Discipling a Nation / #12 The Priesthood
“But you shall appoint the Levites… Numbers 1:50
Our words are often confusing when we talk about pastors, prophets, priests, church and the body of Christ. We are often cut off from the Old Testament and think we are all priests and nothing else matters. With the confusion of language comes a lack of understanding of the kingdom of God and roles and responsibilities in how God works.
God called out the Levites to be the priests. They were to be full time workers in the ecclesiastical structure. It was only to be ten percent of the population that were to live this way. They were to instruct the other ninety percent of the people in the whole council of God, in building a nation and the importance of all the other spheres of society.
There was always a clear distinction between the priests and politics. In the 5 books of Moses it was clear that the priests and the Levites should be kept separate than the other tribes. They had very different roles and functions for representing God and serving the people than the Kings did. God chose the Levites to represent Him as His priesthood, where as the prophets anointed the kings, but they did not appoint them. The people did. The authority in the priesthood is with God. He decides who He will anoint and appoint. Whereas in government the authority is in the people to elect their leaders.
The priests were not given territorial land and were dependent on the tithes and offerings of the people to survive. It was clear that they were not to gather power or control as this would distort their capacity to represent God to the people. They were the first health care givers in reaching out and caring for the people who were hurting. Their authority was to speak for God and to represent Him to the community. They were hand picked by God and were not chosen on the basis of personal merit. Their only anointing was to speak on God’s behalf.
This has not changed in the New Testament in the institutional sense. We don’t need a high priest anymore to represent us to God, as Jesus is now the true and only high priest. But there is still to be those who work full time for the ecclesiastical structure and they still are to live off the tithes and offerings of the people. They are to instruct the rest of the body of Christ in the ways of God, in the principles of nation building and how each spheres is to function. (ie. pastors)
Questions for reflection and action:
What does it mean to bring salt and light (God’s presence) in the domain that you are called to?
Have you bought into the lie that says the only ‘spiritual’ work is to be a ‘priest’ or a missionary in the traditional sense?
By Matt Rawlins
Discipling a Nation #11 / Struggles are the New Norm
Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Gen 3:17
There are consequences to our choices. For example: we cannot partake of the tree of life, the woman will bear children in pain and man will have to work for provision by the sweat of their brow.
In essence, if we focus on just the consequences of man’s choice, the created world will not serve us any more, it will fight us our whole life. We will have struggle and hardship; this will be normal in a world that is broken because of us.
Please notice that God doesn’t curse all of creation. He doesn’t curse us. He just curses the ground, one small aspect of our world where we will get our sustenance from. We will now have to learn the meaning of work. Struggle, hardship and painful labor will expose us and reveal our hearts better than anything else in life. God gives us a chance to learn this through the material world. It is still good, just broken; it will not serve us anymore.
Now it is our work to learn redemption in the world around us through this hard work. It can’t be made perfect and much will still be broken, but we are to begin the redemption process of bringing life out of death. Beauty out of ashes. Discovering joy in the midst of sorrow.
Everything around us is fallen. This is a first truth that God makes clear from the very beginning. The world is broken and will yield fruit only after we have struggled by the sweat of our brow to deal with the thorns and thistles that will grow quicker and have it easier in this world.
Questions for reflection and action:
Do you blame God for struggle?
What would it mean to embrace this challenge as a normal part of life for you and your family?
By Matt Rawlins
Discipling a Nation #10 / Science
God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. Gen 1:31
God creates the material world and calls it good. There is no secular/sacred thinking in God. He is comfortable in all aspects of life we are the ones who are confused. Many Christians do not like science because if they liked it seems anti God. It is our confused thinking that is causing the problem when it comes to the material world, not the scientist’s findings.
Science is the investigation and discovery of the material world. It simply says that on this day, at this time, when this happened, this is what we observed. They aren’t out to tell you the why, the purpose or meaning of life. That is a question of faith and part of our understanding of the foundations of the thinking about the world.
When God was helping establish the Jews in nation building in the Old Testament, He made it clear that there were things in the material world that were very important for them to observe. He didn’t try and teach them science at that time, but just met them where they were and knew they would discover it as time moved on.
Unfortunately we now think of many of these health and science issues in the Old Testament as allegories for sin. This is to confuse how God works and the material world. God loves the material world and wants us to love it and work with it. When He said to be careful about what you touch, a list is given, urine, feces, bodily discharge, spoils of war, bones or a grave… these were given to teach them about hygiene and the material world in regards to health issues.
Science can only discover what God has made. It is not our enemy. It cannot create new laws or new truths, it just explains what something is and how it works. We have nothing to fear from science. It has always been in the heart of God for us to explore and discover the world around us. A key part of that process is through science.
Questions for reflection and action:
What is your view of science and faith and are you at peace with both being expressions of God?
By Matt Rawlins
Discipling a Nation #9 – Communication
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit. Prov. 18:21
Communication is to a relationship what blood is to a body. This is true in one to one relationships as well as in a community or nation. To be the salt to a nation and help it mature is to embrace the importance of communication.
To disciple the nations we must embrace the importance of communication and be involved with it. We could say that you cannot develop a nation without a free, objective press. The free flow of information is vital to the life of any community. If you look at undeveloped nations, the one thing that is common amongst them all is that there is limited or no free speech.
