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

Monday, February 19, 2007

Stress Revisited

2 Kings 17:14, "However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God."
Nehemiah 9:29, " ... and testified against them, that you might bring them, back to your law. Yet they acted proudly, and did not heed your commandments, but sinned against your judgements, which if a man does, he shall live by them. And they shrugged their shoulders, stiffened their necks, and would not hear."
Proverbs 21:29, " A wicked man hardens his face, but as for the upright, He establishes his way."
I had the opportunity to teach on the subject of stress, this after a most tiresome and trouble-filled week. To add insult to injury, Sunday morning my printer decided that my Sunday School lesson was not worthy of its attention and so deemed it unprintable. My handwriting suffered for the extra burden.
In all these things, to which I was not prepared to answer to on Sunday morning, I found myself wanting. It appears in the matter of my handling of stress, I sin. My failure to properly deal with issues, (those things that break the constancy of life) is a reflection on my beliefs about God and His provisional love and care for me. I have spoken and written of my faith and my residing confidence that God has my best interests at heart in every situation and circumstance in which He places me and so an hypocrisy is exposed.
"What does God require of me?" - from one of my favorite verses - not to be defiant, not to give up understanding of the times, not to shoulder a yoke out of despite and stubbornness, not to stiffen my neck and harden my heart through failure to accept from God an interruption in my orchestrated life. My week was about everything evidencing an unyielding to God's intersections and the signage. If this past week was a test, I failed.
As I look at the aforementioned verses, I see a man described by his actions, actions for which the consequence is less than desirable. The facing of judgement, the destruction or depleting of integrity, the dishonouring of God, the testing of the patience of God, the unbelief (apostasy?) are all aspects of the life of such a man.
How do I answer this dilemma? What steps do I take to ensure my acceptance of God's will, compliantly?
God continually called His people to turn, to be penitent, to repent from their previous sins.
2 Chronicles 7:14"... if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear them from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
May I stand in awe and sin not, may I fear the displeasure of my Lord, may I hope in His grace and mercy, and walk in His commandments.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Onward Christian Soldier

"What if Earth
Be but the shadow of Heaven, and things therein
Each to other like, more than on Earth is thought"

"The discord which befell, and war in Heaven
among the Angelic powers, and the deep fall
of those too high aspiring who rebelled
with Satan; he who envies now thy state,
who is plotting how he may seduce
thee also from obedience . . .
but listen not to his temptations; warn
thy weaker, let it profit thee to have heard,
by terrible example, the reward
of disobedience; firm they might have stood,
yet fell; remember, and fear to transgress."

True Christianity is war. There is incessant struggle and strife, wrestling with the things of this world and the constant onslaught of temptation and earthly desire. Colossians 3:5 '... put to death your members which are on earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness...; the pursuit of holiness requires violence and that of an ilk from which some would shy from performing. Jesus said in Mark 14:37,38 to the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane "Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Of this spiritual malady Paul said in Romans 7:23, " I see [a] law in my members warring in opposition to the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which exists in my members." 2 Corinthians 10:5 "... overthrowing reasoning's and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,..." It seems that genuine Christianity is more than a moral assent to a series of principles and guidelines designed to ensure a healthy and wealthy earthly existence. Jesus told the parable in Matthew 12: 43-45, "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none,then he says,'I will return to my house from which I came.' and when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first,"
The war and fight we face is of absolute necessity, to remain neutral or consciously sterile of our natural condition will result in our demise. Vigilance and perseverance are the mainstay of our survival. Paul says of himself. 1 Corinthians 9:27 , "I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." "Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power." Lucius Annaeus Seneca.
Then understand also that it is a fight for which the implements of war are already provided. Ephesians 6:11 "Put on the whole armour of God... (14-17) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (meaning a benevolent temper, meekness in a methodical defense or readiness), above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one. and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;" 1 Thessalonians 5:8 "...but we being of the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation"
We must fight with understanding. "In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war."

