Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Enlightening Conversation

I met a couple of very nice ladies yesterday. They came to my door and wanted to enlighten me about Heavenly Mother. It was an interesting conversation but the highlights were that one of the ladies challenged me to show her just one verse in the Old Testament where the Israelites were called the "children of God." I'm not sure what her purpose was because she was rather surprised when I got out my concordance and found Deuteronomy 14:1 for her. Obviously I shot down whatever the "proof" was that she was going to give me because she changed the subject.
I decided to return the favor, so I asked her to show me just one verse anywhere in the bible where it said we have a "heavenly mother." She said she'd given me the proofs; I told her that she'd taken a few passages out of context.
That's when she realized that I knew a little too much about the bible to be interested in learning about Heavenly Mother, so she told me that Jesus had already returned. I disagreed and offered to look at the prophecies about the Second Coming to show her why that wasn't possible. She got a smug smile and told me that I would see.
In the course of the conversation, she also told me that she has no questions about the bible anymore because Heavenly Mother has revealed all to her. She never questions the leaders of her church because if they're wrong, Heavenly Mother will correct them. She told me Heavenly Mother has to be right because over a million people belong to her church.
I asked her and her friend if they were willing to put their beliefs to the test. She said she had no need to. I said I wasn't afraid to test my beliefs and if she or her friend wanted to come back and explore the bible with me to see who's beliefs hold up, I'd be willing to study with them.
I wonder if either of those ladies will ever question what they've been taught. I wonder if they're willing to have their faith challenged. I know I am. I hope you are. We can never ever blindly accept what the leaders of our church say, the bible is very clear on that. We must examine everything they say, hold it up against the light of the bible and see if it shines true.
It is my earnest desire that every Christian would learn how to study the bible properly and for themselves (though not by themselves).
Do you study the bible properly? Do you know how? Are you willing to learn?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On Trees and Reality

Have you ever heard that philosophical question "If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one to hear it, does it make a sound?"
I remember that the first time I heard that question, I thought it was ridiculous. I was only in junior high school, but I still knew that sound doesn't require a hearer to be sound. Sound is created by waves in the air. Even if no one hears it, it's still a sound. The tree hits the ground, so of course it makes a sound.
When I learned about scientific experiments, I realized the philosophical "value" of the question rested in the fact that there is no way to objectively verify that the tree does indeed make a sound if no one is around to hear it. Even a recording device that will be retrieved later gives the tree a hearer.
That' s not to say that maybe a tree doesn't make a noise if no one can hear it. That just says that we can't objectively verify the truth.
Now, I could go into a rant about how so many things, like God and angels, can't be objectively verified even though they are true, but I'm not going to do that. It would be too obvious. Instead, I'm going to point out how that question illustrates the arrogance of mankind.
As if we are what defines reality!
The truth is that life goes on for other people and animals once you leave the room. Your friends don't go into animate suspension when you're gone only to come to life again in your life-giving presence. Trees do make sounds when they fall in the forest and you aren't there to hear them.
Neither you nor I are the ones who hold the universe together. God is. He's the one who hears every tree that falls, sees every tear that drops and knows every thought that is not uttered. He defines reality, yours, mine and the tree's.
So, if you ever hear some philosophical wiseguy pose that question, just smile and tell him. "It's impossible for a tree to fall with no one to hear it because God hears everything!"

Monday, July 18, 2011

Behind the Song - At the Cross

I don't know if you're familiar with the worship song "At the Cross." I really like that song. Not for the beautiful tune (though it does have a melody and rhythm you can really get into for worship), but for the wonderful reminder of what Jesus did for us.
It's pretty easy for most people to pick up on the 'your blood was shed for me' and 'you have overcome the grave' parts, but I wonder how many people understand 'you tore the veil' and 'what can separate me now.'
Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45 all report that at the moment Jesus died, the veil in the temple was torn in two, Matthew and Mark both specifying 'from top to bottom.'
The significance of this event is great but we have to go back to the Old Testament to fully understand it. In Exodus 26:31-37 God gave the instructions for making that veil and for its purpose. It was to cover the Most Holy Place. The Mercy Seat of God was placed inside that Most Holy Place, behind the veil. Leviticus 16 tells us that only the high priest, on one day out of the year, the Day of Atonement, could enter the Most Holy Place where the Mercy Seat of God was. The high priest had an elaborate ritual that he had to perform to be prepared to go behind the veil. The penalty of not being properly prepared was death.
In other words, no one could get to the Mercy Seat of God except indirectly through the high priest and even he took a big risk doing it.
Hebrews 9 gives us very good insight into what happened at the moment of Jesus Christ's death. He was a perfect sacrifice who had no need of ritual to make himself clean before he could atone for the sins of the people. Instead, when he tore the veil, he opened up the way for all to get to the Mercy Seat of God. He became a High Priest forever! The last one ever needed. The veil was torn because nothing now separates us from God! We have direct access to him through the blood of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul assures us that we are now the temple of the Lord, both individually and corporately as a church (1 Corinthians 3:17 & 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21). That is the truth behind 'nothing can separate me now'!
The veil was torn. That veil restricted access to God to just one man, one day every year. The veil was torn because God came to man! No longer do we have to wait in fear and trembling for the high priest to come out of that mysterious secret place where God dwells on earth and assure us that our sins are forgiven. Now we have direct access because that place where God dwells on earth is in us! What a great and glorious blessing!
Next time you sing that wonderful worship song "At the Cross," please open your heart to fully see it's glorious reminder of what Christ did for us, not just in his shed blood but also in the torn veil. Sing that song like you've never sang it before because truly nothing separates us from God!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On Oaths and Dying

