The Good Natured Father (Part II)

A seat for everyone

 

Today, we pick back up where we left off yesterday (June 24th, Part I posting) with a further exploration of the Nature of God.

Can we ever really know this Almighty Being we call “God”?

We look to Jesus to see His heart. It’s so simple, yet so profound. He looks like Jesus.

God bless us, Every One, and Happy Sunday.

By: Jana Greene

What if God’s nature is really only good?

A few weeks ago, I camped out in the lesson presented by Francois Du Toit, “Celebrating His Initiative.” Webster’s Dictionary defines “initiate” as ‘to begin, set going, or originate: to introduce into the knowledge of some art or subject. And to propose (a measure) by initiative procedure.

Initiate is a verb! It is an action. There is nothing passive about it. Jesus has issued a proposal on bended knee and bloodied cross. This voluntary decision by God of God is a thing to be celebrated!

I don’t think I’ve ever grasped the finality of what happened at the crucifixion and resurrection of God. If it is finished, the residual guilt and shame I keep picking up and hauling around is not my cross to bear– as I’ve always believed.  The grace I ask for and receive is not meant to counterbalance the heft of my shame. I do not receive grace by the bucket-full to douse the fire of each indiscretion – I am already drowning in it. So are you. The work of the cross was the catalyst for God to flood the world with grace.

Religion taught me that God swoops down and saves me from myself a thousand times a day, and that’s what grace looks like. But I’m learning that Abba is pulling me away from the idol of religion and into Himself. My weaponry of thin, papery religiousness is powerless against His embrace of Truth.

Bradley Jersak’s book on the subject sharpened my focus on divine grace vs. rhetoric.

“Setting Jesus as the standard for perfect theology, many of our current Christian beliefs and practices would obviously face indictment. Even significant swaths of biblical literature don’t line up well with the Christ of the Gospels. Claiming that God is revealed perfectly in Jesus triggers tough questions about the God I once conceived and preached. Jesus’ life and character challenges my religious clichés and standby slogans—especially the rhetoric of supreme power and irresistible force.”

― Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel

In the segment “Who is the Father,” presented by Mike Zenker, the truth of Abba’s consistency is highlighted in Matthew 11:27, which says “All things have been handed over to Me by the Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

Or, as The Message translation reads: “Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor does the Father the way the Son. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.”

Religion says we are responsible for aspects of our salvation – ergo, we can turn the volume up or down on our spiritual speaker, tweak the boom of the bass, turn down the treble, change the center with the fader of our deeds and actions.

But God cannot be moved from Center. He is the Center. He is undeterred by the noise we create.

Fundamental to this spiritual epiphany is the idea that we are not “sinners saved by grace,” which I have – over the years – convinced myself was my identity. After many years of sobriety and much prayer, that had been the only conclusion.

But what if the work of the cross – that event in which Creator God heaved toward humankind with such love and power that it knocked the evil in us to the ground and buried it with Christ – was powerful enough to resurrect us in glory with Christ, while leaving evil in the grave?

What if God only sees us through the lens of his living, life-giving Son, and not as sinners wearing toe-tags that say “Admit One – Heaven.” I am going to have eternal life, yes. But I don’t want to slog out my existence here during my mission on Earth, not understanding and appreciating what my birthright truly  is. I want joy now too, please.

Jesus is joyful! He is not somber.

“A Papa with a sense of humor: “Christ’s humor is always redemptive, never mocking the individual. But He is sharp and sarcastic in His derision of those institutions such as Pharisaism, which posture in their self-made self-importance. Wisdom”

― John Crowder, Seven Spirits Burning

Another epiphany? God has a sense of humor! What a blessing for us all.

Of all the lectures in Course II, “The Dynamic, Artistic, Creative Being of God” by Andre Rabe struck a chord in my soul.  As a messy, creative person, it’s lovely to know that I inherited one of my attributes – writing – from my Papa.

The arts are a pulpit for the Muse, divinely given. The amazing thing is that as the Triune God is our Muse, we are His as well.

In nature, we see His artistry all around us. I’ve often lifted a sea shell from the beach and marveled at the fine details adorning it. I’ve wondered at the Blue Ridge mountain range in their ancient perfection. Animal, mineral, vegetable – everything in creation attests to the existence of our creative God. His nature is in nature.

One of the ways I like to celebrate God’s initiative and parlay his creativity is through writing poetry. In concluding this essay, I would like to leave you with a work that God ‘downloaded’ (for lack of a better term) in my spirit a while ago. I believe He gave the words to me as I wrote, as it came to me impromptu and with fierce passion. I believe He was sharing His very nature with me.