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as if to war
With the cross of Jesus going on before
Like a mighty army moves the church of God
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod
We are not divided, all one body we
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Truth or Dare

The original intent of the title of this blog was something different than what it now has become. This is about my story, your story, our story. It is about truth. It is about being real and genuine. It is about character and integrity. It could very well be about dignity and depravity. It be about about the spin we put on our story, or the selective memory we have about the events that have formed our lives. It could be about hypocrisy, wearing a different mask, duplicity. It could be about softening the blows of existence or the dulling the significance of sin or failure or the whatevers of life for which we feel shame or remorse.
My story should be about honesty, and yet I hedge, I withhold, I fear, and to what end. The harm is solely upon me, and those with whom I fellowship. It serves no purpose to estrange myself from who I am and struggle with why people have no understanding of my intent or the reasons for my actions.
I must choose truth.
The truth can be viscous (yes, I mean thick & gummy), smelly, full of tension and liberating.
Truth assumes growth as a fruit of its existence in my life. Honesty creates opportunity for dissonance, misunderstanding and apprehension. Truth is a war-zone and honesty is a casualty.
1 Timothy 1:15 "Faithful is the word, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." This from Saul turned Paul, who understood truth at its most decrepit and despicable, the great blasphemer redeemed to become the great evangelist. Truth constantly as a memory in his life, that which he was in relation to what God had called him to become. It is in that context that I am approaching this matter of truth in my own life. More importantly how I am dealing with the who of who I am in relation to the who, who God wishes me to become. How am I dealing with the relationships that God has given me to nurture and respect as His gifts to me?
Truth involves accuracy, aiming at the true mark, attaining to the more honorable goal, respecting the dignity of the person, yet knowing that the working of the mind and the soul may be at cross purposes to the intent of the person. It is in this understanding that true community is built. In a word integrity and accountability.
Truth involves dialogue, not discussion (sharing ideas on a topic), not debate (swaying opinion), but the desire to work out the reality of differing viewpoints and biases, being challenged and questioned to test our motivations, to assess our decisions, to draw back from fear and to see faith released. Truth initiated creates chaos and confusion, dialogue seeks to instill discernment and collaboration.
Truth requires, screams for, can not do without, love. Love that trusts, respects, acknowledges depravity, is willing to understand memory, seeks the wholeness of the person, gives due regard for the story. The story must be accepted regardless of its being palatable.
The challenge is there to be transparent, real, sharing life together, trusting. The story is mine to tell, God gives us free choice in that regard, the orchestration of that story is His to determine, I am glad I have no choice in that regard.

Purchasing Power

Isaiah 55:1,2a "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?" The offer and invitation to accept a gift without price, meaning beyond our ability to pay, an invitation to acquire not only the basic need of water (refreshing power of the Holy Spirit), but more so, the wine (blessings of salvation) and the milk (the abundance of that grace) for strength and vitality. The absolute grace of God, the purchase of that which can never be paid, except by the giver of the gift.
It is a given fact that all men thirst, we thirst for power, strength and gold, we desire the adoration and respect of men for our achievements, we wish to be revered and acknowledged for our wisdom, we desire to dominate and control, and we amuse ourselves contrary to reality that in some fashion these things are done by us in our lifetimes. The thirst for these things satisfies for the interim period of life, but the realization that significance and heroic value is as vain and frail as the glass of the mirror which reflects our image will eventually rise up in our hearts. This realization is what Solomon wrote about in Ecclesiastes 1; David wrote in Psalms 39:5 " You have made my days as hand breadths, and my age is as nothing before You, certainly every man at his best state is but vapor (mere breath, vanity)."
Isaiah 5:13 "Therefore my people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge, their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst"; Isaiah 29:8 "It shall be even as when a hungry man dreams - and behold-- he is eating; but when he awakes, and his soul is still empty; or as when a thirsty man dreams - and behold-- he drinks; but when he awakes, and indeed he is faint, and his soul still craves..."
Have we all not at one time or another in our lives despaired for the lack of significance, the vanity of our existence, the frailty of life, the lack of value, to lose hope and expectation for importance.
Then God speaks.
"Is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver?" Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." "Jesus answered...'whosoever drinks of the water which I shall give him shall never thirst for ever, but the water which I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into eternal life." Without being heretical, this is just a lot of rhetoric, without a catalyst to understanding. There has to be a critical moment, a crisis, something of earth shattering, rock-crumbling significance that changes the mind-set to one that gives up the pursuit of worldly meaning to one which seeks significance in light of eternity, a concept not totally foreign, but definitely a paradigm shift in thought from a world view possessed by most men. How does God speak at this time? Who speaks?
I believe that this is where we come into the picture. This is the role we play. Our story, my story, told in honesty, revealing the truth of who God is, and how He wants to slacken the thirst of the world.
Proverbs 23:23 "Buy the truth, do not sell it; (use or expend any energy, effort or resource) get/also wisdom, instruction and understanding." [See Proverbs 1:5; 4:5.7; 18:15]

