Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent 2015 - Hope

As the church year begins anew, Advent engulfs our thoughts, our imaginations, and our horizon. The first Sunday reminds us of hope. This sort of hope has various nuances including those of weariness, of questioning, of desire, of want. All these are expectable human responses to a God who seems not present, aloof, disengaged. We have heard the hecklers even in Scripture when they ask, “it’s been a long time; where is your God?” Those who would be the people of God may be excused for these feelings that border on despair and threaten their trust in the God they seek to follow. This hope though, also includes remnants of that trust and leads to stronger trust in a God who is not seen but who has demonstrated His presence and power in the past.
Advent hope, fully exercised leaves the negative nuances behind and chooses not to look at them. Rather, this hope recalls the promises, recalls the past faithfulness, and leans into it once again. God has promised a messiah, a savior, a redeemer and it is this hope that Advent leads His people toward. In the first century, Israel was waiting for her messiah. In the 21st century, disciples are faced with similar nuances during this season. The world is in turmoil, society seems to want to sideline any sort of faith, and even people of faith seem to go crazy on a regular basis.
Advent reminds us, especially on this first Sunday that we are people of faith and we are called to trust and rely on God, no matter what the world looks like; no matter what sorts of abuse or dismissing we might experience. This year, hope is an apropos theme to begin Advent; a reminder that we are called to trust God no matter what. Because we trust Him, we have assured hope that He will vindicate our faith.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

On The Gospel - Humanity

The glory of YHWH is humanity fully alive. This sentiment, ascribed to Irenaeus and echoed by Dallas Willard is a succinct statement of the greater enterprise. The Creator crafted human beings in His image and established them on the planet, in the midst of the greater creation on purpose. That purpose? Full life, right here, right now. The gracious God of creation loves to bless; loves to be gracious. Creation itself is the playing out of that essential goodness.

We are told that people are made in the image of God – you are that image of Divinity. Many theories of Christianity tell us that the image has been marred, in some cases beyond recognition or reclamation, but these theories are wrong. As the Genesis writer reminds us, the reason God requires life for life for any creature that murders a human is that people are the image of YHWH. We are told this in chapter nine, well after the description and affects of the Fall. Adam’s failure – and Eve’s – has not changed the reality that YHWH continues to see people as His image. We are then told over and over that even though people fail in their fidelity and trust of YHWH, He repeatedly returns to rescue them.

YHWH won’t give up on His initial desire to populate a planet with people who live as His image with each other, the rest of Creation, and Him. The glory of God can accurately be said to be His ability to accomplish that plan despite humanity’s intransigence. A similar argument is used by Moses when He suggests to YHWH that wiping out Israel and starting over would cause YHWH to be ridiculed by other nations, because He had brought Israel out of Egypt and couldn’t accomplish what He said He would. Isaiah puts these same sort of thoughts in YHWH’s mouth. It is He, and not some other god or idol that will accomplish what He has said He would. This we are told, will result in praises by those who see it.

The result of YHWH accomplishing His intent? He will be acknowledged as the God, rather than one among many, dumb idols. But this is not all; the enterprise isn’t about God glorifying himself for His own glorification. Rather, the intent is not complete unless the people that YHWH leads by the hand actually become His people. Individually and collectively, they are to become fully the image in which they are made.

These two aspects – YHWH being able to grow a people, and that people being fully His image are intimately woven together in YHWH’s mind. It would be easy for the God of existence to protect Israel against all comers, defeating all challengers and threats simply by declaring them to be nothing and wiping them out with a mere thought. But YHWH doesn’t do this in history. He does repeatedly do this but eventually Israel fails to live as His people. It is this failure that leads to YHWH withdrawing His protection. If YHWH will accomplish His intent and accept praise for it, the two must exist together. YHWH can cause one to happen, but He cannot force His people to truly be His people. This, they must desire to do and accomplish even in the face of impending doom at the hands of their enemies.

Do we see hints of this image life in Christian writings? This is precisely the reason we have lists like that in Galatians chapter five. Why are these characteristics or traits described as the fruit of the Spirit? Because those who live in step with the Spirit will – must – live those attributes. Those led by the Spirit live into the likeness of Jesus; they become fully the image in which they are made.

