Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Broken Clay Pot

A friend of mine gave me a very interesting analogy for her life. She said she was like a clay pot that had been broken. All the bigger pieces can be glued back together again, but some of that pot has been shattered to dust. It can't be retrieved and glued back in with the rest.
I really like that analogy, especially if you take it one step further.
When the clay pot of your life is broken, it happens right there in front of your Creator. He picks up the bigger pieces and lovingly sets them back on his workbench then he sweeps up the dust, sifting it carefully to keep only the parts of you, not the rubbish that might have been mixed in with it. He saves that dust in a little bin, safe from the wind that would blow it away. He loving begins to piece the pot back together again.
Sometimes you're going to resist his work and fall apart before he's done, but he's not going to quit. He'll pick up the pieces again, but this time there won't be as much dust left because the glue he's using is going to shield the edges of your broken pot.
Eventually he's going to have the big pieces all put back together again. Sure enough, there are still cracks and even some gaping holes in the pot, but the Potter isn't done yet. He takes that dust of your life that he's saved, mixes it with some special clay made of love, joy, peace and goodness then adds a bit of water that pours from his own side. With the paste he creates, he carefully and expertly fills in all those cracks and holes, working until everything is filled in. He smooths it, blending it carefully so that the new clay perfectly lays over the broken pot that is now no longer broken.
But the Potter's not done yet. Now he glazes the newly made pot with the Spirit of life then thrusts it into fiery trials. When the pot comes out of the fire, it is stronger, better than it was before it was ever broken. It now also has character that it didn't have before, a unique beauty unlike any other pot in the Potter's shed.
If that pot gets broken again, or even just chipped or cracked, the Potter will again fix the pot, each time making it even more beautiful.
The only role the pot has to play is to submit to the Potter's hands. If the pot resists, it will continue to break apart and crumble. Eventually it will be gone, lost for all eternity because it rejected its Creator's love.
Will you accept the work of the Potter, or will you resist, rejecting the love that can make you new again?

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Garbage of Life

Last night at church one of the men gave an analogy about the junk from our past and the junk in a garbage dump. It went something like this:
When rubbish is downloaded into a dump, it's packed down into layer upon layer. The more time passes, the more the garbage shifts and compacts. If there was something you needed to get out of the dump that was deposited even just months before, it's already been buried by a small mountain of other garbage. You'll have to root around down there until you hook onto it, but when you try to pull it out, it's going to be caught on a whole lot of other rubbish. Some of that rubbish will stick with it and come out when it does, but other rubbish will be tangled with something else that keeps any of the rubbish from coming up out of the dump with any ease.
When we try to get to the source of negative thinking in our lives, we'll usually find that's hard to do. We can identify a certain memory that contributed to something - let's say self doubt. So someone remembers that her father repeatedly told her that she couldn't do anything by herself. She's found the rubbish that's the source of her current problems and she forgives it. It's done, over with, gone.
Not even! That rubbish is hooked onto something else. Maybe her mom wouldn't ever let her help with any of the household chores. That's going to be a real hard one to find because she doesn't even recognize it as a negative thing!
So the point is that most of us live on a garbage dump of a past. God will help us get out all the garbage, but it's going to take time and a lot of patient work. It's worth the effort. What you need to do is keep a focus on the end goal - a new life as a truly joyful person.
Be forewarned though, once you've asked God to start the process, he's not going to quit, no matter how much you whine when thing get stinky down in the dump. Learn to plug your nose and keep at it. Someday you'll have a beautiful, sweet smelling flower garden.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Restore File

