Monday, March 29, 2010

More of Fire and Grace

Just a reminder to my regular readers that I am going to cut back a little - maybe 3 or possibly 4 times a week. For those that haven't had a chance to read along for 3 + years, there are hundreds of blogs that I have written in the archives by date and topic. I also have my Top 100 most read as well. And don't forget I am a regular poster over at Kingdom Bloggers. Happy Easter week. David

Friday, March 26, 2010

Love - When is it Not Enough? Burning Questions #1

I am on my new blog schedule. I get to sit here in the atrium with plastic flowers and cheesy elevator music - well if the cell phone screamers are not around -I can hear the music of someones life, not mine. Do you think Crazy Train would sound good on classical guitar and flute?

I was thinking about things that people get passionate about. Have you wondered why some subjects like killing babies or "a woman's right to choose" get people wound up and other topics like ping-pong balls and lint don't?

Here is a burning burning question I see in various forms out there in the blog-o-sphere. I am going to do a "Burning Questions" series - so be sure to suggest some if you like.

Why is it some folks think love is letting someone do whatever they want?

Isn't freedom of choice just that, the choice to do as we will? (Don't you hate folks that answer questions with questions?) There are lots of ways to look at love - but today I want to focus on love in relationship to our behavior.

When there is a conflict, one side often wants justice while the other wants grace. Regardless, love should be able to appease both sides, don't you think? Locally, a teenager killed someone driving drunk at last years prom. He was sentenced to 6 months. You can weigh in if you want to.

There are a whole list of offenses that we could name from violent crimes to non-violent thefts along with a host of "not so big a deal" type actions such as lying or "salty" language. How do you treat your kids (or your family members) if they talk back, steal gum at the variety store, hit the neighbor with a stick, smoke pot, or are involved in a teenage pregnancy? What is the loving thing to do?

On the flip side, do we have to love those that talk back to teachers, flip us off in traffic, steal our car, sell our kid drugs or get our them pregnant? What is the loving thing to do to them?

Call it what you want, ethics, morality, grace, love - what is it, that would cause you to "let it go," and respond in a loving way? What's your threshold for hate (assuming that is the opposite of love)? What can someone do to you before you stop loving them (maybe you never started), or even hate them?

All religions and most philosophies answer; or try to answer the question: What do I deserve in life and in the afterlife?

The truth is this, if there is no God, who the hell cares? Conversely, what if there was a God, how could he be so fickle and inconstant to mange Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and the other various major world religions? Is it 72 virgins or a city, coming back as a cow or streets of gold?

What if God is love, and we don't do it, does he have to continue to love us? I'm just asking.

If love = happiness, or love = lack of conflict, or love = feeling good, or parental love = permissiveness, then what if what makes you happy, infringes on my space and makes me unhappy? Who's right? And what if compromise makes us both unhappy? It is probably different for every one. Especially if we have "done the crime," or are a "victim of the crime."

One of the very best principals in Christianity (and most religions with a god) is that God treats everyone exactly the same. Jesus is perfect in love, perfect in discipline, perfect in justice, perfect in mercy and thankfully slow to anger. Everyone is offered forgiving grace or eternal separation. It's is a choice (IMHO a good deal too!).

The problem for most folks is that punishment of any kind, but especially the eternal kind, seems unfair. The truth is that God punishes all sin. Every lie, every careless word as well as the "big ones" like rape and murder. God's holiness demands 100% purity (in His eyes, not yours). The good news is that Jesus paid the price (was put to death, not instead, but in place of you) for the sins of mankind. If you don't like the Lake of Fire (eternal torment or separation from God), remember that it was not supposed to be for human kind. I was made for Satan and his band of disobedient demons where they would be destroyed.

What should God do if you go off on your spouse causing emotional damage? How about throwing a co-worker under that bus at your review so that you can get his job? Let's see: cheating on income taxes, watching pornography, buying lottery tickets, "keying" a car because they blocked you in, or swearing at the bank teller? All of these are sin in God's book. Maybe you're cool with lottery tickets, but what about those that get addicted to gambling causing torment to their families, what should God do with them?

For many, they would like to be seen as good, or "not as bad as" someone they think is morally worse than them. There is a lot of lip service to be tolerant, to do the right thing, to do what's moral or ethical - etc. It is so ridiculous, that it seems having a job that makes money for someone else is "bad" in the eyes of some. We seem to want to give the power of personal choices which reward hard work over to the government - that is how we will get to the End Times.

Unfortunately love is portrayed as a feeling much more often than an action, as if our emotion should be the rule of law instead of common sense and thoughtful premeditated action. HERE is more on Love. In the final analysis love is a choice that you or I make. It is also one that God makes. It is up to us to receive it by faith - to receive the perfect righteousness of Christ, or not.

If you really think about it, the whole business of love, morality and sin is kind of silly - well, unless there is a Holy God.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The State of the Union

Today, and now every day, I am more limited to the amount of time that I have to write blogs. It is good and bad. Increased security at work means little or no access to the web which means I have to fire up a laptop when I have a chance - three floors away. On the other hand, social-not-working at work was probably a bad idea anyway.

This week has me thinking about lots of things. Health care, church, music, work, kids and retirement. So here is the run down.

Kids should make a lot more money so their parents don't have to kick in so much, so often. I feel bad for one of mine that is up to her eyeballs in student loans, and another that is weeks away from being able to pay for her car repairs. My 6-year-old is pretty good with the dough, she spends what she has so that she doesn't have t0 "keep it clean," or put it away. She is mad at the bank because they stole her money she wanted to get a doll with.

It is an interesting season for church - personally I feel like something is happening for me in the spirit. I can't quite describe it, but some pieces are coming together. More on that when I get a little clarity and few minutes to put my thoughts together.

Rehearsal last night was smoking. I like playing loud!

I am on a new learning path at work. I am enjoying the fact that I have time to learn some new technology for a short season. The good news is this might be the last major knowledge overhaul before I retire. Yippee. I do like learning, but I can think of a lot of other things that I would rather learn about.

And finally health care. I am disappointed as an independent voter that we got such a bad deal - which includes some things that I was hoping we would get. I think we went too far, and the process of getting there was very slimy. Top that off with less then half of all Americans even wanting this thing, and you can see why there is so much anger.

