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.