Beyond Belief Study by Dr. Freddy Cardoza, available at LifeWay.com

Episode 33, God is Just, Beyond Belief Series Podcast, Session 3

The Count of Monte Cristo is a stirring classic novel surrounding the adventures of Edmond Dantês. Edmond had it all. He was a man of faith, talented, and handsome. Following a long seafaring trip, Edmond is unexpectedly elevated to ship captain and is set to marry the raven-haired beauty, Mercédès. But before they could tie the knot, three unlikely, jealous, and greedy men conspire to have him thrown in jail.To maintain the secret of their betrayal, Edmond is publicized as dead but is privately locked away in the dreadful island dungeon, Chateau d’If.

Believing Edmond has been executed, Mercédès is inconsolable.She is tricked into marrying Fernand Mondego, Edmond’s best friend— the man secretly responsible for having him put away.  Hopeless, bitter, and forgotten, Edmond nearly loses his faith. He is being punished for a crime he didn’t commit, while the guilty parties go free. God seemed nowhere to be found. But Edmond ultimately escapes and, after many years, both he and the evil-doing trio get their just rewards.

Like Edmond in the Count of Monte Cristo, the Old Testament Prophet Ezekiel saw God’s people suffer what appeared to be coarse injustice. But as time unfolded, they came to realize that God is always just—even when life seems unfair.  Join us as we learn more about this important attribute of God that will help you in your spiritual maturity.

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Other Resources:  Here you can download additional Bible commentary notes on my Bible Passage, Get the FREDTalks Podcast App or subscribe to FREDTalks so it will automatically come to your device with each new episode.

 

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Beyond Belief Study by Dr. Freddy Cardoza, available at LifeWay.com

Episode 32, God is Loving, Beyond Belief Series Podcast, Session 2

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Other Resources:  Here you can download additional Bible commentary notes on my Bible Passage, Get the FREDTalks Podcast App or subscribe to FREDTalks so it will automatically come to your device with each new episode.

 

Also below, watch the slide show that accompanies this podcast by clicking through the slides while you listen!

 

Listen to the Testimony of a Former Muslim About How She Came to Christ in our Special Bonus Outtake Podcast

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Beyond Belief Study by Dr. Freddy Cardoza, available at LifeWay.com

Episode 31, God is Holy, Beyond Belief Series Podcast, Session 1

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Other Resources:  Here you can download additional Bible commentary notes on my Bible Passage, Get the FREDTalks Podcast App or subscribe to FREDTalks so it will automatically come to your device with each new episode.

 

Also below, watch the slide show that accompanies this podcast by clicking through the slides while you listen!

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Be sure to visit my FreddyCardoza.com website for more blogs on Leadership, Education, and Technology

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Episode 030, How to Know God’s Will

Knowing God’s Will is one of the most important yet most vexing issues in the Christian life. People feel the need to know God and to understand what He is doing in their lives, but are often at a loss about how to discern His Voice. How does God speak to us? How do we know God’s Will? What are the mechanics of it all? Are there sources of information that aren’t reliable from a Christian perspective? Why? What can we trust and what understandings should govern our discernment of God’s Will?

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God's Modus Operandi

How God Works: God’s Modus Operandi (Podcast and Slide Deck)

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Episode 028, How God Works

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How does God work?  What is the Divine Modus Operandi?  What’s God’s M.O.? 

That is the question being answered in this episode of FREDTalks.  Taken from a talk given at Saddleback Church’s Irvine South Campus Men’s Ministry, this is part of a series entitled “Compass: Navigating Life.” 

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15 Reasons Teens and Emerging Adults Should Work

 Fifteen Reasons Teenagers Should Work a Significant Number of Hours at a Job

I have two sons I’m really proud of. They’re both teenagers at this time, and both have jobs. So this post shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as targeting them—or any one else in particular. Even so, we were recently discussing this issue in our home. Specifically—why “working more hours” is important. And I jotted down some ideas. The family thought it would be a good idea to share it with others, so I decided to place this post here. I hope it creates some good discussion in your home. I suggest you share it with your working-age children (or that teens and young adults themselves read it), and then discuss some of the questions at the end.

 

  1. To Prepare to Be in the Majority Population. At the end of the age of minority (children are “minors” until 18) when a man or woman reaches the age of majority, life and society forces them to take on “adult” responsibility. The options in adult life are either education (temporarily) or employment or both. Either way, you’re heading toward “employment” and all future employment rests on past employment—so experience is critical for future work. To become an adult, we don’t just “turn 18.” Becoming an adult isn’t only reaching a biological age. Being an adult is as much sociological as biological. Sociologically, being an adult means that society TELLS YOU you’re an adult. Society treats you like an adult. And if you don’t live like one, then society will consider you a ManChild or WomanChild. Becoming an adult is like turning on a light—but not a “light switch”… a light “dimmer.” A light dimmer is turned up slowly and the light increasingly comes on, until it’s bright/full. That’s how adulthood is. We don’t just ‘become’ an adult at a specific age. Like a dimmer switch, we become adults over time as we increasingly exhibit grown-up behaviors and take on adult responsibilities.
  2. To Get Good Future Work References. Your significant employment provides businesses and bosses the opportunity to really get to know you and your work ethic. That’s how you form a “track record” and it’s how you get people willing to give you ‘references’ for future employment. Without references you’re not going to get a good job because “past performance is the best indicator of future success.”
  3. Because Little or No Work Doesn’t Teach Us Much. Inadequate number of hours working doesn’t interrupt your life enough to learn the lessons that employment teaches. There are 168 hours in a week. 5 hours of work doesn’t interrupt it very much. That’s only 1/34 of a week! But if a student works 40 hours during summer—that’s a little more than 20%. That is enough to get someone’s attention and actually teach them something. No pain, no gain.
  4. Because Teens Want More Than Their Parents Are Responsible to Give. Working provides money to provide for the increased cost of “experiences” and “wants” that teenagers have that go beyond basic needs for which parents are responsible. Parents can’t and shouldn’t provide everything teens want. That only makes “entitled brats.” Instead, teens and young adults/emerging adults should “learn to earn.” Then they can have their needs AND lots of their wants.
  5. To Get a Financial Education. Earning, spending, and saving money provides teenagers the real-life financial education (the value of money, the value of “wants” and “experiences” versus their cost, etc.) they need in only a few months or years that they would not get if they only learned about finance “hypothetically.”
  6. To Complement Formal Education with Life Experience. The best incomes and jobs with the best benefits go to those with strong work experience, because years of education without years of real-life work is still an “incomplete” education.
  7. To Save Money For Needs Just Around the Corner. Significant work can produce savings for the very near future when extra money will be needed. That money that can be saved is an amount of money you won’t be able to make during the few weeks or months before “you need it.” Before too long you’ll need money for your own cell phone service, a new cell phone purchase, apartment deposit, apartment rent, car maintenance and fixes, graduate school, moving expenses, travel and entertainment— all of which get much more expensive as an adult. These are things you, not your parents, are responsible for when you become an adult. So the options you have are to prepare now and have those needed funds or work little or none and live in poverty and in need, without nearly any of your wants or desires—or even necessities. You can’t just have the money for adult life the moment or months before you decide you have to get ready for life on your own.
  8. To Demonstrate Responsibility. It’s a way to demonstrate to a future spouse and their parents that you are responsible, and that you are capable of contributing to the survival of you and your spouse. For the guys: If you aren’t, then you’re not ready for marriage—because that shows you’re not a man… you’re still a boy if you can’t take care of yourself. And you certainly aren’t a man ready for marriage if you don’t demonstrate that you can take care of a wife and household needs. Not demonstrating responsibility will result in disrespect from future would-be parents-in-law, and probable loss of a good woman, since she feels insecure about whether or not you can do Job 1 of being a man (take care of her). So you’ll lose her to _______ (that guy) because “at least he can take care of me.” I have sons, so I’m speaking to that issue. If you have daughters, that’s something to consider how to articulate to them.
  9. To Show Self-Respect and Honor Parents. It’s a way to demonstrate self-respect that you can be responsible and begin to take care of yourself and your wants and needs as an emerging adult, and that you can honor your parents by showing them they prepared you to be a responsible adult.
  10. To Learn Personal Management. Work helps you learn to balance life responsibilities. It helps you manage your time better. After you learn better personal/time management, you realize you have more time than you ever thought you would—and you can be a better steward of your time. And “time” equals “life” because time is all that life is made of. So when you handle your time better, you handle your life better—and you become better at being a steward of your life. That helps you actually live for something and for your life to “mean” something because you learn to accomplish things of importance because you learned to juggle all the responsibilities of life and still make time for work AND still make time for your dreams and what is important to you.
  11. To Increase Personal Intensity Enough to Perform Better. We perform better when there’s at least a little pressure. Studies have shown that teens who work (up to hours) during school (and, arguably, even more during summers) earn higher grades than students who don’t work at all. That’s because their better work ethic helps them perform better.
  12. To Prove To Themselves What They’re Capable Of. Work is called “industry.” Industry is positive and productive work. Work is good because industry gives people a sense of accomplishment which convinces them that they’re capable of doing things—and of attempting even bigger things.
  13. Because Work is Good— and Good for You. God created work and it’s good for you. God created work for Adam and Eve before even the sin in the Garden of Eden, so work isn’t bad… it’s always been a part of God’s plan, because it teaches us things we can’t learn apart from doing it.
  14. Because They’ll Realize That Money Equals Choices. More significant work hours produces more income. More income produces a higher standard of living because money = choices/options and money = greater financial freedom.
  15. Because It Helps Them Be More Successful in Career-Choosing. Part-time jobs can help you identify your long-term future career. When you do certain jobs you learn more about yourself and the types of things you are good at and aren’t good at. You learn what you like and what you don’t. Not so much whether you like flipping burgers or not, but whether you are good at certain skills and you develop skills you wouldn’t have apart from those jobs. Those skills help you prepare for your career and help you on your way to knowing yourself which, in turn, helps you know what you might be good at in a career. That helps you not be as stressed about your future career, and not to be completely lost on what you might want to do in life, and helps you not flounder around for years in early adulthood because you have no idea what you want to do in life.

 

Discussion Questions

  1. What are 2-3 of these principles that make the most sense to you as a teenager/emerging adult? Discuss.
  2. What 2-3 of these make the most sense to you as a parent? Explain.
  3. What principles would you as a teenager/emerging adult like to hear more about or have better explained?
  4. What are some areas of growth that you as a teenager/young adult can take on in this area?
  5. What are some things you as a parent can do to help your teenager/emerging adult be ready for adulthood?
  6. What are the effects if you, as a parent, don’t help your maturing children take responsibility in these areas?
  7. What are possible outcomes in your teenagers’ lives if they don’t learn these lessons?

 

 

Freddy Cardoza

www.digitaldiscipler.com

www.freddycardoza.com

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Episode 027, Fighting the Great Battles of Our Time, Part 3 of 3

Christians, as cultural change agents who love the world and want to help it and the people in it, have an obligation to understand the world in which they live.  The great challenges of our world need to be identified and understood, then addressed.  This episode, Fighting the Great Battles of Our Time, is part 3 of a 3 part series dealing with an explanation of these things from an evangelical Christian perspective.

In this episode, we will unpack 5 of the great local church ministry challenges facing our world.  From the challenges of the family breakdown, human sexuality, and existential issues, among others, these are important ideas and issues for Christians to know and act upon.

Come with me on this spiritual and intellectual journey as we learn how to be salt and light in this culture seeking to find its way. Check out my other episodes of FREDTalks at http://fredtalks.libsyn.com.

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Episode 026, Fighting the Great Battles of Our Time, Part 2 of 3

Christians, as cultural change agents who love the world and want to help it and the people in it, have an obligation to understand the world in which they live.  The great challenges of our world need to be identified and understood, then addressed.  This episode, Fighting the Great Battles of Our Time, is part 2 of a 3 part series dealing with an explanation of these things from an evangelical Christian perspective.

In this episode, we will unpack 5 of the great theological and ideological challenges facing our world.  From the challenges of the Bible’s authority, to the issue of biblical illiteracy in the church and much more– these are important ideas and issues for Christians to know.

Come with me on this spiritual and intellectual journey as we learn how to be salt and light in this culture seeking to find its way. Check out my other episodes of FREDTalks at http://fredtalks.libsyn.com.

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Episode 025, Fighting the Great Battles of Our Time, Part 1 of 3

The world rages with tremendous challenges being faced globally and personally.  The challenges of our world need to be identified and understood, then addressed.  This episode, Fighting the Great Battles of Our Time, is part of a 3 part series dealing with an explanation of these things from an evangelical Christian perspective.

In this episode, we will unpack 5 of the great global challenges facing our world.  From the challenges of potable water and edible food, to the energy crisis, and much more, we will think together about these matters and how we can be a part of doing something rather than nothing to address them.

Come with me on this intellectual journey and after hearing my perspective, determine your own, then share your ideas with others. Check out my other episodes of FREDTalks at http://fredtalks.libsyn.com.

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Episode 021, Content is King (Part 6 of 9)

Episode Description: In this series, we discuss how to use six important principles that are effective in persuading people to follow you.  In a day where people are hoping to expand their Twitter “following” or the number of “Likes” they have on a certain Facebook post, the important ideas of Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book on Influence are especially helpful.  Join me in this short, punchy podcast.

Series Description: We live in a Digital Age of information and technology.  As human knowledge has increased, the possibilities and opportunities for helping people meet global needs have grown exponentially.  With the challenges our world and its people face, there is an increasing realization that knowledge is no longer scarce and that it should be shared as a gift to others for the common good.

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Episode 020, Content is King (Part 5 of 9)

Episode Information: Inspired by Jon Wuebben and his book, Content is Currency: Developing Powerful Content for Web and Mobile, this podcast outlines 5 key elements for sure-fire impact in expanding your influence and building your audience.  Download and discover how these five strategies can ensure your sustained and increased impact.

Series Description: We live in a Digital Age of information and technology.  As human knowledge has increased, the possibilities and opportunities for helping people meet global needs have grown exponentially.  With the challenges our world and its people face, there is an increasing realization that knowledge is no longer scarce and that it should be shared as a gift to others for the common good.

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Episode 019, Content is King (Part 4 of 9)

Episode Description: Everyone with a message wants to expand their audience. The more people who read or hear or see our message, the more are influenced by our thinking and what we value.  So those who invest time in producing content should also work to promote that content.  We do this by increasing the number of ways our content is distributed.  In this session, I’ll discuss 10 different distribution steams you can use to grow your audience.  Enjoy– and if you like it, share it!

Series Description: We live in a Digital Age of information and technology.  As human knowledge has increased, the possibilities and opportunities for helping people meet global needs have grown exponentially.  With the challenges our world and its people face, there is an increasing realization that knowledge is no longer scarce and that it should be shared as a gift to others for the common good.

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Episode 018, Content is King (Part 3 of 9)

Everyone wants to have more influence.  One of the great ways to do this is by exploring the use of social media.  But after you set up a Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter account, then what?!?  Content sharing or “content marketing” as it is sometimes called, is a key to impact and influence in the Information and Digital Age.    But some people don’t really understand the “why” of content sharing.

This episode of FREDTalks Podcast will help listeners understand more about a strategy of designing content that is compelling, and ideas about how to grow one’s audience, followed by discussions on how to schedule content effectively.   By approaching it a strategic way, one is able to grow his or her influence and audience.  Let’s do this!

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Episode 017, Content is King (Part 2 of 9)

We live in a Digital Age of information and technology.  As human knowledge has increased, the possibilities and opportunities for helping people meet global needs have grown exponentially.  With the challenges our world and its people face, there is an increasing realization that knowledge is no longer scarce and that it should be shared as a gift to others for the common good.

In this session, we will think about the sources of content, and examples of different types that can be produced.  If a person has an interest in sharing ideas and information with the world, that content takes different shapes and is shared on different delivery methods.  This podcast helps people think about what it is they have to say and share.  Enjoy– and if you like it, share it!

Check out this episode of FREDTalks Podcast on God’s Holiness, Part 1 of 3!!

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Episode 016, Content is King (Part 1 of 9)

We live in a Digital Age of information and technology.  As human knowledge has increased, the possibilities and opportunities for helping people meet global needs have grown exponentially.  With the challenges our world and its people face, there is an increasing realization that knowledge is no longer scarce and that it should be shared as a gift to others for the common good.  Learn more about content sharing in this podcast.

Check out this episode of FREDTalks Podcast on God’s Holiness, Part 1 of 3!!

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Episode 015, Influence: Part 3 of 3

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Having learned more about influence and social media, we now turn our attention to the most effective uses of social media.  How, exactly, does one create a philosophy of social media in order to increase the depth and breadth of his impact?  That’s what we’ll explore in this episode of Influence, part 3 of a 3 part series.  (If you like it, share it!)

Check out this episode of FREDTalks Podcast on God’s Holiness, Part 1 of 3!!

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Episode 015, Influence: Part 3 of 3


Influence: Expanding Your Reach Through Social Media, Part 3 of 3

FREDTalks Podcast (Episode 015)

Part one of this series dealt with Influence. Part two dealt with “what ‘social media’ is.” This podcast explains how to exploit the possibilities of your content in today’s world of digital technology in the information age. These are ideas that will be helful in whatever field one finds him or herself, be it leadership, education, technology, discipleship or ministry. After this session, check out the other episodes in this 3 part series.
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Episode 014, Influence: Part 2 of 3

Influence: Expanding Your Reach Through Social Media, Part 2 of 3

FREDTalks Podcast (Episode 014)

Part one of this series dealt with Influence, something we all want. This podcast explains what “social media” is and does. Though we are familiar with social media, it may be that we have become so familiar with those little colorful icons and hearing about it, that we could be the victim of overfamiliarity– which breeds unfamiliarity. So what is social media, and how can we use it? This is information that will be helful in whatever field one finds him or herself, be it leadership, education, technology, discipleship or ministry. After this session, check out the other episodes in this 3 part series.
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Episode 013, Influence, Part 1 of 3

Influence: Expanding Your Reach Through Social Media, Part 1 of 3

FREDTalks Podcast (Episode 013)

Influence. We all want it. And we want to increase the impact of the influence we already have. This podcast explains the nature of influence and how that can be deployed in whatever field one finds him or herself, be it leadership, education, technology, discipleship or ministry. After this session, check out the other episodes in this 3 part series.
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Episode 012, Men with Chests, Part 3 of 3

C.S. Lewis once wrote an essay entitled “Men without Chests.”  By that he meant that men were being raised in his country of Britain without convictions, without heart, and without affections or values.  We find ourselves in a similar situation today, particularly in the United States where masculinity is under attack and is quickly aquiesced whenever challenged.  In this previously spoken sermon released for the first time as a podcast series here, I speak to men about manhood.  Listen to Part 3 here after you’ve heard Parts 1 and 2, then share them with other men aspiring to become Men “with” Chests.

Check out this episode of FREDTalks Podcast on God’s Holiness, Part 1 of 3!!

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Episode 011, Men with Chests, Part 2 of 3

C.S. Lewis once wrote an essay entitled “Men without Chests.”  By that he meant that men were being raised in his country of Britain without convictions, without heart, and without affections or values.  We find ourselves in a similar situation today, particularly in the United States where masculinity is under attack and is quickly aquiesced whenever challenged.  In this previously spoken sermon released for the first time as a podcast series here, I speak to men about manhood.  First listen to Part 1, then listen to Part 2 here, followed by the final Part 3– and share them with other men aspiring to become Men “with” Chests.

Check out this episode of FREDTalks Podcast on God’s Holiness, Part 1 of 3!!

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Episode 010, Men with Chests, Part 1 of 3

C.S. Lewis once wrote an essay entitled “Men without Chests.”  By that he meant that men were being raised in his country of Britain without convictions, without heart, and without affections or values.  We find ourselves in a similar situation today, particularly in the United States where masculinity is under attack and is quickly aquiesced whenever challenged.  In this previously spoken sermon released for the first time as a podcast series here, I speak to men about manhood.  Listen to Part 1 here, then the next two episodes– and share them with other men aspiring to become Men with Chests.

Check out this episode of FREDTalks Podcast on God’s Holiness, Part 1 of 3!!

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Episode 009, God is Holy, Part 3 of 3

God wants us to know Him like He knows us.  That means we must learn about Who He is and what He is like.  We do this through His self-revelation… meaning, through Him revealing Himself through the Holy Bible.  In this session, we’ll learn more about God’s character– what God says about His Holiness.  What does holiness mean? Listen and learn, then share it with others.

Check out this episode of FREDTalks Podcast on God’s Holiness, Part 1 of 3!!