The building block for clear communication is that there is truth and it can be known. God gave us a material world so that we could understand it, work with it and be clear about it. Objective facts, truths that we can agree on, are the foundation for clear communication. Christians should embrace this, as our communication should be grounded in the material world. After all, He is the God of all truth, and that should be very clear in our communication.
Another vital aspect to communication is that what you say matters. It is the defining aspect of trust. When a nation loses its ability to understand that words matter, it is the beginning of the end as you cannot trust anyone to do what they say they will do. When we change what the facts are with each audience that we speak to, it is rooted in deception both at the speaker level and the hearer level as well.
Pray that our communication would be grounded in reality and the heart of God.
How well do you communicate when there is tension? (It is like a muscle, If you are not working on it you are losing it.)
Questions for reflection and action:
Where have I personally communicated in such a way that I have changed some of the facts in order to get what I want?
Are there currently any situations where I am not being completely honest with those I am communicating with?
By Matt Rawlins
Discipling a Nation #8 / All Human Life is Sacred
So Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. Deut. 31:9
The prescriptive law was given through Moses, not to make us righteous, but to begin a process of teaching us the ways of God. It was God preparing the way for two expressions that are in His heart for us.
The first one begins at a heart level for each individual, that no matter how hard we try, we are lost and in desperate need of a savior. It is not that we cannot ‘do’ good things, but that no matter how good we try to be, our heart is broken and lost and needs redemption. For the deeper you look into the heart, the more you are aware of how arrogant and lost we are. He wants us to own our life and start at the heart.
The second expression is to see the importance of systems at work. Meaning that in addition to redeeming our heart, we must create relational systems that form a nation. Communities of people must develop relational systems that function with clear authority for different roles and responsibilities. Those systems that have clear authority are government, ecclesiastical (religion) and the family. These are the redeemed hearts expression in key relationships to build a healthy nation.
It is not an either / or, but a both / and, you must work at building both of them in order to see people saved and the nations discipled. If you are not doing both of these, you are not building the kingdom of God.
One of the foundations all of this work is built on is a clear value that human life is sacred. That each person, male and female, regardless of their choices, are made in the image of God and must be treated with respect.
In everything you do, are you building the kingdom of God by treating everyone you deal with as valuable and sacred because their very ‘being’ here is an expression of God.
Questions for reflection and action:
Which area does your church emphasize?
How can you help your church strengthen their work for the heart and for the nation?
Discipling a Nation #7
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. Col 1:16
To create a world or universe, to design, author and bring it into existence, gives you a raw power over what you have created. You know it better than anyone else. You understand the intricate working of all its systems. You know what it needs and what will harm it. You know how long it will last and what it was made to do. All of these aspects of creating something are the first aspect of authority that a creator has over something created.
The second aspect of authority is a character question. Are you willing to do what is best for the world created? Do you value it, care for it and want what is best for it even at a cost to your self? To know what is best and to be willing to do what is best are two very separate issues. That is why both aspects are needed.
These two aspects when combined are what we call authority. I know what is the best to do for the created world and I am willing to do what is best for it even if it costs me a lot. If you remove either one of these aspects, you lose the right to be in authority over the created world.
If all you want is domination and control over the object and you have the power, then you can do it just because you are big enough to. There is no moral aspect to it, I do it just because I am powerful enough to. But if you want a relationship with the created, then you must also show that you have the character to do what is the best, to genuinely love the world and with that choice, the authority comes naturally and rightly so. The Creator of the world, who loves the world has a right to rule in authority over the world.
God is the only true authority over our created world. He is the only one who can truly help us build a nation, as the nations start in the heart of God.
Questions for reflection and action:
What is Gods heart for your nation?
by Dr. Matt Rawlins
Discipling a Nation #6
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. Deuteronomy 11:18
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It gives us an eternal marker to create a context in which to define life from God’s perspective. Without this you only have temporary contexts that change on the whims and preferences of the people or culture involved.
Education is to start in the family for that is where God puts the emphasis and focus on who is to raise up a child, to teach a child. It is always clearly the parent’s responsibility in Scripture. If parents do delegate their authority to others to teach their children, they are still responsible before God to oversee it. For a parent is the primary one who will genuinely have the best of the child in mind.
God made the world in such a way that we can know it, experience it. In this way we can learn what works, what is life giving and the power of our choices. We can name the world as we discover it and develop a greater capacity for new and healthier relationships.
Education from God’s perspective is always linked to action. It is not information that is memorized like data banking but is a living faith that is to produce works in our community, learning is to give us growth and wisdom. The Holy Spirit is to be manifest in the natural world around us and lead us into all truth. There are no spiritual truths that are separate from the material world, it is all the Kingdom of God.
Questions for reflection and action:
How involved are you in your children’s education?
What values do you respect in defining how you think and live in the world?
By Matt Rawlins
Discipling a Nation #5
For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Romans 13:6
God brought Israel out of Egypt after more than 400 years of slavery. They had no sense of government, responsibility or understanding of nationhood. They were poor and uneducated and the only possessions they had were what they could carry. We read in (Deut. 1:13) that through Moses God then asks the people “to choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes and I will appoint them as heads.”
