Book Review: Four Views of Divine Providence by Dennis W. Jowers, ed.

I appreciate books that provide different views on theological issues.  (see my discussion on “Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?”  Wayne Grudem, ed.)  It’s important for objectivity to hear, read and understand opposing arguments or approaches to issues facing Christians today.  That challenge is to find people who will communicate in an understandable way and be objective themselves.  In this volume, there are four authors approaching Divine Providence: God causes all things,  by Paul Kjoss Helseth; God directs all things, by William Lane Craig; God controls by liberating, by Ron Highfield; and God limits His control, by Gregory A. Boyd.  Continue reading

God’s Patient Blessing: Truth

There are people like David, whom God continued to honor, in spite of his sins. David wasn’t perfect, but there was something about David’s life that God continued to honor and hold as a standard of dependency on God and humility.  Then there are people, like Pharoah, that God uses to show how dumb people can be and how powerful He is.  Then people are in the spectrum in between and there is a spectrum of how much He blesses people, like Israel going into the land. Israel didn’t obey the Lord completely, so we read in Judges that God draws a line, Continue reading

Truth: Doctrine of Idleness – “Salute to the sluggard”

The following are great principles to teach every young person under the age of 16, so that when they join the work-force, they will understand their role and responsibility in life. They should be taught at home so that children learn and grow at home and when they launch into the world, they will reflect glory for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Doctrine of Idleness Continue reading

Words: Fail, Fool, Fake

Fail, Fool, or Fake

           

            I have been very interested in ministry to men for several decades.  However, my passion rejuvenated five years ago.  I began with a group called “Hungry Hunters” on Wednesday nights at church.  I realized how important men are in the church.  In fact, I believe, “As go the men, so goes the church.” I now disciple two groups of men and one home group composed of couples. That does NOT mean women are not important.  It does not mean women do not greatly contribute to the spiritual vitality and growth of a church.  It does express that I believe if men do not lead, the blessing God intends for a church and community will not be all that God desires.  Men have a key role and they have been passive since the Garden of Eden.

            In the Garden of Eden, while the Serpent was wooing the woman, Adam was standing near passively listening to the discussion.  When the woman took the fruit and ate it, the text says, So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” (Gen. 3:6)He should have been leading.  He should have been protecting the woman from being deceived.  He should have cried out to God if he didn’t know what to do.  Because Adam was passive and silent, we suffer today.  Because men are passive and silent today, we continue to suffer.  Why are men passive?

            Men are passive, because that is the alternative to doing the wrong thing.  What?  Yes, men want to do the right thing.  Men want to lead, but they have not been discipled.  Men want to make a difference in life, but it is easier to do nothing than risk doing the wrong action. 

            If men do the wrong action, what happens?  They will:

·         Know they did the wrong thing and people will let them know it.
·         Look like a fool in front of other people.
·         Be found out as a fake.  Men want others to respect them and they want others to think that they have their act together.  If they do the wrong thing, they will either be shown a fake or someone will accuse them of being a fake.

Obviously, most of that is perception.  But the reality is that is a man’s reality.  And he has a fear of those things.  Let me explain. There are three key things men do not want.

            Men do not want to fail.  Jesus prayed for the disciples before going to the cross, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:32)  To fail is to fail God for most men. Somehow it is wired into most men that we want to succeed, to win, to overcome, to complete the task and hence, triumph.  You can see that in every aspect of life.  Men want to succeed up the corporate ladder, win the big game, overcome the adversity or challenge, complete the project at home or work and hence have satisfaction of the triumph. Men do not want to fail in their marriages, their families, or their church, let alone their work. But men have not been discipled.

            Men do not want to look like a fool.  Men know from Scripture that a fool is the opposite of the wise one, “the fool will be servant to the wise of heart. (Pro. 11:29)  Men like to joke around and banter back and forth among trusted friends.  However, make a man look like a fool and he is gone.  He will not come back unless he knows it might be safe.  Make fun of him around people he does not know, especially women and he will avoid you like certain politicians avoid answering the truth.  A man who looks foolish will remain quiet and uninvolved, until he can work up the courage to risk that last step again.  Even then, he’ll be very cautious.

            Men do not want to be found out as a fake.  Men want people to respect them. The Lord respected Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s (Gen. 4:4,5).  Jesus told the same parable in each of the three synoptic gospels regarding the expectation that the Son should be respected by the vinedressers (Matt. 21:37; Mark 12:6; Luke 20:13). Respect is a big deal to men. That’s why God tells women to “respect their husbands” (Eph. 5:33). When, or if, a man does not know or live in a way that he should be respected, he would rather retreat to his man-cave.  So rather than saying or doing the wrong thing, it is easier for him not to do anything, than risk being found out a spiritual or otherwise fake. 

