Who and What does God use?

There is a story in 2 Kings which goes some way to answering this:

https://anoldhope.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/061df-elisha_the_prophet__image_3_sjpg2180.jpg

Death in the Pot

“38 Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these prophets.”

39 One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. 40 The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.

41 Elisha said, “Get some flour.” He put it into the pot and said, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.”

The question that struck me was: why flour? 

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Turmoil and Swords

The world is in turmoil.  There are “wars and rumors of wars” and persecution against Christians continues to reach record-breaking highs world-wide.  But the Scriptures say “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me“.  Note: “because of me”, as in Jesus, not just because we’re a pain.  We are clearly not meant to encourage persecution of ourselves, by living at peace with others as much as possible.  But how should re respond when persecuted?  We are certainly not to use “the sword” as this can defend only earthly kingdoms.  Continue reading

What Came First- The Feeling or The Doctrine?

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress, demonstrating printed pages as a storage medium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do we realise how much our feelings guide us?  Here is a very general way to not read the Bible:

1) read the text and intake via the eye into the brain what is said,

2) have a gut reaction (feeling) and say “God can’t mean that/has to mean the opposite of that”

3) arrange a logical argument with our mind that backs up our feeling, often giving it the best possible motives (“it can’t apply now”, “it stands to reason”, “that was Bible times”…)

4) re-regard the text and summarise that it is a) incomprehensible (“beyond our understanding”) or b) nonsense (“legend”, “poetry”)

The middle two steps here (heart and mind) are not wrong, but they are in the wrong place and (4) is well, how can I put this tactfully… Wrong!

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True Religion

Prayer

Prayer (Photo credit: Chris Yarzab)

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” says James 1:27 (see link for context), and there is a lot in there about not just hearing but obeying the word.  But this is easier said than done!  Recently I have been reading (on occasion) the old book A Taste of New Wine by Keith Miller.  This book is filled with a lot of wisdom from God, lived out and shared.  It is brimful of encouragement too- the author does not depict himself as perfect but points us more and more towards the perfect God.

One of the interesting points the book makes (among numerous others) is the value of spending time with God.  Just “feeling we ought to” does not inspire us to read the scriptures and really spend time talking with the Lord (oh… and listening).  Continue reading

Spiritual Warfare: Entry Points

The Christian RPG, Spiritual Warfare, features...

The Christian RPG, Spiritual Warfare, features a non-violent hero who spreads repentance by sharing holy fruit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In many wars there have been significant bridges or breaches which turn the tide of the battle and sometimes even the war.  But what of spiritual warfare?  What is dangerous and what is not?  There seems to be a lot of confusion about where the danger lies, and where the enemy is attempting to get a foothold.  Well, what does the Bible say about it?

Anger and self control

Ephesians 4:26-27 reads: “In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,and do not give the devil a foothold.”  First point: not all anger is sin (sorry star wars fans, it’s just not that simple).  If we do not get angry at (for example) massive injustice, as Jesus did when he cleared out the temple, there is something wrong!  But, we must not “sin” in our anger, so for example, if it does “lead to hate” (as the mighty Yoda says) we have clearly overstepped the mark (see 1 John 3:15).  And if we remain in a state of anger overnight, we have overdone it!  It affects our judgement and breaks up relationships.  It is OK (for example) to be angry with the actions of a misbehaving child, but not to act irrationally on that anger, nor to feed that into a seething hatred that lasts for days!  Final point: this is the kind of thing that gives the enemy a foothold.  Strategically this is a disaster.  We do not want the enemy within our walls (in our head or having influence over our soul), and as the Bible also warns us in Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”  This also hints that it is unwise to lose self-control or restraint in other areas of our life, whether it is how we spend our time (a tricky one for me in particular), or our money, or if we eat or drink too much….

Physical things

Much has been said on physical activities that are dangerous, for example any dabbling with the occult.  This is certainly true!  But I think the important distinction that must be made is that it is not the material objects that are the source of the danger: it is us.  Contrary to popular films and TV in the west, there is nothing in the Bible about evil spirits being trapped in physical objects that lack life: in one instance they go into pigs, but generally they are working through or against people.  That is not to say that we should not get rid of e.g. occult trappings or statues of idols, since it is confusing for others, and may cause them to stumble (see what is taught about food sacrificed to idols, and why we should avoid this according to 1 Corinthians 8).  The food sacrificed to idols mentioned is (I think) a useful parallel.  In 1 Corinthians 10:23-31 we find we should not raise questions of conscience about food from the “meat market”, i.e. you bought it in ignorance, not wanting idol food, and yes, someone might have mumbled some words over it but this has not changed the meat in any way, but that when we become aware of definite idol-meat, and someone else may be affected by our actions, we abstain.  This is a bit like the fact that much as I do not believe Buddha statues have any real power, I would not put one in my garden as it may cause questions from other Christians and non-believers: if I am a Christian why do I have a Buddha statue?  Who do I follow?  And their consciences would judge me, as that Corinthians passage warns!  Note again, that owning the stuff is not a good idea, but the source of the problem is us spiritual beings.  Further generalising, we would not keep a lock-pick if we had been a thief before we became a Christian, not because the lock-pick will induce us to steal, but it might tempt us and it will certainly cause questions on its discovery!

And finally

1 Corinthians 8:1 warns us “[n]ow about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.”  Just knowing things is not enough.  It’s not even very useful.  The most evil people in history knew things.  But they did not love.  The most sure-fire way to win the spiritual battles is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”  Doing that is something that pleases God, and the enemy can not use real love (though like everything he will try to twist it).

Isaiah 50-51: walking in the dark is better than the light?

Reading this (Isaiah 50:10-51:1) struck a sudden chord…

“Who among you fears the Lord

English: Bonfire Night The Saturday before the...

English: Bonfire Night The Saturday before the 5th this year. The annual fireworks and bonfire are organised by the local coastguards and funded by local donations. Recent years have seen the development of a torchlit procession culminating in the flaming torches being thrown on to the waiting pile of timber. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God.
But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment.

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
and who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were cut
and to the quarry from which you were hewn;” Continue reading