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Prince of Peace2

Jesus Christ Prince of Peace (painting by Akiane)

My youngest just “is”. She is impossible to describe but she does me good every day. Unaffected, innocent, pure, without a trace of worry and unconscious of the good she is doing, she works on my soul like a tonic reminding me every day of her namesake’s work in my spirit soul body. There is turmoil in my being at times, probably like everyone, and the cure now seems to be to let Grace do “her” work. The being I am is far too great, terrible and fantastic for me to handle, only Grace can do that. Sin shall not have dominion over me, not because I follow any law, but because of Grace. For I am not under law and she works continuously even when I am not conscious of her.

Or should that be He works?

Seared Consciences

…seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron. 1 Tim 4:2

an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3“These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.…  John 16:2,3

Oswald Chambers in his book “Biblical Psychology” describes conscience as being like the eye that colours everything we see depending on how it is enlightened.  He says (Chapter 16, section 1):

“Probably the best illustration of conscience is the human eye.  The eye records what it looks at, and conscience may be pictured as the eye of the soul recording what it looks at, and, like the eye, it will always record exactly what it is turned towards.”

He then talks about how we can look at something with the human eye and interpret what we see based on our experience of similar things we have looked at in the past – therefore not seeing with innocence.  Therefore,

“The recording power of conscience may be distorted or perverted and conscience itself may be seared.”

He then uses another analogy about how things can look differently depending on the colour of the light you are looking at it in:

“Then again,green-eye-afghan-girl-national-geographic if you throw a white light on trees, the eye records that the trees are green; if you throw a yellow light on the trees, the eye records that the trees are blue; if you throw a red light on trees, the eye records that the trees are brown.  Your logical faculties will tell you all the time that the trees are green, but the point of the illustration is that the eye has no business other than to record what it looks at; and it is the same with conscience.”

Or in other words, conscience is to the soul what the eyes are to the body.  Hence the reason Jesus talks about the “eye” of the body being clear in Matthew 6:22:

“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23“But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!…”05-Eye-Soul-Beauty

This verse doesn’t just make literal sense, it also makes sense if you substitute conscience for eye and body for soul.  In fact that is probably the main way Jesus meant it to be understood:

“The conscience is the lamp of the soul; so then if your conscience is clear, your whole soul will be full of light. 23“But if your conscience is bad, your whole soul will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!…”

Note that the eye/ conscience is the lamp but not the light itself.  It is just a carrier of the light recording what goes through it.  A bad conscience or eye can be that way because of what is going through it – though in some ways the analogy begins to break down at this point.

But we can see from these verses that having a good conscience is so important.  Just like a bad eye leaves the body in darkness, so a bad conscience leaves the soul in the same way.  You can also mistake the little light you have that is in you as being the light you should live by.  As Jesus points out “how great is that darkness!”

We see this all the time in the lives of the muslim fanatics.  Their consciences are bad since they have been taught that doing evil is good.  Ask a fanatic Muslim what should happen to a convert from Islam to Christianity and they will tell you that he should be killed and that by his older brother.  Hence the fear that rules in those societies where this is believed.  And hence their bad consciences.

Oswald goes on to illustrate how much the conscience can be affected and how unreliable it can be by giving the example of the Apostle Paul (chapter 16, section 1. c):

” “I verily thought with myself,” i.e., according to conscience, “that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). If conscience is the voice of God, we have a nice problem to solve!  Saul was the acme of conscientiousness.”

Then he goes on to say: “It is not sufficient for a Christian to live up to the light of his conscience; he must live in a sterner light, the light of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

So we shouldn’t be surprised at ISIS or other evil fanatics considering that they are doing the right thing for God and believing it to death.  It doesn’t change the fact that the light that is in them is darkness.

Our only hope is that they will encounter Jesus like Paul did and repent:

“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:12-17.

As in all things, the local church of Jesus Christ on the ground in these places is the only hope they have.  By contrast, US and Israeli arms will just send them to hell quicker.

My prayer is that my brethren who are being crucified and suffering in the Middle East will not do so in vain and that in their suffering they will also know the overwhelming comfort of Jesus as they go to be with Him.

