Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Gospel - V

Probably the biggest divergence of opinion in churches today is the expectations of what and how people should experience God and his family.

Suffice it to say, the expectations of different Christians are wide and diverse. Rituals, supernatural presence, individual expression, the role of leadership, educational processes, finances and methods of governance are all subject to much discussion and sometimes, animosity.

Perhaps, the main question is: if people have the same allegiance to Jesus, will their experience be the same? If people have the same allegiance to Jesus, there should certainly be common areas. But there are things that suggest there is considerable freedom in the family of God, for all the areas mentioned about, plus many more.

Scripture does not proscribe a God approved way of doing church. There is no where in Scripture that outlines the worship service, church governance or ways of education and assimilation. Yes, there are places that describe what type of people leaders should be. Yes, there are places that say, "when this happens in your meetings, make sure it is done this way." But that is a long way from saying that the meetings:
- have to be held in a particular place.
- can only be this long.
- can have no time limit placed on them.
- can only have music by Fanny Crosby.
- can only have music by Larry Norman.
- can only use a particular Bible translation.
- cannot do this.
- have to do that.

God did create families, languages and cultures. There are similarities in everyone from all over the world. All languages have words that signify objects and actions. I would bet each one has a word that describes the color of the sky with no clouds in it. God created a world with incredible diversity. And God promises to take a people for himself from all peoples. And God is big enough to encompass the different ways all those families express themselves. It is to his glory that Arabs, Chinese, Bushman, Pygmies, Germans and Italians are united in their allegiance to Jesus, and their love for one another, differences notwithstanding.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Gospel - IV

Probably as different as each person is, each person's family is different. Size, personality, ways of operating and values are all different. There are, of course, many similarites. Families reproduce. They feed, protect and teach the members. There are families that are broke. The father is cruel. The mother is lazy. The children are out of control.

But as part of a family -- good, bad or indifferent -- we are all called to participate in and experience being family. This is part doing the chores (cleaning your room, doing the dishes and mowing the lawn) and part enjoying the perks (vacations to Disney and the Grand Canyon, camping, holiday feasts and -- at, least in my family -- laughing until your sides hurt.)

What about the family of God? How do we participate? How do we experience?

We particpate by keeping the rules. Like all families, the Jesus-family has rules. And Jesus' rules are a little more complicated and a little more open-ended.
  • Choose God as the main allegiance.
  • Baptism.
  • Worship\communion.
  • Pray.
  • Love.
  • Give.
  • Make disciples. 
These rules keep peace and order in God's family, makes sure the needs are met and has the potential of turning the world inside out. It the almost one-fifth of the world loves -- as defined in the Bible -- just imagine the affect it would have on the US interstate highway system, especially the I95 corridor, let alone the rest of society.
A lot has been written recently about "bullying" in the public school system. If people lived in love, there would be no bullying. There would be no gun control debate. The discussion about immigration would take on an entirely different slant.
Then, there are the other rules. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Gospel - III

There is a funny kind of balance here. Do's and dont's are not the point, but Jesus gave commands for us to keep. And he said that keeping these commands does show our love for him. Obedience to his commands does build the relationship between God and man.

But keeping the commands is not the point. Paul said that gave gave the Law to show man-kind that we could not keep the Law.

Does God want us to try to do the impossible? Is this some kind of cruel joke? Like the rock of Sisyphus?

I think Jesus gave commands, knowing we could not keep them, but also knowing that without them people would have no where to focus.

There does seem to be a mechanism in people (perhaps it is spiritual, a type of sowing and reaping) that focus accomplishes. The object of focus is drawn to us, and we to it. Focus brings "it" into our lives, and makes "it" part of us. To choose to intentionally practice "it" only serves to make it more real.

Of course, "it" can be anything: love, prayer, giving, etc. But our focus should yield practice. And practice should yield greater reality and transformation.

In this life, we will not achieve perfection. However, without the commands of Jesus, there would be no transformation, no maturing in Christ, no increase in relationship, and perhaps, a sinking into more damaging behavior.

