Monday, June 19, 2017

God's Restoration

Scripture says that Jesus died for us. Sin destroyed mankind’s relationship, fellowship, and image with God. Jesus dies so the Father could fulfill his plans, and purposes, in the world. Plans and purposes devised, designed, and intended before anything else was created.

The Father intended to have a relationship with every person ever born. He intended to have fellowship with every person ever born. Jesus paid the admission fee into God’s family for everyone. We need to go get the ticket that is already waiting for us.

And when we choose to follow Jesus, we being the lifelong process of restoring our relationship, fellowship and image with God. Not only are we supposed to “look” like Jesus – thinking , speaking, and acting like Jesus. We are also supposed to have the same relationship Jesus had with the Father, when he was in the world. We are supposed to have the same fellowship. We  are supposed to have:

  • The same connection;
  • The same awareness of the Father and the Spirit;
  • The same grasp of the Father’s heart;
  • The same “eyes” to see what the Father’s sees;
  • The same “ears” to hear what the Father hears;
  • The same “voice” to speak what the Father speaks, and pray what the Father prays;
  • The same closeness.
The Father intends to restore all of this.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Walk in the Spirit - 5

We have seen that sin does not destroy our relationship with the Father, but it does disrupt our fellowship. It disrupts our connection to the Father, the flow of love and grace, and therefore, our ability to live like Jesus, in the way we were designed.

One reason, Jesus live the way he did was because sin never disrupted his connection to the Father. We won’t be so lucky. We won’t be able to say that sin will never disrupt our connection. We should be able to restore fellowship (and the flow of love and grace) by confession and repentance. And we should have stonger cores, when fellowship and the connection is restored. And our character should grow; we should grow in obedience; we should shrink in the practice of sin.

Sin will disrupt the connection, and hinder our ability to live like Jesus. Walking in righteousness will increase our ability to walk like Jesus. But is that the whole thing?

Jesus never lost connection with the Father, and the Spirit. And he never lost contact. The presence of the Father, and the Spirit, was always before him. From the time he got out of bed in the morning, the fact the he was rubbing shoulder with the Spirit was an apparent, obvious fact.

Every day, we rub shoulders with the Spirit. He is eternally present. (Meaning: God gives each one of his children 100%, focused attention.) He is ready, willing, and able to act in any endeavor that restores his kingdom, and brings him glory. He promises to do anything we ask in his name.

Yet, how many of us live as if God is eternally present? We mostly live as if he is not. We need to live in a way that does not offend God, but we also need to live in a way that is aware of his presence. We need to give him attention in a way that mimics his attention of us … given we are physically unable to imitate his 100%, focused attention. It is this awareness that puts us into position to draw on his resources. It is our usual, normal, lack of awareness, that puts us in a position where we depend on our personal abilities, knowledge, and wisdom.

Jesus’ story of the vine and branches indicates, if nothing else, that Christianity is not just a moral code. It is a relationship and fellowship with the Creator of the Universe. It is rational, reasonable, logical, wise, and philosophically complete. But it is also has a mystical side. As his children, we need to embrace the rational, and the mystical. We need to connect into the vine, to receive grace, love and divine nutrition, to produce fruit, and glorify the Father. But if we do not even recognize that we are connected, we will receive nothing from the Father. The connection relies on the focus of our hearts.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Walk in the Spirit - 4

When we give allegiance to Jesus, God chooses to act as judge, and as father. He declares, because of our choice to follow Jesus, that the penalty for our sin is paid for. And he declares that he has adopted us as sons, and taken us into his family.

When Christ died, God nailed our sins to the cross … and they died with Jesus. And we died with Jesus. We were crucified, died and were buried with Christ. And the Law cannot judge anyone, once they have died.

When we choose to follow Christ, God marked us as his, by sending the Holy Spirit to make his home in our inner core. The Spirit renews our core, and crushes the power of sin in us.

Jesus and the cross dealt with the penalty of our sin. The Holy Spirit dealt with the power of our sin. The only thing left is its presence. And because sin was in our core at birth, and because we practiced it every day, we became extremely proficient.

We were designed to have relationship with the Father. We were designed to have fellowship with the Father.

Relationship refers to identity and\or position. When we gave our allegiance to Jesus, he chose to adopt us. We became sons. We became members of his family. Sin cannot break that relationship, any more than insulting my physical parents breaks that relationship. If I insult my mother, I am still her son.

Fellowship refers to connection. I am designed for my heart to be open to the Father, and the Father’s heart to me. I am designed for moment by moment communication, moment by moment reception of love and grace from the Father. I am designed to live like Jesus, and to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit, and the traits of love. If I live in obedience to the Spirit of God (which is expressed in the Word of God), I agree with my design, I am filled with joy and peace, and I maintain and strengthen my connection to the Father.

