Monthly Archives: September 2014

Fragmented Christianity

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity! –
Psalm 133:1 (NRSV) 

I have been to many different types of churches from Roman Catholic, Charismatic Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist (American, Conservative, Southern and Independent), Congregationalist, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Fundamentalist… the list goes on and on. Every one of them (with the exception of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who I visited *only once*) professes belief in the Trinity and the fact that Jesus came to die for us and rose from the dead in the promise of life everlasting for those who know Him. Today, I attend a non-denominational church that is big on God’s grace– as it is available to anyone who will receive it through Jesus.

I understand that Roman Catholics have some beliefs that others don’t consider biblically grounded and claim authority that others would deny. I myself have some serious disagreement with more than one doctrine they teach. But, the core of the faith: who Jesus is (and what He did) is essentially the same, as far as I can tell (with limited exposure to Catholic teaching). Therefore, I do know some Catholics on a personal level who I consider brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of where they attend church on Sundays.

I refuse to go off into some theological discussion or argument of the merits or liabilities of any one way of thinking or believing; however, I will remind my brothers and sisters of the simple criteria outlined in the Bible that will determine the eternal destiny of anybody:  So if you believe deep in your heart that God raised Jesus from the pit of death and if you voice your allegiance by confessing the truth that “Jesus is Lord,” then you will be saved! -Romans 10:9 (VOICE)

I can fellowship with anybody who sincerely believes and adheres to the tenets of faith as outlined in the Apostle’s Creed. Beyond that, whether it is a Roman belief in Papal authority, some other ritual, the Lutheran practice of infant baptism (they are not alone in that practice) or the Pentecostal traditions of speaking in tongues/faith healing, I personally leave it up to the individual understanding and conscience of the believer and for God to evaluate, not me. What I like to look for are the born-again believers who are therefore part of that “invisible church” that exists within most churches. As a friend used to say, “those who understand the red letters.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. I have a core set of beliefs and values that I will not bend to fit the scene of the day. I consider the Bible to be the infallible Word of God and take the authority of the Scripture very seriously. I also believe that the answers to the theological questions we may ask [and God requires us to understand] will be found within the pages of the Bible. That said, I look to God’s Word to discover what makes a Christian a Christian and find it is summed up quite nicely in Romans 10:9– no matter what translation you read it in.

What is Good and Beautiful?

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. -Romans 8:28 (VOICE)

This is one of the most quoted verses from the Bible that I hear. People who push prosperity theology sometimes roll this one out as part of the documentation for their claims that simply believing will produce material prosperity here on Earth. Sometimes, it seems like they think that God is their personal butler, ready to come running when the bell rings.

I guess it depends on how one defines “something good and beautiful.” I think that what is good and beautiful is what pleases God. When He is pleased, it certainly will benefit us and bring real, lasting happiness– not like the thrill of a new car that is shiny and smells new, but quickly gets dull, rusty and smelly in a few short years before reaching its final destination in a junk yard. The value of things that please God are eternal.

A Righteous Nation

English: I took photo with Canon camera.

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. -Proverbs 14:34

People used to call the United States a righteous nation. Oh sure, we have always had enemies (those who seek to subvert our way of life and change us to their way of thinking). Any serious student of history knows that the United States was founded as a Christian nation with Christian principles. That fact is not really debatable. Some have sought to rewrite history and, furthermore, make those who defend her principles and Christian morality to members of some sort of ‘hate group.’ Sadly, it makes one wonder if we’ll ever be the great nation we once were again? I used to believe wholeheartedly in the idea of American exceptional-ism as I looked at all the great and wonderful things we accomplished in the world and the way we stood up to tyranny. The answer (as all of them are) is to be found in the Bible: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. -2 Chronicles 7:14


Embed from Getty Images

What Are Your Motives?

