Monday, February 28, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 17

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we next read, “Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted and pursued the Philistines as far as the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the slain Philistines lay along the way to Shaaraim, even to Gath and Ekron. And the sons of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines and plundered their camps. Then David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his weapons in his tent.” (1 Samuel 17:50-54)

In this entry, I would like to make a simple point. We have seen that the Philistines, the enemy of the people of God, had managed to taunt and frighten the Israelites into inactivity. The inactivity was a manifestation of fear. There were things they would like to have done to the Philistines but refrained due to fear, uncertainty and insecurity. They needed a true leader, a hero. David assumed that role. Against significant odds, David faced an opponent to whom most people expected him to lose. David prevailed! Not until David had defeated the Philistine champion did the rest of the Israelite army act upon their desire to engage and defeat the foe. Preceding this bold move was ridicule and accompanying this effort was great risk. David’s victory over Goliath served to inspire the rest of the troupes into action and opened the door to further victory. Each generation and culture needs such leaders and heroes, men and women who can see the enemy properly, have a vision for victory and boldness to engage the opposition. We desperately need such men and women today.

“Who will stand up for me against evildoers? Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?” (Psalm 94:16, NASB)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 16

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we next read, “Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.’ Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground. Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.”

Though it is clear that this is a historical account of a physical encounter between David and Goliath, in approaching this text metaphorically, I would like to emphasize that we are engaged, not in physical battles, but ideological battles, a struggle over ideas that shape and mold life on planet earth. This being said, I would like to assume intellectual liberty in reference to the significance of striking Goliath in the head in the process of defeating him and then, removing his head with his own sword.

There is an interesting relationship between our hearts and our heads. In order to commit oneself to something (heart) we have to have a perspective of it that is appealing, we have to think of it as being valuable or meaningful (head). Those who actively formulate, seek to understand or advocate certain ideological positions in order to influence society, must engage in significant mental activity. There is a reciprocal relationship between the heart and the head. As one gains enough information to resolve the importance of something, they eventually make a commitment of heart that leads to further intellectual activity to better understand that to which one has made a commitment. We then shape our lives around such things and eventually attempt to influence or teach other. We can see this pattern in Ezra 7:10. “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Shaping culture becomes a matter of propagating ideas that directly or indirectly impact the lives of individuals and social structures. These are ideas about God, the origin, value and destiny of man, the rights of individuals, the nature of marriage and family, the role of religious institutions, the function of civil government, etc. In regard to such things, there are Biblical principles with which Christians should be familiar and of which the church should be a proponent. It is at this level that we aim for and attempt to remove the “head” of those in opposition to the kingdom of God. As did David, we often use the sword of the opponent to remove their head. This would involve understanding their position well enough to show its weaknesses and inconsistencies. False systems of thought are generally self-refuting, often borrowing from systems they reject and, eventually, collapse upon themselves.

In future entries I plan to address specific ideologies and demonstrate how this is often the case. Unlike David, we do not only use the sword of the opponent but are to be equipped with our own sword as well.

"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:17, NASB)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 15

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we next read, “Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.’ Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground. Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.”

Let’s consider the goal God had for the nation of Israel as we put this account into perspective. A central passage for this purpose is Genesis 12, in which we read, “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

God, through all the obstacles, honoring, as much as possible, human freedom, is working toward the highest good possible. In the process of doing so, certain obstacles must be removed. How and when such removal takes place involves variables and dynamic. Not every situation is the same one-dimensional, cardboard cutout. This is one account, among many, of how God and His people might deal with opposition and obstacles that stand in the way of ultimately providing genuine blessing for all people and all nations. We might consider how the account of Jonah’s visit to Nineveh unfolded (not to be developed here) as a considerably different account. In the Genesis 12 passage (as in Dt.27-28), it is clear that there are two main options, blessing and curse. God clearly states in Jeremiah 18 that He will build up or tear down and that choosing one or the other is a dynamic situation. As people and nations repent of their rebellion and resistance to God’s goal of blessing, He will work to build them up. As people and nations persist in the rebellion and resistance to God’s goal of blessing, He will tear them down, remove the obstacle in some appropriate manner.

