Costly Grace

Costly Grace.

What The Bible Is?

The question “What is the Bible?” has been asked for as long as there has been a Bible to speak of. Many books have been published and are in the process of being published or being written at this moment to answer this seemingly basic answer. Some answers are accepted, others are rejected, yet with each person who speaks or writes on this question there seems to be endless ways of answering it. I have considered this question and read some of those books. I have even written on it before. I have an understanding of the Bible. Yet, there is still much for me to learn and contemplate when it comes to the Bible and that is why I am here at UD. I hope that my years here will help me better understand what the Bible is and how to apply it to my life and help others do the same.

The bible is full of truth, beauty, grace, wisdom, and story. If used properly the bible can and will transform your life. By properly, I mean we should read the bible seriously without trying to read anything into the text and praying about what we think the bible is saying to us. It has transformed and still is transforming me. If you just read the words and don’t dig deep, you can easily miss the beauty, wisdom, and mystery. If you take the bible only literally you don’t read it like it should be read. We should read study and apply the bible to our life. The bible is not ‘Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.’

The bible is an amazing collection of wisdom and story. I say take the bible seriously and not literally. Read the bible in context and don’t forget that the Bible is an ancient book, written not for our time, and shouldn’t be used to validate personal agendas. The Bible is a living text because while the writing of it happened a long time ago it still speaks to the reader today. There are no clear answers. It forces the reader to dig and think.

Through the reading and studying, I have begun to see the Bible as a story told in six acts. We often only hear or read chunks and not the entirety of it. Failure to see the Bible as whole makes us miss the grand story that it is telling. This six-act paradigm helps us the bible as a whole.

1. Creation—the creation story found in the first three chapters of Genesis reveals Humanity’s purpose. Humans were to exercise dominion over the world in a loving selfless way mirroring the way God rules the world.

2. The Fall—Tragically, given the choice Humans rebelled rather than accepting God’s love and His invitation to submit to His will, this is the tragic fall of Humanity from God. Even after the fall into sin, we see God’s inexhaustible love and instead of giving death, He gives life. Even though, we rejected him God had a plan to reconcile us with love.

3. Redemption Initiated—In spite of our rebellion, God had a plan to reconcile humanity to Him. That plan was to become human in Jesus. To prepare for the coming of one man, Jesus; God prepared one people, Israel. God offered himself to them as their loving Father provided they would be loyal to him alone. Israel was to be God’s Kingdom; the place where God’s will is done.

4. Redemption Accomplished—Even though, we reject the awesome love of God, He does not and He will not give up on us. He does all He can to invite us in, to woe us to His love. In Jesus, God became flesh and lived among us. Jesus announced the arrival of God’s Kingdom in a fuller form. He himself embodied the rule of God. In his death on a cross, Jesus showed the depth of God’s love for us. Jesus, the embodiment of the Kingdom invites us to walk with him there.

5. The Mission of the Church—those who accept the invitation to walk with Jesus comprise the Church.  It is not about believing the right things or joining the right group but becoming a disciple of Jesus and following Him step-by-step. It is only in union with Christ that we embody God’s Kingdom and become truly ourselves, who we were really meant to be. The church is not an institution or a building but a living, breathing relationship.

6. Redemption Completed—God has an end purpose in mind for creation, an end He is working towards now. The church is (should be) living out the new Creation purposes now. God’s Kingdom is now and not yet. Jesus did not just come to save us from our sins, but for himself. He invites us to be his disciples, to embrace love even though it means going to the cross, following Him into Kingdom life.

Science writer Clifford Pickover says, “The bible is an alternate-reality device. It gives its readers a glimpse of other ways of thinking and of other worlds. We are not always sure of the intended message. We only know that the bible reflects and changes humankind’s deepest feelings. At a minimum, the bible is a fascinating model of human understanding–of how we reach across cultures to connect with one another and learn about what we hold as sacred.” I like that. What Pickover is saying is that whether you accept that the world the Bible speaks about, the kingdom of God is a reality or not you can be shaped by its vision of the life now and in the future. By simply reading the Bible you can enter a new way of living in the world.

