Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Efforts of a Toddler

Ephesians 4:1-9 
 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.”

As I meditated on this passage what struck me was “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit.” Here Paul says that it is hard work to maintain unity… something that anyone that has spent time in the church or with human beings, knows takes effort… and he says that this is a spiritual practice. He gives us the tools in the previous verse in that we have to make the effort to be humble and gentle with patience we bear one another in love. Many times in myself I have the thought that church would be great if it was not for this guy or that guy. Yet, the effort is not with me changing the other guy but allowing Christ Jesus to change and transform me into a more humble and loving guy. I think this the greatest challenge within the Gospel… letting go of my wanting to be God and allow God to change me. When we allow God to work on us, then we start to live worthy of God’s calling.

Usually, we think of calling in terms of vocation. God is calling us to ministry, we say, meaning becoming a professional teacher, preacher or missionary, which there is a certain amount of truth to say so. Yet calling here in this passage goes deeper and expands calling from what we do for a living to our whole being and identity in Christ. Living a live worth our calling is living a life where we bear one another in love. We take the time for one another and we gather in the name of Jesus in all of our interactions and encounters with everyone.

In all human interaction arise the potential to encounter God. The person who is working customer care over the phone at our local utility. The guy that annoys at church who you are not to certain about because he spouts crazy conspiracy theories about bar codes. In all encounters, we have the possibility of discovering the revealed risen Lord who is always with us until the end of the age. When we find Jesus in all of our interactions with others, we have confront our own limitations and weakness or in other words humility forces itself on us. I am not the God who can save, but can point to the God who can. When we find God, we find how he dealt with us gently and we can extend such gentleness to others. Yes, it takes effort and the Gospel is not an invitation to live in autopilot with God handling the controls, but God graciously allows our efforts life a father who lets his son experiment with legos and doesn’t step to show him the right way to do it. We grow in love and Christ due to the effort. Will we fail to bear one another in love. Yes. But God picks up the fallen toddler we are and allows us to try again in forgiveness. We learn and we become closer to others and God.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Floating Down Toward The God Who Is Love

This part of a series of post generated by praying though Ephesians by Lectio Divina (Divine Reading) In Bold are the words that were highlighted in my prayers

Ephesians 3:14-22

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. 

To be filled with God within as Ephesians 3.14-22 promises, we have to empty ourselves of our own strife and stories. Love need to be strengthen within us as we are full of our own desires to be the God of our own lives, a god unlike the real God of the Holy Trinity. While the Holy Trinity full engages in relationship and communion, the false idol of our God wants to control and dominate with a will to desires. We fundamentally misunderstand God when we deny the truth of God being love. We are fearful of love. For to love, we say to ourselves it to lose power, because we fundamentally fail to comprehend true power.

When I fell in love with my wife, I felt a surge of true power that comes from entering into a relationship. To enter into a relationship to fully, we have to lose the compulsion to compel the other to our will. We enter into a dance with the other as in the dance we sharpen our steps and in the long run when forge a new identity within the growing love. For good reason, Lord Jesus goes by the Lord of the Dance, for all love leads to a kind of Dance. And when we aim to bend the world to our will, we will find we are fighting up current and though it may seem like we are making it up the river, we are actually doing nothing but wasting our energy in trying to be God. Only when we fully enter the river of love do we get swept away into the ocean of God. We find that love has shaped us and we are filled with gratitude and love.

The reasons we don’t trust the love are varied, and yet can be summed up as indulging in our habit of wanting to be the God or commander of our lives, which is impossible. I live in a social world where so many things that make me up, like my genetics, my location of birth, my parents and their stories, the gifts of health and wellness are all beyond my choice. When we lie to ourselves and say that yes the vast bulk of what makes our identity can be forged by our hands, we are led down a false tributary leading to stagnate water. How can we change our parents? How can we change our spouses?… our children? … our very biology? When we see this for the false flow for what it is and enter into love and flow toward the great ocean of God, then we find we actually do have power to transform by the will of God into loving creatures in the waves of the fruit of the Spirit. We find love.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Curious Mystery of the Living Stone

Ephesians 3.1-13

3 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. 13 I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.