Isn't it amazing how difficult life gets with technology? We always think about things being easier than they were even fifty years ago but sometimes they get harder, especially when technology goes awry. Computers are both the bane of my existence and what makes my current 'career' possible. Using my buddy InDesign, I can lay out books with much more ease then old Ben Franklin ever dreamt of (and he was quite a dreamer), but when the computer crashes, life becomes so hard!
I've spent the last two days trying to keep up with the things I need to do while I recovered from the ravages of a possessed computer. Thankfully I do very good backups these days. In fact, I'm almost compulsive about it. As long as there were no gremlins getting their hot little hands into things while I was backing up, I haven't lost even one word of my work. And I've literally written hundreds of thousands of words.
While I backup my files, I haven't yet figured out how to do that restore thing on the computer, if it's even still possible with the new operating systems. (There are so many features of the old system that I liked that are now gone. It would figure that they would think things that made working on the computer easier would be unwanted features. They 'improved' the ease of copying and moving files right out of existence!) If I can figure out that restore thing, I won't have as much trouble reloading programs next time my computer needs surgery.
On the other hand, isn't it just like life to have a hard time restoring things after they go south? When we sin, there isn't a 'restore file' that will allow us to wipe out all our troubles and start over like nothing ever happened. Just like with a computer without a restore file, we have to painstakingly find all the things that need to be set right. It can take a long time. Even when you think you've handled everything, something else pops up that you're missing, weeks or even months later.
Computer problems can be greatly reduced with a judicious use of time and resources. Virus checkers, spyware killers and system optimizing will help you keep thing operating well for a long time. In life, regular prayer, bible study and fellowship with other believers will keep you growing and much safer from the attacks of the malicious unseen forces who want to mess up your life just because they can.
I don't know about you, but I've certainly learned that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I'm glad that my crashes aren't as spectacular as they used to be. But if something does happen and my whole life crashes like a six year old computer, even though I may have to deal with consequences, God does have a restore file that will make me new again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Joy of Writing

I love being a writer! It's got to be the coolest job ever. One of the neatest things about it is that none of my dreams need ever be wasted.
You remember how when you were a kid, you dreamed all kinds of stuff? You'd travel, be a fireman, a soldier, a cowboy, whatever. You dreamed so many things (and hopefully still do) that you couldn't possibly do them all.
I will never accomplish all my dreams. There are just too many of them. But now my dreams get new life in my books. Sometimes something happens, either in my life or in the world at large, that really bugs me. I get to take that event, wonder what could have happened if someone who was really in tune with God was there to change the outcome, then I get to make it happen in a story.
I believe that as Christians we can affect the world around us in a very real way. Part of it is just being open to whatever wonders God wants to unfold in your life. Part of it is becoming aware of ways that God can work through you.
So, last year there was a story (or two or three) about a bank robbery and I wondered what if God had put someone in the bank who would bring God's presence to the situation? So I wrote that what if. What if God put someone in a position to stop a domestic terrorist-type attack? What if God asked someone to witness to a serial rapist? What if God used a young man to make an abusive womanizer realize he wasn't much of a man?
What could you do with your life if you opened it up to God's possibilities? Whose life could you save if you were a willing vessel? It isn't necessarily going to be something big and newsworthy like stopping a school shooting, but I guarantee you this - if you open yourself to God's possibilities, at some point in time he will use you to affect a potentially ugly situation. If you let him, God will show you how to write a story that will glorify him.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Angry with God

I don't know if you've ever been angry with God or not, but I'll confess that I have. It's not a matter of not believing in him anymore. I knew he was God, but I just didn't like the way he did things.
Some of my characters get angry with God too. At the beginning of Seasons of Change, Heather was angry at God because of all the bad things that had happened to her and her family. She still loved God but she wasn't talking to him. She doesn't actively disbelieve his goodness, but she does let him know she's mad at him.
In A Cord of Three, Ted is angry at God, also because of some bad things that happened to him and his family. However, he's decided he doesn't love God and that God doesn't love him.
Of course, through the events in their respective books, both Heather and Ted begin to get past their anger. When Ted's approaching that point of letting go of the past, he tells his dad he's not a godly man. His dad points out that Job complained about God, accused God of picking on him and told him in no uncertain terms that he wasn't being fair to Job. God never told anyone that Job was unrighteous. In fact, he said Job was righteous, even after getting angry at God.
Ted asks, "Are you saying it's okay to be angry at God?"
His dad says, "That depends on what you mean by 'okay' Son. If you mean okay as in it's a good place to be, then no, it's not okay. If you mean okay as in God isn't going to quit loving you because you're angry, then yeah, it's okay to be angry. The key is to get to the place where you're finally willing to hear God reassure you that he is God and that he knows what he's doing."
When you get angry with God, do you tell him you're angry and let him gently show you the truth, or do you pout and sulk and try to pretend like he won't know anything's up if you don't say anything (like we sometimes do with our earthly parents)?
You may as well get it off your chest. God knows exactly what you're thinking, but as long as you hold onto it, he can't fully deal with it. When you trust him enough to tell him you're angry, you take a huge step forward in your spiritual 'IQ.'
The next time you start to feel angry at God, why not try telling him so? The sooner you unload that anger, the more likely you are to sin not. Don't keep it. Give it to God where it belongs.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

