God Speaks, Culture Responds

God says, ‘I alone am God, there is no other’.
Culture says, ‘What god? There is no god at all.’

God says, ‘Worship only me, do not make anything higher than Me.’
Culture says, ‘Self and pleasure are the highest good, that’s what’s important.

God says, ‘Respect My name and My character.’
Culture ignores God’s character and uses His name as a swear word.

God says, ‘Take one day a week to worship Me and to rest and reflect on all I have done.’
Culture says, ‘Go flat out 24/7 until you drop.’

God says, ‘Respect those who have come before you in this world.’
Culture says, ‘The elderly are washed up and need to be housed away from productive people.’

God says, ‘All human life is precious, don’t end it gratuitously or in malice.’
Culture says, ‘I’m important, you’re not, if you’re in my way, I will dispose of you.’

God says, ‘Marriage, between one man and one woman, is MY invention and is the only place where sex belongs.’
Culture says, ‘it’s MY body and I can do whatever I want, with whoever I want, whenever I want.’

God says, ‘Respect other people’s things, don’t take things that aren’t yours.’
Culture says, ‘Take all you can, give nothing in return.’

God says, ‘Honor, respect, speak, and live out truth.’
Culture says, ‘Tell people what they want to hear. Don’t offend them. Make up a good story to protect yourself.’

God says, ‘Don’t want what I haven’t given you.’
Culture says, More, More, More. Grab everything you can. Keep up with, and surpass, the Jones’s.’

God says, ‘There will come a day when I will suffer their sins and affronts no more.’
Culture says, ‘Yeah, right. When?’

God says, ‘I will come like a thief in the night. Behold, I am coming quickly.’

Even so, Lord Jesus, come.

Spiritual Growth

Life on the road as a trucker is hard. It’s hard on your health. It’s hard on your marriage. It’s hard on your kids. It’s especially hard on your relationship with God. Only by careful, alert management of our time and resources, can we keep our health, marriage, and family.

Our spiritual health must also be guarded and protected. There’s an old adage, ‘you are what you eat’. I would add to that. You are what you hear. You are what you see. You are what you do.

As a driver, I have many hours every day that I must choose what I will fill my mind with. Will I listen to music? Talk radio? News? Nothing? I have found a better way, a way that builds my mind and heart in God and not in the way of the world, a way to know God better in the solitude of a truck:

  • Worship & Pray
  • Listen & Learn

I know, that sounds basic, even trite. But until I made a plan and started doing it, I was stuck in the rut of complacency and lazy habits.(I still fall back into those too often!)

Worship & Pray

I have learned that when I take time each day, even several times a day, to focus on God, to acknowledge His worth-ness, to thank Him for all He’s done, and to praise His goodness, that my life goes better. Yes, the difficulties of life still happen, but somehow they don’t bother me as much. By scheduling a set time each day ( I set alarms on my phone to remind me) I remind myself in the busyness of life to shift my focus back to Him.

I have several tools that I use to help me respond to Him. Drawing from some of the oldest practices of the church, I use the daily worship routine or Orders. Northumbria Monastery has a daily feed that I follow as well as a feed from the Episcopal church.

I’ve had several people question my use of these, asking if they aren’t just rote prayers and therefore lacking in any real substance. Any worship or prayer has the tendency to become rote and devoid of meaning; even reading scripture can become meaningless. The answer is to focus on the words as I am speaking therm, making sure I am speaking therm to God. When I drift, I start over.

Listen & Learn

The biggest part of my day is spent listening and learning and thinking. I spend about an equal amount of time listening to scripture, Christian and classic fiction, Christian non fiction, along with some preaching thrown in.

One of the greatest joys this past year has been to rediscover a love for the Bible. As I have listened to it as a whole, not just reading it in bits and pieces, I have found a cohesiveness that I have never seen before.

Listening to books is different than reading in that it seems easier to picture what the author is saying. It’s like listening to a friend.

If you are stuck in a rut of spiritual complacency I highly recommend that you take a look at some of these tools that I use and implement your own spiritual growth plan.

Daily worship (Orders) apps. Orders are one way to regularly focus on God in personal worship.

Helps you remember those you are praying for.

