Tuesday, December 28, 2010
It is god’s desire for his family to plant seed and produce fruit. If we plant, and no fruit is produced, what then?
We can decide that the production of fruit is completely out of our hands. It is entirely in God’s control. So, if there is no fruit, God did not want it? Or his timing was off? If this is true, all we, as his family, can do is to continue to plant. And wait for God to act. This story is about the mystery surrounding fruitfulness.
Some people look at the story and conclude that the earth contain everything for fruit. All we need to do is plant the seed. But planting cannot be construed as a simple throwing of seed. Consider Jesus’ instructions to the seventy.
• Go in teams.
• Pray for workers.
• Seek the man of peace.
• Live among the people.
• Heal the sick. (Or serve to meet needs.)
• Proclaim the kingdom. (As Jesus was coming, this proclamation was in preparation for his appearance.)
• Go to specific cities. (The ones he was going to.)
The planting that Jesus prescribed was not haphazard or unplanned. It was intentional with particular steps and aims.
Monday, December 27, 2010
However, techniques, method and campaigns do not build the Kingdom. The Kingdom is built as truth and grace are applied to people’s hearts. And it is only God who is stronger than a person’s heart. (And he does not force someone to choose to follow him.) So, it is God who builds his Kingdom.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The first group consisted of Jesus followers who were discussing their relationship with God. Someone asked how many chose to follow Jesus in the “normal” way – realization of one’s sin, God’s hate of sin, certain punishment without Jesus, God’s love that substitutes punishing us with punishing Jesus, receiving that love, inexpressible joy, total transformation, fireworks and brass bands. Out of the 12-14 people, only two were “saved” in the “normal” manner.
The second group consisted of people who were learning the message of Jesus for the first time. God’s message was presented in the “normal” way.
A quick survey of the first group revealed a variety of method and motivations for following Jesus:
• An understanding of God’s nature and identity;
• Realization that only God can meet certain needs;
• Heart level longing for protection, companionship, purpose and meaning.
• Repugnance for the dysfunction of life.
The first group concluded that God pursues people with grace and not a formula. I have concluded long ago that “unmerited favor” is an inadequate and incomplete definition for grace. Grace is God meeting you where you are and supplying you with whatever you need. God’s supply is favor and unmerited. But God supplies with wisdom, forgiveness, understanding, friends, food and water, mission and emotional support by his grace.
Are we short changing the gospel by providing an incomplete message?
Monday, December 20, 2010
The only cure and prevention is truth. People need to know and understand Truth. People need to know how to handle it accurately. Not only will we be protected from going the wrong way, but we will be able to help guard others in the way also.
Friday, December 17, 2010
There can be a tendency for discouragement. Someone gives long and strongly from the heart, and nothing happens. Like the farmer, the hardest work is the initial work when the is no result to be seen. Like the farmer, someone giving into a community needs to believe that the planting is not in vain. Fruit will come quickly enough, if faith is kept.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Then, seeds are planted. Consideration should be given what to plant. Each plant is different. Each are is different. Cucumbers are not planted the same way as corn. Oranges shouldn’t be planted in Minnesota. There are different requirements.
The seeds need moisture, fertilizer, light and heat. Weeds will continue to compete with the crops.
A tremendous amount of work is done before any results are seen. The famer must work in faith that what he does is effective.
It would not be fair if the farmer works hard to prepare, to plant and to bring the crop in, and someone else gets to choose how to dispose of it. The farmer puts his heart into his labors. He has a connection with the land. There is almost a love relationship.
The transformed life takes on new purposes. He joins with God’s purposes, so he seeks to plant God’s life into his “field” – his household, or his community. His loosens up the “field” with prayer. He waters it with love and service. He plants it with truth. He develops a love relationship with it.
The transformed life gives its heart to the people around him. As the give their heart, they will receive the fruit.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Many athletes search for something to give them a small advantage – a tenth of a second, a centimeter, or a few more grams. Success or failure can often be measured by these small amounts.
Sports authorities have long recognized that the desire for an edge can lead to unfair or detrimental practices. Steroids can give an unfair and unnatural advantage. They can also hurt the health of the athlete. So, rules are made that ban these practices; and penalties are given and enforced to stop them. Athletes is often banned from the sport they hope to receive glory from. Still, some cannot resist temptation. They seek their edge and hide their practices. There are too many stories about successful athletes, who are discovered and theglory they received turned to shame.
There are rules for the transformed life. The reward is influence over people, changed lives and transformed cities, countries and cultures. But the influence is earned by love, grace, service, truth and pure character. Some have tried to gain the influence by modern advertizing techniques, manipulation, guilt or glitz. These methods skirt the truth, love and honesty. It demonstrates less than godly character.
