I grew up going to church. Please understand me when I tell you that doesn’t mean I grew up a Christian, because that’s not what I mean to say. I grew up going to church on Sunday with my mother and on occasion with my father because that’s what “respectable” people did. I did not have a relationship with Jesus. Church was a place, not a body.
When I was in junior high school, my older sister started dating a guy whose family belonged to a church. My mom (who was now recently divorced from my dad) started taking all of us. I really loved that church. There were many Sundays when the pastor would invite people to come forward and be baptised that I felt compelled to do so. But since I grew up going to church, I was ashamed to admit that I hadn’t already done so. I began to feel more and more like an outsider; a phony Christian. I eventually quit going to church altogether. My teen years and twenties were spent very far away from God.
It was not until after the birth of my first child that I was baptised and began my life as a Christian. Before that, I owned a bible that did little more than gather dust on the bookshelf. The church where I was baptised was my church home until I left to help plant C3. I still love that body of believers. I learned so much about God, Jesus and His Word there. But at some point, I began to wonder if I would ever measure up to what it meant to be a good Christian. Soon after we joined a bible study group, we did a study of James. I was completely baffled by it. To me, so much of it contradicted what I had read in the gospel of John. (Which is what everyone told me to read first.) I just didn’t understand how both could be true. Then I borrowed a book called “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning from our new worship pastor. I read that book cover to cover in 2 days. Until I read that book, as much as I tried to understand to concept of grace, I just couldn’t understand how God could love someone as broken as me — not someone who was once broken, but someone who was still broken; still woefully inadequate and unworthy. After reading it, I read the bible with a fresh perspective. It was one of those God’s perfect timing moments for me.
I recently found a blog called on coffee by clicking on a link on Koffijah’s blog. It is a delightfully random sort of blog — right up my alley! There are several Youtube videos on this blog, including the one below. Please understand, I am posting this because it really struck a cord with me personally. This is not an attempt to tear down anyone else’s relationship with God. I just wanted to share it with you:
Brennan Manning said:
The Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question and only one question: Do you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day? That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?
The real believers there will answer, “Yes, Jesus. I believed in your love and I tried to shape my life as a response to it. But many of us who are so faithful in our ministry, in our practice, in our church going are going to have to reply, “Well frankly, no sir. I mean, I never really believed it. I mean, I heard alot of wonderful sermons and teachings about it. In fact I gave quite a few myself. But I always knew that that was just a way of speaking; a kindly lie, some Christian’s pious pat on the back to cheer me on. And there’s the difference between the real believers and the nominal Christians that are found in our churches across the land. No one can measure like a believer the depth and the intensity of God’s love. But at the same time, no one can measure like a believer the effectiveness of our gloom, pessimism, low self-esteem, self-hatred and despair that block God’s way to us. Do you see why it is so important to lay hold of this basic truth of our faith? Because you’re only going to be as big as your own concept of God.
Do you remember the famous line of the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal? “God made man in his own image, and man returned the compliment”? We often make God in our own image, and He winds up to be as fussy, rude, narrow minded, legalistic, judgemental, unforgiving, unloving as we are.
In the past couple of three years I have preached the gospel to the financial community in Wallstreet, New York City, the airmen and women of the air force academy in Colorado Springs, a thousand positions in Nairobi. I’ve been in churches in Bangor, Maine, Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, San Diego. And honest, the god of so many Christians I meet is a god who is too small for me. Because he is not the God of the Word, he is not the God revealed by it in Jesus Christ who this moment comes right to your seat and says, “I have a word for you. I know your whole life story. I know every skeleton in your closet. I know every moment of sin, shame, dishonesty and degraded love that has darkened your past. Right now I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship. And my word is this: I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are, and not as you should be. Because you’re never going to be as you should be.”
Do you believe that He loves you?
NOTE: You many have noticed that I when I post a song video here, I will also provide the lyrics to the video. The reason I do this is because not everyone who reads my blog is able to view videos on their computers. It’s ususally an easy matter of cutting and pasting the lyrics from another source – no big deal. As far as I could find, there is no transcript of this particular speech by Manning. I typed what he said as I heard it, so if I misheard anything, I apologize. I think I got it right, though, and I’m so glad I typed it out, because sometimes I’m a little thick, and the exercise helped me soak in every single word.