Pastor Bruxy Cavey calls the bible the holy hand grenade. “…the bible, a document designed to blow up religion from the inside out, with the teachings of Jesus functioning as the pin. So, when you pick up a bible, consider that you are holding an explosive device. I see the bible as a holy hand grenade, for it invites us into a way of living that makes religion superfluous, exploding its monopoly on God.” Cavey’s book The End of Religion says that by doing life with Jesus we end the religious striving and enter a relationship that is about becoming who God created you to be from the beginning. For Cavey and many like him (including myself) Christianity is not about religion but relationship. This applies to reading the Bible and answering the question of what the Bible is about.

The Bible is a story about what God has done, is doing and will do. God created a good creation and when man messed up he restored man again and again, and then sent Jesus to reconcile all of creation. The Bible is a story about man’s place in the world and what it means now and later to have faith and live by grace.

I have fully committed myself to reading, studying and applying the bible to my life in a real way. I intend to follow Jesus in a real way. I pray that God will use the bible to guide my life in healthy and loving way and that through me many will be blessed.

World Communion Sunday

Today is World Communion Sunday, so I thought I would share my thoughts on what it means to partake of communion and how this ancient ritual impinges on our faith and life.

I believe everyone who accepts Jesus and trusts their life to him should be welcomed at the table of Jesus. I know there are things about the Eucharist I don’t quite understand. I do find great power and meaning in the act of partaking of the bread and wine. We should not put barriers between the love and grace of Jesus and the people who need the same love and grace we feel. I believe that the only barrier we should place before the communion table of Our Lord is the person’s own willingness to follow and trust Jesus. Jesus opens the gate. Anyone willing is welcome at the table of Jesus.

 Jesus Christ is spiritually present during communion. When partaking of communion consider what it means to have the very real presence of Christ among us, and within you. The bread and cup remain just bread and cup. Nothing magical happens to them. They act as visible signs and symbols. As symbols, they point beyond themselves to a much deeper reality. That reality is the most important part and involves the promises that God has made to us in the new covenant—this new relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ. The bread and the cup outwardly represent those things that God is doing for us inwardly. Communion is a renewal of the vows we take at baptism and a reenactment of the last supper, the Lord’s Supper.

 The Lord’s Supper connects us to everyone in every part of the world, regardless of our denominational and personal theological beliefs. Think of the implications this has for your life and how you can and should live it out in real life. Communion lasts only a moment, but has ripples that go way beyond that single moment. We are celebrating today our unity with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ across the planet. Even if we can’t completely understand intellectually, what The Lord’s Supper is all about, we can experience God’s empowering and unifying presence with and within us that binds and sustains our fellowship.

 I will take this a step further. I believe that our lives should reflect our coming to the Lord’s Table that each of us should be a visible sermon that preaches Christ crucified. Each time we let go of past hurts and failures to embrace the hope and grace of the future we renew our surrender to Jesus. Each time we say yes to life instead of no, and risk being hurt, we enter more fully into the Kingdom of God in the messy and beautiful here-and-now. Each time we open ourselves to the love and grace of God and deny ourselves we more fully embrace the way of Jesus.

The Eucharist reminds us how amazing and great the love of God is. God forsook heaven incarnated on earth, born in a cold, lonely manger lived the life of a homeless mystic and died on a cross weeping and forgiving not because he was having a bad day or for fun, but because he loves us!

The Eucharist is the time we come to the table of Jesus and remember who he is, what he did, how we are saved, what it means to the people of God, and where we are headed in and through the person and work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus was broken and blessed to be a blessing to the whole world. We, his followers are to be the very same thing today. The church needs to reconnect to its original vocation and purpose and light the world on fire through the glory of God.

As we participate in the remembering of Jesus, we acknowledge that Our Lord is different, our life is different, and our identity is found in and through the Kingdom of God. We are God’s people not for our sake alone but to be a blessing to the world. How this works I do not know. Yet, as I partake of the bread and wine, praying God, ‘take hold of my life guide my steps and lead me where He desires I go,’ I feel real power and presence in this ritual of remembrance.

