Abraham, Sacrifice and Hearing God’s Voice

Abraham, Seperation and Hearing God’s Voice (Genesis 22: 1-18)
***Quoted from a Jewish friend’s blog – Yaelbatsarah

“The most interesting separation was the one I hadn’t noticed before, way the text shows Abraham’s separation from God. In Chapter 22 God tells Abraham to take Isaac up the mountain and sacrifice him. This is the Abraham that argued against God destroying strangers, but for his own kid he gets up and goes.

This is the last time God speaks to him. The next time it is an angel of God who speaks to Abraham, and just to make sure we noticed it wasn’t God talking to Abraham directly anymore, the text says in verse 13 that the angel called to Abraham a second time. Are you getting it? God isn’t talking to this guy anymore! Why? Maybe because God had expected Abraham to argue and Abraham didn’t?” (Yaelbatsarah)

What can be learned here about our friendship with God? Do we do things with our faith that are unreasonable and need to be looked at more closely? No one’s faith is perfect – and we all make mistakes – but let’s pause this week to see if we are using our faith as a reason to make those mistakes.


Climate Change and Greed

“For two hundred years, we, in the west, have wagered the world that economic growth is the highest form of progress, burning more and more fossil fuels.” (David Suzuki)

I am not the biggest fan of Suzuki but I watched this documentary last night and got to wondering about the effects of climate change and where this all came from – and what is a Christian stand on this?

Well we are well aware this all grew out of Industrialization and the rise of oil as a basic economic underpinning. Although this 200 year history has spawned some of the greatest technological advances and conveniences – it has also caused major problems with our natural world. Suzuki points out problems in the “Canadian Arctic, Montana, Northern Kenya, China and India” – and how the erosion of soil, ecological disasters, and the melting of ice caps all effect various communities in major ways (ex: death, starvation, loss of soil to grow things, and moving of communities to adjust).

I watched in horror more or less at communities losing everything in sub-sahara Africa or Chinese villages having to move every few years due to soil erosion. It seemed like all the answers to the problems are being thought up but no one is taking them serious. Why?

Greed. A system that is 200 years old and building more infrastructure aorund the earth is not about to go ‘quietly into that good night’. There is still a lot of money to be made and many markets are yet to be tapped completely (ex: China). I see a struggle between global markets and the strain on the global environment arising and someone has to concede.

But as a Christian person this bothers me. The West is enjoying the benefits of industrialization – other countries are suffering for the amount of stuff we do to the environment to keep our convenient lifestyles. It makes me feel a little guilty for being born into this and then enjoying it. We have inherited a system that both benefits us yet destroys our lifesource – the earth. It almost seems the almighty Dollar is worth more than the Almighy’s objectives for us – to care for this earth. I know that we are called not to ‘greed’ but to ‘care for the poor’ – yet in the West I see the opposite happening. Will this switch before it’s too late?

And don’t blame me I was given this world I didn’t make it” (2 Pac – Keep Your Head Up)

Love and Fear -The Great Escape

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (I John 4:18)

Ever dissect this scripture before? Ever take a good long hard look at what John is saying here? Well I did about 2 weeks back and I came to some conclusions.

(1) Fear and love should not co-exist in a relationship. Someone should not say they have to ‘fear someone’ to ‘love them’ or ‘love them due to fear’. John makes it abundantly clear ‘that one who fears is not perfected by love’ – they are not getting all they can from that relationship.

(2) Love and fear are opposites. Love does not lead you to fear nor does fear lead you to love. Perfect loves casts out fear or you could also say fear casts out love. These two ideas are not bed-mates nor do they like hanging out – one usually drives the other away.

(3) The idea we can be saved by ‘fear tactics’ will not result in the idea we ‘will know God’ – since God is love. If someone comes to God to escape hell (punishment) there is no guarantee that same person will correctly portray God (who is love – not fear) – since the fear is a misrepresentation of God’s character. Fear leads to superstition; love leads to freedom.

We talk about the ‘fear of God’ but I think this is a normal beginning – there is a huge element of unknown concerning God. But to remain in fear is like to remain a child who is scared of the dark – not knowing the dark won’t hurt you (you just can’t see). Love is the steps towards God and finding out what the depth of God is (what life is all about and what it all means). Fear does not have depth – it has punishment – and that’s all there is to know.

