Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saturday, a New Year's Eve

In thinking of another year...what's it hold?
All in all He is enough.
Thankful 2011 finishes and our family is healthy.
Hope in Jesus' finished work is a continual state.

In-Dwelling by Holy Spirit -- a real time streaming--
a continual lesson in peace and contentment,
The power of heaven's love is a goodness beyond all man's wisdoms.

Have I had an obstacle in my soul?
It's a burden cast on Him

Embrace spirit...there is no better hug!

Eyes upward into the grace of the Father,
by an act of will, I choose His righteous leading,
He holds my family and me,
Come 2012, Come Lord Jesus!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Witnesses, Part Three

I imagine some will think I over simplified in the last post that three types of people and their reactions to Jesus are the whole of what's wrong with the world. 
     "What about murder and sexual immorality?" asks the mom without taking her eyes off twin daughters catching and eating or chasing the missed flying candy from a Christmas parade float.

     "What about the loss of our national heritage as a Christian nation?!" the Tea Partier demands.

     "What about greed and injustice?" queries the lawyer from the local Legal Aid Society.

If the John 12 refection is viewed in comparison with the following verse:

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  1 John 2:16 NAS
...and the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is factored into this study, a masterful unity of thought is clear. (See Matthew, chapter 4)

The Lust of the Flesh
At the height of a forty-days-fasting hunger, Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread. Jesus refuses to do so stating life is not in bread alone but in the words, the meaning, found in God. In so doing He ruled over the desires of the body in favor of obedience demonstrating authority over the lust of the flesh. Thus Jesus both models and explains the ability to make meaningful decisions in line with life in God in contrast with succumbing to innate physiological drives of the human body we fallen humans like to justify as our basic needs. Seeking gratification of the body as the point of life through the varied sensual measures of the palate, a sated stomach or fulfilled loins are the "lusts of the flesh".

The crowds or masses in John 12 represent the wild swings of opinion that ride on this lust. When one lives for body gratification as the meaning of life, highs bounce up with expectation, lows deepen with deprivation and manipulative behaviors of appearing interested in what is expected while secret motivations protect one's love of the dark abound.

The Lust of the Eyes (do not confuse as what lust of the flesh wants to view)
Next Satan invites Jesus to prove His value in the eyes of God. Satan tells Jesus to throw Himself from the top of the temple that God would then send angels to protect Him. Jesus refuses and states that would be a test of God. Religious Christian behavior  attempts to raise the value of the adherent through self-righteous works. If the adherent has achieved the level of holiness demanded by men, it is falsely believed the individual can expect God to save or protect. People surrendering to this sin also expect to be honored for their piety. This is a "lust" of the eyes, since it means that the person so inclined "sees" him or herself as valuable for their religious practice. The heart of such a person is idolizing the self.

Clearly the Pharisees of John 12 are afflicted by this area of sin.

The Pride of Life
 Last, Satan asks Jesus to receive payment of the wealth, beauty, and power of the "kingdoms" on earth by holding out to Him the "glory" of these. Kingdom is a political term that refers to the way in which organization of political power can maximize the productive power of the people within the kingdom. The modern state or nation is a "kingdom" whether it is an absolutist-leaning government such as Saudi Arabia, a constitutional monarchy such as the United Kingdom, or a democratic republic such as our own US. 

The Greeks in John 12, who are today regarded as the primary root of Western Civilization,  represent the Pride of Life sin. From the Greeks, Western Civilization derives its respect and love of analytical thought, the arts, and the power of organization of an involved constituency. The Greeks produced direct democracy as the means of political power and organization of society; they gave voice to ideas of scientific observation and philosophic expression of wisdom, and crowned it with a symmetrical and expressive art in architecture, sculpture and theater. In our modern corporate world, this power of organization is tied to profit. Greed and glory of achievement are the fruit of this sin.

All that is wrong with world, indeed, is in the story where Jesus starts His walk of passion to the Cross.

He did it for all of humanity.

Think about this: In the story He made no attempt to "minister to" or evangelize any of the groups represented.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Part Two of Witnesses

In the previous blog, I looked at various responses of types of people to Jesus found in John 12.  As just some guy thinking about what it says, I find this moment in the life of Jesus hugely significant, a bit like finding $1,000.00 missing from the checking account. This has to be figured out!