Everything I’m learning at Global Grace Seminary lends credence to what I wrote that day.

God bless us, every one.

Agape for Amateurs: a love letter from God

Oh Dear Created One,

Do you know who you are to me?

Who am I, you ask?

I am Love….only ever good.

And you are my handiwork.

I am not angry with you.

In Jesus, I gave myself to you, for you – redemption in one fail swoop.

When you have a misstep, I am saddened because you are hurting. But I will never leave you.

I am with you to the ends of the earth and in the deepest crevices of your spirit.

Your hurting places don’t scare me away.

When you deny me, curse me, hide from me – I do not shy away, nor do I condemn you.

The finished work of my Son ensures you that I keep no records of your wrongs,

But have been courting you all along.

Where there is love, I am.

This fallen world – where hope seems in deficit – does not merit your trust. But I do.

I am trustworthy.

All the things you’ve been foolish for have torn you down, yet you are so afraid to be a “fool” for me?

Enough of the fallen.

Enough of the foolish self-dependency.

Walk with me – I long to raise you up!

That small, still voice?

It’s me nudging you.

Can you feel it?

Let yourself consider that I am never more than a nudge away.

That roaring storm of emotion that pulls at you? Called by 1,000 different names?

The emotion is my urging, too.

You were created to feel.

Your quirks and your passions make you one of a kind, in a world of billions.

I see you.

I see you!

And you matter to me.

 

“This life is hard,” you say – and I know that it’s true.

You see, I am human, too.

The friend I left to you – the Holy Spirit – is available to you, in you.

The Spirit rejoices with you in times of celebration,

And in times of sorrow, she brings great and all-encompassing comfort.

Cut through what others have told you about me.

Throw away the ritualistic, legalistic, egotistic religion.

Cut through the culture of shame.

Have your own relationship with me.

Not a figment of imagination in stories from dusty texts,

But a force of creation, life, and love to be reckoned with.

Nothing is happenstance.

Believe in me, and you have all the love to gain!

In your hurting places.

In your hiding places.

There is no deficit of hope, Dear One.

Only the great gulf between us that you’ve erected in the name of self-preservation.

I would love to close that gap and draw you so near that you feel my breath in your ear as we embrace.

I am embracing you now.

I delight in you.

Seek my face.

I shall never hide from you.

There is no other like you.

You are my BELOVED!

With boundless grace and endless love,

  • Papa

NOT Giving the Devil his ‘Due’

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Part 7 of The Seismic Seven Series

By: Jana Greene

Hi, Readers.

This series has taken me a really, really long time to write, and I think much of it is due to coming up with the 7th and final post in the series.

You see, I had planned on writing about Perichorisis for Dummies. I cannot dazzle you with my understanding of perichorisis (which the very learned C. Baxter Kruger discussed at The Open Table Conference) because this here dummy still doesn’t really understand the concept. There, I said it. I’m prayerfully working on it, but I’m not ready to write about it. (In short, the relationship of the Triune God is intensified by the relationship of perichoresis. This indwelling expresses and realizes fellowship between the Father and the Son. It is intimacy. Jesus compares the oneness of this indwelling to the oneness of the fellowship of his church from this indwelling.)

There is a thin ribbon of drool forming at the corner of my mouth and an expression of vapidness as I ponder this.

So instead, I’ve decided to write about something that was confirmed to me at the conference, something that may be the most seismic, earth-shattering thing of all: We give the devil far, far too much focus.

God gave me a little vision this morning before I was even out of bed.

“I MUST finish this series, God.” Say I. “Please O’ Holy God of the Universe, help me understand perichorises so that I can actually share these deep and abiding truths with my readers!”

To which God oh-so-customarily provides me with a completely random idea: The Wizard of Oz.

(One of the greatest misinformations in the world today is that being a Christian is boring and staid. To the contrary, God always keeps it interesting. He comes up with some far-out stuff….)

“I’m not interested in your readers thinking you’re smart, dear one.” I feel Him convey to my spirit. “I’m interested in you reminding them where to focus.”

He re-directed me to a message I’ve recently been imparted – that we spend so much time and energy talking about Spiritual Warfare that we forget it isn’t all about the devil and his demons.

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her band of assorted and very needy creatures set off on a long journey that focuses on one thing: The Wizard. The activity of the mighty, all-controlling Wizard will bring resolution. We don’t like to think we give the devil his due to this degree, but often times, we do.

