Monday, January 23, 2017

Devotion 9: In Whom God Delights

Devotion 9: Those in Whom God Delights

"You are not a god who delights in evil”
Psalm 5:5a

If we think saying we’re "Christian" will win God's favor while, at the same time, we live as we please, participating in acts that not only are injurious to ourselves and others, but also dishonor God, we just might come to a big disappointment in the end.

God delights neither in evil nor in a wicked person regardless of their political stance, their devotion to the "American" ideals, their own claims to being or acting “righteous.”  God’s not concerned what one’s voting record looks like, whether they voted Republican or Democrat, whether they voted for "righteousness" sake either to stop abortion or obtain civil rights for the LBGTQ community.

To call one’s self a "Christian" makes no matter if they're in a place of disobedience or possess a self-righteous mind.  Wearing the "conservative" or "liberal" button on one’s lapel does not help gain God's favor, nor does it forfeit God's favor. To be a conservative is no less or more a claim to be Christian than to be a liberal, and vice-versa.  God delights in neither a political party or ideal.

God delights in the person whose moral character reflects that of His Son, Jesus Christ.

For whom you voted may impress fellow ideologues but it does not impress God. For whom you voted may built up your own self-esteem but it counts for nothing regarding how God esteems you. God is not impressed when you pray to Him as a Democrat or Republican. That you protest against this or that or defend this or that political person or point of view is not how God determines who is following Him or wins His favor.

It is following Christ that God determines who is following Him. One can be in the right, yet not be a follower of Christ. It is not whether you are in the right but whether you are walking in the right that delights God.

It is the righteous who are blessed. And righteousness is not a matter of loving God first and loving others second, as some are taught; but it is loving God and man simultaneously. And it is in loving God and our fellow man in a manner that deems them to be more important than ourselves that one is loving God with all one's heart, strength, soul, and mind.

It is those who walk with a clear conscience before God, whose actions towards others, even their enemies, are blameless before God and their fellow-man.

God's aim is not to make America great but, if anything, to make the people of America - black and white, native-american and immigrant, Gentile and Jew - holy.

"For you, Lord, bless the righteous"


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Devotion 8: God, My Only Good


Devotion: Psalm 13:6

"I trust in your faithfulness. Grant my heart joy in your help, that I may sing..."
 (New American Bible)

The Bible is not afraid to risk tarnishing God's reputation and character by exposing the depths of disappointment and estrangement from God one may go through at one time or another, to one degree or another. Nevertheless, it is in that depth of despair that one ought not abandon faith in God as the only hope to the answer for which he cries out in his trouble, pain, and sorrow.

The NAB subtitles the psalm as a "Prayer in Time of Illness" but there is no indication in the psalm itself just what exactly is the problem except, perhaps, to hint someone is acting against him (v.5).

In any case, whatever the problem, the grief the psalmist experiences does not prevent him from believing God is good ("I trust in your faithfulness," v.6a) and expecting God to deliver and restore his good fortune (Grant my heart joy in your help," v.6b).

In all this grief, the psalmist's aim to receive the answer to his urgent prayer is not merely deliverance, but the opportunity to give to evidence to the unbelievers that God is good: "That I may sing of the Lord, how Good our God has been to me!"

"...you are my only good." Psalm 6:2

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Devotion 7: Faith Nags and Pulls

Devotion: Psalm 63:1-4

"...I long...my body yearns...my soul thirsts...
I look to you...to see your power and your glory."

The Christ-follower possesses the deep-seated awareness that there is a missing element in his faith that nags and pulls on him, almost like the way a leash pulls the dog to it's owner. It is the intense desire for the actual Presence of Christ, the constant longing to hear audibly His Voice, the thirsty demand to stand before the reality of his Person, to see, hear, feel, and touch the One who has captured his heart.

There is no greater desire within the Christian than this, all that he does is done in the ebspectstion of it culminating in the fulfillment of this Desire, that Desire wherein all other desires are caught up and absorbed in; that ardent longing for Him who has been gone too long to return, to rule, to cease all wars, to banish all pain, to release us from every hurt, to make the enemy take flight, to banish Leviathan forever, and to make right all that is wrong in this world.

The heart's constant embrace is to sing, "Come, Lord Jesus! Come!"

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Devotion 6: Repentance

Devotion: Mark 6:12

"They went out and preached that men should repent."

The purpose of repentance is to make himself fit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, that when the it arrives, one is not put out (Revelation 22:15).

It is God's desire that men inhabit and rule in His Kingdom; men are to be co-rulers with Christ of all the Created Order. However, the success of Heaven's peaceable rule is not guaranteed if men enter the Kingdom who have not today repented, if they do not today - now! - prepare their heart and life for the culture of Heaven.

