Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In Christ

God has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ. Jesus came into the world to create a new covenant with men and God. In this covenant, men promise to give their allegiance to God, to follow him, to represent him to the world and to obey him. God promises to bring men into a special relationship with him. He cancels the rightful penalty for breaking God's law. He promises to walk with each individual person by putting his nature into their hearts -- to speak to them, to guide them, to strengthen them and to walk with them through life. He will form a community around this relationship with others who have come into this covenant with him. He will establish an eternal community and an eternal relationship. And he will create the world anew to conform with its original design.

All this -- man's part of the covenant and God's part of the covenant -- is focused through Jesus Christ. Jesus became the bridge that allows both parties access to each other. The chasm that separated these parties was sin -- the evil in men. When we choose to enter this covenant relationship with God, we move into a new status, a new place. We assume Jesus' place with him. We can visualize this as if we are in him. All of God's blessing flows to us through Christ and our relationship with him. As we have moved into his position, we also assume his role in the world.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


How does the church guard against heresy? Most pastors looks at Paul’s instruction to shepherd/care for the flock, because there are hungry wolves out there. So, he is there. He is the shepherd. He is trained to watch for wolves and then, drive them away.

The problem is – he can’t be everywhere. There are not enough shepherds to connect with every sheep. They can’t be to every class, home meeting, choir or band rehearsal, date and breakfast. The enemy know this and assaults God’s family from all sides. He is sly and wily. Do we think he will attack when we are looking? He will come where and when we least expect it. I think it is near impossible for the shepherd to protect the sheep.

So, the shepherd will have to equip the sheep. A wolf will think twice about attacking a sheep armed with a machine gun. The shepherd will need to train the sheep to take the Bible seriously as a guide and standard. They can teach them how to study and learn to understand it correctly.

When was the last time a church gave a class on inductive Bible study? And sold it as a vital part of the church?

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The Bible is not intended to answer every question in the universe. There are many it does not answer. The message of the Bible in a nutshell explains:
  • God’s original design for the world.
  • God’s purpose for mankind.
  • The cause of the world’s failure to fulfill its design and purpose.
  • The effects of that failure.
  • God’s solution to that failure.
  • How people should live in light of these things.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Abiding Connecting - X

God is concerned with every branch on the vine. Each one is intended to bear fruit. Each one should have life flow from it. There are often those in him, who have no life. Who are fruitless. If a person has no connection, the life of God cannot flow through him. Why would there be no connection? I think there are two reasons why disciples fail to connect: personal failure or systems failure.

Personal failure does come in a number of forms. The Father will refuse to connect with someone in sin. Sin has a polluting effect on the connection. The Father will not allow any pollution near him, so he will sever the connection. (Remember this is
not about salvation or a person’s eternal status with the Father. This is about fruit, relationship and the vitality of the connection.) Jesus came to establish the connection and to insure it is not permanently severed. Repentance and application of faith can restore the relationship.

A person can lose the connection by moving out of receiving mode. Many things can distract the person, and he fails with a lack of diligence or discipline. Usually there is a lack of understanding about this part of his relationship with God.

There can be a failure in the system to facilitate this type of relationship. An assumption exists among some Christians that says not all of God’s people will have this kind of relationship with God. God’s life will flow across the connection only if the person has a certain position, title or training. God’s life flows across the connection only in certain circumstances. All of God’s children are connected to the vine. God’s life flows across all branches. It is available to all.

Many churches assume that its members exist for the preservation of its functions. The church exists for the promotion and growth of God’s kingdom. Which means life flows into the branches so fruit will grow in coffee shops, universities, factories, ball parks, state parks, mass transportation and mountain tops. God gives his life to the branches so fruit can be borne in all phases of life. We live with this connection so we can bring God’s life with into every place we go. Not everyone will serve to promote a church program. But all of God’s children live to promote God’s kingdom.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Abiding Connecting - IX

Quite often at worship meetings, the life of God flows freely and strongly over those in attendance. God speaks clearly. Faith increases. Salvations or healings occur.

There are two reason why this happens. People are in a receiving mode. They are open. There is a heart-focus towards God. It is this heart-focus that completes the connection. There are no distractions. There is only God for this period. It is the purity of the heart-focus that releases the life flow across the connection.

People are in agreement. Unity always seems to strengthen whatever brings it together. It is almost as if the heart-focus is multiplied if it is aimed in the same direction, at the same thing. And Scripture says God blesses unity. It is because God’s nature is unity and agreement.

What if Jesus’ followers walked in agreement on Monday through Friday as well as Sunday? What if their heart-focus was as attuned to God’s presence beyond the meeting? Jesus was God, but he was also man. His impact on the world was directly proportional to his connection with the Father. If we can maintain our heart-focus beyond the meeting, we can walk as Jesus walked and influence the world in the same way.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Abiding Connecting - VIII

Jesus identified the Father as the gardener or vinedresser. It is the gardener who takes the initiative to start the garden. He does the work to break up the soil and plant seed. He is the one who is most motivated to see healthy plants that produce fruit. It is the fruit that motivates the gardener to plant the garden in the first place.