No one can match Jesus in any of these areas. But we can have authenticity in all these things. Using these other means will lead to less – less glory for the Father, less influence for the man, less effect for the Kingdom, and more denigration of God’s ways and purposes. And in the end, God will reveal his sorrow with ones who sought more for themselves than for him.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Jesus does give very powerful weapons of warfare. These weapons include love, prayer, transformed lives, unity, community and truth. (Truth is communicated verbally and in action; and it is encased by the other weapons.)
The weapons are different; the ways of waging warfare are different.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
The transformed life is new. It requires new tools, new perspectives, new vision and new purposes. Much of the new life requires action. Much of it requires new understanding. And understanding must be given, so the new life can act efficiently, effectively and in the right direction.
Life begets life. A seed is planted and germinates. The life grows – and in its time, releases a new seed. The equipping of new life becomes a chain. It is passed to faithful ones who can act and equip other new life. It also becomes a matrix, multiplying new life. Equipping each new life is a vital concern to the Father. It ought to be a vital concern of each follower of Jesus. It ought to be a skill each one cultivates. The knowledge of what to do, how to do it, and how to pass it along, should be passed to each new life.
Friday, December 03, 2010
I heard one definition as “God giving someone whatever it is they need to meet their needs at that given moment.” It is the giving-ness of God.
To live the transformed life, at some point, we will need to take action. Often, the action involved will be scary, difficult or unpleasant things. The transformed life – power for grace and love – does require that we walk through these things. We will need grace to take the first step. We will need grace to sustain us in strength and peace as we continue.
I am not speaking about an extreme form of persecution necessarily. That might be such a situation, though. We may need to surrender a personal liberty, because it is a hardship for someone else. We may need to speak to someone about an offense. We may need to take a step of service. We may need to accept some deprivation to benefit someone else. In all these things, our nature will want to rebel, because of the pull of sin and the natural desire for personal peace. In all these things, to walk in love will require grace to strengthen the transformed life, now planted in our hearts.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
It is almost as if every generation needs to go to God and recreates the forms of connecting with him. It is almost as if every person needs to define the framework of life in Jesus and define an expression of that life that embodies their individual relationship with Jesus. But it needs to be defined in a way that connects to the family of God and to those who still need to choose to enter into a relationship with Jesus. (For part of Jesus’ framework is a relationship with him, a relationship with his family, and a relationship with those outside his family. One cannot choose one of these relationships without choosing an active, engaged relationship with all three. And the relationships do not stop within a person’s immediate context, but continues onto the horizon and beyond.)
Monday, November 29, 2010
Jesus lived in total dependence on the Father. He was always where he was supposed to be, when he was supposed to be. And without a planner of any sort – electronic, paper. He didn’t even have a calendar. He always did what he needed to do, when he needed to do it. He was disciplined. But not like we think of discipline. To live like Jesus requires a radical change in a number of areas.
(1) There is a change in priorities. Many people have their schedules pretty set. One cannot have a normal job without a schedule. Others have to-do lists. In Jesus, God’s priorities move to the top. And God’s objectives are love relationships – between God and people, and people and people. And we need to recognize how best to fulfill God’s purposes (what), the correct timing (when) and make choices appropriately. The choice involves action. Sometimes, discipline requires I mow the lawn. Sometimes, discipline requires I forgo mowing the lawn. Sometimes, discipline requires I intentionally with premeditation forgo mowing the lawn.
(2) There is a change in how we perceive and treat interruptions. Interruptions are usually perceived as bad, a waste of time and energy. Followers of Jesus (especially professional followers of Jesus) often perceive interruptions as hindrances to completing God’s purposes. To Jesus, interruptions became the main opportunities to minister.
(3) There is a change in how we perceive and treat ministry. Ministry is viewed as opportunities to apply God, grace and truth to life. In current church culture, people tend to organize ministry opportunities. They schedule meetings and invite people to receive God’s grace there. Jesus never organized meetings. Jesus did attend meetings. He would go somewhere – and lo and behold, a meeting would break out. But these meetings never seemed to follow one pattern. Sometimes there was a teaching. Sometimes there were healings. Sometimes he served lunch. Sometimes there was prayer. (Interestingly, a time of worship was seldom mentioned.)
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Jesus’ love was not blemished by sin. Our love, though marred by sin, can still be a true reflection of Jesus’ love. Our love can have all those effects listed above.
Love is a strong motivator for change, for new living. It is love that motivated Father, Son and Spirit to create, to express perfect faithfulness, to redeem, to build, to forgive an infinite number of wrongs, to pursue and to bring finite, fallible humans into partnership with him.
And fear can smother love. Love brings openness and vulnerability into the picture. Love necessitates trust relationships. Sin will always slap trust in the face. We, in our strength, will protect ourselves from pain. With the Spirit’s strength, we will continually lean into the wind, and choose love.