On Doubts and The Truth

In my book The Blessed Winter, Greg, the central character of The Shepherd Series who's the pillar of faith for his family, doubts himself and his calling from the Lord. Without revealing details in case someone who's reading this hasn't read the book and wants to, I feel the need to explore something he says during his time of doubt.
"It's me who's weak and wrong, not God. What if I've been wrong about me all along? What if everything I've ever believed I heard from God wasn't from him at all but was my own selfish desire? ... What if I'm stubborn, selfish and self-righteous? And if I don't know how to hear God's voice after twenty years as a Christian ... If I've been wrong, then I don't know how to hear God so I'm not going to know when he speaks to me as he tries to change me. ... So this is it. This is all I get to be, the messed up screwball with no past and no future. What good am I to anyone?"
I wonder sometimes how many Christians, even Billy-Graham-like 'pillars of the faith,' sometimes feel this way.
Curiously, I think that maybe only those who do know the Lord will question themselves enough to doubt like this. In my experience, those who are stubborn, selfish and self-righteous never doubt themselves! They 'know' that they know the Lord better than anyone else.
It isn't the doubts that are the problem, it's what you do with them. A few chapters later, Greg tells one of his friends: "In everything God loves us and he goes with us. Nothing we do can destroy his love for us, nothing we go through makes him leave us. We have to hold our feelings up to that truth and bring them in line with it rather than trying to rewrite the truth based on our feelings."
Feelings can lie to us, tell us things about ourselves that aren't true. God himself has said that you are of great value to him. Even if you have messed up, he's going to redeem that, turn it around to his glory.
So when you have doubts about yourself and your calling from the Lord, remember what you know about God. Write yourself a psalm listing the ways God has already shown his love for you and his calling on you. Don't just include the wonderful things of the bible, include the wonderful personal experiences that you've had. Confront your doubts with the Truth. Let that Truth reveal any legitimate issues that you need to face and work with God to fix them, but never, ever embrace doubt about your usefulness to God and his kingdom. If you are his child, you definitely have a place in his plan.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Physical, Emotional or Spiritual

We have three basic types of problems that we face in life - physical, emotional or spiritual.
A physical problem would be something like a broken leg. An emotional problem could be a low self-image. A spiritual problem is something like unforgiveness.
Except it's not that simple! I think in actuality this is more accurate:
physical problem = emotional problem = spiritual problem
We've heard a lot about how our physical body is affected by our emotions and our spirit. If you harbor unforgiveness, it can make you physically ill with things like ulcers. If you have a low self-image it might cause things like stress headaches. If you have a broken leg, it can make you miserable and angry. But those things don't necessarily happen. There are plenty people who have physical ailments that don't get them "down" emotionally, and some people are physically healthy while they harbor unforgiveness. But every single physical or emotional problem affects your spirit.
Right now are you frowning or staring thoughtfully at your computer screen? I hope you're doing one or the other because that means I'm challenging you to think about something you haven't thought about before.
What I said was every single physical or emotional problem affects your spirit. Note that I did not say that every physical or emotional problem causes a spiritual problem. That would not be true. My original statement is. Why do I say that? Romans 5:1-5
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
See how "hope" is a spiritual thing? Where does hope come from? Character, which comes from perseverance, which comes through suffering!
In every kind of suffering, your spirit will be affected. You will either accept the growth toward hope that God wants to use your suffering for and have a spiritual blessings, or you will reject the growth and have a spiritual problem.
You cannot by sheer force of will refuse to let an emotional or physical problem affect your spirit, you can only choose whether the effect will be a blessing or a problem!
If you want to choose the blessing, it's a simple (but not easy) matter of turning to God in trust. Allow him to show you what he wants you to learn and let your character grow.
Or you can snap and growl and bite the hand that blesses you, blaming God for your suffering and watch your problem grow.
Which will you choose, the blessing or the problem?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lessons Relearned

