Friday, March 26, 2004

"Forward Motion" (reliant k)

whoa-o...i've been banging my head against the wall
whoa-o...for so long it seems i knocked it down, yeah it got knocked down
whoa-o...and the heating bill went through the roof
whoa-o...and the wall i knocked down was the proof
that my landlord needed to kick me out

i got evicted now i'm living on the street
my spirits lifted...oh wait, that wasn't me
too many turns have turned out to be wrong
this time i learned that, i knew it all along

when car crashes occur
then i'll be what you were
when i see what i should
when i see that it's good (that it's good)

to experience the bittersweet
to taste defeat
then brush my teeth
experience the bittersweet
to taste defeat
then brush my teeth

cause i struggle with forward motion
i struggle with forward motion
we all struggle with forward motion
cause forward motion is harder than it sounds
well everytime i gain some ground
i gotta turn myself around again
it's harder than it sounds
well everytime i gain some ground
i gotta turn myself around again

whoa-o...i've been banging my head against the wall
whoa-o...for so long it seems i got knocked out. yeah, i got knocked out cold
whoa-o...and the medical bills went through the roof
whoa-o...and the scar on my head is the proof
that i'll still remember this when i get old

i got evicted now i'm living on the street
my spirits lifted...oh wait, that wasn't me
too many turns have turned out to be wrong
this time i learned that, i knew it all along

when i grasp the concept
then i'll sleep where you slept
when i know i need help
when i allow myself (allow myself)

to experience the bittersweet
to taste defeat
then brush your teeth
experience the bittersweet
to taste defeat
then brush your teeth

cause i struggle with forward motion
i struggle with forward motion
we all struggle with forward motion

cause forward motion is harder than it sounds
well everytime i gain some ground
i gotta turn myself around again
it's harder than it sounds
well everytime i gain some ground
i gotta turn myself around again

cause i struggle with forward motion
cause i struggle with forward motion
we all struggle with forward motion

[in background:]
(cause forward motion is harder than it sounds.
well everytime i gain some ground
i gotta turn myself around again
cause forward motion is harder than it sounds
well everytime i gain some ground
i gotta turn myself around again)

cause i struggle with forward motion
cause i struggle with forward motion
we all struggle with forward motion

cause i struggle with forward motion
cause i struggle with forward motion
we all struggle with forward motion

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

theological impotence

"The African theologian who has experienced the agonies of having a burning appetite but nothing to eat will surely theologize differently on the on the theme of food from the American theologian who knows the discomfort of having a plate full of steak but no appetite." (Mbiti, John. "Theological Impotence." Third World Theologies. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1976.)

I look for evening snacks because I am hungry after their third meal of the day.
I couldn't decide what shirt to wear this morning.
I have at least five Bibles within reach (close to 20 if you count the ones on my computer).
I can sit in one place and be tempted to indulge just about every physical sense imaginable--all on the same computer screen I read Bibles on.
I have an estimate of 1500 books in my personal library (e-texts included).

I know of people who will feed their guests first, followed by father and the wife and children get whatever's left--and they think it rude if the guest does not eat.
I know of people with three shirts.
I know of people with portions of the Bible.
I know of people who practice church discipline.
I know of a library made up of an armload of books that serves training pastors in Western Kenya.

God help us and our pitiful excuse for theology.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

socrates meets frigidaire

Galatians 6:1-5

What kind of person does it take to bear burdens?
That depends on the size and/or kind of burden.

Well then, what would it take for a large burden? Describe the person who could move, say, a refrigerator/freezer by himself.
Well, he could take a dolly or hand truck and . . .

By himself, I mean. With no tools. What kind of person could lift that burden?

A rather large person, I would think. With broad shoulders, hands like bricks, arms like tree trunks, I suppose. He must have a broad chest and thick legs. His arms must be able to wrap around the burden, or at least his hands must get a good grip on it.

What about a little girl? Could she bear the burden?
Of course not! She is too small, too frail! A little girl is too delicate and could be injured!

Consider this: what if the refrigerator was full? What would the burly man have to do to move his burden so as not to damage the contents?
Lift carefully and slowly, I imagine. He would need to squat down, grasp tightly, lift carefully, move slowly, replace gently.

Could the little girl move a full refrigerator? Could a little girl handle the burden?

Well, putting it that way, there may perhaps be a way.

How could she bear the burden?
The little girl could move some of the burden, but not all.

How do you imagine that?
She could move the contents of the refrigerator a bit at a time, but not the entire unit at once by itself.

Does the little girl, then, bear the burden?
Certainly, but not all of it.

But she does bear a significant part of it, though it be pieces at a time?
Without doubt.

What ways could the man move the contents and the unit?
He can lift the lift the unit but the contents may not remain intact; or he could unload the unit then move it.

If the two were teamed, would it be beneficial for the man to do all the work for the little girl?
Not if they were expected to work together, no.

Does bearing one another’s burdens mean we must take the full weight of what others bear on ourselves?
If would be nice if one could do that for me . . .

But what of his own burdens?
I am not sure I follow.

