Monday, October 8, 2012

The Power of Being …. Still.

 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!      (Psalm 46:10)

And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid.  Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace (be quiet)."       (Exodus 14:13-14)

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah …Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.    (Psalm 46:1-11)
       Religious Activity: The Art of Appeasing an Angry God

It seems to me that most of what predominantly passes itself off as religion has always been and unfortunately still is, the art of doing something special to appease an angry and vengeful God. From giving him the best of the harvest (which He doesn’t eat) to offering Him the sacrificial death of our firstborn (which He doesn’t want) our human ancestors sought thus to stay in good graces with an easily irritated and angry God.

Today we neither bring our fruit or firstborns to the altar, yet religion continues to march on, as we offer the sacrifices of worry and willpower on that same altar hoping to solicit God’s attention.

Should we encounter the inexplicable or catastrophic we do so with the power of a ‘Do More so he’ll Notices Us Grunt Christianity’. Just try harder! If we feel he won’t pay attention to our plight, we wave our religious hands in desperation in hopes that He will notice. Who knows… maybe he’ll see and come to our aid!

When trouble or tragedy brings the insecurity of wondering what mood God might be in, we sub-conscientiously are instructed or blatantly counseled by some well meaning pastor or friend; …. To pray more, read the bible more, witness more, go to church more, serve more, give more etc. etc.

Hence; being convicted of how much we have fallen short of the ideal and how much more we could have done if we had only known that this  circumstance was coming, we begin to ‘grunt’ up our religious offerings in a flurry of writhing , work, and worry. In so doing (or as this bogus concept promises) God will notice our efforts, come near with His comfort and we will begin to feel better. Who knows….he might even stop being so mean to us. We might not ever use those exact words but we do, in extreme times, begin to think along those lines.

Sometimes this type of religious fretting and grunting will even give us a faint feeling of hope in attracting the attention of this ‘I told you so’ kind of disinterested wrathful God. Yet the continued practice of this idea will set us up for having to offer an even more ardent and sacrificial sacrifices the next time problems arise and trust me… there’s always a next time.
                                           Being Still

Well then; what should we do when trouble comes? How should we be when trauma, tragedy and the fear of the unknown come rushing in and it seems as if your whole world is being shaken (or even removed)? 
King David put it very plainly….. Just be still.

That phrase ‘be still’ could not be more descriptive… it means quit striving. The original Hebrew word means …. Abate, cease, fail, wait till evening, faint, idle, leave, let alone, be slack, be feeble, be still, be slothful, be weak. (Strong’s Greek and Hebrew dictionary #7503).

There is nothing in the phrase, ‘be still’, that would indicate we should … try to grunt up more belief or worse, send up spiritual flares by doing more religious activities. So why, when the scriptures clearly indicate that stillness is the correct response, do we start working so hard? If we’re really honest with ourselves the answer is very simple.

There are areas in our life we aren’t sure of His love. Places deep inside of us where His love has not driven out the primal fear of being alone. That is why He allowed us to come into these circumstances. He wants us to know His love in every area of our lives. He said He would never leave us or forsake us. Because we don’t really believe that, our confidence resides in our misguided childish efforts to try and get his attention or worse… through religious activity try to do something that will appease his displeasure!

These panic driven religious acts are driven by our fears of this ‘angry or disinterested god’ and what he might or might not do. They betray the fact that we are not trusting that He is a good Father, always pays attention to our troubles and setting limits as to how far those troubles can go. Our hope resides in getting this terrible god to once again notice and help us.
                                     Our Current Experience

This has been both the most difficult and the most productive time we have ever spent in Kenya. We have been thrust into frightening spiritual conflicts and at the same time presented with unbelievable potential for ministry. Early in the conflict it became obvious that there was nothing we could do to stop or even slow down these vicious onslaughts. Month after month they continued. The temptation to defend ourselves, retaliate legally, run home, hide or just do anything was tremendous.

Yet the Spirit of God continually spoke to our spirits and emphatically telling us to just get still. So that is what we did. The results?  God sent a man whose actual name means ‘God’s Peace’ into our house whose first words were…. “God sent me here to help you”.  From that day on we began to experience the salvation our God. Everything now is moving forward and even our little puppy that almost died of Parvo virus (a fatal puppy dog disease) has recovered.

While ‘being still’ doesn’t necessarily mean inactivity, it certainly does mean to quiet all mental and emotional activities to hear God more completely.  We like the psalmist must learn to tell our soul (emotions and thoughts) to shut up and wait on God.

My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him.                   (Psalm 62:5)

Should we do so in quiet faith…. Like lightening in a great storm, heaven will send power to the earth for our deliverance. Many times though, power from heaven is waiting for us to reveal our power  ….to be still.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

United We Stand…Divided We Remain Arrogant

                                 The Truth about the Unity of the Spirit
Most people know that American Christians are not known for their humble attitudes and unity. In fact, recent studies indicate that Christians are not even known for their being like Christ.    (Read “UnChristian” a book by David Kinaman and Gabe Lyons.)

It appears that to most Christians, being doctrinally correct is more important than getting along with each other or anyone else for that matter. Which raises the question; does the unity of His Spirit mean agreeing on the facts about Christ? If it does, then the “church” has failed miserably for 2000 years.

