Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Discernment: A Simple "How To" Guide

Discernment
When Christians need to make decisions, they often have a hard time understanding what is going on inside of them, leading to greater uncertainty.

For example, some struggle with Visible Signs they are 'seeing' (circumstantial evidence for/against their decision). Others don't know how to read their Instincts or Intuition. Still others don't know how to read the internal Cautions generated within their emotions or spirit. These cautions often come to us in the versions of "fear," "dread," or "uncertainty."

I hope this helps.

DISCERNING WHAT TO DO

Let's say you need to make a decision (X). You are unsure what to do. First, let's take up this matter of Visible Signs, which can be confusing...

1. REGARDING VISIBLE SIGNS. The bad news is that when we get down the spiritual road toward maturity, we are given fewer and fewer visible signs about what to do. Meaning, outward, clear, visible signs are harder and harder to come by. That's because God knows that we know His voice already and those signs are simply unnecessary at this point in our spiritual development and, ironically, also less reliable than Him speaking to us quietly within our spirits.

So don't let the silence frustrate you-- it's an indicator that you don't need outward signs anymore. John 10:27.

2. REGARDING INSTINCTS or INTUITION. Let's assume that you are seeking God's Will and walking in His Spirit (though this is a big assumption, we have to start somewhere). If you have gotten this far down the road toward your decision, and if you have been led here without clear internal warnings that you were going the wrong way and planning on doing the wrong thing-- then you absolutely MUST trust your instincts now more than ever.

Here's what I mean: Sometimes Christians pray and then feel led to do something-- and this something is (let's assume, unless you realize it's not) from a healthy and holy motive. So they move forward and God apparently blesses the idea and things begin to unfold toward the realization of that dream and vision. But somewhere along the way, things hit a rough spot (and what you thought was crystal clear is now cloudy). It's at this time that many Christians begin to question their entire discernment apparatus and their ability to hear God's voice and to know His Will.

Point: God WANTS you to know His Will-- more than even YOU want to know it! God wants you to know His voice. And the general demeanor of the Spirit-filled and obedient believer is "GO." Believers should be seeking to conquer more ground for the Kingdom and Glory of God. So, you should actively seek to advance your life and opportunities for good and the like UNLESS AND UNTIL the Holy Spirit cautions you or stops you.

At a time like this, when you're 'that close' to pulling the trigger and making a big decision, that's not the time to second-guess your entire discernment apparatus. If you have faithfully prayed and sought the Lord "the best you knew how" and in that faithful pursuit of this dream, you did not have clear and obvious cautions-- then you move forward in the way you were going, with CONFIDENCE.

3. DISCERNING CAUTIONS. That leads me to my final test of discernment (not that there's not a lot more that could be said, but I'm gonna simplify it): YOU NEED TO IDENTIFY *EXACTLY* WHAT EMOTIONS YOU ARE FEELING BEFORE YOU MOVE FORWARD. DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF "FEAR" ABOUT THIS, OR A SENSE OF "DREAD," OR A SENSE OF "UNCERTAINTY?"

HERE'S HOW YOU WORK THROUGH THOSE.

A) FEAR: Fear isn't of God. So when you feel 'fear,' that should not keep you from acting. So you musn't let fear imprison you. Anytime I feel like moving forward in a decision but 'fear' exists, I put the pedal to the metal. I speed up; I don't slow down. Then I brace for impact, because Satan may throw some stuff at me to make me question my decision.

B) DREAD (or 'foreboding'): If you sense "dread" or a sense of foreboding-- a deep, unshakeable and heavy, threatening sense of weighty, immobilizing dread... THAT "is" the Holy Spirit. In such a case, He is bearing witness in your spirit against a decision or action. When I sense this emotion, it's clearly a divine warning.

But dread and fear or insecurity are different things. Dread 'feels' heavier and is unmistakably different than fear. Dread is always a "no go" for me.

C) UNCERTAINTY: Uncertainty can go one of two ways, and here's how I approach it. (1) If the uncertainty was from the beginning, and if the uncertainty had been gnawing at me "all along" and it was something I couldn't shake, in spite of ignoring it-- and if I simply had (read this closely) a constant, unremitting sense of uncertainty... that generally means "WAIT."

You then say, wait until 'when?' Answer: Wait until the uncertainty leaves or don't do it. Uncertainty (when it manifests this way) is often an indicator of a lack of faith. So, when you have it-- it doesn't mean it's not God's Will... it just means that you lack the degree of faith to see it through, so whether it's right or wrong is immaterial... because when the heat is on, you'll fold... so don't do it if that 'all along' type of uncertainty was there.

(2) If the uncertainty is a recent artifact that, hereforeto, did not trouble you-- then you're probably simply at a crisis of faith, and that's more of an internal psychological matter of exercising faithful action than it is anything else. In other words, the uncertainty is just unexercised faith. Once you make the decision, you should then have a sense of increasing peace and internal witness that you did the right thing-- whether or not the outward circumstances worked for you or not.

The only exception to this is, if after you make an initial decision, if you had a profound and absolutely unmitigating weight on your chest (when you SHOULD BE gaining freedom and liberty and excitement), then in that case, you misread your uncertainty. All other times, the uncertainty will evaporate after the decision is made, and you'll begin to have joy and excitement about what God is getting ready to do.

One last thing-- and it's one of the most important.

