The Importance of Experience.

Henry and Thomas have a fantastic discussion about Scripture and experience. I highly recommend this discussion to you. It’s probably not what you expect. Then again, it may be. Btw, congrats to them both, for the hard work they have been doing in publishing. For what its worth, I believe that we must be born again, and the born again experience is a truly experiential encounter with the living God.

The question I like to ask in these type of discussions is if the born again experience recorded in Scripture was recorded by those experiencing this encounter, and recorded so we too can experience that very same encounter with God – or was it only recorded so we can read about it; without any expectation of encountering God and the born again experience for ourselves?

Have a listen to it, I was greatly blessed by the winsomeness and the wisdom within this conversation.

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We Need More Than The Word of God – We Need God!

When I was younger and fitter, I used to do a fair amount of overnight hiking. I was a member of Boy’s Brigade and the leaders taught me how to read a map and use a compass. I learnt many bush skills and how to constantly take my bearings in the bush, so I wouldn’t get lost.
My love for getting lost in the bush expanded somewhat when I got my drivers licence. I was able to go further distances to explore. In fact, I kept a large tool box packed with camp oven, cooking and eating utensils, basic seasonings etc, so all I had to do, was throw it into the back of my truck, load up some food and away I would go.
My map reading skills crossed over into skills to read a street directory. I knew how to follow the signs to where I was going. With a little preparation, I could easily go interstate, and along the back blocks and by ways to places I had never been before.

But, the maps, the signs, the street names, were markers along the way. They were the pointers to where I was going. They helped me to enjoy my journey. They helped me get to my intended destination. I could have decided to go my own way. I could have said, “Nahh, I’m not following these directions!” And in doing so, become lost along the way, or ending up somewhere in the opposite direction to where I was intending to get to.

The Bible in many ways is the same as the street signs, The map we are to follow. The instructions and directions about the way we should go. But, the Bible its self is not our destination.  It points to God. It tells us about God. It tells us about those who went before us – those who followed God, followed Christ and accepted his great salvation. And it tells us about those who didn’t. The Scriptures tell us about the God who came and lived among us. Who walked and talked, breathed and ate with us. And the Scriptures tell us about the God, who took upon himself the sins of the world.

Our destination is God. Our pursuit is God. We are to aim to have a relationship with God. While he is the God of the Bible, we don’t have a relationship with the Bible. For the throne of God, is not the Bible. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not contained in the Bible. I love reading the Scriptures. I love finding out more about the God who saves us. I need the Bible to do this. The more I read the Scriptures, the more I learn about his great love for us.

But, I am in relationship with the God of the Bible. I experience the communion of God through the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit continually draws me to the Father. Continually points me to Christ. Causes the word of God to be a reality in my life. The word of God encourages me to seek the God of the Bible. And so I pray to the God of the Bible and seek his face. The word of God tells me to eagerly seek the Holy Spirit and his gifts – especially prophesy. So I seek God, and seek the ongoing empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and his gifts, especially that I may prophesy.

Friends. Let us be informed by the Scriptures. But, let us always be a people who seek the face of God, and seek his ways, and not our own.

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Jezebel – a great something grandmother of Jesus.

Dr. Claude Mariottini makes some very interesting points about the women included in Jesus genealogy. He goes on to make some points about the women not mentioned, who come down his family line. He makes an interesting point that even that hated Jezebel woman was married into his linage.  While Claude doesn’t refer to it, his post makes an interesting thought, that no matter how serious the sin that has been done, is being done, or will be done – Jesus has dealt with it.

Everyone is invited to partake in the new birth, the new life, the fresh start, that Jesus offers us. For he has once and for all, dealt with all our sin.

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The Fatherhood of God.

Dave Black makes some excellent points in his latest blog post about how Systematic Theologies rarely if ever talk about the Fatherhood of God. They emphasize Jesus and his two natures, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity and God – but, never concentrate on him being a father. It’s a great observation as so much of the Scriptures talk about this aspect of God.

This morning I want to talk with you about systematic theology and why I probably could never be a systematic theologian. As I understand things, the goal of systematic theology is to induce from the verses of Scripture certain facts about God and then arrange these facts into an organized and balanced whole. I see at least two areas of systematic theology that seem to be glaringly inadequate by this definition. The first has to do with the very Godhead. For a long time I have had a concern that our theology has been sorely imbalanced in this area. There simply seems to be a lack of balance. The area of doctrine to which I am referring is the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God. It is significant that many of our leading theology textbooks seem to preserve the status quo in this regard rather than the propagation of a balanced faith.

  • Grudem has a section on the doctrine of God and on the doctrines of Christ and the Holy Spirit but nothing on the doctrine of the Father.
  • Erickson has four chapters on “God,” two on “Christ,” and one on the “Holy Spirit.”
  • McGrath has chapters on “God” and “the Person of Christ” but nothing per se on the Holy Spirit.
  • Ryrie has sections on “God,” “Jesus Christ Our Lord,” and “The Holy Spirit.”

