Oct 16, 2012

The Real Portrait


I didn't see it at first.  When I began my journey with the Savior, I thought it was just about that - saving my soul.  And, I thought the process was basically about a long list of Dos and Don’ts. But, in fact, it's about something much bigger and better.  It is about  friendship. 

And that friendship means this.  In Christ, every day of our lives we rise to His presence with us.  As a result, we are never alone in any circumstance.  He shares with us every challenge, every achievement, every fear, every joy, and every milestone of any kind.  And in all of those times, we enjoy a constant access to all that He is.

When we go to the place where we pray in the morning, He is there.  And, we talk, and plan, and work out solutions for life.  And then we charge into the day - together.
And as a result of this daily friendship, we come to know Jesus through our life path.  We experience Him, for example, through our life as a student, through our work life, through our recreational life, and through our relational life.  And, in all of those circumstances, and many more, He becomes a force to enable our personal growth and truely meaningful successes. 

And, in the course of these interactions, He gives us honest perspectives.  He is forgiving of our weaknesses and mistakes.  And, as any true friend would be, He is sometimes insistent - in our best interest. 

I know very well that Jesus is Almighty God and the Lord of all things.   I understand the great gulf which exists between His station and mine in the grand scheme of things.  And yet, my more common awareness is now mostly just this intimate friendship.  And though I’ve never seen my divine Friend, that awareness has only deepened with time. 

And, indeed, He is normally invisible to the physical eye.  That is just the present reality.    And, for my part, that’s ok.  I just don’t have a problem with invisible. 

And is the true substance of any friendship ever really known in the external?

It is not by sight that we come to know Jesus.  It is by an inner awareness, an entirely new and divinly provided sensibility which reaches beyond the limitation of our physical senses.  And it is this inner sense of Him which allows us to perceive His emotions, His demeanor, and even to hear His inner voice.  So, the eye is really unnecessary to this friendship.  This friendship is enabled, not by sight, but by a divinely awakened heart.

Many people fear such things, that which they cannot see or understand through the physical senses.  But, we quickly cease to be one of those people when we taste the divine friendship in the simplicity of - just knowing Him. 

And again, I, too, have to admit that I once feared what I mistakenly perceived concerning God.  I thought Him to be all about intrusion, and demands, and a sterile, joyless existence.  Turns out, that’s just the Devil’s portrait of Him. 

Certainly, God is the absolute Authority in the universe.  But, most days, in Christ, you'd never know it.  And, in fact, when I think about God's authority, I find it comforting to know that all of that power is only ever focused on my highest good.  So, I now trust that power.  I do not suspect it.

In spite of how the Devil paints things, it is the divine friendship which enables us. In the energies of Christ, our character is renewed and made more attractive.  His love confirms us as valuable.  He brings confidence to our direction.  In Him, we find help, and companionship, and hope, and certainty.

Deep friendship, even with Almighty God, is still only real love wonderfully played out in shared days. 

And, it’s true.  I, like so many others, just didn’t see that at first.  I thought, back in the day, that God was, indeed, only about that long list of “Dos and Don’ts.”  However, what I have discovered is that life, itself, furnishes the Dos and Don'ts. 

God is more about helping us successfully negotiate those choices - in the simple context of a close and enduring friendship.

          End

To explore the idea of God's friendship in a different way, you may want to click on the link below.  It will take you to our (Flites Of Fancy Blog (short stories) where this writing describes God's friendship in story form.

                                      Jump To:  The Odyssey Of The Rising

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, as is many times the case in life, one of those enduring difficulties.  It was some sort of disability that was both insurmountable for him and long term in scope. 
 

  Paul is describing that frightening and seemingly hopeless place where lives the reality of being completely outmatched by our troubles.  And, it is all but absolutely certain that we will each arrive there at some point in time.
 

Paul, in such a place, says 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, at least initially, in that same way.  Our first hope is usually for a quick, or even an instant, solution from Him.
 

