Sunday, September 17, 2017

Only God is good

We often hear the expression "he is a good person" or "they are good people." But what exactly is a good person; what makes us truly good?

Good people are plugged in people; people plugged in to the Father, the source of all goodness.

We not only know this from scripture in general but the following passage may give us the most striking example.

"And a ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." Luk 18:18-19 

This is a very curious statement. Christ seems to suggest that he himself has no goodness ("...why do you call me good…"); only his Father ("...God alone..." ) is good. However we are told elsewhere that Christ was without spot or blemish i.e. he had no sin. Christ too is perfect and good. So exactly what is Christ saying here?

Some might argue that this was actually a roundabout way of making a claim to be God himself since we know elsewhere in scripture that he too is good. So when he said God alone is good, since he himself was (and is) God, he was referring to himself. And though he certainly was God the Son, this doesn't seem to be his point since he speaks of God in contrast to himself ("...no one...except God..." who was his Father, distinct from him as the Son). 

I think the essence of what Jesus was suggesting is all goodness, even his own was (is) by virtue of his being in [1]relationship with his Father, the source of all goodness i.e. Christ was not saying he was (is) not good but rather his own goodness was the fruit of his relationship with his Father. To say it another way the goodness of Christ was a genuine and real goodness but also a goodness [1]derived from being in union (one) with his Father who is good. 

Keep in mind we are told Christ was the radiance and only expression of the glory of God, and the exact representation and perfect imprint of His essence... not the other way around i.e. the Son emanates (issues forth) from the Father to put the Father on display. The Father does not emanate from the Son (though he does display himself through the Son). Just as the Spirit issues forth from both the Father and the Son. So in this sense the Father is the source of everything, even the Son i.e. who is [2] the only begotten of (eternally comes from) the Father. 

This is not a matter of Christ being created. He is the co-eternal and co-equal God along with the Father and the Spirit. This is about the nature and dynamics of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. 

If this is an accurate interpretation of this passage (and I think it is), and fit's the rest of scripture, what is Christ telling us? What is his point?

If Christ, who is perfect, was good by virtue of his union and relationship with the Father how can we (who are sinful and imperfect) ever hope of being good without that same union and relationship with the Father. Are we not good only by virtue of being plugged in to God himself, the source of all goodness?

How do we plug in?

If so, how do we plug-in? By receiving the love of the Father through Christ.

How do we receive that love? By God revealing himself to us in Christ through his Spirit. 

Where does God reveal Christ to us? Through his word and people; not just any people but people who are also plugged in to the God of all goodness.

As a man operating solely in the power of the Spirit, Jesus was our example. He showed us not only what to do but how to do it i.e. By abiding in the Father's goodness and love.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you (i.e. not only do I love you with the same love the Father has for me but I love you as I receive it from him i.e. "As the father has loved me, so have I loved you...[in the same way and by means of that love] "). Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just (in the exact same way) as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." - Jesus - John 15:9-10

It should be noted that the Fathers love of his Son was a fixed reality. This verse however suggests the manifestation of that love and Christ's experiencing it was based on his abiding in it through faithfulness (i.e. obedience) to his Father.

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[1]  For a fuller discussion God as a being of relationship click here
[2]  For a fuller discussion on "only begotten" click here

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What is our eternal reward?

"...for eternity we are growing in the realization that we need God for everything, and yet in that neediness we are fully and abundantly satisfied in all he provides." – Kyle Strobel, formed for the glory of God page 97

Note the tension of continued growth while experiencing complete satisfaction at the same time. How does this occur? Strobel explains our capacity for experiencing God in all his love is always expanding both now and throughout eternity while at the same time that capacity is always full once we go into eternity. 

If our capacity when we enter heaven is a thimble, over time we stretch into a cup then a small bowl, than a bigger bowl and so on while always being full during the whole process. To say it more practically, there will never be a dull moment throughout all eternity. Things will always be progressing. Hard to grasp but exciting to know. 

So the question becomes how much do we wish to experience of him when we leave this world?

It begins now...by faith

The same realization of our need for God starts in this life at our new (spiritual) birth, while continuing and progressing on throughout eternity. 

Whatever satisfaction we find now however occurs by faith (the Spirit of God, given at our spiritual birth who now indwells us, is our guarantee of better things to come). Satisfaction will continue in the next life but then it will occur directly by firsthand sight/experience instead of by faith i.e. Our satisfaction in this life is by faith but will be by direct experience (face to face) in the *next life. And because it is direct it will also be full, uninterrupted and complete.

