May 30, 2014

Inner Strength II: Strength Comes From The Struggle

[Continued From Part I]

The waiting Abraham and Sarah did was not accidental, it was intentional. It is absolutely clear from later verses why God had Abraham and Sarah wait through such a long painful period and we can learn volumes from that fact. Abraham (and Sarah) were forced to face that fact that their bodies were essentially dead and could not produce an offspring. Yet Abraham’s faith did not waver when it came to God’s promise. Instead, Abraham’s faith was strengthened.

Romans 4: 20-21 ~ “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

Abraham wasn’t in denial of the bleakness of his situation here and nor should we be when things are bad. We need to accept that things are indeed as bad as they seem sometimes. Conversely, there is nothing so bad in this universe, that God’s holiness and goodness cannot overcome it. We should not rest in our own abilities and strengths but rather His. We must remember that we are taking about Abraham here. The same guy that passed of his wife as his sister. Flawed and sinful to the core…but righteous because of his faith.

How did Abraham get past the fact that he and his wife’s bodies were dead without letting this fact bury him and stop him dead in his tracks? Simple, he didn’t focus on this fact. Too often we focus on the things we are trying to wait out and then become impatient. We focus too much on what we perceive as obstacles rather than the One that can remove the obstacles. We cannot focus on the “things”. We need to focus on the promises of God, otherwise we loose sight of what really matters. Our personal needs are secondary to the will of God. He promised covenant. He promised us something too...

I need to stop rehearsing in my head the way I think things will go because this just leads me to further feelings of powerlessness. This then swings all the way back the other way and makes me feel I need to gain control which only ever ends in disaster spiritually and sometimes worldly. I am not in charge and never will be. By projecting what I believe will happen I am projecting outcomes on God's plan. That is like playing my movie projector over top of God's and all I do is create a cacophony of noise and images. Abraham knew exactly what was going on…he just looked beyond this world for his answer and he found it…in God himself. Where else would he look? He looked to the only one that could affect a change to the impossible situation he was in. Let us be clear about this last fact also. The Bible never said this was easy for Abraham, it just said he responded in faith.

Somewhere in our lives we will be called to wait. Perhaps this might happen more than once as it has for me.  In our waiting we are given a perfect opportunity to strengthen our faith. We must use the time God is setting aside in these times to feed our spiritual muscle with the correct nourishment and sustenance. We need to take in the basic building blocks of our faith. We need to feed on the life-giving meat of God’s word. We need supplementation in the form of prayer, patience and perseverance. Like weightlifting, if we are first torn down and taxed slowly we will eventually adapt through progressive resistance and become stronger and more powerful for the Kingdom. Just as a weightlifter struggles to lift a weight to get stronger, so too a lifter of faith gains strength in his struggles. Sometimes it first requires our muscle/lives being damaged or torn down to allow for the repair to make it stronger. Every time we allow for God to repair what has been broken in our lives we allow for another chance for God to infuse His will in us.

In our wait we are given more time to perfect our faith. We must get rid of bad habits like sin and unbelief which will act as an anchor on our journey. It will be ballast that will not allow liftoff. Instead of carrying around dead weight of unbelief we should pick up good spiritual habits like devotional prayer, study and fellowship. We need to sit under sound theological teaching and sound doctrine. Finally, we must remember that where there is no spiritual battle, there will be little need of belief. Where there is no struggle, there is no strength nor a true need of it. It is in the struggle that we gain further strength through faith from God to persevere.

Romans 14:4 "Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand."

Galatians 6:9 - "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."

Jude 1:24 "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy"

May 28, 2014

Inner Strength I: Strength Beyond Strength

Let’s clear up a misunderstood idea in the next two posts, shall we? Your inner strength as a Christian does not come from some type of personal fortitude (at least the spiritual kind). The ability for you to go past your absolute limit and through the intolerable is not borne of you at all. At some point you will no longer be able to go on. From that point forward it will be supernatural perseverance. The old adage is true: Where you stop, God begins. Yes, the fortitude comes from within you but it is an outworking of the Holy Spirit working within you.

You can verify this fairly easily. The more faith you have and the more the Spirit indwells you as opposed to you pushing Him out with your sin, the better chance you have of persevering through trauma and travail. The falter and fail is the absence of the Spirit and shows outwardly in form of hopelessness. I have never seen a Christian truly loose hope in this life. I’ve seen their hope weaken and flag but never falter completely. Their hope and faith are intrinsically tied together. So the inner strength of a Christian comes from without or beyond. the internal strength actually has an external source. It is God.

When the wait seems insurmountable or is insurmountable, the ability to see it through until the end and do so in a positive manner with joy comes from God. Don’t kid yourself, you are really not that strong. When you’ve hit your end and can go on no longer, as a Christian you are called to do just that. You need to persevere until the end. That perseverance is bolstered by God. Waiting in God and the strength to persevere are tied hand-in-hand.

Psalm 27:14 ~ “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

Psalm 46:1 ~ “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Isaiah 40:29 ~ “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength”

Isaiah 40:31 ~ “…but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Ephesians 3:16 ~ “…that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being"

In this world we will spend an enormous amount of time immobile or stationary and it is usually in discomfort. I have learned that anything of worth or value will come with a price and the cost often requires a prolonged wait. If something of value is handed directly to you without effort or some form of discomfort you had better question why. The things of most supreme and enduring value we will have virtually no control over and we will need to wait on. Why must we wait? As I said in the beginning, they do not come from within or from us. They are gifts and they are bestowed in God's timing...and God's timing is not our timing.

