Week 2: The Truth Project

Our church is offering an adult summer school class this year using “The Truth Project” as the curriculum. These are my notes from week 2. MY REFLECTIONS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. Dr. Del Tackett is leading and presenting in this video series. His blog is on deltackett.com.

Philosophy and ethics form the outside pillars of our understanding
– striving to understand “what our culture has been taken captive by”

2 Timothy 2: 24-26
– the Lord’s servant must gently instruct his opponents

24And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will

We were all outsiders before we came into the body of Christ

Col 2:8
– addressed to us as believers
– tone of this verse is a warning to believers
– message is we CAN be taken captive by lies

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

We have to receive this as a warning from God
– we should know what that deceptive philosophy looks like, otherwise we will be taken captive by it
– now showing an opening clip to a video series shown all over the United States and in other countries
– if you went to public school in the US, you may have seen this opening scene from “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan

– what were his opening words, “The cosmos is all that ever was, is, and ever will be”
– what he is fundamentally saying this is a material world, there is no God

[I HAVE READ THIS IDEA THAT CARL SAGAN, AN EXPERT ON SCIENCE BUT NOT THEOLOGY, MAKES LOTS OF FAITH CLAIMS IN HIS SERIES ‘COSMOS’]

If Sagan had came right out and said “There is no God” then that video wouldn’t have been shown in public schools
– Sagan says “our contemplations of the Cosmos stir us.”

What we see here is assumptive language: the most dangerous form of knowledge
– assumptions are caught and bought without an open, conscious dialogue
– if you buy a statement, you buy the underlying assumptions as well
– so Carl Sagan is precisely teaching here that “there is no God”

I DON’T ENTIRELY BUY THIS. I ACCEPT CARL SAGAN IS NOT SHARING A CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW HERE, OF COURSE, BUT I QUESTION (AS I DID LAST WEEK AS WELL) THE IDEA THAT ANYONE PRESENTING A SCIENTIFIC VIEWPOINT IS NECESSARILY ANTI-CHRISTIAN AND ANTI-GOD.

Carl Sagan: “we are made of star stuff, some part of our being knows this, we can return to the cosmos”

I AGREE THAT SAGAN’S WORDS IN THIS CLIP ARE GNOSTIC

We are going to call this “the cosmic cube”
– philosophical position that all we have and know is inside the

What we see is a philosophy that is attempting to define everything, everything is inside the box

THIS IS NOT TRUE OF THE SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW. THE SCIENTIFIC WORLDVIEW ACCEPTS THERE ARE MANY THINGS OUTSIDE OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING, AND WE CANNOT GO BEYOND WHAT WE CAN OBSERVE IN A REPEATED ENVIRONMENT IN TERMS OF TRUTH CLAIMS

A contrary view, a Biblical view, is that God is outside the box and acts inside the box

in Deism, people said God created the box but really doesn’t act within the box, doesn’t send his Word, and certainly wouldn’t come to die for us
– if he doesn’t act, speak, care, or come to use when we need us / help us: then he is irrelevant and gone
– then we end up with “the Cosmos” of Carl Sagan

What is this thing called philosophy?”
– we are going to find that the Biblical worldview and the worldview we are exposing here are polar opposites

Basis of the Biblical worldview
– God Is
– God reveals himself to us: in his creation and in his special revelation / in his Word

The “other” worldview begins with the assumption:
– God is NOT

CLEARLY SCIENCE DOES NOT MAKE FAITH CLAIMS, THAT IS A GIVEN
– I DO NOT THINK IT IS ACCURATE TO SAY THAT ALL SCIENTISTS AND ALL OF SCIENCE STARTS WITH THE BELIEF THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST. LOOK AT DARK MATTER AS AN EXAMPLE. THERE ARE CERTAINLY THINGS WHICH SCIENCE ACKNOWLEDGES LIMITS TO ITS KNOWLEDGE.

Story of a man who was caught up in an addiction to pornography
– told him you do not believe in the omnipresence of God (if he did, he wouldn’t look at and do the things that he was)

A pantheist wouldn’t disagree with Carl Sagan’s statements
– a pantheist adds God throughout the box, not outside the box

Maybe we’ll turn God into “may the force be with you”
– paganism adds “spirit” inside the box
– many religions which profess belief in God do this as well

Without “the spirit” we might call it naturalism
– with the spirit we might call it “spiritual naturalism”
– this worldview says: the cosmos is all there was, all there is, and all there ever will be

What is philosophy?
– a scientific quest to discover “ultimate reality”

Again I love Webster’s old 1828 dictionary definition, of philosophy:

The objects of philosophy are to ascertain facts or truth, and the causes of things or their phenomena; to enlarge our views of God and his works, and to render our knowledge of both practically useful and subservient to human happiness.
True religion and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle

that same definition NOT in current Webster’s

Something has changed in philosophy
– webster’s new dictionary says: philosophy is a search for underlying reality
– that leaves God out of the picture, which is the problem, because now you just have “the box” and are searching for the truth in the box

Philosophical questions:
– why do I exist?
– what is existence?
– what is thinking?
– what is reason?
– what is logic?
– what is knowing?
– if I know something, how can I know it is real?
– what is the meaning and purpose of life?
– where did we come from?