There are 2,500 pages of law, and it's going to take some time to see what is really in there. 10% tax in tanning salons. Way to go. And I am not buying the CBO quote regardless of how non-partisan they are. Garbage in = Garbage Out. In 20 years this thing is going to to be so far out of control, that is will be costing nearly 40% or more of our income.

I think the biggest disappointment is this whole thing is Bart Stupak and the spineless pro-lifers. But that's just me.

Here are a couple of blogs about it - Tony C Today, Southern Illinois Catholic, and The Church of No People.

How about you, what have you been thinking about this week?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

So What's Next?

In listening to Christians around the world, I have discovered a few things. One, the church has caused a bit of damage. I find that sad. Two, church goers are looking for something that is life giving. And three, the patented formulas for church growth are leaving a lot of folks feeling lonely.

Online there is a lot of noise about how hypocritical the church is, the scandals and abuses - and the naysayers are still talking about the crusades! Bill Marr, and Elton John can't seem to spew enough hate to go around. And then you have the Larry King preachers like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren who can't even spit out a simple gospel when they have an audience. It's a good thing Jesus doesn't need a PR agent.

I actually don't think it is possible to change the image of the church enough so that people notice. It's seems like it is always going to be about money and bad character.

I have a lot Christian friends through blogging, Facebook, and some other social media. Most are not attending, or are marginally attending church. What is it going to take for a real pastor to leave the damn offering basket on the pew, and go looking for the lost sheep?

What is is going to take to stop all the programs, and church analytics and just love people and preach a simple gospel? For a church that has seen major moves of God in Toronto, Brownsville and other places, where is all that power? Are we still going to conferences to get a buzz, or are we putting our prophetic words and anointed insight to use?

I don't know about you, but I am hungry and thirsty for more, for deeper; for Jesus.

And lastly, I am finding folks that are lonely even in church. Folks that have real stuff going on, and need a friend. What they've seen is a lot of lip service for the Kingdom, and not a lot of action. Do you have a few committed Christian friends? I don't mean Facebook buddies, I mean flesh and blood folks that look forward to hanging out with you.

If we look at the damage that church has caused, we can see that men fail. But can't we see that Jesus doesn't? If we are hungry and thirsty, what are we willing to do to get in God's presence? If we are lonely, can we take a minute to see hat type of friend we have been.

How about you, what's next for you? Have you been hurt in church? How are you going to fix it? Are you thirsty, where are you going to get your next drink? Are you lonely, how are you going to meet your next friend? What's your next step? Tell me about it.

Psalm 107:9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Did God Really Say That?

After a nearly full day in court last Thursday, I am ready to be a lawyer - for Jesus! Not that Jesus needs my help, or defense skills. One of the things that intrigues me about the Bible is that so many folks do not appear to have read the Best Selling Book of All Time! Ouch! Therefore; I suspect that there are some things that they don't know about God.

It's true that most Christians have never read the entire Bible, and readership is dropping quickly. HERE are the stats.

But I don't really want to talk about the Bible today. I want to talk about what's NOT in the Bible. Here's a list of stuff that people seem to accept as members of Team Jesus, that are quite possibly man made traditions. To view them as "requirements" and " biblical mandates," they can certainly get us off track.

Church Membership - If you are a Christian by faith in Jesus, you are a member of an eternal order of saints - umm you'll spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus. Look, there are a lot of wise men telling us we need to sign up, belong, take memberships classes etc. There is no biblical precedent for it. Just because people gathered together in the New Testament, doesn't mean they "signed up" or signed bylaws or pledge cards. Membership forces those who want to belong to "agree" with the governing body, or local church.

If you want to commit your tithes and offerings to a church because you feel led, or have your name in a church directory, I say go for it. Giving and relationship are excellent expressions of biblical Christianity! On the contrary, if you you are required or forced to take certain classes to become a member, I say run for your life.

Don't hear what I am not saying. It is good to know what your church is all about; what their vision is, their passion, who the leaders are and what ministries are available to you, and where you can get involved. Information is good, especially when you are new.

Having requirements for membership is wrong. I have seen churches where you must agree to things like no woman in ministry, tithing and other requirements that you may not agree with. Is the church afraid that you are going to embarrass them if you aren't saved? How do they know anyway?

Isn't having faith in Jesus enough to be a Christian?

Church Bylaws and Charters - These can get a little shady. Bylaws are often mans way of putting God in a box, and maintaining control. I understand that they are an attempt to embody a religious institution's so called "statement of faith." My experience is they seem to produce ineffective committees and voting on certain issues.

Wouldn't you agree, that the Bible is the ONLY authoritative text for the church?

The bottom line, is READ THEM. My experience, with even some very good churches, is that there are some issues lurking in the file cabinet that just might be man made rules. How to choose a new pastor, search committees, church discipline, moral failure, administrative tasks, finances, banking ad nauseum. Most bylaws reiterate and condense biblical mandates, but not always.

Agreeing to a creed, such as the Nicene Creed or Apostles Creed is simply stating faith in biblical principals. There is nothing wrong with statements of faith, outlining certain beliefs and principals that a church upholds. I just don't think that I would sign and date one.

I also realize that there are some legal documents required to operate church, the favored one in the 501(c)3 tax exempt status. Even this, can limit expression of true faith in some cases. It does not allow pastors to preach or endorse any candidates for elections, for example. In the state of Massachusetts licensed ministers had to fill out a questionnaire regarding their stance on gay marriage.

It is easy to lose focus on biblical principals.

Requirements for Leaders - There are a couple of lists in the Bible that pertain to the qualities of leaders. I have to say they are pretty lofty, why would we need any extras?

1 Timothy 3
- 1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money . . .

Titus 1:5-12 - An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. . .

Pastoral Authority - Out of the Vineyard movement can a "one man, one vision" as opposed to a Presbyterian type of church government. The pastor, a central figure in every local church has been turned into somewhat of a CEO. I am not so sure this was the original intention, for one man to rule the local church, overseeing a board of elders.

Ephesians 4:11 is pretty clear about what the church is all about. (I have written about it a lot HERE.) And even in that, some try to make an apostle a CEO over the pastor/VPs of local congregations. I'm sorry, the corporate view of church is wrong. I see the 5 roles outlined in the above text as co-equals. They work together to bring in the harvest and provide care and feeding for the local congregation.

One would then ask the question, who has the last say if there are 5 co-equals? God!

