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

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Samson


As with all men, I assume, there lies an intrigue with the story of Samson. The mention of Samson’s name in the Faith-Heroes list of Hebrews 11:32 as those men who “by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness,” encourages us to have a favorable estimate of his character as a whole. The inspired narrative records infirmities, however, that must forever mar the luster and expanse of his heroic deeds. In Samson the Nazirite we see a man towering in supernatural strength through his firm faith in, and confident reliance upon, the gift of God that was committed to him. On the other hand we see in Samson an adventurous, foolhardy, passionate, and willful headstrong young man with little or no self-control, none of his exploits showing him as a religious enthusiast, his actions dishonoring and frittering away his God-given power by making it subservient to his own lusts. The superhuman strength of Samson did not really lie in his hair, which was part of the Nazarite vow including letting the hair grow and abstaining from wine and strong drink, but in his relation to God as a Nazirite, by which his uncut hair was the mark or sign of the covenant. As soon as he broke away from his Nazirite vows and heritage by sacrificing his hair, which he wore in honor of the Lord, Jehovah departed from him, and with Jehovah went all his strength, the “Spirit of the Lord” who would “come upon” him to enable him to perform amazing feats of physical strength.


The Question of Samson is profound in that it creates a dilemma between the depth of faith and the absence of the pursuit of holiness evidenced in this man's life. It allows for the introduction of faith based living while allowing the lusts of the flesh to exert their influence and sway. It provides a way out in living a licentious life without consequence as determined by the profession of heartfelt faith and contrition and repentance. In reality this is where we all live daily, it is the blatant actions of Samson that bring rise to the awareness of our destitute and vile position. All that is commended of him is his faith, Hebrews 11:32-34,"...and what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." Though Samson was a very imperfect man, and there were many things in his life which neither sound morality nor religion can approve, yet it was still true that he evinced, on some occasions, remarkable confidence in God, by relying on the strength which he gave him. In this Samson dwells within all of us and becomes our hero.

So rose the Danite strong,
Herculean Samson, from the harlot-lap
Of Philistean Dalilah, and waked
Shorn of his strength.



Judges 15:18-19 "Then he became very thirsty; so he cried out to the Lord and said, "You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant; and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?" So God split the hollow place that is in Lehi, and water came out, and he drank; and his spirit returned, and he revived because of the seasonable relief from the Lord. Therefore he called its name En Hakkore,("the well of the implorer"; “the well of him that prayed”; "the spring of the caller"; the "supplication well,") names which record the reverence of this heroic champion, but are not neccessarily reflective of the devotion one would expect in receiving a miraculous answer to prayer as Samson receives.

Samson’s most basic flaw seems to be his failure to put God’s will above his own. God was forced to work in spite of Samson rather than with his willing cooperation. I wonder what God would have done through this strong man if Samson had been motivated to honor Him instead of being consumed by his own interests and pleasures.
Too often, I am driven by my own desires. I use my God-given gifts and abilities to further my own agenda rather than God’s. Do I limit what God will do through me because I want to serve Him on my terms rather than His? Does He have to work in spite of me? These are questions I need to continue thinking about.

And he was sore athirst, and to the Lord
He cried, and said, O Lord, thou did'st afford
This great deliverance, and now shall I,
By reason of my thirst fall down and die,...

But God was pleas'd to cleave an hollow place,
Within the jaw, from whence did water pass;
Whereof when he had drunk, his spirit came
As heretofore, and he reviv'd again:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Just Cruising


Found these definitions;

Sipphony–the sound of people sipping in unison their tiny cups of Communion juice; or - the synchronized sound of people drinking their coffee while listening to the sermon. (guess it depends on the context of the church)

Megalobiblia–the compulsive need to carry a really BIG Bible

Proleperous–Jesus’ tendency to heal lepers

Loafquacious–feeding thousands of people with five loaves of bread

Golfertory–a foursome made up of pastors

Dazzledermatitus–when a human face shines like lightning

Treeophany–climbing a tree to see Jesus

Sermocide–dying as Paul preaches way too long (Acts 20:9)

Theofanny–Moses seeing the “backside” of God

Ribawsum - the helpmate God gave men

Ribrusin - what men get from their ribawsums when the pastor makes a good point

Goodribben - what men give to their ribawsums when the ribawsums totally missed the point

Ribellion - when the goodribben is misunderstood by the ribawsum

Ribpentence - what good men do when their goodribben is misunderstood by their ribawsums

