August 31 Esight, 2011

“Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places.” — Luke 11.43This week, we are continuing our study of Jesus’ woes to the religious leadership of His day and the religious environment they had created. We are going to be looking at Verse 43 of Chapter 11 of Luke’s gospel. However, in order to fully understand the full impact of Jesus’ rebuke, we need to understand another statement by Jesus said elsewhere about the nature of the kingdom Jesus came to establish.

“And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22.24-27)

As followers of Jesus and this new kingdom, we are called not to a position of feeling superior to others, but rather of coming under, loving, serving and blessing all with whom we come in contact.

A sign of a healthy “kingdom” environment is first and foremost humility, or a sense of “all ye are brethren” (or sisters) spirit. No one is better than another. If anything, others are considered greater than oneself. There is a spirit of equality and humility and simply a desire to help and bless each other. The ground at the foot of the cross is level—perfectly level. Furthermore, no one has any right to be a “lord” over anyone else. Again, we are all called to come under each other and to serve and to love one another.

This may not be very apparent, but this is so central to the kingdom Jesus came to establish. No one is supposed to feel superior to anyone else. Sadly, this is the single greatest criticism against Christians in our culture today. The term or title given us is hypocritical, but I am becoming increasingly convinced that it’s more than simply holding high a standard that no one is actually practicing (the common cultural definition of hypocrisy.) What is meant by most by the term “hypocrisy” in our culture is that someone possesses a feeling of moral superiority to others, especially those outside the church, which is a fundamental violation of the basic principles of love and acceptance that Christ’s kingdom is to espouse. This lack of humility, this feeling of moral superiority—as if we are better than others, even those who are not Christians—indicates we truly are not walking in harmony with the basic principles of the very kingdom of which we claim to be a part.

In this passage specifically, Jesus is addressing a religious environment where things were very unhealthy, even toxic. Listen closely to what Jesus is actually saying here.

You love being a leader. You love everyone knowing you’re a leader. You love obtaining those privileged positions when you go to church. Or, you need everyone to know that you are a leader. Whatever you position of leadership is, you are not using that position to serve, but to feed something inside yourself. You love recognition and the prestige of your position. You feed off of the congregation rather than feeding, serving, and giving of yourself TO the congregation. You place inordinate stress on your position. You tend to demand rather than earn others’ respect. You also demand compliance with your own opinions, rather than giving freedom to people to grow or simply to disagree. It’s sick, sick, sick. Again, look closely:

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets.” (Luke 20.46)

“They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues.” (Matthew 23.6)

Jesus is saying here, “Don’t go sitting in the privileged seats of honor. Serve instead of being served.” Jesus turns dysfunctional religious environments on their heads. He is saying, “I don’t what anyone being put up on a pedestal in My kingdom. That’s NOT what My kingdom is about.” Respect is one thing, and respect is fine, but there are to be no celebrities in the kingdom of God. Leaders in the kingdom established by Jesus are to take measures to make sure that other people don’t put them up on a pedestal.

Why?

Because all of this presupposes and communicates to others a completely inaccurate picture of God and the kind of being He really is. God is god, not because He is the most powerful entity in the sense of might and “power over” strength. God is god because out of everyone in the universe, He serves all. He is the most powerful in His ability to come under all and serve all. His might is in His ability to love, bless and care for everyone. His strength is in His complete other-centeredness.

Secondly, God bestows value and worth to people NOT based on their labels, titles, positions, race, color, or gender. He loves all individuals equally, unconditionally, and esteems each one, as being of enough worth to risk heaven and even His own existence on. He died for all. Yes, some may be more talented than others, or more gifted, but all talents, gifts and abilities—whether used for good or bad—are talents given by God. (I wish we had time to discuss how this affects our view of the arts, as well as what I call the Hollywood syndrome in our culture today, but I believe first we must address this same attitude in our religious communities before we can change the world around us).

