Monday, February 13, 2012

Flesh and Blood, Spiritual Forces

Call me cooky but I prefer some Old Testament to New if that can even make sense to say. They aren't contrary to each other. When I'm justly angry at the world or even myself, my first craving is to take care of it with my hands. It's just the first thing that comes to me, first feeling I get. It actually says a great deal about how UNspiritual I am. The photo is just for fun. Haven't even seen the film.

In the Old Testament there were men of war, heroes in battle, beacons for justice both for their people and in more personal ways and all on the side of God. When I feel passionately I feel like gettin after it. Most of the time it's me I want to punch!

Jesus gives greater light and clarification than the OT of course and the Apostles after Him. The individual or army or action is not the real enemy, not ultimately anyway. It's my own flesh that wants to draw blood. Even if it's mine.

Eph. 6:12 is such a challenging verse to my initial thinking then. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Debt That I Owe

Singer songwriter Jackson Brown did a tune "Call it a Loan" years ago. He wanted to love not really giving his heart but instead loan it in case the deal went bad. "Can we call it a loan, and a debt that I owe, on a bet that I lost."

Sort of a clever way to sing it but doesn't have much to do with what's on my mind except the idea of giving what is due, what is owed. Ultimately we owe everything to God. I don't just mean our gratitude either. We really owe our hearts and lives.

But how about other people. Do you owe anyone anything. Or does anyone owe you anything at all? I don't mean in the instance where there are agreements or legal documents or transactions.

I just mean, is there an equal footing required in a relationship or friendship? Like if you are really open and honest or very sacrificial does that require the other to reciprocate?

I'm going to say that all things being equal, that's exactly how it should be. But in a fallen world and full of imperfect people and scenarios it will not much occur. Nor should it be expected in one sense. But the one on the risk-taking, open, trusting, sacrificial end might be singing with Brown at times. Putting yourself out there IS risky.

I see people hurt because they chose open,trusting, lay it all out there in heart and service for employment or relationship or even ministry and at the end of the day without proper perspective a person might feel like Brown. Lost the bet that it would go well.

So afterward a wounded individual might only loan, not give. They don't want the debt (hurt). They might not even make the bet anymore.

It's tough I think. But I want to be tough. I want to be willing to be under the scrutiny of another. Even after revealing everything, the thing at hand is worth the potential ache if it was worth it in the first place. Don't want to join Brown in the drowning sorrows of a brokenhearted lover, "Can we call it a loan, and a debt that I owe, on a bet that I lost." I've been given so much and deserve nothing.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Trump Card

Been reading in the first epistle to the Corinthians and noticed something in the way Paul instructed his readers. "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..." 1 Cor. 1:10 If you ever wanted your Christian reader to take notice, a good way to get their attention would be to specifically in that moment throw the weight of the Lord Jesus behind what you are about to say. Paul was an Apostle. He can do that. In fact the Holy Spirit was superintending his writing of this letter whether he had made the divine choice to add that little bit or not.

I noticed this because, for Paul, it was good. Not so much for us. In my conversing with Christians I have found at least 2 really common trump cards of this sort that communicate that whatever is being said is untouchable, unquestionable. Some folks just talk that way because they hear it from others so it is learned and they don't intend to claim inerrancy for their words.

Nevertheless, I think this way is at least sloppy Christian jargon or worse it is one individual dominating ideas so not to be questioned.

"God said" is one of them. "God told me," "The Holy Spirit led me," etc. You get the idea. On one level its harmless but could better be said, "it just really seemed that the Lord was directing me" or something of the sort. The reason is because you have not claimed authoritative revelation talking this way and you have left room for fellowship.

Fellowship is squashed before it can begin when someone has "heard from God." Your brother/sister cannot as easily counsel or direct or more genuinely encourage. And you cannot receive counsel or encouraged. You have your minds set or it will seem so to your friend.

"Conviction" is the other one. "I am just really convicted that we need to do this or not do that." Great when it's Biblical. Unfortunately, most of these strong convictions I hear about are a stretch to prove Biblical. But the reason both the one sharing and the hearer cannot as easily experience fellowship is because you know from Scripture you ought not act against conscience. So any response in opposition seems like a threat to this issue of conscience. And the door to counsel and more genuine encouragement from the hearer and openness of the one sharing is effectively closed. I would offer something like, "I am really feeling the weight and seriousness of this issue. Talk with me about whether I am thinking Biblically." It's humble fellowship this way it think.

Just another note on convictions. Any change in your life or new determination based merely on conviction does not have the same spiritual or lasting affect as real delight. Conviction to do a thing cannot replace delight to. Just a thought which can be seen and proven in all the failures of religious men since Eden.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Idol of Security

Who doesn't want to be able to move about without certain fears? Some of my greatest fears are in regard to awful things happening to my wife and children. Nothing wrong with a concern for their safety. But is there a point when security becomes a carved image above an altar where we lay our hope?

