Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Theology is for me the organized method of interpreting spiritual works and beliefs into a practical form, it is my talk about God. It is the avenue of question, interpretation and answer? attempting to determine a rational faith? The question is how is theology related to the concrete conditions of the world, or how is it implicated in personal life and human society. If theology is thought of as a container of ideas or a particular immutable ethic or set of values, then you can bracket theology off from its significance or value to everyday life. Theology provides an address to the soul.
This study of God, mine, involves His interaction with me, His decisions as a sovereign, omnipotent God in the context of my free-will (nothing in life is really free) and independent choices. Those free-will? independent choices are the issues of faith; the issues as a result of belief; the choices I make and choices I do not make based on conviction, premise and understanding; the lost opportunity from lack of faith; the expected prosperity? from obedience; the despair for inaction in the quest or call of the unknown; the appeal to an active faith, attaining the impossible with God in Whom all things are possible; it is listening to the still, small voice speaking within the cacophony of sound and distraction prevalent in this world; it is finding peace whether dreams, aspirations, fears or monsters are encountered.
I hold to life too endearingly, grasping for significance and value while forfeiting the future. I amortize my future condescending to the worth of the present. I strive for the answers to the burdens on my heart, and yet, kowtow to the pressures and immediacy of my current circumstance. I have made my bed and subsequently I lie with my own demons of failure and discomfort. I devalue this Christian life as the abstract phrasing of God communicating His Word to the world. I resolve this existence with a shrug of the shoulders and proclaim ‘this is God’s will’ and 'all things work for good' and call it 'life', merely existing between birth and death. I placate my soul with these coined expressions and invoke the Word of God to substantiate my inactive faith and atheistic belief in ‘God Who will not’. I would rather be captive to my fear than 'live' with the consequence of falling into the hands of a God Who would throw me into the storm-beaten boat, and in this I may never understand the love of God, the random, unmanageable, uncontainable God, Who is nothing if He is not LOVE. I forget that "(My) spiritual life is upheld by His grace, as constantly as (my) natural life by His providence." I decline my birthright as a child of God to request from my Father-God those things which would please my heart; I renounce my freedom to act upon my desires and dreams; I deny myself joy and adventure believing they do not express the delight of my Father-God for His child and in that, fail to allow His love to reflect upon me. I condone my paltry existence as a sacrifice to the whims of folly and hardship never understanding the love of the Father for a child, never moving beyond the possible. I believe an untruth, that God is not a God of 'I will'.
Jeremiah 29:5-7 (NKJV) Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters -- that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.
Jeremiah 24:6-7 (NKJV)
For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NKJV) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
Jeremiah 32:27 (NKJV) "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything to hard for Me?
Jeremiah 32:37-42 (NKJV)
Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.' For thus says the Lord: 'Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them.
Jeremiah 33:6-8 (NKJV)
Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. And I will cause the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel to return, and will rebuild those places as at the first. I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me.
Isaiah 41:17-19 (NKJV)
"The poor and needy seek water, but there is none,
Their tongues fail for thirst.
I, the Lord, will hear them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will open rivers in desolate heights,
And fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
And the dry land springs of water.
I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree,
The myrtle and the oil tree;
I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine
And the box tree together,
Isaiah 43:19 (NKJV)
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 45:2-3 (NKJV)
'I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who call you by your name,
Am the God of Israel.
Isaiah 46:4 (NKJV)
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and I will deliver you.
"God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
Can you relate?
Saturday, February 21, 2009
"Our lives were meant to be lived with others. as echoes of the Trinity, we remember something. Made in the image of a perfect relationship, we are relational to the core of our beings and filed with a desire for transcendent purpose. We long to be an irreplaceable part of a shared adventure."
"Community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives."
Spiritual transformation happens where truth (learned in solitude) meets life (community).
Hebrews 10:25, " ... not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, ... "
Deut. 2:27, "Let me pass through your land; I will keep strictly to the road, and I will turn neither to the right nor to the left."
Isaiah 35:8, " .. and a highway shall be there, and a way, and the 'Way of Holiness' it is called, the unclean shall not pass over it, but He Himself shall be with them, walking in the way - even fools will not err.
Friday, February 20, 2009
“One’s ideal attitude towards truth, we are carefully taught, should be that of utter passivity. The truth must come and stamp itself in its own person authentically upon our unaiding and unresisting minds. If we let our satisfactions or dissatisfactions influence the manner of our reception of it, we shall surely fail to get it pure.”
