Monday, August 29, 2016

Jesus as Ideal Man

When Jesus was sent into the world, he was fully God, and he was fully man. He was fully god, so he could bridge the infinite chasm between a perfect God, and sinful people. He was fully man, so he could be the perfect representative of people, and the perfect model for people.

As a man, he lived as all men must. That is, he lived in relationship with th3e Father. He lived in trust, receiving direction, and enabling. He modelled the way all followers of Jesus should live. He communed with the Father. He listened. He recognized where the Father was moving, and acted in cooperation with the Father in that area.

We need to learn to tune into God’s voice like Jesus did. He quickly and easily connected with the Father. He heard the Father speak quickly and easily. And he acted based on what he heard.

The Father designed people to have the same quality of relationship that he had with Jesus. And he is restoring us to that relationship. He wants us to hear the Father’s voice, to see the Father move, as quickly and easily as Jesus did. He wants us to receive enabling, as thoroughly and as profoundly as Jesus did. So, we can do the works of Jesus. So, we can love like Jesus.

Monday, August 22, 2016

God Gives

Scripture quotes John the Baptist as saying: “No one can receive anything unless God gives it to him.”

All spiritual input originates from God.
  • Forgiveness starts with God.
  • Transformation starts with God.
  • Anointing for service starts with God. (Both the assignment and the enabling come from God.)

God is eternally present. He is intimately, vitally present with each of his children. He gives 100%, focused, intense, passionate attention to each of his children. He is consumed by crime, the environment, modern day slavery, war, terrorism, and that you need a parking place in order to be on time for an appointment. God is 100% totally involved with his children’s greatest desire, and their greatest need.

I will not comment here about why bad stuff happens, and God does not seem to intervene. I can think of a number of reason, and there are probably more others can think of. And probably none of those are the right ones.

I do want to focus on god’s heart, or God’s desire to give. God’s heart is consumed with generosity. He wants to give abundantly. He wants to bless. He wants to restore us to what our original relationship with him should have been without sin. He wants to restore us to our original character, our original behavior, should be. He wants to restore the world to Eden.

So, God is eternally present and unfailingly generous. He initiates our restoration in relationship, our restoration of life, experience, and character, and any service. And what he begins, he continues, may not necessarily coincide with what we think. People look at circumstances and judge whether God’s blessing is on it. There may be two churches. One has 50 people, and the other 5000. People tend to feel that God favors the one with 5000. And that may not be the case. I do not mean to suggest that big is bad. But big may not be good either. If big results in people not serving, not listening to god, not exercising their responsibilities as priest, then big is not good.

God gives. We receive. As we respond to what we receive.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Wedding at Cana

I recently read the story about the wedding at Cana. Weddings in Jesus’ day, and culture were held in two steps. Two families would agree that a man, and a woman, would get married. They would have a betrothal ceremony, in which the agreement was formalized. Unlike engagements today, betrothals had legal standing. It required a divorce to break them.

In the interval between the betrothal and the wedding ceremony, the man began to prepare a home, and to prepare for the celebration, which he and his family were responsible for. And the celebration could last seven days.

[Stop. Rewind. Slow down.]

The man has agreed to take a woman as his wife. He goes home, and begins a building project. Either he begins a whole new house, or he adds a room onto his father’s house. And his father (and probably his father-in-law) will be looking over his shoulder, critiquing, and advising, the whole way.

Simultaneously, the family beings laying in supplies. Modern weddings average around $40,000. Imagine housing, and feeding two extended families for a week. Not counting close friends, and coworkers.

Then, when everything is ready, the man and his close friends go to the brides house, collect the bride, her belongings, and bring them to the new home. Apparently, the marriage was consummated, the couple were officially, and completely married. And they began a weeklong party.

Part way through this celebration, Mary, Jesus’ mother, tells him they are out of wine.

Since, Mary, and Jesus’ brothers, are at the wedding, it is not a very difficult deduction that Jesus is at a family wedding. And, since Mary knows about the supply problem, it is also not a difficult deduction that is Jesus is part of the groom’s family, who are responsible for the food.

When Mary tells Jesus about the wine problem, he basically responds “Yeah! What do you think I should do about it?” I don’t know if Mary expected him to do anything. Maybe she was just looking for sympathy. The groom, and his family, were given time to prepare (build a room, and gather food and wine) sometimes up to a year. And they blew it. Did they not know how much to get? Were they just not able to get it? What’s next? The house will collapse? Starvation?

