Monday, January 28, 2008

On predestination - 1

One of the questions that has been stirring my soul of late is "What is predestination?" It seems a trick question, one of those questions theological philosophers think up to pass the time, engaged in heated debates solely for the purpose of being given the opportunity to speak last. But I am curious.

There are only four verses in scripture which use variations on the theme, paired off next to one another, and the context created therein do not clearly indicate the meaning of the word itself. They are:

Romans 8:29
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 8:30
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Ephesians 1:5 of Ephesians 1:4-6
{4}For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
{5}he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will
{6}to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Ephesians 1:11 of Ephesians 1:9-12
{9}And He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which hHe purposed in Christ,
{10}to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
{11}In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
{12}in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

So we can see from Romans that there is a relationship between being predestined and being conformed to the likeness of Jesus and between being predestined and called, justified, and glorified. Likewise, we see from Ephesians that God's choice in the predestined was motivated love, for the purpose of being adopted as His sons, and lastly that the choice of who is predestined was intentional.

Neither of which clarifies what it means to be predestined. In simple terms, we know that God chose those who are classified as predestined out of love, that those who are predestined were not arbitrarily chosen AND were chosen for a purpose - but we still don't know what it means to be predestined.

An interesting essay on a theoretical resolution may be found here

I get the impression that this is one of those topics that doesn't quite get resolved, simply because without the Holy Spirit to guide, we are left twisting in the wind, guided only by logic, which is a rare source of complete satisfaction.

I feel out of my depth. Thoughts?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Maturity is not a curse

One of the things I have most longed for in life is an opportunity to seek intentional personal maturity. This might fly in the fact of the public consciousness, where maturity is something to be avoided until absolutely necessary ... but I have found that those who are most able to function well and successfully have a level of personal maturity that is easy to respect and admire. Sadly, most maturity that a person adopts is the result of random events - I wanted a set of decisions and mindsets that allow a person to consciously seek after maturity. Oddly enough, I never saw that Scripture had the answer to this ... at least not something as simple as a to-do list.

I believe the bible does offer an opportunity for intentional maturity - a maturity that doesn't detract from our ability to appreciate and experience joy and a maturity that draws us closer to Christ Jesus. It is found in our relationships with ourselves, God, and others. It is found in identifying those things for which we take responsibility. And it is found in studying the Lord's scripture. In fact, the three reflect one another and lack of one will necessarily weaken the other two.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Time

I want to say I daily die to self - the reality is that every day is a struggle and I don't always succeed.

I read great authors, men of faith and conviction, who seem to eat, sleep, and breathe selflessness, and I am recursively and repeatedly not dying to self.

I think the key is to not give up. For each day holds a distinct set of challenges, and there is something to scripture - it feeds and nestles within in ways that nothing else does. There is a scripture reference that currently eludes me - but it points out that it’s very nearly the last thing a person earnestly does that determines their eternal fate. The problem is that most of us are an unwieldy lot and perpetually rebellious ... which tends to result in our ignoring that whole 'last bit' last bit.

Because the only way to guarantee that the last earnest thought you had or action you took was focused on God, is to be single-mindedly focused on God from this moment on.

What about you - are you willing to be caught unawares by the God of the Universe, asking YOU what you believe about Him?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Famination

Ruth 1:1

Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn into the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.

This is one of those verses that are easy to gloss over - but if you look, it bespeaks some interesting facts. We have a man living in a specific time (when the judges ruled), during a time of trial (famine), who happened to be of the children of Israel (of Bethlehemjudah), running to Moab for survival. All the exact things a well told story would have if you wanted to hook nearly everyone - it is the same template fast paced novels and movies hold. Also of interest is that he is running to Moab ... a region considered of ill-repute, primarily because of the source of the original Moabite lineage (link, link).

The first famine mentioned in scripture occurs in Genesis 12:10 and Abraham's response is much like the 'certain man of Bethlehemjudah' in Ruth - he leaves a land he is comfortable, going into a land whose culture is dangerous.

Here is your question - What SHOULD you do when there is a famine in the land?

  • Seek shelter?
  • Go where the food is?
  • Assume it’s a judgment on the land that can be remedied by an earnest, nationwide repentance?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Inured and Confused

In speaking with a friend of mine, he smiled sadly and said "I fear our generation is being entertained to death."

It is easy to see what he means - no other generation before ours has had the shear breadth, depth, and variety of distraction available to them, some simultaneous. We have computers, hand-held gizmos with more computing power than was available on the earth only a few decades ago, and they now have a car that allows you to make use of the car's steering wheel and gas and brake pedals in a game whose console appears when the car is parked and with the appropriate switches. We are a society whose resources are so abundant we take them nearly for granite ... as in, so solidly present of endless character that they may well survive for ever.