A person will enter the final destiny for which he now lives, their future destiny is marked out for them today whether they have lived as friends of this earthly system against God or in protest against it. The set of the heart and the lifestyle embraced today will determine the world one will rise to inherit at his death. 

Therefore, today repent precisely because there is a Kingdom of Heaven that will soon arrive, breaking forth in divine power like the lightening that, in a split second, cuts in half oak trees down to the roots. When that Kingdom comes, it will not in any way tolerate wicked men. The guards standing at the Gates of the Kingdom of Heaven will take into consideration the state of the heart and it will frisk the life before allowing anyone to enter in.

If the heart and life surveyed has not been lived according to the revelation of God in Christ on earth today, it will certainly not be admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven tomorrow.

Devotion 5: Peace Ruling

Devotion:  Colossians 3:15

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts..."

 (Read Colossians 3:12-17)

It is not the inward peace of the individual with reference to one's own self for his own personal advantage that Paul exhorts to peace; but, it is the inward peace that one has towards others, free of all bitterness and evil-thinking, primarily and especially with reference to fellow believers.


One's personal peace is contingent upon having peace towards and with others, fulfilling Jesus' prayer that we be one (John 17).

Monday, January 16, 2017

Devotion 4: A Thin Line

Devotion: Epheasians 5:2

"...and walk in love, as also the Christ did love us…"
(Young's Literal Translation)


That is, it is a thin line between supporting someone in their sin that results in a need and supporting someone in their need as a result of their sin.  It might be hard for you or an outsider to distinguish whether or not what you do supports the sin or supports the sinner.

I guess what is most important for us as Christians is to "let all your things be done in love."  If love is at the bottom of all you do, regardless of how it looks and what is the the end result, it seems you can't go wrong; for "walking in love" is being like Christ.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Devotion 3: Perfecting Holiness

Devotion 3: Perfecting Holiness

"...beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit,

making holiness perfect in the fear of God."

2 Corinthians 7:1

I thought that being holy was being perfect. How can holiness be made perfect and how do we make it perfect?
By fearing God.
Obedience without the fear of God is really either self-centeredness or self-righteousness.
If holiness is setting ourselves apart to implicit and faithful obedience to the will and way of God, then it must be accompanied:
(a) with a proper consciousness and acknowledgement in faith that God is the Judge of all our intentions and actions (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Hebrews 11:6).
(b) with the worship of God in Christ alone, and no other. We are to love God and other but we are to worship God and God alone. God in Christ is not merely to be number one on a long list of names of those to worship and direct our prayers. He is to be the only name on that list.
(c) with the aim to glorify Him and Him alone on earth. In other words, in contemporary parlance, make God look good before others. All our intentions and actions are to reflect the presence of God in Christ on the earth even as Jesus walked the earth over two thousand years ago. If one is to see Jesus, He can only be seen in you.
To follow God with such an attitude of faith is to fear God and thereby live a life in increasing holiness (Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 1:17; 2 Peter 1:5-9).
"And if ye call on the Father...pass the time of your sojourning here in fear."

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Fasting: A Centre for Pentecostal Theology Short Introduction

Fasting: A Centre for Pentecostal Theology Short Introduction Fasting: A Centre for Pentecostal Theology Short Introduction by Lee Roy Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A 184 page introduction to the practice of fasting from the Pentecostal perspective. Martin discusses every Biblical text dealing briefly yet insightfully with fasting. He also delves into fasting in Church history outside Pentecostalism, in the Pentecostal tradition, and offers a theology and guidelines for fasting.

What may come across reading Martin's "Fasting" is the realization that the Bible gives greater importance to fasting, more than we may have otherwise thought, as, not only a tool for spiritual growth, but a necessary practice for maintaining healthy fellowship with God.

If one seeks to look for where to begin learning about fasting, Martinmas provided the first step in it's study. But even if you have read other books on the subject, I recommend reading this one, also if only because he seems to thoroughly, if briefly, every Biblical text on or related to fasting.

Martin also provides a lengthy Bibliography, covering 10 pages (counting from and back) for further study.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: The Gospel in Tolstoy: Selections from His Short Stories, Spiritual Writings & Novels

The Gospel in Tolstoy: Selections from His Short Stories, Spiritual Writings & Novels The Gospel in Tolstoy: Selections from His Short Stories, Spiritual Writings & Novels by Leo Tolstoy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one book that will challenge all your notion of what it really means to be a Christian. You may not agree with the moral teaching imbedded in each of the stories LeBlanc selected, but they will captivate your mind and move you to earnestly think about what being a Christian means personally to you.