It is my observation that people generally want a one-dimensional system in which there is only one easily categorized way of proceeding. Once again, we face the idea of “both/and” and / or “either/or”. We cannot afford to have merely one simplistic approach, always tearing down or always building up. There are times to be merciful and times to be strict, times to be kind and times to be severe.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven — A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build up. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing. A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep, and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NASB)

More on this in my next entry.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 14

“Then the Philistine came on and approached David, with the shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine also said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. “This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”

Goliath was a formidable enemy. Add to this impressive figure a shield-bearer and the odds of victory would seem to diminish. There are people in “high places” with impressive resources, seemingly untouchable, working contrary to the kingdom of God. Such people might tend to follow the example of Goliath as they look with disdain upon the pitiful little Christian people who have some sort of fairy tale existence and unattainable, backward agenda. There are many people in influential positions who are quite confident that their humanistic, secularized version of advancement will grow into an impervious utopia. I am confident that God’s design for social structure is superior to the manmade ideologies that often prevail for a time. The fact is that those who are resisting the ways of God are fighting against that which is best. Unfortunately, they must be removed, not in an attitude of hatred but out of a motivation of true love, Charles Finney insightfully stated that, “It is impossible that love to the whole should not manifest severity and indignation to the part which rebels against the interests of the whole.” I end with a wonderful Old Testament statement from the prophet Isaiah.

“Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war." (Isaiah 2:2-4, NASB)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 13

“And he took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.”

David chose resources with which he was familiar. These resources would appear unimpressive and insufficient for the task ahead but we must recall that David had placed his trust in the power and presence of the God he served. Here we have another case of “both / and”. We must equip and familiarize ourselves with resources associated with the arena in which we operate while trusting that the God who can feed over five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish (Mt.14:17), the God who increases the resources in our possession, will show Himself strong on our behalf (2 Chron.16:9). David then took action by approaching Goliath. This was bold, active, aggressive behavior. I have observed that some Christians foster and assumption that there is something spiritually admirable about being passive, that it is somehow associated with holiness. It is generally confused with the idea of waiting on the Lord. As well, it is fed by certain theological assumptions about the nature of sovereignty (a topic I will not currently approach). I would encourage the approach of actively seeking God’s guidance and actively obeying God’s objective and subjective revelation. This is not to say that there are not times of rest and “inactivity” of sorts. God is a good Father to His children. As we serve Him as an expression of love and trust, we can trust that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He is a good Father whose servants have “more than enough bread” (Lk.15:17). A final comment on approaching Goliath will position us for y next blog entry. This bold endeavor opened David to considerable slander and insult from his opponent. Are we ready to face the giants of our culture that are holding massive sectors of society in captivity?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 12

My pattern, in these posts, has been to place the passage in reference at the front of the article followed by a small reflection. Today, as I read the passage below, a number of things struck me. Therefore, I will make a few comments and encourage the reader to think about them as they read the passage that follows.

The reality of that which is recorded here is quite shocking. It is not likely that a graphic portrayal prepared by a good moviemaker would be played during the Sunday morning service of most churches. This is extremely aggressive behavior on the part of “ruddy…handsome” David. Not condoning physical violence of this sort and understanding that this is an account of wartime behavior (though David was not a soldier), the type of conviction it takes to proceed in this manner is commendable. Again, I emphasize, this is very aggressive behavior. The focus of this series is the ideological battle we face in our culture as representatives of Biblical Christianity. Do we commonly see, or even support, the type of intensity represented in this passage as we face the ideological giants that destroy nations? I recently read a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that read, “Justice at its best...is love correcting everything that stands against love.” A concern, still vague and not totally formulated, that I have about the spirit of postmodernity is that, though there are legitimate features, as in all such “movements”, there is a tendency to weaken conviction in the proponent thereof. It has been said that the problem with a half-truth is that most people get hold of the wrong half. Pluralism and relativism, in the name of love, embraces that which destroys love. What do we stand for? What is truly worth living for? For what are you willing to die? Have we become so homogenized that we can no longer identify what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil? Can we even distinguish and identify the giants we are to battle?