And righteousness stands afar off;
For truth is fallen in the street,
And equity cannot enter.
So truth fails, …” “Truth has perished and has been cut off ...”
Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
"I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
And find out knowledge and discretion.
Proverbs 9:10 (NKJV)
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding,
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
This truth is not found in moral righteousness, the exercise of a man’s conscience or on the contrary, those actions which create shame and expose immorality. “ … who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?” If you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give to the disadvantaged, look out for the good of your neighbor, you will not have offended in any way the law of the land or the sensibilities of those in your community. These are only areas of which a reasonable man in reasonable exercise of his abilities and resources should act in edifying the strength of society. What these actions do not touch upon is the heart of truth as it lives and breathes in man, to understand the poverty of those actions as they equate to the righteousness of God. The privileges and rewards, whether subliminally or consciously anticipated, will never be realized based upon the assumptions purported by ’good works’. In this the real truth, as it becomes the antithesis of all human endeavor and the insult to all men, as they face their pride and self-will becomes a stumbling stone and a rock of offense. Their god, is a god of love, and does not require repentance, submission, obedience and sacrifice. Their god of love will not judge them based on their faults but only upon the ‘good’ that they do, regardless of the heart. Their god of love will not suffer them to be humbled to accept that their inward principle of righteousness has no value in the economy of a Holy God.
But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.
I (God) have sworn by Myself;
The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness,
And shall not return,
That to Me every knee shall bow,
Every tongue shall take an oath.
But the Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment,
And God who is holy shall be hallowed in righteousness.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal … and include the inerrancy and authority of the Word of God (The Bible), the doctrine of original sin, and the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. Truth is not an individuals opinion or imagination or justification or excuse. Truth is what God has said, …
Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or as His counselor has taught Him?
With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him,
And taught Him in the path of justice?
Who taught Him knowledge,
And showed Him the way of understanding?
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.
For "who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
Monday, February 16, 2009
And it will be for a sign and for a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land ... ; for they will cry to the Lord because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty One, and He will deliver them.
"It is not the noise of the shout of (mastery) victory,
Nor the noise of the cry of (being overcome) defeat,
But the sound of them that sing (sin and provoke) that I hear."
The outcry is the refusal to accept a dehumanizing way of life built around insatiable appetite and production. The outcry is against the dehumanizing way in which people are treated by those who oppress. The outcry is the shout of victory as oppressors exalt their dehumanizing ways and means, enslaving people to the mindset of wealth, wish and desire or unfairly using the disadvantaged to shore up their profits and margins. "If the sinner thinks he has managed his frauds and violence with art and contrivance, the riches and possessions he heaped together will witness against him. There are no greater drudges in the world than those who are slaves to mere wordly pursuits."
Deut. 24:15, "Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the Lord, and it be sin to you."
Exodus 22:23, "If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; ... "
The outcry is for the realization of the 'imago dei' existing in each of us. The outcry is for relationship which transcends this life.
Isaiah 58:9, "Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'
The outcry is for love which surpasses the limits of our human understanding; love which encapsulates us with its intensity and with its promise of power, strength, resolve to overcome the adversities and trials we face in this existence.
Psalm 61:1-2, " Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
The outcry is for relationship with God.
Psalm 84:2, "My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."
Psalm 89:26, "He shall cry to Me, 'You are my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation."
Psalm 116:1, "I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications."
The outcry will never be silenced in man, it is the very essence of our being to desire relationship with God. It requires more effort and exercise to quiet the outcry of the heart then it does to seek an answer for it.
Luke 19:40, "But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."
Habakkuk 2:11, "For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the timbers will answer it."
The drama of the redemption story is the active exchange between God and man. An active exchange or conversation is by definition a bilateral and equal interaction. The history of the relationship of God and man is not just a story of God's initiative. God is moved by human initiative - the outcry. This is not to say that humans can provide their own deliverance, or that God is not an initiator. It is to say that God's relationship with mankind is just that -- a relationship -- fraught with all the trappings, failures, successes and joys. Relationship high-lighted by the interplay of free-thinking, independant, moral people with God. Mankind is not simply a passive recipient of God's irresistable plan. (Calvinist toes set aside) Mankind is a real participant and active recipient in the drama of redemption.