This is the prelude to John's view and insights into the Crucifixion, after all. It's not a stretch of basic logic to infer the following: if my faith is ultimately an acknowledgement that the One who dashed off a few billion galaxies across a mind-bendingly expansive universe authored this through John; and if He thought so much of this moment in the life of Jesus as to invade the temporal and voice Himself aloud to these folks—and to you and me by extension—then there must be profound revelation laid bare within these verses.  Not that any other scripture is less profound given Who is the writer, mind you, but if we open our heart's eyes just a bit more than usual…

Jesus is about to proceed through the great Passion of God, the redemption of His fallen creation through an act of supreme love and grace. The Father will have to heap all the sin of the world upon the shoulders of His Son, then turn and punish this holy and wholly awesome man for everyone else's multiple and often vile wrong-doing.

All the sinners of the world are watching in the story and all turn away from Him rather than accept Him. I don't mean "all" by inferring all who are watching by reading the scriptures across time. Right there in the story, every sinner and every root of sin are displayed in the characters who are present.

The events begin as Jesus enters Jerusalem and the "crowds" rush to watch. They get a little emotional and heap upon Him praise hosanna's and palm fronds. Next, the Pharisees grumble their complaints having rejected Jesus from the first; the Greeks come poking in to ask Jesus a couple of things, as they ponder if He, in fact, holds any truth needing consideration; and the crowds come round again in the end with the truth revealed--they are not nearly so full of praise once it's realized Jesus is not giving out what they want.

There you have it: What's wrong with the world described in a handful of short verses.

Think about it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Witnesses of the Beginning of Christ's Passion

John 12:12 – 50 is a very public moment in the life of Jesus as He enters Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover week. In this event, the Father audibly speaks over him (vs 28). This revelation by the Father speaking over Jesus swings the story of Jesus as told by John fully toward the passion of Christ and His crucifixion and resurrection.

However, before the voice of God is heard, we see three distinct groups interact with Jesus. These who enter the scene are in order: Pharisees, Greeks, and the crowd. 

The Pharisees speak first to one another with,

       "You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world is going after Him (vs. 19)." This is spoken in reaction to Jesus' triumphal entry into the city with many crying out, "Hosanna!" The reader confronts a face worn by the hardened heart. These who trust in their religious traditions reject Christ as the all in all. Such folk are around today from many religious traditions including ones labeled Christian.

Next enter the Greeks. This group seeks to meet with Jesus. Their request is relayed from Philip to Andrew to Jesus who answers them by speaking of a grain of wheat which falls to the ground and dies. He speaks the principle that all who seek life in Christ must be willing to die to the life of this world. For those who would meet Christ out of an honest desire to know--these Greeks in the story represent a valid intellectual inquiry into who Jesus is--there is but this response: Understand the life one knows must end for the true spiritual life in Him to come forth (vs. 20-26).

Jesus then speaks from a place of trouble in His heart regarding the events soon to come and places Himself in the trust of the Father, 

      "Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came out of heaven:

      "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again (vs. 28)."

The crowd reacts with unsure and doubting words. Jesus next speaks to these who have heard the voice from Heaven with, 

       "This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes (vs 30)." Jesus verifies the Father's voice as for the sake of these witnesses, and logically then for all readers across time, as well (assuming a regard for all biblical accounts as one great spiritual message from the Creator God to the shared humanity on Earth).

Next, "Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out." (vs. 31)  
Isn't there some significant understanding about where the spiritual line is drawn here? The ruler of this world is cast out is stated as a present tense marker. Something of the domination of Satan over humanity is forever altered. The Kingdom has come for those who will see it.  (see 2 Cor. 4:1-5 - those who do not see it are blinded to it.)

The focus shifts to "the crowd."  The crowd then answered Him,

       "We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?"  

       So Jesus said to them, "For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.  "While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light (vs 30-36)."

The inquiry of the crowd is in sharp contrast to both the Pharisees and the Greeks.While the crowd is not in open rejection like the Pharisees, neither is the crowd honestly seeking any answers to questions like the Greeks. The crowd's questioning is a challenge intended to shield those asking from Truth. Much like the challenge of adolescents to parents, this technique uses a question in anger or distrust or from a selfish desire of freedom from authority to blunt whatever answer may come.

Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter; the masses love darkness, resist vulnerability to truth, and consequently, the change of finding the Light of God.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reflections on John 12

The events of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as told by John begin in chapter 12. Jesus is anointed by Mary, ostensibly for His burial. Then an interesting event occurs, and we have the opportunity to examine a revelation by God and some core words of Jesus as experienced and reacted upon by three different types of people: Pharisees, Greeks, and the crowds. As readers after the fact, we have the opportunity ourselves react to Jesus.

I'll share some observations over the chapter in the next few posts. Take some time to read the chapter and think it through. We can benefit from sharing our thoughts together.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Love ... and Holiness of the Father

As a young Christian, I had questions about the meaning and purpose of the Old Testament. Now I realize that my questions were really about the way I heard the Old Testament being used. I have determined I enjoy the Old Testament even as I hear many of my contemporary Christian brethren questioning  its meaning and purpose. The problem, of course, is that God appears angry and vindictive to them in the Old as compared to loving and compassionate in the New Testament. The solution to reconciling these is to realize that as Christians, we read and live in the meaning of the New Testament. The Old gives insight and understanding into deeper truth, but none of these insights cancel or alter the New Testament reality.

Do not read the OT as if it was intended as the source of commands in the spiritual walk with God. One and two hundred years ago, the OT and specifically the Ten Commandments were regularly held up as commands for the Christian here in America. So much so, that a legalism persisted in the church which on multiple levels permeated and shaped the social order. I believe this has brought much harm to the gospel message and has often skewed understanding faith for individuals, whole families, and the church at large.

In making the above assertion, I do not suggest that God is not a holy God, nor that “holiness” should be abandoned as a goal of being a believer in the Living Christ. In fact, His holiness is the point of this post.

There is certainly a place for reading and understanding the OT. It is wise to read it. However, we do not live by it, and that is where many go astray. The OT is often used as a proof text for perspectives or actions. Is it wrong to do so? That depends, I would say, on what one is trying to prove!

1 Corinthians 10: 6-11 reads, “6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY." 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”

Paul has used examples of idolatry, immorality, presumption and complaining to illustrate specifically what those actions look like and to remind the readers of God’s attitude to those behaviors. He does so to warn us about acting on our cravings, but He never states, “Beware, the Lord will do the same to you!” The OT does show God enacting punishments on men, both the children of Israel and their enemies. However, the NT does not give any reason to believe that God so acts under the new covenant of faith. Rather, it specifically says something different. We live under the Truth of Jesus as revealed by Him when He walked on the earth. We know of the atonement through the crucifixion (an understanding developed using the OT example of sacrifice in the altar), and we have been renewed to spiritual birth and life based upon and revealed by faith in the resurrection of our Lord. 

In John 3: 17 we read, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”  And in John 12: 47 & 48, "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”

I believe God’s loving-kindness and compassion is the basis for the coming of His Son. In the OT, we see examples of His position on the sin nature and human behaviors of depravity and hatefulness. However, we live by and trust in the NT revelation of God’s plan of redemption, which is offered to all of humanity. Based on what Jesus taught, judgment is that comparison between our choices and actions held up against the words Jesus brought to us. 

I think post-modern Christianity wants to focus wholly on the feel-good aspect of God's love. His love is unlimited, wondrous, and beyond all that we might think or imagine, of course! Yet, if we limit the character of God to simply His great love, we not only do Him an injustice, we fool ourselves based on our own limited desire to have God be as we imagine Him. To wholly focus on God's love can begin to deny His Holiness, and that is a serious error! Love which offers us grace to enter into His presence--when we are depraved and base beyond what we will admit--was never intended to blind us from the fullness of His holy character. Rather, that love and grace enables us to embrace something totally foreign to our fallen natures, the Divine Nature -- pure and just beyond all that we can think of or imagine, as well!

Read the OT and do not be put off by the actions of the Lord there. Neither embrace it for the law it records! Consider it carefully, looking for the way in which it reveals the heart of God and foreshadows the life of Jesus and His teachings. Where it clearly is a history of the law of God ruling over people, their failure to respond, and the Lord addressing their failure, read and learn. However, it is not our mandate or the way the Lord responds to us.  Always recognize the new covenant of faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus as a spiritual paradigm that began with God’s response to the faith of Abraham. 

