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.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

I am the Vine

Jesus said, "I am the Vine." Life flows from the root, into the vine, into the branches, and intro the world in the form of fruit.

Life flows into the branches based on the connection with the vine. Life flows into God's family based on its connection with Jesus. The word in the original language means simply to stay. Life ebbs and flows according to where we stay.

The term "getting into God's presence" is usually associated with worship. I am not dismissing, or de-valuing worship, but people cannot attend worship meetings all the time. We need to sleep, eat, and work.

Prayer is another means to connect to God's presence. Even though there are numerous examples of men and women giving themselves to hours of prayer, the same issue holds.

Remaining connected to the Father seems to be more complicated than it first appears. There is no single activity that can define it. Failure will not permanently sever it.

We were designed to have a 24 x 7 connection to the Father. Worship and prayer  were meant to be a continuous, moment by moment experience. This would be possible because our hearts would be open to, and focused on the Father of All.

Sin broke the connection, and the open flow between us and our Father. Giving God our allegiance opens the way towards restoring that connection.

The connection is restored based on the condition of our hearts. Does it rest in Jesus? Is it open, inclined, and focused on the Father? We can shut out the world for a time, and concentrate on worship or prayer. But we cannot move into that state forever. So, instead, we return to a heart focus and openness, in prayer and worship, consistently, and regularly, all day long.

Computers are multi-processing. That is, they appear to perform many tasks at the same time. In reality, they focus on one task for a period of time, then they move to the next task, then the next, etc. Followers of Christ, in effect, need to multi-process, scheduling spiritual check-in's frequently in the queue.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Proof of Discipleship

Jesus gave us a couple of proofs of discipleship. A disciple in Jesus' day was a person who followed a teacher, received instruction, received assignments, and completed those assignments, learning by doing in the process. So, discipleship is the process of following a teacher, receiving instruction and assignments, completing them, learning and growing. This is similar to the current terms: apprentice and apprenticeship. But discipleship carries a connotation of maturing in character.

So, the first proof of discipleship in Jesus: love one another, as Jesus loved his disciples.

In this instance, Jesus is not saying to love the world. I am not saying that Jesus does not want his disciples to love the world, because I am sure that he does. But proof of discipleship is observable love of God's family for itself.

When you give your allegiance to Jesus, you become one of God's children. You become part of God's family. One part of being in God's family is loving all the parts of God's family.

Because of actions by part of the church, many people feel an us\them attitude in the church. This attitude usually manifests itself in antagonistic, negative, condemning words and actions. Some of God's family believe that such condemnation and harsh criticism does not demonstrate to people that the life Jesus wants us to live is better, and, therefore, does not persuade people to follow him. So, they try to diminish the line between us and them. But there is an us\them division. And Jesus put it there. You are either his disciple, or you are not. You are either his child and in his family, or you are not.

But Jesus focused on the nature of what defined the division. He did not call his disciples to invest themselves in political, moral, or cultural change by political, cultural, or moral means. He called his disciples to foment a spiritual and existential revolution.

Jesus' first-century family blew the doors off their world. And we have seen flashes since: the Methodists in 17th century England, the church in Communist China, various church planting movements around the world today, etc. But overall the modern day family of God limps along, because it uses the weapons of the world, instead of the weapons of God.

Weapon #1: A genuine relationship with the living, creator God, who demonstrated his love for people on the cross.

Weapon #2: A genuine love for God's family; and by extension, the love of God's family for the rest of the world.

And that lost is expressed in imitation of how Jesus loved Peter, John and the others.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Washing Feet

There is a story about Jesus that occurred just before the Last Supper. Scripture says that Jesus realized  it was close to the culmination of his work on Earth. He realized he was close to death. He realized he was going to be betrayed by someone he loved, and was close to. He realized who his Father was, and the authority over the world his Father had given him. And he realized how special, and how important, the men he was with were.

Knowing all this, he removed his robes, and assumed the position of the least important slave in a household. And he performed the lowest, least valuable service of that slave. He washed the disciples' feet, even those of Judas the betrayer. Then, he got dressed and assumed his normal position. And the disciples were totally mystified.

