Jumat, 28 Juni 2013


(En Español)
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26).
God has a new heart for us that cannot be offended -- an "unoffendable" heart. Beloved, possessing an unoffendable heart is not an option or a luxury; it is not a little thing. An offended heart is in danger of becoming a "heart of stone."
Consider: Jesus warns that as we near the end of the age a majority of people will be offended to such a degree that they fall away from the faith. Listen carefully to His warning:
"Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. . . . And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matt. 24:10-12 KJV).
"Many" will "be offended." The result? The love of "many" will grow cold. My prayer is that we will hear His words with holy fear.

The Danger of Harboring Offense
When we allow an offense to ferment in our hearts, it causes serious spiritual consequences. In the above verse Jesus named three dangerous results: betrayal, hatred and cold love. When we are offended by someone, even someone we care for, we must go to them. If we do not talk to them, we will begin to talk about them. We betray that relationship by whispering maliciously behind their back to others, exposing their weaknesses and sins. We may mask our betrayal by saying we are just looking for advice or counsel, but when we look back, we see we have spoken negatively to far too many people. Our real goal was not to get spiritual help for ourselves but to seek revenge toward the one who offended us. How is such action not a manifestation of hatred? For an offended soul, cold love, betrayal and hatred are a walk into darkness.
People don’t stumble over boulders; they stumble over stones -- relatively small things. It may be that the personality of someone in authority bothers us, and soon we are offended. Or a friend or family member fails to meet our expectations, and we take an offense into our soul. Beloved, if we will "endure to the end" (Matt. 24:13), we will have to confront the things that bother us.
When Jesus warns that we need endurance, He is saying that it is easier to begin the race than finish it. Between now and the day you die, there will be major times of offense that you will need to overcome. You might be in such a time right now. Do not minimize the danger of harboring an offense!
No one plans on falling away; no one ever says, "Today, I think I’ll try to develop a hardened heart of stone." Such things enter our souls through stealth. It is only naiveté that assumes it couldn’t happen to us. I know many people who consistently become offended about one thing or another. Instead of dealing with the offenses, praying about them and turning the issue over to God, they carry the offense in their soul until its weight disables their walk with God. You may be doing fine today, but I guarantee you, tomorrow something will happen that will inevitably disappoint or wound you; some injustice will strike you, demanding you retaliate in the flesh. Will you find more love, and hence, continue your growth toward Christlikeness? Or will you allow that offense to consume your spiritual life?
Lord, forgive me for being so easily offended and for carrying offenses. Father, my heart is foolish and weak. Grant me the unoffendable heart of Jesus Christ. Amen.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Adapted from a chapter in the In Christ's Image Training course that begins July 5.

Senin, 24 Juni 2013


“I believe the closer we get to the heart of God, the greater the desire we will have to reach out to those who are hurting. Serving people is not just something we want to do; it's something we need to do. People discover personal healing through helping others. When tragedy strikes, serving helps to ease our pain, gets our focus off of our own problems, and brings healing to our souls. It is so important that we don't always just send a check; whenever possible, we also need to engage with those who are hurting. When you do this, not only do you help the people who are in need, but you also strengthen those who join you in serving.”
- from Servolution: Starting a Church Revolution through Serving by Dino Rizzo

Is there Grace for Gay People? Apparently Not…

Is there Grace for Gay People? Apparently Not…

Grace UniversityA young college student from Grace University will not be given her degree this year, even though she earned it.
Four years ago, Danielle Powell was accepted into Grace University in Omaha. Due to her academic excellence and position on the university volleyball team, she was granted scholarships to cover her tuition. During her time at Grace University, she completed her classes, interacted with other students, and even started a homeless outreach in Omaha’s downtown area.
But she won’t be graduating this year.
Why not?
During her final semester at Grace University, it was discovered that she was gay and was living in a same-sex relationship with another woman.
Did Grace University respond with grace?
…What do you think?
Despite her academic excellence, her involvement in the community, and her role on the Volleyball team, Danielle Powell was expelled from Grace University. The university officials told her, “It would be impossible for the faculty of Grace University to affirm your Christian character, a requirement for degree conferral.”
Danielle PowellBut it didn’t stop there. Not only did they expel Danielle, refusing to allow he to finish her degree, they are also billing her for the final semester of tuition at Grace University–the semester which she was not allowed to complete.
And we wonder why Christians are often viewed as hateful, unforgiving, mean-spirited, hypocritical, and rude.
I don’t care what your stance is on homosexual marriage, gay rights, or whether or not same-sex relationships are sinful, everybody should be able to agree that what “Grace” University is doing is certainly NOT gracious.
I reject this sort of behavior by Christians. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Christ.
If you want to call on Grace University to confer a degree upon Danielle, I encourage you to go sign a petition at Change.org. Nobody is asking them to agree with her lifestyle. All that is being asked is that they live up to their name, and show a little grace.

A Society of Redeemers

A Society of Redeemers
By Francis Frangipane
(En Español)
There exists a certain degree of hypocrisy among us. What I mean is, without qualms, we condemn the world for not being Christian, yet without remorse we accept we are not Christlike.
I am not saying we shouldn't cry out against evil; sin exists and we must reprove it. However, at some point we must recognize there is more to our destiny than judging sin. God is looking for the perfection of mercy within us. "Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13), and to follow Christ is to walk the path of mercy toward full redemption.
Recall the words of Paul. He tells us to "have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). He goes on to explain that Christ existed in the form of God, yet He emptied Himself, took the form of a man, and died for our sins. In other words, He saw the need, but instead of condemning man, He died for man. Paul says we are to have this same attitude in us.
I do not want to be a typical American Christian. I am hungry for more. I want to "grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head [of the church], even Christ" (Eph. 4:15). Our call is to attain "the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (v. 13).
Jesus said, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21). As Christ was sent into the world to pay the price for sin, so in following Him we become a society of redeemers. When wounded, we forgive; when forced to go one mile, we go two. We bless those who curse us and turn the other cheek to those who strike us. As Christ hung on the cross at Calvary and prayed, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34), so we stand before God, and on behalf of our sinful world, we pray the mercy prayer as well.
I am convinced that the more Christlike the church becomes, the greater will be the backing of Heaven. The more we become a society of redeemers, the more hope we have to see our nation turned back to God.
Adapted from Francis Frangipane's ebook, Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ available at www.arrowbookstore.com.