That paradigm counted righteousness based on a condition of faith in Abrahan, and so now it is counted the same towards us. It is a paradigm developed across time, and the paradigm went through the Law period producing the OT record.  This record of the period of law is used to help us see and understand the fullness of what the Lord has done for us. Under the law, the Lord sanctioned actions  motivated by an intent to reveal the wonder of His justice, yes, and this justice intended to lift us into His holiness. All for the purpose of having us be able to receive His love. The OT is a blessing that brings to full light the wonder of the life in the spirit which is the fulfillment of the covenant given to Abraham. A fulfillment of that promise is now upon us living at the end of the age of man. We live by faith in Jesus and in Him we move and have our being.We live in His love, and the wonder of His holiness and justice, as well.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Praying for All of You in Christ

Receive the blessings of these words from 1 Corinthians.    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ  I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus  that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge  even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you,   so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ  who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Yes or No? Our Binary Code.

Ever noticed how much of the spiritual life boils down to the tension between yes or no?

There are two ways to walk through any moment in life: down the path -- up the same, faithful -- not, smile -- frown, anxious -- calm, loving or not, and so it goes. Kind of like the binary language of a computer, I guess. Which way will the neuron be flipped when we make a decision that produces a course of action?

Easily, Christians reading this will jump to the high mark, of Jesus or of the world? True enough, but how many have determined that strict legalism is the way of Jesus and not the way of the world?

John warns us in 1 John 1: 1-5
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. (Light or dark?)  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;  but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin  If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.   If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
This part of John's first letter moves forward until in chapter 3:6 we read,

No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.  Practically and spiritually the only question for living a faithful life becomes,  "Am I abiding in the Spirit of Christ ... yes or no?"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Weeks have passed...

I haven't had time to think and write here.

Soon, maybe.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Too busy?

Sometimes in life it's easy to be overwhelmed and hard to keep up. (1) If that's real, so be it; navigate the rapids.  (2) The enemy's trap for the soul: If I pick up the busyness, I agree that complication is needed; it will "profit" me. It is a choice: simple or complicated? Be aware, Soul, motivations to choose spring from the spirit of Christ or the fallen nature. (3) Being overwhelmed is the consequence of not shouldering responsibility.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Lord Arm Throws Jacob to the Mat!!

Every fall, the profession of teaching does something many professions don’t do often enough. Each teacher has the opportunity to start afresh, apply new approaches, new ideas and hopefully, improve his or her effectiveness.

Better than the above is the promise of the Father:
The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3: 22-23

The love and faithfulness of the Lord are at the center of walking with Him. Believers will hear a wonderful promise from the Old Testament such as this one, then the reality of life and its disappointments cause some folks to doubt or even reject the truth of God’s existence. Recently I had the opportunity to offer encouragement regarding the faithfulness of God to both a man in his seventies and a man in his early thirties. The former simply asked me if I ever doubted God’s existence, as he revealed such thoughts after a lifetime of church-going. The latter was raised in a Christian home and attended Christian school. He has maintained his faith all of his life, including notable faithfulness in what we call the disciplines of faith.  My young friend is frustrated by what he sees as a lack of God answering prayer. All of us face one or more times of examining what we think we believe about God compared with how He appears to work in our individual life.

Scrutinizing one’s faith is varied in depth and outcome depending on individuals, but all believers will experience this  as part of the faith walk. It is a “wrestling” we must each do with the Lord. (Remember the Old Testament story of Jacob wrestling with God? Genesis 32) Though believers have received the Holy Spirit, there is a life-long quest for deeper knowledge of the Lord from the moment of decision to accept the redemption of Christ. Within the believer, there is a mixture of motivations for that pursuit. It is fairly common to seek after God for what one perceives God can provide, while He seeks that a person know Him for Himself. Don’t we all prefer our friends to accept us for whom we are and simply enjoy our company rather than seek to be with us for what we have to offer them? Sifting our motivations down to only pure ones can be a root of the wrestling match. There are other issues symbolic in Jacob’s wrestling with the Lord, but the outcome of the story is why I bring it up here. When Jacob remained committed to the wrestling through the night and prevailed against God (there’s something to ponder!!), Jacob asked for a blessing; and the Lord renamed Jacob Israel. He became the father of the twelve tribes, the entire nation of God’s chosen, the group of humans in which we as gentiles have been adopted. The point: we must each wrestle in the relationship with God before we enter the path of our full blessing and destiny of our being in Him.

