Monday, August 30, 2010

The "Normal" Christian Life

Does anyone else feel like we sometimes make things way too hard? . . .

As Mary Ann and I were praying last night it was like a veil was pulled away and I suddenly saw things with such clarity (things that sometimes seem so confusing). I don't know that I can capture them here in the simplicity and clarity with which I saw them, but I'll try. I preface this by saying that I know there is difficulty sometimes hearing (recognizing?) God's voice, and that we war with the flesh, but all that aside, I think we just make it too hard, too often, and we avoid the simple choice of surrender that would make it all clear through the change in our life.

When theology gets confusing to me I look at Jesus. He said that if we have seen Him we have seen the Father. He was the express image of the Father. What, then, should the Christian life look like? As a follower of Jesus, we probably ought to look at the One who is the root of the word "Christian"—the One we are supposed to be following (ever think how confusing we make the word "following" alone when it is really simple in its most obvious form?)—and see what He did.

1) He surrendered all of His rights. Philippans 2:5–8 tells us that Jesus did not hold on to His rights as God, but surrendered them. He humbled Himself and walked in obedience to the Father, to the point of death.

2) He walked and spoke only as the Father walked and spoke. He said repeatedly that His words were the Father's, and He did only what the Father was doing. He so emptied Himself that He even said He could do nothing apart from the Father. Therefore, if the Father wasn't working, He wasn't either—He did nothing on His own, apart from the Father. If He did any work it was completely the Father's work because He only did what the Father was doing.

3) He operated completely dependent on the Holy Spirit for power. He said that He cast out demons by the Holy Spirit, and Acts 10:38 says, ". . . God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him."  (Underline mine.) He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power by God (He did not bring it with Him because He was God), and He did good and healed all who were oppressed because God was with Him (not because He was God). He so completely surrendered His rights and place as God that He lived completely dependent on God.

4) Because He surrendered all of Himself to God, God had all of Him. Hence, He was filled with the Holy Spirit and out of Him the Spirit flowed. Sickness fell away. The lost found love and grace. His words reverberated with authority. Demons cried out in His presence. Oceans bowed at His Words.

5) Why did Jesus have the success rate He did in healing, casting out demons, speaking to Creation, etc.? Maybe because He did only the Father's work, and when He did the Father's work the fullness of the Father's resources were with Him and behind it.

6) Was Jesus anxious for anything? It doesn't seem like it (except, in the Garden, when He faced separation from His Father). Why not be anxious? Because all He was, and all He did, was the Father's. He lived completely dependent on the Father and as such He was completely dependent on that which is perfect and unfailing. So, in utter dependence He found perfect sufficiency. (No wonder the world does not understand—it goes in total contradiction to the world which says in order to have peace we must be in control.)

So, if we are to have that mind in us which is ours in Christ Jesus, and look to Jesus for the model of what the "normal" Christian life should look like, we find a life that completely surrendered its own rights. This life lived completely dependent on the anointing and power of God to accomplish anything of eternal worth. This life walked in intimacy with the Father and did and spoke only what the Father did and spoke.

What is the result of that life? Tremendous fruit; tremendous intimacy with the Father; tremendous power; tremendous rest; tremendous peace (even in the midst of storms); and tremendous glorification of the Father because, when the world saw Jesus, they saw the Father in Him because He had surrendered Himself so the Father could live completely through Him. (I tend to think that Jesus had tremendous joy as well. Hebrews 1:9 says that of the Son the Father says: You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions. And, He said, He was leaving His joy for us—you can't give what you don't have.)

Yes, I know that we still sin and Jesus didn't deal with sin in His life. But we have the utter and complete sufficiency of the cross as its payment, and the promise of 1 John 1:9 which tells us that when we confess that sin we are completely forgiven and cleansed of ALL unrighteousness. So, if we keep a short account with God, that keeps us very close to Christ.

