023.2 Creative Expression, pt 4: Testimony

Before we move on to testimonies, we have to back up and cover some scripture of rhema and art
Acts 2:14 Peter asks crowd to give heed to his “rhema”

Acts 5:20 go speak to the people the whole “rhema” of this life. In other words, declare what I’ve revealed to you. You can’t speak “rhema” without the Holy Spirit accompanying you.

If the truest form of expression comes when the Holy Spirit inspires and accompanies it, then some of the worst forms of corruption of that come in the form of contracts concerning “worship music” and sermons. If we contractually obligate Christians to produce albums and teachings, then they are motivated by money and job security to fill space. The Holy Spirit can certainly transcend these human limitations, but why would we not reorient ourselves to work fully in communion with Him?

Godly creative exrpession is to art what Rhema is to Logos. People can learn the skills of art, and be really good at it. But doing those things in communion with the Holy Spirit connect to something deeper. Our relationship with God can inspire others to engage a relationship with God.

Testimonies
We emphasize communicating testimonies in creative expression. We have done this (Mark, Mark, and Jason are musicians), and we encourage it in others. Testimonies are authentic; they are a weapon; and the tell of what God has done. Testimonies declare that God is who He says He is, and that He is their Lord.

Psalm 66:5,16 Come and see the works of God, who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men…come and hear all who fear God and I will tell of what He’s done for my soul.

Expressing with Authority
People were moved by what Jesus preached because He taught with authority. It wasn’t just His conviction (which some preachers do not have), but that He did what He taught. He was passionate about what He taught – things that He knew, did, and had a deep conviction of. He lived what He taught. Deep conviction backed up with a steadfast walk shakes people.

People desire authenticity because it is a connection to something that can be known. It is proof that truth and love are attainable, that loneliness is not the only option. Authenticity in expression means that the expression is not just a product or filler, but that it bridges the gap between our experiences. This desire for authenticity puts a wedge within our religious experience. The modern church strives to be “authentic”, but kills that effort by its striving. Authentic followers are living sacrifices.

To be authentic, we need to find our identity, and we can only find that in Christ.

Godly creative expression is done with authority – it is done as an outpouring of what we know and do, it is done in communion with the Holy Spirit.

Why are you creating? Is it just to fill space? Is it to attract people to your self? Are you just adding bible words to chords? What inspires it? What is the motivation? What power is there in something contrived? Our creations have more power when they come from a place of authority – of an outpouring of our experience.

What is the vision of Godly creative expression? God’s vision for creative expression will depend on what His vision is for the church in a certain place at a certain time. He will be expressing what He is doing through mankind’s expression. If this is the case, then the church is missing out by programming and recycling “worship music.” The bible speaks of EVERYONE bringing a psalm, hymn, or spiritual song, for the purposes of teaching and edifying. This means that God can move corporately in a church BODY and express Himself at that time through new and old expressions. “Worship music”, or any artistic function within the church, should not be seen as entertaining, but in some way prophetic, in that it is expressing who God is and what He is doing.

If the creative expression of who God is and what He is doing is limited, stifled, etc., then its power is greatly decreased. The praises cannot be heard, the rebukes are not received, the encouragements are silenced. He cheapen the arts to “oh, that’s pretty” or “oh, that’s cool” or “i really like this song”.

So…how are urban renewal, reformation of the church, and reformation of creative expression all the same thing? Because they are all concerned with God’s patterns, having a relationship with God, being filled with His Spirit, walking in His ways. When we are in line with God’s ways, we are declaring His glory, we are expressing His diving attributes. When we do that, we will be ministering. You will be living out Isaiah 61. When we do this, our hearts are full of the good things of God, and they overflow in our various abilities. We do that together, corporately, as a body. Within this context, the only reason any art exists is because we have encountered our Lord and we can’t help but to express it, or we so desire to encounter Him that we call out in lament.

As the church has become corrupted in America, and Americanized the Gospel, it brought its arts right along with it and turned ministry into an industry. If we leave the world and allign our hearts with God’s, then we will find ourselves in the trenches of spiritual warfare, and shoulder to shoulder not only with our brothers and sisters, but with Jesus Himself, and that results in the restoration of dark places, including inner cities. As we live among those who need love and need the Lord, and humble ourselves, instead of exalting ourselves like the builders of Babel, then what we do create, express, and build will communicate who God is and what He does.

When we return to God’s patterns, we will be loving, we will be expressing, and we will be living the church the way that He designed.