Monday, November 22, 2010
There is obviously power to perform miracles in God. Jesus’ disciples performed miracles, but that power was not inherent in them. They were given authority (εξουσια) by Jesus. The power was inherent in God. The disciples became in effect lenses of God’ power, focused on a situation.
But they did have power to take action. They can choose to re-activate a gift, proclaim Jesus, serve or risk suffering. God’s will is that we take action to cooperate with him to complete his purposes. He has brought us into partnership with him in his mission. There are things in the world that smother any impulse for action. Fear on one sort or another is a very large force of constraint.
Friday, November 19, 2010
We are not only living for our selves, but we are living it in demonstration for others. We are living it it with the Spirit of God in our hearts. And the Spirit of God should fill all our thoughts, words, and actions.
There is no particular formula to follow. There is no set liturgy, prayers or rules. (Scripture says the Law was given for sins to be made evident. Scripture says that love fulfills the Law.) Rather the Spirit infuses itself within each follower’s heart, so God’s life is breathed out in every community and culture where those who seek him and call on his name are found.
If we walk with God, the God life flows through us … imperfectly. It is marred by sin. But it is what the world needs. The world needs to see lives like this. Since, we know the world needs the life of God, given through Jesus, and we have that life of God, we can be confident we what the world needs. But we need to walk it out humbly and with love. We were beggars once ourselves.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
And leaders ought to model a Christ-filled lifestyle. Their actions, attitudes and words should emit a flavor and aroma of Christ. And they should demonstrate how all follows of Jesus should live.
Monday, November 15, 2010
In the same situation, people were not living in ways that displayed the transformed life. Daily life and conduct should be built around God and transformation. Men were acting in independence. Women were acting in unsuitable ways. There needed to be a radical shift in thinking and perspective. Men needed to pray. Women needed to conduct themselves with grace. Together they would declare their dependence on God, their reliance on grace and their practice of the transformed life.
Friday, November 12, 2010
The Law is a good thing. Except it has no relevance in the transformed life. God gave the Law to Moses to reveal sin and everything that is anti-gospel.
Paul himself sought to serve the Law. When Christ revealed himself to Paul in a power way, Paul realized that God’s plan was radically different than he realized. Transformation was its essence.
So, Paul wrote to a young leader, giving him the assignment of stopping this torrent of words. His overall objective was the promotion of transformed lives. Love is the primary ingredient in a Christ-transformed life.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
But sometimes, it is a target. The message gives us a point in the distance to walk to. Other people may know what our destination should be. If they love us, they can help us walk out our journey. They can partner with us.
Monday, November 08, 2010
Since, sin entered the world, it has hidden the life of Jesus in people. God’s family receives his life, so God in his family can break past the sin hiding his life in people. God’s Spirit is in us transforming our hearts, which is the well-spring of life, so his family can live the transformed life. The concern of all God’s family should be that God’s family live out that transformed life. The purpose of God’s family is to demonstrate to the world how a person was designed to live.
And since Jesus returned to the Father, we keep getting trapped into thinking that talking is living. We cast words into the air that sound spiritual, and assume we are following our high calling. We focus on what has no profit.
I am beginning to wonder if that is too much preaching and teaching. What most of us see modeled by those who are supposed to model transformed life for us is preaching and teaching.
Paul had a situation where some were focused on false ideas, meaningless talk and the Law. (Showing that they did not understand the Law. The Law demonstrated sin. Those in Christ should demonstrate love arising from a transformed life.)
Men were living in independence. Women were conducting themselves in inappropriate ways. Both demonstrated lives subject to sin, and not lives transformed by the Spirit. Men should pray – showing the dependence on God, Women should behave appropriately – demonstrating the heart of transformation.
Friday, November 05, 2010
So did God:
• Create Adam first alone,
• Design him with “fuels” of giving love, receiving love, and community,
• Have him name the animals to underscore his alone-ness
• Then provide a companion who is a perfect complement to him
To give humanity a picture of God’s heart – that he wanted an “other” to give his wholehearted love to?
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Monday, November 01, 2010
If the ground is prepared correctly, the seed produces fruit almost magically. If there is little fruit, could that mean there was inadequate preparation?
Friday, October 29, 2010
So, several weeks ago, I gave several applications of round-Up to approximately a 250 square yard triangle in my front yard. Killing everything was the easy part.
We investigated, got advice, and came up with a plan of action. We implemented said plan. And we achieved zero success. Zero grass.
So, we have investigated more, gotten more advice, and came up with a new plan of action, that involved more work, more expense, more aches, pains and scraped knuckles. This plan involved roto-tilling, raking and removing several hundred pounds of dead cellulose. (Ie. old dead plant material. If one could sell old, dead plant material, I could retire.) Since, we have just executed this plan, I have no idea how successful it will be.
I have often compared the church-planting/evangelization process with the process of planting a garden. There is cultivation of the ground, sowing seed, weeding, watering, fertilizing, harvesting and storing the produce.
