Saturday, November 19, 2005

Interesting situation...

At work, I have a number of employees that are under my charge daily. Today, the "boyfriend" of one girl who works for us came into the store and started up an arguement with her. Now, me personally, I don't really care what is going on at home for the two of them, other than they be kind to each other (which they aren't) and happy (which they aren't). But what amazes me about this guy is he's abusive, he's abused the woman in the past, he's violent, he's all sorts of things... And he drags her to Church every week.

That blows my mind. I had to stand toe to toe with him today, and tell him he had to leave and never come back. I was angry with him, oh yes. Angry not only because he does what he does, but also because he professes to witness for Christ. After it was over and he'd left, I had to force myself to ask God that he lead me into forgivness of this man's offenses against me and Christ and to pray for him that he see the light. But after that, I felt much better. There's no amount of theology that can explain it when God delivers like this, giving a peace that surpasses all human understanding...

I still Pray that this guy come to know that peace.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The nightly vespers...

Heavenly Father, who brought us out of slavery to sin and into the Light of your Son, Jesus Christ, Grant us the strength and wisdom to recover the truths that many of us have left behind that we may fully understand the pure message and good news of Salvation that comes only from You in the name of your precious Son Jesus Christ, who together with you and the Holy Spirit, reign in glory forever and ever. Amen.

The nightly vespers, or evening prayers, is an old practice that used to be commonplace amongst Christians. God deserves our prayers, and I'm finding that it's just as proper to study how to pray as it is to just pray. There are many parts to the vespers, but I want to look at just one right now.

Take the prayer above. I just composed it using an old formula, the collect, which begins with an invocation, a petition, and a doxology. First we invoke name of God, which could be any of the various names that are used in the bible. I like the hebrew name El-Shaddai, not just because it's the title of a great song performed by Amy Grant, but because it means "LORD God Almighty". Part of the invocation is to state something that God has done not just for us, but for all people. God has stated of himself in Scripture statements like, "I am the LORD, your God, who brought you our of egypt", so we invoke his name in the same way. A petition is exactly that, a petition.

In a doxology, we have a statement of honor and praise, like the doxology at the end of the Lord's prayer: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever.

Now, I'm like most folks. I've had enormous difficulty with the act of praying over the years, because I believed that a prayer needed to come from the heart. The problem always came the with endless stream of uhs and justs and stops and starts... not very heartfelt at the end of the prayer. But using a simple structure like this has made quite a difference for my prayers. I want to offer up more than uhs and justs to God in my prayers, and it's been a real blessing to study these old forms.

I also found a great website that can help with daily morning and evening prayers.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Bible studies and Christian friends

I conduct a bible study every monday evening with a group of mostly old people. In this particular study, the topic is "how to handle offenses". I've found that this is a fairly common thing among Christians, because we all seem to have a hangup about being offended and needed to forgive.

But what amazes me is the fact that there seems to be a disconnect here with what I'm bringing to them. Scripture testifies that the promise of Christ includes actually is the starting point for handling everything that comes along in life, including being offended. Christ's death and blood brings both forgiveness of sins and cleansing from sins, by us receiving his word through study and prayer. The problem seems to be that I thought that this was how all Christians look at it. They seem to be believing the forgiveness part, but not the cleansing part.

Since I'm reformation, technically a confessing evangelical, each session of study I lead I remind the people of how God's law is good for instruction in righteousness, but God's law by itself gives no power whatsoever to keep the law. In the case of offenses, there's plenty in God's law telling how we are to handle being offended. But by itself, the law can do nothing for us.

I find that the disconnect comes when I show them the power itself through God's word. The Power of course isn't an "it", or "itself", but rather Jesus himself, given by God in his mercy as a propitiation for our sins, raised for our justification to work our sanctification by that same work on the cross. This is the gospel, and "the gospel (good news) is the power unto salvation for all who believe". That means that Jesus is our power, Jesus is our justification, and he is our sanctification. He's our everything. But when I tell of this, they seem to easily understand the forgiveness part, but the cleansing part they don't understand. "Yes", I tell them, "you must be taught how to handle offenses, but unless Jesus is the center and the reason you are handling them correctly in the first place, then its pretty much a useless endeavor on your part to even try". They always tell me after the session that I'm doing a wonderful job, but then tell my assistant afterwards that they don't understand.