            These three – fail, fool, fake – result from fear.  Men do NOT want to claim to struggle from fear, so it is easier to be passive, silent and uninvolved.  Even Scripture identifies this as a possible approach, “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” (Pro. 17:28) A man wants to look wise, so it is easier to be passive, silent and uninvolved than take the risk of revealing fear.  Fear is abominable to a man.  He is supposed to be a leader!  But when the flesh controls, he plays the fool and fear gets the best of him.  What is the solution?

            The solution is to disciple men.  That was the purpose of “Hungry Hunters.”  We took the Message Based Discussion Questions and went through them each week.  The purpose was to engender confidence in the men and restore true masculinity to lead in their marriages, homes and the church.  Men are hunters and providers.  Hungry men are those who seek after God’s righteousness.  The goal is to stay with a man, until he is ready to disciple other men.  The key is “as go the men, so goes the church (marriage, family).” 

Words: Godly vs. Ungodly Results

Words: Godly vs. Ungodly Results

            In the Garden of Eden, Adam enjoyed perfect environment.  He was never concerned with rubbing his eyes from air pollution, testing the water for contaminants, or listening to foul-mouthed neighbors.  Everything was perfect, because he was made in the image of God and sin had not become a part of his nature or the world around him.

            Scream forward to Genesis 3 and the serpent allures the woman into a conversation, to which she can’t resist.

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, `You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;
 3 “but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, `You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:1-6)

At that moment, because of disobedience to God’s command, sin enters into the human race.  Now, instead of perfect environment, thorns and thistles grow, sweat becomes normal and childbirth is overcome only by the joy of new life. This initiates the contrast of godly and ungodly results. 

            Take for example the following chart. 
 

Component
Discipline
Proper Use
Sinful Use
Chemical Elements
Chemistry
Vaccine
Poison
Colors/light
Art
Michelangelo
Pornography
Spoken letters
Speech
Bible teaching
Lying, slander
Written letters
Composition
Music lyrics
C.S. Lewis, “Messiah”
Moral filth
Gangsta Rap
Sound waves
Music
Refreshing the spirit and body
Stimulating lust Instant gratification

 

There are four columns and four examples.  The first column identifies a component at its basic level.  For example, chemical elements can be hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen.   The second column identifies the particular discipline or category of study or function which comes from the “component.”  From chemical elements comes a discipline of “chemistry.”  From that discipline, there will be two types of uses of that discipline: a proper use or godly result and a sinful use or ungodly result.

There are many proper uses of chemistry. One example is to use chemistry to create vaccines.  Another is to develop prescription drugs, like pain killers for after surgery.  However, chemistry can be twisted in a sinful use or ungodly result, for example to develop poisons to hurt people. 

Each of the components has a resulting discipline and then a proper use or sinful use.  It depends on whether God is behind it or whether man’s sin nature is behind it.  If you understand this, you’ll understand why there is evil in the world and not be shocked when wickedness develops.  What other examples would you suggest to continue lengthening this chart?

 

           

Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 3)

Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 3)

This concludes the three part examination on Spiritual Disciplines as practices every Christian should do in order to grow closer in his relationship to Jesus Christ. They are exercises designed to orient a believer to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ.  They, by themselves, do not cause a person to become more spiritual.  They, by themselves, do not cause God to be obligated to the believer with favor.  They, by themselves, do not propel the believer to spiritual maturity. The disciplines can be functions that an unbeliever can perform and therefore, by themselves, do not produce any merit before God. They would not be categorized by the word “spiritual” in that case. However, practicing spiritual disciplines can help the believer focus on the Word of God, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is set apart by faith in mind, speech and action to become more godly.  Spiritual disciplines can increase a believer’s pursuit of or commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the previous articles, the Spiritual Disciplines of Bible Reading, Bible Study, Scripture Meditation, Scripture Memorization and Prayer were first examined.  Secondly, the Spiritual Disciplines of Worship, Fellowship, Service, Frugality and Fasting were discussed. 

These first ten spiritual disciplines are fairly easy to understand, but the last five become more difficult to understand and practice.  If Christians don’t see or understand tangible increases of knowledge, it’s easy for Christians to get discouraged with practical Spiritual Disciplines as bearing much fruit.  However, just the opposite is true. It’s like spending time with a friend.  Usually spending more time increases the love between two friends and the same is true with these last five.

