Friday, October 19, 2007

This is a great example of my friend Jason's writing

This is powerful stuff. Hope you get as much out of it as I did.

Prayer - The Forgotten Key

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. "Am I leading a rebellion," said Jesus, "that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled." Then everyone deserted him and fled. (Mark 14:32-50)The night of Christ’s greatest trial was also the moment of greatest temptation for His disciples. Knowing this, He urged them to pray. Nowhere in the gospels do we see Christ so emphasizing the need for prayer to His followers as in this moment. Knowing what was about to be unleashed upon them, he admonished them saying, “Watch and pray that you not fall into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.Having spoken about prayer and given them a model to pray by in the Lord’s Prayer, why did Jesus choose this moment to so urge them toward it? Because He was leaving them. When asked why His followers did not fast as the Pharisees and disciples of John did, Jesus said, “There is no need for it while the bridegroom is with them. But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away and on that day they will fast.”A similar principle was at work in the arena of prayer. Until now, Christ had been with them – guarding and guiding them. In a sense, they were in a state of perpetual prayer because of Christ’s immediate bodily proximity to them. But that was about to change. His word to them now was, “Watch and pray, because though your spirit may be in the right place, your flesh is weak. I have been with you, but once I am taken away, you’ll find that you aren’t as strong as you think you are.”Until Christ returns, this urgent call to prayer remains.But, like those disciples in the garden, we are prone to resting and sleeping instead. And the result of such inaction has the same predictable results: “Then everyone deserted Him and fled.” In the time of trial and temptation, we do not stand because we do not pray. As a result, like those same disciples, “We do not know what to say to Him.”The great British revivalist Leonard Ravenhill once said, “No man is greater than his prayer life.” These words came from a man who prayed 8-10 hours a day. He knew what he was talking about. He also said, “Failing in the place of prayer, we fail everywhere.”Can we make any greater statement of self-sufficiency before God than that of prayerlessness? Does anything project crass self-confidence like prayerlessness?Why then do we find it so difficult to maintain consistency in prayer? For precisely this reason – it is an affront to the flesh. We simply would rather do any number of things than pray. Prayer can be a pleasure. It can also be a discipline and a battle. Moreover, it stands to reason that if Christ holds prayer up as the key to spiritual victory, our enemy will seek to hinder us from that action. Tragically, he is often successful. His most successful strategy has been getting the church to believe that prayer is an option.Of course, like anything else in the Christian life, prayer is something we mature in through engagement. As the Scripture says, “For who hath despised the day of small things?" Often, Christians labor under the deception that weakness and immaturity in the place of prayer means their prayers are ineffectual and worthless. Therefore, a Christian who may only have the fortitude to pray 10 minutes a day will often choose not to pray at all – not understanding that consistency, even with such a meager offering, will result in perseverance and the gradual building of a prayer life worthy of the Lord.Because of a general absence of prayer, the vast majority of Christians never cultivate their spiritual lives. The result is a spiritual lethargy and a tolerance of personal defeat that is disheartening to our Lord – precisely because He has given us a resource that taps into His own victory, making it ours as well.Let us make a commitment to “watch and pray” with the Lord daily. If we have the fortitude to simply pray, He will establish us in time as a people strong in prayer and faithful through every trial and temptation.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

While I'm Away.....

If you are looking for a good blog to check out while we are living in the land of no internet, please check out my friend Jason's blog. He's got some really great things to say.

http://tozerscarpet.blogspot.com

Friday, October 05, 2007

Moving Silence

We're moving to Clanton Alabama at the end of this month, and at least for the time being, this is going to be the last post on my blog for quite a while. I've got one last bit of stuff to speak about before I go on my hiatus for the next several months(we won't have internet there).

This is about "hearing from God".

This is something I have recently been convicted about personally. I have been guilty in times past of treating "hearing from God" in a similar way I would treat a motivational speaker. You get a new nugget of wisdom at church or alone or whenever and hold it up and admire the truth or beauty or goodness in it BUT does it take root and get integrated into your life?

At the end of what is commonly referred to as the greatest sermon(the sermon on the mount by Jesus), Jesus recaps with an interesting story. After an incredible summary of the core of His teachings, He does not say be careful THAT you hear, or even WHAT you hear, but HOW you hear. This is tied to the story we all know about the man who built his house upon the sand and the man who built his house upon the rock. Notice that according to Jesus, they BOTH heard, but one was careful "how" he heard building his life on it and the other did not.

I'm not sure that I need another "word from the Lord" for a while. I think perhaps instead I need to focus on living out the immense amount of stuff that he has already revealed to me and integrating it into my life by the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.

There is another parable Jesus uses to describe the kingdom of heaven. He says it is like a loaf of bread that has allowed the yeast to permeate its entire being. I didn't plan for my break from writing this blog to coincide with this post, but I can't help but wonder if it is not providential in some way.

Please pray for me that I will make dying to myself and living to Christ more of a reality and less of something that I write about the latest insights about.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ella Scare

It is hard to believe that just one week ago today we were about to experience such a scare with Ella. She had been experiencing a low grade fever since Friday evening, but she was not fussy and continued to be her normal happy go lucky self. We were to meet my mom and dad for lunch Saturday afternoon, and since she was not acting as if she was feeling bad at all, we decided to go ahead and meet them. Even on the way to meet them, she was in a playful mood, but soon after arriving, she began to get fussy and irritable. We decided as soon as lunch was over to head home to call her pediatrician. It was on the way home that Myndall noticed that she was not very active in her car seat. She spoke to her and tried to engage her by being playful and making funny faces, but Ella simply stared straight ahead. Myndall commented on this and continued to try to get her to respond. Then Myndall noticed that she was staring vacantly and was completely non-responsive. Ella began foaming at the mouth, and her right hand began twitching at her wrist. Myndall touched her, and she continued to be completely non-responsive. At this point, Myndall unbuckled and jumped into the back with Ella. Myndall said, "she's not breathing!" At this point, I was going about 90 mph on the interstate headed for Children's hospital ER. I called my mom whom we had just left(she's a nurse for those of you who don't know her). She gave me as many pointers on what to do as she could and told us they would meet us at the ER. Meanwhile, Myndall pulled Ella out of her car seat, and she still was completely non-responsive, as limp as a rag doll, and not breathing. Myndall turned her over and began giving her back thrusts. After doing this for 30 to 45 seconds, Ella finally threw up and gradually began breathing, shallow at first and then more normally.

When we arrived at Children's Hospital and saw the doctor, the prognosis for what had occurred is a febrile seisure. It occurs in 3% of all infants up to age 5. It is brought on by a sudden rise or fall in a fever. We learned several new things about how to deal with a seisure if it were to occur again in the future. The primary things are to put the child in a safe place where they will not hurt themselves if they thrash or go unconcious in the midst of the seisure, lie them down, and turn their head sideways in case they vomit(so they won't choke on it), and call 911. Basically, you just have to wait out the seisure.

A couple of neat aspects to the terrifying experience were that the on call nurse who called us back as we were riding in our car to the ER was a good friend of mine's wife who just happened to be the on call nurse that night. Also, my mom, who works at children's, was praying for a specific doctor to be the one who saw Ella and that was exactly who we got. Thank you to all of you who prayed for us and with us in the midst of this previous week. Your love and friendship is just one of the many things that remind us of the goodness of serving our God.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

IDENTITY

Who are you? Who, who, who, who? This is the famous line in a song by the band with the same name, The Who.

According to Eastern religions, “you” are an illusion because the self is simply one of the last great illusions to overcome before you become enlightened enough to realize that you are really a part of some huge interconnected, divine blob that includes everyone else also. (I don’t think they use the term blob in their official version of this teaching.)

However, we are given a very different understanding of identity in the Bible. We are not one with God or nature or with each other. God was the one who gave Adam his name. He also renamed Abram to Abraham, and He changed Jacob’s name to Israel. God does not only assign us individual names, but he knows us from our mother’s womb. He knows every detail about our environment we are born into, our genetic make up down to the last strand of DNA, our thoughts, emotions, desires, beliefs, attitudes, our favorite flavor of ice cream, and our favorite song. In short, God knows us better than we could ever know ourselves and certainly better than anyone else could know us.

