Monday, September 21

There is no God like our God….

"Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." Micah 7:18-19 (NIV)

Pastor Shannon Nielson started a thirst for the knowledge of Jesus' style of relationship when I attended Mosaic A2 a few Sundays ago. George Barna, in a recent editorial, used such examination to answer the question, "How Jesus would handle the Health Care issue?"

"In fact," Barna points out. "Luke's narrative contains 26 different passages describing how Jesus responded to people's physical and medical needs."

More interesting than Barna's focus on the Health Care Debate is the fact that we can look at the editorial points he makes to a broader context in how we, as Christians and the Church, should deal with people; health, financial and spiritually. As I am sure Pastor Nielson would concur, Jesus leaves us with a wealth of how to respond to the world and our brethren in the context of Christ-following.

Christ was consistent in how He handled people of various cultures, ethnicities and state of grace. We've already looked at Nielson's thoughts concerning the adulterous woman. That concept, as well as others, can bring a larger picture of the characteristics and motivations that should govern our behavior.

Jesus brought into context that life, even living in this broken world, was a precious gift from God and was meant, even in the harshness of this creational nightmare, to be lived with enjoyment and celebration and given only in sacrifice for another…not for their comfort or their desires but for their eternal life. Though Barna focuses on the health issue, we can extend it to those who face financial stresses, mental stresses and physical needs from childcare to transportation. These people, usually when we come across them in the context of our lives, have a hope that is fading because of the trials of their lives. Christ affected change in the lives of these people and sent them on their way… paperwork to fill out, committee meetings to wait for or hoops to jump through. He took all who came to Him and focused on restoration of their hope so that they could hear of the gift of Salvation.

Christ was driven by His love and compassion for His people, that "overflowed" (Luke 7:13) for the hopeless, hurting and downtrodden. His motivation wasn't to prove His authority or even develop a following that performed for His good graces, but because He knew the pain and desolation that many felt. He demonstrated God's loving grace was the reason He had come to earth, so that hope could be restored in the hearts of a fallen people God still was desirous of. Christ didn't remotely affect the lives He came across, but showed them as valuable people by becoming invested in their lives. He didn't sit on a committee, didn't look to the storehouses and look at a budget on how much He could invest, He invested all He had in people who He knew one day would crucify Him.

He didn't look to their income, their status or the state of their sins. He didn't ask them to proclaim a statement of faith in Him before the blessings would flow. He was so invested in the lives of the hurting and broken that He helped everyone because He could. Whether it was a kind word or raising people from the dead, He moved into the lives of those around Him and never once refused anyone His help. He identified their needs, that need that was beyond the obvious and addressed the real need, the one that would bring them back the hope they had lost so that they could live a abundant life…..not one of riches or wealthy blessings but a fruitful life lived in the freedom of His redemptive grace.

He got caught up in the principle of servant-hood, spending His time invested in meeting people's needs whether it required Him to travel far or wait for them to come to Him. He didn't require a certain level of education or piety or even wealth to be able to approach….or required them to wait until 'business hours' to come to Him. People left and right disrupted His day, interfered with His schedule and demanded His time constantly. His only time of separation was to communicate with His Father, so that He was assured to be consistently in sync with God's plan. His love, that agape love, drove Him to be available and caused Him to live in the chaos of their lives with a grace and mercy that never failed. Nothing was too small for His touch or too great for His strength.

He realized that the pain and suffering that was at the foremost of their lives needed to be address before they could feel His limitless love.

Not only did He heal, but part of the limited commission that He gave to the 12 included the topic of healing….He empowered and commanded the disciples to heal in His name, with His grace and through His mercy…..the disciples were to enter into the lives of those they brought the good news to and only depart either when they had finished their ministry there or the message was rejected. This was also included in the outreach of the 72 that were sent later, never was it only to speak God's word but to bring the lost to the point where it could be heard.

"You can describe Jesus' health care strategy in four words:" Barna says. "Whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever." This holds true for every aspect of Christ's ministry.

There was no remoteness to Christ. He was deliberately involved wherever He was. He didn't expect others to do what He Himself wouldn't do and didn't leave us some vague model to follow. He graphically lived the life that He expected His followers, starting with the 12 on down through the brethren today. He didn't use the opportunity to be involved in restoration of hope just to heal and move on, but always coupled the foundational principles of His Church. One didn't exist without the other.

