Friday, March 30, 2012


Jews and Muslims have dietary laws. (Buddhists and Hindus may have them also.) I know I have read what God has said about the effects of breaking these laws. I am sure the Jews considered them as important as other laws.

However, Jesus changed the focus. He said it didn’t matter what we ate. It had no spiritual effect. What mattered was what we said or did. What we ate went into our stomachs. What we did or said came out of our hearts. It was not even what goes into our hearts that’s import. It was what came out of our hearts that mattered.

Does  that mean we can “stuff” our hearts with sex and violence? It is not going out of our hearts?

I guess the answer to that question is a definite maybe. Technically, I suppose viewing sex and violence is receiving into our hearts. However, Jesus also said that what comes out of our hearts is an overflow of what we put into our hearts. So, what we read, view or listen to enters into our hearts and becomes a part of the structure that forms what we do and say. So, people appear to operate on a “GIGO” principle: “Garbage In, Garbage Out” or “Good In, Good Out.”

Shades of Gray

There are many things the Bible does not say specifically. Should we celebrate certain days as special? Should we totally abstain from alcohol? from dancing? from card playing? from certain movies? Which political party should we follow? Should there be one particular ceremony to worship God?

God does give boundaries we should not trespass. But there is a lot of room within those boundaries. And God does speak to how we need to conduct ourselves within those boundaries.

Everyone should be fully convinced in their own mind.

If there is an issue we are dealing with, we should assertively engage that issue. We should pray, read and mediate. We should consult other sources: people, books, the internet, etc. But if we are supposed to be "fully convinced" we cannot be lazy about our pursuit of a position. And we should live with all our hearts by that truth.

We should not live with a critical spirit.

God speaks to each of us. And we all hear him with varying degrees of success. And because we hear him, the truth affects our hearts, and we are transformed into his likeness.

But sometimes we take that transforming truth and put it on a pedestal. All the world, life, existence and every situation gets interpreted on how it relates to that truth. Every truth is important, because it serves to realign the world. But God speaks different truths to different people, because sin has warped them differently. He applies truth to people differently.

In this life, our paths are going to intersect with people whom God has transformed, who have acted in consort with God to further his Kingdom, but who are wrong from your perspective, because he does not understand your "personal truth." (We define "personal truth" in this case to mean a truth that God has revealed to you, and you have accepted, acted on, and have your heart invested in.)

Of course, you do not understand his personal truth. And neither of you really understands God perspective. And that is where we should be headed.

If God has accepted someone, he is fully convinced from Scripture, and he is genuinely seeking to obey God, we must accept him.

As we stand in the intersection, we will encounter new truth from God. (We define "new truth" in this case to mean a truth that God has not fully revealed to you, you have accepted only so far, have acted on it only so far, and have your heart invested in it only so far.) As we encounter "new truth", we can renew our perspective, and move closer the restoration of God's Kingdom and God's image.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Availability - IV

I have heard a person, whose name is Robbie Dawkins, describe a principle in weight-lifting. Failure is the goal. Obviously, as in everything, failure is not really the goal. But success, growth or improvement do not come unless we push to the point of failure. The assumption is: we need to know our limits in order to work beyond them.

To be available means we risk failure. Failure delineates our limits. Failure highlights areas we need to grow in. Failure may not be God closing a door. Failure may be God saying "Here is an area I need to teach you about. Here is an area I need you to engage in, to grow in, because I want to grow my Kingdom in this area through you."

To be available, we need to alter our view of failure.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Availability - III

There are also people who make themselves available, take steps of obedience and find themselves in a situation they were unprepared for, so the stop being available.

I recently heard a story about a family (told by the husband) from a middle class background, who believed God wanted them to move to a poor neighborhood to help and to love. So, they were available, obedient and faithful, and moved. And after moving, they experienced culture shock ... and stopped being available.

The man recognized his failure. He realized that God moved him into a situation that will move him beyond his boundaries and expectations. God called him to be available to love people. He believed he know what love looked like. Now, he realizes it is more. He is moving back to becoming available.

