Love: Patience


1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to be patient? It’s hard. Even at a fast food restaurant we tend to get anxious waiting for our food to be ready. Although most things get to us pretty fast, patience is hard for most of us. Relationships are one of the most difficult arenas of life to practice patience. The reality is, however, love is expressed through patience.
One example of patience is David. When we look at 1 Samuel 16, we find that David is thrown into an important role at a time when Israel’s leader is not doing good things. David finds himself in the court of King Saul. Eventually, Saul get’s jealous because he can see that God is blessing David, while he was not living in sync with God. (1 Samuel 18:28-19:1). Here an apparent rift in their relationship happens. At first Saul and David’s relationship was good, but by this point, they were apparent enemies. We would expect David to take up his sword and defend himself, but look at 1 Samuel 24:3-11. David give Saul the chance to redeem the friendship. David knew that Saul was out to kill him. Even coming up to Saul and bowing down to him was a dangerous act, but David believed that the love of friendship leads to patience towards those who fail the relationship
This is the kind of patience is more than what some people would be willing to do. Try being patient with someone that cheats you, embezzlers your money, lies about you, or even tries to kill you. It’s not the first thing you want to do for these people. Patience is part of the higher calling to love, however.

Patience is…

  • Pointing to love
  • Willing to accept another person’s failures
  • Holding to a higher standard
  • Believing in people

Relationships of patience include friends, family, church, and even God

Patience will call us to act contrary to what we may think is in our best interest. Patience will call us to think about more than ourselves and will ask what does love do in the presence of sinners. Having patience means fighting for others and their well-being regardless of how they treat you. It means believing that no one is beyond the hope that love can bring them to hope in Jesus and healing in the Spirit.

Purpose


We all feel that there is a purpose that we are all supposed to live.It’s that thing you feel you’re supposed to do or that dream we are supposed to chase. It just feels like something was placed inside of us that drives us towards what we should be. But have you ever had a moment when you thought your purpose was lost. That job fell through. That relationship didn’t work out. That business didn’t launch. Most of us have experienced a loss of purpose. That has been true for humanity for thousands and thousands of years. Most of us have had things that have led us to give up and not believe in purpose. Some of us have experienced this in our faith. We have tried to live out our faith expecting success, yet what we found was failure. We thought that we would experience the utmost joy in living out the laws in the Scriptures, but somehow those things never quite turned out in our favor. The people who followed God in the Bible were no strangers to this feeling, especially when Jesus arrives. Take a look in Mark 1:1-8.

This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!’” This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!

Israel was a nation that struggled with its purpose. Israel was once great. It had land, money, and some power. Israel had a reputation. Fast forward to the date that this passage was talking about, Israel was in a rut. They had no land of their own because someone came in and took it from them. Wealth was not quite what it used to be because they were taxed heavily. Israel just was not in their glory days anymore. As a matter of fact, most Israelites were asking, “How long do we have to wait for God? Where is God? Is God even aware of what’s going on?” It was not a good time. This nation that was brought out of slavery by great acts of God was brought so low that they wondered if God would ever show up again. They tried so hard to follow their purpose by turning to their law to get back to their greatness. Many had decided they had waited on God long enough and started to take matters into their own hands. Great revolutions were organized to bring back the greatness Israel once had. But all of them failed. Israel was feeling let down. They felt dead. Without a purpose, people can feel dead and defeated.

John the Baptist came into this reality. He came delivering a familiar message. Someone was coming who would free everyone. He was declaring “Get ready. Someone is coming who will make us all free.” Have you ever noticed those people that are way to optimistic? These people had heard it all before. Someone coming to rescue and fighting off all the bad guys. The ending of the story they experienced many times over was a tragedy. The men who tried to fight off the bad guys would always end up dead and their movements would always scatter. What was John so optimistic about? Didn’t he remember the last guy? But John kept spreading His message of hope. In dark moments, we have to struggle with hope to get to purpose. John knew about the years of disappointment. He too struggled with not seeing freedom break through and bring purpose. But John knew that hope was coming and was bringing purpose with Him. Someone so great was on His way and there had never been anyone quite like Him before. John was going around getting people to turn away from sin and be baptized with water. He was preparing them to find their purpose again. The one who was coming after him was going to baptize in the Holy Spirit. He was going to baptize them in power, freedom, peace, etc. John wanted to see freedom pour into his life along with everyone else he knew and he wanted everyone to have hope that it could happen again.

