Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

This blog is a reflection and study on the Fellowship Pacific Statement of Faith

“Straight from the horse’s mouth” is a phrase that describes information that has been received straight from a source of authority and has not been constructed or distorted by a third party. When we want to make a statement or persuade someone that the information we have to share comes from a trustworthy source, the author himself, we often use this idiom to make our point. 

Paul, in his letter to the church of the Thessalonians makes an incredible declaration of truth that points us to the authority and source of the words given to the people through the ministry of Silas, Timothy and himself. He writes, “…when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thes. 2:13). “But as it actually is”, fast forward a couple millennia and we have a different way of saying these words. 

I “believe the Holy Bible to be that collection of sixty-six books from Genesis to Revelation which, as originally written, was objectively the very Word of God” *. The writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is alive and active”, a statement that I believe is as true today as the moment it was written. As a believer, I hold fast to the truth of the promises found in the scriptures and have experienced the work which is indeed a part of my life. The Bible, filled with the words of God, communicate to us who he is; he reveals himself to us and leads and guides us into a closer relationship with him through his son Jesus (the word of life). 

Have you ever taken someone’s word as true? Have you trusted their words and been let down? I imagine we have all been there. The word of God is the ultimate truth, one that will never let us down. These written words, through the work of Holy Spirit awaken our desire to live like Christ, they become a part of who we are. God directed the lives of some incredible men and women whose stories fill the pages of the Bible. As we remain faithful to and live out the words and instruction found in these sixty-six books, we are to accept them not as human word, but as it actually is, the word of God. Like Silas, Timothy and Paul we have received these words it is now our responsibility to share them with others. 

*Fellowship Pacific Statement of Faith Article 1 – Scripture.

Strength (integrity)

A quick online search for “strongest material on earth” results in a storm of websites listing Graphene as number one. Graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon 200 times stronger than steel. One engineer said that It would take an elephant balancing on a pencil to break a sheet as thin as Saran wrap. Incredible when you think about it isn’t it? 

When I think about the strongest man in the Bible my first instinct is to think of the mighty Sampson. Called and gifted by God, Sampson displayed some miraculous feats of physical strength. Yet for me, another man jumps to my mind when it comes to a different picture of strength, and that is Job. Job’s integrity as a faithful servant of God withstood some of the most painful personal hardships that one man could ever face.  

Job 1:1 (NIV): “This man (Job) was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”. The whole book deals with the realities of suffering and righteousness, something many christians continue to struggle with today. Verse one of chapter one describes Job as “blameless”, not necessarily sinless. Romans 3:8 reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of the Lord.” Job’s integrity and devotion to God was tested through the unfathomable loss of his family; his good health was stripped from him and every material thing he had was taken away. In the midst of all these things Job utters these words, “he tests me — I shall come out like gold” (23:10)…“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. (42:5). 

We are given a picture of Job’s integrity in heart, soul and mind as we read his story. There is no doubt in my mind that Job struggled with sin in his life, he was human just like you and me.  His story tells us that his suffering was not because of any sin that he may have committed (despite what his “friends” try to tell him). Job’s integrity came out of his fear of God, it was an attitude of respect, obedience and upmost trust that guarded his integrity of heart from failure.

Job’s life, his experiences, should not drag us down, it should build us up with hope as we continue to live in a world filled with suffering and injustice. It has the power to encourage and inspire each of us in our own lives. This life of integrity lived by one man is and has been a model for many generations of believers. 

Like Minded

Like-minded people tend to share the same opinions, ideas, or interests. You might say that when two like-minded people get together there is a “meeting of the minds”. There are many constructs in this type of relationship where like-mindedness can help build healthy relationships with others. 

In Psalm 101 David describes many qualities that contribute to what might sound like a tall order to live by when it comes to living a life of Integrity. Verse six highlights one in particular that caught my attention, “My eyes will be on the faithful in the Lord, that they may dwell with me; the ones whose walk is blameless will minister to me.” This is a statement of character and ultimately a guide for building ourselves a line of defense against the evils and temptations of this world. David is giving us some incredibly wise relationship counselling through these words. As king, David knows that if he surrounds himself with like-minded people, (persons who share in his devotion to live a life of integrity under the call of the Lord) both himself and his reign will prosper. David’s words describe a plan to have people in his life who will hold him accountable, people who minister or speak into his life when trial or temptation come along; and as a king who could do as he wishes, these things could (and in some cases did) happen. David’s integrity was constantly challenged as a king. The bible records many of David’s failures but at the same time gives us a picture of heartfelt confession and repentance of what he had done. 