Why then do we seem so willing to surrender our identity to those around us throughout our lives? We are willing to believe we are who they say we are. Depending on who “they” are, this common practice can be truly devastating to a person’s life. Even if “they” are loving and clear headed believers who love God and you, we are not to surrender this power to truly define who we are to “them.”

Here is another tricky one that you may have never thought of before. You are also unqualified to be the ultimate determiner of who you truly are. I know you are more familiar with your environment, genetics, thoughts, emotions, desires, beliefs, attitudes, ice cream picks, and songs than anyone else(except God, of course). However, as profound as these things all are, even they do not ultimately define you. No, even your genetic make up DOES NOT define you. What does then? You ask. Ahhh….. I suspect you see where I’m going with this. Yep, God is the only true source of your identity. He gave you an identity, and He alone can fundamentally transform you into a different identity in mid stream like when he turned Jacob into Israel. Ultimately, we are guilty of doing the same thing that “they” do when trying to define our identity, we limit what it could be instead of pursuing God and discovering what He says it WILL BE. This is not to remove our role and responsibility in forming our identity, but we will never truly know the full purpose that God has for our identity until we release control of defining ourselves and allow Him to shape us.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

General Petraeus

PLEASE! Watch at least the first part of General Petraeus's opening remarks to Congress on September 10th. I have made this video available to the right. He is the top military commander in Iraq and SHOULD be, in my opinion, the most authoritative voice in America right now on the situation in Iraq. Here is the bottom line. Either the information he is presenting is accurate or not. There should be no room for personal attacks against him. Argue the data. If anyone can give me some good reasons to believe his information is corrupted(hating or not trusting Bush does not constitute "good reasons"), I will listen to what that person has to say, but I have NOT heard any so far!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Quote of the week...

"Prayer pops the bubble of pride that comes from a well oiled thinking mind. It allows God to counteract our gift of discernment with the humility of acknowledging we still ultimately depend on Him for our understanding."
-Jesse M. Guy

PRAYER

I haven't done a true thoughtful post in awhile. Hopefully, this will qualify as one. Prayer is a mysterious thing to say the least. It is clear we are told to pray to the Father, and I suppose I just have a few thoughts about that from things I've considered over the past couple of years.

WHY?
I guess the short answer could legitimately be, "I don't know." However, there are some reasons that come to mind. First, it teaches us to live a life that is aware of our dependence on God. If we don't pray, it seems easier to fall into that silly illusion that I am responsible for the blessings I see around me. This reminds me of a quote from C.S. Lewis in his book Problem of Pain, "A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell." This is the kind of insanity and fundamental disconnectedness that we can fall into if we do not take the time to pray. Another reason I have seen in my own life is that praying for people helps me to remember their needs and care about them as three dimensional individuals more instead of the cardboard cutout relationship of saying hi/bye to our more casual relationships with people. Our prayer brings their reality as hurting people to the forefront of our minds, and this can help us to learn to deal with people more mercifully and lovingly. Finally, it could be that we simply cause the hand of Almighty God to move when He otherwise would not have.

A FEW THINGS THAT HAVE HELPED ME

1. A prayer list
-I was resistant to this for the longest time, but I cannot tell you how many little ways this has helped me to grow.....well, I could but then you would not have the joy of discovering that for yourself :) Just start making a list of people and stuff that you would like to pray for on a consistent basis and allow God to bring new things to your mind that you can add to the list. Then develop a faithful practice of praying for all on the list. It feels a little forced at first, but I promise that over time AS YOU GROW FAITHFUL IN DOING IT, God will open your eyes to positive fruits from it that you never would have thought of.

2. Start/End the day with praise and prayer
As early as you can begin thinking of it, develop a habit of "bookending" your day with saying a word of thanks, praise, and request to God. You will be surprised how this can set the tone for your entire day.

3. Develop a time of day for meditating/listening.
Begin by picking a time that you should be able to have a certain amount of uninterrupted and mentally alert time and then pray that God will open your eyes to the Scriptures. This can obviously go hand in hand with some time spent reading your Bible, but doesn't have to be back to back. I know God can show us things through people, nature, situations, etc. also, but I specifically point to the Scriptures here because I think we all need to gain a new passion for meditating on them and Lord knows He can open our eyes to Himself through them. One word about this practice that I have noticed over the years. Disciplining yourself to be a meditator/listener(a disciplined desirer to hear from God) has rewards that can be missed if you limit it to "hearing from God" only in the time frame that you have devoted to meditate. Many times I have spent time thinking about some specific scripture and haven't gotten anything out of it, but then later that day or week, I will see something remarkably clearly out of nowhere when I'm not focused in on Him or the Bible. I have noticed that when I am disciplined to meditate, I have these moments far more often than when I lapse into not disciplining myself to meditate on Him and His word.

Finally, a verse that I have incorporated into a prayer. Job 36:10, "You open their ears to discipline." I ask my Father to bring reminders to my mind to do these practices....not feelings to do them or give me the desire to do them, but simply reminders and then, by His grace, I develop the disciplines that will lead me deeper into abandoning myself to Him fully.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

New Blog Feature

I hope you will enjoy my new video feature to the top right of the page. All you have to do is click on one of the clips and it will play on my blog. I will be changing the video clip selection up from time to time to try to provide fresh and interesting materials for you to enjoy.

Check out a recent discussion I found very interesting

This is a series of video clips, but you won't need any software to watch them because they are built into the web site.

http://leestrobel.com/

Scroll down to Our Great Speakers on the right side of the page, and then click on Deepak Chopra. Those of you who are not familiar with Dr. Chopra should know he is a New Age speaker and writer who has a fundamentally Eastern view of things like God, Faith, and especially Truth. You will find five clips, and you can click on any of them in any order to watch some interesting discussions between Chopra and a man named Greg Koukl. I hope you get as much out of these clips as I did!

Monday, August 20, 2007

More pics and Better pics of Honduras trip are coming soon...

Back from Honduras



This small building is their old church.


Well I've been back actually since the tenth, but I was a bit sick and then Myndall and I journeyed to Brandon, MS to see our new nephew, Daniel Allan.


Honduras was incredible. Our long day of travel to get there was surpassed only by the many subsequent days of long, hard work. However, it was so awesome to meet the people and see their culture up close. They are warm, hard working people, and I made friends with some of them in spite of our language barrier. I grew especially close to the bus driver who was my partner in nastiness when we ran the mixer each day mixing the mortar for the brick layers. I was reading Ephesians a chapter per day while we were there, and it seemed to dovetail really well with our experience. It talks a lot about being a unified group and growing together in love as we are built up together (kind of like a building for God). Our group was united throughout which was also a great aspect of the trip. Oh yeah, and I got to swim in the Pacific for the first time. :) Enjoy the pics and please pray for the people of Divisadero, Honduras.

Friday, July 20, 2007

CONTACT

Several years ago, there was a movie released called Contact. The story basically went along following a young astronomer who believed deeply in extraterrestrial intelligence. She is present when a signal is beamed to the Earth. At first, they cannot decipher the signal until she realizes that the signal is actually a complex mathematical code that provides a schematic for building a machine to contact this “higher intelligence.” One memorable scene is when she(played by Jodie Foster) explains that math is the ultimate universal language. It transcends all language barriers between alien races, so to speak.

It was a neat movie except for the extremely pervasive slam on belief in God and any and all organized religion.

The reason I’m talking about this movie is because, ironically, I see a parallel between the universal language in this ultimate atheistic fantasy and my own experience in my Christian walk. Here’s is the question, “What is the real universal language?” Will we all speak English in heaven? Will we have little ear pieces that translate for each of us? Will we speak Hebrew? I don’t know, and I’m okay with waiting and finding the answer to this particular mystery. I heard one intriguing theory that music itself will somehow be the universal language. Deep….. a little too deep for me, but a really cool thought nevertheless.