It’s hard to hope when we have lost our purpose. Our culture does not help us find much hope. We are driven to succeed. If we don’t, we’re told that there is no point in hoping for a new purpose. We become pessimists. Optimism is left to dreamers who never come to reality. John shows us that is not true. John lived in the same dark reality that everyone else was living in. He knew what the pessimistic people knew. He just chose to accept that the future could be better. The real difference between pessimist and optimist is not if they are connected to reality. Both of them can see that the glass is half empty. The difference is that the pessimist says I’m half-way out of water, but the optimist says we need a water source to make the glass full. Optimist know that there has to be a source where things can be made better. It says in Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” This is the vision of an optimist. In the middle of disaster or heartbreak, you can know that there is a future and a hope for you. It’s hard to buy into that sometimes. It’s hard to think there is a bright future when all the evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. But know this, God is continually seeking ways to bring good things to His creation. He made all things good and wants us to fully experience that goodness. He would go to extreme measures to bring us that good which would show us our purpose. To see that, let’s finish this passage in verse 9-11:

“One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

So it turns out the person that John was talking about was Jesus. He was the hope that came to bring purpose back to everyone. Even God Himself split open the sky to say, “This is my guy. This is the one who will bring back your hope and will guide you back into your purpose.” Note here that there is not some great moment where the people who invaded Israel just disappeared and the Israelites automatically got their old glory back. The never quite reach those glory days again. We have a tendency to want our old glory days back. We want things the way they were, but God seems to have different plans for us. Purpose is never about going back to the way things were. It is about finding the better future that could be and going towards that. Purpose takes us to new places. As we continue in the Mark, we will see that Jesus is not what everyone expected. His vision of freedom and purpose went far beyond what anyone else was dreaming of. He brought hope that things could be better than they were. We need to come to a point where we no longer think that the way things were are the way things need to be now. We don’t need to go backwards. If we keep trying to go back and relive the old ways, we are going to keep being disappointed. In Jesus, there is newness, hope, and purpose. There is a future waiting and ready to be created with God for us.

Some of you might think there is no way God is near. You might not even believe in God. You think this whole Christ following thing is nonsense. But somewhere deep inside you, something has been drawing you to a purpose. We all know that feeling of something calling us to better moments and to deeper meaning. I believe that that is God reaching out to you and calling you to better things. In all my experience, I have never found peace in trying to get back to something that I once was and thought I should be. I have found that God is not in the business of leaving us as we were. He loves us too much. So stop trying to fulfill your purpose by looking back to what you once were. Your purpose is who you will become and where God will take you. And He will take to the most amazing places. C. S. Lewis once talked about experiencing God in this way. He said, “…it is sort of (like the) Rubicon. One goes across; or not. But if one does, there is no manner of security against miracles. One may be in for anything.” If you go on this journey with God, you will find your purpose, a grand and yet unexpected purpose. You will be in for transformation that will be eternally for the better.

Worth


What are you worth? Has that statement ever bothered you? It bothers many people. Worth for many people is attributed through what we earn when we have performed certain actions and gives the perception that we are worth something. Sometimes the people you are expected to associate with can define what people say about your worth. It can be your job performance. It can be how much money you have. It can even be the stereotypes people assume about you. I want to show you that God has a different standard when He sees your worth. It’s very surprising. The way you have always assessed your worth is going to be questioned and you are going to find that God has a vision for you that far exceeds what the everyone else might be saying about you and to you.
To set the pace of our conversation, we have to work with a definition of worth. The one we will work with today is that worth is the level at which someone or something is valued or rated. Read Mark 2:13-17 before going forward.

You are worth saving
The first thing we should talk about is that you are worth saving. In much of Christian culture, it is taught that no one is worthy of salvation. In a sense that is true. The Bible teaches in Genesis 3 that we rebelled against God, so one can say that we have no claim to a good relationship with God. The passage we just read, however, shows us that Jesus must think that humanity is worth saving. He even called Levi, a tax collector, to be one of His followers. Just in case you didn’t know, tax collectors were despised even more than they are here. Sounds impossible, but its true. What made people hate them so much is that they were stealing money on top of the taxes owed. To make matters worse, they worked for the Roman government, whom the Jews thought of as evil people who stole Israel from them.

