Nov 15, 2012

Who New

There is a simple question which clarifies the destiny of every soul.
And, beyond that, the answer to this question defines our theology, our spiritual investment level, and the quality of our relationship to God. The question is this:  "Do you want to be new?"

That’s a different question than, “Do you want to be forgiven?” It’s different from, “Do you need a new start in life?” And, it's different from, “Do you need a rescue from some dire circumstance of life?”

These can all be motives which drive us to Christ – and often do.
But, once we encounter Him, this larger and more encompassing question of personal renewal comes into play.  Always, in Christ, the overarching question becomes “Will you embrace a personal transformation?”

Obviously, this desire does not take root in the heart of all who come to Christ. Sometimes it is true, seekers wish only to make a minimal investment. Sometimes a little help, or a momentary rescue, or a simplistic religious experience is all they want. And, once those things are secured, they’re happy to leave it at that.


So, many simply have no appetite for allowing Christ to expose their personal brokenness, or for allowing Him to treat that condition. Their preference is more toward a kind of “Surgical Redemption.”

Surgical redemption can be described as minimally invasive to one’s priorities, schedule, and life plan.  This is a redemption which deals only with manageable specifics, and leaves the seeker totally in charge of his or her level of investment. 

But, the reality is this: “Surgical Redemption” is not the stuff of Heaven. Authentic redemption in Christ is always an “all in” proposition. 

And, as part of that devotion, genuine redemption always involves a renewal process which thoroughly rebuilds us from the ground up. It rewrites our value system from scratch. And it alters our own schemes and dreams in service to God's higher purposes for our life.

So, there is really no such thing as surgical redemption or a “measured response” to God’s redemptive offer. In Christ, redemption is always about going all in to become thoroughly new in character and influence.

Thus, our conversion experience may, indeed, involve a circumstantial rescue of some kind. It may involve the desperate need for a do-over in life. And God's forgiveness is certainly always a necessary part of the package. But, beyond all of this, the issue always ultimately becomes, “Will you embrace the pursuit of your own personal transformation?"

If your response goes something like this, “No, thanks; I really just need a little circumstantial help from time to time.  Or, "I'm really only interested in an easily managed religious involvement.” Then, that is what you'll get from God - and that's all.

If, however, your desperation runs along these lines: “Oh God, yes! I have seen my brokenness and I need your help! By all means, please fix me through Christ.” Then, a truly intimate relationship with Him and the resulting upward journey begins. And the rest is easily predictable.

The result of this buy-in to personal renewal is the divine initiation of a powerful process which flows, not from the Dying Christ of the Cross, but from the Living Christ of the Resurrection. The process begins with the literal integration of our human nature with the divine nature of the Living Christ.
(Ref. 2 Peter 1:4)

This experience is what the Church calls The Spiritual Baptism.  But, in common terms, this experience is merely a mystical merger with the Living Christ, by which the believer is literally empowered for newness.

Through this Spiritual connection to Christ, the believer receives what might accurately be described as a new "character DNA."  It is essentially a value system overwrite.  And this new, Christ-based character code then begins to change who we are – from the inside out. It begins to make us new at our core.

The Apostle, Paul said it best. “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.”


There are many religious games out there. And many choose to play them. But true redemption is not a game. It involves a very stringent selection process, the outcome of which is ultimately determined by one simple question: “Do you want to be new?”

“Do you want to be new?” It is this question which accurately conveys the full scope of God’s redemptive intent. And our response to this question is ultimately the real decider of souls – all games aside.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” - Jesus

Oct 16, 2012

It Happened To Me


I didn't see it when I was young and dumb.  I arrogantly and off-handedly dismissed all things Spiritual as drivel -  someone's idea of right and wrong, ultimately reduced to a long list of do's and don'ts.  

But, I have since discovered that the Christian walk is about something much bigger and better than that.  It is really about a deeply meaningful friendship.


And that friendship means this.  Every day of our lives, we rise to the presence of the Living Jesus.  As a result, we are never alone in any circumstance.  He shares with us, every challenge, every achievement, every fear, every joy - every milestone and circumstance of any kind.  Thus, in all of our life experience, we enjoy a constant access to His divine companionship.


