Dec 15, 2009

More Than...

In the church I attend in Alaska one of the duties I have is leading prayer meetings and give direction on what I have learned, or am learning about prayer. Sometimes, I talk about how to pray, but each month I also write a newsletter in which I attempt to give some keys or insight to a greater prayer life. I had planned to do the same this month, but the Lord woke me up in the middle of the night with this message and I would like to share it with you.

We would have to be locked up in some closet not to recognize that this is the holiday season. Our lives are filled with spending time with family and friends, running to the stores, pushing our way thru the crowds, or even getting up entirely too early to attempt to get that one item that Walmart has marked down in a marketing scheme to get us in the door. They may only have one of two of these items that are gone first thing as the crowd pushes their way in, but it gets us in the doors, and then we end up spending more than we can afford on items we won't even remember a week or two after Christmas is over, with the exception of the bills.

It is also the time of year, when regardless of our personal religious beliefs, we can find displays and ornaments, and our thoughts turn to the birth of Christ. I realize we can get easily caught up in all the commercialization, Santa Claus, and all the amazing food items that never seem to be out except at this time of year, but for most of us we also remember the baby in the manger.

When Jesus was born it wasn't in a hospital; he didn't have doctors, and Mary didn't go through prenatal classes. There wasn't a sterile room with rubber gloves and gowns abundant. He didn't even have a midwife to deliver him. The bible doesn't specify who delivered Jesus, but only exclaims that he was born. We know he was born in a borrowed stable. We know that they laid him in a manger which the reality is, was the place the cattle got their food. He didn't have pressed linen sheets, or even a pillow. He will forever be known as the baby in the manger. For some of us, that is all we see him as, just the baby in the manger. Saints been down in awe to this baby; this icon of what is good about all of us before we are corrupted with cares of life, and we esteem him as a miracle and perfect. While we all seem amazed by his birth, some of us stop right there and never see him as anything else, but he is so much more than the baby in the manger.

Scripture and tradition teach us that Joseph was a carpenter, and thus when Jesus came of age it was only common for the sons to learn the trade of their father. Jesus probably spent untold hours sweeping, sanding, putting together wood to make something of use. In those days, carpenters not only helped in construction of housing, but also in the very furniture that would be in that house. Jesus may have had his own work bench where he would carve, saw, and hammer a piece of wood into something of use. Perhaps he made chairs or tables, and many of his day only saw him as the carpenter's son. He was so much more than a carpenter's son though, and history has told us so.

We read that he went about doing good, teaching in the synagogues and on the hillsides. He astounded the teachers and theologians at an early age with his knowledge of laws and scripture. There are many passages that speak of him as a rabbi, or teacher, and he could tell stories with the best taking the examples from life as he would instruct those who listened in steps to lead a productive, successful life. He taught so even the little children could understand how they should go about their day and grow into adulthood with purpose. If he was alive today, I am certain he would be on the best seller list, and people would buy his self help books to go on the shelf with all the other wisdom that ends up there. He was a great teacher, and some would spend hours, go without food even just to hear him teach, but he was so much more than just a teacher.

Some didn't come to hear him teach, but rather to see what he would do. To many he was a magician, a seer, a miracle worker. They came to watch the show, or perhaps even be involved in it. We read with astonishment and maybe even a smile about the time he fed the five thousand, or when he raised Jarius daughter from the dead. See, they knew where to come when they had problems, when they didn't know where else to turn. Even his closest flowerers, his disciples, whom he would teach more in-depth, who should have realized that he was giving them a great gift, saw him many times as just the one who could fix things when they were in trouble. To most, he was just the one who did the miracles, but he was so much more than the miracle worker.

I have had a copy of the passion movie on my desk for more than a year. I have planned to watch it. I have heard many stories about how close the real deal it must have been. The scenes of agony and and powerful testament of what took place has been shown by Hollywood to be more real than ever before. I like anyone else have seen bits and pieces online, but I often wonder why I never seem to have time to watch the movie. It has went with me on several airline flights but remained in my bag, and someday I will watch it, but he is so much more than just the depiction of his struggles with humanity and praying in the garden, tempted and abused by the people of his day.

We can read the passages of scripture ourselves, where he wanted someone to just pray with him for an hour when the religious right of his day conspired with the government to do away with this man that is upsetting their plans. We read about how he was beaten, carried his own cross up a criminal's trail to a hill where they hammered nails into his hands and feet and stuck him in a hole, naked before all humanity, to die for his transgressions of trying to help others. History has cleaned up the story; it was so much more brutal than we can imagine, and they have given us and image of this pretty cross with a man hanging on it dressed in some sort of garment as he died there on Golgotha.