If you want an impossible task, try to find the answers in “the box”
– this has been the great quest of philosohpers from the beginning: to find the big answers to the big questions

The Universals
– how are we going to make sense of the particulars if we don’t know the answers to the universal questions

Story of friends who told him “the universal truths of Cricket

This quest for the answers to “the universals” is captured in this incredible painting by Raphael in the Vatican, “The School of Athens”
– this captures the philosophical dilemma between Aristotle (looking for the particulars) and Plato (looking for the ideals)
– problem was they were both looking for the answers in the box”

From "The School of Athens" by Raphael in Vatican City

IS THAT REALLY TRUE FOR PLATO? I AM NOT SURE

There was a huge gap between the particulars and teh universals
– why am I here?
– what is the meaning to my existance?

Now showing a photo of Leonardo Da Vinci
– believed he could find those universals
– people believed we could find the universals through mathematics, then turned to science, then turned to art
– ended up as most of the philosphers do despondent, depressed, failing in their quest

IS THAT STATEMENT CORRECT, THAT MOST OF THE GREAT PHILOSOPHERS END UP DEPRESSED

The world’s approach is to try and discover the universals from the particulars
– God’s approach is the opposte: we don’t have to hunt for the answers to those big questions, therefore we can live in this world and make sense of all the particulars around us

OR AT LEAST MOST OF THE PARTICULARS. I DON’T THINK WE CAN UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS IN THE WORLD

different options:
– materialism
– mechaism
– solopism:
– rationalism:
– more….

When I attend Kansas State University, I attended my first philosophy class
– I was sitting on the front row, and the philosophy professor began his lecture sharing a philosophy without God
– he said “you don’t even know if the chair you are sitting on is real…” and I asked myself, “I am paying for this?”
-this path takes us to depression

THIS IS RIDICULOUS. HE IS REJECTING THE WHOLE OF PHILOSPHY BASED ON THAT ONE OPENING STATEMENT FROM HIS FRESHMAN PHILOSOPHY INSTRUCTOR.

Can you live in a world that is postmodern?
– that says there is no absolute truth: that says we can both have a truth and they can both be true

Story of an architect who designed the building with randomness and chaos in mind

You cannot live in a non-reality, insane world
– but that is where philosophy has taken us

IT IS A RIDICULOUS AND INACCURATE ASSERTION TO SAY THAT ALL OF PHILOSOPHY IS POSTMODERN AND MONOLITHIC IN REJECTING THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, THE GOOD, IDEALS, AND OTHER CONCEPTS OUTSIDE THE MATERIAL WORLD
– HAS THIS GUY ACTUALLY READ PLATO?

Brings us to the pillar of ethics
– who makes the rules?
– what is right, what is wrong

If this is your philosophy, then might makes right (postmodern society)
– then this leaves you with 51% of the vote is right

SO IS HE REJECTING DEMOCRACY HERE?
– WHO IS MAKING A CLAIM THAT DEMOCRACY IS THE PATH TO TRUTH

Now showing a montage of video of different people sharing what they thing truth is and how you know what truth is

we don’t know how to answer this question without God
– do we fall back on some utilitarian, pragmatic position? what is best for society? what about the minority?
– when might begins to make right, you will find a lot of people oppressed and crushed

so what do we turn to?

SO I GUESS HIS ESSENTIAL POSITION IS THERE ARE NO ETHICS WITHOUT GOD.

From Plato’s Euthyphro:” Is an act right because God’s wills it….”

I WISH HE WAS LEAVING THE SLIDES UP LONGER

Now quoting William of Ockham cited in Feinberg and Feinberg
– means God could change
– that is wrong because we know God is unchanging

If God never changes, then how would this guy explain “the new covenant”
– I AGREE THAT GOD IS, HAS BEEN AND ALWAYS WILL BE. I ALSO BELIEVE GOD IS IN RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PEOPLE AND THAT RELATIONSHIP CHANGES. THE OLD AND NEW COVENANTS AR EXAMPLES.

