Monday, December 28, 2015

Identity in Christ - 54 (Sons of Light)

Although, it says “sons,” there is no separation by gender. The writer is trying to get a something different. Jesus had both titles “Son of Man” and “Son of God.” Although, “Son of Man” has prophetic overtones, both titles aim at the nature of the person. A “son” has the nature of the parents. As the “Son of God,” Jesus has the nature of God. As the “Son of Man,” Jesus has the nature of men.

When we give Jesus our allegiance, we take on the nature of light.

Light is a symbol of God’s nature, presence and revelation. God, by his nature and essence, expresses truth. So, light is an expression of truth. So, the nature of people, who have given their allegiance to Jesus, are people who live in the truth. They have accepted, know, and live by, and according to, the truth. As truth is god expressing himself, God’s family lives by God’s word.
  • God’s Perspective

We give allegiance to Jesus. With that, we move into relationship with the Father. Relationship always involves some type of communication. And relationship with the Father means receiving his communication. The Father expresses truth to us. He reveals the nature of the world and people. He reeals his heart.

So, we know his intentions, his motives, his values, and his priorities. We know what is important to him. We know what he thinks about the world, people … and us. I know what the Creator of all, Lord of the universe, thinks of me.

These identities, that we have discussed,  are – at least, part of – what God thinks of me. These are who I am. These are who the Father intends me to be, to live out in reality.
  • Living My Life

As sons of light, we need to live in the light. First, we need to know the light. That means we need to communicate with the giver of lift. That means reading, writing, speaking and listening. That means meditating.

Second, we need to accept the light. That means we believe it is true. The light is as immutable as the law of gravity.

Third, we need to obey the light. We need to take as important what God considers important, and pursue bringing that to fruition. We need to understand our role and complete it.

Knowing, accepting and obeying are all part of a continuing process. Vial parts of God’s restoration of his family.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Identity in Christ - 53 (Saints)

According to the common understanding of the word, a "saint" is a person of exceptional character. Totally kind, sacrificial, virtuous and loving.

Accoding to the definition in the original language, it could be written as "holy one." Indeed, it should be more associated with "holiness" meaning "sperated," rather than "morally excellent." That does not mean that God is not interested in moral excellence. Because he is. But moral excellence does not come from intense effort, a positive upbringing or good genes. It comes from God's grace transforming people's hearts.

A saint, a holy one, is someone separated from normal pursuits for God. Not divorced from normal pursuits. Making a living and maintaining a house are normal pursuits God wants us to pursue. But we are also invited to pursue his heart, his purposes and his practices.

So, a saint is one separated from the world in order to be joined to Christ.

• God's Perspective

A saint is one who aligns himself with God, in pursuing his purposes. We align ourselves with God and his purposes when we give allegiance to him. It is then we recognize God's way is superior to ours, we recognize our failure to live as we should,  and we choose to trust the Father, yielding our hearts and lives to connect, to serve, and to unite with him in his mission.

Everyone in God's family is a saint, not because of our superiority of life, but because of the intention and focus of our hearts.

• Living My Life

Many years ago,  a man wrote an allegorical pamphlet comparing a person's inner being with a house. The purpose of the allegory was to communicate how people try to retain control over their lives, rather than trust the Father's influence. We say, "I don't want to give up this part of my life." God says, "Let me into this room. I will clean it up,  and you will be better off. You will be happier too."

I mention this allegory because the basic factor in giving allegiance to Jesus is the realization that we are allowing Jesus into our lives, and into our world. God invaded the world with Jesus. He intends to recreate the world according to his original design. The main factor involved in his design is love. And we have agreed to this invasion,  agreed to its purpose,  agreed to its methods, and agreed to participate in the revolution.

We will not participate perfectly, but we will grow. We will see his mission better.  We will see our part better.  And we will grow,  learn how to participate better.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Identity in Christ - 52 (Slave of Righteousness)

Scripture says we obey what we give our hearts to. Whatever we focus our hearts on, that thing controls us. Be fore we gave our allegiance to Jesus,, our hearts were usually focused on ourselves, our appetites, our desires. So, we were a slave to those things.

When we gave our allegiance to Jesus, he invaded our hearts and lives. He injected new DNA into our spirits. So, our hearts are new. Our heart focus is new. We are now focused on the things of God. So, we are not only being transferred/restored to our original design (thew image of Jesus), our motivations and values are being renewed. We desire to live as designed. We desire righteousness.
  • God's Perspective
God's desire is for our heart (God's and people's) to meet, to connect. He has built us to have relationship with him. Sin has cut the connection entirely. So, Jesus died to repair the connection. Jesus died to restore our design.

Restoration is inevitable. But it may not just be a slam dunk. It may not just be a victory lap. There will be failures. There will be wrong choices. Even, intentional decisions away ffrom God and what God wants. We will even choose what we know is sin. We live a half-life -- our hearts focused one way, then the other, vacillating back and forth.

And, of course, God is totally surprised by all of this. He had no idea we were going to struggle. So, when we do struggle, he gets angry with us. "Keep this up, and I'll throw you out of the family!"

Foremost, on God's heart, is the desire for creating a family. He has invited everyone to become part of his family. Moreover, he wants everyone to be restored to the image of Jesus. Moreover, he has the patience of infinite love. Moreover, he works hard to keep everyone IN the family. Throwing people out is not really on the agenda.
  • Living My Life
We have chosen to follow Jesus. We have chosen to cooperate with him. We have chosen restoration to the image of Jesus. We have chosen to undergo the fuss and muss of spiritual renovation ... including the demo. The Father injected his new DNA in our spirits. And he patiently waits for our renewal. If he can be patient with us, then we can be patient with us.

