Monday, April 16, 2012

Jairus, Jericho, and Evolution

I was saddened to read of Biologos’ “Theology of Celebration” conference in March in which multiple pastors and scientist and theologians participated and dialogued about the evolutionary process being God’s method of Creation. Especially sad to me was to see names of people participating like Tim Keller, who is a dominate name in Christian circles, and who I am confident truly loves the Lord, and who I am sure just wants to be in truth and to serve Him faithfully with all his heart and life. I was happy to read though, that, according to Barna statistics read there, more than half of Protestant pastors still believe in a literal Genesis Creation, and fewer than one in five embrace the Biologos position.

It saddens me how many Christians seem to feel a need to try and make the Bible fit “science.” Even more sad to me is the dominance of the error-filled idea that science doesn’t fit the Bible. The voices of scientist out there who believe that the evidence, without pre-bias or assumptions, best fits the Genesis accounts of a young earth and a global flood are many, but they are not being heard and it is crippling to Christian’s faith in the Gospel and in the Bible. Add to it well known Christians lifting “science” above the Bible and altering the Bible to match the mainstream’s presentation of science, and it is hard, and often confusing to those who have trusted these men and women to shepherd them into truth.

I think of Jairus, whose daughter was dying, and who came to Jesus. While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?" But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." (Mark 5:35-37) Clearly God trumped all medical science and knowledge and wisdom here as He brought her back to life. What about the women with the issue of blood who, in faith, touched Jesus’ garment as He went with Jairus. With just a burst of His power she was healed of what all the doctors couldn’t do, though she’d spent all her money on them. Think of Joshua, breaking all military logic and knowledge, and trusting God and marching around a city and watching its walls fall down with a shout. Think about walking on water, calming storms, sticks turned in to snakes, demons occupying people, water coming from rocks, bread coming from Heaven . . .

In each and every case, what trumped what? Science and the wisdom of men and logic and “common sense” . . . or the power of God, within who galaxies find their origin? What did God require of those filled with fear and doubt and confusion? To trust Him. To trust His Word. To trust His character.

I shake my head that I once felt the need to make God fit in to science’s box, and I praise Him that He has set me free from that lie and put things in proper perspective for me—that He has showed me that God is God, and I (or science) am not. When man, and science, and the “wisdom of the world” come in to conflict with God and His Word, may I always choose the later. The sad thing is, that for those who believe they have to choose between science or believing God and His Word, the choice is really a false one. If they could only hear the true evidence, and see it free of bias and tarnish, they’d realize they don’t even have to choose. True science, and the evidence, support God’s Word and His account of Creation and the flood—and knowing that we can, in faith, stand on the rest of His Word and not just hope that the promises we've stake our lives on are literal, and not allegory!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Walking in Another's Shoes

It is so easy to be judgmental of others (though we can make it look OK and call it "discernment" or simply "noting an area in another to pray for"). We can look at how someone acts, responds, reacts, lives, the choices they make, etc. (whether in life, in church, or wherever), and make our judgments and assessments. At times I'll see such snobbery in Christians as they look at someone "less polished" and "less proper" and maybe "not as refined" and I may have some real (but confidential) insight into the judged person's life and want to say, "If you knew how far they've come from where they started you'd realize that they've probably grown a lot more as a Christian than YOU have!" . . . but, then I'm starting to judge and let roots grow in me that aren't Godly, either.There is absolutely a Biblical place and call for discernment, etc. I am not writing against Godly, Spirit-led insight or leading. There is also a Biblical call to live holy and consequences for poor choices. But, what I am talking about is judging someone for how they react or respond to things, having never been in their shoes. (Again, some things are just plain wrong. I am not talking about calling them OK just because of someone's past. I am talking about our heart toward the person.)

Recently I had an experience that really rattled me and in gave me an insight I never would have had without it. I was at a function and someone asked me how I was feeling. I was a little confused because, as far as I knew, I was feeling fine and had been. When I expressed my confusing the person insisted they'd called me the day before and I said I was fighting a bad cold. I thought they were joking at first, but they were dead serious that they had called and talked to me in person and that I said I was really sick.