It seems to me that the Holy Spirit will only flow out of what He fills. And, He can't fill what isn't surrendered (or given) to Him to fill. So, for the promise of rivers of living water flowing out of us to be fulfilled in us, we need to be filled. To be filled we first must be surrendered and emptied. Might the reason we lack joy and peace and the other fruits and products of the Spirit be because we have not surrendered so that the Spirit which brings those can fill us? Might the reverse be that, the more we surrender and empty ourselves, the more the Holy Spirit will fill us, empowering us and bringing with Him the joy and peace He produces?

For a look at the Christian life from other angles, I suggest reading:
"Surrender" is a Beautiful Word . . .
The Wind and the Sail . . .

I also suggest visiting Pearl's blog, Be Thus Minded, which you can access through my Links page. The things she shares have been what God has been using to move me in to a greater understanding of the true Christian life as God intends it, and Jesus models it.

A Note on Daniel: I was asked to elaborate on what I meant in my post "A Sacred Moment . . ." when I said, "I told Daniel what the Holy Spirit's voice will sound like as opposed to Satan's." Without getting into the bigger picture of God's voice, I will just say that what I shared with him was what I felt God was giving me for him, specifically, at that moment. He battled with the idea that he was crazy, and based on his confessions in prayer he felt the weight of a lot in his past. I don't remember my exact words, but they were something to the effect that if he hears voices telling him he is crazy, a loser, lost, bad, (or condemning voices), etc., that those are not the voices of God, and that he should rebuke them in Jesus' name and state emphatically that he is God's child, a child of the King, set apart by God, sealed by God's Spirit, and that they don't have authority over him any more (and to break any agreements he made with them). I told him that the Holy Spirit may speak to him about things he is doing wrong, but that it will be to teach and grow and protect him, and that it will be a voice of gentleness and love, because God loves him deeply.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Sacred Moment . . .

I am in Los Angeles visiting family (please pray for our trip home tomorrow). I had, this morning, a sacred moment down here which I wanted to share . . .

I took a walk up a street this morning to a hardware store to get some tools for a project at the home we are staying at. I don't remember consciously asking God for an encounter on the walk, but I have been studying a lot about the surrendered life and simply letting Jesus live through me. I was so caught off guard by what happened next that I don't even remember the exact order, or details.

I was on a corner with some other people (it was a bus stop). I think I was waiting to cross the street. I don't even remember if I noticed the heavy set, sort of dirty man on the low cement wall a little behind me or not. I may have smiled at him as I went past, but I don't remember. All I know is that he asked me if I would pray for him. He had a Bible with him and I had a little trouble understanding him, and I thought maybe he was asking if he could pray for me. But when I went to him and leaned closer and apologized for not hearing what he had asked, he asked if I could pray for him. He then began telling about how he ended up at that spot and was staring at a fire truck across the street and he didn't know why it was there (it had some meaning to him). He asked how he could know how to be in heaven and he said that I looked like a man who could help him.

I have to say that I was caught so unexpectedly that I was not sure what to make of it, but I soon began to realize it was a divine encounter. I had a decision and, while a part of me wanted to move past and on my errand, I remember thinking that it was likely that Jesus wanted to use me—to be Himself through me to this man. I thought, "This is what I have been studying about. Simply resting and surrendering and being available!"

I stood next to the man and listened to him, sometimes having to ask him to repeat himself. It became clear he was seeking spiritual truth and that, while he'd had some church background somewhere in the past, he was confused and needed answers.

I ended up sitting down next to him on the wall he was sitting on. We talked as the traffic and people went past. His name is Daniel, and he says that people have told him he's crazy. He has started to believe it. I told him that Jesus was bigger than all that and that Jesus could take care of him and set him free, no matter what was at work.

I explained the Gospel to him, and shared about what it means to not just say some prayer, but to surrender our life to Jesus' Lordship. I talked about faith instead of works for salvation. We talked about God's Word, and about Jesus' power, and about Satan's attacks. He then, almost abruptly, said he wanted Jesus and he bowed his head and prayed. He did great! I didn't need to coach or anything, he just poured out his heart to Jesus, asked Jesus' forgiveness, told Jesus he was sorry about things he'd done, and asked Him in to his life. At one point, while he was doing that, he cried out real loud, "Jesus, come in!" I had my head bowed, but I am sure that if I was looking around I'd have seen the people around us at the bus stop all looking and maybe stepping back. I chuckled and told him, "Daniel, you don't need to yell. Jesus has good ears."

