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Friday, January 31, 2014

How Do I Love You? Let Me Recount The Way.

In the beginning, God wanted to create a being who would want Him and love Him voluntarily.  So God created an environment in which He and his creation could be together.  The environment would reveal all about God, who he is, his invisible attributes.  This special being could look at the environment and see God and see God's love for them.  So God created Adam.


God and Adam walked together in the garden of God's creation.  They talked.  God knew Adam needed more and helped Adam discover exactly what he needed.  God brought all the animal creations to Adam but none were suitable.  So God, caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and from Adam, made woman... Eve.  When Adam saw her he said, "At last.  This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh."  I believe God hoped that Adam would love him more because of what he had done for him.  Instead, Adam ignored God in favor of Eve and ruined himself, the environment, and their relationship with God.  So God moved forward.


God sought out other individuals with whom to have the love relationship he desired.  Some were so special, God just brought them to his house to stay.  Still others rejected God.  So God said, I will pick a specific people.  They will be mine.  If they will love me, I will be their God and they will be my people.  He chose one man through whom to create these people.  This man had no children of his own and I believe God thought that if he (God) gave the man children, the man would love God and teach his children to love God.  God promised the man, Abraham, that this would be so and that God himself would do this for Abraham.


Abraham, like Adam, preferred the advice of Eve or in this case Sarah to God.  In participating in the procreation of Ishmael, Abraham or man, once again spoiled what God wanted to do for him.  God being God promised to bless Ishmael and his descendants because of promise he had made with Abraham. 


God focused on His chosen people, Isaac and his descendants.  He gave them guidelines by which to help them related to God.  Rules and rituals to help them understand how to love and worship God.  He gave these through a man named Moses.  These people, Israel, still did not choose God over the creation of God and not even over the creations of man.  So God sent other leaders to show them the way to Him.  He sent special messengers to communicate, with clarity, the peril of the path they were on.  Still Israel did not get it.  So God decided to send His one and only Son - Jesus.


Jesus, God in human form, once again walked with man in creation.  He showed them, taught them, cared for them, challenged them, and loved them.  Still they rejected God's advances to the point they killed the human form of God.


But God is patient.


God raised his Son's body from dead.  The message of God's love for man would be shared throughout the world through a team of select messengers commissioned by Jesus himself.  This message would be rejected by God's selected people so God would use "adopted children" to show his selected people how he wanted to love them.  While God was "adopting", he would allow and facilitate his select people in having an attitude.  I believe hoping to provoke them, in jealousy, to love God.  This will not work.


God revealed, to the disciple whom he loved- John, his plan.  At some point, God would step in once again to make His case to His people of His love for them and the great consequence of them rejecting His love for the last time.  He will use supernatural agents.  He will use "natural disasters" of supernatural proportions.  He will make it clearer than clear. It will be undeniable that He loves His people that He chose.  Their rejection at this point will be the final rejection. 


In the end, God will choose.  God will decide to take pleasure in and be with those who have chosen Him in and through the forms He presented to them.  For all eternity, God and "His People" will live together and love one another as God intended from the beginning of time.  That is how God loves you.


If you are a "Gentile" (meaning that you are not of Jewish descent), now is your time to come to choose God through Jesus Christ.  God has created this window of time and wants you and wants to love you the same way he wants and wants to love His people.  He wants to adopt you.  You must want this in return.  You must want God.  You must accept his act of love in Jesus Christ and grow in understanding that it means you are giving yourself to God and choosing him above all others and everything else. Our time, as Gentiles is limited.  Now is the time to choose.


If you are a "Jew" (meaning that you are of Jewish descent), pay attention to what is going on.  Not just today but throughout history.  God loves you and wants you.  God is pursuing you.  He wants you to choose him above any and everything else.  He will continue to pursue you for a time.  The stakes and the severity of the path will continue to increase.  While you have time, don't waste it.  Scripture says that if the days were not cut short all God's people would fall away.  It is going to get hard and harder.  I pray for you.  I wish to help you understand how much God loves you and how envious I am that He pursues you the way he has and is and will.  Lastly, I want you to know how good it is to be loved by God.  How patient, kind, caring, loving, disciplined, and creative He is.   There is none like Him.  I do not want to be without Him.  Please don't wait too long to choose Him for He has chosen you!  

7:41 am est 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Door.  In the Greek of the New Testament it is thura, meaning portal or entrance and can mean both open or closed.   I am currently studying the book of Revelation and in particular the vision attributed to the Apostle John (Revelation 4:1 – 22:21).  It starts as follows (Revelation 4:1):  “After this (“this” being the letters to the 7 churches – Revelation 1:4-3:22) I had a vision:  a door stood open in heaven, and the voice that I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place hereafter.’” 

A door stood open.

