God Makes a Way

This past Friday a member of the upper management at my work really ticked me off.  This person got involved in an incident in which they didn’t have all the information and chastised me in an email and cc’d others making it public.

I held back and asked politely to please consider coming to me and talking about it before publicly commenting and correcting me.  They came back with their reasoning which I answered and they wrote back again and I wondered why they didn’t just pick up the phone and talk to me.  I was going to if they wrote again.  I prayed and asked God to help me in this situation.  I was so frustrated and angry.

Then they sent me a text saying that an appointment had cancelled and they wanted to talk.  I immediately called and we resolved the issue.

I was so thankful that God cancelled their appointment.  Made a way for us to resolve the issue.  I understood why they emailed, they were trying to resolve it but were waiting for an appointment so couldn’t get involved in a conversation.

I was reminded about my devotional that morning in Ephesians 4: 1-1-3.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

As we serve we are to be humble, gentle, patient.  We are to bear with one another in love, and make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

God made a way for us to resolve this by cancelling this person’s appointment.  I needed to be patient, and trust God to make a way for reconciliation. To bear with this person lovingly.  And keep the unity between us with the help of the Holy Spirit (I was not able to myself, in the natural),  and have a “bond” of peace with that person.

Whew! Not easy! But we are to: “live a life worthy of the calling we have received”.  God calls us to this seemingly impossible life practice.  But he gives us the Spirit to help us do this.  To maintain, to keep, the unity through the bond of peace.

 

 

 

Am I Excluding?

As you know unity is a big topic in the bible.  Jesus brings this up in the context of marriage, members of the church, sinners and saved, men and women, us and God and Jesus, humanity in general.  But one of the biggest unity items is the concept of Israelites and Gentiles.  The Chosen People and those outside of this group, all the other geo-political and cultural groupings of people outside of the Hebrews.

In Ephesians 2: 11-22 Paul tears this division down completely.  God’s Chosen People, his handpicked geo-political, cultural people who he has worked with all through the Old Testament are now to be blended with everyone else in the world.  The “circumcision people” are now joined into one family with the “uncircumcised”.

Those who were once “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners”, who were “without hope” and “without God”, who were “far away” have been “brought near”.

Christ “made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”.  The purpose of Christ “was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace”.  He came and preached peace “to you who were far away and peace to those who were near”.  And “both have access to the Father by one Spirit”.

Now the gentiles are: “no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and member of God’s household”.

Only Jesus can do this.  Bring total outsiders in to become total insiders.  Foreigners and aliens to become citizens (Phil 3:20,21).  He has brought peace, removing hostility between groups of people who were very different.

Do I as a professed Christian, a follower of Jesus, have this loving inclusivity?  Do I fully realize I am a Gentile who has been grafted into God’s family?  I have asked myself if I have had an exclusive attitude to those different than me.  Inside the church and outside, race, gender, political party, etc?  We certainly don’t have to agree with everyone, but what is our inner relationship perspective with others?

I am so very thankful that God has made a way through his son to no longer be an alien, but now a fellow citizen with God’s people.  With this privilege, I feel I must be thankful and not forget this, nor take it for granted and adopt “insider only” thinking.

In Accordance

The definition of accordance is “in a manner conforming with” or “granting something”.  In Ephesians 1: 3-10 we learn we are given “every” spiritual blessing in Christ.  Not some, not a few, not a lot, but every spiritual blessing. We are also chosen to be “holy and blameless in his sight”.  So though we are not always holy and blameless, we are “in his sight” and have no deficiencies that would disqualify us.  So we are equipped and seen by the coach as the first string, the A team, the starters.

We are adopted…………………………………………..in accordance to his pleasure and will

We are redeemed………………………………………..in accordance to his grace

We are given the mystery of his will…………….in accordance to his good pleasure

So we are also part of a fully restored and equipped team, and we have the game plan and the objective of the one in charge… who is God.

The mystery is no longer a mystery.  We know that his plan is: “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (vs 10).

So we are all fully prepared and equipped to bring all of humanity together.  To restore the Garden of Eden – when we were one with God.  This is the unity of humanity – the oneness of humanity and oneness with our creator.

This unity is in heaven – with God.  And on earth – with each other and all of creation.   This unity includes every distance relationally and geographically.  Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Ac 1:8).  In the story of the shepherd leaving the flock to go after the one (Mt 18:12-14) the one is important, and when brought back the flock is restored to 100% completeness.  Absolute unity.

There are no second stringers in this game, we are all starters.  We are all equipped and seen by our coach and creator as perfect, having no deficiencies. This is all in accordance to what God has done in Jesus.  Let’s get in the game!

Dualistic Thinking

There’s sin and redemption.  Jesus and the devil.  These are easy to distinguish,  But even Jesus warns us of the deception that will occur when he says: “many will come in my name claiming, ‘I am he’ and ‘the time is near’.  Do not follow them”  (Lk21:8)

When I recently saw video clips of people destroying property and looting I was appalled.  But remember when Jesus went into the temple and overturned tables?  Now I am not equating all that has occurred recently to Jesus, but I do wonder if there was the human side of Jesus that was just fed up with people not getting it and he acted out.    And in the OT God tells his people to go and destroy places and people and take possessions back with you.

