Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Daily S.O.A.P: #AtTheTable

Daily S.O.A.P.: #AtTheTable
March 24, 2016

Scripture:
Psalm 23:5
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."

Observation:
I'll bet this Psalm has been quoted, recited, preached on and written about as much or more than any other Bible passage I could name. And for good reason. It fully captures the beauty and intimacy of our Heavenly Father's love and intent for our safety and provision in this fallen world. There is such a serene, tranquil tone to it, even when it's speaking about 'my enemies' and the 'valley of the shadow of death' there is a comforting sense of God's loving presence that banishes all fear and concern from my thoughts. I am almost oblivious to the fact that enemies and death are even mentioned in these verses. I think this is because just reading this amazing little collection of revelations about the tender heart of God towards me and his all encompassing provision for my welfare and sustenance gives me a sense of well-being like nothing else can. I am drawn from whatever inner chaos or outer conflict I may be experiencing into a 'happy place'. Into a place where even the prospect of impending death itself is non-threatening. I am in the embrace of the Good Shepherd and nothing can disturb that. I have the peace that passes understanding.

Application:
In spite of the preceding observations, I find that I'm quickly cast into chaos and tribulation where such comforting realities evaporate like sweat on a fry cook's griddle. After all I'm a sheep and my natural inclination is to wander away from the capable and vigilant Shepherd into some thorny thicket or near to the tooth and talon of a 'roaring lion'. But the Lord's table is always set for me and his provision of wine and oil, representing the Blood of the Covenant and the Anointing of the Holy Spirit are always at hand. Regardless of the battle that rages around me and the taunts of the enemy, regardless of even the very real threat of death, I need not be in a state of turmoil or terror. God's provision is always abundantly and immediately available if I will just take a seat #atthetable.

Prayer:
Dear Shepherd, Dear Savior, I am so grateful for your loving provision for my life - both this present earthly existence and for life eternal. Thank you that your loving care is always available to me; that I never need to be alarmed at the the noise of the enemy - even when the enemy is me. Please help me to live in this Psalm. Help me to remain always within the reach of your rod and staff. Help me to never let my seat at the table get cold. Help me to bring the tranquility of your presence and the abundance of your provision into every circumstance and let my cup overflow to the benefit of the many needy individuals whom you cause to cross my path. Let them be drawn to your loving kindness and goodness through my life and find that there is a placard upon which their name has been inscribed, reserving their place #AtTheTable. Amen.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Simplify

I recently made a bold commitment to fast and pray for the purpose of bringing 2014 to a close and getting some insights for launching 2015. Well...I'm still kind of a weenie in regards to the fasting thing. My new goal is just to stay out of the ice cream carton for a week...just a freakin' week! Yes, I'm still in recovery. Step 1 - Admitted that we were powerless...

But, I did spend an amazing weekend away with my former sponsor, and current dear friend and mentor, Bud Lamb. You might know him if you ever attended Santa Cruz Bible Church back in the days right before and after Chip Ingram left there to launch 'Living On The Edge'. Anyway, during that weekend getaway, I was listening for God's whisper and what I clearly perceive to be my watchword for 2015 is SIMPLIFY! It's time to STOP THE CHAOS! Or at least get a leash on the dang thing. :-)

I recently read Bill Hybels' book 'Simplify' and two things struck me as very profound and yet very obvious. 

The first is that if I want to have a positive impact for Jesus in my spheres of influence, I need to discern those vocations to which God is calling me, and prioritize my activities accordingly. This, by it's very nature, will cause me to 'simplify' my life by eliminating the expenditure of my time and energy on stuff that isn't part of my job description. I'm not called to be or do everything. I'm just called to do a few things ...really well. Sounds simple, but I get excited about SOoo many things, that I am reluctant to let go of a lot of stuff. I think the answer, for me, is to relegate those things that clearly aren't among the 2 or 3 very highest priorities to recreational pursuits. Those things then become things that I can still be in touch with, but they just add spice to my schedule. They're not the main ingredients. For me...still a work in progress. Right now, my top 3 are my relationship with Christ, my marriage, and discipling men. (Actually, I think stewarding my health should be up near the top, but it might actually be part of #1...I'd love to hear your thoughts on that!)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 
1Co 6:19-20