Once all the facts above are considered, if you decide not to do it-- there's nothing lost (but nothing gained)... life goes on as it has. But IF YOU MOVE FORWARD, the best and only advice I'd give you concerning God's Will is:

(IF YOU DECIDE TO DO IT) **Make a decision, then MAKE IT WORK.

After the decision is made (much like a marital decision), you don't look back, you don't second-guess... you simply ASSUME it was/is God's perfect Will, then you FORCE IT to work.


I hope this is encouraging to you. It's worked for me consistently.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Do We Have a Right To Judge Evil and, at times, Even People?

Good Judgment

Ahhh, Lady Justice. Lady Justice is perched at the Supreme Court where judgments are made. The judges (justices) do our nation a great service. Imagine our nation without judges. Imagine the lawlessness that would ensue. Without justice law is unenforcible and chaos reigns.

Lady justice typically has a blindfold-- she is blind (unpartial). She has scales to weigh out a matter. She bears a sword to execute judgment.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine asked me this question: “What gives us the right to judge others for wrongs they may have committed?” I thought that was a great question, and I decided to do my best to answer it—and to share my thoughts with you as well.


I’ll approach the question from a Christian/biblical perspective.


So, what gives us the right to judge others for wrongs they may have committed? I’m going to answer this throughout my blog, but let me begin with a few words about why we are hesitant to make judgments in the first place—and as I then begin to unpack my answer, I’ll show where it comes from in scripture. Then, AT THE END, I’ll summarize the major answers to your question. That way you get the technical answer and the simple answer.

THE TECHNICAL ANSWER

Start with an Open Mind

I should probably begin by saying that the answer will be best understood if we start with an “open mind.” As I sit here and write, I am aware that most people reading this blog have had their thinking about ‘judgment’ very powerfully (and usually “wrongly”) shaped by a misunderstanding of Matthew 7 in the New Testament.

Ah, you know the passage I’m talking about: Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Now keep in mind that, in the past, researchers said that the most familiar Bible verse among Americans was John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life). Now we are told that the most-often quoted passage is that one—Matthew 7:1-2, the verses I just quoted above.

In short, let me say that God actually DOES want us to be discerning and to have conviction about right and wrong, and to morally deliberate and, yes, make judgments. I’ll get to more of this in a minute, but for now let me point out how people come to the false conclusion that we ‘shouldn’t judge.’

UNDERSTAND THESE MAJOR PRINCIPLES

There are at least three reasons people come to the false conclusion that Christian’s “aren’t supposed to judge.” They are:

1. A sizeable minority of people in American society have suppressed the truth about morality to appease their own unrighteousness (Romans 1:18), and they ABSOLUTELY REFUSE to be held accountable in any way for their actions and want YOU to mind your own business and to be silenced. Romans 1:18 talks about “the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” This is another way of saying that human nature is fallen and that we, as people, are broken. And this brokenness can either cause us to (a) recognize that problem and seek God’s mercy and grace to help us become the people He made us to be, so we can have abundant life now and eternal life too—OR our brokenness can (b) cause us to hide from the light of truth that shines on our guilty consciences and ‘suppress’ or push down and suffocate the truth about our lives, our behavior and who we are and what we need to do about it.

Because we tend to justify our behavior, many people deceive themselves about their own condition--- and choose to live without boundaries and without appeal to conscience. As a result, there is in our time a collective and widespread delusion about our moral and spiritual condition. People have often chosen to do whatever they want and refuse to take responsibility for their decisions and ‘dare’ anyone to say anything about it.

This way of life (living as if God did not exist and living without hardly any regard for conscience and ignoring personal feelings of guilt and so on) has now become embedded in our culture and many people have convinced themselves that they are above the law—and they have force fed the rest of the decent people in society the lie of tolerance. And the lie of tolerance is that “we can do anything we want to do as long as we’re all consenting adults and nobody gets hurt.” That’s minimalistic ethics.

So, the major reason we even have to ask the question “What gives us the right to judge others (behavior/actions)” is because culture has sloughed off “REAL” morality, ethics, decency, reputation, and character for a FAUX MORALITY… and that Faux/Fake Morality is one that disregards and disposes of primary and fundamental moral issues and behaviors, and then replaces them with secondary ‘moral’ issues. The ‘new morality’ isn’t fighting abortion and poverty, fighting human trafficking, and ridding communities of wickedness and the like--- it’s ‘clean/safe/impersonal issues that ignore personal moral behavior by focusing on “reducing carbon footprints” and “spaying your cat,” and putting “give peace a chance” bumper stickers on your car.

The point? The mainstream society believes they have the right to shout you down and to ask you to be tolerant of any and ALL behaviors, lifestyles, and actions—regardless of how outlandish or outrageous or detrimental they may be—and they want, expect, and intend to FORCE you to simply “shut up” and, preferably, crawl back in the hole you came from. I know that’s harsh, but the reason people feel uncertain about whether or not they can make moral deliberations or statements is because society will not tolerate any mention of anything that holds anyone accountable. Those people want to live with impunity and without accountability. And it is THIS ATTITUDE and collective ethos in our culture that has ‘literally’ brainwashed Christians into thinking they have no right to challenge (object about, remark on, push back on) anything, and anyone who does is then (ironically) considered intolerant, a bigot, unreasonable, self-righteous, pharisaical, arrogant, and holier-than-thou. (How convenient). That’s Problem #1.

2. When Matthew 7:1-2 is quoted like I did above, the REST OF THE PASSAGE is seldom quoted. This leads to an incorrect interpretation of what Jesus meant when he said it. That is another way of saying that those who quote the passage in hopes of “proving” we must never make judgments about anything or anyone have misunderstood the Bible, because they have taken that passage out of context.

