He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon
Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon
Saturday, January 27, 2007
"Faith seeking understanding" Saint Anselm's life motto is an incredible theme for a life quest. I find it very intriguing the quandaries that God leaves and has designed in scripture and life, leading those who are so inclined on the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. In Isaiah 7:9 it states ...'if you will not believe, surely you shall not be established." Augustine further expands this thought with his interpretation declaring "...if you will not believe you shall not understand," or "...if you will not believe you shall not continue." "Unless we walk by faith, we shall not be able to come to that sight that does not fail, but continues through a cleansed understanding, uniting us with truth." Faith and understanding must have equal weight in the context of a Christian life lived. Augustine further states "You are not required to understand in order to believe, but to believe in order to understand." Augustine's intention is to say that the rejection of faith (fideism) that has no allowance for reason and the rejection of rationalism that excludes faith is not a functional operation of a vibrant and realistic Christian walk. He as with Paul believes an orthodoxy or formalism that denounces or negates the strife, tension and effort required by people to become overcomers in this life is a cold and dead faith. God says in Isaiah 1:18 "Come and let us reason together," this is an invitation or opportunity for engagement in conversation, the development of understanding within a context of mutual discovery and shared desires, that of me seeking to know God and God desiring my freedom and fullness of life lived for the glory and/or sake of his name. This conversation or dialogue requires exploration and experimentation wherein we are challenged to 'work out our salvation with fear and trembling.' We have here an exhortation to finish life well understanding the working of human free agency within the framework of a cautious, struggling, striving, and growing faith seeking the promotion of God's glory through our lives. Hebrews 5:14 "...but solid food belongs to those who are of full age (mature), ... those who by reason of use have their sense exercised to discern both evil and good."; Colossians 2:2 "...unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God;"; 2 Timothy 2:7 "Think of what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things. Knowledge and faith make for a rich soul.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Meekness is commonly defined as gentle, humble, modest, submissive, meager or self-effacing. It is also used to describe a spirit of lowliness, humility, patient or non-retaliatory behaviour. The closest usage of the concept of meekness in the English language is the word 'gentleman'. This is a word which has lost its context in 'modern' and 'enlightened' or more apropos 'liberated' times. The concept of gentleman actually implies equality or an esteeming of another as companion. Ties nicely to the parable of the 'Good Samaritan'. This idea of equality denotes association with any and all who cross or walk with us on this 'way'. It removes the option of segregation and rather promotes the expression of mercy, and our understanding of mercy with legs. Galatians 6:1 , ' if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness (meekness), considering yourself lest you be tempted'. 2 Timothy 2:24 '... and a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle (meek) to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition...' Meekness enables a man to remain cool when others are becoming inflamed, it is in this control that we find another essence of meekness. Meekness restrains from private revenge, resisting the incitement of personal resentment.
Meekness towards God is shown in the acceptance of persecution for the sake of the Cross, to suffer affliction and ridicule for our beliefs. Here is where we find the paradox, meekness is also defined as 'power under control'. Moses was described in Number 12:3 as 'very meek, above (paradoxical) all men who were on the face of the Earth.'; Jesus who described himself as 'gentle (meek) and humble in heart; both are men who acted out of passion for their God and in righteous anger required of erring people a response, a justification, an accountability for their wrongdoing. We find here the strength of meekness, in that true tests of character are found in the ability to stand and defend the principles of righteousness, unyielding and uncompromising with evil. The world would have us believe that meekness is consistent with wimpiness, unable to face adversity or opposition to our beliefs. The realization that to be meek means to have intelligence in light of the world's view that Christianity is for the weak of mind (think on Paul's apologetics); to have strength of character when the world esteems us as those who are to be trod upon, doormats, dogs(think of Jesus with Pilate); to have joy and contentment when the world says we should be miserable because we have no 'life', no enjoyment of the things of this world; to have contentment when the world sees our state as being that which is least desired.
Meekness is not synonymous with weakness. " Man's misconception of this strength of meekness is largely due to the gentle guise which she adopts, the restraint which she exercises over herself, her soft footfall, her modulated tones. They do not pierce through the hiding of her power, and realize that there is even greater power required for the restraining of the manifestations of power, than in letting them have free play. It is a stronger thing for a man of vehement and impetuous temper to speak and act gently in the face of great provocation, than to blurt out indignant words and bluster like a north-east wind! The soft hand that restrains the fiery steed, is obviously as strong, and stronger. Ah! passionate souls, that pour out showers of glowing coals at every provocation, (you) little know how evident is your weakness, where (you) vaunt yourselves of strength, how much more evident your strength would be if (you) made the unruly passions within heed the strong sway of a steadfast purpose." F.B. Meyer
Friday, January 19, 2007
'We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence (surpassingness) of the power may be of God and not from us' This treasure spoken of here is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. It speaks of a personal experience of meeting Jesus or having been in His presence. As a point of reference a very limited number of people would have this knowledge (ie apostles). Its application extends beyond the apostles, to all who proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, the essence or force of the passage lies in 'light of the knowledge'. This is knowledge which is experienced at the heart level in a revelatory manner brought about by the infusion or abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. This knowledge is undefinable, inexplicable in its wonder and deportment. It is in this knowledge that we act and have our way in the world. We are a light to the world.
