A good while back, someone contacted me about her close friend.  She hadn't seen this friend in a while.  This friend of hers had some very strange ideas about what God was telling them and it seemed to involve the book of Revelation as well.  This friend of hers claimed that God was giving her a special word or message that was very personal.  The message was also pretty un-biblical.

Here are some excerpts from my response....

It sounds like she is in grave trouble in her spiritual life because of a certain misunderstanding not about the book of Revelation, but about how God provides revelation.

There is a certain emphasis in churches on how we should have a close interaction with God, that we should hear His voice, that we can know Him deeply, personally, and intimately, that we should listen to His voice and obey His commands, etc.  These are wholesome teachings, but can be very dangerous if they are not given some clarification. 

What many people slide into-- (and incidentally this happens especially in the charismatic/Pentecostal churches, small Baptist churches, churches where the pastor lacks education, or where people have isolated themselves from their local church)---is a belief that God is revealing things and speaking to them even though the instructions have little relation to the Bible (God’s authoritative word).  The following is a bold statement that some people might object to, but the real truth is that God won’t communicate something to us that can’t be supported, found, understood, or concluded from the Bible.  That means that “the voice” inside many people’s heads might or might not be God.  For a good example of "hearing from God" gone wrong, take a look at the book Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsh.  

God has revealed Himself through His word.  If in the practice of “hearing God” we neglect the Scriptures, many things can get distorted by ourselves or even by the enemy.  A general knowledge of scripture can sometimes be more harmful to someone than none at all in cases like this.  To hear from God accurately, we need to have spent hours absorbing His words and infusing the entire Bible’s wealth of content into our very soul and minds until it becomes second nature...until it informs all of our thinking.  Only then can our thinking or “hearing” be remotely close to what God desires.  

God has already given to mankind all of the revelation that we need to have...Nature itself leads us to contemplate Him and believe He exists, Jesus came to earth as the fullest revelation from God, and the Bible makes clear exactly who He is and what He desires from us.  We don’t need any special experiences beyond what God has already given us in nature (known as God's general revelation), in Christ, and in the Bible (the last two comprising God's specific or special revelation).  We don’t need a fresh personal word that gives us goosebumps, we don’t need a secret word from God that He has only given to us, etc.  There is a reason that the canon of scripture is considered to be closed.  We're not going to add any more books to the Bible because it is a finished and complete book with no need of addition.  In fact, God warns of adding or subtracting from His words within the scriptures themselves.

There is very great danger in this erroneous understanding of how God reveals Himself.  This is how many cults get started, this is how scriptures get twisted, and this is also a way that many people develop or encourage their own mental or psychological disorders, etc.  This friend of yours has a great need above all to know that God’s word is actually in contradiction to some of the things she is claiming...She also needs to know that God’s word has to have a central place in her “hearing from God”, and that she absolutely cannot be a lone ranger – without the love of Christian community, there is an even greater chance of destruction in your friend’s life.  A church family provides a balance and a protection against this sort of isolation and this sort of misunderstanding about Biblical revelation.  For myself, if I ever start to have bizarre experiences with God that other Christians around me or throughout Christian history have not experienced, I would be very concerned.  (This also happens to be a good rule of thumb for Bible interpretation as well...If you have a bizarre interpretation that nobody has ever shared with you, or that nobody in the entire history of Biblical interpretation has arrived at, you are potentially entirely misguided in your interpretation and probably need to seek a better understanding of the passage.)

Sometimes depression, anxiety, fear, and severed relationships can wound a person to where they isolate themselves from church and situations in someone’s personal life can contribute to the problem as well.  Sometimes charismatic television evangelists encourage the problem as well by practicing this same spiritualizing and experience-driven understanding of God’s revelation.    

I came across a couple of excellent books the other day as I was browsing some new titles and IVP (Inter-Varsity Press) has these great ones of the topic of hearing from God.


God Talk by Ruth A. Tucker ISBN: 978-0-8308-3331-3 

Hearing God by Dallas Willard   ISBN: 978-0-8308-2226-3


Here is an article that may be boring, but touches on the very subject that I discussed about how God speaks to us today. 

One of the very first basic lessons I ever learned in my walk with Christ was at an early age. I was fortunate to learn it early, but it seems that at certain periods of my life I have had to force myself to relearn it...