They requested doing this whole thing because they perceive that they aren't being forgiving enough... In other words, they believe they aren't holy enough yet. They want to "do" better for God, or "gut it out for God", as on pastor I know likes to say, but they aren't trusting in the promises of God at all. They get the forgiveness part, but when it comes time to allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of transgressions and lead us to Christ, where we find the actual power to forgive offenses, they spend time saying, "well, I have to pray more", or "I have to calm down and take a breath" or "I will go now and anoint my office with oil and plead the blood over my job situation"... They talk about everything else but what Jesus has already done on our behalf.

They aren't receiving the second half of the promise. I don't know exactly what to do about it, other than say what I've already said in this post. I sometimes have moments where I want to act like Isaiah, and basically rain down fire on them, but I resist this temptation by God's grace. My only hope is in Jesus in this, that the Holy Spirit will work faith in them for this.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Are we the ones going and bringing God along?

I just heard a little homely about a man seeing his neighbor's children in the back seat of the minivan. The minivan was loaded with pillows, suitcases and such, so the man thought they must be going on a trip. He asked the children where they were going, but he didn't get an answer. He asked them, "where will you be staying?", and they didn't have an answer for that either. He asked them, "where will you eat?", but they didn't have an answer for that either.

Frustrated, he finally asked them, "who are you going with?"

The answered, "with mommy and daddy".

Now, this is interesting. I was thinking earlier about a scripture where Jesus says, "suffer the little children to come unto me, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of Heaven is made for such as these". Little children just believe thier mommy and daddy will take care of them, no matter what happens in life.

Are we going and bringing God with us? Or are we going where God is going, trusting that he knows what he's doing and will take care of us?

Monday, October 24, 2005

A case from now... A case from then...

This is one of the reasons I constantly exhort the doctrine of the fall of man and original sin. First, look at the link below, and watch the video if you can.

Now, this is a real story, about real people and a seemingly impossible situation. A child that simply isn't growing up. It's not just the video and this story, because it can be looked up in more sources than just the internet.

However, this next link shows just how incredibly fallen human beings can be.

They are saying that this is all a hoax. Can you believe this?

Now, this is how it should be reasoned out. Even if, out of billions of children born since the beginning of creation, no child was ever born that didn't grow, but stayed the same size year after year, no matter how crazy or far fetched it seems, you still have to note it as something that actually happened in history. To do anything else it to be a proponent of falsehood. I was think to myself as I read about this and watched the video that, after any given amount of time, after Little Brooke has passed on and all that's left are stories and maybe a medical file, people will read about it and say, "Nah, it never happened. It's impossible".

But the mere occurance has to at least be noted. Even if it only happens once.

The same is true For Jesus. Without going into faith in Jesus as the risen savior, just the fact that a Rabbi two thousand years ago died by crucifiction at the hands of the Romans and was raised from the dead has to be made note of. One can't just say, "Nah, it never happened". Even if, out of the billions of people who have died since the beginning of creation, every last one of the stayed dead, if even one person is raised from the dead, it still has to be noted as something that happened in real history.

Just like Little Brooke has to be taken seriously, so also does Jesus. Just because Brooke's story seems far fetched doesn't mean it's not true. And just because Jesus' story seems far fetched, doesn't mean his story isn't true.

Pass this on to any friends you have who say they don't believe in Jesus death and resurrection. This is the same kind of "reasoning" that cracks tough nuts like Adrian Flew and C.S. Lewis. The Holy Spirit always wins the argument.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Tearing down my OWN high places

I'm tired.

Not tired tired, but rather spiritually tired. Not worn out, mind you, just tired. I've been neglecting my blog and my work I used to do on I have been spending a lot of time on stuff away from the internet, which I should be counting as a good thing, and it is...

