Wednesday, December 02, 2015
Thursday, November 19, 2015
“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” You know it’s a really good thing that it was Jesus who said this. We certainly wouldn’t let anyone else get away with talking about the Bible like that. Jesus knew that it’s our tendency to treat the “letter” like an instruction manual rather than a love letter revealing the heart of a good heavenly Father. So when you read the Bible now to look for plain directional formula of what to do or not to do you’re basically scratching the surface of the letter and recreating the law all over again. The Bible is an invitation to a beautiful relationship and a glorious celebration and if you discover the heart of your Father, the Spirit of the letter becomes clearer and clearer.
Take, for example, Matthew 18. For many churches, this is the handbook for excommunication. Jesus gives an example of someone caught in a fault or sin. To just look at the formula it seems clear and simple. Step one, go tell him about his fault. Step two, if he won’t hear you take another person. Step three, if he’s still not listening, tell the whole church. Step four, let him be like a gentile or tax collector. It seems simple enough as one, two, three strikes and you’re out. And if kicking someone out of your community is the goal, this seems like a good deal. Except for this one little plot twist. Matthew, who this Gospel is attributed to, is a tax collector, and later through Paul, God demonstrates His love for the gentiles. How did Jesus Himself treat tax collectors and gentiles? When He encountered Zacchaeus in Luke 19, He went to his home to spend time with him personally. When Jesus encountered the gentile woman in Mark 7 who asks for healing for her daughter, Jesus grants her the miracle and praises the greatness of her faith. Matthew 18 is a challenge to our prejudices, not Divine permission to reinforce them.
For another example look at Mark 16. Jesus has just resurrected from the dead and appeared to Mary Magdalene and two who were walking on the road to Emmaus. In a dramatic (and perhaps a little bit unfair) plot twist, Mark 16:12 says He appeared to them in a different form. Both Mary and these two from the road run to tell the disciples that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. The disciples are the inner circle, the ones who were chosen personally. Why would He appear to anyone else first? That had to be a blow to their ego. Maybe it was the fact that they weren’t reliable sources, or maybe it was the odd fact that their accounts of His appearance were so different. Whatever it was, the disciples don’t believe them. It’s at this point that Jesus appears in the room and rebukes them for their unbelief. The very next thing you see is Him saying, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Again, this seems pretty simple, and we have long used it as a clear way to tell who’s in and who’s out. The Gospel (Jesus Christ is risen) is preached and if you believe it you’re in and if you don’t you’re out. What did the disciple just hear? The Gospel message that Jesus Christ is risen. What have they just done with what they’ve heard? They didn’t believe. Do you see it? According to the letter, the disciples meet the criteria to qualify for condemnation. But Jesus reveals the love and power of the Spirit by embracing and empowering the very ones who are worthy to be condemned. It’s a sobering thought to consider that the 11 who made up the foundation of the church were actually the first unbelievers of the Gospel. This is the goodness of Jesus Christ. He empowers and validates the condemned and disqualified. The letter doesn’t force you to condemn anyone. But it does give you permission to condemn and reject them if you choose to live by the letter alone. Jesus steps beyond the letter to live by a higher law. The law of Love.
Here’s one final example for you to consider. Do you remember when 1 John 2 says, “Love not the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” But Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” So which is it? If you’re focused on the letter this will be endlessly confusing. But if you catch the wind of the Spirit, and know the heart of your Father, this makes perfect sense. The freedom to reject someone makes your acceptance of them an act of pure love, for love can’t be forced or demanded. Perhaps that itself is the greatest act of love. That when you have qualified for condemnation and bear the weight of guilt, Love steps in and overturns the sentence. When we condemn, we reflect the nature of our own blind fear. When we love, we reflect the nature of a just God. It is the justice of a good God, that the blindness of our condemnation based on the letter is healed by the compassion of the Holy Spirit and an unfailing Love Who bears, hopes, believes, and endures all things. I hope these studies prompt to rediscover the Spirit in the letter and empower you to look beyond the surface into the simple hope of the hidden goodness of God.
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Saturday, August 01, 2015
Friday, April 17, 2015
As much as we walk in victory, though saved, in this life there is still suffering.
Jesus, though a son, learned obedience through that which He suffered. (Heb 5)We don't often think of suffering producing anything good but the Scripture makes a pretty strong case for this. That whatever we don't learn by observation, the experience of suffering will teach us. Often with more lasting results. Resistance builds strength. So in life you find yourself bearing the weight of some frustrations with no clear solutions. That's not an unhealthy thing.
When you're building a life not everything is going to work. If 2% of your goals get met by the time you're 40 you'll be doing unusually well. Life sucks the life out of life when you have built an altar of expectations. Goals get trashed and rebuilt and by the time they come around to getting fulfilled you often want something entirely different. When you develop the ability to exercise preference you're eating deeply of the fruit of the fall. It's ok. We all do everyday. That fruit is preference or another word for it is judgment. Everything you want to be is the preference of one thing over another and ultimately it is that very thing (preference and judgement) that leads to suffering. Think deeply about this. So then what is suffering?
