Monday, November 26, 2007

My Heavenly Father: The Ancient of Days

I thought I was going to have time today to write a new post, but I've ended up using today to get all the emails that have been piling up in my inbox, so I haven't had time to write about some of the things God has been teaching me. But that's ok, because there are so many things I've been learning, I don't know if I could easily compress them all into one post. God is starting to tie everything together though, and with a little more prayer and meditation and study of the Word, I think I'll be ready to write.

Until then, here's another post that I wrote earlier on my other blog, although compared the last one I posted -which I wrote last June- it's from just last month. It is still very good for me to go back over what it was I wrote then, and I can tell that much of what I wrote wasn't directly from me, as I don't remember writing it. (Not that I don't remember actually sitting down and writing, I don't remember thinking some of the thoughts that I typed.)

This post continues the theme of what I was writing about in June, desiring to know more about my Heavenly Father. I hope it is encouraging.

Originally written October 20, 2007

"I have revealed and saved and proclaimed - I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "that I am God. Yes, and from ancient of days I am he." ~ Isaiah 43:12-13

The last few weeks have been weak ones for me spiritually, because I just haven't taken the time I should have to study the Word. It's not that I didn't want to, I just couldn't get myself to do it for some reason every time I tried. Something else always came up, something else was always more appealing, or I just couldn't get into a mind set where I could study anything. I'm not making excuses, for me it's not that hard to get into the mindset needed for Bible study, I just didn't want to do it. I think part of the reason was fear; there is something I knew the LORD wanted to address but I didn't want to know what it was, and a lot of it was guilt; I couldn't get myself to turn to my redeemer because I couldn't handle the love I knew I would see there. No, I'm not sure that's what it was, it's hard to isolate feelings a few days after the fact, but I do know that I'm still dealing with guilt, and also a lot of confusion, and I'm not really sure over what. However, there is one thing I am always sure of, and that is that my Heavenly Father, the Ancient of Days, loves me, and wants to carry my burdens and relieve my anxieties. I know He sees me as victorious in Him, and He does not identify me with my sins and shortcomings, and He doesn't want me to be burdened by guilt because it only prevents me from having a rich, intimate, and fulfilling relationship with Him.

Since I can't exactly isolate at the moment what it is that is causing the almost constant pit in my stomach, let's take some time to review what God has been teaching me about Himself the last few days.

Walking the Christian life, I believe, is completely wrapped up in understanding our Heavenly Father. Only once we are focused on Him, relying on Him completely, can we benefit from His wisdom and understanding. A relationship with God requires us to pay attention to Him, preferrably an almost constant attention. Not that we can't think about anything else, but it should be the thing that fascinates us the most, the thing that when we think about it, peace immediately washes over us like a good memory we forgot to think about and have been looking for without knowing it. My first priority should be my relationship with God, and one of the best ways I can act in that relationship is by learning about Him. Only then, since my God is an omniscient and omnipotent God, can He teach me with His wisdom about myself, so that He can begin to change in me the things that need to be changed. So that He can mold me into the women He wants me to be. I need to remember that no matter what in my life is going wrong, no matter how badly my feelings get hurt or how confused I get, nothing is worth neglecting even for a moment my relationship with God, because it is the only thing that can and will bring perfect peace and joy.

A few days ago I read a chapter in Beth Moore's book "Breaking Free," titled "The Ancient of Days." The way Moore described God in this chapter, and in the next, titled "Straight to the Heart," completely overwhelmed me, as I was hit with the enormity of how much God does for me, of just how much He loves me. Moore opens the first chapter with this statement: "Just as God's primary agenda is redemption, Satan's primary agenda is to blind people to the Redeemer. But once we are redeemed, our completion becomes God's primary agenda." My "completion" is the top thing on God's to-do list. Just like all the verses that exhort the believer to become perfect, or mature, complete, God is calling me to Him, not so He can conform me into a robot that lives just to do his bidding, but to mold me into someone who is complete and fulfilled and desires nothing more than to serve Him, for the purpose of my own happiness! Only this situation is one that offers complete freedom. Any other program is from Satan and a lie and will ultimately trap the believer in a bondage they don't need to be in. Satan is a formidable enemy, but we have the Ancient of Days on our side.

