Sunday, December 25, 2016

Love Behaves Properly; God Behaves Properly

The word in the original language can be translated "without proper shape or form." It has been rendered in English as: unseemly, improperly, and rude. It reminds me of someone trying to put a round peg into a square hole.

All societies and cultures have "rules" about what is appropriate behavior in different circumstances. For example, it would not be considered proper to proclaim (loudly) a person's failures, weaknesses, or deficiencies at his funeral. Nor would it be appropriate to climb on a table, and dance, at that same funeral. All sorts of "rules" are developed to give guidance to all sorts of behaviors: greetings, how to address, eating, and passing through another's personal space. Not following these rules is making a statement about one's attitude towards other people, their worth, their capacity, and ranking. Not following the rules says "You're nothing," "I'm better than you," and "I'm more important."

Jesus came, and assumed the form and life of a human being. He did this, so he could be the perfect representative of all human kind, and, as that representative, satisfy God's justice for the rest of the human race.

And in this coming, by and of itself, God proclaims in a loud voice, that people have worth, people have value. He proclaims his love, and that he will do all that is within his power to bring people home.

There is a passage in the Bible that says, if God acted and went so far as to guarantee that God's justice will be satisfied for us (in other words, he has already done the hardest, most painful thing for us) it is a piece of cake for him to do all the lesser things.

God will always act properly towards us. He will always put a square peg in a square hole.

Some people will point out that Jesus did not always treat the Pharisees appropriately. The Pharisees were so certain that there perspective on the truth was correct, they were not willing to consider alternatives. God wants relationship with everyone ... even the Pharisees. So, Jesus went beyond appropriate to shake them into seeing things in a new way. Normally, one does not push a stranger violently out of the way. It is not appropriate. But what if the stranger was about to get run over by a car?

If one of God's children is willing to listen, willing to change, willing to learn, God will always treat them properly. And the choice to give allegiance to Jesus demonstrates that willingness. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Love is Not Proud; God is Not Proud

The word for “proud” or “arrogant” in the original language is derived from a world meaning “puffed up” or “inflated.” Such a person sees himself as bigger than he really is.

He compares himself with those around him, and he is more and he has more. The arrogant always put themselves on top.

Love avoid comparison. Love knows its own failings. And if it does compare, it is ruthlessly honest. Because it sees its own failings, it does not consider itself better.

God is, of course, perfect. He is on top. He could look down on the rest of us. But he does not.

The incarnation demonstrates God’s attitude. God could have chosen to remain aloof. He could have stayed in heaven … looking down. Instead, he waded out into the sea of humanity. He got down on our level. He sat on the floor with the children.

Pride\arrogance separates. Love mixes. Love gets involved. And God got involved enough to actually become a person, and restore our lost relationship, and our lost design. God chose to reclaim his family, after that family turned on him.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Love Does Not Boast; God Does Not Boast

Love does not boast. The picture Scripture attempts to paint is a person, who seek to draw attention to himself by underlining his accomplishments and assets. Perhaps with considerate exaggeration.

Love does not need to be the center of attention. Love focuses outward, toward others.

Boast does speaking about one’s accomplishments equal boasting? Does Michael Phelps boast when he tells someone: “I won multiple Olympic God medals in swimming at the Olympics.” ?

Speaking the truth about accomplishments does not always constitute boasting. Love does not boast, therefore, God does not boast. But he is the Creator, the Redeemer. In him, all things hold together. He is the center.

People are designed to find meaning, worth, value and significance within a love relationship with God.

God is not jealous. But he says to us: “I made you for a relationship with me. You are seeking meaning and significance with all these other things, that will only leave you empty. You will only find heart fulfillment with me alone.”

God is not boastful. But he says: “I am the all-Knowing. I am the All-Powerful. I am the Ever Present. It is in me that you will find meaning and significance. It is in me that you will find rest, and real love.”

Because he is the Creator, the Designer, and the Center of All, there are difference in how he practices love, and how we practice love. Like some people, God can proclaim great and marvelous accomplishments. And he is simply proclaiming facts.

It is the nature of the upside down spiritual kingdom, that if we seek to put ourselves in the center, we pursue selfishness, and avoid love. If God puts himself in the center, he pursues love, making himself available, and is adopting a servant’s mind-set.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Love is not jealous; God is not jealous (or is he?)

The word in the original language generally means “having a strong, passionate emotion.” And when used intransitively is generally translated “jealous.” So, love is not jealous, therefore, God is not jealous. But God says “I am a jealous God.” This is a little confusing.


To put this into perspective, the word for “jealous” in the statement “I am a jealous God:”

·         It is only used of God.

·         It is only used six times.

·         It is only used in the Pentateuch.

·         It is only used after Israel leave Egypt.


Israel, during a time of famine, moved to live in Egypt. And they stayed 400 years. The learning, the culture, the philosophy, and the theology of Egypt seeped into Israel. They had upwards of 80 gods. It was alright to serve one, or all of them. And Israel had (unconsciously?) absorbed this concept and attitude. And it affected their practice.


Our Father is not just one god out of many. He is the only, true Creator and Father of All. And God needed to correct this type of thinking. And he used “jealous” to bump Israel out of its lethargic, lazy thinking.


God designed people for a love relationship with him. People thrive best when they flow with their design, and embrace that relationship.


“Jealousy” is generally understood as (a) seeing that somebody has something good, (b) wanting that something for yourself. “Love” is wanting the best for someone. It is the opposite of jealousy.


