Sunday, December 25, 2011

Isaiah 54

"Sing, O childless woman,
you who have never given birth!
Break into loud and joyful song,
O Jerusalem,
You who have never been in labor.
For the desolate woman now has more children
than the woman who lives with her husband,"
says the LORD.
"Enlarge your house; build an addition.
Spread out your home,
and spare no expense!
For you will soon be bursting at the seams.
Your descendants will occupy other nations
and resettle the ruined cities.

Fear not; you will no longer live in shame.
Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you.
You will no longer remember the shame of your youth
and the sorrows of widowhood.
For your Creator will be your husband;
the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name!
He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
the God of all the earth.
For the LORD has called you back from your grief—
as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband,”
says your God.

“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will take you back.
In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while.
But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the LORD, your Redeemer.
“Just as I swore in the time of Noah
that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,
so now I swear
that I will never again be angry and punish you.
For the mountains may move
and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.

"O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted!
I will rebuild you with precious jewels
and make your foundations from lapis lazuli.
I will make your towers of sparkling rubies,
your gates of shining gems,
and your walls of precious stones.
I will teach all your children,
and they will enjoy great peace.
You will be secure under a government that is just and fair.
Your enemies will stay far away.
You will live in peace,
and terror will not come near.
If any nation comes to fight you,
it is not because I sent them.
Whoever attacks you will go down in defeat.

I have created the blacksmith
who fans the coals beneath the forge
and makes the weapons of destruction.
And I have created the armies that destroy.
But in that coming day
no weapon turned against you will succeed.
You will silence every voice
raised up to accuse you.
These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD;
their vindication will come from me.
I, the LORD, have spoken!"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beckoning Turns

I was deeply impressed lately by a trip from Salem, Oregon to Phoenix, Arizona.  Every bend and vista stole my breath and my imagination.  My heart was swollen with excitement and joy.  I could not believe it, each moment I was breathing and present in places I've always dreamed of seeing.

I kept pace and a map in my hand.  I was intent on avoiding major roadways, and to my joy the most direct routes were the "scenic" ones.   Incredible was each moment as I peered across new lands.  I saw lakes populated not with people but with animals.  I saw farms and forests and mountains and barren lands.

I had set up my hotel reservations and made a rough plot of how to go the night before I left.  Anticipating what I might see was nothing like actually entering it.

I left Salem at 12:08 Sunday afternoon, intent on reaching Phoenix by 2:45 the next day.  I took I-5 down to Eugene, OR where I diverted permanently forthwith from any daytime interstate traveling.  I found that Route 58 is a lot more mild in incline and descent than Route 22 or Route 20.  Additionally it meanders southeast instead of taking me along rigid southernly or easternly directions.

This hooked me up with Route 97, and coupled with the backside of the Cascades from 58, it made for several hours of pine forest and flat terrain.  I drove past Crater Lake and flinched a bit, knowing I'd miss it.  It was exchanged for arriving at Klamath Falls and crossing the California border at about 5:30 PM.  I took Route 39 which morphed into 139 across the border.  My goal was to reach Reno by sundown.  I didn't make it.  I was well in the interior of Northern California before I lost all light.  I could see forests in the dark, and was completely delighted.  I drove past Eagle Lake in the dark.  I could tell it was there.  The moon was full, and it was following me over my left shoulder all the way.  It lit up the lake like a silver cloud.

I realized how high Modoc Forest really was when I descended from up high with sharp turns into Susanville.  I ate dinner for 4 bucks and called my kids who were going down for the night.  From Susanville to Reno it took another couple hours.  It was nearly 10 PM by the time I escaped the time trap that Reno is (it is blocked for easy freeway access on the west side by the Sierra Nevada Mountains - and the only other route south starts about 40 minutes east of Reno).  My husband Ben signed off as I began the southernly way past Reno.  On mapquest I had noticed that it should take seven hours of driving and in a sense my heart sank.  Looking back however, this was one of the greatest parts of the trip.

The first thing I noticed was that I was crossing BLM lands.  I remember my dad making me read various news articles when I was growing up.  Thanks to that education I remember learning how environmentalists battled heavily with ranchers over their cattle's access to graze on public lands, and making a profit to boot.  They had cattle guards on Highway 395 south that kept them from entering the towns.  In the dark I saw:

This, I had never done before: share the road with cows.  "Okay, here we go," I said to myself as I leaned forward trying to see any odd forms in the headlights.  It was a little disconcerting when the highway dipped down with a short horizon.  I imagined coming up over an incline and discovering a cow in the road.  I was a little stressed, but really excited all at the same time.  It got even cooler.  Next I saw this sign:

I knew that deer are the cause of accidents, so I was even more excited, and scared.  A little while later, I saw neither cows nor deer, but I saw these:

The cottontail rabbits were cute and small, but the jackrabbits were huge, like maybe two feet tall with its ears?  They were all alongside the road, looking around and making decisions on whether they were going to cross, or just watch the show of cars go by.  Honestly, I saw a car once every couple minutes maybe.  I was almost completely alone except a multitude of rabbits.  I started coming around the side of a rocky protrusion and saw another sign:

Wow!  I couldn't believe it!  Wild bighorn sheep, living in the desert?  Now I'm even more excited... and scared on what I'd find in the road in the dark!  Will I see one?  Well, I didn't.  I did see one of these, though:

Clear as day.  This guy was shooting straight across the road in a gallop right between me and the oncoming car, who may have had to show down.  Amazing!  I had no trouble seeing him in the headlights, for sure.  Almost as tall at the withers as my German Shepherd.  My heart was thrilled!

I was still making my way south.  The last sign I saw, I was most confused by.  "What?!?  What IS that?  Cattle, deer, rams, jackrabbits... what more is out here?"

I'm not kidding.  The sign I saw was a lot like this only more vague.  I described it later to a woman in Nevada saying "it has big horns coming out of its head and has a giddy-up in the back [and i bent my leg up behind me for effect and gave myself devil horns to demonstrate].  Do you know what that is?"  I was told it could be antelope.  It wasn't till I got home and did a little research - did you know that there are wild burro herds that rome Nevada?  I never knew that!  So awesome!

