Sunday, August 24, 2014

God's Heart: Love vs. Law

I was listening to Graham Cooke recently. He said that a person's concept is the most important thing in a person's head. Our picture of who God is, and what he is like, is the most important "stuff" that fills our hearts and heads. It is that picture that creates the framework for our lives. 

If God is watching us like a hawk, waiting for us to blow it, so he can stomp on us, then we will live in a type of vigilance. We will sit on the edge of our seats, uncomfortable in his presence, uneasy in taking action lest we offend him.

If God is watching us (like a hawk) to find ways to guide us towards restoration, towards redemption, towards living as we were designed, we will rest in his love, we will be assured of his acceptance, and we will not fear in taking actions or failing.

We looked recently at the woman caught in adultery. Religious leaders caught this woman and brought her to Jesus. Jewish law said she should be executed for this type of sin. They challenged Jesus to uphold the law. Jesus, in return, challenged them by forcing them to look at their own lives. They all deserved punishment under the law.

Living as we were designed to live is more than avoiding a bunch of "shall not's." Even if we kept all the "shall not's" we still would not be living as God intended.

God intended that all people should be part of his family. He began the process of redemption and restoration with the Jews. Yet, whenever the Jews lived in a mixed society, they invariably allowed the society to influence them, and they pulled away from and ceased following God. Part of God's law warns against this mixing. So, the Jews pursued a policy of isolationism. Current understanding of God's law said God wanted his people to avoid contact with non-Jews. Yet, God really wanted the Jews to engage with non-Jews and invite them to be a part of his family.

After Jesus returned to heaven, God sent an angel to a non-Jew to urge him to invite one of the apostles to come and tell him and his family God's good news of love and acceptance, and to take action that is appropriate to becoming part of God's family. This man sent representatives to the apostle to extend the invitation. The representatives had to travel one or two days to find the apostle.

Meanwhile, God induced a trance on the apostle, in order to send him a message about what his attitude and heart really was toward all peoples. And he timed the trance with the arrival of the representatives, as well as another message. All of this to convince the apostle that the common understanding of God's law was wrong. In effect, he was convincing the apostle to break the law, so that God's love could break the barrier of narrow legalistic assumptions.G  

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Jesus tells the story of a woman,  who is having legal difficulty. She is poor,  so she can't afford a lawyer.  So, she does the only thing she can think of doing. She goes to see the judge in charge of the case.  And she goes day after day after day.

Now the judge received his appointment to the bench because of a political favor.  He doesn't care about people, the Law, God, or justice.  He only cares about keeping his position.  Good money, easy hours, not too much work, and lots of perks.

But this woman keeps bugging him. He doesn't care about her, or honor God,  or justice. But at this rate,  she is going to drive him crazy. So, he is going to give her justice, but for the wrong motivation.

Then, Jesus compares the judge with our heavenly Father. The judge gave the woman justice, though he was not a very good person. He just wanted the woman off of his back. Our Father is the epitome of love, goodness and moral perfection.  He does care about people,  right, wrong and justice. Given the Father's love, desire to bless, and ability to bless, it should be a perfectly reasonable action for his children to persist in seeking him.

Then, Jesus asks the $64,000 question. When he returns, will he find people with faith?

He demonstrates his nature to us by dying on the cross, by healing, by feeding multitudes with crumbs.  He demonstrates his heart, his ability and his love. With all of that, we are timid with our prayers, our love, our plans, our time and our energy. We fear rejection, failure and looking foolish. We don't see ourselves correctly; we don't see God correctly.

Peter had a flash of insight. He saw Jesus correctly for few moments. When he did, he got out of the boat and walked on water.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

People's Sin and Jesus' Acceptance of People

Sin is a unifying factor. I don't mean that it pulls people together, because it doesn't. It pushes people apart. If unifies, because it puts people on the same level. We all sin. We all fail. No one is perfect. So, we are all the same, unified in our imperfection and condemnation.

And God knows it. He sees our hearts as they truly are. No one can disguise or hide the sin in their hearts from God. That makes his sacrifice even more amazing.

religious leaders brought a woman to Jesus. She had been caught in the act of sinning. The Law said punishment for this sin was to be stoned to death. Jesus knew the woman's heart. He knew she had sinned. He knew she deserved this punishment. He knew the religious leaders were right. But he also knew their hearts. He knew each one of them sinned and deserved punishment too. If they were honest  with themselves, they would see they deserved to be stoned too. so, he pushed them to be honest ... and she wasn't stoned.

This is the beauty of the gospel. God sees our hearts. God knows we sinned. God knows we still sin. Yet, he still dies for our sins. He still accepts us, even though we still sin.

Jesus doesn't excuse\approve of sin. Sin steals from us. We do not get anywhere close to living how we were designed to live. Life is robbed of meaning and significance. And he told the woman to change the way she was living.

There is no indication in Scripture whether the woman repented or not. Maybe she did. Maybe she didn't. But Jesus demonstrates t he attitude, we should have towards everyone. Because we are all in the same boat.

Friday, August 08, 2014


It has been a sort-of whirlwind week. First, we discover a large hornet’s nest under the eaves of the house. How do you get rid of it without getting yourself or anyone else stung?

