Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The Jesus who indwells me (and you) is not mean nor vengeful. Jesus said if we have seen Him we have seen the Father. It also says Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Jesus is the most complete and illustrative revelation of the Father. While He did get verbally angry with some very self-righteous people on occasion I don't recall Him doing any smiting, flooding or tossing lightening bolts at people.
From the September issue of The Adopted Life:
So from the very beginning, the Church has struggled with the Old Testament and sought to understand it more fully in the light of who Jesus is. Here are some basic points that we should keep in mind as we read the Bible of Israel:
1. Jesus is the Word. God the Son, in the flesh as the man Jesus Christ, is the revelation of God. Therefore, all other descriptions and revelations of God - including the Bible itself - must be interpreted in the light of what Jesus reveals about God’s nature. Jesus reveals God to be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We cannot ever allow any statement in scripture, including the Old Testament, to undermine or undo what Jesus shows us about God. If a scripture seems to tell us something that contradicts the nature of God as revealed in Jesus then we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us see the meaning of scripture that fits with who Jesus is and who he reveals the Father to be.
2. When we look back on human history, especially as it is reflected in Israel’s experience, we realize what profound blindness has enveloped our human nature in Adam’s fall. We have believed that God is a blood-thirsty ogre demanding his pound of flesh before he will grant forgiveness. But God did not need the sacrifices.
He was accommodating our blindness because he knew that we could not imagine ourselves as loved and welcomed in his presence unless we came bearing such gifts.Even when God was welcoming sacrifice because of our hardened hearts, it was not the sacrifices that made humanity acceptable but the Son of God who made us acceptable.
3. We know that Adam’s fall plunged humanity into blindness; we also know that the Holy Spirit has been patiently educating the human race about the truth of who God is. This has been a process that has been worked out over thousands of years and finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, the light of the world and the healer of our blindness.
Therefore we should not be surprised if those who lived before Jesus sometimes expressed darkened and blinded perspectives on God. Just because their words are to be found in the inspired pages of the Old Testament doesn’t mean their words represent God as accurately as Jesus does.
When the Psalmist prays that the infants of Babylon will be smashed against rocks (Psalm 137:9), we know that the Holy Spirit did not dictate those words to the Psalmist. Those words are found in the inspired scripture, but the Holy Spirit did not whisper in the Psalmist’s ear “and now I want you to wish for the murder of babies.” How do we know the Holy Spirit did not dictate those words? Because we know Jesus, and that is not who Jesus reveals God to be!
In Psalm 137, as in some other places in the Old Testament, we are seeing the blindness and fallenness of humanity. These words are inspired in the sense that the Holy Spirit has preserved them as a faithful record of Israel’s pain and of her blind and fallen response to that pain.
Based on all of this, we have to conclude that every verse of the Old Testament must be filtered through the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. We have to look at each passage and ask ourselves “Do these words express the fallen human perspective on God’s nature, or do they foreshadow and express the truth that would be later revealed in Jesus?” What does the process of answering this question look like? ~ Jonathan Stepp
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sung to the tune of "I am the very model of a modern major general"
I am the very model of modern Trinitarian.
Then Jesus appeared here on earth as God Incarnate
He came not to condemn this world but to seek and save
Augustine and the Greeks, they concocted a strange brew
We say our God is in us always, He dwells within our heart
There is nothing we could ever do that would make Him part.
From Ireanaeus and Athanasius to a guy named Baxter Kruger
Thursday, September 25, 2008
We have been living in the slavery of reaction to religion, to tradition and to effort.
Christ died to make us a new creation, perfect, holy and free. To experience His love without fear. To live as He created us. We are now Adam before the fall.
The difference between reaction and creation is what you "c". Simply by "C'ing", by moving the c in reaction to the front of the word we go from the slavery of reaction to the freedom of creation!
Reacting becomes Creating.
Reaction becomes Creation.
