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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

He is there, and He hears

“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

God is not deaf. He hears our every sigh. As a matter of fact, God hears the silent language of a soul in distress. Nothing that affects you is inaudible to Him, for in these cases silence speaks louder than words. He hears. He cares. He understands. And, best of all, He will do something about it. That’s His promise, not mine. I nor anyone else, not even you closes friend can make that promise, and keep it, too.
Paul reminds us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26 NIV).”

So, when you get down and out, reaching up to touch bottom, just keep in mind He not only sees your feeble efforts to dig yourself out of whatever hole you find you are in, but He also on His own prays for you! Wow. Think of it. There is nothing more powerful, that I can think of, than to have God himself pray for you or me.

Now, I don’t want to be critical or disrespectful, but I do find it hard to understand that some Christians find it more appealing to have some saint, dead or alive, pray for them at the expense of allowing God to offer up our pain and sorry in the form of a Holy Ghost inspired prayer.

That should always be our first line of defense. Now, I am fully aware that some feel that some long deceased saint like Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, has a vested in with her son, and as the argument goes, “she has his ear” and He will listen to her. Implying of course that we don’t have that privilege.

I also understand that our Christian priority is (as the Common English Bible translates it) to:
Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. (Ephesians 6:18 CEB)

I would have you to notice, however, that such prayers are conveyed in the Spirit—in other words, the Spirit is the mediator (the go-between) between us and God, the Father. Thus, it is plain to me that we have direct accesses to God through His Spirit.

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 NIV)

Now, the beautiful part of this process is that we all have that access. Not just some saint, dead or alive.  Nor do we shy back because we are unworthy. No, just the contrary. We press forward because we have been made worthy. God sees us for what we are going to be, not for what we are. By this I mean it is precisely who we are that makes us the unworthy recipient of His Grace. This is true because, as Paul reminds us “that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us’ and he offers this as proof of ‘God’s amazing love’ for us. (Romans 5:8 Phillips)

Yet, through it all, since we have been washed, made clean and exalted with Him to Heavenly places we can enter His presence with all confidence, knowing the He hears us, because—
He is able, now and always, to save those who come to God through him, because he lives forever to plead with God for them. (Hebrews 7:5 GNT)
Now, what more can you ask for, or expect?

As always, I am with you on this journey,


P.S. Just got off Skype with a pastor friend in Pakistan. Please remember to pray for Pastor Asif Masih Samuel and the work in that spiritually hungry country. Please pray also for another friend of mine, Dr. Neil Chadwick, who will be travelling to visit this ministry in Pakistan at my request. Pray that God will not only protect him, but also give him wisdom and discretion as he evaluates the situation there. Pray also for his family during his absence. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Why? What about, "Because?"

According to George Dvorsky there are 8 great philosophical questions that we'll never solve. His opinion is that there's a spat brewing between some theoretical physicists and philosophers of science. He writes—

"Philosophy goes where hard science can't, or won't. Philosophers have a license to speculate about everything from metaphysics to morality, and this means they can shed light on some of the basic questions of existence. The bad news? These are questions that may always lay just beyond the limits of our comprehension."

Here the 8 hard questions he asks for you to look at and ask yourself if you have ever asked them—
1. Why is there something rather than nothing?
2. Is our universe real?
3. Do we have free will?
4. Does God exist?
5. Is there life after death?
6. Can you really experience anything objectively?
7. What is the best moral system?
8. What are numbers?

Chances are, you have asked yourself the first 7 questions, but not the last (unless, of course, you’re a nerd. No offence intended). How you answer them is, of course, another matter altogether. Personally, I like what one student of philosophy wrote on her final exam when the final, and only question was: “Why?”

It took her less time to answer that than it took me to write this sentence; her answer was: “Because!” And, guess what? She was right. I must say that she was a whole lot sharper than most of my students.

Hers was a simple answer, and as usual, the simple answer is generally the best.
May I say in regards to these 8 questions that after teaching apologetics to prepare students to answer these major concerns that I have, that I have given the simply answer up front. We start with “BECAUSE” and work out from there.

