Monthly Archives: August 2015

Knowledge – eliminates imagination

Historian of the West David Lavender wrote that “Where nothing is known anything can be believed….”  Westward Vision, p. 18.   Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”  Both references lead to the point of this blog.

When ancient geographers desired a way through the American continent to Cathay, they speculated, among other things, rivers that flowed east from the west to rivers that flowed west from the mountains after a short portage.  They got it half right.  Some didn’t want to bother with the inconvenience of a portage.  They speculated a great lake somewhere in the West from which streams flowed both eastward to the Mississippi and westward to the Ocean.  Ibid., p. 13

Lewis and Clark were the first white men to explode those theories.  Now we KNOW that a Northwest Passage does exist above Canada.  We KNOW we can go to the Pacific Ocean any number of ways from the Mississippi, but we’ll never find the Indies when reaching the West Coast.

We would call a fool anyone today who speaks geographically of rivers running close enough to each other in the West that only a short portage is necessary to travel cross-country; or, even more fancifully, that a single great lake exists somewhere in the West that originates rivers east and west.

Yet, people do exactly that spiritually.  What is the way to God? people ask.  And, as if God hasn’t revealed that way through Jesus Christ, they imagine a way that appeals to them—the easier the better, the fewer demands made better still.  What are such people who defy God’s revelation of life through Jesus Christ just because they want to “imagine” an easier way?

Where little is known, it must be obeyed.  Where much is, remember:  only what’s revealed RULES.  Human Imagination means nothing.

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Rule – any exception to gets attention Amos 4:1 ff

At the Green River Rendezvous in 1836, trappers and Indians who hadn’t seen each other for a full year whooped and yelped their delight at renewing acquaintance; but only until they caught sight of a kind of woman some hadn’t seen in years, and others not at all.  There before them stood blond, tanned Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman overland from the United States to Oregon. The Nez Perce Indians couldn’t stop looking at her, and even hardened trappers stood around with stars in their eyes.  Bernard deVoto, Across the Wide Missouri, p. 247

Her coming signaled a change for good in the American West.  When men had only themselves to consider and maintain, they lived in the scrubbiest of conditions.  When women and children appeared, however, manners improved, schools and churches were erected, civilizing organizations took form.  Women always had a positive effect in American society.

The women in Amos’ day provided an exception to this rule.  To the money they possessed they demanded additional funds; to the luxury, greater excess.  They hectored their husbands by the constant demand of “more, more, more.”  To sate them, the men further brutalized their workers.  Thus, the women, unlike most all in every age, contributed to the barbarity, greediness and depravity of their age.  It would be an exception, but one that glared.

In apostolic times women also served as bad and good examples.  Paul urged Christian women to activate a counter-culture of modesty in dress in a society of self-glorification I Timothy 2:9-10.  To show they battled Empire-wide narcissism, Peter urged Christian women to let their beauty originate in their thinking and behavior, not in the accepted procedures females followed I Peter 3:1 ff.

But Paul, supposed to be the old woman hater by feminists, valued the women believers he encountered Romans 16:1 ff, Philippians 4:2-3.

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Possessions – hold them loosely

A man saved his money for sixteen years to build a magnificent home 25 miles downwind from Mt. St. Helens, Washington state.  He had lived there five years when in May 1980, the mountain “cleared its throat”—a euphemism for the catacysm known as “eruption.”  The 1400 feet of the mountain’s cone blew skyward and its resulting floods and concussions dismantled the house.

A man in Oklahoma spent several years building a home hand by hand, stage by stage.  After moving his family in, and living there but a few days, a massive tornado hit and blew the place to pieces.

Whatever some religionists promise, no one, not even God’s own people, have assurance of prosperity, health, or ease in life.  Indiscriminate and senseless sorrow, suffering and grief may afflict us all, Christians included.  That shouldn’t surprise or terrify us.

But when anything unpleasant comes, when we lose all we’ve worked for, possessed and valued, one factor remains sure:  God loves us.  That never changes and always remains the same.  Christians have joys in Christ they cannot lose, whatever other losses they suffer.  In the midst of all problems, we have God’s secure, sure hopes and certainties.

After the prophet Habakkuk fought his way through a series of questions and doubts, he arrived at a grand conclusion:  whatever happened to him, however much he lost, whatever griefs he suffered, whatever personal afflictions he experienced, he knew he could trust God.  In that confidence he asserted his faith 3:17-19.

Hold loosely all that this world offers.  But hold firmly to faith in God.  He will still be there, helping, when all we thought would be vanishes.

