Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Influence of Evil (Part 1 of 3)

Evil is obviously present in the world, seen in murder, child abuse, terrorism, and natural disasters. Many Christians and non-Christians don't understand why evil is present in the world. What's important for Christians to remember is:

None of this was originally supposed to happen.

God created the world ‘good’— everything that was created God considered “good,” and that word actually means ‘perfect’ (Genesis 1:102; 31). The world was a world of goodness, harmony, vitality, hope– even ‘bliss,’

In Genesis 3, we read of the Fall. Adam and Eve were innocent, not perfect, and The Fall was a volitional, willful, deliberate act of Adam and Eve to break God’s command– and to do that which was forbidden. Giving in to temptation, they rationalized their desires, justified their behavior in their own eyes, and did what they wanted to do. The Fall occurred as a result... it set into motion ruin, spoil, contamination, corruption— and every human evil and disposition that there is. Each is cursed for playing a role in what happened (Genesis 3:16ff)

The effects of the Fall were: a broken relationship between God and humanity, strained relationships between human beings, and the injection of evil into the world. This caused disorder, loneliness, heart disease, physical problems, pain, aging, death, corruption.. Entered the cosmos (the world God created and everything in it)

The Fall Resulted in The Curse... which unleashed EVIL on a cosmic/global and a personal scale. The sin of Adam was like turning a lock and opening the door for the spoiling of the universe and all humanity.

Evil had three expressions: bad things or evil as a direct consequence of deliberate human choice (making a decision to do something bad– killing someone), as an indirect consequence of non-deliberate human choice (unintentional killings and lesser situations; things going wrong even though people didn’t mean to do things wrong), and bad things ‘just going wrong’ without any humans being involved (natural disasters).

All of these things are effects/consequences of the Fall or “Expressions of the Curse”

Jesus came to address the problem of Evil. He did so by attacking and defeating ‘sin.’ He did this through giving his life on a hill called Calvary on the cross of crucifixion. When He did that, he won the war, but now all things must unfold to that great end of the age— as He continues to work out His plan on earth. The Bible (end of time/beginning of eternity) ends with the destruction of the Curse— and the resolution of all human pain and suffering forever– UNDOING THE EFFECTS OF SIN.

God does not introduce evil into the world, it entered through the Fall, through our sin. When Jesus returns, the effects of sin will finally end. God will come to judge and to undo the effects of sin.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ideas as Truth

Ideas have consequences. The statement seems self-explanatory, but the real and deep impact of ideas reaches into culture, changing the minds of people and the way that they think. Many Christians fail to recognize the impact that secular ideas have had on our own worldviews.

Richard Weaver wrote a book around 1950 entitled "Ideas have Consequences." In 1 Timothy 6:20, Paul urges Timothy to avoid ‘worldly and empty chatter and opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge.’ That implies that whether an idea is true or not is immaterial to the consequences it can have in the world and upon society.

The power of ideas is self-evident:

Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Nietzsche influenced Stalin and Adolph Hitler. Hitler took Neitzche’s book and distributed it to all of his SS brigade and to Benito Mussolini, and it influenced Hitler's autobiography, Mein Kampf.

Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species influenced all of Western Culture, more perhaps than nearly any book besides the Holy Bible. Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital, which influenced and shaped many of the world’s political systems for nearly a century and he, in turn, was so influenced by the writings of Charles Darwin that he wanted to dedicate the English version of Das Kapital to Darwin, though the offer was rejected
Books written in one century sometimes redefine life in the next.

It’s all about ideas.

The New Testament is certainly an example, but so is Thus Spake Zarathustra, which arguably has influenced our culture and the thinkers of our culture more than virtually any other in the twentieth century, though it was penned during Neitzche’s lifetime of 1844-1900, sometime before his entry into an asylum.

Christians, in our churches, have a great disregard and even distaste for theology and her handmaiden, philosophy– In fact, the very phrase “worldview” is unknown to many pewsitters. Christians in church pews haven’t been taught the importance of ideas and even regard them as irrelevant. All the while, their worldviews are being shaped by everything they see, hear and read– and many of them don’t even know it. Moreover, there is a pervading anti-intellectualism that exists in the church and a resultant dumbing down of believers as most have retreated from the battlefield of ideas– not to mention having long-ago retreated from any serious ventures into the Word of God.

We have a responsibility, as those who have been called out, to be guardians of the truth– contending earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Many of our leaders (in churches, etc.) have not taken seriously or have shirked their own responsibility in this area and the current condition of local church congregations are the result of that irresponsibility.

We must honor the Great Commandment and love God, not only emotively, but with our minds. Romans 12:2 says that the starting point for the believer’s sanctification (of transformation) is to renew his mind.

As Christian educators, we must lead the way and help people recognize the impact of ideas and in doing so, cultivate a hunger for truth in those we teach by engaging both the heart and mind.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God's Modus Operandi (Part 5 of 5)

God reveals His will to us in several different ways. We need not be confused about hearing His voice, as it comes through several different avenues.

I've spent four weeks building a foundation for how to know God's will, focusing on ten keys to understand how God works in our lives and in the world. This week, I'll conclude this series in talking about how we can hear God's voice.

We must learn how to see God at work if we are to cooperate with His will. God isn't illogical. He generally, most of the time, works within our realm of understanding. When you're trying to discern God's will, use your brain. THINK. Use pro-con lists. Study. Read. Think deeply. Meditate. Put two and two together. God can also speak through your five senses. What you see may be what He wants you to know. What you hear may be what He is telling you to do. The senses send data to the heart and mind and through those stimuli, God often speaks to us by allowing our minds and consciences to react and give us important feedback.

