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, May 26, 2007
"Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our father, forever and ever.
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
the power and the glory,
the victory (splendour), and the majesty,
for all that is in heaven and in the earth is Yours;
Yours is the Kingdom, O Lord,
and you are exalted as head over all.
Both riches and honour come from You,
and You reign over all.
In Your hand it is to make great
and to give strength to all.
Now therefore, My God,
I thank You
and praise Your glorious name.
But who am I??, and who are my people,
that we should be able to offer so willingly as this?
For all things come from You,
and of Your own we have given You.
The question really is Who am I? it is the question that passes through my mind and spans across the time of my life. It isn't and has not been found in what I do, in job-description, in parenting, in Church ministry, in para-church ministry, those things are just part of daily living, what I must do. It is a mystery. It is the thing I can't put my finger on, and say emphatically, that I am this.
There are things I am not; I am not a Calvinist, I am not an atheist, I am not a saint, I am not perfect, I am not always inspired by the Holy Spirit, I am not a Charismatic, etc. These are the things that could be used to define me, but they fail in expressing who I am.
There is a strong tendency to move at this point in expressing who I am by countering the above mentioned items with the things in my life that I am in relation to my physical existence. I can define aspects of my life, I am an essayist, a church-goer, etc. That is my persona, the way in which I can project to the world, my appearance and character. It isn't who I am.
The question of who I am does not lie with the description, it lies in the journey. It's not about arriving or getting there, its all about the travel. The reason I can't answer the question is that I dwell in the process, I'm living in the 'figuring out', I'm residing in the task.
1 Chronicles 29:15 continues to say, "For we are sojourners (aliens and pilgrims) before You, and tenants, as were all our fathers; our days on earth are as a shadow, and there is no one abiding." There does not exist in life a static or stationary position, there is not existent a settled state, a remaining and abiding posture. The constancy of change through growth, maturity and decay is the indicator of the passing of life. I wait, not as one who puts his feet up and watches the clock for the appointed arrival, but as one who lives in the likeness of the words of Isaiah, "they that wait upon the Lord", waits, gathering and working, waits, being intertwined in the journey, waits, being bound in the active, waits, without passivity, waits, resting in the function, waits, collecting life's mysteries and jewels, waits, living in the expectation of the marvelous that God will do.
Isaiah 40:31,"...but those expecting Jehovah pass to power, they raise up the pinion as eagles, they run and are not fatigued, they go on and do not faint!"
Monday, May 21, 2007
There is in this life our position as users, consumers. We are resident in a society that requires and leaves us with little alternative than to consume. How in this context do we remain consecrated, and sanctified while constantly being saturated by culture? Which example in the prior post is the one which defines our earthly existence? All of them?
The example to be followed is the one presented by Jesus. So how did He interact with His culture? How was He relevant? He came preaching the Kingdom of God to a people who were expecting a military overthrow of the oppressive forces to which they were in subservience. Their expectations were never realized while Jesus was with them. In that aspect He was not relevant, however, He was culturally significant. Unlike myself, he was not a consumer, He moved constantly, never vacillating (I can't say that), He was focused on the Father's work, exclusively (I can't say that), He entered into relationship with people and lived with their misconception of Him, without rebuking and admonishing, only supplying for their immediate needs. Those with whom He developed a deeper relationship He taught patiently and in His omniscient understanding and sufficient grace allowed them to remain in positions of false assumption, knowing that the fullness of time would reveal the truth. It is interesting to note that in God's economy, nothing is diminished in the follower, even while waiting or growing or whatever, wisdom is found and duty is carried out, in all conditions of life, when we realize not to throw away the comfort we have, because we never have all that we may or would.
Even in this culture, where assaults upon Christian and Judeo-Christian beliefs abound, we have protection and freedom, our exiled position is shown in that context. We are bombarded from all sides with the attacks upon the basic foundations of life as explained in the Bible, and in that context we are the army of God battling for the occupation and conquest of the land to overthrow Satan, while living with the residual, partisan and militant influences of the embedded remnant. This places us in tension, whatever position is chosen whether it be cultural, counter-cultural or anti-cultural, we find ourselves making concessions to that culture which we would desire to subvert, thus making ourselves ineffective in accurately reaching, touching and affecting the culture around us. In accepting a position in relation to culture we compromise God's calling, and refute God's claims on our lives.
