Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Friday, October 20, 2006

Existential Faith Part 2

Faith that is based on a defensive orientation to life has as its flaws a separation from reality which makes it difficult to subscribe to as a viable alternative to any other defense mechanism designed by an individual which enables that person to function in society without anxiety. The foundational orientation is based on five assumptions;
1] protection - believing that life will be better, because; a type of prosperity gospel
2] insight - the will of God is revealed consistently and concisely daily, leading for today and tomorrow
3] butler mentality - that God will look after every minute detail of life
4] destiny - that God has a special purpose and plan for my life
5] patterned life - every detail of life is orchestrated by God with His purpose intended.
This model of life seeks to deal with confusion, pain, and life's difficulties by creating a world which is orderly, protected, guided, served, and special.
Existential faith is based on five assumptions;
1] It rains on the just and the unjust - life happens in the physical world to me the same as others
2] God's will is difficult to discern -
3] God is autonomous - God intervenes at His discretion
4] Choice & responsibility - life decisions requiring responsibility from me are predominantly mine to make
5] Random presiding of God - God does not micro-manage the world, accidents are allowed to happen because they are the circumstances of life.
There is opportunity to fluctuate between the assumptions mentioned in each model, there is even biblical truth to believing assumptions from each model. The exercise is to understand that by being objective (without bias or personal prejudices) about faith, faith then has the ability to be authentic ( worthy of trust, reliance & belief).
There are many that will defend their faith as a free-choice issue without any recognition of an ulterior motivation for their belief. My question is, In denying the validity of some of the issues brought forward questioning the foundation of my faith, will I not strive for deeper meaning in my faith?
Faith without deeper meaning, is belief without transformation. It is Christianity without surrender, without the deeper communion with God, without the relationship with God that Christ's sacrifice was all about. It is about a faith that establishes a person as a believer based on superficial evidence that is masquerading as a changed life.
I must move beyond faith leading to salvation (which seeks to quench existential fear), to a faith knowing that God will answer because He is my Heavenly Father. I remember swimming in Shushwap Lake, diving off a houseboat into the water. I didn't take much thought of the lake itself until someone told me it was 600 ft. deep, at once there was a change in my sense of enjoyment. Even though I was still using the same 5 ft. of water I was using before the knowledge of the lake's depth, know I was troubled, it was disconcerting to think of all that water under my toes. I was in the deep and it is in that sense of deepness where faith is truly found. The intimidation, the sense of my smallness, my inadequacy, my proportion in relation to my immediate environment and much more are the feelings, but most importantly the fear, the unpleasantness of my lack of comfort with being in the deep. God calls me to be transitive (moving) to a faith upon the deep. Jesus took His disciples on a boat-trip (Mark 4:35-41) and a storm arose, as the disciples fought to keep the boat afloat (remember we have experienced fisherman on board) they begin to despair for their lives. Jesus is ' not available', He is sleeping in the stern of the boat. Was it not His idea to go on the boat? Did I not trust in His judgement that it was the best decision? Do You not care that I am dying? Do You not understand I followed You here? Where are my expectations now? I think God will leave us in a place where are fears are placated by 'salvation' where our fears are laid to rest and we live our lives on the narcotic faith. However some are being called to live on the deep, shipwrecked, without the props, without stock or trade in the commodities of religion, without defense or pretense, just God. This will only be realized by those who know Jesus is in the boat with them, maybe sleepy-eyed willing to throw us into peril, forcing us to deal with the tension between our faith and our fear. May we ask in awe, Who is this that I am following?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Existential Faith 1