Lots of good Christian music.

The bible in many versions and hundreds of daily devotions.

Daily Bible readings and portal to many radio teaching ministries.

Many different Bible versions and hundreds of study helps available for purchase. Best study app for the droid.

General purpose flashcard app. Useful for learning and rehearsing memory verses.

Good Christian audiobooks for purchase and download as mp3 files. Save them on a thumb drive and play them through an FM transmitter to your radio. Wait for their twice yearly sale and get the bigger books including Bibles really cheap.

I group 4-6 hour chunks of scripture into folders, then put therm on the thumb drive interspersed with fiction and non fiction books…bible, fiction, bible, non fiction, etc.

Suggested Books
English Standard Version (ESV) Bible
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Classic Christianity, Bob George

Suggested Radio Teachers
Grace To You – John MacArthur
Truth For Life – Alistair Begg
Searchlight – Jon Courson

In His Presence

Worship is not for you, dear Christian, it is for God.

Insofar as I make worship about me, my desires, wants, and feelings, I will fail in my attempts.

The paradox of worship is that as I leave myself behind as I approach Him, I find Him welcoming me into His presence. When I express my love for Him, I find that love returned, multiplied, pressed down, and running over.

Conversely, when I go into worship to get an emotional high or spiritual fix, I find heaven silent and cold. I can never achieve a closeness with God by demanding it.

May we all learn to come to God in humility, remembering we stand in the Presence of the Most High.

Stepping on Toes

Recently I stopped by a chapel at a truck stop hoping to introduce myself and maybe learn a thing or two from the chaplain there. We did have a nice chat and I stayed for the evening bible study. One thing he and I discussed before the study was the importance of focusing on the important matters of the faith and not getting bogged down in discussions of secondary issues.

In essence we restated the old adage;

In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas

in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in everything, charity (or love).

The problem came during the meeting, when a common bible topic was raised, to which there are several valid interpretations. He told the group “what it meant”, and when I mentioned one of the alternatives, I was shut down quickly. While he was not rude, his posture and tone made it clear that “this is the only way to read that passage”. That bothered me. Ok… I was peeved. By God’s grace, I wisely shut my mouth and the meeting went on. But that got me thinking….

  • How do we understand what Truth is?
  • Are some Truths more important than others?
  • How should I respond when there are conflicts in our understanding of Truth?

What is Truth?

First and foremost, far and above all else, the Bible is Truth. God supernaturally superintended the writing of the scriptures. Because of that, what the original authors wrote was exactly what God wanted written. Our problem understanding is because we live in a different culture and we speak a different language that the writers did.

So we learn all we can about the author and his audience (the historical and cultural context) and we rely on scholars to translate the text into our language. We also make every effort to keep passages in textual context. For example, in psalm 14:1 David says “there is no God”. That is contradictory to the rest of scripture. But in context it reads “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God”. That is in line with the rest of scripture.

So what do we do when even in context a passage doesn’t make sense? Or when several passages seem to be contradictory? We turn to two friends, reason and tradition.

Reason, our mind, intellect, and logic, controlled and directed by the Spirit of God, is the first path to an understanding of a passage. We can compare passages with each other. We can use logic, ie if A its true and B is likeA then B must be true also.

Tradition can be viewed as a record of the interpretation of scripture through the church’s history. Another way to view it is as a compilation of godly men’s reasoned attempt to understand scripture.

Unfortunately, Much of our beliefs about the bible come not from personally wrestling with it, but rather from hearing someone else (usually our pastor) tell us what he thinks it means. Problems occur when we accept our own reason and our favorite traditions’ version of a complicated or debated doctrine as the ONLY acceptable understanding.

Are some truths more important than others?

Of course! I once heard the are four kinds of truth: the 4D’s

  • Truth you would Die for
  • Truth you would Divide over
  • Truth you would Disagree about
  • Truth you would Discuss over coffee

The problems arise when we put a truth in the wrong category. Say we elevate a “discuss over coffee” to a “divide over”, for example, was Paul right or left handed? Or worse, we demote a “die for” to a “disagree about”.

