Monthly Archives: September 2007

Why?

Healings can be tricky things. Sometimes people get healed. Other times they do not. You can have a whole church praying for someone, and then they die. I have also heard of non-Christians who pray to God and receive a miraculous touch.

Injuries, sickness and disease can cause us to stop and ask some very touch questions. I don’t believe that many of these questions are healthy. Why get all worked up over questions that you aren’t likely to get answered?

Most humans want to know why God works a particular way in regards to prayer. I am reminded of Job in the Hebrew Scriptures who asked a lot of why questions to God.

Although God restored Job back to health, He never answered Job’s questions. Instead, God proceeded to provide His credentials to build up Job’s faith. He also asked tough questions to Job in response.

Why questions tend to lead us down rabbit holes that cause more heartache than we may want to endure. While we may be perfectly free to ask these questions, it may not be the best thing for us in the end. It may be a necessary part of the healing process in some cases. So I am not against asking this question. I just think we should be ready to really wrestle with it and have people around us who can help us get to a godly end.

Some people like to say that people don’t get healed because those praying for them lacked enough faith to believe for the miracle. This is a fairly common response from those within the Word of Faith movement. I have friends who hold to this theological viewpoint. Their belief may be true at times. We could all use more faith. However, it can be very dangerous to make this a blanket statement in response to God “not showing up.”

I have seen statements about a person’s lack of faith cause them to stumble down a road of self-hate and condemnation. That is not God’s desire; it is a tactic of Satan.

Even in cases where the faith justification may be true, it is generally better not to say that to others, especially those dealing with a deep loss. The reason is simple; most of us aren’t willing to help people really process through what it takes to get more faith. That requires lots of time and faith on our part.

Word of Faith proponents point to the fact that Jesus always healed those who came to Him. Thus, they claim that God always wants to heal us but can’t because of our lack of faith to receive it. For starters, I agree that God desires to heal, redeem and bless. This is His heart.

At the same time, God allows many evil things to happen because His plan of reconciliation is still in action even as the enemy is trying to prevent it. Christians are called and commissioned to petition and project God’s life to these situations. Our responsibility is to pray in faith and trust the outcome to God. Many times the desire to explain what happens and why it does comes from our own hubris not a godly motive.

It can be tempting to want to put everything into a nice systematic theology. This is where we explain God and His world by categorizing everything into units that fit together like a giant puzzle. A+B=C  But life is much more complex than that. And let’s not even try to explain God because His wisdom and purposes are far higher than anything mankind can come up with.

When Jesus performed His healing ministry, He generally didn’t do things the same way twice. I believe He did this because He didn’t want us to think there was a formula. God doesn’t like formulas because we tend to want the secret and not Him. More important than most physical healings is the spiritual work that God wants to do in our lives. The bigger miracle is not in the physical body but the spiritual realm.

In the New Testament, the Pharisees asked Jesus to explain why a man had been born blind. They naturally thought it resulted from either this man’s sin or that of his parents. Jesus said that it had nothing to do with sin. Instead of explain its cause, He pointed to its purpose. Jesus said the condition existed so that God could receive glory and His power could be manifest in the earth. The right question is to ask how God can use this situation not why didn’t God do what I asked.

People get sick or are born with terrible diseases for a wide variety of reasons. Some of them have nothing to do with their sin. Likewise, I don’t believe there is a simple formula to explain why some people get healed and others do not. Sometimes God does more through a person’s death then was ever possible through their life. One example is a young man who is a believer today because one of his friends lost a parent and still held strongly to her faith. This girl’s strong faith convinced the young man that she knew God in a way that he didn’t think at first was possible. There are a number of people who have come to Jesus through this particular situation.

Our lives are about much more than just us. If you are a Christian, your life belongs to God. And whether we live or die, the ultimate goal is to glorify God.

Why ask why?

Good Teaching Resources

Below is a list of some of my favorite sermon/preaching resources. Inclusion does not mean that I condone everything that they say. It is up to you to test every word spoken by these men and women.

Desiring God/John Piper                     http://www.desiringgod.org/

Mars Hill Bible Church/Rob Bell        http://www.marshill.org/teaching/

Mars Hill Seattle/Mark Driscoll          http://www.marshillchurch.org/

Sermon Audio                                     http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermonsspeaker.asp

 

Sermon Index.Net                              http://www.sermonindex.net/

By far my favorite sermon site, let me recommend sermons by A.W. Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill, Paris Reidhead, David Wilkerson, and Zack Poonen.