Beatty was the last major town before reaching Las Vegas, and Vegas is where my hotel reservation awaited.  I knew what Beatty was.  Beatty was the gateway to Nellis Air Force Base, which houses the infamous Area 51 - the place where they stockpile and perform tests on captured aliens and UFOs.  I only spent like 15 years of my life learning all about it.  Oh yes - I, in my former unsaved life, was an alien enthusiast.  I can still tell you gobs of established fact concerning extraterrestrials.  Let me tell you something pertaining to Area 51: There are stories of floating lights at the base of the mountains, and no one can explain their odd movement.

As soon as I noticed mountains on my left (to the east), it was time to rally my spirits and pretend like I believe that all of that is false.  Too late - as soon as I arrived what did I see but the most awkward lights - huge, bright lights - just sitting there on the mountains.  Why.  Tell me.  What's so necessary to turn on a blazing light on the side of the mountain in Nevada in the middle of the night, pray tell?  My conspiracy radar flared up.  I wondered if it was propaganda, to try and discredit those who make honest reports.  Sure, shine the most average light which is completely explainable.  If the government can get worried people to report on these, they might wipe away all the cases as nonsense.  Of course!  "I know what you're up to, sneaky dudes," I said in the dark... scared.  Oh no; I don't believe in aliens (yeah right!).

"Toja," short for "I told you so"
Aliens, cows, and strange animals with giddy-up in the rear.  I got out at Beatty for gas at something like 3 AM.  Wanted to ask the clerk if she ever heard any stories of UFOs in the area.  By then I'd been driving for fifteen hours and was a little spacey.  ;)  I couldn't stay awake anymore.  Had to take a power-nap, so I pulled into the cemetery and slept for about 20 minutes.  Cemeteries are fine, because as you know ghosts are complete nonsense.

Just about when I hit the horizon in approach of Las Vegas I had to stop for another power-nap at the desolate entrance to a Native American reservation.  When I woke up, I was sad to see dawn break.  Las Vegas was absolutely amazing.  Every sign is designed with light bulbs.  I had reserved my room for a whopping $30.  'Course, the stay was bittersweet, beginning at 6:30 AM and ending at 8:00 AM, just long enough for a leisurely freshening up - no sleep.  It was alright.  The sun was out and it was bright, and I was headed for Hoover Dam!  Worshiping the LORD while driving across was a flooring experience.

The drop beneath was deep, I dare not look - but I saw the mountains!  Crossing into Arizona, it took several hours to reach Kingman which intersects with historic Route 66.

Instantly I was reminded of the fictitious "Radiator Springs" in the animated Disney Pixar movie "Cars," and the mountains (near Needles, CA) in the background sealed the deal.

photo by Kathy Weiser
I arrived at 2:45 PM in Phoenix - which is EXACTLY the time I prayed to arrive!  I'm not kidding - and I almost had a heart attack with joy.  Only God could have made me arrive on-time spanning four states and 26 hours!

It was the Free Grace Alliance National Conference that brought me all that way, and the meet wrapped up on Wednesday at 2:30.  I knew the trip back was going to be awesome but I had no idea how so.  I took the testimony of John Doan and his wife Kathy.  John is at almost every conference, because he's the A.V. tech.  He goes to New Harvest Church in my hometown and it is always great to reconnect with him.  He said Sedona was just amazing.  So I decided to go home differently and head due north to Flagstaff.  I'm so glad that I went that way, because the cactuses were unbelievable.  I got out of my car at a vantage point and was warned not to veer too far because of poisonous animals which lurk in the desert.

Unfortunately for me I was stuck in rushhour in Phoenix, so I didn't arrive in Sedona till the end of daylight.  My eyes drank in things I had rarely seen before.  I began the uncanny sense from our LORD that being in 24/7 worship on this trip was going to bring me unprecedented delights, and His inclination in my soul came about.  Take a look:

SR 89A took me through a ravine with tall coniferous trees - I almost felt like I was home as I went around turns at 25 mph.  All except for that red rock!  Everything about the landscape was dramatic in this place.  I was sure to grab specimens:

I had so many other adventures in mind, but it was night!  All I cared about was figuring out which city to spend the night.  At 7:30 I called El Portal which had the best rate, but they were already full!  So I called Motel 6 and reserved a room (warning - I'm arriving late!).  Beatty closed down at about 8 PM, and they only had five motels to choose from; otherwise, off to the next city which was a good two hours away.  They assured me they would be there to check me in no matter what.

Even then, my adventures were not done for the night.  On the way, the LORD showed me a shooting star!

I've only seen that a few times in my life!  How cool!  Packing in and packing out of the hotel was so easy - usually I am not organized but my two pink duffle bags kept things really simple.  That's the nice thing about not having to fly: you can bring as many beauty products and shoes as you want.  It's the way to go!

In the morning I spent a good hour and a half investigating for evidence of belief in aliens.

This was all I found, and most places weren't even opened yet.  Beatty is important to me because of the novel PAWN, which my dad wrote in the late 90's.  No, it didn't create a big fan base.  The main characters debate the merit of staying in the "seedy motel at the edge of town."  An overweight lady in a pink bathrobe is the motel's manager.  She greets them and memorable dialogue takes place.  Where is this motel?  Where is the woman in the pink bathrobe?  Both sides of town had brand new motels, so that didn't fit.  I went in the mart adjacent the town's only gas station, looking for alien memorabilia.  Nothing to see.  The chamber of commerce was open.  It was a small house with not much to look at, but I had a wonderful talk with an overweight gal in a pink tanktop!  Close 'nuff!

395 was calling me north and for a bit the roads were empty.  Guess what crossed the road?