One result of becoming God's child, and his Spirit invading our lives, is discipline. Discipline does not seem to be particularly spiritual or mystical. Yet, discipline is the "boots on the ground" of spiritual transformation and living.

Discipline is "choosing to do the right thing and the right time." If a person works, it is discipline to get out of bed each day, in time to get to work. It is discipline to perform one's job well ... whatever it is: cleaning tables in a restaurant, writing bug free computer code or performing brain surgery.

It is discipline that produces in us habit of focusing on God, practicing habits of righteousness, and practices of devotion. (That is, practices that God grow our relationship with the Father.)

We chose a new life with the Father. It is discipline that recognizes we fail, chooses to renew our focus on our relationship with the Father, and to re-establish a walk towards restoration.
NOTE: We do not want to accept failure and sin. Neither do we want to become obsessed with it. If we are to be obsessed with anything, we should be obsessed with love. If we are consumed by our guilt and failure, we are blocked with respect to love.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Identity in Christ - 51 (Salt)

Jesus said his family is the “salt of the earth.” Most people who write about this passage focus on salt and its importance in the life of the people at Jesus’ time. It apparently was used to preserve food. There is also the fact that it is an important nutrient. However, Jesus did not focus on its value as a preserving agent or a nutrient. Jesus focused on its value as a condiment.

People use salt because it makes food taste better. And Jesus said if salt loses its flavor, people will just toss it out. People will ignore the fact that maybe its other benefits still work.

God designed people to live a particular way. Because of sin, Jesus was the only person to live that way. Jesus came into the world as a sacrifice for mankind. But he also came as a model for us. He is a model of what relationship with the Father should look like. He is a model of what relationship with other people should look like.  If God’s family manages to live like a faint caricature of Jesus, they will probably look like the most amazing person anyone has ever met.
  • God’s Perspective.

The world is a mess. I could go through a litany of problems, issues and other “hot buttons” that are being debated. And they are being debated long and hard … with a multitude of solutions being offered on all sides.

The world was a mess in Jesus’ time too. Half of the people living in the roman empire at that time were slaves. Two percent of the people had half of the wealth. Half of a family’s income could be given in taxes. Health and sanitation systems in cities were non-existent. The empire was essentially in a state of war for hundreds of years. It maintained the “peace” by violence and brutality.

And Jesus entered this mess, and lived a life that looked like how all people should live. He fed people. He healed people. He pointed them to God and encouraged them to enter relationship with him. It did not matter who the person was, he encouraged, taught and loved them.

Tons of people followed him. Some followed him to see if he would follow the “rules.” Some followed him for a hand-out. Some followed because they genuinely wanted a new life, and hoped he could provide it.

From God’s point of view, the only way to clean up the mess is for revelation to happen in each person’s heart. He created government, families and culture to inhibit evil, and facilitate good. But lasting permanent good will only occur person by person, as each person undergoes a heart revolution, establishes relationship with the Father, and begins living as he/she were designed.

If God’s family does not instigate revolution – live as they were designed, motivating people to abandon the kingdom of the world, give allegiance to the King, and unite with the kingdom of Jesus – then they are failing to be effective partners in God’s mission.

And if God’s family assumes and supports programs that promote political, social, economic or any other type of solution, and ignores or minimizes the Father’s revolution of the heart, then they effectively cut themselves off from the Father, from his Spirit and grace … and they loses the ability to draw people to Jesus. The are salt that loses its flavor.
  • Living My Life

To put it as simply as possible: to be salt, we need to live like Jesus. We need to practice the “commandments of Jesus.” We need to live as we were designed. We need to live out identity in Christ: salt, light, priests. The family of God should rely on the Father. It should not rely on governments, human programs or human strategies.

The family of God relies too much on the church. Do not misunderstand me. The family of God is the church, the assembly of God’s people (ekklesia) called together to carry out God’s purposes. But the family of God has grown to depend on the structure, the organization and the professionals that groups of people have devised to facilitate the business of God.

Again, don’t misunderstand me. When large groups of people join together, some type of organization is necessary to facilitate communication, to avoid confusion, to ensure needs get attended to. I am not against organization, training of leaders, or special buildings. I am against the mindless reliance on such things. I am against the children of God abandoning their role as priest, because there is a professional. I am against the assumption that god’s life can only be manifested inside a special building by a professional. Too many of God’s children accept these assumptions with a corresponding loss of saltiness.

Focus you hear on the Father. Listen to him speak to your hearts. Act on what he says. Fulfill your role as priest. Love, pray and serve.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Identity in Christ - 50 (Righteous in Christ)

“Righteous” refers to “getting right” with God. Our relationship with God is broke, because of sin. On the cross, Jesus assumed the role of “substitute sinner.” It even say “became sin” itself, so that all of God’s rage could be poured out.

All that is wrong in the world is due to sin. All pain. All sorrow. ISIS. Pollution. Poverty. Crime. God designed human life to be love, joy and peace. Satan used man’s sin to break the world. God’s plan to restore the world require the destruction of sin’s power. So, he smashed sin in Jesus on the cross.

Only Jesus, as perfect man and eternal God, could effectively break sin itself. People – finite and imperfect – could only satisfy God’s justice for their own sin. And a finite being cannot satisfy an infinite break. Only a perfect sacrifice could mend the schism. 
  • God's Perspective

Scripture describes the sacrifice that will meet God’s specifications as a lamb without blemish. But the offerings Israel gave were not big enough. The could only be acts of faith that God was going to find something big enough. And God did.

Christ’s sacrifice was so big, it covered all human beings. Those living now. Those who lived in the past. Those who will live in the future.

Not all human beings will give him allegiance and become part of his family. But God values people so much, he acted to cover all.

