Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Founders Ministries Blog: What I saw in "End of the Spear"

Founders Ministries Blog: What I saw in "End of the Spear"

From the "what it's worth" department, I'm not going to see it. Portrayal of murder of any kind is just not entertaining. I don't care who is "involved" in the story.

And you know what really torques me off? We are raising a bigger stink about "End of the Spear" than "Brokeback Mountain!" It's getting Oscar nods! (insert puking noise here)

C'mon people!

chapelblog: "I Can Show You the World"

"Relationships" by Dean of Students, RSwift

One themes of the Bible is Relationships:

  • God Created man;
  • God made a covenant with man;
  • Christ prayed for mankind in the garden--for unity.

Our Handbook lists 5 goals of spiritual formation:

  1. Relationship with God: Students should demonstrate a growing intimacy in their relationship with God, as evidenced in the worship, prayerfulness and faith.
  2. Biblical Self-Image: Students should demonstrate a biblical understanding of themselves
    rooted in Christ, as evidenced in these areas of confidence, self-discipline and stability.
  3. Relationship with the Body of Christ – Students should demonstrate a growing relationship
    with the body of Christ as evidenced in the areas of community, unity and submission.
  4. Personal Relationships – Students should demonstrate a growing maturity in personal
    relationships, as evidenced in purity, faithfulness and servanthood.
  5. Relationship with the World – Students should demonstrate a desire to serve God
    fully as they engage the world, as evidenced in the areas of eternal perspective, conviction and perseverance.

The Spirit works in the context of community of believers. Relationships are for our growth. Are we true to relationships? We tend to over-inflate ourselves and make ourselves somebody we are not. Who are you to others? Our inclination is to think of self first. If you are not real, you will wear yourself out.

Read James 4:1-3

Eph. 1-3 Vivid pictures of relationships. We are:
1:5 Adopted children;
2:19 Members and civilians;
3:14-19 A family

Our responsibility: Read Ephesians 4 and 5, because it cannot be said any simpler.

What does this say to you and your situation when you just "hang out" with friends?
What does this say to you and your situation when you post a blog or go on MySpace?
What does this say to you and your situation when you date?

There is nothing vague here. I will not tell you anything you have not read in these verses.

These go on to address both wives and husbands. Make holy your wife.

This can apply to the engaged--present the other person to God holy and without blame.

Main application: Purity is required in relationships. This is an absolute standard and we need to surround ourselves with people who won't show you the world--this is no basis for relationships--but with people who will help you imitate Christ.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

No room for Moses: the presence of God, missing leadership and golden calves

[I've spent the entire weekend shifting gears. I've not been able to write at all, but have certainly made an effort to read and think. I can't get away from Exodus 32. I should be on Exodus 40 by now. I will try to make my thoughts concise.]

People + left to themselves = disaster.

It's been just over a month. God promised His presence among the people and they way the people saw it, as long as Moses was around, God was there too. After all, it was through him God made manifest his great work. But Moses was gone. Just over a month without a leader. The people were insecure and left to their own devices.

Moses had taken Joshua and the elders part way up the mountain and they fellowshipped there before the LORD. Moses and Joshua had not returned. Some claimed they could see Joshua from time to time overlooking the camp, but Moses had disappeared in the fire. All the people could see and hear was the fireworks of rumble-mountain, a silhouette of Joshua and Aaron sitting on his front porch.

Aaron and his sons were selected by God to serve before the LORD on behalf of the people in the tabernacle, only they did not know that yet. Nobody came down the mountain to tell them this. Interestingly, the people tapped Aaron as their newly appointed leader. Aaron knew he was Moses' mouthpiece, but this . . .

The people knew the presence of the LORD was to be with them, and based on what they understood about God, somebody had to be in place. They asked Aaron to make them the God the delivered them from Egypt. The people were not trying to abandon the worship of the LORD, they merely tried to make sense of what they understood about Him-and it was the wrong understanding because they broke the very first commandment. They did not know this yet, but God would still hold them responsible.

But why did Aaron do it? Intimidation? Shame? Hoping to entertain the people until the situation solved itself? I think he was going for the latter, for he tries to explain the idol virtually leaping from the flames. This would mean that Aaron would not be the symbol of God's presence, but the golden young bull. "Albright has insisted, on the basis of archaeological evidence, that the bull was the throne of Yahweh and that he was conceived of as standing or sitting on it. So to be able to control the bull showed his strength and power. It has often been suggested that the choice of a bull was due to the people's familiarity with bull worship in Egypt, but it is hardly credible that they would have attributed their deliverance from Egypt to an Egyptian god. Far rather it will have been a hangover from the distant past, for among the Canaanites the bull was a regular symbol of divine power."[i]

Aaron presented a representation of God. The people of God who once stood at the foot of the mountain in fear and anxiety disintegrated into debauchery and lewdness that became excused as an expression of worship. Aaron seemed powerless.

What followed was dynamic. God broke the news to Moses about the people and Moses broke God's news to the people. Moses appeared in the camp, called for all who were on God's side and once again the camp fell into terror. "The God who had delivered them from Egypt's armies and from death by thirst and hunger now had delivered them to death at the hands of their own brethren. Had God spared them just to slay them? Had Moses, their mediator, actually become their murderer?"[ii]

God is displeased with the rejection of the people. They rejected His person, His Word, His works and sought to avert their eyes from the terrible mountain to whatever was close at hand. I wonder what happened to those elders who ate under the feet of God on that mountain? What did they go down and tell the people?

A few things stand out to me:

  1. Syncretism is the lack of ethics and discernment, wreaking havoc on true worship of the living God with a huge trickle-down effect.
  2. Effective Ministry occurs in golden-calf country. The man saturated in God's presence, the one who holds the glow of God's presence on his face is not the one who makes golden calves for the people. Our work is not to build them, but grind them up.
  3. Golden calves are molded in the shape of ones sins, carved by the rejection of the true and living God. People who claim to know God but are not committed to living according to His word will construct an image of their own.
  4. Golden calves are threatening to leadership: it overwhelmed Aaron and caused Moses to second-guess. The people do not tell the leadership what to do.

Perseverance is key: Moses was with the LORD 40 days. He had it. The people were without leadership for 40 days. They did not have it. Aaron was with the people for 40 days. He lost it.

Fast Forward to the end of the book:

The people had the wrong idea about God were now getting the right ideas about God. Where formerly they had identified the presence of God with Moses, that was corrected with the reality of God’s presence among them.

It is in the last chapter we read of all the LORD commanded Moses to do. As the commands were fulfilled in the construction of the tabernacle, the glory of the LORD descended and filled the tabernacle until there was no room for Moses.

A.B. Simpson wrote in teaching about the Christian, “Even so we have a been building as the LORD Himself commanded, and now the temple is to be handed over to Him, to be possessed and filled. He will so fill us, if we let Him, that self and everything else will be taken out of the way. The glory of the LORD will fill the temple, encompassing, lifting, guiding, keeping; and from this time our moon shall not withdraw its light, nor our sun go down.”

[i] Ellison, H.L. Exodus. The Daily study Bible series. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, c1982.
[ii] Cornwall, Judson. Let Us Draw Near. Plainfield: Logos, 1977

Monday, January 30, 2006

What the LORD makes good to me

The LORD has promised good to me:
Forgiveness of my sin;
His rescue from the deepest pits,
and healing without, within. (Ps 103:1-4)

Understand and know the LORD
Who love and judgments make known;
Holds wisdom, might and wealth from me,
As all these are His own. (Jer 9:23-24)

We know God calls and works His plan
In those whom He did choose;
These show Him love and on their behalf
Works all things for their good. (Ro. 5:8)

The Word of God is a two-edged sword
That pierces in between;
Discerning gossamer threads of being,
that none have ever seen. (Heb 4:12)

copyright, James K. Wilson, Jr., 2006.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Herescope: Africa Watch Update: Missionaries told "not to minister the Word"!

Herescope: Africa Watch Update: Missionaries told "not to minister the Word"!: "We interrupt our series on how the Emergent Church was formed by the Leadership Network to bring an important update on Africa!

We have been concerned for some time about the activities of Rick Warren and Bruce Wilkinson in Africa for a number of reasons. One of our concerns has been about whether true evangelism would be permitted. As we studied the material pertaining to short-term missionary training and follow-up, and examined the relationships between the 3-legged stool of Corporate-Government-Church partnerships, we began to suspect that these short-term mission projects were simply civic activities and had little or nothing to do with the presentation of the Gospel. We are sad to report that new information has just come in that confirms our grave suspicions."

Between Two Worlds: Barna's Revolution

Between Two Worlds: Barna's Revolution: "Three professors from Indiana Wesleyan University have penned a letter to their students, encouraging them not to buy into Barna's Revolution book."

