Understanding God through the flesh is ok

There are three people in the bible who show that using human concepts to filter doctrine or provide a foundation of faith is perfectly acceptable.

The first is the Centurion. Here is a man whose faith was greater than any found in Israel, that is, greater than the many people Jesus had met who were well versed in holy scripture. But, what was the practical rationale for the Centurion’s faith? Not scripture, but his job. A comparison between Jesus’ authority as the son of God and the Centurion’s authority as a soldier in command was not treated as blasphemy, as if the Centurion was saying he was Christ-like, but an amazing understanding of Jesus’ authority and love.

 The second is the Caananite woman. She was able to overcome Jesus’ reasoning for refusing (or delaying, as some God is the same today as he was yesterday Christians might argue) to help her daughter by arguing that even the scraps of his power were sufficient to provide for her needs. Did she argue scripture? No, she reasoned using her understanding of the world of flesh and relating that to the divine.

The third is Jesus. Jesus continually used parable to compare human realities to Godly principles, often enough to expose how the so called learned establishment had lost sight of the practical application of those principles to real life. Faced with a synagogue ruler who hated sin, and saw healing on the day of rest as watering down the law of keeping the Sabbath, Jesus showed how such an unloving approach didn’t bear scrutiny in the practical reality of people’s lives. Yep, he defeated a hard interpretation of law with livestock.

As we are not God the touchstones for understanding Godly principle, as expressed in our walk on earth, has to be, by definition, earthly. By extension, examining the application of doctrine in the church or our personal lives should similarly be open to comparison of flesh and blood principles. If we approach with open minds and hearts, the fruits can not only be a deeper appreciation for God’s love, but a deeper appreciation of each other.

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Prescribing works for salvation can be dangerous

*See Galatians*

I think it also runs counter to the nature of our creation, which is an expression of diversity. If together we are a body of Christ it should follow that different people fill different functions. It should perhaps also follow that as the body learns and evolves that different organs learn to provide different utility.

It would be like humans only ever using rocks to hammer and never learning other motions to shape or even join objects. But what if doctrine had interfered with the development of tools and construction and dictated that only hammering was holy and that exclusivity was required for salvation? How might knowledge have been set back as a result?

The same goes for works of faith. At least I think this is what Paul is getting at here. It is not for us to ultimately judge or prohibit works with a view to measuring a person’s worthiness of salvation. I think there is always room to examine works in regards to their effectiveness in spreading love and being a testament to Jesus’ values of balancing loving God and loving your fellow human. But we need to stay away from casting aspersion on the faith that those works spring forth from, or having a restrictive idea as to what works bring glory to God.

The thing is, I think for a lot of humble people out there they don’t even see their best works as works as all. The left gives so secretly and humbly that the right has no concept of giving… in which case, how are others looking in from the outside ever to discern such works.

Doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t smiling down all the same just because we don’t see evidence.

The physical is only ever a symbol for the spiritual

Recently Christ’s physical ordeal leading up to and including his death came up in discussion. In a conversation of varying views one expressed the idea that Christ’s suffering is often exaggerated by believers. If Christ is God then Christ was able to save himself at any time from his ordeal. Indeed, Christ as God could have taken such a punishment and turned off the brain’s recognition of pain to ease his suffering.

As is often the temptation and case when discussing spiritual matters, the spiritual took a backseat to the physical. Jesus’ ordeal however shows us once again how the physical is just a facade, and holds little meaning without a spiritual underpinning.

Christ’s physical pain during torture and crucifixion weren’t the real punishment, it was the spiritual hate emanating from the very people he was there to save and provide a new way of life to. Never mind that his sacrifice was a fulfilment of prophesy, each *individual* member of the crowd who punished him or abandoned him represented a soul taking a choice where another was possible and could still see the prophesy fulfilled.

Imagine looking into the eyes of those you offered healing and salvation to and seeing hate in return for that offering. Anyone who has felt the sting of betrayal at the hands of loved ones can only imagine how such a feeling is magnified in effect for a being *of* love. This is why the bible exhorts us to be careful with even the most idle of our words, lest they betray a spiritual underpinning that lashes the heart of another in a way that cannot be easily healed. Physical words mean nothing on their own but in a spiritual context can make or break souls.