If God is “jealous”, it is because he wants people to embrace a love relationship with him … for which they have been designed for, for which life is best if they accept that relationship. So God is “jealous”, because he wants our best.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Love is Kind; God is Kind

Love is kind, so God is kind. The word in the original language is a unique blend of gentleness, and goodness.

In English, kind has a connotation of gentle. In other words, a kind person does not treat others harshly. A kind person has soft words, and actions. Even words or correction and rebuke are soft. They get the necessary point across, but without additional pain.

But, in the original language, the term has a component of being using, or being beneficial. There is a component of service. So, not only does a kind person not seek to cause pain and injury, but he uses words and deeds to benefit or enhance.

God could destroy us. God could inflict tremendous pain and punishment. As rebels against him, we deserve all of it. But he seeks the opposite. He seeks to build a family. He heals. He reconciles. He finds a way past sin and rebellion toward intimate relationship.

It is written in Scripture, that we change our direction in life, not because God threatens judgment, or punishes evil. We change our direction because God is kind to us. He acted to bring us back to him in Christ's death on the cross. He speaks to us to lead us to him, to restore our joy, and our original design. He provides for us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Love is Patient; God is Patient

This is not a new idea. The Bible says that God is love. That means that all the descriptions of love in the Bible are descriptions of God's nature.

The Bible says "love is patient." Patient in the original language is a compound word, coming from words for "long" and "temper."

There is an English term: "short-tempered." This is a person who is easily angered. He has a "short fuse"; he explodes quickly and easily.

Short-tempered people are frustrated by the loss of control, and unmet expectations. They run into a wall on the road of life. And because it is not easy to get around, or climb over, they bang their heads on it. And when the wall does not come tumbling down, they bang it again ... harder.

But our Father is the opposite. He is "long-tempered." He has a long fuse. He does not blow up. He waits ... and waits before expressing anger.

God is not ruled by circumstances. He is secure in his identity. He is secure in his purpose. He does not like the way the world is, but he is not controlled by it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Being the Church

The word in the original language for “church” gives the connotation of a “group of people assembled for a particular purpose.” The group of people brought together to govern a city was a common use of the word at that time. A volunteer fire company, a little league baseball team, and a chess club are current day examples.

To belong to a “church” is not unusual. It is the purpose that a “church” assembles its people for that makes a difference.

What is the purpose of the “church” of Jesus Christ?
  • To live in relation to the Creator and Father of All.
  • To give allegiance to Jesus Christ.
  • To participate in the re-creation of his kingdom by:
    • Adding to his family.
    • Restoring his design.
    • Demonstrating God’s purposes by walking in love and truth with God’s family\community.

The church is intended to be “Jesus walking in the world” today. We said said it several times here: God’s purpose is to build a family. Even though the world is filled with self, hate, and selfishness, God’s purpose has not changed. Jesus stepped into the world to facilitate God’s purposes. And we now take up Jesus’ role – to build God’s family.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Proof of Discipleship - 3

Another proof of discipleship is “unity.” I have written about this recently, a couple of times. So, this will be a short reminder.

Before he went to the cross, Jesus prayed that his disciples would be as united as he and the Father were united. And that unity is a demonstration, that the Father sent Jesus into the world, to call the world back to him.

And Jesus, the Father, and the Holy spirit have perfect unity. God’s children do not have perfect unity. But they should have an observable, practical, concrete unity. This unity should be built on love. So, we should be especially patient with one another. We should be especially kind to one another. We should bear with one another’s weaknesses, sins, “wrong” opinions, and bad decisions. It is that unity, which proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, which proclaims that God’s children are followers of the true Creator, and true Ruler. The way we act out our unity is a very loud voice in the world.

Imagine someone discussing the positives and negatives of different political candidates. People often say to not discuss religion or politics. This is because people can very emotional over these topics. A discussion can get very heated, to put it mildly. But because of the huge impact on life, these are things that should be discussed most. People invest a lot – emotion, time, energy, resources, identity – in these things.

Now, imagine these persons are part of the family of God. If I am united with my brothers and sisters in a love relationship with my Father, and with one another:
  • How do I treat their political views?
  • How do I discuss their candidates?
  • What words do I use to characterize these things?
  • How do I talk with other people, ones that I agree with, in this light?

Do I say to my brother, “I think you have been misinformed about issue ABC?” And say to others, “Anybody who thinks that about issue ABC is stupid.” Does that honor my brother? Does that honor the family of God? And ultimately, does it honor God?

Politics is very complex. I do not say there needs to be complete agreement in the family of God. I do not say there should be no discussion. I do say we need to be mindful that this person, with whom I have political disagreements, is my brother, and Jesus died for him. I still need to love, honor, and serve him, as much as any other member of God’s family.

And how does this color our treatment of people outside of God’s family?

Monday, October 31, 2016

I am the Vine - 3

We have seen as we connect our hearts to the Father, his love and grace flow into our hearts. As he has freedom to move, he re-creates our hearts, our lives, grows fruit, transforms us into his image, and restores our design.

We have seen that, as our hearts are transformed, our thoughts, desires, and motivations become more like Gods. We have his heart. We have his words. So, we seek him in prayer, and receive the fruit of him moving on our behalf. God is vitally concerned with all that is in our hearts, and all that concerns us. And he yearns to act on our behalf. Still, if his heart, and our hearts agree, he will act. Agreement among people is powerful. Agreement our people and God is infinitely powerful.