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Being made in His likeness, we awaken to our authentic identity in Him. He decimates our man made, circumstance fashioned, false identities by assuming our likeness and dealing with what we can't imagine a holy God can comprehend. Satan brings temptation upon man in the Garden, and later God tempts Himself (led by the Spirit into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted) in a garden. In the Garden of Eden God calls out to man 'where are you' as God forsaken. On the cross Jesus cries out to God as man forsaken. He faces down the identity of atheism by assuming the identity of the atheist in the most radical way imaginable. For in the garden and on the cross, God annihilates the separation anxiety of Divine and human rejection in that for a brief instant God Himself appears to be an atheist, crying out, "Why have You forsaken me?" And from that place of lonely isolation, He reconciles the cosmos to Himself, dying and raising from the dead not just for us but as us. That's grace and goodness beyond the realm of understanding, but not beyond the realm of experience. The grace of Jesus is most often experienced long before it is understood. I would even say without the experience there is no understanding.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
Friday, May 23, 2014
The Holy Spirit is the kindest most gentle expression of God’s heart that I’ve ever met. He guides into all truth (Truth is Jesus) so He always leads me to Jesus, all of Jesus. Hebrews 5:14 talks about solid food is for those who have their senses exercised (trained) to discern good and evil. So it’s possible to sense the presence of God and the presence of something other. It does take training. This is important because most people have the ability to discern evil but the challenge is to discern good. It doesn’t just come by having the letter of the Word as your sole litmus test for what’s of God or not. (Dangerous thoughts ahead…) The Pharisees knew the Word better than you and I and couldn’t recognize the literal manifest presence of God standing right in front of them. Matter of fact, they claimed devotion to God but the presence of Jesus stirred contempt and hatred, so clearly their senses weren’t exercised simply by devotion to the letter. Abraham got a legit word from God to sacrifice his son. God doesn’t condone human sacrifice. God’s word to Abraham at the bottom of the mountain was different than what He told Abraham at the top of the mountain. But the word of the Lord stands forever, right? Hosea got a legit word to marry a prostitute. How many Pastors today would agree with Hosea if he came and said God told him to do that? Jesus emphatically tells a crowd to eat His flesh and drink His blood, so strongly that they all get offended and leave. God doesn’t condone cannibalism. Bottom line to all of this, unless the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us, we will kill ourselves and each other with the letter all day long. (Read internet message boards on Christian bloggers. Brutal, loveless, people more concerned with being right than revealing Truth.)
This gets muddy when we put these two concepts together because it implies that one isn’t complete without the other. First, what is being drunk? It’s being given over to alcohol to the point where one loses control of his/her faculties or behavior. What is being in the Holy Spirit? It’s righteousness, peace, and joy. (Romans 14:17) I’ve never liked the term drunk in the Spirit, but I’m not offended by it because I understand that the joy and bliss of the presence of God transcends the limits of linguistic description. (I’m getting happy just writing this. Associative meditation perhaps, but He’s just soooooooo good!!) The difference between chemical intoxication and Spiritual ecstasy is different internally but sometimes generates similar physical responses. Hence the Acts 2 scene where onlookers made the assumption by the behavior of the church that they were drunk. Eph 5:18 says don’t be drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit. The implication there is that one experience is the counterfeit of another. When you get the revelation that you are the righteousness of God in Christ, that the Prince of Peace has made you His temple, and that fullness of joy is found in His presence, the result of these concepts can fry the formerly limited ability you had previously assumed was possible when it comes to tasting His goodness. I dare anyone to spend five minutes meditating on John 14:20 and not be effected Spirit, soul, and body.
Monday, March 31, 2014
Friday, March 07, 2014
You may think that you have the ability to threaten God with the pain of loss, but I would ask to what extent could your child cause you the greatest pain? The most pain one person could inflict upon another would be injury to the point of death. And that's exactly what God's children did to Him.
Yet in both His death and resurrection He embraces you in reconciliation, grace, forgiveness, and love. He embraces you in your ignorance declaring, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they do." He embraces you in His defeat of death, by unveiling love, not revenge upon humanity. It is the resurrection that validates your innocence and is that premeditated decision to love you that nullifies your ability to control God with any past, present, or future behavior. While you were still lost in the blind confusion of sin's identity, He died for and as you. This union with literal righteousness Himself completely liberates you from sin by removing any power that sin had in controlling and manipulating your life. Authentic Love produces authentic freedom, and you are authentically loved by God, right where you are today." )
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Though the work is finished the manifestation of that work is revealed as we awaken to our authentic identity. Throughout our awakening there is revelation and rest. Revelation comes from knowing the Answer and rest is when you realize that the Answer knows you. Even more so, that the Answer has united Himself with you, and even in your blindness He empowers you with identity. Your identity is not dependent upon your ability to fully understand who you are. You are fully capable of adopting a false identity, acting out the role of a fictitious character, and presenting it to the world around you as if that is who you really are. But it's what God knew before He formed you that is the true you, and He is thoroughly committed to you being fully revealed and known by yourself even as you are fully known by Him.