The lives that we live are influenced greatly by those around us. No matter where we are in this world there will always someone or something that will try and break past the walls of integrity that we work so hard to maintain. 

As a parent, I try to give wise counsel to my children much the same way David prescribes when it comes to the friends that they surround themselves with. I work diligently to try to live by this same counsel. 

Like David, I have received the promise of forgiveness when I call on the name of the Lord. Through the amazing gift of grace that is freely given to me today through Christ, I am forgiven. You and I fall short of perfection and integrity as we live, but if we live and share life together in Christ we may not fall so far. 

If/Else

In computer programming the if/else statement executes a block of code if a specified condition is true. If the condition is false, another block of code can be executed. The if/else statement is part of coding’s “conditional” statements, which are used to perform different actions based on different conditions. What happens if we apply this conditional coding format to 1 Kings 9:1-9?

Here is the setting: Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace when God speaks to him and says “[if] you walk faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command… I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever.” (vs 4-5) The flipside or [else] component to this conditional statement reads like this, “[But] [if] you or your descendants turn away from me… then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them.” There is a definite conditional statement here that requires our attention.

This passage reminds us of David’s integrity of heart and uprightness as king and servant of God. David’s obedience to God serves as the standard measure that all future kings are compared. The incredible truth and hope that we can draw from this fact is that we know that David was not a perfect person and yet he was considered a man after God’s own heart. He failed miserably at times as a man and as a king. His integrity of heart and uprightness is represented by his repentance, his deep and ultimate love for God. David, like Noah, Abraham, Job and others all help us see a faithful commitment to a standard of values that define integrity; values like goodness, honesty, graciousness, compassion and truth. As we walk in the presence of God today we need to be aware of how we are measuring up to this ancient but relevant measure of integrity.

Hang On…

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and he mentioned that he was contemplating the possibilities of jumping head first off a perfectly safe solid steel bridge 150 feet down towards a glacier fed icy cold river while attached to a massive elastic rope.  Consider for a moment the faith and trust that you have to have in the one thing separating you from life and death… an elastic rope.

John, in chapter 15 of his gospel records the words of Jesus as he and his disciples begin their journey from the upper room where they shared their last meal together to the garden of Gethsemane. Along the way Jesus uses an illustration of the vine and the branches to describe their relationship with him and his father. He is the vine, we are the branches and his Father is the gardener. This illustration or allegory has some incredibly deep and profound truths that give us a glimpse into the Christian life. God, our father in heaven through his Son Jesus Christ plays an active role in our lives; “pruning” or acting on our behalf to lead and guide us through life so that we can continue to be used as his disciples to effectively carry on his mission to bring the good news of salvation to others.

Our world has many different “vines” to hold onto in life. Some hold onto the “vines” of selfishness, wealth, pride, stubbornness or false gods; and while the vine may continue to grow its roots have not been set firmly into the garden that our heavenly father first planted. Jesus tells us that he is the “true vine”, he is stronger than the “elastic rope”. He is our life-line that continues to give us strength today and until that day when he returns to be with us in eternity. Being attached to the true vine (through a personal relationship with Jesus) is to be under the care and love of the master gardener of life, God. Will you take a leap of faith and be one of the many who have put their hope and trust in the strength and power of the one true vine, Jesus Christ? It is not one that you will ever regret.

BOOM…

IMG_0524Have you ever had something “hit” you in a way that mere words cannot explain? Have you ever experienced a sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia? (aka, brain freeze or ice cream headache). Have you ever been exposed to the icy cold sensation of a negative thirty-five degree temperature on your bare face in the morning? In each instance the best way for someone to understand these events is to feel these for themselves.

John records a “triple whammy” of Jesus’s “I am statements in chapter 14:6 of his Gospel: I am the way, and the truth, and the life”.

Did it hit you? These are the words of Jesus; go back and read them again with authority; read them out loud; take a minute to hear what they are saying. (it’s ok, I’ll wait while you take a minute)

Jesus is responding to questions from Thomas and Philip, two of his disciples that have been following him for some time. He is reassuring them of who he is; that if they know who he is they know his Father in heaven.

When Jesus refers to himself as The Way, he reminds us of his betrayal, suffering, death and resurrection that opened up the way for us to be in relationship with his father:

“No one comes to the Father except through me”.

The Truth is a picture of reality, Jesus as God in flesh. The disciples lived in the presence of the truth of who Christ is, our One True Redeemer. The Life, another sketch of what Jesus has to offer us; his life was given so that we may live – we are talking everlasting life with him in the house of the Lord!

BOOM… let that hit you like a blast of cold air or an ice cream headache.