And as transformation is a work of God in the lives of his children, transformation should be celebrated with thanksgiving, worship and praise. 

The Gospel - II

As I wrote before, the gospel is not about avoiding hell. It is an invitation to know and walk with God; it is an invitation to join God's family.

There is a large group of people who see Christianity as avoiding a negative afterlife and keeping a list of "do not's".  They see any religion as putting up walls to block people from certain areas. And some of these people regard some of these areas as the source of joy.

But, as we wrote before recently, the prime/first source of life and joy for people, built into  their original design, is their relationship with God.

Afterlife types is not the point. The list of proscriptions is only pertinent as one realizes that there things block or detract from the relationship, which is the point.

If we get hung up on these things, we are moving away from joy, our design and our life. If we get hung up on these things (though, they are important and need to be included in the whole package) we give people a false impression of the gospel and being a disciple.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Gospel

I am seeing more and more talk about how the current movement of Christians have limited the gospel. They are saying that the gospel is not solely a message of salvation.

For a long time, it seemed that the primary focus was on the salvation aspect of the gospel. The main consideration wa what people could avoid. The main point was what people were saved "from."

There is definitely a "from." We should rejoice that our future is not one of condemnation and punishment.

But all too often the "to" is only heaven. The "to" is relegated to the afterlife. The gospel is not just Jesus' invitation to avoid hell. It is Jesus' invitation to walk with God now. It is Jesus' invitation to live a new life now. It is a call to join and experience the Kingdom now.

God injected us with new life when we came to him. He has spoken to us about this new life, about living our original design. He has given us propositional declarations:
- about how we should live
- about what he will do
- about how he will react
- about what resources he has given to us.

The whole point of these propositional declarations is to enable us to live as we were originally designed, to enjoy a vital relationship with God, to participate in and experience the Kingdom and to weaken the holds of Satan, the world and sin.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sin and New Life

We received divine power from God to enable divine living. We got this power because we entered into a relationship with him. When we chose to shift our allegiance to him, he chose to indwell our hearts. The indwelling begins a change in our hearts, a re-arrangement of our spiritual DNA, toward living as we are designed.

So, why does it seem so hard to give up sinning? There are several reasons. And they probably all contribute.
  • Satan battles to maintain his grasp.
 This is certainly true. His goal is to take as many with him as he can, to deprive god of glory, and create as much misery as possible. Whenever someone comes to Jesus, and his life is revolutionized be the gospel, there is a possibility that that person could become another Paul, Francis, Moody, Graham or Cho. Guilt can be a strong deterrent to love and faith.
  •  The world system is unforgiving and relentless.
Societies and cultures develop laws, norms, morals and expectations as ways to insure people are able to live and function together. Not only is there a tremendous inertia to these things, but there is usually a strong animosity toward those who propose and walk in a new way of life. The group resists and attacks change. For many, their identity and purpose originate in the group. Change can strike deep and threaten.
  • Sin must be starved.
I read some years ago, that sin cannot be lopped off. It is entrenched too deep in the core of a person’s being. Even if the person of the God-head plants himself in the core of people, it takes time for the new spiritual DNA to recreate an individual. So, sin does not just die instantly. It is rooted out by sapping its life and energy. There is a simultaneous process of “putting off” and “putting on.” “Putting off” by not choosing to practice the things that go against God’s life; “putting on” by choosing to practice the new life. Each decision weakens or strengthens sin in our life. Choosing to resist Satan, the world and the old way of life weakens sin. Choosing to obey Jesus and God’s original design strengthens the new life. That’s why God is in it for the long haul with each person. He know renewal in this life will take time. And he is a lot more patient that we are.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Priority of Relationship

We have often talked about God’s design and the “fuels” necessary for people to thrive. There are certain fuels people need to survive. And there are others needed to thrive.

The human body could function on a diet of French fries. But it would not thrive on such a diet. To thrive, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables ought to be included.

