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?)