Of what am I speaking? I am speaking about my identity in Christ.

It is a huge concept and yet such a simple one at the same time. When I gave my life to Christ, I became His own. I became His child. I became a new creation fashioned in His likeness. I became set apart and content in Him. I became happy with me because of who He was and who He was making me. I began to draw my self-worth from Him alone...and He values me more than anyone ever could value me!

But don't take it from me alone. This foundational truth is hammered home in Scripture. Ephesians chapters 1 through 3 are a great read on the subject, but if you're in a hurry, here are a few verses.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. [Eph. 2:1-10]

The question “Who Am I?” is both theoretical and philosophical as well as practical and deeply personal. It is a question that everyone deals with throughout the entire course of their lifetime. For the believer, it is a wonderful truth that –- no matter what the world's categories may say about us, whatever we may be feeling about our own self worth (good or bad), whatever we might think about who we are –- all other “identities” get placed at the feet of the Lord. It is Him we depend upon to properly understand our selves, our personality, our emotions, our feelings, our habits, our gifts, our skills, our desires, our ambitions, and everything else about ourselves.  It is God who defines us and not we who define us.

Today, examine the Bible for yourself and ask God to remind you that you are his child. Ask God to remind you this day of your worth, His love for you, your satisfaction in Him, your trust in Him, and your contentment in who He is...and in who you are.

5/17/2010 | Author: RCW
A while back, I was asked about the biblical concept of "regeneration."  It may come as a stunning newsflash that "regeneration" is NOT the supernatural ability for charismatic believers to have a limb severed from their body only to suddenly sprout a new one like a sea-star or hydra.  

I know that there is sometimes confusion or disagreement over what is meant by the term "regeneration."  You could take my own explanation of what regeneration is, but I'd rather not have to do as much thinking at the moment (to be quite honest).  Instead, let me provide you with a handy and concise explanation from my own current denomination's doctrinal statement:

Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.  Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.

Reading & Christian Discipleship
5/11/2010 | Author: RCW
I'll never forget the first few weeks when I began to understand that God was leading and calling me into ministry.    I recall walking into my youth pastor's office and letting him know what I understood God to be doing in my life and communicating to me. 

His response was simple.  He first told me that he would meet with me once a week at 5 am on a certain day.  At the first meeting, he asked me a question.  "Are you a reader?"

I was dumbfounded.  I thought quickly about the fact that I despised reading and loathed the very thought of English class.  I stammered -- "Uh.....not really."  His response was direct and firm, "Well, you're going to have to become one."

I began to love reading from those few weeks onward and to this day I absolutely cannot get enough.  (I have a lifetime reading plan for myself!)   

Does it seem like an odd connection to you?  Why in the world would someone who is heading toward ministry need to become a reader?  Do you think he was right?  Do you think he was wrong?  Why?  I'd love to hear your "take."       
My Apologies
4/22/2010 | Author: RCW
So, apparently if you subscribe to this blog, you might have noticed that it had quite a "spasm" and filled some of your in-boxes with emails.  I'm so sorry, guys.  Apparently my blog suffered from a brief case of turrets.  The problem is cleared now. 

Maybe it is acceptable to turn this into a lesson....

Here you go: Don't put all your faith is technology because it WILL let you down.  Technology can be a great friend and a little time later your worst enemy.  Just ask everyone who was thrilled that they bought an HD DVD player at a great price around Christmas and January of 2007...
Loving God With All Our Mind
4/21/2010 | Author: RCW
Alright, so if I haven't thrown enough resources at people at my workplace and through this blog, I must beg your forgiveness and continue the trend.

At the church I work for, I have recently recruited a professor from a nearby university to come teach a class for our lay equipping ministry.  The class is essentially about what it means to take seriously the command we've been given in Scripture to love the Lord our God with all our mind.
Constant Reason to Celebrate
4/18/2010 | Author: RCW
Easter is (like Christmas) never really truly “over.”  The reality that Christ has risen is just as real today as it was two weeks ago as we celebrated Easter Sunday. 
Cool Idea
4/15/2010 | Author: RCW
Recently I was checking out some different websites of people who are in my same profession...people who are responsible for trying to help Christians (particularly Christian adults) grow in their faith in order that they might mature as believers in Jesus Christ and follow after Christ with all that they are.