Oh, the devil has got me down

The devil won’t let up on me.

The devil is causing this or that heartache.

And you are probably right about those things. There is no doubt a battle in the Heavenlies for you. Again, Spiritual Warfare is a real, important thing.

But the MOST important players in it are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (hey, I DID reference perichoresis!) They are the Focus.

Because ultimately, when we complete this crazy Earth Journey in which we learn to love God and each other, the devil has already been defeated.

The devil roars and prowls like a lion, but It is Finished, and he knows it. He is an old, devious, evil – but toothless – lion.

Remember the ending of The Wizard of Oz? This is the guy who has everyone quaking in fear:

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Dorothy and co-horts are SHOCKED to find out (thanks to scrappy little Toto)  that The Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz is really just a little guy with a lot of bluster in a bad suit hiding in a little booth. His whole persona is creating special effects that make him seem all-powerful.

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One of my best friends likes to say this about satan: “Flick that imp off your shoulder.” I just love that visual. How is it possible to do that? Focus on the Triune God and his incredibly true and real love.

Don’t give the devil his ‘due.’ He isn’t ‘due’ anything. You owe him NOTHING. Not even fear!  Don’t set off on a journey to find him out. You already know he is just a little guy pulling levers and creating special effects.

You are a child of the Most High King – walk in that favor.

(Here, in summary, is a video by another of the conference speakers, Steve McVey. Please, please watch it if you can. Spiritual warfare is a very real thing. There are angels, there are demons. I’ve really seen some sh*t, frankly. But we manifest what we focus on. Listen to his story about Palmetto bug illustration. Mind blown)

Wanted: Black Sheep

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By: Jana Greene

Part 6 of The Seismic Seven Series

“When somebody’s religious identity is being challenged, things are bound to turn nasty quickly.” —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

Good readers,

Today Abba has downloaded a blog post into my heart that makes many Christians squirmy and causes a lot of division. I know because it made me super squirmy. It’s the gospel of inclusion, and it’s pretty radical stuff.

Jesus came so that we could all be included in the love of God, not so that we could take His Gospel and divvy it up by law and procedure and methods and doctrinal argument, until it is splintered and divided. He didn’t come to provide religious identity.

At the Open Table Conference, this message was more or less hammered into us – and I couldn’t be more grateful. I could go on for days about this (and I may….) because it resonates on a base-level. It speaks to a contingent who may not even possess faith yet, and we sure do love to preach to the already-faithed.

Once upon a time, there was a Pure and Spotless White Lamb who came to a new pasture –  one much sparser and less lush than the one he called ‘home.’ He came so that he could  show all of the scattered and flaw-full black sheep the way to greener pastures and lead them to the care of a loving Shepherd.

While he was among the black sheep, he did not cloister himself up on the highest hill and look down upon them grazing on the crappy, cut-rate grasses they had chosen.

He didn’t call attention to himself and brag about his spotlessness.

He didn’t shame the less-than-perfect sheep for being spotty and lame.

He didn’t cavort around with the black sheep so that he could do the naughty things that they were doing.

He was goodness and light and mercy, something the flock had never experienced before, and they drew close to him because of those attributes – not necessarily because he appeared without blemish. Blemishes can hide far under the wool.

He included ALL of the fold, selecting NONE of them for banishment. Division was not this Sheep’s end-game. Inclusion was.

He supped with The Blackest Sheep in the Family, and hung out among the fallen, and challenged them to believe that there was a Shepherd of Love who could make them perfect. He’d left a perfect pasture to bring more sheep to the shepherd. Through this loving and acceptance of the Pure White Lamb, the wool of the others became spotless, too.

So that when the Shepherd called his flock home, he couldn’t tell one from another. All were pure and spotless in his sight.

Let me say that again: So that when the Shepherd called his flock home, he couldn’t tell one from another. All were pure and spotless in his sight.

Graze on that for a minute. When you follow the Lamb of God, you are spotless too.

I’m not saying that accepting Christ as Savior isn’t key. It’s everything. But God loved you long before you ever made that choice. His love for you is not even contingent on that choice. If it were, it would be YOU responsible for the love.

I’m not saying repentance isn’t necessary. I’m just saying God’s love for you isn’t contingent upon it. Some chose not to follow the Spotless One, but it did not diminish the Shepherd’s love for them OR his deep longing for them to experience His presence. Not one whit.

