Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I have been thinking a lot lately about motivations. Why do we do what we do? Why do I do things I want to do, why do I want to do them? Why do I do the things I don’t want to do? I was watching something the other day, and a commercial came on for some movie. There was a man and a woman fighting and she said “I want you to want to do the dishes”. He said “why would I want to do the dishes”. So I asked myself, why do I do the dishes? I don’t want to, but I do them. I know why, you can ponder it. You can probably guess.

So you knew I was going to turn this back to the church at some point. There are a few books I am reading, one is from the Barna Group, it’s called Pagan Christianity. I haven’t finished it, so I won’t give you my take on it. I will tell you I didn’t completely agree with Revolution by Barna, and this is in the same vain. The book points out that much of what we do in the modern church, the way we do modern church is pagan. It’s not from the New Testament, it’s taken from the way pagans do church, ergo the name, Pagan Christianity.

That got me thinking about American Christianity. There are things we do in the American church that seem out of place. Ask most older Christians, especially older (and some younger) deacons and pastors about tattoos, what will they say? It’s sin. Why, cause it’s in the Bible. If you are unfamiliar with that passage of scripture, I invite you to read it. It’s in Leviticus chapter 19, but don’t just read verse read vs 19-37. Why are tattoos a big deal, but no one ever talks about the rest of that passage? I have my theories, but I think most of it comes down to tradition and what we consider acceptable moral behavior. Tattoos, drinking, dancing, playing cards and rock ‘n’ roll music. I have heard my fair share of why rock and roll is from the devil, even if you have Christian lyrics.

What about the word Jehovah. Why do we use it? It’s the word Yahweh with the vowels for Adonai. It’s a method that the Hebrews used to make sure they didn’t accidentally pronounce the name of the Lord in vain. The used it because it’s not the name of God, therefore it was safe to say. We know that. It’s in commentaries, dictionaries, online, and now in this blog. Why do we use it? Is it because Jehovah-Jireh sounds better than Yahweh-Jireh? Why do we use a name for God that isn’t really a name for God?

Maybe I just have too much time on my hands and think about strange things. I know there are some wonderful people with a heart for the Lord who do what they have been taught, giving the best they have to the Lord, and that is honorable. There are many who strive for personal holiness. That’s awesome. My goal in this blog isn’t to offend anyone or make you question your motives (well maybe a little), but it’s my attempt to critically think about things. I guess maybe since I am reading this Barna book, and being made to examine all the practices that I cling to (such as paid clergy, according to this book, I shouldn’t have a job). Things like preaching and Sunday School are being examined. Guess I would share the wealth a little.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Ok, this is going to be an unpopular post. . . . maybe. I am doing some reading, and I keep coming across stuff about healing. There are lots of "formula's" for healing. Do you know what I mean? Pray, lay hands, pray scripture, annoint with oil, confess, repent. Now these things are biblical, and we do them. Why don't we have healing?

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 (ESV)

That seems like a pretty straight forward verse, right? Call the elders, pray over him, anoint him with oil and the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick. So why does it seem to happen so seldom in our churches?

Well, I'm not a dispensationalist, so I don't think it has anything to do with the century we live in. I am also not a methodist, (not the denomination, the view that the power is in the method), so I don't think it has anything to do with the methods we are using. I don't think we need to say the right words in the right order, use the right brand of olive oil.

Here is what I think the issue is. I think it’s our viewpoint. We know and have learned so much about illness and disease, and we know what a huge deal it is to be healed of things we have no modern cure for. We don’t pray healing for a sinus infection, we just go to the doctor and get some anti-biotic. The things we really pray for are the big diseases that modern medicine cannot heal.

When it comes to the big diseases, things like Cardio-myopicy, something I have been praying is healed for some friends. Diseases like cancer which touch all of our lives. Lifelong infirmities and diseases, we pray for those, but I think we have tainted motives. Our motives aren’t impure, we love and care about the people we pray for, but I think there is something else that is often greater than our love. Something inherently selfish about our prayer for healing, and it’s told to us specifically in scripture that if this is our motive, we will not get it.

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Matt 12:38-39 (ESV)

If we are honest with ourselves, which do we want more, healing or a sign? Do we want a visible manifestation that God is working, that He is on our side? Sometimes we even ask Him for a sign. Our sins are forgiven, we have the Holy Spirit inside, but so often, we want to see more. I think we have mixed motivations. First, we want to be sure that we have it right. Want to be assured. I think we believe that evangelism will happen, that people will come to Christ if they see a sign. Jesus restored the ear of a servant that has been cut off. The mob still crucified Jesus, after seeing Him perform that miracle and all the miracles that He performed before that.

So, in conclusion, I think (and here is the unpopular part) that we are so often an evil and adulterous generation, seeking after a sign, wanting to show the world that our God is better than medicine and better than new age healers or whatever. We want to prove it. Sometimes we get into a “my dad can beat up your dad” argument. We want God to prove it, send fire from heaven, heal the disease and we can sing His praises with a chorus of “I told you so” at all those pagan doctors who said there was no hope. Am I wrong? I sure wish I was, but I don’t think I am. Feel free to disagree.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I love my wife.

