Monday, February 20, 2017

With Jesus, One on Many

There is also a group component to following Jesus. One passage describes God’s people as living stones that are being built into a spiritual house. Each stone has its place in the structure. Jesus, as the master builder, chooses each stone, chooses its place, and shapes it to fit in that place.

If the stone’s place is next to the door, five feet from the ground, there has to be other stones in place to support it. Without the other stones, if the builder tries to put the stone in its proper place, it will fall to the ground. We need the support of others in God’s family. And we give support to others in God’s family.

The house derives its form and function as each stone is put into its proper place, with all the other stones.

In another passage, the human body is used as a picture of God’s people. The body is one thing, made up of many different parts. And the parts are all different. They have different functions. There are eyes, ears, hands, feet, and other parts. But like the stones of a house, each part has a part in supporting the whole. But each part does it differently. And the whole needs each different function. Without each particular part, the whole is handicapped.

And the parts that give the most life to the body are not always visible. In many churches, people assume that the professional Christians are the most important. (And it is possible that they are. It is also possible that the most important parts are the Tuesday morning prayer meeting, attended only by women in their 80’s.) The professional Christian may only be the face and mouth of the body. If the face and mouth do not function correctly, the body still lives. But if the heart does not function correctly, the body dies. And the heart functions invisibly … usually.

It is vital that each part fulfills its role. When each part does its part, the effect can be synergistic. The effect can be more than the effects of all the parts added together.

There is a passage in Scripture that describes the God’s family living through its daily routine. Each part living out its function, together with all the other parts. And Scripture testifies that the surrounding community observed God’s family, their manner of life, and two things happened.
  • Admiration and esteem for God’s family grew.
  • People were choosing to give their allegiance to Jesus … every day.

We, as God’s kingdom and family, have individual responsibilities. But if we carry out those responsibilities within the context of God’s family, it can have a huge impact on the world.


Monday, February 13, 2017

With Jesus, One on One

The first people chose to not trust god, to not follow God. Since, then, people do not live as God intended. The world does not function as God intended. We could say the world is broke.

And we could say that Jesus came into the world to fix what was broke. And we enter into God making the world whole by giving him our allegiance, by becoming his disciple.

A disciple was a type of student in Jesus’ day, similar to the term apprentice. An apprentice becomes attached to a master to learn a trade. The master explains a skill, then the apprentice practices the skill. Usually, in a real project. When the first skill is learned to the master’s satisfaction, the master explains the next skill. And the apprentice practices the next skill. And so on.

So, we have become Jesus’ apprentices. The Bible becomes our text book. It is God’s words. And it is the best tool to show God’s people how to improve their relationship with God, and how to live as he designed.

And the Holy Spirit becomes our teacher. He applies Scripture to our thoughts, words, deeds, relationships, and practices. He shows us what we need to pursue, and what we need to change.

The difference between God’s design, God’s intention, and reality is so great, that when we choose to give our allegiance to Jesus, it is like becoming a baby again, and learning life all over. The Bible says we are new creations.

One of the most important things for newborns is proper nutrition. Proper nutrition for god’s family are God’s words. This is most directly associated with reading the Bible. (And memorization, meditation, study, etc.) But it can come from other books, and other people. The computer term “garbage in, garbage out” applies here/ If we want good results, we need to be sure we have good raw materials.

People are born physically as individuals, one at a time. People become part of a family as individuals, one at a time. This is true of God’s family. Each one chooses to follow Jesus. Each one becomes a member of his family. Each one has responsibility to be available for proper nutrition. Each one chooses to have fellowship with the Father.

There is an individual component to following God. There is a family component to following God. We engage in both. Both are important.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Love Perseveres; God Perseveres

We hear stories about people who inherit a lot of money, or win the lottery. They start “enjoying life” with the money. And they make a lot of new friends, who want to help them “enjoy life.” And everything is fine as long as the money lasts. When the money gone, the friends are gone. They were not the person’s friends; they were the money’s friends.

Love is not love, if it only lasts while things are good. Love walks down the whole road, valleys and mountain tops. Love chooses to stay.

Many Christians hold the opinion that God walks with his children, as long as they are obedient. And it is true, that fellowship with God is broken when we sin. But God is always ready to heal the relationship, when we turn back to him.

One of Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus how many times should a person forgive another person. Maybe seven times? Jesus responded, “No. Seventy times seven!” So, we should keep score, and when we hit 490 that’s it? No, Jesus was saying the number of times is uncountable. And if it should be uncountable with us, it is uncountable with God.

God perseveres because he sees the end. He sees each one of his children, as perfect pictures of Jesus. He sees each one as complete and whole. He sees each one as new.

