Thursday, December 16, 2004

Thinx 12: Response to Crisis

Every time I weep before the Lord, every time I cry in pain to my God, every time I drop my wearisome burdens at his feet ... I worship him. How? Each act declares his worth, saying, "I come to you in my sorrow, for you have known grief and have carried my sorrows. I come to you in my pain, for you have known suffering, and know what grieves and wounds me. I know that I can speak my heart in your presence, for your knowledge of me is complete, your love for me has no limit and you listen without reproach."

Every act of dependency on God declares that he is worth depending on. Every act of trust in the Lord declares that he is worthy of trust. Every moment spent clinging to Jesus cries out to all who hear that he alone is worth clinging to, trusting in, depending on. This too is worship.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Thinx 11: Cultural Blindspot?

"... 'How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?' ..." -- John 9:16

This is a worldview question. If God alone has the power to heal, then only those in harmony with God can heal and only by his authority. Sin is rebellion toward God. The sinner cannot heal because he is out of relationship with God and therefore can not act by his authority. Jesus heals so Jesus must be in good relationship with God. But he breaks the Sabbath. Therefore he is a sinner. Therefore he is out of fellowship with God. Therefore he should not be able to heal. But he heals.

"'... We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." -- John 9:31-33

We don't have this problem, though we ought to. We have the problem that we attribute healing to agents other than God. God doesn't appear in our worldview because we've convinced ourselves that he didn't create the universe. Instead, the universe created itself. With God out of the picture, so to speak, we need then to identify what agents bring about positive change. We see man as the healer, medicine as the healer, science as the healer. We see man doing amazing things so we glorify man and his knowledge. Only when a limit is reached is there a sudden reaching out for God. Sometimes he permits himself to be found. Other times not.

And we, like the Pharisees, say "we see" (v41) and yet we are utterly blind to ultimate reality. And so our sin remains.

Would that we were able to see God as he really is, and the universe as it really is. But instead, we are deaf, blind and mute. We do not hear the still small voice of God. We do not see his hand in all things. And so we are unable to speak of his glory. We are crippled, crippled beyond all measure.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Thinx 10: Belief systems

Why is Evolution always touted as scientific? Science, that is the scientific method, is about forming hypotheses based on observations of the world around us, testing those hypotheses and proving them right or wrong in a process leading to a complete understanding of the thing observed. The Pythagorean Theorem is based on the observation of the nature of right-angled triangles -- the tests proving the theory are clearly defined and repeatable.

Evolution supposedly happened in the past. No one observed it. Its truth or falsehood cannot be tested. No one can verify that it happened as has been suggested and the way it is supposed to have happened has changed many times in the 30 years since I started high school. I heard on the ABC only yesterday that British researchers are now proposing that dinosaur extinctions occurred before the meteoric impact that supposedly caused their extinction.

I am thus unwilling to refer to Evolution as a "theory". It must remain a hypothesis until it can somehow be proved. To cling to it, to trust in it and to rely upon it as a true account of the beginning of all things sounds more like religion that it does science.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Thinx 9: Culture

Is it appropriate for the church to reflect popular culture; to stand still while culture flows round it; or to push against the current of the cultural tide as it travels upstream toward that from which the world flees?

Thinx 8: Church cleaning

Why is it so hard to find people willing to spend a couple of hours cleaning the church? Where is the gratitude for all that the church, and indeed Christ, has done?

Giving is an outworking of us being like God. He gives so that we have something to be generous with. God isn't a hypocrite; he has been generous too -- he gave his Son! And yet, we are so unwilling to practise what we are called to and enabled to do. Jesus let go of his rights and was incarnated. We grimly hang onto our rights and expect someone else to be the cleaner incarnate!

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Thinx 7: Luke 5:36

Jesus' parable finds its meaning from the context: calling sinners to repentance and feasting while the bridegroom is present. What are the old cloth and the new cloth? What are the old wineskins and the new wine? In v33 Jesus seems to be saying that the Jews religious laws and customs, wherein they differ from God's original intent, are the old cloth and the old wineskins. v33 seems to imply that fasting and praying were for the Jews ends is themselves -- something that religious people did as a sign of their religiousness. "John's disciples do it; the Pharisees disciples do it; why don't you?" Because the old cloth has holes but isn't holy. It's too late to attempt repair of the old system -- it would destroy the new and the patch wouldn't match and would be obvious to all as a patch. It's time to let go of the old; it's time to put on the new cloth and put the new wine in fresh wineskins. Putting the new wine in old wineskins -- the righteous man living by faith into the religious forms of the Pharisees -- won't work. These religious forms do not have the required flexibility. A religious form is required; a container is required for the new wine but a new, more flexible one, not the old, now inflexibie one.

There's a strong tendency for younger people to look at the religious forms of older people and take up a position against it. Maybe it's not just the young ...

There has been a pattern down through history of people looking at the prevailing religious forms, finding some fault therein, and seeking either reformation or removal in favour of a perceived "better way". These verses about old cloth/new cloth and new wine/old wineskins have often been quoted in favour of the upstarts against the establishment. When Protestantism could not reform Catholicism, it styled the other as old wineskins. Nowadays, as each generation of young people come through the church, they style the establishment with its "old" hymns and quiet perseverance in the old wineskins and their own choruses and lively worship service as the fresh wineskins into which God is pouring the new wine. Their perception of the older generation reflects the prevailing culture of our day -- old is bad; new is good. Out with the old, no matter what wisdom is lost in the process, and in with the new, no matter what the lack of wisdom and maturity may bring.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Thinx 6: Luke 5:31, 32

And Jesus answered and said to them, 'It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.' -- Luke 5:31,32 NASV

Jesus is not being sarcastic to the Pharisees. As our Pastor, Linton Smith, pointed out on Sunday, he's correcting their eschatology. Jesus comes first to offer mercy and then later to crush the unrighteous. The Pharisees had not comprehended Isaiah and perhaps deliberately missed the implications of the revelation to the Gentiles. Jesus' mission involved calling the unrighteous to repentance, the tax-gatherers like Matthew, and the sinners like Peter; people the religious leaders had no time, compassion nor love for. Jesus had the time, the compassion and the love. He also offered one thing more: Purpose. It was as if he were saying, "Matthew, come! Follow me. I offer you freely life, light, love and purpose." It's an offer too good to refuse.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Thinx 5: Worth

We have a Declaration of Human Rights. Now how about a Declaration of Human Worth?