And, through this shared life experience, He provides to us a truly empowering synergy with which to face life's challenges.  He enlightens us with perspectives which move us beyond the smallness of our self.  And, as any true friend would, He sometimes confronts us and becomes insistent - in our best interest.  


And, it is true.  I have never seen my divine Friend.  Indeed, He is normally entirely invisible to the physical eye.  But, that has no real impact on our friendship; because, it is not through the physical eye that we come to know God on this most intimate level.  Instead, there is an "inner sight" which allows us to see Him very clearly in ways that the physical eye never could.    

This is an entirely new inner sensitivity, which Christ awakens in the heart of devout believers.  It is essentially a very  heightened God awareness.  And, indeed, this new level of simply knowing enables the believer to move far beyond the limitations of the totally unsuited physical senses to finally experience a true daily intimacy with God in a deeply meaningful friendship. 

So, through this inner awareness, we are now able to perceive the full spectrum of the dynamics of our relationship with God.  We can now sense His relevant thoughts, His demeanor, and even the unspoken whispers of His heart, as is and should be normal to any deeply vested relationship. 

Thus, the physical senses are made largely irrelevant to the divine friendship by this internal sense of sight.  Why do we need to physically see, when we can simply know?   


I understand that many balk at such ideas.  Indeed, as did I, many people arrogantly dismiss anything they cannot perceive and verify through the physical senses.  But, when we taste the wonderfully pure and simple essence of God's loving companionship, we quickly cease to be one of those people.   At least - I did.

"A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 

 "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."  - Jesus


Oct 8, 2012

The Even Bigger God

It is one thing to encounter the God who deals with the needs of our soul.  It is entirely another to encounter the God who takes on the needs of our days.  The God of our souls is certainly big.  But, in some sense, the God of our everyday need is even bigger.


The Apostle Paul recounts in the New Testament how he sought God three times for one such need, what he called his, “thorn in the flesh.”  We are not entirely certain of the nature of the problem to which Paul was referring.  But, we know it was a difficulty which was both insurmountable and enduring.
So, Paul was completely outmatched in this struggle.  


Thus, He goes on to relate that he “pleaded with the Lord” to take this “thorn” away.  And this was the Lord’s answer to him.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”


This was probably not the answer that Paul was hoping for, at least at first.  He was probably hoping that Christ would answer in His “almighty-ness” and simple flick the problem out of existence with His divine finger. 


Most of us, when facing a similar intimidation, probably, approach God, initially, in that same way.  Our first hope is probably just to gain a quick fix. 


But, as the Lord indicated to Paul by His answer, there is another solution which God often chooses to employ as an alternative to instant deliverance.  It is the “graceful solution.” And that is the solution that He offers to Paul for his “thorn.”


This offer of Grace instead of Raw Power may sometimes be disappointing, at least initially, to those who are actually enduring the pain of some overwhelming problem.  But, when we understand the full implications of the graceful approach, then we do gain some comfort and hope.  And that encouragement begins with the word Grace, itself.


It is often the case in more recent times that Grace is merely understood to be God’s “unmerited favor.”  This definition actually better defines Mercy.And, mercy is certainly a product of God’s grace.  But Grace is a much larger term than Mercy, and so, the two don’t equally interchange. 

Grace, as generally defined by any dictionary, is best and more accurately understood to be “an innate or naturally occurring goodness.”  And, that is precisely how it should be understood in the New Testament usages.


So, what we are really seeing in the Lord’s offer of His graceful sufficiency to Paul is His willingness to bring the innate goodness of His divine nature to bear.  Christ is offering to put His natural goodness to work in Paul’s behalf. 


This is the same Grace (natural goodness) which designed the redemptive plan for mankind.  This is the same innate goodness mentioned in the Book of Ephesians, where Paul writes, “For by grace [God’s natural goodness] you have been saved through faith, and that, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…”  So, Christ is offering to employ His own limitless goodness to design and provide a wonderful solution for Paul’s dilemma.


