Jesus Is And Never Was A Myth

In the latest edition of Everyday Faith, there is much evidence that contradicts the New Atheism claim that Jesus was never more than a myth concocted by the writers of a “mythical bible.”

The fact is that Jesus, the historical figure, and the Son of God that now lives within the heart of the Believer is very dangerous to the whole ideology of Naturalism that atheists follow.

If Jesus were not any more real that a sky ferry, or flying spaghetti monster, as atheists claim, what difference would it make.  He wouldn’t make a difference any anyone’s actual lives.  But, He makes a dramatic difference.

You can watch the video here:

 

Christian To Atheist

christian_atheistIn my conversations with atheists, agnostics, or those who prefer to be called skeptics, I’ve discovered an alarming trend.  At least it’s alarming to me.  It’s this:  A great many that made the “conversion” to the non-christian category, were Christian.

Before anyone responds, “Well, they never were true Christians to begin with,” please hold your breath.  That simply isn’t true.  And, IMHO, it’s a cheap, lazy way to defend authentic faith.

The follow-up irritated response might be, “A person can believe in God and still not be a true Believer.”  To that I simply say, “Although that could well be true, please read my original statement in red letters above.

Cause #1 For Conversion Away From Christianity

None of what I am stating here is meant as “beating up on” my true brothers and sisters in Christ.  I’ve been there in the stresses of life.  But for me, it was a reality check.  Hopefully, it will strike you the same way.

The fact is, as Christians (to use the popular term) we are commissioned to represent (re-present) the life of Christ in the earth.  Unfortunately, too often we have claimed the doctrines of the Christian faith, but responded to life with the mentality of an atheist.  One who doesn’t rely upon God as his/her partner in the dilemmas and decisions of real life on planet earth.

Talking like a Christian and acting like an Atheist/Agnostic/Skeptic under the pressures of normal existence doesn’t display a hope filled example to anyone regardless of their religious or not religious beliefs about life.

Responding to the terrors of our day, whether it be ISIS or Ebola, like our next door neighbor, business cubicle mate, or church pew friend, doesn’t engender the kind of hope that God intends for His people.

Add to that, too often Christians don’t look like Jesus in the way we respond (or don’t respond) to issues of justice in our world.  Don’t flip out now, my fundamentalist friend, but I’m going to quote Ghandi in a statement made to Christians, “If you looked like Jesus of the bible, I might be interested in your Christianity.  But, you don’t.  Therefore, I’m not.”

Cause #2 For Conversion Away From Christianity

Spoiler Alert:  If you don’t want your fur rubbed the wrong way…as if it hasn’t been already…then don’t continue reading.

I am convinced that there’s been a great departure from the faith of our fathers because of the fundamentalist/evangelical inflexible attitudes toward what’s “Scriptural,” or “Biblical.”

Second Spoiler Alert:  What I’m going to state next would surely get me booted from the pulpit of many fundamental evangelical pulpits.  In fact, who knows, when some of my own parishioners read this, they may stop coming to my church, or many of my 50,000+ “podrishoners” per month may unsubscribe.

Here goes:  I think we’ve made too big a deal out of a literal reading of Genesis 1 as God creating the universe in 6 – 24 hour days.  Here’s my reasoning:

  1. The Hebrew word YOM translated into English as DAY is not consistent as meaning 24 hours in the rest of Hebrew Scripture.  It does mean 24 hours, but it also is used to indicate a variety of time periods.  For further study of “YOM” click on this link: YOM’s Meanings.
  2. 2 Peter 3:8 says, (NIV) “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 
  3. The literal, rather than allegorical reading of Genesis 1 – 3, has only been around since the 1700’s.  I realize, by itself, that’s not necessarily a strong argument.  Justification by faith hasn’t been part of the church doctrinal scene until the Reformation, either.  But, when you add it to other arguments, it begins to give more weight to the argument.

In light of compelling evidence, I am always ready to reconsider that position, but in the long run view of things, what real difference does it actually make.

