Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Prayer

Lord, I appreciate all that you have done, and all that has been given. Please fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I would not forget these things. I ask that you give us all the strength not to stray from the path that has been given to us. It is getting dark now; the shadows grow deeper as the light sets on this age. I ask for peace during this sadness and the tribulations we endure.

I know that I am a sinful man lord. I am humbled by the things that I have done. Please continue to help me strive toward righteousness, and treat everyone with love and respect. Please give me the determination to practice the things that you have said, and the strength to live these teachings even when met by ridicule.
In a time where our capacity for knowledge and understanding seems so vast, how is it that our moral common sense seems to be empty. How is it that we can stand with the earth shaking so violently? It is you lord that hold us upright and looking toward heaven.
My prayer is for all of those who need you lord, and all of those who don’t even know that they do. May we all find your hand in the darkness, and grab a hold of you without letting go.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spiritual Food

I had a great conversation the other day with a friend and brother on the topic of spiritual growth.  It has been my experience that growing in knowledge and understanding spiritually consists of the same principals of learning we have been using our entire lives.

Our beliefs should be solidified as we find truth in what we are studying.  I believe that it is important to first consume the “baby food” as stated in 1 Corinthians 3:2.  Many people are reluctant to go back and solidify their basic beliefs, mainly because of the way that Christians view themselves in comparison to other believers. 

There is pressure on everyone in a Church or study group to evolve and gain knowledge based on how long they have been a part of the denomination.  Because of this many people will concede thoughts or beliefs to pastors or elders in order to gain prospective spiritual growth.  I believe that it is important for each person to grow spiritually according to the understanding and knowledge one seeks.

At dinner a few nights ago my five year old daughter wanted to show off her newly gained skill in multiplication.  Schooled by her slightly older sister, she began with 1 x 1, 1 x 2, etc…  I congratulated her after she had finished and then asked a simple question.  Do you know what 2 x 2 equals?  She shrugged her shoulders at me as if she had no interest.  She had only memorized what her teacher had offered.  This can be similar to how we grow spiritually as well. 

Even if what we are being taught to recite is accurate, a person who has not learned the principals of a topic has no real depth of knowledge.  Because my daughter is so young and hasn’t developed her skill mathematically, she can give the illusion of knowledge, but when challenged with another simple question it is beyond her expertise.

As we develop spiritually, it is important to not get ahead of ourselves as we learn.  Build a strong foundation of understanding first, carefully study and pray about each new idea and belief.  Don’t allow yourself to choke on solid food, when milk is needed to develop.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Power of Prayer?

For most of my life I had sort of a deist outlook on prayer.  My thoughts were that the outcomes of our daily life were not interfered with by God.  That all things happening good and bad were “in the odds” so to speak.  I used to say that if one thousand people were driving off a cliff praying to God to live, that one of them would be able to break in time and that’s the story we listened to about God answering prayers.

I developed this outlook because I remember praying for things all my life and becoming more and more disappointed that they were not answered.  I did not want to think that God was to blame for this, so I developed a conviction that God does not really answer any prayers.  Then something started to happen, changing my outlook on the topic completely.  As I studied and developed a stronger relationship with God, my prayer structure and context started to change.  I naturally became less interested in praying for myself, and more toward others.

When my son was about seven years old he had gone to the dentist to get a cavity filled.  The dentist drilled too deeply and within a few days the tooth became infected and abscessed.  Once we had determined what happened we made an appointment (to anther dentist) to fix it.  The night before the appointment my son was in great pain.  We had taken him into the doctor, but they only prescribed kids Motrin and Tylenol because of his age.  This was not helping at all.  He had gone to bed, but was waking up every thirty minutes screaming in pain.

I remember about 11 p.m. he woke again, this time screaming and crying uncontrollably.  I ran into his room and picked him up.  I held him rocking back and forth as he wept, and started crying myself.  I started praying as earnestly as I have in my life.  Over and over again I prayed the same thing.

“Lord, please take this pain away from my child.  Please give him peace.”