I wonder if I'm the only one who has to relearn lessons over and over and over again. It's especially embarrassing to realize that I've put myself into a predicament when I've taught people to not do what I've been doing. But I guess I'm in good company since the Apostle Paul bemoaned the fact that the very things he didn't want to do, he did.
My current dilemma is an overfull plate. And no, I'm not talking about a dinner plate! You know what I mean. So many things to do and not enough time to do it all.
Some of it's my own fault. I procrastinate doing things I don't like to do or don't do well. They build momentum when I put them off and when I finally must tackle them, they're a three thousand pound boulder rolling down the hill and I'm trying to balance on top of it rather than being crushed under it.
Some of it's the result of not getting feedback or responses from people I'm working with. The problem is that I hate being micromanaged so I hate micromanaging. When people have said they'll do something, I trust them to do it. It'll take a long time before I finally decide to bug them and get what I need from them. Then it seems to never fail that each and everything I'm waiting on comes back within a short period of time!
Some of my overload is God's fault! I'm serious, and I'm right. That Man just won't quit giving me inspiration! I've got ideas in my head that won't go away until I put them down on paper. As long as they're in there, they take up room that I need for other thing too. But the problem is that God gives me ideas almost as fast as I can get them down on paper. Then he adds to my conundrum by not sending me enough people to help with those aforementioned things I don't do so well, like maintaining a website (or two or three).
I guess God's trying to teach me about prioritizing, but I'm not getting the message. The problem is that the only thing I can logically see that I can let go is the writing, but that's the very thing that God keeps dumping on me!
I wonder if anyone out there is listening and if they have a practical idea for how to resolve my dilemma?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Better Christian vs. More Christ-like

Would you like to be a better Christian or be more Christ-like? Let me say at the outset that there's nothing wrong with wanting to be a better Christian, but it isn't a very good goal because it's not measurable.
What is a Christian? That word has no true meaning to contemporary Americans. You may find that a little radical, but think about this: Have you ever shopped in a Christian bookstore? Read a Christian book? Listened to Christian music on a Christian radio station?
The problem with being "Christian" is that the word has varied meanings. In fact, some of the music you listen to on "Christian" radio really isn't "Christian." Take for example a very popular song back in the nineties, "Butterfly Kisses." It was a beautiful song about a daddy's love of is little girl who grows into a woman. It was played on Christian radio even though the only mention of God was in the first verse: "She was sent here from heaven /... She talks to Jesus and I close my eyes / And I thank God for all of the joy in my life." (More recently Steven Curtis Chapman's Cinderella doesn't even mention God or Jesus at all!)
So what makes something "Christian"? Who decides that? It certainly isn't defined in the bible.
What makes someone "Christian"? That's defined in the bible. Luke says that "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" (Acts 11:26, emphasis added). Peter says "if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" (1 Peter 4:16). (The only other use of the word Christian in the original text of the bible is in Acts 26:28: "Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?") So, according to the bible, a Christian is a disciple who praises God when he suffers because he is a Christian. An argument could even be made that simply accepting Jesus as your savior and gaining eternal life does not make you a Christian. You must choose to be a disciple too.
Hmmm. I wonder where that puts most Americans who call themselves Christians?
If you're going to be a biblical Christian, you're going to be a disciple which means you're spending time with Jesus Christ to be more Christ-like! And you find suffering a reason to praise God.
You can try to become a better Christian (e.g. not swear, drink, smoke or have extra-marital sex) without ever even approaching being Christ-like. (Or being saved either!)
Being Christ-like means seeking to know the Father (through reading his Word), seeking the Father's will, being a servant, dying to self, being in fellowship, reaching out to the lost, hurting and lonely. If you become more Christ-like, you will become a better Christian (a better disciple of Jesus').
How about you? Do you want to be a better Christian or be more Christ-like?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Silliness is Next to Godliness