2 Cor. 5:18-19, "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation."
Thinking of God as being rooted in a notion of being, namely a substantialist perspective that divides the world into subjects and objects and/or a paternalistic perspective where caring and concern are present and absent is the allowance for individual rights and responsibilities; only works if God is impassable, that is not affected by the world. God in these perspectives is seen as a presiding and persisting subject--omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent - shielded from suffering and pain. We are inclined to disassociate God-the-Father from the Passion of Christ. The Son cries out to the Father - the Father turns from the Son. However the entire character and nature of the Trinitarian God cannot support that separation. Our Father-God is touched by the outcry. Our Father-God is touched by pain and suffering.
The Bible reveals this God Who is not impassable, a God Who is revealed in relation to the outcry of mankind, an unmanagable God who is faithful and consistent precisely in response to human suffering and need.
"Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband." "Many are the children of the solitary one in a higher degree (than) her ... who has the husband of which the other is destitute."
"In those who have suffered from the results of their sins, there is a humility, tenderness, softness in speech, delicacy in understanding the temptations and failures of others, the soul of the prophet, the intercession of the priest, which are beyond price. The pardoned prodigal can talk of his Father's love in a way that the elder son could never do; and as we hear him speak, we know that he is enriching us with spoils gathered by his experiences."
"While we mourn our sins, and bitterly lament their cost and pain, yet we can see how God is at work taking up the very waste of our lives and making it up again into the fairest fabrics; as rich dyes are made from the produce of gas-retorts, and white paper from old and disused rags. In our exile (our time of crying out) we get new thoughts of God, of religion, and of our mission among men. Probably we should have reached them in some other way had we never wandered; but we may have learnt them under conditions which will for ever give a special flavour and tone to our affirmation of these mighty truths."
Romans 8:15, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father."
... and God answers ... " I love you! "
Sunday, February 15, 2009
"Such freedom is united with destiny in such a way that the psychological material which enters into the moral act represents the pole of destiny, while the deliberating and deciding self represents the pole of freedom..."
Is it to be inferred that the psychological make-up, the pole of destiny is predetermined or is it in essence the decisions made which reveal the character of the individual? I would also like to know if this means those decisions which reflect on the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy? I mean our nature forecasting our failures and successes because we have an inherent bent? That would mean that the pole of freedom is the new direction and parameters of faith in God liberating the person from past inclinations to a redeemed existence without the fears alienating them from their true self? Am I out-to-lunch? This is what I asked of Tracy Whitham on his blog, Tillich on Transcendence @ http://metaponderance.blogspot.com/ His complete answer is available at that link and is called Tillich on Freedom and Humanity. The take on his blog is towards agape love, mine is towards faith, so I have quoted his blog and used the thoughts as they apply to a discussion of faith.
"Instead of separating the spirit from the conditioning psychological realm, we shall try to describe the rise of an act of the spirit out of a constellation of psychological factors. Every act of the spirit presupposes given psychological material and, at the same time, constitutes a leap which is possible only for a totally centered self, that is to say, one that is free." (Systematic Theology, Vol. III, p. 27.)
John Stuart asked for a clarification of this uniting of destiny and freedom in Tillich's thought--above, "the conditioning psychological realm" and "the rise of an act of the spirit out of a constellation of psychological factors." Specifically, he was interested in whether destiny is predetermined or character influences choices.
Here is Tillich taking that question head on:
"...the whole complex of acts, in which this [act of choosing] happens has the character of freedom, not freedom in the bad sense of indeterminacy (vague or imprecise) of an act of the will, but freedom in the sense of a total reaction of a centered self which deliberates and decides. Such freedom is united with destiny in such a way that the psychological material which enters into the moral act represents the pole of destiny, while the deliberating and deciding self represents the pole of freedom, according to the ontological polarity of freedom and destiny." (Vol. III, p. 28.) My choices are determined by the point of view that leads to that choice.
In an ordinary spatial frame of reference we have up/down, near/far, left/right. We do not ask whether these "opposites" exclude each other. We understand that they describe poles within a complete frame of reference. In the same way that we cannot have a meaningful sense of "right" without "left" in a physical space we cannot have a meaningful sense of freedom without destiny as its pole in Tillich's formulation of the reality of freedom in human life. If I make a "choice" for no reason, it is a meaningless freedom, a vacuous choice. If my choice is constituted by a meaning that determines it, it cannot be viewed in the traditional way as being incompatible with determinism. In fact, to be meaningful, freedom must be compatible with determinism. But how?