What we strive for in this life is greater faith so that we might have a greater view and experience of God now but also so we will have an even greater capacity for joy in eternity. 

Scripture indicates our experience of God in the next life will be in proportion to how much we learn to trust him here and now i.e. How much we learn to live by faith. Faith is the mean by which we experience our greatest reward i.e. God himself!

In eternity our experience of God will be direct and by sight (face to face), not by faith (not through a glass darkly).

The degree to which we realize our dependence on God in this life is the degree to which we will experience the fullness of God in the next life. 

The essence of our reward in eternity is gained by faith and determined by the extent that faith grows in this life. God himself and the depth of our relationship with him, determining the degree of our reward i.e. our experience of him in all his fullness.

Mat 5:10  "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Mat 5:11  "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 
Mat 5:12  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

Luk 6:22  "Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 
Luk 6:23  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 


1Co 3:8  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor (labor inspired or driven by God's Spirit in us vs labor performed by mere will power i.e. the labor of faith verses the labor of performance).  

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*It is not that we do not experience any evidence of this love now in the form of tangible manifestations (provision of material needs etc), but these are merely a drop in the bucket and given to create in us even deeper trust and aid us in advancing his purposes further i.e. we can not depend on these as proof of God's love (in this world you will have trouble) for they will ebb and flow. The completed work of Christ to restore us to the Father in the fullness of his love is our primary proof of the greatness of that love. This is a past historical event with ongoing and expanding benefits both now and throughout eternity.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Trust...essential to relationship

What is the key to any relationship?

Trust.

What is the key to trust?

Knowing (believing) the party you are engaging truly has your best interest in mind i.e. they love *you.

As someone proves genuine care by their words and actions and they are not engaging you simply to get or take something from you, your trust grows. If someone over time demonstrates they are using you, your trust wanes and your caution grows.

Some would argue love is the key to any relationship. And this would be true if we weren't so deeply broken and distrusting. Love binds a relationship together but love is not received until we trust the one who offers it. To say it another way, we don't "buy in" to someones kind gestures and overtures of care if we don't trust they are genuine i.e. that their kindness is really kindness and not a "trap" to allure us into a relationship in order to **use us.

The problem is you can love someone with everything in you but if the one you love does not trust you (i.e. they think you are trying to use them to get something from them instead of give something to them) your love will not "land" i.e. be accepted.

To illustrate we are told God so loved the world he gave his only Son, yet not everyone who has been told this is clamoring to pursue or receive God's offer. In fact most do not accept this offer of love even after it is extended and explained. Why? They don't trust the one making the offer or believe it is true. They are suspicious of God, who's making the offer. They don't believe his claims about himself and about themselves. They somehow are convinced God does not have their best interest at heart even in light of this most significant and wonderful evidence.

As an illustration, we likely know of or heard of foster kids being assimilated into a family and how the foster parents hearts often break trying to convince the child he/she is loved. Why? Because the child brushes off those attempts and will even act out to see if these "parents" will still love them in all their ugliness i.e. do the new parents really love them or do they simply feel sorry for them or want the child to meet some need in themselves? 

Why is this? They are "jaded" as they say. After being jerked around emotionally by opening themselves up to being loved by other so called parents, only to have it taken away, they choose not to open themselves up to the hurt of losing love all over again.

By God's grace, you can control how you treat others i.e. treat them in a loving vs an unloving way. You can not however control whether they will receive your love. Only God can open their hearts to receive love. Our loving others my be the means, but when all is said and done, God must open their hearts and eyes to see the love that is there i.e. his love coming through us to them.

Loving someone is what we are called to do. Being used by someone is not. We may choose to let someone "use us" for a time so we might win them to Christ, but that is a separate topic. 

Love without trust?

Can you love someone without trusting them? Yes. You can sincerely want what's best for someone ***you have no trust in. 

This is where we get confused. We think, how can I forgive someone who is not trustworthy. You can forgive them because you truly care about them. But that does not mean you trust them or should entrust yourself to them. Love should be a given, trust is earned.

This is also true of our relationship with God on both sides. 

As we come to believe God always and only wants what's best for us, our trust grows.

When God sees we genuinely love him for who he is and not just using him to get something else, he trusts us more and entrusts us with more of his blessings, knowing we will use what he gives to love others thereby honoring him.