I may be wrong, but my guess is the friend of mine in his seventies avoided the deep things of God in the first place while following a social tradition he called faith; as he approaches the end of his life, such wrestling has begun. Never too late!

Another reason people experience a discrepancy between what they believe and expect from the Lord compared with what they actually find is incorrect or incomplete instruction embedded in traditions which are built around believing in the Lord. My young friend is overwhelmed with a sense that God isn’t Who He says He is.  The actual fallacy is that God isn’t exactly Who man has said He is.

Why does our Father engage us in wrestling? Maybe in reevaluating our faith, something impure in us wants to reject God and begins looking for “relief”. Or, the opposite is true. Something within is hungering and thirsting for more of godliness. The Father confronts the believer and ordains the wrestling as a means of revealing these inner motivations to him or her. The believer gains spiritual insight or rejects its revelations. For the one who determines to go on with the Lord, the wrestling has served the development of spiritual trust. Deeper trust in the Lord is a vital and blessed state. So, the wrestling is good for the believer. 

Some wrestle and shrink back from faith, even reject it. Some move forward into greater spiritual knowledge of God. The heart must be challenged; it needs to be weighed and known…by the individual. The Father already knows. Wrestling with Him helps us believers know ourselves.

Are you on your back spiritually, wondering what's going on? It may be your hunger for our Father and Lord has motivated Him to answer your maturity with a challenge toward growth in the area of trust. You currently feel thrown to the mat as you wrestle with Him. Every morning He greets you with fresh love and compassion, encouraging you to prevail against His challenge!

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,” Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5:6

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Growth in the Spirit

At various junctions of life as a Christian, we may realize we have been living as an unlearned, uncommitted or unfaithful Christian. Such realization can seem painful. (So much so, that we may have been intentionally trying to avoid thinking about our short-comings!) However, when the Spirit of God determines to grace us with spiritual understanding of the magnitude of our failure, we submit to gain peace in our conscience, or because we hunger and thirst for righteousness.

If the conviction comes on us and we recognize such is the result of lack of commitment or even unfaithful acts, then repentance is called for, no doubt. However, sometimes our behavior fails the glory of God as a function of being unlearned in spiritual knowledge. Being unlearned of spirit knowledge leaves us to be mastered too often in things of the flesh. We have not lost our salvation, but quarrels, strife, and discord remain part of our walk experience.    ( 1 Cor. 3)

Recently in posts and in the comments to these posts, I have addressed the difference between reliance on the Father's resource and walking in our responsibility to pursue living in His Kingdom. I think the following selection of scripture speaks about this difference. The whole selection might be described as instruction on spiritual growth. Notice the role played by the provision of the Lord. From the basis of knowledge of the Lord, grace and peace have been multiplied to us. Further His divine power grants us all we need for life and godliness. From His glory and excellence flow His promises SO THAT we become partakers of the divine nature. Then begins the development of character traits wherein we are acting responsibly to grow in that nature ourselves. Interestingly, this process ends with increased love and love is the basis of the two great commandments (Matthew 22:36-40) which fulfill the entire law.

Notice also, Peter states that in the diligent practice of this development to know increased love, we will never stumble. Sounds a bit like Peter believes there is a state for the believer of never sinning. Which doesn't suggest the believer is incapable of sin, but rather, that the walk with Christ includes times of living without stumbling into sin. Reflect on the 2 Peter 1:1-10, and share your thoughts on God's resource versus our responsibility.

2 Peter 1:1-10
1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Few Questions Pondered

What if the promise of eternal life were not intended to be an incentive to righteousness?

What if the Presence of God in the "now" of life turned out to be more fulfilling of all your emotional needs than you ever predicted?

What if the incentive to walk in righteousness was simply knowing the beauty of God and the love within Him as the source of all your motivations and the fulfillment of all your loneliness?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Related Thought to the Last Series

1 John 4: 1-6

, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Here is the conundrum of our day: How does one respond when people profess Jesus Christ and manifest behavior which appears in conflict with the spirit of the teachings of Christ?