A central element of any environment that truly embraces the kingdom is humility, rather than superiority. Again, if anything, we must go even beyond equality and consider others as being better than ourselves. Notice how the Apostle Paul applied what Christ’s kingdom is all about in the following passage:

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2.1-4)

Again, note Paul’s complete lack of any feeling of superiority in his letter to Timothy:

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”f (1 Timothy 1.15 )

This is not hypocrisy. It’s honesty, and it’s humility.

Again, Jesus’s own words to those who felt morally superior to others in His day.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say, ‘Friend, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye.” (Luke 6.41-42)

Jesus is calling each of us to be a part of a kingdom where we ALL serve in different roles, but we are ALL serving and, as the ones God came and died for, we are ALL equal, regardless of gender, race, position, or belief.

Let me close this week with the words of the Apostle John.

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” (1 John 3.14)

If you have ever been offended by someone who claims to follow Jesus because of an air of superiority he or she possessed, let me apologize. This is not what Jesus is all about, and I’m deeply sorry.

May each of you not covet position, title, recognition or privilege, but rather, in light of God’s love for us all, begin ascribing to others the infinite worth that Calvary gives them. May we, as followers of Jesus, be known not as hypocrites, but as those whose chief desire is to help, bless, serve and simply love others.

Keep living in love, my friends, and loving like Christ. Thank you for reading this and for your support of Renewed Heart Ministries.

I love you guys—keep building the Kingdom.

Herb

August 22 Esight, 2011

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” Luke 11.42This week, as we continue through Luke 11, we are going to be looking at Jesus’ first “Woe” to the leadership of Israel in His day. I believe that for us, as followers of Jesus today, this passage serves as a warning of what type of religious environment not to participate in producing.

First I want to look at this word: “woe.” It is a declaration of impending judgment. But this is not necessarily about an eternal judgment. Jesus here is most likely not referring to the modern Christian idea of Hell, but rather to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which would take place in 70 A.D. He is referring to the destruction of an entire religious system. That system was infested with religious cancer, and if things did not change, it would be done away with. The picture of God and His character that was being presented to the world by that religious system was the exact opposite of what was really true about God. This is not to say that there is not an ultimate judgment, but that in this passage, Jesus is not talking about the ultimate judgment per say.

Something else we need to understand is that Jesus’ “woes” in these passages were not about inevitable doom. Most of Biblical Prophecy is NOT predictive but rather prescriptive. Follow closely: The Greeks held an “inevitable” view of prophecy. They sought out oracles to tell them their future. Their idea was that the future was fixed. They were fatalistic; that is, they believed things would happen as they were predicted, no matter what. They viewed prophecy as predictive. (We are in danger of doing this today as well.) This was not the Jewish understanding of prophecy. On the whole, God, through the Hebrew prophets used prophecy not primarily as predictive but as prescriptive. Let me explain. God often, in prophecy, is simply sharing what is going to happen if the present course is not changed. On the whole, when God would say that something was going to happen, it was so people would change their behavior and so that what was prophesied would not happen. We can see this exemplified in Jesus’ words to Peter about his future denial. Once Jesus said that Peter would deny Him three times, Peter did not have to do it. The whole reason Jesus shared this with Peter was so that Peter would change his course and the denial would never take place. (See also Jeremiah 18:5-9 for another example.) The Jews did not view prophecy as predictive per say, as the Greeks did, but rather as prescriptive. Now, this is not to say the prophecy is never predictive, but rather simply stating that most of the time it is not predictive. This point, I believe cannot be overemphasized. Today, we have many folks trying to figure out every last detail of end time events, pouring over the Book of Revelation and Daniel, trying to pinpoint the chronology of the closing events of this world’s history. And honestly, it is almost like spiritual caffeine. It gets you all pumped up at first, but then when it wears off it leaves you lower spiritually than when you first began. The point of all prophecy is to know, not the exact order of all future events, but rather, to know Him in whom you have believed, so that no matter how things end up, you are in a reconciling relationship with God.

