Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Enchanted


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Father-God


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cult of the Rugged Individualist


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cult of the Fellowship of Burnt Lips


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cult of the Professional Weaker Brother


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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