What God is this?

I want to talk about this passage. 

Gen 22:2  “Take your son,” God said, “your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go to the land of Moriah. There on a mountain that I will show you, offer him as a sacrifice to me.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but this is a terrible cruel thing to ask of a person.  I am a parent and I would probably start to rebuke the devil for the ghastly thoughts or just told God “no”.  In Isaac was the promise of God, for crying out loud!  God also knew that Abraham loved Isaac.  I think Abraham went through hell.  I’ve often heard atheists say that if God is that cruel, they do not want to serve such a God.  I’ve also heard people say that God wanted to test Abraham’s obedience and faith.  Others say that Abraham started to love Isaac more than God and it was a way to bring Abraham back to earth.

I believe there is a different reason.

One thing that we perhaps forget is that child sacrifice was not an uncommon occurrence in the times of Abraham.  People regularly offered their children to please the gods.  Now God comes and asks Abraham to offer up his only son.  So far God is on par with all the other gods, right?  Abraham must have been wrenching and wondering if this god is worth it.  Remember, he did not know God that well.  Anyway, Abraham comes to the place and time when he has to offer up his son.  And then…this God stops him.  This God provides a sacrifice in the place of the child.  This God does not allow people to sacrifice their children.  This God is different from all the other gods men worship.  This God is NOT what we expect.  He is truly Someone Else, or as He put it, “I Am”.  Abraham must have been going “Hu?” a lot. 

Now I don’t know about you, but this is a God that keeps us off balance.  Around every corner and turn He waits to be discovered.  We expect one thing, He gives us another.  All the time the “god we want”, is replaced by “the God that Is.”

What God is this?

This is a God that CAN be known.  He CAN be loved.  This God KNOWS us very well.  Perhaps Paul said it best. 

1Cor 13:12.  We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.  But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!  We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us!(Message). 

I think Abraham went away from the place of sacrifice, astonished, bewildered and with a song in his heart.  This God is truly worth knowing, don’t you think?

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Favorite songs (part 1)

Some songs just stick.  From the first I’ve heard this one it this has been a favorite.   It’s a type of song you can put on and “soak” in it for an hour or so.  Perhaps it was written especially for me 🙂

Paul Oakley – Kiss The River

I still remember, falling to the floor and
Now I, often wonder how I ever dared to let You come
Even closer, closer than the air around me
Underneath my skin

And I remember sitting down beside the river
The water moving, heaving like a living breathing thing
Moving closer, I was strangely drawn and then I
Heard You call my name

And now I’m drowning, drowning in Your life
Somehow I’m living, I’m living just to die
Just like the river, rolls into the sea
So I surrender to the sweetest love, rolling over me

It’s funny how the memory can fade, but then I’m
Still reminded, when I smell the rain and I feel
Moved to kneel and live it all again
And I try to kiss the river

And now I’m dying, just to live again
And I am longing, waiting ‘til the rain
Becomes a river, swelling like a flood
So I can dive into the sweetest love…
Until I’m drowning, drowning in Your life
Until I’m living, I’m living just to die

Just like the river, rolls into the sea
So I surrender to the sweetest love, rolling over me

Funny quotes

As I’ve said before I love quotes and here are a few funny ones.

Joe Martin  –  “If it weren’t for my lawyer, I’d still be in prison. It went a lot faster with two people digging.”

Henry Kissinger  –  “The nice thing about being a celebrity is that when you bore people, they think it’s their fault.”

Bill Lyon  –  “If at first you don’t succeed, find out if the loser gets anything.”

Beryl Pfizer  –  “I write down everything I want to remember. That way, instead of spending a lot of time trying to remember what it is I wrote down, I spend the time looking for the paper I wrote it down on.”

Willie Tyler  –  “The reason lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place is that the same place isn’t there the second time.”

Henny Youngman  –  “I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places.”