Paul’s exhortation to the Romans is a concise description of how the Eucharist makes our whole life a spiritual worship pleasing to God: I urge you in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1). Worship is a total offering of self, offering of our entire being to the will of God made in communion with the whole Church. Paul’s insistence on the offering of our bodies emphasizes the concrete human reality of a worship that is anything, but disincarnate. We are to render our entire self, all of our heart and soul and mind—everything is to be aligned with the will of God through Jesus.

We are to incarnate the Eucharist in our daily life. We cannot say to have truly partaken of the bread and wine unless in and through this practice we become more and more the people of God.

My First Few Days

I know it’s been awhile since I last posted something. I do intend to post more frequently know that I am here in Dubuque.

I am now on the campus of the University of Dubuque. I survived a 30 hour bus ride and I am now settled into a townhouse on campus. I want to forget about the bus ride. It wasn’t fun; the best way to put it is that it was awful. Whether it was sitting next to the latrine or having some rude guy’s elbow in my side all night or being forced to eat only McDonalds. I don’t want to go over that. I have said enough about my journey to Dubuque.

Once on campus, I encountered one wonderful person after another. The last few days I have been a series of events and activities all encompassed in orientation. It’s been about learning more about the campus, the facilities, getting to know teachers and fellow students. It was been at times annoying but mostly it has been interesting, insightful, and exciting. My excitement to be going to seminary has not diminished, but nervousness has. I have dealt with my sadness and I know that I can face any negativity that comes up. I am not saying that it’ll be easy. It will be challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. If it were easy, I would not be doing it. I want to be transformed and deepened by my time here.

I would like to speak a bit about the things I am giving up to be here and why, then I will speak about my hopes and intentions, then I will say adieu.

I am giving up being close to family, in familiar surroundings, a wonderful church and church family, my dog, and Starbucks.

Not all of those things may seem to be pressing. Such as familiar surroundings and Starbucks. But family, friends, and a dog are deep connections that I have made and are sacrifices that weigh on my heart.

My dog, dear Josie is a sweetheart. She gets sad when I leave and happy when I come home. I am sure she is in the dumps as I am thinking about it. If you think it odd that, I am ascribing human emotion to her, trust me it is not. It was hard that should read next to impossible to leave her. I want to take her with, but that is not possible for several reasons that I am not going to go into here. It will be sad to leave her behind. In many ways, it’s like leaving your best friend. You know you have to go that to stay to be with your best friend would be betraying where you feel you need to go. You would fault your friend for not living your dream. Even though, you leave your friend it doesn’t mean you don’t love your friend, but that to be your authentic true self you need to go. You hope to see your friend again. You hope to reconnect.

I won’t say much about Starbucks. I do miss my iced coffee. I also miss the wonderful baristas who knew me by name and the kind of drinks I liked.

I hope going to seminary will also help me in my personal spiritual journey. I want to study the bible deeper, explore theology more, learn more about Christianity, the church, and being a disciple of Jesus, and how to guide and lead at the local level. I want to discover creative ways of being the church and a disciple of Christ.

For me seminary is the next logical step on my journey. I know Iowa and seminary is different from what I knew most of my life. I want to explore and experience all that it has to offer. I want to meet new people and discover new things. I hope this whole process will be one of greater discovery and learning. My hope is not to be the next Rob Bell or John Piper, but to be the most authentic and transparent leader, teacher, and friend that I can be. I believe that The University of Dubuque and Seminary will help me with this that my time there will bless others and me now and throughout my life.

God’s spirit was working covertly to get me to where I am and to bring it about I had to experience certain things, some good some bad. It all led me to feel called to go to seminary in Dubuque. One could also argue, though I will deny it that it’s just a random gelling of circumstances with no meaning whatsoever. I trust God is in it. That no matter how difficult, frustrating, and challenging it is that it will transform me and bless others. That God is in the process, moment, and outcome of all of it.