Minggu, 23 Juni 2013


“Love slays what we have been that we may be what we were not.”
- Augustine of Hippo

An Unveiled Face

An Unveiled Face
(En Español)
We will not find the glory of God by copying techniques or studying books. His presence cannot be entered by following manuals, but by learning to follow Immanuel.
In our immaturity, the church has sought to be known for many things. We have sought to be known for our uniqueness and particular emphasis. Some have sought to be known for speaking in tongues; others desired recognition through their buildings or evangelistic programs. Still others have publicized unique combinations of church government or a regular agenda of special speakers.
To Be Known for Knowing Him
This desire for human recognition and significance has created many church traditions that are unbiblical. They have not only separated us from each other, they have separated us from God. Today's disciples, however, will be known for just one thing: They will be known for truly knowing Jesus. His presence -- not just doctrines about Him but His very Spirit and likeness -- will uninhibitedly accompany those who follow the Lamb.
Because their focus is upon Him and Him alone, God will ultimately accompany their lives with great power. They will lay hands upon the sick, and instantaneous healings will be common. These miracles will be but a minor reward to a life that majors on loving Jesus.
Our salvation is not based upon what we do but upon who Jesus becomes to us. Christ alone is our righteousness, our virtue, and our strength! As we minister, it has to be in Jesus' power, or we are actually wasting time. Our confidence has to be in Him and not in our own ability. We must be settled in the knowledge that, while all things are possible for those who believe, apart from Him we can do nothing.
The Sacred Presence
Our noble quest is to awaken from the sleep of our cultural traditions; it is to seek and find the living presence of God. To each of us, the Almighty has a heavenly calling, an upward call into spiritual fulfillment.

Our hope is not based on speculation or unreasonable expectations. It comes to us directly from the Word of God:
"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:17-18).
This is the glorious hope of our calling: we each gaze upon Christ with an "unveiled face." Paul said, "We all . . . behold . . . the glory of the Lord." The plan of God includes you and me, not just apostles and prophets, visionaries and saints. The opportunity -- the holy privilege -- is to remove the veil that separates us from God's presence. Our inheritance is to behold His glory.
The old covenant speaks of two veils. One was the thick curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies within the temple. In the Holy Place, daily sacrifices were offered in ritual obedience to God; but in the Holy of Holies dwelt His sacred presence. Into this small room, the high priest entered but once a year on the Day of Atonement. It was a fearsome experience.
When Jesus died, this veil was rent in two from top to bottom. It signified the new openness that had been secured by Christ into the Holy Presence. The fact that it was torn from top to bottom tells us that Christ's sacrifice purchased us complete redemption. The urgency of the rending -- that it tore at the exact moment of Christ's death -- speaks to us of the Father's passion to receive us back into His family (Matt. 27:51).
However, there was another veil that Moses used to put over his face when he left the presence of God. This was done at the request of a nation who could not bear to look upon God's glory, fading as it was from Moses' face. The need for this veil was also removed in Christ. No longer would God have one man who dwelt in the sacred place while the nation lived separate. The new covenant has made us a community of glory -- "But we all, with unveiled face behold . . . the glory of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).
But what exactly is a veil? It is something that hides what would otherwise be visible. As mentioned, our religious traditions that do not accommodate the presence of God can become a veil. How terrible that the very things we are doing for God might be the obstacles that are keeping us from Him!
"Their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ" (2 Cor. 3:14).
How can we discern when our traditions have become a veil between us and God's presence? Indeed, how can we break out of the false or cultural traditions that we have been taught to venerate and honor? The answer lies in the measure of our love for God's Word and the softness of our heart toward His voice. As we yield to His voice, our return to God begins.
"But whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (2 Cor. 3:16). Right now, you are alone with God. The simple act of turning toward the Lord removes the veil.
The Scriptures tell us that no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit. Say it: "Jesus, You are my Lord."
Turn your heart toward Him. Do not be afraid. Remember, the rending of the veil in the temple was His idea; He desires you to come near. The moment you turn your heart, "the veil is taken away."
Lord Jesus, forgive me for my many traditions. Especially, Lord, forgive me for living separate from Your voice. I take off the veil. I turn my heart to Your living presence.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Adapted from a chapter in Francis Frangipane's book The Days of His Presence, available at www.arrowbookstore.com.

Happy Dadd Day

Happy Dadd Day

Happy Father’s Day!
I want to thank my own dad for being a great father to 10 kids (yes, there were ten of us!), and always being calm, cool, and (for the most part) collected. I always remember my friends saying to me, “Nothing fazes your dad, does it?” I guess you had to be this way with 10 kids in the house….
Since I am now a father, I have tried to practice some of that cool-headedness. Of course, I don’t have ten children… only three. I am the proud father of three girls. And based on how beautiful they are, I know I am headed for trouble.
So I laughed when I saw these pictures.
rules for dating my daughter
As my daughters reach dating age (around 40), I plan to put a sign above our front door which says, “I have 40 acres, a shotgun, and a shovel, and I am not afraid to use all three on any boy who touches my daughters.”

Do Not Seek Christian Unity

Do Not Seek Christian Unity

unityChristian unity is one of the highest Christian goals, which is why we are always encouraging one another to grow in unity.
Toward that end, we have all heard (or said) things like this:
“We need to all grow together in unity!”
“We all must come together in unity on this subject!”
“We invite you to join us as we grow in unity with one another!”
But sometimes I wonder…. is it really unity we are after, or just keeping the peace?

Is Unity the Same as Keeping the Peace?

Often times (in my experience anyway), what is called “unity” really just boils down to a mutually agreed upon list of beliefs and behaviors that are considered “safe” by everyone within the group. The controversial activities and hot-button topics are considered “off limits” so that everyone can be “unified.” But again, is this really unity?
I have trouble thinking that “agreeing to not discuss certain topics” is what Jesus meant by “unity” when He prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:21). It seems that this is not true unity, but is a forced unity… a fake unity. a unity that is based not on love for other people no matter what, but is based instead on a mutual agreement to not discuss certain subjects or do certain things when we are together.
I do, of course, remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians about giving up some of his freedoms for the sake of other Christians, and while I understand that this is an essential part of growing in unity, I wonder if this is all that unity is…. you know… a list of rules about what not to talk about around Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, a set of behaviors to not do when in the presence of Pastor Jim, a personal interest to keep hidden from Elder Bob, and my political leanings to stay silent about around Miss Morrell.
Is this real unity? Hiding who we really are from other people just so we can get along?

Is True Unity Possible?

I have a real hard time believe it is, but at the same time, this seems to be the most unified we Christians can get. There are so many differences of opinion on nearly ever subject under the sun and every behavior imaginable, how in the world can we ever be unified? It is impossible to think that we will all become clones of each other, thinking and behaving in exactly the same way, so how can we grow in unity if there will never be unity of thought and unity of behavior this side of heaven? (And maybe not even then???)
I have been thinking on this for a long time, and while I don’t have the answers, I think I am beginning to see a speck of light on how to grow in unity with one another, while still allowing for great disunity on a vast array of theological beliefs and Christian behaviors.
I think that unity in diversity truly is possible within the family of God, but only if we recognize something first about unity.

