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

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Enchanted


Enchantment is given the following definition in New Unger's Bible Dictionary, it is "The practice of magic or the speaking of certain words whereby evil forces are invoked in order to achieve supernatural effects over human beings, animals, or natural phenomena. This category includes magic (Exodus 7:11), conjuration, exorcism (Acts 19:13-17), sorcery (Acts 8:9, 11; Acts 13:8, 10). This traffic in quackery or bona fide spiritism was forbidden by the law of Moses (Deut. 18:10). Sometimes magic is not easily distinguished from divination in the English versions (cf. Numbers 23:23; Numbers 24:1; 2 Kings 17:17; Jeremiah 27:9)." They include enchantment, sorcery, witchcraft, sooth-saying, augury (observing animals), necromancy, divination in numberless forms, and all kinds of magic article. They were a constant incentive to idolatry, clouded the mind with superstition, tended and were closely allied to imposture (Math.24:24). The term "enchantment" is found only in the Old Testament.

Divination means, " The act of divining; a foreseeing or foretelling of future events. The pretended art of discovering secrets or the future by preternatural means. An indication of what is future or secret; augury omen; conjectural presage (intuition); prediction"..."it is a foretelling of future events, or discovering things secret by the aid of superior beings, or other than human means". It is used, in Scripture, of false systems of ascertaining the divine will. It has been universal in all ages, and all nations alike, both civilized and savage."


We hold that the power to affect change lies within the culture in which we live, that it lies within us as Christians, the power of change lies in the things we worship and our willingness to exert whatever effort is required to acheive the goals, aspirations and purposes we desire. "The heart wants, what it wants." (Woody Allen) Our affections (those things we will bend our will to) are manifest in what and how we worship (what time and effort are devoted ), the manner and intent, the focus and object (the recognized power-base) and is reflected in the life that is lived apart from the time spent in praise and sacrifice (to what we believe assigns life's blessing) to our Lord (whoever or whatever that may be). It is the motivational import of who we see ourselves as on Sunday that maintains/retains the significant meaning of our existence through the week.

People will not believe, or submit their will to something that they do not understand as being worthy of their worship. The gods who are incorporated into their lives are the gods whom they believe are provisional and people are more desirous of a provisional, sustaining, benevolent god, then a God who requires sacrifice and repentance. The attitude that there is a superior power to whom people owe dependence and allegiance is an humiliating posture, and is an affront to pride and dignity. People are blinded by their obsessions and they are unaware of the price that is being paid, at the expense of family, community, fellowship, brotherhood and church, while they are writing cheques on an account to which they have contributed little or no resources.

Abject superstition never reasons. This is where the strength of superstition lies, it is in the fear-based mentality, the terror of the supernatural, the phobias empowered through the distorted, experiential manifestations and portrayal of power attributed to events or people for which there is the possibility of an unreasonable, and dubious understanding of the nature and intent. The then subsequent and/or probable entrenchment of occult spiritism or it's appearance as fear, dread,or dismay in people becomes a reasonable expectation. The knowledge of the will of God and His direction for His people and His church are the predominant topic of recent years. The discussion includes being seeker-sensitive, pertinent, attempts are being made to redefine Church so it is appealing, personable, relational, fears are raised with the thought of Church as it has existed and does exist being morphed into divergent styles, suitable and adaptable for any and all situations, people and belief systems. There are concerns that the decisions of today in some way will thwart the designs of God, or that our influence in society is determined by the shape and form of our buildings, or the music we play, or some other such observance of holy superstition imposed upon the leadership of the Church.

Leviticus 26:6 I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid;"
Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

The call of the leadership of the Church may lie in the most simplest of discerning tactics, that being, calling people who profess Jesus as Lord, to obedience.
The Levitical law was profound in that it required the utmost of dedication to God through obedience to the caring for the people of the land, the people of the immediate community (neighbour), the poor and needy, a regard for the institution of the Church, the sabbath, the worship, the sanctuary and the subsequent spiritual blessings and promises. The cultic practices of the Old Testament were in contradiction to the cultures around them and as well our practices should be in contradiction to the norms deemed acceptable or relevant by that portion of the community setting the precedent.

The call to "be holy" was a ritual and moral obligation of the people of Israel, it was established in the Law through religious ceremony and observances and the distinctive lifestyle they were required to live.1 Peter 1:15 "...but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,..." The ritualistic and cultic parameters established by the Law were designed to maintain a posture where the opportunity for grievances were diminished. They also formed the foundation to establish the basis for identifying grievances.

2 Cor. 7:9-10 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." If we as the people of God sorrow after the wrong objects of desire, if we create a grievance because of the loss or sacrifice of some end or purpose, then what benefits can we reasonably expect to attain in terms of discernment, when we have committed idolatry? Yes we fear, the corruption of our moral state negates presumption of accord with God. The lack of the pursuit of holiness is what we should lament.

Question 1
What is the chief end of man?
Answer
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.

The point is to discover God's purposes and make them our own. The point is to learn ways of loving God above all and our neighbour as ourselves. To glorify God is to do these things and, by doing them, to make God's intentions in the world more luminous and God's reputation more lustrous. To enjoy God forever is to cultivate a taste for this project.

"He who has choice, has torment" The future looms constantly in our lives, in ominous foreboding or in marvelous expectation. I look for the portentous harbingers of the evil that could befall me. I gaze expectantly for the prospect of gain and nurture.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Father-God


Father-God is a name used by some in place of the name Heavenly-Father. It's use has been brought about by the teaching designed to deal with the absentee biological fathers of the last two or three generations. Promise-Keepers has had speakers who have personalized even further this thought by calling God, Daddy.

Our concept of the fatherhood of God is largely shaped by our having lived with earthly fathers. It is in this context that the greatest of error can occur. Our earthly fathers can not emulate the sovereignty, grace and love, nor the justness, of God. In this we see the vastness of the separation between these two models of fatherhood. Our earthly fathers are more aligned with a model denoting authority, protection, security, well-fare, a teaching of the goodness of God, the affirmation and establishment of the husband/wife, male/female relationship, the concept of brotherhood/friendship, provision, work-ethic, basically those things linked to life and successful and productive living.

It is in the father/son relationship and that relationship predominantly distorted by cultural (alcohol abuse, pornography,etc.) and preexisting conditions (prior father/son relationships) that the damage done in terms of a representation of authority, the distorted abuse of authority, that blessing and from that a projection of God's goodness and grace has been done. The names given in this perversion are discipline, teaching a life of hard-knocks, tough-love (a boy named Sue), and dealing with the issues of teen rebellion and control. It is a requirement of fathers to deal with these issues, 'spare the rod, spoil the child'...but.

Proverbs 13:24 He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly', however they should not be dealt with in a manner which falsifies or debases the role of father, or in the long-term makes a son's coming to terms with his furtherance in the Christian life or acceptance of God as a father-figure a hindrance.

Ephes. 6:4 ...and you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

Col. 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Fathers are to be a source of strength and provide a security which forms a springboard to face life's challenges and the ability to move into the fullness of manhood.

The Fatherhood of God is represented in the passing or transference of the authority of the parent to act and intervene on behalf of the child, to the child being empowered to decide and determine the actions best suited for themselves. The recognition of the mature, essential characteristics of the son, being a partaker of the nature of the father, and in that, the observance of the needed qualities of manhood, is requisite to enduing confidence in the son and his capacity and ability to ensure the best interests of the family are maintained. This is best exemplified by what is known in the Bible as 'the blessing of the father'. The blessing of the father was a powerful mandate, it included the inheritance; the placement of the man as a patriarch, rightfully; the father stretching out to forgive; the father expressing remorse for errors of omission and commission; the recognition of manhood, deservedly, proudly, with affirming; the shouldering of faith, promise, pain and love as a privilege and consequence of position; the acceptance of the responsibility for the future prosperity of the family, as a resolute covenant; the legitimating of authority, with design; What shackles are undone? what fetters released? what dreams unleashed? what aspirations are freed?

