Manna!

Of all the things that a Christian needs to do once they are born again, nothing is more important than that they eat and drink spiritually. Just like eating food is critical for our bodily life so eating the word of God is crucial for our spiritual life. If we don’t eat spiritually we will die spiritually.

Jesus said to pray to God “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11) He also said that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood we have no life in us (John 6:32-58) and that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

In the OT there is a picture given to us physically of the nature of spiritual food. In Exodus 16 we are told that the people of Israel used to live on manna in the desert. The manna appeared all over the ground each morning and needed to be collected, put in a jar and eaten that day. If they didn’t collect it in the morning, by the time the sun got warm it had disappeared. If they tried to keep it overnight it went bad and was inedible the next day (except on the day before the Sabbath when it would keep for two days). When they went to collect it they found that no matter how much or how little they collected, each family had just what it needed.

From this picture we can see that we need to keep our relationship with God’s Word fresh. Jesus is called the Word of God. The bible contains the words of God.

Like everything else to do with walking in the Holy Spirit, let Him teach you what this means for you. For me it is clear though that I need to keep in daily communion with Jesus, meditating on His words and getting fresh words every day to eat and to share with others, particularly my family.

It is a rich picture worth thinking about and acting on.

Don’t starve to death spiritually!

Being Reasonable

The following is taken from C.S. Lewis’ essay called “Why I am not a pacifist” written in 1940 and found now in a book called “Compelling Reason” published by Harper Collins in 1996.

….. Reason – by which I do not mean some separate faculty but ……, the whole man judging, …… about truth and falsehood.

Now any concrete train of reasoning involves three elements:

Firstly, there is the reception of facts to reason about. These facts are received either from our own senses, or from the report of other minds; that is, either experience or authority supplies us with our material. But each man’s experience is so limited that the second source is the more usual; of every hundred facts upon which to reason, ninety-nine depend on authority.

Secondly, there is the direct, simple act of the mind perceiving self-evident truth, as when we see that if A and B both equal C, then they equal each other. This act I call intuition.

Thirdly, there is an art or skill of arranging the facts so as to yield a series of such intuitions which linked together produce a proof of the truth or falsehood of the proposition we are considering. Thus in a geometrical proof each step is seen by intuition, and to fail to see it is to be not a bad geometrician but an idiot. The skill comes in arranging the material into a series of intuitable ‘steps’. Failure to do this does not mean idiocy, but only lack of ingenuity or invention. Failure to follow it need not mean idiocy, but either inattention or defect of memory which forbids us to hold all the intuitions together.

Now all correction of errors in reasoning is really correction of the first or the third element. The second, the intuitional element, cannot be corrected if it is wrong, nor supplied if it is lacking. You can give the man new facts. You can invent a simpler proof, that is, a simple concatenation of intuitable truths. But when you come to an absolute inability to see any one of the self-evident steps out of which the proof is built, then you can do nothing. No doubt this absolute inability is much rarer than we suppose. Every teacher knows that people are constantly protesting that they ‘can’t see’ some self-evident inference, but the supposed inability is usually a refusal to see, resulting either from some passion which wants not to see the truth in question or else from sloth which does not want to think at all. But when the inability is real, argument is at an end. You cannot produce rational intuition by argument, because argument depends upon rational intuition. Proof rests upon the unprovable which has to be just ‘seen’. Hence faulty intuition is incorrigible. It does not follow that it cannot be trained by practice in attention and in the mortification of disturbing passions, or corrupted by the opposite habits. But it is not amenable to correction by argument.

Before leaving the subject of Reason, I must point out that authority not only combines with experience to produce the raw material, the ‘facts’, but also has to be frequently used instead of reasoning itself as a method of getting conclusions. For example, few of us have followed the reasoning on which even 10 per cent of the truths we believe are based. We accept them on authority from the experts and are wise to do so, for though we are thereby sometimes deceived, yet we should have to live like savages if we did not.”

