Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Thought Provoking Read

If you've read my blog, or known me, any length of time you know I stand strongly on the inerrancy of the Bible, and believe strongly that the reliability of Genesis (without any twisting) is a critical place to begin the defense of it. With that being my strong heart, I found a recent blog post I received to be very valuable and I wanted to share it with you in case you are interested. These two links are regarding the inerrancy of the Bible, its importance, and attempts to "redefine" the word "inerrancy." The second link is to the article (and a petition) that the first article refers to. Bill Holdridge, who wrote the first article, was tremendously influential in my life. He was the pastor who we went to for pre-marital counseling who recognized, and had the courage to address, that I wasn't a Christian. His strength and the leading of the Holy Spirit in Him put us on the path we are on today.

Bill's Blog Post

Article and Petition on Inerrancy of the Bible he refers to

I ended up signing the petition, and if you do it gives you ways to share that with others. Blessings to all of you.   —Erick

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Preeminent

Taking nothing from other blog posts I've done, I feel that this may be the most important blog post I've ever written, or will ever write . . .
He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  (Colossians 1:15–18, ESV)
for, "In him we live and move and have our being . . ." (Acts 17:28a, ESV)
One time I was talking with someone about a relationship that seemed hopeless. I told them, basically, that I didn't need to know anything about them to know fully that the relationship could succeed—and not just "make it," but be amazing. I could say this without knowing them because I know God, and I know what He can do. The key is, were they willing to elevate God in their hearts to the place He deserves?* I'll explain this in a moment.

Ephesians and Colossians are probably two of my favorite books in the Bible. One of the main reasons is the exaltation of God and His mighty plans and His mystery that pervades them. As one author pointed out, so many of us tend to treat the story of God as if it began in Genesis 3 with the Fall . . . as if it began with us. That is the message we share, the story we tell. We begin with how man is separated from God, etc. But, God's story the world needs to hear begins even before Genesis 1, "In the beginning, God . . ." God is the beginning of the story. In the beginning He already was. Ephesians tells us that before even the foundation of the world the cross was in His plan. His story doesn't begin with Christmas, or even the Garden. Before the foundation of the world . . . He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is outside of time itself. The story begins with God, not with man. It is far, far bigger than us.

In the Colossians passage above it says that, "For by him all things were created . . . all things were created through him and for him." He created all things, and He created them for Himself. We were created by Christ, and for Christ. And that is the basis of His claim on our life. I have no claim on your life. No pastor or person has a claim on your life. But, your Creator does. He made you and I. And He made us for Himself. That is the claim He has on our life, and in that context we can easily see the rebellion in us when we make a claim on our own life. We are His—by Him, and for Him.

The passage then goes on to say, "And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." How does a marriage hold together? In Christ. How does a family hold together? In Christ. How is the earth itself, and everything in it held together? In Christ. How do we find our purpose and meaning in life? In Christ. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. That is why I don't need to even know a person's background to know that in Christ they can be whole, in Christ a marriage can flourish, in Christ people can be set free, in Christ any life—no matter its past—can be rich with meaning and purpose. Because in Christ all things hold together. That isn't to say there aren't challenges, and oftentimes a lot of healing, etc., but in Christ all is possible because in Christ all things hold together.

The Acts passage above comes from Paul, explaining to the learned men of Athens the "unknown God" they'd made an altar to, among their other gods. He told them, ". . . what therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth . . ." (Acts 17:23b–26a, ESV) He then went on to say of God, "In him we live and move and have our being . . ." In Christ, all things hold together. In Him we live and move and have our being.

The Colossians passage I quoted above ends with, "And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." He is the head of the body, the church. That is us. Believers. Why? That in everything He might be preeminent. First. Above all. The highest.

He is Christ. All things were created by Him. All things were created for Him. In Him we live and move and have our being. All things hold together in Him. That in all things He might be preeminent. That is the exaltation of Christ. That is His place. Preeminent.

No matter what situation we are in. No matter what obstacles we face in relationships, etc. If Christ is preeminent in the hearts of the people involved I believe that we can have great hope of great things. The limitations are in us, not in Him (and the exciting part is that His Word promises that He is at work in us, bringing His work to completion!). In Him all things hold together. The question is if we are willing to give Him preeminence. To kneel before Him. To lay aside our claim on our life and give Him His rightful claim as our Creator and Lord. To surrender. To step off the throne of our life and let Him have that place. To give up our rights to be "right," to be apologize to, to be loved back, to make our own plans, to dictate our own terms, etc. To give to Christ our rights.

The most amazing part is that while, as Creator, He has every right to sit in Heaven and make those claims on us, He didn't. Before the foundation of the earth He had the plan in place to surrender His rights as God, to humble Himself, to love us before we loved Him, to meet us 100% of the way before we traveled 1% of the way. Everything He asks of us He did before us, for us. And He did it as our Creator!

