Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another Day in ... Paradise?

In Kinshasa's slums children as young as 4 or 5 are being accused of witchcraft and sorcery, and people claiming to have spiritual power to cast out demons charge money to deliver these children from the power of witchcraft.

These children are being blamed for the ills of the household or even of the neighborhood. Sick animals, sick people, the lack of food and water are all blamed upon them.

A spiritual smokescreen masks the reality that these children are just not
wanted because they represent an unmanageable economic burden. Indeed, as
economic burdens, the easiest route for a family is often to accuse the child of
bringing suffering to them.

I encourage you to read the rest of this post at Square No More or the original report at The Observer. It is of course difficult at first examination to assess the truthfulness of the report this is based on. But while Pentacostalism can't solely be blamed for this situation (as many of the commentors on the post point out), it still makes me wonder again: where the heck is the "good news" of our Messiah when our theologies and practises contribute to this kind of insanity.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Walk by Faith

I'm a big believer that the journey of faith is meant to be an adventure. I think that the "command" in scripture to walk by faith is equally an invitation.

I love the much-preached-about story of Simon Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:25-33). Here's a few short thoughts on what walking by faith means to me, based on that story.

  1. It begins with either asking for or receiving a command/directive from God. (verse 28-9: "If it's You, command me to come to You on the water." ... "Come!") - God, what do You want me to do next? Jesus, if you want me to go do XYZ, just tell me, please!
  2. It continues by acting on what God says to do (verse 29) - this may be a personal word for you, spoken into your heart or simply acting on a scripture that's meaningful to you.
  3. Action that God considers faith is pointed at God or it's doing something alongside Him - just as Peter was looking at Jesus the first time he walked then walked beside Jesus the second time. In our lives, whether we feel that contact or not, it simply means we are doing something to be allied and alligned with Him, not for our own selfish purposes - Father, I don't want to do this just so you'll make me wealthy or famous, or even just for the buzz, but to know You and to live the adventure with You!
  4. Walking by faith for Peter was based on what he'd seen Jesus do. Jesus modelled, Jesus showed him what was possible. Peter copied then found he was doing it, joining in. Jesus models both the lifestyle and the possiblities for us... Maybe there's more to the command "Follow Me!" than just passively agreeing to a doctrinal position and saying a Sinner's Prayer...

Go on. Walk by faith a little!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Moses' Epitaph, Our Challenge

Famous Last Words, Episode 5, a series by Yehudi01 and myself.
You can see his corresponding article here: Moses and King Messiah ....

Imagine the following written on your tombstone, or said about you in a eulogy at your funeral:

"And it was through Moses that the LORD demonstrated His might power and terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel."
Not bad, huh? This is, in a sense, the sum total of Moses' life, the concluding remark about his "accomplishments" as a man. His epitaph.
And if this was all you knew about his life, just this one sentence, I wonder what kind of man, what kind of life you'd imagine.

I would probably picture an extremely serious and well-dressed man, broadchested, without scar or blemish, perfectly self-controlled. With eyes that are never quite focussed on an earthly reality. He would enjoy the respect of millions, be very wealthy and carry no regrets. Nothing would faze him.

This was far from the actual truth about Moses, if the last 4 books of the Torah have been any indication. His was an extremely hard life, at least for the last 80 years of it. He carried a burden of responsibility that I really don't envy. He experienced a huge measure of rejection and disrespect from 2 of the ethnic groups he identified with (Egypt and Israel). Leadership more often meant doing things that large groups of people weren't happy with than it making people rejoice. Two thirds of his life, he lived in barren places, and as an outcast for a third of it.
To top it off, the Moses we know from Exodus 3 onwards lacked confidence, had temper tantrums and - though he was sharp and strong at 120 - he really just plain suffered greatly in his life.

Once again as I contemplate this I'm reminded of how authentic and hold-no-punches the biblical record is. No Hollywood scriptwriter or marketing agent got their hands on this story. Moses suffered as much as he succeeded, and was a mix of good and bad humanity.

But it was through this both noble and flawed human being that God Almighty did some pretty almighty stuff.

Now it's certainly not fresh thinking for me to say "God usually chooses flawed human beings to be His conduits". We're used to that thought. We're used to being conduits of His mercy, His compassion, even His truth, His gospel perhaps.

But could we write "it is through Pete Aldin that God did mighty acts" or "it was through Daniel Abrahamson that Hashem demonstrated His terrifying power" or "it was through [insert your name] that the Lord did miracles" ... and IN THE SIGHT OF OTHERS?

I'm not writing this to condemn. I'm really not saying that just because we don't send plagues of locusts against the local nazi gang leader's house that we're not doing enough! I'm not suggesting that just because the neighbors haven't seen you split the water in the local swimming pool, you're a spiritual flop.

I'm just wondering how much of a correlation there is between the suffering & sacrifice of a life however flawed which is truly devoted to God (ie., holiness) and the potential for God to work POWERFULLY through that life ... and in a way that will enact His will and bring Him glory...