The second thing that I find just brilliant (but which I've thus far not managed to make very much progress on) is making my calendar work for me. If something is a priority, shouldn't it have a spot on my calendar? Some wise person said "If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail!". Another wise person said, "If your calendar has no blank spots, you're planning to have a massive coronary!" (I think that was me ;-) But I think you get the point. If I don't at least have a 'To Do' list on my desk or somewhere (Outlook Calendar, Evernote...I'm sort of a geek), then I'm probably being driven by the 'urgent' instead of the 'essential'. I hate to admit that I resemble that remark much more than I would like to. But...'progress - not perfection' as they say in the 12 Step rooms (or is that just CR?).

Uhhh...too much white space on my calendar...gotta go!

--
Peace & grace,
Wayne
 

Friday, August 01, 2014

To Heal or Not to Heal...

A minor dispute broke out yesterday morning at a local, weekly prayer gathering which I attend with religious regularity. It was triggered by a prayer offered up for a person suffering with an illness. In my usual fashion, I was somewhat preoccupied with my internal talk show ('Waynez Whirled' of which I am the host and the main guest), so I wasn't aware of the precise phrasing of the request. Apparently though, something was expressed that seemed to give God an 'out' in case he was not particularly in favor of performing a healing in the case of this particular person (it really bothers me to use both the adverb and the adjective form of the same word in a single sentence!) . Or, perhaps, as was subsequently expressed by one of the other Saints, the verbiage was more along the order of giving the pray-er an out should their faith or confidence in God's willingness to heal in a manner consistent with what we read in the Gospels was less than compelling.

The objection raised, in the form of an exhortation with 'all due respect' offered, is one with which I am well familiar. As a frequent guest speaker on 'Waynez Whirled' I have raised it myself on numerous occasions. It goes something like this: Why, when Jesus clearly expects that we "shall do greater works" than the ones he did, and that the laying on of hands should produce healing for those who believe (Mark 16:17-18), should we shy away from fully expecting that a complete healing should result from our faithful intervention on God's behalf toward the sick? Even though we believe, based on the overwhelming evidence presented in the New Testament, that the confirmation of the Good News that 'the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand' is the accompaniment of miraculous signs (the most obvious of which is physical healing), we struggle to reconcile our belief-system with our practice and experience. I believe there are two primary reasons for this.

The first is a survey of our present reality. Although we hear about miraculous healings on a fairly regular basis, very few of us have ever actually seen one first hand. We are mostly only familiar with them through second or third-hand (to be generous) anecdotal evidence, or partial or gradual improvements in the condition of some sick person whom we personally know that we proudly point to as evidence of our (or someone's) faith, being careful of course to verbally assign the glory to Whom it is due. Based on our firm belief that we have been commissioned by Jesus to carry on the mission which he began, to establish the Kingdom of Heaven of earth, it stands to reason that, in the absence of any real scriptural evidence that the gift of healing (or any of the charismatic gifts) were to cease upon the death of the last of the original apostles, that we should fully expect them to continue today. And to a large extent the church today firmly believes that to be true. But...when the subject of the supernatural character of God and his Kingdom comes up, most of us sheepishly admit that we seem to be lacking some key ingredient to our faith or knowledge that keeps us resigned to a reality that is mostly pretty mundane and constrained by the 'laws of nature'.

