Wednesday, January 2, 2013

In the Year 2013...

It may indeed be time to dust this old steno off a bit and have a thought-storm. Life is different here on the other side of college classes, marriage, and failure. I've continued on this long road of getting to the bottom of it all for most the time, the others, pitying myself for lost causes, relationships, and the life I thought I wanted. Here though, on this second day of 2013, I can look around and accept that, at 25, life is not over, not beginning, but is rather now, and what I understand and believe readily enough to live in this moment, is in fact what matters most. If I live long enough to discover any "why's" behind the passions of my heart or the hopes in this life, then so be it, that moment will be gladly liven in as well, but this moment is upon me as blitzkrieg, and I have less than the time it takes to acknowledge it to embrace and walk in it.

The past year was excellent for learning. Perhaps it will be the one where I can return to formal education somewhere, but this casual learning has been beneficial without question. I rediscovered the beauty and depth of Anabaptism because of Bruxy Cavey via Greg Boyd, and am so very glad to see that God is moving many eyes of influence upon it as well. It seems every day someone else posts a new article or makes reference to a different core teaching of the Anabaptists, and if we can do something more than just read them or acknowledge them, but if we can live them out, it may well be the cure for post-modern rejection of Christ in America. Here is just one example:

This past week I challenged the church in sermon to approach 2013 with one resolution- to forgive as often as presented the chance. I wonder if my Anabaptism isn't leaking out beyond my control anymore, because there were also some references to peace teaching here and there ;) But I wonder if approaching an ENTIRE YEAR isn't just a bit naive to begin with, what if we just approached the coming day with the intent to forgive as often as presented the chance? The coming hour? The present moment? I feel that it must all start there anyway, that if we do not live in the present moment of forgiveness, accepting it and presenting it, then the moment is hell- distant from the presence of God, void of Jesus' sacrifice, a barren moment.

How fantastic!!

Let's go.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Re: Biblical Illiteracy

I'm getting a bit tired of all the modern and fresh preachers and speakers who are heralded as ambassadors of change yet who really aren't saying anything new. Rob Bell echoes Brennan Manning who echoes Lewis who echoed MacDonald... Mark Driscoll echoes Rich Mullins who echoed Francis of Asissi... Rick Warren echoes Dietrich Bonhoeffer who echoed Luther, etc. And at the root of all this is someone who chose to simply accept scripture for what it is and thus echo and announce God's truth. Maybe the Bible is just old fashioned and way out of style now? But maybe if we were more willing to just open our it and read/listen a bit (not just the token 15 minutes so we can say we did) we would see these "revolutionary" and "fresh" ideas and messages are thousands of years old and that the Holy Spirit is waiting to lead us into "discovering" them personally if we'd just take the time to search a bit? Is that something reasonable to suggest?

To illustrate this, here's a story I remember a good friend of mine and fairly well traveled speaker shared. He was speaking at a large Christian music festival and didn't know what he should speak on. He prayed and felt that he ought to simply read "The Sermon on the Mount" from Matthew's Gospel. The response was overwhelming- people praying and praising and crying at the beauty of the simple manifesto Christ gave His followers. After the message. He shared that many people, not just one or two, came to him and said that was one of the best sermons they'd ever heard and wanted to know what inspired it and how they could get a copy. He was stunned. They owened Bibles, but never read them. It's like claiming to have never been to the other side of town for lack of a ride while there's a gassed up, mechanically sound car sitting in the driveway.

Biblical illiteracy has a solution- it's called intentionality and prayer.

Re: Testimonies

I’ve heard a lot of testimonies in my life. I’m sure you have too, so many of us have attended so many youth conventions and church conferences and etc. that we basically know the shpeel (sp?). Until very recently I don’t think I’ve questioned our format for “testimony giving,” which mostly follows a diagram of:
3.specific sin struggle
4.evangelistic experience change

Maybe that’s not what you’ve heard, but it is what I have. In fact, most often what I have heard focuses on #3 the most. I’ve heard drugs, sex (both homo and hetero distortions), porn, pride, occult, gang, murder, pain, and so many other things spoken on in my life that it sometimes seems that the “problem” becomes the emphasis of the testimony. This is what I’ve been thinking through and what I felt like God was speaking to me last week some friends were discussing testimonies at a local Bible Study.