I remember saying it over and over, my mind fixed on the prayer so deeply that I didn’t realize 30 minutes had passed.  I looked down to see that my son was in a deep sleep in my arms and I was still rocking him.  His shirt soaked from his sweat and my tears, I thanked God and put him back in bed.  He never woke again that night, and the next morning seemed to be in good spirits.  The next day the tooth was taken care of along with his suffering.

I thought about the event for the rest of the week.  Could this have been a coincidence?  Some may argue that, and there may have been some scientific explanation if the event had been monitored in a laboratory.  The point is that I felt this seemingly small prayer request, in scope of the world was answered, and directly.

I now, routinely find prayers to be answered for those I pray for.  If praying for myself, I always preface with “but not my will, your will be done”.  This gives me a peace of mind that God knows what is best for me, though I think sometimes I may.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Age of Man

Contention of Christ’s return has been a popular topic for this generation.  I would agree that it has been popular at certain times throughout the last millennium, but global awareness and magnification has created a more aggressive movement.

I used to scoff at the notion as a child, I thought to myself, “Everyone has been trying to pin-point the return of Christ forever, and it has never been accurate.”  When studying scripture, Christ’s message to us on the topic was clear:

Matthew 24:36
“"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

I have to admit, I have always been interested in Christ’s return.  I have studied Daniel and Revelation more than any other scripture.  I remember at the age of 10 being obsessed with the symbolic and horrifying depictions of the end times.

Many people have been interested in studying the timelines, dates and ages in order to give an exact year or date when this may happen.  I have listened to the arguments and explanation of several sources, but found them to be incomplete.  I’m not so intrigued by finding this time, rather understanding the scope of our existence.

As I was studying one afternoon, I began to take a high level summary of the different significant events throughout the Bible in relation to God’s direction.  Looking at the rough estimates, there was something I found to be interesting.  I plotted a simple timeline out and it seemed to make sense to me based on the timing and numbers of God.

The timeline is not an attempt to directly associate Christ’s return, but more of a thought that the age of man is nearly complete.  The Bible has a passage about the relation of time to God:

2 Peter 3:8
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

So with this logic, we can reasonably assume that the world has existed for about six days.  I believe that Christ’s return will start the 1000 year (or one day) binding of Satan.  This would be a day of rest to the heavens, which would coincide with the seven day creation of the earth as well.

It is interesting to me as well that the different allocations of direction from man, the Jews, and then Gentiles is roughly the same, two thousand years.

How will the end of time unfold?  I certainly do not know, or want to for that matter.  This thought gave me something to consider about the time we are living in today.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Publication Interview Part 4

This particular topic was interesting and would love to get feedback from followers.  It is definitely a touchy topic.

Do you believe in the physical resurrection?  It is the foundation for most Christian debates however it is also the main platform for the attacks as well.  Do you believe that there was a physical or a spiritual resurrection, or both?

I have spent some time researching and contemplating the resurrection that is discussed in the Bible, and in turn processing information about its meaning.  It’s pretty clear that almost all Christians believe in a resurrection of some nature, the specifics however, are constantly disputed.

I will be putting a few facts together to support the concept which I have identified as the most accurate.  This will include scripture references as well.

I think it is important to understand the principles of a resurrection, and identify the process of death and spirituality as accurately as possible.  It is probably the most important and commonly misunderstood aspect of scripture and belief.

I feel that the most important information and most of the keys to understanding are literally in Christ’s words.  Not to take anything away from prophets of the Old Testament or Christ’s disciples.  I believe that they were inspired directly by God, and the words and teachings of Christ.  However, their writings were built on the teachings and foundation of Christ, which is also available to us in his words and recorded actions.  We need to get to the purist form of dialog so that we can understand the meaning.  Once this is accomplished, we can read more advanced scripture and have a relative frame of reference as the writers.

So let us start by identifying what a resurrection is, and what the characteristics are.  I’m sure we can agree that a resurrection is the transformation of the state of death, to life.  We live; we die and then are resurrected to life again. 