This is what Levi was to many people: a thief and a traitor. Jesus comes by, sees this outcast who had probably been cursed at all day and says, “Follow me.” Jesus was a well known Jewish leader by this point. It was improper of Him to call this kind of person to be a follower. Yet not only did he call Levi, but we also see that many so-called sinners followed Him. (Mark 2:15) Jews taught that God was angry at these people, yet God incarnate was showing that He loved them.
 Many people have bought into the idea that there is an angry God who has no interest in getting you to join Him. They think that God is the great being in the sky waiting to strike people with bolts of lightning and it’s up to us to join Him or get hurt. Yet, we see in Jesus a God who has a party with people, teaching them to follow His way and take part in a better life. When the real God sees His creation, He still sees that they are good and beautiful creatures and wants to celebrate them (Gen. 1:27-31a). He wants to save them and wants to journey with them back to what He made them to be. No matter how bad you think you are, God has a plan for you that will take you out of the stereotypes that people have wrapped around you and He will make you free in the salvation He has offered you. 

You are worth healing
You are also worth healing. We can’t have a conversation about salvation without having a conversation about healing. They are closely related. I’m not just talking about physical healing, though that is very possible and will ultimately be reality for everyone one day. God includes emotional and spiritual healing, which are important to God. Some of us have experienced things that have broken us. People may have hurt us verbally, physically, and psychologically. Whatever your case, you experienced a powerful moment where wounds were created inside of you. These are wounds that no one sees. Wounds that have come to define your own views about your worth. Levi was not the only one in this crowd who had received these types of wounds. Many people who were labeled as outcast were with Jesus and Levi while the house party was going on. How many of those people do you think were beaten up inside by family members and former friends who saw what they had done? Many things are said to people with bad reputations. Most of them are meant to shame. Shame is a deadly tool and will always leave scars that can last a lifetime. But see what Jesus says in Mark 2:16-17. The God of heaven is the God who wants to heal those wounds. God never made someone a sinner. As far as he is concerned, there is potential in each and every human to be whole and to live a life that brings worth to people. This God who some teach is obsessed with striking down is actually the Great Physician who binds wounds and leads to restoration. He removes the things we cover our own wounds with to bring healing. He takes off the masks of shame. He brings to light our true beauty and worth.

As a side note, there are some people who would still rather show us a God who is always angry and out to catch us in our sins in light of this verse. They would rather trap you and bring you to a god of guilt, shame, and bondage. If this sounds wrong to you, or if this is a reason you left the Church, I thank God you are here. You were not leaving God, your were leaving a person’s skewed opinions about God that were not based on Jesus. God is so much better than that. He wants to set you free and give you worth for a purpose.
You are worth sending

That purpose is the next point. You are worth sending. God has made you worth sending to carry His message to the World. There are many people who after experiencing salvation and healing feel as if they are not worthy of being sent into this world. We can be tempted to carry the shame that keeps us from our true worth in our faith. Levi, who was also know as Matthew, was defined by others as a shameful human being. He was also one of the twelve disciples. The twelve disciples were key to Jesus’ ministry on earth and they were also some of the most crucial individuals in spreading the good news of Jesus around the world. Most of them were young men who had either been turned away by other leaders or never even considered themselves worth being disciples. Regardless of any of the history that Jesus followers carried with them, they carried His message into the world.
If you are struggling with your old life not letting you live the life God made you for, remember that God loved you so much that He proactively offered you salvation and healing. Our worth does not come from anything we did, but from His seeking us out and offering this great gift to us, whether we accept it or not. Our calling as a result of His love towards us is to spread this love to others. It does not matter what our past says about us. God’s love overrides any effect sin has on us. Even when we were deciding to be His enemies, He still loved us as friends. There are still many people in this world, who are part of a system that opposes God’s love. They are trapped by people telling them they are worth nothing. God wants us to deliver His message of liberation to them. Our story will make it that much stronger. We are an example of God’s love. We are an example of His giving us worth before we every tried to seek worth.

You were not made to earn your worth. You were made to celebrate and use the worth you were given. God is not perpetually angry with you. He wants to use you to spread His love to the world. And He believes you are worth everything. Failures and brokenness do not have to keep you from God’s purpose for you. You have worth.

