the need for persistent prayer

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Luke 18:1-8

If there’s one thing certain as far as our practice as Christians go, we need to be in the word, in prayer, and faithfully meeting with other Christians for worship, fellowship, and the teaching of the word. Prayer is something we have to persist in doing, because we so easily drift in that practice, and eventually can end up relatively prayerless.

Jesus’s parable is in terms of need, and the application is justice for God’s chosen ones who cry out to God day and night. Probably in view was the persecution of Christians, which Christians experienced right along, off and on during the early days into the first centuries of Christianity.

My own words: We need to pray and relax; relax and pray. Keep praying. Our Lord’s words: We should always pray, and not give up.

Fortunately it’s not about our effort, or what we do to make the needed difference. It’s what God can do in answer to prayer. But do we really believe that? We are so prone to think otherwise, that somehow we need to take matters in our own hands. That if we don’t do it, it won’t be done at all. Or we can feel that there’s no hope at all. But Jesus tells us not to give up, or lose heart, but simply to pray. With the promise that unlike the unjust judge, God’s answer will be forthcoming, on the way. As we continue on in faith and pray. In and through Jesus.

encouraging one another in our faith

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Hebrews 3:13

The word translated “encourage” in the NIV might better be translated “exhort” (as in the NRSV) except for the fact that we don’t use that word today. “Warn” (NLT) fits the context, yet might be too strong. And there’s another Greek word which means to warn or instruct. Perhaps a good rendering might be to “strongly encourage.” (See Bill Mounce to consider that word in the New Testament transliterated parakaleo.)

The book of Hebrews was not written to us, but is definitely for us. It was for a group of either Jewish believers, or believers who as Gentiles had previously been God-fearers in Judaism, now under pressure, being persecuted for their faith (at least the beginnings of it), and tempted to go back to Judaism. But no one should think they are signed, sealed and delivered, as to their faith. We need according to the text, daily encouragement, mutual encouragement in our faith (Romans), but also some pointed loving words, to help us stay on track. When we see faith in others which encourages us, we should let them know, so that they might be encouraged by what we see.

The nature of scripture is– what had application for others, now has application for us. We have to consider the writings in their original context, but we must look at it in our setting, circumstances, and situation of life, as well. There has to be a measure of contextualization. But in that process, we have to be careful not to think that their needs were different than ours. At the heart of it, the need is the same. Wherever we find ourselves, or more precisely in this context, others, we need to take this seriously, and apply it to our lives. We need each other in Jesus to help us along, especially through the most difficult and potentially dangerous times. To not turn back, or drift away, but go on in Jesus toward full maturity in him. To the very end.

an attitude grounded in faith

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land,  for we can certainly do it.”

Numbers 13

Chuck Swindoll is definitely one of my all time favorite evangelical preachers and writers. A breath of fresh air. Here is something he wrote which speaks needed wisdom to me:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. … The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.

more

One thing we can be certain of (click the link, “more”), we will face problems and adversity. That is a given. What isn’t certain is our response to them. Will we bail out? Will we endeavor to face them feeling overwhelmed and in the end completely worn out, so that we barely have enough to complete the task, or we do so gnashing our teeth in the process? Or do we acknowledge the reality, yet persist in the faith that God will be present, and will fulfill his promises to us in Jesus?

All Scripture is written for us (Romans 15:4). The account in Judges is challenging. Of the fourteen spies Moses sent in to give a report on the land, only Joshua and Caleb had faith in God and God’s word. The inhabitants there looked formidable, but their response was not to give into their fears, but press forward, and take the land, since God had both promised and commanded it.

What about us? What about me? Am I allowing myself to live overwhelmed over everything at hand, along with other looming issues, so that there’s barely enough strength, if that, to get through the course of a day? Or am I trusting in the God who fulfills all his promises to his people in and through Jesus, so that my main concern is holding on to faith, and being faithful?

Attitude. Not about believing in myself, but believing in the God who calls us, sends us, and equips us for the mission he gives us in and through Jesus.

goodness precedes knowledge in Christianity/ in the faith

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind,forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

2 Peter 1

Most Bible scholars/ commentators insist that the order in 2 Peter is unimportant, that what the writer says we’re to add to is beside the point, that we’re simply to have all of those things. I beg to differ, but even if they’re correct, the Bible not only supports but comports (makes sense) in the truth that goodness precedes knowledge.