The second reason that we 'hold to a form of religion, but deny the power thereof' (OUCH!) is a little escape clause in the form of an interesting little explanation from the Apostle Paul about his 'thorn in the flesh'. Though we will never (on this side of eternity) know for sure the nature of Paul's troublesome condition, some scholars have offered an explanation that seems very plausible: that Paul had impaired vision possibly caused by cataracts resulting from the blinding light he experienced on the road to Damascus. Hence his comment in Galatians 4:15 that the Galatians would have given him their eyes if they could have, and also the evidence of his comment at the end of several of his epistles that the readers could verify the authenticity of his authorship by his over-sized signature (alluding to the fact he couldn't see what he was writing unless he made the letters remarkably huge). The only thing that casts possible doubt on this theory is that Paul describes this annoyance at one point as a 'messenger of Satan'. How could a buffeting from a mischievous specter produce a physical malady? Well, I personally think the most sensible explanation is that the 'buffeting' and the 'thorn'  are two different aspects of God's purpose to keep Paul's ego under wraps. The thorn was Paul's near-blindness and the buffeting was a 'shoulder buddy' whispering in Paul's ear something to the effect of "Hey, big shot, if you've got this faith thing dialed in so well, why ain't you healed yet...you big phoney?!" Nevertheless, if we believe, based on this one incident, that in any given scenario there may be a key piece of undisclosed evidence that would cause God to override his default disposition of compassion to heal, in favor of achieving some greater purpose, we will always have a reason to explain away our lack of faith as a lack of knowledge.

But, ironically, even those of us who protest most vociferously about the apparent lack of faith in the church concerning healing, and advocate most vehemently for the manifestation of the supernatural, aren't really seeing much more than wisps of evidence that could mostly be explained by an over-active imagination or mass-hallucinations. The restoration of withered limbs or the restoration of sight to the blind is only something we read about in a para-church organization's online newsletter or hear about in a corner somewhere over coffee. And so we mostly just don't bring the subject up. And we mostly pray "Lord, if it be your will...".

So where does all this cogitation leave us? Well for one thing, I think we correctly focus on how we can love our fellow human beings who suffer by using Jesus-with-skin-on natural methods. There is no question that LOVE trumps everything in God's economy. The supernatural can apparently become a stumbling block that actually dooms us to getting it grossly wrong. The pronouncement of Jesus over those who thought they did good by focusing on the supernatural in Matthew 7 is frightening: "I never knew you!" They got it decidedly wrong. And Paul warns us again in 1 Corinthians 13 that even good works, if motivated by anything but the love of God, are just kindling for the fire. Nothing will remain that isn't originated and sustained by God's love. We can keep God's commandments (at least outwardly) and apparently even do the works Jesus did and still be sons of Satan. It's not just what we do that is evidence of a genuine faith (James 2:17). It's whether we have been reborn by God's love...'recreated' into the image of the God who loved the world so much that he gave...EVERYTHING! And for that to happen requires nothing less than THE SUPERNATURAL!!!

""For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16 ESV

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." - 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

"For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." - Galatians 6:15 ESV 


"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." - John 15:7-10 ESV

BE A NEW CREATION IN CHRIST and...

"Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." - 1 Corinthians 14:1 ESV

Friday, August 23, 2013

"A Rose By Any Other Name...": Does the Bible lose it's value or credibility if we abandon the unsupportable tenet of 'inerrancy' and/or 'infallibility'?

It's clear that unless we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, we have no solid basis for trusting what it says. It then becomes just a collection of wild ramblings and tales of questionable veracity. But, the fact that it is inspired and divinely secured for the ages is indisputable (you can dispute it if you like, but if you do, do it with someone else because you clearly haven't researched it or even bothered to read the research of numbers of scholarly people). But most churches and para-church organizations also believe that the Bible is 'infallible', which I, frankly, find unsupportable practically, and even on the basis of what the Bible says about itself. (And don't quote me Psalm 19:7 - 'perfect' doesn't mean what you think.)

So here are the questions that cover this topic in a complete fashion:

1. How can we know that the Bible is the inspired word of God?

2. How do we know that the Bible as it now exists is faithful to the original?

3. Is there really any substance (or even necessity to adhere) to the belief that the Bible is 'infallible' (or 'inerrant' - see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_infallibility)?

