Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Settling for less than the Truth about God's presence

I often read in people's prayers, jottings of scripture or encouragements to one another a quote from Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three have gathered in my name, I am there in their midst." This is most often quoted as a type of encouragement for people to ensure them that God recognizes their gathering in groups of at least 2-3 people and that He will be present when we gather in groups of at least that size.

We are settling when we look at this scripture in that light. If we read the context of this scripture, it is spoken specifically about church discipline and how the church should handle when people are outwardly living a lifestyle contrary to Biblical teaching, or when they are sinning against one another. When we use this scripture to encourage people that God will be with us, amongst us, we are selling the Truth of the Gospel short. This verse is way too powerful and promising for us to limit it to God being present when we gather in small groups. Besides the fact that Jesus promises at the end of the same book that He will be with us always even to the end of the age. So the actual promises of God are even better than the ones we often choose to lean on.

This scripture in Matthew is so much better than just saying God will be with us when we get together, He is promising us that when we are hurt, wounded, offended, sinned against that when we get together and pray that their prayer will be answered. How much more promising is this that God ensures that during the most difficult times of a Church, when people are actively living in sin and actively sinning against other people that prayer Will Be Done. It Will Be Answered, it Will Be Addressed, it Will Happen.

The principle that God is with us is true, but it's better than than. Jesus says that He is with us always, the Spirit is forever living inside of us, the Father is constantly without fail guiding and protecting us. When we are in groups of twos and threes and especially when we are alone. How much greater is the promise that when you are alone, rejected, hurting, afraid, in danger, persecuted, injured, that He is Always with you, always protecting, guiding and living inside of you. That is 1000 times better than the requirement that there must be two or three present.

The times we often need God's presence the most are when we are alone. Imagine those living in closed, hostile countries surrounded by tens of thousands of hostile individuals from other religions. No other believers for hundreds of miles. Can they be encouraged to know that God is present when another person or two are available for prayer? No, the Truth that He is always with us until the end of the age, the truth that He never leaves us, never forsakes us, never forgets us, is always present, always active, always knowing, always loving is so much better than the one we often quote out of context.

It is true that when two or three are gathered God is among them, but the greater, truer representation of that is that He is always there...

Friday, May 7, 2010

The importance of language

Language is very important when it comes to our beliefs. There are people who dismiss specific language to describe theological and philosophical beliefs as unimportant. They sometimes claim that the words we use to describe and define our faith are unimportant when compared to the significance of loving others. It is obvious that love is the highest virtue, and the one that should define all of our actions and attitudes, but the language and words we use or don't use to define our faith cannot be dismissed.

Language is so important because it shapes the way we perceive everything in our life. Our experiences are limited to a degree by the language we have or don't have to express those experiences. For example, children, as they are learning to speak have only a small vocabulary and thus can experience less about any given situation. This is prevalent in almost every area of life from scholarly issues to car mechanics. For those of us who are not highly educated about engines and car repairs, think how we describe problems with our vehicle to mechanics. I tend to say there is a knock, squeak, or bump in the engine. Then I will usually throw in some dramatic hand motions to get my point across. My ability to experience the situation with my car is limited by my understanding of the working and language of the engine. My mechanic will interpret my uneducated rambling as a loose fan belt, broken engine mount, or warped rotors. He takes my general words and puts form and function to them because he understands the language of engines and can more richly and specifically deal with the situation.

Our faith is the same way. Paul admonishes his churches to move beyond the "milk" of the Gospel to the "meat" of the Gospel. Grow beyond the childlike simple concepts to a deeper understanding and experience of Christ. When we dismiss theology and the significance of words, vocabulary, and specific terms, we are limiting our experience of God and our ability to grow in our faith.

We have large words in the Christian faith, justification, sanctification, glorification and so on. We shouldn't use these large words to confuse or exclude others, but if we dismiss our understanding of these terms as insignificant, we are choosing to say that our ability to understand God and our relationship with Christ is also insignificant.

Is everyone a scholar? No, that is not the point, the point is to pursue a relationship with Christ that includes being specific about the words we use. One last example, the major difference between Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormans, and Evangelical Christianity boils down to a few words. The difference between heaven and hell is the words we believe about Christ. Words are important, eternally so.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Presence of Morality Reveals Belief in God

CS Lewis and Ravi Zacharias would both agree that regardless of the religious affiliation of any individual and regardless of their personal beliefs about whether or not God exists, if anyone believes in the concept of good or bad, right and wrong, then they are belying their belief in God, or at least an objective standard of morality, and something that created that standard.

