Friday, May 31, 2013

A Voice from the Past - Luther

See, if that is the way faith were preached, men would be justified and all the rest: a pure heart and good conscience through genuine, perfect love, would follow. For the man who through faith is sure in his heart that he has a gracious God, who is not angry with him, though he deserves wrath, that man goes out and does everything joyfully.

Martin Luther, 1483-1546, Sermons 1, On the Sum of the Christian Life, 1532, (Luther's Works, Volume 51, translated by John W. Doberstein, Muhlenberg Press, 1959, p.283)

Is this the result of understanding God's grace? How can we make it more a part of our lives?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

"It Is Not Good for God to Be Alone"

What should we think of the Trinity? Is it just some strange abstraction Christians have to believe? Does it have any impact on our life? Now it is beyond human understanding, but it is not surprising that God would be beyond human understanding (Romans 11:33,34; Isaiah 55:8,9; 1 Corinthians 3:18). It is based on certain clear teachings of Scripture. The Father is God (John 17:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6). The Son is God (Hebrews 1:8; John 1:1-18; 20:28). The Spirit is God (2 Corinthians 3:17; Acts 5:3,4; 1 Corinthians 3:16). They all three exist at the same time (Matthew 3:16-17; John 14:16; 12:27-30). There is one God (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6-8; John 10:30). But what difference does this make?

One of the most common things said about God, not only by Christians but even by many unbelievers, is "God is love" (1 John 4:7-21; John 3:16; Romans 5:7,8). But being love implies someone to love, and it is only as three in one that love can be seen as part of the very nature of God (John 17:23-26; 3:35; Matthew 3:17). The title of this post is a quote from G. K. Chesterton and speaks to what the implication is of denying that God is triune. If you do not do not end relegating God into being some vague force that started the universe going but has no real personality, you get one of two results.

You can end up with a very strict God who requires exacting obedience. This God may be seen as merciful, but His mercy is that of a punctilious enforcer who cuts you a little slack after He sees you do not quite live up to His perfect standards. This is because love is not a fundamental part of His makeup, but an afterthought. The other option is an indulgent God who is not really overly concerned about how we live. He may have some suggestions for improvement, but mostly He just accepts us, whatever we do. This is because His love, which also is an afterthought, is a sort of vague benevolence.

But the fierce love of God that shakes earth and heaven (Psalms 18:6-12), that seeks the lost sheep and runs out to meet the prodigal (Luke 15:1-32), that is willing to become a man and face a criminal's death to deliver us from sin and death and hell (Philippians 2:5-11), comes from a God who is by nature love. And this God expects us to live in light of that kind of love (John 13:34,35; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13,14). Not in a brittle self-righteousness that looks down on others and congratulates itself on deserving something from God. Nor in an attitude of indulgence of sin in ourselves and others. But in a love that reaches out to help others find their way to the God who loves them and wants to forgive them. A God who does this because He is a Trinity.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why Prayer?

If God knows everything, why do we need to pray? If God knows what we need, why do we have to ask? May I suggest that this misses the whole point of prayer. The point of prayer is not to get us what we want, but to build a trust relationship with God (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 37:3-6; 127:1,2). Now God gives good things, even to those who reject Him (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17; James 1:17). But He also reserves others for those who ask (1 John 5:14,15; Matthew 7:7-11; James 4:1-3). God wants us to know where these things come from and to trust Him for them.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Take Eat

Nothing is meant to unite and is used to divide Christ's church like the sacraments. One of those ordinances is the Lord's Supper. (It is hard to even talk about these things without the words we use espousing a particular view. I have deliberately mixed the words for this reason.) One of the difficult questions is, in what way is Christ present in the elements, physically, spiritually or symbolically? And this is a question Scripture does not  deal with. To take the word "is" as necessarily meaning "is physically" is reading more into it than is there in any language I am familiar with (Revelation 17:18; Genesis 49:21; Song of Solomon 4:12). However, there is also no passage where it clearly teaches He is not physically present; it is a matter of judgment. Related to this is the question of what communion actually accomplishes in the lives of those who partake of it. Again, this is not something Scripture addresses. Now Scripture does say we are saved by faith (John 6:35; Romans 4:9-12; Ephesians 2:8,9). It also discourages us from believing that simply going through the motions of a ritual will commend us to God (Romans 2:25-29; Malachi 1:10; Isaiah 58:5-10). But we are told that God is at work in His people to transform them (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Titus 2:11-14). But exactly how the Eucharist is involved in this process is not explained.

