Thursday, January 11, 2018

God works in and through the natural

Ultimately God is in control and determines the final outcome of all things. But he normally works *through, not outside of or apart from normal/natural means in bringing about his sovereign purposes (i.e. The supernatural will of the Creator is usually executed by means of or through the natural/created world). 

Why is this? God values the natural (so much so he fully embraced it in the incarnation). After all he created it and said it was all very good (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31)

He also desires the full participation and interaction of the natural with the supernatural i.e. He values and enjoys our participation and interaction with him as physical, not just spiritual beings.

He actually created the natural/physical world with exactly this in mind...so we could participate in and enjoy the wonder, beauty and joy of who God is and enter into and discover the joy of who he is as Father, Son and Spirit. A major part (means) of him revealing himself and his beauty is through the natural i.e. His creation (Psa 19:1-6). So much so that he choose the natural (i.e. the incarnation of himself as a man) to reveal himself to us. 

We don't fully recognize how much Neo-platonism has infiltrated the church. This notion says only the spiritual is good and the material/physical is not. In fact the physical world is often viewed as an anchor and hindrance by many within the church. However this is not the teaching of scripture. 

The abuse (misuse) of the physical is our challenge, not the material world in itself

This is why we will one day receive a glorified body and not be some disembodied spirit in eternity. It is also way Christ exists today in a glorified physical state and has ever since his resurrection and will throughout eternity as well.  

Christ not only embraced our humanity so he could give his physical life as a sacrifice for sins but so he could be the God/man i.e. the mediator (go between) for God and man, not just in the past but now and into eternity. He understands both because he is both. To this day he lives in a physical (albeit glorified) human body. 

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*Operating outside the natural would be the classic definition of a miracle. The fact that miracles are rare gives some indication of his value of creation and natural processes. 




Monday, January 1, 2018

Being "in the will of God"

The notion of being "in" or "out of God's will" is binding, harmful and destructive. It produces guilt, shame, fear and anxiety.

God's will for us is clear and simple. We are to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbors as ourselves. In fact we are told this is the *greatest expression of his will, yet who among us does this perfectly.

If we don't, does that mean we are now "out of God's will" and forever off track to fulfilling “our destiny" or "God's will for our lives?" If so, then we are all out of God's will.

Typically when someone says they are anxious about missing God's will, they are referring to "vocational" type decisions such as whether to marry this person or not, to take this or that job, buy this or that house, move to this or that location etc.

However these are more our concern then God's. God says **whatever we do, do it for his glory. In Gods economy why we do things is stressed and far more important than what we do. What we do is determined more by our skills, gifting and circumstances.

It's not that God doesn't care about the “what” decisions or we shouldn't pray about them but only as we assess if we are doing them for his honor or not. Then we can better assess if, when and how our choice fit our skills and circumstances. Using all he has give us as he intends and has designed us individually, is part of doing things for his glory.

The biggest reason we are so concerned about "vocational" type decisions is we do not wish to be responsible for the decision if the outcome is not favorable (e.g. it's not my fault things didn't work out, it's God's) when in fact these type of decisions are exactly the ones God calls us to make and be responsible for.

The reality is, no matter what our choice, God is going to use it for our good (though not necessarily for our ease). So we should move forward in hope, not fear.

Someone once said it is not what I don't know about God's will that is most challenging but what I do know. How well do we love God with all our heart? This should be our primary focus and concern.

Regarding Gods will we are told to following...
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." - Rom 12.1-2

This passage tells us discerning the unknown will of God (i.e. vocational type decisions) is contingent on living out the known will of God i.e. If you wish to discern what is God’s good, acceptable and perfect will for you, present your self in sacrificial obedience to God and align your thinking and will with His. As you do he will guide you.

For a further discussion click here

For a discussion on the value and importance of following God's known will click here.

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* this is sometimes referred to as the revealed will of God whereas vocational type decisions are referred to as the secret or hidden will of God.

**One thing we can be sure of, whatever choices we make, God will use them to draw us closer to himself and teach us to love him more so we might bring greater glory to him. 

Also, loving God with all our hearts and doing all things for his glory are not two distinct expressions of pursuing God's will but are tied together i.e. I do all things for his glory because I love and value God about everything else. And because I love and value him above all things I do everything to honor him. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Having vs participating in God's love

Having and participating in God's love are two separate things (though not unrelated). 

The tension between these is throughout scripture.

Having God's love is based solely on (secured by) the faithfulness/work of another i.e. on Christ's faithful obedience and sacrifice. 

*Nothing we do can add to or take away from this. 

This is complete/finished.

Participating in God's love is based on our faithfulness/work. 

**Only what we do determines this. 

This is ongoing and never finished.


Having his love is like owning a bank account with unlimited funds, available to you at any and all times.

Participating in his love is making a withdrawal and using it to honor/love someone (whether that be God, someone else or ourselves).

We can have the former and never experience the latter but we can never have (participate in) the latter without the former.