"(David) took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine. Then the Philistine came on and approached David, with the shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance. And the Philistine said to David, 'Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?' And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine also said to David, 'Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.' Then David said to the Philistine, 'You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.' Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground. Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted and pursued the Philistines as far as the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the slain Philistines lay along the way to Shaaraim, even to Gath and Ekron. And the sons of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines and plundered their camps. Then David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his weapons in his tent. Now when Saul saw David going out against the Philistine, he said to Abner the commander of the army, 'Abner, whose son is this young man?' And Abner said, 'By your life, O king, I do not know.' And the king said, 'You inquire whose son the youth is.' So when David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the Philistine’s head in his hand. And Saul said to him, 'Whose son are you, young man?' And David answered, 'I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.'"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 11

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we next read, “…David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the Lord be with you.’ Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor. And David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, ‘I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ And David took them off. And he took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.”

David recognized the appropriateness of including and relying upon the Lord in this huge endeavor he was about to undertake. Saul, after discouraging David’s decision to face Goliath, yielded by saying, “Go, and may the Lord be with you.” Having the power, presence and provision of the Lord as our source of strength is crucial. As I’ve emphasized previously, this does not exclude employing our God-given human capabilities. We are not faced with an “either/or” situation but are to find the appropriate “both/and” balance. Let me suggest that, though Saul said, “may the Lord be with you”, he was inclined to rely upon his armor. I could take time to formulate a list of things we tend to rely upon over and above the Lord but I’ll allow you to formulate your own. It is often the case that we can say the right thing but operate in a contrary manner. David, however, found Saul’s armor to be too cumbersome. Again, in a previous post I mentioned that Paul encourages us to put on the armor of God consisting of truth, righteousness, taking good news wherever you go, faith, salvation, the Word of God and prayer.

Next, David chooses five smooth stones for his sling. I am not going to speculate on the meaning of smooth stones or the significance of the number five. I will simply say that we should have a plan and preparation for the battle in which we engage. Five stones and a sling seem insufficient for the task David was about to undertake but in his skillful hand, together with the Lord, it proved effective. As we walk by the Spirit, receiving training in righteousness from the Word of God and gain understanding about the opposing army and its strategy, we might not always seem to have the preparation that conforms to the standards of this world but God can multiply our efforts and resources as we exercise faith in Him.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 10

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we next read, “…David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’”

This would seem to be key. Our ultimate reliance must be upon God and His resources. This does not exclude proper training and preparation. This is not to be seen as a passive reliance upon supernatural, miraculous intervention. This is likely another occasion of Both And, and / or, Either Or. We are not moving to an Either Or extreme in either direction. We do not solely rely on human preparation without power from on high, nor do we avoid training, learning, thinking, preparing and obedient action, relying only upon miraculous intervention. In some measure, reliance upon God involves engaging in efforts encouraged or commanded in His Word. As we study and train to become equipped, putting on the armor of God, as we go forth to advance the kingdom of God, we trust that He is present, operating in ways that are greater than our ways but do not purely exclude, overlook or excuse our ways. Notice that David had previously acted to protect the flock entrusted to him from “the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear”. Let’s attempt to appreciate the balance we see in this and similar statements. David did not “sit back” and wait for God to deliver the sheep from the lion and the bear, he did not anticipate God defeating Goliath, he trusted that as he went forth to do what was needed and what was right, God would deliver him from the lion, the bear and from Goliath.