But, why?  Why not simply use His “mighty cosmic powers” to just instantly remove the problem?  Why travel the longer path of the graceful solution, when quick and easy are so available.


Some time ago my 10 year old grandson came to visit me.  In his hand was a Walmart bag.  In the bag was a bunch of parts from a lamp, now thoroughly broken.  Together, he and I built this lamp for his room, a couple of years before. 


He said, “Paw Paw my lamp is broken.  Will you fix it for me?” 


Now, I could have said, “Oh, let’s just run to Walmart, and I will buy you a new one.”  That would be the quick and easy, “almighty power of Paw Paw,” flick the problem away, kind of solution, of course.


But, I much prefered the gracefulness of another solution.  That is the solution where I take my grandson to our beloved place, my workshop in the back yard, and we spend time together doing what he needs done. 


There, while we fix the lamp, we will talk about a thousand things.  We will tease each other.  We will challenge each other.  We will laugh.  We will brainstorm. We will tell tall tales. 

And he will learn, not only about lamps, but about Paw Paw, and Paw Paw's values, and Paw Paw's God.  And I will learn the details of his life.  And our love, and the depth of our relationship, will grow through this purely good time as it unfolds.


That is the answer to the “Why.”  God chooses to employ Grace, to allow His natural goodness to unfold before us, to set up the interactive process of relationship building.  And, in that interaction, our love grows, and our relationship is deepened, and we are transformed.


Paul’s response, when He eventually understood the inestimable worth of what God was doing for him, was this. “Therefore, most gladly will I rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 

Paul eventually understood that his troubles were only the opportunity to experience, at a new level of relationship.  And, it was the unfolding natural goodness of Christ’s which became the matrix for it all. 


The simple reality is this.  What life presents as trouble, grace (the divine goodness) is able to transform into a good, life and character changing experience.  It is the kind of  experience which allow us to discover the even bigger God in ways not previously known.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." - The Apostle, Paul


Another article regarding "Grace" which you may find interesting is "The Nature Of Grace."  
                  
                           Go To:  "The Nature Of Grace" article.

Oct 2, 2012

The R/Gap

In point of fact, redemptive faith is actually best understood to be, “a transformative personal humility before God.” And, this redemptive humility is entirely defined by our complete willingness to embrace both God's values and His daily directions for our life.  

But, in the modern Church, we have allowed this true concept of redeeming faith to morph into the perverted idea of "the non-responsibility of the believer."  And, this perversion has had the same impact on our relationship to God that we would expect it to have in our relationships with each other. It has robbed our relationship to God of all validity and authenticity - just as you would expect it to do if employed in human relationships.

For example, operating under the idea of non-responsibility,  children would no longer feel obliged to obey their parents.  Wives and Husbands would no longer feel the need for fidelity to their spouse.  And, society as a whole, embracing this idea of personal non-responsibility, would lose their sense of ethics and morality since those things are entirely based in a sense of responsibility.  

Thus, it becomes easily obvious that the idea of personal non-responsibility would, indeed, be devastating to our important relationships.  It would actually destroy the very basis of those relationships. 

And yet, this is, indeed, the very flawed concept of faith which we have widely embraced in the modern Church with regard to our relationship to God.  And, we have done so with precisely that same devastating result.     


And, this widespread error in our concept of what God expects of us in redemption entirely explains the "Relational Gap" which has developed between God and the present Church - and even the present culture as a whole.  We are now a great deal more distant from God, both individually, and as a culture, simply because we no longer understand how to correctly engage Him through a correctly constituted faith.

 And, it is an absolute certainty that we will not be able to close this relational gap until we once again embrace the correct idea of what saving faith really is.  Until we return to the kind of humility before God which fully embraces His value system and His daily guidance, that gap can only continue to grow into an every widening gulf of even greater confusion. 