And

We will never truly and fully know (experience) the former until we ***fully participate in the latter.

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*how can it since it's not based on our efforts to begin with.

**this is not to say we do this in our own power but only in the power of the Spirit. For several posts addressing the Spirit see the following:

Defining terms-flesh-spirit 

For a post discussing our "work" click here.

***we will not fully participate in this in this life but only begin to. The degree to which we do now, determines the degree to which we experience him in eternity.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Faith is contageous

Faith is not only necessary but contagious. We want to believe because we want to be cared for/valued. Belief is infectious because it is tied to our need for love. We are drawn to love like a moth is to flame/light.

This is why we are so easily allured to promises that can (or may) not truly deliver. Though we like to think our views are based solely on reality/truth, they are based more on belief and hope then irrefutable facts.

However we are quick to trust and depend only on anything and everything except God. Why? What God offers is often not immediate but a long term solution. What we want however is immediate resolution or relief. Long-term relief requires greater trust and patience and is outside our control (eating a treat or watching a movie on the other hand [or whatever is our "drug" of choice] is more immediate and more within our control).

This is also why people are so emotional/passionate (even volatile at times) about their views (e.g. religion and politics); they are tied to their need for love, a sense of well-being, purpose and meaning. In effect if you mess with my beliefs you are messing with me, my identity and my sense of value i.e. our belief system is more emotionally than intellectually based.

This is also key to how you change someone's mind. If you wish to win someone to your way of viewing things, you treat them with more value (love) then their current belief system offers or provides. Love (meaning/purpose/value) after all is what we are really after, not facts.     


Trust and "gathering facts"

The reason we must trust is we are limited in the facts we can gather i.e. we are finite. We don't know everything and can not be everywhere to observe all that is "out there" to observe. Much of our views are based on what we don't know but simply must believe is so (we know what we know, but it's what we don't know that is our challenge). This is why someone's commitment to a particular view may seem irrational to others who don't hold that view while perfectly rational to those that do.

For example, I don't see God, therefore I don't believe he exists. And since he doesn't I am not accountable to a Creator and free to choose how I conduct my life

OR

I believe there is a God because I see design, beauty and love in and around me indicating there is some kind of meaning and purpose to life. Purpose suggests a higher will (or Being) then my own. 

Neither of these views can be proven in the absolute sense due to our finiteness, so we interpret them to mean what we choose to believe.

In summary, we can not operate without faith, no matter what our world view. And since we are designed for love we gravitate to that which meet's that need best (at the moment) from our limited perspective. Faith is not only necessary because of our limits it is necessary in that it is tied to our very sense and need for value/love. Because of these two factors faith is not just unavoidable, it is contagious.


For a further discussion on being finite click here.

For a further discussion on being designed for love click here for several related articles.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Do our deeds matter?

If God's love for us is not based on what we do, do our good deeds matter?

Absolutely! 

Doing things to honor God and love others has real value/importance. 

To live in such as way as to honor God and display his infinite worth in our day to day affairs is a vital means by which others can see something of the love of God and our love for him and thereby be drawn to him. This also has immense value to God since he seeks to diffuse his glory throughout the earth.

To treat others with value/love is also of tremendous importance. It brings true value directly to them (whereas the above is more indirect) and can be a means by which we point them directly to God as the source of life, love and all things instead of just indirectly. It can be key to someone seeing something about God in and through our help thereby also drawing them to faith in him. In fact loving others as he loves us is not only a way we directly bless others but a primary way in which we honor him.


So living for God in general pleases God and seeking to honor him by directly helping others, also pleases him by blessing others.

In these two ways, loving God and neighbor, we are acting as we were designed to; loving others out of our love for God.  

So there is no doubt as to whether what we do or don't do matters. It matters greatly. We are God's appointed means to "put him on display" and to love others so they might come to know him and experience him in all his glory and their greatest joy.

It matters to us as well since we are designed to operate in this way and how we experience the maximum of who God created us to be which in turn brings us greatest joy as well as great reward.

But are our actions, good deeds, obedience etc the means by which we gain/earn God's love and acceptance? 

And are we to seek and find our sense of value, acceptance and purpose by bringing value (doing good deeds) to othersThis is often were much confusion lies and a distinction must be made. 

There is no doubt we can be valuable to others and also no doubt we will derive a sense of our own value in helping others. The question however becomes whether this is the basis for our true acceptance and value. 

To say it another way, do we act to gain acceptance and approval from God and others or because we already have it? If we already have it we will give or bring value to others. And when others benefit we can legitimately rejoice in being the means of showing them God's love. But to garner acceptance and praise of others is not the reason we should act. We are designed to act out of fullness and not in an attempt to obtain acceptance from others by or through our actions i.e. out of emptiness.

This is easy to say but not always easy to identify since the true motive of our hearts is not always obvious to us.

So what exactly is the basis of God's acceptance of us and from where do we acquire our true sense of significance, meaning and value?