And sin breaks all that. Even though I am still a son, the connection is broken. There is no communication, no love, and no grace. I am in disharmony with my Father, and my design. No joy. No peace. No growth. No fruit.

If I insult my mother, I am still her son, but I might not get invited to dinner for a while. And, maybe, it is really important for my health, and well-being, to get home cooked meals.

We need to become convinced of the fact that: living in agreement with God’s word means living in agreement with our design, it means maintaining and strengthening our connection to our source of life, meaning and purpose. If the connection gets broken, we start dying. We need to restore the connection as soon as possible.

Scripture says we need to confess and repent of our sin. Confession means to speak in agreement. We agree with God. Sin is bad; righteousness is good. Repent means to change the way we think. And if I am changing the way I think, I change the way I live.

If someone does not have relationship with the Father, it is sin which cuts such a person off from the Father. And it is confession and repentance, plus giving him allegiance, which brings a person into relationship and fellowship.

If someone does have relationship with the Father, it is sin which blocks the connection with the Father. And it is confession and repentance, plus choosing to honor one’s allegiance, which restores the connection, and renews the reception of communication, love and grace.

Because of the presence of sin in our lives, we will continue to fall, and continue to experience a loss of fellowship, with its ensuing love and grace. So, we will need to continue the practice of confession and repentance to restore our connection, and to continue to live as we were designed.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Walking in the Spirit - 3

Mankind was designed to live a particular lifestyle. The shortest way to describe this lifestyle: mankind was designed to live like Jesus.

Jesus is unique in a number of ways. There were some things only he could do. The Father, Son, and Spirit planned that Jesus would complete his unique purpose and mission. And they intended that he would live a life style to be an example to all of God’s children. When we gave our allegiance to Jesus, we embarked on a life of transformation and cooperation with the Father’s mission and purpose. The process of transformation should bring us back to living as we were designed, in the image of Jesus.

We should live like Jesus lived. We should love like Jesus loved. We should have faith like Jesus. We should serve like Jesus. We should be connected to the Father and the Spirit like Jesus. We should hear him speak to us daily. We should always live in reliance on his grace.

The question that always comes up is: if God intends for use to live like Jesus, does God intend for us to heal the sick, raise the dead, and walk on water?

Some would relegate such acts to Jesus alone. He is God. He is sinless. On the other hand, this does not take into account that the Twelve performed such acts. This does not take into account that Paul performed such acts. This does not take into account modern, current testimonies of cancer disappearing, people getting out of wheelchairs, and the blind seeing.

Scripture says that God has spoken to us and given us promises. God gave these promises, so we could demonstrate the characteristics of his nature. One, that means we will grow to naturally, and habitually, choose honorable, pure, and righteous behavior. It also means we will choose love, and we will choose faith.

Two, Scripture also says:  if we ask for anything in Christ’s name, he will give it to us. “Anything” is an awful, big area. The sick, the dead, storms, cities, nations, and cultures are all part of “anything.”

Maybe, as some suggest, God does not respond to our prayers, because of our moral failures. Maybe, as some suggest, God does not respond to our prayers, because responding would interfere with God’s overall strategy in the world. And maybe it is a faith issue. Maybe his children do not take the Father’s promises seriously enough.

Walk in the Spirit - 2

We have tried in the past to discuss the nature of this connection. There were several posts using Jesus’ analogy of a vine and branches. A branch receives life, growth, and bears fruit based on its connection to the vine.  And we have mentioned in other posts that the connection is at least initiated by focusing our hearts on God.

And I have described how I believe that when the Bible uses the word “heart,” it is using a metaphor for the inner life. I sometime use the word “core” to express the same thing. So, connection could be achieved in a number of ways: worship, prayer, meditation, silent communion, studying Greek participles, or sitting in an open posture, waiting for God to speak into our lives. We hold out our hands to God, and God grabs back. Then, he turns on the flow of love and grace into our hearts.

We gain connection; and we love connection. We live like Jesus; and we live like us. So, is the answer to our previous question: Jesus was always in connection with the Father. And “calming storms” is merely the overflow of fully charged batteries. Or is there another step? And how can frail human beings always remain in connection with the Father?

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Walking in the Spirit

During the Last Supper, besides eating the Passover meal together, because he knows his death is imminent, he spends considerable time teaching and encouraging his disciples in many areas.

He is seated with the men, who will take his message and his example into the world, with earthquake-tsunami-like effect.  And if the disciples are in any way aware of the expectations of their life, they would dissolve in fear, and panic. "I'm not Jesus! How can I do what he does?"

So, a large portion of this time is spent on the Helper\Comforter. The Bible says that when we give our allegiance to Jesus, God marks us as his. The mark is a guarantee of our citizenship in his kingdom, our membership of his family, our part in his body. The mark is the Holy Spirit. It is God himself, residing in our core. God has made his home in our inner being, declaring with bright, glaring neon lights, "This is mine! No trespassers allowed!"

