Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                          August 18, 2008
The God Who Is
My Reflections
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One Thing LogoBelieve it or not, most fabricate a "Jesus" that isn't inline with reality. The picture on the right, for example, was the Jesus I grew up with: white, strong, kinda Hollywood. Images, however, only illustrate a larger, deeper problem; notions of Jesus are often fabricated, too (e.g. Protestant Jesus, Catholic Jesus). Philip Yancey, in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, exposes such notions and seeks to reconstruct the Jesus that is. Why's this important? For two reasons. First, if it's a Christian's desire to be like Jesus, then it stands to reason that faulty notions of Jesus won't do. Second, if the Jesus we're sharing with others isn't the real Jesus, then we're peddling an imposter...and that's how "religions" get started.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: The importance of knowing the real Jesus
The God Who Is 
Excerpt from Exclusion & Embrace by Miroslav Volf
One Thing LogoIn a world whose order rests on violence we instinctively grasp for the resurrected Messiah who was given all power in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:20). Not that we find no use for the crucified one. We only insist on a clear division of labor between the crucified one and the resurrected one. The crucified Messiah is good for the inner world of our souls tormented by guilt and abandonment. He is the Savior who dies in our place to take away our sins and liberate our conscience; he is the fellow sufferer who holds our hands as we walk through the valley of tears. But for the outer world of our embodied selves, where interests clash with interests and power crosses sword with power, we feel we need a different kind of Messiah-"the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords," who will make our wills unbending, our arms strong, our swords sharp. Superimposed on the image of the helpless Messiah hanging on the cross is the image of the victorious Rider on the white horse, his eyes "like a flame of fire" and his "robe dipped in blood," coming "to tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty" (Revelation 19:11-17). We will believe in the Crucified, but we want to march with the Rider (Volf 1996:276).

My Reflections
Many times I find myself praying to a portion of God. If I'm in need of making ends meet, for example, I often find myself praying to the God who provides. And no, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Abraham, for example, exclaimed "Jehovah-jireh" (and rightly so) when God provided an alternate sacrifice on Mount Moriah (Gen 22:14). Oftentimes that's precisely how we come to know the God who is: by experience.
But what about praying to the God who sits on his hands and does nothing? I sincerely doubt that's the God Martha prayed to just before Lazarus died. No, in all likelihood, Martha prayed to "Jehovah-rophe," the God that heals. But God didn't heal Lazarus, did he? No, Jesus chose to stay away, to sit on his hands. Jesus, in fact, did nothing. And it hurt Martha.
Here's a good question. Do you think Martha prayed to the God who resurrects immediately following Lazarus's death? My guess? Probably not, because Martha's image of God didn't yet include this marvelous truth: Jesus is the resurrection and the life!

All the above is to make this simple point: it's important to be aware that our images of Jesus are often skewed. What's the remedy? Stay immersed in the Bible. If we don't we become increasingly susceptible to engaging and proclaiming a "false" god that's nothing more than either a figment of our imagination or the imaginings of a charismatic leader. Either way, not good.
Part of the point of "organic" church life is to multiply communicators, not listeners. It's incumbent on us, then, as followers of King Jesus, to proclaim the God who is and not the god who isn't.
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table