Indicatives and Imperatives

What is Your Identity?

Several weeks ago, David Lomas, author of The Truest Thing About You,* spoke to our church about our identity in Christ. He reminded us that God does not command us to do anything without first equipping us through the Holy Spirit. At the end of his sermon, he challenged us to read through the epistles of the apostle Paul and identify the imperatives (the commands) Paul issued. He asked us to examine each imperative and look for the indicative preceding them. Lomas defined these indicatives as, “something that has already been indicated or declared over you. A truth.”

Before ever any demand is made, the gift is offered: the announcement of good news precedes the challenge… The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives. Sinclair Ferguson

As I began to read through the epistles marking key verses with colored pencils, I immediately saw what Lomas meant; Paul clearly defines or reminds his readers of our identity in Christ.

Paul uplifts and encourages, models and redirects, teaches and exhorts, always by reminding us Whose we are, the gifts of everlasting love and grace we have in the Father, and the roles of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul doesn’t expect us to do anything on our own, but with the Spirit’s strength and guidance, in whom we must abide and who eternally abides in us.

If we allow ourselves to be buoyed by the Holy Spirit as we are called by God to be all of who we are, might we experience little more love, a little more joy, a little more peace? Could we possibly extend a little more patience, a little more generosity, a little more kindness? Would we be endowed with a little more faithfulness, a little more gentleness, a little more self-control?

Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God. Henri Nouwen

As beloved daughters and sons of the Most High God, we might even find more strength and energy.

Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

In the following weeks, I’ll be sharing what I’ve discovered in the epistles of Paul. I’ll post about them in an order with which you may not be familiar. Instead of biblical order, I’ll write about them in chronological order. I’ve dated them according to what most theologians agree as the correct order (and five different Bible versions have noted as the dated order). Biblical order is longest to shortest to the churches followed by longest to shortest to individuals.

My prayer for this series is that you will find or be reminded of your identity in Christ as a beloved and wholly adopted heir of God.

*©2014 David Lomas, The Truest Thing About You, David C Cook, Colorado Springs, CO

The Father’s Will

JustJesus

You lived to do our Father’s will

In all you did. You put Him first

and in our hearts God’s love instill.

 

Your living water quenched our thirst

and in us yet it does abide.

In all you did you put Him first.

 

The Holy Spirit does confide

Your truth which ever sets us free

and in us yet it does abide.

 

We’re new creations: Your decree.

Quaternion gospels hail your name,

Your truth which ever sets us free.

 

An old worldview you did reframe.

Jesus, the well-pleased Father’s Son,

quaternion gospels hail your name.

 

You overcame, declared it done,

Jesus, the well-pleased Father’s Son,

You lived to do our Father’s will

and in our hearts God’s love instill.

Lost in Resting

early evening, lost in nesting, i pause to rest taking in my small abode

the whirrrr of a fan

scent of newly purchased honeysuckle bushes

photos packed away in storage finally hung upon the walls

long, refreshing gulp of Pyramid Apricot Ale.

 

the Holy Spirit has taken up residence sprinkled peace and calm

throughout every room as though it was holy water

a gentle, afternoon breeze dances through the apartment

purifying cleansing enriching transporting solitude

voices of neighbors Filipino music rustling of falling leaves

 

nestled in my overstuffed chair beer in hand feet on ottoman

i watch as branches bow in the fluttering wind in homage

to a promise filled to a new inhabitant of #6205

one they know instinctively who appreciates their creation

their Creator their beauty and wisdom their unrevealed secrets.

 

i in turn raise a glass to them thank the One who created us both

we connect the three of us nature God and i in a circle of kinship

of celebration of thanksgiving of knowing our place in God’s universe

from lost in nesting i become lost in resting in the peace and grace

and love of God’s promise and hope

Heaven on Earth Forever

Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6

©Susan Irene Fox

©Susan Irene Fox

As a believer, I understand and embrace the peace of this last verse. Though scholars are divided as to when this psalm was written, I surmise it must have been written with David’s lifetime of experience as both shepherd and king behind it. I see his successes and failures wrapped up in this psalm, and know he loved God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all mind and with all his strength.

