Friday, April 24, 2009

Heading Out Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will be flying out for South Africa. I will stay there until Monday and hopefully see some friends I have there before flying out to Uganda. There I will be staying with Pastor Ntege of the Cornerstone church in Kampala. Tuesday a team from Cornerstone Church in Singapore will be arriving including my cousin Cameron and we will be travelling by bus Wednesday morning to Rwanda. We will be teaching the book of Romans at a Bible school there and then returning to Kampala on the following Monday. We will be doing ministry in Kamapala and then leave on Thursday. I will return to Malawi on Saturday.

Basically, Right now I am mostly packed and can't wait to go!!! See ya soon Cam!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thoughts on Guidance

A couple of weeks ago I did a few posts on the possibility and necessity of hearing God’s voice. So I thought it would be good for me to share my own method of obtaining guidance.
1. Hearing God’s Voice
This is the sine qua non of guidance, because guidance requires a guide. We must discern God’s voice when it comes to us. It may come to us through a Scripture verse, dream, vision or prophecy, the leadership over us or through others, even unbelievers. God also gives guidance by circumstances (the main reason why I am here in Malawi right now is because a couple years ago, my dad fell and hurt his arm right when I was at a loose end, since then God has confirmed things and I am here longer than the original timeframe).
A semi-deist (a Christian who does not believe that God speaks directly today) will disallow that God’s voice is present to be heard in any specific instance. So I would ask him, “do you know you are doing God’s will for your life?” His answer according to his principles would have to be “No, it is unknowable, I can only know I am following Scriptural precepts, but not anything specific.” To which I answer, “If you don’t know where you are going don’t expect me to follow you.” If you are going to follow someone at least follow someone who believes they know where they are going. Next check to make sure they aren’t deluded.
If the ability to hear God’s voice is allowed, then we can look for keys to hearing it.
a. Patiently Waiting for the Lord and Obeying His Precepts
We need to be willing to wait for God to speak and not do something just for the sake of doing something. God often waits to speak in order to test us (Psa. 25:3-5, 27:11-14, 37:7-9). Also since light is sown for the righteous, we must be doing what we know to be right to receive further guidance.
b. Praying For Guidance
We need to ask God to lead us. We should never take His leading for granted. There are many things that God does not do unless we ask.
c. Being Willing to Obey Totally and Unconditionally
This one cannot be overemphasized. Most failures in guidance are due to this and this alone. People often make up their mind what they want to do and then try to get God to rubberstamp it. That always results in disaster, that is what Balaam did. God also makes a promise in Ezekiel (not one you would want to claim), that if you really want to do something and set it up as an idol in your heart and ask counsel of a prophet, he will tell you what you want to hear (Ezek. 14:3-5).
This is why many people can say that they received a word, a prophecy, etc. to do something against God’s word. Effectively, God told them, “if you want to be a fool, don’t let Me stop you.”
If you are willing and obedient God will keep you. If you have integrity it will preserve you (Pro. 11:3; 20:7). Many times God tests us on what we want the most. What are we willing to hear? If we lack integrity we will want to be deceived and will be. However if we truly desire the truth, we will not accept false answers; we will be willing to let the truth cut us and bind us up. Without integrity, none of these keys will work; we will follow what we want to hear.
Elisha heard the call of God to a double portion of anointing, that upward calling burned in his heart, and no manner of discouragement could dissuade him from being with Elijah to receive it. He had several genuine opportunities to forfeit it, but he chose the hardest and best way.
From experience, I can say that God speaks when we are willing to be made wiling. In one specific instance I was pondering a certain course of action that someone else had suggested. I did not want that course, but I committed it to God. I prayed that God would reveal His will and make me willing to do it (the last part is very important otherwise we only increase our condemnation). That night God gave me a dream and it showed me that the course of action was not God’s best for me. I could happily refuse to do it.
Being made willing is important, because more often in my case, I have not liked what God spoke, at least not initially. As I lay down my ideas and my will however, joy and peace come. A certainty also comes.
Critics claim that in effect we cannot trust our own heart and that these impressions are self-generated, and use the Scripture concerning the heart being deceitful above all things to try to refute our ability to hear. However, what they fail to realize is that the heart also affects understanding and would also affect our understanding of Scripture. That is unless they are willing to assert that they have an infallible knowledge of how to apply Scripture in every event. The heart is the lens through which we perceive our world and apart from grace we can see nothing as it really is (That is in its eternal perspective). Caleb and Joshua saw the same things as the other 10 spies, but the others saw them through the lens of an evil heart of unbelief and thus did not see rightly at all.
2. Godly Counsel
I place this second because for it to function at all the ability to hear God’s voice is first required. If we cannot hear God’s voice in our own heart even if it upsets our ideas and plans, there is no way we will be able to receive it from a human vessel. God never intended counsel from others to supersede His own voice to us, the Israelites repeatedly chose that out of fear (Ex. 20:19; Judge 8:22-23; John 19:15).
However, God does confirm His Word and there should be a confirmation by the leadership over us when we are in the right course. Also, even if we are heading in the right direction, many times godly counsel can help with details that may not be clear otherwise.
Often if we are sure that God has spoken but we lack the concurrence of leadership it is a sign to wait for things to develop. God uses this to work character in us. Being longsuffering with people is only developed as we do it. I think one of the best examples of this are Caleb and Joshua who had to endure 38 years of wandering because of other people’s attitudes, and yet God made it up to them.
3. Scriptures
Everything we do should be in line with the Word of God. God may ask to do things that are not normal, but never anything that is not moral. We will never obtain correct specific guidance if we are willfully walking against the precepts of God. In His light we see light (Psa. 36:9).