Para-Church Ministries - No where in the Bible is there a ministry that is not connected to a church. No where. The problem with non-church or para church ministries, and so called "coverings" is that believers were meant to be sent out from a church.

Christians ask, "Who is my covering?" The word covering has not generally been found in historic Christian literature, but it has been brought to people's attention through the teachings of the shepherding movement that was popular in the 1970's and 1980's.

I am sure there are many well run, and accountable non-church Christian entities. Personally, I am concerned when there is no accountability to a local pastor or leadership. There doesn't seem to be someone to confess your sins to, and all run the risk of failing because there is not a diversity in leadership, or gifting.

If we look at the 5-Fold model outlined in Ephesian chapter 4, we see the the apostles and prophets worked together to be a foundation or start up duo which would find a pastors, teachers and evangelists.

Once a church was planted and the foundation was set, these apostles and prophets would move on to a new work (and keep in touch with the old one). They were sent out from the work that was previously started.

Even the church center of Antioch, probably the most mature in the Bible, was not surrounded by satellite ministries. Those that were welcomed by the church, we are also welcomed in other locations.

And if you want to be covered, I suggest the shadow of the Almighty.

The Stand-Sit-Kneel-Music-Preach Service - I suppose the modern church service is a best of service that has turned into a formula. Christians took the best portions of a spirit-filled service and tried to recreate that in some sort of liturgy to preserve them, and in the end, to make things kind of boring.

1 Corinthians 26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

So what do you do if your services don't have tongues, prophecies and interpretations? I suppose you might want to earnestly desire them. (1 Cor 14:1)

But there are lots of other things that you can do in church.
- Shout Psalm 98
- Sing Psalm 98
- Play Music Psalm 98
- Clap Psalm 47
- Sit Luke 24:6
- Kneel Psalm 95:6
- Ask Questions Luke 24:6
- Fall into a Trance Acts 22:17
- Trumpet - 2 Chronicles 2:28
- Fall (slain) - Numbers 22:31, Judges 13:20, Ezekiel 1:28, Ezekiel 3:23, Ezekiel 43:3, Ezekiel 44:4, Daniel 8:17 and Matthew 17:6
- Pray 1 Kings 8:33

Other Authoritative Texts - The 66 books of the Bible called the canon, are it. There are no other scriptures, or sacred texts unless you have a copy of the Paul's 3rd letter to the Corinthians.

These 66 books are as authentic as you can get. Although there is a lot of controversy as mortal man tries to wrap his little mind around God breathed text. Be certain, for those the search for it like treasure (Proverbs 2), the Bible carries the very heart of God, the road to salvation and the walk of holiness. To the educated, the Scriptures are fallacy, to the logical, they defy logic, to the wicked they are a torment, to the foolish they are useless, but to he Christian, born again of water and Spirit, they are life giving, problem solving, love letters from an almighty God that answers prayer and keeps His promises.

As long as there has been Christianity, there have been Christian writers such as myself. There is nothing that we can add to the original Bible in terms of the revelation of the kingdom of God. Nothing. Christian writers are more about teaching and opening the word of God to others, as well as explaining Bible texts, and references.

Things like the Book of Mormon, books published by the Way Ministry and others are not God, and not authoritative. Period.

Buildings - Before Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a legal religion in 313, christian were part of a "city church." The church in Rome, or Corinth, or Ephesus for example. Sometimes they met in synagogues, and certainly they met in homes. They did not have their own legally owned buildings until that 4th century.

As anyone can plainly see, the church building has become a Christian center, and the pulpit has become and icon for the authority in church, but is it always God? What about the city church - the church at New York or the church at Boston or the church at Tacoma? Are they unified? Or has having their own building, caused the city church structure to fail?

Watchman Nee was a fan of the city church. He believed that believers should share locally with one another in every aspect of church life. Divisions are simply that, and Paul warned against them many times. He also warned against following a man, not matter who anointed he was.

Denominations - The Bible consistently describes city churches. I read a blog a while back and it said, "churches are archives for old ideas." I am not denomination bashing, but isn't that what denominations are, archives of doctrine from previous evangelists , theologians and anointed men and woman of God?

I understand they were started to preserve the revelation and worship style of the founders. They have also preserved a lot of Christian doctrine that is useful along with a some man-made traditions that are not.

I guess I just think that we have gotten very religious over the centuries, and that we could be in line to end like the Pharisees; lots of godly behavior and hearts that are far from Him.

Are you close to God? What do you need to be satisfied with your relationship with Jesus? Could you live without the Bylaws, the buildings and the denominations?

Friday, March 19, 2010

I Love the Flippin Church!

One of my readers asked if I like anything about the church. Whoah!?! It was a good question. I have to admit, some days I feel like the church is the biggest dysfunctional family on earth. But beyond all that, God is on the throne, and the Kingdom is at hand. If He wasn't I would have left the church a long time ago.

Here is what I love about church:

Outrageous Worship - Musical worship is a joy for me personally. I like to stand up, to rock back and forth, sing, shout, pray, and I have enjoyed dancing in the presence of the Lord too. I can't describe it, but there is a presence that is different in each worship service - when it's God, it's fresh and exciting. Some times the lyrics become part of my soul; touching things that have been hidden for too long. Other times I just sing the syllables that come to my lips. My preferred style of music is the one in which God shows up in His manifest presence. From Matt Redman, Burn Service, Tim Hughes, Michael W. Smith and Third Day to cathedral pipe organs, if God is in it, I love it.

I think it's easy to show up and join in for a song service. But without touching God, it's just music, and that's not good enough. If it is only about music, it could be Ozzy Osborn. This is just one of the many places that we can get religious where our hearts are far from Him.

Communion - The Lord's Supper is particularity wonderful. It is not always a "wow" moment, but it is an intimate moment with my God. Maybe it's my Anglican heritage, but I love communion, the fancy kind; high church, breaking bread with others, or the bread and juice sitting by the ocean, the altar, or quietly at home. I love the Brazilian tradition of feeding your brother or sister in Christ. The remembrance of Jesus, and His work on the cross for me tends to stop the world for a few moments. It is always a good time to "get right with God'." I know a lot of Protestants only do it once a month, but if God's in it, every day is fine with me.

My most memorable time was at my wedding with Mary Anne. The musicians sang Holy and Anointed One and His presence was amazing.

