Saturday, December 25, 2004

Speech, "Seasoned with Salt"

Col 4:3-6 ESV At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison-- (4) that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. (5) Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (6) Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Starting chapter 3 verse 18, Paul begins to close out his letter to the Colossians by giving instruction to various groups: wives, then husbands, children, fathers, slaves, then masters. In 4:2 he tells them to pray, in general, and in verse 3 for him in particular, for two things:
1. opportunity to witness (v.3 "open...a door")
2. plainness of speech in witnessing (v.4 "that I may make it clear" KJV-"manifest")

On this note about witnessing, he tells them in v.5 to "conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders," "making best use of the time." The thought continues in v.6:
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."
Paul is primarily referring to "outsiders" without the gospel here, and just as he asks for prayer so that he can speak properly to be understood, he tells the Colossians to be careful to do the same in their witnessing.
Paul has already concluded his specific instructions to different people in the church with his instruction to masters in 4:1, so then these verses are evidently to apply to all the members.

In verse 6, we are told that we should know how to speak to each person we come across, and this is accomplished by making sure our speech has these qualities:
1. Grace
2. Seasoned with salt

The first quality could be interpreted to mean that we should be graceful in the sense of polished and smooth. It could also be interpreted to mean that we should have mercy and longsuffering with those who believe wrongly. The word used for grace is used in both contexts in Scripture. However, not all can be graceful in the sense of polished in their speech, so I would say that the second idea of grace is really in view.
This grace allows us to speak with someone in error without being harsh and condemnatory. As a matter of fact, this grace will cause us to learn about them more so we can more clearly cause them to understand the gospel.

The second quality, that of being seasoned with salt, brings to mind the words of Jesus:
Mat 5:13 ESV "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. "
Mar 9:50 ESV Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

We are to have the salt in ourselves, and be salt to the world. See also:
Mat 5:14 ESV "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Joh 1:9 ESV The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Joh 1:14-17 ESV And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") (16) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (17) For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Joh 14:16-17 ESV And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, (17) even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
Col 3:16 ESV Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

As Christians, we have the Spirit in us which bears witness, who is the fulness of Christ in us, the living word, by which we recieve grace and truth through which we may minister and instruct others.
Christ is our saltiness, which is manifested outward through our ministry and teaching. So when Paul says to let our speech be seasoned with salt, he is telling us to include the teaching of Christ in our conversations. We should try to work Christ into our daily discussions with all due grace and appropriateness. By this we can let our light shine.

Although this verse is written mostly concerning talk with unbelievers, certainly there is an application between Christians. The same grace and truth by which we minister to unbelievers is the same grace and truth by which we minister to each other. The church comes together for edification. As Christ forgave, we should forgive. So our speech should be full of grace and mercy to other Christians, as well as edifying to the building up of each other.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

All Under Authority? & Bible Version wording

Rom 13:1 KJV Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

I quote from the KJV here because the issue I will discuss is partly brought on by the wording of the KJV. The issue is this- that some use this verse to say that everyone should be under some form of authority. Of course Bill Gothard teaches the idea of the "umbrella of authority," meaning that by being under some authority you are under special divine protection.
Unfortunately, you can use this verse to support an idea that everyone should put themselves under someone's authority. This verse is speaking to a much more narrow focus, which is evident if you recall the context of Rom. 13, which is civil government. See the ESV here:

Rom 13:1 ESV Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

The NIV, NASB, and NKJV also have "governing authorities". "Higher powers" is more literal, but in the context, "governing authorities" is more accurate. Not only is it more accurate, but it would have helped to stave off the types of doctrinal misuse mentioned above.
Often KJV only folks reduce the utility of the newer versions to that of being easier to read, which in many cases they are. They do this so as to promote the KJV as the only real Bible because the other Bibles are so easy to read they don't require the illumination of the Holy Spirit. To start with, if this narrowing of perspective was valid in the first place, the answer would have to be made that God gave His word in human language for the purpose of ready comprehension. If more difficult to read makes a translation more meaningful, then lets all read the original languages, Hebrew & Greek. You really have to study those.
A more useful answer that makes the whole point moot is that the KJV, if not mistranslated in parts (which I believe it is), is misleading in parts, and not for reasons of difference between the English language then and now.
Another important observation to make is that no translation in history has had the effect of extinguishing heresy. The KJV is very useful to a number of unorthodox groups such as Mormons, who have made the KJV their standard translation.

Excerpts from the 7 Spiritual Laws

From Chap. 3, "The Law of Karma or Cause and Effect":

"At the moment you consciously make a choice, pay attention to your body and ask your body, "If I make this choice, what happens?" If your body sends a message of comfort, that's the right choice. If your body sends a message of discomfort, then it's not the appropriate choice.
"For some people the message of comfort and discomfort is in the area of the solar plexus, but for most people it's in the area of the heart. Consciously put your attention in the heart and ask your heart what to do. Then wait for a response - a physical response in the form of a sensation. It may be the faintest level of feeling - but it's there, in your body.
[now pay close attention...]
"Only the heart knows the correct answer. Most people think the heart is mushy and sentimental. But it's not. The heart is intuitive, it's holistic, it's contextual, it's relational. It doesn't have a win-lose orientation. It taps into the cosmic computer - the field of pure potentiality, pure knowledge, and infinite organizing power - and takes everything into account. At times it may not even seem rational, but the heart has a computing ability that is far more accurate and far more precise than anything within the limits of rational thought."