I'm working on getting some stuff in my third book, After the Storm, up on my website, so when my Outlook popped up a reminder that I was supposed to blog, silliness was on my mind.
If you've read any of my books, you know that my characters are (too?) prone to break out into silliness, but Pete (the hero of Storm) realizes that he's not comfortable with silliness. When he's with the guys, he follows their silliness easily and even usually willingly, but he never instigates anything nor does he escalate. In fact, when his best friends aren't around, he tends to protect his dignity. He can play games and all (which is obvious since he's a football player) but he always has to play to win, to be the best, be ichiban, number one.
In talking to Jenni, Pete discovers that his difficulty in being silly is rooted in his childhood. He knows he had a pretty bad childhood; his parents are quite different now than they were when he was growing up.
Because Pete is already committed to allowing Jesus to be Lord of his life in all things, that realization makes a big difference for him. He sees that his dignity isn't important. He begins to allow himself to degenerate into silliness. He even discovers that his previously abusive, womanizing father has learned to be silly with his mother.
He does such a magnificent job of getting into silliness that eventually Jenni declares, "I don't guess there's much reason to worry about your dignity anymore."
(If you want to know how Pete gets silly, you'll have to read After the Storm.)
My question for you is this: Do you believe "silliness is next to godliness"? Should Christians be silly?
Maybe it'll help to put things in a biblical perspective: Do you think Jesus was being serious when he said to not let your left hand know what your right was doing, or was he being a little bit silly? Have you ever stopped to examine bible stories for silliness? What about when Peter got freed from prison in Acts 12? Rhoda was so excited to see him that she slammed the door on his face then tried to convince everyone he was actually out there. They argued with her for a while instead of just opening the door and looking. When they finally do, Peter's standing there still knocking. If you haven't seen that as funny, grab your bible and have someone read the story aloud to you while you close your eyes and imagine it happening like it was a sitcom.
God does have a steak of silliness in him. If you're too careful about maintaining your dignity, if you can't let silliness out, maybe you need to have a serious discussion with God about why. Is your dignity of greater value than laughter and fellowship?
If you can't remember the last time you were silly, it's been too long! Go in your prayer closet, put on some music and dance like you're crazy.
Go on, try it, you might actually like it!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Art of Friendship

I believe that friendship is very important. That's obvious from the title of my sixth book, A Cord of Three which is of course from Ecclesiastes 4:7-12. While that passage doesn't mention 'friendship' directly, it's still obviously about friendship - "pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up."
Unfortunately, I think contemporary Americans have lost the true meaning of friendship. Rugged individualism (the Marlboro man riding the range by himself), pulling yourself up by your bootstrap, even "man's best friend" (the dog) all indicate a self-reliance that shuns relationship and sees aloneness as somehow better than the interdependence of friendship.
On the other hand, comments like "She's the best friend anyone could ever have. She's always there for me" smack more of the other side of the coin - codependence, the need to have someone who needs you to validate you.
In A Cord of Three, as Ted and Shelly's friendship deepened, they realized that Ted would always need to withdraw sometimes to process what was happening. Shelly needed to learn to not accept feelings of rejection when he needed to do so, which would be easier if Ted told her he needed time to himself.
True friendship (which any romantic relationship needs if it wants to survive 'til death) realizes that differences are good and it not only allows the differences, but it embraces and encourages them. True friendship also sometimes scolds. In 2 Corinthians 7:8-13, the Apostle Paul tells us that sometimes we need to cause those we love to be sorrowful in a godly way. There is a godly sorrow that leads to repentance and salvation. In the end, there is no regret for the sorrow, either from the giver or receiver, because both draw closer to each other and to God through the sorrow.
Too often we're afraid to hurt someone's feelings, but sometimes feelings need to be hurt! Our friendships, whether they be familial, romantic or platonic, all need to be God-centered. We have to have healthy boundaries that allow us to say 'no,' and we have to receive 'no' without being hurt. We sometimes have to scold, sometimes encourage, sometimes walk away and let the fall happen, but never so far that our hand of friendship isn't there to assist in the recovery.
I challenge you to examine your friendships. Do you have honest ones? If not, why not? Are you willing to trust God enough to open yourself to the vulnerability of true friendship?

