Capture!

mountains her medium - God her teacher

It’s been quite a week.  Having driven my oldest to the airport last week for her move to Europe to teach for “awhile” (she’s ambiguous, just like Jesus), I drove my youngest to the airport this week.  She’s visiting friends in Germany now, and will take a train to Austria on Sunday, where she’ll begin the five week “Upward Bound” program.  The program is precious to my wife and I because we ran a sister program in the Cascades during our season living up there and loved it.  Blending teaching in the Christian life with outdoor experiences is a marvelous way of moving truths out of the notebook into the place where it really counts, which is our day to day living.  Everything becomes a teachable moment, from the sunrise to the stars, from sharing food, to an aching back, from injuries to a dip in a mountain lake – we begin to learn that every experience is trying to teach us something.  That my youngest daughter, who grew up urban, is now falling in love with the mountains, warms my heart.  That her eyes will be opened to the reality that God is trying to talk to us all the time, through every event – will this is the priceless part.

Jesus was often frustrated by the people who knew their Bibles the best.  They could quote the text, debate it, let you know the various nuanced interpretations of it and why theirs was always the best and only true interpretation.  But, as Jesus points out here, it was never about the text.  It was always about the person to whom the text is supposed to point.  It was always about Jesus.  It still is.  This doesn’t minimize the importance of the Bible.  Instead it challenges us to make certain that the end result of our studies is that we become more like Jesus and less like the religious people who killed him.  To be more like Jesus means we’ll be better at crossing social barriers and loving people who are different than us.  It means will be quick to look for ways to bless and serve.  It means we’ll pray and live in a posture of dependency on Christ, just like Christ was dependent on God the Father.

capturing God's truth before it evaporates

To do this, we need to learn how to hear what God is trying to say to us each and every day, because He’s talking through Bible studies and sunrises, through oil spills and visits to the doctor, through failure and success, through weariness and refreshment.  I’ve a feeling that there are profound moments that fall, like raindrops, and yet we fail to capture them.  Remember what Jesus says so often:  ”are you listening, really listening?”

This week, Jesus has been shouting at me:

1. my kids leaving the continent is a reminder that obedience to Christ will scatter us…often.  If our “given” is that we’ll live close to our own children, or that we’ll live where there’s sun, or rain, or mountains, or not, that given might well derail something God might want to do through you or me – somewhere else.  Am I open or clinging?

2. a visit with a man from whom I was purchasing a tiny stand of trees (longer story…someday) resulted in a great new friendship.  His home exuded the aroma of Christ in every way, and I knew, absolutely, that he was a Christ follower before either of us had said a word about Jesus.   I was once again reminded that “The aroma of Christ” is our most powerful and most important testimony.

3. my time in the Bible reminded me of how vital leadership is, of how “as goes the king, so go the people”.  Am I being the right kind of person, a person fostering intimacy with Jesus and allowing him to shape me.

4. An interaction with a friend over a doctrinal difference reminds me that I need to keep listening, keep seeking Jesus, keep that kind of Gore-tex faith that is permeable, open to re-ordering, and protective of the faith that was handed down by previous generations.

I could go on and on, but have other obligations.  I only share these examples because of what Jesus said: When Heapproached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day,even you, the things which make for peace ! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44

He was speaking to a city that majored in Bible study, but failed to recognize the Messiah when he visited.  That’s scary, especially for a Bible teacher!  And so I pray that my eyes and heart will be open to all that God is trying to show through in the next 24 hours: editing a manuscript, cooking a meal, driving, catching up on e-mail, and hosting a soccer party — it’s all sacred, or can be, if we’ll but be open to what God is trying to say, and capture the truths he imparts.

Master, Teacher -

Thank you for your relentless commitment to reveal your life giving, liberating, transforming truth.  Forgive the countless moments when I’m deaf and blind.  Grant, this day, eyes to see, and a heart to respond.  Allow me to capture the truth before it’s snatched away, so that the fruit of hope, justice, mercy, beauty, peace, and generosity, might be seen in my life with greater clarity.

Amen – Amen.

Cheers…

What have you learned from God recently, outside of what you’ve learned in Bible study?

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • Lisa

    Thank you, Richard. This is a good word to a busy world (I pretty much only included this sentence because I like the way it sounds). Sometimes I get so busy doing the stuff of life that I forget what it’s all about and where it’s all pointing. I think this is especially true when I get caught up trying to pave my own way, when I allow myself the allusion of having taken control of something. My power, perceived though it may be, over any given situation precludes the need for Christ. When I remember that I really can’t ,and don’t want, to do it on my own or in my own way then I’m freed up to relax a little, notice more of life around me, and soak in the blessings and lessons I can easily miss when I’m so busy making my point.

  • fluger

    “What have you learned from God recently, outside of what you’ve learned in Bible study?”

    That I need to be more in prayer for people. Prayer is more potent than we (I guess me…) imagine. I feel like its too easy to set aside and disregard; but it is one of the few things that was straight-forwardly COMMANDED of us.

    I’m trying to be more open to asking those in my life, “How can I pray for you?”

  • http://www.lrretreats.com Ricky Gregerson

    Thank you Richard for powerful words that sooth my soul and remind me why I’m here.

    • http://www.lrretreats.com Ricky Gregerson

      Ha! that would be “soothe”

      • fluger

        Ha, you stopped yourself from being a sooth-sayer…

        Ba-dum CH!

  • Juliet

    She is so grown up! I have spent more time away from my little daughter lately than ever before, and it is very, very hard. She’s in Granny’s capable hands and misses me much less than I miss her. I have learned about love, and about letting go, since I became a parent, although I know there are many more lessons (and probably more painful ones) yet to come.

  • Diana

    Dear Richard,

    Sorry for the change of subject, but I’ve been looking for a place to comment on your most recent sermon in which you discussed the difference between spirit and soul. I found it fascinating and went home directly to do a word study on the subject to learn better for myself the differences, and also to search more on the question of whether animals have spirits. I couldn’t find a lot on the latter, but I did find this which refers to the “spirit” of the animal:

    Ecclesiastes 3:21: Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?

    I also thought of when Jesus drove evil spirits into a herd of pigs (Matt 8:28-32), and wondered that since pigs can host evil spirits, does that mean they are spiritful beings?

    I have often thought that what distinguishes us from animals is the knowledge of good and evil. But that can’t be all, because of our special place of having been created in the image of God as well. But it’s hard to know exactly what that means.

    Thanks very much for your thought provoking sermon. I would love to know your further thoughts on this topic.

    -Diana


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