"But the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, in order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (2 Ti.4:17-18)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 9

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we next read, “…David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’”

David appears to be the most unexpected character to step forth in this manner. Notice, while this account states, on a number of occasions, that the army responded in fear, we read that David responded by saying, “…who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” This has something to do with perspective, the way one screens what one observes. David allowed his concern for God’s reputation and the reputation of His people to set the stage. In the ever present ideological battle that shapes significant dimensions of the world in which we live, we need to learn from David. Too often we allow fear or the question, “who am I?” to set the stage for our approach. In the eyes of those in this account, David was no one. When David’s brother heard of David’s response we read, “…Eliab’s anger burned against David”. Saul responded by saying, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.” These are not the eyes with which we should be concerned. Rather, we should realize that, “…the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chron.16:9) I am not suggesting that we go forth thoughtlessly or unprepared, but we should not allow the above thoughts to prevent us from becoming equipped to engage the "giants".

"Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." (Psalm 94:16-19, NIV)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 8

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we next read, “…the Philistine came forward morning and evening for forty days, and took his stand.”

In this ideological interchange, and especially as our culture has “evolved” into a more heathen mentality, we find an ongoing assault against the Creator, His moral order and those who choose to align themselves with Him. This is especially evident in the slanted, biased reporting of a large percentage of the news media and the influence of the entertainment industry. Both are quite influential in shaping the minds of those inclined to follow their tendency to involuntarily swallow that which they are spoon-fed.

“As he (David) was talking with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine from Gath named Goliath, was coming up from the army of the Philistines, and he spoke these same words; and David heard them. When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid.”

Once again, we see the army showing that they are governed by their fear of this “giant”. The worse thing the people of God can do is run and hide from the ideological challenges we face. As I’ve stated in a previous entry, we must be familiar with the principles and truths communicated in Scripture but we are not to “hide behind” Scripture and excuse ourselves from being familiar the thoughts and ideas present in other sources. We must learn to think and analyze as we prepare to be the pillar and support of the truth. To say the least, in the midst of the vast number of ministries we need to engage in as the body of Christ, we must not overlook the importance of equipping, encouraging, supporting and sending forth those, among the ranks, who can function well in such a capacity. Not only can such individuals effectively guard against the attacks being waged against God’s kingdom, but they can help sharpen the and equip each of us to be better able to give a reason for the hope that is within us.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 7

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we next read, “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”

The Philistines sent out their “giant” to taunt the army of the Living God, which produced the above response. Could it be that the church has often responded in a similar manner when it comes to facing the “giants” that capture the heart, soul and mind of our culture? I recall Francis Schaeffer stating to a large congregation that prayer was removed from our educational system and abortion was legalized in the lifetime of most of the people present. He went on to ask, “Where were the members of our educational, legal and medical community when these shifts were taking place?” Could it be fear of marring our reputation, fear of losing our jobs, fear of being defeated, fear of losing money, etc. that lies behind an unwillingness to face the “giants” of our age? Surely this is one of the factors and one that leads to inactivity that allows opposing forces to take ground that is not theirs to have. In 1 Peter 5:8 we read, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." A lion roars in order to freeze its prey in fear long enough to pounce. We are also told, in 2 Timothy 1:7 that, "…God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Yes, it might be costly to step forth, walk in the power of God and, out of love, intelligently face the “giants” of our age. In fact, Jesus indicated that it would be necessary to count the cost if we were to become His followers. “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace. So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:28-35, NASB)

Is it possible that we have redefined Christianity and underestimate our God-given task of being stewards, guardians and watchmen of His world?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 6

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we next read, “Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was clothed with scale-armor which weighed five thousand shekels of bronze. He also had bronze greaves on his legs and a bronze javelin slung between his shoulders. And the shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron; his shield-carrier also walked before him. And he stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, and said to them, ‘Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us.’ Again the Philistine said, ‘I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.’”