But there is more. We move into a greater experience of God’s love. And, as we obey, we continue in that experience of love. We were designed to live like Jesus. We were designed to look like Jesus. Sin entered the world, and our image, design, and nature broke. We learned, and became extremely proficient at sinning. The, we gave our allegiance to the Father, and he took us as his child. He began his restoration project in our lives.

We are designed for a love relationship with the Father. We live in harmony with the father’s design, maintain that relationship of love, and bear fruit as we walk in obedience. We are designed to live in joy and peace. We maintain the Father’s design as we walk in obedience.

The penalty for sin was mailed to the Cross. The power of sin was nailed to the Cross. We still need to deal with its presence, which has gotten woven tightly into our being. So, God seeks to restore his family, and God seeks to restore his children, so both work as designed.

We are appointed to love, to bear fruit, to be God’s family, and to walk in relationship with him.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Proof of Discipleship - 2b

In this passage, Jesus says if we keep connected, and his words remain in us, we can ask for anything we want, and God will grant our requests. Part of bearing fruit is praying, and God answering our prayers. God will listen to us, and do as we ask. But there are two conditions to this promise.


One, remaining connected. We have discussed this quite a bit. Have a practice of focusing and opening your heart to God. Allow God to reach in, healing, loving, and growing what is in our hearts. Allow the Spirit to dismantle sinful, wrong, and hurtful defenses that we erect to deal with painful experiences in life.


Two, keep ahold of Jesus’ words. In part, this means having a practice of receiving input from the Word. Reading. Meditating. And many would say, memorizing. Which is an obvious method of keeping Jesus’ words in us.


People, who practice memorizing Scripture, often testify to being in situations, not knowing what to do, when a passage of Scripture pops into their minds, providing appropriate action. Often, action that is contrary to standard wisdom, but it fits perfectly into this situation. These people say the Spirit can remind us of the most appropriate Scripture passages, if the Scripture is already inside our heads.


But these disciplines are intended to incorporate God’s word into our lives. (Please do not interpret this as, in any way, criticizing, or somehow negating these practices.) We do not want to create a religious practice, but to create an existential experience. The spirit and the Word will make the life of Jesus, our life. We will think the way he does. We will act the way he does. His motives become our motives. His passions become our passions.


So, when we pray, we are, by nature, by habit, seeking to create in the world, the reality God wants to create. We are flowing with God’s will, God’s desire for restoration. We will be motivated to conform ourselves to God’s image. We will desire god to have freedom to move in people’s hearts all over the world. We will want everyone to have a relationship with god, and experience his love. And we will pray to that end.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Proof of Discipleship - 2

Scripture says we prove we are Jesus’ disciples if we bear fruit. Fruit is the result of connection to Jesus the Vine. It is God’s life, love, and grace, that is allowed to flow through our lives, out into the world, to have an effect on the world.

Scripture does mention different kinds of fruit One is the “fruit of lips.” These are words spoken that honor God, whether in worship, prayer, or everyday conversation.

Scripture indicates it is difficult to control our words. Words are a definite indicator of what fills our hearts. They show what is real, what controls, what dominates in our hearts. We should not be surprised when wrong words, bad words, come from our mouths. Jesus killed and buried our old nature on the Cross. But we still have habits of following the world. But as we access our connection to the Father, his love and grace fill our hearts; and his thoughts and ways become our thoughts and ways.

Sometimes the process happens slowly. Sometimes it happens in leaps and bounds. Do not obsess about outward manifestations. Focus on God’s constant activity, and consistent communication to you, and in you. It is that activity that brings transformation, surely and truly.

The transformation process also moves from revolving around yourself to other people. God’s love becomes your love. God’s focus becomes you focus. Meeting all people’s needs, physical, mental, emotional, and the fact that all people were designed to live in relationship with the Father. And not all people have that relationship.

Fruit is God having freedom to move in people’s hearts. Moving in more of each person’s heart. Moving in more hearts, period.

I am the Vine - 2

I recognize that I have coined a few terms. I am not saying that these terms are used universally. Rather I have described certain ideas that I have been thinking about, often using the same or similar words. This similarity has evolved into a verbal "formula," which I have continued to use.

So, here is a first. I am going to intentionally, formally recognize one of these terms. We have hinted at the term "spiritual check-in" in past posts. (Which will probably, but unintentionally, get shortened to just check-in, sometime in the future.)

A "spiritual check-in" is "an intentional, but short, focusing and opening of a person's heart, in a spirit of worship and prayer, allowing God's love, Spirit and grace flow into needed areas in our lives; often with actual prayer, prayer, and active listening."

When considering "I am the vine," we saw how life flows into a person's heart in relation to his connection to Jesus. Since, one's connection is constituted by one's heart focus, and a human being can only maintain 100% focus for discrete periods of time, we need to develop something like a spiritual check-in to maintain our connection.

For the same reason, a spiritual check-in is needed to produce fruit. Connection allows the flow of God's love and grace to fill a person's heart. When people allow that love and grace to flow out, into, and affect the world, then God begins restoring his kingdom, step by step. God's life, love and grace are the essential ingredients in bringing about God's revolution. It is the connection of God to his people that will communicate that life to the world. Consistent worship and prayer are vital to this process for other reasons, as well as maintaining the connection. Spiritual check-ins are also vital for maintaining moment by moment connection. They will bring spiritual healing, restoration, and transformation.