God valued relationship with his children so much, he went big to ensure that relationship would be restored. And he continues to pursue relationship.

“Righteousness” can be viewed as having “right standing” with God. It is God taking action to ensure he can walk with people once more. It is God restoring a road for easy access to his family. (Moreover, he added a high speed, huge bandwidth pipe for quicker access. And the uploads and downloads use the same pipe at the same speeds. And both are free.)
  • Living My Life

God takes relationship with his children so seriously, that he paid an impossibly high price to secure that relationship. He paid the price for all, so he could have relationship with some.

Since, God takes relationship seriously, we ought to take relationship seriously. We ought to take the commands of Jesus seriously. We ought to take the focus of our hearts seriously. We ought to take the hearts and lives of other parts of God’s family seriously.

Relationships can take many forms. And it should grow and change form and shape over time. So, what it looks like will be different. It will look different for each of us. It will look different for each of us at different times.

As the main fuel of our spirits is our relationship with the Father, as we gain clearer vision and understanding of the Father, how we connect will be different. How we access and process the fuel will be different.

It will always involve taking time to communicate. Times of worship, meditation, prayer will increase and decrease. Modes, means and methods will change. Possibly it will only entail attitude shifts, or an adjustment in how we focus our hearts. Our forms of prayer may take on new meaning. We may invent new forms.

It will always involve intent, energy and discipline. It will always involve an active listening to the spirit, and an openness to change. It will always require an attitude of being alert and prepared to act.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Identity in Christ - 48 (Redeemed)

"Redeem" in the original language is close to "redeem" in English. To purchase or acquire the freedom or deliverance of something, or someone, using something valuable.

If I use something valuable to "purchase" something, I show how much value that thing to have. If a purchase a painting with a 1000-carat diamond, I show that I think the painting is worth a 1000-carat diamond.

If the Father redeemed us with the life of Jesus, what must the Father conclude about our worth.

Love is the strongest force in the world. One can compel obedience through fear. But one cannot change motivations, to make someone want to obey with fear. Only love can do that. So, the Father and Jesus invite us to follow him, and then demonstrate their commitment to us. Jesus surrenders his life on a cross for us. A commitment motivated by love for us.

It is God's commitment to redeem us that gives tangible evidence to how sold out he is for us. And it is that evidence that changes our hearts and motivations. It is that evidence that gives us assurance as we accept his invitation to walk with him, give him our allegiance, and take up his cause as our own.
  • God's Perspective
My initial inclination is to go back before creation, before time. Why does the Father choose to create people? Especially since he knows they will sin? Especially since he knows the enormous price he will pay?

My first answer is -- it is all somehow an expression of his love.

I can say it is love, because I can see the price he was willing to play. I can see the price he did pay.

Jesus told two short stories about the Kingdom of God. Which is to say "everything which he rules." Which is to say "God's family." (God does rule over everything, even though there does seem to be a few rebellious spots. But his rule is most obviously seen in those who willfully and voluntarily gave him their allegiance.) In one, God's Kingdom is like a man who is shopping, and he finds a gemstone of incredible value. So valuable, that he deems it a wise decision to sell all he possesses to raise enough money to buy it.

The second is similar. He finds a treasure in a field. To get the valuable treasure, he sells everything to buy the field.

I have always looked at it from the perspective that I was the man. The question is -- what is it worth to me to become part of God's family? Given that I would be giving up a temporary home and possessions to gain a permanent home, and a permanent, living relationship with the King of all, any sacrifice becomes moot in comparison.

But what if in Jesus' mind, I was not the man? What if he was the man? and we are the treasure? What if all mankind was the field, and we were the treasure in the field?

What if Jesus sold all he had to possess us? What if Jesus sold all he had, and bought everyone, knowing that only some of us would become part of his family?

There was a saying passed around several years ago. "If I were the only one who sinned, Jesus would have died for me anyway."

Maybe it should be "If I were the one who would ever give allegiance to Jesus, he would have died for the whole world anyway."

  • Living My Life
This is a trait that does not suggest a particular practice. It suggests an attitude, a motivation, and a perspective that God's family needs to adopt.

So, the question becomes -- how do members of God's family learn to have the same heart for people that Jesus does?

He chose to become a human being with all the weakness and inability that entails. He chose to live in the world with all the mess, trouble and pain that entails. And he chose to take the punishment of each person who ever lived, is livings, or will ever live, due to sin. All of this is because he loves all people, and values all people.

We are designed to live like Jesus. We are supposed to act, speak and think like Jesus. We are supposed to have his values, motivations and priorities.

However, we are not in a position to manipulate our heart. We need to keep close in our relationship with the Father. We need to focus our hearts on him, and receive all the grace and love that he gives. And we need to be open, available and expectant of positive change. Maybe, we should be bold in prayer.

Imagine honestly seeking God for changes in our heart and lives to love and value people as much as he does.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Identity in Christ - 47 (Reconciled)

Since, the first people disobeyed God, each person begins his life as God's enemy. The world is in an active state of war; and we are part of the rebel army.

It is worse, in that it is a civil war. All the people, whom God intended to be family -- his family -- are engaged in a war against him, and against each other.

The enemy actively pursues a course of terrorism. He lies. He sabotages. He tries to instill a life focused on fear and insecurity. He wants people to pursue a life absorbed in seeking love, peace and purpose away from the Creator and Father of all.

The enemy wants people to attempt to satisfy their thirst from an empty bucket. And people do. Day after day, they put an empty bucket to their lips, trying to find a drop of water. 

We have discussed here that people were designed to find life in their spirits through a number of sources, but that relationship with the Father is the main source. And in some ways, it is the catalyst that allows all the other fuels to take effect.