Determinism is the doctrine that all actions are determined by the current state and immutable laws of the universe, with no possibility of choice. Each state, condition or decision depends and is limited by the immediately previous state, condition or decision. Choice and/or freedom is narrowed by the determined variables which exist after each decision. In this is developed the concept of fate and destiny. In reality, we are taught and we learn of consequence through either pleasure or pain. Each consequence of a decision affirms and/or limits the following decision based upon our desire to enhance our pleasure or our determination to avoid pain. As philosophical viewpoints, “ … free-will and determinism, as actual creeds, will probably always be …, postulates of rationality, namely, different assumptions which different thinkers make, … to cast the world into what seems … the most intelligible form.” "What we say about reality depends on the perspective into which we throw it. The that of it is its own; but the what depends on the which; and the which depends on us."
John asked a great question precisely because it requires us to get beyond this impasse where the discussion traditionally stalls. Here's the further question that will help us specify how freedom is manifest in the framework of destiny and the "rise of an act of the spirit" by which a choice is made: What constitutes the cognitive space in which the pole of freedom manifests itself?
Since Tillich does not confront this question specifically--and it is this question that will allow us to best understand his perspective on freedom--I will: we can always go to a further logical level of understanding or explore further in the present psychological and cognitive context, or seek out another person's advice. That is, we are free because our cognitive/psychological frame of reference is open.
This is where faith comes in, a means by which the cognitive/psychological frame of reference is affirmed through a belief system which either allows for the continuance of current, accepted, and possibly dysfunctional behavior or a radical change in the frame of reference upon realization the old forms where ineffective in dealing wholesomely with life's challenges and the awareness of a need for a new frame of reference. Romans 3:3, "For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?" The faith-frame must be active in the Christian context or it becomes atheistic by intent; not trusting in the love and promises of God and devalues the love of God to mere rhetoric.
At any impasse in the decision-making process -- the God variable, those things evident in faith, hope and love -- hold the ability to remove the shackles of memory, situation, and circumstance and open the heart, mind and soul to the vista of possibilities existing within the realm of God’s purposes for those He loves. The change comes as a result of faith, faith which is unresolved until action is taken. This is contrary to our conditioned response to the ambiguities previously experienced “ … in voluntary action … (where) the act is foreseen from the very first. The idea of it always precedes its execution. This … is the sine qua non (an essential or indispensable element or condition) and essence of every voluntary action. And it is an immediate consequence of this that no act can possibly be voluntary the first time it is performed. Until we have done it … we have no idea (the outcome) … and do not know in what direction to set our will … One cannot will into the void." Faith in God never calls us to step into a void, we cannot walk anywhere where the grace of God has not already provided safe passage.
“The important point comes in here: at any point in time doesn't the view of freedom reduce to the perspective that determines it, and if not, then doesn't it reduce to an act of freedom separated from that which determines it” ...in other words faith that is active strives to attain “the growth of the will out of a blind impulsive soil.” Faith requires that the volitional and psychological motivations of an acquired memory and of action premised by the pre-existing mind-set to be continually evaluated based upon the new revelation of God, and that revelation affecting the strictures created by the past and offering a new hope for the future, leaving aside the bondage of previous life experiences. A new set of memories; a new framework, is being created to move a person to the very real understanding of a God Who loves in the context of a world fraught with pain and suffering. “For we are not given a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Faith says, “Be my reality, however disagreeable you may prove,” and declares my “fiat”, the authoritative command or order; the word, so that faith is realized to its full extent. This is not blindness to the realities of the consequences of decisions, but the actuation of faith, believing that above all consequence, God's love is real and in that love, He will never fail, in whatever context you wish to place that promise. As we fill our minds with the thought of God's love for us the will becomes acutely invigorated towards the effort and exercise of faith, intensely and fixedly believing in the permanency of that love. In this we are free. This is part of an ongoing and active evaluation of all of life based on a belief that "through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come, t'was grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home ..." The effort of will required for faith consists then, like all other efforts of the will, in the forcible, fatal holding fast to an incongenial, incompatible, otherworldly idea or notion of what our perceived life is to be; a life which transcends the frail and temporal. Faith enables the will to act and decide in light of what is not known as a consequence, on the strength of the steadfastness of God's love. Faith allows a life to be not imprisoned in the present or the past, but, holding to the promise of the love of God that views " .. our light affliction, which is but for a moment, (as) working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,..." The imprisonment of the prior conditioning psychological realm is shattered by the reality of living life within the love of God, and believing that in that love “… all things work for good …” “The will, mentally considered, (and acting upon faith and belief), is consent(ing) to a fact ..., a fact in which we ourselves may play an active, a neutral or a suffering part. The fact always appears to us in an idea; and it is willed by its idea becoming victorious over internal and external ideas and remaining in stable possession of the mind. It is a fact that as a consequence of faith we act.”