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How to Subscribe to FREDTalks Podcast on iTunes (Video)

Below you will find an instructional video that teaches you how to subscribe to FREDTalks on iTunes. Once you do that, come back to this page and find “Now What?” and you will find a video that teaches you how to find your newly-subscribed FREDTalks Podcast on iTunes~ Enjoy!

Now What? After you watch the FREDTalks iTunes Subscription Video, Click the logo below and watch the Find Your FREDTalks Podcast Video on iTunes

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Discernment

 

Discernment
When Christians need to make decisions, they often have a hard time understanding what is going on inside of them, leading to greater uncertainty.

For example, some struggle with Visible Signs they are ‘seeing’ (circumstantial evidence for/against their decision). Others don’t know how to read their Instincts or Intuition. Still others don’t know how to read the internal Cautions generated within their emotions or spirit. These cautions often come to us in the versions of “fear,” “dread,” or “uncertainty.”

I hope this helps.

DISCERNING WHAT TO DO

Let’s say you need to make a decision (X). You are unsure what to do. First, let’s take up this matter of Visible Signs, which can be confusing…

1. REGARDING VISIBLE SIGNS. The bad news is that when we get down the spiritual road toward maturity, we are given fewer and fewer visible signs about what to do. Meaning, outward, clear, visible signs are harder and harder to come by. That’s because God knows that we know His voice already and those signs are simply unnecessary at this point in our spiritual development and, ironically, also less reliable than Him speaking to us quietly within our spirits.

So don’t let the silence frustrate you– it’s an indicator that you don’t need outward signs anymore. John 10:27.

2. REGARDING INSTINCTS or INTUITION. Let’s assume that you are seeking God’s Will and walking in His Spirit (though this is a big assumption, we have to start somewhere). If you have gotten this far down the road toward your decision, and if you have been led here without clear internal warnings that you were going the wrong way and planning on doing the wrong thing– then you absolutely MUST trust your instincts now more than ever.

Here’s what I mean: Sometimes Christians pray and then feel led to do something– and this something is (let’s assume, unless you realize it’s not) from a healthy and holy motive. So they move forward and God apparently blesses the idea and things begin to unfold toward the realization of that dream and vision. But somewhere along the way, things hit a rough spot (and what you thought was crystal clear is now cloudy). It’s at this time that many Christians begin to question their entire discernment apparatus and their ability to hear God’s voice and to know His Will.

Point: God WANTS you to know His Will– more than even YOU want to know it! God wants you to know His voice. And the general demeanor of the Spirit-filled and obedient believer is “GO.” Believers should be seeking to conquer more ground for the Kingdom and Glory of God. So, you should actively seek to advance your life and opportunities for good and the like UNLESS AND UNTIL the Holy Spirit cautions you or stops you.

At a time like this, when you’re ‘that close’ to pulling the trigger and making a big decision, that’s not the time to second-guess your entire discernment apparatus. If you have faithfully prayed and sought the Lord “the best you knew how” and in that faithful pursuit of this dream, you did not have clear and obvious cautions– then you move forward in the way you were going, with CONFIDENCE.

3. DISCERNING CAUTIONS. That leads me to my final test of discernment (not that there’s not a lot more that could be said, but I’m gonna simplify it): YOU NEED TO IDENTIFY *EXACTLY* WHAT EMOTIONS YOU ARE FEELING BEFORE YOU MOVE FORWARD. DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF “FEAR” ABOUT THIS, OR A SENSE OF “DREAD,” OR A SENSE OF “UNCERTAINTY?”

HERE’S HOW YOU WORK THROUGH THOSE.

A) FEAR: Fear isn’t of God. So when you feel ‘fear,’ that should not keep you from acting. So you musn’t let fear imprison you. Anytime I feel like moving forward in a decision but ‘fear’ exists, I put the pedal to the metal. I speed up; I don’t slow down. Then I brace for impact, because Satan may throw some stuff at me to make me question my decision.

B) DREAD (or ‘foreboding’): If you sense “dread” or a sense of foreboding– a deep, unshakeable and heavy, threatening sense of weighty, immobilizing dread… THAT “is” the Holy Spirit. In such a case, He is bearing witness in your spirit against a decision or action. When I sense this emotion, it’s clearly a divine warning.

But dread and fear or insecurity are different things. Dread ‘feels’ heavier and is unmistakably different than fear. Dread is always a “no go” for me.

C) UNCERTAINTY: Uncertainty can go one of two ways, and here’s how I approach it. (1) If the uncertainty was from the beginning, and if the uncertainty had been gnawing at me “all along” and it was something I couldn’t shake, in spite of ignoring it– and if I simply had (read this closely) a constant, unremitting sense of uncertainty… that generally means “WAIT.”

You then say, wait until ‘when?’ Answer: Wait until the uncertainty leaves or don’t do it. Uncertainty (when it manifests this way) is often an indicator of a lack of faith. So, when you have it– it doesn’t mean it’s not God’s Will… it just means that you lack the degree of faith to see it through, so whether it’s right or wrong is immaterial… because when the heat is on, you’ll fold… so don’t do it if that ‘all along’ type of uncertainty was there.

(2) If the uncertainty is a recent artifact that, hereforeto, did not trouble you– then you’re probably simply at a crisis of faith, and that’s more of an internal psychological matter of exercising faithful action than it is anything else. In other words, the uncertainty is just unexercised faith. Once you make the decision, you should then have a sense of increasing peace and internal witness that you did the right thing– whether or not the outward circumstances worked for you or not.

The only exception to this is, if after you make an initial decision, if you had a profound and absolutely unmitigating weight on your chest (when you SHOULD BE gaining freedom and liberty and excitement), then in that case, you misread your uncertainty. All other times, the uncertainty will evaporate after the decision is made, and you’ll begin to have joy and excitement about what God is getting ready to do.

One last thing– and it’s one of the most important.

Once all the facts above are considered, if you decide not to do it– there’s nothing lost (but nothing gained)… life goes on as it has. But IF YOU MOVE FORWARD, the best and only advice I’d give you concerning God’s Will is:

(IF YOU DECIDE TO DO IT) **Make a decision, then MAKE IT WORK.

After the decision is made (much like a marital decision), you don’t look back, you don’t second-guess… you simply ASSUME it was/is God’s perfect Will, then you FORCE IT to work.


I hope this is encouraging to you. It’s worked for me consistently.

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Why You Should Be Informed (And 8 Tips to Become Informed)

We live in the age of information.

Between 1750 and 1900, the total expanse of human knowledge had doubled .  At that time of pre-technology human history, it took 150 years.  Today, the growth of knowledge is occurring some 100 times faster.  It is said that the entire sum of all known information, i.e., human knowledge, doubles every 1.5 years.  By 2020 it is estimated that it will be doubling approximately every month and a half (72 days).  Think about that…

This Information Age is one in which the average illiterate person, one unable to read or write– but who can understand language and watch videos, can easily learn more about science than those towering figures of centuries past like Louis Pascal and Isaac Newton.  Another example: a 5 year old child holding a smart phone possess more technology than was required to send a man to the moon only 40+ years ago.

In a recent study by the University of California, San Diego, researchers found that we swim in a boundless sea of information.  All total, Americans consume 3.6 zettabytes of information collectively every day– that’s 34 gigabytes per person, every day– be it through TV, radio, the Internet/computer, reading, and other digital devices.  Ironically, with this enormous access to literally UNLIMITED data, one in which we can learn everything about everything, the average American is not very informed about the world in which we live.

Note that I’m not saying that Americans don’t know very much– because we do.  It’s just that the “average American” is simply uninformed to a large degree about the ultimate things that matter and that affect his or her life.  Whether this ignorance is apathy, indifference, or something else– I do not know, but it’s hard to believe such a high level of societal ignorance exists in this world awash in an infinity of information.

For example, while most people have instant recall on trivia like their friend’s speed dial numbers, their favorite TV shows’ times, nuances of their favorite wines, beers, coffee beans or marijuana strains (I live in California), most live without a working knowledge and, sometimes, only a vague familiarity about civics, economics, and politics– not to mention spiritual truth.

You might say– “Who really cares?”  It may seem that not knowing virtually ANYTHING about the stock market, the strength of US currency, trade deficits, political processes, the separation of power, representation and taxation, and things like that “makes no difference.”  Some think that ignorance is bliss because, they reason, we can’t do anything about it anyway.

My response is many-fold, but if I were to reply, I would use these three brief answers.

1. Christians shouldn’t be ignorant about the world, because Jesus wasn’t.  For Christians, we should keep in mind that (of all people) Jesus himself had a working knowledge of those things, and he informed His disciples about them.  He spoke more about money than he did “heaven!”  In the gospels, Jesus shows familiarity with the Roman Empire and its government, the geo-political set up present in Judea and greater Jerusalem, and a deep familiarity with law, justice, economics, and even taxes.  If Jesus did that– and frequently taught his own disciples on issues of those sorts, it can be argued that we must do the same as Christians.

2. Being Uninformed Leaves You Open to Exploitation and Victimization.  Second, ignorance of the primary currents of our culture leaves us vulnerable to those things. Being unaware and disengaged of what is happening in any given area (say, government spending) is a sure-fire way for those who have authority in those areas to act with impunity.  An informed populace means that people can rise up and protest, shape public opinion (through free speech such as this blog), communicate with their senator, hold rallies, organize political movements, or a host of other things as a response.  If we are ignorant, we don’t respond because we are, well, ignorant.  We should keep in mind that an INFORMED MINORITY is always more powerful than an apathetic majority.  For example, in the former Soviet Union, only 24% of citizens were Communist, but they controlled approximately 1/5 of the world.  Informed minorities are always stronger than apathetic majorities.  What is funny is that some people say “I can’t do anything, so why bother?” I say that we can do more than we think– but even if that were true… even if we were powerless subjects being acted upon by the powers that be, at least by understanding what is going on we can play defense and perhaps be better off than if we didn’t.  Let me give an example.  If I were to be an 85 year old man and have to face a 23 year old Mike Tyson in a boxing ring– I may not be capable of successfully fighting him, but the fact that I couldn’t win by playing offense doesn’t mean that I would lower my arms and take a merciless beating… instead, I would AT LEAST put up my gloves and pull in my elbows and try to protect my vital organs and my face, head, and chest.  Then, even if I didn’t WIN, I might at least survive.  Similarly, when we don’t know much about our world, we are defenseless because of our indifference.

3. Be Informed Because You Are Greatly Affected By These Forces, Simply Because You Are a Living Citizen. Third, we need to be informed about the world– because we are citizens in that world.  It is where we live.  It is where we exist.  The condition of the world affects our lives.  The things happening in our world affect our families.  These things affect our children’s children and loved ones, friends, relatives, acquaintances and neighbors. And when I say that these things (civics, politics, economics, and so on) affect our lives– I mean that decisions made by people having authority who are not held accountable by informed, thoughtful, engaged people, affect you nearly every moment of the day.  So while we live in an apathetic state being brainwashed by time-wasting novelties, decisions and actions in the stock market, bond market, futures, congress, judiciary, by the President, governmental agencies creating regulations, and on and on and on– while those things are going on, together they affect EVERYTHING in life: gas taxes raise your gas prices, Standard & Poor’s downgrade makes loans for a car or school harder to get or to pay, new regulations on coal means higher prices for air conditioning at home, OPEC trade imbalances means it costs more for trucks to bring products to your favorite stores, raising the price of Mac & Cheese– do you see what I mean? All of that to say that being uninformed doesn’t make you invulnerable to these bad things– it makes you and your family and everyone you care about MORE vulnerable and, yes, victims.

Being Uninformed Always Makes Us Gullible. 

The irony of being a victim, however, is that those who are both victims and who are uniformed OFTEN (almost always) blame the wrong people for their problems.  Instead of kicking themselves for being willfully ignorant– and instead of holding the right people accountable— those who actually caused the problems– their ignorance typically makes them unable to discern what actually happened.  When this happens, we become gullible.  That gullibility makes us vulnerable to slick slogans and simplistic explanations, where we are more likely to believe someone because they speak with passion or eloquence, and we begin to believe certain things because the person is “speaking loudly” or pounding his or her fist.  Gullible people are defenseless to these things because they are ignorant– and since they don’t know the facts, they fall for rhetoric and emotion instead of believing things because they are actually TRUE.  Does that make sense?

The Challenge

We all have areas of ignorance– I know I do.  But the key is to do something rather than nothing.  My advice to those who feel unable to discern what is happening in our world and who are at a loss to understand what to do is this:

  1. Read God’s Word and ask for Wisdom (James 1:5)
  2. Reserve judgment, avoid giving opinions, and stop yourself from assigning blame until you know what you’re talking about
  3. Begin to be informed by trustworthy sources (people and institutions who, by having a long track record of being fair and informed, have earned and kept your trust
  4. Build your knowledge solidly in a number of areas, as they are all interconnected (the areas all influence one another)
  5. Check your thinking against others of like-mind and who disagree, then reassess your thinking
  6. Be sure to evaluate ideas based on their underlying assumptions (the basic commitments and beliefs that led them to reason a certain way and come to certain conclusions), then evaluate whether your assumptions about things are correct or need adjusting
  7. Test your ideas with both scripture (does it agree with God’s Word/truth) and reality itself (if it doesn’t work in real life, there’s something wrong with what you’re thinking)
  8. Be slow to come to final conclusions prematurely.  But when you know that you have finally discovered what is true, become unshakeable in your convictions.
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Practical Tips on Expressing Faith

Whatever is not of faith is not pleasing to God.

–Hebrews 11:6–

 

To conclude this series on the psychology of faith, I have some practicable ideas on putting your faith and your life together.

 

1. Don’t insult God with small requests. God is able to do great things. Ask Him to do great things; expect Him to do amazing things, and He will do things that are much greater than what you ask and much greater even than your wildest imaginings. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

2. Don’t assume without asking. Faith is not the assumption that God will fulill all of your requests. You must understand how God works and seek His will before acting in faith. You must have faith in something, not just faith in the strength of your own faith. (James 4:2)

3. Ask only for things that God can bless. Do not ask selfishly, merely to suit your own convenience and desires. God does not bless your selfish requests, when you ask only to suit yourself. (James 4:3)

4. Believe that God will grant your requests and goals. Do not ask God without believing that He is capable of fulfilling your requests. God hears all that you ask and all that you do not ask. He knows your faith and your unbelief. He hears you. He is capable. (1 John 5:15-15; Matthew 9:27-30a)

5. Ask God to give you greater faith. As the apostles asked of Jesus, God can supernaturally increase your faith in Him. God can work to bring you into greater faith in Him. (Luke 17:5)

 

I hope this seven week series has helped you to understand faith and the importance of integrating your faith in your mind, your emotions, and your will. Faith doesn’t always work how we’d expect, but God does work and we are to have full faith in Him above all else.

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Faith and the Will

He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

–Matthew 14:29–

 

Faith involves the entirety of the soul, including the will. We must choose to believe, to have faith. It is an intentional act. You do not passively decide to have faith. You do not passively trust in God’s provision. You must intentionally act in faith.

Faith that influences our wills is not just “any old faith.” It does not come easily and is not present in all Christians. Jesus calls us to have God-sized faith. God wants to deliberate choose to have God-sized faith. God-sized faith exhausts the full resources of the human soul, which is evidence that we expect God to show up. It is deliberately choosing to believe God, and to act in a way that shows that belief. As the old adage says, “actions speak louder than words.” Saying that you believe God, but continuing to act in a way that relies only on you – your time, your money, your abilities – is NOT God-sized.

Jesus says in Matthew 17:20 that faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to move mountains. A mustard seed, if you don’t know, is tiny. It looks in significant. The mustard plant, however, is a large tree, big enough that many birds will live in its branches. Faith is played in our actions, in what we choose and what we do.

God-sized faith is one’s utter resignation to the fact that, unless supernatural activity takes place, there is no possibility that a given goal could ever be realized. Setting goals that can be accomplished by you alone does not show your faith in a sovereign, omnipotent God. We must choose to rely on God’s provision in our lives and act on that intentional choice. This is the only type of faith that gives God great glory – because only these types of things actually require God to act.

 

Our choice: DELIBEATE DECISION AND ACTION or INDECISION AND INACTION

 

WHAT WILL YOU CHOOSE TO THINK, TO BELIEVE, TO DO?

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Faith and Emotions

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

–Hebrews 11:6–

 

Your soul’s emotions aren’t merely feelings. In their fullest sense, human emotions have to do with our feelings, sentiments, affections, attitudes, beliefs, and convictions. Feelings are fleeting and should be limited in their influence on our lives and decisions. Emotions are broader and are instrumental in our lives. Feelings can develop into beliefs and convictions and so influence our soul and our faith, but our emotions are more than feelings.

Before your emotions can help you express Biblical faith, each area must be Spirit-controlled. The Holy Spirit should lead and direct your decisions and your emotions. Take time now to think about how the Spirit can influence and control your feelings, your sentiments, your affections, your attitudes, your beliefs, and your convictions. Think about the role of each of these in your faith. How has or how can the Spirit direct your affections? Do your attitudes come from your flesh or does the Spirit control them? What are your strongest convictions and do they come from God?

As such, what happens in our emotions in the moment of truth dictates whether or not we please God, because feelings and convictions are critical elements of a Biblical psychology of faith. Our faith is firmly rooted in our emotions, in our belief, but faith isn’t only belief alone. Faith has to do with the object of belief or it is merely faith in faith. You must have faith in something. To believe in something, you must understand it. If you really believe something, you will act on that belief. We should seek to increase the degree of our faith, to have enough to step out of a boat and in to the waves.

 

Our choice: CONVICTION – strong, unshakable belief in God or INDIFFERENCE, APATHY, AND FEAR

 

Your cry should be the same as the father with a demon-possessed son in Mark 9: I believe; help my unbelief!”

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Faith and the Mind

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine [think], according to His power that is at work within us

–Ephesians 3:20–

What happens in your mind is one of the most important factors in your faith capacity. Rational study and understanding is sometimes forgotten in Christianity today. Our focus has been more on connecting our beliefs with the heart and less on discipline and conscientiously studying God’s Word or logically understanding our faith and beliefs.

An important foundation to understanding the role of faith in the mind is realizing the difference between the brain and the mind. The brain is a part of the body. It is physical, material, and visible. It can be seen and touched (although you probably wouldn’t want to!). The brain works through electrical and chemical means, through interactions of chemicals and synapses. It receives information from the physical senses and from your self-embedded memory. The mind, however, is a part of the soul, as we discussed last week. It is immaterial and invisible; it cannot be seen or touched. The mind, contrary to the brain, works through psychic and spiritual means. It receives information from the brain, as well as from the emotions and Spirit.

Faith works in and with the mind and the brain. When you disbelieve or doubt that something is possible, the brain immediately slows its workload and reduces its “firing capacity,” which short-circuits faith. As a result, the mind’s ability to believe is immediately reduced, resulting in unfaithfulness. When your mind is not being controlled by the Spirit, it stops thinking supernaturally and downsizes what God can do. As a result, it begins to be “pressed into the mold” of thinking, which shrinks your capacity to believe God (Romans 12:2).

Our choice: To BELIEVE God – to trust fully in Him, His promises, His ways, and His purposes or DISBELIEF – our refusal to accept something as true.

WHAT WILL YOU CHOOSE TO THINK?

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Faith: How does it Work?

This week we’ll begin the main discussion on the psychology of faith, the interaction of our faith with our minds and emotions. In discussing this, it’s important to consider three key truths first.

First, faith doesn’t work how we think it works or how we would like it to work. Faith doesn’t work perfectly, as God originally intended, but it does work. It is to have a significant role in our lives. Secondly, faith only works as God ordained it to work. We cannot manipulate how faith works; we cannot manipulate how God works and make things work how we want them to. We must seek to discover how it works. Understanding faith and understanding God are vitally important in our Christian lives. Thirdly, our ignorance of Biblical faith greatly minimizes God’s work in and through our lives. A lack of understanding may limit how God can work in us, to transform us, and through us, to carry out His will in the world.

Forming a psychology of faith first requires that we understand the field of psychology. ‘Psychology’ comes from the Greek word psyche, which means soul. In our Biblical understanding of personhood, the soul is the center of each human being. A person is made up of a body, a spirit, and a soul. The soul itself is then made up of the mind, the will, and emotions. Psychology seeks to study the soul of a person, to understand how the mind, will, and emotions interact and make a person into who they are.

Much psychology is fundamentally flawed and ungodly because it miscalculates human nature and, as a result, the human condition. Those who seek the services of such well-intentioned people tend to fall deeper into the morass of hopelessness and addiction because they are being treated in ways inconsistent with how God made us.