Thinx 4: Jeremiah 2:19

The NASV uses "dread" rather than fear. Either way it is that fear, that dread, which, unlike terror, should have been a spur to devotion along with thankfulness. Thankfulness for all that God had done in bringing them into the good land and making their stay there profitable, and fear/dread because God does not leave the sinner unpunished, nor does he withhold the consequences of our sins from us (col 3:25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.).

But they were no longer thankful and they no longer feared God; they had forgotten what he had done and they had forgotten who he was. V13 [for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.] they had forgotten and forsaken God; treated him as worthless and walked away from him. AND they had proceeded to create something to replace him. God who is the source of life, both physical and spiritual, is disregarded and the people construct not so much a source of life as a container. For a cistern is a container more that it is a fountain. A cistern receives and holds. A fountain produces. But this cistern is broken; that which it receives leaks out and is lost.

This is so like our modern world. Being no longer content to accept that God made the universe and all it contains, we have forsaken his revelation in favour of our own naturalistic one. In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. Can this explanation of all we see and experience give us life? No. It is a broken cistern for it is neither true nor consistent and the thought culture that it produces has for years been used as a way for the powerful to amass power and to control and destroy the powerless. 'The fittest survive; we think we are the fittest therefore we are going to survive and you aren't.'

The Israelites had forgotten God and replaced him with a mythology of their own devising -- an eclectic mix of Egyptian and Assyrian mumbo-jumbo [v18] -- and enough of the forms (but without the substance) of Judaism to give it the appearance of validity. These were the same people who would go on to worship the bronze snake.

21st century people fancy themselves wise and enlightened and no longer under the sway of myth and falsehood [echoing the sentiments of Jer 2:31b "We are free, we will come no more to thee"]. Sadly this is not the case. If Jesus does not come back for another thousand years there will be those who will look back upon our time and write books about the myths and legends of the 21st century. Top of the list will be a fairy story called Evolution.

We are no longer willing to "hear the word of the Lord" preferring the word of scientists and other self-confessed experts. We are proud: Proud of our accomplishments and our technology; Proud of our control over the forces of nature (small as that control really is against the might of cyclone, earthquake, flood and volcano.)

Similarly the Israelites, no longer content with the revelation of God, concocted their own. And that offended God, deeply.

For as much as Jeremiah may be a book about a man thrown in at the deep end, it is also a book about the wisdom of God and the foolishness of mankind. God is to be feared. That fear is such that it drives out all other fears. We are also to love God but too often we confuse love with "in love" and the emotional rollercoaster of infatuation. The "love" that God calls us to is more profound, more deliberate than that. Fear is not out of place in that love. Dread is not out of place in that love. For that love implies a devotion which may cost us in the short term. That love may even lead us into pain, suffering and death. It certainly led Jeremiah into pain and suffering. It led Paul into suffering Acts 9: 15, 16 'But the Lord said to [Ananias], “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”'

Monday, July 12, 2004

Thinx 3: Luke 5:23

Not WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) but HDJT (How Did Jesus Think). Barna Group has a book out about that. It's about having a biblical world view. For us the two statements ("your sins are forgiven" and "take up your bed and walk") seem unrelated. What's the similarity between healing and forgiveness? Or, what's the similarity between Jesus forgiving and Jesus healing? How are they tied together in this event? If Jesus heals, does it mean God forgave? If Jesus forgives, does it mean God healed?

This impacts healing ministries -- we focus on the healing and ignore the forgiving, as if the one could be and should be separated from the other. Some healing services I've been to, you'd think it were possible to have one without the other.

Thinx 2: Luke 5:2

"Depart from me for I am a sinful man."

Seeing Jesus as in touch with God and thus able to do miracles and seeing himself as out of touch with God and thus unclean and not able to much at all, Peter seems to be saying "Unclean! Unclean! My uncleanness with defile you." Jesus says, "Do not fear." Could he be saying "do not fear for my purity and cleanness; they are greater and more powerful than your uncleanness."

Perhaps Peter was used to being avoided by the "religious" people of his day for fear that his bad company would affect their good morals. Had Jesus gone away, Peter's presuppositions about religious people would have been confirmed, along with a profound sense of lostness of his behalf no doubt.

Peter seems to be saying, "Jesus, you don't want to hang round with me; I'm bad." Jesus doesn't argue with Peter's analysis, implying perhaps, "Yes, I don't want to hang around with you; I want you to hang around with me. No longer will life be on your terms. From now on life, love, liberty, etc will be on _my_ terms."

Peter's preuppositions were challenged: Jesus stayed and instead invited Peter to be a part of what he, Jesus, was doing. Jesus also invites us. No matter how foul we have become he does not recoil from us. And we are also able to reach out to sinners round us and invite them as Jesus did, to be involved in what Jesus is doing.

Thinx 1

What does God do with all the knowledge, skills and attitudes which his children develop over the course of their mortal lives? Does it all go up in smoke? Do we really spend the rest of eternity sitting on clouds playing harps?