Monday, September 18, 2017

A Wedding and Signs

In Jesus’ time, a Jewish wedding was a big deal. The groom and his family would prepare a place for the new family. The would plan and prepare for the wedding celebration for a year, or more sometimes. They would gather, and store, food and wine for scores of guests, for a 3 or 4 day party. It was a disaster to run short of something.

Imagine someone has a year to plan and prepare for something, and it gets messed up. People could say that this particular someone was “inept” on so many levels. Or one could call them something less polite than “inept.” It was more than a logistical miscalculation. It was a social failure. It was almost impossible to live down the shame.

So, Jesus goes to a wedding. His mother is also invited, so there is a good change this is a family wedding. And the run out of wine.

Mary learns about the problem. And she tells Jesus. Scripture doesn’t seem to indicate if she intended him to solve the problem, or if she was merely expressing familial concern. And his response to her seems to be a reproof at first. Is he saying that even his mother doesn’t understand his mission in the world?

But she does tell the servant to follow his instructions. And he does give them instructions that solve the problem. He has them fill containers with water, and the water turns to wine. Moreover, the wine he provides is better that the best of what was provided.

Scripture calls this his first sign. By sign, Scripture means an attesting miracle. A miracle that demonstrates the validity of who Jesus is. From one perspective, all miracles point to Jesus, as God’s messiah, as the Promised One, as Savior and Lord.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, the Jewish leaders consistently ask Jesus for a sign. And, in reality, he gave them a sign, several signs in  fact. But they did not accept his signs, not because they weren’t miraculous, but because they did not agree with their pre-conceptions of God’s intentions, and Jesus’ mission.

The Jews seemed to be hung up on their part in God’s plan. They recognized being God’s people, and the transmitters of God’s standards. They did not get that God was determined to restore all people to relationship, and fellowship with him. He would restore all people to live according to their original design, and to create a family from all peoples. And they didn’t get how the Father was going to accomplish his purposes.

Was this Jesus’ first sign, because it was a signal to pay attention? Something special is here. Something unexpected is here. Or was it a signal that God was beginning to establish that new family (weddings are the beginning of new families) that he had promised?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Forgiveness

It is the belief of Christians, that when Jesus died on the Cross, he satisfied God’s requirements for the wrongs of every person. The Father covered each person – past, present, and future – and each person’s sin – past, present, and future – with the blood of Christ.

Scripture says that when a person comes to the Christ, his\her sins are nailed to the Cross. His\her entire record. And God already knows our entire record.

The instruction for confession and repentance is not a substitute for the Old Testament sacrificial system.

If one is cognizant of sin, by all means, agree with God that you have done something wrong, and decide with God to live differently. Maybe even how to live differently.

But the guilt of sin, and the power of sin, have been handled by the Cross and the Holy Spirit. God’s primary concern is fellowship, and transformation. Rather, are we walking in relationship with him? Are we living as we were designed?

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Heart of the God-Head

Scripture says that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. I basically hold the traditional view about the Trinity. There is a mystery about the nature of the God-head, which humans cannot understand. Theologians say they have the same essence, or substance, but different personalities. I don’t think this means they are identical triplets. I do think it means they are in perfect agreement. Their inner lives are complexly congruent, completely in sync. They have the same motivations, the same convictions, and the same perspectives. They agree on the same plan, and have the same mission.

This includes all thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward each person.

The Father is not the reigning King, focused only obedience, and justice. The Son is not the sacrificial lamb, focused on love, compassion and mercy. The Spirit is not this ethereal force, falling like lightning in unpredictable places. They all hate sin. They all love sinners. They all want the restoration of a relationship with all people, the formation of loving fellowship with all people, and the transformation of all people into the likeness of Jesus. (Meaning: each person living fully as God designed each one to be. Without sin like Jesus. Fully loving like Jesus. Yet, fully expressing each one’s gifts, strengths, and potential.)