We are to be the planter, the man living and working, sowing seed, not indolent in duty, but diligent in his obligations, living in country, presumably affecting change or supporting ascendant truth, exerting force or exercising ability to change the development of the fluctuating aspects of the generations like thought, decisions, behaviours and conduct.
We are to be men, 1 Corinthians 16:13,14, "Watch, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men (be brave, act manly), be strong. Let all that you do be done with love."
We are to be intentional and purposeful in planting seed, knowing the field is fraught with dangers, errors and sin. The sower must be ever watchful of the things (darnel,tares) which would bring reproach upon the Bride of Christ, the Church. This is Kingdom living in tension. Awakening to watch and be alert to the inherent dangers of our surrounding culture, standing, not tottering or vacillating between opinions of truth, removing the effeminate, tolerant nature of abdication from the courageous, unflinching, spirit of power given to us. 2 Timothy 1:7,"...for God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and a sound mind." Acting without timidity, cowardice or fear, taking upon ourselves the position of Moses, who stood in the gap, fearing the destruction of the Church as the greater loss, as compared to the sacrifice of ourselves in its defense. In the things of this nature, those that are detrimental to the Church, there can be no ground given.
The issue of Kingdom living and the tension, result from the areas that are not so clearly defined, the ambiguous, indistinct, indefinite terms of our empirical reality. It lies pervasively in our decisions of how we choose to interact with those forces around us, it confronts us in the daily decisions we make regarding our position concerning marriage, divorce, re-marriage, pre-marital sex. extra-marital sex, spousal abuse, pornography, materialism and racism, as opposed to the position of grace, mercy. love, justice, etc..
It resolves itself in our position on What holiness means to me/you personally? It is not resident in a form of personal morality, personal religious relevance, subservience to a set of rules and regulations governing life (or the appearance), belief in the Christian morays or even belief in God. It is found in the personal relationship, it is found in the union that I/we have with God through Jesus Christ. Therein lies the tension, this is not a transferable, or easily translatable concept or belief that can be applied to another person by osmosis, it is by direct injection only, and that injection is from God.
Kingdom living is about holiness, "I will be your God, and you shall be My people," says Yahweh in Leviticus 26:12 & Hebrews 8:10. The pronouns speak the loudest, 'God' says 'I' and calls you to be the 'My people". The emphasis can also be placed heavily on the phrase 'My people', God calls us/me to be a people 'set apart' (consecrated), for ourselves, for others, as a part of the Bride (the Church), and for the sake of the world, "...a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9 "Be holy, because I am holy", says the Lord, attain to that level of separation from the pursuit of anything that drives a wedge between you and God, that all within the realm of your sphere of influence will notice.
"I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received" Ephesians 4:1, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service, and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable will of God" Romans 12:1,2 " Continue to work out your salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." Philippians 2:12,13
Saturday, May 19, 2007
1 Corinthians 15:19, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable." If the sacrifices, persecutions, decisions made in faith, the tremendous effort expended, the denial, the deception and the perilous position of assurance that people are willing to foundationally build lives upon, is to be found based upon a premise which is absent of hope, eternal significance, or rewarding of the courage and valour to live a redeemed life, then Christianity becomes the most destitute and vilest of theism's ever incorporated into human thought. It is in this tension that we see the current church, hung between the call of God to live a separated, sanctified and consecrated life, and the call of the world to seek prominence and significance through the offerings of the opulence and wealth of our culture.
We see the evidences of the same thought for life that is found in Isaiah 22:13, today in Christianity, the pursuit of worldly gain, power and influence. Living today for its worth, without thought for the valuable and intrinsic, for life tomorrow. This is not the Kingdom living we are called to live, trying to achieve as a result of our effort fame, fortune, wealth, etc.
Kingdom living is exemplified in a variety of profiles throughout the Bible, I am looking at three of the ways in which God has foreshadowed our Kingdom presence in this world.
