Hebrews 10:25 exhorts believers to “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together”. I’ve always heard this verse used for scolding a person who isn’t attending church regularly. But is that what it’s really talking about? Isn’t there more to “assembling together” than parking your carcass on a church pew for an hour and thirty on Sunday morning, listening to another sermon and dropping another check in the offering plate?
Sure, that’s something. It’s predictable. It’s clean. We like that. I like that. You know where you’re going to be sitting, you know who’s likely to be sitting next to you. You know the sermon will be safe; probably nothing to challenge the boundaries of your comfort zone; at most, maybe some new point might catch your intellectual dalliance and you’ll say “huh. I never thought of that before.” Then you’ll take the kids home for lunch, fire up the lawnmower and feel pretty good that you’ve done your duty to God for another week by forsaking not the assembling of yourselves together. But is that all there is to it? don’t you ever wonder if there’s more? In John 10:10, Jesus says “I have come that you might have LIFE and have it to the full.” Is this what constitutes living life to the full? A nine to fiver, and a “very fine house with two cats in the yard”? Life used to be so hard… We’re talking about knowing GOD here – not the God of starched white shirts and printed hymnals all stored neatly on the back of the pew in front of you. This is the God of volcanoes and thunderstorms, the God of the earth and the sky, the God of the oceans – vast, sweeping, magnificent, breathtaking and… dangerous. How dare we put Him in a tidy white box, paste a little red bow on top and feel so satisfied that we’ve done our duty to Him by following the rules? It speaks volumes of His wisdom, His patience and His extravagant generosity that He doesn’t lose patience with us and our lack of comprehension. He’s a God of miracles, well, yes, but you see, those were for times past. He doesn’t speak to us directly anymore. We have the church now, and we have it so much better than poor Moses and Aaron did. They were obliged to climb mountains and follow around behind pillars of fire and cloud. I mean, come on, what kind of life is that? You wouldn’t know one day to the next where you’d be sleeping the next night. It’s messy to have to deal face to face with God. We prefer the man in the starched white shirt with the safe 20 minute sermons, so we can get home in time to have lunch and mow the lawn. We’re content and comfortable keeping God at arm’s length. We have our comfortable list of rules and regulations, and as long as we’re able to check off at least the biggies every day, we can be pretty sure we’re right on track. “Life used to be so hard… now everything is easy ’cause of you…”The trouble is, I’m getting this uneasy sense that it’s not enough. Not necessarily wrong, mind you; following the rules is definitely part of it. I Samuel 15:22 clearly says obedience is preferable to sacrifice. But that’s not all of it; it’s not the whole picture; it’s not enough. God doesn’t do Day Planners and GTD, folks. God is a God of LOVE, and it’s a big, messy, demanding, all-consuming love, not one that you can reject when it doesn’t fit the definition of the man in the starched white shirt. Sometimes it’s inconvenient and unexpected. God lives and loves outside the box. His is a dangerous love. When it’s focused on you, it can turn your life inside out, break all the rules and leave you wrecked and gasping for breath. It might actually ask you to sit next to somebody you don’t know. They might have tattoos. (Well, we all have our crosses to bear, right?) Worse, you might have to put away your neat checklist of do’s and don’ts, and actually move beyond the safety of charted waters. It could get really messy. Please don’t take this as yet another smug superior looking disapprovingly at you. That’s not the case at all. If you’re like me, there are more than enough people willing to tell you what you’re doing wrong and give you their prescribed method for doing it right. You and I can only do what you and I can do. To a major degree, each of us can only have the relationship with God that He enables us to have. Some of us – the Keith Greens – catch fire and burn hot and bright. Some of us smoulder for years, all smoke and little apparent flame. I’m one of the latter, but things have been heating up for me lately. I’m catching fleeting glimpses of something… Someone? I’m wondering if, at long last, it’s my time to burn. I don’t really know, but I hope so. Much of what matters to me has been stripped away or denied me in these last months. It’s been a confusing and painful time and I’ve been pretty publicly a wreck. But it’s not over yet. Think of it this way – yeah, I might crash and burn at the side of the road somewhere. Then you can shake your head sadly and say “oh, too bad, so sad.” and go back to listening contentedly to the man in the starched white shirt. Or… I might just come out of this, face shining like the sun – like Moses, having been in the presence of Someone infinitely more valuable than everything that’s been stripped away or denied me.
Some years ago, Steve Jobs of Apple Computer fame and one of the undisputed visionaries of the technology world, was wooing an executive at Pepsico to come and run Apple Computer. Jobs, a master salesman, shrewdly guessed at the motivation of the executive and clinched the deal with one sentence. Knowing the man he was talking to longed for more than a safe corporate gig, he asked “look, do you want to keep selling sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?“
I want to change the world. Are you sure you want to watch? It could be messy…