It is like mankind is missing a necessary nutrient, that not only adds to the overall health of the body, but is also the only source of a nutrient that facilitates full absorption of all other nutrients. We can eat a steak, and process some of the protein. But most of it lies untouched in our stomachs until it is eliminated.

The Father knows this. We live, at best, half lives. But the Father has chosen to rebuild his family. He will reclaim his children. He will rebuild their lives. He will rebuild their relationships.

But first peace must be made. A road built from the rebel camp to the Father's house, table and open arms. And people are unable to build that road. So, the Father paid the cost, and built it. It goes through the cross of Jesus.
  • God's Perspective
God's purpose is to restore his family. And the family cannot restored unless peace is restored. So, he took steps. He provided for right standing in his family for each of us. He took initiative to find each person and invite them to return home.

Reconciliation is about the process of restored peace. We have peace with God. We are his child, and in his family. we are no longer part of the enemy's army. Whatever separated us, put enmity in our relationship, is removed. God's anger at our rebellion is satisfied.

And since he controls the faucet, the source of our "water," our buckets are no longer empty. We can drink our fill.
  • Living My LIfe
God's purpose is ensuring that everyone he is given peace. He needs to tell everyone there is room at the table. There is sufficient water for everyone.

And we become the showcase  for these things. We demonstrate what "un-thirsty" lives look like. We demonstrate what life with the Father looks like. We demonstrate lives at peace.

And, as the Father gives people invitations to return, we are part of the welcoming committee. We are one of those handing out invitations. (And this is not a reference to religious tracts. Not that I am not against giving someone a souvenir -- a reminder of a positive encounter with the family of the living God.)

A large part of God's family is so caught up in the "religious life" that they do not have or opportunity to bring peace into the world. Moreover, they become offended when the enemy begins a campaign to bring down God's family, or to negate the positive effects of God's family.

Whining about the state of the world distracts people from God's relationship with the Family, from demonstration of nature, and demonstration of the superiority of what it means to be in his family. We prevent ourselves from experiencing his peace. We kick over our bucket of "water," and turn off the faucet.

I am not saying we should be glad about bad things happening. But, if our response pulls away from relationship, it facilitates the enemy's plans and not the Father's. And if our response stops us from experiencing peace, it is not a response from God. And we need to consider another way to deal with bad things.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Identity in Christ - 46 (Quickened)

“Quicken” comes from an old fashioned English word for life. I think the compiler of the list used “quicken” so he could have a trait that began with “Q.” As far as I can tell, it was derived from a German word for the “inner life.” It seems to have something to do with the English expression “being quick,” that is, “alert, prepared, smart.”

The passage says that we were dead, because of our sins. However, God gave people life when Jesus rose from the dead.

There are two understandings of life in Scripture. One is animation. The heart beats. People inhale. Cells divide. Food is eaten, digested, processed, and produces growth and energy.

The other is abundance. Living as designed. Not merely existing, but having joy, peace and purpose. Looking at the day, not in dread, but in hope and expectation.
  • God’s Perspective

God did not create people to merely exist. Scripture lists a group of characteristics that describe what a person’s life should be like, if they lived truly in partnership with God’s spirit. This is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

God intended people to naturally express these things. But people are not like that. The naturally express selfishness, gloom, worry, irritation, cruelty, without integrity, not keeping promises, hardness, and vacillation. It is a life that is pushed around by circumstances, and not by the inner reality of who they are.
  • Living My Life 

I recently had someone ask me a question about Sabbaths and Sabbath years. Why did God include it in his commands? What were they for? I include it here, because it seems to me to be an example of God’s intention to promote life in his family.

God instituted the Sabbath after Israel left Egypt. They were slaves to the Egyptians. They worked seven days a week. Israel’s heart focus dwelt on what they needed to do. They lived with the idea that their actions had the biggest impact on their quality of life. They lived with the rhythms of Egyptian life, where religious rituals placated their gods, and kept them favorably disposed to them. Israel adopted this mind set.

God instituted the Sabbath to introduce a rhythm of rest into the life of Israel. Rest is necessary for physical health. Rest is necessary for spiritual health.

The Sabbath is a regular reminder that our lives are not operated at an optimal level by what we do. We live optimal lives in relationship with the Father. We live:
- In dependence on his activity on our behalf. 
- In close connection and communication with him.
- In the realization that he is sold out for us.

“Being quickened” might be best considered as an attitude and a perspective, rather than a practice. Practices will arise. Whatever occurs in our inner being always results in some type of activity.

The Sabbath was intended to reinforce God’s design that people receive life when they rest, are dependent, in their Father. The primary way god’s family receives life is in rest, dependence, faith and relationship with the Father. We receive grace and love from him in relationship, based on our heart focus. If our heart focus is on our energy and work, we will cut ourselves off from relationship, and we will experience a loss of life, frustration, worry, powerlessness, and negativity. If it is focused on our relationship, we will live out our identity in him. We will live out his presence in us.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Identity in Christ - 45 (Priest)

A priest mediates between God and other people. He represents God top people. He represents people to God. He explains God’s nature and character. He explain what gains God’s approval. He explains how people should live.

When God chose Abraham and built the nation of Israel, he gave them the Law and chose the whole nation – every one of them – to be his priests. When the whole nation fell into disobedience, and only one tribe heeded his call for repentance and to remove the bad influences from among them, he changed the scope of his plan, and made just that tribe his priests.

After Jesus came, God chose a new set of priests. It is not the church professionals. It is not the pastors. It is not the Christian celebrities. It is everyone who gives their allegiance to Jesus.

If you have given your allegiance to Jesus, if you have chosen to follow and walk with him, you are his priest.