The last thought I bring from this verse is this (and it's not my own, I read this somewhere and loved it): despite the fact that we have had 4 books which place a major emphasis on laws and commands, God's will is not just about words, but about acts. Once again, it's not just what I know or what I say or even what I verbally agree to believing. It's about what I do and how that doing lines up with His will.

What will you do with these thoughts today? Where's the realm in which truly devoting yourself to holy action on God's behalf is being asked of you? For me, I decided (and this may be tangential) that as a Dad, I will fully accept that great parenting means a difficult life for a couple of decades. Difficulty and sacrifice that will (I prayerfully ask, Lord) result in God raising empathetic, adventurous, honorable, confident, spiritual men of my sons.

The decision that this brought me to in prayer was that this weekend, I will focus on NOT DISCIPLINING MY BOYS TO MAKE LIFE EASIER TO ME, but training them lovingly and only enforcing limits and consequences for their best interests, not mine. [By the way, hold me accountable to that please. So far, a few hours into it, so good.]

May you be blessed in all that you do, knowing Him more and truly being a conduit for His grace, power, truth and love.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Leaving No Man's Land

Well folks, it's New Year's Day here in Australia and in my Bible time this morning, I turned to the last verse of Numbers. [What else would you read on New Year's Day??]

In this 4th Episode of Famous Last Words, I'm tempted as always to do some background digging into the text, and to construct a well-thought-out symposium on the verse...

But maybe 'cause it's New Years Day [and I'm worn out from celebrating last night, I may have had one too many root beers with my boys! :)] - maybe it's because as I read it, I had the sense that the meaning for me was a fairly obvious and simple one. So I'll keep this entry more from the gut...

Numbers 36: 13:

These are the commands and regulations the LORD gave through Moses to the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.

When I read this, I immediately thought "This is much the same verse as the one finishing Leviticus." Then I read it again and realised, "No, boy, this is a verse about being on the verge of something new."

It's also about being at the end of something painful and bad. Here are the Israelites, at the end of 40 years of wandering in No Man's Land. My study Bible put it nicely (ok, so I did a LITTLE background reading!)...

"The lesson of Numbers is clear. While it may be necessary to to pass through wilderness experiences, one does not have to live there. For Israel, an eleven-day journey became a forty-year agony."

How many of us live in No Man's Land - the lifestyle, the situation, the choices that represent NOT God's will for us, NOT His Promises or plans, NOT even the best option we had available, but the results of deliberate decisions to withdraw from Him in some way.

The following considerations may sound harsh. But they are things I ask of myself first and foremost. I invite you to meditate on these thoughts too...

Perhaps it was that in the time that He had planned to "sideline" you, to put you under pressure which would purify, you actually chose the warm embrace of "sin for a season" [Hebrews 11:25]. Now that time has extended to years.

Perhaps it is that you wandered away from whole-hearted allegience to Him.

Perhaps you let the deceptiveness of worldly scientific "reason" undermine your faith. My 11 year old son said to me this morning, "I can understand why people find it hard to believe in God. They say, if God created us, who created Him? It's too hard to understand."

I didn't shout him down, because I think that's healthy that he's beginning to wrestle with these ideas. What I did say in the conversation that followed was "It is hard to understand. And personally I find that a wonderful thing, that I can't understand everything about God. I like mystery. And by the way, I think sometimes those people are hypocritical saying that's a reason to not believe in God, because they believe in other things they don't understand." I didn't even have to explain that last statement, I say the light dawn and he said "Oh yeah."

Perhaps some lunatic waving the "spiritual warfare" banner hurt you deeply. Or a man or woman using their position in a church community to insult or guilt-trip you offended you deeply. Or a prayer you prayed wasn't answered the way you wanted it to.

Or perhaps, it's just the longterm neglect of your soul, of your relationship with the Lord, of your actively putting it all into practise.

Whatever the case, right now, Divine mercy is available for you and I. You're standing at the Jordan, the boundary between No Man's Land, and the life God wants for you. A new "land", a new season, a new context, a new level - it's all waiting on the other side.

The river represents the decision to act, the decision to move forward. The Commandments given at the river were the sign to Israel that it takes submission to God - acquiescing to His will and His ways - to move into living in constant nearness to Him.

Lord, afresh today, I acquiesce to You. You are Father. You are King. I see at the start of a calendar year, there are 12 months of possibility stretching before me. But I want them to be about You and not about me.

I know that standing across the Jordan from Jericho is an indicator that moving forward will mean battle. All I know is that I don't want to live in No Man's Land, in wilderness! Guide me again, renew my knowledge of Your will, command me. Speak, for your servant is listening.


If this devotion was helpful, please feel free to visit the other posts in the series by clicking Famous Last Words. And don't forget to visit the sister post to this, written by Yehudi01 who joins me in this project, writing from the Jewish perspective.