Friday, April 29, 2011

Abiding Connecting - IV

Fruit is the purpose of this connection. Fruit is any expression of God’s life flowing into the branch. Fruit could be someone choosing to follow Jesus and beginning to live a life connected to him and to his community. Fruit could be transformation in the life one following Jesus. Fruit could be an outflow of love expressed in service, mercy or compassion in some area in the world. Fruit could be an outpouring of holiness expressed by a cessation of some evil or the initiation of justice. Fruit should be all of the above. If it is not all of the above, we are missing something in our relationship to God.

Abiding Connecting - III

If life, love, fruit and transformation flow from our connection with Christ, then that which has priority above all else in following Jesus is the maintenance and enhancement of the relationship that constitutes that connection.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Abiding Connecting - II

Jesus used the metaphor of a branch connected to a vine to describe the importance of a disciple’s connection to him. He told his disciples to “abide” or “remain” in him, as a branch remains in the vine. Again, stressing the need for connection.

Before creation of the universe, God existed a three people living in communit7y. Their “connection” was their relationship. Their “connection” was the love, communication and heart-focus they gave each other. He is existed outside of time and space in giving, mutual community.

Then, he conceived of a way to demonstrate his nature before the universe. He created a world and populated it with humanity. Humans are like God in personality. There were meant to join in community and connect to one another in love, communication, heart-focus and mutual service. Other humans were to be initiated into this community. And the human community would also be connected to God in the same way.

Even after the Fall. God’s purpose remained the same. To create a community connected to himself, connected to one another, and demonstrating his character to all creation. This demonstration and connection become more important after the Fall, because of its function as an invitation to join him in community. Living in connection with God and connect with his human community should stand stark contrast to the remainder of the world.

Those who follow Jesus are connected to one another by the quality of their relationships. In the smae way, those who follow Jesus are connected to Jesus by the quality of their relationship to him.

The health of the branch is based on the quality of the connection to the vine. The health of the Jesus-follower is based on the quality of the connection to Jesus. The vine and branch have a physical connection. Jesus and his disciples have a relational connection.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Abiding Connecting - I

One metaphor Jesus used to compare our life connection with him is a branch connected to a vine. This may sound pantheistic to some people -- a person’s life residing in the life of God, or a person’s life being part of God. This is not Jesus’ view at all.

A person is separate from God. A person and God have an “otherness” in relation to each other. The connection is more similar to a device plugged into a wall socket receiving energy and “life” based on that connection.

So if the connection is not physical or ontological, what is it?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jesus for President?

Human nature is pretty fickle. Jesus and his disciples are camping. Thousands of people come to hear him speak. Since, there was no place to go get food, Jesus miraculously multiplies a small lunch – enough for one person – to feed them all. So, someone suggests they nominate Jesus for president. He could pay off the national debt, provide for 100% employment in a totally green economy and improve everyone’s standard of living 100%.

Jesus knows that his destiny is something other than being president. There are some problems that require his attention. He intends to solve those problems and to establish some structures, processes and affinity groups to solve other problems. So, he points out to the crowd that they were only interested in getting him to provide them with a comfortable life. There were more important things and a greater purpose to work towards. So, they asked him how they get started. And he said to believe the one God sent.

This was a little more than making Jesus president. This had the potential to really interfere with their lifestyle. Having seen and been fed by the contents of a single lunch box, they ask for another sign.

This seems to say something about their heart and priorities. The crowd is focused on their appetite, on what they can get. Jesus was focused on what he could give.

Sin causes us to focus on our wants and likes. Jesus slowly kneads our hearts – mixing love into our being. We grow in focus on God’s purposes. We grow in focus on service. We grow in focus on transformation.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Walking in Agreement.

Walking with God means listening to him and agreeing with what he says. Too often we agree with what the enemy says or what the world says.

If God speaks, it is the truth. To agree with the truth is to walk toward wholeness and holiness. And then we experience abundant living.

We often do not experience the type of life God says we should because we are agreeing with lies. They are subtle; they are strong; and they seem so right. And they cripple us; and they leave us weak and miserable. And it is not necessarily simple of easy to recognize the lie we areagreeing to and replace it with the truth we should be agreeing to.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

God the Communicator

God is giving to us and talking to us all the time. And very often we miss it, because we are focused on other things.