In the previous entry, I emphasized that there are “sides”, there is a battle raging over what actually and ultimately belongs to God. In the passage above, as we see Goliath step forth, we can reflect upon the fact that each ideology sends forth its “giants” to represent it. These giants are clad in their necessary and appropriate “armor”, toting their necessary offensive and defensive equipment. Paul instructs the people of God to do the same. He compares the armor with such things as truth, righteousness, taking good news wherever you go, faith, salvation, the Word of God and prayer. Recently 111,000,000 people watch two teams clad in football armor attempt to move a little leather ball back and forth on a field. I can guarantee you that each of these teams and the coaching staff had watched something throughout the two week period between their previous game and Super Bowl XLV; they watched film of the opposing team. This is done in order to be as thoroughly familiar as possible with their opponent’s strategy, techniques, strengths and weaknesses. In contrast, it is often said that those training to spot counterfeit money spend most of their time studying real money. Both points are significant. A well-rounded approach involves understanding one’s own belief system as thoroughly as possible. Surely, we need to study the revelation God has given us, the playbook that reveals the principles by which we are to approach the “game”. Sadly, it is often the case that professing Christians do not do so. It is also important to identify the “giants” being sent forth and the ideology they represent. This, I would say, is rarely given attention to within the armies of the Living God. It is not as though it has been totally neglected, there are those who have studied such topics and make the information available. However, for individuals or congregations to benefit from such works, pastors, teachers and leaders must gather the troupes, emphasize the importance of equipping the saints in this fashion and encourage as many as possible to do the hard work of thinking through such information.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 5

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we next read, “…the Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them.”

Various brands of pluralism and relativism are quite dominant in our age. The appeal for peace through ignorance appears quite inviting. It will not work. Jesus clearly teaches that there will be conflict involved in birthing the kingdom of God (Mt.10:34-36, 24:4-14; Lk.6:22-23; Jn.15:18). Please understand that I am not advocating physical violence. We do not advance God’s kingdom through physical death or defeat. I am, however, emphasizing that we cannot afford to pretend that we all mystically and euphorically stand on the same mountain. There are “sides” in this ideological battle. There is right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and bad. Francis Schaeffer emphasized the importance of maintaining thesis and antithesis. I would encourage everyone to become familiar with his teaching on this issue. There are opposing ideas. A is not non-A. I realize that most people do not care. That’s part of the problem. I also realize that there is something shy of a movement among the youth culture that is erasing the lines of distinction, that is simply attempting to fill in “the valley between them”. Homogenization might be good for milk (and that’s even questionable) but it is not the answer to the ideological battles that are raging. Mahatma Gandhi seemed to think this was the answer as he is reported to have said, “I am a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Jew.” Before I finish with a quotation from the book of Isaiah I want to point out that God, who has revealed Himself in Scripture, is, has and will share that which is genuine, real and true while the very effective ploy of Satan is to cleverly disguise a counterfeit in a very appealing costume for the na├»ve to don. Ignoring of distinctions, homogenizing, embracing pluralism, leveling mountains or filling in valleys might seem like the way to produce peace but this is a counterfeit. There is a mountain that is distinct from all mountains and if we take the aforementioned approach (the increasingly popular erasing of lines of distinction) there is no mountain to invite others to live upon.

“Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.” (Isaiah 2:2-4, NASB)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 4

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we next read, “…Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and camped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array to encounter the Philistines.”

Saul and his army looked the part, they had the right outward appearance, coming out to meet the Philistines in “battle array”. As the account unfolds, however, we are told that with all of their military appearance, “they were dismayed and greatly afraid” as they were taunted by one huge opponent.

Could it be that the people of God today, the church, looks the part but is all too often unprepared to face the giants of our culture? Could it be that with all of the impressive appearance, we are often unaware of the damage the giants who taunt the people of God are doing in our culture and in the nations? Could it be that the arenas in which thousands gather for self-satisfying, emotionally uplifting experiences are not fully equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to battle the giants? The mission of the church is multi-faceted. Different people will focus on different types and levels of ministry. There are those who do what they do well. Many important things get accomplished. The question I raise concerns the ability of the church to recognize and defeat the giants who are effectively instrumental in shaping our culture. Giants who, at times, manage to sculpt out a culture that is simply contrary to Biblical principle and, at times, more aggressively promote an anti-Christian agenda. Do I anticipate that every Christian will be equipped to fight this battle? I do not. But, as the corporate body of believers, I do believe we need to give greater and more effective attention to raising up, supporting and sending those who can go forth to be effective in this extremely important ministry. Unfortunately, the need for and importance of such ministry seems to be nearly unrecognized in the “popular” church. I recently asked a group of about fifty Christian men and women if they had ever heard of Jacques Derrida or Michel Foucault. None had ever heard of them. My only point is to question why, in the thousands of sermons and teachings to which they have been exposed, was there not one reference to the influence such men are having upon our society. Darrow Miller has stated that we are ruled by dead men. The influences exercised by Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and others have significantly shaped the thinking of college professors, politicians, scientists and other important professionals. While the army of God is often “dismayed and greatly afraid”, we desperately need Davids who can declare, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” as they actively go forth with the seemingly insufficiant slings and stones that the Lord will use in ways that are beyond popular expectation.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 3

