Friday, September 30, 2011

Walking With God: Mean Communication

Walking with God means walking in a relationship. Many followers of Jesus do not understand what that means. We talk about a personal relationship with god, but we act like we have been given a manual. And our job is to figure out how to apply the manual. The problem is our manual does not have the troubleshooting flow-chart that comes with the users’ manual of your printer or DVD player.

“Is you printer doing {A}? If yes, go to page 22. If no, go to the next flow-chart bubble?”

But that’s not how it is supposed to work. Instead, we are given Bill Gate’s cell phone number and permission to call him day or night.

“Hi Bill. Sorry to wake you. I would have waited until morning, except I’ve got this thing that due at 9:00 and my computer keeps freezing.”

Now Bill might tell you to go to page 22. Or he might describe how to solve the problem.

Relationship means bi-directional, active\passive communication. Sometimes you talk; sometimes you listen. Relationship without communication is not relationship. To have relationship, with God or anyone, must necessarily entail communication.

Yes, communicating with God is different than communicating with people. One, there are some differences between them. God is omnipresent and omniscient. So, sometimes a grunt speaks volumes. Two, we needed to learn how to communicate with people, just as we can learn how to communicate with God. We did not understand complete sentences and paragraphs when we began. But we could understand and make ourselves understood. And we progressed to full sentences and full paragraphs. And we understand idioms, similes, metaphors, aphorisms and allegories. And some people learn multiple languages.

God seeks relationship, so God seeks communication. Some people have been hurt or unsuccessful at developing meaning relationships with other people. Some conclude they will never experience a close, meaningful relationship, so they quit trying. Some conclude the same thing with God. Lack of meaningful relationships with people means a lack of emotional and psychological health, lack of growth and fulfillment as a person. As people were designed to live in relationship with God, a lack of this relationship has similar detrimental effects in a person’s life.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Walking with God : More Than Just Being Good

Many Jesus followers assume living with God obeys a simple formula:

     Believe in God + Do good = Receive God's blessings.

There are at least a couple of pieces of the puzzle that are missing. One, there is an enemy who wants to defeat us. Two, we are like sheep. Life and safety comes from staying close to the shepherd.

To defeat us, the enemy works to get us to wander away from the shepherd. He can try to convince us that there is greener grass that way. He will mimic the shepherd's voice to get us to go this way. Go anywhere, anyway, but where the shepherd is going.

And we are often fooled because we have developed a way of understanding the shepherd and a way of understanding "animal husbandry." Often, we are correct. We know something about grass. So, grass becomes everything a person needs to know about raising sheep. Water and wool have nothing to do with sheep. So, we veer off just a little from where the shepherd is going. Of course, if we keep going, we wind up miles away from where he is.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Walking With God : Requires Trust

Walking with God involves learning to have a real-time conversation with God, and acting in real-time on what we learn. 

Learning to receive communication from God in real-time is not always easy. Everything around us can speak too loudly. It can be hard to distinguish God's voice from all the other voices shouting for our attention. The enemy certainly does not want us to hear God. The enemy wants us to fail, to be miserable, overcome with guilt and addicted to everything and anything else but intimacy with God. Continued intimacy with God means we are abiding with him. Abiding with him means we are bearing fruit. Bearing fruit means we are fulfilling God's purposes. Fulfilling God's purposes means the enemy is being defeated. And he will fight with the desperation of a cornered animal to keep that from happening.

If hearing God is difficult, acting on what we hear can be more difficult. God speaks based on what he sees and understands. We want to act on what we see and understand. Since, he sees so much further and more clearly than we do, we often do not see what he sees. And we have to walk, letting him lead us like a blind man. And people, especially those in America, are taught  to trust only in themselves. It is hard to let someone else lead. Yet, it is this walking in trust and intimacy that is the essence of what a relationship with God should be, and how god will partner with people to re-establish his kingdom on earth.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Heart is First

At the time of Jesus, those who were religious focused on the outward activities. Jesus turned the religious life inside out. It was what happened inside that mattered.

Stephen Covey wrote that all things were created twice. First, they were created in our inner world. Things become real in our hearts before they become real because we acted on them in life.

Moreover Jesus said these things were just as real if they only happened in our hearts. If we are angry with someone and imagine killing or torturing them, as far as the law is concerned we innocent of any wrong doing, because we did not do anything. As far as God's law is concerned, we are as guilty of murder as we would be if we pulled the trigger of a gun, or thrust the knife. And God knows our hearts and our intentions, and judge accordingly.

