God with us

16 June, 2010

I’m reading through Ezekiel and am up to chapter 34. You know, the one where God tells off the shepherds off Israel for looking out for themselves and then tells off the flock for doing the same.

Anyhoo, His remedy to this is the promise that one day, He himself will shepherd his people. He will search them out, He will establish them and He will personally provide for them. How? Via his servant David. Jesus himself takes up this theme when he calls himself The Good Shepherd (Jn 10).

Now, I’ve read this passage many times. But today, here’s what took hold of my heart and made me smile…

Ez 34:24
“And I the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken.”

A prince among them. With us. As one of us. Now that, right there, the Lovely Word, is beauty.

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lovely

27 September, 2009

From forever the Word existed
And the Word was The God
And God was the Word
He was from forever in relationship/communion with The God

The Word
God
Life
Light
Flesh/Man
Giver of Grace
Gives of Truth
Revealer of God

Lovely One.


distinctive?

13 October, 2008

Although it’s been a while since I’ve regularly blogged, I have been posting elsewhere.  So here’s something I wrote not so long ago on what I believe makes followers of Jesus distinctive…

What makes us distinctive?

I have friends who tell me it’s the fact that we’ve acknowledged what Jesus did on the cross so we’re saved and we live our lives accordingly.

But, I watch them, and they’re driven by much of the same compulsive attitudes (success, power, authority, popularity, status) that the rest of the world is. The biggest difference is they’ve channelled those attitudes, desires, whatever into what has become socially acceptable within Christian culture.

Same same… but different.

In this case, the only distinctive thing is the culture in which it’s all lived out. It’s like they’ve justified them all by slapping the word “calling” on them and giving them the appearance of Godliness.

Sure they’re different, they don’t smoke, they don’t swear, they don’t sleep around, they don’t cheat on their partners, and they frown upon those that do. Mind, I know many unsaved people who don’t do any of these things either. But then my unsaved friends don’t read bibles, and turn up to church on Sundays and don’t tithe, maybe that’s it?

I know many unsaved that pray… so that can’t be it, although they wouldn’t put “in the name of Jesus” on the end. 

But, isn’t that still just behaviour modification or even ‘sin management’ (as Dallas Willard so eloquently puts it)? 

Isn’t the thing that actually makes us distinctive not that we talk and walk with people just like us, and exert self-control in some areas of our lives, or even that our lives have been modified so that we fit within acceptable standards of behaviour with the Christian culture, but rather that we’re becoming more and more aware of how much we’re loved by our Creator and that that love is transforming us on the inside into his image. So that, all that other stuff no longer matters to us? 

We don’t need power, control, authority over others, success etc to make us feel ok or even acceptable to those around us. We no longer need to perform for the masses, conform to their expectations or even place expectations of behavioural standards on others. I mean, isn’t that what Jesus came to set us free from? Not only sin and it’s grasp on our lives, but along with that (for surely it’s all connected?), free to live unencumbered by all the stress of conformity to those around us and their expectations? Religious or otherwise?

Free to be the beloved of God.
Free to live for others instead of self.
Free to promote others ahead of ourselves.
Free to allow them to ruin our reputations before men.
Free to go where religion can’t take us, to befriend the drug addict, 
the homeless, 
the poor, 
the widow, 
the wretched, 
the neglected, 
the smelly, 
the stinky, 
the dirty, 
the naked, 
the homosexual, 
the blasphemer, 
the sex addict, 
the foul mouthed youth, 
the drunkard, 
the single parent, 
the angry teenager, 
the ugly, 
the despicable, 
the desperate,
the lonely, 
the murderer, 
the enemy of our nation, 
and those that act in all the other ways we find offensive, because, really, we’ve encountered the love and forgiveness of Jesus and we get that just like us, these are just hurting, broken people, responding to the fact that they ‘feel’ unloved and unimportant.

But we know that’s not true. They are loved more deeply and more honestly then anything they can imagine, and what really matters is that the people around us begin to get how loved they are by their heavenly Father. That they (and we?) no longer have to lash out at others to protect or exalt themsevles. They are loved due to the mere fact that they ‘are’ the beloved of God, His creation, His kids and Jesus died for them as much as he died for us… He loves them, and if we don’t, then John tells us we don’t know God.

And I believe our distinctiveness is found in the fact that we wont isolate or reject the ‘unlovely’, we wont shun those who disagree with us, we wont judge the broken, because we know that they already feel wretched and dirty, it’s grace they don’t understand, and we have that by the bucket-load!!! We get ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ because He has met us in the midst of our junk, and poured His love into our hearts.