July 4th (America and the Church)


I wanted to post on this again, since today is the Fourth of July. I struggle with the idea that America is the nation of God. It doesn’t seems to make much sense to me. I have been looking at references to the Kingdom of God/Heaven in the New Testament and there are a few things that stand in the way of calling this nation the Nation of God.

1) America wasn’t around during the time that the Scriptures were written. If Jesus was representing the Kingdom of God, Heaven (which is defined as the place where God dwells), and America had not been born, then it would have to mean that there these two are not parallels. The events leading to America started much later in world history. Jesus also was speaking to the only political entity to ever be given such a title, which was Israel. The title has changed, since Israel is not necessarily the nation of God. That title has fallen to the Church, which has opened the membership to everyone across nations, kinships, races, etc. God has merely allowed America to gain much, but the frightening question is why He has done so.

2) The Kingdom in the times referred to in the Bible is ruled by God. There is nothing in the founding documents, or in current American law that gives God the ruling of President of the USA (God can actually only be totalitarian since His rule is conditioned on the complete obedience of those under him).

3) The Prophets, Jesus, and the writers of the letters continually mention or reference the kingdom coming. If the Church has fulfilled the messianic hope of the new kingdom, then it must follow that America can fall in line and recognize our commissioning by God (my apologies to the Republican platform). Although I am American, I must say that when it come to representing either this country or the nation of God, I choose God.

This is not a post of rebellion, but of perspective. I do not condone anyone seeking to use God as an excuse to defy what is not evil in itself. God has told us that governments are meant to promote order and peace (though they fail, and that is the exception) in Romans 13. Although it is assuming the correct actions of the governing, it still stands as a testament against fulfilling your selfish desire for anarchy or pointless liberation.

In Revelation 21:24, John shows us that God is not about destroying the nations, but having them follow him (and that would mean one world government ordained by God, to the ones who think one world government is evil). Also in 22:1-7 states that the end times are a time of healing the nations, which means that we should be about healing the nation with what we have to offer. If a nation is being heavily taxed, lets offer advice of mercy. When it is oppressing, let’s bring words of challenge. When the people are violent against their rulers, let’s offer creative consequences that teach and do not kill. And remember…

The Church, not America, is the Nation of God,

and the Church will see vindication and glory, not America.

So go out and live what the Gospel teaches to the world. I hope we see many great things in these end times (which, to clarify, has been the last 2000 years, give or take).

Grace and Peace.

South Interrupted


This is a quick post on recent events. I used to own a rebel flag. It was to me a heritage and a symbol of pride. To be fair, I grew up in a mostly white conservative church in the southeast. Over the years, I met other white brothers and sisters in Christ that seemed to be aware of other people who were offended and broken-hearted over this flag. Their history under that flag was very hard and oppressive. I did not get this for a long while and argued against these individuals.

Years later, while in college, my university experienced an interruption of a racial nature. Something done by white students offended a black staff member unintentionally. I got to watch this event from the white perspective. I watched friends joke about KKK outfits and showing up at places at night. It was appalling to see this happen. No matter how silly it was for the white students, it was a very real event for others.

Paul shows us in Ephesians 5:21 that we should submit to others in reverence for Christ. In Galatians 3 paints the picture that we are part of God’s family regardless of the levels of brown in our skin. John 17 shows Jesus praying that ALL Christians be united as one body.

Most of us have family members or friends that if they were hurt by anything we would bend over backwards to meet them in their hurt and not bring those things with us on the journey together. If we are one in Christ, why do we act like our brothers and sisters are not deserving of the same treatment? If your fellow Christian is devestated by the symbol you carry, and it is not essential to your faith, give it up for the sake of God’s Kingdom and your reward from God will become evident to you.

Arminianism and Pelagianism


Last week we looked at Calvinism and the potential towards bad theology. Today, however, we turn to Arminianism to study its one pitfall. Arminianism historically was part of the Reformed tradition. I tend to stand with theologians such as Stanley Grenz in thinking that it still should be considered a part of that tradition. In this tradition, there is an alternative view of God’s planning in that it is not set in utter stone from the beginning of time or directly after the fall. God is still sovereign since he gets what he wants by working more creatively with humans. God, however, chooses the grouping of people who will be saved and the other groups will be condemned (The God followers vs. the God opposers). This is a form of predestination different than Calvinism. To be saved, one must choose the group to be in, and in a sense chooses the salvation, but only since God has foreordained the route to salvation. Also, no one can choose God without God first doing a work in them.