So all situations are not dualistic, that is clearly one side or another.

There is black-white, Japanese-Korean, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan.  There are differences but did you know that all humans share 99% of the same DNA?

When people say “I don’t see color, we are all equal is this really true? “  I don’t consider myself a prejudice person, but I certainly to have images in my mind that define certain words, like in the case of “terrorist”.  I remember the OKC bombing, I immediately had a picture of who perpetrated this horrific act.  I was wrong.

I think we should be careful to examine our dualistic thinking.  Our preconceived ideas that we hold to and hold them up to the light of scripture.

I am learning to not automatically jump to “right and wrong”, not that I doubt everything, but I am finding that there are times I need to know more about a situation before snapping to judgment and categorization.  I need to take a little more time and get more information.

Jesus often taught in parables – not to just download information to us but rather to get us to  analyze and think.  He gave situational examples of how to illustrate and apply the kingdom of God in circumstances.  I think we can apply this “understanding the narrative” approach.  And I am feeling I need to be careful to not to jump to dualistic thinking.

 

 

Popularity and Truth – Consequences and Encouragement

Popularity and Truth – Consequences and Encouragement

Jesus never sought popularity.  However, he did gain followers, seekers, people who wanted to hear him, and learn this new life giving teaching.

In Luke 12 1 “a crowd of many thousands“ gathered.  Now most preachers or teachers would revel in this platform to preach the gospel and affect many all at once.  So what was his reaction?  He “began to speak first to his disciples”.  And he talked to them about hypocrisy, and fear.

Jesus taught that what you do in private will be shown to the public.  Your true self will be found out.  It is a stern warning: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. (Lk 12:2,3).

Then he talks about fear in the context of defending truth against the political and religious powerbrokers.  He encourages them that even in physical death, their souls will live on in verse 4.  And he says that when on trial: 11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Lk 12:12)

He warns them about getting to full of themselves and also warns them that if they speak the true gospel there will be consequences.

All of us have some following.  It can be our wives or girlfriends, our children, our team at work, guys we go fishing with, or crowds of thousands.  We all can have influence and wit can lead to getting puffed up and off track where we work or worry about our image, more than our true selves.

And all of us can become unpopular when preaching or living out the gospel.  The gospel can rub people the wrong way – in our families, social, and work settings.

This is a good teaching that we need not fear because he is aware of us and knows us down to the last detail.  We are not forgotten when we preach truth and face fear.  In verse 7 Jesus states: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

 

 

 

 

Submission, Suffering, Testimony

In 1 Peter 2: 21-25 there is a vivid description of Jesus’ crucifixion and the gospel.  This was a scripture used for a sermon I received this past Easter.

In reading it I noticed the context.  It is set in the context of slaves being mistreated, and following earthly leaders.  The charge is found in verse 19: ‘For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.’  Then Peter says in verse 21: ‘to this you were called because’ and then recounts the crucifixion.

The idea here is: ‘For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.’ (vs 15)

This is a challenging teaching for me.  Of course it must be seen in the context of the whole bible.  Daniel didn’t submit to the authorities when he disobeyed the laws of the land when he prayed.  Jesus didn’t make a case for himself when receiving false accusations during his trial.  So what are we to do?

The answer comes in chapter three.  In 1 Peter 3:17 Peter writes: ‘It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.’   In verse 13 and 14a Peter writes: ‘Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  Do not fear”

It seems there is a trust factor here.  We are to trust God in spite of the circumstances.  Somehow our submission to leaders, even when mistreated, testifies to God  by virtue of being a good citizen or slave.  It doesn’t mean that we go against God’s law, and it doesn’t mean that we let the behavior continue.  But at the moment we do submit and do not stoop to evil.

Martin Luther King would be a modern day example of this.  His life, and his death accomplished and continues to accomplish much.

What do you think about this?

God’s Purpose

In reading scripture I always have felt disdain for the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the Law who “miss the point” and put such burdens on their followers, and who were the impetus to put Jesus to death.

Then I read Luke 7 and came across this in verse 30: “But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John”.

It struck me that God had given them a purpose.  I have to believe that somewhere they were diligently trying to follow the God.  But somewhere they got off track.  Maybe it was because of their pride, and desire to be revered.  But maybe it was their desire to be holy.  Maybe it was because they wanted status, but maybe they wanted to honestly live as close to perfect godly lives as possible.

We all have a purpose that God gives us, and we all have sin that derails us.  As a professed Christian and staunch follower of Jesus I really want to follow him as accurately as possible and represent Jesus well to those around me.  But like the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the Law I am a sinner and have the same ability to derail others in their faith journey as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Law teachers.

