Monday, December 28, 2015

Unable yet still accountable

Christ tells us the greatest commandment is love God with all our heart... and our neighbors as ourselves Matthew 22:36-40.

However how can we be held accountable for not being loving when we don't have the ability to be loving on our own i.e. without God? Joh 15:4-5,12

We may not have the ability within ourselves, independent of God but

1. we do have the capacity to receive love i.e. we are still in His image.

2. we are offered free access (in and through Christ) to the source of infinite, eternal love, God himself. 

Once we receive love from the source we are empowered to love and to be loving as we were designed and have the capacity to be.

If we are freely offered infinite, eternal love and have the capacity to receive that love, It is our choice to accept or refuse it. Though we are not forced to accept God's love, the lack of fruit due to our refusal, is our responsibility i.e. If we refuse to receive the love of God and thereby are unable to love others as a result, that is a choice we have made and will be accountable for.

Our not being able to give to others what they need is not because it's unavailable to us, but simply because we refuse to receive it ourselves, so we might have it to give to others.

This would be like coming across someone starving and not having any food to give them. But you have been told there is someone who freely offers all the food both of you will ever need, yet you refuse to accept it or tell others because you distrust the one who offers the food.

If you refuse to receive what is freely available, you in turn are unable to freely give it to others, when you could have easily done so, if you had only accepted what was offered.

This is a choice you are fully responsible for. 

#Unable #Accountable #Faith #Love #ThoughtsAboutGod #ThotsAboutGod

Saturday, December 26, 2015

What is growth part 2

Growth for a believer is becoming who we already are. It is coming to the place that our experience matches our status.

As a child of God we are fully loved yet we often don't sense being fully loved.

God is fully present yet we often don't sense his presence.

God is always working for our good yet it often appears he is not.

Why is this?

·        Part of it is simply because we still live in a broken world full of pain and suffering. No matter how close we draw near to God this will be part of our existence until we leave this world. That is an external issue and the reality of our existence in a fallen world. 
·        Part of it is we don't truly believe or understand our glorious status as his beloved children. This is an internal issue and the reality of our limitations and our distrust of God. 
·        Part of it is we don't trust God fully and are still inclined to be our own god, seeking to gain a sense of meaning and purpose and love from anything and anyone other then from the one where it is truly found i.e. God himself. This hinders us from experiencing the love of God, already completely secured for us in Christ. This too is an internal issue and the fruit of our fallenness. 

The solution?

Know who God truly is and how he sees you as his beloved and precious child (this is an ongoing process we will never stop pursuing or reach the end of).

Know who you truly are as a creature designed for infinite love that can only be truly satisfied in a relationship with your infinite Creator (this too is an ongoing process you never reach the end of).

  • For a fuller discussion on God's objective love verses our experiencing it subjectively click here
  • For additional thoughts on growth click here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

God exalts us when…

Before God can exalt/advance us he has to sufficiently set us back/tear us down i.e. Humble us.

What does that humbling process look like? 

We have to come to the place that we fully recognize we are not the source of love, of life, of our identity (we are in his image not ours), our ability, of anything.

Our very existence and breath comes from God. 

We must know this not just in our heads but in our hearts; at the core level of belief/trust.

Even our trust is only as good and as strong as the object of that trust i.e. God himself. If we do not understand the greatness of God we will not and cannot have great faith/trust.

We are creatures and all that we are and have comes from our Creator...not some things...everything!

If we are to experience all that God offers, we must recognize God is behind and in everything offered. God himself is ultimately all that we need.

"...when I am weak, then I am strong."  - Paul an apostle of Jesus. 2Co 12:10b

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. - Jesus Joh 15:5  

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." - James an apostle of Jesus. Jas 4:10  

"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything... for "'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, "'For we are indeed his offspring.' "-  Paul the apostle to the Greek philosophers in Athens. Act 17:24,25,28

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! 

How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 
"For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" 
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." - Paul an apostle of Jesus. Rom 11:33-35

#Humbled #beingexalted #Advanced #ThoughtsAboutGod #ThotsAboutGod

Monday, December 21, 2015

Experiencing God's presence

Our experiencing the Spirit of God stirring our hearts and illuminating our minds (as well as other manifestations of his presence) is not a black-and-white experience i.e. It's not all or nothing; like a switch we turn off or on. It's more like a dimmer switch with a range of brightness and darkness.

