Atheists Are Not As Smart As They Profess To Be. This is a bold and perhaps offensive statement. I don’t mean to be so, but the claims made by atheists need to be contested. Statements like, “the Bible is so full of contradictions that you can’t trust it” are false. Even worse is the evidence used to back up those statements. People who claim to understand the Bible deserve serious scrutiny. I try to keep up on what the skeptics say, to be prepared to give a defense; but most of the time I am disappointed with the lack of integrity in the scholarship of the skeptics.
I am reading the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. He makes great statements about the weakness and problems of the Christian faith, and religion as a whole. However, I was disappointed with his argument in the first chapter. In it, he acknowledges the amazing nature of the cosmos. He stands in awe, as a naturalist, though he sees it with a religious passion. That doesn’t make him a theist; far from it. After demonstrating his appreciation of the cosmos, he sets up a mighty, albeit, pithy straw man and proceeds to smash his pithy opponent completely. The straw man is this: Some of Albert Einstein’s statements makes one think he is a theist. Dawkins makes it clear that he is not. (It didn’t take a rocket scientist to make that point). However, some theists claimed that Einstein was one of them. He responds to the theists that he is not. The theists state that Einstein is destroying people’s faith with his rejection of religion. Since faith is threatened by the statements of the super-intelligent, there must not be much to support religious faith. If there is not much to support Christian faith, then all Christians are like those who believe in fairy tales. Really, that is all he has in Chapter One.
Another attempt to discredit the Bible is found in several different articles on the alleged contradictions in Scripture. An alleged contraction is found in Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 1:24-28 states that humans were created after the animals. But Genesis 2:18-20 states that man was there as God was making the animals. The problem with this analysis is that Genesis 2 describes, not the creation of the animals, but the naming of the animals. God had a specific reason for having Adam name the animals. The man was to deduce that he was alone, and without another to complete him. The animals were already alive. God had them each brought before Adam so that they would be named. This is clear from a simple reading. People who see this as a contradiction are misreading the text. Virtually all so-called contradictions are examples like this.
Reading the Bible doesn’t mean you know the Bible. Paul warns us of “the untaught and unstable (who will) twist (the scriptures) to their own destruction”. We are individually charged to be “a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly handling the word of truth.” (2 Peter 3:16, 2 Timothy 2:15). Don’t take the word of the Pseudo-Intelligent, for it seems they often don’t know what they are talking about.
I knew a young girl named Annie who was born into a situation that is going to become more common. Annie’s daddy smoked pot.
Her mom and dad came of age in the days of the hippy, and they never really got over Woodstock. (The use of substances prolong adolescence). Their use of pot limited their ability to move up in the world. They never owned a house, never had decent cars and usually just made ends meet. What was in adequate supply in their home was pot, and usually beer. I should know; I helped her dad consume much of it. When work was over, it was time to head to Stony’s house and get wasted (his name really was Stony). It started on the weekends, but it became regular way to kill time and brain cells.
Annie was a normal American kid with normal responsibilities. However, the prevalence of stoned parents and second-hand marijuana smoke made it hard to be normal. She had to accomplish much on her own; dad was never able to help her once the fog set in. Mom did what she could. She would postpone her own escape until Annie went to bed. Someone had to be responsible.
The most difficult aspect of a daddy who smoked pot was the people who came around to drink and smoke. There were several times when Anne was at risk of being molested by the young men who came to Stony’s to party. Like other young people whose parents struggle with substance abuse, she had a steeper hill to climb to make life work. I don’t know what happened to Annie. I know her dad died when he was not much older than 50.
Chronic pot use negatively affects the heart and the lungs, leading to symptoms similar to cardiopulmonary disease. One day, Stony’s common-law wife came home and found Stony dead. He suffered a major heart attack. A joint has 4 times the tar as a cigarette and significantly increases the heart rate and causes cardiac arrhythmia.
You may say that I have never heard a story like this. It is because when marijuana was a controlled substance, stories like this were not that common, but that has changed. The more pot makes its way into the mainstream, the more times Anne’s story will be repeated. Do a google search and see how many stories advocate pot use and extol it’s virtue to a society looking for escape. The state of Washington now has a vested interest in making us think that pot is harmless.
The debate will rage on because people separated from their Creator will always look for ways to connect with something. Christians, Paul says, have a dog in the fight, but for a different reason. 1 Corinthians 6:12, states our position towards pot and other things that often result in addiction and destruction. “Everything is permissible”, is not really a Bible truth, but a cultural cliché. Even if it was, Paul says certain things are not beneficial. Be wise towards the things of this world. Make you aim to Glorify the Lord in all you do.