The last point is important since it points to a weakness in Arminian circles. This weakness that you will find in Arminian groups is Pelagianism. Pelagianism teaches that all are able to choose good on their own. They have the power in themselves to choose God and choose their very salvation. Works and the individuals ability becomes the basis of salvation. This is a problem in good Christian theology, since we must believe that God initiates the salvific act. According to Genesis, we see that man chose evil, but God promised ultimate salvation. When Christ came, he came calling people to Him. In Romans 12:1, we see that God must transform us, albeit, if we let Him. We do not do this ourselves!

We want good theology. That does not mean a theology that sounds good. There are many things that are sweet to are ears, but true theology is challenging. It is not easy to hear that we had to be rescued. It might strikes us as unfair that someone had to call us from our state or we would have stayed there, but we must remember that the Scriptures repeatedly speak of God as coming into our history and starting a work in us. We still have to choose to accept and allow His transformative work, but He must begin it. John Wesley, a major influence of modern Arminian theology used a term called Prevenient Grace (that grace which cames before salvation). In this aspect of grace, Wesley taught that God is trying to reach to us and transform us before our moment of accepting Jesus as Lord. This counters the twisted view that we can approach salvation and righteousness on our own. Any good work is by hearing the Spirit of God’s guidance and taking the direction that He instructs.

What’s more, the way of righteousness, as long as the fallen order of the world is still in existence, is a difficult path. Jesus once said that this way is narrow, meaning that it is difficult and unattractive. That means that the natural inclination is to choose the well beaten path of the world. We need God’s intervention so that we are able to choose the right path, even to be saved. May God guide us in the way of righteousness.

What is your perception of God? Are you able to do what  you need to do without God? Or is God necessary to our holy living? Are you using your own effort as the way to heaven? Or allowing God to guide your steps?

Calvinism and Deism


One of the major sections of Reformed Protestant Christianity is Calvinism. Named for John Calvin, it has its roots in a theology that started soon after the Reformation and has been a major developing theology ever since.

There are five unique elements to Calvinist theology. Predestination is the one we will take a brief look at. In this theology, God has foreordained who will be saved. It is debated the exact when of the declaration (before or after the fall), but there is a plan along this line. The point of this is sovereignty. How can an all powerful God be if he has not ordered salvific history? It is a good question. Though I am part of the Arminian side of the Reformed tradition, this question does baffle me.

One thing I have noticed in Calvinism is a lean to Fatalism. Fatalism says that what fate has been given to is unaltered by the decisions you make. This is not true. Throughout the Scriptures, God interacts with decisions in an intimate way. Fatalism creates an impersonal God that cares nothing about personal decision.

A major view that says God is impersonal is Deism. Deism teaches that God place the world into motion, but made it in such a way that it would run itself. This meant for the Deist that God created the universe, but would not intervene. God made a great plan, but it is unfortunately an impersonal plan. If Calvinism heads in this direction, it will not fit with Biblical Christianity’s view that God is active in history.

Developing a good Calvinist theology means not getting Christian Theology mixed up with an alternative theology. Going to Fatalism and Deism will not help us live in Christian hope. Looking at John 3:16 and the teachings of the Gospel accounts teaches us that God incarnated to human form. God, even if he made plans like a Calvinist would teach, he still must be involved. God decided that he would hear the cries of His people and got involved. God, if he foreordained the events of History, only does it in response to the cries of his people. If God is fulfilling a plan he made before the world began, it has to be because the plans are full of His promises of salvation and rescue. Isaiah 54:10 teaches that God’s will remain faithful even in the worst chaotic event imaginable to the human mind. The point of theology is to study who God is, but that means that we must focus on God’s Love for us, even if sovereignty is a concern.

What is your view of God’s plans? Do you think he is distant and watching things run? Is he that distant and unloving? Or is he acting in love, fulfilling his promises in the here and now?

 

What We Want?


Humans have made terrible choices ever since the fall. Some would say that we dropped the ball. At times, it seems more like we threw the ball over the cliff and into an abyss. In Genesis 3, Moses recounts the story of Adam and Eve trying to enact their own plan and get rid of God’s rule over the earth. God started the earth and gave it to us. He gave us a basic list of responsibilities which included caring for all of creation and making sure that it did not revert back to complete chaos like it was before creation. When we decided to start taking control and opposed God’s goodness, a little bit of the chaos and struggle came back. It was no longer easy to grow food. Our greed turned into violence and oppression. Humans kept showing a tendency to take at all costs and if necessary destroy things to get what they want. All throughout the Bible and general human history we see this. Even today, war is waged, money is stolen, and human action is accelerating climate change all in the name of human development. We have not chosen to take care of the creation God told us to protect.