Aww!  This baby coyote was spry in his wisdom to get out of the way!  Traffic slowed for construction soon after, delaying me a whole hour.  We picked up speed and in another twenty minutes they tried to do it again.  Pulled the map out because Route 6 was a hundred feet behind me.  Chills took over - I was going to take it.  I was headed straight for the White Mountains - a route through the eastern Sierras of California!

Roy Tennant, 2011,
I accelerated on this new route and gripped the wheel tightly.  Delights had been coming at a steady rate, but the Spirit sensed they were coming more plentifully.  The mirages and the sun in my eyes taught me to be diligent to take in every sight.

I noticed fields of pure white that looked like snow on the peaks, only they settled in depressions along the foothills of many mountains.  No one was around.  Curiosity and joy took control, and my former coffee cup received the content of discovery.

The soil underneath was a rich, even moist clay, which partially explains why this area experiences flash floods.  Ever so lightly I touched the white dust with a fingertip for scientific precaution.  Next, inserted in mouth - salt for sure!

Words are unfair.

Just before reaching California I drove alongside Boundary Peak.  I gulped when I saw how approachable it looked - how high must I be?  The mountain scattered boulders of white granite with mica flecks that glimmered in the sunlight.  Stopped to search some smaller samples.

Route 6 took me straight to a former mining town, Benton.  Was amazed to find a historic building as old as my hometown.

I meditated for a moment on Route 120 which appeared on the map as a remote shortcut to the western loop of 395.  120 it is.  I saw this sign and fell silent.

photo by jimmywayne

I felt like I couldn't breathe.  Of course, this area looks exactly like the places they're pictured to roam.  My eyes opened wide as I searched for them on every hill, unfortunately I began to weep which made it more difficult to see.

The desert prairies turned over into what I call the Land of Paintings.

There were a few varieties of ground cover, red and purple in color.

It took me awhile before scale set in to see that the yellow dusting the mountains were not midstory shrubs, but deciduous canopy - probably aspens.

It is October.  I wept.  How come I'm here?  I didn't have to try, and here I am.  It's unfair that I should be.  "It's a gift," I said aloud, but the Holy Spirit already knew that.

Every turn gave me new reason to cry joy.  I had no words, only awe and gratitude.  The switchbacks got more intense and the rocks turned a beautiful windblown.

Sagehen Summit came at 8,139 feet and ushered a new land to the west.  Mono Lake in the foreground beckoned me to return to the lofty Eastern Sierras beyond.

Before descending too far I stopped at a historical marker, Mono Mills.  I needed to take a walk to settle the tears.  In 1881 teams of horses prepared lumber at this remote mill to lay a local railroad.  I imagine that when it was completed they released the horses into the wilderness, and their descendants can be seen in the mountains to this day.  I wanted to search for items to remember the place.  These are my treasures:

The picture has no scale, but the pinecone is larger than my hand.  There were occasional samples of the rock to the left; a sedimentary rock of pink feldspars and quartz.  The wood I collected off the floor was proximal to an interesting twisted tree.  I didn't know till writing this post that it is not legal to do so, nor what species it is.  This piece is from a bristlecone pine tree.  It is the oldest living organism in all of planet earth.

The oldest individual is dated to 4,700 years old and named "Methuselah," after the oldest living person in the Bible.  I blink my eyes and shake my head as I write this.  When I was a teenager I began to dream of seeing it for myself and all I knew was that it grew "somewhere in California."  Not just anywhere, but in this select part of the Sierras.  When I wasn't striving, I saw.  Hmph....

As I rounded Mono Lake I passed the entrance to Yosemite National Park short about five minutes of entering it.  Ascended via 395 back up into the mountains.

The road traveled alongside a creek and mountainsides with interesting striations.

I decided to stop for a traditional roll-the-pant-legs wade in the creekbed.  I'll always be good for this in California, which most often delivers.  Unlike Oregon, with the Cascade's boring igneous basalts.  These ones turned out to be uniformly disinteresting to me, so I went on my way.

395 descended into uppity Carson City sprawl and I tried to not let it get me down.  Had a nice conversation with some believers at the gas station.  Pushed arduously through Reno in rush hour.  Came out the other side with the goal of reaching the Oregon border by dark.  Not quite - I lost all light in Modoc forest.  No matter - the full moon was now over my right shoulder and I could see many things including this little guy.

Grey foxes live in the area.  I thought it was a cat and it was about as tall as one, but as it scurried into the grass on the shoulder, its tail seemed abnormally long and poofy, and he utilized it to center his movements.  Hello, fox!  I saw you!

My spirit is different after this.  I feel like I've lived a lifetime in a few days.  I can't explain the peace and happiness that lingers.  I love people, because God loves them.  If however I had brought a friend or family with me, it wouldn't have been the same.  Precious was this escape into my joy in Him.  God's word to me was this trip was all about His joy in me.  Will I ever know love intensely like this in some other way, again?  His ways are different than mine, and His heart is set for it.  To know the God we know....  What compares?

Monday, October 03, 2011

Who's Your Daddy?

How long has the Godhead been in close-quarters intimacy with each other? From eternity. John 1:1-2,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.
Jehovah's Witnesses think that they have crucified the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ (removed Jesus from being equally God as the Father is God - as we would reply in our doctrines, the Godhead is Trinitarian) by changing "was God" to "was a god." But the evidence of a Trinitarian relationship between Jesus and the Father is made much more resounding by one other word, used two times in this very first introduction to the identity of Jesus Christ: that word, is "with." Jesus was God and With God, from the beginning. Amazing, then, that at the end of the Gospel of John what He is inviting his faithful disciples in the upper room to do (John 13-17) is be "with God" and therefore have the same experience of abiding with God that He has always had. Our Savior is an Abider. He has always been abiding with God. He is at the core of God and has been in the Bosom forever, and will continue to be so. What does an abider look like?

1 - In tune with the needs and wishes of someone else, always carrying around the interests of another as a framework for what choices need to be made.

2 - Obedient, listening and subservient to the heart of someone else. Makes a good representative to a foreign nation (and we are "ambassadors" for Christ).

