Monday, September 28, 2020

A Prophetic Edge - A Pyrrhic Victory

It will be important to remember in this week's reading, that these words were penned 60-70 years ago.  The words proved to be quite prophetic.

But thank God that, in some senses, we have moved beyond the age when the Christian faith was no longer a threat to atheists and others. We have moved again, into an age when faith has become a very significant threat to the powers and principalities that rule our world. 

I still feel that the following words may well be applied to the institutional, denominational world of churchianity where compromise, comfort and complacency seem to govern decisions.

"Compromise and collaboration are now the distinguishing marks of religion. 
To be relaxed and well adjusted to society is more important 
than to keep the commands of Christ. 
The fawning ingratiating spirit is the modern badge of saintliness. 
Between the world and the Christian there is no longer any great difference. 
And that is not by accident..."

We grow overly concerned as to whether or not our social media posts are argumentative, upsetting, or confrontational.  We worry too much about how our faith will be interpreted, our comments received, and our positions perceived.  We want everyone to feel warm and welcome, free to pursue the will-o'-the-wisp of personal faith, feel good religion, and non threatening belief systems.

It will take some doing to keep from going down too many rabbit holes this week.  It will, likely, require more effort to process and to avoid knee-jerk reactions, but I think this is a pivotal issue.

How do we remain a friend of the world when friendship in Christ mandates a rejection of all things and anything that interferes with His Lordship. The blessings we enjoy are to become a tool for advancing his kingdom.

Are we appropriately threatening to atheists and to culture?  Is our affection for Christ echoed in our desire to see His Kingdom advanced, in our lives? In our neighborhoods? In our workplaces? In our friendships? In our families?  Is His will the only thing that matters?  

We need to remember that the cross can never be socially or culturally acceptable. It is by it's very nature counter cultural...

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Questions

 

Hope the Universal Treasure – Chapter 21


1. On what human devices and desires have I set my hopes?

On the concepts of professionalism, success, and busyness as a means of establishing credibility, nurturing relationships and being recognized as significant.  I have inappropriately invested in institutionalized churchianity, pandered to church structures and pretend believers, and tried to appease people as a means toward establishing my identity as a pastor, hoping for recognition.  All I really needed was  to be attentive to God's calling to labor in His vineyard until the evening comes.

2. What hopes has the Lord given me that have already been fulfilled?

A sense of peace in Him, an abiding faith, and the security of the promise of salvation.

3. In what ways is my eternal hope secure?

In Jesus.  I can only find my hope, my rest, and my peace in Him.

4. How might my faith and exercise of it bring hope to those around me? In what ways am I instilling hope in the people with whom I live, work, and play?

Right now this is the difficult thing. It seems presumptuous, even arrogant to presume that I could do that.  I trust that f I live my life faithfully focusing on Him, he may chose to bring hope to other around me, but I can't bring hope.  I can only testify to the hope I have in Him.

5.  What is God saying to me about this? 

Be at peace. Be still and know that I am God!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Unfulfilled Hope


This week's Tozer (ch. 21) reading discusses the hope which is no hope at all - that disease ridden, deceitful hope that is, in reality, little more than wishful thinking.  Hope which is not grounded in a clearly established promise and made by one who is trustworthy, is not hope at all or as Tozer puts it: 

"hope that has no guarantee of fulfillment is a false friend that comforts us 

a while with flattery and leaves us to our enemies."

If my beloved, beautiful, and well-intentioned wife promised me my long dreamed of Maserati or Lamborghini, and I actually hoped for it, I would be a fool.  To place my trust in an individual, as wonderful as she is, who is however, unable to produce that which they commit to, would be foolhardy. (I do suppose I might realistically hope to receive a small model version of the greater reality which would just be a tease!)

The detective on the Police drama that promises the victim "THE CULPRIT WILL BE ARRESTED!" is a fool.  While he or she may be eventually able to just that, it is equally as possible that he or she may fail.  The parent that promises "I WILL NEVER LET ANYTHING BAD HAPPEN TO YOU!" deceives the child and robs them not only of hope when something does happen, but of wisdom...and perhaps even trust!

Only the Lord God Himself is able to make such a promise, he who did not spare His own so but gave Him up for us...and proved his trustworthiness in the reality of the resurrection.