In one conversation I recently had with an Atheist, he threw data evidence at me about the Big Bang Theory…or expanded universe theory.  My response was that if I were a fundamentalist, that would mean something to me.  However, I started thinking and praying for myself.  I came to the same position that many other true brothers and sisters of the faith hold.  The Big Bang theory doesn’t nullify the possibility that the creative acts of God were set in motion and maintained by what science has discovered and labeled, “The Big Bang.”   I said to him, “You consider the phrase, “The Big Bang” as a metaphor for Atheism.  But, respectfully…you guys don’t own it.”

So what’s my point here?

Young impressionable minds grew up in a fundamentalist setting.  They were told what to believe and what was scriptural if one is a “true Bible Believer.”  They then graduated high school and entered college.  In their first biology course, the atheistic professor presented apparent flaws in the 6 Day Creation belief.  Whether or not his/her course presentation was truth or not, the seed of doubt was planted.  Then other atheistic professors and friends began their process of “pastoring” the young impressionable minds.

The new students were in an atmosphere where they were encouraged to think for themselves.  That was a new phenomenon.  They grew up hearing sermons where they were told what the “scriptural” way to think was.

Now, their childhood faith was logically beginning to unravel.  And, IMHO, this “sharp knife” could have been dulled by…

  1. Training them to be good Bereans.  Teaching them to, as Paul said, “Study the scriptures to see if what I am saying is true.”
  2. Training them “how” to think for themselves, which includes what is actually important to the overall impact of belief in God and faith.
  3. Not insisting that the only legitimate Christians are those who believe that the Universe was literally created in 6 – 24 hour days.

There still may have been some casualties of the intellectual war, but the above 3 points would have had the ability to dramatically reduce, and swallow up the impact of skepticism.

So, am I saying that many of the reverse conversions from Christianity to Atheism/Agnosticism/Skepticism rightfully lays at the feet of many fundamentalist church attitudes?!

Yep!

If you’d care to comment, please do.  Nobody is truly hurt by honest discussion.

Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hobby Lobby – Other Morality Alternatives

Hobby LobbyLet the first words from my keyboard say, “I am not anti Hobby Lobby.  It’s a fantastic craft store.  My wife and I have often shopped there and will continue to do so.  The product line is great.

I am pro any business that is a positive addition to it’s community.  I especially appreciate those of like-faith and principle to mine.  Come-on.  That’s human nature.

Another business in the Quad Cities (that is also national) that has won my admiration is “Pizza Ranch.”  They are positively invested in the community, and have a great “witness” in the faith of their founders.  Their God honoring vision is professionally framed in large letters right by the cash register, and their employees reflect a great attitude of service…besides the fact…can we say, “Yummy!”

And one more business I’d like to mention Is Whitey’s Ice Cream with several “scumpdileicious” flavors of ice cream, great service, and heavy community involvement and Christ-honoring witness.

These mentioned are large enough to be effected by the same Government mandates that Hobby Lobby has taken to court.  I don’t know anything about their individual positions other than what I’ve seen regarding Hobby Lobby.  The outcome will certainly effect them and any other business with their own personal faith moral standards.

Without having a profound depth of understanding of the individual moral caveats of the issue, I know that the “fly in the ointment” that is being utilized in the case is the issue of a company being mandated to pay for insurance that covers women for potentially abortive contraceptives. I am pro-life in belief and abortion is immoral to me.  Let’s please make that clear.

I do think that intrusive big-government is a bigger issue at stake here.  I believe our current government has begun coloring outside the lines of the intent of our founding fathers.  And, I believe they are using some pretty fat crayons.

I realize that, maybe, the only way companies like Hobby Lobby can be heard in a court of law is to attach itself to a moral issue.  Especially if it’s radio-active in our political culture. They aren’t ever going to be heard on something as general as, “government is too big.”  They can attack a specific fruit, though.  And in our present political climate receive a hearing.

However, (personally) I wish the case didn’t revolve around the highest civil  court in the land making a decision on subjective morality.  To me it’s not subjective morality, but I’m afraid their decision will set precedent on other interpretations of morality I’m not sure anyone would actually want decided cart blanch. 