There is a lot of labor involved in harvesting. But it does not come close to the labor of cultivating the ground. The real back-breaking labor comes from breaking up the soil, removing unwanted rocks and vegetation, churning the soil again and again, so it is ready to receive the seed. If this is true in a physical setting, why are we surprised that it should not be so in a spiritual setting?
I have heard people find the current church lacking because it has not harvested like the first century church. They saw 3000 people choose to follow Jesus the first time Peter preached. Yes, I am sure the Spirit coming at Pentecost had something to do with it. But the same Spirit is here now. A real difference between then and now is that Jesus spent the previous several years breaking up the ground, praying, living, loving, modeling, sowing God’s word, watering and fertilizing. Jesus harvested little in comparison to the Apostles. But he did the more difficult work without there can be no harvest.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
• Jesus promised that if we receive the pardon his death purchased, we would not receive the punishment our sins deserve.
• Jesus promised that his Kingdom would rule over creation. There would be no unfairness, prejudice, conflict and want. There would always be justice, acceptance, peace and sufficiency.
• Jesus promised that there would be transformation. Individuals would not be bound to evil. Nature would not be subject to pollution, corruption and death. Groups and cultures would join together.
Each of these are part of the good news. Each of these are good news. Are there other parts of the gospel?
Monday, October 25, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
We expect the Kingdom to big and grand. After all, do not rulers have large palaces? Does not a successful pastor have a church building which seats several thousand people?
God’s Kingdom is the biggest and greatest in all creation. But God does not begin with the huge, imposing magnificent image. He begins with a small seed. And the seed grows to be more than anyone thought possible. But it is no more than a spark of life, nourished and watered.
We are not instructed to erect large monuments. We are instructed to build homes, to give shelter and to provide a place for people.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Jesus lived in dependence on the Father. God’s strength and life flowed to Jesus. Fruit developed as a result. Fruit grew naturally.
Fruit are characteristics that flow from our hearts. They are words, actions and attitudes that flow from our lives. Fruit is the outgrowth of a person’s inner life. The fruit of the Spirit is the outgrowth of God in my heart changing my attitudes and actions. The fruit of praise is the outgrowth of my connection with God and increasingly clear picture of God’s nature, God’s interaction with the world and God’s attitude toward people. The fruit of salvation is the outgrowth in someone else’s heart. That fruit of salvation arises from a seed planted through seeing new actions and attitudes of Jesus’ disciples, a connection with God, and gaining an increasing clear vision of God’s nature and actions. The seed germinated, resulting in a change of allegiance to God. Salvation is fruit derived from other fruit.
Friday, October 15, 2010
If the harvest is plentiful, that means there has been a lot of work cultivating, planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing and pruning. A lot of work has gone into the fields, or garden, to get ready for the harvest.
When we look at evangelistic activities currently – methods of gospel sharing, crusades, calls-forward – these are all harvest activities. Let us understand. We need harvest activities. But we also need planting activities. We also need watering activities. We don’t see those activities. They are not popular. They are not public. But if they are not done, there will be no harvest.
The apostles “harvested” 3000 souls early in their ministry, and several more thousand a few days later, because Jesus had been working the ground and the fields for the previous three years. Jesus himself did not harvest nearly so many. There 120 in the upper room. And 500 witnesses of the resurrection. Are these the greater works that Jesus mentioned? And if Jesus spent most of his time preparing for harvest, which activity is more important? I would say the answer to that question is “neither.”
Monday, October 11, 2010
Many homes in Jesus’ time were built around a central courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard was a table. Guests would sit around the table eating and discussing religion, philosophy or current events. Since, there was no TV, movies or the internet, passersby were permitted, as part of the culture, to sit or stand around the perimeter of the table to listen to the conversation.
So, Jesus said that one way to determine greatness was how willing was a person to not only allow them to stand around and listen, but how willing were they to invite the person to the table. Were they willing to let a five year old to sit at the table and to participate in the discussion? And were they willing to treat his remarks as importantly as if it were a celebrity or the president sitting there?
Friday, October 08, 2010
When he cured someone of a disease, he was also proclaiming their souls were broken, just like there bodies were. And as he had the power to mend their bodies, he had the power to mend their souls.
When they were surrounded by a hungry crowd, and it was impossible to feed them, he fed them, they were satisfied, and they had enough leftovers that a sizable part of the crowd could have had lunch the next day. There is an ability to feed the hunger of the soul in Jesus. And not of a few, who had to struggle through hours, days and weeks of prayer, fasting and meditation. Soul satisfaction can come by sitting and waiting for Jesus to serve you.
Human beings live on multiple kinds of fuel. Some fuels – eg. love and mission – require taking action. Some fuels – eg. receiving love and forgiveness – require open hands and acceptance.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Jesus begins by equipping the apostles.
