Thursday, November 03, 2005

On MLM/Network Marketing

Found this excellent treatment of the subject at
http://mail.scam.com/showpost.php?p=72369&postcount=161

"...many MLM recruits are deceived by the "possibility" (which is real) and don't consider the "probability" (which is pathetically small, and seldom documented) of the MLM recruit's personal success. In a recent study I have the drop out rate is 74% for MLM, and slightly higher for Mortgage brokers, and slightly higher than that for Insurance sales.

"My conclusion is that MLM actively seeks the small percentage of very greedy people in society, who will do well in such a program. There is no efficient way to find these star performers and so a system of numbers (big recruiting effort - small success rate) has developed.

"Many of the failed people (those of us that don't have the greed gene) have cried foul and labeled MLM as fraud.

"...the greed gene is very uncommon, and all the sales rah-rah and training sessions in the world will not convert the average person to be an MLM champion.

"...if MLM was that easy for the average person, there would be no differentiation and the MLM industry would collapse to the level of a grocery store or gas station business model and have very many people earning very little margin.

"The great majority of us are quite content to take low risk - modest reward careers, and work them strategically to earn a comfortable living year in and year out.

"What is amazing is that people on the "normal career" path, happy or not, get the call to join MLM and become intoxicated with the idea that they will become fabulously rich in no time at all, if they sign up for the program. This is not logical, but clearly an exploitable character flaw in humans."

Friday, October 28, 2005

On the Book, "Emotional Purity"

I've just finished going over the book, "Emotional Purity," by Heather Paulsen. What follows are my thoughts and responses.

If the author were simply trying to say that men and women should watch how much they give of their hearts and emotions in a relationship, that would be fine. I would agree. If a man or woman continue in an undefined relationship after realizing they have feelings for each other, and do not talk it out, there could be problems. However this is not her point; her point is that you need to have a verbal commitment that you will either be looking at or not looking at marriage, and if you don't have that verbal commitment, don't hang out. The author assumes that young men and women not only don't have but CAN'T have the self-control to handle a relationship without defining it at the outset. So we see that this, like other legalistic teachings, substitutes teaching self-control through the Spirit with a set of rules and guidelines. This is a point at which the author's teaching is tragic, spiritually.
Another problem with legalistic teaching is, that is takes the responsibility of off the sinner and places it on the sin. For example, if a man sees a barely dressed woman at a bar and picks her up for a night of sin, its not the bar's fault, or the alcohol's fault, or the woman's fault for having hardly any clothes on. It is the man's fault. I am tired of hearing the line that women can defraud men with their dress, which the author uses in chapter four as a parallel to her idea of emotional defrauding. The fact that women should watch how they dress does not mean that the responsibility is not mine as far as lust.
Similarly, it is YOUR fault if you give another too much of your emotions and heart. That's your responsibility to set personal limits, and it doesn't require forbidding close relationships with the opposite gender.

Just because marriage is on the table doesn't mean marriage is in the future, just as those who have never talked about it can't rule it out. The question is one of God's will and when and how we know. Even following the author's teaching the type of heartbreak she is trying to prevent can still happen in a situation where a marriage minded couple breaks up because one of them has decided it wasn't God's will. The author's teaching limits God in how He can bring people together who He would have together, who might otherwise never consider each other for marriage. Consider the situation of a couple who have made a commitment to each other that they are not pursuing marriage. (Similar to one of the author's relationships that she describes in her book.) Then the man one day begins to feel that it is God's will for them to look at marriage. What is he to do?
More profoundly, the author's teaching violates the Scriptural principle of God's word being a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. God does not show us much of the future for very good reasons. He gives us the next step or two and expects us to trust Him and keep Him central in our lives.
Any disappointment we have concerning the outcome of situations stems not from our inability to plan, if we have been doing His will. It comes from our not being close enough to Him, and the solution is to seek God, not set out plans by which we hope to avoid disappointment in the future. In this way the author's prescription is tragic yet again, as it misses a unique opportunity for singles to find their way closer to God.
In any case, it is extremely presumptuous to say you are playing with the heart of another person's spouse when neither of you know what God has planned.

The author's theological justification for her teaching of emotional purity is extremely lacking. She posits that because Christ won't be intimate until a commitment is made (salvation), singles should not be emotionally intimate until there is a commitment. Keep in mind, the commitment the author is speaking of is not marriage, but a commitment to seek marriage.
This idea ends up in a number of absurdities. If intimacy is OK after the commitment to seek marriage, why not have physical intimacy as well as emotional intimacy? After the all, the author strongly equates the two.
Secondly, we have to come to the absurd conclusion that Christ won't be intimate before salvation because He doesn't want to be let down. This is in complete contradiction to the great foundational gospel truth that it is SIN that separates us from God. Christ would gladly be intimate with us were it not for sin, and He does become intimate with us once we become positionally justified at salvation. As for being let down, Christians let Him down all the time. Christ would have to refuse salvation completely if He didn't want to be let down.

In chapter three the author goes so far as to call emotional intimacy she considers inappropriate, "emotional fornication". She uses the analogy of a lollipop to illustrate that just as you would not want to have a lollipop that everyone has licked, so there is a spoiling that comes with being emotionally intimate with those who are not to be your spouse. This raises an important issue- is emotional intimacy intrinsically wrong outside of marriage? Maybe I am emotionally intimate with a relative. Do we then have "emotional incest"? I have a few close male friends with whom I am pretty intimate with about myself. Is this "emotional homosexuality"? So then to equate emotional attachment with fornication is completely false. I am afraid the author is guilty of sensationalizing like this at many places in the book.

In chapter four the author writes about "Defrauding". She uses I Ths 4:3-6 as her text to show that we should not defraud one another through inappropriate emotional intimacy. Having already attempted to tie emotional intimacy with physical intimacy, I assume she expects the readers to excuse the fact that this passage is about sexual sin, not emotions. She uses the NASB here which reads "sexual immorality". The KJV reads "fornication," which is basically the same. The Greek here is "porneia," which is definitely referring to the physical. That the passage is specifically about the body can be seen in v.4- "vessel," referring to the body, although some commentators say this is referring to a man's wife. As a matter of fact, the ESV translates it as "body." Also, cross referencing v.5 with I Cor 5:1 (reputation of the Gentiles) should help make clear the fact that this passage is much more specific to sexual sin than the author would make it out, or like it, to be. The author has no right or basis to use this passage to backup her argument.

In chapter six the author finally admits that you can have a honorable relationship without trying to define it, through self-control and closeness to God, but then chapter seven is titled "Commitment Equals Protection." She would rather the single person choose wringing a commitment out of the opposite gender rather than enjoying natural relationships where expectations are level because we keep God central and take His power.

The rest of the book deals with related topics and adds little extra information to the main idea. As you can see, the idea is not something I feel is helpful to Christian singles. It is the type of error that is overreaction to a valid concern.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Church Politics

Where there is a hierarchy, there is politics.

I was thinking about this because in a lot of churches, certain functions or jobs (volunteer, not staff) are limited to those selected by another volunteer leader who has backing from a higher leader. I am not talking about situations in which you have to gain trust- I am not advocating putting anyone quickly into whatever place of service they want. I am talking about situations where proven Christians can't break through into a certain area of ministry.

Where there is politics, there is at least one person with an agenda.

Hierarchial organizations may not be headed by those with an agenda but they are steered by them. Also to note that you may be progressing in a ministry that you would never suspect is under the influence of someone with an agenda and suddenly hit the wall and found out, that is the case. I am necessarily not talking about getting into leadership positions here.
Unfortunately most churches have handful of people, both volunteer and staff, that have decided how they want things and have the right connections and so there are agendas.

It's worse when the multi-layered leadership model (hierarchy) is implemented so strongly as to bind a leader from taking action on anything that is handled by a leader under him. This essentially means that there is no real grievance process.

My reaction to all this? I don't care. I'll volunteer in a few places and help some but I won't tie my sense of spiritual accomplishment or well-being to the function of the organization that I presently call church. God and I continue to work on me and I live my own life, and the organization called church is an auxiliary piece of that, that I include as something that God wants as a part of my life.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Emotional Purity

