Archive for the Category » Christian doctrine «

August 11th, 2010 | Author:

While I was driving the other day, a curious thought occurred to me to:  God is a lot of things, but He’s also not a lot of things. In fact, as I thought back on my Christian walk, I realized that a good share of what the Holy Spirit has taught me involved changing my view of God and separating Him in my mind from everything and everybody else – the things “God is not.”

It can be hard to change your mind when you’ve believed something your whole life, or when you’ve invested heavily in a certain viewpoint, particularly when it’s about God.  Many people, in fact, refuse to do so, clinging to a lie because it’s too hard to let it go. I believe this is what God calls “a stubborn people.”

For those who are willing to be changed, the first step is often an emotional sense of betrayal by whoever lead you to believe the lie in the first place – a heart-felt, “But I trusted you!”  Some people never get past this stage, turning their back on God and never moving forward.

When we  forgive and move on, though, we find that we’ve acquired some healthy discernment.  We’re not as gullible as we were before.  And after going through this a few times, we find that we’ve become a little more like the Bereans who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”  (Acts 17:11)

That eagerness, I think, is key.  The desire to know God’s truth, no matter the cost, no matter how stupid we may look, is what keeps the Holy Spirit opening our minds to new concepts.  Conversely, if we don’t receive a love for the truth, “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.”(2 Thess 2:11)

So that’s a peek at the “God is not” process from my perspective, and here are a few of the times I’ve been through it.

God is not my father – my natural father, that is.  Because our natural fathers are often the first male authority figures in our lives, we have a tendency to equate them with God.  While my own father had a lot of good qualities, he was not a forgiving man.  He traveled a lot when I was little, often for three or four weeks at a time, and he was distant by nature, as well.  So when I had sinned and knew I needed God’s forgiveness, I believed I could not be forgiven.  I was resigned to paying the price to an unforgiving God who was always far away.  You can read the rest of the story here, but this was the first of my “God is not” lessons.

God is not the pastor. Right after I got saved, God planted me in a local church.  Because I was so grateful and so open – and because standard church structure encourages it – in my mind God and the pastor were one and the same.  A few instances of the pastor’s humanity and God quickly cured me of that notion.

God is not the church. There’s something special about the first church where we embraced God.  We love all the people and support the church’s activities with a whole heart.  Church often becomes “the place” where we meet God, “the place” where spiritual things happen and spiritual truth is learned.  But God is not confined to a place or time, and when He “appeared” in unexpected places when I least expected it, I finally realized that Sunday morning is probably the least important time of my Christian walk.

God is not the earth. I’ve never been the treehugger that some are, but I surely appreciate the world that God made for us.  I can be captivated by the various shades of green contained in a woodlot or a butterfly flitting from flower to flower.  But these things are not the Creator, merely the Creation.  The ideas that God “is” nature, or God “is in” nature are becoming more common, but they are heresies that are not supported by the Bible.

God is not America. This has been my most recent “God is not” that began three years ago when I suddenly found that I could no longer say the pledge of allegiance.  Since then, I’ve posted about various aspects of this issue, some of which are here:

The problem with all of these “God is not”, and why the Holy Spirit wants to renew our minds, I think, is rooted in the first two commandments:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exo 20:2-6)

God is a jealous God, and to the extent that we give glory to anyone or anything else, we take it away from God.

June 06th, 2010 | Author:

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian
any more than going to a garage makes you a car

May 24th, 2010 | Author:

Given all the talk around here about the End of the Age, this post by Pastor Anton Bosch, whom I’ve long respected, just jumped out at me.  See what you think.

Many Christians have been deceived into believing that they can somehow “convert” the kingdoms of this world to become the Kingdom of God. In the process they have put their energy and hopes into bringing about the Kingdom of God by working towards getting more influence with government in order to transform government. Some even believe that Jesus will return once we have transformed the world and created the millennial Kingdom.

Read the rest at Herescope.

