Thursday, February 08, 2018

Sin's Power

Scripture says that, when Jesus died, he broke the power of sin. Sine does not rule over the Christian any longer.

Except we keep sinning.

There is a reality of what God did on the Cross. And there is a reality of what goes on in our lives.

The penalty for sin was broken in our lives. So, if we have given our allegiance to Jesus, we are assured that we will be with him for eternity.

The power of sin was broken in our lives. Sin does not command us anymore, even if we are not 100% fully free yet. Even if we will never be 100% fully freein this life. But without Jesus breaking the power of sin, here and now, there is no hope of ever overcoming sin in this life.

I, personally, do not think a follower of Christ will ever be sin-free in this lifetime. But I do think there can be substantial growth in this lifetime.

There can be, and there will be, habits and practices that we have, that we know are wrong in God's sight, that will be replaced with God-glorifying habits and practices.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Lives of Worship

In Scripture, we are encouraged to consider God's mercies. We are sinners, rebels, and law breakers. We deserve punishment, and death. Yet, God made a way to fix what was broken. God has restored relationship with him, brought us back into his family, and is pursuing a renovation project in our lives, so that we will work like we are supposed to.

And we, for our part, need to give our allegiance to God, give ourselves to God, and stand with him. Scripture characterizes this yielding and standing as "a reasonable service of worship."

There are two concepts from the original language used here. The first is translated into English as "reasonable." This is referring to "spiritual reason." Mean it is logical to god.

We are beginning to see things from God's perspective. We begin to realize what is important, what God values, and we choose to live in agreement with those things. Or, as I thought about it when I was a child: I choose to be on God's side … like it was a football game.

The second is "service of worship." It refers to service to God. It is a technical term meaning "priestly service."

There are probably two ways to view this. First, we should live as God's representatives. Meaning people should look at God's family, and say: "Wow! If this is what Christians are like, imagine what the Christian God must be like! How can I become part of this?"

Second, we should live as God's agents. We, not only should look like Jesus, we should act like Jesus.
  • We should forgive sinners.
  • We should heal the sick, and feed the hungry.
  • We should guide the lost.
  • We should throw the money changers out of the temple.
  • We should love, pray for, sacrifice for, and give our lives for those who are lost and broken, those who are our enemies, and those who rebel against God. 

Jesus served on "Sunday morning." And so should we. But he did not stop there. He served all day, ever day. And so should we.

Service of worship is Sunday morning. It is going to a meeting, praising God, taking communion, and listening to a message. It is also meditating on Scripture, and hearing God speak to us. It is also serving food in a soup kitchen. It is also framing a house, selling a car, painting a picture, writing a program, or a story, or an article. It is also eating dinner, and sleeping.

Everything Jesus did was worship. Everything we do should be worship.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Eternally Present

When the Father knows that a person has truly given him his allegiance, the Holy spirit makes his home in that person's heart. And God becomes eternally present in the person's life.

When I use the term "eternally present," I am not focused so much on the "forever" aspect of "eternally," as I am on the "always" aspect. Because God is eternally present with his children, he is able to give 100%, focused attention on each child. From someone in prison in Iran, who is scared for himself and his family, because his commitment to Jesus goes contrary to the lows of the country, to someone in the US, worried about being late to an appointment, because he can't find a parking spot. God is present with each one, giving 100% focused attention to each one … and all of his children with their lesser and greater problems, fears, and concerns.

He speaks to the hearts of each one — all the time — and takes action for each one — all the time.

He is involved with each child, because:
  • He is restoring everything to its original design. He designed the world, the human body, and the human heart/the human core to work in a particular way, so it functions in optimal fashion.
  • He is inviting all of his children to participate in his restoration project.
  • He is providing the right fuel to meet the right need.
  • He has designed his family to be an orchestra. His children do not all play the tuba. Some do play the tuba. But some play the violin. Some play the drums. Some play the triangle.
The Spirit works with each one, custom tailoring the training, the teaching, the encouragement, to bring out the optimum in each one.

We are all different. We have different needs, different styles, different impacts, different gifts, and different places. Maybe we all have different designs?

God works with each of us differently, because we are all different, to bring us all to optimal living. And he is eternally present with each one to prove the customized input needed to accomplish his work.

Maybe God was eternally present with each of us before creation? Maybe the same thought, planning, and attention he gave to creating the world, to our customized training, he also gave to individual, customized design for each person's creation?

He designed each person with a view to their unique position in creation. Each person has a unique, valuable place in his plans and purposes. No person is a mistake, but fills God's intended niche. Not whether he/she lives outside expectations of church, family, society, or culture.

We were designed and created to fulfill God's intentions. The first people chose to live outside God's design specs, and so, broke the world. We are all broken, and do not fulfill our design. Hence, God's restoration plan.

God has given us instructions to show: why the world is broken, what brokenness looks like, what the world should look like, and how to get back to where we should be.

