The Meaning of Life – Two Basic Thesis (1)

~ In Analytic Philosophical circles, after a good long pause, the question of the Meaning of Life (MOL) has once again started to make the rounds. In recent discussions, there have been two accounts offered as to what is going on with said question. These two accounts are known as the (1) Amalgam Thesis and the (2) Narrative Thesis (or Narrative Interpretation). These two accounts are apparently odds with each other.

Here is a quick summary of what they are:

(1) The Amalgam Thesis states that the question of the MOL is actually something nebulous. It is really a placeholder for various other questions like “Does my life have significance?” or “Does my life have purpose?” or “Who am I?” etc… ~ So according to the Amalgam Thesis, the MOL is really a set of questions

(2) According to the Narrative Thesis, the question of the MOL is ONE single question. It is not something like a conglomerate of questions with all sorts of answers.  Rather it is a question that is asking for an answer that is in effect a story. So the question of the MOL is asking if there is a Story out there, some grand overarching Story that will speak to all the happenings in life and confer all those things like purpose, value, significance, etc.

Perhaps another way to state it is to say that it (the MOL) is really a question asking if the nature of reality is storified. If reality has a storified character, then what is that story narrating across all of reality and speaking to all my doings and going-ons and whatnots.

~ I’ve been looking at this stuff for some whiles. It has not been easy since most of the stuff comes in the form of academic journal articles. If there are things amiss with what I have said up above, don’t mind it. I am just hoping to approximate the ideas.

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Submitted Strengths & Admitted Weaknesses

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

What is weakness? Can such a thing actually be good? Of what use is a weak person?

weakness_distinctions

I have been thinking about weakness a lot and let me start off by saying that broadly speaking, I think there are two kinds of weaknesses, amoral and immoral. They are in the little drawing I have placed above. Of these two, the amoral (or non-moral) weaknesses are what I think are in view in the verses up above.  This is the kind of weakness that God works through. It is the kind that God blesses – not the immoral weaknesses. 

Any my current take: I think a good way to understand strength and weakness in the Bible is to understand strength as submitted strength and weakness as admitted weakness.

Let me start by talking about submitted strength. What I mean by this is that God gives us various gifts and talents. We do this for God’s glory. We acknowledge God in all that we do with these. We still rely on him for the proper use of these gifts.  It is all to easy to misuse our gifts or to just run with them without thanking God. Its just simply all too easy to run on gift-power rather than on the power of the Holy Spirit, the end result being dryness or burn-out.  Samson is a classic case in the Bible of unsubmitted weakness. His life ends in a suicide. 

As for admitted weakness, what I mean is that we take our weaknesses to God in prayer and tell him about it. We cast all our anxieties upon him.  The amazing thing is that God will use us still. He will still work through our weaknesses and bring about some great things.

And… and… I suppose it goes without saying ~~~> It all boils down to prayer in a 1,000 different ways. 

Esther ~ Notes in passing… (Obscure stuff)

~ In the book of Esther, God is never mentioned. Not even once.  I had heard that if you read the Hebrew however, you can find the word “YHWH” (Yahweh) listed four times in a very unusual way, viz. in an acrostic format. So two of those times, it is written in forward fashion and two of those times it is written in  a backwards, reverse fashion.  I just decided to look this up to see if its so and yes, it is so.

~ Now this is not something to make a big deal out of, however it is kind of interesting. I am reminded that even when we think that God has abandoned us or has just plain disappeared, He is always still there, behind the scenes.

~ Also its interesting that the you have two reverse acrostics. Having forward acrostics makes sense (if any acrostics makes sense!), but why the reverse ones? Who knows? However one of the themes of Esther is reversal as the story ends with the tables being turned on the antagonists.

Anyway … here are some snips I took  from Logos for a couple of verses from Esther. | (I am not sure how to do paste it in properly, so sorry.)

1) Esther 1:20 ~ Reversed order

A comment:
~ In the above, the acrostic is basically in the phrase “… it is vast, all women will give …”

2) Esther 5:4 ~ Normal (forward) order

Two comments:

  • Note that the red letters below are in reverse of the red letters above.
  • The verse fragment is sort of around “ … let the King and Haman come …’

We will find this reversed and forward pattern again in

  • Esther 5:13 ~ Reversed order
  • Esther 7:7 ~ Forward order
  • Esther 7:5 ~ “I AM” in reverse

[1] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: with Westminster Hebrew Morphology. (1996). (electronic ed., Es 1:20). Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary.