Kingdom living is explained by Joshua in the charge given to the people of Israel as they occupy and further conquer the Promised land. As a military force entering and possessing a hostile land, there were expectations as to their mindset. They were to be devoted (single-minded in purpose), focused (rigorous in discipline), courageous, unwavering, obedient (unquestioning), diligent and watchful. They were to have an unvarnished view to the hardships of battle; 2 Timothy 2:3 "You must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life. that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier..." understanding that the portion given for the maintaining of life is sufficient to rest in this world (a spiritual kingdom apart) while waiting for our citizenship realized in the coming of another physical Kingdom. They were to understand the insidious nature of the culture, the pervasive lure of the beauty, the life-style, the enticement of being a tolerant tyrant (an oxy-moron, I know). Forsaking the call of God to be a change-agent, they allowed by the extension of grace? the peoples that should have been destroyed permission to remain. Operating against the commands of God, those people who were to be expelled, or assuredly dispossessed, driven out and destroyed were allowed to remain and became the author of the demise of Israel, negating the succession, that bringing into of, the inheritance of the people of Israel to the fullness of God's promise and rest.
Their tension was further enhanced because of their expectation of the Kingdom of God being established in that generation. There was an inherent tension in their thoughts of how and what the Kingdom would look like in their immediate future. Without doubt this was the same mindset carried into the time of Christ.
In Jeremiah 29:5, we see Kingdom living in a different context, but viewed through the eyes of a similar and mirroring role. Exile in a foreign land as an invasive force, not based upon brute strength, based upon being an affective presence while dwelling in a foreign land. The people were to be building, living, experiencing a good life, becoming a presence, exhibiting power and influence, promoting prosperity & peace, discerning and understanding the times, being culturally significant; knowing to rest in this place, to be conscious of the comfort and profit we have in this life, and not to throw it away as unwise stewards, but to hold it dearly and loosely as purposeful servants in the Lordship of Christ as a citizen of His Kingdom apart from that actual physical placement.
The third and final example I will use is the Kingdom reflected in the portrait of a man planting. The thought continues in context, a continuation of the mirroring aspect of Kingdom living, personified in a person with ownership of land, growing crops, gleaning, seeking income and profit from personal and corporate employment, in a culture of distraction, diversion, and misdirection.
This is a Kingdom economy, a Christian economy, not in terms of monetary but in terms of influence, in terms of worshipping through work, hard-working, being purposeful in activity, labouring with rest, intensively active with contemplation, being an economic influence, having a personal and social identity, integrating my relational responsibilities to God, to family, to church, to community in a conscientious way. Working out the tension in the doing, exercising, and massaging of the spiritual muscles God has given us to live in this world.
We can look at further examples of Kingdom living explained by Jesus in Luke 3:14 where He commands those who have military authority to take heed to what they are doing and not to extort or falsely accuse to gain position or wealth. Authority is a wonderful thing in the hands of a wise and careful steward, in the hands of an opportunist it becomes a dictatorship. I heard it said recently in relation to community, that when it works its a beautiful thing; when it doesn't it becomes a concentration camp. Authority suffers from the same opportunity for abuse and misuse. We see in the recent history, the extended history and the current culture of church, the opportunities taken by leaders in using the pulpit or in Christians using their position to either esteem themselves or to malign and accuse. The mistake lies in the misunderstanding of who we are to be fighting. The foe is Satan and our armour is in defense and protection from his assaults, not as weapons and tools to vanquish and beat up those to whom we are to be extending, showing, and living out grace on behalf. Here is the heart of Kingdom living, the man with authority, serving.
The examples used by Jesus in explaining Kingdom living also include leaven or our exiled position (infiltrating,permeating, investing) & mustard seed or our planting (noticeable, stout, strong, supportive); realizing the needed resources are available to promote rest in the land while our citizenship is in another land; incorporating our life skills and giftedness in promoting the welfare of all of those in community with us, while resting in the profession (a pun intended) of our faith; being content with what we have, not as an expression of hypocritical fruit of the Spirit, (our resistance to the sins of the culture, Save the whales but abort the babies), but as an expression of the true manifestation of the repentant heart, showing the deep penetration of the Mind of Christ.
