Richard Foster on Life With God #1

Last evening Linda and I went to Wyandotte – I picked up a coffee at my son Dan’s favorite java place (“The Grind”) and Linda got a Tahitian smoothie. We sat, talked, and read at Wyandotte’s riverfront park that looks over the Detroit River to Canada.

I brought Richard Foster’s Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation. What a sweet book this is! Foster says the main God-thread running through scripture is a promise followed by a question; God says to us, throughout the ages, “I am with you, will you be with Me?” Foster writes: “This dynamic is the absolute unifying center of the Bible. Every story in the Bible, no matter its twists and turns, whether the human characters are trustworthy or untrustworthy, whether the story is sad or happy, is built on this clarion call to relationship. “I am with you. Will you be with Me?”

wyandotte(Wyandotte)

As I write this I’m now thinking of Bernard Ramm’s commentary on Exodus. Ramm taught that the hermeneutical key to Exodus was the God-relationship. New Testament scholar Gordon Fee, in his massive commentary of the Holy Spirit in the letters of Paul, defines the “Holy Spirit” as “God’s Empowering Presence.”

As I read Foster last night I now only thought about how God has been and now is with me and Linda, but experienced God’s presence. This ongoing experience (some, maybe much, of which is non-discursive) is but one of the things that assures me of the reality of God.

Embryo: A Defense of Human Life

Philosopher and jurisprudential scholar Francis Beckwith’s Defending Life is the best book I’ve read re. the personhood of the conceptus. And, if you want a good read on the logical nonsense of philosophical relativism, Beckwith’s book is for you.

University of S. Carolina philosopher Robert George has written Embryo: A Defense of Human Life. Beckwith gives it a review on amazon.com. Beckwith writes:

“This book, authored by two of my favorite philosophers, is perhaps the most sophisticated and clearly written defense of embryonic personhood that has come out since the onset of the biotech revolution.

George and Tollefsen are conversant with the scientific issues as well as the deep philosophical questions of nature and personhood that percolate beneath the surface. They are also well-versed in the arguments of those with whom the disagree. One of their adversaries, Lee Silver, a colleague of George’s, is singled out for special treatment. What makes this analysis particularly enlightening is how it exposes how little care Silver takes in crafting his moral and metaphysical arguments. But Silver is not alone. This sort of philosophical negligence is symptomatic of an academic culture that churns out wonderfully smart technicians, like Silver, who have floated through their professional lives blissfully unaware of the cluster of moral and metaphysical beliefs they take for granted and make their projects possible, but for which their scientism can provide no grounding.

George and Tollefsen also critique Cartesian dualism as well as philosophical materialism, arguing for a Thomistic hylomorphism as the best account of the human person.

This is a wonderful book that should be in the library of any one who is serious about bioethics and the future of what it means to be human.”

—Francis J. Beckwith, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University. author of Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

16 Brutal Murders & Good Friday

Last evening, in our sanctuary, I was with many friends as we worshiped God and listened to the story of Jim & Sallie Collins and their time in a Christian community in Zimbabwe. Then, we had the Lord’s Supper together.

Linda and I led worship, and John Collins accompanied my guitar-playing on the violin. There were times last night when I felt so moved by God, especially as we sang about what the cross of Christ means, that I could not sing. At one point I just told everybody that I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this, so they should  just keep singing. For me, it was one of those presence-of-God moments that was tangible and manifest and experiential. I’m thinking about this now, and I am thankful for it. Thank God that he sent Jesus. Thank God for the cross.

Then Jim and Sallie shared. They did such an excellent job! And, it was hard for them. Why? Because they served together with 16 white Jesus-followers for several months together, and this group called Community of Reconciliation helped the dirt-poor Zimbabweans in the area, raising crops, collecting water in a parched land, worshiping together, holding Bible studies, and any other things.

Then one evening, during a Bible study, anti-government rebels carrying guns and grenades and AK-47s invaded. And threatened to kill them all. At one point a rebel held a gun to Sallie’s forehead. Jim and Sallie were separated from their 4-year-old son Michael. The rebels did not kill them that evening. But they vowed to come back in a year. And they did come back in a year. That’s when they killed 16 Jesus-followers, including children and babies. They killed them, not with guns, but with knives and hatchets. They tied each one’s hands behind their backs with barbed wire. Then, one by one, forcing the others to watch, the rebels hacked them to death. They threw grenades in the buildings and burnt them. One little boy escaped. And one 12-year-old girl who was forced to watch the one-by-one torturing of her family and all her friends was given a note by the murderers and told to take it to the government officials. Which she did. She and the boy are alive today.