Many feel that each member of the God-head have different attitudes toward people. The Father is angry, and condemning. The Son is gentle, and compassionate. And the views about the Spirit could fill all the volumes in a complete set of encyclopedias. From ephemeral nothing, to vague shadow, to ever present and powerful dynamo, active in every situation. But Scripture indicates they are in complete agreement, and perfect unity, about what they think about people.

Their parts in the plan, and mission, may by distinct. But their attitudes, motives, intentions, drives, feelings, and connections with, and to, people are identical. We can approach each member of the God-head with the same freedom, the same expectation of response, knowing they the same feelings, attitudes, and motives, for our good, our growth, and our destiny.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Father and Partiality.

Scripture says that God does not show partiality. The example given was between the rich and poor.

The God of the Universe, Creator of all things, gives each, and every, person 100%, focused attention. He died for each, and every, person, whether they receive that forgiveness or not, whether they choose to follow him or not. 

A rich man is not more important in the Father’s eyes. A poor man is not more important in the Father’s eyes. He holds each person equally responsible for following him, for keeping his word, and for maintaining fellowship with him. And he provides equally for salvation, significance and identity. He gives love, abundant and overflowing, to each one equally. And he gives 100%, focused attention to each one equally. 

Think of anything that divides one kind of people from another (race, religion, country, politics, etc.) the Father knows that this thing exists. But it does not exist for him. 

There is only one division that means anything to him. Is someone in his family, or not in his family? And if someone is not in his family, it makes no difference to how his loves that person, his desire for relationship with that person, his attention on that person, or his intention to restore that person to his original design.

And Scripture says that it is God’s desire for his children to imitate his heart, his attitudes, and his behavior.

 

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Four Loves

In the original language of the New Testament, there are four words that are translated with the English word “love.” Each word has a different “color” of love. Like sky blue, cobalt blue, and baby blue are all blue, but they are different.

The first kind of love we will call “unconditional love.” It is love given to everyone: strangers, enemies, and the least. It is a love most often attributed to God, who seeks out sinners, rebels, and his enemies, to restore them to his family, and to their original design. It is a love that his family should express.

The second kind of love we can call “friendship love.” The more or less official definition is: love based on common interests and experiences.

There are some people who see God loving his children with this kind of love. They say “God not only loves us, but he also likes us.” We can see a parallel with a physical father, who teaches and disciplines his children, who pushes them toward their potential, but also enjoys playing with his children. I remember playing tag on the school yard “monkey bars” with my son, and wrestling on the living room floor. And when he got older, we played one on one basketball. I have seen grown men having “tea” with their four year old daughters.

This is an important demonstration of love – not unconditionally for an enemy or a stranger – but for a friend or a family member. God delights to have fellowship with his children. Sometimes it entails “heavy,” or important things like Bible study, intercession, and worship. Sometimes, to show us how he accepts us, as we are, where we are, he is willing to sit down and have “tea” … or maybe play video games. My wife feels God is telling her with rainbows, and when she finds coins on the ground, “You’re my buddy. I have good things in store for you.”

The third kind of love we can call “family love.” It is love for people who are extensions of us. We love our grandparents, because they are part of our family. We love uncles, aunts, and cousins. It is not too much of a stretch to see God loving us with this kind of love. We are part of his family, and extension of who he is.

Of course, all of this is so I can ask a question about the fourth kind of love. Most people would call it “romantic love.” And we can certainly see it in a man or woman enamored with their significant other. But a more official definition would be: love of someone, because one is overwhelmed by a particular aspect, or trait, of the one loved. It is easy to see how this is associated with romantic love. One person is taken with the form, and beauty, of the other person. However, the Greeks used this word in reference to the love of God, or the gods. The idea is: one loves God, because one is in awe of his power, majesty, beauty, wisdom, or perfection.

This particular love has gotten almost most exclusively connected in our modern thinking with physical beauty. And a person could be captivated by another person’s beauty. But by definition, one could also be captivated by their intelligence, bravery, or artistic ability.