Some may tend to think if we are not fully trusting God and walking with him, we are completely alienated from him. This is due to our thinking in terms of a performance-based approach to God. This approach says he loves us when we are faithful and doesn't when we are not i.e. we are naturally inclined to think if we are unfaithful he completely turns away from us.

In reality our closeness to God and experiencing his presence is totally based on our movement to or away from God, not Gods movement. God never moves, only we do. His love is fixed, constant and secured for us in and by Christ. 

And we move in varying degrees. The closer we draw near to him in trust, humility and love, the closer he draws near to us i.e. the more we experience a manifestation of his presence in our lives i.e. the extent to which we drawn near to him is the extent to which we will experience his manifest presence.

On the other hand, as his children, God's disposition and posture of infinite love toward us is fixed. He never moves or turns away from us ever again. He is always with us and always fully engaged with our progress; always focused on us in total love and commitment; always working in and on our behalf. His love is constant and his commitment is absolute, complete, solid and unchanging.

This is because his commitment to us is based on the efforts of Christ, not ours. Nothing will ever cause God to reject His adopted children or cause him to love us anymore than he already does in Christ. He is his own cause i.e. love within the community of Father, Son and Spirit is the only driving force in how he approaches his image bearers. Christ removing the consequences for our rebellious distrust and hostility toward God is the only reason He pours out this love on us without reservation. 

To say it another way, we must distinguish between God's love objectively and subjectively. God's love objectively never changes. It never stops, it is fixed and will never be greater or more than it is right now because of Christ. And that because it's based on Christ's performance/work, which is complete and not ours, which is always wavering.

On the other hand, because our faithfulness is always ebbing and flowing, our experience of his love subjectively is always changing, always ebbing and flowing, always going up and down, with hopefully an overall upward trajectory as we increasingly press into him in greater and fuller love and trust. 

The maturing process and new areas of awareness

As we mature our experiencing the presence of God requires an increasingly greater degree of faithfulness on our part (demonstrated by our obedience to his commands). Not because God loves us less or because we cause God to be nearer, but as we mature we become increasingly aware of previously unknown areas of distrust where we were not faithfully pursuing him in total love and trust. We are drawing nearer to him in trust as a result. 

As we mature God increasingly reveals to us new areas of our distrust. This is why, as we mature and become more aware, we don't sense his presence as easily as before (or sometimes as often). There are new areas of unfaithfulness we are now aware of. Once we are aware, but remain unfaithful in these new areas of awareness, we are now consciously and deliberately pulling away from God in distrust in these new areas we weren't previously aware of. This affects our sense/experience of his presence to the degree we consciously draw near or do not drawn near.

For example, in a relationship, if you unknowingly act in an unloving and untrusting manner it certainly hinders the relationship. But it's innocent, not deliberate and therefore more understandable. 

If, on the other hand, your partner has clearly pointed out areas of how you can more faithfully show your loyalty and love to them but you deliberately refuse to do so, you are consciously expressing your lack of love, thereby straining your relationship and alienating you from them.

Unlike a human couple however, God's love for us never ceases no matter how faithful or unfaithful we are. We simply pulled away from his love. But he never stopped (or ever stops) loving. We pulled away nevertheless which effects our experience of God's love, though not the actual love itself. 

We have heard it said that ignorance of the law is no excuse. But in Gods economy of grace vs law, ignorance actually does matter i.e. Unknown unfaithfulness and known unfaithfulness are treated differently by God and experienced differently by us. 

Rom 4:15  For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law (hence no knowledge or awareness of violating it) there is no transgression...

You will get wet paint on you if you sit on a freshly painted bench. And you are responsible for this in the sense it wouldn't have occurred if you hadn't sat down. But if there is a sign saying wet paint and you sit down anyway, you not only get wet paint on you but you deliberately caused it to happen. You may argue you didn't believe the warning sign, but you were warned nevertheless and it was your choice to not believe. You consciously acted contrary to the warning and knowledge of possible consequences.  

As a parent of a toddler you will treat him or her differently for doing toddler like behavior because you know they are a toddler. For example talking in baby gibberish or dropping his sippy cup is understandable and even acceptable for a toddler, but not so much for a normally developed five-year-old and even less so for an adolescent.

God, as our heavenly Father, loves us equally in all stages of our development but if we knowingly distrust him in a given situation, we are consciously and deliberately alienating ourselves from him by disregarding his will for us. 

