Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Puzzling Pieces

I love the ah-ha moments when the pieces fall into place without having to force the fit; those
moments when things resonate harmoniously - the picture is made visible.

Two of my favorite study sites are: blueletterbible.org and thebible.org.   There are so many questions that keep me up at night  and these two sites are where I find myself digging for answers. Blue Letter Bible is a treasure trove of study aids. Click on a verse, the options appear. Click on an option and you're off to the races.

If you've read, What If The Cross Changed Everything, you know I present The Revelation of Christ Jesus as documenting the legal issues of humanity's redemption from the law of sin and death. Which doesn't agree with the mainstream interpretations currently being purported.

One ah-ha moment that helped in piecing my ideas together came with the study of the word 'righteous(ness)', and realizing that there are a couple definitions for the word that can't be interchanged without causing confusion.

Here's the deal.  Righteous, under the old covenant, had more to do with legal matters. In our western minds it helps to think, 'rights and privileges'.  Citizens of the USA, enjoy certain rights and privileges that citizens of other countries do not.   It is simply a matter of law, morality aside. (Rights can be lost or surrendered but that's a subject for another day).

A secondary definition has to do with morality.

This might seem like hair splitting, but sometimes that's how the picture is more clearly revealed. And we know that the Word of God helps us to separate bone from marrow and thought from intent. (Hebrews 4:12)

When things jump from Hebrew to Greek the definitions and weights are reversed; heavier on morality, lighter on legality. The two can go hand in hand and can complement one another, but they are not interchangeable concepts.  Attempts to do so has resulted in the 'doctrine of righteousness'; a two headed hybrid that is dealt with in Mark 2:18-22 and Revelation 3:14-22.

This leads to the challenge when studying scripture; determining whether to think and interpret using the legal or moral definition.  Clarity will often come when choosing one over the other.  We are made legally righteous by the Cross of Christ.  We live morally righteous in honor and appreciation of that Cross.

Jesus showed us how powerful life can be when it is rooted in the legal basis of citizenship in the Kingdom of God. It is who we are and allows The Father's attributes of grace, peace, integrity, authority, and love to flow. This is what the Cross accomplished. The way has been made for each person to reconnect with God -  legally righteous.  That connection empowers a life of moral righteousness.  Because of who I am, this is what I do.  To reverse the concept negates the cross. Galatians 5:4 says our attempts at attaining righteousness from our own self-effort is to fall from grace.  That's a tumble I want to avoid.

If you want to read more on this subject:

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Do You Take?

Back story - was reading a twitter thread yesterday and one person was discussing a very painful medical procedure he had just endured. He punctuated the point with 2 words. The first beginning with the letter 'g', the second ended with the letter 'm'.  And one of the guy's nearly 30,000 followers decided to reprimand him on his word choice.  She said it was offensive to her and that, for his best interests, he needed to stop taking the Lord's name in vain, that he was in danger of being eternally damned and she wanted to help the twitter post author stay in God's good graces.  I won't even begin to dive into the irony. Instead, let's explore what I believe is a fundamental fallacy. 

What if the commandment she referenced doesn't mean what we've been taught it means?

Traditional thought has told us 'thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain' means we aren't to say the word god in an inappropriate manner. Doing so, in my fetching-up years, would incur the mouth-washing-with-soap punishment. (Nearly as bad as the going to bed with no pillow punishment, but that's a subject for another blog).  The implication?  'Take' equals 'speak'.  

Ok, I learned to chalk that up as yet another  Biblical conundrum.  Who am I to question the experts? If you're like me, your brain has learned to automatically make the necessary definition adjustment from 'take' to 'speak' when it comes to commandment number three of the big ten. 

But, what if it means a whole lot more?

In the insistence that 'take' means 'speak', what if we have surrendered the true significance of God's wisdom and instruction on the sacrificial altar of inconsequential? 

What if take means take?

In any wedding ceremony, there are a couple of things that must be included for it to be considered legal and binding.  Think  matrimonial equivalent to the Miranda Rights.  One of those components is the 'do you take' query, when the wedded wannabe's are asked if they will take one another and become so connected that moving forward their identities will be forever intertwined as husband and wife. So much so that when people think of one spouse they are reminded of the other.