This word, door, is used throughout the New Testament (24 times it is translated “door”).  In looking up each of these verses, there appear to me to be five implications to a “door”. 

1.        In or out, a portal.This references a location in relation to a door or the state of the door.  Matthew 27:60 and Mark 15:46 use this word in relation to the opening of the tomb in which Jesus was buried.  Acts (5:9) uses it in reference to the men who were there to carry Saphira’s body out.   I think Mark 11:4 could be included here.  This is the passage describing the location of the donkey Jesus as to ride into the city (i.e. “next to the door”).  For me it speaks to our proximity to where Jesus is and what he asks us to do.
2.        Inclusion or Exclusion.These passages use a door to refer to those are “in” or those who are “out”, included or excluded.  In Luke 13:25 (verses 22-30 for context) it is used this way.  Someone asks Jesus, “Sir, are only a few to be saved?”.  Jesus replies:“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door; for I tell you that many will try to enter but will not succeed.  When once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may stand outside and knock, and say, ‘Sir, let us in!’ but he will only answer, ‘I do not know where you come from.’”Similar uses are in Matthew 25:1-13, John 10:1-9, John 18:16-17, Acts 14:27.  For me the implication is that it matters which side of the door you on once the door is closed.  While Luke’s passage is in conversation with someone from the nation of Israel, the Acts 14:27 passage is in reference to the Gentiles (to whom I belong).  There will come a time when which side of the door we are on will matter and being invited in and taking the initiative to walk through the door will determine if we are inside or outside the door.  As Revelation 3:20 says: “Here I (Jesus) stand knocking at the door; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and he and I will eat together.  To anyone who is victorious I will grant a place beside me on my throne, as I myself was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.  You have ears, so hear what the Spirit says to the churches!”
3.        Opportunity.The phrase “an open door” implies opportunity.  Read these passages and see if you don’t come away with the same implication:  Acts 14:27, Luke 11:7, 1 Corinthians 16:9, 2 Corinthians 2:12, Colossians 4:3.  Revelation 3:7-8 explain more to us:  “These are the words of the Holy One, the True One, who has David’s key, so that when he opens the door, no one can shut it, and when he shuts it, no one can open it:  I know what you are doing, I have set before you an open door (KN: opportunity) which no one can shut.  I know your strength is small, yet you have observed my command and have not disowned my name.”   God opens the doors of ministry opportunity.  When they are open no one can shut them.  When they are closed, no one can open them.  It is very meaningful to me to know and be aware of what “doors” God is opening.  I am reminded of something I remember reading from a Henry Blackaby study (“Experiencing God”).  It is along the lines of don’t pray for God to bless what you are doing, pray that God will lead you to the blessed thing he is already doing so you can join him.
4.        Permission.When a door is opened for you, it implies permission to enter.  I read this in Revelation 3:20, Acts 12:6-16, and Luke 11:7.  It is also one of the implications of the passage in Revelation 4:1 and it is accompanied by the instruction: “Come up here…”.  I love that God permits and marvel that he waits to be invited or permitted into our lives.
5.        Sincerity.In Matthew 6:1-6, Jesus is teaching his disciples.  In his instruction regarding prayer he tells them to go into their room and close the door.  That God, who sees what is done in secret (or private), will reward.  James talks about a judge standing at the door (in relation to our attitudes – James 5:9). Being aware of the “door” of our attitudes and ego, will help keep us in a place where God wants to interact with us – our relationship with him.

I am praying we (you and I) see the “doors” in our lives…
-          Our locations
-          Our inclusion or exclusion
-          God’s opportunity for us
-          God’s permission for us and our permitting God in our lives
-          Our sincerity and humility as we focus on our relationship with God.
12:57 pm est 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What drives change?

I recently made some changes in my life.  I know what I went through to get to the point of change.  I know what I did to prepare and declare which changes I would make.  I know what I am doing to act out and be accountable for those changes.  I am relatively in tune with my motives for those changes.  I want to share some of what I learned in this process of change.

Change is a chance to redo, renew, and revisit what we are about.  It can be motivated by a wide variety of things… knowledge, pain, desire.  I also was reminded that change looks different from different perspectives.   Some change and some folks’ views of any change see it as a rebelling, revolt, or rejection.  In my own case there was a rebelling and there is some rejecting, from within and from without.

If you aren’t paying attention, if you aren’t looking for…, if you aren’t trying to grow, if you aren’t examining, you won’t be the agent of change.  You will fear change.  You won’t like change because it will compel your attention and upset your routine which you are most likely content with since you aren’t making yourself aware of the potential or need for change.  I was looking and examining… myself, those around me, the institutions I was part of, the principles I live by, the truth I believe and act on.  In reflecting, there was a very distinct process I went through.  That is what I want to share with you.