In the book of Genesis, Abraham sends a servant to find a wife for Isaac. He finds Rebekah, who is a servant, waters the camels of the servant of Abraham. The servant brings her back to Isaac, and he loved her.

I didn't have a servant to go find me a wife, but God made sure he found the perfect woman for me. She is a servant, she does more for me than I could ask. Just like Isaac, my wife is beautiful in every way. She takes care of me when I am sick, and celebrates with me when things are good. She stands beside me when things are hard. She is my wife, my best friend, gave me three beautiful children and limitless happiness. I'm a very luck guy!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hammers and swords

Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. Neh 4:17-18 (ESV)

Have you ever tried to build a wall with a sword in your hand? I haven't, but I am beginning to understand the wisdom in this. In ministry, in the church, we have to do two things. The first is to maintain the day to day operations. There are things to be done every day in the church. Much of these are comparable to the fighting. If you read in Nehemiah, the purpose of the swords is to keep at bay those who desire to cause disruption and chaos. We do the same sort of things in church work, trying to keep chaos at bay by the daily work and planning and day to day operations. It does seems sometimes that the day to day operation of the church can become consuming. They begin to eat my time, my duties become just day to day, week to week.

The problem is, if I spend all my time fighting off the enemy, there is no work being done on the wall. The battle will continue with no real progress being made. I am working to make sure I continue to build the wall, or in this place, the House of God. I will build with one hand and the other I will fight.

Putting together long term plans are never easy. Looking at purpose and function, instead of just doing things, doing things with a purpose. I have to ask the question, "why are we doing that?" or "what impact will that have?" It will cause me to have to fight and build for the same purpose, to build a strong house.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

God's faithfulness

I know, this is 2 blogs in one day, but in my study I found this passage and had to share.

Let me start with background. In Jewish custom if 2 people made a covenant, the took an animal, a ram or a goat or a bull, and cut it into 2 pieces, right down the center line. They look and laid them to form an aisle between them. Then person making the covenant would then walk between the pieces and say "if I break this covenant, let it be to me as it is to this animal". It then became a binding covenant. The Hebrews were masters of the symbolic.

In Genesis 15:9, God asks for some animals and had them cut in half. Later in verse 17, it was The Lord who passed between the pieces. It wasn't Abraham who had to toe the line, it was God. God took the initiative, the responsibility and made it happen.

One more interesting point. God had a plan to destroy the Amorites because of their wickedness, but they hadn’t committed the acts yet. Verse 16 says “for the iniquity of the Amorties is not yet complete.” If you want predestination and free will put together, there is your verse.

All things for good, but why?

Do you know Romans 8:28? Lots of people do. It says "all things work together for the good of those who love God and have been called according to His purpose". We like to quote that verse, but have you stopped and wonder why? Why do all things work for the good? The nice answer is simply "because God loves me", but God loves you more than that. He wants more than you just to have a good life.

Read futher, for those He called, He also predestined to do what? Be conformed into the imagine of His son. Ok, what does that mean? It means bad things happen for your good by making you look more like Jesus. When things go bad, when they turn sour, when the trials come, it's to make you like Jesus. It's not to make you rich, God doesn't promise to resuce your 401K. He loves you more than that. He doesn't just want to provide for you in the next 60 years, he wants to provide for you beyond 60 billion years and into eternity.

We know that all things work together for our good by making us look more like Jesus. Roman 8:28-29, Dan paraphrase.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Self-inflicted stuff

Bars. Ever been to a bar? I've been in several, and most of it was when I was delivering Pizza. There was that time my junior year at the University of Wyoming, but we won't talk about that. Have you ever met someone who went into a bar, spend the whole night, came out loaded and broke, and said "that was an awesome idea!" Usually you have to wait until they sober up, wake up and then try to figure out where they are. Natural response is "I'll never do that again". I have known a lot of people who have gone to bars, and then done other things and then realized "that was a bad idea". Then the next weekend, guess where they are.

So my question is, why? Why do we continue to do things that don't turn out well? Ever notice we do something dumb, and then do it again? It's like Eve. First, she wanders over to the tree. Notice, it never said, "the snake led Eve to the tree". She did that on her own, and apparently, Adam wasn't far behind. Then the snake says "eat it" and she said "if I touch the fruit, I'll die". Then she touches the fruit (after saying it will make her die) and thinks to herself "well, that turned out ok, so lets just eat the fruit". Always gotta push it to the next level.

So I do it. You do it. Why do we do it? We recognise bad decisions, we can say "that's a bad choice because. . . " and then we do it anyway. We don't even have a snake to blame for it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I decided that I am going to blog, first thing this morning. I have so many thoughts on my way into the office, then I do a load of other things and lose all my thoughts. I don't have the memory of a Jonathan Edwards.