38 years ago, when I said, "I do" the person I was in the morning was not the person I was at 3:30  that afternoon washing down cream cheese mints with Hawaiian Punch. (Nothing says top-notch wedding reception quite like cream-cheese mints.) I took his name.  We did not take our new identities as husband and wife in vain.

What if that's the true meaning of the third commandment?  Don't approach or enter the process of adoption into God's family if you have no intention of embracing a new identity rooted in His; without every intention of living a life that honors and reflects His ways, His truth, His glory, His love, His laws?  You know, the kind of stuff that demands a lot more than a bar of soap to rectify.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Three Thing Challenge

A few months ago one of my teachers (yep, went back to school) made a suggestion in passing.  He said, "before falling asleep at night, ask yourself, 'What 3 things went well for me today?' "  I thought, why not?  Sounds simple enough.  Here I sit, 5 months later, and I don't think I've skipped  a night since.

The first week or so was kind of crazy.  Why?  Because my mind wasn't used to such an oddly focused question.  I've spent several decades recounting the the day's missteps, faux pas, and failures.  So wrestling back the controls from the Negative Nancy  so firmly ensconced in my brain took a little more effort than I'd anticipated.  

My head would hit the pillow, I'd pose the question, and before answer #1 could congeal into a cohesive sentence, little miss negative would be ya, but blah this and blah that.  "Maybe so", I'd say,  "but that has nothing to do with the question I'm currently seeking to answer, which is, 'What 3 things went well for me today?'  Tonight I'm not looking for a recap of the day's failures. I might look into it later but for right now I want to recall, 3 things that went well for me today."

Sometimes my mind would offer things that went well for others, or me 15 years ago. Nope, don’t fall for it!

After a few days of concerted effort, I no longer struggles to stick with the question. Synapses began forging new pathways in my brain. I could almost feel it happening. I know that sounds like an overstatement, but I kid you not.  Good things were happening.  I’d wake up throughout the night  aware of my mind still searching for things that went well.  In fact, I had a little trouble staying asleep when this experiment first started.  But I'm over that hump now. 

These days I find myself making note of the good things that happen throughout the day, just so I can report and recount them before falling asleep. 

2 Corinthians 10:5 encourages us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ for the purpose of demolishing arguments and pretensions that are contrary to the knowledge of God. And this simple challenge exposed an overlooked area in my life that wasn't enjoying the rewards of having that principle applied.  I encourage you to take the 3 thing challenge if you dare

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Innocence & Grace

Listening to the radio the other day a line of lyric got stuck in my head (that's nothing new),. But the longer it banged around in there, the more problems I had accepting it as a statement of truth. 

The song's message is about the sufficiency of Jesus' sacrifice to pardon sin, completely on board with that.  But the line, which was repeated over and over again was: I'm an innocent, an innocent man. The innocent moniker is tripping me up.

Innocent means no crime was committed.  I have been pardoned, forgiven, set free, and been made righteous, for which I am eternally grateful (and will have all eternity to demonstrate that gratitude). I am not innocent and don't want to lose sight of the fact that guilt is redemption's qualifier.   
Maybe I am over sensitive on this subject after having spent several decades laboring under the delusion that sin was graded on a curve demanding justification of infractions. I'd get out the old scale and weigh the good against the bad, you know, just in case Jesus' sacrifice had lost its potency or relevance after 1950 years.  For those few whoppers I couldn't neutralize, I had developed a method of minimizing, blaming, (it's not me Lord it is so and so's fault) or hiding. Not unlike Adam's fig leaf couture. 

While I'm on this word-definition soapbox, let's turn the spotlight on grace. Another word that has been hijacked somewhere along history's path.  Grace is not interchangeable with mercy.  Grace has  to do with empowering ability to accomplish a task.  Think about a person performing their practiced skill and makes it look effortless:  dancer, musician, roofer, painter, calligrapher, barrel racer... you get my point.  Grace is needed to navigate this minefield called life without succumbing to the temptation fo

r compromise.  Mercy is extended when we fail the mission. 

Christ's righteousness is for the trusting. Forgiveness is for the guilty. Redemption is for the captured. Freedom is for the incarcerated. Adoption is for the fatherless. Grace is for the triers and mercy is for the failed.

