It is interesting to me that people on opposing sides of an argument will both use the Bible to try to support their side and will say that the other side is being “deceived” by “teaching a false doctrine”. Thanks, Paul, for giving us a consistent verse to use against those who do not interpret something the way we do. “You’re a heretic! Paul warned believers about you!”

Oh goodness… Recently I read through the entire book of Romans so that I could try to trace the line of thinking that Paul had when writing arguable the most doctrinal book in the Bible. My findings were super interesting and it turns out that I have never read a more schizophrenic author than Paul. Especially when he began writing what we know as Chapter 9. The difference between the first 8 chapters and the rest of the book is insane! 

So I made some notes of different verses that are absolutely in the Bible that seem to completely contradict what we know today to be orthodox Christianity. I want you to see if for yourself:

Romans 5:

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So here Paul is saying that just how Adam caused sin to enter into the world and as a result everyone became a sinner, Jesus’ act of righteousness has made everyone righteous. He uses THE EXACT SAME LANGUAGE to explain both sides. It makes sense- Adam causes EVERYONE to be sinful (we accept that) so Jesus’ righteousness causes EVERYONE to be made righteous (Ohhhh, wait, we don’t want to accept that!).

Romans 9:

25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called sons of the living God.’”

Wait, God is not going to limit himself to a SINGULAR group of people, but will call people- people who have not been his people-“his people”. Interesting.

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone,

The interesting part here is that the Gentiles, even though they DID NOT PURSUE RIGHTEOUSNESS, obtained it, while at the same time, Israel, who did pursue righteousness, failed to succeed.

Romans 10:

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

Now that one follows more of what Calvinists believe. Nonetheless, its still really interesting that God is bashing Israel (his people) so profusely while he is going out of his way to say that there are other people who are his, even though they are not Israel. Salvation doesn’t look like we would think.

Romans 11:

16  If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Is Jesus the dough and root in this analogy? If so, then the WHOLE LUMP and BRANCHES are holy. Everything coming after Jesus is holy. Interesting.

Romans 11:

30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

God makes people be disobedient? Ok, that’s interesting. But the most interesting is WHY he causes all to be disobedient…SO HE CAN HAVE MERCY ON ALL. What? All? Like everyone?

Romans 15:

21 but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see,
    and those who have never heard will understand.”

“How can one see if you have never been shown? and how can one understand if one has never heard?” Sound familiar? Well how do you harmonize those two verses? Sounds like something God-like is happening here.

So these are just a few verses from just ONE chapter of the Bible that does a sufficient job in muddying the waters for an interpreter. Is it possible to harmonize the whole Bible with such outlandish statements like those above? Doesn’t it seem like there is something that only God can explain concerning the salvation of humanity? Is there a clear, precise, inerrant interpretation? Or are we as humans too impotent to comprehend God enough to restrict him to such concrete, rudimentary doctrines like what salvation looks like for everyone or how God is going to treat those who died without believing in him. For those who know FOR CERTAIN the eternity of mankind, you have greater faith than I. For now, I will allow God to be God and not make bold claims about something I have no certainty about.

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I am writing a blog about things I have been busying my mind with recently. A lot of them, as the title suggest, are products of me really examining the darker crevices of thought that I haven’t allowed myself the freedom to explore yet- the reason being fear, guilt, or incompetence. Different areas of theology and culture that have not been too popular in the American South are flooding to my mind thanks to the easy access of books and the unquenchable understanding that, “maybe what I know now is not all that is out there. Maybe there are slices of truth to be found in the most obscure locations.”

I’ll just give you the Top 2 for right now. More to come later:

Views on Salvation

Partial thanks to Rob Bell’s Book, Love Wins, for being the gateway book to my free thinking form- the cannabis of progressive literature; I have grown to appreciate the teachings of Christian Universalism. Not all credit goes to Bell (I am more educated then to mindlessly assimilate the teachings of just one person) but by reaping great insight from people like Tony Campolo, C.S. Lewis, and the great George MacDonald I have been attracted to thinking about a God whose love is greater than what has been communicated to me in the past. Just think, which God is more loving: a God who allows SOME into eternal bliss or a God that allows EVERYONE? If God is love then shouldn’t this God epitomize the most perfect form of love? What about justice, you say? Justice was achieved when God slaughtered Jesus- just as one man’s sins brought all into sin, so one’s man’s righteousness justifies the many. This, for me right now, is a beautiful message.