Grace and Peace

My First Few Days

I know it’s been awhile since I last posted something. I do intend to post more frequently know that I am here in Dubuque.

I am now on the campus of the University of Dubuque. I survived a 30 hour bus ride and I am now settled into a townhouse on campus. I want to forget about the bus ride. It wasn’t fun; the best way to put it is that it was awful. Whether it was sitting next to the latrine or having some rude guy’s elbow in my side all night or being forced to eat only McDonalds. I don’t want to go over that. I have said enough about my journey to Dubuque.

Once on campus, I encountered one wonderful person after another. The last few days I have been a series of events and activities all encompassed in orientation. It’s been about learning more about the campus, the facilities, getting to know teachers and fellow students. It was been at times annoying but mostly it has been interesting, insightful, and exciting. My excitement to be going to seminary has not diminished, but nervousness has. I have dealt with my sadness and I know that I can face any negativity that comes up. I am not saying that it’ll be easy. It will be challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. If it were easy, I would not be doing it. I want to be transformed and deepened by my time here.

I would like to speak a bit about the things I am giving up to be here and why, then I will speak about my hopes and intentions, then I will say adieu.

I am giving up being close to family, in familiar surroundings, a wonderful church and church family, my dog, and Starbucks.

Not all of those things may seem to be pressing. Such as familiar surroundings and Starbucks. But family, friends, and a dog are deep connections that I have made and are sacrifices that weigh on my heart.

My dog, dear Josie is a sweetheart. She gets sad when I leave and happy when I come home. I am sure she is in the dumps as I am thinking about it. If you think it odd that, I am ascribing human emotion to her, trust me it is not. It was hard that should read next to impossible to leave her. I want to take her with, but that is not possible for several reasons that I am not going to go into here. It will be sad to leave her behind. In many ways, it’s like leaving your best friend. You know you have to go that to stay to be with your best friend would be betraying where you feel you need to go. You would fault your friend for not living your dream. Even though, you leave your friend it doesn’t mean you don’t love your friend, but that to be your authentic true self you need to go. You hope to see your friend again. You hope to reconnect.

I won’t say much about Starbucks. I do miss my iced coffee. I also miss the wonderful baristas who knew me by name and the kind of drinks I liked.

I hope going to seminary will also help me in my personal spiritual journey. I want to study the bible deeper, explore theology more, learn more about Christianity, the church, and being a disciple of Jesus, and how to guide and lead at the local level. I want to discover creative ways of being the church and a disciple of Christ.

For me seminary is the next logical step on my journey. I know Iowa and seminary is different from what I knew most of my life. I want to explore and experience all that it has to offer. I want to meet new people and discover new things. I hope this whole process will be one of greater discovery and learning. My hope is not to be the next Rob Bell or John Piper, but to be the most authentic and transparent leader, teacher, and friend that I can be. I believe that The University of Dubuque and Seminary will help me with this that my time there will bless others and me now and throughout my life.

God’s spirit was working covertly to get me to where I am and to bring it about I had to experience certain things, some good some bad. It all led me to feel called to go to seminary in Dubuque. One could also argue, though I will deny it that it’s just a random gelling of circumstances with no meaning whatsoever. I trust God is in it. That no matter how difficult, frustrating, and challenging it is that it will transform me and bless others. That God is in the process, moment, and outcome of all of it.

Grace and Peace

What is The Kingdom?

What can we say about the Kingdom?

Have you ever wondered what people mean when they say Kingdom of God or just Kingdom?

What exactly are they speaking about? We will assume they know, so let’s find out for ourselves.

I am no theologian or pastor, as of this writing I have not even stepped foot in seminary, though that does loom on the horizon. I am just like you—a mere or simple Christian—just someone looking into this. I preface with this to let you, dear reader know that I may be wrong or that I may be overlooking or not including something.

Gregory Boyd calls the Kingdom “a beautiful revolution… looks like Jesus—loving, serving, sacrificing for all people, including enemies.” And Fredrick Buechner says, “The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams and our truest prayers come from. We glimpse it when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong.”