Modern psychology deals with the issues of thought and the mind. Psychologists deal with the subconscious, in that dealing there are various lines of theory to explain the behaviour of people. The existentialist psychologists promote that existential realizations produce anxieties leading to defense mechanisms. Existential thought says that the unconscious mind is working hard at repressing and distorting the content of the subconscious that will create anxiety. In short, keeping realizations from awareness.
What are existential realizations? A brief summation is as follows;
1] I am finite - I will die, and, any choice I make negates a multitude of other choices which may have been equally as attractive or advantageous:
2] Meaning is not tied to life - there is no point to my life other than what I make of it, but even still it is nothing special, of no special significance:
3] I am free - I must bear full responsibility for my life, living only for this moment with its choices and consequences of that freedom. A German proverb says, ' He who has choice, has torment.'
4] I am alone - Only I can live my life, all other aspects of life are parasitic, or at best symbiotic.
These are the existential thoughts underlying our lives which must be suppressed by the mind in order for us to remain as functioning people in society. There reality in our lives are the impetus for the proliferation of drugs, alcohol, and yes, religion.
In the quest for a sense of self-worth and self-esteem we seek meaning and significance. Everyone whether conscious or not of it, is involved in a cultural hero mentality, which is designed to quench the existential fear which is the result of the aforementioned realizations.
The foundation of repressed thought can be found in the common fear of all people, death. In Genesis 3:2-4 we find that the first issue of appeasement when Satan confronts Adam & Eve with the temptation to eat of the Tree of life, is the issue of the fear of death. "You shall surely not die." This is the pervasive thought common to all people. All of what we think and do is based on the repression of fear. Fear causes the creation of a lie. A lie about the control we have over our lives, a lie about our ability to stand alone, when in reality we have crutches (a system, a power, a god, a team, a passion, a way of life, a religion, a faith) which keep us afloat in the stream of life. We are all desiring to forget the awful reality of life, and that it ends in death and without significance in the grand scheme of things.
It is in this chaos that faith interjects, but faith must move beyond the quenching of fear and the shoring up of life to form purpose and meaning, for this is in reality only another form of crutch, another narcotic to see us through the day, another lie denying the truth of our fear. Jesus said, " I have come to give you life, and that more abundantly."
Faith must come to a point in our life where the absolute futility, hopelessness, despair for significance. despair for meaning, our sense of lost is confronted with the reality of belief. Belief that is significant deals with the vulnerability and frailty of life (existential realizations) and positions us in a place where the motivation for faith is not a defensive posture to insure our sanity. The faith stance is not held as a denial of death but as an acceptance of its inevitability. It is here that true faith is expressed, in the state where there is no where else to turn, where the predictability of our demise is, where there is nothing left but God. It is at this point the story of the woman with the issue of blood comes to mind. In Luke 8:43,44 it is said she had spent all her money on physicians who were unable to cure, her thought was if only I may touch His garment... and Jesus said to her "Thy faith has made thee whole." She was desperate, without any other recourse but God. How many times does our faith hinge upon the fact that there are still other options available to us, that we are not in desperate need of God, that our position is still one of hope based on some circumstance or power other than God that will see us through? Even in light of the existential fears we still deny faith its place. There is no place for faith except in the destitute of heart, with the shipwrecked souls. This faith comes with a price, it requires belief that life must be lived, not in the fullness of health and vigour, but with the assumption that why should I be healthy and well without pain, loss, distress or sadness.
Back to Abraham, there he is with Issac, no lamb, walking up the mountain, a bundle of wood, a fire, a knife. Nought else but his thoughts of who he believed God to be, nought else but the firm conviction that to loose all and gain God is worth the sacrifice of his son, and Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. How lost to the circumstances of his life Abraham must have felt when his son, no doubt doing the math, (wood, fire, knife, no lamb) asked "Dad, where's the lamb" to which Abraham replies, "God will provide for Himself a lamb."Abraham had to realize that there was no special existence or significance attached to his life outside of that which was determined by God. The promises of God were solely dependant upon God, and whether arbitrarily or not God determines the outcome of life. Life orientations must be relative to the faith of the believer and to the object of his belief. For faith to be truly authentic it must deal with the issues of existentialism, or it is just a crutch or a narcotic to be used to enable people to assuage their fears, never facing them in the light of true faith.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Perception versus Truth

Perception is truth to those who believe. Conscious understanding of that which conforms to reality to the degree that what is being represented, represents that which is meant. Sounds confusing!! The statement means to accept what is true based on the circumstances , events or personal discernment of the viewer. This is the Christian perspective??
One of the pillars of postmodern thinking is that each of us has possession of our own truth, and that truth is relative to our situation, environment or emotions. The pervasiveness of this thought has infected even the church. It is to me a thought process that absolves the owner of accountability for actions taken in the pursuit of flawwed personal faith, or mistakes made in leadership of the church. Barna states, "The virtual disappearance of this cornerstone of the Christian faith - that is God has communicated a series of moral principles in the Bible that are meant to be the basis of our thoughts and actions, regardless of our preferences, feelings or situations - is probably the best indicator of the waning strength of the Christian church in America today." This thought has moved beyond the cultural issues of gay and lesbian relationships, abortion, cohabitation, drunkedness, and viewing pornography to the church issues of discipline, forgiveness, service, fellowship and accountability to the body of believers.
The removal of absolute truth is resulting in a mentality which esteems relativism, tolerance, pluralism and diversity without any thought for the repurcussions and implications of these actions.
Barna says, "Embracing relativism under the guise of Christain faith facilitates comfort with sin." He states further, "Without some firm and compelling basis for suggesting that such acts are inappropriate, people are left with such philosophies as ' if it feels good, do it,' 'everyone else is doing it' or 'as long as it does'nt hurt anyone else it's permissible.' In fact, the alarmingly fast decline in moral foundations among our young people has culminated in a one-word worldview. 'whatever'.
F.B.Meyer stated in 1913, "There are many incitements to similiar misgivings in the present day. They arise, in part, from the comparative study of non-Christian religions; from the advance of exact scientific investigation, which leads us to demand similiar exactitude in the evidences for religious statements; and in the general flux of opinion... The old order is changing, and giving place to the new; but the precise shape of the new is not yet determined, and men fail to distinguish between truth, which is immutably the same, and the forms in which it is capsuled."
The eroding of the concept of absolute or objective truth is the bane of the gospel. It reduces the import of a righteousness needed, beyond what man can attain by his own efforts, to an achievable end based on the truth that I am good enough by my own merits to avoid judgement, or my truth may not even include a judgement of the actions or intentions committed in my life. Without absolute truth the need for a Savoiur is negated, and Christian as well as non-Christian who believes in relativism has blasphemed the name of Jesus.
1 John 3:24 'The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given." The false must be separated from the true. The incorporaton of truth (that God is, and God does) into the human condition enables people to live in the fullness of life, in confidence and anticipation of the revelation of the character of Christ in us. It is the catalyst to faith, that I may believe God to be gracious and through reconciliation have access to the fount of all existence.
John 4:23,24' True worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.' The Greek for truth means "the reality lying at the basis of an appearance; the manifested, veritable essence of a matter." Truth here means the substance, the reality, the actual possession of all that the worship of God implies, both in what it demands and what it promises. This truth is indicative of God's faithfulness in the fulfillment of His promises, it is the truth of God the verity of God's existence. He is the I AM.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