The tension lies in the intent of Kingdom living which by design leaves a footprint or a scar upon the culture in which we live. We cannot love the sinner and hate the sin without creating tension. The tension is inherent positionally. What we must guard against is the creation of the false tension resultant of the hypocrisy that comes from living without the essence of repentance, in a culture observant of and desiring of something which is true beyond doubt or reproach. The tension lies in the insistence of society, and rightly so, for reality in Christian lives, with unity of thought, without the intentional falsehoods parlayed for the attraction of new converts, and the furthering subversion of the weak believer or creating the need for the honest man to hedge concerning his profession fearing the oppression and violence against him, promoting, (in a manner, in likeness) dishonesty to avoid burdensome criticisms from both inside and outside the church culture.
Kingdom living is based on self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency, rightly understood is of God only, God who is El-Shaddai, God all-sufficient and self-sufficient. It is used to explain the attitude of the Christian in regards to his state of godliness, referring to his understanding of the nature of God's provision, whether that be a state of wealth and prosperity or a condition of sufficient food, shelter and raiment as is required to sustain life. It is an understanding of grace, the fruit and effect of godliness, the gain, the reward, the riches, the blessing, the rest that is given as one repines in the enveloping hands of God. This is contentment and rest, knowing God provides such sufficiency as is required.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Tension is the condition of being held in a state between two or more forces, which are acting in opposition to each other, it involves in the instance of the picture, a stretching or elasticity in order to adapt to the tension. There is in the spectrum of the Kingdom life, lived out in the people of God (I mean those who follow Jesus), an inherent tension between the world as it defines, molds and justifies itself, and the existence of Christians as a part of but not citizen of the same world. This tensile position is such that it allows and enables in circumstances and instances a departure from the true direction of what Kingdom living means. The picture is not the most appropriate for this discussion, but it does permit the example of what happens when the strands begin to unravel and the forces being held in check are unable to exercise their power over the opposing force. The Pharisees of the time of Jesus and many of the Jews besides, were awaiting the coming of a King, who in the absolute power of God would overthrow the oppressive powers of the day and restore and/or establish a kingdom of Israel on Earth. It was to be the reaping of vengeance and their salvation from the world and their vindication for the terrible misfortunes that they had endured at the hands of the powers of this world, and would place them as the nation of God, a redeemed people, justified. In this thought process there lies some misconceptions of the workings of God in and through the people of Israel as well as a prideful intent in their understanding of the purposes of their very existence in this world. We as Christians have attained to the same like-minded attitude towards our position and purpose in living out the Kingdom purpose exemplified and mandated by Jesus. Without doubt there is absolutely no way around the tension of our existence that is meant to exist in us, because positionally we are placed at odds with every aspect of the culture in which we live and move and have our being.
Tension is actually a position of resolution, it seeks to resolve the powers or forces at odds and maintain a state of equilibrium. In some essence of tension there is inherent the control of and possibly latent ability to constrain, to hold at bay the opposing force.
The initial tension of our position was developed as a result of the Fall. In the garden of Eden we see the life lived without the tension of sin, it was a life of peace, tranquility, substance, sustenance and the direct, condescending, amiable, fellowship of God. The Fall resulted in the curse of God. which meant, removing Himself from that direct relationship with man and with that, the opportunity for man to experience the walking and talking fellowship love of the Father. The passing of time and circumstance removed man even further from that fellowship and resulted in gnosticism (God known through knowledge & occult spiritual experience), agnosticism (God is unknowable), and deism (God ceasing to interact). The corollary result is tension, man, over the course of time seeking that relationship with God through other means, striving to fulfill the heart's inherent desire for that fellowship which is placed by God as a vacuum in the soul of man unattainable in truthful reality except by that which is found in the restoration of that fellowship revealed through Jesus Christ.
Man has sought to bring God to himself through many theisms and such perversities of religion or thought as appeared to him, and has as a by-product of such attempts, created gods in man's image to assuage those heart-felt desires. As I look at history and culture and reflect on the words that are written and spoken, I hear resonating throughout, the cry of the heart for God. It comes through in song, in painting, in prose and poetry, it is a pervasive thought of all that man is and strives to be through the good that man would do.
