Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The error of Textualism in the Fundamental Church

I came across this excerpt from A.W. Tozer which was footnoted in a book I have been reading.  I thought it profound, and all too true.  Here are some definitions of the word "Textualism" from thefreedictionary.com

1. A theory of legal interpretation emphasizing the importance of the everyday meanings of the words used in statutes.
2. Strict adherence to a text, especially of the Scriptures.
3. Textual criticism, especially of the Scriptures.
What is generally overlooked is that fundamentalism, as it spread throughout the various denominations and non-denominational groups, fell victim to its own virtues. The Word died in the hands of its friends. Verbal inspiration, for instance (a doctrine which I have always held), soon became afflicted with rigor mortis. The voice of the prophet was silenced and the scribe captured the minds of the faithful. In large areas the religious imagination withered. An unofficial hierarchy decided what Christians were to believe. Not the Scriptures, but what the scribe thought the Scriptures meant became the Christian creed. Christian colleges, seminaries, Bible institutes, Bible conferences, popular Bible expositors all joined to promote the cult of textualism. The system of extreme dispensationalism which was devised, relieved the Christian of repentance, obedience and cross-carrying in any other than the most formal sense. Whole sections of the New Testament were taken from the Church and disposed of after a rigid system of “dividing the word of truth.”

All this resulted in a religious mentality inimical to the true faith of Christ.  A  kind  of  cold  mist  settled  over  Fundamentalism…the  basic doctrines were there, but the climate was just not favorable to the sweet fruits of the Spirit…the doctrines were sound but something vital was missing. The tree of correct doctrine was never allowed to blossom. The voice of the turtle [dove] was rarely heard in the land; instead, the parrot sat on his artificial perch and dutifully repeated what he had been taught and the whole emotional tone was somber and dull…. As the letter triumphed, the Spirit withdrew and textualism ruled supreme. It was the time of the believer’s Babylonian captivity…. The error of textualism is not doctrinal. It is far more subtle than that and much more difficult to discover, but its effects are just as deadly. Not its theological beliefs are at fault, but its assumptions.

It assumes for instance, that if we have the word for a thing we have the thing itself. If it is in the Bible, it is in us. If we have the doctrine, we have the experience. If something was true of Paul it is of necessity true of us because we accept Paul’s epistles as divinely inspired. The Bible tells us how to be saved, but textualism goes on to make it something which in the very nature of things it cannot do. Assurance of individual salvation is thus no more than a logical conclusion drawn from doctrinal premises, and the resultant experience wholly mental.
Then came the revolt. The human mind can endure textualism just so long before it seeks a way of escape. So, quietly and quite unaware that any revolt was taking place, the masses of Fundamentalism reacted, not from the teaching of the Bible but from the mental tyranny of the scribes.

Excerpted from: Keys to the Deeper Life by A. W. Tozer.
Copyright © 1957 by Sunday Magazine 1987 by Zondervan Publishing Corporation.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Radiant thoughts about the Love of God

     God’s love is more constant and sure than the rising of the sun in the east and the setting of the sun in the west.  God’s love is more sure than the laws of gravity.  We do not worry or wonder if the sun is going to rise tomorrow or if the laws of gravity will still be in effect.  We don’t lie awake at night contemplating, “I wonder if I will still be able to walk on the ground in the morning.  When I wake up, will I float away into the sky?”  We fret unnecessarily when we believe that God’s love toward us might change depending upon how poorly or how well we might be performing at a given moment in time. 
         God already knows all our successes, failures, and sins past, present, and future.  Yet, he still loves us right now.  His love is timeless, firmly rooted in who HE is.  It is God’s nature to love.  Since God is love, he can’t help but love.  He has to love, he is driven to love, compelled by love.  He couldn’t help but love, even if He wanted to behave differently (which he couldn’t)!  There is nothing in God’s nature contrary to love or that diminishes love in any way.  Everything in God’s actions, will, and nature revolves around an internal sun called Love.  Even when his actions or lack of action are perceived by humans to be unloving, His love remains.  God’s love is unchanged by our faulty perceptions of Him.  Whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not, God has never thought an unloving thought, had an unloving intention, or acted in an unloving way. 
     Closely tied to and inseparable from God’s Love is His goodness.  God is entirely and completely good.  Think of the worst possible evil action, or the most vile, despicable person or creature.  God is the exact opposite.  There is nothing evil or bad in God’s nature, He is completely and thoroughly good.
Evil                                                                         Good (God’s nature)
Tyrannical, controlling, oppressive            Freeing, uncontrolling
Power Hungry                                                Power releasing, decentralizing
Greedy                                                             Giving
Self-centered, self-preserving                     Sacrificial to the point of death
Unforgiving, bitter                                         Forgiving, understanding
Unclean, impure                                            Holy, spotless, unblemished, perfect
Hard, rigid                                                       Full of grace and mercy
Uncaring                                                          Compassionate, caring, desires to relieve pain
Unfeeling                                                         Emotional, Identifies with and feels our pain
Unkind, Harsh                                                 Gentle, kind
Unpredictable, capricious                             Unchanging, steady, keeps promises
Unjust, allows evil to continue                     Just, punishes evil rightly and perfectly