Gifts from whom? A Father who loves us, that’s who. Jesus who did not stop in the Garden of Gethsemane, at the hands of Pilate or on the path to Golgotha. A God who did not leave the Hebrew slaves to suffer in obscurity under the whips of Pharaoh. A God who did not leave Abraham to die without first giving him an heir. He does not condemn believers to Hell without first giving them plenty of time and a choice to repent and seek forgiveness. He has been abundantly clear, he will not stop until His plans have been fulfilled. All that the Father has given Christ will not be cast out nor can they be taken away from Him.

John 6:37 ~ “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

John 10:29 ~ “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

They are gifts from the one who knows exactly what we are going through. They are from Jesus who fought to the death for our salvation. Jesus who overcame death for our salvation. This same Jesus who will not relent until our transformation back into His image is complete. A King who will not stop until He reigns in full in His Kingdom and all His enemies and adversaries are soundly trounced and under His heel. He will not stop until sin is eradicated. He will be patient so that none will perish.

Even after all of this we find it hard to wait on God so that in the wait our faith can be strengthened even further. So in reality, we aren’t really that strong, are we? It is not our natural inclination to be comfortable in spiritual hiatuses. Instead of growing in God’s strength and relishing in God’s presence, we end up going in the other direction. Why does our faith weaken? Why does our resolve diminish as time goes on when God is specifically having us wait to gain faith? Why does fear creep in? These things happen because we doubt.

We doubt because we have little faith. We struggle to have faith in the unseen because the very biblical definition of faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Why must we have faith? It is because God has made it so because He wants us to unquestionably trust Him. It is because we are at enmity against God that we don’t trust Him. Our natural condition is to move away from God, not towards Him. It is only because God drags us to Him that we will increase in faith.

John 6:44 ~ ""No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day."

The word "draws" here is actually ἑλκύσῃ / elkuse which literally means to drag someone. We saw in the time of the patriarchs that waiting and faith beyond faith was pivotal to our entire faith. It was against all hope that Abraham became the father of many nations, just as it had been promised to him by god Himself.

Romans 4:18 ~ “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Against all hope. Abraham had waited on God so long that his body nor his wife’s would be able to produce life through their own means…but God could.

The Greek here is fascinating in that it says, “…beside expectation on expectation….believed [anyway]". In other words, his faith was contrary or counter-intuitive to hope. More specifically it means that Abraham’s hope went beyond hope into something, well, supernaturally indescribable. Everything in him should’ve been telling him that he should have feared the worst, disbelieved God and doubted with ever fiber in his body…yet he didn’t. He went against everything in his very being and believed God would fulfill his promise. Folks, this is beyond rationale and reason and in the arena of a “God thing”. This is Spirit supported faith. It is faith beyond faith and strength beyond strength. It is what we too should expect in some of our bleakest circumstances …and it should give us assurance and joy even in some really lousy situations.

Sometimes the inner strength to overcome is actually the strength to understand. The strength to understand God.

[Continued In Part II]

May 25, 2014

The “Hitler Was A Christian” Mythos

There is often a misguided belief among rabid anti-Christians (and sometimes even believers) that Hitler was a Christian in adulthood because he was a catholic in his youth. This supposed “fact” that Hitler was Christian is then made into a fallacy of composition to say that Nazi’s and the Nazi movement in general was Christian also. This is then taken to a third level of absurdity to try and prove that Christians are probably madmen and evil due to an extremely tenuous connection to Hitler. This of course is a convenient but false bridge of fallacies (fallacy of association, red herring among others).  If we examine the facts, exact quotes and history...we will arrive at a dramatically different conclusion than that of our misguided friends.

This is a warped understanding of history and frankly, frighteningly wrong. Sadly, the belief that Hitler was Christian during his tenure as Früher or that Christianity was somehow complicit in the Holocaust is further exacerbated by what is perceived as a deafening silence from the Vatican during the 1920’s to 1940’s. The Catholic Church is sometimes rabidly pursued as anti-Semitic for this silence also (probably unfairly at times). It is often mentioned that the Vatican was right in the heart of Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy (one of Hitler's allies) so it is implied that they are somehow guilty due to geographical location. Furthermore it is assumed that because the Roman Church did not fight back against the Axis powers they were somehow guilty by omission or by failure to act.

Never mind the fact that it would’ve been foolhardy to try and fight the Axis gears of war when even places like France capitulated and only a nation like the USA had the proper resources to overcome Germany. It is clear the Vatican was not the only state that was rendered impotent by the Axis Powers in Europe and the Mediterranean area. Let us keep in mind that the fascist states like Germany systematically butchered millions who would dare oppose them. The church leaders whether they be Catholic or Protestant that did resist were mercilessly crushed. History need only visit the life and untimely demise of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

As for Nazi Germany and Hitler being Christians. I really don’t think the Nazi’s connection to occultism is a surprise to anyone. Nor do I think it is a concealed fact of history that Hitler thought of Christianity as a poison to his military and State goals. The only time he supported Christianity is when it helped him rise to power within a Christian populated Germany or when it helped undermine Judaism.
"You see it's been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?” ~ Adolf Hitler [Albert Speer quoting Hitler in his book Inside the Third Reich (1971)]
My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. ~Adolf Hitler [Munich Speech, April 12, 1922, in opposition to Count Lerchenfeld, who opposed anti-Semitism based on personal Christian feelings]

In the time period leading up to Nazi Germany, Germany and the rest of Europe were characterized by growing animosity to Christianity and Judaism. Europe had become smitten with Darwinian and Communist philosophies. The theories of Karl Marx and Charles Darwin after the Enlightenment had captured the hearts and minds of a large swathe of the people. By the time of Nazi Germany, God had become unnecessary. In men’s minds, humans were now self-made. The idea of survival of the fittest was the preferred method of improving the human race provided by the only god that still existed—naturalism and science. Grace and mercy of a Sovereign God were no longer necessary in their minds. As a matter of fact, mercy and grace were viewed as weaknesses incompatible with Nazism. Science and technology would now be the German savior. 

