Saturday, July 31, 2010


I have added a "Links" page to my blog. You can access it from the menu below the header image (for email subscribers, you'll need to go to the blog in a browser to do so). This page is, initially, some blogs where I have gone to "drink" lately (to borrow an expression from another). I know that, theologically, each of the authors and I may have some differences—but I find a bond among us that shares a love for God, a heart to lift Him up, and a desire to share with, and equip, and encourage, others in their walk (not to mention ourselves as we do).

My fear in sharing (and even in writing on my own blog) is that I will further clutter your already busy plates. I fear, because I have found the temptation so strong myself, the danger of becoming more theology minded than we are servant minded. I love talking about God. I love testifying about God. I love reading about God. God loves our worship and praise and testimony as well. But . . . Jesus also showed us the way, and while He taught about the Father, and discipled those He had with Him, He also walked and served among the lost and hurting—ministering to them the Father's love and power. Then, He could say, "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father," and, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?," and, "If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."

So, drink deep. Enjoy. I'll add to the new page as I am led, but please don't ever let it, or my blog, draw you from the end of our theology—to know Him more deeply (which requires a vibrant relationship with Him and not just reading about Him), and being His hands and feet in a broken world crying out for a reason to hope, a freedom from torment, and a knowledge of their true purpose and worth that is found only in Jesus and His cross.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The BIG Picture . . .

Sometimes I get so narrowly focused on a passage or theme of Scripture, or just “stuff” in my life, that I forget the larger picture of Scripture and the grand plan and movement of God believers are a part of. It is so easy to get down, slip in to a rut, entertain negative expectations, and to lose the divine sense of purpose and urgency the BIG picture gives us.

I was struck recently with an overview of the Bible through Arthur Glasser’s book Announcing the Kingdom. His words, and some things God showed me as I reflected on them, really blessed me. Here it is, in a nutshell:

One: Genesis 1–11 give us a “universal” or wide view picture. They deal with Creation, the Fall, the spread of men (and wickedness), the global judgement on all men through the Flood. They end with the disobedience of men resulting in God scattering them and confusing their language at Babel. These chapters deal with the full population of men (said generically to include women and children as well).

Two: While men are clearly scattering and populating the world from then on, Genesis 12 through the end of Acts 1 basically ignore the rest of the world and focus, simply, on one narrow line. Beginning with Abraham we see the Bible following God’s work of preparing a people for restoring God with the people of the world. We follow the line through Abraham, into Egypt, back in to the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, through the captivity, and in to Jesus who declares both the presence, and the future full fulfillment, of the Kingdom of God. Through Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, He destroys the devil’s two greatest weapons (death, and our guilt).

But, even through this narrow focus of the bulk of the Bible which basically ignores the rest of the world, God is working His plan to redeem the fallen people of the world. Even with Abraham His promise was that through Abraham’s line all the nations of the world would be blessed, and this theme and thread are woven throughout.

Three: Then comes Acts, chapter 2, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit prophesied in Joel that would be poured out on ALL flesh (we suddenly explode again to a wide, non-Israel centered view).  With this outpouring the disciples receive the power from on high God promises them to enable them in His mission which He gives them . . . to go in to all the WORLD and make disciples. This is the world that was scattered at Babel and whose language was confused. It is significant, I believe, that this anointing for God’s global mission was accompanied by the disciples speaking in tongues and people from many different languages each heard the same Gospel! Shortly thereafter the Jew goes to the Gentile, and all the scattered world becomes invited to join in the “nation” of God’s people. It is Babel in reverse, and it catapults us out of the narrow focus of the line of Israel, then Christ, and back in to a wide view in which we see and focus on the scope of God’s majestic, sweeping, powerful invasion of earth to bring back a prodigal race to Him.