(Taking something ‘out of context’ means that we have ‘lifted’ a part of a Bible passage out of the fuller scripture passage and, in doing so, have wittingly or unwittingly misinterpreted the intended meaning of the author). This frequently happens with people who have never studied the Bible seriously and who do not know the rules that guide and govern the proper interpretation of the Bible (something called “hermeneutics,” which is the art and science of Bible interpretation).

By the way, that doesn’t mean that “only professionals” can interpret the Bible—it just means that each individual person doesn’t have the right to impose his or her own personal and private interpretation onto the Bible. The Bible speaks for itself and its meaning becomes increasingly clearer over time, to those who take its study seriously. So, those who really care about understanding the Bible and who “study to show themselves approved unto God [by] rightly handling the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:15)” will be more likely to accurately understand it than someone who is trying to ‘use’ the Bible to justify their own behavior and to fly below the radar of scrutiny.

Now, note that I mentioned that there was “more to that passage” that people didn’t quote. The whole passage in Matthew 7 is this:

1"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. 6"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

As you read that, take note of this very important fact—this passage goes on to give us some very important truths.

Here’s what they are: First, the reason we’re warned about judging is because, when we make judgments, the same degree of scrutiny we GIVE is what we will come under (v.2). So we need to make sure, before we decide to take the moral high ground, that we have (v. 3) taken care of our problems (which are usually bigger than the ones we see in others) before we accuse or challenge others (v.4-5). He (Jesus) then reminds us that we have to be careful about giving valuable insights to “dogs” or “pigs” (unrepentant, unrighteous, stone-hearted and rebellious God-haters), because they will disregard and profane what is righteous and then seek to destroy you for challenging them.

Meaning what? Meaning—you BETTER realize what’s going to happen if you step up and refuse to shut up. You will be scrutinized more for your own behavior—and you will be assigned false motives—you will be misunderstood—you will be hated—you will be attacked—you will be disregarded and will become an enemy to evildoers… because of your stand for what is right and good… and because you had the audacity to challenge them and to point out the fact that what they were doing was wrong.

So, it wasn’t that Jesus was saying “don’t judge.” Rather, he was saying… don’t do it UNLESS you know what you’re getting into; and don’t do it UNLESS you can take the heat; and don’t do it UNLESS you have the backbone and the teeth for it; and don’t do it UNLESS you are living a life above reproach… because IF YOU DO, by standing up for the truth, you will become a mortal enemy of evildoers and they will seek to crush you. And so only people who have the moral authority and the CONVICTION and strength of will to fight the forces of wickedness in the public square should go that far.

The spiritual principle? I think the principle in this passage is that you need to make sure you don’t get in over your head and that you only make judgments about things and only challenge things that you have the moral authority to do so. To go beyond that is to discredit yourself. But if you aren’t speaking hypocritically and your life backs up your message, go for it. In fact, I believe if our lives back it up, not only are we ‘allowed’ to challenge evil in our society and communities—I think, in that case, we have the OBLIGATION to do so.

Judging things that are wrong and calling them out for them— Will it make people uncomfortable? Oh, yes! Will some people (EVEN CHRISTIANS) totally misunderstand you? Sure! Will people assign false motives to you? Heavens, yes. Will you become a target of weak Christians and evildoers? Absolutely. But will you also help keep your street, subdivision, neighborhood, community, county, state and nation more decent? Yes. And without people like that, God help us. God help our country. And God help our children because we were to weak to step up.

In addition to (1) suppressing the truth and being unwilling to be held accountable for their actions and (2) failing to understand the entire passage of scripture and “misinterpreting” what the Bible is saying about ‘judgment,’ people also:

3. Ignore or are ignorant of other passages of scripture that speak about the importance of making sound judgments about others’ behavior or decisions/actions. A good example is a Bible passage only a little deeper into the New Testament than the one from the Gospel of Matthew that I quoted. It’s 1 Corinthians 2:14-15:

1 Cor.2:14But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

This verse basically teaches that a non-Christian (the natural man) is not completely capable of fully understanding all spiritual matters, as they relate to God and the Christian life—and that, in fact, lots of things Christians think/do/believe seem like foolishness to those who aren’t Christians. But that is to be expected, because they are “spiritually discerned,” meaning that the wisdom to understand the value and appropriateness and rightness of certain things cannot be fully appreciated by someone who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit inhabiting them… and, therefore, their minds are not illuminated by the importance and wisdom of those truths. (Meaning, though some things Christians do/think/believe seem like foolishness to non-Christians, it is only because unbelievers sometimes do not have as much clarity about right and wrong, and so on, because their minds and consciences are at least partially in the dark, and some of the truth of God is therefore hidden to them.

But go on and see in v.15, that the Apostle Paul says that he who is spiritual (the Believer/Christian) “JUDGES all things” but that “he himself (the believer) is judged by no one.” In other words, FAR FROM “Judge not that ye be not judged,” the believer is told to JUDGE ALL THINGS and that (due to the fact that maturing, obedient Christian believers have increasing amounts of discernment about right and wrong) they should not worry about answering to non-believers about their perspectives as believers, because they (we) have been given the “mind of Christ” as the next verse in that passage says. WATCH THIS: That’s another way of saying that “mature and growing Christians” are operating at a higher level of discernment than the average person, and they have (due to the high standards of morality they are living up to) the moral authority and rightful high ground to be able to speak out about such issues, because they are living above reproach.