Right from the start God wants His people to own their government. It is to be an expression of them and they are to hold it accountable. Their choice matters and the authority to govern comes from the people. It is a bottom up accountability.
Government is to reveal the justice of God. It is to serve the nation by establishing objective laws and a trustworthy source of conflict resolution and arbitration. It is to be impartial and equal for the small and great alike.
God makes it clear that those elected must have a good character and each of the tribes are to be represented by the government.
When the people are not involved in government you can see that government will start to take over and creep into every area of society. It will slowly take over more and more in areas that it was never meant to govern. The goverment must be held in check by the will of the people. In a sense you could say that the government will always reflect where the people are in their own maturity and understanding of the kingdom of God.
Questions for reflection and action:
Do you vote?
Is how you vote based on the character of the people you are voting for or just on your own preferences that suit you?
By Dr. Matt Rawlins
Discipling a Nation #4 – Family
“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.” Deut. 5:16
As the family goes, so goes the nation. It is the soft spot, the vulnerable place where a nation preserves it’s future or reveals it is sick and needs help. The future strength of a nation is found in it’s children and it’s children are nurtured and defined by their family. God knew this and made it clear to Israel. We can see in the Ten Commandments. It is the only one with a blessing of longer life and quality of life attached to it.
You can also tell the strength of an individual by their capacity to have a deep and meaningful relationship in marriage. It is two sides of the same coin. The health of my relationship with God is what makes me healthy. When I am healthy I am able to have healthy relationships in my marriage and when that happens my kids will be blessed.
Love is God’s summary of what He calls a good life. It is birthed and grounded in the family. For our view of our self, our values and capacity for intimacy is grown in the first years of a child’s life. It is also where we learn painful aspects of life that we will naturally duplicate without the grace of God. Abraham gives his wife away to protect himself and his son. Isaac does the same thing as his father and so on.
The greatest call of any person is to raise a child, to love them, train them and prepare them for their walk with God. It is the strongest expression of love and the greatest gift you can give to the next generation.
Questions to reflect on:
What did you learn from your family?
Are you making your spouse & kids your priority?
By Dr. Matt Rawlins
Discipling the Nations #3
“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be the father of a multitude of nations. Gen. 17:4
The purpose of Man is to know God and enjoy Him forever. We are invited into this relationship with God that will not end or run dry. He is our joy and the source of all goodness.
How do we do this?
As we build this relationship with God we are to fill the earth, to subdue it. This was the mandate in Genesis given to us. Go into all the world, explore it, love God and enjoy Him in the world He created. The fullness of the earth is ours and we are to be stewards of it.
Is there a strategy we should use?
God’s heart has always been a multitude of nations. Each nation will have a unique culture that will express some aspect of God in different ways. The beauty and diversity of God will be manifest through the nations as they learn to steward the world and celebrate His glory in their own way.
Is there a way to subdue the nations?
When we go to work on Monday, that is where the real work begins. That is where we take our faith and put it into works. The domains and each of the vocations in it are vital to the health and life of a nation. There is no secular and sacred. All aspects of life are sacred to God. He wants each vocation to be an expression of His character and invites us to begin there.
Questions to ponder and carry:
Do you have God’s heart for your vocation?
Are you clear about His character in the domain you work in so that you might express Him and be salt in it?
By Dr. Matt Rawlins
Discipling a Nation #2
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt 28:19-20
God began this journey with one desire in mind, the earth was ours, we were to express His image as we cultivate it. We complicated it, actually we messed up royally and listened to a liar that convinced us we could not trust God. Jesus set that right but we are so relieved to be forgiven that we have forgotten what we are to do with that salvation.
We are here to express Gods image as we cultivate the earth. In New Testament language, Jesus reminded us to go to all the nations and disciple them. It is to be our prayer, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth…
Abraham was to be the father of a multitude of nations. It was like the highest blessing God could give to him. He would help birth, father many nations. Through God’s blessings all the nations of the world will be blessed. We have forgotten that God loves the nations. Each and every one.
Peter gets the revelation and says that God is not partial, but will welcome all people, from all nations who will come to Him. It is a new beginning, a new people who are called to be a body and express His will in all the earth.
We see in Revelation that the nations will bring their gifts to God, that all people from all nations will come to Him and declare He is worthy. The final image is a tree that it’s leaves bring healing to the nations.
It has been in God’s heart from the beginning and will be in God’s heart as we reset the world. The nations are incredibly beautiful to God and just as each individual is important, so the communities of relationships are just as important to Him.
Ask God to give you His heart for the nations.
Questions to carry in your heart:
How do you view nations that are different from you?
How does God view them?
By Dr. Matt Rawlins
Discipling a Nation #1
“Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as your possession.” Psa 2:8
A nation is a system, a group of relationships that are greater than the sum of their parts. You can’t dissect it or take it apart, just as a person is greater than any one of their organs, so a nation is greater than any one aspect. Just as a person has an expression of God in them, so each nation’s unique relationships reveal the image of God through them. As an individual carries the glory of God, so their relationships manifest the image in a nation.
What are those smaller systems (or organs) that make up a nation?
The areas that make up a nation are: Government, Family, Economics, Church, Communication, Education, Arts & Entertainment and Science & Technology. Each of these areas has an aspect of the character of God resident in them, for He longs to reveal Himself through each of these areas to the world. The expressions of God are: Justice, Love, Provision, Mercy, Truth, Beauty and the Goodness of God in the material world.