God went back to his original plan. All of his family are his priest.
  1. Each one mediates between God and people.
  2. Each one represents God to people.
  3. Each one represents people to God.
  4. Each one explains God’s nature and character.
  5. Each one explains how people should live.

We may not be professional Christians (Pastors, Bible college professors, missionaries – though I will have more to say about the last one when we get to our identity trait of “sent ones.”) but we are his priests. Because God has shown us his goodness, we can show others his goodness.
  • God’s Perspective

It does not take a genius to realize that the world is not how God intended it to be. It is not God’s will for a large percentage of the world to go hungry. It is not God’s will for there to be animosity, enmity and strife between people. It is God’s will for people to have relationship with him, to know his love and grace. It is God’s will for relationship with him to be the main catalyst for solving the wrongs in the world. It is God’s will for relationship with him to be the main agency of healing hearts, healing relationships, and providing fulfillments of lives and dreams.

And, as we have said before, God has chosen partnership with his family. His children are his hands and feet in the world. Each child is his priest. Each child is a conduit of grace and love in the world. The world sees the face of God in each child. 
  • Living My Life

Often, people do not take their office as priest. There is an assumption that a certain level of education, or gift is needed. There is an assumption of a special invitation by God. Well, Scripture says “You are his holy priests.” There is his special invitation.

In any organization with many people, (“organization” meaning “a group of people assembled for a common purpose, seeking to achieve a common goal”) rules and roles are established to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and to eliminate confusion. So, usually leaders are recognized to achieve that.

But that does not eliminate a role God has given all his children. I have been to a church meeting, seen someone desire to give their allegiance to Jesus, and the person who acted as priest, led them to the precipice of decision, now call one of the leaders to help the person step over the edge, and into the family of God.

I have no problem with leaders helping others take those last few steps into allegiance with Jesus. I do have a problem with ones abdicating their responsibility as priest, because they feel it is not their place, or they don’t know how.

There is only one high priest … and his name is Jesus. All other family members are priests. Equal in rank and responsibility. All priests should pray, teach, counsel, love, serve, and administer spiritual rites. (Because of legalities, perhaps not all should be involved in officiating at marriages. But all should be able to give counsel for marriage.) All should be able to baptize and institute the Lord’s Supper.

All are equal in rank and responsibility. Not all are equal in knowledge and maturity. The Bible does recognize there will be leaders. And it does give the leaders the responsibility to prepare God’s family to be priests. To understand and complete their responsibilities. And to give God’s family room to be God’s priests.

And it is the family’s responsibility to be open in pursuing the roles God gives. And god does give each one a role to walk in. He gives each one a part of his family to teach, encourage, and care for. He gives each one a part of the world to show his love and character to. He give each one assignments of prayer, love, and faithful service. We need to recognize and assume our priestly responsibilities and pursue them.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Heart Vs Head

In the last few weeks, I have encountered several conversations where someone said, "You can't learn this with your head, you need to learn it with you heart." I confess this causes some problems for me.

Years ago, I ran into the term "heart" in the Bible, and, given the different ways the word is used in English, I wrestled some with understanding it. After going through a process -- too long to describe here, even if I could remember it -- I decided that "heart" was a lot like the physics term "center of mass." The center of mass is a point in an object that if you pushed that point, you could say you pushed the object. The point defined the object in a way.

"Heart" defined the "center of personality." A word that encapsulated a person's entire inner life. All emotional, cognitive, volitional and spiritual aspects of a person's life lie in his heart. They co-mingle, relate and are interdependent. Common thinking compartmentalizes these things.

Recently, I looked at these things again. Evidently, the people in Jesus' day had a similar view. Both Greeks and Hebrews, as far as I can tell, had a word that is translated "heart" into English, but comprises the entire inner being. Not just emotional or spiritual, but intellect, imagination, volition ... all of these are put in one box and decorated with a big, red bow. Your spirit is not separate from your mind. They are joined.

So, when someone says "heart, not mind," are they saying in order to learn something I have to shut my brain off? Or are they saying I need to go through a particular experience, and meditating on Scripture just won't cut it.

I understand the difference between knowledge and experience. It is one thing for your mother to say, "Don't touch the hot stove. You will get burned and it will hurt." It is another to touch the hot stove. You will learn from both. The latter will take the learning process an order of magnitude further.

Even so, my mind gets engaged. Any experience I have gets recorded and stored in memory. Vivid experiences get marked for easier recall. And I automatically go I to evaluation mode. Is it good? Bad. Pleasant? Painful?

Part of the transformation/restoration process is learning "spiritual discernment." God doesn't want spiritual babies. He wants spiritual men and  women, who are wise, compassionate and effective partners. They enter into situations and see them as God sees them. They feel as God feels about them. They judge as God judges. I am not talking about condemning. But God does look at all decisions and circumstances, and asks "Does this advance my kingdom? Does this demonstrate love? Is this good for my children and family? How should I speak into this to bring out the most good?"

We all practice this discernment at some level. Part of God's transforming process is the adjustment of our "mental filters" so we have his perspective.

People naturally try to simplify situations in order to deal with complexity. One tool of simplification is compartmentalization. We break down different parts of life into separate rooms. I don't blame people for it. I do it also. But life is not a bunch of separate rooms. It flows and runs together. The cooking,  cleaning,  sleeping and laundry are all done in one really,  big room. God works to bring a pattern and a rhythm to this chaos. And we become more authentic, integrated and whole as we learn to live it and embrace it.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Identity in Christ - 44 (Predestined)

As I pointed out when we discussed "elect," understanding about the trait "predestined" has gotten colored largely by the writings of the theologian, John Calvin. Again, I am not a follower of John Calvin. Nor perhaps even a good understander of ... But the term is used in the Bible.