After I realized they were serious I got this sickening pit in my stomach. There were, it seemed, only two possibilities. Either I had absolutely zero recollection of something the day before—something in which I hadn't even spoken truth . . . or this person had really a major problem and they are a wonderful friend and I didn't know what I would tell the person's wife. The thought that I might have done and said something the day before that I didn't have the slightest remembrance of was really, really scary.

Suddenly I believe the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge and I thought to ask if he'd called from his cell phone. He had and we went back through his calls and he'd called a friend with the same first name when he'd seen it pop up in his cell phone directory. The friends voice was so bad he couldn't tell it wasn't me. The problem was solved . . . but I gained an insight into how people must feel who realize they don't remember things they've said and done, and I will, hopefully, never talk or work with or judge those people the same way again.

Another time we had a medical crisis and no health care and I needed to apply for help to get a family member some treatment. The process of sitting in front of some twenty year old and having to tell her almost every detail of our personal life as she nonchalantly entered it in to some computer which would spit out a decision on whether or not we could get help was so humiliating I left there filled with anger. Mary Ann suggested to me that God could use this and I realized she was right and we prayed and it completely changed how I'll counsel someone in the same situation. I used to be matter of fact telling about aid that is available, and now I do so with great compassion, knowing what the person has ahead and how hard it is to hold your dignity through it.

The wonderful thing is, on the other side, if we are the one judged by people who have no sense of what it is like to be in our shoes, is that Jesus understands it all and we don't have to spend hours trying to "catch Him up" on what we've been through—He's been through it all with us, and He's tasted it Himself. Hebrews tells us, in Hebrews 4:15, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." In John 4:6 it records, "Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour." and, in Luke 19:41 it says of Jesus, "And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it." 

Tempted. Weary. Weeping. He understands. He is your best friend if you've put your life in His hands. He understands you when nobody else does. He's been there. This doesn't mean that no matter what you choose to do He's OK with it. But it does mean that He knows your fears, your pain, your past, and He loves you and is prepared to stand with you and beside you into the future even when nobody else believes in you or is ready to go the mile with you. What a beautiful truth!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I have been teaching a lot lately on the body of Christ and how beautiful it is when the body is the body, and not isolated members. I truly believe Christ is only fully reflected and expressed when His whole body is living and working together, each contributing their unique gifts and callings, each loving and forgiving. Otherwise, the world doesn't need more of what it already has—lone rangers focused on themselves, dysfunction, hypocrisy, etc. It doesn't mean the body is perfect (there's a lot of hurt, pain, irritation, etc. in it at times), but how we deal with that will either reflect Him, or the flesh. At any rate, this post isn't intended to get deeply into that, but I wanted to share a blog post a lady in our fellowship sent me about this topic. I don't know enough about the author or site to endorse her or it, but I can say that this post, especially the 15 reasons at the end, really spoke to my heart and I think is well worth a read. With all the different "ideas" of what church, etc., is out there, I am sure anyone could whittle or pick apart or get theologically dissecting of parts of it if they really wanted to miss the whole concept it is expressing—but I think that would be missing the beautiful picture it paints of what Christ intended, I believe, His body to be like. Here it is:

God bless you all. Thanks for sharing in my life.   —Erick

Roses Correction

I did a little "homework" and found out that the roses I wrote about a few days ago from Mission San Antonio do not go back to the Padres, but were "only" planted in the Mission's garden over 50 years ago in the 1960s. So, while I won't be smelling the same lifestock the Padres smelled, they do come from the same Mission they built and soil they walked and tended. The point of it all being, it is not about the roses, but the heritage. The enemy would, I believe, love to convince Christians they are alone, fighting in futility, not part of anything big or meaningful, etc. The truth is, though, that we are each a part of God's plan and mystery of the ages—a plan in place from before the foundation of the earth, a plan to unite things in Him and to restore us to Him, and to dwell Himself within us! It is an amazing and huge plan—stunning that a Holy God would desire it!—and you and I are the next to pick up the baton from those who have, in centuries prior, walked in His plan and prayed for and plowed and planted spiritual seeds in the region you are called to. Don't let the enemy rob you of who you are in Christ, and the reality that you are a vital participant in the greatest plan in eternity! Take the baton and run! Look to the finish! The next generation is there, their hand outstretched to take it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The New Age Lure and a Good Novel

