Monday, January 30, 2012


Righteousness can be defined as "right standing." But it seems to have a couple of connotations.  One is the ability of two people to stand before one another because they are living in peace. One person has nothing against the other.

It can can be seen as "right standing" in the sense of standing right. It is the ability of someone to stand not in the wrong, but in innocence and purity.

The gospel demonstrates that God is righteous according to number two. And it proclaims that man is righteous according to number one.

The gospel demonstrates that God is righteous in several ways. One, it points to the standard. It points to how people should think, speak and act. And it shows that only God keeps the standard. All other people fail to keep the standard. Two, because all other people fail to keep the standard, God is justified in punishing those who break the standard. He maintains a just and fair standard. Three, because of his purposes for creation and his heart for man, he finds a way to not compromise the standard, remain just in punishing lawbreaking and have mercy to man.

And so people can be righteous. People broke the standard and deserved the punishment. But we agreed to take God's mercy. and so we can stand in a restored, peaceful relationship with God.

There is more to the agreement between God and man than just "Yes! I want your mercy!" Just as there is more to the agreement between a man and a dealer than "Yes! I want your car!" There is a cost. And there is a choice. Is righteousness worth the cost?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I remember sitting in the church my family attended, when I was nine, and realizing that there really was a God. And if God existed, then he was boss over everything. This meant that I needed to get behind him, get on his team. I needed to follow him. And that is what I decided to do.

However, “following him” does not seem to be as easy as it sounds. There is as diverse an opinion of what that means as there are people. We have considered God’s purposes in the world, his design of people and what these mean in the area of following him. People need to enter and embrace the way they are designed and God’s mission for his family. It is in the embracing and striving to live out and complete these things that humans move into the “zone.”

Athletes seem to move into a place where their bodies and minds are balanced and functioning optimally. Athletes often call that place the “zone.” There is a zone for the family of God. It is found at the intersection of the correct consumption of spiritual fuels and seeing God’s purposes and living in them.

God’s purpose can be described in a nutshell as the re-establishment of his reign over the universe. Jesus had two purposes on earth. (1) To enable people to become part of his family. (2) To teach people how to live so what they say, do or think promotes the re-establishment of his kingdom.

We teach people how to live in a way that re-establishes God’s kingdom by teaching them how to follow Jesus’ commands. Jesus taught a number of things in different settings. But when we look at what he taught about how a person should live his life, he gave us seven commands.
  • Repent and believe.
  • Be baptized.
  • Worship and take communion.
  • Pray.
  • Love.
  • Give.
  • Make disciples.
Each person should obey the first two commands once in life. The other five should be life time practices. There is probably a core essence that defines each of these. But actual practices can be varied.

Which is correct? To pray standing. To pray kneeling. To pray laying on your face. To pray aloud. To pray silently in your heart. To pace. Memorized prayer or whatever comes into your head. When Jesus spoke about prayer, it was either concerned with principles or the condition of the heart. There is no exact pattern to follow. (General models perhaps.)

Expressions may change over time and in different contexts. Be slow to insist someone abandon their expression, or to abandon your expression. God is certainly big enough to embrace all forms of expression, if hearts are turned fully to him.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Grace is Sufficient

If we do something, and it is not reflected on, it is worthless. We do not learn anything. We do not evaluate and improve. Reflection is necessary. But we do not always have the right perspective, so we do not see clearly.

I read a story about a group of men on a trip. Each day, they would ask each other a question to consider through out the day. On the last day, the question was "How am I doing?" Followed by asking God "how do you think I am doing?" Some of us got together and asked these same questions. (Obviously, several people have read the same story.)

Usually, my initial reaction when I begin a time of self-reflection, self-evaluation is to bury myself in an avalanche of failure. Not only my sins of commission, but my sins of omission too. Often, examples are held up before the people of God with exhortations to follow these examples. (And what is held up is good. It should be followed.) But how is one person going to make all these things happen?

I sometimes think I have a variety of an attitude called "make it happen." There are ministries to begin. There are services to undertake. The are deeds to do. It is overwhelming, but I need to "make it happen." When I press forward, it doesn't happen. And I am less likely to press forward the next time.

I have mentioned before that I once belonged to a church in which I had a finger in every pie. And it was too much. No I have a finger in next to no pies ... and I feel guilty for not doing more.

So, when I asked God "how do you think I am doing," how did he answer?

"My grace is sufficient."

My gut response was relief and peace. But I went on and asked God another question. "What does that mean?"

God's mission for his family is the restoration of his kingdom in the universe. It is the transformation of all mankind into his image. If someone thinks about God's purposes on this level, that person can only be faced with the realization that it is an impossible task. If someone reduces God's purposes down to its lowest component -- the transformation of a single human heart to a reflection of God's image -- it is still an impossible task. I cannot jump inside the human heart and re-arrange its interior so that afterwards the person looks and acts like Jesus. Even if I am involved in fifty activities that are designed to bring that to pass, it is still impossible.

That's why God injects himself into every situation. That's why God wants each of his children to invite him into each circumstance. Only he has power over hearts. If God's grace is introduced into a setting, an event or a situation, it can have magnitudes of order greater effect than anyone or any group of human can have.