To be certain, if you know me, you'd know that this is by no means meant to be a "plug" or endorsement of any church or ministry.*  However, a great SIMPLE idea is this 10 for 10 challenge:     
       http://10for10challenge.org  (Just click on the video in the center that reads "What is 10 for 10?)

If you can't watch the video, don't fret.  The 5 ideas in the video are listed below:
  • Memorize 10 scriptures this year
  • Serve as a volunteer in 10 ministry projects
  • Give 10 percent of your income to your local church
  • Spend 10 minutes a day with God via Bible Study and prayer
  • Share Christ with 10 people

So, what do you think?  Could you manage to do one or all of these 5 spiritual disciplines in a year's time?  To some people, it might seem elementary, but for others, it is just the small starting point that they need to begin practicing and doing God's word.

"But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.  For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it."  ~ James 1:22-25 NLT ~


P.S.  *This could never be an endorsement because I, like the rest of my generation, am so anti-establishment, anti-propaganda, cynical, anti-schmooze, anti-infomercial, anti-artificial, anti-inauthentic.  (Although incidentally the church that this came from is a good church - my wife and I even did some of our premarital counseling there).
P.S. About Easter...
4/10/2010 | Author: RCW
Some of you may be wondering why I let Easter come and go without having posted anything. Here is a goodie for you.

Click the link below to view a lecture given from Dr. Gary Habermas (Ph.D in History from Michigan State University). It is an excellent presentation in 11 parts. Watch them all in order and you won't be sorry!


I have already received some feedback from my post yesterday.

First, the person brought to my attention how ridiculously long the entry was. (A realization that I already had observed for myself).  My sincere apologies for being so verbose.  :)

Next, the person said that as they read, they could see where my agenda was headed.

This has prompted me to clarify that I did not aim to poke fun, be rude, or mock Christians (much).  I can do this because I am one.  Rather, my posting was a way of bringing into focus for both myself and others that which is truly essential for the new believer.  We try all too often to make certain things important that are not.  We expect a new Christian to suddenly follow a long list of dos and don'ts that (to us) are basic or inherent for someone who wants to follow Christ.  It was my purpose to challenge all of us to think about what is essential for the early stages of someone's discipleship.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?"  Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."  ~Mark 12:28-31~
Okay, does anyone truly know what some of the most important first steps are for a new follower of Christ?  Imagine that you've just led someone to Christ...perhaps they even live in another country and come from a different culture.  What are the first things that you think they should do, know, or learn to embrace?

Why don't I let you sort through some options below.  Go through the list and mark (or for you lazies, just make a mental note of):
         A) Items that seem to be of foremost importance,
         B) Things that are important but not urgent,
         C) What seems to be less important, and finally
         D) What seems not to be important at all!

Below are some options: 