Creative Alternative Thinking

I don’t question the genuineness behind Hobby Lobby owners deciding to sue.  I don’t question their sincere concern for their individual employees and the principle of freedom to conduct profitable business as they see fit.  And…

I also know this is a business for economic profit and not a church or faith based helps organization.

But…I wonder if another alternative (probably unheard of in business) would be to invest in giving women, who voluntarily choose, alternative decision making abilities besides abusive contraceptives.  It is not a stretch of imagination on my part for a company to adopt creative forms of “good news” opportunities that can be chosen by the employees.

It may not be considered viable business practice, but I do know of companies that have hired intercessors on payroll whose sole job description is to be constantly praying for the business and it’s employees.

Although this may seem pretty defeatist on my part, I’m not sure the horse is not already out of the gate on so many issues now in our society.  I’m not sure that the Lord is that concerned about us getting the horses back in the coral as He is that we, as ambassadors of His Kingdom learn new creative ways to bring His Kingdom to earth.

Consider me naive…and maybe I am.

Perhaps we’ve become too used to fighting the devil in his arena with his inferior weapons.

Maybe there’s a better way than bringing a knife to a gunfight.  While the enemy is fighting with knives, I’m going to fight with the biggest baddest gun I can get.

Just saying….

What do you feel?  Please feel free to comment:

Gary

The Best Way To Discover God’s Will

local-phone-serviceHow to find God’s will is a very sought after subject.  Another topic that mirrors it is how to find or discover one’s purpose in life.

I’ve discovered a couple of things that add clarity to those subjects.   In this article I hope to effectively communicate those realities so that they will become like fresh bread for your own pursuits in life.

Discovery #1:  The idea of “God’s Will” is different in the Scriptures than we often think of it today.

When we read the words. God’s willwe typically think it is a revealing of God’s sovereignly determined path, or His command to be obeyed.  It, therefore, is our job to find it or be out of God’s will and consequently be walking in disobedience.

There is an aspect of the truth about His determined purposes in Christ that will happen.  However, the original meanings of the English word for “will” were:

want
wish
desire
pleasure

That would make the Lord’s Prayer read like this, “Your Kingdom come, Your pleasure be done on earth…”

Being God, He could dictate His desires, right?   Right.  He could.  But, that’s not His pleasure in working with His Sons and Daughters.   There are a multitude of ways God’s pleasure for us can be fulfilled.

We are His family, created in His image.  We’ve been given choices with a multitude of ways to please Him.  It’s about living life with our Heavenly Father.  It’s about discovering a vast variety of ways to do that.

God’s Will Isn’t Lost.

I read a testimonial about a dedicated woman of God that I highly respect.  As she was praying about a teaching she was about to give, she asked the Lord, “What do you want me to teach about?”  She sensed Him saying, “What do you want to teach about?”  She responded, “I’ve been thinking about (a subject).  She sensed the Lord respond, “Good subject.  I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say.”  She then said, “Would You guide me?”  His reply was, “Sure, if you’d like.  I’d be happy to.”

Discovery #2:  God’s will is best heard.

In the picture of the girl in this article, she is using the universal sign for “Call me.”  The message behind it is, “Let’s talk.”

The very definition of the Greek words for “church” means “out called.”  Our purpose as “the called” is our vocation.   The word vocation is rooted in the word voice.

A great deal of information can be relayed by written words, but clarity of those words depends on person to person contact.  Written words alone can mean so many different things, depending on how the reader interprets the words.

There have been countless friendships broken or damaged through social media sites like Facebook.  Don’t misunderstand (which proves my point).  I’m not saying Facebook has no value.  I’m saying that real world relationships are dependent on face to face interaction.

In my humble opinion, that’s why there are so many divisions in the church world.  Everyone is reading the same text, and dividing over what it actually means.

Let me ask a question.  Which relationship will prosper most between a husband and wife.  One where all the two do is write letters to each other for communication, or where the two sit and converse with each other?

Conversing brings about clarity of understanding.  And, it’s the same with our relationship with the Lord.