He then steps back and waits. He quietly asks, "Will you let me be preeminent?" It is His rightful place—and He is preeminent in the big picture regardless of our decision—but He lets us choose that for each of our lives.



* This comment/belief is not an excuse to not invest heavily in another's life. Too often we throw a few verses at people because we are unwilling to get "dirty" and invested, or because we are uncomfortable and don't know what to say or do. I believe we are called to invest deeply and long term in other's lives, but I have also found that if the issue of the preeminence of  Christ is not settled in a couple's heart, or anyone else's heart, then rarely are the changes long term. All I have to offer anyone, really, is Christ. Once Christ is preeminent in a life then I can offer a lot of love, support, and help in determining Christ's heart for them and His counsel and Words. But, in the end I can only say, "You need to do this (or not do this) because Christ says it." Ultimately it is our surrender to Him that will be that which moves us.

Monday, August 4, 2014

It IS Very Important

Here is a good article that captures some of the many reasons why our belief in Genesis is far more important than many Christians realize. I have done a study on many atheists quotes about our faith and they often seem to get it better then we do that the foundation of the Gospel almost collapses when Genesis collapses. Obviously an article this short can't cover even close to all of the reasons why this matters, but it might give some good food for thought if you don't agree with a young earth interpretation of Genesis, and encourage and strengthen you if you do. It truly is not a periphery issue, not if we want to be able to share with others a true and consistent reason why they can trust other parts of Scripture (and hence trust the God who breathed it out). Anyway, I was blessed by it and thought I'd share it. Blessings to all of you, whether or not you agree with me :)   —Erick

http://creation.com/just-preach-gospel

Friday, August 1, 2014

Oh My . . .

Well, the distinction between the atheist and Christian world views has taken on even more clarity. Check out this article:

IRS Strikes Deal with Atheists to Monitor Churches

Churches aren't supposed to endorse candidates . . . but now we can't talk about abortion or gay marriage? There are a lot of articles out there on this agreement, and I've only read this one, but even if it doesn't cover the whole story what it does cover is scary enough. Here's a quote from the article:
A lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) asserted that the Internal Revenue Service ignored complaints about churches' violating their tax-exempt status by routinely promoting political issues, legislation and candidates from the pulpit. The FFRF has temporarily withdrawn its suit in return for the IRS's agreement to monitor sermons and homilies for proscribed speech that the foundation believes includes things like condemnation of gay marriage and criticism of ObamaCare for its contraceptive mandate.
Here's the thing. This is about something far bigger than politics. It is about the moral fabric of our nation. If there is no God then there are not absolutes. Nobody has any right to say anyone else is right or wrong. And everything about any issue is simply "politics." But . . . if there is a God, then there are absolutes. We can choose to ignore them, but it doesn't make us right. God defines right and wrong, good and bad, truth and lies.

This is at the core of it all. Again, it is world view. The issue transcends politics. It is not political. It is an issue of supreme truth. If God is real then we are fools to ignore Him or what He says. If we put ourselves or politics above allegiance and submission to God we have become fools. When we speak against something God speaks against, or stand for something God stands for (providing we are Spirit-led), we are not being "political," we are putting God forth as supreme. But to someone who doesn't recognize then we are, inherently, being political. It comes down to who we recognize and who we are serving in the action and words.

That is the ultimate question our nation faces. We can say nobody can be discriminated against for their religious or non-religious views, and that is fine (see next paragraph for caveat), but if we don't submit to some higher standard of right and wrong we will crumble in the decay of society as we inherently seek our own selfish good. The only other alternatives to determining right or wrong are things like a dictatorship, or majority rule, or simply saying that the strongest/biggest/baddest will prevail. All of these have been tried and are scary.

At some point we must decide, "What is discrimination?" This is a huge question, far bigger then we might realize. The reality is we all—even atheists—advocate discrimination at some level. We discriminate against people who want to murder and rape. We discriminate against people who want to steal. The issue isn't discrimination, it is what is right and wrong. Then, in the realm of right we don't discriminate, but in the realm of wrong we all do by forbidding that action. Where those realms divide is the question of the ages, but all the "tolerance" people are being hypocrites. They all have things they don't tolerate, they just have a different line then others do. The key question is who, or what, draws the line? That is at the heart of it all. For those who see homosexuality as OK then it is discrimination against them to forbid marriage. To those who see it as sin in God's eyes, it is legislation against a wrong (and everyone legislates against wrongs—the real issue is, "What is wrong?"). The same for abortion causing contraceptives. If you see the baby as simply a fetus then you see it as discriminating against women and their choices. If you see the baby as a life then you see it as legislating against wrong and sin and protecting the defenseless.

