Archive for the ‘god’ Category

I heard a fiery sermon this morning. The preacher was good. Made some excellent points. The crowd laughed, and clapped. At the end speaker shouting. I got a feeling people were duly impressed.

Me, I just felt guilt. The text was Philippians 4:12-13.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Great text. I’ve memorized it. It’s in my most recent journal. The point of the message given by the pastor was that it if you aren’t content and full of joy in hard times, in the storm, then you’re not an authentic Christian. You’re a fair weather Christian. If you’re only content in good times, prosperous times, times when you have nice stuff, times when things are going well, then you aren’t for real.

He ended shouting “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”

The whole thing made me feel somehow in adequate. I think it was because it felt like the pressure was all on me to do something to be more authentic. I know that in Corinthian’s Paul spoke of dispairing of “even life itself.” Nobody is up, positive, content all the time. That’s just not reality. 

I wanted to know more. I was left with questions?

I don’t tend to feel content in storms. How do I draw on that strength that comes from Jesus? Is there something I have to do? My efforts to be content in Jesus during storms don’t seem to work that well. On the other hand, I know I try to he authentic in my faith.

Thoughts: Looks like Paul’s strength was from Jesus, not from himself. Paul’s secret was that it was Christ strengthening him. Paul wasn’t strong. Jesus was. This distinction is important. Paul was quick to know his weakness in other places in Scripture. So what we make of all this?

Being content isn’t something we do, but something Christ does in us when he gives us strength. Paul learned that the strength wasn’t from him. He learned that we can’t make ourselves more content in hard times. Christ is the one who makes us content to suffer through the storm.

I suppose you could assert that we have to have the faith, but the Bible says even faith is a gift of God.

I think what helps me here is to see that this text is more about God being authentic than Paul or me. I’m pretty dodgy. Paul himself didn’t always have it together. But Jesus, he’s authentic, and he can do what we can’t do.

His strength that he brings to me by his initiative is what can get me through the storm.

So my, our, humble, broken Philippians 4 prayer might be, “God we seem to lack the power to do the very thing we want to do, be content with hardship. So it’s up to you. Christ be strength! Christ be the one who gives us even the faith that your strength is there for us. Jesus, it is you, not me, so be you in me.”

So in a sense I’m off the authentic making hook. Jesus is on the hook for me. He’s the one that is going to come through.

Thank God for that!

“I’m open. Christ be my contentment, Christ be strength in me.”

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Matthew 10

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6

Yesterday as the sun set, I saw three doves light in a tree, the golden sunlight illuminate their light tan chests. They were loved with light and warmth, and they took a moment to perch, turned to the sun — before dark — to bask in this.

Whether our circumstances always point to this or not, God is completely aware of everything that is happening to us, and he values us highly and he cares about us!

No matter how you feel today, what might be overwhelming you, what might not seem to have a solution, God knows, and he cares.

So don’t be afraid and put worry aside as much as is possible because you’re very valuable to God and he knows precisely how things will work out and how he will be involved.

Be gentle with yourself today, and retain a sense of your value.

God values you!

He shines on you too.

Like the doves, perch and bask.

Where Is God?

Posted: November 2, 2019 in god
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Ever wonder, “Where is God?” When scripture makes so many positive promises, and then you don’t see yourself experiencing them.

Here is one.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement …

Romans 15:5

Or this one;

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3

Endurance and encouragement — God gives it.

Comfort— God gives it.

Yesterday my daughter called and reminded me how tough and strong I am.

My friend Jerry texted me reminding me of his respect, care and love for me.

My wife sat with me and brought tender care. She held my hand. Patted my back.

God gives encouragement and comfort, but it may not be the voice in the night, even a sense of his presence in the day.

God and his comfort often come through others.

Leo Tolstoy illustrates this beautifully in his story Martin the Cobbler, and if you haven’t read it, find it and do. Martin lost his wife. He is so lonely but one day he senses a promise —- the Savior will come to his house

All day looks at his window watching. First, he sees Stepanitch shoveling away snow. Martin invites him in for a warm drink and they talked for a while.

Then he sees a woman with a baby who is cold and He invites her in for some food and gives her warmer clothes and money.