[2] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: with Westminster Hebrew Morphology. (1996). (electronic ed., Es 5:4). Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary.

Good Reference: No Matter Which Way You Spell it? The Book of Esther by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., at ReformedAnswers.org

Sorites & Hell

~ In Philosophy, there is something called the problem of vagueness. It deals with things like Sorites, where if you have a heap of grain and you remove from it one by one, one grain of sand at a time. When you do this, a question arises – at what point does it stop being a heap?

Another example is that of a bald man. If a man has X numbers of hair on his head and we pull one out and then another and then another, then at what point can we stand back and look at the guy and say “Your’e bald!”

Now this may all seem like splitting hairs and you may wonder who on earth can be interested in such things. Well what can I say? Analytic philosophers of course. They can split hairs even on a bald man’s head!

That said, I heard something recently that reminded me of the problem of vagueness. Someone told me that they believe that God is a just God who will indeed send some people to Hell. However God would not send untold millions of millions of people to Hell, because that seems inconsistent with being a loving God.

A thought on this:

~ It seems to me that to say that some how its OK for a loving God to allow 5-6 ppl to go to Hell, but surely not millions, admits to the problem of vagueness. I mean if sending millions to Hell is unloving, then what # is loving? 100,000s? 1,000s? Will we reach a point where we can say, “Ok. 603,340 is loving, but 603,341 is unloving?” Is there a cut-off point?  Vagueness…

Thomas Watson on God’s Promise…

worship

~ The following is a brief excerpt from Thomas Watson’s (1620-1686) work, Body of Divinity. Watson describes God’s promises with a beautiful image.

“The Lord may sometimes delay a promise, but he will not deny. He may delay a promise. God’s promise may lie a good while as seed under ground, but at last it will spring up into a crop. He promised to deliver Israel from the iron furnace, but this promise was above four hundred years in travail before it brought forth. Simeon had a promise that he should not depart hence, ’till he had seen the Lord’s Christ,’ (Luke 2:26), but it was a long time first, but a little before his death, that he did see Christ. But though God delay the promise, he will not deny.”

~ From Part II.2 of Body of Divinity Contained in Sermons upon the Assembly’s Catechism

Guidance & Commitment

~ I just heard something very interesting in a sermon just now that I want to jot down. The sermon is titled Captive of Providence and its is about Daniel.  I found it in sermonaudio.com and think its worth noting down and thinking about.

“Commitment leads to guidance. Guidance doesn’t always lead to commitment.”

– Pastor Ken Smith

 

J.C. Ryle on Six Ways to Spoil the Gospel ~ Jots from Knots

J.C. Ryle was an Anglican bishop out in Liverpool, England back in the 1800’s. He was known for being a powerful preacher and for writing many books and tracts that the average Joe or Jane out on the streets could understand.  Here I want to just quickly jot some notes from a book of his, Knots Untied which was published back in 1974. You can access the book here.

Ryle said that there were a number of ways that one could spoil the Gospel. While he did not number them, I have been going through Knots Untied, finding his statements and cataloging the ways.john_charles_ryle_vanity_fair_26_march_1881

1. You could spoil it by way of addition. 

“You may spoil the gospel by addition. You have only to add to Christ, the grand object of faith, some other objects as equally worthy of honour, and the mischief is done.” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ One contemporary example of this is the New Perspective on Paul teaching. Legalism also comes to mind.

2. You could spoil it by way of subtraction.

“The plain truth is that false doctrine has been the chosen engine which Satan has employed in every age to stop the progress of the gospel of Christ. … If he could not destroy it, he has too often neutralized its usefulness by addition, subtraction, or substitution. In a word he has “corrupted men’s minds.”  ~ pg. 275, Knots Untied

~ Here one can think of Arianism (in my terms, the “Jesus was just a dude heresy”). The Jehovah Witnesses believe as much (or rather as little).

