Headship: God, Christ, The Husband, and The Wife

But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.
-1 Corinthians 11:3

What is the foundation of a Christian marriage?  Who is the key to a happy, joyful, abundant husband and wife relationship?  And what is the Christ-following husband's role in regards to his wife?

These are questions that cross the minds of Christians who are married, thinking about being married, or have been married in the past and are looking back or looking forward.  In society, getting married is much easier to do, even though some single people who are searching or waiting might not agree with this; it is easier to do than getting a drivers licence or all sorts of other things we commonly do.

Being married and staying married are much, much harder.  Two people living in a space together, even with rings and the paperwork, does not a marriage make.

Christian marriage is a covenant between two people, both who are in Christ, that is held together by God.  The legal marriage certificate is a contract that in enforced by laws that will come into play if one of the spouses ends the marriage through divorce.

The covenant only works when we work with it.  God holds our marriage together, as we hold onto God.  It is all about our relationships to God and to one another.

We are all in a covenant, the New Covenant, in Christ, with God.  There are always two sides or two parties in a covenant.  Even though God does all the saving in our covenant with him, we must participate or be engaged in it to actualize the covenant in our lives.

We can't say, "I'm saved", and then go back to our lives, running our show.  Being saved means we have begun a journey with God, where we give up everything we have and God gives us everything we need.  That may not be the gospel message that you have heard or believed in, but this is the gospel of the kingdom.

When we say we are in the covenant of salvation or the covenant of marriage, the next step and life style is to live in the covenant relationship.  We don't leave Christ or our spouse at the altar, so to speak, where we said "I do" and then go off on our own, saying, "see ya when I need ya!".  But that is how some people live towards Christ and towards their spouse.

Before we look at this issue of head and headship, we need to make sure we are saved and look at our salvation.  If a man or a woman is not in a vital union with the living Christ, where they are dying to their selves and living to Christ, marriage will not work.

Many people are legally married, but not living in marriage.  The Bible gives clear instructions on how to live in marriage as Christians.  If you are not first living as a Christian, then you will not be able to or will have troubles participating in marriage, God's way.

What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 11, is, "this is the way it is and the way it is supposed to be".  If you read the whole letter, you will see that the Corinthians had problems and Paul is addressing the problems and their questions.  Some of them were not doing great in their being in Christ.

Before Paul addresses the issues that were coming up regarding hair and head coverings, he says the statement that I am highlighting, as a foundation or backdrop to a discussion on hair and head coverings.  Paul could have said: "Thanks for remembering a lot of the stuff I taught you about being Christians.  Now, before I get into this issue of hair and covering or not covering one's head, I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ."

In case you did not realize it, and the Bible translation, HCSB, that I quoted has a footnote to flag this: scholars say that Paul meant husband and wife, when he wrote man and woman, here.  The ESV, for example, does this without a footnote:
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
Before Paul gets into the hair and veil customs, he grounds things in Christ; and that is how we get this verse and that is the context, which we will go through broadly, in a moment.  The back story to Paul's admonitions on head coverings, may have been questions or problems with this issue at Corinth.  And Paul brings them and all his readers from then till now, back to our relationship to God and each other.

Before we get into head and headship and the wife being under her husband's head, we have to say this:  A married Christian woman is a person who is herself in Christ, under Christ, and living her life from Christ; while also being and living under her husband's headship.  A married Christian man is a person in, under, and from Christ; while also the head of his wife.

There has been an ongoing discussion, a theological debate, about what "head" here means.  Over on one side, some scholars have said that head here means 'source' or 'origin'; while the other side says that head means 'chief' or 'ruler'.  Head (kelphale') also means the 'end-point' of something: the top of a column or the end of a pole.  The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is also called the head of the year. 

Also, head (kelphale') means controlling agent, but not preeminent.  Our physical heads, having our brain within, rules and has authority over our bodies: our head is the controlling agent of our bodies.  This has nothing to do with preeminence, but everything to do with function.  The head is the boss, from which control emanates, but is not bossy nor controlling.

A body without a head is dead.  It is normal for a body to be under the rule and control or authority of the head.  When we take headship as a metaphor, we see that Christians can and do live without being under Christ's headship.

In Christ, there is life and outside of Christ there is not life.  If a Christian is not living in Christ, functionally, then they are not living in his life.  Imagine a person who is legally married, but does not live in a marriage.

Living as a room mate, living self centered, not sacrificing, not sharing everything you have, and not laying down your life for your wife; are examples of the husband who is not living under the headship of Christ.

Christ is head of the church, head over all things, the head corner stone, and head of man; and God is the head of Christ and husbands are heads of their wives.  The church can ignore, set aside, or give lip service to Christ being it's head.  And wives can also not believe in or live under the headship of their husband; and both of these can be happening today, to our detriment.

After studying, reading, listening, looking things up, and reading some more; my conclusion is that 'head' (kephale) here in Paul, means 'authority', and not 'preeminent', 'source', or 'origin'.  There are links to articles, in the bibliography at the bottom, for your further study, if desired.

There have been Christians who are confused about Christ and God, saying things like, "the man upstairs", or "God is my co-pilot".  The truth is that God and Christ is king and we need to bow and surrender our lives.  But God is also good, love, and full of mercy and grace.

Christians are the bride of Christ and the children of Father.  God and Christ are not this incredible religion or philosophy that we adhere to.  Being a believer means we give up everything and God gives us a different everything.

It means death and resurrection.  It means leaving our mother and father and getting married to Christ.  It means that we are no longer orphans, but get adopted and become God's children.

If you do not have these basics, these staring points down; if you are not in and on the pathway of Christ; then having Christ as chief, head, authority, and boss of your life might be a strange and off-putting topic for you.  And it would follow, that if you are a wife, to have your husband over you in any chief, boss, or leader role would possibly be foreign, unwanted, incorrect, and rejected as archaic and bluntly crass.

God and Christ is and are our source, and that is a Pauline idea (Acts 17:28, Rom. 11:36).  But that is not what 1 Cor. 11:3 is saying.  It is also not saying that one is superior and one is inferior.  Paul is not saying the husband is the inferior to Christ and the wife is the inferior to the husband and Christ is inferior to God.

The text is neither saying that the husband is inferior to Christ nor is Christ inferior to God, and not that wives are inferior to husbands.  But it is saying that there is a hierarchy.  Some of us don't like that word.

God's headship of Christ gives us an example to follow.  Jesus lives under his father's authority.  He did all the good things and said all the good things, under his father's headship.

The husband lives out his life under Christ's headship and his wife lives out her life under her husband's headship.  The wife has her own walk under Christ, while also walking under the headship of her husband.  Christ is the wife's savior and Lord, but she functions under the authority of her husband.

The husband has Christ as his model for leadership.  Christ's leadership is sacrificially loving.  The husband is called to sacrificially love his wife, who he is head over.

Men and women are equal before God.  Husbands and wives are equal in value before God.  But husbands and wives have different roles in marriage.

