Monday, March 28, 2016

Identity in Christ - 65 (Called by His eXcellence)

Obviously worded so the original compiler of the list got an "X."

The passage says that, because we have given our allegiance to Jesus, because we have chosen to enter into relationship with the Father, the Father, in turn, has provided all we need to live, and all we need to live in a way that agrees with and honors him. He pumps the necessary fuels into our spirits to feed them. But more than merely survive, he gives them in abundance.

And he invites us to have relationship by showing us his glory and his excellence. His glory would indicate his transcendent qualities: power, knowledge, presence. His excellence indicates his moral qualities: purity, goodness, but also love, kindness, faithfulness.

It is hard for people to relate to God as transcendent. We cannot imagine omnipresence, omnipotence, or omniscience. We recognize them and understand them to a point. It is the moral qualities that we identify with. It is that part of God's image that he imprints human beings with. So, it is that part we understand best.

♦ God's Perspective

Scripture says that it is God's kindness that moves us to turn from following our path, and choose to follow his.

Fear does motivate a desire to follow the rules. People seek to avoid punishment. But fear does not motivate relationship. And God seeks relationship, not just keeping the rules.

God communicates honestly with us. We know the consequences of breaking his law. He also communicates that it is impossible for us to keep his law. So, he invites us to take the way of escape that he has provided.

But it is more than a way of escape. It is the way into relationship. It is opening the door into God's family room. We can enter, sit by the fire, eat popcorn and play "Settlers" with our Father. We can pursue meaning, purpose and the heart of God.

♦ Living My Life

Rather than areas to practice, I think this trait reveal more concerning God's heart toward us. God's purpose is to create a family. He created the first people in his family. And they said that knowing God and being in his family was not enough. Since, then, no person is born belonging to God's family.

God pursues people. He attempt to convince them to choose relationship with him, and, then, adopts them into his family.

There is a lot of discussion about God's methods of revealing himself and convincing people to follow him. Many people think they know a better way than God does.

First consideration: Jesus told a story where the punchline is – even if someone were to rise from the dead, and warn people about God's judgment, some people would listen, but many people would not.

Second consideration: The Bible says that god's method is God's people. People walk with him, live with him, and he reveals himself to them. They are transformed. They live in greater wisdom, emotional health, and balance, because they know the One who provides, feeding their hearts. People who have had relationship with Jesus for 50 years still do not have it together. There are some people who know Jesus for 1-2 years, who have it together more than the 50-year person, because the 2-year person depends on the Father who gives, and the 50-year person on the system of religion.

The family of God has gotten into the habit of trusting in the system, and the professional experts, rather than the Father.

Please don't misunderstand. God wants us to live in relationship with him … and his family. God uses our brothers and sisters to speak to us, to our hearts and lives. A community of open-hearted, living, obedient children of God facilitates and strengthens God moving in our hearts, as well as being a powerful weapon of drawing people into relationship with him.

But he is the expert and the source of heart renewal and transformation. He is the only One who can touch a person's spiritual DNA. Ultimately, reliance on a person, system, or tool leads us away from reliance on the Giver of life.

Again, please don't misunderstand. A few posts back, I mentioned that I practice a form of divina lectio. Divina lection was developed by Benedict in the 6th century. It is a very old tool. Tools and systems can be very valuable in our spiritual growth. Other people can be very valuable as guides. At times, we cannot hear God clearly, because our circumstances, or the enemy, are screaming too loudly in our ears. Others can help clear away the confusion and distractions.

If a tool or system continues to help someone walk with God, by all means, he should continue to use it. But we cannot ultimately depend on a system, tool, or person, except the persons of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The trick is discerning when something is no longer profitable, and we need to move onto some other practice. And what that is.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lives with Missing Pieces

People everywhere are facing missing pieces in their lives. The world is broken. There is an enemy who seeks our misery. People are not big enough, and make bad decisions. There are lots of reasons for these areas of lack.

The question is: what do we do about it?

For many, the lack becomes the thing. If I had the thing, life would be perfect.
            If I were married …
            If I had children …
            If I had that job …
            If my children did (or were like) …

Wants become needs. Good things become essentials.

Even those who know God fall into this – God is not enough. The very first sin was – God is not enough.

I do believe that God created people to need multiple spiritual fuels. But it is the relationship with our Father that activates all those fuels. If our focus is on the fuel, instead of the Activator, we are trusting the fuel to give life and meaning, instead of the Giver of the fuel.

For many people, it was the lack of moral perfection, or having no assurance of forgiveness or acceptance by God, that drove them to pursue God. For many, it was the lack of peace, meaning, or acceptance. God did not create the lacks. His world was perfect. There was nothing lacking. But God does continue to allow lacks, as a reminder of our need for him, and a nudge to pursue him.

We pursue independence and self-sufficiency. We pursue political and social perfection.

Guess what !! We are not going to get any of them !!

We need to pursue the only One who is sufficient, and who give all the fuels we need.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Identity in Christ - 64 (Workmanship)

Jesus died on the cross. He saved us from the results of sin: the penalty of separation from the source of life, and the misery of not fulfilling our design.