3 - Intimate relationship is made possible through deep love. Love overlooks the differences (and in our case, sins) to see the value and innate image of God inside their soul, even if on the outside not everything matches or is identical or is cleaned up.

This is parallel to a read of Romans 4-8, where we discuss how we involuntarily replicate the "image" of the "first Adam," until Romans 8 when we employ the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the flesh, after reckoning our minds dead to sin in chapter 6, and after we have received the Spirit as a unearned and unstrived for gift-of-God like Abraham in Romans 4. In Romans 8 we finally take up the image of the "last Adam" (Jesus Christ), who is the image of God, and we are also made in that same image - yet we do not have the power apart from God to carry it out in our lives (Rom. 5:17).

Love sees the image of God, and confirms the image, and aids the image. Identifying with another NEVER means we are identical. There is great variety and diversity in the house of God (2 Tim. 2:20). So it is with the Godhead. The Son will always be the One heard and seen, the Savior who came and will have a body of flesh forever. The Father is always seated (as far as I know?), never rises. When God spoke on Mt. Sinai the voice of God was so terrible that His people said, "if we hear the voice of the LORD our God anymore, then we shall die" (Deut. 5:25) so they asked Moses to go and talk to God to save them from further experience.  God met their desire by giving His people the Word, Jesus Christ, who was not terrible in voice but like a Lamb, completely approachable.

Variety is something God has in His heart. He designed this world choc-full of variety because differentiation is a part of who He is. With all the differences between the Father and the Son, they know each other, intimately. The word for their kind of "knowing" is perichoresis. They are always listening to each other, and finding each other fascinating, being willing to represent each other, giving their own will over, wanting to gain the satisfaction of the other. That is the intimacy Jesus had With God. When Jesus comes to earth and walks and teaches and does signs, what is He doing, but showing us in everything He does, in everywhere He goes and everything He says, that He is "With God." He talks about it from start to finish. He models it, too. Jesus models the answer to our need for salvation: Be like Him. Be "With God." "Abide in Me and I will abide in you." When we abide with Him we are the Image.

'Perichoresis' by Derrick
When Moses came with the law, God appeared hierarchical. "Do this, do that." Not much development of why we should. Just a whole lot of fear if we did not. Alternately, how do we feel about obeying God when the stage of God becomes the Godhead, with their differences and needs on display to each other and the world?  Have you watched a man and his wife make a decision together?  What did it reveal about their character to watch them respond to each other?  The Israelites largely thought it difficult to believe God as approachable and available for relationship. Moses seemed special because he was a prophet.  It was not the best portrayal.  But the price-tag of revealing their relations is immeasurable; that Jesus would leave heaven and die. That's why it says in the beginning of John that "the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (1:18).

We never "learn" that God is approachable until we see that Jesus is in relationship with God, and God answers all His prayers, and Jesus obeys Him completely because of the Father's love.  Now that we have seen the character and love of God in action between the two, we can see that God is wide-open with an invitation for us to experience the same relationship. And just in case we were wondering if the invitation is official, it is - but only faithful followers in the upper room discourse have categorically attained it.  Consider how exclusive Jesus is with most believers in the Gospel of John....

Be a Somebody - Be an Ambassador

In John 2:24 Jesus talked to those who were starting off well because they "believed in Jesus." But they hadn't been yet sanctified to abide.  Jesus knew what was largely "in man" and it wasn't the Father.  For that reason, "Jesus did not commit Himself to them." The word "commit" is the same word used as "believe" or "faith" in the Gospel of John. John was explaining, "But Jesus did not believe in them." Later, Jesus does believe in (commit Himself to) His disciples, and John 6 is the dividing line.  In John 6 He teaches that if anyone wants eternal life they must eat Him and drink Him for their daily needs. When they get to the other side of hearing that, most disciples turn away permanently (6:66) because it's so difficult to understand and believe, but Peter says, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." These disciples are sanctified and willing to stay with Him and take Him in.  By the time of the upper room Jesus has found viable candidates for replicating the image of the Abider-God.  John 14:22-24,
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.”
After Judas departs, Jesus reveals His emptiness apart from everything the Father has given via intimacy.  John 17:6-8,
I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.
It is very similar to say, "If I were by myself, this would mean nothing, and I would have no purpose. But because I choose to represent the heart of another, now I'm a somebody."

Even the Demons Believe and Tremble

It's the mutual giving of honor that honors each person of the Godhead.

Who do you honor?  Who do I honor in the moments of my life?  Everybody wants to be an advocate for significance. Everybody wants to represent goodness or God Himself.  Maybe you are an orthodox believer in God.  You believe that Jesus Christ is who He says He is.  That's good.  You will certainly go to heaven when you die.  God is faithful, and He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim 2:13).  Maybe you once believed in Jesus Christ -- maybe you have evolved to embrace atheism.  You also will go to heaven because of God's faithfulness toward those who are His.  What distinguishes an abider from everyone else, from the orthodox to the atheist?  The answer is, where their "resources" (8:44) come from.

Unless believers stay in that submissive, perfect, loving closeness with God (which does at times require some honest obedience, Romans 8), we get CUT OFF from that flow (resources) of God sharing Himself - His heart, His thoughts, His strategies, His purposes. Again, Jesus is speaking to believers in Him (Jn. 8:31) in the context of this passage of scripture I refer to as the "who's your daddy?" passage.  These are brand-new believers from the moment earlier who need to catch up.  They really need to hear the recent sermon Jesus presented on the Bread from Heaven, so He tells them the theological jist of all John 6 in a single sentence: "If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed" (Jn. 8:31).  But they are offended at abiding in God.  John 8:37-55,
“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.  I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”  They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.  But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.  You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.”  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.  Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.  Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?  He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”  Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.  And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.  Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”  Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’  Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?”  Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.  Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word.
In eternity past, Satan stopped being an ambassador for God's purposes.  He stopped honoring the heart of God.  He started to speak for himself.  Though he knows about God and trembles, he is condemned.  He is out of fellowship with God and has never been offered redemption.  He is forever excluded from the flow of perichoresis.  Therefore: even though Satan was made to desire significance and to be an ambassador for God, he can only speak of God as an outsider, CUT OFF from intimacy.  He can only guess about God as the most remote of observers.  He can only?  Lie.

