Monthly Archives: August 2008

Where two or three gather…

This is, and always has been one of my favorite verses: Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. It is one of those “simple” verses that to me, contains great truth, and comfort.

We all know that He is with us even when we are alone.  But, this verse pertains to any and all meetings that we call together in His name.  We have His direct assurance that He is with us as a group of people.  One of the most important things to note is that this verse has no limit as far as place or time.

It doesn’t matter if we are gathered in a church building, at a park, in a prison, on a boat, on top of mountain; doesn’t change the fact.  Doesn’t matter if it is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.  He is with us when we gather in His name.  We have His promise, and we believers know that God keeps His promises no matter what.

Why else do I find this a great comfort?  Because when you read about even the angels in the Old Testament; they ran into trouble coming to the aid of the Old Testament faithful, take for example;  Daniel 10:12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.

When the Lord became human, living for us, dying for us, raising for us…He took back certain…domains that Adam has lost.  The prince of the power of the air has no dominion over Christ.  The adversary cannot harass Jesus, nor keep Him from us, as he could perhaps harass the holy angels.  Jesus is with us always, as I said, and we are assured of that when we come together as believers as well.

I got really sad once reading a Roman catholic mother explain (on a Roman board that doesn’t allow non-RC’s to post) how she teaches her child about the mass…”Do you hear that bell?  When that bell rings Jesus is really and truly comes to be with us here.”  Okay…what have you just taught your child?  That Jesus is sometimes not with us, and that He did not really mean it when He said the when two or three are gathered in His name that He is already there.  Really and Truly. Doesn’t need a set of misused words such as what are said at the mass, doesn’t need a bell, doesn’t need to be in a cathedral, doesn’t need to be with a crowd.

So, never forget, He is with us, and if you want even more assurance find another believer gather together in His name, and know.  We are most assuredly not alone.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

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Human worth…

I got an urge to watch The Last Samurai on DVD yesterday, so went and rented the two disc special edition.  I’m a huge fan of any “extras” on a DVD and am a commentary junkie.  Watching the movie with the commentary by director Edward Zwick gave me the nudge to write this post.

How did the commentary do that?  Because Zwick was talking, in several parts of the movie, how the action scenes made him nervous while filming them.  There are stunt men, horses, extras, the “stars” of the movie, all running and “fighting” and screaming, and Zwick makes a few comments that just struck me as “wrong,” or odd.

Here all these people are doing the scene, and Zwick makes comments (in paraphrase) like, “When you have your stars out there like this it is really nerve-wracking,” or “what a risk it is having our big name actors out there, think if one would get hurt!”  I don’t think he consciously new what he was implying, but it was clear to me what had to be going on in the back of his mind.

The question becomes this; “So, it is worse if a “big name” actor gets hurt or killed than if a mere extra takes a hit, earns a scar, or gets trampled, that would be much less of a blow?”  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not surprised by this attitude, nor am I judging Zwick for what he said, or unconsciously implied…but I do think it is something that humans have got to watch out for; placing a greater “worth” on other humans for no other reason than they are famous, or rich, or good looking, or their loss would hurt our bottom line, etc…

I praise God that human worth isn’t based upon the worth that we humans place upon each other.  As another example; Bernie Mac died recently and it was all over the news, which is indeed a sad thing…but, it is important to remember that people die from pneumonia every day, hard working people, funny people, mean people, old people, young people, yet we never see their faces all over national news…no wonder some humans let fame become their “god.”

No, God sets our worth, and humans are indeed “worth” a lot to God; He created us in His image, He has dealt with and guided mankind from the beginning, He Himself “struck up a tent in human flesh,” became one of us, dwelt amongst us…lived a perfect life on our behalf, died for us, and rose for us.  All so that we could be with Him.

Most humans recognize the differences between mere animals and human beings.  Even most non-believers admit that there is a difference; for example, if they had to choose between saving a dog and a human child, they would save the human child.  The only logical explanation for this, the only meaningful explanation, stems from the fact that there is indeed a God, and He values us; each of us.

God is no respecter of persons; He doesn’t care if you are filthy rich, or dirt poor.  He doesn’t care if you didn’t graduate high school, or if you have several Ph.D.’s, whether you are tall or short, good at sports, or bad at spelling, whether you are a great actor, or never even starred in a high school play…  He’s all about relationship, and yes that includes acknowledging His position as God, King, Lord, Saviour, etc… but it is about more than that.  He is with each of us, and give each of us the chance to be close to Him through His Son, to better ourselves through His Son, and His Spirit.  Our worth stems from His worth of us, and His creation of us, and His willingness to have a true relationship with us!