But they may not necessarily produce fruit. Spiritual life, received through worship, prayer, and spiritual check-ins, need to be released into the world. Love, and the message of the gospel, both need to be shared abundantly. Which means God's family needs to rub off on, leak into, and "pollute" the world. Which makes spiritual check-ins more important, as God's children will need to continually replenish, so that they can continually leak.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

I am the Vine

Jesus said, "I am the Vine." Life flows from the root, into the vine, into the branches, and intro the world in the form of fruit.

Life flows into the branches based on the connection with the vine. Life flows into God's family based on its connection with Jesus. The word in the original language means simply to stay. Life ebbs and flows according to where we stay.

The term "getting into God's presence" is usually associated with worship. I am not dismissing, or de-valuing worship, but people cannot attend worship meetings all the time. We need to sleep, eat, and work.

Prayer is another means to connect to God's presence. Even though there are numerous examples of men and women giving themselves to hours of prayer, the same issue holds.

Remaining connected to the Father seems to be more complicated than it first appears. There is no single activity that can define it. Failure will not permanently sever it.

We were designed to have a 24 x 7 connection to the Father. Worship and prayer  were meant to be a continuous, moment by moment experience. This would be possible because our hearts would be open to, and focused on the Father of All.

Sin broke the connection, and the open flow between us and our Father. Giving God our allegiance opens the way towards restoring that connection.

The connection is restored based on the condition of our hearts. Does it rest in Jesus? Is it open, inclined, and focused on the Father? We can shut out the world for a time, and concentrate on worship or prayer. But we cannot move into that state forever. So, instead, we return to a heart focus and openness, in prayer and worship, consistently, and regularly, all day long.

Computers are multi-processing. That is, they appear to perform many tasks at the same time. In reality, they focus on one task for a period of time, then they move to the next task, then the next, etc. Followers of Christ, in effect, need to multi-process, scheduling spiritual check-in's frequently in the queue.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Proof of Discipleship

Jesus gave us a couple of proofs of discipleship. A disciple in Jesus' day was a person who followed a teacher, received instruction, received assignments, and completed those assignments, learning by doing in the process. So, discipleship is the process of following a teacher, receiving instruction and assignments, completing them, learning and growing. This is similar to the current terms: apprentice and apprenticeship. But discipleship carries a connotation of maturing in character.

So, the first proof of discipleship in Jesus: love one another, as Jesus loved his disciples.

In this instance, Jesus is not saying to love the world. I am not saying that Jesus does not want his disciples to love the world, because I am sure that he does. But proof of discipleship is observable love of God's family for itself.

When you give your allegiance to Jesus, you become one of God's children. You become part of God's family. One part of being in God's family is loving all the parts of God's family.

Because of actions by part of the church, many people feel an us\them attitude in the church. This attitude usually manifests itself in antagonistic, negative, condemning words and actions. Some of God's family believe that such condemnation and harsh criticism does not demonstrate to people that the life Jesus wants us to live is better, and, therefore, does not persuade people to follow him. So, they try to diminish the line between us and them. But there is an us\them division. And Jesus put it there. You are either his disciple, or you are not. You are either his child and in his family, or you are not.

But Jesus focused on the nature of what defined the division. He did not call his disciples to invest themselves in political, moral, or cultural change by political, cultural, or moral means. He called his disciples to foment a spiritual and existential revolution.

Jesus' first-century family blew the doors off their world. And we have seen flashes since: the Methodists in 17th century England, the church in Communist China, various church planting movements around the world today, etc. But overall the modern day family of God limps along, because it uses the weapons of the world, instead of the weapons of God.

Weapon #1: A genuine relationship with the living, creator God, who demonstrated his love for people on the cross.

Weapon #2: A genuine love for God's family; and by extension, the love of God's family for the rest of the world.

And that lost is expressed in imitation of how Jesus loved Peter, John and the others.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Washing Feet

There is a story about Jesus that occurred just before the Last Supper. Scripture says that Jesus realized  it was close to the culmination of his work on Earth. He realized he was close to death. He realized he was going to be betrayed by someone he loved, and was close to. He realized who his Father was, and the authority over the world his Father had given him. And he realized how special, and how important, the men he was with were.

Knowing all this, he removed his robes, and assumed the position of the least important slave in a household. And he performed the lowest, least valuable service of that slave. He washed the disciples' feet, even those of Judas the betrayer. Then, he got dressed and assumed his normal position. And the disciples were totally mystified.

Then, Jesus began a long discourse on many subjects. But the first subject was intended to revolutionize the disciples' priorities, motivations and sense of what is important, and what is not.

Jesus said, "I am your Teacher, and your Lord. And I have given you an example to follow."

In the world, those in authority tell others what to do. Those in authority are served. In God's kingdom, those in authority serve. They take the lowest place. They clean the latrines, and wash the dishes.

In God's kingdom, those in authority love. And love gives.

In love, Jesus the King left the palace. He endured mistreatment, torture, and a totally undeserved, and unjust death at the hands of those who rightfully should bow down and give him worship.

In love, the Father chose to disrupt the God-head, so he could purchase a family, which already rightfully belonged to him.

In love, the Holy Spirit indwells us, becoming the God-head's means, and method of restoration: of relationship, of character, of family, and of rule.

