1 Corinthians: 8:2
The man who thinks he knows something
does not yet know as he ought to know. (1)
It’s all about us…God, you and me.
Welcome to The Porpoise Diving Life. You don’t need to stand on the beach gawking at those who claim to have God figured out any longer. This book is an invitation to get in the water and swim with me as we as we explore beneath the surface of what you have been hearing, watching, and living. It involves the adventure of discovering new ways to see God, experience Him, and consider joining a pod of people just like you, who are perplexed by the same, unspoken concerns. I’m not going to attempt to sell you a bunch of beliefs. Those who claimed to have religion down pat consistently annoyed Jesus. His focus and compassion were always primarily directed toward those who were excluded and marginalized by the mainstream religious establishment…the people who live The Porpoise Diving Life. My desire is to liberate you from the aquarium and restore you to your rightful place in the open seas of life, free to pursue a relationship with The God of More. The rest is up to Him and you.
Just because your journey through the seas of life does not match up with the current mainstream promises of evangelical Christianity (peace, financial security, prosperity, always happy, loved by everyone, loving toward all, protection from disease, misfortune and the unexpected) does not mean that you are not loved by God just as the purveyors of these promises claim to be. News-splash! It’s all about us! “God doesn’t reveal himself to us just to make us happy or deliver us from loneliness. He also comes to us so that we may be conduits of his presence to other people. He invites us to join him in making things down here the way they are up there.”(2) “I’ve come to the abrupt realization that a life that is all about me is not even important enough for me to give my life to. I don’t need my life to be all about me. I don’t even want my life to be all about me. But I desperately desire something important enough for which to give all my life.”(3) It’s about God, you and me. “It is time that we demand more of ourselves as Christians. We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, and if the world is going to see, feel, and touch him, it will have to be through us.”(4) It’s all about us!
How could you possibly desire a relationship with an invisible, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving, supernatural entity where the end game is to make that entity happy? How would you know if you are actually succeeding or failing? Maybe there’s more to God’s desire for your life than what everybody has been telling you in the name of Christianity. The good news is that we have written this book for you. You’re not alone.
Life would be terribly boring if your everyday experience was truly predetermined by your Creator at birth. Why even get up in the morning? I guess we have choices that impact what actually happens in our lives. I’ll never die skydiving. Why? Because I am neither brave nor dumb enough to jump out of an airplane with a nylon sheet strapped to my back that was put together by some guy I’ve never met named Charlie. It just ain’t gonna happen. If your life is like mine, choices make a difference in what happens in life. I’ve made some poor ones, some good ones, some that I regret, some I wish I could forget and countless others I can’t recall. Predetermined by God…fat chance.
Maybe you don’t feel that your purpose in life has been predetermined like a bullet fired from a gun headed for the target…there’s not much you can do about the trajectory of the projectile after your Creator has pulled the trigger at birth. Perhaps your life experience has been more like a ricochet, bouncing off one experience into the next. You’re not an exception.
Maybe you don’t feel driven all the time by some sort of burning passion, the need to succeed or a distinct sense of unwavering purpose. If this is the case, relax. You have loads of company.
Perhaps it’s time to get real. Sometimes, life sucks. There are periods when life seems like an accident rather than anything anyone would have thought up and thrust upon us on purpose. At other times, something incredibly wonderful occurs in life. It’s like you need to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. You might even feel like you don’t deserve the good fortune that has come your way. On occasion, a sense of gratitude wells up within you. You feel like you’re floating. At other times, you experience days that are dreadfully boring. You feel like pulling the covers over your head and taking a long nap or pressing the fast-forward button to get beyond the drudgery of it all.
Let’s face it. There’s stuff in life that hurts, is frightening, incredibly joyous, humorous, tedious, boring, hazy and confounds our ability to understand it all. There’s even more about daily living on this planet that escapes trite, formulaic explanations. Let’s be honest. Life gets confusing and overwhelming. When my life gets this way, I go for a long walk on the beach. It’s what happened to me during one of these walks that prompted me to write this book. It’s about the reality for the rest of us, picking up where the purpose-driven perspective some people are peddling peters out. It’s The Porpoise Diving Life.
Jesus dove into life. I become unsettled rather quickly when I hear people speak about Jesus as if He floated above it all during the time he lived with us on this planet. One central truth that permeates the life of Christ in Scripture is that He had his ups and downs, good days and bad, joy and distress, clarity and confusion, contentment and frustration. I adore how one author describes this undeniable aspect of the life of Christ: “I discovered a man who was almost continually frustrated. His frustration leaps out of virtually every page: “What do I have to say to you? How many times do I have to say it? What do I have to do to get through to you?” I also discovered a man who was frequently sad and sometimes depressed, frequently anxious and scared. A man who was terribly, terribly lonely, yet often desperately needed to be alone. I discovered a man so incredibly real that no one could have made him up.”(5) Jesus lived The Porpoise Diving Life.