Depravity is not a thing, it is an absence. When we speak of God’s grace, we always speak of it covering over something- that’s not the point. It’s filling life back in- there’s an absence of something VERY important, a relationship with God Almighty which every person on the face of the earth was created to participate in with ever increasing intimacy. If that relationship is missing- it doesn’t matter what is filling it in, the point is that the relationship with God is not there. I resolve here to not emphasize the coping mechanisms that I used to alleviate that depravation, but rather to declare that there was once an absence in my life, it matters not what was used to attempt filling it in, God alone would fill the void and He will always have grace enough to push the faulty filler out.

We are depraved from birth, meaning we lack something. That something is a relationship with our Abba and Creator and Redeemer and Friend. If we emphasize the sin or what-not which we participated in our attempts to ease that absence, we miss the point that we all have the same testimony: I once did not know God and existed in death; I now know God and live a life of abundance. The struggles are part of the testimony, I will not deny that- but they are not the point or even the emphasis, the emphasis is the love of God which is so great that even a __________ like me can still know Him even after all I’ve done to increase our separation. I know God. The same grace which is extended to my former drug dealing brothers is the same grace extended to my former brothers who were disobedient to their parents or who cheated on their schoolwork. That same grace is extended to those who still live in the absence of His presence and love. I hope I and maybe you also can learn to focus on the fact that people around us don’t know God rather than what it is that they do know. I want to not care if someone has known umpteen men or women in their bed, known almost every drug on the street, known every drink behind the counter, known every tax law avoidable, etc. I want to care that that someone doesn’t know God, and that’s what He wants for them… it’s not that they would stop X, Y, or Z- it’s that they would know Him. He’s not emphasizing the action… no, He’s emphasizing the lack of relationship. He’s emphasizing their lack of life.

Now, as a simply brief disclaimer: I am aware of the parable which Jesus tells Simon the Pharisee while dining at his house (Luke 7:36-50) of the parable was to emphasize one thing: the appropriatey of the former prostitute’s display of gratitude and how she knows a depth of forgiveness which the Pharisee does not yet know.

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat.[h] 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver[i] to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,“Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”

50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

-Luke 7:36-50, NLT

Does she know more grace than the Pharisee can know- I do not believe so, because it doesn't seem to me that grace is quantifiable, but she has experienced something which Simon has not experienced- a forgiveness based on faith alone which has enabled her to freely love God and know Him rightly. She can tell a story of her encounter with Jesus, but I do not think that story would emphasize her sinful life prior to that encounter, rather, I think that it will emphasize the encounter and belittle the life prior, for it is now a small thing compared to the life she knows. It is a very small thing compared to what she has. It is the expression of depravity vs. fulfillment, and how emptiness feels so much emptier once you’ve been filled, the same way a dark room seems so much darker after you’ve gone outside at noon. She has life- why would she speak about her death?

Why do you and I?

Let’s emphasize the beginning and continuing of our life, and maybe only throw in that death part in reference to its END, sound good?

Live on.

Re: My Desire

"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"
Matthew 7:22-23 (NIV)

I don't want you to copycat Jesus. I want you to know Him.
I don't want you to develop the characteristics of a disciple of Jesus. I want you to know Him.
I don't want you to do what Jesus did. I want you to know Him.
I don't want you to become a moral superstar. I want you to know Him.
I don't want you to echo the words Jesus said. I want you to know Him.
I don't want you to practice what Jesus preached. I want you to know Him.
I don't want you to wear what Jesus wore. I want you to know Him.
I don't want you to perform miracles like Jesus. I want you to know Him.
I don't want you to develop the marks of a follower of Jesus. I want you to know Him.
I don't want you to watch Jesus.
I don't want you to be able to pass an "Orthodox Theology" exam. I want you to know Him.
I don't want you to go to church.
I don't even want you to become more like Jesus... not without knowing Him.

Nothing matters except that you know Him. I don't care that you can answer the right questions or say the right words or do the right thing just like all the famous Jesus people did... It doesn't matter if you don't know Him. It doesn't matter that you can repeat the same words to the demons. It doesn't matter that you walk and talk like a Disciple of Christ if you don't know the Christ the disciples did. It doesn't matter that you read the right amount or sing the loudest and with the most passion... It matters that you know Him. You can have all the characteristics of one of His followers... Good job. I just want you to know Him.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Holiness VS. Morality


It's been awhile, but I'm restless tonight and these thoughts have been working through for a bit...