The Key to True Unity

The key to true unity is to make sure that unity is never the goal. I don’t think that unity can be a goal of Christian faith and practice. I think unity is a result of Christian faith and practice.
When we seek unity as a goal, we do things to try to discourage disunity, which ends up stifling and stopping the conditions required for true unity. When unity becomes the goal, we may end up with peace, but we will never find true unity. True unity requires openness and honesty, but if unity is the goal, then nobody can be fully open and honest. And without openness and honesty, any unity we end up with is fake unity.
So where does true unity come from? How do we arrive at the unity which Jesus desires for His church?
We simply change what we are seeking.
unity of love
Rather than seeking unity, we seek love. Love is the key to unity. Love forgives when we are wronged. Love shrugs off differences of opinion. Love overlooks disagreements about behavior. When we truly love people, differing political opinions and theological persuasions become enjoyable topics for conversation, rather than issues for division and strife.
If I meet someone and my goal is unity, then I will soon desire conformity of beliefs and behaviors to what I think is right and proper so that the two of us can be unified. But since no two people are ever identical in everything they think and do, unity will never occur.
But if, however, I just seek to love them, then unity will be a byproduct of our friendship, because conformity is never an issue. In fact, while similar interests bring friends together, diversity of opinion keeps friendship interesting. Diversity is the seasoning that gives flavor to good friendships. Learning from others and being challenged by others is one of the things that keeps friends together. But if unity of thought and unity of behavior is the goal of friendship, then friends will not remain friends for very long for total unity is never possible.
But with love as the goal, friends can rejoice and revel in their differences and in this way, be unified despite the numerous differences.
So don’t seek unity. Seek love. Seek friendships. And as you spend time with them in their joys and sorrows, engage with them in common activities, offer help in times of need, and hang out with them in the day-to-day events of life. This is how friendships develop. This is where love grows. And as a result of loving friendships, unity blossoms and thrives.
Seek unity before love and you get neither; seek love before unity, and you discover both.

This post is part of a Chain Blog. If you’d like to write a blog post on the theme of “real relational unity”, here are the rules…
Chain blog rules:
1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both on this post and the other link posts in the chain).
3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

“Links” in the “Real Relational Unity” chain blog:

  1. Chain Blog: Real Relational Unity” by Alan
  2. The Treasure of Unity ‘in’ our Relationships” by Jim
  3. So The World May Know – Observations on the Road to Unity” by Christopher
  4. Christian Unity – What it is and What it’s not” by Nathan
  5. Steps to Relational Unity” by Randi
  6. Learn to Live or Live to Learn” by Greg
  7. The Limits on Unity” by Arthur
  8. Joints of Supply” by David
  9. Some Examples of Real Relational Unity” by Alan
  10. An example of relational unity” by Greg
  11. Relational unity begins at home” by Kathleen
  12. “Do not Seek Christian Unity” by Jeremy

Incarnation of God in the Old Testament

Incarnation of God in the Old Testament

Another principle of understanding the violent sections of the Bible is to understand the incarnation of God.
incarnation of GodWe typically think of the incarnation as something that happened only when Jesus Christ became human, that is, when He was born of a virgin, grew up as a boy under the parentage of Joseph and Mary, became a man, and then lived, taught, ministered, suffered, and died. Strictly speaking, this is probably true. The definition of “incarnate” is “to become flesh.” So prior to the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh, it is not exactly accurate to say that God was in the flesh—that God was human. God only became human when He entered the womb of a woman and grew up as a human, just like one of us.
Yet there is something about the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ which teaches us how God has always entered into the world and interacted with human in history.
Just as Jesus took on human flesh with all its weaknesses and limitations, so also God, in the Old Testament “incarnated” Himself into the affairs of humanity with all of our weaknesses and limitations.
Just as the human body of Jesus could get tired, feel pain, hunger, thirst, and even die, and just as the words and intentions of Jesus could be misunderstood, misrepresented, and misapplied, so also, when God entered into human affairs in various times and places in the Old Testament, He did so with all the frailties, weaknesses, and limitations of humanity, and His words also could be misunderstood, misrepresented, and misapplied. God became incarnate in human history through human events by
To say that God became incarnate in human history—and specifically Israelite history—is not to say that God became flesh, but to say that God entering into history and allowed Himself to be limited by the events, ideas, and methods of the world at that time. Jesus certainly knew of better ways of traveling than by walking (and after His resurrection, He shows one of these by appearing and disappearing at will), but as God in human flesh, He limited Himself to walking because this was the available method for most humans at that time.
Based on this principle, it seems possible that there might be some instances in the Old Testament where God chose to allow Israel to act in a certain way because He had also limited Himself to the methods that were available to Him at that time. War is never God’s plan or desire, but if the Israelites wanted to enter the land of Canaan and the only method available to them at the time (that they could think of anyway) was violent warfare, then God was restricted from getting Israel to enter the land in any other way. When the Israelites were facing an enemy that was set on killing them all at the edge of the sword, the Israelites could not fathom any other way out of the situation than by warfare (and frankly, neither can I!), and so God, who had incarnated Himself into human history, allowed them to engage in warfare in His Name, even though war was not God’s will, was not God’s plan, and was not God’s desire.
In fact, it seems that in many instances, God tried to show the Israelites that there was a another way out, but since they could not fathom that an enemy could be defeated in way other than killing them, God allowed them to go to war when they had set their minds to it. When we start looking at some of the Scriptural texts, we will see that in various places, God has left clues in the Scriptures that He was trying to show the Israelites “another way” but they did not see it, and set their hearts on slaughter, and when that happened, God allowed them to go to war in His Name, even though it was against His will.
As a result, “God may choose to act in and through agents who use violent means (e.g., the Babylonian armies)” (Fretheim, Creation Untamed, 106). At the same time, we must recognize that “God’s agents may exceed the divine mandate and have actually done so again and again, going beyond anything that God had willed or intended. [When this happens] God assumes a share of the responsibility associated with that misuse and takes part of the blame for using such agents (see Jer 42:10; Zech 1:15)”  (Fretheim, Creation Untamed, 111).
This often makes God look quite guilty for the sins of Israel. It makes God appear as if He is commanding genocide, or as if He is telling the Israelites army to slaughter women and children.
But if God looks like Jesus, then we know that God is no more guilty of the sins that are ascribed to Him than Jesus is guilty of the sins that He bore on the cross. But from certain perspectives, they both look guilty! This is partly what it means for God to be incarnate and to take the sins of others upon Himself.

