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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Akrasia


Acrasia is a word used to denote the state of acting against one's better judgment. Strong's defines it as want of self-restraint : excess, incontinency. New Unger's states it is referring to an inability to restrain or having a "lack of self-control".

Fear as an emotional response to threats and danger is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of pain. Anxiety is an emotional state which typically occurs without any external threat. Additionally, fear is related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, whereas anxiety is the result of threats which are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable. Fear and anxiety about our finitude and the Malthusian theme of life create a state of acrasia; we live as physically vulnerable creatures in a Malthusian world. We are vulnerable and persuadable, powerless in resistance, in the same manner as Adam was - to 'sin'. Adam, however, did not 'sin' due to lack, fear or anxiety, the intrinsic factors, but because as a man created in the image of God; he had the desire to increase in knowledge of God and all that God had created; he had the desire to question, reason and investigate to the fullness of his capacity to understand all he could of God and God's creation; he had the desire to become as wise and powerful as God, (for knowledge is power), and be able to exist for ever, independently of God. Satan knew this. "Man is at the centre of this struggle (rebellion and independence) as a result of being made in God's image. Satan, the one who has sought the establishment of a different kingdom from that which God rules, has taken man, and all that he was made responsible for through creation, into bondage in the kingdom of darkness. The redemption of Christ is about the deliverance of man and 'nature' from this alienation and death." (Contours, p. 110) This does not impute upon God responsibility for our 'fallen nature', but it is implicit (entangled, woven, twisted together) in the defining of our free-will accountability and responsibility for our actions and decisions in light of cause and consequence.

The subsequent 'fallen nature' created the sense of lack, the fear and the anxiety associated with life as we know it. It is this life, this situation, this circumstance, this pain, this fear that tilts the mind toward selfishness, makes us competitive, makes us hoard, or preemptively attack. Death entered the realm of human existence and forced the realization of fear and anxiety as an everyday occurrence of life, creating the need to assuage those fears and anxieties and seek to create peace. We are faced with opportunity and propensity to 'sin'; "For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life --..." are available and attainable.

Our mortality, that which brings us to face the scarcity and brevity of life; our existence, which brings us to face that life is paltry and insignificant; our purpose, which is illusory and minimal, these become sources of anxiety. Eccles. 2:16, "For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. And how does a wise man die? As the fool! Eccles. 3:2, "A time to be born, and a time to die; ... " Eccles. 9:5, "For the living know that they will die; ... " This, coupled with the day-to-day struggles of fighting for, redeeming and consuming a combination of resources constantly being depleted in our physical, emotional and spiritual existence. Our futile attempts to defend ourselves and secure our safety lead us into active sin and estrange us from trust in God. We have to control our lives; we have to decide how our lives are to be invested; we determine what we will do and when we will do it; and we fail to give part and parcel to God; we fail to believe and trust in the Someone Who created this mess called life. "Sinfulness is more a result of mortality than mortality from sinfulness. To say that humans are 'conceived in sin' does not mean that some guilt or evil inclination is passed on to them in the act of their conception, but that what they inherit is a mortal human nature, which became mortal as a result of sin." We are biodegradable and we know that. We also know ...

" ... what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do." We are slaves to our 'akrastic' nature the absolute control of a tyrannical ruler, our own desires. "What I carry out I do not recognize in its true nature, as a slave who ignorantly performs his master’s behest without knowing its tendency or result." Even in the realm of the Kingdom, there are those who say as personal experience that this is ... "the unregenerate man’s experience, surviving at least in memory into regenerate days, and read with regenerate eyes" (Denney).


How many times will fear win over faith? Why are we so weak-willed? "We have made a covenant with death, and with the grave we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves." Eccles. 8:15, "So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun. We discount the future believing in the value of the immediate needs being met ( the temporal) without regard for the long-term benefits lost (the eternal) in seeking short-term gains. We give in to short-term temptations, even when we know that the short-term payoff is less valuable than the long-term goal. "Since virtue is frequently under oppression, and vice triumphs in health, and rolls in wealth, I see plainly that we should not trouble ourselves about future things; and therefore should be governed by the maxim ...
Eat, drink, and play,
While here you may;
For soon as death
Has stopp’d your breath
Ye ne’er shall see a cheerful day."
It is also said,

