Cheese drills, rugby scrums and faith

A friend came round recently to drill a hole in the outside wall of my house to get a cable through. The drill looked like a gun from some sci-fi movie – the drill bit was almost 2 feet long! He had been prompted to come over and help me with a bit of DIY after I preached on drill bits at our morning meeting.
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I had asked people to imagine a drill bit that could only cut through soft things like butter or, with the wind behind it, a piece of cheese. Although this “butter bit” looks sharp and strong it would go blunt and bend the minute it’s pressed onto something hard. The reason why B&Q do not sell such a thing is that it would be totally useless. You don’t need a drill bit to cut through soft dairy products! Anything can do that.
There is an apparent faith that is nothing more than wishful thinking, or going along with the crowd, or being naturally persuaded by how things currently look. It can look like the real thing, all hard and shiny, but when it hits resistance it goes blunt and bends. True faith is like a steel diamond tipped drill bit. It will stay straight and keeps it’s point even when pressed into granite. True faith says “this will change!, we will go through”.
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By coincidence I read this, this morning
Prov 24:10  If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.
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That’s saying the same thing. What is the point of strength that fails when something is hard?
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Prov 24:16  the righteous falls seven times and rises again
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Or in the words of the Tubthumping song:
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I get knocked down, but I get up again
You never gonna keep me down
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That’s what faith is like.
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I used to play rugby a long time ago. I was on the edge of the scrum. Again, how ridiculous it would be to give up and walk away from the scrum the minute you experienced resistance. The whole point of the scrum is meeting resistance and pushing through. A scrum stands still for a while or perhaps moves sideways a bit as the two powers lock together. But then there is a moment when your side moves forward a fraction and senses the other side flagging. That’s the moment to roar and press through your advantage. That’s like faith when it hears testimonies of what God has done. True faith doesn’t give up when nothing happens, but it grows through testimonies of what God is doing. The rugby scrum analogy is also helpful as it’s a team thing. When one might be tempted to flag or give up they are locked together with others around them. Even if your will or body weakens for a bit you can re-engage and push as the others move forward.

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The psalms are full of testimonies, the gospel is a testimony, in fact the bible is one big testimony. Hearing and reading about people getting healed builds faith.
God give me a diamond tipped drill bit of faith, a huge stubborn deep heat smelling faith, locked in with others, that doesn’t give up when it meets resistance but roars and pushes home the advantage when it sees you at work.

I missed a lot

Great to have Clive with us this morning. I was really excited when he said he was going to preach from Genesis 6 as I have recently blogged that chapter http://marcusbible.blogspot.com/. I remember waxing lyrical about rainbows and The Wizard of Oz (“somewhere over the rainbow…” etc). I wondered if he would say the same sort of things as I did. To my surprise and delight he drew out of the passage one thing after another that I had totally missed. The word of God is so good like that. If I ever get to the end of blogging through the bible I will be able to start right back at the beginning again and get a whole fresh lot of revelation. God’s word is inexhaustible.

I wish I had made some notes. He looked at the chapter from the point of view of “living on the water’s of judgment; what life was like for Noah on the ark”. Off the top of my head I remember these things:

  • God shutting Noah up in the ark/difficult circumstances for his good and deliverance.
  • Being in the ark being a picture of being “in Christ” and “in the church”.
  • Looking out from the ark seeing nothing but water, no end in sight, not knowing where God was leading him or what would happen next.
  • Sending out raven prayers that never returned / never receive an answer, sending out dove prayers that returned with hope / where answered.
  • The rainbow, that symbol of God’s steadfast love being placed among the clouds of judgment. Jesus’ blood shed on the cross expressing God’s love in the place of judgment.
  • As we go down into the waters of baptism we close our eyes, our ears fill up, our mouth shuts. It’s like we are dead. The waters of judgment go over us but we rise to new life in Christ.
  • The lion laying down with the lamb in the ark symbolising people who were previously hostile to one another being at peace in Christ.

Wow. And he didn’t mention “the wizard of Oz” once!

Listening to Bill on the train

Actually before I go to bed I just wanted to record something for posterity. I was listening to Bill Johnson on the way back to Norwich when the words “the mental cross” caught my attention. In this transcript he touches on the love of God,  healing, God’s judgment in the OT and his sovereignty. It’s a long quote but you have to admit he packs a lot in!

Bill Johnson

“The Bible actually exhorts experience above knowledge. Ephesians 3:19 says ‘that you may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge’. Look at the original language;  ‘that you might know by experience what is beyond comprehension’.  That is Paul’s whole deal, that they should come into the experience of God’s love that is beyond anything they could experience or explain. That your experience level would surpass your knowledge level.

I like to put it this way. If we know and understand everything that is going on in our Christian life then we have an inferior Christian life. Because it means we have basically created a God in our image. We have whittled him down to our size. The mystery that a person lives with tells me more about their faith than how they operate with their revelation. If I have a revelation of God’s healing power and that it is his heart to heal everyone and I have a loved one die, am I going to live by my revelation in the midst of mystery or am I can going to let this mystery downgrade my revelation.

You see it’s a cross. It’s the mental cross. The mental cross is embracing revelation in the mists of conflicting personal experience. And we will not get what we have been crying out for, and what we have a vision for until we can embrace both and realise this will not affect my life, it’s a reality, but this is the thing I live by, it’s revelation God has given me. And I will just simply spent my life pursuing an expression of the full Gospel that Jesus lived. Nobody left him sick when they asked him for healing no matter how weak their faith was.

