“I simply argue that the cross should be raised at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town’s garbage heap...
Grappling With God, pt. 2
A case study in the bitter struggle for change, blessing…
Not all prayers are meant to be wrestling matches, but for those times in our life when prayer slams us on the floor God has included this scene in His story just to let us know that there are times when prayer is a struggle, and that is ok too.
“I will not let you go unless you bless me.”—Jacob.
Prayer is the personal assertion of man’s will on God’s character; the refusal to let go of the moment of the I Am. Prayers that change us and bless us are prayers that land their punches with the force of those who know what they want. Jacob knows what he wants—God’s blessing—and has the tenacious grip to match it.
Should God strip down to our weight class, enter the ring of our life, and external to all our internal forces, floor us and find us, then let us face God in the bare grip of our existence. God’s blessing and character transformation is not something that we arrive at through a Zen-like inner peace. God’s blessing comes with a fight. The only rationale for the tenacity of this prayer is Jacob believes he can win this fight with God.
Have you fought with God? Have you entered into the fight of your life thinking you can win? Have you reached the place where all you want is God’s blessing on your life?
In the 1950's when Christian Existential philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich was asked the question "What would you think is the best present-day Protestant religious picture," without skipping a beat, he answered it as Picasso's famous Guernica.
He responds that it illustrates our "disruptiveness, existential doubt, emptiness and meaninglessness...And if Protestantism means that, first of all, we do not have to cover up anything, but have to look at the human situation in its depths of estrangement and despair, then this is one of the most powerful religious pictures."
I am reminded of Pastor Jeff speaking last Sunday about how in our existence here in this world, we fight against the spin of this planet that moves toward death. As we participate in this 10-day countdown that ends on Good Friday, commemorating Christ's crucifixion and death, I feel motivated to confront this image and peer into the depths of my own human situation. If I am to say that Christ overcame death for me, how much of a win is that for me if I have yet to hold any relation to death and my own existential depths?
This thought comes to me: Nobody ever begins a fight that they don't think will end in victory. Only through Him and what Jesus has done on the cross can we even confront this empty image. Only can I look at the void and meaninglessness of my life with His everlasting words, "It is finished."
Being both a fan of NPR's This American Life and Wired Magazine, where I got my first job out of college, I share with you Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly's amazing testimony while sleeping on the spot where Christ was crucified and his confrontation with death in a segment called "Shoulda Been Dead." The 15-minute story can be found by cueing up to 04:22 in the player below or by simply clicking to the official website here.
James was a journalist for national magazines, including Wired, Outside, Rolling Stone, and Time Out New York. With his beautiful wife Tiffany, he is the father—with the biased opinion—of the most beautiful baby in the history of babies. He is currently getting his doctorate degree in clinical psychology, working on a dissertation on bearing witness to others in the face of crisis.
Lent is the practice of preparation.
Wednesday, April 9 the Beloved Followers of Jesus will embark on 10 days of prayer, fasting, and reflection as we pilgrimage together toward Good Friday.
Here's how you can join in:
PRAY. 6AM join us as we reflect on the Lighthouse Blog Devotional and pray. 1337 Sutter Campus will be open for prayer from 6am-7am. If you cannot make it, pray from wherever you are.
- FAST. Take the next 10 days to practice surrender, just as Jesus surrendered his life to the Father, so you can practice surrender through giving up favorite foods and stepping away from various forms of escapism (social media, media, entertainment, etc.). Perhaps a juice fast would be something that could challenge you.
- GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE. On Friday, April 18 @7:30PM we will have a Lighthouse Good Friday Gathering and Fellowship.
I am deeply loved by God. You are deeply loved by God. We are deeply loved by God.
A friend and I spoke over the weekend about these words, which aren’t anything new to a believer’s ears. Knowing at head level that I am loved by God is expected as a Christian. But my friend and I came to the conclusion that believing at a heart level—that we are deeply loved by God—that’s revolutionary.