Reactive becomes Creative.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
2. Is there a cultural context that I need to understand in order for the words to make sense to me?
3. Who was the intended audience for the passage? i.e. Jews, Gentiles, etc.?
4. Is there a hidden message or double (parallel) meaning?
5. Is there an "inside joke", meaning the speaker and receiver know something I don't.
6. Is the passage prophetic?
7. Does the passage refer to the destruction of the Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.
8. Does the passage refer to end times?
9. Does the passage refer to a prophecy already fulfilled?
10. Does my understanding of the passage harmonize with other passages?
11. Does my understanding of the passage harmonize with the attributes of God?
12. Is there disagreement among Biblical scholars with regard to the passage?
13. Does my understanding of the passage help me love God more or gain more insight into how much God loves me?
14. Does my understanding of the passage help me love others more?
15. Is there evidence on how the early church applied this passage?
16. Do the key words mean the same now as when it was written?
17. Am I certain about the meaning of key words or phrases in the passage, i.e. weak translation or confusing language.
18. Does my understanding of the passage fit into context for the book, for the author, for the Gospel?
19. Do I only find contextual harmony by picking and choosing from “supporting” scriptures – picking proof texts?
20. Is the passage a parable?
21. Am I willing to change my mind about what I thought it meant?
22. Is the passage old covenant (the Law) or new covenant (Grace).
The deepest truth about God is the relationship between the 3 in 1. The core of Godness is in their relationship. Their eternal purpose was to include us in that relationship. Our adoption into their relationshiop was the plan from before time, it is still the plan today.
Be ye holy does not mean to be morally perfect or to be legally justified. It means to the wholly bound in relationship with Him because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We exist to be in relationship with our creator, just exactly as we are.
It is not do I believe in Jesus but rather do I understand that He believes in me!
The big choice of our life is not do I decide to love God, but rather do I understand how much He loves me and then choose to live with that great news!
To repent is to change my mind about the relationship God seeks to have with me.
The unbelievable news is that before the creation of the cosmos God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) made it His purpose and plan to have an intimate relationship with you (Eph 1). To that end He created everything! He created everything for the purpose of being your friend! To that end Jesus sacrificed His life.
For very many years I have been troubled when in corporate "worship" services. It didn't seem to matter whether in a small group of 10 or a large group of 10,000. It didn't seem to matter whether I was in a group of very consertative people singing old 200 year old hymns or a charismatic group seing just modern chorus's.
I am troubled by the whole concept of worship. Why do we do it? Is it what God wants us to do? Why does it seem so important in evangelical and liturical groups? What NT teaching prescribes what we do today?
To be perfectly honest I can think of nothing more boring than an eternity spent in "worship". In fact the half hour long song services I used to participate in were excruciating to me. Even getting past a "church building", pews, stained glass, the whole concept of a santuary and all the other religious finery I have issues regarding utilizing a worship team and leader whose job it seems is to manipulate your body and mind for some purpose. I have the distinct feeling of being manipulated and controlled. We are commanded to sing, to sing louder, to stand, to sit, to clap, to raise our arms, to close our eyes, to bow.
Many worship team leaders seem to enjoy making you stand for throughout most of their 30 - 60 minute performance. Only the elderly or infirm are excused and permitted to sit. Why is it called worship when we are corporately being contorted in various body postures and uttering silly rhymes?
Worship is individual and intimate, not corporate and controlled. So often it seems the worship "team" is performing. The attention is focused on them and what they are doing, not on knowing God. How many would want to be on the worship team if they were set up behind the congregation instead of in front of it? Why do we need to be directed in worship at all? Why isn't there just the freedom to share in whatever way we feel the Sprirt leads us. There is no freedom to worship when there is a leader up front directing when to stand and sit and sing. There is no freedom to worship when there is a published order of service. There is no freedom to worship when we are seated in such a manner as to separate us one from another and ensureing that eye contact is not even possible . There is no freedom to worship when we are forced to focus our attention to an elevated spot or person.
I worship all week, day and night. I would relish a time to meet and freely share my knowing of God and His love for me. Worship is simply my intimate relationship with my friend. A friend who would likely be embarrassed for those who think that by rhyming words and lifting hands once a week will somehow fulfill some religious requirement.
There is nothing wrong with getting together and singing songs but don't define that as the end all and be all to worship. So often it is nothing more than a dead religious ritual. At worst it is idolaltry , worshiping worship and at best it is a cheap subsitute for relationship, both with God and each other. I fear more often then not it is artificial. I have seen and heard the "fake it tell you make it" mentality many times.
