It’s a matter of trust; further thoughts on a Rick Warren mail


Recently, today actually I received this Daily Hope email by Rick Warren, author “The Purpose Driven Life.”

It’s A Matter of Trust
by Rick Warren

“Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” Psalm 50:15 (NLT)

When I ask people what keeps them from trusting in God, they say, “Well I haven’t seen what’s on the other end so I’m not going to trust it.” And yet they trust in things they can’t see all the time.

We can’t see television or radio waves, but we watch TV and listen to the radio every day. We can’t see cell phone waves, but we use them all the time without thinking. It’s selective trust. We trust what we want to trust.

What about you? Are you willing to trust in the One who is unseen but is more reliable, more dependable than any technology this world could create? Are you willing to commit your life to him?

While I understood what Rick Warren was referring to, it felt as if an opportunity was left to further explain.

A Missed Opportunity

Rick Warren rightfully points out that we trust the radio and air waves. I could add to that that we trust in electricity, which is a similarly unseen force of nature. But while they are unseen, that does not mean we trust, as Rick Warren suggests, “selectively.” The power in the examples Rick Warren puts forward is not so much in the unseen nature of the force but in the fact that their workings prove themselves to be reliable time and time again. We are not trusting in the airwaves because we want to trust that airwaves are for real. We not so much put our trust in electricity because we are selective in our trust but because it never seems to let us down in terms of our expectations. Simply put: it works.

Is it not exactly the same with God? While we may not be able to see God, we see the results of His work all around us to an extent where it makes sense to put your trust in God, just like electricity, airwaves et all, not because you want to trust selectively but because you you GOD WORKS.

Nicodemus meets Jesus: Some Thoughts of a Chaotic Mind


Without a doubt this is one of the stories (probably together with doubting Thomas) that really appealed to me.

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”3In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.[a]

4“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[d] 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.[e]

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.[g]

Footnotes:

  1. John 3:3 Or born from above; also in verse 7
  2. John 3:6 Or but spirit
  3. John 3:7 The Greek is plural.
  4. John 3:13 Some manuscripts Man, who is in heaven
  5. John 3:15 Or believes may have eternal life in him
  6. John 3:16 Or his only begotten Son
  7. John 3:18 Or God’s only begotten Son

Some further thoughts

Now I know that this story has been used probably a thousand times in many different sermons and commentaries. The emphasis seems to be on the rebirth part (v 5-7) and to illustrate the love of God (v 16) as well as your belief so as gain eternal life and if you do not believe in him you stand condemned (v18).


Inadequate Faith?

For me the appealing part of this story is about something else: daring to question your own beliefs. Here’s a guy, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish Ruling Council, “at night” meeting Jesus; the enemy, the leader of the opposite camp. And not only that, he actually acknowledges that Jesu is a teacher “who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs that he is (“you”) are doing if God is not with him.”

No it may be a small word but Nicodemus does not say “I know you are a great teacher” but “we” know. I can’t help but being curious about whom the “we” is he is speaking about. Was he speaking on behalf of a number of Pharisees that have already confessed their faith in Jesus?

From Acts 15:5 we learn that there were believers who belonged to the party of Pharisees.  Or was he maybe referring to a larger group? And what did John try to tell us here in these first verses? Personally, this story reminds me of my own post about the story of Doubting Thomas. From what I have been gathering so far especially it seems from reading John, is that the statement of Nicodemus is actually a statement of faith in the wrong way. Throughout John we read about miracles but it seems that that is not what it is all about as such. Faith based on the miracles is immature, inadequate. In the story of doubting Thomas Jesus advises that (John 20:29):

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus =God

The miracles it seems according to the Gospel of John are a way to point to Jesus, however the story of Nicodemus and others in John appear to be pointing towards a belief, a faith that goes beyond that which is evidence based: faith based on the miracles. It seems significant that John does not speak of miracles, but of “signs.” Whilst Nicodemus recognizes Jesus as a teacher and a whom is with God, that is not how John portrays Jesus, Jesus is much more:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1)
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

He is the Word who was in the beginning with God and was God and who became flesh and lived among us. That is ‘slightly’ more than just a great teacher, a Rabbi. God was also with Moses and with Jeremiah and other prophets, but from John we learn that Jesus an God are one (John 10:38 “the father is in me and I am in the father”, also John 14: 10).

