Friday, January 30, 2015

God and Holes in the Heart

God designed people to run on certain fuels. Just as the human body needs a number of different nutrients, the human spirit also needs a number of different “nutrients.” (I use the term “fuels.”) One of the primary fuels is our relationship with God. We could even consider it the first fuel, because the others need to rest on it. For example, love from other people is another primary fuel. Our love-relationship with God is the foundation that our love-relationship rests on. It is not that a relationship with people, without God, will not provide power. But the relationship with God is a key catalyst that magnifies the effects of the relationship with people. The relationship with people is processed better. Purpose is another primary fuel. The relationship with God provides a channel to focus the effects of purpose through.

Sin broke the relationship with God. Before Jesus, we live without this primary fuel. And each person’s heart has holes with no way to fill them. When we give Jesus our allegiance, God comes into relationship with us, and he begins supplying the fuel and filling the holes.

Often, without a God-relationship, people try to use other fuels as the first fuel. This fails, of course. The human body needs both salt and water. But it does no good to overdose on one, in hopes it will make up for a lack of the other.

Even with a God-relationship, people will still try to use other fuels in the wrong way. God made male and female. God made them so that together they might represent him, to display his nature. So, in most cases, he will put one male and one female together, forming this wonderful thing called family. The male/female combination is good. Family is good. But we all know people who believe that what is required for them to achieve eternal bliss, heaven on earth, irrepressible joy, is involvement in their own male/female combination. As anyone who has been married for a while will tell you, it’s a lie. (I am married. I like being married. My wife is wonderful. I cannot conceive of any circumstances that would convince me to become un-married.) But I am beginning to wonder if, overall, there are not more problems as a result of marriage. Many problems occur as a result of relationship issues. More relationships, more problems. Do people have more relationships before or after they get married? And let us understand, problems do not necessarily mean there is animosity between people in a relationship.

Because people misuse these other fuels, when we accept Jesus, when the Holy Spirit takes up residence, a person’s heart can be really messed up. Even with our Father, who loves us, properly applying this first fuel, there is still a lot of cleaning, repairing and restoring to make an individual heart the way it should be.

And some people do not seem to get past this misuse. They do not seem to learn how sold out their Father is for them, for their good and they do not learn how to correctly utilize the first fuel that their Father gives them.

And sometimes, this misuse spreads to things that are not fuel at all.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Identity in Christ - 10 (Citizen of Heaven)

In the passage where Paul proclaims we are citizens of heaven, he is urging followers of Christ to live a new lifestyle. Live a lifestyle that he himself models. There are many who proclaim their allegiance to Jesus, but they do not have a lifestyle that demonstrates it. If our allegiance is to Jesus, our first consideration is Jesus. Does our lifestyle agree with Jesus? Does it honor Jesus? Does it present him positively? There are people who say they are aligned with Jesus, but their behavior shows their primary pursuit is their own appetites.

The passage says that such people are headed for destruction. Many interpret this as such people will receive God's divine judgment. This is a logical conclusion, but not the only conclusion. Because we are designed for relationship with the Father, we know that obedience to him is the best way to pursue that relationship. To pursue anything else, we are headed in a direction that goes against our design. If we change the oil in our car in agreement with its design specs, we increase its life and efficiency. If not, we introduce destruction.

The passage also says we are citizens of heaven. We are citizens of the kingdom where Jesus is living now. Our home is not where we are living now. Our home is in heaven with our Father and Jesus the Lord.

● God's Perspective
God considers us citizens of his kingdom already. Even if we are not living in the land, we have the rights and privileges of citizens. We have protection under God's law of love and provision in grace. We have 24x7x365 access to the king, and he gives us 100% focused attention. We are the Father's children and heirs. We have authority to change the landscape of the world, if we understand his heart and learn to trust him to work.

● Living My Life
Of course, citizens of all kingdoms have responsibilities as citizens. But citizens of God's kingdom have more, because they are not just citizens. They are God's diplomatic corps. They are God's representatives.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Identity in Christ - 9 (Blessed)

It should be obvious when someone begins going through a quasi-alphabetical list that eventually one will come across an object that presents more of a mystery. "Blessed" is one such.

One, it seems too general. Being "adopted" is a blessing. Being "appointed" is a blessing. All parts of identity in Christ are blessings.

Two, I have a Bible passage associated with each identity trait. The passage associated with "blessed" uses the same word from the original language three times. Well, not the same word precisely. The first "blessed" is related to the Father. The intent is giving thanks or praise. It is a celebration of God's generosity to us.