Given my limited understanding of the original language, the word rendered "predestined" is a compund word: a word meaning "before" and a word from which the English word "horizon" is derived. And "horizon" has the inherent concept of "established boundaries" or "established limits." So, we are talking about pre-established boundaries.

Scripture says that before the beginning of time, God looked at each person to come. He chose to love those in Christ. He chose those in Christ to be holy. He chose to use the work of Jesus on the cross to bring us into his family.

● God's Perspective
It's one thing to say God chose before time those who would follow him, as some seem to say. It's another to say God chose before time how he would deal with those who chose to follow him.

It seems from my non-Calvinistic perspective, that what God determined beforehand was how he was going to treat those who gave him allegiance.

Even if he looked into the future at our lives, he would say, "That one is in Christ. I will love him, set him apart (or make holy) and bring him into my family." God decided before time to think about, act toward and relate with his children in a particular manner.

● Living My Life
I don't know about you,  but I find I fail pretty consistently. I think wrong. I speak wrong. I do wrong. It is an encouragement to know that God has chosen how to interact with me, and because he does not lie, and always keeps his promises, he will always interact in the same way. Seeing my failures does not make me less his child. It does not affect any of the attention, time, energy or resources he has involved in restoring me to my original design, to Christ's image.

If the Father perseveres, then I can have hope, and I can persevere. And when I fall, I don't have to remain in the mud. It means something to get back on my feet,  and to choose to move forward.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Identity in Christ - 43 (Partaker in Christ)

In the original language, "partaker" literally means "to have with." So, other versions render it: to share in, to participate in. It begins to sound like being "the owner of all." Except that the write adds some conditions. He writes that if we are faithful to God's commands, then we can share in all that God commands.
  • God's Perspective
So, is this requirement of faithfulness to avoid punishment? We have said here numerous times that God's plan is to create a family of restored (or in the process of restoration) people. God designed people. He gave his commands as guides toward living as he designed. As we are faithful, we flow in agreement with our design.
Maybe being not able to share in God's resources is not a punishment. Maybe it is a natural result of not living as we were designed. And this is a warning like "don't touch the hot stove."
There is another aspect of this. If we move away from faithfulness, we move away from God. We break -- at least temporarily -- the relationship we have with God. God's resources flow through that relationship. It is our connection to him that allows us to be partakers, sharers and participants.
  • Living My Life
God does not demand faithful obedience or else. It is a warning that we will miss true, genuine life, because we will be living in a way that flows against the flow of God's Spirit. Living in faithfulness to God's commands means we remain connected to our source of life. The Spirit will flow towards us and fill our hearts with grace, love and all of his other resources.
Lack of faithfulness means death, because we are cutting ourselves off from the source of life.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Identity in Christ? (Prisoner of Christ)

This was included in the list of identities. (As I said in the beginning, I did not compile the list, I received it. I would have made sure it was in alphabetic, not quasi-alphabetic.) There are renderings into English of the original language as "the prisoner of the Lord." Other versions put it "prisoner for the Lord." Based on my limited knowledge of the original language, I would say the latter rendering is more accurate.

Which means being a prisoner is not an identity of being in Christ. It is a result of that identity.

Who a person is, dictates what a person does. We are what we are deep in the core of our being. This is true of any person, no matter who. So, the writer was in prison -- literally, in prison -- because he lived from his heart, obeyed God's vision for him, and offended a whole lot of people. (Although, it was probably not his individual behavior that offended. Rather, it was his ontinual confounding of the "experts." The experts were offended, because he kept showing them they were not so expert.)

Although, we always live from our hearts, we don't always live in agreement with our hearts. We have been born into the world, which is corrupted by sin, and chose to give God our allegiance. God has given us a spiritual DNA injection, and our spiritual transformation/restoration to our original design is assured. But we are in the "process" of transformation and restoration.

Moreover, in this life, we have made agreements, and given ourselves promises. This means, because of circumstances we have gone through, we have reached certain conclusions about ourselves, the world and God. This conclusions form a filter and frame of reference through which we live. And too often, the conclusions compel us to live wrongly.

The process of spiritual transformation is assured. We can cooperate with the process by changing perceptions and perspectives ... coming to new conclusions and agreements, and therefore, changing the filters.

So, the process of exploring our identity in Christ is a way of making these changes. We see God more truly. We begin to see ourselves as God sees us. Agreements and conclusions are proven false. And we begin to live in congruence with how God designed us.

The world still lives in agreement with the lies of the enemy. So, if we are living in agreement with our identity in Christ, we will cug across agreements of the world. And the world will react. And we will get caught in the reaction. We will suffer pain as a result.

And it is not pain because of thinking wrongly, acting wrongly or speaking wrongly. It is the opposite. (Doesn't mean there won't be pain because we act like jerks. Which Christians sometimes do.)

The world and this life will be a source of pain, no matter if you choose to live in agreement with the enemy,  or live in agreement with the Creator.

In this series, we are contending that God views us in a particular way(s), and that if we embrace it (them), we will move closer to living how God designed us, and we will move the world closer to how God designed it. And we will experience good, bad, reactions for God, and reactions against God. We will fail. We sill triumph. But we should never measure our ultimate value, progress or standing with God based on any of that. We should believe we are, what God says we are.