  • Be baptized
  • Start a daily quiet time
  • Read the Bible daily
  • Memorize scripture
  • Find a church that teaches the Bible 
  • Tell someone else about Jesus
  • Invite a Friend to Church
  • Write out their personal testimony
  • Find a small group
  • Attend a Bible study
  • Keep a journal
  • Spend time in prayer daily
  • Learn core doctrines and essential beliefs of Christianity
  • Read a good Christian book
  • Start volunteering and serving in a church
  • Attend a weekly worship service with other believers
  • Begin taking communion
  • Read a Christian self-help book about their most pressing issues or questions
  • Go on a mission trip
  • Share Christ with all their family members
  • Have all their children baptized or sprinkled
  • Give money to their church
  • Start caring about other people
  • Sing in a church choir or join a praise band
  • Learn to play a harp
  • Greet their brothers and sisters (fellow church members) with a holy kiss
  • Handle snakes
  • Speak in tongues
  • Teach a "Sunday School" class for little children
  • Learn to play praise songs on a guitar
  • Purchase a Bible commentary or Bible dictionary
  • Avoid controversy or scandal at all cost
  • Make sure to be liked by all.  Don't be too opinionated.
  • Find a good translation of the Bible that they can understand
  • Act holy
  • Never tell someone that their interpretation of the Bible is wrong
  • Use "thee," "thou," "thy," and "thine" in everyday language
  • Wear a WWJD bracelet
  • Buy and wear Christian t-shirts
  • Burn any secular music that they own
  • Get rid of all rated R movies
  • Give up drinking
  • Give up smoking
  • Give up use of illegal drugs
  • Start making disciples
  • Read the entire Bible from cover to cover
  • Go to confession
  • Walk down an aisle to pray with a pastor
  • Visit the sick in the hospital
  • Sponsor a small child from a poverty-stricken land
  • Throw a party inviting all their Christian friends
  • Start making Christian friends
  • Discern their spiritual gifts
  • Learn how to study their Bible
  • Lead other Christians
  • Try to convert their entire workplace to Christianity
  • Visit people in a nursing home
  • Invite a widow from church over for dinner
  • Go to the homes of any new visitors to the church to chat and pray
  • Become a deacon or elder
  • Serve on a church committee
  • Become a pastor
  • Give up their job to become a preacher
  • Sell their possessions and give the money to the poor
  • Camp out on a hill and wait for Jesus to return
  • Feed the homeless
  • Buy Christian music
  • Watch Christian movies
  • Stop using foul language
  • Try to be perfect
  • Try to be a good person or a good Christian
  • Always smile
  • Shake people's hands at church
  • Become an extrovert rather than an introvert
  • Be nice to everyone and never raise their voice
  • Stop being friends with anyone who is not a Christian
  • Take a class at a seminary or theological school
  • Rearrange their priorities to honor God
  • Love their neighbor as themselves
  • Love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength
  • Sing a lot (both out loud and to themselves)
  • Become a reader
  • Give money to missionaries
  • Take a concern for their family (Love and provide for their spouse and children)
  • Get and keep a job
  • Judge others
  • Be a really serious person all the time
  • Don't laugh at dirty jokes or approve of anyone that does
  • Don't dance
  • Don't get any tattoos and try to have any current tattoos removed
  • Give up television
  • Don't eat meat during lent
  • Always attend a church on Christmas and Easter
  • Join the PTA
  • Add the prefix "Christian" to their job title (if they were an artist, they should try to be a Christian artist; if they were a lawyer, they should try to be a Christian lawyer, etc.)
  • Ask someone to help them grow in their faith
  • Try to be healthier
  • Rely entirely on the Holy Spirit to lead 
  • Vote Republican
  • Send out Christian forwards and chain letters to the entire email address book
  • Study intensely what the Bible teaches about the end times
  • Shop at Christian bookstores
  • Give up eating pork
  • Give your business to Christian businesses (Eat at Chick-Fil-A and shop at Hobby Lobby)
  • Quit buying gifts for Christmas or hunting eggs at Easter
  • Scorn the affairs of this world and set the mind on eternal things above
  • Raise their kids to be Christians
  • Drag their unbelieving spouse to church and pressure them to convert
  • Fast for forty days (or at least a few days here and there)
  • Eat only vegetables
  • Learn Greek and/or Hebrew and/or Latin
  • Quit dating their unbelieving boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Quit cheating on their spouse
  • Post scriptures around the house...especially on decorative pieces like doormats, pictures, picture frames, etc.
  • Advise them never to let anyone know anything is wrong
  • Leaving their past behind, have them discern their new calling from God and their new vocation
  • Change their name
  • Have them adopt American culture, habits, and customs if they are from a different land or culture
  • Learn to savor and enjoy life
  • Be or become very prude in the bedroom