The reason I'm spiritually tired is because I'm having to put a lot of what I've learned in the last two years into my life. Not like personal application, but rather in teaching and discussing. I teach a class on monday nights, based on a ciriculuum called "the Bait of Satan", and it's been a chore keeping it from devolving into a "5 points to X" lesson program, because this ciriculuum is a lot like the Purpose driven life. There's very little content in it that's not already a retread of other lesson programs, and it comes across as "do this or you'll be in trouble" kind of preaching/teaching.

One thing I'm wondering here is, maybe, if I have "high place" involved here that I don't know about. The latest lesson, number 6, in a round about way asks the student to accept "gut instincts" as revelation from God. I'm not sure this is a biblical practice, and I know I'm going to have to address it during the class. I'm wondering though, if maybe I'm wrong about this, but the more I look at God's word the more I think this needs to be rebuked.

For one thing, it's protestant liberalism. Fredrick Schlaiarmacher, a Christian theologian/philosopher in the mid 19th century, began proposing that religious experience is rooted in the "internal", or in the heart. Along with this comes the idea of "personal revelation" being derived from sort of gut instincts, and saying that the Holy Spirit revealed this (whatever it may be) to us personally. This idea of "heart religion" or "internal" religion has spread through much of Christianity today, even into the Roman Catholic Church!

So when I see someone saying, "the Holy Spirit revealed to me", I have to question: What did he reveal? How does this stand up to God's Word? Did you search the scriptures and test the spirits to make sure that this revelation was true? Too often the answers are, "something pertaining to me (Job/family/finances)", "I don't know", and "no". So then Peter's statement about, "there is not personal interpretation of Scritpure" comes to mind... Well you get the picture.

But I'm growing weary of the fight, I think. I find myself correcting and exhorting a lot lately, asking people "what does scripture say", and "is this something that Jesus would agree with?" But most of the people around me here in florida are more interested in what the scriptures say to them personally, rather than what the scriptures actually say.

I'm tired. I pray that God will revive me.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Humor, laughter, squirming and the Word of God...

I know of many people who, when under stress or worrying, will crack a joke. Soldiers in combat zones crack jokes to relieve the tension in the war zone, we do it at work all the time... It seems like everyone, everywhere is cracking jokes. I'm assuming that this either means that people are just having a good time, or, then are under so much stress that they are cracking jokes a mile a minute.

A sense of humor is important. But shouldn't there be a time and place for cracking Jokes? Like at work, for instance, there's this old man who comes into the store every day, and says the same stupid thing: "it's about time you did something". The first couple of times, this was funny, but after about 1000 times, it's starting to really get on my nerves. But since this guy is a customer, we just let it go.

Jesus has a sense of Humor. Take this little episode...

Lk 9:54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them ?"
Lk 9:55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them...

I highlighted the names, James and John, because they are mentioned in Mark with the nick name, "son's of thunder", or Boanerges.

Mk 3:17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder)

Now, why would he give them a name like that? I can't help but laugh at that.

On the TV sitcom, M*A*S*H*, the doctors often cracked jokes to help deal with the the attrocities they witnessed on a daily basis. The stress and agitation, the bickering amongst themselves, they practical jokes played... all were to help deaden the pain of living in a war zone. That's a natural tendency of people, to cover up pain with a joke. They did it, "just to survive".

But, there is one thing lately that's been bothering me. People making jokes in church. Pastors telling the latest joke they recieved off the internet in thier sermons, members replacing the "offensive" commercials in the superbowl for a "football night at church" with videos of people falling and getting hurt, and the whole group just roaring and howling with laughter. And it's not that I'm offended by that, but rather... what are they covering up with thier jokes? Are they using them to help get through stressful moments during the service? When certain passages hit thier mark and the people are feeling particularly convicted, are they cracking jokes "just to survive"? Are they maybe covering up a guilty conscience? Are they trying to direct thier attention away from the conviction that comes when God's word is read to the congregation? Are they just having a good time?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ok, now to pick up where I was going with this...