However, the Lord does not make false promises to save us from the harsh realities of life, of hatred, or violence, of illness, or of others' sins or even of the consequences of our own sinful acts.  He doesn't promise that we won't lose a loved one from cancer.  He doesn't promise we won't experience disaster, famine, poverty, or anything else. He certainly doesn't promise we won't get the ticket or get arrested...only that we will not walk through those trials alone.  This infinitely-abled God, the author and finisher of our faith, is ALWAYS faithful and hence alone can be depended upon, not to save us from life but to save us through life and in spite of life's uncertainties.

It is a fool's errand to make promises we have no more than a desire to make happen BECAUSE our heart for a matter doesn't guarantee its success. It is just as bad to give out (false) hope that is short-lived and only used to escape the greater responsibility of sharing an abiding faith, that saves, in spite of the possible eventualities we face.  Let us, rather than give false hope, testify to the One true hope!

I suppose I may be being too hard on hope, in general.  Hope is what we have in so many people: parents, siblings, friends, etc.  Hope is what we have in ourselves, in our employers, our bankers, and others who may have the best of intentions.

But ultimately faith, and let me be VERY specific here, Christian Faith, alone is "the assurance of things hoped, the convictions of things unseen" (NIV) or "the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen" (CSB).

And hope does not disappoint...Paul's great letter to the church at Rome witnesses to this reality through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by saying 

 "hope does not (disappoint us) put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured 

out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (Romans 5:5)


This is the assurance that God will ultimately bring forth His will, in His World, to His people. God's love has already been poured into us through His Holy Spirit who enables, who empowers, who equips us to push through the unknowns, the uncertainties, the inequities. 

Thanks be to God!  There lies true HOPE!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

 1. How does the thought of “faith” being confidence in God’s character impact me?

The truth that my hope is founded on God's character, God's faithfulness, God's Sovereignty steels my soul.  Without it I would despair.  It has carried me through any and every situation which may have otherwise caused me to give up.  It is the ONLY source of confidence I hold.

2. How might it impact my time and life here and now?

As I consider the next step, whether or not to reengage in active ministry in a congregational setting or to simply participate as a member of the local community, I need the confidence that I am able to discern the Lord's wishes, His direction, His will.  I am confident that He will speak. My concern is whether or not I will be able to discern His voice above my own fears, dreams, or wishes.

3. If hope is the “sweet anticipation of desirable things promised but not yet realized” what are my hopes for this year?

My hope is for clarity of discernment in a world of noise.  The cacophony of voices, the clamoring of the self-seeking, the fears seem to keep me from experiencing the sweet anticipation of anything but eternal life. My hope, my longing is for His promise of deliverance from the PC(USA) long arm to a place of welcome, a place of faith, a place of hope.

4. If hope is the “sweet anticipation of desirable things promised but not yet realized” what are my hopes for the future as a result of my time in quarantine?

For a spirit of renewal and refreshment, a hope that I will not have wasted this precious gift of time.

5. What is God saying to me about this? 

Be still and wait upon the Lord...



An Apology...


Please accept my most sincere apology for having missed the posting of last week's questions.  Carol and I were traveling and it simply slipped my heavily preoccupied mind... I suggest that we go back and review the reading (chapter 20) one more time and then consider these questions.  This will put us one week behind, but selfishly, I need that.  Here are the questions then for week 20.

 

 1. How does the thought of “faith” being confidence in God’s character impact me?


2. How might it impact my time and life here and now?


3. If hope is the “sweet anticipation of desirable things promised but not yet realized” what are my hopes for this season of life?


4. If hope is the “sweet anticipation of desirable things promised but not yet realized” what are my hopes for the future as a result of my time in quarantine?


5. What is God saying to me about this?


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Standing on the Rock!

“It is not too much to say that if all hope were destroyed within the human breast, the race of mankind would die out altogether within a few years. Even the procreative drive and the instinct for self-preservation would hardly be strong enough to save from extinction a race from which all hope had fled.” (Tozer)

Faith is, the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1].

 In Christ our hope is so secure that Christians do not lose hope. It was the hope of a coming Redeemer, the Messiah, the Christ, that kept the remnant Israelites faithful through the struggles of captivity and the constant drain of worldly temptations to be like those around them. It is what secured the faith of those who were martyred and enabled them to perish yet praising God.

As I look at the political spectrum about us, I’m looking for those who still have a dream, who have a hope, who are confident that the Lord will establish His plans for His people – those who are less worried about who might win the election and more concerned with instilling confidence in those around them, that irrespective of who wins and who loses, our future is secure in Jesus Christ. I WILL NOT be robbed of that joy. God will have His way. That is more certain than anything else.


