Immeasurable Love

During the years I spent running an institutional “church” there was always a major goal supported by secondary ones to keep me pressing forward. I had personal “spiritual” development goals, goals for the church, the city and “revival”. There were always small victories and future events to provide motivation to keep plugging toward that elusive place of arrival.

Several years after I stepped off that religious treadmill, I came to realize I’ll never amount to jack squat according to my former measurements. The city doesn’t need me, and most of what’s dead out there was never alive in the first place, so revival’s out. Past victories were often temporary or a matter of false perception and few events met expectations. I was bright enough to realize that numbers didn’t really matter, but wanted them all the same. Amazing how some pastors ask another how many sheep they’re herding in their pen.

The truth is, Jesus messed with my goals and everything else that worked as a motivator for me in the past. In him, I’m as spiritual as I’ll ever be, but I’ll never be able to quantify my transformation. The city needs him, not me. I’m not sure he’s interested in what we call revival or even reformation, but he will reconcile all things to himself. He’s already won the victory and the main event happened over 2000 years ago. It appears that he’s gone and done it all himself!

It’s human nature to measure things, but it’s impossible to measure God or anything that he does. That includes what he works in and through us. It’s useless to try to get a handle on any kingdom reality or to measure the worth, impact or extent of any work of God. He gives the Spirit without measure, he’s given himself fully to us, and his love for the most evil individual is unsurpassed and immeasurable.

The one goal that’s worth living for is to become more and more like Christ, and the more progress we make toward that goal, the less we’ll be aware of it. Our one purpose on earth is to love as we’ve been loved, without measure. There’s no place to arrive, but always an opportunity to give of ourselves. Many are praying for the outpouring of the Spirit as if he hasn’t been given to us already so that we can pour our lives into others.
And as we do, he will continue to fill us without measure.

David Fredrickson

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Finding Church with Wayne Jacobsen

A new podcast is up! This podcast is one you must hear! Author Wayne Jacobsen (He Loves Me, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, and collaborator on The Shack) joins David and Loren to discuss his fantastic new book, Finding Church. David and Loren agree that this is one of the best books (if not the best) written on the topic of the reality of the church in the world today. This is straight talk from a man who has sought authentic New Testament community for more than fifty years and who has discovered it in the most unlikely places. Now Wayne wants to help you find this incredible bride Jesus is shaping by looking at the church as God sees her and by recognizing her as she takes shape around you. What if the church Jesus is building looks more like wildflowers strewn across an alpine meadow than a walled garden with manicured hedges? Get ready to see church through a new set of eyes! Please forgive the poor audio quality.

We had a bad Skype connection while recording. It is well worth pushing past it to hear this one!

To order a copy of Finding Church go to http://www.lifestream.org/content/finding-church

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Knowing God vs Formulas

 

A friend and I were recalling the season many years ago when a popular teaching on faith emerged that promoted a clear cut strategy for getting from God what you wanted. If your heart was set on a bicycle, for instance, you must submit the request complete with the color, size and brand name. This concept is still popular today along with countless other methods to spiritual “success.

Religion is great at coming up with formulas for just about everything. Prayer, financial blessing, spiritual warfare, getting into God’s presence, miracles, healing, and the list goes on. Many of the methods may have worked in the case of a particular person during a certain season of their life while in the midst of a unique circumstance. But making any formula or set of formulas a template for life in Christ is like an athlete preparing for a weight lifting contest by drinking baby formula. When I was 8 months old I was able to get my mommy to respond to my need by crying loudly. I could crank it up to screaming level if my expectations were delayed. But if I had tried the same method when I was two, I would have gotten the paddle.

The only thing that “works” is a growing relationship with him in which we are wholly dependent on his love and grace. Formulas and pat methods apply only to worldly systems and are as incongruous to relationship as a lead basket attached to a hot air balloon. If we choose to lean on them, we’ll only sink further into the mire of self effort in trying to recreate our experiences of yesterday. Our expectations will be rewarded with nothing but the fading glory of what has already become obsolete. But Jesus says, “Come to me…and learn of me.”

“Spiritual” formulas are a substitute for genuine relationship. As a relationship between two individuals grows deeper, the way they relate to one another changes. Understanding one another’s needs becomes more intuitive. One becomes more focused on pleasing the other rather than on getting what they want for themselves. It’s the same with our side in our relationship with God. He, of course, is all knowing. Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 6:8, “..your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask.” We know nothing that he has not revealed to us by his Spirit, so our interaction with him is not to discover the secret code that solicits his cooperation, but to learn to understand his ways. As we live out what he reveals to us we grow to know him more intimately. The way “things are done” changes as well, and will continue to change as we grow in the knowledge of him.