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*self interest in not the same as selfishness. If you look at every promise of scripture, what is the appeal? These are promises made to you i.e. self. In fact self interest is assumed when we are told to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Note it is not condemned but merely appealed to as the standard by which we treat others. 

The issue isn't whether it's valid to care about ourselves but how is self best cared for. It is not best cared for by self (which is selfishness) but by God. For us to focus on self caring is bondage simply because we can never truly provide for ourselves that which we most need...infinite and eternal love and care. To focus on God, is freedom because only he alone can. 

**If each party is seeking the best of the other, they both will benefit. The key is what drives that action by which the other benefits. 

To be clear, few relationships are based solely on each party only seeking to give something and not get something. Few (if any) of us are that grounded in our walk with God (and thereby full of his love) so that he is our primary source for love instead of our spouse (or other significant relationship)

We get into relationships because we get something out of them. But that is not the same as getting into a relationship to take or demand something from the other. All relationships result in both benefiting or they wouldn't exist. This however isn't the issue. The issue is why do people primarily seek relationship, to get or to give.

I would guess many relationships start out more with an eye on getting more than giving. But as each person matures it shifts in time to giving more than getting (at least by one party), otherwise it would not likely last.

Any healthy relationship is reciprocal. However there is a difference between giving and receiving love and giving to get love. Receiving love is vital in any relationship but it is different than engaging in relationship for the purpose of getting or taking. 

A key indicator of that difference is gratitude. One expressing gratitude for the other partner is because they recognize their kindness was a gesture of giving/loving, not taking. 

A key indicator someone is primarily about getting or taking is anger. Getting angry when one does not get what they want or the other doesn't give them what they demand is indication the relationship is not based on love but on what they can get.

To say it simply a truly loving relationship (on both sides) is based on what you give, not what you get. In this kind of relationship both are still getting but as the fruit of a loving relationship, not the goal. 

***You can also love someone who does not trust you, but until there is trust, it will not land. Loving them over time however can build the trust needed for it to finally break through.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Pleasing God vs loved by him

Being loved by God is a fixed reality for those who are in Christ. Why? Because his love for us is based on [1]Christ's perfect performance on our behalf and not ours. To say it another way, we don't have to be perfect anymore in order to be fully loved. 

As a result there is nothing we can or should do to make ourselves more or less acceptable and loved by God than we already are right now in Christ. We are the beloved child of God. Nothing we do can make us any more (or less) so i.e. can cause God to love us more fully than he already does.

However pleasing God, bringing joy to his heart is based on our faithful pursuit of him; our diligent obedience to him i.eour action/conduct, "performance" if you will. This conduct has to do with our [2]relationship with God, the other is a matter of our status or legal standing before God.

The former (being loved by God) answers the following: 

"Am I an infinitely and beloved child of God" to which scripture gives a resounding YES!!

"Is there anything [3]I must do to insure I am (and continue to be) an infinitely beloved child of God." The answer is an equally resounding NO!!

Nothing I do will cause, insure or prevent God's love for me. That was why Christ came. He took care of all of this for me. Our judgment is satisfied by Christ; our condemnation is gone because of Christ. Our standing as a beloved child of God is secured in Christ. God's love for us is absolute and infinite because of Christ. As Christ declared at the end of addressing all these things in and by his crucifixion, he said in a loud voice "It is finished!and then he gave up his spirit.

The later (pleasing God) addresses a very different question. Which is, "am I a child that honors my Father to the utmost by my words and actions" Notice this question addresses our side of things, not God's side. His side is already taken care of because of Christ's efforts on our behalf. 

Do I please him? It depends on whether I am living for him and loving him with all my heart soul, mind and strength. This is a matter of my relationship with God evidenced by my trust in him and my ensuing faithfulness to him. Do I fully trust that love he already has for me and act accordingly i.e. in faithful and loving pursuit of him? Again, this deals with my side of things. 

Just like any parent is most pleased when their kids heed their loving directions, so it is with God. And just as a loving parent will never love their child any more than they already do, so it is with God i.e. once we are a child (born into the family) we will always be their child i.e. loved and cherished by our parents. 

However truly loving parents also find great delight in their child when they faithfully pursue the parents wishes. In fact the more they love us the more delighted they are when we heed their wise and loving directions, because the more we trust and obey (as their child) the more we experience the fullness of life for us they desire (they desire this because of their great love for us) and we were created for i.e. the more we flourish and blossom into who we were designed to be. What loving parent doesn't want their kid to know the fullness of their love and experience all the joy that comes with it i.e. experience the most and best they were created to experience?