I am just starting to look at this whole "emotional purity" thing, I have bought the book sold by my church so I can study it more ("Emotional Purity" by Heather Paulsen, but right out of the gate I am really not buying it. It seems to me that while extremely conservative IFB churches have always advocated courtship, the hard-right "emotional purity" teaching has only gained the ascendancy within the last few years, with people like SM Davis, etc.
Basically, the whole emotional purity thing goes like this.
1. You wouldn't get involved physically before marriage, right?
2. Well then, you shouldn't get involved emotionally either, until such time as you have gotten parental permission to court the girl with the goal of marriage. You should have emotional as well as physical purity.
While SM Davis may be more of an IFB phenomenon, the "emotional purity" idea has attracted a fair amount of attention in the broader evangelical scene, especially with Joshua Harris' book, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye." The response seems polarized between those who despise the concept and those who love it. This type of response, to me, indicates a lack of serious grounding within the church on what the Bible teaches about the young adult years- a very broad topic that covers everything from parental authority to physical purity to vocational choices to relationships between genders. One important thing to note from the outset when attempting to understand what the Bible says about how a young person should conduct themselves, is that all of these subtopics are intertwined. We have too many books on these various subtopics and not enough writing on how these fit together to give us a model of a Godly young person.
I am going to put together some type of study/response to the book mentioned before, but having read up through the first two chapters I have made some observations. In her acknowledgement she tells us that SM Davis was basically a starting point for her on this. I wonder where Joshua Harris got the idea from... it will interesting to try and trace out the men who are sources of this idea, but right now SM Davis is the big fish so far.
Paulsen's book is more of high-level treatment of the subject, than a in-depth study of Scripture. In chapter two she begins to try and develop a Biblical case for the idea of "emotional purity," and she does not appear to have really thought through her use of Scripture, or paid enough attention to context, but I'll save criticisms for after I have read whole book. However, I am thinking I will have to buy SM Davis 9-tape series to really get a nuts and bolts treatment of the topic.
Another thing that stood out to me was the fact that the book seems written for women. The fictional story in the beginning of the book is about how a girl gets her heart broken by a guy who leads her on then dumps her. I would hope that later in the book the author would deal with this from a man's point of view. We'll see. If "emotional purity" is as important as she makes it out to be, she must do this.
One final note. Both in the forward and in the introduction the "emotional purity" issue us made out to be a traditional teaching lost in recent years. I do not know if the person who wrote the forward or the author is IFB or not, but if one thing has been demonstrated quite clearly to me in my studies of IFB error, it is that these people don't understand history. A solid understanding of historical facts is enough in most cases to debunk stuff like KJVO, dress standards, music standards, etc. without even picking up a Bible. So the cynic in me wins here and I don't expect to see the author back up this particular assertion. Why is it important that she do this? Because her statements in this regard form a "hook" that pulls the reader into giving more credibility to her argument because it is presented as a traditional belief.
While I am on the topic of historical ignorance as a cornerstone of IFB error, I will also point out another form of fundamentalist ignorance: cultural ignorance. Unfortunately this cultural ignorance manifested itself in out-and-out racism a la Scofield and the Hamitic Curse, among other things, like the BJU ban on interracial dating. The pairing of male and female is HIGHLY dependant on cultural traditions and expections and so I expect a lot of the argument for "emotional purity" to end up confusing cultural tradition with church teaching (yet again...sigh).

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Rewards and I Cor 3

In the churches I have been in, the fiery test of I Cor 3 has always been taught as a test of the Christian's works at the judgement. I began to have doubts about that recently and so I did a check of some classic commentaries to see what others have to say.

Overview of Interpretation:

Darby, Geneva, Gill, Wesley, Henry, PNT commentaries:

Foundation: Salvation in Christ
Building: Edification
Materials: Solid or Worthless Teaching
Rewards: Successful life b/c of application of sound understanding of doctrine
Fire: Unsuccessful life lived vainly, not understanding God's word

IFB churches (Sword/Hammond):

Foundation: Salvation in Christ
Building: Work
Materials: Eternal or Temporal Works
Rewards: Rewards based on work performed, or work w. good motives
Fire: No rewards because no work was performed, or not out of right motives

The traditional view is seen to be quite different than the IFB view. Of course I’ll get to the text later but the thing that jumped out at me first was the jump from salvation to work, in the IFB interpretation. In the traditional view, work is implied as the result of teaching, either good or bad as the case may be.

I Cor 3 (KJV)

8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

- Notice the change in focus. In v.8 and the first part of v.9 Paul talks about the individual’s labor and his reward for that. In the last half of v.9 Paul calls the individual, God’s labor. So there is a shift from what a man does for Christ to what work goes on in a man- a man’s spiritual growth.

11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

- Whatever spiritual growth takes place must start with a personal relationship with Christ.

12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

- Build upon what foundation? Jesus Christ. Who is building? Those who edify to spiritual growth. Remember, the end of v.9 & v.10 set the context, as growth in grace, NOT works of ministry.

13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (15) If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

- So what we are talking about here is what kind of Christian are you, as a teacher and discipler, producing? Are you producing a Christian sound in doctrine, able to gain rewards? Or, are you producing a Christian who barely gets in?

Looking at the text Paul actually deals with both types of work. In vs.8-9a Paul tells us that a Christian can labor for rewards. But in vs.9b-14 Paul tells us what produces a Christian that gains rewards- sound doctrine and teaching, without which the Christian can’t earn rewards, because they can’t labor according to God’s will.

I observe that the emphasis is not placed upon the laboring Christian so much as it is upon the equipper- the teacher. To Paul it seems that a well-equipped Christian would inevitably produce good works and gain rewards. Paul’s bigger concern was that those who teach, guide, and disciple other Christians do it properly, and teach thoroughly and soundly, and not teach vain and worthless “doctrines” that will not help the Christian weather the fiery trials of faith.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A Random Bite of Obviousness

The parent who does not provide for their own future cares nothing about their child's.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Today's Joy

Happiness is a memory. Is it the result of reflection without the interruption of natural troubles surrounding the situation, and good old days just get better as our mind performs a natural purging of all those past troubles that never materially mattered anyway. How much better to trust God? Achievement of a continual present state of happiness is only possible through acceptance of the current situation, both in pros and cons, that produces more recent memories of happiness due to the fact that we are not allowing ourselves to over-focus on the negative aspects of our circumstance. This is also a very powerful and creative stance in that it puts us in control of our situation, rather than our fears.
I don't want to wait until 5 years out and look back on today, and the relationships of today, and suddenly discover the happiness that God meant for me to have all along. It's also not fair to those who care about me to do so. Can you see how God could be pouring the blessing yet we miss the joy because we can't trust God with our numerous small worries and fears? Why should God give us a blessing if we spoil it like that? So I will thank Him for today, and the situation He has placed me in, and the people He has given to be with me, whether that family, friends, or anyone else. More than that, I will accept what He sends my way because I know He loves me, and I will seek to enjoy life because to do anything else is to complain against Him.
I am not saying it is easy but He does deserve every last bit of our gratitude, and none of our complaints, though He more than graciously listens to those. I remember being given an alfalfa sandwich as a child once, and being very rude about it, making gagging sounds and all the rest. Yet this was provided in love to me. Even the alfalfa sandwiches of life deserve our gratitude.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A note on the "Thought of Foolishness"

I had said a few posts ago that just because something is foolish doesn't make it sin. It occured to me later, that someone might bring up Proverbs 24:9 which says that the thought of foolishness is sin.
First let me clarify what foolishness I am referring to, in regard to standards. When an IFB says some activity that his code of standards prohibits is foolish, such that a seemingly innocent activity may lead to worse things, this is an appeal to what he sees common sense versus stupidity.
In the book of Proverbs, wisdom and foolishness are compared and contrasted extensively. Wisdom in the book of Proverbs is equated with God's commands and so with the Scripture:

Pro 2:1-10 ESV My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, (2) making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; (3) yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, (4) if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, (5) then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (6) For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; (7) he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, (8) guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. (9) Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; (10) for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

...also see Pro 8. Foolishness in the book of Proverbs is equated with ignoring and rejecting this wisdom:

Pro 1:7 ESV The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

None of this is to say that the commandments of God don't lead to common sense actions. However, the central issue around which one is deemed wise, or a fool, in Proverbs is whether that man listens to and follows Godly instruction. The Proverbs fool is the willing sinner, the one who consciously disobeys God.
The thought of foolishness is the thought of going against God's commands, not the thought of being stupid. In any case, the difference between foolishness(stupidity) and sin should be obvious.
The above-mentioned appeal to common sense is debatable in any case and depends on the issue.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Be a KJVO? Let it not be!

Another KJVO post... wheee! Well this is good, actually. Just a few nuggets of Scripture to suggest a problem with that line of thinking.

Rom 9:14 KJV What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

Oops. We have the Word of God taking our Lord's name in vain. Not just this once, but also _22_ other times:

Gen. 44:7, 17; Jos. 22:29; 24:16; 1Sa. 12:23; 14:45; 20:2; Job 27:5; Luke 20:16; Rom. 3:4, 6, 31; 6:2, 15; 7:7, 13; 11:1, 11; 1Co. 6:15; Gal. 2:17; 3:21; 6:14

You may say, that since we are dealing with the Bible here, the Bible is actually saying that God is forbidding this, and that the reference is not so casual as to be in vain. The first problem with this explanation is that, in the verses I have selected, the name of God DOES NOT APPEAR in the original language manuscripts. So the Bible is not trying to say anything about God in these verses where "God forbid" is used.
The second problem with this explanation is that it just doesn't work in some contexts, even if there were a textual basis for including God's name:

1Sa 14:45 KJV And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the LORD liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.

Who says that God forbids that Jonathan die? Maybe He does, maybe He doesn't. Probably He used this incident to spare Jonathan but we have no reason to believe that these people received a revelation from God that He forbids Jonathan's death. The statement "God forbid" represents the sentiment of the people, not something the people knew about God's will.
Of course the entire issue is solved by realizing that "God forbid" was a dynamic translation on the part of the KJVO translators, and that "God" is not part of the original language texts in these places. In the NT, a more literal translation of the underlying Greek in these places would be, "Let it not be!" In the OT KJV occurances of "God forbid" a more literal translation would be, "Far be it!"
What about I Chr 1:19:

KJV And said, My God forbid it me, that I should do this thing: shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy? for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. Therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mightiest.