 

Winkie Pratney                                   http://www.moh.org/

N.T. Wright                                         http://www.ntwrightpage.com/#ntw

Zack Poonen/CFC India                     http://www.cfcindia.com

Ginhamsburg/Michael Slaughter         http://ginghamsburg.org/home

Charles Spurgeon Archive                  http://www.spurgeon.org/mainpage.htm

Xenos Fellowship Bible Teachings     http://www.xenos.org/teachings/index.htm

Cedar Ridge/Brian McLaren              http://www.crcc.org/converse/talks.htm

Fire on the Altar                                  http://www.fireonthealtar.com/

Dr. Michael Brown                             http://www.icnministries.org/resources/audio.htm

Carl Richeal                                        http://www.hopeforhurting.net/Sermons.html

Ravi Zacharias                                    http://www.rzim.org/radio/

Veritas Forum                                     http://www.veritas.org/media/

One Place                                            http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/mp3/

North Point/Andy Stanley                  http://www.northpoint.org/messages

The Anchor Fellowship                                               http://web.mac.com/monkstump/Anchor/Sermons_/Sermons_.html

Covenant Seminary                 http://www.covenantseminary.edu/resource/default.asp

Jentezen Franklin                    http://www.jentezenfranklin.org/content/view/36/137/

Menlo Park/John Ortberg        http://www.mppcfamily.org/

Lifechurch/Craig Groeschel    http://www.lifechurch.tv/Default.aspx?p=488

Thomas Road Baptist             http://home.trbc.org/

Chaille’s Home Church           http://www.mccag.org

Conspiracy Theory

“I’m with the government, and I’m here to help you.”

As a kid, I used to believe that. Then, I started working as a journalist and reported on many cases of government mismanagement and abuse of power. The government is made up of people. They are fallen creatures just like the rest of us. The only difference is that they carry a badge or have an important sounding title.

This is not a post about revolt, revolution or rebellion. I believe that we should do exactly what Jesus said. He called His followers to honor the authorities and submit to them while working to bring the values of the Kingdom of God to earth. Ultimately, our allegiance as Christians belongs to God. But that doesn’t mean we have the right to ignore the secondary authorities that God has established. Only when those authorities come in conflict with God’s values do we have a responsibility to act.

Yesterday I got together with a few friends to have a conspiracy theory night where we watched videos and films about many contemporary issues. From food and biotechnology to taxes and world economic policy to 9-11 and the military, we saw more than we wanted to see. If even one tenth of that stuff is accurate, it is enough to make even the most die-hard skeptic sick to their stomach.

Here’s a quick rant. Nobody should be able to patent nature, including little additions made to it. Monsanto… This is God calling and I want my intellectual property rights back. Or else the consequences could be “Dire.”

Maybe the best crops are those that grow naturally not the Frankencorn that some brainiac develops in a test tube. I haven’t visited my neighborhood produce market in a while. I think I may start shopping there.

Taxes. Ugh! I am perfectly willing to pay my fair share. But I had a few issues with IRS policy this week. Then I hear from a documentary that there is no federal law or constitutional requirement for citizens to pay income taxes. It is all based on a misreading of the 16th amendment and some lower court jurisprudence. Wow, if that is true, the federal government has some explaining to do.

Why was the federal government so slack in bringing relief supplies to Katrina victims, yet one of the first things the National Guard did was go in and remove weapons from law abiding citizens?

Why is the Federal Reserve a private bank? Why is its inner workings so secret?  

Ike, one of the last five star generals, warned the country about the military industrial complex as he left the Oval Office. Years later, his words seem quite prophetic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y06NSBBRtY

I could go on and on. Here are some interesting documentaries to watch. I don’t blindly trust anything in these documentaries. But they cause you to ask some good questions.

My recommendation is that you abide by the old saying, “Trust but verify.”

Food, Intellectual Property and Bio Tech issues  http://www.thefutureoffood.com/

Economic Policy & Taxes  http://www.freedomtofascism.com/

Why We Fight – U.S. War Machine  http://www.sonyclassics.com/whywefight/

The Corporation – Look into evils of MNCs  http://www.thecorporation.com/

Breaking Taboos

Jesus was the king of doing thing’s that broke social or religious taboos. He knew how to make a splash by doing what others thought improper. Yet, He never sinned. His daring actions usually caused unthinkable transformation. The perfect example of this is when Jesus encountered Zacchaeus, the famous tax collector.

Tax collectors were as popular during Jesus’ day as they are now. Look at this video to see what I mean. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svD2Jua34dY

I don’t know if people would run over tax collectors with their mules. But the masses certainly viewed tax collectors with suspicion. They were agents of an oppressive Roman system that included high taxation.  