Three professors from Indiana Wesleyan University have penned a letter to their students, encouraging them not to buy into Barna's Revolution book.

Thinking about: Hebrews 4:12

The word of God does things to people. Don't believe me? Somebody reading this right now is either accepting it or rejecting it. Someone is either ducking it or being discerned by it. Why? Because God's Word is contemporary despite all temporal gaps, applicable despite all geographic and cultural gaps, and personal despite opinion.

God's word is living. Older translations say God's Word is ''quick". Though the word used in Greek is that rightly translated ''life' or ''living", we should not be so hasty to dismiss ''quick", which is really an older word for "life". Our current use of "quick" is used to denote speed and haste. I like this word because the English helps us grasp the kind of life the Bible has--expedient. The Word of God does not sneak up on people as it is ''there" already, waiting for us to catch up to it that the Holy Spirit can interpret it to us.

It is alive, has life. This is why it is effective. Martin Luther wrote, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” A Kenyan Pastor friend of mine would say it "pulls out my claws and breaks off my tusks."

George Campbell Morgan was born in 1863 in a farmhouse in England. The son of a Baptist preacher, he preached his first sermon at age 13. When he was twenty years old, he suffered a crisis of faith. He read every book he could find, both for and against the Bible, both for and against Christianity, until he was so confused he couldn't go on. In desperation, he closed all of his books, put them in his cupboard and locked them up. Going down to a bookshop, he bought a new Bible, returned to his room, sat down at his desk, and opened it. He said: "I am no longer sure this is what my father claims it to be - the Word of God. But of this I am sure. If it be the Word of God, and if I come to it with an unprejudiced and open mind, it will bring assurance to my soul of itself." As Morgan began reading the Bible, studying its form and structure and unity and message, he was amazed. He later said: "That Bible found me. I began to read and study it then, in 1883, and I have been a student ever since."

The word of God meets us at the borders of our existence and demands change. This means that just as in times past, when God spoke some were convicted while others were converted. Some were saved while others were condemned and destroyed--and this ministry of the Word is still happening today. The living word of God meets life and shows its death, extending to the receiver the life of its author. Just a few days ago I posted this African hymn that is worth repeating again here:

“In the beginning was God,
Today is God, Tomorrow will be God.
Who can make an image of God?
He has no body.
He is as a word which comes out of your mouth.
That word! It is no more,
It is past and still it lives!
So is God.”

If God’s Word were not living, then we have the best opportunity to increase knowledge. Treat the Bible as just any other book, and it remains just another book. Recognize how it lives and you will find it is not like any other book.

Gipsy Smith is quoted to say, "What makes the difference is not how many times you have been through the Bible, but how many times and how thoroughly the Bible has been through you." That’s what swords do. They go through. The Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword. The Word of God is that which is found in the mouth of the golden lampstand-walker, the son of man, the golden girdled one with head and hair white like snow, the bronze-footed one, the seven star-holder.

The Word of God pierces to the finest point where soul and spirit meets. This is incomprehensible, yet God allows us to do the impossible and see what cannot be seen. We get to see how deep it penetrates, and there is no place that remains untouched by it.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Thoughts on Ordination

Our Minister to Junior High students is being ordained this Sunday. Preparing for this event has caused me to reflect on my own ordination.

When I was Licensed to the Ministry, the church gathered around me and acknowledged the work God was doing in me and through me, giving their public stamp of approval before sending me off to preach and lead and ultimately, to go to Bible College. While in Bible College I got to serve in a couple of area churches in various levels of ministry. The last church I served wanted to extend Ordination in continued recognition of what God was doing.

We later considered a denominational change and possibilities for future ministry, but the denomination we were moving to did not recognize my Licensure nor my Ordination. No problem. I had graduated from one of their schools, so the work was not as rigorous, but I was seeking to be Licensed and Ordained—again. Long story short, I did not follow through on it. I did a good chunk of the work for Licensure, but felt convicted about acquiring for myself above and beyond what God had already given me.

Approaching Exodus 29-31 has been like revisiting Ordination all over again. Here God instructs Moses on the consecration, washing, anointing of the priests. He even gives instructions on how He would like to be recognized in the potluck afterwards—God even gives the menu and how to prepare everything! Other instructions include those pertaining to the altar of incense, atonement money, the bronze laver, the anointing oil and incense. Finally, God tells how to put the whole thing together and discusses the point of the Sabbath being the sign of the covenant.

I’ve been thinking about Ordination. That’s the one word that would summarize Exodus 29-31. The English word literally means, “to set in order.” Definitions include, “to invest officially (as by the laying on of hands) with ministerial or priestly authority” and, “to establish or order by appointment, decree, or law.” I like the literal meaning because it leans heavily on a standard whereas investment (to me) implies acknowledgement.

John Wycliffe (1320?-1384) said this: “In order to the existence of such a ministry in the church, there is requisite an authority received from God, and consequently power and knowledge imparted from God for the exercise of such ministry, and where man possesses these, although the bishop has not laid hands upon him according to his traditions, God has Himself appointed him.”

Text observations:

First, Aaron and Aaron’s sons are the objects of consecration here and God is going to make them holy before the LORD; that is, set them apart from the rest of the people to be closest to Him. Here is a small group of men standing on the same “ground” before the LORD—no one is greater than the other, as every action concerning them is aimed at Aaron and his sons.

Those ordained, appointed by God to stand before Him, are on level ground. We are all equal in God’s eyes as we are all co-workers together with God for the praise of His glory in Christ Jesus. Those ordained have been elevated to the lowest position. Everything the minister says and does is now above him. He is bound to serve the unservable in Christ Jesus (what does God need that we can possibly give?).

“Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor 3:8-9).

This simply means the ordained are called by one LORD to the one office to do the one work, and are accountable for it. There is no competition, no rivalry, but God who calls and God who places and uses as He wills. As co-workers the ministers work with each other, with God. Your concern is not their will but His be done. For this reason, the ordained are judged for effectiveness, not success. There is a great difference. You are responsible to God to serve Him with the gifts you have, not someone else’s’.

Second, what ministers do is up to God. What you do should be what God has told you to do. What other ministers do should be what God has told them to do.

Part of the job of the minister is to deal with the sin of the people. This is seen in the fact that Aaron and his sons were covered with blood. A sacrifice is involved because being a priest to the LORD is bloody work. I question the Sunday School pictures because they are too clean (I know, I know. Rated “R” imagery in the nursery is not preferred). When Aaron and sons got going, they were by no means clean. They were covered with splatters of blood, smelled like smoke and had a fine layer of ash in their beards. Why? Because they were dealing with people.

Can you imagine Aaron coming home with a clean robe and his wife looks at him and says, “slow day?”

Ordained men of God deal with people—their strengths, weaknesses, sins and contributions. It is easy to try to stand above people, looking down your nose and judging them. The truth of the matter is that people are weak, they are not committed, they don’t know what you know; but then again, you probably don’t know what they know and they may have strengths you do not. Only God knows the truth about a person and what He has called them to do. The question is, how are you doing at your hard work? God makes His servants stand. I suggest that if you are not bloody, your not busy.

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

Third, and this is implicit in the selection of Aaron and his sons, those ordained are not to be ordained quickly.

Part of my experience is that I think my ordination was rushed. Though I (or others) do not disagree with God’s hand and calling on my life, I believe those who ordained me did it with good intentions but were not ready. Certainly I was younger than now and have learned a great deal since my ordination, but I don’t think those who ordained me were ready. I say this partly because I am convinced they did not full know what to ask of me nor how to ask it. They tried hard to grill me, to assure the decision was right, and they did an adequate job, but I don’t think many knew or understood the implications of some of their questions to me. I think this was part of my decision to seek a second ordination, because the denomination change would involve not simply a rigorous examination (one year under a mentor plus 4 papers and an oral examination for license, and another year of mentorship plus more papers and oral examinations for ordination) but annual review for the rest of my ministry career.

Would you fill this out to be ordained? Some do. This is not a joke. If you don’t believe me, try it and see.

“Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” (1 Tim 5:22)

Hasty ordination is dangerous for you and the candidate. As a minister, you will have the wonderful privilege of being involved in the ordination of others. Guard it and guard yourself.
Ordination is being set aside to serve God in a world that could care less. The job is to preach the gospel, because they don’t want to hear it. The ordained are sheep among wolves. You are somebody’s lunch. But you are also consecrated, having eaten and having fellowship before and with the LORD.

  • The world will hate you because you are not of the world.
  • The world will hate you not because you are identified with His building or His altar, per se, but of His Cross. Everyone has a building. Everyone has an altar.
  • The world hates you because they do not know God. You get to introduce them and the whole affair is inconvenient and messy.
  • The world will hate you because you no longer stand for the status quo, but demand change. This is also called, “conviction of sin.”

