Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kingdom of God & His Gift of Grace

Eph 3: 2-13.".. administration of God's grace that was given to me for you".
The word administration also translates as stewardship, being a trustee for something that doesn't naturally belong to us. God gives us the gift of grace for others.

The Jews thought that this grace was for themselves alone, and was their undoing.
In Romans 9:5
Theirs is the adoption as sons;
theirs the divine glory,
the covenants,
the receiving of the law,
the temple worship and
the promises.

Paul was to tell them that the grace was for all nations.YHWH's plan in Gen 12 and 15 was about all nations, all peoples not just the Israelites.

Here we see more of what God had in mind. YHWH's type of government is one of grace, the currency is the flow of love Romans 5:5. This is the economics of the Kingdom of God.

The Jews took Grace for granted and thought it was exclusively theirs.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

In Matt 5:22 sober judgement is seen in how we should treat one another.
22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,[hold in contempt]' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Our opinion of each other should be one of promoting reconciliation and keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of Peace. Later in Matt 5 we are cautioned about leaving our gifts at the altar if we know someone has something against us. in Proverbs 6 we are minded that....
16 There are six things the LORD hates,seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,a lying tongue,hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

The Prince of Peace expects that his rule in righteousness result in peace.
Isaiah 32: 17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace;the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Psalm 119 According to Your Word

Psalm 119: 25 I am laid low in the dust;preserve my life according to your word.

We lived in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, CA and we had just received our Green cards and returned to West Point. Because of delays in getting our INS appointment and the impending exit date on our Visa we made decisions to let others live in our home. Now we were back in the US and homeless.We began to establish our business in the one stop crossroad town of WestPoint, CA.

As they say it was the best of times and the worst of times. But my desperation and frustrations of those months brought me to a nailing my feet to the floor on what was truth and what wasn't. I needed to separate the wheat from the chaff of life and didn't know where to begin. Now I can smile at how in my anger and stubbornness at what was happening to us. "Spitting feathers" was a phrase I used to a few people! But the desperation I felt, led me on a journey that has preserved my life according to HIS word.

My discipleship journey began in earnest. I remembered conversations and sermons from John our pastor, he talked about the 'all or nothing approach' to being a believer. If following Jesus is true then He deserves our whole lives and attention. He preached on the Good Shepherd and I began to trust in that truth.

Also at that time that I was working out what the Kingdom of God was all about, reading only the Gospels. It wasn't long before I read about First things First!I needed to know what it meant to me in the here and now, as we camped out on Gene's (another pastor) floor and as we began fueling our IT consultancy and the many ad hoc businesses we had in the pipeline.

Duh : Seek first the kingdom and his righteouness".. I have sung these words from when I went to folk mass in the 70's but 30 years later - the reality and power of those words struck home.
Matthew 6:32-34 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Here was a wheat and chaff distinction I could easily make.

From there the second principle of Mammon or Manna became a reality in short order that I continue to be reminded of nearly 9 years later!

Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money".

As I read about how God provided for his people in the wilderness and how He calls us to open our mouths so that He can fill it. Psalm 81:10 sums it up with "I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it".

That's a level of dependency that I was embarking on and it rankled. Surely being independent and responsible was the grown up way of living? Now I understand that as I was provided for in infancy and grew to maturity that I needed to learn to depend and trust spiritually. I would need to know my heavenly Father's provision in ways not encountered before. Sure enough, lessons were learnt from that time that has increased my sense of God's Fatherhood and provision. He never fails.

That time of dogged desperation to know God better and how He wants me to operate in His kingdom has given me the sanity of being able to walk according to His word. The knowledge that Jesus is the Good Shepherd has deepened over the years through His presence and peace. The challenges have been many and varied and will continue as they may. But I know that the Good Shepherd will lead me and guide me, I will fear no evil because He is with me. That is enough. That is all I need to know.

Those two principles, have guided me and given me strength over the years, for which I am eternally grateful.

What begins in humility and desperation will end in grace and peace.
25 I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.
32 I run in the path of your commands,for you have set my heart free.