This is what will bring YHWH glory and praise – a people who live His Life; the life they are made to live. The glory of YHWH is truly humanity fully alive as His image. This is another way of describing salvation, or life with God. It is impossible to reject this life, this becoming, this trust in YHWH and at the same time be saved. Asserting that salvation is something other than joining with God in the Life He offers in this world, is na├»ve and reveals a misunderstanding of YHWH’s intent for humanity and the Creation itself.

You are called to be the very image of God in the world; there is no better honor and there is no better way to glorify YHWH. This is what He asks; this is what He has intended all along. Be all you can be.


Saturday, November 07, 2015

On The Gospel - Coming to God - The Response

Our coming to God - the opportunity and invitation is at the free and unencumbered will of YHWH. Sometimes this opportunity looks like an over-powering presence of God in the life of Israel - He leads them from Egypt, He raises Cyrus to release Israel from Babylon, He sends her Redeemer into her midst without asking. But, and this is key, every time YHWH inserts Himself directly into Israel's history, His action demands a response from Israel; from those who would be His people.

YHWH does lead Israel from Egypt, but is Israel who must walk; must not complain; must not shrink back. YHWH does raise Cyrus to facilitate Israel's return to Judah but is Israel who must once again walk and rebuild. YHWH does come to Israel as her savior in the first century, but is Israel who must recognize and follow Him. There is no coercion in absolute terms used by YHWH to who Israel back to Himself. Yes, being blinded while riding a donkey seems a bit overwhelming, but the rider was neither compelled to enter the city, pray for three days, or respond to the person sent to him.

Throughout Jewish and Christian Scripture there is a partnership proposed by YHWH. When He is prepared to redeem and restore, He offers His desire that He will be their God and they will be His people. This being His people is sometimes understood to be YHWH's possession, something owned by and treasured by YHWH; an object of desire and value that is crafted, shaped, and nurtured by YHWH. Being His people carries another implication related to but separate from a possession or object of attention. This is most readily understood as an enlargement of the Genesis declaration of being made in the image of YHWH. Adam is made in the image of God; he is the image of YHWH and Israel too is intended to His image. The people of God are each and corporately the image, expression, and demonstration of YHWH in the world. At least, they are supposed to be and this is also included in the desire that Israel would be the people of YHWH.

It is these two expectations - they would be His possession, and that they would reflect His image that routinely gets Israel in trouble. She worships other gods and her behavior better reflects that of Molech or Ba'al than YHWH. These equate to her sin, her adultery and her infidelity to YHWH.

And this describes the response expected from the invitation of YHWH - that those who would be His people would let Him be their God and would shape themselves to be like YHWH in their lives and corporate existence. They would carry and be the image of YHWH among the nations, drawing others to Him by their faithfulness to, and blessings from YHWH. This expected response has not changed either for Israel specifically or for those who would be His people from among the nations. The redemption of the world in Jesus is not coerced; it can be not accepted by Israel and others. If accepted, the expectation is shaping, transforming, and living as the image of God on earth - individually and collectively for communities of faith; for the church at large.

This response, to be a truly faithful response, is voluntarily demonstrated by those who would join with YHWH. God does not wrest your will and force compliance with arbitrary rules. Rather He declares the "year of the Lord's favor" and offers you return to Him, to being the very image in which you are made and intended to live. The best description of this image is seen in Jesus' faithful and self-giving life in the first century. It is best described in words as divine Love, embodied in humans and lived out as Jesus lived it among believers and non-believers in the world.

This is the response expected by YHWH - that we would (re-)join Him in His Life and His work in the world to bless and entice all persons into that same Life enjoyed by those who would be His people.

Next: On The Gospel - Humanity

On The Gospel - Coming To God

Throughout the Jewish Scriptures, and with echoes in the Christian writings there are direct statements, reminders, and urgings given to the people of God about YHWH's desire to have His people truly be His; reminders that YHWH would rescue, would redeem, would restore His people to Himself and greater blessing. This is always in the context of YHWH's prerogative and is based on two aspects of divine Love - steadfastness and mercy. There is nothing in the narrative that suggests either that YHWH is constrained by an outside force to remain faithful to or redeem Israel. His movement is both uncompelled and entirely willfully free. YHWH redeems Israel because He wants to; because of who He is and for no other reason.

YHWH often complains about Israel's unfaithfulness, depravity, and intransigence toward Him. The basis of these complaints is repeated as based upon Israel's very existence as a nation. It was YHWH who chose Abram, who uttered the promises, who had previously rescued, blessed and warned Israel. It was YHWH who selected and formed them into a nation, and enriched them as they left Egypt; it was He who calls them both His possession and stiff-necked and obstinate. The relationship, to say the least is somewhat conflicted.