To finish my treatment of this subject, I would like to remind you to ask God for integrity so you can discern His voice apart from your own desires. One time right after I had graduated from Bible School, I was considering a certain course of action, I knew that is was not good, but at the time I had almost convinced myself I didn’t care. While I was pondering this course, a man I barely knew, who was not a believer, approached me and out of the blue began to recommend the very course of action I was considering. It was unnerving and I realized that it was a test. I had another similar experience later in life as well. God will allow you to hear what you want to hear, He will give you excuses to give up or do your own thing, but that is all it is an excuse. The experience reminded me of Psalm 1 and the blessing of not walking in the counsel of the ungodly. Do you want to do something so badly that you will feel good about it if it is the devil that encourages you in it? Integrity will keep you, God knows the truth and you will know too if you are willing to take a good look at yourself. Also as a rule of thumb in choices choose the path of self-abnegation. If I make a mistake I would rather it be through over renunciation than through self-exaltation. If that is truly our motive, God can rescue us from a bad choice, but if we make a bad choice from a bad motive, we are in much greater trouble.
May He guide you with His counsel and receive you to glory!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bangs Pumps and Concussions

A couple weeks ago, dad returned from South Africa with a new pump to replace the one that was stolen. Yesterday, he and Pastor Pensulo (one of our right hand men) began to get things ready to install the new pump. First they wanted to get the depth of the hole to know how long to cut the plastic pipe, so they fitted a metal rod to a rope and let it down… It caught on something and most of the rest of the day was spent fruitlessly trying to get it up.
We have heard through the grapevine that the people who broke into the pumphouse claim not to have gotten the pump, and that it fell into the shaft. Whatever we caught we hope it is the pump, it is definitely solid and though it has come up several meters it is still 15 or so down there.
This morning dad and Pastor Pensulo were going to continue working on getting the pipe up along with whatever it is dragging. I was helping with some other things around here. Around 11:30, I went down to help with some drainage works that we are doing along the path behind our house. I was about 100 meters from the pumphouse but not in view of it. I finished what I was doing and decided to check on how things were down there. As I headed down Pastor Pensulo appeared and asked me and another worker to come and help him. He said dad was feeling a little dizzy and was resting. Which I thought was good after all why should he have to do things when there is help around, but he likes doing things himself.
We went down there and dad was lying down, said he was fine but just a little dizzy. We began to use the comealong and other equipment to get the rope taught again. It had broken and been tied. While we were doing this dad threw up. At first I thought he must be coming down with malaria again, but then he began to continually ask, “what are we doing now?”
Then Pastor Pensulo mentioned that they had been pulling on the rope when it snapped and they both had fallen down. I then realized that dad had a concussion. He didn’t want to walk up to the house and lie down, and said he felt fine, just a little dizzy. I went back to the house and got mom since she can do a better job of getting him to come up that I can. I steadied him and walked him up.
Later I got more of the story, Pastor Pensulo said that dad was unconscious for 2 minutes after he hit the ground. After he gained consciousness he was laying down and felt dizzy. He didn’t feel the pain in the head for over a half an hour, by that time we had him up at the house lying down there.
He is fine now and coherent, but he still doesn’t remember anything of that first half hour, including throwing up and my steadying him and leading him home.
We just thank God he is alright and hopefully he will feel better tomorrow.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mwanza Trip

This morning Dad and I left at around 7:30 for a church in Mwanza just a few kilometers away from the Mozambique border. It was a trip to present one of our former students his Bible School certificate.

I had known that I was going to teach Sunday School that morning for the whole week and spent a lot of time studying with absolutely nothing coming to me until last night. Then I felt to speak on the first few verses of Isaiah 56, but having read those through I had few thoughts but no outline. Part of me actually wondered if something was going to prevent me from speaking since sometimes when I really don't feel a message that's what happens.

This morning I woke up with a headache, but otherwise was fine and read through the portion a few more times got some cross references and left. When we arrived I wasn't feeling very confident yet, just tried to pray a little and get past the headache and get a little composed and boom, they say the opening prayer and hand over to me, no song, no nothing...

My mind is saying, "uh, ok..." So I open to Isaiah 56 and read, then it begins to come together. Basically I tied in the revealing of God's righteousness with John 3:19-21 and how it is important to be doing what is right because when God's righteousness is revealed then it is like drawing a line in the sand and it becomes clear which side we are one. Then I spoke a little on the Pharisees and how they hated Christ because as He revealed the righteousness of God it reproved their unrighteousness.

Afterwards, my headache was gone until around the last half hour of the 4 hour service, at which point it returned mainly do to the brain-baking heat then emminating from the roof.

