Jesus is The Everything of The Christian Life

God is faithful, and you were called by him to partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
-1 Corinthians 1:9

Do you carry with you each day these three things?

  1. That God is faithful. 
  2. That you have been called by God. 
  3. That God has called you into is partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


Do you carry with you the awareness that God is faithful?  God is trustworthy and loyal to faith.  God moves in good faith.  You can trust God.  God's faithfulness is a settled matter and if it is unsettled in us, we need to get it settled.  That's our homework, if it is an issue.

If you are a Christian, you have been called by God into partnership with God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Partnership means fellowship or communion.  We call the Eucharist or The Lord's Supper communion because it symbolizes  a participation or sharing in Jesus' broken body and poured out blood to save us.  Eucharist actually means gratitude or thanksgiving.  Communion, as in the Lord's Supper, is all about thankfulness for what Jesus did for us.

We are called by God to be thankful for Jesus' work on the cross and remembering that and bringing to mind our thankfulness for it should be front and center in the life of the Christian.  This is the reason why some faith traditions participate in the Eucharist or taking communion each time they officially gather in services or convocations.

The words communion, the lord's supper, and eucharist are descriptive words.  How different faith traditions have interpreted the words written in the New Testament have led to how those faith traditions express their faith and what they do when they gather and how they do it.

If we are Christians, we have been called by God.  God has initiated something in your life.  You have a history in God and with God, initiated by God.  Now, it's not just your-story, but you have his-story.  Your story now is his story.  God called you.  That means God summoned you or invited you you.  Are you still responding to that calling, summons, or invitation?  God initiates, we participate.  What is God doing in your life?  That is a good question to start your fellowship with when you gather with another or other believers.

Since we are Christians, we already know what God is calling all of us to; and that is Christ.  But it's not just like flipping a switch or checking a box or praying one prayer.  God calls Christians to a life in Christ, as in partnership, fellowship, and communion.  Communion means a life of intimate sharing, in the spirit.  Sharing means we share the life, the love, and the suffering.

The Christian is a person called by God, the relationship is initiated by God; into a life, a participatory, communal, life shared with Christ; the Son of God and Lord.  This is what a Christian is.  This is the Christian's identity.  This answers all the questions.

God is faithful.  That means you can trust God.  That means he finishes what he starts.  That means he has a plan.  That means you can count on God.  God calls us and initiates our salvation, then takes us all the way through our lives by putting us in Christ and forming Christ in us.  That is the whole Christian life.  Everything in our lives is about God forming Christ in us.  It is that simple and that clear.
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Picture credit: Pastor Bob, from Fort Worth, TX: Living the Lectionary blog

The Two Disciples and The Two Donkeys

When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave two disciples a task.  He said to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter, you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to me.  If anybody says anything to you, say that the Lord needs it.” He sent them off right away.  Now this happened to fulfill what the prophet said,  Say to Daughter Zion, “Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey, and on a colt the donkey’s offspring.”  The disciples went and did just as Jesus had ordered them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them. Then he sat on them.
-Matthew 21:1-7

On what we call Palm Sunday, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. But, he had two disciples get two donkeys: a mother donkey and her colt. Jesus rode the young male who had never been ridden before. In his carefulness and perhaps kindness towards these two donkeys, he had the male's mother come along for the journey to perhaps comfort the young colt. So, in a truer picture of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, you would see Jesus on the colt, surrounded by crowds. But next to that colt with Jesus on him is that colt's mother.

Jesus sent his disciples to perform a simple task as a two-some and Jesus requested that the two donkeys be brought to him, mother and colt.  God is always looking after relationship.  We stand before God alone, but we stand and we walk together.  God knows we need companionship and most animals are not solitary and even the solitary ones seek companionship and mates.

"It is not good for man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18).  This is the first negative in the Bible.  God designed us for relationship with him and with one another.  God is looking for friends for people who are alone.  God really cares about loneliness and companionship in and for people.  

God also has compassion for animals.  Some people believe that Jesus had his two disciples get the two donkeys, colt and mother, because that was the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9; which mentions the two.  But I think that God actually had Zechariah describe it that way because God cared, in advance, for the donkey that Jesus would ride and his mother.  The colt had never been ridden before and probably had never been separated from his mother.  

Some of us have magical thinking about God and about Jesus and think that everything Jesus did was easy because he is God after all.  But the significance of Jesus life is that he lived it as a man, not as God; a man, filled with and anointed by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus moved in and flowed with the Spirit of God.

Jesus did miracles, but he was also human and practical.  Meals had to be prepared each day, he needed his sleep, he had to get away to pray, and he had to send two disciples to fetch two donkeys that had been foreordained by God for his use.  God provided the provision, in advance, to fulfill his plan for Jesus and for us.