From the very brief "Biographical Sketch," we see that Tolstoy was apparently a tragic figure who, in spite of much success, was "plagued with suicidal thoughts" until he took a "look beyond his own circle" and "noticed that the peasants, despite their poverty, had an instinctive sense of life's purpose. Their faith in God and simple labor propelled them to live. And then it dawned on him: he too only lived at those times he believed in God. It was a decisive conversion experience, after which never left him" (p.xiii-xiv).

However, he left the Church when it ordered praying for the utter destruction of Russia's enemies "with sword and bombshell." Tolstoy outspoken pacifism influenced men like Gandhi, Shaw, MLK, Jr. He made sacrifices giving up his wealth, profits, property, and even breaking with his family that would throw him and his wife into constant battle. He renounced all of his publication rights and signed all his property to wife and children.

The writing selected reveal a man who saw the sharp inconsistency of the teachings of Christ and the way Christians believed and lived. It seems many of the stories are of persons seeking for a purposeful and happy life but failing until they come to realize that "To know God and to live come to one and the same thing. God is life" (p.43).

This is not a book for the Christian who is too lazy to seek for why God put him where he is, or for one too enamored with his own self and possessions to care for others, too attached to his own theologically moral and ethical, and, yes, even his political presuppositions...but, wait! No, maybe that is just the person who should read this book...the lazy, the self-absorbed, the purposeless, the know-it-all, the seeker.

I believe these selections of Tolstoy by LeBlanc will keep you thinking and thinking, struggling to come to some satisfying conclusion on just want it means for you to to live the genuine Christian life and how much are you willing to pay to live it.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Review: One Lord One Spirit One Body

One Lord One Spirit One Body One Lord One Spirit One Body by Vinson Synan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Please note: The author of this book is Peter Hocken and not Vinson Synan. Synan is referenced in the back cover only as recommending the book.

In spite of it's publication date of 1987, Hocken's book is still very relevant for today, especially in the time of attacks made against Pentecostal and Charismatic communities and the deep divides between the Charismatics and non-Charismatics on theological grounds, even between the Protestant and Catholic, and between the Protestant churches themselves. This is certainly a book that needs to read and taken seriously. Hocken calls for unity - ecumenism -on the basis of the Charismatic experience of the Holy Spirit falling upon the various traditional Christian denominations with endowments of the charismata, an experience once thought unique to Pentecostal churches.

The first section examines the history of the charismatic movement, although not in depth, by introducing particular individuals from different Christian traditions and denomination and sharing their experience of the baptism of the Spirit; he also briefly discusses the Asuza Street Pentecostal revival of 1906, it's spread into various denominational renewals, and the character and meaning of the charismatic revival.

The second section, Hocken seeks to help us understand what exactly is the Charismatic renewal and it's development and significance within the traditional churches. His counsel on how the different Christian traditions and denominations my approach unity with their various doctrinal emphasis - although core beliefs are the same - is both enlightening and practical, having as fundamental the experience of the Holy Spirit in bestowing the Pentecostal gifts.

Written by a Catholic who was baptized in the Holy Spirit, it is written in the spirit of of yearning for the unity of God's people to be a reality and, therefore, Hocken "has tackled the difficult problem of ecumenical relations" (p.vi). The last sentence in his introduction reads that the neither the Pentecostals nor the charismatics can "realize its God -given potential without the other." And, although this may be a book directed specifically to the Pentecostal and Charismatic community, I feel it is a book that requires reading for even those who see these communities as dubious, at best, or demonic, at worst in order to get a more truthful perspective regarding the character and purpose of this Holy Spirit renewal that began in America 1906 in a limited fashion and expanded to the traditional churches without bias, somewhat hidden in the 1950's but exploding out for all to see in the 1960's, which continues even today if perhaps in a more subdued fashion.

It is required reading for all because Christ calls the believers in every place all over the world to unity, making it's actualization a prayer to the Father, "that they may be one, even as you and I are one; that they may be one in us" (John 17).

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Review: Beowulf

Beowulf Beowulf by Unknown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not being a scholar on such poems as "Beowulf" and having read it for the first time, I find it was beautifully written and in such a way as you can almost see the poetic imagery in front of your eyes. From the first words of the prologue - "Hear me!" - one may be caught in the trap of, regardless of the poems length of 3182 lines (no fear, only 99 pages), finishing the book in one day.

There is adventure, suspense, anticipation, blood, revenge, fantasy, death, mourning, villains, faith in God, glorious heroes, dreadful monsters, all elements of what makes a great story combined in one. There are moments that you can almost feel the character's emotions, for example, in Wiglaf's failed attempt to revive Beowulf from death and his resignation to the Christian God's will:

"...He was sitting
Near Beowulf's body, warily sprinkling
Water in the dead man's face, trying
To stir him. He could not. No one could have kept
Life in their lord's body, or turned
Aside the Lord's will: world
And men and all move as He orders,
And always have, and always will."