I know a man that loved a woman.  His desire was to do anything for her that she desired.  But, he also said something very insightful.  He said, “I can’t read a crystal ball.  You are going to have to tell me what you want.”  Because this was about a love relationship, he didn’t mean that he wanted her to just leave him notes with her instructions on them.   Talk.  Conversation implied.

The best way to discover God’s will, purpose, and desire for your life is to hear Him talk to you about it.  It will all come out in your conversations with Him about life that happens all around you every day.

God’s Saying, “Call Me…Let’s Talk”

Remember:  The Church are “Called.”  They hear voices! 🙂

Just a suggestion.  Start the conversation with a hug.   It’s easy.  Just imagine how you give your husband, wife, child, or friend a real hug and then imagine that.

Gary

 

 

 

 

Why Not Knowing Everything Is Good

FaceAdmitting to yourself (and others) that you don’t know something is a good thing because it’s a true thing.  And you know what Jesus said in John 8:32, “…the truth will set you free.”

I know, as a pastor, (the person whose supposed to know everything about everything, right?) the most freeing words I discovered were, “I dunno.”  Of course it’s important to add to that response, “…but, I will look into that.”

Of course I then need to look into the question, right?  Otherwise it was a cheap “blow-off.”  And, as much as is possible, I do some research.  I also make sure I get back to the questioner.  If I can’t come up with a helpful response…I tell them. 

[Otherwise, they end up feeling like I de-valued them.   No good.]

Learning New Stuff Is A Good Thing

I want to address what I’ve discovered about the “need to know all things,” but first I want encourage you to be a learner. Be thirsty to discover new things.  Being stuck in the cement vault of one’s long established personal opinions becomes corrosive to one’s soul.  Get out of the vault into the fresh air of discovery.  It may be scary sometimes, but it’s oh so rewarding.

Too many folks are afraid they will loose their faith if they listen (really listen) to opposing or different view points.  But, that’s unfounded fear.

As I’ve opened the ears of my heart to others, I’ve actually developed a new authenticity to my own foundation of faith.

The Need To Know All Things

The need to know all things is typically demonstrated by these two areas:

  1. The inner resistance to admitting that you don’t know an answer to something.
  2. Making up stuff.  In other words, giving an off the cuff lame answer, or repeating someone else’s lame answer that sounds spiritual but has no real scriptural evidence.  [There’s a lot of that flowing around].

Not Having To Know Brings Peace

Here’s the deal…

  1. God knows you don’t know everything about everything.  And, if He knows that already, then He isn’t expecting you to come up with every answer.  And, when you can’t, and admit it, He’s not disappointed in you.  He never appointed you or I as geniuses of the universe, therefore, it would be impossible for Him to be disappointed.
  2. He also knows you do know some things.  If you’ll trust Him to do so, He’ll arrange circumstances where you can rub shoulders with people that will help you make new discoveries, and that you can help as well.  It’s called “community.” And Father God is very big on community.
  3. Learn new things, and when necessary find them in books.
  4. Approach life hunger and thirsty to learn.  Jesus said, “He who hungers and thirsts for righteousness will be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6)

I’ve discovered the freedom of not having to know everything.  I’ve discovered the joy found in learning.  I recommend that kind of freedom and joy.  It’s some of the best “food on the menu.”

Gary

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Getting Ahead of God

straightI believe it is impossible to “get ahead of God.”  The idea is commonly held, so let me explain what I mean.  I believe it will be hopeful and liberating.

As we navigate the twists and turns of our lives, we desire to make our decisions based on what we consider to be a revealed word or will of God.  Some of the most popular teachings revolved around the subject of, “Finding God’s Will.”

God’s Will Isn’t Lost

I really believe that we make the whole subject far more complicated than God ever intended.  He’s not playing a game of hide and seek with His purposes for us.  But, before I get too deeply into a discussion about “the art of finding His will,” let’s hone back in on this thing about getting ahead of God. [That’s a subject for other posts]

God Doesn’t Hold Us Back

One of the problems I see in this whole, “Be careful not to get ahead of God” teaching assumes He “drags His heels” on our desires to get ahead…to advance in life.  It adopts the idea that God is always having to protect us from ourselves.

