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How do people usually use the Bible?

For me, the most important thing about our identity is this. We are children of God. I am God’s son. You are God’s daughter.

And we are created to be like our Father. In fact we are created in his image.

We can hear the words of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit talking about us at creation.

“Let us make man, both male and female, in our image to be like us.”

We get to have the same relationship as God in the Trinity. Enjoying life together, serving each other, always treating each other with love and respect.

God invites us into the same relationship he has in the Trinity for eternity. A life of joy, where we are glad to be with each other, a life of love, working for the good of each other, and a life of peace, where we live in complete sufficiency.

Every person you have ever met has this same invitation. Even though we rebel against God and our image gets cloudy, we do not despair. God is in the rescue and restore business. It is God’s desire to rescue and restore us, and Jesus comes to the world to begin this process so all of creation, including you and me, can be who God created us to be.

I like to say it this way.

“I am God’s son (daughter) deserving of love and respect, and God is using me to change the world.”

How do we change the world?

Let us make make mankind in or image, to be like us, so that they may have responsibility over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.

We are created in God’s image and share his identity in order to share his authority and with authority he gives us the power to be able to do what he is telling us to do. 

Because we share God’s identity we share his authority and with the authority God gives us power to do what he wants done.

How do we know what he wants done?

We stay in relationship with him.

Adam and Eve had an amazing opportunity in their lives. They got to hang out with God in the Garden.

To be that close to God is his intention for all of us.

Well, we know how Adam and Eve’s story went. They rebelled. And all of creation changed. This rebellion continues. People don’t want God in their lives.

And if you don’t want God in your life, he will honor that request. God doesn’t force anyone to enter his story. Forced love isn’t love. God allows us to be lost.

But, God doesn’t give up.

If you seek God, he will find you.

You can be his son, his daughter, now. You can have the authority of your Father to transform the world around you. You can have the power to actually do this. Joining God in his cause to rescue and restore.

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“Let’s introduce ourselves…” 

We do this when we are with people we don’t know.

There is a chance if you are a man you will mention what you do for a living first, and if you are a woman you will talk about your family. When responding to this question I always try to speak of my family first. Got to keep people on there toes. 

But, these kind of questions, we call them icebreakers are meant to get a conversation going. When you think of it, It’s about telling a story about yourself. Once I was asked a question that really zeroes in on the story.

Where were you born and what’s happened since? 

But, it’s true isn’t it? We live in story. All of us have been shaped by a dominant story in our lives. For a Christian, our dominant story, the story that can shape our lives and give us our identity is the story of God told through the Bible. It this is our dominant story, what would our lives be like?

If the story of God isn’t our dominant story, we may be following a false narrative. We may be swayed by our culture, the brokenness in our lives, or we may give in to the lies that make up what those “in the know”, the so called “experts” tell us who we are. 

White Privilege?

Person of Color?

Oppressed people?

Oppressors?

That’s how you define who someone is? Not God. God has one term for those whose identity is not defined by him. 

Foolish. 

So let’s get rid of the nonsense of defining ourselves any other way than how God defines us, shall we? Sorry, experts, you don’t get to define me. Only God does.

 

You see what we believe about God, what he is like and what he thinks about us, ultimately determines what we believe about ourselves. How the world works. 

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On Maundy Thursday evening Jesus continues the week of paradox. He tells his disciples to prepare a passover meal. They do this, but there is no host. So they have no servants there to wash their dirty feet. When you eat in Bible days you lay around on cushions on the floor. You are nose to toes, as it were. And since your feet are filthy from the dust, you don’t to be eating with someones feet in your face.

No on jumps up to volunteer to wash feet like a servant would do. Then Jesus, the King of the Universe gets up puts on his foot-washing uniform and washes everyone’s feet himself. The master takes on the role of the servant. And then he says,

“Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord. You speak accurately, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

So, Jesus turns the whole world upside down, again. There are to be no masters only those who serve each other.

ME

What does washing the feet of others tell you about Jesus?

glass-items-3264827_1280Palm Sunday starts off Holy Week which is a week of paradox.

When ancient armies vanquished their enemies they would come back to their capital city with all the treasure they could carry. It was like a big parade.

In Rome, when the conquering heroes came back the parade has a name. It is called the “Roman Triumph.”

This would include people to be made slaves and finally the last take all the treasure from the foreign land they conquered, including people to be made slaves and the last person to be dragged in would be the vanquished King. He would be on display for all the jeer, and then they publicly execute the King for all to see.

But with Jesus, God does the opposite.

As Paul writes in Colossians 2,

God made you alive together with Jesus,  joyously and freely putting you on the right path. 14 He blotted out the handwriting that was against us, opposing us with its legal demands. He took it right out of the way, by nailing it to the cross. 15 He stripped the rulers and authorities of their armor, and displayed them contemptuously to public view, celebrating his triumph over them in him.

This is what happens when God turns Good Friday into Easter Sunday.  The great paradox. Out of great weakness comes ultimate power. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, yet.