(lines 2853-2859)

For those not familiar and new to reading this kind of poetry, as I am, there is provided a helpful introduction, an informative afterword, and a glossary of names and a diagram of the genealogy of characters mentioned.

I encourage reading the classics. After reading this one, you will know why it is called a classic, and that it has been a classic for centuries.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: The Glory and the Shame

The Glory and the Shame The Glory and the Shame by Peter Hocken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although written 22 years ago, it still seems to reflect present circumstances in the Christian community as a whole, especially in America.  Hocken briefly considers the challenges and impact - negative as well as positive - brought about by the advent of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement since the beginning of the 20th century up to the time of the books writing, on Christian theology and in the various Christian communities.  Hocken not only takes into account the Catholic charismatic movement but also, to a large extent, the Messianic Jewish movement and the importance of Israel's role as a nation in relation to the larger Pentecostal/Charismatic experience.  He engages history by suggesting that "[a]ny sovereign outpouring of the divine blessing is necessarily unexpected" (p.16), and, therefore, discusses significant acts of God's intervention as "surprises," starting with the book of Acts before jumping into the Spirit's "invasion" of Asuza in the opening years of the 20th century.

His writing is clear and Biblically based, which forms a coherent theological and historical overview of the Pentecostal/Charismatic experience.  His goal is to encourage unity among all the differing Christian parties, including with Jewish believers.  In chapter 23, Hocken offers a very positive, practical, and meaningful way - perhaps overlooked by most all of us - to incorporate the Pentecostal/Charismatic experience with the more traditional believing communities, e.g. Catholic church and the more established Protestant denominations.

It is apparent that Hocken conceives the work of the Spirit as the glory and the disunity among believers, overall and without neglecting it's varied sins, as the shame.

With the recent sharp and divisive controversy regarding the "fire" of the Holy Spirit, this is a book that every Christian pastor, Pentecostal/Charismatic and cessationist, needs to read and use as a framework for discussion within their own respective church leaders and congregations and, of course, among themselves, from every denomination and congregation, formal and informal, traditional and "hip-hop," old and new.  For the surprise invasion of the Holy Spirit is "oriented towards the preparation of God's people as one renewed and restored Church for the return of Jesus" (p.193).
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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Devotion 2: Where is Samuel's God?

"the Lord was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect”
1 Samuel 3:19 (New American Bible)

Samuel is a prime example of someone who became intimately familiar with the God of Israel by virtue of experiencing God's manifestation of Himself to him.

Samuel's words to the people were not merely words of a motivational speaker or one who was able to give wise advice, needed comfort, or timely encouragement - as excellent these things may be - but he spoke with words that were accompanied with divine power.  Words in and of themselves have no desired effect to move people or change circumstances; words of themselves cannot produce intended results.  Divine power is needed to run with the words we speak and to produce what our words have spoken.

God answered Samuel's prayers and what Samuel spoke to the people, God did it!

The people recognized that the Lord was with Samuel, not because he was a good preacher and not merely because his words encouraged or comforted others even if for a temporary time without really resolving the specific issue, but because they saw and experienced for themselves the visible and tangible effects of what he spoke.  As Paul, so Samuel could say, "My message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with the demonstration of the Spirit's power" (1 Corinthians 4:5).

"...Samuel cried out to the Lord...and the Lord answered him."  1 Samuel 7:9

We claim to be in a greater age of the manifestation of the Kingdom of heaven, yet we can't even seem to compete with an Old testament prophet.  We have may preachers proclaiming and promises being made - how many time have you heard, "You believe in the Lord and I guarantee you" this thing or that thing? - but…

We seem to fall far short in effectiveness.

I remember seeing a person pray on the streets of New York City for a man to be raised out of his wheel-chair, and then the praying man walked away leaving the paralytic in his wheelchair.  I will say, ashamedly, that praying man was braver than I was at the time to pray out loud in the streets.  Nevertheless, the man was not healed.  How many times have I prayed for the sick to be healed, the dead to be raised, for God to show himself?  Few, admittedly; and nothing much to show for it.

How will people know that God is Immanuel - "God with us" - if my words and prayers produce nothing.

How can we convince the world that Christ died to raise us to new life if we show that God cannot even heal the sick?

For all the good preachers with great sermons, for all the churches we see dotting the landscape with praying congregations, with all the sermons preached, promises given, and professions of having faith, we lack terribly the power to back up what we say.

I don't say these things to be critical but, in examination of my own life in Christ, this lack is just too easily evident.  For all my faith in the Lord, my life and what I read in the Gospels do not harmonize.

Although, I should really speak only for myself, I think my criticism of the Church at large, at least, in America is valid.  