It's the abiding intimacy that funds the truth-words, the promises, the power and the significance of Jesus Christ.  His whole life was the perichoresis that accompanied Him.  Witnesses involuntarily witness whoever they are spiritually intimate with.

Every moment of Jesus' ministry was pulled off by one tiny little secret of success:
And He who sent me is with Me.
John 8:29

Thursday, September 29, 2011


(frenemies are enemies who act like your friend)

If Jesus is the servant and friend of God, and Jesus is our Savior, how can we know if Jesus will always be there to be the centerpiece of our salvation and experience of eternal life?  If, somewhere in the vast breadth of eternity Jesus separated Himself from God, would we lose eternal life?  John 17:3,
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
John 17:23-23,
I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.  Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
What would happen if, down through the ages, Jesus grew tired of his place and decided to turn his back on God? Ever heard of anything like that in scripture?  It calls into question the kind of being Jesus is. Is Jesus God Himself or some lesser deity or angelic in nature? Can angels and other beings turn their back on God? Why, yes - and they have! This is the original example, Ezek. 28:12-13, 14-17
You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  You were in Eden, the garden of God....  You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.  You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.  By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones.  Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.
Judas was another instance.  John 13:21-22,
When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”  Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.
It happened to King David.  Ps. 55:12-14,
For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; Then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; Then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng.
What's to say that Jesus wouldn't do that one day? God had invested Satan with a lot of power and influence.  We say "it was pride that was Satan's fall," and it is.  Pride is a one-word answer for believing that power and influence comes from ourselves, and our status stands independent of others because by nature we possess goodness and life. It is a false belief. How can pride be overcome? We need the kind of Savior who is eternally faithful to God.  We need Him to remain subject to God meanwhile gathering a people from the earth to save from death and sin. We need one with the character of God Himself, to remain faithful and have the integrity to never turn his back on God. Jesus presents this argument to the Jews as their tool of discernment for whether He is the Christ and the Son of God, John 5:41-47,
“I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.  I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.  How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?  Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust.  For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
Apparently the depraved heart of man loves the concept that men are sole originators of anything that brings life.  But Jesus says in a way, "The message hasn't changed. It's just that I'm manifesting it in the flesh." Those who already "identified" God properly from the Old Testament have no trouble "identifying" God in Jesus Christ.

The heart of God is that He is not alone in Himself. All those who come in their own name and their own message should receive a red flag of alert. God never has to speak for his own credibility and reputation. Even if he was robbed all of humanity's praise, the rocks would cry out.  God always uses another to testify of his own credibility and reputation. He uses the context of observable relationship in action to prove His identity. If the Father can be manifested in Jesus, the Father need not say a word.  That's why the Son has such a critical role with the Father - because he isn't here to testify of Himself, or to do His own will or to seek His own glory. He is here to gain all those things for the Father. Jesus is completely empty of Himself. But: that doesn't mean that Jesus isn't gaining glory and His own interests while here - because everybody should gird themselves - the Father is doing that very thing for the Son right now in front of everybody's faces - and this is the point of sermons given by Jesus such as John 5:22-38,
Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.  Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.  For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.  For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.  For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.  Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.  I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.  There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.  You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.  Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.  He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.  But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.  And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.  But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.
There is no gaining of relationship going on here for Jesus.  Jesus was not becoming the Son of God when he was ascended, nor when he was resurrected, nor when He was baptized.  Jesus Christ has always been the Son of God.  A Son is one who reflects the will of the Father, and it is this character that He had from eternity which allowed the Father to describe the accomplishment thus far to his revealing in the Jordan River: "This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased."  The defining distinction of a "son" is that he is in constant Spiritual need from God (Rom. 8:14).  This is why Jesus, though he had all "accomplishments" as the lofty Son of God, remained completely self-less. John 6:57,
As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
Sons are not those who lose God and regain God like human beings do in their fallibility.  There is only one kind of "gaining" Jesus ever demonstrated, which is daily provisions for Spiritual life. The relationship has been established in eternity long before Jesus put on flesh.  It's only that now it is unfolding before us in the Gospel of John.  Jesus' state of abiding in God is pretty much the conversation of all doctrine in this Gospel, and everything to which He is inviting God's people in this Gospel.  It is the means by which there is, and will be, any such "thing" as eternal life.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Our Savior, the Abider

Today begins a new series on the theme of abiding with God; essential to the doctrine of the gospel.  We recently read about Martha and Mary, whose faith was challenged to identify God-with-us, and in that post we touched on the invitation God gives to the church corporately to identify themselves as abiders.  We read about Joseph and his persecutions for manifesting God-with-us, and before that we read how identifying believers firstly as abiders with God protects God's flock from sectarianism and grows the Kingdom of God.

Why does abiding matter?  I will give a three-part response to frame its necessity.  (I am trying a new way of breaking posts into more edible sizes.)  After that I will exegete various passages excluding the Upper Room Discourse from the Gospel of John (chapters 1-12).  I am hoping a steady approach will spark some interesting thoughts from readers.

All posts under this theme will be under the label of this introductory title "Our Savior the Abider."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Ignore-Accuse Prison

(transitioning on the theme of "identity" from the Gospel of John)
What is the "Ignore-Accuse Prison"?

This describes Joseph's sufferings in the book of Genesis.  The "ignore-accuse prison" was Joseph's lot in life for thirteen years.  Those he relied on would not let him fulfill the call God made on his life in the family, or in the community.  When he was interacting, he was quickly accused.  When he was taken into custody, he was quickly silenced.  Joseph would have loved to perform what God set before him, and at the same time quickly resolve relational strife, but he could not have both immediately.  Accusing and ignoring kept him isolated from those who could potentially defend and help him.  Nevertheless they could not restrain God's plans, only help fulfill them.  