So the Bible goes from wide, to narrow, and then explodes back to wide—and at each end of it, like bookends, we find a place where God’s will is done perfectly, free of sin’s tarnish. They are the Garden in the beginning, and Heaven and the New Earth at the end (with Jesus, in the "middle," modeling it for us and telling us to pray for it). In this time in between, as light and darkness battle, as Kingship over individual hearts is decided, we are called of God to be His hands and feet, His soldiers and ambassadors, and the power of attorney’s for His name. We are the ones to walk in His place; anointed of the same Spirit that anointed Him; taking His mission and call to the ends of the earth; modeling His love and power; being a light among the darkness, and partakers in a huge, awe-inspiring, sacrificial, mind blowing, purpose inspiring, physical and spiritual war and mission.

I cringe when I hear Christians say they are bored. We are an integral part in something so breathtaking, and of a scope so large, that the Lord of the Rings pales in comparison to the reality of who God is, who we are in Christ, and what we are privileged to be partakers in.

Why would God use such broken vessels? I don’t know. But He has. And with that I say, “March on! The King is calling!” (And, feel free to remind me of the same when I get bogged down, routine, and lose my sense of direction and purpose—I need that reminder all too often.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Telescopic and Microscopic . . .

Note: I haven't forgotten to post Darkness and Light – Part II. I just felt led to do this first.

Yesterday we were blessed to be able to take our girls to the beach in Cambria for a family day as summer draws to a close. One of my favorite things to do there is to lay on the "pebbly" beach and sort through the tiny rocks, marveling at the amazing colors and patterns and complexity in rocks so small you can barely hold them. Truly, if you don't actually lay down and get your nose next to the ground, you wouldn't even notice them.

One of my other favorite things to do is to browse the Hubble Space Telescope web site (see my November 12, 2009 post As High as the Heavens . . .) and download new pictures. Then I like to zoom in farther and farther in to them and be amazed at the stars (and galaxies!) that are but a dot in the picture . . . knowing the picture itself is but a dot in the sky.

Either way—microscopically looking at smaller and smaller details in already tiny rocks, or telescopically looking at more and more details in photographs of deep space—it is amazing to me how majestic and powerful and complex our Creator is. He is truly, beyond all else, worthy of our worship and praise and awe. I am struck as I look at the details, from a scale so grand I can't even fathom the numbers used to describe it, to a scale so small I need microscopes to appreciate it, that this is the God I have trusted my life to . . . and I know I am in good and capable hands.

I have shared two photo "journeys" with you below so that you can share a little of this with me. The first is from a photograph I took yesterday of a tiny part of the beach. The second is from the Hubble, showing star cluster NGC 265. In both cases, the white box inside the picture shows the area the image to the right of it is zoomed in on (i.e., the middle black box is the area inside the white square on the left, and the far right black box is the area inside the white square in the middle picture). Whether looking a pebbles on the sand at a tinier and tinier lever, or going deeper and deeper into an increasingly narrow slice of space, isn't our God  truly wonderful, amazing, magnificent, awe inspiring . . . indescribable?
Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Darkness and Light — Part I

Yesterday we went to the east side of the Pinnacles National Monument with our youth group. It was a really special day. We got there a little after 10 am, and then hiked up through the natural caves created by large rocks covering parts of a canyon. At the top we stopped and did a little study by a small reservoir and then came back down for lunch and heading home.

At the top, for our study, I began by asking the youth what they could turn on in the dark parts of the cave to help them. The answer was their flashlights, or "light." I then asked what might happen if they walked in the dark without their light and we came up with answers like falling, getting hurt, getting lost, dying, etc. I then asked them, as we sat out in the beautiful sun, to turn on the dark. The blank looks said it all—you don't turn on dark, you just remove light and what is left is dark. Dark is the absence of light. Remember that for what follows . . .

When Jesus came Matthew 4:12-17 tells us He fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy that the people who live in great darkness have seen a great light. In Luke 1:78-79, Zechariah, John the Baptist's father, filled by the Holy Spirit, prophesied, "because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." [boldface is mine]

I asked the youth what the land was like when Jesus came, and the answer, according to the Bible, was that it was in darkness. So, I asked, does that mean the sun wasn't shining? Obviously, the answer is "no." This is a description of spiritual darkness, and based on what we talked about to start—darkness is the absence of light. Who is the light of the world? Jesus. The people lived in a spiritual darkness, absent of God (they had plenty of religion, just not God).