- He gave them power and authority over demons and disease.
- He gave them an objective. To preach the Kingdom of God and to heal.
- He gave them guidelines for proceeding from city to city, and what to do in each place.
- The was not at the end of Jesus’ ministry. Neither was it the beginning. Jesus did not wait until the apostles had it all together. They had some training and education. They watched Jesus share. They had been taught be Jesus. They observed and absorbed Jesus’ heart and spirit. He spent enough time to prepare them to complete the job. Was God’s work in their lives complete? Did the y have no more room to grow in? Were they at the peak of efficiency and effectiveness? No, no and no. Which probably means there were successes, failures and learning.
- The purpose was to proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal. Then, it said they were preaching the gospel and healing. It seems to make proclaiming the Kingdom and preaching the gospel equivalent. Are the Kingdom and the gospel equivalent? Does the Kingdom equal the Four Laws? (The four Laws is a tool to explain the gospel to someone who does not understand it in a succinct and easy to remember way.) The gospel is probably more than Jesus forgiving people and bringing them to heaven. (1) All things will be revealed. (2) God’s rule will be established. So, everything that is wrong will get righted. (3) People will be given a new life. This is more than forgiveness. It is purpose, meaning, and significance. It is community, the giving and receiving of love, creativity and beauty.
- Part of God’s instructions were to heal. He expected diseases to be cured and demons cast out … by a group of relative neophytes. Does God expect the same for today? There can be a number of understandings about the concept “heal.” We could provide medical care for those who need it. We can participate in giving emotional and psychological care. (We may not be trained counselors, but a lot of healing can occur with love, acceptance and forgiveness.) And I do not want to downplay Jesus’ apparent expectation that his disciples are involved in praying for people.
Monday, October 04, 2010
At some point, everything will be revealed. So, we need to pay attention to what we learn. Like a lantern, any truth of God is supposed to guide our steps. The most obscure, esoteric piece of theology has a place, an ordering effect, in our hearts. We should take care to reflect on what we learn so we can understand it, obey it and allow it to have the proper effect in our hearts.
How we handle what we learn today affect how God teaches us in the future. They are building blocks. He cannot add higher rows until the lower rows are in place.
Friday, October 01, 2010
In turn, he gives us his presence in our hearts, and empowers new capacities in our lives. God’s spirit and these capacities enable us to take up our vocation as God’s agent. In this light, it seems reasonable that to fulfill our role, that we clearly understand the scope of our capacities. And Scripture indicates that we should reflect on our role in a wise and humble manner.
That nature of God’s Kingdom is like a network. Each node is investing in the increase of other nodes it is linked to. Each node invests in the expansion of the network linking in new nodes.
To push this networking metaphor towards absurdity – The nodes are organized into clusters. The clusters are linked into clusters of clusters. These mega-clusters should be linked into other mega-clusters.
As each node interacts with other nodes in its cluster, each node should increase in signal strength and through put. This increase should cascade throughout the cluster, into the mega-cluster and eventually into other mega-clusters. This increase should also affect unattached nodes bringing them into the network.
Usually, firewalls are established. There are firewalls between mega-clusters. There are firewall between clusters. And, too often, there are firewalls between nodes – even within a cluster.
When a person realizes that he occupies one node on the network, and he is in need of the other nodes, as much as they are in need of him, he cannot assume too large a position. But neither can her assume too small a position. Assuming too small a position results in diminished functionality. The node – here we break the metaphor – loses motivation to complete his vocation. The node stops adding its voice to the song. Each node add a unique part to the whole. Without that node, the cluster is poorer, has a weaker signal and its ability to grow and attach new nodes into the cluster is diminished.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The writers of Scriptures do engage in hyperbole. There are people who do seek for God. There are people who do good. But there is a life of struggle, especially among those who follow Jesus. The Spirit is in their hearts. The power to do good is there, even as the corrupted nature of man to do evil is there. Until perfected with the coming of the Kingdom, we will continue to see a struggle.
We see good in those who do not follow Jesus. They do not have the Spirit, who can power their lives for good. But they do have the image of God. Part of God’s image in us are the “fuels” of the heart. A human being is created with a need (or several needs) that when they are filled powers their living, like gasoline for an automobile. To power our hearts, we need a supply to fulfill these needs.
One of these fuels is love. Human beings not only need to receive love, human beings need to give love. And humans give love to one another largely by doing good. To function as a healthy person, one needs to do good as an expression of love. We need to produce fruit.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
A vocation is a God-given drive and passion to impact the world, to establish God’s rule over the world.
To live out our vocation, we need to know ourselves and the tasks God wants us to complete. The Scripture calls us to know ourselves and to know the grace God gives us to use. Our vocation is fundamental to our Kingdom identity. Our vocation is the primary interface if our partnership with the Spirit in the Kingdom.
