Tag Archive: moses


This is a follow-on from yesterday’s most insightful passage about map-making from M. Scott Peck’s ‘The Road Less Traveled’ that i am busy reading and so make sure you have read that one first, but this is a little bit of a deeper look at the ramifications of it, specifically for my Jesus-following friends.

There is a much larger chance that you at some point or other have been subjected to the sung or chanted version of this little mantra:

 

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

The point being, that due to the size and vastness and complexity and enormousness of God and the smallness of us mere mortals in comparison, that no matter how big your view of God is [Who He is, how He speaks, what He looks like, how He works or reveals Himself to us, if He does at all] it is with all likelihood not going to match up with the reality of who God actually is.

A really poor analogy would be akin to a four year old child taking a look at the inner workings of a personal computer and expecting them to understand it. They will have an experience with what they see and they will understand it to the extent that their minds and vocabulary allow it to. But the reality is that their definition and understanding will fall so far short of what the truth and reality is. It is not the child’s fault. They simply don’t have the capacity to understand at that point.

So it is with God. And us. We can have some measure of understanding and some extent of experience, but if we ever decide that we have arrived at a comprehensive and complete understanding of who God is and how He works, then we are very likely going to look foolish.

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a box or theology or an understanding. Or a map. But it does definitely mean that we can’t hold the edges of those things too preciously. As with yesterday’s Peck passage, we need to be constantly shifting or revising our map as our knowledge and experience and conversations and learning dictate to us.

What is also super helpful is realising where we are taking our picture and understanding of God from. Most Christians would claim it is from the Bible. That was given to us to help us have a better understanding of God and His story and how and where we fit into it. I would agree with that in terms of intention, but i would also suggest that for so many people in the church, that is not their reality.

For example if your picture of God tells you that the preacher of a church [a man] has to shout and get worked up and have passion oozing out of every vein and pore for it to be an effective preach, then i don’t think you have been informed by the bible. I think you have been taught by the culture of the pentecostal church.

If your picture of God tells you that to worship Him you must raise your hands in the air and emotion must be present [you must feel the songs you are singing so they become more real] then you have not been informed by the Bible. You have likely been taught by the culture of the charismatic church.

If your understanding of God dictates that liturgy is the way to truly connect with your Creator and that the only person who is able to administer the communion bread dipped in wine [or wafer dipped in grape juice, because, you know] then it is likely that you have been influenced by the culture of the anglican or catholic church.

i am not saying for a second that any of those thoughts or ideas are necessarily in themselves wrong. What i am hoping is that each of us will look at the things we believe about God and church and christianity and really try and be more sure of what is directly taken from the Bible and what is definitely a message from God [One absolute we can hang our coat on is ‘Love God with all your heart, strength, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself!] and what things [some of which might be good and helpful, some less so] were merely aspects of the culture of the church we felt connected to, that we have taken on as a God thing.

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

It is helpful to have an idea of who God is and how He works. But it can be restrictive when we hold those as set boundaries that He is never able to break out of.

For example, before Moses, God had never spoken to anyone through a burning bush.

Before Balaam, God had never sent a message to a human by way of a donkey.

Before Jesus, God had never appeared to mankind as a baby or done many of the things Jesus did in quite the same way that He did them.

Does that mean God doesn’t speak through burning bushes, donkeys or babies? Not at all. It just meant He hadn’t yet. Until He had.

ENGAGE WITH YOUR MAP, CHURCH

i believe the map-adjusting concept is for everyone. But i especially believe the church needs to embrace it.

What makes it particularly tricky is the need to embrace it with discernment. There are many long-held beliefs and practices in the church today that are being challenged [women in leadership, the LGBT conversation, stance on abortion, death penalty, euthanasia and more] and these need to be looked at. But they do not need to be changed simply because they are being challenged. They need to be looked at through the lens 0f scripture and in community God’s heart, view and stance needs to be determined.