We must be careful how we weigh the physical matters of our lives. It can pain or uplift us deeply to see the scales physically tip in or out of our favour, but if we cannot measure the balance of what the physical means spiritually, we are trading in a false economy.

The physical always gives way. It is temporary. Jesus’ gave way physically so that we might see the spiritual matter of forgiveness and salvation. We do well to learn to make the physical give way in our own lives in order to give us better sight of the spiritual lessons that lie beneath.

In Response: “did God stop writing books and letters?”

This was the question as posed in a discussion recently:

“did God stop writing books and letters?”

the books and letters that make up The Holy Bible were written by men and women who were (allegedly) divinely inspired. in Sunday School i was taught God basically wrote those books and letters using the men and women as vessels.

if that’s true, have there been any others written since then? if so, why hasn’t the Holy Bible been updated to include the newer books and letters?

if there haven’t been any newer books and letters, why not? why did God stop communicating w/humans via the written word?

In Response:

No, God didn’t stop

As you alluded, we stopped uniting behind them.

The personalising of faith, the appeal that these books had towards allowing people to search for their own relationship with God, or without as is sometimes the result, rather than needing a group medium or a holy middleman, allowed for a plurality of faith to emerge. You could pray to the same God as another person but see God’s role in this world and your life as totally different to them. The principles of tolerance set out in some holy books have allowed for this to emerge.

As such, if you believe in God, there is room to believe that God’s imprint lives in parents who pray for inspiration when teaching their children about life and living with and loving those around them. God’s words can flow from the lips of a woman trying desperately to bring her brother back from a life of crime.

These aren’t the words that move us as a globe, but they do move the worlds for those people who are touched by them. Whether it is a physical manifestation of divine energy or just a mix of chemical reactions predicated by our current place in the evolutionary process, people are out there now authoring parables and principles that live in the hearts of those they touch long after the person who physically expressed them is gone. That’s the true beauty of a humble love in my opinion. It doesn’t blow it’s own horn, and lets the effect unite rather than set itself on a hill to divide.

Choosing Thriving in Righteousness Over Struggling with Sin.

Sometimes a struggle only serves to highlight and reinforce the negative aspects of our current situation. Focusing on sin in our life can give it more power and legitimacy, perhaps even leading to guilt. Guilt can weigh on the heart and undermine our acceptance of God’s forgiveness.

If one finds themselves dealing with sin without seeing a positive effect on their walk, a change of perspective may ease the burden.

Instead of viewing situations as necessary to avoid a sinful process, try to reinterpret each situation into a righteous process. It is the difference between a person who looks at their nutrition as a goal to avoid certain foods and face the consequences, and a person who sees it as an opportunity to learn more about new foods and cooking techniques.

The more one looks for righteous action their lives by interpreting each day through that frame first the more sin loses its grip on the mindset. Refusing to acknowledge sin denies its desire to announce its victory over lives.

Because we must remember than sin lost when Christ died for it on the cross. Ours is the mission to continue the victory of righteousness. Sometimes drowning sin out while we trumpet righteousness is the best strategy to do so.

Don’t Take a Human Measure of Mercy

The human measure of divine characteristics has always been interesting. Earthly expressions of damnation and wrath know no bounds. You’ll not struggle to find believers who will judge a person worthy of hell without equivocation if a particular sin goes without repentance or is committed too many times. No matter what the extenuation in circumstance, the conception of God’s punitive measures does not struggle to exceed imagination.

Unfortunately this abundance of imagination doesn’t tend to extend to God’s mercy in the same degree. Time and again religious wisdom reaches beyond even the cruelest levels of human sadism to warn others what God is capable of for punishment. These punishments can come in return for something as taking God’s name in vain inadvertently in the moment, or ascribing to the wrong religion despite an honest desire and attempt to be close to God.

Imagine what these religious leaders would deem as the Godly punishment for putting Jesus to death? Continuous physical and spiritual torture notwithstanding, the punishment for simply not believing is harsh enough let alone cruelly going after God in human form. If the punishment for blasphemy is eternal damnation what is the cost of killing God?

