ENOUGH!

Let’s see. So far our leader has blamed mental health, the democrats, the F.B.I, and other folks and groups I am sure, for the sorrowful tragedy in Parkland. It seems that whenever possible he deflects all blame away from himself and ignores the issue of too many guns, particularly assault style weapons. I hear that he is willing to consider better background checks. God only knows what that might mean considering that our leader and many of our congress people are in league (I wanted to say in bed but that sounded rude) with the NRA.

Personally I am a Christian which doesn’t make me better than anyone but it does make me part of a community. Christians never ever live outside a community. And in the community of faith, peace and love in Christ there is no place for personal gun rights to take precedence over human life. No place. This is not a Christian nation as evidenced by the fruit of the trees around us. (See Matthew 7)

And talk about mental health. We are a nation of people with an insane desire for power, security and privacy at the price of young human lives. Enough!

I was naively thinking the other day; if we took the money from that possible foolish WALL, we could probably fund better security for every school in America. Maybe we could have a buy back for every assault weapon, AR-15 types. I would personally donate $500. to anyone who would give theirs back.

I am frustrated because those children could be mine, or my grandchildren at this point in life, and our nation and particularly our Christian communities need to say ‘never again’.

As I write this I am thinking that our leaders will DO NOTHING AGAIN. And I pray to God that I am wrong.

May God have mercy upon these young lives and may God judge us if we continue to do nothing, starting with me.

george

THE BICYCLE LESSON. LOVE AND GRACE. A DISTINCTION.

In the Bible the words love and grace are perhaps used interchangeably as in 2Cor. 13:14 ‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ Here we get the sense of the all-encompassing presence of God.

BUT in Biblical Theology grace and love are different. Here’s an example. I love my children very much and want the good for them in their lives. When they were little they wanted to learn how to ride their bikes without the training wheels. Now, I could express my love by saying to them, ‘Oh, I want very much for you to be able to ride your bike. And here, here is your new bike. I wish you well. Go for it.’ That’s love. On the other hand my best move would be to assist them in this training exercise. And so I did. I got them on their bikes, and held the bike for them and went even further by running along side of them as they got the hang of it. And there were times when I let them go that they fell. I was right there to pick them up, dry a couple of tears, maybe apply a band aid and sent them on their way again until they said to me, ‘You can go, dad.’ That is the meaning of grace; love in action, the influence of love, the direction and empowering of love.

In Biblical Theology the grace of God is God’s action. The trinity of God doesn’t need to express grace among themselves. Grace is for those who have fallen from God and who don’t have the ability to get up and get back to God. Grace is God’s moving in their lives to give them that ability.

In the example of the bike lesson my children, by their very connection to me, somehow merited my helping them. But with God, humanity was dead to God until God, by God’s own love, decided to do something to help the creation and us. See, the Bible tells us that while we were sinners and helpless Christ died for us to fulfill the covenant promise of God to bless the whole creation.

I hope this helps to distinguish between love and grace because for a long time I have misused the terms and thus loss much of the meaning of how God in God’s loving character relates to God’s world.

Finally, take a look at this verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (good to read the whole chapter for the best context).

Chapter 2:

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (NRSV)-Bold and underlines are mine.

 

 

 

 

PRO LIFE SHOULD MEAN PRO LIFE ALWAYS. BABIES & GUNS.

PRO LIFE SHOULD MEAN PRO LIFE ALWAYS. BABIES & GUNS.

I am a Conservative, theologically, in that I believe in a sound Biblical, Christ- centered reading of Scripture, one that informs life within the church and within society. I am pro life, for life, for the flourishing of life by all means possible since life comes to us through Christ and in the image of God.

So here’s what I don’t understand. How can Conservatives say that they are ‘pro life’ and deny a woman’s right to choose what happens to and within her own body to save to life of a child that is to be born, and then in the same discussion NOT be willing to somehow deny the right to GUNS in order that little children as well as adults might have life along with their families and the society that would benefit from their lives.