Friday, September 17, 2010
If the person seeks relief by seeking God, He will find God and become part of His Kingdom. He will move into a while new life, supplied by the promises and directions of God.
The person who is truly poor lives in fear. He has no contentment. He cannot live as God wants, because he cannot give as God wants. (And do not just imagine dollar signs. “Give” means more than that.)
God wants to do more in your life than you can possibly conceive of. If we could receive something of God’s plans and potential, and lived to fulfill a fraction, we would flip the world upside-down.
We are God’s channels to pour out his purposes into the world. He reveals plans, steps, actions and words for us to complete, pursue or deliver. We do not see his kingdom worked out, because we do not believe his promises.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Jesus’ focus seemed to rest among people who had no relationship with God. He did not focus on the Sadducees, who were the traditional caretakers of Judaism. He did not focus on the Pharisees, who were the purists and fundamentalists of Judaism.
The Pharisees had tremendous discipline. Discipline is a good thing. But their discipline required a person having sufficient means to keep it. And what of those who did not were not in a position to maintain Pharisaic practices? They had tried, failed and gave up. Or they were not in a position to learn the requirements and practices.
Jesus’ invitation to people had to be simple so everyone could follow it. Jesus had to remove barriers so sinners, apostates and failures could feel free to move in God’s direction.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Jesus recognizes the desperation, but he also recognizes their faith in him as the answer to their friend’s need. “If we can just get him to Jesus, his problems will be solved.”
But Jesus speaks to a different need. He says their sins are forgiven. (I have often wondered why Jesus did this. Did he realize that this was their real concern? Was he setting up the crowd to demonstrate his authority as God?) The religious experts in the crowd see all sorts of red flags go up. Since, only God can forgive sins, how can this MAN say something like this?
So, Jesus asks the question, which easier to say “your sins are forgiven” or “rise and walk”? It is easier to say “your sins are forgiven.” No one expects anything to happen. There is no physical manifestation.
But if someone says “rise and walk” to a paralytic … If people expect something to happen, and it does not, then people get angry, disappointed or do not take the person seriously any more. If people expect nothing to happen, and it does not, people dismiss the speaker as a fool, who just likes shooting his mouth off.
But something happens, you have to take another look at that person. You have to take them a whole lot more seriously. He is not just a talker. He might just know something you should know. Maybe he knows something about forgiveness I do not know. Maybe there is something about him you should know.
Jesus intended it as an obvious demonstration that he does have authority to forgive. Not like we have authority to forgive someone who offends us. I can choose to not factor an offense into how I interact with someone. He has authority to absolve from real guilt, to justify and to declare righteous.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
This underlines out need to know the Scripture. Quoting Scripture is not some magic incantation. The power of Scripture lies in its truth.
Understanding Scripture is important for a number of reasons. (1) It clarifies God’s thinking. We have spoken several times of the need for revelation and wisdom. Scripture is the cornerstone for both. In it, God lays out the parameters for revelation to fall in, as well as wisdom to guide the evaluation of revelation.
(2) It reveals the mind and heart of God. In reading the Scriptures, we can remind ourselves again and again of what God finds important and what we should find important.
(3) It guides the pathways for our own thinking. As we read, study, meditate and pray, we agree in our thinking with God. God’s thoughts become our thoughts. And our mind are slowly and thoroughly transformed.
(4) It guides our actions. We know that the insides and outsides of people are equally important. Our inner life should propel the our outer life. And it is the outer life that we were created for.
Friday, September 03, 2010
- God’s Kingdom does not function like the world. The laws that govern it are often the reverse of what we expect. We will experience surprises and upside-down values.
- The Kingdom – indeed, the whole spiritual realm – does not exist in isolation from the physical realm. Actions in one have effects in the other. If a person’s heart-focus connects the physical and the spiritual, then thoughts, desires and attitudes have an effect. People can move through daily existence influencing the spiritual realm, and in turn, the physical realm, because of how their hearts are focused.
- People are spiritual creatures. They stand at the intersection of the physical and the spiritual, influencing both. And the Spirit of God in the hearts of Jesus’ disciples places them in the middle of his Kingdom. We need to realize that we are already living and having an influence.
- If we are living and functioning in the Kingdom, perhaps in unrealized ways, we are already living according to the laws of the Kingdom.
- The keys to unlock the laws lie in what God has said. God has already given us his promises. They reveal how God has determined he will act. We need to respond to him with the hands of faith.
- God wants us to live in agreement with the laws of the Kingdom. Since, they are often the reverse of what we expect, we need to know and understand what they are. Since, God wants us to follow them God wants us to know them. Since, God wants us to know them he will reveal them to us. If a person reads the Scriptures, he probably knows many Kingdom laws already. They may not be labeled as a Kingdom law in the person’s thinking, but they will recognize the obligation to “keep” something they have read.