The Jews generally viewed tax collectors as unclean. Some religious Jews would not even associate in private life with them. Zacchaeus was a rich man. But I doubt that he had a lot of people who wanted to eat dinner with him.

Although the Roman empire had instituted tax reform, there were still collectors who overcharged tax payers and pocketed the extra. Maybe Zacchaeus, as the chief tax collector, had a reputation for taking too much. We don’t know about his personal character pre-Jesus. But we do know what happened after having dinner with Jesus.

Salvation came to Zacchaeus and his house. More than just that. It came to many poor in the city of Jericho. Think about what would happen when a man whose job it was to take money from the poor masses became a philanthropic posture child. Imagine the citywide impact?

Jericho was a wealthy town where many rich people went to say in the winter months. Jesus traveled through Jericho on His way to Jerusalem.

Toward the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus was walking to the cross. Along the way, He encountered a wide variety of people who needed their own divine moment.

Zacchaeus, a short man, tried to get a glimpse of Jesus. But he was too short to see. Maybe Zacchaeus was curious about this holy prophet who had a reputation as a friend of sinners and tax collectors (Luke 7:34). Maybe Zacchaeus wanted to see if Jesus would do a great miracle in the city.

Regardless the reason, Zacchaeus did two things that men just didn’t do in those days. First, he ran ahead of the crowd. No self respecting publican would have run ahead of anyone. Second, he climbed a tree, which was hardly a distinguished position. It reminds us of what a school boy might do not a man.

When Jesus got to where Zacchaeus was, He looked up and called to the tax collector. Jesus basically invited himself to dinner. And in this situation, the host would be honored to oblige. Here is a well-known prophet who wants to stay at the house of a tax collector. That was scandalous and highly peculiar. Zacchaeus wouldn’t likely ever get this invitation again.

Jesus told Zacchaeus that He “must” stay at His house. The word “must” indicates that Jesus had more on His mind than just a nice place to stay. Although we don’t know for sure, Zacchaeus may have been His primary reason for going through instead of around the city.

Ever the master of the moment, Jesus understood what the crowd did not. While they were murmuring that Jesus was going to stay with a sinner, Jesus brought redemption to the city. True evangelism changes one heart at a time. Those “small” changes can cause massive, deep changes over time.

Zacchaeus responds to Jesus by giving away half his possessions to the poor. As a wealthy man, Zacchaeus must have lots to give. Then he offered to make restitution to anyone that he had cheated in the past.

Jewish law allowed for various approaches when it came to restitution. Zacchaeus chose the most stringent requirement when he offered to pay back four times the amount. There were no shortcuts here when it came to repentance. Zacchaeus meant what he said. The Gospel of Luke indicates that Zacchaeus gladly made his announcement. Think about how you might feel if you gave away that much money?

It can be easy to forget that Jesus not Zacchaeus is the hero of the story. He is the one who initiated the transformation by his dinner request. Luke testified that Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

Zacchaeus represents the guy that others have given up on. He is the sinner who everyone feels will never change. Jesus stopped for a single person, and we are still talking about that transformation more than two thousand years later.

Jesus dared to break a taboo because a soul was worth more than his reputation. The story touches us because the camel passed through the eye of the needle that day.

Part Pharisee, Part Sadducee, Part Zealot, Part Essene

Today, my NT class explored the major sects in Judaism during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The class got in groups as we debated various opinions. I probably would have been a Pharisee. Here’s why…

  • Pharisees treated all aspects of daily life as if it were part of their sacred/Temple service. I believe that the division between sacred and secular takes away from the opportunity in each moment to experience the divine in the mundane.
  • Pharisees believed in life after death. If this is all there is, I think I would be a very depressed person with a really selfish attitude. I like the idea that God will one day reward the “righteous.”
  • Pharisees lived among the regular people and were involved in typical society. I believe that the Scriptures come to life in everyday situations among the “common” people.
  • Pharisees were the scholar class, and I love books. I hope to one day be a scholar.
  • Pharisees ascribed authority to instruction outside of the written Scriptures. I agree that God still speaks today outside of Scripture although any teaching or word must line up with the Holy Scriptures. 

Although to be honest, I can find things that I like and dislike about all of the major groups. The Sadducees were conservative and wanted to avoid rocking the boat. There are times that I believe that is the best course. Generally, I am a conservative when it comes to most political issues.

