Rummaging Through Life

Seems to me that God has given all of us the need to belong, to have “a people” to belong to. Those without belonging have a hole in their soul that bleeds. Some build facades to mask the deficit. Sociopaths suture the wound with anger and aggression. Others default to fear and isolation—sociophobes.

What should be the qualities of a uniquely Christian culture, a uniformly welcoming people? Liturgy? Doctrinal purity? The implicit “dos and don’ts” of evangelicalism? Shouldn’t it be love?

Love: visible, intentional and practical action for the benefit of others. Hospitality, compassion, simplicity, joy and the exhilarating release of a people who have gained the universe and have cast off fear and its sister, anxiety. For this we have to decide what is truly relevant to us as a “genetically altered” ethnic group, a holy nation and a peculiar people. So much of the cultural inheritance that we have received from the time/space world we live in is, at its core, irrelevant to the new life that we are capacitated to live.

I have a box of “odds and ends” out in the garage—nuts, bolts, screws, washers, and a generous bunch of etcetera. When I need something for a home repair or automotive fix, I often find myself pawing through that box looking for the one thing I need for the purpose. Everything else in the box is irrelevant, but I have to rummage through it all, rejecting the irrelevant, to find the thing that fits. The trick is to have a clear image of the needed item in my head. Without that, everything in there becomes a confusing mass of possibilities.

Being in the temporal world is a lot like living in that box. Most of what’s around me isn’t relevant to me as a follower of Jesus. It doesn’t fit the purpose. As a follower I need to get a clear picture of the needed item fixed in my head so I will recognize it when I see it—a clear and detailed image of love and loving. That’s a fundamental element of a uniquely Christian culture: knowing what’s important and emphasizing it; and recognizing what’s unimportant and ignoring it. Let the rummaging begin! Step one is to sort out and reject what doesn’t look like visible, practical, and intentional action on behalf of others. Step two, three, four, and all the steps that come after, are to do what’s left. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to wholeheartedly, and with abandon, run into the new cultural norms of Christ-following personhood.

One solemn hour each week, then six days and twenty-three hours lived in the civilization of fallen man, was not the earlier believers’ understanding of ecclesia. They had their own community, they were the community, they had their own “civilization”; it operated around the clock and throughout the calendar.

~~Gene Edwards, The Highest Life

Finding My Face

“But the real fear is what we would do if we took off our masks and discovered that we had no faces?”

I’ve been reading a book called The Transforming Friendship by James Houston in which he puts that question. I think it has much to say—this question, specifically— to me as a Christ-follower. Do I really know who I am, that is, do recognize my own face? What qualities define me as a part of a distinctive race of people who have chosen to follow Jesus? He said that we were different from other peoples and that he was going to leave us in the world, but we were not to be “of” it—born for eternity, stranded in time.

That puts me, and others like me, between two worlds, the world of time and space and the world of eternity.

What if I awakened tomorrow and, during the night, I had changed genetically so that I could live without eating? Out of habit I would probably continue to consume food because I always had and had learned to enjoy it…too much, truth be told. I might still visit McDonalds, and snack on ice cream, the manna of my world. There would be a freedom available to me (and quite a financial savings!) that I might not be aware of unless somehow I found out that I had changed. I would continue to rely on food when that reliance was really unnecessary.

I’ve come to wonder if something like that hasn’t happened to me as a follower of Jesus. Perhaps it’s happened to most Christ-followers. By connecting at a spiritual level with Jesus I have changed in a fundamental way. I don’t have to rely on the systems, institutions and mindsets of the world any more. I am secure in an eternal relationship with God so I needn’t fear for my life. Jesus has assured me that I don’t have to worry about what I will eat or what I will wear so money ought not burden my soul. My citizenship is not here on earth so the chaos of politics doesn’t have to jangle in my head. Father has invited me to become a part of a living community of others who have also experienced this change in their “DNA” so my social needs are also met.

Perhaps Father has invited me, and those like me, to stand in front of the mirror, take off the mask and become familiar with a new face. There is really nothing to fear in this. I do have a face because I have a Father. There should be an obvious resemblance. That’s what I want, anyway.

I’m going to keep thinking about this, but I’ll sign off for now with a favorite quote. It gets at the core or what I’m pondering: a community whose members have discovered their faces. The quote is from Jim Wallis (Agenda for a Biblical People, I think):

“The greatest influence on a person’s life will be that institution or set of institutions on which the person feels most dependent for survival and support. As long as most Christians are more dependent upon the powers and principalities of the world for their survival and security than they are upon the Christian community, the church cannot do anything other than conform to the world. We must see through biblical eyes that our lives and our very spiritual survival, personally, economically, and politically, must be centered in the Christian community. The community of the local church must become the most important and central corporate reality of our lives, the daily environment out of which our lives are lived, the fellowship of people that sustains and supports us. The church must represent a body of people who have committed their lives to one another in Christ, a communion of faith and trust in which everything is shared, a place where our lives and society are seen through the eyes of biblical faith, a corporate sign of the transforming power of the gospel kingdom in the world.”

Between Two Worlds

RELEVANT (rel’uh-vant) Bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; to the purpose; pertinent…

What is really relevant to me and the matter at hand? I’ve watched more TV lately than I care to admit and I’ve discovered that much of what I see doesn’t pass the relevance test. I don’t take “the purple pill.” I’m not in the market for a new car—I’d buy a good used one anyway. Don’t need a new mattress, and don’t care how the rich and famous have fun. I’m non-partisan. Neither major party reflects my point of view. Republicans eat at the trough of the free market, believing that kindness and generosity are bred into the corporate soul. Democrats worship at the altar of civil government, thinking that public service and pure motives are corollaries. Then, there are special interest parties who see the world through green glasses or through the lens of theocracy.

Nope. I’m opting out. Non-partisan.

I want to be a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. I don’t want to have Jesus as a mistress—to tryst with him at church, but go home to what I’m married to. I don’t want the new millennium Christ that is a mere shadow of who Jesus is as the son of God; I want the first century Jesus who is the cornerstone of real faith but only the inspiration for pretenders to it. Here is the challenge: discover what is relevant to those of us who are mere sojourners in time. Jesus sketched the challenge in the terms of being “in the world” while not being “of the world.”

Who am I? Better put, where am I? I am between two worlds: in one, but not of it; bound for another, but for the time being, bound TO the one I’m in. If that is true, if I and other Christ followers are “between two worlds,” then the question of relevance is vital. What really matters? Where do we fit in this world—or do we fit at all?

I’ve been reading a book called The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. I highlighted this paragraph:

It is implied in the New Testament vision that Christianity is not a culture-creating thing but rather a culture-influencing one. Wherever the Gospel is preached human society becomes composite; hence, since the culture is the name given to the total spiritual heritage of an entire people, there can never be such a thing as a Christian culture; there can only be cultures in which the influence of Christianity is more or less apparent.

The challenge is to pick through the purple pills and new cars; the fast food and loose facts, and lay hold of the things that are important to an eternal God and valuable to an eternal people. I’m not here to throw stones, build walls, or tear down the establishment. I’m here to live like a sojourner and love like a follower of Jesus.

Welcome to our home on the web

We’re Dan & Jody Mayhew. We’ve been working together in the service of the Lord since the first day of our marriage when He reminded us that we had spoken of making a commitment to the Jesus life after we got married. So, there at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon, we gave our hearts to the Lord and began an adventure of faith that continues to this day. This site is a window on our life together with Jesus. Welcome! Feel free to browse, listen to recent teachings, read about what we’re up to or what we’ve been thinking about. Our most recent thoughts are below.

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