For myself, I have no problem with the first 2 questions. I've heard wonderful lectures on the statistical improbability of the number of detailed prophecies that have been fulfilled and the history of Satan's futile attempts to rub out the Scriptures. The facts are imposing concerning the multitude of original manuscripts and their consistency and reliability when judged by the same criteria as other ancient works that the secular world holds as reliable and faithful to the original. However, I do find convincing arguments against the idea that the Bible is infallible or inerrant in the common sense of the words.


Let's start with by defining the words (thanks to Professor John M. Frame):

Inerrant: without errors
Infallible: there can be no errors
 

http://reformedperspectives.org/files/reformedperspectives/theology/TH.Frame.inerrancy.html#F4B

First of all, Paul says that 'all' scripture is inspired by God and 'profitable' for (this, that, and the other). He never says anything close to "Everything I had my scribe write down was written by the Holy Spirit taking over his will to choose every word and arrange it exactly where you now find it." He even says that some of it is his own opinion and not from the Lord. And then there's the issue of whether we can even be sure of which nuance of a Greek or Hebrew word is actually evoked in a particular context, which in many cases can radically impact the meaning of a passage. And since every one can't be a Greek and Hebrew scholar, we have to rely on 'fallible' men and women who undertook to translate from the original. And even the scholars are at a loss to find words in the target languages that effectively represent the meaning of the original. It's clear that unless God himself was the sole agent in producing the written words (in whatever linguistic form), the abundantly fallible and biased hand of sinful man has ruled out the possibility of infallibility from both the origin and the interpretation of what we now hold in our hands as God's word.

And don't even get me started on the canonization of the books of the Bible! Which version of the canon is the infallible one? Are we to believe that the Protestants, some of whose champions (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli) followed Augustine's heretical belief that torture and execution are acceptable forms of evangelization and church discipline (based on the parable where the king tells his servants to 'compel' the guests to come to the wedding feast) were 'inspired' in their canonization process but the Catholics weren't? And if an 'infallible' Bible is necessary for salvation, sanctification and rule of life, then how could someone who is illiterate or even mentally disabled find salvation through faith? It's not "All who read and memorize the infallible, inerrant words of scripture are the sons of God" - it's "All who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God." Paul makes a point in Romans of explaining clearly that the law (the Jewish Bible) isn't even necessary for knowing everything we need to know about about God and righteousness. Nature and our own consciences will get the basic job done quite nicely, so that there's no excuse for anyone.

Anyway, I can't buy the ideas of infallibility or inerrancy as I think they are implied by most, and I don't think it's a necessary tenet in order to anchor the fundamental beliefs of our faith. Jesus warned the Pharisees that their dogmatic way of approaching Scripture was blinding them to the saving truth of the Gospel: John 5:39 NASB - "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me." If we deify the written words, we are basically committing idolatry. God isn't contained in the pages of a book. We aren't saved by obeying the letter, but by being led by the Spirit through the real-time Word of God, Jesus, speaking into our hearts "this is the way...walk in it". A static faith in even the fundamental truth of Christ's substitutionary death on the cross won't save us as James clearly reveals: James 2:14 NASB - "What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?" Believing that the Bible is true, whether or not we hold it to be infallible, won't save us. So why do we cling so tenaciously to this unsupportable idea? The Bible is 'profitable' for knowing God's revealed truth about himself and his way of salvation, but to say that it is 'infallible' is meaningless...in my opinion. Only God is infallible and the written word is not God - the Living Word of God, Jesus, is God...and he's still speaking:

 Hebrews 3:7-12 NASB - Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS, WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me, AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS. "THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SAID, 'THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS'; AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, 'THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.'" Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. (not the dead letter).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Unity of the Spirit Leads to Unity of the Faith

I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. - (John 17:23 NASB)

being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ... until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. - (Ephesians 4:3, 13 NASB)

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. - (Colossians 3:14 NASB)


In my pursuit of 'pure doctrine' I've been wrestling with the tenets of Reformed Theology and those of the Wesleyan school of thought (which I favor). I am amazed that God has chosen to use such broken vessels as Martin Luther (who advocated shipping all the Jews back to Palestine and recommended execution of the Anabaptists) and John Calvin (who advocated torture and execution as acceptable means of 'evangelism'. Why should I trust myself to Biblical interpretations from men whose lives in no way resembled that of the Christ whom they claimed to have been disciples of?