In the last part of Acts, Luke tells the story of how Paul ended up in Rome. That story's very interesting, but one part in particular is very intriguing. In Chapter 23, more than forty of Paul's countrymen hatched a plot. They had "bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul."At the end of Acts, Paul is very much alive and residing in Rome waiting for his audience with Caesar.
In this day and age, oaths aren't that big of a deal, but back in Paul's day, an oath breaker at the very least lost his honor, at the worst he may lose his life. So, if Paul lived more than four years after that oath (see 24:27 & 28:30), what happened to the forty men who took the oath to kill him?
We know that the human body can survive at least forty days without food, but four years? I don't think even the longest hunger strike ever has gone on that long! Did the men finally break down and start eating again after Paul slipped out of their clutches, or did some of them actually keep their oaths and slowly starve to death?
We don't really need to know. Maybe one of the reasons Luke threw this in was because in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his disciples to not make oaths, but to merely let your yes be yes and your no be no. He said "And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black."
Making an oath like that - to not eat or drink until they kill Paul - is really foolish. It assumes you have a lot more control over life than you do. You may be thinking that you would never do anything so foolish, but is that so? Have you ever said to a worried child "I'm not going to die"? How can you make such a promise? Why would you make such a promise?
What those kinds of promises do is over inflate our importance. The point you should address isn't "will you die and leave me?" Instead, the point needs to be that even if you do die, the child still has God. Don't go for an easy answer. Go for the one that's going to help them learn to trust God rather than trust you. You'll certainly have to do a bit more talking than a simple, "I'm not going to die, sweetie," but it's well worth it to teach a child a very important lesson about the heavenly Father.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Building a Blog

After reviewing my blogging failure, which I talked about last blog, I thought about how I could overcome my problems. One of the issues for me is having the time to write the blog. I have a reminder in my Outlook, but most of the time I just dismiss it or send it to sleep. The reason for that is that I don't want to take the time from whatever I am currently working on to work on my blog. It's especially hard when I'm trying to do a serial blog. It's not that I don't love doing it, it's just that I don't feel as a strong a passion to doing it as when I'm writing a book or a message that I know when and where I'm going to give. Part of that is in knowing I have an audience, part of it is in knowing I'm doing what God has called me to do. Since I don't know I have an audience for my blog, I don't have the urgency to write. On the other hand, there's the "if you build it they will come" school of thought. Why should anyone read my blog if I'm not blogging? That comes up against: Why should I blog if no one is reading it? Do you see my problem? So (and maybe this is the secret to successful blogs), I'm not writing my blog for anyone but me! If someone happens to drop by and wants to take a sneak peek into my thoughts, they're welcome. In the meantime, I'll just blog selfishly. I love to 'hear myself talk' anyway!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lessons in Failure

For some odd reason, my blog makes me think of failure. Go figure! Could it have something to do with the fact that I can't seem to get it right? I can't seem to be faithful in writing my blog. I can write a three hundred-twenty page book, a forty minute message or a ten page academic paper, all with relative ease and generally in a reasonable length of time, but I can't stick with a blog. Why is that?
Failures fall into two general categories. There's the old familiar sin type of failure - a rebellious refusal to obey parents, having an affair, holding up a convenience store, lying to cover your tracks. Then there's the kind of failure that comes from a lack of knowledge - the wall you built fell down, you didn't make it out the door on time, you can't seem to do a blog right.
The secret to recovering from failure is three-fold - first you have to recognize that you have failed. This may seem like a no-brainer, but trust me, I know of people who have affairs but they don't think they failed. Their spouse did and they're just responding appropriately. Those people cannot recover from failure.
Second, determine whether your failure was a sin-type that you need to repent of or just the garden variety lack of knowledge. Prayer and discussing the issue with trusted godly friends is the best way to do this.
Finally, with the same aforementioned help, figure out where you went wrong. How did you get on the wrong track? If you sinned, you allowed something to grow in your attitude that prevented you from recognizing and rejecting temptation. Ask God to help you get back to the right attitude. If you simply failed to complete a task in the right way, maybe you lacked the knowledge to succeed, so seek the knowledge; maybe you don't have the right abilities yet, so get some more practice under your belt, take some classes; maybe you were approaching it from the wrong angle, so seek the right angle.
I have the knowledge and ability to write. I haven't yet found the right angle for writing a blog! That is why I'm a blog failure. I'm going to take the lessons that I've learned from that failure and see if I can't find the right angle to be a successful blogger. I hope you'll drop in occasionally and see if I'm learning to get it right.