Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Half a Cup of Jesus

I'd like half a cup of Jesus, please.  Only half a cup.
That's just enough to wash away my sins and give me life.
Just enough to let me sleep at night and figure I'm all right.
Half a cup is about right for what I think I need.
Just enough for heaven later, but not enough to challenge me,
Not enough to slow me down or puncture my self-will.

I like Jesus to be my friend and helper and give me what I need,
Perhaps that health-and-wealth idea and maybe whiter teeth.
It's handy thinking he loves me and gives me life forever,
I just don't want to think about him interfering with life now.
If I had more of Jesus I'm afraid my life would change,
I might have to give up habits that are so comforting to me,
And be more generous and kind, and maybe forgive my spouse.
I'd have to read my Bible, or volunteer at church,
Or try to help the homeless or the poor out of the lurch.

If I had more than half a cup of Jesus, I'm afraid
I might be pressed to talk to friends about my faith.
I might be tempted to go on mission trips or even across town
And give up my vacation to build a house for someone else.
I might have to stop watching some TV, or stop my drinking then,
Or speak more kindly to my spouse or help the neighbor kids.

No, half a cup is just the thing -- half a cup, no more.
I don't want people thinking I'm one of those Jesus freaks
That actually believes he loves my neighbor, and so should I.
I might get funny looks or lose my reputation
By telling people Jesus died to save them, and every nation.

Half a cup of Jesus is all that I can manage.
In fact a quarter-cup might be more like it; do you want the rest of mine?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cats and God, part 2

If you don't know, the McCulleys recently adopted two kittens.  It's been a lot of fun to see them learn their way around the house and create toys out of all kinds of things I didn't expect.

When we got them, they both had colds so we had to take them to the vet. The vet assured us that humans and cats don't infect each other, because we are different kinds of beings.  That was helpful, because I was concerned we would catch what they had.

In somewhat the same way, God is a completely different being from us -- completely 'other' than we are. He is the Creator, but he is uncreated, and outside of his creation. We can never be 'god,' because we are created beings, utterly distinct from him.

But by the incarnation of the Son as Jesus, God entered the creation, and our state of being! The uniqueness of Jesus Christ is that, although the Son of God (uncreated and eternal) he also took on the same flesh that we have.  By doing that, his unique union of God and flesh enables us to become children of the Father. Jesus Christ is the Father's Son by nature as God; and because of his birth into human flesh, we are the children of the Father by adoption through Jesus.

We read this in Ephesians 1:3-5 "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.  Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure."  Because of what the Son did by becoming flesh, due to God's decision before time and creation began, we are His.  And although we will never be God as God is God, we are adopted into the circle of love that exists within the Trinity, and we will experience that love forever.

We can't cure our kitties' colds; we have to give them medicine and wait.  But because the Son entered our world, our humanity and our mortality is cured forever:  As Hebrews 2:14 says:  "Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death."  

Our death is swallowed up in Jesus' death, and his resurrection ensures our future life.  What a wonderful life we will have forever with God, because of his Son! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cats and God, part 1

The McCulley household once more includes cats, by name Haley and Susie. They are cute, I must admit, even though I'm not a cat lover. They do what cats do -- eat, sleep, play ChasePounce, stretch, test their claws on the furniture, and so forth. It's easy to see that they are cats; they act like cats. And the reverse is true: if I see claw marks on something, I know they've been around -- clawing is one of those things cats do (and I don't).

It's like that as we come to know God. We can know God by what he does (I don't care how many meteorological explanations there are for a sunset, God makes them!), and by what he tells us he is like in the Bible. And we can be sure that what we are told about him is not only true, it's according to his nature -- to who he really is in his being.

God told us a lot about himself in the Hebrew scriptures, what Christians usually call the Old Testament. But as the opening verses of Hebrews (the epistle in the New Testament) say, now God has spoken to us directly: "Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son." However, more than his speaking, but in his very essence, Jesus the Christ was the person of God among us: "The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven."

If I want to know what cats are like, I watch cats. If I want to know what God is like, I watch Jesus, because he wasn't just a representative from God, he was and is God. That's why Jesus could say to Philip, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" in John 14:9. Jesus wasn't an apparition, he wasn't an angel, he wasn't an exalted human, he wasn't just a special teacher -- he was (and remains) God in the flesh. He deserves all honor and glory and praise because he is God. And on top of that, we have an eternal debt of gratitude to him because he did us the eternal favor of dying to pay the penalty of all sin, so we could enter into shared life with him.

God really is who he reveals himself to be through the Son. We can fully trust that Jesus truly reveals the will and character of the Father, and his love for us. The surprise, when we finally get to see God, will be in the sheer magnitude of his person; not in what he is like. That, we already know, through the Son. Hallelujah!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Wearily, the donkey trudged through the dusty streets of the little town. His journey had been long, more than a week walking up and down the hills on well-worn trails. Familiar smells of other animals, clean straw and grain came to him, promising comfort after his long trek.

The man and woman with him were just as hopeful of rest and provision. Mary had been feeling strong contractions all day, and was getting anxious to lie down and let her labor begin in earnest. She was still a young woman, well under 20 years of age, but she knew plenty about these things. Joseph, wearing a cloak over his common workman's clothing, had been hearing his young wife alternately hiss and sigh during the afternoon, and knew those were urgent signs. But everywhere he had stopped that evening, he had been turned away.

Joseph had been sure, coming to the town where his grandfather had been a well-known citizen, that he would be welcomed by kinfolk. But the town was full for the Roman census, and and every door had been shut, firmly and sometimes unkindly, in his face. Did his relatives know that Mary's pregnancy had started before their wedding? Rumors travel a long way, even by foot, and the whole village of Nazareth had known of the pregnancy. Not even an innkeeper would take them in to earn a few shekels, but finally a kindly villager offered them room in the animal shelter cut into the rock face behind his simple home. There, during the night, Immanuel was born, welcomed by a few animals, his parents, and all the hosts of heaven.

This scene is not only history but a picture of a greater reality. Both at his birth and later during his ministry, his own people didn't accept Jesus. He was reviled as an illegitimate child, rejected as a teacher who challenged the authorities, and generally not welcomed. So, the question inevitably comes from the Bible teacher, does the hearer or the reader offer this Jesus 'room in your heart'? That's a good question, as far as it goes.

A little background, for clarity: by becoming flesh, God inseparably united all people with himself in a way they had never yet experienced. So in one sense, all people are already in God's heart; but God is not yet active in the hearts of all people. As a lot of teachers have explained over the centuries, that door -- like the doors of the homes and inns in Bethlehem that night -- opens from the inside only. God doesn't force anyone to love him; but he desires intimacy with you so much that his only son died to make it possible (John 3:16-17). So the question is legitimate -- have you opened the door to let him in?

But wait (like in those TV ads) there's more -- which room have you let Jesus into? And which ones, in the house of your mind and life, are still closed? Which rooms are you still guarding, through unwillingness or shame, from God who knows about them anyway? Jesus has already died and been raised, to wipe out the sins and weaknesses we try to hide by not admitting them. The only solution to all the things in life we can't solve, is to give them up to the God who came to be with us, and is still with us (see Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25).

Revelation 3:20 says: “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends." Today would be a good day to open all the rest of those doors, wouldn't it?