Be a Lover

Something recently triggered a shift in the way I view God; I’ve always known the common imagery–“Father”, “Bridegroom”, “Comforter”, et cetera–titles that put God on an intimate level in all his persons, but it was all head-knowledge. But I read something in an article from Steve McVey and I can’t remember the exact wording but it was to this affect: the Bible isn’t a guidebook; it is a deeply intimate love letter–to me (and you).

I grew up under that notion–that the Bible was an instruction manual for getting through life. The problem with that view is that it just isn’t a very good instruction manual for my life (e.g.: ‘Judas hung himself’–‘go and do likewise’ is a common ‘Bible joke’). And when you begin to view God as a Lover to the core, the Bible looks less and less like a study guide, and more and more like a lovestory.

And I think, Church, that this is where you go off, because you’re having an identity crisis because you don’t understand God’s identity as a lover. Love–not rule and correction–ought to be your first response. And don’t give me that old excuse that discipline is love; it may be true, but you don’t know how to discipline. When I feel the most filled with the love of Jesus all I want to do is go out and spread that experience, not tell people how wrong they are. Truth can condemn, or Truth can set captives free.

And I think, Church, that this is why you leave, because you’re having an identity crisis with your split-personality-church-bodies that can’t catch your visions because they don’t have your fresh perspective (and may think your fresh perspective is sin); it’s frustrating I know, but you were called to follow Christ, not Christians. You can’t disown being the Church – it’s still who you are.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I’ve come to the question: who is God if not an intimate lover? If that isn’t your view of him, what is there left for him to be that remotely meets your intimate needs (let alone the rest of the broken world)? I never realized how bleak my world was (even with ‘God’) without a Lover King, till now.

And there’s another thing, you know; I never connected Father, Spirit and Jesus like this before. I’ve always in my mind put a chasm between them to say ‘Well this is Father’s characteristic,’ or ‘This is Jesus’ characteristic,’ or ‘This is what the Spirit does,’ but to realize that each of them have their intimate titles–Abba, Daddy; Bridegroom, Lover; Comforter, Inhabitor–God in all through all a lover, a Father, a Bridegroom, a Comforter–a hugger, a carresser. When you hear, “This is my son (or daughter) with whom I am well pleased,” the Father loves you. When you hear “Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away with me,” the Bridegroom, Jesus, the Romancer loves you. When you hear, “Peace, be still,” and feel the warmth of his heart, Holy Spirit loves you.

So, how do you experience God? There is no wrong answer to that, because your experience is still real whether it is a completely acurate experience or not. So, how do you experience him? Who is he to you? Does the God that you see meet the needs that you have according to his glorious riches? Is his character true across all his persons? Does he love you with an everlasting love? Read the Song of Solomon and tell me God doesn’t have an intimate sense of love and romance. Because I’ll tell you something (and this is another gem Leif Hetland teaches about), there has been a reformation to bring the loveletter back to the people; there has been a reformation to bring Holy Spirit experience back to the people, and those were good reformations. But there is another reformation coming–I believe it is already here–to bring the Father’s heart back to the children, and Grace and Truth back to the bride.

Jesus, I long to know true love, deeper than the love found on earth. Take me into the King’s chamber; cause my love to mature.

Let me know the kisses of your mouth; let me feel your warm embrace. Let me smell the fragrance of your touch; let me see your lovely face. Take me away with you – even so Lord come. I love you Lord; I love you more than life.

My heart, my flesh yearn for You, Lord; to love You is all I can do. You have become my sole passion; cause my love to be true

True Love, David Ruis

What would it look like to experience Jesus’ love–the love of God–so radically? What does it look like? Can you imagine? Or does it seem too sacrilegious or irreverent to you? Even I feel a little out on the deep end–but O how deep the Father’s love for us, that we would be called Sons.

So here’s my challenge: view God as a lover, Father son and Spirit. View the Bible as a love letter to you. Find out what that love letter has to say to you. (How would that change your perspective on things?) And then? Love like no other, because there is no other love like Father’s in you.

Living Church [Ephesians Part II]

It might make you happy to know this might stretch out a while longer – the more I give opportunity for Jesus to teach me, the more I see and learn where before I only saw one thing – he opens my eyes to the murals all around me.

So this one’s about Church.