Hitler viewed Christianity as too passive and effeminate and felt it would totally undermine his Blitzkrieg rampages in Europe. As Hitler appears to be at least a loose adherent of Nietzsche it is not surprising to see correlations between Nietzsche’s “ubermensch” (superman) and Hitler’s Aryan Race of men and women. It is also not surprising that Hitler would view his Aryan race as the obvious successor to the existing human race because of his belief and adherence to Social Darwinism and evolution. This all fed into his megalomania and grand delusion for himself and the German people.

Christianity and its founder Jesus Christ would therefore pose a thorny issue for Hitler to overcome if he would allow for it to persist in Germany. The problem was that Jesus Christ was of Jewish descent. It is ironic that Hitler would deny Jesus' Jewish ancestry yet he would use things like Christ’s stand against the Jewish Pharisees and Sadducee as his justification for calling Jesus a fighter and a warrior to support his militaristic goals. This sadly is sometimes the same type of twisted logic use by socialist Christians (Social Gospel) now for protest and fighting against “the man”. Regardless, Hitler ended up using Jesus as a springboard into the heart of the German people. He painted Jesus out to be fighting the Jewish people for the truth of God. A sad twisting of biblical truth. As we all know, even the Devil can quote and contort Scripture. In reference to the overturning of tables in the Temple Hitler stated:

In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian, I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.” ~ Adolf Hitler [Munich Speech, April 12, 1922, in opposition to Count Lerchenfeld, who opposed anti-Semitism based on personal Christian feelings.]

It was all a demonic plan by a demonic madman. He used just enough truth of Scripture to serve his needs. As we all know, the best counterfeit is one that is so close to the original that it is indistinguishable from it. Hence the reason why even now most people including some Christians are convinced Hitler was “Christian” when in reality he was demonically insane. The truth is that he wasn’t even remotely Christian. The man was nearly remote-controlled by Satan himself.

In the end it was all a pragmatic plan to implement a demonic nightmare. For Hitler to have tried to institute a fascist/socialistic religion at the time would’ve dramatically limited his ability to take over Europe quickly. So he piggybacked a madman’s dream into Christianity and hijacked it. While spewing his vile twisted Christianity he was simultaneously formulating the horrors behind Auschwitz and the gas chambers. All of this based on Social Darwinism, Nietzschean philosophies and atheistic underpinnings.

Hitler certainly believed in a god. The problem was that it was a perverse god of his own warped mind. It was a god of war akin to Odin. The idea of an Aryan god would inevitably merge into Hitler himself. Strangely, not unlike emperor worship of two millennium earlier. In the end, he didn’t worship a god but instead became a demonic despot just like his contemporaries Stalin and Mussolini. This being Hitler’s view made it incompatible with true Christianity even though he had been raised Catholic. Hitler never really had a problem with Christianity or with God. He used God and the religious institution of Christianity as a tool to propagate his vile murderous plans. While the Nazis retained the name Christianity for their religion, it was in reality a state controlled tool, nothing more. The Reichsminister for Church Affairs Hans Kerrl was known to have stated:
"There has arisen a new authority as to what Christ and Christianity really are - that is Adolph Hitler. Adolph Hitler ... is the true Holy Ghost."

Children of Nazis were taught to pray to Hitler instead of to Jesus. A sort of baptismal service was held for children, baptizing them not in the name of Christ, but as "new hereditary links into the ancestral chain and were charged to guard their blood so that descendants for a thousand years after you will be thankful to you...for God is pure blood. Sir William Teeling who had studied the Nazi youth movement extensively in the 1930’s wrote that at the Nuremberg Nazi Party Rally in September, 1937, there was a huge photograph of Hitler underneath which was the inscription, "In the beginning was the Word…" He also says that the Mayor of Hamburg assured him, "We need no priest or parsons. We communicate direct with God through Adolph Hitler. He has many Christ-like qualities." It wouldn't be long before these sentiments were introduced officially at a national level.

The Nazi “Christianity” was nothing more than a religion of a martial paganism (occultism), which was slowly instituted in the place of Christianity when the proper time came. Once the martial paradigm was instituted, the “state religion” head went from being a twisted version of the Christian God to an embodiment of evil. It became Hitler…an Antichrist, a version of Lucifer personified.

Anyone that can draw a bridge this wide and say Hitler and the Nazis were Christian are just as twisted and demented as Hitler was. Perhaps they are as duped as many of the German people in the 1930’s too. Sadly, anyone that could say the Nazi war machine was Christian are actually emulating the foolishness and blindness of the very people that allowed Hitler to come to power. History is indeed repeating itself if people can unabashedly make the same asinine statements to push their atheistic agendas. Is there anything new under the sun? 

I suspect not.

May 22, 2014

Blamelessness Is A Non-Negotiable, Part II: Just Out of Reach

If a Christian is to be beyond reproach or blameless then a Christian must be able to live in such a way that no one will be able to level valid accusations about their character and have it stick or be a true statement.

The Greek word for blameless or ἀνέγκλητος (anegkletos) in Titus and ἀνεπίλημπτον (anepilempton) in 1 Timothy 3:1 means more than just blameless. The word ἀνεπίλημπτον / anepilampton in particular is actually a compound word constructed of the word lambano which means “to take” and a prefix epi which means “upon”. Therefore the combination means to lay hands upon. When used in the context of blamelessness or beyond reproach it is saying my character needs be so far beyond someone else’s ability to criticize it that no one should even be able to touch it. This includes slighting me even indirectly with a criticism…or my walk might be compromised. There should be nothing there for someone to base an unfounded accusation upon. My character needs to be spotless and Teflon when it comes to negative critique. Why? Because if I am a Christian and someone can cast doubt upon my character….they are in essence casting doubt and reproach upon Jesus Himself. It is saying that the power of Christ is not powerful enough to change my character to become blameless. Therefore it is not worth aspiring or trying to gain the power of Christ.

