Tuesday, December 28, 2010

6 Signs of Backsliding

What is backsliding? Backsliding is talked about in a number of ways in scripture. It is ‘falling away’ ie., apostacy, ‘falling from grace’, becoming ‘Luke warm’, etc. The term backsliding refers to a 'turning back' or a 'revolt' or 'a going a stray'. It may come from the birthing process of a calf. When the cow is giving birth occasionally the calf will be in process of the birth, but will slide back into the womb of the mother. When this happens the farmer often has to tie a rope on the legs of the calf and pull it out to save it. For the Christian, our lives are the process of the new birth. When we revert back to our old ways we are sliding back. Through out the scripture men and women are challenged to “examine themselves to see if they be in the faith”.

1.) Tepid followers- Spiritual heat is important. Through out the scriptures the Lord commands his followers to “never be lacking in zeal” and to “keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord”. Sometimes a believer gets lulled into a lukewarm state by the pressures of life. Other times we allow ourselves to grow tepid because we grow “weary in well doing”. It is an accommodation to the flesh because we are tired of keeping the Spiritual heat on. Don’t take your spiritual life off of the burner.

2.) Costly Compromises- If your life has many secrets and hidden sins, you are very likely backslidden. If you feel you have absolution from some of God’s commands because “God understands your heart” you are likely backslidden. (In fact God does understand your heart, and that is why he gave you the commands in the first place!)
Compromise is always the enemy of obedience and the blessing and favor of God come only to his obedient children. Compromise by its very nature is the subjugating the commands of God.

3.) Prayerlessness- Lack of prayer is both a cause and a symptom of backsliding. If you fail to have quality time with God on a consistent basis you are slipping away from God. Paul wrote to the Galatians that it was not possible to justify themselves apart from Jesus Christ. Why would we think that we would be able to live righteously without him? While everyone is in a different place with regard to the development of their prayer life, each of us should be developing! No one can set a minimum time for you to pray each day except the Holy Spirit. I would wager that he will help you set that goal if you simply ask.

4.) Church attendance and Fellowship suffers- Look at your church attendance and the fellowship you have with men and women of faith. It isn’t hard to see if your dedication to God has slipped. There are some who say that it is possible to be a Christian without fellowship in a local body. This, of course, is ridiculous. Jesus established the church to be a place where the body could minister to each other. This can’t happen when you are not in regular attendance. Children need to be taught, people need to be prayed for, love need to be given, and truth needs to be received. Left to our own devices we will always pick and choose the truths we (our flesh) like to hear.

5.) Strained Relationships- Look at your most intimate relationships and you might see the evidence of your backslidden heart. Often we find friction in our most intimate relationships because we are convicted by the truth of God. We avoid praying with our spouses and children, we don’t read the Word together, and we are angry when others do so. This is a sign of our backslidden heart. We will struggle to be right with God as long as we have rebellion in our hearts. Every wall inside our hearts must come down before him.

6.) Hypocrisy- The greek word for hypocrite is used of an actor. It literally means false face. If you find yourself unable to “be yourself” it may be because you are hiding behind the false face. Talking a good game can maintain your status before men, but God knows from the jump that you are a phony. Demanding of others what you don’t demand of yourself; a lack of mercy in your dealings with others; and an unwillingness to apply the truth that you know already are signs of this problem.

There is a cure for the backslidden heart. It is simply repentance, getting down to the real issues before God- becoming ‘naked’ before him. Ask for forgiveness for your cold, rebellious, and hardened heart. In the times that I have done this, God has always taken me back to the simplicity of the love relationship with him. What is the most important commandment? To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength…

I pray that your heart of stone will be replaced once again with a heart of soft tissue. Repent!
For further study

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Grand Design- Truth or Fiction?

By William Lane Craig

Editor’s Note: When it came to the creation of the Universe, God just wasn’t necessary. This is the conclusion renowned English physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has made in his latest book with Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going,” Hawking writes. According to Hawking, the big bang was a natural event that would have happened without the help or involvement of God. Thus, Hawking and Mlodinow’s new book has made a big bang among laypeople. But what about these authors’ conclusions? How accurate are they? William Lane Craig, noted Christian philosopher and theologian, responds to Hawking and Mlodinow’s new book.

The Grand Design and Philosophy
Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow open their book The Grand Design with a series of profound questions: What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a Creator? Then they say, “Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.”1

The professional philosopher can only roll his eyes at the effrontery and condescension of such a statement. Two scientists, who have to all appearances little acquaintance with philosophy, are prepared to pronounce an entire discipline dead and to insult their own faculty colleagues in philosophy at Cal Tech and Cambridge University — many of whom, such as Michael Redhead and D.H. Mellor, are eminent philosophers of science — for supposedly failing to keep up.

The professional philosopher will regard their verdict as not merely amazingly condescending but also as outrageously naïve. The man who claims to have no need of philosophy is the one most apt to be fooled by it. One might therefore anticipate that Mlodinow and Hawking’s subsequent exposition of their favored theories will be underpinned by a host of unexamined philosophical presuppositions. That expectation is, in fact, borne out. They assert their claims about laws of nature, the possibility of miracles, scientific determinism, and the illusion of free will with only the thinnest of justification. Clearly Mlodinow and Hawking are up to their necks in philosophical questions.

What one might not expect is that, after pronouncing the death of philosophy, Hawking and Mlodinow should themselves plunge immediately into a philosophical discussion of scientific realism vs. antirealism. The first third of their book is not about current scientific theories at all but is a disquisition on the history and philosophy of science. I found this section to be the most interesting and mind-boggling of the whole book. Let me explain.

Having set aside a Monday afternoon to read Hawking and Mlodinow’s book, I had spent that morning working through a scholarly article from Blackwell’s Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics on a philosophical viewpoint known as ontological pluralism. Ontological pluralism is a view in a subdiscipline of philosophy whose name sounds like stuttering: meta-metaphysics, or, as it is sometimes called, meta-ontology. This is philosophy at its most ethereal. Ontology is the study of being, or of what exists — the nature of reality. Meta-ontology is one notch higher: It inquires whether ontological disputes are meaningful and how best to resolve them.

Ontological pluralism holds that there really is no right answer to many ontological questions, such as: Do composite objects exist? According to the ontological pluralist, there are just different ways of describing reality, and none of these is more correct or accurate than another. There literally is no fact of the matter at all in answer to these questions. So if you were to ask, “Is there such a thing as the Moon?” the ontological pluralist would say that the question has no objective answer. It is not true that the Moon exists, and it is not true that the Moon does not exist. There just is no fact of the matter about whether there is such a thing as the Moon. Ontological pluralism is thus a radical view that is defended by a handful of philosophers.

Imagine my astonishment, therefore, to find Hawking and Mlodinow espousing ontological pluralism (without being aware of the name) as their philosophy of science. They call their view “model-dependent realism.” They explain that models are just different ways of interpreting our sense perceptions. In their view there is no objective reality to which our models of the world more or less accurately correspond (page 7).

Mlodinow and Hawking are thus extreme antirealists. For example, contrasting young earth creationism and the big bang theory, Hawking and Mlodinow claim that while the big bang theory is “more useful,” nevertheless, “neither model can be said to be more real than the other” (page 51).

One cannot help but wonder what sort of argument would justify adopting so radical a view. All that Mlodinow and Hawking have to offer is the fact if we were, say, inhabitants of a virtual reality controlled by alien beings, then there would be no way for us to tell that we were in the simulated world and so would have no reason to doubt its reality (page 42). The trouble with this sort of argument is that it does not exclude the possibility that we have in this case two competing models of the world — one the aliens’ and one ours, and one of the models is true and one false, even if we cannot tell which is which.

Moreover, the fact our observations are model-dependent does not imply that we cannot have knowledge of the way the world is (much less that there is no way the world is). For example, a layman entering a scientific laboratory might see a piece of machinery on the lab table, but he would not see it as an interferometer, since he lacks the theoretical knowledge to recognize it as such. A caveman entering the laboratory would not even see there is a piece of machinery on the table, since he lacks the concept of a machine. But that does nothing to undermine the objective truth of the lab technician’s observation that there is an interferometer on the table.

Mlodinow and Hawking, not content with ontological pluralism, really go off the deep end when they assert, “There is no model-independent test of reality. It follows that a well-constructed model creates a reality of its own” (page 172). This is an assertion of ontological relativity, the view that reality itself is different for persons having different models.

If you are Fred Hoyle, the universe really has existed eternally in a steady state; but if you are Stephen Hawking, the universe really began with a big bang. If you are the ancient physician Galen, blood really does not circulate through the human body; but if you are William Harvey, who discovered circulation, it does. Such a view seems crazy and is made only more so by Mlodinow and Hawking’s claim that the model itself is responsible for creating its respective reality. It hardly needs to be said that no such conclusion follows from there being no model-independent test of the way the world is.