Biblical Psychology

I’m reading Oswald Chamber’s “Biblical Psychology”, a book I read perhaps 25 years ago with little understanding then.  It is a compilation of his lectures and is not an easy book to read.  However I have found it easier this time around – so much of what he says rings true in my experience.  Here are few excerpts expressing things that I have found to be true:

On humility (chapter 15, section 2 (b))

“What is a little child?  We all know what a child is until we are asked, and then we find we do not know.  We can mention his extra goodness or his extra badness, but none of this is the child himself.  We know implicitly what a child is, and we know implicitly what Jesus Christ means, but as soon as we try to put it into words it escapes.”

On the heart, memory and thinking (chapter 11, section 2 (e) and (f)):

“The brain is not a spiritual thing, the brain is a physical thing.  Memory is a spiritual thing and exists in the heart; the brain recalls more or less clearly what the heart remembers.  In our Lord’s parable (see Luke 16:25) when Abraham said to the rich man, “Son, remember,” He was not referring to a man with a physical brain in this order of things at all….. We never forget save by the sovereign grace of God; the problem is that we do not recall easily.  Recalling depends on the state of our physical brain and when people say they have a bad memory, they mean that they have a bad power of recalling.”

“Thinking takes place in the heart not in the brain. … The expression of thinking is referred to the brain and the lips because through these organs thinking becomes articulate… We may take it as a general rule that Jesus Christ never answers any questions that spring from a man’s head, because the questions which spring from our brains are always borrowed from some book we have read, or from someone we have heard speak; but the questions that spring from our hearts, the real problems that vex us, Jesus Christ answers those.”

And my favourite so far (chapter 15, section 2(b)):

“the Holy Ghost is the only Lover of God, and immediately He comes in, He will make our hearts the centre of love for God, the centre of personal, passionate, over-whelming devotion to Jesus Christ…..until we become incandescent with the very love of God.  “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21).  That does not mean keep on trying to love God, it means something infinitely profounder, i.e., ‘Keep the windows of the your soul open to the fact that God loves you'; then His love will continually flow through you to others.”

 

There is no substitute for a personal relationship with the Author when reading His Scriptures.  However in the mystery of the interaction of the Holy Spirit and our minds the guidance of others is always welcome.  We can get His gentle whisperings or the mind of Christ wrong at times.  So God has given us the collective mind of Christ in our brothers and sisters.

Well, anyway, I thought this* was so good that I had to write out chunks of it again here:

The Big Picture

four squares

“Each of the four wisdom books (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs) is different in its contribution to our education in wise living. … The four books balance each other theologically, and any one of them read out of the context of the others can be easily misunderstood.  Basically, Proverbs presents the rational, ordered norms of life, while the other three books present the exceptions and limitations to the rational, ordered approach to life.”

The Basic Approach to Life (Proverbs)

“Proverbs presents the rational, ordered norms of life.  The many proverbs in the book are not universals (i.e. things that are always true), but rather norms of life (i.e. things that are normally true).  …”

Exception 1:  The Suffering of the Righteous (Job)

“The book of Job demonstrates that there are often events in life that humans cannot grasp or understand through the wisdom approach delineated in Proverbs.  Sometimes tragedy strikes those who are wise, righteous and hard working, and God does not disclose the reasons behind such tragedy.  Proverbs teaches us that life is rational and that the wise person can understand it.  Job qualifies this with some real-world experience….. Our wisdom approach of Proverbs fails us in these situations, and we are forced to rely on faith in the Creator.  This is what we learn from Job.”

 

Exception 2:  The Failure of the Rational, Ordered Approach to Provide Ultimate Meaning to Life (Ecclesiastes)

“The book of Echardworkingclesiastes is an intellectual search for meaning in life.  While the author acknowledges that being wise is better than being stupid, he concludes that wisdom does not by itself provide meaning to life.  Also, while Job told the story of one exception to the norms of Proverbs, the cynical analysis in Ecclesiastes chronicles numerous exceptions to the thesis of an ordered, rational universe.  The ultimate conclusion in Ecclesiastes, not disclosed until the final verses, is that the only way to find meaning in life is to be in relationship with God.  Logic and rational thought (wisdom) can help you on a day-to-day basis, but ultimate meaning in life requires relationship with God.”

Exception 3:  The Irrationality of Romantic Love between a Husband and Wife (Song of Songs)

“Proverbs gives good, practical, wise advice about marriage.  It advises men not to marry women who are irrational love Piquarrelsome or ill-tempered (21:9, 19) and it depicts clearly for women the fate of lazy fools and drunkards, thus implicitly warning against marrying such men.  ….. All this advice is good and rational.