I can relate with most people as to the power of the cross, and many of us have preached about it, and some religious entities have made the cross into an icon that they hang on the wall, wear around their neck, or put in a place of honor in their cathedrals. They look to the image of a man hanging on a cross to find strength in times of trouble, to restore hope, and as a companion, while most of the time, the words of this man sit idly on a shelf somewhere collecting dust. At Christmas, or any time of the year you can find all sorts of icons, images, idols of Jesus on the cross, or the cross itself as a reminder of what he did for us. While it is a powerful image, he isn't that little idol; he isn't on that cross you carry around, and even though he died on a cross and we all know he rose again, he is so much more than the man on the cross.

Most of us make an effort to attend some sort of worship service each week, where we will sing, pray, listen to someone talk about some passage in the bible that is usually meant to be uplifting and a way to feel the humanity of Jesus. We tell the different bible stories of old, how David killed the giant, Jonah and his big fish, Jesus walking on the water. We sing songs praising his name, his blood, the significance of the price he paid as we embrace who he was, and how his life has changed the destiny of most who listen. A lot of us get this idea that if we go to church on Sunday, and listen to the preacher then we become good people, and of course good people go to heaven. There were times when we listened and our hearts were pierced with the suffering of our savior, but these days of more modern influences, it has become more about the social aspects, the gathering together, and perhaps the prayer for our needs. We reflect on Jesus, and we have ministers who can make him come alive with stories, but the truth of the matter is Jesus is more than what we do on Sunday.

I am sure by now, some are a bit rattled in what I am writing, and yes I do believe he is all of these things. I myself have known him as a healer. I depend on him to supply my needs. The scriptures tell us to. We are taught to cast our cares on him; trust in the Lord with all our might; if we have a need to take it to him. Growing up in a preacher's home I saw many miracles over the years. Broken bodies have been healed by the power of his name; families have been put back together; in times of dire financial straits, somehow the money has just been there. Even now I pray for my own healing and restoration of my body, spirit, life, and ministry after some terrible circumstances have changed my life forever. I pray for my family and friends, all the while believing that God is going to give them what they need. God has shown me revival in churches soon to come. He has showed me that certain people I know are going to be healed to such a magnitude that right now they are not able to comprehend it. He has shown me things that are set to transpire in my own life, that even I have a hard time accepting. He is so many things to all of us, and yet he is so much more.

More than...
a baby in a manger
a carpenter's son
a good teacher
a prophet
a miracle worker
the man on the cross
the one who rose again
an image on a cross
strength in need
something to do on Sunday
a song or message
a memory of what he has done
a celebration time
even more than our savior
anything we can imagine

He is still more...

It is easy in our circumstances or trials to forget how powerful Jesus really is. Sometimes we become so complacent with the day to day, that we forget him. Even when we are doing good ourselves helping humanity, leading others to him, we can sometimes forget just who he really is.

I used to sing specials in church and there were times when I would feel God leading me to minister in song to let others know he is there. One of my favorite songs was "More than Enough." My dad would play the piano, and I would sing and I would see tears on even the most wounded spirit as they remembered that he really is enough to take care of their circumstance. Many times if we are not in the midst of the trial, then we tend to overlook the power of his deity, the strength he gives in the midst of the storms and that welcome hug when we have nowhere else to turn to. If we haven't been thru times of crisis, we cannot really appreciate just how "More than.." he really can be.

I used to hear people talk about how Jesus was this or that, and many times to me I didn't fully get it. I knew he could do anything; I knew he healed; I knew he supplied; I knew he saved, but I didn't fully grasp just how 'more than..' he really was until I faced hardships in my own personal life. Faced with situations in which I had no control I agonized over how I was going to make it. It seemed just when one part of life got better another part got worse, and it has been a long battle. There have been days I thought I couldn't get out of bed anymore; days where I questioned God and his methods; situations where I really just felt like giving up. I still face things that I don't have the answers to, I don't know the outcome, and can be very fearful. However, in the midst of all of this, there is a depth in God that I feel that I could not have known had I not been thru that trial.

I know some are going thru devastating illness and burdens that seem to have no end, but I am living proof to say, he is More than Enough.

He's more than enough, more than enough,
He is el shaddi, the God of plenty,
The all sufficient one, God almighty,
He is more than enough.

No matter the trial you are in, no matter the questions you have about God, no matter what others might think about God, He is more than enough for any situation. He is more than just a baby in a manger.