So what does blamelessness look like when someone cannot take hold of you with demeaning characterizations? Paul actually gave Timothy and Titus a detailed list that outlined exactly what it means for a godly leader to be above reproach (therefore anyone that follows that person’s teaching also). Besides blameless they must be faithful to one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent, gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy. He must also manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. Additionally he must not be a recent convert and he must also have a good reputation with outsiders. A list in Titus alludes to similar qualifications.

Above all what Paul is looking for is person with their heart towards God with a sum character that embodies the qualities of moral excellence. It is the kind of person that would that motivates other people to do the right thing in an attempt to emulate them…just like Jesus. That means that whatever is going on inside the psyches of these people is exactly represented by their outward behavior. That is because the external pressures really should have little effect on a Christian. This is because the one that is above reproach or blameless is tightly tied to God and this requires a relationship with God that is of the highest integrity as their behaviors should be an outflowing of the God who is within.

As God is morally and ethically correct attributes and He is indwelling the believer we should also see signs of other things not even mentioned directly in Scripture but are covered by the description of blameless.  There should be accountability for actions. There should be loyalty like we see in the military since all Christians are at war every single day with the powers of this world and Satan. We should at least be responding to temptation with an attitude of incorruptibility. We should be honest, trustworthy and always doing the right thing (in accordance with Scripture) no matter what. In a word, these could all fit under the mantle of integrity.

We will not just wake up one day blameless and bursting with integrity. As I learned from my father’s behavior over his lifetime, both are cultivated in the fields and events of our lives. They are cultivated by a tight bond between God and ourselves. This requires constant prayer and study of God’s word. Integrity and blamelessness is grown like fruits on a tree or like vegatables in the ground. Day by day, choice after choice we move forward until our emotional and spiritual bank account is full. It is at this juncture that we see the fruit of consistent morally upright behavior. None of this would even be possible if it wasn’t for the work of Christ on the Cross. It is all through grace and God working with us and through us.

Blamelessness should not be confused as a spiritual gift either. It comes at our own personal cost. It demands discipline and sacrifice. Our salvation may be free if we repent having been paid for by Christ but our sanctification and discipleship are the demands for where we are going when it comes to being beyond reproach. This is a discipline lived day in and day out. It isn’t as if we can slack off either. One failure taints a thousand successes. We are not afforded the luxury of failure when people are watching. So we need to live like we are being watched 24/7. The truth is, we are. God sees every move we make. This should be a sobering thought for all that wish to lead or teach even one person.

To be able to teach godly character we must live a life of godly character. This requires honest and harsh self-examination. That examination needs to be matched against God and the Bible. Expect to fall short but never stop striving. We need to never forget that we are the tools God gave us for the job. We are our own blackboard or our own guinea pig.  We are the test case. We are the carrot in front of the horse (or rabbit if you will). If it doesn’t show in us, how are we to expect it to show in others? If we are our own toolbox it warrants that we keep our saws sharpened and our axes ground. No one wishes to go to task with dull tools. We need to stay sharp and ready for use.

May 19, 2014

Blamelessness Is A Non-Negotiable, Part I: A Bellwether

Blamelessness is a non-negotiable in a Christian’s life. This is especially true for a Christian leader. There is no wiggle room on this for a spiritual leader. The Bible shows many instances of this type of character demand and it also makes explicit statements about blamelessness. If we look at the Old Testament, God’s leaders needed impeccable character or they were summarily chastised or punished for not having it. We see it in Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets. When they stepped out of line it cost them dearly. In the case of David the sword never left his house/family.

We see in Noah a blameless  and righteous man. His biblical example is imperative for people to see so that they know what proper and acceptable behavior is before God. Had people emulated Noah, there may have been more people on the Ark at the time the rains started falling. As we see with Noah and we will see with others--what truly constituted the blamelessness of a person was the closeness of the relationship with God. As we see below, not only was Noah blameless, he also walked with God meaning he had a very close relationship with God which would mean he had to have been holy to be in God’s presence.

Genesis 6:9 ~ “These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.”

The Law in Deuteronomy says that the priest (holy people), to be in covenant with God must walk blameless before God.

Deuteronomy 18:13 ~ “You shall be blameless before the Lord your God”

When we look to the sorrowful story of Job we see that a person can be blameless in their behavior even under extreme duress and suffering. As a matter of fact the word blameless is used nine times in Job because the significance of this character trait plays so heavily into the storyline.

Job 1:1 ~ “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.”

Job 1:8 ~ “And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

In the New Testament we see citations concerning more of the same. The word above or beyond reproach is often substituted in lieu of the word blameless but both words convey the intent.

1 Timothy 3:2 ~ “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach [blameless], the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach”

Titus 1:5-7 ~ “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach [blameless], the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach [blameless]. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain”

Even the 144,000 in Revelation are viewed as being blameless.

Revelation 14:5 ~ “These have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

Blamelessness is predominant in a godly person’s character. It is the foundation for all other behavior. I suppose this is the reason many men do not ascend to leadership positions quickly. I am nearly certain this is why some never do and I am absolutely certain it is why many fall from leadership. I too have struggled with this characteristic as it pervades everything I do. It is not only shown in my behavior but also in my speech and interpersonal relationships. Those relationships include marriage, family, work, friendships and even interaction with neighbors and casual acquaintances.