That’s what markes a believer as distinctive to me. Not just the ‘card carrying christians’ who show up every time the church doors are open and have exchanged ambition in the ‘world’ for ambition in the church, because ‘that’s what you’re supposed to do’… but those who are the people of God because the Spirit of Jesus lives in them.

I reckon that is our distinctiveness, and no amount of separateness “from the world” is ever going to work that in us. The only thing that will is if we get what God did in the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord and allow that to transform us into his image. 

From the inside out… not the other way around.


our justifications

18 December, 2007

It’s been a while, two months I think.  But I’m still here, still reading, still primarily hanging out in the gospels and still getting to know Jesus, the Way he responded to people, the Way he thought, re-discovering the things he said.  I finished reading Matthew a couple weeks ago and there were a three things this time around that have messed with the way I think about Jesus and the Way I want to do life…

The first was in Matthew 5:17-18, when Jesus said “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”  He then goes on to say just how hard it is to live up to the law.  Remember the whole need for our “righteousness to exceed that of the Pharisees” bit?  And cutting off your left hand if it causes you to sin?  How about being in danger of judgement just for being angry with your brother without cause?  Or adultery of the heart?  You don’t actually have to “commit adultery” you just have to think about it to be guilty of it!  What on earth?  The “Law” just became and even harder task master.

But wait a minute, what did Jesus start with?  He said that he came to fulfill the Law, and nothing of it would be changed until it was fulfilled.  But He’s done that!  He said it was over!  Paul explains quite succinctly in Romans that there was no way we could live up to the law and that the only one that could save us from the wretched people that we are is in fact Jesus!  He did it.

Now, what strikes me about this passage in Matthew is that I’ve heard it taught as something we should aspire to.  We do our very best not to do the things Jesus talked about here.  Don’t call someone anyone a ‘fool’, don’t be angry without cause, don’t look at someone lustfully, be prepared to cut off your hand if it causes you to sin (although I don’t know of anyone who actually takes this one seriously, nor the one about gauging out an eye), but seriously folks, isn’t this the very thing that Jesus came to set us free from?  We no longer live by the law.  He made it clear!  He has fulfilled the Law.  It is finished!

I think what He was doing here was just highlighting our inability to fulfill the law ourselves and our need for Him to do it.  We can’t but the separation between Heaven & Earth has passed away, the Law & the Prophets are fulfilled, and the more I get to know the One who brought the cure, the less I want the sickness that is this sin.

The second thing that stood out was in Matthew 18, you know, the passage about how we’re to treat the “sinning brother”?  Briefly, if a fellow follower of Jesus sins against you, you’re to go to him and call him/her on it.  If they ignore this, then take another follower with you, if that’s ignored take it to the larger community of believers, and if they ignore that, then treat them like a sinner.

Now the thing that really bugged me about this is that I’ve heard this used over the last 17 years as a justification for cutting someone out of our lives.  Expelling them from “fellowship”.  In effect, it’s the old term “excommunicate them”.  They can no longer commune with us.  The justification being that we’ve called them on their sin, they ignored it and so Jesus said to treat them like a sinner.

But… wait a minute.  How did Jesus treat sinners?  He spent most of his time with them!  He went to their house for lunch, he talked to them by the well, he made a point of not condemning them, he went fishing with them, he even drank with them (remember the ol’ “wine bibber” accusation?).  In short Jesus was their friend.  He lived his life with sinners.  Lovely.

I don’t think Jesus was giving us an excuse to cut people off at all.  I think he was telling us to let them off the hook.  To no longer have such high expectations of them.  So they don’t want to live life according to the ways we think they should, so let them off the hook!  Free them from our expectations, but, love them.  Keep loving them.  Be their friend and love them.  I think that’s why he goes on to say “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”… let them loose He cries.  Beautiful.

Thirdly, Matthew 20 & 23 (and I’ll emphasise the text to make my point quicker)…

Matthew 20:25-28
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Matthew 23:1-12
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;  therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.  “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.  “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.  “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.

But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.  “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (emphasis mine).

Strangely, or perhaps “perversely”, this one kind of made me laugh.  These passages have been used time and again as the basis for “leadership training”:

“If someone wants to lead, let them first serve.  You can’t lead others if you don’t know how to follow.”


Now, I say that’s just plain old nonsense, that is so not what Jesus is saying here!.  He wasn’t giving us a leadershipprinciple, he was saying exactly what he said.

“Do not be called leaders!”

