God’s Spirit implants His standards

We must learn to faithfully listen to the Word of God – for as we do, God’s Spirit will enlighten us —

 Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.[b] – Romans 12:2

The Spirit uses the Word in this way to bring individuals and communities to Christian maturity.

The role of culture and community in conditioning our understanding of sin is seen in Romans 14.  In the Roman church some people were vegetarians because they had formerly worshiped idols by eating sacrificed meat.

Paul responded that it is not the act itself that is important, but the underlying character of one’s relationship with God.  A person must do what he or she believes is pleasing to God.  Different people will choose to take different and maybe even opposite actions to please God.  This is why Paul taught that it is wrong to be contemptuous of those who follow rules that seem irrelevant to us; we should not feel more spiritual than those who don’t follow our own ideals of Christian behaviour.  Put another way, each of us is answerable to God.

Instead of teaching biblical principles, the human tendency is to substitute rules about foods, ceremonies, rituals, times and places.  Paul responds —

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. – Romans 14:17-18

As more and more people become believers, a non-national missionary can help the group to discover God’s will for them and of course a national missionary has no difficulty at all.  They will both direct new believers to the Word of God where they will work out their salvation —

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling – Philippians 2:12

 

 

God’s Love Washes and Renews

THE CHRISTIAN CONFESSION OF FAITH

 

Conspicuously foreign

Outside of scripture, it seems that God’s general revelation is the source of redemptive analogies worldwide.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And the expanse [of heaven] is declaring the work of His hands. 
Day after day pours forth speech,
And night after night reveals knowledge. 
There is no speech, nor are there [spoken] words [from the stars];
Their voice is not heard. 
Yet their voice [in quiet evidence] has gone out through all the earth,
Their words to the end of the world.
In them and in the heavens He has made a tent for the sun.          

Psalm 19:1-4

This belief, that people already know something about God even before they hear of either Jewish law or the Christian gospel, was a cornerstone of Paul’s theology of evangelism.

For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense. – Romans 1:20

He expressed it in a Lycaonian town called Lystra —

 In generations past He permitted all the nations to go their own ways;  yet He did not leave Himself without some witness [as evidence of Himself], in that He kept constantly doing good things and showing you kindness, and giving you rains from heaven and productive seasons, filling your hearts with food and happiness.” – Acts 14:16-17

In his famous letter to the Roman Christians —

When Gentiles, who do not have the Law [since it was given only to Jews], do [a]instinctively the things the Law requires [guided only by their conscience], they are a law to themselves, though they do not have the Law.  They show that the [b]essential requirements of the Law are written in their hearts; and their conscience [their sense of right and wrong, their moral choices] bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or perhaps defending them. – Romans 2:14-15

According to the Hebrew scholar Gleason Archer, Solomon’s statement means that humankind has a God-given ability to grasp the concept of eternity, with all of its unsettling implications for moral beings —

He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

How many will rise up in reproach of indifferent believers – let us strive to be – for our generation – those who care enough to go and tell —

The Queen of the South (the kingdom of Sheba) will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and look, something greater than Solomon is here.  The men of Nineveh will stand up [as witnesses] at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and look, something greater than Jonah is here. – Luke 11:31-32

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Exploring globalization

Isabell Ides, one of the last living links to old Indian ways on the Northwest Coast, died Wednesday, June 21, 2001 on the Makah reservation. She was 101.

Known by everyone in the small fishing village of Neah Bay simply as Isabell, this eldest of elders had more than 100 direct descendants. In this tribe that is so focused on authentically living their ancient culture, Isabell served as the matriarch of the Makah.

She was one of just a few people left who grew up speaking the Makah language. Isabell did not learn English until her teenage years, when she was sent away to a boarding school in Tacoma. There, like thousands of other native children of the time, she was punished if she was found speaking her native tongue.

But the language and culture have endured and even prospered since then, in part because of Isabell’s lifelong commitment to teach what it means to be Makah, say many at Neah Bay.

“She taught literally hundreds of people language and basketry,” said Janine Bowechop of the Makah Museum and Cultural Center. “Those were the formal things she was known for as far as cultural preservation goes. But she was probably loved by more people than anyone I’ve ever known.”

“She taught me who I was,” said her grandson Gordon Smith. “She emphasized how you should act, how you should be, how to participate in culture.”

When a fierce storm in the 1960s unearthed a centuries-old Makah village at Ozette, Isabell and other tribal elders were called upon to identify perfectly preserved artifacts that were a mystery to archaeologists.

“When they were growing up at the turn of the century, they still had some of the kind of toys that they had, had for centuries,” said Clapanhoo. The toys, he said, were a reflection that the culture was still alive.

Isabell also taught numerous outsiders what it meant to be Makah as a kind of informal ambassador for the tribe.

In the summers, Isabell would move from the village to her home on a dirt road along Tsoo-yes Beach. It is the last house, on the last road in the farthest Northwest tip of the United States. Hikers on the way to the Olympic National Park’s wilderness beaches would park in her yard and put a few dollars in the milk box on her porch. The lucky ones might spend a few minutes with her, or buy one of the baskets for which she was famous.

“She had baskets all over the world that she sold to tourists,” said Smith, who is vice chairman of the tribe.

College students would come with their professors to visit Isabell and spend the day weaving baskets while she told them Makah legends.