Are we to obey our parents because they need our trust and obedience. Not in the sense it adds anything to them as persons. But as loving parents they do "need" (i.e. want) to know their kids are doing well and desire with all their hearts the absolute best for their child. 

Now, for sake of illustration, let's say our parents are infinitely wise and know exactly what that best is (if they are truly wise and loving they will know better than we do at a minimum), than we know (trust) heeding their instructions is in our best interest and it will not be hard to do so. The parents already know this, we however must learn this.

And when a child heeds well his parents instructions, how do parents respond? Not only are they delighted but they increasingly entrust that child with more because they long for their child to know an even greater fullness of their love e.g. they will let the kid use the car because they know the kid will take care of it and not misuse it or intentionally damage it. As the child shows greater trust in the parents, the parents have greater trust in the child. As the child proves themselves more trustworthy, they are entrusted with even more. The relationship grows and strengthens i.e. the love and trust on which all relationships are built, increases.

Of course we all know there are [2]no perfect parents, at least not on earth. But human parents are a type of our heavenly Father who is the perfect parent in every way because he alone is fully capable in every way (all wise, loving and powerful). And God as our perfect parent delights in knowing we are experiencing the best he has and there is for us. And the best means of growing our trust in him and obedience to him; (doing as he says) because he knows what that best is better than anyone, including ourselves. 

In summary:

Does our faithful pursuit of God matter? No and yes. 

As far as our being his beloved child who is right (in right standing, justified) with God and the certainty of his love being secured and set on us, our pursuit makes absolutely zero difference. Somebody else had to (and was the only one who could) take care of this side of things and did i.e. Christ himself. 

As far as our experiencing all the warmth and benefits of that love fully secured for us and the closeness of fellowship with him and bringing him joy and delight, it makes all the difference in the world, as with any love relationship. And when we stray it hurts God, not because he needs us but because he wants us to know the fullness of that love secured for us by Christ and that joy that is their for us in him. This is why Christ came and did what he did. As evidence of their love the Father and the Son went to great lengths to insure all of this for our joy and his glory. 

Heb 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 
 
But without faith it is impossible to please Him at all. For he who comes to God must of necessity in the nature of the case believe that He exists, and that He becomes a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him out. (Wuest).
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 [1]This is what is meant by the frequent expression "in Christ" used over 90 times in the NT. 
[2]What about those who didn't have such perfect parents growing up?... 
You have one now. 
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. Psalm 27:10 (KJV) 
(CEV)  Even if my father and mother should desert me, you will take care of me.
(ERV)  Even if my mother and father leave me, the LORD will take me in.
(ESV)  For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.
(GNB)  My father and mother may abandon me, but the LORD will take care of me.

[3]It should be pointed out that if we are now truly a redeemed child of God, we will be a new creature. Everything will be different. We will have new desires, a new vision of God and his love for us resulting in a love for God that changes us and how we live. If there is no such change, the bible cautions us to "make our calling and election sure" i.e. do a spiritual self assessment and be sure these qualities are true of you and in you and increasing. If they are not we have no reason to believe we are his child. In fact we are cautioned that we may not be. 

While living for God does not insure or secure God's love, it is clear evidence of it. When we know we are loved we will respond in faithfulness. If we don't live faithfully for God, this is an indication we have not experienced his love. This is a key message of James

Being his child however doesn't mean we are perfect. We all blow it, and often. But once we are a child of God blowing it matters; it effects (bothers) us; it impacts our relationship with God, whereas before it didn't. 

But the most important point is it robs God of the joy and delight of seeing us participate in the fullness of his love and our experiencing the joy of seeing his kingdom (rule and reign of love) advanced through us to others. 


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Racism and the importance and necessity of forgiveness

I originally wrote this a couple of days after the events in Charolettsville, Va. I was reluctant to publish it in part because there were many others raising good points. However since the media seems to have only gone further over the top in trying to fuel the flames to divide this country and the insanity has continued and even escalated I felt it was time to throw in my 2 cents. 