As the Ancient of Days, my God has been there since the beginning, and He has been completely aware and knowledgable of every single thing since. Even though I can't pinpoint what it is that's bothering me at the moment, He was there when it happened, and He knows exactly what it is and exactly what I need to do to relieve my unrest. And He will do everything in His power to give me that peace of mind, as long as I trust that He can do it. I say "everything in His power." Just think about how powerful our God is. He will, and can, do absolutely anything to show us what we need to know, or give us what we need, as long as we are trusting Him completely. I have a friend who was diagnosed last spring with ovarian cancer. She only just turned 20. I was worried for her, and have been praying for her, but I hadn't heard anything about her condition since the diagnosis. Tonight I found out that when she went into surgery a few months ago to have the tumor removed, the surgeon couldn't find it. It was gone. See what I mean about God being able to do anything? (And just to clarify, I don't believe that God will only give help to those who are relying on Him. I know from my own life that He will use anything and everything to turn back to Him those who aren't walking with Him. However, I know that the things He does for those who are already trusting Him are usually a lot nicer to experience than the things He will do to get someone's attention.) Of our Heavenly Father, Moore says He is able to reconstruct anything. "Nothing has ever been allowed to crumble in a Christian's life or heritage that God can't reconstruct and use." It's so comforting to think that my God can use even the ruins from the failings in my life to build up His plan for me. Curses that I brought upon myself, He can use and transform into blessings.

Many of the failings, many of the ruins in my past either caused heartbreak, or were caused by it. So many times I took my eyes off my Savior's face and trusted myself and my own judgement, and so many times I slid into a pit only to be met at the bottom by a broken heart. There were also a few times when heartbreak just came, caused by the actions of others, and those heartbreaks are the ones that hurt the most.

In the chapter after "The Ancient of Days," Moore address how God heals broken hearts. Isaiah wrote through the Spirit in chapter 61 "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted." (vs. 1) The "me" in that verse is not referring to Isaiah. Our Heavenly Father not only loves us and wants to rebuild ruins we have in our lives, He also wants to heal the pain in our hearts, and He sent His Son to "bind up" the wounds we have there. In this chapter, Moore gives the reader an in depth study of the meaning of the Hebrew words in this verse. Focusing on the first active verb in the verse - "sent" - the reader gains insight into how God delivered His Son to us. The Hebrew word is shalack, meaning to shoot [forth.] (Definition taken from Strong's Dictionary.) The Son was "shot forth" to us, like an arrow. Psalm 127:3-4 "sons are a heritage from the LORD, ...... Like arrows in the hands of a warrior." Jesus Christ is not only God's Son, He was the only arrow in God's quiver, an arrow that God aimed straight at our brokenhearts. God sacrificed His only Son for us, because of His great love for us, a love that superceded the love for His Son. I can't help but cry when I think about this, about the sacrifice that God made for us, and the sacrifice His Son made, because They love us so much.

The second word in the verse that Moore focuses on is "broken" from "brokenhearted." The Hebrew word being shavar, which means "to burst, break into pieces, wreck, crush, smash; to rend, tear in pieces (like a wild beast.)" That sounds like a pretty good definition of what it feels like to have your heart broken to me. Keeping that meaning of the word broken in mind, take a look at the last word Moore focuses on, the word for "bind up." Chavash: "to bind on, wrap around; bind up as a wound, bandage, cover, envelope, enclose." And Strong's describes it as "to stop." According to Moore, based on these definitions, the difference between a aching heart and a broken heart is that a broken heart needs to be compressed, because it is hemorrhaging. Apply this knowlege to the image of Christ. First He was an arrow pointed straight at our wounded hearts, and now He is the hand that presses on our wounds to stop the blood flow and begin the healing process.

When my heart is broken, God doesn't want me to build up walls around my heart in an effort to protect it from being hurt again. First of all, I'm not sure I want to know how weak such a wall is in reality, no matter how strong it feels. Secondly, such a wall doesn't just keep out hurt, it keeps out everything else, including us experiencing God's love for us fully. No matter what, He will never stop loving us, but we can make it harder for ourselves to experience that love, and from giving Him love in return. When we do this, we just become captives again, caught in a fortress that prevents us from not only experiencing God's blessings, but from being used by Him as the tool He needs to build up crumbling walls and ruins. Besides that, this is the God of the Universe I'm talking about. I've already underscored how powerful He is. What on earth makes me think that I could do a better job protecting my heart than He can? He wants to protect my heart from being broken, even though heartbreak is something that unfortunately is inevitable in this sinful world we live in. But He wants to be there with a hand wrapped around my heart anyway, enveloping my heart so completely, so that when it does break, He is already there applying the pressure needed to stop the hemorrhaging. He will not let me suffer any longer than He knows I can handle, and through it all, He will be there by my side, carrying my burden for me, if I can be humble enough to just give it to Him.