What happens in the soul tells us whether or not faith is Biblical. Biblical faith involves the whole soul and is played out through the mind, will and emotions. Faith must be logically understood, connect with your feelings and your heart, and it must be lived out in your actions. ‘Feeling’ spiritual or connected to God matters little if you do not truly and deeply understand God and faith. Logical study and understanding is insignificant if you don’t connect with your emotional, affective side or show through your actions. In the same way, the right behaviors show nothing without the beliefs and convictions to back them up.

In the next four weeks, we’ll look at how faith plays out in our mind, emotions, and will as well as practical ideas to put together this knowledge with our lives.

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Five Facts about Faith

In seeking to understand faith, which is vital as we discussed last week, there are some foundational ideas to understand and apply. I’m going to introduce and explain five realities of faith which must be understood.

 

1. Your belief that God will act does not obligate Him to do so. In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, Paul describes his affliction, his “thorn in the flesh.” He writes that he asked God three times to remove this hardship, but that God told him instead that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God does hear your prayers and requests, but even a firm belief that God can and does heal, does not mean that He has to because you ask Him to. God’s purposes are not our own and His will may differ from ours.

2. God sometimes acts apart from your exercise of faith. God may act and heal those who do not have faith in Him. As stated in the past point, God’s ways of acting and His purposes may be different than what we expect and different than what we want. In Matthew 8:16 and in many other instances, Jesus healed many who were brought to Him, without considering the faith of those whom He was healing. God can have compassion on those who don’t have faith in Him as well as those who do.

3. Sometimes God does require us to exercise faith before He acts. In other stories in the Gospels, Jesus heals people because of their faith. For example, He heals the woman in Matthew 9:21-22 because she had enough faith to reach out and touch Jesus’ cloak. She believed that touching His cloak would heal her and it did; His power ‘went out’ without Him being aware of it. He knows, of course, but it was her strong faith in the power of Christ that healed her.

4. Sometimes God wants to act, but our lack of faith keeps it from happening. When teaching in His hometown, many people doubted Jesus’ power and saw Him only as a carpenter’s son. Matthew 13:58 says that “he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” While God can act apart from faith, sometimes He does not act because we lack faith.

5. Whether or not God requires us to exercise faith before He acts is His business. How God chooses to act is an essential part of His divine prerogative as God. If God was dependent upon us to have faith, He would not be an omnipotent sovereign God. If He needed us for anything, He would not be our divine Creator. God needs humans for nothing; it is up to Him to choose to act or to choose not to act. We can be sure that His ways and His purposes are above ours, that they are for our best, but we do not dictate the plans of God. Our faith can change God’s mind, as Moses’ plea for the Israelites did in Exodus 3211ff, or allow Him to act in our lives differently than if we did not have faith, but we are not in charge.

 

Human faith plays a central role in our Christian lives. Understanding these five realities of faith is also vital to a correct understanding of the role of faith. God can act in spite of our lack of faith or He may require our faith in order to act. It’s up to God to act or nor; it’s up to us to have faith and to trust in His ways and His purposes.

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Thinking About Faith…

Have you ever ‘believed’ God would do something but still been disappointed when you didn’t receive what you hoped for?  Have you ever shown half-hearted faith and, somehow, still saw God work?  Why did faith work one time and not the other? Is it possible that God’s Will is for something to happen but our lack of faith keeps it from happening? Are there times when God works apart from our faith– meaning, times when our faith isn’t required for God to act? And does that mean that God is completely unpredictable and arbitrary in how He acts?  Is the Christian life a complete “wild card?” Does God want us to be completely confused about one of the most important issues in the Christian life or are there things we can know?

It’s not that faith always makes sense, but nor is it that faith never makes sense…it’s that it sometimes makes sense.

Faith in the Christian life requires that we think about these issues. We should live out the Christian life, but we also need to reflect on it, to think deeply about issues of faith. Metacognition is thinking about how you think, the mind reflecting upon itself, being aware of your cognitive processes, and understanding one’s own thought patterns.

As humans, created in God’s image, we are capable of personal reflection and analysis. As Socrates taught, we should know ourselves. Failing to think about faith and about ourselves doesn’t mean that there are not issues we need to understand. Just as being ignorant of scientific laws, like the law of gravity, doesn’t mean that they don’t apply to us. Likewise, failing to understand how the laws of faith work doesn’t exempt us from understanding them either.

Generally, does God want me to understand how He works? Yes! God “made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel” (Psalm 103:7).

God wants you and I to think about our faith, to deeply ponder and contemplate issues and laws of our faith. To better understand the role and importance of faith, I encourage you to read Hebrews 11 this week. Read about faith in the lives of the ‘heroes’ of the Old Testament, and how the law of faith applies to us here and now.

I’m going to spend the next six weeks discussing faith, studying five foundational facts about faith, a psychology of faith, and how faith interacts with our mind and with our emotions. Faith is foundational and vital in our Christian lives and is something that all Christians should take the time to think about.

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Being Conscious of Your Conscience (Part 3 of 3)

Even after two weeks discussing what the conscience is and how it works, some of you may still not know why understanding your conscience is important. To conclude my series on the conscious, I’ll address this issue and how to apply what I’ve been talking about the past two weeks.

Now, Why Does It Matter?

You might say, “So what?”  Who cares?  Here’s why it matters how you live. IT’S JUST YOUR LIFE.

You’re either going to be happy in life or you’re not.  MOST PEOPLE I KNOW AREN’T VERY HAPPY IN LIFE.  They lost the battle of the soul— they didn’t obey their conscience when they were your age…

Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old & no longer enjoy living.

The bottom line: There are only two sides to the coin of life: Joy and Joyless.  You’ll be one or the other. Joy comes from obedience to God (1 Timothy 6:6). Joylessness comes from disobedience (Psalm 32:1). Which one you’ll be depends on whether or not you obey your conscience.

Let me close with a story that shows how important this is…

Earlier I said that the conscience is your soul’s automatic warning system.  Planes have automatic warning systems too.

In 1984 a jet crashed for no apparent reason.  The plane was flying in the dark and the pilot was unable to see.  That meant he had no sense of where he was and couldn’t get his bearings.  But that shouldn’t have mattered, because planes fly in darkness all the time.  That’s why they have devices that tell them their altitude: so they don’t fly too low or in the wrong direction.

During the night, air controllers lost contact with the pilot and it was later discovered that the plane had crashed.  During the investigation, the cockpit voice recorder was found, and officials made an eerie discovery:

On the recording, they could hear the computerized voice of the airplane, warning him, saying: “Pull Up, Warning… Pull Up.” You see, the pilot was flying too low.

But the pilot, didn’t listen to the voice of warning; he thought the gauges were malfunctioning.  On the tape, the pilot is heard several times telling the computer to “Shut up.” Finally, the pilot got tired of listening to the warning and just turned it off.

Minutes later the plane crashed. Everyone died.


What’s the point?

The point is that just like a plane has a warning system that is designed to keep passengers safe, the soul has a warning system designed to keep us safe spiritually, and that system is called the conscience.

But many times, we get tired of listening to our consciences, so we don’t.  We tell them to shut up and try to turn them off.

Here’s my challenge:  Be conscious of your conscience. It’s something God gave to help you, not to hassle you..

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Being Conscious of Your Conscience (Part 2 of 3)

Last week, we began our discussion of the conscience with a definition of what the conscience is, its role is and presence in all people. The conscience is different than the Holy Spirit in Christians. This week we’ll discuss how the conscience actually works.

How Does Your Conscience Work?

Our conscience works in conjunction with our souls, and I’m going to show you how.

 

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” –1 Thessalonians 5:23-24–

God’s desire for us as Christians is to be Sanctified or made holy, “through and through” or “in every way.” What does that mean? God wants us to be completely committed to Him in every way… in every part of our humanity: body, soul and spirit.

Here’s how that works: don’t miss this!

We win or lose the battle of holiness in our soul. 1 Peter 2:11 tells us: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”

The soul is the battlefield of good and evil. Well…. what is your soul? Your soul includes your mind, emotions and will (Deuteronomy 4:29; 6:4; etc.). It consists of what you think, what you feel, and what you do. And if we are going to become holy, we’ve got to win that battle in the soul.

If we THINK like God wants us to, FEEL like God wants us to and DECIDE how God wants us to, then we’ll become holy. If we don’t THINK, FEEL and MAKE DECISIONS like God wants, we’ll stay carnal and live unhappy, defeated Christian lives.

The problem: There’s a war going on inside of us!

In our bodies, bodily appetites want us to sin. Our spirit wants us to be holy. And our souls are trapped in the middle, fighting a battle. Here’s how the Apostle Paul explained it in Romans 7:21-23:“When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind (in the soul) and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

As you know from personal experience, we want to fight the good fight, but sometimes our soul has a hard time doing the right thing without some help. That’s a reason that God gave us a conscience.

When we’re faced with a decision and the battle begins: Thoughts go through your mind. Feelings go through your emotions. And options are presented to your will and your will makes a choice, good or bad. That’s why God gave us a conscience: To help encourage us to do the right thing. As your will is making a decision, your conscience kicks in to help you.

That’s why every decision you make triggers a response from your conscience: When we consistently make good decisions, our conscience defends us— and we feel joy, self-respect, peace, happiness and dignity. It feels good. It’s what the Bible calls a good/clear conscience (Hebrews 13:18; 1 Peter 3:16-21). When we consistently make bad decisions and violate our internal standard of right and wrong, our conscience accuses us— and we feel a sense of shame, regret, disgrace and fear.  Those bad feelings are what God is using to convict us, so we’ll live the way He wants us to. It’s what the Bible calls a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22).

That’s how your conscience works.

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Being Conscious of Your Conscience (Part 1 of 3)

“Hello.  This is your conscience speaking….”

Just kidding. But if your conscience was speaking to you, what would it say?


Over the next three weeks, I’m going to talk to you about being conscious of your conscience.  I want you to consciously think about your conscience.

We’re going to talk about three issues: What your conscience is, how it works, and why it matters.

What Is Your Conscience?

Let me begin by telling you what it is and what it isn’t—

1. Conscience is a “human thing,” it’s not something that plants & animals possess

God only gave human beings a conscience.  Only people are capable of ‘moral choices’. You can’t sue a kitty cat or execute a gerbil for doing something wrong. Plants never “feel guilty”. They don’t have a conscience, so they don’t “feel” anything. When my wife’s marigolds died this summer, they weren’t depressed… they were just ‘dead.’ Animals can’t sin. Since my dog Hugo doesn’t have a conscience, he doesn’t FEEL BAD when he leaves my carpet a gift from his lower intestines. Plants and animals just don’t have a conscience, it’s a “human” thing.

2. Though the conscience is a “human thing,” it’s not just a “Christian” thing

Romans 2:14-15 tells us that everyone has a conscience, Christian or not. The conscience is a good thing, but it isn’t the best thing.  It isn’t the same thing as the Holy Spirit or voice of God. All people have a conscience, but only Christians have the Holy Spirit too. Those who aren’t Christians only have their conscience, which is helpful, but not nearly as helpful in making right decisions as having God Himself living inside of you. The Holy Spirit works in believers by echoing God’s Will and acting as God’s Voice to Christians… but to Christians only.

Let me give you a simple description of the Conscience (mentioned 30 times in NT). It’s your soul’s “automatic warning system,” like a warning light on your car’s dashboard or on the computer. It’s automatic, like your body’s involuntary actions of breathing and blinking. You don’t have to even think about it… it just reacts to the stimuli it encounters.

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Do You Want to Change the World?

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

The one thing that you have to do if you want to change the world is to have ACCOUNTABILITY in your life If you want to attempt great things for God, to give Him great glory, and to be a mighty man or woman of valor, you’ll never do it without accountability in your life. Every great leader has multiple levels of accountability in his or her life. Various Biblical leaders show the importance of accountability. David was accountable to Nathan (2 Samuel 12:7), Paul was accountable to Barnabas (Acts 15:36ff), and Peter was held accountable be Paul (Galatians 2:11-14).

What is accountability?

Accountability is giving other people in your life the right to ask you the hard questions– and them giving you the same right– not for the purpose of tearing one another down, but building one another up. It’s for discouraging each other from harmful patterns of sinful living and encouraging each other toward godliness.

We need it because spiritual growth is often uneven– we win some; we lose some.  Together, we can win more.  We still have a sin nature, even as believers.  But we have power over it through Christ– and that power is greater when Christians unite and encourage one another.

The best way is to have an accountability group is by using what I call the 3 Musketeer Model (All for One and One for all). Ecclesiastes gives us the best advice: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” An additional important element of this accountability is to meet regularly, most likely weekly. Accountability groups should also be of the same sex, as spiritual intimacy can often lead to physical intimacy.

Biblical Models of Accountability

Paul– Each of us needs a spiritual mentor (older in the faith, a giant “to us”, a seasoned believer; youth usually need an adult for this role, someone you approach who is willing to help you grow) Think of who it will be for you…Think of 2-3 and pray about it– be very serious before doing it or you’ll crash and burn

Silas– Each of us needs a spiritual equal (someone on our spiritual level) Who might be a good fit?

Timothy– Each of us needs to help disciple someone younger in the faith (2 Timothy 2:2)

Look for those who are more experienced in the faith, who can be your mentors, those who are your spiritual equals, and those whom you can disciple. In order to grow, you need mentors, equals, and others that you can mentor. Accountability is essential and vital in our Christian lives, to be mentored and to mentor others.

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Galatians: Chapter 5-6 (Part 6 of 6)

As we discussed last week, Christian maturity and spirituality isn’t about ‘trying’ but about simply pursuing a love relationship with Jesus. This week, we’ll continue with the message and content of Galatians.

Chapter 5, verse 1 is the key verse of the book of Galatians.  The point of the Christian life is freedom/Christian liberty– the freedom to live in ways that position us in blessing, due to what Christ has done for us.  Freedom from sin– yes, but freedom from living with the million requirements of the law on your mind 24-7. Even as a Christian, God will let you live in spiritual bondage.  If you won’t learn what God says about living the Christian life; He will let you live in bondage… after all, most Christians do, and fail to enjoy what Christ purchased for them by his blood.

Verses 3 and 4 teach that if you’re going to live by the law, legalistically, to prove your self-righteousness, you can’t pick and choose, you’ll have to do it all. Of course, if you do– you’ve taken a lesson in ‘missing the point’ and your ‘circumcision has ‘cut you off’ from Christ (joke by Paul under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration). Falling from grace, here, is not losing your salvation as many believe— but is rather moving from living in the higher state of freedom and liberty, to falling back/down into law and condemnation.

Paul then moves on in verses 6 through 8 to further enforce that externals are not the point… It’s not righteous acts that make you right before God.  It’s faith and love for God and others (Great Commandment).

Verses 9 and 10 address spiritual false teaching. It is dangerous because people are gullible.  That’s why doctrine is so important.  When we fight wrong beliefs, we teach the truth; call out those who teach falsehood; and pray for those in false belief. Verse 11 addresses the essence of the grace of the Gospel message. The former strict regulations are overthrown and we are given grace freely.

Verses 12 through 15 further discuss freedom.  Yes, but not the wrong kind… don’t confuse legitimate freedom for ‘license’ (Rom 6, e.g.). The immediately following verses, 16-25, discuss the secret of Christian matuity and power. Life isn’t in Christ that  gravitates toward sin and self-destruction. The fruits of the spirit discussed in verses 22-25 are all singular: “Fruit (singular) of the spirit is (singular verb)…”

Chapter 6 concludes the chapter with some final thoughts from Paul. Christians must help and encourage Christians in sin.. How? GENTLY AND HUMBLY (meaning, the exact opposite of how they usually do— which is roughly and arrogantly).

In verse 6, Paul teaches that Christian leaders/teachers deserve to be paid…. it adds accountability and gives the adequate time to study.  Why does Paul include this here? If they’d done it right and had that kind of adequate time, they’d stayed out of false teaching in Galatia.

Paul’s closing and concluding teaching is that we bless other people, especially Christians.

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Galatians: Chapter 2-4 (Part 5 of 6)

This week, we’re going to move on to Paul’s main message in his letter to the Galatians. Because this is such a challenging passage, I decided to just draw out the primary principles— and teach it from those “big ideas” in the text and not try to force you to wade through the very involved sections of scripture here that require you to have a lot of background in the Old Testament— I knew in my heart that most people would get lost, so I believe God wanted me to approach it this way.

And as I say this, I know there are some people who probably can handle it and would be able to follow me… and others who fancy themselves really informed about the Bible but who aren’t and would actually get lost.  So I’m going to do us all a favor and go the more practical route, because what’s really important is that people understand what God has said to us in His Word.

In the previous section, recall that Paul is laying the foundation for his authority. He seeks to show Galatian Christians that his message is from God alone, that he has not been taught and influenced by men. On that foundation, he builds the following passages of his letter.

The first of Paul’s big ideas is this: If you’re a true Christian, don’t let the freedom Christ gives you– spiritual liberty, living in freedom and spiritual abandon, be taken away from you by self-righteous people who claim to be (and may be) Christians. Unfortunately, some Christians (or posers) get lost along the way and start having judgmental spirits and live self-righteously and hold other people in contempt for (1) enjoying the amazing spiritual liberty Christ gives a person to live OR (2) for not letting those self-righteous people put you under their thumb in order to control your life and to gain praise and adulation from others because of their high standards.

Paul’s second big idea is: It’s OK, perhaps even necessary at times, to confront self-righteous people who judge you and everyone else, but who are (themselves) hypocrites.  God wanted Paul to call out Peter— Peter was in sin.

Paul’s third big idea: Righteousness (peace with God, a right standing with God, being in a right relationship with God where God is pleased with you) does not come as a result of your own good deeds.  As good as you may be, it’s not good enough– because God’s standard is perfection, which is something we’re not capable of… only Christ was able to do that (on the cross).

Paul’s fourth big idea is this: The secret to the Christian life… is unexpected.  It’s simply letting Christ live in and through you. When a person becomes a believer, the Holy Spirit (God in spiritual form) takes up residence in you and wants to live His very life through you (we become partakers of the divine image).  But if you try to impress God with your OWN self-righteous acts and good deeds, your conscience will always accuse you for your inconsistency, and you will forever live feeling condemned.

Christ was perfect, but He died to take on my sin… meaning he died a sacrificial death to pay for the human debt of sin against God.

The Christian life isn’t about ‘playing defense.’ In other words… it’s not about trying to QUIT everything— and stopping doing whatever it is that you’ve been doing.  That’s no way to live.  Self-righteousness is driven by will power, and it always leads to (1) Defeat, because we’re weak and (2) self-righteousness and then, because we’re weak and too proud to admit it, (3) secret sin.

The Solution? Stop playing defense and play offense…. Live in abandon to Jesus. Just love him with all you’ve got and stop trying to impress Him and everybody else.

In chapter 3, verses 1 through 4, Paul asserts that if you’re not careful, you can get so religious and ‘churchy’ that you miss the point of the Christian life. The freedom of the Christian life begins to get cloudy and obscured by religious people and self-righteous people…. to the point that you soon forget that the Christian life isn’t about keeping a bunch of rules and regulations, and about image-management so everyone will be impressed with you, but it’s simply about developing your relationship with Jesus— imagine that!

Spend your time being vulnerable with God and transparent with others about your frailties and insufficiency.  The holiest people you’ll ever meet are well aware that they have issues, but know that God is taking care of it— they’re not people who are trying to front with holier-than-thou attitudes.

In verses 8 through 13, Paul’s point is that if you swap “Christian freedom” and working on your relationship with Jesus for “religion” and start playing the “church” game, you may as well be living back in Old Testament times— because when you decide to live by impressing God and people with your own acts of devotion and self-righteousness, God actually expects you to obey the whole Old Testament and its requirements, since you’re clearly no longer allowing Christ to be your righteousness– But unfortunately, this type of living will keep you in spiritual bondage, constant self-condemnation, and you’ll be an unhappy Christian with a critical spirit, always judging others.

The Old Testament Law with all of its restrictions, the dietary regulations, the requirement for men to be circumcised, etc. were certainly there for a reason at one point in history– and were good at that time for that purpose.  But now we are in New Testament times— and living under the New Testament means placing our trust in Christ and LETTING HIM LIVE THROUGH US. Good deeds don’t make us righteous— that’s not why we do them… to prove we’re righteous, but because Christ is making us righteous, we consequently do good deeds.

