Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sovereign

He is God of the universe, the King of all; He who created all that is and holds everything together in His palm. He stopped the sun and moon in the sky. He set His plan of loving sacrifice in motion before sin existed and the need was apparent.

Who are we, with our doubts, with our lack of faith, to limit Him? He gives life to the dead; He heals the sick. Nothing exists without His hand.

He offers us a place near Him, but we are nothing without that. We can have no understanding of His mysteries except what He allows us. 

Apart from Him, there is no knowledge or wisdom. Without his Love, we would know no love. We were made in His image, and we have the audacity to assume His ways may not be greater than ours.

What is greater than He?
Nothing!
Who has power over Him?
No one!
Yet we still believe so often, that He is meant to be understood fully by our feeble minds, to be constrained by a box as we would have Him be.
No!

We are not the source of His power. It is not He who would cease to exist without us. He put every star in the sky and every hair on our heads. He knows each star by name; He knows the exact number of our hairs.

So then lift up your voice and praise Him!
Lift up your head and sing!
Let your soul be glad for his eternal mercies.
Let your heart be overwhelmed by His peace.

And take joy, which in its purest form is to delight in the sovereignty of a loving God.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The American Idolatry of "Jesus"

         The Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ around whom the gospel is centered was a humanitarian. He stood against oppressive men, empowered the needy, healed the sick, disagreed with slavery, and pioneered women's rights. Not to mention, he died on a cross for the salvation of mankind. Is that Jesus, the amazing savior who is all God and all man, the Jesus most "Christians" worship today, or is modern "Christianity" more and more like the legalistic dogma he spoke out against?
         Idolatry is worship of an idol, a false god. If anyone worships a version of Jesus that is not the true Christ, wouldn't that constitute idolatry? If we claim to be compassionate but forsake the destitute, needy and sick in the name of Jesus, we are not following Jesus. The meeting of physical needs was one of Jesus' big things. True religion should look like helping widows and orphans, homeless people, victims of neglect and abuse, the disenfranchised and undefended, those without a voice and keeping ourselves free from the negative influences of the world. That is not to say stay away from "lost people" or "the sinners"; but, in fact, to acknowledge that we were all once lost before Christ found us. We've all sinned, we were "the sinners" redeemed only by our choice to accept God's love. We still mess up, still sin, but God separates us from those sins and forgives us. None of us are good in God's eyes except through the sacrifice of Christ.
         "Christians" literally means little Christs. So if somebody claims to be a Christian I really hope they are trying to become more like Christ himself.
          The Devil is the Father of Lies, so he constantly deceives and many also deceive themselves about their relationship to something they believe is Jesus. Christianity is not a hobby for the weekends. It is a holistic lifestyle which must be chosen and then lived out 24/7. Bear in mind, like all relationships, a relationship with God is difficult and requires time and commitment and a willingness to struggle through the hard parts.
          If Christ is used as a figurehead, a political or social device to back our personal opinions, feelings and issues, that is wrong. Christians should not conform to the patterns of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of their minds. Neither should they seek to make Christ conform to any political party or social movement's ideals. Christ's words come directly from God, and he was not political.
          He is used to "declare war on sin" but really to attack people who are different, who are not mainstream. His name is added to statements to hate Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, homosexuals and deviants. That is not Jesus who spoke with a Samaritan woman, the implication of that meaning that he a Jewish man spoke to a culturally shunned, thought to be inferior person with love and respect that would have offended most of his peers because she would be "unworthy and unclean." That is not the Jesus who spoke to the adulterer, the pagans, had dinner with the hated and rejected tax collectors and prostitutes.That is not the Jesus who said, "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you."
          He did not hate people. He did not hate government officials who belittled him, not the religious pious hypocrites who felt threatened by him and the change he represented who used their power and authority to abuse people in God's name, not his friend who betrayed him to his killers, not even the guards who actually executed him. Instead he forgave them and asked his Father to do the same.
          A version of Christ that tells us to be violent and hostile, attacking, humiliating or killing in his name is not Jesus, Prince of Peace. Blowing up abortion clinics, picketing a funeral and slandering the deceased, the crusades, all of these are evil acts done by evil men and women in the name of Christ, but it is a false Christ whom they represent because the true Christ said that people who came with swords truly did not come from him. He came to offer redemption not condemnation.
          A Jesus Christ who is used to sell a version of the gospel that promises an easier life to Christians, physical health, wealth and prosperity, the same Christ used to stuff the pockets of greedy men with much selfish ambition, is not in any way the Jesus Christ who had no place to lay his head, whose followers were tortured and beaten, imprisoned and executed all out of love for him. That does not represent a sovereign God whose ways are greater than our ways, who created us for his own pleasure, who allowed Job to suffer, who allowed Joseph to suffer, who allowed Jonah to suffer, who allowed even Jesus himself to suffer in order to show us the depth and width of his love.
           The true Jesus embodies love, selflessness, humility, mercy and purity. He is holy, all God and all man at the same time. He is an amazing mystery and he desires a relationship with every soul on earth; he wants to know us and be known to us. He had compassion on a broken world, wanting so much to rescue the people he loved from a broken system. He opposed materialism and consumerism, rejecting the things of the world for the things which are eternal but never gave up a chance to serve humbly, meeting the physical needs of the people around him as well as their spiritual needs. He spoke only truth from his Father. Any Jesus different than that or less than that is no Jesus at all, the small "Jesus" is nothing short of an idol fashioned by sinful men; trivial, fleeting, and worthless.
          Be wary of anyone who comes in Christ's name who does not resemble the True Jesus at all. Because the True Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can get to God through any other "Jesus".

