Thursday, August 31, 2006

May The Words of My Mouth . . .


"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14 NIV


These words are often quoted and sung in our churches and they are pregnant with meaning for us. There is much teaching in the church at large about what we say, but unfortunately I find one of two extremes on the subject. The first is that extreme we call "name and claim," and the second extreme is the belief that if a Christian is not cursing (using the Lord's name in vain, etc) then their speech is fine.

I believe the truth is between the two. But please understand what I am not saying. The Christian who believes that as long as they are not cursing, then they are not sinning with their mouth is the worst of the two extremes. Name and claim are closer to the Word. Yet, that too misses the mark and leaves a huge inaccuracy in our understanding of the Word.

I believe it is a matter of influence -- not control. I do not believe the Bible teaches that we control our destiny with our words. I do believe, however, we sow the seeds of the future with our words. Those two statements are not the same. One is trying to control my circumstances by saying the right thing, the other is planting the seeds of the Spirit with our speech and thereby influencing everything around us with the Kingdom of God. As long as our words (and prayers) are mainly concerned with our circumstances (or someone else) we will never be able to do what the word is saying. Our words must be truth (not necessarily fact), kind, filled with grace and peace.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4: 29-32

I believe this is all expressed primarily through the words of our mouth. If we are angry, bitter, etc... it all comes out through our speech. The word in Psalm 19 is a prayer that what we "murmur" (mediation) about in our heart will be pleasing and what we say will be pleasing. All because He is our Rock and our Redeemer. It is not necessary for me to be critical. I usually think it is needful that someone speak up, but really no where (have I found) in Scripture does it tell me to be critical. In fact, it speaks just the opposite.

I see many lining up for prayer, wanting healing, that turn and destroy others with their attitudes and their speech. Healing does not flow in many of our churches, and I think that is in large part because we we violate the Word constantly in our talk. When will be really understand? Our speech is to be positive (Philippians 4:8). We have no other permission.

Let's begin to curb and eradicate this plague of every person saying what is on their mind, and get back to a Biblical form of blessings -- with our words.

Just some thoughts---.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

His Great Faithfulness

"In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun." Psalm 19:4b HCSB This statement in Psalm 19 is often just read and then goes unmarked and unnoticed. Within this small statement is a huge truth.

The God of all creation provided a specific place for a specific created body. The sun has a job to do: to bring all the elements of light to our tiny globe so there can be life. Obvious. However, when we stop and think we realize everything the Lord created is set in its place and there is a provision for that thing -- large or small. The sun was not just created and hurled into space to be wherever. It was designed and created for its place.

He pitched or created a tent or canopy for it. The sun does not do its job part of the time, it is a continuous expression -- just the right orbit to accomplish what is just right for us. It has a tabernacle in which to live -- it is not free to go where it might -- it is assigned a space to fill for a purpose from the heart of the Father. It has full provision for its purpose.

How wonderful this is. Now, when we realize that such purpose was present and is continuing to be present in the creation, it will awe us to realize our lives are also pregnant with His purpose. He did not create me or you to just live and do the best we can. The Bible says that was done in His mind before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 2:4) So it was with great and tender purpose He put me (and you) on this globe at this time.

That "tent" or tabernacle or canopy contains the sun's provision. No child of the Father is left to wander about wherever and perhaps stumble upon purpose and design, and grope for provision. We all come from Him and are cared for in Him. "In Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) We are to trust Him and to allow Him to reveal His provision for us.

So let us with firm confidence, relax in His hand and allow our worries to float away in His embrace. With such love we were formed, and in such love we live. His great faithfulness will continue for each of us throughout eternity. It is beyond our understanding, nonetheless, it is.

Come to Jesus He will give us rest -- in His great faithfulness!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Strange New World of the Bible

Tyler F. Williams, Chair, Religion & Theology Department, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, University College, Edmonton, AB Canada has graciously allowed me to copy his post of August 9 on mannaword. Please go to his blog; http://biblical-studies.ca/blog and read his other posts. He is a thinker and has some very good posts and links to Bible material. The following is his post in its entirety. I have not put it in quotes, as there are quotes within his text -- this makes it a bit simpler. Everything in black is his writing.

I believe that one of the greatest hindrances to the proper interpretation of the Bible is a false sense of familiarity. There are a number of things that contribute to this false sense of familiarity, including Bible translations that mistakenly modernize idioms and contexts (A translation should not make its readers think that they understand the Bible better than they actually do). While this may sound counter-productive, one of the first steps to properly in- terpreting the Bible is to create some historical distance between our world and (to echo Barth) the "strange new world within the Bible." If we don't take care to create this historical distance, then we will read our modern presuppositions into the biblical text. Gadamer notes: "If we fail to transpose ourselves into the historical horizon from which the traditionary text speaks, we will misunderstand the significance of what it has to say to us" (Truth and Method, 303). Similarly, "it is constantly necessary to guard against overhasily assimilating the past to our own expectations of meaning. Ony then can we listen to tradition in a way that permits it to make its own meaning heard" (Truth and Method, 305).

