Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What God Desires for His Own In Famine

Good evening, everyone. I mean to keep this post brief, but I do wish to make good on what I said I would post on earlier about 'God's providence even in earthly things'.

Some people believe that the faithful should have little. Personally, I believe that our Heavenly Father desires that we should prosper, that we should have abundance. Why would He want this? For multiple reasons. He wants us to be happy (simple reason, that!); however, sometimes we let material goods get in the way of that, and in the way of our faithfulness and grace, in the way of our relationship with Him; in these cases, He will allow us to be humbled (I believe this may have been what happened to Israel in Egypt, in Exodus). More importantly, though, He wants us to minister unto those in need, to be a blessing to them, that we may help bring them to Him. Further, He wants His people to not only be blessed and to be a blessing to others, but He wants us to LOOK blessed, that people can see Him and His ways in us along with the blessings that go with them, and choose His ways for themselves.

As far as the Scripture references for tonight, I have only two: one from the Psalms, and one from Genesis.

First, Psalms 37 tells us about God upholding His people and doing away with evil and wickedness. The verses in particular I want to point out are Psalms 37:18-19:

The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever.
They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.

Next, let's look at what the word 'satisfied' really means here:
Hebrew/Aramaic (Old Testament):
  • saba' (the word used for satisfied here; a primitive root meaning 'to sate', 'to fill to satisfaction').
This is hardly saying that His people will only be sustained! But do we have an example of what is being described here?

I believe that we do, in Genesis 45:16-20. For backstory, read Genesis 41, which describes the events leading up to the famine; or Genesis 37 on, which shows how Joseph was sold into slavery, which ultimately led to his rising to authority in Egypt (in 41).

After Joseph reunites with his brothers, Genesis 45:16-20 writes:

And the fame thereof was heard in Pharaoh's house, saying, Joseph's brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants.
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan;
And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.
Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come.
Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.

This sounds very similar to the idea of being 'filled to satisfaction' to me, and it is certainly in the context of a famine.

One could argue that this ultimately led to the bondage of Israel in Egypt described in Exodus; however, I would tend to disagree, and would believe that an insufficiency in teaching their children to be faithful is a more likely culprit, especially when considered in the context of the troubles the people gave Moses and Aaron after their exodus.

As always, intelligent and/or non-negative feedback is welcome, in agreement or otherwise.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Choice... or, Grace and Faith, How Much is 'Enough?'

Good evening, everyone. Tonight, I am hoping to be faithful to my word in that I would write about choice (or to 'choose'), and about grace and its relation to faith and salvation. Before I do, however, I want to touch on a few things that I missed when writing about faith, itself.

  • Faith
Tonight, when reading the Bible, I noticed an important word that I missed. Going back to the original texts that the Bible is derived from...

Hebrew/Aramaic (Old Testament):
  • 'amen (Deu 27, many times; transliterated into 'Amen', from the root aman ('build up or support', 'to render or be firm or faithful') and meaning 'truly', 'firm', 'faithfulness', 'fidelity', 'so be it').
Next, a few verses of the Scriptures: first, of how to live a life of faith:

In Deuteronomy 23:23 is the instruction: "That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth."; that which you say you will do should be considered a freewill offering to God; and that which has been devoted or Given to God is not to be redeemed (Leviticus 27).

In Leviticus 5:4, "Or if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these."; if you swear to do something (in this case mentioned in a more binding fashion of swearing an oath than the prior reference), you are guilty if you do not hold to it, good or evil—here, you can be guilty even for NOT doing evil that you swore to do, all the more reason to be careful as to WHAT you give your word to!

In Numbers 30:2, "If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth."; here shows that sworn oaths are bound to the soul; as such, breaking your word does you harm! I would say that it does you harm by devaluing faith by encouraging you to believe that breaking your word is an acceptable practice.

And lastly, the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, 6:46-49, on people who are not faithful to their professions (i.e. what they say, who or what they attribute their allegiances to): "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like:
He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.
But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great."; if you're going to call yourself Christian, find being faithful important! Consider the similarity between the Hebrew kuwn in Psalms 5:9 'to be firm, be stable, be established' and the description here of a house founded on a rock that cannot be shaken by the flood!

  • Grace (and Approval)
Last post, I said I hoped to address grace, and my view of it as the 'minimum faith'. This view comes from the perspective that there shall be no sin after the putting away of the faithless (as depicted in the Revelation).

Why then is grace a minimum? Consider it from a purely mechanical side. People must have grace for each other to avoid sinning against each other in judgment, heresy (disunion), and general disapproval (see 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 for an example of Paul rebuking the church at Corinth for some of this problem).

How then is grace faith? What meaning is there in grace but for grace to be consistent, for it to be faithful! Could we truly desire a heaven where we would go and be divided amongst each other and scrutinized as we have seen here? Does that truly sound heavenly to you? Much better for us to be true to our word here, to accept each other in our weaknesses—not to accept sin! but to accept ourselves and to accept each other!—and to know that we are acceptable to others, such that in heavenly dominion we can be at peace within and without. If you people will not be consistent in grace, how can we ever have peace?