Christian Worship celebrates the Christ-Event. In both Old and New Testaments, worship is rooted in an actual event. The event deals with the circumstance and need of the people. In the Old Testament, God’s people were enslaved and oppressed. God acted and brought about freedom and hope. He has done the same in the narrative of the New Testament. God first reveals himself. God’s message to the Jews was through Moses. For people today, He revealed Himself first to Elizabeth, then Mary, and ultimately in the man named Jesus. The Magnificent (Luke 1:46-55) is a breaking forth of praise for the fact that God has once again revealed Himself in history.
As God reveals Himself, the second element of the Christ event is evident. God has come to redeem those who are oppressed and yearn for freedom. This carries the idea of regaining something that was once possessed. We belong to God and He has paid the debt that we created in our rebellion. As Jesus is presented in the Temple, Simeon takes the baby Jesus in his arms, praises God and said, “My eyes have seen your salvation.” (Luke 2:30)
The third element of the Christ event is that God has fashioned a people of His own. As we accept His redemption for ourselves, we become the people of the covenant. That makes the people of God a unique and purposeful community. There is a place to belong and a place to serve. When people discover that God created them to do good works, it releases a sense of wonder and expectancy (Ephesians 2:10). One can not help but praise God and celebrate the work that He has done.
As we spend time together in worship today, I pray that your heart is drawn to the thrill that God has revealed Himself; that He has redeemed us and has given us a place to experience community; to experience Him.
In these challenging times, followers of Christ need deep faith. Deep faith does not happen outside the activity of the Holy Spirit in your life. The puzzle above gives us a picture of the priorities in scripture as it relates to the Holy Spirit. As we seek God’s will for our lives, these passages should guide our process of maturity.
We also have to put into practice the spiritual discipline of specific prayer. Several have asked me about the prayer of Brother Lawrence. This is something that can focus and center our lives on God’s priorities. You could also consider praying key passages like 2 Peter 1:3-11, specifically pray verses 5-7. The purpose is for you to increase in “having the mind of Christ” and deepening your experience of faith. Make a commitment to using these tools, or other prayers, either your own or written by someone else. These prayers should help you know the heart of God and understand His priorities. As you do, you will marvel that all of God’s fullness is yours and available to deepen your faith.
“O God, since you are with me, and it is your will that I must now apply myself to these outward duties, I ask you to assist me with your grace that I may continue in your presence. To this end, O Lord, be with me in this work, accept the labor of my hands, and dwell in my heart with all your fullness.” ~ Brother Lawrence
Acts 9:31 - So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.
This verse is important to believers today because it teaches that the Holy Spirit is acting in His primary role, as the church carries out its mission. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to be our helper. A form of that word is translated “encouragement” in Acts 9:31. Four times in John, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Counselor (HCSB). When we transliterate the Greek word, the term in English is paraclete. The basic meaning is someone called to one’s aid. It is made from two words, παράκλητος (paráklētos) - pará, "from close-beside" and kaléō, "make a call". Properly, a paraclete is a legal advocate who makes the right judgment call because he is close enough to the situation. This gives us the basic role of the Holy Spirit. A helper who is crucial because He is close enough to help at need. He is close because He is in us. He knows what is going on. He knows what is best.
The four passages in John teach us what the Spirit means to our lives. It is loyal companionship, dependable guidance, reliable prompting and a valuable advantage. The disciples had all this when Jesus was physically with them. Disciples today have this in the movement of the Spirit. As the church began to grow, the give and take of daily life began to press on Christians, who share in the mission of the church. More than mere mortal strength is needed. The encouragement of the Spirit is essential.
The encouragement of the Spirit strengthens and fills the follower of Christ. Good counsel, comfort and perspective comes during times of peace. The paraclete prepares us for the next battle. The Christian knows that whatever place they find themselves, whether the marketplace, the outlets of culture, defending our country or teaching the next generation, we will be battling the spirit of our time and we must be ready to match power with power. Always remember, “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.”
It must have been joyful and gratifying to be one of “The Twelve.” They knew there was something very different about Him, He was from God and being around Him made them feel valued. For three years they walked in the dust of their Rabbi, following Him and learning from Him. Then one day, he drops an emotional bomb on them. He is going to leave, it won’t be a pretty departure and it will be at the hands of the Jews. They were perplexed. He was going to be killed, but not because He was a murderer or a thief, but because He loved the Light; because He did good on days committed to God; because He taught that the Law was about so much more.