God Appears Guilty, Just Like Jesus

God Appears Guilty, Just Like Jesus

God incarnateForget for a moment that you live 2000 years after the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, and forget that you have the New Testament which tells you about who Jesus was and what He did. Imagine that you pick up an ancient history book and it tells you about three men who were put to death around 33 BC for religious and political crimes. Two of them were criminals and one was a rabble-rouser, a trouble-maker, and a blasphemer. If you knew nothing else about these three men, you would assume they were most likely guilty.
Imagine furthermore that rather than living 2000 years after the fact, you were a Jewish person who lived at the time of Jesus. If you had heard anything from the Jewish rabbis of your day, you would know that this man named Jesus was a threat to the peace, order, safety, and security of your life within the Roman Empire.
If Jesus was the Messiah, as He claimed, He would rise up in revolt against the Roman invaders, but since He clearly did not want to go to war with the Romans, and since He often said things that directly challenged the traditions and teachings of the religious leaders, and sometimes He even seemed to say blasphemous things about the Temple and about YHWH Himself, well, Jesus was guilty. He had to die because He was guilty.
And when He did die, they hung Him on a cross. It was a gruesome sight, but that was evidence enough of His guilt. God had seen fit to judge this blasphemer named Jesus by hanging Him on a tree, for as the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”
Yes, this was evidence that God also was upset about what this man named Jesus was teaching, and had seen fit to make Him a public spectacle in the sight of all so that nobody would ever again seek to challenge the teachings of the religious leaders or the traditions of the Jewish people.
Yes, if you were Jew living 2000 years ago, and if you saw Jesus hanging on the cross, you most likely would have thought that He was a guilty criminal who had come under the curse of God. You would be revolted and sickened by His appearance.
But looking back now, we know that Jesus was not guilty. He did not sin. He died a criminal’s death because He went there willingly, as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, to take our sins upon Himself and bear them into death. But we only know this because Jesus rose from the dead and told His disciples that this is what happened, and the disciples taught it to others and wrote about it in the Bible, and the Apostle Paul—the greatest theologian in history—wrote about this theme in many of his letters.
Jesus looks guilty
So it is also with God.
From our human perspective, a God who enters into human affairs in the way that God did in the Old Testament looks guilty. Just like Jesus on the cross. As outsiders, when we look upon the appearance of God in the Old Testament, we see a guilty criminal who is doing things that nobody should ever do. This also is exactly the way some people looked at Jesus. When we read about some of the brutal and bloody things that the Israelites did in God’s name, God appears ugly and revolting. In many of the depictions there is no beauty or comeliness, that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by many. We do not esteem Him. Just like Jesus (cf. Isa 53:1-3).
But the only reason people looked upon Jesus in this way at that time (few look upon Jesus in that way now), is because Jesus had incarnated Himself among men and had taken the sin of the world upon Himself so that He died among the wicked (Isa 53:9), bearing upon Himself the curse of the cross, and even crying out that He had been forsaken by God (Matt 27:46). But we know that Jesus was innocent, and we know that though He died as a criminal, He did not die because He was a criminal, but because He was dying for all of us who are truly criminal in our behavior toward God.
Therefore, since Jesus Himself says that He reveals the Father to us, could it not be that just as Jesus was innocent, even though He appeared guilty, so also, God appears guilty of all the crimes that are ascribed to His name, even though He also is innocent? And yet just as Jesus intentionally sets His face toward Jerusalem, to take His place on an accursed cross between two criminals for the sins of all mankind and thus defeat the devil at his own game, is it not possible that in the Old Testament, God also does the same thing?
Is it not possible that when God involves Himself in the violent and bloody actions of Israel in the Old Testament, it is not because God is actually doing these things, but because God wants to be hung on an accursed cross between two thieves?

Is Theological Certainty Possible?

Is Theological Certainty Possible?

A reader recently sent in the following question:
I’m currently involved in a discussion and was asked this specific question:”Do you have an absolute certainty that when you die you will go to heaven?” What is your take, if you have the time?
Here is my attempt at a response, but I would love for you to weigh in on this subject in the comment section below…
Whew! What a question. In years past I would say “Yes.” But in recent years, I am not sure what “absolute certainty” even means.
To have absolute certainty about anything, you must also have absolute certainty about a whole series of other ideas that lead up to and support the one idea you are trying to have certainty about.
I suppose, if I were pressed, I would say that faith is like an “on-off” switch. It is not a dimmer switch. So you either believe something or you don’t. But in any single belief, there are often a multitude of other beliefs which lead up to it. Maybe you believe all the links in that chain up to the belief in question, or maybe you don’t. So if all the links in that chain are switched “on” then you can be said to have absolute certainty in that belief. But if all the links are not switched on, then you probably do not have absolute certainty.
But I think that you can still believe a particular idea, even if there are some links in the chain leading up to that idea which you do not believe. Let’s say there are beliefs A, B, C, D, E, and F. You are asked to believe F. Let’s say you A, B, C, but I am not sure about D and E. But IF D and E are true, then you believe F.
So is your belief in F absolute certainty? I don’t think so. But do you believe it? I would say yes, even though it is dependent upon some earlier links in the belief chain which you are not sure about.
This is a terrible way of describing this….
One thing I know… no matter what, we are to maintain an attitude of humility and grace toward others. This humility will get interpreted by some as a lack of faith or as a lack of conviction and certainty.
I am still trying to sort all this out, and so far, have not found a satisfactory answer.
What do you think? Is it possible to have absolute certainty about any area of theology? If so, which doctrines? Weigh in here!
Is it possible to have absolute certainty about any area of theology? If so, which doctrines? Weigh in here!
 Maybe the existence of God, the deity of Jesus, and life after death?

Incarnation of God in the Violence of Israel

Incarnation of God in the Violence of Israel

incarnation of godThe death of Jesus on the cross is the pinnacle and apex of the incarnation. It is His most triumphal moment. Which of us would seek to take it from Him and say, “No, no! Jesus! You cannot die a criminal’s death! You are innocent! That is only for guilty people. You must live! You must rule! You must reign! You must act like God!” In response, as Jesus dies, He says, “I am acting like God. Don’t you see? This is what God has been doing all along!”
But we won’t allow it. We try to take away God’s most triumphant moment. By explaining away the violent portrayals of God in the Old Testament, or by calling such evil actions as “good,” we are trying to get God down off the cross. We tell Him, “Even though You look terribly guilty in the Old Testament, we are going to call ‘good’ all those bad things You claim to have done. All that genocide and murder which would be monstrous from any person and any other god, we are going to name as ‘righteous’ and ‘holy’ because it’s from You.” We won’t let God do what He wants to do. We won’t let Him get up on the cross. We won’t let Him incarnate Himself into the sinful affairs of mankind and so destroy His righteousness, dignity, and power. We won’t let Him appear guilty. We brush the sin and shame under the carpet. We wash the blood off of His hands and feet and side.
And how does God respond to our feeble attempts at cleaning up His tarnished image? He says,
Why do you think I made it so obvious that I was the one commanding genocide, war, and murder? I want to appear guilty! I want to take the blame! But more than that, I don’t want you to think that such behavior is ever good, is ever holy, or is ever righteous! That’s twisted! In what universe is genocide and murder ever good? Not in any universe I created! The only universe where such things are good is the perverted, imaginary, nightmarish universe that exists only within Satan’s mind. And he is lying to you, and telling you that since I did it, these are good, and so if you want to do this too in my name, then murder and genocide and war can also be good. Don’t fall for that trap! The reason I did what I did in the Old Testament is to expose that lie and lay bare that trap! The reason Jesus came was to make it crystal clear what kind of God I am! I am love. I am grace. I am mercy. I am forgiving. I am long-suffering. I am patient. I am kind. Please, please, for your own sake, look at Jesus. Look at Jesus and see Me!
This is what Jesus was saying all along: “Look at Me! I will show you what God is like!” And we know that Jesus was not guilty, even though by all outward appearances, He looked exactly like a guilty criminal dying on a God-forsaken cross. But this is the incarnation. As we saw earlier from Philippians 2, it is this aspect of the incarnation—the death of Jesus on the cross—where Jesus most fully reveals God to us. It is there that He looks guilty, that He was despised and rejected by men, that He died a criminal’s death, and took His place among the wicked. But He was not guilty of any crime. He simply took the sins of the world upon Himself so that He could conquer over sin, death, and the devil by bearing them all into the grave.
So also with God! God incarnated Himself into the affairs of Israel (and some of the surrounding nations). As a result, He looks terribly guilty. It appears as if He has committed some of the worst crimes ever carried out in human history. As a result, He is often despised and rejected by men, and is treated as a criminal by some, and if the world could put God in trial, they would most certainly condemn Him to death for crimes against humanity. And when the sentence is read, He would nod His head in acceptance, would not say a word in His defense, and would go quietly to His death, however horrendous and terrible it might be. Why does He do this? Because this looks like Jesus!
This principle of the chaos theory is that just s Jesus incarnated Himself as a human, eventually taking on the appearance of a criminal worthy of death, so also, God incarnated Himself in the human affairs of the Israelite nation, so that He appears to be guilty of their crimes when in fact He is not.