Whereas before we had matured we weren't as aware of all the areas of distrust and unfaithfulness often hidden from our awareness and buried deep within us. As we mature we acquire new and greater awareness of where we could be trusting God and faithfully pursuing him more but still choose not to. Whereas before we simply did not know.

So though our unfaithfulness never causes God to stop loving us it does result in our pulling away from God and following his loving directions for us. In essence it's is questioning his love for us. This means we are not trusting, loving or drawing near to him.

Don't forget mercy

It is also important to know that God is merciful. In other words how he deals with us is not rigid or in black-and-white terms. Often to further prove his love he will be merciful and work with us even in our unfaithfulness and not always directly according to our faithfulness. This often occurs when we truly see how offensive our distrust of God is and have genuine remorse. But this is entirely his prerogative. He alone knows how to best deal with his beloved and often wandering children.

Our experiencing a sense of closeness to God involves our faithfulness to God. The more areas of unfaithfulness we are aware of the more areas we recognize we must be faithful in.

Jas 4:8  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded
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.
Malachi 3:7  From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, 'How shall we return?'
Psalms 145:18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
Joh 14:21  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.
Joh 14:23  Jesus answered 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.
Joh 15:10  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.

#GodsPresence #GodIsWithUs #Emanuel #DrawingNear #ThoughtsAboutGod #ThotsAboutGod

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Faith is hard work!

We often consider faith as being passive. However faith is hard work.

It was not easy for Christ, when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemaneto commit to going to his death on a cross. If it were he wouldn't have asked his father three times to remove it or broke out in a bloody sweat while asking.

It is not easy to trust in God when things look impossible. 

It's not easy to humble ourselves and depend on him, trusting he is providing for us exactly what is best and most needed at that time when our circumstances seem to indicate just the opposite. 

It's not easy accepting what we think we need is not always what we really need. 

It's not easy believing God is working in the midst of all the craziness in the world, politically, morally and economically. All of these require faith that God is bigger than what's going on and accomplishing his perfect plan, not just for the world but for us personally.

But once we have decided to trust God the struggle stops and we experience a settled calm and peace. The battle inside us ends.

And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

...And he came the third time and said to them (Peter, James and John), "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." - Jesus. Mar 14:36, 40-42

#Faith #HardWork #Peace #Calm #ThoughtsAboutGod #ThotsAboutGood

Monday, December 14, 2015

Human behavior… Two keys - one solution

Two key aspects of humanity that significantly shape how we approach each other and all of life. 

1. We all desperately want to be considered valuable/important/ worthwhile... In a word we all desire love... to be loved

In fact our desire for love is infinite. When we do experience love, is it ever enough or do we want more and want it to never stop? (few people feel or experience overwhelming/infinite love so our expectations are low. Therefore we don't normally recognize our need for love is this great i.e. infinite. To allow ourselves to believe there is such a love opens us up to being disappointed if it turns out not to be true.)

2. Underneath all the exterior pleasantries and display, we all live in pain and are fearful and untrusting of others. 

Do we approach someone we know who loves us dearly differently than a total stranger? Why? What is the difference? The one who loves us dearly has proven their love, so we trust them. The stranger has not.

The solution:

1. God is infinite and eternal love (he not only loves but he is love) and offers this love to us through his Son. This love is the very life of God (for more on this click here and here). It is called eternal life and is available to us as a gift earned on our behalf by Christ...if we humbly receive it. 

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given himAnd this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. Joh 17:1-5   

2. God is infinitely good, wise, powerful and present. We not only can approach him in and through Christ but we can trust him because of Christ  i.e. In Christ God demonstrated his infinite goodness wisdom power and presence, proving he is fully worth our love, loyalty and commitment.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

It's just who I am.

Once we say our desires alone define who we are then any desire goes.

If I desire young children sexually or animals or even dead people (yes there are folks that are attracted to this. It's called necrophilia), then it is OK because that's just who I am.

Of course these are extreme examples to illustrate a point. It becomes apparent there must be something other than desires that determines right and wrong behavior.

If we say desire and consent is alone the determining factor for what is right and wrong, then it's OK for two people to consent to kill a third person simply because they want to. If the third person doesn't agree or consent does that make them "murderaphobic" or hateful towards the other two?