In communion, we remember what Christ has done for us, proclaim it to the world, and anticipate His Second Coming (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 22:15-20; Mark 14:22-25). Who then may participate? Those who are part of Christ's body (1 Corinthians 10:16,17; 6:15-17; Galatians 3:26-29). But do we need to be worthy to partake (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)? The passage does not say "unworthy," but "in an unworthy manner." The issue was not that the Corinthians did not measure up to some standard, but that they had turned the Lord's Supper into a drunken feast where the rich showed contempt for the poor by refusing to share food with them. I suspect that this same charge could be laid against someone who felt they could totally flaunt God's commandments and then nonchalantly come to partake of the Eucharist.   And certainly, if there is some specific sin God brings to mind, the Lord's Supper is as good a time as any to repent. But I do not believe an individual needs to have reached a certain level of holiness or belong to a certain faction to partake, which is why I favor open communion. But I do not see any qualifications at all given for the one who administers the communion. It seems appropriate that they be a believer, but nothing is said beyond that. But I am convinced that when Christ said to take and eat, it was not based on meeting certain qualifications, but rather it should be the response of faith to the grace we have been given.   

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Touch of Humor - Service Schedule

Is having different services for different groups a good idea? How important is it to have our type of music?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Old Erich Proverb - Fellowship

Being God's people is about worship rather than showmanship.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Voice from the Past - Anselm

Hence, if it has seen light and truth, it has seen thee; if it has not seen thee, it has not seen light and truth. Or, is what it has seen both light and truth; and still it has not yet seen thee, because it has seen thee only in part, but has not seen thee as thou art? Lord my God, my creator and renewer, speak to the desire of my soul, what thou art other than it hath seen, that it may clearly see what it desires. It strains to see thee more; and sees nothing beyond this which it hath seen, except darkness. Nay, it does not see darkness, of which - there is none in thee; but it sees that it cannot see farther, because of its own darkness.

Anselm, 1033-1109, Proslogium Chapter XIV (Proslogium; Monologium; An Appendix in Behalf of the Fool by Gaunilion; and Cur Deus Homo, translated by Sidney Norton Deane, The Open Court Publishing Company, 1926, p.30)

How can we come to truly see God as He is? What can help us with this?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Golden Age of the Church

It is a mistake to long for some past time when things were better than they are now (Ecclesiastes 7:10). Sometimes as Christians we want to look back to a previous age when Christianity was in better shape. But is this really a realistic expectation?

One time that is seen as the golden age was the New Testament church. But is this really true? There were the Corinthians, who were dividing into factions and indulging in questionable practices. There were the Galatians, who were departing the gospel of grace for salvation by works. There were the Colossians, who were flirting with strange teachings. There were the Thessalonians, who believed the Second Coming was happening immediately and had left their jobs to wait for it. All this sounds pretty much like now. In the ancient church that followed this time period, the church underwent severe persecution. Nonetheless, it struggled with difficult doctrinal issues and divisions which claimed the main body of the Christian church was too lax. Later the church was given peace, which led to complacency and the opportunity to engage in even more severe controversies. Now I do believe it is important to respect the great Christian thinkers of the past. But I also believe that simply because someone lived close to the time of the apostles does not mean they must have been correct in what they believed. The Israelites were worshiping the golden calf while Moses was still on the mountain. I also would put more credence in something that was deliberately discussed and thought through, like the Nicene Creed, than something that may have crept in over time.

