Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Abundant Life

 ...I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.   John 10:10b

It is deeply disturbing and unsettling of how accustomed we have become with death:  death on the street, death through violence and war, death of the soul.  I wonder if we have lost the vision of life before death, as a result, and not just life after death.

Where Jesus is, there is life.  There is abundant life, vigorous life, eternal life, which, because it begins now, allows us to envision life-before-death. We may need some definition on this abundant life.  Many verses actually describe this present life-before-death, but I will use my favorite:  John 17:20 - 26. 

In this, Jesus' prayers for you and me (all future believers). He tells us his request to the Father for us: that we will be unified with him and the Father, that we will share in Christ's glory, which will serve to facilitate the unity of the entire community with the Father and Son.  He prays that we would contain the love of the Father and the Son.  The love of the Father drove him to inhabit the earth and attempt justice and reconciliation for his creation.  Could we become so passionate and compassionate for life-before-death?

The "Passion" of Christ is not a one-off, tragic incident of God's intercession with humanity.  It is the final expression of God's passion - a devotion for and a costly response - for his exiled people, which is all of humanity.

Let me be so passionate for the lost world around me.  Let it be a passionate devotion, sacrificially offered, life-giving, relationship-restoring life.  New life!  Life possible before death, which leaves no room for apathy.  Self-sacrifice as Jesus modeled brings life into view today (before death). 

Friday, April 22, 2022

The Council of God

 The secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear him and to them he makes known his covenant.  Psalm 25:14

Here is a reference that is made several times in the Old Testament that is essentially about the company we keep.  With whom do we end up in close deliberations?  With what circle of friends do we engage that provides our foundational beliefs and guidance?  

And what does it mean to have that circle of friends be the LORD almighty?  This word and verse have caused me to enter prayer looking for the viewpoints of the triune God.  The God of the universe who holds foundational authority has something to say to me.  His Son, the co-creator, Messiah and my brother has a word for me.  The Son's revealing, enlivening and engaging Spirit wants to provide wisdom and direction.

I am reverent before them and astonished to be in their circle.  I bow low before their greatness and availability, especially to the fact they want to make known the foundational knowledge of their intent and will for me and mankind.  This is their covenant they want to portray and give to us.

What is this covenant?  Just the commands?  In the original language, covenant comes from a pair of words that engages the communal meal, which is intended to feed, and then dispatches its members into action.  It is the relationship energy of this counsel, which can be seen in other uses in the Old Testament.

Jeremiah 23 (verses 16-17 is about lying prophets) and verse 18 sets the contrast of a different prophet: Who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and hear his word, or paid attention and heeded God?  Verse 22:  If they had, they would have God's truth to tell and people would turn away from evil...

Amos 3:7 The Lord does nothing without the secret council, revealing his secret to his servants, the prophets.  (spokespersons, inspired persons).

So, God's movement within people groups doesn't happen independent of those he intends as truth-tellers.  He is working in his prophets who are in deep relationship with the triune-ness of his being and can be trusted to give clear access to the ways of the LORD:

     from God the Father, the final authority;

     through Jesus, His Son and our brother;

     with the Holy Spirit, indwelling and revealing.

I am in awe and reverence of the communal experience and my inclusion in his council, which translates into good counsel for my life, my purpose and God's purposes for the community.  It can turn me into a good prophet, ready to love, first, and vanquish lies and heavy burdens for his people, next.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Very Good!

 Richard Rohr points out/says that we, as part of creation, were made good:  in fact, “very good” as the crown of creation. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good...Genesis 1:31

I note that "very good" was the assessment that God made when he added mankind to creation. 

If you made a list of the "good" things in life, 

would you be on the list? 

If we are highly Christianized, we would argue that "there is none good," quoting Paul in Romans.  I'm going to argue for a different view of ourselves based on Old Testament revelation.

We are taught about original sin and how we all sin.  Well, sin is prolific in personal and community life, but I am not sure about the original sin bit.  The original sin doctrine did not get formulated until the 300s by St. Augustine.  He argued that God made us sinners.  I'm having trouble balancing that with a lot of scripture about our original goodness, even as unique individuals. (Psalm 139) God did not intend bad for us.  You cannot read that anywhere in scripture.  He, rather, intended good, of which there is tons of scripture, including "he works all things out for the good in those he loves..." (Romans 8:28)

We can embed our identity in this goodness, especially as we explore identity and flourishing, spoken of as "righteousness" in the New Testament, which means "being as one ought to be, as God intended."  He intended us to be good.