When we worship at the altar of self, eventually anything goes as long as self is fulfilled. This assumes that there is no fulfillment outside of self gratification. But what if there is?

If we are broken (and we all are in different ways. For some the manifestation of that brokenness is more obvious and less socially acceptable than others i.e. It's a matter of kind and extent, not whether we are or are not) and offered a solution but refuse it, that is a choice we are responsible for. 

If we are offered greater fulfillment outside of our preferred manner of fulfillment, but refuse it, that does not make the offer inadequate, illegitimate or unreal, it simply means we refuse the offer.

What defines someone being whole versus being broken? The creator and designer of that someone.


For a discussion on the basis for morality click here.
For a definition of sin and the necessity of judgment click here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Is God angry at evil?

Is God angry at *evil? Absolutely! If he were not angry about one person abusing another he would not be loving to the one being abused. It is simply wrong to hurt another. We know this instinctively and all too well, especially when we are the objects of harm and abuse.

By the way, who is the nut job that came up with this notion that there is no right or wrong and morality is a myth? We know in our gut this isn't true. This is why movies like Star Wars are so popular around the world. Instinctively humanity believes there is good vs evil no matter what your world view or religion. This is also why treating others as we wish to be treated is echoed in all religions.

In addition, treating others in an unloving fashion matters not just to the one mistreated but to God himself. Why? Because we are his image bearers whom he greatly loves/values. To hurt one of us is like a slap in the very face of God. It would be like someone defacing or destroying the Mona Lisa (valued at $782 million btw). Leonardo da Vinci (or the present owner) would not be too happy would he?

The beauty and wonder of God is His love for us is so great that he took out his anger for our abuse of others upon himself, in and through the death of Christ, so we wouldn't have to. We are no longer required to pay for all the pictures we have (or yet may) marred and damaged. God did this for us.  

And not only so, he offers to credit us with his life of perfect faithfulness in exchange for our life of unfaithfulness if we will accept this gift.

*Evilרַע   (pronounced ra) (948c) in the Old Testament Hebrew; from the same as H7455; evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity

— adversity (7), calamity (4), disaster (2), evil (94), harm (2), harmful (1), hurt (1), ruin (3), surely (1), trouble (2), unpleasant (1), wickedly (1), wickedness (1).

For a related discussion on the necessity of judgment click here

What is growth?

What is growth? Is acquiring new knowledge, new facts, new data or new information about God, growth? This is "growing" in a sense. We are increasing information; the amount of facts and data that we have in our memory banks so to speak, is greater. 

But what is growth for the Christian? Isn't it much more than gathering more or new facts? It is in fact something very different. It is an increase in confidence and trust in God which is a matter of the heart and not our heads. 

We must not just know the right things about God, we must believe the right things. 

The mind is engaged in the process of gathering new information but it is only a means to engaging the heart, moving the heart, evaluating the lack of trust in our heart. True growth is growth in the heart which is the result of an increase in our trust and faith in God. 

To say it another way, there is a difference between gathering information and acquiring wisdom. Wisdom is applied knowledge and requires faith in applying that knowledge. 

Filling our heads with information about God is not the same thing as trusting aka * "knowing" God in the biblical sense. 

We often confuse great knowledge with great trust/faith. The former is necessary to reach the latter and can result in increased faith, but they are separate things. You can have the former, and a ton of it, without ever obtaining the latter. 

The church is full of people who know much (and are usually arrogant because of it) but trust and therefore love God or others little.

The truest indicator of knowing in the biblical sense is humility, not arrogance. 

Certainly knowing the correct facts/information is important. If we believe the wrong things it will lead us in the wrong direction e.g. If you think you need to go south when you actually need to go north, you'll wind up in the wrong place. But the facts alone (even about God) will not necessarily change us. Only trusting, believing and than acting in faith regarding them will. We can have the perfect road-map but if we don't trust it and use it, it will do us no good and we will never reach our destination. 

* know - γινώσκω, ginōskō

Thayer Definition:

1) to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel
1a) to become known
2) to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of
2a) to understand
2b) to know
3) Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman
4) to become acquainted with, to know

Note that knowing in the above sense involves relationship, such as what is involved in sexual intercourse. This is obviously more then just information.

A derivation of the above is 

̓πιγινώσκω - epiginōskō 

epi is a preposition that generally means: upon, on, at, by, before and add's more focus and direction to the word "know." 