Some people seem to be caught up in a "spiritual" trance, raised hands, standing when others are seated, seemingly disconnected from reality. With the ability to turn it on and off in an instant. If it is real, then bless them. If it is forced, fake or habit then they should cease the behaviour. I would ask them if they ever exhibit this behavior outside of a corporate "worship service", if not then I would question its authenticity and fear it is done more for getting attention then in yielding to the Spirit.
If the spiritual highlight of your week is the worship service or the time when you feel "closest" to God then there is something wrong with your relationship with God.
Most "churches" have a statement of faith or beliefs. Here is mine:
1. God loves everyone unconditionally.
2. We are to love others like God loves us.
Act and react to everything based on those beliefs.
That is all a bunch of religious hogwash.
Christianity is Christ. Jesus created us, sustains us and it is His presence within that makes us whole. He is much more concerned about our wholiness then what most define as "holiness". In Him we are perfect. All we need to do is acknowledge His great love and rest in Him.
I am already the following things, not that I will be, or might be, or could be if only he would try harder but AM:
Perfect Hebs 10:14
The righteousness of God in Christ 2 Cor 5:21
Holy Eph 1:4
A saint 1 Cor 1:2
A partaker in the divine nature 2 Pet 1:4
A new creation 2 Cor 5:17
Complete Col 2:10
Just as He is in this world 1 Jn 4:17
Beyond reproach Col 1:22
Blameless Eph 1:4
Seated with him in heavenly places Eph 2:6
Container of the fullness of God Col 2:9
This is what I know by revelation, by experience and by scripture: God loves me!
He loves me more than I can possibly comprehend. He is always with me. He does not turn His back when I fail to love Him completly or even when I fail to love Him at all. He loves me at my best and He loves me at my worst. He believes in me even when I don't believe in me. I could misinterpret, misrepresent and deny all the truths in His written word and He would love me. I could turn from Him, flee from Him and He would relentlessly persue me. His plan for my adoption into His family will not be thawrted.
Jesus was the first to call God His Father, and we are adopted into their embrace. When all is said and done and we move on into eternity He will introduce me to all His other children as His adopted son in whom He is very proud of and especially fond of! And He will do the same for you.
So it is not about religion. It is not about folowing some spritual formula to cause God to change His mind about you.
It is not about us "receiving" Jesus, it is about us understanding that He has already received us.
It is not about us asking Jesus into our heart, it is about realizing He has always been in us.
It is not about us believing in Jesus, it is about knowing that He believes in us.
It is not about us repenting then getting forgiveness, it is knowing that we are already forgiven and now we can change our mind about how much God loves us and accepts us. Knowing that allows us to trust Him.
It is not about us "loving Him with all our soul and might" it is about acknowledging in our heart that He loves us with all of His might
Once we acknowledge who we really are, how much we are loved, that we are the adopted sons and daughters of the creator of the Universe then we have the power to live in and by the faith of Jesus.
That is exactly the way satan has interfered with our relationship with the Trinity. He (They) have always loved us. They waited for eons to create us to be present on this earth so that we could have an intimate relationship with Them. In a sense the entire cosmos were created for the purpose of us having a relationship with our Triune God. But instead of an easy communion with Them we continually believe the lie that we are not loved beyond measure, that They are offended by our missing the mark, that They are not abiding in us, with us and for us.
Which brings us to the subject sin. What is it?
So what is sin?
What we typically call sin are things like sex,drugs,rocknroll, etc. but they are really the fruits of sin. Just like the evidences of love, joy,peace,kindness, etc are the fruits of the Spirit whos source is the Tree of Life (Jesus), so the of evidences of hate, evil, selfishness, etc. are the fruits of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil (sin). Some refer to it as living in Christ conciousness or living in sin concioiusness. Since Jesus conquered both sin and spiritual death for us 2000 years ago we can live in Christ conciousness now.
So sin now results in the illusion that causes us to think the God does not love us, that He has separated Himself from us, that He loves us less because of some action we took. Once we believe that lie we begin acting and reacting inappropriately. We then adopt actions and attitudes in a vain attempt to fill a void that in reality doesn't even exist. We walk blindly into the darkness of delusion, convinced that we must be unloveable, unsaveable and unworthy. It becomes all to easy stay in the darkness, the rejection is just to painful to risk again.