It is this same Holy Spirit who resets our spiritual DNA, guaranteeing our transformation. He communicates the Father's special, individual, messages to our inner core. He is our connection to God's resources.

Jesus, though he was in nature God, became man. He became man, so he could demonstrate mankind's original design. He lived, acted, spoke, thought, and felt as each of us were designed to be. He lived in connection to the Father, through the Holy Spirit.

Now, given our allegiance to Jesus, we have the same connection to the Father that Jesus did. And Jesus says, because we have that connection, we can do the same things Jesus did. And Jesus said we will do greater things. (Give sight to the blind? Raise the dead? Calm the storm?)

This is way outside the experience of many Christians. This is way outside the experience of Christians, who assert most strongly that all have been granted authority to love, and act, in this manner.

"Authority" is "delegated power." It means that some entity is given permission to use power. And, usually, power is delegated with conditions. The electric company gives its customers permission to use its power, provided the customers pay the bill. The police are given permission to use deadly force to enforce the law. Again, there are parameters under which such force is sanctioned.

The question we all ought to be asking is: if Jesus did what he did, and lived the way he lived, because he was connected to the Father, and we should do what Jesus did, and live the way he lived, because we are connected to the Father, why are very few, if any, of God's children doing what Jesus did?

Since, one of the parameters to the authority each of God's children is given is the connection of each child to the Father, what is the difference between Jesus' connection and ours?

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

"Walking" in Faith

In the Bible, God tells Abraham that he is going to give Abraham’s family the land he is living in. Of course, at this time, Abraham’s family has just two people in it. Then, after Abraham died, there was a famine in the land, so Jacob moved the family to Egypt temporarily. Temporarily meaning 400 years.

Eventually, it was time to move back. So, Joshua and 2 million Israelites stood on the shore of the Jordan River. Melted snow from the mountains added to the river, so that it was a mile-wide raging torrent. How do you get men, women, and children across the river?

For someone who parted a sea not too long before this, parting a river is not too big of a problem. But there is a twist.

When God parted the Red Sea, Moses stood up and said, “Hey, guys! Watch this!” And they did. Now, Joshua told the people, that when they saw the priests carrying the Ark, they should follow them. And they did.

The priest carried the Ark down to the edge of the river, and started to wade across. When they got to knee-deep, the Bible says God pushed to river back to a city 5 miles upriver.

God is giving two pictures of faith. Sometimes, if we are pursuing a God-given objective, and there is an obstacle, we need to watch and wait. And sometimes, we need to start wading. That is, we need to begin moving in the direction of the objective.

How do we know which to do? Faith is believing that what God says is true, trusting he will be acting to bring it to pass, and obeying what he gives us to do. Which means sometimes we wait, and sometimes we wade. The only logical difference  I can see in both situations is what God said, what people heard, and what people did in obedience.

I believe God is an active communicator still. I believe God is speaking to each child almost continually. His children mostly are not paying to attention. So, they miss his voice.

He speaks in different ways. Sometimes, he underlines verses in the Bible. Sometimes, he whispers thoughts in our hearts. He sends dreams and visions. I even read of a couple of instances where people heard audible words. Faith requires us to be alert to his voice, so we know whether to wait, or whether to wade.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Pray for Workers

Jesus sent his disciples out on a mission trip. Before they left. He spent some time giving them instructions. The first instruction was to pray for workers.

He said the harvest was great. The harvest in this case was not ears of corn, or bushels of wheat. The harvest referred to the lives, and souls, of people. These are people who have not given God their allegiance, but they are responding to the God-shaped emptiness in their hearts.

Part of Jesus’ mission was to die for mankind’s sin. Part was to introduce people to the Father, and his desire for fellowship with people. Only Jesus could complete the first part. But any of Jesus’ disciples can do the second. And the second part has become the disciples’ mission.

There are three practices involved in accomplishing this part of Jesus’ mission.
  • Proclaim. This is communicating the gospel message. This could be verbal, written, sign language, art, semaphore, or Morse code. This could be a speech, a discussion (one on one, group, or panel), a blog post, a newspaper article, a novel, or an animated movie on TV. This could be instruction, answering questions, or relating personal experience. It should occur in all places, and all phases of society.
  • Demonstrate. Jesus did more that talk; he acted. So, his disciples should act too. Like him, they should serve, love, feed, give relief, build, comfort, empathize, accept, heal and show mercy. The goal is for God’s family to be a picture of God. It is say, “You want to know what Jesus was like? Look at his family.”
  • Pray. Creation has two parts: physical, and spiritual. And these parts interact and impact each other. So, there is a supernatural component to walking with Jesus. Prayer is how an individual follower of Jesus contributes to the impact of God’s family in the unseen, but really real, part of creation. In prayer, he smothers the effects of the enemy, enhances and strengthens the effect of the Spirit, releases the Spirit to move in different spaces, and affects the hearts of people, cities, and nations. Along with that, he strengthens the hearts of other members of God’s family to take up God’s mission. 