Altar Calls - I love altar calls - especially the anointed ones where people come to Christ. I think they can be kind of threatening, so they have to be God. When He's there, I even like the ones for impartation, for healing and for more of God. Altar calls are a chance to respond to God and connect with what He is doing. If we do not respond to God we end up in a very religious rut that will go no where fast.

There are certainly lots of different styles. The classic "every eye closed, every head bowed" is sort of dated - but when the anointing is present, it doesn't really matter what is said. If the King is in the House, I want to be there.

The Anointing - The flowing of God's Holy Spirit, His manifest supernatural power, it is the very tangible evidence that God is real, and His power is present to work in some way that He chooses. For example it could be for healing, a miracle, to bring forth a word of prophecy, knowledge or wisdom. It could be for casting out a demon or two, making the pages of the Bible alive to your spirit, inspiring a teaching or bringing conviction to the lost. Without it, nothing happens but regular old religion, and that is a killer.

Isaiah 10:27 (KJV) And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.

It is the anointing of God that breaks off the opposition of the devil, and that is what sets us free indeed!

The Gifts in Action - I can enjoy a good sermon, or evangelist preach from the platform, not that I need to be saved again. I love to watch God at work. The gifts and callings of the church are found here: 1 Corinthians 12:4-13, Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11. When the BODY of Christ (not the spiritual super star) comes together for the work of God so many things can happen. Without gifting in the church, little will be done for the Kingdom. You and I are the chosen vessels of God's anointing as it is expressed in the spiritual gifts and callings of the church.

The Presence of God - I have had so many experiences, it would be hard to list them all in one volume, never mind a small section of blog. When I got saved God came in an amazingly sweet way, receiving my fumbling words: my acknowledgment of a 19-year self pity trip, and my need for unconditional love - it was all there in the moment I believed. A few years later when I got Baptized in the Holy Spirit, it was very quiet, I just was able to feel an internal power surge that has never left me, not matter how far fro God I got.

There were other times when I felt the need to repent; to just get on my knees and cry out. One time I stood, knees shaking in awe of the Lord. Another time I sat in the presence as a single candle burned on the altar, quietly and powerfully he filled the sanctuary.

The presence of God can't be put in a box, or a formula. He brings a vast array of ways in which he touches us - joy, peace, conviction, love, and more. Each experience is unique, personal, powerful, and relationship building. I have experienced the presence of the Lord and smelled frankincense, lilies and roses. That is what I love about my Father, He comes, and I receive.

Signs and Wonders - The Bible says that the ministry of God will be followed by signs and wonders preformed by those that believe in Him.

Hebrews 2:4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

God is not into parlor tricks, but for the faithful, signs and wonders are an unmistakable mark or an almighty God.

Testimonies - I love testimonies - not the rambling coincidence kind, but the "I was sick and now I am well," "I was an addict and now I 'm clean," "I was a hooker and my life is changed," "I was in prison and came to Christ," "I was lost, and now I'm found!"

How about you, what do love about church, about God, about His people?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Jury is Out and I'm It - And a Few Speeding Stories

Tomorrow at 8 o'clock I start a jury duty assignment; my civic duty. Who knows what that will entail. It could be hours or months, or anything in between.

I don't really like court, and for good reason. Not to mention it is just not as romantic as in Law & Order.

I doubt that anyone enjoys court unless they have sure case to settle for a lot of money. I find that court is stressful, dirty, and there is a certain authoritarian feeling that I don' t have the words to describe. You might be thinking, how much experience does he have with court? In some respects, much more than I'd like to admit.

In 1976 I got a speeding ticket; 51 in a 35. I decided to fight it. The fine at the time was $25 and in my own mind, I should get off. Until that day, I was a court-virgin of sorts. I met with the magistrate and he decided that I was a long-haired nuisance. He sort of threatened me - "well, you'll be a fool if you go in front of the judge." He said. I paid the ticket.

I had attended college in another state (not mentioned for good reason). Of all the kids on my floor, I was the most sober of the bunch and one of the guys gave me the keys to his Porsche Turbo. Dumb idea for him, and dumber for me. I ran that cops after they clocked me at 121 in a 25. They caught up with the car, and eventually me, the next morning. I lied and said didn't see them. I received a ticket for a court appearance and promptly left the state. That was one court I wasn't looking forward to.

I had a similar experience 2 years later. This time I got the ticket that was originally $80 down to $35. The magistrate seemed pleased that my defense was a "poor stupid college student admitting to doing 46 in 25 mph zone" instead of saying that I wasn't going that fast - which was technically the truth. I had been late for school and I speeding along at 61 in a 25. The cop had pity on me as I would have lost my drivers license. He lowered the speed to 46 and that dropped the mandatory court appearance; reduced a fine of no less than $300 and a 30 day suspension - it all went away.

In 1993 I had lost my job, and ended up in an eviction hearing. It was humiliating, but the Lord was with me. The judge was very kind, and his verdict was actually an answer to prayer. We had a couple of hearings as God moved on my behalf and supplied a miraculous solution. More on that story another time. All I can say is that court in your favor or not, is still not a friendly place.

Fast forward (pun intended) to 1997. I had bought a new BMW and was zipping along some back roads being; mister big-shot businessman in my newly polished roadster. Just as I shifted second gear I saw that police coming the other way. I slammed on the brakes, but it was too late - 61 in a 40. I quietly took my ticket and proceeded home with caution.

I decided to fight the ticket and headed off to court. As I sat before the magistrate, the Lord spoke to me. He said, "you'll be here many more times, but I will be with you." I remember calling my friend and telling him about it. We were puzzled, but I thought it would be because of something that I did for the Lord.

I got off on the ticket. The judge said a speeding ticket was nothing to get excited about and I had a clean record as of late.

I thought a lot about Paul and Silas, and those jailed for the Gospel message. Each time I traveled on a mission trip or did a public out reach (sounds almost foreign, doesn't it?) I though about that message from God. To date there have been no incidents involving me and court that include the gospel.

In 2000 my wife (now ex) filed for divorce and I had more appearances before a judge than I can count. On one of the very stressful appearances I was praying as I was purchasing crackers from the vending machine and I heard the Lord. He reminded me of what I had heard a few years before. And there I stood, at peace. His promise was simply letting me know that He was there, and He was in charge. I felt total peace as I went back and sat on the bench.