Will mankind really be damned for not having their theology correct? Is this all there is? Did Christ die on the cross so we all could be theologically correct? Or worse yet, did Christ make a mistake risking His validity on His people getting along instead of being biblically correct?
“that they all may be one, as You, Father are in Me and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me.”         (John 17:21)

Is it possible that the whole idea about having the right facts about Christ is not at all what Christ meant about unity when He spoke the aforementioned verse?  Though knowing and obeying Christ are crucial in having fellowship with anyone who calls himself a Christian, we would like to submit to the reader that having the correct facts about Christ has little or nothing to do with the Unity of His Spirit. 

In fact we believe that trying to have all the correct information about Christ is the main reason there is no visible and practical unity in Christianity in this country. He who is primarily built up in knowledge will be subject to arrogance...
“Now concerning things offered to idols; We know that we all have knowledge, (but) knowledge makes arrogant ….     (1 Corinthians 8:1)

…and arrogant people cannot get along. If we are to ever reveal the faith that was “once delivered to the Saints” it will begin with knowing   that opinions (even correct ones) cannot produce Oneness. The powerful revelatory unity Christ spoke of is only produced when people are dedicated to obeying Christ through loving one another; not trying to sort out the facts about Christ or His scriptures.

Many years ago I was approached by a man who said he wanted to get to know me and have fellowship. Not more than a few minutes into the conversation he asked me if I baptized with emersion or sprinkling. Now I thought that was rather an odd question to ask somebody you desired fellowship with, so I asked him why did he desired to know. His reply basically indicated that he wanted to know what I believed so he could know if he had “unity” with me. 

I thought for a moment and said that I wouldn't tell him the answer. He looked very puzzled and asked why?  I proceeded to tell him that giving my opinion at this time would not profit either of us nor bring either of us any closer to each other. If I said I agreed with what he considered the correct mode of baptism he would then form a unity with me based on our opinions. If I said something different than he believed he would then separate from me. Neither of our opinions could produce the oneness of Christ so I declined to give my answer. 

I then began to express my desire for the Unity of the Spirit between us so we could build a lasting relationship that was based on our obedience to Christ’s command to love.  He proceeded to tell me that unless we could agree on “the truth” we could not walk together. He then asked me what I would do if I needed to baptize someone and the person didn’t agree with my “interpretation of truth”. 

I said I would begin walking to the place of baptism and pray for God to bring us into the unity of the Faith. If we could not agree by the time we reached the water and he still wanted me to baptize him, I would ask that we wait on instructions from Christ. If he had wanted someone else to sprinkle him and he did it out of obedience to Christ I would rejoice in his baptism and if it mattered to God He would show him what’s true. 

My confidence would not be in what I believe about the correct mode of baptism but in the One who cares about us and would see to it that, as we continue to love one another, lead us into all truth. I believe that if we waited together preserving the unity of the Spirit, and the issue really mattered to Him, He will guide us into all truth. The terrible truth is that things we are willing to divide over, usually come from our pride and God hates both our pride and the resulting division. (Luke 16:15) 

It is interesting that in the 4th chapter of Ephesians the Unity of the Spirit in verse 3 is mentioned before the Unity of the Faith in verse 13. The nine verses in between 3 and 13 are about the importance of us realizing and maintaining our oneness. The whole chapter seems to indicate that without staying in the Unity of the Spirit we will not attain the Unity of the Faith. 

It is the oneness with my brothers and sisters that allows the fullness of Christ to be shared among us all. Learning to speak the truth in love to each other keeps us from the trickery and deceitful scheming of men and allows us to attain to the wisdom of understanding that is given to us in Christ, because we are sharing in His Fullness. 

How horrid is this matter of personal interpretation of the Scriptures coupled with not trusting God. What hatred and cruelty has been unleashed on the sons of men through men’s opinions of scriptures and what they deem “the plain truth”. 

How Christ’s glory has been drug through the muck and mire of men’s private interpretation of scripture resulting in the revelation of hell instead of Heaven. Doesn’t all of this seem to reveal a fundamental lack of trust in God Himself? If we really believe He is the Truth shouldn’t we trust He will reveal himself to all who truly want to do his will ?( John 7:17) Is He any less capable of appearing to the Sauls of the 21rst century and by His own power change their hardened minds than He was 2000 years ago? Cannot He still set up situations where the “cock crowing” reveals the true condition of the self deceived man? 

If wives are encouraged to continue in chaste and respectful behavior for the correcting of their disobedient husbands rather than pressing the issue, why can’t we do the same when our brothers disagree with us? (1 Peter 3:1) The answer to these questions is simple ….we don’t trust Him… specifically to do something… so we make a divisive stand for the truth and walk away feeling like a great defenders of the Faith. Our emphasis is not His ….which is to win the brother not the argument. 

The Lord Jesus has made himself clear…no one will believe that Christ is sent from God because what you are saying is correct, makes sense, or is even biblically  correct. They (unbelievers) will know that Christ is sent by God by observing the oneness they in see in you with God and your Christian brothers.         (John 17: 20, 21) 

They will not know that you are His disciple because you know the bible well, go to church, become a pastor, evangelist, missionary, or by correcting them when they cuss, but by the patience and kindness (love) you practice toward your Christian brothers and sisters. 

It is not what we know about Christ that saves us….rather it’s knowing Christ and it is not what we know about Christ that will save our friends from error…It is our knowing Christ.