Of course in our society, even our liberal democracy, for all the good in that, this is turned around. They insist that knowledge is the key to goodness. Yes, there is much one can learn to help one do good, and do better. But I would argue that knowledge alone insures nothing. And that even in “real life,” as some people might want to put it, goodness can make the difference needed, so that the knowledge which follows will be put to good use.

In the story in Genesis of Adam and Eve in the garden, we know the fall occurred when Eve took of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and ate from it in defiance of God’s command. In that case, the serpent suggested that knowledge had priority:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Genesis 3

Eve was deceived, as she acknowledges in this narrative. She wasn’t careful to take God at his word, and it is evident that she doubted God’s goodness. God had not told her she couldn’t touch the forbidden tree; maybe she had added that to keep her from the danger of eating it. And the serpent seems to clearly suggest that God is withholding what is good, and is thus less than good himself, in forbidding what the serpent seems to argue would be good. Deception, for sure.

The ultimate good scripture points to is of course in God and the good news in Jesus for a broken world. The good we bring on our own ends up harming us, because all good comes from God. Our insistence that we can handle it puts us in the place of God, something we’re incapable of fulfilling either pre or post-fall (Genesis 1-2, or 3 and after). We are made in God’s image, but God alone is God. And what goodness we have is all a gift from him in both creation and new creation.

The Peter text quoted above suggests that goodness comes from faith, that is, it’s a gift from God. And after goodness comes knowledge. Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 8 that knowledge puffs up, brings conceit, whereas love builds others up, for their true good. And he suggests that no one knows as they ought to know apart from such love, such goodness.

The goodness we need is found in Jesus and the gospel, and we’re also helped to that goodness by the Spirit ironically through God’s word, meant to be spoken or read out loud, so that faith is formed and awakened. All is a gift. If we think we can go to scripture, and simply by knowing it, arrive, we are only kidding ourselves. We need faith to receive the gift from believing God’s word, which puts us on the track of goodness in and through Jesus, and through which we can begin to understand and live in God’s good will for us in him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the difference between “progressives” and “conservatives”

Once upon a time I used to consider myself a “progressive,” until I found out what the term actually means in regard to one’s theology. The idea is that the spirit of the age, now Modernism and Post-Modernism, is a factor brought to the table in our understanding of God’s will. Well, we’d all agree with that. But the difference with progressives is that they will judge what is found in scripture by the spirit of the age.  Whereas so-called conservatives judge the age by the Book, or better yet, by the gospel revealed in the Book, in scripture, that understanding mediated by the Spirit through the church. And I think it’s evident that there is indeed something of what’s been called a “redemptive movement” hermeneutic in scripture, as God moves his people toward the goal of God’s kingdom in and through Jesus.

The teaching of the resurrection of Jesus, at the heart of the gospel and indeed, of the faith, is an example of the difference. For progressives, whether or not it was a literal, bodily resurrection, or simply metaphorical of how Christ lives on through his life and teaching, doesn’t matter. Unlike the Apostle Paul, who in 1 Corinthians 15 (see verses 12-19) saw the resurrection as essential to the Christian faith, these folks beg to differ. Of course Jesus’ resurrection body was spiritual in the sense of being made by the Spirit for the new order. But as we see from the post-resurrection appearances in the gospel accounts, which the progressives would simply call stories with the implication that they need not be historical, actual happenings, Jesus could be touched, indeed did eat, and did not appear to be any different than anyone else. Even though he could do things he couldn’t do before. Appearing and disappearing, evidence of that.

I dislike the term conservative, since I have problems with that term philosophically and politically. All these terms are not inherently bad, but carry baggage, and surely have their limitations. A follower of Jesus, simply a Christian, and a part of Christ’s body, the church suffices for me. But traditional, orthodox would also fit in the place where I stand with others in Jesus, because I believe it does justice to what scripture teaches, to the gospel itself. And for me, there’s no problem in believing the account of scripture in the four gospels concerning the resurrection. The way it reads actually lends support for its historicity in contrast to what likely would have been had the church been making up the story.

And the God who created all things certainly would have no trouble making a new creation, which is precisely what is promised and is already present in and through Jesus. Faith does not contradict science, nor science contradict faith. We have to let both general revelation (creation) and special revelation (scripture) speak for themselves, and keep working on our understanding of both. Even while we as the church receive what is the heart of the truth in the good news of Jesus. Something we can stand on and live by day after day, and as witnesses to, and on which we stake our very lives. The one hope for the world we can count on, as good as God’s word and promise to us.