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" - Jesus

For a more comprehensive look at the concept of “Redemptive Faith” you may want to read Touching God's Heart in Reading Room 3
(Jump to: “Touching God's Heart” now ) as well as "The Nature of Faith" (Jump to: “The Nature Of Faith" now ) and "The Dark Light" (Jump to: "The Dark Light" now in Reading Room 4.






May 2, 2012

Dark Spiral

Within the human being is this wonderful, maddening, unpredictable, (and did I mention wonderful) thing which we call a heart. In general, our heart, not the physical heart, of course, but the figurative heart, is the centralized essence of all that we are.  Basically it is our character essence.

OK -  I guess if we have to be more specific, it is made up of both our our conscious and our subconscious minds. And, certainly it contains our emotions. And, without doubt, it houses our conscience and our value system.

But, most days, it is just - "our heart." It is what we feel. It is our sense of good and evil, right and wrong. It is the driver of our day, the setter of our direction, the decider of our actions, and our reactions.

When our heart is right, i.e. living in harmony with God’s truth, we are truly blessed. Our existence becomes fulfilling, meaningful, and beautifully ordered.

But, when our heart goes wrong, when we start to live in discord with the divine truth, everything goes spiraling downward into a very dark place. And sometimes that spiral transcends generations to become an inter-generational decline – enabling the darkest of the Darkness to touch our existence.


And this downward spiral of perception, thought, and attitude toward God is very traceable. Its trajectory is clearly etched in the pages of the Bible, beginning in the early regions of the book of Genesis - chapter 3, to be exact. 

There we find Adam and Eve living in perfect harmony with God and His truth. And we can notice the ideal state of their faith, which was essentially this:  "There is a God, and He is watching out for my best interests. And, I am happy for Him to do so."

We can see this simple confidence in the first couple when the Adversary comes to Eve and sarcastically accuses God of being restrictive to the pair. He does this through his question, which he delivers with a negative spin regarding God’s protection of the couple. The Adversary says, “Has God indeed said, ‘You may not eat of every tree of the Garden?’”

Eve responds to this negative accusation by pointing out that God has kindly given them access to all the trees in the garden except one, and that, only to protect them from the consequences of its deadly fruit. Thus, with a perfect confidence in God’s care, she says, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. But, of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it; nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

So, this is the high place where God intends for us to live. Faith is to bring us to the simple truth that, yes, indeed, there is a God; and he is, in fact, looking out for our best interest, which we are happy to allow Him to do.

But then, we notice the beginning of the downward spiral. A background question is introduced to the conversation between Satan and Eve. And, it marks the first point of the trajectory toward the Darkness. The question is this.  “Yes, there is a God.  But, is He really watching out for my best interests?”

We see this inference in the Adversary’s statement when he says, “You shall not surly die. For God knows that in the day that you eat of it [the forbidden fruit] your eyes will be opened; and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 
[Brackets added]

Notice, the Devil does not challenge the reality of God, here. It is the verity and goodness of God which is called into question. Eve is being asked simply to suspect the motives and actions of her Creator.

Eventually, as we now know, Adam and Eve succumbed to the subtlety of Satan. So, believing the suggestion of Satan, that the fruit could make them like God, self-sufficient and with a more perfect awareness of what was truly good and truly evil, they ate the the fruit.

And, just like that, the first step away from God and toward the abyss of inner darkness was taken.  It framed out this way.  “There is a God; but, I am really my own best hope. So, I will rely on my own aspirations and actions.”

Adam and Eve quickly discovered the error of their thoughts and actions. But, they could not undo this poisonous attitude of self-determination which had already deeply infected their heart, and which would eventually chronically infect the whole of the human species through them.

And, this downward heart spiral, which Adam and Eve introduced to humanity, did, indeed, continued through subsequent generations. We can read of this in Paul’s writings, in the book of Romans, chapter 2, where the Apostle describes this trans-generational darkening.

He says there, “For since the creation of the world, His [God’s] invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they were without excuse; because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts. And their foolish hearts were darkened."
[Brackets added]

So, eventually, as succeeding generations come and go, this progressing "heart darkness" brings humanity to ask the next question question in the downward spiral. Man starts to ask,
“Is there really a God?”