What Type of Bread Do You Eat?

white-bread-51-600-600x400

“Bread, in all its various forms, is the most widely consumed food in the world”. France has Brioche; Tortilla, the flatbread from Mexico is a staple in many homes; Foccacia and Ciabatta hail form Italy; Eastern Europe was known for their contribution of the bagel and all the way from the India, Nepal and Bangladesh we have Chapatti, a pancake like bread traditionally cooked on a large flat skillet or griddle. [Insert the incredible smell of fresh baked bread here]

In John chapter 6 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.” And then He expands on this statement with these words, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever… whoever comes to me will never be hungry.” Now, if you can pull yourself away from the physical cravings of your taste buds, you will realize that Jesus is speaking metaphorically here about bread. There is no doubt that God provided mana for his people in the dessert during their exile from Egypt to meet their physical needs but, the true bread from heaven comes to us to fill a much deeper spiritual need and that is our need for salvation. We have to wrap our finite minds around the idea that “eating” the bread is a metaphor for faith in Jesus; Jesus is making the point that faith in Him is what will sustain us till he comes again to be with us.

Whether or not you choose to eat bread (in the physical sense) that is a choice each of us has the option to make. In our culture today, many people have primarily focused on their earthly, materialistic need for sustenance and survival, forgetting or putting aside their spiritual well-being.  We all have the opportunity to accept the “living bread” that is offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who died, rose from the grave and lives today with his Father in heaven. Have you had the life transforming experience of tasting the living bread freely offered by the master bread maker? Its incredible taste will last forever, that is a promise that we can all stand on, a promise that will never be broken.

Just Ask

hey siriHey Siri, where can I get wisdom?
“Ok, I found this on the web for ‘where can I get wisdom’”
“How to gain wisdom: 13 Steps (with pictures) – WikiHow – “Wisdom is a virtue that isn’t innate but can only be acquired through experience. Anyone who is interested in trying new things and reflecting on the process has the ability to gain wisdom. By learning as much as you can, analyzing your experiences and putting your knowledge to the test, you can become a wiser person.”

As smart as Siri might think she is I think that when it comes to gaining wisdom, we as believers need to take a different approach to gaining wisdom. James gives us the best advice in his letter to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Step one, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” That was step one, if that didn’t work go back and try again and again. James offers up some help when thing don’t go as you might have planned by offering up a this instruction. “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt.” James describes a faith that demonstrates action, a living out of what God has called us to without any doubt. He uses the term “double-minded” to describe someone who tries to live two contradictory lifestyles, one that tries to please God and another to please themselves or others; it is like oil and water, the two don’t mix.

God hears the prayers of those whose lives demonstrate that they have faith in him. When James talks about believe or faith, he is referring to an active trust and belief shown by obedience to the Word of God. The wisdom that we receive from God is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17). When we experience the incredible gift of grace offered to us through God’s demonstration of love for us through his Son Jesus Christ, when we live our lives obedient to his will, our lives (the way we live) will reflect Godly wisdom, a wisdom that shows greater concern for others than for ourselves. So, instead of the 13 steps suggested by Siri, I would encourage you to listen to what James has to say, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God.”

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.

Echoes in the Word

EchoThere is something fascinating about an echo. I remember a time when we would drive through the “cow tunnel”, a car sized round culvert under the highway. I remember how when passing through, the blast of the horn would bounce around the interior walls of the tunnel sounding louder and longer than normal. There were times we would stop and shout into the tunnel only to hear our voices call back at us.

As I read through the book of 1 Samuel it “echoed” some very familiar ideas, feelings and events that I would say “sound” like much of what is happening in our culture today. 1 Samuel draws us into the story of Saul, David and Johnathan, a story of family, jealousy, hatred, love, betrayal and most importantly the greatness of God’s promises that were never to be broken. Living in biblical community is defined by the love and kindness that we should have for one another, the same love that God has for us. Much the same, our culture today and the stories we read in 1 Samuel echo each other. The people wanted an earthly king, someone who would lead them forward, giving them what they wanted. The people wanted someone who in the end made them promises that could not be kept. Today in many ways we still do the same thing in our own way, we just don’t call them kings anymore. Here and now, like then, God is often removed from the picture, and this is the one place we truly need to put our faith and trust.

The nature and function of biblical community has been overshadowed by the wants and expectations of people’s hearts, which have been influenced by worldly things. The true nature of biblical community is love, a sacrificial other-serving love, it is love in action. The primary function of biblical community is worship; it is recognizing that God is our Father. It is knowing and living according to His will so that He is honoured and glorified. David was flawed and often failed in the eyes of the Lord because of sin, but he was described as a man after God’s own heart. He was a man living in a loving relationship with his Heavenly Father and experienced the true meaning of community.