To ask for the nations as an inheritance is not a mystical thing that God just does on a whim. It is the fruit of the body of Christ taking seriously God’s desire to reveal Himself in each domain of life. Just as an organ is vital to a body, so each expression of God in the domains is vital to the health of a nation. When the body of Christ refuses to salt each area with God’s presence, the nation will grow sick and begin the process of dying. It is only the grace of God through individuals that will bring if to life again.
Questions for reflection:
1. How are you doing at revealing the expression of God in your own life and in the domain you are working in?
2.Have you asked God to see your nation from His perspective and for His wisdom to reach out and touch those areas you are called to express Him in?
By Dr. Matt Rawlins
The Two-handed Gospel
A little more than a decade ago I was a missionary in rural Africa. I had a hardy bicycle, which helped me travel on the dirt roads each morning, the dog-eared Bible with my evangelism notes and a box of medicine, because I never knew when they would be needed. If converts to Christianity from the Animistic-Islam faith that surrounded me was the measure of my success, then I was a failure. My own conversion to Christianity had radically changed my life, yet no amount of time I sat explaining the Scriptures to my subsistence farming friends seemed to make a dent on their thinking, life-choices or beliefs. I knew the Scripture were powerful, I knew God wanted to be known by the tribal community I lived in, yet nothing I communicated seemed to be bringing these precious people closer to loving God as much as I did. Clearly the problem was with myself and I was humbled by my inadequacies.
I realize now that I had been focusing my attention on getting my rural friends ‘saved’. They were for the most part, hungry, poor, sick and hopeless, and just about the only advice I could offer them was how necessary salvation was. I was an expert at explaining it from Genesis right through to the start of the Gospels. As powerful and true as that message is, it was not meeting any of their felt need. My highly desired, regularly cleaned, hardy and out of their price range bicycle drew more attention than my preaching did.
As soon as I realized my mistake, I revolutionized my study of the Word to understand the principles that God would have us live by so that we could call our societies ‘blessed’. What an exciting journey it had been. I had fallen in love with God, His mind and His word over and over again. The strength and beauty of wisdom that oozes from Scripture once it is studied as a manual for living, has been my greatest intellectual and spiritual adventure. I can now reasonably refer to my dog-eared Bible to address any issue facing my African friends; the need to chose wise community leaders, basic health-care, the importance of education and sound financial management. I have come to learn that there is no issue in their community that the Bible does not address. And just when I was about to pat myself on the back, admiring my growth and ability to spout my confident conclusions at their problems, God used an unashamed evangelist to restore my lost humility. The humility that is lost when one becomes confident in oneself and fails to realize that one has impeded God’s original purposes, once again.
As I encountered the words of the evangelist I remembered thinking sneakily to myself how fortunate I was to have ‘moved on’ from having a single, focused message from Scripture. He was not too far into his message before I realized that in my quest to grasp the breadth and depth of the message of the Word, I had left behind the foundation of it all; the message of the cross.
In the past decade, I have hardly mentioned Jesus at all in my conversations with those who do not believe in Him. Of course it matters that I persuade someone that abortion is morally wrong and that voting is imperative, but so is the persuasion that one needs; the salvation that Jesus offered humanity. Unless I tell the full story, all I have done is switch one part of the message, with the other. The full message of Scripture is both how to enter the Kingdom AND how to live once you get there.
Perhaps my miserable failure in my first missionary season made me reluctant to keep evangelism as a tool in my Kingdom building toolbox, but it is time it went back in there. It is of no use that God uses me to establish wells of clean water and elevate the financial hopelessness of an impoverished community, yet they never hear the best part of it all; Jesus.
Marnie-Jane Agosta, TTI Associate
Learning to Communicate
In Genesis 3, Adam – Male and Female – have eaten of the fruit and opened a door that God knows will bring mind-numbing ignorance and thus, pain and suffering to us. God knows the importance of learning so the first thing He does is to help Adam and Eve frame their learning. Through that, He shows us the keys to wisdom. How does He do that?
In a way that only the All Knowing God can do, He asks three simple questions. Three perfect questions. These are not random questions thrown together with no thought; they are the collective wisdom of God synthesized into three key questions that are vital to restoring wholehearted living to us. They will frame how God works and what He is trying to teach us in the rest of the Bible.
The first question is:
“Where are you?”
This question is for our benefit, not God’s. He already knows the answer, but asks the question to get us focused in our thinking and to show us how to move forward. I have spent years thinking about, reflecting on this question. I ran a training program years ago for young college students and each morning I would begin class with this question,
“Where are you?” They finally put it on a shirt as a school motto for us all. There are multiple levels to this question. Let’s look at them.
Personal – There is a personal aspect to this question. The focus is on ‘you’. All learning and growth starts from within a person’s heart. Strictly speaking, groups, organizations, teams, or cultures don’t change. People in them change and then that change is represented in the group or organization as the people change. First and foremost, change is personal; it is about you and me. Then and only then, when we have embraced it, can we begin change in our teams and organizations.
Honesty – There is a radical honesty in this question. The question is not where do you want to be? Where do others want you to be? Where would you like to be? It is a brutally honest question that must be answered honestly if any true learning is going to take place.
