Monthly Archives: August 2018

UNFINISHED REFLECTIONS ON SATAN (2)

Since we know nothing about the precise nature of angelic or heavenly beings we can’t say how much or how little power they have by nature, that is, simply because they are angels. It might not be surprising to learn that some angels are inherently stronger than others are, in the way some humans are physically stronger than others are. But we can’t be sure of that.

We do read in Revelation 12:7-8 (NIV) that Satan wasn’t strong enough to win against Michael and his army, but it isn’t clear what that means. For example, we don’t know if it means Michael was inherently stronger than Satan, or if at that moment God gave Michael superior strength, or if it was the fault of the satanic army that he wasn’t strong enough. We aren’t even sure, since we’re in an apocalyptic book, if we’re to think in terms of an actual battle and spiritual muscles.

(How do angels “fight”? Is it a clash of minds and wills rather than bone and muscle? It’s difficult not to imagine how they might fight but perhaps it isn’t important to come to conclusions on this or even to spend much time on it. The word “fight” which generates images of actual collision or killing may fool us. Paul speaks of us “wrestling” against spiritual enemies or “running a race” or “fighting a good fight” but none of these phrases mean we actually run or fight or wrestle. They’re metaphors for aspects of living. Angels may war with or withstand one another simply by living to God’s glory or doing the reverse. See also Daniel 10:20-11:1).

We may be tempted to think that the differing degrees of position among heavenly beings must speak of superior “strength”. Michael is an “arch” angel and is said to be a “chief” (Daniel 10:13; Jude 9) but there’s no way of knowing if this is because he is stronger than others are (that he has more spiritual muscles and could out-fight everybody). It may mean he is more glorious in some “non-power” way or more devoted to God, or some such thing. That Satan is seen as a leader among the hostile spiritual forces doesn’t prove he has more “coercive” power than all others do. It might be he gained notoriety because of his rebellion against God and became the unspoken leader. (Al Capone, Hitler and Stalin come to mind as illustrations of people not physically strong but ruthless and shrewd and so gained a following. If we’re to speculate, something like that may be the case with Satan.)

Angels are supernatural beings and don’t belong to the “natural” realm but what does that entail? Does it mean because they are angels that they can create things? Can they work miracles? Can they read the minds of people? Because they are angels can they simply will people to become ill, or can they kill them if and when it pleases them?
                                                      What some angels did

We know angelic beings blinded sinners in Sodom, made a doubtful priest dumb for about nine months, slew a God-despising king and such like (see Genesis 19:1-11, Luke 1:19-20 and Acts 12:21-23) ; but do these events tell us anything about the power angels have as angels? In the cases above (and others like them) the angels are commissioned by God to do a job for Him so why shouldn’t we think He gave them the power needed to complete the job? In addition to that, these afflictions were judgments by good angels on crass evil or slowness of heart to believe. Are they enough for us to build a theology of angelic power (satanic or not) that is outside of God’s control and empowerment? Do any of these illustrations tell us anything about the power angels have because they are angels? Do any of them tell us that satanic angels can exercise coercive or miraculous power?

                                       Ways in which God has given power

If and when God gives power there are at least two ways He might do it. He might build it into the creature as a permanent part of that creature’s constitution or He might give it on certain occasions only for a limited period. What little physical strength I have is structured into me; it’s connected with my physical equipment. Is that how it is with an angel or someone like Satan?
In Judges 13-17 we have Samson whose strength is legendary. The text doesn’t suggest that Samson was incredibly strong because of how he was built. The power wasn’t resident in his muscles or in his hair. He was strong beyond ordinary humans when the Spirit of the Lord came on him (14:6 illustrates the point). It seems that Samson became strong when it suited God’s purposes, rather than God depositing the strength in him as a resident quality.
In the Gospels we see Christ empowering the apostles to work miracles as they go preaching (see Matthew 10:1-8 and parallels). This power is not resident in them (that is, it isn’t part of their human equipment). It seems they were gifted for the special occasions and it was super-human power that was given to them!  And when we say power is given to them it might be more accurate to say they were given access to it rather than that it was given to them.