Then he sees a boy stealing an apple and he intervenes and pays for the apple.

That night while Martin wondered why God had not visited him, the three figures appeared in his home, the very ones he had showed hospitality to that day. They said that when he helped them he was helping God. Martin then realized that God had indeed visited him in those he helped.

When we comfort others we are God to them. When they comfort us they are God to us.

So at the end of time the truth will be known.

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:40

God does come — in others, in us — helping others.

According to the Hebrew Bible, Solomon’s Temple, also known as the First Temple, was built in 10th Century in Jerusalem and dedicated by Solomon to Yahweh.  

One of the more fascinating historical notes about the construction stands out.

In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.

 1 Kings 6:7

God, our God, often builds his temples in quietness, because God, despite all the hollering from Christians about him, is a quiet God. 

God dresses blocks in one place, so he he can quietly place them in another.

I called my dad one day last year. I was missing him. 

I caught him up on us, then I asked him what he had been thinking about.

He had been thinking about the “quietness of God’s presence.”

I asked him, “Dad, what does that mean?”

He said, “I often can’t sleep at night. I wake up. I don’t know what to do so I just enter the quietness of his presence.” 

“I don’t say anything. I don’t pray. I just silently worship.” 

“I’m dumb before him.”

Years ago, as I was finishing up at the University, I felt far from God. Lonely. Confused. Uncertain of my future. I began reading the Bible. I was drawn to Isaiah 30:15. This became a very personal word from God to me, speaking to exactly my issue.  

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength …'”

Lately I’ve suffered some serious health problems. As a result I’ve experienced some very significant levels of pain. At times there have been a whole nursery of babies crying inside of me.

I’ve done a lot striving to connect to God to fix my situation, to move my health forward, to get back to normal. This is something all praying people do. Rightly so, we are told in the Bible to bring our sickness and problems to God, to seek, ask and knock, but too often our approach to God isn’t healthy or helpful. We don’t knock on his door. We bang on his door. We pound it down. We break in in our demands for the life and body and health and activities that we want. We want God to enable our plans and then — although we won’t admit it much — step politely out of our way so we can get on with our work.

This isn’t just a personal issue. A lot of churches are set up this way. They are on a mission to control God for their own good, to enlist Him to help them win the culture wars, to use him to hammer the deviant, to chisel at God’s words as a way of promoting its own political agenda. This kind of blunt-force approach to the way forward is motivated by our efforts to  move the church up and to the right on the field of public success. It’s ecclesiastical egotism. The agenda is to get more people, to take in more money and to promote politics of privilege that protect the church while not worrying if any ones else around the world is protected. It’s political stealth, physical health, a bunch of wealth and get some for myself.

I’m not saying the church shouldn’t want to do well, be excellent, succeed.  I’m not saying the church shouldn’t look to God to guide us and to make us well. I’m not saying I shouldn’t ask God to help me.

But a bunch of begging, a lot of trying to force an our agenda on God, the big push for the quick fix, the big push for the big fix, looking for the perfect road map that makes all  road blocks go away — perhaps that is a recipe for being disappointed in God. There are are some big moments in life where God comes though for us and his church in big ways, but that isn’t the whole story or even the typical story.

Perhaps what I need, and we need, the most is the sound of “sheer silence” as God builds his temples the way he wants. The American church has lived the loud Christian life of the hammer and the chisel. We’ve lived pound, pound, pound, push, push, push. It may have done some good, certainly the church is God’s chosen way to love the world, even the imperfect church, but wow! Our passions are too often too selfish.  

What we need now, and maybe more back when too  — and what I need now —  is not more begging, more controlling, more work, more progress, more pushing, more kingdom building or more empire building.  Perhaps what we need is simply this: A quiet resting before the divine. What does God want to do? How does God want to build? Can we quietly wait on God for his quiet language, his silent leading?

Thomas Keating has said that in “order to understand [God’s silent language] we ourselves must learn to be silent and to rest in God.”

Yes.

In God’s loving silence there is perhaps much more than we know or expect —  his presence, healing, rebuilding, affirmation, care, his a way forward, his love.

Recently, in my physical struggles my wife has been present for me, holding me, patting me, just being in the same room with me. She has said some sweet things, but nothing has meant as much as her presence, her quiet loving presence there in the room.