Ribiculous - how the whole thing got blown out of proportion to begin with

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Prinum; Temperantia


By temperantia one integrates one's desires, with reason, so that reason does not become enslaved by passion. Temperantia is the mean, for example, between lust and frigidity or apathy and willingness, it means 'holding control or holding in', self-control, holding the passions in hand, it is the practice of moderation by reason and that reason being the mind rightly exercised; having right intellectual judgment; clear and fair deductions from true principles; that which is dictated or supported by the common sense of mankind; right conduct; propriety; and justice and these forming the temper of the mind with regard to the actions and reactions of people to each situation involving a decision which has the chance to escalate or subdue a matter. The Greek words translated temperance indicate a sober, temperate, calm, and dispassionate approach to life, a mastering of personal desires and passions. Temperance calls for a self-disciplined life following Christ’s example of being in the world but not of it.

The subject of temperance refers to the dangers stemming from too lax a view of a matter, or on the other hand, to the danger of pressing a matter too far; and in order to know a man's views, and not to do injustice to him, it is proper to understand the particular aspect in which he looks at it, and the particular object which he had in view. The Golden Rule sets a principle for the settlement of doubtful cases because there will always be occasions when the line of duty towards our neighbour is not clearly defined. Self-interest and private feelings will sometimes dim our perceptions of right and wrong. Plato says: "There is no light in the earthly copies of justice or temperance or any of the higher qualities which are precious to souls: they are seen through a glass, dimly" Temperance provides for the assimilation of reasonable expectations of behaviour with the passionate response of people to people in conflicting and/or extenuating circumstances. There is within every circumstance an opportunity to diffuse or intensify and Jesus supplies us with a precept containing wisdom for our guidance; a precept which transcends ethnic origins, religious beliefs, social status, and political opinion.--"As you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise." To do to others as they do to us, and return evil for evil, is the standard of the world and is the fully expected response. To behave to others as we should like others to behave to us, whatever their actual behaviour may be,--this should be the mark at which the Christian should aim. To turn the other cheek is never desirable, but, how often in error or in passion or in vindictiveness have we inflicted pain and have hoped upon hope in coming to our sensibleness that there would be no retribution for our actions. ["do unto ... as you would have...'] If Jesus had dealt with the world as the world dealt with Him, we should all have been ruined for ever in hell.

It is true if a man knows what is right, and does not do it, he is guilty of sin. A sin of omission. "To bear with patience wrongs done to oneself is a mark of perfection, but to bear with patience wrongs done to someone else is a mark of imperfection and even of actual sin." Thomas Aquinas If he understands what his duty is; if he has the means of doing good to others; if by his name, his influence, his wealth, he can promote a good cause; if he can, consistently with other duties, relieve the distressed, the poor, the prisoner, the oppressed; if he can send the gospel to other lands, or can comfort the mourner, encourage the distressed, fortify the weak; if he has talents by which a word can be spoken in favour of temperance, chastity, liberty, and religion, he is obligated to do it: and if, by indolence, or avarice, or selfishness, or the dread of the loss of popularity, he does not do it, he is guilty of sin before God. No man can be released from the obligation to do good in this world to the extent of his ability; furthermore, no one should desire to be.


The conquered also, and enslaved by war,
Shall, with their freedom lost, all virtue lose
And fear of God; from whom their piety feigned
In sharp contest of battle found no aid
Against invaders; therefore, cooled in zeal,
Thenceforth shall practice how to live secure,
Worldly or dissolute, on what their lords
Shall leave them to enjoy; for the earth shall bear
More than enough, that temperance may be tried:
So all shall turn degenerate, all depraved;
Justice and temperance, truth and faith, forgot;

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Primum; Fortitudo


Fortitudo also known as bravery, will and courage, is the ability to confront fear, pain, risk/danger, uncertainty, prejudice or intimidation. Moral courage is the courage to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. Some define courage as lacking fear in a situation that would normally generate it, others, in contrast, hold that courage requires one to have fear and then overcome it. The heroic or epic version of courage would imply a person's insistence to do the right thing even in the face of certain defeat without promise of reward or salvation: the hero is trusting in personal resources and strength, "relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves [...] finally realizing there is no rescue or salvation to count on." In this sense courage rises to its greatest honour, however, it is tragic.

It takes courage and fortitude to assume a position of sacrifice without the realization of a gift in exchange. It takes courage to understand that 'to do onto' may have little effect except to relieve another's burden, with knowledge that given the same opportunity 'as you would have' will not happen. It takes a tremendous amount of courage, strength and fortitude to separate oneself from the group norm and act in a manner indicative of your personal beliefs and values. It is difficult to remove oneself from the truth which a community holds and whatever beliefs and values they allow as an expression of that community, its norms and acceptable behaviour.