All of God’s directives to us are aimed toward the goal of knowing him. We cannot stand on a particular experience, doctrine or method or even a cause, or we will frustrate that one purpose of our existence. Our relationship with him is a romance that progresses through courtship, intimacy and the sharing of secrets revealed only to trusted lovers. It continues as an adventure of discovery between us and him and those of the bridegroom’s friends who have come to savor the anticipation of the unexpected and that which is still to be revealed.

David Fredrickson

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The Winning Hand

Several years ago Stanislav Mishin, a blogger and columnist for the Russian newspaper Pravda wrote a very sobering article regarding “America’s decent into Marxism”. He first asserts that “the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather than the classics. After expounding on that, he goes on to make his second point:

“Then their faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different “branches and denominations” were for the most part little more than Sunday circuses and their televangelists and top protestant mega preachers were more than happy to sell out their souls and flocks to be on the “winning” side of one pseudo Marxist politician or another. Their flocks may complain, but when explained that they would be on the “winning” side, their flocks were ever so quick to reject Christ in hopes for earthly power.”

I heartily agree, except to state my belief that the path this country has taken reflects the condition of the church first rather than second. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and most other great institutions of learning were founded as Christian universities where presidents, scientists and pastors were educated. But beginning in the 1870’s, Christians adopted a stance of “pietistic withdrawal”. The line between secular and sacred was ever more widened to the point that Christians no longer engaged the world around them, leaving secular humanists to fill the vacancies in the areas of education, technology, the arts, media, and politics.

Now the pendulum has swung back the other way. Rather than engaging the world in love for the purpose of redemption, many have become married to it. The problem is that the “church” as an institution can never engage the world on an incarnational basis, and can therefore only seek its favor and power. Hardly the “winning side”.

But God will not lose. When all of our religious efforts, hyper “faith” and dead works have failed we may struggle with passivity. Yet Father loves to partner with those who have hope in nothing and no one else but him. And he always seems to use the few, the small, often the despised and the sometimes hidden to change the course of history. The condition and destiny of this nation may not be altered, but when he returns, it will be for a glorious bride.

No doubt he’s preparing a people who are dying to self interest and becoming lost in laying down their lives for others. They don’t have the loudest voices or the large followings. Most of them get lost in the crowd, yet have an immeasurable impact on those around them. They love without discrimination. They’re engaged in all facets of industry, education and the arts, yet their lives are uncompromising. They may not have the slightest clue as to what the near future will bring. But they know who they trust and are convinced that he’s holding the winning hand.

David Fredrickson

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Free to be Small

A new podcast is up! There is such a drive in our old nature for fame and recognition. This often creeps into our lives as believers and causes us to view our actions and life in Christ as insignificant unless we’re doing big things that are noticed by multitudes of people. Yet, more often than not God meets us and impacts the world around us in the small things of our daily lives that often seem insignificant. Real freedom and joy is found in Him when we’re free from the drive to do big things to be noticed. This freedom usually comes with the price of suffering so that we’re free from the pride of our old nature and can embrace what Father is doing no matter how small and how little we’ll be noticed. In Him, there actually is peace, joy, and rest in that place. This is what David Fredrickson and Loren Rosser discuss in this episode of Untangled.  

http://untangled.podomatic.com/entry/2014-10-07T11_37_33-07_00

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New Wineskins, Old Wine

The tendency to define and categorize spiritual truth stems from a purely humanistic need to control. Potentially transformative spiritual understanding can only be grasped through the agency of the Spirit of Christ. It is then lived out through an experiential relationship with him. Yet he who is the Truth is left standing outside of the tidy religious box in which  truth is reduced to intellectual conjecture where doctrine is concerned and inflexible structure married to predictable routine when applied to his church.
So it is that those who are still trying to get church right will never find the magic recipe. Church is people born and led by the Holy Spirit who is spontaneous and who determines the essence and flexible order of every occasion. It is he who controls the fluid life of the church and makes sure it is unpredictable. If we could always anticipate what he was going to do in the next moment we would certainly ruin it.
Any expression of genuine church life will spring directly from lives integrally joined with Christ through a process to which the cross is central and where the Holy Spirit is in charge. Why do we attempt to create new wineskins that lend themselves to organic function and growth and then expect God to breath life into them? We are the wineskin in need of having the old wine of selfish ambition squeezed out of us by the loving hands of Father through the work of the cross. Out of that process we are able to walk in love with others as the Spirit leads and Christ is revealed in his church.
There’s no value in trying to find a better way to “do church” as it is not something that can be done, only lived. Jesus left us with one commandment, to love as he did. Living that way is the very essence of church and the resulting expression will be as varied as are people, cultures and conditions. Jesus compared the Holy Spirit to the wind and then said the same comparison applies to those born of the Spirit. So the expression of authentic church life could never be as predictable and static as what is called church today. Every system eventually dies, but love never fails.