"Of all who scorching Afric’s sun endure,
None like the swarthy Psyllians are secure:
With healing gifts and privileges graced,
Well in the land of serpents were they placed:
Truce with the dreadful tyrant death they have,
And border safely on (death's) realm the grave."
Rowe.
Truce; temporary, irresolute and indeterminate providing only the cessation of hostile activities without securing peace. Truce; allowing for the continuance of living within the spectre of an ambiguous existence in an uneasy, yet, oppressive environment. Living on the border of deception making falsehood our refuge.
Romans 7:20, "Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me." "My will is against it; my reason and conscience condemn it. I am in perpetual contradiction to myself. Two principles are continually contending in me for the mastery: my reason, on which the light of God shines, to show what is evil; and my passions, in which the principle of sin works, to bring forth fruit unto death." If you are a member of the Malthusian world you play/live by those rules, the rules of sin and death. The Malthusian rules of survival of the fittest are in effect and there is responsibility and guilt for the struggle that goes on, for the victims of our selfish desires, for the trail of aggrieved and disadvantaged left in the wake.
Peace is needed; He that spends his life in the eat, drink, and play, will find in that day; the day he faces his fears, when time is no longer an issue of life; that he has lost the time in which he could have prepared for eternity.

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Matthew 6:31-34, "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the (world) seeks. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Be broken.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Incurvatus In Se



"If humans are totally depraved then there should be some motivational or cognitive bias, some tilt of the mind, that produces the depravity."

"We tend to think of human self-interest, selfishness, as the root cause of human sin. In the language of Augustine we are "curved in on ourselves" (incurvatus in se). This self-focus contaminates even our best moral efforts. As Martin Luther said, "Every good work is a sin"."

What is at the heart of man?

Genesis 2:16-17, " ... and the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Why the command if there existed no chance, nor opportunity for disobedience?
Why the command if Adam was an impotent creature?
Why the command if Adam was immutable (unchanging) and impeccable (non-liable to sin)?
Why the command if free-will was not an inherent characteristic of Adam?
Why the command if Adam was not both rational and moral, acting as a responsible creature understanding the cause and consequence of decision?
Why the command if Adam and Eve did not have discernment in the use of the power of choosing or embracing what appeared agreeable and good to the dictates of their understandings, or in refusing and avoiding what was evil?
Why the command if Adam and/or Eve were incapable of complying with any external temptation to evil or to sin (disobey) God?

"It is not a proper trial of reverence for a superior when the action which he prescribes is recommended by other considerations. It is when it stands upon the sole foundation of his authority; when, having no intrinsic goodness, it becomes good only by his prohibition; when the sole inducement to perform it is His command. It is in these circumstances it is known whether we duly feel and recognize our moral dependence upon him. The morality of an action does not depend upon its abstract nature. but upon its relation to the law of God. Men seem often to be judge of actions as they are judge of material substances—by their bulk. What is great in itself, or in its consequences, they will admit to be a sin; but what appears little they pronounce to be a slight fault, or no fault at all."

Psalm 66:8-9, "Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, Who keeps our soul among the living, and does not allow our feet to be moved."

"God alone acts from His own power, whereas the creature acts by a power given to him which is distinct from himself. Goodwin, pointed this out: "God’s own goodness and happiness is His ultimate end, therefore He can never act but holily,(or apart from His love) for He acts by Himself and for Himself, and so cannot fail in acting, but is holy in all His ways and works, and cannot be otherwise." But man neither acts immediately by his own power nor is himself the legitimate end of his acting, but rather God."

Adam and Eve were given " ... power to retain their integrity. This is evident from the clearly revealed fact that they were under an indispensable obligation to yield perfect obedience to God, and liable to deserved punishment for the least defection. Therefore they must have been given a power to stand, a liberty of will to choose that which was conducive to their happiness."

With Adam, whose nature was holy and provided with everything necessary to his yielding to what obedience demanded of him, there existed the possibility that he would rise to the stature and authority given him by God and in abhorrence of disobedience to Him Who had given the breath of life refute the lies and temptations of Satan. Instead, Adam resigned the full use of his faculties as 'federal head ... legal representative' and father of the human race and chose to become the 'servant of sin' and in that decision the imputation of the offense was passed to all.

What is at the heart of man?

Matthew 15:18-19, "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies."
Luke 6:45, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."
Acts 5:3, "But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?"

Plato. "For all good and evil, whether in the body or in human nature, originates, as he declared, in the soul, and overflows from thence, as from the head into the eyes; and therefore, if the head and body are to be well, you must begin by curing the soul. That is the first thing."

We have a tendency to equate our sinful nature as an inherent and intrinsic trait of being human. We fail at times to allow for the extrinsic factors of life which are employed and arrayed against mankind. At times we may place more emphasis on one factor and not the other, possibly to our detriment. Whether motivated intrinsically or extrinsically men are not supposed to be free from guilt, from the fact that they have been tempted to commit sin. God requires men to resist temptation; and if they yield to it, they must be punished.

