Archive for November, 2008

Seeing Clearly

Perhaps the “interest rate” in the visible church is decreasing. Perhaps the “interest rate” in the visible church is increasing. Maybe the church is being purged. Maybe the individuals who are looking to church as a means to an end will be exposed and they will lose interest in what God can do for them. Maybe more people will get on the spiritual bandwagon- not really believing Christ is the solution, but seeking faith as some kind of cushion/solace during the hard times. Like God were some kind of slot machine; put money in, and hope to get more out.

The economy is bad, war is rampant, and enemies of the United States are plotting who knows what. Jobs are being lost, the immediate future of our country is uncertain. In a free country Christians are subtly and openly hated. Praise God! His market value is eternally infinite and forever stable. His interest rates don’t waver from 20% to 0%. We will never have insufficient funds in Christ. With Christ’s work credited to our account, we will never bounce a check. The presidency, at most, is a measly 8 years, a drop in the bucket of eternity. Why are Christians so wrapped up in the breaking state of a broken world? Why are we disappointed/surprised in the corrupt and evil circumstances of this world? Do we expect the world to redeem us? Why do we trust the world to give God proper placement in every domain of life, such as, law and education? We should not lay down and die- we should stand up for God, but we should demonstrate, through our disinterest in this world, our interest for the next one.

Perhaps those pursuing Christ as a road, not the goal, will be undressed- with dwindling stock, savings and retirement, what’s left? Are people clothed with the righteousness of Christ, or do they stand naked holding out their petty works in their hands before God? The church, perhaps as most Americans would define it, is not merely an ethical kingdom of ends. The church is not purely moral principles introduced in society to make it a better place. God is not a toll road to earthly wealth, pleasure, or social improvement. We don’t drop money in the toll, give Him lip service and charity, earning our privileges to use His expressway to material prosperity.

The invisible church is not the brick and mortar buildings. The invisible church is essentially spiritual and can not be discerned by the naked eye. It is impossible to determine who does and who does not belong to her. The elements that tie the true church (invisible church) together are the blessings of salvation, such as regeneration, genuine conversion, true faith, and spiritual communion with Christ, which are all invisible to the natural eye. On the other hand, the visible church is an “external institution that functions through the offices and means which God has instituted.” (Berkhof) The visible church should look like an external manifestation of the invisible church.

A person who attends church services regularly may not be a member of the invisible church. A person can be a member of the invisible church and not attend church services at all. In fact, a person who belongs to the hierarchy, administration, ministry team in a church, in God’s eyes, may not be a member of the true church. Becoming a member of a church can be a great thing, however it does not guarantee membership in the invisible church or warrant eternal life with God.

My friend Brian said, “Maybe the church needs to be purged.” I think that is true. The true church needs to be purged from its impurities and look cross for consolation, and the visible church ridded of people who latch on to God for their gain. Perhaps the churches that preach false gospels will falter, perhaps they will grow. Regardless, during this turmoil, the true church’s colors will show. This is an opportunity to trust solely in Christ.

Jesus was clear in Luke 12:31: pursue God and His kingdom and the rest He takes care of. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could have an additional 1,000 square feet in our house, or extra options on a car. Jesus didn’t die to save us from cancer; He died to save us from our sins. And the penalty for our sins is of far greater consequence than physical malady and even physical death. A by-product of following God, if it is His will (i.e. Solomon), is earthly wealth. A by-product is anything produced in the course of making another thing. A by-product of Michael Jordan’s genetic gifts and hard work were his accomplishments.

The Apostle Paul emphasizes and affirms the sufficiency of Christ amidst hunger, beatings and poverty. He says, the peace of God transcends all understanding. Earthly riches are nothing in comparison to the spiritual blessings and consolations of our salvation. This is verified by the practical and obvious fact that we can’t take material possessions with us when we die. On the other hand, our treasures in heaven are incorruptible and not subject to decay.