Using the historical account recorded in 1 Samuel 17 as a metaphor for the cultural battles raging in the nations we begin by reading, "Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and they were gathered at Socoh which belongs to Judah…”

Isn’t it interesting that the battles (referring here to ideological battles) that take place are on God’s turf. God is willing to share this turf with His children. He is even secure enough to allow others to make bold efforts to pick fights with Him and His people on His turf. The number of applications available is tremendous. Much like the prodigal son, people take what belongs to the Father and, in a dishonoring, insulting manner, wastefully commence to use it to promote destruction in a variety of creative and not so creative ways. The minds we use to engage in our ideological battles are minds given to us by the Father. How great the number of people who use their God-given minds in a dishonoring, insulting manner, denying His existence, suppressing His truth and formulating strategies for carrying out mutiny. Consider, for example, the statement of the Darwinian Goliath Richard Dawkins as he wrote, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (The God Delusion). Consider the “fruit” such a naturalistic-macro-evolutionary ideology will position man to produce. Each person, his or her soul, mind, body, the nations, all the earth and the universe our little planet is part of belongs to God. Incredibly, God is willing to share truth designed to promote life, blessing and prosperity in the nations. This truth we must humbly receive and act upon. Those who “gathered everything and (go) on a journey into a distant country” (Lk.15:13), who take their mental abilities and formulate ideologies contrary to the principles of God’s kingdom, will eventually find themselves (and those who embrace their ideologies) “to be in need” (Lk.15:14). There is a wisdom which makes us fools and beggars (Ro.1:22, 1 Co.1:20; 3:19-20, Lk.15:15) when, in fact, God is willing to share truth and understanding that is only intended to bless us and, in the most beautiful and proper way possible, increase our freedom (Dt.29:29, Amos 3:7, Jn.8:31-32, 2 Ti.3:16-17).

It is time for the church to nurture, equip and send forth our “Davids” into every social sphere and institution, armed with the slings and stones needed to destroy speculations raised up against the knowledge of God.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 2

As we begin to look at the account of David’s encounter with Goliath and use it as a metaphor for facing the “giants” in our age and our culture that “taunt the armies of the living God”, I first emphasize that, unlike the account of David and Goliath, we are not interested in literally killing our enemies. There have been and still are ideologies that encourage such an approach. Christianity is not among them. I will go a step further and suggest that if this endeavor is not accompanied by a spirit (or Spirit) of love, we are not advancing the kingdom of God at all. Though we recognize the need to destroy speculations that are raised up against a knowledge of God, there is no need to hate the individuals that entertain such speculations. It might be appropriate to operate out of an aggressive urgency, but not out of hatred. The “battle” we are engaging in is a battle of ideas. Having emphasized that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (as was David’s) but is a struggle of ideas that will produce, either, good “fruit” (the fruit of God’s kingdom) or bad “fruit” in our material world, I next emphasize that the ideas in question have a spiritual foundation. Paul states, “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly place.” His solution to this challenge involves such things as truth, righteousness, taking good news wherever you go, faith, salvation, the Word of God (truth again) and prayer. As we proceed to analyze 1 Samuel 17 and consider the task of “slaying giants” I ask that you keep these things in mind.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Slaying Giants - Entry 1