In other words, the self-righteous person believes his own good deeds are the CAUSE of His Righteousness…. whereas the Christian living in God’s grace knows that his good deeds are the EFFECTS or consequences of Christ living through Him… and that they aren’t his own doing.

Paul then moves on, in verses 19 through 29, to state that since Christ is the only righteous one… and only as He lives through us can we live in a way that really pleases God and lives up to His expectations, we don’t’ need to live ‘keeping tallies’ of our self-righteous acts.

Me?  I don’t even THINK about TRYING to live the Christian life. I don’t TRY to be holy.  I don’t TRY to do anything… I can’t. Instead, all I do is work on spending time with Jesus and being intimate with Him and doing things that move me closer to Him (worship, prayer, giving, serving, confession, studying, etc.) and AS I DO NOTHING MORE THAN WORK ON MY RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM (just as we work on our relationships with other people)– as I cultivate my love relationship with Jesus, just by spending time with Him, He begins to rub off on me, and I begin to become holy, BY DEFAULT.

I know this next idea is going to frustrate some of you, but— this is the gist of what Paul was talking about in this passage..

I personally SPEND MY TIME cultivating my time with Jesus— not spending my time “observing days and by avoiding festivals”– meaning, I’m more concerned about loving Jesus and being with Him than sitting around thinking of ways to show everyone I don’t celebrate Santa Claus or by preaching against Halloween….

The Christian life isn’t about that stuff— It’s not about EXTERNALS, as if anyone cares whether you dress up in a bozo costume or not (not that, if you did, anyone would think you are a devil worshipper)— it’s not about externals, but INTERNALS– whether you are being TRANSFORMED into the image of Christ because you are so consumed with your love relationship with Him.

Also in Matthew 15:18, Acts 10:14, and 1 Timothy 4:3, it’s taught that it is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” The point is that we should work harder on fixing ourselves from the INSIDE OUT than the OUTSIDE IN. Paul likewise teaches the Galatians that the internal state of a person is more important to address than external behavior.

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Galatians: Chapter 2 (Part 4 of 6)

This week, we’re going to discuss chapter 2, verses 1 through 10. In this section, Paul is preparing to challenge and fix the Galatian churches’ false teaching about the true message of Christ.

He reminds them he had basically no interaction with any other apostles and was not influenced by their message… the message he was sharing was from God alone.

14 years after Paul first met James and Peter, he went again to Jerusalem, meaning he had preached the same message for 17 years now, without any previous instruction. He told that a message from God alone, received directly from Jesus himself.  Paul here is talking here about the Council of Jerusalem that occurred in Acts 15 in AD 50. What was the purpose of that visit and of the Jerusalem Council? To address the current controversy, to address what is required of non-Jewish/Gentile believers. Specifically, he discusses that Gentiles do not have to do extra things to make God happy.

Why did Paul mention Titus? Remember, Paul wrote a letter to Titus (Titus 1:4-5).  But why did he mention him?  Because Paul had led him to Christ and Titus was an uncircumcised Gentile Christian, which was the very thing the controversy was about. He wanted to show them a real life example of such a believer and that even without doing all the extra things the Jewish self-righteous and legalistic believers expected of him, Titus was clearly godly. His point is that there are Christians who don’t look like you, live completely like you, dress like you, have different cultures than you and express their faith differently than you– but they love Jesus JUST AS MUCH.

In Acts 15:1, Paul mentions Judaizers who came to Antioch, which is in Pisidia or Galatia.  These Jewish Christians were coming at that time, teaching that you had to be circumcised in order to be a Christian in good standing with God. Then, at that Council in Jerusalem, after Paul told them what God had done among non-Jewish believers, this group of Judaizers still said (Acts 15:4-5) that it was necessary to circumcise them. Paul said no.  We shouldn’t place too much emphasis on externals; even without those things, Titus was actually MORE RIGHTEOUS than these Galatians. So when the Judaizers were confronted with the truth about their legalistic perversions of the gospel, they ‘kept silent.’

In verses 3-5, Paul discusses false brethren who taught that circumcision is necessary. They tried to spy out our freedom, to put us back in religious bondage (religious tyranny), making us and others do more than God required.  But, Paul said, we didn’t yield in subjection to them for even an hour.  We only cared about the truth. When it comes to impressing people with being overly strict and proving to them that you’re the real thing and accommodating them and their self-righteous, extra-biblical demands on your life– Paul said he wouldn’t deal with it.

That’s why Paul calls them ‘false brethren;’ they knew nothing of the grace of God, they were just religious zealots wanting to control people’s lives for their own power.  Those phonies and power mongers had sneaked into the leadership— Paul here is using a type of military language, where people enter a camp by stealth with an objective of sabotage— and they wanted to bring people into bondage (the same word that implies ‘slavery’).

Paul’s point is that these people were more interested in controlling people and performing self-righteous acts to earn favor from God and praise from one another MORE THAN realizing God gives His favor as unmerited and free, without performance.  MEANING, anything we do for God should be out of love and devotion for God, not to impress or control others or to gain the praise of other people.

Paul enforces his point through a variety of methods and supports. In doctrinal issues (beliefs), Paul changed nothing– as it says here.  He wouldn’t change his beliefs to make them palatable to people, Christian or not. But in ministry matters– to reach people for Christ, he was always being unconventional; 1 Corinthians 9:22 says I ‘became all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Example: Though Paul didn’t have Titus circumcised (a Gentile) he did have Timothy circumcised.  Why? Titus wasn’t circumcised because Titus was a Grecian Gentile and had no relationship to Judaism.  But because Timothy was half-Jew, without being circumcised, Timothy couldn’t have gone into the synagogue to preach and minister to Jews.  Titus, the Greek, had no inroads to the Jews, but Timothy did– but for ministry reasons, not theological reasons, Paul wanted Timothy to be circumcised…not for self-righteous reasons, but because it allowed him to be more effective in ministry with his people.

In closing, Paul said in verses 2:9-10 that, having said all this, Peter, James and John– the BIG THREE during Jesus’ ministry… pillars (a phrase implying ‘great teachers’) of the church gave him the right hand of fellowship, welcoming him into their leadership circle.  Right hand meant a solemn vow had been made in trust. Fellowship meant a “partnership.”

Here in our churches we offer the “right hand of fellowship” too.  Though it isn’t biblically required for membership, when someone becomes a member, we want to show them that we are now partnering together– and that we trust one another and are working together to advance the Kingdom of God as a team.

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Galatians: Chapter 1 (Part 3 of 6)

We’ll continue our study of Galatians again this week, beginning with chapter 1, verse 11.

Paul begins this passage in verse 11 with “I would have you know,” which is from a strong Greek verb (gnorizo) that means to make known with certainty or to certify. He uses brethren to address all Christians at the churches in Galatia. When he states that “the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man,” he shows that, unlike every other religion in the world in which righteousness comes from human effort and works, in Christianity God’s good news in the Bible is that grace is free.

In verse 12, Paul is taking a stab at the Judaizers, who received their religious instruction from rabbinic tradition and memorization of what others said, rather than studying the scripture directly. He states that he did not receive his knowledge from men and was not taught wisdom by other men. Hearsay is usually heresy. Study the Word for YOURSELF, don’t rely on what you’ve ‘heard’ This is probably a reference to the charge that the Judaizers were making, that Paul had received his teachings from people in Jerusalem and not God. Paul asserts that he received knowledge through revelation from Jesus Christ. He uses apokalupsis, the same word as the name of the book of Revelation, as a revelation. It indicates an uncovering when God removed the lid and unveiled something, though it was previously secret.

This revelation or uncovering was not just FROM JESUS, but it was OF Jesus. (Acts 9).  Paul knew some things before his experience with Jesus on the road to Damascus, since he was an Old Testament scholar, but it was at this time that the information he had studied became living to Him and made spiritual sense (1 Corinthians 2). It is the same with us: when we are saved, we have ‘spiritual eyes,’ which can not discern spiritual truth.

Now, in the next 12 verses, he substantiates the claim that he did in fact have direct revelation from God— anyone could SAY it, now he shows it. Here he gives his autobiographical credentials,  and really, what Christians call a “testimony.” Paul tells his testimony in the same way that many Christians now tell. He tells about himself before Christ (verses 13-14), when he encountered Christ (verses 15-16), and after he encountered Jesus (verses 17-24). Paul was transparent about his life.

Paul first tells of his life before Jesus or pre-conversion. The key word in verse 13 is “MY FORMER manner of life when I was in JUDAISM.” Paul was the model Jewish believer (as we see in Philippians 3:5-6) and was so zealous about defending the Jewish faith that he used to persecute the church of God beyond measure. ‘Used to persecute’ in the original language (GK imperfect tense) means a persistent and continued intention to harm. Paul states that he tried to destroy the Christian movement. That’s a big statement. ‘Destroy’ is a military term used to speak of soldiers ravaging a city– and doing so without stopping, a continual action.

Paul had “advanced in Judaism beyond many of his countrymen being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” This translates to Judaizers that: You have NOTHING on me. Your level of expectation and commitment to Jewish tradition is nothing.  You’re a wannabe.  I was the real deal.  I honor my ancestral traditions– they’re my roots, but I was wrong.  Those traditions were an exercise in “missing the point.”

Furthermore… watch this: a person like Paul at this time in his life was in no mood to change his mind about how he lived– he was hard core.  But he radically changed when he met Christ. Paul’s point? No sinner is outside God’s reach.  God takes even murderers— as they are, and can give them spiritual zeal to surpass even lifelong Christians, if there is such a thing.
Secondly, Paul describes his conversion and calling or ordination from God. He states that (verses 15-16). “God had set me apart, even from my mother’s womb.”  God is sovereign, even though Paul was going 180° degrees in the wrong direction, God had a plan for Paul all along— just as He has one for you and me.  Paul was set apart from his mother’s womb. Paul wasn’t called because he had demonstrated some great quality– he hadn’t even been born!  That shows God doesn’t choose us and work in us because of our potential, but because it pleases Him to do so.  2 Peter 3:8 says God wants ALL to come to repentance in this way.

Paul came to God (was called) by His grace or unlimited favor, because it pleased God to reveal His Son through Paul’s life and God wanted Paul to preach to the Gentiles— the very ones these Jews Paul was addressing wanted to keep out of the faith or UNDER the faith.

Paul then concludes this section with a description of his life after his conversion (verses 17-24) He tells that “I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood.”  Paul, remember, is giving his credentials and the basis for what he is saying in this letter and his overall message. He is telling them that he didn’t talk to anyone else about what to teach, or about what God wanted.  He didn’t want anyone’s opinion or clarification to the revelation he had received.  God had spoken to him; what clarification did he need?!!

Paul opens his letter to the Galatians with a discussion of the pervasiveness and perseverance of the Gospel and the sovereignty of God (1:6-10) and then discusses His own God-given credentials. He hasn’t gained wisdom and knowledge from men, but from God. He is not called due to his abilities, but because of God’s choice    alone.

Next week, we’ll move on to chapter two, in which Paul begins the real ‘meat’ of his message and his ultimate purpose in writing to the Galatians.

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Galatians: Introduction (Part 2 of 6)

After Jesus resurrected from the grave, He gave the Great Commission; part of it came in the form of Acts 1:8. Jesus told His followers to witness in Jerusalem (Acts 1-7), then in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1-4), to upper Samaria (Acts 10:24-35), and finally to the outermost parts of their known world (Acts 11:19-24). So churches are springing up everywhere at this time— the New Covenant is in effect. God’s people are sharing the message of Christ (forgiveness, hope, abundant life now and eternal life later) to both Jews and Gentiles.

Since most of Christian believers and leaders are scattered, they are going everywhere– especially the Apostles. The Apostle Paul made his primary work reaching out to non-Jewish people with the message of the Jesus because some of the other Apostles were effectively taking care of the Jewish people.

So churches are being established. The Apostle Paul is traveling with a group of friends. Leaders are helping him set up communities of Christian faith throughout the Roman Empire. He takes several such trips, called missionary journeys. The first missionary journey occurred around the late 40s AD.  We read about it in Acts 13-14. Some cities mentioned on Paul’s journey are Pisidia, Lystra, and Iconium.

The gospel (the good news of Jesus’ love for all people, his forgiveness, and the possibility of abundant life now and eternal life later) is being taken to the outermost parts of the world– like it was supposed to be.  Paul has taken his first missionary journey, and goes to the area of Galatia.

Later on, he hears of some events going on there and writes a letter to those churches– in hopes of clearing up the problems there. The main problem was that, after he left, some people there began to distort the truth of his message. The book of Galatians was written to clarify what the Gospel is about and what it gives believers,

Let’s begin, reading verse 1-5.

Verse 1 clarifies that this book is an epistle, a formal style of letter. Unlike other letters in the New Testament, this one isn’t addressed to a specific person or a specific church– it’s written to a group of churches… all of which were positioned in Galatia (present-day Turkey).  The letter went out generally to all of the cities in the region, because they were all dealing with the same issues at that time.

In this verse, Paul notes that he is called “of God.” His authority is from God, not from any denomination or group who thought he was a nice guy or a human organization who gave him ordination papers.  God calls— all an organization can do is recognize a man is called.

In verse 2, Paul discusses the fact that he is not alone; there are men and women with him in his missionary travels. Paul refers to them because the Galatians know who some of those are (because these are people who traveled with him in Acts 13-14), and these others have credibility with the Galatians as well.  So Paul is saying, “we’re still here— we’re still saying the same thing.  We’re of one heart and mind on the issues we’ll discuss in this letter.” Strong Christians add to the credibility of Paul’s message— that was going on here.  And the others also cared about the Galatians and wanted to say ‘hi’ as well.

Verse 3 is a typical Pauline greeting, wishing ‘grace and peace’ to the Galatians. Grace ALWAYS precedes peace in his letters. Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the conscience.  Without grace, there can BE no peace.

In verse 4, Paul reiterates that Jesus died for sin. Sin is so vicious that only the sacrifice of Christ could atone for sin. God planned that Jesus would die for sins.  WHY? To rescue the world from itself, from self-destruction and from destroying others. Sin includes personal evil, societal wickedness, and territorial and spatial wickedness. Christ died to free people from all types of sin.

In verse 5, Paul breaks out in praise– all glory belongs to God forever and ever. Because God HAS rescued the world from evil through Christ— Christ’s work defeated the cause of evil and broke its power.

For that reason, Amen (true, yes!)

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Galatians: Context (Part 1 of 6)

Today I’m beginning a series on a book of the New Testament called Galatians.  Each book of the Bible is indispensable and important in its own way and Galatians is no exception.

In fact, Galatians is a very important book for both professing Christians (people who think of themselves as followers of Christ) and for those who are at a point in their lives that they want absolutely nothing to do with self-righteous people, organized religion or the institutional church.

That’s because, in this book, God gives Christians the facts on what the Christian life is really all about—and helps those who aren’t Christians see that a lot of what is sometimes called the Church and that masquerades as Christian Faith actually has nothing to do with Jesus or with biblical Christianity. So, if you’re a Christian, a spiritual seeker or something in between, this study is for you— and I’m glad you’re reading.

Today, before I really get into the text of the book called Galatians, I want to help you understand the historical background that led to the writing of the book.

WHY? Why spend time on that?  Because anytime you study ANY book of the Bible, you need to understand what led to and precipitated the writing of that book.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  God doesn’t just inspire Scripture for no reason.  There were goings on in the early days of Christianity—things that became of such a critical and serious nature that God Himself intervened and, through the agency and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, guided the Apostle Paul in the writing of this book.

The problem with that is that lots of people feel lost in the Bible, and studies like this often get a little confusing to people. For that reason, as I approach this study, I’m going to break it down into little, bite-sized pieces—and I’m going to explain it bit by bit, piece by piece and morsel by morsel, so nobody feels left in the dark.  And I’m going to try to take the complex and sometimes complicated story of the Bible and New Testament and put it in plain language that I hope you can understand.  And with that introduction, here we go!

The Old Testament Context

To understand Galatians, you must understand Judaism and the Old Testament. So that’s where I’m going to start, with a brief introduction of how the Bible and the book of Galatians fit together.

Judaism as an organized religion isn’t the first ‘organized’ religion in the history of the world, but the Judeo-Christian God (the God of the Bible) is the only God that Christians believe in and that is the one mentioned throughout the Bible. God is eternal and has always existed.  That God created humanity and all that is. God established boundaries and expectations for people, which they broke and violated. God expelled them from His presence because of their disrespect and rebellion—because their actions proved they weren’t interested in having an intimate relationship with Him. Even though God allowed people to rebel, like a loving parent, He still loved them and pursued them with forgiveness and cared for and provided for them.

Fast forward: At a certain time in history (around 1450 BC), God established a holy covenant with a man named Abraham.  Abraham had a child, Isaac.  Isaac had two sons, one of whom was named Jacob. So the God of the Bible became known as the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Genesis 32:9).  Jacob was later renamed Israel after a supernatural experience he had with God. Jacob, now Israel, had twelve sons, each of which had large families that, over time, became clans, then tribes.  Generally speaking (and this is oversimplified and not exactly the way it occurred), the dozen sons of Jacob/Israel became the Twelve Tribes of Israel. God wanted to honor the agreement He had with the descendents of His follower, Abraham.  They had been enslaved over the centuries that followed by Egypt (Exodus 2:23-25). God then rescued them from Egypt and gave them a parcel of land (called the Holy Land) that He had promised to them hundreds of years earlier.

They later became a nation under God—known as the nation of Israel (comprised of the twelve tribes of Israel)—and they were governed by God’s Law—that is, the Old Covenant, and namely, the Ten Commandments.   And when they broke the Law, they had to make blood offerings to God (Leviticus 1-7) to show sorrow for their sins and make restitution to God for what they’d done. Later, the nation had a break up, and what remained were two smaller nations—one named the nation of Judah (which was comprised of the tribe of Judah, namely the Jewish people).   God then continued to interact with them, to have His Will done on earth through that Covenant people.

The New Testament Context

Ultimately the Jewish people, as a whole, failed to keep their end of the deal, leading to a New Covenant— meaning God established an additional covenant with a new group of people, in order for His Will to be done on earth.   The original people He made this covenant with (John 12) were the Jews—but were told to include all people, particularly Gentiles (Matthew 28). So while the Old Covenant was with the Jewish people as an ethnic group, the New Covenant still honored that covenant (Romans 9-11), but introduced all non-Jews, called Gentiles, into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

How does this work?  Well, instead of breaking the Law and making offerings of animals, Christians trust in Jesus Christ who made HIMSELF an offering for sin which is why He died on the cross. After Christ was murdered and then resurrected from the dead, the church sprang into existence.  That meant Christians would no longer make offerings and do all of the things written in the Old Testament (like be circumcised as a young child or man, make animal offerings, keep certain dietary or eating regulations, and so on).  All of those things became obsolete when Christ did His work (Hebrews 8:8-18).

In Jerusalem, at a Jewish holiday called Pentecost, a few weeks after the resurrection, the Christian movement as we know it today sprang into existence and Christian bodies/churches—groups of Christians meeting together (I’m not talking about churches as-in ‘buildings’) began to be established everywhere. Over time, those churches spread throughout the then-Roman Empire. They first began as Jewish followers of Jesus (in Jerusalem, Samaria and Jewish communities elsewhere), but in time churches were established among Gentiles too—just as Christ had told them to do.

The Pauline Context

The leader who helped Gentiles (non-Jews like many of us) become introduced to Jesus was a Jewish leader named the Apostle Paul.  The primary leader who helped Jewish people find Christ was the Apostle Peter as well as James, the half brother of Jesus.

But understand this—because this is part of the key to understanding the Book of Galatians— In some churches, there were both Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians. Not only were they different ethnicities and nationalities, but were from totally different cultures, and the Jews were known to have a great sense of pride about their heritage as God’s people.  But now, as you know, God was including Gentiles in His plan—like He had ALWAYS wanted to, but the Jews failed to do.  Some Jews were jealous that God had included the Gentiles in His New Covenant—and were resistant to non-Jews coming to Jesus in the New Covenant (Acts 14:45-47).This ongoing struggle led to the situation in churches in the area of the world known as Galatia (basically current day Turkey).

In the New Testament, after the life and times of Jesus appears (in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), there is a short history of the early church (Act.s) and then the letters to the churches begin.  Those letters are called ‘epistles’ because an epistle was a type of letter writing technique at that time. Paul wrote many epistles—letters—to Christian believers, some Jewish believers and some Gentile believers. Here, in Galatians, we read of a church with both.  They were having problems understanding what the New Covenant really meant—and what God expected of people.  There was a sharp disagreement about that, and it was confusing people about the truth.