And now, in this late hour of human history, we have come to the place that arrogantly brags of our final and definitive answer to that question. Relying on reason, and science, and the power of our own intellect, we fashion this conclusion: "There is no God!”

And as the darkness of the species progresses man eventually arrives at the only conclusion which will ultimately satisfy the arrogance of self-determination. It is this idea: "I am my own God."  The idea being that, “We are self sufficient, the masters of our own destiny, and answerable to no higher power than ourselves.”


But, in fact, we are not, of course. The simple truth, which such  delusion always evades, is that we all die. Thus, less a redemptive Creator, every individual in the species is born merely running headlong toward his or her own personal extinction. 

So if, in the thinking of our darkened heart, we subtract the redemptive God from our reality, the destiny with which we are all left becomes merely - oblivion. If we have no divine Savior, our end is simply to cease to exist. Obviously, all of this smacks much more of our complete insufficiency than our self-sufficiency.

But thankfully, in truth, there is a loving and redemptive God. There is, indeed, a divine Savior. He is Christ, the singular and completely unique Savior of the world. And He goes far beyond merely saving us from the consequential death of our decision to entrust ourselves to ourselves. He also restores true enlightenment to our core being.

And, with that restored character essence, one which is once again in harmony with God’s truth, comes a durable and completely fulfilling renewal of our friendship with our loving Creator. And, as a result, we are brought to a wonderful destiny of real substance - an elevated and everlasting existence.

Nevertheless, all of that redemptive process entirely depends upon this complicated inner us which we call the heart.  It depends on that inner core essence which enables us to feel, and where is housed our sense of good and evil, right and wrong. 

And ultimately, depending on whether our character essence is finally enlightened by the Living Christ or darkened by our own arrogance, it will lead us to one of two things.  Either our heart will make of us a forever blessed and grateful child of God.  Or it will make of us an arrogant and egocentric fool for whom "agonized oblivion" then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Apr 22, 2012

God: A Good Manager Of Bad Train Wrecks

“Poor little me” - there is just entirely too much of that emotion going around among believers these days.  Feeling sorry for yourself is not an attractive or helpful posture, and thus, not something that men and women of God should be involved in - even monthly or weekly, much less daily.


If you deserve to be felt sorry for, let somebody else do it.  Let those who love and care about you do it.  Or better yet, let God take care of that.  

God is a very good judge of circumstance.  He will certainly know when you need to be emotionally stroked, and perhaps lent a divine hand.  If you really deserve it, allow your compassionate God to feel sorry for you.  And that will come off looking, and actually being, a lot better than you feeling sorry for yourself.
On the other hand, if you don’t really deserve to be felt sorry for, then why in the world are you doing it.  “Poor little me,” isn't flattering to anyone - ever.  But it is especially unflattering when it becomes a chronic coping attitude.  So, if that's what's going on - quit it.  You're better than that.
Here is a better way to deal with life's pain, burdens, and rough patches.  #1, stop running around in your own head and listening to your own voice.  Start listening for God’s. 

And this is what His voice is going to say.  I know, because this is what He always says when we are struggling under the weight of life’s painful loads.  He will say, “Come aside to Me.”
When you hear that divine invitation, #2, Do it!  And, don't listen to the Devil's reasons why you can't.  Stubbornly determine to have a true personal engagement with God of some significant duration (make it "a really big deal emphasis time" in your life). 

Set some tedium aside.  Leave some things off.  And just go alone with Him in a very intentional way.  And, # 3, in this time of separation, devote yourself to understanding God's purposes in your present circumstance.  

So, this is the stuff you do to find God's comfort, help and relief.  And when you do experience God deliverence and direction, #4, Follow through.  Allow Him to work His plan in your life, His way.  And don't start thinking you must work His plan, your way.  
If you will do these things, you can go from “poor little me” to "how great thou art, Lord" as you "life song." And obviously, that will be a much more appealing tune to listen to for all concerned.  