Lastly this week, I want to focus on what it was that Jesus actually condemned in the Pharisees’ religious system. This first woe is centered on their focus on externals (which we have looked at in the past five eSights) and their “majoring” in the minors. You see, they were producing a religious environment that focused on the “dos and the don’ts” of behaviors, which led them to place great significance on matters of little importance while giving little emphasis to matters of significant importance. In short, their focus led them to a place where they could not see the forest for the trees. The example Jesus gave was that they were giving a tenth of their mint, rue and other garden herbs, which held a very low—if not the lowest—economic, “marketplace” value in their culture. The economic value was almost insignificant, but they were very strict in paying a tenth on this amount, though it was so small. At the same time, they were ignoring justice toward others and love toward God. You see, they were giving great attention to detail in things that really were of minor significance, while they were completely ignoring the big stuff.

Now I want to be careful here. There is a sense in which all sin is sin, in which all things are equal. This is especially true under the “imposed” paradigm. (For more on this topic, see the presentation on our website, entitled Intrinsic or Imposed.) But under the intrinsic paradigm, not all sins are equal. Not all sins set in motion the same intrinsic destructive force. Some sins cause more intrinsic damage than others. The point here is that the Pharisees were creating a religious environment where things of minor significance were focused on with great conscientiousness, while things of great significance (acting justly toward other people; being the guardians of fairness and equality, so that no one was violated; and holding love toward God as the sum total of all they were about) were grossly ignored.

I want to be clear. Jesus was not condemning their great conscientiousness. Rather, He was condemning their directing greater conscientiousness to matters of little importance while ignoring things that were of infinite importance.

One of the insights Jesus gives us is that He brings to us a sense of perspective and balance. He had a sense of prioritizing things. He taught that if you love God and love your neighbor, you are going to fulfill the whole law. Jesus could distinguish the center from the parameter. (And He largely ignored external behaviors and dealt almost exclusively with matters of the heart.) To the Pharisees, everything was equally important. But to Jesus, there was, again, perspective.

Today, as followers of Jesus, we, too, must create spiritual environments that major in the majors, and minor in the minors. We must produce—in light of the last few eSights—environments that focus on the heart rather than trying to control people’s outward behavior. But we must also focus on matters that are truly major with the same perspective that Jesus possessed. We must begin to use the same sense of prioritizing that Jesus demonstrated. And what is the most significant matter—also the deepest matter of the heart—that we can focus our attention on? I believe the matter of greatest importance—one which Jesus spent the majority of His effort trying to affect—is that matter of answering the questions, “What is your heart-level understanding and picture of God’s Character and what He thinks and feels toward you? What kind of person is God; and given this, what is in His inmost heart toward you?” Only when this is answered will we be able to help others see the truth about who our Heavenly Father is, too.

We will continue with verse 43 next week.

Keep living in love and loving like Christ.

I love you, guys; now go build the kingdom.

Herb

August 8 Esight, 2011

“But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.” – Luke 11.41For the past four eSights, we have been looking at the first part of the dialogue here between Jesus and the leadership of Israel. This week I’d like us to turn our attention to Jesus’ mention of giving that which is “within” as charity, and thus, “all things” would thereby be made clean.

We have discussed, from four different perspectives, why a religious system or environment that places more emphasis and importance on the outside of people’s cups, rather than the inside of people’s cups, is dangerous and religiously and relationally destructive. We have seen, based on four different reasons, how damaging an outward, external, performance-based, behaviorist emphasis and focus can be. In contrast, we have also seen the life-giving, intrinsic ability an environment that places greater importance and emphasis on what is taking place on the insides of people, their hearts, has as well. With this background, notice this week how Jesus drove the point home. His message to this Pharisee is to focus on that which is with and all things, both the things that are within as well as those which are without will be clean. How do you get the cup clean? The irony is twofold. Forget about the outside and focus on the inside. BUT, forget about getting yourself clean as well, and just give everything you do have away!!! Clean or dirty, stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on giving to others! This approach, according to Jesus, will accomplish the cleansing we desire, while our attention is focused in an entirely different direction. Stop worrying about getting clean and just go help someone!