There is symbolism in the role of father as a model of rescue, that the failings of the child and the consequences from those failings are met with unconditional love.The father not requiting the sins of the son, understanding the process of growth and pain, and not holding aloof benevolence and security, or the opportunity for rescue from failings. The placing of conditions for acceptance is an attempt to align the thoughts, to make forcefully compliant the thoughts, attitudes and actions of an otherwise free-spirited and God-created individual. The false concept of creation being the sole property of the father and the deterministic attitude borne of that attitude refutes the charitable and altruistic characteristics of God. The abuse of authority is most prevalent in these situations, seeing the sons without options or opportunity to fully express themselves within the context of the father/son relationship, seeing the sons never realizing the full potential as a result of the strictures and boundaries imposed from never having freedom within the father/son relationship; i.e. the bestowing of the right of decision; the allowing of liberty, passage; the giving of permission to act in one's self-interest; the conceding of the entitlement to submission; the granting of consent to the willfulness of youth; to allow a son to be absent. These are the hard things. The lack of control, the affront caused by the resistance of the son, the defensive posture of the son, combined with a selfish autotheist attitude (I may be too harsh) has to come to grips with the needs of the son to move, to attain, to build, to fall and to rise up again. These are the things needed for survival and health both for the son, the family and for community.

There lies within the father/son model the importance of grace. It is touched on in benevolence, and rescue, and unconditional love. It goes beyond these matters to the positioning of the father as a person of understanding; a position of relational astuteness to the nuances of life; a man in like manner to the son; a fellow traveler, a companion, a wise mentor; a person in whom you can find comfort; a brother-in-arms; in a little used word of great significance, gratefulness or gratitude. Ingratitude is a poison to a relationship, it negates grace by the lack of acceptance, the distrust of the intent of the giver, placing conditions or terms on endearment. Grace finds it's strength in the motivations of the giver. Grace does not have a claw-back clause, it has as an intent the health, and wellness of the receiver of the gift and the benefit bestowed without regard for the end-use. There is in this concept of end-use the situational possibilities for vulnerability, exposure, frailty, disregard, and betrayal with regard to the giver. Grace shown creates equal and alternative options for either the perceived benefit to be obtained or a consequential slighting of the giver in the misuse,(possibly a detrimental outcome) or refusal to accept the gift.


A vision of the fatherhood of God has to do away with fear, anxiety, oppression, suppression and doubt. The human capacity to model this in real life is close to, if not entirely impossible. The reality of the vision for fatherhood may lie in the Son. The relationship of the walk to the talk.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cult of the Rugged Individualist


Individualism is the so-called fabric of the American Dream. The personal drive and fortitude to overcome life's obstacles and attain victory in spite of circumstances. It is about survival.

Many years ago in an NBA All-star game, Charles Barclay recovered a rebound, and did what he always did in that circumstance. He grasped the ball with both hands, holding it close to his chest, extended his elbows outward and rotated his upper body back and forth to create an area around him so that opposing players could not take the ball away. This is accepted practice in regular season play, however, in an All-star game, playing with the elite of the league, and being conscious of the injury that could have resulted from this type of play, this was not an acceptable style of action. Rugged individualism does not play well with others. Individualism is all elbows, it separates and isolates. It works without reference to the impact upon others. It is the personal beliefs and values of the individual placed above the collective good that can be achieved by community. The individual is alienated from God and people by this way-of-life and its promotion as the foundational structure for the success of either the individual or society as a whole. They operate in a context of independence and self-assertiveness contrary to the acceptable norms of healthy societal behaviour. In that realization we see the attitude of the individual, in that it does not matter to them, and in this there lies the hindrances to surrender, the stumbling blocks to faith, trust, belief, the lack of acceptance of the need for fellowship, the lack of acceptance of the need for corporate assistance, the lack of understanding of the need for community, the awareness of their need to give from their resources to others for the benefit of their community. What is missing is the fostering of the need for leadership, the nurturing of the person through mentoring, the cultivation of the individual through accountability, the growth of the person through guardianship, reconciliation, accordance, and controversy. They miss the need for themselves to extend into, to provide for, to invest in, to secure for, to clothe, to envelop those around them and be blessed by the outward extension of their wealth (in what ever form that is).

Rugged individualism will not unite. It will not suffer itself to be joined with others, because that would imply the giving of up its rights and privileges, and acquiescing to dependence and reliance, a forfeiting of the heart, a compliance of the will and in this the individual feels they will lose all without any gain.

Matthew 16:24 "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.


The rugged individual has no understanding of the concept of grace. A gift is used in the context of exchange, a treaty, the condition of future and current operation, surrender, atonement, it has no place in the mindset as a free, without recompense required, voluntary service or given advantage. Grace extended is misunderstood because the context of non-forced giving is an alien thought to the individual.


The rugged individual understands discipline, sacrifice in attaining goals, the exploitation of weakness, the forceful resignation of mind, body or spirit to a more powerful entity. The gift of grace is non-sensical, an absurd distortion of the primal laws of survival. There has to be a catch, the promotion of an advantage at the sole expense of the giver is contrary to the basic premises of existence. That existence includes the responsible and stewardly management of resources with the object of personal gain and superiority being its primary purpose. The gift of grace flys in the face of the logical, accepted, required norms established through years of hardship, arduous striving, and personal attentive detail expended to achieve success.

The rugged individualist does not feel the need for God. The self-made man requires nothing but opportunity, and given opportunity he will show what is the heart and resolute will of the man to be the all-in-all and succeed. We see this promoted throughout society, via news media, films, TV shows and history.

Matthew 16:25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

The idea of self-denial exists within the rugged individual, although it is distorted by its primary motivation (survival & gain). Even in that we see the favourable circumstance for the possibility of the built-in, heroic, mind-set evidenced in the design of man to accept the conditions imposed upon him when his understanding of a need for the intervention of a higher power to ensure the eternal existence or survival of the individual is awakened.
Job 9:33 Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both.

If a man should gain the whole world, its riches, honors, and pleasures, and lose his life, what would all these profit him, seeing they can only be enjoyed during life? But if the words be applied to the soul, they show the difficulty—the necessity—and importance of salvation. The world, the devil, and a man’s own heart are opposed to his salvation; therefore it is difficult. The soul was made for God, and can never be united to him, nor be happy, till saved from sin: therefore it is necessary.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cult of the Fellowship of Burnt Lips


In Isaiah 6, there is the story of the anointing of Isaiah for the continuance of his ministry of prophecy in the land. The government of the land is in a transition as the previous ruler has been removed from power by either illness or death.

Isaiah 6:6-7 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

"Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
and your sin purged."

Isaiah had previous to this event been given a vision of God and His holiness and responds with the following exclamation denoting his awestruck reverence and dismay at being placed in the very presence of the glory of God.

"Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips."

Now why was this? Partly because after the golden years of Uzziah's reign, in which money and splendor were corrupting the hearts of the people, it was necessary that the leaders at least, or many like Isaiah who stood in the forefront, should be lifted to a higher level. You must understand from the previous chapters of his book how the dwellers of Zion, the men and women of Jerusalem, and, indeed, all the people, were being corrupted by the sin, the fashion, the worldliness, and the money making of their time, and how needful it was, therefore, that God should raise a new standard amongst them by the hand of Isaiah, who stood closest to Him.