The thing or things I've been struggling with the last few weeks are still there, and I'm sure it's going to take more study and prayer on my part to find what it is that's bothering me, but just reviewing again what I've learned about my Heavenly Father has been extremely comforting; it reminds me just how much He loves me, and assures me that He will always be there to take care of me. I don't have to worry about anything, because I know He is in control, no matter what happens.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Movie of the week ~ # 1

Ok, I don't know how to do the thing where you can paste the actual video into the text space, but (Thanks David.) Here is the link to a video of Mark Lowry during his "Be the Miracle" tour. Mark Lowry was the baritone in the Gaither Vocal Band for many years, and is also a Christian comedian. He is hilarious, but at the same time, he always points to Christ. Many people know the song "Mary, Did You Know?", which I'm sure I'll link to sometime closer to Christmas, but he wrote that song. I hope you enjoy this little dialog clip, it's very encouraging.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Suffering and Thanksgiving

Fellowship of Suffering ~ A Divine Exchange
by Lori Rauzi

Open my eyes to clearly see; the path

You took of humility.

Aide my ears to every sound;

Your silence cried out when beaten down.

Enhance my taste to every good

that joy in pain You understood.

Train my scent to know the prayer

of tears of blood that broke the snare.

Then full my arms to Thee embrace

as I fellowship in sufferings face to face!

"Consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be weary and faint in Your mind." ~Hebrews 12:3

Today is Thanksgiving, and I know I have much to be thankful for, but all day I was feeling the seeming irony of the fact that my family is going through so much suffering right now. But then I realized earlier tonight that suffering is something I need to be thankful for as well, along with all the good. Not only because it helps me grow, but because it brings me closer to Christ, as I understand more about who He is and about what He did for me. This understanding is an example of where I suddenly understand something new about a passage I thought I knew well.

Phillipians 3:8-11 "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death."

The term "fellowship of His sufferings" was something I'd only vaguely understood before, and I know God will continue to teach me more about it in years to come, but I'm so thankful that I have gained a little bit more understanding through the tender whisperings of the Spirit within me. I now realize that the purging the LORD does in my life, and the sufferings I go through in that purging, is directly related to how I become conformed to Him, and to His death. It is yet another revelation regarding who I am in Him, and I marvel over and over again at His grace. No, suffering isn't enjoyable, but my spiritual joy can still remain constant, because if I respond to my Heavenly Father's love while in my suffering, He will then draw me closer, revealing to me more about Himself and what He did for me. Once I completely trust Him and place my suffering in His hands, I will then be able to accept the gift of peace He has waiting for me, because He is then my focus, and not the pain in my heart.

I won't go into the specifics of the sufferings myself and my family have been going through, because that will do nothing to draw me to Christ, or to encourage another believer. The basics of it however are that at the moment I am faced with the fear of losing friendships I have had for years, with people I care deeply about, mainly because of the stand I am taking here as I write, and in my decision to not remain anonymous. However, I know the LORD is using all this for good, no matter the outcome, because already He is drawing me closer to Himself, and proving Himself over and over again trustworthy. I was already convinced of His ability to care for me and provide for my every need, but He is now teaching me how to apply that knowledge in my life, and is showing me how to cling to Him even tighter.

My emotional and spiritual well-being does not depend on the words, actions, or sentiments of any other person. The LORD is my all in all. He is my Rock, my refuge, my fortress, and I am gaining more and more understanding of what Paul meant when he said "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." (Phillipians 4:11)

I have so much to be thankful for. Not because my life is perfect, but because my Father is faithful. My Abba will never leave me or forsake me. He desires me to rest in the fullness of His embrace, and find peace and supernatural joy in my suffering, as I begin to understand His Son in His suffering as we stand face to face.

(The poem at the beginning of this post was written a few weeks ago by a very good friend of my family's, and she shared the poem with us as we celebrated Thanksgiving together today. I had already been thinking a lot about the correlation between thanksgiving and suffering, so when she read the poem, it helped me to see what it is that my Heavenly Father was trying to show me. That suffering is so much more than a means to spiritual growth; it brings me closer to His Son. I thought the poem so beautiful in its simplicity, I wanted to share it here and Lori gave me her permission to share it. I hope it encourages others the way it encouraged me.)

The Father's Love

Right now I have been studying Psalms 119, and it has been extremely encouraging, but I don't feel ready to write about it yet. I need to the let the LORD do some more searching and revealing within me as I read before I share it with others, because I'm not exactly sure yet what it is He's teaching me through this Psalm. Once I have a better idea I'll feel more ready to write about it. However, I want to be able to post here regularly, so I'm going to copy and paste here something I wrote last summer and had posted on a blog I no longer use, simply because the site was problamatic and I could never get my HTML to work. (Blogspot has been much nicer to me.) I hope it encourages and points towards Christ.

I always find it beneficial to go back and read things I've written in the past, providing they are regarding what it is God was teaching me at the time. (You wouldn't want to see my silly, pointless, diaries from high school though, not much encouragement or edification could be found there.) Remembering where we were at in certain points in our lives is important, as it can give us a wonderful perspective regarding where God has brought us since. At the time I wrote this post, I was just beginning to truly understand how much my Heavenly Father loves me, and it was amazing me to no end. I hope this amazement is something I never lose, because His love is something I will never deserve.