So, here comes Jesus riding into Jerusalem first. We know things won’t go well for him this week. He is called the King Israel, but what kind of a king?

Instead of a chariot or a war horse, he is riding on the back of a small donkey like a peasant. He is showing no signs of military might as he walks into town. His army is a bunch of people waving palm branches. Not much of a weapon against a spear or a sword. But this army of Jesus is mainly made up of people following him since they saw him raise Lazarus from the dead. Why use a sword or spear when you have the power to raise the dead.

So, Jesus, the conquering King, comes into town without an army, bearing no treasures, just who is he?

ME

The people who follow Jesus don’t know what they are doing, but Jesus does. Think on this.

you can't always get what you want

I can trust God to take care of me. I don’t need to follow human expectations and human approval as the foundation of my self-worth.

Today, this has a lot to do with human desires.

This is so important to understand. If you follow Jesus then human approval, the esteem of others, your reputation- cannot be your god. In fact if you hold what others think of you as that important you can’t trust God is who he says he is. You are not trusting God is sufficient for you no matter what others might think.

God puts a limit on our desires. Life with God is what he wants, not what we want.  When our desires become paramount in our lives they become an incredible vanity that can never be satisfied.

We live in an age where desire is god. For many in our society, to gain approval, to have people “like” me, I have to specifically approve of things that are not of God. We live in an age that puts human desire ahead of God’s way.

Human desires are those things things we want to possess or experience. We care about nothing else but the object of our desire. We want what we want when we want it. What we desire becomes a vanity that is insatiable.

In our society, desire, itself, has become god.

You had better approve of me making my desires as the most important thing in my life. If you don’t, I will work against you. I will call you a bigot. A hater. I will shun you. I will find a way to punish you.

In order to gain my approval you have to approve of what I desire.

No, actually, I don’t.

ME

What are some of the ways we make our desires supreme in our lives?

Adding to Jesus

11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature.

12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.    

First, a brief history lesson. The earliest Christians are Jews who trust in Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus is the King. Jesus fulfills God’s call for Israel to become a blessing for the whole world, not just Jews. Sure enough, Paul is called by God to share the good news of King Jesus to the non-Jews of the world. The Gentiles.

But, there is a problem. Back at Church headquarters all the leaders are Jewish, because all the first Christians are Jewish. So, there is the temptation to keep practicing the Jewish rituals while following Jesus. If you don’t follow the Jewish way to being a Christian you don’t have the approval of the “Mother Ship.” This is adding to Jesus. Jesus plus…you might call it

Yet, Jesus himself, rebelled against following rituals in order to be right with God. It is trust in God that counts, not human rituals. But the Jewish Christians didn’t want to give up their human rituals. The most important human ritual for Jewish males is the initiation ceremony of circumcision. Cutting off the foreskin.

This is a problem for two reasons.

  1. You are making a human action a condition for being a Christian.
  2. This action is cutting off the foreskin of a man’s penis. The Jewish tradition is you do this when a baby is 8 days old. But, what if you are an adult Gentile? Hey, do you want to become a Christian? Well, do I have a deal for you.

Do you see the challenge Paul is facing?

The early church leaders are adding to what it means to be a Christian. They will only give their approval if the Gentiles follow the Jewish ways, along with following Jesus. Yet, Jesus himself specifically said we are no longer to follow these rituals. So, basically the early church leaders are saying if you want their approval you have to go against the teachings of Jesus.

Paul will have none of this nonsense. He says it is not cutting away the foreskin that makes you right with God. It is surrendering your whole body, your whole life, to Jesus that makes you right with God. Joining Jesus in his mission to transform the world. And when you are transformed by Jesus, it is his power working through you. Trusting in God has nothing to do with man’s approval.

ME

What are examples of human rituals you have seen made into something added to what it means to be a Christian?

The Positive Filter

…not the king. 9 In him, you see, all the full measure of divinity has taken up bodily residence. 10 What’s more, you are fulfilled in him, since he’s the head of all rule and authority.

The only one who has right thinking all of the time is God. And we can begin to know what God knows and think like God thinks because of Jesus. In Jesus, God becomes human, and Jesus takes on all of God’s way of thinking. So, like Jesus, we just have to live close to God all the time.

Well, how do we find God? We don’t have to find God because he is already there with us wherever we are. Through Jesus, the Kingdom of God is here. Put it this way.

People are seeking all different ways to get ahead in life. Negative ways like trying to manipulate or attack other people. Positive ways like trying to be kind and mindful.

But, none of this works if it is human-powered.

The negative is human beings allowing themselves to be Satan-influenced and using manipulation and evil thinking as a result. This isn’t going to work because God is stronger and defeats this way of thinking in the long run.

And the positive, without God, isn’t enough. You can try to be as kind and mindful as possible, but if this is under your own power you will fail. You will be overwhelmed in the long run. No one is strong enough to save themselves.

