The human spirit Project: Genesis 45:27

 

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the NEW church in Town

ypThis new church is being propagated by bright, young, talented ministers who have certain skills. They find a part of the city that best suits them. They have developed a formula which states you can go into any town or city; find out what the non church goers want and apply the formula and within a short time you can raise a church up instantaneously.

After you have gathered a handful of people, you keep interviewing them to find out what they want; then you design your message to help people cope with their needs. The program you design is intended to make the church comfortable and friendly for all who wish to attend.

Sow and reapThe pastor is the CEO, and it becomes a business. They make no bones about it: They are following Madison Avenue tactics and can make a success of it. Their formula for quick church growth is cleverly packaged and is being sold especially to young ministers—those who want to be a part of the big boys and what’s happening on a fast track. They want it to happen quickly.

I know a number of struggling pastors who have worked for years and haven’t seen the kind of growth they want to see. A young man with an accommodating gospel moves into town and within a very short time has hundreds attending church. People are flocking there because there is entertainment; it’s a gospel of fun. I’ve been in some of them. It’s the Consumer churchgospel of entertainment that has no conviction whatsoever. There is very little in their gospel that speaks to sinners of repentance, brokenness, and cross-bearing. A Christ is preached, Jesus’ name is mentioned, but it’s another gospel, another Jesus…the new religion in town is moralistic therapeutic deism with a dash of scripture thrown in for good measure.

I have made this confession a few times and have heard it many times from others in the ministry, “I was that close to being sucked in because I fasted and prayed and didn’t see the growth I wanted to see, and I saw these others grow and I almost sold out to the consumer church model.”

“This church is a corporation, its outreach is marketing, its worship is entertainment, and its god is commodity.”  -Skye Jethani, from The Divine Commodity p.11

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The human spirit Project: Genesis 41:8

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The human spirit Project Genesis 2:7

 

 

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a Veiled Autobiography

jesus veiled 2The beatitudes are at the very core of Jesus’ inaugural teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.

They are more than an explanation of principle, or a set of ethics and certainly greater than a list of pious platitudes; they are a declaration of a person. St. Bernard referred to them as a “veiled autobiography of the character of Jesus.”

Others have commented on them as the:
• Constitution of the Kingdom of God.
• Jesus’ distillation of the entire Hebrew prophetic tradition.
• Magna Carta of the Christian faith and
• Manifesto of Christ’s alternative society.

Jesus is not merely telling us how to be Christian, but how to be human. Jesus is not only speaking as Head of the church, but as Creator of humanity.

Jesus called his disciples to follow and learn from him. We think of learning in the form of apostlesthe acquisition of information or facts, but Rabbi’s like Jesus made it a lifestyle…an internship within the affairs of everyday life.

Christ’s discipleship was the result of an accessible life…his students were eye-witnesses called upon to emulate, simulate, mimic and imitate his thoughts, words and deeds. Are you a disciple of Jesus?

No one goes sadly or reluctantly into discipleship with Jesus. No one goes in bemoaning the cost. They understand the opportunity. -Dallas Willard

Daily discipleship is to be an ongoing experience of the cross and resurrection.

The beatitudes are the Cross and Resurrection transposed into the life of discipleship.

The first half focuses on the crucifixion, where each “blessed are they ____” gives us the character and fruit of the company of the crucified–specifically crucified to the demands and dictates of the ego.

The second half focuses on the resurrection, where each “they will be _____” shows us a very real description of what Jesus produces in those transfigured by his resurrection and life…participation in the divine nature that changes us from glory to glory.

CrucifiedWhat does it look like to take up the cross and follow me? It looks like the sermon on the mount. His sermon pushes buttons, plows the soil of your heart and plants new seeds of life. This sermon will kill you then fill you. It is Jesus’ call to discipleship.

Jesus never speaks about the cross as a sit back and watch me die for you. No he talks about the cross as pick up yours and follow me…die with me. Jesus did not die instead of you – it is an invitation for you to die with him and be raised with him.

