Tag Archives: Christianity

On God’s Side

This book by Jim Wallis was a welcome read for me, but I was ready to consider his ideas.  For some time I’ve been more loyal to Jesus than a political party.  I am registered as an independent.  So I was easily on board when Wallis presented the three target points of his book:

  1. Christian conversion is to impact more than the destiny of my eternal soul.  It is to impact the way I live in this world.
  2. Faith transcends politics, and
  3. My faith should be lived in public for the public good.

The book title comes from a quote by Abraham Lincoln, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”  Wallis helps me see that I am weakly committed to God’s side in some areas of political debate.  I have been caught up in the either/or mentality rather than both/and solutions.  The table below gives an example of what I’m saying.  It compares the different views of what causes poverty.

Liberals    (blame society)

Conservatives    (blame individuals)

poor-paying jobs poor work habits and work experience
poor education no dedication to education
no or poor child care having children out of marriage
poor housing options weak family structure
lack of affordable health care substance abuse

Commonsense says that I have an individual responsibility for improving my conditions, but it also says that forces outside my influence can make my progress more difficult or even impossible.  Working from only one side of the aisle will not correct the root of the problem.  We have to work on both lists.

Wallis repeatedly discusses “justice”.  He explains that justice has a broad range of meanings: righteousness, wholeness, deliverance, Shalom, and healed relationships.  He emphasizes that Jesus wants this multi-faceted type of justice for everyone.  And he’s afraid that justice can slip to an optional status when it is viewed as an implication of the Kingdom of God rather than an integral part of it.

I really enjoyed this book, but I think some Christians may find it uncomfortable.  He really challenges the readers to embrace following Jesus above following a political party.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the right side-bar of this blog.  Look for “On His Side” as you scroll through the box.

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Mercy, Justice, and Love

weekly theme #31*

week containing the Sunday between May 29 and June 4

I have experienced God’s mercy, justice, and love – they just don’t appear here on earth when, how, and for whom I think they should.  Maybe that’s the problem – my thinking.  I don’t have the mind of Christ.  Faith is also an issue. There is a difference between believing God can work miracles and believing he will.  There is a clear and powerful relationship between God’s intervention in this fallen world and my faith that he will do so.  Yet my faith does not force God to work, it invites him, and it is at his choosing when, how, and for whom he will work.  In that dark time of waiting for him to move, I can still enjoy his presence if I desire him more than I desire the miracle for which I pray.

Jesus often altered what he was doing to help an individual.  He stopped even if those around him urged him to continue with the planned agenda.  By focusing on the individual, he affirmed to the crowd, “I care for each of you.”  Those were the times of miracles.  Acts 9:32-43 describes two healings performed by Peter.  In both cases, word spread through the region and multitudes believed in the Lord – all because Peter turned his attention to individuals.  Sermons designed for everyone catch fewer ears than words spoken to a few in the crowd.  People listen to words of personal concern spoken to a few because the pain of the few resonates with the many.  The many desperately want to believe someone personally cares about them, too.  Looking out for the lost sheep reassures the ninety-nine who remain.

As I look around in the world, I see many things that encourage me.  I see God’s mercy, justice, and love, but they seem inconsistent, with some people being blessed while others seemingly are cursed.  Why doesn’t God do something?  That question has been on my mind this entire week.  Today I read Genesis 12:3b, “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”  God was talking to Abraham, but actually, he was speaking to all of Abraham’s spiritual offspring.  So, why doesn’t God do something?  He has!  He has instructed me to be his mercy, justice, and love to those in this time and place.  What would happen if all believers lived with that as their primary mission?  The answer is an answer to prayer, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Triune God

weekly theme #30*

week containing the first Sunday after Pentecost

 I struggle to write anything about the Trinity.  I find the relationship among Father, Son, and Holy Ghost difficult to grasp, yet I have no trouble believing in a singular God who is manifest in different ways.  Perhaps it’s not as important that I understand their relationship with each other as it is that I embrace their relationship with me and other believers.

Jesus describes his relationship with Father in the fifth chapter of John as “being one”.  In the seventeenth chapter, Jesus prays that his followers would share that closeness with him and with each other.  The path to this unity is through a new way of new way of thinking for me, accompanied by surrender.  Rather than thinking of freedom as me being in control of myself, I can think of freedom as not needing to be in control because God is in control.  I surrender the burden of control because I’m in unity with the One in control.  I am still responsible to take action in obedience to God, but I’m not responsible for the results of my obedience.