  • Flee sexual immorality
  • Disassociate from certain previous negative influences
  • Find a Christian friend to be an accountability partner
  • Become a motivational speaker
  • Start a Christian non-profit organnization
  • Read books by C.S. Lewis
  • Listen to as many sermons as possible
  • Learn to like old hymns
  • Develop serious opinions about church and share them frequently
  • Meet with a pastor
  • Ask questions to fellow Christians
  • Dislike homosexuals and prositutes
  • Condemn adultery and adulterers
  • Drop out of the secular college and enroll in a Christian one
  • Move children to private school rather than public
  • Homeschool the children
  • Take a marriage enrichment class
  • Donate old clothes to a shelter
  • Adopt an orphan
  • Renew the wedding vows
  • Flee from materialism and superficiality
  • Be eternally optimiistic
  • Discover the power of positive thinking
  • Be passive
  • Be anti-war and/or anti-guns
  • Don't argue with anyone on any occasion
  • Be submissive to everyone else
  • Respect God-given authorities including government leaders
  • Always vote in elections (and usually after careful research)
  • Develop an opinion about everything
  • Become quick to listen and slow to speak
  • Don't gossip
  • Don't lie
  • Don't steal 
  • Practice animal sacrifices
  • Take up yoga
  • De-clutter the home
  • Always keep a tidy house
  • Don't ever show sadness
  • Endure pain stoically, knowing that God is allowing it, so it must be good
  • Never question Christian beliefs or doubt God
  • Have perfect attendance at church
  • Jog daily
  • Give up all personal ambitions and goals
  • Join a convent
  • Divorce spouse because "they hinder, discourage, weaken, challenge or suppress spiritual growth"
  • Wear cross jewelry
  • Put a statue of a saint, an apostle, or Mary in the lawn
  • Make the doorbell and your telephone ring play Christian songs
  • Take notes during sermons
  • Jot notes here and there in the Bible
  • Hang out in Christian coffeehouses
  • Go to Christian concerts
  • Listen to Christian radio & Christian talk radio
  • Feel severe guilt for any wrongdoing
  • Expect moral excellence from others (especially Christians and most especially from pastors)
  • Practice the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, self-control)
  • Be everyone's friend and nobody's enemy
  • Don't be lazy
  • Do your job well (Be a good employee)
  • Treat any personal employees well (Be a good employer)
  • Show mercy to everyone
  • Forgive everyone of everything
  • Remove all memory of the past
  • Develop a regular seat or spot at which to sit during the church worship service.  Challenge anyone that might try to fill it.
  • Sing all of your sentences
  • Flee from pessimists
  • Give up sodas
  • Manage weight and physical appearance well
  • Shower at least once per day
  • Keep a day-timer and follow it to the tee
  • Be responsible
  • Be punctual
  • Be friendly
  • Always be considerate and hospitable toward newcomers, foreigners, visitors, the less fortunate, etc.
  • Go on Christian vacations
  • Feel guilty relaxing
  • Master the interpretation of scripture
  • Study theology and theologians
  • Scorn philosophy
  • Embrace the study of philosophy
  • Change college major from a secular field to a Christian one
  • Read Christian magazines
  • Watch Christian television
  • Give up caffeine
  • Only use Christian breath-mints
  • Buy children a precious moments Bible
  • Own at least 1 Thomas Kincaid painting 
  • Own at least 2 Willow Tree figures
  • Have the children watch Veggie Tales
  • Only read Christian authors and preferably only those that are in agreement with the reader
  • Go gluten free
  • Give up artificial sweeteners
  • Eat only organic foods
  • Boycott Disney, McDonalds, and/or Wal Mart
  • Dislike sports since they are a frivolous worldly concern
  • Don't wear expensive clothes
  • Feed the hungry and warm those who are cold
  • Care for others more than self
  • Surrender the self
  • Learn definitions and start using big theological words like "sanctification" and "propitiation"
  • Fill life with God and scripture by attending 7 Bible studies a week....one each night
  • Plan a will since either the rapture or second coming could happen at any moment
  • Read the Left Behind series
  • Watch TBN
  • Never own a home over a certain price range
  • Always be ready to give advice...people really need it
  • Give the pastor(s) and church workers advice...they really need it
  • Be an encourager of others
  • Only engage in sexual activity for the purpose of having children
  • Be a morning person
  • Don't live with a boyfriend or girlfriend until married
  • Preach "turn or burn" repentance to everyone at the family reunion
  • Always carry a Bible everywhere
  • Wear sandals and grow a beard if possible
  • If female, always remain silent at church and wear a head-covering.  Also never be caught dead teaching men.
  • Try to impress other Christians however possible...with knowledge of the Bible, popularity, friendliness, godliness, humility, etc.
Well, I hope that this activity has been both humorous as well as thought-provoking.  Now for some reflection questions:

