Tags: angels, Bible, Bible study, charity, Christianity, comfort, eternal life, evangelical, evil, faith, fellowship, forgiveness, God’s Word, good, grace, healing, hope, Jesus, joy, judgment, kingdom of God, love, mercy, New Testament, Old Testament, peace, progressive, shalom, social justice, sorrow, thoughtful, truth
Tags: anabaptist, Bible, Bible study, charity, Christianity, comfort, evangelical, evil, faith, forgiveness, God’s Word, good, grace, healing, hope, hospitality, Jesus, joy, kingdom of God, love, mercy, New Testament, Old Testament, parables, peace, progressive, service, shalom, simple life, social justice, thoughtful, truth, USA
How do we find our true selves?
What is the purpose, the meaning, of life?
We are created to be children of a loving heavenly Father. We are daughters and sons of God. We belong with God – connected, in fellowship, in relationship.
God is love. There is no source of love (in its truest sense) apart from God.
We are made for community, connectedness, family, by the God who is triune – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in perfect loving harmony, pouring out Self in love in perfect perichoresis. One God in need of nothing, yet chose, at great risk to Self, to create free beings with whom to have koinonia.
Kyle Snodgrass (Professor at North Park Seminary in Chicago, the graduate school of the Evangelical Covenant denomination) knows more about Jesus’ parables than anybody on the planet. I love the title he gives to the parable in Luke 15 we normally call the parable of the prodigal son: “The parable of the compassionate father and his two lost sons.”
In reality, both sons are lost – one, the younger, by despising his father, wishing him dead, demanding and squandering his inheritance; the other – the elder, by despising grace and looking down on others. Both put themselves outside the father’s love. The father, oblivious to custom and dignity, runs to, embraces, kisses, and clothes the younger. The father searches for, finds, goes to and seeks to reconcile his older son who is sulking outside.
A great feast – perhaps 100-200 people – roast beef – celebration – joy.
Three parables in Luke 15:
- The lost sheep. God cares for, searches for and tenderly carries home the lost, the despised, the neglected, the outsider, the stranger, the weak, the weary, the homeless, addicted, little insignificant ones.
Thank you Lord for finding me.
Lord, help me to act like you – to seek the “least of these,” and carry them home to you.
- The lost coin. Like the woman, God is diligent, relentless, assiduous, and persistent in seeking the lost. God will not quit until they are found. Neither the lamb nor the coin have the ability to find their own way home. The shepherd and the woman do the work.
I was lost, but now I am found.
Lord, help me to be like you – to diligently, relentlessly love and treasure others.
- The lost sons: One religious and law-abiding, upstanding and respectable; the other rebellious, flaunting, and stupid. One “good,” the other “bad.” Both need to come home. But not just come to home – they both need to come to their father.
Lord, help me not to be senseless and rebellious like the younger son.
Lord, help me not to be judgmental and self-righteous like the older son.
Lord, when I am rebellious or self-righteous, give me the sense to flee into the arms of the Father.
Lord, help me, as I live in the warm embrace of God’s love, to be like God – forgiving, welcoming, restorative, and celebratory.
P. S. In Rembrandt’s painting of the prodigal (see above), he painted himself as the returning son.
Fear of outsiders, of foreigners, is rampant in society. The other is characterized as “rapists and murders,” or “terrorists.” Walls are built. Children are ripped from their parents. People are deported. We are very afraid.
But, Scripture says, perfect love casts out fear.
Perichoresis (from Greek: περιχώρησις perikhōrēsis, “rotation”) is a term referring to the relationship of the three persons of the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to one another. It means, “mutually indwelling.” The Holy Trinity is One God living in perfect community, harmony, familial relationship as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father pours His love into the Son and Holy Spirit; the Son pours His love into the Father and Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit pours His love into the Father and Son. Everything about God is other oriented.