God silent, loving presence — we all could use more of that.

 

Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac.

Genesis 25:5

For Isaac, everything was given. He was given all his father’s wealth; he was provided with a home, a bride, a relationship with God, a place in history — all he had to do was receive.

This is so God! We are all Isaac.

Every good thing on earth and in the far flung universe is from God.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17

Einstein, his intelligence, come from God.

Mark Chagall, his brilliant and magical creativity, from God.

Bill gates, his generosity, from God.

Elon musk, his innovative spirit, from God.

Abraham Lincoln, his masterful leadership and brilliant use of language, from God.

Your good things — all God. We do play a part in acting out these things, and so sometimes we think that they come from us. Even the life and body and strength to act them out is from him.

Many complain about not seeing God’s goodness. It’s everywhere. If God were to remove his goodness from the universe, all matter and all civilization would collapse into a black hole.

Never doubt that God is alive and present in our world. Every single good thing in your life is straight from him.

Praise him!

I called my dad today. He’s 91 and doing well. He still works; he moves furniture at the retirement campus where he lives.

I caught him up on my life.

I’m crazy busy with transitional activities — selling a home, moving, completely remodeling another home, supporting my two daughters as they transition into adulthood, helping plan and support a succession process at my work.

I always try to get my dad to tell me what he’s been thinking about. He’s a thinker, a very spiritual person, philosophical, a reader, idea-centric.

I thought I’d get nothing this time but then out it popped. He’s been thinking about the “quietness of God’s presence.”

I asked him what that means.

He said, “I can’t sleep at night. I wake up. I don’t know what to do so I just enter the quietness of his presence. I don’t say anything. I don’t pray. I just worship. I’m dumb before him.”

I like it. I told my dad I like it; I do. I can’t imagine why I’d like this right now, but “hmmm.”

He finished up by saying, “In the quietness of his presence the answers will come. When I don’t know what to do, I just wait. The answers will come.”

I’m so busy, and so not quiet. I’ve been so anxious of late, slammed with the tyranny of the processes I am currently caught up in. I’m so in need of the quietness of The Presence.

What a fresh-breath idea from my old, quiet papa!

I hung up the phone, with our mutual “bye, bye’s” and a good sense of what to do next.

Ever tried to do something, and it didn’t work?

I recently got some nice portabella mushrooms out of the frig to grill and had to throw them away.  

The mushrooms had grown hair!

It’s weird, but I prefer my mushrooms, like my babies — bald.

This week I drove to a meeting only to find it had just been cancelled —  by text —  but I hadn’t looked at my phone for a half-hour and didn’t know that. You don’t check this  (hold up mobile phone) every 15 minutes — you’re history.

Then last week my daughter and I went to our backyard to clean it up and we got so frightened we had to run inside and call the fire department.

I often experience “failure of purpose.” 

And this … has led me to a startling and unexpected conclusion: 

I’m not God! 

Wow! How disappointing.

 And you aren’t either.  

But here is the truth.

Isaiah 46:9-10, God speaking says:

I am God, and there is no other;

    I am God, and there is none like me.

I make known the end from the beginning,

    from ancient times, what is still to come.

I say, ‘My purpose will stand,

    and I will do all that I please.’

God is so different from me. He can do all he pleases!

He can clean up the backyard.

Isaiah 46 is called the book of comfort. It is Isaiah’s words addressed to the Jewish exiles returning home from Babylon. 

After sending his precious ones into exile for their idolatry, God is bringing them home again to Jerusalem.  

Why were they exiled? They had looked to Bel and Nebo, Mesopotamian and Canaanite gods of fertility and wisdom for help, not the one true God.  

And so God said to them, “No, I alone am God. There is no other. Only my purpose stands.”

In other words, God was telling them, I am sovereign.

To say God is sovereign is to say he is in control and that his purpose will be fulfilled.

And what is God’s purpose?

His purpose is clearly stated at the end of Isaiah 46, in verse 13. 

I am bringing my righteousness near,

    it is not far away;

    and my salvation will not be delayed.

God’s purpose is bring us home, from exile, to return us to himself, and make us righteous. 

