Posted by: sailingspirit | April 15, 2011

Not Cousins, or Brothers, but Our Own Body

(This was a post to another blog in which the concerns over the Middle East uprisings were discussed in relation to what God is doing in the Body at this time; some material may have appeared in other posts but I didn’t want anyone to feel lost.)

I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned during this season, because it has been a radical awakening to me just as Viola’s book was to Jamal and I’m hopeful it will have the same transformative power for you.  I think it meshes so nicely with what Jamal has been teaching us; I don’t have this pre-formed as a perfect essay, but please bear with me as I try to get these ideas out because I think by the end you’ll see what I mean.

Many people view the global spread and rapid growth of Islam as a major threat.  I never did.  The radical groups are the minority, and they’ll be judged this year anyway (which I only learned last night, but yea!).  Rather, I saw it more as a conundrum; if I’m to believe what I profess, and I’m supposed to share the Good News, how do we (Christianity) perceive and approach a group nearly as big as us?  And if I’m fairly new on the
testimony-sharing scene, what reason do I have to think I’ll be successful when all the people before me are apparently not?  When they talk about how much they’ve struggled, and for how long?  Disgruntled with my own experiences of church anyway, the more I learned about history and compared the Church with Islam, the more my stomach sank.  We dropped the ball BIG TIME so often, and continue to today, that I just felt like there was no way I was going to succeed at this.  I felt I had an inferior product, and in many ways felt Islam was teaching me how I could be a better lifestyle worshipper of the Christ I had come to love so much.  I envied the beauty and dedication they exhibited.  When the protests in Egypt were in full swing, I cried with pride and support for a people who would stop in the middle of the most important thing that ever happened to them to prostrate to God!  To acknowledge His sovereignty above their human governance.  Thousands of them, Muslims and Christians and others, shoulder to shoulder across the public squares, and even the police would turn as a sign of respect for the “time out” of prayer.  I’ve never seen Christians dare to do that.  It was beautiful.  They were united for good things.  One body, flowing together and protecting each other through shifts of shouting and rest.  Our denominations have a hard time getting along, and often avoid working together.  We have a stiff-armed, heavy-footed, zombie-like, patchwork Frankenstein of a Church.  Sometimes it feels ugly, old, and scary.  I often want to run away.  Sometimes I feel ashamed.  I want what they have.

I mean no trivialization or disrespect, but rather simplification for the point of illustration, when I suggest looking at it from a marketing point of view:  if our biggest competitor has roughly the same percent of market share as we do, they must have something good because people are buying the product.  Our product must not be so obviously superior, despite how many years we had the lead and got comfortable assuming it was obvious.  Do we need a major makeover?  How to build up our “brand”?

(Again, I’m not trying to trivialize and I certainly don’t view faith matters as lowly as products for profit or popularity.  As a matter of fact, I’m not at all into business and I hate sales.  I don’t view evangelism like some kind of competitive sport just for the sake of “winning.”  It’s just a way for me to make a word picture of the rather overwhelming and perplexing challenge I feel as one called to share the Gospel.)

But the important part is not to see this as crisis control, as soul winning, or even as an either/or situation–thanks to a wonderful speaker/teacher, I have been illuminated about one of the most incredible set-ups of all time!  Indeed, God IS in control and this spread has not taken Him by surprise.  It’s not even happening in spite of Him!  As I have been forced to learn in my personal life this last month, it is not unusual for God to do something seemingly opposite of His promised end-goal as a means of getting to that goal.  Check your scripture!  How many of our ancestors were promised something, and at some point the polar opposite happened to make them question whether God was the worst manager in the whole world?  To be so astounded, so blindsided, that they could not even begin to see how it would ever be possible for God to turn it around and fulfill His promise?  Lots!  You could even say it’s one of God’s favorite M.O.’s.   In some cases, like Abraham, God gave the larger picture and the outcome.  But it didn’t stop Abraham from having that experience; “I know what you said, but….”   In my personal situation, like all of theirs, I had to make a choice:  choose to stay with God even after being totally hurt/disappointed by Him, or abandon Him and all remaining chances of His promises coming true.  In other words, how bad do you want it?  And I, like they, went to God demanding He explain how it could possibly turn out well and I could possibly get over this to trust again. This is what God taught me: “If I explain the How, and you find comfort in knowing, will you be trusting in Me or the plan?”  Gulp!  That one really hit me at the knees.  God wants us to trust Him, the person.  No matter what method He chooses.  You don’t really know you’ll do it until you’re forced to.