Can the idea of love replace the idea of fear in the Christian world as the core idea in salvation? Why do we as humans want to hold so tightly onto fear?

Speaking of Prophethood – What’s Next…Polygamy?

I was just watching a documentary on the Mormon history and they had a whole chapter on polygamy and what all happened there. That got me thinking about that topic – is it possible this idea will ever make it’s way back into mainstream society?

To be honest, Joseph Smith percieved himself as a prophet who saw himself heralding in both the end times and a challenge for the church to change in America. He was the one that made this idea enter the dialogue of American history – and what did he base this on? You got it – his interpretation of some Tanakh writings and some supposed revelation from God. Was he wrong? Mainstream Mormonism thinks so – but the documentary said something that caught my ears (I will paraphrase) – ‘even if Mormons don’t believe this practice there has to be some burning thought in the back of their minds about it’s legitimacy since it did come from Joseph Smith’s own mouth?‘.

Polygamy, the idea a man can have more than one wife (why I say man is because this is how it was always used and justified). This idea is not all that foreign actually, it happens all around us all the time. Men cheat on their wives with other women (sometimes multiple partners), the ideas of ‘swinging’ are in our midst, Hugh Hefner has 4 wives (one legally), we see people marry multiple partners during a lifetime (what Larry King have now – 5?), teenagers have mutiple sex partners before they leave high school, etc. Is this really that foreign an idea?

However, is it possible this will come back into mainstream society? It has been around apparently since the world began – and history is filled with stories of this practice (even to this day) – and it seems the sexual revolution of the late 60’s may have an unseen impact yet – maybe this sexual revolution can usher in the idea of polygamy also?

What’s so bad if someone does this and all parties agree to the unions? I mean, it’s behind closed doors and whatever we can’t see can’t be that bad? Plus this idea is as old as humanity itself – doesn’t that lend credibility to it? Also, it seems the bible – even if vague on it – does show many a person having concubines? So, hmmmm…will this make a comeback? If not, why?

***PS: I have one wife and I love her with all my heart. Would I support this idea – no.

Changes – The Gospel of a Thug?

Changes (2Pac Shakur)

I see no changes wake up in the morning and I ask myself/is life worth living should I blast myself?/I’m tired of bein’ poor & even worse I’m black/my stomach hurts so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch/Cops give a damn about a negro/pull the trigger kill a n*gga he’s a hero/Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares/one less hungry mouth on the welfare

First ship ’em dope & let ’em deal to brothers/give ’em guns step back watch ’em kill each other/It’s time to fight back that’s what Huey said/2 shots in the dark now Huey’s dead/I got love for my brother but we can never go nowhere unless we share with each other/We gotta start makin’ changes learn to see me as a brother instead of 2 distant strangers/and that’s how it’s supposed to be/how can the devil take a brother if he’s close to me?/I’d love to go back to when we played as kids/but things changed, and that’s the way it is

That’s just the way it is/Things’ll never be the same/That’s just the way it is

I see no changes all I see is racist faces/misplaced hate makes disgrace to races/We under I wonder what it takes to make this one better place, let’s erase the wasted/Take the evil out the people they’ll be acting right’/cause both black and white is smokin’ crack tonight/and only time we chill is when we kill each other/it takes skill to be real, time to heal each other/And although it seems heaven sent/We ain’t ready, to see a black President/It ain’t a secret don’t conceal the fact the penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks

But some things will never change/try to show another way but you stayin’ in the dope game/Now tell me what’s a mother to do/bein’ real don’t appeal to the brother in you/You gotta operate the easy way/”I made a G today”/But you made it in a sleazy way/sellin’ crack to the kids/”I gotta get paid”/Well hey, well that’s the way it is

“We gotta make a change…It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes. Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live and let’s change the way we treat each other. You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do what we gotta do, to survive”

And still I see no changes can’t a brother get a little peace/It’s war on the streets & the war in the Middle East/Instead of war on poverty they got a war on drugs/so the police can bother me/And I ain’t never did a crime I ain’t have to do/But now I’m back with the blacks givin’ it back to you/Don’t let ’em jack you up, back you up, crack you up and pimp slap you up/You gotta learn to hold ya own/they get jealous when they see u with your mobile phone.

