Monday, November 24, 2014

Identity in Christ - 5 (Access to God)

If you look at the world today, there are hundreds of countries and each one has a ruler. The rulers are chosen in a variety of ways: succession, election, overthrow of a previous government, etc. The rulers are liked\disliked, popular\unpopular. And because of various concerns (security, work efficiency, safety) access to these rulers is limited. Not just anyone can walk into their office or living quarters and “get in their faces.”

However, if you give your allegiance to Jesus, you have complete, total access to the Supreme creator and Ruler of the Universe – 24 x 7 x 365. You can discuss anyone and anything with him. You can vent. You can petition. You can blather total foolishness. And you are welcome again and again and again.
  • God’s Perspective
If we were merely citizens of God’s kingdom, we might not get access to the Supreme Ruler, just like the citizens of any other country. But he has adopted us into his family. We are now his children.

Fathers are different, of course. They have different amounts of availability. Some have lots; some have little. No human being can be totally available to another. Some things require privacy and being alone.

However, the Father of all has given us his immanence. He is omnipresent. He is available to each one of us, whenever we need him, wherever we need him. (Maybe he can be private and available at the same time.) He gives each of us 100%, focused attention all at the same time. This is a privileged of son-ship. It is we who are not paying attention.
  • Living My Life
Prayer ought to be big. BIG!! Prayer is the thing we use to communicate with God.
    • It can be long or short. 
    • It can be formal or informal. 
    • It can be flowery or plain.
    • It ought to be open and honest. 
    • It ought to express your heart at its deepest level.
    • It ought to be an instrument that develops your relationship with the Father.
    • It ought to be an outflowing of love for others. 
    • It ought to go BIG for God, his kingdom and his mission.
Prayer is one way (p[perhaps not the only way) of focusing our hearts on the Father. So, prayer opens a conduit between our hearts and the Father’s heart. It is by this conduit that the Father pours his love and grace into our hearts. It is that love and grace that is the main component that really changes our hearts.

I don’t know if we have to be in receiving mode to benefit, or can God somehow do it in background mode. I do know that the most benefit happens when we are giving our attention to what God is doing and cooperate with it.
Prayer is also our invitation to god to work in our circumstances. Unlike Satan, who works wherever and whenever he wants, God respects our boundaries and works by invitation. We need to invites him into our lives, into our circumstances, into our problems and into our celebrations. We need to invite him into the US, Canada, China, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa (and anywhere else we think of.) It is God’s love in any situation that will bring healing and wholeness.

It is God’s availability and our open access to him that sets the environment and allows for the overcoming of evil and the prevailing of good.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Identity in Christ - 4 (Adopted)

Pretend there is an orphan. He is unloved and unwanted. He has been abused, abandoned, cursed and reviled all his life. So, his core values have become being totally selfish and self-centered, because no one has built into him in any sort of positive way. He has learned wrong speech, wrong attitudes, wrong actions and wrong desires. And he acts as though he is the sun, and the universe revolves around him. (Basically, he is a real brat.)

Now, pretend that the richest man in the city comes to the orphanage to adopt a child. He sees this bratty orphan. He sees his wrong, hurtful behavior. He sees the bad decisions, and bad attitudes. He sees the bad badness. And against all warnings from the staff, he selects this child.

He sees past the present evil to a good future. He sees the effect love will have on the mind-set, behavior and attitudes of the child. He sees the potential; he sees the process of actualizing the potential.
  • God's Perspective
We, of course, are the orphan and the rich man is the Father. We chose to live wrong. We made bad, wrong, foolish and evil decisions. (We still do ... but hopefully there is progress.) There was nothing good, nothing commendable, nothing to recommend us, but God still chose us.

He sees our potential. He sees how his love will cleanse us. He sees how his love will motivate and change us to move closer to how we were designed to live.

We become part of a new family. We have a new Father. A Father who chose us. He did not get us by default. He is not stuck with us. He chose us.

It is the Father's choice of us that makes all the difference.
  • Living My Life
Of course, God chooses all the orphans. And some responded. Some recognized the value of being part of his family. Some looked beyond the walls of the home God gives us, trying to find something else. God still calls them his child. God works to still establish a relationship.

We were designed to have a relationship with the Father. We were designed to be part of his family.

We need to remember and focus on the fact that God wants this relationship.Realization of that ought to make us confident in our approach to life. We can take risks. Failure has no effect on the relationship.

We need to remember that it is the relationship that is important. The Bible translation you use, the church affiliation you belong to, or the ministry title you have is not important.