To clarify though, blamelessness is not faultless, sinless or perfection. No human is capable of even one of these demands. Only Christ was. No, instead blamelessness is more along the lines of setting the bar extremely high so that few can approach it in terms of our behavior. One's behavior must be impeccable. This is why in Titus, Paul states that the elders are to be appoint from the ranks of what? The blameless. It means to set an outstanding example for others to follow. The moral and ethical credentials of a person should be nearly spotless. In reality we would be mentoring people and leading by example in the way we handle ourselves and conduct our lives. We want to emulate Christ and in so doing others can them emulate us and be on the proper track towards holiness and biblical behavior. It is the proverbial adage: Leadership is action, not a position.

Leading the flock by example. In herding they are called bellwethers. Bellwethers were usually the smarter more agile ram, sheep or goats. The term bellwether is derived from the old English practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated male (a wether) that would lead his flock of sheep by its behavior. The movements of the flock could then be noted by hearing the bell before the flock was in sight. We may not physically be neutered but in a metaphorical sense, we give over our authority and influence over to the One who owns us. In this way, through our actions we allow the one who owns us to steer others members of the flock also...its called discipleship. In this way, Christian leaders (and Christians in general) are called to be a form of Bellwether when it comes to blamelessness. 

More on what constitutes a blameless person in my next post.

[Concluded in Next Post]

May 15, 2014

Neurotheology, Part II: Atheist Brains are Defective

[Continued from Part I. Please go back and read first half or this post will make little sense]

To briefly surmise my premise from my previous post I will offer a syllogism. It is offered to explain the atheistic mindset behind dismissing God through some quirk of genetics or some weird disorder of the brain. It is as follows:
(1) Any belief with a purely genetic or otherwise biological origin is false.
(2) Religious belief has a purely genetic or otherwise biological origin.
(3) Therefore, religious belief is false.

Yes, militant atheists want the steps to discredit the existence of God this this simple. Why? Because at times many of their followers are not really that well-researched or academically inclined, merely emotionally charged. Besides, to spread propaganda, it is easier to spread if said propaganda is simple and easy to memorize requiring less thought. That being said, many atheistic beliefs are primarily emotionally driven and sometimes are downright logically incoherent.

So the question then becomes this for a Christian: Do these studies show that religious belief is the by-product of genetic influences in the brain overriding rational brain centers? More importantly, is religiosity a visual manifestation or symptom of a mental disorder or genetic disability which some lucky atheists do not suffer? I posit no. As I have just said, the atheist logic in these arguments is fraught with error and leaves cogent reasoning at the doorstep and it never enters the building.

As Christians we cannot and should not fall into the trap set by the atheist baiting and propaganda that says we have to refute their premise. This assumes they would have not only moral and ethical high ground, it also attempts to assume the high ground in the academic, intellectual and logic categories too. To refute a premise is to assume a premise is even valid. Atheists in these situations attempt to stand solely on their premise or accusations here with virtually no hard evidence…only faulty theory and conjecture. These premise based on so-called academic credibility are assumed be valid enough to support their errant conclusions. The flaw in logic is that a premise alone barely (or not) supported leads nowhere.

Ironically, the genetics argument for the “disorder of religiosity” is actually a textbook case of (amusingly) a logic fallacy called a genetic fallacy. A genetic fallacy occurs when someone explains the origin of a belief and thereby contends they have demonstrated the truth or falsehood of that belief because of its origins. The genetic fallacy is committed when an idea is either accepted or rejected because of its source, rather than its merit. In this case it comes from a scientist or a college institute. This fallacy entails the use of an Appeal to Authority also. An example of this fallacy is…

(1) The scientist from a science institute said religion is a disorder.
(2) Institutionalized science is never wrong
(3) Therefore religion has to be a disorder because science said so.


(1) Christians are viewed as uneducated, disordered and hypocritical people by the culture.
(2) Christians have religious experiences
(3) Therefore religious experiences are only in disordered or uneducated people.

Never mind the fact that science deals with only empirical and a posteriori evidences and the knowledge of God is a priori and spiritual. This ends up making the statements from anti-theists epistemologically schizophrenic. In other words natural or worldly evidences cannot prove the spiritual in a conclusive manner. They are two different types of studies of knowledge (epistemology). Anti-theists and many that want physical evidences for God believe that religion can be subject to scientific scrutiny. These are two totally different fields concerned with two different types of knowledge.

So...back to the genetic premise. Christians believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead. What if there was a gene that allowed people to believe that? Does having that gene that allows you to believe that statement make the statement untrue? No. The burden of proof is still upon the atheist to evaluate the facts based on whether they believe there is sufficient physical/empirical evidence to the contrary. Otherwise, to say God does not exist is not even a valid scientific statement by their own standards of experimental truth and evidence…it is only their unsubstantiated opinion.

As I said before, perhaps certain activity in the brain is a sign of spiritual interaction with God. It stands to reason that if God is another person(s), those centers would indeed be activated. Would this brain activity based on genetic markers disprove the existence of God? Hardly. If anything it should prove just the opposite. Data is data. It is only after we begin to interpret the data that it becomes information or facts. How we perceive that data or what presuppositions we bring to the data affects how we will interpret it. Christians will see brain activity when praying as interaction with God. Atheists will see brain activity during prayer as a disorder because they do not believe in God. The will see the brain activity during prayer as people talking to themselves (schizophrenia) or as imaginary friends. This is the old chicken and egg argument. The atheists are confusing correlation with a causation.

Did the interaction with God or a true spiritual experience cause the brain activity?

Did the brain activity cause the religious experience or show evidence that a person was interacting with an imaginary god?