Two or three

Yesterday I talked about Jesus and who He is. We have to come to a place where each of us know Him without the help of other people.  People can guide and help us, but we have to come to a place where we can say.  Hi Jesus, it is…………(fill in your name).  Please take my hand, Jesus.   I want to know You.  I want to be where You are.    It was Tozer who said,

“For millions of Christians, …God is no more real than He is to the non-Christian. They go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle.” – A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

He also said

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified. The body becomes stronger as its members become healthier. The whole Church of God gains when the members that compose it begin to seek a better and higher life.” – A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

How will we show this Jesus to people?  Well Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  That means Jesus is shown in our interaction with each other as christians.  He also said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”  Two or three is enough.  Jesus is in a “different” way present when two or more of us gather, than when I am alone. 

Two or more is where this happens.

Mk. 9:50: Be at peace with one another
Jh. 13:34: Love one another
Rm. 12:10: Be devoted to one another
Rm. 12:10: Give preference to one another
Rm. 12:16: Be of the same mind toward one another
Rm. 14:19: Build up one another
Rm. 15:7: Accept one another as Christ does
Rm. 15:14: Admonish one another
Rm. 16:16: Greet one another with a holy kiss
1 Cor. 11:33: Wait for one another
1 Cor. 12:25: Care for one another
Gal. 5:13: Serve one another
Gal. 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens
Eph. 4:2: Forbear one another in love
Eph. 4:25: Speak the truth to one another
Eph. 4:32: Be kind to one another
Eph. 4:32: Be tender hearted to one another
Eph. 4:32: Forgive one another
Eph. 5:19: Speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
Eph. 5:21: Be subject to one another
Phil. 2:3: Regard one another as more important
Col. 3:13: Bear with one another
Col. 3:16: Teach one another
1 Thess. 4:18: Comfort one another
1 Thess. 5:11: Encourage one another
1 Thess. 5:13: Seek for what is best for one another
Heb. 10:24. Stimulate one another to good deeds
Jam. 5:16: Pray for one another
Jam. 5:16: Confess your sins to one another
1 Pt. 4:9: Be hospitable to one another
1 Pt. 4:10: Use your gift to serve one another
1 Pt. 5:5: Be humble towards one another
1 Jh. 1:7: Fellowship with one another

Now you will notice that these verses have an intimacy about them.  This is not a Sunday service or a Wednesday evening gathering.  This is done by people who spend time together and I am NOT referring to “religious” time.  (Religious time is time set apart for acting religious.)  When the baby of a friend vomits all over me.  When we eat together.  When we play together.  When a friend’s mother dies.  When we go to the movies.  This interacting of people that know Him is what I call the church.   In other words, Church is wherever our lives connect.   And thank God, two or three is enough for church to happen.

One thing

Ok, Ok, I did not return the day following my previous post, but I am back 🙂

I think the one Person we do not really know in the Bible is Jesus.  You can ask how I can say such a thing?  Nearly every christian book ever written has to say something about Jesus.  That amounts to millions and millions of books and thoughts.  Am I madman for saying that?  Perhaps I need to rephrase the question.  The question is not “Who is Jesus?”  The question is “Who is Jesus for me?”  You see, the “for me” part is very important, because we need to understand the closeness of Jesus.  We need to understand that He is alive.  We need to understand the living experience of Jesus.  Jesus asked His disciples “Who do you say that I am?”  It’s a question that we need to answer for ourselves.  We cannot use Peter’s answer.  We have to know. 

The danger is always to bend Jesus into the image we want Him to be.  As Brennan Manning said,

“In every age and culture we tend to shape Jesus to our own image and make him over to our own needs in order to cope with the stress his unedited presence creates. “In a foxhole Jesus is a rescue squad; in a dentist’s chair a painkiller; on exam day a problem-solver; in an affluent society a clean-shaven middle-of-the-roader; for a Central American guerilla a bearded revolutionary.”