We are to be of a spirit that when we come across someone, whomever they are, that we can honor, respect, and have grace for that person, whomever they are and whatever they may have done; to show that grace, to show that spirit of approval for that person; and yet, attempting to be faithful to the standard of giving rebuke and reproof for sin. Therein lies what an important choice we must make, we must make every effort to deny approval to sin but we MUST be approving of every person. Jesus made no secret of finding grace important. This is why I believe that grace is the 'minimum faith', why I find it necessary for 'believing in Jesus' and for having salvation.

Similarly, when a person leads another down a wrong path knowingly, or even watches another go down a wrong path when they believe they can warn them from it and, instead, stands idly by, is no less guilty than the person going down the wrong path; and possibly moreso, since they admit, at least to themselves, that they know better. The Bible refers to this as 'sinning in ignorance' as well as in other ways; I am unable to find the reference at this time, but I believe it also refers to such an idle witness as having the 'blood' of the sinner 'on their hands'.

Any one of us that finds agreeable that any other person be isolated, separated, lost in sin, cut off, or generally disapproved of, still needs to find it in themselves to ask God to help them make more perfect their grace.

God would that all were faithful, and that we would all have sufficient grace—I know that I myself still have come up short in both areas, and would be surprised, hopefully pleasantly, to find someone walking this earth who did not—so, we all need to have grace... in part, because we all need grace, Amen.

  • Choice
Finally, the issue of choice.

I am one person of the philosophy that the one and only thing that God has given to us completely and entirely is our choice. Further, I believe that our choice is all that we truly are; in essence, the original gift (see earlier post: Salvation and Holiness by the Lake of Fire?).

Everything else is a loan, a stewardship, a responsibility; still His but in our care. All that God has given us (choice) or entrusted us with (everything else), we can reap the benefits of, if, and only if, we will be a good steward, a good caretaker of it.

In my last post, I got down into the meaning of faith; I summarized it as "how much you allow yourself to be trusted, both by others AND by yourself." Faith is how trustworthy you are, how consistent you will be. Faith is how much you honor and respect your choice, to make your choices and stick with them.

As such, faithlessness is being untrustworthy. Faithlessness is to be wishy-washy, to waffle, to hesitate, to be indecisive. Faithlessness is to despise your choice.

If choice is the single gift that we have received, if choice is all that we ARE, then when we despise our choice by denying faith, by being faithless, we are saying we despise our own existence.

If the faithless then testify to despise their own existence—to not care for it, to not even desire to take it or to use it—then when judgment comes, God is completely justified in giving them what they want; to allow the faithless to cease to exist. This I believe to be the unfortunate end awaiting those who go to judgment without using their choice to be faithful in having grace.

In my coming posts, I hope to address issues like God's providence even in earthly things (how I believe God has said time and time again that he is NOT a God of lack, but of abundance), and of how we can put God back into our words and choose to use our mouths to call the blessings rather than curses.

As always, intelligent and/or non-negative feedback is welcome, in agreement or otherwise.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What Is Faith, and Why Is It Important?

This evening, I feel called to write about something relatively basic and foundational to Christianity — faith. I'm going to attempt to talk about aspects of faith that I don't see made clear often; what it is, why it's important; and, also, some Biblical examples of it in action.

  • What is faith?
Some appear to see it as some miraculous thing, full of mystery and, in some cases, power. Some appear to pay little mind to it.

I will state simply that faith is how much you allow yourself to be trusted, both by others AND by yourself. If one makes commitments or have obligations and does not meet them, it is difficult for people to trust them. If one lies to others, it is difficult for people to trust them. Perhaps more importantly, if one lies to themselves, it is difficult for them to trust their own self. How does one make commitments they cannot or will not keep, and how does take on the weighty burden of speaking falsely without deceiving themselves first to think it will be 'easier' or somehow 'better'?

  • Why is it important?
If you do not show an example that can be trusted, then people will not trust you. Sadly, we have seen this much and for a long time. Many of us have not trusted at least some of: parents or children; husbands or wives; other relatives; co-workers or classmates; customers; employers and employees; those in any positions of authority or office (including but not limited to government and media); even those who we call 'friends'. With this as common as it has been, how can we wonder when we have looked for strife and confusion we have had no trouble finding it? If we truly desire to change things to be better than they have been, we must face in any way when we are part of the problem and deal with it.

Luke 12:26 shows Jesus saying, "If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?" In Luke 16:10, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much."

We cannot just 'want' faith, we have to realize that it is essential and that we must choose it, both in the large and the small.

I use the word 'choose' for a very specific reason that I elaborate on in a later post, "Choice... or, Grace and Faith, How Much is 'Enough?'".