Holiness VS Morality

I don’t think they’re the same thing, but I think that as a church we’re allowing the two to become synonymous. I’d say that holiness is a foundation for morality… even that morality is an expression of holiness… but the two are otherwise fundamentally distinct. I’ve written on this before, and my position still remains that there is no holiness outside of a relationship with God. God alone is holy and there is nothing else that is holy without being connected (in relationship) to Him. Morality, on the other hand, is an evaluation based on legal standards. That is- morality is our term to describe how well we do or do not adhere to certain behavioral standards (laws). For some reason, I’ve heard a lot of talk in the last few weeks about needing to preach holiness and how we are forgetting that holiness is an essential element of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I agree, but I think that most often when I hear this the word that should be used is morality. Why? Because most often this message is accompanied with a list of things that Christians should be concerned about- drinking, abuse, abortion, sexual perversions, etc- rather than being accompanied by an emphasis on growing in intimacy with our God.

Let’s split the two up… holiness is not achieved by what you do or do not do. Holiness is the result of God’s presence. Holiness is the result of growing in relationship with God. Morality is just one way that we are ENABLED to EXPRESS that relationship. In conclusion… we can’t see morality as a means of holiness, REVERSE IT. Grow in your relationship with God. Learn to diligently and intentionally accept His love and forgiveness and the blessing of the Holy Spirit- and LIVE. Focus on His presence. Transformation is His work, not ours. Sanctification is HIS work, not ours. Consecration is your willingness to submit to His work in you, not your struggle to fix yourself so you can feel like a “better Christian.”

Re: The Return

Luke 15:1-7
1Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. 2But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3Then Jesus told them this parable: 4"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.


So… Here’s what I see and hear. There was a moment in my life that I brought God more joy than in all the rest of my life ever. It was the moment I simply turned to Him. That’s it. It wasn’t any other act of obedience or something like that. It was the return. Know what that means- the struggle for God’s joy over your actions IS A FALLACY. Can we please stop pretending that by our actions or thoughts or something else that we can somehow get God to love us more… as if somehow right now in our relationship with Him He is dissatisfied and unfulfilled? He chose us. He begged us to choose Him in return. We can, and in that moment it is done. Live in the joy of that reunion from then on! Yes, it is a relationship and we do have the privilege of getting to know Him more, but com’on- let’s drop the game that strains to earn something by doing more devotions and praying more and more and more every day… It’s entirely anti-Christ and undermines the Gospel itself! Jesus said “Follow me.” Are you? He’s not your boss. He’s not your taskmaster. He’s not your slave-driver, He’s your Teacher, Redeemer, Older Brother, Savior, Champion, Defender, and Friend. He loves with an unconditional love and it is not my or your right to take that love and try to do something to increase it… that mentality presupposes that He isn’t loving you as much as He can, and it’s a slap in the face. Stop.

Luke 15 tells three stories of return. Read one, anyone, and see if you can’t find that moment of eternal delight. There was rejoicing in heaven when I returned to God. There was more rejoicing in heaven because of that act than because of the pious acts of 99 other people more noble and praiseworthy than myself, and yet it was my act that brought the most joy. It was yours too. That doesn’t mean that pious acts are entirely wrong, it just means we should stop looking at them as if they’re going to increase God’s pleasure with us- it can’t be done.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Re: Dissatisfaction

I want to see a Revolution...

Where losing money doesn’t mean losing ministry.
Where holiness has nothing to do with what you’ve done, but where you’ve been.
Where purity, not approval, is the main concern,
And radical faith is the only acceptable kind.

I want to see a Revolution...

Where your identity doesn’t come from your or your ancestors’ birthplace.
Where your leadership doesn’t live in the White House, but whose throne is Heaven and whose footstool is earth.
Where prayer is more important than education,
And opportunity is more important than tradition.

I want to see a Revolution...

Where “brother” or “sister” precedes “Mister” or “Misses.”
Where money works for you and not the other way around.
Where Spirit is more a stronger bond than blood,
And we can disagree yet still be able to hug before departing.

I want to see a Revolution...

Where the most notable element of your ministry is the fact that GOD IS AMONG YOU NOW and not that your pastor holds four graduate and post-graduate degrees.
Where offices are offices and gifts are gifts.
Where the time of day or location of meeting does not qualify your church as a church,
And there may be real wine used for communion.

