Saturday, July 25, 2009

Forgiveness-Don't hold your breath

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6: 14-15

These words have always been tough for me to understand and tough to live. For years these words seemed to be at odds with God's grace. Not any more because I can now see through nature what Jesus meant.

By the way, anyone who thinks hearing the voice of Jesus and following it is easy is in for a surprise. Jesus asks for everything because He is everything. Resisting Jesus is like trying to resist nature. That is why nature does speak of Jesus.

One thing that nature demands of us is that we never hold our breath permanently. One thing Jesus asks of us is that we never hold our relational breath permanently. Here is what I mean.

To live as we were meant to live physically we need to breathe and never stop breathing. To make this constant activity work God has given us all a set of lungs and the physical mechanisms to take in and release air. God created nature in such a way that nature keeps continuously producing oxygen for us to breathe. This system depends on our participation in that we get to choose when to breathe in and when to breathe out. Bad things automatically happen if we make a choice to stop receiving or releasing air. So, how long can you function without receiving new air? How long can you hold your breath?

God created humans with the capacity to love and deliver grace into relationships. This was meant to be our nature. To God this releasing love and grace is more important than anything humans do. One of the things we need to receive and release in order to be alive spiritually is God's grace. We need to breath in the grace and love of God constantly and release it as grace and love to others. Humans were meant to be the source of God's grace and love on earth just like nature is the source of oxygen.

God is the source of grace and love that should flow through humans just like God is the creator of the oxygen that nature so generously releases . There is no shortage of oxygen--thank God! There is no shortage of grace and love in God's kingdom either and there can be no shortage of grace and love on earth if humans will receive it and release it as they were created to do. That is what "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" means.

If I insist on holding my last breath (oxygen), nature will not give me another breath. This is not punishment. This is the reality of the system that keeps me alive. We must release what we have received to receive what we need to keep living physically. We are oxygen dependent creatures moment by moment and forever.

In the same way spiritually, If I insist on holding the forgiveness and grace I am constantly receiving from God, then God will not give me more forgiveness and grace until I stop holding my spiritual breath. This is not punishment. This is the reality of the spiritual system that keeps me and every other human spiritually alive. We are love and grace dependent creatures moment by moment and forever.

Bad things happen to those who hold their breath in nature. They faint and then they breathe again. To voluntarilly hold our breath is not physically deadly for humans. God designed us to faint so we will breathe again. This, too, is grace.

Bad things happen to Christians who hold the breath of God's grace and love and fail to release it as forgiveness. They faint and then they breathe again. To fail to forgive is not eternally deadly for Christians. Not forgiving others will not stop God's love for us in Christ. Even so, God makes Christians who fail to forgive faint so they will breathe again. This is grace, too.

How long have you been holding your spiritual breath? How long can you remain truly alive spiritually while withholding forgiveness? Do you feel faint yet? That is God's grace coming to rescue you and help you breathe again.

Don't faint. When you fall you might hurt yourself or others. Release and Receive. Breathe!

Friday, July 24, 2009

First Love and First Works

Read carefully one of the most sobering warnings in the New Testament and notice that the "first love" we have for Jesus must be maintained for our light of love to shine on.

Revelation 2:4-5
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

What then is "first love?" It is the connecting of two lives in such a way that their attention toward each other is constant and their desire is that they would remain so forever.

Anyone who has fallen in love knows how powerful this level of connection and attention is. Anyone who has fallen in love began immediately to practice the "first works" of "first love."

What then is "first works"? These are the natural behaviors that always emerge when one is experiencing first love. These are human capabilities that are consistently manifested as this first love connection continues.

I have identified in my own life and in observing people at least 8 "first works" that emerge when a "first love" connection occurs.

1. Listening
2. Appreciating or valuing.
3. Thanking
4. Confessing faults
5. Affirming the relationship
6. Desiring the full success of the one loved and the relationship with them.
7. Seeking benefits for the one loved
8. Acting together in harmony

The eight habits of "first love" are also a list of what are called "Spiritual disciplines". Spiritual mentors always lead new believers into these spiritual habits for full spiritual formation.

1. Listening to the word of God and the voice of God.
2. Worship
3. Thanksgiving
4. Confession
5. Affirming our identity in Christ
6. Intercession
7. Petition
8. Acting as one.

The next time you are listening to a love song on the radio, listen for these habits being described. Those of us who are older may find the music so passionate we think it is comical. There is, however, a lot of truth about "first love" in those songs. Our first love may lose some of its exclamations and youthful euphoria, but to remain "first love" it must always grow deeper even if it grows quieter.

When was the last time you felt the signs of "first love" between you and Jesus? It may be time for you to repent and listen to Him, praise Him, thank Him, confess to Him, affirm your relationship to Him, desire His success, seek benefits for Him and act as one with Him. If not, the light of your relationship will be of no use in this world.