If you had to turn from all sin in order for God to love you, it would be all about you and your piousness, and I think we can all agree piousness is a bunch of crap. Otherwise the Pure and Spotless White Lamb would have hung around black sheep in white sheep’s clothing (a.k.a Pharisees / Sadducees) to save face, which is not at ALL what he did.

You cannot be responsible for the Grace God showed you before the hour you first believed. He has already included you in the love.

If the sheep don’t know there is One who will care for them right where they are, they will have no desire to leave the cut-rate pasture.

And if you are The Black Sheep of your family, take heart! The God of the cosmos loves you and longs for you to experience His presence. He has goodness, light and mercy abundant for you, right where you are.

You are included.

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him” – Romans 5:8

 

 

 

A God Most Intimate

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Part 5 of The Seismic Seven Series

By: Jana Greene

“I don’t believe in God. I know God! Once you know someone, believing is no longer a concern.” — Wm. Paul Young (Eve: A Novel)

I once wrote a blog post about the disservice atheists do to children in persuading them that there is no God. Sure enough, I received a comment from a fellow blogger and devout atheist (if you can be such a thing) chastising me for perpetuating a myth.

To read the article, click here:   Little Humans, Big Faith

“I’ve lost nothing if I’ve base my life on love. Not a single thing,” I asserted in the piece. To which he countered: “So you would consider basing your life around a lie a good use of your time?”

“Kids are the most questioning people on the planet and God wants us to come to him as little children. I think He definitely gets it. I think He knows that we are curious and that’s okay,” I wrote.

“Sounds extremely spooky but not a very reliable method of forming beliefs,” said he.

Oh, dude. You have no idea how supernatural it really is. My faith is the most reliable thing in my life, far more so than my emotions or book-sense.

Believing in God is risky business. But even that is not enough for me. I crave the intimacy of KNOWING God.

One of the most powerful talking points at The Open Table Conference was about intimacy with the Father. I just eat that up. I’m not content to walk beside Jesus anymore – I want the union whereby He is in my spirit and I am in His. The kind of relationship you simply cannot figure out with the brain, and really don’t need to.

“Some things in life you just aren’t going to be able to think your way through—so you might as well save yourself the stress by simply trusting your way through them.” – Steve McVey (The Grace Walk Devotional)

There’s that “trusting” thing again. Pesky trusting, there is no shortcut to it.

“The Christian God is interested in relationship with us, and not just relationship, but union, and not just union, but such a union that everything He is and has—all glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life—is to be shared with us and to become as much ours as it is His. The plan from the beginning, in the Christian vision, is that God would give Himself to us, and nothing less, so that we could be filled to overflowing with the divine life.” — C. Baxter Kruger (Jesus and the Undoing of Adam)

The conversation between my atheist friend and I continued in a few more comment exchanges. He asked me if I thought we had disembodied minds, and I prayed a bit before I answered:

Can I prove that to you? No, I know it in my heart of hearts. Do I need to prove it to you? No. Because you cannot prove something that is true in the Spirit to a mind that is closed off to the possibility of there even BEING a spirit. It’s like proving to you that I am having thoughts about chocolate by showing you my big toe. Yes, my mind and body are related and intertwined, but not exactly the same thing. Different parts of me.

I’ve seen supernatural things, and have not found them lacking in evidence or reality at all! Spooky? Sometimes. Glorious and ethereal? Oh, yes. (I’m a natural-born skeptic, too, believe it or not.)

Can you prove that love exists? Can you bottle it, break down its chemical make-up (yes, I know you can manufacture serotonin, etc. That’s not what I’m talking about.) No. But you can see the manifestations of it all over the place. Ditto evil. Manifested everywhere.
It’s enough to make your brain hurt. If you try to process it only with your brain.  The spirit of a person is not their disembodied mind at all.

“Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.” – C.S. Lewis.

The crazy thing about faith is that it will respect your wishes. If you wish to hold God at bay by choosing not to take the risk of knowing, you will never know. If you wish to know the Father in the most intimate parts of your spirit, He will meet you there.

Don’t take my word for it that God wants the closest relationship with you possible. Don’t even take these learned Theologians’ words for it. During the entire workshop, we participants were encouraged not only to think for ourselves, but “Ask Jesus if it’s true.”

Ask Him yourself. Approach the throne – He welcomes your curiosity. He honors your seeking of the truth. If you don’t seek, you will not find out it’s true.

