Life is constantly changing.

Theology is supposed to be a servant of the gospel and the church, not its master, as long as Theology is a pursuit of God.

images-4Doing research  seems to clarify the truth we proclaim, helping us to re-examine what we believe and equipping us to practice what we believe and preach in a more consistent way.

Eventually all theology is a reflection of God and is reflected in life. Good teaching produces a healthy lifestyle, bad teaching produces distorted living.

For theology to perform its servant ministry to the church, it must address the central biblical truths and relevant social and cultural issues. Most Christians were not delivered their faith in monasteries, but in continually changing societies. They must be equipped to practice their faith with relevance and integrity.

The world we live in has undergone considerable social change. Christian theology, theory and practice are intrinsically bound to many ways of thinking in many people, most people don’t know it, but the way we see or consider God will affect our life style and the decisions we make, knowingly or unknowingly.   People will think they are making decisions but the decisions are always affected by perception which is gained through experience, history, parentage and, like it or not, the theology of the culture you are part of.

The world we live in is a scene of both new thinking and new practices.

How should Christians face changes in a secular society, that is how do we face new ways, issues and challenges?    We have seen changes economically in Europe and other countries, how do we face these changes, changes in law regarding sexuality in the UK, how do we face this, the changes in regard to our view of marriage and family, how do I face this, some the issues in society bring about necessary changes and some are enforced changes, we will face the changes.     There have been too many Christians who consider any change in secular society as negative and are negative about cultural and secular changes, because they have a fundamentally negative view of the secular world.    This is not a healthy reaction.

There are other Christians who see every “progressive” step in history as an act of God.     That is, all liberal and liberation movements are the direct result of the activity of God. This is as unhealthy as the opposite view posed above.

A balanced biblical view is that, while no changes in society can be given utopian status because of the perception of mankind, it is equally true that many changes in society are to be welcomed because they reflect the providential care God has for the world.

My approach

My view of Scripture is a high view, in the historic sense I believe that Scripture is authoritative, both when it speaks about salvation and when it  speaks intentionally about other issues.

I hold this view not because I am unaware of the difficulties that exist in Scripture, but because history has demonstrated time and time again that the moment we set ourselves up as the judge of what is essential or non-essential within Scripture, we begin to slide towards a rejection of scriptural authority and the enthronement of the human mind.

I have come to this position having been pressed into views realising it is not the way of dealing with Scripture, for instance, on gender, am I a complementarian or an egalitarian? Neither, a bit of each I say, I am not sure that all biblical text fits either system.   So how do I face these changes?

We must tackle Scripture not forgetting the following issues:

Trajectories – we must ask what direction does this thinking pattern set us?   What Trajectory will I take when I embrace this direction of thought, where will I end up?   Asking this question every time I grasp the word, where will I end up as far as i can see now, what direction will it set me on?  I have made a change from a hierarchical view of God to a Trinitarian view, it is amazing the Trajectory of that thinking and what areas of practice it impacts, it sets a Trajectory I did not realise, its impact  is so far reaching.

Where is it going? – An important question, if any destination replaces a view of God for us, a replacing of this Trinitarian God of Scripture with anything other than we must be careful.    Does this destination so deconstruct God that I have nothing remaining.

Let me suggest an example text to ask these questions as we consider further that describes man in the image of God.      Genesis 1 describes mankind as male and female, agreed, then consider Paul relates the relationship of the father to the son in some way to man-woman relationship in 1 Corinthians 11:1-3, and we can argue male female dynamics but first we must deal with the ultimate issue of this is it not: What is God like? 

If we settle this as being at the heart of these texts What is God like it sets a Trajectory for all other debates when handling these texts.

As we consider these text and move forward it opens up many issue to look at and have been debates through time but for our example let us consider just two views.

First there are those who argue from a permanent hierarchical relationship between men and women, arguing from the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father.     Those who argue from an egalitarian relationship between men and women arguing from the eternal equality of essence within the Trinity.      This takes us into the depth of Trinitarian theology.

Second if humankind as male and female, reflects the Trinity, therefore this opens up how does sex relate to God?     Does God transcend gender?   How does this effect the gay debate in sexuality?  Should the consistent liberation of women lead to a review of merely gender language about God in favour of a female gender language about God?

What is God like?