I am a lover of good Christian fiction. The thought crossed my mind that maybe, now and then, I should share the ones I really like to help you filter through all the ones out there. For me good Christian fiction is a wonderful "escape" from the daily stuff—a way to slip away for a few moments here and there and, hopefully, be filled, built up, equipped, and strengthened at the same time. Unfortunately much of what I've read as Christian fiction simply throws in a character who is a Christian and some moral conduct and calls it Christian fiction. Obviously many people like this (it is a huge market), but for me I want something more—something that either really makes a subject come alive for me (i.e. abortion in Francine River's The Atonement Child) or the interaction of the unseen and the physical realm (i.e. many of Frank Peretti or Randy Alcorn's novels), or books that give a picture of what I believe the full Christian life is—not just limited to moral choices but with God active in lives, speaking to His children, and moving often in power.

As I discover what are, to me, gems in this genre I'll try and pass them on, and I'll start with a novel I finished this week called Out of a Dream by Rosemary Hines. You can read more about her and this novel and the series it begins at Without being a spoiler, in real life Rosemary came out of years of New Age stuff that started innocently enough but pulled her in, only to find at a major crisis in her life it was all empty and Christ alone was real. In her novel she captures aspects of that journey and very effectively shows the lure and seduction of the New Age movement and how it can begin innocently enough and end up sucking one into it and away from the true God found through Jesus Christ, and even away from much else in one's life.

This book hit home to me for multiple reasons—one, because I played with that stuff prior to becoming a Christian and, two, because I have dealt with multiple youth as a pastor/youth pastor who are caught up in it. I have had youth bring a backpack of witchcraft/spell books to a Christian camp, and a mom give me a binder of spells she found in her daughters room. This stuff is real, as are witch doctors who can cast curses, and people like Pharoah's magicians that tap into Satanic power, or Simon or the woman with the spirit of divination, both in Acts. It is real and the devil gives it its power, though he is more than willing to leave himself concealed in it. People who would never worship or flirt with the devil are caught up in his power and hold through all the other "innocent" things he empowers—and he is perfectly content to leave it that way as it all keeps people from the one true God. The Old Testament even talks about people who sacrificed their children to other gods really sacrificing them to demons. If the devil can convince a person that a pagan god, or witch doctor, or a tarot card or Ouija Board or a spell is real (and for many things youth dabble in, that it is harmless or just fun or good) then the person will continue to hold that person, god, or object to a high level until they meet the real, superior power of the resurrected Christ.

This is where, I believe, Christians bear some responsibility. People are created in God's image, and created to be a part of something that crosses back and forth between the seen and the unseen—something spiritual, eternal, and powerful. It is who we are! If people are taught that God doesn't talk to us, or if we have the same negative expectations as the world, or if we tell people miracles and the power of God stopped with the last Apostle or the writing of the Bible, or if we only give lip service the the angelic and demonic realm and spiritual warfare, then we are robbing them of the knowledge and experience they need to satisfy what they were created for. So, I believe, and I know from my being drawn into the stuff, they often look to satisfy what they know inside them is real, and they look for it elsewhere—an encounter with something beyond them, unseen, and powerful.

God is what they long for, and His power is at work all around us. May we be the vessels who believe, and live like, we have the God who breathes out stars, raises the dead, and calms storms living in us—may we live and believe and teach like people who truly believe there is an active spiritual realm, and not just be people who give it lip service or effectively deny it by the token credit we give it.

I would recommend Out of a Dream to anyone who feels lured by New Age stuff, knows someone who is lured by it, or simply wants a good Christian novel to curl up with. So, light the wood stove, make a good cup of coffee, and curl up—times like these are special!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Roots, Roses, and Heritage

We just came in from taking a break from paperwork and planting some rose cuttings we were given. These cuttings come from roses at Mission San Antonio, one of the early California missions. There is something deeply "deep" to me about what we did. I'll try to explain, and I think it will bless and encourage you . . .

During the summer, when I was researching and writing the history-cookbook More Treasures Under the Oaks for our youth group (see sidebar, or click on title for a blog post about the book), I read a bit from the account of a man who visited this area in the late 1800s and wrote about one of the first men to establish a church in this region. It was very powerful for me to read his story of the man moving into the same mountains and region I now live and pastor in, and living among the local ranchers and settlers, and establishing the church and reaching out to the lost.