In addition, we have never had more means of connecting with those around us - through the internet, telephone, and mass-production of means of transportation, nearly anyone can get nearly anywhere or at least in contact with anyone. Truly, the world appears to grow both larger and smaller by the moment.

All this technology, all these options, and all this variety lends itself to a very real confusion - for the more choices we have, the more we expect our own wisdom will rise to the challenge. Almost as if the presence of knowledge imparts wisdom by osmosis, many of us find ourselves feeling both wiser and smaller, thinking we know so little, but feeling as if we have a bit more control.

The question is - how many of our entertainments draw us closer to Christ Jesus? How many movies have you watched, games have you played, books have you read, friends have you spoken with, clothes that you have shopped for, gifts you have given, or tasks you have accomplished drawn you closer to God?

To be sure, each of those things has the potential to draw you closer to both the real things in life that are tangible expressions of God. Truly, God can meet you where you are ... and often does, simply because He is not the one who leaves when we are separated from Him.

We have become inured to the battle - the war - that God has won. He won it 2000 years ago and He is giving each of us a certain moment in time with which to choose Him.

What will your actions show you chose?

Call-to-action
  • Write down one specific example in which you have not responded in a Godly to authority - this includes
    • God
    • your parents
    • your grandparents
    • your teachers
    • your boss
    • your spouse
  • Identify the earliest attitude and/or decision that led to that poor response.
  • Ask God to forgive you for not offering that decision to Him.
  • Wait on the Lord to give you peace while NOT holding onto it
  • Once you have peace, determine the best means of seeking forgiveness from the earthly authority you did not respond well to.
  • Approach that authority and express as earnest, specific, and succinctly as you can your desire for their forgiveness.
  • Wait on their response.
  • If they forgive, give thanks to God for His grace.
  • If they do not forgive, give thanks God allowed you to heal your conscience and pray for them.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Be Great

I have a theory. I believe every one of us can be great in the Lord. In addition to having a specific purpose and having some task, or set of tasks, I believe each of us has the potential to be great, to hearken unto that small voice that guides each of us, and to become an amazing and profound spokesperson for Christ Jesus.

I believe the potential for this truth is necessarily present in any cross-section of believers as well - for you will rarely find identical individuals or people with exactly the same strengths or weaknesses together when believers of the same stripe come together.

It is this spiritual melting pot that Christ Jesus makes available, through His guidance and His counsel, to His own purpose - and thus as a source of brotherhood, friendship, and re-stocking of the spiritual well. For in the same way we each need to be reminded of His strength and His love, we grow in sharing those reminders with others.

But having a purpose and achieving that purpose are vastly different things. Many a person would suggest this or that means of determining a meaningful answer to the question "Why are we here?” I know God knows and I believe He wants us to know too.

Ask Him today.

Hyper-challenge

Pray to God to provide you the courage, patience, steadfastness, and resources necessary to accomplish His will today

Pray that God reveal what that will is

Repeat until you rest

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Abominations

Proverbs 29:27 (link)

An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked.

There are certain words we don't observe often, especially words that are currently out of vogue. One such word is abomination. It has many applications, and if we stick with the worldly definition (link) we miss out on the depth and character that one would traditionally assign to such words.

A fairly good definition, as I understand scripture, is found here and is "Anything associated with the worship of other gods and any behavior that perverts the lifestyle God intended human beings to live." So the key here is something or someone that draws you away from the lifestyle God intended you to have.

It is an easy thing to miss.

This is primarily because, in the culture we live in, the labeling of something as an abomination is relative. Worse yet, most of us are not trained to recognize actual abominations.

It is an easy thing to dismiss as well.

Recognizing abominable events, objects, or people is fairly well defined in scripture. A fairly reliable list is encountered in Leviticus 18. They needed listing because the children of Israel, who had been freed by God through Moses, were potentially going to pick up the rituals, habits, and mores of the countries they would be visiting, and required a literal listing of areas where they might have emulated their new neighbors. This was a major problem because the neighbors were strangers and were worshipping other Gods.

We have no such list - our neighbors are people we have known our whole lives, people we work with, and people with whom we have relationships. We believers are adopted children of Israel, and thus should be conscious of the need to recognize and eschew abomination.

Thus the potential for Godly change is clear:

Do not emulate the abominations of your neighbors

Note: today's hyper-challenge requires an assumption I have observed to be true - all sinful actions are predicated upon an earlier decision to sin.