Different positions in the hierarchy does not mean superior/inferior.  That is a worldly perspective and not part of Christ's way.  Jesus and the Father are one.  Jesus Christ is Lord, and not just a man who was a carpenter and a traveling teacher/prophet/healer, who had and still has followers.

"God is the head of Christ", means God the Father has a role of authority over Christ.  It is a function and role issue.  While the husband is not God, Christ is also the head of him; and again it is a role and function.

Remember how in the great commission, Jesus says, "all authority has been given to me"?  Father gives authority to Christ and Christ gives authority to us.  The one is functionally over the other and gives authority to the other.  Jesus has a oneness with Father, but is also under his headship.

In marriage, the two become one; but the wife is under her husband's headship.

This is an aside, but if Christ calls a woman, a married lady, to be a pastor; her husband is obviously still her head.  If she is married, a blurb on their church's website might read, "Sue Jones is the pastor (or lead minister) of Tall Mountain Jesus Is Lord Fellowship, and her husband Larry Jones is the boss of her".  For anyone worried that she is not under her husband's headship, that settles it.

To every pastor, preacher, or standing up in front of people in a leadership role person; I would simply ask, "has Christ called you?"  If Christ calls a woman and if Christ gives a woman the desire to serve and teach and speak and minister, and gives her his authority to stand in leadership; who are we to argue with him?

If elders are men and the elders are the pastors, then it makes it difficult to be a woman pastor.  But if Christ not only gifts a woman with gifts and then calls her to serve as a leader, and there is much discernible fruit from her ministry, then we call her a pastor, agreeing that Christ has made her one and his.  He has ordained her and we bless his work in her life.

Also, it would be ideal for a woman pastor to have a qualified elder husband.  His being qualified as an elder actually is an endorsement or qualifier of her standing up and speaking and thereby leading other people.

However, most people don't make it to the ideal, and being divorced or never married should not disqualify anyone who Jesus desires to use, and he does.

Is Christ the head of all Christians, male and female, husbands and wives, young and old?  Yes, of course.  This passage or section does not need to say that because Paul is talking about roles and functions.

Husbands and wives have equal value and standing before God, in Christ.  But they have different roles, and that is what this verse is saying.  Imagine a narrow path, where only one person can fit at a time and one goes first and the other follows.  That is a picture of roles, not about one person being valued more.

Think about a car, where there is one steering wheel in front of one seat that the driver sits in.  The one who drives and manages the wheel, is not superior, but only in the role, function, and service of driving.  Drivers who drive recklessly, speed, blare the radio, where headphones, text while driving, have their eyes off the road, tailgate, cut off other drivers, or drive the wrong way may be called bad drivers and get in trouble or hurt themselves or others, but being in the role, function, or service is not a bad thing.

And that is the way it is with bad husbands.  Their God given role of being head is not the problem, but what they are doing in their role is the problem that needs correction.  Egalitarianism might be saying that the role thing is the problem, so we need to get rid of that and be equal in the roles.

But the complimentary roles and functions, unique to each sex, are given by God; and are not the problem.  The problem are people who do bad things, act in bad ways, and are ungodly.  Egalitarianism seeks to set us free from 'archaic' roles, 'patrimony' and 'misogyny'.

The Bible and the roles for husbands and wives are not wrong and don't need a re-write.  We need to separate the people who have done wrong, lived sinfully, even while saying they are walking with God, from the God we serve, who has created man and woman, with equal value, but different roles as husband and wife, that compliment each other.

The only way to have a Christian marriage is in and through Christ.  We know that Christ is under the headship of God, but the husband must also be intimately aware of his being under Christ's headship, for his wife to take her place under his headship.  It is about function and relationship.

But before the husband begins to exercise his authority, as head of his wife,there is something to check.  Is he under or functioning under the headship of Christ?  If he is not, then he needs to come under Christ and let Christ be his authority.

This is the subject I wanted to talk about.  Everything I have said up to this point is an introduction to what I am about to say.  There is a problem today, with Christian marriages failing or being dysfunctional, because the husband is not living under the headship of Christ.

I could and am tempted to give you a list of bad things that Christian husbands do.  I could also give you a list of problems that Christian wives have that are to an extent, the result or fruit of their husband not being under Christ's headship.  Obviously, Christian wives may sin themselves in ways that are not the fruit of their husbands lack of relationship with Christ, but that is not what I am talking about.

This word, that I am focusing on, that says that, "Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ", is found in the context of Paul's words about hair and the covering of a person's head.  It may be stating the obvious, but we know that Christ and his headship is for all time and universal; but the issues of hair length, and the covering of one's head, in Corinthian, Grecian society are particular.  

The challenge for us with passages like this, is to find out how the passage applies to us today.  And we can broadly place many things in the Bible into two categories: custom and command.  The statement, that Christ is the head of the husband is a command, for all Christians: to obey.

But, the words that follow in 1 Corinthians 11, about hair length and veil wearing are in the custom category.  Paul is referring to the customs of their culture and  reflecting on how to be loving, in Christ, in the midst of their particular cultural customs.

The husband being the head of the wife is also in the command column.  If you place that piece into the custom column, then you must also place Christ and his headship over man  in the custom column as well.  And some people do that, who say that the whole Bible is just customs.

At the other side of the spectrum, some might say that this whole passage is of the command type, and we must strongly transpose Paul's words then to our lives now.  And what this point of view would say, is that, "women must wear head coverings, for the Bible commands it".

What is funny, in an ironic way, is that if you were to grow up, or be raised up and discipled in a church culture today, where you were taught, "women must wear head coverings, for the Bible commands it", you would hear, and we could say, be indoctrinated, by an argument, that would lead you to believe that veils or head coverings are required by scripture, and the rest of Christianity and secular society that does not practice head coverings, is wrong.  Does that sound like any groups of people today?

This is why critical thinking and cross-pollination is so important and beneficial for Christian strength of learning.  Indoctrination and sectarianism are religion.  Christianity is centered in Christ.

Today, many Christians are centered on their beliefs, doctrine, and customs; rather than Christ.  They say they are centered on Christ.  But if they were centered on him, they would love what he loves, both the lost and all of his different flocks.


Now, here is the context of the first half of 1 Corinthians 11:
Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.
Now I praise you because you always remember me and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who prays or prophesies with something on his head dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and the same as having her head shaved. So if a woman’s head is not covered, her hair should be cut off. But if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should be covered.
A man, in fact, should not cover his head, because he is God’s image and glory, but woman is man’s glory. For man did not come from woman, but woman came from man. And man was not created for woman, but woman for man. This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, and man is not independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman, and all things come from God.
Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her as a covering. But if anyone wants to argue about this, we have no other custom, nor do the churches of God.
-1 Corinthians 11:1-16
If you use this passage to say that women should wear head coverings, I might say that is ok, but please do not try to force it on others.  It is interesting to note that in Paul's day and today, in Judaism, in their worship; the men where the skull cap and women let their hair flow down and about.  How did Paul get from that to the other?

