Replacing Jesus

14 08 2015

Many paradigm shifts have taken place this season. Necessary ones. This one concerns Jesus.

How does Jesus relate to my current activities? To housework, homework, to life in general? Does He merely make me a good steward of time and money? Does He make me honest and a good rule-keeper?

Is this why He came and died…to make me honest??

I sense a shift any minute – one so monumental that it will change everything for me. I don’t want to miss this. it has weight (glory!) attached to it.

I read The Great Dance by C. Baxter Kruger. It was eye-opening, although I had to struggle with the concepts at first. My mind could only barely grasp them in the beginning.

The church (at least in America) teaches a “good-cop, bad-cop” God. It’s like having a touchy, militaristic father and a placating, intervening mother who steps in and places herself in the line of fire and takes the brunt of the father’s anger.

Sometimes her attempts fail, though; and that’s when ‘all hell breaks loose in our lives,’ or so we think. Calamity, hardship, ill health.

Mom couldn’t quite assuage father’s fury, and we ‘got it.’

{No wonder the Spirit seems more like a doting aunt who pops in and out long enough to drop off one trinket or another. 🙂 }

The relationship (trinity) of God has been replaced by the holiness (law and order, crime and punishment, blind and cold justice – as we define it) of God. Holiness has been defined as ‘legal perfection’ and ‘moral rectitude.’

This begs the question: “Do I enter into relationship with people for the primary purpose of getting them to ‘shape up’?”

“True holiness is the joy and fullness and love of the Father, Son, and Spirit, their mutual delight and passion, the sheer togetherness of their relationship, it’s harmony and wholeness. Rolled into one word: holiness.” (The Great Dance, p. 25)

I want to tattoo this on my arm:

“Every time God forgives us, He is saying that His own rules do not matter as much as the relationship God wants to create with us.” (Falling Upward, Rohr, p. 57)

Isn’t that Good News?? The best ever, and a far cry from “I came that they might behave better” stuff we hear from spiritual leaders on a regular basis…a ‘re-translation’ of John 10:10. (“…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”)

Galatians tells us that the law was never meant to be kept, but to be a tutor that shows us that we can’t ‘behave better’ on our own. It was meant to drive us to God…not to cause us to shrink back as utter failures.

So we teach Christianity thus:

1. God is holy (in a legal sense)

2. Humanity fell into sin and is liable to punishment

3. Jesus Christ came to satisfy the holiness and justice of God

4. On the cross, Jesus bears the guilt of the world, and God punishes Him instead of us

5. God’s justice is satisfied and we are forgiven – morally clean

In this model, Jesus came to rescue us from God.

The cross replaces Jesus as the point of eternal significance; thus, after the crucifixion was complete, He ceased to be of any real and practical value.

No longer needed, He bows out and lets God and the Holy Spirit get on with their business.

At best, He remains important as a shining religious example for us to follow – and to remind God of His sacrifice.

Justification replaces adoption as the heart of the Christian message.

Forgiveness is necessary, but it’s not the sole point of the grand story…it’s not even the main point!*

The focus and goal is inclusion into the existing relationship of the Trinity.

This is the purpose of adoption!

One who has been adopted has been welcomed into a family – given their name, protection, provision, and inheritance along with the other members of the family.

No longer on the outside looking in, they receive all the benefits, love, and treatment of the original family. No ‘Cinderellas’ here! Unless an outsider was told, they would not be able to tell the difference between ‘natural’ children and an ‘adopted’ one.

Further (unless they’re warped!), a couple chooses to adopt because they want someone else to love…more people to love, not someone new, to the exclusion of the old.

In a word, they want:

Relationship!

With all the focus on Jesus as mediator between us and an angry God, we’ve lost the beauty of the Gospel message:

Our adoption as sons and daughters.

Jesus doesn’t exist to protect us from wrath by reminding God that He took our punishment so now God ‘has to’ love us.

He is the connector between us and the Trinity; He mediates the triune life of God – to us!

According to western teaching, once Jesus has the ‘sin thing’ fixed, He returns to heaven and observes us from a distance. This leaves us seeing ourselves as ‘merely human.’

There is no inclusion into the Trinity, no divine life, no divine dance. Life is merely secular…ordinary. Except, of course, on Sundays.

We have no idea who we are!

The western world is crying out for spiritual meaning and the Church has none to give it. We only know how to encourage others to behave better.

Our Jesus is too small.