Thayer Definition:

1) to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly
1a) to know accurately, know well
2) to know
2a) to recognise
2a1) by sight, hearing, of certain signs, to perceive who a person is
2b) to know, i.e. to perceive
2c) to know, i.e. to find out, ascertain
2d) to know, i.e. to understand

Epiginosko is the main variation the bible uses when talking about knowing God. 
  • For more on the challenges for the church of being puffed with by knowledge click here
  • For more on growth click here

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Free will?

I find human behavior fascinating (my own included e.g. "...why did I do THAT?!")

In light of this I found the following video thought provoking.

This demonstrates that even though we have "free wills" (everyone made their own "free" choice to stand) our will's are heavily (if not completely) influenced by our need for acceptance/approval/love (or at least what we BELIEVE we need to do, to acquire or achieve these).

When our identity is strongly anchored in Christ (he loves me no matter what I go through or what others think, do or say), we are not so easily swayed. In fact if our identity/sense of who we are is soundly rooted/grounded in him, I would suggest we will not be swayed at all. This is likely why dictatorships do not like "religious" beliefs and most aggressively try to oppress and outlaw Christianity and other faiths. We are not as easily influenced by their threats (because we are more influenced by God).

How much of your behavior is dictated by what OTHERS think, do or say? e.g. When the polls go contrary to your views, does that effect you and make you reconsider your position. If not, you either are very principled with strong convictions or you have a strong personality and are more a leader than a follower. If you are anchored in Christ this will instill in you a strength you did not have before to do what you are convinced (believe) is right in the face of opposition. The expression "having a backbone" comes to mind. This is the essence of leadership; courage in the face of great opposition.

Influencing our choices?

In light of the above video, if you have ever wondered whether news is controlled... in some way or another...just a little bit...maybe not a lot...etc, the below video might be a clue.

Also notice the topic of these reports in the below second video. Does it sound like someone might be concerned about the economy? This raises the thorny questions of WHO is concerned and how exactly are they influencing these reports.

This of course also raises the question of what else are we being told (or not told) to get us to act one way verses another. Hmmm, free will indeed. Just some food for thought.

Note also these are not from national news sources (or pitches...or whatever you want to call it) i.e. the "control" goes all the way to the local level and not just at the national level.

But wait! It's all probably just a coincidence, right?!

Why, in Gods name, does He love us!?!

Does God love us based on who he is or on who we are?

If by who we are we mean what we do or don't do, no. This is not the grounds on which we are loved. Nothing we can or will ever do will cause God to love us.

Is there anything about us that God loves? Yes there is but it has nothing to do with our doing anything. It has everything to do with how God made us i.e. our being; who we are. 

We are in his image i.e. like God, and he loves this *about us (and therefore loves us; who we are). Why? Because we are able to enter into and participate in the beatific love of the Father, Son and Spirit and reflect that relational infinite love back to him as well as out to other of God's beloved Image bearers, along with all the rest of His highly valued and beloved creation. 

(Let us remember that after each act/day of creation God said it was good. And when he finally created mankind (male and female), the crown of his creation, he said it was all very good).

So going back to the original question on whether God loves us because of who he is or who we are, both are true. But the latter is based on and springs out of the former. So in this sense God loves us because of who God is first and foremost. 

If God were not who he was first (and had not made us the way we are as bearers of his image) there would be no love. No love within God first and therefore no love going out to all of creation in general and his image bearers in particular. Everything is based on and grounded in God being Father, Son and Spirit in blissful and loving relationship from all eternity past. And by virtue of being created as his image bearers, we are able to fully participate in this beatific union.

"And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent... I made known to them your name, and I will continue (by His Spirit) to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." - the very last words of Jesus at the last supper right before his arrest and crucifixionJoh 17:3, 26

* in fact both we and Christ are in the image of the Father. Christ is the eternal image and only begotten Son. [ Col 1:15; 2Cor 4:4; Heb 1:3 ] We are the created image and adopted sons and daughters in Christ. This is why Christ's is called our brother.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Freed in Christ… Both ways!

In Christ we are freed in two ways

* We are freed from the condemnation of our failure to love God and others as we are designed. A failure that keeps us in a subtle but constant state of guilt and shame (for more discussion on why we experience constant guilt and shame click here). 

This is a change of status or standing before God which is based solely on Christs efforts and performance instead of ours.