Further consideration as we deal with Trajectory, the where is it going questions of texts about the creative order and the fall from that order

Genesis 1 describes man and woman created equal in the image of God. Genesis 2 then describes the more detailed relationship between man and woman in creation, both Jesus (Matthew 19:3-8) and Paul (1 Timothy 2:11-15) argue from creation, basing their statements on the way things were intended to be.

Genesis 3 describes the fall, which distorts Gods intended pattern of gender relations. We have to ask what exactly fell and altered in the creative orders here and has become part of our describing the creative order.

The creative order includes hierarchy, or does it really?   Genesis narrative is placed in the context of kingship, who what doe that look like?

Are these text’s simply about the coming of the kingdom and the new creation, we also have now have tasted of the age to come.   In Genesis we simply have  the Kingdom expressed as it will be in relation to male and female, along with Paul’s reference when he said to the Galatians there is neither male or female, Paul just took a glimpse into Trajectory and saw the Kingdom a view of where this going, was talking him, and spoke from that view.    Paul painted a picture of the ultimate in a very broken, fallen world.

The general theological position I subscribed to is enacted, inaugurated eschatologically in all my discussions and life style.    I must take an eternal view where I can in all my positions.    Did not Jesus come announcing and demonstrating the Kingdom, which he brought, announced and taught from an eternal kingdom view.   He knew where his teaching was going towards, he had settled the Trajectory of the thinking.   He knew the impact of the accepted religious world and how the Trajectory of his words would challenge and change the world around him.

So what is your Trajectory if we adopted the new in vogue teaching where is it going, this is the only way to deal with theology, truth and direction of teaching

 

 

“To This End…” my end for now but not the END.

Which End Up?

My aim in this blog is to attempt to finish this series on “ to this end…”, I have attempted to outline some fundamental learning curves and have been experienced over the last 30+ years, it’s frightening to think it’s 40 years since I 1st began my journey into Christ.   I’ve had the privilege of serving the Father I hope in seeking 1st the kingdom of God while learning to trust him fully in all matters, living by the gospel for the last 28 years time just flies.

My prayer is that these few meanderings may have helped others on their journey to consider their own lives and perhaps moved towards God a little further.

Rather than making any introduction I will just dive into the last 4 Views I present

Failure to exercise judgment

Now before I commence I know for some to use the word judgment is a challenge as we are in a season of enjoying the grace of God yet we will need still to understand in our journey towards the Father.

What we know now & teach regarding judgment was unheard of, the theology of Grace was preached but I must admit we very really saw it exercised. When I first came before God I was presented by those around me at 16 a gospel of give up.  Now please hear me these where good people, loving people it was just the scene we had all been brought up in, the perceptions developed, they where people who put so much into me that was good as well.   I found quickly what I should, could not and must not do, what the gain, what was added to us was left to the imagination and I discovered it as i grasped the grace of God more fully.  I simply adopted the attitudes, opinions & prejudices of those I admired, believing they must be right.  My only form of judgment was to condemn those who didn’t agree or conform to my newly adopted prejudices.

It was not until I was baptised with the Spirit that I learnt to judge or ‘prove all things’ & thereafter recognize that I should learn from people’s strengths and avoid their weaknesses.

  • To be free of something we must pass & carry out sentence on it within ourselves, bring the grace of God alive in our lives.
  • Judgment not only delivers it protects our freedom – Grace and Mercy along with judgment are part of God we still have to face this.

Poor testimony in my family

Looking back I believe the reason much didn’t ‘go well’ for me in the early years of my Christian experience was because of my violation of the Word of God in not ‘honouring my parents’ adequately.   I future learned that it was not only my natural mum and dad but also those who are mothers and fathers spiritually to us all.   In a growing appreciation of a ‘culture of honour’ it is still necessary to learn the honour of all form weakest to strongest not just celebrity ministry.   Its is also necessary for honour of spiritual parents more and more that all will go well and our days be long.

I was thrilled with the fellowship I was getting outside but at home I became a restless & moody young man. At times when conscience would speak strongly to me about my relationship with the family, I would squash it’s views by my wrong understanding and interpretation of the scripture, “unless you hate your father and mother for my sake…”

After I was baptized with the Spirit, I realised the full extent of my loss in these respects, & sought as much as possible to in my relationship and fellowship with the family, which I am still learning.