Friday, February 13, 2009
This is out of character for this blog, however, a good laugh is sometimes the best view to theology; enjoy
DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your Coke can across the room, denting the freshly-painted part which you had carefully set in the corner, where nothing could get to it.
WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say, ''What the....??''
ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age.
SKILL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make framing studs too short.
PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.
BELT SANDER: An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.
HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.
VISE-GRIPS: Generally used after pliers, to completely round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.
WELDING GLOVES: Heavy duty leather gloves used to prolong the conduction of intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.
OXY-ACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your shop on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub you want the bearing race out of.
TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.
HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.
EIGHT-FOOT YELLOW PINE 2X4: Used for levering an automobile upward off of a trapped hydraulic jack handle.
E-Z OUT BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool ten times harder than any known drill bit that snaps neatly off in bolt holes thereby ending any possible future use.
BAND SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside edge of the line instead of the outside edge.
TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect.
CRAFTSMAN 1/2 x 24-INCH SCREWDRIVER: A very large pry bar that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end opposite the handle.
PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids and or opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.
STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws.
PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.
HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to make hoses too short. Works equally as well on boxes and thumbs.
HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent the object we are trying to hit.
MECHANIC'S KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing work clothes, but only while wearing them.
Any handy tool that you grab and throw across the garage is also, most often, the next tool that you will need.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
What is Lectio Divina?
It begins with silence.
Distinct from other ways of approaching the Bible, the ancient Christian practice of lectio divina (spiritual reading) is the primary mode of reading the Bible for transformation. There is a place for reading large portions of the Bible in one sitting, such as an entire book, but this is not it. Here we are concerned with depth rather than breadth. There is also a place for Bible study, in which we apply exegetical tools of interpretation, but this is not "study" per se. Rather, lectio is a way of allowing the mind to "descend" into the heart, so that both mind and heart might be drawn into the love and goodness of God. Our goal is immersion. We are shaped by the environment in which we live and breathe and interact. Lectio immerses us in the deep and timeless waters of God, that more of God's eternal life might flow into our time-bound lives - a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God.
In its classic form, lectio comprises four elements, although there are many variations on them with different wording and emphasis:
lectio (reading with a listening spirit, intimately, slowly, attentively, reverentially; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe, gently, quietly listening to hear a word or phrase that is God's word for us this day)
meditatio (reflecting on what we are "hearing", "ruminating", allowing it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires)
oratio (praying in response to this hearing, in dialogue with God, that is, as a loving conversation, an embrace; and as consecration, to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences and to find healing), and
contemplatio (contemplating what we will carry forward into our lives, wordless, quiet rest, enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God).
We can also refer to these basic elements of lectio as listening, reflecting, praying, and obeying. Lectio divina has no other goal than spending time with God through the medium of the Word. The amount of time we spend in any aspect of lectio divina, whether it be rumination, consecration or contemplation depends on God's Spirit, not on us. Lectio divina teaches us to savor and delight in all the different flavors of God's presence.
When these elements are combined—regardless of sequence, for they overlap and intermingle in a circular rather than a linear way—they lead the human spirit into a dynamic interaction with the Holy Spirit. In Lectio Divina we offer ourselves to God; we are people in motion. In ancient times this inner spiritual motion was described as a helix - an ascending spiral. Viewed in only two dimensions it appears as a circular motion back and forth; seen with the added dimension of time it becomes a helix, an ascending spiral by means of which we are drawn ever closer to God. The whole of our spiritual lives were viewed in this way, as a gentle oscillation between spiritual activity and receptivity by means of which God unites us to Himself and ...
we discover that there is no place in our hearts, no interior corner or closet that cannot be opened and offered to God and ...
we dare to believe that our loving God continues to embrace us today.— Richard J. Foster & Fr Luke Dysinger
Monday, February 09, 2009
Thomas Aquinas' in his book Summa states: "...[humanity] is directed to God as to an end that surpasses the grasp of [its] reason."