It was a very good trip, and a real pleasure to give the certificate, and pray with our former student. There was even enough of a flow in the Spirit when we prayed for him that we could pray prophetically. God is very good!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Engrafted Word

Recently, I have been doing some thinking about receiving God’s Word and to what level we receive it. Jesus said we were to take heed to what we hear and to how we hear (Mark 4:24; Luke 8:18). I think many times are problem as Christians is that we hear Scripture in a very shallow and superficial way. We often fail to correctly apply it in our lives because of that and thus it does not produce fruit.
Then because Scripture is not truly doing its work, we are molded by many outside forces which are hostile to it. We are more molded by culture, media, and peer pressure than By the Word of God. Even in Christian spheres things are often done in ways that are unChristlike. People fight for what they believe to be right with slander, gossip and other underhanded methods forgetting that of Christ it is written, “in righteousness doth He judge and make war.”
Much of this is not so much a lack of knowledge of Scripture, but a great failure to apply it to our daily lives. If we do not live according to God’s Word then we will live contrary to it by default. We often follow convention rather than conscience, know more trivia than we do the Scripture, and fear man more than we fear God. This causes us to live very subpar Christian lives. We fall far short of what God intended Christians to be. We end up living ordinary lives that have the Name of Christ tacked on and some good morals thrown in.
One big key to overcoming this is found in James 1:21, “Therefore putting aside all filthiness and overflowing of evil, receive in meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.”
First we need to remove the uncleanness and other evil deeds in our lives and then submissively and humbly receive the implanted (or engrafted Word). This Word is not merely a plaster or a veneer, it is a bud that must be planted and penetrate us in order to produce fruit. Too often we do not let the Word work deeply enough and therefore we do not enjoy the good fruit that it produces.
So today as you go about your day, consider God’s Word and apply it, Ask God to help you apply it rightly. It is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among those who are sanctified. Praise God!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Are there threats to the Church?

Recently, I was doing a little web browsing and having seen a few sites discussing various things they felt were threats to the Church. Later that night this thought came to me, are there threats to the Church? To me the word threat implies the possibility of actuation and therefore I would say, “No.” There are no threats to the Church only challenges.
Let us look at a few Scriptures to see if what I claim is true: Numbers 23:23 is a good example for the Old Testament, is part of Balaam’s remarkable prophecies, “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!”

From this verse we see that no malediction can have bearing upon the Church. Now, we know from reading a little further in this portion of Scripture, that individual Israelites did die as a result of committing fornication, but the nation was not threatened. In the same way individual members of churches and even congregations can be destroyed through sin, but the Church itself remains and declares by doing so, “What hath God wrought!”

Next in Isaiah 54:15-17, we see that though God ordains trials He also ordains a triumph in them, “Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake. Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.”

Lastly we see Christ’s own promise (Matt. 16:18), “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Christ here promises to build His Church upon Himself, the Rock, and further promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.

So why would any church feel threatened? The key is that Christ promised to build His Church, He never promised to aid us in our propagation of our own peculiar views and traditions. I know of no Scripture where Christ promises aid to us in doing our own thing on any level.

When the early church preached God always confirmed the Word with signs following (Mark 16:20). When we speak the truths of His Word, we can also expect the fruit of it to follow. When we preach and call people to repentance and salvation, we should expect people to repent and be saved. When we preach on Divine healing we should expect to see healings in response to the Word. God confirms His Word.

However, God does NOT confirm our ideas and traditions. If our ministry seems to be a hard slog, and a constant struggle to convince people of things, we should ask ourselves if we are preaching His Word. Our own ideas will require our own strength to propagate, but God’s Word carries with it His strength to accomplish what is spoken. If an individual or church begins to do its own thing, God will raise up another witness that will be faithful. When we are faithful to speak His Word we have the privilege of being co-workers (synergists) with God. The question now as it was in Joshua’s day (Joshua 5:13-15) is not so much “is God on our side?” but rather “are we on God’s side?”

This also touches on the whole concept of authority. Somehow, many Christians I know, and even ones that I respect a great deal, seem to have a strange and somewhat one-sided idea of authority… That whatever the one in authority teaches has to be followed, because he is the one God has placed in authority. Yes, we are to submit to authorities (secular, church, and home), but no position of authority can transform a bad idea into a good one. This is a major problem in the Church today. Husbands expect their wives to submit to them, but the husband wants the wife to submit to his own thing, rather than having first submitted his will to Christ. The same goes for churches looking at the world and expecting the world to bow, when those churches tell the world what they should do. Often the churches are right in what they want the world to do, but they fail, because they demand a submission that they themselves are unwilling to give. That can never work.

Authority comes from union with the Author. If we declare things that have no authorship in God we are like a branch trying to bear fruit without the vine. An officer in the army has authority to command troops under him, but if he tries to use that authority to command things counter to what the commander in chief orders and even in a sense to supplant him, he has ceased to be an officer and has become a rebel. The apostles never expected people to accept what they taught based on their apostolic authority. Instead they rejoiced in those who searched the Scriptures and held up what they taught to that test (Acts 17:11). Even Christ, who had more authority than anyone could have, did not use His own authority to establish the doctrine of the resurrection, but pointed out what should have been deduced from Scripture by the Sadducees, showing our culpability when we do not see things to which Scripture alludes, but does not plainly teach (Matt.22:31-32).

Personally, I have determined not to teach any tradition or practice that I cannot prove from Scripture. I would hate to ever hear someone I ministered to tell me that they were convinced to do something because of me, rather than because the Word that was preached bore witness to their conscience. That is a condemnation of ministry, not a commendation of it. We must trust that God’s Word will do the work, and not really on human strength and regulations. It is human pride and utter folly to think that if someone will not be convicted by the plain preaching that they will somehow be encouraged by a rule we lay down. If they have a good sensitive heart, the preaching will open their understanding to the right course of action. If they do not have a good heart, all we can do is pray that God change the heart. For every rule we lay down, and every precept we give, we should show a strong scriptural warrant. God never placed man in authority to do his own thing, that is man’s misuse of authority and it has dire consequences.