What is at the heart of man?

The tendency to sin for whatever reason or motivation is suggested to be comprised of factors involving behaviour and environment, psychological and sociological, the intrinsic and extrinsic, the dispositional and selfish and what lies at the heart of the matter are our fears and our finitude ("Finitude: To be carefully distinguished from "mortality." Finitude refers not to the fact that man dies but to the fact that as a free choice of his own project of being, he makes himself finite by excluding other possbilities each time he chooses the one which he prefers.) Whatever forms the logic and reason for the decisions made is determined by the need for the creation of safety and security to assuage the fear and vulnerabilty which we feel. The decision to sin (strictly a Christian term) or to disobey the law of the land, the law of God, or to harm, inflict pain, or disregard other people's rights to freedom and safety are acts seeking to placate fear.

We are not born fearful. However, our sense of fear becomes highly developed early in life. Augustine was previously quoted as thinking that sin was a turning in on oneself (closing oneself off to God and neighbor) but he also thought that sin was a greedy, angst-ridden "grasping" as illustrated in his discussion of the sinful infant in The Confessions who is sated but nevertheless cries when witnessing another child at the breast. The fear is there, expressing itself in a Malthusian view, assuming that the resources at hand will be diminished and unable to be replenished and a fear based on selfishishness is enlivened. Sharing and giving require sacrifice and vulnerability, exposing oneself to the consequence of depleted resources and possibly bringing harm upon oneself. The existence of a "felt vulnerability," in this situation creates the opportunity for a person to pridefully try to transcend that vulnerability, which is sin. We wish to control, to become the god of our life and lessen the impact of the decisions made by others which affect the determination of our finitude. It is the anxiety created by the loss of opportunity and the narrowing of life's choices with each choice we make and are made by others that allows for the introduction of fear-based and selfish decision-making resulting in a predominantly sin-based life. Our anxiety regarding our finitude is what makes us sinful and this anxiety is dispositional or habitual but nonetheless, it is our inherited human condition. We inherit our anxiety about our finitude but just because we have felt anxieties on the inside does not mean that sin is intrinsic. Those felt anxieties are produced by the Malthusian situation. The extrinsic situation produces certain psychological responses, but we need to be clear about the order of the causal chain: The extrinsic circumstance creates the internal worry. The reality of this scenario, life, is that it is a zero-sum game (http://undertheeagleswing.blogspot.com/search?q=zerosum) " ... unless we rely on one who is more powerful than us to heal the ruptures in our human state and elevate us to our goal of happiness and harmony."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Perfect Love


" ... Can thus
The image of God in Man, created once
So goodly and erect, though faulty since,
To such unsightly sufferings be debased
Under inhuman pains? Why should not Man,
Retaining still divine similitude
In part, from such deformities be free,
And, for his Maker’s image sake, exempt? ... "


Perfect love casts out all fear; faith and hope are founded on the fact and truth that there is nothing that God has given us that is a greater and possible demonstration of His love.
Romans 8:28, " ... and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

Acceptance and the peace that comes with understanding God's sovereingty is a characteristic of true piety. To those who acknowledge in patient endurance the grace of God in affliction can say, with conviction, that afflictions are a blessing; to others, they often prove otherwise. On others they are sent as chastisements; and they produce murmuring, instead of peace; rebellion, instead of submission; and anger, impatience, and hatred, instead of calmness, patience, and love. The Christian is made a better man by receiving afflictions as they should be received, and by desiring that they should accomplish the purpose for which they are sent; the sinner is made more hardened by resisting them, and refusing to submit to their obvious intention and design.

All our afflictions and trials; all the persecutions and calamities to which we are exposed, co-operate; they all mutually contribute to our good. They remove our affections from this world; they teach us the truth about our frail, transitory, and dying condition; they lead us to look to God for support, and to heaven for a final home; and they produce a subdued spirit, a humble temper, a patient, tender, and kind disposition.

God has a plan, or purpose, or intention, with regard to all who become Christians. We are not saved by chance or hap-hazard. God does not convert men without design; and His designs are not new, but are eternal. What He does, He always meant to do. What it is right for Him to do, it was right always to intend to do. What God always meant to do, is His purpose or plan.

Genesis 42:36, " ... and Jacob their father said to them, "You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me."