Please don’t tell me it has to do with some obscure reference to ‘swords’ that Jesus makes when you can readily assess the heart and mind of Jesus with regards to peace and violence and ‘enemies’. Is it because we good capitalists don’t want to destroy the arms industry? Are we as conservative Christians so callous to life and so conformed to the world that we are so afraid of giving up guns rights to save more lives?

Help me out here. How can I defend the little child’s right to life within the womb when some of my brothers and sisters aren’t willing to TRY to save the lives of children in the school, on the streets, and in their homes and when they grow up?

This is a decision of THE CHURCH and not just an individual opinion based on a misinformed conscience. This is an opportunity for the church to speak a prophetic word to the church and say, in ‘Christ’s name, STOP.’

Don’t blame the criminals. They are only doing what they know to do. Blame the good people for doing nothing.

What is Prayer?

So I have been thinking recently on the meaning of prayer and the point of such an exercise. Let me first define prayer as ‘the communion and conversation between us and the Trinity.’ I realized that some people pray to the Father and some to the Son and some to the Holy Spirit. For the purpose of this conversation I refer to the Father to whom Jesus spoke.

Recall that Jesus said not to use a lot of words because God already knows what our needs are. And yet Jesus offered to his disciples the model of the Lord’s Prayer, which is a beautiful expression to God of our praise, our daily needs and desire for his will.

Conversation with God is an expression of love as conversation is in all human relationships and since we are created in the image of God it makes sense that God would want such fellowship with us. Prayer is how we express our most basic needs and how we find strength and comfort from God.

It seems from the bible that God wants our cooperation in his work in his world. Jesus teaches his disciples how to ask for anything in his name, that is, in his nature. And sometimes it seems that our relationship to God is like a child’s to a parent where the greatest thrill for a parent is to enjoy the relationship with his or her child and grow in that relationship of love, and trust. God asks for our trust just like a child’s. This is probably why Jesus said that unless we become like children we couldn’t enter the Kingdom of God. I believe Jesus means right now because the Kingdom of God is begun through Christ and when we place our confidence in God through prayer we are within that Kingdom life. Recall that Paul said the Kingdom is joy and righteousness. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 14)

And there is no better place to know that life than in prayer, in communion, in love with God. Sometimes prayer can be in agony but that heartbreak is always surrounded with God’s love and assurance. This is why in Romans 8 Paul says that by the Spirit we call God ‘Abba’, the most intimate expression of loving address. You and I can tell God anything, anything. And we are assured that his listening to us is not in judgment but through Christ his love for us is filled with pardon, strength, healing and comfort. And if we listen carefully, which means being still, we will hear God speak to us, urge us, guide us and when we rise up from prayer we will know we have been with the Father, the Son and The Spirit.

That we can even pray is evidence of a loving God’s invitation into a relationship. So carve out a space and time for prayer. I remember when my children were young there was no greater joy than to have one of them climb up into my lap and just talk about anything, joys or troubles in the day. And at night what a thrill it was to lie in bed with one of them and recount the day’s events.

So may our hearts be given to God in prayer. If you know no other prayer then look at Matthew 6 for the Lord’s Prayer and let it soak into you. Just tell God you love him and let him love you. Reflect in these next weeks what Jesus did for you and me because of God’s great love. And may God bless richly that time you spend with him. I think I will go now and do what I have suggested.

 

How Do Believers Really Know? By Spiritual Insight.