6 Ways to Explain Bible Contradictions

6 Ways to Explain Bible Contradictions

Vincent LatorreThis is a guest post by Vince Latorre. As a young boy, Vince always had an inquisitive nature. He immediately wanted the answers to questions such as “Is there a God?” “How did I get here?” “How was the world and universe created?” His search for answers to these questions led him to a personal encounter with Christ at age nine or ten. As his faith grew, his desire to analytically research and validate the Word of God intensified.
Latorre spent many hours in libraries and bookstores sifting through more than 200 books and hundreds of articles on science, Bible textual criticism, and theology. As he researched these, the author began to see the powerful scientific evidence for creation as well as the evidence for the historical reliability of the Bible. . In his latest book, The Bible Can Be Proven, Vince Latorre shares the results of his research to strengthen believers and inform honest seekers.
Latorre is presently an accountant in a government agency, has taught Sunday School and Bible Studies for twenty four years, and is a Lay Speaker in the United Methodist Church, speaking to students at high school and adult levels in many churches, including his own. You may contact Vince through one of the following:
If you would like to write a Guest Post for the Till He Comes Blog, begin by reading the Guest Blogger Guidelines.


Be kind...everyone you meet is fighting a tough battle.

The Greatest Act of Courage

The Greatest Act of Courage

Courage Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela once said “Courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
This is a great insight.
Although maybe John Wayne said it slightly better: “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
People sometimes think that the courageous person does not feel fear in the midst of great danger and potential personal harm. But this is not true. If someone is facing great danger and they feel no fear, they are no courageous, but ignorant and foolish. Fear is natural and normal in dangerous situations. The courageous person is not someone who feels no fear, but who runs headlong into danger despite the fear.
Yet while I like this understanding of courage, it is usually only applied to acts of valor that we might see on a battlefield or in a daring rescue operation. We think of the soldier who charges forward against a spray of enemy bullets to rescue a wounded comrade. We think of a policeman who stands alone against criminals intent on doing harm, holding them back until reinforcements arrive. We think of firemen who enter burning buildings to pull terrified children from the flames.
These are all, undoubtedly, great acts of courage. But I do not think they are the greatest possible act of courage. No, the greatest possible act of courage is the courage it takes to forgive.

The Courage to Forgive

When we are wronged, slandered, hurt, or abused, our entire body, soul, and spirit screams against the idea of forgiveness. We want revenge! We want retaliation! We want the person who did us wrong to suffer as we have suffered.
But more than that, we do not want to be hurt in the same way again. We fear that if we forgive someone for what they have done, they will continue to abuse and hurt us in similar ways.
From experience, we know that forgiveness rarely changes the person who did wrong. They often continue to do and say that hurtful and damaging things that they have always done. So we fear that forgiveness is enablement. That forgiveness will allow the abuse to continue. That forgiveness will cause the other person to think their actions are okay. We don’t want that to happen. We are afraid of that happening. And so we don’t forgive.

The Courage of Jesus

But our example is Jesus. As He hung on the cross, dying for sins He did not commit, slandered for doing what He did not do, and suffering great pain which He wrongly received, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” His forgiveness was not dependent upon them understanding what they had done. His forgiveness was not conditional on Him making sure they would never do such things again. His forgiveness did not require that they never treat Him in this way again.
Father forgive themYet still He forgave. Jesus faced the fear that His forgiveness would continue to allow them to live in ignorance, to treat others as He was being treated, or to understand who He was or why He came.
Thankfully, we are not all faced with the difficulty of offering forgiveness to our murderers. But forgiveness is an ordinary, everyday courage that we all have the opportunity to show. When parents are unloving. When spouses cheat. When children say hurtful things. When employers treat us unfairly. When neighbors are rude. When neighbors slander, mock, and malign. In all these cases, and countless more, the courage to forgive is one of the greatest examples of courage that exists.
True courage is found in the willingness to forgive when everyone around you and everything within you is screaming for revenge. In these times, we must face the fear of what will happen if we forgive, and have the bravery to conquer that fear by saying these two most courageous words: “I forgive.”
Running headlong into danger is an act of courage, but not the greatest act of courage. The greatest act of courage is found in forgiveness. So take heart! Have courage and forgive.

Does Jesus Condemn People? NO!

Does Jesus Condemn People? NO!

Okay, okay, the title might be a little too strong. I do believe that Jesus is the righteous judge of the world and that we will all stand before Him to give an accounting, and that based on the judgment of Jesus, some will be eternally separated from God… So don’t rake me over the coals too much for that title….
I am only wrote that title in connection to Romans 8:34 due to a comment that was left on someone else’s blog about my recent series on God, violence, and evil. Here is what happened:
Peter Kirk recently posted a quote from one of my blog posts (if you do this, let me know so I can come interact with your readers!), and one of the people who left comments strongly disagreed with my ideas, and quoted Romans 8:34 this way: “Who is it that condemns? Christ Jesus…”
Is that a verse which says that Jesus Christ does actually condemn people? When I saw that verse, I blinked and shook my head and thought, “Really? How could I have missed that all these years?”
Jesus done not condemnSo I went and looked it up.
And guess what? The devil is in the dots. The problem is with the ellipses (…).
I know we all use them, but always be wary of Scripture quotations that include ellipses.
In Romans 8:34, Paul is not answering his question and saying that Jesus Christ condemns. No! Exactly the opposite. Paul is saying Jesus Christ is the only one who could condemn, but far from condemning anyone, Jesus died for us and intercedes for us! This is the only way to make Roman 8:34 fit with Romans 8:1.
Romans 8:34 should be understood this way: “Who is he who condemns? Jesus Christ is the only one who could, but He doesn’t! Instead, he died for us, and rose again from the dead, and now intercedes for us at the right hand of God the Father in heaven!”
Beautiful! Far from condemning humanity, Jesus loves us, died for us, and now intercedes for us!
Look, I know that not everybody will agree with the theory I am proposing about how to understand the violence of God in the Old Testament (see the link list at the bottom of this post).
I just have never been satisfied with any of the proposals for how to reconcile the violence of God in the Old Testament with the self-sacrificial love of Jesus. My proposal from fifteen years ago is still the only way that helps me view God the same way I view Jesus while still maintaining the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.
While I know that my proposal wreaks havoc on many traditional ways of reading some biblical passages, please know that just as with Romans 8:34, I am aware of these texts and simply understand them in a different light — in the light of the love and beauty of the crucified Christ.
I know that the burden of proof lies upon me to show how my thesis fits with Scripture, but I am beginning to think that the real burden of proof lies upon those who want to maintain that God is violent despite all the evidence to the contrary in the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus Christ, and especially in what He did for the entire world on the cross.
Though my thesis might be difficult to prove, it seems impossible to reconcile the bloody and violent God of the Old Testament with the loving, forgiving, and self-sacrificial God revealed in Jesus Christ. And I am not saying they are different Gods – they are One and the same! We just have to read about God in the Old Testament through lens of Jesus and what He did on the cross.
That is what I am trying to do in this series, and I hope you will continue to stick with me through the ride! Very soon we will begin looking at some of the difficult texts like the Flood and the 10 Plagues.

