“cause I gotta have faith”

“Faith” is just the beginning.

“Faith” is not all that is required of the believer. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1 that the believer is to: “…make every effort”

-to add to your faith goodness
-to goodness add knowledge
-to knowledge add self-control
-to self-control add perseverance
-to perseverance add godliness
-to godliness add brotherly kindness
-to brotherly kindness add love

“For if you possess these qualities in INCREASING MEASURES, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

In other words, knowledge of Christ alone without our “efforts” (these are the words of Peter) leads us to be “near-sighted and blind.” What’s more, these efforts help us to “make our calling and election sure” and will lead to a “rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

To clarify- this is not a works theology- Peter is not suggesting that man works to own his salvation. What he is stating is that if we are “cleansed from past sins” that matters for our lives TODAY and not merely for a future reality.

We are called to works, to bear fruit, precisely because of what Jesus did. Because of his divine power, we have all that for life and godliness- it is because of this power from Jesus that not only “should” we do these works, but this power gives us the ability. It is through Peter’s litany of behaviors that we “participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

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The Invitation, continued

Jesus is not nice.

It’s one of the conclusions that I’m coming to. Of course, I’m using that word “nice” culturally. “Nice” people don’t judge others. They are quick to keep their religion to themselves and lay low. Nice people point out that Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you” but leave out the “go and sin no more” (Coincidentally, the Pharisees among us love “go and sin no more” yet leave out “I don’t condemn you”- but that’s a post for another time). Hold on to this for a moment…

Here’s something that I’m learning lately: The Kingdom of God is for those who accept the invitation to join Him and his work.

In Luke 14, we find Jesus in the home of a Pharisee for a meal. After healing a man on the Sabbath (thus demonstrating that Jesus was immoral- because everyone knows that moral people obey the law) Jesus tells 3 stories that demonstrate his “not-niceness”:

  • After noticing that people were taking the best seats at the dinner, he calls them out on it to their faces. He doesn’t keep it to himself and complain to the disciples privately. He doesn’t gossip about them. He confronts them. Those attending should not take the best seats, but seat themselves in the lower places. That way, they can be moved up by the host. Humility is the key.
  • In the same way, he notices who it at the part. It was likely a veritable “who’s who” of the religious and cultural elite in Jerusalem. Again, Jesus calls them to account. Jesus tells them that they should not invite people who can repay them, but people who cannot- the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. This removes any hint of pride and ulterior motives. And, when one of those gathered weighs in with a spiritual platitude along the lines of, “When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be…”
  • Jesus becomes “not nice” to him…when we read this final parable, we know that it’s not about a simple dinner party or wedding feast. The final story is about those who receive, and initially accept, the invitation to join the kingdom whole-heartedly. When the time of the party comes, those invited create stories and reasons why they cannot attend:
    • one man bought a field and had to go and see it (he must have purchased a storage locker from an auction)
    • one man bought 5 oxen and had to go and try them out
    • still another had just gotten married and could not attend

Upon learning this, the man ordered his servants out to gather (notice there’s no invitation here)…the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind (these are the same ones who Jesus had spoken of earlier) and they attended. As there was still room, the call went out to anyone “on the roads and country lanes” so the house would be full.

And of those invited, Jesus says this: “not one…will get a taste of my banquet.”

Jesus is being painfully direct. He has invited us to participate in the bringing of his kingdom.

  • Some will attend and act like they belong there, that the party is about them. It’s not; it’s about Jesus.
  • God invites us because we are the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. We have NOTHING to off Him. He is God.
  • If we decline Jesus’ invitation, others will be gathered. And, those “others” will be, in our minds, completely undeserving. They’ll be the ones we cast aside, the ones we drive by on the way to our homes, the maligned and marginalized. The ones we mock behind closed doors. The ones who don’t vote our way, and the ones who sin differently than us.

Soon, I’ll post thoughts based on my experiences in student ministry of what I’ve seen happen when those marginalized people “take the spots” of those who had been invited.