I still believe that people have a choice to receive heaven and hell, both in this life and the next. Fire in the Bible is symbolic for purifying the impurities. So what if hell is a type of purification instrument that allows people to freely accept God, even postmortem (after death). Right now I refuse to believe in a God who created humanity out of love and will just allow them to experience torment forever. Dang, crazy right?

Ministry

This one will ruffle some feathers:

I don’t think that there should be as many professional ministers as there are. The mind set of students needs to be that they are ministers even in a “secular” job. That way you aren’t receiving a paycheck to say Christian things but are saying them because a Christian is who you are, not what you get paid for being. So this philosophy of ministry allows more people to be business men and fund the Kingdom of God with both their time and money and not rely on the church to make their cash. You can minister just as much in a “real” job as you can as a churchman. Believe me, I am doing it right now.

However, some people should be ministers. Some people are really talented and the church needs those talents. I think those people rise to the top, not by their education alone but by the testimony of people who know them- their gifts are evident.

 But a lot of people who do ministry don’t have gifts that are evident. Their abilities to do what ministers do should not be compensated. Why would they need to be a youth minister in the first place if every believer did their job as a minister? The work load doesn’t have to fall on one person but is shared among the priesthood. That way the guy who sucks at youth ministry can find something that he is actually good at (I believe that everyone is good at something, most people just don’t explore). This would also save a lot of churches from having to pay salary and benefits to their lower-level ministers and use that money for more tangible good.

Overall, what I am getting at here is that people need to stop committing themselves to “ministry” and be a minister in a job that suits them. Use your career as a platform and don’t settle with the easy out of working for a church. The church should function as an organism and not an institution.

Ok, I am done displaying my ignorance. More to come later!

A Treasure

Posted: March 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

The following is an excerpt from a letter I recently wrote to Allison while she has been in Costa Rica. The subject matter is something very important to me and my hope is that others can benefit from it as well.

There is no doubt that what you are experiencing in costa rica is life changing. its cool that it is happening because you and i both expected it to be transformational before you started living there. you have been exposed to a lot of poverty and different view points concerning politics and justice. i have enjoyed the conversations we have had about all of that stuff and probably more than anything i enjoy seeing your thought processes develop.

However, what has been extremely interesting to me is that with all the potential placed on you learning new things, i have been overwhelmingly surprised that i have been learning very similar things as well. i do believe that you telling me these stories and stuff has had an impact on my thinking but i believe that there is more to it than that. I think that this time in my life (being independent financially and out in the real world) has been teaching me lessons about life and finances that I never thought it would. I think I was scared about how much it would cost me to live in the real world (hence my large savings account) and now I am seeing that its pretty easy. I would think that once I started making money and working and not going to school that I would be addicted to making more money like a vampire to blood (twilight, whaaaaaat!) that once I started bring home wads of cash from tips at chilis that my tendency for always being unsatisfied with my position would continue to play a heavy part on my views and lead me to want to make more money, to buy more things, to be able to impress more people.

However, just like you and I have talked about over skype there is this unreal push in me to live a thriftier lifestyle. It hasn’t been coming by way of conviction or “well I guess I should probably turn the air conditioner off for a bit to save money..” but it has surfaced with this attitude of “I want to help other people”. Being a waiter at chilis has shown me that I genuinely get a pleasurable sensation out of serving and helping others. Its crazy.

On top of that I just finished reading in Luke 18 about the rich young ruler. This guy asks Jesus the question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” and Jesus responds by listing off a few of the commands. Then the young guy says, “I’ve keep all of those since I was a child.” What a beast. but then Jesus adds this ridiculously crazy requirement for salvation by saying, “one thing you lack, sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…”

So we understand this passage right? Its nothing new. I do believe there is a great amount of weight placed on Jesus saying that he must sell EVERYTHING and give the money to the poor. That’s not what the pastor told me when I walked down the aisle. So Jesus makes this comment about how this young ruler will have a reward or a treasure in heaven. Ok, but what about now, is there anything that following these commands does for us in life today. Or is all of it a kind of savings account for me when I get to heaven? A retirement fund of sorts? But then the magic happens later on in verse 30 when Jesus is talking about how there is no one who has left their families and homes and money who won’t receive many times more in eternal life but also, and here is that part that is crazy, in this time as well.

