Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Intimacy Before Incarnation
Intimacy Before Incarnation
I asked, “What is the church supposed to do?”
He answered, “The church is supposed to do what Jesus told it to do.”
Every therapist needs a therapist.
It’s hard to help heal if we’re not being healed.
It’s like churches.
Before churches tell others how Jesus can help them to get along better, it’s a good idea for churches to get along better by trying Him.
It’s one of those practice what you preach things; or as Eric Clapton sings, “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself.”
Before we tell people how to fix their problems, let’s fix our own.
Jesus was especially humbling, “Stop speck-inspecting! Take the lumber out of your eyes and then you’ll see clearly enough to help remove the slivers from theirs!”
It’s the only other thing I recall from the shrink at one of the places where I studied who helped me to understand the etiology of especially irascible, irregular, and irreconcilable people: “Problem people are usually constipated. That’s why they dump on you.”
Helpful therapists are salty.
They’ll sprinkle the salt that stings to save; or as the old priest said to the young priest in Georges Bernanos’ The Diary of a Country Priest, “Salt stings on an open wound but saves you from gangrene.”
That’s why counseling, especially with families and marriages and wherever two or three are not always gathered in His name, can often cause more conflict than healing at the start.
Digging up the roots below the surface is the best way to get rid of the weeds; but it means getting dirty and it’s rarely without blisters and blood.
Yeah, we can get a script; and maybe that’ll be the bridge to better times. Band-aids stop bleeding; but more often than not, only surgery can heal deep wounds.
God as well as anyone else not stoned knows churches are dying.
It doesn’t take Barna or Gallup to convince us.
Anybody who can’t see churches are past the Band-aid stage and need surgery reminds me of people who think elephants are mice with glandular problems.
While I may be wrong, I think one of the big reasons for dying churches is their lack of purpose.
Ricky is right.
To be more precise, however, churches are dying because they lack His purpose.
One of the sadder things in too many of today’s churches is their quest for relevancy.
In their occasional prayers being drowned by endless meetings, conferences, consultations, workshops, organizational charts and re-structuring and data and survey results and other human ingenuities that continue to accelerate their spiraling decline to irrelevancy and extinction, they plead as they search for their raison d’etre so often overshadowed or masked by their collective ego-driven “claim to fame” lust.
They want to be distinctly, remarkably, materially, and fiscally distinguishable with their ecclesiastical cheerleaders shouting in the background: “S-U-C-C-E-S-S! That’s the way you spell success!”
They want incarnation proving they’re tight with God.
While wanting to prove a personally saving relationship in concrete ways is a good thing – a common theme of the apostle who got it from Jesus – incarnation never precedes intimacy.
Intimacy with Jesus is the prerequisite of incarnation in/through/for Jesus.
Before we can do what we’re supposed to do for Jesus, we’ve got to be so intimate and close and tight and breathing-as-one-heart with Him that we finally experience Him like the apostle: “It is no longer I who live but it is Jesus living in and through me.”
A church’s “claim to fame” or raison d’etre can never be incarnated before or apart from the intimacy with Him that yields revelation of predestined incarnation.
The general purpose of a church is to know Him (intimacy) and then make Him known (incarnation).
The particular purpose of a church is to know Him and then make Him known by knowing Him so well that the particulars of making Him known are spiritually and supernaturally discerned before/then designed in classroom, conference, board room, around a coffee table, or wherever.
It is “on earth as it is in heaven” when we start in heaven not earth; or as the apostle urged, “Seek the things that are above where He is so that you know what to do on earth.”
Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then God will take care of everything else.”
First things first.
Intimacy before/precedes incarnation.
Let me put it another way.
When I asked a friend/pastor to tell me about the purpose of his church, he said, “We are trying to be the presence of God in our family of faith and for our community.”
Immediately, the Tabernacle of Exodus came to mind.
The Tabernacle was a tentlike structure that was to be God’s dwelling place among His people; and each part of the Tabernacle including the Ark of the Covenant, Mercy Seat, Table of Showbread, Golden Lampstand, and all of the rest symbolized God’s care, concern, and overcoming of worldliness.
Remembering how Grandpa Jacob Kopp always warned me about missing the forest for the trees, I’m not going to spend a great deal of time talking about the metaphors and spiritual lessons of each part of the Tabernacle; for as one of my more helpful professors once said, “You can’t build faith on broken pickle jars.”
Yet, it is important to note two really important lessons from the Tabernacle for time and eternity.
First, wherever it moved, God was there; and today that means God is in/through/for everyone when His people tabernacle or do church. When God’s people are intimate with Him, their gatherings tabernacle or incarnate His presence in all things at all times in all places with all people.
Second, just as God gave very precise instructions to Moses about the building, contents, and use of the Tabernacle, God’s people are tabernacling or incarnating His presence through intimate knowledge of Him as best known in Jesus by the book. Any deviation, detour, distraction, distancing, or dissing of intimacy with God by grace through faith in Jesus inhibits incarnation of the Godly.
Not long after Jerry Kirk, pastor of Cincinnati, Ohio’s College Hill Presbyterian Church before founding the National Coalition Against Pornography and the Religious Alliance Against Pornography, told me churches are supposed to do what Jesus told them to do, he explained how he was called into the crusade against pornography.
Seeing how families were being destroyed in his church by pornography, he screamed out, “Oh, God! Why don’t you do something?”
God replied, “Why don’t you do something?”
His intimacy provoked the interrogative that provided the exclamation that evolved into the incarnation.
If we want to know God’s will for our lives, it’s not that hard to figure out.
We get to know Him through Jesus by the book as guided by the Holy Spirit.
The more we get to know Him through Jesus by the book, the more we’ll make Him known through our lives, marriages, families, churches, and all of the below.
Again/always, intimacy before/precedes incarnation.
Those who know Him intimately, make Him known incarnationally.
More or less.
So if we really want to know what we’re supposed to be doing for Christ’s sake, we’ve go to move close enough to hear Him.
Blessings and Love!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!