*YES! The Gospel of Atonement is vital to our right standing with God. Why is it necessary? Because we are born spiritually separated from God. THIS is the problem Jesus came to solve…Adam and Eve ‘unplugged’ from the tree of Life (God as our source for life), and ‘plugged’ into their own knowledge. They made themselves the source for life.

Apart from His death, burial, and resurrection – at which time He entered the Holy of holies once for all and placed His blood on the Mercy Seat – we were without hope.

Thanks to Jesus, we are now welcome to come boldly into the Holy of holies; to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

You won’t find a ‘bouncer’ at the entrance, replacing Jesus.

*****

(In my next post I want to share three verses that took me by surprise!)

This post is far above my ‘pay grade’. I’m still processing much of what I’ve learned – and cannot yet articulate as clearly as I’d like. Thanks for your patience while I work this out!





Born Blind

9 06 2015

John 9 precedes John 10. Go figure!

Chapter 9 is about the man born blind who receives his sight, and the questioning he got from the Pharisees.

It’s kinda funny that Jesus would put clay on a blind man’s eyes, making him doubly blind…and then send him to find the pool of Siloam so he could wash the stuff off. Did he have someone to help him find the place??

Those who’d seen him begging for years marveled.

What do you do when someone receives a miraculous healing? Call in the preachers so they can make sense of the thing.

These folks were no different. Enter the Pharisees…

whose first action was to check their calendar.

Uh oh. It’s the Sabbath. This couldn’t be a ‘God thing,’ because this Man is a rule-breaker!

Displeased with the guy-who-sees’ answer as to by whom he was healed, they call in his parents.

“Was he blind? Are you sure he was blind? Positive? Then how is it possible that he can see?”

Whoa! Did the parents even have time to celebrate with their son?

Their elation quickly shifted to fear as the questioning continued. The wrong answer would get them kicked out of the synagogue…disastrous, since this family was poor enough that their son had to beg. This meant far more than the loss of their “church.” It also meant the loss of society and probably the father’s job. (Jewish New Testament Commentary)

They tossed this ‘hot potato’ back into their son’s lap: “Ask him. He’s old enough to speak for himself.”

By now guy-who-sees is getting snarky. “I told you already (what happened) and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don’t want to become His disciples too, do you?”

He goes on to say: I don’t know who He was. I only know that I was blind – and now I see. God wouldn’t give a sinner the ability to give me sight. It’s never been done before. If this guy wasn’t from God, He could do nothing.

Now it’s the Pharisees’ turn to be snarky. You were born ‘entirely in sins,’ (Like they weren’t. 😉 ) and you are teaching us??

What happens when you get healed in a church that is ‘suspect’?

These ‘good Pharisees’ called the man a bastard (mamzer…illegitimate son – same thing, Jewish NT Commentary), and kick him out of the synagogue.

Doesn’t this strike you as an odd reaction to a miraculous healing?

While he gained sight, he lost the world around him.

But gained the Lord!

Jesus heard what happened, and came looking for him. With the Pharisees eavesdropping, He addresses the fellow. After a short exchange, the ex-communicated Jew becomes a follower.

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and those who see may become blind.”

The Pharisees pipe in, ” Hey, are you calling us blind?”

“If you were blind, you would have no sin, but now you say, ‘We see’; your sin remains.”

The judgment of which Jesus is speaking, doesn’t contradict John 5:22, 27-30. That judgment takes place at the Second Coming. The judgment of which He speaks here is to make it clear to people where they really stood in respect to God.

The Pharisees had declared their innocence. They were without sin – and by implication, thus had no need for a Savior.

Unable to recognize either their spiritual blindness or their sin, they claimed to ‘see’ – which left them guilty. Jeremiah 2:35 is an almost-identical statement by God to His people.

Chapter 10 is a continuation of this exchange with the Pharisees.

He is the Good Shepherd; He is the Door for the sheep, who know His voice and follow Him (as the once-blind guy is now doing). A stranger (Pharisee) they will not follow.

Jesus states that those who enter the fold by any other way than through the Door is a thief and a robber.

Verse 10 is the the famous, “The thief comes to steal and kill, and destroy, but I have come that they might have life abundant.”

Can you see that these Pharisees swooped in on what should have been the most joyful day of this man’s life – and stole everything they could? By kicking him out of the synagogue, he would not be able to live in that town…no Jew would hire him. It meant a loss of family, friends, society.

An outcast when he was blind – now an outcast because he could see.

Jesus implies that these Pharisees are hirelings…merely in it for the money. They don’t give a rip about the people in their care.

Some ‘got it,’ some didn’t. Division erupted:

“He has a demon.”