If "Truth is simply whatever your community lets you get away with", then it takes resolve and perseverance to deal with the variant issues propagated by a community or group, it takes courage to stand as a prophetic voice to a generation, with either warning or exhortation, it requires fortitude and resilience to rebuke the dissenting voices or stand with those affirming and contesting. By fortitudo or courage, one keeps one's aversions, particularly but not only fear, in check so that there is no shirking of a person's moral responsibilities in situations of danger or other adversity. It is the mean between recklessness or over-boldness and cowardice or defeatism.

To be a Joseph, a Moses, an Elijah, a John the Baptist, to represent Jesus in this place, at this time means? should mean?


Joseph who had an intuitive sense of God's purpose and courageously and patiently waited for the 'good' and responded with 'good',... 'as he would (should) have'... had when the opportunity to presented itself; Moses who had the courage to 'stand in the gap' for a faithless people not having any regard for his own life; Elijah who was in constant opposition with the people of his time and confrontational with the leadership of the country; John the Baptist who was practical and discriminating, preaching repentance from self-love and covetousness to the point of challenging the leadership of both the religious community and the country and brought upon himself the ire of the King.

In each of these men there is purpose being served, purpose which has as its goal the Glory of God, but also the people, the individuals that comprised a people and for those individuals, these men stood as bastions of faith and courage to keep and preserve a heritage and a lineage of faithful followers of God. They sacrificed, faced incredible dangers, conflicts and mystery believing that what they were doing had incredible consequence for those they served. They served the God of Abraham and of Issac and of Jacob.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Primum; Jus


Justice is defined as the state of being fair or just. Justice refers to the distribution of things and position of people within society. Closely linked to fairness some concept of justice is one of the key features of any social organisation. Justice is the steady and lasting willingness to give to others what they are entitled to (their right, jus). The concept of right (jus), is conceived as something that belongs to another. This view brings justice to the concept of human rights, meaning an individual has dignity and value, a concept certainly implicit in that the application imposes upon me and my community a duty to everyone without discrimination. This definition of justice immediately entails that correlative to duties of justice there must be rights that belong to everyone irrespective of their position. In this aspect the concept of justice carries a universal imperative being desired by all peoples to vindicate and support their position; their view; their sense of fairness and what is right and as a result a sense of justice varies to the degree at which each and every people group discerns their treatment by others. Justice should seek to create and maintain equitable relationships providing for the common 'good' of all. The essential meaning is at least partially clear, notions of justice require impartiality, truth and fairness. Man's desire and search for a just society is both rich in its vocabulary and in its ambiguity.


The Biblical approach to the concept of justice requires a moral or ethical dimension and separates vocabulary from action, it is equated with righteousness. Righteousness is a core value; an appropriated condition of following God or becoming a Christian, it is an essential spiritual virtue. Justice is linked to right living; to do justly is to act rightly. Justice becomes not only the fair, respectful and equitable treatment of each other 'do unto..as you would have', but the obligatory recognition of our duty towards God. The definition of justice is then expanded to include our religious efforts, brotherly love, trust, faithfulness and benevolence. Justice is what another has the right to claim from us and is more than a generous nature, it requires sacrifice, it means pain, it surpasses generosity, it is a gift.

In practical terms, justice, is embodied in forgiveness and finds its greatest bulwark to fail and its greatest application for success in how people deal with the wrongs against them and their ability to forgive. Actions do not always provide for the clear manifestation of what is happening in the heart. Words and vocabulary do not always provide indications of how people really feel. Forgiveness must come from the heart and for the most part requires the surgical skill of our Saviour to accurately and precisely remove bitterness and hurt and allow justice ' to roll on like a river' and 'righteousness like a mighty stream'. "There is no future without forgiveness". Forgiveness is a gift we give, however not freely, the gift is tied to an offense, a violation, wrongdoing, transgression or debt and the difficulty lies with absorbing the injustice and cost and releasing the other from the penalty and burden and any benefit owed us by justice being served on our behalf. Is this just?

Romans 13:8 (NKJV) "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law." That love especially which utterly prevents you from doing any thing by which a brother may sustain any kind of injury.
"First, do no harm."


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Primum: Prudentia


Matthew 7:12 (NKJV) "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
Luke 6:31 (NASB-U) "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you
."


The Golden Rule has as its primary intent the promotion of non-reciprocal good, investment with disregard for return, selflessness, the benefit of another attained without regard for cost, and respect for the core of human value that all people are born free and are equal in dignity. It would be difficult to have a discussion about the welfare of individuals, the flourishing of a society or the governance of a body of people without including as a principle of practical reason and application the aforementioned statement. The intent of natural and moral law as developed by philosophers and religious leaders has as its goal that same principle. The point of law (its "final" causa, explanatory reason) is to provide a basis for morally sound judgement for individuals and the community at large. The point of law is 'universal beneficence'.