I belong to a church here in Florida, a non denominational church. It's a nice church, filled with nice people who are sincere in thier faith. But I've learned that non denominational churches are magnets for everyone who has ever been disgruntled at thier old church. The number of people at my church run the gamot from pentacostals to methodists to baptist to church of Christ... And worse yet, they bring all thier excess baggage from those denominations with them.

As a result, the pastor feels like he has to make his sermons sort of "fit" the congregation where they are at. There are also a lot of former Roman Catholics, and anymore I think I know why. Sola fide isn't something that is preached in my church.

Sola fide is the latin phrase for "faith alone". In the bible, faith is referred to as something that is not a virtue, or optimistic attitude, but rather as the sole instrument of salvation. Tonight, our pastor talked about "getting yourself and your mind to where you really believe God at his word". I shrugged. Even before I started studying reformation theology I understood faith to be something else besides this.

The way I see it, faith doesn't equal optimism. Optimism, by definition, is "a doctrine that this world is the best possible world" or "an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome". (merriam-webster dictionary). But that is not faith, not even in the same dictionary. Faith is defined as "firm belief in something for which there is no proof" or "complete trust" and "something that is believed especially with strong conviction". "Complete trust" doesn't seem to be the same as "anticipat(ing) the best possible outcome".

So my pastor is telling people to "get yourself and your mind to where you really believe God at his word". Now, I'm inclined to think that this is what we do when we watch tv or go to the movies. In watching a movie, like maybe "Star wars" or "The Brothers Grimm", we "suspend disbelief" and get into the story and imagery as if they were real. We react with emotion, crying in the right places and laughing... Some people take this too far into the whole "geekdom" realm, where they dress up as the characters in a movie, like "Star wars" or the venerable "Rocky Horror Picture show". They are also "getting themselves and thier minds to where they really believe", even if for just a little while, before reality crashes down around thier ears, after they take off the Darth Vader masks and realize that the real world is "real" again.

I know of quite a few people that this is how church is for them. The have thier "WWJD" bracelets, thier "Jesus freak" t-shirts and such... and they dress up in a sort of christian geekdom, suspending disbelief as they "praise and worship", only to have a total collapse as they come down later on after the service. Reality comes crashing down around thier ears, and the real world is "real" again.

The reformers framed thier definition of faith this way: From the Heidelburg Catechism...

Q. What is true faith?

A. It is not only a certain knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word.[1] At the same time it is a firm confidence[2] that not only to others, but also to me,[3] God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation,[4] out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits.[5] This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.[6]
[1] Joh_17:3; Joh_17:17; Heb_11:1-3; Jam_2:19. [2] Rom_4:18-21; Rom_5:1; Rom_10:10; Heb_4:16. [3] Gal_2:20. [4] Rom_1:17; Heb_10:10. [5] Rom_1:1-26; Gal_2:16; Eph_2:8-10. [6] Act_16:14; Rom_1:16; Rom_10:17; 1Co_1:21.

Not only a certain knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed in His word...

Jas 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

But at the same time a firm confidence...

Heb 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Ro 4:19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.
Ro 4:20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,
Ro 4:21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Ro 10:10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Eph 3:12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Heb 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jas 1:6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

What I get from this definition of faith is something altogether different that an "optimistic attitude". This is something that we cannot manufacture, as we do when we "suspend" disbelief.

EPH 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God...

I believe that we cannot "make" ourselves believe at all. Only God can do that. And that "faith" not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

How many times do we pray, "God, please bring (insert name of unsaved family or friends) to a saving faith in Christ", or "Please reveal yourself to this person that they might believe in Jesus"? All the time. We know that only God can work faith in someone, but we constantly dilute our knowledge of this with strange definitions of faith that sabotage our daily lives.

God, please keep me from trying to manufacture my own faith and make open to the gift of faith that you give me. Amen

Friday, September 09, 2005

Losing a loved one...

This past Sunday night, my oldest brother passed away. He had a heart attack several months ago, one that was so bad the doctor's said his heart was only 17 percent functional. But by the power of God he survived and stymied the doctors.

This all sounds kind of standard stuff that you would expect from a story like this one. A last minute miracle, a family in crisis... I know at least I've heard it a few hundred times. But I want to look at what really happened for a minute. I've turned it over in my mind for quite a while now, so I want to share some of what I've gleaned.