It’s Right for God to Slaughter Women and Children Anytime He Pleases

John Piper God Slaughters WomenDid you hear what John Piper said online a few years back? Check out this quote:
It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.
That is not the God I know.
Yuri Wijting on Facebook directed me to an article by Peter Enns which talked about this statement by John Piper.
Here are a couple things Peter Enns said in response to John Piper:
1. It is unguarded to make a general principle of God’s character on the basis of the treatment of the Canaanites in the Old Testament. Of course, Piper would likely retort that all of Scripture is God-breathed, does not mislead us, and reveals the character of God. But then he would need to address squarely Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount that “death to our enemies” is no longer valid.
The insider-outsider premise that undergirds Canaanite slaughter (and the killing of many of Israel’s enemies in the Old Testament–see #3) is the very thing Jesus squashed: “My kingdom is not of this world.” That alone should give Piper pause from venturing forward with his assessment of God’s character on the basis of how Canaanites are dealt with.
2. Following on #1, “the Bible said it, that settles it” answer to God’s violence in the Old Testament not only runs into problems with respect to the New Testament but the Old Testament as well. There is a fair amount of theological diversity in the Old Testament regarding the nature of God’s judgment on the nations that would need to be taken into account. (For example, compare Jonah and Nahum on the fate of Assyria; the glorious fate of Egypt in Isaiah 19:23-25.) To make one view on such a thorny issue the model for how God acts throughout time runs the danger of privileging certain texts that support one’s theology.
If you get a chance, go read the rest of the article by Peter Enns. It is excellent.
I thought about adding a few choice words of my own directed at John Piper, but then I realized I was not angry. Instead, I was extremely, extremely sad.
slaughter-the-canaanitesIt saddens me deeply that people could believe such things about the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ. It saddens me that people could believe that this is the type of God who went to the cross on our behalf. It saddens me deeply that when people experience pain, suffering, torture, and death in this world, they don’t say, “An enemy has done this!” but rather, “This is the work of God.” It saddens me that rather than recognize that God is with us in our pain and suffering, crying when we cry, holding us when we tremble, wailing with us in our pain, some people think God is actually the one making us suffer, causing us to cry, inflicting us with fear, and torturing us with pain.
It brings me great sadness to know that this is what John Piper believes, and even greater sadness to know that this is what he teaches the people in his church. Those poor people. I weep for them.
How I desire they could know the love of God that is in Jesus! How I wish they could feel the love that casts out all fear. How I long for them to see God as He really is in the cross of Christ.
If you are reading this, please know that God is not like the god of John Piper. God does not slaughter women and children just because He can. He rescues women. He loves children. If pain, tragedy, horror, and death has occurred in your life, please know that God did not do it, but He does want to love you through it.

Help the Lost Get Found

Help the Lost Get Found

find lost loved onesFrank Viola put up a post yesterday about a website that helps you find people. Here is what he wrote:
Have you ever wanted to find an old friend from high school? You tried finding them on Facebook or those lame “high school reconnect” sites, and you’ve come up empty.
Or how about an old college friend or even an elementary school buddy?
Or more seriously, how do you find a missing person? For instance, how do you find a biological parent? How do you find a missing child? How do you find a missing friend? How do you find a missing parent?
Well, Reconnect: Find Lost or Missing Persons was created to do just that by using the ubiquitous power of the Internet in a strategic way.
I am involved with this project as well, and hope that it might help people reconnect with friends, loved ones, or family members.
Go check out the site, and also get connected with it on Facebook and Twitter.

Is God Lying about His Involvement in Violence?

Is God Lying about His Involvement in Violence?

God does not lieOne common objection to the proposal I am making in my series on how to understand the violence of God in the Old Testament (see the link list below) is that this view seems to make God out to be a liar.
The objection is this: If God inspired the biblical authors to record that He is doing and commanding things that He is actually not doing or commanding, doesn’t this mean that God is lying? But Scripture says that God does not lie (Num 23:19). So how can God inspire biblical authors to write that He commanded Israel to do things that He did not actually command them to do? As with the previous objection, there are a few things that can be said in response.

If God Did Commit Violence, Then Jesus is a Liar

First, we can turn the question around. It seems that if God truly is violent, then the real lie is in Jesus claiming to fully reveal God to us, but not showing revealing any of the murderous and bloody violence that so characterized God in the Old Testament. Take for example, John 14:9-11. Philip says to Jesus, “Show us the Father,” and in response Jesus says, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”
But if God truly does have a violent and bloody side then Jesus was being deceptive, for nowhere in His life or ministry did He reveal God as someone who goes to war against His enemies or commands the genocide of people who do not love or obey Him.
If there is a dark side to God, it was certainly hidden in Jesus during His ministry, which means that when Jesus tells Philip, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” what He really meant was “You haven’t fully seen the Father; only the loving side.” If God really is violent, but Jesus revealed none of this violence, then the real lie is Jesus hiding this side of God from us so that He appeared more loving and gracious than He truly is.
If someone believes that God truly is violent, the burden of proof lies on them to explain how Jesus fully reveals God to us but fails to reveal the violent and bloody side of God’s nature. If Jesus is the exact representation of God and is the image of the invisible God (John 1:14, 18; 14:9-11; 2 Cor 4:4; Php 2:6; Col 1:15; Heb 1:2-3), but during His life and ministry never revealed the aspect of God as a warrior, then there are only two options: either God is not a warrior and Jesus did truly reveal the Father to us, or Jesus was being deceptive.
This is even more true in the instances where Jesus tells His disciples that rather than go to war with their enemies, they should love their enemies, pray for them, and bless them (cf. Matt 5:43-48). If there is a side of God that wanted to kill His enemies, harm them, and curse them, then Jesus was being deceptive in His revelation of God.
In Luke 9:54 when the disciples ask Jesus if they can call down fire from heaven to burn up a Samaritan village, but Jesus rebukes them for doing so (9:55), Jesus was being deceptive if there was truly a side of God which would have condoned and even commanded such behavior.
So the first way to respond to the objection that God was lying in the Old Testament is to say that if God truly does have a violent side, then Jesus was lying.