* We are also freed from addictions and destructive behavior by these being replaced with something exceedingly and infinitely more satisfying and captivating.

At the heart of addiction is a longing to ease pain and to acquire pleasure. However what we usually seek does not work and even harms and sometimes destroys us.

We need something that is constant, lasting, fulfilling, life-giving (not life taking),.. in short we need infinite, eternal love. 

Infinite love only comes from an infinite, eternal source. The infinite eternal source of God himself in and through Christ.

The first freedom comes from a change of status or standing. The second results in a change of our day to day behavior. The second springs forth out of the first and occurs only when the first is clearly understood and believed. 

#Love #Captivating #Eternal #ThoughtsAboutGod #ThotsAboutGod

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Does "sin" matter?

Does our distrust/unbelief/sin matter?

Regarding God's love for us, our sin/distrust has absolutely no bearing and no longer matters. If we are in Christ we are totally and fully loved. His commitment to us is fixed, unmovable and relentless.

Regarding our fully experiencing that relentless, never ending, total and unconditional love, our sin/distrust absolutely matters and has total bearing.

A loving parent never stops loving and desiring the best for his or her child no matter how badly they mess up.

An untrusting and disobedient child however pulls away and alienates themselves from their parents love and does not fully participate in and experience the fullness of it. 

Distrust hinders the child's maturing and growing up to be the best they are capable of being for their own joy, good and the parents delight. A loving parent always seeks to bring out the best in their child and for their child.

God is certainly no different. In fact his is the perfect parent. Unlike our human parents God is perfect in love, perfect in wisdom, unlimited in ability, possessing all the resources to bring about our best and is always with us no matter how much we turn away from Him. 

Are you a child of God? If so you are fully and infinitely loved, no strings attached. This is a fixed and unrelenting reality.

Do you trust your heavenly Father completely in every area of your life? Do you believe He is always for you, for your highest good and not your harm. If not you are missing out on fully experiencing the infinite love God, your perfect heavenly Father, has for you.

By not understanding and distinguishing each (how our sin matters and doesn't matter) from the other, we miss out on fully benefiting from both.

Does sin matter, part II

#love #Unbelief #Trust #thotsAboutGod #ThoughtsAboutGod

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Worthless rotten sinners?

In Evangelical circles we often hear we are unworthy of God's love. Is this true? It depends on what we mean.

If we were worthless, why would God send his Son; the Son who the Father holds in highest regard and of utmost value; the Son of his infinite love and affection, to take upon himself our just judgment and assign to us his perfect righteousness. The very fact that God the Father was willing to sacrifice someone of infinite worth (his only begotten Son) says something of our worth, does it not? God must have felt we were worth it or he wouldn't have gone to such radical measures to restore us to Himself.

Can we be of great worth and actually worthy of his love while totally undeserving at the same time?

Are we splitting hairs? I think not. We in no way deserve what God has provided. In essence we tell God by our actions and attitude to go "pound sand." Certainly nothing lovely or deserving about that. That much is abundantly clear. Grace (a gift) in itself says we can never do enough or be good enough to earn God's love and therefore we can and never will participate in God's uninhibited and unfettered love. Without Gods intervention and provision we are toast.

It is not until you acknowledge and believe these things (a matter of the heart) that you can truly receive and experience God's love. The degree or depth to which you believe these things to be true is the degree and depth to which you will experience them to be true. 

But this is very different than saying we are not worthy or worth God acting in love on our behalf. If true, than why are we worth it? Is it due to something we have done? No! It has to do with who we are, who God has made us to be. This has nothing to do with what we have done for or by ourselves.

Why are we of such great value to God? Because we are like God. We are God's image bearers and therefore highly valued by God. Would not God value His image in us? We are after all the only created being that is like God himself. We alone have the capacity to receive God's love and return his love in a way (the same way the Father, Son and Spirit give and receive it) that all the rest of his creation cannot. This brings him joy and the honor and glory he rightfully deserves in a way nothing else in creation can. But this is Gods doing not ours. He made us this way, in his image, not us (click here for more discussion).

Psa 100:3  Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Our attempts to be in right standing with God through our independent efforts are worthless or worse yet are as "filthy rags." But we are not worthless.

In order to become worthless we had to have worth to begin with. So what made us become worthless? Our not conducting ourselves as God's image bearers i.e. not living to and for God's glory and honor as we were designed to.