My reasoning is this. There is no “WHY?” unless there is a “BECAUSE.” God never expected us to start with the “WHYS of life.” So, we need to get busy and figure out the “BECAUSES.”

To put it another way. Faith is a given, not something we need to muster up. Pray tell me, where in all the pages of Scripture do we find God trying to convince us of His very existence, including His creation (numbers included!)? Where in the pages of Scripture do we find the Bible asking us if we have free will? As a matter of fact, where do we find any of these basic questions asked? The Book of Job comes about as close to addressing these questions systematically; however, the question is never an independent “WHY?” The question always rest on a “BECAUSE” this happens, then “WHY?”

Then why trust the Bible on these issues? Well, primarily because the Bible starts and ends with the “BECAUSES” of reality, not the “WHYS.” And, I trust it because it best answers the “WHYS” of life.

Complicated? No, not really. Think of it this way. What satisfies you most, the “WHYS” of God, or His “BECAUSES?” Think of the greatest “BECAUSE” of all,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son.” (John 3:16)

Need we ask, “Why?” His “BECAUSE” already tell us why. God loves us, that why. As, a matter of fact, proof of that love is anchored in His very nature, since He loved us first, then he washed us. (Rev. 1:5) Normally, we want to clean someone up first, then love them, not the other way around. No so with God. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) And, the proof of that love?

Well, perhaps that old song by Minnie Steele says it best—

I remember when my burdens rolled away;I had carried them for years, night and day.When I sought the bless├Ęd Lord,And I took Him at His word,Then at once all my burdens rolled away.
Rolled away, rolled away,I am happy since my burdens rolled away.Rolled away, rolled away,I am happy since my burdens rolled away.I remember when my burdens rolled away;That I feared would never leave, night or day.Jesus showed to me the loss,So I left them at the cross;I was glad when my burdens rolled away.
I remember when my burdens rolled away,That had hindered me for years, night and day.As I sought the throne of grace,Just a glimpse of Jesus’ face,And I knew that my burdens could not stay.
I am singing since my burdens rolled away;There’s a song within my heart night and day.I am living for my king,And with joy I shout and sing:Hallelujah, all my burdens rolled away!
Now, I ask you, once we have experience that, must we ask “Why?” We already know “Why?” His ‘BECAUSE” tells us why. He loves us. 

Now, I am yours for the journey,

P.S. The response to my latest book has been encouraging. If you haven't already, check it out. And, don't forget to pray for our ministry in the meantime.

+ Words & Music: Minnie A. Steele, 1908 (  ).

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Suffering for suffering's sake? Think again!

My last desire—
When the time comes for me to die,
To-morrow, or some other day,
If God should bid me make a reply,
“O God, thy world was great and fair!
Have thanks for all my days have seen;
Yet grant me peace from things that were
And things that might have been.”
Thomas W. Hazen Rolleston

Dear Friends, prayer and financial partners,

We Pentecostals, "bless our little pea-picking hearts," as Ernie Ford used to say, have yet to scratch the surface on the value inherent in suffering.

Now, I am not talking about self-inflicted suffering like the Flagellants (from Latin flagellare, to whip) who beat themselves or are nailed to a cross in the Philippines and elsewhere by misguided fanatics, either. No, I cannot find anywhere in Scripture that we are expected to suffer just for suffering's sake. 

What I have in mind is the type of suffering that many of our Christian brothers and sisters are experience in the Middle East right now. Entire Christian villages have been overrun by fanatical jihadists who often time behead the men, women and children to shock the rest who are lucky enough to survive and thereby get them to convert to Islam.

Is it happening? Sure, it's happening. Has been, and will continue to happen, too!

Read your Bible. This is precisely what the false prophet in league with the beast will, and has done for centuries. That aside, however, since you might look at history and the Bible differently on this subject than I do. So, please understand, I am not one to argue the matter. But, I am one to sound the alarm.