(Originally written on June 13, 2007.)

The LORD is so gracious to me, and I just wish I had learned that this kind of happiness was possible when I first got saved - when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. It saddens me how many Christians there are who don't realize what being a Christian really means. I'm not saying my belief regarding salvation has changed, I still believe that the Bible teaches that someone who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Saviour can never lose their salvation. It is written over and over again in the Bible so many times, and I truly believe that. But I also know that God has something even greater than salvation from Hell prepared for his children, which to me is unfathomable as it is amazing. Something greater than being saved from a Hell we so justly deserve; what can be greater than that, you may ask. But I'm not talking about the home God is preparing for us in Heaven either. Heaven is going to be amazing, better than anything we've ever dreamed. We'll be in the Father's presence after all, but that's the third step. So many people miss how important this time we spend here on earth is. There are - usually - many many years between the time an individual places their faith in Jesus Christ, and the time that God calls that individual home to be with Him. And believe it or not, this time I believe is directly related to Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross. I think a reason so many believers miss out on one of God's most wonderous blessings is because they don't fully understand what Christ's purpose was here on earth. Yes, Jesus Christ came to earth to save sinners, there is no disputing that fact. But that's not the only reason He came. He didn't come to protect us from some gavel wielding, flame throwing, angry God. As God Himself, more specifically as God the Son, He came so that we might be introduced to His Father. A Father who has been yearning for fellowship with the human race ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed Him in the garden.

I really want to elaborate more on this subject, but it's 2:06 am at the moment, and I want to be able to think this through thoroughly before I post some of the things that have been going through my mind lately. They are things the Holy Spirit has been teaching me as I read the Word, and I want to be able to quote the verses that have been so instrumental in the changes my life has undergone these last few months. The things I have been learning have been so different from what I've always believed, always been taught. They're not different in regards to what they say, for the most part they are all things that I've heard practically my whole life. But to me they are different because I'm finally beginning to understand my standing in God's eyes. It's so humbling, and so amazingly heart breaking to realize, and I mean truly realize how much God must love me. He went through agony when He turned His back on His only Son - as Jesus hung at Calvary - the sins of all the world pouring onto Him. An agony that He spared Abraham from so many years before.

Isaac, and the love Abraham had for him are a picture to us today of what The Father went through, and what Jesus Christ went through in order to bring us salvation; but not salvation only. The Father and The Son went through that because God truly is a God of Love. How many times have I heard that phrase over the last 15 years? It fills me with sorrow to realize how long it took me to really realize what Their sacrifice meant. But the Lord has been working in me, and I'm finally learing to listen to Him, through the Holy Spirit who dwells inside me. The LORD has shown me how to understand His love, to realize that He and His Son made that sacrifice so that I could have fellowship with them. Fellowship on the spiritual level of what Adam and Eve had as they walked with the LORD in the garden at the very beginning, before sin entered this formerly perfect world. And I don't need to wait until I get to Heaven to have that fellowship! God's offering it to me right now, The Father wants me to have daily, moment by moment, fellowship with Him right now.

A Christian novelist named Michael Phillips was the first one to put this concept into words that made me understand. In a novel of his, one of the main characters states it as having "a father to call Father." That's what our gracious Heavenly Father wants; He wants us to run to Him, to trust Him with everything, to call Him 'Abba'. How much more wonderful could it be? As I said, it's late, (it is now 2:26am,) so I'm not sure how much sense I'm making, if what I'm trying to say is coming out the way I want it to. I of course can't expect these feeble words of mine to compare to the Word of God, only His words can truly speak with His infintessimal inspiration. But I can hope that maybe someone out there, a Christian frustrated with their walk or their trials perhaps, can read this, and through the mercy and power of God can once again realize what a wonderful and loving Father we as Christians truly have. Then hopefully they can turn to the Word with an unsatiable desire to learn about that Father, to reaquaint themselves with that Joy that the LORD can so bountifully provide in us, even through the hardest and most difficult of circumstances.

Besides the Word, there have been several authors who's God given insights into His Word have really helped open my eyes to what it is God has been trying to teach me, what He's been trying to show me as He leads me down this wonderous path called life, leading toward Life Eternal. Besides the afore mentioned Michael Phillips, Andrew Murray, W.A.Tozer, and Beth Moore have been very instrumental. I thank the LORD for their writings, that they trusted, and still trust Him to reveal to them the words He wants them to write down, to help poor, confused believers like myself realize how good He really is. At the moment, I'm doing a study that Beth Moore wrote on the life of King David, called David: A Heart Like His. I've only finished the first of the 90 days of study that she outlined in the book, but already the LORD has been speaking to me and helped me to understand Him a little more.

