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, June 30, 2007
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
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
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
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.
Friday, June 01, 2007
Bless'd be the everlasting God,
the Father of our Lord;
Be his abounding mercy prais'd'
his majesty ador'd.
When from the dead he rais'd his Son,
and call'd him to the sky,
He gave our souls a lively hope
that they should never die.
To an inheritance divine
he taught our hearts to rise;
'Tis uncorrupted, undefil'd'
unfading in the skies.
Saints by the pow'r of God are kept
till the salvation come:
We walk by faith as strangers here;
But Christ shall call us home.