God makes space for the other. God created humankind in order to pour His love into us. God created nature in order to pour His love into it. He does so in the hope that we will use our freewill to pour our love (which He gives us) into Him, one another and creation.
The Garden of Eden was a Temple in which God dwelt with humans. The humans rejected that love. God responded by raising up a people via Abraham who were to be a blessing to all nations as God poured His love into them, and they poured their love into God and others, including the Gentile nations. They did not. Instead, they pridefully became a closed community, interpreting their special calling as exclusive favor. God responded by becoming human. The incarnation of Christ is God becoming human; God with us – Emmanuel. At the cross, God demonstrated the ultimate pouring out of love, not only for friends, but for enemies as well.
Hebrews 13:2 says: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. The word translated “hospitality” is Φιλοξενία (philoxenia), literally, love of the foreigner, or love of the other. It’s opposite is xenophobia (ξένος (xenos), meaning “strange”, “foreigner”, or “other” and φόβος (phobos), meaning “fear”)
To follow Jesus means to welcome the “other,” the one who is different, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, education, language, race, creed, nationality, or legal status. No follower of Jesus can tolerate xenophobia. Am I making space for the other?
Tags: Bible, Bible study, charity, Christianity, comfort, faith, fellowship, forgiveness, God’s Word, good, grace, hope, hospitality, Jesus, joy, kingdom of God, love, mercy, New Testament, parables, peace, progressive, service, shalom, simple life, social justice, thoughtful, truth, USA
Tags: angels, Bible, Bible study, charity, Christianity, comfort, eschatology, evangelical, evil, faith, fellowship, forgiveness, God’s Word, good, grace, hope, Jesus, joy, kingdom of God, love, Old Testament, parables, peace, progressive, shalom, simple life, social justice, thoughtful, truth, USA
Tags: Advent, anabaptist, angels, Bible, Bible study, charity, Christianity, comfort, end times, eschatology, eternal life, evangelical, evil, faith, fellowship, forgiveness, God’s Word, good, grace, grief, healing, heaven, hell, hope, hospitality, Jesus, joy, judgment, kingdom of God, love, mercy, Messiah Christ, New Testament, Old Testament, peace, progressive, red letter Christian, second coming, service, shalom, simple life, social justice, thoughtful, truth, USA
Tags: Advent, anabaptist, Bible, Bible study, charity, Christianity, comfort, eschatology, evangelical, faith, fellowship, forgiveness, God’s Word, good, grace, hell, hope, hospitality, Jesus, joy, kingdom of God, love, mercy, New Testament, Old Testament, peace, progressive, service, shalom, simple life, social justice, thoughtful, truth, USA
In Luke 14:33, Jesus is recorded as saying:
“So, therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has, cannot be my disciple.” (ESV)
“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.” (The Message)
In my role as a healthcare chaplain, I see it every day.
- Easy believism.
- Market-driven civil religion.
- Detrick Bonhoeffer calls it “cheap grace.”
Many see salvation as a ticket for the future. I said a prayer; I have my ticket to heaven; I’m good to go.
My spouse and I have tickets to a concert next month, but having those tickets in no way affects our daily lives now. Similarly, there are many people, at least in North America, who see salvation as a ticket to go to heaven when they die – a ticket that is good for something in the future, but which has no effect on their lives in the meantime. They live their lives in exactly the same manner in which they would have had they not said that prayer.
That is not biblical salvation.
Biblically, justification and sanctification cannot be separated.
To have faith in Christ means to follow Christ.
Imagine we are in a high-rise building on business that suddenly becomes engulfed in smoke, with fire alarms blaring and fire-doors automatically closing, and someone stands up and says, “Follow me, I know the way out.” If we trust that person, we will follow her.
Trusting Jesus means we are following Jesus. Faith produces following. If I am not following, I do not have faith.
