Saturday, 21 August 2010

Mission Purpose Over-ride II

Still on the golden calf aftermath (now in Ex 33), God commands the people to go on up to the promised land. Yet this is accompanied with the devastating words
but I will not go with you
This is tragic - sure they get to live in the land of milk and honey, but without the abiding presence of God. Bad deal!

Yet Moses appeals to God once again. He can see that this is no good. Look at 33:16 - to be without God's presence is no good for themselves as a people, but it is also no good for the mission! Once again the mission purpose over-rides. The people need to go on up but they need God with them, otherwise it all makes no sense.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Mission Purpose Over-ride I

The golden calf business was such a disaster (Ex 32). Of course we know it was bad because it epitomised idolatry. Yet the consequences reached farther. You see as a result God wanted to just blow them all away and start over with Moses' descendants (v10).

But Moses was sharp. He could see a problem with this approach. The Egyptians would get to hear of the wipe-out and draw their own conclusions - which would be the opposite of what they should be understanding about God. In short, the mission would suffer a serious set back!

Moses strengthens his case appealing to the foundational covenant of God with Abraham, but note that if God had started over through Moses the original promise to Abraham would still have been fulfilled (albeit with another several hundred years re-population process!).

So the mission purpose of the Exodus journey over-rides quick and instant judgement, even though such a wipe-out was justifiable.

Therefore we see God entertaining and journeying with the Israelites in the messiness of their unbelief and idolatry. Of course their behaviour is not to be condoned, but it is instructive for us today how it appears (at least to some degree) to be tolerated, with the mission purpose being the over-riding factor.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Fighting God's Battles

These days I have to admit that I am intrigued when I see or hear of Christians protesting about something, where they are claiming to 'defend God's honour'. I am intrigued, because I am wondering why they see it as so important to do so.

Not that I am against campaigning. This weekend I was reminded of the importance and success of FairTrade campaigning with the examples of Cadbury and Mars standing prominently. Speaking out on such causes I would say is part of our duty as Christians, part of our mission.

But defending God's honour, I am really not so sure. There is an interesting episode in Judges, verses 6:28 - 32 where the people were (naturally) upset with Gideon for going against their Baal worship in such a direct way. They wanted his blood, to take action into their own hands in the cause of Baal. Here's the rub, Joash in v31 realised that if Baal is a god, he can fight for himself in such a matter - they don't need to do it for him.

Surely it is the same with God (who really is God)? We don't need to take up arms on God's behalf in this kind of way - God can fight His own battles (much more successfully!).

Now it may be that God directs us to take action (Gideon acted on the Lord's command, v25), but we don't need to fight for God as if he was our little brother who needs us to stand up for him.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Hairy Moments

Time to get my hair cut, which often means a chance to share my faith. Not at my provocation, but naturally as the conversation flows (made a bit easier, because my work is for a church). This time was no exception: my barber was clearly seeking and wondering if the Christian faith could really work.

Interestingly she made a number of instant assumptions about me: that I was a man of considerable faith, that belief came easily to me, that I had a clear purpose. All that came from just the fact that I worked with the church. We all make assumptions about those we meet, just from the first few exchanges - first impressions do indeed count.

Being someone who tries to practice what I preach, I put my L-S-P thing into gear. That gave me better insight and prevented me from making potentially false assumptions as she snipped away. Finding out that she was up for reading a book or two, I made some recommendations.

And now I pray. My hair is now cut so the moment has been and gone, and hopefully I have contributed my piece to her journey effectively and faithfully. I may never know if that haircut was really significant for her, but I do know the ingredients are simple: time available to chat, to be open, to ask one or two light-yet-key questions, and being ready for whatever emerges.