Friday, March 30, 2012

Does God Force Himself Against Free Will?

Have you seen A&E’s TV show, Intervention? I’m not a regular watcher but I’ve caught bits of the show a handful of times. The confrontation by the family and friends of a person trapped in destructive behaviour is full of tension and is unpleasant for everyone involved but the motivation for family to take such strong action is always love and the knowledge their loved one is capable of much more. They know their loved one is on a destructive path that ultimately leads to death.  They also know their spouse/child/friend feels powerless to change and if he or she could think clearly, he or she would choose to live life differently.

It’s fair to say if the family/friends took strong action to save their loved one from self-destruction, no one would rebuke them for their action and yet, too often we rebuke God for violating our free will. The truth is, at time, God may choose to do an intervention based on an on-going love relationship, as in the example of Jonah.

Jonah was running away from God and God pursued him relentlessly, making an abrupt end to Johan’s plans. Jonah was called a prophet of God and it indicates a close covenant relationship with God despite current differences of opinion. At one time, Jonah made a decision, of his own free will, to be a prophet of God. It was not a casual decision. It required great responsibility on Jonah’s part but the pay-off was God’s abiding presence and Spirit resting on him.

A covenantal relationship is complex and multi-faceted. The best definition I’ve come across to understand a covenant relationship is the willingness to be defined by the other person (or group). They belong to each other. Jonah belonged to God, and God belonged to Jonah. Therefore, when Jonah was trapped in destructive behaviour, God went looking for him to save him from himself. It is an expression of love.

Those who are not in a relationship with the Creator are not under the same covenantal agreement with him. Although it grieves the heart of the Father because he knows them because they were created by him, and he knows their potential destiny but he will not violate their will.

A Biblical example of someone not in a relationship with God is Balaam – a false prophet. (You can read about his Biblical account here.) He was a false prophet, not because he prophesied incorrectly but because his heart was bent toward personal gain and he had not entered into a covenant relationship with God, the giver of his prophetic gift; psychics and fortune tellers are modern-day false prophets.

Balaam had an encounter with God but he remained unchanged and God did not pursue him. To be honest, it terrifies me to think if I lose my way and God did not move to save me, then how truly lost am I? Unfortunately, that is the reality for many.

Does God force himself on us, ignoring our free will? No, but he will relentlessly pursue his covenantal people to move back into a right relationship and fast track us to our intended destiny.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Yada: It's Not What You Think

Q. What do you call couples who use the rhythm method [of birth control]?
A. Parents

The natural outcome of a union between two people is fruit (fruit of the loins, according to the KJV).  It is true in the natural realm.  It is also true in the spiritual realm.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to, ‘Be still and know God.’  The word, still, is translated raphah and means to yield, or give slack [to another].  The image being denoted is to cut the tension.  The NASB translates the word, ‘cease striving’.  In a game of tug-of-war, the opposing teams keep tension on the rope and try to win by pulling the other team into their territory.  It takes a great deal of effort.  

As I read the whole of Psalm 46, I have a mental image of God’s people having a tug-of-war with God.  The real enemy is simply watching the efforts of the Israelites and picking them off at will because they are fully focused on their own struggle with God.  God is telling them to yield, cut the tension.  In doing so, they swing around to God and in effect, they encircle the enemy in the rope.  All at once, the Lord of [heavenly] Hosts will fight the enemy. 

Although God is able to defeat the enemy and at the same time have a game of tug-of-war with his people, he will not.  He is focused on his people and wants to partner in the victory with them.  He’s a gentleman in that way.  He will never force himself on us.

How is this true?  The word, know, is yada in Hebrew and in one sense of the word, it means to ‘know carnally’.  When you know someone, one yields him or herself to the other; two are united as one and the result is fruit. Fruit comes from intimacy.

John 15 speaks about the same type of connectedness.  Jesus is the vine, we are the branches and when we are connected to the source of life, the natural result is a fruit-bearing tree.  Is the focus fruit?  No, but fruit is the result of a right relationship.

Chasing the fruit is like performance-based Christianity.  It looks impressive but the vitality is missing.  Independent cable networks have some wonderfully weird and wacky television shows.  A while ago I saw a show about State Fair vegetable growing competitions.  The particular episode I watched showcased pumpkins. They were so big they needed to be transported by a trolley cart. 

A vine that produces a pumpkin that large will only produce one fruit.  The pumpkin is inedible, and therefore only good for “show”.  Once the show is over, it is not good for anything and will rot away.  This is not the picture of how we are to be in the kingdom of heaven.  We are supposed to bear much fruit, fruit that will last BUT the goal is not to produce fruit.  The goal is to remain connected to the vine, Jesus.

Cut the slack, yield to God and intimately know him, as he intimately knows us and the reward is fruit that lasts.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fun in the Sun

It’s spring break and our family is joining thousands of other Canadian families who migrate south in hopes of warmer weather. Had I been more organized, I would have written posts in advance but I work best under pressure and I had to decide: clean house or pre-written posts. I opted for a clean house. I love coming home to a house preserved in cleanliness.