I and the Father are one (John 10:30)

A Story of Humility

For me however this story is all about daring to challenge one’s own beliefs. Daring to admit that you may have been wrong on what you believed to be right all the time. Don’t get me wrong, in essence, Jesus’ teachings were the crisis for the Pharisees, as Jesus outlines as far as I understand it that all the the religion and rituals in the world, all the works you may have been doing and perhaps are still doing can not make up or compensate for the the relation. It is in this understanding that I can imagine how indeed the law becomes a promise.

But I am wandering off again. Just imagine how courageous it was of Nicodemus to do just that, challenging everything he stood for and ultimately admitting to have been wrong. This is what appeals to me, and that is perhaps because it is so recognizable for me personally. How many of you out there are ready and wiling to admit that you may have been wrong at times. I know that many will have trouble doing so for just marginal little things let alone as in the case of Nicodemus where it concerns everything you are supposed to stand for, everything you believed, no know to be true, everything he lived for. And while Nicodemus may not be a prominent figure in the New Testament, I think he only appears in John, from his subsequent actions it could be inferred that he did indeed admit he was wrong. In that sense, the story of Nicodemus is also a story of humility.

Religion, Relation and the Worldview Test

In my testimony,  spoke about the difference between religion and relation and it seems that this subject (at least with me) keeps on popping up. Perhaps it is because I have taken so much time to build my ultimate case against religion. I started the testimony with this CS Lewis quote:

“THE MOMENT A MAN SERIOUSLY ACCEPTS A DEITY, HIS INTEREST IN RELIGION IS AT AN END. HE’S GOT SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT.” (CS LEWIS)

I guess the thrust of my testimony and subsequent experiences have been that indeed it is in the relationship that you’ll find that the becomes a promise. Lewis may have meant something different but for me this speaks like it does. In daily practice this meant for me that it is not about doing things right, but about accepting what God has already done for you, following him with all your heart an soul and lives and guess what? Many of the things  once called “religious”, the “law” indeed becomes a promise because the Holy Spirit will guide you there: love, kindness, self control (although that may be the hardest part for this night owl),  or let me say where the Holy Spirit leads me. Who am I to talk for anyone else? What I have learned is that in the end it is not in the doing good that a relationship is allowed (old covenants) but in the relationship.It simply isn’t about you (me) but about what God has in mind for you, and how better to find than by being in constant communication.

Rick Warren in his TED talk about his bestseller “A Purpose Driven Life” says that the ultimate test of your worldview is how you act on and I would add just before you die, and not in the good times.

You could ask yourself: why should I be admitted in heaven? And many will tell you:

I always lived a good life

I always tied to follow the law or ten commandments

I always did what the church said  should do.

In a way, I think most of us can relate to these answers to some extent. But in the same way this is actually the answer you might expect from a Pharisee. And in the end is this really what it is about?I bring back the final verses of the Nicodemus story:

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Later in John we read:

47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. (John 6:47)

and in John 14: 6 we read:

6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

In another way this is beautifully filmed in the movie “The Gospel” I will share this youtube clip with you if only because it is probably one of my favorite worship songs. The important part of the clip is this conversation between a pastor and his intended successor about the involvement of the pastors ‘lost’ son and secular artist in the upcoming service with the music. Here’s the quote that for me relates back to Nicodemus as a Pharisee, and to the worldview question of Rick Warren. The pastor says:

I am of the mindset that we should spend a little less time looking good and a little more time actually being good.”

Do stick around after the quote for the great performance and try to not be touched by it.

Finally

As said in my testimony, I am still trying to get to grips wit the magnitude of all this and at the same time simplicity seems to be the answer here. There was a lot of doing good without necessarily being good. And where this relates to church practices. Please do not start judging straight away as this is not how meant this: there is no perfect church, there is however a perfect God.

And the Wordle of this post to close off.

I’ be keen to see your comments and ready to learn.  What is your worldview?

What is your answer to the question why you should be in heaven?

What have I missed!?!

In the words of Jay Deragon:

WHAT SAY YOU?