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Transitively Reflexive

Transitively reflexive - moving from who I was to who I am, the subject becoming the object, or the object becoming the subject. The person before Jesus to the person after, the same yet different, changed but remaining whole, without loss of identity yet new within context of the past, self yet un-selfed into a character renewed but still intact as old. Movement statically changed, change statically moved.(I don't know either)
A reflexive statement is one where the object and subject are the same. Example: " I wash myself."
With reference to God we have examples like Genesis where Abraham states 'God will provide for himself a lamb';
Ephesians 2:7 '...that in ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.';
Luke 15:15 where the prodigal son '...joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.';
John 11:33 ' when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,...';
2 Corinthians 3:5 '... not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God;'
Matthew 6: 19 '... lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;';
Mark 8:34 '... whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.'.
A reflexive statement by means of its intent requires the voluntary assent to an action. God has said He will provide and He does. It is a indicator of the sovereignty of God, in that as he declares so it will be done. John 3:3 '... except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' 2 Corinthians 5:17 ' Therefore of any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:...' these are the things of God enfolded in the mystery and wonderment of a holy and sovereign God.
There are four principle qualities of a follower of Jesus:
1] willingness - the foundational condition upon which the following principles impinge;
2] renouncing - surrender, to decline further association with, to separate from all things which impede the sanctified pursuit of the new birth
3] submission - to the yoke of Christ, Matthew 11:29 'Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.'
4] faithfulness - Ruth 1:16,17 ' Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.'
Jesus further states in Mark 8:35 'For whoever desires to save his life shall lose it, but whosoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel will save it,' It would be nice if we could pick our crosses and only bear the burdens we would choose. Romans 8:28 declares '... but we do know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose' The invitation extended to us by God to partake of the blessings of the covenant relationship we have with God through Jesus involves a love which transcends our daily circumstances to acceptance that God works out for us that which is best for our healthy and wholesome existence. It presupposes that God knows best and that we are to submit to that wisdom.
Mark 8:36 '...for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and suffer the lose of his soul?
There are three things evident about a man on a cross:
1] he no longer has any plans of his own;
2] he is only facing one direction;
3] he is not going back.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

It Is Finished

Tetelestai - a one word summation of the greatest act of God, the atonement and satisfaction of the Cross for salvation, the great injustice, God dieing for sinful man. The word means to discharge a debt, to bring to an end, complete, finish, fill up, fulfill.
We can be rather glib in stating we must take up our cross and obedience to the intent that that command means, as compared to our understanding of the level of commitment and obedience and belief which is the common and current practice prevalent in the personal lives of Christians and our church community today?
Tradition tells us that when Jesus was a teenager there was a rebellion in Israel which was cruelly crushed by the Romans. It was told that 1760 Jews were crucified, they were lined up along the side of the road, 30 feet apart extending for 10 miles. This is what Jesus was facing. The agony, pain and suffering witnessed by this young man would not have left Him, it would have been the future indelibly burned into His conscious thought, always the nagging memory haunting His present.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compos so rich a crown?

Within the context of this thought is the very simplest of ideas, forgiveness. Our call to the life of the cross is founded in the reality of forgiving one-another. A wise man noted that "bitterness destroys more Christian workers than immorality". When asked by Peter in his magnanimous way, 'how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Jesus responded 'up to seventy times seven', 490 times we are to forgive the malicious, wantonly inflicted, unprovoked offenses committed against us. The cross means forgiveness.
Ephesians 4:32 "... be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you."