John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

As with Morality, which logically only gets its meaning from God, human worth works the same way.  And, don’t ever think that you are not worth something to God; He numbers the very hairs on our heads.  Think about that.  He, the Creator of all things, is with us, and cares for us!

Luke 12:6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? 7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

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Christianity, Culture, and Spirituality…

There is an interesting debate which crops up from time to time amongst my fellow Christians.  It has to do with all three of the things mentioned in the title of this piece; Christianity, Culture, and Spirituality.

The Olympics in China have actually brought this back into my thoughts, as well as some discussion on a Christian message board.  The debate usually starts (just as one example of a larger phenomenon) something like this, “Is it ok for Christians to do yoga?”  There are many many different POVs on questions such as this…I have one too; it depends.

It’s going to be my standard answer right off the bat; what you do and don’t do is between you and God.  Remember, freedom in Christ, but freedom comes with a lot of responsibility.  But, to get more detailed, I would say it totally depends upon what form of yoga someone is talking about, who’s teaching it, is it aimed at spiritual matters, or merely physical?  Can you as an individual separate the spiritual aspect from the physical? etc…

One side of the issue is that yoga began as a Hindu practice, and some of the forms are indeed aimed at certain “gods.”  But the thing that gets me, is that for most Christians who are against yoga, they say that if the forms are changed slightly and accompanied by scripture (just as an example) then it is ok.  I understand this point of view, because that is exactly what the Roman church did with things like Christmas and Easter.

Take a pagan occurrence, practice, celebration, etc… and take it over, change it, Christianize it.  It is all a very interesting discussion, one which I’m not going to go into any any great depth here, I’m more just thinking out loud, so to speak.

How about meditation?  How about Tai Chi?  How about any martial arts?  I know you know what is coming from me at least; it depends.  What are you meditating on?  Are you chanting, or even repeating a vain “prayer?” Then no.  Are you simply calming you heart and meditating on God’s word…why not?  But, again, some people will be able to completely divorce the spiritual aspects of things like Tai Chi from the purely physical or mental.  The Holy Spirit is there to guide each one of us; some should stay completely away, and some can and will handle it.

If you are going to an instructor, or a dojo, or a studio; use your eyes and also talk to the instructor.  Is there a shrine?  Then stay away.  Do they force you to participate in the meditation exercises and you don’t really want to?  Don’t go back.  The Holy Spirit does guide us, and God gave us common sense…well, most of us, anyway.

It is a heart matter.  You know if you are offering up something to false “gods” or if you are simply trying to maintain your physical flexibility.  Now, of course, as in the rest of life, there are certain things that no Christian should “mess with” such as playing around with  an ouija board; there’s nothing to “separate” there folks, it isn’t a mere board (or bored) game…you are asking questions to whom exactly whilst “playing” with a ouija board?

So, I do think there are some “black and white” issues; should you light a “punk” and place it in front of a statue of Buddha because the rest of your family is Buddhist and wants you to because it is a part of “your culture.”  Probably not a good move.

Anything that the Bible explicitly touches upon and instructs us to avoid, we should.  If you are in doubt about something, stay away from it.  If you are feeling guilty about something, don’t do it again, or find an alternative.  Long discussion short; pray about it, read any pertinent scripture, and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture?  Romans 14 speaks to issues such as these I believe.  We should indeed always keep our “witness” in mind as we either participate or refuse to participate in certain activities.  We should not help to cause a brother/sister to stumble in the exercise of our freedom (look over 1 Corinthians chapter 8).  As always, don’t trust my ideas on all of this, I’m a fallible human; dig into it on your own and pray about it…I would be interested in any thoughts on this subject if anyone cares to comment.

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Filed under Of Interest, Philosophy, Sacred Secular, Theology

Special Solar System…

I wrote before about Ecological Biodiversity, and how amazing it is, especially from an Intelligent Design POV, or a Creationist POV.  An article on Science Daily shows, once more, that our planet and our continued existence are pretty special indeed: Solar System is Pretty Special.  Do the authors see it as a sign of ID, or Creationism…probably not.

We must also keep in mind that this computer simulation was set up by man, and will be limited on both its scope and its knowledge base, and heavy on speculation and perhaps even bias…but I found it quite interesting, just for conversations sake.  It makes us look through the lens of the “macro” and see how unique the earth is.