“However it is difficult to build a great love relationship in marriage with only logic and rational thought.  The Song of Songs celebrates the wild, irrational, mushy, and corny aspects of true love.  This book  suggests that in the marketplace husbands and wives may need to be the quiet, discerning, hard working people of Proverbs, but that once the lights go out in the privacy of their home, they need to be the crazy, madly-in-love, slightly irrational couple in Song of Songs.”

Amen to that.

*All quotes are taken from “Grasping God’s Word” 3rd Edition, by Duvall & Hays, Chapter 22.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. (John 11:33)

The word translated “deeply moved” contains the sense of a brimming over and the word translated “troubled” is a hard word more akin to anger.  Jesus wept shortly afterwards.  The context is the death of His good friend Lazarus.

As a church we recently experienced to loss of a seven year old who had fought cancer for years and finally died of complications arising from the struggle and treatment.  All sorts of emotions arise when you attend a funeral like that.  Anger at God might be one of them.  But being angry with (i.e. in company with) God might be a better way of seeing it.  Jesus is God and He was angry too in similar circumstances.

So what troubled him so much that he brimmed over, wept and was angry?  He knew what He was about to do.  And it wasn’t too long before that He had told Martha that amazing truth:

” I am the Resurrection and the Life, he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”

So it wasn’t the death so much as the distress caused by the death that was the issue for Jesus.  All that terrible consequence of the fall of Adam.  Perhaps He was also thinking of what He had to go through to finally put an end to death.

So, anger is not a wrong emotion to feel at such times.  Jesus felt it so there is no good reason why you shouldn’t also.

Seeds and Trees

Of all the things a man may see, few are as beautiful as a tree.  It is an astonishing creation.

First of all there is the seed.  A seed of a birch tree contains the program to grow a birch tree, an acorn contains the program to grow an oak, a beech nut to grow a beech, etc.  Unless a seed falls into the ground and “dies” it remains dormant, dead and lifeless.  Such a contradiction, a seed must die to create life.  A seetreed is a self replicating programmed machine that has a battery (or inbuilt food supply), sensors and two separate growth mechanisms.  The sensors detect the conditions around the seed and when the soil conditions are exactly right (heat, humidity and possibly substance) it starts its self destruct sequence.  The root contains sensors to detect gravity and it uses the food supply to grow downwards.  The shoot contains sensors to detect light and it uses the food supply to grow upwards.  Once the root detects water it moves towards it and starts passing it and muck/ minerals up to the shoot.  The shoot begins to collect sunshine and carbon dioxide combines it with the water and muck and starts to make a tree.  It then no longer needs the battery but has its own power supply which it uses for the rest of its life.  The seed has done its job then and is no longer required.

Jesus said that His word is like a seed (Mark 4, etc.) and like a seed, if it is planted into the right conditions in our heart it produces a shoot.  As we continue to feed the shoot it produces a plant and perhaps a tree of life to others as they begin to eat the fruit of our feeding of that word within us.

God wants to recreate the Garden of Eden in the midst of our souls with the tree of His life in its centre.  Our souls are enormous and all types of things can grow there hidden away in corners or out in the open.  If we feed whatever is pure, whatever is noble, whatever is of good report in our lives and continuously work to remove the weeds of thoughts that so easily fly in from all sorts of angles then we become those who can bless others.

Jesus uses His word of life to make the muck and mess of our lives into something beautiful.

Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within you.

Immediately before that in Luke 17 there is a passage about 10 lepers that are healed.  I protested to the Lord about some of this:

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

“What is with You here Lord?” I practically shouted out while driving my car to work the other day and listening to an audio bible on my smartphone.  “You told them to go and show themselves to the priests.  They were obeying You and yet You commend the one who doesn’t and reprimand the ones that do what You told them!”  On top of that they were obeying the law also.  What did they do wrong?Sheldon_Cooper

I don’t know if you watch the Big Bang Theory.  I don’t actually, just seen an episode or two (no really).  Well anyway in it there is this character called Sheldon.  He is very bright but has no cop on at all.  He can’t see why the most obvious things are wrong.  No matter what you say to him he will take it up literally and answer according to exactly what you say, truthfully every time (I watch it just to experience the cringes).  When I thought of it, my reaction to that passage was a lot like the way Sheldon might have reacted.

