Category Archives: IMS708

Drawing the Line…

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Photo Credit: Garry Firth

If someone knows where to draw the line, they know at what point an activity or situation stops being reasonable and starts to be unacceptable. If you draw the line at a particular activity, you would not do it, because you disapprove of it or because it is so extreme. When we visit a tropical beach like the one pictured here we can without a doubt know where the shallow waters and the deep waters meet, you have a clear indication when you’re getting into deep waters.

The Apostle Paul draws a line for the Corinthian church near the end of his letter in 2 Corinthians. Paul uses language that is reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets who warned the people of Israel of God’s “razor sharp” justice in response to their disobedience of His laws and commands. “I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. (13:2-3) Paul speaks with authority and confidence through Christ and the work of the Spirit in his life. His genuine concern is that the church (the people) are falling into the catches of sin in their lives; there is jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder taking over the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control they are called to live in together through Christ.

The “line” in the water is the created by the contrast of light and dark. This picture or metaphor in scripture often highlights the life we live in Christ (light) and the life we live in sin (darkness). There is a transparent and reflective quality to the “light waters” of life in contrast to the mysterious and hidden “dark waters”. Paul’s concern for the church comes as he sees them heading into deeper, darker waters, and how this will lead them into the hands of a powerful and just God. Paul’s closes his letter with these final words of encouragement that bring hope, reconciliation and unity for the church, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (13:14) If Paul was here today, I am confident that he would have the same concerns and words for us as a church.

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A Close Shave

straight-razors

When I was younger, I would go to Frank’s Barber shop to have my hair cut, there was an older gentleman there who was all about doing things “old school”. After you sat down he would pull out a long leather strap along with his unusually lengthy straight blade; with great care and a seemingly sinister look on his face, he would hone the edge so it was razor sharp. You never told him what kind of cut you wanted, and he never asked, you just sat as quiet and still as deer staring into the headlights of a car while he meticulously worked his blade around your head cutting and shaving until each and every last hair was touched.

The book of Ezekiel describes God’s judgement on Israel like that of a razor (chapter 5). Take a second to this about these words: annihilate, eradicate, obliterate, demolish and destroy. In the first thirty-three chapters the main theme or message is all about doom, the plight of the chosen people of God because of their disobedience to his law. Statements like “I will inflict punishment on you… I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again… I myself will shave you… I will not look on you with pity or spare you.” (5:8-12) The word shave used in the NIV is used to explain the idea of being cut off, removed or withdrawn. God, who is righteous and just in his actions, tells the people through Ezekiel that they will be cut off from His presence, he will withdraw from their lives just as they have withdrawn from life in him. God’s swift razor of judgment came through the finishing actions of the sharp sword, famine and plague.

In between the words of doom and destruction we are reminded of God’s promise to carry a remnant of people through the impending judgement on them. Thinking in terms of a close shave or well-defined hair in respect to the straight razor, I am reminded that the remnant of hair left on top of my head was also affected by the sharp cut of the blade; it had been cut off, damaged and left to grow again. God did not promise that the remnant, those who were scattered among the nations would not be affected by his judgement, I can only imagine what happened to them left visible and defining scars both in a physical and mental sense; a reminder that God’s promise of justice over the whole nation of His people were not just empty threats. “They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices. And they will know that I am the Lord” (6:9-10a)

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Faithlessness vs. Faithfulness.

ping pong

March 23, 2014 was when Peter and Daniel Ives set the world record for the longest table tennis (ping pong) rally. 8 hours, 40 minutes and 5 seconds. Consider for a moment the number of paddle hits this would be. Based on my calculations (one paddle hit per second) that would be 31,205 hits. Normally the object of the game is to score points against each other but the game changes when you work together.

Reading through the book of Jeremiah (especially chapters 2-20) you will read about the judgement of Judah and Jerusalem, judgement (justice) served by God for their unfaithfulness to Him. Through these oracles or stories of judgement we get a glimpse not only into the mighty power of God as he delivers his justice, but we see the faithfulness of God (his grace and mercy) through the covenant He made with Moses and His people. God chose Jeremiah to bring a message of both destruction and hope. Over and over God calls the people back to him in spite of their faithlessness, “Return, faithless people” (3:12,3:14, 3:22, 4:1). Jeremiah, through the power of God relentlessly tries to teach the people that their actions, their disobedience (their faithlessness – turning away from God) is not going to end well for them.

Jeremiah did not have it easy, in light of the hopelessness of where the people were heading and the resistance from the people to listen, he continued to share the word of God. He did this with the knowledge and understanding that God would always remain faithful to his promise of deliverance into the promise land. God’s justice and mercy continue for us today through the cross, through the forgiveness of sins that was made possible through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. God is faithful and just, and despite our faithlessness from time to time He always welcomes us back. We need to be “Jeremiahs” today; we are called by God to continue sharing his word with confidence in a fallen world so that when he (Christ) comes again he would find many who have put their hope and trust in Him.

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The Wash Cycle

LaundryHave you ever wondered what goes on inside a washing machine? Probably not. If you’re like me you throw the clothes in, put a bit of soap in and let the machine do the rest. Some of these machines can be complicated if you look at all the settings and cycles that are available. Each cycle (regular, permanent press, knit, delicates, light, medium and heavy, extra rinse, extra spin) have a purpose. Ultimately, if the machine is working as designed, when you reach the end of the cycle you have clean clothes.

When you read through the book of Judges you will find a pattern of events related to Israel’s continuous cycle of sin and restoration. If we were to label this cycle we could describe it like this: relapse, ruin, repentance, restoration, rest, relapse. God raises up 13 unique judges to bring his justice into the lives of the Israelites, 13 different cycles. Some of these cycles varied with intensity, in verses 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1, 8:33-34, 10:6, 13:1 (seven instances) we are introduced to the cycles of relapse and ruin with the words “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord”. If we were to run these stories through the wash cycle we would choose “heavy, extra rinse and extra spin”. There were also times when you could categorize this cycle of life for the Israelites as “light” or “delicate”, a time when scripture does not record much about the actions of God’s people, presumably these could be the times of rest.

One of the highlights of reading through Judges is the picture of hope that we can see in God’s faithfulness, to forgive and provide for his people, a truth that still holds today. We see over and over the significance of the people coming before God (repentance) seeking his forgiveness and the power of God to forgive and restore them as a nation. Today we often fall into the same patterns of life like the Israelites, we tend to run amuck on our own, forgetting how God has complete control in the happenings of our lives. The illustration of the wash cycle always ends with fresh smelling clothes, clean and ready for work and play. When we put our hope and trust in God, when we come to Him in faith and ask for forgiveness, we are washed of those sins.

 

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