Light and dark are big words in the Bible. In the English Standard Version there are 88 different uses of a variation of the word "light" or "dark" in the Gospels, alone—and almost all of them have to do with light in the sense of illumination, not weight. If it is true that darkness, in a spiritual sense, is the absence of God, then we would expect to find Hell described like that. Sure enough, in multiple places, it is the place of "outer darkness." To the contrary, if God is light and light chases away darkness, then we would expect to find Heaven a place of tremendous light. Hence the words of Revelation 21:22-25, "And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there." [again, boldface is mine]

So, darkness is the natural state without the addition of light. When we walk in darkness we get lost, hurt, and even die. This is the condition of man until the light comes in and shines in the darkness. I'll talk more about darkness and light and walking in them in the next post, but for this one simply reflect on the fact that, absent of light there is darkness. It is the natural condition. You don't need to do anything to make it dark. You do need to apply light to remove the darkness. So many people who don't know Jesus seem to believe that they are on a road and one day they have to choose Heaven or Hell, God or not. The reality is that all are on the road to Hell. It is not one we choose. It is our natural path. We are all absent of God and in the darkness. We must choose to apply the light to get out of the darkness, and that light has a name. It is not some mystical idea of "light" or "God." It is Jesus who said, "I am the light of the world."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Some Changes to the Blog

I have made some significant changes to my blog's layout. If you get new posts via an email subscription you won't see them so I wanted to make a post letting you know. You can click on the link at the bottom of your email titled "A Great God and Good Coffee."

1) I have changed the header image. In case you are wondering, the two pictures are from our homeschool field trip in March to Carrizo Plains National Monument, near California Valley.

2) I have utilized Blogger's feature where a blog author can add different pages to their blog. I did this trying to clean up the right column, and to be able to share more information that might be of interest to readers (especially ones who know me or my family personally, or who want to learn more about the blog or who I am).

The pages I have added are found in tabs/links below the header image. They include an About the Blog page, an About Me page, a page of different pictures, a page describing different ways to follow the blog, a page telling how to make comments on posts on the blog, a link to the blog's home page, and a disclaimer clarifying that this is my personal blog and not something I am doing as True Life's pastor (got to love the tax laws!).

I have also changed the delivery time of email subscriptions from early morning to between 3 and 5 pm.

Thanks so much for your interest in my blog. I value each reader, and I am blessed by the feedback I get in comments, through private emails, and in person about different times posts have blessed someone's life. It is truly a joy to know God is using this to touch others!

Friday, July 16, 2010

What Came First, the Chicken, the Egg . . . or God? recently posted an article titled, "Chicken-and-Egg Mystery Finally Cracked." In that article it says, "British scientists believe they have found the answer to an ages-old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Scientists cracked the puzzle after discovering that the formation of eggs is possible only thanks to a protein found in chicken's ovaries. That means eggs have to be formed in chickens first."

The article then talks in specific about the protein they found (ovocledidin-17, or OC-17), and then continues, "They used a supercomputer to zoom in on the formation of an egg and realized the protein is vital in kick-starting the crystallization process. It works by converting calcium carbonate into the calcite crystals that make up the egg shell. Dr Colin Freeman, from Sheffield University's Department of Engineering Materials, said 'it had long been suspected that the egg came first—but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first.' "

Hmmm. Kind of sounds a little like Gen 1:24-25 in which God records Creation and says: And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. [boldface added by me]

If you read my blog with any regularity you know that I hound on the fact that we must be convinced of the truth of God's Word, cover to cover, word to word, idea to idea, promise to promise. I equate the devil's efforts to undermine our confidence in God's Word to splitting wood by hand. If you have a large round and you want to take it apart you don't put the wedge in the strongest, toughest part or the core of the round. You look for the cracks and weak points, put the wedge there, and then split toward the strongest points.