It is only when we reject the lie, that we turn into the light of the truth that we are loved, loved beyond measure that we once again turn from sorrow to joy. Accepting the truth that God is always with us, that He always loves us, that He will never leave will transform us from death to life, from sorrow to joy, from tears to smiles.
God does not separate Himself from us because of sin, we separate our selves from him (or at least we think we do) because we think we are not worthy to be in His presence. Just as Adam and Eve did from God in the garden. We suffer from shame. Once we realize that He always, always loves us and we can live in His affection and seek Him, that is what repentance is, we changed our mind about how much God loves us.
Change you mind about God. He has always loved you. He has always been with you. He will always be with you! Don't believe the lie that you are rejected, unacceptable, unloved! You are worthy! Nothing can separate you from His love. And if you are worthy of His love then you are worthy of your families love, your childrens love, your spouses love, your neighbors love. And even your worst enemy is worthy of your love!
When we live in the light of that truth we are regenerated and transformed. It changes the way we relate to God and people. When we doubt that truth we live in shadow and darkness and stumble along in life running into things that damage ourselves and others.
Not one person was ever made righteous by the law.
Jesus took the law and made it even more difficult to obey, He took the difficult and made it impossible. He added that even emotions and thinking would cause you to violate the God's laws.
Its like He was saying to His disciples, "now listen to this, hehehe, If you just look at a woman with lust in your heart, you have committed adultery". Wait, wait, I got another one, If your angry with your brother it is just the same as murdering Him!
And to top it all off He said we have to be as perfect as God Himself if you want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus made it absolutly impossble to attain being righteous (without blaim) by our own effort.
Why would he make it impossible for anyone to live righteously? Because His plan was to do away with the silly laws, to conquer sin and death, to indwell every one and make us as perfect as He is. We become righteous (blaimless) because He abides in us, all of us.
It has never been about what we do, what we say, it has always been about what He has already done for us by His life and death on earth as one of us.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
From James Folwers book, Christianity is not a Religion.
In his masterful presentation of diabolic activity, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has the senior devil, Screwtape, say to his nephew, Wormwood, "One of our greatest allies at present is the church itself," i.e. "Christian religion." In another vignette Screwtape explains that "it will be an ill day for us if what most humans mean by 'religion' ever vanishes from the Earth. It can still send us the truly delicious sins. Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar." Blaise Pascal likewise noted that "men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."
It is true a very few who truly know of His unconditional love might, for a time, test that love. In the end His love will always win.
The immutable law of grace is that you do get the love and protection you don't deserve and you don't get the punishment and abandonment that you do deserve. He died for us while we were His enemies; you cannot get more love and grace then that.
The application of grace typically transforms the "sinner". The more I know that it (grace) is available, the less I am need of its application. And where there is gross failure, where there is a pound of sin, a ton of grace is given.
That is by the teaching of Paul. The application of Grace is grossly wasteful! The older brother in the parable of the prodigal son was fuming against grace, He was livid against Grace. But our Father just lathered it on his prodigal brother!
Traditional doctrine says everyone is born a sinner; but at least we have come up with a get out of hell free card for those under some mythical age of accountability.
I am reminded of the parable of the great shepherd; He sought out the lost sheep and rescued it. The sheep probably didn't even know it was lost. Sheep are not known for their brains and ability to properly reason and make sound decisions.
I do not think we are disadvantaged today because we lack His physical presence and have to rely on His spiritual indwelling. In many ways we are privileged to be even closer to Him then they were.
His indwelling may not qualify us to deliver 3 point sermons or manage a local church corporation but it does qualify us to share His message as authoritatively and effectively as the original disciples.
As I have said before Jesus Himself would never make it past the 99.9% of the pastoral search committees today
I think the Gospel is that God planned from before time to present a way that we could comprehend the one real truth about Him, He loves us and wants to have an intimate relationship with us and all we have to do is become aware of that truth and we will be transformed. It is not about what we do, it is about what He has already done for us and in us.
You struggle in reading the Bible because His indwelling within you does not agree with how we have been taught to understand the words written about Him. We have been taught to understand the words and the definitions but not the meaning, not the intent and not the purpose. My wife and I quarrel sometimes over what we said, until we find we had agreement in what we meant.
We have been taught that our salvation, our abundant life is a legal matter in which we were condemned before we were even born and that by saying certain words, in a certain order and showing a proper attitude and ever striving to be "holy" we can approach Him, but even then in fear and trembling.
