Avoid the God App

It’s tempting to treat God like an app.

Just download God and go to the app when you need Him.

One app among many.  Problems?  Just ask God what to do so you can be blessed.

The Gospel is different.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, 

to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—

this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1

When we treat God like an app we move directly to morality and abandon grace.

“What does God want me to do?”

Do “x” so God will give you “y.”

Avoid the God App, it will corrupt genuine Gospel faith.

The Gospel gives us a relationship, not an app of convenience.

“…in view of God’s mercy…”

Connecting faith to real life starts with a view of the cross.

Jesus took our place that we might enjoy His place with the Father.

Sin would take its toll from us — killing us slowly with guilt, shame, and fear.

But mercifully He took our guilt that we might have a share in His innocence,

our shame that we might have a share in His honour,

our fear that we might have a share in His peace.

Now through Jesus we are connected to One from whom and through whom

and for whom all things are!  (Romans 11:36)

What an awesome God we have!

The inconvenient but joyful way to live as one loved by Jesus is

is to make His mercy our starting place.


Personal Thoughts on Dalai Lama Center, Peace Summit, Vancouver 2009

In a few days Vancouver will be inundated with people who have demonstrated with their life a commitment to improving the lives of others and building a life of peace.  The Peace Summit, Vancouver 2009, sponsored by the Dalai Lama Center in Vancouver has drawn together an extraordinary group of people for dialogue in both public and private conversations. The Epoch times has an informative article listing and describing the participants which include the Dalai Lama, and Noble Peace Prize Laureates, Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams, and Mairead Maguire.

I was recently asked what I thought about the event.  Here are a few personal observations and the perspectives that shape them–just looking in before it gets started:

1.  The Summit is a remarkable celebration of LIBERTY.  As a philosophical construct informed from a Christian worldview, liberty demands that people be free to hold exclusive and divergent positions or truth claims while maintaining the dignity and high value of all humanity in respectful interactions.  Where liberty is most graciously practiced tension abounds–especially for those who observe people with divergent truth-claims getting along and planning to do good together.

2.  The Summit promotes the difficult task of PEACEMAKING.  The values and competencies required to make peace in a world of hostility will be discussed and made available through the event.  Relational reconciliation begins in our own neighbourhoods and cities.  To break dividing walls of hostility is not an easy task and requires “wisdom from heaven.”  Jesus calls his followers to respond to His grace with lives that promote peace; he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”  And James writes,

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.  NIV (James 3:13-18)

3.  The Summit is a reflection of COMMON GRACE.  From the perspective of a Christian worldview I see the Peace Summit as a possibility only because of God’s gracious kindness toward all humanity who desires that all would come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  Notice the gift of peace for people that Christians are to seek in prayer as described in 1 Timothy 2:1-6

2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time.  (NIV)

2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone- 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time.

4.  The Summit is a RELIGIOUS event.  Participants, including the Dalai Lama come to the Summit from their own worldview and construct of faith either in themselves, or a set of principles greater themselves, or in a god.  If we understand spirituality as the pursuit required to integrate what we see with what we don’t see then one could say this is a SPIRITUAL event as well.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, writes to the churches that “Religion God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)  Religion though is most often an exercise in self-justification, self-righteousness, and self-awareness.  When either of these selves is threatened it turns quickly to the desires for power and control in order to maintain this idolatry or balance of a self-satisfied life.  A spirituality flowing out of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be categorically different in its realization that justification, righteousness and awareness are secured in Christ.  As a resident of a City (Vancouver) that has many who long to be good, I can observe with the Apostle Paul that God has worked in the hearts of humanity a record of His Law or way:  “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing , now even defending them.”  (Romans 2:14-15)  One of the stated goals of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education is the “education of the heart;” participants will be encouraged to explore and develop personal peace from which will hopefully flow compassion for others; that’s religion at its best.  Not a GOSPEL event but a RELIGIOUS event.

5.  The Peace Summit reminds me of the SUPREMACY OF CHRIST.  The followers of Jesus even from the first century have entered into the real and sometimes figurative Areopagus (See Acts 17:16-34)  in order to proclaim the reality and the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The exchange of ideas in the marketplace is exciting and sometimes costly.  Love and Truth do mix.  Our Vancouver- Canadian apprehension of conflict will be challenged by the public exchange of ideas that the Peace Summit elicits.  From the Christian worldview, Christians live their lives in response to Jesus Christ because of His “work” on the cross and His resurrection that confirmed and completed His work.  Jesus is our Prince of Peace.  He brings a peace that the world cannot give.  He brings a peace with God that transcends all other realities.  I don’t want to pretend about the realities of conflict like those who say, “Peace, Peace, where there is no peace.”  (See Jeremiah 6:14)  The claims of Christ are in direct conflict with the dominant messages of spiritual self-sufficiency.  The Apostles who functioned in a world of diverse ideas and claims to truth show us how to live as followers of Jesus Christ:  test the spirits, discern the truth, act in love.    See 1 John 4:1-21 below.

4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.  NIV

Recent articles:

Vancouver Sun writer Douglas Todd explores the three goals of the Peace Summit.