" ... a bird in hand is worth two in the bush ..." is the expression of belief in the context of passive faith. In spite of the revelation of God as faith being active in the dispersion of His gifts and provision to His Church and His people, there exists a propensity to hold to what seems certain and secure, rather than entering in to a seemingly ambiguous life however promissory that life. It presumes what is seemingly ambiguous is reality. It deflates faith and belief denying the existence of God, it makes an atheist out of a seemingly believer. It presumes that what is at hand is of greater value than what God has prepared and provided. It assumes that there is no greater than what is in the current possession of an individual. It screams - HOLD. It affirms the Malthusian framework of hoard and capture for personal life and gain.
This is reasonable. This is highly practical; pragmatic. Is this safe? Is this secure? Is this the life God calls us to live? It's the difference between what Aristotle called a "passive" and an "active" intellect. The passive intellect is defined by the way in which the various factors "limit each other and converge" on a decision.
The criterion for the passive decision is found in the psychological make-up of a person, the factors and environment which exist in past and present and are affective in forming the evaluative mechanisms of decision-making. The active decision views the opportunities and possibilities in light of the revelation of God and the immensity of His provision and His unlimited power and authority.
The crux is what Tillich claims is the 'centered' self.
Tillich, defines what "centered" means by implication, " ... by referring to perspectives which take in the various relevant considerations and impulses contributing to a contemplated action and evaluating them by means of a sense of self, including: one's goals, hopes, fears, needs, abilities, disabilities, and including one's sense of what life is about. The last is the crucial part--the sense of what life is about, (the ontological framework) ... if a person does not have that sense, then they have no overriding concept or sensibility by which the competing psychological factors contributing to a decision should be ordered."
We live in a world of polarized opinions and perspectives, one perspective represented by the pole of destiny, the existential framework, that psychological center lending itself to decisions based on safety, security, a bent towards abating fear and ambiguity. This is a position of enslavement, preferring the security of the known existence regardless of the inclination of the heart for the deeper expressions of life; the quest and realization of freedom. It is acquiescence to destiny and fate as predictable outcomes of the extension of our person; it is acceptance and contentedness with the value systems of this world and a passive concurrence to be satisfied with those values; it is acceptance of a norm of existence which refuses to move beyond reason and doubt and embrace the awe and wonder of God's provision and care; it is to consent to live life trusting in the things of this world, understanding and knowing they are not worthy of our heart. It is easier to live life with past failures holding life in check, than to step out again and chance that success will be achieved. It is easier to live life in the context of 'limiting factors' and therefore 'converge' on a decision, which, if not disabling of faith, at the very least, affirms a mistrust of the intentions and abilities of God.
This perspective is expressed in the following quote, "If we are fully human only in achieving a centered sense of self by which we transcend the various factors that motivate us as beings in the world, then never, ever, can we be fully human and identify the sense of self with any of the possible factors that can compete to determine us as an object rather than a self or person. ... we distort ourselves by elevating a contingent good into the center of the decision process where the contingencies should be evaluated, not determining the evaluation. ... how is it possible to have a sense of self that is definite enough to be the psychological center that gives meaning to our lives without that definite sense of self becoming a distorting, degrading, idolatrous "object of life" which prevents the active engagement of a human personhood as the determining center of our lives(?)"
If our understanding of our 'centered' self is viewed in the context of possession, prestige, power and influence than we are the 'objects' of our belief and faith. Belief and faith are no longer operative decision-making tools. The sum becomes the sum total of our existence. Belief and faith become accessories to life not the necessities of life. We are less the person for the effort, we have devalued our existence to that of only existing, " ... exchang(ing) the truth of God for the lie, and worship(ing) and serv(ing) the creature rather than the Creator, ... " We are denying God's existence and His right to be obeyed and glorified.
As we condescend to the thoughts and intents of the world, sacrificing the moral and spiritual aspects of our Christian life to obtain the temporal good life and not the eternal God-life, the reality of who we are in Christ Jesus acting as a free agent of the King of Kings is lost. Our individual sense, and subsequently our corporate identity, is never fully realized due to the nature of the imprisonment of our understanding of who we are as God's children. We reject the promises and exhortations of God to " ... present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service. And not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Facing God with the choices and options before us as children of God, actively presenting our bodies, as they represent and embody the 'outward organ of the will', as an act of reasonable, rational and spiritual obedience, is the minimum requirement, containing the maximum reason. "How can the body become a sacrifice? Let the eye look on no evil, ... Let the tongue utter nothing base, ... Let the hand work no sin, ... this suffices not, but besides we must actively exert ourselves for good; the hand giving alms, the mouth blessing them that curse us, the ear ever at leisure for listening to God" (Chrysostom).