Pure scientific observation will not work in this situation because the data gleaned becomes purely subjective or relative to the observer. Furthermore, anti-theist logic in this situation can be turned against the atheistic mindset. What is to say that there is not a gene or genetic abnormality that causes the disorder of atheism? Atheism that is often prone to a near religious zeal of denial of the supernatural. A zeal that is often so intense that the individual becomes emotional and irrational to the point that they completely miss the fact that they are violating rules of logic and are pursing logical fallacies. What is worse is their disorder prevents them from rationally acknowledging that their logic is in error. At times ad hominem attacks are then used to compensate (my personal experience). Perhaps the lack of stimulation in these atheist brain centers is actually the disorder? Perhaps, the atheist mind (or genes) suffers from a form of theological brain damage? Perhaps the atheist’s inability to acknowledge God is a mutation in their genetic code? If genetics is indeed responsible for theism, then there is an element to it that is also responsible for anti-theism/atheism as belief is a two-way street folks.

This genetic argument could also be seen as a form of circular reasoning. A genetic theological disorder assumes that which it seeks to prove.  In attempting to advance a neuro-theological premise, an atheist assumes that the genes and/or portions of the brain that correlate to religious belief are acting improperly when they lead a person toward belief in the divine (same as above). Their claim assumes that a properly functioning brain is non-religious. In this way atheists are allowed to define the rules of data interpretation here and that is biased reasoning. Biased presuppositions, biased conclusions. Therefore if a religious brain points to God or religion, it is pointing away from truth or logic, evidence and reason according to a person that wishes to exclude God or the supernatural from "normal thinking". How could an atheist assume that brain activity accepting God is wrong? Simple, they would need to decide in advance (bringing their own presuppositions into the argument) that their conclusion is true. To me this appears to be a textbook case of circular reasoning.

To end this post I will state the following. An anti-theist or neuro-scientific oriented attempt to fabricate an argument against God is based in a quite a few violations of standard logic. Atheists have the burden of proof on them to show that a man is wrong (through evidential means) before they start explaining why he is wrong. When forcing an argument based upon neuroscience, atheists attempt to show why the Christians or the religious people are wrong without first demonstrating that we are actually wrong.  They must play by their own rules of engagement or they only end up looking like hypocrites and discrediting their own arguments. Anything else is just an illogical distraction form the truth and is completely unscientific and non-academic. They very things they pride themselves on.

May 13, 2014

Neurotheology, Part I: Christian Brains are Defective

Okay folks, time to strap on your thinking caps (pun intended). This post is more along the lines of philosophy and logic and will require patience to absorb. It is not light reading but should probably be understood by Christians-at-large for their own good. The reason it should be understood is because the "uber-intelligent" and "highly educated academic" cliche think their intellect is vastly superior to yours. Why does this matter? It matters because they are demeaning you by assuming you will stay ignorant to the tripe that some of them are espousing in the halls of elitist academia. They will then try and pass off their tripe as science to institutions like the government and medical establishment thereby getting taxpayer funding. They will then also get the chance to pass some of their tripe into law (think abortion) and manage to institutionalize illogical nonsense through legal means like I am about to explain to you. 

They will have the audacity to do this while categorizing you as mentally deficient as a religious person and making religions like Christianity into a clinical neurological/psychological disorder. All the while they give a green light to horrid sins like abortion and deviant sexual behavior. Remember folks, many "educated" people w
ill tell you that a child in-utero isn't even human. If they can get your tax money to fund abortions, it will just be a matter of time before they will use your own tax money to find you incompetent or mentally deficient for what you believe.

I guess I should start this article by asking the reader if they have ever heard of Neurotheology?  My guess is that outside of a few Christians in the medical field, not many will have heard of it. The only reason I showed even a passing interest in it is because the prefix neuro- was followed by the word theology. So, I sharpened my pencil and did some homework to educate myself. I guess the next questions that should be asked are: Why should I care what Neurotheology is? –and- How does Neurotheology affect me? Read on folks and be surprised, slightly filled with dread and unease as we slide down the rabbit hole.

Neurotheology was a term coined/used by Dr. Andrew Newberg, Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies and an Associate Professor of Radiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. It is a term used by Dr. Andrew Newberg to describe the relationship between the brain and religious experience. The scientific community is claiming that certain areas of our brain are responsible for having posited the idea that a god could exist. I imagine then that if this portion of the brain could be killed off, the concept of a god could be too. Interesting in a novel kind of way but nothing really nutty going on here. Just a man that might have a religious background and possible belief in God trying to bridge the gap between his belief and his work. No biggie I guess.

Doing a little bit more internet searching I go to the bastion of academic credibility Wikipedia (*gag*) Wiki defines Neurotheology (also known as spiritual neuroscience) as an attempt to explain religious experience and behavior in neuro-scientific terms. It is the study of correlations of physical neural phenomena with subjective experiences of spirituality and hypotheses to explain these phenomena. In other words spiritual experiences unique to each individual person. Furthermore, it says that these experiences are the sum product of neurological and evolutionary actions. In layman's terms, your belief in God is nothing more than atoms zipping around, electrons jumping orbits and chemical reactions (yawn). This means that not only are they subjective to each individual, our religious experiences are the product of our imaginations, which being the product of our brains…are the sum product of evolutionary science. 

In short, it is predominantly godless scientists attempting to explain away God as an evolutionary figment of human imagination…nothing more. The science geeks even have a name for the God specific portion of the brain. Scientists refer to the portion of the mind that conjures up God from nothing as the (drum roll please....) “God Center”. How breathtakingly original of them. Geneticists have a genetic variation on this theme that attempt to convince us that this “God Center” goes down to the genetic level and have affectionately named the associated gene the (second drum roll and high hat please...) “God Gene”. Not much room for originality after all that boring scientific method, is there?