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 be a little disappointing, at least initially, to those who are actually suffering under the weight of some overwhelming burden.  But, when we understand the full implications of this offer, then, disappointment is replaced by relief and hope.  And that relief begins with the word itself, Grace.
 

It is often the case in more recent times that Grace is merely understood to be God’s “unmerited favor toward man.”  This definition actually better defines Mercy, which 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, even in the New Testament context, “an innate or naturally occurring goodness.”
 

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 go through the motions of some graceful solution, when quick and easy are so available.
 

A few days 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 ago. 
 

He said, “Pawpaw my lamp is broken.  Will you fix it for me?”  I was overjoyed.
 

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 Pawpaw,” 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 Pawpaw.  And I will learn about him.  And our love, and the depth of our relationship, and we, ourselves, will grow through this time of pure goodness as it unfolds.
 

That is the answer to the “Why.”  God chooses to employ Grace, to allow His natural goodness to unfold before us, because in doing so, we interact with Him through the process.  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 offering to do 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, the transforming power of Christ’s natural goodness unfolding through his need. 
 

The simple reality is this.  What life presents as trouble, grace (the divine goodness) is able to transform into the means of a deep and durable friendship.  And, that process changes us and introduces us to the even bigger God, the God who is our everyday help.

End

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


If I took a word, Humility for example, and arbitrarily assign a new meaning to it, consider the impact that this would have on human relationships.  Let’s suppose, to replace the true concept, I assigned this meaning for the word, Humility:  “An intellectual commitment which need not have any real impact on everyday behavior.”

So, here is how this new concept of “Humility” would then play out in some of our common relationships.  In the case of children who normally should be meek and obedient (humble) before their parents, they would no longer actually feel obliged to be so.  Under the new concept of humility as “meaningless commitment,” they would simply promise to obey and then go do whatever they wanted.

 In the case of marriage, true humility causes each partner to value the other above themselves and behave like it.  But, with this new idea of humility, the partners could commit, at the marriage altar, to “honor and cherish” each other.   And then, under the new concept of, “empty promises are ok,” they would be free to emphasize their own importance over the other in the relationship which follows.

In the case of a business relationship, a needy sales person, being grateful for a large order, might, humbly commit to serve the customer well.  But, operating under this new concept of humility as “pretense,” the sales person would, after the sale, simply ignore the customer’s needs in the interest of her own. 

The point: 

When we alter the concept for which a word stands, it can completely change our reality. 

And so it is with the word, Faith.  In more recent decades, pop preaching and the Devil’s theologians have managed to alter, on a broad scale, our working concept of “Redemptive Faith.”

The opening paragraphs of this article actually are an explanation of the problem.  We have done, as a culture, precisely what is described there. 

In fact, redemptive faith actually is best understood to be“a profound personal humility of will before God.”   

But, we have allowed this true concept of redeeming faith to be perverted to the bogus definition used above.  So, the modern concept of redemptive faith has largely become “An intellectual commitment which need not have any real impact on everyday behavior.”

This perversion has the same impact on our relationship to God that it was shown to have on our relationships with each other.  It robs the relationship of all validity and authenticity.

And this flawed concept of faith also entirely explains the "Relational Gap" which has developed between God and the present culture.  We are now generally more distant from God, individually, and thus as a culture, simply because we no longer understand how to correctly engage Him through faith.  And we will not be able to close this relational gap until we once again embrace the idea of saving faith as a thorough humility of will before God,
 
                a complete volitional "sell out" to the Savior.
 
 
End

For a more comprehensive look at the concepts surrounding “Redemptive Faith” you may want to read the article, “Crimson Link:”        Go to: “Crimson Link:”
 
Two shorter articles of a similar nature are located on the Nuts And Bolts Blog which is a part of The Prophet’s Passions Website network.      Go to: “The Nature Of Faith”  
 Go to: "The Common Path Of The Redeemed"
 
I would also encourage the reader to plug this authentic concept of saving faith into the various places in the New Testament where faith issues are being discussed.  It will make for very dramatic insights into what the scripture is really saying.