If life brings you low today, you are in a good place. In due time the Father will extend his hand to you and help you to your feet.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

God and natural disastors

"We are too prone to error to make unequivocal statements about someone else’s damnation". This was a statement in a friends blog, it think it so true.

I was reading an article yesterday about how natural disasters are to be seen as God's condemnation. I think when God decides to do use nature to punish evil, we will all know about it. We are exhorted in the NT to "overcome evil with good", and that its "his kindness that leads us to repentance". I think that is where God is this side of eternity.

In the OT as physical blessing was seen as being in Gods favor, calamity and disaster were viewed as God taking vengeance on evil people and actions. This gave people the "heads up" to repent. Even then God relented from sending calamity. It was fairly cut and dried.
Nowadays, we are far removed from "appeasing the gods", we even medicate ourselves when we can't cope with the evil within and without.

I don't know whether God has moved on in his punishments, like a parent who tries to figure what works/what doesn't to get our attention, but natural disasters as messages of condemnation account for as much as Chicken Little saying "the sky is falling". Personally, I think God has moved on...unfortunately we haven't.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The road to a Nazarite's proclamation - Luke 4

Judges 13 and Samson - No Razor, No Raisin, No Carrion. Let your hair grow, no grape juice in any form and don't touch dead stuff! That really sums up the Nazarite vow. What can we learn from a vow such as this for today. It gives focus for life.

Samson was obliged to live a life under a vow, one that was thrust upon him. God did indeed use him by killing the philistines on various occasions. We may not like how he conducted himself with women but he was God's guy for 20 years and God accomplished what he wanted through his life and death.

Lets look at Jesus, a Nazarite with a mission in Luke 4. Before Jesus proclaimed his life's work he went through the three temptations.

Lesson 1 Man does not live on bread alone.
Luke 4:4 Deut. 8:3 "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD". His obedience was crystallized in knowing His sustenance came from the Father.

Lesson 2 There can only be ONE!
Luke 4:8 "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only"
Deut 6:13 "Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.
No explanation needed here, I trust ;)

Lesson 3 Putting God to the test?
Luke 4:12 "Do not put the Lord your God to the test".
Deut 6:16 "Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah".
At Massah and Meribah, they questioned the presence of God with them and they quarreled among themselves. Exodus 17:7 "And he called the place Massah [means testing] and Meribah [means quarreling] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"

After the temptation Jesus proclaimed:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. (The focus is on Gods word)
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, (God who created can recreate and heal)to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."(God does not send a message of condemnation).

Being resolved on these three aspects of our relationship with YHWH i.e. will give us a backdrop to our mission in ministry.
God is First
His word is Fulfilling
His presence is Faithful

Coming out a time of temptation is meant to make us stronger, give us acuity of sight and begins a life of separation within the ordinary daily routines. We can more clearly see our Savior through the pots n pans of daily life and speak of His faithfulness to others, in a relationship that is fulfilling which communicates that HE is the one we are to adore.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Joy in everyday life - - sources that satisfy

Proverbs 19:3 "One's own folly leads to ruin,yet the heart rages against the LORD".

It was only last night that I heard a heart that "rages against the Lord". She was really disappointed in God. She felt that she had done all that was expected of her and now God owed her "joy" at the very least.

So what is the source of joy?
Deuteronomy 16:14 Be joyful at your Feast—you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the Feast to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.

We all enjoy a well executed plan, an accomplishment, the work of our hands. In Deut. we see that God aids our efforts by blessing the harvest, and the work of our hands. Both Heaven and Earth working together makes our joy complete.
Gratitude to God for his work, gets us out of ourselves. Knowing that God has blessed our best efforts is a great source of strength. (We get an appreciation of that when we look at events surrounding the rejection of Cain's offering - he became sullen and angry which eventually gave way to murder)

Fulfilling your mission in life

John the Baptist had his joy completed by hearing the voice of the Bridegroom - Jesus. The work he was sent to do was accomplished and that was the source of his joy. John 3:29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. Remember, John's lot in life was not "happy go lucky". He was born to elderly parents, lived on locusts and honey in the desert, an agitator to the comfortable religious leaders, a thorn in the side to the king of the land and was eventually beheaded as a party favor! We wouldn't have recognized the joy he was speaking of.


