Welcome to the Table

Photo by Leif Inge Fosen on Unsplash
Photo by Leif Inge Fosen on Unsplash

The pastor spoke of ‘radical inclusion’ this morning in the message. It was amazing.

The term ‘non-religious worship’ (I’ve never heard that one before) was also rattling around in my head after the message.

God is always welcoming non-believers, the non-religious, non-card-carrying-members into the fold.

Many of the legalistic, us-four-and-no-more, are going to be unhappy about it, but that’s OK. They are ‘the blind leading the blind’.

The fields are already ripe for the harvest. (John 4:35).

Can we put down our political differences, our racial differences, our sexual differences, our (whatever) differences, and learn to love?

Instead of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’, why don’t we stop focusing on hating anything, and learn to love, period?

Paul said in Galatians 1:15-16, “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me…”

Paul preached that God was already there inside, before he could make any sort of confession of belief. God showed Paul that Christ was already there in him, and revealed Christ to him as in him.

The seed of Christ is already hidden in every ‘unbeliever’. We who believe, are, through the Holy Spirit, watering that seed, nurturing and growing it, until is sprouts forth into belief.

Holy Spirit is already there in the life of those who don’t know God. “In Him we live and move and have our being.”

God is already there. Can we see others as Christ sees them?, ‘seeing no man according to the flesh?’

Can we welcome ‘others’ into the fold?

I believe we can.

It will take a radical shift of perspective. It may require breaking our religious lenses so we can see with fresh eyes.

But it’s worth it.

To those who believe, welcome to the table.

To those who do not believe, welcome to the table.

Whatever You Want To Do Is Right

In my job, I have often found myself caught up in endlessly revising emails, worrying about the smallest details. At times, it’s quite paralyzing.

One thing that has freed me in recent days is this phrase from the Holy Spirit:

“Whatever you want to do is right.”

That means that if I mess up a word or a punctuation mark in an email, God will make it right. Either people will not see the mistake, or they will understand despite the mistake, or something better will happen. But it doesn’t matter that I made the mistake, because God worked it out.

In the Holy Spirit, we have all of the direction that we need, all of the wisdom that we need, and all of the grace that we need to. So we can go about our lives in confidence instead of fear, because we know that there is grace for mistakes.

We also understand that God gives us holy desires as we walk and rest in him. So we only want to do the things that please God. That doesn’t mean that we don’t mess up, but it does mean that even if we make a mistake, God will make it right.

So if we walk in the Spirit (actively communing with the Holy Spirit at all times), we tend to make mistakes less often…

…but even if we do make mistakes, God makes it right anyway.

There is plenty of grace available at all times, in every situation.

One definition of grace is, ‘God’s supernatural empowerment for life, given to us out of his abundant love.’

Through the shed blood of Christ, we are given a new nature. Our new nature wants to do good. Therefore we have good and holy desires.

Perhaps there are other desires that war inside our minds at times (a subjective truth), but our true desires (an objective truth) are pure.

Therefore, if your true desires are holy, which they are, whatever you want to do is the right thing! So don’t be paralyzed; ask the Holy Spirit what to do and then take action, doing whatever seems right to you.

Then watch as God works both your good decisions and your bad decisions out for good.

You Can’t Escape

michael-jasmund-581395-unsplash
Photo by Michael Jasmund on Unsplash

I was grieving inside. My life over the past few days had been dominated by distraction. I wasn’t reading the Bible as I should, I wasn’t listening to worship music, I wasn’t ‘doing the stuff’ necessary for spiritual growth.

I was afraid.

Afraid of backsliding. Afraid of falling away. Afraid of going back to distractions.

I had spent five years away from grace, forgetting who I was in Christ, time away from what I knew of His Presence, wasted time focused on video games and not much else.

I didn’t want to go back.

I pleaded with God, “Lord, I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to backslide. I’m not doing the things I need to do to grow. I’m scared.”

I saw a circle around me, the Trinity. I saw myself surrounded in a love embrace. I saw myself in a dark room. When I would back away in fear, God’s presence was there.

“Beloved, you can’t get away from me. When you back away from me, you will back right into me. When you run away, you will run right into my arms. When you go, I will follow. I am always here, and will always be with you.”

I put on some worship music and just cried and cried. I was still afraid, but a little less afraid. I knew He wasn’t lying, but I was still grieved. I wasn’t in sin, but I was still worried about distraction.

I went to sleep that night still bothered. Surely God was with me, but if so, why was I having a hard time concentrating on what mattered (the Bible) and an easier time concentrating on what didn’t matter (fiction novels)?

I don’t have an answer for this yet.

What If I Wasn’t Afraid?

sammie-vasquez-549428-unsplashThis week has really had the theme of ‘perfect love casts out fear’, as my recent post mentioned. I could be a case study with regards to how God’s love ‘turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror’ (1 John 4:18 AMPC), as, for some reason, fear has been a dominating factor in my life for years and years.

Though a lot of my Big Fears have been taken care of through experience with God being faithful (fears such as dying early, or Really Bad Things happening to my kids), a lot of little niggling fears have plagued my life and stolen my joy for far too long.

Most often, the fear of man has been the ‘joy thief’. What will this person say? What did his/her facial expression mean? What does my boss think of me? Am I in danger of getting fired? Am I in trouble? The list goes on and on. You name a fear, I’ve probably dealt with it in one form or another.