Relationally – A relationship is the fruit of two people knowing where they are, agreeing to move forward to the same place together. Let’s say a friend calls you up on the phone and wants to come over to your house but doesn’t know where you live. What’s the first question you have to ask them? You have to ask “where are you?” Because you can’t give directions or help someone if you don’t know where they are. Walking with someone, helping someone, serving someone, getting things done, caring about each other only happens when we know where each of us is.
When my son was young, he loved to play soccer. He played on a team and had great fun. I was asked to help out a bit. So one day at practice I was working with them. The players were on the field and each young person was in their position. I put the ball down and blew the whistle and everyone (except the goalie) ran as fast as they could towards the ball. Soon there was a group of kids, all around the ball, kicking at it with all their hearts. I blew the whistle and stopped them. Slowly they stopped kicking and looked at me. I asked, “Where are you?”
There was a collective statement from them, “we are trying to get the ball”. I would then walk them all back to their positions and put them there and tell them to stay in their positions. They knew this as far as information goes, but when the whistle blew, the pull of kicking the ball was too strong. So for the afternoon, I would get them in position and put the ball out and blow the whistle to start them, wait a few minutes and then blow the whistle again and ask them, ‘Where are you?” Slowly as the afternoon went on, they became aware of knowing where they were at all times was vital in order to play the game. For the kids it was easy to become distracted by the joy of kicking the ball and forget everything else. For adults in the world we live in, it is easy to get ‘seduced’ momentarily by some pleasure or emergency and lose perspective of where we are.
Big Picture – I believe the core aspect of each of these areas and what God was asking Adam, was dealing with context. If we look up the word context, a working definition of it is, ‘Parts surrounding a word, sentence, or passage which help determine the meaning.’ How are we going to frame and thus define the overall ‘story’ of life? This will then give a context in which we can draw out the meaning and values of life. This is the essence of the question God asks Adam and Eve. What is the context you find yourself in? This is the first and most important question that must be asked in any learning situation. Where am I?
Joshua Bell is a world-class violinist and has performed with almost all the worlds’ major orchestras. He is well known and even his violin has a name, called Gibson ex Huberman, it is a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin. In a curious experiment with Gene Weingarten from the Washington Post, Joshua Bell put on a baseball cap and played as an incognito street busker at the Metro subway station L’Enfant Plaza in Washington DC in 2007. The experiment was videotaped on a hidden camera; among 1,097 people who passed by, only seven stopped to listen to him, and only one recognized him. For his nearly 45-minute performance, Bell collected $32.17 from 27 passersby (excluding $20 from the passerby who recognized him).
What is the difference between people paying hundreds of dollars to go watch him and being amazed at him and in another location, everyone just walks by and ignores him? It was simply that the context changed and people viewed the two contexts very differently. It is the context of a situation that sets us up to look for certain things. It tells us what is important and how we should respond. It gives us a reference point for what is an appropriate relationship.
As God starts with this question, it must be a vital question for us to deal with. Where or how would we see this in the New Testament if it is so important to us?
In the New Testament language, this is described as darkness. Men loved darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil. (John 3:19) Now, how is the question ‘Where are you?’ the same as loving darkness? What is it that darkness gives you? What is it that light gives you?
If you think about it, the one thing darkness removes is context. No one knows where you are. You can do anything you want and there can be no accountability because it is dark. Light exposes all things and gives you the context in which a life is lived. Darkness is the perfect place to hide. It is the one place where we can claim ignorance, ‘but I didn’t know’, and thus avoid any form of accountability. We often say of someone who lacks information that they are ‘in the dark.’ We then try to enlighten them so that they are ‘without excuse’.
We are small and finite. We are limited and will always be in a place where we need to know more. That was meant to be our joy. A sheer and wonderful pleasure offered to us from the very beginning. However, in the broken world we find ourselves in, we don’t like being vulnerable as this makes us perpetually insecure. What if I get the information wrong? What if I miss it? What if I focus on the wrong part? Etc… God has made it very clear from the beginning if we get His context right, then wholehearted learning will have a place and fit into life and we will never have to look back and say, “If only I had known…” We don’t have to look at all the changes going on around us and get insecure. God offers us a context that will never change. (Being vulnerable will be covered in more detail in the 2nd key, being defensive.)
“I believe that we have little chance of averting an environmental catastrophe unless we recognize that we are not the masters of Being, but only a part of Being… We must recognize that we are related to more than to the present moment and the present place, that we are related to the world as a whole and to eternity. We must recognize that, by failing to reflect universal, supra-individual and supra-temporal interests, we do a disservice to our specific, local and immediate interests. Only people with a sense of responsibility for the world and to the world are truly responsible to and for themselves.”
(Vaclav Havel, The Art of the Impossible)
The second question is:
Who told you that you were naked?
The second question God asks Adam is building on the first question. Adam and Eve made a choice and are experiencing the consequence of that choice. Shame and fear have found a place in their hearts. Now they see their own finiteness/ vulnerability through these feelings and it terrifies them.
God gives us the second key to learning and it has to do with authority. Who have they listened to? For listening is the simplest expression of walking under someone’s authority. To link this back to the first question, those in ‘authority’ are the ones who help define the context of our life. God starts with Adam and where he was and then goes to authority to understand the strongest relationships that have influenced him. Who influenced him to get to the place that he is?