“Demons don’t heal.”

Jesus also addressed the issue stirring in their hearts – their desire to kill Him. This desire had barely been conceived, but would eventually give birth to the sin of killing out of selfish ambition, bringing forth death – both of Jesus (physical), and the Pharisees (eternal separation from God). (See James 1:14-15; 4:1-3)

This is all very interesting, but what difference does it make?

{giggle}

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion! 🙂





Truth = Free…If…

5 08 2014

I’ve been getting a massive dose of “reality check” lately…and discovered that while Denial may be a place to vacation for a day or two, it’s not somewhere to take up residency.

And I did this.

For far too long.

Lately, the Lord has been peeling my hands off my eyes and revealing things that I need to see.

Sad, painful, ugly truth.

However, seeing truth is not enough.

It’s what I choose to do with this truth that will set me free –

– or leave me in bondage.

Often, the mere task of deciding what to make for dinner has been so overwhelming that I have a meltdown. Simple meal preparation feels like more than I can handle.

That’s pathetic.

These are days of sorting out unhealthy behavior, taking in the whole counsel of God, being brave, and standing firm. 

There comes a time when we must say, “Enough!”

I feel like a field that’s being thoroughly plowed at the moment. Things previously unseen are being brought to light.

This is good news, for after the plowing comes the planting – then growth – then a harvest.

God is good at what He does, so I am in good hands.

When one has walked in denial, though (as I have all my life), learning to face the truth – and then bravely doing what needs to be done is hard. It is scary.

Thankfully, the Lord let me know that I can trade in my headless collar for an Anchor!

I’ve learned the lesson of an unmanageable life. A life beyond my control – circumstances beyond my control.

Having done so, I no longer need my rhinestone circlet to hang on my wall as a reminder.

Instead, I’m  in the market for an anchor… which is kinda’ funny, because I got rid of the Asian decorative stuff in my house and have been replacing it with ocean-ish stuff. (I love yard sales!)

In 2005, I realized that I had four main Scriptures to which I would cling in times of adversity:

Jeremiah 29:11 – His plans for me are for good, and not evil, this will end gloriously!

2 Cor. 4: 19 – in light of eternity, this is momentary…and will end gloriously!

Deut. 33:27 – God is my refuge, underneath me at all times are His arms, ready to catch me if I fall.

Romans 8:28 – This is all being worked together for my good – and will end gloriously!

Now I have new ones:

Isaiah 42:9:

“Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”

Isaiah 35:3-6

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.

Being transformed, I’ve discovered, means having what I believe and how I think adjusted to what is true…about the Lord, about me, and about life in general: a renewed mind.

Sometimes the paradigm shift this brings alters the course of life by a few degrees. At other times, it’s more like a 90-degree adjustment. These days it’s more like a 180! The greater the shift, the more stressful it can be due to opposition from others.

So I ask for your prayers: that I will continue to allow the Lord to transform me and not harden my heart; that I will stand firm and be brave; and that I will walk in a manner that is worthy of the Lord.

Thanks for “listening.”





Remote Control Words

31 07 2014

Most of my adult life has been spent ferreting out the lies I believed about God as a result of treatment by the men in my life. It’s sad, but true.

Children do not have the emotional maturity to distinguish between their parents behavior – especially their fathers – and God’s character and nature.

Because these are our parents, it is assumed by every child that they love us. Consequently, we define love by their words and actions. We lack the experience necessary to discern our parents’ shortcomings, and assume that we are the ones to blame…that we are bad and don’t deserve any better.

They are all we have in the way of security. They are all that stand between life and death for the child, by his or her limited understanding.

As we get older, and interact with more people, we may begin to feel a sense of injustice about our relationship with our parents, but due to utter dependence upon them, are powerless to change our lives.

Many end up with a shut-down heart, and an intense hatred for and distrust of God.

As a child, I went to a vacation Bible school, and fell in love with Jesus. He didn’t seem to share other’s opinions about me, and that made Him as attractive as a magnet to a fridge in my mind!

We didn’t go to church much, though. After while, He faded into the background…

…until I made a mess of things at the age of 12.

My cousin and her friend decided to have some guys over while her parents were gone. We set up a table in the garage with booze and snacks. (Where it came from, I’m not sure).

However, I’d never me the fellow they’d invited to keep me company. I was a nervous wreck, so helped myself to some of the alcohol…then more…and more.

I don’t remember anything about that evening. I was already blacked out by the time they arrived. Still on my feet, but completely unconscious.