The Creator of the Universe gives each one of his children 100% focused attention. He continually communicates his love. He continually communicates direction. He continually communicates encouragement. He continually strengthens the positives in your lives. (The negatives died on the cross with Jesus. Why should the God of the Living devote any time to what is dead?)

(NOTE: If Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father, and Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, what does that say about the Father?)  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I am the Resurrection and the Life

There is a story in the Bible about some friends of Jesus: a man, and his two sisters.

Word came to Jesus that this man was very sick, close to death. And Jesus, the compassionate one, the healer, the true friend, stayed where he was for two days. And then it took two more days to get to the house of his friend. So, by the time Jesus got there, the man had been dead for four days. He was dead, buried, and rotting in the grave. (Orin his case, in a cave with a big rock in front of it.)

The sisters approached Jesus separately, but their response to Jesus was essentially the same. “Our brother is dead. You have healed the sick. You have given sight to the blind, and the crippled can walk. If you were here on time our brother would still be alive.”

And Jesus’ response was essentially the same to each. “I am the resurrection and the life.”

The sisters believed God would raise the dead at the end of the age. At that time, he would judge everyone, those still alive and those who had died. The wicked would go to eternal punishment. The righteous would go into God’s presence, and eternal reward. Both were judged by how well, how completely, they obeyed the Law. The righteous obtained reward by obeying the law. The wicked obtained punishment by its disobedience of the Law.

And Jesus know that it was impossible, because no one could keep the Law. And God sent him to be a bridge. Jesus had power over life and death. Jesus had authority to bring the dead into God’s presence. It all goes through him.

And to show that that was true, he went to the grave of his friend, dead four days, already decaying, and called him out of the grace. Life was restored. His physical body was restored. And he walked out of the grave.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I am the Good Shepherd

But then he continued on using the same scenario: a flock of sheep, a shepherd, and a sheep pen. And he tells us: “I am the good shepherd.”

Sheep are put into a pen at night for their protection. Thieves will try to steal them. Predators will try to kill and eat them. Only the shepherd stands between them and those dangers.

Sometimes, someone is hired to watch the flock, so the shepherd can sleep. And in those cases, if a lion or a bear attacks the flock, this hired person has no motivation to defend the flock. On the other hand, the shepherd is motivated to take on a lion or a bear.

The shepherd knows his sheep. He speaks to them. They follow. He protects them. He provides for them. He places them in situations that bring the best to them.

This parable can be applied to our relationship to Jesus in many ways.
  • Those who follow Jesus are like sheep. Sheep’s herding instinct is strong enough that they will follow one another right over the edge of the cliff. We all know people who get with the wrong people, and them into all sorts of trouble.
  • Jesus loves all people. His heart is to gather all people to himself, and lead them – toward the completion of their design, toward greater joy and fulfillment. And, for those who give him their allegiance, he is actively pursuing this goal.
  • Jesus demonstrates he is supremely trustworthy of our faith, when he died to re-establish a relationship with people. He honors his promises, he relationship with people, and his Father’s purposes – to gather a people to be his new family.
  • Sheep learn to follow the shepherd. We can learn to follow Jesus. We can hear his voice; we can discern it from all the other voices; we can successfully follow the path that he is leading us on.
  • Jesus’ purpose is to create a family, build it strong in love, to love, and to increase it. Scripture says that all peoples, all languages, and all the ends of the earth will be represented in his family. Our purpose is to embrace Jesus’ purpose.

Monday, September 19, 2016

I am the Gate

Many people in Jesus’ day owned sheep. It seems that a common practice was to put the flock in a pen at night, and let them out to graze during the day. So, it was really important to the sheep, when the shepherd arrived, and led the sheep out of the pen to the pasture. The pasture meant food, water, and life. The gate was the bridge to the pasture. That’s why Jesus said, “I am the gate.”

We all need “fuels” to live. We need physical fuels: food, water, and air. (Or you could use more resolution and say: Protein, iron, zinc. Vitamin C, vitamin D, etc.) We need spiritual fuels: love, purpose, beauty, etc.

Our primary spiritual fuel is a relationship with our Father. Everyone needs this sort of relationship to thrive. No just to exist, but to have what Jesus called “abundant life.”

And Jesus is the bridge to that life. Or, as the gate to the sheep pen, the way out to food and water for the sheep. Jesus is the gate that opens up, allowing people to escape the prison of sin, and experience life. Jesus is our means, our vehicle, for connecting with the Father.

Monday, September 12, 2016

I am the Light of the World

One thing people agree on: life is less than optimal. What people don’t agree on: the causes, the solutions, and even, what the final result should look like. And this was just as true in Jesus’ day as is today.

Jesus was different. He lived without sin. Even the Quran say Jesus was the only sinless person. Moreover, Jesus practiced authentic love towards all people. He had a lifestyle that showed he was the only person to have it together. He had unique qualifications to answer questions about the world’s problems, solutions, and direction.

Jesus said the world walked in darkness. That meant more than merely its practices were evil. That also meant it was lost, wandering in circles, and unable to see the path at its feet. It pursued the wrong goals. It valued the wrong things. It was going in the wrong direction entirely.

Jesus said “I am the light of the world.” He was not lost. He did not wander in circles. He pursued the right goals. He had the right values. And because he was light, if we walked with him, we could finally see. We wouldn’t be lost. We could fully, truly evaluate what is right, true, and valuable. We could do this, because we could see what Jesus did.