It makes me wonder how I ever managed to be interested in anything else, how I could have wasted so much time on certain things, when I could have spent the time studying the Word and getting to know my Father better. He is so much more than the dozen or so attributes I memorized in Sunday School. All those attributes are important parts of who He is, and they are all very true, but they are not just letters written around a triangle labeled 'God'. God truly is Love, and everything else I learned, and He is so much more than any one person can realize. Our brains do not have the capacity to understand everything that He is, but I want to devote the rest of my life to finding out as much as I can about The Father, the glorious Creator of the universe, the One who loved me enough to send His only Son to die on a tree.

(At the end of every lesson in Beth Moore's David book, there's a section called "Praying God's Word Today." I'm not sure what exactly she meant by that phrase, but underneath she wrote a little prayer thanking the LORD for what that particular lesson of David's life had taught her. After those few lines, there are many blank ones, as if encouraging the reader to thank the LORD what it was they had learned through studying a bit of the life of the man "after God's own heart." What better way to spend time than to thank the LORD for the truths He has taught you? Below I have typed out what I wrote in the above mentioned section; the words in quotes are what Beth Moore wrote, the end of the quotes is where my own prayer begins.)

"Thank you, Father, for shepherding me with Your pure heart, for guiding me with Your skillful hands (Ps. 78:72), for taking me from the sheepfolds of my life - the many places where I could have so easily been left behind forever - and transforming me day by day into someone with the potential to look more like Jesus, to be useful in Your Kingdom." ~ Yes Heavenly Father, thank you for delivering me so many times in my life. Not only in salvation from the hell I deserve, but also in the way You've protected me and kept me and loved me, even when I had no idea - or was incapable of knowing - that You were there. LORD, there are so many things I've been learning about You lately, things that are so simple, and yet sometimes so hard to understand. Because who are you LORD, if not magnificent? Your ways are not my ways LORD, and sometimes the trials I go through are so hard to understand. But I want to have a heart like David, Father. I want to yearn after You, I want to praise You daily in everything that I do. I want my life to be a testimony to Your greatness, loving Father. Help me to realize daily what a wonderful Father you truly are; 'a father to call Father.' Thank you for sending Your Son, and for giving me the Holy Spirit, both of Whom have worked and continue working to bring me closer to You, over and over again. LORD, give me wisdom. I want to know You and love You and search for You with all of my being. Please give me wisdom to discern what it is in my life that brings me closer to You, and what seperates me and distracts me from whatever it is You have purposed. You have my heart LORD, now please help me to always remember that, and to turn it into a heart worthy of You, a heart like David's, no matter how painful it may turn out to be. In Jesus name, Who sits at Your right hand and prays for me daily, Amen. ~

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Another, although much smaller, controversy

In the spirit of finding truth and love "within the discord," I'm going to write about something tonight that I normally don't write about, but as I just stumbled upon it, and as it is fresh in my mind, I'm going to state my opinion, and hopefully what I say will be honoring to God and will simply point towards Him. I believe I said too much in my first two postings, and I believe I may have distracted from the message I was trying to get across by saying certain things. For that I apologize, and I hope my lapse in judgement didn't cause any believers to stumble or discourage anyone I could have otherwise encouraged. The Lord is showing me more and more how little what I have to say matters, but that I can serve Him best by proclaiming His love, His tender mercies, and the great joy He yearns to fill each and every one of His children with.

For the past year, I have been waiting in nervous anticipation for the movie "The Golden Compass" to come out into theaters, as I read all three of the books last winter and THOROUGHLY enjoyed them. I am a self-professed fantasy geek, and reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Chronicles of Narnia series is something I do on a yearly basis.

As the movies depicting two of my favorite books series of all time have come into theaters, and are continuing to come out, I was excited to realize that another, in my opinion, great trilogy was being transfered onto the big screen, although I'm nervous that Hollywood will ruin the books, and destroy my image of them, as their trackrecord of fantasy movies taken from literature isn't the greatest. (Shall I mention Eragon?)

However, as I've waited for the Christmas season to come around, actually bringing with it some decent movies [Prince Caspian, The Golden Compass, Enchanted] that I can take my siblings to without having to worry about nudity and swearing and all the indecency that seems to permeate movies these days, it never even occured to me that a controversy would spring up. Looking back, I guess I'm not surprised now, but I was at first when I heard of the boycott Christians across the country are supporting against The Golden Compass.

Before I go any further, let me explain my full opinion of the books. As I said, I fully enjoyed them; not since being immersed in Tolkien's world for the first time did a story hold me as captivated as did this series by Philip Pullman. I had read other books by him in the past, books with more of a historical fiction twist to them, and the world he spun in my imagination kept my mind reeling at the enormity of what he created on the pages before me. When I finished the second book in the series, I actually threw the book to the floor in frustration as I didn't have the third book yet, and, of course, the story had stopped at a dreadful cliffhanger. (I become very attached to the characters as I read, and when I enjoy a story, my emotions will undoubtably get involved. Call me dramatic if you want, I completely agree with that assessment.)

