#275

We all like the Psalms, the way David and others so poetically describe God and their relationship with him. But it’s another thing altogether to experience those truths, to own them, and know them. I guess that’s the way it is with the Bible as a whole. I mean really, you can know a lot about it and still know nothing at all. True biblical knowledge, true Theology is relational, and anything short of that is just empty religious gnosis.

I think that we as American Christians are entering a time in which, like never before, we are going to have to experience the reality of the biblical story in our own context or we may fail to survive. The trials, conflicts, and economic uncertainty that lie ahead will require more than an ability to quote scripture and recite biblical promises.  We must know that YES, “Your steadfast love O Lord is better than life.” Our hearts will only experience true peace when, “The Lord is with me, whom shall I fear?” is reality. We need to know that the faithful caring intimacy of God is indeed more valuable than having a fat bank account and a retirement package. And believe it or not, many of the trials we are experiencing right now are the very tools with which the Holy Spirit is making real the things we only think we know.

The reality is that in the Christian life, usually, it is in the midst of conflict that we learn and maturation occurs. The battles we are encountering today are preparing us for the wars still to come. As we walk with God, relational experience makes objective truth subjective reality.  Biblical truth becomes our own as we walk with God and comprehend his love in our own experience. It’s how we come to “know that we know.”

“…even though you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations. This is no accident—it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold, and gold, as you know, even though it is ultimately perishable, must be purified by fire. This proving of your faith is planned to bring you praise and honour and glory in the day when Jesus Christ reveals himself. And though you have never seen him, yet I know that you love him. At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express and which has in it a hint of the glories of Heaven; and all the time you are receiving the result of your faith in him—the salvation of your own souls.”

 

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Jesus Wears Nike

“Pressure pushing down on me

Pressing down on you no man ask for

Under pressure…”

In the odyssey of life, the saying, “Anything can happen.” is proven true over and over again. And it seems like the “anything” that can happen tends to happen at the worse time possible. Thus, the old adage, “When it rains it pours.” Relationships we thought would never change are sometimes dissolved in such a manner that it makes our heads spin. Sickness, death, misfortune, work situations, you name it; it can all happen at any time. Living in the tension of these moments causes pressure. We feel restricted and confined, bound in such a narrow place, it’s hard to move. Pressure bears down and continues to tighten until we feel riveted to the ground. Thus, another old saying, “Getting the screws put to you.” Whether it’s self-inflicted, perpetuated by others, or a “combo-meal,” sooner or later; life will hit you smack in the mouth. And we have all sorts of ways by which we try to overcome the pressure and find peace. The thing is, most of our ways don’t work or are temporary at best. We too often forget that Someone has faced the pressure, beat it and offers his victory to us.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

 

Jesus himself assured us that we would have “tribulation” in the world. That word “tribulation” means: pressure (what constricts or rubs together), used of a narrow place that “hems someone in”; tribulation, especially internal pressure that causes someone to feel confined (restricted, “without options”). But the cool thing is that Jesus took all the pressures that life has to give and has overcome the world. He said, “I have νενίκηκα (nenikēka) the world.” Yeah, you recognize the middle part of that Greek word. It’s “nike,” which means “victory.” Jesus had on his Nike long before the shoe company was ever thought of, and he has shared his victory with us. He assumed the totality of the human experienced (even death) and says to us that we can have peace, despite the pressure-in him.

The “in him” is more than just some ethereal concept. Actually, we know what it means and use it all of the time. Think of it this way: In love songs, we hear all the time lyrics such as, “Oh baby, in you I’ve found everything I’ve ever wanted.” Well, that implies relationship. Two people are sharing their lives together. They walk in each other’s shoes. They are “in” each other if you will. They walk, talk, live, love and simply do life together. The pressure that affects one affects the other. The husband and wife have actually become one and they have peace by just being together. Ask a guy and he’ll tell you that no matter what happens, knowing that his wife loves him somehow makes it bearable. Well that’s kind of like the idea of “in him.” Us in Jesus, him in us, living, loving, doing life as one. “In me you may have peace.”

Yep, Jesus wears Nike, and he wants us to walk in him, experiencing his victory and peace. Oh yeah, in this world there will always be pressure. But guess what; Daddy’s got a brand new pair of shoes!!

Wax on Wax off

Maybe I’m a little touched as they say, but riding down I-85 this afternoon, I began to see similarities between the relationship of Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-Son in the “Karate Kid,” and the way God’s Spirit works in the life of the believer as He conforms him to the image of Christ.

Remember how Daniel came to Mr. Miyagi? He came as a broken, bullied kid, believing that Mr. Miyagi would show him the secrets of martial arts. Daniel was thrilled to have this wonderful teacher, this savior who would show him how to defend himself. It seemed like Daniel figured that it wouldn’t take long and he’d be a master. He had preconceived ideas as to what the teacher student relationship looked like, and the methods the teacher should use to bring him along. Not so fast Daniel –Son!

The so-called lessons begin and Mr. Miyagi makes Daniel wash and wax his cars, paint his fence, and “sand the floor!” Daniel was a good kid, he did as he was told, but after a while; it all seemed like such a waste of time. He had been promised that he would be taught karate, that he would become a fighter, not be some old man’s personal slave.

 Mr. Miyagi: “You in karate training.”
Daniel: “I’m what? I’m being your [expletive] slave is what I’m being, man. Now, we made a deal here.”
Mr. Miyagi: “So.”
Daniel: “So, so, you’re supposed to teach and I’m supposed to learn, remember? For four days I’ve been bustin’ my [expletive] and haven’t learned a [expletive] thing!”
Mr. Miyagi: “You learn plenty.”
Daniel: “I learn plenty! I learned how to sand your decks maybe. I learned how to wash a car, paint your house, and paint your fence. I’ve learned plenty. Right.”
Mr. Miyagi: “Not everything is as it seems.”

Daniel couldn’t see that Mr. Miyagi was indeed keeping his end of the bargain. He had no idea what was being done to him, how he was being changed. So often, we respond to the Spirit’s teaching the way Daniel responded to Mr. Miyagi.

We come to the Lord, and we have all these preconceived, Westernized, Hollywood ideas about the Christian walk. We figure it won’t take long and we will have arrived.  When we encounter the valleys, the hard times, and suffering, we look to the Lord and say, “You promised to teach me!  You said I’d be like you; now all I’m doing is sanding Your floors and waxing Your cars! Why are you allowing this to happen to me?” Like Daniel-Son, we don’t comprehend what is being done in and to us. We balk at the hardship, not understanding that it is the trials themselves that are producing in us an “eternal weight of glory!” God’s Spirit is at work in us, transforming us into the image of the Son. He knows that the way to do this involves our sanding some floors, painting some fences, and waxing some cars. “I promise teach karate. That’s my pact. You promise learn. I say, you do. No question. That your pact.”

In the end, Daniel-Son did become that great fighter. (He also got a really cool vintage car as a gift from Mr. Miyagi.) What lies in store for you is beyond comparison:

“There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.” (I Peter 1:6-9)