Atheists are ticked because churches have tax exempt status and can then talk about, in their eyes, politics. Well, can you imagine the pressure the government could bring on churches if they could tax them? Especially this government in this era? They could drive them out of existence as recognized organizations. But are we, as they see it, talking about politics when we talk about a candidate or issue in terms of God's laws and heart? Or are we, as we see it, talking about God and bringing His views into the issues we face? It is a key, pivotal question that there is no way to come together on with such divergent world views. No way. Period.

What kind of pastor could truly lead and equip a fellowship if he didn't talk about the issues that we face and how God sees them? If our faith is simply for stained glass windows and seminaries and funerals then we've missed the faith Jesus brought. He came into this world, into its pain and brokenness, into its people, and He brought the Father's heart and words and life into it. Our faith can—and it must—impact every area of our lives or we are not being true to it and our world view. If we compartmentalize God into the "proper" boxes then we've missed the God who breathes out stars and speaks life. My God can't be boxed, and He is interested in and involved in every issue of my life.

Who is right, or who is wrong, in this issue? It is a question that will define our nation and our future.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Topic Worth Following

If you've not been following the findings of different matter in fossilized dinosaur bones that couldn't possibly be as old as old earth scientists claim then it is something to watch closely. Here is a link to a very recent (and ongoing) part of that battle. It is well, well worth reading! The link is from FOX news, but it is written about in many other places as well. It is:

Scientist Claims California University Fired Him Over Creationist Beliefs

As you read the article it should be a strong reminder of something that I've talked about a lot—our worldview matters! We will begin our study, our processing of new information and events, etc., from the starting point of our world view. This world view is made up of the presuppositions we hold—those things we presuppose or assume or believe to be true. At the core they begin with what we believe about God. (Is He real? What is His character and nature? Is He active in our life? Etc.). They move to what we believe to be true about truth. (Is there absolute truth? What is its source? What do we believe about the Bible? Etc.) Then onward from there . . .

It is imperative that we begin with an accurate world view. If, for example, we don't recognize a spiritual realm that interacts with us then, based on what the Bible says (which I believe to be true) we will miss our real enemy, we will not recognize some things that the enemy is doing as works of the enemy, etc. For example, imagine how someone without room to recognize demonization would have treated the man in the tombs with the legion of demons that Jesus encountered. They'd medicate him into a stupor when his issue wasn't medical.

We can't help but process our world from the starting point of our world view, because we process our world from what we believe to be true about it. So, if you begin with a "no God" belief, or the belief that the earth must be vast ages of time old, then you are going to stretch and twist evidence to the contrary to fit your belief. That is one of the reasons that geology for so many decades practically labeled heretical any reference to catastrophes in nature (because it hit too close to the "flood" issue). But now, finally, geology is recognizing the major role of catastrophes in shaping the earth as we know it today.

That is also the reason that these finds of things in dino bones that couldn't last the ages of time they are claimed to be are causing such a ruckus. Because . . . if we are finding things in bones that could only be a few thousand years old . . . and we can't embrace a young earth . . . then we are going to desperately fight to find some other explanation. And, if you vehemently oppose God being a part of anything, then you will vehemently oppose anyone who might bring news that might include God. The result is that we force the evidence to fit our world view rather then draw our world view from the evidence.

Do young earth Creationists like myself do the same thing? At some level, absolutely. We start with a world view that the Bible is true, literal, etc. We look at the genealogies and other dates and date ranges and we determine that the Bible says the earth is around 6,000+ years old. Then, from this world view, we look at the evidence around us and see that for the most part it fits our world view nicely (much better, we believe, then the evidence supports an old earth). Do we have all the answers? No. Does everything fit our model perfectly? No. But it is impossible to escape a world view as the dominate influence on our perceptions.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When I Don't Understand . . .

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.    Deuteronomy 29:29 (ESV)
Recently I performed a service for a man who was killed in his early 50s in an accident. Ironically, he was a recent cancer survivor. I shared at the service that while it is tempting for Christians (especially if we are uncomfortable investing in someone) to throw some well-intentioned verses toward someone and expect (hope?) it makes it all OK, the reality is that short of a direct revelation from God this side of Heaven we won't understand things like that which happen all too often in this painful, broken world.

As I was in my reading through the Bible this morning I came across Deuteronomy 29:29. It comes after the people have been reminded of the blessings and curses of obedience and disobedience, and have renewed their covenant with God. I thought it captured so much of our life so well. The secret things belong to God. Those things we don't and won't understand. His ways are not our ways. He knows things we don't know. But, that we might stay in faith and not stumble, the things revealed (the things we DO know) belong to us are intended to keep us in faith and obedience.

I am reminded of Matthew 11:4–6. John the Baptist is in prison and he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Jesus replies, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me" (ESV). The ASV version says, "And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me."