Jesus gave several “assessments” about people and the world. The first was that people did not have a correct relationship with God. People were designed to have a love relationship with the Father of All Creation. Some pursue this relationship moralistically. Meaning: striving to do good and not do bad. But the Bible says that God’s standard is perfection. Any bad will break the relationship. One bad thing is one too many.

Some pursue the relationship religiously. Meaning: the strive to faithfully observe certain forms, norms, and practices. God commanded the Jews to sacrifice animals, a religious form that was intended to handle the sin they committed. But animal sacrifice could never be the final solution to sin. And God never intended it to be. It was a temporary solution, pointing people to God’s final solution, Jesus’ death.

Second, people do not treat people as they should. People should treat all people with love. (All people! Think of the current American political scene.) We have considered love, what it means, and how to practice it, numerous times, so we will not expand on it extensively at this time. But imagine what kindness, patience, and complete communication (as much as possible) would mean on the interstate highway system. Imagine what putting others first would mean in that context. There are numerous everyday situations that love would revolutionize.

We could discuss a number of facets of the world system, but love of God and love of people completely cover all aspects of the present age. Jesus said those two loves completely obey all of God’s commands; the completely pursue all of God’s purposes. Walking in those two loves means we are fully situated in his light. These loves speak louder than worlds. These loves speak louder than signs and wonders. These loves fully complete God’s purpose in the world. These loves shine the same light Jesus did.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

I am the Bread of Life

Jesus made a number of terse, succinct statements about his identity, and his mission. One such statement was “I am the bread of life.”

These statements, like when Jesus told parables, are not literal. Jesus is using figurative language to express spiritual truth. Bread, of course, is a basic food staple. In some cultures, it was eaten in some form at every meal. It was a primary part of their diet.

Jesus was, of course, referring to our relationship with the Father, and Jesus being the necessary, primary ingredient in that relationship. People cannot enter into a relationship with the Father without Jesus. A person is born a slave to sin. He is held captive to it, and its consequences. To live the life God designed, to live in relationship with the Father, we need to break our relationship with sin and the world. So, Jesus died … and he created a bridge back to God. We choose allegiance with God. We walked across the bridge into relationship with God, and into the life we were designed to live. (Of course, transformation is necessary to actually live, practice, and experience that relationship.)

Bread is the means to sustaining life. Without it, life cannot exist; it dies. And since, Jesus calls us to a new kind of life – a life we were designed to live from the beginning, but which only Jesus ever really lived – we need a new and different kind of “bread.” A “bread” that Jesus supplid. And when we make “bread” our own, we we consume it, we make it a part of us. And the life in it is injected into us. The physical benefits of bread are not delivered until we consume it. Neither will the benefits of this new “bread.”

Part of what Jesus was trying to do was show that people’s conceptions of what was important, of what constituted a true relationship with God, of what constituted true living, were flawed. These figures Jesus used were not theological position statements, with well-defined, precise and exhaustive language. They were attempts to bump people out of their mental ruts, which were engraved in stone, and as deep as the Grand Canyon. Every time Jesus gave one of these statements, it was a clarion call from revelation. It was a call for changes of allegiance, and changes into a revelutionary lifestyle.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Jesus as Ideal Man

When Jesus was sent into the world, he was fully God, and he was fully man. He was fully God, so he could bridge the infinite chasm between a perfect God, and sinful people. He was fully man, so he could be the perfect representative of people, and the perfect model for people.

As a man, he lived as all men must. That is, he lived in relationship with the Father. He lived in trust, receiving direction, and enabling. He modeled the way all followers of Jesus should live. He communed with the Father. He listened. He recognized where the Father was moving, and acted in cooperation with the Father in that area.

We need to learn to tune into God’s voice like Jesus did. He quickly and easily connected with the Father. He heard the Father speak quickly and easily. And he acted based on what he heard.

The Father designed people to have the same quality of relationship that he had with Jesus. And he is restoring us to that relationship. He wants us to hear the Father’s voice, to see the Father move, as quickly and easily as Jesus did. He wants us to receive enabling, as thoroughly and as profoundly as Jesus did. So, we can do the works of Jesus. So, we can love like Jesus.

Monday, August 22, 2016

God Gives

Scripture quotes John the Baptist as saying: “No one can receive anything unless God gives it to him.”

All spiritual input originates from God.
  • Forgiveness starts with God.
  • Transformation starts with God.
  • Anointing for service starts with God. (Both the assignment and the enabling come from God.)

God is eternally present. He is intimately, vitally present with each of his children. He gives 100%, focused, intense, passionate attention to each of his children. He is consumed by crime, the environment, modern day slavery, war, terrorism, and that you need a parking place in order to be on time for an appointment. God is 100% totally involved with his children’s greatest desire, and their greatest need.

I will not comment here about why bad stuff happens, and God does not seem to intervene. I can think of a number of reason, and there are probably more others can think of. And probably none of those are the right ones.

I do want to focus on god’s heart, or God’s desire to give. God’s heart is consumed with generosity. He wants to give abundantly. He wants to bless. He wants to restore us to what our original relationship with him should have been without sin. He wants to restore us to our original character, our original behavior, should be. He wants to restore the world to Eden.