The point? And this is really a lot of the answer to the original question, “What gives us the right to judge others?” The assumption of this passage of scripture is that the committed Christian is living a life of such moral excellence

So, that’s the long form answer of this very technical question.

THE SIMPLE ANSWER

OK, now let me summarize all of this above—without rehashing the technical biblical discussons I’ve already given. Then I’ll give brief guidelines about how I approach this issue.

Remember that our question was, “What gives us the right to judge others?”

In short, it’s this:

1. We don’t have to have moral perfection (meaning “we’re human”) but if we aren’t seeking to live a moral and upright life, then we DON’T have the right to judge others. In that case, judging others is hypocritical because we have no moral authority and we need to get the 2x4 log out of our own eye before we try to get the splinter out of the eye of our neighbor.

2. If we ARE seeking to live beyond reproach, then if we don’t show up, step up, stand up and refuse to shut up—we will be silenced, and then marginalized, and ultimately persecuted for speaking up and for being a moral voice who dared to speak up.

3. If we don’t challenge behaviors and point out evils and injustice in society, we become complicit in allowing evil to go on unchallenged. We must be daring and have the audacity to hold people accountable and to call them out.

4. Throughout scripture, far from suggesting upright and moral believers be silenced and be quiet about evil and injustice, believers CONSTANTLY challenged wickedness in society. Think about all the Bible figures who challenged and ‘judged’ evil. Not only do we have PROPHETS who did it, but there are a whole Bible book full of, well “JUDGES” in the BOOK of Judges (how ironic!). And Jesus Himself “judged” people (think of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Scribes, the inhabitants of certain cities and areas, and so on). An amazingly abundant amount of evidence rests of the side of Christians stepping up and challenging evil and wickedness.

A FINAL WORD

All said, here’s a final couple of principles to guide this matter of ‘judging’ others.

· Judge behavior and deeds without being JUDGMENTAL (without having a self-righteous and holier-than-thou attitude). This can be done. And challenging something doesn’t immediately mean that a person “is” being self-righteous. We can judge without being judgmental.

· Be patient, merciful, and forgiving to well-intentioned people who simply make mistakes and who, in moments of weakness, make decisions that harm themselves and others. This doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes have consequences to their actions, but we don’t see Jesus expressing great rage and ‘judgment’ on these types of people—the average person needs mercy and encouragement.

· The people or groups that we strongly challenge and that we develop a prophetic voice toward are those people who are STEELED in their opposition to the truth. It is for those who flagrantly and uncaringly seek to oppose, crush, disregard, harm, wound, people and the truth. Jesus and other godly people in scripture strongly challenged self-righteous people, power-hungry people, arrogant people, and unrepentant and hard-hearted people. Those people were even opposed and, many times, called out BY NAME. That’s seen throughout the Bible. And not only do we call out PEOPLE at times—but more importantly, we call out BEHAVIORS, ACTIONS, and CONDITIONS.

I think this is a good overview for now. I’m no Bible scholar, for sure—but I think this is a good lay-level discussion of how to approach the issue, and I hope it’s been helpful. It was such an honest question, I thought I should deal with it thoroughly and delicately.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Canon of Scripture: Protestant or Roman Catholic?

The Protestant or Roman Catholic (or other) canon represents very complex arguments that are hard to place in sound-bite format, so it's really an impossible task. In addition, much of what we know and many of the arguments we might reference are, themselves, built upon arguments of others-- however diligent we may be in researching them or crafting them together into reasonable comments.

Here are some observations and remarks I have, though, about the canon.

Point 1: The Canon Argument isn't Catholic v. Protestant only. First of all, technically we know that ‘Protestant’ is a general pejorative tag given to reference non-Catholics, and though I will use it here for the purpose of convention, it should be noted that it isn't technically historically-correct and its pejorative nature is disappointing. Protestantism is a movement that grew specifically out of the 16th Century groups who specifically challenged the weakened religio-political status of the Roman Church. Other non-Catholic groups exist which are not “Protestant.” But for argument-sake, we’ll use the Protestant term.

Here’s why that is important: There was not/are not only two competing views of the canon (i.e., it’s not as if there is a Catholic and a Protestant canon only—multiple canons exist). So one could say that this “either RCC or Protestant” is a classic either-or fallacy… though I happen to accept the dominant prevailing, popularized ‘Protestant’ canon (27 NT, 39 OT inspired books). I share this feature only to clarify the assumptions that are embedded into the question itself.

Point 2: Canonicity Completely Depends on Authority. Different ecclesiastical authorities have spoken as to their understanding of canonical ‘collections.’ Either one assumes that one authority is supreme over the others or that they represent the best perspective those individuals (like Athanasius, Origen, Jerome, Luther, Pius IV, etc.) or those groups (Different Roman Catholic voices over the centuries, Ethiopian Orthodox, the Reformers, the Syrian Church) at the time.

RCC Authority. If the Roman Catholic papacy and the morphing understanding of ‘Holy Tradition’ is considered the only legitimate Apostolic Church, then there is no way to resist the canon the RCC has dictated—regardless of however that body of literature has been, is now, or may be understood in the future. In that sense, their authority would trump any other argument—and that is the strength and the weakness of the RCC canon.