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New book - Rethinking the Unthinkable released!

We are excited to announce that we are finally done writing and self-publishing our book, Rethinking the Unthinkable.  It has been a wonderful journey, and we thank all those who helped out by proofreading and offering encouragement.  We are excited to move into the next season, anticipating whatever God has for us.

The book cover has an interesting story.  It comes from a dream Ondrea wrote about in the Conclusion:
"In the dream I saw a giant art canvas.  A painter began to paint a large picture of a sun; the artist continued, and the painting then became a large lion face. He continued painting, and I began to see light as bright as the sun coming from the lion’s face.  Then, I began to see that the picture of the lion’s face was made up of a multitude of people.  I heard the words, "the revealing of the sons of God."

If you look closely at the cover, you will see many faces embedded into the face of the Lion.

links to the ebook and paperback on Amazon.

Kindle Ebook

Paperback on Amazon

If you have read the book, please take a moment to leave a review on the Amazon site.  This will help the book reach a wider audience.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Scriptures are not a replacement for God

The following is an excerpt from our book, "Rethinking the unthinkable in the light of Love"

There is a very real danger in replacing God with the Bible.  Instead of seeing God as speaking to us through the Bible, we honor and revere the Bible as having some sort of mystical power in and of itself.  For many Christians, the teaching of the Holy Spirit has been replaced with the Bible.  Many believe God does not speak to Christians personally today, but can only have their hearts “illuminated” as they read the scriptures.  In these circles(and we have been part of them in the past), God is not seen as active or involved personally and relationally in our reading of and application of the scripture.  God is seen as simply setting a ball rolling by having the scriptures written and now just sits back and watches from a distance.  In this type of mindset, a close communion type of relationship with God is not attainable. Christians are taught all they need to do is read their bibles and do what it says (in their own strength and with much striving of course).

 A parable of three families
To illustrate three different approaches to the scriptures, we would like to illustrate with a parable of three families and how they responded to a letter the Father wrote to them before embarking on a long business trip.  The families each live on small farms, and there are many areas of responsibility, including feeding animals, bringing in crops, tending a garden, and maintaining the beauty of the property.  In the letter were specific things the Father wanted his family to do in his absence, and many reminders of how much he loves them and looks forward to seeing them upon his return. 