It is also evident in the perverse nature of man which cries out against God, not knowlegeable of what it is throwing itself against, but still casting its anger, vehemence, fury; lashing out, thumbing its nose, stealing jewels and crowns and taunting and vaunting itself against God with its blatant hatred towards His higher power. This is Satan, personified through the abject lusts that he offers and by which enslaves mankind.
It is in the former, the good that man would acheive, the virtuous pursuits, the higher hings of life, those things which seek the greater good, those things which try to answer, What is the good life? that we see the advancement of the thoughts of God revealed as an underlying principle of said pursuits. In those pursuits there lies the strongest of intent in searching for and finding truth, however subliminally cloaked, and yet obvious to an observer, who is able to identify these motives by looking through the eyes of the revealed truth found in Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God is amomg us, it is personified in us as we reveal the life of Jesus Christ in us, and it is around us in the exhibition of the world yearning for its manifestation. The tension is exemplified in Luke 19:40,"... but He (Jesus) answered and said to them, 'I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out." The King has arrived and the tension that the world lives in, unless expressed, would result in the nature that God created having to take on the characteristics of man, in that they would speak, to glorify the Lord of all. The deity of God is an integral part of all that surrounds you and I, and is inseperable from this physical existence. Romans 1:20,"...for since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." Romans 8:19-22,"...for the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope, because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole of creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now." The tension is further expounded in this passage as we see recorded here the futility, frailty, purposelessness of the earthly existence, in that, as the Preacher writes, "...all is vanity..." and "... because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink and be merry, for this wil remain with him in his labour all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun." Again in Isaiah 22:13, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.' Again in 1 Corinthians 15:32, "...If the dead are not raised, 'let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die'.
The tension resultant of the perceived futilty of our earthly lives, lived without hope and relationship with God is evident. We see around us the despair and frustration of peple seeking out a positon of significance, searching for the heroic in their personal lives, knowing that the final state (death) carries with it an absence of historic import, an absence of eternal implication in the lives of those of their fellowship. Without recognition of the tension and the appropriate measures of resolving that tension the conclusion of life is meaningless, and the life lived was meaningless. The tension exists as a position between the hope always present, placed in the heart by God and the realization of the absolute powerlessness of their human effort to capture that hope in the heart, to have assurance of the fulfillment of their heart's desire in whatever manner.
Alas alas! what miserable creatures are we,
only the semblances of men!
and so shall we be all when we come to die.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Luke 9:57-62 talks of discipleship and calling, laying out some requirements and expectations for those who would be Christians or citizens of the Kingdom of God; As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him,"Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and preach the Kingdom of God." Another also said, "I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God."
In each scenario played out in the discourse the 'ones' had made a conscious decision to follow Jesus. It could very well be assumed from that that they recognized Him as Lord and Saviour. It can be further assumed that they had preliminary understanding that there had to be a departure from life as they had lived. The subsequent calling upon their life needed a commitment requiring: sacrifice, placing their trust and faith in the One who called, having assurance for their substance and sustenance along the way, knowing that in comparison to the world (foxes & birds) their care was assured of as in likeness God's care for Christ was, not that which was reliant upon what he owned, but requiring a separation from worldly pursuits and acquisitions;
decisiveness, recognizing the things of this world which will make us tarry in our previous circumstance and disable us from moving;(Pensee, I know!)
devotion and focus, denying the virtuous and noble intents and motives of life in relation to the life of the Kingdom of God.