Just as the horizon swallows the school of Porpoise, I wonder if we have fallen prey to the tendency within our existence to treat Jesus as we have the Porpoise: Out of sight, out of mind. Perhaps it’s time to embrace a new posture. Is it time to go to new depths with Jesus by diving in and breaking through some of the notions that have precluded us from the intimacy that He so desperately desires with each of us? It is my premise mainstream Christianity has fouled the waters with notions that are precluding millions of people from enjoying a vibrant relationship with Jesus and reflecting that to the world. Forget what you think you know about God, Jesus Christ and the Christian faith as you read this book.
I deeply appreciate reminders to breathe spiritually. Yes, the momentum and velocity of my life unwittingly keeps me submerged in the ebb and flow of daily living far longer than I would prefer sometimes. Frankly, it becomes downright unhealthy on occasion. Sometimes I tumble through life, seemingly unable to find a breath of air beneath the pressure of the pounding surf. (In southern California, we call this ‘pounding’ being inside the washing machine; tumbling around underwater beneath the breaking surf, temporarily incapable of determining up from down. This is a literal experience of the verse in Psalm 42, “all your breakers and waves have swept over me”(6) . When I’m able to break through to the surface, that first breath of fresh air is incredibly precious. Just like the Porpoise, my life has been one where I grab a breath and dive beneath the sea, carrying out my ordinary course affairs. Need oxygen? I kick for the surface and burst through to inhale the gift of essential sustenance that only He can provide: The gift of The Porpoise Diving Life.
As I stand on the beach watching a school of Porpoise, I realize that I cannot hear them. Their beauty within this sea of silence mesmerizes me. I challenge you to do the same thing as you read the Gospels. Read everything except anything Jesus speaks. Absorb the boots on the ground reality of how Jesus moves through life, how others respond to Him, how everyday life confronts Him. Through this, I have garnered a vastly deeper appreciation for who Jesus is and how He lived versus what did He mean? It is here that I find the Jesus that nobody could have made up.
To illustrate the beauty of this reality, let’s take a moment to look at four out of the eighty- nine chapters of the four Gospels. See if you can relate to the following from the life of Jesus on earth contained within the first four chapters of Mark:
He experienced times alone, by Himself. He was confronted by evil. He was tempted. He encountered wild animals and nutty people. He had a friend imprisoned. He walked. He observed and interacted with those around Him. He moved both toward and away from people. He was revolted by evil. Others misunderstood him. He visited and assisted the sick. He chose to go to a solitary place and pray. Others wondered about Him, talking behind His back. He shared His opinions with others. He was compassionate. He physically touched other folks. People showed up in His life, invited and uninvited. He threatened people. He could sense what people were thinking in their hearts. He questioned the status quo. He challenged prevailing thought and cultural norms. He ate. He slept. People’s opinions about Him varied. Others watched his behavior. Some judged him. Folks gossiped about Him and falsely accused Him of committing unlawful acts. He became angry and distressed. He restored defective things. He became stressed about people crowding His space. He had to back off from the pressures of everyday life. His dinner was interrupted. His own family described Him as being out of his mind.
Based upon the above, can you relate to what Jesus experienced during His life on Earth? Of course you can. Are there any similarities to your life? Absolutely. This reality has always been the undeniable attraction for me to Christ. Nobody could have made this God up. Yet, the conversation I overhear most often about Jesus today is distinctly weighted to His deity, the Divine dimension of His being. Furthermore, Christians are encouraged to cram our heads with a bunch of knowledge and beliefs that do not reflect either the love or lifestyle of Jesus in our daily lives.(7) Finally, far too many of us rail at the world and then stand around wondering why people don’t want what we claim to have, or become what we claim to be.
The resistance to becoming a Christian in the developed, western world is militant and permeates cultures across continents. The willingness of non-Christians to engage in an open-minded discussion of Christianity with evangelicals can be characterized by two hormonally imbalanced adolescents brawling in a schoolyard. The point is, everybody’s losing. The Christian species is under siege. The decline of mainstream denominationalism within the species is well documented. Predictions of extinction in the next fifty years are at hand. As one author suggests, “Making a few adjustments here and there will not help. If we simply do better with what we are presently doing in our old wine vats, we will continue to be irrelevant and, in time, extinct.”(8) Species don’t become extinct overnight. It’s a gradual process. They peter out.
The question becomes, why do species peter out? Answer, they fail to adapt to environmental changes around them. The species continues to resist the reality that we must change how we interact with our world.