Fortunately for them Jesus’ divine standard of mercy deemed them worthy of forgiveness. As Jesus lingered close to death his final words regarding his tormentors was a plea for exactly that.

Dare to believe God’s love and mercy are more than you can express. Moreover, dare to share such s message with others. You may find your faith in your own salvation strengthened.

The Best Rebuke Can Be Aid Withheld

Compare God’s presence in the bible to how little divine will is witnessed in the world at large today.

Gone are the days of red seas parting and burning bushes. The more we develop as humans the more it seems that God steps back and lets our lives be the lesson.

Many prayers are sent up and many of those prayers are denied or go unanswered. Increasingly God’s greatest and loudest answer to us is no answer.

This is fitting for the way we live our lives. We are not the humans of old who lacked the knowledge of the world to do for ourselves what we would otherwise otherwise call on Godly assistance for. We are and continue to grow in our role as the chief if not sole architects of our own situations.

In this environment God’s lessons on righteousness are best taught through the consequences of our unrighteousness. Lessons on greed are taught through the consequences of obesity and financial meltdown.

A large part of teaching this lesson is not bailing us out of suffering these consequences. The lesson sticks to us through the way that the subsequent struggle stays in our memory. There’s little need on God’s part to actively dole out rebuke. The rebuke is in the consequences.

And so it should be with us. We don’t need to come on strong with rebuke or feel obligated to bail people out when they fall victim to themselves.
Like the Lord we can be a base of support spiritually but not a negative voice or an enabling source of aid.

Learn a little from God and step back from trying to erase people’s mistakes. Imagine where our spiritual self reliance would be if we called on God to rectify every mishap we brought on ourselves. From financial rescue to being locked out of the car, how much would we lose of ourselves for the sake of convenience? How long before we’d start the day with prayer to pre-empt any consequence we’d brought on ourselves?

Something to think about next time the temptation to get involved in someone’s self created calamity kicks in.

Christian Culpability in the World’s Woes: Finance

There’s a lot going on in the world at the moment, with many people feeling global pressures in the privacy of their personal lives. Most of these pressures are old stories, but their consequences in some cases are relatively recent. While Christians still exhort their example as one to follow for safety or calm during these times, lets consider how Christian action adds to some of these issues. This is not to denigrate, but to remind of our part in the flawed global community, and how we could be doing better. 

Let’s start with finance. Developed countries the world over are suffering as the consequences of greed catch up to corporations and filter down to individuals. However, even on an individual level, there have been people living beyond their means; borrowing more than they could afford, or others seduced by promises of high returns on investment that common sense would have dictated too good to be true.

Were Christians pushing a message of trimming the lamps, coming out in the media with the discernment of the Holy Spirit warning average investors about these investments and how they would fail? Perhaps they did in some quarters, but the most visible theme in many mainstream churches has been prosperity preaching. Whatever the whole message of prosperity preaching has been, the dominant message and practical outcome has been a conspicuous consumption as proof of blessing. The greatest example being the preacher up the front in an expensive suit with the (multi) million dollar house and accompanying car, or perhaps series of cars, a motor-cycle and a boat. This was the example to follow for church goers and the dream to aspire to, which had the nice side effect of justifying higher tithe demand from the church.

Consider a church goer  that doesn’t get the nuance of prosperity preaching, and sees the physical correlation between the message and the material possessions of their church leader, who shows them off as a sign of God’s blessing. Why wouldn’t that church goer raise some debt or enter a risky investment? Theirs is simply an act of faith to bring forth material evidence of God’s blessing that they may witness to others.

Let’s not forget that Christians number among the executives and other business leaders that partially led the way to the current financial crisis with dishonest business practice. In the USA, their number is many in the halls of power politics that called for less oversight of businesses when the discernment of the Holy Spirit should have told them the exact opposite was needed.

Prosperity preaching is a great irony in modern Christianity when you consider that prosperity for so many years has been a facade held up by sub-prime mortgage type greed. Again Christians have pointed to physical trappings as proof of God’s blessing, only to have the assertion exposed by mundane human reality.