Blessed are…is better translated as “divine life” or from the classical Greek, the life of the gods…the divine enablement to walk in the Spirit, live by faith, and love by commandment.  Jesus is showing us a new way of being human.

Thanks to Bishop Malcolm Smith, Thomas Watson, Brad Jersak, Chuck Swindoll, Brian Zahnd, and a few others for their research and development of Jesus’ words that help me draft these notes.  The beatitudes are being adopted as the Core Virtues of our lives and our ministry here in Aurora, Colorado.

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Listen and Obey

Take a moment and marvel at Micah’s ability as a poet to capture in one line the essence of faith. Jesus changes “walk humbly” to “faith”  in Matthew 23:23, thus giving us the best definition in Scripture of what faith is.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

You can’t walk with God. You can only walk with YOUR God. To walk humbly with your God means that the life of faith is not just a matter of what we believe, but it is a matter practice and covenant.

GethsemeneWalking humbly means emulating Jesus, who “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death” (Phil 2:8). Obedience is the virtue that teaches us to be humble.  Hebrews 5:7-8 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.

Listen & Obey

We Value the accountability of humility through listening and obeying God and others in authority.

In the Hebrew (shama) and Greek (hupakouo – Hoop a coo oh). The word obedience means “to listen”…they are one in the same.

Test of your humility/faith is your obedience to those in authority over you. (Children to Parents, Husbands and Wives, Employee to Employer, Citizen to Civil Authority, etc.)

German ShepherdsIt requires us to develop a teachable spirit/attitude and as we do then we honor those who are over us and we receive the reward God gives through their position.  Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  1 Thess 5:12-13 We urge you, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.  1 Tim 5:17-18 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine… “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”  1 Kings 17:13 Elijah to the widow: “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son.

The highest level of faith is trust. Trust requires great humility because it requires you to believe God’s promises when you have no human understanding of how God will accomplish His promise.  Humble trust is demonstrated by an obedience to God’s Word before having a revelation of it.   “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

Your faith/humble walk will be tested as you come under and trust authority.  Just as the test of your love for God is your love for man, the proof of your obedience to God is found in your obedience to man/authority.  I would dare you to read your Bible and take out the human element of authority, submission, obedience and then tell me what you have left over.  Here are just a few examples…

1. Centurion’s servant sick unto death (Luke 7:2-10).baptism of Christ
• He is a commander in the Roman army
• Many in a high position would never think of humbling themselves.
2. Namaan a General with leprosy. (2 Kings 5:1-19).
• Elisha did not come out and meet him.
• The Prophet sent word though his servant
• Told the General to dip 7 times in filthy river
• His pride was offended & almost walked away
3. Caananite Woman (Matthew 15:21-28)
• Jesus told her to go away (only came for Israel)
• Jesus referred to her as a dog
• She persevered & Jesus said she had MEGA faith/great humility.
• You can never humiliate a truly humble person
4. Jesus & John’s Baptism (Matt 21)
• Submitted to God’s man early & was protected later.

Humility is the opposite of entitlement. People with pride (and deep insecurity) love to hear them self talk, are always trying to promote themselves, constantly giving people their resume and worst…think they are ready a long time before they are really ready.  Give them a job that lifts them up before people, and they’ll do it. Give them a job nobody knows about and it never gets done (or is done only begrudgingly). The humble person will accept any task whereby he can help people, no matter how humble that task is in the eyes of others.

attitudePeople who don’t get what they think should be coming to them turn very sour, very quickly. The people who often say they have no expectations are usually filled with them. They play a control game of unwritten rules that they silently demand others to obey. Their unmet expectations are always the cause of deep frustration which often appear under a cloak and dagger of subtle hostility, offensive airs, challenging negativity and an attitude of aloof superiority.  Attitude is your thought life turned inside out and is the reflection of your spirit that shows up on your face, body language, and mumbling grumbling words. You can’t airbrush “attitude”.

Humble YOURSELF or God will do it through an agency of human authority in your life. God opposes your pride but gives grace to the humble. I resist Satan in humility.

