Friday, December 23, 2011

LIVING OUTSIDE THE BOX


A funny thing happened this morning while I was reaching up in one of our kitchen cabinets to retrieve something to get my morning started, oh yea, it was one of those heating pads that you put into the microwave to relieve old man muscle pains. Anyway, I knocked down a light bulb that exploded on the kitchen counter, shattering myriads of little pieces of shrapnel all over the kitchen.

I then dutifully got out the little hand held vacuum and began sucking up little pieces of glass. After I was done cleaning up my mess, I asked my wife (Miss Eagle Eye), I swear she could see a speck of dirt on our living room carpet from the moon. She quietly bent over, and like a scientist peering through a high powered microscope she found just about as many pieces of glass on the kitchen counter that I had just sucked up in the vacuum. She then looked at me with that [wifey] look and said, "you got to bend over and look for the glass from this angle), and she was right, as soon as I looked for the little pieces of glass from that particular angle, I discovered that little pieces of glass were hiding everywhere on the kitchen cabinet.


How important in our culture to think outside the proverbial box, to look at life from a completely different angle, a different perspective? The day of the factory worker is over, where you were given a job to do and you performed without question. I think average is over, and our culture presents great opportunities for those who are willing to look at life from outside the box.

Wherever you are,become indispensable, be creative, move forward with intuitive ideas. Do new creative things inside the context of your marriage, become indispensable to your employer, if you're in leadership; then lead intuitively. Remember we don't become indispensably merely because we are different, but the only way to be indispensable is to be different.

Learn to read between the lines, look for the nuances in the story of life, there is rich detail sometime in the fine print. As Solomon tells us, "whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10).


The Apostle Paul sums it up this way when he says, "whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (Colossians 3:23). The  follower of Jesus should use all their creativity, ingenuity, and intuitiveness for His glory and honor.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

God living in us



I read a tweet the other day that really impacted me, the tweet said "God lives on the inside of me and is roaring like a lion." We often think of the christian faith as soft and timid, but Scriptures do present Jesus as King and as a fierce Lion.

This saying reminds me of the passage that tells us that God is in us and and He is greater than the evil one who lives in the world (1John. 4:4). What a wonderful thought that we have God indwelling us and empowering us to live a life that is pleasing and honoring to Him.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Age Mysticism


I feel an incredible need to write about the infusion of the spiritual formation movement that is sweeping through our churches today like a blazing forest fire. Christian yoga, spiritual disciplines, contemplative prayer, labyrinths, are all the rage in many of our evangelical bible churches.

I've been a christian for over three decades, and have experienced many different churches and have seen movements come and go. A fascinating study is to look at church history and see all the different movements that have taken place, and to take note, that they were all reactions to "something" that was perceived as askew in the church.

Take the pietism movement during the late seventeenth-century, this movement combined the Lutheranism of the time with the Reformed emphasis on individual piety and living a vigorous Christian life. Lutherans were more interested  in the working of the Spirit and a personal faith than the institutional type faith of the church at that time. If you want to spend some time looking at this movement here is a good source: http://www.deusvitae.com/faith/denominations/pietism.html

From my research it seems that movements tend to "overreact" and the pendulum swings way to far to the left or right.Take the Fundamentalist movement that was a movement that began in the late 19th- and early 20th-century within American Protestant circles to defend the "fundamentals of belief" against the corrosive effects of liberalism that had grown within the ranks of Protestantism itself.

One of the charges against the fundamental movement was that they separated themselves and tended to withdraw from the culture that they were called to engage. George Marsden's book " Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism explores this movement at great length.





 The deeper life movement of today calls for Christians and churches to live a deeper more meaningful christian life. I for one feel that that there is warrant for a call that the church examine herself to make sure that a dead cold orthodoxy has not taken over. As J.I. Packer noted "Evangelical Christianity in North America is 3000 miles wide and a half inch deep."

My concern about this "New Age spirituality" is the subtle infusion of teaching that is completely foreign to Christian Orthodoxy and the Holy Scriptures. Much of the teaching is really an attempt to reorient evangelical Christianity. 

My call to the church and the individual christian is to take this movement and its authors and teachers to the light of the Holy Scriptures. The instruction of Paul to the Church of Thessolonica was to examine everything carefully and to hold fast to that which is good (1Thessalonians 5:21). The Bible is clear that, " God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3).

There is no new truth or hidden secret knowledge that is being discoverd today that can make us deeper more spiritual Chriastians. All that we need to be Godly is found in the pages of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. There are no formulas or methods that the believer uses to grow in his relationship with Christ. 

