Unity is..

“The unity of the church is not primarily the unity of her members, but the unity of Christ who acts upon them all, in all places, at all times. Consequently the unity of the church lies in his uniting activity.”

Juregn Moltman, The Church in the Power of the Spirit.

“The unity of the congregation is a unity in freedom. It must not be confused with unanimity, let alone uniformity in perception, feeling or morals. No one must be regimented, or forced into conformity with conditions prevailing in the church. Everyone must be accepted with their gifts, tasks, weakness and handicaps. This unity is evangelical unity, not a legal one.

Juregn Moltman, The Church in the Power of the Spirit.

The universal church must develop local structures but to the degree that they distinguish or divide rather than unite, to that degree they deny Christ. Each and every Christian, all churches, and even all of humanity will find its unity “in Christ.”

Dr. Scott Sunquist, Ministry in the Image of God.

Similar to objective freedom received as a gift from God, flowing from the nature of God, unity is a gift we receive. Those who are in Christ are graced with divine participation in this thing called unity. We are no longer separate, divided, but made whole with Creator under the loving reign of Christ. Our goal then, as it pertains to expressions of unity here on earth, is to live into this reality among fellow sojourners. This should be an easy exercise for those who call Jesus Lord. However, history has shown us just the opposite. When unity is anything other than a gift found through believing Jesus, and lowered to the formation of human thoughts or actions, its division, not unity that abounds.

We need only to study the Reformation period to witness the travesty of pursued unity through the means of religion. What was intended to bring unity, brought the fullest expression of division the world has experienced within Christendom.

Structures divided, Jesus unites. Doctrine by nature distinguishes, but can never bring life. Jesus is Way, Truth and Life. The prayer of Jesus in John 17 was towards experienced participation within the existing union between the Father & Son. There is something much deeper, much more glorious than agreeing with one another or other forms of tribalism. We can only truly share with others what we are experiencing in the present. Called out, from the world, but for the purpose of being placed back into and for. We are united as we are enjoying the Triune nature of God and participating in His sending, reconciling heart.

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If love is..

We’ve all heard 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings, or read bits of it on a Valentine card. What is love? Well, the Apostle Paul helps us understand many of its expressions. What is it, but also what it is not:

“Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, doe not act unbecomingly; does not seek its own, is not provoked, doe not take into account a wrong suffered, doe not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoiced in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

The nature of love, so selfless, beautiful, thinking not of the reaction but motivated by the truth and the flourishing of others.

This morning I had the idea of swapping some words around as it relates to our old, and new nature. What if we simply exchanged the opposites for a look from another angle?

Could it be said that the false (old nature) self:

  • is impatient towards the brokenness of others.
  • is unkind.
  • is secretly jealous at the well being of others.
  • needs to brag & comes across as arrogant.
  • acts or speaks inappropriately, is embarrassing to identify with.
  • seeks its own.
  • is provoked by unsubstantiated things.
  • keeps record of wrongs done to it.
  • finds unrighteousness something interesting.
  • is not interested in the truth.
  • is quite reactionary.
  • is unbelieving when it comes to finding hope in situations.
  • looks for easier, less costly paths.
  • true, selfless love does not exist.

I still recognize many of these patterns in my life. Patterns, self-preserving, fear based insecurities really mess us up! We recognize their ugliness, yet find comfort in putting on old clothes. Thank you Jesus that you have not shown us any of these opposites!

Jesus didn’t just give us a list of requirements but passionately (suffered) loved each of us. The deeper I rest in His love over me, the more conscious I’m becoming of the motivations in my heart. Love is truly one way, it goes to a situation and person(s) regardless of the return, or lack of it. It lands as love, and is finished. Jesus help me to love like you – and rest not in the result of love, but the joyful participation of such a glorious thing as your heart!

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July 1, 2019

Happy Canada Day! It’s on my mind today. Not because I’m a bona fide Canadian, but because Brent & Tucker are there enjoying the wafting aroma of grilled beef on the BBQ and I am hungry.

The summer has started. We find ourselves with our 2.0 family (youngest four). Deb and I have been noticing just how uninterested we are in toddler-preteen conversations. We just can’t fake our interest any more. We have important, deep, adult things to tend to! We don’t have time to help you set up your pretend stuffed animal store in the kitchen, or listen to how funny some YouTube personality is. Yet, here we are. Surrounded by nonsensical conversations and situations that could have been avoided had we thought more critically about pro-creation.

We’ve been studying the nature of relationships, rooted in the Triune nature of God (read my last blog if you haven’t). It’s fascinating to consider that our very relational nature as ‘persons’ reflect something of God’s nature. Our children love to be around us. Not that Deb and I have anything near a perfect relationship, it is clingingly attractive to these monkeys. The other day Deb said to me, “I have my own trinity.” I didn’t understand her at first, which is quite normal being the slower male, but then realized she was alluding to the three children literally hanging off her neck at the same time.

Kids love to be around relational love. We love to be in the presence of God. Same thing?

During a walk yesterday I found my imagination wandering toward the unending interdependence found in nature. From the trees to the earth, the climate systems, animal kingdom, our own bodies makeup. Our human experience often seems isolated, independent, and yet nothing could be further from the truth. We are surrounded by dynamic relationships, from the air we are breathing, to the food we consume, people we interact with. We are necessarily interdependent. The world is just designed this way. We can attempt to create a sense of independence, get busy, build our own lives, but it’s an effort of denial.