There is a Church which listens to the voice of its Shepherd (whether it comes directly to the heart, through His Word, or by godly leadership), but will not hear another. This Church is joined to the Head and subject to Christ and thus is delivered from the instability of winds of doctrine, nor is it subject to the vagaries of men, but conformed to the will of God. Those in this Church, whatever their congregation will triumph in the triumph won by the Lamb who leads them.

If you are truly on God’s side, be encouraged, take a look at the back of the Book and you’ll see that we win! The church faces many challenges on earth, hence it is called the Church militant, but it is victorious and therefore the Church in heaven is known as the Church triumphant! God gives us a glorious opportunity to join in the struggle on His side that we too might have a part in the spoils of His victory. So are you on the Lord’s side?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Will Of God – Generic or Specific

Why am I writing this? It is of essential importance. How we view God’s will determines much of our course of action. What are the consequences if we miss God’s will?
Christ referring to His second coming says in Luke 12:47-48, “And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

If you are beaten if you do not do God’s will, then it is of utmost importance to know whether His will is generic or specific.

Now everyone who has read the Bible even a little bit realizes that there are many commands that are generic. The Ten Commandments are God’s law for everyone, no exceptions, and most of the rest of the ordinances found in the Pentateuch are amplifications of various punishments for varying deviations and transgressions against that law. The Great commission is for every believer, but not every believer will individually go into all world. Our individual responsibility is limited to the areas of our residence.

Whatever your view of election, if you believe that God chooses to save someone, logically you must believe that He also chooses the time, place, manner of His making of the Gospel truths alive to the person, and the vessel He uses. Assuming that today is a Sunday, and it is John Smith’s day to be born again. It was foreordained before the foundation of the world. Was it not also foreordained who would have the privilege of doing the preaching, of talking with him to make sure he understands the step he is taking and what it entails to follow Christ? Or does God decide to do things with no idea of how He will accomplish them? That is an absurd suggestion. What saith the Scripture?

Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Clearly God has foreordained works for us to walk in. These works are supplementary outworkings of the generic commandments. Let us look at examples from Scripture.

Let us look at the first one, King Josiah. Now King Josiah had many things which were in the generic will of God for him. As a Jew all the obligations of the Old Covenant applied, and when a book of God’s law was found and he saw how far off course the nation was and humbled himself and renewed the covenant. In addition as a king of Judah there were also commands in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 which were clearly God’s will for him as a king, those were part of God’s generic will for all who held that office. Was there anything more specific? How about 1 Kings 13:2, a prophet prophesying long before his birth, “And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee.” I would call that fairly specific, wouldn’t you?

Next there is the conversion of Saul/Paul. When the Lord spoke to Ananias in Acts 9:15 “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” Did He not possibly have specific nations, kings and individual Jews in mind? If the purpose of the Gospel is to prepare the elect to eternal life and bring greater condemnation upon those who reject it (2 Cor. 2:14-17), then were not Nero, Felix, and Agrippa already chosen as the recipients of Paul’s witness even though in their cases it was a savor of death unto death? Or were the kings he was to witness to left up to him as long as he stayed within the general will. Yet Paul himself felt bound in the spirit (in other words he felt an inward constraint which would not allow him to do otherwise) to go to Jerusalem, which directly resulted in all this. Paul had a specific course in mind, though not a full understanding of the end and outs of it when he spoke to the elders at Miletus. Near the end of his life he could write I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course. Is it possible to run a race and finish it when you have only a general goal in view?

Thirdly, and most importantly there is the greatest example possible, that of Christ Himself. Clearly with the incarnation His every act as Son of God and Son of Man was specific. There were thousands of prophecies that had to be fulfilled and not one fell short. There can be no doubt among believers that the will of the Father for Christ was specific.

So why is there any doubt as to the existence of a specific will and purpose of God for each individual? Simple, there is doubt because of rebellion and human pride. “How dare you tell me that my conscience is bound not only to God’s Word (or really to my understanding of it), but also to the whisperings of His Spirit to me.” “How dare God speak to me in that manner, who does He think He is.” It is very reminiscent of Psalm 2, Verses 1-4 “Why do the heathen (with their hard paganish hearts despite what they profess) rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” If God has genuinely spoken and you ignore it or laugh it off because you reject the way the voice came, God will have the last laugh.

A denial of God revealing His will and speaking to our hearts today is really in essence taking Christ out of Christianity, which leaves you with ianity or in effect inanity. Will we stand like Peter did on occasion and utter the most incongruous sentences, “No, Lord” and “Not so, Lord” or will we rather humbly accept what He speaks regardless of how He speaks?

Let us now answer a fool according to his folly and look at some common objections to God having a specific will for people.

1. Is it God’s will that I open the door when someone knocks or should I pray through first?

There are many things that God does not give commands about one way or the other. The key to fulfilling His specific will is to follow His general will and to also obey His promptings. For example once I was driving to a certain place and had a choice of 2 ways to get there. I felt a certain prompting to go the way I usually do not go. I ignored it, and ended up having a fender bender. Personally I am a slow learner, but I am more heedful now.