There are others who would put special stock in the Protestant Reformation. Now this was a necessary reform of the teaching and practice of the church organization of that time. But this was not done without great strife and governmental involvement, complicating the matter. In the end, neither side came out looking good. Then there was the great era of revivals. This was an attempt to halt the rising tide of secularism. It rightly affirmed the need for individual responsibility, but often ended up advocating extreme experiences rather than a thought-out position. Nor should we try to go back to a pre-sixties state of society, which is sometimes longed for in the United States. The truth is, it was this state of society that led to the sixties. The traditional values of our society had become a thin veneer in many cases, and it is not surprising many decided to throw it off. The truth is, we cannot go back. We need to forget the past and do God's will in the society we find ourselves in now. The only true golden age of the church will be when we stand before God without spot or wrinkle. Every other age has been a mixture of good and evil, of dangers and opportunities, for those who follow Christ.    

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Christ Will Build His Church - A Song

Christ Will Build His Church
by Mike Erich
to the tune of “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” (Austrian Hymn)

Christ His church will ever build up,
Out of living stones will frame
It to be a holy temple
Built to glorify His name.
Christ the Head rules o’er the body,
Every part and joint supplies.
He possesses the preeminence,
Though the whole world Him denies.

Christ, who is the one true Shepherd,
Evermore His flock shall lead;
Though the hireling flees the danger,
He is there in time of need.
Though we tread the darksome valley,
He is ever at our side;
Though our enemies surround us,
All our needs He does provide.

He who cleft the sea asunder,
Brought forth water from the stone,
He who ruled the storm and thunder,
He has claimed us for His own.
Who can stand against the Power
Who has made the earth and sky?
Though we face the roaring lion,
There is naught can Him defy.

Christ has put us in the body,
To each gift and place has given,
That we might all work together,
Casting out old sin like leaven.
There is not a part so mighty
But his brother needs to stand;
There is not a task so meager
God to honor has not planned.

With His blood He did us purchase;
For our sin He did atone.
He has come that He might clothe us
In His righteousness alone.
Who can bring a charge against us
If our Lord does not condemn?
No created thing existing
Can sep-a-rate us from Him.

Let us follow now our Master,
For He ever leads the way,
Tread on scorpions and serpents,
For o’er all things He holds sway.
Let us sow and let us water,
Knowing God the increase gives.
Let us face death, sword and fire,
Knowing that our Savior lives.

(Should anyone wish to use this song, permission is granted provided it is not altered or sold or performed for monetary gain without the author's prior agreement.)  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Life-Long Learning

What does it mean to be a disciple? Is it the result of mastering a few basic truths or finishing a set of easy lessons? A disciple is a learner, one who sits at the feet of Jesus and learns from Him (Luke 10:38-42; Matthew 4:19,20; Mark 3:14). Now Scripture calls all believers disciples (Acts 6:7; 11:26; 14:22). Even those who merely outward followers are called disciples (John 6:60-66; 8:31-44; 12:4). But those who are Christ's disciples are called to live in a certain way (John 13:34,35; 15:8; Matthew 10:24,25). Being taught to obey all things Christ commanded is a big order. Simply knowing them is a big order, let alone obeying them all. But that is the goal (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 20:26,27; 2 Timothy 3:16,17). Therefore, the entire Christian life is a process of growing more and more in Christ (Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:7,8). Not that we can accomplish anything without the power of God working in us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; John 15:5). But this process of transformation works over the entire course of our lives.

Now I want to be careful here. The people who put out the little booklets may only have in mind that these give the first steps of introduction to discipleship. But not uncommonly they are not taken that way. And not uncommonly "disciples" can become a designation of some small subgroup within the body of Christ who are regarded as really serious or committed. But the distinction is unbiblical (Ephesians 4:3-6; Colossians 2:19;1 Corinthians 12:25). It can result in complacency in those who feel they have achieved it. It can result in discouragement to those who cannot convince themselves they have attained it or are afraid they cannot continue to maintain it. Rather, the Christian life should be seen as a life-long growth process, where we are all at different places and we need to be careful to avoid judging others (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; James 4:11,12; Romans 14:4). I do not mean we should not correct specific sins; we are required to do that (Galatians 6:1; Matthew 18:15-20; Jude 22,23). But we should be careful of judging a person's state of general progress toward God. They may be further along than we think they are. We may not be as far along as we think we are. And we must be careful of pigeonholing people where Scripture gives no basis for it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Touch of Humor - The Theft