However, despite my enjoyment of the story, I would not recommend these books for children, Christian children especially. If someone is not firm in their understanding of their belief and what the Bible says about God, the religious subject matter of the book can be disturbing and confusing, doubly so for a child whose mind is still being molded.

In regards to the movies, I don't know how much of the religious material will be put into them, and even so, the first book contains no controversial religious topics other than a counterpart to the Catholic church in the alternate universe the story is set in. As someone who thoroughly disagrees with almost everything the Catholic doctrine teaches, the negative light the church counterpart was painted with didn't bother me at all.

The second two books however introduce the reader to a conspiracy that reaches all the way to heaven, and if taken seriously, is an outright blasphemy to the sovereignty, and omnipotence of God. However, these books, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass are quite obviously fantasy. They are not written to be believed, and even though I understand Phillip Pullman to be an atheist, I don't think even he would claim that anyone, through reading this series, could be persuaded of his beliefs and reject God. The world he spins is so utterly different from not only what the Bible teaches, but from reality as well, I don't see how any person firm in their beliefs could allow a fantasy story to influence their beliefs. Are atheists convinced of the existence of God by reading - and in all probability enjoying - the world that C.S. Lewis created through The Chronicles of Narnia? (I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but I've never heard of it.)

Like I said, I wouldn't recommend these books for children, and if/when I am a parent, they are books I won't suggest, or even let them read, until I know that my children are old enough to discern between reality and fantasy; between what is made up and what is true.

Now that I have stated my opinion, here is what I know about this "controversy" that has sprung up. Having not received one of these emails myself, I am not sure what they say, but I believe they are a petition being spread calling for Christians to boycott the movie The Golden Compass as "God is killed" in the books.

I first learned of this petition and boycott while perusing facebook....yes I have an account there.....and I saw a few friends of mine had joined a group with basically the same premise as the boycott emails. Looking over the group, I knew immediately I didn't agree with the petition and the boycott, for the same reasons I came to disagree with the Christian opposition to the Da Vince Code once I had read the book for myself. I almost closed the group in disgust, but I saw a posted item in the group titled "Beware of this MOVIE? Part II." The link led me to this blog:, which is also linked over the left in the "Who I Read" column. (Thoughts on Spirituality.) I think the person who wrote this article had some very good points regarding what the REAL issue for Christians should be, and I started to write a comment to the post, which ended up being extremely long, so I decided to cut it short and transfer my thoughts over here, where I won't take up a bunch of space on someone elses turf. (I have to admit, it's very liberating to not have to apologize about how much I write.)

Basically, I agree with this persons assessment, that just like movies such as The Da Vinci Code and The Passion of the Christ, they are not something that Christians should band together against and spend energy fighting, as that will just entice more people to see what all the fuss is about, thereby nullifying the boycotts, and does absolutely nothing to further the message of the gospel. As my brother in Christ said, why not use this as an oppurtunity to talk to others about why we believe what we believe, and show them the love of Christ flowing through us? How does attacking something man-made and when compared to God, powerless, show the world that we are different? That we have something they don't have? That maybe that something is worth learning about? If all we do is stamp our feet, run picket lines in cyber-space, and speak out in anger and outrage against something that we have ultimately no power to change, how does that show the unbeliever the gracious and loving spirit of Christ?

Another problem I have with the spirit behind a boycott of this sort, is that is something that speaks of faith in ones own abilities to "fight the devil," rather than letting the LORD do the fighting. The Holy Spirit is inside, just waiting for us to surrender to His control, so that He can produce His fruit in us, and taking something that could be evil - a potentially "anti-God" message from a popular movie - into something good - an opportunity to explain to people, in love why we disagree with the message, if it is something we disagree with. Or even better, an opportunity to explain to someone what we do believe, and through a gentle spirit, a good testimony, and faith in the Word of God, point people to God, His truth, and His wonderful plan of salvation.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Flesh vs. Spirit

(To prevent misunderstanding and discord: What I have to say here is based upon my own experiences under the teaching of Dennis Rokser, and in no way am I saying that every person under his teaching perceived things the same way I did. I pray that that is not the case. However, I do know that I am not alone in my perceptions.)

Galatians 6:8 "For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."

In starting this blog, I think it is important that those reading it know where it is that I stand, and where it is I'm coming from.

That being said, I have been turning over and over in my mind lately a disturbing similarity between the teachings of traditional Calvinism, and the teachings of Dennis Rokser when he uses the phrases "in fellowship" and "out of fellowship" in relation to the Christian life.

