Monday, December 29, 2008

Reverse Your Thinking

Philippians 2:3 NIV “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself.” This verse keeps reverberating in my mind since I read it the other day. I’ve been contemplating what the world would look like if everyone put this into practice. Let us take just a family of five people who put this into practice. Each person would consider the others greater than themselves. No one gets left out. If person one is considering persons two through four and persons two through four are considering everyone other than themselves, everyone is benefiting. Everyone is blessing everyone. No one has need of selfishness. Multiply that environment exponentially and consider such a world.

In contrast, if everyone is only thinking of themselves they only reap what they are able to give to themselves. It’s the Scrooge who has no friends on Christmas for he was only concerned with himself. When he was given a look at his life and the harm he was causing to others and the condition of his own life as a bitter lonely old man he comes to realize that he wants to be apart of community life. Selfishness never benefited him. Everyone else understood something he didn’t and he was missing out on life.

Jesus said that anyone who wants to keep his life must give it away. Love is sacrificial for it is the only way it is experienced in full. Love of oneself alone is not real love at all. Giving is always better than receiving. It proves true time and again. It does not seem logical to give away what you want to keep, but it is the way that works. Consider others better than yourself. . . Consider such a world where people value others more than themselves.

I think its fear that often holds us back. We don’t really believe. We think if we hold on to our money tightly it will go better for us than being cheerful givers. We think if we make sure our own needs our provided we will be happy and are left unsatisfied. We think that love is about making ourselves happy and we give up on anyone who doesn’t make us happy resulting in great anguish. In reality, the only love that benefits us is the kind we give away. We must give. We must relinquish the fear and trust the truth. The truth needs to move from our head to our actions.

Give and it will be given back to you. Lay down your life for His sake and you will gain life everlasting. Consider others greater than yourself and you will never lack for friends. It’s all possible in Him. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Moving Forward

History is replete with stories of governments becoming abusive to the people they are fashioned to serve. One merely has to read the newspaper to find many instances of modern day abuses and usurpations brought about through governments. No matter the form of government, abuses can be found.

Governments are brought down and replaced by new governments with new ideals. Sometimes this is done for the good of the people, sometimes for the good of the new regime taking power.

Despite so much injustice coming from the hands of those in governmental authority or the institutions of government no sensible people argue that government ought to be abolished altogether. No one wants a return to anarchy. No one trusts human nature enough to unleash a people with no governmental restraints and protections. It is precisely because people have the tendency towards corruption that balances of powers are put in place in democratic governments. It is because of the waywardness of humanity that government is required and yet the governments themselves contain some of this corruption, hence the checks and balances. We don’t argue to abolish government because of the abuses, nor do people leave to go and find a nation without a government when there is a problem with government.

However, when it comes to the Church, people see abuses of power or other problems in a particular church or the Church as a whole and their response is to give up on church, and sometimes on Jesus as well. But many are still alright with Jesus, but disappointed or burned by the Church. We forget that the Church is made up of people like ourselves. Real people who have bad days, make mistakes, do wrong things sometimes, and disappoint people. We forget that being in a church is being a part of a diverse community of people from all different places in their walk with Christ. If we were all the same, I think there would be greater cause for concern and questioning of authenticity.

I am not writing this to make an argument for the existence of God or the validity of Christianity. I am simply attempting to put things into perspective for we often can see things more clearly when we substitute a different example. If people have left church because of matters of truth seeking versus abuses then I am not talking to you at all. Nor am I judging anyone who has been burned and took a hiatus from Church community life. All I am saying is that we are often quicker to give up on Church than we are on a favorite restaurant or even something as corrupt as government. We can’t put church community life into a category that demands it to be all good all the time, for it will fail as much as we fail and yet we miss all the good if we focus on the failures. It is so easy to allow negative things to cloud our vision so much so that we forget all the joys of being in a Church community. We forget the friendships, the love, the family atmosphere, the encouragement, the joy of working as a group toward growing in Christ. We loose more than we think by leaving, but we forget what we are missing by focusing on whatever injustice we observed or of which we were a victim. Being in Christ isn’t just about being in relationship with Him alone, but in being in relationship with other believers; iron sharpening iron, in good times and bad, and even in the midst of failures and disappointments. We also rob our fellow believers of our friendship and aid when we stop fellowship with them. We all need refreshing, but that refreshing comes only from resting in Him. Even in community with other Christians we must live in a place of rest in Him. If our strength does not lie in Him, we work in our own strength, and that will wear on us quickly. That will rob us of our peace and joy.

Maybe as we enter this New Year we can look at Church differently. We can start fresh and remember that we are all part of this family together and we all need each other and the fastest way to learn to work together in the Body of Christ is to do so. The most assured way of having lasting relationships in the Church is to build them in Him and build them as covenant relationships going through all together. Love endures all things. It always hopes, always preservers, always trusts. It keeps no records of wrongs. It will never fail.

Church isn’t an organization. It’s a living organism. It’s a family. It’s a beautiful family, the bride of our Lord.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Cheer

Christmas is in the air. . .

Lights twinkling

Tinsel glistening

Festive fragrances proliferating

Merriment abounding

Fervent wishing

Abundant giving

Joyful decorating

Package wrapping

Children laughing

Faces smiling

Glitter shining

Carolers singing

Joy overflowing

Hopes of snowing

Snowball throwing

Snowman crafting

Fireplaces burning

I hope all are having a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Impact of Religion in the World

( I wrote this for another website and thought I'd share it here too)

Whether it be positive or aversive, religion will always have an impact on human behavior. From the beginning of time humans have been affected by our spiritual nature. Desire for something greater than the natural consumes our world. Everywhere you look you find temples, houses of worship, books on prayer, meditation, supernatural, etc. The western cultures have risen in secularism in the last century, yet those who ascribe to a religion are still the majority.

Atheism may have become popular in western civilization, but it is a fading minority compared to the rise of postmodern spirituality. Pluralism is a more popular way to deal with religious differences than eradication of religion. People desire spirituality enough that they would rather accept all religions than do away with all of them. The eastern and third world cultures are vastly spiritual. The west has sanitized spirituality to make it fit religious molds and marketing to appeal to the modern mind. However, things are in transition to a new spirituality that is more experiential and less formal.

