Monday, June 27, 2016

All Things for Good - 4

People are fond of saying “God is in control.” If, by this we mean: “God speaks and stuff happens … and it only happens when God speaks,” then, I have to ask, did God speak my sin?

We know God hates sin. We know if God had his way, there would be know sin at all. But there is sin. So, stuff happens that God does not want. So, is God in control?

If think God has control, but he does not exercise that control. There is a big difference between having a gun, and choosing pulling the trigger.

If God exercises his control, people lose the freedom to choose. And God loses the purpose for which he created the world and people. The world was created, so people, created with the power to choose, would choose allegiance to him, relationship with him, to be his people, to belong to his family, and to follow his way and lifestyle, voluntarily, by their own choice, and for their own reasons.

This freedom should lead to a demonstration that relationship with God is the best, that following his way is the best. More than anything though, it leads to messy situations. Every person who gives his allegiance is a hypocrite. “Hypocrite” meaning “believes one things, but does another.” Followers of Jesus believe they should love everyone, but contrary to acting in love, they are impatient, unkind, boastful, and, even, arrogant. They believe they should display the qualities of the Holy Spirit, but they worry, indulge in sin, and let circumstances rule them. A mess!!

However, just because God chooses not to exercise control, it does not mean he chooses not to act. God blesses his children. He continually gives them good. He continually speaks to them. God takes the mess, and brings good out of it. Flowers from the manure pile. Three-course, gourmet meals from the trash pile. Joy from the worst situations. That takes a considerable amount of authority, skill, finesse, wisdom, and bold confidence.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Love Leads to the New Life - 3

The writer continues his discussion about the primary role of God's love in the transformation process with a "tree" metaphor. Tree health is directly proportional to the development of the root system. So, a human being's spiritual health is directly proportional to the development of his "root" system into the love of God.

If we are convinced that God loves us:
  • We can proceed without fear into new areas.
Growth always necessitates change. Change always means new ... new hearts, new thoughts patterns, new speech patterns, and new practices. Some people adapt to change better than others, but no one is comfortable. There is uncertainty about success, about the outcome. Positive? Negative?

Because God loves us, we can be certain any change leads to positive, life enhancing ways. It may go through difficulty. It may go through pain. But it will always lead back to our original design, and will yield joy, peace, and good for us, and those around us.
  • We can proceed without fear of fail
How many times does a child fall before he finally succeeds in walking? And how often do they fall after they begin the practice of walking?

No one will begin a new pattern of life smoothly. It will need to be repeated successfully many times before it "sticks." There will be numerous stumbles, lapses of memory, and partially successful attempts.

There are positive practices, like a consistent time of prayer, reading the Bible, and meditation. There are also changes from sin to righteousness. Those also involve a change of life patterns. Perhaps involving carefully crafted defense mechanisms, and obscure motivations that have been built up for years. God wants his children to abandon all such practices. It prevents the intimacy he desires in their relationship. It pollutes their design, hindering real joy and peace.

In situations like these, the person needs to change a practice. He also needs to change motivations, to break agreements he may not even be aware that he has made, and to develop spiritual discernment. Basically, he needs to renew his heart, which is neither a simple nor easy process.

People need God to direct this process. People needs God's patience in the painstakingly slow process. People need God's kindness with the process of revelation, correction, and the establishment of new practices. If God shined a dozen search lights on our lives, we would be able to see every pattern of sin and failure. We would also be so overwhelmed, we would crawl under a rock and never come out. So, God uses a laser pointer instead. And spends more time affirming our few faltering steps, encouraging us, and reminding us of his presence, regard, and support.

  • We will never be mystified, or confused, about what God wishes us to be.
He has declared his wishes and intentions for us. He has given us an identity. This identity is who we are in Christ, according to our design. God's heart is to actualize that identity in us. (Please refer to the Identity in Christ series for a hint of what this might look like.)
  • We will never lack in resources.
God's love means he is committed to us. He gives each of us 100% focused attention. He tailors each person's "curriculum" according to their personal, unique needs. He speaks into every circumstance -- good, bad, or indifferent -- providing revelation, appropriate resources, and his presence and support, so all circumstances promote the transformation of his children, and the expansion of his kingdom.

It is God's love that motivated Jesus to come and die. It is God's love that guarantees God's continued acceptance of us, and his continued pursuit of our relationship, and transformation. We may not pursue him. But he will pursue us.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Love Leads to the New Life - 2

When we choose allegiance to Jesus, we begin a process of transformation. We can look at it as back to what we were created to be, or toward a re-creation of Christ’s image in us. Either way, the foundation of this transformation is God’s love.

God’s love is the ground we sink into and draw nourishment, and strength from. God’s love provides the raw materials to build from.

God’s love is his motivation, and our motivation, for perseverance in view of our continuing mistakes, failures, re-taking the same class over and over, and general clueless-ness.

If God’s love was not expressed in perfect patience, would we ever dare to pursue Christ’s image? Humanly speaking, there is no hope. There is only hope, because we are covered by unending love.

It could almost be said that we are complete in direct proportion to our understanding of God’s love.

Love Leads to the New Life

We have been discussing the new creation for the last little bit. Part fo the discussion has come from my personal thinking over the last year. Part comes the place in Scripture where I have been reading and meditating.

We saw how new life begins. We saw how there are fundamental changes in life. We saw how God is creating a new people, a new family. We saw how God’s children live and work in, and within, God’s purposes and plans. We saw how God crafts a new identity for each new child.

The writer of the passage says, “I get here and I have to stop.” He amazed, and overwhelmed at God’s outpouring. And he realizes the position that someone, who has just chosen to give his allegiance to Jesus is in. Everything is new. Everything is different.

Many may be tempted to grit their teeth, grab determination with both hands, and strive to live perfectly … and be doomed to failure, frustration and discouragement.

So, the writer is also moved to prayer. He prays for God’s children.

When we chose to follow Jesus, God sent his Spirit to live in our hearts. So, he prays for strength from that Spirit. Strength to choose correctly. The machinery of our lives has us running full-throttle, full-speed, down the tracks of the world. We need God’s strength to slow, stop, and move to a new path in life.

As we move to new paths, Christ fills those areas of change. Christ lays claim to habits, though patterns, and emotional responses. He acts to alter motives and perspectives.

As we continue to make corrections in our life paths, God’s design takes hold, and we prove God correct. God, re-building his design into each person, demonstrates his love … and we learn to cling to that love.

It is God’s love that motivates him to bring us into his family, to inject new spiritual DNA into our hearts, to jump start the rebuilding of our design, to demonstrate his character through us, and to partner with his family in expanding his kingdom. It is his love that is the foundation and the fulcrum. It is his love that is the lever.

Having a complete, detailed, extensive understanding of his love is vital. The goal of human development is Jesus Christ. The Father wants everyone to look like Jesus. And it is how completely, and thoroughly, you grasp his love, that determines how far each human progresses.

So, the writer prayer for people to grow in knowing, understanding, and recognizing God’s love. As that light shines bright in our inner being, we move closer to completeness.