Rom 3:12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; (why?---->) no one does good, not even one."

Being in Gods image alone however is inadequate to restore us back to God because we rebelled and rejected his design for us and this original status. Thus requiring God to restore us back to fellowship with him by doing for us what we could never do for ourselves i.e. by removing the consequences of our not loving God as we ought and were designed to and in the place of our unrighteous distrust of God along with all it's consequences, offering us his righteousness as a gift i.e. by and through grace.

So there is nothing we can do to earn God's love. His love was and is totally undeserved but we are absolutely worth it or God wouldn't have done it.

Some other links that look at different aspect of this are as follows. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The different "flavors" of Christianity

I came to Christ my senior year in high school at a Nicky Cruz Crusade in 1971. Cruz came to Christ through David Wilkerson who was of a more charismatic persuasion. My first church I attended was a fundamentalist Independent Baptist Church (the John Rice, Jack Hyles, Jack Van Impe legalistic variety...if you are old enough to remember those dudes). Before that I was unchurched. Neither of my folks were practicing faith of any kind, though my mom was raised Catholic and my dad was the Church of Christ I believe. 

A year after I came to Christ, I went off to Lynchburg Baptist College (now Liberty U) and than transferred to Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International U) two years later. I graduated from Columbia in 77. Columbia theological roots were in the Keswick or "deeper life" movement. 

While at Columbia I was exposed to the whole spectrum of views through the various students and faculty, from reformed, to Arminian, to deeper life, to charismatic. I also started reading folks like Francis Schaeffer and CS Lewis and works out of a more reformed tradition. I eventually landed in an Orthodox Presbyterian Church for a couple of years after College (which is on the far right and most conservative spectrum of reformed churches. Solid doctrinally, but very little life. They were all "up in their heads." The label "the frozen chosen" I found to be pretty appropriate. But I learned a ton theologically while there and became more convinced and grounded in a reformed theological outlook).

With my than growing family (2 already born and one on the way) we moved to the Massachusetts in 82 to open a sales office for my business. While there we attended a Christian Reformed Church (Dutch Reformed) for about 4 years, than a Congregational Church for about 6 years eventually landing up in a Baptist church for around 6 years (my wife had left me and the Baptist church had a strong youth group which I attended for the benefit of my 4 kids). 

After living in Massachusetts for approximately 16 years, I moved to the west coast and attended an Evangelical Wesleyan Church for 4 years, eventually landing up in a non denominational Charismatic Church (co-pastored by 2 brothers) for the last 13 years where I taught an adult bible class for 12 of those years.

I am now in a Baptist church (in name only, which they keep under wraps) that operates more like a Presbyterian church in it's form of government (plurality of elders/pastors) and also in their eschatology and soteriology.  

The main thing Baptist about them is they practice adult Baptism. Otherwise they even enjoy a good glass of wine or a beer. Definitely not the kind of Baptist Churches I use to attend. (They also do not emphasis the "cultural mandate" of exercising dominion over all aspects of culture which is more common in more Presbyterian and Dutch reformed circles).

Why the history? I have seen a lot of shapes and varieties of churches and observed what I feel are the good and weak sides of these various groups and have drawn some conclusions along the way. The following are what I have seen.  

Charismatics tend to draw their sense of God's love through his present work and activity such as experiences and manifestations of his love in and through his Spirit. They are more experience and feeling oriented, tending to look to experiences/manifestations more than God's word, even at times giving experience more weight then God's written words to us. Given the inclination of our fallen hearts, I have concluded this is not solid ground to stand on. They tend to be so focused on present experience they can lose sight of the significance, importance and completeness of God's past work in and through Christ on our behalf and the vast depth and richness of that work i.e. they tend to chase present experiences/ manifestations of God instead of focusing on and enjoying the rock solid realities of God's presence in spite of present experiences/manifestations or lack of them.

