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Get out of the boat… Jesus is calling.

I’ve been leading our summer term crowd at Origin Church through a series on Peter. More specifically we have been considering how Jesus moves, disciples, and shepherds Peter. In my mind the series is all about “How the Carpenter Shepherds the Fisherman.” We are discovering clues into how Jesus will disciple us!

Last week I serendipitously rediscovered John Ortberg’s book, If You Want to Walk On Water, You’ve Got  to Get Out of the Boat. He has wonderful observations about our view on failure and the negative take we often have on Peter. Here’s what Ortberg writes:

Did Peter fail?

Well, I suppose in a way he did. His faith wasn’t strong enough. His doubts were stronger. “He saw the wind.” He took his eyes off of where they should have been He sank. He failed.

But here is hawt I think. I think there were elven bigger failures sitting in the boat. They failed quietly. They failed privately. Their failure went unnoticed, unobserved, uncriticized. Only Peter knew the shame of public failure.

 

But only Peter knew two other things as well. Only Peter knew the glory of walking on the water. He alone knew what it was to attempt to do what he was not capable of doing on his own, then feeling the euphoria of being empowered by God to actually do it. Once you walk on the water, you never forget it–not for the rest of your life. I thin Peter carried that joyous moment with him to his grave.

 

And only Peter knew the glory of being lifted up by Jesus in a moment of desperate need. Peter knew, in a way the others could not, that when he sank, Jesus would be wholly adequate to save him. He had a shared moment, a shared connection, a shared trust in Jesus that none of the others had.

 

They couldn’t, because they didn’t even get out of the boat. The worst failure is not to sink in the waves. The worst failure is to never get out of the boat.

 

Hey, get out of the boat! Jesus shows up in our storms and our struggles. When we get a glimpse of Him in them and want to be with Him and in on what He is doing in the world, call out to Him. If He says, “Come on,” then get out of the boat and follow Him! Peter’s heart, his affection for Jesus, drew Him to pursue Jesus in spite of the storm and the waves. When Peter’s head caught up he had to engage faith in Jesus on a new level — and as we will see Jesus faithfully showed up!

 

It seems that more growth with Jesus happens “outside” the proverbial boat — that circle of comfort — that circle of anonymity — that circle of familiar people and practices —  than in it!

Jesus leads the way to doing good

In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. This posture toward Jesus fortifies us for all kinds of trouble. Peter knew the difference upholding Jesus as Lord in the heart can make. Peter knew the moments when things didn’t go well for him by his own failure; he knew those moments when his heart had lost courage. But he also knows now the power of Christ risen from the dead in his life.

 

So it is with complete confidence that he calls out to the followers of Jesus to not give into the pressure to comprise the life-giving press against the death and decay of the world. Who can really harm you in your life is in Christ? Who can really harm if your soul is secure in Him? Jesus has conquered death! He is at the right hand of His Father in heaven in which all powers are in submission to Him.

 

Setting apart Christ as Lord.

To trust in Him we must see His glory outweighing all we fear to bear. To not trust is do with fear. To be controlled by fear is to not be secure in the love of Christ. So take the time, carve out the space in your day, even now to “set apart Christ as Lord in your hearts.” Lay your affections, dreams, ambitions, and fears before Him. He will fortify your soul!
1 Peter 3:13-22; NIV

13Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”

15But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

17For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

 

You may ask me for anything

Photo Credit: Peter Clarkson

Jesus has authorized his disciples to ask Him for “anything.” This pleases God the Father, for to ask Jesus glorifies the Father. Jesus’ intent has always been to glorify the Father. And now, he authorizes his disciples to ask Him for “anything” for they too are glorifying the Father by living immersed in the name of Jesus.


10
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.12Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.  John 14:10-14 NIV

 

What is the boundary of “anything?” Is this a blank cheque for our own pleasure, for our selfish interests, for own kingdom-building enterprises?

 

We know the answer. “Anything” is bound by the work of Jesus, living in us, and doing His work. “Anything” is bound by the name of Jesus. “Anything” is bound by the character of Jesus.