Actually, what the movie and this “universal language” that it made me think of has more to do with the here and now. A couple of examples to illustrate where I’m going with this may be in order. My friends in Ghana who have endangered themselves and deal with a seemingly never ending barrage of stressful experiences for themselves and their children is one example. Another example is the Flemings family in the interior of Mexico who have spent more than thirty years of their lives evangelizing, training converts to Christ, and running an orphanage. There is also the Walkers who arrange for American churches to fund and send people down to Honduras to build churches for communities who otherwise would not be able to do this for themselves. All these examples are a testimony to the language that is, if not universal, certainly global….love. The people of Ghana, Mexico, and Honduras don’t need translation to understand the motivations of these people. It is as easy to read as the rising sun or a storm cloud announcing rain. Love speaks and IS heard!

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Insanity of Sin

My wife, Myndall, and I were talking in the car about something she had heard recently about shepherds. Apparently, when a sheep wanders away from the flock, the shepherd retrieves it and breaks its leg. He then carries it back to the flock on his shoulders and nurses it back to health. We commented on how dumb sheep were that it took this level of pain to keep them from wandering off again in the short term, and Myndall commented on how that might be how God sees us.

I think she nailed it on the head. The Scriptures are certainly loaded with sheep analogies when it describes the “people of God.” I recently heard a philosophy professor from Boston College talk about how every morning he wakes up, and he gets attacked by a thousand “thought soldiers” screaming, “Think about this!” “Think about this!” “No, Think about this!” He said he knew that without fail if he chose to begin his day with prayer and setting aside some time in that first hour to turn his focus in prayer and worship to Jesus that his entire day will inevitably go smoother, be more efficient, be filled with joy, etc. However, most of the time he does not do that and pays the consequences of less joy, less efficiency, and a more troubled day in general. “What is that?!” He cries, and then answers himself. “We’re insane!” This is the insanity of sin.
May we all choose to cry out to God as we recognize this in ourselves in humility and brokenness. May we, by the power of His Spirit working in us, begin to tell the thought soldiers to shut up and say yes to the call of Christ each morning. I believe it was Timothy that Paul told to remember that we were not given a spirit of fear, but of “power, love and clear thinking (sound mind).”

Friday, July 13, 2007

New Links Page

Please check out my new Links page that contains tons of really, great links to some amazing web sites. I hope you get as much out of them as I have. Click on Web Site Links on the right side of the page and enjoy!

P.S. -- I will be adding new sites to the links page in the future; so, please click over to it occasionally to see if there are any new additions.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Starbucks Quotes

If you have gotten a cup of Starbucks coffee in the last couple of years, you have probably noticed that they each have quotes on them about any number of things. I have become fond of reading them since they often say thoughtful things even if I do not always agree with them. Recently, however, I had an experience that made me question the degree to which the corporate leaders within Starbucks are simply using these quotes to push THEIR views onto us rather than simply giving a platform to a diverse range of intelligent voices.

This story involves three statements I recently found on Starbucks' cups. I was getting a cup of coffee, and they had run out of the sleeves they put on them to keep you from burning your hands. The employees at this Starbucks simply stacked a cup into a cup instead to provide the same affect. As usual, I looked to see what the quote said. One cup was "The way I see it" #250---"In reality, hell is not such an intention of God as it is an invention of man. God is love and people are precious. Authentic truth is not so much taught or learned as it is remembered. Somewhere in your pre-incarnate consciousness you were loved absolutely because you were. Loved absolutely, and in reality, you still are! Remember who you are!"-Bishop Carlton Pearson (Author, speaker, spiritual leader, and recording artist.

Well, if you didn't care for that one too much, check the one that was on the other cup out. "The way I see it #247"---"Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure."--Bill Scheel (Starbucks customer from London, Ontario. He describes himself as a "modern day nobody")

Finally, the third quote that I saw was the one I had the most trouble believing. This statement was actually in smaller print on the bottom of both cups. "This is the author's opinion, not necessarily that of Starbucks."

Just curious, do YOU believe the third statement? Have you read a quote from C.S. Lewis on one of their cups yet? Martin Luther? Augustine? Jesus? I'm pretty sure they have a fairly large pool of pithy quotes to choose from that would make great points regarding the existence of and awesome nature of God. Interestingly, when I mentioned this to a friend, he informed me that he had heard something about this, though he had not seen the actual quotes yet. He then informed me that there was an ongoing campaign to submit quotes to Starbucks to print on their cups that might serve to balance this seemingly one sided approach to that teensy little belief that 90% of us have in God. The web address is www.starbucks.com/wayiseeit if you're interested in submitting your personal favorite quote. I know I'll be visiting it quite frequently. Please do so respectfully and remember we represent Christ in the way we say things as well as the things we say.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Merciful Judgment of God

I know these words seem like they contradict one another--mercy and judgment, but let me show you why I do not believe that they ultimately do. We know our God is a God who loves mercy, but mercy is always tied in with judgment. In Micah 6:8, it says, "He has showed you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Later in Micah 7:18b it says, "You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy." Once again we see God's mercy in light of His anger, and His anger is ALWAYS just. I'll start with what may be slightly controversial example to make my points.



1. Hurricane Katrina

Before you click off and say, "that's it, Dennis has gone too far this time," let me start by saying, this is not an argument that I have some revelation that God judged New Orleans. You do not need to believe that to get the point I'm going to make out of this so just bear with me. I personally am not in the least upset at someone who suggests that Katrina may have been a judgment of God. Who could argue that New Orleans is known worldwide by many, many people as "sin city"? Not only Christians, but people who probably don't even know what the term sin means associate this city with its yearly flesh fest. However, my point is this. Let's say you just pretend to believe that this was the judgment of God if you don't. Consider how that judgment could have been carried out as opposed to how it was carried out. Hundreds of thousands of people could have been killed, but 99.99% of the population had evacuated the city before the hurricane even hit, and the guestimations about how many were dead after the fact proved to be gross overestimations. This was a merciful judgment of God. He accomplished ruining the city with minimal human loss of life in comparison to how it could have played out. An example of how another natural disaster(judgment) could have played out is my second example of a merciful judgment.



2. The tsunami

DUDE! You have lost it! Meriful Judgment? Okie doke, here we go. Why do I consider this a merciful judgment when it seems in contrast to Katrina to have been the ultimate judgment. I haven't kept up with the death tolls most recent corrections, but I know at one point they were estimating that it was well over 200,000 people. I suppose I should start by making sure I'm not misunderstood. In referring to these actions as judgments, I am in NO WAY stating that we don't have a responsibility to reach out to these people in any way possible to help them financially, physically, with our time and energy, and of course, with our prayers. An interesting report came out around the same time that the tsunami hit that was a yearly report about the worst countries for Christian martyrdom, and the three top offenders on the list matched perfectly with the three top death tolls from the tsunami. I know this sounds vindictive, but let me explain where I'm going with this. When a civilization is so far gone that they have essentially rejected the many cries from God to repent and only continue further down their path, the only way for Him to salvage ANY of the people is to judge the overall society in a way that shouts, "I am the One, True God." This at least provides a way of escape for those who have not completely hardened their hearts within this society. Essentially, this is an extreme option that God may reserve for salvaging as many as possible from eternal damnation.

3. Hell

Yes, I will even refer to hell as a merciful judgment because as with the preceding judgments, I consider the alternative. What is the alternative to ultimate judgment? It is God winking at sin. The alternative would be to corrupt the God of the universe. Without Him being who He is, we would not even know what justice is. Neither would we know what mercy is. He is the source of these and all things that are truly good, beautiful, and true. If He chose to corrupt Himself, this would be a terrible thing not only for Himself, but for all of His creation as well.