God’s family is an army, and a team. Each member of God’s family should be able, and should be involved in proclaiming, demonstrating, and praying. Each one will probably be involved in one practice more than the others – so, as a team, we cover one another. But all should practice all.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Golden Rule

I noticed recently that in Luke’s gospel, the golden rule is in context of Jesus’ teaching about loving your enemies.

The tendency most people have is to give to one’s enemy what the enemy gives to you. With maybe a little more added. If they trash you, you trash them. If they abuse you, you abuse them.

But Jesus said, treat your enemy as you want to be treated. No one wants to be abused, trashed, taunted, insulted, or spat upon. We all want to be treated gently, politely, and with respect.

Jesus commands us to live contrary to our natural inclination. Even to move in the opposite direction. For abuse, give kindness. For insult, give praise.

Of course, to really, authentically act in a different way, a person needs a different heart. To act in love at all times, a person needs a new heart. A person needs new spiritual DNA injected into the core of our being. To get new spiritual DNA, a person needs a new agreement with Jesus, to give one’s allegiance to Jesus.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Old Vs. New Covenant

God told Jeremiah that he would make a new covenant with his children. The first covenant was made on Sinai, when God gave the Law to Moses. The covenant was based on an agreement between God and the people. God would bless the people, as long as they obeyed the Law. And God would permit circumstances that would punish the people, when they disobeyed. And they continually broke the covenant. The Bible narrative contains a series of waves. The people ride high on the crest of obedience. Then, the crash on the beach of disobedience.

It was a choice to surrender to weakness, and expedience. To want to be like others. To stop following the Lord. Israel chose to follow other gods, almost from the very first day God delivered them from Egypt.

So, a new covenant is needed. One that is not based on men following the Law in their own strength and will. Because that is never going to happen.

This new covenant is also based on an agreement with God and people. The people choose to follow God. God chooses to make a fundamental change in the person’s spiritual DNA. The change occurs deep in a person’s inner man. Thought processes, motivations, and imagination are all fundamentally changed.

And Jesus came to bring this new covenant into being. And many Jews realized something extraordinary was happening. But what many did not seem to see was that a change in covenant also meant a change in practice. It’s like when a person gets a new item of clothing, because an old item has a hole in it. One does not get the new item to use it as patch material for the old item. One begins using the new item, and gets rid of the old one.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Christ Removed the Power of Sin

Scripture also says god gave us a spiritual circumcision. Circumcision is a cutting away and removing of flesh. In a spiritual circumcision, God removes the flesh.

“Flesh” is a term, used in the bible, to mean that part of a human being, which enables us, which gives power to sin. When the first people chose independence from God, that decision flipped a switch in the hearts of people to choose sin and rebellion. Turning away from God, choosing sin instead of holiness, hate instead of love, selfishness instead of service, has become natural to people. It has become part of our DNA. We do not have the power to stop, and change these attitudes and behaviors. They are woven too deep into our beings. There is no hope of improvement, let alone perfection.

But we gave our allegiance to Jesus, and he circumcised our spiritual flesh. He removed that part of our inner man that is naturally inclined to sin. If you will, he did a DNA transplant. He removed the gene that gave power to sin, and replaced it with a gene that gives power to love, obedience, and faithfulness. He gave us the spirit, who will step by step, renew our image, so we will look like, and live like, Jesus.

Without this process, there is no hop of moving back to the Father. We will be unable to choose obedience. No, we can choose.

This does not mean we will become perfect in this life. The presence of sin is still in our lives. We have gotten too good at it, through long, intense, and continuous practice. The enemy and the world still seek to deceive, to influence, and to mold. But we can now expect significant restoration of our original design. We can expect significant transformation into Christ’s image. We can expect significant advances in love, joy, and peace.

Christ Paid the Penalty of Sin

Scripture says, that when we chose to give our allegiance to God, he dealt with the penalty of our sin. Christ’s death prepare the way. And with our allegiance, God applied the results of Christ’s death to us. He nailed our sins to the cross.

When a criminal was crucified, a sign was nailed to the cross listing the crimes the person committed, for which he was being executed. Well, God listed our sins, and nailed them to Jesus’ cross. He was executed for our sins.

Christ has paid the penalty for our sin. The cross cancelled that penalty. And we are now free to approach God, as his child, as his friend, and as his priest.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Peace

We were at some friends recently. At one point, the family cat came in from outside, and was looking for a warm lap to take a nap in. He jumped onto the chair I was sitting in, found the most comfortable spot, laid down, and didn’t move a muscle.

It reminded me of my son. We would need to go somewhere. So, we would put him into the car seat, buckle him in, start the car, and he would be a sleep in 30 seconds. Head down flat on the arm rest in front of him. How can anyone sleep in such a position?

And I began to wonder about what going to sleep so readily says about a person’s mind-set.