Indeed, the time is short.
So, it is with the backdrop of all that is going on around us that I write this brief essay on suffering. Paul, for one, thought that a suffering Christian was helpful in that it identified us with the suffering of Christ and give us an opportunity to emulate his character with the sole purpose of shaping us into the likeness of Christ. All things work together. All things, not just some things. So, suffering must be included.
Sound too Catholic to you? Well, it shouldn’t. It’s Bible. Need I reference that? If so, for starters may I suggest Romans 8:28-29 and Colossians 1:24. Here, let me print them for you:
First Romans 8:28-
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son … (NIV)
Now, Colossians 1:24
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (NIV)
Now, let’s not just stop there. Think with me for a moment. Do you see how beautifully these verses all blend together in one Divine plan? It is obviously plain to me that firstly uninvited suffering of any sort serves to change us into the image of Christ if we are willing; and secondly, how we handle the suffering can act as a Christian example of purity and mentorship to encourage others to respond similarly.
Complicated? No, not really. Here read what the poet Patricia Persons, a cancer patient had to say:
If you believe in the Word of God
You'll know trials only make us strong
And in Christ anywhere you are in life
Is just where you belong
Take time to read the Book of Job
And you will plainly see
That God will never leave you alone
He's always been there for me
It's not what you are going through friend
It's how you stand the test
Just put your hands in the hands of God
And let Him do the rest
I go through life with a made up mind
I know God has my back
I'm not the one for a pity party now
I pray and get on the right track
I am a living testimony
For all the world to see
And I want the whole wide world to know
I have cancer…..cancer doesn't have me
© Patricia Persons 2014
So, take courage. A lesson well learned is a lesson well kept. Take courage, therefore, and cherish Christ's promise to never leave you or forsake you. Life is not without purpose.

Yours in the journey,

P.S. My latest book on Islamic jihadism was published and is available. 

The Islamic State Revealed
Click Cover to Buy!
The Brotherhood of Death

The latest book on Kindle $5.99


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A foolish misunderstanding ...

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. – Psalm 14: 1 NIV

Dear Friends, prayer and financial partners,

One thing about the Bible. It calls it like it is. Not a place to go if you are looking for political correctness. Sexual perversion is labeled as such, and they writers didn't scurry around trying to make God look good by filtering every imaginable abomination under the sun through His love. My Bible tells me that—
The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation. (Numbers 14:18 NIV)
So, apparently He hold grudges (call it righteous indignation if you please) and will divvy out punishment, as it were, to the third and fourth generation. Notice, however, it says for the sin of their parents; meaning, of course, that sin has consequences that extend well beyond the perpetrators. And, of course, we cannot deny that bad parents by example can, and most often do, warp their children’s minds so terribly that the child not only imitates them, but many time far exceeds that  parent’s rotten example.

This is not always the case, but it is a strong possibility.

Conversely, also just the opposite is also true, as Billy Graham once remarked—
“The influence of a mother upon the lives of her children cannot be measured. They know and absorb her example and attitudes when it comes to questions of honesty, temperance, kindness, and industry.”
Makes good sense, doesn’t it?

Good parents are essential for a good society; and vice versa. So, the first culprit that we should look for when a child goes astray is usually a parent. Not always, but usually.

I like the way the American Standard Version addresses the issue. It reads—
Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 ASV)
Well, in what way, are we to train a child? Spare the rod and spoil the child? Tell that one to Child Protective Services if you inadvertently leave a bruise behind. Spanking I have found is not always the answer, so why chance it? I know, I know. Spare the rod and spoil the child is not in Scripture; and for good reason I might add. And, yes, I also know that the Scripture does say that we must correct our children, but not brutally so. 

Here’s what Proverbs 23; 13 has to say about the matter—
Don't fail to discipline your children. They won't die if you spank them. [NIV}
So, where do we draw the line between a good spanking and child abuse? Well, let me answer that this way, there is no line, there are only people—a child and a parent, and if love is missing in either, then discipline is futile.

Any parent, football player or ghetto mother, anyone for that matter, which takes their frustrations out on a poor child, misbehaving or not, is just downright wrong—worst yet, sinful. The same goes for a husband that beats his wife. This is totally inexcusable, and if they are a preacher, they should be defrocked before sunup tomorrow morning.