Do these works of the "first love" sound strange or hard? Remember, He is the bridegroom and we are the bride. Every human being knows how to feel and do these eight things just as surely as ever person who falls in love automatically does them. The key to "first love" is to see Jesus every day like you saw Him the first day.

When you begin each day, pay attention to Jesus because he is your "first love". This love will determine how every other love goes in your life.

If you need a reason to begin your day with Jesus it is "first love."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Made for Love

"We are created by love, to live in love, for the sake of love." Gerald May

Imagine that you awaken each morning and at the foot of your bed is a backpack with your name on it. Next to the backpack is a note that reads "Deliver everything in this backpack that is for the people I have arranged for you to meet today. I love you, Father."

As you lift the backpack and put it on you find that it is not a burden, but It settles onto your shoulders and back with a weight of deep seriousness. The feeling of this weight causes you to lift your head and look toward heaven asking for the power to deliver all the contents during the day.

As the day progresses you meet dozens of people and you find that there is something special and precious for each one of them. You reach into the backpack and simply give to each person asking nothing in return. As you do, you sense a connection with them, with life and with your Father. There is a pain associated with the delivery, but the joy is greater.

By the end of the day you are weary but with a joy that is new and different. You fall into a deep sleep and awaken the next morning with the same backpack filled again and with an identical note lying next to the backpack. Off you go again to deliver what the Father has given to you for others.

Gerald May would be very proud of you. I am proud of you. Jesus is proud of you, too.

You exist to deliver the Father's love. Have a great day delivering. Don't forget the backpack!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Heaven Enough

"May Christ be heaven enough for you." David Teems

These are profound words spoken from many, many years of quiet reflection in the presence of God in Christ.
These words stopped me cold and warmed my heart this morning.

What if during this day, Jesus truly were "heaven enough" for me to continue my journey? What if this day, Jesus were "heaven enough" for me to release only love? No, not "what if..." Yes, He is.

I needed to be reminded this morning that heaven abides in me right now. The kingdom of God is within. I am not leaving my apartment in a few minutes disarmed and unaccompanied. I am carrying all that heaven is in me today and forever.

For all of my Christian life I have been taught to long for heaven. David Teems reminded me that the heaven I long for is already in me. Truly, my life is hid with Christ in God. Truly, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Truly, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
Truly, Christ is all and is in all.

Heaven is enough. All Christians agree on this hope and truth. Can Jesus be enough here an now? He is heaven enough right now to overcome this world, my flesh and my enemy.

Jesus you are heaven enough for me. Help me live a life of complete satisfaction in you today. Starting from such abundance is the right place to start every day.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Dependent on Grace

Just how dependent are we as humans? Are we mostly dependent, somewhat dependent or totally dependent? That depends on how human you want to be. To be the most human one can possibly be, one must be 100% dependent. Independent humans are less human--less alive. Jesus was 100% dependent and it showed in the depth of humanity and love. Jesus was fully alive.

I love to think of God's grace in this way. Grace is God giving to me what He demands of me and what He wants for me.

Take a minute to read the following verses found in Ezekiel 36:26-27

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them."

Look at what is given by God to equip them to be fully human-fully alive.

How human do you really want to be? Increase your dependence on God in Jesus and the very best you will emerge out of the abundance of God's grace. What he demands of us, he gives to us. Choose to receive as your first human act of every day and every moment.

Awaken each day and say "Jesus, you are welcome here! I receive all you are."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ignoring a fever

Some habits I do not want to break. One habit I treasure is reading Oswald Chamber's daily devotional My Utmost for His Highest.
What an incredible source of light and comfort this reading has been. Today was no exception.

The reading is entitled "The Inevitable Penalty". This is a typical Chambers title. He loved words like "Inevitable". He leaves no doubt that this will happen. More than 30 years testing these words of Chambers which he crafted from careful Bible study and life observation have convinced me to take his carefully chosen words seriously.

Chambers quotes Jesus' words in Matt. 5:26 "Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny." Jesus is warning his followers that unresolved conflicts are not ever allowed in the Kingdom of God's love. In other words, we must never think a conflict is going away on its own. We must see the conflict as serious and unavoidable until it is resolved.

Chambers goes on to say that this human tendency to think conflicts are no big deal is rooted in "the disposition of your right to yourself." I am used to Chamber's language but I still need to look for a more modern way to say what he is saying. This "disposition of your right to yourself" means to me "the illusion of human autonomy." Humans are not autonomous. We are derivative and dependent. We must begin at zero before God. Zero before God is the 98.6 temperature of spiritual normality and health in the kingdom of God. "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" This is 98.6 for spirituality.

To ignore a conflict and refuse to actively seek its end is to ignore a fever that will kill you and infect others. God will seek out the cause of the fever--human autonomy--and bring it to zero. The world is sick to death with this fever and God will bring it to an end and he begins in his own.

Right now there are millions of Christians with high and low grade conflict fevers. God's cure is "inevitable". He will bring the fever down. Ignoring the fever is a waste of the precious little time we have for glorifying God here and now. Go to zero before God and seek peace with all.