And yet, YHWH wants to remain faithful and obligates Himself to be Israel's redeemer, her savior, her avenging angel against her enemies. In Isaiah 40-55 YHWH argues that He knows the future not because He has a crystal ball and is outside time, running up and down an imaginary timeline as He pleases. No, in these chapters, YHWH knows what will happen in the future - the things He promises and the things He warms about - because He is going to make them happen. In these same chapters YHWH contrasts Himself as God and Jewish idols. It is here that He uses a bit of sarcasm when He observes that a man cuts a log, burns half of it to make bread, and then sets the other half up on end and declares it a god. Israel had been worshiping "ashes." Or again, YHWH almost mocks those who have idols so large that to move them almost defeats their mules and donkeys laden with them - that the idols cannot move on their own and are a burden to Israel. The contrast then becomes that rather than Israel having to carry her idols, YHWH carries Israel.

Coming to YHWH is secondary in the larger scheme of things, possible only after YHWH has made Himself known, has created, has blessed, and has redeemed Israel. It is YHWH who moves first in the grand enterprise; it is He who offers the invitation to true, blessed Living. Because the invitation must come from YHWH that we are told that we cannot earn it; we are also told that it is given freely.

This invitation then, this redeeming is not so much from prison per se, but as a restoration. This is more a dusting off, a standing up, a washing, a blessing of oil. This is the work of a go'el, a family member who has the responsibility to redeem a relative from dire straits, from poverty, from hunger - because they are family and nothing more.

This is the work of YHWH in saving the world - faithfully redeeming no matter how many scrapes Israel gets herself into by her own unfaithfulness.

Next: On The Gospel - Coming to God - The Response

Saturday, October 31, 2015

On The Gospel - Sin

Sin. Such a small word but with huge ramifications and not really understood. There are various definitions of sin available for various purposes ranging from "missing the mark," to "breaking the Law." All the available definitions are appropriate in their contexts but all are themselves a bit off the mark.

If we are made to be cosmic, world-class, YHWH-image Lovers, then sin it seems at its core, is not-Love. In other words, anything that is done (intentionally) against the wellbeing of the other, against the building up, the glorifying of the other is not-Love or sin. To get a better picture of sin, we can look at its opposites in YHWH's revelation. We are told that the fruit of the Spirit is akin to a laundry list of good character attributes. We might start in Galatians 5, but that is not the only place we find the fruit of the Spirit. So then, patience, kindness, gentleness, even self-control are descriptors or evidence of the sort of Love we are after. Their opposites then are our first place to start looking for a definition of sin. Impatience, meanness, hardness, and yes, even lack of self control or dissipation are sin descriptors.

These things though are not sin because they some how violate a list of positive behaviors or attributes, but because they do not arise from a fully-formed Love. They are less than, incomplete, adulterated forms of real life that do not reveal an inward state of full Love. These then, the attributes or characteristics of not-Love are the basic, broadest, and most profound definitions and evidence of sin.

When we read of the Law of Christ, we are to understand "the law of Love," or "what Love demands, propels, causes." There is not a list of things in this law but rather an expectation of having been formed into the likeness of Jesus, the fullness of YHWH and therefore the very expression of divine Love. Murder isn't a sin because it has been listed as such but because it fails to reflect Love for the person killed. Adultery is not sin because it has been listed as such but because it fails to reflect Love for the person to whom we have already committed ourselves, or for the person with whom we commit adultery. Gossip, which shows up in the middle of more "serious" sins, is not sin because it is listed among those others, but because it fails to reflect Love for the person spoken about.

Lists of sins have their purpose and that is to remind us that our oft-too-human desires are not reflective of Love. Those lists those can never be exhaustive of all the ways - all the behaviors - we might reveal an imperfect Love for those around us. No, the measure of sin is that place from which it arises. Anything that arises from not-Love is sin.

This is good news and bad news. Good news that we aren't tied to lists of either good behaviors or bad behaviors by which we will be judged; we are truly freed from such things in absolute terms. The bad news - or perhaps the inconvenient news - is that we can't claim to be not-Loving just because we've managed to not kill someone. This, the problem the Pharisees and their buddies had. They thought that because they had the Law itself; that they even perhaps kept a lot of it, that they were therefore righteous, or sinless. What they had forgotten, much like the rest of us do from time to time, is that it isn't the finite thing we do or avoid that makes us righteous or sinful, but the place or character from which that behavior arises.