What struck and stuck with my about praying through Ephesians 3.1-13 was the word mystery. We see mystery in two ways. The more common way is seeing as a problem to be solved like the who-done-it murder mystery novels of Agatha Christie. We evaluate the evidence and then find our solution. Of course this is not what Paul means when he talks about the Mystery of Christ. Such a mystery is about coming to our limits of knowing in the midst of a truth. I know my wife loves me as I love her, and the mystery of our love comes in the day to day interactions. The mystery appears when we love of our son. The mystery appears when we have to make a choice about what to do as we will soon have to for his tumor condition. Yet is not the mystery that demands solution, rather the mystery of facing our limitations meet the deep love in which God has granted us. It the mystery of love that meets us.

Love always brings a gift of mystery. When we first met, I would wonder what Lace my wife was doing when we were apart. I still do. The mystery of love infuses life and it changes the tinge of the color of life. When we are in love, we operate on a sense of high about the future and past. In the Mystery of Christ, this same sense of love makes us view everything in the sense of mystery and curiosity. We are constantly encountering the limits of our knowledge and meeting with a sense of wonder. When we love, the world opens out like it does to a new born or toddler. We can learn all sorts of new things because the well we dip our bucket is filled with living water.

I don’t know what will happen with our son and his future, but I know love, the love of his parents, and the love of God will always be with us. How? That is where faith and mystery meet and where the temple of God rising by being built one living stone at a time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

We Are One: Praying through Ephesians


13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesian 2.13-22

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

I have always found a certain agitation when question about my personal relationship with Jesus. I know that usually when I am asked this question, the person has good attention and yet I have a sense of something not quite right. The feeling I got was hard to pin down as to why the idea of a personal relationship with Jesus being the end all and be all of faith seems to put me on edge.

The theological problems with the phrase are of course easy to spot. It limits Jesus to my BFF or buddy and does not broaden our horizons to others. I can see why it is popular in a culture like ours that turns individualism into a false idol. That God would be friends with me because of my specialness seems ready made for a people who value personal choice and personal success and have been told the secret to life is in personal power.

Yet, it was not until praying through Ephesians this morning did the phrase suddenly become clear as to why it creates a false narrative. Yes, God in Christ becomes a personal matter and I share in the inquiries which place Jesus on the cross. The cross, though, breaks down walls between us and makes Christians into one people. God calls me to be part of the Kingdom and it is Jesus who is the star and we are in supporting roles. The honor of having any role is powerful in and of itsle We become but a living stone in the temple in which Jesus dwells. Our relationship to Jesus is both personal and cosmic. Yet the phrase limits God to just an exclusive relationship. For to enter into an encounter with Jesus is to be called to be part of the one and not be the star of our own movie. We are bit players in the grad story of God living among us and when we make it just about me, we lose being part of the one.

Love can never stay in the place of self love, but it has to move to love go God and others. If we stay in self love, then all there can be is isolation and we lose the Gospel. We are forced into one of others and we then have to confront the pain of the cross that comes from not just our inquiries, but the inquiries of others. We then find hope in forgiveness and the strength in Christ forgiveness of us and extend it to others expanding the dwelling place of God. For the more that become a living stone in the temple, the greater the unity among us. Can we do this… break down the walls that separate us from one another. No. But Jesus in his cross and resurrection can and we go from the isolation of the personal to the glories of community with God and others. Amen.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Drawing Near by the Blood of God

Ephesians 8-13

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. 11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcised” by those who are called “the circumcision”—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Our mothers were right. Who we hang out shapes the people we are. This insight drives my prayer life as the close I draw near to God, the more I am shaped by God in Christ Jesus. I find myself being pulled to forgiveness and to loving those around me. I found I am praying for those who have hurt me or I have called enemies. My heart softens and it softens toward not only them, but to my son and my wife and my co-workers. The spirit of our human culture tries to convince us to life for our own lusts and desires. Our desire for revenge is one of those most dangerous desires with which are are confronted and one that seems to be accepted by the world in general. Many a Hollywood movie has the avenging hero who is taking out revenge for the foul acts of others. I find this pull within myself. Yet, Jesus offers something different. By placing the glue of love, forgiveness at the heart of his ministry and Gospel. The Cross of Christ keeps us center on the power of forgiveness. Ephesians 2.13 arose within me this insight of drawing near to Jesus by his blood.