Like these highly dedicated people, we who wish follow Christ diligently must really be led by the Spirit in humility, and we must really be in the Word and know Jesus.  We  really must be careful in what we believe are the non-negotiables of our faith.  And we must examine ourselves in our outward behaviors and reactions to people around us.  In our conversations, formations and expressions of political thoughts, and other ways we reveal our hearts.

None of us will be perfect.  But all of us do have a purpose that God gives us and we are all called to display his glory.  Let’s be careful to not become religious and rather be relational and effective ambassadors of Jesus.

From Isaiah 43: 1-7.   “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:…         everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

He made us to give him glory – let’s make every effort to fulfill our purposes!

 

The Journey

Recently I committed a sin that surprised me.  I questioned my faith and felt so unworthy.  “Am I really a Christian?”  I asked myself.  I’ve also met people who feel their lives have been so wrought with sin that “God couldn’t possibly save me, or want to”.

In this context I came across my daily reading, Luke 8, the parable of the Sower.  I noticed the setting is Jesus with the 12 disciples: “and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,  and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. (vs 1-3)

Mary had seven demons. Joanna the wife of Herod’s household manager.  These women knew sin and death and demonic possession.  I stopped and realized the power of God to overcome the darkness and the sin in us, and in the world, displayed in the life journeys of these women.  They are people who know sin and demonic possession who are now healed and associated with Jesus.  Sojourners,  followers with him on display, and who fueled his ministry with their financial support.  God’s love won out.

I also came across this from John of the Cross. His expression of the journey to know the love of God that surpasses all understanding.  The simultaneous power over sin, and gentleness to heal evidenced  in God’s love expressed in Jesus and his mission allows us to overcome the darkness.

“A deeper enlightenment and wider experience than mine is necessary to explain the dark night through which a soul journeys toward that divine light of perfect union with God that is achieved, insofar as possible in this life, through love. The darknesses and trials, spiritual and temporal, that fortunate souls ordinarily undergo on their way to the high state of perfection are so numerous and profound that human science cannot understand them adequately. Nor does experience of them equip one to explain them. Only those who suffer them will know what this experience is like, but they won’t be able to describe it.”

God’s love. We may not be able to describe it, but we can experience and benefit from it.

 

Submission, Suffering, Testimony

In 1 Peter 2: 21-25 there is a vivid description of Jesus’ crucifixion and the gospel.  This was a scripture used for a sermon I received this past Easter.

In reading it I noticed the context.  It is set in the context of slaves being mistreated, and following earthly leaders.  The charge is found in verse 19: ‘For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.’  Then he says in verse 21: ‘to this you were called because’ and then recounts the crucifixion.

The idea here is: ‘For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.’ (vs 15)

This is a challenging teaching for me.  Of course it must be seen in the context of the whole bible.  Daniel didn’t submit to the authorities when he prayed and disobeyed the laws of the land.  But Jesus didn’t make a case for himself when receiving false accusations during his trial.  So what are we to do?

The answer comes in chapter three.  In 1 Peter 3:17 Peter writes: ‘It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.’   In verse 13 and 14a Peter writes: ‘Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  Do not fear”

It seems there is a trust factor herein that we are admonished to trust God in spite of the circumstances.  Somehow our submission to leaders, even when mistreated, testifies to God  by virtue of being a good citizen or slave.  It doesn’t mean that we go against God’s law, and it doesn’t mean that we let the behavior continue.  But at the moment we do submit and do not stoop to evil.

Martin Luther King would be a modern day example of this.  His life, and his death accomplished and continues to accomplish much.  A non-violent legal and peaceful response to unjust treatment.

What do you think about this?  To what extent does our conforming and suffering go in order to testify to Jesus?

Language as Grace

Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language?  As an English speaker, the toughest languages to learn are supposedly Turkish and Chinese.  Chinese has thousands of characters, and is a tonal language meaning if your voice goes go up or down at the end of a word it changes the meaning.  Turkish has no common words with English.  Missionaries spend a lifetime learning languages of the cultures in which they serve.

God gave a command at creation to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” in Genesis 1:28  and repeated it to Noah in Genesis 9:1.  But man disobeyed.

In Genesis 11 when humanity had: “one language and a common speech” (vs 1) people plan a city and build a tower that reaches to the heavens “so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth”. (vs 4) (my emphasis)

So the Trinity holds a meeting and decide: “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” And the Lord: “scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” (Gen 11:8).

So languages began at the Tower of Babel and today ay there exist over 7000 different languages around the world.  Amazingly only 700 languages have the complete bible and only 1500 additional languages have the New Testament or some portion of the bible.

A way to look at the events in Genesis 11 is languages are God’s grace to us in that he made it difficult for us to communicate. And from Matthew 24:14 we know God’s final judgment will come when all have heard and had a chance to respond: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  So aside from creation testifying (Rom 1:20) to people, God has given us time, through his intervention of scattering us and creating languages to get the gospel to all the nations.  This complexity allows us time to get the gospel communicated to all peoples as we learn languages and translate his word in partnership with the Holy Spirit.

Just one more bit of evidence of God’s creativity, his patience, his desire that none should perish, and his love for us!