I like that. A beautiful, Jesus-like revolution that our stronger, better selves come from the Kingdom. The Kingdom is where we belong. It feels so right. There is a place where goodness, beauty, and wonder are the order the day that it is possible to live a beautiful revolution. That the wrongs, even those we do can and will be righted. It must be stressed that the Kingdom includes, but transcends heaven. The Bible says that our ultimate destiny is not a far-off celestial abode, but a new earth. The Bible ends with heaven coming down to Earth; God’s dwelling place will be with man. For me, that means heaven embraces my humanity that I don’t have to become ‘celestial’ in order to make the cut. That trusting Jesus to be who the Gospels say he is makes it possible to be the person I want to be, but am not.

We pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. That means that we are to be ambassadors of Heaven on earth. We are to bring the civilization of Heaven to earth in all that we say, do, and think. Our lives are to be compelling examples of what it looks like to follow Jesus. N. T. Wright makes it clear that when Paul says our citizenship is in heaven that is a Roman term. It does not mean we are going to a far off heaven, but that we are to be heaven on earth. That our very lives are to be what happens when heaven invades earth. This is not to deny a heavenly rest when we die, but to explain how we are to live while we are on earth. God will get his way. Earth will be crammed with heaven. God’s love and light will flood earth. There will be a new earth and a new heaven. Every tear will be wiped away. Suffering will not be known and war will not be done. That is our ultimate destiny.  That is good news.

The Kingdom is a place and a way of being in the world in faith and grace. It matters how we live and our response to Jesus today is of upmost concern.  As Joan Chittister says, “Our role in life is to bring the light of our own souls to the dim places around us.” When we do this, we are manifesting our part of the Kingdom of God and as more and more of us do this, more of the Kingdom will be seen until one day we will wake up and the whole universe is like Jesus.  

John Caputo writes, “The Kingdom is found every time an offense is forgiven, every time a stranger is made welcome, every time an enemy is embraced, every time the least among us is lifted up, every time the law is made to serve justice, every time a prophetic voice is raised against injustice, every time the law and prophets are summed by love.”

I hope that helps to explain what the Kingdom is.

Marks of The Kingdom

Here are the five marks of the Kingdom seen in Jesus.

The Kingdom of God was breaking into history. In Mark 1, Jesus says, “The time has come. Repent and believe the good news!” At last, what the Prophets spoke about was coming into the world. God was coming back to deal with the mess we had made of his creation. God’s story reaches its climax in Jesus. Jesus embodied God and showed what happens when Heaven comes to earth—healing and celebration just to name two. Repent and believe were not two different things, but the same. Turn from your ways and trust that God is in charge bringing about a new creation. God’s supreme reign and rule is fully realized over the transformed universe and in the hearts of all His redeemed people. The coming of Jesus sets in motion all that will produce The Kingdom’s actualization. Jesus is the Kingdom.

The Kingdom is a New Society. Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18) That’s Jesus’ manifesto. If anyone, I don’t care who they are tells you that Jesus was about anything contrary they’re wrong and should be ignored. Jesus came that we might be liberated from the chains that bind and free us from evil to have eternal life. Jesus presents us with what we could never attain, without lifting a finger we are made free. We are home free already. Jesus came to invite us to a new way of life. Freedom, liberation, and recovery of sight are not just physical. We are imprisoned by our sins by all the ways we stop God’s love and grace from entering our lives. Our thinking that life is about us traps us. Life is not just about me. Life is communal. We were designed to be in relationship with one another. Others matter; what matters most is that we connect with one another. Recovery of sight is about healing, gracing, and saving now. It’s about all the ways that God enters our lives to bless us and through us bless others. The Lord’s favor is not about becoming religiously superior or financially well off and hording it over or from others. It is about living in and by God’s favor. We are blessed to be a blessing.