Then, a bat got into the house. My wife and kids are scared. There is a possibility of some really serious diseases. I have yet found a way to catch a flying bat, so I whacked it with a badminton racket. This always leaves me a little depressed. Even bats has their place in God’s world. And it would probably have preferred to not be in my house either.

Then, my wife bought a new refrigerator. There was a circus getting it home. (We bought it on clearance, so the store would not deliver it, even if we paid for delivery. Figure that out.) The circus continued getting it into the house. House doorways were too narrow, so we had to take the frig doors off. Swapping food. Getting the old one out. It still worked, so we found a home for it.

Finally, a couple we know and love are thinking of calling it quits. And that is really, really sad. So, we talked, listened and prayed. There was no abuse or infidelity. There were no habits or practices that either had that were bad. No money issues. No children issues. No issues that one usually hears about.

The husband is really sad and really dissatisfied with life. Life and his marriage relationship wasn’t what he expected. It doesn’t seem worth carrying on in a limbo status for 20-30 years.

And people say, “Good relationships require work. You work through the problems. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” And he says, “Yea, I know. But in between the negatives, there should be some positives.”

He wasn’t very good at explaining anything, except life and marriage wasn’t as expected. The things he needed\wanted\expected were not being met.

(NOTE: No decision has been made. They are going to try and get some help. I know we would appreciate prayer for them, even if they don’t know what they want.)

Of course, all the things people say to fix the problem are said. Some of them are clichés. The reason they are cliché is not because they are not true. It is because they have been so often they lose impact. I don’t know what this says about me. I don’t know if it is good\bad. (I do know and accept that this is the way God designed me. If fills a place in his purposes. And, therefore, it is good. And I also know and accept that I am broken. I don’t work or react the way I should. And this is not good.) But I start wondering about those things.

“Only God can meet your needs.”

Only too true. Only God can meet the deepest needs for joy, significance, love, place and others I can’t remember at the moment. So, why are people miserable? Why are people, who have a relationship with the Father, miserable? There is an underlying feeling that if one knows God, one should not be miserable. So does that mean: 
  • People don’t read\prayer\meditate enough? 
  • People don’t worship enough?
  • People don’t have enough faith?
  • People put other things first?
  • People don’t understand the way this is supposed to work correctly? 
  • People are tied to other things and other people?
“Happiness comes from our circumstances. Joy comes from our relationship with God.”

Only too true. When we depend on our circumstances or our situation to fulfill us, we will be forever caught on a roller coaster. And our time at the top will be all too short, before we go roaring into the bottom. But joy certainly seems to be in short supply. We should be living above and beyond our circumstances. All too often, our circumstances drag us around by the nose. A love relationship with our Father should hold us up. It should give us courage and power to continue. It should give us identity, place and worth. So, why is there so little joy? Because we don’t know our Father well enough? (And we don’t, because of that list above.)

I’m sure part of the reason is because we have an enemy. Any one of us could be the next “Peter” or the next “Paul.” So, he works to keep us guessing, to keep us miserable. If our hearts are focused on our misery, we can’t pursue those things we were designed for.

Maybe, part of it is that we developed into a time and people where knowing is what is important, and doing not so much. We know we should be close to God. We know we should live a life of joy, faith and love. Yet, how do we get there?

We hear in the news too many examples of bad fathers. How did they become bad fathers. “Fathering” is not taught; it is caught. If the father is absent, negligent or aloof, that’s what sons learn. That’s the sort of fathers they become.

Jesus walked with his disciples, so they caught who he was, and how he lived. Maybe people don’t know how to live in faith, joy and love, because we haven’t walked with anyone who showed us how.

Maybe, Jesus walked with his disciples because knowing our Father, being a father, being a husband, living in any relationship, and dealing with life’s messes cannot be taught. They can only be caught.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


There is a story about Jesus sending his disciples out on a short-term mission. He gave them authority to proclaim the message of his kingdom, to heal and to cast out demons. And they had tremendous success.


When they returned they told about all they had accomplished. And they really had done some wonderful and tremendous things. And Jesus agreed they had dealt a major blow to the enemy’s kingdom.


Today, people would spend the next twenty years, discussing, telling and re-telling, and celebrating those events. Yet Jesus encouraged a different focus. These events may be great, but the fact that people have an intimate love relationship with the Creator of the universe is the greatest.


So, I find myself asking a question. How should this affect our attitudes, our time, our priorities, and our actions? Which should we be more psyched about: a quiet hour of prayer and meditation, or a conference filled with celebrities, miracles and a rock concert atmosphere?

Monday, August 04, 2014


Jesus told a story about a farmer planting seed. Some of the seed fell on the path and the birds ate it. Some fell on the rocks, and it could not take root, so it died. Some fell on thorns, and it couldn’t compete for resources, so it died. Some fell on good soil, so it was placed to bear lot of fruit. But what if it were never cared for? What if it were never watered, weeded or fertilized? There would not be as much fruit. The plant would not grow as well, or as healthy. Its ability to provide for itself would be diminished.

The story is, of course, about people responding to the gospel. Prepared hearts, open and ready to respond are vital. But care of the hearts is equally vital. How much of the church’s dysfunction could be averted by proper guidance? Loving, not overbearing, oversight? Personal attention by mature brothers and sisters?

There is not such oversight because there are wrong views about what spiritual guidance comprises, who is qualified to do it, and how people get qualified.