Posts Tagged ‘God’s power’

Fooled By Appearance

February 23, 2014
What is behind the mask is always more important.

What is behind the mask is always more important.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved. (1 Corinthians 1:18 HCSB)

So what is real wisdom? Paul claims there is a contrast between the truth of the cross what the religious and logicians think. Where is the line drawn and why? What makes heaven’s wisdom so different from the conventional earth-bound variety? And, anyway, didn’t God make it all, so what’s the fuss?

This will be my key verse for the next while. Studying Ecclesiastes set me on a path for about a year to deconstruct reality and reassemble it into a Christ-centered truth. Since 1 Corinthians 1 & 2 speaks directly to this point I want to focus on the book to see how Paul expands on it. He spends nearly 2 chapters dealing with the contrast between human wisdom and God’s. I need to refocus my own heart on heaven’s wisdom because while I see the contrast and understand the difference, my understanding of Jesus took a beating. I recognize in myself many preconceptions born of unsubstantiated or supported traditions lurking in the corners of my psyche which needed to be brought out into the light and put into perspective.
I’m sure many people would be scared for me. Admitting to doubt and frustration with the gospel’s wisdom seems to be blasphemy in certain circles of Christian thought. To me, however, doubt is the beginning of searching for truth and wisdom. Before we can turn to Christ as the Light we have to doubt our own understanding of what we believe to be light. Far too often that which we believe illuminates our path turns out to be darkness reflecting enough light to fool us, disguising the dangers. Quite frankly I don’t doubt the gospels or scripture just some of our interpretations of it.
Too often I have been fooled by the polished arguments of those in authority with a seemingly endless knowledge of truth. What I found behind the stage, pulpit, books, memorized scripture and authoritative stance made me doubt their conclusions because they didn’t practice the very things they preached so hard. I’m not cynical merely aware that if an ethic or teaching is not practicable to those who preach it, there’s either something wrong with them or their understanding of the teaching.
Since I believe no one on earth is infallible or complete in their grasp of God, the natural thing to do for me is to hesitate to swallow what anyone wants to feed me without first examining it. I also don’t doubt an ethic just because those who teach it are hypocritical (the Greek word for an actor is hypocrite) about practicing it only in the public eye. I know my own struggles with righteousness due to my sinful nature and therefore also refuse to condemn anyone who finds it difficult to practice it.
But I believe there is light for those who want it while also recognizing our inability to handle or understand what we see. I can’t remember where I read this next thought, but I believe it came from C. S. Lewis: A person who has lived all their lives in the dark caves and confusing tunnels underground will not be able to handle or grasp the light in its fullness when they finally find the way to the surface. Our eyes grow accustomed to the light as we walk toward it yet still the full force of the sun will take some getting used to before one can live on the surface under the open sky. Sadly, because of the brilliance and power of the light from the sun (Son) most of us will remain in the cave to varying degrees–the mouth of it where there is shade; back a few feet so all we get is a glimpse of what is available; or as far back as we can and still see a speck of light.
So there are some issues and preconceptions I want to address in the coming study within myself and the world around me. By no means do I intend or ever even declare that I’m outside the cave and living fully in the light. I wouldn’t really know how to measure where I am positionally and refuse to waste my time attempting to know what only God could reveal. What I can tell you is I see a light in front of me and I am continuing to walk, stumble, crawl, or run as I have energy, but in no way do I think I’ve reached the mouth of my cave. And since I know human nature pretty well by now, I doubt anyone reading this has reached it either. I expect some to be further ahead in their journey, some just a few feet in front, some even with me, and others behind. Whatever! Hopefully, my journey will help someone in the process. Let’s see if we can step a little closer to the light of heaven together.

“Don’t Hold Onto Me”

February 8, 2011

Jesus said,  “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.  Go instead to my brothers and tell them,  ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”  John 20:17.

I looked up the phrase “Do not hold on to me” because in the back of my mind there was a little tick that claimed there was some significance to the word(s) used here.  I was right to do so, although the commentary along with it seemed a little editorial—meaning inference rather than direct interpretation.  Vine’s gives the word used (the Greek “hapto”) a primary meaning, which is “to fasten to,” hence, of fire,  “to kindle.” The contextual meaning for our text is “to cling to, lay hold of,” which seems to be what Mary either had in mind or did.

Vine’s understanding of the text or interpretation of Jesus’ protest goes on to say:  here the Lord’s prohibition as to clinging to Him was indicative of the fact that communion with Him would, after His ascension, be by faith, through the Spirit.  This may well be, and Vine is far more schooled than I am in biblical languages so his grasp of what Jesus said to Mary could be true.  Yet, I don’t know.  Does His protest signify that He had just risen and needed to meet up with the Father first before anyone “touched” Him?  Some biblical scholars have suggested He needed to go straight to His Father at that moment and just wanted to comfort Mary as well as get the disciples thinking about meeting up with Him.

Did He ascend to God to get approval in person?  I don’t know.  We do know that later that day He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, then the disciples in the upper room.  In the upper room He actually encouraged them to touch Him (see Luke 24:38) so something happened between His meeting with Mary and the road to Emmaus.  His words to Mary were more about,  “Don’t detain me, I got business with the Father.”  Later, His business complete it would seem, He could relax and let the disciples handle Him.