Today, people are also confused about the truth. Why?  Because Churches are often confused too.  In the next few weeks, we’ll discover the real truth about the Christian message—and it’ll help both Christians and seekers understand what the message of Jesus really was and is.

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Live As If It Really Matters

Sometime at the end of high school or the beginning of my college years, I began to understand how important life really is.

What is life?  What does your life consist of?

Life is the cumulative effect of every decision you will ever make. We can conclude, if this is true, that decisions are important. And not “just” important… they’re ultimate. Since they’re of ultimate importance, it’s a good idea to learn to make good decisions and every decision begins in the mind.

Because of the centrality of the mind in our decision-making, I want to challenge you to explore your own thought process to see if you can improve your ability to “live as if it really mattered.”

Socrates said that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. Let’s take his advice and examine three things about our minds

Examine Your Decisions: Think about WHAT you DO.

You and I both know lots of people who live their lives as if it’s a game— like the stakes aren’t that high… never stopping to ask themselves, “WHAT AM I DOING?  WHERE IS MY BRAIN?”

The truth is that one decision you make in a moment can have lifelong ramifications— for good or bad. Those who don’t think about what they do end up making bonehead moves with a high price tag attached to them.

When was the last time you just weren’t thinking about your actions and harmed a relationship?  hurt a friend?  wounded a family member? violated another person?  dishonored your own body?  offended God?

Remember the advice of Colossians 4:5,  “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”  1 Peter 1:13 tells us to “Prepare our minds for action.”

Examine Your Assumptions and Beliefs: Think about WHAT you BELIEVE

Most people’s beliefs are like a patchwork quilt, a family heirloom. Passed down from generation to generation without much thought, they’re a hodge-podge of ideas from all kinds of different places. Without even realizing it, many Christians hold conflicting positions about political, social, moral, legal and spiritual issues.  Sometimes the views are so inconsistent it’s absurd, but they don’t realize it because they haven’t really thought about it.

You must have a workable philosophy of life… one that’s consistent with reality– one that’s in harmony with truth and the way things really are.  If you don’t, life will eventually cave in on you because you’re living a lie. That’s why the Apostle Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is within you.”

IF YOUR LIFE IS GOING TO COUNT FOR GOD, YOU HAVE TO THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU BELIEVE AND WHY.

Examine Your Thought Process:  Think about HOW you THINK

Most people don’t think much about anything… they live on autopilot. Don’t veg-out and put your mind in neutral. Don’t get so lazy mentally that you don’t think critically

When you don’t think about how you think, before you realize it, instead of your mind being transformed into a powerful tool God can use, it becomes like a lump of clay that is molded and conformed into thinking like everyone else. That’s why the Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:2 not to let your mind (your thinking) be conformed to the world, but to be transformed— to undergo a metamorphosis so you’ll know how to live like God wants.

So that’s my challenge to you today:  Live As If Life Really Mattered by:

Thinking about WHAT you DO
Thinking about WHAT you BELIEVE
Thinking about HOW you THINK

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The Golden Tongued Orator: What v. How You Say It

In Christian history, one of the greatest speakers was known to be Chrysostom, the fourth century Church Father and Bishop of Constantinople.  Chrysostom was known as the “Golden Tongued Orator.” 

Chrysostom was a champion of great speaking and was known to deliver the best content.

As a minister and professor, no doubt, I place a high degree of importance on the “content” of my message or lecture. 

But some speakers pay attention to WHAT they will say to the neglect of HOW they say it.  In fact, some speakers have consistently neglected the development of greater speaking skill and even criticize good speaking and good speakers AS IF those speakers are less serious about their content than the less-than-stellar speaker.  That’s too bad. 

Speaking prowess is more important than one may think.  Don’t take that to mean that HOW WELL we speak is “more important” than what we say… but it’s naive to neglect your speaking and to underestimate the importance of skill. 

Preparing to Speak

Lots of preachers, teachers, and speakers of all types spend a dozen or two dozen hours of preparation for their talk, only to spend all or nearly all of it on the CONTENT (exegesis, outline, etc.) without spending much on technique or method.  Why is that? 

A book I was reading on speaking a while back reported that 93% of our impact in speaking is related to the EMOTION-PASSION and PROWESS of the speaker.  Having said that, while the “raw material” itself is crucial and all-important, that content may or may not be heard and hindered by the listener if the speaker cannot deliver the goods so it can be heard and received, then applied

The truth is that a speaker simply doesn’ t have 10 or 20 minutes to sell the audience.  In fact, you don’t have even 5 minutes.  Your  first impression is made in seconds, not minutes.  So to command an audience, you need to sell your stuff up front– hook the listener quickly, then bring the bacon. 

In other words— as a speaker, bring the HEAT, then bring the MEAT.

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Meditation: Gaining the Mind of Christ through Prayer

Meditation, pondering spiritual themes in reference to God, helps us understand how to apply God’s truths and gain insight into God’s truth.

It helps us understand difficult passages, relate truths to other scripture passages, network doctrines together and come to biblical understandings of doctrinal systems, and helps us distinguish between concepts, among other things. In Joshua 1:8, we are told to meditate on the Law day and night so that we will not depart from the way of God. Because of meditation, God will make our ways prosperous and successful.

Meditation is a part of praying without ceasing. It is pondering, chewing on biblical concepts and going at them in different angles, looking at the supposed contradictions of faith and the Bible only to ultimately crack the shell and find the truth therein.  We must work to find it and only when we really intend to obey the principle wrought by that word should we expect to find truth.

God doesn’t intend to impart undiscovered truth on us until we intend to obey it.

Meditation helps us gain and learn the mind of Christ, to be more and more like our Lord.

Because we don’t meditate, thinking clearly and biblically, we have messed up ideas of Scripture and doctrine. We then depend on others thinking.  We don’t want to do it ourselves.  When asked to justify our beliefs, many say, “That’s what so and so said, I heard it on TV.”  We are chronically gullible because we cannot distinguish ideas, due to our lack of meditation.

Meditation yields inner peace, brings greater satisfaction in our devotional lives, and gives us an opportunity to be a more obedient servant. It gives us a divine perspective, that we may see God’s thoughts and God’s ways. Meditation can help us understand life better and make better sense of our circumstances..

The fruit of meditation is insight to truth.  Truth liberates and changes things.

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Thanking God in Prayer

Thanksgiving is related to praise but they are not one and the same. Thanksgiving is to express appreciation for the things that God has done for you, for others, or for any acts He has performed. Praise is to express appreciation for who God is, His Person, His Word, His Attributes.

Thanksgiving is mental or vocal. It is to be specific gratitude. Thanksgiving– like the whole of prayer itself, is not just an act, but a lifestyle (1 Thess 5:17-18).

It focuses on God’s faithfulness and thereby increases our faith because it reminds our hearts of what He has done. Faith is always trust based on the Lord’s faithfulness of the past.  Thanksgiving increases that. It is one of the best cures for depression, pity parties, disappointment.
As I asked readers to practice praise a few weeks ago, I ask you again now to practice thanksgiving. Allow your mind to wander through the days activities.  Allow God to direct you toward blessings you overlooked and failed to thank Him for.  Don’t just thank Him, “Thanks God,” but thank Him by exploring the goodness of God in those items.  Thank God specifically, not just a blanket statement. Thank Him individually and sincerely.

You can thank God for His goodness to you, to your family, to the world.
You an thank God for His blessings in the past, His blessings in the present, and His blessings that will come in the future. God’s blessings can be people, things, ideas, confirmation of His will, and nearly anything else. Blessings can be material, spiritual, relational, physical, and external.

You can thank God for His sovereignty and His ruling over the world. The Bible tells us to be joyful in trials and tribulations, so you can also genuinely thank God for tragedy, for hard times, for persecution. Our trials and tribulations bring about our perseverance and develop our character.

Give thanks to God in all circumstances, unceasingly.

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Watching for God’s Working though Prayer

Just before being arrested, Jesus tells His disciples to watch and pray. ‘Watch’ comes from a Greek word meaning to be alert, awake or vigilant.  Intent, awake in order to guard, close observation.  Spiritually speaking it is to be awake and alert spiritually in order to be on guard.

On guard for what? The wiles of the devil and the working of the divine.  That’s what was the key issue in the garden of Gethsemane– discerning where God or satan was at work.

Watching means to develop discernment. Discernment means to separate truth from falsehood; better to detect and understand a distinction from that which is of God and that which is not.

Most Christians are not discerning.  Most do not always even understand when God is speaking to them and when He is not.  This is due to the neglect of our personal lives. The spirit of God communicates to us through prayer, Bible study, other Christians, and circumstances.  Since many neglect most of these we have only a part of what God is saying to us. For this reason, most Christians don’t know how to distinguish, detect or understand anything other than the most obvious things that aren’t of God– they rely on feelings.

That’s why watching is so important.  It is a time of examination, of peering closer and magnifying everything with the Illuminator. Ephesians 6 describes the armor of God and to conclude the passage, Paul commands the Christians in Ephesus to watch and be alert, continuing in prayer always.

 

Fatigue is often a harm in our prayer, and decreases our ability to watch, because it takes a clarity of mind that is not at our disposal when we are tired and our minds aren’t sharp.  It also makes us more susceptible to sin….Why?  We are not as discerning and do not recognize satantic snares as quickly.  We are reactionary.  Watching then is not an idle activity but an active one that requires diligence and vigilance.

To watch, we must make ourselves aware of satan’s work to hinder our prayer.  He tries to, through various means, distract us from prayer in the first place. Don’t allow satan to draw you from the important prayer issues. Satan works trough fatigue, though distractions, through anything to keep our minds from being alert.

We should keep from praying using meaningless repetition and many words. This can also be tools of satan and may actually weaken our prayer, because we dilute our request or distort it into uselessness. Take time to be aware of the wiles of the devil throughout your life and the world.  Where is he at work in the community, the nation, or the world?  Become aware of it.  Develop discernment and alertness and pray against such things.

 

Watching also means to become more aware of God’s working throughout the world. How is He acting and what is He wanting to do?

There are several things we can do to better watch for God’s working, to be aware of His presence and alert to His voice. Read material that aids you in becoming aware of specific global Christian needs, such as mission awareness books and publications, as well as news material. Newspaper, the radio, television, and news magazines can all inform us of what’s going on in the world, where God and satan are working. Merely looking around can also be a powerful way to watch for and discern God’s work. Weather disasters, picket lines, strikes, world crises, church crises, government actions and other things can all reveal God’s work to us.

Finally, ask the Spirit of God to show you how to react to it.  James 1:5 tells us to ask the Spirit for wisdom. We need wisdom from on High. If He doesn’t guide our prayer as we watch, we could be misled.

 

Watching involves God revealing His mind to us, like 1 Corinthians 2 says, and allowing us to see those mysteries, in a spiritual way.  As we are allowed into this realm, we begin to really identify with these items, and like Ephesians 6 says, we persevere for the saints with supplication, because God ignites our compassion and spiritual sensitivity.

 

We must watch to gain this sensitivity and discernment. This will cause us to pray more specifically, clearly, directly and hence, more powerfully and in line with the desires of God.

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Praying Through the Scriptures

The Word is crucial to prayer. The degree to which we believe it and apply it in prayer is the degree that God will pour out His power in our lives.  YOU CAN NEVER expect to grow in spiritual confidence (faith) if you spend little or no time in His word, because that’s where you get to know him.

Use the Bible not just to read, but devotionally.  See it as God’s daily love letter to you, where you respond to what He says to you that day by praying it back to Him.  God’s Word is powerful, “Let there be light”, “peace be still” , “Lazarus, come forth.”  It has ability to create ‘ex nihilo,’ out of nothing.  When we believe God and pray to Him with His powerful word, He is able through faith in Him to create those things out of nothing, when it seems unlikely, because with God, nothing is impossible.

Not faith in faith or even faith in prayer, but have faith in God and the fact that His Word is a representation of His character.  But we don’t just try to have faith in His Word, we have faith in Him– His Person, from whom His Word emanates.  When we read His Word, it is guaranteed to be true, just as a dollar is guaranteed to produce buying power.  Just as a savings bond is guaranteed a return.  Prayer is nothing more than redeeming God’s Word into God’s actions.

Increasing our faith comes through the Word (Romans 10:17).  The Word of God is the Christian’s book of prayer.  It is a guide and foundation for all effective praying. Remember that in Luke 11 when Jesus taught the disciples to pray, part of that was ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.’

How do we know what God’s will is and How He wishes to build his kingdom apart from His word?

We can pray Scripture in praise of God, in our confession, and in the context of any devotional passage. Scriptural prayer flows from the Word of God and is alive, just as the Word is.

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Confessing Our Sin in Prayer

Another aspect of prayer to be considered is confession.

Confession, defined as acknowledgment or disclosure of sin or sinfulness, is vital in a Christian’s prayer life.

We confess when we miss the mark of God’s holiness. 1 John 1:9 says that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

But why does this sometimes not seem to work? We confess and are we free?  John isn’t just talking about acknowledgment of sin as confession. Confession as agreeing with God regarding our sinfulness and continuing to do the same thing is not the confession God commands. It implies repentance. It’s true repentance that breaks the chain of sin and sets us free. We are to do an about face, to turn away from sin and turn towards God.

Declared admission. Sometimes we don’t want to confess because we feel so bad about our sin.  God feels worse. It is pride not to go to Him the umpteenth million time.  We must humble ourselves each time.  At the same time, it’s not enough to realize we’ve done wrong.  Realizing our wrongs without confession leads to spiritual lethargy.  When we are aware of sin but do nothing to rid ourselves of it, we are victimized and arrested by sin to inactivity and impotence.

Psalm 66:18 speaks of cherishing sin in your heart. It is one of the many reasons we have unanswered prayer.  I’m not discussing how God answers prayer this week, but a lack of confession and repentance often means that God will not listen to our prayers. When we deliberately and knowingly choose sin over God, He does not listen when we pray.

Heartfelt recognition. We take it seriously.  He doesn’t need to know, we do…  Confession is a time when we ask God to show us what is wrong in our lives and agreeing with Him and placing it under His authority.  Sincerity coupled with action and the intent to forsake that sin.

Confession was the primary activity done in the Holy of Holies because that is what required a high priest.  Now Christ has become that and His presence is the Holy of Holies and you may enter it with confession on your own behalf as a priest and co-heir with Christ.

Confession properly done. Our effort is not actually confession unless we are sorrowful and have an emotion of regret, (we may not necessarily experience guilt though we usually do) We must agree with God about the sinfulness of the sin and its opposition to His character and person; we must turn from that sin and intend not to commit it again.

The results of unconfessed sin. Unconfessed sin dulls the conscience and extinguishes one’s desire to pursue God.  Sin causes spiritual insensitivity, then indifference and leads to blatant apathy.  God won’t powerfully use a dirty vessel.  He doesn’t need a beautiful  one, but He won’t use a dirty one. Isaiah, Daniel and Job were used mightily after confession.  (But we don’t use this as a license– David confessed his sin with Bathsheba and of murder, but never was used as much.  Some offenses’ consequences are so great that they cannot ever be fully overcome– here on earth.)

Confession in prayer leads to confidence in prayer.

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Listening in Prayer

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One of the least known elements of prayer is that of listening.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 tells us to “let our words be few”, not to be quick with our mouths of hasty in our hearts. Because God is Lord and King, we are to listen to His Words before seeking to promote our own interests or petitioning for our needs. As Jesus commands His disciples not to pray with useless repetition and meaningless words, we are also to listen first.

Listening is another aspect of the receiving end of our dialogue with God. It is different than waiting, which is preparing for God’s coming and letting Him love you. It is different from meditation, which is pondering spiritual themes and asking God to illuminate them for you.

Listening is to seek to hear God speaking to You, to allow Him to apply Scripture to your life, to allow Him to give you an insight about life issues, and to seek to see what He has laid upon your heart

The person who doesn’t learn to listen is the person who doesn’t really have a clear direction in his life about what God wants him to do and doesn’t pursue aggressive things for God. When we listen, we will hear God’s words, hear His directions, and we can act in obedience to Him.

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Worship as Prayer

Worship isn’t just corporate, it is personal. The choir is meant to lead the congregation in worship, not to perform for them. They direct us.  The choir was placed earlier in the loft, but usually stays behind the pulpit (primarily since the Reformation), in order for the larger congregation to see how to respond and, when the special is going on, to participate vicariously through the expressions and feelings of the singers.

Corporate worship is enhanced by personal worship through the week. Singing is a great part of that because sometimes we cannot express the depths of our souls any other way but through song.  That’s why God gave it to us.  Our souls include our minds, wills and emotions.  We can choose to worship God and use our minds to that effect, but sometimes even great truths cannot find their fullest expression in our persons until we express our devotion to our Lord through song.  Remember that the Psalms were simply Israel’s Hymnal.

Songs are many times praise. Remember that God inhabits the praise of His people, and songs of praise to the Lord often are a wonderful weapon against depression, spiritual defeat, fatigue,  and other Satanic devices. Keneniah led the singers of Israel in their assault on Jericho.  It was the singers and not the worldly weapons that caused the walls to fall.  Our weapons are not the same as the world, but are strong to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10).

Personal worship through song enhances our relationship with God. Praise and worship of God can take place through song and through prayer, so personal song can be a form of prayer as well. We can pray through music, when we cannot express our thoughts and emotions in another way.

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Petitioning God in Prayer

Petitioning is an additional aspect of prayer that we can consider and practice. Praise and confession are foundational in prayer, but petitioning is also an important piece of praying to our God and Father.

What is petition? Asking God for one’s own behalf.  Technically, only yourself– not your family or anyone else falls into this category. It’s significant that petition falls after many other topics in prayer.

Asking is symbol of our desire, yet sometimes He won’t give that which we want or need until we ask for it. As James 4:2 says, “Ye have not because ye ask not.” God may still answer with a ‘no’ or ask us to wait or tell us ‘later,’ be He cannot answer if we don’t pray and we don’t ask.

Petition is not unbiblical or necessarily selfish. We do rely and depend on God and for that reason, we must ask Him for that which we need. As Jabez cries out in 1 Chronicles 9, who asked with sincerity for God to protect Him. We have but one Father and He must grant our provision. Petition is a confession of our helplessness, reliance, and desperation. When we ask with wrong motives, God does not grant our selfish requests (James 4:1-3).

It is spiritually healthy to take a need apart, piece by piece, during prayer.  Analyze it from every angle and express it as a petition. The more specific and complete a petition is, the more faith is generated when the prayer is answered. Specific prayers are also good because you know when they are answered (Matthew 7:7; Mark 11:23).  Don’t escape the spiritual tension by asking vaguely and then wondering if your prayers were answered.  Sometimes we ask vaguely because we’re so afraid they won’t be answered and that indicts someone– God or ourselves.

Asking God with faith and with pure motives for ourselves is not selfishness, but is trusting God with all of our needs and with our future.

Prayer begins with praising God for who He is and what He’s done. We must also confess and repent of sin, as unconfessed sin hinders our petitions for ourselves. Waiting for God and watching for His work are also vital to making our own petitions. We must look for where God is working in the world already before making a request for ourselves.

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Waiting for God’s Presence in Prayer

An oft-overlooked aspect of prayer is waiting. Without realizing the importance of waiting, much of prayer is useless because we never really enter God’s Holy presence.

In Job 40:4, he speaks of putting his hand over his mouth because he is unworthy to speak to God. This silence helps get our hearts in tune for prayer until we sense His full presence and fellowship.

Madame Guyon, a Catholic mystic writer in the late 17th century said that “There was a period when I chose, A time and place for prayer … But now I seek that constant prayer, In inward stillness known.” She silently waited in the presence of God, praying unceasingly, as Paul commands us to do.

Prayer needs an early significant spiritual silence. It renews our dependence on God and signifies our submission to Him.  Without that consolation of the Spirit and the subsequent renewal, our works become dead and “our message loses the ring which bespeaks its divine origin.”

Waiting places us in submission.  It helps free us from being the center of attention and having to get our own way.  It strips us of self-importance, and always having to be served or waited on…. It is the freedom to be second place; insignificant, and realize who liberating it is to be a nobody and not have to live up to others expectations. Allow waiting to create in you an inner subordination.  Paul called himself a slave of Christ.  We often expect our Master to serve us. Waiting breaks us of that.

Through waiting we see the real value of words/speaking/idle words and the idea of coming into the presence of a regent, a King. Waiting is a way to curb our desire for immediate gratification.

It’s when we say, like Thomas a’ Kempis, “As thou wilt, what thou wilt, when thou wilt,” as if we have nothing better to do than sit in the presence of the Lord.  It isn’t for God to prepare for our coming, but for us to prepare for His (Psalm 46:10).