He was motivated by love and grace. We are his creation, planned and designed with great love and care. He demonstrated total wisdom in our creation, as well as our salvation.

I have read theory by a man who believes God spent considerable time in eternity past with the design of each person. He planned their personality, their gifts, their place in history, and the works and effects for good each one will have.

Sin disrupted this design. Some people never reconnect in relationship with their Father. Those who do take a large step in restoring God's intentions for their lives. They reconnect with the Source of life and meaning. They return to the correct path for fulfilling God's purposes for their lives.

◆ God's Perspective

The Father designed and created his children. I don't think Scripture says so specifically, but it is not too far-fetched to conclude that the Father is envisioned a perfect path for our lives. A person reaches a place of decision. Choice A leads towards to perfection. Choice B leads to imperfection.

Even without sin is perfection possible? People are not all-knowing. We cannot see the consequences of choosing B. Perhaps without sin, God is eternally present for the each one of us, and we are able to hear him clearly and plainly. Perhaps, he intended to be with us in each decision. "No, my son if you choose B, this and this will happen. Choose A. Things will work out better."

With sin, he is not present with us, and we cannot hear him. When we give him allegiance, he returns to be eternally present, but our spiritual ears are weak and ineffective from disuse. He is present and he continually speaks, but we are unable to hear him.

Our allegiance and his presence reestablishes our connection. Our ears get opened.  We can exercise our ears and learn to hear him better and better.

◆ Living My Life

We give Jesus our allegiance, and reconnect to Jesus and the Father. He desires moment by moment relationship and communication. He wants to say "Choose A," so that we can walk as close to his vision of perfection as possible. Our part is learning to hear him, and walking in what he says.

First, we need to be alive to the fact that he is always speaking. He wants us to hear. We have all lived a large portion of our lives with no expectation that God wants communication with us. So, we are not ready or aware when he does speak.

People often get intent on their own inner world, that they are unaware of other people speaking. We are equally oblivious to God. We need to develop habits of alertness and receptivity.

Second, we need to develop to discernment. People often confuse their own thoughts for God's thoughts, or the enemy's thoughts for God's thoughts.

Whatever God does, results in the fruits of God. Whatever God does, it is completed with the traits of love. Even when God correct our failures, or encourages transformation in patterns in our lives, love, joy, peace will be the fruit.

This doesn't mean we will be jumping with elation. However, the Father wants us to feel encouraged and hopeful when facing correction. The Father wants us to recognize that change will bring improved life and improved relationships. He wants us to be encouraged and confident when facing the need for change. 

The enemy wants no change, no improvement. He wants discouragement, dejection and depression. He wants to convince us to cease being open to God speaking, and God's life. He wants us to accept misery. To think, we will never fulfill our purpose and our place.

And sometimes. God speaks in correction, and the enemy interrupts. God will speak to the need and the area of change. The enemy will seek to hijack it for his purposes.

Become familiar with your Father's voice. Learn to be receptive and alert. Exercise your spiritual ears.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Identity in Christ - 63 (Victorious in Christ)

The passage refers to victory over sin and death.

When God created the world, the world was perfect: no sin, no death, no pain, no disease. When the first people choose to disobey the Father, sin entered the world, and with it, death, pain, and disease.

First, the laws of physical life were disrupted. I don't know how it worked, but it seems like there were "forces" that held back physical decay, and aging. Those "forces" we're somehow extinguished, or overcome. Now, aging, infirmity, and disease were free to act in the world.

Second, the laws of spiritual life were disrupted. Spiritual life is derived from a right relationship with God. All meaning, significance, purpose, joy, peace, and love take as their foundation, a right relationship with God. Sin breaks that relationship. All these things break, and crumble.

Life is not simply continued existence. Death is not simply a cessation. Life and death refer to qualities of existence. Life is a positive existence. Death is a negative existence. Life is derived from a relationship with the Source of life. Death results from being cut off from that Source.

So, Jesus died. It saved us from the penalty of condemnation. It saved us from experiencing death, that is, the loss of meaning, hope, purpose, love, and joy. It saved us, because it created a bridge to the Source of life. It gave us life, because it gave us the Source.

The enemy's goal is our death. Or, in other words, he seeks our misery. He wants to cut us off from life. If we stop seeking God, we stop seeking life. We settle for death.

We are vicgorious, because the enemy cannot cut us off from the Source of life. He cannot stop us from experiencing life. He cannot stop us from experiencing life as we were designed to live.

The best he can do is convince us to stop reaching out. Pretend that we are an slectric appliance. We were designed to toast, to mix, to perk, or to blend. To fulfil our design, we need to be connected to a source of electricity. And someone is trying to convince us to pull the plug, and cut the cord.

"That last smoothie you made was way too lumpy. You don't deserve to use any electricity. Disconnect. Forget what you were designed for."

◆ God's Perspective

God's heart is: people are designed to experience life. He designed us for life. We can only experience life when we are connected to him, whe  we are in relationship to him, when (to refer to a previous post) we join him in the dance.