God can also speak through our intuition and instincts. At times, you may just have an inner awareness, an inner knowing, that resonates and gives you the needed impression of what to do. Your intuition and instincts should not be your first consideration. Don't live and make all decisions based on feelings, because they can be unreliable. Your conscience is another internal guiding system Go can speak through. You conscience is not the same as the Holy Spirit's guidance, because it can be corrupted or seared. Still, God can use it in the lives of Christians and non-Christians.

Outside of yourself, God also speaks through other Christians and through His Word. God may send a message through your pastor, the counsel of others, and messages or sermons. Most of us disregard these sources and don't listen very well. Consistent study of the Bible finds its way into our thinking patterns and Truth regenerates and renews he mind day by day. The Bible may not have one specific verse that peaks directly on every issue of life, but over time you will develop Godly wisdom. You must UNDERSTAND His Word properly AND apply it properly. Tagging Bible verses on your decisions and baptizing your actions isn’t what I’m talking about. It’s being responsible with scriptural truth (2 Timothy 3:16).

Finally, God speaks through the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit and can use the consequences of your actions to teach you. The Holy Spirit's voice may not wave a huge banner in your face, but you can still hear it through prayer and through silence. Consequences are the last in this list because they are the method of God speaking to look to last. Satan can also influence circumstances, so looking at these external things can be very unreliable.

So...what do you need to do differently so that God can work greater things in your life?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

God's Modus Operandi (Part 4 of 5)

As we saw last week, sin plays a significant role in our understanding of how God works. While sin does distort our spirit and soul, we are not beyond His will. God does not dismiss you because of your sin or sinful nature.

You can still understand how God works and should see to understand Him and know His will. These last three keys will complete the foundation of understanding how God works.

First, despite even significant errors in judgment and sinful choices on our part, God still isn't finished with you. Look through your Bible and you'll find countless stories of men and women who have sinned significantly and still been used by God, such as Samson, David, and Elijah.

We may have detours and some may limit our overall effectiveness. We may not be as great later as before, but some of these have a greater influence later.

Secondly, God intends for you to learn from your mistakes and may possibly even do greater things through you than you may have done without them. It took Saul's and Moses' murder of others for God to turn them around...and He used them more after the fact than before.

Will you lay aside the past (good OR bad) and press on towards the mark?

Finally, sometimes forfeiting God's will means you must forfeit some thing or freedoms you hold dear. It may cost you dearly to follow God, to seek Him and His will, but the riches are inestimable.

The riches and rewards of following God's will are more than we could imagine, just as Hi will is greater than what we imagine. Sin may derail us from God's will, but it may also be the avenue He uses to turn us towards Him.

These ten keys we've discussed over the past three weeks are the foundation for knowing God's will. They are necessary to understand if one is to know and do God's will.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

God's Modus Operandi (Part 3 of 5)

Last week, we looked at three keys to understanding how God works. We learned that God has a plan for your life and for mine and that He can and wants to work in your life.

This week, we'll discuss four further keys which are also necessary to understand God's will.

First, sin can keep you from discerning God's will for your life. Sin distorts the mind and psyche. It affects all parts of your soul and spirit. Spiritually, your spirit grieves or quenches the Holy Spirit when in sin (Ephesians 4:30).

Your soul, made up of your mind, will, and emotions, is also deeply affected by sin. Your thinking is messed up because it has been conformed to the world and not transformed by the work and will of God (Romans 12:2). Your will is bent on choosing something other than God's will. Your emotions have loyalties to your own will and to your own pleasure and are influenced by the sensations of the body.

Sin keeps you from discernment. Until you get rid of it, you can’t be sure about God’s direction most of the time.

Second, part of God's will is absolute and part of it is conditional. Salvation is absolute. If you're saved, God will keep you and has determined that He will do what's necessary to clean up your life (Romans 8:30; Philippians 1:6). God has open this door which no man can shut. If God wants it to come to pass, Heaven and Hell have to stand down at His authority (Revelation 3:7-8).

You’re not entitled to anything: a great job, a happy marriage, healthy kids, financial independence, etc., none of it is promised to you. Don’t expect a spiritual handout. Work as if it all depends on you; pray as if it all depends on God– and trust Him for the results.

Third, if you don't follow God's will, someone else surely will and they'll receive what God intended for you. Just look at the life of Moses. When Moses disobeyed, Joshua received the blessing of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. The Parable of the Talents also shows this (Matthew 25:14ff). He who has much, even more will be given.

There are no passes. Obedience is what He blesses. I don’t want the blessings of God to pass me by because of unfaithfulness on my part. That would be too painful.

It’s been said that there are stockpiled riches in Heaven that are unclaimed blessings that are left behind because of Christians’ unfaithfulness. Don’t let it be said of you.

Fourth, those faithful with the opportunities God gives them will receive grater blessings in the future. In Mathew 25, we see that God's blessings pile up, they don't get exhausted. What God is saying about His blessings: “There’s PLENTY more where that came from.”

He who is faithful in little will be made faithful in much… greater responsibilities and greater privileges (Luke 16:10-12). It’s your choice– will you choose to be responsible with what little or much you have? Most people are content to be a daddy’s boy. Don’t live on your parents' prestige.

God intends blessing for you, but sin often distorts our perception of God's working. If we fail to follow God's will, He will bless others instead. Understanding God's good intentions for you as well as His command that you follow His will are mandatory to hearing His voice and hearing His will for your life.

Next week, we'll look at three final keys to understanding how God works. These ten keys total are the foundation to knowing God's will. Grasping these keys will show how God works in your life to reveal His will for you.