Little children fall asleep readily, and quickly, because they feel safe. There are no worries, no fears, no frantic scramble to achieve security. Little children are totally at peace. They have moms and dads who fill their needs, protect them, comfort them, and love them.

Scripture says we should be like little children. Scripture says our lives should be characterized by peace. And human adults are anything but characterized by peace. Not that they are not seeking peace. They are looking for it in jobs, insurance, alarm systems, government regulations, politics, and the perfect relationship. Everywhere by the source of peace.

Like love, each of God’s children should be characterized by peace. If they are not experiencing peace, they are not walking with God like they should.

Large portions of God’s family are living in a state of angst. There is dread of the future, the state of the union, the world and the economy. Their hopes, confidence and trust rests in the government, their bank account, their jobs, or their friends, None of these are big enough.

The only thing big enough to support the world, all its people, and all its problems is our heavenly Father. He is the only one wise enough to have the answers. He is the only one big enough to hold everyone in his hands, and heart. He is the only one who can act with the perfectly balanced amount of love, power, strength, and gentleness.

He is the only one who has each person in his heart. He is the only one who can affect good for the world, and each individual. He loves each one. He is for each one. Even if the world is crashing, imploding, and being overwhelmed, all of these things are true. Especially as it relates to the who turn to God, give him their allegiance, and become a part of his family.

We experience peace as we engage in fellowship with the Father, as we surrender to the one who loves us above all else – our lives, our worries, and our loved ones. Peace is a sign of trust in our Father, and a sign of defeat to the world, the flesh, and the enemy.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Fruit of the Spirit

Scripture says that when we give our allegiance to Jesus, his Spirit makes its home in the core of our inner being. Since, all of life proceeds out of this core, the Spirit begins to give input into a person’s core, and it flows out into his life.

(Many people use the word “heart” to designate this core. It feeds into the person’s thoughts, words, and actions. And, therefore, it affects their life. I tend to see “heart” as a figure of the entire inner man. So, when god speaks to my heart, he speaks to the whole package.)

As the spirit gives input at this most fundamental level of our lives, we experience transformation starting at this most fundamental level. It then flows out to the outer places of life. Some people view this as a change in spiritual DNA.

So, as the Spirit splices new “DNA” into our hearts, we begin to live as the spirit lives, as Jesus lives. And Scripture says there are certain results that occur in our lives as this transformation process continues, and should occur in increasing measure.

The first in importance is love. The longer a person walks with Jesus, the more that love should be apparent in their lives. With joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and discipline appearing and growing.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Aliens and Strangers

When someone accepts a job, he chooses to live in agreement with the company rules. He will arrive at work at a certain time. He will perform certain duties. In the same way, when a person gives his allegiance to Jesus, he agrees to live according to the laws and customs of God’s kingdom.

Which means that a person is now living in a world that follows its own laws and customs. And a number of those are diametrically opposed to God’s way. So, the children of God are out of sync with the world he lives in. They are strangers and aliens in the world.

God created the world, and he designed it to be a part of his kingdom. He designed people to live in his kingdom. Follow God’s ways enables us to live in sync with God. We will live in ways that produce true joy, peace, and contentment, because we are following the design specs. (You do not plug your laptop, designed to run on 110 volts, into a 220 volt outlet. Bad things will happen.)

Sometimes, people who choose to follow Jesus, and accept this truth, will block the world. They will avoid it. They will condemn it. But that’s not God’s heart either.

We need to live as a free people. We should not be caught up in the world. We should agree with, and practice God’s ways. But we are also God’s servants. We should assume the same heart, the same perspectives, the same motives, the same attitudes and practices that our Father has. He does not block off the world. He does not avoid the world. Like him, we should engage the world. We should affirm the good. We should not practice the bad. We should live the laws of the kingdom in the world … and embrace the paradoxes that result.

(For example, God says we should practice love to all people. Including our enemies. The American political scene, right now, is a good example of how not to practice this. Imagine people from opposite parties being patient, kind, speaking well of, and wanting the best for each other.)

A Nation of Priests

When the first people chose to turn away from God, God formulated a plan to draw people back to him. He chose a family to build into a nation.

And that family would bless the whole world in two ways. First, they would be the people that would produce Jesus, the Promised One. And he would pay the penalty for sin, and build a bridge so people could return to fellowship with the Father.

Second, it was intended that this nation would demonstrate what to meant to live in relationship with the Father.  Other people would see how they were blessed by their relationship with the Father. They would see the benefit, wisdom, and freedom of living as God designed.

And God’s chosen people succeeded. Then, they failed. Then, they succeeded. Then, they failed again. And given time, they managed to fail more than they succeeded. And it got so bad, that God was unable to use them as an example to the world.

So, God scrapped his plan … right? No. He selected a new people.