God cares about companionship with humans and animals.  He knows our needs and provides for them.  God also has provision in our future for his vision or plan or prophecy of our future.  Where God leads, God provides.

We Want Knowledge, God Wants Relationship

Examine the scriptures, since you think that in them you have eternal life. They also testify about me, yet you don’t want to come to me so that you can have life. -John 5:39-40

"God help me always to seek the truth.. and protect me from those who have found it."
-Thomas Moore

"We all have a hunger for certitude, and the problem is that the Gospel is not about certitude, it's about fidelity. So what we all want to do if we can is immediately transpose fidelity into certitude, because fidelity is a relational category and certitude is flat, mechanical category. So we have to acknowledge our thirst for certitude and then recognize that if you had all the certitudes in the world it would not make the quality of your life any better because what we must have is fidelity."
-Walter Brueggemann.


"Certainty is highly over-rated, and is the favorite bastion of every brand of fundamentalism, whether expressed in politics or religion... Certainty puts me in control. Most of us are addicted to control at some level. But if we are willing to let go, we can discover a new level of dependence on God. "
- Len Hjalmarson 


"We end up worshipping doctrines about God, more than the God the doctrines are about... At it’s core, the Gospel is not about correct doctrine, but about these several different layers of relationships–God, the faith, our community–lived out over the long haul. Lived out in fidelity over the long haul. I am reminded of Eugene Peterson’s phrase “a long obedience in the same direction.” That obedience, or that fidelity (for the two concepts are integrally related, I believe) is right at the heart of the Gospel."
-Arlen


We want certainty, we want stability; we want a system, a model, a plan to follow.  Jesus is that.  As Christians, Christ is now our life.  We follow him now.  The problem for some of us is that Jesus is not in a box, so to speak, on earth.  The way to have certainty is only in Christ.  The only model, system. or plan is in Christ.

God deals with each of us in relationship and through Christ.  God is real and God is a person, three persons; and everything in our lives hinges on our relationship with God.  When we want gifts, anointing, knowledge, or prosperity outside of ongoing relationship with God; we're in trouble.

People who studied the Bible and went to religious services constantly, rejected Jesus.  Bible studies are good and services can be edifying and wonderful, so why was this so or how could these people reject Jesus?  One way to answer this question is with another question.  What do you hold dear or what are you holding on to?

Some would say that they are of course holding onto God and Christ, so what is your point?  We hold onto our knowledge that is certain and we want more and more knowledge and more certainty.  We then take this knowledge and our certainty into the world and live on it.  We confuse knowledge that gives certainty with relationship that depends on fidelity.

God is looking for faithfulness.  Someone might say, "that's right, faithfulness in doctrine: doctrinal purity."  I would reply, that God is looking at how we live.  It is all about relationships.  Your relationship with God and your relationship with others.

There is a common saying that goes against fudamentalist certitude that goes, "the more you know God, the less you know."  I believe that and I would add to it, echoing the Thomas Moore quote above, that those who embrace certainty as the main thing are not on a personal quest to know God and are in danger of becoming against what God is for.

To know God is to be uncertain.  We only gain true & pure knowledge and wisdom through our hunger for God himself.  No matter how intelligent or learned we are, we have sore limits.  That is why God gave us imaginations and dreams.  People who are focused on God in their lives realize that God is not logical.

Western culture is Greek influenced and God is not Greek or Roman or American.  We got this non-God, non-Biblical idea that knowledge is power.  So we seek knowledge and we exercise power with knowledge.  Many church people, for example, have taken this path.  We judge and view (evaluate) the world and the church through the lens of knowledge.  We are not partnering with God when we do this.

God evaluates based on love.  God looks for faithfulness and God looks at our relationships, starting with our relationship with him.

Besides moving from emphasizing knowledge to growing in relationship, knowledge seekers also need to embrace the fact that God is mysterious to us.  "God moves in mysterious ways", my mom always used to say.  Apostle Paul wrote, "behold I tell you a mystery", in first Corinthians, fifteen, verse fifty-one.

Stanley Grenz wrote: "we must make room for mystery..  as a reminder that God transcends human rationality. Central to the task of thinking through the faith is an obligation to rethink the function of assertions of truth or propositions. Christian truth is more than correct doctrine. Truth is both socially and linguistically constructed, and at the heart of Christianity is a personal encounter. Propositions may serve that encounter [but the map is not the territory]."

The map is not the territory.  The menu is not the meal.  The cookbook is not the meal.  The book is not the author.

The certainty that we have is that,
Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,
Little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he in strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.

