Tag Archives: God

Taproot – Part 2

We have all been hurt by love, at least by what was called love.  So when we hear, “God loves you and wants to be joined with you in a love relationship” (see previous post – Taproot – Part 1), we may put our guard up.  But God’s love is nothing like the human distortions of love.

For example: When humans say “I love you,” most of the time they mean, “I want you.”  But God’s love is not selfish, it is otherish, youish (my spellchecker has just melted down…).  God’s love, His desire to be close with us, is motivated by what would be most beneficial for us.  If you are thinking that’s like giving us cod liver oil, think, “… what would be most wonderful for us.”

Compare the consequences of the separation from God, told in Genesis with the consequences of reconciliation, portrayed in Revelation. 

After separation:
To the woman he said,  “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
      To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,  since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return.” –  (Genesis 3:16-19)

After reconciliation:
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  –  (Revelation 21:4)

By inviting us to be united with Him in love, God desires to restore everything to the way He intended, for our blessing.  There is no need for us to guard ourselves from God’s love.  We will never be hurt by it, only blessed.

Taproot – Part 1

What does God want from us?  Actually, it’s what He wants for us.  It’s love.  God loves us; He wants us to really know that love and respond in kind.  His desire is for us to be in a love relationship with Him.  But what does that look like? 

Let’s start with this: He wants us to be with Him.  Love works best when lovers are together.  In the first few pages of the Bible, the humans doubted God’s love and broke the togetherness they had with God.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”  –  (Genesis 3:8-9)

God loves us and wants to be with us, connected by love.  When He announced the coming Messiah, He called Him Immanuel – God with us (Isaiah 7:14).  Jesus came to seek us and make it possible for us to be reconciled to our Father.

Turn from the earliest pages of the Bible to the very end and see this goal of love fulfilled:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  –  (Revelation 21:3)

There’s more to this – lots more.  But keep this thought and chew on it: God loves you and wants to be with you.

What’s Your Excuse?

You probably remember being summoned (or sent) to the principal’s office, that is, unless you were like those goody-two-shoes girls that always who were so annoying…  oops, that’s a different story.  But remember the feeling of dread as you dragged your feet toward that huge oak door with the frosted glass, wondering what terrible consequences lurked on the other side?  For a lot of people, including myself not so long ago, when you hear people telling you to “get right with God,” it feels much the same way.  God is the terrible “Principal” in the sky, waiting behind His desk with scowling, bushy eyebrows and a switch.  Who wants to go through that door?

And yet, Jesus referred to that whole deal as being invited by God to a celebration and a party! 

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. – (Matthew 22:1-3 ESV)

In those days there was no better party than a wedding party – lavish food and drink, happy times that lasted for days. And this do is being thrown by a king Who sent personally delivered invitations! So why wouldn’t the people come? They were busy doing their own thing.

Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business,…

And others were angry about being invited:

…while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.

Jesus’ story takes a pretty intense turn there – shocking – and yet He wanted to confront people with the heartbreaking contrast between a gracious invitation to the party and the indifference or outright hostility of those who were invited.

People today also decline this invitation because business calls or because they are too busy with life. Some don’t want to go because they don’t understand it is an invite to a party. Others have decided the whole thing is a hoax! They say, “There’s no King and who would want to go to that kind of a party if He did exist?” When those delivering the invitation persist, sometimes they are belittled, roughed up or killed.

If you haven’t read through the rest of this parable in awhile, I encourage you to do so. It raises a number of intriguing questions. Here’s just two: Are you going to the party? If not, what’s your excuse?

If You Dare

There’s no way Robert Johnson could have sold his soul to the Devil, in exchange for the ability to play guitar exceptionally well.  He couldn’t have sold his soul because he didn’t own it.  We may feel like our souls belong to us, but in reality, Jesus taught, they have already been sold to Satan.  They are being held for ransom.  That is why Jesus posed this haunting question:

“…what can a man give in exchange for his soul? ” –  (Matthew 16:26b)

No matter how much you would pay, it would not be enough.  The cost is impossibly high.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is this: Jesus has already paid the ransom and offers freedom and life for our souls.   He extends the offer to anyone willing to abandon the cage that holds them and dare to follow Him.  But a hostage rescue only works if the hostages dare to follow their rescuer.  That’s a tough choice for those hostages who have gotten used to captivity and may actually feel more secure staying where they are!  Sometimes cages feel like life.

