Friday, July 29, 2011

Who is Jesus? -IIIa

Generally, when I find myself thinking about how Jesus is my vital connection to God, to life, to purpose, to reality, and to love, I start wondering about the nature of this connection.

Obviously, when someone chooses to follow Jesus, he does not grow a magical power cord and inserts it into the cosmic power strip of the universe. There is no physical connection.

So, what is this connection like? It is real. It is vital to person's growth and well-being, and to God's purposes. (If people who follow Jesus are branches to his vine, then their purpose is to bear fruit which will glorify the Father and proves we are Jesus' disciples.)

The claim of Jesus is that a person can have a personal relationship with the Creator of all. Jesus declared those who follow him are his friends and his family.

There have been prescriptions for maintaining the health of this relationship since creation. Prayer opens a person's heart to God. And it allows God to speak back to that heart. God gave the scripture as a concrete way to help people understand God's heart, his purposes, his expectations, his design of creation and what pleases him. Worship, fellowship with God's family, obedience to God's commands are also ways of remaining connected to God. Each item mentioned above allows grace, and love to flow to people's hearts.

All these things certainly help. But there are people who have honestly followed all these things for 30-40 years, with no impact on lifestyle, attitude or effect on those around them. Is it because they are not coupled in the person's heart with faith, love, sincerity or seriousness? Or is there a mind-set of connecting on our terms? Or is there something we don't understand about connecting?

In human relationships, there is not one silver bullet to connect to another person. There are multiple things that bind one person's heart to another. People can share hobbies, talk on the phone, meet for coffee or job -- but perhaps all these things are just lenses as one heart focuses on another heart.

Paul encourages God's children to pray at all times. Is this just hyperbole? Or is it something we should really consider? If prayer is bound to a particular location and time, with particular words or methods, then this is impossible. We all have to eat, sleep and work at sometime.

If we focus our hearts through the things that we do to connect us to our friends, maybe it is the heart focus that matters. Then, maybe it is the heart focus through these spiritual disciplines that connect us to Jesus.

It does not seem humanly possible to focus our hearts on the Father 100% of the time. But consistent, regular heart focus can be done in most situations. And it can be coupled with a receptivity focus to what God may say.

Communication is always in multiple directions. A person can only truly communicate if he transmits and receives. Scripture testifies from cover to cover that God speaks and God listens. And a relationship must give from the heart and wait to receive. And attention or focus is required in both.

There are a number of people who have practiced to achieve almost continuous heart focus. Brother Lawrence is probably the most famous. People have told stories about Corrie Ten Boom concerning her intimacy with God and her ongoing connection.

We should not feel guilty because our connection is frail, tentative or weak. We should not worry if we seem unable to focus, minds are prone to wonder. Spiritual life and vitality lies in this connection. Jesus said it is necessary for bearing fruit. And the enemy know this too. It is worth the most to him to disrupt the connection. He will resort to all sorts of tricks and distractions. From weird thoughts, to painful memories, to temptations, to discouragement.

This connection, and the enemy's attempts to disrupt it, lies at the root of spiritual warfare. If the enemy considers it so important to break it, we should consider it equally important to maintain, pursue and perfect it. Take to heart to example of Brother Lawrence, who when he realized he had moved from God's presence, did not berate himself, or condemn himself, but thanked God that he was always there, and asked God for help to do better at turning his heart to him.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Who Is Jesus? - III

I am the vine.

Like all the plants, the roots of a grape vine absorb nutrients, passing them into the vine, and onto the branches. The vine is the vital connection for the branches. Any branch that is not connected to the vine will not survive. It will not receiving any life-giving input. It will not bear fruit. It will whither an die. 

The purpose of a branch on a grape vine is to bear grapes. Without the vine, a branch does not fulfill its purpose, its life dries and it is not worth anything.

Jesus is our connection to life and purpose.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Love and Agreements

Love is a fuel of the spirit. Our hearts are designed to thrive on love. We need it. We want it. But often we do not let ourselves be open to it.

We are not open to it, though it is such an integral part of our nature, because we get wounded in association with it. We open up to love, and we get slammed in the process. We get wounded in the core of our hearts.

Often, we enter into an "agreement" with ourselves. It may not be obvious as "love does not work" because our hearts still yearn for love. It may be "I must protect myself from wounding." So, we hold ourselves aloof. Or we always seek to have the advantageous position. It might be "I am not worthy to be loved." So, we seek alternatives like alcohol, drugs or superficial relationships.

We adjust our view of the world to accommodate this pain. We do not believe God, in his word, in his design of people or in his character.

In a world polluted with sin, people will always act and wounds will always result. Often, the intention is not pain. Our filters perceive certain actions as the intent to wound. We receive something meant as a joke as something harsh. People cannot truly, faithfully complete our yearning for love.

We need to look for God to complete our love. We need to open our hearts to his healing. We should invite his Spirit to draw close, to love us, to heal our hearts with his love. If we can receive healing, then we can open our hearts to others. This healing will allow our hearts to love like God -- truly, faithfully.

Friday, July 22, 2011


The most common definition given for grace is "unmerited favor." Unmerited means "Unearned and undeserved." Favor speaks about a positive approval, granting good, supporting, promoting, befriending.

One detrimental result of this definition, as it is popularly portrayed, is an inward focus. American Christians seem to have fixated on the truth of personal acceptance by God. A circle have been drawn very close around them. The circle is drawn around their lives, the lives of their family and perhaps their church. It is shown in their prayers and how they spend their resources.

Some churches draw their circles larger than others. How large is Jesus' circle? Our hearts shuld be as large as Jesus'. Our heart should encompass what his heart draws to him.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Prayer and Faith

Prayer is a matter of faith. But faith is not something that a person has, like stamina or strength. We hear people talking about building up their faith, so they can pay and ask something of God, and he will give it to them. But no matter how much fith we have, we will not move God to go beyond his nature, his character and his word.