Most of us have been taught this, from Derek Flood blog Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor :
You have broken the law because it is impossible to keep it, and so you must have broken it. And because you cannot keep this impossible to keep law you will be charged with death because "the penalty for sin is death" and those are just the rules. God must have blood because the law requires it; there must be a penalty paid. The only payment that would have been enough is sacrificing someone who was the "perfect law-keeper", someone who could live a perfect life without sin. So God decided to kill his own Son on the cross to appease his legal need for blood. Now that Jesus has been sacrificed God is no longer mad at us for not doing what we can't do anyway, so we can now come and live with him forever - as long as we are grateful to him for his "mercy" to us.
Is it any wonder we struggle with that kind of baggage?
But the very same Jesus who walked physically on this earth for several years is the very same Jesus who was with God before time. And before time they (the Trinity) planned for our adoption into their relationship. At just the right time Jesus came as a human (while still fully God) so that we could comprehend the one who before then was incomprehensible. He further offered His life for our sin so that we could know of His great love for us. He did not die to appease His angry Father; He died so that we might see His great love for us.
The Good News is that once we become aware of the truth of that we are transformed forever. That is the knowledge you have in your heart. That is the reason we struggle with our mind, because our mind has been taught by religion for the purpose of binding us. One definition of religion is "a return to bondage".
Some say you cannot trust your heart; they will even quote scriptures to "prove" your heart is deceitful. My response to that is that when He made me a new creation, which included a new heart, His heart.
Maybe Gods justice isn't just a nice conclusion to the final episode of Perry Mason.
Maybes Gods justice is so much better then our human system that we cannot even imagine how He will make everything right.
Heb 10:12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,
13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.
14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,
16 " THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:
I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM," He then says,
17" AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE."
18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.
It seems to me He pretty much dealt with the entire sin issue a long time ago. Under the new covenant (since the cross) He is not even keeping score. I know many think God is hardly more then a cosmic hall monitor, busily checking hall passes and recording sins in one column and acts of repentance in another for the purpose of one day comparing the numbers. That hardly fits with Jesus own words in which He said His purpose is not to condemn the world but to save the world. I just happen to believe He succeeded.
We did not individually make a choice in Adam to condemn ourselves, only Adam did that. Our free will was violated in that all succeeding generations inherited both physical and spiritual death until the cross event. We did not need to accept or even have knowledge of Adam to receive his "curse".
Rom 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
19 For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
In my opinion there is no rational way to interpret Rom 5 other then because of His sacrifice everyone was justified and made righteous at the time of the Cross event. You cannot change the meaning of "all" and the inclusiveness of "the many” in mid-sentence without violating the Greek meanings. And to choose to do so denigrates the accomplishments of His sacrifice. Paul clearly states that the sacrifice of Jesus was more
successful at imputing righteousness than Adams sin was at imputing condemnation in Romans 5.
I believe that while we are all made righteous by His action and His grace the problem is that most people do not know it so they live their lives thinking they are separated and unloved. Their perception causes them to stumble around in darkness and pain causing even more darkness and pain to themselves and others.
So to me the question is how we spread the truth that God loves everyone unconditionally so that they do not need to live their lives thinking they are separated from God for sin that has been dealt with 2000 years ago.
His greatest laws all start with the word love and by being obedient to those laws we fulfill the requirements of every other command. So in reality there is only one command, love.
It is pretty easy to know if you are making the wrong turn, no matter what your destination is, if what you measure is - are we getting closer to love or farther from it. That’s a map anyone can read.
Just so there is no misunderstanding, I am not talking about the Beatles song "All you need is love", but the truth that "God Is Love". (Though I think the Beatles were onto something even if they didn't know it.)
Because the rules, expectations, customs all create pretension, they always have and they always will. How many times have we squabbled getting ready for "church", argued with your spouse on the way to "church", threatened the kids with eternal grounding if they misbehaved, then walked in the door and when asked, "how are you doing today?", your response was "Fine". And you were not fine. In fact you were miserable, your marriage was in trouble (again), your spiritual state at best was on autopilot, and your hemorrhoids were killing you!
How many times have we pasted a smile on, when what we really wanted to do was fall down and cry? "Church" should be messy, noisy triage centers where the walking wounded can carry the ones who are shell shocked.