    Just wanting to share that . . .

Thursday, January 26, 2006

that is not my blog: Things Jesus and the Apostles Never Said While Defending the Faith

that is not my blog: Things Jesus and the Apostles Never Said While Defending the Faith

It took me 20 minutes to decide which link to present . . .

"I want it THAT way"

I want to be perfectly, 100%, completely and truly honest here. I only skimmed Exodus 26-28. I did not read it. I skimmed it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read it before, I know what it says, but I did not read it.

Pretty boring stuff, right? If there was a “Better Homes and Gardens” channel of the Ancient Near East, this is it. I would crack a Martha Stewart joke here, but it’s just not the same anymore . . . thanks, Martha.

How to make curtains from linen and goats’ hair.
How to make boards and sockets.
How to make a veil and a screen.
How to make a bronze altar.
How to make a court.
How to make clothes for priests.

I mean, c’mon. I must have yawned about half-way through the first paragraph of the first chapter-skim.

Then I got convicted.

This is not “The Idiots’ Guide to Porta-Churches”.
This is not Extreme Temple Makeover.

These are the way God wants it done. These are God’s instructions to build what He wants built. These are His blueprints, His plan, His color selection . . . He even chose the appliances and the uniforms for those who will work there.

These are God’s instructions on how to make and shape and cut and cover and drape and paint and dress. He tells what kind of oil to put in the lamps, how to hang the drapes, how to dress.

This is the way God wants it done.

Isn’t that how it is, though? God says something and we yawn, we jump ahead, we pray a little faster (Oh, God, you know our hearts). God tells us what He wants and we shrug it off . . .

What happens if the Israelites took short-cuts, missed a step? One almost dare not think of it.

God was coming to live in their midst. The tent was small and the outer covering was ugly and the inside was the dwelling for the uncontainable.

Sounds like me—ugly on the outside, dwelling place of the most High God . . .

And I skip steps in life.

If you need me, I’ll be over here . . . reading . . . making certain God is satisfied.

Too much “doing”, not enough “being.”

[Today’s chapel was good, but the notes were more “conceptual” and would not serve well to post here (I anticipate this to happen at times). What follows could be considered a “rant”, something that has been eating at me for a while and I hereby publish it including one principle from today’s chapel at “the bottom line.”]

Every once in a while I will meet a guy who gets right to the point: reciting his resume and laying out his plan. This bothers me because this guy is a leader of some kind: a pastor, an assistant pastor, an elder or missionary. This bothers me because our conversation occurs because he needs something and is determined to find the quickest way to get it. I’ve observed some features that cause be great concern as it relates to leadership.

First, recitation of one’s resume is the first step of manipulation--the guy wants something I have access to and ''will" get it. I'm supposed to be impressed or intimidated; either way, I am expected to deliver. This is not leadership. This is foolishness. There is no wisdom in this. This is bullying and other bleepable words that good Christians should not say (much less think). Besides, I don't like to be manipulated, professionally or otherwise. I feel like telling the guy, “so what? I don't care what you've done, but I can tell it's affected who you are.”

Having "done my time" in the business world, I expect this kind of attitude and behavior from salesmen and executives of the world because money is the idol object. But when pastors and missionaries act like this, I worry. I worry because invariably one of two things happens, in no particular order:

1) They tell me (directly or indirectly) they are very, very busy; and,
2) They stop listening.

Right now I am looking at the January 2006, Volume 19, Issue 5 edition of ''Lad" magazine, a missions magazine for boys in Royal Ambassadors. On page 8 is an activity made of 7 cartoon images of a ''missionary" doing different things. One picture is of a woman reading the Bible. Another is of folded hands, prayer. The rest is of someone watching TV, eating, skiing, jumping rope, doing math. The Lad is to figure out how the missionary spends her time. "Draw a circle around the activity you think the missionary likes to do."

I’ve been shocked to hear missionaries and pastors say there was no time for personal Bible study and prayer because the ministry is too consuming. I wondering what he was doing on the field because, he just too busy. Leaders are being trained to run their ministries like businesses and it is killing them. And their ministries.

The second feature I've notices is that as I continue meeting people in various levels of ministry I continue to hear more resumes and more busy-ness, “just do whatever it takes to get to the bottom line.” No conversation occurs becuase they have either stopped listening or never started to begin with. Our rhetoric occurs (this is what conversation is reduced to) because they want to add more to their resumes, expecting me to do something to help them. When I explain what I have to offer, I put information in their hands. Nine and a half times out of ten I have to re-explain and re-explain and re-explain. And call back. And answer e-mails. And re-explain over and over. They want product via short cuts and are too consumed with trying to add one more spinning plate to an already wobbling rack, they dare not stop to think lest it all come crashing down. I'm a nice guy, I like to help, but I can't help someone who already has an agenda.

I get frustrated, andI worry. I worry because the last thing they need is one more thing in the schedule. I worry because they don't listen. I worry, because one principle of leadership is, "leadership is not manipulation." The people they lead must be suffering because they must be overscheduled and ignored.

I recently had a conversation with a Student Pastor (ministry to Junior and Senior High Schoolers) who told me he really had no interest in people, he just wanted to give more conferences. He had no interest in ministry or missions, he just wants to help people through giving speeches. My heart sank and I actually felt quite sick about this. Understand that he was certain to give me his professional pedigree and let me know how he deserved what I have to offer in the shortest time possible (our schedule was just not good enough for him—we are supposed to accommodate him).

I am tempted to delve into articles and books and banter more fully with leadership concepts being thrust upon people who are forgetting there is a Holy Spirit, who are forgetting how to pray and read the Bible, but I will not. A.W. Tozer gets right to the heart of the matter:

“Human nature being what it is, the man of God may soon adopt an air of constant piety and try to appear what the public thinks he is. The fixed smile and hollow tones of the professional cleric are too well known to require further mention. All this show of godliness, by the squeeze of circumstances and through no fault of the man himself, may become a front behind which the man hides, a plaintive, secretly iscouraged and lonely soul. Here is no hypocrisy, no intentional double living, no actual desire to deceive. The man has been mastered by the circumstances. He has been made the keeper of other people's vineyards but his own vineyard has not been kept. So many demands have been made upon him that they have long ago exhausted his supply. He has been compelled to minister to others while he himself is in desperate need of a physician.”[i]

Jesus said plainly, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Spend some time here if you are thinking about leadership. Here’s what I see:

Follow Me.
Follow Me and I will make you.
Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.

Bottom line: there is too much “doing” and not enough “being”. Who I am determines what I do. God tells me who I am—have I heard? Do I believe it? You have to answer that for yourself.

Wnat to learn about leadership? Look at people who led and didn't want to--the leaders God made.

  • Don't go looking for which Bible person you "are" because you are not someone else. You are you. God already used them. How is He going to use you?
  • Don't go looking for which leadership style you are because there is only one: obedient.

[i] Tozer, A.W. God Tells the Man Who Cares. Harrisburg: Christian Publications, c1970.

the cyberdeck dialogue

the cyberdeck dialogue: "I have been following the spiritual demise of Brian McLaren, and when I saw who he was working with, remembered a similar Christian leader who seemed to behave in much the same way at times.
If you’re wondering where I read that Paul was working with the Areopagus, a group of 'thinkers' and religious philosophers who call themselves after the name of Ares, the pagan god of war, the article can be found here. "


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Keeping the “get to” going

Exodus 23:

God’s people get to tell the truth, avoid the wicked and not run with the crowd to do evil, pervert justice or take sides indiscriminately.

God’s people get to return what is lost, help those who hate them by easing their burdens, keep justice, avoid falsehood, refuse bribes and treat strangers well.

God’s people get to feed their family and those not in the family, grant rest to all in the household and remain free from idolatry.

God’s people get to celebrate often before the LORD, giving careful tributes for the things He hath done.

God’s people get to go forward with the LORD’s leadership making the way, making certain His voice is heard. Those who disobey the LORD gets to know Him as an adversary. God’s people get to be used by Him to deal with others, so worship must remain unmixed and pure.

Exodus 24

Moses delivers the “book of the covenant” (20:22-23:33) to the people and everyone agrees, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!” (24:1-3)

In that wonderful narrative style of the Hebrews, the first three verses are repeated again, this time with emphasis on more details. After receiving the words of the Lord, Moses writes them down, builds an altar and worshipping (that was the plan, as he told Pharaoh), Moses then sets aside some blood to consecrate the book of the covenant and reads it to the people and everyone agrees, , “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!” (24:4-7) The agreement to be bound to the word of the covenant were sealed with blood (24:8).