The intent of the terminology 'earthen vessels' also represents a significant thought. an earthen vessel refers to a vessel still in the potter's hands, not yet hardened in the kiln. In that aspect the potter still has the opportunity to mold and shape the clay. If parts are marred or scarred or too comely, the potter is able through the turning on the wheel to reshape to his purpose. The skill of the workman is able to build anew , it is recoverable, redeemable.
"have this treasure in earthen vessels", the love of God in our hearts may not be perfect, but His salvation is complete, it is my natural affinities , that 'earthenness' that tends to disable my ability to fully express what is felt as holy and tender and full of grace. How the emotions are stirred when with the words of my mouth I attempt to express what God has done, what He is to me. This thought that in an earthen vessel this light would be kept,a weak, frail, subject to fault, crumbling, decaying instrument used for the glory of God. Incredible!!
But there in lies the ------ God's purposes are best served when dependence on Him is necessary. It is a vessel still moldable that God uses.
The story is told of a teacher who was chided by the Princess as to his appearance, and the absurdity that so much wisdom was stored in a less than handsome man. The teacher asked the Princess how her was wine stored, she replied in earthen vessels, to which he admonished her that even the poorest in the land have there wine in earthen vessels. She went home and promptly had all her wine placed in silver vessels. Shortly after it was discovered that all the wine had become acidic. The comeliness or homeliness of the vessel is not the indicator of the value of the contents, nor the ability of the vessel to hold the contents secure and fit for use.
"We poison the wine as He decants it into us;murder a melody he would play with us as the instrument" C.S.Lewis
It is in these earthen vessels that the excellency of the power of God is made manifest, how can it not be? Paul uses the Greek word huperbole which means a throwing beyond, excess or superiority. You may recognize this word in its English usage as hyperbole meaning an exaggeration or overstatement. What Paul is trying to express is the exceeding greatness, the surpassing excellency of the manifestation of His power, evidenced by the ability of His people to live lives separate and distinct in the world, salt and light. It is further evidenced in His servants using gifts and talents that they only dream possible, but in God's power and timing are made probable and real.
And yet, are we really living in the context of the excellency of that power? Is it real in the lives of Christians? Are we just going through the motions? Where is the throwing beyond of all Godly efforts? Where is the throwing beyond of being culturally significant or not? Where is the disproportion of the instrument to the nature of the produced effect?
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Stress = the internal distribution of force (pressure) within a body reacting to applied forces which causes strain or deformation - the reaction which tries to keep the body (mind & soul) in equilibrium
The pressures of life in terms of time, demands, etc. make us weary on the journey, sapping our vitality creating sickness and pain. Rest and peace are aspects of life which have seemed to disappear. Emphasis on success, security, survival all important factors of life have been distorted to the degree that the pursuit of health, wealth and happiness is destroying lives in the process. We ask ourselves just how much are we to do?? Yet in the midst of this chaos there is the intervening of peace. We only have to look for it and allow it to find us. Much the same as God saying 'draw near to me and I will draw near to you'
Col. 3:15, '...and let the peace that comes from Christ rule (preside, have authority, govern, act decisively)in your hearts'. It would be nice to live in a vacuum, free from the pressure, the currents, the friction, placed in a position of constancy, without flow or movement. It has been proven by experiment that trees grown in this kind of environment not only grow in distortion but have no resilient strength and fall over under the weight of their own existence. There is no teaching of the need for sternness in the reality of life without the occurrence of adversity and trial. Winds and currents require equal and greater efforts to resist, successfully. God uses the circumstances of life's existence to build in us the vigor to withstand.
There is an aspect of finding strength in the Lord that requires courage and fortitude, 'waxing valiant in the fight' refusing to succumb to the pressures and expectations of culture and society, standing fast in the strength of the Lord. It is during the storm that the captain of the vessel takes the helm, it is in the heat of battle that the valiant are at the forefront of the conflict, that the battle-tested veterans lead, it is in the battle the temper of the sword's steel is tested.
There is also an aspect of waiting. God provides in measure, ...'pressed down'... for our health and well-being. Patience on the path lends itself to rest and repose, God provides the opportunities for his people to be refreshed. Sanctuary is to be found in home, church and sabbath. Amid the noise and bustle there are these intersections, where we must stop, at those junctions may we find the moments to restore and recharge.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I Will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.