Servants of God and to the Church of Jesus Christ
polemics from the Rector's desk & answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ)
|Below are some of my opinions. These may vary widely from what you will read elsewhere and I could be very wrong. You may be tempted to shout "Balderdash, fiddle-faddle, and prattle!" and leave this site. For those of you that stay the course, I welcome any well reasoned response. Do try to enter with an open mind.|
"My own reflection in the window distorts the view." - Allan Wallace
1) Evolution & Intelligent Design: A mere is a reflective puddle.
2) Violence and religion: What do you first notice about a cut diamond?
3) Structure or random?: Diversion of a stream below the source.
4) How many steps to salvation: Finding God where he is looking for you.
5) Complexity in miracles: How big is your God? In feet?
6) Tithes and offerings: Don't want to give? Then don't!
7) Rejoice in small beginnings: The taller the building, the deeper the required foundation.
8) The free Church Do not surrender the Lordship of Jesus Christ! The separation of church and state.
1) Evolution, a word that brings emotions and training to the fore. All people very strongly interpret evidence as supportive of what they believe, or want to believe. Just look at politics. All people also strongly downplay or ignore evidence contrary to their beliefs. An open mind is an elusive delight.
There are three basic camps on the theory of evolution: yes, managed, and none. Christians tend to fall into the last two camps and some refer to managed evolution as intelligent design. There are scientists in all three camps.
Scientists supporting each theory seek evidence to support their hypotheses. Many claim to have sufficient empirical evidence to discredit other's theories. In the first two camps they predominately debate on the mechanism of evolution, simply because a mechanism is not present to be observed and measured. In part they remain mere theories because they lack duplicatable proof.
History unfortunately can not be substantiated with a double blind experiment, and the evidence has huge gaps open to our fallible, subjective reasoning. Even my seeing huge gaps, rather than evidence scattered between the gaps, is probably a result of my wanting to support what I believe.
Regarding the science of evolution, I tend to agree with R. Buckminster Fuller, the brilliant multidisciplinary scientist, inventor, and creative thinker. He wrote in his 1981 book Critical Path: "For this and other persuasive reasons my speculative prehistory has assumed (since 1927) Darwin's evolution of life from the simple to the complex, accomplished through progressive agglomeration of single-cell amoebas, to be in reverse of the facts."
Fuller charted a rigorous scientific route to his conclusions. We will instead sail a merry jaunt on the small pond of common sense.
Assume this world started as pangaea possessing a breed of super-dog. That single land mass split and became the bits and pieces we are so fond of today. Ask yourself, would in-breeding on one small island create a better super-dog perfect for that island? Or would the population's quality decline, mellowing into a distinguishably inferior sub-mutt struggling to survive? Subjectively consider in-bred humans, from hillbillies to royal families. Do you consider them an improvement on the general human gene pool? Why faithfully accept a dog's improvement because of a limited gene pool?
There will be more long hair white dogs surviving on an island covered with snow, more short hair black dogs on a tropical island covered with black sand. These are subsets of the original. The type of sub-mutt will vary by environment, but it will be less than the original super-dog, not greater; and it will still be a dog.
Specialized breeds trade their robust nature to enhance specific attributes. It takes constant control to create and maintain a specialized breed. If abandoned, a super-dog and our island dogs will not change their wild brethren to be like themselves. Over time, unfettered breeds blend back into the declining estate of muttdom. Natural selection involves continual loss and a consequently smaller gene pool. Natural selection gives us mutts.
We all very strongly interpret evidence as supportive of what we want to believe. Some have found the thought of a superior being or a creator repugnant. Apparently that made it psychologically expedient to abandon reason and think backwards. I have found the existence of a creator, and my personal relationship with him, to be a great joy. I'm sure that colors what follows.
We will start our common sense final reasoning with Socrates, who said a sculpture inferred a sculptor. From this, we may recognize that complex systems are not self-ordering.
Continuing, we find that current scientific understanding pertaining to chemical, biological, and thermodynamic entropy implies a congruent precedent in the Earthen biosphere.
We are unable to observe any substantial, in-process, species conversion or progression. We are able to observe species digressing and disappearing. This causes us to consider evidence in the historical and archeological records supporting biological degeneration and species extinction as ongoing phenomena.
Based on these and other considerations, we must now add a fourth general category to yes, managed or no evolution.
This hypothesis is equally unproven, and perhaps equally improbable. I choose to believe evidence showing biological diversity has declined since creation. You may choose, for now, to believe the same.
Someday we will know as we are known, for now we have our prejudice, our bias, and our faith.
Committing to any theory requires faith.
2) Listen as popular media talks about religion being the focal point of violence; Ireland, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq. Notice the distinction could also be along ethnic, economic, and political lines, or other dividing issues. Anglo Saxon vs. Celt, socialism vs. capitalism, and controlling government vs. freedom are just some of the conflict sources. With the current troubles in Iraq, are the Shi'a Arabs Babylonian and the the Sunni Arabs Persian? They know, we aren't told.