This makes us all the more responsible for our sin.  It is not innate in us, though prolific around us.  We have the core identity of what God has given and the chance for spiritual power to overcome all these principalities' sin offerings.  

I wanted to find that inherent goodness that God intended for me.  I want to live it out.  I want to ride it into the presence of God so we both can find joy in the creation evidence in me. Paul even tells us how to join God in that pursuance:

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, rejoice.  Aim for restoration, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.

  • Finally – what remains (final pursuit)

  • Rejoice – be well, thrive. 

  • Restoration - returned to original intent - be made complete - make one as they ought to be.

  • Be made complete –mend, repair; outfit, equip; strengthen; find the good ground/foundation of one’s being.  “frame of oneself”; be as one ought to be (as created/intended by God)

  • Be comforted – parakaleo – call for/draw alongside of

 those who console, encourage, strengthen

  • Be like-minded – phronea – understanding, be wise

 about yourself, modestly humble yet with honest assessment

 (savor truth)

  •  Cultivate peace – irenea - protection during vulnerability and tenderness (as in protection for young plants in the spring)

  • God will be with (with/after/behind) you -denotes accompaniment
That would be Very Good!

Friday, January 28, 2022

Be a Monk

 I love history and have often passed through studies around the monks of old, of several religions.  They are an interesting lot!  I decided that monkism needed a modern definition so I could be one, too.

Here is the old definition:  Usually a member of a religious community living under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Here is a new definition for the Modern Monk:  A member of the family of God who decides to live in the world, yet under a different pretext and premise for life:

  • To engage in poverty that is non-indulgent in goods and wealth that interfere, cloud or block the full presence of God, yet accessing the "good" goods in order to join in the joy of God's creation and God's work.

  • To rest in a definition of sexuality as God designed it in order to enhance our goodness and as a way to enter the good of God.

  • To respond in obedience to the love of God, carrying out love-actions through compassion, inclusion of all people, and justice-seeking.

All of these exclude me from the world's way of thinking, its culture, but doesn't preclude me from the world's needs and issues and my proper place in it.

Do you want to be a modern monk?

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Humility II

 Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others.  Be humble, thinking of others better than yourself.  Phil 2:30 NLT

Don't push your way to the front; don' t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself to the side, helping others to get ahead.  Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourself long enough to help others.  Phil 2:3 The Message

The clash of worldly "wisdom" with that of God's wisdom when it comes to the subject of humility is clearly seen in this verse from the apostle Paul.  For any person who has been indoctrinated into the way of competition and opportunity in American culture, we are often blinded, if not resistant, to biblical truths.  Messages that we are given to "make something of ourselves," to "get ahead," "be successful," are strong within the culture and can become so strong, so ingrained that we don't even see the Bible's opposing viewpoint, let alone comprehend it.

I know what it means to be involved in one-upmanship, always striving to be heard or seen, often thinking I had the best or final word to be given.  The race to success can be very alluring (and culturally rewarded).  It can lead us to make gods of ourselves, but the problem is that it is truly a rat race and if you are in it, "remember you're still just a rat." (Lily Tomlin)

God proposes something much different.  He proposes that we put ourselves second to others, that we not pursue our own way, that we not be concerned about what others are thinking of us.  This thinking couldn't be more opposed to what we are taught by the culture.

In Corinthians, Paul says that we are dealing with strongholds in our life that can only be dealt with divine weapons.  We cannot look to any source but Jesus to determine how to live.  The battle will only be won through His resurrection power.  For me, that means I lay down the weapons, the tools, the ways of this world and pick up the power-infused weapons, tools and ways of God.

Maybe you have been given a unique advantage in that you can have been taught those divine ways since birth.  You have held the power of prayer in your heart and mouth, the wisdom of God's Word in your mind and hand, the strength of God's Spirit and the unity of the fellowship of believers.  What a gift to know that you've got each other's back and the full of knowledge of Truth, which overcomes every insignificant idea that comes up out of the messages of this world.  

Most of all, you bear the name of the Creator of the universe.  His image is pressed within you.  You have the mind of Christ. It is a high calling to represent Him, which will require that you lay down your earthly strength, your worldly knowledge in favor of His.

How could you not do so!