Songs:

Keith Green – Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful

Shawn Groves – Blank Page

 

This episode originally broadcast live on September 4, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

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023.1 Creative Expression, pt 3: Logos and Rhema

Creative expression includes most things people think of when they think about art. We are going to start by reviewing some of the big picture ideas we got to in parts 1 and 2 of this discussion.

First obvious signs of creative expression after the fall

Jubal the first musician, Tubal-Cain working with metal. We see records of people desiring to express creatively after the fall. Prior to the fall, man and God have perfect communion. After the fall, communication is impaired.

In the Garden, we had perfect communion. We were fully known, and we knew God in a very intimate way. So will there be creative expressions in Heaven? We will sing, we know that much. And God is creative, and we are created in His image. Are there parallels between creative expressions and spiritual gifts? Obviously spiritual gifts come from God and express who He is. But there will be a day when some pass away, and they won’t be necessary, at least not in our current comprehension of them. They are for ministry and to build us up into the fullness of Christ. What purpose would they serve once we are in that fullness, together with the Father?

So instead of looking at creative expression as a compensation for lack of communion, is it something that is fully realized in unison with God? Is it something that we do WITH God, and in doing it with God, it becomes its true form, and works toward the will of God?

Is redeemed creative expression meant to EXPRESS God or EXPLAIN God? Likely, both.

Is creative expression out of union with God inherently corrupt? While they can be very honest, essentially yes. We had mentioned the urge to build and control related to the urge to create. These are parts of our image of God and part of His purpose for us, that we should be little creators who rule the world on God’s behalf, and with Him. When those are corrupt, we end up building Babels. When we exercise our own creative energies apart from God, it can exalt our pride.

While there is much to be said for all humanity’s creative efforts, the kind that will build us up will in some way point towards the Creator of all. Can our communion with God, our longing for Him, our desolation apart from Him, our questions and doubts, our pains and loss, inspire expressions that bridge the gap created at the Fall?

So after looking at all the ways music specifically was used in Scripture, for godly and ungodly purposes, and exploring lots of modern corruptions, how do we get back to God’s design for creative expression? How do we reform it?

The Bible displays a spiritual connection to expression, and servants, especially Paul, desiring to communicate in God’s ways.

Creative Expression, Rhema, and Logos

Martin Luther believed that the Gospel was Jesus – essentially anything that communicated Jesus was Good News. If everything that could be expressed about God in human form was Jesus, then there is some merit to this idea. There are some who believe God’s expression of Himself has ceased, and is contained entirely in Scripture. Some believe God is always communicated Jesus in some way. Not writing a new Bible, or replacing the Bible, or negating the Bible, but that God expresses Himself and communicates the Good News of the Kingdom always in many ways.

Logos and Rhema are two greek words that get translated as “word”. However, the represent two slightly different ideas, both of which relate to creative expression.

Logos is most famously used in John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Here, he is clearly referring to Jesus.

Rhema is most famously used in Matthew 4:4 “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

While their literal definitions are very similar, their uses in Scripture show a difference.

Logos is the word, it is declaration. Rhema is revelation. Logos is concrete and clear and trustworthy. Rhema is expressive and fluid, yet still never contradicts the Logos. Rhema is not simply allegorical interpretations of Scripture. It is revelation of God. Sometimes it involves reading scripture. Sometimes it simply happens in ministry, no where near a Bible.

How does art relate to rhema? As God redeems His people, He fills them with His Spirit, grants them rhema (revelation of the truth), and inspires them to express it in way similar to how He expresses. This could be seen as taking what Scripture says, and creatively expressing what it means.

God supernatually revealed the design of the Tabernacle, then He sent His Spirit to empower craftsmen to accomplish the design.

When we are faithful and obedient, we are declaring the character of God. God reveals Himself to people in certain ways at certain times. Sometimes as a burning bush, sometimes as thunder, sometimes as a pillar of cloud, etc. Why? Why does He choose different forms, different expressions? Even in Scripture, there are many literary forms. Why does He choose poems in place, and geneologies in another? Why did Jesus come in human, tangible, physical form to live an observable, historical, concrete life, and yet also grant confounding visions to John? Because He is expressing in forms that express Him, to the recipient, and to others to come after. Because He is the creative Creator. Because there is so much of Him to express.