To what extent is it appropriate for preachers to copy from other preachers? Are there specific requirements if they do?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Old Erich Proverb - Sun

We cannot know everything about God, anymore than we can map the sun with the naked eye. But we can greatly benefit from the light and heat we do know.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Voice from the Past - Lewis

While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as 'vision', 'dynamism', 'creativity', and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial - virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. 'Vision' is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day's work for a day's pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job.

C. S. Lewis, 1898-1963, Christian Reflections, The Poison of Subjectivism, William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1995, p. 81)

Is this the right way of looking at things? What difference would it make if we adopted it?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Books

He looked with only mild interest at the images that filled the other half of the room. They had just began a minor NorthAmGov commercial. The women were all fully dressed, and it urged some incidental points of good citizenship. There would be more compelling ones later in the evening, advocating loyalty to NorthAmGov. But he found his mind slowly drifting back to her.

They had met at a coffee shop. She was good-looking, though not exceptional, but he noticed something odd about her. She was reading her controlpad. Now, of course everyone read their controlpads. How else would they get directions or check out the sales or know what shows were available for viewing? But she  was continually scrolling down, like she was reading a really long text. But no one wrote really long texts.

He was sufficiently intrigued to strike up a conversation. She seemed reluctant and suspicious, but he sensed that behind the facade she wanted someone to talk to. They continued to meet at that coffee shop. And she told him things he had never heard of before. She told him about history. Now the study of history was not illegal but was discouraged. He found himself opened up to philosophies and concepts of which he was ignorant. He looked forward those meetings.

Then it happened. His controlpad announced her outside the door of his apartment. In her eyes he saw panic. She handed him a knapsack and told him to take what was in it and destroy them if he wished. He was the only one she knew who was not under suspicion, and if she tried to dispose of them she might be caught in the act. She then ran out the door and out of his life. He never saw her at the coffee shop again. He tried calling her once, but the response was that the possessor of this controlpad was under interdiction by NorthAmGov and unavailable to communicate. He was afraid to try again.

He turned off the holoprojector and strolled into the bedroom. It was unclear to what extent NorthAmGov observed its citizens. But it was generally believed that they could not watch every person all the time. He pulled the knapsack from under the bed and removed three objects. They were books, made of bound-together paper. One was a book of mathematics. Study of math was discouraged after the basics for everyone who did not need it for their trade. He had never before wondered why. The second was on something called "deductive logic." He had never heard of it before, but it seemed like mathematical-type reasoning applied to other forms of thought. The third book was the strangest. NorthAmGov loved religions. Particularly those that include cryptic mystical teachings and inculcated obedience to NorthAmGov. But this book was different and spoke with the decisiveness of a orbital launch. It started, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. . . ."


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Elijah Syndrome

Elijah saw God do some amazing miracles (see 1 Kings 17-19). God brought a drought when Elijah announced it and ended the drought when Elijah prayed. God brought fire down from heaven to consume Elijah's sacrifice. And Elijah appears to have believed that when the Israelites saw these things, they would repent and follow God. Instead, Elijah ended up on the run, with Jezebel pursuing him. But perhaps more daunting than the physical danger was Elijah's own depression and discouragement. He complained that he had been faithful to God and had seen little in terms of positive results. God then orchestrated a series of physical events that made a point. He sent a series of obviously impressive acts of power: a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But He was not in these impressive acts of power. Then there was a quiet whispering sound, and God was in the quiet whispering sound. Sometime it is easy to fall into the idea that God only works in the impressive, the blatant, and the powerful. And He does use that. But often He is at work behind the scenes, working in a quiet whisper, where we do not obviously see Him. So we should not be discouraged if we do not always see the results we want, but should trust He is at work (Psalms 127:1,2; Ephesians 1:11; Proverbs 3:5,6).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Centrifugal Force