Non-RCC Authority. Authority does exist, but if it is not within the RCC, the authority of Christ must be dispersed in other places in the Body of Christ. The Orthodox make very powerful arguments that, I think, are more compelling than Roman Catholic arguments in many ways. But neither RCC or Orthodoxy establish the case in my mind, however. I believe that authority is not given to a visible body, but to the invisible Body of Christ, represented in the general perspective of committed, godly leaders in the church who accept the authority of Christ and His Word through His Spirit’s guidance. This is more ethereal and lacks the dogmatic clarity of Orthodoxy or Catholicism, but that is not a concern of mine. God has routinely worked outside of an identifiable, visible institution and continues to do so today in many cases.

So… if the self-imposed authority of the RCC papacy is a spurious argument, if Holy Tradition is not without error, and if the RCC is prone to mistakes, then the idea of the Apostolic Succession vested in the Holy See is illegitimate. That is my position with the authority of the RCC. And if the authority of the RCC is ruined, then the authority to “RECOGNIZE THE RECEIVED TEXT” is vested outside the papacy and Councils/Trent. This authority is the invisible church, the universal (Catholic, not Roman) Church.

Point 3: Many Early Lists and Essentially Every Later and Modern List of Canons Published Include the 66 Books Recognized Today. There are numerous historical ‘lists’ of canon that make it difficult to build a cohesive, iron-clad case for one single progression of thought—but the 66 books we understand as canonical have repeatedly been affirmed through the Early Church (from, if my facts are straight, the Synod of Hippo, to Athanasius of Alexandria in 367, forward) up until today.

Point 4: Only at Trent (1564, Pius IV) Were the Apocrypha Affirmed by the Papacy. Though the Vulgate had included the Deuterocanonical books in their Latin version, the fact that it took nearly 16 centuries and a counter-reformation to finally consider them ‘scripture’ is telling. That is what I call really late to the party.

Point 5: The Apocrypha were not cited by Christ or the Apostles. Though the NT quotes the OT some 250+ times, it not once quotes the Apocrypha.

Point 6: Jews Did Not Accept the Authority of the Apocrypha. It’s ironic that the Jewish people and Jewish believers did not ever see fit to recognize those books but 1600-1900 years after the fact, a Roman Catholic meeting would affirm them.

Point 7: Jesus Curiously Excluded the Apocrypha as Authoritative. When Jesus referenced what the scriptures were (prior to the New Testament being written, but centuries after the Apocrypha was written), he excluded it from consideration. Note Luke 24:44, where Jesus did NOT reference the “Law, Prophets, and WRITINGS” which Roman Catholics use to argue inclusion of the Deuterocanonical writings—but, INSTEAD, Jesus refers to the Law, Prophets, and the PSALMS. Quote: "Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Point 8: Jerome, Josephus, Phillip Schaff, and Others Honored the Apocrypha, But Rejected It As Authoritative. Even though they valued its contribution, they did not consider it scripture and canonical—even though Jerome was against its inclusion, he was compelled (forced) to include some of those writings in the Latin Bible, his Vulgate—but most were inserted after his death. Philo, the well-known Hellenistic Jew, apparently didn’t even mention the Apocrypha. I think that’s telling.

Point 9: No Apocryphal Writers To My Knowledge Lay Claim to Biblical Authority.

Point 10: Four Centuries Passed Before They Were Apparently Included In Anyone’s List of Scripture.

Point 11: Some Apocryphal Books Contain Fantastic Statements That Are Contradictory To Divine Scripture and that Cannot Be Historically Accurate. For example, I think that the books of Maccabes include multiple different accounts as to when Antiochus Epiphanes died and was buried. Also, we know that they teach things foreign to scripture like praying for the dead, sinless perfection of saints while on earth, purgatory, etc.

Point 12: Jerome, of the Vulgate, Was The First To Use The Word Apocrypha. The Word MEANS “Doubtful Authorship.” Authorship of scripture is one of the primary tests of canonicity—so the very fact that the authorship of these books were questioned showed their authenticity as spurious and not apostolic.

Point 13: If the Apocrypha Were Scripture Then They Would Allegedly Include Divine Statements Given During the 400 Years of Silence When God Was Not To Be Speaking. To me, that’s devastating to such an argument for the Apocrypha.



http://www.facebook.com/note.php?created&&suggest&note_id=100069037708

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Top 25 North American Travel Experiences I Wish Everyone Should Have, Part 2 (the second ten are in this post)

I posted this recently on Facebook but thought it required photos to make it come alive.


(hint: click the pic for a more inspiring size photo)


11. Take a boat ride under the falls at Niagara






























12. Enjoy Ghi
rardelli Square and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran




























13. Watch Tennessee Vols Football in Neyland Stadium (with the Vol Navy)































































14. Watch Native American Indian dancers and a Pow Wow in Cherokee, North Carolina






































15. See a
live blues show at Blue Chicago on Clark






















































16. An uninterrupted afternoon at the National Gallery, Washington




































17. Experience the Rose Parade, Live in Pasadena
































1
8. Read a significant work of literature in the Library of Congress Reading Room




















19. Witness the wonder of Puccini in the Civic Opera House, Chicago
























20. Ride horses on the floor of Monument Valley, UT








































21. Camp in either the Lost Sea (Sweetwater, TN) or Spelunk in Carlsbad Caverns, NM
.

At Lost Sea, you get to spelunk by land AND by sea on this 8 acre underground lake-- in a boat with a glass bottom. Amazing. One of my favorite events ever-- I've been 3-4 times on the wild tour.