Authority is a delegated power and responsibility that God gave us to represent Him on earth. It is to be an expression of His authority among us and was to be woven into the fabric of our lives. As we read the story of God, we see there are four expressions of authority that God has delegated to us.
Individual – Each of us is made in the image of God. We are sovereign in our capacity to choose and God will not override our relational choices. This is the foundational building block of the Kingdom. We each have authority to define our life and live it as we please.
Family – Through a committed relationship rooted in respect and intimacy, a man and woman share all aspects of their life together and create a safe place to raise children. The authority of the family is in their covenant of love for each other. They form the building blocks of society and form the foundation that will have the greatest influence over a child’s life.
Government – An institution that creates a place for justice for the people to do business, get an education, have a healthy environment and be protected from evil. The authority of a government is rooted in the people they rule. All finite moral creation needs some form of governance and is to be an expression of the Kingdom of God and His love of Justice.
Church – An institution that expresses the values, standards and love of God to the world. The church is given the authority from God to represent who He is to the world. Each person is free to live their live as they see fit, but the Church is to model the love of God in such a way that people are drawn to understand how people can live that way.
These four expressions are vital for humanity. We cannot survive if we do not understand how they work, their roles and responsibilities as well as their limitations. That is why it is the second question God asks.
When I was in first grade, I took an IQ test. The results were that I was considered borderline mentally retarded. My Dad went with me to talk with the teacher and after the conference I had a choice, to believe the teacher/test or believe my Dad? Who had authority to tell me how smart or dumb I was? I decided back then that I would trust my Dad and that he said I was smart so I assumed I was.
If we are going to learn, we must understand who has authority over us? What are their roles and responsibilities? What are the limits of their authority? Who should we listen to? What authority do I have over my own life?
These are key questions that must be wrestled with if we are going to learn how to deal with the unknown. Remember, it is only unknown to us. Not to God.
When the centurion sent people to Jesus to ask for his help. He had a clear understanding of authority and told Jesus, ‘just say the word and I know the sickness will be gone. For I also am a man under authority. I say go and they go. I say come and they come. Just give the word and I know it will be dealt with’. Jesus responds by saying of him, ‘I have not seen such great faith in all Israel.’ Jesus linked strong faith with a clear understanding of authority. For our faith to work and be life giving, we must understand who has authority and how it is to be used in different situations.
We are small and finite and have a God given desire and need for authority as we don’t know enough on our own to make wise decisions. This was supposed to be another aspect of joy in our life. God, the true authority, delegated some of that authority to us and we could discover how it works and the pleasure of different responsibilities as we served each other. However, our lives and communities are broken and breeding dysfunction because we will not clarify and walk in God’s perspective on authority. Wholehearted learning requires we clarify who has authority and the limits and responsibilities that go with it.
The third question is:
Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?
The third question God asks Adam is now very personal. What choices have you made? The result God is looking for in all of this is for us to own our life within a framework of reality. To do that we must own our choices, others will influence us, but in the end, it is our choice as an expression of our life that defines us. It is painful to note that at this point, Adam turns on God and blames Him as the source of the problem for his choices. He won’t accept the responsibility for the power of his choice. Welcome to Humanity.
To be honest I am fascinated that this is the third question and not the first. In our Western worldview, the individual’s choice is the primary and only reference point. But God doesn’t see it that way. He clearly implies that until you can clearly see the whole story or context and recognize who has authority and what types of authority there are, you will not understand your choice.
We could also say it this way: when we are reaching out to help others, when you are engaging people, the place to start is how they view the context or ‘story’ of life and who has what authority, their choices will not make sense or change. Even if they do change, you can be assured it will not be moving them towards abundant life as that can only be found in the ‘light’ with clear understanding of authority and God’s context.
Imagine yourself growing up in a family that has a very strong, perfectionist father. As you grow up, you realize you can do nothing right. Nothing you ever do is good enough. As you get older, you assume you have no authority to make any choices because they are never good enough. You assume you are just a victim and have no say in your life. Your understanding of your own authority to define life is lost and you are living out of the context which your Father set up for you. Unless you clarify these with a new context and clarify your authority, your own choices will never be really seen for what they truly are. Your choices.
Each person has a choice, delegated to him or her as an expression of God in us. It has value because we have value.
In Summary, living whole-heartedly and thus learning, can be likened to writing a ‘story’. You can’t tear a paragraph, a page or even a chapter out of the book and make that the story as it won’t make sense. You would need a greater context that gives meaning and value to the plot, characters and relationships of those involved. That is the first part of our work for abundant life, finding out what is the story of God and where we are in it. Then, a key part of any story is about power and authority. Who has it? How is it used? We must clarify God’s perspective on authority so that we understand our different roles and responsibilities in life. Wholehearted learning requires we clarify who has authority and the limits and responsibilities that go with it.
When there are power struggles and blurred lines on authority, this creates conflict and with this, an opportunity for people to make choices in regards to the conflict. In a written story, the scene is set and the characters then have to move the plot forward. They must choose their values, or express themselves and how they will resolve the conflicts of life. Likewise in our life of learning. God desires to give us a framework to see His story, to understand who has what authority and how it should be used and then to remind us that each of us has a choice in how we live our lives in, and for Him. In a nutshell, that is what we offer God; our choice, to play a part in His story, under His authority.