Is that how it is with angels, good or satanic? It’s clear that in Job chapters 1 & 2 God commissioned Satan to carry out His (God’s) will. Note especially 1:11 and 2:5 along with 1:21 and 2:10. In the Job text we have no reason to believe that Satan had power over Job independent of God’s commission. Satan was God’s message boy. If we take the text as it sits it was God who commissioned him to do the job and it was God’s fire that burned Job’s fields (1:16) and it was God who brought calamity on him (42:11).
We need to remember that any power Satan had he got it from God. His very existence and continued existence is the work of God. If Satan used his life and power for evil purposes or in a spirit of malice that’s his sin and when God uses Satan’s malice for His holy and worthy agenda that’s God’s glory. If we ask why God would allow sinful Satan to continue to exist we might go on to ask why He allows sinful humans to exist
                                                  There’s power and power

For discussion purposes I’d like to isolate two general forms of power: persuasive and coercive. According to the mayor of River City (in the movie The Music Man) the con-man Professor Harold Hill was a “spellbinder.” This was certainly true because Hill made a living out of talking people into things that up to then they had no desire to get into. That’s power. The winsome and lovely life of John McKay’s wife (in Mark Rutherford’s book Deliverance) finally transformed him from being an insensitive clod of a man into a generous and warm human being. That’s power too. These are complex processes but when we discuss them the word “influence” often crops up. The power involved in accomplishing the results aimed at depends in part on those who are changed. The change-agents don’t physically (or otherwise) overwhelm or coerce those who are changed. There’s the element of “persuasion” in it all. This power isn’t irresistible and hence “coercive”.
There’s another form of power. John 2 tells us Christ willed it so and water became wine. On another occasion He spoke a word to a storm and it ceased. The very nature of the cases says there’s no persuasion; there’s no attempt at wooing. This is naked, creative power that “makes it so”. For convenience sake I’m calling it coercive power. In the two instances given it’s irresistible and so it’s coercive (non-persuasive); it has the nature of “creative” power.
Humans exercise coercive power (within human limits). Let a murderer put a gun to the head of your beloved and say, “Do this or I’ll kill her!” We rightly call this coercive power, though it isn’t irresistible. We’ve known or heard of people who refused to live rather than do what was demanded under threat. This is not coercion of the same order as changing water to wine with a wish or making a tornado so we can wreck a house and kill the children (as in the book of Job). These last two go far beyond unaided human ability and there’s no resisting the power.

Coercive power gains its objective without co-operation from anyone or anything else. Bearing in mind that since we exist and continue to exist because it pleases God (Revelation 4:11; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17) we continue to derive our power, coercive or persuasive, from Him. So it is with Satan.
No one has creative power but GOD. Even the power of Jesus was given to Him by God (Acts 10:38).

(To be continued, d.v.)

IF YOU DON’T ‘GET THIS’ YOU WON’T GET THE REST

Mark 4 has Jesus teaching the parable of the sower to the crowd gathered and when He and his immediate disciples were alone they asked Him its meaning (4:10).

It’s interesting that I think I understand the parable easily enough but I don’t understand His (4:13), “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” Obviously there’s a truth in that parable that affects our understanding of the rest of the kingdom parables—I don’t know just what He had in mind for while there are bits and pieces in the parables that I’m puzzled by, on the whole, I think they’re plain enough. What’s hard to understand in the parable of the “Good Samaritan”?

Depending on one’s theology and how it shapes our thinking what’s difficult is 4:11. But it’s difficult precisely because we read it in light of our settled convictions. God helping me I’ll say something about that another time. I’d like to focus on the overall message of the parable.

Here’s my underlying assumption: Jesus is this lovely, compassionate and miraculously empowered healer of people who not only cures physical diseases, He delivers people from demonic power and He declares their sins forgiven. In addition to that, a great prophet (John) has come in the spirit and power of Elijah bearing witness to Jesus as the Coming One (all this in Mark 1—3). This is new doctrine, supported by power that is used to bless and liberate, crowds followed Him as He proclaimed the kingdom (reign) of God and he became famous (1:14-15, 21-28).