God knows our failure. But, to be true to his nature and his purposes, he sent Jesus to the cross. And Jesus chose to go to the cross. The reason for the cross is not only his tremendous love for people (though, for that reason alone he would choose to act this way), he also needs to be true to his nature and purposes in creating a spiritual family to have relationship with him. For him to be true to himself, he needs (again, reference to previous post) to get everyone to join in the dance.

The enemy purposes to multiply misery and alienation. The Father purposes to multiply love and joy.

◆ Living My Life

We need to recognize that we have already won, because nothing can sta d in the way of our connecting with God and experiencing life. We can choose to move away from connection, relationship, and life. Or we can choose to move toward those things.

we do fail to embrace life as we should. The small amount of joy revealed in the world is a sure indicator of that. Yet, God works, leads, speaks, and encourages us to step further into the light, into his love.

I have previously mentioned some practices which some people believe should lead us toward him, and the life he desires us to live. A life characterized by transformation, but also characterized by joy. Perhaps we need to invent others. Perhaps we need to fine tune the ones we have.

The enemy attacks, disrupts, and distracts to diminish joy. So, joy is not constant. That doesn't mean we should stop pressing. Joy should flow from the Father / child relationship. If joy is not present, we are not connecting as we should. Or we are permitting interference. Joy (life) must be a natural result of relationship with God.

Don't feel guilty if this is not a picture of your experience. If it is a result of personal sin, then, by all means, repent. But most importantly, re-connect. Join in the dance. And don't be distracted by a lack of immediate results. Just continue to dance. Even the most accomplished dancers still stub their toes.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Identity in Christ - 62c (part of the Vine)

♦ God's Perspective

I recently read someone's description of the relationship of the Trinity. (The description was in Tim Keller's "Reason for God," but I think Keller was quoting someone else.)

In eternity past, each member of the Trinity focused 100% love and attention on each of the others and received 100% love and attention in return.

The picture used was a member of the Trinity circling another, showing love, focusing totally on the other. Then, he moved to the other. Then, he moved back. Meanwhile, the other two are pursuing the same thing.

The picture in my mind was three orbs of light three (suns) swirling around one another in a complicated, perfectly balanced pattern. There were no collisions, no near misses. Each sun urging each other in a perfect harmony. The writer called this "the dance of God.":

Now, imagine God wanted to share this dance. God designs and creates billions of living beings (imagine living sparks next to three suns) and invites them into the dance. Each created being swirling around the suns with love and attention. Then, they are swirling around the other created beings with love and attention. Giving to God. Giving to others. Receiving from God. Receiving from the others. 

The place of the greatest love and the greatest joy lies within the dance of God. The dance is a picture/metaphor of the relationship within the God-head. And God invites people into the dance, into the relationship, into the life of God.

The vine is another picture of people moving into the life and relationship of God. In this case, the emphasis is focused on the relationship being a resource of life and energy. It is the relationship that feeds. It is the relationship that triggers changes in the spiritual DNA. It is the relationship that gives life that can be transferred to others.

♦ Living My Life

The basic message here is to practice that which creates, strengthens, and improves one's connection to God.

People have written and taught all sorts of ways to achieve this. Benedict created the Rule to help the monks in his order live focused on Christ. People have followed Bible reading plans, participated in rituals developed in the Middle Ages, going on retreats, memorized large sections of the Bible, and engaged in various sorts of prayer. I myself seem to use a variety of "divina lectio," which is a combination of reading, meditation, and praying on / about / through Scripture. 

Some people hold that worship is the main way to foster and grow the connection. Groups has developed a common form, so that there was coordination and no confusion when they meet as a group.

Worship in the New Testament could be described as a heart and practice that acknowledges all of God (words, acts, nature, ways) and lives in surrender to him. This opens up a wide range of practices that could express true worship in a church. (I know a church that allows much freedom for personal expression. In that church,  there's a man who literally dances through the worship portion of the meeting. For this man, it is important to have open, transparent exuberance in his celebration of God's nature and work. And I'm sure God honors his honest and open devotion.)

But worship is not confined to the church meeting. If worship is a heart and practice that acknowledges all of God, and surrenders to him, then all of life should entail worship. Work, leisure, eating, sleeping, and interacting with other people should be worship

Therefore, worship encompasses a wide range of activity and emotion. Worship meetings do not have one form, or one setting. Personal times with God do not need to follow one pattern.

People find patterns or rhythms that work for them. They promote those patterns, other people adopt them, and they work for those other people. The expectation becomes that the pattern will work for all people. (Should all people be dancing through worship? On the other hand, maybe more people should be dancing?)

The Bible does prescribe certain practices, and I believe each one of God's family should follow these practices. But there are variations in how to pursue these practices. All of God's children should read the Bible regularly. That doesn't mean they should all use the same systematic reading plan. Maybe they should use no plans, but rather listen to the Father as to where they should read. Or maybe they should do both. In any case, it is important for each one to find their own pattern and rhythm. This pattern is our part in the dance of God. This pattern is our connection to life, health, wholeness and growth. Ignoring our place in the dance leads to experiencing a diminishing of life. Choosing to engage in the wrong pattern could result in poor nourishment. (NOTE: Still, any food is better than no food.)