If there are problems, do you go to the other family “Sorry! We need a little more time!” Do you go to your relatives for help? And does the entire groom’s extended family begin to worry about the family-wide embarrassment? Will the bride’s family become resentful? Will they spread this failure far and wide?

Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says. Jesus considers the situation. The groom‘s family will experience shame. The bride’s family will be worried, fearful, and perhaps, insulted, and angry. So, Jesus tells the servants to fill several tubs with water. Then, he says to take a pitcher of water to the emcee. The servants pour the “water” from the pitcher into a cup for the emcee. And the water is now wine. (When did the water become wine? Right when it was poured into the cup? And what about the rest of the water in the tubs?) And the emcee is grateful to have wine for the next toast. And he is amazed that the wine is of the finest quality.

I think the first miracle of Jesus is a demonstration of his heart for people. Jesus works a miracle to prevent embarrassment and shame for a family.

Jesus is focused on the heart\inner man of people. Shame, guilt, embarrassment do not further the purposes of God. God goes out of his way to communicate his love, compassion, and involvement to erase guilt, and shame. Love and mercy complete God’s purposes.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Jesus Reveals the Father and His Love

The Bible reveals God as Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. One thing that is comprised of three things. We don’t really understand this, so we develop “pictures” of what we cannot define. Time is past, present, and future. Space is length, breadth, and depth. Matter is gas, liquid, and solid. One thing comprised of three things.

There are three things, so they are different. But they exist in perfect agreement. So, they are one. (Again, humans do not understand the Trinity. This is another picture, trying to grasp the unknowable.)

We do understand the son. He was born into the world to fulfill the plans of God. We saw him. We heard his worlds, saw his actions. We learned about his motives. We experienced his love.

Although, we have never seen the Father, we do know him. Scripture says that Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father. Father, Son, and Spirit are in perfect agreement. Because we have heard Jesus’ words, we have heard the Father. Because we have seen Jesus’ deeds, we have seen the Father act. Jesus’ motives are the Father’s motives. Jesus’ love is the Father’s love. Because we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father.

Several weeks ago, I wrote how the ingredients of transformation are a restructuring of our hearts\inner man, and an increased understanding of God’s love. Jesus was sent into the world to fulfill the Father’s love, and to show us the Father’s love. Maybe not the only way, but certainly the first way. Getting to know Jesus increases our understanding of God’s love, and advances our restoration to our original design.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Unity, More Than Politics

In the US, the political silly season has arrived. Both major parties have decided on their candidates. Now, everyone will begin talking about why one is better than the other. Why their opponent will destroy civilization, the world, and the ozone layer. Why they are the best thing since sliced bread. And they will all develop selective amnesia.

I read a quote from one candidate from a month ago, when he was still running for a particular office. Candidate A said Candidate B was totally unqualified for the office they were both running for. Now, that he was no long running for that office, Candidate B was the only one qualified for that one office. Ah, politics!!

Wading through the mountains of hyperbole to reach a modicum of wisdom is nearly impossible.

I recognize that politicians will yell, and call each other names. But what concerns me are reactions from the family of God.

Each of us walks with God personally, and individually. Meaning, God speaks to each one, builds into each one, transforming our minds so we see everything the way he does. We will discern all of life, and reality, from his point of view. But we don’t see that way now. We grow into it. So, now we see things differently. We prioritize, rank, and give different values to different things. And these different perspectives seep into our views of political issues. We should not be surprised by this. So, we should not be surprised when political comments are different. We should not be surprised when some hold liberal perspectives, nor that some hold conservative perspectives. We should see these perspectives upheld by Scripture.

And I do see supporters of liberal positions in the body of Christ. And I see supporters of conservative positions in the body of Christ. And I also see language and behavior that is harsh, rejecting, and building walls between these different parts of the body of Christ.

I recently wrote concerning how seriously God views unity. Those who have given allegiance to Jesus are part of God’s family, citizens of his kingdom, his priests and his ambassadors. Our primary loyalty is to the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the family of God. Our primary focus should be our relationship with God, and with his family. So, we should honor, respect, be kind, and be connected to our brothers and sisters. This includes an open heart, an attitude of listening, to their testimonies. Including their political testimonies.

