June 2012


English: Compass

English: Compass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Faith that needs repeated revival or recommitment should probably be examined to find out why it’s so short-lived. (I’m assuming the reason for rededication is a relationship with God that’s flagging in some way; so there may be other reasons that don’t apply here.)

When I worked as a geospatial analyst, the engineering department had a saying for solving design problems: “Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you’re getting. If you want different results, you need a different system.”

Today’s widely-taught faith system, presented as something God “does” to us, is a big reason it often flags. The believer is subsequently told that he/she isn’t dedicated enough, or hasn’t prayed enough, doesn’t believe enough, has failed God again, and must once and for all swear commitment to the Lord. I’ve heard it a million times, as do multitudes of diligent, sincere Christians who recommit over and over only to get the same disappointing results.

Some even give up on faith and God altogether.

It’s caused by a simple lack of vision, a solid purpose and plan, a means to carry it out, and therefore, a lack of correctly aimed intention. Who can follow through on something they’re unaware of? So when we’re spiritually starved like this, we can pretend to be filled for only so long before the reality becomes evident: faith that limps along or crashes in the sand.

Yet it’s easily remedied if we read and listen carefully to the words of Jesus, his original disciples, and the earliest “people of the Way.” An entire book is needed to adequately address the manifold wisdom of his kind of faith, but we can review the foundational components.

In A Nutshell

The correct vision: Jesus’ rich view and model of new life in God’s kingdom through partnership with Him—God with man. Without this preliminary vision shift, people can’t pursue abundant strength, peace of mind, and love. To use biblical terms, they can’t “enter” into the world Jesus presents or put confidence in him for everyday living. They remain “blind,” stumbling, or conflicted, having eyes but not seeing, ears but not hearing.

This is why Jesus’ gospel message is, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” God’s kingdom around us stands ready to guide, enable, heal, and support.

A solid purpose: learn to love ourselves and others the way Jesus loves us. The idea is to become united in spirit and purpose with him and with one another. To live this new life is the assembling of the great Body, or, the marriage of Jews and Gentiles who become the bride wedded to the Bridegroom to rule and serve with him. God planned this objective even before He created the world.

The plan and means: Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. For example, willfully indulged anger is the first faith-killer he tackles. Turning away from it enables us to increasingly implement (obey) the remaining parts of his plan—get rid of spiritual adultery/divorce, sworn behavior, score-keeping, outer appearance/image, and hypocrisy, in that order. (More info in my series 6 Steps to Un-sabotage Yourself in Every Relationship.)

When we follow his prescribed instructions, the unavoidable result is transformation and spiritual formation in Christ. The best part is that God hasn’t given commands and left us with no ability, or way, to do what He says. Neither will He do it for us since that would rob us of our roles with Him. God is gracious enough to give us some responsibility and to let us participate!

That’s something we can sink our teeth into, put long-term confidence in, and not be stuck with flagging faith that needs frequent re-starts.

 

Worship BG - How To Worship A King

Worship BG – How To Worship A King (Photo credit: bemky)

First, perhaps, what it isn’t:

  • Something we do in a specific place in a specific way at a specific time
  • A divine demand to give God His “due”

Individual Worship

Worship is, in simplest terms, to share with God our feelings, concerns, celebrations, thanks, and questions. It’s a relationship between God and His people that entails unique, individual interaction with Him wherever we live, work, go to school, or vacation. This is our primary worship.

It means plunging ourselves into God’s work, living a life together with Him. And that means placing trust in His Son—the actual alive person—to show us how it’s done through prayer, disciplines, and all the best practices he directed. Thus, in practice, worship means to follow, honor, love, exalt, and promote God’s good and the good of life in His kingdom among us.

That’s different from today’s popular preaching to trust an arrangement he made to eliminate sin debt and thereby appease a divine rampage. If all our being primarily worships the “transaction,” there’s no further essential use for the now living person of Christ. (more…)

A treasure chest

A treasure chest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to wonder why my reactions to difficult people were seldom gracious despite a lifetime as a Christian. Then I learned how the sense of indebtedness can choke out a Christ-like spirit that reacts more graciously.

When people deny us “justice,” no matter how small, we feel entitled because we assume they owe something. We intend to collect, so we act, usually in anger or disgust. The flip side of entitlement is obligation—when we feel we must pay rather than collect.

For example, it’s common to hear that respect is earned, not given. To earn your respect, I must treat you right; if I do, you therefore owe me since I earned it. That’s wages mentality, the opposite of grace, and the point that Paul often speaks of.

Both entitlement and obligation can be lumped together as indebtedness; and indebtedness counteracts rich grace. A high Indebtedness Quotient sets us up for a begrudging sort of forgiveness—not only when we think of God forgiving us, but especially when we need to forgive others.

“You’ve Heard it Said, But I Say to You…”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus covered wages mentality—that is, eye-for-eye thinking—and loving only those who love you (Mat. 5:38-48).

The Christians I know (including me) have tried to spend and give and celebrate how spiritually rich we are before there’s anything in the bank to back it up. Rather than filled to overflowing, we’re up to our religious eyeballs in debt. We’ve remained so drained that we can’t afford to be wronged, or lend without payback, or do much of anything that Jesus says we can do.