The human spirit works the same way. There are many things that could be “consumed” in our hearts that we could exist on. And people have tried all of them. Drugs, alcohol and porn are at the top of that list. People have also tried putting   money, family, friends, sports and material possessions as the main thing to fuel their  spirits.

But that is not how God designed us. Some of the things mentioned about are toxic to our spirits. And some are good, and God even recommends that they should be included in our lives. But none of them are the main fuel for our hearts. Partaking   of them as the main provision for your heart would be liking eating a diet that consists mostly of French fries for your body.

What is the first commandment? What is the most important commandment, having priority over all the others? It is  not “go to church.” ? It is not “tithe.” ? It is not “share the gospel.” It is to love God.

The foremost ingredient necessary for thriving in our spiritual lives is our relationship with God. He designed us to “feed” off of him. He designed us to need him more than anything else.

And like our bodies, if we are “eating” correctly, we “perform” better. I don’t think we can say if we get a daily time of Bible reading, prayer and worship, that life will be perfect. (How many chapters? How much time? What positions?   On knees? What percentage of what type of prayer?) But I do notice that if I prioritize my time with God (and it is consistent and regular) that my life agrees with Jesus’ life more. And the effect and impact should be greater too.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

In Us

To facilitate God’s family becoming “one of” the people in the world, Jesus became “in” us. Jesus moves into the core of our being – becoming “one of” us in a higher, greater, more far reaching way that we could ever conceive.


Because Jesus moves into the core of our being, he affects our lives at the lowest, most basic level possible. Which then flows through the rest of our lives. So, writers compare it to a change in the person’s DNA.


DNA controls the manufacture of the necessary chemicals and molecules needed for growth, repair and maintenance of the body. If the DNA is changed, what is manufactured changes too. The body becomes different.


Jesus in our hearts does not affect the DNA in our bodies. It does affect the “DNA” in our hearts, souls and spirits. Our bodies stay the same, but we become different people. We speak differently. We act differently. We think differently. We become more in tune with God. We become aware of his standards, his desires and his practices. Our desires change to mirror his. Our behavior changes to mirror his. Because we mirror Jesus, people can see God in us … a little bit anyway. And maybe, over time, they can see him a little bit more, and a little bit more.

One of Us - 2

By final provision, I do not mean the last time, or the last action. Jesus has continued to provide for us, since we have chosen to follow him, since he was nailed to the cross. By final, I mean ultimate. By final, I mean decisive and conclusive.


The cross does draw a line. By choosing to follow the way of the cross and Jesus, we step across that line. We become part of the family of Jesus.


In our identification with Jesus, it is helpful to draw that line. We focus our hearts on him. We are connected to him.


But, Jesus does not want us to strictly and entirely identify with him. He has called us to identify with others in the Jesus-family. He has also called us to identify with those not in the Jesus-family. And drawing the line is not helpful in that case.


Viewing people across that line, we see their otherness. We see differences. We see ways we do not and cannot connect with. But Jesus commands for us to connect with them. Like Jesus became one of us, we are to become one of them.


We should sympathize. We should be examples. We should draw near, feed, encourage and heal. As we become one of, people should see God more clearly, more vividly, more really than at any other time in their lives.

One of Us

“Being with” wasn’t enough. So, God took the next step and became “One of” us.

“With” did not quite work. Israel’s roller coaster life in Judges, that I mentioned in the last post, demonstrates that. Israel believed that God being with them, in his covenants, in the Law, in the temple, was sufficient. But they continually chose not to walk with him, even though he continually demonstrated he was for and with them.

So, God chose to go one step further. He became one of them.

As “one of,” he could sympathize more fully. He could be an example. He could touch lives by drawing near, feeding, encouraging, and healing. As “one of,” people could see God in a way that is more clear, vivid and real than any way that had ever been done before.

And as “one of,” he could be man’s ultimate and final representative before the judgment seat of God. He received judgment for our sin, though he did not sin.

This, he made the final step of identification with people. And he made the final step of provision for people.