My biggest problem with the theology of Calvanism, as well as the way Dennis Rokser presents walking the Christian life, (even though one is focused on salvation and the other on the life of the person already redeemed,) is that both systems make the acts, thoughts, and purposes of the imperfect human their focus.

My conclusion to this sad fact? It is inevitable that people - who in following these teachings completely focus on themselves and their flesh - will become discouraged. The Calvinist will be continually faced with his or her own shortcomings, and face the fear that someday they could fall completely into sin and realize they were never saved in the first place. For the believer following a formula based on the struggle to be "in fellowship" verses "out of fellowship," they too are always focusing on their own sins and shortcomings, being impressed upon by the fact that they can never truly measure up to what it is that God wants. And the minute they feel that maybe they are "in fellowship," immeasurable guilt washes over them, because they recognize the pride they felt in "finally doing God's will."

What is the solution, to both of these problems? Turning one's eyes away from our own imperfection, and placing our focus fully on the Person and complete work of Jesus Christ. That is how someone truly realizes that they have eternal life in their salvation, as Jesus Christ cannot do any job half way and then call it finished. As a loving God, who promised Abraham, and David, and every one of their descendants, that their seeds would live forever, (and as believers, we are now included in that seed,) He could not orchestrate a perfect plan for salvation that did not offer complete, and eternal salvation without leaving His promise unfulfilled, and thereby contradicting His character as a God of ultimate truth.

And what of the believer, who is constantly struggling to match the terms they think God has pressed upon them? By looking onto Jesus both the "author" and "finisher" of their faith, they turn their eyes away from their own flesh, and let God do the battling. What strength do we have in ourselves? So many Christians make the Christian life so much more complicated than it has to be. This truth doesn't make the Christian life any "easier," I am not offering a formula to an effortless walk, but it gives the believer the opportunity to be filled with God's perfect joy as they simply trust the LORD to work through them.

What so many people don't realize, is that the very first thing God wants from His children is to have a relationship with them. That is why the human race was created in the first place, and God was cheated out of 4,000 years of fellowship with the people He created and loved, with the exception of a very few. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, King David, Isaiah. All these men knew the LORD, and fellowshipped with Him intimately, and God revealed to them His will. And in response to this fellowship, God then gave them wisdom and understanding of who He is, as well as the strength to carry out His will in their lives. The day of Pentacost brought the Holy Spirit to all the brethren in Christ, making it possible for God to enjoy a relationship with every single one of His children, and they with Him.

Here is the point: once a relationship is established between the Heavenly Father and His beloved child, only then can the child live by faith, walking with her Shepherd, the one who gave up His own life to ransom her soul.

And there is no longer a need for her own weaknesses to be her focus, because they are not God's focus. His focus is the same on every child. He sees them as He sees Christ. As Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." This verse is not just a prescription for doing the will of God, ("I live by faith in the Son of God,") but proof of our identity in Christ. When God looks at us, He does not see our flesh. He sees His Son, Jesus Christ.

No, God does not want us to completely ignore our weaknesses and sins, confession of when we do fail is vital to continuing in God's will, (1 Peter 1:9,) but He does not desire us to live in a spirit of guilt and self-deprication because of our failure to do His will. And attitude such as this is not only one that denies the complete work of the cross, (as Christ came not just to save sinners, but to bring us into a living, moment by moment relationship with His Father,) but also undermines the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and ultimately is a walk of sight, not of faith. If we are walking focusing our own human eyes on our flesh, and the results thereof, there is no way we can walk by faith, trusting the Spirit within us to work God's will in our lives. That is how the fruits of the spirit are produced in a believers life, through complete focus, trust, and satisfaction in the COMPLETE work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Our acknowledgement of what His death and resurrection will bring us in eternity is what stamps us as God's children. Our acknowledgement of that Stamp, the Holy Spirit, (Ephesians 1:13 "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation -- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,") and acknowledgement that Christ did so much more than to pay our sin debt is what brings us into a relationship with God.

For years, I focused on myself, constantly wondering if I was "in fellowship" or "out of fellowship." I wonder if the believers under Rokser's teaching know that these phrases are never found in the Bible? Because logically, a person is never "out of fellowship." We're either communing with the Holy Spirit, or we're communing with the flesh. There is no inbetween. Walking in the Spirit and doing God's will has nothing to do with one's own performance, but with one's relational status, whether or not the believer is enjoying intimate, moment by moment fellowship with their Heavenly Father. This may seem very daunting, but it is very simple. All that is required is absolute and complete surrender of our own strength, and trusting the Holy Spirit completely that He is capable of bringing us the desire, the ability, and the power to grow closer and closer to God every day. That is the Christian life. Becoming as much like Christ as possible. Not in what He did, but in what He knew. He knew His Father, and the more we know Him, the easier it will be to understand Him, know what He wants in our lives, and the more strength we'll have to do it. Not because we are "overcoming" our flesh, but because the Holy Spirit does it for us. If we had to overcome our flesh, we would have to be focused on it. God simply demands that we completely ignore our flesh by focusing on Him, because the more attention we give it, the more power it will have over us.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Let all that you do be done in love." 1 Corinthians 16:14

If you are reading this, welcome!