Humanistic, secular, political and civic institutions have attempted by virtue of the displaced, ill and destitute in society to apply the governance of the Golden Rule in self-sacrificing and benevolent ways. The locus, that center of activity which satisfies the conditions of rescue, is of the highest moral capacity and as a source of benevolence seeks to provide the aspiration to universal justice. This is the classical view, where one's reason understands the primum (first) or basic needs of one are 'good' for all and by application seeks to participate in relationships requiring the setting aside of self-preference.

The command 'to love our neighbour as our self' is intrinsically tied to 'treat others as I wish them to treat me'. It is a relationship which links love to justice. The term 'my neighbour' is non-exclusive and that love expressed wills 'my neighbour's' good and requires that they be benefited by my choices and actions. In this must be a determination of a practical reasonableness of action, an understanding of the nature of the circumstance requiring affirmative action and the motivation for that action. 2 Peter 1:5 "...but also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue,..." This virtue which is being spoken of is defined as moral excellency; manly, strenuous energy, an aspect of, or constitutive element in being a person of good character, having a stable and ready willingness to make choices that are morally good. The common meaning of the Greek word, also refers to courage and rigour; and the sense is, that firmness or courage might be necessary in maintaining the principles of religion, and in enduring the trials to which faith might be subjected. True virtue is not a tame and passive thing. It requires great energy and boldness, for its very essence is firmness, manliness, and independence. It requires great energy and courage, independence and diligence to move from the default mode of behaviour of self-interest and prudence to a pattern of behaviour making conscientious decisions fully aware of the stunting and possibly destructive nature of those decisions as acts of justice, friendship and love.

Prudence is "right reason applied to practice"; an intellectual habit enabling us to see in any given juncture of human affairs what is virtuous and what is vicious. Prudence aims to perfect not the will but the intellect in its practical decisions. Its function is to point out which course of action is to be taken in any round of concrete circumstances. It has nothing to do with directly willing the good it discerns. Prudence also has a directive capacity with regard to the other virtues. Without prudence bravery becomes foolhardiness; mercy sinks into weakness, and temperance into fanaticism. Prudence determines for each practice those circumstances of time, place, manner, etc. which should be observed. Prudence is the moral agent providing the directive principle of virtuous actions.

Aquinas states that prudence has as its function to do three things: to take counsel, i.e. to cast about for the means suited in the particular case under consideration to reach the end of any one moral virtue; to judge soundly of the fitness of the means suggested; and, finally, to command their employment. If these are to be done well they necessarily exclude remissness and lack of concern; they demand the use of such diligence and care that the resultant act can be described as prudent, in spite of whatever speculative error may have been at the bottom of the process. Prudence is the measure of moral virtues since it provides a model of ethically good actions therefore the free activity of man is good by its correspondence with the pattern of prudence.

Prudence is also defined in the modern context as being sagacious in adapting means to ends; circumspect in action, or in determining any line of conduct; practically wise; judicious; careful; discreet; sensible; -- opposed to rash.


Prudence finds its greatest allies in stewardship, discretion and conservatism. A negative aspect of prudence is that it seeks to justify the pernicious attitude towards those things which extend or stretch the boundaries of Church politics with regard to community, and especially our involvement with community at an expense to the Church. What prudence desires is the proper application of the resources given by God to the Church for the benefit of the Body of Believers. This is well and 'good', however the application removes the opportunity of the gift to be given or passed on to the community at large and has no regard for the fact that the gift is not just ours to hold. Prudence justifies the removal of our responsibility to 'do to others as we would have them do to us'. We view the gift of resources as being limited by the scope and work of the individuals associated with the Church and fail to recognize the immensity of God to provide. In this scenario prudence becomes justification for weak faith, tempered zeal and stringent barriers to evangelistic and socially conscious exercises.

The extension of ourselves in reaching out to a community, in exercising our gifts outside the safety of our exclusive membership, in answering the rational question Why give with no expectation of more in return? Why give without at least receiving an expression of gratitude? To counter indolence with regard to the giving of gifts to our community we must be prepared to 'take pains' in the costs incurred to benefit those around us. It is those pains that Jesus bore for our sins, it is the cost to the Father of the sacrifice of His Son these created a benefit for the saved, sometimes ingratiously accepted, sometimes with very little return on the investment and God's expectations are What?