Its incredibly important that Christians today have a revelation of God being their father.A kind father. A listening father. A seeing father. A accessible father. A longing father. A yearning father. A searching father. A rejoicing father. A kind father. A giving father. A loving father. A forgiving father. A father who dares train us up in the ways we should go. A hearing father. A healing father. An encouraging father. A inspiring father.
I don’t believe that there is any section of scripture that nails this more than Luke does in the chapters of Luke 15:1 – 16:31. Though all of Scripture points towards God’s character and nature. The story of the prodigal son, is an example of God’s fathering kindness.

In 2001, we were walking renting a house on a few acres, and I was walking through the back paddock holding my young son’s left hand with my right. We were talking about the grass, the clouds, the grass hoppers and the other bugs and insects we could see. I became aware of how much I loved my son. Suddenly, I had a vision, my own left arm lifted up and I felt God holding my hand as we walked through that paddock. I felt God say, “Craig, just as you love your son, I love you – only more so!” Wow, is an understatement. While the moment probably only lasted a few seconds, the encounter seemed to last much longer.

Fast forward to 2009. The doo doo had hit the fan. I was separated from my family. I was in a joyless and virtually friendless situation. I had been blackbanned by my previous church. I had been told I was back slidden and perhaps had lost my salvation. A friend rings me. He says to me, “Craig, I feel I have a word from God for you. I am sorry its such a simple word. I have been fighting the Lord, thinking its not really from him. But, after 3 days, I have to share it with you.” He then said, “Craig, the Lord would say to you, he still has you by the hand, walking down the paddock of life with you!” I instantly started to cry, told Steve I would call him back, hung up and just cried before the Lord. Such is the kindness of the Lord.

God the father tenderly cares for his children. He nurtures us. He strengthens us. And he is for us and not against us. I believe the reason why systematic theologians leave the fathering aspects of God alone, is because the sheer nature of the fathering of God, is a real, tangible and experiential experience – one that we cannot relegate soley within an academic understanding.

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Cultural Weirdness.

Joanne and I were talking the other night about the things we consider weird about other cultures. Now, I am the first to admit, that the most of the world think Australia, Australians and our wildlife are weird. Take our Platypus for an example. It’s a mammal that lays eggs, has a tail like a beaver, (An animal we don’t have in Australia) it swims and lives in the water like a fish, and has a beak like a ducks. We have a strange language where we say strange things like “G’day!” We use the term “mate” to describe our friendships and when approaching each other we often say, “G’day mate!”

Anyways I digress. It was way back in 2000 when I was studying a Diploma of Ministry, where the class went out for an excursion for lunch and a walk through Sydney, where I first truly encountered cross cultural differences in a deeply personal way. One of the students came from Africa. I have forgotten just where now. But, after lunch, as we were walking through an alternative life style area of Sydney, he tightly grabs my hand, and walks with me down the road, hand in hand. I felt the Lord tell me strongly not to let go. And so, deeply embarrassed we continued to walk around Sydney. Within his culture, boys and men, walk while holding hands – its a deep sign of friendship. There were no sexual overtones with him doing so – and later on, I come to appreciate the deep honor he showed me in doing so.

Our discussion turned to America. Don’t get me wrong. We were not having a go at Americans or America. I have many good friends who live in America. We were laughing about the differences in culture which you wouldn’t find here in Australia. For instance, in Australia, no one, will call their sons “Wendy,Shirley, or Joyce .” ‘Thongs’ are items of clothing that we wear on our feet. We use the term “Bum Pack” or “Waist Belt” and not the American terminology which here in Australia is a derogatory term for part of a females anatomy. On a more series note, we kinda find it extremely ironic, how Americans can be so anti abortion and prob the death penalty. Or the reverse is pro abortion, and anti death penalty. One of the things that makes my mind boggle is the sheer population of America. New York City for example, has a bigger population than we have in all of Australia. The gun culture in America is totally different to ours in Australia. And one of my goals is to go ‘anvil shooting’ in the south. and perhaps fire a canon. Things that we just can’t do in Australia. Another puzzling aspect of the American culture is the national pride in the theme “In God we trust;” but, you don’t allow prayer in schools. Here in Oz, we just don’t get it.

I recently did a week long intensive on Islam. The class was an eye opener on the differences of culture and world views. Muslims think most Christians pay lip service to God, because they rarely speak of him. Whereas, a lot of their conversation is steeped in God talk. Australian Christians freely mark our Bibles. We like to highlight verses and passages. We will write on the margins, which to a Muslim is showing disrespect towards a holy book.