“The challenge to have more faith about a specific outcome is often nothing more than a religious promotion for positive thinking.” — Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

It’s easy to call it a myth or a fairy tale, or an exercise in positive thinking. Its easy if you’ve never tasted the truth. But OH! When you know the glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life – there’s no going back.

And yes, I consider basing my life around The Truth a very good use of my time.

Sweeping up Eggshells – Life in the New Covenant

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By: Jana Greene

“When people form their opinion about God from what they hear from contemporary legalistic religion, it’s no wonder they conclude that God is a cranky, old, bookkeeping, judgmental, demanding deity who is more interested in people’s behavior than anything else. It would be easy to see how a god like that would be angry much of the time. Sadly, people who hold that view of God impose it on the Bible and interpret the Bible to present a God like that. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not saying that our God is a milquetoast, a mild-mannered god who can be managed. He’s no kitten, that for sure.”  —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

Part 4 of The Seismic Seven Series

When I was a little girl, my father would often go into rages. I learned early how to walk on eggshells, as you never knew what mood he would be in when he walked through the door. We all braced for the worst, but sometimes he would arrive with gifts or candy. Just when you came to expect gifts and candy, the raging and violent alter-ego would walk through the door. When that happened, I learned to flee. But when I didn’t have time to flee, I’d hide behind my mom’s legs as my parents fought. Ugly, hostile, screaming fights were the norm when I was growing up.

I hid behind my mom’s legs because if she were the barrier, perhaps he would not ‘see’ me and I could avoid getting the brunt of his fury. Sometimes this worked, other times, my mother and I both got the wrath.

At The Open Table Conference, Steve McVey likened this very thing to how we perceive God. We want to go to Heaven, but we imagine meeting God and hiding behind the legs of Jesus, so maybe God won’t ‘see’ us and smite us on the spot. Because – judging by many Old Testament Bible stories – God might send a plague upon me.

The God of the Old Testament would surely smite me! I’d better stand over here behind Jesus just to be safe.

One theological thorn I’ve learned to work around is this: If God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow….how do I justify that seemingly angry God with the God of love I know and adore? Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know that I don’t have to ‘work around’ my questions. It’s okay to ask them.

“It’s important to remember that the verses in the Old Testament were addressed to the people of that covenant, and not to you.” — Steve McVey (UNLOCK YOUR BIBLE: The Key to Understanding and Applying the Scriptures in Your Life)

It’s all about New Covenant – the solution of new promise through the Messiah that the New Testament details. It’s all about Jesus. It’s the difference between legalism and relationship; between stone tablets of commandments and a flesh-and-blood living God.

“God’s covenant with Israel, known as ‘the Old Testament’ or ‘Old Covenant,’ called upon the people to do their part. God repeatedly told them that if they would fulfill their end of the covenant, they would be blessed, and if they didn’t, they would experience all kind of curses.”—  Steve McVey  (UNLOCK YOUR BIBLE: The Key to Understanding and Applying the Scriptures in Your Life)

I won’t have to hide behind Jesus’s legs when I get to the Kingdom, because God – quite literally – sees me through Christ. Through his redemption of me. No need to walk on eggshells. No need to flee. Everything God ever did – Old Testament or New – was a gesture to invite people to Him. Even the things we percieve as horrible because we don’t see the big picture. We are reconciled to God through Christ, who made sure of it.

But although God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, the New Covenant with His people was a game-changer.

“The heart of our Creator is to bless you. Dead religion presents a freakish caricature, a pseudo-god who is reluctant to bless his creatures unless they toe the line of impeccable moral behavior and tireless service to him. But the authentic God of the Bible blessed Adam and Eve immediately [Genesis 1:27-28] – before they worshipped, before they served, before they prayed, before they displayed any kind of action at all. The first divine act toward humanity tells us so very much about Him.” —  Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

I don’t need that old work-around any more.

God is not a cranky, old, bookkeeping, judgmental, demanding deity who is more interested in people’s behavior than anything else.

His love is too passionate for you to be mild-mannered. He cannot be managed, no kitten, to be sure. But you are His favorite interest. Jesus wants to make sure you know that.

I’ll close with this musing by Paul Young (author of The Shack):

“Religion is about having the right answers, and some of their answers are right… but i am about the process that takes you to the living answer… it will change you from the inside. there are a lot of smart people who are able to say a lot of right things from their brain because they have been told what the right answers are, but they don’t know me at all. “

It’s God’s desire that we know Him. Not because we tow the line, but because His love for  us is so great.

He does love you so.