Why Church Sucks – And No One Really Wants To Go (Excerpt from Chapter 7 – The Father)

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What is Jesus Up To These Days?

One of my favorite depictions of Jesus is a drawing.  His head is thrown back and He’s laughing outloud and smiling.  You can almost feel His happiness.  It always makes me want to know the punch line to the joke the Holy Spirit just told Him.

Jesus said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.”  In Hebrews we’re told that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father’s nature.  It makes me want to know what He’s up to these days.

The bible tells us what He’s up to.  He’s up to happiness.  Fulfilled, exhilarating, relentless happiness and satisfaction.  He isn’t hiding from us or being tricky.  He isn’t running away from us because we’re riddled with weakness.  He isn’t smugly being separated from us because of our sin.  He is in constant pursuit of us, sovereignly orchestrating circumstances and situations for our good, confidently and certainly arranging our lives to drive us to Him; the happiest, kindest, most beautiful and extraordinary Person we’ll ever meet. 

The Father is happy.  Happy in a way that we cannot fathom.  He is not angry.  His anger (wrath) was fully and finally appeased through His Son so that we could enjoy Him, and He could enjoy us. 
The Father is pleased.   And He invites us into His celebratory pleasure.

In Zephaniah 3:17 we find a surprising description of our Father that many of us wouldn’t imagine is true of Him. 

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will dance over you with joy, He will quiet you in His love, He will exult over you with shouts of joy.

The Father dances in exuberant happiness over us, His children.  Not just when we are doing well spiritually or when we’re happy, but constantly.  He has been satisfied.  He is happy.  He doesn’t look to us to fulfill His side of our relationship.  Our Father loves to have parties and we are the guest of honor. 

The King’s Table

One of my favorite depictions of the heart of the Father is found in an obscure story about a crippled relative of Jonathon named Mephibosheth.  His name is fun to say isn’t it?  It’s so beyond pronounceable that I’m tempted to just call him Meth.  But that conveys strange things, so Mephibosheth it is.

Now Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the report of Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened that in her hurry to flee, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.

In the Old Testament, anyone who was lame or crippled or leprous was an outcast.  People couldn’t “work from home” on their laptops back then.  They couldn’t sit in a toll booth with a lame leg and still perform the duties necessary to make a living.  The crippled and blind and deaf were considered to be “sinners.”  Even in Jesus’ day this was true.  Consider the disciples’ question to Jesus about whose sin it was, the mother’s or the father’s, which caused the man to be born blind.  Physical defects were associated with sin and they were considered outcasts.  They were wrong to believe such things, but it’s still the way it was.

Mephibosheth was a son of Jonathon (king Saul’s son), who King David loved dearly.  They had been good friends.  David had succeeded Saul as King.  One day King David asked if there was anyone left related to Saul that he could show favor to out of respect and honor of God’s fallen anointed (this is so crazy to me because Saul actually tried to kill David and now David is wanting to show his respect.  Who does that?)

The king said, “Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?” And Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet.” Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar. Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, “Mephibosheth.” And he said, “Here is your servant!” David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.” 

Here is a royal display of mercy that is unprecedented and unparalleled. As far as the community is concerned, Mephibosheth is nothing more than a useless sinner.  He’s unworthy.  He cannot perform any of the duties necessary to warrant notice of a King.  He will likely die alone and not be missed by anyone.  Then all of a sudden, a royal invitation.  Not only to present himself before the king (which he does appropriately by falling on his face in front of David), but an invitation to eat with the king regularly?  Are you kidding me!??  We really can’t fathom how much this was like winning Powerball for Mephibosheth, or for anyone in that day.  To hang out and eat with the King?  Absurdly positive life change.  But it gets better.  Land in that day was like money in the bank.  It was blessing.  It was honor.  Bragging rights.  It was the equivalent of God blessing you and me with sudden ownership of hotel chains, lucrative dot-com’s and all the cars and stuff and junk we could ever want.  This sinner was being set up.  But why?  Because of the heart of the king, and who Mephibosheth was related to. 

But it gets even better. 

Again he prostrated himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?”  Then the king called Saul’s servant Ziba and said to him, “All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson.  “You and your sons and your servants shall cultivate the land for him, and you shall bring in the produce so that your master’s grandson may have food; nevertheless Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall eat at my table regularly.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. Then Ziba said to the king, “According to all that my lord the king commands his servant so your servant will do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table as one of the king’s sons. Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. And all who lived in the house of Ziba were servants to Mephibosheth. So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate at the king’s table regularly.

Unbelievable GRACE!!  This is what the Father is like.  This is what He has done for us.  We are more than lame.  We are useless for righteousness and we cannot “cultivate the land” of our spirituality well enough (at all) to warrant the positive attention or blessing of God.  In reality we are like Mephibosheth, the “dead dogs” of the community.  But we are related to the right person.  We are the King’s sons and daughters (Romans 8:15).  We have been invited freely by grace to come and dine and enjoy God regularly (Hebrew 10:19). 

Mephibosheth’s new land ownership was also unfathomably accompanied by a team of people to work the land for him.  In essence David said, “I’ve got this.  All you have to do is come and be honored.  You are not a dead dog.  You are royalty now.  You are the descendent of a King. You will come and eat with me as my own son.”

That is what our Father says to us.  “While you were dead in your transgressions and sins, I made you alive.  I put you positionally into my Son so that you’re never fearful of how I treat you relationally.   I have put you into the place of extraordinary favor where you never have to worry that I won’t love you, bless you, talk to you, pursue you or take care of you.  I’ve got you.  You are in My Son.  And that means all that belongs to Him belongs to you.  I have given you the land.  I will cultivate it for you through my sovereign grace.  Learn to receive from Me, and you will find yourself to be an enormous giver.”

Our Father is extraordinarily out of His mind with His grace towards us. Who is like that?  Who gives like He does and doesn’t ask for something back eventually?  No one.  Absolutely no one.  Don’t let anyone ever lie to you about who your Father is. Whether it’s a pagan or your pastor.  Whether it’s in church, a small group, at work, or at home. He is passionately in love with you because He is passionately in love with you. Period.  He loves because He is Love. That’s what He’s like.  His anger is appeased.  His plans for you are good.  He is with you in trouble and He is not mad at your sin.  Be at peace.  

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