Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Pompous Piety

Don’t let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  They are just a shadow of the things to come.  The reality of life is found in Christ, not these rites. 
Don’t let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you.  Such a person…is puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.  They have lost connection with the head (who is Christ) from the whole body... All these regulations have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Colossians 2:16-23

We know the world has nothing to offer us in righteousness and spirituality.  To the Colossians, Paul makes it clear that religious ritual is no better.  It is a vague representation of what can be in a person’s life.  While the community of believers is important, too much of a structural façade removes us from relationship with Jesus, the Christ, and each other.  Learning and engaging with the advancing kingdom, all under the rule of Christ, usually requires we look outside of rules and into relationship with a needy world.   False worship is concocted by people, but we are called to only worship Christ and serve his purposes.

God doesn’t require fancy, complicated and fabricated religious practices.  His plan is simple:  focus on knowing Jesus and advancing His Kingdom His way.  No other is needed.  No other system of religiosity satisfies.  All the rules, the rites, the requirements do nothing to bring a life to bear into life in the Kingdom.  

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life.  Finding ways to engage the truths Jesus purports requires more than just showing up, more than passive acquiescence to another’s design for worship and a life well-lived.  Determine to be in hot pursuit of the living Christ.  Following Jesus wholeheartedly will clarify life and the choices you may face. All else will fall away. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Kingdom

To the church at Philadelphia: 

I know your deeds.  See, I have placed before you an open door, which no one can shut.  I have done this despite your limited strength, yet you obeyed my word and have not denied my name…Because you have obeyed my instructions to endure and be patient, I will protect you from the time of trial which will come upon the whole earth and put everyone in it to the test.  I will soon return.  Hold tight to what you have so that no one can take away your victor’s wreath.  Anyone who conquers through faithfulness, I will plant as a pillar in the temple of God and that person will never have to leave the presence of God. Revelation 8, 10-12

This passage is addressed to a faithful body of believers and I want it to be true for me!  Faithfulness will conquer!  This faithfulness involves being true to Jesus and His Kingdom, where my citizenship is housed.  It is my belonging place. When all else crumbles, when the façade falls around me, I will be standing on the surety of God-in-me and the evidence of His Kingdom.  

During my time on earth so far, the presence of Jesus’ Kingdom seems so clear and as I have entered into his realm (his way and his path), it’s amazing in what He has allowed me to participate.  I didn’t always see it so clearly when I was younger and the world’s siren call still held some (false) truth, but now I see that my allegiance can only be to one Kingdom.  Even the kingdom I built for myself, my small realm where I thought my will ruled, has now been subjected to the rule of the living Lord.  His rule is so much better and better for me!

I am grateful for this citizenship which will carry me into eternity.  No other passport exists for that trip other than that of the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always!  I will say it again!  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Don't be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philipians 4:4-7

The Lord is ever present with us !  That is our joy!  He loves the sound of our voices.  He holds the truth, the best for us.  Rejoice!

I think of the anxiety our life holds:  some things in our control, most not.  We currently have a pandemic encircling the globe.  Differing solutions.  Contentious debates.  A time when we might support each other, the disease requires we separate.  Not only is daily life disrupted, but political processes are in question.  National leadership worries us.

Yet God!    If I wallow in my misery and worries, I miss seeing his activity.  I miss seeing him.  Paul tells us to call out. He says to find that sacred place where our pleas can be pure.  Prayer and petition.  My tears need not be.  I need not be afraid! God is present.  He is able.

Dear Lord, watch over my heart and mind!  Lift my understanding.  In fact, lift me to you!  It is there I can have a wider view.  Maybe I can see things as you see them. Amen!

Peace comes from having a different perspective, God's perspective, knowing that God is in control and that he has a plan.  A plan that is limitless, dependable and for our good.  Rejoice!

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Eternal Life Now

God designed people to be a receptacle of the divine, a place where the life of God flows.  Jesus came to demonstrate that humanity could house divinity.  Thus, he became a doorway for people to access a life that has the qualities of eternity.  

Jesus' presence on earth makes it possible for all of us to receive the Holy Spirit as assuredly present (humanity houses divinity). (John 14)  To ordinary human beings, he makes it his mission to offer freedom and wholeness (Luke 4:18).  He brings light and life.  (John 8).  It seems no simple matter to make it possible for human beings to receive glory, yet Jesus does (John 17).  

This is no ordinary life.  It is how any of us can live "right side up," as Dallas Willard says, and head in the right direction.  This is good news.  This is the best news.  Heaven's evidence begins in me now.  For this I am grateful.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Hold on!

While I have not yet arrived, nor have I become perfect, still I am charging on to gain anything the Anointed One, Jesus Christ, has in store for me - and nothing will get in my way because He has grabbed me and won't let me go.  Brothers and sisters, I know I am not complete but there's one thing I am doing:  leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission.  I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts:  to cross the line, to win the prize and to hear God's call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:12-14

My favorite line is "He has grabbed me and won't let go."  In the NIV, the translation reads "I hold on to that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."  Under the power of His attachment to me, I attach to Him:  I hold on!  This creates a sense of the tandem effort (Christ's being the greater), that Paul is depending on to advance to his ultimate goal:  heaven.

I have to leave all behind, drop my baggage, in the pursuit of the resurrected life.  Too often, we hold on to other things not helpful in the faith walk, which keep us from grabbing hold of the hand that Jesus Christ offers to us.  

As a former rock climber, the climb represents a good analogy.  Whether I use a hand up from a fellow climber or use the rope system to pull myself up, I depend on the placement and strength of my buddy or the ropes.  They don't give way.  They guide.  To engage the climb and the help offered, I cannot look back; my hands and feet have to be clear of all encumbrances not useful for the climb. My eyes have to be engaged on the system offered to me.

I see that Jesus, as he offers the hand, requires a total commitment from me.  Leave the past behind.  Embrace the present - the present moment and present gift of a life with Christ.  And to keep my eyes on the path I am on, both present and future.  I see it now:  it is the gift of the presence of Kingdom of Heaven now.  That is my focus.  It is my hope and surety.

Jesus was intent to offer this new life and his hand that is to lead us into new life.  He was intent upon its presentation.  The present tense nature of the language shows that this "attained" life is offered now; the only delay would be us.  God intends to give us access for life today, as much as the future.

For now, let's hold on to what we have been shown.  (The Voice)
Let us live up to what we have already attained. (NIV)
Philippians 3:16