Jim and Sallie left before this happened. They had to return to their home in Kansas City. One day they got a call and were told the horrible story.

This slaughter in Zimbabwe was international news. I’ve put one of the New York Times articles about this below.

A memorial service was held. People came from afar to honor these slain, good people, who possessed no weapons to defned themselves, which was a rarity in Zimbabwe at the time.

The day after the memorial service the rains came and filled up the dams and ponds the Community had built for the people.

Jim and Sallie shared this story last night, accompanied by many photos of the people, the Zimbabweans who were helped, the buildings and dams, and the aftermath of the killings to include a photo of a blood-spattered wall in a room where the executions were held. Then we took communion. During communion we played a tape that was made of the blacks and whites who loved Jesus with all their hearts worshiping together in their African dialect. I sat there, as did many of you last night, pondering what happened to Jesus on the Friday following the Last Supper. I thought of the Cross. Of sin defeated. Of Satan and evil and the spiritual battle we are in and the victory over evil we have in the Cross and Resurrection. I thought of death. As Paul said, now death has lost its sting.

For me last evening was a communion service I shall never forget. So today – remember the Cross. Worship God. Follow Jesus.

ZIMBABWEAN VOWS TO PUNISH KILLERS

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/11/29/world/zimbabwean-vows-to-punish-killers.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

Enos Nkala, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Home Affairs in charge of the country’s police force, today viewed the macabre scene at Olive Tree Farm near here where 8 of 16 murdered missionaries were hacked to death Thursday.

The somber Mr. Nkala stood in front of the small guest bedroom where the Christian missionaries, hands tied behind their backs, were killed by 20 anti-Government rebels.

Mr. Nkala left the room to walk among the acres of neatly tended vegetable and corn fields, commenting on the new irrigation pipes and new corrals and sheds for animals.

”This is so tragic,” he said. ”These religious people had really developed their farm, and they were working very much with the local peasants.” Helped Surrounding Peasants

He was told how the Pentecostal group, calling itself the Community of Reconciliation, held classes for the surrounding farmers. The members had allocated plots of their irrigated fields to black farmers who could keep the vegetables they grew.

”This land will never be so well cared for,” he said. ”A dark cloud of death has settled here.”

Then Mr. Nkala became angry. ”We are going to account for this,” he shouted. ”We are going to get these dissidents.”

”This Gayigusu is their leader, and he is still around here,” the Cabinet minister said, pointing to the granite hills surrounding the farm. ”Our men are out there now, all around, and we are going to get him. We want that Gayigusu, we want his head.”

Mr. Nkala’s vow of vengeance contrasted sharply with the nonviolent Christian spirit that pervaded the two homesteads, Olive Tree Farm and New Adam’s Farm, where the other missionaries were killed, about 30 miles south of Bulawayo. She Watched Helplessly

Esnath Dube, who had helped care for the children on the farms, told Mr. Nkala and other officials how she had watched helplessly as the victims were led, one by one, into the room where they were hacked to death, apparently because the rebels felt shots would alert nearby soldiers and policemen.

”They were peaceful, silent as they died,” Miss Dube said. ”They didn’t scream or cry. But I was screaming and crying. I vomited. It was awful.”

John Russell, 74 years old, had been living at New Adam’s Farm for five years but was away on vacation when the killings occurred. Two of his daughters and four of his grandchildren died.

”I don’t think I can come back here again,” he said. ”I love these farms and have been very happy here, but I just can’t come back.”

Mr. Russell said his daughters and their husbands had helped found the Community of Reconciliation to help bring Zimbabwe’s blacks and whites together after the 10-year guerrilla war to end white-minority rule.

”We all decided that we could not have armed guards and security fences to protect us from the dissidents,” he said, referring to the standard security measures taken by white farmers here. ”How could we live in a fortress and expect the people to trust in God? No, we couldn’t.” Squatters Are Denounced

Although the missionaries were highly respected by small-scale black farmers, they were not so popular among the poorest of the poor, the landless people forced by the shortage of land and the current drought to become squatters on the land of others.

”I hold the squatters responsible for calling in the dissidents against these missionaries,” Mr. Nkala said. He said that when the Government last week ordered squatters off the two mission farms, some of them issued threats.

There are thousands of squatters in the region, Matabeleland, and Mr. Nkala said the dissidents were acting on their grievances.

”These are problems we have in Zimbabwe,” Mr. Nkala said. ”The dissidents and the squatters are our own political and ethnic problems.”

”But we live in southern Africa, and all our problems are intertwined,” he said. ”You cannot separate them. South Africa is involved in backing these dissidents, just as they are backing Renamo in Mozambique and Unita in Angola.”

