Saturday, June 16, 2007

California Dreaming

Listening to the Mamas and the Papas tune at Amanda's graduation party last night, I realized that the song is a lament from exile, recalling Psalm 137. But I live in California and California will do for now, but California ain't no California. I was reminded that being born again - without which, Jesus says, we can't even see the kingdom of heaven - really means among other things being born again to a new home, a new birthplace. Thus if we don't leave behind family, lands, children, and even ourselves for our new home where we've never been, we're not fit to be disciples of Jesus. We're certainly not sons of Abraham and of his faith if we don't go out from our home in this world as he did.

My friend realized one day that there was a problem with his being distressed to the point of being weepy when the University of Michigan lost a football game. He asked the Lord about it, and he promptly heard the healing word, "You think that's where you're from." But Jesus gave his disciples a prayer which begins, "Our Father who is in heaven." That's where our Father is, so that's where our home is, where we're from - if we are indeed his disciples.

When we know this is so, God is not ashamed to be called our God (Hebrews 11:13-16). But if we think we're from here, and that this is our land and country, he is ashamed to be called our God. Rightly so, too, because if we count this world or any nation, religious group, family, or whatever to be our home, then we are always denying our Father in heaven.

This denial will certainly show up in our deeds. Our hearts being at home in this world is what makes us want to bomb people for Jesus and build walls against them so as to protect ourselves and our earthly treasures from them and to seize what is theirs - a Jesus of our own invention, not proclaimed by the apostles, that teaches a "gospel" of good news in the success of whatever group we identify with in this world.

As we're waving its flag and glorying in its supposed magnificence - its "pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is from the world" - we won't be glorying in Christ Jesus, who never waved anybody's flag, and who was crucified by those who did not appreciate him for that. We certainly will not be "putting no confidence in the flesh." We won't be "worshipping God in the Spirit," the Spirit which glorifies God in Jesus Christ and never any power of this world. If we get these things wrong, then as Paul states in Philippians 3:2-3, we are not the "true circumcision," but are instead of "the dogs, the evil workers, the mutilation" - religious people that he emphatically warns to beware of. Look it up.

It's time to consider our ways, to examine ourselves in light of the gospel proclaimed by Jesus and his apostles to see if we're in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). That's not the gospel of our own heads or of "Christian leaders" who don't talk, act, live, or die much like Jesus - and whom the world does not dishonor as it dishonored Jesus because they belong to it and the world therefore loves them.

All kinds of places, people, and things in this world - including ourselves - want to claim the place of home in our hearts. Some of them are suitable temporary stops, like Elim in the wilderness. But if you don't want God to be ashamed of you, if you don't want to eventually be eternally ashamed of yourself, you will count them all seducers and enemies of real life when they even suggest that they might be anything more, as we look up to our home where we've never been - our Father who is in heaven.


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