If one, who bears his own burdens, takes the entire burden of another on himself, who then bears also the responsibility for the additional burden?
Responsibility belongs to the one to whom the burden belongs.

Is it reasonable for the burden bearer to assume responsibility for the additional burden? If the burden contains consequences, should he be the one to bear the consequences of the additional burden also?
Of course not.

Then what is the ministry of bearing one another’s burdens?
Taking a part of the load, not all of it.

It is expected that one be burden-free before one helps another?
That would be expected, but impossible.

Why?
Because each has his own burden to bear.

And . . .?
If you took all my burden plus your own, you would take twice the load

Like a man lifting a full refrigerator?
Yes--and what damage could occur to the delicacies!

Then what kind of ministry would that be?
An incredible ministry!

Matthew 11:28-30.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

the meaning of wisdom and knowledge

In his book "Abide in Christ", Andrew Murray writes:

. . . [T]here are a thousand questions that at times come up, and the attempt to answer them becomes a weariness and a burden. It is because you have forgotten you are in Christ, whom God has made to be your wisdom. Let it be your first care to abide in Him in undivided fervent devotion of heart; when the heart and the life are right, rooted in Christ, knowledge will come in such measure as Christ's own wisdom sees meet. And without such abiding in Christ the knowledge does not really profit, but is most often hurtful.

The soul satisfies itself with thoughts which are but the forms and image of truth, without receiving the truth itself in its power. God's way is ever first to give us . . . the thing itself, the life and the power and then the knowledge. Man seeks knowledge first, and often, alas, never gets beyond it! God gives us Christ, and in hid the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

O let us be content to possess Christ, to dwell in Him, to make Him our life and only in a deeper searching into Him, to search and find the knowledge we desire. Such knowledge is life indeed.


1 Corinthins 1:30 "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption."

May God grant philosophia to become philoChristophia. It is not wisdom or knowledge I would like to get to know better.

M.I. Findlay describes what Greeks thought about science and thought:
"Knowledge was good, wisdom the highest good, but its aim was to know, not to do; to understandman and naturein a contemplative way, rather thanto conquer or change nature, to increase efficiency or improve production."

So where does, "know thyself!" and "the unexamined life is not worth living" lead? NOWHERE! It isnot enough for one to examine life in a "contemplative way"--one cannot put his hand to the plow and look back! Jesus said the one who does this is not fit for the kingdom!

Plato had a notion of absolutes in forms, but what good does it do a man to nod at them and do nothing to impliment them and be changed by them? While Plato would say it was impossible to apply a form (because we live in the realm of shadow/non-reality) he certainly went out of his way to record "The Republic!"

The Republic is said to be a measuring rod, but it not a very good one: man is to live in a society that will change him (judge the effectiveness of society by whether and how a man is changed)--how can this be if one does not allow change? How does an idea change a man? Where is a living force in intangible reality? Plato could not find it because Socrates reasoned his way into a corner where he found a perfectionistic cod that judges and punished men because society is not perfect, nor can man make it so.

And we wonder where the Greek Empire is today . . .

I just started doing something that in itself may recieve criticism--I am spending the next couple of weeks meditating on the scripture and The Stations of the Cross. The reason for my doing this is that I may contemplate, be changed by He who is Life Itself and under His authority continue in my ministry in helping others draw close to Him . . . and I may come after you . . .

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

rant on scandal

[my apologies for multiple copies to those who receive this by e-mail]

I found a copy of Anne Emmerich's "Dolorous Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ" online (see sidebar). [by the way: "dol" means "pain"] I am reading it because it is from this work that Mel Gibson derived much of the imagery used in "THE MOVIE." This is the primary extra-biblical work Mel is chided for consulting for various reasons. Most people (Protestants, mainly) don't realize how much of the book influenced the movie and they walk away singing the praises (?) of the movie and try to put down the Catholicsm of it--they have no idea what they are saying. . .

Before I am accused of committing cinema-olotry or am declared a Gibson-ite, or becoming Catholic (many Protestants are more influenced by Catholicsm than they know!), allow me to simply say that I am reading the book because I am interested in sources.

I dwell in the realm of academics, where students are taught (among other things) how to use resources in order to produce a significant contribution in an area of discipline or field of study. In short: research papers and dissertations "converse" with resources.

Every other book you read depends on resources. Every TV show and movie--I don't care what it is--has been carefully researched.

I don't think it is fair to gripe at Mel for using the Dolorous Passion as a resource. I have read far too many articles lately that chastise Mel then turn around and quote others for their defense. Hypocrisy!

Here's my question to you: have you read anything and thought, "gee, I wish I could have thought of that!" Well, consider then what Mel has done.

Another question: Have you ever resisted to the point of shedding your own blood against sin (Hebrews 12:4)?

How much have you set down to really think about what Jesus experienced for you and me?

Whether this actually happened or not, it is believed that Ann Emmerich asked Jesus to physically experience what He felt. Regardless of the validity of the event--WOULD YOU DARE TO DO IT? What she wrote is supposedly the result of her experience. Even if it never happened physically, the fact remains that someone had to sit down and THINK ABOUT IT!