I know this raises some questions. First, I’m not saying that “getting clean” isn’t important. What I am saying is that the kingdom is many times very messy first. It’s only when we stop worrying about whether we ourselves are measuring up to being “clean,” or we stop analyzing how others are measuring up to our own “clean” standards, and we simply start giving away whatever we do have, clean or dirty, to help others?only then do we really start experiencing what the kingdom calls “clean.” You see, in an outwardly focused, external, performance-based religion, sometimes we get misfocused on what I like to call false pollutants. We make a big deal for ourselves and for others out of the externals. But the “clean” that the kingdom wants to give us, is too often not about externals. It’s about the conversion from the pollutant of self-centeredness to the purity of other-centeredness. The real pollutant that the kingdom wants to uproot and take out of our lives as followers of Jesus is the pollutant of focusing on ourselves rather than on the needs of others. A person can be very religious, but be doing all of the external, outward stuff only out of concern for changing their “salv-a-meter” from the “lost” position to the “saved.” (I wrote about this at the beginning of this year in the eSight about “being good” vs. “doing good”; you may want to check that out as well, if you’re scratching your head right now.) Jesus spoke of this in other places as well:

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.—Luke 9.24

If your focus is on yourself, it’s no good. This is precisely what Jesus is endeavoring to save us from.

And this leads me to my final thought this week on giving away to others whatever you have, clean or dirty, as “charity.” (Remember, you don’t have to get all cleaned up for God to be able to use you to bless others. His blessing others through you is the very thing that cleans us up.)

The Greek word here for charity is Eleemosune. And the best way for me, I think, to share with you the nuance of this word’s meaning is to translate it into the phrase “disinterested benevolence.” This is the very essence of what God is. It’s one of the most powerful qualities of His love. Disinterested benevolence is kindness given to others, with no interest in personal reward or what you may get back in return. It’s giving just to give. This is most clearly shown in the most well-known but also most misunderstood verse in the Bible, John 3:16.

God so loved that He gave. He gave everything He had, with no thought of getting anything back for Himself. It’s a giving with no strings attached! It’s giving for the sake of giving. It’s a completely other-centered, selfless style of giving. (I encourage you to also take advantage of the presentation on our website entitled Love, Give, Believe for further explanation of this concept. I believe you can find it on our Sermon of the Month page. If not, email me and I’ll send it to you.) It’s what Jesus was referring to when He said to “give, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35). It’s what Jesus exemplified when He healed ten lepers (Luke 17), and even though only one came back and said “thank you,” they were all healed nonetheless.

But how do we give away what’s inside of ourselves, clean or dirty, in the spirit of the disinterested benevolence that is the very heart, soul, and foundation of this new kingdom? Well, in short, we can’t. All you can do is first, let go of trying to clean yourself up from the outside in, and second, place all of your effort on seeing, understanding, and believing in God’s disinterested benevolence toward YOU! Because when, and only when, His love for you reaches your heart, love in your heart will be awakened for those around you. You can’t exercise disinterested benevolence toward others by simply trying to. (If this were possible, you wouldn’t need a Savior at all.) What we need is to encounter God’s disinterested benevolence for ourselves. To see it and believe it! To embrace it! To bask in it! To walk? no, run ?in the expanse of it! For when this happens, by God’s disinterested benevolence toward us, disinterested benevolence toward others will be awakened making us . . . Clean!

We only love, because He first loved us. – 1 John 4:19.

Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. For whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:7,8.

And where do we find God’s disinterested benevolence shining forth in its clearest rays?