Faith is trusting God to act in faithfulness to his nature. So, faith "grows" as we increase in our understanding of God, and of our relationship with him.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kingdom of Priests

God mentions several times that he will make his people a kingdom of priests. This means that all of  his people are priests. All of them are representatives of God to the rest of mankind. All of them are interpreters of God's will to the rest of mankind.

He first spoke to Israel about this. And the history of Israel follows a pattern.
  • God give favor and blesses.
  • Israel becomes complacent and does not follow the ways of the Lord.
  • God send prophets to warn the people that punishment is coming.
  • God finally sends the punishment.
  • Usually a foreign power invades or oppresses them.
  • Israel repents of not following God.
  • God delivers them. Usually using a human agent.
  • repeat the cycle many times.
Eventually, Israel leftthe stage of history. And God chose a new group to represent him. (And I am fully aware of the re-founding of the nation of Israel. And I am fully aware of the theory that God will once again use Israel as his representatives on earth. I call it a theory because it has yet to be proven. If true, it has yet to happen. If false, ... well there are other theories.)

We tend to refer to this group as the church. The Greek word that is translated as church is "ekklesia." An "ekklesia" is a group of people assembled for a particular purpose. Usually used to referred to a city council. A group assembled to wisely chart the course of the city to the mutual benefit of its inhabitants and the city as a whole. In our case, an "ekklesia" is the group assembled to represent God and Christ in the world, and to live so he will be glorified.

As a part of that assembly, each one is declared God's ambassador, God's priest. From one perspective, our functions are different. For another perspective, our functions are the same.

A priest's functions are: offering gifts, offering sacrifices, prayer, instructing in the ways of God and completing the ordinances of God. (In most forms of Christianity, there are two ordinances, baptism and communion. In others, there are more.) If we are all priests, then:
  • We are all supposed to encourage.
  • We are all supposed to pray.
  • We are all supposed to proclaim God's word.
  • We are all supposed to explain God's word.
  • We are all supposed to officiate a baptisms and communion.
We are a nation of priest. We are all priests. If it is a function of a priest, we are expected -- each one of us -- to perform and complete that function.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I did find it interesting and somewhat amusing to realize last night that Elijah prayed that it would not rain. He also prayed that it would rain.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Power of Speech .. Sort of

I recently wrote about receiving and agreeing with spoken words. Recently I was sitting with a small group of people and we were discussing prayer. And we cam around to praying for the weather. You know ... there's a wedding and they want good weather. (Read: no rain.) But you also know there is a farmer somewhere praying desperately for rain.

Which is more important? Sunshine for the happy occasion? Or saving a family's livelihood?

I am beginning to thin that circumstances are like words. It depends on how we receive and agree with them.

There is a part of the Bible that states we should rejoice when there are trials. Jesus followers are not masochistic. We do not rejoice in the bad circumstances. We rejoice because in the middle of the trial, God is working his life deep into our spirits.

If we should rejoice because God works in the bad things, should we also rejoice because God works in the good things?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Power of Speech

There is a part in Scripture that talks about the power of the tongue. It is like a rudder on a huge ship. It is like a bit in the mouth of a horse. Some people trat any kind of speech like it is magic. If I say it, it will happen.

There was an episode in the US, maybe the world, where a number of people became convinced that Jesus was returning. The world was coming to an end, not sometime in the future, but on a particular Saturday. And they talked about it a lot.

And we are still here!

Words do have power. But it is not the simple vocalizing of words that gives them power. It is receiving the words and agreeing with them that gives them power.

Everyone in the world has a sick heart. The heart is sick, because everyone has agreed to a lie.The sin nature plays a part too. It has a tendency to back away from the ways and words of God. It has a tendency to believe lies.

That is one reason why God gave his word. So, we can read and agree to the truth; and we can disagree with the lies people voice every day. That is what we are called to in everyday living. To agree with the truth and live it out in word and deed. To call a lie a lie, and demonstrate its fallacy.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Following Jesus

I was reading a magazine article this morning. In it, the writer observed that God gave the Holy spirit to Cornelius and those in his household -- family, slaves and soldiers -- before the were circumcised and before they were baptized. This ought to remind us of whose church it is. It is not our church. It is Jesus'.

On the other had, we are all priests to God. We all have unlimited, unrestricted, instant access to the Father, in Christ.

Hundreds of years ago, men wrestled with a growing church, a constant influx of new ideas (not all of them good, true or helpful) and a conviction that God gave his church them to take care of. So, they chose the most efficient and effective model of governance they new of. The Roman Empire.

As a result, we have not followed either of these fundamental "laws" of the church very well. I am not sure anyone knows how a church should look. Some of us are not involved enough, or in the right way. Some are involved too much, or in the right way. And the effect on people falls way short.

Paul began to travel, taking the message of Jesus with him. He arrived in one city, having been beaten and imprisoned in the city he had just been in, for speaking about Jesus. In this new city, he continued to speak about Jesus. And the tribulation continued. And it did not just affect him, but also those who were influenced by him. They also bore the rejection, ridicule and violence Paul bore.

The citizens listened to Paul's message and observed his way of life. The combination had an impact on them. They were  convinced by the message, which had a revolutionary effect in their lives.  There were the obvious signs of faith and hope. They became positive examples of love others, more experienced Christians. And they followed Paul's lifestyle and example in more radical areas as well. They reached out to proclaim and incarnate the gospel to other cities. And in many cities, they got there before Paul did, whose calling was to pioneer the work of Jesus in the world.

Today, do we influence people to follow Jesus? Do we influence them so they go beyond us and do more than we do?