Here the name of "God" IS in the Hebrew text. However, this is while David is in the act of pouring out the water before the Lord and so he, before the Lord, makes his decision that he will not drink this water obtained at the price of blood. Obviously here this is not a casual reference, especially since David addresses God very personally- "_My_ God forbid it..."
However, the 23 places given at the beginning gives us a Bible that takes God's name in vain. How is "God forbid" any different than "God damn"? The only reason to insist on a difference is if you have to justify the KJV. Would you want your kids making "God forbid" a regular part of their vocabulary?
You certainly will not tell me that this version is the perfect preserved Word of God when it itself goes counter to the Scriptural command not to take God's name in vain.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Truth of Post-Modernism

I don't doubt but that God allows various philosophies of man to come in the vogue to challenge His people to understand spiritual truth better. Right-wing fundamentalists often make the mistake of rejecting new philosophies out of hand, without first looking at them and finding the half that is truth- which would help provide a much more salient response that a stubborn refusal to listen.
The best lies, are half-truths. Post-moderism is a half truth. It takes an obvious truthful reality and comes to an erroneous conclusion. The truthful reality is, that men see things differently, and believe differently. The erroneous conclusion is, that because men do, that makes it so. It is often said that the laws of physics are a most evident area in the post-modernist idea can be shown to fail.
I began to this of this in geometric terms. It takes two points to make a line and set a direction, does it not? The post-modernist has taken one point alone, that of the variety of human perception, and attempted to chart a direction. This is perhaps why it can be replied that the post-modernist can't even really say his core philosophy is correct, if he in fact is correct. If he is right, his ideas don't matter- they cancel themselves out; if he is wrong, they are irrelevant.
We can draw a line, however, if we add one additional truth to the truth that men percieve in a variety of ways. The second truth is this- that men are finite, imperfect and errant. Our conclusion now is this: that the variety of man's perception is really a demonstration of these characteristics; that the finite limits of man's perception cause him to see only a part of the truth, while the imperfect and errant qualities of man cause him to percieve or even create falsehood.
This cuts both ways. For the humanist, this is a denial of the preeminance of man's capabilities; for the right-wing fundamentalist, this is a denial of the ability to set truth in black and white, and to do away with gray areas- a denial of absolute certainty about all things. For Christians in general, it a call to have grace on those who we disagree with, and not be so quick to judge, realizing our own inability.
Post-modernism, when answered, is a challenge to both the world, and the church.

Bibliocentrism, Part II

I thought today about a coworker from a previous job, where I also had a friend from my church as a coworker. Now, this friend of mine is quite strict about various issues such as music and Bible versions and so forth. Of course, I am not like that. I imagined a conversation between me and the other coworker on the differences between us.
It began to get interesting in my mind, when I thought about how I would explain my position. I suppose I would start out by saying that I used to be that way, but now I am not. As to _why_ I am not, I would say that being the object of judgement from these type of people who are strict caused me to look at things differently.
Then I would go on to say that my friend is certainly not judgemental, but because of the tendancy of those types of Christians to be judgemental, I prefer to take a more liberal view.
I went on, in my mind, to tell her that such strictness is often portrayed as wisdom. Such as, you shouldn't drink because you do something stupid or become an alcoholic. Such as, you shouldn't smoke because it is detrimental to your health. Such as, you shouldn't listen to rock music because it can negatively influence the way you think.
However, these things are _not_ explicitly spelled out in Scripture, no matter how strenuously their supporters attempt to make a Biblical case against them. Now I am not saying such rules are not wise (that is open to debate, and is another discussion), what I am saying is, that just because something is wise _doesn't_ make it a mandate of God's Word. Neither because something is foolish does that make it a sin. There are many foolish activities, that are not "sin." (Again, whether these are foolish or not is another discussion)
The standards issue is similar to the KJVO issue in that the emotional underpinnings of these beliefs are the need for a high level of certainty. One of the most potent statements in James White's book refuting KJVOism is the following:

"If we say that we can have no certainty regarding the biblical text unless we embrace the KJV (or the TR), we are simply moving the question one step back and hoping no one notices. How can we be certain of the textual choices of Desiderus Erasmus, or Stephanus, or Theodore Beza? How can we be certain that the Anglican churchmen who chose amongst the variant readings of those three men were themselves inspired? Are we not, in reality, saying, 'Well I _must_ have certainty, therefore, without any factual or logical or even _scriptural_ reason to do so, I will invest the KJV translators with ultimate authority.' This is, truly, what KJV Only advocates are doing when they close their eyes to the historical realities regarding the biblical text."
-James White, The King James Only Controversy, p.95

I have realized this desire for a high level of certainty extends beyond the KJVO issue, with far right-wing fundamentalists. Yes, the type that gets upset over new versions and pants on women. It would be just as easy to say that these right-wing fundamentalists are, "in reality, saying, 'Well I _must_ have certainty, therefore, without any factual or logical or even _scriptural_ reason to do so, I will invest" the fundamentalist leaders of 30-35 years ago with "ultimate authority'"- when it comes to "standards".
One explanation for this need of high-level certainty is the fact that a lot of these types of Christians harbor emotional insecurity. You find many with harsh upbringings, wounds from the past, plenty of first generation Christians who are so scared of what they used to be as an unsaved person that they _must_ have it all spelled out. Of course the solution for this is to find freedom from such fears in Christ. (Easier said than done)
Yet another explanation is needed for the rest of them, especially second generation right-wing fundamentalists who remain in the system. This explanation is more theological and based upon what they've been taught about the written Word of God.
I'll start by posing this question- is the Bible all-inclusive of spiritual truth? Or does the Bible contain a subset of the entire spiritual truth? I am not asking, is the Bible authoritative. I believe the Bible is, in fact, authoritative, and true in what it says. It would be sin to go against the clear teaching of the Bible. What I am asking is, is the Bible all there is to truth?
For many right-wing fundamentalists the final authority has become only authority. This is error, as proven by the Bible itself. Christ sent the Spirit to guide us into all truth. Also it should be obvious, that God guides us in many specific ways that are not spelled out in Scripture. Look at I Jhn 5:8- we do not see the Bible as one of God's three witnesses on earth, which seems very peculiar if we accept the far right-wing concept of Scripture as not only the only authority but also perfectly preserved in one text.
By limiting our understanding of God's truth to the written Word of God, we are missing out on special things God wants to do and show us. This is what I refer to as "Bibliocentrism."
This idea, this doctrine, sustains this type of thinking when emotional causes are absent.
Now some may say that I am going Charismatic. Glad you said that! If there is one thing more vile than a Catholic, for a far right-wing fundamentalist, it's a Charismatic. Even the infamous Jack Hyles said, that he would rather be a Catholic than a Charismatic. Of course this statement fits with the profile I've drawn; to be a Catholic is to have a tremendous amount of certainty about many things, whereas the current state of the Charismatic movement leaves a lot of subjectivity to the believer.
To the extent that the Charismatics need to pay more attention to the objective written Word of God, the right-wing fundamentalist needs to pay more attention to the Spirit.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

"Second-hand" girls?

Here's a portion of J. Vernon McGee's commentary on Rev 19:7-8:
"Young lady and young man, that is the reason in this day of 'new' morality that you should bring purity to your marriage. God have mercy on some of you fellows who are married to second-hand girls. Don't get them at the second-hand store; get them brand new. It is much better that way."

As I was helping my mom respond to someone on Baptist Brider error, I ran across this commentary and thought, what?? There is no grace in this at all. I will agree that it is best to keep pure until marriage. Even Paul says repeat marriages run risks with regard to the physical relationship. But- where is the grace for a girl who is now trying to do right? Should she be shunned now? No, not at all. I think Christ has plenty beyond what we dream of for those who have heart's desire to do right and "sin no more". If a man is pure and following Christ he will view a girl like this from Christ's point of view, and Christ may call Him to marry that girl and show her His love. That is how I feel, and if I thought this was what Christ wanted, I wouldn't have any problem with it, rather I would want to find out and help meet any special need she has.
Of course Mr. McGee doesn't turn it around and complain about "second-hand" guys. When it comes to sexual sin why do we put all the blame and responsibility on the woman? I mean, if she doesn't dress just right than that will make me go on a lustful mental rampage. Come on! As a man, I have to accept responsibility for my choices, such as whether I lust or not.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

Thankfully, four days after the event, our federal government is finally getting troops and supplies into New Orleans and evacuating survivors.
Almost no one believes any level of government handled this well. Katrina has provided a clear demonstration that can't be ignored, of the failure of our federal administration to handle domestic emergencies, and of the fact that our administration's priorities are seriously out of whack.
It is true that the mayor ordered a mandatory evacuation. However, many poor families, mostly minorities and the elderly, had nowhere to go and no way to get anywhere.
It is true that the immediate responsibility fell on state and local authorities. However, within the first 24 hours it was clear they were failing, and they were asking the federal government for help. While our national government took its time, crime increased and people died.
It is true that the much of the destruction was caused by a break in the levee and not the hurricane directly. However, all sides _knew_ the levees around NO couldn't handle a hurricane greater than category 3. Despite this, the federal government slashed funding in recent years for reinforcing these levees to handle a category 5 hurricane. Before 9/11 FEMA listed a hurricane of Katrina's strength hitting New Orleans has one of the top three dangers to the US. Yet our federal government not only did not prepare beforehand, but after seeing the breakdown of local government in LA after the hurricane sat on its hands for days.
What is not true is that nobody really knew what would happen. The path of the hurricane was originally charted direct for NO. The hurricane that was expected to hit NO was of a strength known to damage the levees. None of the destruction that has happened in the last week should have taken anyone by suprise.
I brought up the topic at a fellowship at church tonight. Apologies for the Bush administration ensued. First out of the chute was that federal government intervention should be a last resort. I addressed this by saying, that early on, within the first day or so, it was evident the local and state governments had failed. Next up was the brazen reply that, well, these people chose to live in a city under sea level so they have to deal with the danger. If you can't see the problem with this statement, especially coming from a Christian, then you are in a hopeless condition.
From another table I heard complaints about the way someone brought up the racial issue in all of this, on a national fundraiser. Well, yeah, there is a racial component to this.
Finally, I pointed out how this shows our government couldn't properly respond to a WMD attack- which comment was passed by.
Not even the likes of a right-wing personage such as Bill O'Reilly went to the level my fellow church members went to in defense of the undefensible. I am sure not everybody there feels that way, but what I heard angered me. It was an uninformed, callous, and futile defense of a truly pathetic response by our federal government. I guess they think Bush can be excused for letting the people of NO decline into destitution, death, and pure misery so long as he comes out against the "perverts" and the "baby killers."