Here is a look at one of the contemplatives that has gained wide acceptance in the Evangelical community; his name is Brennan Manning: This information was taken from "The Way Of Life Literature."http://www.wayoflife.org/files/f00aa44cb8005f573ad047f1e90ffc41-188.html

Taken from  Manning’s web site features his biography. What is glaringly absent is any scriptural testimony of salvation. Instead, we find the following statement:
“In February 1956, while Brennan was meditating on the Stations of the Cross, a powerful experience of the personal love of Jesus Christ sealed the call of God on his life.”
There is no repentance, no rejection of false gospels, no Scriptural new birth, merely a “sealing” of that which began at his infant baptism. Manning went on to become a Franciscan priest and though he is no longer active he continues to attend and promote the  Catholic mass. When he is in his home in New Orleans he attends the morning daily mass at the Holy Spirit Catholic Church.



Listed below are just a few of Manning's false and damaging teachings:

Manning says, “God is a kooky God who can scarcely bear to be without us” (
The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 165). Would you ever describe The Sovereign King as "a kooky God?"

“The first step toward rejuvenation begins with accepting where you are and exposing your poverty, frailty, and emptiness to the love that is everything. Don’t try to feel anything, think anything, or do anything ... Don’t force prayer. Simply relax in the presence of the God you half believe in and ask for a touch of folly” (
The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 196). Does this sound like sound Biblical Theology to you? Not thinking or feeling are part of the teachings of the contemplative prayer movement.

Manning promotes visualization, instructing people to visualize what Jesus might have looked like (p. 197). This is vain idolatry. No man knows what Jesus looked like, and if I visualize what I THINK He looked like I am creating my own idol.

Manning promotes silent meditation. He once spent six months in isolation in a cave in Spain. He meditates in silence each day. He spends eight days a year at a Jesuit retreat center in Colorado during which he speaks only 45 minutes each day. His primary spiritual director is a Dominican nun.


Mike Gendron in his article "Beware of Wolves in Sheep Clothing" presents more background information on the dangers of Mannning's contemplative prayer, mystical teachings, his link http://www.reachingcatholics.org/beware.html

Some might ask did you read the book "The Ragamuffin Gospel?" to which I would affirm yes! I read his book from cover to cover along with countless reviews that present on a consistent basis the heretical teachings of Brennan Manning.


Another danger in Manning's book along with another popular author Richard Foster "Celebration of Discipline" is all the references to those who are completely sold out to Eastern Mysticism. You will come across the teaching of universalism, pantheism, all roads lead to God, and a flat out denial of the work of Christ on the cross.

Here is a list of men and women that you will see referenced by both Manning and Foster. And keep in mind not referenced as to people that the christian should be aware of and avoid, but referenced as men and women who speak profound and deep spiritual truths:

Thomas Merton 1915-1968 

At an inter faith conference in Thailand Merton stated:
I believe that openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian [mystical] traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own Christian traditions.

Henry Nouwen 1932-1996

At the end of his life Nouwen proclaimed:
Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.

Sue Monk Kidd 1948-

I am speaking of recognizing the hidden truth that we are one with all people. We are part of them and they are part of us ... When we encounter another person, ... we should walk as if we were upon holy ground. We should respond as if God dwells there.

These reference can be found in the book "A Time of Departing" by Ray Yungen, all references are well documented with  extensive end notes in the back of his book.

To those believers who may have started on this precarious path please turn around and go back to the clear teaching of the Bible. If your church is promoting this New Age Mysticism talk to your leadership, show them this blog, get the book "A Time of Departing," if your leadership refuses to listen you must leave and find a fellowship where the leadership will not promote New Age Mysticism.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Integrity


Character does matter. We teach our children character traits from the time that they are old enough to understand. A solid character is the foundation of all good things. This also goes for a society, any person or society that is destitute of character is doomed for failure or destruction.

There are many character traits and virtues that contribute to our moral foundation, but the one that stands out to me is the virtue of integrity. Integrity is the one virtue that makes us real, it allows us to live before others in our strengths and weaknesses. 

Integrity gives us the courage to celebrate our weaknesses---to live a life of vulnerability and transparency.  Think for a second of the people in your journey that you have been attracted to---it would most certainly be those who were real, authentic, the real Mccoy, the real deal.

Now take the time to think of those people you had a natural aversion to; it would have to be those people who were manipulative, counterfeit, ungenuine, and unreal. Integrity frees us from the grip of hypocrisy and sets us free to live our lives in authenticity and truthfulness.