The Kingdom is a New Citizenship. In Luke 6, Jesus compares blessings with the woes showing us what it means to be in the Kingdom. Blessing is more than just being happy or at peace, it means that God’s favor rests on you even if it doesn’t seem that way now. Woe is for those who rely on their own achievement, they will reap disaster in the end. Jesus showed us both in word and deed what it means to live in the Kingdom of God. Jesus calls each of us to a new Citizenship. This can and should be lived out in our current life.

Jesus calls us to be different. We are not to look like the world, but like Jesus. The Kingdom of God, not of this world, is different and incompatible with how life is normally lived. We are to be a compelling force in the world for God’s love and grace not excluding but including not judging but serving not demanding but welcoming.

Jesus is the center of the Kingdom. Unlike most spiritual leaders, Jesus didn’t point away from himself, but to himself. Jesus’ very person and presence was heaven coming to earth. It is who is Jesus is not what Jesus did that saves. We are drawn to Jesus not just for the cross, but for how he lived his life. Jesus’ life is a concrete example of what a life lived in God looks like. Even people outside the church find Jesus’ life to a beautiful thing.  His death and resurrection are important, but we cannot properly understand them without seeing his life as witnessed in the Gospels.

In Everlasting Love

Over the next several weeks, I will be fleshing out the Brief Statement of Faith of the PCUSA. It appears last in the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions, as it is the most recent. I hope my meditations will help you, dear reader grow in faith in God and deepen your walk with Christ. Even if you don’t consider yourself Presbyterian, I think they will help you. As always, it is my hope that my reflections will nourish you no matter what you are, even if you are of no faith.

So far, I have reflected on how we belong to God, who this God is we belong to and its implications to our faith and life. We have reflected on who Jesus is and why we can and should trust him with our life. We have reflected on what it really means to trust in God. This belonging and trusting is not a passive activity but an active movement towards real life.

This week, I will look at a short section of the Brief Statement of Faith that meditates on God’s love and what the love of God has done through Israel and Jesus.

Through Abraham, God would bless all of humanity and in hearing Israel’s cry and delivering them from bondage showed that He is a God who loves and cares. The story of Israel is the story of how God became King, how God saved humanity from all the fumbling detours we took from Adam to Jesus. In Jesus dying on the cross, the whole story was fulfilled and revealed. The first Christians saw in the story of Jesus the culmination of the saving story of God. We are to share the story of Jesus with everyone inviting them into the Kingdom as students of Jesus Messiah.

Receiving the inheritance that comes to us in Christ involves sharing in his suffering, the catalyst to sharing in His glory. We are never promised that we won’t suffer and struggle, but we are promised life to the full. If Jesus the son of God and the full representation of the Father suffered even unto death on a cross, how can we imagine that we won’t endure pain. If Jesus shaped his life to the will of the Father, shouldn’t we also do the same?

When we abandon what we want for what God wants, forgive others instead of punishing them than we are suffering for Christ, no longer is our ego in control, but God is. Forgiving others is releasing the false notion that we are special and people need to be punished for treating us badly. When someone does something wrong correction is needed, but to punish is to dwell on those actions, to be trapped in and by the past. We forgive others in gratitude for the forgiveness and grace offered to us by Jesus. Christians do not put themselves before others. Jesus on the cross prayed for forgiveness for those who put him there. He didn’t curse them, but forgave them.

A key attribute of a Christian is forgiveness, because that is a key attribute of Jesus.

When we pray God’s will be done and mean it, we will endure suffering that will transform us into more Christ-like Christians.

Abandoning lusts and desires does not mean that we will not enjoy life, in some ways we will enjoy life more. By centering our lives on the values of the Kingdom, we will make life more carefree and simple. Anxiety for tomorrow only increases the undue pressures on our life. We need to live in the present not worrying what tomorrow will bring. When we trust God and know that we belong to God, we will not fear or worry only love and serve, as Jesus did.

Life with Christ must have both suffering and joy. We are to enjoy God, to glorify in God, and to spread joy and hope to others. Just as suffering is other centered, so is glory and joy. It is not just about us, but others. Salvation is life; it is both personal and communal.