The Struggle of Salvation

Make every effort to enter through the narrow gate.   
Strive to enter in.  
You must strain every nerve.  
You must struggle to get in.  
Fight your way in.  
You must do your utmost to get in.
Exert every effort to enter through the narrow door.
Work hard to enter the narrow door.
Many, I tell you, will try to enter and won’t be able to.  
-Luke 13:24





Is salvation easy or hard?

Jesus' words in this verse seem to indicate that salvation is hard.  We know the price God paid for our salvation.  The crucifixion  was real, it was excruciating for Jesus.  But Jesus is not saying here that it is going to be hard for him.  He is saying that a struggle, an effort has to occur in his hearers to be saved.

Is salvation by works or grace?

Salvation is by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8).  You cannot earn it.  He said that we just need to believe in him and we would be saved through him (John 3:16-17).  So, why would Jesus say, "strive to enter in"?  I thought that we were not supposed to strive, but just receive and believe.

The backdrop to Jesus' hard saying, is the question asked by someone in the previous verse: "Lord, will only a few be saved?"  There was an ongoing debate whether few or many would be saved.

Some Christians are asking this same question today.  Another question that some people ask about others is, "are they a Christian?"

Jesus says that the person's salvation that you should be concerned about is your own.

Jesus says that you ought to be concerned with your own salvation because is is difficult.

If salvation is not by works, but it is hard, if it's a fight; what's Jesus talking about?

He's talking about the door or the gate: 
The narrow door or narrow gate.  

He, Jesus, is that door that is narrow.  
He, Jesus, is that gate that is narrow.

Salvation is about being in Christ.

Being in Christ is hard.  It's a struggle.  We have to make every effort.  There will be sweat and tears.  Your flesh, your human nature, your carnality will oppose Christ and Christlikeness.  The world will oppose Christ in you as will the devil.  

If you are not in a fight over Christ in you, there might be a problem with your salvation.

We Won't Go Until We Get Some


He also said to them, “Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread  because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’  Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’  I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness.  And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.  Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.
-Luke 11:5-10


But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke.  When the man saw that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and tore a muscle in Jacob’s thigh as he wrestled with him.  The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.”  But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.”  Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.”  Jacob also asked and said, “Tell me your name.”  But he said, “Why do you ask for my name?” and he blessed Jacob there.
-Genesis 32:24-9

The fawning etiquette of unctuous prayer is utterly foreign to the Bible. Biblical prayer is impertinent, persistent, shameless, indecorous. It is more like haggling in an oriental bazaar than the polite monologues of the churches.  -Walter Wink (1)

Prayer in its highest form and grandest success assumes the attitude of a wrestler with God.  -E.M. Bounds (2)

We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some;
We won't go until we get some, so bring some out here

We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
All our prayers can be answered.  Jesus said that all things are possible through God, for the person that believes.(3)  

What if the truth is that God is waiting on us, rather than we're waiting on God?  
What if the truth is that how close we are to God is regulated by our own choices?  

Imagine an airplane or vehicle called, "salvation through Christ", that is headed to heaven.  There are an unlimited amount of first class seats, but only a few people take them.

Did you know that the opposite of love is not hate, but passivity?  When we are passive towards God, it's not a sign of our love for him.  Lovers are passionate.  Lovers get jealous and angry with their beloved.  Lovers pursue.  Lovers seek reconciliation when there is a rift.  

Children of God who are upset with God and tell God are people who care, who love, who want something from God.  They are honest to God, telling him their disappointments.  Do you care about God enough to be angry with him?  Are you seeking to trade your sorrows?  Are you turning your lament into worship?  Are you seeking an upgrade for your outdated operating system?

When we want to get something from from God, we have to persist.  In the story of the man seeking bread from his friend in the middle of the night, the key to why the one gives the other what he needs and asks for is not the friendship.  It is not the friendship that gets him what he wants.  The friendship leads him to that particular door.

God is the person we go to with prayers, with needs, with requests.  We get that.  But Just knowing that is not enough, according to Jesus.  We get our answers, our stuff; through shameless, audacious, persistence.

We have to be brash, as it says in Luke 11 in the story of the friend knocking on the door.  Another word is audacious.  Another word is boldness.  Did you know that God likes it when we are brash, audacious, and bold?  

God likes risk takers.  Passionate, God seeking people, pursuers, who boldly go forward, make mistakes and fail.  But, God is alright with that.  God has made provision for our failures.  These are "holy failures".  I am not talking about sin failures.

Jesus said,"ask of me", and "all things are possible"; so we say, "you said, Lord"; and keep at it.  Seeking God is like playing hide and seek with your child.  You, as the parent, watch your child from your hiding place, and you want to be found.  

We can make a demand on God.  This does not mean we boss God or order God.  It's just taking God's word in the Bible, that we have, and speaking it to God and asking for it.  There are things God wants to give us that don't come automatically.  We have to ask for them and pursue them.  We have to pursue God for them. 

