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The relationship (trinity) of God has been replaced by the holiness (law and order, crime and punishment, blind and cold justice – as we define it) of God.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!





Get Your Bold On

13 08 2015

When I think of the word “boldly” from Hebrews 4:16, the last thing that comes to mind is the scene in Luther where Martin is crawling up the stairs on bloody knees in order approach God ‘properly.’

The ESV translates the word as “with confidence.” Well, that’s better, but still not entirely accurate.

Let’s get the definition from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. It reads as follows:

Parrhesia: all outspokenness, frankness, bluntness, publicity; by implication assurance.

That’s a far cry from groveling, hat-in-hand humbleness, or scraping and bowing, isn’t it?

Why am I picking on this word today, you ask? Because sometimes life blows up and we’re in no condition to scrape and bow as we sort things out. There are times when we can’t calm down enough to remember we’re wearing a hat – much less that we ‘must’ remove it.

King David had lots of episodes like this. No doubt he had confusion and frustration…not to mention fear for his life. And all this came about after he’d been anointed as king. There are many such Psalms recorded. Let’s look at just one:

Psalm 13

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death. Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

David’s been through it. His idyllic life as a shepherd is a dim memory. Saul’s relentless pursuit in order to kill this young man wore him down to his last nerve, and Saul was using it like a trampoline.

It is for this reason that I can’t envision David standing humbly, hat in hand, speaking this in soft, reverent tones. That might be the way we sing it, but I doubt that’s how David expressed it!

Look at his wording: how long? Will You forget me forever?? Consider and hear me! Enlighten my eyes!

I’m gonna die here!! Don’t look now, but the enemy is winning!

Tap…tap..tap…is this thing on??

We cannot insist that people grovel before ‘Awwmighty Gawd’ – when their life gets trashed through no fault of their own. If they can’t be honest with God, then to whom shall they turn?

It has been my {gulp} abundant experience that I can come boldly, speak frankly and even bluntly to my God without being shunned for doing so. In fact, the exact opposite has been the case.

Once I shed the ‘nice Christian lady’ stuff and got real with Him, He revealed areas in my heart that needed attention…not always fun, but necessary; and then He began to work in my circumstances.

This short ‘journal entry’ by David is most likely because he carried on and got it all out of his system. This is as much of it as he remembered later! Can’t prove it, but I’ve done the same thing. Once all the emotion is released, most of it dissipates. I can only remember bits of what I said.

Because I can speak bluntly – “Hey! I don’t get this!! I need some help! I need some insight!” – all the stuff swirling in my head is dumped out. My thinking clears up, and I begin to see things from His perspective.

It is only then that I can say with David:

“But I trust in Your unfailing love. You have been good, You will be good to me.”

Read David’s closure to his rant:

But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

It’s not until we feel safe enough with God to be real with Him

that we feel safe enough to trust in Him.

Please note, this is not our usual interaction with God. In fact, after I unload and get to a better place emotionally, I end up apologizing for what I said and how I said it. He is, after all, God!

More than that, He is my Father who loves me dearly. I didn’t mean to be rude or disrespectful. However, He understands the why behind the way I spoke. Every time, He’s responded in gentle tones.

Every time.

Not one, “How dare you? Don’t you know with Whom you are speaking? Get out of My face and come back when you can show some respect.”

Never happened.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16





Three Little Words to Change Everything

10 08 2015

I’ll bet you’re expecting to read something like, “I love you,” right?

Those will improve life, no doubt, but they’re not today’s topic.

We have a Book that is crammed full of promises. Some are conditional, some are not:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper.”

“If you focus on whatever is good, pure, right, just, lovely, virtuous, and of good report you will have peace that passes understanding.”

“Seek God’s kingdom above all else and He will provide your needs.”

What if we, say, actually believed the promises we’ve been given? What if we acted as if they are true.

Maybe you’re saying, “Duh, I get that.” For me, though, there was a day when the reality of this truth broke through and illuminated my life like never before.

“I can put my full weight on the Bible.”

What does that have to do with three little words, you ask?

Let me give them to you first:

Jesus is Lord.

There they are….all eleven letters.

Oh, the depths of the riches of those three little words, though. If Jesus is Lord, then:

That means He’s the boss of me (as my kids used to say).

His plans for me are for good and not for evil – to give me a future and a hope…no matter what my circumstances may look like.

Everything I “own” is actually His – to be used whenever, wherever, and however He wants.

Which means:

When my car breaks down – it’s His car. I point out the problem and ask Him how He’s going to get it fixed.

When I’m having health issues, I know there’s a purpose in it and ask Him for guidance.