All this is, however, beside the main point. The main point is that despite their claim to speak as scientific torchbearers of knowledge, what Hawking and Mlodinow are engaged in is philosophy. The most important conclusions drawn in their book are philosophical, not scientific. Why, then, do they pronounce philosophy dead and claim as scientists to be bearing the torch of discovery? Simply because that enables them to cloak their amateurish philosophizing with the mantle of scientific authority and so avoid the hard work of actually arguing for, rather than merely asserting, their philosophical viewpoints.

Why Does the Universe Exist?
In their book, Hawking and Mlodinow seek to answer three questions that they set themselves in chapter 1:

1. Why is there something rather than nothing?

2. Why do we exist?

3. Why this particular set of laws and not some other?

Curiously, their answers to each of these questions turn out to be very brief. In fact, (2) gets folded into (1) and so does not even receive a separate answer.

Hawking and Mlodinow’s answer to questions (1) and (2) is an appeal to the “no boundary” model of the origin of the universe, popularized by Hawking in his book, A Brief History of Time. Our authors simply expound the model without adducing any evidence for it or mentioning any of the alternative models to it. Nor do they respond to the criticism that the so-called “imaginary time” featured in the model is physically unintelligible and therefore merely a mathematical “trick” useful for avoiding the cosmological singularity which appears in classical theories of the beginning of the universe.

Still, their exposition is not without interest with regard to the beginning of the universe. For example, they write: “The realization that time can behave like another direction of space means one can get rid of the problem of time having a beginning, in a similar way in which we got rid of the edge of the world. Suppose the beginning of the universe was like the South Pole of the earth, with degrees of latitude playing the role of time. As one moves north, the circles of constant latitude, representing the size of the universe, would expand. The universe would start as a point at the South Pole, but the South Pole is much like any other point. To ask what happened before the beginning of the universe would become a meaningless question, because there is nothing south of the South Pole. In this picture space-time has no boundary — the same laws of nature hold at the South Pole as in other places” (page 134-5).

This passage is fascinating because if we take the analogy seriously, it posits a beginning point to both time and the universe. Despite the fact imaginary time behaves like another spatial dimension, Hawking allows the circles of latitude to play the role of time, which has a beginning point at the South Pole. When Hawking speaks of “the problem of time having a beginning,” what he means is “the age-old objection to the universe having a beginning” (page 135) an objection which his model removes. That age-old objection is the question, “What happened before the beginning of the universe?” Hawking is right that this question is meaningless on his model. But what he fails to mention is that the question is equally meaningless on the standard big bang model, since there is nothing prior to the initial cosmological singularity. Or either model the universe has an absolute temporal beginning.

So the question is, Why did the universe begin to exist? Why is there something rather than nothing? Hawking and Mlodinow advocate what they call a “top-down” approach to this question. The idea here is to begin with our presently observed universe characterized by the standard model of particle physics and then calculate, given the no boundary condition, the probability of the various histories allowed by quantum physics to reach our present state. The most probable history represents the history of our observable universe. Hawking and Mlodinow claim that, “In this view, the universe appeared spontaneously from nothing” (page 136). By “spontaneously” they seem to mean, without a cause.

But how does that follow from the model? The top-down approach calculates the probability of our observable universe given the no-boundary condition. The top-down approach does not calculate the probability that the no boundary condition should exist but takes it for granted. Such a condition is not metaphysically or physically necessary. If the universe came into being uncaused from nothing, it could have had any sort of conceivable spatiotemporal configuration. For nothingness, or nonbeing, has no properties or constraints and is governed by no physical laws. Physics only begins at the “South Pole” in the no boundary model. There is not anything in the model that implies that that point came to be without a cause. Indeed, the idea that being could arise without a cause from nonbeing seems metaphysically absurd.

Hawking and Mlodinow seem to realize they have not yet answered the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” They return to this question in their concluding chapter and give a quite different answer. There they explain there is a constant vacuum energy contained in empty space, and if the universe’s positive energy associated with matter is evenly balanced by the negative energy associated with gravitation, then the universe can spontaneously come into being as a fluctuation of the energy in the vacuum (which, by a clever sleight of hand, they say “we may as well call … zero”).

This seems to be a very different account of the universe’s origin, for it presupposes the reality of space and the energy in it. So it is puzzling when Mlodinow and Hawking conclude, “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing in the manner described in Chapter 6” (page 180). Here it is said that the nothingness spoken of in Chapter 6 is not really nothingness after all but is space filled with vacuum energy. This goes to reinforce the conviction that the no boundary approach only describes the evolution of our universe from its origin at its “South Pole” to its present state but is silent as to why the universe came to exist in the first place.

What this implies is that Hawking and Mlodinow have not even begun to address the philosophical question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” For “nothing” in their vocabulary does not have the traditional meaning “nonbeing” but rather means “the quantum vacuum.” They are not even answering the same question. Like the philosophy student who, to the question, “What is Time?” on his final exam, answered, “a weekly news magazine,” so Hawking and Mlodinow have avoided the tough question by equivocation.

Why Is the Universe Fine-tuned for Life?
If they have failed to answer questions (1) and (2), what about (3): Why is there this particular set of laws rather than some other? The issue here is explaining the apparently miraculous fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. Hawking and Mlodinow express this idea by observing that “in recent years physicists began asking themselves what the universe would have been like if the laws of nature were different” (page 159). Unfortunately, this statement is very misleading. Scientists grappling with fine-tuning are not asking what the universe would have been like if it were governed by different laws of nature. Rather they are asking what the universe would have been like if it were governed by the same laws of nature but with different values for the physical constants appearing in them and with different quantities for the initial conditions on which the laws operate.

Nobody knows what a universe governed by different laws would be like. But because we are talking about universes governed by the same laws, but with different numbers plugged in for the constants and quantities, we can calculate what kind of universe the laws would predict (just as Hawking and Mlodinow illustrate on page 159-62). So question (3) is malformed as stated. The real question is: Why this particular set of constants and quantities rather than some other?

Now there are three possible answers to that question: physical necessity, chance, or design. Hawking and Mlodinow reject the hypothesis of physical necessity: “It appears that the fundamental numbers, and even the form, of the apparent laws of nature are not demanded by logic or physical principle” (page 143). Since Mlodinow and Hawking want nothing to do with a Cosmic Designer, they opt for the hypothesis of chance. Since the odds of our universe’s being fine-tuned for intelligent life are so incomprehensibly remote, Hawking and Mlodinow appeal to the Many Worlds Hypothesis to augment one’s probabilistic resources to the extent that it becomes inevitable that a finely-tuned universe will appear by chance somewhere in the World Ensemble or multiverse. If there are an infinite number of randomly ordered universes in the Ensemble, then a finely-tuned universe will appear somewhere in the Ensemble by chance alone.

If the Many Worlds Hypothesis is to be serious science rather than metaphysical speculation, some sort of mechanism needs to be provided to generate the World Ensemble. The mechanism to which Hawking and Mlodinow appeal is Richard Feynman’s “sum-over-histories” approach to quantum theory. This is the approach Hawking uses in the no boundary model to calculate the most probable history of the universe, given the no boundary condition, to our present observed state. Hawking and Mlodinow take these alternative histories that the universe might have pursued to be actual, parallel universes that are just as real as our universe.

Unfortunately, this is not science but a gratuitous piece of metaphysics. Feynman’s sum-over-histories method is just a mathematical tool for calculating the probability of a subatomic particle’s arriving at one point from another. One imagines all the possible paths the particle could have taken and then on that basis calculates the probability of its reaching the observed destination. There’s no basis for interpreting this mathematical “trick” to imply the ontological reality of concrete, spatio-temporal universes.

Hawking and Mlodinow also appeal to M-Theory or superstring theory to generate the World Ensemble of universes exhibiting various values for the constants of nature. Such a speculation is problematic in a number of ways that they do not discuss. First, the “cosmic landscape” of 10500 different possible universes consistent with nature’s laws that M-Theory allows are just that: possibilities. They are not real worlds, anymore than are Feynman’s histories.

Second, it’s not clear that 10500 possibilities are sufficient to guarantee the existence of finely-tuned universes in the landscape. What if the probability of fine-tuning is less than 1:10500? This may be especially problematic concerning the arbitrary initial conditions.

Finally, does the multiverse itself described by M-Theory exhibit fine-tuning? If it does, then the problem has only been pushed back a notch. It seems that it does, for as Hawking and Mlodinow explain, M-Theory requires precisely eleven dimensions if it is to be viable. Yet the theory cannot account for why just that number of dimensions should exist.