When we ask the question “Who is Jesus for me?”, we need to confront the images we already built of Him.  Is He the absent Jesus, the nice Jesus, the angry Jesus or the Jesus the preacher knows?  The Jesus you’ve been told about?  Do we only know the “Jesus we can cope with”?

I think the one thing that stands out for me is the love of Jesus.  It’s embarrassing when I compare it to my own version of love.  His love was real.  No pretending.  He was real.  No bluffing.  No bullshit.  I sometimes wonder what happened to the people, especially the pharisees, when Jesus called Yahwe, Abba(Daddy)?  It must have been gut wrenching to hear Him say it.  Here is a Guy, Who is intimate with the Father and He does not do what is expected of Him.  The paradox must have been staggering to say the least.  Jesus lived out of His Abba experience.  He experienced God as laughter and loving and kind-hearted and tolerant and He showed people the God that He knew.  Jesus described an intimacy of life when He said, “The Father and I are one”.  Jesus is the human face of God with all the attitudes, features, and characteristics of the Father.  To Philip He said, “He who sees me sees the Father.  That means the old testament is a broken revealer of God.  Jesus is the full picture.  Jesus is also the full picture of how far love will go. 

Jesus also said this: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.”  On that sentence alone, we can meditate for a year.   

Who is Jesus for me?  That is the question all of us must answer.  Remember, we can only give people what we have.  Can we give them the Jesus that is alive today?  

Still here

Just to say I’m still here.  We’ve had a long weekend and I think I have a bout of melancholy (as in a gloomy state of mind).   Sometimes the overload from all the christian stuff around me is to much,  and as I’ve said before, the internet does not help.  (One thing we do is to make the simple life not so simple, me thinks.)  Anyway, when I’m gloomy-ish, I tend to be terribly sarcastic.  Yesterday I left a comment at Out of Ur that was not approved.  Perhaps I offended the critics?  I think so.

Oh well, I’ll be back.  Perhaps tomorrow.  I’ve started to write about friendship and tried to explain our current friend-status and how we met the people currently in our lives.  It’s gruelling exercise because my memory is crappy at best.  (I’ll ask my wife.  She probably knows the dates and what the people were wearing 🙂

Please pray for us.  Time is not always on our side when there are so many people that needs to be loved.

Incompetent

My previous post made William P. Young, the author of The Shack, grin. Now, all I’m thinking about is “What will make him laugh”? O well, one thing that makes me smile is christians who think they are competent. And of course, when we truly believe we are competent, we do not really understand why others are not as competent as we are. “Shame on them for not being like us.” Furthermore competent people have a tendency to convey something like: “Come on, be like me and God will like you as much as He likes me.” or “You are not neccessary when I’m around. Go and sit and bask my glory.” The church loves competent people. I don’t see this in the life of Jesus, but then again, perhaps Jesus is not the Person the church tries to emulate.

This is a story from Mike Yaconelli and he talks about incompetency in the church. Perhaps this will free us, to really see.

It was time for the Scripture reading, and a young girl shuffled towards the front of the church. What a moment for Connie. She had finally mustered up enough courage to ask the pastor if she could read the Scripture. Without hesitation he said yes. For years Connie had stifled her desire to serve in the church because of her ‘incompetencies’. Reading was extremely difficult for her, and Connie had a terrible time enunciating clearly. But she had been in this church many years, and she was beginning to understand the grace of God. Jesus didn’t just die for our sins, he died so people who couldn’t read or speak could read and speak. Now she could serve the Jesus she loved so much. Now she could express her desire for God in a tangible, visible way.

The time for the Scripture reading had arrived. Connie kept walking. Her steps were laboured: she had one leg shorter than the other, causing her body to teeter from side to side. Finally Connie was standing at the front, looking at the congregation with pride and joy. The congregation was silent. Too silent.

Silence can sometimes be excruciatingly loud. The screaming silence was covering up the congregation’s discomfort. Clearly, most of them were trying to understand what Connie was doing at the front and they were trying not to notice her many incompetencies. Her eyes were too close together and her head twisted back and forth at odd angles while her face wrenched from one distorted grimace to another.