To be pardoned is not the same as innocent. Pardoned means the record of guilt and failure has been expunged.  There's a difference.  It's a big one.  But it's unlikely that any songwriter could sell 'I'm an expunged, an expunged man'. Just doesn't have the same ring to it.  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Plan Fulfilled

When people ask how I came to the conclusions I share in What If The Cross Changed Everything?, it was simply by approaching it as if I were a first century believer in Christ, and refusing to add 21st century speculative interpretation to it.  Of course, in doing so, that placed most all of the events (even the yet-to-come ones) in today's rear view mirror.   

Revelation 1:3 & 19 Jesus told John to write what he had seen, what he was currently experiencing, and what was to come.  It has been my experience that the most prolific expounders, currently in vogue, have allotted little to no space in their interpretations for what was (before Christ) and what is (at the time of the writing) and what was to soon take place.   

This oversight has led to speculations beyond comprehension. It has also completely violated the warning that was issued at the end of Revelation. In chapter 22 verses 18 & 19 we are clearly warned  to not add to or take parts away from what was written on that scroll. It was, like any legal document, to be unaltered.  Can you think of a single book from the Bible that has been added to and speculated on more than this one?  Weird huh?

History changing, life altering events took place in the courtroom of Heaven. They're described in Hebrews 9. Jesus offered his blood for our eternal redemption at the Throne of God. But the current myopic interpretations of John's Revelation of Jesus Christ has resulted in a fulfillment of its expressed warning: increased plagues and decreased life.  So maybe, today's  followers of Christ need to heed the warning. Stop adding speculation and current event interpretations to a prophecy that specifically warns against it - and stop taking away (or ignoring) all that was accomplished through the life, death, burial and resurrection of The Lord.    

Ok, got that off my chest - let's explore a few more ways God implemented the enemy-head-crushing plan to redeem His kids.

How was God going to:

 A)  Measure and qualify those who were true patriots of God's Nation? 
 B)  Accomplish this in a way that the enemy could not sabotage the outcome?
 C)  Flawlessly satisfy the demands spelled out in the law of sin and death within the confines of a human body?

Questions  A&B

144,000 was the number needed; 12,000 from 12 separate tribes.  But how had God determined these people were qualified to be counted among His Nation's patriots?  A standard of measure had to be adopted.  Hence, the law of Moses, which demanded participation in celebrations, feasts, and sacrifices as well as adherence to the 10 commandments.  None of which could make people righteous, but the enemy and the people participating in them didn't realize that.  They labored under the assumption that adherence to the laws would actually make them righteous.   

Question C
The promises contained in every new covenant God made with His creation brought the enemy-head-crushing-savior-of-the-world closer to reality.  But there were so many demands to be met that the experts of the Law were sure it was going to take more than one person to fulfill.  A lion and a lamb? From the tribe of Judah but also a priest?  From Bethlehem and Egypt?  The experts were torn, some said that Messiah would be one man others said no, it would require two.  That's why John the Baptizer sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one (and only) or should they be keeping their eyes out for a second. Matthew 11:3

With so many variables it would seem impossible for one man to meet all the requirements. One that seemed particularly impossible was that Messiah would need to be a Priest, which, according to what God had said, needed to be a Levite and come from the line of Aaron (Moses' brother).  How was Jesus going to pull this off?

No surprise to the Creator of the plan - a.k.a. The One Who Goes Before To Make Provision. And that provision was laid out nearly 1,500 years earlier, and recorded in Numbers 6.  Anyone (male or female) who wanted to yield themselves completely for God's purposes (including Temple service) could do so, for a limited period of time.  They had to enter into the arrangement voluntarily,  abide by specific requirements and restrictions, and conclude their time of service with a sacrificial offering.

This little 'loop-hole' was how Jesus, from the tribe of Judah, was going to legally accomplish the duties of the High Priest from the tribe of Levi. Something that was genetically impossible. What were the requirements and restrictions the vow required?  No haircuts or consumption of grapes in any form.  No raisins, no juice, no wine. How do we know this was the route the Lord took?    Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recorded it. 

I am writing this on Maundy Thursday.   1,985 years ago today Jesus publicly announced at the last supper, before being arrested, his voluntary invoking of the Nazarite vow.

"But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." Jesus in Matthew 26:29

He voluntarily gave himself in service to God for a period of time and would commemorate the ending of that time with his earth-shaking sacrifice. 