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Comments back on...

Blogger has now implemented "word verification" which means you have to type in a word represented by a wierd graphic to post. This should keep out the spammers. Hooray!

Monday, August 29, 2005

New Cable Modem

Just bought the DLink DCM-202... so far so good. My download speed per Cox's speed test app is 4.45Mbps on my 4Mbps connection. I have been pinging all over with no problems. Hooray!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Computer trials and tribulations.

I have several devices that connect via USB to my computer. Now, my computer has USB ports, but they are earlier version USB ports (1.1). This meant that things like scanning and working on my USB key drive were relatively slow.
So for approximately $13 total I ordered a USB 2.0 card online, which is capable of over 40x the speed of my USB 1.1 ports. Seemed to go well as I reveled in the quick speed with which I was able to access my USB key drive.
Then, it all started. I plugged in the printer/scanner. No matter what I did it wouldn't install, and so already having considered a format/reload of my OS, Windows ME, I proceeded to backup my stuff and wipe the hard drive.
The computer was also becoming very slow. I ran a number of tests on the drive in which the drive tested fine but acted verrry slow. Like trying to get a directory listing from the command line of a blank drive and waiting 2 minutes for it, all the while the drive access is lit. I knew the drive was on its way down, even if it wouldn't admit it.
So I go to a local computer store the next day to get a drive and, what the heck, I grab a copy of XP. Spending $60 on the new drive is already throwing a wrench in my budget so I figured let's do it in style. Besides, WinME is always touchy, flaky- I tried to love WinME and tweaked it incessantly but to no avail.
The drive installed and has been performing flawlessly and is very fast. XP installed nicely, recognized everything, and I began to reload all my stuff. I was having a frustrating problem with slow internet connections. So was my other computer, a Win98SE machine. Several reboots of the cable modem fixed that for my other computer but my new XP install was still lagging when accessing the internet.
The first suspected culprit was QoS. A number of websites told of WinXP reserving bandwidth for itself and throttling apps through use of the QoS Scheduler. Well I completely uninstalled the QoS network component and disabled the system service, to no avail. As it turns out, XP reserves no bandwidth, but QoS apps can reserve bandwidth, although XP will still share the bandwidth unless the app actually uses it.
Next up was general TCP/IP tweaking. No improvement here, either.
Lastly I discovered Windows XP's "feature" of limiting the number of TCP connections so as to limit internet worm attacks. By default, this limit is 10. Only by patching a system file, TCPIP.SYS, can this limit be changed. Fortunately, an app exists on the internet to do that, and I increased my limit to 150. Rebooted, now I am a happy camper!
I am confident of my ability to protect and clean my system so I am not concerned with my machine becoming a "bot" in a "worm attack." I would much prefer fast networking.

Update: No, the problem came back again. ARRRGGGHHH! So I increased the priority of DNS resolution, manually set the interface metric, turned off the AV and firewall, installed Win2k drivers for the network card, all to no avail. Then, I swapped network cards with my Win98SE system, so I put the Linksys NC100 into that system and put the NETGEAR FA310TX into my system. The Win98SE system was happy and content (as usual), but then when I inserted my USB key drive WinXP hard locked. GRRRRR... So I can't even boot WinXP into safe mode, so I started the installation CD. Wouldn't boot from that, either- it locked up at "Starting Windows". HMMM... obviously a hardware issue.
I pulled out the NETGEAR card and lo and behold, XP boots like a charm. I went into the registry and deleted the info for this device, then used a utility off the internet to reset the TCP/IP stack and the Winsock. After shutting down and putting the card back in with the USB key plugged in, everything configured.
Now to try different permutations of inserting my USB key drive. I inserted it while in Windows- OK, then removed it - OK, then shut down and inserted it and booted - OK. So it looks good.
AND.... my problem seems to GONE! My fingers are crossed, though.

Update #2. With the NETGEAR adapter in my system, internet performance was what it ought to be, although I felt that tweaking some of the TCP/IP settings would give it a little bit more of an edge. After making the tweaks things slowed down. O-K.... so I undo the tweaks and no improvement. GRRRRRR..... So I delete ALL of the TCP/IP info in the registry incorrectly assuming XP will rebuild it. WRONG. Now TCP/IP is all hosed and even resetting the stack via netsh doesn't work. So-o, I export a copy of the key from my XP Pro system at work and email it to myself. Just now I imported it, reset the TCP/IP stack, and reinstalled the NIC so it would rebind with TCP/IP, and life is good again. _Hopefully_ this is the LAST installment of this saga. I think I am going to leave things alone now, as far as networking goes!

Update #3. Now three days later since the beginning of this ordeal, I am coming to realize it is not my computer. My mom, who uses the Win98SE box, finally told me she had been having slowdowns, still. So, I run my system directly into the cable modem and... the problem persists. Having moved the cable modem into my room and connecting it to my APC UPS, the problem has lessened, and my connection is OK, but definately not what it should be. So I'm thinking maybe I need a new cable modem right? As I shop online and review Cox's approved modem list I find, guess what? My cable modem, which WAS on their list, has dropped off. Other DOCSIS 1.1 modems are on the list, so it must be something with my model (SMC8002) that doesn't work right with their systems anymore. I sure wish they had told me, they have my modem model registered in their system. I would be interested to see the technical details but I'll never get through to anyone high enough and technical enough to get those.
So now it's NEW CABLE MODEM time. Another $60-odd bucks. GRRRRR..... It will have to wait. I can't spend another dime right now. Looking at the D-Link DCM-202, BTW. Nice price and good reviews and on Cox's list.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bibliocentrism, Part I

I had quoted another web site a few entries back:
"Scripture’s silence is not an invitation for us to dispute with each other, nor is it a license for us each to go our own way. It is a divine invitation for us to draw close to the heart of God, hear his intimate whispers, and joyfully honor him in holy submission to his greatness, delighting in his right to rule every aspect of our lives."

Back in 2001 when I switched from being KJV only I hardly knew where it would lead. The journey from God's-total-word-as-expressed-in-one-Bible-version-only has become a gradual removal of every artificial construct that presents itself as truth and holiness and the right way to live. I hardly would say that I am at the end of that path but I will say now, that the only right way for the Christian to live is under the constant influence of God through His Spirit. This is a standard of righteousness that transcends our laws and codes.
I also will not say that I have learned to perfectly live under the influence of the Spirit. In that, I am just beginning and will probably never attain full proficiency. Nonetheless the goal is clear, to conform and wrap my being around God Himself so that I may become exactly what He wants me to be.
The present question I will address, is the relevance of the written Scripture to the Christian in the face of this goal. Suffice it to say that Scripture alone is not enough for our complete transformation into Christ-likeness. This statement will cause you great difficulty if you are a strict fundamentalist or a KJVOist. It is obvious however, that God has a unique plan for each of us and for this reason it is impossible for Scripture alone in the written form to provide us with all we need to conform to Him.
A short while after reading the above quote (among others like it), I ran across a statement which reminded me of the plain fact that for at least 1000 years in the Middle Ages (1400 it is claimed), common people did not have access to Scripture. It is often claimed that this is because of the Catholic Church but it should be obvious that this is not a complete explanation if even true. Books were costly and expensive to produce and this meant that for those communities that actually had a Bible, they were under lock and key at the church. Pick whatever Christian sect during the Middle Ages that you believe represented true Christianity and it is doubtful they "read their Bibles" daily. Not only for the reason above but also due to a high illiteracy rate. At best they might have memorized portions of Scripture.
Imagine... a Christian without a Bible. It was reality in those times. Two connected things, the oral teaching of faithful men who had occasional access to a copy of the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit Himself, were able to sustain the church in these times.
Now I have to point out that I believe the Bible is true. On the one hand, it is never right to teach as absolute truth what the Scriptures are silent or unclear on. On the other hand, it is not right to justify carnal activities by saying that Scripture doesn't have a black-and-white command against it.
Aha, the strict fundamentalist will say. I, who read new versions and listen to modern music am now guilty of hypocrisy. Yet if I am guilty of hypocrisy, they are more, in that they hold Scripture SO high as to twist from Scripture what they call "principles" to condemn my activity, thus falling into the opposite error. If the strict fundamentalist would not do this, I think he would find Scripture more favorable to that which he opposes, although there would still be room for argument.
(As a matter of fact, the hardcore "Bibliocentrism" of strict fundamentalists leaves them no alternative but to force the Scripture to speak on topics that Scripture simply does not address definitively. This often involves taking Scripture out of its cultural context.)
The point I am making is that Scripture functions as a set of training wheels. The truth of Scripture defines some thou shalts and some thou shalt nots. The power to ride uprightly is given by the Spirit, and the Scriptures guide us and are especially helpful early on.
A few years ago I remember telling my pastor at the time that I had a difficult time sticking to a daily Bible reading schedule. To my suprise, he responded that perhaps I didn't need to read the Scripture every day- this from a fundamentalist pastor. More recently, I had some success with the One Year Bible.
What I began to realize however, is that I focused on my written Bible to guide me, more than the Spirit. My "Bibliocentrism" was limiting my walk to the elementals, the thou shalts and thou shalt nots. Yes, the Scripture speaks of liberty and grace, but instead of finding these I continued to wobble down the street bouncing left and right from one training wheel to the next. Many others do the same.
To continue with the analogy, it is never right to fall off the bike. This leads me to my final point- that every Christian comes to a point where it is right and proper to "take of the training wheels" and focus on the Spirit. This works because we are talking about a committed, experienced Christian who should have some level of humility and more than likely teaching the Scripture to others in some way.
The Bible itself says in II Tim 3:15-17:
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
He doesn't say "thou hast read daily," he says "thou hast known". It is a general knowledge of the Scripture that causes us to be "furnished".