Your thoughts?

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Spirit of the Code. Part Three.

In this post, the remaining excerpts from a church "Code" are examined. This is the church body that removed a special needs child who reacted with a loud but joyful noise following a praise song.

We Are All About the Numbers – Tracking metrics measures effectiveness. We unapologetically set goals and measure progress through all available quantitative means.

This author has to wonder if this code may help explain their behavior. Do they maintain their decorum as an honor to God or protect their attendance records? Also, does this attitude quietly suggest that something is wrong with "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I (Jesus) am in the midst of them." The modern, American church experience is often justified inside more church buildings than simply the one in question on the basis of the number of people drawn into the sanctuary. Regardless of the number jumping in, seems like a more important measure is the spiritual maturity being gained by those who are participating in the spirit of the group. How many of these "unapologetically" gathered are faithfully finding the spiritual rest, which in turn manifests the fruits of the spirit?

We Need Your Seat – We will not cater to personal preference in our mission to reach this city. We are more concerned with the people we are trying to reach than the people we are trying to keep

Clearly the scripture makes no direct statement on how to accept a person with cerebral palsy and its physical limitations into the group gathering. However, the spirit behind a policy of removal from the gathering of one so weak feels alien to the spirit of love, patience, and goodness which we Christians proclaim is the evidence, the fruit, of the Presence of the Spirit of Christ.

We Act in Audacious Faith -- In order to dominate a city with the gospel of Jesus, we can’t think small. We will set impossible goals, take bold steps of faith and watch God move.

Domination and manipulation are the signature characteristics of the spirit of the age, the spirit of the anti-Christ. Can a group set out to "dominate" in the spirit of Christ? Has any group been called to domination of a city? Two enter a home which greets them with peace or the two leave a city shaking the dust from their feet can be found as the direction of Jesus. Preaching to thousands can be found in the "Acts of the Apostles". Domination of a city is not found in the New Testament. Are the attitudes and decisions needed to fulfill this part of the code justifiable in view of "blessed are the meek," and "blessed are the poor in spirit." Sometimes as Christians we adopt the ways of the gentiles to achieve the ends we perceive give glory to God. However, I think God holds us accountable for the ways, means and ends. An appearance of godly outcomes may be just that.

I mentioned before, I do not intend to condemn, nonetheless I am convinced the Code of the church in question is very much an evidence of what weakens the message of the gospel being preached in this spirit.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Of What Spirit is the Church "Code"? Second in a three part series

So how do we qualify the spirit of a group?

Examining the Code statements of the group in the previous post, and consider each separately against the scriptures.

1. We Are Known for What We Are For – We will speak vision and life over our people. We will lift up the salvation of Jesus rather than using our platform to condemn.

Nothing to take issue with here. Most of us Christians would agree and say something similar. It also appears fully in line with the revelation of Jesus.

Luke 9:54-56A
When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."

2. We Are Ruth's Chris, Not Golden Corral
– Simplicity enables excellence. We place a disproportionate value on creating a worship experience that boldly celebrates Jesus and attracts people far from God.

Likewise, most Christians would agree with attracting others by lifting up Jesus.

John 12:28-32

"Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came out of heaven : "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered ; others were saying, "An angel has spoken to Him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. "Now judgment is upon this world ; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."

3. We Are United Under the Visionary – "church name" is built on the vision God gave Pastor Steven. We will aggressively defend our unity and his vision.

Here, I would sound an alarm.

Ephesians 4:1-6

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Oh, the dangers of lifting up the vision of one human as the vision of God for others! I am certain Pastor Steve is a fine guy, but he is just a man. The anointing is on Jesus--Christ means anointed--and as He dwells in the believer, so the anointing of God is on the believer. The anointing of God pours itself out on the righteousness of Jesus, and is therefore on each of us. To place maintaining unity on the "vision" of one man sounds good as long as it works--meaning the man is able to continue unify people around his continuing efforts. However, it begs the question of whether or not these people are unified in spirit, and in particular, are they unified in the Spirit of Christ? What unity do Christians find by declaring unity in spirit with a singular person?

Quite simply, the code as written is not in line with Ephesians 4 above. The revelation of the Word of God tells us to be unified in the Spirit of Christ not the leader's vision.

