Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Love is not jealous; God is not jealous (or is he?)

The word in the original language generally means “having a strong, passionate emotion.” And when used intransitively is generally translated “jealous.” So, love is not jealous, therefore, God is not jealous. But God says “I am a jealous God.” This is a little confusing.

 

To put this into perspective, the word for “jealous” in the statement “I am a jealous God:”

·         It is only used of God.

·         It is only used six times.

·         It is only used in the Pentateuch.

·         It is only used after Israel leave Egypt.

 

Israel, during a time of famine, moved to live in Egypt. And they stayed 400 years. The learning, the culture, the philosophy, and the theology of Egypt seeped into Israel. They had upwards of 80 gods. It was alright to serve one, or all of them. And Israel had (unconsciously?) absorbed this concept and attitude. And it affected their practice.

 

Our Father is not just one god out of many. He is the only, true Creator and Father of All. And God needed to correct this type of thinking. And he used “jealous” to bump Israel out of its lethargic, lazy thinking.

 

God designed people for a love relationship with him. People thrive best when they flow with their design, and embrace that relationship.

 

“Jealousy” is generally understood as (a) seeing that somebody has something good, (b) wanting that something for yourself. “Love” is wanting the best for someone. It is the opposite of jealousy.

 

If God is “jealous”, it is because he wants people to embrace a love relationship with him … for which they have been designed for, for which life is best if they accept that relationship. So God is “jealous”, because he wants our best.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Love is Kind; God is Kind

Love is kind, so God is kind. The word in the original language is a unique blend of gentleness, and goodness.

In English, kind has a connotation of gentle. In other words, a kind person does not treat others harshly. A kind person has soft words, and actions. Even words or correction and rebuke are soft. They get the necessary point across, but without additional pain.

But, in the original language, the term has a component of being using, or being beneficial. There is a component of service. So, not only does a kind person not seek to cause pain and injury, but he uses words and deeds to benefit or enhance.

God could destroy us. God could inflict tremendous pain and punishment. As rebels against him, we deserve all of it. But he seeks the opposite. He seeks to build a family. He heals. He reconciles. He finds a way past sin and rebellion toward intimate relationship.

It is written in Scripture, that we change our direction in life, not because God threatens judgment, or punishes evil. We change our direction because God is kind to us. He acted to bring us back to him in Christ's death on the cross. He speaks to us to lead us to him, to restore our joy, and our original design. He provides for us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Love is Patient; God is Patient

This is not a new idea. The Bible says that God is love. That means that all the descriptions of love in the Bible are descriptions of God's nature.

The Bible says "love is patient." Patient in the original language is a compound word, coming from words for "long" and "temper."

There is an English term: "short-tempered." This is a person who is easily angered. He has a "short fuse"; he explodes quickly and easily.

Short-tempered people are frustrated by the loss of control, and unmet expectations. They run into a wall on the road of life. And because it is not easy to get around, or climb over, they bang their heads on it. And when the wall does not come tumbling down, they bang it again ... harder.

But our Father is the opposite. He is "long-tempered." He has a long fuse. He does not blow up. He waits ... and waits before expressing anger.

God is not ruled by circumstances. He is secure in his identity. He is secure in his purpose. He does not like the way the world is, but he is not controlled by it.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Being the Church

The word in the original language for “church” gives the connotation of a “group of people assembled for a particular purpose.” The group of people brought together to govern a city was a common use of the word at that time. A volunteer fire company, a little league baseball team, and a chess club are current day examples.

To belong to a “church” is not unusual. It is the purpose that a “church” assembles its people for that makes a difference.

What is the purpose of the “church” of Jesus Christ?
  • To live in relation to the Creator and Father of All.
  • To give allegiance to Jesus Christ.
  • To participate in the re-creation of his kingdom by:
    • Adding to his family.
    • Restoring his design.
    • Demonstrating God’s purposes by walking in love and truth with God’s family\community.

The church is intended to be “Jesus walking in the world” today. We said said it several times here: God’s purpose is to build a family. Even though the world is filled with self, hate, and selfishness, God’s purpose has not changed. Jesus stepped into the world to facilitate God’s purposes. And we now take up Jesus’ role – to build God’s family.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Proof of Discipleship - 3

Another proof of discipleship is “unity.” I have written about this recently, a couple of times. So, this will be a short reminder.