Great mens’ vision, inner strength and genius is wrought in silence… Gaining it mystically from God himself.  It isn’t something taken from God, but given by Him.

Waiting is a discipline, we must become pupils.

We must be constantly renewed by Heavenly communion or our works become dead and powerless.  Have you ever felt like that?  Do they bespeak their divine origin?

“Amidst the multitude of works, the soul withers.”  Too much to do leads to powerless and non-eternal service/ministry.  Instead, those we minister to should say, “Didn’t we feel our hearts burn within us?”

Waiting consists of the silent surrender of my soul to God. It is not day dreaming, but concentrating on God’s presence and His approaching. It focuses our attention on His Heavenly voice until it’s as if He says, “OK, you’re ready.” Waiting isn’t a time of listening, trying to say anything, or getting answers. Waiting is simply waiting.

Waiting is silent love. We sit quietly in God’s presence, letting Him love you and minister to you, much like Paul describes the Holy Spirit in Romans 8. Wait until there is peace in your soul, until your spirit is submissive and no longer fluttering. Waiting is for the purpose of getting your heart in tune until you sense His full presence and fellowship.

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Praise: The Foundation for Prayer

A few weeks ago, we talked about spiritual disciplines. An additional discipline I’d like to discuss is prayer.

Many Christians today have questions about prayer: How should I pray? When should I pray? What should I pray?

The best example of prayer in the Bible is given by Jesus in the New Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, he preaches regarding prayer. He tells His followers not to seek righteousness through prayer, but that prayer should be between you and God only. He also gives His followers a format to follow for prayer. In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gives us what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer. The beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, our model prayer, is praise for our Lord’s name.

“Hallowed,” comes from the Greek word Hagiazo, which means to revere, set apart, or sanctify God’s name.

It exemplifies vocal adoration

To adore comes from the idea of putting the hand to the mouth or kissing the hand, as a symbol of respect and submission. It recognizes the other’s authority and our servanthood.

That’s what we do when we praise God, we lift Him up and it serves to lower ourselves.

That’s good. Lots of people worry about self esteem.  When we realize that we are very small, then our esteem will grow because we can’t live up to the task of being as great as many psychologists want us to be.  Self-esteem is healthy, but is paradoxical.

Only praise puts God in rightful position at the beginning of our prayer time. Confession is fine to do first, but putting praise first, further exalts God and makes us more aware of the distance our sin makes us from God’s glory. Only when we see God for who He is can we see ourselves as we really are.  And only when we see ourselves as we really are, any confession is still less than it should be (Isaiah 6).

Praise makes our time of petition, listening, intercession, singing, etc. more rich, rewarding, and meaningful because we are more aware of God’s deservedness of such exaltation.

After this blog, I ask you to engage in a time of praising the Lord, exalting His name and recognizing who He is and all that He’s done.

Praise God for His name.

Praise God for His righteousness

Praise God for His infinite creation

Praise God for His Word
Because God is limitless, the potential for praise is also.  His person and personality is without bounds.

Praise is to examine and explore the person of God.  Uncovering His greatness.  Examination like an intense physical examination of a doctor.  It is to explore like one looking for Hidden Treasure.  Isn’t that what God is?

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Getting in the Habit (Part 2)

Spiritual disciplines are multi-faceted, with internal as well as external disciplines, disciplines to be done alone and to be done corporately. There are disciplines focused on prayer, on service, on worship. With so many avenues available to grow in spiritual maturity, I wanted to focus on one, oft-neglected discipline: that of submission.

Submission is not a popular word or idea in today’s society, but it is an important concept to understand and to practice in our Christian lives.

So…what is submission?

Submission is choosing to yield or surrender to the power, will or authority of another as an act of obedience to God. It is to leave or commit to the discretion or judgment of others

So submission is about obedience… and what I’ve found is that it’s a simple choice– either you do it or you don’t.

What if you don’t?

Well, there was a time when my life was like Frank Sinatra… I did it my way. My wants; my way; my will (not God’s will) and to get those things, you and I manipulate things, events and people to have life the way we want it…on our terms.

When we choose not to submit to authorities in our lives, we are guilty of a kind of “Self-Worship.” If we don’t submit to God and His Will, we have broken the First Commandment.  He said “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  But when have been more loyal to ourselves and our wills than God’s, we’re guilty of exalting ourselves… self-worship.

On the other hand, we can choose to submit our wills to God’s Will like Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane. Have you ever asked yourself, “How could Jesus submit his will to the Father’s when he knew his fate?” Four reasons. The same four reasons we should totally submit ourselves to God’s Will.

1.    God’s Omniscience– He knows everything. He has all the facts
2.    God’s Omnipotence– He’s powerful enough to take care of it
3.    God’s Omnipresence– He’s always there, 24-7-365
4.    God’s Omnibenevolence– He loves us and always wants our best

When I discovered that, I saw that submission meant I had to dethrone myself. Making Christ the Lord of our lives isn’t the end, it’s where life begins. How do we depose or dethrone ourselves and exalt the King of Kings?

It’s a choice. Submission is a choice you make moment by moment to yield or surrender to the power, will or authority of another as an act of obedience to God.  It when you choose to leave things to the discretion or judgment of others.

There are two spheres of submission God requires for freedom in our relationships, the vertical and the horizontal.

The vertical is submission in our relationship with God. Choosing to yield or surrender to the power, will or authority of God because of His attributes we just discussed.  To leave or commit my life and my will to the discretion or judgment of God (1 Peter 5:6). The horizontal is submission in our relationship with others. Choosing to yield or surrender to the will or authority of other authorities in our lives… why?  Because we know that no matter what happens, God is sovereign (Romans 8:28).

God has called us to be disciples and to make disciples.  We can’t make disciples if we aren’t disciples. The word “discipline” comes from the same root word as “disciple.”  By definition, a disciple should be disciplined.

I challenge you to learn more about the spiritual disciplines by reading Richard Foster’s book and to begin placing them into your life so you will have the spiritual growth God desires and the spiritual intimacy that you desire.

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Getting in the Habit (Part 1)

The postmodern culture we live in is often overly focused on feelings, on making decisions based on instincts rather than rational thought or thorough study.

This is not the way God instructs us to live.

God commands His people to be different from the world, which does whatever feels right. Following God may not be the easiest choice; it may not seem like the most natural thing to do. One thing we can engage in to in spiritual maturity and to seek to know more about God is to practice spiritual disciplines.

So, what are spiritual disciplines? Spiritual disciplines are different ways we place ourselves in the position to grow spiritually (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

Spiritual disciplines include all of the Holy Habits that we do to grow spiritually, including prayer, fasting, praise, meditation, solitude and so many others. Don’t get put off by the phrase “Holy Habits.”  Most of the time we think of habits as routine or bad.  Habits can be good too. They are refreshing.  In the same way, the Spiritual Disciplines are not always something that we are thrilled about, and they may take discipline but spiritual growth can’t take place without them.

Spiritual disciplines put us where God can work within us and transform us.  By themselves, the spiritual disciplines can do nothing– they can only get us to the place where God can work in us.

A spiritual discipline is necessary, but “just doing it” will not make you holy.  It is only the means to spiritual growth.  The goal of spiritual disciplines is to bring us into spiritual maturity, intimacy, and wholeness. The goal isn’t just to “pray” or to “show up at church;” the goal is intimacy with God.

Praying/Fasting/Worship/Service, etc. for the sake of themselves will not make you spiritually mature.  That’s just going through the motions.  Those are only means to maturity.  You don’t do them for the sake of just doing them, like it’s just some obligation.  When you do those things in that way, and your Christian life is nothing more than a Spiritual To-Do List, the Christian life drops into monotony and mediocrity (2 Corinthians 3:6).

In your spiritual pursuit, don’t replace the things of God (the disciplines) for the person of God.

Now, having said all that., let’s ask the question, “So what?”  What’s the big deal– why should I practice the spiritual disciplines?

God has ordained the disciplines of the spiritual life as the means by which we place ourselves where He can bless us.  Doing them does not make us grow– God does that… but without doing them, we can’t grow.  By practicing them we can place ourselves in the position to collide with God’s grace, and it is there that spiritual growth becomes a reality.

I want to underscore something…good intentions aren’t going to make you holy. THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES, and the spiritual disciplines alone are the path to spiritual growth.  They are required to grow.

So, what’s the point?

For each spiritual discipline we omit in our lives, we forfeit the corresponding grace; we simply lose out on the benefits produced by the practice of that discipline… and we need them all for spiritual maturity and balance in our lives.

If you’re interested in learning more about spiritual disciplines, I highly recommend Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. If you are interested in deepening your spiritual walk, this is a must read.  It was named among the Top 10 Books of the last century by Christianity Today magazine.

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Pushing the Envelope

I want to start this year with something that some of you already know–

I am passionate about life, not passive. AND I MAKE NO APOLOGY FOR THAT.  If I could give every person in the world one message— other than urging them to submit to Christ— here’s what I would challenge them to do, and what I challenge you to do: Live Like You Mean It.

I don’t live half way.  I don’t play it safe.

I’m not going to end up at the end of life with half a tank of fuel left— it’ll be bone dry.  I want to live in the Red Zone.  I want to Push The Envelope. I want to be completely authentic– WYSIWYG… what you see is what you get.  I want to I want to drink life in and get the best it has to offer.  And because I want the best life has to offer, I seek to follow Christ with all of my being– with everything I’ve got.

But some people don’t like that. It makes them uncomfortable.  It makes some Christians more uncomfortable to see a Christian living an unbridled life of radical obedience to God than they are around non-Christians living unbridled lives of radical disobedience to God.

I have something to say about that– and I mean this respectfully.  The fact is that I really don’t care.  I’m not trying to win a popularity contest. I’m not going for the “Mr. Nice Guy 2011 Award.”  My highest value in life isn’t to make everyone feel comfortable.  I have no interest in pleasing men.  That’s why the Apostle Paul said what he did in Galatians 1:10.  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

But then, I’m no Super-Christian. I blow it every day.  I have a few pockets of unruliness in my life that I have to keep an eye on.  I have a wild heart that God has to bridle and put a saddle on sometimes.  But one thing I can say that I do, is I live like I mean it.

In other words, Christianity isn’t a joke to me. My faith isn’t something I’m passive about.  My commitment to the man who died for me isn’t something I take lightly.

How are you living?

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The Influence of Evil (Part 3 of 3)

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What has God given us to combat the evil that is present in our world?

Despite the evil that exists in our world, the Bible says that God keeps it from unraveling.

So, for now, God allows evil to be unleashed– at least to a degree– while keeping it in check so He can fulfill the plan He has for all ages— and until He establishes His eternal reign after the defeat of evil and all evildoers.

Even now, even with free will, God is actively doing something about evil.

He’s given us the church. The presence of believers and churches restrain evil. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus commissions Peter to be the ‘rock’ of the church, a church that will not be overcome by the influence of sin and evil.

We’ve also been given the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:1-6). The Holy Spirit guides us and acts within Christians. We also have our consciences and our concern for our reputation. God has given us a conscience and a community around us that helps restrain the influence of evil in our lives.

We’ve also been given external structures and influences to act against evil. First, God has given us the governmental structures to create laws and regulate people’s actions. God tells us to submit to our governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7). He has also established our family units to bring stability into our communities. Parents discipline their children and promote Godly influences in their lives (Proverbs 22:15; 23:13).

Finally, God has given us His Word (Psalm 119). Studying and learning God’s Word is a shield against the influence of evil and the work of Satan.

In my posts on evil, I’ve discussed the influence and spread of evil, how evil exists under the sovereignty of a good and powerful God, and how God works to restrain evil. I hope you have grown in an understanding of evil and its limited role in our world.

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The Influence of Evil (Part 2 of 3)

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We’ve seen a lot of death, pain, suffering, and evil in our world during the last few years, so today I want to address a few questions having to do with evil, pain and suffering— questions that, I believe, all ‘thinking’ people ask.

First, I want to help us understand evil—

The reality of “evil” isn’t something that has its own existence… but it is a corruption of something that already exists. Evil is like rot, decay, or rust. Rot can only exist as long as the rotting thing exists. Rust isn’t something in and of itself– it doesn’t have its own existence… it exists because there is something ‘to’ rust.  Decay only occurs ON something.

So evil is like rot, rust, or decay: it feeds on & corrupts that which is good.

That is what happened at the Fall: humankind made the willful, deliberate, and conscious decision to disobey God and His Commands.  This rebellion produced wickedness, and this vile product of evil entered time and was unleashed against all of the created cosmos.

When we discuss evil, there are three issues we must deal with: God’s goodness, God’s power, and evil itself.

When we talk about all the entailments of evil, we begin to ask ourselves about God’s goodness, like “If God is good, why would He let this happen?” But we also begin to ask questions about God’s power. “If God is all-powerful, why won’t He stop this from happening?”

God isn’t finite or powerless against evil.

The fact is that God is able to do something about evil.  God is all powerful.  But the fact is that God’s timing isn’t always human timing.  (As we see when Jesus allowed his friend Lazarus to die, read John 11). The fact that God hasn’t yet defeated evil doesn’t mean He isn’t going to or isn’t able to.

God and the existence of evil is not a contradiction.

Most people either decide, because the world has such problems, that either GOD DOESN’T EXIST or that He can’t do anything about it or isn’t a good God.  All of these are wrong answers.

God allows evil and that means that He has allowed it to become a part of His ultimate plan.  It wasn’t originally that way, but because of human rebellion, God allows it to exist, as it was ushered into existence through free-will and angelic/human agency (choice). And because God is sovereign, He is able to let it exist and still oversee His purposes and plans for the universe and all its peoples, without contradicting Him.

So the POINT of evil’s existence is that the ONLY WAY for people to have free will or a choice in anything is for people to have the possibility of making a WRONG “choice.”  If you don’t have the opportunity to make a ‘wrong’ choice, then it’s not a choice at all, and you aren’t free.

‘Choice’ is a real thing and it has REAL consequences. God didn’t create ‘choice’ and free will and it not MEAN anything.  No– when we do something wrong, there are REAL consequences.  And real ramifications occur– and that is the tragedy of evil.. That people do it anyway… but free will is the only way that people can show true love– and that goes for human relationships with one another, as well as our relationship with God.

What is God’s ultimate purpose in allowing evil?
C.S. Lewis reminds us that the God-given freedom of choice and human sin didn’t take God by surprise: “And God knew, in His ultimate wisdom, that He could allow a world of free creatures and, even though they fell, He could work out a deeper happiness and fuller splendor than an automatic world would produce.”

If God is to preserve freedom and to defeat evil, this is the best way to do it. Free will allows each person to determine his own destiny.  But ultimately, God will separate evil from Himself and those who want to do good. That’s when evil will be overcome because God will confine those who choose sin to live in sin, and sin will cease its harm and will be eternally quarantined— unable to upset the perfect world that is to come (heaven).

The result: The goal of a perfect world comes about… and people still had a free will to make their decision and choose their destiny, and those who abused the freedom and harmed people will be cast out of the perfect world they didn’t want to be a part of.

So, it’s not that this current world is a perfect world, but now that we spoiled it, it’s the best way TO a perfect world.

So, one day evil will be done away with— and time continues to unfold until that day.

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The Influence of Evil (Part 1 of 3)

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Evil is obviously present in the world, seen in murder, child abuse, terrorism, and natural disasters. Many Christians and non-Christians don’t understand why evil is present in the world. What’s important for Christians to remember is:

None of this was originally supposed to happen.

God created the world ‘good’— everything that was created God considered “good,” and that word actually means ‘perfect’ (Genesis 1:102; 31). The world was a world of goodness, harmony, vitality, hope– even ‘bliss,’

In Genesis 3, we read of the Fall. Adam and Eve were innocent– unfallen and without sin, but not necessarily perfect.  In other words, they were at least ‘capable’ of committing wrong acts.   When the rebellion occurred, it was a volitional, willful, deliberate act.   Though Eve was deceived, God’s command was broken by the eating of the excluded fruit– and to do that was forbidden. Giving in to temptation, they rationalized their desires, justified their behavior in their own eyes, and did what they wanted to do. The Fall occurred as a result… it set into motion ruin, spoil, contamination, corruption— and every human evil and disposition that there is.  As a result, each was cursed for playing a role in what happened (Genesis 3:16ff)

The effects of the Fall were: a broken relationship between God and humanity, strained relationships between human beings, and the injection of evil into the world. This is the cause of every bad and evil thing in our world– disorder, loneliness, heart disease, physical  problems, pain, aging, death, and corruption.  These effects of sin entered the cosmos (the world God created and everything in it).

The Fall of Humanity was the fault of mankind– and mankind alone.  God’s goodness was in no way eclipsed by their actions, and it was because of people that there was unleashed EVIL on a cosmic/global and personal scale.  The sin of Adam was like turning a lock and opening the door for the spoiling of the universe and all humanity.

Evil had three expressions: bad things or evil as a direct consequence of deliberate human choice (making a decision to do something bad– killing someone), as an indirect consequence of non-deliberate human choice (unintentional killings and lesser situations; things going wrong even though people didn’t mean to do things wrong), and bad things ‘just going wrong’ without any humans being involved (natural disasters).

All of these things are effects/consequences of the Fall or “Expressions of the Curse”

Jesus came to address the problem of Evil. He did so by attacking and defeating ‘sin.’  He did this through giving his life on a hill called Calvary on the cross of crucifixion. When He did that, he won the war, but now all things must unfold to that great end of the age— as He continues to work out His plan on earth. The Bible (end of time/beginning of eternity) ends with the destruction of the Curse— and the resolution of all human pain and suffering forever– UNDOING THE EFFECTS OF SIN.

God does not introduce evil into the world, it entered through the Fall, through our sin. When Jesus returns, the effects of sin will finally end. God will come to judge and to undo the effects of sin.

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Ideas and Truth

Ideas have consequences. The statement seems self-explanatory, but the real and deep impact of ideas reaches into culture, changing the minds of people and the way that they think.  If believers are not careful, we can fail to recognize the impact that secular ideas have have on our own worldviews.

Richard Weaver wrote a book around 1950 entitled “Ideas have Consequences.”  In 1 Timothy 6:20, Paul urges Timothy to avoid ‘worldly and empty chatter and opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge.’ That implies that whether an idea is true or not is immaterial to the consequences it can have in the world and upon society.

The power of ideas is self-evident:

Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Nietzsche influenced Stalin and Adolph Hitler. Hitler took Neitzche’s book and distributed it to all of his SS brigade and to Benito Mussolini, and it influenced Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf.

Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species influenced all of Western Culture, more perhaps than nearly any book besides the Holy Bible. Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital, which influenced and shaped many of the world’s political systems for nearly a century and he, in turn, was so influenced by the writings of Charles Darwin that he wanted to dedicate the English version of Das Kapital to Darwin, though the offer was rejected
Books written in one century sometimes redefine life in the next.

It’s all about ideas.

The New Testament  is certainly an example, but so is Thus Spake Zarathustra, which arguably has influenced our culture and the thinkers of our culture more than virtually any other in the twentieth century, though it was penned during Neitzche’s lifetime of 1844-1900, sometime before his entry into an asylum.

As Christians,we should be aware of the great challenges being issued to us by the world and by those ideas that are falsely called knowledge (1 Tim. 6:20).   The appropriate response we should have is to actively engage ideas and thought systems and to develop a healthy appetite for theology and her handmaiden, philosophy.  That means becoming conversant about different belief systems, ideologies, and worldviews.  We must guard against thinking of these things as being irrelevant and allowing indifference to lead us to inaction.  Whether we realize it or not, our worldviews are being shaped by everything we see, hear and read– and it is important to understand that.  For those reasons, we must “study to show ourselves approved” and “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” by avoiding any hint of anti-intellectualism that might cause us to retreat from the battlefield of ideas.

We have a responsibility, as those who have been called out, to be guardians of the truth– contending earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

So, as Christian educators, we must lead the way and help people recognize the impact of ideas and in doing so, cultivate a hunger for truth in those we teach by engaging both the heart and mind.

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God’s Modus Operandi (Part 5 of 5)

God reveals His will to us in several different ways. We need not be confused about hearing His voice, as it comes through several different avenues.

I’ve spent four weeks building a foundation for how to know God’s will, focusing on ten keys to understand how God works in our lives and in the world. This week, I’ll conclude this series in talking about how we can hear God’s voice.