That is this a crazy promise there made by Jesus that says its worth it. There is pleasure to be found, life to be had, joy to be discovered in giving your entire life away. And I don’t mean that like a cliché shirt at youth camp. I think the things that you and I have been talking about are a start to something really meaningful. I feel like I can trust that verse about there being pleasure to be had because I feel it right now. Like I said earlier, I want to make a load of money so that I can give it some one who NEEDS it. Like really needs it. Like life or death stuff. That gives me pleasure, that makes me come alive. Its crazy man.

Anyways, so as I lay in bed I think about what that looks like and I had this crazy thought. Now I am not convinced about anything yet but it is just a thought. I wonder if my desire to have kids is idolatrous. I mean, what preacher is going to say it is a sin to have a child or 3? No one will say that. But with the motivations I’ve been having so far for the helpless in the world, having kids would require more money, time, energy- money, time, and energy that can be given to someone who really needs it. It’s a new thought for me so I am not making any crazy decisions right now, but when the time comes I want to be more willing to obey what I feel like God wants me to do then try fit the description of what people say is the life of an American Christian- having your faith defined by what you do or don’t do rather than by submitting yourself entirely to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, even in the gray areas.

What I want to do now is make a budget. I have calculated fairly well how much I will need to spend each month. On top of that I have calculated about how much I will be making each day a chilis and have been scheduling myself the correct amount of times in order to meet this monthly spent amount. But if this substitute thing happens I hope that I can do that daily and the pay will be more. So my plan is to put about $200 into saving each month and give the rest away. So if I make a surplus of $500 then I want to give $300 away. Doesn’t that sound crazy? But here is my thought behind it. Money is deceitful because we NEVER have enough. So right now I can easily think “I should wait until I am married or atleast until I have a decent income before I start making these crazy decisions…” but the danger in that is once I start with that mindset it is dangerously hard to break yourself of it. So I want to start now. I have plenty of money in savings already so it seems like a flawless plan.

To pleasure, life and the joy to be found in the teachings of Christ.

As an aspiring clergymen, it is important to study the life and teachings of the minsters of the past in order to gather as much helpful information as possible. Therefore, I recently purchased a book on the life of George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore to attempt to discover some key components in regards to the success or effectiveness of the ministry God blessed him with. A fifth into the book I came across a clearly orchestrated description that the author ascribes to the success of this man.

“Doubtless, the mass of these people were drawn by a deep spiritual hunger. Amist the conditions that surrounded them- the widespread rejection of moral restraint, blatant denial of the Scriptures, rampant crime and glaring heartlessness- they had long sought in vain for help from the churches. The generality of the parochial clergy (pastors) were looked upon in bitter contempt, as Bishop Ryle says of these men:

‘The vast majority of them were sunk in worldliness and neither knew nor cared anything about their profession… They hunted, they shot, they farmed, they swore, they drank, they gambled. They seemed determined to know everything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. When they assembled it was generally to toast ‘Church and King’ and to build one another up in the earthy-mindedness, prejudice, ignorance and formality. When they retired to their own homes, it was to do as little and preach as seldom as possible. And when they did preach, their sermons were so unspeakably and indescribably bad that it is comforting to reflect they were generally preached to empty benches.’

Of course, there were many better men among all denominations, but evangelistic zeal was hardly to be found among them, and strong, unbending convictions regarding Christian truth these days were Isaac Watts and Philip Doddridge, but even these good men were over-fearful of being styled enthusiasts, as indeed were the vast majority of ministers, and bodily aggressive Christianity was unknown.

Scores of Londoners, have failed to find food for their souls in the churches, had resorted to the Religious Societies. But so strong seemed the forces of sin and unbelief that, even in these groups there was a sense of defeat, yet at the same time many expressed the longing- perhaps the expectancy- that God would raise up some mighty man to champion His cause.