He is absolutely confident of his plans, intentions, and the process that will be worked out in our lives. His plans do not fail. He will walk with us to the final day, when we will be glorified.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Love Hopes All Things; God Hopes All things

Hope might be best defined as “positive expectation>” A person with hope waits for good to come. Biblical hope is not might come, but will come. God’s will obviously comes, because God promises it. And, yes, it may not come in this life, but it will come.

And God looks with positive expectations at this life too. He knows life is not perfect. And he knows that in the end, it will get worse. People will turn away from him. Society and culture will be ruled by principles of ungodliness. Those who have not given him allegiance will agree more with sin, than with the law of love. But he knows his rule will overturn all of that, when he comes into his kingdom. Love will reign. His kingdom will be established as he planned it would be in the beginning.

And he knows that the plans he had from the beginning for each of his children will come to be. He knows how he designed us. He knows each person who gives him allegiance will live out his design. No one will perfectly live it out on this life. Each one will move toward it, because God has promised he will act or us. He expects his children will fulfill their design, and they will make significant progress in this life, because he will act to bring this about.

It is the love of God that chooses to see each person as they were designed, even as each person fails to live that. It is the love of God that chooses to give 100% attention to each person – acting o bring each person into his family, acting to raise each child (fulfilling their design, living as Jesus did from what fulfilled his heart.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Love Believes All Things; God Believes All Things

The word in the original language for “believe” is the same word used to describe giving allegiance to Jesus. It is more than simply agreeing that something is true. There is a trust factor. There is a commitment factor.

 

This is not saying that love accepts everything a person says. Lies and deceit are not acceptable. They pull us away from God’s design, from joy and peace. They should be challenged.

 

This is saying that love does not give up on people. God does not give up on people.

 

If anyone had reason to give up on people, it would  be God. He sees every flaw, every failure, every sin. He knows every lie and excuse.

 

But he also sees people “in Christ.” He sees them through Jesus-colored glasses. He knows their potential. He knows their gifts. He knows their destiny.. He knows what he planned we should be like, and how we should be blessing the world. Sin has not cancelled out those plans he has made. It will take a different process, a different learning curve, than if sin had not infected the world. He intends to guide, to enable, so we can fulfill our destiny.

 

He believes in us, and in his own ability (the Spirit’s ability) to mold us, to refine us, and to renovate our lives. It is good for us. It is good for the world. And to see his children renewed is good for God. Not that he needs outside validation. Rather, to see his children move toward fulfilling his design gives him joy, because he knows it will give his children joy. It will cause a small ripple of joy through the world. And the small ripples will reinforce one another, until there is a huge tsunami of joy washing over the world.

 

For God, the tsunami is as certain as the sun coming up. So, he pushes forward in the lives of his children. Each one has a part in this grand mosaic, so he gives each one his complete attention, and he does not lose heart over any of them.

Love Bears All Things; God Bears All things

The word in the original language provides a couple of pictures. One is “protect by covering.” I get the picture of someone standing under a roof in a storm. The rain is falling in buckets, but people under the roof are warm and dry.

The second picture is of something like a pillar. A structure that provides support, holding something else up, and not letting it fall.

Both pictures give a connotation of protection. One keeps the things of life from crashing down on people. The other provides support, enabling people to stand, and continue to go forward.

Love wants the success, the well-being, and the woleness of the people they are connected to. And God wants the success, well-being, and wholeness of all creation. Sin, the world, and life can overwhelm. God keeps what can overwhelm, and God supports each child so they can move forward.

God’s definition of success is different from the world’s. God seeks to establish a relationship with each human being, bring them into his family, and restore each one to his original design. To complete this version of success, among other things, God takes action so his children are not overwhelmed, and they can stand firmly with him. He directs. He encourages. He teaches.

Each child will inevitably fail. He protects his children, so failure does not become the end. He helps each one to his feet. He provides support, grace, and direction to move beyond it. He is firmly resolved to stand with each child to ensure success. We are all subject to falling and failing. We all need someone who has our back. We can stand and walk, because he is there holding us up.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Love Does Not Rejoice With Unrighteousness; God Does Not Rejoice With Unrighteousness

This trait of love is longer, because it has two parts. The parts are a comparison of a negative and a positive. “Love does not rejoice with unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” Or, in other words: “Love is not happy when bad stuff happens; love is happy when good stuff happens.”

 

The comparison is between unrighteousness and truth. God designed and created the world. He designed the way it should work. That is the truth. If the way things work agrees with the truth, that is good. If the way things work do not agrees with the truth, that is bad.