Not-love then, becomes the definition of sin and how we can determine what is pleasing or not pleasing to YHWH. Stated as a negative, it allow us to focus on the positive - Love. When we focus on becoming and behaving as Love in this world, we have less chance of being not-Love, and we can know in ourselves that what we are is either Love or not-Love.

Next: On The Gospel - Coming to God

On The Gospel - Love

John tells us that YHWH is Love and Jewish Scripture reiterates that that He as and extends steadfast love toward people, especially those who He has called to be His people. This love though is not what we often call love. It isn't romantic, emotional, or even familial love as we know them and yet, it is all of them. To have divine Love is to express that Love and to do so willingly and fully. Love, even as we experience it in its specific essence is self-giving for the good, the benefit, the building up of the other. Love in its positive, self-giving aspect is to glorify the other person.

When we say that we are to glorify YHWH, we mean that we are to laud, to give ourselves for Him, to point others to His Love, mercy, and kindness. We glorify YHWH by the ways we live, the reasons we give for what we do, the value He has in our lives and the potential He has in others' lives. YHWH's complaints about Israel is that she has not done this, routinely. She not only has other gods she adores, worships, and runs to for help, but based on the way His people treat each other, who would want to be a follower of YHWH?

Why indeed and yet this enticing peoples to YHWH was part and parcel of Israel's purpose - to bear the message of YHWH and embody His divine Love among herself. Israel was supposed to have a sort of flashing neon light above her that read, "This is the wonderful, loving way to live on the planet." Yet what her sign read was, "We aren't really any different than you are, so no big deal."

Israel did not love and this was her biggest challenge.

It is our biggest challenge.

Divine Love is freely given - to all persons and all peoples. God made Man(kind) and there is nothing in the history of the world that indicates that He has stopped loving Man(kind). Freely given is a key consideration when it comes to love. Love by definition is concern about another's wellbeing, another's full development and full life. Love in the final analysis cannot be compelled, it cannot be coerced, it cannot finally, be commanded. Love must be chosen by the lover, regardless of the response of the beloved. No one wants their partner to "love" them because a third party is making their partner "love" them. It would be clear that their "love" was not true love, but was forced and essentially simply going through the motions. This sort of love would quickly be seen to be hollow and worthless. 

And yet we are commanded to love. Commanded because that is the expectation and it is a command we can choose to ignore. We are also told to become transformed, but that transformation is into the character and likeness of Jesus, who is Love. It makes sense to tell our children that we want them to grow up to be good people, but we speak about being good people as something that would be constituently who they would become. We do not speak necessarily about "being good," or "being have" in public or toward others, but about the character from which would arise those good behaviors, that view of life and others that would move our children to love those around them.

In the same way, we are expected to become those in whom Love is a constituent aspect, those who love because Love is who we are. We become those who choose to Love others as a matter of course, as simply what we do. At some point, we might say that we "can do no other," not because we literally cannot, but because not-love doesn't occur to us. It was popular a few years ago, and still appropriate to say that we become "little christs," living in the world. It is as appropriate to say we become "little gods," loving others and the world as YHWH does. We don't become divine in the sense of essence, but we come to so embody the Love of God that we move about our lives as YHWH did as Jesus of Nazareth.

The good new of YHWH, or the Gospel of Jesus Christ is more than "you can be saved." It is rather, that we can be restored to who we are made to be; we can return to God and live the Life of YHWH right here. We participate in the work of God and we participate in His essence when we receive the Holy Spirit. We are called to become cosmic Lovers, rather than ego-centric sinners. We are called to be who Adam was made to be.

God offers us, and calls us to become Love, the most fulfilling way to live imaginable. It is the most fulfilling because it is precisely who you are made to be; how you were made to live. Every primary religious belief system and modern psychological theory tell us that to embody the fruit of the Spirit and to live as God has intended us to live, is the most desired and the most emotionally healthy way to live.

This should not surprise us, and we should embrace it as the good news - the gospel it is.

Next: On The Gospel - Sin

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

On The Gospel - The Image Or Character of God II

Israel was intended to be the image of her God in the world, the bearer of blessing and good news for all the nations. Her history with YHWH was at best an inconsistent witness to this image. The Law, the leading of YHWH, His protection and blessing of Israel was not for her alone, but as a witness to the entire world of what faithful discipleship to YHWH could mean for every country.

