Let me ask you, yeah you who are reading this, I am asking myself too…

What do your beliefs do for you?

Think about what you “believe.”

For you, what does it mean to believe something?

Can you believe an idea and actually do something else?

Does your believing have any influence in the day to day of your life?

Is your belief set so that you can escape the fire of hell and damnation?

Now that your sins are taken care of, does that make you feel better about yourself? Is your gospel about making you feel better after you sin?

Are you now cozy and comfortable reclining on your sofa of ignorance and entertainment as you are entertained eating the elephant out of the room?

You laugh, but at what? Is your meaningless life funny to you? What is really going on here? Do we know what we are doing?

My life is good, you might say, so all is good in the world. Is that true?

God wants to prosper me right? He wants to give me stuff, stuff at the expense of others. Wait a minute.

I take and take and take. Then I say, thanks God for this stuff. You have surely blessed me. Hold on a second.

My prayer is but a laundry list, a grocery list, a honey-do list, and a chore list.

When I get what I want, the job, the car, the spouse, the car, the wardrobe, it must be because I am a good little boy. It must be because I deserve it.

How disillusioned I am. How easy it is to believe my lies. How painless it is to justify how I live.

Do our beliefs merely allow us to separate ourselves from responsibility?

Or do our beliefs set us free, free to live an abundant life?

Is your belief about not dying?

Or is your belief about living a complete life, of beauty, of wholeness, of fullness, of richness?

Do they catapult you into the workplace, into the family home, onto the field, to be an agent of justice, peace, and reconciliation?

Do your beliefs automatically cause you to love others, not as parts and pieces, as labels and stereotypes, but as beautiful creatures whom God intends to make into radiant beings of his perfect love?

Are your beliefs congruent with the life and ministry and teachings of Jesus?

Who is Jesus?

Or does it even matter to you who he is?

Think about this, a quote from the song ‘Four Word Letter (Part 2)’ by Mewithoutyou…

We hunger, though all we eat brings us little relief

We don’t quite know what else to do

We have all our beliefs

But we don’t want our beliefs

God of peace

We want you

Burn it all down, as Aaron Weiss (the songwriter) says, “why not be utterly changed into fire?”

Jesus will build you up. Have faith. He can handle your questions. He is the great I AM, the alpha, the omega, the beginning and end. Let us all worship him for who he is, not for who we would like him to be. Seek him and you will find him.Amen.

Advertisements

In a mere moment my life was shattered. Who is this god I worship? Holy and pure, righteous and just, is he upset with me? Do I make him happy or disappointed? Is my life good enough to please his holier than though posture, for he judges the world with wrath right? Is it his voice telling me I am not good enough, that I need to do better? What does he say or do to me when my arrows miss the mark? Is he the voice that says repent or go to hell?

Whose face do I see in the mirror? When I see myself standing there, how do I interpret the reflection? Is it shame, disappointment, frustration, anger, rage, the cold shoulder, judgment and even worse condemnation? Am I worthy of standing in the presence of such a god, who with his look manipulates and controls me to do whatever it is he wants? In the presence of this god I feel crushed, chained, and burdened. In his presence I understand myself as a cadet crushed and chained by the power of the system.

This god makes me feel terrible and awful as he shows off his skills to the crowd. This god feels like the parent or boss who yells and screams saying, “I can’t believe you did that! You fool! Don’t you know better? You idiot.” Or maybe it feels like the cold shoulder of disapproval, or even the silent treatment. This god says, “You better shape up or else!” Pressure. Punishment, urgency and hurry are his techniques to get the desired outcomes. “If only you could be good,” he says, “I could do something with you.”

This god likes it better when I am afraid of him. He takes pleasure as I squirm and sweat, trying to be a better person. I walk on eggshells around such a god, hoping I don’t do something to piss him off. He is only on my side when I am doing as he wishes. He cheers me on and shows his love, but only when I score the goal, or make the pass, or keep the ball on the field. His attention is conditional, his affection determined by my performance, and his love contingent on outcomes. Perhaps this is not the true God, the one who formed me in my mother’s womb, the one who knows me by name, and can count the number of hairs on my head. Maybe this god is not God; maybe I have created a god in my own image.