The answer is tradition or custom or culture.  If you look around the world, you will see different styles of dress.  In various cultures, women cover up their heads and even their faces.

Corinth and Greece at the time had a culture that the Corinthians lived in.  They had to live and witness for Christ within that culture.

This hair and head covering part is a cultural discussion that we can transpose and glean some wisdom from for today, which is what many even handed preachers try to do, when they speak on this passage.  But that is not the point of my message.

My message is this:  Christ is the center and Christ is the head of man and head of the husband.  The husband is head of his wife, but that will not work out very well, unless that husband is under the headship of Christ.  Any Christian husband who is not under the headship of Christ, needs to start living in and from that place, and any wife who in not under her husband's headship needs to start living from, in, and through that place.

If we refuse this calling, we are living a double life that is exhausting and not in the peace of Christ.  We will do the religious things to feel good and then be selfish and lash out at others and even make disciples in this wrong way.  Please don't do it.  Please come home to Christ.

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Bibliography:

Brauch, Manfred T.; The Head of Woman is Man?, The Hard Sayings of Paul, The Hard Sayings of The Bible, pp. 559-602, (1989)

Bruce, F. F.; The New Century Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Corinthians; pp. 103-4, (1971)

Grudem, Wayne; Does Kefalh (“Head”) Mean “Source” Or“Authority Over” in Greek Literature?A Survey of 2,336 Examples (1985)

The meaning of κεφαλή (“head”):An evaluation of new evidence, real and alleged, (2002)

Kroger, Catherine; Head, The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Hawthorne & Martin eds.; pp. 375-7, (1993)

Nathan, Rich; Why Vineyard Columbus Encourages Women To Preach, Pastor & Church Plant, (2014)


Not Getting It

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
-Proverbs 23:7a (NKJV)

Do you ever say, "I don't get it"?  You might say it as an expression of bewilderment or consternation.  But often times we don't say it, but have the experience of it, of not getting it, and oppose or reject whatever it is; often subconsciously.

When we don't get it, we are prejudiced about or have a bias against something or someone that we do not understand.  There is right and wrong, morals and ethics; but there is also the different and the new and the alternative view point or paradigm.  We sometimes want to destroy an idea rather than seek to understand it, and we want to shut a person down carrying a new or different concept, rather than hear them.

I was thinking about how often we say or write to one another what boils down to, "you are wrong, so shut up", and how an alternative might (at least) be, "I think you are wrong, but let's eat together".  If we could eat together, maybe something good or at least better can happen to us.  Having food together is a beginning to the path of understanding.

My next thought was that we should say instead, "let's eat together and I will listen to you".  One philosopher said that our modern society is filled with "dialogues of the deaf".  We talk past each other.  I often spend hours reading or listening to people who disagree with other people on issues of theology and issues of politics, talking at and past each other.

Debate and discussion, questions and answers, argument and rebuttal should be normal and welcomed by believers.  We should not be afraid of these, but should be vigorous in them.  But first, to be authentic believers in Jesus, we must make it our highest priority to be in his love.

To be loved and to love is the foundation of the Christian life.  The Christian life is a journey, where God keeps touching and transforming our hearts and thereby renewing our minds.  If you have been a Christian for some time, you will be able to look back, ten or eleven years, for instance and observe that your heart is more Christlike and you are more godly and you don't think the same way or say the same things.

The proverb that I am speaking from, says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he."  As is sometimes the case, the Hebrew is difficult to translate into English, so you will find Proverbs 23:7 to be different in different translations.  What got me started on this word was that I was recently listening to an introduction to some lessons, that were about new ideas or paradigms, and the man quoted Proverbs 23:7, from the King James probably.

In many translations, like the HCSB, this verse is rendered, "for it’s like someone calculating inwardly. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you."  The idea is that a person says one thing but that is not where their heart is.  In other words, he is a person who says one thing, but thinks another.

The Bible is pretty clear that we want to be people who say good things that are authentic or come from our hearts.  It is the habit of some people to say good things, even flatter others or ideas, but be insincere and not mean it or believe it.  It is a terrible state to be in and a person we want to run from, who says one thing but secretly believes another thing.

I've known people who constantly smile and even say little nice things, while secretly being hostile, judgmental, and seething with anger and prejudice.  When asked about the lack on congruency, their explanation is that they were just being "polite".  The human solution for the uncomfortableness of the saccharine person is to run from "the different", and those who desire authenticity want to withdraw from them.

There has got to be a better way for us to live.

The antidote is not space but is Jesus' life within ours.  This proverb is telling us to beware of people like this.  But, if we find that we are that person who does not get it, that we just can not manifest the life of God and move up and onward into Christs's life or Father's love in our lives; there is a better way, a new and living way.

The reason we don't get it, is because of our hearts.  Our hearts govern how we think.  We speak or write about what we think, but our thoughts come from and are governed by our hearts.

Our hearts govern our minds.  When we say, "I don't get it", it means that our heart is holding back our mind or how we think.

This proverb is spoken in the context of a man who says to you, "Eat all you want, enjoy yourself!", but what that man really thinks is, "Don't eat too much!".  That man has a mental arithmetic going on in his heart within.  There is a calculation occurring in him, that makes it so he can not go forward, into that place, of authentic generosity.

Here is the context to this saying:
Do not eat the bread of a miser,
Nor desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
But his heart is not with you.
The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up,
And waste your pleasant words.
He, the guy in this story, can not authentically do the generosity thing, because he does not get it.  He is a miser, or he has an evil eye.  This is an old-fashion figure of speech.  This is verse 6 in the King James:
Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye,
neither desire thou his dainty meats:
-Prov. 23:6 (KJV)
Evil eye, or miser in our newer translations means:
  • a sordid, grudging temper (1)
  • an envious or covetous person who secretly grudges the food set before others (2)
  • a jealous person that cannot bear other's happiness (3)
The reason that the man is a miser, one with an evil eye, is that there is something wrong with his heart.  He may try to do the right thing or try to look good, doing what is right, but he can not pull it off, because, "as he thinks in his heart, so is he".

This is a very common problem, seeing things through a heart that has been given upgrades, that are laying to the side, and have not been implemented.  Upgrades are not necessarily automatic.  The steps to maturity are learned through participating with God in his transformation of you.

We are supposed to be in a transformational process.  But we can be many years, decades, or a lifetime in the Lord, and have this evil eye, of miserliness, envy, jealousy, and ungenerousness.  The life of the believer is a life of continual transformation and renovation of our hearts.

We are unable to think in a new way and be acting in a godly way, unless our hearts change and are continually soft and flexible and becoming Christlike.

As we think, so are we.  We are limited by our thoughts and our thoughts are governed by our hearts.  We can not do it, because we do not get it.  Sometimes we have self awareness and say, "I don't get it", but other times, we are not able to do it because we don't get it and we do not even know we don't get it.

Consider the thinkers of old, how the opinion of many, perhaps the consensus, or even common knowledge was that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.  Outside the box, pioneering thinkers came up with different ideas: that the earth was round and that the earth revolved around the sun.