God Looks Guilty Because God Takes Responsibility

In the Old Testament, when God looks like He is behaving in ways that do not match the nature and character of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, this is not because God is being deceptive, but because God is taking the sins of His people upon Himself just as Jesus did on the cross.
God does not lieAnd this is not deceptive.
It is not a lie for God to take the sins of His people upon Himself. Why not? Because although God is not guilty for these things, nor did He want them to happen, He nevertheless views Himself as ultimately responsible for what goes on in this world. How? Because He created a world where such sin and horror was possible.
In a way, God truly is guilty. How? Because He made a world where horrible sin and nightmarish tragedy was possible. So when the nightmare began, God took the blame, and through divine responsibility, took it upon Himself to make the nightmare stop.
Ultimately, God pled guilty for the sins of the world, and paid the penalty on the cross by dying a sinner’s death. One of my favorite theologians put it this way: Jesus “dies as a criminal, under the curse of the Law—as if to say, ‘Look, I’m as guilty as you are in this situation because I set it up in the first place; let’s just forget about blame and get on with the party” (Capon, The Mystery of Christ, 34).
God is not lying to take the sins of Israel upon Himself. Quite to the contrary, He is being true to what Jesus has taught us about God.

What Does Jesus Say?

What Does Jesus Say?
(En Español)
Great Gain
We must relearn how to think. We must learn how to pause before we speak - give ourselves a moment to enter the secret place of God's presence - and then listen to what Jesus has to say. For Christ Himself is the source of our discernment. In listening, we create the opportunity to hear the Lord's voice; postured before Him we can receive answers, wisdom and insights that we otherwise would not discern.
Indeed, using the gift of discernment, we can counter the advance of the enemy and reverse the gains he might have otherwise obtained. Consider the gospel story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). As experts in the Mosaic Law, the Pharisees knew well that the woman had sinned. Wishing to publicly discredit Jesus, they brought her to Him hoping, perhaps, to prove Him a heretic:
"Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?" --John 8:4-5
This is the big question: What does Jesus say? Everything we will learn about discernment is found in knowing the answer to this question. There will be pressure to answer. It's likely that turmoil may surround us. Yet we must stay sheltered in the calm of God. The woman is obviously guilty; witnesses have condemned her, as does the Law of Moses. Stones are waiting in the hands of her accusers. But if we will actually possess true discernment we must stop, listen, and actually hear: What does Jesus say?
Christ recognizes her sin. However, His thoughts were higher than that of the Pharisees. He saw this situation as a means to bring redemption to the woman, repentance to the Pharisees, and glory to His heavenly Father. Stooping down, He wrote on the ground. Then, as the Pharisees persisted with their accusations, He stood and said, "He who is without sin … let him be the first to throw a stone" (John 8:7).
The hardened hearts of the Pharisees were so deeply pierced that, "one by one, beginning with the older ones," they departed (v. 9). Scripture does not tell us what Jesus wrote (some say He wrote one of the Ten Commandments or perhaps some other Scripture). What He wrote is unknown. However, in the Lord's response He made it clear: in His kingdom, the merciful and the pure in heart decide when, and if, stones will be thrown.
The issue I seek to underscore is not that Jesus drew on the ground but that, in the heightened turmoil of the moment, Jesus drew upon the Father. He remained calm. He waited, listening in His heart to hear the voice of His Father.
This is the pattern for true discernment: we disown the limits of our opinions and reactions, and we learn to wait and listen to the Lord.
As the Voice Comes to Me
Jesus expands this discipline of focused waiting. Consider His comment in John 5:

"I am able to do nothing from Myself [independently, of My own accord - but only as I am taught by God and as I get His orders]. Even as I hear, I judge [I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision]." --John 5:30 AMP
Jesus said, "As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision." This small statement unveils such a large truth!
When we accept Christ into our hearts, He does not enter simply as a doctrine. No, He enters us as a living voice. His Spirit brings conviction and direction; He speaks through dreams, visions, revelation, and understanding of the Scriptures. He illuminates our hearts, speaking to us of repentance and the renewal of our soul. He lifts us, reminding us of the faithful promises of God.
Yet this voice - the sacred voice of God - refuses to compete with the clamor of our fleshly minds. This is God, King and Creator of the universe. He requires the honor of our full attention! He will not yell as though we were disobedient children and He a frantic mother. He will not chase us. He waits.
Yes, there are times when He may resist us, gently pushing against our prideful efforts. He will wait until we stop our harmful activity. Our problem is not that God won't come to us; it's that our anxious souls fail to give Him time to speak.
Remember, His thoughts are "higher than" our thoughts (Isa. 55:9). He would speak to us, but our opinions monopolize the conversation. Our ideas and preprogrammed reactions rush out of our mouths and into the world of men. We hurry by the narrow path that leads to His presence. He is left out of the conversation; He wants in.
Jesus taught, "Take care what you listen to" (Mark 4:24). Do we truly know how to listen? Discernment is the art of listening to Him who does not speak audibly and perceiving Him who is otherwise invisible. And the one great question that leads to all we need to know is this: What does Jesus say?

Jumat, 14 Juni 2013


“Over time the Crypto-Christians [in Japan] confused their Christian beliefs and their Japanese [cultural] disguises. The result was the emergence of a hybrid religion no longer adhering to the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. When Europeans regained entrance to Japan in the nineteenth century, they were astonished to see communities of hidden Christians living in the hills around Nagasaki. This amazement waned, however, when they discovered the faith of these forgotten Christians was hardly Christianity. 

“In our cultural quest for survival, driven by our fear of irrelevance, have evangelicals become Crypto-Christians? Have we clothed our faith with the forms of our American culture to the point that our Christianity has morphed into something entirely different — a folk religion altogether consumerist in spirit and content? By yielding its imagination to the forms around it, has the church, like ancient Israel, lost the ability to be an alternative people of God? Is Walter Brueggemann correct: ‘The contemporary American church is so largely enculturated to the American ethos of consumerism that it has little power to believe or to act’?”
- From The Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity by Skye Jethani 



"We're suffering from a believism that never has believed and a
receivism that never has received and it leads to deceivism."
-Vance Havner

"Until the church is holy there'll be no rapture - I don't care what
theory of the rapture you have." - Leonard Ravenhill

"They tell us now even in some evangelical circles that we ought
to hobnob with Sodom and get chummy with Gomorrah in order
to convert them... and these dear people are not turning the light
on in Sodom, they're just getting used to the dark."
-Vance Havner

"This philosophical postulate that the end of all being is the
happiness of man has been sort-of covered over with evangelical
terms and biblical doctrine - until God reigns in heaven for the
happiness of man, Jesus Christ was incarnate for the happiness
of man, all the angels exist and ... everything is for the happiness
of man - and I submit to you that this is unchristian."
-Paris Reidhead

"A season of silence is the best preparation for speech with God."
-Samuel Chadwick

Minggu, 09 Juni 2013

7 Ways to Build Friendships With Your Neighbors – Part 2

7 Ways to Build Friendships With Your Neighbors – Part 2

This practical post on getting to know your neighbors is by Sam Riviera. Sam is a frequent contributor to this blog. See the bottom of this post for more articles in this series about getting to know your neighbors.

love your neighborThis post contains three more ways to develop friendships with your neighbors. In a previous post, we look at the first four, which included remembering their names, offering a helping hand, working towards a common goal, and paying attention.