 How often do we see fear, anxiety, and anger rear their ugly heads when we face temptations, or trials, or illness, or evil, or oppression, when the only appropriate response is joy and gratitude. The Christian CAN rejoice in all circumstances, the illness and death of a loved one, the abandonment of the faith by a child, personal rejection by friends or family, the persecution of a government out of control… We dare to stand up and proclaim loudly:

My hope is built on nothing less 
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; 
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, 
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. 

When darkness veils His lovely face, 
I rest on His unchanging grace; 
In every high and stormy gale 
My anchor holds within the veil. 

His oath, His covenant, and blood 
Support me in the whelming flood; 
When every earthly prop gives way, 
He then is all my Hope and Stay. 

When He shall come with trumpet sound, 
Oh, may I then in Him be found, 
Clothed in His righteousness alone, 
Faultless to stand before the throne! 

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; 
All other ground is sinking sand. 
All other ground is sinking sand. 


More than anything else, as Tozer points out, “faith is confidence IN THE CHARACTER OF GOD, and hope is the sweet anticipation of desirable things promised but not yet realized...the Christian’s hope is sound because it is founded on the character of God and the redeeming work of his Son Jesus Christ."

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! 
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope 
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and 
into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. 

This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith 
are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation 
that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 
In all this you greatly rejoice...
[1Peter 1:3-6] 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Truth is in order to goodness!

 

We live in a world today in which truth has been called into question. In some cases we hear terms like “my truth” thrown around as if it was something negotiable, or private, or malleable.

In other cases truth trumps everything and whether or not we accept the truth, believe the truth, know the truth, is all that truly matters.

This week’s reading delves into the matter of truth's necessity for godly behavior. 

I am struck by the fact that scripture admonishes us that we will not be judged by what we believe (i.e. truth) but by what we do. Right belief isn’t the criteria on which we are to be judged. And yet, as Tozer reminds us what we do is a direct reflection of what we believe. Belief should lead to action and right action is dependent upon right belief. Right doctrine, right belief leads to right behavior. It is the means by which right behavior is developed. Acceptance of Christ's work on the cross, faith, is the means for our salvation. But our heavenly rewards seem to be based on our performance (Matthew 25:20-23; Luke 14:1214; 1 Corinthians 3:8). And yet we must never devolve this concept into "works righteousness." We aren't saved by our good works but our good works are dependent upon our being saved (Ephesians 2:10)

The Greeks of the New Testament age loved to talk about ideas and concepts. Their term philosophia literally means “the study of knowledge." But neither the study of knowledge, nor that knowledge, in an of itself alone, are sufficient for believers.

Knowledge about something, an understanding of the way in which something works isn’t necessary to enjoy the result. We can enjoy air conditioning, the internet, gravity, and the weather without completely understanding all the intricacies of them. So too, we do not need to understand all the connections between right belief and right behavior and eternal rewards, to recognize the benefits, right belief will bring to our behavior and our right behavior to pleasing God..

"Personal holiness", "righteousness", "purity", "piety", "piousness" - all these terms seem to be viewed negatively i our cultural settings and yet they are the direct result of right belief.They are the kinds of things that drove men of old to establish great kingdoms, institutions, cultures.

Failure to see this intimate connection is what Tozer claims to be the raison d'ĂȘtre for immorality in congregations today.

The whole purpose for this Tozer study has been to increase our understanding of the principles of revival. Revival comes through the “reviving” of our faith, of our practice, of our commitment to holiness. And this is dependent upon our understanding of the connection between faith and practice. We don’t need to fully comprehend how the Lord works to bring revival to know that right belief and right behavior are a part of discerning God’s most perfect will. We simply need to accept it and to seek it.


So as we continue, let us recommit to maintaining space for this study, for making the time in our schedules, for saying no to some things so that we may say yes to the things that matter. Like any diet, exercise, educational, or professional endeavor, consistency and commitment are key. If we want to revive our faith we need to pursue it with gusto.

Paul said it best when, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he wrote:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

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.

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things [Philippians 3:10-15]


Thursday, September 3, 2020

Chapter 19

1. In what ways does my need for comfort and assurance of safety interfere with opportunities to trust God? 

 

2. In what ways do my words act as substitutes for action?

 

3. How can I grow in my faith through my actions? 

 

4. How does my faith hold me back from trusting God?

 

5. What is God saying to me about this? 

MIA

         November 23-27, 2020 for Thanksgiving!