An Ongoing Relationship

In my last post I pointed out that the Cross was the pinnacle battle between God and Satan. God won the battle, once for all, and the Cross is the reminder that He is the victor. So if the battle is won then what is going on in our world today!? It sure seems like a battle is still going on.

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest companions, says makes this statement years after the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Wait, this statement came after the defeat of Satan? Why is Peter telling his audience (and us) to stay alert and watch out after Satan was defeated?

While the defeat of Satan happened through the Cross of Christ, there is, in fact, still a battle going on. In light of the great battle and God’s ultimate rescue mission to save man, the battle is now against an ongoing relationship between individual man and God. Satan’s primary desire is no longer to be God, he lost that battle. His mission now is to keep men and women from being in a growing relationship with God as Father, Son, Spirit.

Preventing this growing relationship was what Satan was interested in from the beginning. He saw the harmonious intimate relationship between God and man in the garden and he despised it. It makes sense then that Satan would attempt to prevent man from growing in this relationship with God. And, Satan will stand for almost anything else, before he will lie down and let man sit with the one and only true God. He will tolerate good works, giving, worship, church attendance, education, reading, etc, but the main thing he battles against today is each of us growing in relationship with our Creator God.

So on this Good Friday as we reflect on the Cross of Jesus, the best thing we can do to battle Satan is to commit to growing on our relationship with God. Every relationship that is important to me gets time and space. It is a priority to me and the other person and we create space for one another. You and I  get to join God in the ongoing defeat of Satan by creating space to be with God and God alone.

From Situation Help to Constant Care

There is something about being human that causes us to reach out to God when we need help. We get into a situation at home, at work, in a relationship or crisis, and we call out to God asking him to help us. While there are plenty of instances of situational help from God throughout the Bible, the promise is that we are living in the constant care of God.

“For consider what he (God) has done—before the foundation of the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and blameless children living within his constant care. He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ.” (Eph 1:4)

This teaching of Paul is a reminder of the reality that you and I living in the constant care of God. We have been adopted as his children. Think about this from the perspective of a parent. Does a parent offer situation help to a child or constant care? My friend Kent Hotaling writes this about care, “ The experience of God caring for us – even when He is not “curing” us as quickly as we choose, is necessary for us to be able to pass along this kind of care for others.”

Maybe this constant care of God is more kind and gracious than the situational help we so often think we desire. Allowing ourselves to be cared for by God is learned at a much slower pace that we would prefer. We are not accustomed to be cared for. We are taught to do life on our own and cry out for help only when we are desperate. Living today believing the truth that we are care for by the God of all things can have a dramatic impact on how we view life. The truth is that you and I are cared for.

Do we dare believe this reality?

The Power of Money

In considering different things to moving away from and moving toward during Lent, I read Matthew 6 with a few friends this week. The wisdom of Jesus is sobering:

“No one can be loyal to two masters. He is bound to hate one and love the other, or support one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and the power of money at the same time.” (v.24)

Moving away from the power of money and toward God is a conscious effort. We live in a culture that worships the power of money, and man is it powerful! So how do we utilize money in a healthy way without allowing the power of money rule our lives? Maybe the answer is in Jesus’ teaching earlier in the same chapter of Matthew.

“Don’t pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal. But keep your treasure in Heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!” (v. 19-21)

We may be able to answer the question for ourselves about our draw toward the power of money by taking an honest assessment of what type of treasures we are building today. Are we piling up things and possessions, or are we investing in relationships. A growing relationship with God, ourselves (becoming more self-aware, yet less self-focused), and growing relationships with others.

As we come to the close of a week look at your schedule, what is your focus? Possessions or Relationships?

What is Mercy…Really?

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matt 5:7)

What is mercy? There is often talk of the grace of God, but what is the mercy of God?

Mercy in Greek language is eleēmōn – showing kindness or goodwill toward one afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them of pain. As I looked at this verse and the Greek understanding of the word mercy, I realized something about pain. Pain is often a result of loneliness. It’s far more frequent to feel the pain of being alone than it is to feel the pain of a certain situation. In fact, having someone with us in our pain can drastically curb the pain that comes from circumstance. More often than not, the underlying desire is to be relived of loneliness.

God made himself so vulnerable, so little, so lonely in Jesus that he might identify with our loneliness and meet us in our pain. God becoming human was the ultimate act of mercy. You and I get to join God in his act of mercy through getting close enough to other human’s to feel their pain. We can only help do that for someone else when we realize that we have been relieved of our own loneliness. We must allow ourselves to get close enough to our own pain and let Jesus meet us in our time of need.

Verse 7 says we are blessed when we are merciful. What is the action in this statement of Jesus? Merciful is not the action, it is not the verb! “Blessed ARE the merciful…” The action is ARE, the action is TO BE. The emphasis of this “Your blessed” statement of Jesus is receptivity and not activity. Jesus is revealing to the crowd (and to us) that we will naturally respond with mercy the more open and vulnerable we are to receive God’s mercy.

From Lust to Satisfaction

Lust is a buzz word in our culture. Most often it is linked to sexual desire, but lust is much broader than that. Lust is an intense longing, crazing, appetite, deep desire for something or someone. We can lust after a person, desiring to be with him or her physically or emotionally. We can also lust after money, possessions, recognition, prestige, and position. The apostle John says, this about lust, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). Essentially, John is talking about things that in the moment can feel like life, but always end in death.

In continuing to look at Jesus’ “Your blessed..” statements in Matthew 5, we next come to this: “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” (Matt 5:6)

Is Jesus encouraging lust in this teaching? Is there such a thing as good lust? Jesus does not use the word lust here, but instead uses two words that have similar meaning, yet lead to life. The first word Jesus uses is to hunger, peinaō – to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire. Jesus also uses the word to thirst, dipsaō– those who are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened.

I don’t love the Message interpretation of Matthew 5:6, but wanted to stick with it as we look at these blessed statements of Jesus. This interpretation leaves out the word righteousness. That is what Jesus instructs us to hunger and thirst after, righteousness. Righteousness is best understood as right relationship with God, oneself, and others. As we learn to apply true hunger and thirst to relationships, especially relationship with God, the promise is that we will be satisfied.

The thing about lust is that it never satisfies. It always leaves us wanting more. We can crave, manipulate and do everything in our power to get what we think we want, but unless our pursuit is righteousness, we will be left empty and alone. Jesus promises the deepest satisfaction possible for all who hunger and thirst after righteousness.