Those looking for comfort and those looking for truth will have different outcomes. I don’t think Paul was comfortable by our standards, yet in the end, he had a comfort that surpasses all understanding and explanation. I think that if we can put what makes us comfortable accurately into words, that it is not real (eternal) comfort. The thing(s) we try to describe may be gratifying, but it is probably more arbitrary than the kind of joy and comfort Paul had when he wrote his letters.

Chasing profit alone, and using God as the means, in the end, will end up in despair. Everyone in the world would agree that refuge from the rain for 1 minute would not be as valuable as shelter from a perpetual blizzard. Unfortunately, that analogy does not make sense to those who have not been given spiritual clarity by God. Subsequently, momentary relief is substituted for everlasting peace.

This Thanksgiving let’s be reminded and thankful for Christ’s sufficiency. To do this I think we need to affirm the inadequacies of this world that is passing before our eyes. We have hope that can not be disappointed. Be thankful for our covenant keeping God, and state that the policies and promises of this corrupt world will disappoint us, leave us disheartened and disillusioned.

The world looks on itself and sees despair and attempts to put itself back together, but it does not have the means. Our hope differentiates from those who do not know it- so let us hope in Christ when the world despairs in itself.


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Put on your thinking caps

These ideas and questions may seem complex, but they are really just the most basic, simplistic, and foundational concepts broken down into bit size pieces.

Reason is the “why.” In a question such as, “why does the sun shine?” A person will start their answer with the word “because,” which implies there is a cause. In other words, reason is the explanation of an intention, act, idea, plan, design, method, or system. The word reason can also be used to describe the intellect, the ability to think, or sanity…this is not the kind of reason I am talking about. Reason, in the sense I am talking about, has a cause and, by it’s nature, it is rational, logical, functional and it has grounds.

So, the question is, “what is the why?” In other words, what is the reason for something? The something I am talking about could pertain to anything, for instance, “why does it rain?” Or, “why do people die?” And ultimately, of paramount importance, “why are we here?” And “what is the purpose (cause) of life?” Another one is, “should the cause of life effect how we live ours?”

The normal and characteristic action (function) of humans is to live. The question is, is there reason (a cause) to our normal and characteristic action (function), which is to live? And if so, what is that cause? And if not, how can that be? Can that even be?

1st the cause, then the effect

An effect is anything brought about by a cause; a result or consequence. A cause is the origin; the beginning. A cause generates an effect. An effect of a stone being thrown into the water are the ripples in the water. The cause is the stone…the object that made the ripples (the effect). The throw of the stone led up to the ripples. Cause, beginning and origin can also be described by these words and phrases: issue forth, commence, to come into being, sprout, and come to birth.

There are reasons why things are a certain way. For example, there is a reason we wear sunglasses (because the sun is bright). The cause is the sun, the effect is the sunglasses. An effect gives meaning to a cause. In other words, the result of the bright sun, is putting on sunglasses. There would be no sunglasses if there were no sun. There is a reason we are able to breathe (because there is the right amount of oxygen in the atmosphere for our lungs to be able to work). There is a reason why humans life can be sustained on earth (the sun is neither too close, nor too far to burn or deprive us). There is a reason we chew our food (so we don’t choke). There is a reason we clip or chew our nails (so they don’t grow too long). Why do we want food? It is because we need it to survive, therefore there is a “reason” we eat.

If the concept of cause and effect is true on a small, practical scale why would it not be true on a grander scale? The concept of cause and effect may be the most basic there is. Since it is so basic, I think it suggests just how crucial and vital it is. It is definitely worth taking a look into these questions: “what is the purpose (cause) of life?” Another one is, “should the cause of life effect how we live ours?”

A big either or

It is either one of two things: either there always was (which implies there was no cause, no origin, no reason) OR there was a cause and reality is an effect. One answer (and those who believe it) is utterly wrong and the other is irrefutable correct. Both can not be true. Either the stone was thrown or it was not.

These obvious facts can help us: Reality is not hidden from us, it’s in plain sight. Meaning, I can see my fingers, I can see the ground and sky. Just like the ground and sky, we are exposed, formed outwardly and visible, not inwardly and invisible. Why? What does the result (effect) say about the cause (origin)?
Why is there an instinctive attraction to rationale, to not walk on broken glass? Why is reason so automatic? Why don’t we forget to put on our glasses every morning and run into the 1st wall in our bedroom every day?