That’s why Jesus said:

“… whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. –  (Matthew 16:25b)

Warning: Offensive Words

“We don’t say ____; someone might be offended.”  You may think that is a new attitude of our hyper-sensitive times, but in fact, they said similar things to Jesus. He paid no attention.  Jesus constantly said things that offended people.  So much so, they killed Him.  Roughly paraphrased, He said, “I am God.”  I don’t think anyone would be offended by that today. 

But there are two words Jesus said that still offend people deeply today.  I think the offensiveness of the two words has a lot to do with why so many people reject Him.  The two words?  “Deny himself.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” –  (Matthew 16:24)

We don’t say “deny himself” or “deny yourself” today.  People definitely get offended.  We say, “find yourself,” “express yourself,” “help yourself,” “be yourself,” “love yourself” and “protect yourself.”  But not that D word…  “Take up your cross?”  No problem.  That phrase no longer contains any horror for us.  Not like denying my self

Jesus’ offensive truth is this: You cannot follow Him and follow your “self” at the same time.  And to choose your “self” over following Him is to forfeit your eternal soul. I know, I know, we don’t say that.  We don’t want to get anyone’s feathers ruffled.  But Jesus not only said it, He explained it:

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.   What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?…”   –  (Matthew 16:25-26a)

It sounds like heresy in our “Me” world.  But instead of being offended, why not spend some time considering whether Jesus might have been telling the truth?

Jesus

Chick-fil-A was almost denied the right to sell their sandwiches at Denver’s Airport because their President said he believed in the Biblical definition of marriage.  Members of the city council objected to that.  It looks as though they will back down, but the situation is not new.  It is nearly 2000 years old.  The city council in Jerusalem during the earliest days of the church tried to shut them down, too – not what they were doing, but what they were saying.  During the first few weeks of the church, they caused quite a public commotion.  Much of it had to do with miraculous healings the Lord accomplished through them.  A lot of it had to do with some of their amazing acts of generosity to the poor.  Great mobs of people came to see and hear what would happen next.  And the city council (known as the Sanhedrin, led by the High Priest) was not happy about it.  After one public healing, they arrested the church leaders (the Apostles).

 

“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it.  But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.  –  Acts 4:16–17 (NIV84)

Next time they arrested the Apostles, they said:

“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” Acts 5:28a (NIV84)

They didn’t tell them to stop doing the healings or taking care of the poor; they told them to stop saying, “Jesus!”  The same struggle goes on today.  Christians are not told to shut down their hospitals, soup kitchens, or disaster relief ministries.  They are told to shut up about Jesus.

Years ago, the churches in my town came together to cooperate in an outreach to the poor and homeless.  The community at large quickly relied upon the organization they formed to address the problems of that growing population.  Soon the city council voted to support the work financially.  Things changed.  Today, that agency, still named for its “united outreach” has a policy that forbids its volunteers and workers from mentioning Jesus.

You can pretty much do whatever you want in the Name of Jesus, as long as you don’t tell people about Jesus.  Maybe you’ve seen this at work.  Navy Chaplain, Wes Modder, experienced it when he was forbidden to minister or even talk to his unit according to his Christian beliefs.

God arranged a jailbreak for the Apostles, not so they could make a clean getaway, but so they go back and tell people about Jesus.

 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”  –  Acts 5:20 (NIV84)

The “full message of this new life” is this: new, eternal life is given freely to anyone who comes to believe that Jesus is God and Savior.

Jesus said,  “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.  –  John 5:24 (NIV84)

Pass it on.  Don’t forget to say, “Jesus!”