Moreover, Mlodinow and Hawking do not even mention, much less respond to, Roger Penrose’s trenchant criticism of the Many Worlds Hypothesis for explaining fine-tuning in his The Road to Reality. Namely, he argues that if we were just a random member of a World Ensemble, then it is incomprehensibly more probable that we should be observing a much different universe than what we do, which strongly disconfirms the Many Worlds Hypothesis. There is no excuse for Hawking’s failure to respond to his erstwhile collaborator’s criticisms of Hawking’s view.

In summary, despite Hawking and Mlodinow’s vaunted assertions and constant sniping at religious belief throughout this book, there is actually genuine profit in it for religious believers, especially for those interested in natural theology. For the authors affirm and argue for the facts of an absolute beginning of time and the universe and of the apparently miraculous fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. Given the desperation and/or irrelevancy of their proffered answers to the questions that motivated their inquiry, their book turns out to be quite supportive of the existence of a transcendent Creator and Designer of the cosmos.

William Lane Craig, Ph.D., D.Theol., is research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, California.

1. Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (New York: Bantam Books, 2010), 5.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

your faith has made you whole

In Luke 18.42 we are told of a blind man who saw things more clearly than many around him. Although he couldn't see what was going on he had become pretty adept at listening to the rumblings and the rumors that were on the street. He had listened to the stories that passers-by were telling of this man Jesus. They were tales of healings, and teaching of great wisdom. He had accessed in his own mind who this Jesus might be. When things began to stir around him he wanted to know what was going on. When they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was going by he began to cry out for mercy using the Messianic title "Son of David". he was rebuked and told to be quiet but kept pressing in past the shushing of the crowd. He knew that what he wanted could not be given by men but only by God. Jesus noticed the voice of the man with so much faith and healed him saying, "your faith has made you whole."

What did the blind man see that we miss so often.
1) He saw who Jesus was.
2) He saw his own need clearly.
3) He knew that public opinion meant very little- just get close to Jesus.
4) He knew what he desired and asked for it unashamedly.

Jesus recognized all that as faith. As I said last Sunday, faith is the currency of the Kingdom of God. You must have some, to get what you want from Jesus. The crowd will discourage you from pressing in, you may not even know Jesus very well, and you may even feel you are limited by your short comings and blind spots, but if you press in he will give to you what you need.

Are you asking? Are you crying out as he passes by? Are you aggressive in your pursuit of him inspite of all the nay saying of others (even other christians) around you? If you are, YOUR FAITH..., will bring you to wholeness.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Son of Man

Ask the Pastor Question;

In the Book of Mark, Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man, yet forbids the evil spirits to refer to Him as the Son of God. At that time, I understand why He didn't want people to know that He was the Son of God but why was the Son of Man a more acceptable or applicable title, if you will?

Here is a sticky question but, simply put, Son of Man is used by Jesus of himself in describing his humanity. The term is used 90 some times in Ezekiel as a reference to the humanity of the prophet. I believe that this was used by Jesus to reference his incarnation. As Phil 2 says, "He humbled himself and became a man..."

You are right in recognizing that (especially in Mark) Jesus was trying to keep his identity as the Son of God a secret lest there be some form of political uprising and the gospel of the kingdom would be turned into some shallow short-lived political thing.

What makes this tricky is that the term was used in Daniel as a messianic term (7:13-14). Yet because of the number of times that Ezekiel is called son of man it is more likely that the reference would be understood by Mark's audience as a term of humility. This then makes the title in Daniel a possible reference to the incarnation.

Reasons the Devil wants you to be Ungrateful

1) Ungrateful people are sour and miserable to be around. They are completely self centered in the worst sense of the word. They are, therefore, horrible witnesses for Christ and his selfless act of saving a lost and broken world.

2) Ungrateful people are susceptable to the self loathing and mental fragility that leads to all manner of internal turmoil. There really is something to that "stop and smell the roses" thing! If the enemy of your soul can confuse you, you will lose the vision that your life has purpose for God's kingdom.

3) Ungrateful people are so completely self absorbed that they are not pleasant to be around. If we fall prey to ingratitude we find ourselves alone- and in that place we can do little damage to the kingdoms of Hell and much damage to self.

4) Ungrateful people are easy prey to doubt and unbelief. They spend little time examining their own life (if they did they would realize the mercy that God has given them). Someone has once remarked that the unexamined life is not worth living. Certainly that is doubly so for the ungrateful.

5) Ungrateful people have poisoned souls. They are toxic in their poisonous negativity. Grinding down even the most cheery person and offending those that are looking for spirituality. Most people run from their malevolent poison, and those that don't, wish they did.

So refuse ingratitude and embrace a lifestyle of thanksgiving. 1 Thess 5.16b "...in every circumstance give thanks, for this is the will of God."

Choose 5 things to be grateful for this day. And tell someone how thankful you are!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Transfiguration

This question came from "Ask the Pastor". The transfiguration scene from Matthew 17:1, a couple of questions:

How did Peter, James, and John recognize that it was Moses and Elijah that appeared before them? I'm quite certain they never met but perhaps God opened their eyes and revealed it to them?

What was the purpose of the transfiguration? Was it to give Peter, James, and John a taste of what heaven would be like? Was it to meant to commission them as God spoke saying "This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him" Please explain.

Well, of course there was no way to know who these two apparitions were unless there was something in their dress or they were carrying some clue. For instance, the white bearded figure with the two tablets or the camel hair outfit on Elijah (see John the Baptist description). I assume that to be the case, that there was some clue in the manner of presentation. The purpose of the transfiguration was to demonstrate that the prophets (represented by Elijah) and the Law (represented by Moses) bear testimony to Jesus. This was a great revelation to the three in the inner circle of the disciples. Two of those three wrote in the New Testament (as opposed to,say, Bartholomew or Thaddeus), the other was the first martyr. So it would be important revelation to the writers of the NT and the first martyr of the Apostles (Acts 12.1). All of them clearly got the message as is witnessed by quotations from the OT Law and prophets in their books and one needs to only look at the speech of Stephen in Acts 7to see how this all plays into the attempts to reach the first century Jewish audience by quoting from their scriptures.

There doesn't seem to be anything here that is intended to relate what heaven is like. The purpose is revelation of Jesus. Peter actually quotes this moment (2 Peter 2.16ff) so we see it's intent is christology not eschatology. Without a clear, accurate, and articulate vision of Christ we cannot attempt to bear witness to Him. May God give us the revelation of the Son!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Treating Each Other with Value

"For by the Grace given me I say to everyone of you:Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you...Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another about yourselves." Rom 12.3-10

I am amazed everytime I hear about a follower of Christ who is 'on the outs' with another believer. Despite evidence to the contrary, Christ-followers are supposed to behave differently toward all men, especially each other. What Jesus envisioned and Paul described here is a kind of relationship that believes the best of one another and refuses to give the enemy any ground to stand in the relationship of the redeemed. If you have frutrations, bitterness, hard feelings, and other relational difficulties with other disciples God sees that as inexcusable. Jesus said that making things right with another believer is more important than your worship (Mt 5.24)[and nearly every thing else you will do today!] so leave your gift of worship at the altar and go get right. The vertical righteousness is easy for us (though it cost Christ his life on the cross!) it is the horizontal working out of the righteousness of God in and among us that seems to cause problems.

In the text above we find a sort of check list that might be helpful in relationships between christians. Check yourself against this...

1. Grace-esteem- None of us is worthy of salvation and we continue to be less than profitable servants. We must see ourselves as recipients of grace and mercy. Further, our view of ourselves must be in line with our "measure of faith". This leaves no room for pride or huberous or arrogance. Are you prideful and arrogant or humble in your esteem of your self?

2. Sincere love- In spite of our differences, God expects us to rally around the commonality of the cross. Our mission and our working together must spring from sincere love. The greek word for sincere here is 'without wax'. Sculptors used to mask flaws in their work by filling the blemishes with wax. God wants our mutual love to be without wax... after all there is no masking and no faking real brotherly love. How sincere is your love?

3. Hatred- Evil, sinful and behavior that glorifies anyone other than God must be eschewed vehemently. What's your hate level?

4. Mutual devotion- Because you are my brother in Christ, I want success for you and blessing on your life. I cannot be self seeking; I cannot prioritize my own comfort or desires above yours because we are devoted to one another's success. Are you living with this devotion to your fellow believers?