Have you THOUGHT ABOUT IT?

And Mel used it and we cringed in our seats!
It was not Mel nor Ann we are uncomfortable with! IT IS THE SCANDAL OF THE CROSS!

The Christ of The Passion: What the Movie Couldn't Show

If that is not enough, go here for free download: The Passion's Great Omissions - What The Movie Doesn't Tell You
* * * * *

Thou lovely Source of true delight,
Whom I unseen adore;
Unveil Thy beauties to my sight,
That I may love Thee more.

Thy glory o’er creation shines;
But in Thy sacred Word,
I read in fairer, brighter lines,
My bleeding, dying Lord.

’Tis here, whene’er my comforts droop,
And sins and sorrows rise,
Thy love with cheerful beams of hope,
My fainting heart supplies.

Jesus, my Lord, my Life, my Light,
O come with blissful ray;
Break radiant through the shades of night,
And chase my fears away.

Then shall my soul with rapture trace
The wonders of Thy love;
But the full glories of Thy face
Are only known above.

Words: Anne Steele, Poems on Subjects Chiefly Devotional, 1760.

Monday, March 15, 2004

tabula rasa

As I sit here at the keyboard and think about writing, I think about how my journal first appears or how this page appears before me now. Line by line, page by page, the spaces will be filled in, from empty to full. As I write, this "clean slate" becomes less and less empty, more and more full.

As a reader, you cannot see what I see. You see the result, the line upon line, page upon page, words creatively manipulated in space. Words do not fill up every space as space itself is used to differentiate between words. The space assists the communication process that you, dear reader, my ascertain what is on my mind, in my heart.

(Anticipating the philosophical repercussions . . .) In a sense, this is our life. There is a writer and there is a reader of life. Who is the writer? Particularly, I am the writer of this entry, but I am not the author of my life. I am merely the page, as a book does not write itself, nor does it read itself but bears witness of that which is written. The writer can be the reader, but what the author writes glorifies himself when others read what is written.

It is written that Jesus the author and perfector of faith (Heb. 12:2). I am to be the blank page before Him. As a book in progress, far be it from me to tell the author what to write. God wants to be God--I have no choice but to let Him.

What has He already written? "I will write my law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God and they shall be my people." (Jer. 31:34). What God has written glorifies Him--the law He was written on my heart is understood when the author Himself is understood.

We understand the Jesus the the Word, and the Bible is the Word. One is a revelation of who God is, what He is like. What is on His mind and heart? When God opened His mouth, Jesus came out. What God says, how He acts is recorded in scripture.

"Spaces": Written language depends on spaces between words--that words may be differentiated from others. OtherwiseIhavetoomuchfunwritingandyouhavetoomuchworkreading. The ancients wrote sans punctuation or spacing. Our style is more developed and eases the communication process.

What occurrs to me is this: we seek to be and should be filled with the Holy Spirit. The reason is for the Word Himself to live through us and in us. This is why I say that it is alright to present ourselves to Him as a "Tabula Rasa".

Note the times of emptiness, void in life and how during those times we no longer feel full and energized and "in touch with God." This is a time of "spacing." I cannot support this from scripture, but what makes sense to me is that when I am empty, I am to learn what He communicates to me about Himself that I have not understood before.

Spacing does not mean the communication process has stopped; rather, it should mean that one word, paragraph, line, page of our life is completed and He is working on the next. As a blank page we should remain open and receptive for the next pen or key-stroke be it here
or here
or (space) here
(space)
or (space) (space) here

Spacing indicates progression!

In the same way a paragraph is distinctive by its indentation or spacing. A new paragraph begins with exaggerated spacing. This sets the paragraph apart from others, building on the context of the one before it.

Significant changes in life do not indicate our book is finished and a new started. The book is finished when the book is closed--only the author knows.

As the words fill a page, the Holy Spirit should fill us, leaving room for growth, differentiation, progression and transformation. From empty to full, according to the purposes and intentions of the author.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

i want to be a bookmark in God's book of life.

I love a good book.
Here are some splendid quotes gleaned from the Free Book page at Monergism:

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library." -- Jorge Luis Borges

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."
-- Francis Bacon. 1561-1626. Of Studies.

"Too many books, not enough time."

"Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?" --Henry Ward Beecher

Beware that you are not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.
-- John Wesley (1703-1791)

Friday, March 12, 2004

if life is but a dream, why does Mikey like it?

I had a terrifying dream last night—and one feature that bothers me about the dream is that it seems to have lasted the entire night. I woke a few times in the course of the evening; yet, when falling asleep again, the dream simply continued without interruption. Another feature of the dream is that it was disturbing. Very disturbing. A bad dream? No, disturbing—more than bad.

I’ve wondered throughout the day if it was really a vision more than a dream. It was vivid, enduring, consistent over time and I remember it—which indeed is significant as I seldom remember any dream altogether.

Whether dream or vision I don’t understand what it means nor do I understand what I am to do with it.

One co-worker of mine tells me that dreams have significant in Pakistan. She recounted to me the occasion of a man to whom her husband was sharing the gospel. Being the good Muslim, he would talk and listen but would not submit to Christ. One day the man came and shared a dream he had the previous night.