It is worth reading the whole article and, indeed, all of C.S. Lewis’ essays and writings are worth reading. From the above we can see that – according to C.S. Lewis – every judgement about truth and falsehood depends on three elements: Facts, intuition and reasoning. C.S. Lewis goes onto argue that intuition is in-built and has to be learnt from childhood and cannot be argued against. It is the framework from which you start. For me that intuition is the Word of God. I start with believing what God has said in His Word and assess every fact and line of reasoning from that base.

The reason I wanted to highlight and reproduce the passage from C.S. Lewis is because of something that seems self-evident to me and I think many others: There is a crisis occurring in many people’s minds when it comes to all three of the elements: Facts, intuition and reasoning. The Internet is awash with “Facts” on everything. People’s intuition is not normally based nowadays on the Scriptures and many people cannot or will not reason.

One example is the moon landing that happened 50 years ago yesterday. I was 9 years old at the time and remember it well. There were thousands of people directly involved in engineering and building the rockets over 10 years. 13 massive Saturn V rockets took off from Cape Canaveral. The blast was so enormous that you had to stay at least 3.5 miles from the launchpad to be safe. 1 million people turned up to see the Apollo 11 launch alone. Over 100 million people watched the live pictures from the moon and saw and heard the astronauts talking and putting up the flag, etc. More recently a satellite called Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been sending back pictures of the places where the different moon missions landed. Despite all this evidence and facts, many people still believe that the moon landing was a faked Hollywood story.

Of course such scepticism is not unusual and considering the amount of falsehoods people have believed over the centuries en masse, it is wise to be sceptical. My first problem with unreasonable scepticism though is that it has its origin in a lie told by someone:

A false witness shall perish,
But the man who hears him will speak endlessly.

Proverbs 21:28 (NKJV)

If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Matthew 18:6 (NIV)

According to C.S. Lewis in the passage above, there are two main things that cause people to believe a lie about something: 1. they want to because of some passion or other; 2. they are too lazy to give the matter enough attention. In the second case people lazily accept the statements they read or hear without questioning the source, verifiability or motives behind the propagator of the statements.

But he also points out that probably fewer than 10% of the facts we believe have been reasoned out. Normally we just accept them on authority. Hence the joke that people make about “Well, if it is written on the Internet then it must be true.” The Internet becomes the authority usually for those who are not paying attention to why someone has said something. The initial lie, e.g. the flat earth hoax, gets picked up by thousands as truth. It is no wonder that the Scripture says:

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
19 is the man who deceives his neighbor
    and says, “I am only joking!”

Proverbs 26:18-19 (ESV)

Many people make the mistake of thinking they can deceive people and think that is harmless.

One of the complaints many people have about the Scripture is that God seems devoid of humour. If, by this, we mean that God doesn’t play tricks on people then, yes, He is devoid of that kind of humour. Practical jokes are not in His repertoire of ways of dealing with humans.

They shouldn’t be in ours either.

 

Communion

Few Christian doctrines have caused as much trouble and confusion down the centuries as has the doctrine of communion. On the one side you have those who take a very literal interpretation of the words of Jesus when He said: “This is My body” and on the other you have those that take an allegorical sense of those same words.

As is always the case with any Christian controversy, a true understanding can only come about by combining an understanding given by the Holy Spirit to the words of the inspired Bible. It is that combination of the Spirit and the written word that leads us to the Word of God or Christ Himself in whom dwells all the riches of knowledge and understanding (see Colossians).

If we are ignorant of either one of these – either the Holy Spirit or the Bible – things can get quite confusing. Take as an example Proverbs 9: 1-6 and compare it with the same chapter verses 13-18. In the first section Wisdom calls out to the “Simple” and those “without understanding” and in the second section a foolish woman (Folly) does the same. Both have houses and both offer food and drink. Wisdom offers bread and wine and Folly offers bread and water. Wisdoms food and drink is her own. Folly’s is stolen from somewhere else.

We know from Proverbs 8 that Wisdom is personified by Jesus. It is His own body and blood He offers us – not something stolen from someone else. He paid a high price to give us the spiritual food we so badly desire.

However Folly gives us far more insipid fare. Proverbs 20:17 tells us that her food will turn to gravel in our mouths. Those who try to be satisfied with anything other than the body and blood of Jesus will be disappointed.