Here, at Carlsbad, you can see the unbelievable and spooky batflight before daybreak or at sundown. There are 250,000 bats that exit and re-enter the cave's mouth as seen. I've never seen anything more like it.




























22. Take in an afternoon at the Hotel Galvez (the Queen of the Gulf) in Galveston, TX















23. Do a romantic evening in San Antonio's Riverwalk























24. Hike Pike's Peak, CO



















25. Trek through the Great Sand Dunes National Monument


































Monday, April 20, 2009

Top 25 North American Travel Experiences I Wish Everyone Should Have, Part 1 (the first ten are in this post)

I posted this recently on Facebook but thought it required photos to make it come alive.



(hint: click the pic for a more inspiring size photo)



1. Take in an afternoon game at Wrigley in the summertime


















2. Be in Detroit during the height of Red Wings Hockey


















3. Taste of Chicago festivities, early July in Chicago



















4. Experience Canada Day in Montreal or Ottawa























5. Stay in Old Quebec City near the Parc des Champs-de Bataille and Chateau Frontenac (wow!)

























6. See the cliff divers, from the water, in Acapulco

















7. Tour and climb the City of the Gods at Teotihuacan, Mexico















8. Do New Year's Eve in Times Square (2x, 1999 and 2001)
























9. Visit the museum and memorial and comemmorate the victims of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City
(the Gates of Time, shown)























10. Spend Independence Day in Washington, D.C.























As soon as possible, I'll post my remaining 15 of the top 25 of my favorite North American travel experiences. For now, I hope you enjoyed the trip.



Monday, April 13, 2009

20 "I'll Nevers"


A friend of mine sent me a list of 20 "I'll never" statements today. I liked it so much, I thought it would be a good exercise to do myself. Thanks Beth!


1. I will never fail to realize how dangerous it is to say "I will never." Even so, these are convictions I resolve to uphold and won't shrink from committing to.

2. I will never desert my convictions, nor fail to contend earnestly for the faith, once for all delivered to the saints. If that doesn't mean something, then nothing means anything. Convictionless living is a meaningless existence because it plants nothing and harvests nothing, making the net gain 'zero.' If life means nothing, then cut me a big, long line of coke and get out of my way (that's my translation of the book of Ecclesiastes).

3. I will never shirk the responsibilities I have to my family, my wife, and children. Those commitments were a free-will decision made by myself to myself and to God.

4. I will never live in fear or regret. I must live in fearless abandon, feverishly pursuing ultimate reality and absolute truth, without holding anything back. Why 'save' my vitality? What would I save it for, anyway?

5. I will never secretly wish I could 'trade places' with anyone else, known or unknown. I live the life I dream about... and if I wanted someone else's life, I would simply change mine.

6. I will never want to live "way out" with lots of land. That's just not how I think. I like to visit those places, but have no interest in living there. Most people feel exactly the opposite, and that's cool.

7. I will never fail to be grateful that I can see, hear, and walk-- things important for gaining the fullness of the human experience

8. I will never want to own a cat, a llama, a monkey, a large dog that sheds, a hamster, mouse, gerbil, or other vermin-turned pet.

9. I will never accept status quo. I'd rather unquo the status. The status quo is for people who don't mind being in the 'heap.' I'd rather be on top of the heap-- it's a better view.

10. I will never own a car with a bad stereo system or buy an automobile I hate because it gets good mileage. Life's too short to drive a car you despise.

11. I will never stop celebrating life and existence. However, wild and wooly, life is the most amazing adventure and enterprise ever imagined. People who have a problem with life suffer from an errant perspective; usually their error is in thinking that pain and suffering makes life bad or unbearable. The truth is that we can always handle the "what" if we know the "why." If a person doesn't 'get' the "why," he or she should go on an unmitigated search to discover why or life will always confuse them.

12. I will never stop loving my favorite music: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eddie Money, CDB, Kansas, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, and all manner of Arena Rock.

13. I will never stop making excuses for writing a book until I make or find time to write them. Hopefully I'll get my ducks in a row soon. I've been unable to make it a priority up until now. Frustrating.

14. I will never, ever, ever, ever stop feeling the pain of losing my mother at the age of 58, my dear beloved grandmother at 83, and others I have loved and lost.

15. I will never fail to have a profound, nearly irrational love for my twin brother Teddy (Nashville, TN) and my brother and sister (Kevin Windle/Kelli Hinkle).

16. I will never stop celebrating the virtues of the good men and women in uniform, serving the United States with distinction, in places known and unknown, to the four corners of the earth.

17. I will never fully understand why or how God can forgive each of us from our dastardly deeds and how, after being forgiven, any Christian can actually withhold forgiveness from another human being. Withholding forgiveness places us, not necessarily the offender, in terrific bondage.

18. I will never forget where I came from. I'll always let it shape me as I count my blessings, one by one.

19. I will never forget, nor fail to honor, those who have benefited me in ways big and small. I won't ever fail to appreciate those who have, in any way, shown me kindness, grace, and mercy.

20. I will never tire of traveling to amazing places, doing amazing things with incredible people, and having new, novel experiences. One of the greatest ways to be impoverished is by failing to meet interesting people, to go to interesting places, or to read about them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

SINsational: Why We Are Vulnerable to Evil


What Pastor Fred Winter's Murder Taught Us on March 9, 2009


Only three weeks ago, my friend, Pastor Fred Winters of Maryville, Illinois was speaking in his pulpit, when a man walked into the church, down the aisle, brandished two weapons and began shooting, slashing, and stabbing members of First Baptist Church and its pastor.