April 07th, 2010 | Author:

If you’d like to participate in the Word for Wednesday meme (and I wish you would!), click the WFW tab above for details.  If not, I still welcome your comments.

[cont'd from The End of the Age 3.31.10]

As I continue my examination of the Olivet Discourse, looking for the words of Jesus that can be applied to the world of today, we come to Matthew 24:10-12:

At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.

At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.

“Fall away” in this context comes from the Greek skandalizō, G4625, meaning to “scandalize” or to entrap, that is, trip up (figuratively stumble [transitively] or entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure): – (make to) offend.

It’s hard for us as Americans to visualize this falling away.  It’s hard to understand that many who now proclaim to be Christians, when pressed by difficult circumstances, will “scandalize” and betray one another and hate one another.  As I wondered what our reaction to this situation should be, I remembered another verse from the Sermon on the Mount, where skandalizō is translated “to stumble.”

If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

While Jesus is trying to prepare us for hard times by telling us what it will be like, I think His solution to the problem is to literally throw out anything, including body parts, that would cause us to sin.  If a TV show leads us into temptation – throw the TV out.  If a friend entices us to tread a wrong path – avoid that person.  Based on Jesus’ advice, nothing we can do is too drastic if it keeps us from sinning.

Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.

There are so many false prophets and teachers in the church today, it’s hard to find the real deal.  It’s so bad in my area, that I would be hard-pressed to recommend any church to a newcomer to the faith or to the area.  In today’s passage, Jesus’ doesn’t offer a way to avoid being misled, but in another He promises the only answer I know:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

If we have not received the Holy Spirit of truth that Jesus’ promised, then I think it will be impossible for our feeble brains to avoid being misled.

Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.

It’s hard to love criminals.  It’s hard to love those who hurt others, especially when the hurting are close to us.  The more crime and hate we see, the harder it is to love the criminals.  But love we must, or we will be among those whose love has grown cold.

When I come across someone who is hard to even be around, no less love, I remind myself of who I was and what I did before I accepted the forgiveness of Christ.  I remind myself that God loved me even in the worst of my sin.  I didn’t deserve forgiveness any more than the worst person I’ve encountered.  And then I realize that, unless I want to be a hypocrite, I must offer that same love and forgiveness to everyone I meet.

(27)  “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
(28)  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
(29)  “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.
(30)  “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.
(31)  “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.
(32)  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
(33)  “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
(34)  “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.
(35)  “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
(36)  “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
(37)  “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.
(38)  “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6:27-38)

March 31st, 2010 | Author:

[cont'd from The End of the Age 3.24.10]

As I continue this review of the Olivet Discourse, I was curious whether recent war death tolls differed greatly from wars farther back in history.

The only list that I found was on Wikipedia, so take it for what it’s worth, but it seems that man has been very good at killing man throughout history.  While 72 million died in World War II, 100 million died during the Mongol Conquests from 1207 – 1472, so I don’t think we can use Jesus’ first warning in today’s passage as a sign of the end times.  Wars have been continuous throughout history.

The same thing appears to be true of earthquakes and famines and other natural disasters.  While the death toll in Haiti is estimated at 233,000, four other earthquakes going back to Antioch in 526, eclipse that number, so again, I don’t think it’s a “sign of the times.”

(Matthew 24:6-8) You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Jesus advice on how to deal with all these things is simple: See that you are not frightened. This is a common refrain to God’s people throughout the Bible, and the verse that seems to speak to my heart most clearly on this is Matthew 10:28:

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

When we fear what man can do to us, I think we have lost our perspective.  We have given man way too much importance, and God way too little.

(Matthew 24:9) Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.

This is the verse that has jumped out at me this week, particularly the last phrase:  you will be hated by all nations because of My name. As Christians in America begin to feel twinges of hate from our secular culture, it occurred to me that this truly could be a “sign of the times.”  If all nations will hate Christians, then there can be no refuge anywhere in the world.  Jesus has told us that America, too, will turn its back on Him and us.

[to be continued]