Again to be clear, I am not claiming to have revelation knowledge about any of these issues, but I am simply reasoning from the revelation we have been given from the Scriptures. Also, please let me reiterate that Christ came not to the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved, and it is in this spirit we as Christians should be interacting with all those around us regardless of who they are or what their circumstances are.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Gravity of God

Repentance is a u-turn and obedience is maintaining the new course heading. This is simple enough to see, but it is impossible to live out on our own. This is why we MUST appreciate and rest in the gravity of God. What I am referring to is His supernatural pull on our lives because we are redeemed when we reach out to him in faith and repentance and make our initial u-turn. We are no longer trying to do it on our own. This is the dawning of our salvation. I use the analogy of gravity because it is like we were caught within the gravitational pull of a dark star that was sucking our lives into a black hole, but a black hole is just a burned out version of the original just like anything evil and perverted. God longs for us to be back within His gravitational pull, and He has taken the necessary steps to make that a reality for anyone who will choose Him. Perhaps you are like me and have turned back after your initial u-turn to the dark star because of the sickly hold it has on our fallen nature. This is addressed also. Simply turn back again to the Father in humility, and He will begin pulling you back with His pull again.

Paul puts it this way in Romans 6, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness?"

Remember this perhaps most of all---the best way to secure God's gravitational pull on our lives is for us to get closer to Him because gravity gets stronger the closer you get.

Or again as Paul puts it, "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life."

John 17:3-"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Quote of the week...

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."- Paul

The Sea

This is an excerpt from a professor of philosophy at Boston College about the Sea. The speaker's name is Peter Kreeft. I hope you enjoy a small snippet of his thoughts...

"Nature is not just a thing but a sign. It's like a word, and, therefore it's not just to be looked at, but also looked along. You look along a sign not just at it. You read the sign, but modern books about the sea always look at it instead of along it so they miss its significance, its signing. They never learn the sign language which is nature's language. When they see a tree waving in the wind for instance, they never think the tree is waving at them. It's only being moved at random by air molecules. They think nature isn't signing but spastic. They're like unsocialized children who can't read body language, but nature is full of words and it's written by God. God wrote two books, nature and the Bible. We should read both. This habit of sniffing at facts and missing signs typifies our whole modern culture. It's the mind of a dog. When I point to his food, my dog always sniffs at my hand. We're like that. We've been doggedly sniffing at nature, sniffing at the sea, experimenting with it...."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A day in the life...

Saw this post on my friend's blog.. jerniganblog.blogspot.com and thought I'd share it with everyone. Please continue in prayer for them.

Sunday, May 27, 2007
Sunday on Call
9:28amIt's Sunday morning, and the four of us were watching a kids DVD together. I heard the phone ringing (odd since we don't have a cell signal much at all in the house). It showed 11 missed calls and I was not able to catch that one either. I decided to call this unknown number and a man speaking Twi answered, I could understand that he was calling me using the word for Pastor in Twi, I understood the word boat and emergency, but I could not get the name of the village where they needed the boat to go.
Praise God they got through, what kind of emergency is it? Can we help? I got Sammy, our accountant, to call back in a minute and get the village name and tell them the boat is coming. Ju quickly said she must go along in case it needs to be referred to a different hospital due to our lack of supplies and equipment currently. Just at that point they yelled up to the porch where we were talking of the situation and said that a patient had just arrived in a tro-tro (van) and needed the doctor.
It's now 9:41am and I'm with Lucas and Luiza...where is Ju now - in the boat? in the clinic? taking the patient to Kumasi via taxi? We are without transport since the clinic is in need of a truck or ambulance, our Nissan Patrol is still out of commission from the accident 5 weeks ago and no news on when it will be back to us. A rental will be back tomorrow morning that a partner has given us for temporary use.
I do hope that the patients that are here will get what they need, that we can help, that Ju will have the strength and joy, the compassion and energy for this day of work that we hoped would be a family day together.
It was just a few days ago when I wrote the words of Jesus in a blog entry 'cure the sick that are there', but it rings in my ears again today, he continued after that telling them "say to them 'The Kingdom of God has come near to you'."
10:08am Luiza tells me the phone is ringing. I went to answer and it was a man from the earlier call. Where is the boat? I told him it's coming. Alarmed I left Lucas and Luiza alone, went down to clinic to find Ju with two ward assistants and the midwife. They were all sullen, a four year old child had just died of malaria. I checked the storage room and there was the fuel tank for the boat and the life vests. I grabbed them, gave them to a child, and Ju followed walking down the road to catch the boat now to see what the emergency was across the lake.
12:21pm
Ju came back home. I wish I could recount the experiences over the last three hours as she encountered them. We both stood in tears mourning the loss of the child, realizing how selfish we had been as we wanted a Sunday morning as 'family time' when the hope of quite a few patients and their families was that Ju could help them today. I'm glad we are here.
01:02 PM in Lake Bosumtwe Methodist Clinic Comments (0) TrackBack (0)
Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Hard Core Predestination and 5 Point Calvinism

I will begin this post by stating clearly and honestly that this overall issue has been alive and well much longer than any I have addressed in my earlier doctrinal posts and deserves much more careful study than I have given it. I primarily have endeavored to gain a basic understanding of the issues that are controversial and determine where I stand, but there is a lifetime of information to be learned about our Protestant heritage, as well as our overall church history. I am trying to continue to learn and be informed and led by the Spirit. It is in the area of study that I genuinely believe we could all learn a lot from our Calvinistic brothers.

The term 5 point Calvinism is a misleading one. It is my understanding that the history of that term comes from the debate that occurred about 5 key doctrines between Arminians and defenders of Calvin's doctrine in 1618.

"Early in the seventeenth century the Presbyterian Church of Holland, whose doctrinal confession is the same in substance with ours, was much troubled by a species of new-school minority, headed by one of its preachers and professors, James Harmensen, in Latin, Arminius (hence, ever since, Arminians). Church and state have always been united in Holland; hence the civil government took up the quarrel. Professor Harmensen (Arminius) and his party were required to appear before the States General (what we would call Federal Congress) and say what their objections were against the doctrines of their own church, which they had freely promised in their ordination vows to teach. Arminius handed in a writing in which he named five points of doctrine concerning which he and his friends either differed or doubted. These points were virtually: Original sin, unconditional predestination, invincible grace in conversion, particular redemption, and perseverance of saints."


Total depravity (Original Sin)
Unconditional election (God's Election)
Limited atonement (Particular Redemption)
Irresistible grace (Effectual Calling)
Perseverance of the Saints

The word TULIP is often used to communicate these doctrinal issues that were controversial. I will make this short and sweet cause Lord knows my posts have been crazy long lately. (U) I do not believe God has a previously determined list of people that will be saved. (L) I do not believe that Jesus died to save this list of people only. (I) I do not believe that God's grace is something that overwhelms you to the point that you have no choice but to cooperate with it once living by it. (P)I do not believe there is a guarantee that if you choose to live by His grace that you MUST necessarily go on doing so indefinitely. (T)Finally, I saved the T for last because I think everything may hinge upon it. While I do believe that God certainly receives all glory for my or anyone else's salvation, I also believe that my PARTICIPATION is a key ingredient to actualizing God's grace in my life. No participation equals no grace. I will also acknowledge that how this works itself out in practice is a bit of a mystery, but how many other things about salvation can we say that about. Almost all of it in some way or another is mysterious. Participation is NOT works or merit, and to remove participation from salvation seems to me to be teaching something that the overall message of Scripture contradicts.

This is obviously another area in which I believe there are fundamental issues at stake. I'll leave bouncing large numbers of Scripture quotage to any one on one discussion that may arise from this post, but I'll throw a few out there for good measure. First, not A passage, but word usage from many different passages to make a point. "whoever believes..."-John 3:16, "not wanting anyone to perish..."-II Peter 3:9, "...so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."-Hebrews 2:9 This is just a smattering of examples that seems to point to the nature of God's salvation being AVAILABLE to everyone, anyone, and whoever.

"Repent and believe the good news!" Mark 1:15
"When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.'" Acts 2:37&38
Repentance is inherently a willful act. (participation)

Finally, a verse I found interesting that I will present without comment.
"All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John."--Luke 7:29&30

FINALLY...... the end of the doctrinal discussion has come. I'll be back to my normal mode of blathering next week. :)

Disclaimer
If you strongly disagree with me about this or any other of my posts about doctrine, please take the time to read my “Why I am writing about doctrine” post from April 14 before you respond. Thank You.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Word of Faith Part 3--Quotes and Scriptures

Word of Faith Part 3-Quotes and Scriptures

“…if it be your will…”
"When I first got saved they didn't tell me I could do anything. What they told me to do was whenever I prayed I should always say the will of the Lord be done. Now doesn't that sound humble. It does. Sounds like humility. It's really stupidity. I mean you know you, really, we insult God...we do, we really insult Him. If you have to say if it be thy will or thy will be done....if you have to say that, then you're calling God a fool."-Frederick Price

Acts 18:20&21 “When they asked him(Paul) to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, ‘I will come back if it is God’s will.’”