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Fuzzy Organization

Imagine if you will a chart that shows the value of different products. One axis represents quality, the other represents price. Our products are represented by dots, and so we have dots scattered throughout the graph.
In one corner is represented the ultimate value- lowest price, highest quality. In another corner is represented the worst value- highest price, lowest quality. The key to reading this type of chart is not to look for the dot farthest along either axis. If you do that, you'll either get the cheapest or the highest quality, but it may be a very bad value for your money. What you want to look for is the dot that is closest to corner that represents ultimate value, regardless of where that dot falls along either axis.

When it comes our lives, time is money, and we have to search out what ways we can spend our time that produce the most value for the time spent. For example, if 5 minutes spent doing one activity were to insure that my family would stay healthy for many years, that would be high value. However, if I spent 5 minutes trying to get the doormat outside positioned juuuust right, that would be very bad value. I would only do that if I had time to kill. More than likely an out of place doormat would get about 6 seconds of foot shoving tops regardless of how successful my foot shoving had been.

It is helpful to mentally recast our to-do lists in terms of value charts. Obviously, we can't perfectly plot our tasks this way, thus my title; it is more of a generalization that goes on. But as we focus on different tasks thinking like this, the value level becomes clear. As we begin to do those things which we know have the most value for our time, nearby tasks of close value will draw us to give attention to them. Our mind is built to work in a relational manner like this.

Sometimes we have a task, which is intrinsically low value, but very urgent. Such as, paying bills on time. These are the kind of things that should be scheduled. Or, if you prefer, they recieve increased value as the deadline draws near, on account of their urgency.

This is the way I work. Yes everything needs to be done, but it doesn't all have to be done today. And, as per my last post, many of my tasks do not require a high level of attention to detail, making them lesser beasts than they might seem at first. So in my mind, all of my tasks automatically assume positions relative to the others, in terms of value and need for attention to detail. Urgency is factored into the value dimension.

Because deadlines are the last thing on my mind I stop every couple of days and review my deadlines and up the value of certain tasks accordingly.

Sometimes kicking back and relaxing is the most valuble thing I can do, given my mental/emotional condition.

Relative Quality

And now... for something different, from the usual Biblical stuff.

I have a friend, who spends inordinate amounts of time getting stuff just right. Very picky, he is. Now me, I come from the other side of things. I look for the easy way.

Most of what we do is for others- work, church, school, etc. Of course part of these efforts are for us, but these are mainly outward- to please the boss, to minister to people, to make the professor happy so we can get a good grade. Most of us try to do a fairly good job at what we do, whether it is writing a paper or paying our bills on time.

There are two ways to fail- to do an incomplete job, or to be inefficient. Between these two lies the type of job we want to do- efficient and effective balanced with thoroughness.

So how do we tell exactly how much effort to put into a job? The first thing to realize is that not every job we have to do is of the same importance, and that the less important something is, the less perfection is required. Everything requires normal responsible diligence, but few things require complete perfection.

This concept I call "relative quality." Whereas some burn their time away insisting on absolute quality in everything, I say that the quality level is determined by the nature of the task.

There is another reason why striving for absolute quality in everything is pointless-

A man's perception of something is only partially dependant on how that thing really is.

If this were not the truth, there would be no deception, and no error. Everyone would know the absolute factual truth and we would live in a perfect world because of it. This is why perfection is impossible, because we naturally allow irrelevant factors to influence our perception of reality.

It is like the stock market. A stock's price is only PARTLY related to how well the company is doing. This is why a company that is doing well can have its stock lose value. I suppose the best investments are made, not only in sound companies, but in sound companies that aren't going to displease Wall Street anytime soon or become victims of market panic related to that particular industry.

Because perception and reality are different, you can do a job that you perceive as absolutely perfect and someone will find a fault with it. If it seems like I am advocating a "good enough" attitude that's because I am. There may be a few select people you must please but even there quality improvement is only part of the task, you must mainly manage perception.

Will you still argue with me? You know as well as I do that you can't please all of the people all of the time, and only some of the people can you please, and then only some of the time.

Disabled comments due to comment spam

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Women and Leadership

The Bible seems to be clear, to me, that women can't be pastors. Also, the Bible says that women should keep silent in the church. I am not going to exposit the Scriptures but rather make a few observations on how it is possible that a more literal view of Scriptures on this topic makes sense.
(I ought to point out that whatever facts we present in support of the Scriptures do not constitute a basis of authority for the Scriptures. What has been truly spoken by God stands on its own, and not on our reasons. The Scriptures are authoritative because of who their Author is, not because we can or can't prove it.)
The common logical reason given, as to why women may not be pastors, is that they are too emotional to make sound decisions in a crisis moment. To the extent that this is true, it is a very good reason.
I say "to the extent" because many women in secular leadership can keep emotions out of the picture. If not I would personally think that there wouldn't be as many women in both secular and religious leadership today as there are. In any case I have seen these women and that leads me to the second logical reason which is that...
...Many women who are able to keep emotions out of the picture are, for lack of a better word, b----es. In the process of attempting to be efficient and make logical decisions and reach goals without emotional interference they over-compensate for their natural tendency (be it genetics or culture) and become jerks who often deal harshly, not only with others but themselves. This I have observed in the workplace.
The big challenge for female leadership is to not let emotion get in the way, while retaining enough of a heart to be understanding and caring about other colleagues who might seem to be in the way.
There is a third logical reason which I have observed among the defacto female leadership in IFB churches. (Oh, the stories I could tell!) While holding to a strict literal interpretation of Scripture, women in IFB churches often end up in leadership roles, especially in music or ladies' ministries. The influence of these women are typically constrained to other women by general direction of the pastoral staff. These women are totally "feminine" by nature of their religious conviction. However, they get "catty" with each other. That's about the best word for it. When a woman directs her displeasure toward a man, she's a b----. When she directs her displeasure toward another woman, she's catty. The catty women at church are no better than the b----y women at work. It's the same underlying spirit and attitude.
To sum up, woman are emotional. When they try to be efficient and unemotional it turns leadership into a cutthroat business, resulting her becoming b----y and/or catty. I imagine only a few women truly find the balance to become really good leaders.

Yeah men have problems too but that's for another day. :)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Scripture's Silence

All of the following was written by Grantley Morris at http://www.net-burst.net . It is an excellent look at how the Bible doesn't, in fact, give us all the answers, for a reason- to draw us closer to God. His website is chock-full of other really good stuff as well.

1.

"Scripture’s silences are frustrating, but much of our frustration is because we often come to the Bible as if God has died and left a book of instructions. In reality, the Lord is our ever-present teacher and personal tutor. He has thoughtfully handed us a text book - a written summary of his teaching - but he is constantly with us to guide our reading of it and to help us with our questions.

"The Bible is all that God wishes to reveal to humanity as a whole, but there are additional, personal things he wishes to whisper in the ears of individuals. Personal guidance is a glaring example. We sometimes think we need to know when we don’t, but when your need to know is genuine, God will reveal it to you as you seek him. Don’t, however, expect what he tells you to necessarily be identical to what he tells others, any more than you would expect the Lord to tell every Christian to go to Africa as a missionary.

"Life would become oppressive and evangelism severely curtailed if we were to shun everything not specifically approved by Scripture.

"For example, the Bible gives no divine approval for the use of microphones - or even electricity or glass windows - in churches, nor for reading Scripture in any form other than hand-written scrolls, nor for using anything faster than animals or sailing ships for international communication and missionary endeavor.

"Scripture’s silence is not an invitation for us to dispute with each other, nor is it a license for us each to go our own way. It is a divine invitation for us to draw close to the heart of God, hear his intimate whispers, and joyfully honor him in holy submission to his greatness, delighting in his right to rule every aspect of our lives."

2.

"If, however, the Bible is God’s perfect Word, it is perfect not only in what is says, but in what it does not say. God’s choice of what not to set out in black and white is as much a manifestation of his love and wisdom as any part of his Holy Word.

"A most beautiful consequence of God not specifically saying "thou shalt" or "thou shalt not" is that it drives us to seek not ink and paper but the very heart of God himself. We desperately need the written Word to keep us from deception and to set our general course, but God has ordained that for us to make necessary fine course adjustments requires the height of intimacy with our Lord. Above everything, the Lord longs for our fellowship and, whilst he does not want us to be anxious, if these uncertainties cause us to seek him more, he’s delighted!