With all that being true, how was it that the entire country did not receive Him as the coming King? For one reason or another crowds followed Him for a while but walked away! Established teachers explained that He was in league with the Devil (no doubt using Deuteronomy 13 to support their claim) and even one of His immediate followers, after being with Him for about three years, turned from Him and never came back. It’s true that the church leaders in their panic said (John 12:19), “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!” But that was panic talking. To this day church leaders panic or become very discouraged because people are not “going after Him.” Other shrewd leaders come up with various kinds of gimmicks or wise policies or they lean heavily on crowd psychology or social-shaping theory to get people to “go after Him.” **

I find it easy to imagine why the church leaders opposed Jesus and I also find it easy to imagine His followers to ask, “Why do people not receive you as we do? Why are you a celebratory to many but not the Messiah?”

There’s no panic in the parable of the Sower! Jesus didn’t go off to pray alone and spend that time wondering if He was indeed who He knew Himself to be. His mind wasn’t set on appearances and “success”. He knew who He was and He knew He was living in a world where people were tired, burdened, worried, sick, busy with life’s demands and He well knew that there is religion that closes their hearts to a true vision of God. The parable of the sower is the best kind of realism. It sees humans as humans and because it is the Son of God who tells this story it is how God sees humans.

We have John 12:19 when the church leaders were in panic but we have John 7:47-48 in their satanic arrogance when they rebuked their messengers who didn’t bring Him to them, “Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in him?” Explain in cultural, sociological, religious or psychological terms why they simply would not have Him but in the end it’s satanic. These elements are involved of course—we’re humans and God made us that way—but all these God- established realities have their limits; they are corruptible, corrupting and often corrupted.

We can guess how we will why it was that Judas betrayed Him. He was certainly overly-keen on money but the fact that he threw it away with an agonized confession that he had betrayed innocent blood encourages us to add other possible influences. But Luke makes it clear that whatever the other underlying reasons are, betraying Jesus is satanic (Luke 22:3-4). Even if one is maintaining his/her settled convictions when they renounce Jesus it’s satanic and sincerity or intellectual integrity is serving a satanic agenda.

In the parable of the sower Jesus is explaining (not in fullness—how could He?) His lack of “success”—He allows humans to be humans and since the world is as it is we will “always have the poor/the over-burdened/worried with us” (John 12:8). He doesn’t profess to tell the whole story but He does intend for us to see the world as it really is—as He saw it and  we’d want to see it as He did.

He also makes this point! When people come to faith in Him they have not been conned! Good seed has been sown (and there lies one of the fundamental realities we need to note and by His grace and power practice). Given good hearts (and that reality needs discussed and developed) and good seed people turn to God as He is seen in Jesus Christ. They haven’t been duped, they’re not fools, they have embraced the wisdom of God in embracing Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). And while it might be more difficult at times, they believe that the proclamation of Jesus is the power of God as well as His wisdom. (Is that not a test?)

** We’re humans, God made us humans, He hasn’t changed His mind about that and the incarnation makes that point forever. So when we speak and embody the gospel we’re appealing to humans who are shaped by culture, neuro-psychology, emotions, intellect and whatever, that’s humans. It’s just that church leaders can be and are corrupted like everyone else and so we often manipulate and use our power to our own ends. Sigh.

(Holy One, help those you have trusted with your good seed to use it wisely and with generosity. Thank you for bothering! Thank you for eternally bothering. Thank you for letting us know that you know us and know very well that so many of us are tired and worried and filled with care. Let that good seed lead us to think noble thoughts of you. Thank you for making it plain that to reject Jesus is satanic. How tragic, how profoundly tragic it is to see Him (if indeed we are allowed to see Him) and spurn Him. In Him this prayer.)

GOLDEN-HAIRED EPPIE MARNER

There’s the sad case of the intellectually brilliant and fine woman, [Marian Evans] who wrote numerous great books under the name George Eliot. She drifted away from faith in God and finally professed agnosticism but God still has used her to tell and develop some rich truths about life in her books. One of them is Silas Marner that tells the story of a deeply religious man who through the wickedness of William Dane [his friend and a fellow church-goer] and the disloyalty of Marner’s fiancé he lost his way, moved to Raveloe, became a virtual recluse and came to worship his fifteen-year store of hard-earned gold guineas.