But have you seen what I did there? Here is a spiritual truth revealed through physical simple elements. The reality is not in the bread and wine or the water for that matter. The reality is in what they represent.

Be Quiet!

Proverbs is one of the Bible’s Wisdom books along with Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.  One of its major themes is the consequences of actions and words.  According to the bible, discipline in what we speak, how we manage what goes into our bodies and what we do with our time all matter if we want to lead a godly life.  It is the root meaning of what it means to be a disciple.

One of the great disciplines of the Christian is stillness.  “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) is easier said than done for most of us.  It is essential though if we are to hear God.  If we don’t hear the Holy Spirit within us we cannot pray.

Inner stillness can be disturbed by many things.  What we eat can disturb our bowels  making us uncomfortable and unable to stay still.  What we have said to someone can disturb us, we may be aware that we have hurt someone with our words.  Proverbs is full of admonishments to restrain our lips (e.g. Prov. 21:23) so that our souls and lives can be preserved.

Inner turmoil is exposed as soon as we try to be still.  For that reason many people avoid trying to be still as much as possible.  Some will work all day (usually older people), others will play video games or continuously interact with their smartphones (usually younger people).  Continuously blaring music of all sorts is a very common way of avoiding being still for many of us.  Constantly having the TV on or the radio when travelling is another way of avoiding inner turmoil.

Inner turmoil can keep us awake at night.  Our aching bellies, unfulfilled desires, our troubled conscience, worries and fears are unavoidable at night when everything is quiet and still.

God’s answer to inner turmoil is for us to bring this bag of wind and tossing to His word and to be still before it.  That is why there is so much right emphasis in Christian circles on having a disciplined daily quiet time with God – usually before we do anything else in a day.  The word of God is living and active, it will cast a light over all that is going on within you and separate out what is of God and what isn’t (Hebrews 4:12).  As we are still we can pray and the Holy Spirit will teach you about how to live (John 14:26).

Be still.  Jesus commanded the wind and waves.  He can do that for you also.

Liberals and Conservatives

Mankind just loves to put people into categories. Once we do that we can then begin to take a position.  Once we take a position, the other position is wrong. We love to fight and argue and we need positions to argue from.

There are many ways of creating categories but one of the most popular is to put people into the position of being a liberal or a conservative. The danger is in expressing an opinion on something. Once I express a position I am immediately put into a camp. I am a liberal if I support climate change regardless of any other position on any other subject I may hold. I am a conservative if I am against abortion, again that is regardless of any other position on any other subject I may hold.

But of course Jesus was neither a conservative nor a liberal.

C.S. Lewis has this to say about extremes:

I feel a strong desire to tell you—and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me—which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”

Lewis, C. S.. Mere Christianity (p. 77). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.

He who believes in Me

“If anyone thirsts let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me in the way Scripture says, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”

These are the words of Jesus quoted in  John 7:37, 38. I love the way the Old Testament foreshadows this in unexpected ways:

The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. Proverbs 18:4.

The distinction between a babbling fool and a bubbling brook of wisdom is critical here. The source is always the most important thing. The channel it comes through is also important. Jesus says that you have the capability to be a channel for His wisdom. It is a holy task to find out how that works in your life so that you can continually be a bubbling brook of refreshing and life giving words to those who are thirsty for them.

It is also a lifetime’s work.

Working with Integrity

Can you be trusted?

A man of integrity engenders trust among those he works for, with and to.

His bosses trust him to deliver and let him get on with it. The manager doesn’t have to continually look over his shoulder and call him to account for he knows that he will do a good job and work hard without having to be micro-managed. When they ask him to do something he delivers on time and on budget.  He doesn’t rob his employer, he does a good day’s work as unto Christ not man and is content with his pay.

Those he works with confide in him and call on him when they want something done for they know he will deliver.  When he needs them to do something for him they will re-prioritise their work schedule to help him if at all possible.  As the years go by and circumstances change he will be there for them and them for him.