Not all people realize they have broken the available connections with god. They had expectations how it would go, what was required, how much time, how much work, and what success looked like.  When the expectations were not met, they broke the connection.

There is a risk in availability. We could fail. The situation could develop in a way we did not anticipate. Should we persist? Should we re-evaluate? Should we reboot? Whatg have we learned? How have we grown?

Availability - II

There are people who make themselves available. They commit themselves to God's strategy and an assignment in it. Then, they feel it is up to them to make their assignment work. God is a general, and he commands, "Go. Take Philadelphia." So, the captain sits down, and conceives of numerous methods to conquer Philadelphia. And that's the last time he talks to the general. He does not know what the general will or will not support. He does not know how it ties into efforts in New York and Boston. So, if it fails, or does not succeed as well as he believed it would, he may wonder why there was not enough support, why supplies and replacements were slow in coming or why the general hung him out to dry.

Availability requires keeping in closer communication with God. It requires moment by moment dependence. Even if God gives a detailed twenty year plan, that does not there are not side trips and surprises. To walk in availability with God means we need to be willing to be interrupted.

Availability - I

I have heard a number of teachers speak to the need of being available to god. What is being available about?

If we are available, we assume God gives assignments/tasks in pursuing his purposes. We believe people are partners with God to achieve his ends. And God has developed strategy and tactics to accomplish that. Many people believe God communicates the strategy and tactics, and people should steps of obedience to carry them out. Some believe we take God's strategy and tailor it to our current situation. And some believe that God will not necessarily reveal the strategy and tactics, but will give us tasks to complete within his plans. [ "Go and ask to pray for the man in the Mets cap. Tell him I love him." "Give the homeless man $5. Tell him that this week, he will receive two full-time job offers, and to take the second." ]

An assumption of availability means we believe God communicates and God orchestrates. And we are prepared to cooperate with what God is doing. We are open to what he says. We have bought into his plans.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Reasonalbe Offering of Worship

Religions commonly have a practice of making offerings to God. Sometimes it's money. sometimes it's an animal. It is assumed that some type of response to God is necessary. It is part of worship. It is in many cases an attempt to gain God's favor. That's why many people define religion as what people do to attract God's favor. People take initiative to get God on their side.

But Jesus was God, taking the initiative to fix a problem people were powerless to solve. So, the question becomes, "since God acted and move to get on our side, how do we respond?"

If the natural response -- to offer something -- is correct, what do we offer? If he has justified us, redeemed us, sanctified us and adopted us, what do we have that even comes close. Only ourselves.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Evangelism - III

A succinct summary of the gospel is:
  • Mankind sinned/broke God's law
  • God punishes lawbreaking
  • God is motivated to reconcile with the lawbreakers.
  • God, as Jesus, was born into the world. 
  • Jesus proclaimed God's intentions.
  • Jesus lived out the life of God.
  • Jesus died as a criminal -- even though he was innocent of any lawbreaking.
  • Jesus, in death, was substituted for any\every lawbreaker.
Each person must make the decision to apply this Jesus-death-subsitution to themselves. The application seems to have these elements.
  • Faith -- Jesus' death and substitution has effectively negated the punishment a person deserves.
  • Volition -- The person chooses to let God negate his punishment.
  • Volition -- The person chooses to re-align himself with God's purposes for him.
(A choice that includes the acceptance of God's pardon, but not the acceptance of God's rule -- in effect, asserting a right to continue in lawbreaking -- is not how the choice is correctly constituted.)