Solitude: This is spending time alone with God to know and understand Him, while avoiding contacts other people. It is withdrawing from the world to seek the Lord alone.  This is completed by silence and is very difficult to practice, because it is hard to measure.  How do you know how well you’ve done, or if you’ve done enough, or if you want to do it again?  There is nothing material to measure.  But there is something to measure and that is the joy (settled assurance that God is in control) of a growing relationship with the Lord and knowing that when you encounter Jesus, you can’t help but enjoy His presence. Solitude is critical for those in ministry, because the ministry drain is so difficult to measure and it creeps up on servants of the Lord, like Elijah (1 Kings 19).  Solitude is one of the best ways to refresh the spirit and restore freshness for ministry. Solitude can make you feel naked or like you are in a vacuum, yet that is when God may expose true things about you and His mercy will tenderly lead you through any valley and onto a mountain top of fresh air (Ps. 23:2-4).  Solitude often helps God become more real than other spiritual disciplines. Jesus went to a solitary place to be alone with God the Father in prayer (Mark 1:35).

Silence: This is refraining from speaking or even singing to quiet your mind and soul in God’s presence. Silence includes both not speaking and singing, but also shutting down outside noises in order to concentrate (Ps. 46:10). This spiritual discipline goes along with solitude, but can be practiced at other times like when having fellowship listening to a friend in need.  Often in silence, sorrow can rise up, because of the Holy Spirit’s convicting work (Ps. 39:2).  Silence is certainly what happens to a Christian who is enjoying the awesome presence of the Lord (Mark 4:39). Silence is sadly a lost commodity, because of all the white noise of television, radio, cell phones and electronic games.  Silence helps a Christian go deeper in seeking after the infinity of God. Silence is the best way to listen to the “still silent [small] voice” of God (1 Kings 19:12) speaking through Scripture to understand conviction and God’s purposes.

Submission: This is the action of humility before the awesome sovereign presence of God (1 Pet. 5:6).  It is practiced in not asserting self before the authority, power and wisdom of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:19-21).  It is visibly seen in submission to a person as you would unto Jesus Christ, like a wife to a husband or employee to an employer.  It is coming under the authority of one as a visible manifestation of submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a form of abstinence, because it denies self the power and privileges it would want to express or enjoy. Jesus submitted to the Father’s will from His opening mission statement (Luke 4:17-19).  Paul recorded that Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on the cross (Phil. 2:7-8).  Jesus acknowledged that He did nothing on His own, but only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:30; 6:38; 12:50). Jesus, as the King of kings and Lord of lords, even submitted to people (Luke 2:51). Submission is practiced by not forcing an agenda, but trusting God to work His will through people.  It is welcoming criticism from others as opportunity for learning and to bless those who curse (2 Pet. 3:8-10).  Submission will allow others to make decisions that you would want to make.

Reflection: This is paying attention to your inner self in thoughts and feelings in order to understand how to grow more closely with God and others (Pro. 27:19).  It is not for the purpose of loving self more, but examining self to consider what hinders your relationship with God and others. It is always using Scripture as the mirror rather than a physical mirror (Jam. 1:22-25).  Reflection is the chewing of biblical truth to extract principles and application in order to determine application and implementation of truth to life.  Reflection requires slowing down in life in order to examine areas of life that are always in motion or often not considered, but may encumber relationships.  Solitude and Silence often go with Reflection, however they are not required.

Sabbath Rest: This is resting in the Lord rather than working to fix things in life. In the Old Testament it was one of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20: 8). In the New Testament it refers to a moment by moment rest in the Lord (Heb. 4:1-11).  It is not working in your flesh, but your flesh may be diligent about what it is doing.  It is allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you to accomplish God’s will and leaving the results up to God.  It is not a particular day as much as a particular way of trusting God with what is done and pursuing that rest by trusting what God will do through you.  Thereby, you are refreshed, because you know that God has been working through you.

This concludes this examination of Spiritual Disciplines.  There are excellent books written on the subject.  The key is practicing these by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit according to God’s Word, so that God is glorified and you grow in a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him.  These principles of spiritual disciplines can all be applied to marriage in similar ways to grow more closely with your spouse.

Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 2)

Words: Spiritual Disciplines (Part 2)

Spiritual Disciplines are practices every Christian should do in order to grow closer in relationship to Jesus Christ. They are exercises designed to orient a believer to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ.  They, by themselves, do not cause a person to become more spiritual.  They, by themselves, do not cause God to be obligated to the believer with favor.  They, by themselves, do not propel the believer to spiritual maturity. The disciplines can be functions that an unbeliever can perform and therefore, by themselves, do not produce any merit before God. They would not be categorized by the word “spiritual” in that case. However, practicing spiritual disciplines can help the believer focus on the Word of God, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is set apart by faith in mind, speech and action to become more godly.  Spiritual disciplines can increase a believer’s pursuit of or commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

 In the previous article, the Spiritual Disciplines of Bible Reading, Bible Study, Scripture Meditation, Scripture Memorization and Prayer were examined.  In this article, active Spiritual Disciplines of Worship, Fellowship, Service, Frugality and Fasting will be discussed.  These Disciplines are still fairly easy to understand, but become more difficult to practice.