Any child with any sort of manners would think it obvious to give thanks to the one who made him well.  Why didn’t the others respond from their hearts instead of just religion?  Had their religion made them miss the obvious?

Hmm…

 

Revelation 10

A mighty angel brings it down from heaven – it is only a little book but it sure has had a big impact!  So it is not surprising that it should be introduced with such a fanfare.  We also know that of all books this one has the right to be considered as coming from heaven (2 Tim. 3:16).

Robed in a cloud – the book can be surrounded with mystery at times

With a rainbow above his head – the rainbow is the sign of the covenant made with all mankind after the flood (Genesis 9:8-16).  We don’t have too many physical things that speak as loudly as the bible does about the fact that God is with us.  However whenever I see a rainbow I rejoice in this other clear sign that God cares about us.

His legs were like fiery pillars – so we can stand firm in the midst of trial once we have this book, this little book.

He was holding a little scroll (book) which lay open in his hand – this book reveals so much, and it is open to all, not the preserve of a few.

He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land  – in this case we could consider the sea as being things of the spirit and the land as things of the earth with the book connecting the two in a way nothing else does (see this blog on the sea).

He gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion – this book proclaims God’s word just as loudly and with just as much authority.

When he shouted the voices of the seven thunders spoke – ok I haven’t a clue what this is about :-)

I’m also not sure what mystery of God the angel is talking about in verses 5 -7.

In verses 8 – 11, John is told by the Spirit to go and take the book from the angel, who then tells him to eat it.  There is no doubt in my mind that if anyone comes to God he will be quite clearly shown by the Spirit that he ought to devour the bible, feast on it, take it all in.  It will taste like honey when you do.

But it will make your stomach bitter, you will not be able to hold it in, it must come out.

You must prophesy if you eat this book.  You will have no choice but to.

 

(Note:  there are other interpretations of what the little book is (e.g. the book of life) but I think this fits best)

“Up from the grave He rose with a mighty triumph over His foes!”  The words of the old hymn reflect a theme which is well known, that of Jesus’ triumph over the devil when He rose again.  So here is another take on it inspired by studying Revelation 12 (as part of my ongoing study of Grasping God’s Word by Duvall and Hays).

In the Old Testament Satan turns up in some unusual places:

The Garden of Eden (Genesis 3)

Among the sons of God in the presence of the Lord (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7)

Standing before the Angel of the Lord accusing Joshua and being rebuked by the Lord (Zechariah 3:1-2)

And is he the one among all the host of heaven that Micaiah saw in 1 Kings 22:19-22?

But whatever his place in the Old Testament there is no doubt about his place after Jesus was risen and glorified.  Revelation 12 makes it clear:  Israel bears a Child and that Child is caught up to God and His throne and now, because Jesus is there, there is no longer any place for Satan nor his angels.

“Now salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of the brethren, who accused them before our God day and night has been cast down.  And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony and they did not love their lives to the death.  Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!  Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea!  For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” (Rev. 12:9-12)

Rising from the Sea

As people who are born from above we ought to walk on the Sea in heaven (Rev. 15:2) and not live beneath its surface nor be earth bound in our thinking.  There, before the throne, sprinkled on the mercy seat, the blood speaks a better thing that Abel’s did.  His blood cried out for vengeance, Jesus’ blood cries out “Forgive!”  Mercy triumphs over judgement.

What is your testimony?  Can you say: “This is what God did for me today” or “This is what He spoke to me today” or “This is how I obeyed His calling on my life today.”  Today is the day of salvation.  The word of your testimony is that God is alive and active in your life constantly pushing back the devil’s claims of this age and his way of looking at things.  The word of your testimony says that you have direct communion through the Holy Spirit with God the Father because of the finished work of Jesus.  This defeats one of the devil’s main lies that you have to go through some man with a collar (or without) to find God.

Is your life constantly laid down for another in Christ?  Do you continually walk in the death of Christ so that you may also know His resurrection? (Phil. 3:10-11). This is the great challenge for comfortable Christendom in this age.

