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.