By the time my aunt and uncle returned home, my body was rejecting the alcohol. I ‘baptized’ their house from one end to the other.

The next day, instead of yelling at me and carrying on, my aunt sat me down and gently spoke to me about her concern for my future, and how sad Jesus was about what I’d done.

Grace.

Her act of lovingkindness caused me to determine to become a “good girl” and go to church. I picked out the nearest one and began attending Sunday school, morning and evening services, a prayer breakfast for teens, the mid-week service, and youth group.

Jesus loved me, I knew this for sure.

Too bad His Dad hated my guts!

Just like my dad and step-dad…and nearly every other man I’d ever met.

Religion became a chain tightly wound around my neck, choking the life out of me. God had so many rules, and seemed so hard to please. I never knew what was going to set Him off.

Just like my dad.

Meanwhile, Jesus loved me, coaxed me to walk with Him, to trust Him.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I realized all the lies I’d believed about God because of experiences with men.

I thought God was altogether like them.

Today I have a loving relationship with my heavenly Father.

He is nothing like my dad.

For many years, I was angry with God for choosing the parents He gave me. After all, He could have given me healthy, whole, God-fearing parents. Was this all He thought I deserved?

Then I realized that in order for me to be created, it took a specific sperm, and a specific ovum to combine. Any other combination, and I would not exist! This had to come from my mother and my father…no one else on the planet could have done it.

He didn’t hand-pick them; He chose me!

All this to say,

“Men, you have been given the responsibility to bear the Father’s likeness to the world. It’s a high calling.

“These are big shoes to fill, and you will fail in some respects. You will need Abba’s heart if you are going to do this well.

“The men and women in your life need you to reflect the Father’s love, to speak His heart to them, to empower them to become the person He intended the day He chose them.”

A woman’s voice does not carry the same weight as a man’s.

Not when it comes to identity. 

Here are a couple of quotes by William M. Struthers (from Wired for Intimacy, p. 150):

“The masculine voice of affirmation spoken to a woman lets her know that she is loved because of who she is and that she is worthy of pursuit.”

“The masculine voice is received as a voice that speaks unchanging truth. Just as we think of the Word of God being truth that is unchanging, so a man’s words speak what he knows to be true.”

Because men are not nurturing, as a rule, their words are received as concrete truth – whereas a woman speaks from her heart to make things better. Man ‘sees’ the truth and speaks it out.

That’s how humans perceive your words. Did you know that?

It is for this reason that we are told that there is power of life and death in the tongue.

When a man we perceive to be an authority figure makes a judgment call about us, good or bad, we believe it.

Please be certain that your words reflect God’s heart. They will remotely control people for years to come.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29





My Mentor is Two

28 07 2014

Yesterday morning I was getting dressed for church when suddenly my body was thrown off balance by my granddaughter. She grabbed me around my middle in a tight hug and shouted, “Grandma!” with glee.

There’s nothing that warms my heart more than when one of my grandchildren dash across the room and wrap me in a bear hug. Because they are living with us at the moment, this is a daily occurrence.

The littlest one, whom we call “Gerbil” (because she sounds like one when she talks!), loves to come curl up on my lap, sticks to me like Velcro, and imitates me.

Then, as I am apt to do, I began to consider what it’s like for God, my Father, when I run to Him and embrace Him in this manner.

After all, where did I get that love for open and guileless affection, if not from Him?

This became a game-changer for me.

“Lord,” I said, “this morning I want to unabashedly run to You, hug You, and tell You how much I love You. I want to hold Your face in my hands, look You in the eye, and declare all that is in my heart.”

The cool thing is that we usually sing songs about how God makes us brave, or calls us to go deeper than our feet could ever wander. Instead, every song focused on our love for the Lord!

Gee – worship!

I think I may be onto something, for the enemy has redoubled his efforts and all hell is breaking loose around us again.

Excuse me, I think I’ll go tackle Abba again just ’cause I love Him, and forget about the other stuff for a while!

While she may be little and uneducated, my granddaughter sets a fine example of how to demonstrate love to another. I’m glad she’s here to mentor me!

(For those of you who are uncomfortable with using literary license to attribute human features to God, who is Spirit, I realize that He is not in a human form at all…but the Bible also talks about the eyes of the Lord, that His arm is not so short that He can’t save, says the clouds are the dust of His feet, etc. This is not me being irreverent…just enjoying the Almighty God who loves me and calls me His child!)

Have you ‘hugged’ the Father today?