5. Honoring one another- To value a brother or sister this high stands in stark contrast to the way of the world. We are to defer to one another, to value each other as co-heirs with Christ as indispensably precious. This is more than a heart attitude, though it sure begins there. This is a matter of behavior and treating one another as valuable not dispenable. How are you treating your fellow heirs with Christ?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Temptation Question

I received the following question via the 'ask the pastor' site.

In Luke 11:4, "And lead us not into temptation". I am inquiring as to why the text is suggesting such a thing when clearly as christians it is understood that God does not tempt or "lead" us but rather Satan or our own sinful nature brings us into that place, yet Jesus says this is how we should pray to the Father? Please explain. Thank you

Clearly, God does not tempt anyone (James 1.13-15) but he does test us (Gen 22.1). While the determination of our occassions to sin is always the impurity of our hearts, or as Paul called it 'sin in us' (See Rom 7.21-25), circumstances play a big role. The glutton has no business in the bakery. This is a prayer that God would not lead us into circumstances that would put us in the place of temptation. It might be easier for the person with the penchant for gluttony to work in a steel mill. Perhaps there is less temptation there. This section of this prayer is a plea for God to be sensitive to the weakness of our flesh while he is directing our lives.
Some commentators say this is a rhetorical device used to show that God has the power to prevent us from falling into sin and so it is a plea for protection.

So, in summary, I would see this as a plea for sensitivity to our weakness (under the right circumstances I will fail you, Lord!)and a request for protection fo the most valuable commodity in our lives- our relationship with God. As one writer put it, "Such constant (daily) spiritual inventory serves us preventative care of the soul."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Some Reasons for Unanswered Prayer

1. Doubt James 1.5-8
2. Asking with wrong motives James 4.3
3. Treating your wife poorly 1 Peter 3.7
4. Praying for Show Matthew 6.5,6
5. Unforgiveness Mark 11.25,26
6. Lack of persistence Luke 18.1ff
7. Pride Luke 18.10
8. Unbalanced life John 15.7
9. Vain repetition Matthew 6.5
10. Not according to God's will 1 John 5.4
11. Not understanding Jesus' Name John 14.13,14
12. Rebellion Mal 3.7
13. Lack of Unity Matthew 18.19
14. Loving Sin Ps 66.18

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Counsel, Anyone?

So you think you might need counseling, eh? Last night I realized that after listening to peoples issues most of my counseling comes down to one of 6 responses. Take a look- maybe you don't need my counsel at all!

1) God is good. Life is sometimes hard, though. Live and act in direct correlation to the simple truth that God is good. If he directed you to do something hard, to give generously, to love the unlovable... trust his goodness- you will, ultimately, be blessed for it! (Not to mention the personal development of the holy habits formed)

2) It's not about you. Sometimes we have our own pain and struggles so close to us that we suffer from a sort of spiritual myopia. We forget that God loves others and is working on them too. We need to be anxious less about our own self (our comfort, our agenda, our plans, etc) and look to find a way to bring the will of God into anothers life.

3) Just stop it. There is no easy way to say this but your overeating, your binge drinking, your drug habit, your nicotine issue, your obssessive/compulsive behavior, your sexual acting out, and all other self destructive behaviors are all under YOUR control. With God's help (and forgiveness) you can overcome them. And it begins with an ending. So knock it off!

4) Quit crying over spilled milk. Frankly, what you upset about is completely out of your control. It happened so long ago, or it wasn't a big deal to anyone but you. So it is time to get over it. Man up, get perspective, and move on with God's grace.

5) Read and Pray. 95% of all situations are answered in the Word of God. Dust off that Bible and get into it. Develop a godly routine in your life of prayer and the Word. His voice will direct, confirm, and speak to you as you faithfully develop these two most basic Christian disciplines.

6) Give it to Jesus. It is over, its it the past... or maybe it's just too much for you. Your worry won't change a thing, your fretting is killing you and interrupting all your relationships. Head to the altar and give it to your Savior. He cares for you.

There you go. Pick the one that is the most applicable and do it. You can send me the $95 counseling fee in the mail (smile)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

9-11 Tribute?

I am worried about the unreasoned and reactionary responses from some Christians with regard to the Mosque 2 blocks away from the 9-11 site. The way I hear many Christians talking it seems like they think the government should somehow forbid this. Listen people - the last thing we need is government intrusion into religion! While I am no friend of Islam, I am a fan of freedom of religion.

Now this nucklehead pastor in Gainsville FL is buring the Koran. Exactly how does that make christians different than the flag burning terrorists? How does that even remotely honor the dead of the Trade Towers. Come on people... get a grip!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

What is KILN?

The concept of KILN comes from Jeremiah 18.1-10. KILN is a place of reforming and reshaping then being placed into the fire to be set and made ready for service. KILN is a time of soaking in the presence of God and asking God to change us, his church, and make us useful for his purpose. This Sunday night will be our first KILN mtg this fall. I invite you to come out Sunday Evening at 5:30 PM for this special time of surrender and prayer.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Jesus Saves! and so should you!

Too many of us are living on the edge of economy. We are over indebted. We borrow too much money. We owe, we owe so off to work we go!

But in an economy that is fragile a great number of Christians are reviewing their budgets. I have often preached the 80-10-10 budget. We should be living off of 80% of our income, tithing 10% to the Lord through the local church and stashing 10% of our income into a savings account. At minimum we should do this until there is 3 months salary in a savings account.

It seems to me that the Lord has been warning us recently (with the fragile economy, etc) that we must get ourselves into a solid place financially. Are you hearing that in yoru prayer time too?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

God No Longer Needed????

Stephen Hawking, the eminent British theoretical physicist says in his new book that God did not create the universe and the "Big Bang" was an "inevitable consequence of the laws of physics". In his previous writings Hawking was careful not to tread to harshly on the doctrines of the church and it's doctrine of God as the Ultimate Cause. He warned that the theory was incomplete. Hawkings surety and dismissal of God as Ultimate Cause and Creator is shocking in that he has not advanced the theory of the "Big Bang" cosmology much farther than in his previous works. certainly , not to completion.

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," Hawking wrote. So how can a thinking Christ follower hold to the doctrine of creation?
1. Hawking, like Sagan and many along side him- does not explain where things came from, only how that which is could have come to be. His elaborate explanations of theory, while fascinating, are incomplete. Where did the universe come from? Like many before him, he treads the path of shoulder shruggers and best-guessers and claims the universe is all that ever was! In effect, the universe is eternal (though existing in many forms over time).

2. Hawking speaks of spontaneous creation as if he has seen it. But of course, no one has seen this happen and never will. just take a moment and think of all the other things that have spontaneously created over time... ur, I guess that is a short list of zero isn't it. (the thing in the back of the fridge was already something before it became the fuzzy stuff that it is now!)

3. This is based upon multiverse theory. This is the theory that there are many universes and we just happen by coincidence to occupy the one-in-a-billion universe that could support life. Of course, there is no evidence of these supposedly plentiful universes out there. The argument basically says that there must be billions of attempts to make universes that are all arranged differently and (licky us!) we get to be the ones who popped out of the primordial soup! So your life is meaningless- a cosmic accident without purpose. Enjoy! Even so, the multiverse may have been God's idea in the first place! listen to Dr. Don Pages "Does God love the Multiverse?"

4. And what of this gravitational phenomina? Are we to conclude that the gravitational rate is random? Check this out The precision of gravity is so amazing that I don't understand how anyone with half a brain could believe otherwise. And what of other fine tuning? Nathan Schneider of Seed magazine writes, "Scientists now recognize that if space were expanding at a slightly different speed, or if the strong nuclear force were just a little off, our universe would be a hydrogen mush incapable of supporting life. The chances that the cosmic conditions needed for even a single living cell would come about in a random toss-up are astonishingly low, often called the 'fine tuning problem.'" Certainly Hawking must see that? Coincidence? Mistake?

5. Ultimately, we must determine what and who to trust. Hawking is a brilliant and compelling mind but God is eternal and all knowing. Why would we trust anyone but God? Hawking is a flawed and fallable human. And if history of science tells us anything his writings, like his most recent opinion will change. But there is one that never has to adjust his theory... he is the Truth and the Way.

In the beginning God...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What is Above Reproach?

1 Tim 3.2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

There is a demand in the scriptures for those in spiritual leadership that is easy to misunderstand. In 1 Tim 3.2 tells us that spiritual leaders are supposed to be above reproach. Some feel that this means that a pastor or elder should never be accused of some activity that is offensive. This certainly cannot be the intent of Paul when he wrote this. Jesus himself, as well as Paul the Apostle, were accused of various activity that was scandalous. Jesus hung out with "sinners and drunkards" and Paul often faced the demand to accommodate the Jewish believers who insisted that he honor the Old Covenant rituals such as circumcision. The scandal was pervasive through out the NT church. The term "above reproach" does not mean that Christian leadership cannot be accused of wrong doing, only that the accusation should not be founded. Otherwise, Jesus and Paul would not be eligible for leadership in the church! Spiritual leaders cannot minister in truth when they are bound to the judgments of others.