The reading began. Stammering, stuttering, Connie stumbled proudly through the passage in a long continuum of untranslatable sounds, garbled sentences, long torturous pauses and jumbled phrases. Finally, the reading was over and the congregation was exhausted.

Connie didn’t notice the exhaustion. She was ecstatic. Her face seemed no longer distorted, only full of joy. Her cheeks were flushed with pride, her eyes sparkling with the joy of accomplishment, her heart warm with knowing she had served the congregation, participated in her faith. Yes, she would remember this day for a long time. How wonderful it was, she thought, to no longer be a spectator in church – she was the church this morning!

Thank God her mental capacities were limited. Thank God she was not able to discern the faces of the congregation, or she would have crumbled in despair. Thank God she wasn’t able to sense what people were really thinking.

Because almost everyone in the congregation was thinking,’THIS WAS AN OUTRAGE!’ I know this is what they were thinking because the senior pastor, my father, was ordered to attend an emergency church council meeting after the service.

How did this happen?’ they demanded.’ What were you thinking?’
‘Connie wanted to read the Scripture,’ he replied softly.

Well, let her stand at the door and hand out books, or help with the post, but don’t let her read! The girl can’t read or speak, for God’s sake! Her reading took ten minutes!’

‘The church,’ they said, ‘is not a place for incompetence.’ My father believes, as I do, that the church is the place where the incompetent, the unfinished and even the unhealthy are welcome.

I believe Jesus agrees.

I said in the beginning that people who think they are competent make me smile.  Well they also make me cry.  Was Jesus competent when He chose His disciples?  Surely He could do better.  Were the people He chose competent in spiritual matters?  I remember there was this fight on who was the most important one 🙂

Before God, we are all incompetent.  And still He loves us.

What a mystery and a relief it is to come to Him and do not have to perform.

My discernment will kick your discernment’s ass

Spiritual discernment is a hot topic these days.  Over at Robbymac we even have a dead discernment possum.  With the revival in Lakeland Florida and The Shack being number one for Paperback trade fiction on the New York bestsellers list, spiritual discernment is again in the spotlight.  Hell, Tim Challies even wrote a book about it. 

He writes this about spiritual discernment when he reviews The Shack (my spiritual discerment tends to differ from his, alot…)
Spiritual discernment is not a popular subject among Christians today. Yet if we look to the Bible we find that it is a practice that God demands of all who wish to follow Christ. It is a practice or a discipline that the Bible continually relates to spiritual maturity. Those who are mature are those who are discerning; those who are discerning are those who are mature. 

There is a clear relationship between maturity and discernment.  The Bible tells us that discernment is the mark of those who have spiritual life, the mark of those who are experiencing spiritual growth and the mark of those who have attained spiritual maturity.

God wants His followers to be men and women who practice and who attain to spiritual maturity and spiritual discernment. 

Discernment is primarily a Spirit-empowered discipline of the mind rather than an emotional response.

What, then, is discernment? It is “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.”

Discernment is knowing what God says to us in the Bible so that we can apply this to our lives and live in the way God would have us live. It is a skill that demands practice and one that demands intimate familiarity with the Bible. It is an ability that allows us, with God’s help, to filter what is true about God from what is false. 

He goes on to say that we should “do the task God requires of us when he tells us to be men and women of discernment—Christians who heed God’s admonition to “test everything; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.”

I guess he assumes that the man of God will know how to use the Word of God.  “Use” being the most important word in the previous sentence.

I’m so glad that we have mature Christians with spiritual discernment, to tell us what we should not read and what exactly is revival.  The God of the Bible probably agrees with everything the denominations agree on.  The denominations agree on everything, right?  They have to, because there are mature christians in all the denominations.  And as Tim told us, mature christians have spiritual discernment.  “Oh I get it, some are more mature than others.”  Perhaps thare is a “level” that can be reached.  You know the level, right?  It’s the level where we tell people what they must do and believe and what they should not read.   