When he was done I put my hand on him and prayed over him. I asked Jesus to pour out upon him, and for His power to come against anything wrong with Daniel or attacking Daniel, and to lead him in truth and to help him find a wonderful circle of Christian friends and church. (It bothered me how afraid I found myself as I prayed of how churches would react when he walked in with his dirty clothes and hard to understand speech . . . it is sad to think how many Christians, myself included, often judge or avoid those who drew close to Jesus).

Before I left, I told Daniel what the Holy Spirit's voice will sound like as opposed to Satan's. I taught him about responding to the enemy's voice in authority, and about reading God's Word to learn to recognize God's voice—about finding a good church—and some other stuff. I asked him how he'd ended up in that spot and he said he'd come there to pray (he lives down the street in a boarding house). He said he'd stopped in that spot because the homeless people farther up the street didn't want him there. I told him that I thought God had stopped him there so we could meet and he lit up and smiled and said something to the effect of, "Yeah! I think so, too!"

It was a sacred moment. I can't explain the radiance in my heart and the moment. I hadn't done a thing to bring it about, other than, maybe, being available. I was walking down the street in a town not even my own and a man, out of the blue, asked me to pray for him as I walked past. A man confused and seeking and wanting to know about heaven. A man who looked like the kind you often walk around and hope they don't talk to you. A man who, for some reason, thought I, of all the people passing by, looked like a man who could help him.

I can't explain the moment in any words that are adequate. I share it only because this is my personal blog, and this is my place to share about me and my life and my God, and because if you read my blog you probably care about these things and about me. It was truly amazing to be walking down the street, and 15 minutes later to be leading a new brother to Christ on the corner of a busy intersection, surrounded by people going in and out of a business and waiting for a bus. I don't know how to capture it. It was holy. Even as he yelled out loud I didn't mind. God was there and He was moving.

As I left and walked on my way I marveled. Then, I started to doubt—the voices coming in telling me he was just making me his next mark . . . but then I realized he'd not asked me for a thing, other than prayer and answers. He hadn't told me he needed anything, other than assurance. He hadn't even shared that he lived in a boarding house down the street until I'd asked.

I looked for Daniel on my way back, to just give him a hug, but he was gone. I realize I love Daniel in a strange way. I miss him already. He is my brother. He came to Jesus . . . on a street corner . . . holding his Bible like a treasured possession . . . shirt and pants dirty . . . humbly and simply praying in a prayer so beautiful it made my heart sing . . . and he looked up when he was done with such a smile and an eagerness to read His Bible and do the things I suggested to him.

If you are a Christian, you have a new brother. His name is Daniel. Please pray for him. I stand in awe at my awesome God. If this is what it means to live surrendered and available, resting in God and not striving, simply being there for Him to use, then I want more of it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Are You Living a Bull Fight?

Note: If you are visiting this blog for the first time, I encourage you to read my previous post, "Surrender" is a Beautiful Word. Above any others I have written I think it captures the Christian life, as it is intended to be, best.

All's well and in control. Right?
A video was posted all over the internet this week showing a bull jumping the fence of a bullfighting ring in Spain on Wednesday and plowing through the crowd. I aggressively try to fix my mind on things lovely and pure, and to avoid filling it with unwanted images, so I am not sure why I felt led to watch it. But, when I did on YouTube I found listed, down the right column, video after video of animals thought safely contained, or separated from the people, or controlled, or tamed, turning on people and striking them. Based on the titles, it appears that they ranged from attacks by “pet” Boa Constrictors, to “caged” Polar Bears, to bulls turning on spectators at bull running events, to sharks, etc.