Amazingly, I was back in the court for a child support adjustment in 2006. I heard his promise again. "It is over." For over 4 years - nothing.

Today I am sitting around waiting to see if I would be called for for jury but it doesn't look likely. And honestly, that is fine with me. I prefer Law & Order.

How about you, do you hear God's voice? Tell us about it.

Why Would I Want to do THAT!?

I was thinking over life now that a couple of major projects are completed at work, the daughters three are enrolled in school, Yaris 3 is almost repaired and the sun has returned after a Nor' Easter dumped as much as 10 inches of rain on us in 4 days. I thank God is wasn't snow.

Today it's St. Patrick's Day.

I talked to Mary Anne about living a simple life on a farm somewhere a lot warmer than Boston. We've laid out a retirement plan that hopefully includes not working. ;o) There isn't much holding us here and the cost of living is just plain stupid.

Some days I feel trapped by the rats, and occasionally I get a few days off an run one of them over.

Rick Warren spent a lot of time writing and teaching on the Purpose Driven Life. I was reviewing those purposes listed below. I am not a huge fan of Warren since his flip-flop on Prop 8 in CA and I find his stuff sort of elementary. It is however; engaging for the average American trying to eek out a Christian existence. Even so, I thought there was something deeper in his thoughts than he was able to articulate in his books and videos.

I see it as sort of a checklist for the average Christian (What is that? HERE are the essentials.). As always, I try to see if there is a message in there for me; maybe one that will resonate with you as well. So here is my personal purpose evaluation.

1: You Were Planned for God's Pleasure (Worship) - Worship services or corporate worship is pretty standard in these parts: music, giving, sermon and a chance to get prayer if you want. I see that as more spectating than actually worship. Everybody has a different idea of what worship is. I see it as a chance to give to God whatever we have, a praise, an offering, a song, a prayer, or at least an open heart.

2: You Were Formed for God's Family (Fellowship) - A lot of folks would see this as hobnobbing with fellow believers. I guess that is accurate to some degree. It maybe includes a small group, a Bible study, or a church picnic.

3: You Were Created to Become Like Christ (Discipleship) - this is the path to making a solid believer who is part of something. Disciples are passed just being being "saved" as that is just not enough for them. They are learning to eat meat, not just drink milk. Hopefully they are being trained, and taught for the works that God has prepared for them to step into.

4: You Were Shaped for Serving God (Ministry) - lots of churches would have some list of church programs to fill, and a pastor's vision to fulfill. Churches are filling slots, how about you, do you want a job serving God?

5: You Were Made for a Mission (Mission) - this is the path of maturity that hopefully we'll stay on until the last trumpet.

It all seems to so easy; progressive in fact. But any Christian knows that even the simplest of instructions can be hard. Truthfully, I find the standardized church-in-a-box stuff boring. (What is church anyway?) That said, here is my take on Warren's principals of purpose.

Worship - radically abandoned to God. Communicating our imperfect passion and love to the King. It is listening for His response anywhere, any time or any place. Communion of the Spirit; deep calling deep - a presence so profound that we are intoxicated - stepping outside of time and reaching for heaven. Drinking in the Living Water or prostrate at the altar of cleansing fire. Passion so deep that our spirit cries out for His. We are undone.

Fellowship - in the Spirit as John was on the Lord's day. A loving communion of friends who drop just about anything to be there in your time of need. Fellowship with those that pray for you, think of you, and hear God for your life. Ones who become close as David and Jonathon.

Discipleship - Growing in maturity and grace - mentored by those that bring out your spiritual gifting, lovingly point out your faults, and bring revelation, character and maturity to your life. The cycle of training and being trained, growing and eventually equipping others.

Ministry - Using your gifts in an accountable and responsible way to build the church, and bring others into fellowship with Christ. Fulfilling the call of God on your life. Setting aside talent for anointing, and programs for for seeing what the Father is doing, then doing it.

Mission - Be all that God has made you, and look for every opportunity to be yourself. Our mission is to be Christ like. Like John the Baptist we need to decrease so that He can increase. The true mission of the church is make Jesus visible, and the church invisible.

Being a Christian a very personal journey, yet we need others to walk it with us. Even Paul, while in chains, had those that came to serve him.

How about you, what's personal worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission all about?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Top Hot-Button Issues in Church (With Ratings)

Today I am a guest blogger over at Abundant Living where Tracy has tossed her religious sensibilities to the wind.

On the steps of St. John's Episcopal Church in Essex, Father Thomas told one of his parishioners that I was his friend and resident smart-alec (he actually used another word - but this is a nice blog - Tracy is a nice person). Now that we have that out of the way, I'd like to thank Tracy for inviting me to share some drivel on her dime.

I have been around the Christian church for a long time - heard all the blasphemies and heresies you can imagine. IMHO, I may have created a few myself. I have written about the Top 10 Stupidest Things Christians Do, Things I Hate About Christianity, the 10 Commandments for Facebook, and my most popular blogs are about Poor Folks, and The Cost of Following Jesus.

In my most sarcastic style (which my wife won't let me use at home), I thought I would debut with the 10 most popular hot-button issues in church today. If I go down in flames, it's Tracy's blog not mine. ;o)

When church folk bring up one of the following topics, it can be like a space shuttle launch with Scriptures flying everywhere - sure to call for a secret elders rendezvous, a deacon's vote - or at least, a line item on this years "business meeting" agenda.

1 Worship Volume - too loud, to soft, can't hear the guitar, can you turn off Squeakly's mic? - "I'm a sound engineer, let me set the board up." "Don't touch anything, it's set to record the sermon!" There aren't too many solutions here. You can worship Jesus, or pop in a couple of ear-buds to listen to August Burns Red on your iPod like the teenagers do.

I rate this 1 devil as a hot-button issue in church.

1 Devil

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

2 Kids Church - why are we always looking for Sunday School teachers? Because the trouble makers that make this such a fun job to volunteer for, are probably our kids. One of the reasons we are at church is that we need some rest, right? Sometimes the need for teachers is so urgent, we have a pulpit prayer announcement. "Lord we pray for teachers with a heart for the children... snot wipers and diaper changers. And bless our week Lord, in Jesus' name." Can't we suffer our kids to someone else?