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Growth – new church increases existing congregation

In early 18th century England, as in every age—some things never change—people with financial means wanted better housing than they owned.  True to human nature in every age—again, some things never change—developers had already seen the potential in open land and built such housing.  To these new digs the financially-able moved.  However, the unexpected happened.  Homes in the vacated areas increased in value:  to the delight of homeowners and the chagrin of renters.

A spiritual principle of economics is involved.  As Proverbs 11:24-25 and II Corinthians 9:10-11 stress, those faithful in tithing and giving love offerings beyond find their ability to give more increasing.  For the simple reason that it’s impossible to decrease our store when we give to God.

A church-growth principle is also involved.  When churches are asked to finanaically-support organizations like Ignite, which starts new congregations throughout Chicagoland, they get involved.  But those same churches often reluctantly, if at all, recruit members of their congregation to become essential team members in new works.  Ministers need to understand the spiritual principle:  depleting their membership to encourage flourishing new churches increases the strength and membership of the giving church.  It never fails that God rouses new interest in new people within the congregation.

Again, we cannot decrease ourselves when we give people to God.  As Harvey Stokesberry (a Christian brother now with the Lord) used to say, “God’s shovel is bigger than ours.”  Amen.

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Information – falsely named knowledge

Yes, we have more information than ever before.  Had I known 30 years ago I could have Judy find answers I needed on the internet, I wouldn’t have developed my killer-filing system.  Of course, the file contains what no internet can reveal.

In addition, while the information age has brought an overload of knowledge, has it made us any wiser, safer, obedient to God or committed to Jesus Christ?

Hasn’t the knowledge at best produced educated ignoramuses and learned ninnies who claim self-sufficiency for all human issues?  They’re proficient in perspectives, fulsome in insights and deep in opinions, but lack Biblical underpinnings that interpret it all.  Data overwhelms their brains like bits and pieces of information flooding a spymaster’s desk, without his skill in detecting trends, designs and aims.

Space exploration never takes us nearer to God, but to some ever farther distance to where we hope to find a superior life form.  The Bible’s available and open to all so we can find the Living God and the Christ he sent.  But they prefer to search inside themselves for some nebulous “Christ-within”, so they can be their own deity.

In their depravity they consider tolerance of all behavior, however fallen, if it only gives wrong the chance to be right.  Though rogue rulers, especially those religiously-based, are always liars and never trustworthy, they decide to believe they can be trusted.

Lost humanity finds itself suspended in webs of deceit they have spun.  Then blame God for letting them get into the trouble they insist on making by living according to their accumulated information, not God’s eternal wisdom in Christ.

In I Corinthians 2:12-16 Paul wrote that Christians reject the spirit of this age to live by the “Spirit who is from God.”  We speak words the Spirit of God teaches.  We declare “spiritual truths in spiritual words.”

On our own, directed only by our best intentions, we’d be just as ignorant as the unsaved, and just as anxious to hope we could finally get it all right.  But enlightened by God’s Spirit, we KNOW what to believe, how to live and why we have confidence.  We won’t apologize for being sure since our certainty is the gift of God in his Christ.

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Christ – resurrection of – the reason for change II

What changed worship day from the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day—among the very Jews who had been devoted Sabbath-observers all their lives; indeed, who believed in Jesus of Nazareth who faithfully observed the Sabbath all his life?  We can understand the apostles attending synagogue services in the Roman world:  a ready-made audience for Gospel preaching awaited them.  But why would those very apostles observe the Lord’s Day as their personal day of worship?

The bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave!

What turned Christianity from what opponents called a religious sect within Judaism to a recognized religious body separate from Judaism?  When as a “sect” it could be protected by Roman authority and as a separate Faith it inevitably roused the hostility of Roman authority?  When as a “sect” it could have its center in Jerusalem while as a separate Faith it had multiple sources of influence in Imperial cities:  Rome, Ephesus, Corinth, Antioch, etc.?

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead!

And what empowered Christianity to boldly spread to conquer the world when, after A.D. 70, Judaism went, as Durant said, into hiding?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ!

By appearance after appearance after Resurrection Sunday, over 40 days, to smaller or larger group after group, Jesus added evidence to evidence of his bodily resurrection.  When he appeared to a crowd of disciples in Galilee not long after his resurrection, some disciples still doubted Matthew 28:17.  When he met with the 120 on Mt. Olivet the day of his ascension, everyone believed.  When after 10 more days, the Holy Spirit descended on the Twelve in fire and wind, immersing them in himself, they inherited the power Jesus promised in Acts 1:8.  – Fini –

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Christ – resurrection of – the reason for change – I

On the morning of June 18, 1815, the resurgent Napoleon Bonaparte ruled his Grand Armee as emperor.  By that evening, after very nearly winning it all, he lost it all and fled as a fugitive before English justice.  Waterloo stood between that morning and its evening.  It changed European history.