Before he went to the cross, Jesus prayed that his disciples would be as united as he and the Father were united. And that unity is a demonstration, that the Father sent Jesus into the world, to call the world back to him.

And Jesus, the Father, and the Holy spirit have perfect unity. God’s children do not have perfect unity. But they should have an observable, practical, concrete unity. This unity should be built on love. So, we should be especially patient with one another. We should be especially kind to one another. We should bear with one another’s weaknesses, sins, “wrong” opinions, and bad decisions. It is that unity, which proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, which proclaims that God’s children are followers of the true Creator, and true Ruler. The way we act out our unity is a very loud voice in the world.

Imagine someone discussing the positives and negatives of different political candidates. People often say to not discuss religion or politics. This is because people can very emotional over these topics. A discussion can get very heated, to put it mildly. But because of the huge impact on life, these are things that should be discussed most. People invest a lot – emotion, time, energy, resources, identity – in these things.

Now, imagine these persons are part of the family of God. If I am united with my brothers and sisters in a love relationship with my Father, and with one another:
  • How do I treat their political views?
  • How do I discuss their candidates?
  • What words do I use to characterize these things?
  • How do I talk with other people, ones that I agree with, in this light?

Do I say to my brother, “I think you have been misinformed about issue ABC?” And say to others, “Anybody who thinks that about issue ABC is stupid.” Does that honor my brother? Does that honor the family of God? And ultimately, does it honor God?

Politics is very complex. I do not say there needs to be complete agreement in the family of God. I do not say there should be no discussion. I do say we need to be mindful that this person, with whom I have political disagreements, is my brother, and Jesus died for him. I still need to love, honor, and serve him, as much as any other member of God’s family.

And how does this color our treatment of people outside of God’s family?

Monday, October 31, 2016

I am the Vine - 3

We have seen as we connect our hearts to the Father, his love and grace flow into our hearts. As he has freedom to move, he re-creates our hearts, our lives, grows fruit, transforms us into his image, and restores our design.

We have seen that, as our hearts are transformed, our thoughts, desires, and motivations become more like Gods. We have his heart. We have his words. So, we seek him in prayer, and receive the fruit of him moving on our behalf. God is vitally concerned with all that is in our hearts, and all that concerns us. And he yearns to act on our behalf. Still, if his heart, and our hearts agree, he will act. Agreement among people is powerful. Agreement our people and God is infinitely powerful.

But there is more. We move into a greater experience of God’s love. And, as we obey, we continue in that experience of love. We were designed to live like Jesus. We were designed to look like Jesus. Sin entered the world, and our image, design, and nature broke. We learned, and became extremely proficient at sinning. The, we gave our allegiance to the Father, and he took us as his child. He began his restoration project in our lives.

We are designed for a love relationship with the Father. We live in harmony with the father’s design, maintain that relationship of love, and bear fruit as we walk in obedience. We are designed to live in joy and peace. We maintain the Father’s design as we walk in obedience.

The penalty for sin was mailed to the Cross. The power of sin was nailed to the Cross. We still need to deal with its presence, which has gotten woven tightly into our being. So, God seeks to restore his family, and God seeks to restore his children, so both work as designed.

We are appointed to love, to bear fruit, to be God’s family, and to walk in relationship with him.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Proof of Discipleship - 2b

In this passage, Jesus says if we keep connected, and his words remain in us, we can ask for anything we want, and God will grant our requests. Part of bearing fruit is praying, and God answering our prayers. God will listen to us, and do as we ask. But there are two conditions to this promise.

 

One, remaining connected. We have discussed this quite a bit. Have a practice of focusing and opening your heart to God. Allow God to reach in, healing, loving, and growing what is in our hearts. Allow the Spirit to dismantle sinful, wrong, and hurtful defenses that we erect to deal with painful experiences in life.

 

Two, keep ahold of Jesus’ words. In part, this means having a practice of receiving input from the Word. Reading. Meditating. And many would say, memorizing. Which is an obvious method of keeping Jesus’ words in us.