One example will suffice for now (I have some ideas about further posts): the impact of the industrial revolution on our understanding of the world around us. This was brought home to me recently as I was reading Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh's excellent Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels (2nd ed; Fortress Press, 2002; Buy from www.Amazon.ca or www.Amazon.com. Malin highlights some of the vast differences between our industrial world and the agrarian world of the Bible in order to remind us how great the transformation really was -- here is a list of examples from Malina (pp. 6-8):

  • In agrarian societies more than 90 percent of the population was rural. In industrial societies more than 90 percent is urban.
  • In agrarian societies 90-95 percent of the population was engaged in what sociologists call the "primary" industries (farming and extracting raw materials). In the United States today it is 4.9 percent.
  • In agrarian societies 2-4 percent of the population was literate. In industrial societies 2-4 percent are not.
  • The birthrate in most agrarian societies was about forty per thousand per year. In the United States, as in most industrial societies, it is less than half that. Yet death rates have dropped even more dramatically than birthrates. We thus have the curious phenomenon of far fewer births and rapidly rising population.
  • Life expectancy in the city of Rome in the first century BCE was about twenty years at birth. If the perilous years of infancy were survived, it rose to about forty, one-half our present expectations.
  • In contrast to the huge cities we know today, the largest city in Europe in the fourteenth century, Venice, had a population of 78,000. London had 35,000. Vienna had 3,800. Though population figures for antiquity are notoriously difficult to come by, recent estimates for Jerusalem are about 35,000. For Capernaum, 1,500. For Nazareth about 200.
  • The Department of Labor currently lists in excess of 20,000 occupations in the United States and hundreds more are added to the list annually. By contrast , the tax rolls for Paris (pop. 59,000) in the year 1313 list only 157.
  • Unlike modern world, in agrarian societies 1-3 percent of the population usually owns one-to-two thirds of the arable land. Since 90 percent or more were peasants, the vast majority owned subsistence plots at best.
  • The size of the federal bureaucracy in the United States in 1816 was 5,000 employees. In 1971 it was 2,852,000 and growing rapidly. While there was a political, administrative, and military apparatus in antiquity, nothing remotely comparable to the modern governmental bureaucracy ever existed. Instead, goods and services were mediated by patrons who operated largely outside governmental control.
  • More than one-half of all families in agrarian societies were broken during the childbearing and child-rearing years by the death of one or both parents. In India at the turn of the twentieth century the figure was 71 percent. Thus widows and orphans were everywhere.
  • In agrarian societies the family was the unity of both production and consumption. Since the industrial revolution, family production or enterprise has nearly disappeared and the unity of production has become the individual worker. Nowadays the family is only a unit of consumption.
  • The largest "factories" in Roman antiquity did not exceed fifty workers. In the records of the medieval craft guilds from London, the largest employed eighteen. The industrial corporation, a modern invention, did not exist.
  • In 1850, the "prime movers" in the United States (i.e., steam engines in factories, sailing vessels, work animals, etc.) had a combined capacity of 8.5 million horsepower. By 1970 this had risen to 20 billion.
  • The cost of moving one ton of goods one mile (measured in U.S. dollars in China at the beginning of the industrial revolution) was: Steamboat 2.4; Wheelbarrow 20.0; Rail 2.7; Pack donkey 24.9; Junk 12.0; Packhorse 30.0; Animal-drawn cart 13.0; Carrying by pole 48.0; Pack mule 17.0. It is little wonder that overland trade at any distance was insubstantial in antiquity.
  • Productive capacity in industrial societies exceeds that in most advanced agrarian societies known by more than one hundredfold.
  • Given the shock and consternation caused by the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the forced resignation of Richard M. Nixon, we sometimes forget that this sort of internal political upheaval is nothing like it was in the agrarian world. Of the 79 Roman emperors, 31 were murdered, 6 driven to suicide, and 4 were deposed by force. Moreover, such upheavals in antiquity were frequently accompanied by civil war and the enslavement of thousands.

This somewhat random list should remind us of the massive changes that occurred as the result of the industrial revolution. To quote Malina; "it [the industrial revolution] has been a watershed unlike any the world has ever seen. Should we be surprised if major changes in our perception of the world have occurred as well? And should we be surprised if that in turn has had a fundamental impact on our ability to read and understand the Bible?"

We need to do as much as we can as readers and interpreters to recognize the gulf between our world and the "strange new world within the Bible" so as to ensure we properly read and interpret and understand the biblical text.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A Marvel of Grace



My, my, my -- here it is Friday already, and it has been far too long since I posted something on this blog. My apologies to those of you who so diligently check to see what I have written.

Our Summer Event went very well last Saturday and the day was rich in our Lord's presence. My teachings were on prayer, and I will save that data for further posts -- later. Pictures of the day are posted on www.psalm19ministries.org.

However, right now I want to address an interesting (at least to me) fact. I have been reading many blogs recently and I do enjoy them. The ones I am referring to here are all by people much younger than I, who are really flexing their "spiritual muscles" to try to convince others they are the ones with the right take on such theological questions as: are the gifts of the Holy Spirit for today or not; do the Scriptures forbid women to teach men or not; must the 5 points of Calvinism be believed or is there some middle ground -- a more balanced ground; is the movement know as "the emerging church" a plus or a minus in the overall scheme of things; is the church doing what it should or has it lost its voice, and on and on.

What I find interesting, is that for the most part, these are the same and same type of questions we were asking in our church discussions over 40 years ago. I was getting impatient with my young brothers and sisters, and then I remembered some of my own journey. We must each make our own journeys in the things of our Lord. We must make our own discoveries in the working of the Holy Spirit. We must dig and dig in the Scriptures for the truth we love. We must journey -- not just swallow what we have been taught, or have read. We must read more and pray and listen.

How I praise our Lord for His grace that flows and holds, leads and guides. Not everyone will end up with the same conclusions -- but all who are walking with Him will end up with Him! I think that is marvelous. He knows we will come to differing conclusions and that does not disturb Him at all.

I find it a bit curious that our Heavenly Father would leave so much interpretation up to us. I think He smiles a lot as we search and grope for truth. The journey blesses Him -- so keep searching in His Word and allowing Him to show up in the pages.