If someone denies our instincts, how can they dispute it? On what basis can they defend their argument? In order to disagree (or agree), either their lips or their pen moves. One of the results of their “defense” (or support) is certainly to support their position, which, ironically, is an effect (reason) brought about by a cause. The cause being the statement they are responding to.

Their pen moves because ________. Their lips move because ________. Fill in the blanks with whatever and whatever is put in the blanks will be a reason (cause). Their lips move because their brain tells their mouth to move because they had an idea. They had an idea because they heard, with their ears (which were meant to hear) or read with their eyes (which were meant to see), something they wanted to respond to. Their response is made up of an incalculable mixture developed from a complex blend of nature and nurture, congenital personality and experiences, knowledge and ignorance.

Is one of us overlooking facts?

Do you or have you ever seen anyone have an irrational fear of mice? Have you ever been startled when someone intentional hid from you or unexpectedly surprised you? If so, you didn’t expect them to be where they were…your belief that no one was there was based on something that was not true. Do you or have you even believed something and found out later it wasn’t true? Have you ever worried about something only for the worry to be dispelled by what actually happened? It is easy to establish that our feelings, desires, thoughts, and impulses are often misleading. They are based on what is not, rather than what is.

If we are subject to believing something to be true that is not true on a small scale, can we ignore the possibility of believing something that is not true on a grand scale?

In summary

There are a logical, rational explanations to the hard questions asked. I am not talking about the question, “why does it rain?” Rather questions like, “why are we here?” And “what is the purpose (cause) of life?” And “should the cause of life effect how we live ours?” There is an ultimate origin to life, “life” meaning the normal and characteristic action (function) of humans. There was a beginning, an originator, a creator, a cause that generated an effect. There is an ultimate “because.” We came into being at some point, human life commenced at a certain time. Our most basic instincts, virtues, rationale, values, codes have undoubtedly came from who bestowed us with them. As we know, the most minute, practical things in life sprout from a cause, this testifies and affirms the truth that the largest things, being, human life, did too.

There are answers to all of the hard questions where there are no contradictions. Here, there are a myriad of intersections woven with so many layers we can not see them all- like a gigantic ball of twain. Yet, if all the strings were roads, they would function perfectly without a hitch. Although we can’t see the complexity of each string, or road, we can observe the simplicity of the shape of the ball and know that each string helps create the whole shape. (I don’t think that analogy makes sense, but it sounds good.)

There is a definitive and final resolution. And you may be surprised where you find it. The next sentence may seem like a leap, but it is not, it is what I was talking about the whole time. Christian doctrine, as derived from the bible (as a form of revelation) matches reality. If Christianity were merely a theory on paper, it would support reality, and reality would support it. In order to prove something true, the data (reality, evidence from experience) must match the theory (truth claim). A rational thinker would realize Christianity holds up, but as we know from Christian doctrine, some will remain blind to the facts and deny God as a result of the rebellion of the human race against Him.

It’s unfortunate Christian doctrine is called “Christian doctrine,” because in a perfect world it would not need to be distinguished by a title, rather it would be know by all simply what is. Reality testifies to and affirms Christian doctrine. Life is the most practical commentary to the bible.

Either Christianity is the biggest hoax, comprised of the largest group of psychotic lunatics in the history of the world, or it is true. Either the belief in the triune God, who came to die for man’s offenses against Himself is true or it is the most widely studied, followed, deception in the history of the world. If it is a hoax, those striving to be Christian should be the most loving, generous, patient, kind, and compassionate people- all good virtues. Even if Christianity weren’t true, its teaching would still lead to the best life on earth possible with the least amount of painful consequences based on the raised expectation for the highest conduct humanly possible. (Christians know conduct required to meet God’s demands are not humanly possible, only though Jesus’ divine intervention). On the other hand, if it is true, those who trust that Jesus died for their sins will live eternally in paradise, and those who don’t will be forever out of touch with anything good and immersed in all that is bad, for eternity. The ramifications are worth looking into.