The man said he saw a figure standing before him with long, white flowing robes. In the Middle East this is not unusual, so he was pressed for more information. The man then described the figure with white hair and eyes of fire. Excitedly, the man was asked, “what did the figure say?” Now this got the man’s deeper attention as he had not mentioned anything the dream-figure said or did. The man recounted how the figure told him to listen to all he heard from this missionary, for what he said was truth. Sadly, we do not know if the man ever made a decision for Christ.

Most dreams, if remembered, are generally disregarded as they have little or no significance. Even if I did remember one of my dreams, I am certainly able to retain no details worth analysis.

I have made a note to self: explore the character of biblical dreams and visions. It seems that visions contain more detail than dreams, though both contain communication from God.

My dream was of my torture and execution.

For some reason I had been convicted and arrested and was to be killed. There were arguments over my captors (guards?) as to whether I should be shot or hanged. They settled on the latter—though I remember distinctly asking for a bullet to the head.

Details of the dream (vision?) I am able to recount but will not. To say the least I was continually bound hand and foot and the noose was placed around my neck. I was constantly and slowly hoisted into the air for period of time and was the recipient of acts of brutality I cannot report.

Sometimes I was ushered from cell to cell, from one place to another—sometimes to say goodbye to family (though I never saw my wife and children) and friends or be tormented by my holders.
At the end of it all I finally awoke with the expected feelings of panic and relief. I also had the distinct impression of Jesus saying to me, “you could never know what I did for you.” (This is why I am convinced that Mel Gibson’s movie was not as gory as it could have been).

Now, what am I supposed to do with this? Obviously, I have conceded to interpret the dream according the statement I believe Jesus wanted me to consider.

For one thing, life was miserable (to say the least) on death row. Jesus was never on death row—He was on death LIFE.

It should go without saying that each person lives until he dies. I don’t know how many people live with death in mind—I know I certainly don’t. I remember spending one semester in College taking a course on “Death and Dying.” We were encouraged to dwell many hours on the subject. But it was not like the dream.

Jesus lived His life with His death in view. Jesus lived His life knowing fully well of His own horrendous, painful and terrifying death. He knew He was not merely going to die, as you and I might—but that He would die in agony. He was not merely going to die, as you and I might—He would give His life away.

Murdering criminals die of punishment.
Victims die of cruelty.
Jesus died of love.
Jesus died for sin.

Every time in the life and ministry of Jesus you see the word “Passover” or “the feast”, this is a reference not a “holiday” of remembrance and a reference for what would happen to Jesus as well. Since He was a baby His family joined with thousands of others to celebrate the Passover. Every time He observed the feast, He was faced with what He would face later in life.

Can you imagine what Jesus must have thought through the course of His life, how He must have felt every time he looked at someone? As a child, how did He play with them? When He worked, how did He work? When people celebrated, what joy did He experience?

When the Romans dealt with criminals, did Jesus simply avoid that side of town?
What was He thinking when He saw others crucified?
Certainly the Romans didn’t start crucifying people the day they nailed Jesus to a cross.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Levi's lament (Matt 9:9-10)

There are times when amid all the stresses and tensions of life, when I find I am under intense pressure from all the demands placed on me. I am stressed physically, emotionally, spiritually, even financially. And I feel small. Squashed.

inadequate.

I am drained.
Absolutely drained.

I work, bills must be paid, church demands my attention, family needs a husband and father--and I am drained.
Empty.

I have nothing left to give.
I am stripped of everything I can possibly have and all around me there is the incessant clamoring for more.
It is during these times I stand and and scream inside: “WHAT IS LEFT TO GIVE?”

Each time I meet the great needs in my life and realize I cannot fulfill, I remain to hear these words echoing chasmically all around me, “I need from you.”
And all I have to say is “nothing remains.”
I have nothing left to give.

I’ve begun to realize that when all is gone, two things remain: myself (naked, bare) and God. This is a rather odd circumstance. I trust Him to provide for my people, my religion, my very being--and while the world spins, society and politics grind on and on, demanding more and more of me. And I have nothing left to give.

Then Jesus comes along and breaks me apart religiosity, asking for a relationship. Asking for what IS left--me.

Between home, church and work, my calendar is full. I have obligations placed on me that I must fulfill just to live in this culture, thus my work is necessary to meet those obligations.

Similarly, I have answered God’s call in my life, which also incurs other obligations for which I am not financially reimbursed for the utilization of my own talents and abilities.

All around me people recognize their obligations as I do, and though many do not darken the church’s door, they work long and hard and seem to be well off, having little or no need. Socially, this is a point of tension. But I am a reject anyway. A tax collector. Somewhere between slime and women.

People hate me.

But I have one sure thing they havn't got--a relationship with God in Christ Jesus. While they are out finding themselves and making a place in life, they are losing it. So, am I really "losing it"?

Why do I get upset at my social failures when it is my discipleship that really counts?

On one hand, God strips, reduces to nothing; on the other hand, He provides. To follow Him is to lose everything. To follow Him is to gain my soul and lose the world.