Every country, every nation could be caught up in the gracious mercy and blessings of YHWH if they would simply heed what Israel was supposed to have demonstrated - what she was supposed to have become. Israel was to be the very embodiment of YHWH and as such become a priest for the world until the world itself could become one with YHWH.

Being the image of YHWH wasn't a secret; we are told in Genesis that YHWH made Man(kind) in His image. There have been various ideas about what being the image of YHWH means, including being spirit beings or having souls; being able to use logic and critical thinking; to have an independent and effective will; and even being creative beings. All of these miss the mark, but that last comes closest to the implication of being an image of YHWH. To be the image of the Creator God is to be imbued with the same character, the same values, the same drives as the Creator.

The character of God is revealed repeatedly in the Jewish Scriptures and is again revealed in the Christian Scriptures as well. Perhaps the greatest characteristic of God is Love. This love causes graciousness, mercy, and believe it or not, humility to be manifested by YHWH. It is these same characteristics expected of Israel. YHWH is also faithful and so was Israel supposed to be. To be a creator implies the giving of oneself; one's energy, one's creative process, one's blessing if you will to the thing created. Love, or giving of self for another is the primary characteristic of YHWH and it is in this character aspect that we come to understand what it means to be the image of the Giver of Life.

But YHWH is not always loving, patient, and gracious toward Israel or any other nation for that matter. Certainly the character of YHWH also includes anger, vengeance, and violence toward even those He uses to accomplish His purposes. We cannot avoid admitting that yes, it does seem that this God of Israel's is not always depicted as we have described Him, as Love. Isaiah gives us some insight into this seeming dichotomy when it is revealed that YHWH uses punishment that fits the crime to discipline Israel and other nations. This discipline is intended to bring her and them back to YHWH if they would but see that life with Him would be so much better.

It is this better life that YHWH wants to give all nations; all the people on the planet. He has made not only Israel from nothing, but the world itself, including all other nations. He is the crafter of existence and from the beginning of Man(kind) His intent has been to bless, to nurture, to shape all people and all peoples into the very likeness that His image points toward.

This alignment of image with the character of YHWH is the underlying reality of the fruit of the Spirit. Why does living with YHWH result in these things listed in Galatians 5, if not because they represent the character and image of YHWH and therefore the core, inherent character of all persons. This is what YHWH meant when He dared make Man(kind) in His image; He would make creatures that carried His character and then grow most fully into that image. As Paul says, we become the likeness of Christ who has demonstrated nothing if not the characteristics reminiscent of the fruit of the Spirit, leading us (back) toward our very Creator's character and the full blossoming of what lies inside ourselves.

The image of YHWH then is not about being spirit, not about being able to think logically, not any of those other things primarily although aspects of the image may indeed match those ideas. Rather to be made in the image of YHWH is to carry within ourselves the character of our God; He who created the entire race out of nothing. If we can say that YHWH is Love, then we can say our make up and our calling also is to be Love as expressed through the fruit of the Spirit and similar attributes. If Israel's calling was to remain faithful and embody the life lived with YHWH, so too is the calling of every person.

That with which YHWH began - the mutual nurturing of Man(kind) with one another and the rest of creation - remains the goal. The ultimate purpose is to return all peoples and all persons to YHWH as faithful vessels who live the very sort of Love as does YHWH. This planet is not exile; it is not punishment to live this life. Living a YHWH-life on this planet is precisely why you are here. We are not "just passing through," but rather placed here intentionally to enjoy the best life possible and entice others to that same life.

The character of God then is Love in its fullest and deepest manifestation. This Love was demonstrated by the loving faithfulness of YHWH toward Israel even when she did not deserve it, and it was demonstrated in the life of Jesus. Micah tells us that YHWH wants His creatures to act justly and love mercy; and remain faithful to Him. Nothing has changed about that expectation. That is the expectation not because YHWH has arbitrarily decreed that it should be, but because that is precisely how YHWH made you to be.

Next: On the Gospel - Love

Thursday, October 22, 2015

On The Gospel - The Image Or Character of God

A cursory reading of the Jewish Scriptures reveals that YHWH is concerned about two primary topics. The first is Israel's fidelity to Him. It was YHWH who called Abram and YHWH who called Israel from Egypt. Finally, it was YHWH who had mercy on Israel and brought her from exile in Babylon. There are a number of reminders of these realities throughout the Jewish Scriptures. He has been faithful to Israel and He expects she would be faithful to Him. Fidelity then is one topic that is recurring in Jewish Scriptures.