This whole idea that people don’t get healed when they come to us because their faith was too small is just something we need to shooting ahead and get rid of. Because everyone who came to Jesus, even the guy who said ‘if you are able’, I mean that faith hardly measures on the scale, the needle hardly bounces off the bottom on that one, questioning God’s ability, ‘God of your able to capable of doing this request’ that’s not called great faith and yet Jesus jumped all over it. Why? What would he do? He would point to the weakness of their faith then give a miracle to provide a pathway to greater faith. You see sometimes the miracle was in response to the person’s faith but most of the time it was in response to his faith because he was giving them a path, a way of access to greater faith. And when it was because of their faith he was stunned, he said man I’ve not seen anything like this, this is amazing, and he gave it to them. He said “I don’t even have to operate in it I’m operating on yours” So it’s really a big deal that everyone that came to Jesus left well. And to create any other standard is just simply to modernise to the point of lying what the truth is. Jesus is perfect theology.

Let me go after a sacred cow here. It may not be yours, but you have friends, for whom this is a sacred cow. Jesus is perfect theology. He is, according to Hebrews 1:3 ‘the exact representation of the father’s nature’. He is the actual ‘radiance of the father’s glory’, what you see in Jesus as the radiant glory of the father. He is the precise image of the father. He is perfect theology. And anything that you and I understand about the nature of God that we cannot find in the person of Jesus must be questioned. So many revelations about the nature of God are taken from Old Testament passages that are there simply to prove to man that they need a saviour. They are to raise the question. Jesus is the answer. Why create a theology around questions we can’t answer when we have the answer.

Look at his life. I can’t get other Gospels. The first 20 years of ministry I mostly did old Testament reading, study and teaching..It is very important. But for the last eight or nine years I cannot get out of the Gospels and Acts. I read all over but this is where I am getting fed I can’t get out of it. Because I haven’t yet duplicated what he did. And he established a model for me to follow. So I’ve got to keep looking until I get a clearer picture of that model. I’ve got to keep pressing in. its simple. I know it’s simple and I’ve got more breakthrough now than I’ve ever had but it’s not nearly enough. He is perfect theology. So any time I come to conclusions about the nature of God cannot be found in the person of Jesus I have to discredit what I think I see. Because everything we see in the Old Testament that was to raise the image of God who creates calamity and causes diseases, that whole thing only took place to underscore man’s need of a saviour. And when Jesus comes along he’s the perfect picture of the father. There is no discrepancy. If God causes diseases than his son works against his desire. Then we have the division and having a house cannot stand. We know that’s not true. But unfortunately we let some other stuff seep into our thinking. We have entire branch of theology that believe God creates sickness to bring character into a believer’s life.

God can win with any hand. He can win with a pair of twos. His just really big, he’s got authority, anything he is dealt he can turn around for his glory but that doesn’t mean he created it. We have to declare the perfection of Jesus.

To condense all that,  in terms that I have been thinking about:

1) The Christian life and the love of God is supposed to be experiential. Pious  “put downs” and “put offs” about “chasing experience” need to be heard with caution. Often it’s not that we need to back off from experience, rather we need push forward in the truth. Let’s move both forward and not let one be held back by the other. They go together and complete each other.

2) In pressing forward and believing God for healing we go through a painful mental battle. Our experience doesn’t line up with our biblical expectation. At times that is very painful. Living with mystery is not just intellectually humbling, it can be emotionally excruciating.  I do believe however that it’s a key part of the Christian life and the air that faith breaths. The truth that we know and the revelation that we have, often give the boundaries to the space where faith thrives.

3) How am I to interpret genocide in the OT?  I struggle with it. It’s another mystery but the answer is found in Jesus. I must not let the OT shadows obscure his light. The world is set up in just the way that God wanted it. It is the way it is because he is the way he is. Catastrophe and calamity are the result of, and response to, sin because of God’s justice. But the “greater truth” is that, now, through Jesus, grace and mercy are God’s response to sin. I didn’t continue transcribing the bit where Bill Johnson talked about degrees of truth. He don’t think he meant “degrees” in the sense of something being partly true, but, as I understood it, of layering, like paint on canvas. So a better term might be foregrounds and background truths. Similar to the biblical concept of shadowing I guess. Our focus needs to be on the foreground, on Jesus. I think sometimes this idea is expressed in terms of  looking at the Bible through the “lens” of Jesus.

4) I find the comments about the sovereignty of God both helpful and unhelpful. The fact that he can win with a pair of twos does communicate how wonderfully sovereign he is but begs the question of who the dealer is. The biblical picture seems to be one God not so much turning things around his glory but working through them for his glory. The story of Job is both baffling revealing. God initiates all that transpires with his statement/question to Satan “have you considered my servant Job?”. God then lets Satan question and challenge his glory as manifest in Job’s upright life.  Through the process, as Job remains faithful through Satan’s onslaught, God’s glory shines even brighter. The question is though, would not God be more glorified by crushing Satan and therefore protecting Job. That is, of course, precisely what God is working out through the whole of history. Job’s life and faithfulness under Satan’s affliction points forward to Jesus who would be a means by which God crushes Satan and rescues a people for himself. The challenge of the story of Job, and much of the suffering that we face, for me, boils down to an issue of timescale. Why does the rescue takes so long, or indeed why is it played out in time (and space for that matter) at all? I am on the edge of another mystery as God points out to Job at the end of the story. He doesn’t so much answer his questions as put him in his place. Not I think in the negative sense but in a right and healthy way. He asks Joe where he was when everything was made. It reminds me of Paul’s similar response to questions of God’s sovereignty, in  Romans 9:20   “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?'”.

OK, I so didn’t condense it much but I find these tings really hard to understand. Think I’ll  sleep on it! zzzzzz