This should be an easy one as followers of Jesus have the Holy Spirit living in them helping to inform, guide and nudge in the right direction. Although we have seen too often people on both sides of a complicated conversation [take the death penalty for example] who are clearly Spirit-filled and yet coming to different conclusions.

So this is not easy stuff. But it is so incredibly important. Too often i see people chiming in on Facebook discussions or article comment feeds and throwing out a statement like ‘The bible says so’ without giving any reasoning [beyond often an out-of-context quoted verse] or backing for their statement. And too often, if you look a little deeper you can easily see that it is ‘my church culture’ or ‘the family understanding i was brought up with’ that is actually saying so.

The easiest way to be sure if it is God or the Bible that is doing the informing in a particular situation is to take a look at the Love being demonstrated. If Love is lacking or not evident at all, then it is quite easy to know we are not dealing with a God thing here. Because with God, Love is always the key and the heart. It doesn’t mean that Love won’t sometimes be a tough one to swallow or be interpreted as unloving [God does not tolerate sin easily. He does always continue to Love sinful people though] because a spoken Truth that points out that you are not behaving in a Godly way will not necessarily feel like the way we expect Love to feel. But if Love is absent, then God is as well. And that is a lesson the church could do well to focus more strongly on.

Where we have failed to Love, we have failed to bring/show/demonstrate God.

And any space on our map that is devoid of Love, needs an instant change [and quite possibly a significant one] to get us moving in the right direction.

Can you say/sing this with me?

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

[For the next part looking at how adjusting your map means refusing to settle, click here]

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aslan“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” 

A great example of this, which is recorded in at least 3 of the Gospels, so clearly someones thought this was significant, is the story of Jesus clearing out the temple.

Here are the accounts found in John and Matthew:

John 2

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Matthew 21 

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Clearly Jesus was good. But these two accounts of His actions when He got to the point of “Enough is enough” show that He was not all that safe either.

Remembering at the same time, the account recorded in Luke 22 of Jesus refusing to resists arrest and going so far as to heal one of the men who had come to arrest him [that swashbuckling Peter took an ear off of], Jesus shows that He wasn’t as concerned with His own safety. But this was an account of the House of God. And people were being ripped off. And robbed. And that was too much for Jesus.

This reminds me of the Old Testament story of the Israelites and the golden calf in Exodus 32. First Moses loses it and breaks the commandments, grinds the idol into dust and makes them drink it. But God commands an even harsher consequence and 3000 people are killed that day and a plague affects a whole bunch more.

This reminds me of Ananias and Sapphira withholding money from the church while saying they had given it all to them. Once again God answers with “Enough is enough” and both of them are struck down and fear seizes the church.

I know stories like this cause some people to struggle with the view of God as loving and good. So we’d rather gloss over those stories or pretend like they don’t exist and focus on the ones with the nice comfortable happy God promises. But I don’t think that gives a clear and honest picture of God. And if you read the story of Israel in the first half of the bible you get to see just how patient and forgiving God is with their constant adultery towards Him.

He is a good God. But He is also Holy. And Divine. And there is the sense that as much as He welcomes us as friends and even children, it is important that we remember just Who we are dealing with and show Him the respect and devotion He deserves.

Does this mean we have to live in fear that if we accidentally have a bad day and step out of line that He is going to send down a lightning bolt to take us out? Of course not. But when we are deliberately turning away and worshipping other Gods or when we are bleeding the poor [on the doorstep of the house of God] for our own gain or when we are actively deceiving the people of God for reputation, then we may need to be a little bit more careful. When we are producing teaching that is leading children astray [Matthe 18] or not looking after those who are viewed as the least of these [Matthew 25] then we had better realise once more… that yes, He is good. But He is definitely not tame. This is His story. Not ours.

He is definitely not safe for us when we are turning our back on Him and heading in the opposite direction. The stories of Jonah and King David and Peter and others demonstrate – it can be painful and involve loss and the need for humility and some extent of brokenness to have to happen within us. But when we turn back and face Him and direct our lives back towards Him, then much like the Father in the story of the prodigal son [Luke 15] He is already facing us, and heading in our direction, and running towards us and calling for the celebration to be prepared.