Worship: This is the practice of praise and adoration before the God of the universe, the One who spoke the word and the universe into existence.  It is the active thought and action process whereby our entire being gives “worthship” or value to who and what God is.  Because He is, God is worthy to be worshiped.  He seeks those who worship Him (John 4:23) and He commands that we worship in Spirit and in Truth from our inner being with all that we have (John 4:24; Matt. 22:27-29). Worship can be done individually in any location through meditation, song, enjoyment of creation, writing a prayer of praise, work, loving others, creating what magnifies His name and in all obedience according to His Word by means of His Spirit.  God commands that we assemble weekly to worship Him in a local gathering of saints to exalt His name and edify the saints. We are to spur them to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24-25).

Fellowship: This is the practice of sharing things in common with other saints, commonly called koinonia.  It is two or more saints sharing life together, because of their common bond in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:9). True fellowship is with the Father and with the Son (1 John 1:3). It is the Holy Spirit that creates and solidifies that bond (Phil. 2:1). Fellowship is not playing cards, although believers can have fellowship and enjoy games together.  Fellowship is not talking about a sporting game, although believers can fellowship together while enjoying a game together, when Jesus is the focus of building bridges to others (Phil. 1:5).  Fellowship is not eating a meal together, but believers can fellowship over a meal, when Jesus is the focus. Fellowship occurs because believers walk in the purity of the Light (1 John 1:7). Believers do not have fellowship with unbelievers (Eph. 5:11).  That is called evangelism.  We see good fellowship in the early church as believers came together to share their lives and resources to help each other grow in the body of Christ (Acts 2:42-47).

Service: This is Christian action to honor God by the overflow of His love and compassion toward others.  We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  It begins by presenting yourself first to God as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1).  It will be humble actions of prayer support for people to the mundane care of financial concerns (2 Cor. 9:12). It may include a cup of cold water to a prisoner or prophet, and it may be preparing a meal, cleaning a home, giving a ride or watching a single mom’s children (1 Kings 17:10; Matt. 10:42; Mark 9:41). It can include work done in a God-honoring way that honors the Lord (Eph. 6:7), which will also include help to widows and orphans in need (Jam. 1:27).  All service must be done in faith in total dependence and reliance upon the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:17). 

Frugality: This is the lifestyle of simplicity and abstaining from using money or goods to gratify personal desires or status.  It is a life devoted simply to Jesus, rather than fragmented on distractions in the world (2 Cor. 11:3).  It is simple trust in God’s provision rather than the wisdom of man (2 Cor. 1:12).  It is enjoying the presence of others in the gladness of the Lord rather than the pursuit of opulence and luxury of life (Acts 2:46). It recognizes the things of this world can easily become distractions and sin (1 John 2:15-16).  It is not avoiding the things of the world, but using the things of the world for the gospel and God’s purposes (1 Tim. 6:6-8, 17-19).  Frugality is wisely using all resources and assets, including money to further Kingdom purposes rather than spending the resources for selfish purposes.  It is not being a foolish miser, but a faithful steward (Luke 16:1-10).

Fasting: This is the denial of some resource for the purpose of prayer and/or Bible study; food is the most common fasting tool.  It may be a complete denial, or partial denial, in order to focus attention on the Lord’s will and purposes. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)  A key passage to understand fasting is Matthew 6:16-18,

16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

 17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,

 18 “so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matt. 6:16-18)

Understood in this context, fasting is really feasting – feasting on the presence of God the Father.  Fasting is not for health purposes, but for prayer or relationship with God.  Those who fast should always ensure they drink fluids, so the mind can be alert.  Those with medical conditions should consult with a doctor, before beginning.  The fasting will often reveal inner sin patterns and immaturity, just as physically your body goes through hunger, fatigue, possible headaches and even frustration.  It may reveal that food has become an idol and loved more than Jesus.  Start with small steps rather than a 40 day fast.

These are the second five Spiritual Disciplines.  The last five Spiritual Disciplines to be discussed will be given tomorrow.  They are: Solitude; Submission; Silence; Reflection; and Sabbath Rest.  As these will be posted on Resurrection Sunday, a day of great joy, these will hopefully be anticipated with the joy of how they will draw the willing saint into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.