Tozer says, "If Christianity is ever to survive, God had better work miracles.  Every advancement of God in every country since the early church has been a miracle."  ---  "Voice of a Prophet," p.100.

Where is Samuel's God?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Romans 7 Continued: In Conversation

I had a email exchange with someone a little while ago regarding his opposition to my opinion at a Bible study that the Christian can overcome sin in this life, even until their death.
This person countered in response to an email I sent him that, “You will note that [in Romans 7:24] Paul states ‘wretched man that...I am.’ That is a present tense verb, 'I am.' It means that Paul is referring to himself in the present, not the past. In order to be referring to his past one of two things must be true, Paul mistakenly used the wrong verb tense (should have used “I was”) or Paul wrote this part years prior to his letter to the Romans and before becoming a Christian and then added it to his letter. The problem with the latter assumption is that before becoming a Christian, Paul viewed his righteousness as “blameless” before he was a Christian. (Philippians 3:6).”
Since he was not open to a different view, I decided not to answer; but if I did, my response would be as follows:



(A) If Rom 7:24 reflects Paul’s present state as a Christian, let us see, for example, some verses where else the present tense is used also in relation to Paul’s spiritual condition at the time of writing this epistle:
  • 1. “I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin.”
  • 2. “…sin lives in me…”
  • 3. “…I want to do good, but I cannot…”
  • 4. “…I do the very evil I do not want!”
  • 5. “…captive to the law of sin…”
If Romans 7 is understood as Paul’s experience as a believer, he admits he is in a struggle with sin but also further admits he losses that struggle consistently and always and, therefore, is habitually committing sin; sin always overcomes him. That is the only way to understand it in view of the whole context. As such, the interpretation of the text being demanded is that, as a Christian, the life we can hope to live is no less sinful and worse than the unregenerate or reprobate.
To claim Romans 7 is Paul’s experience as he wrote the epistle is to neglect the fact that the apostle is not discussing obedience to God and righteousness obtained on the basis of faith but on the basis of Torah. The whole point of v.24, contextually considered, is that Paul sees no way of escaping the divine disapproval and judgment through obedience to the Torah; only Christ can deliver him from this merry-go-round of death as depicted in the chapter.
Unless there is the suggestion that the believer is obligated to obey the Torah, Rom 7 has nothing to do with the Christian life because it is not depicting a person under grace trying to obey God, but a person under Torah trying to be obey God and thus win his approval. 
As such, the objection that, “Paul mistakenly used the wrong verb tense" or "wrote this part [of v.24] years prior to his letter to the Romans,” is baseless.
(B) Regarding his mention of Philippians 3:6, first, Paul is referring to a different type of blamelessness; it is the righteous that makes one blameless that comes by the Torah and the righteousness obtained through faith by grace. Note, this righteousness is described as “having confidence in the flesh” (v.4b, NIV; cf. Rom 9:30-10:4).
And, second, although he claims being blameless, however true as far as the Torah is concerned, the apostle admits such righteousness under Torah does not gain God’s approval and, therefore, he denounces both the righteousness and blamelessness thus obtained.Yet, point in fact, there are places where Paul does admit to being blameless on the basis of grace (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 2:10; Acts 23:1, 24:16).
Also, and perhaps surprisingly, Luke’s Gospel claims the blamelessness of certain persons even before Christ was born, and it seems apparent that such a judgment of their character was true.
(C) I will add mention about 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (another verse brought up in our email exchange) where we read Paul’s admission to being not only a sinner but the “chief of sinners” since the argument here is that the apostle is admitting he is a sinner.
To use 1 Timothy 1:15-16 as evidence that Rom 7 depicts the Christian life is to totally misunderstand Paul’s intent. It can be legitimately argued by the context that the apostle is not talking about his experience as a believer at the time he wrote the epistle but, primarily, his sinful condition before his conversion.
1. The context of the verse itself is with reference to Christ as being the Savior of sinners by means of his atoning sacrifice. Its reference seems clearly to be to men as sinners before their conversion.
2. Note the context refers to a past event: “Even though I was once (“before,” Strong’s #4386; πρότερος proteros)…I was shown mercy…” (v.13, NIV); "the grace of our Lord was...abundant" (v.14, NASB); “I was shown mercy…as an example” (v.16, NIV, cp.NET). These verses, as translated, allude to a past event, which clearly points to the time he was persecuting the Church.
3. NT Greek language resources and commentaries I have all refer to Paul as pointing to his past when he claims to be the “worst of sinners,” although they admit he is not excluding his present condition as a sinner, even if forgiven:
  • Linguistic & Exegetical Key to the Greek NT: “Pres. ‘I am,’ not, ‘I was.’ The sinner remains a sinner even if forgiven; the past is always there as a stimulus to deeper penitence and service” (489).
  • Word Pictures, Robertson: “He had sad memories of those days” (4:564).- UBS Handbook: Timothy & Titus: “The focus here is not on Paul’s moral lapses or immoral conduct but on his rejection of Christ…and the greatness of Christ’s act of bestowing on him new life…” (34).
  • Expositions, Maclaren: “We carry with us ever the fact of past transgression…” (15:331).
  • Expositor’s Bible: “Paul felt that of all sinners he was ‘the worst’…because he had persecuted Christ’s followers…” (11:355).
The point I touch on here is that regardless of whatever position one takes with respect to Paul's spiritual condition at the time he wrote 1 Timothy, the context here respecting his statement as being a sinner and the “chief of sinners” rests on his past condition, not on his present experience and actions, and has no reference to any sins (if any) committed either as a believer since his conversion or when he wrote this letter. As such, his admission to being a sinner, even the “chief of sinners,” is not because he is in the present habit of committing sins - doing what he wants to omit doing or omitting what he wants done (Rom 7) - as a believer.
Any use of 1 Timothy 1:15-16 to defend the view that Romans 7 depicts Paul is referring to his experience as a believer is unwarranted.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Review: Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living

Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living Renewal Theology: Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living by J. Rodman Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Williams continues the plain, clear, non-controversial discussion of theology systematically covering salvation, the Holy Spirit, and Christian Living. Again, as I stated in my review of volume 1, this is a great beginner book on theology for someone seeking to understand Biblical concepts without fussing and trying to sort through various competing theologies and high-sounding doctrinal positions.

But, more than that, this volume offers the charismatic perspective, which would do well for any Christian to read and gain a balanced insight and understanding into the various types, modes of operation, personal applications, and the differences between what is meant by "spiritual gifts" as opposed to "natural talents." This is a must read for anyone unsure about the pentecostal/charismatic view or is just plain against it (cessationist) who is ready for the challenge to his uninformed or preconceived notions about the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts.

He also provides clarity to issues like regeneration, justification and sanctification without going beyond what the Bibles reveals, without countering opposing views, and without philosophical argumentation, delving lightly into controversial topics in a non-confrontational tone like the security of salvation and the possibility of apostasy.

Let me be clear, if one is looking for a book to discuss all the varieties of doctrinal beliefs and theological views, this is not the book. It's purpose is to teach what the Bible teaches and lead readers "more deeply into the truths that He alone can reveal" through the plain exposition of Scripture in a systematized fashion without cluttering or obstructing it with differing points of doctrinal opinions.

The new Christian seeking understanding to gain a better grasp of God's purposes for his life, the old Christian seeking to trod again the "old paths" and regain the simplicity of following Christ, both will benefit from reading and re-reading "Renewal Theology," vol.2.

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

On Transgenderism as Demonic Influence

I think that this is an article every thinking Christian should read in order to better understand the primary issue regarding the LGBTQ community, with specific reference to transgenderism.  The acceptance by certain Christian communities of homosexuality and its various accompanying lifestyles make this article all the more relevant and important:



Review: History of the Christian Church: Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325

History of the Christian Church: Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325 History of the Christian Church: Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325 by Philip Schaff, vol.2
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although, probably much outdated, it is a good read. The "History" starts from the death of the last apostle, John (c.100), to the beginning of Constantine's rise as the Roam emperor. However, the discussion is not on Constantine but briefly on Eusebius and two other of his contemporaries during Constantin'e reign.

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Review: Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine

Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine by Peter J. Thuesen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent an enlightening narrative of the "contentious doctrine" of predestination in America from the puritans until now, and he briefly covers it's history from the time of the apostle Paul to Augustine, Medievalism to the Reformation, Arminianism to the English Reformation, and finally, to American Puritanism. In subsequent chapters, he deals with the contention in America covering it's impact or influence even in Catholicism, Mormonism, unitarianism and other religious bodies or groups. He even mentions to my surprise, how the some parts of the African American community had adherents to Calvinism, even hyper-Calvinism. Personally, I never realized how contentious predestination was, especially, to the point of having records of people having mental illnesses/breakdowns from it's belief in its Calvinistic form. For some reason, my only disappointment was that the author did not state, at the end of the book, his position; I am interested to know.

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Review: Old Yeller

Old Yeller Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yep, I get into reading a children's book sometimes. Trying to catch up from my Grammar School days. Anyway, this was about as good and exciting as the movie, perhaps better. And the ending sure bummed me out. But the ending was great and a good lesson on issues of life and death. I especially like the heart-to-heart talk Travis has with his father about Old Yeller. He doesn't provide a simplistic answer to death and is sort of loss for words of comfort, but he tells him the rough truth: "...things like that happen. They may seem might cruel and unfair, but that's how life is part of the time" (p.116).