Monday, August 8, 2011

For country, church or God?

"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." President Kennedy said that fifty years ago in his inaugural address. It's a fine sentiment for individuals to live by. It is a dangerous sentiment for governments to live by.
Yes, as Americans we do need to ask what we can do for your country, not what our country can do for us. It's part of that life of service that we were created for. However, when a government asks what its people can do for it rather than what it can do for its people, the government begins to exist for its own sake rather than to provide a safe and orderly environment for the people to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Then the government decides what it wants to accomplish with no concern for the people it will have to walk over to get the job done. When people get tired of such governments they rise up in rebellion or civil disobedience, forcing a change in the way things are done. Sometimes those changes are good, but sometimes they're bad.
Substitute "country" for "church" in Kennedy's quote, and you have the same basic scenario.
The contemporary church in America seems quite willing to tell its congregants to seek what they can do for the church, but wholly unwilling to ask what the church can do for the congregants. Churches tend to get focused on the big picture, bringing souls into the kingdom and achieving a God-given vision for the church. They forget the individual. Even in those churches who do disciple believers to grow to be more Christ-like, the tendency is to do it so that they will eventually serve in and/or lead a ministry within the church. Most churches are looking for how they can use their members' God-given gifts and talents, not how they can nurture their members to find their calling from the Lord. When they do talk about "calling," most churches do it in the context of their church, not in the context of God's will.
The Apostle Paul made it pretty clear that unless the church is first concerned about the individuals who make up their congregation, they cannot be serving the Lord at full capacity - "But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)
As church leaders, we must never allow ourselves to get so focused on the mission that we do not nurture the people who make up our congregation. It isn't easy to do that because it means building true relationships, getting to know people in a real way rather than looking at them and trying to figure out what ministry we can stick them in. Their calling from the Lord may give our church no direct benefit, but that doesn't mean we aren't responsible to nurture that calling anyway.
As congregants, we cannot forget that we are responsible not just for using our God-given gifts and talents for our church, but also for finding our God-given calling and serving him, not just our local church. Sure we need to be part of a church, but that church needs to be concerned about us, not just about its mission.
There comes a time when citizen or congregant has to ask not just what they can do in service, but if they are in turn being served. Your first loyalty is to God, not country and not church. If God has something for you to do for him and your church is only interested in what you can do for the church, it's time to reevaluate your membership. It's time to find a place where you can fulfill your calling, not just have your gifts and talents used by the church.
Share what you believe your God-given calling is with a ministry leader whom you already know. If they seem uninterested or talk a good game but never follow through, it is most definitely time to reevaluate where you belong. God's not calling you to open rebellion, but he might want to move you to another flock with a different under-shepherd who will serve you as you grow your calling, not just use your gifts and talents.
If God does call you to leave your church for more fruitful pastures, be sure you calmly explain to your pastor why you are leaving. If you can't do that, then you're not ready to leave yet! Stick around and grow some more. When you can share your concerns with the pastor, without being accusatory, then you'll know that you have grown!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