We must learn how to see God at work if we are to cooperate with His will. God isn’t illogical. He generally, most of the time, works within our realm of understanding. When you’re trying to discern God’s will, use your brain. THINK. Use pro-con lists. Study. Read. Think deeply. Meditate. Put two and two together. God can also speak through your five senses. What you see may be what He wants you to know. What you hear may be what He is telling you to do. The senses send data to the heart and mind and through those stimuli, God often speaks to us by allowing our minds and consciences to react and give us important feedback.

God can also speak through our intuition and instincts. At times, you may just have an inner awareness, an inner knowing, that resonates and gives you the needed impression of what to do. Your intuition and instincts should not be your first consideration. Don’t live and make all decisions based on feelings, because they can be unreliable. Your conscience is another internal guiding system Go can speak through. You conscience is not the same as the Holy Spirit’s guidance, because it can be corrupted or seared. Still, God can use it in the lives of Christians and non-Christians.

Outside of yourself, God also speaks through other Christians and through His Word. God may send a message through your pastor, the counsel of others, and messages or sermons. Most of us disregard these sources and don’t listen very well. Consistent study of the Bible finds its way into our thinking patterns and Truth regenerates and renews he mind day by day. The Bible may not have one specific verse that peaks directly on every issue of life, but over time you will develop Godly wisdom. You must UNDERSTAND His Word properly AND apply it properly.  Tagging Bible verses on your decisions and baptizing your actions isn’t what I’m talking about.  It’s being responsible with scriptural truth (2 Timothy 3:16).

Finally, God speaks through the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit and can use the consequences of your actions to teach you. The Holy Spirit’s voice may not wave a huge banner in your face, but you can still hear it through prayer and through silence. Consequences are the last in this list because they are the method of God speaking to look to last. Satan can also influence circumstances, so looking at these external things can be very unreliable.

So…what do you need to do differently so that God can work greater things in your life?

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God’s Modus Operandi (Part 4 of 5)

As we saw last week, sin plays a significant role in our understanding of how God works. While sin does distort our spirit and soul, we are not beyond His will. God does not dismiss you because of your sin or sinful nature.

You can still understand how God works and should see to understand Him and know His will. These last three keys will complete the foundation of understanding how God works.

First, despite even significant errors in judgment and sinful choices on our part, God still isn’t finished with you. Look through your Bible and you’ll find countless stories of men and women who have sinned significantly and still been used by God, such as Samson, David, and Elijah.

We may have detours and some may limit our overall effectiveness. We may not be as great later as before, but some of these have a greater influence later.

Secondly, God intends for you to learn from your mistakes and may possibly even do greater things through you than you may have done without them. It took Saul’s and Moses’ murder of others for God to turn them around…and He used them more after the fact than before.

Will you lay aside the past (good OR bad) and press on towards the mark?

Finally, sometimes forfeiting God’s will means you must forfeit some thing or freedoms you hold dear. It may cost you dearly to follow God, to seek Him and His will, but the riches are inestimable.

The riches and rewards of following God’s will are more than we could imagine, just as Hi will is greater than what we imagine. Sin may derail us from God’s will, but it may also be the avenue He uses to turn us towards Him.

These ten keys we’ve discussed over the past three weeks are the foundation for knowing God’s will. They are necessary to understand if one is to know and do God’s will.

The second in a 5-part series on understanding God’s ways of working before seeking to discern His will for your life.
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God’s Modus Operandi (Part 3 of 5)

Last week, we looked at three keys to understanding how God works. We learned that God has a plan for your life and for mine and that He can and wants to work in your life.

This week, we’ll discuss four further keys which are also necessary to understand God’s will.

First, sin can keep you from discerning God’s will for your life. Sin distorts the mind and psyche.  It affects all parts of your soul and spirit. Spiritually, your spirit grieves or quenches the Holy Spirit when in sin (Ephesians 4:30).

Your soul, made up of your mind, will, and emotions, is also deeply affected by sin. Your thinking is messed up because it has been conformed to the world and not transformed by the work and will of God (Romans 12:2). Your will is bent on choosing something other than God’s will. Your emotions have loyalties to your own will and to your own pleasure and are influenced by the sensations of the body.

Sin keeps you from discernment.  Until you get rid of it, you can’t be sure about God’s direction most of the time.

Second, part of God’s will is absolute and part of it is conditional. Salvation is absolute. If you’re saved, God will keep you and has determined that He will do what’s necessary to clean up your life (Romans 8:30; Philippians 1:6). God has open this door which no man can shut. If God wants it to come to pass, Heaven and Hell have to stand down at His authority (Revelation 3:7-8).

You’re not entitled to anything: a great job, a happy marriage, healthy kids, financial independence, etc., none of it is promised to you.  Don’t expect a spiritual handout.  Work as if it all depends on you; pray as if it all depends on God– and trust Him for the results.

Third, if you don’t follow God’s will, someone else surely will and they’ll receive what God intended for you. Just look at the life of Moses. When Moses disobeyed, Joshua received the blessing of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. The Parable of the Talents also shows this (Matthew 25:14ff). He who has much, even more will be given.

There are no passes.  Obedience is what He blesses.  I don’t want the blessings of God to pass me by because of unfaithfulness on my part.  That would be too painful.

It’s been said that there are stockpiled riches in Heaven that are unclaimed blessings that are left behind because of Christians’ unfaithfulness.  Don’t let it be said of you.

Fourth, those faithful with the opportunities God gives them will receive grater blessings in the future. In Mathew 25, we see that God’s blessings pile up, they don’t get exhausted. What God is saying about His blessings: “There’s PLENTY more where that came from.”

He who is faithful in little will be made faithful in much… greater responsibilities and greater privileges (Luke 16:10-12).  It’s your choice– will you choose to be responsible with what little or much you have?  Most people are content to be a daddy’s boy.  Don’t live on your parents’ prestige.

God intends blessing for you, but sin often distorts our perception of God’s working. If we fail to follow God’s will, He will bless others instead. Understanding God’s good intentions for you as well as His command that you follow His will are mandatory to hearing His voice and hearing His will for your life.

Next week, we’ll look at three final keys to understanding how God works. These ten keys total are the foundation to knowing God’s will. Grasping these keys will show how God works in your life to reveal His will for you.

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God’s Modus Operandi (Part 2 of 5)

Many Christians worry and wonder why they can’t discern the Will of God and hear the Voice of God. One of the main reasons Christians can’t discern the will of God is because they don’t understand how God works– they don’t “get” His M.O., God’s mode of operation.

The next three parts of this series will focus on understanding the way that God works before seeking to understand God’s will.  The reason for thinking this way is that many Christians obsess about God’s will without thinking about “how  God works” in the first place.  Growing in discernment of God’s will requires learning more about God and how He works in our lives today.

So, what truths do you need to understand about God’s Modus Operandi? 

First, recognize that God has an ideal plan for your life. I don’t want to get into the “God’s ‘perfect, permissible, prohibited’ will” kind of talk here, as if God technically has two or three choices for your life (Plan A, B or C), because something strikes me as somewhat unrealistic or at least confusing about that.  But, however you slide it, God absolutely has a plan for you and your life.

Read Jer. 29:11-13. This passage tells us that God knows the plan, and that it’s a plan for good, not evil.  Plans, that if we participate with them, are to give us a hope and a future. You won’t find His closest intimacy and Will unless you seek Him with your whole heart.

Secondly,  God wants to do infinitely more in a person’s life than that person will usually allow Him to do. Read Ephesians 3:20; The Apostle Paul makes it clear that God is able do immeasurably more than anything you could ever ask for, more than your wildest imaginations could dream up. It’s not that God doesn’t want to work mightily in your life, it’s that you won’t let Him… or that you’re not doing what is necessary for that to come to pass.

You don’t get put on the spiritual shelf unless you choose to be– I think that, for 15 months as a young Christian, I was “on the shelf.”  I wouldn’t go forward with Him– so He was finished with me until I gave Him more of me.  It’s not that you ever get more of God.. It’s that He gets more of you.

Thirdly, God wants you to know and obey His will for your life. God doesn’t want His Will for you to be a secret. But, then again, He won’t cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6).  He knows if you’re ready to go to the next level, and He won’t tell you that next step unless you really are.  If the answer in your heart is not a constant “yes” then I wouldn’t expect Him to show you His plan… If you aren’t going to obey His Will or want to look it over before doing it, then you’re not ready for prime time.

Keeping these first three keys in mind is vital in understanding God’s will for Your own life. First, that God has a plan, an ideal plan, specifically for you. Second, that God can and desires to do more with you than you could dream of. If God’s not working with you, examine your own attitudes toward Him; God can work mightily in Your life. And thirdly, God wants you to know His will. He’s not trying to keep it a secret, but He does know if you’re ready to take the next step and won’t let you take it unless you are.

God can and wants to work in your life, in great ways.  In our next blog, we’ll discuss four more keys to understanding how God works.

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God’s Modus Operandi (Part 1 of 5)

A major source of anxiety for many Christians today is how to know and do the will of God.

How can I know what God really wants me to do? How do I seek and follow His will?

Understanding God’s Modus Operandi is a vital foundation for discerning His purpose and will for your life. Modus Operandi, Latin for “mode of operation” refers to the way God works; how He operates. When you know the ways of God, meaning the template on which He restricts Himself, you begin to put the pieces of reality together and understand His workings. 

Then you can begin  to really understand how God works and begin to make serious spiritual impact.

It’s been said that the problem with human life isn’t that it makes perfect sense or even that it doesn’t make sense at all; it’s that it almost makes sense.  With the conflicting factors of grace and mercy, free will and the effects of the Fall…how life should be and how we think life should be always miss the mark of how life actually is.

Most People Are Confused by God and by Life.  Here’s Why.

Unless you know the ways of God (Psalm 95:10) and not just see His works or actions– you’ll constantly be confused by life.  And… confused by God, too. 

God’s ways are evidenced by His actions, but His ways are more than merely His actions. God’s actions evidence His character and framework of operations, but His actions are not the equivalent of His ways.

God never intended for us to live in fear and doubt, feeling pressured to make a decision or postponing until the moment of opportunity is passed.  That’s not what He intended… but that’s how many people choose to live– be it due to ignorance or deliberately.  In truth, God intended that His followers would be able distinguish between God’s voice, their own voice, and the voice of Satan. Discernment in this takes time getting to know God and developing knowledge of God’s Word and how God works.

This series will address God’s ways before addressing how to hear and discern God’s will. Understanding God’s ways and how He works is foundational to being able to discern His will for your life.

Are you ready to better understand God?  Good.  Let’s roll.

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“Lifestyle Choice” Is a No-No For Describing the Gay Lifestyle

Well, Valerie Jarrett did it again.
The President’s Senior Advisor angered the White House and gay-rights groups by implying that the gay lifestyle was a “lifestyle choice.”

Needless to say, she has been excoriated by all left-leaning media outlets and also the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) community.   LGBT devotees argue that those lifestyles are biologically imposed and that human sexuality or at least sexual orientation have no element of volition/choice/will/decision involved.

Gay watchdogs were quick to call her remarks an “obnoxious phrase” and suggested that she had been influenced by right-leaning groups like the Family Research Council that work to resist elements of the gay agenda.

 

 

Choice

Though proponents of that ideology have long argued that homosexuality (and transgender identity, bisexuality, and lesbianism) is not based on choice and is innate, no noteworthy scientific evidence has been tendered to support that claim.

When someone acts out on sexual desires (or any desire, for that matte) “choice” is involved.  Having a natural inclination to do something does not justify a given behavior.  Behaviors are not legitimized by ‘unlearned’ behavior.  For example, though a person might ‘naturally’ desire to have two or three spouses, participate in child-adult sexual relations, join NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association), or other types of human relationships “in the name of love,” those things wouldn’t be justified “simply because” there was an innate desire.

As it stands, however, that hypothesis has never been proven or even had a shred of evidence that supports it.  So it is perfectly legitimate to call that lifestyle a “lifestyle choice” since there’s no evidence it is otherwise.  Ironically, many of those who support the LGBT lifestyle are not content with non-LGBT devotees giving them the freedom to live that lifestyle– they also want our tacit acknowledgment that it is not a choice as well.  If the lifestyle was completely legitimate, ‘choice’ wouldn’t be a relevant issue.  That’s telling.

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Thinking Like Einstein (Part 2 of 2)

Today we finish the remaining five elements of learning to Think like Einstein.

The first post of this two-part series discussed general principles of building one’s mind.  This second part gives a step-by-step approach to developing a powerful understanding of a great many subjects.  Each of the five remaining elements may appear complex, but they make a lot of sense to the discerning reader.

 

We Only Have “So Much” Time for Building Our Knowledge

They are built on my insight a few years back that each of us have time in life to read only “x number” of books and none of us are getting any younger.  So whatever our plan, we better get “on it” if we are serious about learning and growing intellectually.   Think of it this way, the average person reads almost nothing or at least nothing of real intellectual value.  Of those who do read important things, their primary mistake (in my opinion) is that the read (a) the wrong things, (b) do so in the wrong order, and (c) exhaust the number of books they can realistically read before they know all they should-could have known.

So, let’s assume you can consistently read 12 serious books a year.  If you live another 20 years, that’s 240 books.  See what I mean?   240 books is about what you can get on a bookshelf.  That’s it!  My point is that with all of the books available, you must be unusually judicious on what you spend your time reading—otherwise, you’ll burn through your 240 books and have wasted (not invested) much of your reading time on trivial tripe.

 

Where Do I Start?

So, where do you start?  Well, it’s not where you think. 

Most people would assume “Oh, so I should go to the great classics and just read the top 100 or 200 or 300 classics of all time…,” and that’s what is called a “great books” approach.  I think this is a healthy approach, but not the best one. 

Below is my suggestion.

Summary Thus Far (Steps 1-5)

If you follow my advice, by this point (using steps 1-5) you will have:

1. Developed a commitment to really KNOWING and learning, not just “being familiar” with lots of things.

2. Identified the major area(s) you are interested in knowing about

3. Discovered the best resources in each area(s) of knowledge you want to discover or master

4. Studied the “large general fields of study” from a Christian perspective.  Meaning, instead of studying “details about” or “different disciplines within the major area of knowledge” you begin to study summaries of the entire body of knowledge in that area… LIKE “theology” ITSELF (summaries of what ‘theology’ is) and LIKE “philosophy” ITSELF… NOT areas WITHIN theology or philosophy or what have you.

5. You then, having a good Christian perspective (if you are a Christian and, in fact, if you aren’t I’d still suggest it), study these topics broadly through other authors.

Now What? (Steps 6-10)

6.  Begin Studying the Major Areas Within Each Area of Knowledge.  Now that you’re “beginning” to understand each major subject area (theology, philosophy, history, leadership, management, psychology, whatever), now (since you actually understand what these subjects ARE), begin to study each major secondary area or “sub-set” of these subjects.  For example, in Philosophy—you’d only now begin to really study the major areas within philosophy, such as: metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics, and aesthetics.  In Theology, you’d begin to study those major areas, like Biblical, Historical, Philosophical, Systematic, and Practical Theology.  And so on.  Of course, you might ask—how would I even know these major areas within my fields of study?   Well, if you have done steps 4 and 5, you will already have an intimate knowledge that these are the major areas of study within that discipline.  But, if you don’t take this approach, you could read 40 books and maybe never realize these truths.  See what I mean? 

I know… this isn’t for the faint of heart, but for those who are serious about knowledge at a high level, keep reading.

7.  Now Focus Your Study on Each of Those Primary Branches “In Detail.”  Meaning, take your growing understanding of each of these individual fields (like biblical, historical, systematic theology… and so on, or metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and so on) and CRUCIAL, begin to identify the major movements, power brokers/idea makers/books & eras/time periods of those branches.  In fact, why not work to memorize these—commit them to memory?  Need an example?  OK, let’s take Existentialism.  Here, you might study each of the major Existentialists and their works—like Jeremy Bentham, Soren Kierkegaard, John Stuart Mills, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Paul Sartre, and what each wrote.

8. Now Begin to Focus on Each of Those Fields and Think About The Differences Between The Major Thinkers, Books, and Movements.  For example—If you were studying the philosophical area of Existentialism, ask yourself—among those major players (identified in #7 above), what were the major differences between each of their works?  Let’s say that they all agreed on 90% of their ideas—but what distinguished them from one another?  That’s what I mean.  And you could do that for each of the major areas that interest YOU and that YOU really want to learn about in detail.

9.  Now, Finally, Begin to Read Individual Books Written By Specific Authors of Interest. Now, think of it… after all this, you have a SIGNIFICANT BREADTH AND DEPTH of understanding of all areas of your field of study… and know you are getting into the nitty-gritty of these areas.

10.  Document Your Knowledge.  Now, having invested this time—do whatever it takes to help others understand what you know.  Make and record, in retrievable form, summaries of these ideas and people and books –record insights, draw images with diagrams and tables and graphs, then identify and record relationships between and across fields of knowledge. 

Finally, most important in all of this is an often-forgotten idea: Slow Down – and THINK more than you read.  Most people spend all their time READING and little or no time THINKING.

The result of all of this? 

You will develop profound and intimate knowledge into the deep nuances of your field of study—you are becoming an EXPERT… because you have done what others have not done.

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Thinking Like Einstein (Part 1 of 2)

One of the greatest elements of personal impact and success is the importance of developing your mind.

But how do you do it?

In my two part series, I’ll give a total of 10 key ideas to enhance your thinking as you build your mind and learn to think like Einstein. 

Here we go!

1. Redefine your understanding of “knowledge.” Knowledge is not what you happen to remember, true knowledge is that which you will never forget.  Here’s my point:  This is an area where so many people make mistakes… They assume they know more than they actually do.  But, truth told, they cannot command their knowledge and their memory of specifics (facts, details, comprehensive understandings of things, how these things relate to other areas of knowledge, etc.) is actually quite shallow.   Let’s face it, if you don’t remember it, you don’t know it.  So don’t over-estimate your knowledge.  Adopt a higher standard of what true knowledge is.

2. Identify the major or primary areas of knowledge you want to build.   You can’t know everything.  You can and should, in time, develop broad understandings of multiple areas– but you won’t be equally interested in everything.  So identify a subject/subjects, and begin to drive deeper.

3. Identify the best, most reliable sources for mastering the big picture of your topics/areas.  In other words, you need to begin studying a subject by learning about it “as a whole” and not piecemeal in small bits.  It’s hard to understand a subject if you start by trying to understand one tiny piece of the subject then try to go broader.  Instead, start by trying to develop a truly comprehensive, general understanding of the subject.

4. Start with secondary Christian sources if/when possible (of large general areas).  Some won’t agree with this- so they can write their own blog. I understand that perspective, but generally disagree.  From a Christian perspective, after one understands the big picture and broad understanding of something (astronomy or civlization or evolution or higher criticism), I think ‘most’ could benefit from reading about that broad subject from a Christian perspective– not so they can be indoctrinated, but because a Christian perspective will at least give them some perspectives and hot button issues of which to be aware.  Without this, I’ve seen lots of Christians lose their way because they stumble into dangers unawares, simply because their minds haven’t been properly trained to think critically and biblically just yet.

5. Then move to secondary “secular” sources of those large general areas.  Now is the time to move into the deep.  Now that you have a general understanding of the topic– and at least some biblical-Christian perspective, you’re ready to learn about the topic from other perspectives.  Keep your head on straight and go for it.

OK, so that’s a start… tune in next post for part 2 of this two-part series.

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Your Plausibility Structure

A Chinese UFO?

Yep, you heard right…

The second week of October 2010, a report circulated that a UFO appeared in the skies of China.

Was it real?  Was it legit?

First, you are only likely to believe there was a UFO in China “if” you believe in UFOs in the first place.  Meaning, depending on your “plausibility perspective.”  I get this idea from my colleagues Drs. Klaus Issler and J.P. Moreland at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.  Let me explain what they mean.

If you do not think something is possible (plausible), then you won’t believe it in the first place.  So if you don’t believe in UFOs, you won’t believe there “was one” in China this week.  On the other hand, if you think it is plausible that there are UFOs– then you are probably inclined to believe there “might have been” a UFO in China.

The point is this: If you don’t believe something is plausible, you probably won’t count on it.

This plausibility perspective not only relates to Chinese UFOs, but also to believing God for things.  If you don’t believe God is willing to do something, or if you don’t believe God is ABLE to do something, then He probably won’t.   God usually acts in accordance with our faith.

In Matthew 9, some men asked Jesus to heal them of their blindness.  He asked them, “Do you believe I can?”  They said, “yes.”

Well, in fact they DID believe– and were healed. But had they NOT actually believed, they wouldn’t have been healed.  The point is that God gave to them “according to their faith.”  He often does that.