2 Devils

Mark 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

3 Coffee - you would think that Starbuck's just found out their coffee was being picked by study abroad students in chain gangs. The very moment someone in the church finds a coffee pot that was not plugged in, pouring out the first cup of lukewarm tap water, the whole church comes to a screeching halt like cars on a foggy freeway in Southern California. Sunday is ruined, sermons are forgotten and there is hell to pay.

3 Devils

Acts 20:19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested . .

4 Singles Group - how is it that the person that hasn't had a date in 3.5 hours could think that God called them to lead this group? A replay of the Fellowship Hall surveillance camera reveals the motives of the heart. And for the pot-luck mixer, I suggest casting lots for the seating arrangement.

2 Devils

1 Corinthians 7:9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

5 Pastor's Salary - why should a pastor with a masters degree make more than someone stocking shelves at the local supermarket - after all he only works nights and weekends? And whose idea was it to take away his double-time pay on holidays? That's just not right.

3 Devils

1 Timothy 5:18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages."

6 Giving - from pledges to tithes, building funds to love offerings - the all mighty dollar will produce impassioned Christians in a heartbeat. To get brethren to be real about Christianity, I suggest passing the offering basket 2 or 3 times during a service, have an appeal for earthquake relief, followed up by a youth group bake sale in the lobby to benefit missions to Guatemala.

3 Devils

2 Corinthians 9 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

7 End Times - how is it that everyone seems to have a theory on what day Jesus is coming back? Each one with their own little piece of private insight. As Christian I think that we will know the seasons, not the day and the hour.
4 Devils

Matthew 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Matthew 24:5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

8 Sex - from the prudish to the "it's okay if you're in love" gang, nothing stirs up the church like the topic of sex in its various forms and perversions. You would think that with all the verses describing what godly sex is not, that we'd have a lot less debate about sex education, teen pregnancies and church discipline for the fallen.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders,drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

5 Devils

9 Spiritual Gifts
- nothing divides a church like the issue of speaking or praying in tongues. Is it God, is it the devil, should we do it unless there is an interpretation? What about prophecy and casting out demons, apostles and woman in ministry?

1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

9 Devils

10 God's Will for the Church
- like rams during mating season, there is no equal to church members butting heads like the topic of God's will for the church. Bible verses and opinions scatter like feathers in a fan. I read a blog recently that said that church is an archive for old ideas. With dozens of denominations, I am beginning to wonder if anyone has read the whole book?

Romans 8:14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

10 Devils

How about you, do you have any Hot-Button issues in church? What are they, and how would you rate them?

To read the rest, CLICK HERE.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Enemies of God - Why Religion Hurts the Church

Some years ago I had a friend who was a cop. One night he got a call and responded to a domestic disturbance call. A woman let him and his partner into the house. As they were interviewing her, the drunk husband showed up. He pulled up behind the police cruiser and came crashing through the door. The two cops easily took him down and had him cuffed.

When the enemies of God come against the Christians, the church and defy God himself, like the two policeman, He can take them down without incident.

Some Christians think like the Jews did in the time of Jesus and expect the Messiah to shatter every obstacle - eventually, on the last day, He will. The question is this: is that realistic? Didn't David, Daniel, Moses, Gideon, and 13 of the 14 apostles have battles to fight? The answer is yes. Some were physical battles and others were spiritual - coming against men, organizations, governments, factions, religious folks and the unseen forces of the devil, his band of demons, and the principalities they lived under.

If you were to ask a foot soldier who was in a war or a battle that was won, they probably wouldn't tell you it was easy, or that there weren't any casualties. There is a battle between the Kingdom of God including his church, and the territory of the enemy.

Who are the Enemies of God? Those without faith in Jesus based on what is written in their hearts and Satan along with the other fallen angels:

Colossians 1:21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.

Sin is the enemy of holiness. And sin is also rebellion and/or opposition to God. As loving as God is, as much grace as He makes available to us, as much salvation as is in the finished work of Christ on the cross, God is the king of the Kingdom which bears his name - and we are not.

For those of you that are fathers, you know that your desire is not to control your children, but for them to take responsibility for themselves, so that you can trust and enjoy them. We call this growing up. That is the very reason that God is the Father. He simply wants to enjoy us as sons and daughters. Like our earthly fathers, his love has many facets including: loving, teaching, discipline, fun times, hang out times, times of honor like birthdays and graduations, and the most painful, leaving us to ourselves so that we can learn a lesson, that for whatever reason, we have not been able to learn some other way.

He may let us throw a tantrum, amen?

Regardless of how your father treated you, God is a perfect Father and Jesus is the perfect Son; obedient unto death. I know it sounds harsh, but this life is not the end of our eternal life, it is the beginning. And God is not freaked out by death, because he is immune to it. He also has prepared a place for those of faith that is eternal.

God of course gets blamed for every plane crash, earthquake, and act of violence. Honestly, is it really his fault? The earth was handed over to the devil who stole it illegally in the Garden of Eden. The Bible says that it is Satan's job to rob, kill and destroy - and he is like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. God's intention, however; is to restore it legally using the laws of Israel. It is a long story, but as the devil duped Adam and Eve into sin, Jesus (the second Adam) came as a sacrifice (as prescribed by the Law of Moses) to take back earth legally.

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the sting of death has been removed. And the loving Father that he is, He does not control us. He gave us a perfect law which anyone should recognize as impossible to live up to. Through the work of Jesus on the cross, we can be reconciled as though we have perfectly lived the law.

The enemies of God are the ones that do not receive Jesus. Even the devil knows who Jesus is, but he has rejected Him. As loving as God is, our Father's Kingdom will not wait forever to be made perfect. On the last day He will reconcile those that are sealed by the Holy Spirit forever.

The Bible says that every knee will bow to the Lord (Romans 14:11 and Isaiah 45:23), either here and now by choice, or there and later. Verses like this one show the truth of God - his holiness versus the sin of the world.

Nahum 1:2 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies.

Sure, it sounds harsh, but he sent Jonah to preach to them and they received the word of the Lord from Jonah, and that generation was spared.

How childish is to expect God to be our spiritual bellhop, to only do what we want, and to never be held accountable for causing pain and hurting others? For parents, we all want to give our children good things, but let's face it, sometimes they push the limits of our patience.

What is entirely too bad is that people claim to be Christian and some are not, others have fallen away or only know about Jesus. They do not know Him. These are the religious folks that Jesus dealt with in his day and the church has plenty of them now. He dealt with an evil spirit right in the temple. He called the Pharisees who sought to kill him (Matthew 12:14), and taunted Him to do a miraculous sign (Matthew 16:1), whitewashed tombs. John the Baptist called them a brood of vipers.

The Pharisees were an impressive lot, well to do, ones that made big prayers and were well educated. Jesus had this to say about them:

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

The enemies of God can look just like regular church folks, but there is something wrong when they become hypocrites, laden with man made rules and traditions which keep honest seekers from finding the real God.

Matthew 23:13 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

How about you, are you on team Jesus? How do you know?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sexual Services, Unions and Health Care - Where Do You Draw the Line?

Leave it to the Dutch to mix sexual services and national health care. Apparently one of the most liberal nations in the world when it comes to sex, dope and politics, has pulled back. It seems that the nurses union is not willing to provide a helping hand under some circumstances. Read about it HERE.

For a fleeting moment I was grateful for the prudishness of the Obama administration.

As the health care debate heads into the home stretch, it seems a little surreal to think that unions might one day have to draw the line, allowing nurses to refuse to provide sexual gratification along with tetanus shots.

In any case, here we are at the crossroads of socialized medicine. I suppose we'll get a vote here in the next week or two. Personally I am disappointed in the entire process. Here's why:

Coverage - We have 30 million Americans that have no health care. Why can't we just give them basic care? The US could offer yearly check ups and catastrophic care. The rest, could come at a time when we can afford it. The cost? $3,000,000,000 It's a start, and a lot less than $3Trillion. This way no one dies for lack of health care. In some cases these folks may still not be covered under the current bills!

Malpractice Caps - Why is it that the lawyers get to make all the money? With caps they could concentrate on other types of needed litigation and save the health care providers and insurance companies bajillions. Right, John Edwards? For new doctors, 1/3 of their income goes to malpractice insurance. It's absurd! Let's get some caps! The Republicans could pass this one on their own!

No Drop/No Coverage - It seems reasonable that insurance companies should not be able to drop patients or refuse paying customers with preexisting conditions. If companies insured on a per person basis, it would help even pricing out for young and single parent families. With 30 million new folks in the system, prices should drop according to the Democrats. It could be passed as a separate piece of legislation. Are you listening Scott Brown?

Drug Manufacturing - US drug sales subsidize foreign socialized prescription medication programs. Canada, Australia and a number of nations in Europe receive "bulk" rate discounts. That is why prices are cheaper in places like Canada. In order for drug companies to do the same here in the US, they would have to raise prices in those countries. Australia saw the handwriting on the wall and has started their own program.

Availability - Adding 30 million folks to the roles overnight will cause some real pain in the system. However; it needs to be done. WWJD? Unless we continue to make being a doctor a vocation that pays well enough to support the years of education, we are in big trouble.

Quality - The US health care system is the highest quality care in the world overall. We need to keep it that way. Just spending money is not the answer. We need to have plan to grow a system that can handle the increased demand.

In the final analysis, the current health care bill is about padding the pockets of Democratic supporters, their unions, and their drug companies. It DOES NOT cover everyone. Conversely, doing nothing increases the profits of insurance companies and health care providers. Pure regulation creates private "Cadillac" plans and clinics such as those in Canada making the best health care unaffordable - but aren't we already there?
What do you think?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's No Secret, Some Days I Hate Christianity

I've had trouble coming up with a topic and the Heavens have been silent. I thought I would fall back to some lame attempts to blog "random thoughts" but they were too vulgar. I pondered posting videos of me playing guitar, but I have it on good authority that some of you hate country - it makes Dave T. sick. I have written about health care, but Washington isn't listening to me - Mitt says it's broken. I was going to post some twisted conversation that I had with one of my kids, but I've been so busy, that nothing seems entertaining enough to post in public.

Today I was thinking about being a Christian, and how grateful I am that I have joined the club of faith, but on occasion I have my doubts.

You know, it seems like yesterday that I was rescued from the midst of alcoholism and all that goes with it. There I was at the New England Ala-teen Conference during the summer of 1978 and God surprised me as I let go of the fact that I didn't believe in God at all. For me, the Spirit of God rushed in like a flood. I was thinking that going from darkness to light, getting saved, or coming to faith - whatever you call it - is like sex, you'll know if it happens. Maybe that's not the best analogy, but what other experience is intimate and as life changing? Especially when you think about the fact that the context under which it happens can change the entire meaning - not the experience.

What I have experienced since I became a Christian is another story. Some of it has been so mind blowing that words cannot describe the encounters: Angles, demons, the voice of God, healing, miracles, worship in which I touched heaven, the sense of relief for my guilt and shame over some ugly stuff, the supernatural flowing day-in-and-day-out in Brazil and Norway, feeding the poor, consoling the broken, and watching God at work in my life and the lives for those around me - WOW!!!!!!!!

In spite of that, there are still some parts of Christianity I hate on occassion - really, I think being a Christian could just be easier:

Jesus the Way - It's hard to be part of a religion that has a God who says, "I am the truth, the Way and the Light, no one comes to the Father but by me." It makes folks from other religions pretty widgy. And if Jesus was not a living God of power, it would be pretty damn foolish to say stuff like that and then have us try to believe it. Of course, if you fail the "confess Jesus with your lips" test, there is always the "what is written in your heart" test. It would be easier if everyone was getting on the ark.

Jesus the Man - I don't like the part where Jesus came as a man, because it makes folks think that is all He was. Because He was a man, people get all weird about the part where he never sinned. Like, what did He say when He hit His thumb with a hammer? "Tiger Woods!" How did He go a lifetime without doing - umm - you know? Amazingly history shows that He lived and the He was alive after his resurrection as prescribed by Jewish law. Crazy - and not a point that is easy to debate with the heathen.

Bible Rules - I don't like the rules. To be honest, they are hard to keep and often go against everything that I think and feel. If it was up to me, life would be a dizzying array of money, sex, being lazy, and leaving all my responsibilities up to some else. (My wife might think that describes our marriage - but it's not an accurate picture - well except for the responsibilities part.) I would be going through life like a Toyota with a stuck gas pedal on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Duh - I already tried that. And why is it that Christians think they are the only ones that can be moral? Lots of non-Christians live moral lives - not Tiger Woods, but some people -they just don't always know where they came from.

