parents vow to bring their children into the Covenant and become active partners with the Church in rearing their children as disciples of Christ. 

My observation goes a little further than to assess the value of the Protestant invitation.  I’m wondering which way the invitation should be understood.

The typical invitation is to “invite Jesus” into one’s heart with the implied expectation that Jesus will magically transform one’s life with no effort on the part of the one inviting Jesus in.  I cannot say this is how it is preached or taught, but I can say with relative certainty that this is often how it seems to be understood; let Jesus do the work with one’s heart, and everything else will fall into place.  In other words, Jesus will follow us rather than that we are to learn to follow Jesus.

What if catechumens (new disciples) understood this invitation as it is biblically pronounced (“Seek The Lord while He may be found”)?  What if catechumens were taught there is a standing Covenant into which we are invited?  What if we all admitted that Jesus does not and will not separate Himself from that Covenant to follow us?  What if catechumens were treated by the Church (and parents!) as “students” who have much to learn and a profound need to learn more than the “coat-of-many-colors-fairy-tales”, that what they (and we) need to know will not be magically imparted to recipients unwilling to receive its terms?  What if the Church were to hold these new disciples (and parents!) accountable, just as a public school teacher holds each student accountable? 

The information is there, but one must delve into that information and engage in the work of learning as worthy of our attention and efforts while respecting the wisdom of the teachers.  Doing the work and actively participating in the learning process is how the knowledge is internalized to ideally become a part of the student’s learning process and of the student’s life.  Students typically understand this.  They may not like it, but they get it.  Though they may hope otherwise, students generally know if they do not do the work they will not make the grade.

So how can it be that we somehow seem to think this does not apply to discipleship studies in actively “seeking”?  How is it that the Church has allowed a very shallow notion that “getting saved” settles everything?  This is not to diminish in any way the power of The Lord to do wondrous things with individual lives!  The Lord has certainly done a work in my own heart; and though I may be “bound for the Promised Land” by my own desire and the “hope that is within me”, I also know holiness as “spiritual perfection” is not merely given but embraced in one’s own life (Matthew 19:16-21) by active participation.  There is always something new to learn about The Lord and His Word.  I know I am not “holy” (perfect, complete) and thus worthy of Heaven’s Gate, but I also know the potential is there and that with The Lord’s help, holiness is possible as Gabriel and Jesus both declare (Luke 1:37; Mark 10:27).

The Church is at a critical crossroads, and I know every individual church lives in fear of losing members – even members who do not tithe, do not participate in any discipleship studies, and rarely attend worship services.  The churches are even more afraid of confronting these marginal members for fear that any push may be the one that causes them to leave for good.  Yet we fail to understand that “tolerance” (the pop culture word-of-the-day) without accountability cannot be biblically or doctrinally justified as “love”.  We also seem not to understand that the strength of the community is compromised and ultimately diminished when that community’s standards are not faithfully taught, faithfully upheld, and faithfully maintained with integrity.

This is the heart of Covenant.  There are standards of holiness, standards of discipleship, and reasonable standards of expectation for those who are invited in (which should be everyone!) or who ask to become a part of that Covenant.  These standards also apply (perhaps even more so, cf Luke 12:47-48) to those who propose to teach and to lead. 

The sad fact, however, is there will be those who will decide for themselves they do not wish to be a part of that Covenant.  They want to be “saved” (who does not want to go to Heaven??), but they demand salvation only on their own terms as they “summon” Jesus to come into their hearts rather than to accept the wide-open invitation to enter into the Heart of Christ through His Church, His congregation, His people, His very Body. 

It is likely these have been taught from an early age by a careless church pursuing “popularity” and being “relevant” (rather than fidelity and holiness) that salvation on human terms is possible.  Since it is biblically expressed as The Lord’s will that all be saved (Ezekiel 18:23; 1 Timothy 2:4), it may be implied that The Lord will soften His demands and compromise His expectations of a holy people for the sake of becoming a “personal” Savior to one who so “summons” Him.

We must never forget it is The Lord who summons us in and through Christ Jesus.  It is The Lord who invites, and it is The Lord alone who saves – but we must be willing participants in our transformation by doing the work asked of The Lord’s people … on The Lord’s terms: “For your Father knows of your needs before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).

Let the invitation stand, but let us not be confused about the nature or direction of this invitation.  We are encouraged by Christ Jesus to “seek”, to “ask”, and to “knock”.  Never are we told The Lord may be summoned by us on our terms as a fairy tale genie who grants wishes and fulfills our commands.  The standing invitation from our God is to find what we are ultimately looking for, what we were created to desire above all else, who we really are in Him.  His is an open invitation to come as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us as we once were; for this is when Eternity begins.