Resentment snowballs. A little resentment within his family turned him into a slave, and once he was presented as a slave in Egypt, it was easy to indict him as a criminal. But Joseph never deserved slavery or prison.  Nevertheless he's fruitful in his place of affliction.  Everything he does prospers in his hand, because God is with him.  In fact God blesses the whole prison because of one God-fearing man.

From the outset Joseph's greatest devotion was to God.  His family was a close second.  Joseph's relationship with his brothers is highlighted in scripture at the moment Joseph ran to his father to tattle on them (Gen. 37:2).  His brothers hated him because he cared more for his father and more for doing what was right than maintaining the status quo.  When he told his brothers that God had chosen him for his zeal, they turned intolerant.  The truth of the matter is, God chose Joseph to go places and do things that few are presently prepared to undertake.  And that should have been okay, but obtaining Joseph's silence at any cost began to look like the better choice.  It grieved him deeply to lose his brothers' acceptance for the sake of what is right.  When the stranger asked Joseph, "What are you seeking?" he could not have been more transparent -- "I am seeking my brothers" (Gen. 37:15-16).

Later in Egypt, Potiphar's wife was captivated by appearances.  When she couldn't wield power over him in his subordinate position in the house, she wielded it by expelling him from the house.  She had no tolerance for his success which she knew came from the one true God he constantly spoke about.  She conspired to overpower him not only by falsely accusing his actions as criminal but also by belittling his ethnic disparity; "See, he has brought in a Hebrew to mock us" (Gen. 39:14,17).  She was proud of her people and her gods.  The package deal of Joseph-and-his-God were just a little too intimidating.

Joseph's God was not only present but armed with recompense.  (He is the same today, blessing those who mourn.)  Those who saw what Joseph could do did not know how to keep him down to size.  They didn't want Joseph's ministry to compel them to engage God.  They tried to sequester him within the ignore-accuse prison, but God only blessed him more.  His favor was so obvious to everyone, it no longer made sense to constrain him.  Joseph was released, of course, by the testimony of a lowly cupbearer.  By then God had invested him with enough resources to bless an immeasurable number of people.

Joseph must have harbored a wide range of emotions toward the cupbearer.  For two years he knew what Joseph was capable of doing but did not vouch for him.  Surely Joseph's "companions" were disappointment, anger and hurt.  Would the cupbearer ever come through?  Hope in God sustained him through the years.  When the cupbearer finally spoke out about Joseph's capacity, all his bitter feelings were replaced with overwhelming gratitude.  The cupbearer set Joseph free at great personal risk to his own reputation.  Potiphar was the Captain of Pharaoh's guard and had Pharaoh's trust.  The cupbearer had himself spent time in the Captain's jail where he had met Joseph, and Potiphar had set his course with Joseph when he chose to defend his wife's reputation.  Potiphar must have been incredulous as Joseph was brought forth.

Joseph's favor was readily apparent to everyone.  For the small handful who betrayed him, the obvious flair for success God gave Joseph was tantamount to proof not only of Joseph's innocence, but the supremacy of Himself as the only Living God.  Like the cupbearer, God gives an identity as one who is fully accepted and entitled to participate.  His betrayers follow the cupbearer's example and begin a process of healing and restoration in Joseph's life.

Are You in Ignore-Accuse Prison?

Are you repeatedly accused?  Are you typically ignored for some odd reason?  If this seems to be your lot in life, what have you contributed to your own ignore-accuse prison?  Have you been like everyone has at one point or another: prideful, selfish, or sinful?  What does Scripture say?  1 Pet. 2:19-20,
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
If you have been accused and ignored for doing wrong, God is your redeeming "Joseph."  He uses your evil for His good and will eventually set you free through the Holy Spirit.  1 Pet. 4:1-2
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
If you have been accused and ignored and yet are innocent, you are "Joseph" to your brothers.  God uses their evil for your good and will set you free also.  1 Pet 4:12-14,
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.  If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
Prisoners who hunger and thirst for righteousness have a cupbearer!  His name is Jesus Christ.  He is the Savior of everyone in captivity - deserved or undeserved.  He promises to bring to light whatever you've done in the Holy Spirit.  In the meantime, ask God to bless you like he did Joseph.  God will grow you into a fruitful branch through faith.  Your present imprisonment will make righteousness come alive to many more eyes than you will ever know.  1 Pet. 4:19,
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
Jacob's Blessing 
Joseph is a fruitful bough,
A fruitful bough by a well;
His branches run over the wall.

The archers have bitterly grieved him,
Shot at him and hated him.

But his bow remained in strength,
And the arms of his hands were made strong
By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),

By the God of your father who will help you,
And by the Almighty who will bless you
With blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the deep that lies beneath,
Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

The blessings of your father
Have excelled the blessings of my ancestors,
Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.
They shall be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers.

Gen. 49:22-26 
May we through patient endurance obtain similar favor from the LORD when the sons of God are revealed; and praise the Son of God from whom we receive so great a life!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Learning Life

Getting life from God's Word is vastly freer than anyone's formulation of how to get it.

"The trees of the LORD are full of sap" Ps. 104:16
Mary was a young woman famous for learning at the feet of Jesus.  She makes it sound easy.  For me learning has not always been easy.  When I was a teenager my parents had big expectations that I do well in college and outside of school I was subject to daily studies and written and verbal comprehension tests.  I didn't handle it well, and as I grew up my attitude toward learning worsened.  I felt so much pressure that by the time I found my own place on campus in college, I remember opening up a textbook and I could not even read a sentence.  I just stared at the page.  All I felt was stress when I looked at a book.  I graduated college without reading for tests with a 2.4 GPA.