Jesus tells us what works for Him - obedience to the Father and tells us to do likewise. John 15:10-12 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

John 16:24 Jesus tells us to pray and our joy will be complete. Again it's inviting God to be part of the day events and efforts. "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete".

Being in a Community of Faith
When those around us are amicable with each other, add to our joy, like Paul experienced in the Philippian church. Philippians 2:2 "then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose".

A little R&R....God style

1 John 1:4 "We write this to make our ("your" in some manuscripts) joy complete".
Reading and ruminating on the word of God and what he has done for us and how he expects us to behave towards others gives joy.

Simple friendship and conversation produces joy.

2 John 1:12 "I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete'.

Psalm 90:17 "May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands". Amen

Friday, June 12, 2009

Grace in everyday life, How do we do it?

James 4:6 "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."This is the foundation to being able to receive grace.

As far as treating people, are they simple, foolish or evil? Applying wisdom i.e the book of proverbs to figure out what you are dealing with is a good start. If people meet the conditions of being able to receive grace, i.e humility then we have a conversation and we can "faithfully administer God's grace in its various forms." I peter 4:10. Then God's wisdom through prayer and hard work follows.

Here is a brief overview of how I see God implementing his grace.

When we think of Law and Grace we can easily drop into just the Pauline views on the subject rather than take a whole bible view. If we take a broader approach, we can learn more about how God applied law and grace to the whole human race.

God's process was to begin with a relationship in the Garden. God was with them, God was near. That got disrupted to say the least, now we were on the trail of choices and consequences, then structure with ten commandments and Levitical laws. All of these ordinances were to visibly show that God wanted to live among them. We still didn't get the meaning of God's grace and we see that "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. (Jonah 2:8) This sums up the experience of the Israelite/Struggle and walk with God.

Now, we move to a situation that God has to send Jesus in person to walk and dwell among us. That still wasn't enough - we crucified him! Thankfully, God raised him from the dead so that Jesus continues to live, and that favor of God gets extended to us through his mercy and compassion. God sealed us with His Holy Spirit and now we can administer the grace we have received.

I think that we do people an injustice when we require them to act differently than what they show themselves to understand. Rules and laws are there for our/their protection when we don't have that knowledge or forethought within ourselves. When we learn the basic rules, its only then we progress to applying the principles those rules were based on.

Isaiah 28:9-11 "Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk,to those just taken from the breast? For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule;a little here, a little there." Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people"

"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. Jonah 2:8
God will teach us, the question is will we learn?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

On Being Too God centered: are you sitting comfortably?

This a thought provoked by another blogger imonk on the subject of being too God centered.

Sometimes it seems we are like children trying to get the Fathers attention with our religious antics, or chasing 'heavenly butterflies' rather than sitting with Jesus in heavenly places looking with "compassion on all He has made".

The question I ask, what are the Religious antics in my life? Maybe the answer is not to ask the question and get side tracked but rather love Him with all our heart soul mind and strength. After all our positing this is what really counts. The depth of our love for God will be reflected in how we do the second part of the great commandment, "and love your neighbour as yourself".

Here is an old Testament discipleship style..
1 Chronicles 28:8-10 "So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the LORD, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.

"And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work."

Unfortunately the wisest man on earth got somewhat distracted and summed up life as Everything Is Meaningless. But having said that, there is a redemptive insight to his wanderings in Ecc 2:24-26 "A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God".

So what do we say to being too God-centered? It's how we define what is being God-centered. What was God's centered approach toward us ie the world? Wasn't it to "dwell among us" by sending Jesus. Shouldn't we do likewise and dwell among people like us who don't know their way to the Father and show them the treasure of forgiveness and share the "ministry of reconciliation" we have found?

The Father's focus was on a fallen world and we bring glory to him by administering his grace however we may, by music, art, culture or simple conversation.

Now to do some holy housework!