Share

Thought on the Cross, Gifts and Calling: the journey continues


The past weeks have been all about finding my way as a new Christian. It somehow doesn’t make sense to me that it would lead to no change and where this may be in my personal life inevitably I ended up thinking about my professional life as well. My mind works strange and from a fantastic service by David Ravenhill at Harmony Church on the importance of the cross, my mind wandered thinking about how being a Christian not only involves your personal life but your professional life as well. As it turned out the two appear more related that I anticipated.

The Cross

Some time ago now I received an email by John Beckett in which the importance of living near the cross was explained. The cross presented as the place where

death has been  swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:54)

All as predicted by Isaiah hundreds of years before the actual event:

he will swallow up death forever (Isaiah 25:8)

I guess Paul explains it beautifully in his letter to the Ephesians:

God predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:5-6)

And that is not all according to Paul:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the spirit. (Galatians 3:13-14)

It is good to remember that Jesus did NOT die in the end however for our sake or pleasure.

…and with your blood you purchased men for God… (Revelations 5:9)

Through the death of  Jesus at the cross, God basically bought back his own creation; humankind as a creation BY God and FOR God. So while we may think God did us a favour, and it cannot be denied that that is the factual side effect of Jesus death on the cross, it was for God’s own benefit that Jesus paid the price with His life. Purchase is derived from the Greek word ‘agorazo.’ While there may be some theological discussions around the meaning of the world ‘agorazo’ (purchase) when translated from Greek to English as well as on whom God purchased us from, one thing is clear: all possible translations imply in the end transfer of possession and/or ownership. And that brings us back to where we were, we are OF God, FOR God.

For by him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, … All things were created BY him and FOR  him. (Colossians 1:16)

All of this appears to imply that we ourselves, actually belong to God and exist for his benefit an pleasure. Handing over your throne, to live a God-centered life instead of a self-centered life in my view therefore nothing more than having the courtesy to give (back) to God what belonged to him in the first place; that is how I understand it. TO SERVE INSTEAD OF BEING SERVED.

According to Plan: Whose Plan?

The next question is of course and what’s next? God has a plan for you, and you will need to find out what that plan is in order to live it.

If it is God’s will, we will live and do this or that (James 4: 13 and further).

One of the things I certainly had to get head around that it is no longer up to me to plan my life autonomously. Sure I had some ideas on what to do especially after becoming a Christian but it did not take too much time to understand that I cannot do this any longer without involving God in that. I am probably not alone. How many are there out there that go plan and do their own thing and ask for God’s blessing, without consulting him. And then when things don’t work out we blame / judge God for our failures.  I certainly was one of them.  But, maybe there is a reason for these failures or job anxieties and unhappiness? Could they maybe be a sign that what you were trying to achieve was not in accordance with what God wants for you?

James, is not against us making plans for our lives. What he speaks out against is not consulting God in the process. James urges us to ask God for guidance, to help us understand God’s plan for us and after that make plans for that. Just imagine that, what could be greater, cooler, awesome or whatever you to call it, than living/being at the center of God’s will and purpose for you.

Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life , reflects on his own crisis of purpose in the wake of his book’s wild success. He explains his belief that God’s intention is for each of us to use our talents and influence to do good. I added in the his TED talk here because it is so worth while.

In this talk he explains how he understand the question God asked Moses:

Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied. (Exodus 4:2)

Moses staff is not chosen by coincidence, the staff is a representation of Moses’ identity: a shepherd and therefore a representation or symbol for his income, and a representation or symbol for his influence. The question what’s in your hand is subsequently translated into what are you doing with what you are given?  God as I understand it wants you to be who you are supposed to be according to his plan, and not to what you think you should do. He wants you to use your gifts and talents. It’s not about doing things right but about doing the right thing; about being who you are intended to be and doing what you are intended to do, even when that is not what you had planned for yourself.