Written by Dr. Matt Rawlins
*Taken from the book, Walking into the Land of Uncertainty, by Dr. Matt Rawlins
To purchase a pdf please go to: mrawlinsonline.com
Creator God – The God of Science
Which profession is the most unpopular with many people in our world today? In our current financial climate, investment bankers must be right up there nearing number one. In New Testament times, tax collectors were looked down upon and despised by many. And in recent decades, scientists were not too popular, particularly with the majority of Christians.
Although I work for Youth With A Mission, at heart I am also a scientist. I am fascinated by how the world works. If I was working as a full time scientist researching a cure for malaria or looking at how could we find innovations that would feed the poor in rural Africa then this could be seen as a good profession by many people including Christians today. But how would my profession be seen by the majority of the church if I lived my life trying to research the origins of the universe?
In Geneva, Switzerland, where I am writing this article, we have what is called, CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) near by. Its large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest particle collider. Last year they finally identified a particle they think is the Higg’s Boson particle. Its discovery would prove a theory developed in the 1960’s and 70’s on how the molecular world works. The research they are carrying out raises questions on how the world began and the origin of the matter of the universe. In our Christian thinking today, can I work at CERN without being shunned by the church?
Recently, CERN hosted a meeting of scientists, philosophers and theologians. Co-organiser Dr. Gary Wilton, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative in Brussels, said, “the Higgs particle raised lots of questions [about the origins of the Universe] that scientists alone can’t answer.” “They need to explore them with theologians and philosophers,” he added.
What a great understanding of our God. Science can discover what God created but we need to interpret those results to understand what they really mean. Good science creates a theory that is tested through experiments to come to a conclusion. In cutting-edge science these results and the conclusions drawn from them are published in papers and in peer-reviewed journals. Other scientists should be able to replicate the results by using the same methods, in order for the paper to become an accepted theory across the world.
Good science can only find what is really there. The theories that are taught from what is found may be wrong, but over time science can only ever find what is, and will correct wrong theories.
If we look back at the history of the church there have been times when our beliefs have seemed to be under threat. There was a time when the church believed that the earth was flat. We even had Biblical proof for this. Heaven was up and Hell was down, so therefore the earth had to be flat. Ephesians 4:9 is one example of how Scripture was used to prove a theory. Jesus both “ascended higher than all the heavens”, and He “descended to the lower earthly regions.” So when scientists started to theorize and prove what sailors had known for a long time, the church persecuted them because, according to them, the Bible clearly said that it was flat.
I want to leave you with three quotes to think about. Firstly, Einstein said, “Religion without science is blind and science without religion is lame.”
Secondly, Dr. Louis Leakey, a missionary and paleontologist in Kenya’s rift valley, said, “Nothing I’ve ever found has contradicted the Bible. It’s only people with their finite minds who misread the Bible.”
And finally I leave you with a verse from the John 1:3 that says, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
If we withdraw from the progression of science because we are uncomfortable with what is being discovered, if we are so challenged in our beliefs that our only response is to claim they are wrong, then who will be the salt and light that is needed in this domain?
Written by Richard Leakey
TTI Associate Staff
ARTS – The God of Beauty
Imagine a world that was purely functional.
Everything works. Moral law, natural laws, governmental laws are in place.
But there’s no beauty.
Imagine waking each morning and seeing only grey.
You don’t know what colour is.
Life would be different. You would wake, eat, go to work, eat, work, eat, do what needed to be done at home, then sleep. Then the next day would have the same monotonous routine.
Imagine if there was no music. The birds don’t sing in the morning. You don’t hum as you go about your day. The most mundane tasks you undertake couldn’t be lightened as you sing along to your favourite songs on the radio.
Imagine a world with no beauty. No creativity. No magnificent landscapes that change with the passing seasons.
Imagine driving to work surrounded by grey, with nothing to capture your attention. No sunrises or sunsets that would make you want to pull over and just gaze for a while.
Imagine not having to choose what to wear in the mornings. Imagine a world with no style, no design, no culture.
Imagine not having to choose colour schemes and interior designs for your home. The only consideration would be what worked the best.
Imagine a world with no sport.
Imagine countries that all looked the same. No differences in style, looks or terrain.
Imagine cities or towns where every building looked exactly the same. Street after street, city after city…
But it’s not like that.
Our beautiful God is revealed in the majesty of the mountains. In the intricate design of a flower petal. Music lifts our spirits and stirs our hearts. Each morning when we wake the sun sends a palette of colours cascading through our windows.
Our world is filled with beauty in the limitless sights, sounds and fragrances.
The creative extravagance of our God is on display for the world to see. Beauty causes us to stop dead in our tracks and lift our eyes and hearts to Him. It woos us to a place of rest. It restores our souls. It refreshes our hearts.
We see beauty in each other. The smile of a friend can change our day. Watching a sportsperson do the seemingly impossible fills us with awe and wonder. Contemplating a great masterpiece of art inspires us to express our own creativity in some measure.
Made in the image of God, our deepest longings often reveal a desire to create like Him and create with Him.