The apostle Peter consistently petered out. That’s where this term originated. He fell into the sea when he took his eyes off of Jesus.(9) He denied he knew Christ three times,(10) after he courageously proclaimed that this would never happen.(11) I’m reminded of a story about Peter in the book of John.(12) Peter was tired. He and his buddies had been fishing all night, using the same methods they had always used. Their efforts had produced nothing. They’d given up. They had petered out. Jesus shows up and asks, “Hey you guys haven’t you caught anything? Throw your nets on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did what Jesus said, their nets were so filled with fish they couldn’t haul in the catch. The point is, maybe it’s time to start fishing of the other side of the good ship Christianity.
God has an uncanny way of stepping in when things look like they’re petering out. It’s at times like these that God provides a glimpse of a new reality for the rest of us. Just as He did with Peter, His intervention is characterized by forgiveness, mercy, grace, restoration and a Spirit empowered witness to the world that only He could imagine. The way forward is filled with uncertainty and risk. As one author says: “Sure, it’s dangerous and murky. The answers aren’t always simple and clear. If you want simplistic formulas, try another religion. Most real living requires risks. Without risk, our lives peter out in dead-end streets.”(13) I can assure you that God has not petered out. We have.
Today, the world is drowning in an ocean of notions about Christ, Christianity and Christians. You can hear the term know everywhere you go today. The following statements are a few I hear quite often: “I know that! Did you know? I knew it! Do you know about?”
Know what? These notions floating around about being in the know have led Christianity to a place where we have succumbed to belief that we’ve finally arrived at the ledge…the end of the road. I call it the know-ledge. It’s a destination where we stand perched atop a vantage point, triumphantly gazing out across the vast expanse of history, the present, and the future and proudly proclaim, “We’ve made it! Our present position resting atop the summit of the know-ledge precipice places us in a very precarious position. We stand in one place admiring our surroundings and ourselves while the kingdom we were sent to serve in love burns beneath us. We’ve petered out. Heaven help us!
As Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger state in their book, Emerging Churches – Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures:
“Emerging churches utilize the kingdom as a tool to deconstruct all aspects of life, including virtually all church practices. They understand that the kingdom gives rise to the church, not the other way around. Forms and structures of church are variable in emerging churches, especially in comparison to new paradigm, purpose-driven, and seeker churches which keep most of the traditional structures intact. Utilizing the kingdom of God paradigm as a tool of deconstruction, emerging churches dismantle many forms of church that, although viable at one time, increasingly represent a bygone era.“(14)
At this juncture, the verse from the Apostle Paul on the title page of this chapter provides the startling truth we require to be roused from our complacency, “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.”(15) I have a sneaking suspicion that the wisdom of what we know is less than what we require. As the Scripture says: “Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”(16) It’s not that we require more knowledge, we require more intimate relationship with Him. It’s time to yearn for what’s beneath the surface of your relationship with God. It’s time to leap from the know-ledge and dive in! Just as Jesus said to a petered out Peter, His invitation to us today is follow me. (17)
Leap from your ledge. Dive in with me as we journey together navigating the sea of real life (mine), insights from other authors and relationships with real people, enabling us to burst through the surface of the notions that separate us from one another, God, and the ability to serve the kingdom we were created to love. May this book bless you and change you, drawing you near the God who created and lived The Porpoise Diving Life.
Notes – Prologue
(1) 1 Corinthians: 8:2
(2) Ortberg, John God Is Closer Than You Think, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI Copyright (c) 2005 by John Ortberg, p. 176.
(3) McManus, Erwin Raphael UPRISING – A Revolution of the Soul, Nelson Books, A Division of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN Copyright (c) 2003 by Erwin Rafael McManus p.26.
(4) Perkins, John M. Restoring At-Risk Communities – Doing It Together & Doing It Right, Baker Books Grand Rapids, Michigan © Copyright 1995 by John M. Perkins, p. 12.
(5) Peck, Dr. M. Scott Further Along The Road Less Traveled, Simon & Schuster New York, New York. Copyright (c) 1993 by M. Scott Peck p. 160.
(6) Psalm 42:7
(7) Barna, George The State of the Church: 2002, Published by Issachar Resources, a division of Barna Research Group, Ltd., 5528 Everglades Street Ventura, CA 93003 Copyright © 2002 by George Barna p. 63.
(8) Easum, William Dancing With Dinosaurs – Ministry In A Hostile and Hurting World, Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN Copyright © 1993 by Abingdon Press, p. 14.
(9) Matthew 14:27-33
(10) John 18:15-27
(11) Matthew 26:33
(12) John 21:1-6
(13) Frost, Michael Seeing God In The Ordinary – A Theology of the Everyday, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA Copyright (c) 2000 by Michael Frost, p. 137.
(14) Gibbs, Eddie and Bolger, Ryan K. Emerging Churches – Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Copyright 2005 by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger p. 96.
(15) 1 Corinthians 8:2 –
(16) 1 Corinthians 3:18-19
(17) John 21:19