The virtue of humility (root is humus – of the earth) is that disposition of will which makes us see ourselves for what we really are in relationship to God and our neighbor.  Humility is truth, but rarely do any of us live with a truthful opinion of ourselves.  C.S. Lewis wrote, being humble is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

Humility is a matter of walking…NOT running, or driving or flying, but the uneventful, non glamorous, simple practice of walking. To walk humbly with God is to see our lives as a sacred pilgrimage. Walking is an active exercise. It is actually impossible to walk with God unless we walk humbly…to know that we are capable of only one step at a time.  To walk humbly is mirrored by Paul’s repeated command to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, your calling and in conduct. (1 Thess 2:12, Col 1:10, Phil 1:27, Eph 4:1).servants heart

Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, writes: “More than any other single way, the grace of humility is worked in our lives through the discipline of serving.”  The true test of humility comes when you are treated like a servant. It is one thing to choose to serve others, but it’s another thing entirely to choose to be a servant. A servant is often to be taken for granted, overlooked, unnoticed. A servant gives up the right to be in charge of whom they serve, when they serve and how long they serve.

Test your humility by:
1. Receiving discipline or correction
2. Being treated harshly w/out cause
3. Not being treated as the leader
4. Being overlooked or neglected for opportunity
5. By being laughed or not being able to laugh at yourself
6. Not being as knowledgeable as someone else
7. By losing or being second in your field of competition
8. Not being as valued in a friendship as you value them
9. When your rights are violated & you have to die 2 self

Conversion is a set of necessary humiliations to your false self. – Fr. Thomas Keating

The greatest illustration in my opinion of “necessary humiliations” comes from the movie, The Game starring Michael Douglas.

The GameIsaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

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Seek First to Understand

This value is powerful because it focuses on your circle of influence. It’s an inside out approach. By seeking first to understand, we can turn a transactional opportunity into a transformational opportunity.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Seek First to Understand

We Value the judgment to error on the side of giving mercy to others.

Micah 6 8

• Eventually God breaks every rule in the Old Testament; this is mercy. -Brueggemann.
• God sits on a seat of mercy.
• God’s throne is the place to obtain mercy.
• He visits sin to 3-4 generations but shows mercy to 1000′s.
• Mercy pursues me all the days of my life.
• Mercy is new every morning.
• God is rich in mercy.
• Mercy triumphs over judgment.
• the Chorus of history in Psalm 136 is, his mercy endures forever repeated 26 times!
• I was born in Mercy hospital…so were you
• The church is the house of mercy.
• I never bet against the mercy of God because I never like my odds. – Bill Everitt
• It is better to have to give an account to God for too much mercy than for too much severity. —–St. Antoninus.

God does not have love, He IS love! He cannot have more or less, it is not quantitative or measurable; it can’t be quenched or kindled by behavior…good or bad. God’s love is like the sun and rain it comes to both the good and the evil.

BUT…
What do you do when you fall flat on your face
fall from a life of social grace,
feel the shame of Adam’s race,
your creator’s image is now mud on your face,
to everyone around you’ve become a big disgrace,
a wreck and ruin …an emotional basket case,
your sin and shame you can’t erase,
there is no place you can show your face,
you’re driven from your place,
locked away inside a tight space,
they’ve taken your photo like you were shot with mace,
like a fugitive you wish you could lose yourself w/out a trace,
your past is scattered like ashes from a shattered vase?

I am sure that we are all well informed on the scandals concerning; President Bill Clinton Scandaland his questionable relationship with Monica Lewinsky, which is nothing in comparison to King David and his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and his murderous cover up of her husband.  Then there is the Tiger Woods entanglements due to his entitlements that has left him just a shell of his former self.  Then there is the Penn State football fumble concerning Joe Paterno and his prior knowledge  concerning assistant coach Jerry Sandusky who has been charged with 40 criminal counts, accusing him of molesting eight young boys.  Then there is the dictatorship of Saddam Huessin, who also by comparison was a boy scout compared to King Nebuchadnezzer, the actual head of gold when it came to ego-maniac emperors and yet he found mercy in the God of Daniel.