It may be that at this time, the very prosperity of our land, the years of peace, the influx of peoples from other cultures, and the increase of wealth have been subtly undermining the religious life of our people, so that some of our Judeo-Christian foundations are being broken down. Perhaps family worship is no longer maintained as it was. The children are no longer trained, as once, in the habits of godliness. The high morale of our people, derived from our noble ancestry (developed under persecution and want), may have been disintegrating while we have devoted our energies in other directions than in whole-hearted devotion to God. At such times it is God's habit to call around Himself His Isaiahs, His servants, those who stand nearest to Him, the members of His church, and to lift them up to a new level of Christian living, that from that moment they may be the pivot on which a lever may work to lift the entire nation.

As I have studied this passage it is affirmed in me that there are certain truths which need to be understood. I have sought to fulfill the mandate as an Elder in the Church,(teaching, speaking, leading) having felt that I had a certain gifting. It is apparent to me that that gifting was for a time and place specific. As I look at Isaiah in this passage I see his need for a touch from God and that affirmation, that in spite of the changes in the land there is a need for him to continue. It may have been at that time Isaiah was thinking his ministry was completed, having fulfilled the mandate of prophesying to Uzziah until this time of Uzziah's demise. This second commissioning is part of God's maintenance program, His declaration of His positioning of Isaiah in that place at that time for His purpose. It is in the strength of this confirming vision that Isaiah is able to continue, for it is said of this people that they are hard-hearted and dull of hearing and will not respond in spite of the truths that are displayed and lived out in the prophet's life.

The question was asked What expectation? What promise? What strength? What value does your (the) conversion experience have on your sense of God's greatness and/or your view of the potential for yourself as a worker in God's Kingdom? Does it overcome complacency? Does it promote holiness? Is it a place where you are consoled and free from regret? Does it provide assurance of God's grace? Does it expose the nature of God to your heart?

F.B. Meyer says, "...fall back on the philosophy of the will. Be willing to be clean. Be willing to be made willing. (sound familiar, think P.K.) Then say to Christ: "I am eager to have my leprosy cleansed; if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean"; and immediately He will stretch forth His hand and touch you, saying, "I will, be thou clean." And you will be delivered.

This must be done by God. We work and strive to add to the Kingdom of God, both within our hearts and numerically for the Church, searching for nuances of truth and enlightenment, attempting to make more palatable and inviting the truth of the Lordship and Mastery of Christ, vainly trying to achieve that which only God can do. We desire for the deeper meaning of Godliness and hunger for teachers to expand our lives, without realizing the itchy-ear syndrome that has infected our minds and closed off the hearing and seeing of God working and calling us to personally 'work out our salvation with fear and trembling'.

Jesus said "I will be lifted up and draw all men to myself."

Hudson Taylor once said, "I used to ask God if He would come and help me; then I asked God if I might come and help Him; then I ended by asking God to do His own work through me."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cult of the Professional Weaker Brother


Leadership comes with many opportunities and vexations. When I assumed a leadership position in my church I had expectations, both those built upon anticipation and those founded upon the reality of working with and through people. Fortunately and unfortunately I have not been disappointed.

I have sarcastically joked that as elders we are not in the business of creating or ensuring people's happiness, instead we are in the business of managing levels of unhappiness or discontent. It seems that for every 4 or 5 positive outcomes of what we do, there is a detractor who attempts to take the air from our sails, or from under our wings.

Isaiah 65:13 Therefore, thus says the Lord God,

"Behold, My servants will eat, but you will be hungry.

"Behold, My servants will drink, but you will be thirsty.

"Behold, My servants will rejoice, but you will be put to shame.

A parable associated with the verses tells the story of a King who called his servants to a feast without telling them at what time they were to appear. Those who were prudent and wise dressed themselves and showed up at the place of the feast, not only prepared for the food and festivity, but with a mindset to aide and assist in the preparations. There are expectations for the people of God that in the employment of the King they are to exhibit a willingness to accept responsibility, to be a participant, to be credible workers of God's grace and love, to desire that the fullness of Kingdom living be lived out in the victory.

Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."

The people to whom Jesus was speaking were continually looking for the reason to not accept the conditions of John the Baptist and Jesus himself as representative of the working of God in their lives. They used excuse upon excuse, without validity to support and shore up their precarious posture of Independence.

There is an indication here by Jesus of the intent of people to promote a view to what church should look like dependant upon their personal opinion and objectives. No doubt there is more wisdom in the world than is contained in the Elders Board of a local church. However the Elders Board of the local church is making decisions with the best information they have with a view to attaining the best results. Making decisions with a view to attaining absolute certainty is a recipe for insanity. They are making decisions based upon the resources at hand, the quality and quantity of people available, the strictures placed upon them by community, constituency and parish, those variables which are outside the area of influence by the church in its operation as a political entity within the society in which it resides. We can not be all things to all people on any given Sunday. My expectation for my church has always been tempored by my personal acceptance of the differences, a working with the frailty and strengths of people, an understanding of the short-comings of any attempt to transcend our humanness, a reality based upon the fact that God chooses to work through and with people, and I find within these and many other subsequent failings the wealth and grace and wonderment of God in achieving results and promoting His Kingdom, despite. For it is in the 'despite' that we see the power of God in lifting up people from all varieties of life's circumstances and empowering and enabling them to live a life of victory and hope, achieving the things that were impossible without God.

Matthew 19:26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

HE & me


The church at the moment is struggling with deep divisions and leaders have been suffering a lot of destructive and spiteful criticism. And although we could quite easily do with hearing some teaching on say, a passage like Heb 13:17, Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.


I think we need to go back to the basics. We have so much bible knowledge, but we seemed to have missed God’s heart. Our Father does not want us to destroy our leaders with ‘perfect’ theology. God is not impressed with how many bible verses we can quote while discouraging and criticising our brothers and sisters. We need to go back to the heart of our God.


What does He want from us? Micah 6:8 (NKJV) He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?


How does He want us to live? Hebrews 10:38 (NKJV)Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him." Those who profess an abiding and sustaining understanding of the graces of God's ephemeral furnishing of life's requirements are not to shrink from the challenges facing them out of doubt, fear, cowardice, trembling apprehension or dismay as to consequence, but are called to place their continued confidence, their calm trust, the certainty of their belief, without the apostasy of the certitudes(??) personal merit, character and conduct; the exercise of works; and the developed or imbued strengths of the individual, upon God, The I Am, Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord-Will-Provide), Jehovah-Shammah (The Lord-is-There), Jehovah-Shalom (The Lord-Send-Peace).


We have a lot of knowledge, but our actions reveal just how far we are from God. And I think this is something we all need to hear regularly.


Are our actions pleasing to God? Amos 5:21-24 (NKJV) "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream." There is a preponderance of discussion about what church is and should be, and there is a lot of validity to what is being said on both sides of the equation. The issues which provide the most heat are probably what God is referring to on this passage. When the church becomes the thing worshipped, then idolatry has replaced true worship. The structure, the building, even the people themselves are not meant to replace the worship of God. His all-consuming, vehement love for the people of this world is to be honoured and esteemed in the hearts of the redeemed through the praise and glory given to His name and the purposes of His way with His people.