Then they have the scariest pot-luck ever. Moses takes Aaron, his sons and 70 others up the mountain, they see God and they ate and drank. They fellowshipped. They pulled up a piece of ground and made themselves comfortable at the feet of the mountain-shaker. One way we can get an idea of what this must have been like is to do one of two things: picnic under a spewing volcano, or read Psalm 29 (note the imagery captured in this psalm, and don’t miss the final word that contrasts the entire picture).

24:12-18 is the entire story from Exodus 19 told all over again. Either that or Moses went up and down, up and down, up and down and had many conversations with God, receiving the law in bits and pieces at a time. I’m inclined to accept the first option [Please read early posts made since 1/1/06 for background on narrative style and how this “synoptic resumptive” style is typical of Hebrew literature].

Chapter 25:

God is preparing the people for His immediate “in the ‘hood” presence. They saw what He was doing through the plagues, they saw him in the cloud of fire by day and night and they see Him and what happens to mountain when He touches it. Now He is letting everyone know what to do to prepare for His immediate presence.

When they sat down to eat, God was letting everyone know 1) they should be frightened; 2) it alright, because He is taking care of everything.

I’m going to say this over and over and over and over again—this is the same God that indwells those who place their faith and trust in Him even today. Those people had fresh in their minds what it looks like to be on the receiving end of God’s punishments and what it looks like when the great Creator Covenant Maker judges little idols who are no-gods. They saw what happens when God helps people get to know Him in a not-so-good way. And they had strangers traveling among them who got the message clearly.

This God who breaks mountains is living in me—and you if you are regenerated in Christ Jesus. I am reminded in these verses that God-fearing is right. There is a tremendous amount of grace and mercy being shown to those who pot-lucked at His feet, even moreso to those who were at the base of the mountain. How much more did He extend grace and mercy to the same when He dwelt among them? How much more did He extend grace and mercy to me and not destroy me when He came to live in me? This is why when I sing “Open the eyes of my heart, LORD, I want to see you” I think of how much grace and mercy He extends because I (nor anyone else for that matter) could withstand the horror.

The place God dwells was not left up to man to design or make. God gave the pattern because He wants His presence among them to be enjoyable (read: tolerable). He was going to communicate compassion to them in this whole endeavor because they did not seek Him, they just sought deliverance from their captivity—but God had already attached a promise to them and was carrying through on His word. The Israelites are more than just chosen people. These are descendants of Adam and inheritors of that which cannot remain in God’s presence . . . sin.

One thing that jumps out at me is the description of all things concerning the tabernacle are backwards, God describing the construction of the most holy, most inward parts first. Looking at it, we would never see the inmost parts—but here is a description of God’s place first. God’s kingship is recognized as they prepared to make the sanctuary, the ark, the table and lamp stand. They made the items closest to His presence first of the most precious items. This is not Jewish "bling" and a pimped up tent.

Think about that . . .

This is the place of God's dwelling among men . . . they get to enjoy God's presence.

Do you?

chapelblog: 2 Kings 7 "The Good Samaritans"


No, not the one Samaritan Jesus spoke of. There was more than one good Samaritan.

Israel was in the sunset years. Elisha was the prophet of the Day (see Ch. 6). Ax heads were not readily available then as they are now. Elisha's servant was freaking out because the King was upset with his boss, but Elisha saw something the servant did not. We are not accustomed to using these kinds of tools in ministry.

Setting 6:24ff the King of the nation was bringing the wages of his sin onto his nation. Then he blamed God. He was not listening and unrepentant.

7:1 Gas prices are dropping (as it were).

Four lepers were sitting there and decided to do something. They encouraged each other. They thought they would see the end of the spear, but all they found was food and plunder. V.9 they realize they are not doing right and go back to announce the enemy was gone. One wise man urged the king to go see.

God will work in the most awful situations.
3 kinds of people:

  1. The unwilling and unrepentant among whom you must minister;
  2. The ones who just will not believe so matter what they hear;
  3. Leprous men who go out and do something that God uses to bring victory.

    Which person are you called to?
    How do you spend your time and resources?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Get your “Get to” going

Didja hear the one about the young preacher who wrote home to his preacher dad about the problem he was having? The son had just been called to a church in a university town. He told his dad that every time he preached and started to say something about science, he remembered that a scientist was in the congregation. When he spoke about history, he remembered that a history professor was present. He was also intimidated because of the English professor and the mathematician. “Dad, what am I supposed to do?” he asked. His father wrote back and said, “Son, just preach the Bible. They won’t know a thing about it.”[i]

What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?
Nothing. I just thought it was a good story.

Summary of Exodus 17-20: Moses is instructed to strike the rock at Horeb for water, and then Israel prevails in battle against Amalek. Now that the people are so many and need to learn to live with one another as God’s people and not slaves, Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) advises Moses to appoint men to help settle disputes and maintain order. God makes a covenant with the people, who prepare for the LORD to come down to Sinai, where God gives the table of contents to the law in the Decalogue (Ten Commandments).

Two things:

First, leaders are chosen people who get to do what they are told. Notice, I said, “get to.” Moses did not choose to be a leader, he got to be a leader. I will venture to say that he had reached point in his life when all desire was gone because the only vision he had was the south end of north-bound sheep. Now, he may have had high ambitions as a younger man for some kind of greatness, but I suspect the pin that burst his balloon was when his authority was questioned, “Who made you prince over us?” He had no answer . . . then. This is why it was important for him to ask God in the bush, “who shall I say sent me?”

There is no room for subjectivity if leadership is to be done accomplished in a godly manner, i.e., effectively. Moses could not in his wildest dreams come up with a plan on his own that included all the events he alone has experienced thus far. It is not humanly possible to move that great amount of people, much less deal with them once they were moved. God had to equip Moses with the tools He needed, the words to say, the mouth with which to say it (in Aaron), the direction to go (the cloud) and the discernment (in his father-in-law) to tap others to help because leadership is a huge endeavor. The only credentials Moses brought to the whole affair was inadequacy, stammering and bare feet.

This is astounding. Unheard of. By today's standard, Moses needs a conference or something . . .

Second, God’s people are chosen people who get to do what they are told. Notice again, I said, “get to.” Look at the Israelites and see where their heart is. Their “want-to” is someplace else altogether—if they are not looking over their shoulder back toward Egypt, then they are certainly looking out for their individual interests to the hurt of everyone else.

Israel as a young nations is learning very quickly that as God’s chosen people, He is going to live in their midst. Life is no longer the same. They get to do something different. God’s people get to live with God in their midst—the same God that made everything. The same God that made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The same God that floods the earth to punish sin and promises not to do it that way again. The same God that disperses people who come together when God tells them to spread apart. The same God that eliminates entire cities with fire and brimstone and turns people to salt. Yes, that God wants to live in the midst of His people.

The same God that judges nations AND their gods. The same God that brings plague after plague on people, and is able to allow those not to touch His own. The same God that kills only the firstborn. The same God that parts the sea with the breath of His nostrils and causes the earth split apart and mountains to smoke and rocks to shake and lightning to flash and thunders to trumpet and knees to tremble. Yes, this God want to be next door neighbors with you.

Is He safe? Is God safe? Of course not! He is great and terrible and swift and thorough. And he wants to live right smack dab in the middle of the hood.

God’s people get to enjoy His presence by living according to the way He prescribes. Or pay the price.

God’s people don’t get to worship any way they want. God’s people get to worship the way God wants. (20:22-26) [see Spurgeon quote, below]

God’s people don’t get to abuse others harshly or unfairly. God’s people get to treat others as if they were created in God’s image. (21:1-27)

God’s people don’t get to abuse the rest of creation. God’s people get to subdue and steward it for the one who created it all. (21:28-36)

God’s people don’t get to live for themselves, but others (22:1-15).

God’s people don’t get to be immoral, power manipulating oppressors (22:16-27).

God’s people don’t get to “vent” because they do not get their own way but are to center their lives around God. (22:28-31)

We get to live with HIM in our midst! Our 35 million laws cannot replace the handful of commands found here.