Likewise, the devil is like that. He doesn't care how he gets you to begin to doubt God's Word. Likely it won't be with John 3:16, but rather with Genesis chapters 1 and 2, or with the account of Noah's Ark and the flood, or with a promise of God you don't see manifested in your life. However he gets in ("Did God really say . . ."), it will probably be a weak spot in your faith, and from there he will gradually erode your confidence in God's Word back to God's love or the Gospel itself, and probably at a time you most need to know it is true in your heart.

Genesis 1 and 2 are one of the greatest entry points of doubt for our youth in America. From elementary school on they are taught faulty science in contradiction to it, and they are made to feel like fools for believing in it as they get in to higher education. Once they doubt it, they begin to doubt the rest, and soon they doubt the relevance of God at all in their life—causing an exodus from the church among young people. (For a fascinating and sad look at this read Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer.)

One of the saddest parts of this is that there is no reason for it. If you have studied scientific defenses of Genesis, or read my posts about our visit by Dr. Rick Oliver from Confound the Wise Ministries (see links below), you will know that science is only further and further coming to find evidence for God's account of Creation—it's just that they aren't allowed to talk about it. I will never forget a kind man in our area, who is very sharp, once telling me that he found it hard to believe he could have an intelligent conversation with me since I believed in the literal Creation account of Genesis. I understand his comment because the word of the scientific evidence (in all fields of science) confirming Creation is having trouble getting to those not already convinced of Genesis.

But . . . then . . . we get articles about chickens and eggs . . . and for those of us willing to recognize it as such, we see, once again, how true God's Word is, has been, and always will be.

Links to Posts about visits with Dr. Rick Oliver:
A Blessed Time: Part I (May 12, 2010)
A Blessed Time: Part II (May 14, 2010)
Fossils, Fishing, and Faith (May 21, 2009)

Rick and Susan's Ministry: Confound the Wise

Saturday, July 10, 2010

King Edward VI — A "Man" of God . . .

The devotional (for lack of a better word) The One Year Christian History by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten is rapidly becoming one of my favorite books. It has a two-page story from Christian history that ties in to every day of the year (that's where I found out about Jonathan Edwards delivering Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God on July 8th—see my July 8 post).

According to this book, on July 6th, 1553, King Edward VI died. On his death bed he made an amazing prayer that was recorded (he thought he was alone in the room). In this prayer I was reminded of Paul in Philippians 1:20-24 when Paul wrote, from under guard, ". . . but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account."

Edward, too, desired to go home to heaven, but also surrendered his will in his prayer to God, saying that if God chose to keep him here to serve Him and to serve and save the chosen in England, than so be it. The maturity and the present reality of Heaven in Edward's prayer are amazing!

During Edward's reign he, as a polar opposite of his Father, Henry VIII, removed corruption from the church, removed unBiblical teaching and tradition from the church, and created an environment in England allowed the Protestants who had fled England under Henry to come back, bringing with them the teachings of men like Luther, Calvin, and the Anabaptists. He brought his "reformation" to England gently and mostly peacefully. Under him, according to the book, "a new day had dawned in England."

Edward was, from this account (and I am sure he wasn't perfect either), mature, wise, and Godly. Did I forget to mention that he was nine when he became king, and 15 when he died?

Yes, he prayed that prayer and ended his amazing reign, at age 15. In his case, unlike Paul, God took him home that day.

I shared this story with our youth group on Thursday night. We identified multiple things that probably contributed to his greatness:

1) He was raised by Godly tutors—who we surround ourselves with, and who we sit under for teaching, are critical!

2) He was young—he probably wasn't yet jaded, cynical, or divided by too many distractions from his job.

3) He was studied and knowledgeable in the things of God.

4) He had seen his father and wanted to be different.

5) He knew who he was and walked in it! What I mean by this is that Henry, his father, had taken over the church because he wanted permission to divorce and remarry to get a male heir. He went through six wives to get Edward. You can imagine that, from the first moment, this child was raised to be a king. He would have known, from the earliest memories on, that he was royalty with a royal calling. When released, he stepped in to that role with authority, maturity, and boldness.

The question is, "Do we know who we are, and do we walk in it?"