There is much anger and confusion over events in recent days. A large part of problem with what we are seeing is many are accusing others of attitudes or actions (fueled by the media, "protesters" and various "gatekeepers") through guilt by association, as if merely being a certain race somehow means you are a racist or a bad person. This assertion is totally based on identity, the essence of *identity politics. Is has nothing to do with the actual conduct of any given individual
*It is also the very same strategy and approach communists have used to take over a standing political/economic system. i.e. creating class warfare such as the "bourgeois vs the working class" the "haves" vs the "have nots." In this present conflict attempts are being made to create division primarily along racial lines, not necessarily economic lines.
For example, does anyone think it is fair to be looked upon or treated as a criminal (in the case of a "black" person or other person "of color") or a racist (in the case of a "white" person) because a small percentage within a given "group" are criminals or racists (whether past or the present)? 

The unfortunate reality is bad people within "our group" may unfairly and poorly reflect on us, but this doesn't automatically mean we hold the same views or treat others in the same way as those actually guilty of wrong doing. Guilt by association is all too common with how different groups view one another today. This is the essence of stereo typing. 
I am placing these varies identities in " " because this is the unfortunate state of things. Group identities have wrongly been imposed on various groups by others (whether within or outside of our "group"). Identity politics in truth is divisive. And unfortunately it appears to be a primary tool of those who use it [such as the media and supporters of these different groups] to do exactly that, create division. Just labeling oneself (or being labeled) as a white this or a black that separates instead of unifies.
We may be different in certain superficial ways but the reality is we are all humans created in the image of God and as has been said we all bleed the same red blood. So inherently the most important and fundamental things about us are more significant (primary, not secondary) than the differences. 
Is it fair to be stereo typed? I think we can all agree it is not. The black man has all too often been suspected of wrong doing merely for being black. This is wrong. No one wishes to be accused of something because of the actions of others. All of us have experienced being accused of something we are not guilty of through guilt by association.

Denouncing wrongs and taking action

So how can we best address this? Is complaining or striking out in anger and destructive behavior the solution?  

Some thoughts:

We must denounce the wrong doing from within our own "group" in the clearest and strongest terms. For sake of this discussion, the white man must clearly denounce racism. There is never a justification for it, ever. For the black man, he must clearly denounce the crimes of gang violence or other things a black man might be falsely associated with merely by virtue of his color/race. To not do so could communicate we condone such destructive behavior by individuals within "our group." And if we condone it we are agreeing with it. Racism is racism...crime is crime. Both are wrong and should be clearly called out.  

The other way to separate ourselves from the things we are falsely accused of is to prove by our actions, we are wrongfully accused. If we wish to not be falsely accused of certain views or behaviors we must be careful not to conduct ourselves in a way that might associate us with the bad elements within our own "group" i.e. our own race. 

For example, though this may not at all be the reason we behave a certain way and indeed be unfair, it would likely not be wise to fly a confederate flag in our front yard or place one in the back window of our car or drive around blasting "gangsta" rap, wearing "gangsta" paraphernalia (I am using more extreme examples to make the point clearly). These things send out a signal to others that we may hold to views or attitudes that are actually not ours. Fair? Maybe, maybe not. Some might simply like rap music or the history that the confederate flag represents (those quick to assume the worst and racists in general [on both sides] would likely disagree). We may participate in certain behavior (though not likely, which is exactly my point) because we are use to it or comfortable with it culturally. It's what we know and grew up with. 

Never the less, if our goal is to avoid being wrongly associated with or accused of certain views or attitudes, even though unintentional on our part, we may wish to consider what part we play in contributing to any harassment, mislabling and mistreatment. 

Granted you may rightly feel it is wrong to be accused of holding a certain view because of what may be very innocent (possibly unconscious) habits by you and that it's the responsibility of others to figure it out. But the reality is if we wish to live in harmony and understanding we can make a difference and play a role as well. Otherwise you simply don't care what others think, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but also might not be the most loving and considerate thing either. No one wishes to be viewed with suspicion regardless of what group someone tries to put you in but the reality is it happens, so how do we respond?

My personal view is if someone makes an incorrect assessment of me I simply prove them wrong by my words and actions i.e. I don't give them reason to believe their view (prejudice) is correct. If some are so close minded they aren't willing to see the truth, I move on and pray for them. 

I don't believe we are obligated to persuade someone who is close minded nor should we feel sorry for our self and allow our self to be offended if and when rejected by others. I may feel sorry for them and their being narrow minded but that is now their problem. I am always willing to talk if someone is open however. But if not, there is nothing I can do. Yes we are called to love our enemies but we are also told not to cast our pearls before swine (i.e. do not offer to someone something they don't appreciate or have an interest in receiving). 


