Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Above and Beyond

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think! What an awesome passage of scripture. I think we sometimes get so caught up in thinking that if we don't do everything just right then God won't come through for us. There are tons of books on how to pray. Pray this way. Pray these scriptures. Pray my way.

I don't really mean to demean the work and sincerity of those authors or their readers. many wonderful books on prayer have been written that the Lord has used to encourage and grow believers. What I do fear is that sometimes we can, inadvertently, implement something good in a harmful way. We can easily begin to think that something I must do is the key in all of this. I must say the exact right prayer in exactly the right way. We can create a real burden for ourselves in doing this.

Ultimately, prayer is less about our imperfect linguistic ability, and much more about faith. God really does see our hearts. While I do believe that what we speak and pray does matter, (we want to always agree with God's Word) I don't believe that we are going to get hung on a technicality. He does above and beyond what we can ask or think according to the power that works in us. What we believe is far more important than the words that come out of mouths. Like it or not, faith does make a difference. There is very little theological wiggle room there.

God looks at the heart. We think because someone says a long eloquent prayer they must have some kind of real great thing going on with the Lord. They might. They might not. They might just be good at saying long eloquent prayers. What matters is the heart. I'd rather have someone who believed God, but stumbles over their words, agreeing with me in prayer than someone who prays a beautiful prayer with the wrong heart.

He does above and beyond. Our faith is not in our faith. Our faith is not in our words. Our faith is in Him. He is the object of our faith. Faith matters because Jesus is alive and at work in our lives.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is the Bible Reliable as a Historical Document?

Here is an intersting conversation between Lee Strobel and Jerry Johnston. The primary impetus for this is Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code, but the conversation on the reliability of the Bible is interesting and informative.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beware the Tale Bearer

"The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him." (Proverbs 18:17)

Ever been in a situation where someone came and laid out some story about someone else only to find out later that the story was terribly distorted? Most of us have, at some point, probably found ourselves in this kind of situation. The Bible has much to say about this kind of destructive gossip and what it says is not good.

"The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body." (Proverbs 18:8)

"A man who bears false witness against his neighbor Is like a club, a sword, and a sharp arrow." (Proverbs 25:18)

"You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness." (Exodus 23:1)

In proverbs 6:19 a false witness is listed as one of the things the Lord hates. He considers it to be an abomination.

Why do people do it? Frequently it is done out of anger or frustration, but sometimes the people who do it just seem to enjoy the drama of it all. It is done with the intention of hurting someone's reputation. It is a repugnant thing since the person who is being victimized usually has no idea what is going on unless someone clues them in. They then find themselves in a situation where somebody might be treating them differently based on falsehoods. This kind of tale bearing is truly nasty.

When someone comes to me with a story about someone else I always take it with a grain of salt. That doesn't mean I don't believe them. There is a balance here. Sometimes people are truly wronged and it does help to allow them to tell their story, but there is a different kind of spirit at work in this kind of gossip. There's a nastiness involved. If you have any discernment at all you can pick it up. The stories usually have no purpose other than hurting someone's reputation or bringing division into a relationship. Sometimes it's to gain leverage or to spin a situation. Sometimes it's an extreme form of self-justification. In a work or family situation the tale bearer may be trying to get some kind of upper hand by ruining the credibility of the other person.

Be wise. Be wary of people who seem to intentionally sow strife. Be careful of people who are too quick to talk about someone else. In my counseling role as a pastor I hear all sorts of things and that comes with the territory, but outside of that role I am very leery of people who just want to tell me about the wrongs of others. Let the Holy Spirit speak to your discernment. Don't allow yourself to be an instrument of the talebearer's manipulation.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Speaking the Truth

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10:14-15)

The gospel literally means good news. We have the greatest news in the world, but we are often afraid to share. We have seen a radical shift in the culture of the United States to the point that Christianity is so odious and offensive to some people that they have gone to great lengths to shut Christians up. They try to control the language and terms of debate. They have pretty much created an atmosphere of fear and contempt for Christianity in government and other public institutions. Even personally, we have been indoctrinated to believe that anything to do with Christianity is pretty much offensive to unbelievers.

It's not really true. Most people are out there living and struggling and and trying to make the best of life. People get involved in all sorts of "spiritual pursuits" in the hope of finding some sort of meaning to life. Even atheism is an attempt to make sense of it all.

We have the best news around. In the big picture it is the only message that really matters. Everything outside of that is like painting tombstones to make them look better. In the context of that message the other aspects of life fill with hope and meaning.

I think we've been too programmed to see sharing the gospel as some sort of religious duty. That takes all the fun out of it. Do you feel like it's some kind of chore to tell your co-workers about how your kid did at the ball game? Probably not. We've taken what should be the consuming passion of our life (knowing God) and religonized it to death. That effects how we share the good news.

The good news ought to be an integral part of our lives, playing out in every area. Ministry is out there -- all around us. People are hurting and looking for more. God is so good. He sent His very son to bring us into relationship with Him forever and ever.

How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!