In truth, there is *nothing we can do to earn or gain God's acceptance. The ultimate grounds by which we are accepted and loved by God has to come not by our efforts but that of someone else. It is in and by God's approval of his Son i.e. his Son's faithfulness in honoring God and loving his neighbor. This is because we can not and do not honor God or love our neighbor well enough for our efforts to ever cause God to love and accept us.

His absolute love and acceptance of us requires our 100% (perfect) faithfulness. Faithfulness we never do (or can do). Anything less is inadequate, unacceptable and insufficient because God is the 100% cause of life, love and all things (all that we have and are). Because these are true he rightfully deserves and should receive our 100% commitment, faithfulness, honor and love.

Since we never are 100% faithful this had to be done for us if we were ever to be accepted by God. It had to be done perfectly because God is perfect and is rightly due perfect and absolute faithfulness. Only the eternal Son of God could do this and did do this, for us. If there was to ever be any hope of God restoring us to himself, this had to be done because we could not do it ourselves. We simply are too distrusting and too unfaithful i.e. we are not 100% faithful. If he hadn't done this for us we'd be without hope. Because it's 100% obtained for us by Christ we have absolute 100% hope. 

To do things in order to be accepted and loved by God or others will never cause God to love and accept us or give us what we need and were designed to experience i.e. 100% acceptance and love by God. 

To say it simply we don't act to gain value but to give it because we already have it, in Christ. And in so doing we in fact bring real value to others.

We treat others with value because God is 100% worthy of our faithful pursuit and so are others he's created.

God certainly love and approves our doing things for his honor and glory; when we demonstrate our love for him by loving our neighbor as ourselves. It's just not the basis by which he accepts and receives us.

Pleasing God is not performing for God to gain his acceptance, it is operating by faith to spread his glory.
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*The issue in question is a legal one i.e. justification, not the very practical day to day one of pleasing God. Faithfulness definitely pleases God, it simply doesn't justify us and make us right with God or causes him to accept us.

We do things to bring him glory, not to earn or cause him to accept us. 


Monday, November 27, 2017

Lovable versus lovely

Seldom are we are *truly lovely but we are always lovable and even adorable in the eyes of God.

There is something about us that is worth adoring. 

Not only so but 

We have the capacity to experience and enjoy adoration i.e. be adored.

What is it about us that is worth loving and adoring? At a minimum (at our worst and even in our greatest state of rebellion) we are like God in that we still have the capacity to display something of who he is as the ultimate person worthy of all adoration i.e. our capacity/ability to be loved and adored is because we are like God, who is lovable and adorable. 

Because we are like him, we have the capacity to experience and enjoy love and adoration and to love and adore him in return. In fact in order to love and adore him as much as possible, in such a way that even comes close to his true and full worthiness of all our adoration, we had to have the innate capacity to be loved and adored. 

We are designed to be in a reciprocal relationship with God and receive his love and adoration and respond in kind.  And in so doing we can put God on display for others to see and be drawn to him. This capacity, only given to us by God (which was **not lost in our rebellion) is what makes us lovely and adorable. 

Nothing else fits who we are 

Finding love and adoration apart from or outside of God is not sufficient. Anything less then the love and adoration of God; the receiving of these and giving them back to him, simply will not do. No substitutes will work because there is nothing else like God (i.e. There is only one God who is the most lovable and adorable, who created all things and on which all things depend). In this way (the giving and receiving of love and adoration) we are just like God.

He is the most lovely and most adorable and has created us with the capacity to enjoy him as such. That capacity means we too must be lovable and adorable, otherwise we could not appreciate this about him.

When we are truly loved and adored we reciprocate. If we do not reciprocate we have not yet truly experienced his love and adoration. 
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*in fact we can not be truly lovely until we experience the love of God. To say it another way, we were never designed to initiate love for God but to be the recipients of his love and to love him in return. 

**What was lost was our actual loving and adoring of God, not our capacity to love and adore Him. So for all intents and purposes we might as well have lost the capacity to love and adore God. However if the capacity had been completely annihilated we could (and would) never respond to God when he reveals his love and adoration to and for us. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Celebrating our design and our Designer

The creative efforts of people may be carried out for the wrong reason (i.e. to exalt and advance self not God) but the fruit of those efforts is still evidance of the image of God within us all. For this reason we can (and should) fully appreciate the results of those efforts for what they are; evidence of the majesty, wonder and creativity of God within each of us, his image bearers. 


Our creative abilities show us something significant about both God and us. Something that can be legitimately appreciated and admired (even the ability to design and construct the Tower of Babel  gives evidence of the image of God within us).

Nevertheless if these efforts are not carried out in an attempt to honor the one in whose image we are designed, they ultimately are all for naught i.e. they will have no eternal value.

We can and should celebrate humanities design and our ability to create but in doing so we must recognize the Creator (the giver of our abilities) and our utmost Designer is the ultimate reason for our celebration.