Peer pressure and identity

We also may actually need to think about changes that could cause us to be accused by our peers of being an "Uncle Tom" or a "n***** lover".  Unfortunately this happens all to often and is a big reason people don't stand up. Being approved by our peers can have a very strong hold on us which is a big problem for some who don't have a strong self identity. 

As believers, this should not be difficult however as our identity is rooted in Christ and not a particular group. The stronger we identify with Christ the less we need to identify with anything or anyone else. To say it practically I am beloved by God first, I am an American second, a husband, a family man, a [your occuption] and a [your race...black, white, Asian, brown person etc] last, in that order. 

Note race must be last, not first. If this is a problem for you, it reveals how much your identity is rooted in something other than Christ. Race should be a miner aspect of who we are if we have a strong identity elsewhere. As the saying goes we need to be color blind. And for right now, emphasizing our race (regardless of who's doing it) is the least helpful thing we can be doing, particularly now with all the tension and race bating going on by many of the "gatekeepers" i.e. media, politicians, entertainment, sports and other so called "leaders" etc.   

Did white people in the past mistreat the black man/women. Yes. As a white man I denounce this mistreatment in no uncertain terms. This is what I can and should do. 

However to hold me responsible for the wrongs of someone in the past who just happened to be of the same race is not the fault of those who were not there and did not participate in that behavior. This would be the same as saying all Germans today are Nazi's because Hitler, who live over 70 years ago, was German. Being connected by nationality or race does not mean I am connected in attitude, view or action of those criminals who happened to be the same nationality or race as me. We each are responsible for our own actions and attitudes and should be accountable for them, not those of others.

Racism is not my problem

What about racism? Is it unique to any one group? Is it not an issue with any group and exists in varying degrees within all race groups. If so (and I believe it is) to decry one form of racism and not others is hypocritical. If it is wrong for one group, is it not wrong for other groups... for ALL groups, regardless of who that might be, in what form it might take or when and where it happens (happened)?

Some believe racism does not exist within their own group but only in others. Is this true? Is there not racism within groups of all kinds? If so, why do we tolerate (or not call out) racism among some but not others? Are some forms of racism ok, while others are not?

Now let's take it a step further. What if you are accused of being a racist by another who happens (and you know) to be racist them self (but from "another" group), what would you think, how would you feel? Would you be able to hear or accept their accusation or criticism? Should you hear it?

I am not giving answers at the moment or justifying any form of racism by asking, I am simply raising questions for us to ponder. Questions that I don't presently hear discussed in all the current outrage being expressed these days. Without discussion there will be no understanding of the grievances felt by others regardless of which "side" one sees themselves on. This is a time to look in the mirror not point fingers. If we don't we all suffer. I would suggest none of us (not necessarily individually but the various groups) are without guilt.

The simple reality is we all prefer hanging with those most like us, whether that be by age, gender, hobby interests etc. It is more comfortable. Is this a kind of racism? Not saying it is or isn't, I am just pointing out this is common with all groups. When Christ said love our neighbor as ourselves, this also means treating others like you would naturally if they were someone who is just like you, whether they actually are or not. He didn't say love your neighbors if they are like you (look like you, act like you, has a similar background and culture like you with the same interests as you etc) and avoid those who aren't. 
As a side note I have had two long term accountability partners in my life that span 20 years. I had virtually nothing in common with either of them socially, historically or culturally. Both of them came from a different time in our culture (one was older and one younger, one was a former Marine and I was a former "child of the 60's" who called his kind "jarheads" when I was a young stupid kid) but what we did have in common which created the absolute strongest bond and totally nullified any of that was our mutual desire to know God and our love for Jesus. Because that was our main connection, it was so strong it overroad everything else. As a result we actually came to enjoy each other socially. Image that!

Some answers to this current issue of racism.

1. Racism is a form of hatred of our fellow man/women and is wrong and dangerous!

2. To excuse your own hatred and racism because the one you hate is a racist doesn't justify yours and overrule point 1. You can and should hate racism but that doesn't justify hating another person because of their race or racism. Racism is wrong, no matter who expresses it or what reason is given. As my dad use to always tell me "two wrongs don't make a right"

3. To say racism is unique to one particular race is also dangerous. In some ways it may be more dangerous because it allows someone to play the victim and hide behind their own racism, all the while pretending to be virtuous in their hate and anger against racism (as if theirs doesn't exist or is justified because it's directed at the racism of others). It must be called out on all sides. Racism is racism. It doesn't matter who participates or why. All of it is wrong.