Safe? Nah, but then we don’t always need safe.

Good? Undoubtably.

[To read the next part of this series, titled Life backing up profession of faith, click here]

i think the first very interesting thing to note with this psalm is the intro:

‘For the director of music. A maskil  of David. When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: “David has gone to the house of Ahimelek.”’

if you read the first seven verses you see David’s response to basically ‘being told on’ and he is not amused. should we learn from that example of David and go to ourselves, ‘ah cool, so that makes it okay to rant publically about someone?’

i would suggest no. i don’t think this is a teaching passage that ends in ‘Go and do likewise!’ – but i do think we can take some kind of relief at seeing how this ‘man after God’s own heart’ still got really annoyed with people and even lost it to some extent in a public way. David lost his cool. does that mean i should lose mine? no, but it makes me feel so much better when i do. i am in good company.

we see this later with the disciples trying to get rid of the kids that ‘are bothering Jesus’, we witness this as Peter valiantly pulls out his dagger and removes the ear of one of the guards come to arrest Jesus and we have seen this in Moses smashing the tablets with the ten commandments on them because he is so pissed off by the Israelites actions.

it’s not the right way to behave… but we ‘get’ it.

and then it’s like he manages to pull himself together right at the end and finishes with a focus on God. kind of like he is saying, ‘I am mightily pissed off right now, i’m so angry, i’ve been so hard done by… but God is faithful. This too shall pass. And what does any of it really matter because i have God on my side and He is loving and faithful.

‘But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.’ [vs. 8-9]

 [To return to the Intro page and be connected to any of the other Psalms i have walked through before now, click here]

God parts the Red Sea using Moses

“Just part one ocean in front of me, once, God, and i will never doubt you again!”

that’s how i think sometimes. but a huge part of me knows it unlikely to be true. it wasn’t enuff for the Israelites [a day later they were whining about water so God made  it appear out of a rock, then it was food and God made bread appear six days a week, then it was about the fact that it was bread and so God sent meat and then finally when Moses goes up the mountain to meet with God they get tired and ask for an alternative God to worship…  [it doesn’t end well]]

but it’s a nice thought to have anyways – if God just does this big amazing impossible thing then i will believe-Him believe Him for ever and ever.

tonite, in the room of inspiration, i came up with the term ‘Pramnesia’ which i think a lot of us are inflicted with:

Pram.ne.sia

/pramˈnēZHə/

Noun

A partial or total loss of memory linked to matters relating to answered prayer.

we see or experience God answer prayer [in some small or big way] and then the next time we are faced with an obstacle or a difficult person or a huge loss, we forget completely how faithful God has been to us and either rail against Him, or forget about Him completely while we try sort the thing out in our own strength, or just completely fall to pieces.

now this becomes a ‘thing to hold in tension’ or a ‘the mystery of God piece’ when we add it to the fact that God is not a big one-armed-bandit in the sky – say the prayer, pull the leaver and instant win… sometimes God’s very real answer to prayer is “No!” and other times it might be, “Yes, but not now” and even other times it might be, “Absolutely yes, but completely not in the way you are expecting.”

another part to hold on to is this description of God in Ephesians 3.20: ‘to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,’

actually, the Message sums it up pretty well: God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.’

and therein lies the point: God is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than ALL WE CAN HOPE OR IMAGINE.

i say this a lot, but i want to encourage you to start believing that perhaps we need to start hoping or imagining bigger. or at least more consistently.

so if you have been struggling with pramnesia, then my advice is to stop it.

let the answered prayers of the past be the catalysts for the bigger prayers you are going to pray for this day – i’m not talking prosperity doctrine at all but about kingdom doctrine – His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven… or another way to look at it, ‘what this earthly kingdom would look like if God was King here.’

why not try this… for the next week, at the start of each day, pray a simple prayer inviting God to present an opportunity for you to: show Love to someone who is feeling down/speak to someone about something God has done in your life/have a conversation with someone you know by name but whose story you have never heard/highlight a person who you need to forgive or ask forgiveness from… whatever it is doesn’t matter, but pray a prayer inviting God to action in your life… and then be on the look out for the opportunity and take it.