In Hebrews 2:14 we learn that through His death He destroyed Satan (the one who had power of death).  By the way, there is no cosmic battle raging between God and Satan.  Any battles are in the hearts and minds of humanity.  And Hebrews 9:12 & 14 we learn that with His blood He redeemed us eternally ... and purged our consciences from the idea that dead works could be used in serving a Living God. 

The Cross changed everything!  It's high time we started believing it.  He's Alive! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Redemption's Ratio

There's a lot to unpack before we celebrate the Lord's resurrection this coming Sunday. I'll only hit a few highlights, so if, by blog's end, your interest is piqued you can dive deeper into these ideas in What If The Cross Changed Everything?

The principles that were to be found at the Tree of Life were kicked to the curb when the unfortunate choice established the course for all humanity.  The planet's inhabitants would govern and be governed by the principles found at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Principles that came to be known as the law of sin and death. And God's pre-ordained plan began to take root.

We're going to explore answers to a few questions the next couple of days. 

How could God:
   1.  Re-insert Himself into the creation He had commissioned with authority and dominion in the Earth?
  2.   Secure the redemption of all humanity?

Question #1  Covenants

God will not (contrary to some folks' thinking) force His will on anyone. Doing so would violate the Laws of Love.  Here is where faith and promises a.k.a. covenants come in.  

Adam and Eve witnessed the declaration of that promise when God said to Satan:

"And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."  Genesis 3:14 & 15

An ensuing result of that promise is learned in verse 16.  Sorrow will accompany conception. Why?  Because Satan would be targeting human offspring from that moment on, in his attempt to destroy the promised seed before it had a chance to take a breath.  But in spite of the potential heart-break, women were going to willingly bring new lives into the Earth.

I am fairly certain Cain had heard the story, and fancied himself to be the promised enemy head crusher.  But his delusion resulted in the crushing of his brother's head instead.  Hindsight being what it is, we now know that the authentic enemy head-crusher wouldn't come on the scene for another 4,000 years.  

Question #2 A sinless man AND a dedicated nation

This is where Abraham and Sarah come in. God needed a person who would give not only himself, but would entrust his posterity to God's plan. Genesis 18:19

For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. 

What was He going to do with a nation? Use it to bless all the other nations of the world. Genesis 22:18

Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him.  

How could one nation bless all others?  

Deuteronomy 32:8 & 9
When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORD'S portion is his people; Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) is the lot of his inheritance.

Now this nation wasn't simply made up of the offspring of of Abraham.  No! They had to walk in the laws of God.  Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) had 12 sons. And God had to have 12,000 from every one of those son's tribes who were proven to have only ever served The Lord God, never had they worshiped a god of the enemy.   144,000.   This took 2,000 years to complete but John records in Revelation chapter 7 verses 1-8 the day in Heaven's court when the count was made and the required number fulfilled.   

In verse 9 we see this happening:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

How many righteous are needed to protect the unrighteous? 

I don't know where to find the Heavenly statute but we get a glimpse of it in Genesis 18:32 I like to call it Redemption's Ratio... When God said if there were 10 righteous the entire doomed region would have been spared.  

Ten righteous would have bought more time for the unrighteous of the "5 cities of the plains" including Sodom and Gomorrah to have righted their ways.  Which begs the question, how much time was bought by the 144,000 righteous members of God's nation?  It appears to be the means by which God formed a legal loop-hole to rescue those who died before Christ's sacrifice.  

That is the purpose of mercy.  To extend time before a final, irreversible judgment is made.  I know this might sound far fetched, but I believe we have a mind blowingly brilliant God Who loves, loves, loves His kids.

We'll look at some answer ideas for a few more questions  in the near future.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Large Plants & Middle East Real Estate

We know God's intention was to redeem humanity, but we really have no idea how difficult that will be.  Go ahead, read the account again and again, and each time you can see another facet of the plan. Dirt, air, promises, and faith. 
found this image online at baddom24.blogspot.com

Most are familiar with the death warning attached to joining oneself to the knowledge of good and evil, illustrating God's desire that His creation choose to honor and serve Him as an act of free-will. But there is so much more packed in a few verses.

 Couple things to look at. Apparently the specifics of God's request were not communicated accurately. God told Adam to not eat (become one with) the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil (judgment)...  Genesis 2: 9, 16, 17

And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil...And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 

But that's not what Eve told Satan in Genesis 3:2, 3:

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

What?  Wait a minute.  Who said anything about touching?  And hello, news flash! There were two trees in the middle of God's garden;  life AND the knowledge of good and evil (judgment).   Talk about getting lost in translation!