First of all, my brother didn't remember any of what happened to him. Some of my friends from church had become adept at pointing out that "God did this to show your brother his power", but the only people who saw that power was the family. They saw him defy the odds, even improving in certain areas where the doctors and nurses said he should be dying. They saw his arm, which had grown infected, actually getting better while he was supposedly dying. They saw him respond to them calling out his name when he should have been totally unresponsive...

The family saw all of that, but my brother remembered none of it.

He was also, at least in many of the family's estimates, not a christian. So the first thing they did when he was conscious again was to tell him about the big "miracle" that he had experienced; the miracle that he couldn't remember. They were at a loss as to how to convert him, it would seem, until my little brother and some members of his church went to his room at the nursing home where he was staying came and preached the gospel to him.

See, it wasn't the "miracle" that got my brother saved. He couldn't remember that. It was hearing about Jesus and hearing about what Jesus' blood had purchased for him that my older brother came to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior. It was hearing "the good news" that did it. the "miracle" didn't do it at all, for all the miracle did was prolong his life long enough to recieve the true "miracle" that is salvation.

Jesus told some followers about this in the Gospel according to John.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal." (John 6:26-27, NASB)

Jesus saw the "miracle" of the loaves and fishes as "food that perishes". The people, after Jesus fed them with this "miracle", wanted to sieze him and make him king. But Jesus went away from them and only later exclaimed the difference between the bread that they ate that was the "miracle" and the bread that comes from heaven. Jesus meant that the true miracle lies in Him alone.

"Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life." (John 6:61-63, NASB)

The miracle that saved my brother wasn't being spared death in this life that one time, but rather the miracle of the gospel. Our faith doesn't depend on seeing miracles, but rather on Jesus alone.

I miss my brother. But I'm glad that he came to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior. That's the greatest miracle of all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A visit to the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod)

~~ Christ is in thee, and thou in Him; knit together inseparably. Neither canst thou be damned, except Christ be damned with thee: neither can Christ be saved, except thou be saved with Him~~ William Tyndale

Recently, because of much of the studying of scripture and history I've been doing, I visited a Lutheran Church, specifically a Missouri Synod church. For those who don't know the difference, there is the mainline Lutheran World Federation, but there are several smaller "synods" that are autonomous from the Mainline churches.

I did a bit of research, looking for a church whose practice was as close to what it would have been like back in the reformation times. They have a liturgy, an old testament reading, a gospel reading, an epistle reading, a sermon, a reading of the Nicene creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Lord's supper... Every sunday!

Without getting into detail about the church itself, I thought I'd describe the way thier service goes. The first thing I noticed that's different is once the service starts, they don't stop for any reason. Kids get up and run around? The pastor continues the service. Lighting problems? They go on anyway. The second thing I noticed is in the liturgy, they have a heavy definition of sin. Just read this...

Forgive my sins.
Forgive me the sins of my present and the sins of
my past,The sins of my soul and the sins of my body; the sins I have done to
please myself and the sins which I have done to please other.

Forgive me my careless and idle sins;
forgive me my serious and deliberate sins.

Forgive me those which I know and those sins
which I know not, the sins which I have so labored to hide from others that I
have hid them from my own memory.

Forgive them all, O Lord, and of Your great mercy
let me be absolved.

By the power of Your Holy Name, deliver me from
the bonds of all that by my frailty I have committed, for the sake of Christ
Jesus, our Lord. Amen

This is way different than what I hear in my own church. Sins that we have blotted from our memory? Desparate to hide them?

The old testament reading was from 1 Kings 3:5-12. The epistle reading was from Romans 8:28-30...

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those
who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom
He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so
that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He
predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and
these whom He justified, He also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against

With this and Matthew 13:44-52, the sermon was on God's larger purpose. The message was clean and pure, no testimonies by the pastor about what movies he's seen or books he'd read. No lecturing or disecting the text into strongs definitions. Just a pure word given as comfort to those struggling as Job struggled with the why's and wherefore's of God's redemptive purposes.