  • Honouring parents is the first command with a promise. The law of first mention means that association of ideas is highly significant, e.g. worship & Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.

The wrong concept of God

From childhood the religious idea of God that I gained from parents, people and church, was warped. He was depicted as severe, easily offended and quick to punish. That before he would extend forgiveness he needed to have his wrath totally placated by punishing me.

This distorted mental image of God hindered my ability to fellowship with Him as Father. It continually undercut my ability to believe His promises since I was constantly disqualifying myself as unworthy. One day, reading the word I was struck by the response of Jesus to Philip – “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father”. I realised then that the only image of God I should hold is the revelation seen in the person of Christ. This changed my whole approach to fellowship with God.

  • A right knowledge of God’s nature is foundational to making a right response to His presence and power.
  • Your View of God determines how you live – free, joy, life all find their root here
  • The right image of God is received by a revelation of Christ in the Word.
  • The Word freed me from the God created in my imagination

Rationalisation of the Word of God

The most casual reading of scripture convinced me that the bible portrays a God of miracles and power.

It is this element of the supernatural that was a stumbling block in the teaching of the churches I first found myself in. They gave spiritual significance  to everything associated with the supernatural and made it merely symbolic of things to do with one’s character or behaviour.

e.g. Leprosy became symbolic of sin, therefore the healing of the lepers was indicating God’s desire to completely cleanse you from sin.

Opening the eyes of blind Bartimaeus represented God’s desire for us to have spiritual sight.

Consequently I slipped into the pitfall of believing my interpretations of the Word instead of the Word itself. Looking back I see my interpretations were undercutting my faith for like miracles. Obviously the more rational the interpretation the more acceptable to the mind. Nevertheless, not one of the interpretations I put on things ever fully satisfied me emotionally or spiritually, and it is very doubtful whether they truly settled in my mind.

  • I have come to see the Word is always true; my interpretation of it may or may not be.
  • I am not called to believe my interpretation but I am called to believe His Word.
  • The mind and soul must always submit to the word, not the word submit to the mind.

I want to emphasize that all these issues took place before I was baptized with the Spirit. Indeed, they resulted in such unhappiness and dryness that they were the reason why I began searching for more – even though I had no idea of what.

 

To this End… will we reach it, by the Spirit of course.

images-4Accompanied by the last number of blogs we have been journeying through a process in my experience, its aim is that God may achieve an end in me and just a little assist us all.   I suppose we would have to say its a maturing process, a journey of one degree to another.   Over the 40 years I have come to realise that what we call sonship is not an event or something that is given but it really is a process, a process of maturing.   We are all born ‘children of God and all have the potential to become sons of God as we mature into the full measure of Christ.  I would suggest that this is the only thing that can explain the circumstances, the challenges along with the joys of our walk for however many years we remain in our ‘earth suit’ so to speak, the apostle Paul called it a ‘tent‘.

Here is a biblical story to hook that though on.   At the age of 12 as Jesus grew in favour with God and mankind, we will know this account of Jesus that he was left behind in the temple, this is not a series of titles for an eschatological writings but Jesus was actually left behind by mum and dad.   The day mum and dad lost God, what a parenting achievement.    All of us who have had children have lost one in a shopping mall, or somewhere the scare, the fear, well Mary and Joseph lost God.   It tells us of a very different community feel that they lived with to today, may be?      Community was so strong for Jesus, someone would be caring for the other child, “…no need to worry when you cannot see him, some ones eye will be upon him…” but after a day they realized “he’s not here.”     Jesus own words told us he know his aim of life “about my Fathers business” yet his heavenly Father sent him back for 18 years to the wood cutting shed to be a builder.   He was not ready, although he could confound the teachers in the centre of all things of God, he had not matured to the place necessary yet.    In his 30th year when he stood at the river banks with John “this is my beloved Son” was declared and the Old Testament saying “today I have begotten you as my Son” comes into view.   Jesus had matured through 30 years of life, joys, pain, challenges, suffering as he learned to be obedient until he now was a mature Son – Think about it!   Sonship is a process open to us all to become ‘sons of God.

So we continue on our process of life and learning, maturing to this end…

Taking up other people’s’ offenses

Frequently those who were proud, rebellious or stubborn would get hurt. They would then Campaign for support. In the ensuing controversy I often foolishly found myself supporting persons out of sympathy or friendship though lacking understanding as to the issues involved, taking up their offenses as my own.