glory to Glory

This morning when I was reading in 2 Corinthians 3, I found something that I'd never noticed before. Do you ever have those surprises? You know you've read that chapter before, but you have absolutely no recollection of ever reading that part.
Of course, you'll need to read the verses before to get where this started, but Paul was talking about how "the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory" (v.7) after he came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments. This, Paul said, was "the ministry that brought death." Then he said "the ministry of the Spirit [is] even more glorious" (v.8). It is the "the ministry that brings righteousness!" (v.9)
Yes, the glory that Moses brought down from the mountain was great, but it was nothing compared to the glory that Jesus brought to us when he gave us the Spirit. The glory of the giving of the Law was only a temporary glory. The glory of the giving of the Spirit is permanent! It is much, much greater.
Moses shone with the light of the glory he received on the mountaintop. As far as I can tell from reading the Pentateuch, that glory never faded. He was still wearing the veil to tone down the glory when he was standing at the gates of the Promised Land. But that glory is less than what we get when the Spirit dwells in us!
I don't know about you, but too often I discover that I've put on a veil to hide the glory of the Spirit from myself. I get selfish and self-centered and I want things my way. I can't see the glory of the Spirit, much less show that glory to others around me.
But the Spirit is glorious! He comes to remove all the junk that's in me. He takes away the pain, bitterness, anger. He surrounds us with a love that will never go away. He is a life-giving well of joy that should be obvious to all around us.
But we have to learn to let him live in us without hiding from him before we can live without hiding him from others. It's not easy to open up those dark places and let him in, but until we do, his glory won't shine all the way through us, not because it can't but because he won't do it. He wants our willingness to submit to his healing touch.
Are you willing to submit to the healing touch of the Spirit so he can remove all the pain and junk from your life?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

True Report Vs. Truth

One of the problems we have with interpreting the bible is that not every word written in it expresses the truth.
Wait! Hear me out before you get all huhu!
There is a difference between the truth and a true report. A true report reports things that actually happened; the truth is what God has done, spoken, he's immutable laws. So, if I say that my son said he did his homework, I am reporting an event that actually happened. That does not mean that he did indeed do his homework. He very well may not have (and probably didn't knowing my son).
The specific thing that prompted this particular musing today was 1 Corinthians 15:29 - "Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?" Is that truth - we should baptize for the dead - or a true report of things that were actually happening in Corinth - people were getting baptized for the dead?
The immediate context tells us that Paul is arguing for the resurrection. Apparently some of the Corinthian Christians doubted the resurrection. The above statement falls in a logical argument for the resurrection. It points out an illogical action - why ever would you baptize for the dead if you don't believe in the resurrection? Paul doesn't say they are right to do it; he says they are illogical when they do it. That's a big difference!
When you find something that raises your eyebrows like this, you have to read the entire context, get a feel for the whole passage, see how it fits in with the passages around it. How does it advance the theme of the book?
The other thing to do is look for other passages that bolster that idea. If there are none (or maybe one or two that might support it), you have to put that idea in the category of a true report but not a truth that needs to be the basis of a doctrine. If there is an abundance of other passages that refute that idea, then you need to firmly put that verse back in its context and never, ever ever read it by itself!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Itching ears

In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, the Apostle Paul warned that the time would come when people would "not put up with sound doctrine" but would "gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." He said they would "turn aside to myths," so Timothy had to "Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction" and "keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."
Without being specific about why, I feel the need to say that too many Christians are falling into the "itching ears" trap because too many teachers aren't willing to endure the hardship that comes when we "correct, rebuke and encourage."
Today there's a lot of pop theology being preached as if it was gospel truth, but it isn't. Pop theology holds at its center a very valuable kernel of truth, but it goes way beyond what the bible says. It loosely interprets the bible or even totally ignores any interpretation at all and makes up a meaning. Pop theology is unconcerned about correct biblical interpretation and instead seeks to tell people what they want to hear, what makes them feel good about themselves, their church, their culture, their country. It's not necessarily a bad thing to feel good about any of those things, but when you're doing it based upon a false premise, is there true value in the feelings?
As a bible teacher, I want to correct pop theology. Sometimes it makes me hiss like a Navi! The problem is in knowing when I make a direct frontal attack and when I simply patiently show people how to correctly interpret the bible and pray that they find the truth on their own.
One thing I know for sure is that if someone asks me a question, I'm going to answer it to the best of my ability. So, if you have doubts about something you've heard, you can always ask. I'll be more than happy to explore what the bible actually says.
In the meantime, I'll just keep my hisses to myself unless God pokes me too hard!