Monday, October 12, 2015

All Things for Good - 1

Because of what the Lord shared with me (here) about how he speaks into our situations, bringing good into the situations, and also bringing good into our relationships with the Father, I have spent more time actually asking the Father what he has been saying about different situations.
There is a couple we know. We are very invested in their lives. We care very deeply for them. And they have chosen to end their marriage. We are extremely sad. We have prayed. We have talked. We have agonized.
I finally asked Father what he was speaking into this situation, because I certainly did not see much good coming from it.
He spoke to me almost immediately, and said "I hate divorce." And I got the distinct feeling he was not just speaking about this marriage. And he was not just speaking about marriage.
God designed people to live in relationship. Especially with him. We can see all over -- in the news, in our lives -- relationships are being broken left and right. And God hates it. God hates divorce, because it is a broken relationship.
Then God said, "I know this situation is a mess. And I know the pain you feel. This is how I feel whenever a relationship is broken. This is how I feel when anyone chooses not to follow me."
God made people for relationship with him. God made people to know him, to be blessed by him, and to be made complete by that relationship. There are people, who have no knowledge of him. There are people, who have knowledge of God, but choose not to pursue a relationship with him. And there are people, who know about and have chosen to begin a relationship, and then, have walked away from God.
People do walk away. Things do not live up to expectations. Maybe life did not become easier. Maybe they did not live up to other's expectations. (Expectations usually from other people, and not from God.)
In all these cases, relationship with God is not formed as it should. And it quite simply brings pain to God's heart.
God says he will speak to every situation and bring good from it. I do not see and practical good at the moment in this situation. But I do understand God's heart better:
  • He is experiencing pain in this too.
  • He is also experiences the same sort of pain with those who do not know him.
    • People on TV: refugees, sports stars, reporters, actors.
    • People at work.
    • People in my neighborhood.
    • People in my family.
I am amazed at how big God's heart is. And I am amazed at how big my heart should be. And how my heart should be used.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Identity in Christ - 42 (Overcomer)

When we give our allegiance to God, a number of things happen. One thing that happens, we beome a child of God. God becomes our Father. We become part of his family. A new position. A new status.

A second thing, there is a change in our hearts. It is like God injects new spiritual DNA into our innermost being. As spiritual mitosis takes effect, this new DNA takes root, increases and we undergo change. Change will continue until the old DNA is gone, and only the new remains. At that time, restoration to our original design is complete.

As we have discussed before, this process will never be complete in this life. We will make progress. It should be significant progress.

This DNA transplant will affect every area of our lives, but it will be seen especially in a few areas.
      - We will grow in love for the Father.
      - We will grow in love for God's other children.
      - We will have a new attitude toward God's commands.

● God's Perspective

The main battle against the enemy is getting people to change their hearts, to give allegiance to the Father, to join his family. Once that decision is made from the heart, the Holy Spirit, who is both the carrier of this new spiritual DNA, and the DNA itself, invades our innermost being. At that point, it's all over but the shouting. Our faith has defeated the enemy. We are liberated from the enemy's kingdom. We are part members of God's family.  The enemy has lost any claim on us. Transformation to spiritual perfection is assured. Again, not in this lifetime. But the process has begun. It cannot be stopped.

God's commands are not just a set of limitations to keep us penned. They are guides toward Christ's image. All the commands in the Old Testament were intended to guide Israel to holiness. Towards Israel becoming separate from the world. Not a separation of disengagement.  A separation of distinction with engagement.  A separation defined by the quality of life that demonstrates God's design for people, and, therefore,  demonstrates God's superior way of living.

And all of the commands in the Old Testament are intended to guide people to Jesus. It is impossible to obey them.

Commands are valuable as guides. They give clues for life and conduct. Jesus said we only need to know one ... "love." "Love" obeys all the commands of God. Now, Jesus does instruct in other areas how to give love further resolution.  But all we really need to know is love.

● Living My Life

Many people walk in fear. They give their allegiance to Jesus. They get adopted into the family. Now, they feel they need to toe the line, or God will get angry, and toss them out of the family.

Before someone gives their allegiance to Jesus, they ars rebels and enemies. And God views people and their sin in that light. Sin is an act of war and rebellion.

After someone gives their allegiance to Jesus, they are beloved children. These people are dead to sin and alive to God. God views those people and their sin in that light.

Please do not misunderstand. Sin is still serious. God still hates it. But I think to God it tKes on a different flavor. It becomes less an act of war, and more an interference.

God designed men to have relationship with God. This relationship is man's main heart "fuel." Man is "powered" to experience life truly. Sin in his children does not make God mad as much as it makes him sad. Sad, because his children have chosen an inferior life. Sad, because the relationship God has made people for is broken.

The relationship can be fixed.  As we chose to follow Jesus in repentance and faith,  we can choose relationship again in the same way. Still, too often, we rob ourselves by delay.

And if we walk in fear of our Father rejecting us, it can have the same effect as sin. Our focus is not on experiencing the relationship with our Father, and not expressing life as we intended to live it.

We need to focus on living the relationship,  knowing God,  being present with him. The relationship leads directly to connection to our main "fuel" and directly to accelerating spiritual transformation.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Identity in Christ - 41 (Owner of All)

Or as one version puts it: "Everything belongs to you."
Now, does this mean I own the Eiffel Tower? Or Harvard University? I don't think so. So, what does it mean? Maybe we  need to look at the story.
This was written to a group of God's people who were experiencing some issues. One of the issues was disunity based on a popularity contest. That is, people in this group were divided, and quarreled, because they admired different leaders.

Because unity is one of God's foremost values for his people. this needed to be taken seriously. So, the writer addresses the issue. He points out that:
They were not living as they were designed.
  1. The men they admired were all servants of God, and each has their part of God's mission.
  2. Their parts are all important, though each one is different, but God has the most important part. It is he who causes the growth and the spiritual transformation.
  3. The objective of God's work, and the work of each of these men, is the increase and growth of God's family in Christ. Christ is the core, the end and the foundation.
So, Christ must be seen in every weave, every fiber and every filament of God's family. If Christ is not seen, then no matter how eloquent or brilliant they may seem, their work is dust and ashes. Everything these men do should further God's mission, which is the growth of God's family.