James 4:13-17 “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.”

Matthew 6:9&10 “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”




Words
"Now hear this. Your words in the spirit create reality."- Benny Hinn

"What do you need? 'I need money.' Then start creating it. Start speaking about it. Start speaking it into being. Speak to your billfold. Say, 'you big, thick billfold full of money.' Speak to your checkbook. Say, 'checkbook, you've never been so prosperous since I owned you. You're just jammed full of money.' You've got pain and disease in your body? Speak to your body. God will create the fruit of your lips. Say to your body, 'you're whole body. Why you just function so beautifully and so well, why, body, you never have any problems. You're a strong, healthy body.' Or speak to your leg, or speak to your foot, or speak to your back, and once you have spoken, believe that you have received and DON'T GO BACK ON IT!"- Marilyn Hickey

I John 3:17&18 "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

II Timothy 2:14 “Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words. It is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.”

I Corinthians 4:19&20 “But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”



Sickness
"The new man doesn't look back. It has no past! It doesn't look ahead. It's got no future. It says I am as He is. That's what it says as He is so are we in this world. Jesus said, 'go in my name. Go in my stead.' Don't say I have. Say I am, I am, I AM! That's why you are never, ever, ever say I am sick. How can you be sick if you're the new creation."- Benny Hinn

"It will be 45 years in August, and I haven't had a headache in 45 years."--Kenneth Hagin (failed to mention four cardiovascular crises including a full scale heart stoppage)

Philippians 2:25-30
“But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard that is was ill. Indeed, he was ill and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore, I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life for the help you could not give me.”

II Timothy 4:20 “Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.”

Galatians 4:13&14 “As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus Himself.”



Faith
"Well, the force of faith is, in the spiritual realm, a great deal like certain forces in the natural realm. It's a spiritual force like gravity is a natural force. Electricity is a natural force of power...faith is a spiritual force. It's perceptible. It is a tangible force. It's an invisible force. So's gravity but it's there." KC
"Does God use faith?"--PC
"Surely."- KC
"Now see here's a sore spot. There are those who say...God is God. He doesn't exercise faith. He doesn't use faith. He's God. He's the object of faith." PC
"Wait a minute...what's that mean object of faith?"-KC
Conversation between Kenneth Copeland and Paul Crouch(owner of TBN)

Mark 11:22 "Have faith in God, Jesus answered."

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”

Sad and disturbing
"... it was an incorrect statement when Job said, 'the Lord has given and the Lord has taken away'... How many times have you heard a preacher say that at a funeral....how you gonna bless God and He just took your wife? Now that's the dumbest thing in the world."- Frederick Price

"The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, 'Son, realize this,' now follow me in this. Don't let your tradition trip you up. He said, 'think this way, a twice born man whooped Satan in his own domain,' and I threw my Bible and I said, 'What!' He said, 'a born again man defeated Satan. The firstborn of many brethren defeated him.' He said, 'you are the very image and the very copy of that one.' I said, 'goodness, gracious alive!' And I began to see what had gone on in there, and I said, 'you don't mean, you couldn't DARE mean that I could have done the same thing.' He said, 'OH yeah, if you'd known and had the knowledge of the word of God that He did you could have done the same thing cause you're a reborn man too.'"- Kenneth Copeland

A couple of final thoughts.... I know that there are many, many who attend Word of Faith type churches or who are influenced by these previously mentioned people, and they do NOT ascribe to any of these statements. My only point is to point out these quotes(they are from audio clips I possess) so that these people more than any others might know about them. It is one thing to place a great deal of trust in a flawed pastor. We all do that perhaps a bit too much, but I think these statements and teachings make it clear that the founders and prime movers within this movement are guilty of FOUNDATIONAL flaws. What to do with this information I leave in your capable hands. For anyone who actually read this entire series on WOF.... Good Lord! Get some sleep! :)

Disclaimer

If you strongly disagree with me about this or any other of my posts about doctrine, please take the time to read my “Why I am writing about doctrine” post from April 14 before you respond. Thank You.

Next week.....last and least(one post this time)....Hard Core Predestination or 5 Point Calvinism

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Quote of the week...

"But if suffering is good, ought it not to be pursued rather than avoided? I answer that suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the suffferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads."
C.S. Lewis- The Problem of Pain

Word of Faith Part Two

FAITH
First, allow me to differentiate between what my understanding of the WOF(Word of Faith) view of faith is and what I believe Scriptures say about it. According to WOF, faith is viewed as a spiritual force in the universe that can be understood and used to accomplish our visions and goals. This is in contrast to viewing faith as the two-sided coin of passively resting in God and actively depending and trusting in Him that is reflected in Scripture. In short, one is centered entirely around our relationship with Him, and one is not.

WORDS
Another issue with WOF is their unhealthy focus on how things are expressed and what specific words one chooses to use when speaking.

Allow me to be clear before proceeding. Words ARE important in many ways. They can spread a bitter, fearful, proud, vulgar, or otherwise negative attitude to others. They can hurt. They can mislead. They are a representation of what is truly in someone's heart and mind. Controlling our tongues is something that James teaches is a sign of great maturity. However, seeking to be an edifying influence on others and being aware of our own internal state are not the direction that WOF's emphasis on words leads. Rather, it is as if words interact with their understanding of faith in a way that is similar to magical incantations that can determine their destiny. This actually leads people to focus on the surface of words(making sure you say some things and not others and being careful HOW you express certain thoughts) rather than the roots of words(bitterness, fearfulness, pride, lust, and any host of other internal inner workings).

SICKNESS
Do the Scriptures teach tht we have a divine RIGHT to walk in perfect health if we simply walk in "faith"?

Let me begin by making a few clarifications....again. I do believe the Bible teaches that God can and will work miraculously in the lives of individuals, especially believers. I do not believe any miracles, including healing, were somehow limited to the first generation church. I do, however, see a fundamental problem that weaves itself through every aspect of wrong teaching within the WOF movement. This problem is found in their teachings about sickness, prosperity, words, and faith. Essentially, they view scriptures that promise or warn about these things as spiritual coupons that can be redeemed. They are viewed as guarantees that God must occasionally be reminded of. "Hold up, Lord, you said I would be prosperous, remember?" or "It says right here that I am able to be healed, God." It is as if God is looking to give a gold star of health and wealth to those who memorize the most promises.

This is not the attitude or perspective I see in the Scripture. The disciples' entire reason for being was seen through how well they accomplished His will. Wealth and even health were less important to them than this pursuit of Him and His will. Divine healing and any other miracle or regularly given blessing must be seen first and foremost as one way God uses to cause people to believe in Him and, therefore, humble themselves in a repentant, saving faith. This takes priority over whether we receive supernatural blessings or protection from Him. His power at work in us is a testimony to unbelievers. This power can be seen in divine healing, AND it can be seen when a Christian in the midst of suffering shines with inner strength and peace of a transformed child of God. For many this second example ultimately provides greater hope of a powerful AND loving God than the first.

This post has been lacking in two important things that I am aware of, specific quotes from WOF leaders and specific scriptures backing up my points. I will provide both of these on my third and final post dealing with Word of Faith. I strongly urge you to read especially each scripture reference I provide since I do not wish anyone to base any decisions about their own views on my opinions but on prayerful consideration of Scripture.