To simply use the bull on Wednesday as an example, I was struck by the fact that the people in the crowd thought they were safe. I am sure they felt in control. It was fun to them, or they wouldn’t have paid to be there. Everything was fun, safe, under control, and pleasurable . . . and then, in a second, sheer terror broke out as that which they thought they were safely in control of turned on them and plowed them over without effort. I timed it—it is four seconds from the first picture where the bull is simply trotting in the ring and the crowd is buzzing with anticipation to the third picture where the bull is leaping into the stand and the people are screaming. It is less than two seconds after the third picture that the bull is among the crowd, charging in to them. In under six seconds it went from a “game” in which the bull was the “safe” object of the people’s enjoyment, to where that same “object” was in their face and tossing them and they were helpless to stop its onslaught.

I think of how many times we play casually with God and sin. We think we are “safe”—in control—that just a little of this or that, or that just holding back from God a little is okay—that we can contain it—that it won’t be a big thing or get out of control. We sit as spectators, treating eternity and sin and God’s holiness and majesty casually, thinking we are in charge and we are in control.

Maybe it is dabbling in sin. Maybe it is thinking we can come to God at a later date, when we want—that we have time. Maybe it is holding back from God what is rightfully His—be it our affection, or time, our values, our entertainment, our finances. Maybe it is not actually doing something bad, but rather not doing what is good, or right, or commanded—a sin of omission, not commission. Maybe it is thinking we have tomorrow to fully surrender to Him and His will and make our life count for eternity . . . that today it is okay to just play and dabble in our hobbies and personal pursuits . . . that we “deserve” it.

Whatever it is, I am struck by the fact that we think we have got it under control—that we are the special, different one who can dabble or compromise a little and not get bitten. That we are safely protected behind the walls of our wits, or our spiritual maturity, or our self control—or insulated by the belief we have tomorrow. And then, in an instant, like a pacing, unseen lion that suddenly chooses that moment to pounce from the brush, that which we dabbled in and thought we controlled strikes, and we realize that we were playing with a den of rattlesnakes treating them as though they were cute worms for bait. The sin turns on us and has our throat in a second. The lie of pleasure and hobbies we convinced ourselves we deserved rears its head above the cross, and we sob, realizing that we don’t have a second chance to live for Him and not us. We are called suddenly home and see all our hobbies and entertainment consumed in the fire, and how little of our life’s work stands for eternity.

God offers us all the joy and meaning we could ever absorb as we walk in intimacy and surrender with Him, and let Him live through us. That is our purpose, and our privilege. Outside of that it is a counterfeit. It looks like the real thing, and it promises pleasure or provision, but it is a bull in a ring. The irony is that, as we fall into the same temptation Eve did of thinking it is possible to find pleasure, provision, and wisdom outside of intimate obedience and total surrender to God, we actually step into the crowd at that bullfight. We have fun, think we are safe, think we are in control, when, in reality, the bull, or the lion, we are “playing with” have in them the potential to, at any moment, turn and trample us into the ground—and show us how flimsy and futile the walls we thought we had erected to keep us safe truly are.

Monday, August 16, 2010

“Surrender” is a Beautiful Word . . .

Dad and me.
I want to share an example that I believe God gave me this weekend when the youth camped at our home. I believe it illustrates the Christian life in such a powerful way that I shared it in my Sunday teaching at church as well. May it bless you . . .

I love my dad. He is a wonderful, supportive dad and I am blessed to have him. I miss him when we are apart, and I look forward to the times we are together. I admire him and his dedication to what he feels is important. He loves history and he is an author, and he has a passion for preserving history in written form and passing it, and his love for it, on to others.

Over the last 2–3 years he and I have spent countless hours on my days off working on his latest book (a revision of a book he wrote years ago on the Monterey/Cannery Row sardine industry that caused the waterfront to become famous through it and the writings of men like John Steinbeck). I probably need to back up and say that, before I started pastoring full time, Mary Ann and I used to do computer typesetting—taking author’s manuscripts and art and turning them into print-ready format.