In a moment, my eyes were opened as I saw for the first time the beauty of love. It was like waking after a long dark sleep to a rising sun full of warmth. It was like coming out of a piercing winter of a perpetual absence. It was like digging a pit too deep to climb out and suddenly a finding the hand of a friend to pull me out. You might say it was like carrying a load and suddenly, in a moment, there was no load to carry at all. Perhaps it was like life itself breathed a breath of life power into my soul. The rain fell on dry land.

His rod and his staff, they comforted me. He led me to eat and drink. He led me into the valley of shadow and death, and there he said, “Fear not, I am with you.” He prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies, in the presence of all the lies and perversions of who he is, there he anoints my head with oil and fills my cup till it overflows. Surely his goodness and mercy will follow me, everyday, in every moment. I can rest assured I will dwell in his house forever.

In this moment I speak of, I heard a different voice, a voice that speaks in the silence. A voice that says, “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.” I said, “But you don’t know me, you don’t understand what I have done, or what I am capable of doing. Obviously you can’t love me. I am unlovable. I am unworthy. I could do better. The voice again said, “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.” “No it can’t be! I said. “I deserve more punishment. I am not ready. I am still I!” The voice told me again, “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

He tells me that I am before I do. Don’t worry, he says. He really does want what is best for me. He is gentle and kind, tender and strong. He is capable of handling my sin. He says, “Ok you missed the mark. I’ll take care of that. Your job is to let it go. Let it out and move forward in becoming the kind of person I can trust to carry out my will, the redemption of the world. Go and be forgiven, and be empowered to live in a response to the reality of such great and unforeseen forgiveness.

Jesus may your love be enough because you said it is so. Amen.

The highest form of knowledge transcends a subjective/objective duality of understanding the world. It rises above the black cloud of confusion between science and religion. Love is realized in its most supreme form when history takes a turn at the beginning of the first century. Love is fulfilled in the life of Jesus, in his life in submission to the Father, empowered by the Spirit. And even more love takes its ultimate form when this man takes his love for the world to the cross, to the grave, to the pits of hell itself, and rises after overcoming the world by his love for it.

It is his wisdom that knows humanity is resistant to change and will take up arms to defend them. His wisdom, the wisdom that founded the earth and established the heavens, knows love is the only way to bring shalom (wholeness) into a shattered world. His love for such a world is transcends all other forms of knowing. It is the way of the disciple, as Jesus says, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have loved one another” (John 13:34-35).

Jesus is the smartest man that ever lived, and still lives; smarter than Einstein and Newton, smarter than Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, smarted than Buddha and Gandhi. All forms of technology and good living fail to sink below the surface of a world in turmoil. Technology cannot save the day. Progress is and can only be fueled by man’s greed to create a world other than God’s world, the one he has given us to care for. Man cannot build an ivory tower high enough to reach immortality. And trying harder cannot get us home either. In vain does the world spread its nets in search of anything that ‘works for me.’ No, do not be fooled by the many gods formed in the furnaces of idolatrous hearts. There is but one God, the God Jesus of Nazareth, who walked among us, and showed us the answers to all of life’s most difficult questions (Who am I and why am I here?). Only by his grace can we become the kinds of people he can trust with the immeasurable weight of his love.

People hurt, we hurt ourselves, we hurt others, and we hurt God. We know it is true.

Violence takes many forms. It is a word here, a silent scowl there. It is throwing punches, with fists, words, actions, and a failure to take action. Violence is the way of insecurity and of weakness. It is anger that takes things into its own hands to get whatever it is that it wants. Violence is man’s way of making right what went wrong.

True strength is not benching 400lbs or squatting 600lbs. True strength is not domination. It is not forceful or manipulative. Manipulation is the way for us to use words and wit to control what we otherwise could not with the sword or gun. Violence insists on its own way, and takes the necessary steps to enforce its particular ideology. Violence starts in the mind or in the heart, where when it takes root it spreads like wildfire in a parched pine forest. Just take a quick look at the media, the election cycle, politics, pop culture and sports. Take a quick ride on the 405. Or even we should take a quick look into our own hearts. Violence is there, waiting to spew forth like the hissing steam from a locomotive.