They dared to dream, opened their hearts to possibilities beyond the known or accepted.  They used the tools they had of math, science, and reason; but added to those the essential ingredient of openness to the beyond, to the new, to a new paradigm, or to something that was like a dream being proved true as a reality.

There might be a connection between and open heart, generosity, and innovation.  Life is when you progress, grow, and do new things, and become a better person.  Death is when you stay the same, don't do anything new, and do not change for the better.

God is always calling us upward.  We are the ones stuck on plateaus.  It takes effort to climb up or swim or walk forward.

If you don't go up and just stay on the plateau, then you are vulnerable to all sorts of diseases and infections that are warded off through exercise.  There is no "doing nothing" or "neutral" or "stopping learning" - and learning means, "hands on, doing it".  You are either pressing on, forward, or you are drifting backwards.

So, we are always getting upgrades and implementing them, with the Lord on the journey he has us on.  He is always changing our hearts, so that we think and see differently (better) and do life better (more godly, more Christlike).

I am zeroing in on this phrase: "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he". The context is generosity, hospitality, and food. But we can transpose this mind/heart/being concept to all areas of life.

Another example of this is music. Either secular or sacred. We do not like the new music, because our heart is attached to the old.

Today, the old music, in church, are the hymns and praise songs, that we say, "I grew up with".  Since I became aware, I have noticed people who want the old music and don't like the new music.  And the new music is everything that has come out, since you bonded with the music you heard and sang, at the beginning.

If you go to most any hymnal, and read it, noting the dates of each song, you will notice that there are hundreds of years of variance.  Each song was brand new at one time.  Songs have been added to the hymnody over the years, decades, and centuries.

Even if you have a set of the old and gold, that you love and say, "those are the good songs"; if you look at the composition dates, you find that each song came out or was written far apart, even in some cases, hundreds of years apart.  It is an ironic point that each of the old songs were new at one time and may have been dismissed or rejected at the time, but today are standards for some people.

The way I see it, is that we bond with or form a sentimental tie to certain music or styles of music.  We argue that it is the best and do not like any or most any of the new; and the new is defined as anything older than the music we bonded with years ago.  And it is not that it is any better, but the issue is that our hearts are attached to it, so our minds can not make room for or receive the new music.

The point or issue is the rejection or the 'not getting it' with the new.  Nobody is saying that the new is better.  It is just new and for some reason, we do not like the new.

But the Bible says, "sing a new song".  The Bible also says, "Behold I do a new thing", and "I make all things new".  God is into new and renew.

In Luke 5:37-39, we have Jesus' saying about new and old, wine and wineskins.  He says that it is natural, that if you've got the old wine, you like it better and do not want the new wine.  Jesus is open or tolerant of the fact that some folks prefer the old, and don't want the new.

We make the mistake when we herald the new thing and say the old must go.  Jesus wants unity and not uniformity.  God can and does do a new thing, but God is often ok with and he even wants the old to remain.

For example, when God does a new thing or a renew thing, that we become a part of, we make a grave mistake if we criticize the older thing and start to say that everyone needs to get into the new thing.  It is also a terrible mistake when people in the older thing criticize, attack, or persecute the new thing happening.

God is always doing new things and the people who hear the call and sign up for the new have the temptation to criticize the old or stand above the old, in pride.  And the most tempted people to judge and persecute the new, are the very movements that the new has come out of.  The once new movement falls into pride (monumental pride) and ends up not supporting, but criticizing the new movement born from, through, or after them; that is newer and is now the new.

There have always been tribes and movements within the whole of Christianity.  At whatever time you were born, and to whatever tribe, movement, or expression of Christianity you came to life within; you begin to live your Christian life according to that tribe's values and practices.  When you were born from above, you had no idea that there were 31 or 31,000 other tribes with other values and practices; with the shared commonality or unifying person, of Christ.

It is a mistake to say that our tribe, family, or expression is the right way and only way of living out Christian life in value and practice.  But some people gravitate toward that mindset.  We do not understand or "get" other Christians, of other tribes, because our hearts are so attached to our tribe, our way of doing it.

Just like a child from birth and into adulthood, widens their sphere of what the world is, so we too as Christians, are born from above in the context of a particular tribe or family.  At some point, we discover that there are other tribes, who have the name of Christ, yet are different in values and expression.

We either say "wow" and have our mind expanded, because our heart is centered in Christ, and it is like meeting relatives for the first time: we are related by blood or covenant, but we are different: we dress different, we talk different, we eat different, we play different, and we do things differently.  Or, we say "no thanks", or "yuk" (to ourselves hopefully), and disengage from meeting these new and different people.  The only people we want to be around or worship with are the people we grew up with or grew up in the same environment.

This may be called sectarianism.  Banal sectarianism is when you are a nice person who does not want to be around, or is uncomfortable being around different people, I mean people who celebrate Christ differently than the way you have always done it.

It has been said that the seven last words of a dying church are, "we've never done it that way before".  And to make it ten, some people add the tag line, "we're not changing!"

The most toxic sectarianism is where a group becomes deluded or deceived into believing that they are the representatives of Christ, on the earth, who are getting it right; in belief and practice.  And everyone else is wrong.  They have an arrogant pride and a shocking lack of curiosity to inquire if God might have other people in his family, who don't look and play like us, but are as genuine as we deem ourselves to be.

This is how it has worked in my own life.  I have been very enamored with my tribe, my taste of worship music, and my discoveries about forms of church.  But from the beginning of my life in Christ, I have also always been curious about the other tribes out there, about my cousins I have not met.

In fact, I kept making friends who were outside my tribe and did not want come in.  This has always been bitter sweet.  I have had best friends who were Jewish, Catholic, Jehovah's Witness, Mormon.

I was lucky, if that word works, to not go to schools where everyone was like me and believed and practiced their faith exactly how how did.  I think to be isolated and indoctrinated by people who are only "your kind" is a great disadvantage.

As I grew in my own sentimental bonding to my own ideas or practices of Christianity, I have had the competing idea or thought, that says God loves other expressions, tribes, and peoples that do things differently.  I have had to painfully figure out that it is not right to look back, over the shoulder, and criticize, just the same as it is wrong to look ahead and criticize people who have branched out and are doing something different.

I would say, do not criticize those you left or who just are different.  And also do not judge or criticize people who are going outside or beyond your faith or practice.  There is that hard saying, that many are called but few are chosen.

I believe God is huge on choice.  He does have plans and he does have ideas and his will for us, but we have to choose our path with, under, and through our relationships with him.  And in the playground of life, there is room for experimentation, trial and error, tasting and seeing; with massive grace in his love.

God's life for us is a fail safe zone.  It is safe to fail.  He is perfect and we are not.  Perfectionism is a perilous, limiting, base concept that is not Christ.

He is perfect and we are all on a journey towards him who is the perfect, but we are not.  Each day is a new day and God makes it new.  There can always be a new beginning and God is always doing new things and making things new again.