Sometimes we are focused on a particular way a word from God should come. We expect a message from a prophet, or that particular prophet, when God speaks directly to our hearts, or through the Bible, or our children or a sunset. As Americans we get too used to bigger, louder or brighter. If we were with Elijah on Horeb, we would expect God to speak in the lightning or the earth quake. We would miss the small breath of wind.

Sometimes we are focused on a particular topic. We want God to speak to our felt needs. We want encouragement about difficult relationships at work or a disobedient child. We miss the message that we play too many video games, or are too critical, or about mission work in Bahrain. We would rather not take the road toward humility and service.

Sometimes we don’t hear God’s message, because we are focused on the church’s message. We would hope they would be the same, but they are not always the same. It does not take too much reading of Scripture to realize that God’s most important heart-action is love. In some churches, the most important heart-action is financial support of the church facilities and staff. In others, it is participation in its ministry. It is extremely easy to be trapped within the walls, and lose sight of what’s outside. Jesus had a focus on the Twelve. And he took the Twelve with him to focus on the world.

There are many things that block out God speaking to us. Too often we build these walls ourselves. We need silence and openness to hear rightly. Who knows what radical, powerful force may erupt from it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Love - IX

Before celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover, Jesus dressed as one of the lowest slaves and washed his disciples’ feet.

In a place where people wear sandals and walking is the most common means of travel, feet get dirty. And households assign the lowest, least valuable slave the job of washing visitor’s feet when they enter the house. Jesus assumed that job for himself. He took the lowest position and cleaned his disciples’ feet.

Is Jesus really concerned about feet? He is infinitely more concerned about hearts than his is about feet. Some Christian groups believe Jesus gave a literal command to wash feet. Jesus was commanding all of us to assume a position of the least slave.

In the current church, there are jobs that have glitz and glamour. These jobs are more spiritual, more valuable, and, in the eyes of the congregation, make those people more important. As in, it is more important to lead worship. It is more important to deliver the message. Those people are more Christ-like than those watching children in the nursery. Yet Jesus – Most High God, Creator of the universe, Ultimate High Priest – washed feet.

This ought to tell us something about our hearts. This ought to tell us something about our priorities. Maybe one of the requirements for being an elder or pastor is a monthly stint in the nursery.

The core of love is giving. The hardest things for modern people to give are their time, energy and convenience.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Love - VIII

As we have mentioned quite a bit recently, God has designed people to give and receive love. Love is an essential ingredient to what it means to be a human being.

God also designed love. He designed its motivations, its actions, its reactions and its effects. The goal of everything God said through the prophets, the apostles and Jesus is love. Obeying his commands is love.

Obeying his command is the love of God. Obeying his commands is the love of people. It may not seem like it always. The outcome of love may seem harsh. The outcome of obedience may seem self-centered to some people.

It may seem harsh to confront someone about the evil in their life. But evil has consequences. It has consequences in the person’s life – present and eternal. It has consequences in relationships and inner health. It is love to want to help someone avoid these consequences.

Sometimes people take steps to avoid those consequences. But the steps they often take remove them from having any effect on those around them. The Pharisees sought to avoid any contact with sin. They were aware of its corrupting influence. That’s why it is compared with yeast.

But was Jesus unaware of sin’s corrupting influence. Yet, he ate with tax collectors and sinners. He walked well within range of that corrupting influence (without being corrupted) in order to exert the healing influence of love.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Love - VII

The point of life is to be the best picture of Jesus we can be. The way to do that is to live like he did. Most people seem to say that means being as pure as he was. I don’t think Jesus’ primary concern was the avoidance of doing bad stuff. I think Jesus’ primary concern was the non-avoidance of doing good stuff. The first thing we need to do so we can be the best picture of Jesus is love.

Part of that means is being patient, kind, humble and forgiving as we bump into people along the way through our day. Part of that means becoming intentional in serving. To go out of our way to bless, to do good; to expend our own time and energy; to get absolutely nothing in return.

That’s how God is. He goes about his day, planning to love, bless and do good to each person. And 99.9% of the time, we do not see it or realize it. The very atoms of the universe would fly apart if God’s hand was not holding each one in place.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Love - VI

When we met Jesus, we came to believe he was God’s son and God came to live in our hearts. We learned about his love for us. When we trust in him, we are trusting in his love. We are placing our bets on his love. We are “all in” on his love. We are making our home in his love.

Love in us demonstrates the reality of God’s love us, and for the world. The reality of love that comes from us demonstrates the reality that God abides in us and with us. And it is not the love that characterizes the world, but the love that characterizes Jesus.