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Observations about life, family, church...anything else that is on my mind from the perspective that God rules, no matter what

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Location: Indianapolis, IN, United States

I am a 65 year young woman who has changed much in the last few years. I'm single again. I changed jobs twice (learned new skills), had a serious stroke in 2008, "retired" and after getting better started taking up new interests, and am continuing to get more fit. Some things have matured. I've enjoyed watching my three guys grow into men I respect and am proud of. One waited 11 years to have his first birth child. Today I'm a grandma of six (four boys and 2 girls between two families)! I have learned to love Jesus even more, and I have regained my sense of adventure. Someone said, "The best is yet to be."--I believe it, if I keep an open mind and heart and keep growing and walking with God.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Relationships: By the Book - Part 2 (NT1)

In part one (OT) of Relationships: By the Book we took a very quick survey of God’s rocky relationship with His creatures. Actually, God didn’t have the hot/cold, on-again, off-again relationship—sin warped us and we went from being God-centered and considering others to being self-centered! From then on, for the most part, our mentality toward God became, “I’ll follow You as long as You do what I want,” or “I’ll obey and serve You as long as I can see the payoff.” Meanwhile, our mentality toward others became, as Cain said when God asked the whereabouts of his brother Abel, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Giving in to sin, we exchanged unconditional love—enjoying God and His creatures without any strings attached—for dysfunctional, manipulative, conditional love. In that exchange we also lost truth, trust which has its basis in truth, and openness. As the curtain closes on the Old Testament, God’s people had moved from rejection to giving Him “lip service”—outward obedience and inward rebellion. This resulted in pride, self-righteousness, and a legalistic “system” of religion, which took them even further away from real relationship with Him and each other, because it gave them the deceptive form of godliness while denying the power of right relationship with Him and His creatures.

This is where, after a 400 year silence from Malachi to Matthew, we see Jesus appear on the world’s stage. Creator and Father God could have given up on us; He could have destroyed us and started over. But instead, the Bible tells us (John 3:16) Father God still loved us unconditionally, so into this mess He sent Jesus, His very best—His very own Son who chose to come and leave the privileges of being God behind. While Jesus still was God by virtue of virgin birth, He became fully man, sinless man, but man who had to learn just as we do (Heb 2:10 & 5:8). He was born into that nation God started in Genesis with Abraham. He was the One God had intended from the very beginning Who would “make things right.”

Because He was the reconciler, the One to bring real, lasting peace (as opposed to peace at any price) between God and man and man and man (Mt 22:37-39), and because His life, death and resurrection ushered in the concept of the Body of Christ (Eph 1:3-11, 3:1-11, I Corin 12:12-14, Eph 4:11-16), Jesus was and is all about right relationships. He desires with all His being for us to relate in a healthy manner, first with the Trinity (Father God, Jesus Himself, and the Holy Spirit) and secondly, as a living outgrowth of that fellowship, with one another. Since that is His desire, it is very important to study His time on earth, for He is our example in these (as in all) matters (Jn 13:14-15).

To consider Jesus’ relationships with us humans, we must first look at His relationship with His Father God and the Holy Spirit, for again, it is only out of that vertical relationship that right relationships can happen between us on a horizontal, earthly level. Why? Because, as we saw in part one of Relationships: By the Book, sin immediately severed right relationship between God and us, and from there, sinfully distorted relationships from person to person.

What was Jesus’ relationship on earth like with Father God? Remember, if His pattern of relationships seems strange, it is because we have looked out of a distorted lens our whole lives. He alone knows what right relationships are. His ways are patterns for us. Thinking along those lines, He was always looking to His Father for direction as to what to say and do. Consider John 8:38: I speak what I have seen with My Father… NKJV, or as it says in The Message, I'm talking about things I have seen while keeping company with the Father - THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved and John 15:15 …all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. NKJV

What did Jesus do that caused Him to be in such close relationship with Father God? Matt 14:23 says, With the crowd dispersed, [Jesus] climbed the mountain so he could be by Himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night. - from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved

Matt 26:36-39 Then Jesus went …to a garden called Gethsemane and told His disciples, "Stay here while I go over there and pray." …He plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then He said, "This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with Me." Going a little ahead, He fell on His face, praying, "My Father, if there is any way, get Me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do You want?" - from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved

Jesus prayed. He got alone with God whenever He needed to, and spoke plainly what was on His heart. Being honest with His feelings, He nonetheless chose to follow God, regardless of the cost to Himself. As the verses above indicate, He also listened. He “kept company” with His Father (Jn 8:38 The Message-above); this was not a religious exercise—this was a real connection born from a real relationship. When He heard, He went out and obeyed, then came back to His Father for more prayer and “grace to help in time of need.”

What was Jesus’ relationship with the Holy Spirit? His earthly life started with the Holy Spirit planting Him in Mary’s womb. The Bible says in Matt 1:20 ...Mary's pregnancy [Jesus] is Spirit-conceived. God's Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. - from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved

When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, it says in Luke 3:22, the Holy Spirit, like a dove descending, came down on Him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: "You are My Son, chosen and marked by My love, pride of My life." - from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved

Right after this, it says in Luke 4:1-2: Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights He was tested… - from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved

This One who had a real connection with His Father, who prayed, who listened, who obeyed was empowered and enabled to obey by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was led by the Spirit into testing; He was led by the Spirit into and in His ministry—and He was led by the Spirit into and through the crucifixion. Jesus knew the other member of the Trinity intimately. In the book of Acts are many references to what part the Holy Spirit plays in our lives—Jesus knew Him intimately and relied on Him constantly. He did the same things for Jesus it says He will do for us.

The only way Jesus could have represented the heart of God powerfully enough both in word and deed to get past sinful man’s distortion of the God-breathed written Word was to seek the fellowship and direction of Father God and the Holy Spirit. Without that fellowship, since He left His God-privileges when He came to earth in bodily form, He would not have been able to live His life as the Father intended—as man’s “bridge” back to God. He wouldn’t have been able to preach Mt 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, because that took delving deep into areas of men’s hearts. That sermon had the same power to divide soul from spirit and get to the thoughts and intents of the heart that Heb. 4:12-13 says the God-breathed, God-inspired written Word has. Both the written word and Jesus’ message were authored by the Holy Spirit.

There is more to say about our Lord and Master in the way of relationships, and that will be left for part 3 of Relationships: By the Book (NT2).

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