Are we living up to the calling we have received? Titus 1:6 (Dar)...if any one be free from all charge [against him], husband of one wife, having believing children not accused of excess or unruly. Titus 2:2 (Dar)...that the elder men be sober, grave, discreet, sound in faith, in love, in patience; John 8:9 (Dar)...but they, having heard [that], went out one by one beginning from the elder ones until the last; and Jesus was left alone and the woman standing there. I, unfortunately for those who read this, continually live in the present, with the full import of my human condition as the relevant point of reference for the significance, value, underscoring reality of my Christian walk. We as a church have as our theme for the year, 'The Year of the Impossible', it has been that, God has done that which we could not do, and I praise Him for the wonder of His working in our midst and in individual lives, and stand in amazement, awe, wonder and reverence of His grace and mercy. Matthew 15:31 (NKJV) "So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel." This verse pretty much sums up my view of the year we have had and the workings of God in our lives. There is yet more to be done!

Are we actually imitating Christ? 2 Thes. 3:9 (NKJV)...not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. Hebrews 13:7 (Dar) Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the word of God; considering the issue of their conversation, imitate their faith. Genesis 3:19 (NASB) By the sweat of your face you will eat bread,
These are the things my church needs to ask itself.


Contentment is equivalent to saying this needs no improvement. It is moving from looking at the problems and the potential to a view of the p________.(promise, pardon, patience, peace, perfection, perseverance, pilgrimage, pillar, people, ploughshare, power, praise, prayer, presence, privilege, prophecy, protection, prudence, purity, providence,...) You may substitute any p-word you wish from the list or from your personal vocabulary (let me know).

Contentment in this context is an attitude, it is looking out over a people and seeing the intrinsic value, not expressed through the perfections of their being, fellowship or presence, but the value as God looks at them and says you are mine, I have redeemed you, I love you, I esteem you and find pleasure in your worship, praise and fellowship. My friend reminds that God has no ego, we are not stroking Him with our vain singing and prayers, we are honouring Him with our need and our absolute dependence and our gratitude and thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Providence


"The God-centered message is essentially the proclamation of a God who is sovereign in mercy and judgment, sovereign in creation and redemption---the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and grace. To put it another way, the God-centered message is God and His way with man. The subject of the man-centered message is man and the things God does for him, or the help God gives him."-Ernest Reisinger, Today's Evangelism

Often times what people want to hear preached is different to what I think they need to hear being preached. I do not want to begin a hate on Joel Osteen fest but I think many people want to hear someone tell them that it is easy to be a Christian (a disguised form of the Prosperity Gospel) and that if they remain in the Lord's favor their life will go well. Well that's not true and certainly fails in the call to the cost of discipleship.

There is in the faith/reward mentality a desire to overcome the unpredictable aspects of life's circumstances. There is a desire in the human mind for consistency, a desire for a predictable result-based orientation, a desire for predictive expectations of daily and long-term decisions. There is a longing for the absolution of anxiety and fear. There is a desire for assurances which overcome even the desire for happiness and continually results in people choosing life-styles and making decisions contrary to a the greater good and in spite of common-sense. Contrary to the greater public opinion we are not designed as the whole part of our existence to be happy, but to survive.

As Christians we are called to walk in faith. It is a position polarized from the world-view of existential living. It is predominantly expressed in a Christians acceptance of the salvation provided for by Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for my sins, but from that point forward the fullness of the expression of what walking in faith and trusting in God providentially means is not translated to a belief which truly depicts or even resembles a relationship founded and based upon the God of the Universe.

I continually look for the reality of faith with an expectation that belief in the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills is indwelling a people who purport a belief built upon an expectation for Him to provide, and yet live with a poverty mentality, clinging and holding, grasping and hoarding, unwilling to (for lack of better words) take the chance that God is who He says He is and live in the freedom of faith which has vanquished fear, and hope which has disemboweled the bully, anxiety.


I continually see in reality, a people who are torn between, or vacillate between opinions of poverty and those of a willingness to sacrifice. People tend to view what God has given them as a sacred trust, in which they, as the wise stewards of God's resources must determine the allocation of said resources. Given opportunity we will withhold or distribute resources towards those things that do not fit with our expectations of God's design and incapacitate those areas in need of our gifts and resources. We use shrewd as our by-word,having found the perfect context in which to parlay our false assumptions of what management, stewardship, discreetness, wisdom, discerning intellect mean. We have found a place in which we as the proclaimed by God distributors of His wealth have the inside tract and with this more than proper attitude, we determine how and when resources are to be used.


Luke 16:8 (NKJV) So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.

The unjust steward ensured by his actions a secure future, but at what cost to his master?

It is always easier to withhold, than to give.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Faith; Again


Faith, the object and focus of Christian life. Faith is an indeterminate aspect of our existent. It is also that which provides the substance for action in the Christian life. It may be said that faith is our religion, apart from God, an idol formed by Christians to assuage life's uncertainties and remove the 'question' (whatever the 'question' is for you) from life. We use faith to override our indecisiveness and provide sanity to face the vagaries and absurdities of existence. We desire in relationship with a sovereign and omnipotent Authority to have certain assurances and guarantees, by association with, and reliance upon. We seek to have infallibility. Life operates in contradiction to that viewpoint, creating disharmony. Faith is in question as an automatic occurrence of decision-making, there exists no place of absolute certainty in life's course. In fact, even if we will not admit, we make decisions with the best information at hand, knowing that absolute certainty will never be attained. Faith becomes in Christian context a mental exercise by which we use faith as the fulcrum point of a lever in order to posture a decision to a point where we can live with the uncertainty and lack of guarantee and believe that we are in accordance with the will of God. In this there is an exclusion of doubt, and whether it is the truth as a place of peace with God or a levering of the weight of the decision to placate anxiety, there has to be a removal of the absurdity of the ambiguous, the element of the indistinct, the essence of 'question'.


Faith is an antagonist, it sets itself against the norms of this world, it stands against rationalism, it is set apart from common sense, it is unnatural, it is anti-impulsive.
Faith is revelatory, spiritual, inspirational. Faith is active, always; instrumental, constantly; trying, pervasively; testing, incessantly; personal, ideally; purifying, wholly; life-changing, practically; senseless,truthfully; working, actually; possessive, not without a fight; living; difficult; it is the alchemy of the soul, the reality of revelation. Faith declares God and maintains that the worth of life, the declaration of the clarity of God's character in my mind, is found in relationship with Him through the power of Jesus Christ and His indwelling of me.

"Without faith it is impossible to please Him." Hebrews 11:6

Friday, October 19, 2007

'Just' a man


[Religious man] must therefore live in the godless world, without attempting to gloss over or explain its ungodliness in some religious way or other. He must live a "secular" life, and thereby share in God's sufferings. He may live a "secular" life (as one who has been freed from false religious obligations and inhibitions). To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to make something of oneself (a sinner, a penitent, or a saint) on the basis of some method or other, but to be a man--not a type of man, but the man that Christ creates in us. It is not the religious act that makes the Christian, but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.

During the last year or so I've come to know and understand more and more the profound this-worldliness of Christianity. The Christian is not a homo religiosus, but simply a man, as Jesus was a man..." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Micah 6:8 (NKJV) He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 7:18 (NKJV) Who is a God like You,pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever,because He delights in mercy.



Job 1:8 (NKJV)Then the Lord said, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?"

The man Job, exhibiting purity and holiness in the inner man, exhibiting righteousness in the outward man.In the description given of Job we see a representation of servant hood,priesthood and those traits duly noted by God as being that which is commendable and worthy. We also see a denotation of the example of supreme piety existent in Job's life and the reverence by Job for the worship of God and the avoidance of doing evil.

As Christians we are to strive and live a life honouring of God, a life characterized by virtues consistent with an understanding of the scriptural application of the workings of God (through the revelation of His Word) in His people. It is amazing that God the Sovereign, Omnipotent Creator of all that exists chooses to allow through the frailty, vanity and absurdness of men the glorification of His Name. He who can find no other expression of His existence in name except by calling Himself the 'I Am', chooses the option of having men proclaim His worth and merit as One who is to be esteemed, revered, held in awe, venerated.