- Many regard the “works” of the Kingdom in almost a mystical way. And I suppose they could be. Many Christians believe that God still speaks, but they would also think that God giving them a message for someone else, especially a total stranger, as moving into areas of weirdness. But we need to see that Kingdom “works” can also be extending kindness or hospitality. The simple act of sharing food or water can send shock waves through the spiritual realm. What matters is that the “work” agrees with the Kingdom laws, even if – and especially if – they run against the current of the world.
- We need to act in agreement with the promises. If there is a condition, we need to meet it. If we accept God’s promise, in some way, it already exists. We may need to modify our behavior to prepare a place for it. God is unlimited. Or to look at it another way, God is self-limited only. God has determined how he will act in the world. There seems to be some evidence that God has limited himself to act only in response to prayer. So, we should be inviting God to act as he has indicated he would. Or we should be thanking him for acting on our behalf, for his glory, as he promised. Or some other way. And since Satan really does not want the Kingdom taking root in the world or our hearts, maybe we should taking note of these things. Keep a journal or a recipe box with 3x5 cards.
- Some people would hear or read something like this and, because of the promises for provision, associate it with some type of prosperity gospel. (1) I am not going to be critical of someone who claims God’s promise for a new car, and then “coincidentally” receives one. (2) We need to keep the fact foremost in our thinking that God’s promises, and God keeping his promises, are not for some sort of “bless me” club. They are to promote his purposes. The ultimate purpose of God is the validation, the demonstration and the completion of his glory. The penultimate purposes of God are the salvation of men and the transformation of individuals, cities, states and cultures into something that reflects his nature. God did promise to provide for us. He did not promise we would be rich.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
There are laws that govern the spiritual universe. Reaping\sowing is an example of this kind of law. Focusing the heart (as in prayer, meditation and chanting) to connect the spiritual and the physical is another.
There are laws that govern God’s Kingdom. One of the first laws is that faith accesses God’s promises. Faith is the pair of hands held out to receive what God gives. Faith is confidence that God has the power, resources and desire to fulfill his promises.
Another law of the Kingdom is that the best attitude of heart focus is love. It is heart-focus that reaches into the spiritual realm. Prayer is a way to focus our hearts. We can prayer with hate or anger in our hearts. If we do, we can still succeed in connecting with the spiritual realm. Love has a motivation that invokes results that agree with God’s purposes more. That’s one reason why worship is an important factor in following Jesus. Worship should be an expression of love.
Monday, August 30, 2010
- We must understand the truth and have it ready.
- We must stand in our position of favor, having been reconciled, living at peace with God and his family.
- We must be ready to take action. We have peace with God. We do not have to fear moving to serve, to encourage, to share. God has already forgiven us for all we have done. Will he be angry if we step out to act in love?
- We must hold onto God’s promises. Satan will work to distort God’s word in our hearts. We will remember God’s word, but Satan will say it is all a lie. We must remember to believe God, because he does not lie.
- We must keep God’s words and promises in our thinking and acting. It is the Truth that brings Satan down.
- We must be given to prayer. Pray for people to stand, to obey God, nd for the gospel break through barriers.
Friday, August 27, 2010
People are all born with heart-poverty. Sin robs us. Yet, some people recognize that poverty and inherit the Kingdom. They seek for God, recognize the Spirit’s work and mature as they interact with the Spirit, scriptures and other people. They give a sound, but humble evaluation of themselves, realizing they are not perfect, but neither are they second-rate.
Others dwell in that poverty. They may go to church, but they never find God. They never see God work, though he ignites fireworks and blasts sirens and air horns right in front of them. They never mature. The Scripture is just words. They are consumed with what they don’t have and how to get it.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
We choose to speak truth, because we have a new unity with other Jesus followers. Lies divide. A divided body cannot survive. Anger also divides. Do not let anger control a situation. Repair the relationship, so Satan will not have room to work. God’s nature is giving and generous. So, put yourself in a position to be generous.
Do not speak in a way that tears. Speak to encourage, build and bless.
The Spirit of God is given as a seal and pledge of continued relationship with God. The Spirit is our link into God, the body and new life. Actions that practice the flesh and disunity grieve Him. Actions that practice new life please Him. Things like kindness, forgiveness, compassion and patience.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Does growth result from receiving service? Or does growth result from giving service?)
The leaders prepare. The people serve. Growth happens. It creates a spiraling upward situation. It spirals up until we achieve unity. We build confidence in Jesus in each other, until we can all walk on water. We open the eyes of each other, until we can all see Jesus clearly in HD. We mold the character of each other, transform the thinking of each other until we all become Jesus clones, until Jesus’ DNA becomes our DNA.
Then, our lives with be founded on the rock. Circumstances will not control us. Fads and glitz will not captivate us. People will not persuade us to follow deceptions, distractions us with pretty toys or bright lights.