The second two are used together. One is in verb form; one is in noun form. And I'm sorry, but "being blessed with blessings" just sounds foreign to this English speaker. The verb refers to generous giving,  producing prosperity and happiness. The noun refers to numerous benefits given to us.  The passage actually says "all the blessings. "

When we gave our allegiance to Jesus, we became citizens of his kingdom and members of his family. Right at that moment, all the privileges of citizenship become ours. Right at that moment, all the privileges of family became ours. We were given our own set of keys to the house. If God's family had a family car, we would be given keys to it too. If God's kingdom had elections, we would have gotten our polling place card.

● God's Perspective
We are given all the blessings. It is true,  we may not be experiencing all the blessings. But we do have the right and authority to reach out and access them.  If we are a member of the country club, we have a right to golf. We also have the right to use a golf cart. Because we like to walk, or don't know where the golf cart garage is, does not mean that we are not allowed to use one. Maybe we need to ask a question. Like "Where is the garage?" And "how do I get the keys? "

We are members of the family. It doesn't matter who we were or are, we are not cut off from the blessing of God. We are not banned from access to blessing, because of age, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, position or title (or lack of position or title) or education. We gain access to the blessings of the Father, based on the fact that we are members of the family of God, and how much trust we put in the generosity of our Father. I need to recognize my need for what God has to give, and to recognize his willingness and desire to give it.

● Living My Life
Many of God's children live like orphans. They assume they need to go through life using their will power, their resources and their strength.

This is especially true regarding making changes to their life to live in agreement with God's design. The more deeply rooted a pattern (sin or otherwise) is in their life, the more fixed it is in their hearts. And all of our strength and will power has no effect on our hearts. We might be able to say "no" to something for a while, but we will always fall back into old patterns and failures.

The Father has what we need to live out our decisions. He has resources to restore our hearts. And he wants to make these resources available. We need to trust his generosity. We need to trust that what he makes available is sufficient.

Maybe we need to be given more to prayer -- to identify the holes in our hearts, to request the resources to fill them. Maybe we need to trust his generosity more.

If a father, who is perfectly faithful and trustworthy, promises to deposit some money in their child's account to provide for a need, should the child wait for some outside confirmation? Or should the child just write the check? It is human to wait for confirmation. It is trust to write the check.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Identity in Christ - 8 (Baptized into Christ)

I sometimes wonder if "died with Christ," "buried with Christ" and "raised with Christ" ought to be done as a unit.  I am sure that there are details that are true in each item, that are valuable to understand.  But all three items form a continuum in our spiritual experience.

But it is "baptism into Christ" that actualizes all three items. "To baptize" means "to immerse" or "to place into" in the original language.  Linguists have found a pickle recipe where the vegetable should be baptized in vinegar. It is also used for "submerged" as in "sunken ships."

The Bible says we are "baptized into Christ." This is a process of identification.  When we give Jesus our allegiance,  the Bible says we were placed into his family,  and we were also placed into his body. It is as though we were inserted into Jesus' being.

It would perhaps be more accurate to say that the Father no longer views us without Jesus being in the picture. God views us with Jesus-colored lenses. We are Jesus-colored. We are continually followed around by a bright neon sign, with an arrow pointing down, that says "Jesus here."

● God's Perspective
As far as the Father is concerned,  when he looks at us, he sees Jesus. He sees his son, his heir,  his beloved.  He sees the one he will have a relationship of joy with forever.

He does not overlook or ignore our behavior.  But it is not the basis for how he treats us. The basis for how he treats us is Jesus, who is in us,  and who we are in. We will continue to look at how God treats our behavior,  but suffice it to say here, (since we just looked at "buried with Christ") that our old life, our old behavior, is dead and buried. God's concern is energizing and empowering our righteous behavior.

● Living My Life
We have an interesting contrast. We have many people who have given their allegiance to Jesus, and are attempting to follow him. They gave all their attention to that behavior that died and was buried with Jesus. Our Father gives all his attention to behavior that accompanies the new life that Jesus gave us.

We focus all our time and energy on stopping behavior that displeases God. God focuses his time and energy on promoting new behavior that agrees with our new nature, because the old is dead.

It seems to me that our thinking is backwards.  It is not that God wants us to continue engaging in sinful behavior.  We should both stop doing bad stuff and start doing good stuff. But too many people give all their attention to the stopping part.

It will never be enough to just stop.  Life, growth and renewal will always have a doing part. And it is always a 180° reversal of the stopping. Some of these are obvious. (Stop stealing; start being generous. ) Some will not be so obvious. But the result will always be a life more like Jesus.