This blog is something that I hope can shed a new light on a situation that has broken out in certain parts of the Christian community, something that I like to call "The Free Grace Controversy."

This controversy is something I have been studying and following for the past few weeks, and I am now feeling ready to start publishing my ideas and opinions regarding the subject.

At the heart of this conflict between brothers and sisters in Christ is something that is being referred to as "the Crossless Gospel." On one side, and what is generally seen as the offensive, are Dennis Rokser of Duluth Bible Church, Tom Stegall of Word of Grace Bible Church in Milwakee, and another man named Lou Martunaec, who at the moment, I do not know all that much about. The message these three men are attacking is one supported by several people who have blogs here on blogspot, (such as freegracer and crossless,) and I believe, also supported by teachers such as Zane Hodges and Charlie Bing.

Before I go any further, let me state that I grew up in Duluth Bible Church, under the teachings of Dennis Rokser. For years, as I attended this church, I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday, memorized hundreds of Bible verses, and was as involved as any person who loves church would be. Unfortunately, just because I loved church, doesn't mean I had a relationship with my Heavenly Father. Yes, I knew I was saved, as I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior at a very early age, but I had no working understanding of what having a relationship with God really means. I would constantly be telling people, when they described me as religious, "I'm not relgious, I'm a Christian, that means I have a relationship with God." I believed that with all my heart. But I didn't realize that those people were right. Despite my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior, ultimately, all I was doing was following a system, trusting that if I did everything right in the system, then that meant I had a relationship with God. (That system meant going to church to hear the Word of God on a regular basis, obeying my parents, confessing my sins whenever I was "out of fellowship," and for me this was a constant struggle to stay "in fellowship.")

Over the past year however, I have come to understand what a relationship with God really means. It has nothing to do with my church attendance, or with how many verses I memorize, or with how often I read my Bible, if I'm just reading my Bible because I know I have to. For almost 15 years I sat in the blue chairs in DBC's auditorium, listening and taking the best notes I could as I listened to the Word being preached. And yes, the Word was preached, but my focus was always intellectual; making sure I had all the blanks filled in correctly, making sure I found every verse as we turned to it as quickly as possible, never questioning anything that came over the pulpit. Not that I was taught a litany of false doctrines, much of what I heard I still believe and stand on firmly, however I was never encouraged to study the Word on my own.

I do remember hearing Dennis say, more than once, "If you're not sure about what I'm teaching, read the Bible for yourself, it's right there." So yes, we were told to check what he said against the Scriptures for ourselves, but always with the connotation that whatever we found would support what he was teaching. His verse by verse teaching method made it extremely easy to just accept what ever was said, because he always supported it with a verse.

Let me clarify by saying that I don't think this method of teaching is necessarily wrong, but the fact that I was never taught to listen to the Holy Spirit within me compounded with this teaching method created in me a spirit of complacency. I never felt the need to study the Word on my own, because I thought I was being taught everything I needed to know in church. (Please note, I saw, and still see, reading the Word as very different from studying it.) I read my Bible on a regular basis, as I knew that was part of what I needed to do in order to be "in fellowship" with God. But I never realized that the reason I have the Holy Spirit, is so that He can guide me. Which includes giving me insight and understanding when I read God's Word.

It's getting late, so I'm going to stop this here, but let me state my main purpose of this blog. I am no longer a member of Duluth Bible Church, and I do not agree with their stand on this issue centered around the so-called "Crossless Gospel." While I do not completely agree with everything the people they are opposing believe either, I neither support nor agree with the way Rokser, Stegall, and apparantly, Martunaec, have been attacking them in order to defend their positions. Yes, they believe they are defending the Gospel, but by doing so, they are sowing discord among the brethren, simply because they haven't taken a good enough look at what it is they are opposing.

But to me, even that isn't the main issue. The main issue is that, on both sides, people have risen up on the offensive and defensive, attacking other brothers and sisters in Christ, and not only causing discord and distress, but causing stumbling blocks for those they could be giving a good testimony to instead. While the message we teach and stand on is important, nothing proves Jesus Christ's work, and the Holy Spirit's presence in our hearts more than our testimonies.

I hope to point people to their commonalities in Christ through this blog, and hopefully show how the discord is as much a problem as the issue itself. Yes, by all means, stand up for what you believe in. But for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, and our Heavenly Father who abounds in grace and mercy, do so in love. We, as brothers and sisters in Christ all have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us; that is our commonality, and no disagreement should come between our ability to fellowship together around who we are in Christ: God's children.