I think it's when odds and feelings of being secure become the measurement of what we believe makes us actually safe. We will pay disproportionate amounts of our income and accept almost any new government regulations in exchange for health, physical safety and financial security. Improve the odds, feel better. All are an illusion in one sense.

So our retirement fund is in place, our neighborhoods are white and our sport utility vehicles mean that the other guy gets it, not me.

All fear driven of course. But is there reason to fear? In one sense there isn't. Certainly Biblically we ought not be anxious about anything (Phil 4:6). But we are. It's unbelief isn't it? Could there be a more now-consumed, this life-centered way to live forsaking a kingdom focus? And the more it's true of us, the tighter our grip becomes on our stuff, our little world, our safety.

Another perspective : Paul urged Timothy to tell his people not to "set their hopes on uncertainty of riches,but on God (1 Tim. 6:17)." Is that safe? Not always. All his health and safety was taken away to the point of death and he says, "but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God (2 Cor. 1:9). Not safe, but good.

I'll never forget the inner city pastor putting his arm around his boy after he'd just been beaten up and his bike taken. Most of us would have been enraged. "Not MY son's stuff! Not hurting MY boy!" This pastor said with a smile, "Isn't this great son? Real missionary stuff!" He had no expectation for safety or any concern for personal possessions. Especially the godly should not expect safety (2 Tim 3:12).

Your own security is a heavy burden. Trusting in God makes it light. In His will we will not be safe. But we will worship at the right altar which values Him instead of self.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Endless Application, Endless Error

It would be difficult to determine what the most ignored principle of Biblical interpretation has been in recent history. But there is an error very common to our present day. Author's (and Holy Spirit's) intent would be my pick.

No one wants to limit God's Word and thus somehow limit God so they might say something like, "there can be endless applications and meanings for this text." After all, God is a big God. It is our understanding that is limited.

Should we ever limit application and purpose of a text? We ought to limit every passage or verse to what the original intent was. That is except in so far as it can be reasonably applied in parallel practical ways.

My first and often still last question is, What's the point? Many times, it seems to me that, the question people ask is, What's my point?

A mere descriptive, historical note, while it may be helpful for understanding, should never be taken as the main point of the passage and yet it happens all the time. If that's putting limit's on God's Word, color me guilty. God may have applications we will never even think of and yet not be the main point.

So here's the issue. If there is a possible inference from a text or logical inference, it is still not a necessary inference or required inference. So just because a point could be deduced doesn't make it a necessary point to deduce, especially if it is only a minor detail in the text in the first place. It is the explicit before the implicit, and necessary inference before possible inference.

We get in trouble when we over-emphasis the wrong part. And there are entire books written on the wrong part! We do it with verses, passages, whole books and even make things a major theme of the Bible that are simply not even a minor principle.

There are great truths there. Dig, discern and understand. But use the context of the immediate passage and book and the whole Bible before you force cultural issues of our day into God's Holy Word.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Drama. I mean skits and plays, musicals etc. Never been a real fan of these, especially when they are trying to communicate Biblical truth. I usually cringe at the portrayals.

However, the play (musical) I just saw from Greenleaf studios and the only other production of theirs I viewed a while back blew me away. Been thinking of this latest effort (Ekklesia) ever since.

My understanding was that it was all original. Actors ranging from about 4 to 20 years old just thrilled me. The music and message were moving and the acting was not cheesy but talented and so was the singing.

There are always changes or additions to the Word in these kinds of productions. Never sits good with me. But this was terrific. I am opening up to the idea that communication of Gospel truths can be of various sorts which I once yawned or cringed at.

Not everything we do is Biblically appropriate for a Sunday morning worship service but it doesn't mean it is never appropriate. I was stirred by their efforts and by the truths they were proclaiming in the moving way in which they did so.

FYI, my favorite was Sabra. I'm getting a DVD.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dead Friends

I often refer to some men as "friends" who I could not possibly have known. We've all said of an author or other influential person in our lives, "I feel like I know him."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, author of my favorite book on the church "Life Together" and other great books like "The Cost of Discipleship" about true belief and the believing life to follow, is one of those for me.

Another is the author of the Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan. His spiritual autobiography "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners" lets you peer right into his very soul.

I feel like I know them. I call them my friends. I grin as I say it or even think it since D.B. died (hung in a Nazi prison camp) 20 years before I was even a thought on earth and J.B. died almost 300 years before I was born.

I have dead friends. Heroes of mine. They have and still do cause the water in my eyes to come up. It's not only their words as authors but their lives as men. God had made them men indeed. When I hear testimony of them or give it myself I am moved in my soul.

Jesus said there was never any man as great as John the Baptizer. The author of Hebrews relayed a list of Biblical heroes of whom it reads "the world was not worthy."

I love them. I need their example. I am spurred by them. Do you have any?