This book is my father’s book. It is his vision, his desire, his goal. It is not mine. I have other things on my heart to do. I did not wake up those days saying that I wanted to work 6–10 hours in front of the computer on a book about Cannery Row. It is not that the book, or Cannery Row, is bad in any way. It is just not my desire or priority.

But, what is a greater truth is that I love my dad, and this is a gift I can give him—and that is, at that moment, my greatest desire and priority—my desire to love my dad is a greater desire than to do my own thing. I can be his hands, positioning words and pictures exactly where he wants them, moving and adjusting them at his word, giving him a level of control he couldn’t get otherwise. I can sit with him and keep working and changing until my father says, “I like it!”

I did this, and I did it gladly, because I love my dad. When this book is finally on the shelves of bookstores (sometimes we wondered if it ever would get there!), it will be a total reflection of my dad. When people look at the book they will see him, because it will be the expression of his desire. He often made choices of typefaces and positioning I wouldn’t have made, but it wasn’t my book. Had I pushed my desires the book would have reflected me and not him. It’s not my book, it’s his, and as such it should reflect him. I would only get in the way and cloud that reflection by pushing my desires and preferences on him.

What did it take? It took surrender. A surrender birthed in love. I woke up those mornings and gladly surrendered my plans and desires to my father’s heart, for my father’s work. I did it gladly because I love him, and it is my great pleasure and joy to give him that gift. In the end, no one will stop me on the street and say, “You are the one who typeset that book!” And, they shouldn’t. I was just the hands to bring my father’s vision and work to completion, in exactly the way my father wanted it. But, in the end, people do stop my dad on the street and say, “I love your books! I have them all!” and they say, “Your books changed my child. History is now their favorite subject.” And that’s the way it should be. I am just his hands—he is the one with the vision, and when I do the typesetting I am simply doing my father’s work . . . or, rather, he is doing it through me—he is moving a word, or changing a picture, using my hands to do it. It is his, and that is how it should be.

The parallel to the Christian life should be obvious. If I want to say that I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me, it requires surrender. It requires me setting aside my plans and my desires and, in love and honor for my Father in heaven, surrendering to His work and His plans. And then, as I let my light shine before men that they may see my good works, they glorify the Father in heaven. As it should be. He deserves it. If I do it my way, then they see me. If He does it through me, then they see Him. I am merely His hands and feet, letting Him work through me to bring to pass His desires and vision. He alone deserves the glory and praise . . . and because I love Him, that should bring me the greatest joy and be my greatest pleasure. Surrender is, truly, a beautiful word.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Just Do It . . .

This Sunday, at our church's picnic after church, I had an amazing privilege. My youngest daughter, Abigail, came to me and said that she wanted to be baptized. (She understands the Gospel, has asked Jesus in to her life, and is already evangelizing multiple people.) When I asked her what it meant to her she said, "It means that I want to follow Jesus all of my life." So, I got to baptize her! It doesn't get much better than that!

I remember, in my early days pastoring, holding a baptism service at the nearby lake and wanting to understand it. I studied and studied all the deep meanings and the symbolism of it. I got really bogged down in all the theology surrounding it (not saying theology is bad, or understanding is bad). Then one mother about summed it up when she said something to the effect of, "Well, Jesus just said to do it. So, we do it."

I think that says a lot in a little. I am reminded of Corrie Ten Boom who said something to the effect of not worrying about what's in the Bible we don't understand, but worrying about what is in the Bible we do understand and don't live. I think I could spend the rest of my life walking that out alone.

This is, in no way, saying we shouldn't study, etc. That would be foolish! But, there are those times when we simply obey. We don't understand, but we don't rise to the arrogance of needing to understand God before we will obey Him. When I think about that I realize how silly it is to even think I might fully understand the mind of One who speaks a universe in to place when I struggle to understand how a cell phone works.

I wonder what this world would be like if all professing Christians simply obeyed what Jesus said. I wonder what inexplicable differences non believers would see in us if we only surrendered and obeyed. I tend to think they would see such a supernatural difference in us that they could only explain it by the indwelling presence of the Creator of all.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Wind and the Sail . . .