He shows me during these hard times something else I must let go of. See, God wants our complete and undivided attention. There is no half-way. Anything that is in the way of our relationship, in the way of my discipleship must be removed. He wants my complete and total trust in Him.

When has God never provided?
Sure, there are times of want and need, but when has He not shown Himself in those times?
Has He provided materially in every circumstance? Yes and no. Sometimes a lack of physical, material provision is a provision in itself. But in some way He comes through last minute. This is how I know it is Him. But like Israel, in times of gain, I take my eyes off Him and He starts the process all over again.

I have not grown to fully understand; rather, I believe I am now growing as I gain understanding.

Salvation is not rescue from danger, like when a person is saved from disaster, because eventually both rescuer and victim part ways. Salvation is deep, a transformation. Not conforming to a way of life alone, but transformation into being a new creation.

I wonder what I look like to Him, a new creation. I wonder what I must look like when I stand before Him saying, “what’s left?” I don’t know, but the answer is always the same--” follow Me”.

He is coming over to eat dinner with us . . . and He is bringing folks with him. I think I'll have some friends over, too.

prepare for battle before it begins

(i wrote this about 3 years ago. i felt it was appropriate considering the context of previous posts).

Read Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13
The Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus at His baptism was not an arbitrary event. The divine event marked the start of a life of dependence. We could spend the words discussing the humanity of God and the role of the Spirit in this regard; however, at this time we will be satisfied with this one principle: Jesus immediately demonstrated the human life in complete submission to God
under the control of the Holy Spirit. He did not wander about letting life happen as He tried to discover where He could fit in. Rather, the divine work in humanity was happening to Him from the moment He was compelled to return from Jordan (Lk).

Think about this: does “return from the Jordan” mean that He had once already been in the wilderness on His way to be baptized? If so, note: nothing significant happened between Galilee and the Jordan. In fact, nothing “noteworthy” happened at all until the Holy Spirit came upon
Him.

His temptation lasted at least forty days. Luke notes that “when those days ended He became hungy.” After this moment, the writers record a significant conversation, with the exception of Mk and Jn. Mt and Lk indicate the fact that here He was vulnerable. The tempter was there and had been there.

A thoughtless glance at His circumstance may lead one to say that God led Jesus astray, throwing Him into the temptations of the devil. Or, one may say that Jesus got lost or ask “how can the Spirit lead any person to the brink of sin?” I suppose that is just it--humanly speaking, to be tempted is not to sin. To follow the temptation and succumb to it is. Temptation points toward
sin. So how is this event “temptation” for Jesus? What does this mean?

First, one must remember that Jesus the man is God, living a fully human life. We don’t know the many things He faced in those forty days, but it must have been temptation in relation to His very being. Second, we must remember that God was in control of the situation--Jesus was led to this
place.

One principles we would glean from this passage: be aware. Be aware of the Spirit’s leading, be aware of your surroundings and be aware of the outcome. If we are following the Spirit’s leading, we do not enter some euphoric state and blindly enter situations over which there is no control. Jesus was in the wilderness and knew there was no provision for His body there--and it would
remain that way.

Satan attacks us at our most weakest spot. What benefit has any enemy to attack a strong point? I think of some of the ancient strongholds of the Vikings and Celts--they forced the enemy to make attacks at the strong parts of their fortresses while they defended the weak points with moats, pits and strategically placed weapons.

We must remember that our battle is not fleshly but spiritual. Deception can divert our attention and leave the weak spots unattended. We cannot prepare for the battle once it has begun.

Jesus could easily have turned the stones to bread and nourished his body, but the temptation was just this: Jesus was obeying the Holy Spirit to fulfill the will of God as and in humanity. The suggestion came from outside God’s will, outside His purpose. He would not utilize divine power for self-gratification. God did not want His power to be used at the suggestion of the enemy. Who does God obey? God cannot be enticed to use His power--He must will it!

Examining the rest of this passage, Mt notes that Satan took Jesus other places. These events will not be examined here but consider the scripture in light of what has been discussed already. The point is this: no matter what Satan did, Jesus was fully aware of the Spirit’s leading, where He was physically and spiritually and had His sight looking ahead to the outcome. Jesus commanded Satan and he did--this is the only divine power seen to be exercised on the part of Jesus--Satan could not disobey His authority!

a strong wind for a flickering flame

I mentioned previously that the whole temptation in the wilderness event was not to see if Jesus could cut it as the Son of God—like if He failed here they needed to find someone else for the job—but this is exactly where we join the conversation. Look at Satan’s challenge, “If you are the Son of God . . .” The second challenge is like unto the first.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The deceit, the lie of the devil consists of this, that he wishes to make man believe he can live without God’s Word. Thus he dangles before man’s fantasy a kingdom of faith, of power, of peace, into which only he can enter who consents to temptation; and he conceals from men that he, as the devil, is the most unfortunate and unhappy of beings, since he is finally and eternally rejected by God.”

One writer called temptation, “a strong wind for a flickering flame.”