In their confusion, Jesus speaks clarity and truth. He tells them He is going away. He has to go away; but even though “sorrow will fill their hearts,” it is for their benefit. He said if He did not leave, the Counselor would not come (John 16:5-11). The Counselor would fill many roles. He, the Holy Spirit (or Counselor) would be active in the world convicting men and women of their sin. He would also be in us. Jesus would not leave His disciples (or us) as orphans (John 14:15-18).
As the church of Christ, we have to embrace these truths. The key to our mission and success is the power of the Spirit. Jesus is with us when the Spirit is in us. That is very comforting, knowing that I never walk alone. Even at those times when I feel alone, I am in fact not alone. When I feel inadequate for the tasks ahead, I have to know that I am not inadequate. I am strong and able.
Being a follower of Jesus and student of Scripture means I am a disciple of the Holy Spirit. If you listen and look, you can hear the echoes of the footsteps of Jesus along the road and you can see the face of the man who knows love. When we are disciples of the Spirit, transformation begins to take place and we become people who look like Jesus. This is joyful and gratifying, with a sense of purpose and mission. With this we too, can turn the world upside down.
I wanted to let all of you know about a special program we are going to have in May. On Wednesday May 6, 2015, we’re hosting a Praise & Harmony Workshop with Keith Lancaster. Our purpose for this workshop is to help us bring about renewal in worship.
The workshop has two parts. This first part we will start in March on Wednesday nights. Our class in the auditorium will cover the topic, Worship Is A Verb. It is intended to develop and enrich both our congregational and personal worship practices. Included in the class will be a section dedicated to learning new songs that will be used by Keith Lancaster during the Praise & Harmony Workshop. During the two-hour workshop (6:30 - 8:30 pm) Keith will teach principles of worship and harmony. The workshop will have four goals:
· Encourage 100% active participation in worship.
A cappella congregational singing is ideal for reversing the contemporary trend of viewing the worship assembly as a spectator activity. Everyone’s heart, voice and contribution is vital.
· Teach everyone (especially beginners) how to sing harmony.
Learning “by ear” through repetition is emphasized through the use of personal training CDs, and by sitting in sections during classes.
· Provide an easy and fun way to learn new songs.
Assigned songs are learned before (in preparation for) the workshop through the church starting singing classes and through everyone’s daily usage of the ear-training disks. The special disks isolate the harmony parts on the left and right sides of the stereo spectrum, making it easy to hear the parts. Sitting in sections during the song-learning classes reinforces the learning process.
· Equip believers in worship renewal.
Our goal is to help every congregation realize their tremendous potential. Even churches with good singing have the opportunity to take their singing and worship to an extraordinary level of excellence. We are encouraged when church leaders recognize the importance of worship and singing enough to invest in necessary training. The first three steps are only the beginning of the worship renewal process, mobilizing the entire church in participation. The most important worship renewal principles are easier to teach and grasp once people are actively engaged. When hearts are open, we have witnessed transformation in the congregations who have chosen to make this a priority.
We will have learning CDs available in a few weeks so you can begin learning the new songs. I will be in contact will all our song leaders and involve you with facilitating the Wednesday night class. This class should include all Lakeview members as we all have a role in the corporate worship of our God. -Dennis
The Holy Spirit is a very misunderstood part of God’s plan for people. What God wants to accomplish through the Holy Spirit isn’t always what we want. We want either more or less. One way that people today make “more” of the Holy Spirit is the emphasis on speaking in tongues. The following presents research by John Kildahl, a clinical psychologist who devoted ten years to the study of modern tongue-speaking, also known as glossolalia. He deals with the nature of present day tongue-speaking, and the so-called interpretation of the tongue speakers.
Kildahl concluded from his study of hundreds of examples of tongue speakers that it is not a human language that is spoken in modern tongues-speaking. This finding is a contrast to the phenomenon that is presented in Acts 2, which does tell us that the disciples were speaking in actual human languages. Kildahl also tested charismatic “interpreters” who claimed to be able to understand tongue speakers. He found that their “interpretations” were not consistent with those from other “interpreters” of the very same discourses. Surprisingly, this did not bother the tongue speakers that he studied. They were comfortable with the obvious inconsistencies in what they practiced, which they attributed to the Spirit.
