Posts Tagged With: Skip Moen

MORE Reasons To Trust

Natural Idolatry

Tuesday, January 08th, 2008 | Author:

You shall not make for yourself an image  Deuteronomy 5:8 NASB

Image – What is an idol?  We certainly recognize the idols of ancient religions.  The Hebrew word here (pesel from pasal, meaning “to cut or hew”) makes it clear that the initial emphasis of the commandment deals with all those sacred objects men make in the pursuit of gods.  But a little investigation shows us that there is more at stake here than wood and stone.  Deuteronomy tells us that idols are an abomination to God, lumped into the category with devious and evil acts, stealing, evil thoughts, lying and pride.  All are abominations to God (and, of course, we have never done any of these, have we?).  The issue of idolatry is so important that Hebrew has fourteen different words for “idol.”  Some apply to external objects of worship.  Some apply to internal objects of worship.  All fit that same prohibition.  Anything that demands absolute devotion in attitude or action other than the Lord is the subject of this commandment.

Of course, we have all heard the exhortations against placing our devotion in money, power, other people or causes.  I am quite sure we have all endured the declarations of those who challenge our commitment by pointing to the inherent idolatry in materialism, nationalism or some other “ism.”  What we might not acknowledge is how perfectly natural it is for men to turn to idols.  After all, God is invisible.  His actions are mysterious;  His methods inscrutable;  His plans unimaginable.  The Bible readily admits that His ways are not our ways.  We, on the other hand, are all about “show me” devotion.  We want proof before we commit.  We want something we can touch or see or taste before we are ready to turn our lives over.

God knows this.  How could He not know it?  He made us!  So, God provides the proof.  He acts on our behalf.  Our problem is not that God is absent from life.  Our problem is that we want a God Who acts right now!  We have stopped looking in the appropriate direction to see the trustworthiness of God because we have stopped looking into the past to find the meaning of our lives.  We have been seduced by the culture of significance into looking toward the future, and since we can’t see the future, we’re afraid.  So, we make something solid that we can hang on to.  As a result of not looking back at God’s acts, we see nothing that we can be sure of in the future.  Therefore, we make up some substitute for devotion.  We put our trust in what we have now;  those things that make us feel secure.  We devote ourselves to what we think will serve us best right now.  In the process, we slander God.

God leaves plenty of markers to establish His reliability.  There’s a pile of stones where the children crossed the Jordan.  There are altars scattered across the land.  There is a rainbow in the sky.  And there’s an empty tomb.  But unless we gather our courage from God’s past acts, we will find the future so threatening that worshipping what we have right in front of us will be the natural thing to do.  Turn around!  Ignore the culture that tells you your safety lies in planning for tomorrow.  Look where God has already been.  That’s what sets the course of your life.  Tomorrow never comes.  What you have is what God has already done and what you are going to do with it today.

Is it any wonder that the Hebrew word for the future is a word that gives us an image of a man in a rowboat, looking back at where he came from while he rows toward a place he cannot see?  Once aligned with the markers he can see (where he has already been), his future is secure.  He can’t row while straining his neck to look where he is going.  So, God leaves markers, lots of them, in order that we can get aligned with where He has been, and be confident that the alignment will take us where He wants us to go.

Natural idolatry is the attempt to row forward without looking back at God’s handiwork.

And, by the way, once we divest ourselves of the history of God with Israel, or the history of God with our own family trees, we are set adrift without markers.  No wonder we flounder in the sea of idolatry.

Want to read more about the Hebrew view of the future?  Click here.

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Purposeful Passion

Purposeful Passion

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 | Author:

And He said to them, “Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt?  Mark 9:12 NASB

Suffer – When did Yeshua ask this question?  The context is critical.  He asks this question as He is descending from the mount of transfiguration.  Do you see the irony?  Immediately following the moment when the disciples witness His glorious divinity, He asks them about the necessity of suffering.  The moment after they see for the first time that He is the manifestation of God and is fully endorsed by God, He connects His witness of God with suffering.  To be the Christ, the Messiah, is to be the one who suffers.  There is no glorification without humiliation.

The Greek verb is pascho.  It is basically a verb about experience.  But the kinds of experiences that are described by pascho are those that come over someone.  They are from the outside.  They “attack” the person.  That’s why this verb is almost always used for evil experiences.  In the Greek world, “passion” was a terrible thing.  It meant that the suffering of others, the plight and tragedies of life, could turn toward you and you would fall prey to their indiscriminate punishment.  We have the same idea in our culture today, except that we call it “fate.”  The Greeks took two different approaches to the wiles of fate.  The first was to be hedonists.  Throw yourself into all of life’s pleasures so that when life turns on you at least you have something good to remember.  The second was stoicism.  Do your very best to remove every possibility of emotional disturbance.  Go through pascho with resolve.  Don’t feel anything!  Those two approaches are alive and well today.  How many of us either run to addictive cover when things get bad or grit our teeth and pretend it isn’t happening?  Greeks through and through.