"...[humanity] is directed to God as to an end that surpasses the grasp of [its] reason."
If only we understood the love of God.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
" ... most congregations are functionally atheist. This does not mean that they do not believe in God. This means that they have a hard time using God as the subject in a sentence with an active verb. God is absent in the functional imagination of a congregation, trapped either in a distant heaven or a distant past."
" The church here is a closed environment with little imagination beyond what it can produce in its own ability and power. ... their lives are totally explainable by the sum of their parts. And most of the time this results in dreary."
"Sometimes the lack of God talk is an absence of nerve, or even the result of humility, not wanting to claim for God things that do not belong to him."
The other side is -
"Our awareness of God also makes us aware of our own limitations, our propensity to make a god out of the projection of our own desires. Here, God is so immanent that every detail of life is a "God-thing." This travels by two names in my book: triumphalism and idolatry. To talk of God so pervasively and confidently betrays an over-identification between God and church."
This is dangerous theology, a form of prosperity gospel. "It collapses the holiness of God. It refuses to acknowledge that the victory of God is hidden in a cross, the glory of God hidden in human suffering. These things are not always easy to see, especially by people whose perspectives are limited by circumstance and sin. I love Luke Johnson's little line in relation to discerning the will of God. We should always be "modest before the mystery."
Thursday, February 05, 2009
"When I see the blood, l will pass over you"
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
We need a Savoir.
Acts 4:12, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
What can man do to appease the wrath of God, to atone for all our sin, to escape the punishment so justly deserved? Nothing you do will in any way make amends to God for even one evil work, word or thought. If you could from now on do all things well and perform perfect, uninterrupted obedience, it would not atone for what is past. Not increasing your debt would not discharge it.
But suppose perfect obedience from this day forward could atone for the sins that are past; this would be of no profit, for you are not able to perform it in any point. Begin now to make the trial. Shake off the outward sin which constantly besets you. You cannot. How then will you change your entire life from all evil to all good? Indeed, it is impossible unless your heart first be changed.
And are you able to change your own heart from all sin to all holiness? No more than you are able to give life to a dead body and raise one who lies in the grave. You can do nothing in this matter; you are utterly without strength.
To be deeply sensible of this, how helpless you are ---- as well as how guilty and how sinful ---- is that repentance which is the forerunner of the Kingdom of God. One step more, and you will enter in. You do repent. Now, believe the gospel.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
1 John 3:8, "He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning." Sin’s enormity is seen in what it has done to man: it has completely ruined his nature and brought him under the curse of God. Sin is the source of all our miseries; all unrighteousness and wretchedness are its fruits. There is no distress of the mind, no anguish of the heart, no pain of the body, but is due to sin. All the miseries which mankind groans under are to be ascribed to sin. It is the cause of all penalty: Jeremiah 4:18, "Your ways and your doings have procured these things for you. This is your wickedness, because it is bitter, " ... know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing ... " because it reaches to your heart."
Men regard sin as an infirmity, and refer to it as a human frailty or an hereditary weakness. Others measure sin by the pricking of their conscience, by the measure of the guilt they feel and in this they perceive so little criminality in sin that they persuade themselves that a few good works will make full reparation for it or imagine that a few tears will wash away its stain.
Sin is sin, Rom. 7:13. "That sin ... might become exceeding sinful" is a very forcible expression, denoting the want for a comparison, expressing the need for a name greater in intensity than its own name and unable to find any Paul joins a strong epithet to the word sin, calling it " ... exceedingly sinful." In like manner the doubling of an expression is used in Hosea" ... because of the evil of your evil" (Hos. 10:15, literal trans.) implying that there is no greater way of stating the darkness of their hearts than to use the term twice. We can say nothing more evil of sin than to term it what it is; "sin, that it might appear sin".
There are four great evils in sin: the total absence of the moral image of God, the transgression of His just law, obnoxiousness to His holiness, and separation from Him -
The odious appearance of sin is seen in the description given in James 1:21, " ... all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, ... " which is an allusion to the stream which provided for the removal of the temple waste. In the absence of a moral image of God, God's hatefulness of sin is seen in His curse upon the very creatures who hold the greatest of favour, " ... for the indescribable sufferings which divine vengeance will then inflict upon them are sin’s rightful wages."