 

INSIGHT: the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing. (Online dictionary)

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (ESV):

And I, when I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Wisdom from the Spirit

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor
the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

How can we know that God is real, that the Bible is true and that we are loved and saved by grace through faith in Christ? How do we know all this and more? How do we know what we are thinking? We know because we know our own thoughts. I know far better than anyone what I am going to do in the next hour. And God knows what God is thinking and what God is doing. Just like the spirit of humans know what humans are thinking, so the spirit of God knows what God is thinking and God has given to us that spirit, His Spirit. There is a spiritual man and a natural man as we see in verse 14. The natural man (person) can’t see or imagine more than his or her world or devices but the spiritual person has the spirit of God. One of the most brilliant scholars in history, John Calvin, wrote these words:

If it be objected, “How can this be known?” I answer, both to disciples and to teachers, God is made known to be the author of it by the revelation of the same Spirit. Moses and the prophets did not utter at random what we have received from their hand, but, speaking at the suggestion of God, they boldly and fearlessly testified, what was actually true, that it was the mouth of the Lord that spoke. The same Spirit, therefore, who made Moses and the prophets certain of their calling, now also testifies to our hearts, that he has employed them as his servants to instruct us. Accordingly, we need not wonder if there are many who doubt as to the Author of the Scripture; for, although the majesty of God is displayed in it, yet none but those who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit have eyes to perceive what ought, indeed, to have been visible to all, and yet is visible to the elect alone. This is the first clause, that we owe to the Scripture the same reverence, which we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing belonging to man mixed with it. (Commentary on 2 Timothy 3)

Look how Paul prays for the saints in Ephesus in chapter one:

17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Can we imagine living with that kind of knowledge and insight, inside of us, knowing the love of the Father, the rule of Christ and the hope we have?  This is spiritual insight revealed by God’s Spirit within us. It’s God’s spirit that opens our eyes and gives us wisdom.

Is it not true that little children know what their parents are thinking because within these little minds has been formed the love and desire of their moms and dads? How much more shall we, the children of God, know what God is thinking about us and for his creation.

This awareness, insight and knowledge all begin at the cross of Christ. That’s where Paul starts when he says that the cross was central to his life and teaching. We need to bow, kneel before that cross where Christ gave his life for us. That cross to the world represents weakness, defeat and failure. That’s how the world sees it because the world has its eyes blinded by the powers of darkness but the spiritual person sees, in the weakness, the power of God at work. In love and forgiveness the world was changed.

If you are reading this and have any sense of the reality of God then know that comes from God himself by his Spirit. This is truly insight. Thirst for it and for the Christ who makes it possible to us. Let us place our confidence in this Christ so that when he calls us to follow him we will know what it means for our life and our future.

And all of this is made possible by God’s grace operating in the sphere of prayer, obedience, scripture reading, and other spiritual disciplines that create an inviting avenue for God’s spirit.

 

Entering the NO JUDGEMENT ZONE

 

If our sins are forgiven through Jesus Christ then why will we be judged at the end times as some say?

According to the God’s word when we truly confess our sins we are forgiven (1John 1:9) and God never again remembers our sins for we read in 1Corinthians 13 that love does not keep a record of wrongs. See also Hebrews 8:12.

There is no doubt that the children of God are loved by their Father in heaven and are not destined for any kind of judgment or punishment by Him. Paul writes in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for anyone who is in/with Christ.

In Revelation 20 there is mention of the judgment of deeds but not for the believers who have followed Christ’s way. Believers’ names are in the book of life.

Another passage is Matthew 25 that speaks about the sheep and the goats which serves as a warning by Jesus to the ‘would be’ followers of Christ to do the things that come from a changed heart. In 2Corinthians 5:10 Paul writes For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.Again this is a warning to all of us Christians to live from our faith, from within our hearts.

Know that at any moment when one turns to God all sins and misdeeds and wrong deeds are forgiven. That is the nature of God’s grace and mercies. God is not interested in punishing us. Christ suffered that for us and to think there is judgment for anything in the believers’ life is to deny the finished work of Christ.

There is a sense in scripture that we may find different responsibilities in eternal life based on the work we have done in this life that again is given to us by the grace of God to accomplish. When the talents are given out say in Matthew 25 the one who is given 5 makes 5 more and the one who makes 10 is given 10 more. God desires from us only in that we are good stewards of what he gives to us. Some people are more talented than others but in eternal life it won’t matter. We will all rule, work and love together.