If the Creator is interdependent in Himself, and we are made in Creator’s image, then we can embrace our interdependence as good.

As our children are being formed, developing and learning that no, you can’t go downtown and rent your stuffed animals for cash, we witness their unabashed dependence. They aren’t afraid to recognize their need for love & acceptance. Of course they want to be around us and hang from our necks, they were designed for fellowship and harmonious union with others. In our broken world, full of broken dependencies, we think we are protecting ourselves by sheltering from others. We often move to extremes in our dynamic dependencies, from complete isolation, to an enmeshed unhealthy co-dependence,. Particularly in the west, independence is prized, needing others a sign of weakness. Yet, intentionally living into imperfect community with others seems to be exactly what God intends us to do.

God’s design for me is to experience Him in His existing, perfect fellowship. He’s opened Himself up, knowing that I will then forever be changed and able offer this same community to a hurting and broken world.

I sit down to write about our world, projects, family updates.. and I end up wandering in my own devotional world. I don’t know who reads this, but I trust someone is encouraged to dive deeper into the mystery of God, and also remain open for meaningful relationships with others. I’m less interested in projects for their own sake. Jesus mission on earth was not to spin up mission trips and productions, or just ‘do’ evangelism as if it’s a scripted task we all need to learn. He was on mission to expand fellowship, the Father, Son, Spirit reality that existed before the stars were flung into space. The health of our ministry, as a family and community in Ukraine & Belarus, must emit from the health of our communion with God. The world will come and climb on our shoulders, sit at our feet like our own kids when we express the aroma of God’s nature of relational love. The projects, ministries, structures and models are all secondary. In fact, they are often completely unnecessary in my opinion. Love doesn’t need a time and location – it’s an event that can break out at any moment we choose. If we are in communion with God, led by His Spirit, whatever we put our hands to will witness to the resurrection and reality of Jesus.

Time to grill something, with some amazing people.

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Triune Nature of God – Freedom in Person-hood

In one of his essays, Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968), generally regarded as the greatest Protestant thinker of the modern era, dives deep on the nature of God’s intrinsic, relational and free personhood. It’s unraveling my brain, and brought excitement to my heart.

Allow me to share some quotes! For Barth, the nature of God in three Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the foundation from which we enter our relationship with God and can even begin to comprehend our purpose. God is fellowship within Himself, complete and perfect love. God cannot be understood outside of His relationship with Himself, by virtue of the fact God that all He does flows from this ongoing relationship. As Andersen puts it, God’s relationship as Father, to the Son, through the Spirit is the “inner logic of all ministry.”

Ok, let’s get to some Barth! I can feel myself ready to type too much.

“In God’s own freedom there is encounter and communion; there is order and consequently, dominion and subordination; there is majesty and humility, absolute authority and absolute obedience; there is offer and response. God’s freedom is the freedom of the Father, and the Son, in the unity of the Spirit.”

“God’s own freedom is trinitarian, embracing grace, thankfulness, and peace. It is the freedom of the living God. Only in this relational freedom is God sovereign, almighty and Lord of all.”

“The well known definitions of the essence of God and in particular of His freedom, containing such terms as ‘wholly other,’ ‘transcendent’ or ‘non-wordly’ stand in need of thorough clarification if not fatal misconceptions of human freedom as well are to be avoided. The above definitions might just as well fit a dead idol. Negative as they are, they most certainly miss the very center of the Christian concept of God, the radiant affirmation of free grace, whereby God bound and committed Himself in His Son, a man of Israel and brother of all men, appropriating human nature into the unity of His own being.

“As a gift of God, human freedom cannot contradict divine freedom. Human freedom is not realized in the solitary detachment of an individual in isolation from his fellow men. I am only a man in relation to my fellow men. Only in encounter and in communion with them may I receive the gift of freedom. God is pro me (for me) because He is pro nobis (for us).”

I love how Barth moves from the Triune nature to what he calls the ‘causa Dei” (cause of God) which today missiologists refer to as missio Dei (sending nature of God). Essentially, our participation, or co-laboring with Jesus on earth is rooted in the relational loving nature of God – All three (Father, Son, Spirit) personalities of God are at work clearly in Scripture in the Gospel, from Creation, to the Incarnation, Baptism, Death and Resurrection of Christ – the gift of the Spirit now as a deposit in our hearts towards the inheritance to come. A few more quotes!

“God wants man to be His creature. Furthermore, He wants him to His partner. There is a causa Dei in the world. God wants light, not darkness. He wants cosmos, not chaos. He wants peace, not disorder. He wants man to administer and receive justice rather than to inflict and to suffer injustice.. He wants man to live and not die. God declines to be alone, without man. God insists on man’s participation in His reconciling work. He wants man, not as a secondary God, to be sure, but as a truly free follower and co-worker, to repeat His divine “Yes” and “No.”

“For this service of thankful obedience, for this participation in the causa Dei, God has set man free. God wants man to be His creature and His partner. Even more, He wants him to be His child. God is not content with man living as a reverent creature before Him, or as a grateful partner alongside Him. He wants him to be a man with Him and to enjoy the glorious assurance of belonging to God.

God is free. Relational. Perfect Love. He’s opened Himself up to creation, the Father sending the Son, the Father and Son sending the Spirit, the Spirit empowering us towards union in God, and with one another in the ekklesia (called out/people/church) of God.

“Ministry, then, is not so much asking Christ to join us in our ministry as we offer him to others; ministry is participating with Christ in his ongoing ministry as he offers himself to others through us.” Seamands

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