While it is clear that there is a concern for the reputation of the Gospel in view, it has little to do with accommodating one's lifestyle to the wishes of others. One would have to limit his lifestyle to the lowest common objection of the most ignorant and spiritually clueless individual. The reason we know that this demand is not about accommodation to others "sensitivities" is that this "above reproach" is defined in the descriptors that immediately follow. These characteristics of respectable spiritual leaders are the kind of things that all Christians should aspire to. A solid and faithful marriage,sobriety, wisdom, sufficient knowledge of the truth and ability to teach, not greedy, solid family leadership, etc. These moral examples and the testimony of the leader should not be the issues that scandals are derived from.

Often, those familiar with older versions of the scriptures will quote "abstain from the appearance of evil" as if it meant that the spiritual person should avoid anything that looks evil. Well, this is precisely NOT what is being said in the 1 Thess 5.22. It has nothing to do with appearance (as in the way things look) and everything to do with where evil (sinful behavior) appears. In fact, the newer translations have picked this meaning up.(NIV Avoid every kind of evil!)

This frees that christian leader to worry less about what others are thinking as they judge behavior and concentrate on having truth in their hearts and serving
the Lord with integrity. There is less of a temptation to be a "man-pleaser" and a freedom to truly be a "God-Pleaser"!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Satan's Top 10

Here is Chuck Pierce's list of Satan's 10 ways to sidetrack us from God's will.

1. Cares of the world- We divert our eyes and desires to the world around us instead of keeping our eyes on the One who made us.

2. Anxiety-Anxiety is friction within our inner person that keeps us from walking in peace or wholeness.

3. Weights on our spirit- These weights are burdens that we bear in the flesh.

4. Unforgiveness- Unforgiveness is holding resentment toward and individual who has wronged us.

5. Poisoned spirit- We allow the hurts that we encounter in life to cause a root of bitterness to arise within our spirit and eventually defile our whole body.

6. Grief- Grief is a function of loss that can be embedded in our emotions. grief has a time frame. If we go past that time frame, the enemy produces hope deferred within us. We then lose our expectation in God and others.

7. Unstable emotions- Instability is the lack of being able to stand. Our emotions eventually rule us, and life becomes a roller coaster ride.

8. Accusations- The accuser of the brethren loves to reproach us and remind us of everything that we have done wrong.

9. Condemnation-Condemnation is the opposite of conviction. Whereas conviction leads us to grace, condemnation says that there is no way out for any wrongdoing we've done.

10. Sin and iniquitous patterns- Sins author is Satan. Unconfessed sin can lead us to a pattern of iniquity. Iniquity diverts us from the path of life.

Each of these can fragment the way we think and cause our spirit ot lose the power that God has made available to us. God has made each of us with a spirit soul and body; and He has ordained us to be whole. If Satan can trap us with any of hte above issues, we will become like the person whom James describes:" he who doubts... is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways" James 1.6-8. Our mind becomes divided (our way of thinking become unsure), and we lose the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through our spirit.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


You know I ran across an old box of letters
While I was bagging up some clothes for Goodwill
But you Know I had to laugh at the same old struggles
That plagued me then are plaguing me still
I know the road is long from the ground to glory
But a boy can hope he's getting some place
But you see, I'm running from the very clothes I'm wearing
And dressed like this I'm fit for the chase

'Cause no, there is none righteous
Not one who understands
There is none who seek God
No not one, I said no not one

So I am thankful that I'm incapable
Of doing any good on my own

'Cause we're all stillborn and dead in our transgressions
We're shackled up to the sin we hold so dear
So what part can I play in the work of redemption
I can't refuse, I cannot add a thing

'Cause I am just like Lazarus and I can hear your voice
I stand and rub my eyes and walk to You
Because I have no choice

I am thankful that I'm incapable
Of doing any good on my own
I'm so thankful that I'm incapable
Of doing any good on my own

'Cause by grace I have been saved
Through faith that's not my own
It is a gift of God and not by works
Lest anyone should boast

Caedmon's Call

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Question of Moral Perfection

Hey Pastor Dave, on occasion I stumble through passages of scripture that need some clarification and instead of emailing you I just keep reading. I have decided not to do that any longer...here's my question:

In the text, 1John 2:1 "I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One".

1Peter 4:1 "he who has suffered in his body is done with sin". (I know he is referring to Christ in this passage but missionaries have suffered as well)

1John 3:6 "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him".

I think you get the picture as to where I'm headed. Now, I understand that all have sinned but these passages raise the question as to the possibility of escaping the clutches of sin or at least on a temporal basis. Am I reading to much into these passages as well as others? Deep down in my heart I would like to believe that there is a possibility to achieve this lofty goal but then reality sets in and tells me otherwise. I don't know, part of me thinks that by accepting our sinful nature means accepting second best and part of me would like to believe that God wants to pull us out of that defeated way of thinking. Perhaps the answer is just that, it's a process and although we will never achieve perfection we can draw closer to God, thereby, minimizing the amount of sin we commit. I am familiar with this way of teaching but you have to admit these passages are not clear in suggesting this. I know this inquiry may seem strange coming from me but these passages seem to paint the wrong picture that's all I'm saying. Appreciate your thoughts, when you get a chance.

Hey- good question

The struggle is a theological one and an anthropological one. The belief that one can achieve a sinless life is called perfectionism or sinless perfectionism. It is tempting to read verses like those you mentioned and others (be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect) as calls to sinlessness. Some of that desire is based on the misery of living with this burden of a weak flesh. The question is theological because it relates to what God has done. The question is anthropological because it deals with the nature of man (ie., is there ever a time on earth where man can be free from the flesh or the sinful nature NIV)

Jesus taught his disciples to pray for forgiveness daily (Matt 6.12); he told us to pray often because the spirit was willing and the flesh was weak (Matt 26.41); and Paul seemed to advocate (Rom 7.18-19) that grace would triumph over the fleshly nature not by eradication but by the Holy Spirit’s empowerment (Rom 8.1-4). In 1 John 1.8-10 the Apostle tells us that to say we have no sin is deception, and John assures us that we have an advocate with the Father who will forgive confessed sin. He tells us that to say we have not sinned is to call God a liar. While urging his readers not to sin 1Jn 2.1 he assures that there is a defense attorney (advocate) who speaks to the Father in our defense. Clearly he cannot move on to chapter 3 and then mean that he readers should reach perfection! The NIV is correct in showing the continual case of the verb meaning to sin. It reads “no one who continues to sin” has seen or known him. The powerful work of the new birth in the life of the believer uses the tools of conviction, teaching, and encouragement to free us from specific sins. (1 Jn 3.9) The Spirit also empowers our mind, body, and human spirit with the capability to deny the fleshly habits and cease to walk in those ways(Rom 8.9) . So we are growing in our divine nature 2 Peter 1.4. Through these “great and precious promises” we are “participating in the divine nature” and “escaping the corruption of the world caused by evil desires”.

My assessment is that there will never be a time when I am free from incidents of sin, because I cannot divorce myself from the weak flesh that is the result of Adam’s transgression. There will come a time when I am divorced from that sinful nature entirely when, as the Apostle Peter writes, salvation is revealed (1 Pet. 1.5) in the last time. The believer will be delivered from the fleshly nature and receive a spiritual body (1 Cor 15.45-55) like Christ’s resurrected body. Salvation and deliverance will then be complete.

This does not mean that the Christian does not strive to mature (perfect Mt5.48) his walk. There are theological systems that tend to bring believers into a lackadaisical and apathetic acceptance of their fleshly nature. These systems emphasize the finished work of Christ (cf. Col 1.24) to the detriment of the ongoing work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Passive acceptance of our sinfulness is not a proper response to our sin nature. It seeks to control. When the Flesh controls (Rom 8.5-8) the believer cannot serve God, cannot please God, cannot think rightly or submit to God. The flesh is no friend… it is an enemy and the believer must be as ruthless as possible to overcome it by the Spirit’s power. The believer in Jesus must strive to grow and mature continually in Christ.

So what then do these passages mean that concerned you?