History is replete with religious extremism. The world is still experiencing the after effects of 9/11. We know full well the adverse affects of religion gone awry. Still American churches were full following this tragedy. Yet attendance waned as people are still in confusion about how to fulfill their spiritual desires. Their immediate reaction to find God diminished as time passed and many blamed religion. The dilemma is real in the minds of many. How to overcome the struggle of wanting God and yet not wanting these shocking results of religious extremism. Is pluralism the answer? Is eradicating religion the answer? Is there truth that can be experientially known?

The unfilled desire for something greater than our reality rises within us and, yet we fear to allow it to surface. We push it down, ignore it, strive to fulfill it through entertainment, family, work, money, etc. In those quiet moments, the longing bubbles up inside us as we watch a sunset or listen to a summer rain. Something calls from our spirit something that affects us no matter what we do. The question is: will we stop fighting it? Will we seek truth no matter where it leads? We know religion will always be in our world; maybe it’s time to see what it’s all about. Maybe there is a place in its story for us. Maybe that longing is designed and the path to the answers is to follow it to its source.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Finding Happiness

The key to happiness lies not in endeavoring to be happy, but in giving up your right to happiness. When we seek anything as an end in itself that ought not to be an end we loose that which we seek. If we seek love for loves sake, we loose love. If we seek happiness for the sake of happiness we loose our joy.

True happiness comes from being filled with joy. Joy comes from being filled with Christ. When we surrender our will to His we experience His life abundantly. All that is good is found in God. Scriptures says to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. A life lived in service to happiness is a life lived for one’s own pleasure. It results in a selfish life, not a happy life. A life lived for His pleasure is a life where true happiness will abound.

Often times we think that if our life could only be free of trouble or if only we could attain this one ideal we would arrive at happiness. In reality, if happiness isn’t found regardless of our circumstances, it will not be found when we have attained whatever it is we think we need. True happiness isn’t about living in a place where there are no trials or problems. True happiness is that which continues no matter the circumstances. It isn’t brought on by circumstances, but is sustained through circumstances for its substance is found in being in Christ.

Some think happiness will come by surrendering all desires. Others think it comes by attaining all desires and yet once attained they sink into despair for happiness was not reached. One only needs to follow the lives of the Hollywood actors to find people in the height of success without happiness. They run through relationships and marriages. They have all the glamour, money, houses, fancy cars, vacations, fame, possessions they could want and still addictions abound to dull the reality of their failure to attain their heart’s desire. Sleeping pills, drugs, and alcohol run rampant in this famous culture illustrating that happiness is not found with more money, more fame, or more things.

The desire lingers unfulfilled for it was never meant to be fulfilled by looking to this world, but to heaven. This is why when Jesus taught us how to pray He said that we pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God and that the reality of heaven bends the reality of earth. Thus, let it be on earth as it is in heaven. When we learn to dwell in God and gain our life from Him all these things will take on new life and meaning. They are no longer ends in themselves, but pleasures meant for us to enjoy because we first find our joy complete in Him. Happiness is attainable, only if the source of our joy is found in our relationship to our Lord, Jesus.

C.S. Lewis put it best when he wrote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Friday, December 12, 2008

Regarding Heaven & Hell (Part 2)

All throughout the Old Testament heaven is described as the dwelling place of God. This is distinguished from talking about “heavens” meaning the sky above. Usually the text will say “highest heaven” or “the heaven” when speaking of the heavenly abode of God. I Kings 8:276:18 it reads (paraphrased) that it is amazing that God would dwell on earth in a man made tabernacle when even heaven itself was not large enough to contain Him. Thus, God was willingly bringing His manifested presence upon the earth to dwell near His people. This was a shadow of what was coming, of what was to be available to mankind once again. God was reestablishing the ability to have Eden once again. It says that even the highest heaven cannot contain Him. He is greater than heaven. While it is the dwelling place of God, He is without limit. Psalm 139 says there is no place we can go where His presence is not. However, there is something different taking place when He is manifestly dwelling in a place. He inhabits places with His manifested presence.

John 1:14 says that Jesus came to dwell with us. This is the same root word used when the Bible talks about God dwelling in the Temple. God went from dwelling in a temple, to dwelling within us through Jesus.

Psalm 115:16 says that the highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to man. Thus, the earth is a gift to man to have authority and dominion upon. When man’s authority is united with God’s the result will be one way. When man walks in his authority apart from God’s will the result is another.

In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches us how to pray, and in this prayer Jesus says that we are to pray that the truth of heaven be established upon the earth. He is showing us that man has the ability to conform earth with Eden once again. Paradise can be regained. It can be brought about once again, and the power to do that is available to us.

When we come into alignment with God through Jesus we enter the Kingdom of Heaven, the dwelling place of God. Jesus frequently speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God. He does so in parables, short stories designed to provide a mystery to the truth, so that we dig in for the treasures of truth. So that those who love truth will find it, and those who don’t want it won’t be condemned by knowledge that they don’t desire. The Word of God is designed to be understood in greater depths when one is in relationship with God.

Romans 8:17 says that we who are in Christ become heirs with Christ, inheriting the promises of Christ. Ephesians 2:6 says that we are seated in heavenly places with Christ. This isn’t something that begins when we die, it is a reality now. Remember the dwelling place of God is in heaven. And we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. We are dwelling in God. And God is dwelling in us, who belong to Christ.

Thus, while heaven is a place created by God that is in perfect alignment with Him, we who are in Him dwell with Him in that alignment and we can bring that reality to fruition upon the earth. That is our mandate. The earth has been given unto man.

So in reality it isn’t that God suddenly judges whether we will be in heaven when we die. It is that we already are in heaven as we lived. And we continue to be in Him as we were already in Him when we lived on this earth. It is merely a further actualization of what is already available to us while we are living here.