The line separating good and evil passes, not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties—but right through every human heart. – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Could you believe that you were a candidate for the mercy of God after a public Sex Scandal, followed by lies, deception, premeditated murder and a year long cover up?
I mean he broke two the big ten commandments so then on what basis do you appeal to God?  On this alone…Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51

scandal-of-graceThe breaking news stories of our day and times are worthy of epic biblical responses…

The SCANDAL of our faith is God’s LOVE!!!!!!!!

As rapidly and riveting as the Penn State news broke…our news should be constantly breaking into peoples “regularly scheduled lives”. Interrupting them with the scandal of his love for them regardless of their life or lifestyle. Our Good News trumps their bad news any day!

“Even our troubles don’t belong to us exclusively; within them is the seed of another person’s comfort, hope, and inspiration. My mercy is not my mercy. It all belongs to others, and those others were once you and me.” – Paul Scanlon

• Do people instinctively look to the church when they need mercy?
• Do you believe that no one is beyond Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness?
• What if how we judged others is how we’ll be judged when we need mercy?

We are called to LOVE mercy…we must begin to see people as Jesus sees them. Jesus never sees a person’s external presentation. He never saw a tax collector, prostitute, thief, drunkard…he never saw people as SINNERS.ScandalOfGrace

In Jesus’ constitution of the kingdom of God, the beatitudes, he defines the divine life. The word blessed from the classical Greek is best rendered “the life of the gods”!  From his 4th and 5th beatitudes Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness…Blessed are the merciful…you can hear a deliberate echo of Micah 6:8 do justly & love mercy…

Later in the sermon of the mount…in Matthew 5:48, Jesus calls us to perfection and in Luke 6:36 to be merciful.  The perfection God is looking for is not the unattainable perfection of flawlessness—but the fully attainable perfection of extending mercy to those who are flawed.

Here is where my imperfections come soaring to the surface. I am so full of my own judgments, insecurities, fears, inferiority, and infirmities that I fail to be compassionate…which is mercy in motion.

For example I have people in my life (maybe you do too) that I cannot love.  They remind me that it is not them that are full of shortcomings, but me, because I am not yet perfected in love. It humbles me to recognize that after 46 years of following Christ I don’t have enough of his life and love to absorb my neighbors and enemies.

But as we continue to grow in Christ we can gain the heart ability to believe that God really does love others, strangers and enemies.  As we do our faith in God’s love will bring about his love in us for them. Empowering us to see them, serve them and save them.

Without a commitment to justice, mercy can collapse into cheap sentimentality. When the longing for justice banishes mercy we have abandoned the Jesus way.  When we bring justice to the poor, widow, orphan and foreigner, God calls that mercy. If your understanding of God doesn’t make you more merciful then you misunderstand God.

mercyJesus was merciful toward sinners…as long as their sin was not being unmerciful. So if you’re going to be a sinner, I would suggest your sin be something other than showing no mercy because Jesus was only unmerciful with those who were unmerciful.

2 Cor. 5:14 For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us, because we are of the opinion and conviction that [if] One died for all, then all died; Amplified Bible.  Paul used the word “constrained” – a medical term used only by physicians probably borrowed from his traveling companion, Luke. It was used to describe the condition of a virus in the body that brought about a severe fever. The virus was so controlling that it would bring you to hallucinations. The diagnosis was “you were constrained.”

We have the virus of another life…the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  David Oxberg wrote, Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.  In his famous prayer, St. Francis of Assisi asked God to help him to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Their is a biblical basis for testing your mercy quotient, its the love test.love test

  • The test of your love for God is seen in your love for your neighbor.
  • The test of your love for your neighbor is seen in your love for yourself.
  • The test of your love of your self is seen in your love for your enemy…because you are your own worst enemy.

The test isn’t given on Sunday’s at church, but in every day real life situations.

 

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