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Water…

Isn’t water simply amazing?  Right about now, my husband is assuredly rolling his eyes, as several of my readers may be doing as well…I could go on about water at length, and with great delight.  Every now and then it pops into my head about how interesting water is, and I just have to share!

Think about it; if God had not designed and created this wonderful element to behave in exactly the way it does, life wouldn’t work.  We need it to live, and not just in the way many people think about it.  For one simple example; when water freezes, it expands.  With this unusual property…ice floats in water.

Hmmm…ok, so what?  Because ice floats, this allows life to continue on even in the face of winter.  What do you think would happen to all the living things in water where it gets cold enough to freeze, if water sank when it froze?  They’d be dead.  The fact that ice floats makes the fish in my pond very very happy.

Water, like all other God designed elements of nature, can be a friend.  We drink it, we live.  It keeps us healthy; it allows our internal organs to function, it keeps us cleaned out, it is a must for out metabolism, it helps our complexions, helps us lose or maintain weight, etc… etc… (Yes, you want to get healthy faster?  forget all that pop you are drinking and switch to water, and no, kool-aid doesn’t count! )  Water helps us keep clean, allows us to trade and travel with/to other countries, helps us to grow food, keep our animals healthy, gives us a place to play…

Water is to be respected as well.  Drinking too much of it too fast can kill you, floods destroy homes, massive rains and floods can eat away at the earth very very quickly, water forms coastlines, conducts electricity, smooths rocks, can take our life if we drown… Yes, it is like fire and wind; harness and respect it and it can give us energy and life, but in a different form, it is destructive; water has power.

Water is a prominent theme in Christianity.  It is used for both actual cleanliness, and as a metaphor for cleanliness, and even burial.  Baptism is what most people will think of, which is actually based in Judaism, of course.  Baptism is pretty much taking part in being “purified” in a mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath.  We, as Christians, see that as water cleanses our physical selves, faith in Christ and His life, death, and resurrection cleanses our spiritual selves.

It is an outward showing of our faith, and symbolizes how our sin is washed away with faith in Christ, and also symbolizes how the Spirit Himself washes over us.  Water is symbolic of life and renewal, and also of burial.  As Christ was buried when He was dead, so He came up out of the earth to new life; that is what we show by being submerged “dead in our sins” and rising to new life in Christ.

But, the use of water in Christianity does not stop there; Christ Himself is a font of living water, and it can become so in you too upon faith in His name.

John 4:13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

Revelation 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

I’ve also shown how Jesus can control of the very elements in a previous post: A call for calm… Water itself can help calm us; I love the sound of the ocean, of a gentle rain, of a babbling brook, or water can make us nervous as well; waves crashing against a boat we happen to find ourselves in, the splash of someone falling into the water, the rushing sound of a flood.

Water is all around us, so it can serve as a reminder of how great God is!  In His creation of water, and His use of water to bring us to Himself in a very meaningful way; God, the life giver, and the purifier of life.  Though we are called to Baptism once upon profession of our faith (and it is the faith in Christ that saves, not the physical act of being dunked) , it is neat just to remember the washing away of our sins whenever we are around water, especially as we bathe, swim, or take a shower.

So, next time you see the rain fall, or hear a river rushing by, or are taking a simple drink of H2O, pause a bit to consider how amazing water really is, and hence how awesome and amazing the Creator is that gave it to us!

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Jehovah-nissi; The LORD my Banner…

I love learning the different names of God.  What I find interesting is that on one point, some atheists or agnostics have it right; if there is a God as we describe, He must be beyond human reckoning.  This is a good, fundamental philosophical idea; but, it misses one of the wonderful aspects of God; the revelation of Himself.

If God so chooses, and He has, He can reveal important aspects of Himself to us, in ways that we can understand and comprehend.  Of course His greatest revelation to us was in His Son; Jesus Christ.  He also has revealed Himself through creation, and through scripture.

One of the ways He does this, is by the various inspired names that He has given, and had recorded in scripture for all of us. BTW, a great resource and reference for the Names of God is Titles of the Triune God, by Stevenson.

Today, I wanted to introduce you to, or remind you, dear reader, of one of His names; Jehovah-nissi, which means The LORD my Banner.

It is found given as a place-name in Exodus 17:

Exodus 17:10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. 15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi: 16 For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

We have to remember that even though this is the single instance of the name given in the form of a name, it tells us something about God that is further backed up elsewhere in scripture.  This title of God, this aspect, is associated with the warfare of His people.