Disclaimer

If you strongly disagree with me about this or any other of my posts about doctrine, please take the time to read my “Why I am writing about doctrine” post from April 14 before you respond. Thank You.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Word of Faith Part One

I'm not sure if I can write all I have to write about this in two parts or if I'll need three, but I'll try to keep it as succinct as possible cause noone likes a blabber mouth. :)

I suppose I'll start with some introductory stuff. Unlike some of my past doctrinal posts, I cannot really tie most of these doctrines I will associate with Word of Faith with a particular organized denomination. This movement spread early on in primarily charismatic circles, but it can now be found in varying shades within most, if not all, denominations. There are many churches that are called "Word of Faith" and/or "Word of Life" and these are often most directly tied in with the Word of Faith movement, but, as far as I know, there is no official Word of Faith General Assembly with bylaws and superintendants and such. This is also the reason I will call out specific people a little more in these posts than in some others because I have to trace these teachings to the individuals most responsible for their emergence and proliferation. There ARE definite individuals that Word of Faith teachings emanate from and these men and women are the fathers and chief proponents now. Some of these include: Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Frederick Price, Marilyn Hickey, John Evanzini, and many, many more. They often run together putting on conferences together, and this can be a useful way to discover who is among this group.

PROSPERITY
Let's begin with one of the more common doctrines taught within Word of Faith teachings--the prosperity movement. First, it is clear that the Scriptures DO NOT teach that it is a sin to be wealthy. It is also clear that it is NOT virtuous to be poor. These are two things prosperity preachers claim that their critics profess. I do not.

However, with that having been said, it is also clear that the attitudes about prosperity found within the WOF movement are contrary to many things that the Scriptures do say. In all honesty, it is probably one of the areas we could all benefit from comparing and contrasting our views of gaining riches with the stout warnings about riches found in God's Word.

Proverbs 30:8&9 will start us off, "...give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."

Think this is only an Old Testament view? Let's look at Luke 12.
"Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.' And he told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, you have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry. But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' 'This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.'"

Finally, a passage in I Timothy 6 seems to be geared almost exactly toward prosperity preachers such as Gloria Copeland and Evanzini and their "hundred fold prayer" for monies mailed to them by a certain date.
"If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But it we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Disclaimer
If you strongly disagree with me about this or any other of my posts about doctrine, please take the time to read my “Why I am writing about doctrine” post from April 14 before you respond. Thank You.

Next week I'll discuss issues such as sickness, words, and faith with the context of the Word of Faith movement.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Oneness Doctrine

In the early 1900's, what is currently known as the Pentecostal movement was birthed. What began as a fairly minor disagreement about baptism(in the name of Jesus or of Father, Son and Holy Spirit), turned into a major doctrinal split around 1916. The Assemblies of God(primary pentecostal denomination) made a clear, decisive statement about the existence of the trinity a part of their official doctrine, and those not willing to acknowledge this were forced out of the denomination. These individuals and churches eventually formed the basis for what is now the current oneness doctrinal movement. This is the belief that Jesus IS the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with no personal distinction between the three.

The interesting thing about this doctrine that I found as I was researching for this post is that the United Pentecostal Church(one of the primary Oneness proponents) web site used many of the same scriptures that I would use to refute their belief. It seemed simply a matter of choice to believe this rather than based on any thoughtful scripturally based doctrinal stanse, and as I continued to dig I found this statement on thebereans.net, "During a camp meeting in Arroyo Seco, California in the late 1913 or early 1914 conducted by the Assemblies of God (AG), one minister by the name of John G. Scheppe revealed that during his night of meditation it was revealed to him that baptism must be done "in the name of Jesus only" and not "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

RED FLAG! It is only through THIS type of a "revelation" that someone could read Matthew 28:19 and still hold to a oneness doctrine.

It states, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...."

Also, make no mistake this is FAR from the only Scriptural backing for the doctrine of the Trinity(three distinct persons within the Godhead).

Here are just a sampling: Philippians 2:9-11, Ephesians 1:17&22, Galatians 1:1, Colossians 1:3, Revelations 1:1, I John 1:3, I Peter 1:3, James 1:1, Hebrews 1:1-3, John 14:6, John 15:1.

The more I read from the UPC's web site, the more clearly it seemed to me that their thinking became centered around justifying their initial premise rather than genuinely seeking God for His Truth based on what the Scriptures say for themselves.

One interesting point made by thebereans.net is that many who are strongly devoted within the UPC and Apostolic(another big oneness name) have had a miraculous healing in their past that has caused them to link that with the denomination along with and perhaps even more than God.

I will certainly acknowledge that I do not claim to fully comprehend the mystery of the Trinity, but this is not a justification to actively defend a doctrine which is not only different than that of the Trinity but of Scripture. Doctrine should be the most accurate reflection of what the Bible teaches us whether we can fully comprehend every angle of it or not. I think this mysteriousness about the Trinity is what causes many to either accept or at least not be very concerned about Oneness doctrine. However, if we prayerfully consider all the ramifications of this basic split AS we read through the gospels and the epistles, I believe God will make clear to us its importance.

Disclaimer

If you strongly disagree with me about this or any other of my posts about doctrine, please take the time to read my “Why I am writing about doctrine” post from April 14 before you respond. Thank You.

Next week, I'll begin discussing the Word of Faith movement.... :)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The sacred nature of the sabbath and "unclean" foods

These two points of doctrine are where I'll begin my doctrinal discussion. The Seventh Day Adventist church is an extremely fast growing denomination. As their name suggests, they place a very high priority on what the "official" day of the week that the church chooses as their day of worship and rest.

Before I make clear my understanding of what scripture has to say about this, let me begin by saying that I can understand why the Jewish peoples of the first generation church would have had difficulty not considering this to be a most important issue. It was after all an offense that could carry a death sentence if one did not "keep the sabbath holy." However, we as believers have had light shed upon WHY this command held such a place of seriousness and severity. It is because the sabbath is one of the more powerful symbols of who and what Christ is for the believer.

"Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." Colossians 2:16&17

As Paul speaks of these issues in Colossians 2, he touches upon the second doctrine I'll write on for this post: Unclean foods.

In Mark 7:5-23, Christ has a dialogue with the Pharisees, the crowd, and His disciples. Read the whole passage for the most complete context, but the central point in regards to this doctrine is made in verses 18 & 19 when the disciples asked Him to clarify his teaching. "Are you so dull? he asked. Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body. (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods 'clean.')" This is not to say we should not use common sense about what and how much we eat, but according to Jewish law, certain foods were immoral to eat ever. Eating them made you SPIRITUALLY unclean, and this is no longer the case. The Bible simply teaches we are to eat with a thankful heart.

Next week--I'm going to discuss the Oneness doctrine (denial of the Trinity)

Disclaimer

If you strongly disagree with me about this or any other of my posts about doctrine, please take the time to read my “Why I am writing about doctrine” post from April 14 before you respond. Thank You.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Why I am writing about doctrine

This is my offical disclaimer that is to go hand in hand with the next several posts in regard to doctrines I believe to be wrong.

First, I want to address a possible concern. Because I am choosing to speak negatively about doctrines and the groups or individuals most responsible for the promotion of those doctrines, does this mean that I do not believe it is possible I have some wrong doctrine filed away in my mental computer? No. As a matter of fact I actively pray the Lord will help me to be receptive when that is the case so that I may purge myself of it. It is almost a forgone conclusion in my mind that to some extent I do.

I understand perhaps now more than any other time in my life that wrong doctrine both REFLECTS a wrong understanding of God AND LEADS TO a wrong understanding of God. I want the Holy Spirit to lead us to as clear a vision of our Father as is possible in this life.

I will try to present my posts in a way that states firmly what I believe while trying to do so respectfully.

The primary reasons I am writing about these specific doctrines are as follows:

1. They are held by family, close friends, or, in some cases, have been promoted in churches I have attended. Therefore, I have felt the need to think and pray about these more thoroughly than some other doctrines that are perhaps also questionable.

2. I consider them to be important enough to merit thoughtful discussion.

In regards to my thoughts about all this stuff, and how I would prefer anyone responded..... of course, you may simply take them or leave them. However, whichever you do, do so prayerfully. Pray for me. Pray about what I've written, and, most of all, pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us both into all truth. Comments, as always, are not only welcome but highly valued.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Quote of the week...