As I said, I can’t explain the unity of the Triune God, and my experience of living that unity among other believers has been infrequent, localized, and temporary.  However, the foundational step in that direction is me living in harmony with the Holy Spirit.  If I, as a member of the Body, submit to Christ the Head, it will allow me to be and do exactly what the Body needs.  Unity among the Body begins with my unity with God.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Church of the Spirit

weekly theme #29*

week containing Pentecost Sunday

“A deep sense of awe came over them all.”  That’s how Acts 2:43 describes the early church.  Seldom do I sense awe, and that is embarrassing to admit.  The Creator of the universe has reached out to me, and he gives his Spirit to dwell within me.  Yet I’m not in awe of this indwelling.  What does that say about me?  I may say that I am so focused on what I am to do that I neglect who I am to be.

I am not to change the world.  God changes the world, and he desires to work through me.  How awesome that is!  And he works through me best when:  1) I allow him to change who I am (my being) from the inside out, and 2) I work in community.  The Holy Spirit is more than feelings.  He is God dwelling within me, and he wants to manifest himself through me if I will surrender my wilfulness to him.  I can live in the illusion that I control my life or surrender my life to the only One who can control it.  I could not follow Christ with the Holy Spirit dwelling within me.  Alone I am too weak to progress against the opposing current of my own bent toward sin, the world’s distractions and opposition, and Satan’s wile and power.  I need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, making my inner self a welcoming place for the Spirit to reside.  I cannot open the door of my inner self to the very things that oppose spiritual health without damaging the Holy Spirit’s work within me.

The result of my surrender and cooperation is the ability to best function as part of the Body of Jesus.  The Spirit allows clear and continuous communication between all parts of the Body and the Head, who is Christ.  It’s hard to read through the book of Acts and not get focused on the acts of individuals such as Peter, Barnabas, and especially Paul.  Yet the Holy Spirit can move whole churches as well as individuals.  Acts presents the community of believers as an example of how fellowship looks, warts and all, and even in that imperfection the early church is evidence of the Holy Spirit moving people as groups as well as individuals.  The Holy Spirit is key to the unity of believers that I so crave.

I’m afraid that I have minimized, perhaps ignored, the value and role of the Holy Spirit.  Truly, I have been off target, and I have asked for correction.  I’m eager for where the Spirit takes me.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Life Together

weekly theme #28*

week containing the seventh Sunday of Easter

God designed us to live in harmony.  I am to be in harmony with him, others, creation, and myself.  Becoming who God wants me to be is not an individual affair.  The fourth chapter of Ephesians has a lot to say about God’s gifts to the church, and verse thirteen says we become mature, full-grown, and measuring up to the full stature of Christ through using those gifts in unity for the good of the church.  I am both an individual and a member of the community, the Bride of Christ.  I need to embrace both and find comfort in both – even though there can be pain in both.

I picture Paul as a tough, perhaps gruff, young man.  His letters contain some fierce words and scathing rebukes, but I think he mellowed as he aged.  Not that he lost his passion or standards, but Paul’s spirit softened and his love flowed more easily and with more clarity.  The book of Philemon witnesses to that idea.  I hope I mellow as well, for the good of unity.

How well I love my Christian family members is a strong indication of how I love God.  Paul offers an example of how the Christian family should sacrifice for each other in the sixth chapter of first Corinthians.  He proposes that it is better to forgive another Christian who has wronged me than to make the “family disagreement” a matter of public record.  If a member of my Christian family wrongs me, I have the opportunity to respond like Jesus rather than like the world.  What do I value so much that would make me choose being unforgiving rather than being like Christ?

My ill-delivered zeal for unity among Jesus’ disciples has actually caused division.  The change I long for in the Body of Christ, from independence to inter-dependence, will not take place through words that condemn but words that compel.  Moreover, my actions must show unity and love.  No matter how mature I am in my Christian life, I can have confidence that my every attitude, act, and belief is less than perfect.  If I convince myself differently, it hinders further maturity and growth.  Rather than clutching to my imperfections, I need to cultivate the ability to change my mind, behavior, and attitude when it is clearly God’s will for me to do so.  (adapted from Liberation of Life by Harvey & Lois Seifert)

Paul said we need each other, but the breadth of his meaning is greater than I first thought.  Romans 12:5b says, “And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each needs all the others.”  I belong to other believers, and I need all of them.  No member of the body is optional; they are all mission critical.  I don’t just need the Rock-Star members; I need the humble, meek, quiet members, too.  In fact, God does not long for Rock-Star Christians to give a performance as much as he longs for his Bride to be ready for the wedding.

A thought about balance is a fitting close to this week’s long-winded piece.  In this unity, there is a place for solitude.  Without times of solitude with the Lord, unity can begin to feel clingy, overwhelming, and even parasitic.  I can know unity is always there even when I am not in the midst of it.  Solitude increases my love for unity.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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