Its my wife’s birthday today. I wont share her age, because I am a gentleman, and that’s not something gentlemen do. She asked me yesterday if I would write a blessing for her, speak it over her and give it to her, so she could keep it in her Bible and refer to it often. Scripture talks a lot about blessing. Indeed one of the major activities of the priesthood in the OT was to stand above the people, reach out their hands, and speak what is known as the Aaronic blessing over them.
I am upfront about being Pentecostal in experience and practice. That is I believe that the gifts of the Spirit still exist today. And so not only did I prayerfully seek to write out a blessing for my wife, I also sought the Lord for a specific prophetic word for her. Now I want to be upfront, that I think much of the modern pentecostal approach to prophecy borders on the same wavelength as someone reading their stars regularly in the local newspaper. We find in the Scriptures all we need for life and faith. In saying this, the very same Scriptures which we find life and faith, also tell us not to scoff at the prophetic word, and that we are also to be eager to seek all gifts, especially that we may prophecy.
So, to be obedient to the direct command of Scripture, its something that I seek the Lord time to time to do. And after a time of seeking the Lord, I wrote down the word which came to me for my wife. Now, I am upfront in admitting that I wasn’t writing scripture. The canon is closed. But hey, lets admit, that not every prophecy of the early church was ever written down in Scripture either – so lets not pretend that we are equating modern prophecy to Scripture, after all the early church in the NT, never made that claim either.
I also did something different. I got out Jo’s scrap booking stuff and made her a card. I was truly out of my depth here and so I prayerfully asked God to help me. I’m glad to say, he answered my prayer and together we managed to put a nice card together, in which I pasted the word and blessing I had typed out.
This morning, I made a batch of my own secret recipe pancake mix, which contains oats, wholemeal flour, butter and milk and allowed it to rest. I believe in the power of symbolism. So I then went outside and made a staff.I took my knife and debarked a branch and smoothed it down; while Jo had herself a nice long hot bath and enjoyed a bath bomb. Some time later, she got out of the bath, prepared herself and stood in the middle of the lounge room, prayerfully expectant for her blessing.
I picked up my staff and raised it in the air. And while holding it up, I spoke over her the word which I believed the Lord was giving me for her. (And no, I wont share that with you here…that is Jo’s business.) I then finished speaking forth the prophecy and proceeded to speak the blessing over her. I gently laid the end of the staff on her shoulders and the top of her head and spoke forth the blessing I wrote for her. And when I finished, I handed her the card with the prophecy and blessing.
It was an incredible experience for us both. It was humbling and powerful. It was encouraging and a time of mutual strengthening. It was something that neither of us took lightly. And afterwards I was thinking about Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians for husbands to wash their wives with the word. And I am left wondering, if indeed, this kind of activity is what the Apostle Paul was intending when he wrote to them.
There is a great little story in the Bible about a character called Jabez. Jabez means pain, or born in pain, and was a name his mother called him during his birth.
Scripture only gives us a few lines about him, saying that he was more honorable than his brothers, and cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.
Think about the power of this prayer. His life is one of pain. His experience of life is pain. His family called him a pain. And so he asks God to expand his experience of life so that its not one of pain. Keep me from harm so I will be free from harm so I will be free of pain.
He is asking God to bless him and deliver him from his painful experience of life. He is asking God to deliver him from himself.
Today, maybe your own experience of life is that of total pain. Perhaps, like Jabez, you can ask the Lord to bless you, and enlarge your own life experience so that you are delivered from the pain of self.
Jesus says, come to me all who are sick of living life their own way. Come, follow me, put my ways into practice, and I will give you a new way of living.
Fellow blogger Robert Martin, who blogs at Abnormal Anabpatist made the comment in my previous post “Neither Calvinist or Arminian; But, I’m not sure I’m Baptist either.”
I keep tellin’ ya, mate… you’re pretty close to Anabaptist. :-)
Go find the book “The Naked Anabaptist” by Stuart Murray.
Anything Robert says is worth considering. He is a deep thinker, a careful writer and I am always encouraged in reading his blog. I also follow another blog called Menno Nerds, which is a compilation of a number of Anabaptist authors, where again I am often encouraged and forced to think outside of my comfort zone. I must admit I am drawn to the Anabaptist movement. In many ways it taps into my own heart for combining social justice as a natural outworking of the Gospel message.