Then came "the long prayers". This consisted of the pastor praying for the various requests... With something added that I really came to like. In between each prayer for each person's need, the pastor would say "Lord, in your mercy", and the congregation would reply, "hear our prayer". This ensured that at least I was paying attention, and I'm sure that's one of the reasons for this.

After the offering was collected, came the service of Holy communion. Now, what immediately stood out here was that the pastor spoke God's word over the service...

Luke the Evangelist wrote of our risen Savior
that when he was at the table with the disciple from Emmaus, he took bread and
blessed it, broke it and gave it to them. Then thier eyes were opened and
they recognized him, that they may share in the feast he had

On the night when HE was betrayed, our Lord took
bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take, eat;
this is my Body, which is broken for you. Do this in rememberance of
me." In the same way he also took the cup after supper, and when he had
given thanks he gave it to them saying, "drink of it, all of you; this cup is
the new testament in my Blood, which is poured out for the forgiveness of
sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in rememberance of me."
Therefore, remembering his death, believing in his rising from the grave,
affirming his presence no, in this place, we obey his command and wait the gift
of himself...

The Lord's prayer is recited, and the distribution begins. First helpers, ushers and the like go up and take the supper, then they in turn help distribute to the rest of the congregation. As each row recieves the bread and wine, the pastor tells them, "recieve the body of Christ" and "recieve the blood of Christ, poured out for the remission of sins"... Then he says this: "
The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in
body and soul unto life everlasting. Depart in peace.."

The last person to take the supper is the pastor, who steps down and is given the supper by the first elder to recieve... signifying, I believe, that the pastor needs the supper as much as everyone else.

But what's interesting here after the supper was "the benediction"... the declaration that our sins are forgiven.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, Keep
our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of His Son Jesus
Christ, our Lord; And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you alway.

That last word isn't a typo. It's saying that your path shall continue on the narrow way, rather than "all ways".

I like this type of service. It's very focused, is WAY shorter than at my church, which tops out on sunday mornings at 2 plus hours. After the service, they always adjourn to the fellowship hall for coffee and cakes (or fresh veggies!), and everyone has a great time.

And I had a great time. Some people might call this "quaint". But it was refreshing.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Objective Truth or Subjective truth?

~~ Superstition, idolatry, and hypocrisy have ample wages, but truth goes a-begging ~~ Martin Luther

Objective Truth or Subjective Truth?

One subject, or category, that seems to be missing today is Objective Truth. Lately, I’ve been embroiled in issues at work and at church, concerning what’s true and what isn’t. Rather than get into politics at work, I’ll start with church.

It came to the Pastor’s attention that people had many questions concerning the issue of “generational curses”. My Pastor’s good, but being a first generation pastor with little or no background in church history… He isn’t even familiar with the Brahman hymnal… He sometimes struggles with some things that are basic. One place he struggles with is “Law and Gospel”. There’s been a movement in our church towards “deliverance”, meaning people are looking for deliverance from demonic entanglements and other perceived spiritual threats. Now I, like most of you, believe in demons and the devil, but most Christians with some background know that demonic possession is impossible in an individual who is indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Light, afterall, cannot have a place with darkness, right.

But many of these folks, in their desire to receive the blessings of God but frustrated that they haven’t received the blessings they think they should be getting, have bought into the notion that it’s the powers and principalities that be that are preventing them from receiving their blessings. They point to a “generational curse” of poverty or what have you, and go around from one deliverance gathering to another looking to have that spirit removed.

My Pastor wisely took a stand against that. But in doing so, he had to take a path that took him directly into the area of the difference between the Law of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He had to talk about the original curse in the Garden of Eden, and talk about the two trees (tree of life, tree of the knowledge of good and evil) in terms of law and gospel. In his first sermon, he got flustered in the end because he didn’t know how to say “the law is what brings a curse, and the gospel delivers us from that curse”.

