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.

Do I observe the world outside?

Do I give an ear to what is said?

Do I look out the window and see what there is to see?

Do I have an awareness of the words coming from my mouth?

Aye, these questions may lead you or me into some truth.

And yet to escape them, I must face the most challenging question of all.

It is the question of the condition of my heart.

Faith

As far as I know, there is only one verse in the holy book that defines faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11.1-3). Faith has its sights set on home. It sees the evil of the world, but is assured that God is doing his part. It knows by experience, that there is no purpose going into suffering, but there is purpose coming out.

It is not just an intellectual idea, but a reality grounded and rooted in an understanding that I died with Christ, and if I died with Christ then I am in him and he in me. It stands in a reality of the incarnation, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It lives in a way that these things are true, that the old man has been buried, and the new is risen in Christ. By faith I am forgiven, and I live, as it is true. Faith holds firm upon the rock of God whose kingdom will not be shaken by any other force thrashing about in the darkness. Faith chooses to believe what Jesus believes to be true about me, even when I feel as though it is not true.

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