Thomas A’Kempis from the 1300’s approaches temptation from another direction: “temptations are often very profitable to us, though they be troublesome and grevious; for in them a man is humbled, purified and instructed.”

Should we want temptation?
No.
Should we expect temptation?
Definitely.
Will they go away?
Eventually, but not on this side of death.
Can one run away from temptation?
Only as far as God has provided the way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13)

If Thomas was right to say that “the beginning of all evil temptations is inconstancy of mind and small confidence in God,” we should expect a stronger mind and larger confidence in God. But Jesus suffered no inconstancy and no small confidence. Thomas may have simply made the same mistake we most often do; that is, to equate temptation with sin. Being tempted is not sin. Acting on temptation is. Jesus was tempted and did not sin. Jesus had the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit, and He gives the same to us. That way we may enter temptation one of two ways: in the flesh or in the Spirit.

If we walk according to way and in the power of the Spirit, we enter victorious to be victorious. If, on the other hand, we enter temptation by the flesh and so think to win, we wonder how we succumb to temptation and are puzzled and dismayed in our defeat.

Jesus did not enter temptation in the flesh and come out of the ordeal spiritual. He entered spiritual and came out spiritual! Look at it this way:

Enter temptation defeated, Exit temptation defeated.
Enter temptation an average Christian, Exit temptation defeated.
Enter temptation a normal (victorious, spiritual) Christian, Exit temptation (victorious, spiritual) a normal Christian.
Enter temptation fleshly, Exit temptation fleshly.


Saturday, March 06, 2004

Survivor: The Wilderness

Matthew 4

40 days is a long time on anybody’s calendar. I wonder what crossed His mind when the Holy Spirit prompted Jesus to go into the wilderness. I am sure it was not a spontaneous, “I think I’ll go to the wilderness for, I dunno, 40 days and eat nothing while there.” It’s not like it was “Survivor: The Wilderness” or an idea for a really cheap vacation.

When the Holy Spirit brought this to His mind, what was His reaction. The most obvious reaction is that He went. But did He know He would be gone that long? Did He know He was not to pack a cooler?

What there an overwhelming urge to go sit on some rocks and contemplate God? Was there an irresistible compulsion to go out of town for the purpose of seeing how much temptation one could endure?

I cannot help but think of the level of awe and reverence some African tribes have for God. Their summations can help inform our theology: some see God as so transcendent, so far above and beyond, so “out there”, that He gave the stars just to point our eyes in His direction and realize we would never comprehend just where He is.

Then there is the balancing view of God’s immanence--His nearness. There is nowhere to turn without meeting Him. Many tribes understand His immanence as “bad” or “horrifying.” They would say that if you were alone in a deserted place and were met with an overwhelming sense of dread and terror, that you were in the presence of God.

What did Jesus feel out there?

Did Jesus tell someone where He would be and for how long He would be gone and when He would return? Did Mary know? Did anyone know? The last anyone saw of Him was the river Jordan after He arrived from Galilee. The Spirit knew because God arranged the event. Satan knew because the purpose of Jesus’ going was for the purpose of being tempted.

We are not given a catalog of the event of those 40 days. We are only given three events at the end of His temptation. These three are not the only ones He endured, yet they were most significant. Apparently, this was supposed to be at a time of His extreme weakness, as signified by His growing hunger. How could a man go that long THEN become hungry? His passion was tremendous!

Here is an act of Spirit over mind and body. The Holy Spirit led Jesus to an out of the way place that He could wrestle and agonize over temptation in an out of the way place. I am bothered with the frequency of times I have set up situations that involved temptation and told myself in the depths of my mind that I would pass or fail, depending on what I wanted to get out of it. There was really no fight. But for Jesus there was. His purpose was not to see how close He could get to failure so He could say how bad it was to finally “endure.” He entered the temptation armed with nothing but the Holy Spirit in His mind and body. How awesome to consider the mental and spiritual gymnastics that occurred in those days---constantly confronting and addressing thoughts and behaviors and attitudes and bad theology BEFORE they manifested into sin.

Here is the ancient question: was Jesus able not to sin, or not able to sin? He was perfect; therefore, not able to sin. What He has given us the is ability to not sin. The freedom we have in Christ is not freedom from sin but the freedom to not sin. But that’s another blog.

I am certain that Jesus did not merely sit on a rock with His hands folded, watching the sun, moon and stars in their courses above.

The story is told that after a large bridge had been constructed over which trains would run, the engineer of the bridge had a long train of supplied test the bridge. When the train got out onto the bridge, he ordered the engineer to stop the train, and stay there on the bridge all day. Why? Not to see if the bridge would collapse, but to prove that the bridge would not collapse.

Jesus was not tempted to see if He could cut it as the Son of God, or if this incarnation thing would work out. He did not spend all that time to see how perfect would hold out in the presence of sin. He did not go out there to see if the Holy Spirit would fail. He went out there to demonstrate His Sonship, the efficiency of the incarnation and how the Holy Spirit works.

Jesus went under the leadership and in the power of the Holy Spirit to prove God’s faithfulness, to prove that the mind, body and spirit would survive an onslaught of Satanism when plugged into the Holy Spirit and come out to the praise and glory of God.

