Saturday, March 30, 2013

With Us

Part of the expression of his being for us is that he is with us. "Being for" always takes expression in some form of "Being with." If we are for a particular political candidate, we are with them by voting for them. When we purchase a certain product we are for, we show that we are with it. (That may be strectching it a bit, but you get the idea.)

God demonstrated he was for his people by being with them in several ways. He was with them in the wilderness for 40 years after they came out of Egypt. He showed his "with-ness" with a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke. God commanded construction of the Ark of the Covenant and the temple as pictures of
God's "with-ness."

God with his people had practical, as opposed to symbolic, effects also. God showed he was with Israel when he sent plagues to Egypt. Manna (physical provision in the wilderness) and parting the Read Sea are marks of "with-ness." The roller coaster ride of Judges (Israel's apostasy, leading to judgment, leading to oppression from other countries, leading to Israel's repentance, leading to God's rescue and restoration) shows that God is with his people, even after they continually turned their backs on him.

For Us

(NOTE: As I point out in my profile, I post on this blog what I happen to be thinking about. I am reading a book by Greg Nettle and Alex Absolam. They are describing a simple "formula" they use to facilitate understanding of the process of disciple making. So, the next few posts are me thinking my way through this "formula." The basic concept is definitely theirs. And I may have begun, in some spots, with their example. I intend to proceed a little further down the path. So hopefully most of the discussion will be mine.)

It is hard for some people to imagine, but God is for us. God wants our success. God wants us to be successful. God wants us to be happy, to have good relationships, to achieve our dreams and never fail.

We can see this in several ways. First, he created for us a perfect environment. It was designed to meet all our needs. It gives physcial provision, emotional provision and psychological provision.

Second, he designed us to succeed. He designed us to live like Jesus did, when he was in human form. He designed us to flow in the fruit of the Spirit. We should perfectly express love, patience, gentleness, kindness and goodness. We were supposed to be perfectly faithful and disciplined. We were supposed to experience perfect joy and peace.

Even when our first ancestors chose not to follow God and became rebels against his rule, he chose to save us. He chose to pay the penalty for our rebellion himself. He chose to redeem our lives from waste and vanity. He chose to bring us into his family.

And after he completed the work of salvation, he continues to work with us to bring his reality into our lives in some measure.

At the end of time, he will bring us to be with him forever, to a place he is currently preparing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Becoming Priests

One by one, people choose to follow Jesus. (At least, in the US, it’s one by one.) And as they choose, they begin a process.

They are judged guilty, but they are judged to have had their sentences served. They begin a process of training to live, look and act like Jesus. They are redeemed and forgiven. They are adopted into God’s family. They are given God’s presence in their hearts. They are allowed unprecedented access to the King of Kings.

They are also put into training as God’s priests. We are responsible to intercede for other members of God’s family, as well as everyone else, who are not part of God’s family.

As priests, we should explain God’s nature, work and governance. We represent God to all people. We take part in the training of others in how to live as a member of God’s family and in the training of how to act as God’s priest.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


It is faith that pleases God. If one reads Scripture, one reads the stories of people who heard God speak and acted accordingly. They trusted God and completed tasks that sounded foolish.

God told Abraham to leave a life of comfort, worldly success, family and go to a place of privation, hard work and few resources. Abraham was to build the foundation of God completing his mission in the world.

Moreover, God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac -- to kill him, and burn his body as an act of worship. Isaac was an essential link toward Abraham completing the work God gave him.

But Abraham trusted God's word (that he would not renege on a promise that was previous given), God's character (that he was kind and good) and God's ability (that even death could not thwart his purposes). 

Even the mission he has given the church seems impossible in light of the world's circumstances. But Jesus promises that before his return, his message would be proclaimed through out the world. He will be with us and enable us to make disciples from every people group. Indeed, he proclaimed the members of every people group would stand before him, accepted into his eternal family.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Church - III

Part of "Christian consumerism" is the idea that it is the responsibility of Christian professionals to make us happy, facilitate our growth and serve Jesus for us.