Hyper-challenge

  • Be mindful of your activities and attitudes today, identifying when you are furthest from God
  • Recognize the earliest point in your day it began
  • Identify if a mindset, attitude, or decision you intentionally held or made was asserted at that moment
  • Recognize the potential for it to have been caused by an actual source of abomination in YOUR life
  • Remove it

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

To catch a thief

Exodus 22:1-4 (1, 2, 3, 4)

These passages deal with thieves - how to resolve their theft, how to deal with their crimes, and the like. In particular, it addresses what to do about a fundamental loss of livestock. At the time of this writing, livestock comprised the major source of providence for the majority of the population - they provided a perpetual resource of food, labor, and materials - and so the loss of even a single animal was of major importance.

The passages listed above cataloge God's approach to theft - they assume the thief will eventually be caught (which is not unlikely ... it isn't terribly easy to hide an ox, sheep, or cow, especially if the animal has been labeled), and that resolution will be implemented in like kind. Theft is to be rewarded with, at the very least, double what the animal is worth, more so if the animal is sold or killed. Likewise, if the thief was found after this theft and he was wounded in some way, the thief will be given no aid. And if the thief has been found and does not have enough to repay the theft-debt, the thief would be sold, presumably into slavery.

How far we are removed from this standard! Ours is a far more complex time - for our "livestock" is no longer alive, and can often come so small that it would be mighty hard to recognize a stolen "cow" as one's own. Likewise, our culture does not support slavery - and thus there is no culturally acceptable way to implement the poor-thief state. The closest our culture comes is credit-debt ... which people are willingly and actively seeking! And because of our credit-slavery and unliving livestock, we have become a culture whose treasures are almost abstract in expression.

Thus I ask one thing: when considering a purchase, what is your first concern: its resolution of some earthly desire or an opportunity to present the gospel or an expression of how Christ Jesus has guided you to seek first the kingdom of Heaven?

Hyper-challenge:

On a day in which you do the major portion of your purchases, before you begin your store-hopping, start the day off with prayer

Start by acknowledging His glory and in what manner you seek His path and guidance.

Ask Him to reveal in what way your particular purchases might honor God.

Hold up each purchase you plan to make in your mind and ask Him to show you whether each should be purchased.

Put special emphasis on any planned entertainment purchase, asking him to you peace for each purchase appropriate to their furthering His kingdom.

Expect Christ Jesus to answer your petition in His time.

And while shopping, expect Him to guide any and all of your purchases.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

On Being Set Apart

Numbers 5:3 (link)

Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell.

This verse comes in the midst of the guidance God gives on how to deal with lepers. This is before Jesus, so the capacity to be healed of leprosy is a rare occurrence - in a very real sense, at the time that this passage, having leprosy was a kind of death sentence. Thus, the only resolution for leprosy, and many other problems, was to set apart - to implement separation.

Scripture shares with us a reason for separation ... and most of the reasons are associated with the presence or lack of uncleanness. If God tells us to set someone apart from us, we can be fairly certain that their presence may defile others in some way. Likewise, if God tells us to be set apart, the reason is again associated with being defiled, but from the other end - we are in danger of being defiled.

This is important because believers are called to hold themselves to a particular standard, to be "in the world, not of the world". This can, on the surface, include going to church, attending spiritually-rewarding engagements, and any number of other events.

The key here is this: are you truly set apart? Have you truly committed your actions, your thoughts, and you tongue to Christ Jesus?

Or phrased another way:

How many aspects of your daily life and/or your internal life have you held to Christ Jesus to ask if He is pleased with their character?

Hyper-challenge:

  • Identify something in your life you have never actively or consciously considered was under God's jurisdiction
  • Ask Christ Jesus to reveal in what manner you might offer that area in your life consciously to Him.
  • Earnestly promise God to implement that change.
  • Repeat as your walk with Christ dictates.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Are you ambivalently volitional?

Revelation 3:15-16

One of the more interesting verses in scripture declares just how much God wants for us to be about His will ... and to do so passionately! In the verses above, Christ Jesus wrote to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans clearly indicating that their focus was a kind of materialistic apathy.

The key here is the passion - God wants our hearts aligned with him. To not just be faithful to His guidance, but faithfully serving with Joy! This can take a number of different forms, from earnestly representing the only voice of character in the office where you work, making certain you never unintentionally offend others, or being patient and steadfast in the midst of some catastrophe. And this year, in the U.S., we have an opportunity to discern God's will for our lives with respect to our civic duty - voting!

The key to this post is conscious volition - to be actively involved in a decision one is making, and to do so with all the joy that comes from serving God. And thus, I challenge you to do that very thing with respect to our coming presidential election. In addition to regularly praying for our nation's leaders, please pray that He will guide you to selecting that leader that best represents the will of Christ Jesus will.