Anabaptism is more of a movement than it is a organisation. Christians from every theological belief can be a member and so within their ranks are those who hold to Reformed, Arminian, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist and those with more liberal views – who together believe that Christianity is more than just belief; its putting shoes on that belief and putting it into action. Hence they have a lot to do within a social justice environment. Along with their deep commitment to social justice, another deeply held conviction is that of being peacemakers and within the framework of peacemaking, there is no room and allowance for violence as peace makers.
For the most part, I too am a peacemaker. And so I too am almost a Anabaptist in my belonging. Except that I believe that God allows for Christians to be involved in violence when the circumstances permit. I hate war. I abhor it. At the same time, I believe there are times when we need to allow for war. During Jesus ministry, he had tax collectors coming to him for advice and asking what they must do to live out a kingdom life. His reply to them was to only collect the tax they were meant to collect, and no more to line their pockets with. Soldiers came to him asking him what they needed to do, and he told them to be content with their pay, and not to extort people.
We note that Jesus commended a Centurion’s faith, when he came to Jesus asking him to heal his servant, saying just say the word, and he will be healed, for he too was a man who knew his authority and only had to say something for it to be done. In Acts, we find another Centurion who the Scriptures call a righteous and good man. He was a man who likewise had a heart of social justice and looked after the poor. He was a praying man, and he had an angelic visitation where he was told to send for Peter who would be found in Joppa. At Joppa, while in prayer, Peter had a vision of a sheet of unclean foods being offered to him to eat – and when he protested against it, God told him not to call unclean that which he calls clean. And we read that Peter accompanied the centurions messengers back to his home, where he shared the Gospel message with them. Not only did he share the Gospel with them, the Holy Spirit fell on them, enabling them to speak in tongues also. Something which amazed Peter and his companions causing them to offer them a hand of equal friendship and being equals in God’s family. We also read of the Apostle Paul in his imprisonment, where he is having fruitful ministry amongst the palace guards. And so we read from the Biblical witness its easy to find that people employed in jobs in which we would equate today as being security guards, policeman and soldiers. Apart from Jesus’ direction to them to be content with their pay and not to extort people – I can’t find any other direction to them in regards to the work they were required to do. Certainly, there is no ‘recorded’ direction or commandment that they were to leave their positions and stop doing the work they were trained to do.
Because of this, I can’t say with any amount of certainty that its 100% wrong for Christians to be involved in any defensive acts of violence when its required of them. Even to the extreme of being involved in war, if the action is to provide protection for those who need it. Indeed, those actions could be considered a work of love, if indeed they save the lives of others, who would otherwise be wiped out. But, perhaps that is a another conversation for another day.
I have been spending some important and prayerful time working through my worldview when it comes to Christian belief. On many aspects I love much of the preaching that Calvinism offers; but, I recoil in horror and cannot take ownership, nor do I find their five main sola’s have much biblical support. At the same time, I am not truly Arminian; though again I enjoy and love much of the preaching and teaching that I find in classical Arminianism. I am not Roman Catholic, though once again, I do find some pastoral support in some of their doctrines and practices – such as the confessional. I’m not a quaker, though some of my favourite authors are quakers. I am Charismatic / Pentecostal in regards to experiencing the fullness of the Spirit, which includes speaking in tongues – though, I don’t hold to the belief that speaking in tongues is the main sign of the Baptism of the Spirit.
This afternoon I discovered a nice essay titled “Neither Calvinists nor Arminians but Baptists.” It’s a paper from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the U.S.A. I was extremely impressed and encouraged to read this paper; even though its now four years old. I enjoyed reading how the authors stood firm on their own belief structures, without being apologetic about it. Its my own experience that Calvinists can be extremely dogmatic in their push and zeal to evangelise the brethren to hold to their particular doctrinal beliefs. In many ways I find this ironic, as Jesus calls us to go out into the world to make disciples. However I digress.
I think its important for every Christian to know what they believe, and why they believe it. And not just believe it because someone has taught them this is the way it is. I have to say that I am nearly a Baptist in my world view – except for the fact that I’m not a cessationist and have a different interpretation of what the gift of tongues is, to that of most Baptists. I’m also hold to the position of annihilationism when it comes to the doctrine of hell. And when it comes to end times, I am a Panmillenialist, which means that it will all pan out in the end. (Though in saying this, I dislike with a passion left behind type theology.) So as you can see, I don’t think I fit into the Baptist camp either.
However, this I do know. Christ has redeemed me from the hold of sin. I stand before God the Father, confident in his work for me. And this confidence is enough for me.