Oh God!  May I also be given the grace to walk in the light of heaven with my eyes fixed on the throne where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God when the devil turns up with a fair face and in that delusion that, if possible, would even deceive the elect! (Matthew 24:24 and 1 Thessalonians 2:10 -12)

 

 

blue_parakeet_by_midoriakaryu-d67kcj5I’ve just finished reading Scot McKnight‘s book “the Blue Parakeet” (sub titled: “Rethinking How You Read the Bible”).  It was a timely read for me.  It addresses several topics but two were of particular interest to me – what is our relationship with the Bible and what about those difficult passages that don’t seem to fit in with our current practices (Scot calls the latter Blue Parakeets for reasons he explains in chapter 2) particularly about women teaching adult men?  

On the first one it was good to read “God does not equal the Bible” (pg. 88) .  I knew that of course but it is funny how many evangelicals don’t seem to.  Another good phrase is on page 91:  “God gave the Bible not so we can know it but so we can know and love God through it.”  It is good to be reminded of these things.  Seeing eye to eye with Scot on these issues helped give me confidence about his views on “Blue Parakeets”.

Before I read the book I had been going in depth through an issue that bothered me in the bible.  It was the passage in Acts 15:20 where James recommends that Gentiles follow certain laws (abstain from the meat of strangled animals and from blood) which Paul, for one, and I and many other Christians ignore these days.  Like all Blue Parakeets (difficult issues) in the Scripture there is an answer that is satisfying to the mind in relationship with Christ (we have the mind of Christ – 1 Cor. 2:16) and for this issue I was satisfied after studying it in depth for about a week.  These commands fall under the general command to love your neighbour as yourself, or more specifically, not to cause your Jewish Christian neighbour (c.f. Romans 14, 1 Cor. 8) to stumble.   Nowadays very few of us live near Messianic Jews and, with the understanding we and they have of the relationship between the Law and our relationship with Christ, they would probably not be stumbled by non-Jewish believer’s eating rare meat at least in Ireland.

Scot’s says about this and other difficult passages in the Bible that no matter who you are, you do pick and choose (or adopt and adapt) when it comes to interpreting them.  Of course this particularly applies to the Old Testament but it is also true about the New Testament.  No where is this more clear than in relation to the current controversies in evangelical circles about women teachers.  It was refreshing for me to read someone finally addressing comprehensively the infamous “silencing” passages of Paul in 1 Cor. 14: 34-35 and particularly 1 Tim. 2:11-15.

In reality I can’t help but think that Scot’s main reason for writing the book was to address this issue.  He addresses it in the context of rethinking how we read the bible but it is the main subject of the book.  He dedicates the book to someone he thinks was not given the opportunities to minister that she should have gotten and he spends over a third of the book directly addressing the issue of the role of women in the Bible and Church.

Of course I liked his arguments in favour of allowing women to teach adult men.  They made a lot of sense.  Also the mind of Christ, that I like to think I share, witnesses within me that of course qualified anointed women, like qualified anointed men, should be permitted to teach adult men.  The admonitions of Paul, like those of James, applied to the particular circumstances in which they were written.  That was then and this is now.

For me probably the best passage in the book was where Scot quotes F.F. Bruce.  Here are excerpts from the text on pages 206 – 207:

"Professor F. F. Bruce, perhaps the most widely known evangelical scholar of the previous generation and a specialist on Paul, had invited our family to his home.... During a break... I asked Professor Bruce a question that I had stored up for him (and I repeat our conversation from memory):  "Professor Bruce, what do you think of women's ordination?"
"I don't think the New Testament talks about ordination," he replied.
"What about the silencing passages of Paul on women?" I asked.
"I think Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew we were turning his letters into torah."
Wow! I thought. That's a good point to think about.  Thereupon I asked a question that he answered in such a way that it reshaped my thinking:  "What do you think then about women in church ministries?"
Professor Bruce's answer was as Pauline as Paul was:  "I'm for whatever God's Spirit grants women gifts to do."
So am I. Let the blue parakeets sing!"

Having the mind of the Spirit is the crucial thing for individuals and churches always.  The Bible was never meant to be a book of rules.  It is God’s story written for those who have the mind of Christ.  Unless you are born again you cannot see the Kingdom of God – and really there is little point in reading the Scriptures for you.  It will only tie you up in knots, or if you are like I was before I was born again, bore you to tears.  But if you are born again, it is a joy to hear the Spirit speak His love story and satisfy our mind together as we read, hear it preached and discover and love God more through the Bible.

I want every women called of God to preach and teach as He leads them.  For there is no difference, in Christ there is neither male nor female, we are all one in Christ Jesus.  And I think I have the mind of Christ in this matter (as Paul might say).

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