God can’t lie.
– lying is wrong because it is counter to the very nature of God

SO THIS GUY IS SETTING UP A COMPLETELY BLACK AND WHITE VIEW OF ETHICS AND GOD, WHERE THERE NO ARE GREY AREAS. I WONDER (BUT DOUBT) HE WILL BRING UP SOME GOOD CASE STUDIES AND SITUATIONS WHICH

Dr William Provine
– lecture at Harvard
– summarizing views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us
– no gods or purposive forces, no life after death, no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning for life, no free will for humans
– Christian humanism has a lot going for it, it is warm and kindly (not for gays, of course)
– problem is you have to suspend your rational mind
– question is can atheistic humanism give us anything? Yes, it can give us intellectual satisfaction because we don’t have to cling to the fairy tales of our youth
– free will is a horribly destructive idea for our society
– so we can rely on “proximate meaning”

SO WHY DOES HE VIEW ‘FREE WILL’ AS DESTRUCTIVE?
– THIS IS QUITE A VIDEO. I WONDER IF IT IS AVAILABLE ONLINE ON YOUTUBE

you can’t live in that kind of world
– THAT IS NOT REALLY TRUE, TO THE EXTENT THAT DR PROVINE AND MANY OTHERS DO “LIVE IN THAT WORLD.” I AGREE THE POSTMODERN WORLD BELIEFS CAN VIOLATE THE LAW OF NON-CONTRADICTION AND NOT BE CONSISTENT

Quotation from R.C. Sproul (video clip)
morality looks at “is”
ethics looks at “ought”
– this distinction has been blurred in our society
– this leads to a statistical view of morality, “the good” is determined by “what is” rather than “what ought to be”
– this leads to a crisis in ethics

do you understand why we are so caught up in surveys and statistics today
– I’D SAY A LOT HAS TO DO WITH WHAT POSTMAN SAYS IN “TECHNOPOLOY”

Barna’s recent survey: How many Americans have a biblical worldview?
– only 4%
– based on 10 fundamental questions
– born again Christians: just 9%

Charles Colson quoted from “Now How Shall We Live?
– Christianity’s big problem: not seen as a viable worldview

merging formal worldviews and personal worldviews

formal worldviews
– marxism, Christianity, islam, etc…
– have truth claims
– these bombard us, are all around us

what I am interested in is your personal worldview
– “the set of individual truth claims that you have embraced so deeply that you believe the reflect what is really real…”
– very seldom do we have a personal worldviews that mirror exactly a formal worldview

What are the consequences when you buy the lives? You conform to the world
Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Again from Sproul
– you can’t divorce the transformation of the mind and the heart
– postmoderns are looking for experiences and not intellectual study

the world “transformed” is overused in our culture
– “metamorpho” is the Greek word
– butterflies are the pretty part of metamorphasis

Only 3 times this word is used in the scriptre
– Romans 12:2
– also in the transfiguration of Christ, something that is fundamentally transformational
– also in 2 Corinthians 3:18

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit

We are involved in this study not just to know facts and have answers, but because of our children
– showed picture of a person who had undergone a lot of facial body piercings, and then juxtaposed that with a photo of his grandchildren

OUR CHURCH IS NOT PROVIDING ANY OPPORTUNITY FOR FOLKS TO DISCUSS AND TALK ABOUT THESE VIDEOS. THESE VIDEOS ARE 55 MIN LONG, AND NO TIME IS PROVIDED FOR DISCUSSION. I THINK WE SHOULD HAVE BOTH FACE TO FACE OPPORTUNITIES TO DISCUSS, QUESTION, AND DEBATE THE POINTS AND ISSUES WHICH ARE RAISED HERE, AND ALSO AN ONLINE OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS THEM. I THINK I AM GOING TO COMMENT ON DR. TACKETT’S BLOG AND MAKE THIS SUGGESTION. OUR CONGREGATION IS LIKELY “NOT READY” FOR THIS TYPE OF ONLINE FORUM FOR DISCUSSION LIKE THIS, BUT WE SHOULD BE. IF THE PUBLISHERS OF THIS SERIES DO NOT HAVE THAT TYPE OF FORUM SETUP AND ARE NOT WILLING OT SET ONE UP, PERHAPS I’LL SET ONE UP VIA NING.