We see in 1 Kings 19:19,20 a similar request made of Elijah, by Elisha. It says, "... Elisha...was plowing...and Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, "Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you." And he said to him,"Go back again, for what have I done to you? The passage is an almost exact representation of what is expressed in the passage from Luke. The interesting part of 1 Kings is the question posed by Elijah, 'What have I done to you?' Elisha obviously recognized a calling and in that recognition realized the focus of his life was going to change. Elijah knew the calling and all that would be required of Elisha, and the sacrifice and devotion needed for fulfillment of that calling was dependant upon Elisha's reaction to the placement of the mantle. The desires welling up in Elisha's heart with the calling had to be backed up with commitment and sacrifice worthy of, and recognizing the importance of a sanctified, and consecrated life. There was not any expectation by the placement of the mantle that Elisha was able or willing to follow, there was only in the placement an opportunity for Elisha, hence the question posed by Elijah. It is the same with those of us who follow the teachings of Jesus in Luke 9. We are called to a Kingdom existence, given gifts and opportunities, asked to sacrifice, asked to live a life of faith, sanctification and consecration.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Behold th' amazing gift of love
the Father hath besow'd
On us, the sinful sons of men,
to call us sons of God!
Conceal'd as yet this honour lies,
by this dark world unknown,
A world that knew not when He came,
Ev'n God's eternal Son.
High is the rank we now possess;
but higher we shall rise;
Though what we shall hereafter be
is hid from mortal eyes;
Our souls, we know, when He appears,
shall bear His image bright;
For all His glory, full disclos'd,
shall open to our sight.
A hope so great, and so divine,
may trials well endure;
And purge the soul from sense and sin,
so Christ himself is pure.
Monday, May 07, 2007
The crux time of defeating sin in my life must come with an ability to handle temptation successfully. 1 Corinthians 10:12,13 a very oft quoted scripture dealing with this issue. (vs.12) "...therefore let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." Romans 11:20 states, "Do not be haughty, but fear." Proverbs 16:18,"Pride goes before the destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Overconfidence runs hand in hand with pride and builds false assurance of my own personal abilities to overcome, to have the ability to succeed without God's intervention, there is no reliance upon God.
(vs 13) "...no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man;" This temptation is defined in James 1:14,"...but each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires (lusts)." Those personal individual strong desires formed by inherited tendencies, environment, upbringing, and personal choices are constantly seeking fulfillment. These desires are the direct cause of one's sinning. In answer to this entrapment of the soul the second part of the verse says, "...but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." The promise comes from Psalms 125:3,"...for the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous reach out their hands to iniquity."
James 1:15,"...then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin;..." The word for conceive is sullambano meaning 'to clasp', 'to seize, arrest, capture'. When desire is given the opportunity to seize hold of us, it is comparable to a process of capture or defeat of a person and making them submissive or imprisoned in a state that has as it's end result sin, and from that ultimately death. The objective in resisting sin is to avoid situations, and circumstances that will bring about the conception aspect of this process.
Isaiah 14:5 says, "The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers;" Jesus died to save me from punishment for my sin. There is a great promise here of salvation from temptation as well, not the initial contact with my desire, but an escape from the seizing and capture. It means that my first reaction must be a firmly resolved "NO" and then the Holy Spirit will be given permission to intervene, in support, to give me a means of escape, so as to not breed sin.
Genesis 4:7,"...if you do well, will you not be accepted? and if you do not do well, sin lies at the door, and its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." If I choose to disobey God's commands, sin (ever present) is waiting to overpower me and fulfill its desires. "...but you should rule over it..." Romans 6:12, "...therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts." My thinking processes tempt my soul with its lustful desires. Christ has 'set me free from sin' (6:18); (6:11) ' reckon myself to be dead indeed to sin', this word 'indeed' is a word of affirmation like truly or verily. In other words I should take control over what tempts me and avoid it, so as to negate sins rule over me.
And if perchance I fail. 1 John 1:9,10,"...if we (I) confess our (my) sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us (me) our (my) sins and cleanse us (me) from all unrighteousness." The reality of life is found in the next verse, "...if we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us."
Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation. The term 'confess' means to say the same thing about sin as God does; to acknowledge His perspective about sin. Confession involves:
1] humbling ourselves before God to admit our error
2] acknowledging God's holiness
3] accepting God's position as Judge
4] Godly sorrow leading to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10), not the routine or placebic (inert) words of regret without the heart's involvement, but a deliberate and intentional confessing, an explicit self-humbling, and a sensing of shame in the presence of God as we contemplate our failures.
