Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Calling Down Fire

“Master, do you wish us to call for fire to come down from the heavens and consume them?” (Luke 9:54, OEB)

One of the more difficult things I've discovered about learning the truth is that not everyone wants to hear it. In fact, some are dead set against it. Some of the people who are dead set against it are those we would expect to support the truth. So what do we do in such cases? The apostles' had a solution: call down fire and destroy them! But the apostles' were also rebuked by Jesus for such an attitude.

I have learned over the years that a common trait of all people is the desire to strike back when hurt or offended. It seems to be part of our human nature. But Jesus doesn't give us that option. He teaches us:

     But to you who hear I say – love your enemies,
     show kindness to those who hate you, bless
     those who curse you, pray for those who insult
     you.
(Luke 6:27, OEB)

We've all been hurt by someone. Sometimes it is even the church! But as followers of Jesus we are not allowed to become spiteful and strike back. Controlling the urge to hate and strike back is fairly difficult. But the impact on our lives of choosing love and forgiveness far outweighs the efforts to not do otherwise.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

My Top Five

Several "Top 5" or "Top 10" posts and videos caught my attention lately. One post, 'My Top 5 Influential Books," prompted me to do some thinking. I wasn't sure I really had a "Top 5" until I did some intense contemplating. These are books I seem to go back to and re-read. I do this Top 5 list of my own in the hope that some reader will be intrigued enough to pick one or more of these up.





1. The Revival Lectures by Charles Finney. Finney comes up first on my list because of how much an impact this book made on my life. I realize Finney is a polarizing figure, but I also know why. He brings quite an intensity to the table. One of the first things you learn reading this book is how misunderstood the entire idea of a revival is. The second thing you learn is how far off the mark we are.

2. The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. This book was huge in the 1970s, and was the first book to bring me into the world of Bible prophecy. While some of his examples are dated, this book is still an excellent introduction to Bible prophecy in general and dispensational thinking in specific.

3. Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer. While appearing to be a book about business, it is actually a look into the inner-workings of our society. Winning Through Intimidation is not about YOU intimidating others. It is about winning in the game of life in spite of the fact that everyone around you, especially those who already have a measure of success, are trying to intimidate you from being in competition with them. People are selfish, greedy and want you to fail. Our job as people is to succeed in spite of them. This book is worth it for just one quote that has become somewhat of a motto for me. Quoting Ringer: Reality isn’t the way you wish things to be, or the way they appear to be, but the way they actually are. You either acknowledge reality and use it to your benefit, or it will automatically work against you.

4. Call To Discipleship by Juan Carlos Ortiz. This book was one of the first to document what later would be called the cell group movement. Pastor Ortiz organized his first cell groups as a remedy for a serious problem in his church: it was full of baby believers who never grew spiritually. This book is very decisive in identifying major problems with the discipleship methods of denominational churches (he was in one). 45 years later this book is still relevant.

5. There's A New World Coming by Hal Lindsey. Another book about Bible prophecy, this is a chapter by chapter, line by line exposition of the book of Revelation. It was my first in-depth foray into Revelation as a young believer. Yes, there might be better out there but this is in my opinion a solid layman's introduction.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Why No Revival

    "Sometimes ministers are not willing to have a revival 
     unless they can have the management of it, or unless 
     their agency can be conspicuous in promoting it."
     (Charles Finney, Revivals of Religion)

I have to wonder at times when watching videos from preachers, especially famous ones. They talk about the need for revival, but they never see one, especially one like happened during the Great Awakenings. 'Regular' people, too, cry out for a revival in the land, but nothing changes. I think there are three reasons why this is.

The first reason is that most people, clergy included, have no idea what revival really is. This term is bantered about, but it is used without understanding what the implications of real revival are. Revival is often presented as a way to fix societal woes or to do something about those sinners 'out there.' But that is not what revival is for. A revival is not for the lost. Revival is for the saved - the church. In his lectures that make up Revivals of Religion, Charles Finney points out that a revival is needed when the church has gone astray and lost its first love. Revival is a corporate repentance on part of a church and its members.

The second reason is that churches love their control. Pastors have their pet doctrines, and will not deviate from them. Church forms of government are so locked in place that nothing spontaneous could possibly happen. I hear preachers talk about revival, but their actions say "Only if I can control it."

The third reason is that people really don't think that it will happen. I think many leaders unconsciously use these terms, but don't really expect it. But ultimately it is just a phrase, a buzz word. Drug problem in the city? We need a revival!

I am not optimistic about revival in our land, mostly for the reasons above. Unless the church learns what a revival really is and means,until when churches are willing to give up their control for what God has in store, and until churches and people start to believe that God will actually do it, we will never have revival.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Infallible Proofs

     He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs
     (Acts 1:3)

What does infallible mean? Looking it up from a dictionary, it means incapable of making mistakes or being wrong.

A common argument that is made about the apostles and their testimony is that they were wrong about Jesus rising from the dead. People put lots of theories out there to try to explain it away. Some theories say that the apostles were hallucinating Jesus' appearances in the upper room. Others say that they were deceived in some other way.

But the Bible does not allow for any of these theories. It states that Jesus PROVED it was him (they could not have mistaken him for someone else) and that he proved he was alive by tangible, real evidence.