Songs

Newsboys – God is Not a Secret

Nichole Nordeman – I am

Additional music

Ben Pasley – Rugged Old Hand http://www.benpasley.com/ Used by permission.

This episode originally broadcast live on September 4, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

022.2 Creative Expression, pt 2 – In the Spirit

We continue to explore godly creative expression, focusing on how it must be done in the Spirit.

Purposes of music in scripture (continued from part 1)

  • Prophesying

  • Teaching/admonishing

  • Giving things

  • Edification

  • Community context

  • Declaring God’s glory – Isaiah 12:5

  • Praise – Psalms, Exodus 15 (The Song of Moses). Prophecy and song are two of the most used forms of praise in Scripture. Often, people respond in Scripture with songs and prophecy. They witness a move of God, and respond with expression.

  • Conviction and judgment – Deuteronomy 31, God gives Moses a song that will be a witness to them about their impending disobedience. Chapter 32 is the song. God Himself ordained the use of song to bring about conviction

  • Testifying God’s works – 2 Samuel 22/Psalm 18

  • Ministry – 1 Samuel 16:23; David would play music that caused an evil spirit to depart from Saul. Could also be seen as spiritual warfare. However, do not confuse this with playing songs in a church setting. Shouting, or singing, or playing music loudly does not force a demon into submission. However, song can most definitely be used as a spiritual weapon, when used in the Spirit, with authority. But it is not a magical thing that causes demons to vanish.

Unbiblical Practices
When we focus simply on praise, we miss a whole lot of amazing things that God uses music and other creative expressions for. Godly creative expression flows out of an experience with God. The modern distortion tries to present a song, and then cause people to experience God. We shrink this amazing gift down to the idea that a worship leader on stage playing a song will cause someone to experience God. This is an unfair burden to lay upon a person.

Emotional Manipulation
Music and other creative expressions cause emotional connections. This is simply part of our design, because these expressions reveal parts of our selves and communicate something. This does not necessarily equate to godliness. These emotional connections can fortify strongholds of pain in our lives and lead us into corruption. Also, misusing creative expressions generally compounds the pain that motivated us in the first place. The contents of our hearts inform our expressions, but the content of creative expressions nourish parts of our hearts, whether for good or bad. Music and other arts hold our affections. They give validation and amplification to our experiences. This is why reformation of creative expression is so important. God has given spiritually fruitful uses for these things to grow the Kingdom, and satan will continuously try to pervert them to bring destruction.

Idol Worship
Nebuchadnezzar used music to induce the worship of idols. The Israelites also used music in their worship of the golden calf.

Industry vs Ministry
The Christian music industry is just a music industry with limited subject matter. It is an economic machine of copyrights, salaries, marketing, trends, money, etc. If music is a ministry, why the drive to “make a living” doing ministry? Why can we not use our hands and utilize resources creatively, and minister as we live within our gifts? The way copyrights work, people sell over their expressions in the hopes of an industry to create profit off it. They no longer have control over their expressions. This puts money as a central motivation in the creation of creative expressions, which is a precarious position.

“Worship” in with church buildings is simply an extension of the music industry. Church buildings are public spaces and have to pay for worship songs they play. So now money becomes a factor in the playing of praise songs in a church gathering.

In the New Testament, we are all to bring something to the gathering, specifically including songs for the purposes of teaching and edification.

“Worship” is not singing some songs about God. It is something done in Spirit and in truth, and it involves being a living sacrifice. People try so hard to apply Romans 12:1 to songs on a Sunday morning service, and it doesn’t add up. Praise is wonderful, teaching and admonishing through song is wonderful, prophesying through song is wonderful. And they can be utilized in a lifestyle of worship. But singing songs alone is not worship. It cannot be separated from a life of obedience.

Reformation of the Arts

Reformation of the arts only happens when man’s spirit is renewed, and this only occurs through Jesus Christ. The true meaning of our words and expressions come from a spiritual place, and need to be filled with the Spirit. This has been lost in the modern day, that stresses secular wisdom and practices for preaching and forming “worship teams”, both of which often involve contracts.

The reformation of the arts will express the things of God. This doesn’t have to look like one specific form. God’s glory is manifold, and humans are complex and unique. It comes back to our heart and what comes out of it and what goes in to it.

What has been lost in all of this is the spontaneous impetus of the Holy Spirit to move on believers to create or express. Followers of God should be aiming to declare the glory of our Lord, and our creative expressions are deep and nuanced ways to express things about Him.