It is fruit that the Father is looking for. It is fruit that he builds his kingdom on. So, he is vitally concerned with the connection of each branch to the vine, because it is that connection that produces the fruit. So, he plans, strategizes and works to strengthen that connection in each person’s life.

If fruit builds the kingdom and the connection produces the fruit, then our connection to God is the strongest power in the universe.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Abiding Connecting - VII

If we do abide in Jesus, our true vine, we will bear fruit. Jesus was the best example of someone abiding in god. The connection was strong and vibrant. Jesus was in tune with the Father. He w as obedient to the Father put on his heart.

People were healed physically. People rose from the dead. People were healed spiritually, psychologically and emotionally. A foundation for an explosion of faith was laid. (After Jesus returned to the Father, Peter gave a five minute speech and 3000 people chose to follow Jesus. But it was Jesus’ prayer and living that cultivated the earth, in preparation for the disciples seeing this explosion.)

We are not even close to seeing the same fruit that Jesus and the first church saw. Jesus said we would do greater things than he did. I do not know all that means. But one thing it surely means is the flow of God’s spirit and life would affect a greater area and a larger number of people. Indeed, God’s purposes encompass the world. But in the West, churches are closing faster than new ones are planted. The lives of Christians, according to research being done, are the primary motivators for NOT following Jesus. In other words, people watch Christians live, act and speak. The result of that is, they decide it is not worth following Jesus.

We are not doing the things Jesus did. We are not living the way Jesus lived. We are not connected to the Father the way Jesus was connected. If we were, we would see the fruit Jesus saw.

In the final analysis, we cannot live and love as Jesus did. Sin still wages war against us. But it waged war against Paul, Peter, Francis of Assisi, Hudson Taylor and Mother Teresa. They fought with their sin like we do. They failed like we fail. They sinned like we sin. But they bore fruit differently.

It seems to me the only element we have control over is our connection to the Father. We do not control the reputation of the church universal. And we do not control the reputation of the Southern Baptists, the Catholics or the Vineyard. We cannot change our reputations either. We may be able to transform how the world views us, how we engage with it and how we affect it. Usually some like this would involve a transformation of our hearts. And there is only one stronger than our hearts. We need to invite him to heal our hearts with his love and truth. And that healing will flow over our connection. So, we need to give greater priority to that connection. We need to give greater priority to be in a receiving mode. We need to give greater priority to acting on what we receive.

If you always do what you always did, you will always get what have always gotten.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Abiding Connecting - VI

To gain the life of God practically, we must maintain our connection with him through Jesus. The maintenance is similar to other relationships. People share common interests and experiences. They spend time and energy together. They maintain sensitivity to “messages” sent to each other.

In this metaphor, Jesus mentions his Word and prayer. The Word, God’s message to us, is an essential element to knowing God. Like letters from God to us, it reveals his heart, his purposes, his experience with disobedient and obedient children. It reveals how he deals with success, failure and that gray zone of mixed results. Scripture provides the undergirding for our relationship with him.

Prayer, people revealing their hearts to God, is an essential part of the equation. Since Jesus, his disciples have experimented, adapted and proscribed all types of prayer. Each has its place. Each has its value. I have practiced a variety of “divina lectio. For years. (Read the scripture until part of it speaks to you. Then, give it back to God in reflection, prayer, proclamation and agreement.)

We must also remain in a receiving mode in prayer. Yes, God speaks through his Word. But he also speaks directly to our hearts, through sunsets, cats, children and secular stories. Paul wrote that we must pray at all times. We cannot hurl petitions at heaven 24x7x365. We can bend our hearts toward him in a receiving mode. Then, respond in agreeing prayer or obedient action when he speaks.

I have been coming to believe that this receiving mode is a vital and necessary part of walking with God. When I fail in sin (as we all do), either my words or actions rise up too fast for me to catch them and I fall; or I must close my heart, turn off the receiver, so his word cannot break through. (Being in receiving mode may result in steps to take breaking through. These steps may result in struggle, loss of personal “peace” and failure. Or they may result in grace, success and transformation. To know a truth does not necessarily mean one will take the hard road. To stand against one’s sin, agree with God, and go against the philosophy of the world is a hard road.) But it is in this receiving mode that God is active in our lives, working in our hearts and bringing transformation moment by moment. It is also how we are able to discern between the multitude of good things we can do and the one laser-guided best work that enables us to complete God’s purposes for us.
As we stand in receiving mode, we are abiding in him, and we guarantee we will bear fruit that glorifies him.