"In our frustration, we are tempted to want a human to do what God has chosen not to do - reveal the heart of God without us passionately seeking the Lord. I dare not go beyond the Bible in giving moral pronouncements because that is dangerously encroaching on the sole right of God. It would be like a child I don’t know e-mailing me about what is the proper time for her go to bed each night. I might have strong views, but for me to nominate a time would be to violate her parents’ rights and risk their anger by either implying they are too strict or too lenient.

"Beside the insult it is to God for anyone to go beyond God’s Word in making moral pronouncements for others, the obvious problem is who could we trust to make correct judgments? Any fool can make moral pronouncements, but the truth is that we have one Judge and one Law Maker and it is to him that you should look. And if someone were capable of being God’s personal spokesperson to you, he or she would be robbing you of a divinely-initiated motivation to get so close to God that you hear his gentlest whisper and to involve him in the most intimate part of your life."

3.

"...even under the Law, the only way to truly know right from wrong was through fellowship with God. Devout Jews, however, typically poured enormous effort into knowing the Book of God, but little into knowing the God of the Book. They ended up knowing Scripture so well and understanding it so little that they could ‘prove’ emphatically that the Son of God was guilty of blasphemy and that it was their holy duty to murder their Messiah.

"How vital it is to pray with the psalmist that God reveal to us his understanding of his Word (Psalm 119:18)! The frightening thing is that most of us imagine we could never make the same mistake as the clean-living, Bible-revering, Christ-killing First Century theologians. Tragically, those devout people were equally certain they would never make the same mistake of their forefathers who murdered the prophets.

"Everyday we walk though a spiritual minefield, foolishly unaware that at any moment just one false step could be disastrous. The entire Christian life must be lived in total dependence upon our Lord. We either cling to Christ, trusting him alone - not our intellect, knowledge and experience - or the consequences are unthinkable."

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Acts 19:2

Acts 19:2 has always been an interesting verse to me, for two reasons. First, concerning the issue of how it is translated in the KJV, and second, how it is used to support the charismatic idea of a "second filling."
A new third interest recently appeared as I have been reading the "Three Fold Secret of the Holy Spirit" by James H. McConkey, which concerns the relationship between repentance and faith.

The KJV reads:
Act 19:2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
Notice "since ye believed." Most modern translations read "when ye believed," like the ESV:
Act 19:2 And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."

There are some differences between the Critical Text and TR in this verse. Not being able to read the Greek directly, here are some literal translations of each:
Act 19:2 LITV(TR) he said to them, Believing, did you receive the Holy Spirit? And they said to him, We did not even hear whether the Holy Spirit is.
Act 19:2 NASB(CT) He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said to him, "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."

It would appear then that the problem doesn't rest on textual variants. Further, it appears that the TR literally translated agrees with newer versions moreso than with the KJV. Here's another literal TR translation:
Act 19:2 DARBY(TR) he said unto them, `The Holy Spirit did ye receive -- having believed?' and they said unto him, `But we did not even hear whether there is any Holy Spirit;'

What's up with the KJV here? Even Scofield eschews the KJV's "since ye believed":
"Not as in A.V, 'since ye believed,' but as in R.V. And margin reference, 'Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?'"

Staunch KJV defender Ruckman doesn't deal with the verse in his book on alleged problems with the KJV (as of the 1999 edition), but elsewhere he points to the laying on of hands in vs.6 as proof that "since ye believed" is correct.

The men were baptized with John's baptism, which was a baptism of repentance. The men had evidently repented but not believed. This is all in v.4. Upon believing, the men were baptized (v.5) and filled with the Spirit.

Paul _incorrectly_ assumed the men had turned in faith to Christ when in fact the men had only undergone repentance. The way the men answered caused Paul to quickly realize this wasn't the case.

The baptism of these men is similar to the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. Upon believing, baptism was carried out immediately.

This is all well and good but it doesn't answer the question of _why_ Paul asked a question that indicates believing and recieving the Holy Spirit are separate events in time. I believe this passage represents two nested issues:

-First, Paul assumes salvation and inquires about the Spirit's _manifestation_.
-Secondly, the men indicate they don't even have the _indwelling_ by questioning the Spirit's existance.
-Next, Paul deals with the salvation issue by inquiring about their baptism and then, realizing they _repented_ but did not yet have _faith_, exhorts them to believe.
-Then, the men believed and are baptized. Per Eph 1:13-14, these men recieve the _indwelling_ at this moment.
-Finally, Paul returns to the question of the Spirit's _manifestation_ and lays hands on them. The men recieve the _manifestation_ and display the gifts of tongues and prophecy.

The mistake often made is to treat this passage as either _only_ speaking of the indwelling or _only_ speaking of the manifestation, of the Spirit.

It might be objected that due to word "recieve" in v.2 the subject is actually indwelling. However, given that "came" is used in v.6 which is definately referring to manifestion, the use of the word "recieve" in v.2 doesn't seem to _require_ that we take it as referring to the indwelling. Unless Paul is asking a trick question this can't be the indwelling because we are certain that Paul believes indwelling happens upon belief (Eph 1:13-14).

Speaking of nested issues, what does the truth of this passage say about the proper translation? What is seen is that _either_ translation, "since," or "when," is appropriate in the context. It is obvious that while the _manifestation_ of the Spirit can come right on the heels of the _indwelling_, it doesn't always do so. "Since" gives a broader picture allowing for the manifestation immediately following the indwelling _or_ some time later. "When" would tend to restrict the time frame for manifestation to immediately after the indwelling. Whether Paul was more interested in the timing of the manifestation or the fact of the manifestation would tell conclusively what it ought to be.

As far the Greek is concerned, the choice of "since" or "when" depends on how you translate the word for "believe," which is "pisteuo". The word here is listed as an aorist active participle, which tells us that Paul is assuming they do believe(aorist), that they believe presently(active), and that they continue to believe(participle). Thus the very literal translations of the LITV ("Believing, did you receive the Holy Spirit?") and Darby's ("The Holy Spirit did ye receive -- having believed?"). Given this, the addition of either "since" or "when" is interpretation of the passage, strictly speaking.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

God Meets Man

I asked the question of someone today, whether God works with people based on their sincere perception of Him, or whether God works with all men strictly by one truthful, perfect way.
For example, Christians differ on the balance between God's providence and our initiative. Some will say that we have to take much initiative and the God will work; others will say that we have to wait on God to do different things before we act. There is truth to both sides since we are commanded to be diligent and not slothful, yet we are also told to wait on the Lord. We are told, "choose you this day," yet we are also told that God will perform His soveriegn work and no one can stand in His way. This certainly represents a question that is completely unsolvable when presented as a choice between two sides; but the answers come when we look at it as a continuum and search for the balance.
Since it is that way, we have Christians who fall all over the scale from "Christian Deists" to Calvinists of the most extreme variety. The former will subscribe to the idea that God wound things up and leaves us to work things out; the latter will teach of God's unalterable control over every detail. Obviously most will recognize that the answer probably doesn't lie in either of these extremes.
Given this, if my friend believes that our initiative plays a greater role than I do, does God work with us the same way? Or, does God work through my friend's greater display of initiative to accomplish His will in his life, while in my life God is a bit more busy accomplishing His will for me by performing more acts of His own, per my sincere understanding of the balance between free will and providence.
It should be noted that either way, we can mess things up. In my friend's case, it would be by taking _too_ much initiative in the wrong way. In my case, it would be by sitting around and waiting for God to do as I thought He might when I should be the one acting. You may recall the story of the man trapped in a flood who refused the assistance of a log, a boat, and a helicopter all under the sincere conviction that God Himself would perform the rescue.
This brings up an important point. As imperfect human beings we can't completely understand God. His Holy Spirit can bring us to salvation and help us with the Scriptures but we will never have it all right. God certainly is aware of this fact.
So then we might expect God to tailor His dealings with us to match our sincere belief about how He works, at least a little bit. This would be my position... to deny this would be to deny the concept of grace.
Let me illustrate. I used to work processing order forms for sales reps. In this position, I was the one who said "yea" or "nay" as to whether the order went through. The level of complexity in these forms was very high, and almost none of the packets were perfect. In reality I could've kicked back almost every one, and aside from stating what the problems were I had no responsibility to explain or train them on how to do it right. Given the stressful nature of the job I had very little grace. As time went on, I began to have more grace, and began to do more to get the packets through by correcting small errors myself or working with the sales rep to correct larger errors.
Given our fallen state I shudder to think of a God without grace- a God who refuses to work with and bless us because we didn't get everything right- a God who continually "kicks back" our lives and dreams for errors. Rather I believe that God has much grace, and the purpose of this grace is twofold. First, to make progress with us in His will despite our failings, and secondly, to teach us, by degrees, a more perfect understanding of Him so we need a little less grace next time.
I'm glad He has more grace with me than I had with those sales reps. God often returns our harshness to others on our own heads.
Yes God is holy, and perfect, but God has chosen to work with imperfect man, and so it is His pleasure to give grace so we might be more perfectly like Him.
Maybe your doctrine is off. If you are seeking after God, He will teach you along the way and you will understand the truth more perfectly.
I hope that sometime I will understand what the true balance is between God's providence and our free-will, but in the meantime, He continues to meet me where I am at just like He did when I first was saved.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Church Structure