1 Peter 4.1 is a passage to suffering Christians (cf v 12) Peter is encouraging the disciples to have the attitude (4.1) that Christ had- suffering (in obedience to the Father- not for sins, crimes or sickness) helps us overcome the flesh. That is why (4.19) we should “commit ourselves to God and continue to do good” when we suffer in God’s will. Neitzche – the atheist philosopher (God is Dead) said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” (He later lost his mind and spent the last ten years of his life in mental darkness because of his rebellion against Christianity). What Peter would say is “That which causes us to suffer in the will of God, makes us stronger by killing our dependence upon the flesh.”

So we strive for moral perfection all the while knowing that we will never reach it. That, however, doesn’t mean that there will be days when we can look back and say with the Psalmist (Ps 17.3) “Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin…” I wish those days would increase in all of our lives. But in the end 364 days of sinless perfection cannot cancel out the one day of lustful thoughts, greed, or pride. There is no redemption but in the shed blood of our King! So why grow? why pursue holiness? Why die daily (1 Cor 51.31)? It is but a tribute, an honoring, a replication, and an imitation (Eph 5.1) of the Lord whom we serve. In so doing we properly (Rom 12.1,2) worship our King. And the world looks on and sees us as a city on a hill, a light on the lamp stand and they will “see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.

Friday, July 09, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

If I can endure for this minute
Whatever is happening to me,
No matter how heavy my heart is
Or how dark the moment may be-

If I can remain calm and quiet
With all the world crashing about me,
Secure in the knowledge God loves me
When everyone else seems to doubt me-

If I can but keep on believing
What I know in my heart to be true,
That darkness will fade with the morning
And that this will pass away, too-

Then nothing in life can defeat me
For as long as this knowledge remains
I can suffer whatever is happening
For I know God will break all of the chains

That are binding me tight in the darkness
And trying to fill me with fear-
For there is no night without dawning
And I know that my morning is near.

...Helen Steiner Rice

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Living DD in a Starbys World

If you have been to Christian Life Center, you know that it isn't Starbucks. Oh, we have a couple couches and free AC and coffee; but it is definitely not Starbucks. It is more like Dunkin Donuts than Starbucks. You won't be able to have your mocha-frappa- latte. Not that we are against that. I think you should drink whatever caffeinated drink you desire... but just don't expect massive trendiness here, bro. That's not us.

We keep spending money on orphanages and missionaries overseas- so we don't have money to repaint all the trendy colors. We worship in a classic building. By that I mean there isn't much in the way of recessed lighting and snappy ambiance. It smells like... like a church! Old wood, stained glass, candles, and coffee. And the people are sometimes preoccupied with serving and organizing studies and small groups and service projects and food pantries and missions dinners, etc. They are trying to be friendly... but they are working hard. The music, is kind of raw- definitely needs polishing if we were gonna record- but were probably not gonna. We sing, but for the King! (And we won't even mention our dance moves!!!)

But what we have is the real deal. We have worship that connects and sermons that are practical challenges to live a Christ-centered life. People who are genuine- and a little bit broken. We don't aspire to be the place where you come in and get comfortable- in fact, our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will make us all a little uncomfortable. At least too uncomfortable to stay and do so little when the world around us is hurting so badly.

So while Starbucks is all the rage, we are just keeping it real- like DD. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why Speaking in Tongues is for everyone

Occasionally, I still run into the argument that only specific people can speak in tongues. This is of course true if we are talking about the public use of the gift. Concerning the saints gathered together the Apostle Paul writes, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."(1 Cor 12.7) But of course, the Apostle is speaking of the use of the gift in public where it is needful that the gift of tongues be interpreted. (Looking at 1 Corinthians we see that he is dealing with the church gathered together from 11.17 onwards to 14.40) We read that Paul himself distinguishes the practice from private tongue speaking in 14.18-19. Declaring that he "speaks in tongues more than all of you."

Paul uses 1 Cor 14 to spell out his insistence that intelligibility is to be preferred when saints gather together. But in so doing he does reveal some benefits of speaking in tongues (see my June 5 2007 post). Among them Speaking directly to God, praying his perfect will, personal edification and strengthening faith and making a statement to unbelievers.

When we read the book of Acts we see people baptised into the Spirit. This is distinguished from salvation as a secondary experience as the Ephesian disciples found out (Acts 19). they had only been baptized into the baptism of John and had not "received the Holy Spirit" yet. We know that these "disciples" are believers in Jesus already because Luke never uses that term lightly and always refers to followers of Jesus when he does use it. When they did receive the baptism into the Spirit they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

We see that the Holy Spirit baptism comes after salvation. When, in Acts 8, they had heard the message and responded in faith and water baptism the Holy Spirit had not been distributed. After Peter and John laid hands upon them they saw the powerful demonstration of the Spirit fall and Simon witnessed this and wanted to purchase the power to Baptize people in the Holy Spirit.

If the Baptism into the Holy Spirit were identical to salvation then these verses would be confusing. How can one be baptized in water, and have faith but not have the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit given with the laying on of hands? How can one dedicate himself as a disciple and not have salvation? But since the Scripture is referring to a secondary experience we understand the role of these apostolic intercessors in bringing them into the expereince.

Paul commanded all believers to live under the control of the Holy Spirit in Eph 5.17. Living "Full" of the Spirit means more than to be excited about Jesus. It is an empowering (Acts 1.8) act that is desired for all of the followers of Christ. Jesus demnded that all "wait until they are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24.49) before they attempt ministry. We have seen that tongues accompanies this baptism into the Holy Spirit. So it should be expected that this promise that Peter preached about at Pentecost, is for all "you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call."

So "seek earnestly" the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and all the gifts of the Spirit. They are there for your asking.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Haiti: Redux

As I am thinking through some of the details of the up coming trip to Haiti, I am moved at the memories of the trip earlier this summer. The brokenness of the people and the epic proportions of the tragedy of that earthquake. It is hard to think about because I get so completely overwhelmed. What can we do?

We can build showers for the orphans and improve their quality of life. We can buy a water filter for their supply and the supply of the villagers around them... insuring health for the future. We can go and be a witness, help feed the poor,and support a local pastor who is meeting needs of orphans and villagers alike.

What can we do... we can raise money for the trip. I am inspired to see what can be done when we all come together and give toward this trip. Please help us if you can.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Jus' Stuff

I heard it again this morning on the news. A man was being interviewed and he recounted the tree falling from his front yard and through his roof. "Scary, he said but everyone is all right and it is just stuff- it can be replaced." Kudos to this dude who obviously has some things in perspective.

Stuff is important and expensive but it is not the important stuff in life. Ya know what I mean Vern? Stuff is the material that we spend our life accumulating and slaving for in order to come to the conclusion that it isn't worth all the effort.
now I like nice stuff. You should have seen my face when I ran over my cell phone with the mower... you would know that I appreciate some stuff.

But the reality is that the stuff can be (in fact, needs to be) replaced (frequently!) So don't get all stuffy... remember that people are the irreplacable things in life. So don't forget your peeps!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Uglier than Pride

You see it all over the place. The arrogant look of the competent soccer star; the smug look of the little league superstar; the haughty glance of the person who is a tad bit prettier than the rest of us. Pride is ugly. If you like me it repulses you to the core. For years there have been people who have tried to turn it into a positive character trait. We talk smack on the basketball court, we speak highly of ourselves on our resume, we blog as if we had all the answers to the questions of life (ouch!). But no matter how hard we try to promote pride and mask it as confidence it smells bad and makes us sick to our stomach! Even more so it sickens God. James 4.6 God resists the proud. Hmmmm. The God of love who pursued us even to death on the cross is repulsed by our pride- even to the point of resisting our prayers and our person. Wow, he is made sick by it too.

But there is something uglier than pride. It is hard to imagine but it is true. It is spiritual pride. Pride that masks itself in pseudo-spirituality; Pride that covers its ugliness with the language of the Spirit but is profoundly of the flesh; Pride that judges others as less than self. Spiritual pride condemns others, judges others, and can't see the failings in their own hearts. It is the ugliest thing that anyone will ever see! It makes me sick when I see it- especially so when I see it in me!

I was talking about spiritual pride the other day with my best friend. She said to me that "people who have this kind of pride- spiritual pride- had better have their knee pads on because pride comes before the fall."

Well said.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

National Day of Prayer- On or Off?

Since President Obama has cancelled the White House's involvement in the National Day of Prayer one has to ask what the purpose of the NDP is.

For millenia national leaders have declared a day of fasting and prayer to show humility and reverence in times of stress and trouble. It is curious that the President, who "prays everyday" according to White House insiders, would not see value in leading the nation in that reverential humility. Especially so, with the violent storms that have ravaged the land, the terror threats and attempted bombing in Times Square, and the economic hardship that currently rocks the nation. We are left to assume that the controversy that might ensue from a nation unifying to pray is being avoided.