Compare with the Bible:
Rom 9:1 ESV I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit--
2Co 1:12 ESV For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.
1Ti 1:5 ESV The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
2Co 8:16 ESV But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you.
Eph 6:6 ESV not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,

It is evident that God works through the heart and conscience to provide us with an intuitive sense of what we are supposed to do. Some Christians think the idea of the leading of the heart is nonsense and emotional. But these people don't understand or appreciate the intuitive nature of the heart, especially when guided by the Holy Spirit. Chopra's discussion really clears up the mechanics of how it is the heart leading is worthy of our attention. As finite beings we have no faculty to truly comprehend that which is not visible to us, except by intuition.
This is a spiritual law that applies to everyone. It takes on new meaning for the Christian since we now have the eternal mind guiding our hearts, making us wiser and more transcendant in our existances, if we follow after God and his righteousness.
The following verses deserve to be looked at:

1Jo 3:18-22 ESV Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (19) By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; (20) for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. (21) Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; (22) and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

Here the Bible says that sometimes our heart will condemn us. Those without Christ have no grace in this circumstance, when their own hearts condemn their actions and lives through guilt. Sometimes our heart will put us on a "guilt trip," so to speak, even though we have started to do right. I John tells us that in God, we have grace and can rest assured because of God's omniscience- he knows the truth.

Chap. 4 - "The Law of Least Effort"

Introductory quote:
"'An integral being knows without going, sees without looking, and accomplishes without doing.
-Lao Tzu'"

This quote jumped out at me. (BTW, Lao Tzu is awesome.) Of course I had said before, that I believed that Chopra's universal field of potentiality is really a personal integrative field. This quote seems to bolster that conclusion. What Lao Tzu is saying, is that a truly integrated person can use intuitive force to his benefit. The deductive intuitive force is the leading of the heart. The inductive intuitive force is the personal re-alignment of our tri-parte beings and the creation of an aura favorable to the purposes or intentions we have. I discussed the relationship of the mechanics of this and Christianity earlier.

To go a little further into the actual mechanics of intuitive induction, I have to point out Chopra's idea of going into the "gap." Going into this gap is achieved through meditation, where we sit in silence as a means to transcend and get away from the interference of our minds. This action helps to recenter our beings, much like holding up a set of wind chimes from a table and watching the chimes hang in their proper spots. We then introduce our intentions as we come out of the gap, much like we might set the wind chimes down in such a way as to make them lay in the pattern we desire. This has to be repeated because life gets us out of alignment through the introduction of new problems.

I think this whole scheme of things is quite similar to the Biblical idea of watching & prayer.
"Blasphemy!" you say. No, it is not blasphemy. Again, it is a spiritual law that applies to everyone, just like gravity applies to everyone. It is as simple as the fact that if you can get yourself in internal agreement your potential is much greater.

Again, the Christian's advantage is that he has not only the assistance of the eternal mind but also the opportunity to align, not only his internal self, but to align his internal self with the eternal mind, making his life that much more transcendant.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Deepak Chopra's 7 Spiritual Laws and the Bible