More than You Knew

The people who frequently have the hardest time understanding about Jesus are the ones who grew up with Him.  Jesus got served with the mashed potatoes; He was used to shame them into picking up their socks. He coopted play time on Sundays.  When Jesus has been an annoying houseguest and a bit of a bully, it’s a pretty big leap to see He is God. 

Even when Jesus was presented in a very loving and wonderful way old, childish distortions sometimes get in the way of seeing Him with clarity later on.  We thought we knew Who He was, and then we are startled and dismayed by Who He really is. 

Jesus understood   familiarity breeds misunderstanding. 

Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”
– (Matthew 13:54-57)

They couldn’t “see” Him because they thought they already “knew” Him. Don’t make the same mistake. When Jesus begins to show His astonishing wisdom and power, don’t try to cram what you see into the mold of what you thought you already knew. He’s more than what you knew.

His Words

Compare these two, clear statements from the Bible, written 1500 years apart:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  –  (Deuteronomy 18:18 – Words of God to Moses, approximately 3500 years ago)

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  –  (John 14:10 – Words of Jesus)

And then, this:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  –  (Hebrews 1:1–2  –  Unknown author, roughly 2000 years ago)

The reason the Bible fits perfectly together, even over the span of a millennium and a half, is because it was inspired by One Eternal Author Who knew what He would do from before the beginning.  His words have therefore been relevant in all ages, including our own.  Knowing that, pay further attention to the rest of what God told Moses about the One in Whom He would put His words:

If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.  –  (Deuteronomy 18:19)

Probably a good idea to really listen to Jesus…

If Nobody is Home

Exorcism can be dangerous, Jesus said, because it can leave you worse off.

“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” –  (Matthew 12:43–45)

The problem in this scenario is that the soul of the exorcised person is not filled with another and better spirit.  It is merely “swept clean.”  It may be “put in order,” temporarily following a set of rules for moral living.  But it is vulnerable to spiritual attack.  This is the condition of so many who attempt to become morally good by following rules and strict discipline.  In Jesus’ day, it was the Pharisees who followed that path.  In our day it is frequently those raised in a legalistic church who find themselves in this kind of peril.  His or her “house” is “swept clean” but it is “unoccupied.”  Take that person out of their childhood environment and plunk them down, unsupervised on, say, a college campus and some very strange and sad things tend to happen.

However, when a person trusts Jesus, He sends His Spirit to live in their soul to guide them and empower them in truth.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—  the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  –  (John 14:16–17)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. –  (John 16:13a)

This is an essential difference.  Their “house,” their soul, is no longer “unoccupied.”  It is the reason why the message of Jesus is not merely another religion, doomed to failure, but is genuine, Good News!  He gives the Holy Spirit Who lives in our souls and overpowers the forces of evil.

Quotes: The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Mt 12:43–45). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

One Tool

The biggest Swiss Army knife would never fit in your pocket.  It is 9″ wide and weighs 2 pounds.  It has 141 different tools folded up in it, including a hook dis-gorger and a snap shackle.  If you bought it, you might have more room in your pocket though, because it lists for $2100.  I suppose this thing is a joke, but before it went to seed, the idea of having one tool with which you could do most things was attractive.

Paul lists a bunch of new behaviors for followers of Jesus to put into practice:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.   –  (Colossians 3:12-14a (NIV)) 
That’s quite a list – a nice list, to be sure – but a lot to remember.  And, even at that, it is not comprehensive; it doesn’t include everything for us with which to “clothe ourselves”.   However, there is a “Swiss Army Knife” of attitudes for Christians, one tool for most circumstances.  Here’s the rest of what Paul wrote:

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  –  (Colossians 3:14b)

If you understand that love is an act of will with which I put away my self-interest to minister to what you need, all of the attitudes listed in the first passage really are bound together under the one tool called love.  Better yet, you will discover that “Love” fits in your pocket.  It’s not free however; it costs you, maybe even more than $2100 in some circumstances.  But it is a great tool, worth much more than the biggest Swiss Army Knife.