The ability to do good without the need for return is a fruit of debt-free thinking. We know about debt reduction or debt-free living as it applies to finances, but I’ve never heard anyone apply debt-free thinking to eternal living, though it’s everywhere in Scripture.

Penny Pinchers?

Here’s one way to test your IQ. Certainly, we owe our very existence to God, but does He expect us to pay Him back? Do we owe Him love, faith, and trust? Is He bent on collecting and does He insist we pay a debt? At one time, I would have answered Yes to all.

But would you want anyone to love you because they owe it to you? Some people might feel this way, but, like miserly Scrooges on a cold Christmas Eve, these are the folks who possess such bottom-line, penny-pinching spirits.

If God were intent on collecting a debt, there’d be no room for grace. Yet God does want fruit. I think the key to making sense of this is that when God gathers for Himself, it’s more like profit-sharing than debt collection. Although there will be a day of reckoning and settling accounts, God is patient and gracious in the meantime.

Besides that, He says we can’t pay—not to hammer into us that we’re guilty of default, but to relieve us of debt. That way, our friendship with Him can’t be cheapened by the grace-killing sense of indebtedness that society is so fond of.

Done With Debt!

Look at Jesus’ many analogies that involve a servant who owes—whether it’s ten thousand talents, a hundred denarii, or a drachma coin. Don’t they all either reduce, exempt, or totally cancel debt? Isn’t that what happened in the parable of the king who cancelled his servant’s huge debt, only to later learn that the servant mistreated his own servant who owed him less than ten bucks? (Mat. 18:23-35)

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Who are these debtors if not the very neighbors and enemies who owe us money, promises, apologies, respect, whatever? Rather than account for every single penny, every eye and every tooth, Scripture indicates that debt-free thinking is the direction we should be headed.

It allows us to partner with the supernatural to express generosity and noble character without faking it or the need for payback. But this new thinking isn’t something we merely get from God or something He does to us. It’s also something we do, like God.

Therefore, instead of trying at the last minute to muster up grace towards obnoxious neighbors, we can start further back with our Indebtedness Quotient. To trust that God has truly cancelled our debts takes guts in a world and religious culture that keeps guilt and shortcomings constantly at the forefront. When that trust is real, it brings new courage to apply debt-free thinking even to people who hurt or betray us.

I find that the lower the IQ, the richer the spirit and greater the freedom to react more like Christ. It’ll be there in “increasing measure” well in advance of when you need it.

An blue icon with a graduation cap and tassel.

An blue icon with a graduation cap and tassel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eve came from Adam’s rib; Adam came from the earth; and the earth came from God. Through marriage, Eve reunites, or goes back, to Adam, her origin.

Jesus also said that he came from the Father and would go back to the Father. As first-fruit, he’s the first of multitudes to follow. The Christian faith came from Jews and spread to Gentiles. And through unity in Christ, mankind goes back to God, our origin. He invented marriage to foreshadow this glory.

Mankind is God’s child, and, despite sin, we’re already like Him in many ways. We’re creators with a lower case “c”— inventors, dreamers, builders, artists, healers, and child-bearers like our Father. We’re rulers and providers, like our Father. We’re persons in community, just as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a triune Person in community.

God doesn’t reveal every detail of eternity, but He does reveal what we need to know about it right now. And I’m sure He delights in keeping many juicy surprises in store for us!

Therefore, once we get past the idea that heaven is (1.) strictly a destination after death, and (2.) a holding place where the righteous dead wait or sleep while God does something to the earth and humanity, we can get involved in what God is doing with them.

We do know that God wants His children with Him—not to float around or sing perpetual hymns, but to be co-creators with Him, just as we are now on a smaller scale. We’ll be very much alive and active with meaningful, exciting work on a huge scale. It’s why ruler-servanthood with personal virtue like Christ is so central to eternal living.

We also know that God will share His happiness and put those He can trust in charge of much more on the renewed earth. “Well done, my good servant! Because you’ve been trustworthy in a small matter, now take charge of ten cities.” (Luk. 19:17) Or ten acres, ten schools, ten sunrises, or whatever you can imagine and have a knack for.

If that sounds far-fetched, remember that people who are considered worthy (prepared) to take part in that age will be like angels, according to Jesus; and angels are always in charge of something because their will matches God’s. For example, four angels have charge of “the four winds of the earth.” (Rev.7:1)

God doesn’t want to control us; He wants to set us free so He can trust us to do what we want to do. It’s the grandest, most outrageous idea ever. But it isn’t safe or sound until we’re more like God, and what we want to do aligns with what He wants to do.

Therefore, Jesus, the Master of life, is happy to teach us personally. One life at a time, through this partnership, Adam and Eve transform into noble ruler-servants who don’t create the disasters we do today. The day is coming when we really shall not kill, lie, covet, steal, manipulate, consume, or harm. If even Sodom will be restored (Eze. 16:53), nothing is impossible in God’s ongoing adventure with mankind.

If God removed limits, what would you like to be in charge of? What would have to change for you to be trusted with it, and what would you practice to help the change along?