I want to see a Revolution...

Where the church has no walls.
Where the people have no masks.
Where the world has no boundaries,
And your landlord is number one on your prayer list.

I want to see a Revolution...

Where the name of Jesus is more well known than the Top 5 pop artists.
Where love trumps law.
Where life cannot go on as before,
And death is nothing to dread or fear.

I want to see a Revolution...

Where a SSN or DL won’t tell me who you really are.
Where your bank account won’t tell me what you’re really worth.
Where a lady with a torch isn’t your symbol of liberty,
And we accept that guns can’t really solve any problems OR keep peace.

I want to see a Revolution...

Where we can accept that there is salvation outside the church, though not outside Christ.
Where the workplace is a mission field and not just a paycheck.
Where we cannot save face because we have no face to save,
And strangers can be talked to.

I want to see a Revolution...

Where you’d give up your freedom to keep my conscience safe.
Where borrowing a child can make their parents’ day.
Where scripture isn’t just for character development or daily wisdom,
And the MVP of your church staff is the Holy Spirit.

I want to see a Revolution...

Where you’d rather see 10 churches of twenty, than 1 church of two hundred.
Where it isn’t abnormal to pray with tears.
Where “holidays” don’t stop you from meeting together,
And that meeting may last all day long.

I want to see a Revolution...

Where you don’t need page numbers to find Philemon.
Where discipleship time precedes tennis practice.
Where children know their parents' testimonies,
And “pro-life” doesn’t just mean “anti-abortion.”

I want to see a revolution…

But maybe that’s just me…

Monday, July 5, 2010

Re: Christian Patriotism and Frozen Hot Chocolate

Philippians 3:20-21
20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Ephesians 2:11-22
11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

Peter 2:9-12
9 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

10 “Once you had no identity as a people;
now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
now you have received God’s mercy.”

11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

To what extent are those of us claiming faith in Christ supposed to take these words? I’ve heard it many ways and in many ways, but I think as I know am rolling along in life and am currently experiencing what some have called the “real world” that a close look at my positions is in order. I see in scripture a plain and honest claim by God on me as His own. I see the words “citizenship” and “nation” used in reference to heaven and the universal Church. I see that government is not where my hope is to be put but rather a tool that God has instituted in order to maintain the lawless. In all of this I see the phrasing of Jesus, who said that His Kingdom was not of this world, in His “Sermon on the Mount” as one that uses fairly political language as if founding a standard for an organized body’s positions on morality, crime, social justice, and authority. Where does that leave us? I think it plainly leaves us in a place that stands distinct from geographical origins and loyalties. I think that it leaves us in a place that shows us that the man or woman born and raised in China who claims Jesus Christ as Lord is closer to my and more my brother/sister than the man or woman down the street who scoffs the name of Christ. I think it leaves me in a place where I cannot claim “the land of the free and home of the brave” as my truest home or greatest allegiance. You see, I believe in a Kingdom that was revealed with the incarnation of its King and that the true identity of that Kingdom as a national entity. I believe that I am more a citizen of heaven than of earth and that my patriotism is revealed on Easter Morning and not on “Independence Day.” I need to say that I have to a great extent revoked my so-called “independence” for a faith-filled dependence on a Father in Heaven who has called me to live as one belonging to a “Holy Nation” and “Royal Priesthood.” This Kingdom has no end, beginning, defeat, or civil division. It has no states of red or blue demographic, no physical boundaries, no national language, or dominant skin tone. Perhaps I’m wrestling with things out loud again and that may just get me in trouble. But perhaps I’m once more learning to take the Word of God at face value and recognizing that I also need to live it- no matter how unpatriotic that may seem. May we not forget that it was ultimately for “unpatriotism” and/or “treason” that our first brothers and sisters were persecuted for so long ago.

Matthew 5-7
John 18:36-37
Romans 13

Nations are Bigger than Churches

Building on the theme of intimacy and relationships that has permeated my thoughts as of late I would now like to draw on the implications of such a thing as a Biblical Theology that allows the text to dictate the belief (rather than the ever so popular vice versa approach). We know that personability is required for intimacy and that personability is not necessarily a characteristic of ink and paper. Instead, what we have is a text that has been recorded with direct intention by an eternal being- this means that the Author is always accessible and, if willing, capable of explaining the meaning and intent behind the words. This means that the text becomes a medium, or catalyst, for building and knowing the Author, because He is alive and the text is infused with His breath. As people in search of intimacy with the Author approach His words, there must be an understanding in the forefront of their minds that accepts or at the very least acknowledges that God has a purpose and mission expressed throughout the text. I believe there certainly is a vision and telos in the Scripture. Not only so, but I believe that is it clearly expressed and explained.