In Philippians 1:10b the Apostle Paul prayed for the Philippians that they would be sincere (have integrity). Let me share this beautiful illustration of the etomology of the word sincerity:

In ancient Rome fine pottery was relatively thin and fragile and often developed cracks  while being fired. Unscrupulous shops would fill  the cracks with a hard, dark wax, which would be concealed when the object was painted or glazed, but would melt when the pottery was filled with something hot. In ordinary light, the deception was usually undetectable, but when held up to the sunlight it was clearly exposed, because the wax appeared darker. Reputable dealers would often stamp their products sine cera ("without wax") as a guarantee of high quality. 


Integrity is a virtue that must be planted in the fertile soil of the soul. Integrity like all virtues proceeds from the inner part of our lives; the Bible calls this inner or secret part of our lives the "heart." 

Let me make an application. We must as faithful Christians hold our lives up to the sun light of the Scriptures. We must allow the truth of God's Word to "light up" the dark things in our lives; and we all without question have our dark sides. I'm always reminded of the words of Jeremiah that our "hearts are dark and deceitful" (17:9).
Take the time to allow God's word to shine into those areas of your life where no man dares to tread, yes, it can be painful, but we can  start the process of building real lasting authenticity and integrity into our lives.




Monday, December 12, 2011

What is the Kingdom of God?


The Kingdom of God is undoubtedly one of the  most challenging ideas in the Scriptures. We ask where is the kingdom? what does it look like? how does one get into it? Is the kingdom here now? or is the Kingdom of God something in the future? Each term that we use in trying to describe the kingdom while accurate, is incomplete.

For many of us who have grown up in the church, we have been befuddled by messages that we heard concerning the Kingdom of God. Look at these two popular hymns that you probably sang at some time in your church experience: "THIS WORLD IS NOT MY HOME" AND "THIS IS MY FATHER'S WORLD."

These two hymns embody the  paradoxical teachings concerning the Kingdom of God. One sees the world as a barren wasteland in which the christian should have as little to do as possible, while the other views the world as a place where cultural transformation is certainly the call for all christians.






How then should the Christian live in this world? Does the christian avoid the world, sequester himself, live as a hermit, dare not touch or taste the things of this world for fear of contamination.





 Or should the christian be consumed in transforming the culture as apart of kingdom activity? Should the christian be concerned with societies ills: the poor, the homeless, the sick and needy?





The answer to these questions have caused much conflict within the body of Christ. I would answer this question by stating that we are to do both. We recognize that we live in a fallen world that is tainted by sin---however we continue to practice kingdom principles while we live in this fallen world. This in another one of those paradoxes, while the world is in a fallen state it is also our Father's world; where the "birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily white, declare the maker's praise."




One of the best ideas that I've come across that  can help us understand the paradox of the idea of the Kingdom of God is this: the kingdom is "already and "not yet" it is all about balance, balance, balance, and more balance, now notice I'm not saying compromise, but balance.

The Scripture is filled with paradoxes, and some knotty and hard teachings: God's love and anger, the sovereignty of God and man being a free moral agent, you have to die to live, and the kingdom is here now, but it is not yet.

In order to understand the Bible's teaching concerning the Kingdom, we must see the kingdom as a process. In the Old Testament the Kingdom was largely limited to "peoples and lands of Israel." In the New Testament the Kingdom extended to "all peoples and all lands."

In the New Testament we see the inauguration of the Kingdom with the coming of Christ. At the baptism of Jesus; both John and Jesus declared that the Kingdom of God is now at hand or near (Matt. 3:2: 4:17; Mk. 1:15).

We now are living in the continuation of the inauguration. The kingdom of God (His reign) is active and spreading.

The last phase to this process will be the consummation of the Kingdom. The consummation is a future event when all of the promises of total transformation will become a reality (Daniel. 2:44, 7:13-14, 22).

So, how do we get into God's Kingdom? Matthew 3:2 give us the answer, the word is repent. We must be willing to surrender ourselves to the rule of the King. We must be willing to follow the way of the king. We must be willing to yield our autonomy and live under the authority of the King.

Kingdom living here and now manifests itself with a yielded life, a surrendered will, and a bowed knee to the King. Kingdom living here and now is simply coming under the reign and rule of King Jesus.

Our God we thank you for being our King, we willing yield our lives to you, recognizing you as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What is the Kingdom of God?



The phase the "kingdom of God (also called the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of the Lord, or just the kingdom) is woven throughout all of Scripture.

We repeat the phrase (Your kingdom come) in the Lords prayer. So, why is this phrase found throughout the Scriptures---and how is my understanding of it even relevant to my life.

As I started digging into the Scriptures and asking a few learned men their understanding of the meaning of Kingdom in the Scriptures, I was infused with a new enthusiasm for God's working in the world today. It gave me a fresh vision on how I'm apart of God's working in our world, how I'm  a partner with the King.

The Bible uses many metaphors to describe God, but the primary imagery which the Biblical writers used to describe God was that of a King (e.g. 1 Samuel. 8:7).