"We often think all to be against us, which is really for us. We are afflicted in body, estate, name, and in our relations; and think all these things are against us, whereas they are really working for us a weight of glory. Thus does the Lord Jesus conceal himself and his favour, thus he rebukes and chastens those for whom he has purposes of love. By sharp corrections and humbling convictions he will break the stoutness and mar the pride of the heart, and bring to true repentance. Yet before sinners fully know him, or taste that he is gracious, he consults their good, and sustains their souls, to wait for him. May we do thus, never yielding to discouragement, determining to seek no other refuge, and humbling ourselves more and more under his mighty hand. In due time he will answer our petitions, and do for us more than we can expect."

" ... I yield it just, said Adam, and submit.
But is there yet no other way, besides
These painful passages, how we may come
To death, and mix with our connatural dust? "

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Indescribable

I know its overkill, but I could not decide which one I liked the best:

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... maybe it can't be stated enough ...

Holy


2 Tim. 1:9, " ... who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, ... " 'A Holy Calling'; a vocation; consecrated service; 'the upward calling'; these are the phrases Paul uses in denoting the changed life of the redeemed sinner and what the purpose that life is to be in the pursuit of a personal relationship with God, through and with the corporate relationship of the Church with God. This call is a holy call, making holy. The call comes wholly from God and claims us wholly for God.

Ephes. 4:1, " ... I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, ... "

Every person has a soul committed to them; the question is: how was it employed? in the service of sin, or in the service of Christ?


The Christian is one who has learned the value and the danger of his own soul; he is one who has believed in Christ; he is one who has experienced the change wrought in his soul, and he has become the convinced believer in the fact that the Lord Jesus will keep him secure until he can be admitted into His heavenly kingdom. The vocation of the Christian is in striving against all the forces arrayed against and contrary to that goal. Those issues and forces which find their strength in covetousness, pride, corrupt passions, or zeal which rules within our heart, those elements of life which cause men to shut their eyes, and close their hearts, and adversely affect our desire to know anything apart from Christ and him crucified and which place ourselves at enmity with the revelation of God. The holiness of the Christian is kept, and by that I mean maintained, restrained and brought to maturity through the Christian doctrine committed to us as a trust; it is of unspeakable value in itself, and will be of unspeakable advantage to us. It is committed to us, to be preserved pure and entire, yet we must not think to keep it by our own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us; and it will not be gained or experienced by those who trust in their own hearts, and lean on their own understanding. No one can deliver and secure his soul through the trials of life and death, that is solely the work of God and is only within His ability to conclude.

Acts 4:12, " ... nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name (Jesus) under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Acts 2:21, " ... and it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord (Jesus) shall be saved."
Acts 3:16, " ... and His name (Jesus), through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all."

We have these words of confidence and assurance designed to inflame our hope and faith in the power, grace and faithfulness of God. These words increase the intensity of the desire of the heart to serve, to not just believe in the soundness of the word, but, to love the word. This is the strength provided for the pursuit of that faith and patience which enables believers to follow peace and holiness, as a man follows his calling to be holy; constantly, diligently, and with pleasure.

Hebrews 12:14, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: ... "

1 Thes. 4:7, "For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness."

Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

We also have these words of admonishment and correction providing the direction for life's course as a Christian. These words address and point to the true nature of the understanding of the grace of God. The true nature of the grace of God will not allow for the joining of the profane man's lust with the desires for the blessings of God. We cannot have the fruit of Christ's redemption and sacrifice while maintaining unmortified lust in the heart. Failure to understand grace is failure to understand the importance and significance of purity and holiness. " O make no mistake upon this point, dear reader: if you are not walking after the Spirit, you are walking after the flesh: if you are not living to please Christ, you are living to please self; if you have not been delivered from the power of Darkness, you cannot enjoy the Light." This holiness being sought after is personal and practical holiness, not the imputed holiness of God. This holiness is begun at the new birth ["Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3)] and it is the implantation of a principle of holiness in the heart, which is the life task of the Christian to cultivate. This holiness is to be sought after in earnest, diligent, and persistent pursuit.

"It will be well for us to remember that the religion of Jesus Christ is not a matter of trifling, that the gaining of Heaven is not to be achieved by a few half-hearted efforts; and if we will at the same time recollect that all-sufficient succor is prepared for us in the covenant of grace we shall be in a right state of mind: resolute, yet humble, leaning upon the merits of Christ, and yet aiming at personal holiness. I am persuaded that if self-righteousness be deadly, self-indulgence is indeed ruinous." C.H. Spurgeon God will neither sever the means from the blessing, nor join the blessing with the satisfying of man’s lusts.