Church should be the one place you can be yourself, without pretension, without masks and know without any doubt that your failings, fears and frustrations will be lessened by those who truly love you instead of judging and condemning you for failing again.
But we think every one else is fine, because they all look so happy, and say they are so fine. My unfine just doesn't fit in, so when asked, no matter how badly I might be burdened, I am fine.
I am not sure where I heard this, probably in this forum someplace. A very wise pastor used this invocation, "Lord please let something happen that isn't in the bulletin." That’s my kind of "church"!
I know I sound negative and bitter but honestly it is not at the people or any particular local expression, or even a denomination for that matter. It’s the system as a whole. In some ways I really do feel like Neo in the Matrix, it’s like I have seen the "system" and it ain't pretty. I really regret swallowing that red pill.
Over the last 40 years I have worked in a number of groups in different states, large and small, denominational and nondenominational. Some large, some small. Some liturgical, some wild and woolly. On the surface they were all (well mostly all) warm, open, inviting, loving places to be. But that was precisely the problem, most things were surface only, not deep, not real, pretensions were more important then genuineness. The "system" itself prevented people from being real, because being real, being ourselves is often pretty messy and that just doesn't fit into the bulletin on Sunday morning.
We say we live by Grace but we also often "insist" on compliance to the law in a thousand subtle ways. We separate secular and “Christian". We separate clergy and laity. We separate lost and found. We categorize who is in and who is out. We don't accept brothers and sisters as fit for service until they "join" or agree to some local terms of service agreement (written or unwritten) or attain a certain degree of educational accomplishment.
There is not a church in the country who would "hire" Jesus as a pastor based on His status as a homeless street preacher without even a high school diploma. And if by some miracle they did, can you imagine the outcry if known prostitutes, thieves and drug addicts were hanging out at His house! We bind ourselves to religion and are not even aware of it.
That’s my frustration, that is my "great sadness". To see the Bride of Christ wearing a gown of chains.
Others have inklings of what I am talking about. That is why you are fearful sometimes to suggest a change or to stop doing something or do something a new way. A kind and loving person will oppose you in order to preserve the "system". It is scary to question a long standing "accepted” teaching because we all assume "they" know better then we do. Yet the same Jesus indwells you as the most learned theologian.
It is not what we do or don’t do, it is coming to the realization of who we belong to, who has planned for our adoption since before time. Our identity is to be found only in Him.
Many people have some sort of business arrangement with a “religious” corporation, but that is not the church, just a tax shelter. We believers form the body of Christ, that association is spiritual, not contractual.
It is indeed a blessing to gather with likeminded believers to share pain and to share joy. Once we start falling for the trap of man made hierarchy we can be sure there will be more pain and less joy.
Gal 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Paul was specifically talking about being in bondage to the predominant religion of the era.
Jesus came to set us free from religion, ritual and rules (the Law of Moses).
I give up that freedom when I am told when to stand, when to sit, what to sing, when it is proper to speak, what degree of education I must have to teach or preach His Good News. We give up that freedom when the primary focus in a group gathering is one or two people elevated on a stage, we give up that freedom when we are told that a certain time on a certain day is forever the proper time to worship, we give up that freedom when even meeting in a small group requires the approval of some hired holy man, we give up that freedom in a thousand ways until we don't even recognize we are in the chains of religion.
More then once I have been symbolically tarred and feathered for selling the pews and arranging the folding chairs so at least we can see the body of Christ (each other). I am quite sure some wanted to physically tar me for that at least once.
Many of the "ministries" in the institutional church are inefficient at best (wasting people’s energy and effort) or simply exist because no one has the will to shoot the dead horse. So much time, energy and resources are spent doing "what we have always done, the way we have always done it" that no one even questions why, and the important work, the work that should be a priority (loving others inside and outside of the meeting house) barely gets lip service. If one does ask why or suggests something new they are often treated as a heretic.
We, individually and corporately, have only one purpose, one calling, one charge, and one command. Love One Another as He loves us.
I find I no longer have the patience to endure even a single hour of religious ritual. A few may find comfort in liturgical litany, but I suspect most believers and virtually all non-believers simply experience it as boring and lifeless. I can not and will not any longer act “religious”, when my Lord simply wants me to be real.