David Fredrickosn

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God is Love: A Response

NOTE: This post is a response to a blog a friend of mine posted titled, “God is more than just love.” You can read his post for yourself here: http://agreaterpassion.blogspot.com/2014/09/god-is-more-than-just-love.html The reason I’m posting this is for two reasons: 1. My response is too long to place on his blog or Facebook. 2. I realized through writing my response I ended up tying out the core of my beliefs. I thought many would be encouraged.

How can God be more than who He is? John, who was closer to Jesus than any of the apostles wrote, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8, emphasis added) John states that this is how God defines Himself. There is no other attribute in the Bible by which He is defined. The Son even makes this perfectly clear to us by laying down His life for us, while we were yet sinners. The attributes you named are not separate from His love, rather they are expressions of it. Just as you as a father display your love for your children in many ways, love (though ours is often imperfect) is the motive. Even God’s anger and hatred are motived by love. His anger and hatred are not directed at people but at that which hurts and destroys them. Just as you as a father would smash a black widow that built a web in your child’s room. You’d hate that black widow because of the danger she poses to your child. There is not a single ounce of hatred towards your child, only love. If you saw your child playing with the spider’s web you may yell and yank your child away, but again, your motive is love.

You stated that the problem is, “we often project our image of who God is by using a few verses and making that into a glorification of our own personal ideals, or even ourselves.” The problem is, if this is being applied to the belief that God is love there are more than a few verses that put this on display, there is Jesus Christ. Jesus said if we’ve seen Him we’ve seen the Father and then He went and died for a world full of sinners. Paul even wrote that, “one will hardly die for a righteous man…” Paul refutes the idea that believing that God is love is a reflection of our own nature and creating a God in our own image because in and of ourselves we are NOT loving. This goes against our old nature. We are an “eye for an eye” people and we naturally like a god like that. Yet Jesus asked of us to love our enemies. He asked us to be like Him, who died for His enemies, a reflection of a God who is love. He actually asked of us something that is impossible apart from Him, because it is not in our old nature to love. That’s why this belief of God being love strikes such a cord (negative and positive) in so many people. Our human minds can’t comprehend a God like that. So we like to humanize Him by separating His love from His expressions of it and make them into separate attributes. But I venture to say that those who accuse people who believe God is love is the very definition of who He is are picking and choosing verses they like and neglecting the others, are strangely doing that very thing themselves. Instead of glossing over verses that talk about the love of God, how about really taking a hard look at Jesus. Why is it the highest command Jesus gave us was to love God and love one another? He even said that that’s how they’ll know we’re His followers. Why did Jesus say that by our love for one another is how they’ll know we’re His followers? He didn’t speak of one other way the world will see God among us. Why is that? If God can be seen through all these other attributes, why is Jesus so hung up on this love thing?

You stated, “To fully know and share God with others we can’t use His love as the ultimate trump card over all the other ways He reveals Himself.” That’s odd being that that’s the way God chooses to reveal Himself and make Himself known. Once again, look at Jesus’ death burial and resurrection. The preaching of the cross is the core of the gospel because that is where we see God for who He is, “For God so loved the world…” and “While we were yet sinners.” Love is how He reveals Himself, always. He placed His love for all humanity on display in Jesus on that cross. If you’re preaching anything other than that you’re preaching a different gospel.

You wrote, “Let’s face it. God can be darn right scary. If we read in the pages of eternity we see that every human that has encountered the Lord was scared to death. Yet, that is not exactly the way we want others to see Him. It can at times be embarrassing that He strikes such fear into people.” That depends on who and which pages of history we’re talking about. The twelve disciples, Mary Magdalen, Martha, the Pharisees, and multitudes of others encountered the Lord every single day and they weren’t scared at all. In fact, the Pharisees were so unafraid they put Him on a cross. Jesus and the apostles made it clear that if we’ve seen Him we’ve seen the Father. So perhaps you’re talking about the Old Testament. Then you’re right. But you have to take into account they were buried in their sins and had never seen Jesus, who is God revealed to us. I’d also say it’s similar for those living today who haven’t met Him. In Proverbs the writer states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Yet, John writes, “There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear.” So if God loves us perfectly (which He does) then there is no fear in Him. So what do we do with these two contradicting verses? Well, notice the writer of Proverbs said the fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of wisdom. Guess what? It doesn’t end there. It ends with Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, who the apostle John beheld with His own eyes before penning the words, “There is no fear in love.” When you see Jesus for who He is fear is removed because of the enormity of His love and then you find yourself crying out to God, “Daddy!” True intimacy cannot exist where there is fear. Where is their more security than in the love of a Father?