In spite of near failure at college it was in that time that I became a follower of Jesus Christ.  After graduating I accidentally joined a cult who told me I was not saved.  I needed to find truth in the Bible for myself.  I spent the next three years trying to understand the nature of baptism and salvation.  I thought I had answers on paper.  However I got something more out of all that searching.  It was by the life-giving experience of receiving love and restoration through His power and presence in His Word -- I noticed -- I finally enjoyed learning.  Jesus changed me!  For years I failed to identify who He is in relation to me and what it would do to me now.  Why didn't I perceive what He was going to do?  Later I went into the pre-nursing curriculum for a year and everything was different.  I studied anatomy and physiology and got the highest score in about half of the exams.  My attitude toward books transformed in the turning leaves of scriptures.

Mary had a true love for Jesus and meditated deeply before Him.  She was praised for choosing the "better" thing in receiving the truth, because it was better than her sister Martha's attempts to earn God's intimacy through works. She attempted to be a captive listener, but I wonder if she really believed what she "learned." When their brother Lazarus died in John chapter 11 I would have thought that Mary would be first to understand that Jesus wants to give life right now, not just final resurrection from the dead. Mary didn't greet Jesus when He arrived "too late."  She was only grieving.  Consequently Jesus did not test her faith.  She sat on the sidelines as an onlooker.  Though Mary failed to anticipate what Jesus was going to do, she was so grateful afterward she poured all her wages on His feet. She finally identified Him correctly; that believing in Jesus was the same as believing in the presence of God.

To Martha's credit, she was a woman of action and she rightly interpreted Jesus through those lenses. Now she understood what Jesus would do for her and she applied her less-intensive base of scripture to trust in God's power. "But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give You," she said to our Lord (Jn. 11:22).  If the Father has given Himself to Jesus, then Jesus has given Himself to us.  Jesus' rebukes always fell to strengthen Martha: "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" (Jn. 11:40).

Jesus prayed out loud so that all would believe that the Father has sent the Son.  It is through this amazing abiding relationship that Jesus showed He was God's only begotten heir, the first of many sons to come (Heb. 1:2, 2:10).  Jesus was God and also With God from eternity and He came to us as such (Jn 1:1).  When he prayed concerning Lazarus to the Father He showed us the intimacy of the Trinity and therefore displayed how approachable He is to us all.  Identifying with another is integral to the image of God.  When we identify with one another in the Body, we imitate Christ (1 Jn. 4:17, 5:1).  We reflect Christ's image of the God-Man who was identified as With God; we also see the glory of God in our circumstances (Jn. 17:22-23; 14:13; 15:7-8).

Believing in Jesus is to trust Him to affect me because of who He is. Though I regret my GPA I have lasting joy over God's life-giving transformation in me.  He will continue to do wonders I don't even dream of asking if only I abide in greeting Him and His people.  He has glorified Himself in this small way of granting a love to learn.  I believe that those reading here can identify many of their own experiences of Jesus giving life.  Whether you are like Mary and are praised for learning or like Martha who was ready to see God's power, may we continue as one Body to encourage each other when in our human imperfections we miss the holy mark of receiving life right now by eyes of faith.  God is with us -- grow deep.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Trust-Worthiness, a False Image

Disillusionment in the Body of Christ

When we repeatedly see in others their differences, or failures, it makes us feel dissatisfied and depressed. We call such feelings "disillusionment." It is while experiencing disillusionment that our greatest choices in life are made. Here is a picture of someone who chooses foolishly, Luke 18:9-14,

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

It's one thing to see what is "missing" in someone else.  It's another to derive one's purpose out of their shortcoming.  Comparing ourselves to others is not the way.  Our self-worth isn't obliterated when we are humble. Humility restores our sense of self-worth. It assumes the equal value of everyone, but those who don't believe it fight and quarrel to make life "fair" (James 4:1-4).  As we focus firstly on Christ and His love, our sins seem bigger and others' sins seem smaller. Knowing our own struggle with sin makes us hungry not to exclude others but to obtain peace and acceptance with others. It also fulfills our sense of purpose in living, and He richly blesses us with power and significance among the children of God.

What studies have been done noting the benefits of marriage, could be applied to believers. Many married couples divide when experiencing disillusionment. People who live alone do not live as long of lives, do not have the benefit of pooling resources, do not benefit from someone striving for their happiness, experience higher stress, and do not have anyone to help monitor harmful ways. People who stay married are happier than people who live alone.

When someone makes an accusation, usual responses include apologies, making excuses or communicating "your side," or even attack or withdraw. The issue is never the issue. The best way to interpret what sounds like an accusation in our ears is to perceive it as an opportunity to establish greater understanding. It takes a long time for married couples to learn that they don't really know their spouse.  I suspect that members of the Body take just as long to learn the same lesson.

Trust-Worthiness, a False Image

We all share in an never-ending quest to honor Christ in how we live, taking every thought captive as they say, or being careful to keep ourselves from traditions of men. Col. 2:6-10 says,

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

In the spirit of this scripture I make a proposal for examination, whether it would be in fact a tradition of men. Could it be that "trust-worthiness" has become our idol? I am compelled to ask, does our mind's edifice of what constitutes "trust" behave like an idol? Does it interfere with seeking oneness? John 17:20-21,

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

But Isn't Trust-worthiness Necessary?

What are your scriptural ideals of a person's trust-worthiness? I have a hunch it's solid stuff, great stuff. How do you use it? People use God-given materials to fashion false images, and good information can be used to keep people out. Trust-worthiness doesn't come from conforming someone to your own language, doctrine, or works. To this we go straight back to the gospel. A profession of faith in Jesus Christ is our Body. The only grounds for separation are the yeast(s) of legalism or licentiousness. We are all, just like marriage, members of one another. If one member hurts, all members feel it. We are a joint-venture regardless of whether we ignore or punish others, and it only returns these things back on ourselves. What's more, fruit-bearing abiders are those who've entrusted themselves to God and God to them (John 2:23-25, 14:21, 23). I think we all intuitively have grown up in the church dependent upon this being reality: If there ever was a man to whom I would entrust myself on sheer faith, it would be to one who genuinely knew and served God. 