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , , , ,

Choosing Legalism over Grace

Our church is currently in the midst of a series called “Real Life”. The focus is on daily living, what it looks like to be a Christian.  It’s really a study on the book of Galatians. I bookmarked a couple of verses today from the Message:

Galatians 2:20-21

My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

The last line struck me.  Having lived the majority of my 45 years as a Christian, I still struggle with that. The world around me reminds me every day that it does not operate under grace. It operates under a belief that if you work hard, good things happen and you get exactly what you deserve.  This is likely why we fall into the trap of legalism.  Our Pastor asked, “Why are we so quick to succumb to legalism and yet so easily give up on grace?’  I ask myself that alot.

I also bookmarked Galatians 3:5

Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?

These are questions I need to spend some time pondering.

The Good Life: Stewardship

These are my notes from John Gruel’s class, “The Good Life: Stewardship” on Wednesday, April 8, 2009. This was shared as a class following “The Gathering” at 1st Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma.

THIS REMINDS ME OF A SERIES I TAUGHT AT OUR CHURCH IN LUBBOCK TITLED, “Lessons of Christian Stewardship from the Life of the Steward of Gondor”

Why is Stewardship season typically in the fall for churches?
– it’s budgeting time
– focus of stewardship season is usually money

steward = someone hired in a large household to manage domestic affairs
– some stewards are also on a ship

Stewardship: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care

Psalm 24:1

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;

Everything belongs to God
– also Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Point 2: We are radically dependent on God
– we don’t have anything that hasn’t been given to us by God

Genesis 2:15

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it

word “subdue” implies dominion and care for

Our position in creation by God is one of trust and relationship

dominion” we’re given over the earth is as STEWARDS
– to take care of the earth, we have responsibilities

human dominion and stewardship is affected by the fall recorded in Genesis 3
– consequences for women in childbirth

part of the blessing and charge was: be fruitful and multiply
– after the fall, we can and still do that, but it’s more of a burden
– language of the painful toil for childbirth is the same as the pain for Adam in bringing crops from the ground

Now we also have the first example of domination: the male over the female
– that is not necessarily part of the original plan, that is a consequence of the Fall

Genesis 3:16-19

As a result of the fall, our relationship with creation and our Creator is distorted

Foundational assumption: when things are going well for us, we tend to forget that everything we have is a gift from God
Deut 8:10-19

Deut 8:17-20 (The Message)

If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!”—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today.

If you forget, forget God, your God, and start taking up with other gods, serving and worshiping them, I’m on record right now as giving you firm warning: that will be the end of you; I mean it—destruction. You’ll go to your doom—the same as the nations God is destroying before you; doom because you wouldn’t obey the Voice of God, your God

That gives us an accurate glimpse of what we tend to do, when things are bad and good
– when things are good, we don’t tend to call out to anyone
– this is part of who we are and tend to be: we forget our dependence on God to our peril

2 Cor 5:17-18
– a new creation that is being redeemed is the result of us abiding in Christ

Christ reconciling the world to himself, as we are reconciled we join Jesus’ work of stewardship

Personal stewardship is holistic: it involves all our bodies
– Heart: desires, will, allegiance – in this time of thinking the heart was more than the organ that pumps your blood
– Soul: nature, self
– Mind: Thoughts, speech
– Strength: action, resources

You are a steward of everything you are and everything you have

On a corporate level, we are called to stewardship as well
– creation care
– economic justice

Stewardship of our own resources: time, energy, and assets

I THINK WE CAN ALSO THINK OF OUR “ATTENTION” IN TERMS OF STEWARDSHIP

Time
– Time is money: it is a resource, we have to budget it, it is a commodity
– like money it is not our own, it is given to us by God

– Differences: we can’t store up time like money for future use
— we have to manage it for current use
— once you lose it, it’s gone

– being a steward of your time means using it as God would have you use it
– a proportionate share of your time should be dedicated to the kingdom of God

If you waste, lose or squander your time, you can’t get it back
– we need to be good stewards of our use of time

Look at Jesus’ live as an example and model of stewardship of time: Time with his Father, time with his disciples
– this does not mean “making every moment count” and living a burnout life of constant labor
– that is not good stewardship of time either
– should include some time for ministry, work, family, relationship, prayer, Sabbath
– work of time that honors God and reflects God’s will for our lives

Stewardship of time should provoke us to think about

Story from San Cosme: After finding out that John has a laundry machine, the women asked, “When do the women talk to each other”

watching TV = developing a relationship with a phosphorescent tube
– leads to screen relationship

NATIONAL TURN YOUR TV OFF WEEK IS APRIL 20-26, 2009

Story of Dave Lewis, area pastor, cutting the cable to his family’s TV

A proportionate share of your time should be set aside for God and the kingdom of God
– that proportion dependent on what has been made available to you