So, God is eternally present and unfailingly generous. He initiates our restoration in relationship, our restoration of life, experience, and character, and any service. And what he begins, he continues, may not necessarily coincide with what we think. People look at circumstances and judge whether God’s blessing is on it. There may be two churches. One has 50 people, and the other 5000. People tend to feel that God favors the one with 5000. And that may not be the case. I do not mean to suggest that big is bad. But big may not be good either. If big results in people not serving, not listening to god, not exercising their responsibilities as priest, then big is not good.

God gives. We receive. As we respond to what we receive.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Wedding at Cana

I recently read the story about the wedding at Cana. Weddings in Jesus’ day, and culture were held in two steps. Two families would agree that a man, and a woman, would get married. They would have a betrothal ceremony, in which the agreement was formalized. Unlike engagements today, betrothals had legal standing. It required a divorce to break them.

In the interval between the betrothal and the wedding ceremony, the man began to prepare a home, and to prepare for the celebration, which he and his family were responsible for. And the celebration could last seven days.

[Stop. Rewind. Slow down.]

The man has agreed to take a woman as his wife. He goes home, and begins a building project. Either he begins a whole new house, or he adds a room onto his father’s house. And his father (and probably his father-in-law) will be looking over his shoulder, critiquing, and advising, the whole way.

Simultaneously, the family beings laying in supplies. Modern weddings average around $40,000. Imagine housing, and feeding two extended families for a week. Not counting close friends, and coworkers.

Then, when everything is ready, the man and his close friends go to the brides house, collect the bride, her belongings, and bring them to the new home. Apparently, the marriage was consummated, the couple were officially, and completely married. And they began a weeklong party.

Part way through this celebration, Mary, Jesus’ mother, tells him they are out of wine.

Since, Mary, and Jesus’ brothers, are at the wedding, it is not a very difficult deduction that Jesus is at a family wedding. And, since Mary knows about the supply problem, it is also not a difficult deduction that is Jesus is part of the groom’s family, who are responsible for the food.

When Mary tells Jesus about the wine problem, he basically responds “Yeah! What do you think I should do about it?” I don’t know if Mary expected him to do anything. Maybe she was just looking for sympathy. The groom, and his family, were given time to prepare (build a room, and gather food and wine) sometimes up to a year. And they blew it. Did they not know how much to get? Were they just not able to get it? What’s next? The house will collapse? Starvation?

If there are problems, do you go to the other family “Sorry! We need a little more time!” Do you go to your relatives for help? And does the entire groom’s extended family begin to worry about the family-wide embarrassment? Will the bride’s family become resentful? Will they spread this failure far and wide?

Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus says. Jesus considers the situation. The groom‘s family will experience shame. The bride’s family will be worried, fearful, and perhaps, insulted, and angry. So, Jesus tells the servants to fill several tubs with water. Then, he says to take a pitcher of water to the emcee. The servants pour the “water” from the pitcher into a cup for the emcee. And the water is now wine. (When did the water become wine? Right when it was poured into the cup? And what about the rest of the water in the tubs?) And the emcee is grateful to have wine for the next toast. And he is amazed that the wine is of the finest quality.

I think the first miracle of Jesus is a demonstration of his heart for people. Jesus works a miracle to prevent embarrassment and shame for a family.

Jesus is focused on the heart\inner man of people. Shame, guilt, embarrassment do not further the purposes of God. God goes out of his way to communicate his love, compassion, and involvement to erase guilt, and shame. Love and mercy complete God’s purposes.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Jesus Reveals the Father and His Love

The Bible reveals God as Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. One thing that is comprised of three things. We don’t really understand this, so we develop “pictures” of what we cannot define. Time is past, present, and future. Space is length, breadth, and depth. Matter is gas, liquid, and solid. One thing comprised of three things.

There are three things, so they are different. But they exist in perfect agreement. So, they are one. (Again, humans do not understand the Trinity. This is another picture, trying to grasp the unknowable.)

We do understand the son. He was born into the world to fulfill the plans of God. We saw him. We heard his worlds, saw his actions. We learned about his motives. We experienced his love.

Although, we have never seen the Father, we do know him. Scripture says that Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father. Father, Son, and Spirit are in perfect agreement. Because we have heard Jesus’ words, we have heard the Father. Because we have seen Jesus’ deeds, we have seen the Father act. Jesus’ motives are the Father’s motives. Jesus’ love is the Father’s love. Because we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father.

Several weeks ago, I wrote how the ingredients of transformation are a restructuring of our hearts\inner man, and an increased understanding of God’s love. Jesus was sent into the world to fulfill the Father’s love, and to show us the Father’s love. Maybe not the only way, but certainly the first way. Getting to know Jesus increases our understanding of God’s love, and advances our restoration to our original design.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Unity, More Than Politics

In the US, the political silly season has arrived. Both major parties have decided on their candidates. Now, everyone will begin talking about why one is better than the other. Why their opponent will destroy civilization, the world, and the ozone layer. Why they are the best thing since sliced bread. And they will all develop selective amnesia.

I read a quote from one candidate from a month ago, when he was still running for a particular office. Candidate A said Candidate B was totally unqualified for the office they were both running for. Now, that he was no long running for that office, Candidate B was the only one qualified for that one office. Ah, politics!!

Wading through the mountains of hyperbole to reach a modicum of wisdom is nearly impossible.

I recognize that politicians will yell, and call each other names. But what concerns me are reactions from the family of God.