God is wildly optimistic, even about you and me; about us together.

There are two ideas I am trying to get across:  One is that God is always innovating and doing new things.  God has the most advanced research and development department on the planet, for new ways and methods for the advancement of the kingdom of God.

We need soft hearts that are in Christ, that are always open to God's new thing, new paradigm, new songs, new wine; so that we can all be workers in the harvest field of the world, for the kingdom and the glory of God in Christ.  When we attach ourselves to a thing, rather than to Christ, we become closed to the new idea, new plan, or new way that God wants to move.  God is infinitely creative and not at all robotic.

We need to be always cultivating flexible hearts that have Christ as the center, so that we can be learning and doing the new thing he calls us to.

The second thing is that while we all are called to the first point of having soft and flexible hearts in Christ, that are always ready and will to change, be renewed, or do things differently; we need to realize that he may not call every believer to to things differently in a particular new way.  The lesson of this second part is that if he calls you to a new and different thing or way, not only do you need to know that he does not necessarily call everyone to what you are being called to, but you are not to criticize the ones you came from or left behind.  And, by the same token those who do not participate in the new thing, who have not heard or felt the call to it, are not to criticize the pioneers who leave and go into this uncharted territory.

The key is our hearts.  If your heart is good, you can not only be open to and appreciate the new thing, 'getting it', but you will not have any need to be intolerant of or ungracious to the ones who are going to do it differently, because God has called them into the new thing.  We want to have our hearts be like God's heart, always ready for the new for me and ready to bless others who see and do the new they receive.

We want to be able to say "I get it" and be able to say to others, "I get you".  Our minds can do this, when we have Jesus being King in our hearts.  And it is a continual process that is practiced over time, in a love relationship with the Lord.

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Footnotes:
1.  Charles Ellicott, A Bible Commentary For English Readers
2.  Joseph Benson, Commentary on The Old And New Testaments
3.  H.D.M Spence, The Pulpit Commentary

Contempt For Trump and Grudem

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else.
-Luke 18:9


Have you heard or have you read or heard the words of contempt?  Contempt is defined as: "a feeling that someone or something is not worthy of any respect or approval."  Contempt is the stock and trade of the self-righteous.

Over and again, Jesus warned his followers of the trap of self-righteousness that the Pharisees had fallen into.  A reason why, I believe, out of everything that went on during Jesus' ministry years, that the writers of the four gospels show us the Pharisees and their error, is that all Christians, throughout history, are vulnerable to stepping into religious pride.  And it is toxic, destructive, and not Jesus.

Part of my story, is that I went to a non-denominational Christian college.  About half the students were Catholic and the rest were a wide variety of Protestants.  I stood up one day, when all of the students were assembled together, and I introduced myself, then said that I think we should pray for president Clinton.

I was booed, loudly.

Today, some Christians are booing again.

Some Christians have contempt for Trump.  They look down on him, calling him names, various names for various reasons.  My point is not to make a case for Trump, but to call out the contempt talk.

Contempt is when we look down on someone, putting ourselves above them.  We hold someone in contempt, because we have judged them.  And we justify our judging, saying, "it is obvious that they are deserving of this judgement, for just listen to what they said".

But what if we misunderstood what they said or what if standing in judgement, sanctimoniously, is never our call and role?  The contempt from some Christians is not only for Trump, but for Christian leaders who have said to vote for him, like Wayne Grudem.  

One of the ironic points of contempt that some people have had for Grudem, is that he has had the audacity to change his mind.  He has been thinking and praying about this.  Christian thinking is critical thinking, where we continue to explore and learn, while praying, and our conclusions change.

In short comments, or long screeds, I have read the words of contempt and sanctimonious, judgmental, holier-than-thou, ungracious, and unloving words directed at Trump and Christian leaders that say to vote for him.  As we read Jesus' words in this story about the Pharisee and the tax collector, it is obvious that Jesus is warning us, "don't be that guy".  

You might say, "but I am not that guy".  Are you sure?  Here is Jesus' parable:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people —greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’
“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Here is the checklist:
  • Do you look down on others?
  • Do you notice and name other people's sins?
  • Do you wear your religious activities (toot your horn)?
  • Do you exalt yourself?
Since Trump began his campaign, I have read Christians, who have basically said, "I don't support him, I won't support him, and do not vote for him, because Trump is greedy, unrighteous, and an adulterer."  Other variations of this is that he is uncouth or vulgar.  No doubt, that many on the Christian left, hold Trump in disdain, just because he does not espouse their views; and they would and have had contempt for any of the 16 or so Republicans that ran for the nomination.

Jesus' story of the Pharisee and the tax collector is an indictment against self righteous folks, who sneer at others.  Yes, a person can be a a person engaged in authentic ministry or mission, where in they are really doing good work, and fall into self-righteousness.

I read an editorial, in a major Christian publication, carefully 4 or 5 times, and I was left wondering if the author believes that Jesus saves.  I hesitate to mention his name.  The magazine (on-line) has no comments section and the author does not seem to have an on-line presence to foster dialogue.

That article was a 3 or 4 page indictment of Trump: purely an attack on his person.  What is ironic, is that the author completely ignores the facts that Trump is a person Jesus loves and who himself is a Christian.  Yes, Trump himself is a disciple of Jesus, on a journey.

You may disagree with his policies or his message, but the article's author sadly makes the case that Trump is a bad person, a man of the flesh and a fool.  

Is John 3:16 and the story surrounding that verse, of Nicodemus, true?  Do we get it, that Jesus is "friend of sinners"?  Are we friends of sinners?

Have you read the story of the two sons, also from Jesus?  There is something there to look at, with the brother who stayed home and never went astray.  He had a problem.  Contempt.

Contempt means looking down on others.  The Pharisees had contempt for other, less religious, people.  When we look down on people, judge their sins to be worse than ours, and tout our religious activities, we are exalting ourselves and setting ourselves up for a rude humbling.

Contempt comes from the right and the left.  It is not about conservative versus liberal or the evangelical / fundamentalists vs the social justice / christian left.  We all need each other and need to be one in Christ.  And we are all vulnerable to being self-righteous.

This post is not meant to persuade you to vote one way or another or not to vote.  This post is about contempt and bitter envy (Jas. 3:14).  There is a warning in 1 Thess. 5:20, that says, "do not treat prophecies with contempt".

Why on earth would Paul write that?  Because it is very easy to despise prophecies.  We might fall into despising a prophecy because we are offended by the messenger.  Or the prophecy may not line up with our expectations.

What if Trump is part of something God is doing?  What if that is true and you are responding with contempt?  What if God has a plan, God has ideas, and God has a love agenda?

Is our mission to flow with God?  Have we been so taken up with God as judge, that we have forgotten his mercy and love?  The goal of a righteous life is not righteousness, but love:
And the goal of your command is love from a pure heart and good conscience and sincere faith. (1 Tim. 1:5)
How shall we then live, then, as a famous guy once said?  There is a higher road, called speaking the truth in love, which a few people are on.  We can speak the truth, in love, and with humility.