Violence takes advantage of the situation. Perhaps even to control the way and what people think. It is rooted in a desire to control that which is not built into man’s responsibility. Men and women are not created with a capacity to control other men and women, no matter the age or hierarchical position. Men and women together, humans in community, male and female are to bear God’s image. I alone cannot, you alone cannot, but we together under God’s refuge, we can.We can only when set free by God’s loving kindness to participate as his co-creators, to use our native creative spirit of imagination. I cannot tell you how to be you, and you cannot tell me how to be me. Only God knows the real me. And together in God’s community and under his Law can we then express our individuality, “Community over individual liberty”(Bill Dogterom).

We can bear his image only in a covenant relationship with God, built on the rock of his love for us, his most magnificent creation. It is possible only in a safe place of right living (righteousness) in relation to his commands (to live a kind of life that is best for us as his creation) and worship of the God who says, “I AM.” Surely this is the only safe place to stand. If I stand anywhere else but the rock of His reality, it is all but sand susceptible to the erosion of wind and water. Without a proper place to stand in faith, my life transforms from the hard rock of the mountain into a pile of quick sand.

Jesus responds to the violence on the cross with a friendly forgiveness, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus responds to what man has made wrong with patience and kindness. Jesus lived a life believing that anger does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20). On trial with Pilot, Jesus showed us that the Kingdom of God is not a kingdom like that we know all too well, like the kingdom perhaps in the heart of many or even myself.

Who is your god? Is he the God revealed to us in the historical and living person of Jesus? Or is he a god you have fashioned in your own image. A god who is an idol, one that is only a resource for promoting the self-esteem or for giving you what you want? Does this god look at you with frustration, disappointment, or condemnation? There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8)!

Take a look at your god, if it is not like Jesus, then it is perhaps not God at all. I encourage you and myself to look closely at Hebrews 1:3, “He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Let’s read and re-read the gospels humbly, assuming we do not know this great God yet like we must. Let’s read and understand Jesus to get him right, not to reinforce our already preconceived formulations. To know Jesus in an intimate relationship of conversation is to know eternal life. By the Spirit can we know and believe such a great and holy God of the universe.

Jesus is the wisdom of the world. He knows how to manage my life better than I do. Jesus know how to ride my bike better than I do, and he will teach me how, if I can get over my arrogance and let him show me. The temptation is to say, “No wait let me try this again, I can ride it I promise, watch me!” And he will let us try and try and try until we give up. By his grace does he enable us to become the kind of people that could not otherwise ride the bike by ourselves. By his grace does he make eternal life possible now, from day to day. Let us repent and believe in the good news that Jesus is here to save us from ourselves and from others and from the violence of the world. He is here to have us partner with him in saving the world by the only means possible, love.

Love is patient it is kind, it does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends!

Is the Law of God bad? By no means, the rules of the game are pure and true and perfect. He does not intend them to become a burden in our lives. In the context of community they are intended to bring life and direction. His Law is righteousness. Whom other than the creator God should have the voice to tell us how we ought to use or body, mind, and spirit? God’s word to us is within the framework of covenant relationship, and out of his steadfast love and faithfulness does he seek us out, reveal himself, and maintain the relationship.

It is the law that gives opportunity to sin, for sin cannot live on its own. Sin and evil are like parasites, which latch onto the host body, to steal kill and destroy. Sin perverts what is good, only for the benefit of evil. Evil becomes sort of like the knucklehead child who moves about the room tearing down Lego’s and Lincoln Logs, what is good, what other children have created. And perhaps this same metaphorical knucklehead kid wishes only to play with others, but yet somehow lacks the ability to do so, and instead does only that which he knows how to do and do well, destroy (not that kids who cause trouble are evil, but that evil tears down what is good). I may be wrong, but this is what I think Paul is talking about in Romans 7.

The Law shows us the way to true living, and yet evil is close at hand. We delight in the Law of the Lord with our minds, but do not act like it is true. Who will deliver us? Christ Jesus! Therefore there is no condemnation for those in Christ because he gives us the gift of his Spirit, the gift of his life in our heart, and writes his words on the fleshy tablets of our hearts. While we were his enemies he died for us, for the world, for all of creation, to set things right.