In contrast, those who do not live in Christ are living outside of the reality of His Kingdom, by choice. That, in and of itself, is destructive to who we are. Thus, after we die, we continue in that place that we lived in, it is just further actualized and final. Yes in both cases, we meet God, but it is up to us as to whether that meeting will be good for us or not. If we are in Christ we are as holy as He is for in Him exist the abundance of life. If we are not in Christ, there is no life in us and we continue in the state of separation from God.

Christians do not take delight in this condition of people who are not in Christ. In fact, it grieves us just as it grieves our Lord. This is why He came, so that none would perish. This is why we preach the good news, so that none would face eternity apart from Him and so that all can have life right now in Christ. We desire that all learn to live from the dwelling place of God.

We speak of Him, not to condemn anyone, but to bring life to them. This is our heart, this is our goal. Even Jesus himself did not spend time speaking condemnation and ranting on about hell. He spoke about life. He spoke about wanting none to perish. He spoke about His love for sinners of all kinds. He rebuked the religious leaders for condemning people and not showing them the compassion of God.

Ebon makes the assertion that Christians argue that God has no choice. In reality it is our choice that leads to Him or away from Him. It is our choice that seals the deal, not His. He gave us that authority and freedom.

Ebon also brings up the point about people repenting in hell. Jesus actually went to Hades when He died on the cross and preached the truth to those perishing there. They did have an opportunity to come to Him even then. Scripture doesn’t say what the result was, but it does tell us that He gave them a chance to come to Him. I don’t think anyone would be separated from God for eternity that did not conclusively refuse life with Him. He knows the hearts of man. He is the only one that can see who a man is inside.

The point I am getting at is that life is found in Christ, and Jesus desires that we find that life, He wants none to perish. I want none to perish. If we aren’t in Him we are perishing already. If we are in Him we are experience eternal life already. It’s not a matter of when you die, it’s a matter of what Kingdom you are living in now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Regarding Heaven & Hell

A common question of the skeptic to a Christian is the conundrum of how one can believe in a loving God who “sends” people to hell. I can understand how a person could view this belief as unreasonable. However, if one truly thinks through this matter, one can understand it is not unreasonable at all.

First of all it is not difficult for one to believe in a loving God and heaven. It is when the idea of hell enters the picture that a person begins to question God's love. Now if heaven exists as a place where people who have passed from this earth reside with God in all splendor and majesty it would follow that this place would be a desirable place to be. If there was no hell and all people went to heaven it would follow that heaven would not be "heaven" at all, but simply a new place of existence after death with the same people and problems as life on earth. There certainly would not be peace and harmony if people who were lovers of themselves and not of God were then forced to live with God. This would not be heaven for them.

So for heaven to be a place of harmony with God there must also be a place where there is no harmony with God, for those that refuse to accept harmony with God. If one rejects God would it only stand to reason that they would not want to be in a place of God for all eternity. Would a loving God force them to do so?

Moreover, if we start with the presupposition that God is a loving God what does that look like? Would God be a loving God if He forced people to love Him? He would only have one option that would exclude the necessity of hell. Namely, to create robots who have no freedom, but must obey Him and love Him.

So, what does a loving God do? The only way a loving God can exhibit that love is to allow us to have free will that He does not overpower. He gives us plenty of signs of His love, but He does not force us to accept that love or to love Him back. He does this even though it causes him pain, just like a loving earthly father would be hurt if his child rejected his love. He does all that a loving God can do to love and provide a free way for us to have communion with Him forever. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) He is always in pursuit of us with His love.

Now you may be objecting that it is unloving for God to dictate that we love Him and have relationship with Him or suffer. However, the truth is that it is good for us to love God. It is our need that is fulfilled when we love Him. We only hurt ourselves when we reject His love. We do not hurt Him. He doesn’t become less God when we reject Him. He doesn’t need our love to sustain Himself. But He loves us and knows that in Him all things have the fullness of life. He is the life giver. In Him is life. When we fight that reality we encounter suffering, death, and trouble in this world because we are living in opposition to how we are designed to live. It’s like a fish trying to live on dry land. It wasn’t designed to do so, plain and simple. The best habitat for a fish is water. The best habitat for humanity is living united with God through an amazing love relationship. But if we refuse it, as we have the freedom to do, we naturally are the fish flopping around on dry land. We lack the necessary components of the fullness of life. Naturally that creates a problem for us. The problems we face on earth due to our separation from Him are there to point us back to Him. For instance, when a child puts his hand too close to a flame, he feels heat and pulls back knowing that to go further would hurt his hand. However, if the child had no pain receptivity, as some have such a rare condition that they feel no pain; he would burn his hand off and not know he was doing it. The pain is a protection to one’s life.

When things aren’t going right, it’s time to look around and find out why. We all have this sense of how things ought to be, and yet we often ignore that sense and think things are as good as it gets. If so, we wouldn’t have this longing for something greater. That desire is there, because that desire has a fulfillment. People try to fill that longing in all kinds of different man made ways. But the only way to fill real longing in one’s heart is through knowing God and coming into His Kingdom.

God gave us free will and man chose to break communion with God and go his own way. Still God provided a way that man could be forgiven and find communion with God again. That way was by sending His own Son, Jesus, who is blameless in every way to pay the price for the sins of mankind.

The Bible says that Jesus, while being God, humbled himself to take human form and even humbled himself to die via crucifixion to pay the price for sins that He did not commit to bridge the divide between God and man. Man need not and cannot work his way back to God. Nor does man need to die for his own sins, but man simply needs to accept that there is nothing he can do to come to God, but to surrender his heart freely and accept God's free and gracious gift of salvation.

Doesn't this sound like a loving God? Just to recap, He gave us free will. We rejected Him. He then sent His Son to die in our place so that we can still enter into the love He has for us if we so choose. And He won't force anyone to have relationship with Him. But He stands at the door of our heart and knocks. He lets us know that He is there, but He won't force the door open. He waits for us to choose to open our heart or close it to Him. The choice is ours, not His. He gave us the choice because He loves us. He desires that none perish, that is His heart, but because He loves us He has to allow us to choose to have life in Him or to perish because our life is not in Him. We can live now with Him forever or we can never live with Him forever. What more could a loving God do to show His great love?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

God: Father or Puppeteer?