Our Vocational Calling

The concept of following God’s plan is illustrated beautifully in the ‘walkabouts’ of Paul:

Paul, initially a persecutor of Christians, ends up becoming what he persecuted, and moreover not just an ordinary Christian, but an apostle. Paul simply HAD TO FOLLOW his calling and preach his gospel to the ‘gentiles.’ And whilst that may seem like a clear path it was not always, it was not always according to his plan. In Acts 16: 6-10 we read how Paul and his companions planned to preach the word in Asia but ended up travelling around Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit prevented them from the Asia venture. They tried for Bithynia but again Paul got a “no go” from the Holy Spirit. God made his plans clear as Paul got a vision to go to Macedonia and Paul followed. Throughout the New Testament you will find examples of how Paul is very aware that his works have nothing to do plans and all with God’s plan.  Paul spend goo quality time in Ephesus with the Jews over there and they ask him for more time. Paul however had to follow God’s call and sailed off, promising that he would come back if that was God’s will (Acts 18:21).

Romans 12:1-2 read:

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Our Gifts

In verse Romans 12:6-8 we learn about seven gifts that could be used as the basis of our vocational calling, in that it is a calling to use our gifts (from God) for the glory of God:

6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Vocation is understood here as our divinely driven life’s purpose embracing ALL our human dimensions of existence towards our neighbours, the church and the world. Paul explains:

… I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Ephesians 4:1)

He further expands on this theme in further verses but it seems to all boil down to serving God’s purpose in every aspect of your life. And one way to do this is by using your gifts or talents especially where it comes to your vocational calling. YOU CHOOSE A CAREER, BUT YOU ACCEPT A CALLING. According to Calvinist doctrine one should choose the occupations that yield the greatest advantage to your neighbours. In my view this would not be very helpful advice if it was not entirely clear what “the greatest advantage” is and who exactly your neighbours are. Moreover it still does not take us away from the concept of using your gifts.  His advice has been explained as that vocational career and your professional career may well end up being different things, without denying that vocation is important to job life as well. Where does such advice leave someone?

  • Career and vocation are one and the same (the life of Paul as an apostle).
  • Career and vocation are almost – somewhat the same but besides a career you use other means to live up to your vocational call.
  • Career and vocation end up being completely separate entities.

While this may seem logical from many people’s perspectives I could imagine how a separation of the two or the grey area of ‘almost – somewhat the same’ could lead to a job-life (my initial typo was job-lie which almost seems appropriate) that is unfulfilling and ultimately a situation that could de-motivate more than anything. YOU END UP DOING THINGS RIGHT BUT ARE YOU ACTUALLY DOING THE RIGHT THING? That brings us back to the gifts as a sign of where your calling may be.

These gifts as I read them appear to refer to your so called “drivers” or special talents that allow us to perform at our peak. When we use these gifts to serve God and others we will end up experiencing a deep sense of joy, in worldly terms: “we are in the zone,” the God-zone I may now add. Those gifts are with us since birth and show through certain patterns of thinking and acting that appear to be constant. What Rick Warren appears to talk about in his TED talk, at least where it relates to vocation is to allocate these gifts, filled with the Holy Spirit for God’s purpose.

As a Christian made a choice to ‘come unto the Lord, accept Him as Lord and Savior and to which you handed over your life.’ Should it not be the Holy Spirit then that will call you to your vocation? You handed over the wheel, so should we not let the other do the driving? You may not have expected what shows up during the drive or as your destination; you may well end up not liking it at all. But who are we to know better? Is it not true that we may need to get back to the drawing board and let the Holy Spirit guide you instead of your own worldly, fleshly emotions? Is that not what the commitment really entails? More than ever the quote of the week I published some time ago seems to make sense:

Nouwen: Prayer is first of all listening to God. It’s openness. God is always speaking; he’s always doing something. Prayer is to enter into that activity. … Prayer in its most basic sense is just entering into an attitude of saying, “Lord, what are you saying to me?”

And with that we see immediately that we are back to square one. Since is it not true that in order to see and hear what God is telling us through the Holy Spirit we will need to put our faith completely in Christ and hand over our lives? You can only come (close to) live up to your calling if you are willing and able to hear the guidance that is there for you AND have faith enough to follow it, regardless of whether that conforms to the patterns your worldly life or not. As Paul urges:

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12: 1-2)

To me it seems like a world of opportunities and possibilities is opening up lately and perspectives I never considered and only because I am willing and able to listen, look,  hear and see. What about you?

  • Have you found out what your vocational calling is yet?
  • Are you actually living it?
  • Is Calvin right or is he being practical?

I’d be keen to hear your views and thoughts.