I believe God is the Master of Encouragement.  He wants us to grow in a sense of confidence in life.  Although it’s true that we all make bad decisions, those errors are not what God majors on with you.  I remember asking the Lord, “What’s the matter with me?!”  His quick response was, “I don’t want to talk to you about that right now.  I want to talk to you about what’s right with you.”  [That’s a message you need to hear, as well]

God Is Always Ahead Of Us

Isaiah 45:2, “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron…”

It is not scriptural to say that you can get ahead of God.  That’s just a man made teaching.  Sincere?  Sure.  Scriptural? Not so much.

God is always ahead of us pulling us toward Himself and the straight places for our lives.  Yes, we all get off track from time to time.  We make decisions that take us the wrong direction.  But we never get ahead of God.

Isn’t That Just Semantics?

No, I don’t think so.  Words have meaning.  Words point us toward ways of believing.  Words are important.  They set an inner attitude and belief system.  It’s my firm conviction that we do ourselves a discouraging disservice that God never intends when we think we can get ahead of Him.  It drains us of courage for the next decision.

Confident Humility Is What’s Important

There are so many things that try to confuse, perplex, discourage and drain us hope as we navigate our individual journeys with the Lord.  Jesus wants us to not only come boldly to the Throne of Grace, but also “move boldly” in our walk of faith.  Humble confidence, to me, is the key.  There are times when you will zig instead of zag.  You just proved that you have a birth certificate to planet earth.  Be humble before God, but stay confident.  That’s what gives Him honor and glory.

What do you think?  Ready, set, go!  It’s your turn to comment.

Gary

 

 

 

Beyond Forgiveness

forgiveness-jaIs there something beyond or better than the choice and act of forgiveness?  I’d like to share some thoughts with you on finding the peace of that place.

As I’ve considered and attempted to practice what I’m suggesting here, it’s not from a doctrinal definition, or scriptural argument.  I’m not – nor do I desire – to split hairs on meanings of words.  But, I have found a “concept of truth” that’s been very helpful to me.  I hope it will help you in your journey with relational wholeness.

We all experience wounds from unkind – even malicious – words and actions of other people in our lives.  In some cases, the bottom line is that you and I have been overly sensitive or offend-able.  We’ve made the proverbial mountain out of a mole hill emotionally.  However, we’ve all probably suffered words and experiences that were more devastating.

I heard the testimony of a lady that had died from cancer and ultimately returned to her physical body.  Through a process of five weeks, her tumors totally dissolved and, today, is completely whole in body.  One of the amazing parts of her experience was an “upgrade” in the area of understanding forgiveness.  She says that what became real in her time “outside of her body” extended on into daily life.  It wasn’t only meant to be a reality “on the other side,” but has the potential for being lived out in our “now.”

In the physical death state, she found herself looking at things that had happened to her that had caused a great deal of pain.  Issues that, on earth, she’d not been able to resolve in her emotions.  Ie: Not been able to forgive. 

As she saw these events re-happening, she suddenly also had a kind of “understanding.”  She, then,  also realized that if the roles had been reversed and her offender’s life story had been her life story, she would more than likely have said or done the same painful things.  Therefore, her conclusion toward those people was that there was no need for forgiveness.

Jesus said on the Cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”  To me, those words of Jesus grasps the same idea.  He’s asking God to forgive them.  He’s not saying it’s not necessary.  However, he does say, “Don’t lay it to their charge.  They didn’t know what they were doing.

I’m not saying there aren’t other questions that come up.  However, I’ve found a fresh ability to release folks when I make the same choice by asking the Lord to help me put myself in their shoes.  I’ve found it profoundly helpful to say, “…because they didn’t know what they were doing.  And, I may have done the same thing myself.”

Again…this proposal doesn’t answer everything.  It’s not meant to.  But, please consider how it may contain wisdom for you in at least some of your circumstances.

What do you think?  Please comment:

Gary