Some of these arguments would go on for months at a time and churches would have several ‘cliques’ within them that were quite political in nature. I had to learn that:

  • To be part of the answer you must not become part of the problem.
  • Defend a rebellious person and you share their lot and outcome.
  • Support the proud and you share their downfall.

When friendship rules judgment then the best means of bringing resolution is rendered impotent.

Secondhand opinions

Because I was generally untaught in the scriptures, I tended to learn from what I saw in others. The people I admired were strong men with equally strong opinions.

In the absence of personal revelation I adopted their opinions as my own. I failed to realize that when secondhand opinions are stubbornly defended, one can end up a bigoted exponent of other people’s’ prejudices.

  • Your foundation in life is your personal revelation.
  • In order to stand in truth you must be in the revelation of it

This is the essence of John’s assertion ‘Yet I know that the touch of the Spirit never leaves you, and you don’t really need a human teacher. You know that his Spirit teaches you about all things, always telling you the truth and never telling you a lie. So, as he has taught you, live continually in him.’  (1 Jn.2:27)

Let us press on as we are encouraged to do so in the scripture laying hold of the end that the Father is drawing, loving us to!

To this End…early learning makes its mark

seedling.jpegI have changed tack a little the last time introducing some early years stuff I did and learned, one of the first things was discovering what a Christian did not look like I suppose, my mistakes and misrepresentation of the Father was not helpful to me or those around. I learned much in my early years stuff.

A wrong view of the world.

In South Wales “worldliness” was equated with anyone who watched TV, went to the cinema, a dance hall or pub, followed contemporary dress trends, or hairstyles. It made the streets where I lived on a Sunday deserted as you dared not go out and kick a football around, never mind if you went to church or chapel. It was the most deserted and boring day of the week as a child, you were not even allowed to go and buy and Ice Cream or chocolate, it was just wrong, it was the Lords Day. Although you longed to be out playing, longing to be like the other boys and girls but you had the Lords day in mind. As a young believer it was a world subjected to much “give up” and filled with things I could not do. It was really, pure religion.

At 16 I made my choice, I chose to follow Jesus not realising its implication, life began to change, I could not play rugby, I had played for the town which was real joy, Rugby Club lifestyle was not Christian I was told. The cinema became a big NO, it was said, “…would you be happy to be found there when Jesus came back?” Because I loved God and genuinely wanted to follow him with everything in me, whatever these ‘better Christians’ said was taken as truth. I surrendered to their legalistic mindset, little realising it was to lead to my becoming as legalistic as they were in my view of worldliness. I could not participate, I had to remove friendship, “…if you really were a Christian you would …”, I heard being said, it was the ‘Great Give Up’, certainly not life and more abundantly!

No-one addressed what I now see to be the greater evils that were abounding in the churches at the time, hypocrisy, legalism, deceit, backbiting, gossip, division makers, etc. The result was not a “life abundant” I often tried to fill times of dullness with religious activity, thinking and trying to persuade myself I was happy.

Later understanding helped me define worldliness biblically. Consequently I was able to enjoy myself ‘in’ the world without being ‘of’ it.

Worldliness is when my attitudes, behaviour, thinking and speaking continuously conforms to the moral values of the world system around me.

Jesus brought liberty and a fullness of life, not practices and religion that constricted life out of you. Now we seek to impart life and the ability to see God everywhere, in all things, for everything is spiritual.

Ineffective Bible Studies

Within the early weeks of my Christian life I was introduced to the Bible study meeting. These were generally too complicated for me. As a dyslexic it become difficult at every level, you were judged as to how many scriptures you memorised, seeing that my dyslexia manifested itself in my memory ability of tying words and numbers together, I felt unable, therefore never good enough.

One major hindrance was everyone used the King James bible (AV) which used such outdated English that I was completely lost.

Furthermore, the study generally consisted of an exposition of a biblical passage or book with little reference or relevance to the present day. So I had little understanding of how to apply God’s Word to present day situations.