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Christ: A Love Story

I think that too often scripture get "simplified" and turned into to bullet points. It is not that the facts are wrong, but we can easily miss the essence of what is being said if we ignore the way it was intended to be presented. The Bible is an amazing book filled with stories of people who need God. It has poetry and songs. It is told as a story. It is not a textbook to be studied. We cannot skim it for pertinent information. It is a book. It is all pertinent to the story.
 I do believe in the sovereignty of God, and I think that the people who wrote scripture and who translated it were allowed to do so through God. I think that it is amazing truth, but it is a love letter. Christ is not a separate party in some boardroom negotiation, Christ is a man who has proposed to the Church, his Bride. We have accepted his offer, and we will enter a union with him. "The Word was God... the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." That is part of the beginning of John's Gospel. Think about the implications. The Word of God became flesh. Jesus is God made flesh. Jesus is the Word of God. The Bible message, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is not about Christ; Jesus Christ is  the living Word of God. So we need to read the Bible that way. We "accept Christ into our hearts" and that includes Christ's words. Our lives should look dramatically different with him than they did before him.  
God has addressed  the fact that we cannot earn salvation. We cannot purchase it. Christ paid the price, and when he did, and we accept that, we will love him for it. "If we love Christ, we will obey his commands." That is a paraphrase of Jesus's words to his disciples, the same disciples who radically lived and died for him. The early church apostles seemed to have access to something we don't. But in reality, we have just as much access to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus. We have made ourselves deaf to his voice, and dead to his leading. We need to wake up and smell the mission.
"Go make disciples." 
"You will be my witnesses."
Christ's last words are the mission of the church. We are his body, the flesh of his flesh, the flesh which is the Word. We are walking down the aisle, engaged to Christ, loving and pleasing him for the sake of love, the unity made perfect in death. When we reach heaven, we will say "I do", and we will be on an eternal honeymoon with our true love. But until that day, which we should long for, we must prepare for it. That means rejecting everything which will not come with us. We must love our friends, love our family, even love our enemies, but not love "stuff" because how we loved is all we can bring with us.



A Christian has the rights and resources of royalty
But because he desires to follow Christ's example
He will sacrifice and serve as a slave.

Power is taken from us by our pride
But with humility comes our honor.

We must serve all people without
The expectation of earthly rewards
By our fellow man, be they Christian or not.

We are not owners
We are stewards
All we have is a gift.

Our service is neither obligation
Nor duty; it is, in fact,
The source of joy and peace
Which we have been promised.

The One who made us and loves us
Also is the Creator of everything.

I reject the notion that we should
Expect to be served even by
Our Christian brothers and sisters.
They serve God. I serve God.
God serves us.
We work for Him.
He works for us
Through us.

We may safely assume God will always provide
But in His timing, in His way
Not however we believe it should be.

I should assmue that I am the lowliest of all
But not ever assume any other person assumes that 
Of themselves.

We are accountable for both the 
Position of our hearts
And the actions which we take.

The ideal position of the heart is love
But if we fail to be loving
We should serve out of duty
Because the service may 
Fill our hearts with love.

The ideal actions are service
But if we will not serve
We should ask for faith
When we have faith
We will begin to serve.

God is always faithful
Even when we turn from Him
He keeps his promises
And does so without fail.