Everything we do, from taking out the trash, to holding the door open, to hanging out with a friend, parenting, looking for our life partner, teaching a class, browsing Facebook should be done to the glory of God. How we live our lives is as important if not more so than where we go Sunday morning. We can and should worship God with our whole lives not just on Sunday mornings in a building designed for that purpose. People call where Sunday service is held sanctuary and consider it more holy, making it more special than the rest of creation. I think it is special, but so are an ordinary garden, the library, a parking lot, a street corner, and our homes. All of it is holy and good because God made it and God is present.

Christians are not dominated by the flesh but are under the rule of Christ. Though the body is still subject to death, life prevails because united with Christ we live to and with God. We stop living for our own happiness and seek to bless others with our life. This is how God created us to live. Life with God is not about escaping this world to some otherworldly paradise, but making this world as it is in heaven. Being citizens of heaven means bringing heaven to earth. We repent, turn from the life we were living and trust that God knows what he is doing that by embracing God’s grace, we will live the life we have always wanted to live.

If God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into our life, He’ll do the same thing in us that He did in Jesus, causing us to live vibrant fresh life. When God lives and breathes in us, as surely as he did in Jesus, we are delivered from dead life to eternal life. God makes us into the people we are to be and live the life we are meant to live. This is done not because we deserve it, but because we trust, God to do what Jesus promised he would do. In trusting God, making God our center we live into the grace lavished on us. As Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, and God-glorifying people, we are on the way to life eternal; death is only an interlude that all must pass through on the way to the Kingdom.

We Trust in God

Over the next several weeks, I will be fleshing out the Brief Statement of Faith of the PCUSA. It appears last in the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions, as it is the most recent. I hope my meditations will help you, dear reader grow in faith in God and deepen your walk with Christ. Even if you don’t consider yourself Presbyterian, I think they will help you. As always, it is my hope that my reflections will nourish you no matter what you are, even if you are of no faith.

So far, I have reflected on how we belong to God, who this God is we belong to and its implications to our faith and life. We have reflected on who Jesus is and why we can and should trust him with our life.

This week, I will look at a longer section of the Brief Statement of Faith that goes into detail of who God is.

Many will say God is not real or try to convince you that God is not good. Each of us whether we believe God is real or not has a concept of who God is. Some hold mistaken ideas of who God is and what He wants from us. It is always good for us to get straight on who God is what he wants, intends, and is all about.

The God I have seen, the God I know and trust is not a taskmaster. God compels not with force, but with love. The God of the bible never forces himself on us, but woes us to him, declares the world good and invites us into life with him over and over. He desires to be in relationship, community, and fellowship with His creation.

This is not about religion.

God has no religion. God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. All of those are human systems, which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don’t think my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God. (John Shelby Spong)

God refuses to be put into a box. He defies all easy definitions. The moment you put Him in a box, He breaks out destroying the box and every other box. God is not a well-behaved noun that just sits still. God is a verb. (Buckminster Fuller) God is a wild, free, and irreverent verb. God isn’t safe, but he is good. (C S Lewis) The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. (Rob Bell)

The good news of this God I have glimpsed, Jesus proclaimed, and the Christian story gospels about is even though we fail to honor God to be what we were created to be God loves us anyway. God is doing the same with us as He did in Jesus. God’s power and presence will not leave us the same. God will restore, redeem, grace, and bless us despite all our foibles. This really is good news, the best possible news and it is for everyone, everywhere. That is what makes this good news good, news, and worth proclamation.

If God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into our life, He’ll do the same thing in us that He did in Jesus, causing us to live vibrant fresh life in Christ. When God lives and breathes in us, as surely as he did in Jesus, we are delivered from dead life to eternal life.  God makes us into the people we are to be and live the life we are to live. This is not because we deserve it, because we don’t, but because we trust, God to do what Jesus promised he would do. We take God at his word and hold fast to faith. In trusting God, in making God our center, we live into the grace lavished on us. As Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, and God-glorifying people, we are on the way to life eternal; death is only an interlude that all must pass through on the way to the Kingdom.