The debate regarding free will rages within the Church as well as without it. There are those in the faith who maintain that because God is all powerful and all knowing, all that happens in the world is just as He wills it to happen. For example, if someone gets healed, He selected them to be healed. If they stay sick, it is His will that they suffer with that sickness. This is not quite the picture of a loving good God. Moreover, there are those on the outside who also give this argument as evidence that if Christians are indeed serving God, they do not serve a good God.

Whether it is a Christian or a non-Christian arguing that there can be no true freedom if an all powerful all knowing God exists, it still boils down to is God truly a Father or is He merely an all powerful Puppeteer holding all the strings of every life situation?

We have to explore the character and nature of God. In our culture, we often have aversion to authority figures especially that of the father. Many of us cannot relate to the idea of a loving father for in the natural we have not experienced it, and if God is a Father we think Him to be as controlling and demanding as natural authority figures. We think that if He has all power and all knowledge then all that happens is either His fault or He isn’t really all powerful, and, in reality, a figment of our imagination. There is a third option. He is all loving and all powerful, but He restrains His will to give us freedom. Or, rather, He does not impose His will upon us even though He could if it were not against His nature as a loving good Father. His power to assume the strings of our lives is trumped by His lovingly granting us the freedom to exert our own volition.

How could an all powerful and all knowing God be good and not run a utopian society for His people He claims to love? He is capable of creating such a utopian life for the world. Obviously this world is far from utopian. Just the same we desire a life of peace and love. Most of us believe things ought to be better, but where does this ideal “better” come from?

God did create a utopia, an Eden, for humanity. However, instead of maintaining it like a Puppeteer, He provided a Father-child love relationship for humanity. He gave man freedom; and with that gift of freedom came the possibility of walking away from God and consequently, Eden. Man had the ability to choose his own path and he took the path of his choosing which created a separation between man and God for sin entered into man. God being all good and holy has no sin. Man could no longer have the same relationship with God has he previously enjoyed because of his sin.

Our relationship with God is analogous to the union of a man and woman in marriage. They become one, bound tightly together in an intimate relationship. If God were to allow sinful man into this intimate relationship with Him it would be harmful to man because of the extreme holiness of God. God protected mankind by having him exit Eden. This was an act of love. God created man to be in relationship with Him. God desires for man to experience the great expanse of His love and to be trusted with great power and authority in this world. There is a greater reality available to man and it is precisely because of this that man, in the depths of his soul, knows things ought to be different.

Even though man used his freedom in a way that was to his own detriment, God did not give up on His creation. He already had in place the redemption of man. The debt of man to sin is great, but God had set in motion the coming of His own Son as the greatest sacrifice of love in all eternity to pay our debt for us with His sinless life. God demonstrated His continued love for man, by sending His son, while we were yet undeserving sinners--only deserving of the just judgment and eternal separation from God. By the work done on the cross by the Son of God and His resurrection, we can have anew a wondrous relationship with the living God for our sins are forgiven and we are made holy as He is holy. He has cleansed us from all unrighteousness and redeemed us to live a life as heirs with His Son.

God continues to relate to us as a Father and does not usurp our will. We can freely surrender our will to His perfect will or we can hold on to it and go our own path as Adam did. The choice is still ours. We can still freely walk away from His gift of eternal life in Him and the full grand reality of His Kingdom. Or we can trust Him and come under alignment with His perfect Fathering and rest in His love for all eternity.

Can God rule the world with an iron fist and only have His will be done on earth? Yes. Does He do it this way? No. Because He is, by nature, eternally a good Father and good Fathers don’t usurp the will of their children, but they lead gently and show the way by example. He gave us His son as the perfect example of the life available to us. We can choose Him or we can reject Him. The world today is a reflection of a world that is not in alignment with Him. He has given those who are in alignment with Him the authority and the mandate to usher His Kingdom into the world so that that utopia we all desire one day comes to fruition. However, it will only be a utopia to those who are in Him, to those who reject Him they won’t fit in His Kingdom because they cling to their own will over and above the will of the good King who wants them to know His love.

C.S. Lewis puts it best when he said that one day each of us will either tell God “Your will be done” or He will tell us “your will be done.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Americans have had a Thanksgiving celebration tradition that began with the earliest of settlers who, along with the native residents, gave thanks to God for the bountiful harvest they shared together. I would say the idea of giving thanks is universal throughout all of history and culture. I think what has changed is whom to give that thanks. However, I do not write this to deal with the receiver of the thanks so much as the giver.

When we thank someone we give thanks. We give of ourselves to thank another for what was given to us. We acknowledge we did not do it alone that we are a recipient of another’s goodwill and we give back by giving thanks and being thankful.

I think most can relate to giving of ourselves whether it is our time, labor, love, kindness, or money to another who responded ungratefully. Sometimes the giver may think what nerve the receiver has to not be thankful. However, if you think about it, giving thanks is not so much for the one being thanked, but for the one doing the thanking. It is better to give than to receive. That is true even for giving thanks. It does something in the one showing gratefulness. Giving thanks, therefore, is for the one giving the thanks and not so much for the one deserving the thanksgiving.

The same is true for giving thanks to God. God doesn’t need us to thank Him so He can feel all good and mighty because humans are giving Him praise and thanksgiving. Thanking Him is for us, it is good for us to show gratefulness. It creates humility, kindness, and selflessness in us. It also curbs our inclination to become prideful.