Nevertheless, we in the church must pray. We are commanded in 1 Tim 2.1-2 to pray for "for all men, for kings, and for all who are in authority". Of course, that should be more frequent that the first Thursday in May. (I pray for those in authority on Wednesdays, btw). We citizens, regardless of creed or religion, should set aside time to beseech God for blessing on our country. This is no vague patriotism. It is a recognition that mankind, and the US in particular, needs divine help.

We Christians need to pray, especially today, for God's blessing on America. Not that we may be blessed more than other countries (though we already are) but that we show God our recognition of our own desperation and a thankful heart for all that has come our way.

"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chron 7.14

Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting Away with It

There seems to be some confusion regarding believers that sin. First, all believers sin - so I guess were talking about ourselves here. When believers sin we have an advocate with the Father... Jesus is our defense attorney! Thank God for that grace that we are assured of. But what about willful sins?

Willful sins are those sins that we willfully determine we will not repent for but continue to practice. The scarey thing about willful sins is that God didn't offer any sacrifice in the OT for willful disobedience. Look if you want but you will not find an OT offer for grace and forgiveness over willful sins.

This is because willful sins are those unrepented sins that we practice without yielding to the truth that we know from being taught the Word. The Word of God reveals that truth to us and we must adjust accordingly. It is a mistake to think that the Lord adjusts.... we are the ones who need adjustment!

The first step in the adjustment is repentance. Repentance is the reversal of all that has hindered our walk. Thieves stop stealing, slanderers stop talking junk, fornicators stop their sexual immorality, and lusting eyes learn to look away. Repentance is the 180 that God offers us. It is a U turn on a lonely stretch of highway that is going the wrong way. It is our privilege to turn around and respond to God's grace as he offers it.

The danger in ignoring this is that we can become hardened in our sin and miss the u turn opportunity. The bible clearly says that there is a sin that leads to death. It is dangerous to flirt with rebellion when the end is a Christ-less eternity.

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion" heb 3.15

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Why Christian Counseling Doesn't Work

I don't think that Counseling (Christian or otherwise)never works- let's get that straight first..Its just that most of what passes for counseling is the teaching of coping skills and communication techniques. Those are great things and helpful. Counseling also involves revealing or leading the counselee to see a truth. The problem is that counseling demands absolute honesty. I am amazed at the number of Christian couples who come in to my office and whose story varies from one couple to another. One might come in saying my wife, Suzy, never responds to my sexual advances. Then when Suzy comes in she tells of the rough approach, or the verbal abuse that accompanies the relationship and the story begins to make sense.

Your own honesty is the lynch pin of your counseling. When you don't tell the truth, you affect the counselors ability to give good advice and direction. This is all the more true with Christian counseling because the person your speaking to is a mentor and a guide for your soul. No problem, you say, I always tell the truth. Well, often we are deceived. Sometimes from the enemy of our soul, sometimes we are blinded by the patterns we have observed, sometimes we are deceived by our own wishful thinking, sometimes by the lie of another. How then can the heart be absolutely honest with the counselor when it is deceived?

So the difficulty is that truth is not always seen by either the counselor or the counselee. The Holy Spirit needs to be involved in the process. Here the Christian counselor has a great advantage as he may receive words of knowledge and wisdom from God and the Holy Spirit's impressions. Yet when believers come into the counselor or pastors office there must be full disclosure- first to self, then to the counselor. To hide certain truths is to work against the healing process.

I guess what concerns me most is that there is always a blame placed on the concept of counseling. (IE., we tried counseling but it didn't work...) When the real issue is a matter of personal integrity. A commitment to tell the truth and an openness to the Holy Spirit.

The Scripture teaches that healing comes AFTER the confession of faults to one another. James 5.16

Friday, March 26, 2010

More Reasons Christians Shouldn't Live Together

1 Thess 4.3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification:£ that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each one of you know how to control his own body£ in holiness and honor, 5not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Its DISHONORING yourself
1 Cor 6.13...The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Rev. 22.12“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

14Blessed are those who wash their robes,£ so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

Eph 5.31–32 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

So why would you want to be with someone who doesn't want to be with you enough to do it right? Why should YOU compromise with a coward? If they can't commit, you must omit (them from your life.) The harsh reality is that even though it hurts now it will hurt less than when the coward finds someone else more interesting later on.

7 Reasons not to Live Together before Marriage

Ripped from the St Cloud Diocese Website

1. Those who live together before marriage tend not to marry. Over 50 percent of couples who live together will end their relationships before marriage.[1] Moreover, while many couples choose to cohabit in an attempt to test the relationship and prevent the pain of divorce, the "premarital divorce" is often times just as painful as divorce itself. [2]

2.Those who live together before marriage have higher separation and divorce rates. The Journal of Marriage and Family reported marriages that are preceded by living together have 50 percent higher disruption rates than marriages without premarital cohabitation.[3] The Universities of Chicago and Michigan reported that those who cohabit before marriage have substantially higher divorce rates than those who do not; the recorded differentials range from 50 to 100 percent.[4]

The University of Wisconsin at Madison researchers report that cohabitors perceived greater likelihood of divorce than couples who did not cohabitate before marriage and the longer couples live together outside of marriage, the higher likelihood of divorce.[5]

3. Those who live together before marriage have unhappier marriages. A review of 10 cohabitation studies found that those who cohabitate prior to marriage show a significantly lower marital quality and have significantly higher risk of marital dissolution at any given duration.[6]

Couples who lived together before marriage also separated more often, sought counseling more often and regarded marriage as a less important part of their life than those who did not live together before marriage.[7]

4. Those living together before marriage have more frequent disagreements, more fights and violence. Three studies find this to be true. Pennsylvania State University researchers found that those who live together were more negative and less positive when resolving a marital problem and when providing support to their partner.[8] They also found that husbands and wives who had lived together before marriage were more verbally aggressive, less supportive of one another and generally more hostile than spouses who had not lived together.[9]

Another study found that couples who cohabitate before marriage have less problem solving skills, poorer communication skills, and are more negative while attempting to resolve marital conflicts compared to married couples who have never cohabitated.[10]

Research reports couples who live together have more frequent disagreements, more fights and violence, lower levels of fairness and happiness with their relationships compared to married people.[11]

5. Those who live together do not experience the best sex. The National Institute for Healthcare Research found that couples not involved before marriage and faithful during marriage are more satisfied with their current sex life than those who were involved sexually before marriage.[12] Another study done by the Family Research Council found that 72 percent of all married “traditionalists” (those who strongly believe out-of-wedlock sex is wrong) reported high sexual satisfaction. This is roughly 31 percentage points higher than the level by unmarried “non-traditionalists.” Religious women are most satisfied with the frequency of intercourse and were more orgasmic than are the nonreligious.[13]

6. Those who live together before marriage experience more behavioral problems. Compared with married couples, cohabitors report higher levels of:

Alcohol problems.[14]
Aggression is twice as common.[15]
Greater marital instability, lower marital satisfaction and poorer communication.[16]
Depression rates are more than three times higher.[17] According to a study done by the National Institute of Mental Health the depression rates of cohabitating women are second only to those twice divorced. [18]
Women being assaulted is 56 times higher.[19]

7.Living together outside of marriage negatively impacts their children. David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, researchers from the National Marriage Project, found that children living with cohabiting biological parents who are unmarried are 20 times more likely to be abused and children whose mother lives with a boyfriend who is not the biological father are 33 times more likely to be abused than children with married biological parents.[20]

Compared to children in intact families, children in cohabiting households had more behavioral problems and poorer academic scores,[21] and are five times more likely to experience their parents separating.[22]

Numerous empirical studies indicate that living together does not produce healthier, happier marriages, but the contrary. Mature love is built on the security of knowing that your love is exclusive and permanent.