God also intended that all of his chosen people were going to be his priests. Priests are people with a special access to God. They represent God to people, and people to God. They facilitate the process of achieving peace and favor with God. And he intended that all of his people were going to fulfill that role.

But most of his people rebelled, and they lost the privilege of being his priests. Only a subset, who had remained faithful, were allowed to be priests. And that priesthood was tied to, first, the tabernacle, and  then the temple in Jerusalem. So, when the temple was destroyed, because of further unfaithfulness, there was no priesthood.

So, God scrapped his plan … right? No. He selected a new priesthood from his new, international family. A priesthood, whose role was not based on the temple, but on Christ’s work on the cross. Anyone who gives his allegiance to Jesus, who chooses to follow Jesus, are his priests. So, all the members of God’s family are his priests. All have special access to him. All represent God to people, and people to God. All facilitate the process of achieving peace and favor with God.

With Jesus, One on Many

There is also a group component to following Jesus. One passage describes God’s people as living stones that are being built into a spiritual house. Each stone has its place in the structure. Jesus, as the master builder, chooses each stone, chooses its place, and shapes it to fit in that place.

If the stone’s place is next to the door, five feet from the ground, there has to be other stones in place to support it. Without the other stones, if the builder tries to put the stone in its proper place, it will fall to the ground. We need the support of others in God’s family. And we give support to others in God’s family.

The house derives its form and function as each stone is put into its proper place, with all the other stones.

In another passage, the human body is used as a picture of God’s people. The body is one thing, made up of many different parts. And the parts are all different. They have different functions. There are eyes, ears, hands, feet, and other parts. But like the stones of a house, each part has a part in supporting the whole. But each part does it differently. And the whole needs each different function. Without each particular part, the whole is handicapped.

And the parts that give the most life to the body are not always visible. In many churches, people assume that the professional Christians are the most important. (And it is possible that they are. It is also possible that the most important parts are the Tuesday morning prayer meeting, attended only by women in their 80’s.) The professional Christian may only be the face and mouth of the body. If the face and mouth do not function correctly, the body still lives. But if the heart does not function correctly, the body dies. And the heart functions invisibly … usually.

It is vital that each part fulfills its role. When each part does its part, the effect can be synergistic. The effect can be more than the effects of all the parts added together.

There is a passage in Scripture that describes the God’s family living through its daily routine. Each part living out its function, together with all the other parts. And Scripture testifies that the surrounding community observed God’s family, their manner of life, and two things happened.
  • Admiration and esteem for God’s family grew.
  • People were choosing to give their allegiance to Jesus … every day.

We, as God’s kingdom and family, have individual responsibilities. But if we carry out those responsibilities within the context of God’s family, it can have a huge impact on the world.


Monday, February 13, 2017

With Jesus, One on One

The first people chose to not trust god, to not follow God. Since, then, people do not live as God intended. The world does not function as God intended. We could say the world is broke.

And we could say that Jesus came into the world to fix what was broke. And we enter into God making the world whole by giving him our allegiance, by becoming his disciple.

A disciple was a type of student in Jesus’ day, similar to the term apprentice. An apprentice becomes attached to a master to learn a trade. The master explains a skill, then the apprentice practices the skill. Usually, in a real project. When the first skill is learned to the master’s satisfaction, the master explains the next skill. And the apprentice practices the next skill. And so on.

So, we have become Jesus’ apprentices. The Bible becomes our text book. It is God’s words. And it is the best tool to show God’s people how to improve their relationship with God, and how to live as he designed.

And the Holy Spirit becomes our teacher. He applies Scripture to our thoughts, words, deeds, relationships, and practices. He shows us what we need to pursue, and what we need to change.

The difference between God’s design, God’s intention, and reality is so great, that when we choose to give our allegiance to Jesus, it is like becoming a baby again, and learning life all over. The Bible says we are new creations.

One of the most important things for newborns is proper nutrition. Proper nutrition for god’s family are God’s words. This is most directly associated with reading the Bible. (And memorization, meditation, study, etc.) But it can come from other books, and other people. The computer term “garbage in, garbage out” applies here/ If we want good results, we need to be sure we have good raw materials.

People are born physically as individuals, one at a time. People become part of a family as individuals, one at a time. This is true of God’s family. Each one chooses to follow Jesus. Each one becomes a member of his family. Each one has responsibility to be available for proper nutrition. Each one chooses to have fellowship with the Father.

There is an individual component to following God. There is a family component to following God. We engage in both. Both are important.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Love Perseveres; God Perseveres

We hear stories about people who inherit a lot of money, or win the lottery. They start “enjoying life” with the money. And they make a lot of new friends, who want to help them “enjoy life.” And everything is fine as long as the money lasts. When the money gone, the friends are gone. They were not the person’s friends; they were the money’s friends.

Love is not love, if it only lasts while things are good. Love walks down the whole road, valleys and mountain tops. Love chooses to stay.