Enemies assail us all; whether they be physical or spiritual.  We are instructed, by Paul, to put on the whole armor of God; how great it is to know that when we put on that armor, that isn’t the end of His help. He is also the very standard, or banner under which we fight.  It is He that gives victory, and it is in His name that victory is taken.

Notice too, that while all praise is due God, He still expects us to actually “get our hands dirty” so to speak.  If it is a spiritual battle we face, we are to be strong, do “our” part, and also rest in the assurance of His victory, if it is a physical battle, the same thing, legal, emotional, etc…  The Israelites actually fought Amalek, they didn’t sit back and complain that God wasn’t doing all the work; He told them what to do; they followed His orders, and emerged victorious.

If God is guiding us into a situation, and He puts us in it, sends us, then we are in the same position as the Israelites.  If we do indeed emerge in the moment triumphant (which can even seem like a defeat in the eyes of the rest of humanity), we too should proclaim that The LORD is my Banner.  When the Israelites won, they praised God, as we should do in all things.  No matter what fight we come to in our lives, we must acknowledge that without God there is no hope of an ultimately good outcome.

It’s not going to be easy, and Jesus has assured us that we will be persecuted in this life, with ultimate victory “over there,” when we are finally and completely changed, and we will dwell with our Banner forever.

Isaiah 59:19 So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.

Isaiah 11:10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. (This is referring to Jesus Christ, for those who don’t realize it.)

Never forget that no matter what your facing, or what the outcome, God Himself, Christ Himself, is our Banner; be of good courage… Psalm 60:4 Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.

Other name of God I’ve blogged about; Jehovah-Rapha, Jehovah-Shammah, Jehovah-Tsidkenu, and Jehovah-Rohi.

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Finding the sacred in the mundane…

Some people, even some denominations as a whole, are better at recognizing that everything we do can include faith and an understanding that God is with us at all times.  One of the keys of this is finding meaning in all the mundane things we must do in this life.

I’m always reminded of the Shakers, who were so mindful of the fact that God sees all and is everywhere, that they would even take the time and effort to finish the back sides of drawers in a set of chest-of-drawers.  The part of a drawer that most humans would never see is built and finished just as beautifully as the front.  It is really neat if you get a chance to see it, and is one reason why true Shaker furniture is sought after.

If one makes that into a legalistic issue, then it fails to be “sacred;” however, if one sees what they did as a metaphor, it is a wonderful thought.

Paul tells us, Colossians 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

Notice what it says; whatsoever you do.  Whatsoever.  If you are taking out the garbage, if you are washing dishes, if you are cooking, or jogging, or walking the dog.  In our minds should always be a reminder; believers are servants of Christ, we answer to no other master.  As such, if we are mindful of that fact, as long as we are doing what He’d have of us; such as taking care of our families, than we are actually serving Him in the mundane.

I have a slight…wellllll…not so slight problem with certain preachers that go on  and on trying to get a mass of people hyped up over going to be missionaries, and acting as though that is the ultimate thing that you can be called to do, and if you aren’t over somewhere risking your life, then it is meaningless before God.  Not so.  Not everyone is called to such a life, not in the least.

We are each unique, and God does not call us all the same.  Yes, there are general guidelines and expectations, but as far as living out our lives, even in the mundane, we should have an “ear” to God to figure out what He wants us to do.  If God tells you to stay home and raise your kids, and you do so, that is answering His call in a sacred way just as much as someone who is called to missions and goes.

Faith isn’t about us outdoing one another, it is about hearkening to God in our own lives.  Part of that is recognizing that those mundane tasks we all “love” so much may just be seen as sacred, if we are indeed answering God’s call.  Laundry, dishes, dusting, scrubbing toilets, teaching, mining, fishing, waiting on tables…they become much more meaningful, and bearable, if we find the “sacred” aspect of them in serving God.  Remember; whatsoever you do, do it as unto the Lord; it is Him we serve.

Is it easy to keep this in mind? Not in the least.  We literally cannot remember it all the time, somethings get too frustrating or overwhelming, but we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us remember these things, especially when we are just reflecting on the day, or getting ready for it.  And, it is one of those things that we have to be constantly reminding ourselves, because the “mundane” is labeled so for a reason.  It is far easier to live out if we are doing something “spectacular” in the eyes of other humans…but we are not their servants, we are His…and when we are His, anything He urges us to do, and we do with the help of the Spirit, becomes spectacular.

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