Practical holiness is a matter of growth. In this life holiness is infantile. It exists more in the form of longings and stirrings, hungriness and efforts, rather than in the fullness of realization and attainment. It exists as a calling and vocation for which the reward is found in the eternal. It is a work of the heart and the soul produced out of love, admiration and the desire to be an example of the One upon Whom our love resides. The very fact that the Christian is exhorted to 'follow' or pursue holiness proves that he has not yet reached it fully. Personal piety is part of the journey towards that which we would have as our own and is indicative of the value and worth that we place upon our soul and eternal welfare. Personal piety is about our eternal interests and concerns and the depth of our dedication and diligence in knowing and understanding the God Who calls us to '...be holy, as I am holy...". Personal piety provides the benchmarks and milestones that mark the continuing miracle of grace which is God's redemptive action in our lives. Holiness currently is borrowed or given to us, and for the present time the goal is to unfetter our minds; to remove blinders from our eyes and understand that we are " ... a generation that is pure in their own eyes and yet is not washed from their filthiness' (Proverbs 30:12) This life and the pursuit of holiness is a time of self-examination, realizing we are " ... wretched, and miserable and poor and blind and naked ... " (Revelation 3:17) We move from a need for salvation which provides for our pardon from iniquity to a position understanding of our salvation providing for our purity. The quest for holiness is not about settling for second best, it is in knowing the peace brought by the furnishing of holiness through Jesus Christ. Holiness is about process and progress and we cannot despise the means and methods of God in procuring for Himself a chosen people to whom He shows beneficence and love and blessing.


He wills that I should holy be,
That holiness I long to feel,
That full divine conformity
To all my Savior's righteous wilt
See, Lord, the travail of Thy soul
Accomplished in this change of mine;
And plunge me every whit make whole
In all the depths of love divine.
On Thee, O God, my soul is stayed,
And waits to prove thine utmost will;
The promise by Thy mercy made,
Thou must, Thou wilt in me fulfill.
-- C. Wesley. --

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Borrowed Thoughts # 2

Came across this article in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11punk-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&emc=eta1

It is rather relevant to some conversations I have been having with a friend lately.
I hope you enjoy.

Love in Christ, John

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Good Intentions


Matthew 8:1-3, "When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed."

Touch then healing. Touch first. Jesus holding this touch for a time in silence. Touch that occurs while the man is still unclean. The sequence isn't healing followed by touch. That sequence would signal something completely different, that I won't touch you until you are acceptable and "cleaned up." So as I imagine Jesus holding this touch I can sense that something deep inside the man is being healed irrespective of his leprosy. Something deep, emotional and human is being reached and healed prior to the physical healing. The true healing, as I see it, comes with the primacy of the touch. Touch heals the social dislocation and social alienation associated with leprosy, prostitution, addiction which by far are the most painful and dehumanizing symptoms and stigmas of disease and social behavior.

In short, touch heals.

It is the most primal act of love at our disposal.


"Ask God to give thee skill
In comfort' s art;
That you may consecrated be
And set apart
Into a life of sympathy.
For heavy is the weight of ill
In every heart;
And comforters are needed much
Of Christlike touch."
A. E. HAMILTON.
'If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' which are very fine words, yet if you 'give them not those things that are needful to the body, what does it profit?' (James 2:15-16). Our faith must be touched by the urgency and despair of those who are afflicted by life's circumstance and unjustness. It may not be a part of our 'discerning nature' to distinguish which of those who are hungry, naked and destitute will receive our touch. God will place in our path those whom we are to aid. Matthew 25:35-40, " ... for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'
God carries the weight of the responsibilty for all of His creation, heavy emphasis on 'all', it includes everything and everybody, it is 'all' inclusive. In this context we act as God's servants, those who are called and chosen to reveal the love of God through the frailty of human endeavour, work and hardship, without regard for the fruit of our effort, unconcerned with the conclusion (Yes, Wayne I borrowed this from you) for as Scripture states in 1 Cor. 3:7-8, "So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor."
Acts 9:4-5, "Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."
We must acknowledge the folly and perversness of fighting against God; of murmuring at the evidence of his providence; of being impatient under affliction; and of opposing the purposes of his justice and mercy.


But madly now I wound myself alone,
Dashing my injured foot against the stone:
So to the wide arena, wild with pain,
The vanquish’d gladiator hastes again;
So the poor shatter’d bark the tempest braves,
Launching once more into the swelling waves.
Ovid

Friday, January 09, 2009

What of Love

A year has gone by - January 7, 2008

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Some songs bring out so many emotions; hopes, dreams, wishes, thoughts, past tense, present tense and future, some expressed and those that never will be and possibly never should be, some things that are best never said, the unresolved issues, the fearful, the dreadful, but, what of love and the remorse expressed for loss and what of love and the remorse for the absence of loss, what of love for the tears shed in anguish and pain and what of love for the tears shed in longing and abandonment.