If you seek God and obey Him, then He will provide guidance when you need it. One reason why He does not speak immediately is that often until we are desperate we are not willing to obey what He says. When we have no other recourse and lean on Him alone, He never fails.

2. Is God’s will specific concerning marriage – is there a right one?

God’s will is very specific. Remember Abraham. It was only the child of Abraham and Sarah who could receive the promises, not the child by Hagar. Isaac was a product of faith. Ishmael was a product of human impatience and human understanding, “well, nothing so far… Maybe God really meant…”

That said, there are other things that must be clarified. When God speaks a promise we should hold it before the Lord. If someone gives a prophecy we should also weight it before the Lord (do not despise it, but do not swallow it either unless you are sure). Steps of career choice, marriage, and any other major life junctions should be made after prayer and godly counsel. One key thing though, if it is your life and you are unsure, do not do it, do not let someone pressure you into a choice. You are the one that has to answer for your life before God, you above all must believe you are doing what is best (yes, people do use God as an excuse for bad choices, no, it is not God’s fault, yes, it is apparent to everyone).

Another point worth mentioning is wisdom in what you share. If a young man or woman feels that he or she has met the right one, it is wise not to share that immediately. Frankly, some people try to use the “God card” to snare a recalcitrant would-be spouse. No outside claim of authority or having heard from God should force you to make a personal choice such as this. It is good to have approval of others, but first and foremost you need the peace in your heart telling you it is right.

Personally, if I felt that a certain woman was “the one”, and even if I had all sorts of confirmations, I would say nothing. I would pursue the relationship as normal (I also would pray and trust that God would help me not to confuse my emotions for His voice). If things progressed to the point of engagement and she returned a “yes”, then I would share the confirmations that I had had. I believe this to be the most Christ-like way of handling it, as He the heavenly Bridegroom does not approach us and say, “You are one of the ones My Father has given Me, like it or not you are coming with Me.” Instead, He woos us and makes us willing by His love and mercy and forgiveness, so that we even with a measure of honesty can say we chose Him and only latter do we realize that we were made for Him, Christ is the most consummate of gentlemen.

Remember, God also guides by desires and circumstances. If we delight in Him, He can change our desires, and make us willing to do things. He also often uses circumstances to prod us along on His path.

To sum it up, for a major choice, you, and if you are married your spouse, must be convinced (if not pray and wait, God has a timetable as well as a will), there should also be agreement among those in authority over you. If that is lacking wait and pray. Trust God to redirect you if you have missed it, or to reveal and release the circumstances hindering in His time. Remember He promises to speak when we begin to stray (Isaiah 30:21).

The key for this life of walking in His will is simple. It is obedience. If you decide it is too hard to hear and give up you will not make it. If you decide to go your own way and blame it on God you can (But He is not to blame). However, if you are willing to lay down your desires, your will, and your way and look only to Him for your guidance and support, He will not fail you, and He will “guide you with His counsel and receive you to glory.” Praise be to God!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Who is the Boss?

Rom. 3:3-4 For what? If some did not believe, will not their unbelief nullify the faith of God? Let it not be! But let God be true, and every man a liar; as it is written, "That You might be justified in Your sayings, and will overcome when You are judged."

Does our perception of reality affect the existence of reality? If I shut my eyes and believe the road to be clear and walk across a street does my belief prevent me from being hit? I think most of us would acknowledge that whether we are hit or not is dependent upon the traffic which is there, whether we choose to perceive it or not. Man does not create reality, he lives within it. God is the creator of reality.

The first generation of Israelites failed to believe that God would take them into Canaan, did their unbelief thwart God’s promise. No, it only invalidated their part in it. Instead, their children went in. They were by-passed by God.

“God I refuse to accept that the spiritual gifts are for today.” Fine, God will raise up others. Your unbelief will not make the faith of God to be of no effect. If it could then you would have greater power than God.

When the nation of Israel was lying in unbelief, the Word of the Lord bypassed the rest of the Nation and came to John (Luk. 3:2). God has called whom He will, and still calls whom He will. He does not, and will not answer to any of His creation concerning the one He uses or how He speaks to them.

If our God can only speak to us through our finite understanding of the Word, which is fallible, then we have a fallible guidance. Yes, God most often guides us through Scripture, and He must open our minds to it and remind us of it or we will fail. Also, no matter how Sola Scriptura you claim to be, I think you would admit that God guides by circumstances and also by godly counsel, are these against Sola Scriptura, no, because these are found in Scripture. However, so are dreams, etc… and most importantly is found the conscience which by its ease or disquiet tells us much concerning our choices.

Let’s look at a few Scriptures, since as a believer I cannot bind your conscience to my own beliefs, but only to Scripture :
Psa 32:8-9 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you, My eye shall be on you. Be not like the horse, or like the mule, who have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, so that they do not come near you.