Nowhere in the NT do prophets lead the church. To be sure, there is a gift of prophecy, and elders may have it, but this gift is not a requirement for "bishops" and so I would dispute the idea that a "pastor" as we know it is, by definition, a "prophet."
Rather, I would say a "pastor" in the true Biblical sense is a "teacher," and has that gift. See Eph 4:11. Not only that, but the requirements of a "bishop" include, "apt to teach". This signifies that pastors _must_ by definition be teachers, that all teachers are in fact pastors, and the _some_ of these pastor/teachers assume the office of bishop/elder/presbyter. The idea of pastor/teacher indicates that a teacher is primarily a discipler.
I would say that the pastor/teacher individual is the type that best fits for an bishop/elder/what have you. You most certainly _don't_ want a pure prophet there, IMO. Elders need to pastor/teach and so nurture the flock. A prophet will just as easily flog the flock- which is probably needful at times, but not coming from the shepherds.
Again, this is yet _another_ reason why elders/bishops are primarily pastor/teachers and not prophets. The elders/bishops are called "under shepherds," which again fits in well with the pastor/teacher gift & ministry.
Now, elders and other pastor/teachers may have some partial gift of prophecy as a second or occasional gifting, but this is always subservient to the pastoring function, and works as an assist and not a driver of their ministry.
We as Christians today are the same as Israel under Samuel... "give us a king." The impulse to set up additional authority between or in addition to God and His Word displays a lack of faith and is a shirking of our personal responsibility before the Lord. God let the Israelites distance themselves at Mt. Sinai when they declined to speak with God themselves and requested Moses as an intermediator. God let the same thing happen again when they requested a king. But we are now priests and kings before Him and any others we have are those of our own evil making.

I was thinking about this last night and today. Leadership is not the same thing as control. Here's a quote I like:
A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Not so good when people obey and acclaim him. Worse when they despise him. But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, the people will say, "We did it ourselves." -- Lao Tzu
The people of Israel committed the pragmatic fallacy when they looked at Saul's sons and said, give us a king. Not only was it going against God, but it was 3 generations later that a _king's_ son dealt irresponsibly with Israel and split the nation. The Bible is littered with stories of the demise of various ruling parties, be they elders or monarchs. BTW, the judges had a better track record than the kings of Israel & Judah.
The question is not what works; the question is what God said. This is the view of faith.
The political leadership structure of Israel, as outlined in the Bible, is moot for us today as Christians. You will observe that the remaining leadership structure, the Levitical priesthood, is no longer applicable either. More than no longer applicable, the NT is clear that such a construct has no place in the church.

The church in the wilderness? Certainly you all are familiar with the
term ekklesia, which means called out assembly. Yes the people of Israel
were a called out assembly but that does not make them a type of the church. Ekklesia was a broad term.
The Bible does not explcitly mandate or prohibit any particular form of church structure, and that individual assemblies are free to implement the structure they need, which structure is primarily determined by the distribution of spiritual gifts. While it is true that the early NT church was equal elder rule, this setup is never commanded. To be sure, every structure has its strengths and weaknesses.
It is my observation that the church through the centuries has modeled the prevailing cultural models of leadership in structuring their churches. Today we have churches with CEO-style pastors.
So I don't intend to argue that a particular church leadership structure is mandated from Scripture. I am arguing against the current structure being exclusively right, and against the idea that modifications to mitigate negative aspects of the present leadership model are not necessary.
This assumes that there are negative aspects to be corrected, which I think you all will agree with, to a certain degree.
The basic question then, is not whether our church structure is out of line with some perfect ideal structure, but whether it is structured so that the spiritual gifts are being properly distributed and people are, in the main, being ministered to fully. If so, our problems only require minor corrections; if not, then we must determine _what_ and _who_ is in the way of the natural distribution of gifts and ministry.
The idea of pastoral authority is a tangent to this. Without yet discussing the particulars of pastoral authority, suffice it to say that pastoral authority should never interfere with the proper distribution of gifts and ministry. A true pastor does seek to handle influences detrimental to people's spiritual condition. He may exhort in the case of someone who is hurting themselves, or he may take some sort of other practical action of others are being hurt.
Keep in mind that the enforcement of the church constitution and by-laws is decided by those in leadership positions, who are recognized as pastors. Now if someone doesn't give, maybe there will be a message preached, but even though the C&BL call for loss of membership after a certain period of time, in reality little practical action _will_ be taken, since others aren't being harmed. I don't know the stories and I probably don't want to know them, but is there really a problem with people being asked to leave who are not hurting others, or openly teaching contrary to church stands?
Do we really have a problem, then? The possibility of abuse of authority is not enough to go on. If there is some situation where authority is being abused then three people who know first hand what is going on need to go before the offending pastor and seek reconciliation.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Good and Evil

"For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?"
Rom 9:17-24 (ESV)

"Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.
Therefore having and not having arise together.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short contrast each other;
High and low rest upon each other;
Voice and sound harmonize each other;
Front and back follow one another."
-Lao Tzu

"Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here in this world we have to sin. This life is not a dwelling place of righteousness."
-Martin Luther

Good and evil complement each other. In a sense, both follow along different sides of God's sovereign purpose, which allows them both to exist in this present world. However, this assumes a belief in God; for the atheist "good" and "evil" can only be defined by ever-changing reference points, such as oneself (post-modernism) or circumstances (situational ethics). In reality, there is no absolute good and evil that can be defined in this way; good and evil really cease to exist separately in any meaningful way, and a man is left to whatever end his unchecked selfish imagination takes him. The worst part of it is, with no true understanding of the difference between absolute good and evil, there is no cure for this condition.
This is the type of thing seen in communist countries like China. As a matter of fact, this article on China got me thinking about this:
http://english.epochtimes.com/news/4-12-14/24953.html
This is part 4 of a 9 part commentary on Chinese communism and is a great discussion of what happens when you "war against heaven" in denying God. The index is here:
http://english.epochtimes.com/jiuping.asp
It is a long but good read. The failures of communism shed light on the evil present in every human.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Comments feature

I _just_ turned on the comments feature... if I would have thought of it of it sooner it would be on by now. If you would like to comment on an old post I will see your comment and see if I can bring the subject to the top by way of a response in a new blog post or else quote you in a new blog post. Let the discussion begin!
Thanks to my good friend Phil B. for pointing out my oversight.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Respect

There seems to me, to be a lack of respect among some of the more zealous Christians against those whom they disagree with. (I too have at times not been respectful of those I disagree with. Sometimes personal hurts tempt us to withhold respect, but we have to work to overcome those.) Lack of respect is displayed in anger, in spurious accusations, in mocking, in a lack of understanding, and in the carciature of those who are of the opposing viewpoint.
Now someone may have a fair attitude and yet argue against someone unfairly by misrepresenting them. Oftentimes the opposing person or group will be ridiculed, labeled and dispensed with, ignored, or written off.
I think in many disagreements the issue is a difference of perspective, and that a little mutual respect would open eyes to the possibility that the argument is not as substantial as it is made out to be.
Even if there is some substantial issue to war over, respect is called for. A lack of respect presents three dangers. One- it causes a person to underestimate the opposition. Two- it steals opportunities to better understand the opposition. Three- it risks popular support by opening up a person to accusations of unfairness and even hate.
A group that does not respect those it opposes loses it's next generation because of number one; it sounds foolish and becomes unconvincing because of number two; and it becomes a turn off, fairly or not, because of number three.

Tithing

My church is planning three Sunday nights of messages on stewardship. The first message was preached this past Sunday night... with a rousing intro by my Sunday School teacher. The message in Sunday School was unabashedly in support of New Testament tithing, while the pastor's evening message never mentioned it except for one instance in which the example was given, that if you have 1000 dollars you should give 100 dollars.
I have heard some rather extreme views on giving at other times. Such as, you must give 10% of everything, including Christmas gifts, your employer's matching SS contribution, etc. Of course, it is also said by some that not only will not tithing bring on the curse of God, but you have to give offerings above your tithe. Some even say that you should attempt catch up on tithing on income recieved before you were saved!
In Hebrews 7 we are told that the Levites were given the commandment to take tithes. This commandment was neither given nor did it pass to anyone in the NT church. The common response that tithing was before the law merely warrants a reminder that circumcision and sabbath keeping were before the law as well.
Now, I know about the pitfalls of not giving. The Bible is clear, that God is not mocked, and whatever a person sows, that is what they will reap. God is not out to curse NT Christians if they don't give 10% plus offerings. What is in effect though, is the law of sowing and reaping... if you withhold, expect to be withholden from. If you give, then you can expect to be given to. Also there is God's blessing on a cheerful giver. However none of this has to do with a requirement to tithe. God may let you live on the edge financially, if you don't give, but He can't break His promise to provide for His children's necessities.
I would rather hear giving preached from the pulpit as a matter of sowing and reaping, rather than for the tithe hammer to be used to threaten everyone... perhaps some might say "threaten" is too strong of a word, but it is descriptive for many of the messages I have heard in the past.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Leadings

I've noticed as Christian life progresses, you get to a point where there is a lot less direct leading and more providential stuff, that requires more faith to see. Often we talk about getting God's direct leading on something but God also works around us to achieve His will in our lives. I have been going through some of this, complaining about not recieving enough direct leading, but I have to have faith that God is working in my life all the time in ways I can't readily see. His providence is just as big a part in His will for us as His leading.
Now this doesn't mean you live your life based on circumstances. The point is not to fret about where God is when it seems He doesn't give any leading.
There comes a place where God, I think, wants us to begin to use the wisdom He has given us in making decisions. It is sort of like growing up. At first, your parents helped you do stuff. Then, they merely told you how to do it. Becoming more mature, they don't have to say anything because now you know (hopefully) what needs to be done, and how to do it, and how solve more complex problems that arise.
There is another aspect to this "weaning," if you will. Since God is more hands-off in much of our lives, this causes us to desire His presence more. The relationship goes from a "professional" relationship (God is directing and laboring with me) to a more "personal" relationship (God cares for and encourages me). Of course, there remain the elements of the "professional" relationship (we labor together with Christ) but our walk becomes more about who He is rather than what needs to be done for Him. This transformation is important because we will come to times in our lives where we are discouraged about what is or is not happening, but our relationship with God now transcends that.
Our obedience, instead of becoming secondary, takes on a deeper meaning as it finds a firmer foundation on the worshipful adoration of God that is now the greater aspect of our relationship with Him.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Identity Groups

"While callings give purpose, they also remove the option of choosing your own path. Don't feel left out."