  • Examples of Faith
Hebrews 10:38-11:34 summarizes many examples of faith. In many cases in the gospels when Jesus is reported to have been in the presence of healings, he attributed it to the faith of the one healed (Luke 7:50, 8:48, 17:19, 18:42) or, in a couple of cases, to one not healed but asking for the healing for another (Matt 15:28, Luke 7:9).

When Jesus is walking on water (Matt 14:25-32) he calls Peter to come to him (Peter had asked him to do so), after which Peter does. Peter then 'saw the wind boisterous', became afraid and began to sink. Jesus rebukes him for being 'of little faith' (Greek: oligopistos, see below) and doubting (Greek: distazo, to 'waver (in opinion)'; hence, not being stable, established, and faithful in his choice of opinion.

Matthew 17:20 shows Jesus saying of faith after casting out a demon, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."; and in Matthew 21:21 after cursing a fig tree to wither, "If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done." However, Matthew 17:15-20 have Jesus revealing that faithlessness (apistia, see below) is disempowering!

The Bible shows numerous other occasions of seeming miraculous happenstance which I would find easily attributed to faith.
  • Moses believed and was faithful to God, and God used him to liberate Israel from Egypt and to lead them for years.
  • There are numerous occurrences of how God similarly used Elijah: a severe drought that he called (1 Kings 17); being sustained first by food brought by ravens, then by a 'barrel of meal' and 'cruse of oil' that would not waste or fail (1 Kings 17); the raising of a dead son (1 Kings 17); the consuming by fire from above of an altar of stones and a sacrifice saturated with water surrounded by a trench of water after which no water remained of it (1 Kings 18:30-38); and Elijah being protected from prideful men sent to seize him by fire from heaven (2 K ings 1:7-15).
  • In the garden when Jesus was to be betrayed and taken (John 18:3-9), Jesus is initially protected from them such that he can assure that those with him are allowed to go safely.

  • What is faith? - A Foundation in Scripture

If we look at the original texts that the Bible is derived from, words translated into faith, faithfulness, etc., include:

Hebrew/Aramaic (Old Testament):
  • aman (Num 12:7, Deu 7:9, etc.; translated into 'faithful', and meaning 'to build up or support', 'to render or be firm or faithful', 'to trust or believe');
  • emuwn (Deu 32:20; translated into 'faith' and meaning 'faithfulness', 'trustworthiness');
  • emuwnah (1 Sam 26:23; translated into 'faithfulness' or 'faithfully' and meaning 'firmness' or 'fidelity');
  • emeth (Neh 7:2; translated into 'faithful' and meaning 'stability', 'trustworthiness', 'firmness');
  • kuwn (Psa 5:9; translated into ''faithfulness' and meaning 'to be firm, be stable, be established');
Greek (New Testament):
  • pistis (Matt 8:10; translated into 'faith' and meaning 'conviction of the truth of anything', 'belief', or 'fidelity', 'faithfulness', 'the character of one who can be relied on');
  • pistos (Matt 24:45; translated into 'faithful' and meaning 'trusty', 'faithful', 'worthy of trust', 'that can be relied on');
  • oligopistos (Matt 6:30; translated into 'of little faith' from oligos 'little' and pistis or perhaps pistos);
  • apistos (Matt 17:17; translated into 'faithless' from a (the negative particle; e.g. atheism is the negative/absence of theism, belief in one or more divinities or deities) and pistos, hence the negative/absence of being 'faithful' or 'worthy of trust');
  • apistia (Matt 17:20; translated into 'unbelief' and meaning 'unfaithfulness', 'weakness of faith', from apistos);
  • elpis (Heb 10:23; translated into 'faith' and meaning 'anticipation' 'usually with pleasure' (as in 'hope') but can also mean 'fear').
Note that in almost every case (except the case of elpis, 'hope'), the meaning is 'fidelity', 'trustworthiness', 'stability', or some variant thereof.

Also, on the contrast, 'adultery' can be seen to be symbolic of general faithlessness; the Hebrew na'aph used can mean idolatry (as a betrayal of God) as well as carnal adultery (a betrayal of spouse); both of which are faithlessness where the adulterer has a commitment to someone and is being faithless by dishonoring that commitment (also see prior post, "Salvation and Holiness by the Lake of Fire?").

  • Closing
In summary, I will reiterate what I stated earlier: We cannot just 'want' faith, we have to realize what it is and that it is essential and that we must choose it, both in the large and the small. I believe, in Deuteronomy 8:3 and Matthew 4:4, that 'every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God' IS faith, and as such it IS essential for us to live.

In my coming posts, I hope to address choice, and how the existence of choice and what we do with it justifies God and as well as how he intends to deal with us in judgment; as well as grace, how and why I see it as the 'minimum faith' that must be attained for 'believing in Jesus' and for having salvation.

As always, intelligent and/or non-negative feedback is welcome, in agreement or otherwise.