And what this means for right now today? Don’t judge anyone else, none. Thanks be to God for his grace and mercy.

That’s what I’m thinking.

 

 

Born Again

Today I should like to suggest that the tired phrase ‘born again’ is a very rich expression for life in the Kingdom of God. Recall Jesus saying to Nicodemus, that he must be born again if he was to SEE the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3) One could say ‘born from above’ or ‘born anew’ but either way there is, from Jesus, the sense that one must start a new kind of life. I see that life as one of intentional interaction with God. It is not just enough to believe there is a God who is sovereign, who cares for his creation through his providence. One needs to have a new life experience with God. One needs to trust that God is actually engaged with us, is beginning a new work in us in the words of Philippians 1:6. This God is not static. His life is dynamic with us always moving, and relating with us.I believe that too often we can be satisfied with the theory of God and not the reality of God in us.

Jesus came to the earth to bring a brand new reality that can be trusted. That reality he called the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of the Heavens. And to see that Kingdom as a reality one needs a new birth, a starting over in life with a new perspective that throws out most old notions of God as ‘up there’ or ‘the man upstairs.’ We need instead to place our confidence in the Jesus who came to show us ‘The Father’ and through whom as Jesus said we actually see the most perfect loving character of God the Father.

Maybe other expressions of ‘born again’ would be ‘alive’ ‘have new eyes’ or ‘be alert’, ‘excite your senses’, ‘think outside the box’, ‘get rid of all your restraints’, ‘think creatively’.

If we, any of us, are going to experience Kingdom living here and now we have got to start being creative in the attitudes of our hearts and minds. We cannot love like Jesus love without this ‘interaction’ with the Father. We love because God loved us and that love of God is big. It’s huge. And our little kingdoms that we build all by ourselves do not have the capacity to love like that. When Jesus tells us to forgive everyone or we won’t be forgiven it requires a new dynamic, a new paradigm, a model unlike anything we have ever known. It requires really a new birth experience.

Jesus told his followers, his new students that they needed to become like a little child in order to enter the kingdom of God. (See Mark 10:15) They and we must come with a simple trust; arms wide open to receive the love of God in Christ as never before.  A child places his or her confidences in those who care for them. They are not prejudice. They don’t worry about tomorrow.  They don’t even worry about the clothes they wear. Children know how to love unconditionally.  Jesus had a special care for the children and told the folks the danger of hurting any one of them.

When Jesus tells us to be ‘born again’ he knows that we come with a package of previous behavior and attitudes but he also knows that by God’s grace those characteristics where they are harmful can change. We can set them aside as it were. (See Colossians 3:8) Paul’s writings

So how does this new birth take place? It is a conscious decision to place our confidence in God’s son, Jesus, who came to show us the character and providence of God. And as with a child we learn a new language of trust and love and peace and righteousness. The new birth is certainly assisted by the Holy Spirit, which is why Jesus probably mentions the wind blowing where it wants to because God in Christ is up to a new thing in his creation. It may be the first time we actually experience love from God.

We are given new eyes to see as when Elisha prayed for his servant to be able to see the armies of God surrounded them against the enemies. (2King 6:17)

If we are born again, starting new, revitalized then like a child we will need to learn how to read and here I refer to the Scriptures that can make us wise. (2Timothy 3:15) And as we talk with our Father we begin to learn the language of love.

And most of all being born again means that we become apprentices of Jesus. We enter his school of grace and truth. We sign up to practice the life that Jesus told us to live. He promises to live with and within us, to be with us to the end of the age.

So let me conclude by saying that being born again is a dynamic life with God at every moment. It affects our body, our minds, our spirit, our souls. This is not a theory. It’s not a doctrine. This is the new reality of the Kingdom of God that has come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the Kingdom of God and invites us into life with God.

By the way. Nicodemus? He shows up again as a follower of Jesus. (John 19:38-42)