Profound. There is fellowship in a calling though. Any collective provides this, yet being the anarchist rebel I am I miss out on this, save for a few. However, the fellowship of a calling is a fellowship with God. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. There also exists this special fellowship with God in the consciousness of any collective attempting something for Him.
I am perhaps free from all of that but unified purpose drives relationships more than anything else. There is unity, disunity, and nonunity. A pure anarchist is disunified and promotes disunity, placing a greater value on the individual. A pragmatic anarchist practices nonunity recognizing the personal and collective danger in active breakup of unity. The first step in disposing of anything is to make it irrelevant.
The anarchist is, by definition, comparatively lonely. It therefore suits everyone to find an identity group to unify with without violating conscience. If conflict is a predominant characteristic of your social sphere you cannot maintain the outside connections that not only revitalize but draw out your unique personality and its gifts. A psychological feedback occurs which distorts your emotional makeup and makes you prone to various emotional disturbances.
The key point is that you find an identity group that does not violate your conscience. An anarchist must have a social sphere in which he need not be anarchistic that is also large enough to counterbalance the conflict in that sphere where he resists.
The identity group should provide for both friend and family relationships. The one who is resistant in his own household has a much greater burden than most can bear.
An identity group WILL ALWAYS shape morals and values. While an identity group is merely the circumstantial support for values, it is the most powerful. The letter of the law alone, be it a holy book or creed, is like an autumn leaf.
An identity group is often born and/or joined because of conflict. Conflict always splits existing indentities and alliances. Some join with others and some find no rest for their foot, so to speak.
The church is an identity group. Conflict splits this group and while some remain, some are lost and some join a group with non-Christian values. If it be true that Jehovah God is the source of all truth, conflict within the church is quite literally, a nightmare scenario- a scenario that causes many who were heretofore Christians to attach themselves to identity groups that do not support the same values. In time, these will no longer appear as what they were. Whether they are what they were, only God knows.
Understanding the church as an indentity group with the support of Godly values being the chief benefit to the Christian, and understanding the deadly danger of conflict within this body, it becomes apparent what we ought to fight against, and what not to fight against. It also would be beneficial for every church assembly to identify those who have been disillusioned by conflict and seek to maintain their identity with church by a through extending of the right hand of fellowship with grace and mercy that will not allow one to fall through the cracks.
Of course this type of thing should be the "modus operandi" of the church, and should go without mention. It needs to be mentioned because of the program-centered nature of today's churches.
Anyway, the price of liberation is loneliness. This is the lot of the soul who cannot trust. "I wish someone up there will find me/till then I walk alone..."
That Someone can only be seen by those who beleive that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. AKA faith, the evidence of God who is not seen. Yet while faith does not necessarily rest upon empirical fact, it must have a model. Faith requires a conception of that which must be believed. The model given by Christ was one of a Father, and also of a Friend, among others. The living model of Christ is His bride, the church, in the manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit. We see Christ because we see Him through others.
That Someone can only be seen by those who have a model to visualize Him on. This again highlights the critical nature of the Christian's personal identity with the church body. Inasmuch as faith requires a model, faith is based upon that model; and if that model is broken how can the faith stand? If the foundations are destroyed...? This also explains difficulties with Christians who have had less than admirable fathers. A father who neglects his duties destroys the strongest model of faith the next generation can have.
In closing, the Christian should have a church assembly as an identity group because this group supports obedience to Christ (values and morals) and models Christ (building faith). A Christian whose primary identity group is outside the church body risks neglecting Christ's commands and injuring their faith. The church body at large should avoid conflict that creates changes in identity and intensively care and completely accept those who are affected by conflict. If a Christian is not reintegrated and attempts to stay in it his lot will be loneliness and a continual questioning of faith.
I have had times where I have wanted to believe there is no God. Life would be easier. But I know better.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Unrealized Promise?

A message was preached in church the other night, coming from the text which tells us about the men who, when King Saul died, risked their lives to bring the body back for a proper burial. The application part of the message was about trying to get men in the church to next week's all-night prayer meeting. Maybe I missed something but this seemed to be the whole purpose.

The "application" part was rather harsh, in my opinion. Of course, I could sit there feeling good because I went to the last all-night prayer meeting. However even I did not feel like I escaped the tongue-lashing from the pulpit. Being the contrary, devils-advocate I am, my knee-jerk reaction is to not go, just because there was pressure put on us about it.

Of course, I believe in praying, and I also happen to believe in the subject of the prayer meeting, which is an upcoming conference. So I am pulled between not going just because I don't want to be one of the many who showed up because they felt guilty, and going because I want the upcoming conference to help those in attendance. Perhaps I will have a prayer meeting in my bedroom. :P

The next day it occured to me, how much "pressure" is used in churches. Now, I don't mean to overstate the case, but it is true, that many Christians perform because of pressure, and many leaders use pressure to get Christians to perform work of some sort. Pressure can come in many different forms.

It might be said, that this "pressure" we are talking about is nothing more than good old-fashioned exhortation. The word "exhort" as used in the Scripture literally means to "call near," or "invite". To exhort means to give an invitation or a call to do some thing. Exhortation is not, by definition, negative. In Luke 3, we find John the Baptist exhorting the people to believe through the preaching of the gospel. John in vs.16 & 17 is simply declaring the truth of his ministry and of Christ. The declaration of Christ is an exhortation to believe.

Paul in Acts 2 exhorts the people, again, to come to Christ. Here the Scripture has Paul inviting the people to repent and be baptized so as to save themselves from this "crooked generation". In Acts 20:2, Paul gives "much exhortation". One has to ask if the Macedonians were especially needing to be pressured. Of course this is not what is going on; rather Paul was inviting them to continue steadfast in the Lord. In I Ths 2:11, Paul "exhorted," "encouraged," and "charged" the church as Thessalonica to walk in the Lord. Obviously (if we accept the importance of the very words of Scripture) these three things are different and Paul is not merely repeating himself. Exhortation is different than charging, which would be the act that is closest to pressure. (Although the greek word for charging means "bearing witness." This may simply refer to saying, for example, "look at what I did, you should do it too," which is still not really pressure, per se.)

The other example of pressure given in motivating Christians is in reference to Heb 10:24 in the KJV:
"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:"
The word "provoke" means to incite, to "call forth," and so is kin to "exhort". Webster in his 1828 dictionary assigns this verse the following meaning by using it as an example:
"To move; to incite; to stir up; to induce by motives"

We are to "consider" one another- this means to observe and understand fully, like close friends may understand each other. This is the basis of this provoking. Because of this, the provoking should only take place if you are close enough to that person to really understand where they need help and encouragement- in other words, their needs to be a personal friendship and trust. The idea of "provoking" "one another" sets out a wide peer-to-peer ministry taking place throughout the entire church body between every member.

The greek word for "provoke" literally means "to sharpen alongside." Proverbs talks about this:
Pro 27:17 KJVA Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
The notes for the NET Bible for this verse say this:
"The use of the word face would here emphasize that it is the personality or character that is being sharpened. Constructive criticism sharpens character. Use of the wits in interaction that makes two people sharp as a razor (W. McKane, Proverbs [OTL], 615); another is that of two students sharpening each other in the study of the Torah (b. Ta’anit 7a)."

Again the idea here is that there is a close personal relationship that this "sharpening" or "provoking" is taking place within. And the provoking is obviously not offensive, but it is incisive, yet delivered in meekness and in Christian love.
This passage then is talking about interaction or constructive criticism between individual believers, not pressure (from the pulpit).

In a church of sufficient size there comes a point where not everyone can be close to the "pastor." Everyone is "friends" with the pastor, in a manner of speaking; but the relationship is not always such as would allow the pastor to, at any time, attempt this provoking ministry with any accuracy. If the pastor tries, especially before the whole church, there will be misfire simply because he just doesn't know where everyone is at. Such as I experienced this last church service.

I put a title of "The Unrealized Promise" because this idea of getting things done through pressuring believers calls into question the work of the Spirit. Why do so many churches resort to pressure, even if only at times? Of course, it depends on what group of churches you were looking at, but the impression is easy to get, that there is no Spirit at work, and this calls into question the very existance of the Spirit, who is supposed to cause us to will and to work of God's pleasure.

A believer falling into a life of sin calls into question the existance of the Spirit, who is supposed to keep us from falling.
Christians fighting over the truth of the gospel calls into question the existance of the Spirit, who is supposed to be able to lead us into all truth.

These are occasions for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. The promise of the Spirit seems, quite simply, unrealized at times.