I will not conform to the demands of religious obligation for one minute but I gladly submit myself to be transformed by God’s love as expressed directly by His love and the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I refuse to waste another second running on the Sunday morning treadmill that has largely failed to close a relational gap between God and His people and between His people. I believe the era of sit up straight, stand up, sit down, bow your head, eyes forward, ears open, pass the plate, listen up, smile and go home is over. In my opinion
the fact that the evangelical church ever adopted this model as the focus of our corporate gatherings is a travesty.
The more I let Him be me, in me, the better it is.
This is what I know about Him, how ever much I think He loves, He loves more.
However much I think He is forgiving, He forgives more.
However much I think He seeks and finds His lost children, He finds more then I can imagine.
However much I think He cares about our daily lives, He cares more.
I don't believe that in this lifetime we can begin to comprehend the greatness of Him and His love.
Does that mean I discount the written word? Not at all, I spend many hours a day reading it, studying it, enjoying it and have done so for decades. I know that God is love and loves me not because I read about it, but because I experience His love. I know that He indwells me not because it was written that He does but because I can sense His presence in me. The good that I do comes from Him, the love that I share comes from Him.
Without His presence we would all cease to exist according to Col 1:16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
None of what I believe about the bible discounts in any way the work that Jesus did and is doing for us and in us.
So if we differ in the use of spiritual formulas or the order or chronology in which people come to the awareness of how much He loves everyone it should not cause bad feelings between us (or the formation of yet another denomination).
The loving father (God) in the story of the prodigal son does not give any mention of the "formula". The son was never outside of His love, was never excluded from His family, the son was forgiven even before He asked. In fact the older son who followed all the rules, and presumably exercised all the formulas could not even enjoy the party or the love of His father because he (the older son) was focused on the "correct" way to do things.
Book by James Fowler - Christianity is not a religion
Christianity has mistakenly been defined and described as a religion in which morality and belief-system in correspondence to the Book are regarded as the basis of the role-playing and problem-solving of the Christian life. Not true! Christianity is Christ!
He quotes Norman Olson:
"Satan uses religion and the idea of 'doing good' to make people blind to the fact that these have no saving value whatever, to say nothing of spirituality.
"Any system of religion is satanic in nature, no matter how beautiful the package might appear to be. Satan is the author of 'do good'."
"Religion is often portrayed by the devil as a mass solution to man's problem. If he can get everyone into some religion, he knows that he can keep people in some false hope, in some anesthetic, and prevent them from seeing their real need. Nothing that Satan has ever devised has been as successful as religion in blinding men's minds to the truth
The entire letter to the Galatians was the obituary of the old covenant with its laws and rituals.
Eph 2:15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,
II Cor 3:4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.
5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.
6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was,
8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?
9 If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!
10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.
11 And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.
13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.
14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.
15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.
16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Heb 8:13 By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
evil is due to mans "free will", i.e. we choose to do evil things to each other. Some have taught that God created this world, wound it up like a clock and someday in the future He will straighten the whole mess out. I don't think any of those answers surfice.
Like someone said on the news this week, the answer is above my pay grade.
But for me it is not a stumbling block. My personal suffering has not been His cause, but He has been there to comfort me, if I acknowledge His presence either directly or through those He has sent to love me. I know He is always in me, no matter what I do or don't do and no matter where I go or don't go. He is there always, asking me to be His expression of love to a hurting world. I fail often in my conduit role for Him to "fix" things, but less
often then I used to as I become more aware of His constant indwelling and love for all of His children. Every day I can learn more of how to be less me and more Him because of the reality of His love. I think that is what He asks us to do, be Him as us.
Eph 1: 4 For he chose us [and everyone else!] in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he selected us to be adopted as his sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
It took a lot of "work" to think that
We can see Him in the suffering of those we love because it is He who suffered more then anyone every has.
We can see Him when men stand against evil because He is our strength and our shield.
We can see Him in the pureness of a new born child because He is the One who has made us pure in His sight.
We can see Him in every expression of love because He is love.
We can see Him in moments of triumph and victory because He is the One who has conquered in the ultimate battle over sin and death.
We can hear Him when we hear children joyously laugh in gleeful abandonment because He is the fountain of all joy.
We can hear Him when we hear those crying out for help because what we do for them we do for Him.