The studious family
As the Father is nearing his home after the completion of the business trip, he is excitedly anticipating the time he will be spending with his family very soon.  Oh, how he is longing to wrap his wife and children in his loving arms and hear about everything that has happened since he left.  However, as he nears his home, he begins to discover that his household and farm are in shambles.  Most of the animals are dead, and the garden is full of weeds from neglect.  Not a single member of his family hears him arriving as he enters the driveway in his car.  In fact, it almost seems his family has forgotten about him.  Sadly, the father hears unkind words being spoken in the house as he walks up to the door.  After coming into his home and greeting his family, the Father sits down in a chair to spend some quality time with them.  However, no-one seems to be interested in him.  They are all too busy studying pieces of paper.  The Father asks his son, Paul, “What are you examining?”  Paul responds, “I am studying part of your letter, of course!  Isn’t that what you wanted us to do!  It says right here, ‘Study to show yourself approved’…”   As the day proceeds, he realizes that not one member of his family is interested in spending time with him, either to hear how his trip went, or to share with him about their lives.  As evening approaches, the Father realizes he must have a family meeting.  As the Father sits down with his family to talk to them, first and foremost he asks, “Why haven’t you been doing the things I wrote to you in the letter”?  His oldest daughter, Sally, pipes up, “But Father, we have been studying the letter every day very diligently.  In fact, mother brought out your letter each morning and read it aloud to us before we started each day.”  The youngest son, Billy, chimes in, “Yeah, and mother has been having us memorize sections of the letter.  In fact, we can even recite some of it to for you now if you would like”.  The Father begins to respond, “I don’t think that will be necessary right now…”, when Sally interrupts, blurting out, “oh yes, and we also have been doing some in-depth, inductive studies of your letter. We have been analyzing carefully the words you chose, and how the sentences are structured.”  The Father interrupts his daughter, responding.  “Yes, that is all very interesting, but my main question is, why didn’t you do any of the things I wrote to you?!?” “If you really knew me, you would have done the things I asked, and you would have known that the purpose of the letter was not just for study, but to encourage you to be the family I want us to be.  To love one another, to steward what has been given to us, and to be a light to the world.  Most importantly, I wanted you to get to know me better so the letter would make more sense.  I see that I will need to do some more training to help you understand the original purpose for what I wrote.” He paused and then continued, “Didn’t my friend come to you as I promised in the letter.  I told you he would come and help you, and teach you many things.”  His wife responds, “Oh, yes, we did see a man who came to the door and introduced himself as your friend, but we did not recognize him and he spoke strangely so we sent him away.”

The industrious, meticulous family
This family is well-known in their town as a very industrious and hard-working family.  When the father returns from his business trip, he finds that certain areas of his farm are prospering and there is an appearance of beauty, but he realizes something is dreadfully wrong as he gets out of his car and begins walking up the sidewalk toward his home.  He is surprised and saddened that not a single member of his family greets him.  He had been looking forward to spending time with them, and had missed them so very much while he was away.  Although he attempts to call them by name and ask how they are doing, each of them is hard at work, heads down, focusing very diligently upon their tasks.  Sadly, they don’t even seem to realize he is there.  As the father proceeds up the sidewalk, he stops to talk to his second oldest son, Jimmy, who is hard at work cutting the lawn with a pair of scissors.  The father asks him what he is doing, and Jimmy explains, “I am mowing the lawn, of course.  In fact, I have hardly taken a break to even eat or sleep since you left, father.  All I have done is cut this lawn since you left.  Doesn’t it look beautiful, aren’t you proud of the great job I’m doing?”  The Father responds, “Um, yes, I am proud of you, son, but there is an easier way, and you could have done so much more if you had understood my instructions better…”  Jimmy’s eyes glaze over, he stops listening, and returns to his work, so the father proceeds toward the garden.  Upon arriving at the garden, he finds his oldest daughter, Jill, hard at work pulling weeds.  He asks what she is doing, and she replies, “I am pulling weeds, Father.”  The father responds, “Yes, I can see that, but why aren’t there any vegetables planted in the garden?”  Jill exclaims in surprise, “I didn’t know you wanted vegetables in the garden, I just thought it was supposed to be kept weed-free.”  By this point, not much would surprise the father, but he was about to be shocked.  He hears a small engine sound coming from the back field, so when he walks behind the barn, he is surprised to see his middle son, John, mowing the back 40 acres with a push-mower!  It appears that he has been working on it for a very long time, and only a small portion of the field had been mown.  Shaking his head, the father walks back to his house to see how his wife is doing, who is in the middle of cleaning the kitchen with a toothbrush.  His heart aches to spend time with his family, but they are all too busy working. As he sits down to ponder the situation, he can’t help but notice that even though much of the farm appears to be beautiful, there is no fruit!  Later, he discovers that all the animals had to be sold because no wheat or corn had been harvested for them to be fed.  His bank account is in ruins and debt is piling up rather quickly.  That evening, the Father sits down to talk with his family about what he is observing. He starts out by saying, “Much of what you have been doing has produced somewhat of an outward appearance of beauty, but you are working much too hard on the wrong things, with very little fruit or life.  The things I wrote to you in the letter were not meant to be kept meticulously, it wasn’t meant to be a set of rules for you to keep in order to maintain a polished appearance on the outside.  Besides, you only did certain things I wrote to you about, and completely ignored other parts. Did you not ask help from my friend I had promised would come in the letter.”  His wife responds,  “Yes, your friend did come, but we were too busy trying to do what you had written.  We didn’t think we needed any help, we thought we could figure it out, so we sent him away.  We thought you would be so proud of us, but we realize now how much we missed.”  “Yes”, the Father sadly responds, “Things would have been much different if you had received help from my friend and let him teach you what I really wanted. You did some good things, but you missed my heart.”