Thoughts from the quotables:

Guthrie: “If you find yourself beginning to love any pleasure better than your prayers, any book better than your Bible, any house better than God’s, any table better than the Lord’s, any person better than your Saviour, anyone better than your soul, a present indulgence better than the hope of Heaven—take alarm!”[ii]

Chambers: “We do not consciously disobey God, we simply do not heed Him. God has given us His commands; there they are, but we do not pay any attention to them, not because of wilful disobedience but because we do not love and respect Him. “If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments.” When once we realize that we have been ‘disrespecting’ God all the time, we are covered with shame and humiliation because we have not heeded Him. . . . Am I putting God in the humiliating position of having treated me as a child of His while all the time I have been ignoring Him? When I do hear Him, the humiliation I have put on Him comes back on me—‘Lord, why was I so dull and so obstinate?’ This is always the result when once we do hear God. The real delight of hearing Him is tempered with shame in having been so long in hearing Him.[iii]

Spurgeon: “God’s altar was to be built of unhewn stones, that no trace of human skill or labour might be seen upon it. Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange the doctrines of the cross into a system more artificial and more congenial with the depraved tastes of fallen nature; instead, however, of improving the gospel carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes another gospel, and not the truth of God at all. All alterations and amendments of the Lord’s own Word are defilements and pollutions. The proud heart of man is very anxious to have a hand in the justification of the soul before God; preparations for Christ are dreamed of, humblings and repentings are trusted in, good works are cried up, natural ability is much vaunted, and by all means the attempt is made to lift up human tools upon the divine altar. It were well if sinners would remember that so far from perfecting the Saviour’s work, their carnal confidences only pollute and dishonour it. The Lord alone must be exalted in the work of atonement, and not a single mark of man’s chisel or hammer will be endured. There is an inherent blasphemy in seeking to add to what Christ Jesus in His dying moments declared to be finished, or to improve that in which the Lord Jehovah finds perfect satisfaction. Trembling sinner, away with thy tools, and fall upon thy knees in humble supplication; and accept the Lord Jesus to be the altar of thine atonement, and rest in him alone. Many professors may take warning from this morning’s text as to the doctrines which they believe. There is among Christians far too much inclination to square and reconcile the truths of revelation; this is a form of irreverence and unbelief, let us strive against it, and receive truth as we find it; rejoicing that the doctrines of the Word are unhewn stones, and so are all the more fit to build an altar for the Lord.”[iv]

glitter graphics

[i] Brumbelow, David R. The Wit and Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow. Garland: Hannibal, 2005.
[ii]Hardman, Samuel G., and Dwight Lyman Moody. Thoughts for the Quiet Hour. Originally published: Chicago: Revell, c1990., August 15. Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998, c1997, c1994, c1990.
[iii]Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year, February 12. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993, c1935.
[iv]Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, July 14 AM. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

chapelblog: Rwandan Genocide of 1994

Bishop Josias Sendegeya [pictured in middle, below] Anglican Bishop of the Kibungo Diocese, Rwanda [Translated from the French by a visiting student.]

Born in Rwanda as son of Anglican priest.
The country not colonized because the country was under Belgium leadership. We don't have tribes like others in Africa. We have same language, culture and traditional religion thus one tribe with 3 ethnic groups. The problems we have are not related to Tribes. The problems began when Belgium began leaving they tried to divide the 3 ethnic groups, introducing identity cards noting which ethnic group one belonged to.

The error was based on group reassignment by the government based on profession. Farmers, cattlemen and hunters of each group were reassigned, becoming identified [reclassified] to other groups. Farmers were all classified together, hunters were all classified together and cattlemen were classified together. Then the Belgium government favored one ethnic group building schools, for example, and ridiculed the other groups.

One group rebelled against those favored and the military gave support. Anyone who wanted power had to use the military. The favored group was eventually chased from the country.

I left in 1973 because those who were educated became targets. I came back September 1994. The whole genocide took 90 days. More than one million killed. It was planned and well organized.

Why did genocide happen? We are one tribe, one country, language, and culture! Spouses were killing each other, children killed their parents. We had historically enjoyed intermarrying between groups, as we are all one tribe and intergroup marriages brought children who adopted the group of their fainter. But because of group confusion, people began killing each other.

Why was the church involved in genocide? Go there today. You will find the pastors and politicians both imprisoned. Some churches are genocide churches, the bones still inside. Why was the church involved? The church has had nothing to say since the genocide. Many see no reason to be part of the church and are moving toward Islam. Islam has been protecting people.

We thank God it has stopped. Many have returned to the church. The church is how working to unite and rebuild the country. Evangelism is strong in prison. Apologies are being made and forgiveness granted. Over 1000 have been confirmed. Villagers are coming to the prisons to hear apologies. Churches are helping families of prisoners and are bringing survivors together to live and work.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Dear God, bless the status quo

Dear God, bless the status quo,
We like things as they are.
Lead us not down narrow roads,
Let us go not far.

We've built our houses, set up shop,
We've conqur'd mount and range.
Then sea, now space (we'll never stop);
Just don't ask us to change.

We like our gospel nice and soft,
our preaching short and sweet;
Our music loud, our buffet oft'n,
and prophets on the street.

The truths too sharp for tickled ears,
It shaves our nice, warm fuzzies.
Growth takes too long (we want it now!),
Not Bible-thumped head noogies.

We'll hold our right to stand our ground,
To keep and not divest
those things we have that serve us most,
Of fleshly inter-est.

It's hard to live by what's not seen,
Ease shapes our lives so much.
Now hurry up those points and poems,
so we can go to lunch!

There is a foe who roams this world,
That kills good church bus’ness;
He only watches for himself--
That enemy is us!

(Inspired by John Betjeman's WWII poem, "In Westminster Abbey.")

Avoiding Eeyore; the Missionary Heart of God and Bubba Gump vs. Iron Chef Israel.

Exodus 14:

Understand this unmistakably: He is the Lord. He is the creator of all things, most notably of man. He rules over all things as Sovereign. He is the LORD. He is not far, distant and removed, but certainly a close, at-hand, accessible, relational God.

God has the ability to deliver, regardless of the circumstance. God promised to care of man’s sin problem from the very beginning, in the very beginning and the promise still stands. Unfortunately, so many still react like the Hebrews did when they were trapped between the Egyptians and the sea, “Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?”[i]

I react this way. Sometimes all I see is the circumstance. Sometimes I find myself in a situation that overwhelms me or I see one coming that I fear is too deep, too wide and impassible and I act like the Israelites did. I become an Ancient Near Eastern Eeyore—grumbling, sulking and pathetic.

F.B. Meyer wrote, “Often God seems to place His children in positions of profound difficulty, leading them into a wedge from which there is no escape, designing a situation that no human judgment would have permitted had it been previously consulted. The very cloud directs them there. You…, may be involved in a situation like this at this very hour. It does seem perplexing and mysterious to the last degree, but it is perfectly right. The issue will more than justify Him who has brought you there. It is a platform for the display of His almighty grace and power. Not only will He deliver you, but in doing so He will give you a lesson that you will never forget …..” [ii]

But God said specifically that He would be honored through His dealings with Pharaoh and his army—he said it twice (14:4, 18). The lesson I need to learn is that He is the LORD. He will honor Himself in the situation; rather, He will honor Himself in the elements of the situation themselves!

This all goes back to one’s concept of God. The Egyptians kept a pantheon of capricious gods—no wonder Pharaoh did not know Him. But God was doing two things: 1) He was making Himself known to both Israel and the nations; 2) He was about to give Pharaoh the most full knowledge of Himself following the collapse of the water—after God destroyed the Egyptians, then knowledge would be full. The Israelites knew their God was the God of their fathers, but too much time and space had been put between them and true knowledge was casual. Now they would experience Him directly in a final move that would cement their experience.

When I became a Christian, that knowledge was made full as I came to know the God of my fathers. But I still try to get into my thick skull that what He has accomplished for me is sufficient. There is no “rock and hard place” because of His deliverance. Like the Israelites, instead of being ready to die, I should be pressing forward.

John Bunyan’s approach to life and living in the finished work of Christ is notable: he disallowed his emotions to participate in the application of the promises of scripture to life situations. This does not mean he was a Baptistic Vulcan. He merely held back his feelings and reactions to situations and let God work in accordance to his obedience to scripture through prayer as God answered. Then His only reaction could be that of thanksgiving and worship. He applied the promises of God before he felt the comfort of scripture.

Listen to the voices:

Moses said to “stand and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today.” (14:13).

Despair and depression says, “lie down, give up and die.”

Moses said, “The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.” (14:14).

Cowards say, “Retreat, go back to what you were doing before. It is too hard.”

The LORD said, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.” (14:15).

Carelessness says, “Do something, anything! There is no time for obedience! Go bezerk and freak out!”

The LORD says, “I will honor myself” (14:4, 18). Give me the Glory for who I am.

Presumption said, “Charge right in and expect a miracle.” (But, which way leads the charge?)

Exodus 15:

God is a missionary God. His heart is to save all mankind from sin. He raises up a people for Himself that through them may bring to the world the Savior that all nations be blessed and He gives them the chance to get to know Him personally. God gives the nations a chance to get to know Him, and know Him, they shall.

The Egyptians got to know Him on many levels. The surrounding nations took notice. Ex 15:11-18:

“Who is like You among the gods, O Lord?
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in praises, working wonders?
You stretched out Your right hand,
The earth swallowed them.
In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed;
In Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation.
The peoples have heard, they tremble;
Anguish has gripped the inhabitants of Philistia.
“Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed;
The leaders of Moab, trembling grips them;
All the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
Terror and dread fall upon them;
By the greatness of Your arm they are motionless as stone;
Until Your people pass over, O Lord,
Until the people pass over whom You have purchased.
You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance,
The place, O Lord, which You have made for Your dwelling,
The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.
The Lord shall reign forever and ever.”