When we become born again we become a child of God, of the King. We are comissioned by Jesus to go out, children and soldiers and ambassadors of the King and His Kingdom, carrying and utilizing His name and His authority and His weapons. We have a royal calling—are we surrounding ourselves with teachers who know this, studying to be equipped for it, and walking it out in Biblical authority and Biblical confidence?

Note: Biblical authority and Biblical confidence do not contradict Biblical serving and Biblical humility. We are humble and serve because we know who we are apart from God and who God is and what He calls us to be. We are confident and in authority because we know who we are in Christ, and who He says we are. The two can, and must, coexist.

Credit: The painting of Edward VI is used by permission from the web site:
The sketch of Edward VI on the throne is used by permission from the web site:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sinners and An Angry God . . .

Today, July 8, marks the anniversary of Jonathan Edward’s 1741 delivery of probably the most famous sermon ever given in America, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Sadly, most Americans (even Christians) know little more about the mighty move of God in the 1700s that we call the Great Awakening (or the great man of God named Jonathan Edwards) than the biased, slanted, out of context excerpt that they have read in a English class as a brief excerpt of his sermon. I believe that we can, and should, grow tremendously by studying the lives of men and women of God—a great "cloud of witnesses"—who have gone before us, to help us understand their victories and falls, and the part WE are playing in the move of God’s Kingdom across the ages.

While I do not share all of John Piper’s theology, I admire his heart for God and his biographies of great men of God. Rather than try and come up with my own words about Jonathan Edwards, I find it easier to quote from him (with permission). Information about links to Piper’s biographies is given at the bottom of this post.

In his 1988 teaching at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors called The Pastor as Theologian:
Life and Ministry of Jonathan Edwards, Piper, asks:
Does any of us know what an incredible thing it is that this man, who was a small-town pastor for 23 years in a church of 600 people, a missionary to Indians for 7 years, who reared 11 faithful children, who worked without the help of electric light, or word-processors or quick correspondence, or even sufficient paper to write on, who lived only until he was 54, and who died with a library of 300 books—that this man led one of the greatest awakenings of modern times, wrote theological books that have ministered for 200 years and did more for the modern missionary movement than anyone of his generation?
Though I know that the following excerpt from another point in Piper's teaching is long, I encourage you to chew the solid food and read it through and meditate on it:
And for many text books, Edwards is no more than a gloomy troubler of the churches in those days of Awakening fervor. So what we get as a sample of latter-day Puritanism is an excerpt from his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Perhaps one like this,

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousands times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.

And so the kids are given the impression that Edwards was a gloomy, sullen, morose, perhaps pathological misanthrope who fell into grotesque religious speech the way some people fall into obscenity.

But no high school kid is ever asked to wrestle with what Edwards was wrestling with as a pastor. When you read "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," you see quickly that Edwards was not falling into this kind of language by accident. He was laboring as a pastor to communicate a reality that he saw in Scripture and that he believed was infinitely important to his people.

And before any of us, especially us pastors, sniffs at Edwards' imagery, we had better think long and hard what our own method is for helping our people feel the weight of the reality of Revelation 19:15. Edwards stands before this text with awe. He virtually gapes at what he sees here. John writes in this verse, "[Christ] will tread the wine press of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty."

Listen to Edwards' comment in this sermon,

The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, "the wrath of God," the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is "the fierceness and wrath of God!” The fierceness of Jehovah! O how dreadful must that be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them?

What high school student is ever asked to come to grips with what really is at issue here? If the Bible is true, and if it says that someday Christ will tread his enemies like a winepress with anger that is fierce and almighty, and if you are a pastor charged with applying Biblical truth to your people so that they will flee the wrath to come, then what would your language be? What would you say to make people feel the reality of texts like these?

Edwards labored over language and over images and metaphors because he was so stunned and awed at the realities he saw in the Bible. Did you hear that one line in the quote I just read: "Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them?" Edwards believed that it was impossible to exaggerate the horror of the reality of hell.