I think Adam, in an attempt to protect Eve beefed up the warning (cuz God so needs our help).  Don't eat it, better yet, don't even touch it.... no, in fact don't go anywhere near it - steer clear of the tree that'll kill you - too bad the tree of life is right next door, but better safe than sorry. Tell you what, I'm making a new and better law; stay away from the middle of the garden. (Artistic license being liberally applied here)

And like every other time we think God needs our help, things got all messed up.

Another disturbing issue, definitions of death and life. 

Genesis 3:4, 5, 
 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 

Seemed plausible.  Here was a creature that, by Eve's estimation, appeared to be alive.  It was breathing, speaking, and reasoning. Lesson to be learned: without an accurate definition of life, death is unrecognizable as well.  

Jesus cleared up the confusion in John 17:3
"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."

Life eternal is found in knowing God. If that isn't clear, we substitute knowing God with knowing good and evil and then we can be duped into thinking life is nothing more than having a body that continues to breathe.  

Point #3

Genesis 3:6
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Hold the phone.  What did God say about trees? They are good to look at and good for food.  They are not avenues for attaining wisdom.  

Proverbs 2:6
For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. 

By now I hope you realize that 'trees' are more than large plants,  Trees represent any number of intellectual, creative, fascinating, spiritual, physical, or economic pursuits. None of which are fountains of life or actual wisdom.  You have probably figured out that God's garden is in the hearts of humanity, not just a piece of Middle East Real Estate. 

By now I hope you recognize areas in your own life where you have a grip on something, maybe it's a profession, maybe it's a hobby, maybe it's an intellectual understanding or academic accomplishment. Go ahead. You can touch it, but don't be deceived into thinking it is adequate for defining you or being a life-source. 

By know I hope you know that Life is knowing God.  Once that issue is settled, all the other stuff is just stuff.  Not life-giving stuff.  Not wisdom-giving stuff.  Not purpose-for-existence stuff.  Not this-is-who-I-am stuff.  Not I-will-be-less-than-who-God-created-me-to-be-if-I don't-have-it stuff.  Stuff given richly for you to enjoy (I Tim. 6:17) not to judge the value of your life by.

Here we are, 6,000 years removed from that life altering, history defining event, and we find ourselves fighting the same battle. Only our 'tree' might look like a relationship, or a college degree, or a bank account, or a church membership, or a grudge, or a political platform, or a .....  But God remains the only true source of life, purpose, and wisdom.  Oh, did I mention that the Cross is what makes it possible for mankind to once again have access to the 'tree' that is Life?  Yep, That was the prize The Father had His heart set on and the Son recovered.  That is the prize we are tempted to diminish, overlook, or over complicate. I'm His. He's mine. That's it. What if The Cross Changed Everything?


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Magnanimous Planner & A Magnificent Plan

Of course, we know that the ransom demands came as no surprise to God.  John writes in Revelation 13:8 that the Lamb (Jesus Christ) was slain from the foundation (establishment) of the world.

Standing here in 2018, we know that Jesus redeemed us, but I suspect the enemy would have seen no value in human beings  apart from what they could do in furthering his agenda.  They are, in his estimation, nothing more than the disposable vessels that carry the treasure he's obsessed with obtaining.

When I imagine Satan demanding the blood of a sinless man it becomes immediately apparent that humanity isn't what the enemy is most interested in.  Humans are so easily duped having proven themselves - throughout history - to be weak, powerless, and therefore worthless. Besides, if  God could actually deliver a sinless human being, there was a world full of these propagating expendables  just waiting to be deceived and incarcerated. Think about it, even if it was about liberating the enslaved and imprisoned, it wouldn't take but a generation to fill the emptied coffers.

Which begs the question; what if Satan thought he was negotiating the terms of redeeming the planet and not its inhabitants?  I can easily imagine Satan thinking God would be wanting to regain control of Planet Earth. Real Estate, that's a prize worth fighting for.  We see this throughout history - wars fought over dirt.  Also, this idea isn't too far fetched when we look at what he used in tempting Jesus: food to eat, power to wield  and kingdoms to rule.  Doesn't appear that the redemption of human souls made his list of temptations worth offering.