Certainty


Certainty is a feeling. The "feeling of knowing" or the "feeling of conviction" is vital to human cognition as it provides us with a reward structure for thought. After successfully solving a problem the feeling of knowing helps signal to us that a solution has arrived. The 'feeling of knowing' encourages to search memory for information affirming that 'feeling of knowing'. The catch is once I have the 'feeling of knowing' I may be content with that knowledge and forego any further search of memory or experience. The problem with the 'feeling of knowing' is that it is an emotional response to a dilemma or question of knowledge or truth. As a reinforcing emotion, knowledge feels good, it's pleasurable. Consequently, many people stick with the pleasure of "knowing" instead of shrugging off the feeling to reenter the world of debate and argument. It takes courage to move back into uncertainty, assuming of course that there was a question needing an answer before certainty was arrived at. It takes a desire to overcome the fear of the unknown; the fear of not finding an answer; the fear of the mystical; the fear of having to say, "I don't know", and the acceptance of the lack of knowing in the grasping of faith. "Knowing" is pleasurable and like with other pleasures of the flesh, self-restraint and discipline may be required to move back into uncertainty.

The point of all this is that religious dogmatism is stubborn because of the inability to deal with rationality. We are working with an emotional system. Overtly, the conversation is about biblical texts or rational arguments, but, at root what is governing the conversation is the feeling of knowing. If the person feels they are right then quality counter-arguments just won't penetrate. The dominant emotional tone of conviction convinces the person that he is in the possession of the truth. That feeling drives the conversation. Many people need or want to latch on to something that is constant, unchanging, certain and comfortable and to alter their opinion would alter who they are and their very identity. "Some people think they are their opinions."

Certainty seems to be rooted in how much is invested and how closely the investment is tied to one's identity and safety. It is very safe to be certain and "know." Not so safe to be uncertain.

Defensive behaviors always run high when the 'safety' of certainty is threatened.

Assume for the moment that a feeling of certainty is a good and valuable thing to have in a life of faith. Is faith only legitimate when it is shrouded in certainty? The answer is "Yes", but, What if we sought to ground that in something other than dogmatic knowledge? What if certainty was grounded in a conviction of being loved rather than being "right"? There would still need to be some facts one would have to assert and hold as certain (e.g., that there really is a God who exists and loves; ) But overall, you would have a vastly more open intellectual range for being uncertain about things because they wouldn't all be threads that could threaten to unravel the garment your experience of certainty is based on.

The 'feeling of knowing' cannot be a substitute for a stance which compensates for a lack of knowledge, nor a means of placating a sense of fear of what is not known through personal experience or knowledge.

There are many affiliations and groups which strive and successfully promote certainty. They seek to instill a sense of certainty which plactes our inherent existential fears. They provide security through a belief system. We seek this security as a coping mechanism. It is when we are faced with contrary information and ideas threatening our core beliefs and that emotional core reflecting our 'feeling of knowing' that our fears are brought again to the surface of our existence. The presence of people who question and desire to infuse the faith community with flexibility and curiosity in order to prevent ossification and stagnation become 'enemies of the state'.

However as the New Testament reveals, the instituitions and the belief systems they propound are not always those that are exhibiting and modeling faith:

Matthew 8:10, "When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!"
Matthew 8:26, "But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm."


or anticipating our expectations of faith:

Matthew 9:2, "Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you."

nor do they remove us from the need of God's power and mercy in the face of fear:

Matthew 14:31, "and immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

or answering the questions of our inherent doubt in the face of the miraculous:

Matthew 17:20, "So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you."
Matthew 21:21, "So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done."


Mark 4:40, "... but He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?"
Mark 11:22, " ... Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God".


Faith exists in a duailty and a dichotomy, faith holds the certainty of belief as truth, and in that all the assurance we need exists. Faith also views with a sense of uncertainty the mystical and sovereign actions of God, fully recognizing but not fully understanding the infinite and eternal proportions of His love.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Prize


An issue I am trying to get a handle on is the idea of the revelation of God as revealed through those who believe and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, yet, have such differing views on how that salvation and their subsequent lifestyle is seemingly affected or perhaps unaffected by that belief. It brings to mind the question of What is being experienced by them as Jesus resides in their heart and soul.

Luke 24:44-47, "Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."

John 1:9-12, "That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: ..."