Every thing we want is in God.  So, as a child of God, engage with God, until you get what you want.  There may be things we want that we don't need and God will sort that out for us in the process.

You need something and there's God, who has what you need.  You know he is there.  There is Jesus who has what you need and there is the Holy Spirit who can solve all your problems.  There they are and there you are with your lack, your need, your unfulfilled destiny.  Will you wrestle with God for what you want?  We you wrestle before God?  Are you willing to not give up until God blesses you?

Can you say, "I won't go, until I get some?"  The "some" is the divine antidote to all your longings.  In God, in God's presence, everything is clarified.  When God comes or when God takes you into Himself, it is in Christ.  In Christ we have all our needs and wants.  Our destinies get fulfilled, our callings are commissioned and empowered.  On earth as it is in heaven means Christlikeness for us.  That's the goal.  That's what we get when we get more of God.  That's what we need.


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Artwork credits:
Sir John Everett Millais, Bt (1829‑1896),  The Importunate Friend

Gerard Hoet (1648-1733), and others, Figures of The Bible (1728) 

Footnotes:
1. Walter Wink, Prayer and The Powers, Sojourners, Oct. 1990. p. 13
2. E.M. Bounds, the Classic Collection on Prayer, 2002, p. 519
3. Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23

Jesus Shows Us How To Love

When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened. Luke 3:21

Jesus loves people. Jesus ministry is a ministry of love. How Jesus loved people and how he showed God's love shows us how he will love through us.

The way that God chose to bring salvation to us is to be born among us, live with us, love us, and finally die and be raised from the dead here, where we live, on earth. Jesus lived, loved, and died among people.

God was working through John, who was preaching repentance and leading the people in a baptism of repentance. The people were gathering by the river to hear John preach and they were repenting and being baptized by John, as an act of sincerity in their repentance.

Jesus went down to the river and walked up to John and presented himself for baptism. But Jesus did not need to repent. Jesus wanted to be where the people were and where God was moving among the people. Jesus wanted to be with the people or identify with what the people were doing who were following God.

"When everyone... Jesus also." Jesus joined in with what the people were doing, or rather with what God was doing with the people. Jesus was a joiner.

Jesus prayed in the midst of his baptism. Jesus prayed as we pray. Jesus opened communication with the Father. The next thing that happens is that heaven was opened. Heaven opens when Jesus prays.

The message from heaven is, "I hear you", and when God hears, God answers. What if we prayed all our prayers as if God heard them and would answer them? What if our praying was mainly just an opening of the communication window, to focus on God with adoration?

Do you think that in the midst of his walking here and being with people, that Jesus reminded God of his prayer requests and went through his list of reminders? Or do you think that when Jesus prayed that he just focused the eyes of his heart on his favorite person, his father?

There is nothing wrong with prayer requests, or reminding God, with "you said", prayers reminding God of promises you have received and believed.

There is also a being in prayer, opening our communication line to God and focusing and listening and seeing.

The first thing Jesus did in his ministry was to go down into the waters of repentance baptism, identifying with repenting sinners. The last thing Jesus did before he died was to be placed on a cross, between two thieves. Jesus' work on the cross, the atonement, could also be called, "at-one-ment" (1). He is one with mankind in baptism and at one with God. Jesus, from his baptism, to the cross, is identifying, going low, becoming one with and redeeming mankind.

At his baptism, Jesus declares his mission to save sinners by standing with us(2). Jesus takes the risk of being misunderstood, by associating with sinners(2). Matt Woodley writes,

"At his baptism Jesus made a clear statement of his intention and mission: he wanted to identify with us. Jesus' ministry is not just to sinners; it is with sinners. His baptism is a body-language statement that says, "I am with you. I am not against you." This becomes clearer when Jesus later refers to his death on the cross as "my baptism" (Mark 10:38-9, Luke 12:50). Jesus' river baptism prefigures his cross baptism: both were bodily expressions of his desire to be with us in order to save us.

So in his first public act, Jesus aligns himself with sinners and rebels. Over and over again... Jesus plunges into the sinful mess of humanity. And following in the footsteps of Jesus, the church can do no less."

Jesus showed us how to love humanity through identification. Jesus humbled himself to be with people who don't get God. If you want to know how to live, how to be a Christian: look at Jesus. So often, we study the epistles, to try to glean how to live the Christian life, how to be the Church; but why not go back to the original blueprint? Jesus shows me how to live and how to love, before God and with people.

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1. Matthew: The First Christbook, Fredrick Dale Bruner, p. 102
2. The Gospel of Matthew: God with Us, Matt Woodley, p. 45