And he has promised to walk with each of us, to help us, to guide us, to complete his restoration in each of us, and to complete his eternal, and unchanging, purposes.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Discipleship (4)

Discipleship is learning to walk with Jesus, and learning to walk as Jesus. But which Jesus?

We would all say that we walk with\as the true Jesus. We walk with the true God, become man, to save the world from its sins. But do we see Jesus truly?

Many movies, pictures, and books portray Jesus. Experiences, lessons from the Word, and lesson from the Holy Spirit affect our mental image of who he is. Life lessons from leaders in our churches affect our mental image of who he is.

The images can be true. And they can be juxtaposed incorrectly. And they can get mixed up with wrong images.

To get a true picture, we need to go back to the New Testament, and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us.

And we need to see that the real Jesus cannot be a simple picture.
  • He healed lepers by touching them.
  • He willingly let himself be arrested, and nailed to a cross.
  • He protected the woman caught in adultery; then, admonished her to live rightly.
  • He was exasperated with the small faith of his disciples.
  • He responded with anger, and chased the money changers from the temple.
Scripture, and the Holy Spirit, will teach us to have a true picture of Jesus, and therefore, of who we should be. And we all need to have as lifetime goals, to continually refine, and correct our perspective.


Friday, January 05, 2018

Discipleship (3)

Discipleship is learning to walk with Jesus, and learning to walk as Jesus.

Followers of Jesus talk about sanctification. That is. the process of being transformed into the image of Christ. (Or, as I like to look at it sometimes, since God intended people to have Christ's image before Creation, since he designed us to be like Jesus, God is going to restore people to their original design.) Usually, people mean that we will choose to obey God, we will always make the right moral choices, we will always choose to love.

As amazing and revolutionary as these changes would be, what if God intended us to be like Jesus in all ways? What if God intended his children to literally be able to walk on water?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Discipleship (2)

Discipleship is learning to walk with Jesus, and learning to walk as Jesus.

Many churches and Christian organizations filter discipleship through a series of classes, supported by a series of rules and guidelines.

First, Scripture defines mankind's basic problem as sin, which can be seen as man's inability -- including the lack of willingness, or desire -- to keep God's commands. So, the first thing organizations do is make a "to-do" list, and call it discipleship.

Second, the core of discipleship is founded, and strengthened, on a person's relationship with Jesus. (And where Jesus is, and what he touches, the Father and the Spirit are also there.)

Third, discipleship is not what a person knows, it is who a person is. Discipleship is about identity, lifestyle, values, goals, priorities, and motivations. And if you are a disciple of Jesus, then your identity, lifestyle, values, goals, priorities, and motivations come from him.

Discipleship means that Jesus' purposes become our purposes. And for Jesus, love is job #1. That means that the core of discipleship is: love God, and love people. Love is: reconnecting people to God, meeting needs, and bringing healing.

"Reconnecting people to God" means that people have a correct, and proper, relationship with God. People live in peace with God. People live in an ongoing and growing fellowship with God. Disciples promote this fellowship for themselves and others. Moreover, disciples are assertive in introducing this connection, and this fellowship, to others.

"Meeting needs" involves the physical, spiritual, psychological, emotional, social, and cultural.

"Bring healing" means bodies function as God designed them to, minds function as God designed them to, and hearts function as God designed them to.

Discipleship is taking the heart of Jesus, planting it in the core of people, so they live out the life of Jesus, in the midst of whatever environment, and context, they are currently in.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Discipleship

"Discipleship" is a term Christians use to wrap around the process of people learning to fellowship with God, growing in knowing him, and cooperating with the restoration of his original design in people, and the world, and completing his mission.

Our understanding of discipleship can get fuzzy as time passes. Changes in culteral expectations mix with our understanding of Scripture. We lose a clear vision of what a disciple's lifestyle should look like. Usually, we drift from greater Christ-likeness.

One reason God acts to revive his children is to renew the focus of what discipleship is. God uses his children to bring life into the world. God's life is injected into the world in direct proportion to how much God's children demonstrate God's nature and character. No one child can accomplish this alone. It requires God's family. God's family in one location. God's family in all locations.

God has designed people to be creative. They are permitted to develop new ways to express his life, in keeping with changes in culture. But his children need to preserve the eternal core of his truth, and his spirit.

Sometimes, a new thing is created to help advance God's kingdom. And usually it does. But, then sometimes it becomes "the law" when it really does not belong to God's core of truth.

In God's family, leadership is important, and learning is important. To facilitate growth in leadership, schools were developed. There is nothing wrong with schools, or with training leaders. But, Scripture says that if someone is in God's family, that person is a priest of God Most High. In many situations, training to facilitate the advance of God's kingdom, service to God's people, and service to the world, has actually stifled God's life, because it has hindered people completing their role as priests. People do not act as they are supposed to, because of personal expectations. People do not act as they are supposed to, because of group expectations.

Plans that are intended to help -- and have helped -- have choked life from God's family, because certain expectations and limits are placed on God's people that God never intended.