When we trust in God and begin living life with God, we will see that God is good. We will begin to understand that God is not about diminishing or punishing us, but making us that we can and should be. God is our Father, king, redeemer, and lover of our soul. God is everywhere and is the very same God who created the universe is the same God, the Abba of Jesus who wants us but doesn’t need us loves each of us personally and powerfully. That is enough to make your head spin to wonder how it is possible that the Creator-King of the universe loves us as much as He does. It’s a deep, transformative, transcendent mystery that we can come to know in this life, but will never quite understand.

We have not been given this world, this life to do whatever pleases us in the moment. We are meant to be image bearers of God in the world; we are to be gifts of God to the world and to use our life to bless others. Our life is not our own. It is a gift, a miracle and if we don’t give it away, it will be taken from us. Our life, like the life of Jesus is to be broken, blessed and given away. We should live our lives as a living prayer to the God who wastes nothing, to the God of Jesus who lavishes boundless, intimate love and grace on all and calls us into relationship with the divine 3-in-1 dance.

Maybe, praising God can be more than just singing hymns, praying, and gathering once a week in a building. Maybe, we can and should praise God with our lives by being mindful, cultivating loving relationships, being kind to all we meet and to the places we live and go, by being a living prayer a living sermon.

Dare To Change

There are two schools of thoughts on change. Cynics say you cannot change and the optimist says that change is not just possible, but simple. I fall somewhere between. We can and do change, usually only when we are forced to or go through something awful. When we change its usually, I almost want to say always incremental. It takes time. Not everyone changes as Paul’s change from Saul the persecutor to the loved apostle.

Change takes time, yet I think each of should dare to change to become what God created us to be.

We are called to change, to align your life more and more with the life and teachings of Jesus.

There came a time when I woke up and now life will never be the same. All the pretending and wanting is done. I will never be the same again. The person I was is dead gone; I am becoming someone else that not even I know. I want to find out who I really am, who I am becoming. No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just…come out the other side. (Stephen King) Events happen in our life that pushes us to drop the facade and discover who we really are, to stop being a false self and embrace our true self.

It is scary and hard to change, but it is worth the hassle. Yet, if events didn’t cause us to change, we wouldn’t bother with it. We would just remain as we are and be happy with it. When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. (Viktor Frankl) We lose our job, get sick, suffer a break up, someone we love dearly dies, or some other great loss or pain happens and we are left to pick up the pieces. We stand shoulders hunched head lowered wondering how we to go on. How can we live when we hurt so badly? We ask why, why did this have to happen to us. Usually, we don’t get an answer and we are forced to get on with life, everyday someone is suffering greatly.

When we suffer greatly we can touch the divine. We are forced to change. We are forced to live without a job, the person we loved and built our life around, the life we wanted to live is no longer available. Gone not to return, we must live life differently because of this, we become a better, kinder, and able person. We are now able to live life on a different level than before.

Do you dare answer the call of God to change, to become the person you were created to be?

We must answer this question at least once, some more than others. We suffer.  We are forced to come to terms with our loss. Sooner or later, we need to realize there is no going back, no way except forward through it. In our path of recovery, we will find that not only can we go on, but we will be stronger because of it. It is hard to hear people say things will be better that the sun will shine again. We don’t want to hear that gibberish. We don’t want to get over it, to live again. We want things back as they were before. We push away all possibility of changing of living through our pain and loss of finding the light at the end of the darkness. We must know the pain of loss because if we never knew it, we would have no compassion for others, and we would become monsters of self-regard, creatures of unalloyed self-interest. The terrible pain of loss teaches humility to our prideful kind, has the power to soften uncaring hearts, to make a better person of a good one.  (Dean Koontz)

I’m not sure if that helps those going through something dark and unknown, but I can assure you that there is life on the other side. I have gone through a terrible loss and forced to embrace the kind of life I want. I would not be where I am now without having faced my own personal demons and overcome the darkness. Through loss and trails, I have discovered what is good, true, and beautiful. I know have a deeper idea of what really matters and because of that I have realized that life is imperfectly good. Knowing this makes up for all the crap I endured.

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