But, too often in North America, we have reduced faith to acknowledging a set of doctrines, or beliefs. As I stand over the bed of a dying person, now unresponsive with mottled limbs and agonal breathing, family members tell me, “He never went to church, but he believed in God; he lived a good life.” I do not despair for the patient’s eternal destiny – I believe God’s mercy is wide, and I pray God will speak to the now comatose person and reveal Himself to him, forgive his sins, and welcome him into everlasting life.
But for those of us who are not comatose, we need to realize that biblical salvation is not about getting a ticket so you can go to heaven when you die. It is about following Jesus now. Discipleship, spiritual formation is not an optional add-on, as if we can believe without following.
Following Jesus should radically affect my entire life. By God’s enabling grace, I seek to:
- Live by different rules.
- Pledge allegiance to King Jesus alone.
- Be a citizen of heaven, not Canada, or the USA, or anywhere else.
- Have a radically different focus – on God and others, rather than myself.
- Care for creation – environmental justice trumps profit.
- Share my resources to help those in need, rather than indulge myself.
- Turn the other cheek; be nonviolent.
- Love my enemies instead of killing or undermining them.
- Be noncoercive, and nonmanipulating.
- Be honest, genuine, authentic.
- Be willing to die.
- Be pro-life – opposed to anything that dehumanizes the other, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, capital punishment, violence, war, police brutality, lethal self-defense, and abortion as birth control.
- Identify and stand with the homeless, the addicted, the poor, the disenfranchised, the mentally ill, the elderly, the sick, the frail, the damaged, and the marginalized.
- Welcome the stranger, the immigrant, regardless of documentation or quota.
- Wash feet. My job is to love.
I’m not very good at it yet.
Unlike the tower builder or the military brass (see Luke 14:25-35), we cannot calculate the cost in advance.
If I surrender all to Christ, will He require me to give up my family? Liquidate all my assets and donate to the poor? Refuse to stand for a national flag or anthem? Refuse military service? Sacrifice my health? Radically change my career? Move to …?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But, Jesus’ point is that I must be willingto do anything, give up anything or anyone, go anywhere at God’s command.
But, how do I become willing?
First, I think, we seek God. We ask God to shine the light of the Holy Spirit into every crevice of our beings and show us what we are still holding on to. What can I not imagine giving up? Imaginatively, enter into the feeling of what it might be like to sell all you have and give to the poor, for example. God will, I think, show us what we are clinging to and help us release it (or her or him).
I often pray, “Lord, make me willing. If I don’t really mean what I just said, make me mean it.”
Still, in my own life, I find a gap between my desire to be willing to radically forsake all and follow Jesus and actually doing it. What holds me back?
Two things, primarily.
- I am a coward. If I sacrificed everything, where would that leave me?
- I find it impossible (or nearly so) to radically follow Jesus apart from a group of like-minded people who have the same desire.
The cure for fear is God’s love. Perfect love casts out fear, scripture teaches me. The more I become immersed in God’s love, the more I become aware of how deep, wide, unconditional, eternal, and radically fierce God’s love is, the less I will fear.
Experientially learning God’s love is a journey, a pilgrimage.
Isolation is a problem for me. People keep telling me to be in community. If you live down the street from the Simple Way or The Meeting House or Woodland Hills church, trot over and join. I’m sure there are radical Jesus-followers here in the Bible belt who don’t blend discipleship with nationalism, militarism, and capitalism, but, as of today, I am having trouble finding more than a few of them.
Maybe that’s enough.
Tags: Advent, anabaptist, angels, Bible, Bible study, charity, Christianity, comfort, end times, eschatology, eternal life, evangelical, evil, faith, fellowship, forgiveness, God’s Word, good, grace, grief, healing, heaven, hope, hospitality, Jesus, joy, kingdom of God, love, mercy, Messiah Christ, New Jerusalem, New Testament, Old Testament, Pastor Larry, peace, progressive, red letter Christian, second coming, service, shalom, simple life, social justice, spirituality, thoughtful, truth, USA