 

The character and work of Jesus is large but it does have a character that is not like the world. I do not expect that we can exhaust the realm of “anything.” We are probably not yet asking for enough, because we are distracted from the work He would do in us and in the world around us. So I’m back to believing and with believing comes surrender. Do I believe Him? Have I surrendered all my life, my relationships, my ambitions, my dreams to Him. I must surrender my will and my doing — so Jesus can do it. Have I surrendered? Have I asked, so he can do more than I can ask or imagine?

“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:14

 

Good News for Intellectual Inquiry

photo credit: Jaie Miller

I’ve been thinking about intellectual inquiry and my Christian experience as a person of faith. Six recent experiences have catalyzed my thinking about the topic:.

Conversations with students in my Life Group at UBC.
Reading Scott McKnight and Dennis R. Venema — Adam and the Genome.
My disappointment elicited by ecclesial pragmatism.
Praying through the text for the latest Origin Church gathering. Luke 24:13-35, The Emmaus Road.
Reading Allister McGrath, Inventing the Universe.
Pondering the most recent Angus Reid report, Religion in Canada – 150.

 

It’s tempting to believe that intellectual inquiry, especially our own, is a solitary experience and can be a pure experience of reason. We may imagine going off by ourselves into the wilds of the Canadian wilderness. But “by ourselves” is an illusion. I say that even as a baptist, a protestor. Such theological independence is an illusion fuelled at its worst by pride but at its best perhaps by a more hopeful motive – a yearning for purity of thought and a desire to live well and close to Christ.

 

The intellectual survivalist imagines what it would be like to come to truth by themselves. I believe they stand to delude themselves into believing they are the solitary champions of truth. These intellectual Christopher Knights dive into the woods, avoiding people of faith, when in truth they are dependent on other people of faith for their survival. Christopher Knight was recently upheld as one who survived alone for 27 years. But he didn’t survive alone. His independence and isolation actually required the enterprising provision of 100 other families. In fact his solitary experience of 27 years required a community, even be it an unwilling community. In relation to them he lived as a parasite. (I think my catholic and orthodox friends may have a field day with this metaphor… but I’ve put it out there anyway. He smiles.)

 

Intellectual inquiry doesn’t happen in a vacuum of pure reason. Intellectual inquiry occurs in the interplay between what we think and what we experience. Its a process but not a linear process. If we are honest about the intellectual process of inquiry its best seen as a cyclical process in which we poke into a matter, retreat into consideration, poke into a matter again and retreat into consideration, poke again with others, and then retreat with others for consideration, and then we land on or in a statement of ______. (You fill in the blank.  Its tempting to believe its a statement of reason. But on the matters that truly matter — justice, love, purpose — you land on a statement of faith. Reason from scientific “fact,” as Allister McGrath notes, actually has a very small landing area.) Intellectual inquiry may indeed have its moments of serendipity and even ecstasy, but most often its a prolonged agony, especially as we test out, idealize and realize the statement of faith we will adjust our lives to in response to Jesus Christ.

 

Why prolonged agony: Faith seeking understanding.

Anselm introduced the phrase which we can use to describe the process by which persons of faith move forward with reason in their life of faith. I am proposing its use in the most relational and faith-full of ways. Faith seeking understanding is personal. Personal and communal faith seeking understanding is constantly agitated by the question of truth. Although we declare and may experience the confession, “my faith has found a resting place,” this process sets us up with a persistent willingness to not only tolerate disruption but to also engage the disruption with Christ and grow in Him.

We enter Christian faith via the person of Jesus Christ. Inquiry is an enterprise in which we commune with Him allowing ourselves to be taught by the Resurrected Lord Jesus and drawn to participate in His Kingdom as dearly loved citizen-family-sojourner-friends. While there are many questions that may be settled in our lives by faith in Christ, there is usually something just around the corner to stir us up: our stage and season of life; the questions raised by the city we live in; new discoveries or perspectives in science; a reading of Scripture; a traumatic experience; the inquiry of other persons of faith. All these can disrupt our peace and ease of faith thus pushing us to enter into the agony again of intellectual inquiry.