That's why spiritual purity in Jesus is not a matter of following the right rules, saying the right prayers or showing up at church. Spiritual purity flows from the inner to the outer.

Even good activity can be tainted because it is not motivated by the love of God and the love of people, but by the desire to look holy, spiritual or important.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Living in the Kingdom

The Kingdom of God resides in the hearts of his children. So, where the children go, the Kingdom goes. And where the Kingdom goes, the King goes.

The children bring the presence, the power and the authority of the King wherever they go. Kind of like pixie dust.

In Peter Pan, Tinker Bell used to scatter pixie dust everywhere she went. Pixie dust was the visible manifestation of fairy magic. God's children should leave a trail of spirit dust in their wake. They should cause a tremor in the Force. (To change movie references.)

Wherever Jesus went people and situations became different. Sometimes it was the miracle of healing. Sometimes it was the miracle of love and acceptance.

Jesus was fully God and fully human. He was fully God in disrupting the nature of the universe. To introduce a brand new creation into the world.

Jesus was fully human, living in relationship to and dependence on the Father, as an example to us. We should live in the same pattern Jesus lived. We should have the same positive disruption of people’s lives like he did.

We do not, because we do not walk in love, faith and God-dependence like he did. Our lives are tainted with sin, and his was not. As we live with him, allowing him to heal our hearts, we should grow and become more like him. Including this godly disruption.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Word = Lamp

God’s word is like a lamp. To be used correctly, it must be put on a stand. If it is hidden in a closet or under a bucket, it is useless. On the stand, it will reveal all.

God’s word is a picture of truth, or expression of how creation is designed to function. If we see and act on what is shown us, it will produce good fruit. If we hide it away, we will lose it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jesus' Heart

There is a story about Jesus going into a territory and being met by a man tormented by thousands of demons. Jesus began to cast them out of the man, and the demons begged to be sent into a herd of nearby pigs. When Jesus allowed this, the demons tormented the pigs, so they flung themselves into the sea and drowned. Then, people came out from the town and asked Jesus to leave.

This story has been portrayed in several movies about Jesus. The movies never seem to make it clear why the town asked Jesus to leave.

The Bible says the possessed man lived in the tombs, caused himself harm continually and the town had tried to restrain him several times. They even used chains. But he had escaped each time.

Why did they try to restrain him? Were they trying to be compassionate and protect the man? Did the man torment the town as well as himself? In that case, they were trying to restrain the man to protect themselves.

The Bible says people from the town came out to see Jesus after hearing about the incident. And when they saw the man whom they had unsuccessfully restrained, sitting calmly and in his right mind (perhaps something they had never seen before) they became afraid. It was fear that moved them to ask Jesus to leave. Did they not realize the good he had accomplished? He assured the health and safety of the man, and possibly those in the town.

Did they recognize that something powerful had occurred and not trust its source? They certainly did not understand Jesus’ heart. If they had, they would have welcomed him with open arms. But they did not know Jesus ... and they were afraid of power combined with unknown motives.

We are not in that situation. We do know Jesus’ motives. We doubt his power and ability.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Inverting Maslow's Hierarchy?

The psychologist, Abraham Maslow, proposed a hierarchy of needs.
  1. Physiological -- food, water, air
  2. Safety -- protection, shelter, resources
  3. Love\belonging --  acceptance,family, friends
  4. Esteem -- worth, confidence, respect
  5. Self-actualization -- meaning, creativity, beauty
It is generally accepted that unless the lower level needs are met the person will not move beyond that level. A person will not seek for beauty or creativity if he is hungry. But I am wondering if the reverse is also true. One of the effects of poverty is a loss of self-esteem. The rationale goes like this: "We’re poor. We’re stuck here. There is no way out for us. Life will never get better." Does the loss of respect, confidence and the recognition of personal worth affect the pursuit of food, water, protection and shelter?

Known by Fruit - II

Fruit demonstrates the heart of the spirit that produced it. How do we know if the fruit is from God’s Spirit? Scripture lists the fruit of God’s Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Heart Change

Only God has the power to change hearts. Salvation and maturity are works deep in the heart. We should be grateful to those who study hard to develop a rational apologetic. But a person cannot be “logic-ed” into the Kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean that a person can be emotionally manipulated into the Kingdom of God either. The multitude of reasons why people accept Jesus demonstrate that logical arguments and emotional stories can each touch a person’s heart and draw them to God. But there is no bullet proof formula.