"Sin is a malignant spirit of independence." "Its language is "I am. I am my own, and therefore I have the right to live unto myself." Thornwell pointed this out, "Considered as the renunciation of dependence upon God, it may be called unbelief; as the exaltation of itself to the place of God, it may be called pride; as the transferring to another object the homage due to the Supreme, it may be called idolatry; but in all these aspects the central principle is one and the same."
" ... there is none that seeks after God’.’ (Rom. 3:11), it follows that there is none with any practical sense of His excellence or His claims. The natural man has no desire for communion with God, for he places his happiness in the creature. He prefers everything before Him, and glorifies everything above Him. He loves his own pleasures more than God. His wisdom being "earthly, sensual, devilish" (James 3:15), means the celestial and divine are outside his consideration. This appears in man’s works, for actions speak louder than words. Our hearts are to be gauged by what we do, not by what we say. Our tongues may be great liars, but our deeds tell the truth, showing what we really are. How little recognized and realized is the fact that all outward impieties are the manifestations of an inward atheism!"
"If, " ... by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil" (Pro. 16:6), it clearly follows that in the absence of any awe of Him they rush into evil. Every sin is an invading of the rights of God. When we transgress His laws we repudiate His sovereignty. When we lean on our own understanding and set up reason as the guide of our actions, we despise His wisdom. When we seek happiness in gratifying our lusts, we slight His excellence and consider His goodness insufficient to satisfy our hearts. When we commit those sins in secret which we would be ashamed to do in public, we virtually deny both His omniscience and omnipresence. When we lean on the arm of flesh or put our trust in some device, we disbelieve His power. Sin is turning the back upon God (Jer. 32:33), kicking against Him (Deu. 32:15), treating Him with the utmost contempt."
"Stephen Charnock rightly pointed out, "Those therefore, are more deserving of being termed atheists who acknowledge a God and walk as if there were none, than those that deny God, and walk as if there were one."
"He who disowns the authority of God disowns His divinity. It is the unquestionable prerogative of the Most High to have dominion over His creatures, to make His will known to them, and to demand their subjection. But their breaking of His bands and their casting away of His cords (Psa. 2:3, "Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.") are a practical rejection of His rule over them." Sin consists of utter contempt of God, conducting ourselves as though there were none infinitely above us who has an absolute right to govern us, to whom we must give a full account of all that we have done and left undone, and who will then pronounce sentence of eternal judgment upon us."
"Sin, as an operative principle in the soul, is virtually the assertion of self-sufficiency and self-supremacy; thus it produces opposition to God. Sin is not only the negation but the contrary of holiness, therefore it breeds antagonism to the holy One. He who affirms and asserts himself must deny and resist God. The divine claims are regarded as those of a rival. God is looked upon as an enemy-the carnal mind is enmity against Him—and enmity is not simply the absence of love, a condition of mere indifference, but a principle of repugnance and virulent resistance."
"Sin brings us into God’s debt, and this produces aversion of Him."
Whether we comprehend this state or not, it is into this quagmire of inveterate and entrenched opposition and repugnance of God that we are born. We see in the world a corporate heart indisposed to all holy duties, finding those duties; denial of our lusts; denial of our wants; denial of the claims of God; the absence of love; indifference to the plight of our neighbour; the pursuit of possession, pleasure and prestige; the denial of Divine providence; subjection to - and a right appraisal of the Sovereignty of a Holy God; the acknowledgement of the purity of the Divine will in relation to our impure heart; these things and others which are detestable and vexing ... "Since the palate of man is corrupted, divine things are unsavory to him, and forever remain so until his taste is restored by divine grace..." are irksome and burdensome; we see the hatred of God’s law and the rejection of His Christ. We see a lack of recognition of His mercies, and the despising of the riches of His goodness and long-suffering. The world mocks His messengers, resists His Spirit, flouts His Word, and persecutes those who bear His image. Proverbs 1:25, " ... because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, ..."
Instead of meekly submitting to God’s will and adoring His righteousness, men declare Him an unjust Governor, demand that His wisdom be guided by their folly, and malign Him rather than themselves! This too is sin.
Psalm 51:2-3, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me."
Exodus 13:18, "So God led the people around by way of the wilderness ... and the children went up harnessed ..."