Hyper-challenge:

  • Research what the bible says about selecting a leader, as well as evaluating what is published about how scripture guides one in the same subject.
  • Submit each candidate to the standards defined by the previous step.
  • Hold each candidate up to God and ask Him to guide your heart and mind.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Framed by grace

There is a concept that I will mention - one that will not be new to you. The idea is simple: Certain pieces of information, when known, fundamentally change you.

The existence and nature of Jesus was one such piece of information. The introduction of Jesus into a person's paradigm necessarily changes that person. Jesus is such a large figure, cutting such a deep swathe in what things fundamentally mean that one will inevitably have some form of a relationship with Christ Jesus, even if one does not wish it.

Likewise, the ability to become someone else is a gift from God - imagine if you were constructed in such a way that learning something fundamentally alien to your current paradigm necessarily was never able to be absorbed ... that there was a point where any information sufficiently alien would NEVER be understood ... that you would be unable to even store, let alone glean and harvest that information, in any way. It is a blessing, a form of grace, which we ARE able to learn and adapt to information outside of our functional paradigm. Without this basic ability, we would never have learned to walk, to speak, to listen, to reason, or any number of things. In the same way that learning to read redefines a person's universe, an individual's universe has a way of being defined by those events and concepts that have the potential to reshape that individual.

The key is identifying them.

But in whatever shape you find yourself in - recognition of them should come, for a believer, with a moment of thankfulness - for your creator has blessed you with the ability to grow as new information comes into your awareness - and the desire to seek out these paradigm re-defining concepts. For without them, there would be no true learning. And with them, the only limit to our ability to truly honor God is the grace we claim in His name and the relationship we hold with Him.

Hyper-challenge:

Actively open yourself up to the potential for YOUR next paradigm-explosion by praying to God that He reveal one piece of information that will simultaneously draw you close to Him, change the way you understand the world you live in, and give you a profound depth of joy and gratitude that He is real.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Job 27:14
Scripture speaks a great deal about satisfaction. It speaks on what the righteous are satisfied by (link), describes the character of those who are not satisfied (link), likewise it implies a kind of persecution if one is satisfied with things that are by nature not sufficient by themselves (link, link, and link). There are a large number of scriptures that address satisfaction ... and I believe it to be because God has a whole lot to say about being satisfied.

First and foremost, being satisfied requires the right character. If a person has not the right character they won't be satisfied by things that are designed to satisfy. This is akin to carrying water in a bucket with holes - the water will leak, no matter how well intentioned the person carrying the bucket. In the same way, a person's character must be of a specific nature to appreciate and be satisfied by satisfying things. It is one of the reasons that God ties sufficiency so often to whether a person is righteous - for an aspect of righteousness explicitly includes being satisfied. It is kind of a side effect of being righteous - though not an autonomous one for most of us. Likewise, the lack of a balanced and sufficient character will often skew the ability to discern and appreciate satisfying things.

Second, being satisfied requires the right satisfying things. Certain things have an innate capacity for being satisfactory. Food is satisfying in certain circumstances, as are music, exercise, companionship, and sleeping. If you have an individual who is misbalanced, they might seek an excess of sleep or food or music, to the exclusion of other necessary things - the result will be symptoms indicating a need that is dissatisifed. Similar things happen when a person attempts to fill their basic need for a relationship with God with other things - there will inevitably be symptoms of dissatisfaction. Indeed, if someone of discerning character spends enough time with dissatisfying things, a person's character can often be changed - to their detriment.

Third, being satisfied requires the right attitude. Attitude is separate from character (although the two often come hand in hand) and is certainly separate from the source of satisfaction ... but without the right attitude, even the most discerning person accepting the most satisfying things will ultimately lack. Curiously enough, it is our attitudes we have the most direct control over and yet the one of the three that is least addressed. If you were to poll the next 100 people you meet that seem the most remotely dissatisfied, it is likely that 100 of them would mention dissatisfaction due to some poor character on their part (too hungry, too fat, to ugly) or poor resources available (no hope, no love, no money), when often the thing that would help them reconcile their problem - a relationship with Christ Jesus - is most often an attitude-change away.

I believe that God can guarantee satisfaction - he has consistently and thoroughly laid out the plans about how to detect, acquire, and maintain satisfaction for each of us ... and through diligent study and acquisition of the right attitude and a steady relationship to Him, we can accept and maintain that satisfaction.

I challenge you to be satisfied by Christ Jesus and to seek to satisfy Him.