Wouldn't it be nice if every church gathering in America, would have open discussions about the election, between now and Nov. 8th?  Wouldn't it be nice if we could talk, dialogue, and discuss the issues?

Blessings and peace to you.

(This post was very hard for me to write and I made a few edits in the day since I published it.)

God Wants His People Prosperous

But remember that the LORD your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant He swore to your fathers, as it is today.
-Deuteronomy 8:18


These are my notes from a talk by Peter Wagner:

Prosperity

1.  God wants his people to prosper.

  • This is good news.
    • Deut. 7, backdrop
      • v. 13 abundant crops
      • v. 13 large herds of cattle
      •  v. 14 full wombs
      •  v. 15 good health
      •  v. 16 victory over enemies
    • 2 Cor. 9:8
      • God desires to give us more than we need, so that we can share it for good.
2. The Devil is the author of poverty.
  • Satan is "god of this age", who usurped Adam's dominion
    • He came to kill, steal, and destroy
  • But God sent Jesus as the second Adam to take back what Satan stole
    • Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil
  • Three things influence society: violence, knowledge, wealth
    • The greatest of these is wealth
3. What is the wealth for, that God gives his people?
  • Kingdom influence
    • In religion, we judge influence by our spirituality
    • But in the rest of the mountains of influence, influence is measured by success
      • The most influential people are the most successful people
        • Success equals wealth
4. Kingdom Philanthropy
  • Kingdom wealth requires Kingdom Philanthropy
    • "Philanthropy" = Loving + People, in Greek
  • Kingdom people love people by distributing wealth
    • Not only giving gifts to poor people
    • But transforming society
    • From systemic poverty to systemic prosperity
    • We begin measuring the results of our giving
    • We begin to combine sociology with spirituality
5.  What is the mechanism for handling kingdom wealth?
  • The Four Links
  1. Providers -generate the wealth

  2. Managers -multiply the wealth
    -The amount given increases before it is distributed

  3. Distributors -allocate the wealth 
   -They see the big picture and are able to set priorities

  4. Field Marshals - spend the wealth
  -They know how to use kingdom wealth for advancing the kingdom of God


6.  Our Individual Roles
  • We each have a role
  • Discover what your role is
  • Whatever your role, believe that God wants you to prosper, for the building of the kingdom.


But remember that the LORD your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant He swore to your fathers, as it is today.
-Deuteronomy 8:18

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For more on this topic, here is a link to Peter's book, The Great Transfer of Wealth

The Glory and Oneness of All Believers


I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one.
-John 17:22

Jesus prayed for his followers to be one.  Do you see this?  We have a paradox before us of disunity, or a lack of oneness; but Jesus prayed for just the opposite.

The church, his church, is being watched over, and interceded prayed for, by him.  And I believe that Jesus will fully get his prayers answered.  So I have great hope.

Jesus says that the glory that his Father gave him, he has given us.  And it appears that the glory is the mechanism or vehicle through which unity or oneness takes place.  Jesus has given us something that Father gave him, by which we can be one, as they are one.

Here is the wider context of this statement, underlined in the center:
I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message.
May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.
May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.
I have given them the glory You have given Me.
May they be one as We are one.

I am in them and You are in Me.
May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.
You see that a big part of the witness of believers is our oneness.  I imagine that some people might interpret Jesus words as just talking about doctrine or belief, and hear his asking and saying that we all believe the right thing.  But what I think he is saying or asking or talking about is functional oneness or unity.

One thing to understand about unity is that it does not mean uniformity.  It is like a carrot and a tomato come together in a pot as part of vegetable soup.  We don't insist that either become what the other one is and together, they make good soup.

Jesus prayed, "May they be one", but we kind of are not one, are we?  We can disagree, but still love each other.  There is a lot of disagreement between Christians today.

The argument is not for more agreement.  That would be climbing the wrong hill.  What we need is more love.

When we have an disagreement, we should have a discussion.  We can disagree with one another, while loving one another.  

What often happens with Christians, is that we make the mistake of making opinions or persuasions into absolutes, must-believes, hills-that-we-die on.  We end up defending a hill and even killing each other over hills of beans or hills of dung.

There really is only one hill that we should die on and that is Calvary or Golgotha.  That is Jesus, who he is, and what his death means.  That is the hill I will die on:
"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.  I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus' name.  On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground in sinking sand."
When we die on other hills, we end up killing or injuring our brothers and sisters.  Jesus was pretty much killed because some of the experts disagreed with what he taught.  Jesus was misunderstood, envied, and maligned by the Bible experts of his day; who had a lot of knowledge and opinions and tradition, but lacked love and ended up following Satan.

I have been fascinated by this idea of the glory of God and it being the center of everything, since I dropped in on a lecture one day, by an elder named Bob F.  I want to ponder what this glory is, that Jesus is talking about, that brings oneness among believers.

I think maybe that the glory has something to do with honor.  Eastern culture probably values honor more than Western.    To honor is perhaps to lift someone else up, to shine the light on them.

Fathers make a platform for their children and children honor their parents.  Honoring our mothers and fathers is a big one with God, and it is in the ten commandments.  It says that if we do not honor them, our future will go poorly.

Jesus honored Father and we have the honor passed on to us of honoring one another.  The big one Jesus did, to honor his dad was the passion.  We massively honor one another as we lay down our lives for one another.

What does that mean?  It means lifting up others and shining the spotlight on others: deferring to others.  Many on us are control freaks.

We control because we are afraid not to control.  Controlling is rooted in fear.  If you are loved, you do not need to fear and control.

God holds us, in all our brokenness, until we have enough of his love internalized and integrated into us, to live our lives without fear and the need to control.  Many of us have not stayed in God's embrace or have pushed God away, and are out here, living fearful, controlling lives.

This is how we train our children and how God trains us.  Holding, loving, security, self-esteem built or re-built, and fear falls off and damaged emotions from all trauma is healed by love.  And most all of us still do have ongoing wounds that are being healed by God as well as scars from past hurts that have been healed.

And we all have vulnerable, thin skinned places that need love and patience.  Forgiveness is the currency of the kingdom that we spend daily; as we step on one another's toes, misunderstand, or bump one another.

We are a walking wounded, broken people, all on a journey of love and obedience to God, lived out among each other.  We all have brokenness.  We are overcomers who live with, in, and through personal brokenness all on a healing journey, with and in God.

To have this reality and graciousness towards each other, is to live in the glory that Jesus has given us to prefer, serve, and love one another.

Shameless, dishonoring people are in denial of their brokenness and live in fear and control.  This is the opposite of the way of love, the way of oneness with other believers, and the way or Christ.  People who seek to divide, control, and subjugate us with their religious rules and correct doctrines are not living in the glory given to us for oneness.

I am believing that the glory that Christ shares with his followers has to do with honor.  His glory is in us.  He is glorified through our lives.

That means that our lives are supposed to be about honoring him.  We give him glory (honor) in all we do.  What we say, what we watch and read, how we think, and how we talk.  It all gives glory to him.