Keeping in mind that John declared who Jesus was, was there when the Father spoke about His Son, etc., it is an amazing (and confusing) moment, that John would then question if He was the One. Equally perplexing to me when I would read it was the last part of Jesus' response to him. But then one day a pastor I was listening to taught on how Jesus was the one supposed to set captives free, and here John was in jail and rightfully confused. He said Jesus was telling John, "Don't be caused to stumble because of what about Me you aren't understanding—what about Me doesn't match your expectations." That really spoke to me and I believe there has to be some truth in that interpretation.

I shared at the service that while I didn't understand a cancer survivor then dying in an accident a short time later, there were some things I did understand, and that it is those we must hold to and stand on. When I look to the cross I understand that God loves me. Because He loves me I understand that I can trust Him. When I look to the cross I understand that He wants to be with me, and I understand that He understands suffering and loss. And when I look to the empty tomb I understand that He is bigger than death.

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God . . ." Yes, there is much I don't understand. And God has revealed so much of Himself that I don't think it is wrong to seek to understand. Even Jesus, talking to Nicodemus, expressed that we must be born again as we can't understand the things of Heaven if we aren't. ("If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" John 3:12)

". . . , but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." But not understanding must not cause me to stumble in my faith. My faith is anchored in what I do understand: He loves me; I can trust Him; He wants to be with me; He understands suffering and loss; He is bigger than death. Whenever I doubt these the cross and the empty tomb stand there reminding me I don't need to doubt them.

I believe that we, as Christians, must be OK with saying we don't understand something. It is so much better than trying to hide behind verses. And, when I am honest, while I'd love to understand everything, the reality is that if I could understand everything about God He'd be too small for me to trust Him with my life. He is God. He is holy. He breathes out stars and by His power not one is missing. He knows every hair on my head, and He has assured me I am more precious to Him than Creation. This I do understand and on this I must stand.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.   1 Corinthians 13:12
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.   Isaiah 55:8–9
All of this is not to say that we miss an attack of the enemy, or accept everything as God's will. Things do happen as a result of spiritual warfare, and of poor choices. We must be ready to recognize those things and take action when that is the case. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that our choices do matter—or else God would have no place to be angry with Israel for their choices, or to warn us about the consequences of certain choices, if everything happened by His doing. I am not saying we shouldn't examine things, or that we shouldn't be open to the Holy Spirit teaching us or showing us things, but I am saying that, when all that is said and done, and we find we still don't understand something, we need to be OK with the mystery of God and to not stumble because of it. We need to stand on (and trust in) what we do understand: He loves me; I can trust Him; He wants to be with me; He understands suffering and loss; He is bigger than death.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

More Golf Cart Thoughts . . .

In my last post (Food for Thought . . . ) I used the example of a child driving a golf cart ten feet when told not to as a way to illustrate to ourselves our own heart toward God. I'm not going to repeat it here, but I'll assume you've read it (or you can read it by clicking on its link above).

I had another thought about it that was helpful to me. In that thought I could picture the same kid who disobeyed. But this time, instead of just being told not to drive the cart, he is told something like, "Don't drive the cart because it is out of oil and the engine will burn up (if it was a gas engine)." Or, "Don't move the cart because I discovered a sink hole under the dirt in front of it."

In any of these type of examples, what if the child, who would have otherwise driven the cart when told not to, now says, "Oh! OK," and doesn't drive the cart because they now understand the reason why not to (and, implicit in this, they agree with the reason why not to)? This further reinforces the pride and arrogance and rebellion of the child, even though they obeyed! Why? Because they obeyed because THEY understood and agreed. If they hadn't, they wouldn't have.

In the golf cart example I gave in the previous post it was clear to me that a reaction of, "Wow! He punished you like that for only driving it ten feet! That's harsh!" was a reaction that puts the person being given instruction in the place of "god" and judge. The true heart that understands authority would say, "Wow! I can't believe you drove the cart when he told you not to!"

In this example of obedience because of agreement there is nothing different. If we say, "Good boy. He didn't drive the cart," we are again focusing on the action and not the heart because he would have if he didn't agree with the reasons! He is still rebellious and proud and arrogant!

Again taking this back to us and God, it is a fair question to ask, "Do I obey when I understand why God is telling/asking something, but I don't if it doesn't make sense to me?" This is something we actually often cultivate when we say things like, "God says not to XX, and it makes sense because if we do there is a risk of YY or ZZ." This isn't to say that it is bad to explain how wise God is as a witness to His greatness, but it is dangerous if understanding is made a portion of obedience.

God is holy. He is set apart. He is the Creator. Far be it from the Creation to have the arrogance and pride and foolishness and rebelliousness to demand more before we obey than to simply know God said it.
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