Some who are in great need often fall into the trap of feeling they deserve to be the one given to by others who have plenty. Sometimes they forget to be thankful because their mentality has become one of taking versus one of humbly receiving and being grateful in response. The solution for those who feel they are in this place is to give out of what they have and more will be given unto them. The act of giving in and of itself whether it is giving thanksgiving or giving something like money, time, food, a listening ear, etc., is extremely beneficial to the giver. Of course it blesses the receiver as well. But it remains true that it is better to give than to receive.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Testimony of Two Miracles

Yesterday I witnessed two miracles. One woman in our church had been suffering with a sore ankle from a pinched nerve. Her doctor had just told her she was going to need surgery to correct the problem. My husband prayed for her ankle and she felt warmth and tingles spread up her leg to her knee. She said it was beginning to feel better, about 20% she said. He prayed again and she smiled and said she again felt warmth and tingles in her leg and reported the pain was 80% gone. He prayed once more and she joyfully reported 100% pain free and demonstrated by jumping up and down on her foot. We told her to be sure to return to her doctor to have him check her out to be certain the problem is fixed.

About a half an hour later my husband and I were talking with his mother about the several miracles concerning her right hand which had been injured 31 years ago. Her hand had been accidentally shot off 31 years prior and reattached without a wrist as the wrist was completely shattered. The doctor had told her that she would never have wrist movement again. However, she had soon recovered wrist movement one day at a church meeting many years ago. The doctor was baffled and said she indeed had wrist movement where there should be none. She retold us this story. And then she was talking about how a year ago she regained movement in the joints in her fingers on that hand while watching a DVD by a minister giving testimonies of many healings. She hadn’t been able to individually move her fingers in 30 years; she could only move the four fingers as a unit and use the thumb with the four fingers to grasp things. Not anymore. She has very good mobility. Still due to the removal of her wrist 31 years ago her right arm was approximately 1 and ½ inches shorter than her left arm; a visible difference that also impaired her balance.

My husband asked her if she wanted God to lengthen it to be even with the other arm. We have never done this before. We have only heard stories of God growing out an appendage. She said yes. She extended both arms out and laid her hands on top of my husband’s open hands. We could see the shortness of the left compared to the right. We kept our eyes open as my husband spoke to her arm to grow in Jesus name. We watched as it grew approximately an inch and a half before our very eyes to match the other hand. We were all jubilantly excited. She said she had felt a gentle pulling in her arm as it took place. She ran around showing the other people in the church still fellowshipping after the meeting. When she returned home she showed her husband and other family members who knew her right arm had been shorter than the left arm for 31 years. Lots of people know it was short and all whom she shows are amazed to see the equal length of her arms. There had been no pain associated with the shortness, God in His good pleasure and loving kindness restored the length.

This is an eyewitness account of the power of God working through ordinary Christians today. This seems extraordinary, but compared to the miracles of Jesus in the New Testament, it isn’t out of the ordinary. I have heard hundred of modern testimonies of miraculous healings of all kinds. I am excited to be seeing them with my own eyes now!

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Supernatural

I have just spent four days at a healing conference where I witnessed many miracles and many tangible experiences of God’s presence. I also heard hundreds of eye witness testimonies of miracles happening around the world including the United States. God is undeniably pouring out His love upon people across the world. He is working through His followers just as He did in the early disciples of Jesus. Biblical miracles are being experienced today. They never stopped being experienced. There are so many historical records of the power of God in all the great revivals of history around the world.

I speak so much on cerebral defenses of the truth of Jesus Christ. However, if all I ever did is present an intellectual belief system I would never paint the full picture of the reality of heaven available to us today. God is not merely a matter of the mind to answer the big philosophical questions of life. If that was all there was to it, what would be the point.

The Kingdom of God is at hand. He is actively moving in the world today. I’ve seen His work. I’ve experienced His presence. I saw a three year old praying for the sick and them getting healed. I saw her pray for someone and the power of God flow over them. I saw children prophesying the things of God over people with great accuracy bringing life and healing to them. I had a woman I had never met prophesy over me so specifically exactly what I needed to hear from God about concerning an area of ministry. About 60-80 people were healed each night. Some had injuries for as long as 10 years and were healed miraculously.

One young man, a musician I know personally, was 50% deaf in one ear and his hearing was completely restored so much so that the noises around him was hurting his now sensitive hearing. Another man had partial paralysis on the left side of his body due to a stroke. Strength returned to him and his limp arm was restored and he could grip a man’s hand in a hand shake where before he could not. This man shared his testimony and demonstrated his returned mobility and strength before the church that knew him well and was jubilant at his healing.

God is restoring the gift of healing and the supernatural to the Church. If you have not seen such demonstrations of the reality of Jesus I believe you will one day soon. This is quickly changing from something common overseas and not so common in the States, to something common throughout the church at large. Don’t you think if most of the Christians you encountered loved like Jesus did and healed the sick and set people free from bondages and such that you would know that the Gospel we share is true? Would not that be proof? The day is fast approaching where this will be what the ministry of Christians will look like. The Bible says that the power of God must accompany the preaching of the Kingdom of God. It confirms the truth of the Kingdom when it is preached accompanied by the demonstration of the supernatural. This is normal Christianity. Normalcy is being restored.

I am reminded of the phrase in The Chronicles of Narnia when the spring was breaking forth through the winter and all the Narnians knew, “Aslan is on the move.” The Kingdom of God is breaking into the Kingdom of this world and we are seeing the God is on the move through His people.

Monday, November 10, 2008

To Love and Be Loved

God wants us to love Him because He loves us first. By loving God, love is activated in us in a deeper measure. It becomes a tangible flowing stream bubbling up within us more and more as we learn to live from His love. When we choose not to love Him, we do not hurt Him, we hurt ourselves. A person cannot truly experience love if they don’t love in return. Being the recipient of love is nothing compared to entering mutual love. However, it is easier to love in return when we are loved first by another. God has eternally loved us and has given Himself for us.

Everything God asks of man is good for man. For instance, giving, in reality, does something in the giver more so than in the recipient. When God asks us to give up anything it is so that He can give us something better. When we give up our will for His, we gain something much greater. When we give up our time, money, food etc. for another, it is the same as giving unto Him. It does something in us that is worth far more than what we give up.