 

People, who practice memorizing Scripture, often testify to being in situations, not knowing what to do, when a passage of Scripture pops into their minds, providing appropriate action. Often, action that is contrary to standard wisdom, but it fits perfectly into this situation. These people say the Spirit can remind us of the most appropriate Scripture passages, if the Scripture is already inside our heads.

 

But these disciplines are intended to incorporate God’s word into our lives. (Please do not interpret this as, in any way, criticizing, or somehow negating these practices.) We do not want to create a religious practice, but to create an existential experience. The spirit and the Word will make the life of Jesus, our life. We will think the way he does. We will act the way he does. His motives become our motives. His passions become our passions.

 

So, when we pray, we are, by nature, by habit, seeking to create in the world, the reality God wants to create. We are flowing with God’s will, God’s desire for restoration. We will be motivated to conform ourselves to God’s image. We will desire god to have freedom to move in people’s hearts all over the world. We will want everyone to have a relationship with god, and experience his love. And we will pray to that end.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Proof of Discipleship - 2

Scripture says we prove we are Jesus’ disciples if we bear fruit. Fruit is the result of connection to Jesus the Vine. It is God’s life, love, and grace, that is allowed to flow through our lives, out into the world, to have an effect on the world.

Scripture does mention different kinds of fruit One is the “fruit of lips.” These are words spoken that honor God, whether in worship, prayer, or everyday conversation.

Scripture indicates it is difficult to control our words. Words are a definite indicator of what fills our hearts. They show what is real, what controls, what dominates in our hearts. We should not be surprised when wrong words, bad words, come from our mouths. Jesus killed and buried our old nature on the Cross. But we still have habits of following the world. But as we access our connection to the Father, his love and grace fill our hearts; and his thoughts and ways become our thoughts and ways.

Sometimes the process happens slowly. Sometimes it happens in leaps and bounds. Do not obsess about outward manifestations. Focus on God’s constant activity, and consistent communication to you, and in you. It is that activity that brings transformation, surely and truly.

The transformation process also moves from revolving around yourself to other people. God’s love becomes your love. God’s focus becomes you focus. Meeting all people’s needs, physical, mental, emotional, and the fact that all people were designed to live in relationship with the Father. And not all people have that relationship.

Fruit is God having freedom to move in people’s hearts. Moving in more of each person’s heart. Moving in more hearts, period.

I am the Vine - 2

I recognize that I have coined a few terms. I am not saying that these terms are used universally. Rather I have described certain ideas that I have been thinking about, often using the same or similar words. This similarity has evolved into a verbal "formula," which I have continued to use.

So, here is a first. I am going to intentionally, formally recognize one of these terms. We have hinted at the term "spiritual check-in" in past posts. (Which will probably, but unintentionally, get shortened to just check-in, sometime in the future.)

A "spiritual check-in" is "an intentional, but short, focusing and opening of a person's heart, in a spirit of worship and prayer, allowing God's love, Spirit and grace flow into needed areas in our lives; often with actual prayer, prayer, and active listening."

When considering "I am the vine," we saw how life flows into a person's heart in relation to his connection to Jesus. Since, one's connection is constituted by one's heart focus, and a human being can only maintain 100% focus for discrete periods of time, we need to develop something like a spiritual check-in to maintain our connection.

For the same reason, a spiritual check-in is needed to produce fruit. Connection allows the flow of God's love and grace to fill a person's heart. When people allow that love and grace to flow out, into, and affect the world, then God begins restoring his kingdom, step by step. God's life, love and grace are the essential ingredients in bringing about God's revolution. It is the connection of God to his people that will communicate that life to the world. Consistent worship and prayer are vital to this process for other reasons, as well as maintaining the connection. Spiritual check-ins are also vital for maintaining moment by moment connection. They will bring spiritual healing, restoration, and transformation.

But they may not necessarily produce fruit. Spiritual life, received through worship, prayer, and spiritual check-ins, need to be released into the world. Love, and the message of the gospel, both need to be shared abundantly. Which means God's family needs to rub off on, leak into, and "pollute" the world. Which makes spiritual check-ins more important, as God's children will need to continually replenish, so that they can continually leak.