Earlier this year Mary Ann and I were blessed to be able to slip away for a few days and visit with friends in the Shaver Lake area. While we were there a friend took us out on one of the nearby lakes on his sailboat for our first time. It was an amazing experience to move across the surface of the water without a motor, simply pushed by the wind. I was fascinated to learn how attentive the "captain" has to be to the wind and its shifting and its strengthening and subsiding. When you are on the water, with a large sail above you, you can feel the boat shift and either glide or resist, speed up or slow down, depending on the angle of your sail, and the position of your rudder which is controlled by you. I'll return to this point in a moment . . .

Pearl, who writes Be Thus Minded (see "Links," above), recently turned me on to a five-part mp3 teaching by Maj. Ian Thomas on Elijah (you can find them under her "Sunday Sermons" category). I have listened to the first one and one half of them and I am already blessed and filled with revelation. I have a feeling that many posts will spring forth from the rich food of his teaching.

In the teaching Maj. Thomas talks about (and I am paraphrasing and shortening it) a father who asks his son to mow the lawn. The son, can, obviously, think of a lot of things he'd rather do. But, either from duty, or hopefully from affection and desire to honor, gets the lawnmower and mows the lawn. The question then raised is, who is mowing the lawn?

The answer is, the father. It was not the son's idea to mow the lawn. It was not the son's desire to mow the lawn. On his own the son would not have mowed the lawn. The idea, and the desire, to mow the lawn sprang in the father's heart and he is using the son (by the son's willingness) to mow the lawn. It is the father's work that is being done. It is the father's desire that is being manifested and fulfilled. That, is the Christian life—or, at least, what it should be.

I almost had to pull off the road to absorb that. It blew me away. I had never seen it that way. And it made me think of that sailboat . . . and the wind. I want to be like that sailboat, with my sail up and sensitive to the wind of God's Spirit. I don't want the wind to blow one way and I have my sail and rudder forcibly turned to oppose it. When we tacked down the lake, in to the wind, it was a lot of work. We were constantly having to work ropes, pull with all our might, jump to the other side of the boat, etc. It was fascinating to me and a rush, in a sailing context, how we could actually go in to the wind under the wind's power—but I don't ever want that to describe my life. On our way back, running with the wind, we were able to make sandwiches, relax, take pictures, and effortlessly glide along to the destination with much greater speed and efficiency than going in to the wind.

I want to be that "boat" in the Father's wind. Whether it is in my daily life, or pastoring on a Sunday, I don't want to push my own way, or resist the wind of His Spirit. I don't want to be stuck in a set number of songs for the worship, or a set time for the teaching. If the Spirit blows and we worship for hours—or if He leads and we stop during the first song and I teach for an hour and a half . . . or don't teach at all and we just pray—I don't want to fight His Spirit's leading, but to be a sail up and eager to catch His slightest breeze and let it guide me. I want to be the son who, from affection and gratitude and honor and love, hears the Father's voice and grabs the lawnmower. Why, oh why, oh why, do I so often fight that quiet voice of His, or trust my way more than His, or demand to understand what He is doing (and why He is doing it) before I will honor Him with my faith and love and obedience?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Monterey Peninsula 2 — Thoughts While Driving

Driving up this morning I was listening to the teaching Pneumatic Man by Alwyn Zoutendyk which “Pearl” recently posted on her blog Be Thus Minded (see “Links,” above). In that teaching Alwyn talked first about the natural man—the unregenerated, or "unsaved" man. He talked about the wisdom of that man and how it is foolishness to God, and how it is inspired by the devil. He comments on how the natural man would rebel to be told his wisdom was inspired by the devil, and cry out, “What? Impossible! Why I’m a moral man, upright . . .”

Driving, I had a lot of time to think about his comments. I remember so well my rebellion, anger, and resentment when I first heard that, according to Christians, I was a sinner. I honestly can’t ever remember lying to my parents, or taking part in many of the things others were that were clearly “bad” (alcohol, drugs, etc.)—I was a “good kid” and to be told I was a sinner was offensive. I remembered the times I have wrestled with my faith, picturing all the “good” people in my life—family, neighbors, etc.—and struggling to picture them in Hell forever.

