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 from 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.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Least

Jesus told a story about a crowd of people, standing before the throne of God, waiting for judgment.

God told one group, they would be banished from his Kingdom, because when he was hungry, they did not feed him. When he was thirsty, they did not give him a drink. When he was sick, they did not take care of him. When he was lonely, or in prison, they did not visit him.

God told another group, they would inherit from his Kingdom, because when he was hungry, they did feed him. When he was thirsty, they did give him a drink. When he was sick, they did take care of him. When he was lonely, or in prison, they did visit him.

And both groups asked him, when did any of this ever happen? (One woulds think that if an individual found the King hungry, and cooked a burger for him, one would remember.) And the God answered, "When you loved/served the least of my brothers, you loved/served me."

God makes loving and serving one another -- especially the least -- equivalent to loving and serving him.

But who are the least?

The helpless are part of the least. They can do nothing for you. They cannot repay, or reciprocate, for any kindness given to them.

Enemies are another part of the least. Someone who could reciprocate a kindness given, but if they had a choice, would give back evil.

Law breakers are also part of the least. They perform acts of rebellion against the order of their society. They promote a breakdown of peace and safety.

And in regard to the Kingdom of God, we are the least.

From the beginning, we were all intended to be part of God's Kingdom, God's family. The first people chose to live apart from God. They broke their allegiance to the Father, cast of their family ties, and lost their citizenship.

And we all begin in that state. We continue to break God's law. We defy God's rule, and are hindrances to his way. At times, we will deliberately choose to act in ways that advance the kingdom of the enemy. And when we wake up, and realize the emptiness of our lives and actions, we cannot change our hearts. We cannot change our standing before God.

A prime example of helplessness is a human infant. An infant cannot feed or protect itself. Unlike animals, who can walk within a short period of time, sometimes only hours after birth, an infant may take a year. The only reason infants survive is the almost obsessive devotion of their mothers.

We are helpless. We cannot restore our relationship with God. We cannot restore our design. We cannot fill our hearts with true fuel. So, our Father chooses to fil the role of mother, with the same devotion. He restored the relationship. He brought us back into the family. He fills our hearts with that true fuel.

If we break his law, we work against his Kingdom. We are rebels ... perhaps without conscious intention. But we live in ways that damage the effectiveness, the image, and the reputation of God's Kingdom.

We are least in the Kingdom. And God fed, clothed, cared for, and visited each of us. And God's standard is that the children imitate the Father.

Who are the least to us? That homeless man begging on the corner. That driver who cuts you off on the Interstate. Nowadays, maybe it is that man living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Whoever it is, God wants us to treat the least, like he treats the least.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Choosing Jesus ...

When we give our allegiance to Jesus, we become a citizen of God’s kingdom, a member of God’s family, and a friend of the King. We learn that the world is broken. It does not work as God intended. And we are broken. But we look forward to God’s new world. And we rejoice as we consider living in that world, which is not broke, but does function as God intended.

And when the world expresses itself in this broken, ungodly way, we can also rejoice. Problems and trials teach us to endure. We learn to stay faithful. We learn what is important.

And because we practice what is important, we develop character. We slowly become what God designed us to be.

And because of this transformation, we eagerly expect salvation in all its phases. We expect to be delivered from the penalty of sin. We expect to be delivered from the power of sin. We expect to be delivered from the presence of sin.

And God will deliver meet all our expectations. Living as God designed is the best for us. And he delights in our transformation, and our fellowship, because he loves us. His Spirit resides in our inner core, to facilitate that transformation, and fellowship, and to communicate his love.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Serving from God's Love

I have been reading a book (The Five Stones), and in one part, the writers were the story about Jesus getting baptized by John. In the story, Jesus rises from the water, the Holy Spirit rests on him in the form of a dove, and a voice is heard. “You are my son. I love you. I am pleased with you.”

The writers point out this is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He hasn’t preached a sermon, healed any diseases, or performed any miracles. Yet, the Father proclaims his relationship, his favor, and his approval of Jesus. The Father gives loves and approval based on identity, not performance.

Recently, I discussed here 70 different parts of a person’s identity in Christ. 70 different things that God proclaims as true about each of his children. They are true, because God proclaims them to be, not necessarily because we walk in them.

Jesus served from his identity, and God’s love and approval. The writers pointed out that people often serve to gain love and approval. Like Jesus, any of God’s children, once they have given their allegiance to him, begin walking with him in his love and approval. We do not need to work for it. We have it already.

What amazed me was the tremendous freedom Jesus walked in. He had God’s total love and approval. That meant he could go all in, and roll the dice without fear. Jesus had no fear!! Of failure. Of rejection.

God’s children need to learn their identity, and learn how to walk in it. The heart to obey, and the willingness to take risks for God, increases as we learn who we truly are. And we can see the impact of this mindset, because the first church understood its identity vividly. And they turned the world upside doen.