When I lose my job, I ask Him what He wants me to do next.

When I have needs (not wants – although sometimes He surprises us with those as well!), I look to Him for provision.

I’m not reduced to begging. Instead I can thank Him for taking care of me.

Prayer requests turn into praise meetings when I know that what I am seeking is in accordance with His stated will.

If Jesus is Lord, I can relax and quit trying to run the world. It is in His capable hands. I seek His direction…and then go where He sends me.

Hmm. A timely message for me! So much in life is upside down at the moment. Some of the matters I understand – many I do not.

Nevertheless, because Jesus is Lord, I can rest today, and know that He is in charge.

Yes, these three little words change everything:

Jesus is Lord!

 





By Faith, Gerbil…

11 06 2015

When our three-year-old granddaughter showed up on Friday with her swimsuit and goggles in her arms, I knew one thing for sure:

There was a pool in her future!

She had been asking Grandpa for one, suggesting that he take his truck so she could get the box home. This went on for a couple of weeks.

On Friday, she changed her tactics. Instead of asking to go to the store, our little Gerbil (affectionately so nicknamed for how she sounds when she speaks – too cute!), told Grandpa that she would take him to the sale. Now, who can resist a sale!

She returned home with her parents later that night, undaunted by the fact that her ‘prayer’ was still unanswered.

We marveled at her faith, her persistence – and her calm assurance that she would receive that for which she asked. No temper tantrums, no whining; just patient waiting.

Impressive for a three-year-old!

You know what happened next:

We went shopping on Saturday for a wading pool!

At the same time, I’d been asking Abba for a writing table; a dedicated place for my laptop where I could be with my hubby while I work. Like Gerbil, I was patiently waiting.

That same Saturday, Wendel said, “Hey. Why don’t we go find a writing table for you.”

Out of the blue, just like that.

“You know,” he said, “we could learn a lot from Gerbil. Instead of taking the car, let’s take my truck. That way, when we find your table we can bring it home with us.”

Following Gerbil’s lead, he took a step of faith.

(Or would it be called a “drive” of faith?)

We went to a consignment shop and looked at every table. They didn’t have what I was looking for.

I finally decided that I could ‘make do’ with one of them if we took the shelf off the top. We were looking it over to see how difficult it would be when the owner of the store came to see what we were doing.

After we explained, she said, “Did you see the drop-leaf table over there?”

Over where? We’d looked at every piece of furniture.

Or so we thought.

Sure enough, hidden in plain sight, was exactly what I was looking for.

It’s amazing what we can learn from a three-year-old!

It was fun to watch my Father reward the kind of ‘faith that asks with expectancy’ for both my granddaughter and my husband.

While this lesson “in the natural” was great – we all got what we wanted – it will no doubt encourage faith in weightier, “spiritual” matters as well.

Assurance of the thing for which we’ve asked is important

– especially when we know that what we’ve asked is in God’s will.

There was a matter for which I prayed with expectancy for years. As time wore on, however, my prayers became rote – I prayed less often, and more because I “ought” to, than because I anticipated the fulfillment of my request.

This is a dangerous state of mind. Doing so can cause us to miss out on the gift when it comes.

Like Zechariah, it can seem like too little, too late. We’ve lived with the stigma of barrenness for so long that it’s become familiar; comfortable.

Instead of gratitude, bitterness erupts.

That was my situation this year. Even though God spoke (Behold I am doing a new thing…Isaiah 43:19), and there was no denying the ever-enlarging abdomen of the forthcoming birth of the answer to my long-forgotten prayers, my response was less than gracious.

I’d resigned myself to the status quo. It became a ‘badge of honor,’ and for some absurd reason, didn’t want to give it up!

Much of the year was spent unraveling the multitude of lies I came to believe when God tarried (by my standards 😉 ) in moving on my request. Even though my request was being fulfilled, in my bitterness I nearly ‘aborted’ His gift, then considered putting it up for adoption. I came to believe that I didn’t want it anymore.

I was angry! At my age?? Really? Why couldn’t You have done this when I was young enough to fully enjoy it??

(No, I am not pregnant!)

You understand what I am saying? Sometimes the thing for which we ask seems like it would have been better ‘delivered’ when we were younger, more agile, and had more time to enjoy the benefits of the fulfillment…careers, relationships, etc.

I love that even when we’ve given up, God is faithful to do that which He has promised.

All that to say this:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. ~Habakkuk 2:3

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. ~Romans 8:25

When we patiently wait with anticipation – especially when everything tells us that it’s hopeless – our names are added to Hebrews 11:

By faith, (your name here!)…





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! 🙂