God can direct us by circumstances, but that is not His desire. At times God must direct us by circumstances because we are Mule-headed (I have been very much so at times). However, that is not His will, He desires willing listening and looking for the slightest signals He sends. If we refuse to listen to His gentle promptings, because we believe He does not so act, then we are choosing to be exactly what He tells us not to be in this verse. Lest I be seen as a partizan commentator allow me to quote Spurgeon’s commentary on the Psalm:

Here the Lord is the speaker, and gives the Psalmist an answer to his prayer. Our Saviour is our instructor. The Lord himself deigns to teach his children to walk in the way of integrity, his holy word and the monitions of the Holy Spirit are the directors of the believer's daily conversation. We are not pardoned that we may henceforth live after our own lusts, but that we may be educated in holiness and trained for perfection. A heavenly training is one of the covenant blessings which adoption seals to us: “All thy children shall be taught by the Lord.” Practical teaching is the very best of instruction, and they are thrice happy who, although they never sat at the feet of Gamaliel, and are ignorant of Aristotle, and the ethics of the schools, have nevertheless learned to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. “I will guide thee with mine eye.” As servants take their cue from the master's eye, and a nod or a wink is all that they require, so should we obey the slightest hints of our Master, not needing thunderbolts to startle our incorrigible sluggishness, but being controlled by whispers and love-touches. The Lord is the great overseer, whose eye in providence overlooks everything. It is well for us to be the sheep of his pasture, following the guidance of his wisdom. (emphasis added)

Pro. 26:3 A whip is for the horse, a bridle is for the donkey, and a rod is for the backs of fools.

What you are determines the method of your guidance, if you are submissive you do not require any of these.

Col. 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

One main way by which God guides us is His peace. When we determine a course of action and do not feel peace we should reconsider. His peace should rule in our hearts, if we are truly convinced the course is right, are heart should be united in it. That is sincerity, an integral whole sympathetic ringing of the heart with what is being said and done.

Now let us have ears to hear that we might hear the heart cry of God through His Word.

Num 11:29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!

Jer 31:33-34 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Joh 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

Num 14:21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.

This last verse is a fitting close since it refers back to our beginning, having been spoken to the first generation of the children of Israel, who could not make the faith of God of no effect by their unbelief.

God Still Speaks Part 2

Since those who are cessationists like to claim the novelty of continualism in Church history, and claim our disbelief in Sola Scriptura because we believe that God can speak directly to us I would like to look at a few examples of men who uncontestedly believed Sola Scriptura to see if they understood it in a semi-deist sense.
First off I would like to look at a man in both the Baptist and Reformed traditions John Bunyan. Specifically, his autobiographical book “Grace Abounding”, let us see whether he receives guidance only from the Word or also receives direct guidance spoken to his heart and conscience (a method contained in the Word).
Excerpt from Chapter 2
But the same day, as I was in the midst of a game at cat, and having struck it one blow from the hole, just as I was about to strike it the second time, a voice did suddenly dart from heaven into my soul, which said, Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell? At this I was put to an exceeding maze; wherefore, leaving my cat upon the ground, I looked up to heaven, and was as if I had, with the eyes of my understanding, seen the Lord Jesus looking down upon me, as being very hotly displeased with me, and as if he did severely threaten me with some grievous punishment for these and other my ungodly practices. I had no sooner thus conceived in my mind, but suddenly this conclusion was fastened on my spirit, for the former hint did set my sins again before my face, that I had been a great and grievous sinner, and that it was now too late for me to look after heaven; for Christ would not forgive me, nor pardon my transgressions. Then I fell to musing upon this also; and while I was thinking on it, and fearing lest it should be so, I felt my heart sink in despair, concluding it was too late; and therefore I resolved in my mind I would go on in sin; for, thought I, if the case be thus, my state is surely miserable; miserable if I leave my sins, and but miserable if I follow then; I can but be damned, and if I must be so, I had as good be damned for many sins, as to be damned for few.

Excerpt from Chapter 4
Thus, therefore, for several days, I was greatly assaulted and perplexed, and was often, when I have been walking, ready to sink where I went, with faintness in my mind; but one day, after I had been so many weeks oppressed and cast down therewith, as I was now quite giving up the ghost of all my hopes of ever attaining life, that sentence fell with weight upon my spirit, 'Look at the generations of old and see; did ever any trust in the Lord, and was confounded?' At which I was greatly lightened and encouraged in my soul; for thus, at that very instant, it was expounded to me, Begin at the beginning of Genesis, and read to the end of the Revelations, and see if you can find that there was ever any that trusted in the Lord, and was confounded. So, coming home, I presently went to my Bible to see if I could find that saying, not doubting but to find it presently; for it was so fresh, and with such strength and comfort on my spirit, that I was as if it talked with me. Well, I looked, but I found it not; only it abode upon me; then I did ask first this good man, and then another, if they knew where it was, but they knew no such place. At this I wondered that such a sentence should so suddenly, and with such comfort and strength, seize and abide upon my heart, and yet that none could find it, for I doubted not but it was in holy Scripture. Thus I continued above a year, and could not find the place; but at last, casting my eye into the Apocrypha books, I found it in #Ec 2:10. This, at the first, did somewhat daunt me; but because, by this time, I had got more experience of the love and kindness of God, it troubled me the less; especially when I considered, that though it was not in those texts that we call holy and canonical, yet forasmuch as this sentence was the sum and substance of many of the promises, it was my duty to take the comfort of it; and I bless God for that word, for it was of God to me: that word doth still, at times, shine before my face.

Excerpt From Chapter 5
So as I was going home, these words came again into my thoughts; and I well remember, as I came in, I said thus in my heart, What shall I get by thinking on these two words? This thought had no sooner passed through my heart, but the words began thus to kindle in my spirit, `Thou art my love, thou art my love', twenty times together; and still as they ran thus in my mind, they waxed stronger and warmer, and began to make me look up; but being as yet between hope and fear, I still replied in my heart, But is it true, but is it true? At which, that sentence fell in upon me, he 'wist not that it was true which was done by the angel' (#Ac 12:9).