Hitler didn't care if you were of Jewish faith or a professed Catholic, he hunted the Jewish nationality, traced though their parentage. Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian, was imprisoned with her sister for protecting Jews from Nazis, (her book is recommended, The Hiding Place), her sister died in that prison. Corrie said of Christianity, "Just because you were born in a garage, it does not make you a car." Religion is a personal choice, on a personal level. A claim of national religion is a claim for emotional power, not religion.
The founders of the United States instituted a small and passive central republic to ensure stronger freedom. They put forth separation of church and state to protect people from interference with their personal choice of religion, not to protect people from religion. They saw that what is a personal choice of a free person could become a claim for allegiance to a despot's goals. A stifled domination of religion by government limited one tool of emotional coercion. With a weak union, composed of 13 separate nation states competing for citizens, freedom and the right to pursue personal goals were temporarily insured.
To have a personal relationship with God is your choice.
Regardless of the political climate in which you live.
Those who engender war may fraudulently demonstrate religious passion as an emotional propaganda tool. A unified front can stabilize factions that would dissent: "Our Country Right Or Wrong," Fatherland, Homeland, Motherland, Our god, Our people. These statements do not normally represent reality beyond tribal size groups. These are calculated slogans to unite diverse team members, artificial teams sometimes called nations.
References to religion may reflect one surface factor of war, but diverse root causes always extend far deeper. Commentators love to sound as if they have inside, specific knowledge. In reality, events happen for myriad reasons we will never fully fathom. Media will not go to the trouble of understanding and explaining complex issues, or admit they don't know. Especially when slighting the "opiate of the masses" parallels their world view.
3) Investments, life, poker, farming, sports, driving. All include "chance." If we accept God's intervention we have specific protections at times at some of these. While it may keep you from an accident, will it keep you from being drawn out on in poker? Probably not. The universe seems far more flexible in most areas than we are willing to admit, and God is far more knowledgeable in all areas than we can understand. All I know is to stay in communication with God; God loves me more than I love myself, and he is wiser and smarter than I am. I'll do what he says. Oh, and I'll study and work hard to make the best choices possible, in all of life's risky ventures. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. II Timothy 2:15 Now here is the crux of the matter, warp and woof. That verse was used by me in a way possibly contrary to "rightly dividing the word of truth."
Can God have more than one meaning in a scripture? Regarding the book of Revelation, I've heard great sermons on the churches in chapters 3 & 4. These messages showed the parallels to the path of the historical church as it matured, the churches being various types of the modern church, and a few other great interpretations including; the letters to the churches were letters to the churches.This issue is enough to divide a family or a church, but it is certainly not eternally important. Yes, the Bible says the Scripture is not of private interpretation, but it also says the Holy Spirit will guide us. I will not limit God, but, I do know God will not contradict himself.
4) So often our arguments are over small things. It's not important, it could divide a family or a church, but it really doesn't matter all that much. Let's not start a new denomination to preach each different view of every little point. One of these stumbling blocks is how to commit to God. Is the route to a saving relationship with Jesus three steps, four steps, or even more?
The thief on the cross used one step when he said to Christ "remember me when you come into your kingdom." Luke 23:42,43 Read how Christ dealt with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and the nobleman, in the New Testament book of John, chapters 3 and 4. You will see that God deals with each of us according to who and where we are.
The Holy Spirit knows you intimately, and he also fully knows each person to whom you talk. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in your witnessing so that what you say or don't say will be specifically correct. There is only one step to salvation, the one God has specifically designed for each of us as an individual. If you are comfortable using "the 4 steps to salvation," use them.
Leave room however for differing strategies. God is more than big enough to compensate for our errors. Better yet, learn to be led by the Holy Spirit. Let God use you His way to reach the hearts He has prepared.
And of some have compassion, making a difference:
And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire;
hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Jude 23
Here is an example of what the Holy Spirit is wanting to do through you, today:
Many years ago I was recording a cassette tape from some albums. The Holy Spirit led me from one song on an album to another on a different album. I was amazed that the unplanned, by me, recordings ended exactly at the end of the tape, a perfect fit.
I threw the recording into my car and went to a friend's house for dinner. As the meal was cooking the Spirit said "Leave." I left. I was directed, turn here, go right, enter that housing tract, etc. with no idea what was on God's mind.
As I left the housing tract, God directed me to cross to the far side of the street and "Pick that guy up." I saw no one. I pulled over and a man was lying on the side walk. He looked up, I threw the door open and said "Get in." He looked down as he walked to the car, and I could feel the depression he was in. Once he was seated I took off, I asked if he was ok. He didn't look up, he just said "I told God if he did not prove he is real I am going to kill myself."