I spent a good deal of time during July painting the inside of a house. 

I hate paint!

Paint won’t mind. Paint loves to migrate. 

Pry up a paint lid and the paint will literally jump out, and fly onto your hands, up your elbows, onto your face and into your hair. 

Paint reminds us that … we are not sovereign. 

Paint is sovereign! 

No, God is.  

Rev 21:4-6 confirms what we read in Isaiah 46. 

“I am making everything new!” …says God in Christ. “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true … It is done. 

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

God, is in control of newness, of cosmic paint, of the end product, even when we mess up. 

And, like Israel, we do mess up. 

We bow to the modern, mini-gods of success, image, health, money and work. 

But  God alone … can save. 

He can paint justice where there was oppression, and righteousness where there was sin.

God is sovereign …  and … He is good.

Why add good? 

Why add, “He is good.”

 Because his power can make him seem scary, and some theologians have taken sovereignty too far, and have claimed that God even wills and ordains evil. 

They extend his sovereignty to everything.

But, this not correct. 

Evil is something we do, not God, with our free wills. 

And here is where sovereignty gets quite mysterious.

What is God responsible for and what our we? 

Scripture tells us God is sovereign and yet it also clearly indicates God has given us free will.

This is not a sermon on free will, but when Paul writes in Romans 14:12 that “each of us will [have to] give an account of ourselves to God”  This clearly indicates we have agency, and will be held responsible for our actions.  

It’s quite a complex mess really … and when we add in nature’s role (earthquakes, viruses, dangerous beasts) the whole sovereign thing gets even stickier. 

Last week — as I mentioned earlier — my daughter Rosalind and I were working in our backyard picking up old baseboards we took out of the house. 

Some of the wood was under a roll of carpet we had thrown out, so she asked me to move the heavy carpet. 

I picked it up and underneath, right at my feet was — a diamondback rattle snake!

I went airborne.

 In one-half a nano second Rosalind and I were back inside the house. 

And the equally terrified snake was … back under “his” carpet. 

Life is out control!

Three phone calls later, the fire department came, and they calmly caught the snake with their pincher stick, and put it in a bucket and took it away. 

 I love firemen!

They told me. “Yeah, the snakes are good. They control the rodent population.”

Sheesh!  I’d rather have furry little mice and Ratatouilles.

“Snakes, why did it have to be snakes!”

And the terrified snake is now saying, “Humans, why did it have to be humans with a pincher stick, and a bucket!”

Why?

 Because our sovereign God decided on snakes as part of a healthy natural ecosystem, and then he let them go … where they please!

God is sovereign, but he is also wild, and he made a wild, free world. 

And that wild world is not safe, yikes!

I am learning something else I don’t want to learn. 

God is in ultimate control, but that doesn’t mean he that he micromanages life to be easy or perfectly safe or just what I want.

I think the hardest part of sovereignty is when things don’t go my way.

I want no snakes!

I want no problems!

But the world God made is empowered, wild and free — fires, bacteria, poison beasts, poison people.

And so from a wild, beautiful, snaky, diseased, idolatrous, sin-sick world we cry out Papa, help!

“Oh great God, come save us within this dangerous-beautiful world!

And here is where we can gain hope.

As Isaiah recorded, God saves, he restores, and he brings us home.

And it is in Christ that God works out his ultimate sovereignty and his salvific purpose.

Colossians 1:17-18

 He [Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The salvation promised in Isaiah 46, and confirmed in Rev. 21,  is completed in Christ. 

Jesus is the supremacy and sovereignty of God and by his death for our sin, he has cleaned up our back yard and he will remove the snake!

Jesus fulfills God’s purpose in us — and we are best when we look to him, no matter how out of control life seems. 

My brother Steve has cancer. Many in our church pray for him. 

I asked Steve recently, “How do you pray for yourself. 

Steve wrote back his answer on Friday night:

“How do I pray and live?

 I don’t ask for the cancer to leave. 

I don’t even ask for a mitigated, lighter response.

I ask for God to help me not be a grump, to be thankful and kind to Joyce [his wife], to keep my mouth shut or think and pause a bit before I speak because I am in such an agitated state [because of the chemo, Benadryl,  and steroids].