The idea is that if right and wrong, good and bad exist at all, then their must be a standard by which they are measured. You can't judge a crooked line if you have no concept of a straight one. (CS Lewis in Mere Christianity.) If you believe in morality, then you are stating your belief in a standard of Truth, an absolute, otherwise there is no absolute standard of morality, thus there is no right and wrong. If all truth is relative, and all morality is relative, then there is no way to judge someone as doing wrong. Most people, including atheists, agnostics, and nonreligious would agree that morally reprehensible things such as genocide, rape, and child abuse are all wrong. But to say that these are wrong is to admit that there is a standard by which they are judged, which is to admit that there is an absolute truth, namely morality.

If there is no absolutes, then none of the aforementioned crimes can be condemned as wrong because to the individual committing them, they wouldn't be considered wrong. I know some will argue that outside of God, morality exists to the extent that you don't cause harm to your neighbor and that such a belief doesn't require a belief in absolutes. I think that the mere statement of that is an absolute otherwise the definition of "harm" could be any number of things the same way without an absolute "right" or "wrong" could be anything. Harm to one person could be different to another.

It seems to me that Lewis and Zacharias are correct (an odd statement considering their intellect is exponentially greater than mine.) The presence of a belief about morality, or such a thing as "good" and "bad" is to admit that their is an absolute standard, and as such something must have created that standard. To be an atheist and believe in morality seems to be a contradiction in philosophies that is irreconcilable.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The necessity of intercession and prayer.

God is in the process of re-revealing to me the absolute necessity of intercessory prayer in my life. I say re-revealing because I believe this to be a lesson He has taught me deeply in the past that I have allowed to fall by the way. I say that prayer and intercession is necessary for everyday life because at the most fundamental level prayer not only connects us to God more deeply, reveals His desires and will towards us, but one of the most primary purposes of it is for us to recognize our dependence on God for all things.

Different passages in the Bible illuminate that God is the author, originator, sustainer, and causal purpose behind things as "trivial" as feeding the sparrows, causing the grass to grow, and adorning the flowers with their beauty. When we pray and intercede for ourselves and others, we are recognizing that the strength to accomplish all of the activities in a day doesn't originate from us. We are not the authors of change or cause and effect in the world. We are acted upon by God, provided for by God, strengthened and fulfilled by God. God supplies all of the strength, energy, intellectual capacity to do everything throughout the course of our daily lives. Prayers attribute these things to Him. By not praying, and being seemingly "independent" sends a message to God and the rest of the world that we have (and originate) what we need (strength, gifts, intelligence, time) to do all of the normal and extraordinary happenings during our day.

1st Peter 4:11 says: Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever, amen.

It is quite obvious that whoever supplies the strength or capacity to "do" things gets the credit for their being accomplished. Which is why prayer is so important. It is a declaration that God is the one who is giving the strength to accomplish daily tasks, so He rightly deserves the credit. Prayer is humbling for all of us, its a way of recognizing the truth about abilities, talents, and resources. God supplied them all, so when we do things all day (or week) without requesting strength to "do" them, we are rejecting the Truth that God is the supplier of the ability to go to work, take care of the kids, pay the bills, and so on and so forth.

We need to make prayer a habit, a daily hourly habit of asking God for help and assistance. He provides it so often that we begin to feel entitled to it and spurn the gift that His assistance is. How much easier, smoother, and truer are all of our activities that are bathed in prayer for the strength to see them done. I think you will find yourself with much more freedom, both in humility of actions and attitudes, and the ease with which all activities come when we don't have to be the one who provides all of the energy, finances, and strength to accomplish them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I just recently started Mere Christianity again and Lewis's ability to communicate rationale, emotions, and logic through the English language is always mind boggling. I have been convicted lately that I need to spend significantly more time in intercessory prayer and reading. I am convinced that I need to use my time more efficiently because even though the time in this life seems long and endless, I'm going to wake up one day wondering where my life has gone and realize that I didn't make the choices necessary to take me where I wanted to go. So I am going to actively try to carve out time in my schedule for reading and study and intercessory prayer.

Its funny how much time goes by when you aren't intentionally planning what to do with it. It is so easy to sit in front of the TV for an hour or so just watching a couple of shows and not even know where the time has gone. Stay tuned for more thoughts soon to come...