Hyper-challenge of the day:

Identify the most dissatisfying aspect of you life and discuss it with God. Challenge Him to directly address it and give it to Him completely, trusting that He will either fix it, give you peace about it, or direct you to the tools to resolve either the situation or your dissatisfaction.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Fast Rebirth - tempted into honoring God

One wonders if there is a relationship between the forty days and nights of the biblical flood, followed by a time of renewal, and the forty days of Jesus' fast, followed by a time of temptation.

Certainly the time frames are identical ... and a fast has similar properties to a flood. In its way, a flood might be considered a kind of fast for the surface of the earth. Likewise the time of renewal and redemption for Noah were preceded by an opportunity to hearken to God in a particular way. What was Noah's first response when he walked on dry land for the first time in over a year?

Noah's world was fundamentally changed in the moment he stepped away from the ark onto dry land. All the things of his prior life had died away - friends he had known, all the lands he had walked, all lives he had touched, had been washed away - and he was likely in a state of shock. Noah had a number of potential responses to the death of his prior life. Noah's response was to build an altar and to worship God. To honor God.

In a comparable way, Jesus’ life was fundamentally changed in the moment after his forty day fast. Many of the things of life die away when you fast for that long. Friendships are redefined or lost, lands walked become either far more important or clearly lose their value - and he also was likely in a state of shock. Christ Jesus’ response to the loss of the distractions of life was also to worship God - through honoring him amidst temptation.

How often do we sit amidst turmoil, focusing on the waves, instead of His message?

How often do we choose to see only a loss instead of hearkening to our Lord?

Will YOU take time today to honor God intentionally?

Hyper-challenge of the day:

Pray and consider whether YOU should fast.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Silence opportunities

One of the more interesting aspects of my relationship with Christ Jesus is a recurring experience - I will have a series of communiqu├ęs with Him, some very close together, some far apart - and then what appears to be silence.

It is in these silences that my faith has an active chance to express itself. To grow, to develop, to change, to be nurtured, to be tested.

I can certainly claim it as an opportunity to wait patiently. Likewise I can use it as an opportunity to recognize the strengths and weaknesses in my walk with Christ. What I cannot do is assume that my relationship ceases to exist.

In the same way, you are engaged in some manner of Christ Jesus. You may be experiencing some moment of turmoil, embroiled in the most dynamic experience of your life, or between events. In any case, Christ is real, and moments of silence are to be treasured as much as direct communication with Him.

I challenge you to be thankful of Jesus today

... to bring every thought captive

... to choose meekness and charity over pride

... to intention every moment with seeking first His kingdom

... to be as He intended - full of the joy of His love

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Waiting patiently

Psalms 40:1
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. (KJV)

This is one of those verses that is easy to just gloss over. We wait for things all the time, usually with little to no patience. If you want evidence of this, try sitting in rush hour traffic and not hearing anyone honk.

How many of us wait?

How many of us wait intentionally?

How many of us wait patiently?

How many of us wait patiently for the Lord?

The act is, we simple creatures on this amazing planet frame how long things should take based upon our own expectations.

If we can prepare food in a small amount of time, we get paid at regular intervals, and the world around us seems to function like so much clockwork, we assume God works that way.

If we spend hours bringing water from a well, have no real idea if we will sell enough at the market to pay for our food, and the world around us seems too big to understand, it is easy to assume God is too big to understand.

We frame our understanding based upon our expectations.

When was the last time you waited patiently upon the Lord?

I challenge you, dear reader, to pick a prayer you have made more than once to the Lord.

I ask you to do this with it.

  • Say it once more, focusing on the fact that Christ Jesus is real, and that he is actually listening to you.
  • Honor the notion that He heard your prayer.
  • Every time the thought of the prayer returns, merely thank Him.
  • Do not pray again, but thank Him for already honoring your prayer.
  • And wait patiently, for His perfect timing.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Modern Day Hypocrisy - the world's most popular sport

Mark 7:6 (link)

He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. (KJV)

......................

I am a hypocrite. And so are you. You don't want to be a hypocrite ... but your flesh is at war with the spirit. And thus, there are leaks. Moments in your day, your walk, your thoughts, that speak of hypocrisy. You would not claim them as your own, for you would define yourself as the sum of your strengths. But they are real.

Jesus, however, gives us hope. Because He walked in the flesh, He knows the struggles of Paul, who wants to do good and does not. And we are much like Paul, spirit willing but with weak flesh.

Thus, my challenge for you this near year is simple:

BE NOT A HYPOCRITE
Offer up your moments to Christ Jesus - ask Him to knit your heart to His
Be humble
Seek the fruit of the spirit by dying daily
And remember His model for the ideal appeal - He wants to help us ... ASK!!