Within this context, we find ourselves thrown into the world, an abyss of contrary notions of existence,a chasm of dissimilar discernment's as to the meaning of being, an immeasurable cavern of conflicting opinions of life, its measurement, its value.

We are to be the one's upholding the ultimate expression of love and sacrifice without being tainted by the world's obvious and invasive pursuits. In this context we are none other than men who must exist in one world, physically, while maintaining citizenship spiritually, emotionally and mentally in another. The other exists primarily as a vision, without formal substance, without a physical existence discernible from the viewpoint of life.

The reality of expressing a Christian life in a valid format, with the intent of being attractional to those with whom I come into contact is an impossibility. My exclusion from society due to the beliefs that I have mean that my contact is minimized. I am just a man doing a job, attending a church, raking my lawn or any other expression of the menial aspects of life. Even in the aspect of character my beliefs will be non-descript. The only aspect of my belief system of any value to the world around me is those character traits esteemed by all men in society. Honesty, courage, sacrifice, work ethic and other such 'virtuous' characteristics are also evident in our culture apart from Christianity, and some times with more substance than Christians are able to offer. The essence of being secular in the world or the thought of my worldliness is built upon a consistent effort to live a life of non-judgemental hypocrisy. In other words I must live with the reality that there exists in me as with all other men a desire and longing and searching of those things common to all men.


However, I must also live in that reality an example of what it means to be a man of God, consistently striving against and indicating to others my inclination to live apart from the blatant, apart from the common, apart from the things that degrade, apart from the normal exercises of men, apart from any and all things which affect my relationship with God and dishonour the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.

However, in contradiction to the previous statement, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says "it is not only what is said that matters, but also the man who says it". Heavy emphasis on 'the man' as opposed to the 'the saint'. A man in the secular world must be an overcomer, a man created by God living a distinct or peculiar existence, a man not sequestered from life's trials and errors, a man exposed to life's dangers, fears and pain. A man who has the strength of character to face life's difficulties, not in or with an assumption that these things are necessarily 'good'. I must live and understand pain and suffering. The hardest thing about being a parent and a Christian is convincing and being convinced that Santa Claus has died.

In John 18:36 (NASB-U) Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." Active Christians live in a shop window, our busy lives indicating our devotion and service to our kind. Our stresses and strains are different then when Jesus spoke these words, but the intent of the passage remains the same. The Kingdom is in the heart and our ability to handle and cope are indicators of the depth of our residing and abiding belief in that Kingdom and its subsequent and inevitable victory in the circumstances and situations orchestrated by God in His effort to cleanse, mature, and deepen our understanding of the things of God.

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Short; Conversation


Conversations are unique aspects of our ability to communicate with one-another. Conversations are not the means by which all the information required to make decisions is arrived at. Communication is enhanced in conversation by the subtle ques expressed through body language, environment, even the very process of how information is extracted via questions and statements reflecting the values and views of individuals. It is in the person-to-person interaction of conversation, as compared to a phone-call or e-mail,etc., that the quality of information exchange is at its best. We function, despite the technological capabilities at our disposal, as people when we as people give vent to our thoughts and feelings in circumstances requiring eye contact. It is in community that this aspect of exchanging knowledge is most prevalent. I am not talking about the weather, the fail-safe conversation-saver, which people fall back on to avoid the awkwardness of silence. I am referring to the exchange of those burdens upon our hearts, those things we hold dear, those ideas that require expression, the thoughts that interrupt our life and need clarification to move on. I am talking about community, where the things which I value are expressed in conversation, not only by my words, but by your interest in me because I have value in your eyes, and that value is expressed by the involvement you have with me through conversation, by the importance you give to the weight of my thoughts. I am talking about conversation reflecting those things shared in common, as people united in like-minded pursuits, as people who share and are willing to be associated with one-another. My willingness to communicate with you and your willingness to listen. This is reciprocal, I hope I did not have to state that for clarity's sake.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Silence


Psalm 62:1,"...my soul waits in silence for God only,..."

Psalm 62:5, "My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him."

Silence means to be in a position or place where sound is suppressed, it can be a willing submission to refrain from speech, or an abstaining from complaint.

Psalm 4:4, " Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still."

The more you complain the longer God makes you live.

Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God:..."

There is a silence being spoken of here that refers to the object of our worship as being worthy of all acceptance and His purposes being above the reproach of the vanities of man. Our submission to Him in silence is the expectation of God, as it reflects our trust in Him as the source of our salvation and the defender, author and finisher of our faith.

"Be silent always when you doubt your sense" A. Pope

Silence in Christian spiritual disciplines is a position of worship, seeking to achieve a deeper revelation of God, a meditative form of worship.

Lamentations 3:26, "It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord."

There is an assumption that in silence you are in a more favourable position to listen. The spiritual discipline of lectio divina involves the reading and meditation on scripture in silence, in an anonymous book titled the 'Cloud of Unknowing' the author expounds the ways and the virtue of striving for a silence which allows God to speak into the heart.

Take a test, try to quiet your thoughts to such a degree that there are no longer any influences upon your mind. It requires an objective view to the working of your mind, you will realize in a very short time that your mind is never quiet. Just when you think you have no thoughts, that thought in itself is the thought that distracts. Sound confusing? The deeper things of the heart are the things we are most inept at understanding and applying.

"Man's unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his greatness; it is because there is an infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the finite." Carlyle

"Silence says more than words ever could." Jibo

Sunday, September 09, 2007

No Question


The question of the why I am here? what purpose I serve? Am I living to my potential? Am I missing the point? The resonating thought of my life is a sense of despondency I feel for missed opportunities. Are those feelings real? Is it just perception?

2 Kings 8:13, "...but what is your servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great (significant, gross) thing?"

In the realm of human existence, probably more appropriately in the life of men, we have the idea of the heroic, the concept of building with intent to preserve for eternity the significance of our lives. I wish to be remembered, I desire to erect monuments of success and edifices commemorating my notoriety, structures declaring and exhibiting my heart's want for importance. I am not necessarily talking about the physical, because life is so much more than the physical, but the building of those things that carry eternal value, that stand the test of time. Most of what that implies means building into lives.

The fear exists that the occasions for that kind of relevance to be achieved is past, that time has played a cruel trick and exercised the option, it's too late. Anxiety for the lost opportunities, the chances to gain, the circumstances for fulfillment of dreams, all these seemingly are behind, not a reality in which to find satisfaction.

The urgency of the present is oppressive. It holds me in its hands, hands that constrict, arms of captivity, shackles of tyranny, a jail of timely discontent.

The thought exists that I have never had 'the blessing', the passing on of heritage, lineage, the validation of worth in the eyes of another who is esteemed, respected or admired (in likeness a father-figure).

In these thoughts is encapsulated the idea of commissioning, a rite of passage, an indicator of worthiness, significance, and value, the demarcation of a point of departure to an area of service or mission, movement.

And there is hunger.

There is set within the heart of man the invincible, the quest, the desire for conquest and victory, the yearning for immortality, the desire for immunity from pain and sorrow. This desire is not satisfied or placated with earthly pleasure, power, strength or abundance. This is the cry of the heart for eternity.

This God has prophetically placed in man, to forever create in him dissatisfaction. Man the malcontent is constantly striving to achieve those things which God has declared unachievable. This seems to be cruel, God made to appear as a devil, creating an appetite for which there is no provision to satiate.

