Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Still a great map - Still only a map

While I teach various subjects with Torchbearers Missionary Fellowship, it’s been many years now that, at least twice per year, I teach through Genesis, as I’m doing right now with a delightful group of students in Colorado.

I could teach this book, I think, a hundred times, and be smitten just as powerfully, as I am tonight, sitting here in my room getting ready to pack. I’ve just showed this group of students what God’s chosen family looks like: jealous, hateful, heard-hearted, hypocritical, lying, cheating, thieving, lustful, whoring, polygamous murderers.
And the Bible is so raw with this stuff – the raping, lust, killing, cheating, and stealing are out there for all to see.

Yet, God doesn’t give up on any of them. He is forever for them. But more: He loves them too much to let them stay this way, and so uses the circumstances of their lives to bring about their complete transformation. By the end, there have been stories of reconciliation, repentance, and sacrificial love. What I love most about the whole thing is that, in all 26 chapters (25-50) there are no worship services, no committees, no outreaches or ministries, not even any Bible studies. Yet, lacking all that we deem needful, God still finds a way, somehow, to change these ‘chosen ones’ from living wretched lives to lives of hope and repentance and mercy. We’re not that patient in our churches. Mess up – and you’re gone – way, way too often.

But God will stick with us, and use any and every circumstance of life to shape us. That’s why we need to commit to looking for Him and what He’s teaching us, not only in the Bible, but in our life experiences, relationships, and creation.

The Bible is a kind of road map. I can learn the map, memorize the map, talk about the map, interpret the map, systematize the map, argue about the reliability of the map, make a new map because the old map used outdated language – I can do all this and never take the trip. But the transformation is in the journey, not in the map.

This is a season, for me when, when the learning is coming from all sides, because there’s a lot there – lots of big decisions, lots of human relationships, lots of beauty and tragedy, lots of awareness of my own sin and His grace. The map is interesting and important, but rarely as much so as taking the trip.


At 12/5/06 09:25, Blogger Nova said...

i'm struggling with this concept a lot these days. when i'm most 'lost', i read the bible and get the map - but feel angry when my story ends up different than the people in the bible's. i feel disappointment, betrayal... and then i feel awful for feeling betrayed by God. after all, he is God - how do i dare feel displeased?

on one hand, i believe God is trying to revealing his character and hopes for us through scripture and beckons us to follow the examples of its godly men and women; and on the other hand, God wants us to deepen our faith and seek his guidance through our own present and personal journey. i tire just thinking about the tightrope with no net. i've broken a lot of bones lately...

At 12/5/06 10:24, Blogger PJ said...

Thanks for coming and teaching us this past week. It has been a great time. I hope to see you again soon.

At 28/5/06 21:16, Blogger pete said...

Hey, you've got some great thoughts here--I'll check back again in the future!


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