David had established a relationship with God such that he knew the character of God. David believed in God’s goodness and mercy, and had faith he would spend eternity with God. And God was faithful to His chosen king.

(boldface for emphasis)

“I tell you that the Lord will build a house for you. When your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up one of your descendants after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father and he shall be My son; and I will not take My lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.” 1 Chronicles 17:10-14

We are also God’s heirs. None of us need be afraid of not spending eternity with Him. He saved us to set us free: from worry, from sin, from shame, from burden, from rules, from being excluded, from being orphans. We are sons and daughters of the Most High King, the Prince of Peace.

If you’re still worshiping dogma and tradition and some notion of God someone else has defined for you;

-if you don’t get it was Jesus who included the excluded and lifted up the outcasts;

-if you don’t see Jesus’ closest community was made up of invited outsiders who were unacceptable to first century religious conservatives;

-if the Jesus you’re following is not the Jesus who died on a cross to set you free;

open your heart to the true Jesus who loves you for who you are, not in spite of who you are. Open your heart to the true Jesus whose arms are open to the magnificent you who was created in His image. Open your heart to the true Jesus who offers mercy, grace and love deeper than the ocean, wider than the earth and higher than the universe.

Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.” John 17:24-26

The goodness, love, grace and mercy Jesus offered during his lifetime he still offers today. Too often, however, his message is overshadowed by those who are determined to blame, shame or interpret his words in ways he never intended. (See Stumbling Over Dogma)

Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. John 19:28-30  

Jesus came from a place of fellowship with the Father and the Spirit before the world’s creation, and returned there having provided the way for us, having conquered death to spend the rest of His days in relationship with the Spirit and the Father.

His invitation to dwell with Them includes those of us poor in spirit, who mourn, who are gentle, who hunger and thirst for Him, who are merciful, who offer love from a pure heart, who are peacemakers, and who may be persecuted for standing up for the true gospel of unconditional love and unlimited grace.

 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more. And I saw the holy city—the new Jerusalem—descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.” Revelation 21:1-4

Stumbling Over Dogma

In the first century, Jesus quite clearly told us hypocrisy is the enemy. Pride is the enemy. Our own messed up, log-blocked, vision is the enemy. Exclusion is the enemy. Not caring for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the foreigner is the enemy.

Two thousand years later, for some odd reason, we’ve decided giving black people the right to vote is the enemy (1965); removal of prayer in school is the enemy (1963); teaching evolution is the enemy; the liberal agenda is the enemy; women preaching is the enemy; legalized abortion is the enemy (1973); and horror of horrors, gay marriage is the enemy.

Groenig_Scream

Why isn’t air and water pollution ever the enemy? Why isn’t skyrocketing medical costs and under- and uninsured ever the enemy? Why isn’t a crippled educational system ever the enemy? Why isn’t homelessness ever the enemy? Why isn’t a deluge of foreign children who need not to be shipped back to their country – to extreme poverty – ever the enemy? Why isn’t our own, broken foster system filled with children who desperately need to be adopted ever the enemy?

For some reason war is never the enemy. Cyclical poverty is never the enemy. A system that jails black men at shockingly disproportionate rates than whites is never the enemy. Corporate wealth and greed is never the enemy. Run-away defense spending is never the enemy…Benjamin L. Corey, Undiluted*

By his words and action, Jesus showed love, compassion and inclusion for all those on the margins of society. These were the people for whom he cared, with whom he bonded, and invited to share his meals. In an honor and shame culture, Jesus lifted those who were shamed to a place of honor at his table.

The gospel message isn’t about accusation or keeping people away from God. It isn’t about continuing to shame those who are shamed in our own cultures. The gospel message means Good News. The Good News is an invitation. It’s an invitation to uplift people to a place at Jesus’ table.