If you have school-aged children in your home, then you know how family life is ruled by the school schedule. Enjoy your break, I know I will.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's Like Peeing Your Pants

Friendship is like peeing your pants; it’s obvious to everybody but only you can feel the warmth. ~unknown

My online buddy, Bret Alan, a professing atheist of the blog, Anything But Theist is often a source for post ideas. His post yesterday (March 5) left me thinking about the truth of his comment.

"Those who hate a religion do not understand it very well.
Those who follow a religion do not understand it at all."

To those on the outside (of anything, not just religion) can only observe and judge – they do not receive any benefit. The benefits are reserved for those included.

Bret writes often about religion and many times I agree. Religion is stifling, boxy and rule-oriented. From outside observation, it would be easy to assess religion is unattractive as a lifestyle choice or philosophy. I’m not interested in religion and rules without relationship make me squirrelly and want to rebel.

Unfortunately, too many Christians are caught in the box of religion and don’t have a relationship with God. They work and serve God because they think by doing those things God will love them and will reward them. The truth is God already loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. He rewards us for our faith, not for our works and the kind of relationship he wants with us is more than Facebook friends, or work buddies.

Those who follow religion don’t understand the gospel at all but when we understand the gospel message as an invitation to a relationship, we will experience true freedom. I’m not bothered by outsiders who observe and pass judgement. Jesus wasn’t bothered either, in fact, he spent very little [documented] time with those outside the faith community. He went about his purpose, teaching the Good News and healing the sick, infirmed and destitute. Outsiders came to him and he welcomed them, loved them and invited them to experience the Good News, and feel the warmth.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Psalms for Sunday - XXXVII

There is a door, it’s not large but it’s always open and light shines from the other side but few find it and many who do are skeptics and don’t enter through. Others are too proud to go through the door on their knees but they must, otherwise they cannot fit.

The desperate, the ones bloated from hunger and disease, these ones enter through the door with gladness, hoping for some crumb, some morsel to satisfy their craving and their desolation.

Inside the door is a kingdom opposite to anything experience on the other side. Where once I thought to myself, “This is a good life,” but in the new kingdom my old life is like dung – worthless except for burning.

Everything is light and my vision clears to see the glory of the presence of the Lord. He is magnificent, mighty and holy, oh so holy. Everywhere and everything changes my senses and my perception. The kabod of the Lord presses me down and I worship; I can do nothing but worship for He alone is worthy, He is worthy of all praise.

Glory to God, and worthy of all praise; bless your mighty name.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Everything That Has Breath, Praise the Lord

There are a limited number of truths I would stake my life on.  One is God is more than previously thought – it is true no matter how little or much you know God, he is more. Another truth is if you are not worshipping God as a regular part of your day then you do not know the holiness of God.

I am a worshipper but I wasn’t always. For many years, I took offense by what I saw as a requirement to worship. Like a tip for a restaurant worker, it should be voluntary if the service was good, or better. Then one morning we had a woman guest tell us about her ministry at the women’s group I lead. She helped girls on the street get off – sometimes for a night, sometimes longer. In my offense, I scoffed at the idea of saving a girl for only one night but a shift happened in my thinking that day. On average, a street worker will make 10 sales of her body in one night – it might not seem significant but for one night, they will have prevented 10 acts of abuse against that girl. And she gave thanks and praise to God.

The Lord asked me, Can you worship and give me praise for the small acts of loving-kindness? I told the Lord, Yes, I can worship and give you praise for the small acts. Instead of taking offense by what isn’t happening, I praised God for what is happening.

As I started to praise and worship God for what he does, no matter how small he began to show me more and more of his holiness – above everything. There is no one before God; he is supreme in his holiness and his glory. As I discovered more about God by discovering more of God, praise and worship no longer became a requirement but the only appropriate response.

I grew up in churches where the only form of worship was singing. It was unfortunate for me because I don’t sing well so while others sang around me I would close my eyes and imagine movement and colour swirling together; it was a spectacular show in my mind. Two years ago I visited a church where they experienced worship – not only with song and voices, but with dance and movement and flags with colour. It was exactly as I had seen it in my mind.

I wanted to pick up some flags and try them but I was inhibited by fear. I held back but it wasn’t long before I sensed the Lord tell me to make my own flags and worship with them in private. I began doing that, then I started going to the beach. There is so much coastline on the Pacific West Coast where I live, I easily find my own spot out of the way and I worship God as the wind blows around me.

It is my joy, and my delight to worship God and it fills my week. I worship every day, most often with flags, sometimes with dancing, and always in prayer.  

Last summer, someone came to me while I was worshipping with flags at the beach and said, “When I watch you, I want to get up and dance myself.” Heaven is full of worship and when one worships, more start to worship as well. Revelations 4 reveals the way worship builds. It’s progressive; first the four creatures gave God glory and praise, and then the 24 elders joined in their song. Next the angels, numbering thousands upon thousands began to worship and finally every creature in heaven, on earth and on the sea worship. When we are in the midst of true worship, it’s impossible not to join in because of a collective revelation of who God is.

What form does your worship take?
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