"Images, images everywhere but not a thought to think!"
-Jesse M. Guy

Images and Ideas

Radio has been around less than 100 years, television for less than 50, cable for less than 30, and the internet for less than 20 years. The world we live in is being radically influenced by this new deluge of mass communication. We most certainly DO NOT appreciate the degree that these mediums will affect the very nature of our perceptions. Just one small example of this is the difference between how an idea impacts someone's mind and how images impact our minds.

Ideas drip into our consciousness one word, one sentence, and one paragraph at at time. We have the opportunity to weigh the concepts being presented to us, and if we choose to exercise discernment, we can simply pick and choose between ideas we believe to be true, good, and right and those we believe to be bad, wrong, and false.

When dealing with images, however, impact is probably a very accurate descriptive. Sounds can cause a physiological response. Audio and visual images simultaneously presented can especially provoke powerful chemical responses in our brains and bodies. Now more than ever we have the ability to present thousands of ideas, but it seems to me we are too busy drowning in a sea of millions of images. The more this is meditated on, the scarier it becomes to me.

In our culture images are more about amusement(no thought) than about musing(thought). This is because we've stumbled upon a lethal combination of a reckless pursuit of pleasure through ourselves by way of the infinite number of escapist fictional realities that are provided by our saturation of electronic media. Meanwhile, the cultures without this blessing/epidemic of media saturation face reality head on and deal with it because they are not given any other option than to do so. Anyone care to prophecy where this is leading us?

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Quote of the week...

"Freely you have received, freely give."
-Jesus

Forgiveness

Just for the sake of props. I got most of this material from a powerful sermon preached by my pastor about a month ago. Check him out at FCFtrussville.com

Forgiveness is between you and God.

If someone hurts you/wrongs you, forgiveness is letting them off the hook with God.

There are times when one needs to approach a person about wrongs either done to you or by you and forgiveness can be sought or offered in an attempt to inform of your awareness of the wrong and to try to mend the damage to your relationship if possible.....BUT this does not change the fact that forgiveness IS ultimately between you and God.

This is useful to understand. This means that feelings do not determine whether or not you are willing to forgive or even if you have chosen to forgive the person for the offense in the past. When feelings come to the surface, it simply gives us another opportunity to reiterate our decision to ask God to forgive them. Emotions that we allow to detour our willingness to choose a forgiving attitude are the only ones that influence our relationship with Christ. How do we know when we have an attitude of unforgiveness and are not just struggling with emotions? Some clues are how do we interact with those people? Do we do or say things that are actually geared toward making them "pay" for what they did to us, or are we genuinely at least trying to interact with them in a way that is characteristic of love? We don't have to like someone to love them. Loving is about treating someone as you would want to be treated, and most of all, loving is about treating someone as Christ would treat them. Forgiveness is a process that sets everyone free, especially the one who is doing the forgiving.

May God grant us the grace to see His awe inspiring example with painful clarity and the humility and gratefulness to imitate it when while hanging on the cross He cried, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Quote of the week...

"There has to be an invisible sun. It gives its heat to everyone."
-Sting and the boys

NO Not One

"Am I a good person?" This is a common question asked. The Bible makes it clear that NOONE is righteous, "no not one." This is who we are IN and OF ourselves.

Once when a man approached Jesus by addressing Christ as "Good Teacher," Jesus challenged him asking him why he called Jesus good. Christ went on to say, "only God is good." This statement illustrates a cornerstone for the Christian. What is good? God is. Period.

If you ask a million people what good is, you would probably get about a million different answers. This, contrary to good post modern thinking, does not mean there are a million different legitimate answers. In fact, if you ask the same people twice you may come up with well over a million answers because not only does each person have a different take on what "good" is, but our definition changes somewhat from day to day individually.

As a Christian, it is only IN Christ that we are viewed as righteous in the eyes of God. The scriptures tell us that the hope of glory is, "Christ in you." Therefore, if we are professing Christians, the real question is much easier to understand and see clearly. "Am I in Christ and is Christ in me?" This is both daunting and encouraging. On the one hand, it is encouraging because we, unlike the rest of the world, know Who is good and can specifically learn who He is and even go to Him and gain His empowerment to become like Him. It is daunting because the more you know Him, the clearer it becomes that He is jaw droppingly good, and we are told the way we know we are truly born again is if He is alive in us. If we must honestly surmise that He is not living in us, we need only repent and humble ourselves and cry out for His mercy as we make our course correction. He is our heading. As John the Baptist said, "Make straight paths for the Lord." Repent.

Ella Bella






When Worlds Collide


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Quote of the week...

"All heroes have strength, honor, and courage, but only the greatest are selfless."

-Myndall Delcamp

Heroes

The more I think about some of the people I have considered heroes in my childhood, the more I am sometimes embarrassed. Movies are a perfect example. James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Luke Skywalker were great because they were bold, daring, smart, and, of course, SMOOTH. I still enjoy these movies, but I have begun to understand the more down to earth and REAL heroes that are in daily life. These range from cops who never once draw their gun to parents who sacrifice for their kids to politicians who actually ARE public servants.

I think I have often made the same mistakes in regards to heroes within Christian leadership. Those who are the most REAL are often NOT the most high profile. My dad was asked once when he was pursuing his minister's license why he was pursuing it. "What can you do with it that you cannot do without it?" I think I understand the spirit of this question. Essentially it is why do we do things we do for Christ. One of the poisonsous attitudes Jesus warned about inside the hearts of the Pharisees is that they loved the praise of men more than praise from God. May the Lord open my eyes to any wrong motivations that be within me and may He lead me to friends, mentors, and heroes who are truly consumed with serving Christ.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Quote of the week...

"Men have mystified and philosophized the Gospel of Jesus but it is as simple as it can be. The secret of Christianity is in being. It is in being a possessor of the nature of Jesus Christ." –John G. Lake

The Truth Shall NOT make you free

A statement of Jesus’ is often used and has become a cliché and catch phrase often employed by people who don’t even realize what its origins are. The phrase is, “The truth shall make you free,” or some variation of that statement. However, this statement is taken completely out of the context in which Jesus used it and has created a completely different assertion. One that is even diametrically opposed to the point Jesus was actually making when he said it.

What Jesus actually said can be found in John 8:31,32. “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ “

We do not even know the truth unless we are Jesus’ disciples because Jesus IS the Truth. Freedom through truth comes as we choose to “hold to His teachings.” In Luke 8:21 He expresses the same idea in a different way. “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s Word and put it into practice.”

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Quote of the week...

"The Holy Book of the living God suffers more from its exponents today than from its opponents." -Leonard Ravenhill

THE THREE D's

Discipline- Job 36:10 “opens our ears to discipline”


Desire- I Peter 2:2 “craving pure spiritual milk”


Delight- Psalm 1:1 “delight in the law of the Lord”


Keys to Long Term Spiritual Growth


These three words pertain to our daily time spent in Bible reading and study, prayer, and worship to God. Understand I am speaking of a very conscious act on our part and the phases that we go through as we choose to try to consistently seek Him through the simplest and most straight forward methods. I know this seems like pretty simple and obvious stuff, but I don’t think we take the importance of this seriously enough. The first D is about simply hearing those internal reminders about seeking God and learning to be consistently responsive to those internal reminders. I believe that this basic discipline is one of the key steps that opens the door of God’s Holy Spirit to be at work in our hearts and minds. In fact, in my experience, if we are not faithful in these areas we will be almost guaranteeing serious spiritual problems in the long term. The fascinating thing about these phases of choice is that they become exponentially more natural and even desirable for us IF we consistently practice our reading, praying, and reaching out to Him beginning with discipline. First, it feels completely unnatural and completely contrary to what our moods, emotions, and desires are, but if we persevere in seeking Him, the second phase kicks in—desire. I have experienced this craving for the scriptures and for intimate contact with Him. It is like a baby craving the sustenance of milk. Finally, I long to reach the place where it is a delight. This makes me think of Jesus seeking and yearning for time alone with His Father in the midst of His earthly ministry. The key I believe is in two things: one recognizing that IT IS a discipline which means it often runs completely counter to our moods, emotions, desires, and thoughts and second is choosing to practice these things FROM a desire to SEEK GOD. This is not some puzzle we are to solve. He is the one who reveals Himself to those who diligently seek Him.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Quote of the week...