Many Christians hold the opinion that God walks with his children, as long as they are obedient. And it is true, that fellowship with God is broken when we sin. But God is always ready to heal the relationship, when we turn back to him.

One of Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus how many times should a person forgive another person. Maybe seven times? Jesus responded, “No. Seventy times seven!” So, we should keep score, and when we hit 490 that’s it? No, Jesus was saying the number of times is uncountable. And if it should be uncountable with us, it is uncountable with God.

God perseveres because he sees the end. He sees each one of his children, as perfect pictures of Jesus. He sees each one as complete and whole. He sees each one as new.

He is absolutely confident of his plans, intentions, and the process that will be worked out in our lives. His plans do not fail. He will walk with us to the final day, when we will be glorified.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Love Hopes All Things; God Hopes All things

Hope might be best defined as “positive expectation>” A person with hope waits for good to come. Biblical hope is not might come, but will come. God’s will obviously comes, because God promises it. And, yes, it may not come in this life, but it will come.

And God looks with positive expectations at this life too. He knows life is not perfect. And he knows that in the end, it will get worse. People will turn away from him. Society and culture will be ruled by principles of ungodliness. Those who have not given him allegiance will agree more with sin, than with the law of love. But he knows his rule will overturn all of that, when he comes into his kingdom. Love will reign. His kingdom will be established as he planned it would be in the beginning.

And he knows that the plans he had from the beginning for each of his children will come to be. He knows how he designed us. He knows each person who gives him allegiance will live out his design. No one will perfectly live it out on this life. Each one will move toward it, because God has promised he will act or us. He expects his children will fulfill their design, and they will make significant progress in this life, because he will act to bring this about.

It is the love of God that chooses to see each person as they were designed, even as each person fails to live that. It is the love of God that chooses to give 100% attention to each person – acting o bring each person into his family, acting to raise each child (fulfilling their design, living as Jesus did from what fulfilled his heart.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Love Believes All Things; God Believes All Things

The word in the original language for “believe” is the same word used to describe giving allegiance to Jesus. It is more than simply agreeing that something is true. There is a trust factor. There is a commitment factor.

 

This is not saying that love accepts everything a person says. Lies and deceit are not acceptable. They pull us away from God’s design, from joy and peace. They should be challenged.

 

This is saying that love does not give up on people. God does not give up on people.

 

If anyone had reason to give up on people, it would  be God. He sees every flaw, every failure, every sin. He knows every lie and excuse.

 

But he also sees people “in Christ.” He sees them through Jesus-colored glasses. He knows their potential. He knows their gifts. He knows their destiny.. He knows what he planned we should be like, and how we should be blessing the world. Sin has not cancelled out those plans he has made. It will take a different process, a different learning curve, than if sin had not infected the world. He intends to guide, to enable, so we can fulfill our destiny.

 

He believes in us, and in his own ability (the Spirit’s ability) to mold us, to refine us, and to renovate our lives. It is good for us. It is good for the world. And to see his children renewed is good for God. Not that he needs outside validation. Rather, to see his children move toward fulfilling his design gives him joy, because he knows it will give his children joy. It will cause a small ripple of joy through the world. And the small ripples will reinforce one another, until there is a huge tsunami of joy washing over the world.

 

For God, the tsunami is as certain as the sun coming up. So, he pushes forward in the lives of his children. Each one has a part in this grand mosaic, so he gives each one his complete attention, and he does not lose heart over any of them.

Love Bears All Things; God Bears All things

The word in the original language provides a couple of pictures. One is “protect by covering.” I get the picture of someone standing under a roof in a storm. The rain is falling in buckets, but people under the roof are warm and dry.

The second picture is of something like a pillar. A structure that provides support, holding something else up, and not letting it fall.

Both pictures give a connotation of protection. One keeps the things of life from crashing down on people. The other provides support, enabling people to stand, and continue to go forward.

Love wants the success, the well-being, and the woleness of the people they are connected to. And God wants the success, well-being, and wholeness of all creation. Sin, the world, and life can overwhelm. God keeps what can overwhelm, and God supports each child so they can move forward.

God’s definition of success is different from the world’s. God seeks to establish a relationship with each human being, bring them into his family, and restore each one to his original design. To complete this version of success, among other things, God takes action so his children are not overwhelmed, and they can stand firmly with him. He directs. He encourages. He teaches.

Each child will inevitably fail. He protects his children, so failure does not become the end. He helps each one to his feet. He provides support, grace, and direction to move beyond it. He is firmly resolved to stand with each child to ensure success. We are all subject to falling and failing. We all need someone who has our back. We can stand and walk, because he is there holding us up.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Love Does Not Rejoice With Unrighteousness; God Does Not Rejoice With Unrighteousness

This trait of love is longer, because it has two parts. The parts are a comparison of a negative and a positive. “Love does not rejoice with unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” Or, in other words: “Love is not happy when bad stuff happens; love is happy when good stuff happens.”

