What a pleasure to spend time with the pastoral team in East Michigan this week. I had the privilege of speaking on wholeness, wellness, and holiness (not to mention happiness)—which always go together. I put the question to the colleagues: Do you want to be well, whole, holy and happy? Do you believe God wants this for you, Jesus died to make it possible, and the Holy Spirit is present to make God’s desires for you actual—here and now?
My conviction is: we know the right answer but seldom experience and do not routinely live it. Either we don’t believe it’s possible, to be the fully human being, vitally connected to the God of the universe, abundantly alive and powerfully engaged in God-stuff—in the way Jesus himself is, or we have no desire for this way of life, or we do not know how to receive what God offers us. Clearly, however, to live in such a full and radically different way as God plans would seem exceptional to most of us.
Yet, to read the story of Jesus’ way with people, leading to the formation of church in missional partnership with Jesus—actually to read it and believe it as a reflection of what God wants to do—draws us into the extraordinary as normative.
Think of the many features of the story that seem extraordinary to most people: honestly facing the demons and darkness that once haunted us and finding freedom from them in Jesus’ name; such freedom that we no longer need to pretend that we are more “together” than we are, or that we have all the answers, or … whatever else we like to pretend; receiving from God specific direction for a given day’s activities; participating in ministry and service that make a difference in the nitty-gritty of our community’s and neighbor’s lives; freely giving our money and other stuff to help others in need; naturally and confidently drawing attention to Jesus as the one we love and follow in daily life; seeing people in the way Jesus did—with gut wrenching sadness over the mess some are in and then utterly abandoning self to help them; sharing with other Christ-followers in such a way (lovingly, authentically, joyfully, generously, deeply) that some outsiders wonder how they could be part of our sharing; sensing that God wants to do something—like heal a sick person or expose a besetting sin or rescue someone stuck or comfort the distraught or challenge the powers that be or something else—and declaring God’s desire and seeing it happen to the amazement of on-lookers; joining hands with others to pursue a common good in the community simply because the common good is good; perceiving that our obedience to Jesus in the small things has a ripple effect encircling the world; offering hope in the darkest hours to people who would otherwise give up. The list could go on a long while. But imagine such extraordinary things happening to us, among us, through us. Imagine the extraordinary becoming normative for us.
Think about a group of people centering their lives in Jesus, focused on His passions and desires, eager to receive all He promises them, so serious about receiving that nothing else really matters in comparison. Imagine them waiting, seeking, yearning. Imagine that when nothing happens right away, they refuse to give up. Imagine a stubborn refusal to settle for anything less than a powerful manifestation of what Jesus has said Jesus will do.
Imagine it. Imagine the extraordinary becoming normative!