The Christian church started with a strong sense of unity. There were divisions right from the beginning, but there was a clear idea that this was wrong. This idea has a definite basis in Scripture (Ephesians 4:3-6; Philippians 2:1,2; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17). But in reaction against divisions, there grew up the concept that to divide over anything was wrong. This was originated in an attempt to protect the ordinary members of the congregation from false teaching. But the ultimate result was an authoritarian church organization, where no one was allowed to question those in charge. While this church eventually ended up splitting into two, both parts held firmly to the principle that the church must be unified, and they enforced that idea. And this principle made it difficult to change anything significant in the Christian church, so any errors made over time became permanent. Then came the Protestant Reformation This was necessary as an antidote to the authoritarian church organization of the time, which had made its decrees and traditions the standard of authority rather than Scripture.

But it did not stop there. The leaders of the Protestant Reformation met at Marburg - Hesse to see if they could come together to become one church organization. They failed. The matter in dispute was whether Christ was physically present in the Lord's Supper. (I personally am of the opinion that Scripture does not say, but that is beside the point.) But on a more basic level there developed the idea that minor disagreements on doctrine were reasons for division. The idea of unity was superseded by the idea of purity of teaching. Again, there is a Biblical basis for this ( Galatians 1:8,9; Jude 3; Acts 17:11). But again, this idea was pushed to an extreme. And it became a centrifugal force tearing the visible church into smaller and smaller pieces. And any idea of unity, even as an ideal, was lost.

What then can we do about it? It seems a monumental mess that does not admit to an easy solution, but I would like to make some suggestions. We need to revive the idea of unity, not just as a nice suggestion, but as the command of God (1 John 4:20,21; John 17:20,21; 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Now there are beliefs we should not unite with, and we need to carefully consider what those are (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Romans 16:17,18; 1 John 4:1-3). But we must beware of pushing it to the extreme that we deny any requirement of unity. And we need to cultivate humility, recognizing we do not have all the answers (Philippians 2:3-11; 1 Corinthians 3:18; 8:1-3). Now this does not mean to declare total ignorance about God (Jeremiah 9:23,24; 2 Timothy 1:12; 1 John 5:13). But we must be realize our knowledge is limited. We may not be able to unite the multitude of different denominations together into one organization .But we can at least cultivate a spirit of unity that transcends the walls that divide us.    

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Touch of Humor - The Code

Can we go overboard with buzzwords? What is really appropriate here?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Old Erich Proverb - Invisible

Often the invisible things we ignore are more important than the visible things we stress over.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Voice from the Past - Spurgeon

God desires to abide with those whom he has loved with an everlasting love; and we do not wonder that it should be so, for we also desire the company of our beloved ones. It is a double marvel, that the Lord should choose and desire such poor creatures as we are: the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in believers is a wonder of grace parallel to the incarnation of the Son of God. God in the church is the wonder of heaven, the miracle of eternity, the glory of infinite love.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-1892, The Treasury of David, Volume 3, Part 2, Psalm 132:13 (Hendrickson Publishers, p. 150)

What are the implications of this idea of God indwelling us? How should it affect how we live?

Thursday, May 9, 2013


The most characteristic feature of twenty-first century argumentation is the sound bite. It can also be the most deceptive. It can make you feel like something has been communicated or a point has been made when neither has really happened. Now I am not opposed to pithy sayings. I post proverbs; I am on Twitter. But pithy sayings need to be supported by thoughtful consideration. Otherwise they fall short of their purpose. They are useful to make people think, but by themselves they are a poor substitute for real thought. Perhaps the worst form is where the catchiness  of the saying or the memorableness of the jingle is the real selling point. One of the worst offenders in this regard is commercials, where often practically indistinguishable products (and if they are distinguishable you probably will not be able to figure it out from the commercial)  vie for our attention through often irrelevant cleverness. Now it may not matter a great deal which, out of several differently marketed though nearly similar products, you buy. But in the land of ideas it may make a huge difference which idea you accept. And there is a danger, even if you have the right worldview, of falling into promoting it on the wrong basis.