1. Popence and Whitehead, "Should We Live Together?" 2002, p. 6, http://marriage.rutgers.edu/publicat.htm
2. McManus, Mike & Harriet. Living Together: Myths, Risks, & Answers. Howard Books, New York, 2008, p.61.
3. Bumpass, Sweet and Cherlin, “The Role of Cohabitation in Declining Rates of Marriage” Journal of Marriage and the Family 52 (1991) 913-927.
4. William G. Axinn and Arland Thorton, “The Relationship Between Cohabitation and Divorce: Selectivity or Casual Influence?” Demography (1992): 358.
5. Elizabeth Thomson and Ugo Colella, “Cohabitation and Marital Stability: Quality or Commitment?” (Study of more than 13,000 adults) Journal of Marriage and the Family 54 (1992): 266.
6. Alfred DeMarris and K. Vaninadha Roa, “Premarital Cohabitation and Subsequent Marital Stability in the United States: A Reassessment,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 54 (1992): 178.
7. John D. Cunningham and John K. Antill, “Cohabitation and Marriage: Retrospective and Predictive Comparisons,” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (1994): 90.
8. Dr. Catherine L. Cohan, “Living Together Pre-Marriage May Lead to Divorce,” Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (2002): 180-192
9. Ibid
10. McManus, Mike & Harriet. Living Together: Myths, Risks, & Answers. Howard Books, New York, 2008, p. 72.
11. Susan L. Brown and Alan Booth, “Cohabitation Versus Marriage: A Comparison of Relationship Quality,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58 (1996): 668-678.
12. David B. Larson, MD, NMSPH, et al, “The Costly Consequences of Divorce: Assessing the Clinical, Economic, and Public Health Impact of Marital Disruption in the United States,” National Institute for Healthcare Research, Rockville, Maryland. (1994): 84-85
13. David Larson and Mary Ann Mayo, “Believe Well, Live Well,” Family Research Council (1994).
14. Allan V. Horowitz et al, “The Relationship of Cohabitation and Mental Health: A Study of Young Adult Cohort,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 60 (1998): 505-514.
15. Jan E. Stets, “The Link Between Past and Present Intimate Relationships,” Journal of Family Issues 14 (1993): 236
16. Ibid 236-260
17. Popenoe and Whitehead, “Should We Live Together? What Young Couples Need to Know about Cohabitation Before Marriage,” National Marriage Project, Rutgers, (1999): 7.
18. Lee Robins and Darrel Regier, Psychiatric Disorders in America: The Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study (New York: Free Press, 1991), p. 64.
19. University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Families and Households, American Family Association Journal, July 1993.
20. Popenoe and Whitehead, Should We Live Together?” What Young Couples Need to Know about Cohabitation Before Marriage,” National Marriage Project, Rutgers, (1999): 8.
21. Ibid.
22. Cynthia Osborn, W.D. Manning and P.M. Smock, "Married and Cohabitating Parents' Relationship Stability: A Focus on Race and Ethnicity," Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (2007): 1345-1366, p. 1345.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Slide Away from God

Yesterday I was musing to myself how far the US has come from its inception. Originally, the colonies were birthed out of a Biblical world view. While their application didn't always display absolute devotion to God, they recognized a few things very clearly. #1 - Rights come from God. The constitution of the US clearly reveals their view that the Creator has given men rights. #2- The role of the individual is accept the freedom to chase after (pursuit of happiness) the God given rights. #3- The role of government in this view is limited to assuring the ability to pursue those rights that God has given to man. Thus the government is to keep others from infringing upon the right to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Over time we have seen a shift away from the absolute truths of the Bible. Secular Humanistic philosophy differs from the Biblical view in that it puts man in the drivers seat. Human beings determine what is good - therefore (#1) rights come, not from God, but from the collective of men's best thinking This rejection of Biblical absolutes sets the stage for the following. The individuals role then is (#2) to aspire to the greatness of the group and the governments role is to (#3) to codify and insure the rights decided upon by the group.

Next in the slide away from God is the pursuit of Socialism. Based upon Humanism, the morphing is slight but important. (#1) Rights come from the elite leadership of the people, (#2) the individual works for the purpose to secure, for all the group, the rights deemed acceptable, and (#3) the governments role is to enforce the access to those rights and to squash any individualism that might threaten those predetermined rights.

Marxism is the next step in the slide away from a Biblical worldview. Here the rights are determined by (#1) Government. (#2) The individual is simply a cog in the communist machine- he loses all power to own for himself or to express individualism. He exists for the collective. (#3) Government is charged with the redistribution of all wealth.

If you read this far. Thanks. I'm sure that wasn't easy. Notice that in the first worldview people exist because of God's design and the government is the servant of the people. This is completely reversed the further you get away from a Biblical worldview. Man is no longer a free moral agent but the slave of the runaway governing body. Notice also, that Government usurps the place of God. It is the determiner of value, worth, and rights. Friends this is a dangerous slope, because all men are sinners, no men can be trusted with absolute authority.

In the recent days, the US has taken giant steps toward usurping the place of God and the individual. Confiscatory taxes on individuals, Education Reform, Nationalized health care, and the list goes on. Only when we return to the Scriptural understanding of man and God will we find the fulfillment of our aspirations for freedom. Americans need to wake up. Christians need to wake up and see that our country is being lead further away from a Biblical worldview and further into deception. As Government increasingly steals the place of God in the lives of the people we can be sure of a few things... deception will increase, it will be harder to reach the lost, and judgment will ensue.

Friday, March 19, 2010

When the Wheels fall off

Sometimes it seems that there is a constant barrage of stuff to deal with. When the personal life is strong, the professional life is having problems; when that is strong, there are family issues, etc. Is it that we are drama magnets? Is it that we can only focus on one thing at a time? Is it that we are that incompetent at life?

We find ourselves struggling to stay afloat, engaged, active and growing. It is hard. It is life's gut check. Funny how a cancer scare, or a blood test with questionable results, or even the loss of job can stress you out and redirect your priorities. Often when that happens, there is no one around to encourage you. You have to "encourage yourself in the Lord." (1 Sam 30.6)

The people had abandoned David after a failure. They spoke of stoning him. There was no one to encourage him. So...he did it himself. When the wheels are falling off the wagon we have to develop the habit of speaking the promises of God to ourselves. (2Peter 1.4) "The barren soul becomes pregnant only with hope." When the hope quotient is up you can face anything; when the faith is vibrant you can rise above the biggest swell, and outlast every storm.

If that is where you are today... don't give in, encourage yourself with the great promises of God. Today, mine was about God's great power, from Eph 3.20

...Exceeding above all we can ask or imagine...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Get Radically Committed

Acts 5.13 tells the story of how after the deaths fo Ananias and Sapphira people recognized that beign associated with the church was no trifling matter. God was taking this thing seriously. And so many were afraid to "join" them.

What is that joining all about? The context tells us that these folks were still associated with the church but they hung out on the fringe. What God was asking for from his church was a full on radical commitment. Association and commitment! These days the most radical thing you see in church is a soul patch on some dudes face. Christ deserves and demands more.

People don't see the importance of church membership these days because we have reduced it to signing a card. Or attending a set of classes. Church membership is a fearless commitment to the cause of Christ and the vision of a local assembly. I think that commitment is radical by todays standards! Many won't commit to a single thing in their life and they are the poorer for it. Rick Warren says that people who attend church and don't commit to membership are "Spiritual Adulterers" - equating the no-commitment to living together without committing to marriage.

Church membership is a two way commitment too. The Body of Members commit to watch out for one another (speak the truth, encourage, get involved, etc.) and to help one another (food pantry, minitries of helps, help with a bill now and again) as well as provide teaching, opportunities for growth and ministry, and service. God seems to move in amazing ways when people are in committed relationship.

So before you sign the card... ask yourself if you are ready to get radically committed.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Boycotting China

Sara Bongiorni decided that her family would try to live an entire year without using products that were made in China, and her findings are detailed in a book, "A Year Without 'Made in China': One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy."

As she describes in an NPR interview, it is very difficult to avoid buying Chinese products. She spent weeks trying to buy birthday candles, and couldn't find sneakers for her children not made in China. Eventually she found sneakers made in Italy which cost $70 versus $15 for the pair made in China. When her coffeemaker broke, it was impossible to find a unit NOT made in China, so she ultimately was left with the old-fashioned option of heating water in a pan and pouring it over the beans each morning. Does that mean that French presses and Bialetti's are now made in China?

Bongiorni admits, "There's no way you can live anywhere near a normal life without buying things from China." She notes, for example, that nearly all telephones and cellular phones are made there.

So why do I avoid buying Chinese made products?

1) well its not because I am a bigot-

2) it revolves around their persecution of the Church there in China. They are among the most aggregious violators of personal religious freedom in the world.

3) And then there is the issue of censorship & imprisonment of journalists, cyber-dissidents and press freedom activists (consider missionarys who wander over the border and are imprisoned or human rights workers)

4) Consider the child, prison & sweatshop labour (we wonder how we can buy stuff so cheaply)

5) Think about the wholesale slaughter of endangered species & government sponsored slaughter of domesticated animals (several endangered species are almost gone)

6) Catastrophic pollution (16 of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities are in China)

7) Defective and dangerous products (remember the lead painted toy scandals... but maybe consumers are rethinking that)

When I shop, I read the labels. That is all you have to do. I put the "Made in China" thing back and buy the "Made in Honduras (or nearly any place else)" thing in the cart. When I find a made in USA label I give a shout!!!! But I am mostly quiet as I shop these days.