Two things needed to diffuse the hate and anger of racism

Now there is one major problem with everything I have said so far. Not that I think it's untrue but that it focuses only one side of the problem i.e. the offense. There is an entirely different side to this. Maybe the most important side. That is forgiveness? Where does that come in to all this. 

There are two things needed to properly address racism. One is when you are guilty, to fully acknowledge the wrong, hurt and suffering it causes (or has caused) i.e. the offense and seek forgiveness when and where necessary and appropriate and to denounce and abandon it if and when guilty. This is critical and often lacking (if someone isn't personally a racist they of course should not apologize for being one, simply because they aren't; but it is certainly appropriate to express regret and sorrow for the racism of others i.e. for them being mistreated (I am not talking about slavery. Though unfortunate and not to be made light of, that is history. It is not the present experience of most today...at least not in it's past form. I am talking about present mistreatment, which is what I have been addressing up until now). 

But in addition to acknowledging mistreatment of others, without forgiveness by those who have been wronged, healing can never occur and nothing will be resolved. To say it another way, you can't control the behavior of others, but you can control your own attitude and outlook. 

Sadly some racists will never acknowledge their wrong doing. However those offended can still do something. If we are believers we can keep it from going beyond ourselves and prevent its spreading and continuing the damage. This may seem unfair, but much in this broken world is and God promises the scales of justice will one day be balanced. Certainly the attitude of Christ in his mistreatment would be our example here e.g. "Father forgive them for they do not know what they do."

Why is forgiveness is more critical 

Because EVERYONE offends and everyone is offended at one time or another. Certainly some are more offended than others (no one however was more mistreated than Christ himself). At some point there not only needs to be an full and clear admission of wrong doing but also forgiveness or there will only be ongoing hatred and destruction; not just to others but to ourselves and those around us. 

Forgiveness is so critical the bible calls both parties to address it even if or when the other party does not.

1.     The offender is called to ask for forgiveness whether the offended grants it or not.

And

2.     The offended are called to forgive whether the offender asks for it or not.

Both are accountable to do their part regardless of what the other party does.  

What is significant of this dual responsibility? The only one who can actually cut the fuse of hatred is the one offended. Why is this? Is it because the offender has no responsibility? No, he/she is totally responsible and will be held accountable for their actions one day; it not now certainly in eternity. The unfortunate reality is the offender my never acknowledge their wrong  doing. Again, we can't control the behavior of others, we can only control our own attitude and outlook.

What do we do then? Just seethe in our hatred? Because we all sin and offenses are unfortunately part of living in broken world, at some point we have to forgive or our bitterness will destroy us. We are instructed to let no root of bitterness take hold (Hebrews 12:15) as it will no only destroy us but others around us we are responsible for and called to love. Offenses are the unfortunate fruit of our rebellion against God himself. Ultimately the only thing that prevents sin from "landing" taking root in us and destroying others is forgiveness by those offended.

And this is rooted and grounded in Christ himself. He did what was necessary to bring forgiveness to all who will accept it by taking on himself the consequences of all offenses (our own and that of others) so they are no longer held against us. And in so doing he even asked for the forgiveness of those who killed him...who committed the ultimate oppression against him if you will.  

We are also cautioned that we will not be forgiven if we refuse to forgive others. I think this is saying if we can not find it in our heart to forgive it may be because we have not yet fully accepted God's forgiveness for our own wrongdoing. Forgiveness (being able to forgive others) is the fruit of being forgiven first. It is virtually impossible to forgive if we do not acknowledged our own offences and accept forgiveness. If there is no forgiveness for others we may be a person who hasn't yet accepted the forgiveness of God. You could also say if there is no forgiveness for us, we will have no forgiveness in our heart for others. 

But it goes even deeper. We can never be forgiven if we do not realize we need it first i.e. that we are all offenders. And our biggest offense is not doing right by God i.e. not giving God what he rightfully deserves...all honor and due respect. If you are offended for not being given proper respect, what about your not given him proper respect? 

Why does he deserve honor and respect? Because all we have and are is from him yet we act as if it is not.