3. You could spoil it by way of substitution.

“You may spoil the gospel by substitution. You have only to withdraw from the eyes of the sinner the grand object which the Bible proposes to faith — Jesus Christ, and substitute another object in His place — the Church, the Ministry, the Confessional, Baptism, or the Lord’s Supper — and the mischief is done. Substitute anything for Christ, and the gospel is totally spoiled! ” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ I think is very easy to fall for this one.  Life can very easily become Churchianity and not Christianity, and all the while we think we are doing just fine.

4. You could spoil the gospel by interposition.

“You have only to push something between Christ and the eye of the soul, to draw away the sinner’s attention from the Saviour, and the mischief is done.” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ A example of this is Mary worship.  Mary comes between you and Christ.  You do not go straight to Jesus.

5. You could spoil the gospel by disproportion.

“You have only to attach an exaggerated importance to the secondary things of Christianity, and a diminished importance to the first things, and the mischief is done.” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ Here I think of those people (and I was one of these once) who spent hours upon hours brooding over eschatological issues.

6. Lastly, you could spoil the Gospel by confusing and contradictory directions. 

“Complicated and obscure statements about faith, baptism, Church privileges, and the benefits of the Lord’s Supper, all jumbled together, and thrown down without order before hearers, make the gospel no gospel at all!” ~ pg. 15, Knots Untied

~ I think that this last one might just be a matter of poor communication.

Some Notes – from an Eric Alexander sermon.

~ I am reading a book, Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul. In it Sproul mentioned a person, a Eric Alexander who he said was a great Scottish preacher. So I looked him up, found this: Eric Alexander.  You can read more about him at the website.

And … and I just now listened to a sermon of his on The Sermon on the Mount and must say – he indeed is a fine preacher.

Here are some very quick and short notes:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6)

Three areas in this verse which need to be examined:
1. What hunger and thirst signify
2. What Jesus means by righteousness
3. What it means to be filled or satisfied

So what does Jesus mean by righteousness?

Three Senses:
1. What God graciously provides in His Son for sinners. This is Jesus’ perfect righteousness that is given to us.
2. What God produces in every believer’s life by His Holy Spirit
3. The righteousness that God prescribes in society. The kind that belongs to human relationships. God is concerned about the oppression of poor, integrity in national life, etc.

~~>Personal righteousness and social righteousness always go together. The righteous care about the poor and disadvantaged.

Re:3 – What does it mean to be filled and satisfied for Jesus said “Blessed are they … for they will be filled.”

When you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, an abundance of grace is given us. Ephesians 3 – we are filled now with the fullness of God. The very riches of all that God is in Himself fill us as we hunger and thirst for righteousness.

It is important to add that the fulfillment of this promise is never final in two senses.

~~> It is never final in the sense that when we hunger and thirst for righteousness and find ourselves being satisfied, we are satisfied in order to hunger and thirst again.

Because the promise that we will never hunger or never thirst belongs to Heaven and thats the second sense in which our hungering and thirsting is in a sense imperfect here in this world. Our being filled waits for that day when in His presence we shall be able to say “We hunger no more. Neither thirst any more, for we are in the presence of the Lamb.”

One other thing on an entirely practical note.

Many of us may be saying “How do I find that kind of hunger and thirst for God?” I look into my own life and find that I don’t know it in any measure. How then do I find that kind of hunger and thirst for God?

Two things:
(1) No question that it is God who produces it. We need to cry to God to produce it.
(2) French Proverb: The appetite grows with eating.
~ The appetite diminishes as you eat less.

Thats the experience of many Christians who are in a condition of spiritual malnutrition. They eat less and less and they hunger less and less. But you eat more and more and the appetite grows with eating. It is one of the reasons why we need a regular disciplined diet of God’s Word and God’s grace. That is how the appetite grows …

The Wound

Dr. Helen Roseveare recently passed away. She was an amazing woman. Years ago I did a decent bit of biographical reading on her and am right now reading the following: A WOMAN OF WHOM THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY: HELEN ROSEVEARE (1925-2016).

The article is prefaced with the following quote:

hr“God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply.
The privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay.
The privilege is greater than the price.” —Helen Roseveare

~ I find the quote intriguing. And as I think over scripture, this seems to be true because,

(1) Jacob was given a limp.