I understand, now, as a Christian, with the Holy Spirit’s help, just how hopelessly short of God’s holy place I fall. I understand, now, the darkness that tears around in my heart and hovers all too close to the surface. I understand, now, the amazing love of God who, knowing that by giving me choice I would fall in all these areas, still gave me choice and died in my place, paying for my choices, in the supreme gift of love. I understand, NOW . . .

But, BACK THEN . . . from the other side . . . without that understanding . . . it is truly an offensive message. I thought about the “good” people we all know—those who reject the Gospel, but who love their wives, who treat others kindly, who help the poor, who donate their time, who . . . fill in your own blanks. From their eyes, or through the eyes of a Christian not anchored in an eternal viewpoint, it is very hard to see how a the devil would inspire people to do good. In fact, it seems a total contradiction to our faith to attribute any good to him (or the comment conjures up scenes from the Exorcist and they think we are saying they are possessed in the vein of that movie).

But, eternally . . . I don’t think the devil cares if a person does a few good deeds in this life if those deeds contribute to their belief that they are a good and moral person—not a sinner in need of a Savior. In fact, if good deeds in this life could keep a person from the cross and eternal life with God, then I think the devil would inspire a mountain of good deeds.

There is so much we will only understand through eternal eyes. If we put eternal blinders on, and look solely upon this life, we will fall prey to some real traps. We must remember, I believe, that our eternal life began when we were born again. It doesn’t wait for us to get to heaven. We become alive to God, eternally, at that moment of conversion and we don’t die, we simply “move” and change our abode from earth to heaven. Through God’s eyes, I believe, He sees eternity laid out and He makes His decisions based on eternal consequences. The devil is playing for eternity for people as well.

But, to the natural man, all of that is foolishness . . . and I understand them feeling that way—I did once, too, and I hope I never lose the compassion and understanding remembering those days, and what I felt like back then, bring me. I can't grow cold to, or get hardened by, the reactions of the unsaved to the message of the Gospel. My own feelings or pride for a brief moment pale in comparison to eternity for a soul. We must, I believe, never, ever forget—each and every person in our life is a person God loves deeply and has given His life for. If we fail to love them, we have failed to love Him—and the kind of love He calls us to love with is often very, very costly to us.

Monterey Peninsula 1 — An Interesting Encounter

Note: I needed to  head to the Monterey Peninsula today for some appointments. Of course, I had to find a good coffee shop while I was there (smile!). Here are some "sharings" from my trip so far . . .

I just had an interesting moment . . . I was walking through a hotel lobby in Cannery Row on my way to (surprise!) a coffee shop to take some study time. Right in front of me a couple was coming toward me when suddenly she said she felt like she was going to faint and she sort of stumbled back toward a pillar and sat down next to it. Her husband went to her and I was right beside her. I had my fire department sweatshirt on (I hadn’t wanted to wear it, but this morning when packing had felt that I was supposed to). She was nauseous and light headed and felt ready to faint and vomit. I knelt beside her and asked permission to take her pulse. I talked with her and her husband while I did and asked some basic questions. Turns out she’d had a long walk, followed by a long lunch in the sun with a lot of food and some alcohol. She was very embarrassed and I just visited with her and her husband while trying to get more information. The hotel called security who came over, but stood to the back, especially as she didn’t want paramedics called. As it was wrapping up her nausea wasn’t getting better. I said, “I am also a pastor (I had shared I was a volunteer fire fighter), may I pray for you?” You could feel the stiffening and ice almost immediately! She was like, “Whatever you want,” or “If that works for you,” or something along those lines—I was caught a little off guard by the atmosphere shift and I don’t remember the exact words. As soon as I started praying for her she IMMEDIATELY doubled over and gasped and then said, “Your prayers aren’t helping me. Please stop.” I did so immediately. Her husband, almost apologetically, said, “Thank you. We don’t share that faith,” but I have to say that the force and immediacy of her emotional and physical reaction makes me wonder if it wasn’t more than just not sharing a belief in Jesus. I’ve met a lot of people who don’t believe in Jesus, but most don’t mind you praying for them, or at least they don’t react with such force. I told them I understood and stayed and visited for a bit after, but you could almost feel her pushing me away in her emotions. I then asked the security guard if he would be near by as she rested and the lady was, abruptly, like, “Yes. Please go. We don’t want to take up more of your vacation time.” It was about as clear as it gets that I was no longer welcome there, and it was the most violent, immediate, physical reaction I have ever seen to prayer. I don’t know the explanation for her reaction. It may have been a spirit. It may have simply been a physical reaction by whatever was going on (but that still doesn’t explain the force of the emotional reaction). It may simply be that she was deeply wounded at one point by Christians, or, in her eyes, God. Whatever the reason, please keep this couple in your prayers. I don’t believe that this encounter was an accident, especially since I was heading out this morning thinking that I would be looking for people on this trip that I could pray for—I’ve got to take my faith to the "street" and the lives of people or I've missed what it is all about.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Does it Matter?