And that is what happened the other night. We were talking about a topic I thought was a “discuss over coffee” or maybe a “disagree about” and he thought it was a “die for”. That’s when toes got stepped on. I was hurt that my view was squashed and he thought I was bordering on heretical.

What should I do when disagreements arise?

  • PRAY! For and with the other person.
  • BE KIND! Remember, he is your brother.
  • Seek to understand the other’s view
  • Review my own points to see if I have misstated anything or maybe misunderstood scripture.
  • Look for points in common.
  • Disengage BEFORE harm is done.
  • PRAY!

ps. I have intentionally used examples that I thought were non issues. I sincerely apologize if anyone was offended.

pps. For me, the authority and inspiration of scripture is a “die for” doctrine. All authority and truth comes from Jesus, passed to the apostles, who then wrote it down. If He was and is God as the apostles claimed He said, surely He is powerful enough to have overseen the writings. As all but one book of the Old Testament is referenced or cited in the New as authoritative the church has historically accepted all 66 books as divinely inspired. All of true doctrine flows from a right understanding of scripture. If, as some claim, it is just a man-made book, then it has no authority and no claim to be truth or even true. In that case, we could not trust any of it including Jesus’ own story.

You’re Worthless… and Other Lies

You’re worthless!…

When are you going to grow up?…

Why can’t you be like your brother??…

You’re such a failure…

The world would be a better place without you…

 

These words hurt. A lot. But they are not the words of a cruel father to his son. They are not the words of a wife to her husband. They are not even the words of an enemy.

They are the words that flow through my mind on an all too often basis.

BUT, they are LIES!

You see, I’m broken. We all are in some ways. My particular brokenness (at least the one I’m disclosing here) is hard to describe to those who don’t deal with it in their life. But it’s very familiar to many of you. All my life I have overextended myself to do great things and then turned right around and sabotaged my efforts. I have heard those words echo in my ears countless times. Why?? What is wrong with me?? Am I insane? Why am I so happy one month and then so low the next?

About a year ago, while searching for an answer to this, I had a shocking revelation. I found a description of a disorder that seemed to fit. I even found a few places that had a self questionnaire…and I fit each marker….

Bipolar Disorder (also called Manic Depressive).

I go through cycles of being very up (manic) followed by times of being very down (depressive). The way I describe it is; when I’m in my upswing, I’m the king of the world and can do no wrong, and when I’m in my downswing, I’m the scum of the earth and can do nothing right. The problem comes when in my upswing I commit to more than I am truly capable of and then in my downswing I abandon all my projects and leave others hanging. That is when the lies come yelling in my brain….

What then is the answer for me? Go to a doctor and get prescribed a bunch of drugs? Just deal with it (that hasn’t worked by the way)? Just chuck it all and go be a hermit (sort of).

I decided I would go to God for the answer. And He gave me one! I can sum it up with the phrase ‘this too shall pass’. He taught me that most of the worst decisions I have made in my life were when I was at the extreme top or bottom of my cycle. So the answer to bad decisions is to not make them in a rush or without good counsel. He taught me to wait.

He taught me to question the thoughts in my head to see if they are true or not.

(I do understand that I have a fairly mild form of BPD, and that there are many people who need medications and specialized treatment… If you, or someone you love needs help, please find it as soon as possible.)

He taught me to see through the lies and to hear His response:

Me: You’re worthless!…

Jesus: Really? I died for a worthless man? No, I came to show you how truly marvelous you are to me!

Me: When are you going to grow up?…

Father: I’ll always think of you as my son. Just rest in me. Besides, I like kids!

Me: Why can’t you be like your brother??…

Jesus: Why would you want to? There is only one like you, and I love you!

Me: You’re such a failure…

Spirit: True, you failed in this instance and have made mistakes in others, but that is how I am teaching you to be more like Jesus. And when you see the tapestry of your life from this side… WOW!

Me: The world would be a better place without you…

Jesus: True, the ‘world’ would likely not notice if you were gone, But Lynn would… and Dustin… and Brendon… and Frank and Debbie… and Gordon and Kathy… and so many others I can’t even mention.

Special Note: Thoughts of self destruction are one of the markers of BPD. While I have never attempted or even seriously considered harming myself, thoughts similar to the last one above go through on a fairly regular basis.