When it was declared that nothing less than the blood of a sinless man would satisfy a criminal's demand, God already had the plan and set about implementing it.   I don't think humanity's accuser had any idea what game he was playing.  Pride does that.  It's so focused on overestimating self, that others are automatically underestimated.

Psalm 24 is a great read and it starts off by establishing that the earth and what fills it belongs to the Lord. The word 'earth' as used by David was as encompassing as our usage of it today; as big as the planet or as small as a speck of dirt... Dirt! When God decided to create a race of humans specifically for the  purpose of tilling the ground (Genesis 2:5) whose life-force was the breath of God Himself (Genesis 2:7) what did He use?  Dirt. Thus insuring from before the very outset that humans could be counted among the Lord's sole possessions.  Colossians 1:26-27

Like the song says,  Your love is extravagant
He has no intention of leaving his children at the mercy of a cruel, merciless, captor. He has a plan so magnificent and magnanimous that 2000 years later we are still trying to grasp the magnitude of it.

Stay tuned... the Cross Changed Everything!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

What God Can Do With A Pile O' Dirt!

Continuing on the theme of the Lord's legal accomplishments...

"We don't know who discovered water, but we know it wasn't a fish."  Marshal McLuhan

Every year our state's elected legislators head to the capitol to write the laws that govern our lives, most of which the governed population are ignorant of, until we find ourselves in violation of or stonewalled by in some way.  We then have several choices: conform our actions to fall within the stipulations of the law, abandon our plan, or ignore the law believing it either: a)doesn't apply to us or b) hope to not get caught violating it.  None of which have any effect on the law itself.  Laws effect me, I don't effect them.  (I do appreciate living in a nation where I have the right to affect the law, but that's another blog.)

Going back to the garden we have the law (do not consume the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) and the consequences of its violation (in the day that you consume of it, you will surely die).  We all know the story.  Or do we?

"In an obscure, unspectacular moment of time, humans chose to live a life governed by what appealed to their physical senses and reasoning abilities. By rejecting the truths of Life governed by Love and embracing the dichotomous concepts of an existence governed by good/evil, right/wrong, punish/pay the world quickly descended into fear and death—an existence ruled by the laws of sin and death.

After hi-jacking the authority that God had delegated to humanity, the evil, dictatorial ruler of that miserable, lifeless existence was certain he had all of humanity locked up tight in his ‘iron clad’ penal system.

Thank God (literally) for the ‘dust-clad’ design He had up His sleeve; those few ambiguous loopholes set the stage for the implementation of His magnificent plan."  What If The Cross Changed Everything?  

Make no mistake.  The enemy never intended to lose his grip on the lives of God's image bearers. So when it came to negotiating the terms of redemption it's safe to assume pride convinced him that  he'd crafted a scheme inaccessible even to the Creator of the universe.

What was God left with to design a plan for humanity's redemption? Dirt, air, promises, and faith.
I absolutely love it!

PDF version of
What If The Cross Changed Everything?
 My gift to you

Friday, March 16, 2018

Who Establishes The Terms Of Redemption?

Christ's Legal Accomplishments

If you've read my book, What If The Cross Changed Everything?, you know that my take on John's Revelation of Jesus is quite a departure from the eschatological explanations currently in vogue.

The interpretation I offer focuses on Jesus and his accomplishments made on our behalf. He was, in fact, a stickler for the law.  We read in Matthew 5:17 where he declared his intent and purpose at his first recorded public meeting, "I came, not to destroy the law but to fulfill it". And the last words he spoke before surrendering his spirit was to proclaim, "It is finished".  

What law was he talking about? What 'it' was he referring to?

Romans 10:4 tells us that He was the end of the law for righteousness. Sounds like this is the law we need to focus on.

The law for righteousness doesn't mean we are now guilt and sin free, squeaky clean and chaste as the driven snow.  I suspect this misunderstanding of 'being made righteous' has led to many disqualifying themselves from walking with God.

Reason enough to drill down on this concept.

To be made righteous means that things have been put to rights; back the way they were.  To be righteous means the way it was originally intended.  For human beings to be made righteous means we have been reunited with our Creator.  Making that a reality is what the cross was all about.