The second recurring topic is the kind of people Israel was supposed to be. The expectation is that they would reflect their God, His character in their relationships with each other. Of particular importance to YHWH is the behavior of Israel's leaders - her kings, prophets, judges, and other organs of the state. The behavior of the populous is as important, but the maladies affecting Israel are routinely placed at the feet of those in power.Two recurring themes fidelity and character. When YHWH sends Israel off into captivity and then on His own initiative, elects to redeem her, to reconcile her to Himself, the constant refrain is that Israel will once again be faithful to YHWH and will be shaped into people who reflect His own character.

What is this character that Israel is to reflect? Micah gives us a hint when he offers, to act justly and to love mercy. Justly here does not mean justice in a legal, objective sense, but fairness coupled or tempered with mercy. To treat someone justly does not mean to execute justice and throw them in jail. It means to bear with them, to not take advantage of them. It means to give them their due. Justice we are told was often perverted in Israel to the benefit of the powerful and sly. As a result, the poor were taken advantage of and abused by the very people they should be able to trust. They were not being treated justly. Mercy then tempers and shapes our treatment of others in the direction of healing, of reconciliation, of life. Mercy foregoes my prerogatives for your benefit.

Isaiah's description of the fasting that YHWH likes is not simply self denial, but self denial that issues in the benefit of others. Mercy and justice. These two are the common themes when YHWH complains about Israel's character. It seems that YHWH could almost bear with the high places but for the failure of Israel to assume His character in their lives with each other. The greatest surprise for YHWH is not that Israel would worship Moloch, but that they would feed their children to him.The abuse of others, the lack of YHWH character in His people seems the greater form of infidelity. Having been created as a nation at His discretion, that He has demonstrated steadfast love for her should have resulted in their steadfast love for each other. It resulted in their abandonment of Him and the further deterioration of their own lives and character. There seems to be no limit to our possible depravity when we focus on ourselves and on gaining more and more for me and mine.

Those who would be the people of God are expected to assume YHWH's character and this is the measure of whether those people are indeed His people. The honoring and worship of YHWH is expected by Israel as a starting point; as a basic understanding of Him as the God for His people. But this acknowledgement isn't sufficient. We are reminded that even the demons believe but we are not at all assured that those demons are "saved." Acknowledgement of God or even destroying the high places is not what God is after entirely. Rather, after we acknowledge God, it has always been necessary to live like Him - as His image and likeness.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On The Gospel - The People of God II

YHWH has come for those who would be His people. He has come to rescue, to recover, to reconcile first Israel and then all of humankind to Himself. He has done this more than once in the history of the world. YHWH has come for His people out of His own initiative, not because those He seeks to find are guiltless our morally deserve His rescue, but as an act of grace. This grace, freely offered by YHWH and arising from His steadfast love for Israel and all people, is freely exercised. Paul will tell us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Before we had faith, before we repented, before we had come to our senses, YHWH effected the death of Jesus for the entire world.

The intent of this reconciliation offered first to Israel and then to the nations, is the same intent - to form and shape a people of YHWH who would be the name by which they are called. This people would both be faithful to YHWH and embody His character among the nations and each other. Their lives and message would be their calling, their burden, and their blessing for the world. These people would be a sort of incarnation; they would embody their God in this world. YHWH offers through His people, real life lived fully as images of Himself with and among each other. The glory of God is truly human beings fully alive.

But we have become distracted and have built religious institutions, complete with structure, rules, and set liturgies and we have called these the church. When Jesus promised to build His church, it wasn't one of these Sunday morning institutions to which He referred. He was referring to the very thing YHWH has always been after namely, a people who would be the name by which they are called. A people faithful to YHWH as their God, their strength, their protector, their defense, their example and master. A people who would embody the very character and image of YHWH as a wise, merciful, just, and faithful God and be His people.

This then, rightly is the people of God, a people and all people who are faithful to and disciples of YHWH and Jesus, who have rescued them and given them life right now. They are not defined primarily by religious doctrine, ecclesial structure or rules, historical institutional continuance, or a culture bound denominational name. They are defined by how closely they reflect the character of their God. As YHWH has told us, His people will be known by their love - for each other and for the world. These people are the only true people of God and it is this people that YHWH has been after since the beginning.

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