Song

Rich Mullins – I See You http://kidbrothers.org/ https://youtu.be/XejzqulWj2k

Additional music

Enter the Worship Circle – All I Need www.entertheworshipcircle.com Used by permission.

This episode originally broadcast live on August 28, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

022.1 Creative Expression, pt 1 – The Image of God

What is creative expression? How does God express creatively? How do humans express creatively? How has all this been distorted? We look at some big pictures to explore what it means to be created in the image of the Creator.

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life…what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:1,3

God is the ultimate creator. Everything He has done has been an expression of Himself (Romans 1:19).

The whole earth is full of His glory (Isaiah 6:3)! God’s creation declares His glory. Our creations should also declare His glory. So what is His glory?

We are the only creation created in the image of God. When we were created, we did not have the knowledge of good and evil, so we expressed nothing corrupt. But once we fell, our expressions changed from representing God to representing useless and base things. Idolatry is a perfect example of these. We perform worship for a creation rather than the Creator.

Apart from God, our creative expressions are misdirected and point towards things other than God. Once mankind was out of the presence of God, they begin making things – musical instruments and tools of metal. Is this a response aimed to compensate for the fact that they can no longer commune with God? Expression is no longer pure and directly connected, so are they looking for ways to “reconnect” with their Creator? When creative expression naturally flows out of relationship with God, it is spiritual. Separate from that, we are left to physical tools and physical means. This deteriorates from makings songs, to making idols, to making the Tower of Babel. Our creativity given us through the image of God now becomes the thing that gives voice to our pride in the invention of the brick. Bricks would later solidify our slavery in Egypt.

Outside of relationship transparency, we have to figure out a way to communicate what is going on; we need to find a medium. If we could simply and purely communicate, would we still have the desire to utilize the medium to create the expression? Is the whole purpose of creative expression to communicate God to others? To utilize a medium to cross a communication gap? We don’t know. There is plenty of singing in Heaven.

Corruptions in creative expression begin with the fact that there is a separation. And then they start to point towards other things. We also appear to have a desire to build and control. Is our drive to create the same drive that pushes us to overtake other people? Are we trying to manifest the “image of God” in our own power, apart from the Spirit? If this is so, then when this is redeemed, we can then bring about redemption, peace, and justice. Redeeming the “creative” drive in us, the part of the image that creates, builds, and manipulates, will declare the glory of God and end the distortion that leads to destruction, imperialism, and oppression. There is no way to “get back to the garden” without reforming creative expression.

When we empower and encourage people to express God’s glory in their own way, it can bring great unity in the Spirit through the diversity of the Body of Christ.

Our expressions come from what is inside of us (Matthew 12:33-37). Psalm 45 shows an expression that is inspired by God and directed to Him:

“My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”

Creative expression encompasses many things, but most practically the arts. We explored the specific example of music throughout scripture to see what role it played in the interaction between man and God.

  • David set aside men to prophesy with music
  • Many of the verses quoted in the New Testament as being prophecy of the coming Messiah are from Psalms.
  • The Psalms declare God’s character
  • Songs were used for teaching and correction
  • Song, and creation itself, were involved in the birth of Jesus, and creation testified at the death of Christ.
  • Music was shared with other members of the Body, often in giving thanks
  • Music was used to edify the Body, and is likened to spiritual acts such as teaching and speaking in tongues, which could be seen as other creative expressions

Next week we will continue to explore creative expression.

Songs:

Beautiful Eulogy – “Instruments of Mercy” from their album, “Instruments of Mercy”; available at www.humblebeast.com. Used by permission.

Josh Garrels – “Colors”, from his album “Home” www.joshgarrels.com

This episode originally broadcast live on August 28, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

021.2 Pain and Pretending, pt. 8: Love or transaction?

We will continue to explore transactional relationships and how they deeply affect our understanding of the world around us, from everyday interactions to how we structure our churches.

Jesus defined love as a denial of your self – it is not a contract with others. Transactional relationships make no room for love. They are inherently self-centered: these are my expectations and you must meet them. God is often accused of being transactional in His interactions with humans: He demands a certain kind of behavior and punishes man if they fail. This is not quite the case. God disciplines and desires true relationship. There is a difference between discipline and transactional punishment. A loving form of discipline doesn’t try to manipulate, it seeks to teach and guide. God wants us to share in His holiness – this is a condition, not a kind of behavior. In His discipline, God is continuously looking at your heart. He wants your heart to want Him. Though He is concerned with our behavior, grace covers our sin. God does not withhold His love as a form of disapproval in order to manipulate people into a specified behavior.