Recently, Holy Spirit has been dealing with me to deal with ‘the little foxes that ruin the vineyards’ (SoS 2:15). In this case, the ‘little fears’ are what is messing up the vineyard of my heart–the Secret Place where I meet with God inside. These ‘little foxes’ distract me from the presence of God and cause me to focus on things that will never happen, or really don’t matter.

So what can be done about the little fears–not the Big Fears that keep you awake at night, but the little ones that pester you like sand gnats on the beach?

Yesterday, the question came to me,

“What if I wasn’t afraid of that?”

This clicked in my spirit.

I asked the question over and over. Someone looked at me funny: “What if I wasn’t afraid of them?” Passing people in the hall: “What if I wasn’t afraid of them?” Someone says ‘hi’ on the elevator: “What if I wasn’t afraid of them?”

And on it went.

And you know what? It’s helping. I’m realizing that I don’t have to be afraid of anything or anyone. That’s important. It helps me become more bold and less timid, something that looks great at work or anywhere.

Fearless ambassadors of Christ–that’s what the world needs.

Perfect Love Drives Out Fear

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18. The more we tangibly experience God’s love, the less we fear. I’ll handle this scripture both in context and out of context, because this principle is true both ways.

First, in context: ‘Fear has to do with punishment.’ If we expect the other shoe to drop, if we expect God to harshly discipline us, if we expect bad things from a good Father, then we have reason to fear. Why? Because we don’t believe that God is really good. We expect him to punish us harshly (not gently) if we do wrong, or even cast us into hell if we really, really screw up. This is not the God expressed in human flesh in Christ. Everything Christ did while walking the earth was bathed in grace and love, even his corrective discipline.

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Romans 5:1. We have peace with God. We are not at war with him, we are not at odds with him, we do not have to be afraid of God. We have peace with him ‘because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.’ What has Jesus done? He has torn the veil apart between man and God forever. He has permanently united us with him. We have been co-crucified, co-buried, co-raised, and co-seated in Christ. We are new (kainos, new in kind and quality) creations in Him.

We have no need to fear God. Therefore we can experience his love deeply, tangibly.

The second application of this verse is out of context, as a general principle, but it works out in a similar fashion. ‘Perfect love casts out fear.’ If we understand, really understand, God’s love, fear dissipates over time.  We watch as God supernaturally works circumstances out. We watch him rescue us from ourselves and from other people. We watch as the bad is worked out for good. And we learn to believe. We learn to trust. We learn that he really does love us, love that is complete and everlasting. And fear, over time, just goes away. ‘God worked that out, so this will work out too.’ And our faith (our simple trust) becomes stronger.

Let God’s perfect love drive out your fear today.

Jesus, Inside

I sat in the prayer room for a long time, back in the Dark Days, back in the Dry Times before I understood grace.

This song, Jesus, You’re Beautiful, by Jon Thurlow, was one of the songs that I remember from those times. Recently, some friends of mine sang it during a worship session and ‘redeemed’ the song in my mind.

I know that your eyes are like flames of fire
I know that your head is white as wool
I know that your voice, it sounds like waters
Jesus, you’re beautiful

On the way home, I reflected upon the Dark Days, where I would sing songs like this and attempt to think heavenly thoughts. We were to develop ‘holy imaginations’, reflecting on passages that described God, such as in Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation. I don’t know if it ever worked for me. I tended to get distracted easily back then.

In the middle of my remembering, I had a conversation with Jesus that went something like this:

You know, I’m honored when you talk about my physical appearance, but I much prefer talking about me in you.

I felt the presence of God inside, a strong sense of Jesus-being-within.

I don’t mind people talking about what I look like, but it distracts from the experience of having me stand up inside them, ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ It’s easy to become obsessed with seeing me in my physical form, but I want people to realize that I am right there, inside, through the Holy Spirit.

The focus changed. I still sang the song to myself, but it was no longer about a Person, distant and far away, on a Throne somewhere else in the cosmos.

It was about Christ in me, the hope of glory.

The Real Christianity

Intellectual Christianity was tried and failed. The world was not changed and instead became bitter and hardened at these moral people with words but no power.

Mystic Christianity is the only real Christianity. True experience with God cannot be faked or replicated. All the world is looking for the sons of God. The sons of God are the mystics who have encountered God.

These Are Always The Best of Times

It’s easy to criticize what the Church universal, the Bride of Christ, is not doing.

How about what she is doing?

The true Gospel is coming to light worldwide, and millions are getting their lives turned around. Bodies and minds and hearts are getting healed. The Kingdom is growing daily.

These are the best of times.

These are always the best of times.

Ignore the nightly news and look deeper. Good things are happening every day, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Here, Now

The Good News is far better than, ‘intellectually assent to a certain list of ideas and you will go to a wonderful place when your body dies’.

It’s the news that heaven is here…on Earth, right now.

It’s the news that you are redeemed, sanctified, glorified, made holy…right now.

You don’t have to wait until you die to experience God, to experience Heaven. You can have that experience right here, right now, right where you’re sitting or standing or walking or running.

The Nicene Creed: A ‘Declaration of Dependence’

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

This morning in church I heard the Nicene Creed called the ‘Declaration of Dependence.’ I love that.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.

In the United States we talk of independence; in the Kingdom we talk of dependence. This is as it should be.