The world will definitely notice any lack of unity, due to political differences, and they will dishonor the Father, and Creator of all, because of those political differences. We dishonor our Father, if we dishonor our brothers.

I am not saying we cannot have political convictions. I am not saying that we cannot talk about them. I am saying we must pursue these differences in ways that demonstrate mutual honor, love, and unity within the body of Christ.

Monday, July 18, 2016

God's Family Designed to complete God's Purposes

Names in the Bible, in Jewish culture, had a meaning. Names indicated a person’s nature, and character. Names indicated a person’s place in God’s purposes, in God’s family. There are places in the Bible where God gives someone a new name, because they had changed. The Bible also says when he establishes his forever kingdom, he will give his children a new name, their true name.

God designed people. God designed them to take a place in his family, in his purpose. He makes his family fit together perfectly.

His family is his vehicle to complete his purposes. Each part, each member, has a role. Each part builds each other part; they build, and add to the body. New parts included.

The health of a church is directly proportional to the number who have found their place. Not people being busy, doing chores. Not greeter, teachers, ushers, nursery workers, ushers, etc. Not that doing chores is bad. All organizations have chores to do to maintain smooth functioning. All parts of the body need to have servant hearts to do the chores. And teaching children is certainly not bad. God loves children. And there are people who place and anointing is in teaching two year olds. But, so much of church activity is filling empty slots. And God’s plan involves a priesthood of every member of his body. How many of God’s family have taken up their priesthood?

More about all of Christ's body being priests here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Unity, Not an Option

I have been thinking about someone I know with (what looks like) a relational issue with a friend and a sibling in God’s family. The two are not talking. They seem to be avoiding each other, and situations where they are likely to meet the other person. (And, of course, it might not be “them”. It might just be one of them.)

It seems like a natural solution. Suppose someone has an argument with a friend. Perhaps even a quite heated argument. It is easy to want to crete space, to avoid the other person. One does not have to deal with painful circumstances, the mess, or the possibility that one is wrong. Either in one’s position in the disagreement, or in one’s understanding of the other person’s position.

However, among the followers of Jesus, relationships are the building blocks of the kingdom. We need to take very seriously our relationship with God. We need to take very seriously our relationship with our family, with God’s family, with friends. And we need to take very seriously our relationship with those not in God’s family.

I will mention three things that I hope show how serious and vital relationships in God’s view of things.

First, Jesus prayed that the father would his family as united as he and the Father are united. Unity doesn’t just make life easier. Jesus says unity demonstrates that God sent Jesus into the world. Unity demonstrates that God loves the disciples. Personal arguments that affect interaction among God’s children, bad-mouthing other groups of Christians or other local families of God, all communicate a lack of unity. And disunity says God did not send Jesus. Disunity says the father does not love his children. Unity is vital, pivotal, and strategic.

Second, scripture says to make every effort to remain a connected, whole family. Without a real, demonstrated connection, God’s family demonstrates a pack of lies. The is only one body. “Body” being a metaphor for God’s family. Many different parts joined together, functioning harmoniously as a whole. It is the person by person distinctions that enable the whole to complete its purpose, God’s purpose. It is the distinctions we need to celebrate. And it the distinctions we usually use to bring separation.

[If we consider God’s universal family, all the different groups, we should be able to recognize that groups organize and derive their identity from their distinctive traits. Many assume that embracing unity means they have to suppress, or not prioritize, the things that distinguish them, which then robs or demeans their identity. We need to learn to affirm the common areas that define the whole family, and celebrate those differences. It is the differences which allow each body, and the universal body, to bring glory to God.]

There is not just one “singularity.” Each member of God’s family is:
  • In the same body
  • Gets life by the same spirit
  • Expects the same future
  • Follows the same Lord
  • Has the same type of relationship
  • Declares the same allegiance
  • Are created and empowered by the same Father.

Third, God does not call us to promote our distinctions. God calls us to promote Christ. God calls us to live in love. If our distinctions hinder the gospel, or the growth of any of God’s children anywhere, anytime, we are not walking in love. God speaks to us all the time. God’s strategy in each of our lives is unique, because  we are unique. We all wind up at the same destination. We may not necessarily be at the same place on the journey. So, sharing where you are on your journey, may be helpful and encourage others. Insisting others abandon their place, their walk, and their path, may not. It may even short-circuit God’s work in them. Love demands we build into others. Maturity gives wisdom, and discernment in how best to build.