Discipline is not punishment. It is motivated by love and designed to bring us to a place of safety and blessing. Discipline can be hard and painful, and include rebukes, corrections, course changes, or merely acts of protection that temporarily inconvenience us. If eternal life is knowing God, then every step of obedience, every act of discipline, every occurance of suffering for righteousness brings us closer to knowing Him.

God Himself chose to suffer in righteousness. In redeeming a fallen and rebellious world, it is only logical that those pursuing God would suffer – otherwise we would live in a transactional universe that rewards and punishes according to firm rules. In that case, we don’t need love or grace. When we are transformed into the image of His Son, we are living by God’s design. In doing this, we find our creative purpose. We cannot find ourselves in our possessions, in a pursuit of storing up for ourselves, escaping pain, and seeking comfort. These are merely obstacles and insulators keeping us from God. You will find yourself when you sacrifice everything for strangers, because then you will understand God’s love, and understand why He did that very thing for you.

As victims try to move on from being raised in a transactional environment, they try to fill all the voids left by a confusion of love and approval. It takes a long time to accept that our worth comes from God’s love for us, not from our performance. Transactional relationships are the antithesis of unconditional love. Transactional relationships rob us of grace and love, because we equate our feelings with our condition, and our feelings are informed by our perceived sense of worth. Remember that love is tied to who you are, approval is tied to what you do.

Living in transaction “works” because it allows us to navigate the world while hiding pain. However, when pain changes who we are, we start to live in a self-centered world where everything is viewed through our expectations. This does not make us selfish or wicked, merely hurting. In this state, you will view everyone as abusers because you are constantly facing unmet expectations; you feel that others don’t value you.

People don’t just have transactional relationships with individuals, but with society. A transactional worldview puts you in constant fear of punishment due to failure. It twists you view of justice. God is love, and His understanding of justice and goodness is cosmic. It is His. It is Good. It is what is best for us. Obedience to God is simply living the way you were designed to live. Obedience to man is following rules to fascilitate a convenient relationship that has no costs.

Unfortunately, the American church has been trained into perceiving the world from a transactional worldview. We see people in calamity and assume hidden sin or bad decisions. This is due to our conforming to American spiritualism that puts great value on performance and holds up the myth that hard work and honest dealings will cause you to rise in social standing and success. It is also the result of a lack of faith. We fall back on a law that gives us a checks and balances between ourselves and God. The New Covenant has done away with all that. God wants to indwell us with His Spirit, build His Kingdom in our midst. He wants to walk with us in the cool of the day and whisper in our ear. We should not need a terrifying mountain and a delegate to go and retrieve stone tablets for us. Our hearts should be soft and ready for Him to imprint His design upon them.

There are many false gospels that teach that God is transactional, that we must behave a certain way and that we will be rewarded with physical blessings; that God is bound to an agreement to transact with us based on behavior and approval. This epidemic of transactional relationship, of the confusion of love and approval, has led to a predominate false gospel in America which preaches, “Come add yourself to this group of people who will engage in certain behavior and get rewarded.” This creates a self-centered ecclesiology – responding to “felt needs”, providing fresh worship, having a full-service club for people to join complete with child care, vacations, parties, concerts, movies, perfomances, branded merchandise, etc. God is not trite. He is not small-minded nor cold-hearted. He wants us to walk with Him so our desire for temporary things will diminish and we will come to know Him.

The modern American church has become a transactional system. We hire pastors to preach and judge their performance. If he fails, he is replaced. It gives positions based on tithing – those that don’t tithe aren’t allowed to become elders, etc. The tithe as a whole is a transactional system that is not a New Testament mandate. These things turn the church into a business. If the church is supposed to be a manifestation of God’s love here on earth, it cannot do that if it functions in transaction, because transactional relationships and love are mutually exclusive. God’s church functions on spiritual gifts given by God, not by job description and salaries. There is no pressure to perform for anyone.

An incomplete gospel, based on a transactional church system, gives us a religion that does not bring us to God. Accomplishing a set of tasks does not “fulfill our end of the bargain” to receive blessing, communion, or salvation. Unfortunately, this gospel is the easiest one to communicate, so much so that it will be passively communicated even if never preached, even if a true gospel is spoken, because this transactional gospel will have so much visible evidence.