It was while these conditions prevailed that the voice of George Whitefield began to be heard in the London pulpits. He spoke with the firmest of convictions and his sermons were such that all could understand. He preached nothing but the basic doctrines of the Church of England; in glowing contrast to the majority of the clergy, his life was marked by personal holiness and everything about him seemed ablaze with zeal. No doubt some people were attracted by curiosity and others by the excitement associated with his going to Georgia; but, above all, it was a spiritual hunger that drew the crowds, and many followed him from church to church, vigorously endeavoring to be present every time he preached.

Moreover, we may be sure that they people found something highly attractive in the young preacher himself. He was always exceptionally neat about his person- an element of his concept of Christian discipline- and his manner was gracious and easy. At this stage of his development, he was still marked by an unassuming youthfulness, but his consciousness of being called of God gave him an extraordinary spiritual authority and courage. To many of his hearers he seemed as a messenger from heaven; and, like Charles Wesley who spoke of him as ‘an angel guest’, many were beginning to refer to him as ‘The Seraph’.

But this personal attractiveness does not overshadow the fact that Whitefield possessed a most remarkable eloquence. The gift of public utterance which had been evident when he preached his first sermon, had been developed by his months of experience in preaching. Benjamin Franklin, after hearing him frequently during later months, stated:

‘…every accent, every emphasis, every modulation of voice, was so perfectly well turned and well placed, that, without being interested in the subject, one could not help being pleased with the discourse; a pleasure of much the same kind with that received from an excellent piece of music.’

Yet it would be very misleading to assume that there was anything of a mere performance in Whitefield’s preaching. On the contrary, it was the utter lack of anything artificial, and its burning sincerity which were its most noticeable qualities. His delivery was simply the outflow of that spiritual passion which inflamed his whole life.

These are, however, but the human explanations of Whitefield’s success. They reveal the possession of exceptional abilities, but his effectiveness lay not in his eloquence nor his zeal. As we look back from our present standpoint we see that God’s chosen time to ‘arise and have mercy upon Zion… yea, the set time had come’, and that in raising up Whitefield, He had granted upon him and his ministry ‘a mighty effusion of the Holy Ghost’; and it was this, the Divine power, which was the first secret of his success”

May we learn and excel in the “human explanations” of ministerial success but not lose sight that the one true factor for our effectiveness is that the mercy of the Triune God is fulfilling His promise in drawing people unto Himself through those who are willing to obey.

Confident Christianity

Posted: January 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

The following verse is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It absolutely speaks for itself so I don’t need to add much to it.

“When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel (that was Paul’s mentor) a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, ‘Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to over throw them. You might even be found opposing God!’

So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ”

I love that verse and here’s why: Jesus was a teacher who brought many people away from the typical beliefs of the time. For this he was killed. He, unlike Theudas and Judas the Galilean rose from the dead. And, adding to that astonishing fact, his message and influence continues on till this day. It is of God and wont be stopped- confident Christianity.

Sometimes I prepare sermons for fun and since I do not have a stage in which to present this sermon the only form of communicating this sermon is via the blog. AND, the contents of this blog really moved me and I wanted the same for anyone who reads this.

Also, sermon format is way easier for me to expound on ideas than writing is and no one wants to read pages and pages of material. Therefore, I just want to condense the points to mere paragraphs without unpacking the ideas any great amount.

It is important to remember Jesus’ humanity. What did Jesus go through at the Garden of Gethsemane? How did he feel when Lazarus died? He knew He could raise him from the dead. What was it like for Jesus to be betrayed by Judas even though He knew it was coming. His reaction proves to us that He felt, that He was human. Its important to remember He was human, or else these temptations hold no weight. “We have a sympathetic High Priest” -Heb 4.

Satan’s first temptation of Jesus is not what most people think it is. They usually just preach Him being tempted 3 times. I observed something different. Satan attempts to place doubt in Jesus’ mind that He isn’t God. At this point in Jesus’ life He hasn’t really made any impact on the world at all, and He is 30 years old. Isn’t that how Satan operates? Right on the cusp of something great, Satan attempts to crush your spirits and introduce doubt into the equation. Good thing Jesus finds hope in the Scriptures and not Himself (that sounds almost wrong to type).

