Tuesday, March 21, 2006

WANTED: a Christian version of George Best

They're renaming the Belfast City Airport, "George Best Airport". That is very appropriate, because George Best is one of the only people of hero status I or anyone knows of who is equally honoured by both the Protestant and Catholic communities. Just try naming any public building or place after any other Northern Irish individual, and you'll have problems -- like they had trying to name a new railway bridge recently. Common denominators for both communities are few and far between, but George Best happens to be one of them.

My "wanted notice" (above) is for someone who thoroughly loves the Lord with all their heart, their mind and their strength, and loves his/her neighbour (all of them, including the "Samaritans") as his/her self, is known to be a believer in Yeshua (even if he/she calls Him "Jesus") -- AND is respected by both communities in Northern Ireland. It doesn't have to be for sports, though that could be an in-road.

One major obstacle that such a person would have to overcome is that anyone accepted as a Christian by one side is automatically under suspicion by the other side.

One possible candidate would be C.S.Lewis, if only his Belfast connections were more obvious. Perhaps, with the Narnia films coming out, that could happen, just like with The Titanic.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

What Colour of Green are You

You Are Olive Green

You are the most real of all the green shades. You're always true to yourself.
For you, authenticity and honesty are very important... both in others and yourself.
You are grounded and secure. It takes a lot to shake you.
People see you as dependable, probably the most dependable person they know.

Monday, March 13, 2006

money, happiness and repentance

Some of the comments from Scott Adams blog (see my previous post) are revealing, indeed, when you consider how important our attitude towards money is in the Kingdom of God.

The Gospels and Acts show repentance and one's attitude towards money as inseparably linked. The story of the rich young ruler is probably the best place to start.

If we begin with Yeshua's conversation with the rich young ruler, take in some of His other comments on discipleship, and work our way into Acts, and observe how the earliest believers responded to the call to repent, we definitely see a pattern. While no one told the crowds in Jerusalem at Pentecost, "Sell all you have, give it to the poor, and follow Yeshua", as Yeshua told the rich young ruler, that's exactly what many of them did.

Before we go on to some of the more obvious hang-ups some may have with this pattern, let's consider two more aspects of this:

Consider the proverb, "The love of money is the root of all evil" (I Tim 6:10): If conversion is defined by deliverance from evil, then the early believers certainly proved it by showing that they were no longer controlled by the love of money.

If we defined it from a positive viewpoint, we could say that the life of Messiah is characterised by the commandment, "love your neighbour as yourself". What obvious characteristics would you expect of someone who truly loved their neighbour at least as equally as they loved themselves? How could such a person fail to be lavishly generous? That's exactly what the early believers in Jerusalem exemplified, and it's exactly the intent of Yeshua's answer to the rich young ruler. Remember, that Yeshua built up to this answer by listing those of the Ten Commandments that would relate to loving ones neighbour.

The above description obviously doesn't describe the average Christian of our day. I won't even say it describes me, but I hope I'm on my way there. Because it is such a high ideal, and people don't tend to like measuring themselves by what they're not, this isn't a very popular train of thought.

Most believers today would choose not to associate Yeshua's answer to the rich young ruler with Christian conversion. That's "Old Testament dispensation", they say. They'd rather look to Paul's answer to the Phillippian jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you'll be saved...".

I believe that Yeshua's answer to the rich young ruler is just as relevant to Christian conversion and the born again experience as Paul's answer to the Phillipian jailor. Despite some popular theology that says otherwise, there is no scripture passage in the Bible that says that Yeshua'a teachings are not meant for believers living in the "age of grace", which Yeshua came to innaugerate. The first New Testament church began on the foundation of Yeshua's teaching. Paul's epistles came later. To truly understand Paul, you have to know where he was coming from, and what his listeners already understood. In most cases, he was writing to churches that already had a solid foundation in Yeshua's teaching. When he talked about faith, they knew what it meant.

So, why didn't Paul tell the jailor in Phillippi to sell everything he had?

Because the Phillippian jailor was coming to Paul with a different attitude than that of the rich young ruler. He was trembling under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, whereas the rich young ruler was following a half hearted desire to be spiritually "with it". Up to that time, in the prison, Paul and Silas weren't just singing some nice little ditties to keep themselves happy despite their circumstances. They were doing spiritual warfare, which had begun with the exorcism of the spirit medium, and climaxed with the earthquake. The loosing of the fetters was symbolic of what was happening in the spirit realm. There was an atmosphere in that room like there was in Jerusalem, while Peter was preaching during Pentecost. He didn't have to tell them to sell everything and give it to the poor. The Holy Spirit did that.

It's also interesting that after such a start, the believers of Philippi were also noted for their generosity. Paul comments on that more than once in his epistles (II Corinthians and Philippians).

When Yeshua told the rich young ruler to sell everything, he wasn't laying down an Old Testament type law. He was giving him a tailor made plan to prepare him for the Kingdom of God, just like the Holy Spirit will do for each of us, if we let him, and like the Holy Spirit did for the early believers. Yeshua knew what his hang up was. He was probably saving him from a fate like that of Annanias and Sapphira.

We know it wasn't a hard and fast rule (selling all), because a few verses later, Zakkheus was so turned on that he announced he was giving half of his riches away to the poor. Yet, Yeshua didn't say, "Not enough, give it all". No. He said, "Salvation has come to this house".

I believe that if we had the discernment and the boldness that Yeshua had with the rich young ruler, that Peter had with Annias and Sapphira, Simon the sorcerer, etc., we'd begin to see the same power that the early church saw.

But are we willing to pay the price?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Money and Happiness

If you like the cartoon Dilbert, you'll probably also like Scott Adams' (the cartoonist's) blog.

Anyway, here's something from one of his recent posts:

Yesterday I asked two 8-year old girls the following question:

If you had to choose between being rich and just a little bit happy versus poor and extremely happy, which would you pick?

To find out how the wee girls responded (rather interesting), plus read a lot of interesting discussion from his readers -- go there ...

A few choice comments from his readers:

Perhaps people who think that money doesn't affect happiness have never been poor, but people who think that money can make you happy have never been rich...

Money may not buy happiness, but it ... makes misery more comfortable.

One simple phrase: "Happiness don't pay the bills."

I consulted the manufacturer's manual for humans, and found this:

Give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the LORD?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

There are many more, 118 at the last count, and some are good but too long to include here.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Keith Green's legacy

I recently finished reading No Compromise, the life story of Keith Green, written by his wife, Melody Green.

The fact that it was written by his wife, is a good indicator. For many seeminly impressive individuals, their wife would be the last one they'd want telling their story. Wives know too much.

No Compromise is a must-read for every believer in Messiah. In parts, it's a tear-jerker -- and by that, I mean it's about facts and events that make God cry. Read about the revival that almost was at Oral Roberts University; which should have gone on for weeks and months, spread throughout the nation and the world, and could have made a difference in the state the Western church is in today; but instead, was abruply shut down through human intervention. Talk about grieving the Spirit.

Also, read of the general lukwarm state of the church then, Keith's burning desire to light a fire that would move believers from their apathy into true live-changing repentance, and then reflect on the state of the church today. Keith Green did influence a lot of individual believers, and continues to do so, but according to Barna's report, the Western Church is in an even worse state than ever.

Read it and weap.

I found my copy in a used book shop in the shoping arcade of Europa Bus Centre in Belfast. Besides the printed version, I see, on the website of Last Days Ministries that a computer text version is available on CD along with a complete selection of Keith Green's songs. There is also a large archive of articles by Keith Green and others on that website.