Monthly Archives: July 2013

Returning Son

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. – Hebrews 2:10

jeremyMy older son who has served in the Army for the last four years is exiting the military and moving to Arlington next week so he will soon be much closer to me. My younger son, Jeremy, just returned to Austin after working in Houston for a year.

Though Jeremy and I did not have a broken relationship at this time, still I am ecstatic that I am watching him talk with my wife on our back patio as I write this. I can relate to the father of the prodigal son on just how wonderful it is to have your son with you. Luke 15:11-31

When we think of the mercies of God, we sometimes think of them in terms of self. But our God is relational to his very essence. The trinity contains Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together as one. God’s very glory – which he is all about exclaiming to all creation – is completely wrapped up in expanding his household with many sons and daughters.

It is a form of suffering to have children grow up, depart your home to live and find their own way. It is suffering to be apart from them but it is glorious to watch what God is doing in their lives – though it is often terrifying too. We often think God’s mercies are about providing us comfort and they do, but God’s mercy is born out of the suffering of his holiness. It cost God everything to provide mercy to us and it is far more valuable and rich than our desire for an easy life.

God is willing to forgo comfort, he is willing to pay the cost of mercy to give us his love. The father of the prodigal son gave everything to gain his son, not just the riches, but the son himself. It is heart-wrenching to let your child go to where they want – especially when you scared that it may not go well for them. I’m confident that the father is the story did not find complete comfort a single day while his son was gone.

God longs to have us in his home so much he gave up Jesus to come and gain us and waits patiently for our return. Because Jesus came, we are one with him and he is one with us. We can boldly call him brother and be assured we can call God our Father. This is a real mercy and real grace – seeing our Father and knowing he sees us fully as his children no matter where we are in this world and no matter what the world throws at us.

  • What mercies of God can you see today right in front of you?  What is less clear?
  • What sufferings have you experienced that ended in God’s mercies.  Fill free to share your experiences.

Jubilee

There is a theme in freedom that it must be declared before it is achieved. American’s celebrate July 4 as Independence day but is it actually when our  forefathers declared independence which did not come until the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and after a great cost was paid between those points in time.

When Moses tells Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, he is essentially declaring their independence but there’s all sorts of activity that occurs before they are actually free from Egyptian rule.  And after freedom from Egypt is obtained, there is so much more they go through to learn how to live free.  It was easy to understand what it would be like to be free from Egypt but not so easy to know what it would be like to be free to serve God as His people – forty years in the wilderness and then all that effort to secure the promised land, which never really fully occurred.

The Israelites were told by God to celebrate a ritual every 50 years called Jubilee. It was a year for freedom where each person was to set slaves free, to free their brothers and sisters from any debts, to return to the freedom to God alone and his economy – but they never celebrated Jubilee.

Jesus walked into his home-town church near the beginning of his ministry and reads from the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

then after reading this, he tells them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. He is literally declaring Jubilee and the response of his nearest friends and neighbors who had known him all his life is rejection – to the point of not only driving him out of town, but also trying to throw him off a cliff. Wow!  Freedom is an explosive topic.

It is strange though – that Jesus, who has the power to secure instantly the freedom he wants only declares it.  Why is this? When the American forefathers declared independence, they invited all Americans into the drama to gain freedom.  Jesus invites us into the drama to gain freedom too – not from an external power but to his internal reality in our lives.

In believing that his spirit has become one with our own and living in pursuit of this incarnational reality, we also find the freedom from seeming external realities.  We can’t control our world externally but the freedom Jesus brings cannot be taken away if we don’t allow it.  It is treasure where moth and rust do not destroy, not in heaven only, but in our hearts where the King of Heaven already resides for those who’ve allowed him in.

This is all nice to say but hard to do.  Every moment here, our humanity, our world and God’s enemies try to point us to the scenes around us as evidence of the futility of loving God and others.   David said in the Psalm – speaking of Jesus prophetically:

You were forged a strong scepter by God of Zion;
now rule, though surrounded by enemies! Psalms 110:2 Message

When Jesus makes us free, we are free indeed!  It is not just a declaration.  It is real freedom – we are truly like him, sons and daughters of God, princes and princesses.  We get confused and think this must mean later since we are still being told we are slaves because we are still surrounded by enemies. But who we are is not dictated by where we are.  We need to learn to ignore the temporary things of this world and keep our eyes on the son of God indwelling our life.   We, with him, are noble children of the King of all kings, God Most High.  So what if we are surrounded by enemies. We are free!

  • Do you believe you are really FREE?  If you don’t, whose voice are you listening to?
  • Can you see that Christianity is more about our NOBLE Identity than the cheap religious substitute of morality?
  • If you aren’t free, who are you enslaved to?  Who can stand against God?
  • Consider writing your own declaration of independence in agreement with Jesus.


Seek Ye First

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Matthew 6:33

Before you read this post, you may want to first look up the word first.  See what I did!? I used first in the context of time which I suspect is our first inclination. (puns intended)

If you did look it up, you noticed it could apply to order, rank, importance or other items, things, preferences. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that our Lord was not saying first seek the kingdom of God – now that you’ve done that, go, eat, drink, be merry. 

I think the idea he is getting to is closer to primary or essential or foundational.   If you do that thing, all the other things will occur and will make sense.  But don’t expect that to be true the other way around.  Everything that comes after fits on that foundation or framework.  But the various pieces won’t hold together on their own.

Putting the kingdom of God first makes sense considering that the son of God is the speaker – but what does that mean?  Clearly he is not saying, seek to get past this life to heaven as he intentionally left us here. – see John 17:15,18

A clue may be found in the many Gospel references that the kingdom of God is at hand or has come near. It is Jesus that was at hand and available to men and he alone enables us to enter the kingdom of God.    But he is not out there somewhere to seek.  He is here, at hand.  Our seeking is not outward – to find a place in the world – but inward to find him who placed the world into the universe making a place for his life in us and therefore a place for everything else in our world to fit is a way that makes sense.

As we grasp that Jesus is our very life and how that makes all the other stuff in our life come together, we realize there really was no life beforehand. We realize who we really are as a son or daughter of God in Christ – and this is real freedom and real life abundant.

Taken all together, our seeking first first of the kingdom of God is seeking who we really are – by asking the only one who really knows to reveal it to us.  Seek you first – by asking him who knew you first before the foundations of the world.  It is the height of arrogance to assume you could know yourself any other way or that you could construct a better you than God has designed – yet that is exactly what we are doing if we aren’t seeking him first to find out who we really are.

  • Are you still seeking success rather than God.
  • Have you realized that seeking freedom from something is seeking success? What would happen if we sought him first and let him free us?
  • James said, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives” (James 4:3) What wrong motives do you have? Can you see that this are not seeking God first?  What would happen if you swapped motives.
  • When you seek God about who you are in Christ, what are you hearing him tell you? Hint: you are my child!  I love you. what you do or have is completely secondary to that.  I will always love you.