If you recall Genesis 1, you might remember that humanity was made in the image of God. These days the expression does not have much meaning, but to the people living in those days it meant that they were carrying the essence and purpose of God into this world. Kings of that era would erect images of themselves in the lands they owned or conquered. It was meant to remind the world of who was in charge and what the king’s plan for society was. We were made to carry the peace that God made us for and enact His plan here. 

The question is what are we to decide. From the beginning God given us a choice between choosing life or choosing control. We chose control, but we were trying to control something we were ill-equipped to control using our own ineffective methods. We were not equipped for being in that sort of power. We were made for serving others in peace and love. God created a world that acts according to the rhythms that bring life. What humanity chose was a very deadly result. We chose to let might define what is right, and we wanted to say what was right. Although we did not create the world, we decide to be the masters of it and steal it from God.

Jump forward to Jesus. We all know He came to deliver us from this mistake. From His death and resurrection He showed us that the power hungry ways of control do not succeed. Even the threat of death is no longer effective in stopping someone. So we can be free to choose the way of life and peace. We can challenge the old ways and join the new way of Jesus. How do you stop a person who does not fear death? We have been given the way to have eternal life. This life shows that a better world is possible. We do not have to practice greed and show malice. That old way of life has done nothing but destroy the world. Jesus way shows how to build a better world. Faith in this Jesus will include us in this movement to reclaim a good earth. We get to still choose. Do we choose control over something that will turn on us and destroy everything, or do we choose life in Christ that will redeem all of creation?

What God Wants?


From the beginning God has made a plan for humanity? In this series about learning what God is, who He is, and what His plans for the world are has to go way back to when He first jumped into history to do something big. In Genesis 1, God jumps into the universe He started and began the interaction with a beautiful creation. The belief in Genesis is that God made the earth good, one that was peaceful and full of good will. However, humanity to change the course of this world. We decided we could take control of the world and replace God, but we left the world a ragged place. Ever since there have been signs of violence, greed, oppression, etc. But God is still on the move to bring back that great plan that He wanted for us.

This is the beginning of the story of humanity. We started with so much promise. We were given a blank book and a pen to write out the story. God only gave us the plot line to work with. Our deviation from that plot led God to have to try to intervene. From Noah to Abraham, God began to seek out His people again. That phrase “His People” is actually a strange phrase that humanity has made a paradox with. Based on Judeo-Christian beliefs, God’s people have always been thought of as an ethnicity or a religion. When you think of Genesis, you begin to see how strange that phrase is. God created everyone. If God created all people, would not His people be all of humanity? Why would a creator single out a group of people and stop there? It would be inconsistent. God must have a plan for everyone.  If you read Genesis alone, you see this God does have a dream for everyone. Not only is Abraham’s family being approached, but other people outside of that family are experiencing God in different ways. Moses interacted with the Moabites, the spies spared Rahab, King David joined other armies, Isaiah spoke of other nations coming to worship God, and many other things in the Old Testament revealed that God chose a people only as a channel to reach everyone else. In our fallen state we began to settle for exclusion. Others were kept out of the group and when someone in the group began to disagree or look different, they were chased out and became part of the other people. Our defiance of God led to a world absent of love for other people. God, however wants things to be different.

The New Testament is more adamant that ethnic/religious walls have been torn down. Jesus repeatedly affirms the pagans. He even spoke of a Centurion having the most faith out of any one in Israel. A centurion was a roman by the way, meaning He was not Jewish and was hated by most Jews. This was mind blowing inclusion because no one in any group was supposed to include someone in another group. Jesus in Matthew 5:45 that God sends the rain on the just and the unjust alike. This means God trying to reach our Mother Teresas’ and Adolph Hitlers’. He is reaching for the fighters of ISIS and the American soldiers. He wants the rich rulers of Syria and the refugees stuck in other countries. He wants them all to chase love and servant hood towards each other. Even Paul says in Galatians 3 that there is no Jew nor Gentile in the Kingodm of God. In the Kingdom of Heaven, the walls that have separated are no more or weak like wet paper at best. 