Then I began to give place to the word, which, with power, did over and over make this joyful sound within my soul, Thou art my love, thou art my love; and nothing shall separate thee from my love; and with that, #Ro 8:39 came into my mind. Now was my heart filled full of comfort and hope, and now I could believe that my sins should be forgiven me; yea, I was now so taken with the love and mercy of God, that I remember I could not tell how to contain till I got home; I thought I could have spoken of his love, and of his mercy to me, even to the very crows that sat upon the ploughed lands before me, had they been capable to have understood me; wherefore I said in my soul with much gladness, Well, I would I had a pen and ink here, I would write this down before I go any farther, for surely I will not forget this forty years hence; but alas! within less than forty days, I began to question all again; which made me begin to question all still.

Now acknowledging that Bunyan had many struggles at this time, is there anything in those portions that leads you to believe that he saw anything incongruous with God speaking directly to him in his everyday life, and even encouraging him not only by reminding him of canonical Scripture, but even using a quote from the Apocrypha. Is the God of all comfort limited to using other believers to give comforting illustrations or can He not impress His comfort directly upon the human soul Himself?
I believe the God of nature can even use nature to show us His truth and to comfort and encourage us. Brother Lawrence, the author of the Practice of the Presence of God, had a profound change wrought in his life by the sight of a tree apparently lifeless awaiting the bloom of spring. Personally, when I was going through a very discouraging time and even questioning my own sanity, I was encouraged by seeing, on more than one occasion, blackbirds attacking a hawk that was just taking off. I saw it, and I realized that these birds were swooping down on the hawk out of fear, and though they could pester and annoy the hawk, yet the hawk would rise and when it did not only would it be beyond their reach, but it would even prey upon the birds that were now attacking it. That gave me hope to continue in spite of the discouragement I felt that yes I would rise above it and even be of further use because of it.
While on the subject of God speaking in nature, might I also add that unless we are willing to retreat to deism or outright atheism, we must acknowledge that God controls the weather and the earth. Katrina proved if nothing else, that the Lord still sits upon the floods and He still has His way in the whirlwind (hurricane). The destruction of all the casinos along the coast also spoke volumes concerning His feelings about gambling. To deny His hand and voice in nature is classic Deism.
Another interesting question arises from the study of Church history, how do you handle coincidences? Like the earthquake arriving in Constantinople the night after Chrysostom was banished the first time, provoking the empress to recall him. Natural disasters can have a marvelous effect on a guilty conscience! Would you call that God speaking or is that only a coincidental side-effect.
How about when the 90+ year old Bishop of Constantinople, Alexander, prayed that either he would die or Arius would so that he would not have to see such a heretic readmitted into the church, and then Arius suddenly drops dead! Coincidence, or God’s intervention.
If we believe, as we should, that God guides the affairs of nations then we must believe that God speaks to nations, sometimes through judgments. Sometimes it is easy to discern as in the French Revolution following as a consequence of the expulsion of the Huguenots. When there is no salt in a land, the putrification rapidly accelerates and ends in dissolution and despair. Also to anyone looking for God in history it would also be apparent that the immorality of the upper echelons of Society during the 1920’s brought down the two fold judgement of God upon the nation (ie. The Great Depression and WWII), which reset the clock on the advance of immorality until the 1960’s. A less known example which I will tentatively put forward would be Belgium in WWI and WWII. Why would a small nation which is historically neutral have such proportionally large losses inflicted upon its civilian population? The answer lies, I believe, in Belgian Congo/Zaire/DRC. The Belgians were among the most brutal of all colonial powers and in BC workers on the rubber plantations were kept in slave-like conditions and attempts to escape were met with amputation of limbs and other horrendous indecencies. Is it not possible that God punished national crime with national judgment?
Scripturally, God argues from national to personal supervision (Psa. 94:10). If God still speaks to the nations and corrects them by judgments, does He not also speak to men’s individual hearts? Or do you deny His continued control over the nations?
Semi-deism is one of the three u-u-ughly daughters of unbelief, the other two are atheism and deism. Semi-deism allows for a past revelation, but not a present revelation, because all has been revealed in the Word. Let me ask a question. Are not all actions in a sense revelatory of the actor? As the saying goes, “The lion is known by his claw.” If God reveals nothing then He also does nothing, because all He does in the world would reveal something of His character, even as any work of art reveals something of the artist. If He punishes sin, He reveals Himself to be just. If He removes a judgment based upon repentance He reveals Himself merciful. These are all contained in Scripture, when we see these things happen do we not see the hand of God still working, either with an individual or a nation? If there is a vision of Christ, and He acts as the Christ of the Gospels, teaching what is in them, is it not perhaps the Christ of the Gospels that I am seeing? If it waddles like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks, is it a duck or have they gone extinct? One genuine duck-sighting disproves extinction.
In closing, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks (note the present tense). For if they did not escape, those who refused him that spoke on earth, much more we shall not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from Heaven.” (Heb. 12:25).