What a Saviour!!

To offer up Isaac was to sacrifice the very object of faith!!
Faith properly exercised performs two functions: First, it attributes to oneself a position by which otherwise it would not have standing, but based on the Word of God dares (courageously challenges) to claim that position as its right (faith); Second, based on that position it lays hold of the power of God to make it (the promise) a reality in everyday life. As Abraham moved up the mountain he said ' God will provide (for) Himself a lamb', not 'God will provide a lamb', the context is such that it resolves faith and promise by allowing God the full working of provision ( salvation, deliverance, prosperity, security, help) based on Him and no other factor or circumstance. There is no room for anyone or anything else besides God, in the plan of God for His people.
2 Samuel 23:3 "God is my rock (the God of my strength), in whom I will trust, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my savior, you save me from violence. I must trust in the Lord, and that trust is dependant upon the essential condition that I believe God is wholly devoted to my well-being.
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in
My arms.
There is always at work an interlacing of earth and heaven, of the human and the divine, of the things that press on the senses and those which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived. If there is scarcity is it not that I have not trusted the hand of God who holds all in His hand, or have I not learned in the moment of emergency to take what is required?
Abraham learned that God provides, may I too.
Faith is the reconciliation of the promise with the sacrifice, God showed mercy to Abraham and his son, however when the time was come there was no mercy shown for Jesus, no voice called out 'spare thine only son', only silence on the hill of Calvary. What must I learn of sacrifice and trust, what work must be done in my heart to understand how fully the love of God incorporates His desire for the best for me? How deep must the cross cut into my life?
Genesis 22:14 - '...and Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh... on the mount of the Lord it will be provided [it will be seen]'
1 Sam 3:18b '...It is the Lord let Him do what is good in His sight.'

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Promises, Promises

I had full intentions of moving away from the discussion of faith and dwelling on an aside topic of close proximity, promise. The topic of promise lends itself well to faith, for the obvious reasons, (faith is based on promise) but also for the clarification of why it is reasonable to believe.
God refers to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I have always found it disconcerting that Issac never really came to any level of notoriety, except as the son of Abraham and the father of Jacob. There was that little issue up on the mountain with his dad. I mentioned before that one of the issues of faith is what is my Isaac, that which must be offered for sacrifice without regard for the consequences of the loss or gain from the sacrifice. The real worth of God's promises cannot be lessened to a believer by any cross providences that may befall him, in effect 'if God be for me. who can be against me' or if I am where God would have me to be, then nothing but my own unbelief or distrust can prevent me from finding comfort. On the mountain we see faith, no doubt or delay, no hesitation or reluctance, instead we see 'he rose up early in the morning". There was no opposition from natural affection or unbelief. Faith moved over natural affection and self-will and bowed in absolute submission to the will of God, and the Father of Faith, Abraham learned something of God that he may have known partly, but now he knew perfectly, that God was Jehovah-Jireh, The Lord Who Provides. God has proportioned trials in my life in respect to my strength, I see the same thing happening in the lives of these three patriarchs, each has life circumstances (a famine) in which each is allowed or told how to react. It is only by passing through these trials that I have learned who God is - a God of grace, a God of sufficiency, a God of faithfulness. We can go anywhere with comfort and contentedness if we believe that God will do as He promises.
As far as sight is only seeing, so faith is only believing, the only thing necessary thing about seeing is, that you see the thing as it is, in the same way the only necessary thing about faith is the believing and believing the thing as it is. The virtue does not lie in the believing, but in the thing you believe. This is nothing tangible. it is simply believing God, and like sight it is nothing apart from its object.