Sadducees were influenced by Hellenistic culture and were willing to make compromises. That could be both a good or bad thing depending on what aspect of Greek culture was co-opted.

The Zealots wanted real-world action and were willing to put their lives on the line to see it happen. They were tired of talk and wanted to do something to get rid of the Romans. They were willing to die rather than live under oppressive Roman rule. Yet, their actions threatened the entire society. Although you probably can’t blame them for everything, Zealot groups likely instigated much of the revolutionary rhetoric that led to Rome’s destruction of the second Temple.

The Essenes wanted to avoid the impurity of sinful living and compromises with both Roman rule and Hellenistic culture. They sought to develop a community that took care of each other, held possessions in common, honored authority and attempted to live a disciplined life. They focused on purity and were known for strict discipline. The Essenes looked forward to the final days when God would restore all things as they should be. They celebrated communal holy meals and practiced ritual baptisms.

The Essenes were students of the Scriptures. They memorized and transcribed it. They gave us the Qumran scrolls, which has become one of the best sources of manuscripts for the Hebrew Scriptures.

The Essenes were far from perfect. They basically gathered together in their own remote communities and completely detached from the rest of the world. They had a very dualistic worldview where everyone who was not in their community was considered “A Son of Darkness.” They, of course, where the “Sons of Light.”

The Essenes did not focus on loving those outside of their community. Theywould have had a big problem with how Jesus interacted with those who were considered sons of darkness or sinners. Jesus actively engaged the culture instead of cocooning from it. From what we can tell based on how the early church acted, Jesus probably had a lax attitude toward the purity laws. The Essenes were purity law fanatics by comparison.

Jesus modeled out what it meant to love even the worst sinner or lost soul. The Essenes would not have viewed this approach as godly since they took a very hard line stance on anyone not part of their community.

Jesus worshipped and taught at the Temple. The Essenes thought it had been corrupted by the ruling elite. While the Essene focus on purity, discipline and community are commendable, their complete separation from the rest of the world was unhealthy and misguided since God had called the Jewish people to be a light to the nations. They thought they were preserving their light by isolating themselves. Jesus would have likely criticized them for hiding it under a bushel basket.

Each of the major sects thought they were right and the others were wrong. They all thought they were the true Jews. This reveals how pride can keep us from seeing the good and bad in others as well as ourselves. It is kind of refreshing (and disturbing) to see that not much has changed about human nature in 2,000 years.

God Lawsuit

It takes some guts to sue God. Or maybe that’s stupidity. I found this news article to be somewhat humorous. I hope God does too.

You can read the story at… http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/09/20/suing.god.ap/index.html

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha filed a lawsuit against God last week to make a point about frivolous lawsuits. He wanted to show that anybody can sue anyone for any reason in this country. Chambers makes a great point. Most of Congress is made up of lawyers. They have written laws in such a way to favor lawyers. Unfortunately, many bad decisions are made in this country because someone fears a lawsuit.

While lawsuits can be beneficial to ensure that people or companies pay for their “sins”, they can also be a vehicle to steal for others. Now that God has been sued, maybe He’ll do something about the current U.S. judicial system.

Then again… that would be viewed as a breach of the separation between Church and State by many lawyers. I guess we’ll have to deal with it ourselves for the time being. 

Go For It!

“…why not live it up, take the risk and do the thing that you’re supposed to do.”
-From 10 mph, a documentary film about a group of friends who travel across the country on Segways                              http://www.10mph.com/

The above quote is the last line of 10 mph. I recently viewed this interesting documentary about two friends who left their posh corporate life for the adventure of the open road. They dared to be creative and travel the country at 10 mph, the maximum speed for the Segway.

Their journey brought them in touch with many different type of people and a lot of unforgettable situations. They slowed down enough to see that the American dream isn’t always what people think it is. They battled through rough weather, exhaustion and financial troubles to find many good-natured people who were willing to help along the way.

At first they didn’t find much support. Once they took the leap to begin their long road trip, support came from some unlikely places. Even some of the companies that said “No” at first were willing to support them once the buzz started.

Road trips are something that I believe everyone should try to do at least some time in their lives. There is nothing like going where the road takes you and seeing what happens when you get there. That drive and pioneer spirit is what has made this country great. We have lost that in our modern world where too many people just settle. Sure, there are some great adventures still out there. But too many people sit mesmerized by “reality” TV instead of living a life worth writing about.

Some of my greatest memories are of road trips and adventures where I had no idea where I was going. It can be fun to just go for it. I don’t know what that means for you. My challenge is going back to school.

What’s yours? And are you ready to just go for it?