Contrast John 20:19b and Acts 4:8-12.  What turned the disciples from cowards behind bolted-doors to stay safe into spiritual lions terrorizing the Sanhedrin in their own chambers?

The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!

What changed religious faith from covenant-centered rules to personal-relationship principles?  The disciples’ practice of obeying 1500 year old Mosaic Law, and its laws, to a knowledge of and love for Jesus Christ?

The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Can any rational person believe, with first-century unbelieving Jews, that the disciples really stole the corpse of Jesus to convince others that his body had risen?  Matthew 28:11-15.  Would they use a corpse to persuade others if his life had failed to convince them?  – End Part I –

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Christ – victory he gained was worth the sacrifice

Pyrrhus, an Epirian king in the 4th –  3rd century B.C., fought and defeated the Romans at Asculum in 279 B.C.  When congratulated on his victory he remarked that another such victory would impoverish his people.  That statement led to the “Pyrrhic victory,” or one you couldn’t afford.

The British won such a victory at Breed’s Hill, Boston.  They earlier won another such at Trafalgar.  While the English Admirals, Captains and Seamen gloried in their smashing success, they considered it worth the lives of the seamen but “not worth the loss of Nelson.”  Trafalgar, 215-216.  Indeed, since fewer prizes had been secured due to the storm following the battle off Trafalgar, English sailors and leaders discounted the worth of their victory.

Isaiah 53:10 prophesied Messiah’s death for human sin, but a death amply rewarded, equal in results to the death that secured it.  Revelation 5:9-10 echoed Isaiah’s promise.

Jesus Christ’s sacrifice has been historically honored by God and will be eternally honored by God.  Victory always costs, some not worth the price paid.  But Christ’s sacrifice and its result remain in perfect equilibrium, both colossal and eternal.  So…it’s absolutely true that God loved us SO…much.  It’s absolutely untrue that he loved us TOO…much.

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Jesus – the reason we can remain with God – Part III, Luke 7:41-50

(Note:  this is an excerpt from my second volume of Their Own Best Defense.)

The woman’s appreciation of Jesus starkly illustrated Simon’s lack of hospitality for Jesus.  In essence, she proved the forgiveness experienced by honoring Jesus.  He proved only his legalism by dishonoring Jesus.  Humiliating herself to acknowledge him proved how completely Jesus had changed her.  Simon’s oversights proved that he would entertain, not welcome Jesus.  She offered him praise beyond the common; Simon withheld the common courtesies all guests received, the chosen guest first.

When Jesus asked Simon what debtor would appreciate the creditor’s largesse more, the Pharisee judged the story correctly.  It was equally clear he hadn’t, and wouldn’t, see its conjunction with the spiritual life.  When Jesus turned the parable into a spiritual truth the woman experienced—she knew God had forgiven much in her life—it sailed like an arrow over Simon’s head.

The reason she could remain in Christ’s presence is:  she proved her repentance by not being able to do enough for Jesus.  The reason Simon couldn’t stay in Christ’s presence:  he thought he needed to prove nothing to Jesus.  Jesus should feel privileged to have someone such as Simon as a host.

Which person does our discipleship reveal?  – Fini –

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Jesus – the reason we can remain with God – Part II (Luke 7:39)

Simon responded as any orthodox Pharisee would:  he judged Christ’s acceptance of the woman as proof he didn’t have a prophetic call.  Point of integrity:  Simon wouldn’t let such a woman approach him anywhere, certainly not in his own house.  And Simon knew he was a godly man!  Since Jesus protected the woman, whoever he claimed to be, he wasn’t God’s prophet.

That’s the danger of judging God by human standards, preconceptions and cultural or religious traditions.  Though it’s the very reaction of the Jesus Seminar to the Four Gospels.  Since the Seminar scholars have a pre-determined rejection of God being a man—their fixed pre-conception—they insist that the Gospels manufactured any account that portrays Jesus as God-in-the-flesh.  That includes this text.

Against their anti-Christ posture, a very strong reason exists that the disciples wouldn’t have imagined it.  Every teaching of Jewish sacred books warned mercilessly against any idolatry.  The peasant Galileans would never dare to create an IDOL by the name of Jesus of Nazareth!

The extreme disbelief of the Jesus Seminar that God could become a man means that no proof, not even the heaping piles of evidence in the Four Gospels, will ever convince them.

Let us be warned.  The only mortals worthy of entering God’s presence come as seekers wanting to find him as he IS:  as sinners wanting to find forgiveness as he grants it; as students wanting only to learn his pedagogy, however much it differs from what they think should be taught!  – End Part II –    (Note:  this is an excerpt from my second volume of Their Own Best Defense.)

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