I usually do not mention this, but I have to bring up Revelation at this point. As confusing and weird as the book sounds, one thing is for sure, God’s love for humanity and creation wins. Jesus in chapter 21 states that he is making everything new again. The language here is that’d resurrection and renewal. God is going to make everything new. He will do away with the evil in the world. When His kingdom comes down and overtakes the earth. In the end the world will be brought to the purpose it was meant for. And He is doing this by transforming us as mentioned in Romans 12. We are being transformed into beings of love so that we can exist in a world of love.

What does this mean for us now? We find the meaning in the person of Jesus. Jesus came as the Prince of the Kingdom that is fulfilling the purposes of God. Jesus lived out that purpose in His context perfectly. If we follow Jesus, we are in that same Kingdom. So we have to be the redeeming and ministering ambassadors for Him today. Anyone who does not choose to represent the Kingdom of peace, love, and compassion will not be able to stand the presence of the God who is love incarnate. The presence will be torture. The existence will be too much. People who live for hate could never survive a world based solely on love. That is God’s plan for humanity. Love is our purpose. When we enter heaven we will fully experience being love and sharing love. The Kingdom is one the opposes violence, greed, and oppression. The choices to be part of Heaven or Hell here on earth have ramifications for our existence for eternity. The question is will we join Him and His desires for us? 

One last thing, if you have ever been excluded by a church or group of people claiming to represent Jesus or have even ran away from people treating you poorly because you disagreed with the leadership, you are not alone and you are not a sinner because you were kicked out. If anything, you have escaped a Church that is actually anti-Christ. People who support their convictions with violence or other forms of coercive persuasion are not followers of Jesus. They have wronged you and you deserve a community that will welcome you in peace and will let you Grow in love. Go find that community that you are safe in. It must be one that still challenges you, but make sure it is one you are safe in. A group that coerces people into being a certain thing that is not an essential to the Faith can draw you into Hell just as quickly as a negative worldly group can. God wants better things for all of us.

Who Is God?


God is an individual entity and cannot be defined completely by humanity. He defines himself. According to the previous post, this defines what God is because it is what God has revealed to us. The greater question this poses is what is this God like or who is God? Since we are assuming the Christian belief that God is not a bliss experience or that He is the universe, it must follow that God has characteristics. 

Humans are very familiar with characteristics. Think of your friends and family. If we were to talk about each one, you could go into great detail about their characteristics, even the annoying ones. Through the long history of man being approached by God, we have begun to notice things about this God. Every character back to Adam has had some inclination about God’s characteristics. The Bible is full of moments where the writers have described God with characteristics. It’s true that God is other and in some cannot be known by our attempts at describing God. However, we see God continually revealing Himself to the world. People like Moses, David, and Paul have applied their best descriptions in order to give us a picture of who God is.

One of the most prominent descriptors of God is that He is love. Even in John 1 we find that Christ, who is love, is one with the Father, who is love. This leads to a whole list of other characteristics that we see reflected in 1 Corinthians 13: patient, kind, forgiving, selfless, seeks for justice, faithful, hopeful. To people who are not Christians, I have no idea what characteristics you apply to God. So far for me, the God found in Jesus is one I could follow forever. To fellow believers, we need to seek this God again.  We need the God who patiently applies grace to all through the cross of kindness, forgiveness, and selflessness. We need the God who seeks justice, is faithful to all of creation, and hopes beyond even reasonable hope that we will enter His presence with joy. 

Just like we mentioned in the last post, this is a God we cannot define. Why would we? We are a very violent and vindictive species bent on greed, power, and luxuries that have been taken through oppression. I would hope that we would never try to define God. It’s just bad PR for Him and He knows it. God has to be allowed to come to us just as He is. If we allow this God to reveal Himself, we will begin to see His love for us. If we begin to fear what He is, then through His self-revelation, the fear will melt away due to His love. Him loving us is the great delaration, “FEAR NOT!” Whenever we think of the God described in the Bible, we must remember that the writers found a God that that brought a love that was fearless and brought a better world in the end. Even in their context of violence and fear, God’s way seemed to be a better path. If you are looking for a way to create a better or to find force for good in the world, this God described in the Bible is always challenging the world with something better for all those who want to follow Him.