Exodus 16:

Setting: part of the whole “let my people go” thing was that Israel was to go three days into the wilderness to sacrifice and worship God. Well, here they are. “Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.” (Ex 15:22).

When they arrived, they complained. What a way to worship. Apparently the Baptists had not arrived yet, so there was no water nor was there food. So they complained. What a sacrifice. What a fellowship! What a joy divine!

So God provides. He gave them water in Shur and Elim then provides manna. Manna, the secret ingredient. Manna, Manna, everywhere and not a thing to eat. Chuck Swindoll in his book, “Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life” has a wonderful chapter that beautifully describes the situation here.

“They boiled it, baked it, broiled it, barbequed it, breaded it, and buttered it. They ate it cold, hot, raw, cooked, sliced for sandwiches, baked in pies, and sprinkled on their cereal. You name it—they tried it. When everyone came to in to eat, they didn’t ask, “what’s for supper?’ but, ‘how’d you fix it?’ . . . the most familiar sound around the table was not slurping or smacking. It was gagging.”[iii]

Even if the Bubba Gump-ites could have helped, the Israelites really had a tough time with God’s provision. Even Iron Chef Israel ran out of recipes and the judges stayed out of the arena.

Now THAT’s a tough position to be in—God provides and we can’t stand it. They were no longer between Egyptians and a wet place. They just had to eat “what’s it called?” for every meal. [I am making a face as I write this because I hate beans. My family loves them. You see the obvious implication here . . .]

So what’s my problem—“thanks God for your salvation and all, but since I don’t like how you take care of me, I’ll ‘eat out’”?

That’s what we do. We move from the situation of death to order-in. God just never will be good for many. The problem is that we fail to believe Him. This will catch up to Israel, but it very much describes the situation of most Christians even today, taking the attitude that the gospel is good for hell-escape and that’s about it.

Any wonder why people remain in bondage?


[i]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update, Ex 14:11. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
[ii] F.B. Meyer. The Life of Moses: The Servant of God. (Lynnwood, Washington: Emerald Books, 1996.0 p. 80
[iii] Swindoll, Chuck. Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life. Multnomah: Portland, 1983. P. 295

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Thinking about: Romans 8:28

"In one thousand trials it is not just five hundred of them that work for the believer's good, but nine hundred and ninety-nine of them, and one beside." (George Mueller).

The story is told of two artists, high on a scaffold in an Italian church. They were putting the finishing touches on a painting when the master painter stepped back to admire his work. The apprentice saw the move, and realizing his master was about to take a plunge to his death, thought not to cry out and startle his master and, in effect, assist in the disaster. Instead the young man splashed paint across the freshly completed portion, causing the master to lunge forward in anger screaming, "Why did you do that!?" Upon hearing the reason, his anger melted into tears of joy and thankfulness.

"If we are impressed with the scholarship of man and the achievements of scientific knowledge, then let us not play the fool by trumpeting a tiny chirp and ignoring the thunder clap of omniscience. " (John Piper)

Behold: the common log. When I look at a log or some other cut piece of a tree, I see things like chicken floating, roasting above a fire or flaming marshmallow comets. When a sculptor sees a log, he sees art. To me, a chisel is a box of band-aids waiting to be opened. To the professional, it is the key that unlocks the treasure inside the block. The sculptor takes tool in hand and pokes and gouges and digs and hammer and pushes and forces and twists until there is a finished product. Behold: the common log. Fireplace fodder for one, a masterpiece to display on the fireplace mantle of another. God’s working in our lives may be painful, but his purpose is for our good.

"God is God, and God is good. As Paul affirms for the church, God's sovereignty is the ground of our hope, the assurance of God's justice as the last word, and God's loving rule in the very events of our lives." (Al Mohler on the Goodness of God and the Reality of Evil)

"The stream of Providence is . . . so twisting, so dark, apparently so murky, and occasionally so devastating that it requires strong faith believe that it is the work of God and not of chance; and that if it is the work of God--it must be just, and wise, and good. In the darkest dispensations of Providence affecting ourselves, strong faith realizes that it is all from God; and must therefore be wise, and just, and good. To be able really say, "It is well. I am sure it is right. I cannot tell how it is right. I do not understand why this deep afflictive Providence came. I can find no key to unlock the mystery. But I am as confident that it is right, as if God's whole purpose were transparent to my reason, and I could see the event in all its connections, bearings, and results. I cannot see how or why--but I believe that my deep affliction is for God's glory and my ultimate benefit. I know that God causes everything to work together for good." (J.A. James, The Practical Believer Delineated.)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

An Egyptian "Easter"

Exodus 11-13 are crucial chapters. Thanks to Hollywood, we have had our thinking shaped about the Exodus event. If one takes a fleeting, coursory reading of the text, one misses something, well, quite wonderful.

I've alluded already to the fact that God was working in the lives of two peoples: freeing the Israelites from slavery to bring them to the land He had promised through which the serpent-crushing woman-seed, the blessing of the nations would come. That is the key: blessing of the nations. God was also at work in the lives of the Egyptians that they would know that He is the LORD--and by our last entry, we saw that some were actually getting the idea! The main feature we not miss is that in freeing one, God also works toward another and He did so in ways that both parties could understand.

Now we approach the crucial Passover passage, where all the first-born in the land of Egypt would die (11:5ff). The Israelites were instructed specifically to take a lamb, make it a family member and kill and eat it the night of Passover. Check out A.B. Simpson's comments on 12:4 here. Good stuff!

Note 12:12: God will move through the land and will execute judgment against the gods of Egypt! He will uproot all the false theology of the people, and the Israelites better make certain they get in their hearts who God really is. This is why He has taken special pains to not simply deliver plagues, but that the plagues would help the people understand and know exactly who the LORD is!

God told the Israelites specifically to take blood and put it on the doorposts and the lintel. In this way the destroyer would not enter the house. Now, this was a statement that any Egyptian would understand. See, the Egyptians had a practice of decorating the doors of their tombs with writing-specifically on the doorposts and lintels. In some cases those posts and lintels were painted red.

Doorways to Egyptian tombs.

God told Israel to make their homes a tomb because that night, the destroyer would come and kill the firstborn of those whose homes were NOT correctly marked. I think the Sunday School material has it wrong--a little dab of blood here, a smudge of blood there. No, I think that if I knew the destoyer of the LORD was coming, I would do some serious painting so there was no mistake!

Can you imagine what Egypt must have been thinking, watching their servants enter their "tombs" that night? And what about the next morning, after the LORD came through the land, dead lying around everywhere . . . and all of a sudden, the Israelite people come out of their "tombs" . . .

There are many good things here:

  1. We plainly see Jesus here in the lamb being raised as one of the family and killed;
  2. We obviously see the concept of the resurrection is not new;
  3. We see God in two roles that night: one who moves through the land as Destroyer; and one who covers the door and prevent the Destroyer from coming in--God dwelt with His people that night! He covered the door as one who hovers--He did not merely "skip over" or "pass over" the houses marked. He "covered over"!

Then the Egyptians begged them to leave.

And the Egyptians were plundered.

And some of those who oppressed Israel actually went with them in deliverance! (Ex. 12:42ff)

Friday, January 20, 2006

How to Argue with God and Win (ask a magician)

Getting to know God is exciting. Some think that God is only good for arguing against. I think it would be worth our examination to see how the Egyptians got along:
You . . . shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go (7:2)That the Egyptians will know that He is the LORD (7:5)Hard heart (7:3, 13)
Go to Pharaoh . . . say, “Let my people go.” (7:16)That the Egyptians will know that He is the LORD (7:17)Hard heart (7:22)
Go to Pharaoh . . . say, “Let my people go.” (8:1)That you (Egyptians) will know there is no one like the LORD (8:10)Hard heart (8:15)
“This is the finger of God” (8:19)Hard heart (8:19)
Go to Pharaoh . . . say, “Let my people go.” (8:20)Go . . . Don’t go. Hard heart (8:32)
Go to Pharaoh . . . say, “Let my people go.” (9:1)Hard heart (9:7)
Take soot and throw it in the sky in the sight of Pharaoh (9:8)Hard heart (9:12)
I will send a plague (9:14)That the Egyptians will know that He is the LORD (9:14)
I will stop the hail (9:29)That the Egyptians will know that He is the LORD (9:29)Hard heart (9:34)
I harden Pharaoh’s heart (10:1)That Israel will know that He is the LORD (10:2)So your children will know how I made a mockery of the Egyptians (10:2)

I’m not so sure that arguing with God is a good thing.