It Involves a Boat

25 07 2014

The year began with a glorious promise from the Lord:

Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. – Isaiah 42:9

My heart leaped for joy. “This will be a year like no other,” He proclaimed. In joyful anticipation, I stepped into the new season.

I expected a walk in the park

…didn’t hear the water lapping on the shore

…nor the creaking of the boat.

I shoulda’ known a boat would be involved!

The promise was there…

“Let us go to the other side.”

New territory, how exciting! A voyage with Jesus; it doesn’t get any better than this!

When we disembarked, the sky was clear, the water calm. There was smooth sailing ahead…

…or so I thought.

Chatter among the passengers was light and cheerful. Excitement was easily seen in our shining faces and the sparkle in our eyes. No one noticed the gathering clouds.

Jesus lay down and took a nap.

The first flash of lightning silenced the voyagers, and they clapped their hands over their ears as thunder boomed. Joyful faces were replaced with looks of terror.

Not even the fishermen among them had ever witnessed a squall like this one. Waves ten feet high began to toss the little vessel around like a cork, and they were taking on water.

At times like these, two things are easy to forget:

Jesus said we’re going to the other side

and

He is in the boat with us.

…and what’s this? He’s asleep?

Great. We’re on our own!

I began to wonder why Jesus would be sleeping through such a storm.

As a man with a bustling ministry, He was spent and needed to be restored, no doubt.

Ah, but as God, He knew one thing…

…they would arrive at the other side.

It is for this reason that He sits enthroned today.

Whether He’s fully awake –

or seems to be asleep –

He’s got control of the thing!

There’s no pacing, no wringing of the hands while He worries our issues like a bone.

He’s got this!

So, while this year is unlike what I expected – the waves are high threaten to overtake me – I can remember His faithfulness to me in the past, and His promise to make all things new.

Wish I’d have anticipated the boat, instead of a walk down Easy Street. I’d have taken some matters in stride a bit better, I think.

Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side,” 

not:

“to the middle of the lake and drown!”

Sometimes God’s promises involve a boat!





Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

24 07 2014

Have you ever been comforted by the Lord? Have you been released from bondage, had your eyes open to things which you previously could not see? Been cleansed of sin?

Second Corinthians opens with this:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction…”

Why did He do this for us?

“… so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” (vs. 3-4)

Frustration is running high at the moment. I’ve been searching for someone who’s been in my shoes and shown the way out of the mess.

Those who’ve never been through what I’m dealing with are able to provide some relief, but very little experiential help.

Those who have been there, done that, aren’t talking.

When we are in a war and fighting for our lives, we don’t need pat, textbook ideology. We need a veteran who can share what works, what doesn’t…living, breathing proof that there is hope. We can survive this thing!

Life has been difficult, and a lot of damage was done when I was a child. Through the years, the Lord has been faithful to heal many of those wounds.

While being free of the pain was fantastic – able to respond to a current situation instead of react to ‘triggers’ – I discovered that the ugliness is redeemed every time I reach out to others and comfort them with the same comfort I received from the Lord.

As a veteran, I have more to offer than, “I read in a book…”.

“I’ve been in that trench: These are some of the things you need to pay attention to. Here are some areas to avoid.” 

There are many people who are hurting and in desperate need of hope – the kind of hope only someone who’s been through it can provide. (Think Job and his “helpful’ friends! He called them ‘miserable comforters.‘)

All that to say this: Whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been, if you see someone in a similar situation, lay down fears of what people might think if they knew and the pride of wanting to appear perfect, and

for the Kingdom’s sake, tell your story

…and offer to help.

This is the body at its finest,  The healing we receive from the Lord is a gift to us. As I read Scripture, though, I notice that gifts from the Lord are never solely for our consumption (with the exception of tongues). They are meant to be spent on others.

Our past does not define us – “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone; the new is come.”

Jesus bore all our shame on the cross. When the enemy uses my history to beat on me, I point to the cross where Jesus declared, “It is finished,” and thank him for the reminder of how much I need Jesus…what a mess I am without Him.

If you’ve been hiding behind a “perfect” facade, unwilling to let others know the secrets of your past, step out and let His glorious work shine through you to reach others. The word, “hypocrite” comes from the theater, and means “actor.” It is only in the dark where the thing has any power to hurt you anymore. In our mind, it grows and grows like dust bunnies under the bed.

Bring your light out from under the bushel basket and watch the hurting be drawn like bugs to a zapper! As an added bonus, you get to walk in the freedom that Jesus paid so high a price to secure.

The world needs the real you, so

Come out, come out wherever you are!