I am asking God to help me live into the values or ways God calls me to live, Thy kingdom come not mine. 

I’d like to be healthy and not have bruises up and down my left arm & hand from doing yard work.

 I’d like not to be up right now, in the middle of the night. 

I’d like to carry the idol called health and image, the one most bowed to here in Southern California, but it ain’t happening.

[But, he finishes] I do believe God will bring good to me during this season.”

Steve is rejecting the lesser-California gods of health and image. 

And he is rejecting the false notion that he is god, and can control his life. 

 Steve is looking to Christ to fulfill God’s purpose in his life.

 Bruised and battered, Steve is living Romans 8:28, for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Using our free wills wisely, we can align with God’s purpose, and pray to be loving — no matter what is happening — and choose to whine less. 

Do this: Choose no other god than God.

And do this. Believe that God is sovereign.

He is sovereign over mushrooms, meetings, paint, snakes, California culture, our bodies, our souls —  over everything.  

God, has got it! 

God, has got us! 

God alone will save us and brings us home from our exiles.  

It is a great mystery, but we, his people, through God’s sovereignty, will be okay. 

I am God, [says the Lord] and there is no other.

Isaiah 46:9

“Nature is, above all, profligate. Don’t believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a manic-depressive with limitless capital.

Extravagance! Nature will try anything once. This is what the sign of the insects says. No form is too gruesome, no behavior too grotesque. If you’re dealing with organic compounds, then let them combine. If it works, if it quickens, set it clacking on the grass; there’s always room for one more; you ain’t so handsome yourself. This is a spendthrift economy; thought nothing is lost, all is spent.”

Annie Dillard

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

My brother Steve is making friends with randomness — kind of.

This morning he mentioned to me that during his hospitalization for his stem cell transplant — four years ago — a butterfly came to the window of his hospital room everyday.

It was a snatch of beauty, experienced in a tough season, and it helped carry him through. The bright, fluttering wings —  it was mobile brightness and beauty much needed in a shadowy moment.

Was it providential?

Was it random?

He and I both think the fly flies somewhere in the cracks of the flyway.

God isn’t up there — or somewhere — pulling the puppet stings for every small event in the universe, sending out insects, calling in winds, pronouncing sneezes.  Surely God isn’t sending butterflies to sick people, but not all of them. Not everyone gets one.

I am sure God can do what he wants, intervene when he wants, intrude if he wills — and he does —  but I really can’t imagine God as a universal micromanager. He couldn’t possibly be that bored, that controlling or that tyrannical. He may know every sparrow that drops, but he doesn’t map all their paths, fly them into windows — which they are prone to do — or continuously fly them past all invalids, and the valids too, in need of a sign.

First off, and perhaps last too, God already has sent stuff our way simply by making us and making so freakin’ much of it —  of stuff.  God is Annie’s “manic-depressive with limitless capital.” He made extra, he has gone overboard. He’s a virtual sybarite! He’s a holy, unrestrained debauchee. That much is fairly obvious. Look for yourself.

God made millions or even billions of everything — grass blades, flies, bacteria, spores, mushrooms, rabbits, ideas, daisies. They multiply and die like crazy, the flora, the fauna, butterflies, Madonnas.

Why? Why so much of everything? Well, in this way we an keep running into stuff, randomly, or not, the natural wonder at the right moment, the white tailed deer along the road, the fish jumping in the lake as the sun sets over the shy lovers.

God made enough of everything for the coincidental, for the happenstancial, for the random, for the vigorous and voracious vagaries to just keep showing up. He made so much it just keeps flooding the stage.

God planned plenty for us, from the beginning —  but the plan included not controlling everything. Don’t we have a will? Hasn’t he given us freedom? Is there no instinct? Can’t we make horrible choices? Don’t some things happen by chance? Can’t we reject him?

God seems to be into letting stuff choose, letting something choose, free will, instinct, volition, agency, even chance  — especially once the show was launched. I’m sure of this because anything less on his part would lack confidence, skill, humor, power and foresight.

“Nature is profligate” because God is profligate. God was, is and always will be recklessly extravagant.  It comes from being so resourced.

It means stuff happens.

When it does, is it for you?

Of course it is.