"With man these things are impossible, but with God all things are possible" Matthew 19:26

In what God has created there is the realization of fulfillment. God has given us the ability to possess what burdens He has placed on our hearts. In the very desire lies the blessing.

"Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."

Hunger and thirst must be made acutely conscious before the desire to slacken becomes a need.

In the pursuit of the eternal, awareness of the futility and abject poverty of our personal inability to acquire anything of substantial significance becomes a crossroads in life usually experienced when sorrow and pain become such that people despair for relief and begin to mourn their mortal and corporeal existence.

Isaiah 55:1,2 "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance."

I am without ability or means to purchase that for which my heart cries, those desires of my heart, even the vain and selfish are not attainable by my efforts. Thank God, that those things impossible by me are possible with God.

Isaiah 41:17-18 "The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, as the God of Israel I will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights and springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land fountains of water."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Relevance


"A pendulum swing like a pendulum do" the words of Roger Millar in a song from 'way back'. Often a thought of mine in relation to history and the vacillation of human thought as it relates to morality. The pendulum has swung and its momentum is carrying it to a position which in terms of the truth of certain doctrinal issues is alienating to some.

We have always had among us those who in the adoption of religious belief have either been weak-minded, or who have had a passion exceeding of their ability to contain within themselves and deal appropriately with conflict. This kind of devotion although admirable, leads to excesses in action in the name of religion and in many instances the ire of society as a whole. The Christian Church has been guilty of atrocities in respect to the subjugation of people in the name of faith. i.e. the Spanish Inquisition The Church has also suffered the same persecution.

"The things you do not have to say make you rich. Saying the things you do not have to say weakens your talk. Hearing the things you do not need to hear dulls your hearing. And the things you know before you hear them, these are you, and this is why you are in the world." W. Stafford.

Aristotle defined potentiality as either the passive capacity of an object to be changed or its active capacity to affect change in other substances. Actuality is the just realization of the potentiality of the substance to be changed, affect change and/or understand and live according to its purpose. This is most significant in that not only the movement is emphasized but the attaining to the objective of existence. This has been coined as attaining relevance.

I am beginning to hate the words relevant and relevance.These by-words of the Church have become the justification for the development of tolerance and lack of objectivity in catering to current culture. Grace extended must not be allowed to override the requirements of holiness so that those who have little or no understanding of the truth of the Bible or the Person of Jesus Christ are permitted to have and enjoy those privileges reserved for those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb. It is through the promotion at this very point, in seeking relevance to society through a false "charity," expressed by tolerance and seeker-sensitivity and by refusing to heed the commands of Christ, those commands that seemingly are contrary to public opinion, that we see the Church on an insidious slope of perversions being tolerated in the House of God. That sounds incredibly stern!! In Mathew 7:6 Jesus said, "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." Although the language is ambiguous and obscure and lends itself to varied interpretation, it is really the state of our hearts that create the opportunity for misconception. The difficulty with this passage and many other contentious scriptures is in the application, this area where we as people of God determine to live according to the Bible and its teaching, regardless, being counter-cultural. We cannot remain in balance upon a knife's edge.

We need not fear the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not have to hedge in our conversations and not reach conclusions about what we believe and why. We do not need to be unresolved in our discussion about our culture or our beliefs relative to our culture.
We can point out and declare the difference between what society deems as important or acceptable or tolerable and what the Bible and God declare as appropriate human interaction.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Friend


Humility is an interesting concept of the Christian faith.
In Proverbs 27:17,19 it is stated, "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend ... as in water face reflects face, so a man's heart reveals the man."
I sometimes sit in social situations and observe quietly, (some may find that hard to believe) just taking in the conversations around me, admiring the people, listening to the inflections of voice, noting the positioning of body language, enjoying the fellowship. I am humbled in that I am allowed the privilege of being a participant in the lives of these people. I am humbled in that they have chosen to call me friend. C.S.Lewis in reflecting upon his friendships and speaking of the level of mutual respect sometimes wondered that he was there among those who were so much his better.
Humility is not usually viewed as the honing aspect of creating the edge to a man's integrity. Ideally though, the relationship of friendship and humility is such that sharpening is a result of the viewing of each other's hearts and the realization that the hearts of men do not differ much from one-another. In the revelation of the mind and heart of man we find that as water reflects, so a man's heart discovers in other men the same heart residing in him. In this we have commonality, fellowship, camaraderie, in this there lies the understanding, compassion , love, fidelity, and sharing. In humbleness of the realization of the state of the heart, we can say there is no condemnation, no scorn, for 'he who is without sin', can cast the first stone, and there 'but for the grace of God, go I'.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Anointing

Psalm 133:2, "It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard,..."

1 John 2:20,"... but you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.

1 John 2:27,"... the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."

This passage defines what is referred to as the Ministry of Illumination, that being the Holy Spirit's enablement of the believer to recognize, understand and discern spiritual truth. The word used for anointing occurs only in these two verses and refers to the substance used, the unguent or ointment.

There is just cause for humility and self-judgment: when by nature we see around us those utterly unable to judge rightly either of God or of themselves. They have a mind which is so corrupt that it produces nothing but disorder in the whole of their life. How diligently should we pay heed to the word of the great Physician, "I counsel thee to buy of Me . . . eye salve, that thou mayst see" (Rev. 3:18). We must seek from Him that enlightening of His Spirit, through the Word, for this is that "anointing" which "teaches us all things". "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes , the deep things of God....Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. Those things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches: but which the Holy Spirit teaches combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words...but he who is spiritual judges (appraises) all things." The doctrine of illumination is further emphasized in this passage from 1 Corinthians 2:9-15, understanding comes through the diligent study of the Word of God and the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in revealing truth. Revelation from scripture is to be understood by all, but is not necessarily given without intent by God to exercise the believer in exhaustive, discursive exposition and study.
Acts 17:11,12 speaks of the Bereans saying,"...these were more fair-minded (having moral eminence and freedom from anything petty, mean or dubious in character and conduct) ...in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed..."

Isaiah 40:13,14,"Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?" The only truth to be revealed is that which God has in His possession.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Life as Metaphor


Mark 4:30,"...and He said,...or by what parable shall we present (picture) it?"

Mark 4:34,"...and He did not speak to them without a parable, but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples."

Parable means, 'a placing beside; a comparison; a similitude; a metaphor.'

The parable serves three purposes; to reveal, to conceal, to perpetuate.

The truth is revealed by the power of the analogy and illustration.

The truth is concealed due either to lack of instruction or because of an improper sympathy or mindset in acquiring the key to the hidden meaning.

The truth is perpetuated because it is embodied through form and body in the narrative and subsequently is available for future generations as tangible material preserved for the construction of the ways and means of applying principles and doctrines. The truth represented in the parables of Jesus have built into the presentation the perfect consciousness or revelation of the truth. There is distinctiveness between the form and the essence. The truth is never lost in the innuendo (implication or insinuation) of the parts, in the ambiguity (multiple interpretation) of the participants, the parable uses forceful association to exhibit the existent truth in the relationship between the illustration and the proof of the analogy represented. Those things that occur in the natural must also occur in the spiritual. The emphasis of the symbolism used is designed to bring focus to the deeper 'fundamental harmomy and parallelism' between that of natural and that of the spiritual realm. The selection of parables used by Jesus are reflective of the way things are, and bring insight into the very essence of reality, not by the choice of the symbol, but in the thing symbolized.

When you read Matthew 17:20, what part of the passage do you get hung up on?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Assert


Is assertiveness a different measure of seeking justice, now, without waiting or relying on God to provide vengeance or recompense?