I read this book with my 9-year-old Grandson and, although I got a bit ahead of him and finished it without him, this is a great book to the kids or Grandkids. The only problem you may have is with the archaic words.

This book is as it should be, a classic, and one of the best.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review: Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities by Roger E. Olson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book for anyone seeking to understand Arminian theology properly, that is, as taught by James Arminius. Many Calvinists have a grave misunderstanding of classical Arminianism basically, I think, because they may not have not read Arminius' "Works" (I wonder if apologists like James White or theologians like MacArthur read it). In any case, Olson gives a very readable - not at all technical - understanding of Arminianism comparing the erroneous assertions made as to what it teaches with what Arminius himself and those who followed him taught . He admits that some who call themselves Arminians have strayed away from Arminius' teachings, however, it cannot be denied that even Calvinist have done the same with John Calvin. The value in "Arminian Theology" is the clarity he gives to Arminius' teachings and points exactly where others have gotten it all wrong; and, I must admit, in my experience discussing Arminianism as compared to Calvinism, the Calvinist brings up these exact misrepresentations of Arminianism as Olson points out in the book. It also helped me tremendously by pointing out areas where I have misunderstood Arminianism. For the Calvinist and the Arminian this a must read; and for the novice in theology who has an interest in reading Arminius' "Work", I suggest you read Olson's book first.

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Review: Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic

Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic by Larry R. McQueen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As noted in the preface, "This study brings the themes of the book of Joel into conversation with emerging Pentecostal scholarship..." (p.7).

Unfortunately, I must admit I am new to Pentecostal scholarship and not very knowledgeable of Pentecostalism, although my personal Christian experience has interacted with the views of Pentecostalism (even before I was actually aware of it's existence). In any case, that is just to say that I may not have been able to enjoy the full impact of this book not being fully cognizant to the issues revolving around Pentecostalism's thought and spirituality. Nevertheless, this book is a valuable read for any person of any Christian theological view or denominational persuasion, and much that is said can be applied to the Church universally.

As I understand it, McQueen sees the book of Joel as giving quality to contemporary Pentecostal tradition and as the basis for envisioning Pentecostalism for purposes of renewal.

In the introduction, the author discusses the hermeneutics from the "classical" Pentecostal perspective and then turns to a brief and general review of the book of Joel in light of "previous works."

In chapter 2, he discusses the thesis of the book of Joel as (a) having three movements: lament, salvation, and (what perhaps may have been an issue overlooked by other commentators or scholars), judgment, and (b) that these movements "provides a framework of progression of the relationship" between God and Judah (p.21).

In chapter, he shows how the New Testament appropriated the "themes of Joel" (discussed in chapter 2) to "provide a theological framework for understanding the gift of the Spirit," which he identifies preeminently, so it seems to me, as (a) ushering in the last days; (b) the immediate divine presence and communication to his people and, in consequence, (c) the establishing of a prophetic community (p.44). As such, respecting disciple's experience and Peter's sermon in consequence of the public display of the gift of tongues in Acts 2, "The tongues-speech of the disciple is interpreted by Peter as the manifestation of prophetic inspiration," which "characterizes the last days and is the primary sign of the present of the Spirit" (p.51)

In chapter 4, McQueen shares "how the Pentecostal movement has appropriated the major themes of [lament, salvation, judgment in] the book of Joel" in a way similar to how they were seen as being applied in the New Testament ((p.74), and thereby engages Pentecostal history, theological studies, testimonies, and even the lyrics of a song throughout the chapter. One of his conclusions is that the "early Pentecostals were living signs of eschatological salvation and judgment" (p.92).

In the final chapter, McQueen "provides some reflection on [the] method" of Pentecostal hermeneutics, and does so, interestingly, from personal experience in the writing of this book, contending that "there is more to Pentecostal hermeneutics than reader and text...open to a radically subversive element which stands outside both the Bible text and the interpreter, that is, the critical claim of the Holy Spirit" (p.108).

I have found this reading to be most instructive as to the emphasis that the book of Joel has for the contemporary Church the greater realization of the significance of the Spirit, not only for Biblical interpretation but also for the meaning, character, and method of witness the Church is to live out in the world today.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Devotion 1: Repentance


What is "repentance"?

It is the last word - the sum total of God's call to men as sinners - proclaimed in the Torah and by the last of the Hebrew prophets, John the Baptist.

In continuity with the prophets of Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the tradition of John the Baptist, it is the first word of God's call to men as sinners proclaimed by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, carried forward by the apostolic and early Church witnesses; it is the message that continue today, in these the last days since Pentecost, the divine imperative, never watered down through the ages up to today.

It is the call of God to men to abandon their own way of life and live to God's will.  Repentance is the walk of Man's return to the Garden of Eden.