Then, the writer says "Everything belongs to you."
Again, the writer is not referring to Harvard, the Washington Monument, or other man-made property or object. He is referring to God's kingdom. All of God's kingdom belongs to all of God's family.
  • God's Perspective 
God's kingdom works in an upside down manner. In the world, leaders are first in position, first in privilege. In God's kingdom, leaders are servants.
In God's kingdom, leaders become leaders, because they have:
    • grown in their relationship to the Father.
    • gone further in being restored to their original design.
    • consistently serve others by helping others grow in their relationship to the Father, and make progress in reclaiming their original design. 
In God's kingdom, leaders are leaders because they pend time and energy showing others how to be leaders in God's kingdom, pushing others ahead of them, and seeking to have no job or position. (If leaders have pushed everyone ahead of themselves -- everyone else knows the Father better than they do, everyone else has been restored more fully than they have -- then they have given themselves a promotion to follower.)

And God demonstrates that he is a leader, because he gives 100% of his time, 100% of his energy, 100% of his attention, and 100% of his resources to each one of us, to foster his relationship with each one of us, and to rebuild our original design.

God does not consider leaders more than others. He had put his kingdom at everyone's disposal.
  • Living My Life
God's intention is that everyone becomes a leader. Everyone takes the resources of God's kingdom and uses them to promote everyone else's relationship with the Father, and everyone else's restoration. (And if someone does not have a relationship with the Father, God's children use God's resources to help that someone begin a relationship with the Father.)

Ultimately, nothing can stop god's plan. The only thing that might slow it down, is God's children not rising to their destiny, not living out their identities, not using their resources and not obeying Jesus' commands.

There have been movements of God in the past, and God will begin movements in the future, because men have put impediments to God's Spirit flowing through people. Such as, only certain men have the resources to do certain things. God has given us all things. There should be no check to the move of God's Spirit. If there is a check to God's Spirit, God did not put it there.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Identity in Christ - 40 (New Creation)

This identity trait spans all of a person’s being, except perhaps their physical body. Immediately anyway.

When we give our allegiance to Jesus:
  • We see God in a new way. As Lord, Father, Friend, Helper, Guide and Teacher.
  • We see the world in a new way. If it filled with people who are enemies and rebels of God, who is the rightful ruler of the world. But rebels and enemies who are loved by God. He has literally invested blood, sweat and tear into each and every one.
  • We see ourselves in a new way. We were once one of those rebels and enemies. We are now accepted and valued members of God’s family. We are a strategic part of God’s mission. All of these identities become ours, the moment we choose allegiance.
  • We have gone through Jesus’ cleaning process. We were crucified with Christ. We died, were buried, were resurrected and were glorified (and will be glorified) with Jesus. We went through God’s judicial process, and found guilty, but the penalty was already paid.
  • He put his Spirit in our hearts. He is god’s guarantee that we will always be part of his family, and one of his children.
  • We are going through God’s transforming process. His Spirit makes us God’s possession, child, subject and friend. It also inject new spiritual DNA into our life. Cell by cell, it grows this new life in us. Moment by moment, he speaks to us, encourages us, teaches us, and guides us. He works through the barriers in our hearts, creating channels for this new life. Over time, whole walls – habits, thinking patterns, past decisions and agreements – will collapse, allowing whole vistas of new life to flow through. 
  • God’s Perspective
We have only scratched the surface of what it means to be “new.” We have only scratched the surface of how God views it. But God has declared all these things I have just said, all the identities that I have gone through, and all the identities that I have yet to go through, to be true. They are true now. Moreover, he acts towards us based on their truth.
  •  Living My Life
God says we are new, and all these things are true. And he treats us, and acts towards us, on the basis of these things being true. And I confess I have no idea of all the ramifications of this. In each identity trait, we have caught a small glimpse of what this means. Ultimately, we need to embrace and live this truth. We are new.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

All Things Work For Good

The Bible says that all things work for good. All things means all things. The good, the bad and the ugly.

The Bible also says that the best thing is a relationship with the Father. As we have discussed before, as the physical body needs many different nutrients for optimal health, the human spirit needs many different nutrients (love, beauty, purpose, meaning, etc.) for the same reason. The main nutrient is a relationship with the Father. So, God works all things for good, but with a special filter and priority toward growth in relationship with the Father.

Suppose someone chooses to indulge in an addictive behavior, and God chooses to discuss it with him. Some people would think that God would say: "You are being really bad. You better stop doing this, or I will cut you off." Others would think: "You are being bad. You dishonor me. This does damage to my name."

But what if God is saying: "You are holding pain in your heart. You are trying to comfort yourself with this behavior. It will never bring you comfort. You must learn to turn to me."

Or what if someone loses their job. Many people would be sad, worried or afraid. God is concerned about the way people live. His primary message may be: "You should be more faithful to your employer by being more punctual or respectful. You should be more diligent in completing your work assignments."

But maybe his main message is: "You have bound your identity to your job. It is a temporary thing. Just as I provide for the birds, I can easily provide you a better job. But you cannot get a better relationship than mine. Let you identity be bound to me, and your heart to me."

Maybe in each circumstance, there is an invitation to greater relationship and greater obedience.

UPDATE: God speaks to each situation to bring good. Since, his priority is relationship -- his relationship with you -- he leans toward speaking about relationship. He may share a way that helps you improve the relationship. He may simply remind you of your identity in Christ, or one of its facets. It is through this identity and its facets that he views you and deals with you.