Prison at Castillo San Cristobal Fort in San Juan Puerto Rico
Yes, it really is as small as it looks.
Who established the terms of redemption?  For decades I credited God with that, but- just like everything else I thought I believed - decided to scrutinize this belief as well. Thankfully doing so didn't require too many brain cells to upend.

In any hostage, extortion, or incarceration situation who sets the terms of redemption?  Not the one against whom the demands are being made! Not the imprisoned. It's always the extortioner who makes the demands.  In the case of humanity's entrapment and captivity to the warden of the law of sin and death, the terms of our release were set by the captor.  The Bible records for us the 4,000 years it took (working in the earth and through human beings) to secure the demands made for our ransom.

Having this perspective completely revolutionizes the way one reads the Bible.  It means that God is not, as some mistakenly believe, a blood-thirsty, iron-fisted, narcissistic egomaniac undeserving of worship and service.  Nope.  Instead we see Him as any earthly father of an abducted, tortured child.

Stay tuned - my goal, between now and April 1, is to explore the magnificent ways Christ fulfilled the demands of our ransom.  It just might make the upcoming celebration of His resurrection more palpable than it is already.

 What If The Cross Changed Everything? I would like to offer the readers of this blog series a PDF version of What If The Cross Changed Everything?  Click  to access your free gift. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Plight of the Tepid

So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth... Revelation 3:16

This verse is often interpreted as a warning  to keep the heat turned up on performing in order to be accepted by God. The proponents of this interpretation tend to point out marginal efforts made by those professing Christ as proof of humanity's death knell. That line of thinking leads to a logical conclusion.  If 'hot' is good then 'cold' is bad.  

But the verse says ‘lukewarm' is bad, which leaves cold being just as desirable as hot.  Well then, what's the point of keeping the embers burning if the same status is awarded when putting forth no effort?

Probably a good time to mine an interpretation that makes more sense when viewed through the Cross of Christ.

When was humanity's salvation and righteousness contingent on works?  Before the cross. So...since the Cross, what is humanity's salvation, redemption, and righteousness contingent on?  His work.  
This verse is addressing their failure to trust in the sufficiency of the cross for  salvation, redemption, and righteousness.  These folks were propping up the gospel with their works and using  financial success as their proof. We know that from the next verse.

17: You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

18:  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

How do we buy what Jesus accomplished?  The point is, we can’t! That was the purpose of the law all along. (Check out Romans 3:19-28)  The word translated 'buy' infers to be in the market for, so the folks of Laodicea - and anyone else struggling to divorce themselves from the idea that salvation is a mixture of pre-cross effort and post-cross grace - are being instructed to remember that what Jesus accomplished is impossible for them to purchase.  

Live as a disciple of Moses or Christ but don't mix the two.  You either understand that Jesus accomplished the impossible or you don't. Mixing the two gets you wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  Don’t settle for that.  The cross changed everything!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Motivation or Manipulation?

One of my favorite tools for helping folks understand themselves and the people in their lives is the DiSC Behavior Profile System.  It's a simple, yet fascinating, study into the motivations behind various expression of  human behavior.  I've lost count how many times I've taught these concepts.  But each time I do, something new is discovered or something previously known is brought into sharper focus.  The current evolution my imagination has been drawn to focuses on the differences in environmental needs.

Cliff note version:
Image from www.equanimityexecutive.com
Dominate "D" types thrive in challenging, competitive, and even antagonistic environments.
Influencing "i" types seek fun, friendly, people-filled ones.
Steady "S" folks are on the hunt for calm, conflict-free environments where they can roll up their sleeves and offer a helping hand. Conscientious "C" people are looking for non-confrontational environments that appreciate and satisfy their need for facts and honors their need for order.

There are, of course, secondary and tertiary combinations of these basic archetypes, but for simplicity's sake we'll stick with the fantastic four.

So, let's assume a person wakes up one morning and realizes they are not enjoying the environment staring them in the face.   The "D" might be bored to tears with the thought of one more minute of the same old routine or an "i" might feel suffocated by what feels like fun-draining hostility and rejection.  The proverbial light bulb might one day reach its glowing apex for the "S" when it finally registers that what they have to offer isn't really wanted or needed and might (horror or horrors) be contributing to a conflict rather than helping resolve it.  The final straw for a "C" might come from the sheer exhaustion that comes from trying to make sense of  the chaos or the pressure that comes from  people and situations that don't make sense or follow the rules.