Revenge sounds good, but no matter the outcome, revenge with continue to devour us in sharp teeth. It as dangerous as another lustful desire. More so, in that it also allows to play God in the world. Today’s avenging act becomes the next act needing avenging. The terrorist attack because they are blinded by their need for revenge. The first rock through has lead to a rock fight that has been with us since the time of Cain. Jesus offers a way out. It is up to us to take the bloodied hand of Jesus and draw near by the power of forgiveness.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Spirit of Wisdom

Ephesians 1:11-21

11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this\ is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.

A Parable: The Kingdom of God is like having a best friend who lives next door. He plays with us and shares his best toys. He understands us and who make us laugh. When we are bored we can always knock and his door and there we start to take him for granted until the day his parents move away. Like the darkness of Good Friday, we are left alone and suddenly lost because we miss out friend so much that nothing can comfort us. We sulk and go into a deep sadness without out our friend to help us through. Then he returns when we thought he was gone forever. The celebration is one in our hearts. For we now no longer take him for granted. The toys he shared with us seem secondary and we are so happy.

When I prayed through Ephesians 1.11-20 last night what struck me was verse 1.17. The Spirit of wisdom and revelation comes through being with Jesus and sense Jesus is God with us in all things, then the Spirit of Wisdom gives us the ability to live life with a sense of Glory. What the Spirit of Wisdom reveals in the light of Jesus’ love is the very structure of the good life. The more we connect with the Holy Trinity in our daily life, the more the arts of being a good parent, good husband are revealed to us and the more we are filled with the fruits of the spirits. The glories of forgiveness and connecting with the whole of God’s creation unfurls before us.

Love, for Christian, is the practice of being with God and others and being vulnerable in allowing the encounter with God and others to transforms us. The slow unfolding of this transformation comes in the process of sanctification.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Mystery of God's Will

As I have been deepening my prayer life, I was pulled to start up my blog. It is will be more about my prayer life and my understanding of God being love.

Yesterday I was praying through the first 10 chapters of Ephesians and the phrase that struck me the most was the “…mystery of God’s Will.” The Will is the force of action one takes. So want does it mean the mystery of God’s Will, especially as we think about Jesus becoming our friend. Friendship with God is one of the great mysteries of God’s will. What are that Living God would be mindful of us?

The questions hang in the whole of my life. Love being the foundation of how we move and have our being in life and saying that this force is God’s will and it is mindful of us as a best friend makes the hard decisions we have to make as a family more than just tolerable, but in a real sense a form of prayer. My son Tito has a tumor condition that has already claimed his eye and now we are face with the choice of what to do to make his prosthetic eye workable. More surgery or do we try to have the ocularist make another attempt to fit his eye? In practical terms the mystery of God’s Will comes into how we proceed. God may not give us a clear choice (or God may). Rather, God will be with us as we make the choice as a friend who loves us. Whatever the choice, God will walk with us in Tito’s life.

The mystery of God ’s will flows through us in the breath and in the glory of just being alive. In the soft caress of my wife, in the high energy of my seven year old as he makes his way in the world and how love shapes us. Ephesians is often called the royal epistle because of the high view of God and Christ it presents and at its beginning we have the mystery of God’s will that brings us grace and peace. Now matter how high we place God, the God who is always with as a friend and as a buddy remains. How? How is such an exalted God, the very Master of the Universe vast in its billions of Galaxies befriend a small family in Spokane on a speck of dust circling a nondescript sun? Yes, the mystery is deep as it is true. Praise be to God… Amen.