This manmade church structure is a fragile system that must defend itself. It creates a false sense of unity, which is either uniformity, or a sharing of activity and meeting times. Look at the difference between nurturing a tree and training a tree to a form If you nurture a tree, you will plant it in good soil, water it, fertilize it, prune it, and give it the space it needs to become the tree it was designed to be. If you are training a tree to a form, then you are telling it what to become, and strapping it to a rigid pattern so that it only grows where you want it to. God’s design of unconditional love allows the created diversity of His people to flourish. He doesn’t want us to act, look, and talk the same. He wants us to be what He created, and He is endlessly creative.

Songs:

The Oh Hellos – The Valley http://theohhellos.com/

Leeland – Tears of the Saints http://leelandonline.com/

This episode originally broadcast live on August 21, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

021.1 Pain and Pretending, pt. 7: A World of Transaction

Let’s start over with the idea that humanity was designed by the Creator. We were meant to live a certain way. When God created everything, He called it good. Mankind quickly decided that we wanted to live our own way instead of God’s way. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God here to earth, to return the Spirit of God to mankind, and show them how to live with God as their Lord.

In this episode, we begin discussing man living by their own design with some (seemingly) silly examples (like robots). This moves to the idea that the the modern, western world is beginning to acknowledge the effects of pain. However, mankind still chooses to live by their own design – we look for our own solutions, as opposed to obeying God.

For example, many results of abuse include “bad behavior”. People lack the basic abilities to interact with other humans in healthy ways. They can’t focus in school. They take offense easily. They constantly feel their very existence is threatened. The consequences of those actions are alienation, more abuse, or punishment. When this happens on a very large scale, we end up with generational oppression. In America, this generally manifests in racism and all its tangents.

The penal system is one of punishment. It is a transactional relationship. When people get pushed to their limits, they get focused on their “needs” or inconveniences, and start reacting out of demands, which turns everything into a transaction. This leads to many people feeling disrespected or neglected much of the time.

Secular responses to deep pain will always fall short. They will only be the best of human strength and wisdom, which will forever be insufficient.

The answer is God’s love. Genuine care. Loving by serving. Walking in the Spirit, walking united as the Body. God can break down great things through humble obedience. We have seen Him break racial stereotypes and expand the boundaries of our “family” to include people that don’t look like us. We’ve experienced plenty of rejection, as well. But if we remain in a state of transaction, we will always be offended and always be withholding love from those who need it most.

The systems of the world are largely transactional. Business, banking, government, taxes, etc. We create “machines” to manage our world, and all those machines run on transaction. This means we are regularly investing our selves into machines that do not allow us to function on a human level. This tears at our humanity, and makes it hard to differentiate those interactions from ones with other humans. It is certainly nice for things to run like a well oiled machine, but humanity rarely does, so we cannot hold that expectation over ourselves. We cannot “transact” with other humans and think that it will result in healthy relationships.

Real love is not transactional. Transactional relationships do not make room for love. Economic exchanges are “fair” and based on expectations. Love is sacrificial. Grace is undeserved; it cannot be deserved. When we apply economic principals to our relationship with God we will be very disappointed, and miss the amazing acts of love He is doing right before our eyes.

Songs:

Amena Brown – Baggage Check http://www.amenabrown.com/

Newsboys – A Million Pieces https://newsboys.com/

This episode originally broadcast live on August 21, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)

020.2 Pain and Pretending, pt. 6: Transactional Relationships

The confusion between love and approval can begin at an early age, through discipline, or through a lack of genuine displays of affection. People generally feel more loved when we’re being praised. It takes intentionality to show that we love when we disapprove, and to not withdraw signs of love when we disapprove.

These feelings towards love, approval, and disapproval get transferred to our feelings towards God. This can lead to people feeling God is punishing them, testing them, or teaching them something any time something bad happens. Confusing love and approval can prevent you from resting in grace.

Instead of jumping to anxiety and assumptions in the face of pain or discomfort – instead of viewing pains as enemies – we should view them as opportunities to know God more. The only thing we should “assume” in a painful situation is that it is painful and we need God.

Transactional Relationships

God is often accused of working in transactional relationships, but He does not. So what is a transactional relationship? Let’s look at some examples:

  • A child will often do something to get praise from their parents

  • A child might settle simply for attention from their actions

    • These interactions can never bring satisfaction because there will always be another “task” to be done, or eventually, an interaction will not go the way you want, which means you don’t get approval, which means all your “hard work” goes unrecognized.