Also during the writing and researching I learned a lot about an early Baptist church here who, in the late 1800s, built the hall that is now our local community hall. Then I did an article about the formation of the fellowship I now pastor and how it started as a lake-side service in the 1970s and how it grew and changed into True Life Christian Fellowship today.

Besides these two paths, the book includes a lot about Mission San Antonio, a testimony to the earliest of man's attempts to bring the Gospel here, including an account of an elderly Indian woman who met the padres when they came and asked to be baptized. When the shocked padres asked how she knew about that she replied that her people passed down the story of a man who, years and years prior, had come to them (through the air!) and told them the story that the padres were telling them!

After the publication of the book this last Fall a man from our area who has long roots here started giving me old pictures of missionaries from here, scans from the Bible from the first Baptist church here, and a picture of an 1800s baptism in the seasonal San Antonio river near here. It is as if, in the past 6–9 months, God has been making me aware of the history of His pursuit of people in this region. Additionally, recently I have been teaching on the mystery of God talked about in the New Testament and how God has had a plan to unify us with Him which was in place before the foundation of the earth. It has all combined for me to be a timely, and powerful reminder and encouragement . . .

. . . often we, and maybe you, feel alone, like we are a random drop in a vast sea, struggling to bring God's light and Word until we fade out or away. It feels like such a huge undertaking, and sometimes hopeless and like it is making no difference. It feels lonely—a few facing an insurmountable task, like seeking to fill a swimming pool with a thimble. It is so easy, in our desire to obey God and to see His glory shine and to see others know Him, to start to feel overwhelmed, alone, hopeless and like you are struggling in futility—a stone tossed into the pool of history that appears, and then will disappear, leaving no trace, with no ties.

But what God has been doing recently is reminding me that I am a part of something much bigger. Since before the foundation of the earth God has had His eye on the people in this region (and in your region) and He has been moving people and circumstances into place to win them. We are not alone, a blip with no beginning or end, appearing only to disappear—rather we are the next to take the baton and run, and we will hand it to the next generation. We are runners in the race of eternity, running in a race begun before the earth itself. We are partakers in a plan of God's so huge it is staggering. We are the descendants of the men and women before us who took the baton and ran, who lived and worked in this region to win the lost. We are not alone. We are not insignificant. We are part of the greatest plan in history, a vital piece, put in place by God . . . and so are you, Christian, wherever you are planted, no matter how alone you feel.

And so . . . the roses. There is something exciting to me that, God willing, in a year or two we will be smelling deeply the flowers of a rose that carries in it the same life and DNA as the roses planted by the first padres—the first of men into this region carrying the cross, men who passed the baton to others who passed it to us. When we smell of these roses we will be smelling the same roses they planted and smelled . . . just as we spiritually are living the same race, of the same spiritual body, connected to them by the same spiritual DNA—the blood of Christ.

Just as we smell the roses they planted, we walk in the race they ran. As these roses are descendants of theirs, we are spiritual descendants of them. I can imagine that over the centuries most every man and women who loved the Lord visited the Mission and smelled the roses, whether the Mission was flourishing, or in decay and ruins as it was for a long time. But each generation continued, carrying the baton, smelling the roses, running the race. Two or three hundred years ago a padre stopped and bent over and took a moment from his work to smell a rose—two or three hundred years later we will stop, bend over, and take a moment from continuing God's work he was doing, to smell the same roses he was smelling.

Our life has meaning and purpose—deep meaning and purpose—and is a part of something so big it is the mystery of the ages. And, Christian, so does yours. Maybe this will bless and encourage you. Maybe it is only for me. But I wanted to share it with you in case it is just what you needed to hear today. God bless you. Thanks for sharing in my life.   —Erick

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Dutch Oven Slice of Our Life

Bethany & Abigail at the book table.
Many of you readers know my family, and one of the original purposes of this blog was to share not just thoughts and things God has been showing me, but to share slices of our life as well. This last Saturday we got to have a table at a local Dutch Oven fundraiser for a regional museum and interpretive center that will hopefully be built soon. We weren't selling food, but rather displaying the history-cookbook Mary Ann and I wrote for our youth group (see sidebar).