C.H. Spurgeon said, “When Satan tempts us, his sparks fall upon tinder; but in Christ’s case, it was liking striking sparks on water; yet the enemy continued his evil work. Now if the devil goes on striking when there is no result, how much more will he do it when he knows what inflammable stuff our hearts are made of.”

I wish I could remember the source of the quote so I could say it rightly, but someone once said to the effect: “better to fear the flames of heaven than the fires of hell.”

Solitude and retreat do not guarantee serenity and warm fuzzy spirituality. Instead these are an invitation for the devil to follow. Why? That we may test where we are on the lust of the eye and the pride of life scale. Did Jesus need to check where He was no the scale? No, He was calibrating it.

The King of Tribes has spoken!

Friday, March 05, 2004

The first day

Matthew 3

As I write this, the music of Spring is piping outside my window. The performer has perched herself in a tree by my window and the heavenly bird-song provides a divine sound-track for this chapter as I read. I imagine the day here described was filled with just as much music and sunshine!

C.H. Spurgeon wrote: “It is pleasant to pass over a country after a storm has spent itself; to smell the freshness of the herbs after the rain has passed away, and to not the drops while they glisten like purest diamonds in the sunlight. That is the position of the Christian . . .” As he continues, the imagery brings the rain into a downpour, then a storm, then an outright hurricane! He closes, “O sinner, when wilt thou hide thy head, or whither will thou flee? O, that the hand of mercy may now lead you to Christ!”

John the baptizer came along not as the rainstorm that ruins everyone’s parade, preaching repentance and the coming King, but he came as liquid sunshine that nourished dry and dying roots. He called people to come to the water, to publicly proclaim their changed hearts, to state bodily their decision to hear and obey God.

The baptizer’s words in 3:7 do seem odd when you look at them. I picture a large tangle of snakes, threading over each other, racing from a raging fire. How do they know to flee? How do sinners know to flee wrath? Fleeing requires turning the back. One runs from fire by giving his back to the heat. This is what John means when he says that repentance is fruitful. Turn your back on the wrath to come—now you’re getting somewhere!

I wonder what Jesus was thinking this day. I wonder if he softly paced his way down the road and “excused me” softly through the crowd to the shore; or, did He run full tilt down the road and show up breathless on the back, searching for John. I wonder if the event occurred as pastorally as we picture or have seen it in art.

Whatever the emotion, Jesus came from Galilee. I have no doubt it was an exciting day, a real “thumper.” This was to be the first day of ministry. The day in which He would declare publicly His obedience to God. This is the day Jesus must have said, “Today, I get to be filled with the Holy Spirit!”

There was a commercial for a cereal I think, where this guy went through his daily routine and at every moment said, “I lowered my cholesterol.” He says it in the drive-thru, answering the phone, passing by meetings in offices (like he still had a job at the end of the day), walking past people in the hall, even in the elevator.

I wonder if Jesus rolled out of bed that day thinking, “I get filled with the Holy Spirit today.” I wonder if he made up a tune for these words and whistled it down the street, perhaps sang it out when purchasing some breakfast from a market vendor. I know this may be a bit much, but I don’t think he was depressed about it: “C’mon. Let’s get this over with" and kicked cans down the street.

Spurgeon helps us to imaging how the Holy Spirit came that day: rapidly, quietly, purely. He came softly, as the wings of a dove are soft. He came bringing peace that reigns when He comes in power. He came gently, harmlessly, not as a bird of prey. The Spirit came in love. And Jesus loved it.

Is it really that bad if history repeats itself?

Matthew 2.

So that’s it, right? God did some strange and wonderful things before and He did it once more by causing a virgin womb to be with child. Remember all those barren wombs in time gone by? But here He is, Jesus is born, grows up and we are saved, right?

No. History repeats itself. Precisely, God showed us in time past what He would do now.

Reminiscent of creation in Genesis, a star captivates the hearts and minds of men and they come to worship. In the pattern of Exodus, the hateful king kills male children. Joshua and Jesus share the same name (Yeshua) and the people continue in their sin pattern as they did in Judges. Jesus is the Davidic King, only without an earthly throne—do you see where this is going? The prophets are quoted constantly by Matthew that the Jewish readers would not mistake who Jesus is—they should recognize Him! For all who pay attention, there is a play-by-play already written on the life of Jesus in the OT! His birth, life, death, resurrection, glorification were all recorded long before He actually came--Matthew takes great pains to show us only some of these things--it should have been no surprise that He would come.

Let us briefly consider how people react to all of this. God was acting and people had to react. Joseph quietly and quickly obeys. Magi move mysteriously out of love for their King while the heathens rage and the nations are in an uproar (Roman occupation of Israel) while others do homage toward the Son (See Psalm 2).

Why do we look so far out to see what God is doing? Why do we think that when He acts it will be an unheard-of miracle? God is acting right under our noses, sometimes doing the same thing He has always done. The problem is, can we recognize it?