Continual confession does not allow for continuing in habitual sin. Continual confession is a mindset acknowledging my sinful nature and seeking after God's cleansing.
Those who neglect the discipline of thorough repentance for their shortcomings, along with regular self-examination so as to discern and determine those shortcomings, are behaving as if God turns a blind eye to our moral flaws - which is to insult Him, because indifference is a moral flaw in and of itself. The truth is that the only way to show real respect for God's purity and holiness is by realistically setting oneself against sin.
Friday, May 04, 2007
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 from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Humble themselves - humility - James 4:10 says"...humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord,..." Humble comes from a word meaning 'to make oneself low'. A consciousness of being accountable to a sovereign, majestic, infinitely Holy God should defeat the pride in me and bring about contriteness.
Isaiah 6:5,"...woe is me, for I am undone! because I am a man of unclean lips...for my eyes have seen the King..." I have seen the mercy and grace of God in Jesus my Saviour (he who has see me, has seen the Father John 14:9) and realize the state of sinfulness that I allow in my life in contrast to God's majestic holiness.
The second area of forgiveness (of conditions) for forgiveness is in prayer. There are two ways of assessing the heart, through the eyes and through the ears. Reading God's word and listening to God in prayer. Entering into His presence and allowing him to get into my head and deal with me and change me and make me a vessel worthy of His honour.
Thirdly longing for God. Psalms 42:1 says, "... as the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." Matthew 6:33,"...but seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness..." Jesus is urging us to seek salvation. In Revelation 21:6 Jesus says, "I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts." Knowing my soul to be parched by sin, I must earnestly seek salvation and eternal life and the Kingdom of God upon earth and in this existence. Jesus extends an invitation in Revelation 22:17,"Come, and let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely." An unlimited offer of grace.
This is the same invitation given to the woman at the well in John 4:10. Jesus answered "...if you knew the gift of God...you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The term living water is derived from the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 2:13 God says, "They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns - broken cisterns that can hold no water." This Old Testament metaphor spoke of the knowledge of God and His grace which provides cleansing, nourishment spiritual life and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Water is symbolic of eternal and spiritual life mediated by the Holy Spirit from Jesus. In John 10:14 Jesus says, "...but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him, will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." The 'water' that Christ gives - spiritual life - comes from the depths of our being. The soul is no longer a cistern, for holding water poured into it from outside (and possibly unable to hold besides) but a fountain, springing, gushing, bubbling up and flowing forth from within, ever fresh. ever living. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the secret of this life with all its enduring energies and satisfactions. 'Never thirsting' means simply that these souls in possession of the Holy Spirit have the supplies at home, resident within them.
The fourth and final condition of forgiveness is repentance. The Hebrew word is shuwb (shoob) meaning to turn back, not to start over again, but to retreat from and make a break with sin. Isaiah 45:22 "Look to me and be saved ... for I am God, and there is no other. When a person first cries 'look', your first action is to turn your attention to the sound of the voice and its location. The second action is then to focus on where the caller is directing you to look.
What does this have to do with repentance?
First God is directing us to look at Him, and then secondly to His provision for our salvation. This action has a secondary and fundamentally causal effect in that by turning your attention this way, you have turned completely away from sin. This is repentance 'to reverse' or turn away from sin. You cannot look at God and be involved in sin. They are polarized positions.
Matthew 6:19-21"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on Earth,...but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,...(21) for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luther said,"What a man loves that is his God. For he carries it in his heart, he goes about with it night and day, he sleeps and wake with it; be what it may..." We protect what we love. There is a tendency for people to flatter themselves that it is right between them and God, while they exhaust themselves in the pursuit of earthly possessions. Acts 14:15,"Men, Why are you doing these things? We are also men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God,..." This is repentance - turning our lives focus to treasures of heaven (the Kingdom of God). "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the Earth." Colossians 3:2
1Thessalonians 1:9 "For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God." Salvation is found in turning from false idols and trusting in earthly substance to Jesus Christ. It involves becoming willing slaves to the living God. This conversion experience is described nicely in 2 Corinthians 5:17,"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old tings have passed away; Behold, all things have become new." The term in Christ implies 4 things:
1] believer's security
2] believer's acceptance by God
3] believer's future assurance of eternal life
4] believer's participation in the divine nature of Christ.