Calvary. What I am convinced we must see is God’s disinterested benevolence, as it’s revealed on the Cross, for anything inside of us to become clean. But once it does, we will also desire to no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who loved us so selflessly, and we will desire to live for everyone else too as we embrace the value and worth that Calvary also ascribes to them, as well. This is what it means to be clean from the inside out. To actually care about and live for the benefit of others over and above one’s self. In encountering the giving heart of God, His disinterested benevolence, as revealed through the cross of Calvary, we cease to be so focused on ourselves and we begin to live the life of giving away to others whatever we have, clean or dirty, to help and to bless them.

This is getting clean from the inside out. And it’s what Jesus was all about.

Well, once again, I think I’ve given you enough to ponder for this week.

Keep basking in God’s disinterested benevolence toward you this week as revealed through the cross of Calvary. Let it change how you interpret everything you previously thought the cross was all about. Keep living in that love and loving like Christ.

I love you guys. I’ll see you next week. Go build the kingdom.

August 1 Esight, 2011

Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him,”Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.” Luke 11.37-41This week, I would like to conclude my thoughts on religious systems that place a greater emphasis and importance on the outside of the cup versus the inside of the cup in order that we may move on next week to what I believe Jesus meant by giving that which is within, on the inside of the cup, as charity, so that both the inside and the outside of our cups are clean.

To wrap up, I wish to discuss my third reason for believing that these types of religious environments are dangerous and spiritually destructive, namely that they breed people who focus more on other people’s outer appearances than on what is taking place inside of them. There are countless beautiful people on this planet; if we, as Christians, can, like Jesus, ignore what is occurring on the outside and look into their hearts, we will see who they really are inside. In addition, if we do not begin to place a greater emphasis on the insides of other people’s cups, rather than on their outsides, then we will continue to make those who come into contact with us feel as though we care more about their outer appearance than about THEM. Let me give you an example:

Recently, I bumped into a dear sister, who had decided to visit a church in her area that took a strong stance against wearing any outward adornment. I belong to a denomination that has historically taken a strong position against certain forms of outward adornment, but strangely enough, ignores others. Thus, I possess first-hand knowledge of the head-space of the interpretation of some of Paul’s and Peter’s statements. Let me briefly share some of the relevant background with you.

In Paul’s letter to the Timothy, we find the following words:

Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 1Timothy 2.8-10

What I find odd about those who take a strong position on this text is that those individuals with whom I have come into contact reject the parts regarding lifting up hands when they pray. They also ignore the prohibition of braiding hair or wearing expensive garments. Yet they take the sections about gold and pearls very seriously. How they know which portions of this text should be taken as timeless truths that are valid in all ages, situations, and cultures and which parts should be interpreted to apply only to Paul’s day and situation, at the very least, makes me scratch my head. But before we look at what I believe Paul is actually saying in this text, let us add Peter’s comments as well:

Your adornment must not be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 1Peter 3.3-4

Peter’s words make it extremely clear. Like Jesus, Peter warns us here of the same focus and emphasis, of the danger of placing more importance on the outside of our cups versus the inside. He is applying the principle to his situation in his day, but the principle remains the same in all ages. As followers of Jesus, we are called upon to place greater importance and emphasis upon the inside of our cups than upon our outsides. We are not to content ourselves with merely looking as though we have it all together. We are to allow God’s healing work to enter first and foremost into the inside of our cups.