As mentioned in previous posts, I have been thinking a lot recently about ‘prosperity doctrine’ and those who teach it. The Bible tells us that we will know false teachers by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). Perhaps some or many of them really believe what they are peddling. It’s a little hard to justify some extremely rich T.V. evangelist’s extravagance with the message of the Gospel and the teachings of Christ, isn’t it? There is no doubt that Matthew 7:1-2 is there for a very good reason. The Bible clearly teaches us that He searches our hearts and, therefore, knows our motives for what we ask Him for:  But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. -1 Thessalonians 2:4 

We know that we are stewards of the Earth and that what we see as our possessions belong to God. Psalm 24 reminds us that the Earth is the Lord’s. He owns it and everything in it– lock, stock and barrel.  That includes, of course, us.

Here’s another example of what I am writing about:

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. -Hebrews 4:11-13 

Be thankful in all things.

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (MSG)

I posted this on my other blog and think it bears repeating in my WordPress blog, so here it is…

I haven’t posted in a few days, because I’ve been preoccupied with a flare up of carpal tunnel syndrome. It comes and goes, but has been ‘coming’ a bit more than ‘going’ lately– and this most recent flare up has been somewhat debilitating. At least I’m pretty sure it’s carpal tunnel syndrome– the doctor will know better when I see him in another week. I’ve put up with intermittent symptoms for a year + so I guess it’s time to address it.

Despite the pain and frustration of not having abilities previously taken for granted, I have managed to maintain some semblance of gratitude and even thought of God a bit during my time of self-pity. In all honesty, joking aside, I am grateful for what I have. My afflictions are light when compared to many and do give me cause to stop and think of God– rather than just taking for granted all the blessings He has given me in my life. The fact that I am able to type this blog post alone is something to give thanks for. It is much easier to do today than it would have been yesterday, so progress is being made in relieving the symptoms– and there are solutions available today in the modern world that were previously non-existent.

So I am still able to function and take care of what counts. The discomfort of this condition is manageable. Today is my wedding anniversary and I am married to a woman who is my best friend and partner in life. I am saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus. There is much to give thanks for, of that I am sure. That includes my afflictions.

Keep Your Eyes On Him

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. -1 John 2:15-17 (MSG)

, American religious figure.

A brother in Christ sent me a link to a YouTube video about televangelists who prey on the gullible. One guy was selling some sort of “anointed water” that would bring its recipients wealth and even miraculously cancel their debt! Apparently, this guy had been exposed for his fraud years earlier and his ministry ended up bankrupt, but he managed to get right back into peddling his “spiritual wares.” This is one reason I am often skeptical of most televangelists, especially when I read of their enormous wealth or personal scandals. Some of them are wolves and give Christianity a bad name in the eyes of those who do not know Christ. I’m sure Satan loves it. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that every preacher on television or the Internet is bad. Millions of people were introduced to Jesus through the crusades of Billy Graham. I have nothing but the deepest respect for his ministry. I think that teachers like Charles Stanley are also very valuable resources for encouragement and strengthening in God’s Word. I have learned much from him and others like him. My advice would be to always pray for understanding and be prepared to check everything they teach with the Bible like the Bereans did: These Jews were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so. -Acts 17:11 (NET)

Please don’t put your faith in T.V. preachers just because they draw big crowds or promise wealth and good health by “speaking the Word.” God is not your personal butler or ‘genie in a bottle.’ He is the Sovereign Lord, Creator of the universe and all that is. It’s enough that He loves us so and sent His only begotten Son for us. Keep your eyes on Him.

 

The Danger of Prosperity Doctrine

Satan Smiting Job with Boils, from the Butts s...

pros·per·i·ty noun \prä-ˈsper-ə-tē\
: the state of being successful usually by making a lot of money

Many preachers of the “charismatic persuasion” love to tout the idea that [if you just believe and say it is so] blessings will flow out of heaven to you and you will be blessed with material things and great health. Sounds nice. They pick certain Bible verses (and omit others that contradict their teaching) to prove that what they say is true. Somehow, God becomes relegated to the role of servant– our ‘personal butler’ who comes running when we ring the bell to find out how to please us best. What a sad and dangerous thing it is to demote almighty, sovereign God to such a position. I beg to differ with my brothers and sisters (and false teachers) who subscribe to such teaching. In order to make my case, I shall refer the reader to what God’s Word says on the subject (and not by just pulling a select few verses out of context).

