Monday, October 31, 2011

Purpose: God vs. The Enemy

The enemy's purpose goes against God's purpose. The enemy works to steal glory from God. Mostly to have it for himself. But if he cannot have it, then it is the next best thing that God cannot have it.

The enemy works to make people miserable. Misery drive people away form God. It encourages them to focus on the negative. It drives them to seek relief regardless of cost.

The enemy propagates lies. The lies confuse a true understanding of God. They create a reluctance to unite with God and his family.

So, God's purpose is against the enemy's He promotes his own glory. It is truth -- he is the only one deserving glory. God and glory orient creation in the correct direction.

God blesses people. Blessing draws people to him. They will focus on the positive. They will endure and persevere when difficulty does come.

God proclaims truth. Truth conveys a correct understanding of God, the world and how things should function. Truth reveals why it is good and right to unite with God and his people.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Coming Home

Everything starts with God. He stood at the beginning, outside of time, infinite, holy and personal. Infinite, of course, means he has no beginning, no end, totally self-sufficient and has no limitations. (Having no limitations metaphysically does not mean that he may not have limitations by choice. He may choose to limit himself because he interacts with finite beings.)
Personal means he has qualities of personality. He has volition. He loves. He communicates. He enjoys beauty, music and company. He is creative. It is the quality that connects God and men together most in relationship.

I think holiness is a difficult to understand. Perhaps it is because this is where the design of humanity is most broken. Holy describes God’s character and his expressions of it. This includes his glory, his moral perfection, his integrity and his wholeness. His is the most sane. He achieves his potential. His personality is the most integrated.

When God created man, he designed man in his image. Man is obviously not infinite. Man has both a beginning and an end. Man is not self-sufficient. He has needs that he cannot meet by himself. Man has limitations.

But God did create man both personal and holy. Man is personal, because he has volition, gives and receives love, enjoys beauty, communicates and creates.

Man was created holy. He had a glory, but it was not like God’s glory. He was created morally perfect. God did not intend that man choose greed, hatred and the actions consistent with those heart conditions. He was created with integrity. He did not say he believed one way and acted differently. He lived his potential, except as it was limited by his finite nature. Men was created to love, be patient, be kind, express goodness, be gentle and live in perfect self-discipline. And as man was created to be holy, his spirit, soul and body would thrive as he lived out of his heart. So, holiness would also be expressed in joy and peace. And man lived this also.

The world is not like this. Man is not like this. People are greedy, hateful, hypocritical and violent. Some are insane. Peace and joy are fleeting. The world is broken. And people know it is broken.

The “Occupy Wall Street” protests have been going on for some time. I have heard and read opinions for and against. I see an example of the world’s broken state. Whether from frustration or altruism, the protesters are voicing the recognition that the world should be better. We all dream for something better. Some of us work for something better. And some work for themselves only.

But there are also reports out of the OWS camps of drugs, alcohol and rape. There are complaints in some cities that the OWS protests are hurting people who are working to survive by hindering their businesses. The Oakland police shut down the OWS camp in that city because of reports of crime, and unhealthy and unsanitary conditions. And the OWS protesters, who dream of a good life for all, and better tomorrows, rioted. These dreamers are part of the brokenness as well.

Man is finite and broken. And it is these two conditions that keep him from fixing himself. God holds us responsible for the brokenness. Decisions were made, and this condition of brokenness, which the Bible calls “sin”, was spread throughout mankind. Man caused the brokenness. And we all suffer for it. And we cannot seem to fix it.

That’s part of the bad news. The other part fo the bad news is God holds us responsible for our part in perpetuating the brokenness. The brokenness began with man’s choices. It continues with our choices. And we are as guilty as the Robber Barons, or the OWS criminals.

The good news is that God has held firm to his original intentions. He wishes for man to be restored to his original place and to live according to his original design.

But how does he accomplish it? Man is finite and broken. He is not big enough to span the gulf.

Suppose we were to set up a system to allow man to work off his guilt? Suppose there were a couple. Further suppose one of them engaged in adultery – perhaps once, perhaps many times. How many bouquets of flowers or chores completed around the house would it take to win the trust, forgiveness and restore the relationship of the couple?

What the restitution be for stealing a poor person’s last dollar, or a rich person’s priceless Rembrandt? Or how do you repay for a murder of a child with Down’s syndrome, or of a doctor who is within a whisker of developing a cure for cancer?

Can the price for any of these be calculated? But God chose to pay a price. The price was the life of Jesus. This price made restitution for all our brokenness.

Believers in classic, orthodox Christianity recognize this healing does not get applied indiscriminately. There is a choice on our part. We choose to become part of God's family. We choose her values, his mission and his authority. And God responds to us. In Jesus, he has created a bridge to us. In our choice, we gain the right to cross that bridge, re-establish a relationship that had been broken, begin the process of healing and restoration and come home. We come to a place we were meant and designed to be.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Walking wtith God: Fruit Summary

On and off, we have been thinking about fruit, what it is and how it is affected by our connection with God. Sometimes, it seem like fruit is the effect of God’s family in the world. Sometimes, it seems like fruit is the effect of the Spirit on God’s family. Of course, as the Spirit flows through God’s family and impacts their lives, God’s family moves into the world and impacts it.