When I was young, someone taught (or may be I just misunderstood what they said) that Jesus needed first to go before the Father to get approval for His sacrifice and anyone touching Him would make Him unclean.  It doesn’t make sense to me now.  I think basically, He just wanted to talk to His Father face to face so didn’t want a long reunion with Mary—because she was pretty excited at this point.  In fact, I bet He grinned at her when He told her,  “Hold on, woman, I still have a to meet up with my Dad first!  So let me go do that first while you go tell all the disciples that I’m risen.  Later we’ll have time to catch up, ok?”  The resurrection itself must have been enough to reassure Jesus God accepted His sacrifice (it did fulfill Scripture after all), but I think He was just anxious to go hook up personally.  I’m just guessing but it seems reasonable to me, since Jesus was so personable.

If dimensions exist and time can be folded in on itself, then Jesus “trip” to the Father could have been seconds in our time and an eternity elsewhere.  The truth is we have no conception of the power of God, though we like to put limits on it often enough.  Jesus’ resurrected body was spiritual, though solid because we know the disciples touched it and He ate fish (and it didn’t drop through a ghost body like in Pirates of the Caribbean).  Mary’s encounter with Him was just after dawn on the first day of the week, which means He had risen shortly before meeting her.  Though I don’t understand what limits a physical body put on His spiritual being, it’s safe to conclude from His instructions to Mary that He needed to physically speak to the Father—though God is spirit, which opens up a whole new can of worms.  Still, we know He hadn’t done this task as yet since He told her to tell the disciples that He was about to.  Once this was done, Jesus relaxed and the disciples (and probably Mary Magdalene later) handled and clung to Him to reassure themselves of His being real.

In His message to the disciples Jesus said something which confuses some to the point of causing disbelief.  Can you spot it?  It goes, ” ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Yeah it’s that last phrase which have some Christian sects confused.  We accept readily enough that God is Jesus’ Father, but it torques our collective cranks to deal with Him calling the Father His “God”.  Yet it’s not so hard to understand when we recognize  God has to be His own God, I mean, there is no other, so logically He can’t deny Himself now can He?  There are three persons in one Godhead and we are encouraged to call them God, in the singular not plural.  The reason for this, of course, is to emphasize the unity of purpose, mind and heart of all three being one.

There are those who like to claim what is and is not possible with God.  To be blunt, I don’t think anyone knows what is possible or impossible with God except the things He spells out for Himself.  For instance, He cannot sin for He cannot deny Himself (which is how I came to the conclusion that the root of sin is denial of God not simply actions 2 Timothy 2:13, James 1:13).  It is impossible for God to deny His own nature, therefore He cannot sin.  Jesus’ claim to be God in several passages seems to contradict in our minds His calling God His God.  But God cannot claim anyone as His God except Himself, so the logic works here.

I hope that’s not too confusing or that it sounds convoluted.  It’s just that recognizing where the hierarchy of creation stops makes for some astounding conclusions.  This is one of them.

Misdirected Zeal

July 20, 2009

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed,  “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”  John  5:9b, 10.

 Technically, these guys were correct, the law forbade work of any kind.  Yet when they learned the man had been healed of a disease after 38 years, wouldn’t you think they would have cut him some slack?  They didn’t; in fact they became indignant that the invalid was healed on the Sabbath and began to persecute Jesus.  Why is it that we cling so tightly to our traditions even when given clear evidence to the contrary, then we will punish those who don’t hold to our mistaken ideals?  I’ve known many in the church who have done this to the hurt and discouragement of others.

Jesus is the interpretation of the commandments.  Let me say it another way:  Jesus’ example in the gospels show us how to keep the law.  He makes the law clear, takes away the misinterpretations and holds up a light for how to understand the Word of Truth.

Yet here is another truth we must resign ourselves to if we are to follow the Master:  Those more zealous for tradition than Jesus will ostracize, criticize and persecute those who conform to the mind of Christ.  There’s absolutely no help for it because those bound to the values of the world mixed with religious information never reconcile with God completely nor with those who do.  A person lacking peace in their own soul resents anyone else who displays it.  I believe from watching the trends in the church over the years every person who runs around correcting others usually isn’t at peace in themselves.

Those who love God live out His mind and rarely feel the need to correct anyone else unless it’s something the Spirit puts on their hearts—even then it’s done with gentleness and care.  There is a place for correcting in righteousness, and in extreme cases a need for disfellowship, but we must be sure of our decisions before we take such steps.  We must also make sure we have tried everything possible to reconcile the situation because the people of God will be peacemakers.

Jesus demonstrated His authority over nature by nurturing a man to health (albeit instantaneously).  His authority extended to the law as well by dent of His power to change the natural order of things caused by sin’s destructive presence.  The Jews who opposed Him ignored His power in order to focus on nitpicking the law.

We need to take this story to heart and use at a warning to be beware of missing the big picture for the sake of picking at the threads.