 

Righteousness is a word that refers to a person’s relationship with god. Before we chose allegiance to God, we made the de facto choice of allegiance with sin and the world. We are living in a state of unrighteousness.

 

When we choose allegiance to Jesus, the grace of Christ negates the penalty of sin, adopts us into the family of God, and declares us righteous. We have moved a long way back toward how we were designed to live. We agree with God. We agree with the truth.

 

God’s heart is that everyone would move here. God’s heart is that the universe would operate according to his design. Earthquakes, genocide, sex trafficking, environmental destruction, bullying, and left\right political bickering are not part of his design. They are not part of the truth. God did not create them. God did not orchestrate them. God is not happy when they happen … except for the hopeful possibility that someone sees these things, wakes up, and seeks him, embraces the truth, and chooses allegiance with God. God will rejoice in that aspect of it. God does not, and will not, rejoice in the misery and pain these things cause.

Love Does Not Keep a List of Wrongs Suffered; God Does Not Keep a List of Wrongs Suffered

Love forgives, so, of course, love does not keep grudges. So, God does not keep grudges. But the Father of All is also the Judge of All.

 

I have a faint memory of a Bible passage that says God keeps a record of our deeds. Most people associate that with a record of our wrongs. However, if my memory is correct, it is a record of our deeds – good and bad. Sill, God does not need a record of anything. He knows all things. He already knows our deeds. And he already knows that we are born in rebellion to him. We are already condemned without a single entry in any book.

 

As the Judge, who holds all the world accountable, he judges us based on our rebellion.

 

As the Father, who loves all, and wants a relationship with all, he forgives all those who give him allegiance, who become his children. He nailed our sins to the cross, and killed them. He says he will forget our sins.

 

If someone you love does something wrong to you, you probably do not forget it. But, for the sake of the loved one, for the sake of the relationship, you forgive, and put the wrong behind you. You treat the wrong as if it never happened.

 

It is impossible for the All-Knowing God to “un-know” something. But, he can choose to put our sins behind him, to treat them as if they never happened.

 

He “forgets” our sins for the sake of the child he loves, to restore his family, to renew the relationship. He views us through our position in Christ, and the sacrifice of Christ. He treats us according to the identity he has won, and proclaimed, for us: child, priest, ambassador. Dead, buried, raised and seated with Christ.

Love is Not Easily Angered; God is Not Easily Angered

We derive the English word “paroxysm” from the original word in this passage. A “paroxysm” is a “sudden, violent, emotion.” We are all acquainted with people who have short fuses. They respond to frustrated expectations by exploding.

Some people act as if the world exists to serve them. Fulfillment in life is getting everything one wants. It is all about winning, being first, and getting the most stuff. And when they don’t get what they want, they lose it. Their passions are in control.

God designed the perfect world. God designed perfect people. And, in an instance, it all came crashing down. He could have responded by throwing creation into the shredder. He is God. Creation does revolve around him. Instead, he chose to serve, to redeem, and to accept imperfect people, in an imperfect world.

The word describes someone who does not get his way. Frustrated expectations could result in disgust, and rejection. God chooses to engage, to press in. God embraces his imperfect creation, his plan, his mission, and his children.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Love Does Not Seek Its Own; God Does Not Seek His Own

Perhaps the primary trait of love is being “other-centered.” People do need to be concerned about themselves and their lives. Food. Shelter. Education. The children. Career. Retirement. All things we need to be involved in. And all things that may require work, study, and prayer.

Still, love is able to separate itself, and its concerns, from itself. Love is not chained to its needs. It can even surrender its needs for the needs of another.

God is totally self-sufficient. His needs are already, totally, and entirely met. He could be concerned with his image. (And sometimes he is.) He could be concerned with running his kingdom. (And sometimes he is.)

God’s people have, at time, misrepresented him. The have given the world a false picture of who he is. God has decreed certain laws in his kingdom. His people have broken, ignored, misrepresented, and even substituted other laws. So, he could focus on painting a correct picture. He could focus on reinforcing his laws. Instead, he focuses on his mission.

God’s mission:
  • To create a spiritual family.
  • To establish, and practice a relationship with each children in his family.
  • To complete a renovation project in each child, so each child is living as he was designed.

God designed and created each one of us to live in his family, to have a relationship with him, and to live in a certain way. God’s design is general – he wants each one to live in love, in community, in relationship. God’s design is specific – he wants some to be teachers, some craftsmen, some to intercede, etc. For each of us to realize our place might not be easy for any number of reason. But, this is also part of God’s renovation.

God’s mission, and therefore, God’s heart focus, is about people. He gives 100% focused attention on each person. God is 100% other-centered, and 0% self-centered.