It is the divine call that has an eye to the Kingdom of God, that is, God's all-encompassing glory exposed and ruling over all the earth with absolute moral goodness.  Consequently, it implies both warning and promise: the promise of a new life in a new age for a new people in a new earth centered in a new city.  And the warning of divine retribution against men as sinners who oppose his rule, refusing to align themselves now - not tomorrow, but now - with the imminent and inevitable reign of God's Son, Jesus Christ over all of heaven and earth.

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
Matthew 3:3 (NET)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

We need revival..

"He who does what is right
is righteous
just as he is righteous"
(1 John 3:7b, NIV)

We need revival yet, if we are going to see revival, I think there are some things we need to confront and come to terms with.

1.  If we have sinned we need to repent.  We cannot claim to be holy as Christ is holy if we live in sin.  The reality of our faith is found, not in mere words, but in deeds (James 2:22).  Struggling with guilt is not dealing with sin.  If you sin, you should feel guilty, and the only way to remove the guilt is to repent from your sin and turn to the Cross of Christ to wash it away by his blood; that is, in a nutshell, to "cease from sin and do good" (Psalm 37:27).

2.  As the Church, we need to stop calling ourselves "sinners". We are not sinners. God now calls us "saints."  In many places in practically all his epistles, Paul identifies believers in Christ as "saints."  Nowhere does he refer to God's people as sinners.  We will only lower the standard and always have the greatest difficulty in overcoming the fallenness of our flesh if we continue to identify ourselves with sinners, that is, with those who in refusing to come to Christ are demonstrating their hatred for God and, as such, stand as his enemies (John 3:19-20; Romans 8:7; Philippians 3:18; James 4:4).

3.  We need to stop using the Bible as a comforter for any sin and the sinful lifestyle.  We need to stop assuaging our guilt by satisfying ourselves with the Bible's portrayal, however honest, of God's people in their weaknesses and failings.  We need to stop taking comfort in our sin by the sad fact that even the Bible shows men and women of God less than perfect.  We will never reach the goal of holy living here and now if we continue to look away from the righteousness of God's people and focus on their shortcoming and sins.

The Bible reveals the acts of his people honestly.  However, it is not so we can emulate them in their sin or take comfort that they also sinned and, therefore, expect only a continuation of living a life falling in sin, defeated by it's allure.  Men and women are portrayed with such dreaded honesty in the Bible so we can see the grace of God, through His promises, at work in their lives as demonstrative of that same grace that is directed towards us and more than sufficient to overcome sin and the irresponsible and unwise lifestyle.

I'm often reminded of this anonymous poem when I read about the failings of God's people in the Bible:
"Wouldn't this old world be better, If the folks we meet would say: I know something good about you, And then treat us just that way!"*
For example, I may hear preaching about Aaron's sinful foolhardiness in making the calf idol, but I never heard a sermon about Aaron's desperate run to head off a plague God sent against the Israelites for their rebellion.  It is where he shows himself to be truly a "man of God" in every sense of the word.

Concerning Aaron when the Israelites were being punished by a deadly plague for their rebellion, a blogger writes, "Aaron now displays a devotion to his office of mediation between God and the people.  Whereas, in the first case 'the Lord struck the people with a plague, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made,' we see later on that Aaron 'took his stand between the dead and the living so that the plague was checked.' In the former instance, he was a mediator for death but in the latter he became mediator for life."

Another example is Lot.  How often we hear what a worldly fool of a sinner was Lot.  I've yet to hear it preached what a righteous man was Lot, for 3 times in one sentence is he designated as righteous in the New Testament: "righteous Lot," "righteous man," "righteous soul" (2 Peter 2:7-8).

It is not a matter of denying our sinful thoughts, words, or actions, or ignoring the sins of God's people as if they are not recorded in the Bible.  It is a matter of where we ought to focus our faith in God.  Focus on our failings, and we will fail.  Comfort ourselves with the sins committed by those in the Bible, and we dull the conviction of the Spirit in our conscience. Looking at ourselves and others as merely "sinners saved by grace," and we will miss the experience of grace that empowers to holy living.

What does the Bible exhort us to do but to "fix your thoughts on Jesus" (Hebrews 3:2 NIV).

It is not denying our failures and the sins we do commit.  It is not denying where we once were before Christ.  It is to affirm the power of the Cross to grant us  forgiveness and overcome our failures and sinful actions; it is to affirm our position as God’s “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

If we are to stand together above the squalor and shipwreck of our fallen state and show the world we are the people of God in the demonstration of the power of the Spirit that we say we possess in Christ, we must abandon sin, recover our calling as saints, and proclaim the righteousness of those men and women of God whom the Bible records as having overcome.

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* http://margiesmessages.com/Iknowsom.htm