How did the Egyptians take all that "getting to know" God?

Moses and Aaron did the staff into the serpent thing and the wise men and sorcerers of Egypt did the same (7:10—the Egyptians just didn’t get their sticks back).

Moses and Aaron used the staff to turn water to blood and the Egyptians did the same (7:17-22—like the Egyptians were helping, right?)

Moses and Aaron delivered word the LORD would smite the land with frogs and the magicians did the same (8:1-7. I think they either 1) liked helping add to the plagues; or 2) had no choice but to seemingly add to the plagues—when you are overrun, what can you do?)

Moses and Aaron said the frogs would leave by crying out to God and the magicians . . . were piling up dead frogs, maybe (8:8-15)?

Moses and Aaron were used to bring gnats and the magicians tried (they really tried, bless their hearts) and could not (8:16-18).

Moses and Aaron were used to tell Pharaoh insects would be added and the magician were . . . (8:20-24)

Moses and Aaron told Pharaoh the Egyptian livestock would die . . . where are the magicians? (9:1-7)

Moses and Aaron told Pharaoh the Egyptians would break out into boils and the magicians could not stand before Moses and Aaron because of the boils (9:8-12).

Moses and Aaron told Pharaoh that hail would destroy anything not brought inside with hail and “the one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD made his servants [magicians?] and his livestock flee into the houses . . .” (9:18ff)

Moses and Aaron told Pharaoh that locusts would come and destroy all that hail did not “And Pharaoh’s servants [magicians?] said to him, ‘How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?” (10:5ff)

So, how can you argue with God and win? Ask the magicians . . .

Saint Defends Casting of Homosexual Actor in Christian Missionary's Story

Slain Pilot's Son Believes Spear Will Speak to Non-Christians in Several Ways
By Jenni Parker and Allie Martin
January 19, 2006

(AgapePress) - While some Christians are raising objections over the casting of actor and homosexual activist Chad Allen to play Christian characters in the soon-to-be released movie End of the Spear, producers of the fact-based theatrical film approved the homosexual actor's selection for the part -- one of them even daring to consider the possibility that God may have been behind it.

End of the Spear, which opens in theaters tomorrow (Friday, January 20), tells the story of five young Christian missionaries, pilot Nate Saint among them, who were brutally murdered in the jungles of Ecuador 50 years ago by members of the fiercely violent Waodani people. The film goes on to depict how the martyred pilot's son, Steve Saint, who was five years old when his father and friends were slain, returns to the Waodani as an adult and befriends them, even becoming a good friend to one of those involved in the murder of his father and the other missionaries.

Read the rest here.

For more discussion, go here: Triablogue

Thursday, January 19, 2006

An outing

I got home from the Seminary and took three of the kids up the street to play. The road further up has better asphalt so bikes and skates and skate boards run a bit easier there than closer to the house. The sun was going down and the temperature dropping while somewhere overhead a space-probe is on its way to Pluto at 47,000 mph.

One child shoots down the grade on a street luge. Another battles the forces of gravity and inertia on her in-lines. Another races the other two on a rear-mounted tricycle--pedals spinning and churning like the hubs of a chariot in an ancient monster Chariot rally fresh from the Monster Chariot Garage--BEN HUR VS. BIGFOOT! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!

The stars are peeking out--Orion is the first on the dance-floor of sky tonight. Enough heat is still rising to make every celestial diamond sparkle.

The gladiators swap vehicles and Boom! COLLISION! The skater rests delicate ankles in her extreme and oversized in-line ballet boots. The boys swap lies and I find myself answering questions and voicing opinion in that great debate surrounding The Boogie-man and the legions of Sewer Monsters introduced to the conversation by my oldest boy now that darkness has fallen.

The sound of hard plastic wheels again shred the night, harmonized by the sounds of dogs doing their duty of protecting their masters from their front yards.

Now its too hot, too cold, too dark and too scary.
Time to go home.

I wonder if one of those stars up there is new to the sky tonight--on its' way to Pluto . . .

That they will know that I am the LORD

This is the third time I’ve had to restart this blog entry. Third time because the LORD has pointed so many things out to me in these first few chapters of Exodus that I have tried to capture them all. But I’ve decided not to do that. Instead I will focus on just one great overriding theme in these first few verses, and that would be found in the Egyptians.

God demonstrates fully his divine plan. He has no opposition, really. Those who oppose Him only think they do. Remember the way God stripped the pantheon of the Egyptians in the creation account and in so-doing, demonstrated to the first audience of the book that there are no gods? Now He is doing it again. Every time God does something in Egypt, it is not so Charleton Heston can look good someday on the big screen. It was not solely for Israel’s deliverance either. It was for the promise laid in Abraham that the nations be blessed. God was moving against the gods of Egypt and those who worshipped them!

Setting: the Jacobsons have moved to Egypt under Joseph’s watchcare and the tribes have grown into a people so numerous their hosts feel threatened. A Pharaoh is in power who does not know Joseph (though he or his parents probably grew up eating the grain accumulated by Joseph and enjoyed the prosperity of the nation gathered under Joseph) nor does he know Joseph’s God. The Egyptians turn from host to task-master and the people are enslaved. This should not come as a surprise, because long before Joseph, long before Jacob, long before Isaac, God told Abraham this would happen (Gen 15:13-16).

Today is a historic day—like it or not. Today, the Atlas V rocket blasted off on the New Horizons mission to Pluto and Charon. This rocket will be travels so fast, the probe will scoot past the moon’s orbit 9 hours after lift-off (the last time we went that direction, it took us three days). Acceleration took the craft to 4780 mph in the first couple of minutes, then 16, 240 after less than 10 minutes. The space probe will not reach its’ destination until 2015. Timing is everything. If they did not lift off before February 14, we were going to add 5 years to the mission. See, a year from now the gravity of Jupiter is going to be used to slingshot the craft onto a speedy arrival Pluto-ward and right now is the time to blast off. Any later than Feb 14, then Jupiter is unusable. The point: timing is everything.

The Israelites were in Egypt at just the right time. They would be there for just the right time. They would leave Egypt for the Promised Land at just the right time.

What is standing out to me is the fact that God’s people are held in bondage. In the very literal sense this was true of this people group. But when I look at the text and see what God’s people are experiencing and see what God is doing, I am observing that God’s Word is directed to Egypt, “Let my people go!” And the response is, “I don’t know this God.”

God is moving His people out with a heavy hand against Egypt so they will become reacquainted with the God of their fathers. He is doing this so Israel will know that He is the LORD. Exodus 6:1-9, note v. 7, “‘Then I will take you 1afor My people, and bI will be 2your God; and cyou shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”[i] God struck the waters of the Nile for Israel to get to know their God.

Is God being cruel moving so heavily against Egypt? Why is God dealing with Egypt like this? Because God is a missionary God. Everything He does is tied up in His plan to save mankind and now He has grown a nation through which the Messiah will come. He is God moving against Pharaoh so that Egypt will know that He is the LORD, “aThe Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I bstretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”[ii] God struck the waters of the Nile not so much as a judgment per se, but that Pharaoh would get to know the God he claims he does not know, “‘Thus says the Lord, “aBy this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, I will strike 1the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and bit will be turned to blood.”[iii]

But the timing had to be right.

Conflict exists when one of God's servants attempts to serve his own interests rather than God's. Conflict exists when one of God's servants confuses himself for the Master. The one who heeds riches and empty praise inherits only himself. Listen to Spurgeon talk about Aaron’s budding rod:

  • “This incident is an instructive emblem of the sure victory of the divine handiwork over all opposition. Whenever a divine principle is cast into the heart, though the devil may fashion a counterfeit, and produce swarms of opponents, as sure as ever God is in the work, it will swallow up all its foes. If God’s grace takes possession of a man, the world’s magicians may throw down all their rods; and every rod may be as cunning and poisonous as a serpent, but Aaron’s rod will swallow up their rods. The sweet attractions of the cross will woo and win the man’s heart, and he who lived only for this deceitful earth will now have an eye for the upper spheres, and a wing to mount into celestial heights. When grace has won the day the worldling seeks the world to come. The same fact is to be observed in the life of the believer. What multitudes of foes has our faith had to meet! Our old sins—the devil threw them down before us, and they turned to serpents. What hosts of them! Ah, but the cross of Jesus destroys them all. Faith in Christ makes short work of all our sins. Then the devil has launched forth another host of serpents in the form of worldly trials, temptations, unbelief; but faith in Jesus is more than a match for them, and overcomes them all. The same absorbing principle shines in the faithful service of God!” [iv]

Here’s a thought: God was moving against the captors of God’s people. We preach the gospel of the cross to people who need to be saved, and this is right. But what about preaching to those who continually hold God’s people enslaved? The alcohol industry needs to hear, “Let my people go!” The so-called adult entertainment industry needs to hear, “Let my people go!” Crime bosses and drug lords need to hear, “Let my people go!” Creditors need to hear, “Let my people go!” Psychologists and Psychiatrists need to hear, “Let my people go!” The Music and Movie industry needs to hear, “Let my people go!”