The problem with this is it sets people up so that when someone comes along with a cleverer slogan, not necessarily a better argument, people will embrace it without thinking. Now I know of no promise that God will provide us with the cleverest slogan. And frankly, what is the cleverest slogan for one person may not be for another. Also, what sounds clever may depend on your preconceived notions. This frequently leads to just plain circular reasoning, assuming your position and coming up with a clever slogan to promote that position which simply assumes its underlying premises. Therefore, if you follow this procedure you can end up with one of two extremes. You can have people who constantly jump from one idea to another, depending on what they heard last or who said things best. Or you can have people firmly entrenched in their positions, neither considering their opponent's position nor able to convince their opponent of anything, because they are assuming the very thing to be discussed. Now I am not against any kind of interesting statements to try to capture attention and get people to think. But somewhere we need to think through our positions and convince people to think through theirs. Otherwise we are simply mindlessly following what sounds good.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Nature of Unity

What is the basis of Christian unity? Is it belief in the same theory? Is it having the same moral standard? Is it having the same experience? Is it a bond of love and affection? The latter at least seems to have a good Scriptural basis (John 13:34,35; 1 John 3:11-18; 4:7-12). But is there a basis for this love? The unity of believers is ultimately based on who they are in Christ (Romans 12:3-16; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:1-16). This is because Christ has intervened in history and in our lives to make us His children (John 1:12,13; Titus 3:5,6; Colossians 2:13,14). If our unity is based on a philosophy, it would make sense to reject those who had a slightly different theory. If it is based on a moral standard, it would make sense to reject those who had a somewhat different set of rules. If it is based on an experience, it would make sense to reject those who have experienced something different. But if it is based on what Christ did, then we must be careful of rejecting those who have faith in Him even if we do not agree on everything. What do you base unity on?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Veneer of Happiness

I am convinced it is a grave error to tell people, "Come to Christ and you will not have any more problems. Or at least any serious problems." This flies in the face of what Scripture tells us about the Christian life (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 1 Peter 4:12,13). It not only sets people up for major struggles of faith when things do not turn out that way, but provides a degree of superficiality to the Christian life. It cannot only lead people to abandon the faith, but it can at least lead those who remain to be afraid of honestly admitting their struggles. It can also make them intolerant of the struggles of others. ("Why can't people seem to get it together?")

Now the Scripture does speak of joy and peace. But it is joy and peace based on something. The kind of joy and peace that can often coexist with heartache and struggle. There is joy and peace in God and who He is (1 John 1:3,4; Philippians 4:4; Psalms 105:3) There is joy and peace in salvation (Philippians 3:3; Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 1:8). There is joy and peace in prayer, not that prayer will always be answered the way we want, but that we can entrust all our worries and cares to God (Philippians 4:6,7; 1 Peter 5:7; John 16:24).  There is joy in the fellowship of other believers (1 Corinthians 12:26; Philemon 1:7; 2 Timothy 1:4) There is rejoicing in God's purposes being accomplished in the lives of others (2 John 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; Philippians 2:2). And most strange of all, there is rejoicing in our troubles, because we know there is a hope that goes beyond our troubles (Matthew 5:12; James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5). Now none of this sounds like one big happiness pill that anesthetizes us to all the problems in the world. Much less is it a promise that we will have no serious problems. Rather, we are to see this joy and peace as interwoven with the real pains and sorrows of life. Even the perfect Man felt sorrow at the things He encountered and endured in this life (Matthew 26:37,38; John 11:35; Luke 19:41-44).