We aren't told what all of these proofs were, but we know a few: they physically touched him, they talked directly with him, they were in the same closed room with him for 40 days, and they ate meals with him.

That sounds like reasonable proof to me. It definitely convinced the Apostles to believe without a doubt, sometimes to the point of dying for that belief.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Be Kind

A friend posted a cartoon where Jesus is teaching a crowd and says, "Be kind to everybody." Then someone from the crowd yells out "What about Gary? Gary's the worst!" Jesus corrects them and says, "Yes. be kind to Gary as well."

Context is everything. The context of the cartoon is that we don't get to pick and choose who we are kind to. That's also the whole point of the parable of the Good Samaritan - and how it fits our modern situation. We don't get to pick and choose to hate someone because of their nationality or racial makeup. Nor do we get to pick and choose over political affiliation, what state/city they are from, or if they are protestors.

Some like to bring up Jesus knocking over the tables of the money changers as a reason they are entitled to be angry at people, but that does not apply here. In that situation, Jesus was dealing with unethical religious people. He wasn't randomly angry. While we do need some tables knocked over in churches (there definitely are the equivalent of money-changers in our modern churches), but that's not what the original cartoon or the parable of the Good Samaritan is about.  Those same religious leaders who made a profit from their people also found ways to justify hating those who were not like them. Jesus exposed their sinful attitudes.

I see "Christian" people online having the most un-Christlike attitudes. We are not allowed to justify our attitudes of prejudice or hate. Jesus' admonition to his disciples could be used on us. "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." (Luke 9:55)

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Hollywood Ordination

An article recently appeared on the Fox News web site, and is spread on other news feeds, how Tori Spelling, the actress, is an "ordained minister" and is officiating at weddings. After reading the article, it kind of raised my hackles, and I will explain why.

Ms. Spelling describes in the article how she became an "ordained minister" 15 years ago to officiate at a friend's wedding. She now is on a reality TV show where she is planning "virtual weddings" (i.e., literally over a video feed, and not in person). She says the virtual couple will be the 7th one she has married. The article never states who ordained her, or how.

Ok, here's what I have a problem with in this story. Her definition and my definition of "ordained minister" are different. By my definition, she is a wedding officiant but not a minister. Wedding officiants are totally legitimate, legal and fill a need. A "minister," on the other hand, by common usage is someone who performs specific religious functions in and for a deliberate gathering of people. She might have a Universal Life Church or some such "ordination," but to really own the title requires more than just performing marriages.

Yes, I have critiqued, written and spoken at length on the abuses of the ordination systems of mainline denominations. But as a leader in an organization that intends to ordain preachers to empower them to step into that role as pastor and ministry leader, I take this very seriously. Yes, anyone can get an "ordination" through the mail, and in many states it would be perfectly legitimate. But in others it is not - and this is an important distinction. In most of the "nots," it is because they require service at an actual church.

Yes, maybe it is just semantics, but I do wish Ms. Spelling used the term "wedding officiant" instead of "ordained minister." What she appears to do I would not say is ordained ministry. And to me, to refer to it as that cheapens the calling and actual ministry that many of us do.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Complaining

During their 40 years of wandering after their exodus from Egypt, the children of Israel complained about everything. Wasn't it better when... Didn't we have this then...

The kicker was when they complained about the manna. Manna, as you recall, was this miraculous white stuff that tasted like cookie made of honey.  It was a perfect food, and was plentiful - everyone got what they needed. There was no farm work involved, it just showed up every morning. All the people had to do was go pick it up. It was a gift from God.

Even though it was free, easy to obtain, and met all their needs, the people still complained. They started to wax poetic about how great they had it in Egypt, and all the wonderful foods they had there. (Conveniently omitting how they were in slavery at that time.) They no longer wanted what God was providing, they wanted meat! (This story is in Numbers chapter 11.)

Their attitude was totally wrong. They never saw the bigger picture. The bigger picture was that they had been supernaturally delivered from a "super-power" nation by their God. The bigger picture was that this same God was supernaturally feeding them and caring for them. (This is, from my own observations, what is insidious about a complaining attitude. It creates a mental cocoon around a person, making them unable to see alternatives or solutions.)

When Jesus gave his now-famous Sermon on the Mount discourse, I wonder if anyone made a connection between this statement and the ancient children of Israel:

     Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, 
     what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your 
     body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, 
     and the body than raiment? 
     (Matthew 6:25)

It was a matter of focus. The ancient Israelites focused on the food, not on God. Because they focused on the food instead of God, they missed the blessing that God gave to them. They showed no gratitude for God's divine provision.

We do the same thing, unfortunately. How many times have we had our needs met, but we complained because it wasn't how we wanted it. That is a sign of focusing on the object, and not on God. When our focus is on obtaining some specific thing, we lose sight of God's provision, and begin complaining, which leads to a lack of gratitude. And we become just like how the children of Israel were.

A complaining attitude leads to a lack of gratitude. Focus on God first, and everything in your attitude changes. You will begin to recognize God's blessings in your life, and will become grateful. An attitude of gratitude for how God provides leads to contentment and not complaining.