How much of what you think is important is actually central to Christian belief and following Christ?

How much of what your church thinks is essential to following Christ is actually essential?

What items did you rank as most important and most urgent?  Why did you rank them there?

Sometimes it is difficult to determine that which is beneficial from that which is essential.  Sometimes it is difficult to determine that which is important from that which really isn't important at all.  I hope this was interesting and challenging!  Got thoughts?  Feel free to share!

Most sincere apologies for not having written anything for almost a month!

Last month, I read some very cool news from my dear old Wheaton.  For the full press release, you can click here.  It seems that the Billy Graham Center Archives of Wheaton College are opening up to the public more treasures from the past.

The story of missionary couple Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, who served among the Waorani people of Ecuador, is widely known to American evangelicals through their published writings as well as the movie entitled "End of the Spear," which was based upon their story. After Jim and four fellow American missionaries were martyred by the Waorani (also called the Huaorani, or the Auca Indians by non-Waorani) on January 8, 1956, Elisabeth Elliot returned to continue ministering to the people who had taken her husband's life, she edited and published his journals, and later wrote more than 20 books.

In January, the Billy Graham Center Archives made additional writings available for the first time, as the 54th anniversary of the missionaries’ murder approached. Thirty previously unpublished letters, dated from 1953 to 1959, provide insights into the relationship the Elliots had with the Williams Community Church of Williams, Oregon. The church was one of several which provided financial and prayer support for the Elliots. Williams Community Church donated the letters to the Archives last year. They are now posted at wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/docs/Elliotletters/intro.htm.  I might add that Jim and Elisabeth happened to have graduated from Wheaton as well.  :)

The story of those martyred missionaries and the glory that God brought about through their tragic deaths is a story worth remembering.  For myself, it definitely brings to mind some ideas about the theology of suffering and how God's ways are far beyond our own understanding.  Sometimes it seems that by allowing evil, God brings about an even greater good than if He had not.  (For more on this, just read some Alvin Plantinga's God, Freedom, and Evil).  Or for a Biblical reference, some good examples would include:
  • the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50 --- see especially Joseph's statements in Gen. 45:4 and 50:19-20),
  • Job (the book of Job), 
  • Jesus (the Gospels --- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), 
  • the early church's martyrs (the book of Acts), and 
  • Paul's words about God having allowed him to have a "thorn in his flesh" (2 Cor. 12:7-10).  
       These are just a few examples among others.

Do you have an opinion?  Leave a comment!

Just Answering Some Questions
1/15/2010 | Author: RCW
Okay, I have learned my lesson before.  "Comments" shouldn't be allowed to get too long and turn into blog entries themselves.  For that reason, I decided to post a relatively recent follow-up comment as its own entry.

Just to give you the context, here was the comment:

Responding to my previous post entitled "Bible Lore,"

Anonymous said...
I enjoy reading your postings, RCW!

Regarding "God won't give you more than you can handle"... So what DOES the Bible say?

Relating to "God helps those to help themselves"... What do you say to someone who spends a lot of time at church serving but neglects his/her family, and asks "I've spend so much time serving God, why is my family such mess?"
November 23, 2009 11:08 AM

And Here is My Too-Lengthy-to-Qualify-as-a-"Comment" Response:
Thanks for your comments, Anonymous.  I'm afraid my response is a lengthy one and is more like a blog entry than a comment.

As for the idea that God won't give us more than we can handle:
"God won't give you more than you can handle" might or might not be a concept that we could defend from the Bible.  But to claim that the Bible EXPLICITLY SAYS IT (as is most common) is a flat mistake.  The verse that people misinterpret specifically is 1 Corinthians 10:13 - "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it" (NASB). The verse is specifically dealing with temptation (as is clear from the preceding verses as well 10:1-12) and even more specifically with temptation towards idolatry (Notice 1 Cor 10:14 reads "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry").   

The verse is saying that God always provides a way out of temptation.  There won't be a temptation that comes along you that is IMPOSSIBLE to resist or flee. 


Now, As for the second scenario -- regarding those that would spend so much time involved in ministry that they neglect or diminish their family -- there is much to be said there.  First, I will say that this is a real danger for many ministers (one which I myself have to vigilantly guard against constantly). 

It is important for that person to bear in mind that their first and foremost place of ministry is their home.  Without giving the proper attention to one's family, one should expect that their ministry will suffer.  Paul writes to Timothy of the prerequisites for someone desiring to be an overseer within the church.  He writes: "He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity, (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)..." 1 Tim. 3:4-5 

Engaging in ministry without ministering to one's family is almost like getting into the car for a 1,000 mile road trip and being stopped a few miles into it because you didn't maintain your vehicle by changing the oil.  