But if we adopt the kind of superficial spirituality which denies all troubles, we will find it hard to be honest with others and ourselves about our real problems. We will also find it difficult to minister to those who are going through struggles. And we can fail to carry out the Scriptural commands to minister to those who are suffering (Romans 12:15; James 5:13-18; Hebrews 12:12,13). We live in a world under sin and a curse, in which there is real evil. As Christians, we have reasons to rejoice in the midst of these difficulties. But to put on a mask and pretend the problems do not exist only hinders our walk with God and our ability to minister to others. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Touch of Humor - Product Sales

Is it appropriate to use church contacts to sell commercial products? Is there a line to draw as to what is and is not appropriate in this?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Old Erich Proverb - Change

God makes us His own that He might change us; He does not require us to change that we might belong to Him.

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Voice from the Past - Augustine

Let us run, believing, hoping, longing; let us run, subjugating the body, cheerfully and heartily doing alms, - in giving kindnesses and forgiving injuries, praying that our strength may be helped as we run; and let us listen to the commandments which urge us to perfection, as not to neglect running toward the fulness of love.

Augustine of Hippo, 354-430, On Man's Perfection in Righteousness, Chapter VII (19) (translated by Peter Holmes and Robert Ernest Wallis, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 5, Philip Schaff, T & T Clark and Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997, p. 165)

How can we make the fullness of love the goal of our life? What things can hinder us in this?


Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Reading of Books

It is said that many of the Biblical critics are highly intelligent people who have spent many hours studying the Bible. I do not question this. But sometimes I wonder, with C. S. Lewis, if they have ever read any other books or if they have totally compartmentalized the experience.  I have been been a bookworm much longer than I have been a Christian, and people do not write books that way. They do not grow up slowly in a community, nor are they made by putting pieces of sentences together from various sources. The issue is not whether the Bible is inspired by God. I would not consider such theories as explaining any secular book. Now if someone produced for me the physical or historical evidence, I might be forced, against my better judgment, to accept such a theory. But such evidence does not exist. We are asked to believe these things based on the plausibility of the theories. And the theories are not plausible. It is tempting to argue that if this is this best alternative to the inspiration of Scripture, it is a great proof of the inspiration of Scripture. But it is not really fair. It ought to be possible for someone with less scholarship and more common sense to come up with a more plausible theory. There is a kind of scholarship that want to prove its intelligence by coming up with complicated theories that do not stand up in real life. This is one such case.

For comparison it is helpful to look at other literature. I have always wanted to write a book (and may still someday) called The Textual Criticism of the Red Book of Westmarch in which I prove how impossible it is that The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion could be written by the same man. And on their logic one could argue for Strider, Aragorn, and Elessar sources in The Lord of the Rings. Or, even leaving aside the other works of Charles Dickens, how could The Pickwick Papers, which ranges from light comedy to some incredibly dark passages, have all been by the same person? Or how could the same author have written Kidnapped and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Yet on the basis of far more questionable reasoning, these critics claim to be able to deduce how ancient books were written. Now the world is full of interesting theories, and people will never cease to speculate. There will always be new theories as to how The Iliad and The Odyssey were written or what the real meaning of Hamlet is. But for anyone to bet twenty dollars, let alone one's eternal destiny, on the truth of such a theory seems incredibly foolish. The truth or falsehood of Christianity has been and will continue to be argued on various grounds. But such speculation does not seem an adequate basis for arguing one way or the other.    

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

In the Realm of the Usurper

We live in a world that is under the reign of an usurper. Satan is characterized as being currently in charge (2 Corinthians 4:3,4; Ephesians 2:2; Hebrews 2:14,15). Now I do not want to contradict the fact that God is still in control (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:28; Isaiah 43:13) and will ultimately be victorious (Romans 8:37; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Colossians 2:15). But presently this earth is under the power of Satan and his minions. And God has allowed it to remain so up to this time to give an opportunity for more people to switch to His side before the end comes (2 Peter 3:9). I realize this does not answer any ultimate philosophical questions. But it does help keep things in perspective. This is not the way God wants the world to be. It is a world full of real evil, real suffering, and real troubles because there is really someone who is working to promote such things. God is also at work behind the scenes to accomplish His purposes and will finally bring about a new earth free from these things. But for right now we are in enemy occupied territory and should not construe it as reflecting God's ideal.