Hidden under a tile in the floor but brought out, gazed on, handled, counted and adored the gold guineas became the god that took the place of the God he no longer had any time for; the God who watched without helping while Marner was subjected to injustice, lies and desertion. The gold under the floor became his life and even that was snatched away when Dunstan Cass robbed him and vanished like a ghost. Sometime later, on a freezing night with snow everywhere a young woman died not far from Marner’s door and her toddler-child seeing the bright blaze of the fire in his house wandered in through the open door for the light and the warmth while Marner is outside in a cataleptic trance.

The weaver is astonished to find a golden-haired child in dirty rags sitting before his fire and as time goes by he begins to think his gold has returned in a different form. Taking the child as his own he finds himself lifted out of his isolation, bitterness and self-absorbed existence. He named her Eppie.

Eliot tells us of the transformation. The gold under the tile had kept him narrow but with the gold of a vibrant, living, adventurous Eppie he couldn’t remain narrow—she drew him out of himself, brought him into contact with a larger, brighter world that generated new thoughts and new wisdom; a wisdom that was used again and again working on ways to please and help her. The growing pile of gold under the tiles drove him to spend more and more hours tied to his loom, blind and deaf to everything living but this golden-haired child so changed him that every moment away from the loom and spent with her seemed like a holiday.

Her joy infected him; her love of life restored his life; her curiosity made him curious and the pleasure of her discoveries brought pleasure to him because he was discovering life along with her and through her. Redemption by transformation was taking place! As he changed he came more and more into contact with the villagers around him and they began to change and even children who would never have come near the strange old man now stood close to him when Eppie was with him. Ripples and more ripples—such is life.

That kind of literature is worth talking about. That kind of person and life is worth talking about. Is it any wonder then that Christians think Jesus is a Lord worth talking about? Read the brief stories for yourself in the Gospels and allow your imagination to go to work as you read. Jesus walked into villages that were like locked-up and heavily curtained houses where sad people sat through life and he tore down the heavy, dust-covered drapes, threw the windows open and let the wind of the Spirit blow through the place.

We don’t need to be told that not everyone has experienced Jesus in this way. Don’t we know that and know it well! The power of the Lord Jesus to transform lives is not coercive, no one is forced; friendship human or divine cannot be forced; it is either gladly accepted or it doesn’t exist. Ultimately, the power of transforming love is a two-way flow. All the dusty miles between Bethlehem and Golgotha make this clear: there are some places naked power can’t enter and the human heart is one of them.

But in their millions down the years, hurt, crabby, bitter, self-centered, isolated, enslaved and wicked people whose sins weren’t all of their own making and their pain certainly wasn’t—down the years millions like that found their lives transformed when Jesus came into them. A random verse, an unwanted religious tract, a stanza of a hymn, a lovely experience, a beautiful friendship, an unexpected word of praise and in comes Jesus. He came in not to narrow or blind, cripple or rob. He came to transform, to uplift, to enrich and enlighten—to give abundant life and millions will swear that that’s exactly what he has done for them though they don’t live in luxury or perfect health or in perfect marriages. They can’t testify to having found material prosperity since Jesus came to them but they can bear vibrant witness that they have found peace and joy and righteousness and hope that will not die since He came.

A Lord like that is worth talking about!

 

Jesus Came Preaching (Part 1 of 2)

Watch the latest video from McGuiggan Reflections.
McGuiggan Reflections Ep 103
Series: Preacher and His Work
Section: God Maketh Himself Present

To contact Jim, feel free to email him at holywoodjk@aol.com or visit his website at: http://www.jimmcguiggan.com.

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IS THIS WHAT WE’RE DOING WHEN WE SUPPER TOGETHER?

