Friday, March 2, 2012

The Simplicity of Shorty



On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Matt. 10:19 & 20


Every Friday morning, a group of guys from Living Waters meets at a Perkin's in Lakeville for breakfast. We meet at 6AM, which means that I have to get up around 5AM. Since after a night at work, I can't fall asleep until about 11-11:30, this can be most brutal for me. At least now that the Winter sun is beginning to give way to an earlier sunrise, I feel a tad more alert on my drive down...but only a tad.

BTW: I always have the Pigs in a Blanket w/hash browns & eggs scrambled...just in case you were curious.

So anyway, one guy who always shows up is a fellow named Shorty. He lives up to his name. He may be part-hobbit, minus the hairy feet. (I'm uncertain, since I have yet to see him in flip-flops.) He is one of the most up-beat and genuinely friendliest people you will ever meet.

Shorty has a faith based on many years of experience. It is tested, secure and true. Apparently there have been people who have questioned his joy, because in this cynical world, people who appear perpetually happy can often be faking it. However, if you spend any consistent period of time with Shorty, you will conclude that his joy comes from a long experience of the faithfulness of YHWH. This has given him a peace & joy that is solid despite his circumstances.

Still, like any person of honest faith, Shorty often has questions. (I really don't understand how one can have faith without keeping the questions coming. It's how you grow in your relationship with Jesus.) This morning Shorty made a comment over breakfast about how he gets a little frustrated because he doesn't think he has enough "Answers" to people's questions about Christianity. Apparently he does not feel especially qualified as an expert on the bible, or on all aspects of faith.

"Thank you, Jesus!"

Beware of those "Christians" who either believe that they do have the God of the bible all figured out, or who feel the need to have a pat answer at the ready, or to make one up on the fly.



I think that there is something very powerful about the phrase, "I don't really know." There is a power in it because it is honest. And honesty often takes much more strength than pretending. I find it very beautiful when I can hear a Believer say that phrase.

I have no idea when we began to think that followers of Jesus needed a PhD. or such to be faithful to Christ. Instead, since we believe that "Jesus IS the answer," it is often best to simply leave it at that.

Now this does not mean that Christians shouldn't be diligent in their faith. Studying the bible is a very important thing to do. It's the easiest access that we have to God's revelation. We are encouraged to have an answer/explanation for our faith when ever asked. But that hardly means that we have to be able to parse every Greek or Hebrew word. So often we can fall into the trap that our head knowledge is central to our faith. This so easily leads to a false pride. We begin to rely more on our own mental strength, and less on Jesus.


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When Jesus was sending out his followers on one of their first mission trips, he knew full well that they were still largely clueless about most of his teaching. He just told them to go into the various towns in Israel and say that "the kingdom of heaven was near." (Which doesn't sound terribly difficult. A bit confusing maybe, but hardly a difficult phrase to memorize.)

And then he tells them not to get all hot & bothered about the explanation when the powers that be ask for one. He tells them that when the times comes to explain the situation, the Spirit would be there to do it for them. I don't think it takes Sherlock Holmes to figure out that what Jesus was telling his followers was that they should depend on HIM...on YHWH...on the Spirit...and NOT on their own abilities.

That's kind of a scary place to be. We love to be in control of any given situation. I know for myself, I love to have a handy argument and rebuttal. (I dig verbal combat.) I try to be clever, to use my knowledge base as a weapon. I also know from experience how amazingly gifted I am at inserting both size 11s deeply into my mouth, and I do so on a regular basis. (It is truly a beauty to behold and leaves witnesses with a sense of awe and wonder.) I find that I can get into trouble so easily when I depend on myself for answers, even with a decent knowledge base. Mostly because I am depending upon my own cleverness, and not on the one I desire to follow.

Unfortunately, this superpower of mine does not qualify for superhero status. Which is really a pity. Seriously, it's almost like I am an X-Man when it comes to this stuffing-of-mouth-with- feet ability.

I think that when push comes to shove, it would be better for me to let Shorty speak in a conversation on faith with others. I have a long way to go to learn the things he has learned...about dependence on God in various matters, and things of that nature. I can speak from my acquired head knowledge. There is a place for that. But Shorty can speak from his heart, because it is far more open than mine to hear the words of the Spirit.


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In Matthew 11, after Jesus speaks about John the Baptist, he delivers a brief sermon blasting the "Religious" people who had seen his miracles and yet refused to repent. The cities of Korazin, Bathsaida and Capernaum were all very good, religious cities. Jesus had performed many miracles & done much teaching in these places. Yet they all refused to repent.

This used to amaze me. However, as I have grown older I can now see how easily "Religion" can poison the heart of people and fill them with pride and self-righteousness. This is particularly true when it comes to being able to quote Scripture.

Jesus compares them with the pagan cities of Tyre & Sidon, and says that these pagan cities would have repented quickly if they had seen him in action, be it word or deed. At the end of this brief tirade, Jesus even slams his home base which was the town of Capernaum and says that it will be easier for the city of SODOM on judgment day than for that town. Again, Capernaum was where Jesus appears to have taken residence during most of his earthly ministry, so the people of that place were extremely familiar with all that Jesus had done and said. Yet Jesus speaks of it's doom for not repenting, despite how much they "Knew" about him.

Anyone who knows the story of Sodom & Gomorrah knows that these were not places that one would desire to be compared to.

Right after that verbal blast which was specifically directed at very "Religious" people, Jesus prays in front of everyone a prayer that I find most interesting. (I'll give the cliff notes version, because I am saving the rest for another post.)

"I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven & earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise & learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." Matt. 11:25 & 26

What is it about little kids and their simplicity that allows them to "Get It," when we who are adults can be so very dense?


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Shorty is far from being a little kid anymore, but he gets it. He gets it because his faith is not complicated. Theology, apologetics, various christian-based philosophies and such, are all great, and they do have their place. But nothing substitutes for the relationship that a heartfelt experience of & with YHWH as revealed in Jesus will bring a person. Nothing!

Shorty has walked with Jesus for a long time. He has seen the faithfulness of God. He might wish to acquire more head-knowledge, but I don't think he really needs a whole lot more per say. His experience can & does speak for itself. He simply trusts.



It simply is that simple. The simplicity of a heart that is open to Christ will open up a person to all of the answers that they lack. Probably not all at once. But the promise remains that when it is time to give an account for who you are and who you follow, God will be faithful.

Your mouth will not be empty. Hopefully, your head will be. But it appears that this is exactly what Jesus is looking for. That way, when he does what he promised, the glory is all his. In the end, it really & truly IS that simple.

May the God of the bible richly continue to bless Shorty and his simple faith. And may I continue to learn from and through him.



Peace.

Joe

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