That story hit home, because Fred Winters was my friend.
What happened that day was an act of evil.

A man, Terry Sedlacek, committed a premeditated act of murder against a pastor. This was someone the man had never met, at a church he had never attended— That same killer had to pass by dozens of other congregations on the way to Fred’s church. And what’s more, he didn’t have to kill a man. He could have done anything else (he could taken his angst and “jumped rope”… flown a kite, or gone bowling)— but instead, he walked into the house of God on a Sunday morning and killed a pastor, the father of two, in cold blood, in full view of his wife and church family, in a sanctuary consecrated for the worship of God. And then tried to take his own life (the attempted suicide wounds were still visible on his throat, in his police arrest photo).

What happened to Fred Winters that day was EVIL. Wickedness. Sin.

Acknowledge Evil

So evil exists. Sin and wickedness are realities that must be acknowledged. And though I’ve never committed murder, each and every day, I commit other sins. So I have to wrestle with the issue of sin “out there” and “in here”—my own heart… just like you.


Our Vulnerability To Sin

WHY are we Vulnerable to Sin? WHY we are vulnerable to sin is answered by three primary theological concepts: Original Sin; The Fall; and Depravity.

1. Original Sin


Fundamentally, we are vulnerable to practicing evil and wickedness because of what theologians call “Original Sin.” Original Sin is one of the fundamental teachings of the Bible—and it is first mentioned just after Creation, in the third chapter of the Bible, Genesis 3:1-6. And this theme continues to develop until the final chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:1-3a.

So the Reality of Evil is one of the primary theological themes that spans nearly every page of the Bible. That explains why wickedness has constantly been one of the most powerful forces throughout human history. It plagues us, it wrecks our lives and the lives of others.

And “what is” Original Sin? Simply stated, Original Sin was the first act of human disobedience in the Garden of Eden. It was the violation of innocence and the corruption of righteousness. And after Eve was deceived, Adam then took the next fatal step by actively entering into rebellion against God’s authority.

THAT was Original Sin— the initial rebellion against God.

2. The Fall

And when Original Sin occurred, that immediately resulted in what theologians call “The Fall.” See Genesis 3:7-10. So Original Sin (the initial act of deliberate disobedience by Adam, brought on by the satanic deception of Eve) resulted in The Fall.

The Fall of Humanity was and is the condition of being estranged from God—and alienated from eternal life. It resulted in our spiritual divorce from God— a condition where we are disconnected from God; where we know that something between He and us has gone wrong.

Though Adam was originally blameless and morally innocent— his rebellion against God’s authority made him “morally culpable,” or responsible, for his actions: This meant that he was no longer innocent, but guilty.

Romans 5:12 says that “sin entered the world through one man (Adam’s Original Sin), and death (separation from God in this life and the next) through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” SO WHEN ADAM sinned, he acted on behalf of the entire human race—just as a representative in the state or nation’s capital represents and votes for you. And whatever vote they cast, you are symbolically casting it with them. And as the Federal Head of the Human Race, Adam rebelled and, in doing so, passed on that sin nature to every one of us.

And when Adam “fell,” we all fell with him.

And though some people have a hard time interpreting this phenomena… it is this biblical reality of Fallenness that explains our search for meaning and our profound existential need as humans. It also explains that sense of spiritual desperation that all people feel. It is “why” we feel far from God. It is “why” people feel anxious, lonely, afraid, insecure, and lost.

So Original Sin led to the Fall of Humanity, and the Fall resulted in AND manifests itself by Depravity.

3. Depravity

What is Depravity? Depravity is the degree of corruption in our human nature. It means that there is EMBEDDED WITHIN US a penchant to sin; that there is a natural propensity, a proclivity, or a predisposition to do things that which is unseemly. It means that none of us need “coached” to do what is wrong, but that, OFTEN, we quite naturally gravitate toward it. As a result, each of us is, to a greater or lesser degree, corrupt.

The Apostle Paul recognized his own depravity in Romans 7:14-25:

14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.


21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!


So BECAUSE we have Original Sin and are Fallen, we are Depraved.

And this “depravity” results in bad character, moral weakness, and an overall lack of resolve that includes IN US a natural tendency to be inexplicably drawn to evil. And even though we are not as BAD as we COULD BE, none of us are as GOOD as we SHOULD BE.

That’s Depravity: It means we are totally incapable of saving ourselves FROM OURSELVES, and it places us in need of a Savior— That’s why we need Christ, who alone has the power to help us overcome the power and penalty of sin.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Use of Headcoverings As Is Done in Some Churches

I was asked a question this morning that I think others may be interested in thinking about it as well.


The QUESTION: What are your thoughts on head coverings during worship and prayer? I have been really struggling with this and cannot find enough evidence to support not wearing one.

Well, I'm not an expert in this, but let me try to share some ideas that I hope help-- to the best of my current knowledge.

1 Corinthians 11: The Use of Headcoverings

My understanding is that the Corinthian people used the phrase "women should have authority over her head." That was implying that a woman should have authority and freedom in her life-- including her hair or other matters. It is possible that women there, as it was a very cosmopolitan city, may have been taking great liberties with hair styles. This was one thing-- but in the local church, as those women were being saved, that apparently became come a distraction and a subtle sign of a rejection of the order of creation where God established the man as having authority in spiritual areas of pastoring and home headship.