So what is life?  As humans I think that we view life as a vivid state of consciousness.  We think, we feel and we can act.  As far as the spiritual element, there is not a lot of knowledge or understanding.  Most of what we know about spirituality is a best guess, and there is really no reliable scientific evidence that we can build true knowledge on.  I think that most people, even those that don’t believe in God agree that there is an unknown element to life.  Some call it collective conscience, some nature’s cycle and some spirituality.  There are many more aspects, but the point is that we mostly all agree that there is a force that is directly tied to life.

So what does Christ suggest about the state of the dead?  Well, there are several instances in the New Testament where Christ talks about the state of the dead and addresses the topic of the resurrection.  We can identify some of the consistencies and characteristics of a resurrection which will also give us insight into the state of the dead.

The most well documented resurrection, with the exception of Christ’s resurrection, was the Death of Lazarus.   So the prelude to this story is that Lazarus was a friend of Christ’s and had become sick.  He had been healing the sick all over Judea, and could have made it to Lazarus before his death.  Christ knew that the sickness would be severe enough to cause death, but decided to wait a couple days until this happened to glorify God by his resurrection. 

 John Chapter 11, verse 11
“After he said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.  So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.”

This is a very powerful description of a resurrection that is mostly overlooked because it does not fit into the concept that western Christianity has with the state of the dead.  Jesus in several instances refers to death as sleep.  I believe that this is not just by accident, but to give us humanistic perspective of death.

Most Christians believe that when a person dies that they are whisked away to heaven or hell.  Are we to believe then that Lazarus was in heaven, and when resurrected was pulled back down to earth to live in his human body?  This does not make logical sense to me personally.

This idea was again a victim of Roman and Greek influence during the formation of Christianity as we know it.  The idea that once dead our spirits would transfer to the underworld (or Hades), and if heroic we would be sent to live with the Gods.  Hades represented hell, and living with the Gods represented the transfer to heaven.  This was an easy way to take the current pagan beliefs and gain acceptance through relative concepts.

So what is a resurrection, and what are the constant characteristics?  First, I would like to consider a concept about the specifics of a human life.  The Bible states that we are all made in God’s image.  What is this image, does this mean that we all are built to look like God?  Perhaps, but God is not a single entity based on Christian beliefs.  God is a combination of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Do all three entities share the same characteristics as humans?  Again, this is certainly possible.

I believe that we are created in God’s image in the sense that we to are made up of three core components; the mind, body and spirit.  We cannot exist in a conscience state without each functioning unit.  The mind is a footprint of our experiences, knowledge and logical reasoning.  Spirit creates our moral conscience and relationship to all creation.  Our bodies are the vessel which harmonizes these components.

Without each of these we are not in a conscience state, which I believe is why Jesus referred to the state of the dead as “sleeping”.  In each case of resurrection in the New Testament, including Christ’s resurrection, the body was raised and given life.  The life given was the spirit returning along with a conscience mind.

In all cases that I can find in the Bible there is no description of an individual resurrection to heaven.  It is always described as “the resurrection”.  This is a singular term, which again gives evidence that once dead individuals would be raised together in an event.  Here is a passage from John where Jesus is speaking to the people his message of righteousness.

John Chapter 5, verse 28
“Don’t marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”

The use of the “all that are in the tombs”, suggests that all who have died on earth will be raised at once, not on an individual basis.

I believe that this “hour” will be the second coming of Christ and we will be given new bodies with our spirits and minds returning to a conscience state.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sin and Free Will

I recently had a conversation regarding the constitution of sin in general, what is sin really? Some hold sin to be the breaking of God’s Ten Commandments, others implement more stringent rules based on Biblical references. I think that it is very simple; sin is disrespecting God or anything that is God’s. We are God’s and have been lent our bodies and spirit. Since we belong to God, being disrespectful to each other constitutes sin. The Ten Commandments outline specific disrespectfulness toward each other (stealing, slandering, coveting, etc…). Before the conversation got too far I thought it important to further investigate sin and its origin. 