"The wonder is that Jesus purposed to make your heart and mine just as sweet and lovely and pure and holy as His own." –John G. Lake

Friday, February 16, 2007

No Pretenses

Basically, what I have always taken away from the Mary and Martha story(Luke 10:38-42) is how Martha was busy bein' busy, but Mary was choosing to sit at Jesus' feet which basically teaches us that we should always place drawing close to Christ and cherishing our time to focus on Him above all else including even service to Him.

However, what I was struck with recently is how this story illustrates another problem that I have struggled with many times. Have you ever tried to get your mental house in order before "officially" praying or singing worship songs or attending a worship service or reading the Bible? If you consider how silly this is, it will make you laugh. We treat Jesus like he just rang our doorbell, and the place is a mess. "Ummmm.... hang on, Lord. Just give me a sec, OK!"

This is funny because He knows all about those bitter thoughts, impure desires, greedy thoughts, ungrateful thoughts, etc. I pray that instead of trying to primp for the Lord that, in the future, He will help me to simply humble myself as He makes me aware of my true state and that He is there to lead me to victory as I acknowledge who I am and allow Him to continue to transform me while I walk humbly with Him in more and more openness.

Monday, February 05, 2007

On What Grounds...

This post is a continuance of my previous tangent into a more political arena. My question is simple. On what grounds are you CURRENTLY against the Iraq war?

1. Is it because of the many American soldiers killed so far?

One of the things I have been amazed by in regards to the Cindy Sheehan hype is how often we hear that we should respect her voice more than others because she lost a son because of this conflict. This reasoning seems to ignore or be ignorant of the fact that her son had recently RE enlisted after having already served in Afghanistan I believe. Are we to respect her voice more than her son's? If I were fighting in a war, I believe there would be two primary concerns about my participation in it. One would be whether I believed in the mission, and the second would be whether we would be allowed to see it through to the end.

We have an ALL volunteer force, and even if those who began serving in this conflict may not have forseen this twist in global politics. Those who are now serving have certainly had a chance to either not join or not reenlist, but they chose to in spite of our current situation. This seems to indicate to me their confidence in the mission and their desire to see it accomplished.

Also, let's compare the total Americans killed so far in the Gulf War with previous wars.

World War I- 116,708 Americans killed from 1917-1918
World War II-408,306 Americans killed from 1941-1945
Korean War-54,246 Americans killed from 1950-1953
Vietnam War-58,219 Americans killed from 1957-1975
Iraq War (so far)-3100 Americans killed from 2003-2007

2. Is it because of the cost of the war?

In 2001 alone, 2.7 billion dollars in losses to the NY-New Jersey metro area and about 191 billion dollars worth in remaining metro areas in country. This was the ecoonomic costs of the 911 attacks.

Once again let's compare with previous war costs.
(costs have been adjusted to their equivalent to current day cost)


American Revolution: $3.2 billion.
War of 1812: $1 billion.
Mexican War: $1.8 billion.
Civil War: $50 billion Union, $21.8 billion Confederacy.
Spanish-American War: $6.5 billion.
World War I: $588 billion.
World War II: $4.8 trillion.
Korean War: $408 billion.
Vietnam War: $584 billion.
Iraq War: $300 billion (so far)

3. Have there been too many Iraqi deaths?

This was certainly one that concerned me. I am still the most concerned about this number because I believe it to be the most important in regards to whether we will win the peace in Iraq. In the month of October 2006 just prior to our recent mid-term elections, there was an interesting number floated by a well respected and politically active minister named Jim Wallis. This number was 600,000 Iraqi deaths, and the number seemed to imply that they were primarily if not entirely non-combatant deaths. This is certainly a shocking number. I decided to check into it a little deeper myself. One thing I noticed in November was the statement of the United Nations that October had been the bloodiest month for civilian casualties in Iraq since we invaded in March of 2003 with a total of roughly 3800 civilian deaths in that month. I did the math and came up with fewer than 160,000 civilian casualties even if each month had been as bloody as that October. I have found most estimates range from 120,000 to 150,000. This means that Wallis's number was four to five times the actual estimates that were readily available when he wrote about this in October. I also considered that we have already found over 400,000 in mass graves in Iraq so far, and because of Saddam's manipulation of the economic sanctions through the oil for food scandal, 50,000 more Iraqi's had died because of this. If you do the math(20,000-25,000 per year in mass graves under Saddam and at least another 50,000 dead due to sickness and starvation thanks to oil for food scandal) and suggest that leaving Hussein in power would have been less deadly for the Iraqi people, you are not very good at math. It is roughly a wash if not just a bit less even with all of our blunders and wrong decisions.

I realize there have been problems, but AT THIS POINT please let us all acknowledge the need to be victorious in as thorough a way as we possibly can be in Iraq.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Manufacture of Dissent

In 1984 a man named Noam Chomsky wrote an essay called the Manufacture of Consent. In this essay, he argues that much of the way we as Americans view our country is based on a false belief in the fundamental goodness of our founding and intentions throughout the development of our country. I could spend a whole lot of time getting you up to speed on the particulars of how he made his case and more of the substance of this essay, but I am not writing about Chomsky's essay but about my own observations about many in our country who have most certainly taken Chomsky's points twenty years ago to heart.

It seems to me that many in the intellectual crowds within colleges around the country and especially those in Hollywood chose to buy into his premise hook, line, and sinker. They seem to have made it their mission in life to expose the "evil empire" that was and is the United States of America. Ironically, now that his views have taken such root in the imaginations of those particularly on the left side of the political spectrum, I myself see a false belief that is a foundational premise for many of these people. This premise is simply put: the United States is incapable of doing or being anything noble or good. It is through this lens that people are able to see things like the world trade center and the current war on terrorists globally and somehow only see our atrocities, our wrong foreign policies, our corruption, etc.

A word of clarity... I am not claiming that these points deal with all who voice opposition to the war in Iraq nor even our methods of dealing with terrorism. I am well aware that there are other lines of reasoning than those I am mentioning here. Also, I realize that the United States is certainly guilty of evils in her past and present. This, however, is NOT to be confused with anything even remotely approaching the view of the United States that I just described.

I think organizations like the New York Times are complicit in this "manufacturing of dissent" with their blatant opposition to the war effort and the administration instead of objective coverage. (Please remember the New York Times owns much more than simply that one newspaper.) There are three primary editorialists that speak regularly for the Times. In the period from January of 2005 to July of 2006 these three primary writers wrote 314 editorials. Of the 314 editorials that they wrote, 156 were about the Bush administration and NOT ONE of them were written in a positive light. Also, the second man to receive the medal of honor from the start of the entire second Gulf War to date hailed from the great state of New York last fall. Guess who did not mention a word of it in the day of the ceremony ANYWHERE in their daily edition. In an almost unprecedented act, the New York Post actually wrote an article about the lack of ANY coverage by the New York Times to shame them. It was only after this that the Times covered it at all. I guess that story just wasn't supportive enough of their agenda.

Even Senators have gotten in on the act of contributing to the wrong headed premise of the "evil empire." Kennedy jumped on the Abu Ghraib scandal when it came out by saying that Saddam's torture chambers had reopened under U.S. management. Consider even the worst we know of our scandal with this. "The following, according to the State Department report, were routine in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule:
Medical experimentation
Beatings
Crucifixion
Hammering nails into the fingers and hands
Amputating sex organs or breasts with an electric carving knife
Spraying insecticides into a victim's eyes
Branding with a hot iron
Committing rape while the victim's spouse is forced to watch
Pouring boiling water into the victim's rectum
Nailing the tongue to a wooden board
Extracting teeth with pliers
Using bees and scorpions to sting naked children in front of their parents"
Also, Kennedy knew the perpetrators at Abu Ghraib would be prosecuted for what they did do. Instead Kennedy decided to make himself and his ridiculous quote the headline for Al-Jazeera the next day.