  1. We’re witnessing to the faithful God’s fulfillment of His six centuries-old promise to faithless Israel that’s recorded in Jeremiah 31:31-34. (See Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 8:7-13; Romans 15:7-13.)
  2. We’re proclaiming God’s faithfulness to faithless non-Jewish nations of the world as promised in Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18. (See Acts 3:25; Romans 1:18–3:20; Ephesians 2:11-22; 3:1-7; Romans 11:13-18; 15:27.)
  3. We’re proclaiming that God’s sentence has been passed on the satanic world and that the prince of that world has been defeated by God through the death of Jesus Christ: John 12:31; 16:33; Colossians 2:15.
  4. We’re proclaiming that Sin and Death were conquered by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: Romans 5:12, 14, 21; Hebrews 2:14-15; John 6:50; 11:26; 1 Peter 1:3; 3:21—”…baptism now saves us…by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
  5. We’re proclaiming our rejection of all gods ancient or modern, and their demonic nature: 1 Corinthians 11:14-22; John 18:33-37.
  6. We’re proclaiming the forgiveness of sins for the world in and because of the grace of God manifested in the self-giving death of the Lord Jesus: 1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 4:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Galatians 1:3-5; 2:20.
  7. We’re proclaiming immortal and glorious life for all who are embraced in the saving work of God in the Lord Jesus Christ at His returning: 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 11; 26; 15:54-55.
  8. We’re proclaiming judgment as we eat and drink in His very presence on all that is selfish in thought and behavior, on all that is unlike Jesus Christ who on the night He was betrayed gave Himself rather than burn with resentment and who on that night selflessly gave Himself for all those in need. 1 Corinthians 11:17-26 and 27-29.

 

 

“THE LONG LONG PATIENCE OF THE PLUNDERED POOR.”

Sometime back in a snatch from the Oprah Winfrey show I heard Oprah ask a gentleman (essentially), “So what do you think happens to us when we die?” and his answer was, “I don’t give it any thought.”
Precisely!

Oprah’s question was not, “What do you think happens to the starved, plundered and butchered millions when they die?” but what happens to us when “we” die.
It’s astonishing how the complexion of the question changes when we ask, “What happens to the enslaved, raped and murdered nations?” instead of what happens to those of us who are well-fed, housed healthy and befriended.

In this man’s religion everything’s about himself.    
(Hmmm…)

I gathered from the brief remarks in the dialogue that his view of God was that “God is an ‘experience’ and not Someone who is, independent of our experience. For him, God is not Someone to believe in, Someone who has an agenda, a purpose toward which He is moving; a purpose that involves a new creation where righteousness, joy, peace and adventure is the order of life. To him God is not Someone we’re accountable to for the life given to us. GOD is an experience. In short, his God is not the GOD of Jesus Christ. But what does that matter? Let’s follow Oprah’s guest.

“So, let’s all sit in silence and feel ourselves breathing!”
There now, doesn’t that feel good? Don’t you feel better, nice n cozy n relaxed?

Who cares if there is no Final Judgment?
Who cares if the multiplied millions never see justice and restitution?

Who cares if they aren’t allowed to feel themselves breathe while others wallow in sheer self-indulgence of a religion that feeds their hunger (greed?) for emotional experience?

Who cares if there is no resurrection to life for the beaten, starved and defenseless children, butchered by unrepentant machete-wielding brutes?
“Let’s all sit here in silence and feel our divinity.”

When the atheist Dennett was asked, “Would you not like there to be a God like the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ?” he immediately said, “No. I have no need of him.”—Godless and content that it should be so.
Had he been asked, “Would you not like someone to rise up and bring justice and blessing to the world’s abused and starving?” He would have said, “Of course I would.” He would not have said, “No, I have no need of him.”

Here lies one of the suppurating ulcers that flourish at the corrupt heart of all these synergistic religious movements—they’re designed to feed us who are already so well-fed (in every sense). More! More!

This much is clear: Say “God” is nothing but our experience or that “God” is wishful thinking and we’ve proclaimed the doom of the countless plundered poor. What was and is the “God” of their experience? Maybe we can think about that when we sit down to worship our inner divinity, fix our minds on our breathing or pray, asking the Lord God Almighty to get us a hairdresser that pleases us.

Two things said Kant fill me with awe
The starry heavens and the moral law.
But I know something more mysterious and obscure
The long long patience of the plundered poor.