The Application of Free Will

The application of free will in the universe by God meant that eventually in the scope of time there would be a decision made to rebuke him. If you give something the opportunity to fail, inevitably it will. Mathematically this is true. Yes, God could have created everything to worship and love him without flaw. He could create a pseudo free will which would give his creations a “free will” but create them without the desire to do so. God does not want control of our actions; he wants us to choose him (truth and righteousness) over sin. The other side of the coin (the devil, Satan, whatever you want to call him) is who to blame for the horrible things done, because he wants you to choose against God, and is fighting to cause us to do these things.  Our entire human existence is the unraveling of nature, morality and righteousness at the expense of free will. When it is over, the lessons learned from this time and the consequences will be known for eternity.

Sin and God’s Will

Sin itself is an outcome from the concept of free will. If you have a decision to choose one thing or the other, in this case it is between God’s will and truth or man’s nature. Sin is the choice of doing man’s will. Most people sound like defiant children when speaking of God and his will. As a parent we know that our children are making mistakes or choosing poor options, and they sit back and tell us that our opinion doesn’t matter or “It’s my life, I’ll do what I want”. Yes, free will gives us this ability. The only thing we can do is watch them go through all of the things that come from these poor decisions.

Some believe that pain and suffering are the direct consequence of sin.  The belief that God punishes us for sinning against him.  Good fortune happens to those who sin, and those who don't.  Pain a suffering happen to those who sin, and those who don't.  If God stepped in on our behalf every time something bad was going to happen, would that be “fair” to the party trying to prove God is wrong?

Pain and suffering on behalf of sin for a human lifetime of 60-100 years is small when considering the implications of this process in the scope of eternity. By this logic 10,000 years from now a person would not remember the individual pain suffered from a moment in time. They will have a “scar” of what happened for eternity though.

Choosing God

I believe that the Bible helps us to know and understand the difference between right and wrong (or righteousness and sinfulness). We were never set up to fail; we as humans chose to fail because we sinned. In the society we live in today, it has become tougher to choose right as time goes on because of the number of people who choose to sin and accept sinful behavior. I do not claim to be above these things and sometimes it seems unfair to have the burden of sinful thoughts on our conscience.

We have become the society we are today because of thousands of years choosing sin little by little.  It is not God that burdens our conscience and tempts us to do these things, and suffering on earth is not a punishment for sinning. It is an earthly death that is the one and only punishment. Pain and suffering is the mechanism used by the other side to put blame on God and separate us from him.  When everything is accomplished we will know the outcome and consequences of sin, and all of creation will learn from what we have endured.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Publication Interview Part 3

I've been out of town this week, so the post is a little delayed.  I intend to write an original post next week and stagger interview posts between.  Question's from the interview start to become more directed at my particular thoughts and beliefs instead of Apologetics, so you will see the scope narrow a bit.


In saying that, how do you look at the Bible?  Is it a historical piece that no longer has a purpose in modern day society, or is it still relevant to Christianity and for salvation?  In essence, do we still need it?

I believe that the Bible is the most, and possibly the only important and relevant written resource.  It is almost always the “control sample” for belief.  The Bible is timeless in its teachings, and I believe it has been relevant to any society throughout history.  It is the “Owner’s Manual” per say, for living a fulfilling and meaningful life on earth.

It fascinates and amazes me how it is written.  It has the structure and formatting of typical writings, a start page, divisions by book, chapter and verse (although verses were added to help reference), and an end page.  However, the thing that sets it apart from most resources are that the lessons, teachings and topics are layered within, creating a two dimensional reference.  Proper interpretations of these teachings are essential in educating oneself in more advanced topics of spirituality.  Imagine creating a book that covers all areas of science (physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology, microbiology) in one resource, and not having to climb a ladder to read the chapters.

The problem then is the interpretations of teachings because of the complexity of its structure.  We as mankind have an inherent sinful nature or spirit.  Once we have consumed the “baby food”, as an apostle one said, and are ready for more solid food, we tend to be doing it for a specific purpose.  We make assumptions and study to validate a thought or belief that we may have.  Having this tunnel vision can distort the truth and cause divisions of opinion.

One unfortunate problem that we still face today in Christianity is that its global teachings and understandings were based on political interests originally.  The truths that we accept and build upon were interpretations to unify and inspire citizens under a political regime.  It is important to measure what beliefs one has learned with what they find to be true based on biblical references.