How shameful our country has become. We must wait for Budweiser to threaten to remove their sponsorship before the NFL gets serious about removing the brutes who beat their wives and children from the league is morally reprehensible. Think of it, a beer company has to be the one to step in and call foul! Where in the name of commonsense are the owners, and others in responsible positions?
Thank God a few hardy souls were willing to speak out and the fans began to turn their Ray Rice’s jerseys in, so not all is lost.

Now, back to the theme of this diatribe; and that is,
The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. – Psalm 14: 1 NIV
Well, Jim, you say, in what wonky way does that Scripture fit what you have to say?

I would say in this way, any fool that doesn't care how they act, until they get caught, of course, is in for a rude awakening come judgment day. For me, there is not one iota of difference between what is commonly referred to as a Christian agnostic, and an outright heathen.  

Yours for the journey,

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When history ain't really history . . .

A reasonably unreasonable conclusion …

“All that an insane person has left is his reason”– G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936

All reason is circular. That’s a fact. False premise, false conclusion. True premise, true conclusion. It is just as simple as that. The theorems of science are presupposed to be factually true, and reliable once tested and proven as such; however, science at its best is only a blueprint on how we are expected to investigate reality.

The truth is, however, much of what we believe to be true—reality, as it were,  is just a matter of opinion, sometimes an educated guess at best. I have no quibbles with science. What I do have problems with, however, are the invested prejudices found embedded in much of what tries to pass itself off as pure science regardless of the disciple under consideration—be that, theology, history, or something else.

Purported truth, therefore, must be checked against the facts. Church history as a disciple is no exception, either. As any student of Church history knows, such history is loaded with outright forgeries, and revisionism is defended on the principle of throwing a better light on the subject at hand. By ‘a better light’ I do not mean a fairer assessment, or necessarily changing the facts— although, this is always a possibility— I simply mean this, that history is often filtered through the sieve of today’s standards, particularly as it pertains to the politically correct ‘hot issues’ inherent in contemporary society like racism, sexuality, egalitarianism, or social or financial inequalities. Scripture, for example, can, and is, often twisted to fit the mores of a convenient contemporaneity.

Sadly, however, this has been a reoccurring standard throughout history, above all is it evidence in sacred history. History is not just retold, it is retold with a theological slant in mind. Collins Dictionary, as a matter of fact, defines sacred history as “history that is retold with the aim of instilling religious faith and which may or may not be founded on fact.” Which illustrates, at least to me, that it is a reputation well-earned considering the fact redactors down through ecclesiastical history have felt justified to change entire passages to suit their fancy.

Further, what I have in mind is a reductionism that does not just try to simplify a certain passage or translation to say essentially the same thing, but to change its meaning entirely by injecting an acceptable orthodoxy into the text to comply with some perceived or otherwise real standard.

Rufinus Aquileiensis, a nemeses of St. Jerome who quibbled with him over the orthodoxy of Origen who to prove a point spent considerable time redacting much of the Early Church Father’s work to make him sound more in line with the theology of Rome—i.e., Pope Anastasius I (399-401). Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, part of which he also translated was redacted considerably, etc.

These are well-known fact, attested by William A. Jurgens, as well as Mark Vessey, from Cambridge another  well know scholar of the period.

Nor does it stop there. Take for example, Jacques Paul Migne (25 October 1800 – 24 October 1875) a French priest who took on the task of publishing volumes of theological works, encyclopedias and the texts of the Church Fathers, with thought of providing books to train young men for the Catholic priesthood. Problem is, he rushed these translations through at such a rate that he left a trail of questionable documents. Not that they were all wrong, but it does take some of the enthusiasm out of reading them because one is not sure of when on certain occasions something is bogus or not.
Protestants do the same thing. Need I go into that? Well, there is not a whole lot to go into prior to the 1500’s.

So, although I shall continue to read, I have sadly come to the conclusion that I cannot base my faith on history, it must have a firmer foundation than that.

Of course, we all know what that foundation is, it is the foundation of all truth—that is, the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).

[ii] Mark Vessey, 'Jerome and Rufinus', in Frances Young, Lewis Ayres and Andrew Louth, eds, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, (2010), p325