When I heard the reports, I was not certain what I was going to do. Part of me wanted to avoid it altogether; yet, I knew that curiosity would win out. I just had to see it. Nothing could prepare me for what I saw and heard.

I’ve discovered (and hereby report) that words fail. There is no way words will communicate exactly what I would like to say about it. And I noticed that others are having the same problem--if indeed one could call it a problem. I’ve noticed that all I have read or heard mention that they come up against some barrier when trying to articulate their reactions. And we have most all heard the reactions. I now have a better grasp of who are believers and who are not.

Obviously I am speaking once more of “The Movie”; or, as one put it in today‘s terms, “The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre”.

I am convinced that the movie was not as graphic as the actual event and the movie delivered much more than anyone needed--or perhaps we did need it. I’ve talked about many aspects concerning the torture and execution of Jesus, but for some reason, I never fully comprehended all this implied until now.

We were certainly not left much to imagine, that’s certain. This movie will be to us what Cecil B. DeMille did for the 1950’s and the Ten Commandments. But Gibson did not give us concepts. He gave us concrete. What DeMille gave us then was such a good interpretation that people’s memory of the Exodus is tainted with his story. Ask anyone to describe the Exodus, and most will describe that movie. Gibson gave us accuracy and images we will never forget.

I run the risk of continuing with Siskel-Ebert-isms. The fact I was faced with was this: (Heb 12:4 KJV) “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin”. Or as the Contemporary English Version says, “None of you have yet been hurt in your battle against sin.”

So I am taking another look at Jesus.

Matthew 1: “The Record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah . . .”

Looking for water implies that water can be found. One finds water not by where it is (remember, it is lost and must be found). One begins his search by discovering where it has been.

In Northern Kenya, some tribes get their water from wells that form in the ground. It is a rather odd process, but one generally looks for sharp indentations in the landscape, then begins to dig until water “wells” up out of the ground. At that point, a barrel is sunk into the ground as a catch-basin and water can by pumped out into a larger reservoir.

Martian scientists (that sounds funny, doesn’t it) are doing basically the same thing right now, as I write. Spirit and Opportunity are buzzing their way around the Martian landscape, not looking for water directly, but are looking for where water has been. Scientists learned how to do this by using the same principles on earth and they are finding rocks that are smooth, channels, washes, even mineral deposits that gush a flood of tell-tale signs that water was once there.

What does this have to do with Matthew, Chapter 1? This book begins with the traces of trickles near the fountainhead. This chapter is a list of ancestors. So? Well, if you want to find something that will benefit, better follow the signs . . .

These genealogies are evidence of where God has been and what God has been doing. Take a look:

Abraham, beyond child-bearing years, bears the markings of God’s touch and there is now an indelible mark on the world. Abraham should not have had children, yet be became the dam-break of a nation.

Isaac, Abraham’s son, should have been childless as well; as a matter of fact, he should not have lived at all. But he bears the unmistakable marks of God who saved his life, no, gave him a new one altogether.

Jacob should be nothing more than a name on the list, being the second-born. God made certain he received all the rights and privileges of the first-born, moreso, was given a new name, a new identity and became the root of an entire nation.

Judah. What was he doing here? He was the fourth-born of thirteen (11 brothers and one sister). It seems that since Isaac, each generation should be swept further and further under the rug. Where is God going with all these people? What is He up to? Judah sold his young brother into slavery, lied about it, didn’t like to mourn, slept with his sons’ wife (he was tricked) and should not really be in this list. Yet, if Tamar had not tricked him, he would not have been shocked into realizing what righteousness looked like (I’ll explain this if you want--just ask!) and finally became the one to help turn the family around!

The stream takes us to this narrow passage where we rush through Boaz, Ruth and ultimately, King David. Here is another instance of a hall of shamer---but not in God’s lineup! David was one who went through the rapids and was touched by God again and again.

On and on the stream flows--now we are getting somewhere! Like the River Anduin, we flow through the Argonath of Israel’s kings.

I hope you are getting the idea that God is at work and is going somewhere with all of this. We are reading the Moldau of Redemption! All this is building and flowing together and now, we are swept up to splash in the pool of Messiah!

Life Rocks

Last week was the opening of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” (and with that statement I hereby join the millions who are spending this next part of their lives realizing how much harder it will be to rationalize sin). Last week was also our World Christian Week at Columbia International University (and with that identification I hereby declare my love for Christ Jesus and desire to be obedient to raise up disciples to Him).

We heard Dr. Ramesh Richard speak last week on “God’s Heart: My Role” and he opened our University WCW Missions Conference by speaking on three big things we need to keep before us: Passion, Mission and Vision. The first of which actually had nothing to do with the movie; although Providentially blends my thoughts together here. Go here for the whole message: Life Rocks

Dr. Richard helped us with understanding Passion by simply asking: “What do you get excited about? What do you love so much you would die for it? What have you set your heart on ?” He described how our heart is made for one passion, and only one passion and that anything other than this one passion causes stress and tension in life.

Our one passion should be to simply love Jesus with all our heart, mind, soul --the rest will run over onto our neighbor. If we miss out on loving Him rightly, we will love all else wrongly.

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