God told me to put in the tape. He and I said nothing further at that point. He was like a flower opening. Each song built on the prior song as a testimony directed to his heart. By the time the tape ended, he had accepted Christ. He had become a new man, by the ministry of music.
We then talked a bit as I drove him home. When I dropped him off I handed him the tape, it was obviously for him.
A year or so latter I saw him on the street and stopped, he was still following Jesus and was involved with a Bible believing church.
I have not seen him since.
I do expect to see him in heaven.
If you want a Biblical example of a similar incident, look at Acts 8: 26-40. To paraphrase; Phillip was in the middle of a successful evangelistic crusade when God said "leave." He left. He followed God's direction out into the desert, where he encountered a person that wanted to be close to God. Phillip led him to Jesus. Many say this was the start of the Ethiopian church, a church that is still going strong. Not only will God use you if you will make yourself available and learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, but God can multiply the effectiveness of your ministry beyond what you imagine.
Christ asked this of his disciples. Think about it, what would happen if you were suddenly a foot taller. Jesus knows how we think, listen to the 27th verse that follows. Consider the lilies how they grow:they toil not, they spin not, and yet I say to you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Jesus just gave you a hint at the power of God. If God does one thing for you, he will change all things related so the entire project succeeds. God will not make you a foot taller without providing wonderful clothes for your new frame.
If God does it, there is a good reason for it to be done. If God does it, he will take care of all the issues arising from his action. If God leads, follow, he will prepare the path for you.
Bible based giving is a very touchy subject, easy to approach, difficult to escape. Perhaps that is why so few giving sermons are given, usually just once a year. It is far too easy to upset people when talking about money. It is also too easy to emphasize obligation and emotions such as guilt when such messages are given.
The first step of giving is to realize there is more then just one type of tithe, and there are many types of offerings. The second step is deciding where to begin. God said to the delivered through Jeremiah "For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices; but this thing I commanded them saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you." Jer 7: 22,23
We now, due to our acceptance of the cleansing sacrifice of Christ, have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit. With this access we can seek God's will concerning all areas of our life, including financial. How and where to tithe and / or offer gifts unto God? We must ask him, our obedience to his will confirms that we are his people, and it will be well with us.
Read all of I Corinthians chapter 9. Paul shows that those who preach the gospel should live by the gospel. Notice he does not mention a tithe. Notice he states he has not accepted any gifts lest he create a hindrance to the spread of the gospel. As Christ said in Luke 10:5 "And into whatsoever house you enter, first say, peace be to this house." and then in Luke 10:7, "And in The same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire." If you read the whole chapter in Luke you will see there is no reference to a tithe, just such food as those in the house are willing to give. There is also no talk of supporting many fancy buildings, ministry was done in people's homes. A simple church structure that would not have to go to secular sources to borrow money.
Read also all of IICorinthians chapter 9. We will start about half way through verse 6 "He which soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
No tithe mentioned, just the admonition to give only if you can give cheerfully. If you are not filled with God's Joy and finding pleasure being led, then don't give. Seek God and get in fellowship with him first.
Giving is fruit that should come from a healthy vine rooted in good soil.
The final step is to realize; "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." Are you brilliant, talented, wealthy, consistent, flexible, or strong? What can you share cheerfully at God's direction? Are you weak, slow, ignorant, and poor - let God show his strength by working through you. What are your attributes? You have much, seek where God will use you much, that it may be well with you.
7) Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Zech 4: 6 A bit further in the chapter "For who hath despised the day of small things?" There is an enduring theme in scripture of enlargement and growth. Sometimes there is even the implication of loss proceeding the development of gain. Jesus talks of faith as a small seed, the implication is the seed must be planted and lost to other uses, such as food, before it can grow and give a return. Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, wherewith shall we be clothed? But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:31,33 It seems to me something can not be added unto if you already have it. "Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting." Luke 18: 29,30
So where does this leave us? Even if we are one the world views as great, we may need to shed the attractive to gain the required. "He is not a fool who gives up what he can't keep to acquire what he can't loose." Sometimes it is harder to release little than much, but it is always hard to release.
The Passion of Christ and his crucifixion are like the dying of a seed, his resurrection the new beginning. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone:but if it die, it bringith forth much fruit." John 12:24 We are the fruit born from Christ's sacrifice. The seed dies to come to a greater life; It is the greater life that brings joy.
When you accepted Christ Jesus, you shared in the victories his death purchased and his resurrection assured. The seed that is you can sprout. Always grow in and by faith. An apple tree doesn't grunt while nurturing fruit, it flowers with hope. Don't despise the days of small beginnings, they establish deep roots necessary to support a great tree.
8) The Free Church Do not surrender the lordship of Christ! The separation of church and state.
Be a rocket and get off your pad so the guidance system can take over. NOW!
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Jesus Christ is the sacrificial lamb of God that died for your sin. A simple "I love you" is always nice to hear. Jesus Loves you too!