Frankly, I don’t view anything wrong with this avenue of inquiry. Obviously there are portions of the brain engaged when dealing with God. God made us to think and have a relationship with Him. It should not surprise anyone that studies of a person's brain that is praying would show that it is the same brain center that is engaged when a person speaks or talks with another person. The only people this seemed to surprise were godless researchers. The truth is…if scientists wish to foolishly search for the reason mankind has fabricated the existence of God…have at it. Their entire presupposition is flawed so their end results can only be flawed too. That’s fine, people are allowed to study and question things. Whatever. I honestly believe questions and doubts from skeptics inevitably strengthen the Christian faith in the end because God is indeed real and will not be mocked. Under the microscope of academic inquiry, Scriptures and God generally have fared quite well as opposed to other worldviews contrary to what a militant or rabid atheist will tout.

My problem is not in the honest inquiry but rather in the misuse and misinterpretation of the retrieved data. The same evidence that can often be used to show God’s existence such as a genetic fingerprint in man that points to intentional or intellectual design can also be used to show a direct correlation to demonic evolutionary theory to show just the opposite. Often these atheistic “proofs” can be used to assume more than the prima facie evidence warrants. Enter militant atheism. Specifically militant atheist Daniel Dennett in his book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. It is a book in which he discusses the “probability” that a gene called VMAT2 may fully account for religious belief...therefore the existence of God (or lack thereof). What’s more is Dean Hamer a neurobiologist, speculated in his book The God Gene that he had found this exact type of gene that would be responsible for such a role.

Ironically, the VMAT2 gene is polymorphic in human beings, meaning that there are different mutations of it in different people. The VMAT2 gene variants are ideally positioned therefore (in atheistic scientist’s eyes) to account for differences in people's cognitive responses to the same religious stimuli. Obviously, this would account for why some are so "weak-minded” and easily duped by "superstitious nonsense” and why some "more evolved" intelligent types like our beloved scientists are too smart (or too evolved) for all of these god fairy tales.

You should already see where this is going folks...and it should bother you.

It therefore can then be deduced that those with this gene variant could conceivably be deemed “deficient” if they have this variant. Considering we live in a godless society run by an institutionalized godless government and society is manipulated/coerced by many godless education centers…well…figure it out people. Does eugenics ring any bells with people? Think Adolf Hitler and Margaret Sanger. In the next post I will explain why the entire “science” involved in this argument becomes irrelevant because of horribly flawed logic and reasoning. 

Proverbs 21:30 ~ There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.

1 Corinthians 3:19 ~ "For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”

God will not be mocked and I will show why in the next post.

[Concluded in Part II]

May 10, 2014

Spiritual Neutral, Part III: It's About Time

To complete my thoughts on waiting I present the following. When it comes to waiting I will state that I am not sitting here dwelling on the mistakes of yesterday. This is nostalgia and nostalgia is human rust and ruinous to the life of a Christian. It locks me in the past and I cannot mature nor grow in future relationships when tied to old sins. In this way nostalgia or longing for the past to me are forms of spiritual distortion. Nostalgia is a spiritual dead end because at best it leaves us locked in place, at worst it drags us back into the past...into sin.

A longing for what once was when God wants me to move forward to grasp what he holds for me at the end is self-serving and exposes the sinful heart within me. What is potentially more dangerous is that I might go back and revisit sins and if they are in my mind or thoughts again it is as if I am recommitting the same sins over and over. To even think of a woman lustfully is to have committed adultery. To have had malice in my heart towards another is to have murdered. As the old saying goes: There is no use in crying over spilled milk. I need to move on.

If I view everything that happens as a negative while I'm waiting, my entire outlook on life becomes a drudgery and cursed and this is just not the Spirit of a Christian. Of course I will gladly welcome the end of my waiting but I will not sit and dwell on it because this becomes a cyclical mental trap. The Devil loves when I chase my tail. It saves Him from tormenting me...because I do it to myself. It forces me to focus and dwell solely on myself and this is not biblical. Waiting constructively on the other hand is biblical. It is painful, but biblical. The waiting has been put in place for a reason and pessimism and miserableness are not those reasons. The waiting is preparation. More specifically it is preliminary construction. Groundwork is being laid for a future creation that will bring glory to God and will bring me to my final destination which is salvation as a sanctified and then glorified believer.

If I live locked in the past, I miss what today holds for me. This is one of the reasons why I am forgiven as a believer of Jesus Christ.  I can learn from the past but also divest myself of the past's sin and burden. If I don't they have a tendency to hang around like yesterday’s garbage and stink everything up. If I live for the past I get sucked into the immediacy of the pain and miss what God has for me now. I get stuck in the stagnant air of my own myopic world. I should see my periods of waiting primarily as building my faith regardless of how painful they might be. It forces me to begin to trust in the unseen and often unknowable plans of sovereign God. If I allow the sufferings and waiting periods to build my faith they will be preparing my faith for something greater that I cannot even grasp now. Each successive act of faith builds on the last until my faith is impervious and unwavering to much of what this world and the Devil can throw at it.

I need to hold on in faith until God deems it time for me to move again. I need to redeem the time in a manner which aligned with God's word (Ephesians 5:16) because the word of God lasts forever (Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:25). In other words, even in the waiting periods I need to use my time wisely. I should dig into Scripture, pray and worship. The Bible tells me that the fear of god is the beginning of wisdom. So I will follow God's lead on this one and attempt to do His will with His guidance thereby using my time constructively. This seems like the wisest way to store up treasure for eternity (Matthew 6:19-20). I do not wish to fritter the time away.