This does not negate the need for God's family to take action. They need to respond to, to initiate, to serve and to love. (And I think each member of God's family should be invested somewhere. And perhaps most of the members will be invested out side of the meeting.) But the results are not our responsibility. And because our target is the transformation of hearts, complete success may look like dismal failure. And because God's agent is the family of God, each act completed with love, faithfulness, prayer and in the Spirit, is overwhelming victory, leading to the restoration of God's kingdom and the resolution of his promises.

Monday, January 16, 2012

World View: Modern, Post-Modern and Other

Each culture has a world view -- ie. a grid through which it interprets the universe. An extremely diverse culture, like modern America for example, might have a number of world views.

There is a large group with a modern world view. The universe and truth are knowable. The universe follows rules which we can discover and leverage using science and technology. Problems can be solved using these tools.

There is a group group with a post-modern world view. No one can really understand the universe and truth, because there is no starting point that we can be sure of. We can learn some things, but we have no basis for sureness.

There are a growing number of spiritual world views: Islam, Buddhism,  Hinduism, Feng Shui, Wicca. Traditional Christianity is decreasing. Is that because the power of the gospel is decreasing"? Or is it because traditional Christianity is linked strongly to modernism?

Modern science and technology are rooted in modernism. Modernism is rooted in Christianity. And Christianity was an appropriate place to begin, because there was a real God who created a real universe. The universe was designed and followed laws. And God revealed himself and sufficient truth about the universe so people had a real place to begin..

There has been a pulling away from the roots. There have been a pulling away from the source. So, traditional Christianity does not sit on a strong base anymore.

Followers of Jesus need to rediscover the roots. The need to re-establish links to the God who created them and not the forms of expression that once successfully displayed who God is and who his family is.

I am not calling for a complete abandonment of all tradition. But are we holding tightly enough to Jesus and loosely enough to its expressions, that we can let go of the expressions if they no longer serve the gospel?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Motivations are funny things. A person may take different actions. He may know why he takes those actions. If another person understood those underlying reason, he might find the actions to be eminently reasonable ... even though he would never take those actions. On the other hand, if he does not understand the reasons, the actions may seem just crazy.

Paul was stoned and left for dead. He was beaten, shipwrecked and imprisoned. He worked hard and earned little either financially or socially. Indeed, he earned mostly disrespect, scorn and insults. Why would a sane person continually live under this pile of abuse? Wouldn’t you think he would decide he is doing something wrong? Do something to alleviate the stress?

I went to a church several years ago with someone who remarked that the church – the particular one we were going to – was filled with wonderful people, but they really did weird stuff. I understood the desire of those in the church to know and obey God. I also can see now that the zeal they showed needed to be tempered with love and wisdom. Mostly wisdom.

Paul said his actions were motivated by his love for Christ. He knew Jesus dies so he could be with God. He knew God will judge all according to their deeds. Our deeds might no longer condemn us, but that doesn’t mean god will be pleased with us. So, Paul sought to please God at all times. And sometimes, he managed to look like a fool doing it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


There is a dilemma that many followers experience. There is the pull of two sets of desires.

(1) Peace and prosperity in life.

We want a job we like, that provides all the necessities of life. We want health and peace. We want all the gadgets that are expected in the complete full life. (Cars, PC's, smart phones, snow boards, TV's with cable.) We want to enjoy our pursuits -- travel, hobbies, and some luxuries.

And we want these same things for our families, including our children after they leave home.

(2) To be used and fruitful for God

We want people to come to Christ. We want them to mature. We want to mature. We want the culture and society to be transformed into a God-honoring paradise.

And we want these same things for our families, including our children after they leave home.

The Bible tells us that we are in a war. The Bible tells us about the effects it has in people's lives. It seems like we want victory without the fight.

We want the harvest, but we do not want to plant. We want spiritual babies, but we do not want to change the diapers. We want Jesus, but we want the world too. Not too much of the world. Not the really bad things of the world.

God calls to be on mission with him. He fuels our hearts with a need for relationship with him and with a need to serve something bigger than ourselves. And he is a God on a mission. To have relationship with him, we need to be on mission too.

Fundamental Pursuit

We have talked recently about a fundamental approach to life. And for quite some time. we have considered how God designed mankind. Our approach to living is probably derived most naturally from how we understand our design.

An automobile engines needs the correct mixture of gas, air and fire to move. It needs oil to work smoothly. It needs clean glass, break pads and seat belts to drive safely.

A human being is more complex than an automobile engine. To function minimally require food, water, air and safety. To function optimally also requires beauty, creativity, purpose mission, and love.

God designed people so the main ingredient to optimal functioning is a relationship with him. And relationship with him is not a simple, linear set of rules to follow. There are multiple parts to a relationship. Parts that apply to a God-man relationship include prayer, worship, meditation, faith, obedience and love. There is scriptural evidence that indicates a person's relationship with God is affected by his relationship with people. within God's family and with people outside of God's family.

We recently considered the body of Christ, and the differences of function of the members. These differences will also affect relationships with God.

A fundamental approach to life to be true must include a pursuit of God. There are a number of elements that must be the same. But the pursuit will not specifically follow the same pattern for everyone. And God is big enough to cover everyone.