Note: I don't normally post links to the teachings I give at True Life Christian Fellowship in my blog. If anyone is ever interested, there is a link in the "About Me" page (above) to our church's page where you can download recent teachings if you are interested. This Sunday, however, is an exception.

This photo is recorded to be of Ota Benga, a man from the Congo put on exhibit in a zoo in the early 1900s. He later committed suicide. I could not find copyright information about this picture. If I have violated any copyright in using it please let me know and I will promptly remove it.
This morning for our Family Service in which we keep 3rd-grade and older in I taught on Theistic Evolution, which, in a nutshell, is a "compromise" position in which a Creator is acknowledged, but then it is believed that He used evolution to bring life to its current place. In my mind this is one of the most dangerous places a Christian can fall in to—and possibly the most likely place for Christians to turn to who don't want to completely reject their faith or the Bible, but who hold man's view above God's Word (whether or not they recognize that they do). I believe that this trap is one that our youth will be especially prone to fall in to as they are bombarded with the false "facts" of evolution, but don't want to completely reject Jesus.

This morning's teaching was directed completely to the Christian, and it dealt with the theological problems of Theistic Evolution (I have already taught for many prior Family Services on the vast wealth of scientific evidence giving legitimate basis for us having a faith-based belief in Creation and a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2). The questions I raise in this teaching would have no effect on a non-Christian as they come from the problems a belief in Theistic Evolution causes with the Gospel and the rest of the Bible, which they don't accept anyway.

I highly encourage you to listen to this teaching. I believe the questions it raises are very important, and any Christian needs to be equipped to present them to another, or answer them on their own. I conclude the teaching with the question, "Does it matter?" and I share what, to me, was staggering and shocking information on the American Eugenics movement which, stemming out of evolution, forcibly sterilized 60,000+ Americans and did not end until 1963 (20,000 were in California alone)! I was introduced to this in the Creation-based movie on the Gallapagos called The Mysterious Island, and with further research found myself stunned at what went on in our nation's recent history—actions that the Nazis later used to try and justify their actions at the Nuremburg war crimes trials!

I can not stress this point enough—what we believe matters! The logical extensions of evolution verses Creation head to polar opposites with no middle ground to meet in. Please consider listening to this teaching. I believe it will bless and equip you. God bless you all. Thanks for reading. May you have a wonderful, Spirit-filled week in which His love and peace and presence and joy are tangible to you, and you rest in them like you never have before.

Mp3 audio (35 minutes) of Theistic Evolution: Does it Matter?

Note: In the teaching I mention that Aborigines were put in zoos. Actually, correcting that, the most famous case of a human zoo that I am aware of was a person from Congo. But, the horrific treatment of Aborigines and other humans, as well as forcible sterilizations and prohibitions against marriage between certain people that were done under the framework of evolution and Eugenics, is well documented and easily discovered with a cursory Google search.


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