We are given the glory so that we glorify God through how we treat others, specifically other believers.  When there is an unbroken chain of glory between Father, Christ, us, and each other; the world will see that it is all true.  The opposite is that when we do not participate in the glory, that the truth is obfuscated.


Wilderness Before Appearance

The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
-Luke 1:80

Have you been, or are you in the wilderness?  The wilderness is an amazing metaphor that the Bible uses for time alone with God, or time in preparation for service or ministry.  The wilderness may seem like a punishment and sometimes people are forced there by adverse circumstances not of their own choosing.

The way that vocational preparation, that includes a calling to the ministry, usually works, is that a young adult chooses or believes they are called or they come into an understanding of their desire to do a particular form of work.  They then prepare for that work in schooling or training and then get into that field of work and begin a life of that vocation.

But, what if you want to be like the people we read about in the the Bible, who are named, and who did certain things, that had impact for God's kingdom?  Every believer is called to live in the kingdom and let the kingdom have impact through their lives.  There are not two kinds of believers.

It is also a mistake or wrong headed to believe that the only ones that truly serve God are preachers, pastors, or missionaries.  On a white board, we could list every other form or kind of ministry, with a list of a hundred or more, and still come up very short.  God is very creative with what he has designed each person to do and his list of ministries is almost endless.

Whatever your dream, desire, or calling is; their is a wilderness component or time, sometimes.  I say sometimes, because it is not that way for everyone.  The wilderness is a place that God often takes his people to, and when he does it is for their good.

Mature believers love the wilderness, because they have learned how to find and live with God there.  God can take a person into a wilderness at any time, in the middle of their life-times, and do amazing things with them there.  True saints desire to go to the wilderness to spend time alone with God.

Jesus and John the Baptist were about age 30, when they began their public ministries.  I remember when I was a young adult and age 30 seemed older or mature.  My dad was pushing 50 and my grandparents were in their 70's.

I heard someone share that in the first century, that a man could not be a rabbi until he was 30 years of age.  Because at 30, you had a considerable amount of life experience and were considered an elder.  The average life expectancy, in the first century, was about 25 years.  

Many people did not live past the age 10, but if you did, you might live to be about 47.  So, age 30 then was like age 60 now.  Imagine if the church did not allow anyone to be called pastor, as in the position or title, until the age of 60.

Selah

What if every person who feels called to the ministry, to be a pastor, had to just do pastoral ministry and raise a family and be part of the community of God, in a sort of 'potential pastor' or 'pre-pastoring', before they turned 60?  And at the age of 60, they could be a pastor, because they have become a pastor, and they are frankly old enough and wise enough to be trusted as 'pastor'?

Look around at all the people up front who are under 60, who need to step down, because they are too young.  Stepping down means that they need to just work hard in their communities and raise their families together with others.  They can definitely serve along side of the older men and women.

What if we have it backwards, and our so-called prime years, in our 20's, 30's, 40's, and 50's are all meant to prepare us for appearing in front of people at age 60?  The senior pastor, solo pastor, lead pastor, or leading church preacher who is under the age of 60 is a modern invention that does not line up with scripture.

Your first and easiest objection might be the first 12 Apostles.  They perhaps were not yet 30.  Remember I am saying that age 30 in the first century is like age 60 today.  You also would bring up Timothy.

Timothy and the 12 Apostles were not pastors.  They were not local church, lead pastors.  They were apostolic workers.

If you have a problem with the word apostolic, for today, think missionary, church planter, or evangelist.  What if it is God's plan or wisdom for planters and missionaries to be younger?  But those who stand up in front of groups and lead them need to be older, elders, people who are roughly aged 60 and above?

A guy in his 20's or 30's is not usually an elder.  People in their 40's are becoming elders and folks who are in their 50's are almost there.

When I found myself in a position of authority in the church, in my 30's; it was very gracious for anyone to view me as an elder.  I was a junior elder, lacking a lot of life experience.  I always sought out people who were much older than I, preferably people who were in their 60's.

This was purely common sense or perhaps a driving leading from the Spirit of God.  And the main thing that my older friends would do is listen to me and ask me hard questions, then listen some more.


What if God has people, like John the Baptist, who have been in the wilderness?  They have been living their lives, as disciples.  They have been growing and learning, loving and being productive in their spheres.

These people dream of appearing before people, for God, with words or deeds of God through their lives, that will be for God's glory.  But they have been not visible to many and have been in a wilderness that is depressing at times, because it has stripped away their dreams of service for the Lord, that they thought were from the Lord, and they received years, even decades ago.

The message or lesson in the scriptures is that the wilderness is an in-between place, preparing us for the future, which may be tomorrow, next year, or far down the time-line of our life.  Being in the wilderness does not mean you are done, but it means God loves you.

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For further study:

Isolation--A Place of Transformation In The Life of a Leader, by Shelley B. Trebesch
Rabbi and Talmidim, by Ray Vander Laan


Three Kinds of Believers

“And now listen, Jacob My servant, Israel whom I have chosen.
This is the word of the Lord your Maker who formed you from the womb;
He will help you: Do not fear; Jacob is My servant;
I have chosen Jeshurun.
-Isaiah 44:1-2

There are three kinds of believers.  There are called people, there are saved people, and there are righteous people.  God loves all three groups.

You might know the story of how God changed Jacob's name to Israel.  Abraham also had his name changed from Abram.  The changing of the name, by God, signifies something that God is doing or has done.

The name Jacob means supplanter, heel-catcher, or seized by the heel.  The original Jacob was born, grabbing his fraternal twin brother's heel.  Supplanter means replacer, displacer, superceder, or one who takes over from another.

Jacob lived up to his name, when he tricked his dad, with the help of his mom, and persuaded his brother, to give him his birthright. Throughout his tumultuous life, Jacob worried that his brother would seek revenge on him.  On the fateful night before the feared confrontation, God came to Jacob, had a wrestling match with him, and changed his name into Israel.

He was told, "You have contended with God", and that is what Israel means, or God contended. Israel also means God triumphant or triumphant with God or who prevails with God.  The manipulator or schemer met his match in God and God touched him and changed his name.

In scripture, we do not hear about the nation of Jacob, but God often refers to Israel as Jacob.  God loves Jacob, but calling Israel 'Jacob', may be saying that there is a problem, in that the people are not saved: still called, but not saved.  Today, we are a people who are supposed to be or have had the opportunity to be saved, yet we do not act saved: in a nut-shell, believers who act sinfully as a life-style.

Perhaps also, God calls Israel Jacob at times, to remind them of where they came from and their need for a transformational experience.  Being born into Israel does not make you a believer, just like having Christian parents does not make a child Christian and attending Church, and even belonging to that group of believers does not make one saved.  Getting saved happens between the individual and God.

The third name here, that signifies the third kind of believer, is Jeshurun.  Jeshurun means upright, or righteous one.  Perhaps Isaiah was trying to get across the idea that God is after not just a called and saved people, but righteous ones.  The saving of people brings them into a transformational relationship, that results in righteous living, through their relationship with God.