It’s a simple truth… One that seems to be hard for the congregation to grasp. By the next sermon, after a little bit of talking with him by some of us more mature Christians, he came back with the truth in a clarity that’s rare for any pastor, let alone our pastor. (Needless to say, I’m very proud of him). He explained how the “curse” of the law came to us through our first father, then our own fathers sin through the generations, since each generation “to the third and fourth generation” continues to sin and passes the curse on to the next generation… The cycle goes on forever unless something breaks the cycle. Then he explained how the gospel… How Jesus’ death and blood dispels that curse forever! Like it says in the Decalogue, “but showing mercy to the hundredth that loves me and keeps my commandments”. No need for deliverance, just a dire need of Jesus’ person and work. Then… The moment of profound clarity.

He said, “Now that you are in Christ, who is your father?” The congregation stammered here and there, “God”. Then the Pastor said, “So, if your father is our Heavenly Father, God himself, then what CURSE can befall you? What curse does God pass on, since in him there is no sin?”

Now, many in the congregation immediately saw that this is true. Of course, Jesus’ sacrifice does away with the curse of the law, and of course the generational curse is the curse of the law. But, there are still many in the church who are hanging onto the “generational curse” theory, saying that the pastor got it wrong.

So, what is true? Who is getting it right? The pastor? The people who disagree with him?

The reformers believed that scripture was the sole authority that norms our lives, and they believed that scripture is in plain language and means what it says. If God makes a promise to us, and since he is not a man that he would like, it follows that God’s promises are bankable and true. But many in the congregation are taking the plain language of scripture and twisting it to say what Paul said would happen… “They will heap up teachers who will say what their itching ears want to hear. They will stop listening to the truth and be turned aside to fables”.

It’s no accident that the New Testament was written in common street Greek rather than classical Greek. After all, Jesus was born in a feed trough. Is common language really this hard to understand?
Is truth only ever subjective? Or is God’s word Objective?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

"Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as I trust shall never be put out!"~~
Hugh Latimer to his friend and colleague, Nicholas Ridley, on the occasion of their martyrdom at Oxford on 16 October 1555, at the hands of Mary, Queen of England…

The Protestant Reformation, unlike the times we live in today, was a time of great upheaval for Christians. While we get up each day, eat, do our chores and go to work, the reformers were discussing the prepositional truths of Christianity, often at the risk of their own lives. The Gospel had been let out of the Medieval Church’s closet like a cat out of a bag, and this Holy Word would not return void.

Today, the church is no longer threatened in the manner that it was threatened in those days. Today our perception is based on what our culture is doing, and when the culture encroaches upon our sense of moral outrage, we say we are being “persecuted”. But the truth is, we are only outraged when it is convenient, and the “truth” that we say we have is only as concrete as our meal plans for the day or our vacation plans. God’s word has been reduced to one great big, long proverb; a timeless plan for our lives rather than a specific history of the work of God in his creation, and the revelation of his Son, Jesus Christ. We are jealous of the culture that offends us precisely because we want the culture to like us, much like the ancient Israelites wanted their pagan gentile neighbors to like them. We, like them, hate being a pecular people.

As a result, we tone down the rhetoric of Christianity, hiding the message of truth in psychobabble and fluff, hoping that our neighbors will make that decision to see things our way… When the truth is what they really need to hear. The gospel isn’t about therapeutic claims like the other world religions and mystic new age sciences make; Rather the gospel is God’s declaration that his one and only Son has completed the task of redemption himself in our behalf. To offer one’s life for a message that the world absolutely and definitively hates is utter foolishness.

But a few have stood in the wilderness of error in the history of Christianity and have done exactly that. They were more than “culturally” persecuted. They were tortured and burned at the stake, beheaded, hung… And today’s Christian is afraid of offending thier neighbors.

We absolutely MUST reclaim the truths of the reformation. To do so is to reclaim the apostolic proclamation of the gospel. Only by standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, studied before us, prayed before us… and many times died before us... Only then can we make a difference in this world. May God’s spirit open our eyes and ears again to the truth.

the big test

Since someone, somewhere, has seen fit to deprive the world of Issues etc and take a huge bite out of confessional Lutheranism at the same time, I will not take up the mantle of working to see that those who did it answer for their actions.
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