Then, Jesus began a long discourse on many subjects. But the first subject was intended to revolutionize the disciples' priorities, motivations and sense of what is important, and what is not.

Jesus said, "I am your Teacher, and your Lord. And I have given you an example to follow."

In the world, those in authority tell others what to do. Those in authority are served. In God's kingdom, those in authority serve. They take the lowest place. They clean the latrines, and wash the dishes.

In God's kingdom, those in authority love. And love gives.

In love, Jesus the King left the palace. He endured mistreatment, torture, and a totally undeserved, and unjust death at the hands of those who rightfully should bow down and give him worship.

In love, the Father chose to disrupt the God-head, so he could purchase a family, which already rightfully belonged to him.

In love, the Holy Spirit indwells us, becoming the God-head's means, and method of restoration: of relationship, of character, of family, and of rule.

The Creator of the Universe gives each one of his children 100% focused attention. He continually communicates his love. He continually communicates direction. He continually communicates encouragement. He continually strengthens the positives in your lives. (The negatives died on the cross with Jesus. Why should the God of the Living devote any time to what is dead?)

(NOTE: If Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father, and Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, what does that say about the Father?)  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I am the Resurrection and the Life

There is a story in the Bible about some friends of Jesus: a man, and his two sisters.

Word came to Jesus that this man was very sick, close to death. And Jesus, the compassionate one, the healer, the true friend, stayed where he was for two days. And then it took two more days to get to the house of his friend. So, by the time Jesus got there, the man had been dead for four days. He was dead, buried, and rotting in the grave. (Orin his case, in a cave with a big rock in front of it.)

The sisters approached Jesus separately, but their response to Jesus was essentially the same. “Our brother is dead. You have healed the sick. You have given sight to the blind, and the crippled can walk. If you were here on time our brother would still be alive.”

And Jesus’ response was essentially the same to each. “I am the resurrection and the life.”

The sisters believed God would raise the dead at the end of the age. At that time, he would judge everyone, those still alive and those who had died. The wicked would go to eternal punishment. The righteous would go into God’s presence, and eternal reward. Both were judged by how well, how completely, they obeyed the Law. The righteous obtained reward by obeying the law. The wicked obtained punishment by its disobedience of the Law.

And Jesus know that it was impossible, because no one could keep the Law. And God sent him to be a bridge. Jesus had power over life and death. Jesus had authority to bring the dead into God’s presence. It all goes through him.

And to show that that was true, he went to the grave of his friend, dead four days, already decaying, and called him out of the grace. Life was restored. His physical body was restored. And he walked out of the grave.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I am the Good Shepherd

But then he continued on using the same scenario: a flock of sheep, a shepherd, and a sheep pen. And he tells us: “I am the good shepherd.”

Sheep are put into a pen at night for their protection. Thieves will try to steal them. Predators will try to kill and eat them. Only the shepherd stands between them and those dangers.

Sometimes, someone is hired to watch the flock, so the shepherd can sleep. And in those cases, if a lion or a bear attacks the flock, this hired person has no motivation to defend the flock. On the other hand, the shepherd is motivated to take on a lion or a bear.

The shepherd knows his sheep. He speaks to them. They follow. He protects them. He provides for them. He places them in situations that bring the best to them.

This parable can be applied to our relationship to Jesus in many ways.
  • Those who follow Jesus are like sheep. Sheep’s herding instinct is strong enough that they will follow one another right over the edge of the cliff. We all know people who get with the wrong people, and them into all sorts of trouble.
  • Jesus loves all people. His heart is to gather all people to himself, and lead them – toward the completion of their design, toward greater joy and fulfillment. And, for those who give him their allegiance, he is actively pursuing this goal.
  • Jesus demonstrates he is supremely trustworthy of our faith, when he died to re-establish a relationship with people. He honors his promises, he relationship with people, and his Father’s purposes – to gather a people to be his new family.
  • Sheep learn to follow the shepherd. We can learn to follow Jesus. We can hear his voice; we can discern it from all the other voices; we can successfully follow the path that he is leading us on.
  • Jesus’ purpose is to create a family, build it strong in love, to love, and to increase it. Scripture says that all peoples, all languages, and all the ends of the earth will be represented in his family. Our purpose is to embrace Jesus’ purpose.