A Christian apologist tries to wipe the bathroom mirror clean with Windex so people can see the reflection of what is there more clearly. If there were no deception (no gunk on the mirror) there would be no need for anyone to wipe it clean because the reflection would be so clear to everyone. The bible is clear some are blind and need help to see. God has given every Christian Windex.

There is a reason why is there is theology- the study of God. There is a reason why Christianity remains such a force. What are the causes of these effects?

-The end. God bless you if you read it…I wonder if my wife even made it to the end.

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Great Words 11/16/08

From Dallas Willard in Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God:

Faith is not opposed to knowlege; it is opposed to sight.  And grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning.  Commitment is not sustained by confusion, but insight.  (194)

Another reason why I enjoy Dallas Willard:

Reality is what you run into when you’re wrong. (Dallas Willard Spiritual Renewal Conference. Bethel College. October 10, 2008.)

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I’m continuing some thoughts from my last post Greater Than Solomon. I believe the title, if a true and a worthy principle from the Kings of Israel, has huge ramifications on my life in leadership and evangelism.


My wife will worship what I worship.

My kids will worship what I worship.

If I am an actual leader by position or merely exhibit leadership at work by influence, my co-workers will worship what I worship.

Those I mentor or invest in will worship what I worship.

I will be inclined to worship the same as those I choose to learn from and seek advice.

Do you agree?

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My Prayer

Dear God, (pray this if you should)

I bring emotions, current circumstances, the past, and sentiments into the equation when I read your Word. In doing so, I have exchanged timeless truths for arbitrary interpretations that rest on my limited and bias understanding. I read in my own meaning to that which is unchangeable. Lord, help me set those things aside and hear your Word plainly…how you want me to.

I have been persuaded by men who are errant. What person can not say there is a possibility they are wrong? Yet, you are never wrong. Holy Spirit, you are more valid than my denomination and theological persuasion. So, why do I consult the wisdom of people and books before I do you? I have offended you and leaned on my own understanding and trusted in my own logic and rationale. No one says, “I want a fictitious view of God.” Yet, I produce one according to my self-centeredness and partiality. God, according to your mercy and generosity, I ask for the Spirit of revelation that I may know you better. I plead that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened in order that I may know the hope to which you have called me. I am desperate and lost aside from that which you graciously bestow through your disclosure.

I want to be rescued from my difficulties- I want my life to be easier. I want all my actions, even if they are wrong, to be justified. I want to look like a better man than I am. I seek the approval of and people and want recognition. I want to look smart- I want glory. If I know your Word and don’t do it, why do I seek the truth in it? God, I can not do your Word perfect, but Jesus did- so why do I live like I trust in myself? Should I aim to stockpile knowledge without truly “knowing” you, in the intimate sense of the word?

I selfishly seek to acquire from your Word that which will make me feel better for the moment, and also to make me feel better about myself for reading and studying. I have intellectualized my faith- I have turned my relationship with you into studying facts and doing what these facts tell me to do. Help the mental agreement I have with doctrine sink deeper than merely cerebral knowledge and duties I do as a result of it. My works alone don’t please you Lord. You want my heart and all of me.

Help me submit my presuppositions about what you have to say through your Word. God, I want to trust more in you than head knowledge. I desire a deep, heartfelt, sincere satisfaction that only you can meet. I need a purer heart to do so. God, you are my refuge, guide, leader and I come in your Son’s name. Amen

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I couldn’t have written this blog before today. Yesterday morning I got up at 6:00 and waited outside the polls to cast my vote for John McCain. Others across the country went to the polls and when the majority was heard, Obama became President-elect. Though I disagree with most of his policies, he now has my full support as President, here’s why:

1) Romans 13 – ” Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (vs. 1) As Christians, we are commanded to submit to the leadership placed over us. If you think that only applies when we fully agree with the leader and all his policies, let me remind you that Paul wrote his letter to the Romans during the time of Nero…a guy who was had Christians crucified, burned and tortured.