But not if we are living with God. God is always where we are. We need the supernatural power of God to live a good life where our thinking is in line with God’s thinking. Where we have the “mind of Christ” as the Bible says. Well, we can have all of this because where we are is the doorway to heaven. We just need to be mindful of this. We need to pay attention. Watch out! In a good way, keeping our mind on Jesus. Like the old song. “I woke up this morning with my mind set on Jesus…”

That’s what this means. What’s more, you are fulfilled in him, since he’s the head of all rule and authority.

To be fulfilled in him means we are full of him. Nowhere is this more important than our thinking! When our thinking matches the thinking of those who dwell with God in the heavens, starting with Jesus, then we know everything is going to be just fine for us here on earth. Then we know we lack nothing because we have access to the heavenly blessings now. Then we know we need not fear evil. No human being, not Satan himself has the power we have because Jesus is the head and we are fulfilled in him.

This is the life available to us right now. God is where we are.

ME

What does it mean to you to be “full of God?”

negative filters

There are two prominent negative filters that affect the lives of people today.

One negative filter is to consider yourself a victim. Whatever is happening to you that is negative is the result of people and circumstances outside of yourself harming you. You are never responsible for anything negative that affects you. It is always someone else’s fault.

The other negative filter is related to what used to be called neurosis. Anything negative that happens to you must somehow be your fault. The filter you live your life through is how often you mess up, you’re no good and there isn’t anything you can do with the fact that you are a failure.

Both of these philosophies of life that we impose on our thinking are extremely harmful. The more dangerous filter is victimhood. If you are alway right and anything bad that happens to you is because of people and circumstances outside of yourself, there is little that can be done to change this way of thinking. Negative life experiences can’t have anything to do with you in the first place and you will not seek healing from living this lie.

Emotional and spiritual health begin with recognizing that regardless of people and circumstances outside of myself, if I am an adult who does not have physical brain damage or chemical imbalance, then I am fully responsible for the attitudes and actions in my life that follow. While I am not able to control much of what happens to me, I am in control of how I respond. If it is always someone else to blame when things go wrong in my life, then I will become the kind of person who cannot take responsibility. Then I am lost.

Neurotic thinking is different. A person who is thinking it is always my fault is much more likely to seek help. Neurosis can be successfully addressed when a person realizes there is possibility for change through healing from traumas that helped to bring about this type of negative filter in the first place.

ME

Have you had occasions to use either of these negative ways of thinking? 

Deceptive language

“Hollow trickery” is when language is being used to manipulate us, when people use language on purpose to try to make us anxious and on the edge where it is difficult for us to be our best true selves.

Almost all conversation currently occurring in the public square of media, politics, government, and education is using manipulative and anxiety-producing language in this way.

Human beings will use philosophy and human trickery to try to dominate others. Why? This is the influence of Satan and his lies. This is what the Bible means by the phrase, “elements of the world,” as Satan still has free reign in our world to tempt and use lies to try to influence us.

So, what if the words that occupy my thinking are mainly negative and what if I am being bombarded with manipulative and anxiety-producing language? Well, the filter that you run your thoughts through will have a large influence over your well being.

ME

What are some examples of manipulative and anxiety-producing language a person whom you voted for, for President, used during a campaign?

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How’s it going?

What’s happening?

How are you?

How are you doing?

What’s up?

Or an abbreviated version of that.

‘Sup?

There are so many ways to acknowledge another person and the state of their life at the present moment. These are mainly used as informal greetings.

Or we might greet someone this way.

How are you feeling?

But, when it comes to our overall well being there is one thing that overrules all these other states of being. It is not about feelings, it is thinking.

What occupies our minds has more to do with our health and well being than anything else. The question of critical importance for every one of us is this. At this moment in time in your existence…

“How are you thinking?”

But, no one goes around saying, “How are you thinking?” do they?

Well maybe we should. What is on our mind affects our emotional and spiritual health, which in turn affect our physical health, more than anything else we do.

How am I thinking, indeed.

Colossians 2

8 Watch out that nobody uses philosophy and hollow trickery to take you captive!

The word that the Bible is using for “takes you captive” is originally the picture of conquering armies taking the defeated people back to their countries as slaves. To take you captive is to control you against your will.

Well what is philosophy and hollow trickery?

Philosophy means literally, “Love of words.” A philosophy has to do with the words that occupy your thinking. We all have a philosophy of life, a view of the world that we use as a filter for our thinking.

Christianity is a worldview based on the model and teaching of Jesus. Jesus introduced radical teachings into world history, such as:

“Love your enemy”

(“Love”= will the good of another and work for it in your range of influence)

“No revenge”

“The greatest of you is servant to all”

Jesus lived all of these out, and gave the ultimate teaching through his death on the cross. Giving his life for the sake of his enemies.

No one else comes close. Mohammed didn’t do any of this. Neither did Buddha. Neither did Confucius. Only Jesus.

Of course there is that whole resurrection thing, but that’s for another day…

ME

There is no philosophy or worldview that comes close to explaining reality better than Christianity.