All that He asks of a person is for his or her good. Many think I must love God because He dictates that I do so for His pleasure. The truth is our pleasure is His pleasure. He knows the only way for our fulfillment is Him for He created us to be fulfilled by relationship with Him. He gave us the earth, the animals, the plants and authority over it all. Yet in His love He gave us the freedom to relinquish it all to do our will instead of His will. Yes, He knew what we would choose and could have withheld the freedom, but if He had created us without freedom we would never experience life the way we can experience it with freedom.

Even though we blew it, He knew there was victory coming that would redeem all that was lost and restore creation to an even greater beauty than before. He knew His Son would provide the way to redeem mankind and free man from the debt of his transgressions. Even though we bear the responsibility of sin, He who is without sin, pays our debt for us. We can continue to live in a fallen reality and be in bondage to that world, or we can choose to enter into the greatest relationship of all time. We can experience tangibly the love of God. We can enter a supernatural reality that gives meaning, purpose, and value to nature and ourselves like nothing else can.

I’m not talking about a fantasy land. I am talking about something better than anyone can dream up in a fairy tale story. People write fantasy stories because deep down they know there is a greater reality than the visible world and they desire to know that reality. I am talking about something so real it’s undeniable. I’m not writing about religion. I’m writing about a real relationship with the living God. I do not seek to impose any rules, any laws, or any religion on anybody. I’m inviting you to ask God to show Himself to you and to show you in an undeniable way His reality. I often hear, the burden of proof is upon the Christian. In reality, the burden of proof is on God Himself. Do you really want to know if He loves you? Ask Him to reveal His love to you. You risk nothing, but gain everything.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What is Righteousness?

Righteousness happens in us when we become reconciled to God through Christ. We are aligned to His rightness. The evidence of being righteous is living rightly, but living rightly doesn’t make us righteous. We can’t earn it by works, but are freely given it by grace. We gain a new nature in Christ, one that is reconciled to God and is free of the impurity of sin. Evidence of that new nature is a new way of living; living from love, not from fear, or by following rules. We do what is right because we are in God’s love and it overflows from us back to Him and our fellow man. We do what is right not out of a moral obligation or duty, but because His nature flows through us.

Fear is the opposite of love. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” (I John 4:18) Love always trust, always preservers, and always hopes. It is kind. Not self seeking. It is sacrificial. It keeps no record of wrongs. It does not easily anger. It always protects. (I Cor. 13)

When we are reconciled to God’s love we are made righteous and we live lives of love. Love is perfected in us as we mature in our relationship with Him. We grow in love as we grow in Him. We do what is right because we love, not because we fear. We do what is right because we desire to, not because we ought to, because His love motivates us internally.

We drink from his eternal love; a well spring that never runs dry. We don’t depend on ourselves for the strength to “be moral” we depend on Him for a changed nature being made righteous by His sacrifice and living accordingly by His power.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Standard For Knowledge and Morality

Note: This post began as a comment to respond to cyber kitten's comment to my last post. Due to the length I am posting it here. Please note that I am addressing the perspective shared as quoted and not suggesting it is representative of all atheists.

Cyber kitten: “I'm not sure if there is such a thing as a representative atheist just as there is no such thing as a representative theist. Personally I'm on the subjective end of the spectrum.”

I can certainly accept that there are differing perspectives within the broader atheists’ category. I try to address the main ones I have encountered. I was hoping to see what Kevin’s response was to your response before responding, but he has not weighed in yet. When I address subjectivism I am not saying that all atheists think this way, but I am addressing those who do. I am not trying to claim that all atheists think the same way. All theists are not the same. I hope everyone can understand that simply because I address a way of thinking that I am not trying to set up a straw man for all who claim to be atheists. Moreover as Quixote pointed out we may mean different things by our word choices and need to look at that before assuming what we mean.

Cyber Kitten: “I think he's right when he says that if you're not a Christian you can't really have Christian values - but of course many of the values claimed as Christian are pretty universal (the Golden rule for example).”

There are ethics that are specific to Christian teaching. I think though what I gathered from what Nietzsche was saying wasn’t simply a certain kind of morality, but the base for morality itself was nonexistent if there is no God. Again I am no authority on Nietzsche, so if anyone reading this is better acquainted with him please correct me if I err. I think he did indeed struggle with the conclusion for he saw that such a world without moral adherence would be unlivable. I think this bothered him greatly. I also see that “new atheists” do not agree with Nietzsche because morality is so widely adhered to regardless of belief in God. (see next paragraph for qualification)

However, I contend that it’s not ones belief in God or lack of belief in God which creates the need to be moral, but that we are designed by God with the moral knowledge irrespective of our environment or culture unless some stimuli robs us of our moral sense. Just the same, due to our fallen nature we often do the things we know we ought not to do even while we understand we “ought not to.” That moral awareness is a God given protection to keep us physically, emotionally, and spiritually from the consequences of living outside our created order and to draw us to Him who can supernaturally enable us to live life to the utmost – the fullest available to us which is beyond our imagination, but can be found in Him.

Cyber Kitten: “I think that largely Secular societies are 'going through the motions' where morality is concerned. Few people have any ethical training and I don't think that most people really give it much thought. Of course this doesn't mean that its either Christianity (or theism) or nothing (or nihilism). There's lots of ethical thinking out there that can be accessed by anyone with an interest in the subject.”

Small children know right from wrong even before they are taught. They will cry out “I had it first.” or “He can’t take it from me.” or “She shouldn’t hit me.” They know from a young age what’s right and wrong. All cultures have a sense of right and wrong even if they disagree on the code of ethics. Yes, much of the world simply goes through the motions. Even Christians in churches are merely trying to follow a moral code because they think they ought to, to earn favor with God. Jesus, however, came to change our nature to ones who live lives of love from a place of knowing Him and pouring out to others selflessly. Not because we follow a code of morality to earn righteousness, but because righteousness was given freely to us by God and it is He who enables us to love in a way that is impossible without being united with Him the way we were created to be. It is through that relationship with Him that we can become people who start to love like God does.

karla said: The only way to be certain is to find a stable eternal foundation for all knowledge/truth. If such a foundation doesn't exist there can be no certainty.

cyber kitten said: That pretty much is my position.