Each display of beauty around us, from the minute to the magnificent, calls our hearts to Him. Beauty elevates our souls to our majestic Creator God – our Father who longs to bless His children and teach us to rest. Beauty turns our attention to our Father who sings over each one of us with divine melodies and lyrics drenched with purity.
Do you see the beauty of our God?
Do you look for the beauty of our God?
Written by Becky Frith
EDUCATION – The Great Teacher; attribute: wisdom
Proverbs is full of verses talking about knowledge, wisdom and understanding. “For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you” (Pro 2:10-11 NIV). It is clear these three attributes are interwoven in Scripture. To say we are learned or educated would mean we are accessing all three, not focusing on just one. So when someone seeks knowledge, wisdom and understanding, he or she engages learning at a holistic level.
We know from various passages from the Pentateuch that the parents are responsible for the education of their children. God asks them to talk about His laws, precepts and decrees when they sit down, when they walk and when they lie down. They were to have visual reminders on their bodies, doorframes and city gates.
If the focus of our education today is knowledge alone then we are only developing part of an individual, not the whole. Education must seek to engage the whole individual: senses, intellect, heart, reason, skillfulness, prudence, common sense, etc. God gives the authority for education to the parents. Does that mean all parents should be home-schooling their children? No, but it is a choice. The questions parents need to be asking are:
Are we involved in the education of our child?
Do we know what they are learning or not learning in the classroom?
Are we looking to enhance, build on, reinforce or correct what they are learning?
Do we see our whole child being engaged?
God clearly states that the parents are ultimately responsible for the development of their children. The question is do we hold onto that authority or have we given it away?
Written by E. Pennington
In Landa Copes Book, The Old Testament Template, family is the first line of defense for values, morality, provision, justice, and love. Why? As we see in Scripture family will either be the authority in these areas or someone else will be. God placed Israel in the middle of pagan nations who had different values, some with no morality and who lacked justice. He was confident His ways, His laws, His decrees had power and authority to give life and influence and draw nations to Himself (Deut 4:5-8). God intended the parents to lead their children in the way they should go… to value the ways of God, and that would be the success of Israel to pass His values on from generation to generation, and nation to nation. Both are essential! Thus, parents play a vital role in discipling a nation.
Today we hear phrases like, “marriage and family are being redefined,” and Christians are in an uproar. We are looking to government to fix the problem, and to set laws in place that will deter this. We blame the entertainment industry for influencing and desensitizing our children. However, if I look at Scripture, I would say our eyes are not fixed in the right place. The solution is not out there, it is right here in our homes. Marriage, family, morality, provision, justice and love… the world around us will try and redefine them and will continue too. That does not surprise or shock God, and therefore it should not be a shock to us. We are to be “the salt of the earth”, “the light to the world” and that starts at home. In my home are Gods morality, provision, justice and love displayed, and talked about? Do they hold meaning and value? Can my children witness to that?
If you feel that you are surrounded by pagans trying to destroy marriage and family, perhaps you are there for a reason. Like with Israel God’s heart, motive and intention was to teach them how to live and bless them, so that they may have long life and influence the nations around them. We all know this did not happen, and “they did what was right in their own eyes”. The battle is no different today, but the question begs, are we doing “what is right in our own eyes” within marriage and family? Are we losing the battle to influence the world around us because we have not won the battle at home?
Written by E. Pennington
In Scripture, The Great High Priest is revealed to us through the priesthood. It is here in this domain that we see God’s attributes of mercy and forgiveness in action. When God established the priesthood through Moses and Aaron, He chose the Levites to be His representatives. Unlike government there was no process, no vote and no consensus. God just chose the Levites. In answering the question, “Is the institution of the church still relevant today?”, we need to refer back to the five Books of Moses as our template of values for nation discipleship. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” It is God who established the Institution of the priesthood/church, and it should be the job of ministers today to understand what He has called them to do so that they can continue to rightly represent Him. It is God who defines what the function of this institution is and what it is not.
In the five Books of Moses and the historical books of the Bible, there are the key roles of the priesthood that were given by God. The priests and the Levites were to be a standard of righteousness to the people. They were to offer up the sacrifices for the atonement of sin for both themselves and the people. They were to be a mediator between God and man and man and God. They were to extend mercy and forgiveness to His people. They were to take care of the Tabernacle, The Tent of Meeting and the Temple and all of its furnishings. And they were to administer healthcare to the people, which included the poor.
In the New Testament, in looking at the Gospels and Christ’s ministry years, at the lives of the apostles in the Letters, and at the elders and deacons, we see that many of these roles did carry over from the Old Testament to the new. The only thing that changed was the application of these roles. Those who were called to the institution of the church in the New Testament were still to be a standard of righteousness for the people. As God’s ministers they were to extend His mercy and forgiveness to all people, and they were to expect miracles. Because of Christ’s sacrifice they no longer needed to be mediators for people to engage with God, but they were to now point the people of God to go directly to God themselves. They were to continue to teach and equip the saints the values of God, and encourage them to live out those values in their vocations. They were also to find ways to care for the needs of the Temple (the body) in both spiritual and material (physical) ways, and they were not to ignore the practical needs of less fortunate people in their communities.
(Quoted from the thesis, “The Role of the Institution of the Church”, by Leah Broomfield)