We are called to be personally involved in other people's lives, both of the family and those who live in the darkness. We are to judge as we ourselves have been judged and would want to be judged. There are none who are truthful with themselves who don't want, need or hope for forgiveness; unconditionally and repeated in its application. He tells us that familiar phrase, "Do unto others that you would have them do unto you" (Luke 7:31). And, it wasn't to be by committee discussion, by church board or a assembly of the faithful but individually……we are called to action, like Christ exampled, with the only agenda being to 'bear fruit' of our Salvational blessing in service to others in the manner it was received by us; without cost, limitation or expectation.

Like His disciples, of which we are grafted into the same vine, we are to find solutions and implement them…rather than sit back and lament the high cost of such service or wait to collect funding after the new sanctuary or acreage is developed.

At the cost of our homes, our professions, our comforts and even our lives….whatever it took to show God's love through compassionate service or provisioning for the hopeless, the downtrodden and the lost. Christ showed us by example that it is far better to give than receive in the pursuit of restoring the hope to those who have been unloved by the broken world of this creation. It was the desire of Christ, far beyond the fragile desires of His humanity, to do 'the will of the One who sent Me' rather than His own, to follow the Father's leading in His heart with the assurance of living in His plan. His desires matched God's because God's will triumphed His own…He was totally surrendered to His Father's work….far beyond the comfort of a home, food and material things that surely He was entitled to far more than we are.

What would the Church look like today if that was how the Lead Pastors, the council of Elders, the board of Deacons and the 'mover-n-shakers' of the body politic lived in such a fashion? If it wasn't a question of "How" but a dedication to 'whatever, whomever, however, and wherever" that was the "D" of our desire to serve our God?

Far beyond the mega-church building that is beautifully appointed with the stained wooden cross, the high-quality speaker system and technological grandness of the worship….

the holy land films produced by our leadership for the enjoyment of our eyes and the comfort of our ears…..

the massive acreage of the 'visionary' dream of inside outreach….

or the popularity of the message, designed never to offend, never to challenge……..

Just a simplistic desire to being in relationship with someone in need, to shine the light of God's love to them for however long, how many times and what cost.


Christ didn't once hesitate when faced with the lifelong knowledge of how it would all end, the human portion of His life, but pushed forward because of it….the joy that would be His because of the living of that unconditional love that set the course of His life; the restoration of God's people in relationship with Him. He lived unhindered by those things that could not be turned in service for others; there is no historical home protected by society of where He ministered out of, no monuments He placed that recall His glory and nothing that He left us that physically stands for His life.

We've created out of the historicity of our need those things, not Christ. He spent all He had in the pursuit of a people separated from God, for simple joy of restoring them to the original design: living in relationship with Him.

He spent all He had before He uttered one word of the new covenant, healed one sick person or raised the dead.

One at a time, one dollar at a time and with the agenda taught to us by Christ; to exhibit in an undeniable, powerful and impactful way the love, the jealous love of our Heavenly Father, who sent His Only Begotten Son to this world so that the punishment for sin was forever paid for…..without cost, without expectation but only a heartfelt request for its blessed restoration. So that the work He had started in us far before we were even born on this earth would progress and be completed in the plan of His story.

The David Crowder Band sings of this expressive and restorative love in their latest hit, "How He Loves Us…"

"He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane; I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are, and how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so, oh how He loves us, How He loves us all…He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves.
He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane; I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are, and how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so, oh how He loves us, How He loves us all…He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves.

And we are His portion and He is our prize, Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes, If his grace is an ocean, we're all sinking. And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, And my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don't have time to maintain these regrets, When I think about, the way…

He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves….Yeah, He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves us, Oh how He loves."

A God who loves His people so much that He forgives them for its willful disobedience and turns His righteous anger away despite its justified existence for the costs it demanded so that we could experience the restoration He can affect in each of us because of the sacrifice of His Son…..Only God can remove our sins from our lives, trampling them under the foot of His mercy and dress us in His righteousness.

So that we can show Him to the world still lost in the darkness of the hopelessness of the Fall through the example we live as a people purchased.

What a God! Empowering one person working with the might of Heaven's King….working the gifts He's given with others to become the Body of Christ…..…

for the sake of all.


Jesus' Health Care Plan, An editorial by George Barna, September 2009:




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