His study revealed that what actually happens in modern tongue-speaking is a type of emotional regression. The person(s) involved seem to go to a level of maturity during which the rational, common-sense, ego-controlled way of relating to life is somehow diminished. The participant is more child-like, less critical, and generally more free-floating in its nature. The glossolalia experience was generally introduced under the mass pressure of a group or a crowd that is emotionally charged by the leader’s charisma. This atmosphere reduces the participants otherwise critical faculties.
Other researchers pointed out that the very same experience of “non-sensible imitation of language” (glossolalia) occurs in other world religions and mystic-oriented cults. It does not take divine power to practice glossolalia.
The “more” of glossolalia feeds a need in self-indulgent and self-expressive individuals, to have an experience that stirs the emotion. When you read 1 Corinthians 12-14, you get the sense that Paul is dealing with the excessive use of tongues and other spiritual gifts. He is not giving instructions on how to use tongues, but how to stop misusing them and making them a badge of spirituality. As we seek the genuine work of the Spirit in the life of the believer, it is important to highlight the things which seem appealing, but are actually a distortion of how the Spirit works. Glossolalia, in many denomination groups today is not a genuine gift of the Spirit, but an imitation that gives people “more” of the Spirit than God intends.
Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3
As Jesus was having this discussion with Nicodemus, it becomes clear that Nicodemus is struggling with the concept of being born of again. It is a difficult concept, because it is something we don’t control. It is not our plan and we can’t measure it by human standards. Now I realize some of us think we can. We are not comfortable with God being the lead partner and deceive ourselves and others that we are somebody and should be considered an authority. However, the proof is seen in details. If we say we are spiritual and allow anger and pride to be primary emotions, we are wrong. Perfect attendance is admirable, but what about doing mundane tasks like reaching out to visitors and preparing to give an answer to those who ask about our hope. Nicodemus was not picking up what Jesus was putting down.
Brother Lawrence was a monk known for his devotion and ability to bring God into every aspect of his life. His classic Christian work, Practice of the Presence of God, details how to gain that constant and comforting connection to God. He rejoiced in everyday tasks, prayed constantly, and was known around the monastery for his kindness and willingness to help others. He was not skilled or educated, so his tasks in the monastery were repairing shoes for other monks and working in the kitchen. Not celebrated tasks, but he did them well. He knew the secret.
Being born again by the Spirit is an unmistakable work of God, as mysterious as the wind, and as surprising as God Himself. We don’t know where it begins— it is hidden away in the depths of our soul. Being born again from above is an enduring, perpetual, and eternal beginning. It provides a freshness all the time in thinking, talking, and living— a continual surprise of the life of God. Staleness is an indication that something in our lives is out of step with God. Do we feel fresh this very moment or are we stale, frantically searching our minds for something important to do? Freshness is not the result of obedience; it comes from the Holy Spirit. Obedience keeps us “in the light as He is in the light…” (1 John 1:7).
Being born of the Spirit means much more than we usually think. It gives us new vision and keeps us absolutely fresh for everything that is involved in the life of God.
The status of the people of Israel during their last days in Egypt was dreadful and oppressive. Often times we forget how difficult things are and how comfortable misery can be. Stephen, in Acts 7:11-19, gives us insight into their situation. He tells us the King of Egypt exploited the people, was cruel to them and forced them to kill their babies. God’s action in the Exodus was a response to the cries of the people. God heard their cries and was already working a plan.
Some have questioned the actions of the mid-wives, saying they disobeyed the law and asked if they should have complied or done things differently. They were dishonest and deceptive in dealing with the King of Egypt. As you read the story, you get the impression that the narrator was supportive of their actions. It seems that God was supportive of their actions. The truth was, they had to deal shrewdly to live in obedience to God. The concept of government is a necessity for any people. When government is evil, we are still to live in obedience to God. That means we may have to break man’s law, as we live in obedience to God’s Law. This is what motivated the mid-wives. They lived in reverential fear of God. They believed that God would be honored by the faithfulness of His people, no matter their role in society.
Moses’ parents were of the same conviction. They believed if they did the right thing, God would somehow act. This should be the conviction of anyone who follows Christ; that we will do the right thing even if it goes against what other people expect. When we act, that action gives God a place to work. Moses’ parents were just being faithful when they hid the child. God used that situation to raise up a leader. There was no one more qualified to lead the people of Israel from Egyptian bondage than the son of faithful Hebrews, who is also the son of Pharaoh. God would use this man to carry out a mighty act of redemption…an act that would direct the course of history.