So what this speaker showed us is how despite the way religious growth in the world today looks, God is setting up the biggest comeback surge ever!  Not just a comeback, but a tsunami-type overtaking that will be the greatest Holy Smackdown of all time!  For those of you who like sports or movies, let me put it this way: are not the best nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat games/dramas the ones where the underdog comes from way behind in the final minutes and sends the big dogs whimpering home?  As Jamal so beautifully wrote in
his book review Part II, we must remember that the sin/redemption story is nestled within a much larger story: the Great War for God’s throne!  Scripture tells us that Earth and Humanity are the battlefield and booty of this War, whereby God’s armies will teach Satan
and his armies once-and-for-all that God’s regime cannot be pulled down!  Not only will all of Satan’s troops learn the lesson, but all the observing heavenly beings, too (who are not privileged to know all that is revealed to us).

Thus, what we are watching in the Middle East is a mini-version, or perhaps opening head-fake of what God is doing in the world: He is causing a sweeping surge of pro-honesty, pro-respect, pro-equality, pro-transformation (in other words, Godly principles) by simultaneously stirring the spirits of people across an entire region.  A region where most people had lived for decades, even centuries, believing they were down-and-out with no hope!  This is not just a national thing in Egypt, and equally important to note not a Muslim thing–Islam is all over the world, not exclusive to the Middle East.  This is the Arab world!  Abraham’s first progeny!  Whom God promised to prosper and take care
of!  As Jamal so beautifully tells it, people who often feel fatherless not just because Ishmael was sent away by Abraham but because their religion does not conjure a fatherly
relationship.  Jesus has been appearing to these people for over 20 years, calling out to them.  Their scripture gives them about 75% of the story, and their unshakable commitment to God has helped bring in believers on every continent and in almost every nation of the world.  To work against God?  No!  To be that dramatic, last-minute underdog comeback whereby the final 25% is revealed and the Arab religious leaders direct a rushing global revival to the feet of Jesus!  By the millions, simultaneously, all over the world!  The entire planet crying out to Jesus!  Satan can’t be everywhere at once, he can’t beat that.  Can you hear God about to say, “How do ‘ya like THEM apples?!”  This is something so big, Christianity cannot do it.  We need to relieve ourselves of the pressure.  God gets the credit for this one, not the Church.  Thus we are witnessing the “coming to his senses” stage of the homecoming process of the Prodigal Son.

And it makes perfect sense that God would receive Abraham’s first son home, first.  After that, the second son–lineage of Isaac–will be brought home.

As Jamal writes, God is re-building His house and His family.  He rectified the situation in
the Garden by cleaning up the first Adam, making Jesus the “first of many” and the head of the family body.  He then sent the invitations out to all the orphans (gentiles), who
became the bones.  Maybe they don’t look so great, but bones aren’t meant to be seen: they’re meant to hold the body up.  Despite everything, the Christian Church has managed to hold up.  Then He started the coagulation process of the Jews that they could get ready, bringing them back to Israel as a nation.  They’re still on the back burner, simmering away.  Right now He is bringing in the muscles–the Muslims–to fill out the body.  These who have the greatest grasp of family and community life, of worship integral to all aspects of life, of unwavering commitment, this Son will teach the rest of the body how to move,
how to prostrate before God.  When the Jews are finally ready, they will be added last: the blood and the skin.  The bloodline from Adam to Adam, the bloodline of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel).  The blood of covenant, the blood of all the sacrifices.  The skin that cloaked the glory-lost in the Garden, the skin that covered the Tabernacle, the skin that
was sacrificed as covenant before entering the Promised Land, the skin that was striped and the blood that was shed to stop our endless bleeding and heal us forever.  The skin that holds all of us in, and keeps impurities out.

In order to become Christ’s body and learn how to function as One, we not only have to learn how to defer to His headship but we have to learn from the roles of each other.  Can
a body of only bones, only muscles, or only skin do any good?  No.  We must have all of these.  Do a hard-knock-life orphan, people-pleaser firstborn and rebellious youngest have
much in common?  Only if they’re family.  So the Christian-background believers will teach how to hold up.  The Muslim-background believers will teach how to bow down.  And the Jewish-background believers will teach no matter how many times we’ve erred, it’s always okay to come back to God because we are favored, we are chosen, we are special.

So please do not watch the news and fear the Others; God tells us not to allow fear because it weakens and sickens us.  Instead, watch the news like a patient patient: pray for your brothers and sisters–your muscles, your skin!–as the coming completion of your own Body!  You could not be complete in Christ without them! The father instructed the cloak, ring, and feast to be prepared the moment he caught the far-off glimpse of the Son(s) coming home!

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