We love stories, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Lord of the Ring, the Cat in the Hat, but what is the greatest story of all? 

That story is the story of God. That is the story that absorbs and explains all other stories.

Charles Williams, the third member of the Christian literary group the Inklings — which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien — was fascinated by how God’s story involves a comprehensive connection to all of life.

To get at this, Williams coined the term co-inherence. Coinherence, describes how things exist in an essential and innate relationship with other things.

This is Christian. All humans exist within God’s existence. In Acts 17:28, Paul gives clear expression of coinherence when he writes: For in him [God] we live and move and have our being. 

In God we co-inhere, we symbiotically enmesh. In God we get sticky, and stick together. 

We don’t live The Epic of Gilgamesh, the story of one great hero. We live the Epic of Togetherness.  Ecc. 4:9-12, “Two are better than one,”  writes the wise one.

Ever eat a sticky bun? You start from the outside and work your way in to the last bite, which is the most sugary and buttery of all. Imagine it, the cinnamon, the sugar, it sticks on your fingers, you finish by licking them.

Welcome to sticky bun theology! Life is a sticky bun, and God is the sugary goo that holds us all together.  It’s true. We live within a sticky, inter-connected spiritual eco-system, held together by the Godhead. 

God in his three persons — Father, Son and Spirit — are equal, and they work as one; they honor and serve each other and they stick together. And this sticky-trinity of goodness is the model and source of all human stickiness, all love and all co-operation.

The greatest story ever told is the story of God’s gummy, adhesive, connectedness to us. 

Do you want in on this? Want coinherence, want connectedness? The how to get this is clearly stated in Galatians 2:20 where Paul writes, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

By accepting Christ’s death on the cross for ourselves, we come to participate in that death — we die to the old sinful self — and we enter into God’s interconnected, mutualistic, resurrected life. 

It is God’s sacrifice, his humility, his support, that brings all life into harmony. And here is the deal: God’s story  — a story of harmony through sacrifice — has huge ramification for our understanding of the family.

Good families adhere, come together, work well when they act like the God acts, like Jesus acts, and like the Holy Spirit acts. When families humbly serve each other, sacrifice for each other and empower each other just like the Trinity does, then they thrive!

Last week I put in some landscape irrigation pipe. To do so I had to water drill under two sidewalks. It was a muddy mess. I was up to my elbows in mud, to grow something.

Same with God. He got down in the mud for us. And when we do the same, when we get low, when we get down in the mud with him and with our family, we please God.

Paul commands this attitude in  Philippians 2:5-7.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.

Note Jesus’s example here. 

He didn’t hold on to power, but in the great kenosis, the emptying of Christ, God in Christ gave power up to bring us into close relationship with himself.

Therefore, to create unified families, we must follow Christ’s model and help and empower each other, not control and dominate each other.  

This is why Paul tells husbands to sacrifice for wives, just as Christ sacrificed for the church. God does not command males to dominate, as they have been so sinfully and addictively prone to do. He commands them to sacrifice. And Paul tells wives to respect their husbands too. The truth is that everybody is to sacrifice and to show respect to everybody in the family. Paul is telling us, in the family, act like the members of the Trinity act! Be mutually supportive.   

To be super clear, Paul instructs both husbands and wives, Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This is sticky-bun theology. This makes for a sticky family. We are brought into harmony by mutually submitting.

This undermines any idea that families should be based on the old Roman code of fixed dominant and submissive roles. When family members insist on dominant roles, when one person dominates and controls, and when the family members compete for power and control, then those families depart from the epic, people-uniting story of God. 

The Trinity that makes up God, shows us the way to connectedness. Harmony in the family is through sacrifice — not dominance. Authoritarianism in the family isn’t Biblical; it is worldly!

This is particularly shown by authoritarianism’s dark side    psychological abuse, spousal abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse and elder abuse. These behaviors ruin families. They don’t align with God’s story. 

To any of us who over-control in the family, who lord it over others. I would remind of Luke 18:14, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” 

To find the good model of the good family we must remember the grand, epic story of the Bible.  God’s intent from the beginning was for things to exist in an essential, innate, nurturing, supportive and loving relationship all other things.