God Still Speaks Part 1

The beauty of the continualist position is that all I have to do is find one instance of one of the gifts being in operation after the close of the canon to destroy the tenability of cessationalism. Thus while they must destroy the credibility of every single miracle or supernatural manifestation since the last book of the Bible was written (to be strictly within the close of the canon) or to give them a few hundred years leeway say ( c. 400 B.C. when Augustine proclaimed gifts to have ceased).
Now as a continualist I should be very clear that most of the so called miracles of the Middle Ages were either hoaxes or in some cases demonic counterfeits. That said, all I need is one genuine communication of God to man to overthrow the theory.
Here is one that I think stands in fairly good stead. Since it does not conform to Romish Dogma, is not extravagantly supernatural, and is actually in line with evangelical Protestantism. This excerpt is from the Life of Anskar written by his friend and successor Rimbert (9th century):
Two years after the vision mentioned above, he had a vision in the night in which he thought that he had turned into the oratory in order to pray, and when he had risen from prayer a man came through the door who was tall, dressed according to Jewish custom, and of handsome appearance. From his eyes a divine lustre radiated like unto a flame of fire. When he beheld Him he cast aside all hesitancy and, believing that it was the Lord Christ, lie ran forward and fell at His feet. As he lay prostrate on his face He (the Lord Christ) commanded him to rise. When lie had risen and was standing reverently before Him he could not gaze upon His face for the glorious light that flashed from His eyes. With a soothing voice He addressed him and said : " Declare thine iniquities in order that thou mayest be justified," to Whom God's servant replied, "Lord, why must I tell Thee? Thou knowest all and nothing is hid from Thee." He replied again : " I know all, but I will that men should confess their faults to Me in order that they may receive forgiveness." When he had declared to Him everything that he had done since his earliest youth, and had then prostrated himself in prayer, He (the Christ) stood erect before him and said : " Fear not, for I am He that blotteth out thy iniquities," after which saying, the figure whom he had seen in his vision retired. The man of God rose from his sleep, and, strengthened by the assurance that his sins had been forgiven, rejoiced with exceeding joy.
Notice how confession was made directly to Christ, with no mediator and also how forgiveness was granted without penance. As a Pentecostal I can state that I believe Anskar had a saving revelation of the living Christ that night. If you are a cessationist your choices as I see them are not good.
1. It was a fiction of Anskar or Rimbert. Fair enough, but why would a fiction run along so evangelical lines and so contrary to established tradition. It would almost seem to discredit Anskar rather than commend him?

2. It was a dream he had which was caused by natural stimulus working on the brain. Again, given the teaching he would have been taught concerning penance, how would he have a dream so astonishingly Sola Fidean hundreds of years before Luther?

3. It was a demonic apparition. What an amazing spirit of lies to tell him so much of the truth to trust wholly in Christ and confess only to Him!!!
Notice, this revelation was not a revealing of something that was contrary to Scripture, but was an imprinting of what is clearly taught in Scripture upon one who had studied it. To reject it is in effect to tell God when and how He may speak to us… A very Biblical position to be sure!
I realize that my efforts will fail to convince a die-hard or perhaps even many moderate cessationists, but all I ask is that you examine the evidence of Scripture, and of history. Also consider would the Holy Spirit writing through the Apostle Paul desire that the church would not be ignorant of spiritual gifts, if the gifts had a fourth century expiry date on them. Could the churches not have been orally instructed in that case and the instructions not have been placed in the Word of God which abides forever? Would the Lord who changes not, have written in His Word His desire for His people not to be ignorant of spiritual gifts when in reality for more than 1600 years He has desired us to forget about them because they are not for today?
May God lead you into His truth!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Semi-deism - Does God Have Laryngitis?

This is a post I have been goaded into making by an insanely absurd view of Sola Scriptura posted on another blog. Does God speak today, or a few years after Pentecost did the voice which shook the earth and promises to shake both heaven and earth lose aught of it's strength?

To those who would interpret Sola Scriptura as precluding God giving guidance today, let me ask a few questions. If you are honest and have a ready answer fair enough, but if not is what you believe right?

1. You do not believe that Scriptura Sola precludes preaching to expound upon Scripture, because preaching is enjoined in Scripture, but somehow all dreams, visions, etc. which are frequently used by God in Scripture interfere with it. Why?

2. If the cessation of the gifts was limited to the time of the canon of Scripture, then how do you explain Cyprian's prophecy of the soon cessation of persecution and his dream foretelling his death a year to the day before it occurred. Was the canon closed then or not?

As a pentecostal I believe that it was closed, and included in the canon are the ways in which God speaks to His people, including visions and dreams. God had already written all His inspired books, so the canon was closed. To have it close with a council is to place the church above the Bible and stand on Romish ground.

3. Does God not also speak through circumstances? If so how does this not violate your Scriptura Sola?

I would and do call this perversion of historic Scriptura Sola semi-deism. You go further than deism in that you do not deny the reality of revelation, or miracles, but yet you both deny they're possibilty today. All of the reasons given to show the rationality of revelation in the Bible also point to the speaking of God today...

Is it logical that God would create man and then not communicate at all? Is it any more logical that having created man, sought him when he fell and revealed Himself through His Son and the crucifixion and ressurection, He should no longer seek to communicate with man directly (obviously His communication would not be contradictory)? If He created man with a purpose, and far be it from Him to do anything without purpose, is it not logical that He would communicate that? If He had only a generic purpose in mind for all of us, how can He rule over history, where each small choice affects every other one? You must either deny His sovereignty, or acknowledge that God has grand purposes that are performed, but does not care about the little ones (Deism), or suffer a logical breakdown that God has specific and small oversight over our lives but only gives general guidance for us to figure it out by? Is that wisdom?

I leave all with that food for thought. God bless.