On the other hand non-charismatics types i.e. Calvinists, Baptists and evangelicals in general tend to focus more on God's past work and to some degree his future work (Christ's return) with minimum emphasis on his present work i.e. operating "in the Spirit." They tend to draw their sense of God's love through the depth and breadth of Christ's past work (If and when they do. Many evangelicals only know more about God instead of actually have an ongoing vital experience of God personally. I find this is where Charismatics generally are stronger than many evangelical churches. They at least have some life in them, if not always as strong a grounding in God's word. The downside of this however is they can confuse some subjective experience as proof they know God, when their experience may have nothing to do with God). Non Charismatic types are propositional or doctrine oriented (even among those who do not consider themselves cessationalists but still recognize the validity of all the gifts and the various activities of the Spirit). In fact they are so focused in propositional truth and scripture they confuse knowledge about God with knowing God. (I discuss this further here). There is very little emphasis on seeking God's presence or manifestations of his presence through His Spirit and what that looks like in our day to day walk with God.  They are so focused on Christ's past work they tend to lose sight of God's present ongoing work by His Spirit.

Both Christ's past work and the Spirits present work are a necessary means by which God shows his love and grace to us and both are equally vital. To focus primarily on one to the exclusion of the other is missing out on a vital means by which God shows himself to us, no matter which side you fall on this difference.

We cannot emphasize one to the point of minimizing the other or we will miss out on the full benefit of both and the necessary connection between them. A key work of the Spirit is to reveal to us the things of Christ. And not just propositionally, but in the day to day experience and manifestation of his presence through the various gifts as well. 

Now in saying all of this, these differences are not absolute distinctions but are tendencies. All groups would say they believe what the other groups emphasis, but in practice there is a very definite distinction from my experience and observation.

I would also add the present church I attend (Baptist in affiliation) is more "charismatic" than most and the former charismatic church I was in is far more scripturally oriented than most, with a slight reformed leaning. But even with these two more "centrist" churches there is still a considerable difference between them when you look "under the hood" and see how they operate and what they emphasis. 

For the non-charismatic groups, seeking and knowing the work of the Spirit is vital and a key missing piece. We are under grace because of the past work of Christ. But to be under grace is also to operate in the presence of God by His Spirit. I touch on this more here.  My present church tends to emphasis the former and minimize the later.

Where I have landed... at present

I have personally been heavily influenced by Jonathan Edwards and those who have studied him, such as John Piper (a Baptist), Tim Keller (a Presbyterian) and Kyle Strobel, a professor at Talbot Seminary. 

(Strobel is considered an Edwards scholar and done some excellent work. Edwards is wordy (he uses the 1700's variety of English. Not unlike King James type English minus the "thou's" etc) and hard to understand. 

Strobel does an excellent job of bringing out key aspects of Edwards understanding of God in language we can understand. I highly recommend all his work but the book at the following link is a good overview of what Edwards addresses. 

I have also posted a summary of some of the main truths Edwards discusses here). 

While Edwards (along with the others mentioned) are clearly within the reformed wing of the church, Edwards understands the importance of operating in the presence of God and the role of both our affections and our reason. As some may be aware he's written an entire treatise on "Religious Affections" in an attempt to assess the increase in emotional displays witnessed during the "Great Awakening" in the early 1740's (folks loudly crying out to God for mercy, going into trances or convulsions, fainting, weeping sometimes for days etc). Though he felt there were excesses and counterfeit displays of "the Spirit" he also believed much of this was the work of God's Spirit. 

(by religious Edwards means "spiritual" as we would use it today. Not the legalistic performance based variety common within the Evangelical community) 

Interestingly, Edwards stresses (and scripturally I believe) that Christ is the Word of God i.e. the truth and light of God revealed and the Spirit is the passion and love of God displayed by which Christ is revealed and the grace of Christ's work is applied (for a further discussion on this click here). Or as he also likes to say, Christ is the light of God and the Spirit is the heat of God. Both vital in experiencing all that God offers. So Edwards would not fit well in either a Charismatic or a stereotypical Evangelical church today or maybe, to say it more positively, he could possibly work well with either. 

The balance and conclusion

Our current walk with God is anchored in the past work of Christ. Without that work there wouldn't be our present walk. Our present experience of God is based on a clear understanding of this past work. But our walk and our focus is on God being present with us right now, today in our moment to moment experience. We are not to focus only on the past work or our future hope but our present ongoing dependence on/faith in/walk with God. Our experience of God does not start and end with the past work of Christ but only begins there. This past work is the vital foundation for our ongoing participating in the ever present love of the Father, Son and Spirit. As scripture says, "the just shall live (present continuous action) by faith" and "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Gal 5:25).

God did what he did in the past so that we might know Him and walk with him in joy and power in our every present moment to the glory of His name.