 

I find the Emmaus Road text helpful for framing some of my expectations for intellectual inquiry. I am enthralled with the image of Christ accompanying us in the journey of life. There are several relationships at play here: me with others, us with Christ, and me with Christ. Furthermore this framing accepts  intellectual inquiry as an active process (a journey) strung out over time, punctuated with rest and with a movement between community and solitude. Three processes can be engaged as intellectual inquiry:

 
1. Identifying unmet or crushed expectations. Here we are trying to understand what makes no sense to me; this requires that we identify my expectations being challenged by reality. This is most often accomplished when the community asks me personal questions and waits for my answers. I may not have yet given voice to the reality I’m facing and I may not have yet actually named the unmet expectations. On the Emmaus Road, the “unknown companion” (who we as readers know is the Resurrected Jesus) leads them into inquiry. “What are you discussing among yourselves?” Their answers reveal unmet expectations and realities they are trying to comprehend. They were trying to make sense of that which made no sense to them. Their expectations of Jesus of Nazareth as the redeemer of Israel were unmet, for Jesus was crucified. (It was traumatic.) Their expectations that it was all over when Jesus died on the Cross were overturned by the women’s proclamation that Jesus is alive. Intellectual inquiry has to take hold of both matters: new realities and unmet expectations.

 

2. Welcoming strangers or even people we know as companions who teach/explain from the wealth of their pool of knowledge. Intellectual inquiry welcomes the company of people who can shine a light on our ignorance or on the shape of our mental map of reality without annihilating our own agency or participation in the process. On the Emmaus Road, the unrecognized Jesus becomes not only their fellow traveler but also their rabbi. He challenges the foolishness of their picture of the Messiah. He truly rocks their boat; he creates more disequilibrium and in so doing creates the space to learn something they didn’t yet comprehend. (He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”) Although they had the “right Scriptures” they had the wrong picture of the Messiah and thus had created the wrong expectations about the outcomes God desired. The Messiah had to suffer and then enter His glory. That was a different picture. So beginning with the Scriptures which they “knew” he explained to them what they did not yet see.  Their seven mile walk must have gone quickly! The two travellers invited their teacher to remain with them longer and share a meal; they were inviting further consideration and relationship.

 

3. Receiving grace to recognize and authorize Jesus as Lord so we become His witness.

Now Jesus does not require our authorization to be Lord. He is Lord. He has received the name that is above all names that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. However, in relationship to Jesus in this life He is actually the initiator of intellectual inquiry. Jesus Himself approached the travellers with questions to stimulate their inquiry with Him. And in so doing, Jesus seems to not really be interested in making sure these two travellers make it to Emmaus. Jesus is truly interested in giving them the grace to recognize Him as the Resurrected One and become His witness. Intellectual inquiry does not need to cease with the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as Lord of All. It needs to begin and to continue. These two travellers, Cleopas and the unnamed disciple, return to Jerusalem quickly to report to the others that Jesus is alive. They are witnesses now to the Resurrected Lord. Their repentance, their change of mind, their authorization of Jesus as Lord, is quickly translated into their return to Jerusalem and their testimony among the disciples as His witness.

 

There is good news for intellectual inquiry: Christ is Risen. For the follower of Jesus, every venture into intellectual inquiry if it is in the company of Jesus as Lord can find its culmination in communion. Though we may be tempted to build hollow identities on intellect, or on the prevailing virtues of our academy, or perhaps even on being a hostage of our deathly doubts, the Spirit of God woos us to recognize Jesus and become a participant in His death and His resurrection. I don’t need to fear the disruptions of unmet expectations and confounding realities. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.” However, I do need company for intellectual inquiry. And I do need to comprehend Christ in ten thousand places.

 
This is the grace we desire. Lord, help my unbelief.
The is the joy of the Lord. Lord, warm my heart to you.
This is life redeemed. Lord, you!

Praying with Patrick


It’s St. Patrick’s Day. Here is a part of a famous prayer attributed to Patrick. I encourage you to pray with Patrick today. Take a moment now to pause and pray:

 

I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s host to secure me–
against snares of devils,
against inclination of nature,
against everyone who shall
wish me ill, afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd.

 

Christ to protect me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit,
Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness,
through confession of the Oneness towards the Creator.

 

Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ.
May Thy salvation, O Lord, be ever with us. AMEN.

 

This prayer is part of the Breastplate of St. Patrick, missionary to Ireland.  Born 385 AD in England.  Enslaved in Ireland at age 16.  Escaped but returned to Ireland to proclaim the way of Jesus.  Died March 17, 461.