“Do not be called Teacher, Father or Leader, that’s My role with you.  Don’t lord it over one another, you’re all brothers, equal.  If someone insists on leading you, don’t let him/her.  Let them serve you.  Not in order to lead, because I’ve said don’t be called Leaders!  Serve one another in love, just as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Jesus never demanded anyone obey him, on the contrary, he said that as we get to know him we will find ourselves doing the stuff that he’s taught us (John 15:14) and though he has the title of Lord, have you noticed he never enforces it?  It’s always by invitation.  I follow Him because of His great love for me.  I trust Him, and yet, even that relationship is not really as Lord and servant, it’s as friends.  He has allowed me to get to know the Father in a way I never could have before, because he came as my friend, my brother.  He never condemns, never manipulates, never shames, never condescends.  If you don’t believe me, have a look for yourself.

So why do we insist on taking up positions of leadership over one another?  I suspect it’s more to do with our own need for significance than it is anything that God is truly doing in us, because I’m fairly certain he hasn’t changed his mind about this stuff….

John 15:15-17

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.  “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”

“This I command you, that you love one another.”



forgive us our trespasses

14 April, 2007

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

When I’ve heard, read or said these words, in my mind, I’ve mostly interpreted the word ‘trespasses’ as ‘sins’, and never really put a lot of thought into why the word ‘trespass’ was used. Until this week that is, when I was listening to Wayne & Brad at The God Journey and they were talking about it.

They were discussing the whole concept of trespassing in terms of “going where we shouldn’t” or “taking that which hasn’t been given to us”. I really like that.

After all, isn’t that what sin is? Stepping outside our rightful bounds and doing, or saying, or taking, or going where we’ve not been permitted to go?

Taking for ourselves that which isn’t freely given, imposing on others our agendas and expectations. Even imposing those same things on our Heavenly Father, instead of living Life in the Way and Truth of His son, and making the most of today and all that he’s provided, our ‘daily bread’.


the more excellent Way

7 March, 2007

So much for being able to blog more often now that I have the notebook. The intention was there, but the reality was that this week was just totally crazy busy.

Having said that though, here are some things that Dad’s been re-affirming of late…

  • He’s more interested in the state of my heart and in me being His friend than me being His servant.
  • He wants me to live in such a wag that the Gospel is fully accessible to any and all that i come into contact with on a daily basis.
  • His Kingdom is from everlasting to everlasting.
  • He loves the whole Church.
  • Being ‘right’ wont achieve a thing if I don’t live it.
  • I can only trust Him and others as much as I believe they love me.
  • To love someone means to want the best for them.
  • He loves me.
  • He loves everyone else just as much.
  • Nip ‘unforgiveness’ in the bud before it turns to contempt.
  • If I can’t forgive someone, it’s my issue, not there’s.
  • What we call ‘love’ very often isn’t.
  • What we call friendship is very often just a ‘mutual accommodation of self need’ (Dave Coleman)
  • Sundays are NOT the game, they’re just the training sessions.
  • He loves everybody, and asks me to do likewise.
  • When i don’t treat someone in a loving manner, it’s most likely because there’s a part of God’s character that I still need to get a handle on (ie, it’s about me, not them).
  • Acting ‘lovingly’ toward someone is still just an act – they will see through it!
  • Love is affectionate.
  • Jesus gave ‘the man on the street’ authority to carry on His work – NEVER prevent that, never take it off them, ALWAYS encourage them! There is no exclusive ‘ministers’ club in His Kingdom.
  • Saying ‘sorry’ doesn’t diminish you in the least – unless you’re worried about your ‘reputation’ – and He’s not.
  • Give.
  • Rest.
  • Give some more.
  • Practice this loving thing – it’s exhilarating!!

  • home

    17 February, 2007

    I’m not long home from Cornerstone.  Tonight was our first night there for 2007 and it was full of wonder!  I really enjoyed seeing everyone again.  There was even one guy that came in tonight that I hadn’t seen for a good 10 years, and I have to admit that while I remembered him, I didn’t remember his name, yet he walked up and greeted me by name, with a very wide smile and filled me in on the last 10 years of his life.  Made me smile.

    It was a great night.  We had a meal together (thanks to KJ for providing last mintue foodage when we discovered the uneatableness of the prearranged meal), we played Uno, we sang songs from the Jukebox, and everyone came together to sing happy birthday to a very cute 2 year old and then enjoyed birthday cake.

    I love this place.  I love the community of people that Father has brought together there.  They’re such a group of odd-bods, so diverse and yet they come to Cornerstone and look out for one-another and have created a community of people that genuinely care for each other.  They’re just lovely!!!!!

    Once again tonight I was reminded of how much I love the people of Dandenong.  How much Dad loves the people of Dandenong, and how much I really want to be there. 

    I have no doubt, that sometime this year, I’ll be moving back to Dandenong, moving home…