1.       Re-view
This is the looking.  What am I doing?  Why I am I doing it?  What authority is compelling it?  What are the options?  Why is it this way?  What is this producing?  What are the risks or rewards?  HOW DOES IT RESOLVE WITH TRUTH?  This last question led me to the next step.

2.       Re-read
What is the truth?  What does it really say?  What is it that is being “taught” and reinforced by me, others, institutions I associate with, in things as they are?  What is the gap between “as is” and my understanding of the truth.  Is there a disconnect between “as is” and the truth?  I re-read the Bible (my source of truth) looking at my role as a disciple of Jesus Christ (The Truth), the assembly of believers in Jesus Christ (i.e. “The Church”,  not a building or an organization). 

3.       Re-veal
I read and studied the truth with “fresh eyes”… as if I was reading it for the first time without the tradition, without history, without my experiences.  This isn’t easy to do and I am not sure one can completely read with “fresh eyes” so to speak.  However, in the process having invested in the effort, there was some revelation.  “Seeing” truth as new revealed things I couldn’t or didn’t see before. This revelation required me to relearn.

4.       Re-learn
What are the implications of what was revealed?  Here is where some rejecting started.  As I relearned, what was revealed was that some things in me, in the artifacts and associations I was a part of didn’t align with truth.  If what I was reading was really truth and who I claimed to be, a disciple of that Truth, then I had to reject what didn’t align with the Truth.  In sharing this with others, it is wise to expect some with whom you share it to view this negatively.  It is at this point that those around you begin to be excited. Some as in “happy” kind of excited and some like particles in an atom or atoms in a molecule. When they get excited, things heat up.  It is part of the process and many stop at this point because of the “heat”.  However, if truth is truth and you are a committed to it, you should not abandon it regardless of what it may cost you.  This is part of the nature of love (1 John 4), which is truth.  Love and truth, revelation and relearning, all have a transformational effect (Romans 12:2).  They enable you to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect.  Consequently, you are compelled to be different, to reform.

5.        Re-form
Here is where I began to reject and rebel.  Much of what I do and think has entered the realm of being a habit.  When we change a habit, we say we are “breaking a habit”.  Breaking, rebelling, rejecting what we were doing or thinking in favor of a new way.  At times it has been (and continues to be) a battle within myself.  In a sense, like the alcoholic or addict, there are places (mentally and physically) I cannot allow myself to go in order to maintain the reform.  This is where others can be hurt or misinterpret.  It isn’t something you do to another as much as it is something you do for yourself and others.  If you’ve never had a behavior or thought pattern that falls into this realm, please understand that you cannot “tip toe” around with these changes.  They must be clean breaks.  They are “Cold Turkey” kinds of reforms.  They are never “one and done” kinds of change.  They will require us to resist going back.

6.       Re-sist
When something is hard or unknown, there is an urge (internal and external) to give up or to return to what is easy and/or known.  In order for the change to occur and take effect, this urge must be resisted.  The good news is that over time the power and strength of the urge diminishes as does the amount of effort required to resist.  At this point, upon reflection, and all along the way, we must make time and expend energy to rejoice.

7.       Re-joice
Being thankful is key.  There is the potential for joy in everything that happens to us and in us (James 1:2-4).  In that sense, it is all good.  Please don’t misunderstand.  There is real evil in the world.  There are “bad decisions” that get made.  There is right and wrong.  In all of it, there is an opportunity to know God better, to know myself better, and to know others better.  Every single event of our lives has an effect on us and plays a role in who and what we become.  If we grow actively and effectively in our knowledge of the Truth, we will be better for it (2 Peter 1:8-11).  In this there is cause to rejoice, there is pause to give thanks, and recognize that it is all good!
1:28 pm est 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I have enjoyed the playoffs and championships in many different sports this year.  The regular season is a bit of a grind for me but in the playoffs everything is intensified.  As I was watching playoff football this weekend, I was noticing the teams’ and their interactions with each other… both within each team and between the teams.  I noticed some things that also aligned with a Doctrine Workgroup project on The Church and wanted to work out my thoughts in writing and then vet them on you.  J

I picked up an acrostic from someone, somewhere about teams that stuck with me…Together Everyone Accomplishes More.

In the playoff games there were several dynamics related to this acrostic’s message. I’ll share one here. 

 When it first starts to go our way (goes good), the “together” aspect of a team peaks.

As positive momentum builds, the team “comes together”.  There are hugs and high fives, encouragement and cheering.  It is exciting to see.  I watched one team, who seemed to have the game won with 2-3 minutes left.  The “together” dynamic started working against them.  They had concluded their accomplishment was as good as achieved and they shared this conclusion together.  They didn’t need more.  The result was they lost their focus and intensity and the other team started to creep back into the game.  On the last play of the game, the team that had been losing, had a chance to tie the game.  While they were unsuccessful, a message had been sent and I could see it on the faces of the coaches of the winning team.