Of course I'm not eager to have my own life put under the microscope!

Anyway, I see that there is a tension between 'right doctrine', which is definitely essential, and which the Scriptures themselves admonish us to guard with diligence, and pursuit of unity in the bond of peace whereby we are told by Jesus himself that we will be identified as genuinely His disciples. So, even though I consider Calvin's views heretical (and question whether with his advocacy of forced conversions he will even attain to life eternal), I may not be able so easily to write off those who adhere to his teachings.

I'm reading 'Revival' by Winkey Pratney. Last night I read a wonderful exchange between the imminent 18th century preacher Charles Simeon and John Wesley which I think speaks eloquently to my struggle:


**********************************************************************************
Simeon - Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers.  But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions.  Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

Wesley - Yes, I do indeed.

Simeon - And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Wesley - Yes, solely through Christ.

Simeon - But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

Wesley - No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Simeon - Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

Wesley - No.

Simeon - What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother's arms?

Wesley - Yes, altogether.

Simeon - And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

Wesley - Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Simeon - Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree. (Moule, 79ff.)
**********************************************************************************

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Hungry For Change

Matthew 3

I'm starving. I'm parched. I'm hungry for change (http://tradeasone.com/get_involved/hungry_for_change/).

It would appear that the Judeans during John's ministry were also experiencing hunger and thirst as they flocked to the Jordan to confess their sins and identify with a symbol of cleansing and regeneration. What were they anticipating? Jesus had not yet begun to expound on the attributes of the Kingdom of Heaven. They must have been knowledgeable about the OT prophesies about the Messianic Age and the good things that would characterize God's reign on earth.

So John came indicating what was necessary to prepare for the Kingdom that was 'at hand'. Repent...prepare the way...bring forth fruit worthy of repentance. I can't rely on my heritage or my list of accomplishments. I must acknowledge my spiritual poverty and mourn over my infatuation with my worldly riches. This is not a message of cheap grace. The axe is laid to the root. He will thoroughly cleanse his threshing-floor.

Maranatha

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ask...Seek...Knock - Luke 11:9,13

Wow! Long time - no blog...

"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. "For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. ...  "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" - (Luke 11:9-10, 13 NASB)Father up in heaven...and in my heart
Please give it to me now
Or I can't start
Livin' out the lovin' life that you prepared
Just starin' at the formless void
I get so scared
I've got to have the Spirit now
Or I can't start
Building up a store of good
Within my heart
The devils now are mostly gone
The floor is clean...I've mowed the lawn
But now I've go no furniture
And I am sore afraid
Of who might ending up sleeping by me
In this bed I've made
There's seven hombres malos
Who've been hanging 'round my door
I need the power of the Ghost
So they don't come 'round no more
And there's a bunch of other beggars
Dressed in rags like me
(Or that's the way I used to look...
but now I'm clean and free)
They masquerade as rich men
But they haven't got a clue
They need to take their tarnished bling
And trade it in for You
I want to pull their covers
And expose their starving souls
But I'm reaching in my bag of tricks
And find it's full of holes
So Father, for my Xmas gift (or birthday or whatever)
I'd like a brand new wineskin
That's been made of supple leather
Though for your sake I don't imbibe
I'm askin' that you please
Fill up that sack with brand New Wine
That brings me to my knees
I'd like to get a little drunk
And be forced to explain
That a different kind of Spirit
Has just pickled up my brain
And then fluent in a dialect
That cuts right to the heart
I'd like to set those beggars free
To get a brand new heart
But right now I can't cut a thing
With this here rubber sword
I need the sharp and living One
Your Spirit has in store
So come on Giver of all good
I'm askin', seekin', knockin'

You won't be rid of me today

Until you open up and say
"I've filled your Xmas stocking!"

Amen!