Jesus himself even said, “According to your faith, it will be given to you” (Matthew 9:29).

So if we don’t think something is even possible– we won’t believe it will happen.  If we DO believe something is possible, it might be.

With God “all things” are possible– but God wants us to believe in Him and express faith in Him.  That leads me to this question: What dream have you already given up on?  What do you already assume won’t happen? OK, well it probably won’t.

But if you will believe God and if you ask according to His Will– with complete faith that He is able to do it, then expect Him to act.

If you struggle with this, then your plausibility perspective may be limiting your faith in God… and limiting what God will do in and through your life.

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Cardoza on “Power Communication”

Understanding the Importance of Communication Savvy

Perhaps the two most important aspects of most information-laden professions and leadership in general are (1) becoming a strong writer and (2) becoming a strong speaker.  This is because of the importance and priority of communication and its central role in leadership and life.

Today I want to share what a power communicator must have.  There was a resource offered a number of years ago that referenced this concept, but I’d like to unpack these ideas a little more here.

Those of us who put food on the table through our teaching/preaching/speaking think a lot about communication.  And as an educator, I spend time considering how to help undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral pastoral and ministry students become the best communicators they can possibly be.  I want to bring balance to the issue by highlighting three enormously important issues for communicators and those who train them.

Three Components of Power Communicators

To become a power communicator capable of shaking the earth, three power principles must be mastered:

1. Substance

2. Soul

3. Sizzle

1. Substance

There are those who sometimes teach or speak who are entertaining to hear, but who fail to deliver the goods.  When life (or people, time, resources, business, money, influence, whatever your thing) is on the line, the one thing you must do is put the cookies on the bottom shelf.  Meaning, you MUST bring home the bacon; you MUST ring the bell; you must shuck the corn.  Whatever analogy you want to employ, it’s crucial that if you’re going to speak, you have something to say.  Some people don’t.  Others think they do, but can’t produce.  Content is an enormous priority for the speaker– in many ways THE priority.   Don’t neglect the content.  Don’t abuse the message.  It’s the only reason you’re really speaking in the first place.

In addition to WHAT one says, however, is HOW one says it.  A really common and unfortunate mistake that many ineffective communicators make is to assume that CONTENT (substance) is all that really matters in speaking.  This could be a painful statement, but the people who make that false assumption are generally poor communicators.  Any strong communicator knows that connecting with an audience is by no means restricted to the substance of the talk.

2. Soul

So, in addition to substance is SOUL.  “Soul” has to do with the communicator’s inner man.  His or her inner self.  The best communicators are able to transcend the limits of language and place their very hearts on display.  They reveal primal emotions, potent convictions, and powerful attitudes.  They can release the best of their personhood and vitality in the moment of truth.  They have such a command of their ‘selfhood’ and security in their identity that they are able to project whatever their subject calls for: authority, passion, motivation, intimacy, compassion, angst, inspiration, humor, gratitude– whatever it may be, to their listeners– making them feel and think and want to do the same thing.  Without soul, we’re only talking heads.  Without soul, we have no heart.   Without soul, we’re old news– we’re just another tired talker, but not a power communicator.  Release the fullness of your best self when you step onto the platform or when you stand in that sacred desk.

3. Sizzle

Substance is a must.  Soul is indispensable.  But your speech must also sizzle.  After you’ve done the hard work of study, reflection, hermeneutics, exegesis, research, thought, meditation and speaking prep, if you are incapable of bringing the heat, you will likely lose many of your listeners.  So it’s not only what you say, but how you say it.  It’s not just being an effective speaker and having a handle on grammar and syntax.  It’s also making sure that you have a powerful command on vocabulary that you can draw from at a moment’s notice in order to paint a masterpiece to your audience or the congregation.

Can you make it “SING?”  Can you allow the Spirit of God to breathe life into that dry manuscript and make the bones live?  When you speak, does it pop?  Does it happen? Does it thrill and excite and stimulate the learner.  Does it force the listener to think, feel, and act?  The best speakers have a near hypnotic command of their audience in such a way that the person loses all track of time and, as you speak, their hearts burn within them.  Though, in Christian speaking, the power of God sometimes falls on a situation, to be sure– but do not confuse that supernatural act with the need for personal effort in selling what you say with a little sizzle.

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Cardoza on Civics: Understanding What’s Going On In America and Why

Understanding the Relationship Between Politics and Economics

Politics: To have a society, people must live together.  When people live together in relative harmony, it is called a “civilization.”  For civilization to exist, it must be civil (or you have barbarism).  Civility is based on mutual understandings and boundaries of well-being (“civil order”).  “Order” (Civil Society) becomes a reality when compulsory expectations are expected OF everyone and enforced ON everyone—and this is what we call “Law.”  The need for “Law” is what creates Politics.  Politics is designed to establish order and preserve justice and equity.  Government is the collective body or bodies that oversee the political system to ensure civilization.

Economics: When people live together in society, they can either live in a meager, primitive, and simple existence (usually agrarian or nomadic societies) OR they can seek to live in a more sophisticated society where the standard of living (options, choices, comforts, entertainment, etc.) is higher and comfort is increased.  **Because increased comfort and a higher standard of living creates greater civil stability and well-being, governments seek to enable this higher standard of living in order to avoid chaos and the breakdown of civilization and government (anarchy).  A higher standard of living is accomplished to a large degree through economics. Economics, therefore, is the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services that creates the opportunity for a higher standard of living just described.  IN THESE WAYS, politics and economics are intertwined.  And it is government that regulates economics THROUGH politics to help ensure people’s well-being and a higher standard of living in order to build the best society possible.

Understanding Economic Theory and Political Theory

So for government to exist, politics and economics must exist.  But there’s not only “one way” to think about politics and economics.  So different “political theories” (often called Political Science) and different “economic theories” exist.  And it happens that, usually, certain political theories’ goals are best accomplished by corresponding economic theories because they are built on common ideals or goals.

That’s why—as a rule—that Representative Democracy (a “Republic” like the US) generally uses Free-Market Capitalism as its economic theory (since it values entrepreneurism as the way to help raise people’s standard of living). Capitalism places responsibility on individuals, as does Democracy. That’s because Democratic Government and Capitalism believes the individual should be motivated to take personal responsibility for their own well-being and that of their family and fellow man.  And when each person with the ability does the same, that creates a surplus—which meets the needs of those who genuinely cannot help themselves.  But those who refuse to work and do not take responsibility—even though they are able—are allowed to do without.  Only those who genuinely need the help are able to get it in this type of society.

Socialism, on the other hand, de-emphasizes the responsibility of individuals and places that responsibility for the welfare of the individual on the government to produce that higher standard of living for the people.  In this way, the government must provide money for the resources needed by the people.   It does so by compelling people to provide the government with the money to do this—and government receives money through taxes.  Those taxes are paid to the central government in order to hire people to maintain and oversee programs that provide for people.  And in a Socialist government, as Karl Marx said, each person gives “according to his ability” and each person receives “according to his need.”  WHAT THAT MEANS is that those “with more” are compelled to give more to people who need more—so that those who do not have all they want or need will have it.

The Point?

In summary, Capitalists and Marxists disagree on HOW to maintain a civilization and provide for its peoples’ standard of living.  And Democratic-Republic Governments disagree with Socialists on the way to build that society—through compelling people to give to the government so everyone will have ‘about the same’ OR through expecting people to take responsibility (if they are able) for themselves… or to do without.

That is why Democracy-Capitalism is about personal responsibility, low taxes, and small government.  And that’s why Socialism-Marxism is about government responsibility, bigger government, and higher taxes.  They are simply two ways of doing things.

The Choice

These completely opposite approaches on the role of government, politics and economics are what is causing the radical disagreements in the United States right now.   The question is “Do we create a ‘Nanny State’ where people are taken care of by the government, even though corruption, waste, and excessively spending tax-payers’ money occurs OR do we create a ‘Responsibility State’ where people who are able to do so are required to take care of themselves and the fruit of their labor takes care of those who cannot take care of themselves until they are able or indefinitely?”

The Fundamental Problem

The major problem that exists in our nation’s politics today is that Democrats are being driven by the extreme left wing of their political party—and that party (led by the U.S. President) is driven by hard left ideologues who are more SOCIALIST as I have described above.  Prior to this time in history, Democrats and Republicans have disagreed “to a degree” but could compromise BECAUSE THEIR POSITIONS WERE RELATIVELY CLOSE TOGETHER.  Now, because “Progressives” in the Democratic Party are more Socialist in their perspective, we have a culture war—and the MEANS and the ENDS are so radically opposite that there is no middle ground. 

Summary

That is why this is such a fierce battle.  And this entire discussion explains why I feel so deeply about these issues: Because the American way of life is being threatened by changes in these political and economic theories.  And if America practices the political and economic theories of Socialism and Marxism, the outcome will be what it has been in EVERY other such civilization: decline and death of those civilizations.

Note: While America has flourished into the greatest civilization the world has ever known in only 200 years under Capitalism and a Republic, since Marxism/Socialism was introduced in the 1800s, no genuinely Marxist economy in history has survived more than 70 years (Soviet Union).  But today’s Progressives want to ‘progress’ past Capitalism to a doomed system.  There is on earth NO NATION under even a Socialist approach whose society is superior to the United States—and that is why I am so forceful in my opposition to it—because I do not want my children and their children to live in a society in decline or hardship after my sacrifice and the sacrifice of all Americans in the last 200 years.

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Discernment: A Simple “How To” Guide

Cross RoadDiscernment
When Christians need to make decisions, they often have a hard time understanding what is going on inside of them, leading to greater uncertainty.

For example, some struggle with Visible Signs they are ‘seeing’ (circumstantial evidence for/against their decision). Others don’t know how to read their Instincts or Intuition. Still others don’t know how to read the internal Cautions generated within their emotions or spirit. These cautions often come to us in the versions of “fear,” “dread,” or “uncertainty.”

I hope this helps.

DISCERNING WHAT TO DO

Let’s say you need to make a decision (X). You are unsure what to do. First, let’s take up this matter of Visible Signs, which can be confusing…

1. REGARDING VISIBLE SIGNS. The bad news is that when we get down the spiritual road toward maturity, we are given fewer and fewer visible signs about what to do. Meaning, outward, clear, visible signs are harder and harder to come by. That’s because God knows that we know His voice already and those signs are simply unnecessary at this point in our spiritual development and, ironically, also less reliable than Him speaking to us quietly within our spirits.

So don’t let the silence frustrate you– it’s an indicator that you don’t need outward signs anymore. John 10:27.

2. REGARDING INSTINCTS or INTUITION. Let’s assume that you are seeking God’s Will and walking in His Spirit (though this is a big assumption, we have to start somewhere). If you have gotten this far down the road toward your decision, and if you have been led here without clear internal warnings that you were going the wrong way and planning on doing the wrong thing– then you absolutely MUST trust your instincts now more than ever.

Here’s what I mean: Sometimes Christians pray and then feel led to do something– and this something is (let’s assume, unless you realize it’s not) from a healthy and holy motive. So they move forward and God apparently blesses the idea and things begin to unfold toward the realization of that dream and vision. But somewhere along the way, things hit a rough spot (and what you thought was crystal clear is now cloudy). It’s at this time that many Christians begin to question their entire discernment apparatus and their ability to hear God’s voice and to know His Will.

Point: God WANTS you to know His Will– more than even YOU want to know it! God wants you to know His voice. And the general demeanor of the Spirit-filled and obedient believer is “GO.” Believers should be seeking to conquer more ground for the Kingdom and Glory of God. So, you should actively seek to advance your life and opportunities for good and the like UNLESS AND UNTIL the Holy Spirit cautions you or stops you.

At a time like this, when you’re ‘that close’ to pulling the trigger and making a big decision, that’s not the time to second-guess your entire discernment apparatus. If you have faithfully prayed and sought the Lord “the best you knew how” and in that faithful pursuit of this dream, you did not have clear and obvious cautions– then you move forward in the way you were going, with CONFIDENCE.

3. DISCERNING CAUTIONS. That leads me to my final test of discernment (not that there’s not a lot more that could be said, but I’m gonna simplify it): YOU NEED TO IDENTIFY *EXACTLY* WHAT EMOTIONS YOU ARE FEELING BEFORE YOU MOVE FORWARD. DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF “FEAR” ABOUT THIS, OR A SENSE OF “DREAD,” OR A SENSE OF “UNCERTAINTY?”

HERE’S HOW YOU WORK THROUGH THOSE.

A) FEAR: Fear isn’t of God. So when you feel ‘fear,’ that should not keep you from acting. So you musn’t let fear imprison you. Anytime I feel like moving forward in a decision but ‘fear’ exists, I put the pedal to the metal. I speed up; I don’t slow down. Then I brace for impact, because Satan may throw some stuff at me to make me question my decision.

B) DREAD (or ‘foreboding’): If you sense “dread” or a sense of foreboding– a deep, unshakeable and heavy, threatening sense of weighty, immobilizing dread… THAT “is” the Holy Spirit. In such a case, He is bearing witness in your spirit against a decision or action. When I sense this emotion, it’s clearly a divine warning.

But dread and fear or insecurity are different things. Dread ‘feels’ heavier and is unmistakably different than fear. Dread is always a “no go” for me.

C) UNCERTAINTY: Uncertainty can go one of two ways, and here’s how I approach it. (1) If the uncertainty was from the beginning, and if the uncertainty had been gnawing at me “all along” and it was something I couldn’t shake, in spite of ignoring it– and if I simply had (read this closely) a constant, unremitting sense of uncertainty… that generally means “WAIT.”

You then say, wait until ‘when?’ Answer: Wait until the uncertainty leaves or don’t do it. Uncertainty (when it manifests this way) is often an indicator of a lack of faith. So, when you have it– it doesn’t mean it’s not God’s Will… it just means that you lack the degree of faith to see it through, so whether it’s right or wrong is immaterial… because when the heat is on, you’ll fold… so don’t do it if that ‘all along’ type of uncertainty was there.

(2) If the uncertainty is a recent artifact that, hereforeto, did not trouble you– then you’re probably simply at a crisis of faith, and that’s more of an internal psychological matter of exercising faithful action than it is anything else. In other words, the uncertainty is just unexercised faith. Once you make the decision, you should then have a sense of increasing peace and internal witness that you did the right thing– whether or not the outward circumstances worked for you or not.

The only exception to this is, if after you make an initial decision, if you had a profound and absolutely unmitigating weight on your chest (when you SHOULD BE gaining freedom and liberty and excitement), then in that case, you misread your uncertainty. All other times, the uncertainty will evaporate after the decision is made, and you’ll begin to have joy and excitement about what God is getting ready to do.

One last thing– and it’s one of the most important.

Once all the facts above are considered, if you decide not to do it– there’s nothing lost (but nothing gained)… life goes on as it has. But IF YOU MOVE FORWARD, the best and only advice I’d give you concerning God’s Will is:

(IF YOU DECIDE TO DO IT) **Make a decision, then MAKE IT WORK.

After the decision is made (much like a marital decision), you don’t look back, you don’t second-guess… you simply ASSUME it was/is God’s perfect Will, then you FORCE IT to work.


I hope this is encouraging to you. It’s worked for me consistently.

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Do We Have a Right To Judge Evil and, at times, Even People?

Good Judgment

Ahhh, Lady Justice. Lady Justice is perched at the Supreme Court where judgments are made. The judges (justices) do our nation a great service. Imagine our nation without judges. Imagine the lawlessness that would ensue. Without justice law is unenforcible and chaos reigns.

Lady justice typically has a blindfold– she is blind (unpartial). She has scales to weigh out a matter. She bears a sword to execute judgment.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine asked me this question: “What gives us the right to judge others for wrongs they may have committed?” I thought that was a great question, and I decided to do my best to answer it—and to share my thoughts with you as well.


I’ll approach the question from a Christian/biblical perspective.


So, what gives us the right to judge others for wrongs they may have committed? I’m going to answer this throughout my blog, but let me begin with a few words about why we are hesitant to make judgments in the first place—and as I then begin to unpack my answer, I’ll show where it comes from in scripture. Then, AT THE END, I’ll summarize the major answers to your question. That way you get the technical answer and the simple answer.

THE TECHNICAL ANSWER

Start with an Open Mind

I should probably begin by saying that the answer will be best understood if we start with an “open mind.” As I sit here and write, I am aware that most people reading this blog have had their thinking about ‘judgment’ very powerfully (and usually “wrongly”) shaped by a misunderstanding of Matthew 7 in the New Testament.

Ah, you know the passage I’m talking about: Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Now keep in mind that, in the past, researchers said that the most familiar Bible verse among Americans was John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life). Now we are told that the most-often quoted passage is that one—Matthew 7:1-2, the verses I just quoted above.

In short, let me say that God actually DOES want us to be discerning and to have conviction about right and wrong, and to morally deliberate and, yes, make judgments. I’ll get to more of this in a minute, but for now let me point out how people come to the false conclusion that we ‘shouldn’t judge.’

UNDERSTAND THESE MAJOR PRINCIPLES

There are at least three reasons people come to the false conclusion that Christian’s “aren’t supposed to judge.” They are:

1.A sizeable minority of people in American society have suppressed the truth about morality to appease their own unrighteousness (Romans 1:18), and they ABSOLUTELY REFUSE to be held accountable in any way for their actions and want YOU to mind your own business and to be silenced. Romans 1:18 talks about “the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” This is another way of saying that human nature is fallen and that we, as people, are broken. And this brokenness can either cause us to (a) recognize that problem and seek God’s mercy and grace to help us become the people He made us to be, so we can have abundant life now and eternal life too—OR our brokenness can (b) cause us to hide from the light of truth that shines on our guilty consciences and ‘suppress’ or push down and suffocate the truth about our lives, our behavior and who we are and what we need to do about it.

Because we tend to justify our behavior, many people deceive themselves about their own condition— and choose to live without boundaries and without appeal to conscience. As a result, there is in our time a collective and widespread delusion about our moral and spiritual condition. People have often chosen to do whatever they want and refuse to take responsibility for their decisions and ‘dare’ anyone to say anything about it.

This way of life (living as if God did not exist and living without hardly any regard for conscience and ignoring personal feelings of guilt and so on) has now become embedded in our culture and many people have convinced themselves that they are above the law—and they have force fed the rest of the decent people in society the lie of tolerance. And the lie of tolerance is that “we can do anything we want to do as long as we’re all consenting adults and nobody gets hurt.” That’s minimalistic ethics.

So, the major reason we even have to ask the question “What gives us the right to judge others (behavior/actions)” is because culture has sloughed off “REAL” morality, ethics, decency, reputation, and character for a FAUX MORALITY… and that Faux/Fake Morality is one that disregards and disposes of primary and fundamental moral issues and behaviors, and then replaces them with secondary ‘moral’ issues. The ‘new morality’ isn’t fighting abortion and poverty, fighting human trafficking, and ridding communities of wickedness and the like— it’s ‘clean/safe/impersonal issues that ignore personal moral behavior by focusing on “reducing carbon footprints” and “spaying your cat,” and putting “give peace a chance” bumper stickers on your car.

The point? The mainstream society believes they have the right to shout you down and to ask you to be tolerant of any and ALL behaviors, lifestyles, and actions—regardless of how outlandish or outrageous or detrimental they may be—and they want, expect, and intend to FORCE you to simply “shut up” and, preferably, crawl back in the hole you came from. I know that’s harsh, but the reason people feel uncertain about whether or not they can make moral deliberations or statements is because society will not tolerate any mention of anything that holds anyone accountable. Those people want to live with impunity and without accountability. And it is THIS ATTITUDE and collective ethos in our culture that has ‘literally’ brainwashed Christians into thinking they have no right to challenge (object about, remark on, push back on) anything, and anyone who does is then (ironically) considered intolerant, a bigot, unreasonable, self-righteous, pharisaical, arrogant, and holier-than-thou. (How convenient). That’s Problem #1.

2.When Matthew 7:1-2 is quoted like I did above, the REST OF THE PASSAGE is seldom quoted. This leads to an incorrect interpretation of what Jesus meant when he said it. That is another way of saying that those who quote the passage in hopes of “proving” we must never make judgments about anything or anyone have misunderstood the Bible, because they have taken that passage out of context.

(Taking something ‘out of context’ means that we have ‘lifted’ a part of a Bible passage out of the fuller scripture passage and, in doing so, have wittingly or unwittingly misinterpreted the intended meaning of the author). This frequently happens with people who have never studied the Bible seriously and who do not know the rules that guide and govern the proper interpretation of the Bible (something called “hermeneutics,” which is the art and science of Bible interpretation).

By the way, that doesn’t