We can hear Him when thunder rolls in the skies because He is the creator of our universe.
We can hear Him in the purr of a sleeping kitten who knows no care because He is the one that cares for all His creatures.
We can hear Him in the silence as our hearts beat in a steady rhythm because He is the one who gives and sustains our life.
We can hear Him in the sounds and music that bring us peace of mind because He is the great composer of contentment and rest.
So yes we can see Him, if we look for Him. And yes we can hear Him if we listen for Him.
We can see Him in the lives of those who acknowledge His presence and even in some who don't yet know He abides in them.
We can see Him and hear Him because He is in us. My prayer is that we are ever more sensitive to seeing Him in others.
How do you hear Him and see Him?
Step 2 - refer to step 1.
You are already pleasing to Him. It is not what you do; it is what He has already done for you.
There is nothing you can do to make Him love you more, and there is nothing you can do to make Him love you less.
Personally I think His observations of most Sunday morning groups might be:
"This is nice, but not exactly what I had in mind."
"Why is everyone seated looking at the backs of heads?"
"How come only one or two people are talking?"
"Does that guy really talk at you every week, month after month, year after year?"
"Stand up, sit down, bow your head, clap, and stand up again. Whats that all about?"
"When do we eat?"
"Why is everyone acting religious?"
"What does a guy got to do to get a hug here?"
How do I trust Him more each day?
For me it is by knowing the following is true:
1. He loves me (and everyone else also) unconditionally.
2. There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more.
3. There is nothing I can do to make Him love me less.
4. I can go nowhere that He isn't.
5. Nothing can ever separate His love from me, nothing.
6. I am who He wants me to be, His adopted son.
Mama says that Jesus always-no-matter-what loves me, just like her, only better.
I was thinking about Jenny, again. Mama says that Jenny was broken when she was a little girl. I loved Jenny.
Mama says that Jenny's Daddy was broken to.
I sure miss my best friend Bubba. Mama says Bubba and Jesus probably eat shrimp every day together. Jesus sure is lucky.
Mama says we don't have to go to church to meet God. Mama says God is always with us. Even when I was in Viet Nam.
Jesus is kind of like my Mama only He ain't ever going to get the cancer and die.
Remember that day when God got mad (the hurricane) at me and Lieutenant Dan, well turns out He wasn't mad at all. He was just scaring all those shrimp into our nets!
Sometimes it really hurts to love someone; like I loved Jenny. But it hurts more not to.
I met the President once for playing football. Then I met another President on account of I got shot in the butt. Then, again, I met another President for playing ping pong. Mama says I don't have to do anything to meet Jesus.
Mama says in Heaven the box of chocolates is never empty!
He loves me more than I can possibly comprehend. He is always with me. He does not turn His back when I fail to love Him completely or even when I fail to love Him at all. He loves me at my best and He loves me at my worst. He believes in me even when I don't believe in me. I could misinterpret, misrepresent and deny all the truths in His Written word and He would love me. I could turn from Him, flee from Him and He would relentlessly pursue me.
I may never understand a single verse of His written word but yet He would love me just the same as the most learned theologian.
He cares what I care about, He laughs at my jokes, He suffers heart pangs when I suffer. He is my Father, He is my Abba Father.
When all is said and done and we move on into eternity He will introduce me to all His other children as His adopted son in whom He is very proud of and especially fond of! And He will do the same for you.
You are the very special child of God. You were specifically picked to be adopted by Him even before you were born. You are exactly who He wants. He could not be more proud of you and often says to those around Him, "Look at her, isn't she amazing!” He loves you more than anyone ever has or ever could.
Once you can understand that the above is the absolute truth about your life you will be transformed. Until that becomes the reality in your life you will suffer doubts and live so much less loved then you need to. Once we know how much He loves us it is amazing how easy it is to love others.
(as a corollary to the 10 commandments)
I chose you before the creation of the world to be my child.
You are very important to me, I think about you constantly.
I will never forget your name.
I am with you seven days a week, 24 hours a day; I am always ready to give you peace and rest.
I know everything about you and love you more than any earthly parent ever can or ever will.
You have eternal life with me.
I will provide everything you need.
If you look for my presence in everyone, you will find me in everyone.
I love all of your neighbors just as much as I love you.
If you think you lack something ask me for it, I will withhold nothing truly good from you.