So, one disciple could try to learn all the apologetic, learn all the emotional stories, practice all the spiritual works, and express all the manifestations of love. Or maybe we need to look at the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel as a team sport. As we each express what is in our hearts, using the grace of God given to us, using the story each one of us has lived, living out the new life he has given and proclaiming the truth God has given us, we proclaim God’s work in Christ and invite others to join God’s family-Kingdom-army.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Known By Fruit

Some seed fell among good soil. How do we know it was good soil? The see produced good fruit. The human heart is always known by the fruit it produces. All hearts produce fruit.

What is in a human heart that when the person resorts to throwing or breaking things when something bad happens?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

God's Primary Position in His Mission - II

Jesus compared his kingdom to planting a garden many times. In one story, the farmer plants seed and then waits. One day, the plants grow and bear fruit.

We probably understand a lot more about germination and plant growth now. In Jesus' day, it was a mystery. It happened out of sight. And they did not know how to control the growth. God's kingdom is similar, because it grows in the hearts of people. It is out of sight. And people cannot control what happens in someone's heart.

For someone to choose to follow Jesus and become part of his family, there must be something that affects their hearts. God's word is planted in a heart and grows. it is God who causes the growth. We can apply truth -- by sharing God's word and obeying God's word -- and pray God causes it to grow. And it can grow until it is ready to reap.

Our part is to plant, pray and reap. Planting is the application of truth. Praying is agreeing with God's work to grow his seed and to hinder Satan's work to steal the seed. We can't hinder Satan's work. We cannot cause the seed to grow. And in reaping, we are accepting and celebrating the work God has done. We are witnesses of God's work.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

God's Primary Position in His Mission

Only God can grant salvation. Only God can cause growth. Only God can heal hurts. We partner by setting the stage, planting the seed and witnessing the act of grace.

I wonder if God did not make us partners in this work for our benefit. He seems to limit himself to act in response to prayer. God is not constrained by our action or inaction. He is the only truly self-sufficient one. We we pray and he acts, we are always so amazed. We glorify God in our hearts if nowhere else. We are enlightened by his action – we know something of God’s nature a little more clearly, a little differently – and we give glory again.

We partner with him again in declaring the message, demonstrating new lives and loving ones who need love. Can we do any of these things better than he can? Do we see God, people and ourselves differently when he speaks convincingly through our small actions? Do we understand God’s heart and grace better when one more is added to his family? Perhaps we should.

Friday, September 02, 2011

TV Stories -- Fact or Fiction?

My daughter sometimes will beg, borrow or buy a complete DVD collection of a TV series, and watch them consecutively over a period of time. Recently, the TV series has been “Grey’s Anatomy”.

GA is a medical drama that features the usual life and death struggle involving doctors, “code blues,” cancer and other medical conditions. It also involves the private lives of the doctors. It seems to involve – as much as I can tell not doing the consistent, sustained viewing they do – their individual pursuit of happiness. Mostly, the happiness seems to be derived from pursuit of love and relationships.

(In typical TV drama fashion, everything is stretched and skewed a bit to add to the emotional intensity. It goes beyond normal living as all fiction must do. One of the powers of stories is they take us outside of normal life. They highlight and emphasize aspects and perspectives of life so we see them and experience them in new and different ways. Perhaps even a cleaner and fresher way. Perhaps to understand them better. Probably this is one reason why Jesus told parables.)

I was struck recently by the doctors on GA. They spend a large amount of time wrestling with medical demons, focused intently on the good of their patients. Then, they spend another large amount of time trying to get their lives and their relationships organized correctly to their greatest personal satisfaction. There seems to be an extremely high amount of “What’s in it for me?” And “I’m going to look out for number one, no matter which of my doctor colleagues I trample on.”

I don’t think GA is inherently evil. These types of attitudes can be found everywhere, including the church. So, it is being honest with the human condition. But I do find myself asking questions.
  • Are we all so pre-occupied with ourselves?
  • Is this focus what God had in mind when he designed us?
  • Granting that relationships and love are vitally important, is there a better way to pursue life?
  • If Jesus is our model for life, is this how he pursued life?