I have a confession to make. I sin. I know that's not a shock to anyone, but I struggle with it. Not that I believe I am perfect, but I believe He is perfect and the scripture states "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matt 5:48 (ESV).

Paul says to crucify the flesh, to put to death the deeds of the flesh. I try, my flesh is like the villian in some cheap horror film. I kill it and sacrifice it and slay it and it comes back, again and again. It causes me pain, I carry anguish over my failings with my flesh.

I was talking with the Lord this morning on my way into the office. I carry a lot of baggage that stems from theology passed to me from my Hyper-Calvinist mother. She was raised a presbyterian in North Carolina, which is very reformed. In addition to her Hyper-Calvinism, she believed strongly in God's punishment for sin, both those sins you are aware of and sins that you were unaware of. Even now, as an adult, as a pastor I have great fear of punishment, of reprisal. There are things that have happened in my life that I have told myself are punishments for my sins.

I realized that I sometimes view God though the lense of my sin. I see Him as angry. During the prayer conference this week, I tuned into the things that confirmed that belief. That God Doesn't and God Won't, and all the things that my sin does that moves me farther and farther from His presence and makes Him angry.

So this morning, I cried out for forgiveness again. I cried out for forgiveness for the same sins I have confessed over and over. It's guilt and self torture, and maybe even a lack of faith. Perhaps I am sinning by focusing so much on my own sin (see, I'm messed up). Perhaps one day I will find peace, rise above my sin and my flesh. Perhaps I will find a way to stake my flesh to the ground with a tent spike. Until then, I struggle with this mortification of the flesh.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pause for reflection

Stop. Reflect for a minute. I don't do that enough, I think and act and decide and move forward. It's sort of my nature. I have been holding off my blog for a few days. We just finished a prayer conference this weekend, and I was pushed around a little. I had to stop, think and reflect.

I have been moved around. You know when someone says something you agree with and it changes your perception, you are moved. Then I thought about some things, and didn't agree totally. I was moved again. I don't think they were heresies, but I come from a slightly different theological point of view, so it moved me again. Then I saw the effect on people around me, and I moved a little more. After all the movement, I sorta feel . . . well sloshed.

So I don’t have a comment about the prayer conference, just one comment in general. Stop for a second. The Bible calls this “being still”. We are to be still and know He is God. You see, so many things we do are based on different parts of our makeup. Sometimes we are appealed to intellectually, sometimes emotionally, sometimes spiritually. Sometimes our sentiments, sometimes we are played towards or against our passions. Sometimes a speaker comes in and we are captivated, and sometimes repulsed. We are pushed and pulled and moved by all the forces.

Stop. Be still. In reflection, some things about my prayer life will change. Some things about my spiritual life will change. Some things need to change. Some things that I was told need to change, won’t change, and some things I was told don’t need to change will change. I think Don Pierson (the speaker) would tell you that if you feel that God is moving you, and it’s in opposition to what I tell you or he tells you or your pastor on Sunday tells you, move. If God calls, move. If man calls, sometimes you need to stop. Maybe for a moment, maybe longer. So now that this blog is complete, stop.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why did Jesus do that?

Elaine and I were talking this morning about the fig tree. Do you remember the fig tree? In Mark 11:12-14, Jesus comes to a fig tree, but it has no figs. The text says "it was not the season for figs". Jesus curses the tree, says "May no one eat of your fruit again". Jesus then goes and cleanses the temple. He comes back by the next day and Peter notices the tree is withered. Jesus says if we have faith, we can throw mountains in the sea.

Ok, now I understand the teaching moment of Jesus, saying if we have faith, we can wilt the fig tree, but why do it in the first place? It was suggested in my conversation with Elaine this morning that it's an illustration of the importance of breakfast. Perhaps Jesus' blood sugar was low, and he cursed the fig tree and drove out the money changers. Perhaps the next day, he ate a good breakfast and was able to make a lesson out of the tree.

In reading and studying, some say that from a distance, the tree looked healthy, having leaves. I read someplace that a fig tree sprouts fruit before leaves, so this would have been a tree that shouldn’t have had leaves or figs, because it wasn’t time. Adam Clarke said that some fig tree go early, putting out figs and then leaves, and Jesus was hoping for some early figs. Finding just leaves, he curses the tree. Perhaps Jesus was looking for the ‘first fruits’ of the fig tree, even though it was not time for the full harvest.

Another commentary said it’s a parable for fruitless Christians who look like they are mature, having leaves, yet are not. Some say it’s a representation of Israel. I think all of these come together.

When Jesus comes back to the tree, he talks about faith. Now having the faith to wilt a fig tree, that would be pretty cool, but I don’t think that’s the point. Jesus didn’t come and die so I can have salvation and wilt fruit trees. I think my life is sometimes reflected in the tree. Sometimes I have works, ie leaves, but lack faith, the figs. When this happens, I begin to wilt spiritually. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:6. So in my life, I need to make sure my figs (faith) sprout before my leaves (works). What do you think?