Luckily for the mature christians the bible is inerrant.  That means that everything mature believers say is also inerrant, right?  “It’s all about interpretation you say?”  Ok, I can buy that.  According to whose interpretation?  Mine of course, since I am a mature Christian.  But then again, I don’t go to congregation meetings on Sundays.  So, probably a mature Christian with spiritual discernment in your congregation needs to warn you against me.  After all I am the one who won’t submit to authority, right?  (Probably because I don’t believe in right and wrong.) 

The Bible is very important to the mature discerning believer.  Why then did Jesus say this to people who spend their whole lives in scripture: “John 5 : 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard.”  Could it be that we can know the bible inside out and never hear God?  Seems like it. 

Some denominations baptizes babies.  Some do not.  Luckily for us the position of infant baptism is based on what Scripture says and that alone.  It is important to note that when people agree with me, then they’re men of God.  But if they disagree with my interpretation of Scripture, they cease to be men of God.  Or, maybe they never were men of God in the beginning.  Why should I accept your fallible, errant, human interpretation of God-breathed Scripture when you reject mine? 🙂

We use the Bible as we are.  Let’s say there was this man.  He wrote a lot of stuff about God and Jesus.  Let’s say that the stuff he wrote brought me closer to God.  Let’s also say he organized to have a man killed in order to marry that man’s wife.  Can such a man bring me closer to God?  What does your spiritual discernment say?  What about the guy that said God told him to walk naked for  3 years.  Pervert.  Or the guy that claimed God told him to lie on his side for 390 days and 40 days on the other side.  That’s the worst excuse for not working I’ve ever heard.  There is also this guy that claimed that God told him to marry a prostitute.  Yes, we all believe him right?  Is he in line with scripture?  “Off to the funny farm with you, young man.”  Claiming that God speaks to a person.  What does your spiritual discernment say?  What about a teenage girl that claimed she was pregnant but did not have any sex?  Will somebody please tell her about the birds and the bees?  Should such people even be included in the written word of God?  Can such people bring me closer to God?  Perhaps God should’ve talked to us first.  We who are so full of spiritual discernment.  We all know the bible should be full of respectable people like us. 

I think we do not see the people in the bible as real, live people.  We see the side we’ve domesticated.  After they met God, they were nice respectable people, right?  We like to domesticate God as well.  He should believe what I believe right?  He should do what I deem to be the respectable thing right?  Perhaps God is in desperate need of someone who will tell Him what to do?  He should follow the rules of scripture, right?  My God, doesn’t He ever read His own book? 

I think spiritual discernment is important, but I also know that God is God and He can write beautiful stories out of the confusion we call life.  (When it comes to the revival in Lakeland, I have trouble with the fact that they go into a building and call it the church 🙂 And the word “rivivalist”  as in “Revivalist Todd Bentley” gives me the creeps.)  I do not believe however we know the extent of our own brokenness.  We see all the possibilities of how the devil will deceive us, but not how God will lead us.   When we are busy with spiritual discernment I think we should be very careful.  Just because we do not understand it, or because it does not follow the letter of the scriptures does not mean it is wrong, or that God could not possibly be involved.  In Matthew 13:24-30 God sowed wheat.  That night the enemy came and sowed weeds.  God however did not root out the weed.  It was His field.  He would decide when to do what.  ( “The servants asked Him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  29″ ‘No,’ He answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them)   Perhaps we should realize that God has time on His side.  Perhaps we could be more grace-full.     The Bible is about the grace God extends to people like us.  People who are flawed but loved, and in the end it’s not about us who are soooo………….. good.  It’s about a God that loves and does whatever He wants to do, whether we agree with Him or not,  because after all He is God.

Here is some of the other posts on discernment that can be of assistance.

Brother Maynard

Kingdom Grace 

Dave Faulkner 

Dan

Scott Williams

Cynthia Clack