What is the point of knowing anything if it is all unknowable if there is no firm foundation? If all that you know is uncertainly known then it seems pointless to gain more knowledge. How can you trust anything you know even that there is no God? You may say given the lack of evidence it’s the surest place to be in, but if there was evidence you couldn’t trust it without believing He exist and is the eternal stable firm foundation of all truth.

Cyber Kitten said: But nothing is "wrong for all people in all times" is it?

I don’t see right and wrong as being solely culturally determined. Sure cultures create morality at times – certain dress codes or city laws etc. But over all things like child abuse, murder, rape, etc. are wrong for all times in all cultures and in all places. Even if we don’t talk specifics we know that all people (except a few with physiological disorders) have a sense of right and wrong even if the specifics are disagreed about. That knowledge of not living up to a standard of good is in all of us, we all fall short of it, every one of us.

cyber kitten said: I find it difficult to understand how anyone can say that morality is objective. There is nowhere outside of culture that we can stand to say such a thing.

Only if an eternal good God exists do we have a place to stand to know that there is objective morality and at the same time love those who fall short of the standard (which is all of us). If there is no objective standard, there is no wrong doing that means anything beyond the cultural level. Yet we all have this feeling of failure to live as “good” as we feel we ought to and yet we have no foundation to posit an “ought” without an objective standard. Otherwise we have no reason to feel we have missed the mark or to see anything another does as wrong no matter who is harmed. We have no call to claim an “ought:” without the firm foundation of an eternal good God.

If you have a piece of cloth that appears to be white and you place it up next to a piece of paper that is perfectly white you will see that the cloth looks rather dirty in contrast. The only way one could say that cloth isn’t white is in comparison to a greater standard than itself. If we look at ourselves in light of the rest of humanity we can say we are doing pretty well. We haven’t killed anyone or hurt anybody and we try to treat people well. Then we look at ourselves compared to a perfect standard, the living God, who created us and we see we aren’t so clean after all and yet there is hope for He offers to freely clean us from all unrighteousness and to show us how to live in a way that frees us from all bondages of sin. He can show us this because He sent Jesus to live the life of a man stripped of His divinity yet still being God to show us how to live a life rightly related to God. Moreover, He doesn’t ask us to live that life on our own strength, but by His strength which enables us to live like never before. Jesus took upon himself our debt to sin so that we could live a heavenly reality.

I think atheists want a solution to the evil in the world just as much as everyone else. However, if God is denied, not only is the solution denied, but also the problem. For if there is no standard then all the “evil” in the world isn’t really evil for there is no standard to judge between good and evil.

Also I have heard some say that if God exist, He is to blame for the evil because He is all powerful and hasn’t ended it. G.K. Chesterton once responded to an editorial question “What is wrong with the world?” with two words, “I am.” He knew the evil starts in our hearts and minds before it is actualized in the world. If God eradicated evil from the planet, who would be left standing? Is any heart perfectly free from evil? Is any mind perfectly good? Is any person perfectly good? God doesn’t end evil the way we want Him to because He loves us and has a better way of bringing about our redemption. The Bible says that God isn’t slow in keeping his promises as some understand slowness, but he is patient wanting none to perish. He is working in this world through those who have joined Him in Christ and through His Holy Spirit. He doesn’t force us by His omnipotence to come to Him, but He does pursue us with His love.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Substance of Faith

The etymology of the word “faith” commences circa 1250 and it meant "duty of fulfilling one's trust," and it derived from the Latin root word fied which essentially means "trust". Trust comes from the Old Norse word traust meaning confidence circa 1200. We use these words everyday, but sometimes we use them with a misconceived idea about them.

True faith should be built on trust and confidence in that which you have faith. We use faith/trust everyday. We have faith that brushing our teeth will reduce risk of cavities. We trust that our employer will supply our paycheck at the end of the pay period or else we would not be working for him. After repeatedly being rendered our paychecks we have confidence that we will continue to get reimbursed for the hours worked. We utilize faith, trust, and confidence in a myriad of ways everyday. However, our use of faith is not without reason. We have plenty of reasons to believe that brushing our teeth is advantageous. We have plenty of experiential reason to have confidence we will receive our due paycheck unless something gives us reason to cease having faith that we will receive our paycheck.

Why, then, when we step into the area of spirituality, do we not understand the use of faith and reason? Faith is not blind adherence to someone or something in the absence of evidence and reason. Faith is trust in someone or something based on the substance of the evidence that supports that faith. I have often observed a child leaping off the side of a pool into his father’s arms. The child has faith that daddy will catch him. He doesn’t absolutely know that nothing will prevent this from happening, but he knows daddy loves him and will protect him because daddy is that kind of person. A child like faith is not one of ignorance, but one of trust greater than many adults because adults have learned fear and that often rules their intellect more than their trust. To live a life not bound by fear and distrust is a wonderful freedom that can only come from being in the truth and love of God. Love, trust, faith all go hand in hand. Sure someone can put their trust in the wrong place; we see this happen all the time. But we also see those people who are so afraid that they trust no one and live a life bound to fear.

It is often said in Christian circles that it takes more faith to be an atheist because there is a greater leap to accept proof of a negative than proof of a positive. The only way you can know a negative is by knowing all things and being omniscient yourself. But the way you know a positive is by knowing that particular thing and not all things. I really don’t want to hear about unicorns and fairies in response to this statement. That doesn’t really address the matter. Nor am I using this an argument for God’s existence but more so an illustration of the leap of faith employed.

However, even in saying this it reaffirms the misuse of the word, faith. It isn’t really faith in the real sense of the word that is employed in believing in nothing, except maybe faith in one’s own intellect. It is a skepticism that leads to atheism, not really a faith. Faith and trust is absent, not because of lack of evidence, but because of skepticism. Atheists deny what they have not experienced even to the extent of discounting the experiences of others because they haven’t shared them.