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The Invitation

Friend Geoff Lawson recently posted these thoughts on Twitter (they were retweets from the music pastor at the church he serves):

“When we ‪#‎ownit‬, all who claim Christ enter the Kingdom through Him. We are then gathered together as His people.

When we #ownit, we understand that we are members of a flock. We belong to Jesus & are dedicated to those who also claim Him.

When we #ownit, we see the sheep make the flock. Everyone contributes to the whole, interconnected community.

When we #ownit, we take our part seriously in being healthy, active & participating. Everyone’s contribution matters.”

Here are my thoughts:

When we #ownit, we take joy in the invitations to participate in community with one another. We step outside of ourselves and our silos, out of our territorial selfishness because we anticipate learning and growing together. We understand that we have things to offer others, and they have things to offer us.

Paul’s instruction to the church in Romans and 1 Corinthians is clear. We are called to work together. And yet, these instructions are within the context of Jesus, whose instructions and call to both relationship and discipleship come in the form of INVITATION. Jesus invites us to join Him, then the church invites others to join us as we join Him.

One of the incredible things about this invitation is that if it is accepted, all benefit. The (so-called) individuals benefit because they take hold of God’s giftedness and truly live how they were meant to live. The Body of Christ, the church, benefits because we are many, yet one, focusing singularly on Jesus and others.

If the invitation is not accepted, then the church (lower-case) will simply degenerate into turf-wars and lines in the sand. Pride and arrogance will reign and others will see this, having their opinions, about the church, confirmed and also decline the invitation.

The church will grow, and Christ alone will be magnified, when we choose to leave behind our own desires and designs, both our pride AND our false humility accept His invitation to be part of the community that He offers and empowers. Jesus gives those in the church an open invitation to know Him and others in the body.

We decline at our peril, and accept to His glory.

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Understanding the Other

My good friend Melissa suggested a follow-up post to “A Crisis of Belief, part 3” that gave some practical advice on beginning conversations with “the other”. In a way, this post is a bit embarrassing, Continue reading

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A Crisis of Belief, part 3

March and April were CRAZY months.

Where were we (please see post 1 and post 2 of this series for some context)…

Ultimately, these crises of belief were about the concept of identity, my own. Continue reading

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A Crisis of Belief, part 2

My first real “crisis of belief” began in 1988. I went off to a Bible College that I clearly was not prepared for. I met great friends, and also the person who’d become my wife. But my immaturity and what I perceived as an over-reliance on rules and focus on the outer man was a terrible combination. So, I walked away from my faith in 91 or 92 and Continue reading

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A Crisis of Belief, part 1

I grew up in a conservative Christian environment. This shaped much of who I was and am; after high school I attended a very conservative Bible college. While I wandered from the faith shortly after this- actually I walked away from it- I remained in that sphere of influence, especially as it related to my political thinking. Continue reading

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Acts 2 and the Holy Spirit

The Rundown

The disciples have gathered in Jerusalem, awaiting the “baptism [with] the Holy Spirit” that Jesus had promised in Acts 1:5. It is Pentecost, the 50th day after the Sabbath of Passover week (which was also the day Jesus was resurrected). Jews from all over the world were gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks/Feast of Harvest.

At once, a sound “came from Heaven” and filled the room where the 120 believers were gathered and something like “tongues of fire” rested above each of the believers. Continue reading

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Acts 1 and the choosing of leaders

Acts 1 begins with an introduction from the writer, Luke. Originally a two-volume piece called “Luke-Acts” (10 points for originality), these books are a biography; Luke is a biographical account of Jesus and his ministry while Acts is a biographical account of the early church.

Picking up where Luke ends, we see Jesus give final instructions to the remaining 11 apostles. They are to return to Jerusalem and await the “gift”- the Holy Spirit to baptize them after which they are to be witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. Continue reading

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Descriptions, prescriptions and sufficiency

As we read through the scriptures, we are frequently challenged by the question of application. Specifically, “What is its meaning for today?” Jesus’ own words and instructions are hard enough. Throughout the Gospels in general and the Sermon on the Mount in particular, we see that the way of God’s Kingdom is more difficult to live by that we can imagine. Continue reading

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