Stewardship of energy
– enthusiasm: personal investment
— think about college sports fans
— Presbyterians will not raise their hands in worship, but look how passionate and active we’ll get when it comes to college sports!
— where are we investing our enthusiasm and displaying our passion?
– effort: personal involvement
— personal participation

Lots easier for me to write a check than get involved with something

finding ways to invest your energy in what God is doing in the world
– remember God is doing LOTS more in the world than just what is happening in your local church and congregation
– God is very active outside your local congregation

Assets
– material assets: property, possessions

monetary stewardship: using your money as God would have you use it
– includes caring for yourself and your family (that is a Biblical responsibility)
– interesting to see how we define “caring for our families” here in North America
– includes sharing generously with others (gleaning laws are an example)
– includes learning to the Lord a portion

When we started this discussion, we were focusing on money in terms of Stewardship. Why is that?
– institutional maintenance
– to a degree, churches are like businesses

THIS IS TRUE FOR SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES/UNIVERSITIES TOO
– it is about 80-90% of our budget now
– we have difficulty scaling that downs

you can’t keep an institutional church going without money

Is this a good reason for narrowing our focus on Stewardship to money? No.

Story of a friend who was told how much to donate to the building of a new pipe organ at his church

How should we give?
– joyfully (willingly, thankfully, cheerfully) – 2 Cor 9:7
— if you are going to give begrudgingly, don’t bother
– generously

Exodus 35

Construction of the tent in Exodus 36
– free will offerings continued to be brought

Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work

This personifies generous giving

Can you imagine if we had to tell people to stop bringing so much money to church, we can’t use it all?!

Tithe is not a NT concept
– it is not in the NT
– had to do with temple worship, supporting the priesthood
– generous giving, joyful giving IS a NT concept

Church of the Savior in Washington DC
established ideal of giving proportionally to different things, rather than setting up a tithe as an absolute floor of minimum giving

Giving sacrificially
– quotation from Kathryn Ann Lindskoog:

C.S. Lewis didn’t talk about percentage giving. He said the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. Our charities should pinch and hamper us. If we live at the same level of affluence as other people who have our level of income, we are probably giving away too little. Obstacles to charity include greed for a luxurious living, greed for money itself, fear of financial insecurity, and showy pride.

Story of John’s son Ben asking about their family financial priorities at age 11, comparing their families to others

Give compassionately
– requires the ability to see the need
– is a response to the perceived need

Story of CCC needing a new refridgerator

Galations 6:9-10

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Homework for next week:

1- Evaluate your giving patterns for some of these principles: joy, generosity, proportionality, sacrifice, and compassion. Identify areas that need improvement and address them

2- Look at the people who are regularly in and out of your life, or consider some of the ministries and missions of the church. Can you ID any needs which you could compassionately address through stewardship of your time, energy and resources?

Next week: We’ll talk about Sabbath!

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jesus on WikiPedia

In writing a post this evening about the 2008/9 Wikipedia Selection for schools (“WikiPedia to go (an offline download for schools)”) I briefly scanned the opening paragraphs of the site’s article for Jesus.

WOW.

The first content issue the article raises is in the first sentence of the third paragraph, which reads:

…though some scholars argue that other texts (such as the Gospel of Thomas) are as relevant as the canonical gospels to the historical Jesus.

Score one point for Elaine Pagels and the modern-day gnostics. See my Christmas day post from 2005, “Modern day gnosticism,” for why it is misleading to suggest that Pagels’ fringe views on the “gospel of Thomas” deserve mainstream attention and respect.

Pagels and gnosticism aside, I find this extensive article about Jesus from the WikiPedia Selection for schools to be very thought provoking and worthwhile to consider as a Christ-follower, parent, spouse, Sunday school teacher, and leader in my local church congregation.

I think it could be a great activity for an adult or youth Sunday school class to review and analyze this article, in light of the beliefs, theology, and worldview of the local congregation in which it is studied.

Do you know what you believe? Do you know why you believe those things? Can you articulate and explain your beliefs, by reading an article about Jesus Christ ostensibly written from a secular perspective?

These sound like great challenges as well as opportunities for modern-day Christians. 🙂

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , ,

5th Graders speak: “Who Is Jesus?”

5th grade students in the Sunday school class I’m co-teaching this semester contributed to this four minute audio podcast on the theme, “Who Is Jesus?” Some of these recordings were made during our Sunday school class last week using Audacity and an external microphone, but most were made by students and teachers from home using their phones and the free Gabcast service.

Compatibility between science and faith

I attended a wonderful Christian men’s conference at Mo-Ranch in south Texas this weekend, and emerged from the weekend with 22 pages of handwritten notes! To begin the work I need to do in processing and reflecting on many of the ideas shared at the conference, I recorded a 30 minute Gcast podcast this evening with my cell phone, which was automatically posted to the web.