Isabell credited her longevity to her strong Christian faith. She was a Sunday school teacher and member of the Assembly of God church. While she sustained her spirit in the church, she sustained her body with a more native diet than most people consume.

“She kept up with eating a more traditional diet for so long,” said Bowechop. “And she taught so many people how to cut and smoke fish.”

Tribal member Bobbi Rose tells the story about the first time she tried her hand in the smokehouse. When she took the fish to Isabell, the old woman ate some and said: “Take me to your smokehouse. Your wood is too dry — it makes the fish bitter.”

Rose said that when they got to the smokehouse, “the alder was bone dry. She knew just by the taste.” – PAUL SHUKOVSKY, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

 

 

Did the basketry matter as well as her Sunday School teaching to God – how important was her ethnic heritage in the Kingdom’s big picture?

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What is God’s view of culture?

For example, is Jewish culture created by God to be imposed on everyone who follows God?  Is there some indication in Scripture that God takes a different position?  Paul articulates his approach to cultural diversity —

 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to everyone, so that I may win more [for Christ].  To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews [for Christ]; to men under the Law, [I became] as one [a]under the Law, though not being under the Law myself, so that I might win those who are under the Law.  To those who are without (outside) the Law, [I became] as one without the Law, though [I am] not without the law of God, but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.  To the [b]weak I became [as the] weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means [in any and every way] save some [by leading them to faith in Jesus Christ]. – 1 Corinthians 9:19-22

The early Christians, who were Jewish, believed everyone who comes to Jesus must also convert to Jewish culture, but God used the apostle Paul, himself a Jew, to teach his generation and ours a different approach.  We find him arguing fiercely against the majority position of the early church for the right of Gentiles to follow Jesus within their own sociocultural contexts. God Himself had shown first Peter, then Paul and Barnabas, that this was the right way, by giving the Holy Spirit to Gentiles who had not converted to Jewish culture.

But the Church has continually forgotten the lesson. We have continually reverted to the assumption that becoming Christian means becoming like us culturally.

If, then, we take a scriptural approach, we should adapt ourselves and our presentation of God’s message to the culture of the receiving people, not misrepresent God as some early Jewish Christians did by requiring that converts become like them to be acceptable to God.

When Jesus wanted to get across important points, He aimed at the worldview level.  Someone asked, “Who is my neighbour?” so He told them a story and then asked who was being neighbourly.  He was leading them to reconsider and, hopefully, change a basic value deep down in their system. – Charles Kraft

But I say to you, do not resist an evil person [who insults you or violates your rights]; but whoever [a]slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other toward him also [simply ignore insignificant insults or trivial losses and do not bother to retaliate—maintain your dignity, your self-respect, your poise].  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor (fellow man) and hate your enemy.’  “But I say to you, [a]love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:39,43-33

culture-malaysia

What is God’s view of culture?

Christianity and Culture

When Your Culture Clashes With God’s Kingdom

Christianity and Culture

Culture and The Kingdom of God

A Biblical View of Diversity

How does culture affect the way we understand Scripture?

 

Critical decision

“There is a living God.  He has spoken His word. He means just what He says and will do all that He has promised.” – J.Hudson Taylor

Rescue those who are being taken away to death,
And those who stagger to the slaughter, Oh hold them back [from their doom]! 
If you [claim ignorance and] say, “See, we did not know this,”
Does He not consider it who weighs and examines the hearts and their motives?
And does He not know it who guards your life and keeps your soul?
And will He not repay [you and] every man according to his works? – Proverbs 24:11-12

It is a solemn and most momentous truth that our every act in this present life – and our every omission too – has a direct and important bearing both on our own future welfare and on that of others.

Do not Christians often feel, and act, as though it was incumbent upon them to begin the Lord’s Prayer with, “Give us this day our daily bread;” almost concluding with, “If consistent with this, may Thy Name be hallowed too?

And is not Matthew 6:33  —

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.

practically read, even among the professed followers of Christ, seek first all these things (food and clothing, health, wealth, and comfort), and then the kingdom of God and HIs righteousness?

Seeking to press the great command of our risen Saviour – go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every one – and would point out that in the parable of our Lord, contained in Matthew 25, it was not a stranger, but a servant; not an immoral, but an unprofitable one who was to be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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The entrance

We see the gradual but irresistible power of God re-conquering and redeeming His fallen creation through the giving of His own Son at the very centre of the 4000-year period beginning in 2000 BC.  This is tersely summed up —

The one who practices sin [separating himself from God, and offending Him by acts of disobedience, indifference, or rebellion] is of the devil [and takes his inner character and moral values from him, not God]; for the devil has sinned and violated God’s law from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.                1 John 3:8

There is a single ten-epoch 4,000 year unfolding story, the theme that links all ten epochs is the grace of God intervening ….

We know [for a fact] that we are of God, and the whole world [around us] lies in the power of the evil one [opposing God and His precepts].         1 John 5:19

… contesting an enemy who temporarily is …

among them the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving to prevent them from seeing the illuminating light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:4

… so that the nations will praise God’s name.

 

 

 

Your Kingdom Come

The Kingdom of God and the Mission of God

 

 

Latter days

We cannot forget the possibility and the promise of revival, the refreshing of the latter days of the outpouring of the Spirit promised.  That will happen right up to the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. – Billy Graham, Lausanne Congress, 1974

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The Latter Days