Those who work for him are confident that he has their back.  They are motivated to work hard for him since they know that when he asks them to do something he isn’t just thinking about the boss and the share holders but he is thinking about their long term careers as well.  He retains their loyalty and they will leave other bosses to work for him.

One of the main reasons all these people trust him is because they know what he believes and his life is consistent with his beliefs.  He isn’t telling them about Jesus and eternal life on the one hand and acting deceitfully or with malice on the other.  Where there are inconsistencies – for no one is perfect – he is transparent about them and rectifies them even to his own cost.  For he sees the reward, his hope is in the next life, not this one.

Ungodly, unscrupulous men whose god is mammon and whose hope is in this world will exploit such a man but his God is on his side and no weapon formed against him will prosper.

He may not be rich in this life but he will have love, peace and joy and the hope of eternal rewards.  His family will be blessed.  His reputation with the church and outsiders is untarnished.

On that last day he will hear the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master!”

The Difference between Pardon and Forgiveness

Jesus words on forgiveness are stark:  Unless you forgive others you cannot be forgiven.  He makes that very clear in the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:15), in the parable of the indebted servant in Matthew 18:21-35 and elsewhere.

However forgiveness and pardon are not the same thing.  To pardon someone is to let them off, to not enforce a judgement that is against them.  If you have the authority to pardon someone, that means you have some authority over them.  Kings, Queens, Presidents, some politicians and judges have this kind of authority.  Prison governours, members of tribunals, parole boards, military leaders and policemen also have this power at times.  Employers have authority over employees.  But the most relevant authority to most of us is that of our parents.

As a Christian, whoever you are, you are called to forgive.  But if you are a Christian in a place of authority over someone then you need to be careful before you extend that forgiveness into pardon.  If the person who you have the authority to pardon is unrepentant then the pardon will just lead to more opportunity for that person to cause the same type of trouble again.

I am really enjoying the Netflix series “The Crown” mainly because of its historical accuracy and attention to detail.  In Series 2 episode 6, the Queen is strongly impressed by Billy Graham who is holding a crusade in the UK at the time.  She invites him to the palace on two occasions.  Interwoven with these visits is an attempt by her uncle (formerly Edward VIII who abdicated before the war to marry a divorcee) to return to the UK.  Through powerful contacts he manages to convince the government to offer him some high profile ambassadorial roles.  Only the Queen is between him and a happy homecoming.  She has to decide whether to give him a royal pardon and let him in the country or to refuse and to leave him in exile.

The trouble is her uncle is unrepentant.  He is still as treasonous in his heart as he has ever been.

The Queen is confused between forgiveness and pardon.  The Netflix portrayal makes it clear that she hasn’t distinguished between the two.  She asks Billy Graham should she forgive her uncle, to which Billy rightly responds that she should.  In the end she tells her uncle that she can never forgive him – but when she said that she used the wrong word.  To protect her family and her country she could never pardon him.  In her heart she could and did forgive him but he was unrepentant.  She used the wrong word but made the right decision.  But she ended up confused.

We need to know the difference between forgiveness and pardon because all of us have either been a parent or a child.  Parents need to always be able to have an attitude of forgiveness towards their children but they would be foolish to pardon them and let them avoid the consequences of their wrongdoing – especially if they are unrepentant.  Children need to understand this distinction.

The Secret Place (Psalm 91)

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid ….” 

Psalm 91: 1-5 (NKJV)

The secret place is primarily a place of trust. We all have to face fear but it makes no sense to stay afraid when the God who made the universe is on your side.  That is, of course, if you know He is on your side.  So how do we know that?

The Scriptures say that God is for us not against us (Romans 8:31).    But this and other passages in the letters are written to disciples/ saints/ overcomers, those who have been born again and are walking in the light.

Before you can enter the secret place and dwell there you must have come to faith in Him.  Jesus says that we should fear Him (Matt. 10:28, Luke 12:5) and make peace with Him while we are on the way through this life (Matt. 5:25) before it is too late.  John points out that unless you are born from above you cannot be in His kingdom (John 3:8).  To be in God’s kingdom is to be under His protection.

It is only then that we can truly say that “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”Fortress