  • Transactional relationships create a very unhealthy way to nurture who we are. It “feeds” a desire in us, like caffeine can “feed” our desire for sleep while depriving our body of the rest it needs

  • Transactional relationships bring “control” into a relationship. People try to control through their transactions, through their performance. It puts an unhealthy, critical eye on everyone else’s actions

  • Transactional relationships are often the subject of jokes and sitcom plots. While this makes funny television, unfortunately it “normalizes” transactional relationships.

  • Look at them as “economic relationships”. You would spend a set amount of money on an item at the store. You have performed a just transaction, involving expections, even exchange, etc. This is great for business, but utterly destructive for human relations.

The ideas of transactional relationships get planted early on in our helpless state as babies. All we know is what we feel, and that we are utterly dependent upon others. So we express displeasure at our circumstances until those circumstances change (hungry, hurt, tired, needing a diaper changed, etc). While it is good and healthy to indulge these “expressions of displeasure” on behalf of helpless babies, the nature of our nurturing relationships must change over time, and certainly once we receive the Holy Spirit of God.

Grace utterly destroys transaction. It is totally undeserved. It is the New Order of the Kingdom of God. It takes care of our mistakes, but doesn’t necessarily force our hearts to want anything. Some people don’t want grace, because it forces us to give something up. In a marriage context, I can do things that hurt or offend my wife, through impatience, aggravation, etc. But there is still love in the relationship. Our hearts still desire each other and our relationship. I have “sinned” by simply performing an act that was hurtful. However, once my heart starts wandering to others, now I have compromised the very fabric of the relationship. I no longer desire my wife or my relationship. It’s not a matter of “missing the mark”, now my heart is inclined towards other things. This directly applies to our relationship with God, and the relationship with sin and iniquity. A transactional relationship rarely gets to the point of the desires of the heart, and merely measures everything on a surface level looking at performance, while the true desires of the heart never get fulfilled, dispite how successful the transactions may have been.

Many people remain “fussing babies” complaining to try to get what they want. This is generally because of pain, or a vow, or never surrendering to God and being vulnerable. Once we are ingrained in this way of relating, we subject ourselves to imagined abuses. We turn every relationship into an abusive relationship, with ourselves as the victims of the abuse. It becomes a constant state of living in expectations, where those expectations are rarely verbalized, and rarely met, so we always feel wronged or slighted or unloved, dispite all our efforts to receive love. We will constantly misinterpret the words and actions of those around us, which simply sets them up to fail. So now we are every day experiencing “abuse” at the hands of people who are not abusing us.

God interacts through unconditional love. God loved us while we were still sinners. God told us to do all things out of love, and Jesus did that. So even things that He did that do not look “loving” (using whips, insulting pharisees, rebuking Peter, confronting crowds with bold questions, expressing impatience at people’s sin and doubt), these acts were in fact done out of love. Even when God’s wrath abides on us, it is love. The clear and distinct choice between Heaven and hell is a loving choice. They are not similar. There is no need to do a “cost/benefit analysis”. The choices are clear and entirely different.

Our relationship with God shouldn’t be one of trying to discern the task God wants us to do. He wants us to abide in His Grace. He wants us to know Him. He wants us to love. He knows that we are made of dust, that we are weak and sinful – this is what grace is for.

God sets out a way for us to live. This can bring blessing, but can also bring suffering. Jesus lived perfectly and suffered immensely. Obedience to God is not a transaction to get you what you desire. God does not work in transaction, but satan does. His kingdom is designed around them. He makes false promises, he amplifies offenses, he tempts us to arrange the whole universe around our desires and comfort. If God was transactional in His relationships, Hebrews 11 would look very different.

Transactional relationships are a trap of satan. There is no fulfillment or freedom there. There is only an endless striving to feed a bottomless hole of pain. Only grace and cover that wound. Only the healing power of the Spirit can set us free.

For more information about transactional relationships, please see the book “Love: No Strings Attached” by Rich Buhler

Song:

Josh Garrels – Burden Down www.joshgarrels.com

Brian Morykon – Prodigal Son http://music.morykon.com/

This episode originally broadcast live on August 14, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO

For more info:

www.sunministries.org

www.sunministries.blogspot.com

Theme music: “The Resistance” by Josh Garrels (www.joshgarrels.com) licensed by Marmoset Music (www.marmosetmusic.com)