What happens to the person? He is:
  • Justified -- Case dismissed.
  • Redeemed -- Ransomed from corruption.
  • Sanctified -- Transformed.
  • Adopted -- Brought into God's family.
  • And on and on and on ...
What are the person's obligations? Succinctly, to follow Jesus' commands:
  • Receive Christ -- apply the death substitution.
  • Be baptized -- Declaration of that choice.
  • Worship\communion.
  • Love.
  • Give.
  • Pray.
  • Make disciples.
(The obligations are not my own. I am not correctly remembering the man's name at the moment. George Patterson?)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Evangelism - II

I think I have said this here – maybe, maybe not. I chose to follow Jesus around age 9-10. A child’s simple declaration in his heart that what God says is true and he needs to align himself with that.

There are some good things about that. There is a lot of junk that gets avoided. (Not all junk. One does not necessarily realize that something is junk, before it smacks you in the face.) If you are in the right family and the right community, there can be a tremendous grounding that can occur.

There is a story in the Bible about a very bad woman who comes to Jesus. Her actions demonstrate that she realizes she is very bad. Moreover, she does not want to be bad. She comes in love and trust, seeking Jesus’ help to get out of the life she is in. She performs a tremendous act of sacrifice to demonstrate her devotion. Jesus comments that those who perceive themselves as being far from God, once they turn and follow Jesus, have an avalanche of love and commitment, because they realize what they have been rescued from. While those who do not have that perception have smaller love and commitment. They do not see their need for rescue as clearly.

I have seen some people become amazed by those who used to swim in human muck, come to Jesus and suddenly shine like the sun. While those who come to Jesus, and have never even seen human muck, are about as bright as a 40 watt bulb. There is not much attraction, not much revelation, to Jesus. The former bottom feeders seem to give more, love more and believe more. Why don’t we encourage everyone to jump into the muck?

One, following Jesus means loving people. Love people means giving to fill needs and to promote the best. Muck does not meet needs or give room for the best. It is like putting a plant in the ground, covering it with a bucket, and expecting it to grow healthy, vibrant and fruitful.

Two, following Jesus means being holy. Holiness is God’s way of living most closely aligned with the God-given design of human beings. Going away from holiness results in a poor life and misery.

To demonstrate Jesus’ best means loving Jesus most. Love Jesus most seems to come from an awakening to God’s love for us, and the gulf Jesus overcame for us, because of his love. It produces a natural, genuine overflow of the heart. To produce the love of God in a human heart, to produce the natural outflow of the love of God from a human heart is the best evangelism. There must be another way to produce this flowing besides rolling in the muck.

Monday, March 05, 2012


Evangelism is the process of proclaiming the good news. Communicating the hope and means of attaining peace with God, returning to the family of God and gradually, being restored into living as God truly designed.

It is understandable if someone resents having a complete stranger approaching them, telling them that their whole philosophy of life, personal conduct, values, associations and community are wrong, and they need to switch their primary allegiance and all those other things. That is what I believe Jesus teaches people ought to do. And I believe that when someone agrees with Jesus, and chooses to follow Jesus, he will discover life becomes so much more. Life becomes an amazing journey. Life becomes a wonder. People should throw up their hands and yell "OMG! I have been waiting for this all my life! How do I join?" The reality is quite often, people reset the will-meaning Christian butting into their lives. There are some people who resent it so much they will engage in physical violence. (In the US, people mostly get verbal.)

If you are a conscientious sincere Christian, who is trying to follow Jesus, this is quite a problem. Persuading people to follow Jesus is part of the deal. Probably the part of the deal they like least. But, because of sincere hearts, many people try all sort of strategies to accomplish this: campaigns, extravaganza events, tools, classes and others.

One strategy promoted currently is something called "friendship evangelism." There is considerable wisdom in this. If two people are fiends, there is a connection and an intersection of what occurs in the other person's life. There is a natural inclination to be involved in each other's interests. So, if we develop friendships with people who do not follow Jesus, we have natural pathways to communicate Jesus.

The problem comes after the gospel is communicated, and the non-follower choose to not follow Jesus. Is the person really a friend. Or is the person a religious project? What the person who follow Jesus does at that point reveals what it was. It reveals what he\she believes about love, the power of the Spirit in his life and the value of people, created in God's image.