The Old Testament: this is my Father’s world
In reading through the Old Testament, one cannot help but accept that the central figure is God. Now, God’s role and identity is primarily expressed in a relationship to people, initially Adam and his descendants, then Noah and his, and finally Abraham and his also. Abraham is responsible for the life of Isaac, and Isaac for the life of Jacob. Jacob bears twelve sons, who are the tribes of Israel. God is active and personal throughout this entire process of setting the stage for His initial people. His promise to Abraham is one of blessing and multiplication. His words indicate that Abraham’s line will significantly affect the rest of the world in a blessed way. We here see God’s initial endeavor to create for Himself a people. The phrase declared throughout the Old Testament is simply that “They will be my people and I will be their God .” We understand the explicit phrasing to mean exactly this: God desires a people to claim Him and that He may claim. That God is in any way concerned with any interaction with humanity immediately indicates that He is in fact relational. It means that He is relational as well as purposeful with His creation. He expresses His desire for relationship with His people in many ways.
In the Old Testament, we have God revealing Himself to His people in somewhat impersonal ways. For example, He sends other people to speak in His Name. This may be troubling to think that a God who desires relationship would remain veiled and unseen by those He desires to know Him. This is the characteristic of God simply referred to as humility. God would rather woo than ravish, as C.S. Lewis puts it . If God were to reveal Himself fully, no holds barred, it is then probable that there would be no such thing as a faith response to Him. There would be no choice in the matter. There would be no desire motivating the participation in the relationship. Is anyone satisfied with a relationship that has no personal motivation behind it, but is instead the only option given a particular circumstance? I do not believe this to be anthropomorphizing too greatly, for if God has declared what He has in desiring a people of His own, yet He has not simply declared Himself and reaped the undoubted harvest of believers, then there must be a conceivable reason why this would be less than perfect. Nevertheless, we do see that God does not always reveal His presence impersonally. An example of God simply stating His presence is in the cloud that led the Israelites from Egypt . This cloud was unmistakably the direct work of God, yet it was still a veiled revelation. In closing, the Old Testament is the foundation for God’s people. It is a formation of a physical, literal, geocentric nation that has been promised the ruler who will make them “the head, not the tail ” of the world.

The New Testament: the greatest trick ever
In the New Testament we now have a different dilemma. God is perfectly personal. In fact, He has become a human person! The movie The Prestige attempts to draw out the reason why people have been, for centuries, enthralled with magic and illusion. In it, one character makes the assertion that “The crowd will never look too closely at the act, because they don’t really want to know the truth. They want to be fooled.” This may be the case, but in the instance of one of the greatest masquerades of all time, the foils certainly did not wish to play along. The incarnation is indeed what I am referring to here, and the taking on of flesh and bone by God Himself is not only an act of humility but in some senses a slight of hand or hidden event. God Himself is walking in flesh, bound, to an extent, by space and time. He becomes ultimately relational, and this is, as our theology should assert, the way He always has presented Himself. He becomes as relationally functional as possible in becoming human. Nevertheless, the other members of His race are not pleased with His words or life. This is indicative of the many kinds of relationships that human beings are capable of participating in. In reality, animosity is a manifestation of a relationship. Enmity is as well. So too is friendship and romance. These are all expressions of interaction and relationship. The point is that God not only wants us to acknowledge His existence, as animosity or enmity do, but to praise His existence and celebrate it! God has created us to be in a right relationship with Him, and the incarnation makes evident each profound way that a human being can participate in a relationship with God.

The New Testament is the record of the significant events that set in motion the formation for the people of God as ones spiritual, literal, and Heaven-focused. These people are of all races of the world, thus fulfilling the promise to Abraham. In fact, that promise is remembered so clearly that emphasis is laid on the nations being ministered to immediately following the Spirit’s empowerment of the disciples . The promise to bless the nations through the seed of Abraham is fulfilled in Christ , and the nation of God is now being formed. The New Testament is not unlike a record of events occurring in America’s history from 1765-1800 as time of national formation and foundational importance. In the end this is the important thing- in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Slave nor Free, not even Male or Female . Christ is the Reconciliation of every form of animosity. There is no such thing as racial tension in the Kingdom of God because there is no such thing as earthly race in the Kingdom of God!