There was no great push to warnings amongst the large churches, and many of their congregations have been stung by the financial woes rippling through the world. The shame of it is that many of these churches who didn’t see this coming will have their ranks swell as times get tougher and people seek to cling to faith for comfort. The hope is that going forward they learn to curb their excesses and provide a better example of financial conservation for people to follow.

Your inch of mortar between the bricks of the kingdom

There’s push in some Christian circles, and you can see it on TV sometimes, to do what’s called ushering in the kingdom. This can be expressed in various ways. Sometimes it is termed as taking dominion or some variation on Christian establishing governance of some sort.

Such a mindset can be tempting from a desire to see peace in the world, but unfortunately the usual outcome is an over-pouring of ego. Rather than being content to humbly do a small, unsung  part in building the kingdom of God, people end up wanting a position of glory and accolades during their life time. They want to be there when every knee bows and every tongue confesses, not realising the enormity of such a task and how small any contribution they can make is in the scheme of things. The irony is rich if these people are the same who decry the state of the world as it is right now.

Every Christian that has toiled in lifetimes past without ego regarding the kingdom has added their small inch of the mortar. As the structure has grown the ability to differentiate one person’s efforts from another has grown ever more difficult. There’s no staking territory with a flag, there’s no plaque on any bricks for anyone to lay a claim to. We have come this far, and there is still far to go. Many are those who cry for aid but shy away from the kingdom because we have not yet built the kind of trust that gives people the faith and freedom to ask.

Rather than looking to rush the matter on our timetable so we can enjoy the moment as we wish, perhaps we should just redouble our efforts, even in relative anonymity, knowing that in the fullness of time God brings such things to fruition in conjunction with our humble, faithful service according to God’s will. As small as our inch of mortar may be, that inch has still taken a lifetime, so while being humble and anonymous it is still no small thing.

Rather than being concerned with the spoils of governance or dominion, perhaps we should shy away from such desires in favour of focusing on the real needs that people in our communities have now. There is still so much undone that needs attending with a focus on love rather than a focus on what we get out of it, which we shouldn’t desire beyond improving ourselves to improve the lives of others anyway.

We are building towards a greater goal, but lets not over-blow our place in history and look to force the issue now. If the time has come, let it be evidenced through God’s action, rather than forced through human manufacture, which is futile for such a task anyway.

Your Birthday > Jesus’ Birthday

At least Jesus would likely see it this way.

With the passing of Christmas and New Years we’re often filled with a desire as Christians to reinforce the spiritual hierarchy endorsed by many churches through these celebrations. Often the message comes out as something like Jesus > Church > Minister > You.

However, think of how Jesus actually came into the world. The events were about as humble as you could get in terms of a celebration for God and it certainly wasn’t the pinacle of what he was here to do on this earth.

If you take a look at his life and his message and his death they point more to Jesus wanting to teach people how to put themselves first. Spiritual guidance from Jesus was designed to teach people how to live with love towards others and through that learn to live with love towards God. This is for OUR benefit. We find more happiness and fulfilment if we can see the completion of ourselves as human beings through our empathy towards others.  That in turn strengthens our ties to others and helps us learn how to accept love in return, growing our faith in the decency of the human spirit when giving them optimum, compassionate conditions. Growing faith in imperfect human beings in turn strengthens our faith in a perfect God.

This point is often lost in translation in our desire to have people follow the bible or simply follow God. What we miss is Jesus’ message that love of ones self does come through a love of being selfish. We should take a cue from Jesus’ practical life lessons. Teaching abstinence from earthly pleasures through condemnation is less effective than showing how earthly pleasures can consume a person at the expense of themselves and those around them. Learning to love others as we love ourselves means not just learning to love others but truly meaning what it is to love ourselves. The two are intertwined and you can’t begin to understand what it is to love and be loved by God without them. You can’t truly love yourself if that love comes at the expense of others, and you can’t learn how to love others unless you truly love yourself.

Never forget that our life was always more important to Jesus than his own. He did want his death to be greater than ours by defeating death to give everlasting life, but this again reinforces the original point being made.

Perhaps take a moment to remember this before you seek to use the season to place another at a lower rung on the spiritual ladder, or even take a moment to re-examine how well you are loving yourself.