Subscribe Free for future posts  Add this player to my Page

The Sunday School lessons of Dr. Dan Foster, who was our conference keynote speaker, are available online.

How Rich are you?

Our church is looking at Overload. Last Sunday our Pastor spoke on Financial Overload. Here’s a segment from the video we viewed.

Go ahead and plug your annual income into this website. You are rich.

As someone who claims to be evolving into a global citizen, I am compelled to rethink my attitude toward my wealth and how I use my resources. The following verse comes to mind:

“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

Great questions about God

My now 9 year old son asked some great questions last night in the car to my wife and I as we drove home from his “celebration” birthday dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Oklahoma City. We had actually spent quite a bit of time together yesterday, going to a Boy Scout Troop sponsored event in the morning to help cub scouts design and cut out their Pinewood Derby cars. In addition to getting his car designed and cut out (with a very nice band saw and power sander, the likes of which we do NOT own or have access to) we purchased some paint and a small hand saw we were able to use to cut out the back part of his car and make some “fins.” We were able to apply two coats of paint, and have his car well on its way to being completed in advance of “the big race” which will happen at an upcoming pack meeting in the spring.

I am struck by how questions like these seem to follow more QUANTITY time that is spent together rather than QUALITY time. I agree with those who observe “quality time” only comes when you spend “quantity time” with someone else, whether that person is a child or a spouse. The idea of “quality time” is a myth, whose source I’m not sure of, that says you can squeeze in equally valuable amounts of time needed to raise children between an overwhelming array of diverse demands and commitments. That may happen infrequently but I don’t think it happens regularly. When you spend quantity time together, however, quality time seems to happen more often.

Here are some of the questions Alexander posed to Shelly and I last night, which I think reflect some remarkably deep thinking for a 9 year old:

  1. Why doesn’t God speak to us in our dreams like he did in the Bible?
  2. When Jesus comes back to earth, is he going to be born again in a stable like he was the first time?
  3. Is there going to be a “Bible 2” when Jesus comes back and chooses new disciples?
  4. Do angels have to get permission to come down to earth and do things? Can they see us from up in heaven?
  5. Is heaven like a second world? Is God on other planets in other worlds?
  6. What is the purpose of life: Why are we here? (This last one was actually my question I had posed to Alexander a few days back, that we discussed some more.)

No doubt these ARE tough questions, and in trying to answer them last night in the car as we drove home, I was glad Shelly was there to help me attempt some answers. As I’ve written and noted before I don’t think either of us have “all the answers” when it comes to Biblical truth, but I do think and believe that God has the answers and He continues to reveal His truths to us as we read His word and seek Him in prayer, fellowship, and study. So these are some of the answers we shared with Alexander (and his listening younger sisters) last night in paraphrased form.

Why doesn’t God speak to us in our dreams like he did in the Bible?
God DOES speak to us today through the Holy Spirit. God sent his Holy Spirit down to earth at Pentecost after Jesus had gone back to heaven to be with God, and the Holy Spirit speaks to us as we seek God and pray to Him for guidance and direction. Most of the Bible (all of the Old Testament and all of the NT before Pentecost in the book of Acts) was written about times before the Holy Spirit came down to earth. God spoke to his people, often his leaders, through dreams and visions. God still speaks to us and calls us to live out our individual and unique calling– our “mission” on the earth. God sometimes still speaks to us in our dreams, and this is his Holy Spirit speaking to use. [I DIDN’T SAY THIS AT THE TIME BUT AM ADDING IT NOW: WE HAVE TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND KNOW HIM TO BE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE HIS VOICE. WE HAVE TO BE ABLE TO DISCERN OUR OWN VOICE, ASKING FOR ITS OWN DESIRES, AS WELL AS OTHER VOICES WHICH TEMPT US OR CHALLENGE US TO ACT IN WAYS CONTRARY TO GOD’S WILL. GOD DOES SPEAK TO US, BUT WE HAVE TO WORK EACH DAY ON OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM TO KNOW HIM AND KNOW HIS VOICE.]