Additionally, from your comment, it could be that I am misunderstanding altogether. It could be that the person you mentioned is somehow feeling as though their service for God has earned them entitlement or immunity from family troubles.  If that is the case, I would seriously object to the attitude that service to God should eliminate difficulty.  (In fact, difficulty is an explicitly Biblical promise for any that want to serve Christ).  Christian service should not be confused with "karma" (the idea that if you are good, then good things will happen in your life and vice versa if you are bad).  In the Old Testament, Job had a friend or three that tried to impose this theology upon him...(in a sense they were saying to Job, "Well, Job, all this bad stuff has happened to you, so the problem is that you must not be pleasing to God.  You must be doing something wrong.  You must have sin in your life.  You'd better repent.").  At the end of the book of Job, God demonstrates and explicitly says that He doesn't work that way.  He doesn't operate based on karma.  He doesn't simply behave like the "gods" of the ancient Near East -- showing favor upon those that offer the proper sacrifices and punishing those that aren't pleasing to them.  His ways are so far beyond that superficial level.  In fact, sometimes he allows evil to happen to us FOR OUR GOOD (i.e. because he loves us so much).

So, it is an awful (not to mention incredibly offensive!) mistake for us to think that if someone is suffering or experiencing hardship, it is because that individual is not pleasing God.  In the same manner, the opposite is true.  We should never deceive ourselves by thinking that our Christian service is earning us an earthly reward.  Our reward (if any) lies in the age to come and not in this life.  After all, it is not for this world that we are entrusting our hope, but in the age, the world, the life that is yet to come.


I do hope that my comments have been helpful.  It is not as though I have all the answers either...I confess that I myself have much to learn and improve upon in this last area of allowing my family's needs to take priority before my ministry.


Do you agree with what I thought?  Do you disagree?  Would you have said anything differently or added something else?  Weigh in with your own opinion by leaving a comment!
Well, 2009 has come and gone and evidently, my informants ESPN alerted me a few days ago (with their "top ten plays of the decade" and whatnot) that a decade has drawn to a close.  This of course should not have been news to me, but somehow my silly brain was imagining that it would be another year (at the completion of 2010) that such a "turn-of-the-page" would come.  Seeing as how I have only lived through a couple of these decade things, and seeing as how the last one changed when I was all of 18, I am hit with the magnitude of the occasion.

Not wanting to let the moment slip by without sneaking in a quick line, I worked to squeeze in time for a post.

I have spoken before of how the Christian life---from our birth, to our spiritual birth or conversion, and throughout our entire life until our dying day---is a process.  It is a spiritual journey in which God is drawing us closer to Himself.  We may not always understand how or why or that it is even happening, but for Christians walking with God, He is perfecting us all the while and transforming us back into the image-bearers He meant for us to be...in the image of Christ. I have written about this subject (sanctification) previously.

With that spiritual and theological reality firmly in mind, let me ask you----could you adequately map your spiritual journey in words or art or music or a line graph or some medium of the sort?  What if you reflected on where God has brought you, what He has done in you, what He has transformed about you and when by the decade?  Where were you spiritually in the early 80s?  What changed about your faith by the mid 90s?  What did God do in your life by 2000 or by the time you had children, etc?  This is a spiritual journey and it is important (even very Hebrew) to walk forward through life looking backwards over your shoulder and recalling the great things that God has done.  This reflection is also healthy, deeply rewarding, and often humbling.  It also happens to be a marvelous spiritual exercise to start any new year.

Have a happy one!


P.S. One of the astonishing things about this sort of activity is that you may at times be tempted to think that you had certain times or years when you were far from God or that you felt distant from Him.  Let me encourage you that it is often in our lowest and bleakest of states that God is doing the most refining and bringing about the most spiritual growth in our lives.  If I were to graph the spiritual "valleys" of my life, I doubt very much if God would chart them as valleys...to Him they might be mountaintops.  For it is when we are weakest---when we must lean most closely upon Him for everything---that His power is perfected in us.  To adapt some words from A.W. Tozer: "Before God can use a man greatly, He has to break a man deeply." 

P.P.S. For you theology dorks like me out there, Wayne Grudem provides a good spiritual growth graph of this sort in his Systematic Theology in the section on sanctification.