Yet, there are some religious environments in which these passages are taken and utilized for the exact opposite purpose. Continuing to fixate on the outside of the cup, wearing earrings, rings, necklaces, and the like is strictly prohibited (meanwhile, gold broaches or pins with pearls and hair clips are acceptable, which still leaves me scratching my head), while everything else in Paul’s and Peter’s statements is forgotten. In other words, if you were to show up in one of these environments wearing one of these prohibited items, the people in the environments that I have witnessed would, for a minute, fail to notice what was going on within you. All that they would see is what you were wearing on the “outside,” which would greatly impact the manner in which they treated you. In other words, these environments utilize the very words that Paul and Peter wrote in order to help people focus more on the INSIDE of their cups so as to place a greater emphasis and importance on the OUTSIDE of people’s cups! This interpretation is clearly a gross misunderstanding of Paul’s and Peter’s true intention. These texts become the foundation of systems that place a greater emphasis and importance upon external, outward, performance-based religion, when, in fact, these statements were intended to bring about just the opposite in environments and situations in which more emphasis and importance was being placed upon outward appearances than upon matters of the heart, upon the inside of their cups rather than the outside. Such religious environments take these texts and turn them upon their heads, employing them for a completely different purpose than for which they were written.

Let us return to the example of my dear friend. She showed up to church one weekend wearing earrings and was met in the foyer by one of the saints, who informed her that if she desired to “wear that idolatry on her ears, then there was a church down the road where she would be more welcome.” My heart broke when I heard this story.

Picture for a minute the crowd that would be attracted to Jesus, knowing what you know of Him, if He were to show up in our day. I imagine not just prostitutes, but folks with piercings and tattoos, on the one hand, and tax collectors or the very wealthy on the other. BOTH would be in the crowd. Now, just ponder for a moment what Jesus would notice about the crowd. Would He focus upon the outside of their cups or upon what is taking place within their cups? What would He try to affect? What would receive His focus and emphasis? Would those gathered there feel as though He were placing a greater emphasis upon their outward appearances, valuing this above their own intrinsic worth and value? What would they feel really mattered to Him? And, in addition, what would be going on in the hearts of all of those who place a greater emphasis upon the outside of people’s cups as they look around at those who are attracted to Jesus?

The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.” Luke 5:30-31

Again, these types of religious systems presume a picture of a God who places greater emphasis and importance upon individuals’ outward appearances than upon their insides and attempt to pass this picture on to others. This representation is one of a God who cares more about what people look like than about who they really are.

I was introduced to a system like this 19 years ago as a teenager. Rather than being repulsed by it, I was extremely impressionable, swallowing it hook, line, and sinker. I cut my hair. I threw away half of my clothes. On the outside, externally, I went through dramatic and drastic changes. The transitions during those years were violent and extreme in every new direction. But on the inside, I remained lost, broken, and in need of a Savior. Externally, I may have appeared to be perfect. But internally, I was an extreme train wreck. And my picture of God was such that I did not feel as though He really cared about me; instead, I thought He cared only for my appearance, my diet, my intellectual beliefs, my externals. This period began a spiritually and religiously self-destructive two- year journey from which God finally saved me by means of a very private revelation of who He really was and of His unconditional, no-strings-attached love for ME above all else.

Let me close this week by challenging you to ponder the kind of environment that our churches must become in order to convey to others that what matters most to us is what is taking place on the inside of their cups rather than on the outside. The kind of environment in which people clearly matter first and foremost as who they are within themselves, in which people actually can feel from us the worth that Calvary ascribes to them, in which they can sense that the God of this universe cared so much for them that He was willing to die for THEM, regardless of their “outsides.” And lastly, I invite you to ponder the kind of picture of God that we must embrace in order to produce this type of environment. I propose to you this week that the kind of picture that each of us, including myself, must embrace is the exact representation of God that we find in the person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ becomes the center of everything we believe about God, when the Old Testament God is held subject to the Jesus-looking God, instead of the other way around, then, I believe, the followers of Jesus will be radically altered. We won’t merely be Biblical; we will be true followers of Jesus.

Once again, I have certainly given you a great deal to think about this week. May our picture of God continue to be ever more strongly influenced by the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and intercession of our Lord, Savior, Friend, and Lover, Jesus Christ.

Next week, we will turn to what it means to actually emphasize the inside of our cups, giving what lies within away as charity.

Keep basking in God’s unconditional love for you this week. Continue living in that love as it is expressed to others, loving like Christ.

I love you guys. Now go build the kingdom.