God wants the saved people to become the righteous people.  The righteous people are not self-righteous, nor have they somehow earned a place at God's table through their righteousness.  Righteous people are simply people who are in a transformational process with God, and are letting God live through them.

Many people are saved people, but not very righteous people.  This is and has always been a paradox.  We can be called and saved and start becoming righteous, but then lose our salvation and go back to just being called again; because of our willful sin.  Transformation is an inside job, where we continually say yes and make choices to do the right thing and live through God, with God, and in God.

There are three kinds of believers.  There are people who say they are believers, but are not saved.  And then there are believers who have been saved, but are not walking or living an upright or righteous life.  And finally, there are believers, who have recognized the call, been and are being saved, and now are living out God's life or Christ's life in their lives, in righteousness.

Living a righteous life is not a perfect or sinless life.  Part of the righteous life is walking in love and humility.  When we stumble, and stumbling is normal, we receive grace and forgiveness.  Righteous people live in the love from God and love their imperfect selves.  And surprise, righteous people still sin, but when they sin against others and God, they ask for forgiveness.

Righteous people walk in forgiveness, receiving forgiveness and giving forgiveness, often, as a style of life.  Righteous people do not live as being right, over others, but seeking to be in God's rightness, that is filled not only with holiness and truth, but mercy and love.  Righteous people, walk in the light and do expose the sin or unrighteousness of those around them, but it is done with wisdom and in love.

Being an upright person is to be a disciple.  Discipleship is not an event or a certain course in time, but a life-long journey.  Upright people are constantly learning how to live and let God live through them.  They are constantly humbled and in so doing, given grace.

Being upright is not a destination, but a path of living, in an ongoing transformational, learning process.  God has always wanted his people to not just realize they are called or just to begin a salvation process and come to a point of arrival.  But God has always wanted his people to be upright people, living in his righteousness and living that righteousness out in an ongoing journey in love and lovingness; to be a people in the earth who point back to him.

Keeping Our Promises To God

Then I will continually sing of Your name, fulfilling my vows day by day.
-Psalm 61:8

I want to ask you a question:  What are you going to do?  I mean, what have you told God you are going to do and are you doing it?  What I am talking about is that when you love someone who loves you, you spontaneously make promises to them out of your love.

How do you choose to live?  Our lives are filled with responding to what God has done, becoming aware of what God is doing, and asking God to do things.  There are many facets of the God side, but there is also the you side: "what are you going to do?"

In the 'you doing' are you keeping your promises to God, whatever they are?  Are you doing that?  How are your life's choices impacted or governed by your promises to God?

To have communion, to share life, between you and God; is a key dynamic of your life.

Sharing life with God is the life that we live.  We have communion with God on a daily basis through God's gift and love mediated through Christ.  We enjoy God and live in a life of worship and keep our promises to God through Christ and in love.

We are day by day singing to God and fulfilling our vows, because we have God in our lives by faith.  Fulfilling our vows means keeping our promises.

In the relationship we have with God, we have recognized God's love and come into salvation, saying "I do", as a bride says, "I do".  As a bride, we are betrothed through unconditional love.  But we make promises or vows back to our bridegroom, to God, to Christ, out of our love for him.  And we live daily, keeping the promises we have made, communing with God in our living out our vows.

When we interact with God, it is natural to ask God questions or make requests of God.  And it is also natural to tell God what you want to do in relation to him.  You have questions and requests, and that is fine and good, but what do you say that you will do?

There is no perfect or correct answer to my question.  Our lives are made up of what God has done and is doing, and what we decide to do.  We don't just live in the big wow of discovering what God has done, but we also live with God in the decisions we make in regards to God.

Life is filled with challenges.  Success and failure, prosperity and set-backs, favor and loneliness, times of building and times of being attacked; all these times challenge us.  In these times, especially when we have a problem, we call out to God.

And God sometimes feels distant when we are having a problem.  It is like the problem is separating us from God.  The problem becomes the center thing and we call out to God.

I know stories of people promising things to God, when they were in a fix and I have done that in my life, but that is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about the promises that we make to God when we are in love with God.  I imagine that if you are a believer, you became one because you got touched by God and know God's love and you love him back.

When we love someone and receive their love, we naturally love them back.  We make a commitment to them and in love, we make promises to them.  It's like we say that in the light of your love and all that you have done and promise to do, here is what I want to do, will do, or promise to do for you.

You have probably heard a saying about married life that goes something like, "a wedding does not a marriage make".  In other words, whatever kind of wedding you have, it does not guarantee a healthy marriage.  Because a healthy marriage depends on what you do, day by day, in your marriage.

In the same way, a healthy or fulfilling relationship with God depends on what you decide to do, day by day.  The happiness or fulfilling life all depends on you.  You are as whole, have as much joy, have as much peace, and have the amount of love that you choose.

I watched a romantic drama last weekend, where a couple ended up getting married.  At the wedding, the man pulled out some papers and recited vows to his bride.  This was a surprise to her.

She thought that they were just going to get married, and then work out their love life together.  But the man surprised her and told her from the moment he met her, he began writing out the vows he would make to her at their wedding.  He went above and beyond her expectations.

The groom in this story, did something that is optional.  Today, some people do traditional vows, some people like the man in my movie write their own vows, and others have no vows.  It is the same way in our relationship with God: the vows are optional and we can write our own, saying what we have heard others say, or make our own vows.

The word vow is a little bit old fashioned.  A more up to date word is promise.  The wedding vows are promises.  At weddings today, we usually hear, "I promise".

We can and it is natural to make promises to God.  Lovers make promises to one another and it is the true lover that keeps their promises.  Keeping promises is a day by day thing.

It is natural to make promises to someone you love and then live in the keeping of those promises.  This is the way that loving, covenant relationships work.  Marriage is a covenant and our relationship to God is a covenant.  Out of love, we make promises to our spouse or to God and then we live in the keeping of those promises.

Do not think that anything you do earns the love of your beloved.  We do not pay for or earn our salvation from God through our chosen promises that we make and keep.  But we are paying back or returning the favor.

God does do all sorts of things that we want to praise him for and return the favor so to speak.  But paying back and payment for services rendered are two totally different things.  The more that you return the favor or pay God back, the more you will be blessed.

But this has nothing to do with merit or your elevation or your earning salvation.  It is like a child that chooses to come to grandpa and get hugs.  The child who chooses the coloring book over getting hugs and kisses is not bad, but the child who chooses his grandpa's embrace and thereby gets hugs and kisses, gets that tangible, relational blessing that the coloring book can not give.

Our lives, as adults are just like that.  God's embrace is available and God's ear is open, but we have to choose to go into God's embrace or to talk to God.  People who choose something else over God's embrace are not necessarily bad, but they are just missing out on hugs and kisses.

Here is a song that describes what I am talking about.
My Lord, My God; by Darren Clarke