5. Keep Their Secrets

Would you like to know whose sister has been on national news for weeks? Whose family is Mafia? Who is an undercover secret government agent? Who is having an affair with a neighbor? Who is very rich, but lives simply? Who is gay? Who hates their neighbor? Who sunbathes nude in their backyard?
We have discovered that people tell us their secrets because they trust us. Are the secrets I mentioned above our neighbor’s secrets or the secrets of other people we know, or have known? Or am I making up these “secrets”? – We’re not telling.
Passing around this kind of information makes for juicy gossip and broken relationships. Don’t give in to the temptation to tell what you know, except in the rare instance where you have come across a crime such as child abuse, spousal abuse, or drug dealing. In those cases, consult an attorney or trusted police officer for professional assistance.
Paying attention to what is happening in people’s lives, whether it be an escaped dog, a broken water pipe, or sick family member offers opportunities to not only help them, but to also build relationships with them. When they trust us enough to tell us their secrets, being trustworthy and not sharing the information with others further builds and cements our relationships.

6. Weep With Those Who Weep

Whether our spouse left us or a family member has a serious illness or has died, wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus could show up in person and spend time with us? Perhaps He does, in the person of His followers. Can we be that person for not only our family, but also for our neighbors?
love your neighborWhen we learned that our neighbor’s cancer had returned, we started spending time with her. When she told us that she wanted watermelon, we found a store that had watermelon in January. When she couldn’t keep down any food we made her lots of batches of “pear pudding,” the only thing she could keep down. We looked at her pictures with her and her husband – the church where they married, vacations they had taken, and other pictures from her life. We prayed with them. We tried to answer their questions about God. We sat by her bedside the night before she died. We hugged her every time we saw her. We cried with her, and then again with her husband after she passed.
This is a painful part of life, but if we only want to be with people in their joy and happiness, but not in their grief and sorrow, we can never truly develop friendships with others. True relationships requires that at we weep with those who weep.

7. Celebrate!

When we were kids, Halloween was our chance to wear a costume and get a bag of candy. My brother and I patrolled the local grocery stores and farmer’s markets looking for the perfect pumpkin for a Jack-O-Lantern. I remember buying a sixty pound pumpkin the October I was fourteen, carrying it over a mile to my house and carving it with my brother’s help. It was almost as big as my brother. We loved Halloween!
Even as adults we can enjoy Halloween. We carve a pumpkin, turn on the porch light and station ourselves outside our front door with a big bowl of candy. Where we live, most of the children who come to our door are neighborhood children, accompanied by parents. A friendly greeting, a handful of candy and introducing ourselves to parents we don’t know is a great way to get to know our neighbors. Next Halloween we plan to set up a fire pit on the driveway, surrounded by chairs and a table with chili, cider and plates of cookies, in addition to a bowl of candy.
People love parties centered around holidays – New Year’s Eve, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. As a former wedding planner, party planner and caterer, I’ve planned lots of parties. When we finish this “Getting To Know Our Neighbors” series, we’ll look at some ideas for planning a great party.
We’ve been looking at ways to build relationships with our neighbors after becoming acquainted with them. We’ve looked at remembering their names, helping them, working toward common goals, paying attention to what is going on in their lives, keeping their secrets, sharing their sorrows, and celebrating together.

God is Not Absent

God is Not Absent

God seeks loveAs we try to understand the theology behind the idea that on the cross, Jesus reveals to us what God was doing in the Old Testament, we are in a section where we recognize that there are no “pat answers” to the problem of evil in the world, and that the situation is much more complex than most of us realize. I have about six points to a “Chaos Theory” which help us understand why bad things happen in this world.
In a previous post I suggested that God has a policy of non-intervention. In this post I want to emphasize that I am not presenting the “deist” view of God. I do not think that God is the cosmic clock maker who wound the gears of the universe to get things started and then left us to our own devices. The fact of God’s policy of non-intervention does not mean that God is off playing golf somewhere while we struggle on our own with wars, tornadoes, and terrorism. No, God is intimately involved in our daily lives, but this first point of the chaps theory simply argues that God is such a believe in having true relationships with His creatures, that He gave us true and genuine freedom within creation, so that we can choose to love and serve Him (or not).
Does this mean then that God does not act upon creation at all?
No! Quite to the contrary, God is extremely active.

God Woos Us

Like a lover, He calls and woos us to follow Him and His ways. He nudges, winks, and whispers. He paints pictures and writes poems. He invites us to imagine things differently than they are, and in so imagining, invite us to join with Him in helping our imagination become reality.
This process of thinking about the future with a divinely inspired imagination and then working with God to bring our imagination into reality is called The Prophetic Imagination by theologian and Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann. One of the reasons God gave us freedom and liberty is so that we could work with Him in bringing His rule and reign on the earth.

Prayer Invites God to Intervene

Prayer also is one of the means by which God has allowed us to change events. Sometimes God wants to act in a certain way, but the lack of prayer restricts His actions.
Blaise Pascal said that God “instituted prayer in order to allow His creatures the dignity of causality.” In other words, there are some available actions of God which can only be brought about by prayer. Once, when the disciples were unable to cast out a demon, Jesus told them that this kind of demon only comes out by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).
There is a whole theology of prayer behind this statement of Jesus which we cannot get into here. For now, it is enough to say that because of the genuine freedom God has given to us, prayer is one of the ways by which we invite God to get involved in this world in ways that He might not otherwise have done. (To read more about this concept of prayer, I highly recommend the following resources: The essay titled “Work and Prayer” in C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, the essay titled “The Efficacy of Prayer” in C. S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, and the chapter titled “Praying in the Whirlwind” in Gregory A. Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil.)

God Seeks to Love and Be Loved

God seeks to loveNowhere in all of this does God force us, push us, or drive us to do what He wants. This is not the way of love, and this is not how God works with the freedom He has granted to us.
Instead, He invites us, calls us, and woos us. This is the way of love, this is the way of non-intervention, this is the way of God.
None of this means, however, that God sits nervously on His heavenly throne, biting His nails and hoping that somewhere on earth someone will invite Him to get involved. No, there is a whirlwind of activity going on all the time, and God is involved in most of it.
This first principle of the chaos theory simply shows that when it comes to God’s direct involvement in the actions of free creatures in the world, God has a policy of non-intervention. But this does not mean in any way that God is absent, that God is aloof, or that God just sits around waiting until He is called for.
No, the next three principles of the chaos theory show that despite God’s policy of non-interference, God is constantly interfering in ways we (usually) cannot see. Understanding these will shed further light on what God is (and is not) doing in the violent Old Testament texts.