A friend of mine had recieved a box of children's books from a co-worker some weeks ago. Many of the books were ones I had as a child and brought back good memories, and some were new and interesting and I read them, even though they were children's books. I am not too big for children's books! All books have something to say, and even if they don't say it well there is something to be learned in that, if nothing else.
In the bottom of this box of what was purportedly children's books, was a slim volume from Deepak Chopra titled "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success". Now I had heard of Chopra before but wrote his stuff off as hopelessly New Age.
Having just had a weekend where I was feeling a bit disoriented as a Christian and not having anything better to do I picked up the book. Just a few months earlier, I had read Abraham-Hicks material- for readers familiar with Abraham-Hicks I will liken it to a bludgeon, while Chopra's 7 Laws are a sharp samurai's sword.
The gist of both teachings is this- you create through intent and desire while remaining detached from the result. Chopra's 7 Laws clearly explain the how and the why; as I read it Bible verses popped to mind, backing up whole portions of his text.
This is a problem for the Christian. The mechanism is not so much a challenge to Christianity's concept of God. The universal applicability is the challenge. If it is true that through introducing impulses of intent through meditation the fabric of the universe can be made to bring into being that which we desire, what benefit is there to being a Christian, and especially of what benefit is Christian prayer beyond a mere cloak for introducing impulses of intent?
It is possible that the "fabric of the universe" being tapped through meditation is merely a personal integrative field that transmits messages between the spirit, soul, and body. Intent through meditation not aligns the field generally, but aligns the field in such a way as to cause to produce the specified intent even if we are not consciously reaching for it. This alignment of the personal integrative field also exhibits a magnetism (possibly through the creation of a more favorable aura) that draws others to our cause thereby providing further assist to the achievement of our intent.
None of this is inherently anti-Christian. As a matter of fact, I would argue for the existance of such an integrative field based on the fact that if our spirit, soul, and body had no means of intrinsic communication, we would not be able to function normally. Of course the tri-partite nature of man is definately a Christian idea.
Additionally, Chopra's discussion of the divinity within is a metaphor for the spirit of man. Unleashing the divinity of man through self referral is simply putting our spirits in control, rather than our emotions or physical drives. This too is a very Christian idea, putting the body and carnal mind under subjection. To clarify, self referral is taking our worth from ourselves. Object referral is taking our worth from something external. Most people live in the mode of object referral which is why we have to stroke egos and play politics with insecure people. Again, the primacy of self referral is a tremendously Christian idea as Paul tells us not to compare ourselves with others.
Chopra's discussion of detachment is probably the most profound and Biblical chapter in the entire book. I was astounded by the lessons of faith I could draw from this teaching. In a nutshell, detachment is about having intent and desire without being attached to the result. In other words, you want something, but if it never happens you are OK with that. The reason and basis for this is rooted in the acceptance of the present, not by the fact you can't change it, but because the present is exactly how things were supposed to be. Dear Christian, how much clearer can you make faith in God to be? This is a perfect discussion of the interplay of spiritual forces at work in faith. It is also a perfect blend of the ideas of God's soveriegnty and our will.
Chopra also discusses the concepts of karma (reaping what you sow) and dharma (a life's calling), both of which are intimately Christian. He provides several methods for dealing with bad karma (reaping your wild oats) and how to find your life's calling.
These are all truly spiritual laws. If we believe that it rains on the just and the unjust, then we realize that physical laws are fully applicable to every man to be used for his benefit or ignored to his detriment. The same goes with emotions. I also would say, the same goes for the spiritual. There are spiritual laws that affect every man and woman, which may be used for his or her benefit, and it does not matter if you believe in God or not.
So we are back to the question of, why is Christianity special? The reason is, that while spiritual laws can be utilized by anyone in the temporal world, we cannot affect the eternal. Our temporal lives create, as if by carbon copy, an eternal karma which will not be due until we enter the eternal realm. In addition, there exists an eternal mind with eternal wisdom who is God, who we cannot touch through our temporal abilities. On the flip side, He cannot touch us either. Would that we could be one with this eternal God and bring His power and presence to bear in our lives and to the world, and to have His aid in dealing with our eternal karma.
Christianity is true because Christ bridges this gap.
The lesson for the Christian is that God made us integrated beings and that while we may touch the eternal through Christ, there exist some spiritual laws that are in effect in this temporal world which we must master. Our benefit is that once we master these, they can become a conduit for eternal power, wisdom, and purpose, rather than the mere fulfilling of our own desires. God retains control over the spiritual laws just as he does the physical ones. The eternal God also offers assistance in carrying out these laws.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Some thoughts on Truth

Is it true that a man should wear a suit to an interview?
Most would say yes.
What if the man wore jeans and a t-shirt?
Most would say that is a stupid way to dress for an interview.
What does God think?
He might probably agree about wearing a suit, but it would not be wrong to wear something else.
So it is not true that a man should wear a suit to an interview?
It is, but not absolutely so.

Some truth is relative.

Postmodernism and IFBs

The pastor was out of town so we got to hear a speaker from a major Independent Fundamental Baptist Bible college tonight. I knew this man from before, since I used to go to the church he is in. I always knew he was smarter than average, so I was rather curious to hear what he had to say to us.
His message was on postmodernism. He did a tremendous job describing postmodernism, and even caused me to have a few questions about it. No doubt he did his homework. In addition, he used II Tim 4:1-5 as his text, which actually fit with his message. For any IFB preacher to be well-informed is miracle enough. To have an IFB preacher use verses at least somewhat within their proper exegetical context and understanding is an act of God.
Now, you think he would spend the application part of his message equipping the saints to respond to postmodern thought. Sadly, he did not really do that. He reaffirmed God's perfection, integrity, and eternality, but missed an awesome opportunity to get IFBs plugged into the world around them. Instead, his examples of the effects of postmodern thought were contemporary churches. Completely ignoring the fact that culture is inherently neutral, he proceeded to blast Jerry Falwell, "neo-evangelicals," and modern Bible versions.
So the "informed" IFB college graduate from his college comes out thinking that postmodernism is about rock music and new versions of the Bible, I guess. And then they'll get broadsided by the _truth_. Oh, the irony...
It got me thinking. IFBs spend alot of time figuring out those evil contemporary churches and how to deal with that. Of course this detracts from time and effort that could be used in learning how to relate to the lost. Unfortunately, there is a severe lack of articulation ability among IFBs, which makes most of our response to an intelligent, lost world little more than "Bible-thumping." We don't know about where they are coming from in any real detail because, by golly, we're separated.