It seems to me that the entire concept hinges on this issue.
So the Apostle Paul was dealing with this controversy in Corinth, as the matter had slipped into the church. The major issue with the Corinthian situation was that implying freedom for women (women should have authority over their head) honored women, but in doing so-- overemphasized their liberty in such a way that it violated the concept of male leadership in the home, and of the male headship in the pastorate. They had gone too far.

So Paul wanted to ensure there was some understanding of this and that the problem was corrected, and that public worship was not violated by distrations and that church leadership wasn't jeopardized by an overemphasis on their women's freedoms that were, in some cases, being taken too far. It became symbolic because, at Corinth, there were many, many problems with the church, and most of it swirled around the issue of authority and leadership. So Paul stepped in.

When he addresses it in 1 Cor. 11:1-14ff, he is trying to make sense of the situation. He does so by tactfully using the Corinthians saying, but then turning it in a different direction.

He was tacitly (through v. 10-13) agreeing that women had a type of freedom with their appearance and could do what they wanted with their hair, that, at the same time-- (like he said elsewhere, that we can do all things, but all things are not beneficial), he argued that a woman should, as a sign of respect for the authority of man, restrict those freedoms by not distracting the service or woship or appearing to threaten the concept of male headship, by avoiding the issue through responsibly giving up their right to express every freedom they had with regard to hairstyle (just as he later addressed issues such as excessive jewelry, make up, adn the like). If you think deeply about this, in this way, I think the passage will begin to make more sense.

So Paul is essentially saying that, while yes, women do have freedoms, they should not flaunt them by interruping worship and openly challenging male headship in the church. So, then Paul says: 1 Cor. 10:13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

Here, I believe 1 Corinthians is speaking about hair "as" a covering, and not necessarily as a requirement for a second, additional covering. [LOOK AT V.15B, WHERE IT CLEARLY SEEMS TO STATE THIS.. THAT HAIR IS GIVEN AS A COVERING]. My understanding is that the AV/KJV translates that word "covering" throughout 1 Cor. 11, which helps clear up the confusion from other translations who apparently wanted to keep from it sounding redundant and used other words like "veil." My understanding is that, when it was originaly stated (like in v. 15), and when it was originally put in English, those words were perceived to be 'synonyms' and, thus, rendered as covering. So, in that sense, hair IS a covering for a woman, and it is a sign of glory. The woman would, then, maintain hair as God gives her, rather than to shave it off, which is described as dishonor. I think the sense of the passage is describing covering the HEAD "with hair" and not generally covering the "hair" with "a covering." Only when a woman had done something unusual with her hair, cutting it off, for example, might an external 'covering' come into play (a hat or wig in our culture, or another type of covering in theirs), so as to avoid controversy.

The Whole Discussion May Be A Misunderstanding

With that said, I think the entire head covering debate is really misunderstood. I believe if the Apostle Paul had wanted additional, secondary coverings to be used on top of hair, then several things would be clear:

1. There would be more time given to the issue in scripture. The fact that so little time was given, shows that it was an issue needing addressed, but that it was a regional or local issue not requiring additional attention in other epistles. Also, apparently no other apostles, nor James, felt like it was worth addressing.

2. If it were something Paul was instituting, it would have likely been written differently. It would have come off as a stand-alone teaching, rather than a brief response to a particular situation using common phrases and situations unique to Corinthian women.

3. If it were for churches then and now, everywhere, Paul would have given clear (not cryptic) instructions about the nature of such coverings. He wouldn't have confused it with 'hair' in v.15, but would have specifically told us (as he did on matters like the Lord's Table, church discipline, and other teachings in his Corinthian letters) things like: the nature of the separate covering; explanations as to when it was to be worn and under what circumstances; Should it be worn when a woman prays, and so on.

The sheer lack of this information indicates to me what the majority of the Christians church has practiced in principle all along. Namely, that external, additional hair-coverings are unnecessary, because hair is what gave women to cover her head and to glorify her beauty while symbolically it serves as some form of indicator of the order of creation.
And because of the lack of biblical evidence for the practice, with its only support being some cryptic passages that seem to oppose all of these major concepts, I don't believe they are to be used in worship. If they are, however, I do not think it constitutes a sin. I think, if they were used and the one wearing a hair (again, not head)-covering developed a personal sense of self-righteousness BECAUSE they were wearing one OR they developed a sense of condemnation over those who did not wear one, they would violate the very reason for wearing them in the first place and would, themselves, commit the sin of pride.
That said, because it is not apparently (clearly) taught in scripture, like anything not taught, I think it should not be done. That is because it sets up the likelihood that it will begin to be practiced and then, like all other things, would ultimately come to be expected-- which would inevitably, over time, lead to the exercise of pride in some wearers.
As with anything-- if it isn't commanded or expected or taught in scripture (such as me carring a banana each week into the worship service, or all men with January birthdays wearing a red shirt, or all left-handed women wearing silver but not gold jewelry), the best advice is to NOT HONOR the practice. That keeps everyone safe.


One Final Thing
It seems to me that when extra hair-coverings are used, they can (in some cases) show part of my point-- that, even if all the other things were not true and even if Paul was speaking about covering the hair and not the head only, that head coverings would become more about cultural expressions of a particular group, because of the sheer variety of the ones commonly used, be it in Christian or other faith beliefs.

Look at these:
Mennonite/Amish








Muslim












Persian (like Muslims, with face coverings too)










Quaker













Biblical or theological questions? Send them my way and I'll try to take time to answer!