But what does the Bible say?  Ah, now we encounter something quite unusual.  There is no Hebrew word for pascho.  In the New Testament, pascho occurs 42 times, almost always in connection with the sufferings of Yeshua.  It never occurs in citations from the Tanakh.  Of course, the Tanakh has a lot to say about suffering.  It uses hamal (to feel compassion – Ezekiel 16:5) and halah (to be affected – Amos 6:6) most of the time.  But the view of the Tanakh is very different than the Greek idea of an outside attack on a person. That’s why pascho doesn’t fit.  In the Tanakh, suffering is usually the result of the inherent consequences of an evil act.  In other words, evil doesn’t attack from the outside.  It shows up as a result of inner actions.  And it is not always individual.  Entire nations can experience the inherent consequences of national disobedience and rebellion.  But none of this is gratuitous.  Evil doesn’t just happen.  In the biblical world, God is behind all actions in history.  God uses all history to accomplish His purposes.  Providence is the final explanation of all suffering, and that explanation is usually clouded in mystery.

We suffer.  We suffer because we sin.  We suffer because others sin.  We suffer because the world is filled with sin.  We are responsible for much of our own suffering.  But when we cannot see the connection between our suffering and our actions, we are assured that God is behind all of it.  How He is behind it we do not know, but that does not diminish the insistence that He is behind it.  Why He does what He does we do not know, but that does not diminish our requirement to trust Him.  We are not privileged to see the big picture, but there is a big picture and it is seen by a God who cares for His creation.  And that will have to be enough for the time being.

There is a very good reason why Yeshua ties glorification to suffering.  In this world, suffering vicariously is the path to glory.  It is of little righteous consequence when we suffer for our own disobedience.  Such suffering only proves that we are not immune to the structure of the universe.  But vicarious suffering, the willingness to take on the consequences that belong to another, has righteous effect.  That models God.  And that is the purpose of being His servant.

Perhaps you could spend a minute sorting out the suffering in your life that is the consequence of your own disobedience or the disobedience of others from the suffering that you willingly take on in place of another.  Then you will know where you are acting like a Greek and where you are serving God.

Topical Index:  suffer, pascho, hamal, halah, Mark 9:12, glory

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“A Soft Heart” by Skip Moen

Skip recently visited South Africa and taught on “Being Human” … what a tremendous blessing! Ever since, we have been listening to his teachings, and reading his daily word studies … his stuff is really worth checking out — I am learning so much! Keen to share, so you’ll probably find me re-posting a lot of his daily blog posts :) This one below was really encouraging, trust it is the same for you …

MANY blessings!

Joe :)

A Soft Heart

Monday, December 17th, 2012 | Author:

And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  Romans 8:26  NASB

How – Not quite right.  This translation in the NASB isn’t quite what Paul is saying.  Your English Bible may have the same translation, or you might be using a version that says, “we do not know what to pray.”  That is the real sense here.  The tiny Greek particle tis means what, who or which, not how.  You remember that how is pos.   Paul is saying that we don’t know the mind of God as we should and for that reason we are unable to pray according to God’s purposes.  We just don’t know what we should pray for.  Our horizon is far too limited to see the real picture of God’s intentions.  We are too focused on our needs.  We think that God is particularly interested in what we believe is right.  But if there is anything to learn from Scripture, it is this:  God’s ways are not our ways.

Now the first part of this verse is clear.  We need the help of the Spirit because the Spirit certainly knows the Father’s will.  If we are going to participate in “Your will be done on earth,” we will need to have a perspective that comes from above.  The Spirit rushes to our aid, standing face-to-face, lifting our weak attempts to express our desires for the Father’s purposes.  God knows we need this help because we have a finite perspective and ego-bias.

How many times have you come to God in prayer, your heart burdened by some pressing issue, and discovered that you really do not know what to pray?  Should you pray for God to move in this way or that?  Should you pray for what seems the right way from your perspective or have you missed something God has been trying to show you?  Peter tells us that the prayers of the righteous are highly effective.  There is no doubt that God hears His children and answers them.  But what is the right thing to pray for when there are many different possibilities?  We are reminded that both sides of the war had soldiers who prayed to God for victory.

This is the realm of the Spirit.  We need God’s point of view and just as we fail in our limited abilities, in He comes, interceding for us.  How incredible is the care of God!  Not only does He rescue us from the living death of our sinful past, He actually prays with and for us.  God never waits for us to placate Him before He acts.  He is there before we even know it, speaking heavenly thoughts that we cannot utter.

Perhaps the rabbis understood this far better than most of us when they prayed, “Make my heart malleable enough to be content with whatever You bring to my life.”

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