Let’s not forget the whole point of it all is Father desires a relationship with us. I don’t know of a single relationship that can truly succeed where love is secondary.

Loren Rosser

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Distracted By A Cause

A new podcast is up! There is so much injustice, mudslinging, political corruption, and religious obligation in the world today that we often find ourselves driven by anger, arrogance, or self-righteousness to take up a cause. Though some of these causes may appear to be good, many times they are merely distractions to get us to spend our time, energy, and emotions on something other than abiding in God’s love and loving others. It is so easy to fall into the trap of placing our identities in something other than Christ. This is what David and Loren discuss in this podcast.

http://untangled.podomatic.com/entry/2014-09-23T15_13_08-07_00    

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The Bad, the Good, & the Best

Christianity is full of celebrities today. Their mansions, private jets, flashy cars, personal attendants and exorbitant incomes easily match those of Hollywood film stars. They are the idols of countless followers who watch them on TV and send them their hard earned money. Yesterday, a friend was telling me about his friend who went to see a well known “prophet” about the use of some property. The big man’s attendants told the visitor he would have to be “cleaned up” before he could see the prophet. The apostle Paul wouldn’t have had a chance for an audience with the guy, especially after Paul had gone several days without a change of underwear.

Oswald Chambers pointed out that “as soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and luxurious prospects will open up before you, and these are yours by right; but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights, and let God choose for you.”

Few there are who opt to turn down the “road to success” for the sake of choosing the best over the good. In fact, money and the number of followers are the measurements used to determine whether or not one who serves God is successful in today’s corrupted standards. The result is that even the “good” degenerates to obsessive self interest that can only produce spiritual debauchery of those who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

But the digression doesn’t stop there. They develop false teaching that supports their interests and leads their followers into deeper deception. The Message puts it this way: “Apparently some people have been producing fantasy stories and fanciful family trees that digress into silliness instead of pulling the people back into the center, deepening faith and obedience. The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love – love uncontaminated by self interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God.”

But do we really believe Paul’s exhortation to Timothy that godliness with contentment is great gain? Our choices reveal the answer. Taking the narrow way is never easy, and if you’re a leader, you will most likely have more detractors than followers. But your “momentary light afflictions” are reaping an eternal weight of glory.

David Fredrickson

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Disillusionment

When I quit my job as a landscape construction estimator many years ago to serve full time with an organization focused on the unreached, I had few expectations. I had been reluctant to get involved with what I knew would be a challenging, time consuming venture with no promise of financial compensation. My evaluation turned out to be accurate, yet the rewards turned out far greater than I could have imagined, and I witnessed the power of God as I never had before.

Sent to “plant a church” years later, I started out with low expectations as well. But after a bit of “success” and some prophecies from respected prophets, my expectations for great things increased. I refused to use gimmicks or church growth seminar techniques, and made sure that no decisions were made for the sake of financial gain, but my determination to remain uncompromising made me all the more confident that revival was just around the corner. We prayed and fasted regularly as a congregation and reached out in our neighborhood door to door and with outreaches in the park. We gathered the pastors of the city together to pray on a weekly basis and began working together to see “one church in Sacramento.”

Revival never came. Oh, we saw sparks here and there that at the time convinced us that it was just about to break loose. And yes, God did some things among us that the churches of the city had never before experienced. But eventually it all disintegrated and returned to “church as usual.” My expectations were dashed and disillusionment set in.
Yet it was after I gave up striving for “spiritual success” that Father began to reveal a more excellent way. He revealed that I had nurtured illusions that needed to be “dissed.”

He began to teach me along with many others who set out on the same journey, that Christ is the one who builds his church, and he never does it the way we think it should be done. This ensures that when he does great and mighty things, no man gets the glory.

Even after we learn these truths and become faithful to them, we may never know success as measured by human standards. One may be faithful, obedient and live sacrificially for the sake of the gospel and still encounter financial hardship and emotional and physical suffering on a regular basis. This is all made so clear in both example and teaching in the scriptures, but Western Christianity has no theology of suffering nor do we view our lives in the context of eternity.

Without hope, that confident expectation of the glory that awaits us, we will become disillusioned regarding God and our walk with him rather than with those illusions that need to go so that we can be free from self. Christ alone is the hope that cannot disappoint, our expectation and exceeding great reward. He alone is our glory and the lifter of our head!

David Fredrickson

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