Think of traffic. Traffic is competition, right? The goal is to get there first. Not. 

We leave the house in the morning around the same time as our neighbors. We mix together on the streets. We travel in one big connected, jockeying, competing mess. We are connected, hopefully, not too much — or bam!

But actually, to make traffic work, we must not compete; we must defer to each other and wait for each other.

Driving side-by-side, we stay in our lanes, we signal when we turn, we stop at lights — well some of us stop.

The only ticket I ever got was for a California stop — a rolling stop —  an I’m-in-this-for-me stop. But traffic —  at it’s best  — is stopping for each other; it is watching out for each other, not using hand-gestures when people make mistakes. Good traffic is team work. The goal is for everyone to get there safely!

Welcome to a picture of the good family, the theologically sticky family, the co-inhered family, the collaborative family. In the collaborative families, we travel safely to the destination together. 

Each family member signals when they want to turn, waits for others to go first, stops when another says stop, obeys the concept that we do what is best for the team.  

In good families children obey. So do husbands. So do the cats. What about the need for good leaders in the family? Good families are made up of good leaders, and leaders are best when they are servants and helpers. They take turns leading. 

Good families: 

Allow for conflict and dialogue.

Make decisions through agreements. 

Empower all the members.  

Cooperate for the common good. 

Leave no one behind. 

My wife and I have recently been trying to pick out some new hardwood flooring for our house. 

I got really sold on one color of wood.  My wife pointed out that that wasn’t the color we originally agreed would fit best. But I was stuck on what I wanted. So I went to Lowes and ordered it. No, I didn’t. 

I had to pause myself. I had to think. My wife and I have decided never to make decisions of consequence without agreeing. We believe in treating each other as equals, showing mutual respect.

So I said, “Okay, I’ll drop that color idea. You’re right, we should choose something we both agree on.” 

And so we have!

We are traveling together, within the safety of mutual submission. 

The story of God — which is the best story in the Bible —  should inform and dictate our everyday behavior.

 It is the gummy and adhesive story of co-inherence.

Therefore, we do best to model our families after the systemic, sticky, collaborative example that flows to us out of the Trinity, a model of mutual respect, sacrifice, servanthood and love. 

Sticky bun theology — it makes for good, sticky families. 

“I haven’t heard from him much lately,” that’s what I would say if I was asked.

But saying that — like that — I feel guilty about it, like it’s my fault, and I feel less than the the great ones.

We haven’t talked on the phone — we don’t do that, but of course nobody does that even though some act like they do — and we haven’t sat down and just had it out. I mean, we have sat down, every day, but he hasn’t been that forthcoming. With me he never is. He is never very obvious, never blunt, never commanding.

Some people are like, “God told me this, or God told me that.” Some people are like “I felt like God wanted me to do this, or I felt like God wanted me to do that.”

I’m more like, we pretty much hang out most of the time, and I really want to do the right things — make good choices, puzzle out what to do, please him, ask others what they think —  so I just assume that I am always hearing, always being led, always pretty much in step, except when I know I’m not because I do something so selfish it’s obvious it’s wrong.

For me it’s kind of like, “I haven’t heard from him lately, because I have been hearing from him constantly lately,” if that makes any sense at all. It’s like the voice is so constant that it is never absent so it is not that obvious! It may seem arrogant to say that it is like that for me, but it is really a very humble and ordinary thing. Wisdom shouts, constantly,  to all of us, from every corner. Isn’t that what the Bible says? Tozer says it this way, “God is continuously articulate.”

On Saturday, I took an unlikely moment to ask someone how they were doing, listened a lot, affirmed their perspectives and prayed with them in a parking lot. It was ordinary in the sense that it was normal for me, just what I do, but perhaps it was more than that too.

Was it led? Did it come from God? I’ll leave that to the super-spiritual to determine, but I don’t need to decide that to make it spiritual or special or to claim that I’m special.  Like you, like all of us, I live and move and have my being within the divine ambit, the supernatural circle and the profound ambience of God.

My read on this is that it’s all led — except when it isn’t, and we mostly know when it isn’t. The rest — it is pure God.

I’m good with that. We are not hearing that much because we are always hearing.

The everyday good, the common care, the normal love — it’s all spiritual.