Each of us walks with God personally, and individually. Meaning, God speaks to each one, builds into each one, transforming our minds so we see everything the way he does. We will discern all of life, and reality, from his point of view. But we don’t see that way now. We grow into it. So, now we see things differently. We prioritize, rank, and give different values to different things. And these different perspectives seep into our views of political issues. We should not be surprised by this. So, we should not be surprised when political comments are different. We should not be surprised when some hold liberal perspectives, nor that some hold conservative perspectives. We should see these perspectives upheld by Scripture.

And I do see supporters of liberal positions in the body of Christ. And I see supporters of conservative positions in the body of Christ. And I also see language and behavior that is harsh, rejecting, and building walls between these different parts of the body of Christ.

I recently wrote concerning how seriously God views unity. Those who have given allegiance to Jesus are part of God’s family, citizens of his kingdom, his priests and his ambassadors. Our primary loyalty is to the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the family of God. Our primary focus should be our relationship with God, and with his family. So, we should honor, respect, be kind, and be connected to our brothers and sisters. This includes an open heart, an attitude of listening, to their testimonies. Including their political testimonies.

The world will definitely notice any lack of unity, due to political differences, and they will dishonor the Father, and Creator of all, because of those political differences. We dishonor our Father, if we dishonor our brothers.

I am not saying we cannot have political convictions. I am not saying that we cannot talk about them. I am saying we must pursue these differences in ways that demonstrate mutual honor, love, and unity within the body of Christ.

Monday, July 18, 2016

God's Family Designed to complete God's Purposes

Names in the Bible, in Jewish culture, had a meaning. Names indicated a person’s nature, and character. Names indicated a person’s place in God’s purposes, in God’s family. There are places in the Bible where God gives someone a new name, because they had changed. The Bible also says when he establishes his forever kingdom, he will give his children a new name, their true name.

God designed people. God designed them to take a place in his family, in his purpose. He makes his family fit together perfectly.

His family is his vehicle to complete his purposes. Each part, each member, has a role. Each part builds each other part; they build, and add to the body. New parts included.

The health of a church is directly proportional to the number who have found their place. Not people being busy, doing chores. Not greeter, teachers, ushers, nursery workers, ushers, etc. Not that doing chores is bad. All organizations have chores to do to maintain smooth functioning. All parts of the body need to have servant hearts to do the chores. And teaching children is certainly not bad. God loves children. And there are people who place and anointing is in teaching two year olds. But, so much of church activity is filling empty slots. And God’s plan involves a priesthood of every member of his body. How many of God’s family have taken up their priesthood?

More about all of Christ's body being priests here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Unity, Not an Option

I have been thinking about someone I know with (what looks like) a relational issue with a friend and a sibling in God’s family. The two are not talking. They seem to be avoiding each other, and situations where they are likely to meet the other person. (And, of course, it might not be “them”. It might just be one of them.)

It seems like a natural solution. Suppose someone has an argument with a friend. Perhaps even a quite heated argument. It is easy to want to crete space, to avoid the other person. One does not have to deal with painful circumstances, the mess, or the possibility that one is wrong. Either in one’s position in the disagreement, or in one’s understanding of the other person’s position.

However, among the followers of Jesus, relationships are the building blocks of the kingdom. We need to take very seriously our relationship with God. We need to take very seriously our relationship with our family, with God’s family, with friends. And we need to take very seriously our relationship with those not in God’s family.

I will mention three things that I hope show how serious and vital relationships in God’s view of things.

First, Jesus prayed that the father would his family as united as he and the Father are united. Unity doesn’t just make life easier. Jesus says unity demonstrates that God sent Jesus into the world. Unity demonstrates that God loves the disciples. Personal arguments that affect interaction among God’s children, bad-mouthing other groups of Christians or other local families of God, all communicate a lack of unity. And disunity says God did not send Jesus. Disunity says the father does not love his children. Unity is vital, pivotal, and strategic.

Second, scripture says to make every effort to remain a connected, whole family. Without a real, demonstrated connection, God’s family demonstrates a pack of lies. The is only one body. “Body” being a metaphor for God’s family. Many different parts joined together, functioning harmoniously as a whole. It is the person by person distinctions that enable the whole to complete its purpose, God’s purpose. It is the distinctions we need to celebrate. And it the distinctions we usually use to bring separation.

[If we consider God’s universal family, all the different groups, we should be able to recognize that groups organize and derive their identity from their distinctive traits. Many assume that embracing unity means they have to suppress, or not prioritize, the things that distinguish them, which then robs or demeans their identity. We need to learn to affirm the common areas that define the whole family, and celebrate those differences. It is the differences which allow each body, and the universal body, to bring glory to God.]

There is not just one “singularity.” Each member of God’s family is:
  • In the same body
  • Gets life by the same spirit
  • Expects the same future
  • Follows the same Lord
  • Has the same type of relationship
  • Declares the same allegiance
  • Are created and empowered by the same Father.

Third, God does not call us to promote our distinctions. God calls us to promote Christ. God calls us to live in love. If our distinctions hinder the gospel, or the growth of any of God’s children anywhere, anytime, we are not walking in love. God speaks to us all the time. God’s strategy in each of our lives is unique, because  we are unique. We all wind up at the same destination. We may not necessarily be at the same place on the journey. So, sharing where you are on your journey, may be helpful and encourage others. Insisting others abandon their place, their walk, and their path, may not. It may even short-circuit God’s work in them. Love demands we build into others. Maturity gives wisdom, and discernment in how best to build.