I don’t mean like that place you go once a week (but maybe you’ve been reading here long enough to know that already) but the living organism that is every person across the globe that lives in Christ Jesus the King. And maybe this will help me answer the yet-unanswered question of, “how do you live Church?”

The first three chapters of Ephesians follow salvation (particularly for the Gentiles whom this letter is addressed); dwelling in Christ and growing steadily toward a Christ-indwelling in each of us. Paul has taught us how to grow in Christ – but what about the Church? What does it look like to grow in Christ–with other people? Let’s pick up in Ephesians 4:

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you[a] all.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:

“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”[b

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ  – Ephesians 4:1-12

I noticed something interesting when I read this part in the King James – the punctuation. The verses following verse eleven are written as a list. I’ll show you what I’m talking about:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. – Ephesians 4:11-16

Okay, I know; so it’s a list. Big deal, right? Probably. But maybe not, because any other time I read this I got this vague picture of the giftings (apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers) being there in the body, but the real business is being done by Jesus. Well yes…but no! It’s written in a sort of cause-and-effect list-format, which means you can take each point back to the initial statement which is, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”

Gave them for what?

First Point – 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Second Point – 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Third Point – 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Fourth Point – 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

I’m all good up until verse 16, and then it messes with me a little. See, I always thought verse 16 was still talking about Jesus, but if this is really meant to be a direct list of affects the Giftings have on the body, then verse 16 is a whole new point and the whom is still the Giftings – us. Suddenly it’s not a vague picture of all the wonderful things Jesus does for us, but instead a flooding mural of all the wonderful things Jesus wants to do for us through others. And through us for others.

And I know what you might be thinking – it’s the same thing that runs through the back of my mind every now and then: newer, more ‘relevant’ and easier to understand translations don’t read the same way; it’s just an archaic form that wasn’t really meant to be that way.

Well damn you, Devil. Because you know what? It doesn’t matter if it reads differently in other translations; there are so many different ways to look at translations alone let alone translations of the Bible. What does matter is that where before there was a vague picture, now there’s a purpose.

A purpose for the church.

It’s a statement; Jesus is giving these gifts to you, and here’s how you can use them as a community, as a people. Suddenly it’s so much more than just about how corporate church government works to further the work of Jesus in the body; it’s about Jesus giving a gift to every person to use to reach out to every other person to bring the Body into perfect oneness, grown up into Christ. I don’t have words yet for how amazing this picture is, I’m just reveling in it and trying to throw out adjectives that match what I’m seeing; it’s a glorious Church.

So how do you live Church? Well, to be honest, I still can’t answer that. But I have a better picture of how Jesus would have it – living, breathing, growing in Him by the tugging of his Spirit on each heart for each other member. The most fitting thing I can point you to is what Paul pointed the Ephesians to next: actively allowing the New Man to be alive in you.

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of[d] the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:17-24

Paul’s giving them some practical advice; ‘Don’t live like everybody else anymore,’ he says, ‘You know better now!’ 

I think the problem the corporate church today is having is ‘Well, how do we keep people on the straight and narrow?’ and maybe it’s a noble gesture but here’s something to think about: Paul taught the gifts, and then reminded the Ephesians to choose daily to act differently, to disregard that old sinful nature and put on the New Man and act in His character. The thing is, when you get your mind renewed, you remember Jesus’ desires in you; you remember His nature in you, and you are the new man. The place of us as the Church is to support this process in everyone around us, and corporate church gets this. But what they might miss is that Jesus orchestrates and performs it individually, and more importantly, that Jesus can be trusted to orchestrate and perform it in the hearts if everyone who lets him.

And then we take this New-Man-Nature to the Body:

25 Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,”[e] for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”:[f] do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:25-32

So the Church body is gifted to build us up and on an individual basis the more we choose to be rooted in Jesus and live in His nature, the more His gift comes alive in us and in turn we build the Body. It is a beautiful and intricate dance from individual to community to individual to community and each continues giving in to the wellness of the whole living Body. The place where it all might come down so easily is when we stop trusting the Spirit and His gifts in each other.

Jesus, lead us into all truth – together. Thank-you for the gifts you’ve given to each of us that you would flow in us and through us. Renew us, continue to grace us with kindness and tenderheartedness for each other that we would have hearts for each other and to bring the church together into perfection, a Glorious Bride. Teach us to know and trust your Spirit in the people around us who also seek to know you more.