“When speaking to the ordinary man you make things plain by speaking plainly!” It took years for us all to see that God was in the translations and paraphrases, we are actually free to use any thing to instruct and gain understanding. We realised that the Father was writing a third Testaments, we have the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Third Testament, that is you and I are to be written on in our hearts and be read by all men. That the bible studied you rather than you studying it. I discovered that turning to the word of God and becoming a disciple of the Kingdom meant that I could turn and understand God in the adventure of being introduced to the deep things of God revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 2:9-10 God send God deep inside God searching for fresh insights to make known to the searching hearts – what an adventure I discovered later.

Foolish Controversies

As the months rolled by I listened intently to the various interpretations people were putting on things they were reading. I was introduced to the arguments for and against different interpretations. I was becoming part of a circle of people who measured spiritual growth by how much Bible knowledge you had and how well you argued for your interpretation.

I became trapped in the arguments of the ill-informed. Pride and prejudice quickly took root in my heart in such an environment. I found myself refusing to admit my ignorance even when another’s knowledge was clearly superior to my own. So often the game of ‘bible up-man-ship’ dominated our fellowship as people.

To be clever, is often the way of the fool, not the wise.

Refusing to admit ignorance is deciding to remain ignorant.

The admission of ignorance opens your mind to knowledge that leads to understanding

To This End… EARLY YEARS LEARNING

images-4They are spiritual, I was not?  Well it didn’t half feel like that…

Most books I was encouraged to read in my early years were very encouraging, they presented us with the opportunity to drink from someones experience, it was and is a continuing a great privilege.   However there was a recurring factor, I read of preachers, powerful people of God putting pen to paper outlining their endeavors, yet the writers only seemed to emphasis their greatness and spirituality without highlighting any faults or life’s realities.   I know the trend today is a little different in the willingness to be vulnerable but still it’s not every one who does it.   Indeed, many ministries would not advocate the sharing of mistakes and challenges, saying, “It will leave you exposed to your enemies,” or “open to criticism.”    It brought, probably intentionally such a testimony, a picture that inspired you to what God can do but it did not help to present that it could be YOU and though YOU.   They were great and mighty never dealing with normal little stuff of my life, it felt as if they had gone beyond this life, the supermen and women.

They are spiritual I was not.   Don’t get me wrong these accounts did wonderfully open up God greatness in a life, but made the experience inaccessible.

It would have greatly helped if someone had written honestly of their mistakes when I was young in the faith, and shared some of the pitfalls on how to avoid them. So embracing the risk of vulnerability I am going to share with you as openly as possible as we continue our journey in “To this End.”   In my challenges I felt its was only peculiar to me, it cultivated an attitude that I should not talk myself about my struggles, these were not to be talked about, these things of life, they were clearly my issues nobody else had them, or it felt like that.

It was learning about life I needed, it has taken a necessary cultural change to happen to make lives more accessible, for ministries it was a long time before people came down off their distant pedestals, and some still retain an ungodly superior or untouchable manner.   As a young man when I found people who would be open and tell of their joy’s and failures it was a real release, to know others had the same struggles and they had overcome them.

I recall later on in my journey, actually the day I left the building industry to live by the gospel, one of the most helpful lines ever given to me was said, it continue to serve me well in almost 30 years of ministry life.    I was taken aside and told “…all these, every one you have put on a pedestal have clay feet – that is are a mixture in their lives.”    So simple but so profound, It did not destroy my honour or admiration of them far from it, it actually helped as I saw their failures, mixture of attitudes and as I got close to so-called the “great?”   It did not excuse them, it did help me to see their journey, I saw real people walking with God.  It helped to avoid disappointment along the way and prevented feeling let down as they made their mistakes.     As I began to move, relate to ministries of great renown and stature, these people who I had put far above, I know that’s the Christ but we do it so easily to people, foolishly rather than Christ.   Now I am not talking about honour, honour should be a disposition we live by, honour is positive but the negative view at its worst celebrities and super-spiritual, so-called people who set themselves distant from you, who occupy the pedestal and control from there, rather than becoming co-workers, partners, fellow journey men and women.

I needed people who would help with my life and help me to see I was spiritual even with my foibles and wrongs as I walked my journey into God.   Discover that I am spiritual and can be all God wanted even with my thoughts and actions, even with my insecurities and attitudes.   People who have the same challenges to walk and talk me thought them from their book of life.

This will be my aim as we continue the next chapters of “To this End.”