For more information see here:

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

and here:

Bipolar disorder — sometimes called manic-depressive disorder — is associated with mood swings that range from the lows of depression to the highs of mania. When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts in the other direction, you may feel euphoric and full of energy. Mood shifts may occur only a few times a year, or as often as several times a day. In some cases, bipolar disorder causes symptoms of depression and mania at the same time.

Although bipolar disorder is a disruptive, long-term condition, you can keep your moods in check by following a treatment plan.

Truth, What is Truth?

 

Now that Easter is past for another year, there may be some who agree with Pilate:

What is Truth?

There are many claims bandied about whether Christianity should be believed or not:

  • It works
  • It is a fantasy
  • It makes a more stable culture
  • It is full of hypocrites
  • Just believe it
  • Only ignorant and backward people believe it.

But for any proposition, there is only one accurate question to start with:

Is it true?

Easter is the crowning point of the Gospel. We look to it as proof of the truths that Jesus proclaimed. If it is true then all the Gospel flows from it, if it is not true then we would be better off believing in a log! Or as the Apostle Paul said:

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
1 Corinthians 15:14-19 (NIV)

I’d like to take a look at the Resurrection by asking a series of yes/no questions. I’m not going to try to give proofs to them, for those proofs are easily discovered through a simple Google search on the internet.

Did Jesus rise from the dead?

No, He did not rise from the dead.

Was He crucified?

No, He was not.

Did He really exist?

No, He was a myth.

Yes, he was a good teacher who was misunderstood and became a legend.

We have the evidence of the New Testament that was written within 60 years of the events. We have existing copies that date to the 2nd century. The claim that it was written many centuries later is patently false.

We have evidence from outside the Bible that Christianity was in full swing long before any myth or legend surrounding Him could have formed. He lived around AD 30 and we have references to Him and to Christians in the latter part of the same century. If He lived and didn’t die, his disciples were the greatest hoaxters that ever lived.

Yes, He was crucified.

Did He die?

No. He passed out and revived later, then fooled His disciples into believing He had risen from the dead.

So, He endured a beating and crucifixion by the experts in inflicting pain and damage, then somehow appeared healthy enough to fool the men who knew Him best?

Yes. Then what happened to the body?

His disciples stole his body, either from the tomb or before and created the story of His rising.

According to church history, 11 of the 12 apostles ending up being martyred for what they taught. It is stretching credulity to believe none of them would recant what they knew to be a lie.

The disciples misplaced the body and fooled themselves into believing He had risen.

Why then didn’t the Jewish leaders just produce the body? Also, the disciples had watched Him die and reasonably thought they were next, why would they believe He had risen?

Yes, He rose from the dead, thus proving He was who He claimed to be.

So then, we are left with 3 choices about Jesus;

  • Legend
  • Lie
  • Lord

If he was a legend or a lie, then go on about your life and leave us poor deluded folk in our ignorance.

BUT if the resurrection happened, then the worst decision of your life would be to ignore it and pretend He doesn’t exist.

Waiting

Waiting…. Waiting…. Waiting….

It seems I spend a large portion of my time waiting. Waiting at customers. Waiting for dispatch. Waiting on life. I’m currently waiting for my truck to get out of the shop. And I don’t even have a firm time commitment when it will be ready. Waiting is frustrating. It means someone or something else is in control. It feels like a complete waste of my time.

But is waiting a waste? Only if I let it be. As with most things in life, my response determines whether my experience is positive or negative. If I choose to fret or get bored, if I let anger over my circumstances control me, then I will see waiting as a bad thing. But if I choose to redeem the time, to find creative ways to keep busy, then I can even learn to enjoy the wait. Most importantly, if I can learn to seek God and His message for me in the down time, then it can truly become a bit of heaven to me.

But what about the long term waiting? Waiting for a new career. Waiting for retirement. Waiting for healing. Waiting for a loved one to come to Christ. Waiting for heaven. Waiting when there is no clear idea of when (or if) the answer will come. Then the situation is truly and utterly out of my control. Do I hope in luck or chance? Do I try to arrange things to my design? Or do I choose to trust that God has a plan and will work to make that plan happen?

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:20 (NIV)

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5 (NIV)