So, we have seen that God loves us unconditionally, even though we are sinners, rebels, and enemies. We have seen that God can love us as friends, enjoying to be with us, sharing life with us. And we can extrapolate a little, and see how God can love us, because we are part of his family, his body, and his kingdom. So, does the God of the universe, who designed us, and created us, who knows us better than we know ourselves, love us for some aspect of our being, that he built into us, to set us apart from everyone else?
  • I really love Bob, because he can see my character in nature, especially the plant kingdom.
  • I really love Pam, because she takes old, worn out, and ugly things, and re-creates them into new, useful, and beautiful things … kind of like I do with my children.
  • I really love Mary, because her heart is given to children. They feel safe with her. And she brings out the best in them.
  • I really love John, because he brings me into the center of things, and people, and helps them understand what I am really like, and how I really feel about them. 


At this point, I can understand the four loves, and I can see how God could express himself in all four ways. To be honest, I don’t have any Scriptural evidence that God does express himself in all four ways. There is definite evidence for some of the ways. And if I find evidence for others, I will most likely write about it here. And I invite you all to put your two cents about any evidence that you may know of.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

"Adopted" in Christ

There are a few places in Scripture, where believers are described as being “adopted in Christ.” This presents a picture of a child, unwanted, alone, without family, without resources, being chosen and brought into a family. And everything changes, because the family pours out its love into the child, and the Father pours out his love into the family.

This is a compelling picture for many. The Father chooses to love. The Father pursues each of us, intending to bring us home. We are placed in a family, given equal access, equal rights, and equal resources.

But are we looking at the picture correctly?

The word translated “adopted” in the original language is a compound word, derived from two words meaning: “son,” and “to place.” So, the world could be literally translated “to place into son-ship.” It is pretty easy to see how the modern concept of adoption could be used. But are we born into one family, and brought into God’s family?

Scripture says we are born physically into the world, but without God, we are dead physically. When we give our allegiance to Jesus, we are born spiritually. We are born into God’s family. We are not unwanted outsiders. We are natural-born children of God’s family.

Recently, I was told – and Vine’s dictionary seems to agree – that the term “to place into son-ship” is more correctly understood to mean “to give recognition as a son.” It is a proclamation, and an affirmation, of relationship. It is a father, watching his son hit a walk-off home run, or scoring the winning goal in stoppage time, get out of his seat, and yell at the crowd: “That’s my son!”

There is a group of writers who discuss what they term the “orphan spirit.” It is the conviction of some people that they are unwanted and unneeded. They have no place. This declaration of son-ship is the exact opposite. God does not need us, because he is all-sufficient. But God does want us, and does want fellowship with us. And God does give us a place in his family, which needs us. If one of God’s children is living in an “orphan spirit,” they are living in a lie.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Least ... Again

I have been thinking about another way to look at the “least.” I’m sure when Jesus referred to the least, he meant the lowest in society. The poor. The criminal. The social outcast. But could we not also think of them as those we have the least in common. When we combine this, with Jesus’ command to love our enemies, we can come to a bewildering array of conclusions.

It is easy to see how the better-off should love the poor. But Jesus’ commands are for everyone. So, the poor should love the rich.

Everywhere there is a broken relationship, no relationship, or enmity, the family of Jesus should fill that space with love. In both directions.
  • Whites and blacks.
  • Democrats and Republicans. (Conservatives and progressives.)
  • Christians and Muslims. (ISIS?)
  • Christians and gays.
  • The Police and the black community. 

If we have given our allegiance to Jesus, and are members of his family, we have chosen to follow him. We have not only chose to obey him, and his commands, but we have, at some time, decided that his commands express a perfect expression of his design for mankind.

God’s first and foremost intention is for people to live in love. And love covers and encircles every single person: friend, foe, stanger, foreigner, amd across every possible way to divide people.