 

MAGGIE TULLIVER WAS RIGHT!

He came into the world He made and it didn’t know Him and He came to His own people and they didn’t want Him (John 1:10-11). We just didn’t get it! Paul said, “I didn’t believe but I was ignorant.” Peter told the Jewish leaders, “I know you slew Him because you were ignorant.” Paul said the rulers of this age crucified the Lord of Glory because they were ignorant.” Jesus said, “Father, they don’t know what they’re doing.” This kind of ignorance was not new—Isaiah centuries before Jesus arrived has someone(s) saying, “Lord, who has believed our preaching?”

There’s “ignorance” and ignorance and in our lucid and calmer moments we know the difference. Recently I heard of a father who backed his car out of the garage and killed his little daughter—devastated? Beside himself in agony! Then there have been high-ranking government leaders who ordered illegal and evil things to be done and insisted on knowing nothing about the fulfillment of them. That way they could claim ignorance without perjury. A loving mother feeds her baby the usual food from the grocery store only to discover it had been deliberately contaminated—baby seriously ill. The train-driver drives through as green light that should have been red and scores die and more maimed. People invest in questionable stocks and don’t want to know who is suffering or how just so long as we get profit. “Ignorance”! Some of it tragic, some of it cruel, cold and deliberate.

There’s religion and theology that blinds us. It sucks life out of us and we wither. The sickest men on the Jericho were the two who had just been to worship. The man in the ditch knew he had been brutally mugged and in danger of dying; the two brisk walkers with good eyesight were profoundly ignorant—nurtured in and shaped by teaching that created a god nothing like the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. “My Father…you say He is your God yet you have not known Him.” That’s what He said in John 8:54-55. They lived decently, could quote verses, answer difficult questions, rehearse the accepted views and because they knew a lot they could speak of the rank and file and say, “As for this rabble, which cares nothing for the Law—a curse is on them.”(John 7:49, NEB) And Jesus would shake His head and say (7:28), “The One who sent Me is true; you don’t know Him” The God who spoke through Jeremiah said (9:23-24), ”Let not the wise glory in their wisdom…Let them glory in this, that they know and understand Me…I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, justice and righteousness in the earth. Because I delight in these!” In Luke 11:42 Jesus trenchantly addresses church teachers with this, “You pay tax on every garden herb and care nothing for justice and the love of God.” They earned and taught God this way and it damaged them—but it did more than that, it damaged all they had influence with. The people came to see God like that! “Woe to you scholars, you take away the key of knowledge…” (Luke 11:52). No wonder Jesus was both a rock of offense to many and a rock behind which people could find refuge.

Misconstruing GOD is destructive in many ways and teachers have increased responsibility here. “Be not many teachers. Teachers will be judged with greater strictness.” See James 3:1-4. Jesus saw in His ministry something not much talked about. To the teachers He said (John 5:44), “How can you believe when the honor you want is the honor from men and not the honor from God?!”

I don’t know much! I don’t know where “balance” is to be found. I don’t even know if “balance” is always desirable. But I know this: There is no doubt (in light of the witness of the Holy Scriptures) that Jesus’ most severe criticism was directed at teachers who were hard. And His most bitter critics were teachers who were hard. I know that!

God entrusted His oracles to teachers and a believing community to learn and teach and embody them (Luke 4:18-19; Romans 3:2). The supreme teacher make His business clear that He had been empowered and commissioned to liberate, to enlighten and proclaim a new day for humans. And His central proclamation was about GOD! And what did a God like the God Jesus knew lead Him to do? He defended the rank and file from hard, heartless teachers who precisely because they were hard and heartless they didn’t know GOD and precisely because they didn’t know GOD they were hard and heartless. But He did more than that—He taught doctrine! And the doctrine He taught He embodied and we find Him go around healing and delivering people who were under a demonic whip.

There are other things to be said that would “balance” the above. I understand that. But Maggie Tulliver was right when she told her cold brother: “It’s a sin to be hard.”

(Holy One, we beseech you to give us teachers like your Beloved Son who with a sweet strong heart sought only to honor you and showed us how that was to be done both in teaching and behavior. This prayer in His lovely name.)