When Jesus comes back to earth, is he going to be born again in a stable like he was the first time?
The Revelation of John, which is the last book in the New Testament, tells that when Jesus comes back to earth He will come riding in the clouds and come to judge the nations. Jesus won’t be born again in a stable like He was the first time, when he comes back to the earth physically He’ll come back in power. This is one reason why it is so important for us to tell others about Jesus and about the Good News that he offers to every one of us. When Jesus comes back he will take those people who know Him and call Him their Savior up to heaven to live with Him forever. This is one of the most difficult things to remember and understand: God made us all to live forever. We are all spiritual beings living in our bodies right now, but our spirits will live forever. What we do in life is a preparation for eternity. We need to remember also that we don’t know the day and time when Jesus will return. Some people claim they know when Jesus will come back, but the Bible reminds us that no one knows. We should always be ready. As Christians, we can have confidence that no matter what happens– whether some tragedy strikes us and one of our family members is killed, or anything else bad happens– wars, or crazy times– we know that in everything God is in control. God will provide for us and take care of us no matter what happens.

Is there going to be a “Bible 2” when Jesus comes back and chooses new disciples?
I am not certain, but I don’t think so. Most Christian and Biblical scholars today believe that the era of Biblical revelation is over, when the books of the Bible were written and shared with God’s people, although God DOES continue to communicate and speak to his people through his Word, prayer, and his Holy Spirit. As we read the Bible, we see that Jesus rarely did things like miracles in the same way more than once. When Jesus healed blind people and gave them sight, he did it each time with a different method. The Bible says that Jesus will return to judge the nations, not to lead another life of teaching and ministry. It is our job now to tell others about Jesus and share his his love. [I DIDN’T SAY THIS BUT WILL ADD IT NOW BECAUSE I’M THINKING OF IT: JESUS CAME TO EARTH AND PAID FOR ALL OUR SINS BY DYING ON THE CROSS. JESUS DID THIS FOR US ALL ONE TIME, ONCE AND FOR ALL. IT IS DONE, AND IT IS FINISHED. JESUS WILL NOT RETURN TO LIVE A REPEAT OF HIS EARTHLY LIFE, BECAUSE HE HAS ALREADY DONE THAT– SHARED HIS TEACHINGS, AND GIVEN UP HIS LIFE, AND THAT PRICE FOR OUR SINS HAS BEEN PAID IN FULL.]

Do angels have to get permission to come down to earth and do things? Can they see us from up in heaven?
Again I will admit that I don’t know the answer to this for sure, but we do know that angels are real and are the messengers of God. I think that angels are the servants of God, and do what God tells and asks them to do. If we think about the angel Gabriel going to Mary to tell her that she was going to have a baby, and he was going to be the Savior of the world, we see that God told the angel to do that. The angel Gabriel didn’t decide on his own to go to Mary and tell her something. I think that one of the main things which differentiates us as humans from the angels is that we have “free will,” we can choose what we want to do: whether to do good or evil. Some people will say that we really don’t have free will because God knows everything and has already decided for us (God is omniscient.) I do believe God is omniscient and omnipotent, but I believe we still maintain free will amidst that reality, based on what I have read in the Bible and in my own spiritual walk of faith. Yes God knows my choices before I make them, but that does not change the fact that he lets me choose. So to answer the question, Yes: I think angels do have to get permission for everything they do here on earth. I think angels are God’s servants and messengers on earth, and they do what God commands. Perhaps angels can and do look down on us from heaven. I think that everything they do, however, is something that is within God’s will. Angels don’t have free will.

Is heaven like a second world? Is God on other planets in other worlds?
I think we have to remember that heaven is a place and a concept that we really can’t fully understand and grasp with our limited human minds. As humans we live in time, which moves one direction (forwards) and has a starting point and an ending point. God is not like this, and neither is heaven. We know from the Bible that God has always existed: He had no beginning and will have no end. God is infinite. Our minds can say “infinity” but we can’t really comprehend what it means. So I am not sure about a lot of things when it comes to heaven. We know that heaven exists, that God lives there, and that we will all go one day to live with God if we claim Jesus as our Savior. Maybe there are parallel universes in the world, like we’ve discussed in talking about physics and the universe. Yes, we believe God is the God of the entire universe, not just our world here on planet earth. I believe there are other worlds, and yes– God is the God of those worlds too. The universe is an enormously huge place, and we are barely able to comprehend and understand its enormous size. There is a lot we don’t know about the universe, but we do know that God is the creator and ruler of all of it.

What is the purpose of life: Why are we here?
When I asked this question to my son again last night (yes we did have a lot of lighthearted conversation at dinner, but this was one of the more serious moments) he responded as probably many people in our culture would and do today: “To be happy?” In responding to his ideas, I was reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Paul’s Letter to American Christians” that is part of his speech and sermon series I purchased on iTunes about a year ago and am listening to again. In that letter, he reminds us that our purpose here in life is not to merely be happy and seek to satisfy our own desires and needs: Our purpose is to understand and do the will of God. God wants us to be happy, but there are times in our lives when we will not be happy. There are things which are worth struggling and even fighting for that will not bring us earthly happiness, but rather may bring us earthly suffering. Ultimately, we are called as God’s people to do God’s will on earth, and that is our purpose. We are here to worship and glorify God, and do His will.