Setting our presuppositions aside, then, trust comes through knowing someone ongoingly.  How can someone intervene gently for a sin or overlook a weakness, except by the intimate knowledge of how they were built?  We learn of our friends' humanity only by growing closer.  We don't learn from acts of escalation to keep out those who would share life.  We don't learn from aloofness which runs down the clock to conceal true terms for peace and closeness.  And we don't learn (as much) by sharing wonderful intimacy for awhile but pointedly revoking it if it doesn't suit our idealism.

Trust especially comes to those who are on-goingly known by God.  No one becomes worthy of trust through conforming to another's idealism no matter how biblical.  Such expectations are the building of earthly kingdoms.

Pick Your Grid

Find your grid in scripture, but I've never seen a happy ending in God's doctrine where His people are "fine" while alienated by others or with God. His story comes to completion by restoring one another to a place of mutual ministry and rejoicing together. Let me point out three example grids off the top of my head:

  • Job. Sure, Job accepted the truth of his insignificance repenting in dust and ashes. But the story did not come to a close till he was interceding for his pain-inflicting counselors.

  • Romans 4-8. We're imputed righteousness and forgiven for sins in 4. But God isn't done explaining the gift till He explains that it works in Romans 8 like following His Spirit to put to death the deeds of the flesh and partnering actively with God as sons.

  • John 4. The woman at the well could have been satisfied keeping the fountain for herself. Instead, unlike the unobservant apostles she naturally runs into the city to tell others - so that He who sows and she who reaps may rejoice together.

A negative example would be Jonah. God has the last word of the book, still pursuing Jonah with that bad attitude.  We can assume that God and Jonah lived the rest of their lives that way - God inviting Jonah to abandon his thoughts of being separate from other believers (think Luke 18 (above) again).  So: how can we trust someone who wants to join in, when they've wounded us and caused us disillusionment?

The Wounded One

There is a fine and highly disputed boundary between the wounded one and the disobedient (those who want to fail at becoming one with believers). It's okay to hurt. It's okay to hurt for a long time. But according to God's character a portion of healing is being sent by Him into the inward man. Similarly an outward portion of healing comes from the party who caused trust to collapse. If they are not taking outward approaches, we can be sure they are not taking them inwardly. How can I say such a thing? This gets to the very heart of God: while we were enemies, Christ died for us, that we through intimacy might be transformed. Bank on God for this. Then observe whether they feign confusion.

There are exceptions to this generalization. Some dear believers suffer from depression or a host of various chemical or mental disorders - I have a number of such friends myself. I know that there is honest effort when it comes to these issues, and it is a challenge to be "Christian" toward others. Until there is some vulnerability, those on the receiving end won't see how grace is helpful in situations. In any case, we ought to be prepared for weaknesses and handicaps in others. The weak are even more welcome into His presence, and I will testify that at least as far as I have seen God treat the weak, it has by no means marginalized their perfectly designed role in the Body.

The Challenge to Persevere toward Oneness

Where do we go when disillusioned with God's people?  If we break off to be with those who are like ourselves, what reward will we get?  We are no different from the greedy.  Matt. 5:47,

And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?

Sects are common, but cults are worse.  It is important to take a few basic notes on what cults do. They isolate members from family and friends - true relationships where they receive care outside of the protocol of the group. They foster disconnection from outsiders as a mainstay of their theological tenets. And in the case that someone leaves the group, relationships are radically cut off with rumors that aren't allowed a decent hearing to see if there's any truth to them.

Decide for yourself who you will serve this day.  Love isn't given or taken because of performance. Love isn't held hostage and it isn't debating in private recesses whether or not you are qualified to share in the venture of life together. Love, is. It is its own purpose. It never fails.

His Kingdom is Desirous for Outsiders

The kingdom and its work isn't possessed by a few believers at the top who have learned how to use protocols like barbed wire and booby traps (thanks Charity). It belongs to whosoever loves Him. If there is a biblical fellowship, it isn't formed and gathered firstly on the pinnacles of hierarchy. The fellowship of God and God's people is down here, where people are gaining Christ. This is where God is alive, and this is where we share the same mind and heart together in the mutual venture we have in making disciples for Him (study the use of the word koinonia in the book of Philippians).

En-Trust to Build Trust

Accepting fellowship for what it is supposed to be and not for our false images, we will glorify Jesus Christ. Ushering and acknowledging others in the presence of Christ is the safest place we should herald them to be. In His presence there is hope that weaknesses and sins will be overcome. Do you hunger and thrist for this kind of reconciliation and commission, for any kind of person, with God? Then, upon this we have obtained "koinonia." Let us set off in the boat together with our Master.

No one is immune to the fellowship-choking path to sects and the building of earthly kingdoms. This includes me. I need someone to knock me in the head every once in awhile. Doesn't have to be any more elaborate than this, "I sense pride in you, so maybe you should think about it." Christian or unbeliever, it does not matter; I need massive help to avoid serving my own purposes (in the name of God, no less!). Even unbelievers hate pride--get some--they're very astute on shortsightedness in the church. As much as I operate in the flesh, I am going to let God down. If I really want to build God's kingdom, someone has to notice the difference between God in His grace and truth, and how I love to build my own kingdom. As much as I want it to be about me because I am in flesh, it's not. When I operate in the Spirit, I see God's generosity to truly be with you because of your abiding faith in Him. That's the happy ending, to marvel at God as One. Each believer has gifts absolutely essential to feed those who have come to His table so we may be edified to grow as one in the full stature of Christ (Eph. 2:19-22).

Genuine hunger for God's kingdom is demonstrated when believers entrust themselves to those who may seem like "outsiders" in seeking the same. That has been my foremost aspiration for the Body of Christ both online and offline. I am by no means the only one who feels this way for believers - I am in the company of greatness and a great many.

There is no flourishing with fragmentation.  When Jesus was incarnated, it may have appeared as though He was alone.  However, He did not come by Himself. This is the subject of the next blog post.

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