We need to pray the hand of the LORD move against them. I’ve done it and have seen it done. I’ve seen bars closed and converted into churches in the name of Christ Jesus. I’ve seen rock concerts cancelled because Christians prayed for God to move. I’ve seen a corrupt policemen repent of sin and impact a city for Christ.

God’s people must be led from bondage of sin, yes. But Christ must be preached to those who hold the chains as well!

glitter graphics
1 Lit to Me for a people
a Ex 19:5; Deut 4:20; 7:6; 2 Sam 7:24
b Gen 17:7f; Ex 29:45f; Lev 11:45; 26:12, 13, 45; Deut 29:13
2 Lit to you for a God
c Ex 16:12; Is 41:20; 49:23, 26; 60:16
[i]New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ex 6:7. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.
a Ex 7:17; 8:19, 22; 10:7; 14:4, 18, 25
b Ex 3:20
[ii]NASB, Ex 7:5. Ibid.
a Ex 5:2; 7:5; 10:2; Ps 9:16; Ezek 25:17
1 Lit upon the waters
b Ex 4:9; 7:20; Rev 11:6; 16:4, 6
[iii]NASB, Ex 7:17. Ibid.
[iv]Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, June 28 PM. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

chapelblog: "Making Sense of 9/11: Transforming 9/11 Into Passion for the Great Commission"

by Dr. Nabeel Jabbour

We remember that day very well and how much we worried. There have been two responses to 9/11: one has been increased prayer for Muslims in the 10-40 window. The other response has been less Christian.

Islam is a strange phenomenon to the Western mind. To many it is like a Picasso: how can anyone pay so much money for that kind of art? Some understand Picasso and his style while others just see an eyeball here, an arm there and color. Both understand someone pays a great deal of money for this.

In an oversimplistic style, here are two areas that help describe Islam today

There are the Doctrines & perspectives on men: Jihad, Separation and the Model of Mohammed.

In General terms, there are 7 kinds of Muslims:

1. Folk Islam: Fearful and spiritualistic, much like a tribal bushman;
2. Orthodox Islam: The Pharisees of Islam;
3. Secular or Cultural Muslims accept basics only, do not embrace all writings;
4. Ambivalent Muslims are just that;
5. Content Muslims--blessed to be Muslim;
6. Mystics-- In serious, deep love with God;
7. Fundamentals Muslims—Most committed to follow God regardless the cost.

I Chron. 11:23--Satan has come against the church with a very large spear through the extreme action we felt as a nation on 9/11. Because of this many Christians now hate Muslims. We need to turn the spear against our spiritual enemy and obey the Great Commission. Just as Pearl Harbor woke the sleeping giant, 9/11 was our Pearl Harbor.

Read Bosch’s statements concerning Jonah in his book, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission:

Jonah was a missionary without a missionary heart. See 4:2-3. When we hate others, we go into all the world without trust in God, we fail to believe Him. He kept Israel's attitude. His story is less about Nineveh but about a compassionate God and a uncompassionate Israel and their prophet.

Gen. 18:16-33 Was God offended by the bargaining? Abraham had God's compassion.

Deut. 9:13-14 Moses was angry with the golden calf scenario, but not as angry as God was. Moses was also compassionate. Consider: Referees intervene at the right time. Moses stepped in the middle and separated the contenders.

Ezek. 22:30 who does God find to go on behalf of His people?

Read ''Unshackled and Growing: Muslims and Christians on the Journey to Freedom." Ask God for a Muslim Contact. Before you win a Muslim to Christ, win him to yourself.

Commit to pray for Muslims on a regular basis.

2 Cor. 6:11-13

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fear and Drawing an Holy Blank

Some Christians in Africa sing this hymn:

“In the beginning was God,
Today is God,
Tomorrow will be God.
Who can make an image of God?
He has no body.
He is as a word which comes out of your mouth.
That word! It is no more, It is past, and still it lives!
So is God.”

For the first time in history, we read of people who are labeled as God-fearers in Exodus 1. Note the scripture points out twice that these people are two Hebrew midwives. Two midwives birthing a nation. Here are two women sold out to their task for God, to see His plan is carried out. This is astounding. By the time we reach this point where the nation is Israel seems to be a threat to the Egyptians there are already: 1) a great number of people; and 2) leadership who forgot their heritage. This is significant because we are already a couple of hundred years or more down the line when these two midwives appear.

I find it significant to note how the midwives feared God. I find it also significant to note also how they shared much of the same characteristics as Jacob, a father of the nation; greater still, they demonstrate the true characteristics of motherhood:

They were consistent; that is, they were not likely to change their convictions when the wind blows. They were firmly rooted in their faith and it showed in their obedience to the LORD. They were dependable in their tasks to the Hebrews.

They were real, authentic. These midwives are subjects of much debate about lying to Pharaoh concerning their involvements in the birthing process. This supposes inconsistency and deception. The fact of the matter is that given the great number of people, how could two women possibly keep up? I mean, really! I’m sure that if they had to personally appear before Pharaoh to answer, babies were being born during their audience!

They were true servants, try as they might, serving both people groups. They did not watch out for themselves, but had a greater interest in mind as they set about their tasks.

They were determined, tireless. They exhausted themselves. I will venture they even loved what they did and the persevered, regardless of their situations. And they did it out of fear and love for God.

Pharaoh was trying to impede the growth and possible rebellion of a nation by destroying the children. This is where we meet Moses. His name is called “Moses” by Pharaoh’s daughter and the name means, “Because I drew him out of the water.” Stop right here a minute because this is really intriguing.

Moses’ mother lay her baby in an ark and placed him in the river—and what mother would do such a thing without laying her child in the hands of God. She could not have done this had she not placed him in the care of God. How often we take cautions in our lives, “praying about it first”. Is there a level of careless abandon that is we are missing? Is there a level of faith we are lacking? I think so. Hang around an international Christian and you will find the same attitude, a measure of calmness even if a deed is unpleasant and this too is found in Moses’ mother.

Also, note how his mother placed his sister nearby to find out what would happen to him. When Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the Nile and saw the basket, guess who was on hand to volunteer her mother as nurse? Providence is everywhere in this! In our western mind, this seems staged. In one sense it was and there is nothing wrong in that. In another sense, it was not so unusual either for the mother to come as a nurse. Having a foreigner in the house was not unusual at all. Read some of James Pritchard’s books on Ancient Near Eastern documents and notice the roles of slaves in an Egyptian household.

Let’s return to Moses. What an unusual name, “Moses.” This is a strange name. Well, not in itself alone, but in the whole circumstance of naming. Watch this:

Q: Who named the boy?
A: Pharoah’s daughter.

Q: What does the name mean?
A: ”I drew him out of the water.”

Q: In what language does “Moses” mean “I drew him out of the water?”
A: In Hebrew moshe comes from mashah, meaning “to draw.”

Q: Why would Pharaoh’s daughter, an Egyptian, name a Hebrew child with a Hebrew name? Wouldn’t somebody around the palace know this was a Hebrew boy who should have been killed when she calls him by name? Is it possible he had an Egyptian name?
A: Certainly! In Hebrew, there are no vowels and the same is true in Egyptian; therefore, his name in Hebrew is “ms(h)”. In Egyptian, there is also a name pronounced, “mes” or “mesu”, which means, “child” or “son of” or “to give birth” and would be written as “ms”. The names are almost synonymous. There seems to be an irony that this child (“ms”), a son (“ms”) is drawn out (“ms”) when he should have been killed.

Q: So there is a play on words here?
A: Yes! She names him “ms”—the biblical record only delivers to us the Hebrew definition.

When we read this, we usually have in our minds the Cecil B. DeMille version of the story that Moses had an Egyptian brother, Raamses. I will not take the time to discuss the implausibility of this, but I will make this emphasis: whether Moses and Raamses were brothers or not is not as important as their names. The names are similar in that they are both “ms” with one difference. “Raameses” means “son of Ra”. If we take Moses name to mean “son of”, whose son was he? What deity would we attach to his name? To the Hebrew who spoke Egyptian, his name would be “son of ______”.

Does the question of “who made you prince or judge over us?” (Ex 2:14) take on another meaning?

What about God calling from the bush, “Son! Son!” (Ex 3:4).

Or perhaps the importance of the question in 3:13, “Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?””

Whose son was the one drawn from the water?
What diety gave him authority to lead?
His name is so revered that no Hebrew will pronounce it.

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