and i’d love it if you returned here and shared some of those answered prayers once they’ve happened…

 

i attended a workshop by Brian Mclaren entitled ‘Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?’

now anyone who knows my Brian Mclaren history knows it didn’t start well – i read a book of his whose title i can’t remember but who most fans of his writing have told me is not one of his greatest books and i wasn’t that impressed – don’t even know if i finished it – at the same time i had heard some stuff about him and seen some of his statements and just generally decided that i wasn’t a big fan [or at least that there were a bunch of other writer/speaker types who were more helpful and healthy to follow back then]

then we flew to americaland and i stayed at my friend [who i met on the internet playing a silly facebook game – have made some good friends that way!] Steve Heineman’s house and he had just finished reading ‘A Generous Orthodoxy’ by Brian Mclaren and told me it was really good and so i borrowed his copy and started reading it… and really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it for hungry, open-minded Christians to read – basically he breaks down a whole bunch of labels like catholic vs protestant, pentecostal vs evangelical etc etc etc and says how he is all of them, taking a look at their strengths and weaknesses and seeing how we can learn from all of them – really took me a long time to read cos i would read a chapter and then take some days to think about it, but really a great read.

so i attended his workshop – ‘Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?’ – which is also the title of his upcoming book, with a bit of trepidation as the interfaith question makes me a little bit nervous – i do believe we can learn things from each other and that we can work together, but i don’t believe that ‘all roads lead to Rome,’ or heaven really…

and really enjoyed it. i would say i agreed with about 95% of what he said and while there was some stuff i would like to think more about and maybe have some more dialogue on i can’t say there was anything i strongly disagreed with.

here are some brief highlights but i imagine this might be a book worth checking out [they were handing out free proofreading copies but i got there too late and so hopefully i will be having a copy mailed to me sometime soon]

one thing he spoke a lot on was that Jesus never created an us vs them – he was all about showing benevolence to the other rather than hostility towards the other – reaching out to the kinds of people the religious and other leaders were encouraging Him to stay away from – and being accused of hanging out with the wrong kind of people… interesting thort.

another thing he said which describes much better what i have been trying to say with my soccer player $40 million blog post a while back was this: “if seven billion people want to live the way we live, we have a crisis.” – the system works for the rich – it is awfully tragic for the poor.

and lastly, the punchline of his book title, ‘Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?’ is “to get to the other!” which is brilliant and what i believe Jesus would be wanting us to do – in conversation, through relationships, in support and love.

oh and one last idea which i may think about more and blog about further was the idea that we have recognised and dealt with “selfishness” a lot when it comes to Christianity and how we live in the world and beyond, but something new we may need to consider needing to deal with is the idea of “Groupishness” where we do the same kind of destructive things based on who we are as groups or the church.

moses, the wind, and a staff of one

having had some cool conversations with a geneticist friend of mine (at least i think he would be called that cos he works with genes – are you a geneticist the pevin?) i find it quite exciting when science and God match up (as, according to my beliefs they always will, because i believe that God created science or at least the things that science tries to explain) – i don’t like it when people try use natural occurances to explain away God but if this is the way it happened then for it to be happening at the very moment that moses and his bunch of israelites needed it to and stopped at the precise moment they needed it to, then i am quite happy to see it as a God and science and nature thing…

http://technology.iafrica.com/science/675549.html

so kleinfrans (who isn’t so) asked me to post the 8 slash 9 oops points from last nite’s preach on joshua in my blog so here they are:

i started with deuteronomy 34 vs 10-12 dealing with the death of moses

i then read from joshua 1.1-9, 1.12-18, 2.1-21, 5.13-15 and 6.1-27

[1] don’t let the ghosts of the past cripple you – be you! [moses was described as being one of the greatest men that lived and no-one saw such powerful miracles happen again as he had performed – tough context for a new young leader like joshua to be faced with – but God didn’t want joshua to be another moses, he wanted him to be a solid joshua]