Because we have worshiped dogma and politics and denomination instead of God, we’ve kept people out of the kingdom. We’ve done the opposite of what Jesus asked us to do.

When Jesus came near, he spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.” Matthew 28:18-20

And what are the things Jesus commands us to do? (italic text added for emphasis)

Matthew 5:43-44 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 22:36-39 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Luke 6:27, 23 But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; If you love those who love you, do you deserve any thanks for that? Even sinners love those who love them.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14:24 The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.

If we forget these core commands, we leave the heart of Jesus out of our Christian walk. We become a stumbling block to those whose splinters we persist on pointing out. We separate ourselves from the open-handed grace and love God offers us because we’re too busy shaking our fists in anger at someone else.

*Benjamin L. Corey ©2014 Undiluted, Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, p. 68, Destiny Image Publishers, Inc. Shippensburg, PA

Will You Know Me?

I am Yours

freedigitalphotos.net  ©graur razvan ionut

freedigitalphotos.net ©graur razvan ionut

Will you know me when I reach you?

Did I feed and comfort those who

you’ve anointed ‘the least of these’

with my harvest? Will you be pleased?

Did I embrace your point of view?

 

I fear I turned my back, withdrew.

I do not want to misconstrue

or treat this banquet as my feast.

Will you know me?

 

I crave to take your yoke, pursue

the narrow path, seek and find you.

Hear my humble prayer to decrease.

Invite me on your gentle breeze.

My mind, heart, soul are your purview.

Will you know me?

Heavenly Host

Our Cup Overflows

You prepare a feast for me

In the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

My cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

The psalmist turns here from the image of the Lord as Shepherd to the Lord as Host.

One of the biblical margin notes refers to the story in Luke 7:36-50.

Jesus is invited to dinner by a Pharisee named Simon. As they were reclining at the table, a woman arrives, unnamed but labeled a sinner, and breaks all protocol by entering the home uninvited. She is moved to boldness by the Lord’s presence. She lets down her hair, opens an expensive, alabaster flask of scented oil, and washes the feet of Jesus with her tears, anointing him with the perfumed oil.

The Pharisee, of course, was affronted by such uncustomary behavior from a woman. Jesus took him to task, reminding Simon that his behavior also had broken rules of proper custom for a host.

Simon, Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Luke 7:44-46

Jesus forgave the woman’s sins, gave her the gift of grace and love, and sent her on her way with his peace in her heart. Isn’t this exactly what he’s done for us?

jesus-washing-feet

A few nights later, at the Passover table the night before his death he was in the presence of the enemy who controlled his friend Judas. He performed the rites of host by washing the feet of his disciples. Indeed, he became the Ultimate Host.

He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Jesus’ cup overflowed that night with the love of communion, with the love of his friends, with the love of his Father. It ran over with the love he had for all of mankind and the gift of sacrifice and grace he was about to give.

As recipients, we each are anointed with gifts, with grace, with mercy, and with His everlasting love. While we benefit from this anointing, it is for His glory this anointing occurs. We love because He first loved us. We are now hosts because He first was Host.

Interestingly, the words “host” and “hospitality” come from the same root word, hostia, meaning “sacrifice.” Consider the following:

Romans 12:13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

1 Peter 4:9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing.

©Susan Irene Fox

©Susan Irene Fox

Sitting outside this morning at sunrise, I meditated on my own overflowing cup.

After five, long years, I finally have an apartment of my own again. The men’s group at my church came together and in one-and-a-half hours moved my boxes and furniture from my upstairs room at one end of town to my upstairs apartment at the other end of town.

Neighbors have already introduced themselves, rooms are coming together, and I am exhausted but content in my own space.

The Lord promised me a “desired haven,” and He fulfilled His promise. I am grateful beyond measure. As host, I now seek ways to extend His love and show hospitality to my new neighbors.