The lens through which I view my walk with Jesus is unique to me. It is and has been formulated by childhood, memory, pain, success and all the other variables which are universal in affecting the outcome of behavior, action, reaction and personality. Life is 'viewed', "... for now we see through a glass, darkly, dimly,..." in imperfection, as unintelligible, as vision impaired by the obscurity and illusion created by the view through an opaque, and yet, somewhat transparent glass. Those images viewed through the opaque glass of faith and hope have shaped my Christian walk, my theology, and molded my personal vision and relationship with God as His love is revealed to me. God's transparency in His love and desire for relationship is revealed through His willingness to sacrifice His Son on my behalf, that I can be ... What?

Now a "vision" is to be something seen, whereas to be "transparent" is to be something through which something else is seen. A transparent vision, then, is an oxymoron. That is, unless there is a specific circumstance that changes the meaning of the concepts. Those living as the blind have no option for 'vision', unless magically a lens is found through which they are given sight, but what is the vision they see, how are things translated to their mind through 'new' eyes, (Mark 8:24, ... and he looked up and said, "I see men like trees, walking."). The sovereignty of God's grace is not to be questioned; (John 3:8, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.") nor the exercise of the dispensation of those gifts. We can be discerning of the gift of salvation as it exists by the effects which it produces: and so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit: the effects are discernible and sensible just like the wind; but we cannot see into the heart and soul of the person. He who is born again, knows that he is born-again: the Spirit itself, the grand agent in this new birth, that Spirit given to us as a guarantee (2 Cor. 5:5)
bears witness with his spirit, that he is born of God, Romans 8:16; he that believes has the witness and testimony of salvation in himself, 1 John 4:13; 5:10; Galatians 4:6. This Spirit works in and by him that others, though they see not the principle, the agent, The Spirit of God, they can easily discern the change produced; for whosoever is born of God overcomes the world, 1 John 5:4.

"Wicked men convicted by the Spirit know the evil of their natures as well as they know their past sins. They are not then delivered from their depravity, from any lack of knowledge, but from a lack of the requisite degree of faith. God in great mercy does not require a faith which grasps at once both pardon and purity. Faith for purity is a much higher attainment than faith for pardon, an effort requiring a taste of love divine and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, revealing the greatness of his sanctifying grace. Then and then only will faith be able to grasp the prize."

1 John 2:27, " ... but the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."
This abiding is the task of the believer to 'walk in truth'; it is an imperative action; its design was to allow believers to persevere in faithfulness and sound doctrine; it was the enablement to recognize and understand spiritual truth; it indicated the relationship between the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the dependence of the believer in that revelation. This abiding was crucial in anticipating 'the prize', the 'purifying hope' found in sanctification and obedience; the purity manifested in love and holiness; and reflected the genuine, authentic, reality of the nature of salvation. This abiding is about the search for wisdom and knowledge only found in God. "Knowledge is power; and it is truly astonishing to see what influence true learning has. Nothing is so universally respected, provided the learned man be a consistent moral character, and be not proud and overbearing;" That knowledge which promotes holiness is the revealed character and purposes of God as revealed through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Back to the point ... as I look around at all those who profess Jesus as their Savior, I ask myself are they growing in knowledge?; are they attempting to attain 'the prize'? or are they happy to believe that they have 'escaped the noose'?; Jeremiah 39:18, "For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me," says the Lord.' " Is this the only goal? Has anyone left the depravity of the former self in accepting this as the achievement of salvation? Is this worth a death? Is this worth dying for?

Philip. 3:12, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me."
Philip. 3:14, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
1 Thes. 2:19, "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?"

The sense is that life is a journey that is a continual progresssion originating at a point of conversion, exhibiting advancement, the pressing forward toward a goal found in perfection, understanding, knowledge and wisdom and 'the prize' being the attainment of a maturity which produces and reproduces holiness of character, for which the reward is to abide in the presence of God for eternity.

Recognize the despair, the forlorn nature of the succeeding quote - "O my God! It is over. I have come to the end of it - the end, the end. To have only one life and to have done with it! To have lived, and loved, and triumphed; and now to know it is over! One may defy everything else but this."

John 19:30, "So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit."

Psalm 31:5. "Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth."

Friday, January 02, 2009

Eulogy & Mission


A gentleman in our church approached me the other day and said, "the church isn't what it used to be and probably never will be again." Somewhere in the midst of that statement is the eulogy and the mission of the current church.