I was amazed at what you can do in a Dutch Oven!
For our family it was a wonderful time. There is something about living where we do that brings out the "outdoor" cooking romance and allure (is that the right word?). To slow cook a Tri-Tip or chicken over crackling oak for hours, or to sit by a firepit under the stars as the food settles in, is something special. There is something about that type of cooking that says, "I can't be in a hurry. I have to build the fire, let it burn down to coals, and then slow cook the food, and it is going to take a few hours." It is an investment in more than a meal, it is a commitment of time, outdoors, slowing down, and savoring a full experience rather than a quick meal. (You can tell from the Tri-Tip over the fire in the picture at the top of my blog page that we "practice" what I "preach".)

Cowboy Coffee . . . Oh, Yeah!
Cooking outdoors is special. That is probably why we added the 96-page section to the history-cookbook and had the whole new section deal with outdoor cooking. There is something I can't explain about connecting with the ways our pioneer fathers cooked. It is like stepping back a bit in time, slowing down, and being more simple. Often it is around the fire while the meat or veggies are slow cooking, or while the fire is burning down, that I'll finally be still enough to notice the miracle of Creation in the animals and plants around me, or the stars above me. "Be still and know that I am God"—He commands it, and, for me, cooking outdoors helps me along that path.

Stacking the "ovens".
A local Chuck Wagon.
The Dutch Oven event was wonderful. There had to be about 50 cooks preparing amazing meals from full main dishes to tantalizing desserts. Then, when it was done, we all lined up with plates and went down the line getting a taste from each cook in our line. An emptied plate later (that was shortly before a heaping and steaming mound of food) and we could contentedly say, "Ahhhh." Then it was off to the oak fire with the pots of strong cowboy coffee steaming over it. It doesn't get much better than that . . .

The Grain of Wheat . . . Wow!

In John's Palm Sunday account Jesus talks about what is ahead for Him. One of the telling verses is John 12:24 in which He says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

Prior to the cross God and man were separated. They could not fellowship, they could not be in relationship. Jesus was alive, but cut off from man, and man from God. But when Jesus died He paid our price for sin and it was established that He could come to dwell in everyone who, by faith, accepted His death in their place as the redemption, or payment, for their sin. After the cross every person who put their faith in Christ's work for them would be born again, a new creation, with God Himself living in them. The church, the body of Christ, was born and each new believer became an extension of the body and a dwelling place of God! The grain of wheat died, but then He rose again, and when He did He brought in a New Covenant in which He and man could dwell, us in Christ and Christ in us. It is a stunning truth!

Prior to the cross and resurrection man operated on self effort. Take Peter, "I will not deny You," who then failed miserably. Take all of man's attempts at righteousness that fail miserably. But after the cross it becomes:

Phil 2:13   for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure

Gal 2:20   I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Before the cross and resurrection and Pentecost—I, me, my effort, my miserable failures.After the cross and resurrection and Pentecost—God in me, living through me, putting His desires in me and working them out through me.

These days ahead celebrate the most magnificent moments in all of history—the fullness of time in which the mystery and secret of the ages was revealed. It was foreshadowed through all the Old Testament, and ordained before the foundation of the earth, but not revealed until after the cross—To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Christ in you . . . the grain of wheat died that it did not remain alone. And by dying He removed the separation between Him and us, and was freed to come to dwell in and with each who chose, by faith, to trust in Him. And because of He who willingly laid down His life and said to the Father, "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42), you and I can live our life, filled by the indwelling of the Creator of the universe, with Him living through us, bringing His will to pass for His good pleasure. Has there ever been an offer made like that? Has there ever been a truth so astounding? You. You who have placed your faith in Christ's death on your behalf. You are the temple and dwelling place of the God of Moses and Abraham and Elijah. He lives in you. He lives through you. You are His child, and no created thing can separate you from His love. You will never be alone again. You will never need to operate in futile self effort again. Greater is He in you than the enemy who paces the earth seeking to steal, kill, and destroy.

God bless you this Easter as you reflect that God is not dead, but He is alive, and He's living inside of you, and you are completely in Him, and you are eternally alive because He died. Because the grain of wheat fell to the ground and died . . . Thank You, Jesus. You are amazing!


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