In addition to God being described as king, the Biblical writers write with deep conviction  that God reigns over all creation as his kingdom (Pss. 47:1-9; Dan. 4:25-26; 5:21). Let me summarize these two thoughts:

God is the sovereign King who rules in heaven over all things.
(Matt.5:34; Eph. 1:20; Col.1:16)

                                                                                                                     


Bear with me on this next thought: There is a great conflict or disparity going on between heaven and earth. Remember the Lord's prayer asks for God's kingdom to come? Well here is the conflict, all the creatures in heaven honor the King with unqualified voluntary service.

On earth it is somewhat different, not all of God's creation subject themselves to the rule of the King. On earth we have rebellion and anarchy---man living independent of their creator.



The reality that the Scripture presents is that one day this disparity between heaven and earth will be eliminated (1 Chr.16:31). Isaiah and Zechariah both present a time that God will judge those who refuse to submit to His kingship rule and God will bring all those who have submitted to His Kingship rule into a NEW CREATION (Isa. 65; Zech.14).





In my next post I'll talk about John the Baptist announcing "that the kingdom of God is here" (Matt. 3:2). John the Baptist told the people to "repent in order to get into God's Kingdom." We will discover what the Kingdom of God is, and how to gain entrance into that Kingdom.










Friday, December 2, 2011

AN OLD TIMER GIVES SOME TIMELESS ADVICE


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow observed "a single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books".
 
 
I had this opportunity while sitting in the cafe the other day while sipping some fresh brewed java. I took my seat next to an "old timer" as I call them, we struck up a conversation, and for sixty minutes I was taken to school; the school of experience and hard knocks






What made this conversation special for me was this old timer reminded me of the many conversations I had with my own father...my dad passed away in 2008.



So, as I listened intently to the old timer reflecting on his life, I took the counsel of Solomon, "a wise man listens to advice." The old timer began to share with me his biggest regret in his life...he shared how he so desperately wished he would have treated his wife differently. He shared with me that his wife passed away in 2005 from breast cancer.

The old timer began to give me a list of things that he wished he had done differently with his wife. Let me share some keen insights that were given to me free of charge:

1. Give your wife a rose from time to time... the old timer emphasized that it only takes one rose; it shows that you were thinking about her.

2. Tell your wife that you love her...he told me that women want to be told they are loved.

3. Take the time to know your wife...he noted that women are unique and they need to be treated as individuals. 

4. Be kind...he spoke with deep regret, telling me that he did not show his wife the kindness that she so deserved. 

5. Don't get so caught up with work and material things...he emphasized that as you get older; work and material things start to lose their attraction.



I was taking my last few swallows of java as the old timer began to leave the cafe, as the old timer was leaving he looked back at me with a huge bright smile as if to say thanks for taking the time to listen to an old man's ramblings.

I'm again reminded of the words of Longfellow, "Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending."

There was much pain and hurt in the old man's voice, but I think he came to terms with his past failures; the old timer on more than one occasion mention God's forgiveness.

Our lives hang on very thin wires, so take the advice of the old timer husbands/wives and bring each other a rose from time to time.


 




Thursday, December 1, 2011

GOD IS IN CONTROL


Has there been times in your journey where you had to trust that God is in control? I mean really trust Him, knowing that the situation is totally out of your control.

Well, I'm sure that if you are apart of the human experience you would say yes, there has been times that a situation was beyond my control.



I can think of a few defining situations in my own life where I was totally helpless, and the only thing that I could do was trust in the goodness of my God. Thinking back over the many long years I can still see the doctor's face as he brought the x-ray into our hospital room as Michele was in labor with our fourth child.The doctor suspected that there would be a problem with the delivery and his suspicions were right, the child was in the breach position which required immediate attention.

As the doctors delivered our little girl I was struck with shock and disbelief. That moment swept over me with the cold wind of reality, our little girl had many abnormalities and the doctor's gave her just a few hours to live. At that point the only thing that I (we) could do was just trust; trust and rest that God was in control.

Michele and I found calm assurance in the words of the Scripture:

But our God is in the heavens;
He does whatever He pleases
                                                       (Psalms 115:3).


Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
                                        and do not lean on your own understanding
                                                       (Proverbs 3:5).


And we know that to those who love God
all things works together for good
(Romans 8:28).


We need to allow God to bring us to the place where we trust Him and Him alone. If your are in the pit and see no way out, it may be where God wants you, it is here where God often performs those deep works in our souls.



 Remember the old hymn: 
Trust and obey for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.



The Renewing of the Mind

I've have written in the past on the life of the mind. I cannot stress enough the importance for the Christian to develop the life of ...