We will focus on truth as scripture reveals it, as the Holy spirit highlights it and as Jesus live it. And we will speak that truth in love.
God’s desire: Every part of the body of Christ matures. Every part of the body builds into every other part. Every part of the body remains connected and supported by every other of the body. And every part of the body actively pursues the completion of his role. This building, connection, supporting and pursuing is plaint by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, when He took up residence there.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
When Adam sinned, the world fell under the control of Satan. Increasing misery, pain and destruction were the result.
However, God’s purpose has not changed. He continues to invites men to form a community with Him as a partner. He continues to promote the creation of beauty, harmony and bounty in the world. So, we are His partners in winning back rule of the world, and establishing God’s rule … one place at a time.
People tend to view God’s work in an either\or context. Either establish God’s Kingdom through a spiritual transformation, or through a physical transformation. But, in reality, they cannot be separated.
Spiritual transformation has priority for a couple of reason. (1) It affects the eternity of people. One of the problems with a number of business practices today revolves around the fact that businesses too often focus on the bottom line for the short term. And business practices (and attitudes) have crept into the church.
(2) Spiritual transformation has priority because it forms the foundation for physical transformation. The essence of spiritual transformation is a renewal of the human heart. When a person perceives truth about Jesus, and it affects them, they can choose to alter their allegiance from themselves, their company, their country, their tribe, their group to Jesus. This change of paradigm is so powerful that it can only be compared to living a new life. (Spiritual realities are also activated. So, it is more than a mental change. But the change in thinking is extremely powerful.) It is this re-ordering of values, purpose and allegiance that lay the ground work for real physical transformation.
Physical works can move situations toward God’s ideal of the world. There are multiple factors that produce the complex phenomena know a poverty. It requires more than economic stimulus and jobs to overcome it. There are educational, health, political, psychological and cultural factors that contribute to and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Building schools and hospitals correct part of it. Ensuring a fair and honest government is part of a solution. Giving people hope of a better future contributes. So, works that lead to physical transformation can lead to spiritual transformation. Acts that further the renewal of beauty, harmony and bounty of God’s creation can create an environment of openness to the good new of God’s love. But they may not.
We often underestimate the power of God’s message. We often underestimate the density of Satan’s fog of deception. We often underestimate the power of acts of charity to disrupt someone’s world view. There is a tension between the physical and the spiritual that we need to learn to live with, to utilize and to feed off of. We need to use this tension to stimulate creativity to plant transformation in whatever soil we are currently working.
We have accepted this invitation because of certain convictions we have come to. Convictions we think others should have. So, how do we live so people will look at us and conclude, “There goes a happy, delightful soul. I wonder how I can become like that?” Or if the person knows we are a follower of Jesus, “No that’s what a Christian is supposed to be like.”
Monday, August 09, 2010
Water, nutrients and oxygen pass through the tree. As they pass, they absorb from the life of tree; and the life of the tree passes into the fruit. If the life that the fruit receives is bad, the fruit will be bad. If the life that the fruit receives is good, the fruit will be good.
Fruit can never be good if it grows out of a heart that is bad.
Friday, August 06, 2010
We, on the other hand, lived in agreement with the world, the flesh and the devil. We deserved wrath and condemnation. But God expressed His love by extending grace and giving us new life in Jesus. We are given a new position with Jesus.
Doing good things have nothing to do with pleasing God to gain salvation. Not that God is unconcerned with the actions people take. He has given new life. New life has the effect of producing good actions.
Thursday, August 05, 2010
God created man to become part of His community, to rule over the world – not gut it greed, but cultivate it like a garden – and to create a community on earth that reflects God’s community in heaven.
Sin caused a change in the basic fabric of creation. Man is alienated from God, from other people, from himself and from nature. His heart and spirit are dead. And his natural tendency and focus is to himself and his needs and desires. The result is an ongoing cycle of evil.
God’s plan has not changed. God still wants men to demonstrate His nature, to become part of His community, to create a community of men, and to rule the world. And God wants these things done in a spirit of love, righteousness and holiness.
Jesus dies to remove the barriers that alienate God from men. Once the barriers are removed, God can begin a work that establishes God-centered, God-breathed rule over the world.
Monday, August 02, 2010
We also need wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge of what is true and right, combined with judgment of what action to take. When we receive revelation, God speaks to us. Satan also speaks to us. And we speak to ourselves in our hearts. Out of these that speak to us, only one is completely trustworthy. One is sometimes trustworthy. One is never trustworthy. Our Father wants our good, so he will speak truly and righteously. Satan only wants our misery. And we are just limited. We are not big enough or know enough. But we need to know enough to see each word clearly, and to decide what we need to do about it. Wisdom resides with God. He gives wisdom, and trains us in wisdom, so we can discern words from Him, word from other voices, and obey Him confidently.