3-In-1 God - This is the most stupidest concept. Most Christians can't understand it, so forget trying to proselytize using it. But without it, there is no Christianity. Jesus was God, and after He left earth, He sent His Holy Spirit. The ice-water-steam concept. It could be easier, I'm just saying.

Tithing - Why should I give 10%; or any of my hard earned money to the church? Interestingly, this is one place where we can test God - He said it was OK. (Mal 3:10) If we give 10% he said that He would return to us blessing. Try it some time. Take 10% of your gross, and give it to some church or ministry you think might spend it on something worthwhile, and see how your week goes. Let me know if you want to make a love offering. ;o)

The Faith Part - I mean, God just show yourself! Oh, that's right you did. Then just do a miracle - oh right, you did a whole book of them. John said we give testimony to what we've seen. Why can't we just believe John? 1 John 1:2

Evangelising - Why do we have to tell others, debate others, knock on doors and give testimonies? Why can't we just be someones friend and see how it goes? I mean, WWJD?

Communion - I know it is supposed to be a time when we identify with the work of the cross. But juice and bread? A cup of wine that has a thousand million germs on it? I am thinking Coke and Pringles might be more attractive. Well, maybe not.

Love - Some days I just want to run people down and feel good about it. And shouldn't I be able to hate people who have wronged me? I mean, there are some people that I DO NOT want to love.

Sin - I hate sin. All those rules tell us don't do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign. I love people who do some of those sins, and I can't seem to debate them into the faith club - or club them with the faith - I think that is what makes it so tough. When folks choose to do what they "feel" is right, and really it's wrong. I mean most moral folks think that killing is wrong, yet some hate war, and find abortion a simple medical procedure no worse than teeth cleaning. It's all too confusing. Why can't we just have one set of rules we all agree on? I mean besides the Bible.

How about you, are there parts of Christianity that make your life difficult? I'd like to hear about it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Throw the Book at Him! - How Do We Know It's God?

I grew up in an era when books were pretty much the only alternative to TV. I am sure you love your Kindle, but I had some favorite books with real pages and everything. My most treasured was The Wind in the Willows, which I received as a birthday gift from my grandfather in 1963. It was inscribed with a blue fountain pen. I couldn't read back then, but it was in a wonderful paper wraparound jacket and a green tweed like cloth binding.

My mother would sit on my bed and read it to me. The experience is much less about the story line or the plot, but the experience of the book - turning pages, my mother's voice; its changing cadence and emphasis, depending on the character. When she read to me I could hear the wind in the willows.

When I started to read, I had some childhood favorites: Little Toot, Winne the Pooh, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and The Little Engine that Could. I can hear that words "I think I can, I think I can." as if I was there in my upper bunk, reading by flashlight. I loved Dr Seuss too.

My mother used to take us to The Channel Book Store on the Yale campus. I guess it's gone now - probably a Borders or something. We often went to the library where I would quietly scan the shelves of books looking for one that caught my attention. I loved the books, and after I got saved, I used to go to a book store called Amazing Grace. I had a stint of unemployment, and I went as often as I could to look, to read, and to fellowship.

For me, books and magazines were my Internet. I wanted to know everything that I could about the subjects that interested me: hockey, motocross, skiing, mechanics, music, photography, Christianity, and later computers. At my first computer school I managed to plow through 3,000 pages of software manuals during a 12 week class.

What seems amazing to even me, is that I had such a hard time reading. I failed English and/or Reading 9 of my 12 years of education. I had dyslexia which no one did anything about it. The teachers laughed at some of my transpositions - they always seemed to make a funny word. On occasion my wife also finds it amusing.

I still liked books - and collected a lot of them. I had 12 versions of the Bible, 4 of which I read in two years.

I still really like the Bible, and I enjoy reading it - especially the Message. I have different versions that I use for different reasons. For many years I memorized verses in the Revised Standard - a throw back to my studies at Bethel. I studied the D. L. Moody Bible series and I used the King James version for that. I attended a Southern Baptist Church in the 90's and we used the New International Version there. At my next church we used the North American Standard, and I read the Amplified Bible for devotions. I went to ministry school and there, we used the New King James version. My Online Bible turned me on to Greek and Hebrew. And I had an audio Bible as well.

For many years I thought that I could gain a lot of knowledge about the Bible and become an expert by studying it and reading it. I went to conferences, read books by the most educated Christian scholars and heard hundreds of sermons too!

I actually became a worshipper of the Bible, not the God reveled in it. I could spout Bible like a gushing fire hydrant.

The problem with being a "Bible spouter" is that you have to be intellectual, legalistic, or arrogant - or some combination of the three. And one day you meet up with someone that is grounded in the word, not stuck in some religious interpretation. Then you are done - well done. Their insights are God's insights, not something they learned from another Christian. The Pharisees were legalistic, and Jesus rebuked them for intellectualizing the law.

The parts of the Bible that I am certain of are the ones that God himself has revealed to me. As Jesus opened the eyes of the disciples to the very fact that He was the Messiah of the Old Testament, God has opened my eyes to facets of truth that are important to me and MY relationship with the Creator.

A lot of folks ask questions such as this: "How do you know which is the correct interpretation or version of the Bible?" My answer, the one that brings YOU close to Jesus in a way where YOU can hear his voice. I know, because my relationship is with Jesus, not with the Bible. Reading different versions helps me better understand the intent of the writers and interpreters, but it may not tell me what God is saying to David.

If a verse or passage is not illuminated to us, and opened in our spirit, we are simply engaging in debate, opinion, and theological argument where Christianity becomes a philosophy. What we need is for the eyes of our hearts to be opened, and to be like the Bereans, looking into the word for ourselves. In the process of searching for it like silver, we are likely to enjoy rhema (living word) - hearing God's voice.

Personally, I think it's hard to understand the Bible, but what I have found is that God makes it easy - well if I have faith. I often challenge verses that seem pretty main stream. I want to make sure what I am being taught is the truth. I go after the versus and passages that others say are difficult.

In the end, there isn't going to be a written test. He is not going to ask us if we figured it all out. He is not going to mention our fancy-dancy leather Bible case, or perfectly straight underlines and high-lights. He isn't going to ask you if you read it, He'll want to know if you lived it. And then Jesus will look into your heart and mine to see if His word is there beneath the seal of the Holy Spirit.

How about you, what's your process for understanding the truth of the word of God? How do you hear the wind?
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