I define assertive as the opportunity to teach people how they are to treat me. I know as a definition that this sticks with some people. It is in this aspect of vindicating my claim to the right to be treated with respect, to affirm my legitimacy as a person, to expect others to esteem me as something other than a doormat, that assert has its fully intended purpose.

Many look at the scriptures and find modeled in the life of Jesus a lifestyle and teaching that is not consistent with the aforementioned definition of assert.

Matthew 5:39,"...but I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."

Matthew 5:42, "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away."

Isaiah 53:7, speaking prophetically of Jesus states, "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth."

This is representative of the teaching that is used to affirm a Christian lifestyle of subservience without validation of the person hood of the individual to aver a level of respect due them as a God-created being. We are appalled at the atrocities done to human-beings Worldwide as we see them slaves to oppressive regimes and military and cultural situations, yet we claim in the name of meekness the justification of martyrdom for the sake of Christianity and proudly "take up our cross' in a vain and paltry method of works. Those who suffer in other countries such pain and misfortune, suffer in silence, knowing speaking up will result in death. Those in our culture who bear adversity merely for the sake of a sense of propriety for their religion, suffer not just in their situation, undeservedly, but in promoting in error a cultural mindset that claims Christians are to be the trampled, viewed as the less intelligent, the ones to be used, and possibly abused.

John 2:15, says of Jesus, "When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changer's money and overturned the tables." We see here the arrival of the Son of God to His Father's house and in a state of indignation at the state of affairs of the temple entrusted to people to maintain, He (Jesus) restores by His authority the proper state of affairs. He (Jesus) is asserting His rightful position, and instructing people who are behaving in defiance of the Laws of God in the proper attitude they are to have in observance of the Levitical Law established.

John 2:16, "...and He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise."

I do not believe that as Christians we need to, nor do we have the right to stand by and suffer the reproaches of our culture, nor do we as individuals need to, nor in accurately proclaiming our faith are required to, endure hardship or injustice because we will not assert our legitimate rights and claims as people living in a free country. Professional pacifism may only be cowardice. The justification for retribution is restricted by the limiting of revenge to an exact compensation for injuries incurred. The cautions are against the unrestricted 'lynch-law' mentality that is aggressive and offensive in nature. In the achievement of peace the righteous man need not necessarily lay claim to the absolute interpretation of the law whether that be the law of God, or the law of the land, but having the allowances of grace, may at personal discretion give of himself and his possessions that which is asked of him and more so.


Matthew 5:41, "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two." This is called the principle of 'impressment into service', it was what was required of Simon of Cyrene. Mark 15:21, "They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene..."

Matthew 7:12, "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them,..." There is an underlying and general meaning that we are guided by justice and mercy in all our undertakings and those governing principles determine the intent and extent of our assertive behaviour. There is a nuance to the principles of assertiveness and meekness that need resolution as they are lived out in Christian lives. To stand when rightly accused of wrongdoing we must take our lumps, when faced with the opportunity to assist others and stand for the oppressed we must take the initiative in battling injustice, when faced with the decisions revolving around our own lives in circumstance and situation, the elements of our sanctification, the pursuit of peace and brotherly love, the promotion of the Cross of Christ and our future judgement must all be factors that must be given due consideration.

It is fully expected when dealing with the evils of this world that injury shall happen to us. Personal retaliation is negated by the words of Jesus when He speaks in this passage in Matthew 5:38-42. It can also be noted that when dealing with the evils of this world, it is wise to expect that the first offence will not be the last, and that in extending kindness to those who seek their own gain at any expense, I am exposing myself to personal harm. It can be expected that once seen as an object of use and abuse a second visitation will be forthcoming. People can be brutal and untrustworthy. In this we show our love? In this we show our gullibility? There has to be a point at which we no longer are the victims of circumstance and harm and become men and women who are stewards of the resources given them in the financial, physical and emotional realms.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Truth & Relevance


The question of truth does not resolve itself with the issue of relevance. Truth is irrelevant to relevance in that they have no direct relationship. However truth is a major factor in the evaluation of relevance. Our honesty of who we are is in direct relationship to our position as redeemed sinners (sinner-saints) and an understanding of the nature of our relationship with God as defined by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a propitiation (atonement),"...in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (satisfactory sacrifice) for our sins.

2 Timothy 3:16, "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for doctrine , for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

We are finding in the 'emerging church' a quest for cultural significance. This quest is manifesting itself through a variety of avenues. We see churches where swearing, I mean the use of cuss words, vulgar language, is a prevalent aspect of the Pastor's vocabulary, we have prominent Church leaders advocating a moratorium on the topic of homosexuality to allow Christians the time to rethink our position, we are seeing the promotion of a mindset divergent from the Word of God and its inerrant truth, we are seeing the promotion of a feminist sub-culture to counter the seeming anti-feminist culture of the Church, we are seeing the influx of worldly values and sexual innuendo, we are seeing the erosion of the requirements for Godly leadership and the qualities and character required as mandated by the Scriptures. It appears from the standpoint of relevance and appeal to society that the Church has come to terms with its place and position in culture. I disagree.



Our position in culture is not to be defined by the culture in which we live. Matthew 5:14, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men..." We are not to be hidden in the culture around us, we are not to position ourselves where we are no longer visible as an alternative or better stated as representative of the 'Way'. We cannot attain to cultural relevance and remain the Church of Christ. Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

I understand the issues of being relevant to the degree that we are achieving the mandate of going and making disciples in all nations, however there has to be a distinction from reaching out and remaining true to the Word of God. We must never sacrifice our Saviour in the name of relevance. There are these contentious issues (as defined by the prejudice of the perpetrator of whatever compromise is in question) in scripture which alienate us from the general population, it is in the attempt to appease by throwing spins upon truth, or removing the truth entirely as revealed in the Bible that we see the eroding of the essential truth of the Bible and God's relevant, determinant, inerrant, revelation of the character and stance of His Church. It is difficult to maintain relevance to the mandate of the Bible when as viewed by the culture around we are no different. The perversity which lies at the heart of the current situation is that in allowing or promoting aspects of culture in our churches, this assimilation removes us from offering any significant redeeming alternative to any other lifestyle in society. We may attain significance in being cultural, but our mandate is found in being counter-cultural, and even more distinct yet, in making counter-cultural appealing and workable. We must live out and exemplify the productive, loving, relationships that God has ordained and show that this is the way in which we are to live in harmony and peace. It becomes hard to convince a person of the error of their lifestyle, the need for salvation, the need to change from a destructive lifestyle, the need for a relationship with God, the need to set themselves apart for a greater purpose, the need to seek out and be found by God, to convict someone of sin and error by the example my life is in living for a reason contrary to people of my community, when the defining aspect of the church is not only acceptance but promotion of the aspects which I in my lifestyle am trying to refute. In this I must and it is required of me to be honest, this is not achievable by any exertion of my own strength and ability, but solely the work of the enabling power of the Holy Spirit indwelling me and providing all that is necessary for that result. Having said that, it is imperative that the Church be seen as the illustration of the distinctive work of God in the lives of Christians, in healing, in reconciliation, in restoration, in redemption, and I am not just referring to the relationship with God, but as well the relationships with each other and those who are outside the Church. We must always remove the preson from their sin and love them to the degree that Jesus calls us to love.
Leviticus 19:18, "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself; I am the Lord."
John 13:34, "... love one another; as I have loved you,... by this all men will know that you are My disciples. if you love one another."
John 15:13."Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."
This mutual and disinterested (having no stake in the outcome) love was to be the essential and distinctive trademark of Christ's disciples and as the command in Leviticus states was to be extended beyond the parameters of the church to include all of those in our constituency.