The second temptation of Satan to Jesus is for comfort instead of submitting himself to the teachings of God.  Jesus responds beautifully by saying, “Its not the physical satisfactions that bring about real life. Rather its the word, the teachings and the instructions of God.” So we can have life on this planet, but without observing the ordinances of God we have existence and not LIFE.

Thirdly, the temptation of Jesus for safety and protection is given by Satan. This is a pretty hefty temptation for Jesus because He knows what is coming for Him. He knows why He came to earth and He knows how its going to end for Him. We see this being a hard pill for him to swallow when He is in the garden because He says “If it is possible, take this cup from me”. But Jesus proves, right at the beginning of His ministry that the will of His Father is more important then His own will. Not only does God know more about our greater good than we do, but his will is more important for us to follow then our own.

Next is the temptation of popularity, ownership and having all our His needs met. This temptation hit me more than any of the other because here is what the offer is: everything that you and I spend our lives trying to get, whether is money, jobs, relationships, fame, or food, Jesus is being offered at this point. Everything that we say, “If i could just make more money then my life would get way better. If I could just find that one person to live the rest of my life with, then i’ll be happy.”  If i could just _______ then all my worries would go away. Jesus, in that moment is offered everything that we could possibly want on this earth and His response is, “I will serve God and God alone, for He is better.” He is better than money, fame, food, relationships. And the crazy thing is that He actually believes it. I want to believe it, but its hard.

The end.

 

The Importance of Loving

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

I started a blog because status updates on Facebook did not create enough space for me to unload some thoughts. Now however, the blog world is now lacking in assisting me to communicate these next thoughts, thoughts that require a good 30 minutes of talking to accurately convey. And since giving a sermon is not an option, this will have to do.

I realize that reading on a computer screen gets highly boring after a few lines and especially when there are no pictures to accompany such a rant. Therefore, I resolved to just, word for word, copy down a few notes that I’ve written for my personal use and keep it short:   

“I’ve seen that there is a great abundance of chatter concerning correct doctrine and correct theology being the grounds for success or effectiveness as a Christian or as a minister; that accurately preaching and teaching the Bible is the foundation of the church and of the men and women in the Bible and if we get back to correct theology and practice then we will be living in accordance with how the first believers lived in Acts. I completely agree.

However, let me give some airtime to another area that I find of ultimate importance when coupled with the contents of the above paragraph.

1 Corinthians 13:: The Importance of Loving

v. 1-3
This first paragraph on love is super important because it will compare all the supernatural phenomenons in the spiritual realm  with the simplicity of love exuberant speaking abilities, prophesy, profound knowledge, unheard of demonstrations of faith, and complete obedience to the teachings of Jesus, even to the point of death. An ability to love, to care more about someone more than you care about yourself, trumps all of those. And in fact, if you do have all of those without love, Paul says you have nothing. So you can do these extraordinary things and waste your time. That fact, for future or current ministers, should either comfort or convict.

v. 4-7
This paragraph unpacks how this love takes shape in the life of a believer. Patience with people, kind to others, not arrogant,   values the things of God, is aware of suffering and pain but continues to seek out the best in all things. (way too much information as to what a believer looks like when truly loving other to put in this blog)

v. 8-10
The ability to love is further strengthened by the fact that everything else will not be need anymore at some point in the future. Everything else that we seek after now (the list above) will eventually be rendered ineffective once “the perfect One” is here.””

I really want to make a comment about how the educational systems that are in place for the preparation of a minister’s career do not emphasis enough having a loving attitude towards those who God has placed under your leadership, but I wont blame the school because loving others is a matter of ones personal sanctification and requires one to take ownership of how they respond or treat those who we interact with. In other words, you don’t go to school to learn to love, you ask for the Holy Spirit’s help and you obey convictions.

So learn how to preach, learn the theories of spiritual development in the different age groups, learn Greek and Hebrew and continue to sharpen your theology, but all of that is potentially wasted if you don’t care about those who you are ministering to. It is a sad reality seeing ministers who are prolific in all areas of ministry without a genuine love for their tiny sheep.

Just to prove that I am not just a “love everyone and who cares about anything else” kind of guy, read 1 Corinthians 14.