 

The comparison is between unrighteousness and truth. God designed and created the world. He designed the way it should work. That is the truth. If the way things work agrees with the truth, that is good. If the way things work do not agrees with the truth, that is bad.

 

Righteousness is a word that refers to a person’s relationship with god. Before we chose allegiance to God, we made the de facto choice of allegiance with sin and the world. We are living in a state of unrighteousness.

 

When we choose allegiance to Jesus, the grace of Christ negates the penalty of sin, adopts us into the family of God, and declares us righteous. We have moved a long way back toward how we were designed to live. We agree with God. We agree with the truth.

 

God’s heart is that everyone would move here. God’s heart is that the universe would operate according to his design. Earthquakes, genocide, sex trafficking, environmental destruction, bullying, and left\right political bickering are not part of his design. They are not part of the truth. God did not create them. God did not orchestrate them. God is not happy when they happen … except for the hopeful possibility that someone sees these things, wakes up, and seeks him, embraces the truth, and chooses allegiance with God. God will rejoice in that aspect of it. God does not, and will not, rejoice in the misery and pain these things cause.

Love Does Not Keep a List of Wrongs Suffered; God Does Not Keep a List of Wrongs Suffered

Love forgives, so, of course, love does not keep grudges. So, God does not keep grudges. But the Father of All is also the Judge of All.

 

I have a faint memory of a Bible passage that says God keeps a record of our deeds. Most people associate that with a record of our wrongs. However, if my memory is correct, it is a record of our deeds – good and bad. Sill, God does not need a record of anything. He knows all things. He already knows our deeds. And he already knows that we are born in rebellion to him. We are already condemned without a single entry in any book.

 

As the Judge, who holds all the world accountable, he judges us based on our rebellion.

 

As the Father, who loves all, and wants a relationship with all, he forgives all those who give him allegiance, who become his children. He nailed our sins to the cross, and killed them. He says he will forget our sins.

 

If someone you love does something wrong to you, you probably do not forget it. But, for the sake of the loved one, for the sake of the relationship, you forgive, and put the wrong behind you. You treat the wrong as if it never happened.

 

It is impossible for the All-Knowing God to “un-know” something. But, he can choose to put our sins behind him, to treat them as if they never happened.

 

He “forgets” our sins for the sake of the child he loves, to restore his family, to renew the relationship. He views us through our position in Christ, and the sacrifice of Christ. He treats us according to the identity he has won, and proclaimed, for us: child, priest, ambassador. Dead, buried, raised and seated with Christ.

Love is Not Easily Angered; God is Not Easily Angered

We derive the English word “paroxysm” from the original word in this passage. A “paroxysm” is a “sudden, violent, emotion.” We are all acquainted with people who have short fuses. They respond to frustrated expectations by exploding.

Some people act as if the world exists to serve them. Fulfillment in life is getting everything one wants. It is all about winning, being first, and getting the most stuff. And when they don’t get what they want, they lose it. Their passions are in control.

God designed the perfect world. God designed perfect people. And, in an instance, it all came crashing down. He could have responded by throwing creation into the shredder. He is God. Creation does revolve around him. Instead, he chose to serve, to redeem, and to accept imperfect people, in an imperfect world.

The word describes someone who does not get his way. Frustrated expectations could result in disgust, and rejection. God chooses to engage, to press in. God embraces his imperfect creation, his plan, his mission, and his children.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Love Does Not Seek Its Own; God Does Not Seek His Own

Perhaps the primary trait of love is being “other-centered.” People do need to be concerned about themselves and their lives. Food. Shelter. Education. The children. Career. Retirement. All things we need to be involved in. And all things that may require work, study, and prayer.

Still, love is able to separate itself, and its concerns, from itself. Love is not chained to its needs. It can even surrender its needs for the needs of another.

God is totally self-sufficient. His needs are already, totally, and entirely met. He could be concerned with his image. (And sometimes he is.) He could be concerned with running his kingdom. (And sometimes he is.)

God’s people have, at time, misrepresented him. The have given the world a false picture of who he is. God has decreed certain laws in his kingdom. His people have broken, ignored, misrepresented, and even substituted other laws. So, he could focus on painting a correct picture. He could focus on reinforcing his laws. Instead, he focuses on his mission.

God’s mission:
  • To create a spiritual family.
  • To establish, and practice a relationship with each children in his family.
  • To complete a renovation project in each child, so each child is living as he was designed.

God designed and created each one of us to live in his family, to have a relationship with him, and to live in a certain way. God’s design is general – he wants each one to live in love, in community, in relationship. God’s design is specific – he wants some to be teachers, some craftsmen, some to intercede, etc. For each of us to realize our place might not be easy for any number of reason. But, this is also part of God’s renovation.

God’s mission, and therefore, God’s heart focus, is about people. He gives 100% focused attention on each person. God is 100% other-centered, and 0% self-centered.