John 15:19, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Has the world become more Christian or Christians more worldly? Our integrity as the Church of Christ lies with our adherence to the principles of consecration, those ways of obedience which set us apart from the arenas of thought around us.

Sacrificing reproach for the comfort of the world may seem to be a astute decision, but much like the wise steward who Jesus described in Luke 16:9,"...and I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Truth & Error


In a documentary I watched many years ago, the narrator said, "The Old Testament is the history of God revealing Himself to the people of Israel." Truth really is about the revelation of the character of God. Truth is a representation of things as they are. My previous blog was less than , well it was less than...


A friend brought clarity to some of my thoughts when he spoke in Sunday school and commented on the dialogue he was having with his brother about the relevance of Christians to our culture. Some of the discussion revolves around the idea of how comfortable Christians are with their life. We sit and worship in our cathedrals and churches, in fellowship with others who are comfortable. Part of his dialogue involves the passage from Scripture in Matthew 25, where Jesus speaks of going out and feeding and providing drink for those in our community who do not have food or drink. What does that look like, is it just physical or is it also spiritual?


Relevance is one of the cruxes of the church of today. I think that is why we see so many leaving the church, or see those who do not not see a need or necessity for including church in their personal search of spirituality. The excuses are different but all the same, 'we don't need church to achieve or maintain a relationship with God', 'we've been burned by people in the church and we don't want to be hurt again'. I've heard claims that their spiritual life is better, their relationship with God is better, Church gets in the way of their worship. Easy to say when you have nothing to gauge against, after all I'm the strongest man in the world as long as I don't go outside my home to compete.

Another feature of truth and honesty is modeled in the book Blue like Jazz, where the story is told of a 'confession booth ' put up during a university's spirit week, where the predominant aspect was partying and such. The 'confession booth' was not for people to come and express their thoughts on how many things they had done wrong, to seek contrition or absolve themselves from sin or error in behaviour, the 'confession booth' was there for the Christians on the campus to apologize for the atrocities and wrongdoings of the Church in the name of Christianity. The 'confession booth' was there so that the Christians could publicly and privately acknowledge that they had failed to accurately portray the Christian life and had used the cause of the Cross as a battering ram and bludgeon in error. I love the reality of that!

I have come to a stage in my life where I am relating to the character of Samson. I know that this is a popular theme in the church today among men's groups and discussions within men's ministries. I hate following public opinion and current trends, after all a man not living on the edge is taking up too much space. I can't remove myself from the consistency of the thoughts and truth revealed in my life that follow with the story of Samson. It is in this that I find honesty in my life.
To believe that I am better than those around me is an absurdity, and an insult to any and all who are journeying through life. There are many around me who have suffered under intense trials and injustices, some have been afflicted by circumstance and life-choices, some have resulted as occurrences ordained by God (at least from my point-of-view). I find it offensive to my conscience to stand in judgement of their situation when I as a Christian struggle and fret about the very same things. I work for the gain, I play for the enjoyment, I suffer unwillingly in adversity, I worry, I deal with stress, sometimes wrongly, I don't always respect and honour fellow travelers, and I have numerous faults and flaws some revealed others hidden within the facade of Christianity. The cross was never meant as a place to hide behind, it is a place to die publicly.

I apologize for the distracted thoughts in these last couple of blogs, there is a thought that is forming and as I try to lay it out it in a consistent and concise format, I find myself struggling.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Truth & Honesty


It is a truth universally accepted, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Jane Austen

Truth is defined by the elements that comprise or form the context of its function. Honesty is action based on truth, the scrupulous endeavouring to promote the fact and reality of truth. Truth is an essential aspect of life regardless of the verity of its application to individual circumstance. Truth removes ambiguity from choices and decisions and places the responsibility and accountability for action squarely on the shoulders of the decision-maker. Truth is not some universal or personal assent to a form of thought or philosophy excluding oneself from consequence. Truth exists as a foundation upon which life functions at its optimum and God ordained intent.


Truth is and exists as an entity removed or set apart from the life of the individual, truth is embodied in action, in person hood, by obedience we declare truth, we walk in a way consistent with fact; Isaiah 35:8 "A highway shall be there, a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray."

Truth is attainable, available to any and all.

It is evident in all aspects of life: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" John Keats

It is evident in our desires; "All men by nature desire knowledge" Aristotle "There is no desire more natural than the desire for knowledge.' de Montaigne

It is relevant always: "Truth has no special time of its own, its hour is now - always." A. Schweitzer

It is evident in conscience; Psalm 36:1, "Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart;"

Truth is self-evident.

It is evident in how the culture in which we reside has expectations as to how we are interact with one another. Zechariah 8:16 "These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgement for peace in your gates." Zechariah 7:9,10 "...execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother." It would seem by these instructions their (culture's) expectations are well founded. There is in the application of truth principles an expectation that there should be an honest intent in practical employment of the meaning of the truth purported by the Christian community. There should be an anticipation of reality expressed through a value living life, a conformity to the belief or fact upon which we have placed our faith, our belief, our truth. Christians have over the course of history been the most vehement and steadfast in the defense of the faith. Christians have never had the options to be inventive, at least in terms of creating arguments or falsifying and justifying contentious positions, we have always had to defend truth solely on its own intrinsic value, quality and time-tested relevance.

The honesty issue really surfaces when Christians come to the issue of our status as citizens of the Kingdom of God. We seldom view ourselves as sinner-saints. Reality becomes a reflection of our honesty. To proclaim the righteous judgements of God to a culture observing the decadence , insobriety, lasciviousness, adulterous nature of the Church as it exists in the world today is to throw stones at our own glass cathedral. We have lost the integrity and perspective of our own lost position, and our unwillingness to be honest about the who of who we are has led many both outside and inside the church to lose the vision for what the church was, is, and should be, hence the problem with honesty as the world looks at the church and as the church, its adherents and members look at ourselves. We are all in need of healing, not withstanding Jesus said He came to heal that which was ill, and save that which was lost.

John 8:32 "...and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Free from what? The world looks at the church and all its goings-on and ons, and chooses to believe that that bondage to a restrictive and disciplined lifestyle, seemingly in a culture of unloved stricture is abhorrent to value-added living. Yet, the entire world is looking for a existential, spiritual experience which will lead them to a life of quality and lasting significance. "Christ spoke of spiritual liberty, but carnal hearts feel no other grievances than those that molest the body, and distress their worldly affairs. Talk to them of their liberty and property, tell them of the waste committed upon their lands, or damage done to their houses, and they understand you very well; but speak of the bondage of sin, captivity to Satan, and liberty by Christ, tell of wrong done to their precious souls, and the hazard of their eternal welfare, then you bring strange things to their ears." Matthew Henry The spirit of the age declares that we must package our message in a consumer friendly way, make it palatable, tolerant, unobtrusive, so as not to upset any personal balance. In this we create dishonesty, trying to appease an environment intolerant to any firm declaration of Independence from society, while in reality we have become part and parcel with that society most needful of a message of healing and acceptance.

At some point in time, we as the church will have to be honest about who we have become in this consumerist society and either fall further into step with culture, or set ourselves apart and start living the redeemed and consecrated existence Jesus called us to live. Appeasement will lead to assimilation, and finally to annihilation.

Confession that we are a people of God, redeemed but working out our salvation, consecrated but still a sinner-saint, sanctified but still a living sacrifice, citizens of the Kingdom of God but co-inhabitants of the world, will be an honest acceptance of reality and may allow those around us to appreciate the journey we are all on, and give us opportunity to speak of the trials and successes we have as Christians.