High school teachers would do well to ask their students the really probing question, "Why is it that Jonathan Edwards struggled to find images for wrath and hell that shock and frighten, while contemporary preachers try to find abstractions and circumlocutions that move away from concrete, touchable Biblical pictures of unquenchable fire and undying worms and gnashing of teeth?" If our students were posed with this simple, historical question, my guess is that some of the brighter ones would answer: "Because Jonathan Edwards really believed in hell, but most preachers today don't."

But no one has asked us to take Edwards seriously, and so most of us don't know him.

Most of us don't know that he knew his heaven even better than his hell, and that his vision of glory was just as appealing as his vision of judgment was repulsive.

Most of us don't know that he is considered now by secular and evangelical historians alike to be the greatest Protestant thinker America has ever produced.
How would you describe to someone the fierce reality of hell and God's wrath toward sin? How would you magnify the vastness and depth and majesty of God's love apart from contrasting it to His wrath and hell's awful reality? Does it worry you to turn someone off by talking about hell and God's wrath? Does hell's awful reality, and the fact that it is the destination of the majority of people you meet, bother or motivate you? Does eternity, or does your present comfort, drive your choices and how you spend your time? Do you share the Gospel as a way for people to have a better life, or as salvation from hell?

These are all questions worth pondering in our hearts—questions we all probably need to ask ourselves and meditate on. Time is short. How will we spend it, and whose approval and pleasure will drive us as we move through it?
Jesus says that those who are worthy of Him will, daily, deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him. To follow means to go where He goes, to do what He does, to say what He says. Jesus talked a lot about hell. Should we be talking more about it? And, truly, can we fully appreciate God's love and Heaven's glory and the cross' majesty and horror apart from honest consideration of Hell's terror, God's wrath, and sin's cost?

The quoted text above is by John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

Note: I wrote about Piper’s biographies, and gave a link to them, in my Feb. 9, 2010 post, “Velvet Mouthed Preaching” which you can view by clicking here, or by navigating through the blog archive in the column on the right.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A World Growing Smaller . . .

This post didn't really start as anything theological—nor is it really about me or my family. Rather, I just wanted to share with you something I find neat and fascinating, that you are a part of.

Today marks six months to the day that I installed a fun "widget" on my blog from Revolver Maps. You can find it near the bottom of the right column on the blog. It tracks the locations people have accessed "A Great God and Good Coffee" from. It is hard to see well from the blog, but when you click on it you are taken to a page that shows you an enlarged world map with red dots marking each location the blog has been accessed from, and a pulsating white mark showing where current visitors are located (you can view this as a flattened map, or a pretty cool revolving globe). It is not completely accurate as some people access through servers in locations other than theirs, but it gives a pretty good picture.

I find it fascinating that technology has come to the point that from our dusty old dirt road in the middle of nowhere the world, and people in it, can be tied together. Man's mind is truly amazing, and what he can accomplish really stunning when you think about it. Consider that, in December of 1903, the Wright Brothers flew under power for the first time—and by 1969 we had taken men to the moon and back safely! It is no wonder that God, at Babel, came down to a rebellious man and confused and scattered him. He said, at the time, in Genesis 11:6 "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them." (I guess there is a bit of theology in here, after all.) When we harness our mind, in right relationship with God, it is truly the most amazing partnership. When our mind, because it is so amazing, runs, not harnessed with God and out of relationship with Him, it has terrifying and evil potential.

I have included three images for you to share with me (I believe you can click on each one to see them enlarged and more clearly). The first picture is a screen shot of the Revolver map widget on January 19, 2010, just 13 days after I put it on and it started tracking visitors. The second picture is a screen shot of the Revolver map today, showing the growth of the scope of visitors (I am stunned by how many different countries have visited this blog!). The final image is a screen shot of my "Whose Visiting" widget from earlier today (also found on the blog), showing, in another form, the scope of the most current visitors. You can see that you, as a reader, are truly a part of a much larger community than you may realize. That is why I encourage you to use the comment feature and come together, in a place we can all share and grow as one body, separated geographically, but knit together in Christ and through the internet.