That was a lot of heavy conversation for a late Friday night! I was amazed by the depth and thoughtfulness of Alexander’s questions about God, and was also thrilled to have him asking us (his parents) questions like these that he is working through. As we prayed together last night when he went to bed, I thanked God for Alexander’s inquiring mind and the questions he is seeking answers to. I prayed that God will continue to bless him in his life, and provide answers to these questions as He continues to reveal himself to Alexander.

Need for authenticity

I want to avoid a tendency that often happens in Christian circles, for people to be “fake” and pretend everything is hunky-dory– and for “outsiders” to the body of believers to get the mistaken impression that either all Christians “have it all together” and don’t have problems with sins of multiple types– or that all of them are fake, ridiculous pretenders who are hypocrites that don’t deserve to be taken seriously.

The following paragraph from John Eldredge’s book “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul” has a good paragraph on page 55 about this phenomenon of Christian “posers” at church:

That sort of thing goes on Sunday mornings, its just a different set of rules. Dave runs into Bob in the church lobby. Both are wearing their happy faces, though neither is happy at all. “Hey Bob, how are ya?” Bob is actually furious at his wife and ready to leave her, but he says, “Great, just great, Dave. The Lord is good!” Dave, on the other hand, hasn’t believed in the goodness of God for years, ever since his daughter was killed. “Yep– God is good, all the time. I’m just so glad to be here, praising the Lord.” “Me too. Well, I’ll be praying for you!” I would love to see a tally of the nubmers of prayers actually prayed against the number of prayers promised. I bet its about one in a thousand. “And I’ll be praying for you too. Well, gotta go! You take care.” “Take care” is our way of saying, “I’m done with this conversation and I want to get out of here but I don’t want to appear rude so I’ll say something that sounds meaningful and caring,” but in truth, Dave doesn’t give a rip about Bob.

There can often be a large amount of truth in what Eldredge is saying here. Many, many people are very sincere in the church, and I am not generalizing to everyone– but I do think this issue of “posing” is something we should acknowledge and address.

A Christian blog is a very interesting thing– even an experimental thing. This is the first “Christian blog” I’ve ever written for. No one taught me how to do this, or what the rules are. Because the rules are being socially negotiated constantly, I think. I wanted to write this post because I want people to know that from where I sit (which I acknowledge is a very limited frame) I think we have a strong need in our face to face as well as virtual interactions to be authentic. That won’t mean I’m going to blog about every problem and difficulty I’m having or have had. But it does mean I want to be honest and forthright at all times, and not give someone the impression that I have all the answers and have it all together. I certainly don’t. That is a primary reason why I want to write about and continually work on my own journey of faith.

Whatever your struggle, whatever your triumph, it is not too small or too insignificant to keep entirely to yourself and not share with someone else. Maybe not on a blog, but certainly with a friend and hopefully with other believers. As believers we are the body of Christ, and we’re called to support one another and hold each other up. I think we are also called to be honest and authentic.

Inspiration from Irwin

I heard Irwin McManus speak at a Promisekeepers event several years ago, and when I started looking for Christian-focused podcasts I was thrilled to find his California church, Mosaic, regularly publishes Irwin’s sermons as well as other presentations on their podcast channel. Unlike some other inspirational Christian preachers who sell their sermons online, Irwin and Mosaic are giving their content away for free. The messages are Christ-focused and Biblically centered, and I really appreciate the scripture, thoughts, and insights they share as I continue on my own walk of faith. They are planning on offering archives of podcasts for sale eventually, but the latest ones are and evidently will continue to be available for free.

Irwin’s latest sermon, “Does God Care,” takes on one of the toughest questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? If God is all knowing and all powerful, how could he let such seemingly senseless and evil things happen on earth?

I appreciate the fact that Irwin offers several perspectives on this answer, unlike Rabbi Kushner who wrote the book “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People” which I read several years ago and found very lacking theologically. Irwin points out that one of the most important things to realize is that GOD CARES, and he acts in our fallen world that yes– does have evil and sin in it– because He loves his people.

I think catastrophic life events often either drive people away from God or can serve to drive us right into the waiting arms of God. I don’t have all the answers, and Irwin admits he doesn’t either, but I appreciate his perspectives and hope more people will hear the Gospel message through the Mosaic podcast.

1 2 3 4 5