The Christian puts his faith in God because he has come to know God is real, not as some would suggest, to come to know that God is real. Many think that faith is employed to posit God’s existence, but in reality it is employed after knowing God is real. An encounter with God doesn’t take faith, it’s the most real thing in the world when it happens and no one can shake that knowledge. It is then that faith rises for when you have come in contact with the living God you know that you know that He is real. Faith in Him can lead to deeper relationship with Him, but it is not a major factor in knowing He exists.

Proof that He is real is more an experiential matter than simply an intellectual matter. There is a plethora of intellectual arguments for and against His existence, but once you’ve encountered Him all arguments are secondary to the reality of that encounter.

I know a God who is in pursuit of humans with His love. He points to Himself in creation, in reason, in logic, in history, in revelation, in our emotions, in our desires, in our morality, in our creativity. He affirms who are we are and does not detract from who we are. The supernatural affirms and enhances the natural.

I am not merely asking that people accept only intellectual arguments for Christianity and join the club. I am suggesting that people can authentically truly experience the living God for themselves and come to know that Christianity is true. I don’t know God as a mere set of intellectual ideas and assumptions, I know him personally and relationally.

Faith isn’t something you muster up to believe in something unbelievable. It is the substance of trust in that which has become believable. I pray that you can find the way through the seas of uncertainty and set down your anchor into the firm foundation of truth that is knowable both cerebrally and experientially.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Heavenly Reality

Being in relationship with Jesus is about living a heavenly reality with Him now and in eternity. Eternity begins in our hearts when we enter fellowship with Jesus and continues after we pass from earth. Living a life with Jesus cannot be simplified to mere moral living. It’s about living out a new reality and being harbingers of the Kingdom of God. It’s about effecting earth with heaven. When heaven invades earth, miracles happen. When heaven touches earth, earth transforms to take on the reality of heaven. Living a life with Jesus opens up doors to the supernatural world that allows us to effectuate change upon and within this earth to truly bring the reality of heaven to earth.

Too often Christians give the impression that Jesus only saves us from hell and helps us live good moral lives. Too often, I hear atheists think this the epitome of Christianity. Christians mistakenly produce this erroneous idea. Most mean well, but you won’t find it in Scripture.

Life with Christ is tangibly experiential as well as logically sound. Science has been elevated way past it’s realm of expertise to delineate that there is nothing beyond the natural world. However if the natural world is all science can study then science is claiming to know something it cannot know. If it is true that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of God or the supernatural world then that is because such evidence extends beyond the reaches of science.

Do we only know things by our minds? Do we not also employ our hearts, souls, and spirits in our quest for knowledge? Why do we elevate our minds so high that it trumps the rest of our being? Our reasoning isn’t so infallible as to be the end all way of attaining knowledge of the real. If we live by our heart and ignore our mind we are out of sync, yet if we live with our mind and ignore our heart and soul and emotions we are also out of balance.

Humans are spiritual and physical beings. We need both to be complete. If we ignore one and elevate the other we are out of kilter with reality. It is interesting to note, that only in Western civilization has atheism taken root. The only other place other than Europe and America/Canada where it has any life is in South Africa and only in predominately British communities. The rest of the world is teaming with spirituality and supernaturalism of all kinds. They have experienced that reality and atheism cannot take hold when there are so many tangible experiences of the spiritual world rampant in those societies.

That is the main reason why I could never be convinced of atheism. It’s not the compelling logical arguments that draw me to the Lord, though there are many sound arguments for His existence along with arguments to the contrary. It’s His presence that I have tangibly experienced and all the facets of my real relationship with Him that are impossible to deny. I haven’t just read the book written by the Lord, I’ve experienced its contents and I am pressing in to know more of Him and experience more of Him. It is because of this that I feel so compelled to help others come to know Him too. He is way too good not to share with the world.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Starting Point

Layer upon layer

Brick upon brick

Precept upon precept

Worldviews are established

If there is an errant starting place the rest of the structure will be faulty. The house built on the sand collapses in a storm. The house built upon the rock stands firm come what may. Regardless of the foundation the building will be built even if it is not long supported. Jesus used the analogy of a house upon sand and a house upon the rock. In His parable the house built upon the rock was the person whose foundation is Christ. The house built upon the sand was the person whose faith was in something else that was not a firm foundation of truth.

What I am getting at is that our first principals, our foundational beliefs about life, anchor all that follows even if that anchor is not secure. If the Judeo-Christian God is the foundation of all truth then it logically follows that all truth flows from that reference point. This means, science, history, morality, philosophy etc. all flow from the starting point of Him. He is the bedrock in which all else is supported.

If, instead, there is no god, then all there is is the natural world: the only way we can know it is to trust our own subjective reasoning being certain of nothing including science, history, morality, philosophy etc.

Either way everything hinges on the truth of the existence or non-existence of God. If the Judeo-Christian God is real then it is logical for all knowledge to be aligned with His truth. If He is not real and there is no God than all knowledge would need to bend to that reality. Or rather would be an extension of that reality. However, I think some great bending and distorting of reason and logic is taking place to support the philosophical position of the non-existence of God. Moreover, the foundations of reason and logic collapse when God is removed from the equation.

Jacques Derrida the famous postmodern philosopher writes about how all of language is meaningless signs with no signifiers if God doesn’t exist. He says that we cannot even be certain about lingual communication for we have no anchor for language if there is no God. Ironically he authored quite a few books. In one of his books he laments reason to be the one thing he can’t get around. He knows it should not exist in a world with no God, and yet, he can’t even reason that to be the case without employing reason. Just the same logically he sees that reason is not supported any better than language if there is no God. He said it is a conundrum he couldn’t get around.

In contrast C.S. Lewis wrote in Miracles, “It is thus still an open question whether each man’s reason exists absolutely on its own or whether it is the result of some (rational) cause – in fact, of some other Reason. That other Reason might conceivably be found to depend on a third, and so on; it would not matter how far this process was carried provided you found Reason coming from Reason at each stage. It is only when you are asked to believe in Reason coming from non-Reason that you must cry Halt, for, if you don’t all thought is discredited. It is therefore obvious that sooner or later you must admit a Reason which exists absolutely on its own.”