At least that’s what is supposed to happen. One fruit is seed for the other fruit. One fruit releases the other.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Walking With God: Long Term, Long View

Our relationship with God is not based on any single thing that we do in our day to day existence. We make a mistake. We sin. We do not pray or read our Bible. We do read, but we develop an idea that is so far away from what God thinks, that the only connection to Christianity it has is that it began with the Bible.

He is our Father. And he is in it for the long haul. We will have successes. We will do things that cause us to take two steps back. We will hear him crystal clear. We will have his message so mucked up and garbled that we will be clueless. It does not matter. He is in it for the long haul.

70-80 years when compared to eternity is a blink of an eye. And he is in it for the long haul. He will continue to teach. He will continue to promote the transformation of one of his children far, far down the corridors of time.

It is not our responsibility to maintain God's glory. We do not need the answer to every question. We do not need to be perfect.

We do have our part. We should try to remain as connected to him as possible. We should co-operate with him in his transformation. We should partner with him in his mission. But it does not depend on us alone. We are one part of his body. And he certainly is a free agent, able to choose and take action on his own behalf.

We are justified. This means the book listing all our crimes -- our harsh words, selfish actions and hateful thoughts -- has been closed, stamped paid in full and filed away where it will never be seen again. This God who knows everything says he has forgotten those crimes.

But we are not perfect yet. And it is his delight to move us along toward perfection. To restore us in living like we should be living. And he is patient. This process highlights his glory too. So, he wants to do it right. And he is in it for the long haul.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Walking With God

We look at Peter, Paul, Elijah, John or Abraham and sometimes feel as though they go through the day with one hand grabbing firmly onto God’s robe. They know where to be, what to do and what to say. Yes, we see how sometimes they what God wants. We also see how sometimes they are dead on. Does god really want us to follow him with perfect clarity, moment by moment?

I know sometimes it seems like I have perfect clarity. But usually it seems like one moment I have it, and the next moment I am lost in the dark.

But perhaps the real question of the moment is: what is God’s intention for us? To walk with us step by step? To leave clues for us to grope after, like some cosmic scavenger hunt?

Jesus was fully God and fully man. As fully man, he was the only man untouched by sin. He was the only man who lived in accordance with the design that God had intended man to have. And Jesus had that step by step, moment by moment, relationship with God. Jesus said he was in perfect agreement with the Father. Jesus said he could only do what he saw the Father doing. We can look at him to see what this type of life should be like.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not Talk, But Power

There was a young church experiencing a number of problems and difficulties getting a correct orientation in their lives.

Because they had a basic worldview that agreed with the Greek worldview, they highly valued a number of intellectual pursuits. And God had sent a number of messengers to them to deliver his good news. And they began to identify with different messengers according to a pursuit they valued. They even preferred to identify with a messenger over the one who sent them.

There is a problem when one gives preference to the one who carries the message over the one who gave the message.

There is also a problem with giving preference base on valuing an intellectual pursuit or talent. Some of the people valued Apollos because of his eloquent speech. Some of the people valued Paul because of his great learning.

Paul was very educated. He had multiple PhD’s. But he did not focus on is degrees. He focused on his conduct and lifestyle when he lived with this young church. There were a number of people who talked big in this church. Anyone can talk a good game. Not everyone can play a good game.

Paul said living as representatives of God’s Kingdom is not a matter of talk, but power. The word “power” is a Greek word “dunamis” which many Christians associate with the miracles of God. I am not going to argue that “dunamis” us bit associated with miracles. But maybe we hook it too tightly with miracles. Maybe we need to think of it as God’s power – God’s creative energy – being revealed through the lives of his children.

The young church was exerting lots of energy promoting it various “champions.” That means it was not united behind Jesus, his good news and living in ways that promoted God’s glory. This lack of unity, among other problems Paul wrote them about, shows that the creating, healing power of God was not being displayed in them. It takes God’s power for a group of selfish, self-centered, squabbling brats to live in unity, to love one another, to be patient, to bear each others' pain and to forgive.

Jesus said that love an unity will show the world the truth about his origins, his mission and his relationship with the Father. That is an extremely heavy weight for God’s children to carry. We need God’s power to lift it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Walking With God: Still More Fruit ... Revisited

I have been thinking through what seems to me to be the next step from my last post, and I find myself rethinking the last post.

If we define fruit as what results when the Spirit connects and channels through me then what I said was accurate. But if we define fruit as what results when the Spirit connects and channels, then maybe not.

In the first case, the focus is on the effects of my life. In the second, the focus moves to the effects of the Spirit. And that may have been Jesus' focus. Though each branch is important, when considered in light of a harvest, what is important is the entire vine.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Walking With God: Still More Fruit

We have been thinking for the last couple of posts about how we can maintain a connection with God that bears fruit. That fruit demonstrates our status as Jesus’ disciples and highlights God’s glory.