“The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.” ~ Genesis 32:31

(2) Moses may had some kind of speech problem. When God’s call came, he said:

“Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” ~Exodus 4:10

If it was not something medical (e.g. stuttering), it at least could have came about as a result of not speaking Egyptian and Hebrew for 40 years. Read more here: Bible Contradiction? Was Moses a good speaker? Yes, some people think he was just making excuses, but I think its quite possible that he had some kind of verbal handicap. Even aging can affect ones speaking for the worse.

(3) Jeremiah was young and inexperienced. This is a kind of weakness. Perhaps within a context, a kind of a wound.

“Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.'” ~ Jeremiah 1:6

thorn-735190_960_720(4) Paul was given a thorn in the flesh.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” ~ 2 Cor 12:7

Aside: On the flip side, we have the case of Samson who exercised raw power in brutal ways. We see how his life tragically ends.

The stories can be multiplied from Church History too. David Brainerd, William Cowper and Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers struggled with severe depression. The Christian mathematician Leonhard Euler would go blind and still do math!

~ This is not the case with everyone in the Bible nor with history, but it does happen enough that we notice. People are given a wound of some sort.

I think the Bible is all about weakness and strength. The weakness it describes is that of dependence upon God, whether that be by way of pouring out prayer, turning to His people, etc.  The strength that it describes is again really about weakness because it is a strength born of weakness. Weakness is the soil from which God’s strength arises.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Cor. 12:9-10

The Mission of Faith – Missio Fidei alt. Faith on Mission.

The Wrestle of Jacob by Gustave Dore (1832-1883) - edited in Xara by me
The Wrestle of Jacob by Gustave Dore (1832-1883) – edited in Xara by me

It seems to me that at times, we need to take stock of what has been taking place in our life in order to grow in faith.  I am going to look at the life of Jacob to see some of this.

The Backdrop:
1) The Promise
1.1) Abraham is told by God multiple times that he will be the father of many nations, that he will have descendants as many as the stars in the sky. In addition Abraham is told that he will inherit a large amount of land – the Promised land and also that God will bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. This is the Abrahamic Covenant. I like to think of it as God promising Abraham a family, a home and security. These are the three most basic wants of most every human.
1.2) This promise is reiterated to Isaac, Abraham’s son.
1.3) Jacob knows all this because … well because its all in the family and because its been reiterated to him also.
~ This means that when danger arises, Jacob’s life is not going to just simply fold and disappear. Security.
1.4) Family & Security: The Promise seems to be visibly playing out in Jacob’s life as after a certain point, he has become very wealthy and has a large family.

That all said…

2) Home: God tells Jacob to go back to Canaan, the Promised Land. He does so secretly without notifying his venal relative Laban, who he has been working for.
3) En route to the Promised Land, an angry Laban pursues him intending to have it out with him, yet God prevents Laban from harming him. Unbeknown to Jacob, God comes to Laban in a dream and in so many words tells him to be careful of what he says to Jacob. ~ Back to security.
4) En route to the Promised Land, Jacob meets angels
5) En route to the Promised Land, Jacob also meets God, yea wrestles with Him.

So now Jacob is on his way back to Canaan, when he gets news that Esau his brother, is coming with 400 of his men. Hearing of this fills Jacob with fear. Jacob basically thinks that Esau is going to take revenge.

The question – and yes, I know – easier said that done is – is Jacob’s fear rational? If anything at this point, he should be full of faith. No? I know… easier said than done. However let us work through this.

Would it make sense if the story ended like this?

Jacob is on his way to the Promised Land, when Esau suddenly shows up and wipes out Jacob and his entire household? Does this make sense?
– Because if so then the Promise given to Abraham, Isaac and then reiterated to Jacob becomes nullified in an instant.
– Because if so then it makes no sense for God to tell Jacob to go back to Canaan. God basically sent him to his doom. What kind of direction would that be?
– Because if so then it makes no sense for God to protect Jacob from Laban. He should have just let Laban carry out his bad intentions toward Jacob and his household. Maybe this would involve an attack or captivity and being taken back to Padan Aram. So much so for God directing Jacob back to Canaan. It would have been better if Jacob were not directed thus.
– Because if so then the whole episode of Jacob meeting the company of angels and meeting/wrestling with God himself to obtain a blessing was of no use. Why? ***

– Does any of it make sense?

Faith aligns with mission.

The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau by Peter Paul Rubens(1577-1640)
The reconciliation of Jacob and Esau by Peter Paul Rubens(1577-1640)

Providence is in the Indicative….

thomas_watsonThere is the Indicative and there is the Imperative.  The descriptive and the prescriptive. The is and the ought.  These are found all over Scripture. Take for example, Ephesians 5:25,
 
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” 
 
“Husbands love your wives” is the imperative while “just as …” is the indicative.  The imperative is the command. The indicative is (a description of) a state. And … and the indicative grounds the imperative.  In this verse, the Gospel is the indicative, yea, the Grand Indicative for the command enjoining a husband to love his wife.
 
Another example – also from Ephesians: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” ~ Eph. 4:32 
 
Whats the indicative? Whats the imperative?
 
Quite often we misinterpret scripture when we treat an indicative as an imperative or try to elicit an imperative from an indicative. So if a verse is describing something that the disciples did like handle a snake, we tell people that snake handling is a command for all. (Sorry. I can’t think of a better example off the top of my head.)
 
~ Anyway… all that to say…whew!flavel
 
I think that Providence works in the indicative, not the imperative.

Hard to believe but true, an open door is indicative of an opportunity. However an open door is not a command.
 
“Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and a door stood open for me in the Lord, 13 I had no peace in my spirit, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.… ~ 2 Cor 2:12-13
 
~ Question: By way of Providence, an open door was presented to Paul. He did not walk through it. Did Paul sin? Did people die in their sins as a result of Paul not entering that door?
 
Indeed, it is as the Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said “God’s providence is greatly to be observed; but we are not to make it the rule of our actions. “Whoever is wise will observe these things.” It is good to observe providence — but we must not make it our rule to walk by. Providence should be to the Christian as his diary — but not his Bible.

~ I believe John Flavel (1627-1691), author of a The Mystery of Providence also said something similar.
 

Pessimism & Optimism Quote

~ There are things in the world that we can so consume that ultimately they wind up consuming us.  Moderation is the key.  Here in the States, I have been trying to avoid consuming politics too much and in light of it, to avoid prognosticating too much about the future.

That said I like this statement by Al Mohler:

                                 “For the Christian, optimism is naïve, but pessimism is atheistic.”

almohler

Inspiration ~ Evangel Notes

John Wesley and the Mob
    1. Erwin Lutzer – How to respond to an Atheist  ~ On Youtube with The One Minute Apologist although its [2:02] long
    2. A sermon: Door to Door Evangelism – from out in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. I found this on sermonaudio.com. Very good sermon… Very good and very encouraging.
    3. Everyday Evangelism Stories – from South Western Baptist Seminary out in Texas
      1. Suicidal woman restored, rebuilt by good news of Christ
      2. FIRST PERSON: Door-to-door evangelism actually works
    4. Lex Loizides
      1. ‘A Fire was Kindled in my Soul’ – Howell Harris and Revival
      2. Methodism and the Mob – what it really takes to change a culture
      3. Methodism and the Mob – Part 2: Changing Cultures
      4. Methodism and the Mob – Part 3: Howell Harris Gets Beaten up While Preaching
      5. Methodism and the Mob – Part 4: Threatened at Gunpoint – The Methodist Revival Advances
      6. Methodism and the Mob – Part 5: Preachers Pelted with Dirt, a Cat and a Dead Dog
      7. Methodism and the Mob – Part 6: Violence Seems to Triumph – The First Methodist Martyr
      8. The Emerging Mob: Why Whitefield began open air preaching
      9. Surrounded by the Mob – Wesley in Wednesbury 
      10. John Wesley Speaks to a Violent Mob
    5. From the UCC to the PCA? A Story of God’s Grace ~ A wonderful story coming from the website of Westminster Theological Seminary
    6.  Is This The Revival Generation? – Johnny Derouen @ A Chapel Message at Dallas Theological Seminary. The story that begins at [22:00] and ends at [26:00] – listen to that without fail!
    7. It Happened to George Washington’s Church – The Falls Church Anglican—A Story of Gospel Awakening by J.B. Simmons @ The Gospel Coalition

No Gift of Evangelism?

The following is an excerpt from an article that I am reading:

“…

Second, some claim that since only some people have the “gift of evangelism,” not everyone is obligated to witness. Space prohibits a full discussion on the topic of “the gift of evangelism,” but a few observations are in order.

First, evangelism is not recorded in the common spiritual gifts listings in Scripture; instead, the office of evangelist is mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. Some (myself included) question whether “evangelism” should be seen as a distinct spiritual gift, such as giving, serving, and so on.

In addition, even if evangelism is a spiritual gift, it is also a command for all believers, just like giving, serving, and so on. Not having “the gift of evangelism” does not excuse a believer from his or her call to share Christ with others.

…” – taken from Must Every Christian Evangelize? by Tim Beougher

~ I am not 100% clear on his comment regarding the office of the evangelist and how that might mean that there is no gift of evangelism. I will have to continue to read up.

One thought that I have is that the gift of evangelism might be a species of the gift of healing. If the latter is still around today, then…

*Note: I am not denying that healing is around today. I am questioning whether there is a gift of healing that inheres in a particular person. Sometimes Joe may pray and you get healed. Other times Joe may pray and you do not get healed. Yet still Jane may pray and you get healed…

To be read: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2010/july/no-such-thing-as-gift-of-evangelism.html

The Songs of Ascents ~ Some Quick Notes

MtZion
~ What is today regarded as Mt. Zion

There are a set of Psalms that bear the subtitle “A Song of Ascents”.

There are fifteen of these Psalms, viz. 120-134.

Why do they bear the subtitle, “A Song of Ascents”?

Here is why . . .

~ During certain times of the years, the Israelites used to observe certain festivals (Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, etc.)  Part of what this observance involved was a pilgrimage – a pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem.  This is where the temple was.

Here is the thing about the city of Jerusalem though… It was situated on top of a hill. And this was no small hill. It was fairly sizable.

Jerushalom

So as the Israelites would converge upon the hill from the various parts of Israel, and then proceed to climb the hill, they would sing certain Psalms. Can you guess which Psalms they sang as they ascended up the hill to get to Jerusalem?

Exactly. The Songs of Ascent.

Actually beautiful picture emerges from all of this. The picture is that of various groups of people coming from all over Israel and surrounding the hill and then climbing up. And as they climb, they also sing.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?” 
~ Psalm 121:1 (A Song of Ascents)

And as various groups of Israelites would make their journey up the hill, all the while singing, they would meet other groups of Israelites – fellow pilgrims. And as they met one another, they would all join their voices and sing together and the praise would get louder and louder as they ascended up the hill.

Volcano
Volcano in Antigua, Guatemala

Finally as they got to Jerusalem, here even the priests would be involved in playing musical instruments and in singing and and the city would in effect explode in praise. The city and the mountain in effect were turned into a mountain of praise and a city of praise. Almost like a volcano of praise!

I was glad when they said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet have been standing
    within your gates, O Jerusalem!
~ Psalm 122:1-2

In this world, Christians are pilgrims. We are headed up Mount Zion, on our way to the New Jerusalem. As we make our journey, we too sing songs – songs of ascent.

Communication

Frederic_Remington_smoke_signal
Smoke Signal – by Frederic Remington(1861-1909)

It seems to me there are at least three ways that God communicates to us today:
1. Through His Word – the Holy Bible.
2. Through nature.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
~ Psalm 19:1

3. Through providential actions – for example if you are praying for healing, and according to the doctors, the odds that you will get healed are nil, and yet still you get healed… that was God.

Two things to note:
Note 1: This last one – providential happenings – is one that we have to be very careful about since we can be way off in our assessment as of what is from God and what is not.

Note 2: God is constantly communicating to us.

All that said … It seems to me that there are two ways that we communicate to God today:
1. Through our words – that is, through prayer.
2. Through our actions.

~ So for example, if we are going on a journey, and prior to starting up our car, we pray for travel mercies, then we communicate one thing to God. However if while on the journey we speed and drive rambunctiously, we communicate another thing.

What is it that we communicate? We communicate that we really do not want His travel mercies.

One thing to note:
Note 1: We too are also constantly communicating with God, whether we realize it or not, whether its deliberate or not.  Our actions are constantly sending a message to God.

Some common birds of India – Post by Dr. Conrad Mbewe

ConradMbeweDr. Conrad Mbewe is the pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia. I often listen to his sermons online and even have some downloaded onto my computer. He recently did a interesting post on India, titled:

Some common birds of India. @ A Letter from Kabwata
~ I had no idea that Dr. Mbewe was in India for a brief bit. Interesting. The post contains some great photographs. In addition, I like what he says here in his opening paragraph:

“I was still obedient to the Lord’s injunction that I should “look at the birds of the air” and be refreshed by them.”

~ Thats a thought. Really.

Faith the Size of a Double-Coconut…

Seychelles_COCO_DE_MER

What if Jesus – instead of saying:

“If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6).

Had instead said…

“If you had faith like the seed of a Lodoicea Maldivica aka the Coco de Mer, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Luke 17:6).

The Lodoicea Maldivica aka the sea coconut, coco de mer, or double coconut is a tree that grows in the Seychelles Islands.  It grows a massive fruit, ~ 40-50 cm in length, which contains a seed, that has the honor being the worlds largest seed (see above).

India’s only double coconut tree artificially pollinated @ The Hindu

~ Yes. So what if Jesus had said something like that instead? What would you have done? I think I would faint.

I would faint, because that itself would be a trial.  A trial for which I did not have the requisite faith, because the requirement for faith was too large. Too difficult.  So I would faint.

~ Something buzzing here… Ok. Take a breath… a thought

-> In order to get through a difficulty, I need to have faith in God.

What could an example of this difficulty be?

It could be a sickness, financial struggles, a car accident… and so on. And – it could also be the need to have faith. Huh? So how does the above sentence get re-worked.

-> In order to get through the difficulty of not having faith, I need to have faith in God.

Or

-> In order to get through the difficult of having little faith, I need to have faith in God. ~ Well maybe not quite this last one.

A thought ~~~~> Thank God Jesus said that you only need a little faith in order to get things done. Not much. Quality was more important than quantity. Both small faith and big faith result in getting the job done. The only difference between the two is that large faith comes with some psychological benefits. You don’t freak out as much.

God’s Permissive Will

~ Sin are suffering are a part of God’s permissive will. It is something that God allows to happen.  The crucifixion is a prime example. He allowed this to happen. The permissive will can be a result of sin or not. Christ was not where He was on account of sin.

On His Blindness by John Milton

~ The following poem(Sonnet 16) by John Milton(1608-1674) was written when he was blind. For me a key question is found, dead-center in the middle. It is one in which I have been in a discussion with, with a friend of mine.
 JM
  And the question in question?
~~~>  “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
.
On His Blindness
by John Milton
~~~~~~~
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Church Growth ~ Note

The following is a brief excerpt from a book I often reference:

“Little wonder that the church historically has usually grown the fastest and evangelism has proved the most effective, in small, informal fellowships. These may be fledgling “church plants,” or small groups withing larger more established congregations.14 Even the exceptions to this trend, as with mass response to large crusades, tend not to bear lasting fruit unless newly converted individuals are linked up with local congregations for ongoing nurture and discipleship.15″

His sources are:
14. Gibbs, Eddie. I Believe in Church Growth. (Pasadena, CA: Fuller Seminary Press, 2000), 234-274
15. Catherwood, Christopher. Five Evangelical Leaders. (Wheaton: Harold Shaw, 1985), 201-202

Blomb

~ One thought is that this must be based on data from the Church in the West. So is it applicable to the Church in the East?

~ Another thought is that if its “small groups withing larger more established congregations” then you could probably say that both large and small informal fellowships are good for growth.

Three Enemies of the Church

My friend told me earlier today that there are three enemies of the Church:

  1. Poverty
  2. Prosperity
  3. Persecution

and that the worst of these is Prosperity. Nothing kills the Church like Prosperity. Surely the Western Church is a signal example of this. This is not to knock being wealthy but to knock against the misuse of wealth.

I tend to agree although I will say that Poverty is probably a frenemy, i.e. both an enemy and a friend.

God and Chintziness ~ Thought in Passing…

Now here is a consideration. Suppose you are an unforgiving person.  You just have a habit of bearing grudges, holding on to deep resentments, not forgetting grievances, and being a generally unforgiving person towards anyone who offends you in the slightest manner.  Why? Because thats the kind of person you are.

~ Now suppose it is Judgment Day and you are being judged by God and you know its not going to go well, so you ask for forgiveness. Suppose God says to you,

“No. For one thing, the time for that is now past (2 Cor. 6:2). You were given ample time, but now not anymore. And for another thing – quite frankly in not forgiving, I am merely exercising your own standards towards you.

Hetty Green (1834-1916) World famous miser
Hetty Green (1834-1916) World famous miser

Now here is a consideration. Suppose you are a habitually stingy miser. You will not share any of your things, let alone help anyone out with your priceless treasures when they are going through difficult times. You hoard everything. You scrimp and save. And even if you are totally able to help someone out when they face hardships, you hold back. Why? Because thats the kind of person that you are. Now…

Now suppose you asked God for something… some blessing…

~ What if God said to you “No. I wont bless you with anything. I am going to withhold. Why? I am just simply exercising your own standards towards you.

What if God were like this? What if God treated us like we treated others? Ouch

“…with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ~Matthew 7:2b

Surrounded By Sufficiency…

~ I need to be constantly reminded that we work against a background of sufficiency. We are surrounded by a sufficiency of sufficiencies.  Consider that…

God is sufficient.

His Word is sufficient (Psm. 19).

His grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).

His guidance is sufficient.  (Is. 58:11, 46:4)

His past work on the Cross is sufficient (Heb. 9:26).

His future grace is sufficient (1 Pet. 1:13).

His future works are sufficient (Eph. 2:10)

His providential means are sufficient (Hos. 2:21-22) or if not then He Himself will be our sufficiency (1 Pet. 5:10).

~~~ Yet we may feel insufficient and the truth is that that is quite alright. In fact you can feel sufficient for all the wrong reasons and insufficient for all the right reasons.  Depend on Him.

Linkage: Going Deep with God by Having Him Carry Our Loads

When You Indulge in Pornography, You Participate in Sex Slavery ~ Naselli Article

~ The following is a blog post with a link to an article written by Dr. Andy Naselli that I think is very important.  It is something that we really need to be aware of. He says at his post that there are three questions that he is trying to answer:

  1. What is sex slavery?
  2. How does pornography fuel sex slavery?
  3. How should men feel about pornography?

WHEN YOU INDULGE IN PORNOGRAPHY, YOU PARTICIPATE IN SEX SLAVERY ~ Blog Post

WHEN YOU INDULGE IN PORNOGRAPHY, YOU PARTICIPATE IN SEX SLAVERY ~ Article in PDF form.

 

God’s Speech-Acts…

~ The following is an interesting excerpt from an article by Timothy Keller at the Christianity Today website, titled, Preaching That Unleashes the Bible’s Power: Why expository sermons should make up your church’s main diet.

“It is important to know not only in general that the Bible is true but also that in the Bible God’s words are identical to his actions. When he says, “Let there be light,” there is light (Genesis 1:3). When God renames someone, it automatically remakes him (Genesis 17:5). The Bible does not say that God speaks and then proceeds to act, that he names and then proceeds to shape—but that God’s speaking and acting are the same thing. His word is his action, his divine power.”

Tim Keller – photo from the Center For Gospel Culture.

Money, Time & Redemption (7)

~ I once heard a Christian who was a retired CEO of some big company, say with regards to the issue of applying somewhere for a job and being rejected,

“When you live life under God, there is no such thing as rejection. Only redirection.”

He was exactly right. When you live life under God, His love swallows up all of our rejections and spits it out into the dustbin. Josephs brothers rejected him. However, what did that mean when Joseph reached the peak of Egypt as second to none but Pharaoh?

Yet I want to qualify what the CEO said one step further. I will say it like this.

“When you live life under God, there is no such thing as rejection. Only redirection, and redirection is a form of redemption.”

~ And this here does not just apply to the job situation, but it applies to everything. Perhaps you go rejected trying out for the soccer team or perhaps you auditioned to join a band and were rejected… or perhaps … a 1,000 perhaps… God’s redemption swallows up all the rejections in our lives and so to speak cancels it out.