One of the commands of Jesus is to "make disciples." The process of making disciples is:
● proclaim Jesus to the world;
● baptize  (which, in part, demonstrates a change of allegiance and an identification with Jesus' family);
● develope a lifestyle of learning and obeying his commands (which includes the command to make disciples).

We are all supposed to be disciples who make disciples. We are all supposed to be responsible for facilitating growth and spiritual care for one another. In other words, we are all pastors. And we are all mutually responsible for one another. We cannot say because Iam not a professional, I am not responsible for proclaiming Christ, or being part of the planting-harvesting cycle. The family is responsible for cooperating with God in completing his mission.

Ultimatley, it is foolish to hold any person responsible for the growth of another person. Spiritual growth requires a work deep in the heart of a person. And only God is strong enough to change hearts.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Church - II

I ran into a term the other day that intrigues me: "Christian consumerism." It is not trying to describe religious buying habits, but a mind-set and attitude about church.

There is a large segment of Christianity today that view people like customers. Churches compete with each other to attract the largest crowds. They put on the biggest show, have the best band, and the most charismatic and gifted speakers.

And there are individuals who consider this as right and proper. They go to a particular church, because they get their senses tickled. The worship gives them a greater emotional high. The speakers are more entertaining. And if they are not being "fed" at a level that meets their expectations, the move on to find one that does.

I have recently discuss what a church is: family, body, community, army and team. A member of a family or body cannot simply opt out. A team or an army are not judged by how well they entertain the "troops." They are judged by performance, cohesiveness and attaining the goals of their mission.

The mind-set of much of the modern church is to be served. But Jesus said I am here to serve. And we are supposed to be like Jesus.


Occasionally, I will come across a discussion among Jesus followers of what constitutes success. Many churches follow a group of metrics that is more consistent with business than the type of model Jesus described. This includes things like: counts of service attendees, amounts of money given, conversions and baptisms. Given that a modern church, in the West especially, is usually incorporated, and therefore, in the legal sense, a business, keeping these sort of counts, as well as a balanced check book and up to date ledgers, is a good and sensible practice.

But scripture's description of what a church should be like is quite different from a business. It is a family, a body, a community, an army and an athletic team. It has elements of all these, but cannot be said to be totally any of them. Its success should have different metrics, because its goals and methods are different.

It is a family, because of the intimacy and loyalty it should produce. It is a body, because its members have a diversity of function and an interdependence of those functions. It is a community, because of its commonalities. It is an army, because of its self-sacrifice and commitment to its mission.  It is a team, because it works together to achieve its goals.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Love Your Enemies

Jesus calls us to be with Him. But we are enemies; we are rebels of the King and outlaws.

  Normally, one does not extend an invitation to enemies, or to people who go against everything one stands for. Jesus not only extends the invitation, but he provides the means for them to come.

Jesus died for His enemies and for the outlaws. His death created a bridge for the rebels and criminals to enter His Kingdom in peace. Now they can easily come.

Would anyone pay such a price to extend hospitality to rebels and outlaws?

Friday, March 01, 2013

First of All

In the 1990's, there was a tremendous call to prayer. Books were written. Sermons were preached. It especially looked toward the new millennium as a crucial time. 

Prayer does seem to have the same fervent emphasis it used to. Does prayer not work? Or did we lose focus, excitement and enthusiasm for it? 

I confess my own prayer life has taken a nose dive. But I have recognized it, and tried to remedy it.

Part of what is sparking my desire to renew my commitment to prayer are parts of Scripture like this message to our young leader.

Paul say "first of all" -- first priority, first choice, first in this list of important practices -- pray for everybody. Prayer ought to be on the forefront of our thinking, our reactions and our choices.

But there is more. We should pray for everybody. We should pray for the benefit and profit of everybody. We should pray for their good.

Moreover, we should be thankful for everybody.

And we should apply think to our political leaders in particular.

Imagine -- on the day of the sequester, in the midst of the political climate in America -- Jesus followers getting on their knees and beseeching the Lord of All for the good of people ... including Congress! including the president! Then, searching their hearts to find something about "those people" to be grateful to God for!