And how did I come by all of this wonderful advice?  Hummm… Now, let’s see… Oh yeah, the hard way, of course.  

Feb 15, 2012

The First Words

One of my concerns when my children were growing up was that one day they would, indeed, be - all grown up. But who would they then be? Would they be people of good character? Would they be people of faith? And would their faith lead them to their own vibrant adventure with God?

Or, would their faith just be their father's faith, warmed over? I wondered, would they encounter God on the high plane of their own new story. Or would they just "phone it in," merely going through the motions of the faith habit that they learned in our home.

I don’t want my children to be on auto pilot when it comes to their relationship with the Living Christ. I want them to tussle with Him in the throes of wrestling their way to their own spiritual maturity. I want them to hunger after God and God’s highest. I want them to spend themselves on the effort of their own personal discovery process.

I want them to truly invest, and then invest some more, as growth requires it. I want them to lay it all on the line out of love. In short, I want them to be people of godly intensity. And, for that matter, I wish that same intensity for the whole of the Church. That is just the right way of things.

This early concern for my children came from a simple observation. What I saw is what I have come to call, "Second Generation Creep." That term pretty well describes what I have noticed: that sometimes, children who grow up in Christian homes develop a kind of "Rote Religion." That is, their experience with God has not the intensity of mom and dad’s experience. Rather, their experience morphs into something more shallow and mechanical. 

And it is true that this generational creep also seems to sometimes touch the Church as a whole, both on the local and the larger scale. When we get "all grown up" as a church, we sometimes just find our rut and get in it. 

We do what we’ve always done. We stop being bold to win the word.  We stop being fresh in our approach to God and to ministry.  

Nevertheless, the words of the first admonition remain simple. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength."

In one sense, these words are the First Words. And as we occasionally revisit them in our heart, these words, can save us. They can save us from the quagmire of an "Automated Religion" which merely takes us through the motions of faith.

When allowed to envelope the heart, these first words can awaken us to fresh levels of relationship with God. They can infuse us with new devotion. They can animate us with curiosity and heightened interest. They can move us to a heightened investment. 

No one ever really finds God in the fog of Ho Hum. We only ever truly come to know Him in the clarity of our All in.

Jan 12, 2012

Are We There Yet ?

It’s been a long and tiring journey to this point - through history, that is. And even just the distance of our own little part makes our bones ache with road weariness. And some of our brothers and sisters have already fallen asleep as we have traveled. 

But some of us "kids" are still awake.  And we are just ready to be Home.  And so we ask our Heavenly Father - "Are we there yet?" And this, I suspect, might be His patient reply...

"No, dear child, we are not there yet. But we are almost there. There are a few more miles to make through the night, but we will all be Home soon. Just be patient.

"Perhaps you could pass the time by thinking about just how good it will be when we get there. Your sleeping brothers and sisters will all awaken to join you in a brand new, bright and shining day. And you will all be able to laugh together in the warmth of its unending Son shine.

"Just think, when you get Home, you will never cry any more tears - except for tears of the purest joy. Everything that ever made you cry with sadness will be behind you, all the bad people, all the pain, all the haunting fears.  All of that will all be soon forgotten. Because, only good things happen at Home.

"And you will have whatever time you need to pursue your God given passions, to become great at what you love, to perfect your every effort. Your mind will be your greatest tool; and your body will entirely cooperate with all of your wishes.

"At home you will know true freedom; because, aging, and disability, and death will no longer be able to set their harsh limits upon you there. Rather, you will laugh with unending laughter at the sheer joy of your creativity, your abilities, and your power, even to make the mountains play leap frog, if you wish.

"And, at Home, there will be no anger, no discord, no harm among the family. For those things will be dispersed by the rule of Love. Because Love rules at Home. 

"So just anticipate the morning child. With the Son rise you will be home. And you will be free to rest, or sing, or work, or soar, or contemplate, or create, or compose, or walk and talk with Me. At Home, in the morning, you will find yourself - and all that you were meant to be. Just be patient, child, and watch for the Son rise..."

"Father."

"Yes, child."

"Are we there yet?"