Most likely, the answer given by those who would recognize the above recorded code or something similar from their church is that the word choice is just semantics. Since Pastor Steve lifts up Jesus and is their leader, they are unified around Jesus.

I would contend there is a spiritual function associated with wording of the code that undercuts reliance on the Spirit of Christ. The power of group-think is hard to recognize inside of the group, but it is nonetheless real. Worded as is, what happens if one disagrees with anything Pastor Steve says? We are all subject to subjective emotional forces in the soul. We often adhere to a group's unwritten codes as a means of self-protection and self-justification. In a group that reinforces moral living, this force is not regarded as a bad influence. Yet, if Jesus is not the source of righteousness but merely one man's voice about Jesus, has something vitally important in the spirit of the group been sacrificed?

In part three, we will examine the remaining codes I highlighted in the original post.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Would You Move a Special Needs Child to a Separate Room from Other Worshippers?

A friend shared a You-Tube video on Facebook. The video told the story of a woman's experience with her special needs child and a local church this past spring at the service to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

The child, I'm guessing the age at about 10, has cerebral palsy on the more severe side. During the worship, the child became enthralled with the music and expressed his pleasure loudly. Ushers quickly appeared and escorted mother and son to an over flow room for the remainder of the morning's service.

The charms of our modern world surely reveal our tainted logic, eh?

I guess my initial reaction was strong and negative.

Wanting to understand why such a strong element of controlling the atmosphere in the worship experience is maintained, I visited the church website and found they have a twelve point "Code", separate from their belief statement. The Code outlines their position on many facets of church life and policy which are faced by groups of organized Christians across the US.

Here are several I copied for consideration:

We Are Ruth's Chris, Not Golden Corral
– Simplicity enables excellence. We place a disproportionate value on creating a worship experience that boldly celebrates Jesus and attracts people far from God.

We Are United Under the Visionary – "church name" is built on the vision God gave Pastor Steven. We will aggressively defend our unity and his vision.

We Are All About the Numbers – Tracking metrics measures effectiveness. We unapologetically set goals and measure progress through all available quantitative means.

We Are Known for What We Are For – We will speak vision and life over our people. We will lift up the salvation of Jesus rather than using our platform to condemn.

We Need Your Seat – We will not cater to personal preference in our mission to reach this city. We are more concerned with the people we are trying to reach than the people we are trying to keep.

We Act in Audacious Faith -- In order to dominate a city with the gospel of Jesus, we can’t think small. We will set impossible goals, take bold steps of faith and watch God move.

What do you think about the happening in the Wild Wood?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Doing Religion as a Crutch or Being in Him

God is The compelling motivator of loving actions. However actions separated from His Presence are not the evidence that we love God. It is difficult to separate what we feel from and for God and the actions which will follow, yet we must guard against doing the actions alone.

"Being" in the Holy Spirit is the fullness of spiritual life as compared to "doing" for God which becomes a role to play through one's life. Faith must embrace His perfect love as the basis to cast out fear, pride and lust from the heart. The will must exert itself to release one's self of emotional attachments to the material world. Notice I did not say to people. I am not suggesting a life of solitary asceticism. Owning property does not have to be loving and living for the property. See Colossians chapter 2.

An act of the will to turn from the material realm and embrace the Holy Spirit is a more holy decision than tithing 90% or pew sitting every time the bell rings or spending time with another human, while not actually engaged in loving him or her, just to have "given" something of one's self.

The result is a spiritual reality of finding ourselves within His Presence and knowing where He leads in finding daily our significance as a priest to God.

I have a sincere trust in the view that the voice of many brings into focus the fullest possible meaning of the Scripture and a greater understanding of God than the solitary view will support.

Please feel free to engage in a conversation and express your view.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Musing # 438,472

John 4

Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me,
an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 "You worship what you do not know ; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

To worship in spirit and truth.


To worship in spirit and truth?

Well, truth ought to speak in love. Love is patient, kind, does not envy or boast, does not seek its own way or keep a record of wrong ...

So keeping a record of wrong, seeking one's own way, being boastful or envious, unkind or simply impatient means a lack of love.

Without love, truth cannot fully be expressed and without truth, the spirit does not worship God, so it must but idolizing self..