Monday, November 29, 2010

Transformed Life: Discipline

In order to live the transformed life, The Holy Spirit gives us discipline. Richard Foster defines discipline (σωφρονισμος) as doing what we need to do, when we need to do it.

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

Transformed Life: Love

In order to live the transformed life, the Holy Spirit gives us love. Love (αγαπη) is a very difficult term to define. It is seen and experienced on many different levels, in many ways. It is above all a focus outside of the self, with the intent of thinking, speaking and acting toward others to build, bless, encourage, serve and bring out the best.

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

Transformed Life: Power

In order to live the transformed life, the Holy Spirit gives us power. Power (δυναμις) is defined as the inherent ability to take action. It is associated with miracles, but it is also associated with a freedom from constraint.

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

Transformed Life: Reality not Perfection

When we begin a relationship with God, we begin to live as Christ intended. (Sin still corrupts this life, so we will not fully live as God designed it, until we live in his kingdom at the end of time.)

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

Transformed Life: More than Lip Service

The church should demonstrate transformed living. Men and women should demonstrate dependence on God. Men and women conduct themselves in ways that fit God’s purposes, so their quality of life does not detract for Jesus. Rather it is an attraction to Jesus.

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

Transformed Life: God Must Be In The Picture

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

Transformed Life: Better than the Law

There was a situation in the early church, where a group of men were trying to gain positions of status by becoming experts in spirituality. So, they pursued discussions of controversial issues, the Law and false doctrines.

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

God Speaks

Sometimes when God speaks to us, it is like a seed. As we live out this message, it waters the seed until it germinates. And as we continue to live it out, it grows until it bears fruit in agreement with the message.

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

Transformed Life: The Church

One could describe the purpose of the church is to be the body of Christ. Jesus is in the world in spirit, but not in body, physically. The Church should be that physical presence. Together they need to demonstrate the life of Jesus to the world.

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

Picture of God's Love

There are a number of people who believe that physical events are “pictures” of spiritual realities.

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

Great Commision

Ownership of the Great Commission does not belong to missionaries, mission organizations or para-church ministries. Ownership belongs to the church. Which means ownership belongs to everyone who calls on the name of Jesus.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Back to the Garden

The point of my horticultural rambling is to focus our attention on the fact that we all like to harvest. But to harvest, we need to cultivate, water, weed and all the other tasks needed to insure a harvest takes place. And it is those beginning steps that require the greatest work. And if those beginning steps fail, we need to rework the ground again … more. We need to begin the hard work one more time.

If the ground is prepared correctly, the seed produces fruit almost magically. If there is little fruit, could that mean there was inadequate preparation?