But tell the cops they can’t touch this/I don’t trust this when they try to rush I bust this/That’s the sound of my tool you say it ain’t cool/my mama didn’t raise no fool/And as long as I stay black I gotta stay strapped/and I never get to lay back’/Cause I always got to worry ’bout the pay backs/some buck that I roughed up way back/comin’ back after all these years/rat-tat-tat-tat-tat/that’s the way it is

**I personally love this song and to me it represents the gospel very clearly (and what a prophet actually does – speaks to a generation all the while identifying with the people he is speaking to). Call this my respect for one man’s desire to change the way things are.

We Need Some Focus…

“Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (Matthew 11:2-6)

Just what was the focus of Jesus’ mission while on this earth? Well Jesus does give an explanation in Matthew 11 and it is answering a question John the Baptist had (who must of been doubting Jesus on some level). I am shocked by what Jesus says to him – ‘tell John what you HEAR and SEE’. Two levels there – what’s being said and what he is doing…what is he doing?

(1) Blind recieve sight – action

(2) Lame Walk – action

(3) Lepers Cleansed – action

(4) Deaf Hear – action

(5) Dead are Raised – action

(6) Poor have the gospel preached to them: words

1/6th of the things listed there require mere words – and those words are directed to the ‘poor’ of all things (ex: like modern day ghetto’s) – a segment of society that still remains forgotten. 5/6th’s are about ‘doing something’ – getting involved – and seeing a process through.

Now we likely won’t be healing any of those ailments but the pattern is set there by our rabbi – ‘doing’ something is 5 times as important as ‘talking’ about something. And nowhere in that do we see anyone being judged for their ‘ailments’ or ‘position in society’ (if you think about it – they all are ‘poor’ in some way). It seems to me Jesus saw the importance of helping where and when it was needed.

So how does this all relate? What can we do? Basically the church needs to evolve into this vision again – one of programs and help for those in need of it. I am not totally sure but here are some suggestions:

(1) Help those without a vision find one
(2) Help those that struggle all alone find acceptance and someone to work alongside them
(3) Help the outcast in society find a place to belong
(4) Help those who don’t understand something in life to find knowledge about it
(5) Help those with no hope in life to find that hope in life – allow them a reason to live
(6) Work in the poorer areas of society for social change (preach to the poor)

Basically get involved and it’s really that easy. If it wasn’t to good for the ‘teacher’ then it shouldn’t be too good for the student.

Forgiveness – Publicity Gone Bad

I thought about the problems Trent and I have had over the past day or so – and I realized that I was partly to blame for escalating the whole thing – and I want to be honest about it.

I am not sure I gave Trent any way out to ‘save face’ and I seemed to rub his critcisms in his face – and for that Trent – I am sorry – I didn’t need to do that and I went too far in some of the things I said (usually with my sarcasm).

Secondly, I made a personal issue between Trent and I public – and for that I am also sorry Trent. We had an issue with one another and I decided to bring it to the public (and asked you to bring it public) – and for that I accept my responsibility – I was wrong and I have taken the post down.

Lastly, I don’t want to incite people to ‘choose a side’ here and I think that is what I caused some of you to do – and for that I am sorry also Trent. To be perfectly honest, everyone was judging Trent on the basis of one convo – that isn’t fair – and that was my fault (since it was on my blog and shouldn’t have been).

In the end, I am laying down the ‘arms’ – and moving on – no actual reason for ill will.

Growing in Faith – Figurative and Literal

“Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (I Corinthians 14:20)

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things” (I Corinthians 13:11)

I have been thinking about the idea of growth in our faith – and I notice Paul uses the idea of growth from a child to an adult. That once we come to this faith we start as ‘babies’ and eventually mature into ‘adults’ in our understanding of what we are studying – I am guessing with all the same processes of real life – from child (being told what is true) to teenager (knowing all the answers) to young adult (questioning what you thought you knew) to adult (maturity that is a partnership with God?).