Why do these things matter?  Because every person you come in contact with is unconsciously working to create their optimum environment, and there's a really good chance their optimum is diametrically opposed to yours.  And that's when the fireworks (or slow simmer depending on style) begin.

Here's the deal - if you love the people in your life, and truly want to see them succeed, it's imperative they have an environment in which to thrive.  And here's a kicker - love, by definition,  is not self-seeking.  Which means if I genuinely care about the needs of someone I claim to love, I will put effort into helping create environments that serve them and their needs.  (Told you it was a kicker)  When others have needs that are off your mind's grid, it takes deliberate intention to recognize, accommodate and not belittle them for needing something so foreign to your way of thinking.

If you are one who is energized and motivated by competition, challenge and antagonism your natural tendency, when wanting to motivate someone else, is to create an environment that is competitive, antagonistic and might throw in a competition or two.  NEWS FLASH If the person(s) in your life are not wired that same way your efforts will produce a completely opposite result than intended.  They are not just demotivated, there's a good chance they will be doing the exact opposite in their subconscious effort to protect themselves from the antagonistic onslaught.

Or maybe your's is a conflict-free, no-big-surprises environment of choice.  There's a good chance the fun/adventure seekers in your world, might find themselves bored to tears and battling a level of frustration foreign to you.  (My sincere apologies to my own adventure-seeking, fun-loving children for having learned this too late for them to have benefited from the knowledge.)

Admittedly, this proposition is difficult but not impossible.  As a person infused with the grace, power, and love of God, it is within your ability to make love for others your motive and impetus.  If I continue to insist the people in my life come over to my way of thinking or motivation - that isn't loving nor is it motivating.  It is control and manipulation.  And that, regardless of behavior style, isn't cool.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Pardon Me

Caught the line of a song the other day and as intended it caught my attention, although I doubt the path it led me down was the lyricist's intended.  It took me back to 1966.

I was with my mom and older brother (our younger one didn't get here 'til '67) at the grocery store.  More specifically, at the bulk candy area of the grocery store staring at the lemon drop bin.  Nothing activates creative problem solving quite like an ignored request.

Armed with the short-sightedness of a fixated preschooler lacking pockets of her own, I convinced my brother to procure a fistful of my obsession.  I'm not sure how many lemon drops fit in a 6 year old's tiny hand; three maybe four. The particulars are fuzzy when five decades separate the event from the memory but not as fuzzy as those lemon drops were after having spent the rest of the shopping trip clutched in a sweaty fist inside his fleece-lined coat pocket.

What's not fuzzy is that emotional cluster exploding in my heart and head when Mom told the cashier that we had a purchase to make and then asked Rick to put what he had in his pocket on the conveyor belt so he could pay for it.  Money?!?  We had no money!  The cashier insisted that it was not a big deal.  Mom insisted otherwise.  I believe the agreed upon restitution was one cent per drop.  Might as well have been 100 dollars per drop.  If you don't have it, you don't have it.  Mom eventually paid the bail after we agreed to work off  our debt but our relief was short-lived.  Before leaving the store, or earshot of the checkout stand, she insisted we consume our ill-gotten-gains.  Sweaty palms, fleece-lined pockets harboring long forgotten treasures, fear-bred snot and relief-bred tears is a memorable concoction.  Desire, anticipation, terror, guilt, redemption, relief, shame...lesson eternally etched.

Had the cashier gotten his way, we would have been pardoned.  Mom had a different idea. What we got was a lesson in guilt, redemption, restitution and forgiveness. But what I (can't speak for my brother) wanted more than anything was to be innocent.  Impossible.  I am forever the mastermind behind the great lemon-drop heist of 1966.  My influence was directly responsible for dragging another human being into the cesspool of criminal activity.  Innocent can never be a part of the definition of who I am.  I am forgiven...but not innocent. Restitution has been made, a price had to be paid because of guilt.

So when I hear a song declaring "I'm forgiven.... I am innocent,"  I say no!  Forgiven, by definition implicates guilt. Innocent means I did nothing wrong.  To be innocent means I have no need of forgiveness.  No need for redemption.  No need for pardon. And if there is anything I am in need of, it is forgiveness, redemption and pardon.  Remembering that keeps me grateful, appreciative and never wanting to be the cause of another's fall from grace.