'A new creation', a new level of excellence, regeneration or new birth - encompassing the forgiveness of sins at Christ's expense. 'Old things passed away', here is the repentant part, old values systems, priorities, beliefs, loves, plans are able to be turned away from. All these prior things should be seen from a new perspective and no longer have control over the repentant believer. Hebrews 12:1,2"...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. The faith-filed life is a demanding, disciplined effort of turning, repenting, enduring and constantly looking to Jesus. If our focus is on Jesus we have already turned our back on sin.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Father of peace, and God of love!
we own thy pow'r to save.
That pow'r by which our Shepherd rose
victorious o'er the grave.
Him from the dead thou brought'st again,
when by His sacred blood,
Confirm'd and seal'd for evermore,
th' eternal cov'nant stood.
O may thy Spirit seal our souls,
and mould them to your will.
That our weak hearts no more may stray,
but keep thy precepts still:
That to perfection's sacred height
we nearer still may rise.
And all we think, and all we do,
be pleasing in thine eyes.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
It has always been of interest to me these last few years (20 or so), probably since I started attending church as an adult, what it is that people see when they look at me. I am not talking about a vanity issue, more along the lines of people's perception of my character, strengths, weaknesses and such. This is again of note for me as I travel through this current life-change, and people both friends and acquaintances alike ask and interject as to what course my life is or should take now. The suggestions have varied from where life was in offering new direction, to being pointedly suggestive of a continuation of what my recent past was comprised. There have been suggestions of an extremely incredible nature requiring not only a change positionally in terms of career but radically in terms of life, (well duh!), and radically in terms of my relationship with God. Suggestions of this nature are not foreign to my thoughts, however, they are maybe not given adequate weight in light of life's circumstances. This opportunity involving the up-rooting of family, the uncertainty of a calling seen by others but not appropriated by myself or possibly more accurately not perceived by me, is not seen as a viable, attainable option.
The real issues are the questions that arise from 'the life examined' (outside influences are incredible sometimes, huh!), Who am I? and Who does God want me to be?
The Fatherhood of God is an awesome aspect of or the side-effect of Christ's redemption of us(me). "...when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son,...to redeem...that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Galatians 4:4-7
In John 14:8, "Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." The Fatherhood of God has been a relational quagmire for me in the maturation of my Christian journey. I have this desire to express in heart, soul, strength and mind what Paul expounds in Galatians. In direct contradiction to that desire lies the protection of what I hold most dear, without doubt I (we) protect what we love the most ardently, and in that revelation I realize that I am holding back from God the fullness of my devotion, yielding, love and obedience. I relate well to Philip (I think there may be some Hebrew in all of us) in that I would prefer less ambiguity and although I don't believe I could actually deal with direct revelation, it would be nice on occasion to have spoken in a straightforward and immediate manner a word from God, Himself. (I'm praying now He will be kind if this happens) Therein lies the quick, I fear more than I love. Fatherhood though demeaned in current culture, is a part of our growing and maturing that when done right is the most powerful influence, however when done wrong or slighted as trivial and valueless becomes the curse upon our memory and the bane of our future.
It's nice to think of Christ's redemption in terms of our eternity in heaven, a very valuable and desirable outcome of said redemption, but there is a requirement of existence which means living out the Kingdom of God while we sojourn here. I always seem to come back to the issue of my time spent in the now. I do not have a problem with living today for my Lord and Saviour, it is in the accurate portayal of a Christian and exemplary life that I struggle with the hows? and wherefores? of daily duties and obligations. Just how does my daily life reflect upon God as Father? An accurate understanding of the Fatherhood of God or an image of God as Father, mindblowing, insightful, '...penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and a discerner (discerning) of the thougts and intents of the heart", uplifting, full of assurance, although desired, may reqire of me something which I am not willing to release. (you know now I'm not Calvinist)
God has proven Himself faithful in all His dealings with me, and I have no complaint against Him. So why the hesitation? I Don't Know!!
The first things have to be first....