Some Christians work hard to draw distinctions. "This is what makes us different, therefore it is what makes us better when compared to other Christians and Christian groups." I will not argue against the importance of these distinctions. I will argue that one person who has chosen to live in relationship with the Father is more important than all the distinctions people come up with. Because it is the Father who values each person. That is the distinction God desires.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Power of Sin Vs. Power of Christ - 2

This was not supposed to be a series, but I met a friend the other morning. I hadn't seen him for quite some time. He told me he had gotten separated from his wife. Evidently, an area that had once been a weakness had reared its ugly head and he fell. Somehow, his wife learned about it and she asked him to leave. And he did.

He quit his job. (He was a counselor. "How can I, in good faith, help other people with their problems, when I have a problem like this?") He is getting counseling himself.

He is leading a semi-homeless existence. (The agency he worked for actually gave him a leave of absence, and were letting him "camp" in the waiting room, until he gets a place ▬ and evidently he had one lined up. And he had a different job. So, it is not total despair. Now, if we could have a re-unification of this family.)

But it does get me to thinking. How close is anyone to falling? How close are we to making bad decisions and ruining our lives?  Too close for too many of us.

God created us. Before that, he designed us. He engineered us. And he designed our environment, our connection to him and the resources available to us. He designed the end he wants us to have.

And it's not ignominy, defeat, misery, suffering or shame. There is one who does want all these things for us. And he works hard to bring them to reality in our lives. 

God works to bring about the opposite in our lives. He brings success, peace and joy. He intends that we never find ourselves in a position where we are forced to face others in shame, because we did something wrong or we were not strong enough.

And we are not strong enough. That's why we need a savior. That's why we need a Father who stands with us. He have given all the resources we need so we can live as we were designed.

Our enemy will attack us without warning or provocation. He will make a preemptive strike.

Our Father is our ally, who treats us with respect. We need to choose to move into relationship with him, to access the necessary resources and to utilize them for our good, and for the world's good.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Identity in Christ - 3 (Alive in Christ)

Before giving our allegiance to Jesus, we were spiritually dead. But, in Christ, just as Jesus overcame death, we overcome death. Without Christ, we are eternally condemned. We always experience death, but we are never released. There is no final peace. With Christ, we are eternally alive, experiencing all that life was meant to be. We are obviously not experiencing that now, because sin is still corrupting the world. Our hearts and our natures are still being influence by sin and the world.

In Christ, the power of sin is broken over us. We have freedom to live in righteousness; we have freedom to live in sin. Our hearts are changed so we are free to pursue righteousness, but our hearts are not perfect, so we will not be perfect in this life.

If we use our freedom to pursue sin, we will be pursuing the fruit of death. We will not be experiencing life as we were designed to live. Since, the Spirit of Christ is in a our hearts, calling us to relationship with him, we will not really enjoy these fruits of death, as we might without Jesus. (We might harden our hearts and isolate the Spirit within us, to the point that we no longer hear him, and are able to pursue death with close to the same passion.) But pursuing the things of death is not living.
  • Living My Life

We were designed for living relationship with God. We were designed for living the ways of God. This world, this life, this creation, were so designed that life is derived from living in congruence with the ways of God. All things that are associated with abundant living (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, discipline) are derived from a life of obedience.

There is probably some argument about what constitutes a life of obedience. If a list were made, people would probably add: attend church, pay the tithe, daily prayer, daily scripture reading, sharing the gospel, etc. The list could go on and on.

There are certainly practices that are common to all members of God’s family. There are also practices that we are personally invited to do. So, an obedient life involves this personal invitation and moment by moment paying attention to the One who calls us to follow him. And taking appropriate action to this personal role.

  • God’s Perspective
The key to people being alive in Christ, life forever in heaven with God, and live now in relationship with God, is Jesus on the cross. It was this that set the wheels in motion. It was this that made the promises of God real.

Life in eternity, in heaven, does not begin in the next life. Life in heaven began when we began our relationship with God. When we gave him our allegiance, we became his child we became full citizens of his kingdom. Heavenly life began at that time. God is fully prepared to live out his part of the agreement. We need to learn how to live out our part.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Power of Sin Vs. Power of Christ

NOTE: This is one of those "I had an idea." I may be trampling on all sorts of theological toes, but it is an interesting idea.

The Bible says that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Those in Jesus has received his Spirit and they have new freedom from the power of sin.

Sinful nature cannot obey the Law. So, the Law cannot save. So, God, motivated by love, sent his Son, Jesus, who was able to do what the Law could not. And when Jesus died for us, God declared sin's control over us was broken.

Does this mean we will never, ever sin again? Probably not. Our nature is still imperfect. Our hearts is not pure. But without the breaking of sin's power, we have no hope of growth or improvement. Sin and selfishness would continue to rule our hearts. Now, they are ruled by the love of Christ.