My mum gave me a book to read last Friday, called “Come of Age, The Road to Spiritual Maturity.” By Angus Buchan. It was one of those books that I couldn’t put down. And so I finished it on Monday. There was one phrase he quoted and I wish I had bookmarked it, so I could easily refer to it, which said, “The only way anyone can increase their faith is by going through the school of deep sorrow. ” What an incredible statement to make in the era of easy Christianity. It’s an incredible statement to make when we consider so much of modern Christianity is based on escapism. (Okay, I know, I am making some huge sweeping generalisations here! ) But you get my drift. It seems to me that many of us are wanting to have an easy life handed to them on a platter. And truthfully, I am one of them.
Life really hurts sometimes. Life really sucks sometimes. Sometimes its through our own doing. And other times its forced upon us. Sometimes life sucks because of the poor choices we make. Sometimes life sucks because its the result of the poor choices others have made. And sometimes its either a combination of the two, or neither of the two. Sometimes, it just is. God never promises a road called “Easy Street!” when we turn to him. He does indeed say come to me all who are heavily burdened; for his yoke is easy and his burden is light. And indeed, God does make our burdens lighter and our lives become easier when we start walking his ways, with him, following him.
But, its in the dark sorrowful times, when we turn to God, that our faith grows the most. For some its going through the dark times which is the catalyst for us to turn to God and seek his face. To admit our sins, to admit we need Jesus. Though its rare that anyone turns to God when life is going great for them – its often the case that when easy street becomes a street with potholes, and corrugations and turns into rough street – those with easy believism turn away. But, those who persevere through the dark times; turning to God, asking him to help them in and through the dark times, its to them, where that school of sorrow, becomes the seedbed of true faith. It becomes the seedbed of mature faith.
The author of Hebrews tells us that God disciplines those he loves. For many, discipline has the connotations of punishment. But, discipline in this context is not one of punishment; instead discipline is in the context of the athlete running his miles day after day to build up his strength for a marathon. Its in the context of the olympic swimmer, getting up early every morning and doing their laps every day. Or the weight lifter building his muscles in the gym day after day. Or within a more mundane area of life, its like those of us who are trying to lose weight, when we say no to that extra helping. Discipline is what we do when we deny ourselves, because our goals are better for us. Discipline is when we teach our children to know right from wrong. When we make them do their homework, or chores, even if they do protest against it.
While God uses the hard times to teach us discipline and grow our faith stronger, its important for us to note, that while at times God can indeed be the author of what we are going through – sometimes its happened because of sin in the world: Personal sin, the sin of others. And sometimes it can the result of demonic activity. And sometimes, it can just be what it is. God says to us that while he may not cause every situation that we find ourselves in – he does promise that he will cause good to come out of every situation for those who believe and trust in him.
If you are going through the school of hard knocks and deep sorrows at this point in time, my pray for you is that you will be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge so that you will know Christ better. I pray that your faith will not fail you and that instead, you will grow from faith to faith, and know that God indeed is for you and not against you.
I was involved in a group conversation this morning, where we were celebrating that one of the young men in our midst had landed a job and was soon to receive his first pay packet. Part of our conversation was how working is an important part of a man’s journey into manhood. A lady in our midst said how she has to wake up her son to go to work. When asked why she did that, the answer was that she wanted to make sure he wasn’t late for work and that he didn’t lose his job. I said to her, that isn’t your responsibility. That is his responsibility. He has to take that responsibility on for himself and likewise, you need to hand that responsibility back to him, as it wasn’t yours to have in the first place.
The conversation regarding responsibilities is an ongoing one we have in our area. There is much talk about rights in society today. And indeed, I believe all of us certain inalienable rights. We have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. We have the right to be treated with equality. We have a right to basic education and health services. And there are many more rights that you and I can continue to add to this list. But rights are only one side of the balance scales. On the other side of the balance scale hangs responsibilities.
I think its a big question that each of us should ask. “Am I guilty of robbing someone of their responsibilities by taking them on myself?”
What do you think?
My prayer life recently has been driven by many things. It’s been driven by praying for the needs of family, friends and co workers in the gospel. It’s been driven by the variety of circumstances and experiences I have seen and been involved with. It’s been driven by need for provision and the opening of doors. Its been driven by my awareness of needing spiritual wisdom, and strength.
But, last night, I found myself on my knees praying for one thing. And that was in seeking the Lord’s face himself. My prayers were being driven by a deeper need. One that in the busyness of life: a life that has a mixture of grief and joy. Good and not so good relationships and a life tired by sickness and…well you get my drift. – In the busyness of life, I had forgotten to seek the Lord for his own sake and not mine.
And so last night and this morning, I found myself seeking the Lord’s face once again – not for what he could do for me – rather instead, I was seeking him for his sake.