So are you still with me? Let’s build a Church!

Feeding On Christ

I just finished watching Joseph Prince’s web-cast for today and was it ever good! Actually it was exactly what I needed to hear and it was so refreshing to hear it. He spoke on the power and authority of the word of God; it was a glorious counteraction to the ideas creeping into the Body that would demote the Word of God to mere human words, subject to chop and change over time. But Pastor Prince also spoke about the refreshing, re-energizing power of the Word, the power in the Word that separates mere human soul from Spirit in-dwelling, and I think now about how worn, discouraged, sick and burned out I’ve been. How energy-devoid I’ve been. I’ve been barely scraping along. And I haven’t been feasting on the Word. Because Jesus was right when He said, (also quoting the Word I might add,) “Man does not live by bread alone.”

Sometimes I think the denomination I came from (and probably many others also) have been so concerned about eating the best bread and the most healthy diets that they’ve missed out on the Bread of Life in the Word. I’ve been starving myself on food.

This is a perfect opportunity to share a little graphic I saw in church a couple weeks back.

The Threefold Nature of Man

This illustration comes from a man named Clarence Larkin, and as an aside you might be interested to do some research on him. He compared what he referred to as the threefold nature of man to the tabernacle – I haven’t read much about it yet, but it sounds pretty cool, and I might just have a post for it later on.

Anyway, onwards! What do we have here? Well, we have a wealth of thoughts bouncing around my head all related to this illustration and all waiting to come out for you, but I’ll go slow and leave the less-relevant subjects for their own posts.

So we are three parts: body, soul, and spirit. Our spirit is where the Spirit of God presides. Larkin compares the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle to our spirit where God now presides. Our soul is our mind. This is the part that’s still got the sin problem, because Christ replaces our sinful spirit with His spirit of perfect righteousness, but our soul is a work in progress. This is our mind that we need to renew through the Word of God and in continual prayer. And the more we feed on Christ, the more He flows out to our soul. The body is of course that hunk of meat you’re packin’ around.

We have the life of Christ on the inside of us, in our spirit. But our physical bodies will never see that life unless we feed on Him. Our souls will never see that life unless we feed on him. The Holy Spirit’s regenerating work in us is an inside-out process; we receive His life, we feed our soul on His life, and our soul speaks life to our body.

So what do I mean by starving myself with food?

I’ve been neglecting to feed my soul on the Spirit of God.

This is how the New Covenant works. We believe, and God gives us His spirit. If I do something wrong, this changes little, because the Spirit of God is still in me – He will not repeal this gift, because Jesus paid for it; I believe in Jesus and what He did for me, and I believe in the Spirit of God at work in me. Now my response is not self-condemnation, instead my response is to feed even more on the Spirit of God. The nourishment that God offers me in this way revitalizes and strengthens my soul to do what He asks of me, and my soul commands my body to act.

And how do we receive this nourishment? In communion with God. In the Word. In prayer–in praying in the spirit. Yes, I pray in the spirit. I’ll get into that in another article.

But what if we allow our food to come from other sources? What if we feed on teachings contrary to the Bible, our own ideas, the latest romance novel, un- and anti-godly movies and music, pornography (and pornography is ingraining itself in all of these to become culturally approved)… these are the foods that speak to our soul and overpower the Still Voice in our spirit, when we give reign to them. This is when we step away from God’s understanding and rely again on our own understanding as we did when we were still lost.

And what if we are already immersed in such worldly voices? This has been my confession time and time again. Not a confession of “I have sinned, please redeem me,” no, for Jesus needed only to die once, but a confession of “Jesus, I have been listening to other voices; please speak into my life again, I give you the right to be my nourishment again.”

This is my prayer now, because I haven’t fed enough from Jesus. I haven’t drunk enough from Life-giving streams.

How about you? Is this your prayer as well? I’ll stand in agreement with you over this. “Jesus, I’ve been listening to other voices than Yours. I want to only listen to you from now on. Please speak into my life again, and teach me to live on Your words alone. I declare that You are my sole–and soul–provider.”

Amen. Amen.

And Jesus, thank-you!