Let me just finish with this, if you hear condemnation and shame in your church, from your friends or parents, or in your mind, that is not the voice of Jesus. Jesus says to us what the Father said to him, “You are my beloved son or daughter in whom I am well pleased.” This blessing is one that brings us to life, the eternal kind of life here and now, on this side in this reality. It is his love that sets me free. Paul says at the end of the famous chapter 8 of Romans, “38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing to Lose

When I was growing up my Father taught me the benefit of the underdog. The underdog is a name given to a person or team not favored to win. The odds are stacked against them. It was my Dad who explained to me, that the underdog has nothing to lose, because they are already expected to lose. People are betting against a loss. Perhaps we have experienced this phenomenon first hand, or maybe by following the world of sports, but at times the underdog comes up from underneath all odds and beats the giant (David and Goliath, Egypt and the Israelites, Average Joes vs. The Purple Cobras, Scotland vs. Britain, Civil Rights Movement and The Tyrannical Powers of Control, and the list goes on).

The greatest underdog moment has to be Jesus on the cross. Most of his friends have abandoned him for fear of their own life. His own people put him on the cross to die a criminal’s death. The Romans can’t help but take the opportunity to mock him with a crown of thorns and a sign of the charge against him saying, “This is Jesus, King of the Jews.” In the moments of his greatest agony Jesus knows there is nothing to lose, only to gain. He understood his life not his own, but given by the Father. It is with this great love and humility, that God saves the world. He saves it not by sending legions of angels to defeat the powers that crucify him, but rather by dying for the very ones who spit in his face.

On the cross as seems to be lost. The earth shakes as the sun recedes from its place in the sky giving way to utter darkness. All hope is lost. Man is in his darkest hour. There is no time when God’s presence was further from the face of the earth. And yet somehow, when all seems lost, when the odds are stacked against the kingdom of God, when the evil powers of the world celebrate in victory, Jesus rises again in all glory and power. The fat lady did not sing, the buzzer did not buzz, and there was still time on the clock. What a come from behind victory!

Paul says to the Philippians and to us now, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

There is nothing for us to lose because it is not ours to gain in the first place. The only thing I can claim is Christ! So I can go into everyday life, knowing deep down, that things may be taken from me, possessions, jobs, reputation, relationships, and yet there is still nothing to lose and nothing to fear. There is nothing to lose because my victory is in Christ. So why not follow Jesus when there is nothing to lose, only to gain a life with God himself. He is on our side, even when it seems he is not. Let us remember we are underdogs with Christ.

We switched homes with grandpa Dan almost two years ago. When we moved in the pedestal sink in the bathroom did not drain. So we asked grandpa about it. He said, “Yea it doesn’t drain. Water splashes out of it anyway, so I didn’t bother with it. Instead I used the bath or the kitchen sink.” Since he is our landlord, obviously, what we wanted to know was whether or not he would have it fixed. From his statement we found out quickly, like he, he expected us to do as he had done, that is not use the sink. Instead of calling a plumber, we took a look at it ourselves and found the problem in the sewer line, something too great for the regular do it yourself kind of person. Rather than forking out the couple hundred dollars, we chose to live with it. That meant brushing our teeth in the kitchen, washing our hands in the tub, and using the sink to hold hair trimmings, curling iron, and blow drier.

Today I caught myself. After putting product into my hair, my hands were dirty and sticky. So I went over to the tub and turned on the faucet. A small voice spoke to me in that moment, especially after spending time an hour earlier reading about ingrained habits of sin. I did not have to consciously think about using the tub, I just did it, and it was second nature. But I had a revelation moment, “stop, why use the tub when you can use the sink, the plumber fixed it a few days ago!”

Perhaps this is how our habits take control over our lives, mostly without even an awareness of their presence. Yet we shall not be slaves to our habits, but slaves to God, to the Lord Jesus, and he will deliver us, he will bless us, he will grace us with righteousness. He will give us freedom. But first would be wise to listen.

%d bloggers like this: