Friday, August 28, 2020

"ZEALOUSNESS"

Zealousness -

"Marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal." - Merriam Webster 

"Great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective." - Oxford

For what are you zealous? What generates great energy or enthusiasm in your life?  What causes you to invest great loyalty, partisanship, or support?

In these days of intense political partisanship we also hear of great ideological support being lent to protest injustice, racism, and all kinds of perceived inequities in our nation.  And truth be told there are some great inequities. There are great inequities that should call forth zeal, and enthusiasm, and energy, and partisanship.  But we seem to have great disagreement on two significant fronts:

1. What are the most significant issues that we should be addressing; and 

2. What are the most effective means for addressing those issues?

Jesus, we are told, fulfilled the prophecy that "zeal for your house will consume me." [John 2:17]  This prophecy originally appears in Psalm 69 where we read:

“For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.
I am a foreigner to my own family,
a stranger to my own mother’s children; 
for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
When I weep and fast,I must endure scorn;
when I put on sackcloth,
people make sport of me,
Those who sit at the gate mock me, 
and I am the song of the drunkards” [Psalm 69:7-12]

It is the picture of a righteous man faced with scorn for His love of the Lord and His Temple.  He is scorned by neighbors and family. He is insulted by those who also insult God, the enemies of God.  He is mocked for his visible acts of repentance. Those in positions of authority (those who sit at the gate) do likewise. His situation is so well-known and universally mocked that it has become the song of drunkards.

And this is the kind of experience that Jesus calls us to - to have our family say "I don't know you anymore"; to be insulted by the unsaved; to incur scorn and ridicule for our pious actions; and for the authorities and even drunks to ridicule us.

Paul writes, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: 

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. [Philippians 3:8-11]

Does zealousness for the Lord and His Temple (church) consume us?  Or is it a part-time, Sunday morning, routine in our lives?  Would we give up our reputations, our jobs, our family, enduring judgement, ridicule, scorn, mockery, and humiliation to show forth our own pious (showing reverence for the Lord) pursuit of righteousness?

Again under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the author of scripture, Matthew (this time) writes:

Do do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


 If we but seek first His Kingdom, and His righteousness, willingly enduring the ostracization of a world lost anyway, what will we have lost? Nothing. And what will we have gained? Everything.

Just weeks before being mercilessly slaughtered by Auca Indians, missionary Jim Elliot wrote in his journal:
"he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." Jim and his colleagues, Nate Saint,  Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and Pete Fleming were ambushed and murdered as they attempted to share the gospel. And that act became the channel through which the entire tribe came to faith, and the family's reconciled.  What little (in comparison) suffering might you endure for the sake of the gospel as a demonstration of your zeal?



Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Chapter 18

Questions


1. What is the greatest passion in my life?


2. What are some passions (areas of zeal) in my life that are less than “loving, self-effacing, and lowly”?


3. In what ways does my “zeal for the Lord” show?


4. What are some areas of my faith that I would like to be more passionate about?


5.  What is God saying to me about this?

Monday, August 24, 2020

Z.E.A.L.

The word “zeal” as in the “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 37:32 or “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’” John 2:17 is a fascinating word.

Zḗlos (an omamopoeic term that mimics the sound of water bubbling over from heat and perhaps derived from 2204 /zéō, "to boil") – properly, burning emotion (inner feeling boiling over, "boiling from heat," J. Thayer); (figuratively) something very fervent ("red-hot") as with Spirit-fueled zeal to serve the Lord. This root (zē-) is used both negatively ("jealousy") and positively ("zeal") depending on the context. 

[The root (zē-, "zeal") literally means "hot enough to boil." It is metaphorically used of "burning anger, love, zeal" (A-S) – i.e. to burn (in spirit). It can refer to "boiling anger, love, zeal, for what is good or bad" (J. Thayer).]  www.biblehub.com

Tozer makes the case that all godly people will be zealous but not all zealous people are godly. There are people within the church who are zealous for tradition “because we’ve always done it that way.” There are people who are zealous for the health of the church from a financial perspective and who therefore tend to hoard the resources rather than expend them for ministry. And there are those who are zealous for “their church.” The assumption amongst these latter ones is the sense that the longer one has belonged to a particular congregation, the more “right” they have to determine its future. They hesitate to share leadership. They are suspicious of new members. Often, they base their right to power or office or influence, not on their own leadership or their own giftedness, or even their own reputation, but that of their parents, their grandparents, or other members of the body, presuming that their families are the one’s who hold the true heart for the church in their hands.

It is zealousness for things such as tradition, financial health, leadership, control, etc. that belies one’s faith. To have a burning emotion, burning anger, or very fervent feeling for anything other than the Lordship of Jesus Christ, is idolatry. The church, its leadership, its financial health, its traditions are all gifts provided by God. To supplant the giver with the gift as the object of our zeal is a rejection of the Savior. But to see the gift as a means of glorifying the giver and burn with passion, with desire, to properly utilize that, is right religion.

Today, there are many fervent people, zealous, driven, anxious protesters, who, while sincerely passionate are sincerely wrong in their direction of that zeal. It will be incumbent upon us this week to rightly examine our own passions, our own zeal, our own “hot button” issues and to consider whether or not they advance or retard the Kingdom. [More about the Biblical concept and importance of critical self-examination may be found here: https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-self-examination.html]

Friday, August 21, 2020

My Answers

 1. How do I feel about the comment that “no sin is private”?

An initial reaction to this question was the typical, "well of course not, God knows and sees all."  But it really is much more than that.  As my blog posts this week bring out sin involves matters that are public by virtue of the content of the sin, and our sin participates in a broader culture of sin.  This should make us more timid when it comes both to our own sin and that of others.

2. In what ways has my life been impacted by the sins of those around me?

Without calling out individuals and organizations by name, I can clearly state that my education, my denominational standards, those of my family and friends all have impacted my thinking on things, even my ability to consider things.  My life is the poorer for the sins of the neglect of accountability, for the winking at sin itself, for the tolerance and misappropriation of grace.

3. I what ways have my sins encumbered others?

Conversely, I would hasten to add that my wife and children has been subject to the consequences of my sin and likely have carried some of that into their lives.  The gospel has been impeded by it at times. And we all carry the weight of what could have been, if only...

4. What sins do I personally have a need to confront in my placement?

There are matters with which I continue to wrestle because of my experience, matters which are better kept under wraps here and shared only with my wife.

5.  What is God saying to me about this? 

I need to more zealously guard my speech and behavior. I need to double down on putting on the whole armor of God, bathing my day, and my actions and speech in prayer. I also need to remember both:  

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9]

and 

But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. [1 Timothy 5:20]

are intended to be kept in tension!

Chapter 17

 

Week 17 No Sin is Private (Chapter 17)


1. How do I feel about the comment that “no sin is private”?


2. In what ways has my life been impacted by the sins of those around me?


3. I what ways have my sins encumbered others?


4. What sins do I personally have a need to confront in my placement?


5.  What is God saying to me about this?

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Freeeeeeee-dom!

 Movies have the ability to move our emotions. The actors and actresses that make the good movies great depict characters that we develop an affinity for, rightly or wrongly.  There is a great scene in "Braveheart" as William Wallace is put to death wherein his yells "Freedom" as the king breathes his own last.

 
But William Wallace is NOT Mel Gibson.  And Mel Gibson's depiction of Christ in "The Passion of the Christ" doesn't, necessarily, make him a godly man.Yet we tend to invest, either by hope or by acclimation, certain characteristics in actors and actresses based on their roles.  And so often their lives are but a dim reflection of the characters they play.

Herein lies the heart of one of our social ills.  When we see these actors and actresses we admire them, transferring the perceived or even the false credibility of the character onto the actor/actress. We then read the news articles of these perceived "decent" people arrested for DUI, drugs, violence, cheating scandals, perversion, and feel disappointed, somehow cheated of an icon.  So too, I suggest, with our politicians.  And when the two groups combine, what a sad show it is.

 
The world of Hollywood, or politics, of notoriety is filled with debauchery and sin.  There is something about fame and fortune that clearly turns one's head. We see it all the time. Even in the "Church" as mega church pastor's, t.v. celebrity evangelists, popular bloggers, vloggers and authors misuse and even abuse their celebrity status.  And in this world we often hear the phrase that we have a public life and a private life and that the private life is just that, private.  We are cautioned that what one does in one's private life in no one else's business. And we soon adopt this phraseology to hide our own sin and debauchery.  

Some statisticians make the claim that the favorite or most quoted Bible verse these days is "Judge not!"

And yet this week's reading claims something of the exact opposite, that while our sins may be personal, they are never private. The well-known preacher that gets caught picking up a prostitute disrupts an otherwise significant ministry.  The financial scandal of paying for a child to be accepted into college on a sporting scholarship takes money away from one who might truly benefit from it.  The overdose of a famous actor or singer, means that the drug fueled murder and mayhem of the industry is advanced. The secrecy of porn addiction fuels the industry of child sex trafficking and perversion in general.  The proclamation of a "Big Tent" denomination furthers the debauchery of those caught up in sin and grants false credibility to the Father of Lies, while bringing shame to the cause of Christ. "We Christians should know that our unchristian conduct cannot be kept in our own backyard" Tozer states clearly. 
 
"The minister, the deacon, the teacher who yields to temptation in secret becomes a carrier of moral disease whether he knows it or not. The church will be worse because one member sins. The polluted streams flows out and on growing wider and darker as it affects more and more persons day after day and year after year.
 
 
The older sibling teaching the inappropriately provocative dance to her younger sister, the parents and grandparents cursing, lying, insulting or even publicly excoriating those with whom they disagree, casts a pall on their own morality and advances the cause of Satan. These are things we expect from the unredeemed world in which we live, but to experience it amongst those who claim the name of Jesus Christ ought to be a matter of shame and embarassment.

We even do ourselves an injustice when we refer to the church of Jesus Christ as "a hospital for sinners and not a hotel for saints."  While the statement reflects reality, the focus ought to be on the ability to heal those sins and strengthen the godly to remain vigilant in their pursuit of a healthy life, free of the disease of sin.

By now you will have sensed that I, along with Tozer, believe in moral perfection as a reality, as an achievable goal.  As Paul says:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:12-14]
 
Truth be told the struggle against sin, the battle against temptation is a daily one, even hourly, but IT IS A WINNABLE ONE by the gift of the strength of the Holy Spirit to us.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. [1 Corinthians 10:13]

It is this gifting of the Holy Spirit which strengthens us and gives us the ability to withstand the temptations.
 
Know this too, that if we fail, we have a Redeemer, who will pick us up, dust us off, and get us back on the way. So take heart today. 
 
The battle continues but as Paul prayed for the Philippians, so too do I pray for you:
 
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus... And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. [Philippians 1:3,9-10]
 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Personal but NOT private...

We're a little more than one third of our way through our forty two week study.  We're in something of a sluggish section, like the second lap of a one mile run - not quite tired but no longer fresh. It may be helpful to see where we have been. 

1.  We've seen the road map (review the outline or Table of Contents previously provided on this site);

2.  We've warmed up and reviewed the concept of revival;

3.  We considered how what we spend our time on - television, books, music etc. influences our perspective on life and faith; and

4.  We have made the case for the need for renewal within the church and within our own lives.  

Now to the root cause of our dissatisfaction or alienation - Two weeks ago we considered bad theology. Last week, anxiety, and this week, we'll look a the particularities of sin. 

No sin is private. It is personal but it is not private. This is a matter we must consider. Researchers are reportiing that alcohol consumption, drug use, and viewing of pornography has been skyrocketing during the Coronavirus episode currently impacting our society.  

Certainly, people having more free time is largely to blame, but so too their anxiety and depressed perspective re: the future.  We also need to consider that the vast majority of the world do not see what Christians consider to be sin to in fact be worthy of concern. 

But consider that alcohol consumption drives alcohol production making it more available.  Drug use increases production and distribution and the tangled mess of lives, death, and activity surrounding that distribution.  And pornography, even in the privacy of one's own home, drives the industry to produce more which drives the porn industry, sexual predation, and child sex trafficking.  Those who participate in such activity are guilty of feeding this evil.

So, no sin is private. The abuse within families impacts future generations.  Thievery from our place of employment drives up costs. Neglect of moral standards in any way shape or form feeds the drives within each of us and so we need to run from sin, turn from desire, beseeching the Lord along the way.  

This week will challenge our thinking, that the small, idiosyncratic sins we consider to, perhaps, be minor, are worthy of our attention, because while they may be personal, they are not private.  The day is coming when that which is already known by our Father, will be known by all.  If embarrassment isn't enough to change us, certainly the thought that it was even the smallest of sins, that required Jesus to die on our behalf. And each and every one of our sins drives another nail in that cross.

Let us be driven to our knees in prayer filled repentance as a part of our revival!



Friday, August 14, 2020

Chapter 16 - Answers

 

Chapter 16 Questions


1. How do I distinguish between a spiritual burden and a religious irritation?

There is likely a fine  line which I have not yet been able to identify between these two. While I have not been given a burden for the lost, I have been given a burden for those who claim Christ, for their growth, their maturity, their righteousness. I think this is what makes the matter difficult for me.  How do I fulfill my calling to preach and teach, and admonish, and exhort appropriately.  These things come off as maniputlative, judgemental, self-righteous, etc in today's world...which is a religious irritation.I do, however, find a resonance in some people who seem to understand that we are to correct one another, in love. We are to exhort and admonish as well as to equip and encourage.  Believers welcome that. Doubters don't.

2. In what ways have I risked my credibility by confusing an irritation with a burden?

Social media is my religious irritation. I allow that which I read to direct my anger, frustration, disappointment, etc.  And I allow things I read to feed my desires and interests and dreams as far as what ministry should look like. And so some, perhaps many of my postings have created  a somewhat fuzzy view of whether or not I am responding appropriately.

3. How can I be more mindful of the need to clearly distinguish between the two?

I REALLY need to learn to back off, to take time, to consider what my spiritual burdens truly are and to then focus my attention on those matters and let go of the rest.

4. What spiritual burdens do I presently carry? What religious burdens are evident in my placement?

The structural/institutional "church" is a train wreck.  It is a field of wheat mixed with the bearded darnel, even in some cases being mostly darnel with very few wheat plants. I don't know how to interact with people who practice this churchianity and yet have not felt released from structured ministry.  Currently I substitute preach and am beginning to feel that that is all I may be called to do.

5.  What is God saying to me about this? 

The $10,000 question. I am REALLY searching for His will. Do I take another church pastorate? Do I move? Do I substitute preach? Do I return to mission?  God seems silent and so I wait.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

My answers...


Questions:

1. What does my level of theological knowledge say about my priorities in my own faith development?

By God's grace, at the time of my salvation (Jan, 1981), I was also called into the ministry. I remember, as a newly birthed believer, questioning my worthiness.  My home church pastor, Dale Ihrie, poked me in the chest and said "you do not have the right to question the worthiness of something God has claimed!"  It was my first theological lesson.  I'd like to say that my theological training at Princeton Seminary was soundly reformed, but it was largely tainted by the personal interests of the professors.  We read Luther, Calvin, Schleieremacher, Kant, Augustine Aquinas, A'Kempis, Bultmann, von Rad, and others, but Biblical Theology, what Paul taught or what Peter taught was never placed into a greater context of what I would call a solid Biblical Theology.  Theology was seen to be particular to the individual, not a Biblically cohesive position. It has only been through my reading of scripture and Bible studies with members of the congregations I have served, through prayer and observation that the theology of the Bible has truly been shaped and come to form my faith.  When I want to know what I should believe, I consult scripture, directly, and assume that the plain sense of a passage is the clear intent of the passage. These are simple words for everyday people seeking Godly wisdom.

2. What kind of theological error or inconsistency do I see around me?

The most pernicious and consistent theological error I see is what I would call a socialized theology. Within the church there are social conservatives and social progressives.  Those whose faith is  shaped by their standing on social issues, rather than their standing on social issues being shaped by their theology. One camp believes abortion is wrong and so they claim that as a Christian perspective, that conservativism is right and assume God supports a particular party.  The other camp believes that social justice is necessary and sets about tearing scripture from its context to make their point.  All eisegetical nonsense.  The other pernicious theological error I see is the radical individualism rampant in America that seems to say, no one has the right to tell me what to believe. Scripture clearly teaches that some are called to be apostles, some evangelists, some prophets, preachers and teachers. Yet too many "church goers" seem to exist on a Sunday School level of theology, refusing to take the time to read scripture and study scripture, take to heart what is spoken from the pulpit (if indeed they even have a believing pastor), as well as theological books, and instead wasting their time on television shows and reading literary drivel, socializing with friends, engaging in sporting nonsense and worthless cultural activities. Sunday is seen as an hour or two commitment to listening (but not hearing) to someone else. Bible Studies might involve 15 minutes of reading in preparation for the class only to end up sharing an opinion on what the passage might mean, while our secular professions occupy hours of labor and reading and classes for professional advancement which do nothing in our preparation for eternity.  The bottom line in all of this is that our faith is seen as a minor portion of our lives, a vehicle worthy of only a limited investment of our time and effort.  And largely our faith development is retarded accordingly. This is why people grieve so bitterly over sickness, and death, and suffering, and oppression. There is no sense of God's majesty, of God's Sovereignty. No sense of the joy of eternity. No theology of life!

3. How do I graciously address these?

Not very well. I find it difficult to see people spending so much time, so much money, so much talent on things that neither advance the Kingdom, nor proclaim the truth of scripture.  Faith seems something that people really don't want to (not can't) take the time to develop.

While I should feel sorrow and compassion, I tend to feel resentment and disdain for those who call themselves Christian but fail to address the radical nature of the call to a;ways be prepared to give a defense for why we believe.

4. How do I respond when others attempt to point out theological errors or inconsistencies in my life?

I like to think that I question them thoroughly, receive any constructive criticism willingly, and process it accordingly.  But quite honestly, I can't think of the last time someone challenged my theology, except in the ordination and calling process.

5. What is God saying to me about this?

I'm really not sure, just yet...I need to process this more...

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Chapter 15


Questions:

1. What does my level of theological knowledge say about my priorities in my own faith development?


2. What kind of theological error or inconsistency do I see around me?


3. How do I graciously address these?


4. How do I respond when others attempt to point out theological errors or inconsistencies in my life?


5. What is God saying to me about this?



Monday, August 3, 2020

Briefest of Chapters...

As I reflect on this briefest of chapters in Tozer's book, I remember wondering why it was included in the book.. I've never come to a satisfactory conclusion, except that the need for Reformation continues.  It was not settled in the time of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.  The need for reformation in churches that consider themselves Christian remains.

One of the rallying cries of the reformation was Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda. It's exact meaning has been debated over the years with most pointing to the tense of the verbs reformata and reformanda, the former being "reformed" the latter being "always being reformed" yielding the translation, "the church, having been reformed, is always being reformed."  And then the conversation sometimes morphs into either a progressive stream of "that is what we are doing, reforming or being reformed as in 'God has more light'," or a more traditional "God's Spirit continues to reform His church 'but never at odds with His revealed will in scripture.'"

Certainly the concept of an ongoing, perpetual sacrifice of Christ is clearly antithetical to the Biblical witness. However, when one remembers that in the Catholic faith, "Church Tradition" (Pontifical Pronouncements from the Throne of St. Peter) is placed alongside scripture as authoritative one begins to see the matter in a less than godly fashion.  In the Protestant stream that pairing of tradition and Biblical doesn't happen, or isn't supposed to happen...and yet...
So we are left to answer the question, "in what ways do we place tradition alongside scripture in authority?" "Or what do we do when our traditions are at odds with God's revealed will in scripture.?"

We have a strong emphasis on family ties and yet scripture says when it comes to faith and life the church is our primary family responsibility, those who obey Jesus, those who love Him are our brothers, sisters, and mothers.

We have a strong tradition of patriotism, but God's word says that we are to render unto Caesar those things which belong to Caesar and unto God that which is rightfully His.  Since we are created in His image, guess whom we serve singularly?
And so my mind goes.  I wonder what this strange little chapter elicits in your thinking?

MIA

         November 23-27, 2020 for Thanksgiving!