I must learn to accept that today is the day for my joy. I cannot live for tomorrow or the day after that. Tomorrow might never come. The Lord may take me home before the sun rises tomorrow. Too often my joy has been based on what I hope tomorrow's world brings because I don’t like what today holds. The first problem with this outlook is that it takes my eyes off of what I've been called to do today. The second thing it does is makes me believe that I do not have to rejoice in what the Lord has in store for me today. This means I do not trust God. This means I am in rebellion against Him. God tells me I am to trust Him. He has told me that worry will not add a single hour to my life (Matthew 6:25-34). God knows I am waiting (and has allowed or caused it), this should give me rest and pause.

For me it stands to reason that to be able to understand and know true joy, true freedom, and beauty, I first have to know how to be broken, how to be sorrowful, how to grieve. The problem comes when I focus too intently on the problems and get buried in them rather than focusing on God and the source of our possible solution that lies in Him. Looking at the problem too long distorts reality. Even though it is completely contrary to the way my brain is wired I don’t have to orbit around every detail in a desperate attempt to solve problems. I have needed to learn that when no biblical solution lies before me, I must simply cling to God in the midst of my pain, discontent and disorientation and I have to trust him to handle the issues in the way he chooses.

I guess in the end its all about time and seasons in life. As a creature of the Creation I am locked into timetables and plans and therefore definitive waiting periods. Ironically (or should I say chronologically), I am loved and embraced by a timeless God that is the originator of these times and plans. By thinking this way it makes my temporary waiting pale in comparison to the eternal well-being I am being offered by a ageless God. It took me having to go through this waiting period to fully see and grasp this concept to the level that I now have. The waiting is indeed the hardest part but I figure it this way. If that is all I have learned from this, then the waiting has been worth it. It has been a painful time...but time well spent. God in fact has assured me of this, I need only trust Him in faith and wait. It is better to have extra time on my hands here when I can repent and seek God than when it is too late and I have plenty of time to be tormented in Hell.

May 6, 2014

Spiritual Neutral, Part II: The Action In My Inaction

As I said in the previous post, waiting in spiritual neutral is does not mean motionlessness and stagnation. There will be action or things going on in what appears to be God’s inaction. It's just that my senses are not sensitive enough to pick out God’s acts from the background static of the world. It could be that He is doing something so vast that I am standing too close to the mountain to see it moving. Just like I view myself as motionless when lying in my bed but the truth is I'm hurdling through space on a radial arm of the Milky Way galaxy.

I have learned that change can happen in the waiting.

God’s actions can often seem the same. Without the sensation of movement I can often be fooled into believing nothing is actually happening when in reality I am closer and closer to the place God wants me every day. Again, this requires trust in God that what He is doing is to my benefit and I must believe in true faith that all will work out in the end. The pain may be physical but the gain is nearly always spiritual with God.

What I should do in this season of waiting is view my painful task of waiting as a form of obedience which should further be seen as a form of worship to God. Yes, I know, I never saw it that way until now either. If we look at how most people worship God would appear that worship really is a form of waiting or at least a pause for reflection. We often stop everything, sit or stand in one place and attempt to quiet our souls and minds and focus solely on God. So in truth I am not really being passive about what appears to be a lousy situation but instead I am turning control over to God and in doing so I am offering a form of worship through obedience in waiting. 

It is an active passivity though. I am not going totally limp here and becoming an evangelical jellyfish. Instead I am making my will passive or subservient to God. In doing so it makes total sense that this would literally effect me at the physical and psychological level. This passivity means waiting until a clear indicator is given to do otherwise. Again, the wait may require superhuman endurance...and that is the point. What I find though is that instead of waiting and being a builder of faith I digress. Instead of seeing what I have in Christ, I end up letting the wait be a disappointment or letdown. I focus on the tangible things that I don’t have or have not been able to acquire because I am in a divinely ordained neutral. I then reach for substance but grasp nothing but straws. My focus has been in the exact wrong direction if I do this. I do the same in my worship at times. I get distracted by the anxieties and worries of the world.

Scripture is replete with exhortations to wait on God. Sometimes we are even told of the benefit for doing so. Isaiah tells us our strength will be renewed and bolstered with strength and endurance. Hopefully this will be for further service to the Lord. 

Isaiah 40:31 ~ “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

James speaks to us of waiting in our suffering.

James 5:7-8 ~ “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

James' thoughts are paralleled and elaborated on by Paul in Romans. The idea that suffering might pervade our wait is then reinforced. 

Romans 5:3-4 ~ “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”

The idea that the waiting and suffering is to serve a positive "God purpose" then gets shown to us by Peter. Peter shows us that the waiting is clearly not a punishment but may actually be a plan by God to assist us in avoiding eternal punishment. This is just the opposite of what many believe they are going through when being forced to wait. 

2 Peter 3:9 ~ “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

If the wait is actually an attempt to avoid eternally perishing, this premise assumes that either one is not saved or this waiting is a merciful act of sanctification to make the believer more holy in their act of repentance. So you see, waiting even for extended periods is indeed Biblical and it does indeed serve a purpose even though you might not be able to see it from your vantage point.

So, in passive acts of obedience or in patient waiting, it makes sense that I should be praying constantly just as I would in worship whether it be individual or communal. I might be physically torpid or appear stationary but I am not spiritually immobile by any means. This misunderstanding is the path to apathy and apostasy. Instead, I should be attentive and attuned to God’s Spirit in a way I never have before in the past and this is exactly where I find myself right now. Just because I am waiting does not mean I am not worshiping and searching out God’s will through His word. I am currently buried in Scripture like a squirrel trying to find last year’s acorn. Things are anything but parked or immobile right now. Movement is just taking on different form that I have not seen before and ironically, can't really see right now either. Come to think of it, grace has taken on a few new forms in all of this also. The bottom-line: There is action in my inaction, there is worship in my waiting and God lies behind all of it...

[Concluded In Part III]
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...