Over the next number of days / weeks (hopefully not months), I plan to use 1 Samuel 17 as the backdrop to discuss the need for each generation of Christians to be aware of the “giants” we face, the “uncircumcised Philistines” that taunt God, His people and His kingdom. Though I rarely approach Scripture in this manner, I will use this passage as a metaphor for the battle we face as we identify the ideologies, philosophies and worldviews that capture and distort the minds of our culture and of the nations. I am convinced that God wants to bless, not only individuals but also nations (the corporate, social relationships between individuals, the social structures and networks of individuals). As I prepare to refer to a passage penned by the apostle Paul, let me make the point that we have had a tendency, within Christianity, to reduce our thinking to the level of how things apply to us as individuals. Surely, the Good News has tremendous application on this level, but we must be careful that we do not overlook the fact that the truth of God is intended to go beyond individual blessing and transformation and bring restoration and reformation on the level of our social structures and institutions. Consequently, as one example, as we consider the issue of economics we could properly identify Karl Marx and Marxism as a Goliath taunting the people of God. This is a political / economic system contrary to the principles of Scripture. As such, it is incapable of blessing the nations that embrace and employ its ideas. Therefore, when we read Paul’s statement from 2 Corinthians 10:3-7, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we”, we should think, not only of the personal application (controlling selfish, greedy, lustful thoughts) but of the corporate, social, national, ideological application. We must be able to identify the “speculations…raised up against the knowledge of God” (Darwinism being a huge one) and strategize ways to destroy them in order to bless the nations and set them free from the bondage created by false ideologies. The mission of the church has, what we can call, an Evangelistic Mandate (to reach, convert and disciple individuals) but also a Cultural Mandate (to transform the social structure that comprise nations). Finally, as I end this entry and prepare for future entries in this series, I draw attention to the commission God gave to the prophet Jeremiah. “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Nihilism with a Smile

I have become increasingly, possibly over, concerned with the shift in the ideological paradigm of those growing up in our current techno-age. It is not that technology is bad, evil, wrong or any additional imaginable negative expletive (purely for the poetry). It just seems as though something unidentifiable has been lost with all the gain. I am reminded of two statements that help explain this unexplainable explanation. One is a quote from George MacDonald who writes, “A beast does not know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast, the less he knows it”. The other is a comment made in retrospect by one who had gone through the great depression, as they reflected on the comforts and conveniences of the present and yet referred to the depression as the good ole days. All of this to say that I believe that the “postmodern lenses” that don the eyes of increased throngs of Facebookers will contribute to the production of cultural cataracts that will blur our present and darken the future of the humanity that was in the mind of God at creation. Consider the following statement from Jock McGregor in Generation X: The ‘Lost’ Generation.

“…Generation X has also been deeply influenced by the massive ideological shift taking place: the shift from Modernism to Postmodernism. Modernism, born at the Enlightenment, with its optimistic faith in progress, built on the foundations of human reason and scientific materialism and pursued through technology and humanistic endeavour, has finally fallen foul of its own arrogant assumptions. In its place we have Postmodernism, defined only by its lack of belief, its anti-ideological scepticism, its thinly veiled nihilism and its cynical use and abuse of arbitrary myths and images. Postmodernism is the product of a radical relativism - a deconstructed world with no fixed points, no absolutes, no givens - in which truth is simply defined by each individual and the ‘community’ of which they are a part. It is a ‘playful indeterminacy’ that embraces unrestrained freedom and pluralism, a limitless flux with no stability, an endless journey with no destination. A suitable outlook for a 'lost' generation.

For postmodern youth, the so-called 'objective' world is merely an arbitrary construct and so in the final analysis you are left with just your own subjective world. Holding fixed beliefs or making firm commitments is then clearly naive, all authorities are inherently corrupt and must be subverted, everything - absolutely everything - is referred to ironically, held at a critical distance in inverted commas. The logical drift of such a mentality is to nihilism and ultimately to solipsism…”.