As a team loses momentum it risks “coming apart”.  There is isolation, yelling, criticism, and broken chains of command.  It is painful to watch.  The team experiencing this couldn’t seem to get out of their own way.  They couldn’t “get it together”.

I was reinforced in what I had learned about groups who claim to be “one”…
“Together” is a powerful tool.  Many moving as one becomes a force.  With it (“Together”), singularity of purpose and focus, many as one, moves the group toward an objective with great force and great effectiveness.  Without it (“Together”) many purposes emerge and there is no shared focus.  Many stay many and it is difficult if not impossible to move forward or be effective.  We should desire “Together”.  We should work on achieving “Together”.  We should make sure that the “One” (the many coming together) is focused on and moves in the right direction.  The Apostle Paul understood this. 

In Ephesians 4:3 Paul writes: “Spare no effort to make fast with bonds of peace the unity which the Spirit gives” (Revised English Version).  Unity is an objective worthy of all our effort.  It comes from God’s Spirit.  He gives it to us.  Our role is to make it stick… “tie it down” with bonds of peace.  From Paul’s comments, “Together” is there for us in the church.  It is a gift from the Spirit.  It requires effort on our part.  The effort is linking together in peace.In the history of the Christian “Church”, we have had this unity.  We have also lost this unity.  We give up on things (doctrine, practices, people) and allow them to divide us.  We see separation and isolation as “peace” (“If we can’t get along, we’ll go apart and I can be with those who agree with me.”).  We don’t see “peace” as a pair of handcuffs requiring us to work together.  This working together is the effort to make fast the unity the Spirit gives.

An effective team and an effective “Church” are well served by focusing on the fundamentals and on doing them well.  Get back to the basics, the core, in its simplest form and don’t stop until you agree.  The trappings of our times or the “moment” can be a distraction.  We would be well served by staying focused on the good news that God loved us enough to send his Son to be our restoration and hope, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves and stay there until we all agree.
9:58 am est 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

31 Most Important Principles for Me

1.        God is real.
2.       God is spirit.  He isn’t physical or measurable.
3.       God is one AND community in that He is represented in three distinct forms:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit but yet one God.
4.       God is infinite.  He lacks nothings.  He answers to himself alone.
5.       God’s standard is high.
6.       God wants a mutual and reciprocal relationship with each of us.
7.       God made everything… including man, an opposition/alternative to himself, and consequence in order to realize his want for relationship.
8.       As a result of God’s standards, his wishes, and our will, we require a remedy to consummate a relationship with God.  Jesus is that remedy.
9.       Jesus is God’s only, begotten son.  He is God and condescended to live with us in human form.
10.    The “remedy” for our relationship with God is called “Good News” (or Gospel).  It amounts to…a.        Our believing God in that Jesus’ death was necessary as a substitution or sacrifice for us;
b.       That God raised Jesus to life after his death making the hope of eternal life real for us.
11.    There are consequences to our actions and decisions.  Some of these consequences are beyond our control.
12.    Men (you and I) are responsible for ourselves and accountable to God.
13.    Our time here on earth is intended for us to reconcile and develop our relationship with God.  I call this discipleship.
14.    Jesus is God’s Word.  He is The Truth.  He is life.  He is the way.
15.    God gave us relationships in order to better understand Him.
16.    My relationship with and love for God is the highest priority.
17.    My growth as a disciple and love for myself is my second highest priority.
18.    My relationship with my family… wife, kids, parents, extended… is my 3rd highest priority.
19.    My relationship with my brothers and sisters in Christ is my 4th highest priority.
20.    My relationship with non believers completes the list of relationship priorities.
21.    Of the qualities we can possess, Love is the greatest.  God is love.
22.    Faith gives us “eyes” to see, an understanding of the things of God, and is the key quality is accessing the “Remedy”.  Faith is belief in action.
23.    Hope is the a third essential quality.  It brings vitality to life and fuels our motivation.
24.    There are two competing “systems”.  These represent philosophies, values, and methods.  One is God’s.  The other is called “the world’s” and represents a wide variety.  The two systems are incompatible.
25.    To live in God’s system, we must change our thinking (“renew our minds”).  This will be transformative.
26.    Our minds are renewed through God’s Word (Jesus) and a systematic ingestion of it (him).
27.    God’s promises make for true religion and help us escape the corruption of consuming desire (lust) which has infected this world.
28.    Grow actively and effectively in your knowledge of Jesus Christ.
29.    Grow in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.
30.    Have fun.
31.    Know that God loves you and so do I.

1:28 pm est 

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