Usually when there is a discussion of fruit, there is an attempt to categorize fruit. This is fruit. This is fruit and this is fruit. I usually find myself think that this categorizing is a cop-out, because the first two are very difficult, maybe even impossible. The third is doable by a human being. So, people will think:

In order for me to show that I am a disciple, I need to bear fruit. Gee! I don’t think I can do that or that. But I can do that. I will focus all my attention on the third thing.

Usually the third thing is an important activity, mind-set or way of speaking, so one cannot really argue against people being involved with that. But following Jesus is not really just one thing. A person cannot just say because I am attending the church meeting, I bearing the most fruit I can and showing the glory of God the most.

Often, the salvation of individuals is considered fruit. But beyond my own salvation, I cannot complete a salvation. I cannot go into someone’s brain and change the synapses so that person will look at Jesus differently. I cannot go into a person’s heart and change their will so he will submit to Jesus.

Often, a change in a person’s life producing more holiness is considered fruit. But beyond a change in my own life, I cannot affect a change in anyone else’s life.

I can change my values, my attitudes and my actions to produce some type of influence on others around me, so they are led to make changes in their lives that we could classify as salvation or growth. The only place I can control is myself. I sometimes wonder if we need to develop a “unified fruit theory.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Walking With God: Transformation, Holiness and Joy

A person, who follows Jesus, lives a life empowered by his Spirit. The Spirit pumps life into our spirits. And fruit is borne from this “irrigation” of our hearts.

Some of the fruit seems unusual. We expect the Spirit to work in our lives to transform it. We understand that to mean we will act in ways that please God more. We will sin less. We will be more holy. Some of the fruit does agree with that. We will be kinder, more loving as this fruit is borne out in our lives. But some of the fruit seems counter-intuitive. There will also be greater peace and joy.

God works for our transformation to produce holiness in our lives. But we were designed to be holy from the beginning. Transformation is a process of restoration, of bringing us back into alignment with our original design. As this process of restoration continues, we also become more intimate with God.

Transformation leads to greater holiness. Holiness leads to greater connection. Greater connection leads to more fruit – more love, more joy, more impact on others. More fruit leads to greater glory for God. Holiness was never intended to be a drag. Holiness and joy are tied together.

Spiritual warfare takes on new meaning in this context. Satan works to steal glory away from God. So, he works to break this process that leads to God’s glory. Break the transformation, holiness, connection, fruit, and God’s glory cycle. If he can get the children of God to focus on money, sex, problems, failures, work or anything else but God, he can break the connection and the cycle.

We are probably not able of maintaining the connection with God 100% of the time. But we all know how we can become pretty much obsessed with everything else. Maybe we need to learn how to hang out with god more. Maybe God likes football. Imagine viewing football through God’s eyes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Walking With God: More Fruit

The Bible seems to give several ways of understanding God's ultimate purpose in creating the world and mankind. Surely, one way of postulating God's purpose is to say "God is foremost proclaiming and demonstrating his glory."

In the comparison Jesus made of the life of a disciple and a branch on a vine, he makes a direct tie between God's glory and bearing fruit. Fruit is a demonstration of who we follow. Fruit brings health, color, refreshment and life. So, fruit paints God positively and gives him glory. So, maintaining a connection, because it yields fruit, brings him glory. One of the basic steps in glorifying God is for his family to remain connected to him.

But it is not just the connection. The connection produces fruit. Fruit is not produced for the sake of the branch. It is good if the branch experiences health, color, refreshment and life.But fruit is for somebody else.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Walking With God: Fruit

The way many Christians understand fruit is funny. Many realize that fruit is a result. Many half-realize that our purpose in life is to bear fruit. It seems like hardly anyone realizes that our connection to God is one of the basic building blocks of fruit.

Jesus made a comparison of the life of a disciple with that of a branch connected to a vine. If the branch is cut off of the vine, it dries up and dies. It will on continue to live if it remains connected to the vine. Moreover, it will only bear fruit if it remains connected to the vine, because fruit is a natural result of life poured into the branch.

The purpose of the family of God is to glorify the Father. Jesus says if we bear fruit, we will be showing that we are his disciples and we will glorify God. If we remain connected to him, we will bear fruit. Connecting is necessary for bearing, for showing and for glorifying.

Many Christians and groups of Christians are vitally concerned with connecting to God. Planning, focus, thought, lots of attention, time and energy are consumed in the pursuit of touching, tasting and experiencing God. There does seem to be a lot of life growing out of these endeavors. People are filled with joy, peace and encouragement. Fruit is a result of this life connection. But the life often seems focused inward. Jesus was focused as much outward as inward. Life grew up around him. Fruit was borne around him in the lives of other people. Groups of Christians do not bear fruit like Jesus bore fruit. Does that mean our connection is not like Jesus’ connection?