My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. -James 1:2-4 (NET)

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I must confess that, at one point, I wanted to buy into the whole idea of “speaking blessings into existence.” The Bible has revealed certain things to me and [I believe] it has been put on my heart to write about this in my blog.

“What is mankind that you make so much of them,
and that you pay attention to them? -Job 7:17 (NET)

I read a daily devotional Bible that takes you through the Bible in a year (my plan has been to read a different version every year). This year, I am going through the King James Version (Andrew Murray Devotional Bible published by Barbour). Because it is King James, I am a little slower at reading it and have to stop a little more frequently, ask for guidance and ponder the meaning of some words and phrases that might otherwise be easier to grasp in a more modern translation. Therefore, I really crawled through the book of Job (just wrapped it up) and had plenty of time to ponder what it all means. So, let’s give some careful thought to Job’s story…

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. And that man was pure and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions included 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys; in addition he had a very great household. Thus he was the greatest of all the people in the east. -Job 1:1-3 (NET)

Job was a righteous man whom God loved (as He does all of us). Job prospered in all his affairs, having a large family and wealth in land, livestock, servants, etc. He seemed to put God first in all of his affairs.

Now the day came when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord—and Satan also arrived among them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” And Satan answered the Lord, “From roving about on the earth, and from walking back and forth across it.” So the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil.”

Then Satan answered the Lord, “Is it for nothing that Job fears God? Have you not made a hedge around him and his household and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock have increased in the land. But extend your hand and strike everything he has, and he will no doubt curse you to your face!”

So the Lord said to Satan, “All right then, everything he has is in your power. Only do not extend your hand against the man himself!” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. -Job 1:6-12 (NET)

We know from reading on in the book that eventually Satan is allowed to smite Job with boils and he suffers immensely. All that he has (now including his health) is stripped away. Even his own wife suggests that he curse God and die (Job 2:9). Awful. Surely Job struggles with his condition but eventually repents “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1-6). What would some of these modern faith healers and prosperity teachers have said to Job if they were his contemporaries? Would they have told him he didn’t have enough faith? Did God ever stop loving Job? These are rather important questions for the thinking Christian to be asking themselves, are they not?

Does God bless His people? Yes, of course. In many ways I have been blessed in my life. But that doesn’t make us immune to heartache, financial problems and health issues. God will bless us, but in His time and with what He sees fit for us to have to bring glory to Him. Let us not ever forget who is the servant and who is the master.

Perhaps we need to examine what we as believers regard as true prosperity in the first place. Note the definition of prosperity as given by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. the state of being successful usually by making a lot of money. I think, as Christians, perhaps we need to redefine our measure of success and take the “money” part out of it. We may make a lot of money. Or we may not. what God guarantees us as His children is eternal success.

The Blessings of Abraham

English: Deuteronomy 8:18, Thou shalt remember...

“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God: -Deuteronomy 28:1-2 (NASB)

In the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, we are given the promise of blessings if we but give the Lord His rightful place and acknowledge Him in all our affairs. Originally intended for a specific people in a specific time in history, as believers in Christ, we have access to those very same blessings! There is a cause for celebration. The blessings don’t just begin after we depart this world in Christ, they are here for us now– in Christ. One caveat: Read the first verse of the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy. We must be careful not to think we can just be nice to God for a moment and are then showered with all these blessings. The is something written in verse 1 about diligent obedience. Please do not confuse this with documentation to promote some sort of prosperity doctrine. More on that in future posts.

So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. -Galatians 3:9 (NLT)

 

Lighting the way…

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. -Psalm 119:105

I have heard it said that the answers to all of life’s questions may be found in the Bible. I don’t hear that claim being made about other books or programs– just the Bible. Some may make that claim, but I have found that the Bible backs it up with a proven track record. I have been through dark paths in my lifetime and the light of God’s Scripture has always managed to shed some light on the road as I journey closer to Him.