Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sprouts and Summer Camp

One of my hobbies is gardening.  I like to see things grow -- at least, the plants I'm trying to grow -- and watching another part of God's creation develop.  Besides, I get to grow some of my own food, fresh from the garden, and it's a lot less expensive hobby than sailing or sky-diving! 

Jesus used a lot of agricultural analogies in his teaching, as did the apostles, and there are hundreds of references in the Hebrew Scriptures to things that grow.  One of those is found in Psalm 128:3 and reminds me of the work we get to do with young people: "Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table."  Young plants, especially trees, are a source of hope for the future.  When we tend them, giving them fertilizer and water and sunlight as they need, they tend to grow strong and live up to their potential.  When we neglect those plants or withhold their needs, they don't do well, sometimes even dying.  Children are the same in all those respects.  They need nurture of several different kinds. 

Our regional "Spiritual Enrichment Program" camp, SEP Rockies (just outside of Denver), is an example of an intense nurturing environment.  For seven days in a row, the staff pour out what the Holy Spirit has filled them with, giving positive attention to the young people in every conceivable way.  We teach them about the loving God who is Father, Son and Spirit, with our words as well as our actions.  It's tremendously hard work, with a lot of sacrifice, and we come home exhilirated and exhausted.  But the way we see the campers grow while they are at SEP, and the way we see their potential blossom and come out, is worth it all.

Will you pray for us this week?  This kind of work does not happen just because we show up and take our positions, but because we seek and respond to God's power and inspiration.  Please pray that we can hear the Holy Spirit's voice of direction, and have the courage to do what we should in the wisest possible way, for the sake of those "young olive plants."  Thanks!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A word on God's Justice

I'm posting a link here to blog called "Trinity and Humanity:  the Journal of the Adopted Life" run by some friends of mine, in which they explore the relationship God has called us humans into.  This particular one is very interesting:  how do we define, and think about, the justice of God?  How does God see our sins and foibles, our mistakes and the times we hurt others? 

Here are some interesting concepts.  See what you think:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


It's simple, says the little package.  Just plug this adapter into your computer, install the software and you can connect up to seven devices to your computer.  Cool, I thought.  The adapter plugged in just fine, the software downloaded and installed (eventually) and the little blue light came on.  Then the whole process ground to a halt as I tried to connect a device.  Over and over.  Isn't it wonderful, I reflected, how technology can save us time, and simplify our lives?

It's a good thing we don't have to go through all that with God.  Our connection with him, through the Holy Spirit, has all the best features:
  • always-on  John 14:16, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you." (Compare, by the way, that the Holy Spirit came and went from time to time in the Old Testament; his presence was not yet permanent.  Judges 3:10, 1 Sam. 10:6, 1 Sam. 16:14, etc.)
  • automated connection Acts 2:3-4  Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit...
  • high-bandwidth  John 14:17,  "He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth."  John 16:13, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth."
  • secure Eph. 1:13-14  ...When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. 
  • error-correction Rom. 8:26-27   "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will."
  • restores dropped connections  Rom. 8:15-16, "So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father." For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children."  
Rather than relying on technology, we can be happy that we have miraculous, secure and eternal connection with God through his Spirit who lives in us and leads us into the will of God.  Let's surrender to his sure hand, letting him guide us into right living, teach us more about our Savior, and live his supernatural life in us!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

God's Judgment: Restoration, not Revenge

One of the most inspiring and puzzling passages in the Gospels is when Jesus, after his resurrection, confronts Simon Peter on the beach of the Sea of Galilee (John 21).  Peter, we remember, had blustered about his courage and conviction to the point of dying for Jesus (John 13:36-38 and Mat. 26:31-35) then had denied the Master three times, as we read in John 18.  In John 20, Jesus speaks with all of the disciples together, and to Thomas directly, but leaves Peter alone.  How much had Peter's conscience been bothering him since that night of his denial?  How tortured was his thinking those ten days or so until the meeting at the shore?  Did he say "I'm going fishing" because he felt he was no longer qualified as a disciple of Jesus?

Simon knew -- or thought he knew -- he was in for some strong words, or much worse, when Jesus started talking to him that day.  So what did Jesus say?  "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others?"  That was a direct reference to Peter's earlier proclamation of his outstanding loyalty to Jesus.  "Do you love me?" Jesus asked, three times.  All three times, Peter responded that he did indeed love Jesus.  "Feed my sheep / Care for my lambs" were Jesus' responses. 

Would you or I have said it that way?  Well, there are plenty of times I've spent many words lecturing someone about their inability, lack of attention or commitment, and general ineptitude.  Jesus focused on restoration.  Jesus restored Peter as an apostle by confirming that he still loved and believed in this broken, messy man.  Was Peter judged by Jesus and found wanting?  Yes.  Was he corrected?  Without doubt, Peter felt corrected by Jesus.  But Jesus' judgment restored Peter to a place of service.  Peter's gratitude and love inspired him to serve his master the rest of his days, all the way to a brutal Roman execution for his preaching. 

By looking at this example, I don't want to diminish, in any way, God's righteous judgment against sin.  Yet Jesus didn't make Peter suffer additionally for sinning; Jesus had suffered for all sin, even for Peter's sin, on his cross, to restore all humanity's relationship with the Father.  The penalty was gone, and the restoration began, with Peter here as an example.   Our problem is, we don't believe it, and think we have to make it up to God somehow on our own strength, or suffer for our sins.  We need to repent of that wrong thinking.  What will our final judgment look like?  If this example is any indication, it will be far different than some courtroom drama.  God is after restoration, not revenge. 

One more question:  how is it, today, that Jesus wants to restore your relationship with him, and service to him, in spite of your faults?  It's worth asking him, and listening carefully for the answer.