"Systematic theology is not simply a coherent arrangement of supracultural universals. It is a compilation of the Western white history of dogma. And that history, in the process of compilation, has lost its missiological thrust.
The effect of this process on the Western churches is similarly destructive of missions. Seeing theology as an essentializing science and the creeds as the product of that kind of theological reflection inhibits us as well from facing up to our own contemporary missiological task and its risk. Our credal formulations, structured to respond to a sixteenth-century cultural setting and its problems, lose their historical character as contextual confessions of faith and become cultural universals, having comprehensive validity in all items and settings. We assign all the problem of contextualization to distant, exotic places and worry about how others will avoid syncretism (reconciliation or fusion of different systems or beliefs ) with this view of theology. We assume that such risks and such challenges are absent, or at least less pressing, in the West. We let our theologizing slip into a naive sort of idealistic pride in “our” model. We become less aware of the rosy presuppositional glasses with which we look at our rosy theological world. And our theology loses its evangelistic edge. Theologizing is the task of each new generation standing in its particular moment of history, it searches the Scriptures in order to discern the will of God and strives to receive guidance on its way toward the obedient life that must be pursued within the concrete issues of the world’s concrete cultures.
MIssiology’s task ( i.e. one goal of missiology is to distinguish between practices that are essential to Christianity and therefore must be practiced by Christians in all cultures, and other strictly cultural expressions of Christianity that can vary between societies while still expressing the Christian faith.) …becomes that of a gadfly (one who upsets the status quo by posing upsetting or novel questions, or attempt to stimulate innovation by proving an irritant) in the house of theology."


We are frozen in a time-warp of achieved gnosticism irrelevant to time and culture; holding to dogmatic beliefs in faith and the evidence of redeeming faith as outlined by a theology mandated by Biblical interpretation; blindly believing without question the validity of the contextualization of God as revealed in process through Scripture as an historical imperative, not to be strayed from; accepting a timeless formulation of theology without regard for agendas of concern unrelated to traditional faith issues; in this lies the weakness of the current Church in reaching the others of our culture.

In this lies the weakness of my own evangelical import into the community in which I live. Here I live as a Christian, well-known for my Church affiliation, (known enough that people who respect that about me are conciliatory) yet, as a Christian having little or no attractional value for the Kingdom of God. The very things that command that respect and the consolations given for my faith as others see it, are the very same things that create the barriers to being an attractional Christian living a life which invites others to experience. So the above quoted statement is not so much a slam against the current Church culture, as against my own value system, and that system being thwarted as attractional by the Biblical mandates of holiness, obedience, and sanctification, and these terms being alien to our current culture in terms of the fullness of those characteristics lived out as THE viable alternative to any other lifestyle. People see my involvement in the Church and it registers with them that the devotion and time sacrificed for that involvement is not worth the visible value attained by being a Christian. They see the outward manifestation of being a Christian as work, and more work is not what most people desire.

In the conversation that is life, as I relate to those around me, I have to be communicating freedom; as I have contact with the diverse cultural and social contexts of the world I have to be communicating God's love; as I live out my Biblical theologizing revealed historically through God's redemptive revelation, and my personal understanding as viewed through the eyes of one who has been redeemed through that historical narrative, I must insure that the topical divisions inherent in the conversation remain broad enough and flexible enough to accommodate God's special revelation for each individual; I must be open to the organic nature of God's working; and in all this being conscious of the fact that I live in the same continuum as for example Paul, Peter, Constantine, Wesley, Spurgeon, Tozer, Lewis, and Graham. It is in that continuum, that historical-redemptive or redemptive-historical perspective, that I must reflect and affirm the character of the Kingdom of God as it exhibits the fullness of justice and love, while carefully tempering the conversation to the situational and cultural context. Theologizing does not pride itself on its "objectivity", its "presuppositionlessness", its "value-neutrality"; Christianity does not lend itself well to tolerance; to acceptance of "cultural impositions"; Christianity seeks to define "timeless formulations" for the effective dealing with the issues of life. As the continuum reveals there lies authentic and genuine creedence to that truth, however, the balance must be acheived between the obedience required as a manifestation of the love for God because of His provided redemption and the Christians stand on the belief in the value of a Biblical view of holiness and sanctification and the understanding of the working of God in ways which are not clearly evident to be moving people towards that objective.

We live in the current revelation of God's redemptive history, not in the past; we live in the current flow of God's love for humanity, not the absence of that love; we live in the narrative, as a story-teller, not the reader of history; and I must be reminded that God's word is writing the history of redemption in the here-and-now.

I live as a commentator, communicator, translator and interpreter of God's love and justice, His redemptive and life-changing power through my life. In this I find the condemnation of my own abilities to be accurate, concise, discerning, unbiased and tolerant. It must be stated that with regard to certain aspects of culture and the Biblical condemnation of those current, cultural 'norms', I am forced to become the intolerant and biased right-wing, conservative, Christian.