Now, it would be of the greatest benefit that I explain what I mean in referring to the incarnation as a “trick.” I do not mean such as if God were deceptive or intentionally malicious. However, as we look at the climax of the incarnation, that is the point of time that proves indubitably that this person who claimed divine rights and status was in fact mortal, we see that there was something beyond just His hope to be recognized as God in flesh. In proclaiming that Jesus should die, the people of that crowd were ultimately saying that they preferred a world where God did not walk around in flesh to a world where He did. The trick is this- that in killing the incarnate Son of God and ridding the world of His presence, they released the possibility for His presence to transcend space and time and yet still be immediately present! He who was once bound by space and time is no longer so, but His Spirit is freed to the entire world and there is no place He does not fill. That is the trick, that in His death, what they hated the most was multiplied, and that Spirit is still present.

The Holy Spirit as the mark of citizenship
That presence that was loosed on the world with the ascension of Christ at the end of the Gospels and the beginning of Acts is indeed the Holy Spirit. He is present in the world and not only that, but active . He actively reconciles people to Christ and expands the Kingdom of God here on earth . The Holy Spirit is the binding force of the nation of God . As God Himself is the nation’s founder, His Son is our King, and the Spirit is the unifying presence for us all we see that His original plans are indeed being fulfilled. The New Testament consistently asserts that those who are Christ are a new creation . This subsequently means that the former identities associated with their life are nullified. I am convinced that in Heaven, there will be no such thing as a German, a Greek, a Roman, a Russian, a Canadian, a Brazilian, a Jew, or an American, but instead there would be only former people of these former races. People who would much sooner claim their nation as something beyond the sky and more expansive than the ocean. The Holy Spirit is the citizen maker of our time, just as He has always been. He is the power behind the people of God and the leader of individuals to greater intimacy with Christ their King. It is by the presence of the Holy Spirit that we are presented the privilege of being the people of God. It is by the will of the Father, the obedience of the Son, and the power of the Spirit that this nation is a reality at all.

Conclusion: nations are bigger than churches
In the end, there comes a new understanding of the teleology of the Lord. We cannot move along in a simple-minded way of thinking that suggests that praying a prayer or entering a building is the hope and pleasure of God. Nations are bigger than churches, and in fact, the Universal Church itself is more a nation than it is comparable to any other earthly thing. Jesus asserted that the Kingdom of God has been forcefully advancing in this world from the time of John the Baptist . Paul declares that we are now citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household . Peter writes that we ought to consider ourselves strangers to this planet . The writer of Hebrews tells us that even our faith’s ancestors in the Old Testament, who had not seen what was promised to them, understood that they were not to claim this world as their home ! God’s desires are to claim a people and to be claimed in turn by them . If we are going to claim to own a Biblical Theology, then the text must dictate belief, and the text unanimously declares that God wants a nation to be His own just as He is their only God! May we all learn to live as citizens of a nation rather than just members of a church. May we all learn to claim our King in faith that He would also claim us. I am convinced of the theme of scripture. In light of the implications, I can only hope that as a citizen I might be an agent of reconciliation (thus expanding the nation) and a participant and agent of intimacy with the King (thus fulfilling His creative purposes and experiencing the joy of real life). This is my conclusion, that the text of Scripture speaks explicitly to the emphatic hope of God’s forming a people to call His own. His formation of that people includes their consciously and intentionally claiming Him as their God and thus trusting His leading and authority over their lives.

Genesis 17:8, Exodus 6:7, Leviticus 26:12, Deuteronomy 7:6, Psalm 135:4, Jeremiah 24:7, Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 11:20, Zechariah 8:8, Malachi 3:17
The Screwtape Letters, letter viii
Exodus 13:21-22
Deuteronomy 28:13
Philippians 2:8-10
Acts 1:8
Galatians 3:16
Galatians 3:28
Acts 2:23
2 Corinthians 5:17-20
Ephesians 4:3
2 Corinthians 5:17
Matthew 11:12
Ephesians 2:19
1 Peter 1:17
Hebrews 11:13
Titus 2:13-14