2) When I woke up this morning, I checked my facebook, and was embarrassed at the number of my Christain friends who had changed their status to statements like: “praying for our fallen nation”. I would challenge those people to consider their attitudes and what lies at the heart of those statements. What good is that statement doing? How is that reflecting the love of Christ? Are you upset at the thought of innocent lives being aborted? Good! Ask yourself how can you bring the love of Christ to those women who are devastated and don’t know where to turn. Don’t for a second just write if off because they need to deal with the consequences of their sin…if you are a Christian remember that you too were delivered from your sin!

3)For the past few years it has become popular to criticize the leadership of our nation. It’s nice to see people excited about the change that could come. We each need to make a choice on whether our actions will lead to unity or disunity. I’m not suggesting you change your values, policies, or beliefs only that you are constructive in your approach. If you are really passionate about those things, realize that throwing a temper tantrum and making cutting remarks are not the best ways to bring about social justice.

4) Finally, my hope is not based in our government, economy, or the morality of our nation. We have a greater hope in the One whose promises are guarenteed. Jesus reminds us that we will have troubles in this life, but there is a greater life to come. He will provide the strength that we need to withstand these earthly troubles, even persecution if it comes to that. If our hope is placed on one human, candidate or issue we will be set up for disappointment.

What does this look like? Here’s a list, feel free to add to it, or disagree.

-I will not make any remarks to slander Obama’s character throughout his Presidency.

-I will strive to understand his point of view, even on issues where I disagree.

-I will stand up for what I believe in, but not by slandering those who threaten my beliefs.

-I will join in supporting the poor, needy and downcast of our society (following Jesus’ example).

-I will appreciate being able to live in a country where I have the freedom to disagree with the leader on issues.

-I will not formulate my thoughts on his Presidency based on media hype and forwarded emails.

-I will make efforts to remind myself to pray for Obama and his cabinet, for guidance as well as safety.

These are just a few of my initial thoughts. Feel free to respond.

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Looking back over the years before and after the split of the Kingdom of Israel, a pattern can be clearly seen.  This pattern is that of the continued removal and reinstatement of God’s blessing on the nation of Israel which is determined by the obedience of the current King.  Until now, I had never truly understood why this was so.  I always wondered, why would the people have to suffer due to the disobedience of the King?

I am sure many other issues are involved in this complex setting, but this one theme is clear: People follow their king.  In American culture, we have a difficult time of understanding what it means to live under, submit to, and follow a king.  This is why it is difficult to grasp the concept of Jesus as King and live and act accordingly.

Warren Wiersbe, in The Biblical Exposition Commentary on 1 Kings, unravels this nicely as he describes Solomon’s downward spiral towards the end of his life.  1 Kings 10-11 describe how Solomon gradually descended towards idolatry.  It began with his marriage to many wives from outside the kingdom, which lead him to tolerate their idols.  Toleration turned to support and eventually participation.  But what does that matter to the rest of the nation of Israel?  Wiersbe explains:

How could Israel be a light to the Gentile nations when their king was openly worshiping and supporting the idols of those nations? (440)

Solomon’s hunger for wealth and achievement put a heavy financial burden on the nation, and after his death, the people revolted.  But the people did worse than that: they followed Solomon’s bad example and began to worship the gods of their neighbors.  It was this sin more than any other that brought about the downfall of the Jewish nation. (444)

How else were the people of Israel to respond to such leadership?

Reflecting on this issue makes me so thankful that we have a King whom is “greater than Solomon.” (Luke 11:31)  Where the people of Israel suffered due to the disobedience of their leadership, we as followers of Jesus Christ can rejoice in His obedience as our King.  We do not have to worry about our leader misusing finances, serving wealth, serving Himself, or even serving other gods.  Our leader is our God, our Teacher, our Lord, our Savior, our Provider, our Friend.

Amen to the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ to the will of His Father.  His obedience is that which we can trust Him by and not fear of being led astray.

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