‘THOSE PEOPLE HAD A VISION’

KANSAS CITY, Nov. 28 (Special to The New York Times) – Members of the Community of Reconciliation knew the risks they were facing in Zimbabwe, according to the pastor of a Kansas City church that has helped support their mission.

”Those people had a vision,” said the Rev. Noel Alexander, pastor of the nondenominational Kansas City Fellowship Church, who has twice visited the missionary community with a team of supporters from his congregation.

”They knew the risks,” he said, ”because they had had confrontations with the dissidents before.”

His church was one of several that supported the little community of Pentecostal Christians. To give the community ”cash flow,” Mr. Alexander said, his church had helped them buy cattle. He said they had used some of that cash to buy blankets for Africans.

”They were a humble, selfless people who literally laid down their lives for their cause,” he said. ”That cause, as their name implied, was the reconciliation of man with God and man with man.”

Speaking of one of two Americans who were slain, David Emerson, 35, a native of Minnesota, Mr. Alexander said he was to have been married to Penelope Lovett, another victim. The other American was Karen Alice Sharon Ivesdahl, 34, a North Dakota native.

Knowing the Will of God

If you’re a follower of Jesus here are the things I teach about knowing the will of God.

KNOWING THE WILL OF GOD

 

  1. It’s about a relationship, not a formula.
    1. Hebrew “knowing” is the word yadah = “intimacy.”
    2. Psalm 76:1, “In Judah is God known…”
    3. Yadah = “To revere or worship with an extended hand or to hold out the hand, to confess, to praise, to give thanks
    4. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” – 1 Timothy 2:3-
    5. God’s will, first and foremost, is that we have a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.
  2.  “Will,” in Greek, is the word thelema.
    1. what one wishes or has determined shall be done

                                                              i.      of the purpose of God to bless mankind through Christ

                                                            ii.      of what God wishes to be done by us

                                                          iii.      commands, precepts

  1.  
    1. “Thelema” means:

                                                              i.      will, choice, inclination, desire, pleasure

                                                            ii.      a determination (properly, the thing), i.e. (actively) choice (specially, purpose, decree; abstractly, volition) or (passively) inclination — desire, pleasure, will.

  1. To know God’s will…
    1. Saturate yourself in Scripture
    2. Spend much time alone with God
    3. Hang around people who do (a) and (b).
  2. Saturate yourself in Scripture
    1. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” – Ps. 119:105)
    2. God’s ultimate or universal will is revealed in Scripture.

                                                              i.      These are unchanging things from the heart of God that apply to everyone, including you. Such as…

1.      Love the Lord your heart with all your heart, soul, and mind…

2.      Love your neighbor as yourself…

3.      Love your enemies… 

4.      Seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness…

5.      (If you want a list of these things, begin in Matthew chapters 5-7

                                                            ii.      Walk in  these things…  Obey… Follow after Jesus…

  1. Spend much time alone with God
    1. “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone…” – Matthew 14:23
    2. God promises to give us wisdom if we just ask Him in prayer, believing that He will give it.
    3. Sometimes we need to just ask God to give us wisdom to discern His will.

                                                              i.       “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

  1.  
    1. In Philippians 4:6, God tells us that we can pray about everything.
  2. Hang around people who: a) saturate themselves with Scripture; and b) spend much time alone with God.
    1. Such people are, in the best sense, “godly.”
    2. Listen to the advice of godly people that God has placed in your lives.
    3. “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).
    4. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
    5. God’s specific will for you, today, is revealed to people who: a) saturate themselves with Scripture; b) spend much time alone with God; and hang around people who do (a) and (b).
  3. God has given each of us gifts and abilities to use in His service.
    1. God always equips us to do what he calls us to do. If you aren’t gifted in a certain area, God is probably not calling you to minister in that area. (see Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and Ephesians 4:11-13)
    2. Make two columns: “I am gifted in…”; “I am not gift in…” On another paper make two more columns: “My passions are…”; “I am not passionate about…”
    3. Remember that God’s ultimate purpose for all of us is that He would be glorified (1 Corinthians 10:31) and that the gospel and God’s kingdom would be advanced (Genesis 50:20 and Philippians 1:12).
  4. God has given us the Holy Spirit for guidance.
    1. “…when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13a).
  5. Following God is an adventure, not an institution.
    1. Our lives should look like the maps of the missionary journeys of the apostle Paul.
    2.  Psalm 84:5 — “Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
             who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.”
  6. Trust God in faith that He will accomplish His will in your life.
    1. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
    2. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in your will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
    3. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declared the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
  7. Do the Romans 12:1-2 thing:
    1. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”