He has done everything necessary to forgive our wrong of not acknowledging his rightful honor, by putting that offense on Christ on our behalf; for our sake. Yet, we reject his offer; the offer of ultimate and total forgiveness. This is an insult to the work and offer of Christ from which there is no remedy. Not because one is not available but because it is the only one that exists yet we reject it. 

To be forgiving, you must first be forgiven. 

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For more discussion on being offended click here

For a discussion on why and how we must distinguish culture from race click here


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The just shall live by faith


But what is it exactly that we, as followers of Christ (i.e. the just/righteous) are called to believe, have faith in, live by?

First we are called to believe that our right standing (being just) with God is based on God's provision (a gift) of righteousness through Christ, not our performance (it is however based on someones performance, just not ours, but Christ's). This addresses our status as being declared (sentenced if you will) righteous before God and now fully beloved by him. 

Secondly because of this right standing given to us by God, nothing can or does happen to us outside the realm of God's infinite and unlimited love, wisdom and power. This is the essence of what Paul means when he says all things work together for the good of those who love God. And the reason they do is because the difficult things press us closer into God and make us more like Jesus, which is always a good thing. 

As we go about life in this fallen and broken world, experiencing our own weakness and faults and that of others, we must constantly remind ourselves that God is for us not against us (Christ and the Spirit themselves are even praying for you this very moment as you read); that absolutely nothing can ever (nor ever does) separate us from his love...ever. 

This involves our ongoing experience of God's love and care (providence). It is based upon our status but separate from it. Without our right standing with God we would not have complete unfettered access to him or be the child of his infinite love and care. 

Engaging (or not) who we are

Can we lose sight of this reality (promise)? Yes and we do often whenever we doubt (stop believing) these things are true.

Can or do we ever feel alienated from God and his love? Absolutely, but that is on our side of the relationship not on God's side. Because God's love is not based on our performance but on Christ's (which is finished), his love is 100% locked in and fixed upon us. It can never be more or less than it already is. 

It is this reality we are called to believe i.e. the just shall live by the reality of God's unfaltering, nonstop and relentless love fixed upon us in Christ. By faith we know that absolutely nothing happens to us outside of God's infinite wisdom, care and control.

We are called to believe these things and live by them. When we do we are living by faith as God calls us to. 


Monday, August 14, 2017

Beatific Vision...what is that?!

The following is an attempt to capture the essence of the beatific vision with a much fuller discussion by Kyle Strobel on the link at the end. 


The beatific vision (first God's own, than ours) creates eternal and infinite delight (happiness) because that which is most beautiful and delightful (God) is beheld, engaged and communed with (participated in).
We experience this vision now by faith (through a glass darkly...from a distance). The greater our faith the more we experience it. But in eternity we will experience it directly (face-to-face). As God reveals more of himself our experience of him in eternity will also increase forever. 
The essence of the life of God is the giving and receiving of infinite glory/honor/love/ delight between and among the persons of the Godhead (Trinity). It is this foundational, primary, eternal and infinite community of Glory/Beauty/Delight we too are designed for and called (offered) to participate in.

Our sharing and participation in this is our greatest joy/happiness. This in turn moves us to share this/him with others. As we do it (our delight in him) is further magnified and intensified.

Our joy is God's greatest joy (outside of the joy he has always known and knows within himself).

It is ours only because it is first his.

Our participating in and sharing (passing along..."paying it forward" if you will) his glory throughout the earth not only brings God honor/glory but also gives him great joy and us as well.

God delights in our delight in him and our sharing that delight with others. This is what he does (he delights in himself and the sharing of it) and what we in turn are also designed for. In this primary way (among other ways) we are just like him (in his image). 


He does not wish to keep his glory to himself but desires it be multiplied throughout the earth, thereby increasing that glory (not by him becoming more glorious within himself but in his glory being experienced by more people i.e. more broadly disseminated and in this sense multiplying his glory). 

This is why he sends us and why we go.

All things are from him through him and to him. To him be the glory forever! Amen! (Rom 11:36He is the Alpha and Omega; The Beginning and End (Rev_22:13).

Joh 16:14  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 
Joh_17:5  And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Joh 17:13  But now I (Jesus) am coming to you (Father), and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves
Joh_17:22  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
Joh_17:24  Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

A much fuller and more technical discussion of the beatific vision by Dr. Kyle Strobel is available here.
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The following is a reproduction of the Strobel article with highlights and notes added. (endnotes not included. For endnotes go to full Strobel article in link above)