Another huge difference is understanding the world view of honor and shame culture- verses our western direct approach. We think its ok to just say, I don’t know! Whereas other cultures find that terribly rude. And so if we miss the social clues, they will tell us what they believe we want to hear, and not necessarily the truth. For instance, I heard the story where a westerner insisted on asking a local for directions in Indonesia. The guy eventually pointed in a direction, and walked off, and the driver ultimately got bogged in a rice paddy. The driver missed the culture clues that the man didn’t wan’t to answer the question. But, because when he was pressed, it was rude for him not to say yes, he did so.

What interesting cross cultural stories, thoughts and experiences can you share with me.

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More Additions To The Collection.

It’s no secret that I like the great outdoors. In the warm weather I like to fish and come the cooler months of the year, you will find me at home sitting beside the fire, camping in the bush, hunting fishing etc. One of the main tools which I use often is a knife. Since a young boy I have had an interest in knives and have had a pocket knife for as long as I can remember. Now that I am close to 50, I have a small collection and have posted about it here and here before.

A month ago, I decided to check out this internet site called “Ebay.” I have never used it before; though, while searching Google for a variety of things, I have been taken to it. My wife uses it often. She is a wizz at tracking down a bargain. And so I jumped on her account and ended up buying some knives. Four of them in fact.

knife 4knife 1These two knives are interesting little camping knives, which in reality are around the size of a paring knife. Their sheaf is also plastic molded whistle, which are intended for emergency situations. However, I found they have another purpose to them also. I used to spend many a winter day whistling up foxes with either a purpose shop bought whistle, or one I made from some bent tin, with a hole punched in it with a nail. These whistles work well for that purpose also.

knife 3 knife 2 The next two knives are a little larger. The one on the left is supposed to be a diving knife. It’s lightweight and rather blunt. Though the serrated edge is sharp and works well as a saw. I don’t really have much of a purpose for it, except to throw it into the fishing tackle box, and use it as a oyster and bait knife.

The other one is a rip off of the American Buck Knife. I was surprised to find that it actually sharpened up well and seems to hold its edge nicely. I used it to dice up some ox hearts for the dogs, which are a tough cut of meat. And I was impressed with it. Overall, I think it will make a nice general purpose hunting, skinning, and camp knife. All up, they cost under $35, and I think they are a good bargain.

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Bits and pieces.

My devotional communion message went well on Sunday. It was interesting how God set an Isaiah theme, where the scripture for the service that was chosen to be read by another person was Isaiah 55. I shared Isaiah 1-6 and 52 – 53 and our pastor shared on Isaiah 56:7 on God’s house being a house of prayer. We had a good time after the service as our fellowship continued over a fellowship over lunch, and a few guys planned a men’s BBQ breakfast for next weekend.  Then once again in the night, a group of dedicated people from church came together for our fortnightly church prayer meeting. There were a number of praise reports about a number of answered prayers of which we say, thank you Lord.

While I posted the gist of my communion message yesterday, I added the following personal story to the beginning of the message. I shared how nearly 20 years ago, a prophetic intercessory type of person said to me one night, “Craig, I know your called to a 5 fold ministry, but, I don’t know which one.” I said in my heart, “Who would want to be a pastor, how blinken boring. Lord, make me a prophet!” And for the next 8 months or so, I prayed, I fasted, and I begged God to make me a prophet.  Over that time, he slowly showed me that he hadn’t called me to be a prophet, and that I had no choice about the callings he had placed on my life. OOPS!!! And moved from there into my already shared talk.

There is power in sharing our own personal testimony; whether it be within the structure of a sermon, or telling someone the good news of what Christ has done for us. I’m a firm believer in apologetic’s. I am a firm believer in being able to explain the Scriptures and why we believe they are true, and the word of God. And indeed, there are very good reasons to believe in the historical accuracy of Christ.

But, I remember reading Tozer who said,  “that if you can argue a man into believing Christ, someone else can argue him out of believing in Christ.”  What is needed is that we introduce a person to Christ.. In 2002 I became involved in a discussion with someone on a building site where an discussion took place about the veracity of the Bible. One guy thought he had all the right answers and all the right questions which disproved the Scriptures. I was praying, “Lord, show me how to witness to this man?”The words came to mind, “Tell him, that you know Christ is real, that Christ is alive, because Christ, lives in you.” And I told him, I know Christ is the resurrected son of God, because, he changed my life, the day, he came and lived in me!”

Immediately the man dropped his hands to a surrendered position by his side. His words were profound and made a deep impact on me. He said, “How can I argue against that? I can’t argue against someone’s personal experience!” That opened the door to another dimension in the conversation, “Well, the NT, is full of people and their personal experience of God, through Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.” And I left it at that.

I am firmly convinced, that you cannot receive Christ and not know about it. There will be a heart change. There will be a mind shift. A God focus will replace the self-centredness. So by all means, continue to learn apologetic s, and continue to learn about the Scriptures – but, lets always remember, our relationship is with the God, whom the Bible tells us about. Our God relationship is never the Bible its self.

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