It truly is, in so many ways, a small world. May we, God's children through the blood of Christ, shine as bright lights in it—be it as missionaries in Malawi, Africa or the Philippines . . . or homemakers and grandparents in Lockwood, California. May we shine brightly to a lost world, and may we encourage and build up one another as well. For any part my little blog plays in all of that, I thank and praise our mighty Lord!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Scripture or Experience?

In Luke, Chapter 10, Jesus sends out the disciples ahead of Him, telling them to go into the homes and villages, heal the sick, and proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom of God. Then, Luke 10:17-20 tells us: The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" And he [Jesus] said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Why were these guys so excited? I think it is because they had never done that before! I can't visualize them returning with joy and proclaiming what they did so exuberantly if that had been the routine practice of their life for the last decade or two. Deliverance, authority over demons, and healing were a new experience to them, and they were stoked at it!

I bring this point up for a reason. I am fully convinced that deliverance, healing, authority over darkness, and the exercise of spiritual gifts are supposed to be a "normal" part of a believer's life. I believe that Scripture—when studied without a preconception or bias—makes this almost irrefutably clear. However, when we examine many of the arguments for the cessation of the gifts, or for them only being for the Apostles, we find the heart of the argument ending up being a lack of experience in/with these things (personally, and even in their denominational tradition). Hence, experience (or in this case, lack of experience) becomes the true, core argument, rather than Scripture.

Jack Deere, in his book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, writes extensively about this as a man who was raised and schooled (Dallas Theological Seminary) in the belief the gifts of the Spirit ended, but who, after conversations and experiences that led him to reexamine the issue from a non-biased perspective, came to the conclusion that the miraculous is absolutely for us today. He writes, from personal experience and from study and observation, on pg. 55, "There is one basic reason why Bible-believing Christians do not believe in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit today. It is simply this: they have not seen them. Their tradition, of course, supports their lack of belief, but their tradition would have no chance of success if it were not coupled with their lack of experience of the miraculous." (In his context, "tradition" is teaching and upbringing people have been a part of.)

While it is a natural temptation, I think that we have to be very careful not to water down our expectations to match (or self justify) our experience (or lack of it). Rather, our expectations, to be Biblical, should be rooted in Scripture's promises and testimony, and not in our experience. We should have great expectations because we have a great God, and He has given us great promises as we walk in His authority and carry forth His Kingdom battle against darkness.

When I allow myself to water down Scripture's descriptions (hence my expectations) to match my experience (or lack of experience) I am giving the devil more credit than God. I need to, rather, elevate my expectations and goals to Scripture, and contend until I see the breakthrough to that level. It is a war. It won't go unopposed. But, I give the enemy all the good weapons when I allow Scripture to be watered down to something less than it is. Experience can validate the lofty call of Scripture, but lack of experience should never water down the lofty call of Scripture.

If the disciples had allowed their prior experience to define their expectations and efforts when they went out they would not have had room for what they experienced, or they might not of even tried it. They certainly would have had no faith for it, and we know that faith plays a powerful role in bringing God's Word to pass. Instead, the disciples took Jesus at His Word and went out and did what He said to do. As a result they came back stoked—fired up—joyful—pumped—at what they experienced . . . likely, for the first time! They were so fired up that Jesus had to remind them, "Hey, seeing people healed and demons tucking in their tail and running is great, but that is basic stuff. Never forget the true source of joy, which is the greatest miracle—your restored, eternal relationship with your Father in Heaven."

What, in Scripture, do you know at your most childlike faith to be true, but you have become jaded toward believing because you have not yet experienced it? Healing? Deliverance? Joy? Freedom? The promises of what faith can do? Spiritual authority? The promises of great freedom from sin?

Be careful—very careful—to not allow a lack of experience with a promise's fruit to cause you to water down, and let go of, a lofty and childlike belief in a promise's truth. I encourage you with all of my heart (with an encouragement I need someone to tell me so badly myself too many times)—contend for the promise's truth in your life—don't water down the promise from a place of hurt and pain and discouragement.


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