I am using Paul’s idea metaphorically of course – but it does help with developing a picture of what our faith should look like. I love how Paul does question the idea of thinking maturely (likely in regards to ethics) but I think it has another aspect to it – going from one understanding to one of more depth. Just how mature are we?

My thought on this is simple: growth in this faith needs to result into a place where we take full responsibility for our understanding of this faith (and what it means to us) – and instead of ‘letting go and letting God’ – we take our end of that partnership – we grow into a place where ‘God lets go of our hand – to see us walk’.

I am thinking about this in a logical growth pattern – as how a parent treats a child (even while they grow). It would be absurd for your own parents to keep parenting you as a young child while you are an adult – at some point you accept the role of ‘decision maker’. This puts the responsibility for ‘what you do with what you know’ where it belongs – with you.

So do you think our faith is like this? Are we growing to a point where God allows us that much responsibility – as in a friendship with God? Can He trust us that much?

Keeping the Faith by Losing it?

From How (Not) to Speak of God concerning the Costa-Gavras film Amen (pp. 63-64):

The film explores the failure of the Catholic and Protestant Churches when confronted with the terror of the death camps during the Second World War. We are presented with two religious figures, a Protestant youth pastor and a Catholic priest…The response of the priest is of particular interest. At one point he wonders aloud to the Cardinal whether it would be possible for every Christian in Germany to convert to Judaism in order to stop the horror, for the Nazis couldn’t possibly condemn such a huge number of powerful and socially integrated people at that stage of the war. The idea is, of course, utterly rejected. Then, in complete frustration, and with a crushing sense of obligation towards the persecuted, the priest takes his own advice. In tears he turns from that which he loves more than life itself–his own faith tradition–and becomes a Jew. By taking on the Jewish identity he suffers with the persecuted, voluntarily taking his place on the trains that run to Auschwitz.

For this priest, the singularity of the horror required an unprecedented action, one which cut at the heart of his tradition. It was his very tradition (or rather his interpretation of that tradition) that demanded that he should give up that tradition…The most powerful way for this priest to affirm his Christianity is to lay it down…And so this priest gives up his Christianity precisely in order to retain his Christianity.

I would like to thank Hineini for bringing this to my attention! What do you think – is there a nugget of truth here that we can learn from?

On the Fritz…

He wished to right the wrongs, He sang religious songs
He kept the private He, Under a lock and key

Heat keeps rising in an age of passion, Shakes a conscience to the core
Stopgap, hand-slap, take a tongue-lashing, My pour soul can’t take any more

On the fritz, on the fritz, There he sits, on the fritz

He kept his ego there, It was a sad affair, On the fritz
The inner circle knows, And so the story goes. On the fritz

Airborne rumours chip away the image, But you knew the stakes were high
First they get you thinking you’re a prophet, Now they’ve got you living a lie

So the crowds grew, and the praise did too, And a mailing list sent you money
So they love Jerry Lewis in France, Does that make him funny?
It’s too late for apologies when trust has been betrayed, Now victims of your double life are naming names

He kept his ego there, It was a sad affair, On the fritz
The public’s had enough, They’ve come to call your bluff, On the fritz

Small talk breeds where kingdom’s come crashing, Rumour conquers where it will
No one hears you, go ahead and cash in, If you don’t die to yourself, well…pride kills

Written by Steve Taylor © 1985 Birdwing Music/C.A. Music (ASCAP)
Taylor says, “If my songwriting output were mostly autobiographical, I would be a very messed-up cowboy indeed, but I suppose a convincing case could be made for many of these songs, intentionally or not, written partly as a way to mark off boundaries that, by the grace of God, I hope never to cross. Having married above my means and been blessed with an altogether lovely and Godly wife for nine years, I confess to having little tolerance or empathy for those involved in marital infidelity. But I’m afraid I know a lot about the ego that can fuel such sins, and I’ve yet to satisfactorily figure out how to ‘die to self’ as Jesus taught us, while living and working center stage in a circus of self-promotion. If it’s starting to seem like ‘On The Fritz’ describes the rule rather than the exception for Christians in the public eye, then I would like to thank exceptional men and women from Dr. Billy Graham and his wife Ruth to my own father and mother for their examples in living a lifetime faithful to one God and one spouse.”