[2] meditate on the bible – ‘Be strong and very courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.’ [1.6-8]

one of the biggest shortfalls in the western church today is people not reading their bibles (and so the only bible they are exposed to is on a sunday if they are in a bible-preaching church) and people not knowing their bibles – how can we live the stuff if we don’t know what the stuff is? we need to be reading, chewing, wrestling, meditating, engaging with, living…

[3] play for the team – the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh were given land to the east of the jordan so they already had their land, but joshua calls the fighting men to join the rest of the israelites in crossing the jordan and claiming the land that was meant for them – only then could they return home and enjoy the benefit of the land that was already theirs – imagine the transformation that would happen in south africa if we refused a second jacket until everyone had one, if we refused a second meal… house… car… etc

[4] don’t look down on who God chooses to use – in the story of jericho it is rahab the prostitute who God uses to help conceal the spies and God rescues her and her family as a result – in fact all through the Bible from king shepherd boy to gideon to some of the prophets to the disciples to paul, God uses an assortment of strange unqualified people to do the work of His kingdom – and it works because God is with/in them – useless by themselves but with God unstoppable. and not just the people who God chooses to use but possibly the person He is wanting you to impact – everyone gravitates towards the cool people, the rich, the popular – but if you listen honestly it may be the lonely, the sick, the imprisoned, those with HIV, the prostitute, that He is wanting you to reach

[5] spy out the land – preparation is good, it is important to be ready. even if God is going to be working the miracle of bringing His people into the promised land and defeating jericho, it still makes sense to plan well so you can do your bit properly – so moses sends spies into the promised land and joshua sends spies into jericho – understand the context of where you are and what God has called you to. if you as a Christ-follower are not reading the newspaper or checking out a site like iafrica.com (four local headlines, four international headlines, four sports, entertainment, social headlines every day) to have an idea of what is going on in the world (miners trapped in mine, koran-burning threats by ‘pastor’, big strikes across the country) so that you can engage with people around you who generally will know what is going on and have questions and comments worth listening to

[6] recognise God when He speaks – joshua encounters an angel just before the battle and falls facedown in reverence – he recognises when God has pitched up (or sent a messenger) and acts accordingly – are we looking around in our daily lives for where God is already at work and where maybe He wants us to jump in and connect and engage?

[7] don’t look down on weird methods – the people have to march around the city for seven days playing musical instruments and then issue a loud shout – that kind of activity is frowned upon as a modern method of warfare – but when God is in it, it is going to work. gideon attacks a crazy huge army with a small group of men armed with trumpets and candles. david takes on a giant military commando with a little sling and some stones. Jesus one time spits in a man’s eyes to heal him of blindness (on another occasion He simply speaks a word and the man is healed) – and so if God tells you to do something and it seems a bit weird, then maybe it still is God

[8] honour the word you have made – the spies make a deal with rahab that if she stays silent about their whereabouts and hangs a scarlet cord from her window, she and all her family will be kept safe. one of the biggest christian lies i have experienced is “i will pray for you” – i used to say it to people a long long time ago and i used to really mean it and i used to really forget half of the time. which is not good. we need to be people of our word. Jesus goes as far as saying don’t make promises because your word should be valid enough. so if you say “yes” then it’s a yes. period. the world has a picture of christians who say one thing and then do another.

[9] worship God: ‘The city and all that is in it is to be devoted to the Lord. Omly Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.’ [6.17-19]

And so in summing up, following Jesus on a daily basis and engaging with Him and God’s kingdom is like crossing the road:

[A] Look both ways – see what God is doing – understand the context – ask God to show you where He is at work and where He wants you to be involved

[B] Listen – let God speak to you through His word, through the quiet still small voice, through other people
– invite Him to speak and then give Him space to

[C] Cross the street – do it – do the thing you need to do – and when crossing the street it is imperative that you look after those who have been placed under your care to make sure everyone crosses safely – speak, live, thrive, be the church you want to see in the world.

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