 The Spirit led family
As the father of this family arrives at the driveway to his home, he exclaims to himself, “Wow, this farm is so much more beautiful than when I left it.  It looks like the garden of Eden!  The crops have just been harvested, the animals look fat and happy, and the fruit trees are filled with fruit.”  He didn’t have much time to observe though, because his wife and children were all running down the road to greet him!  He couldn’t even finish driving up the driveway.  As he opened the door of his car,  he was greeted warmly with hugs and kisses from his children, eager to welcome their father home.  “Oh, how we missed you, daddy!”, they exclaimed.  As he takes his wife in his arms and gives her a big kiss, he exclaims, “It is so good to be home!!  Oh how I missed you! My family looks healthier and more beautiful than when I left!  And what an amazing job you have done with the farm, it is truly prospering and overflowing with love and life!”  That evening, when the father sits down with his family to spend time with them, he starts out by saying,  “I assume you met my friend, Yloh Tirips, from Japan, whom I sent to you to teach you and help you understand the things I wrote to you in my letter.”  The oldest son, Jack, responds, “Oh yes, it would have been impossible to take care of this farm without him.  When Yloh Tirips introduced himself to us, we at first couldn’t understand him very well since he spoke a strange language to us, but we could see that he was very earnest and appeared trustworthy. Also, since you had promised he would come in your letter, we believed you since you have never led us astray in the past.”  The oldest daughter, Jane, spoke up, “After we began to understand the language Yloh Tirips was speaking, he taught us how to see the things you had written in the letter from the perspective of your heart of love, Father.  We didn’t see the things you wrote as burdensome, but we found great joy as we worked alongside Yloh Tirips and he taught us.  One of the first things he showed us were all the tools you had left us to do jobs around the farm.  No sense working harder than we have to, right?”  Jane proceeded, “We found instructions for using the riding lawn-mower to cut the lawn, the roto-tiller to weed the garden, and the tractor to help us plant and harvest the fields.  If we had to do all that by hand, we would be burned out by now!” “We also learned that what you truly want are overflowing love and fruitfulness, not just keeping the farm looking good.”  The youngest child, Billy, piped up, “We were also excited about the cell-phone you left us, Father.” Yloh Tirips showed us where it was and how to turn it on so we could talk to you and discover exactly how you wanted certain things done, or to help us solve problems we encountered.”  “Oh, Yes,” the Father replied, “I enjoyed receiving those phone calls, spending time talking with you, and responding to your questions.  I was never far from you since we could communicate anytime you wanted.  I am so proud of you all, well done!  Let’s celebrate by killing one of those fattened calves I saw in the field!”

 Only the third family knew what the Father really wanted, and only with the help of Yloh Tirips(Holy Spirit), did they discover how to do what he wanted done and how to interpret and apply the letter properly.  You see, we can’t get to know the Father and understand his heart by simply reading the scriptures, studying them, and trying to do all the things contained in them in our own strength.  The Father wants us to grow in a relationship with him personally.  We can’t know the Father by just reading about him.  We must come to know him through the Holy Spirit, by spending time with him, and by growing in relationship with other believers who also know him.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Learn to laugh at yourself

Yesterday, I woke up sort of grouchy.  Someone in my family was sort of jesting about how I had wiped my hands on the back of my pants and there were blueberry stains there.   Now, I know they meant absolutely no harm, and it was all in good fun, but since I wasn't in a very good mood, I was feeling a bit resentful about the comments, but didn't say anything. A little while later, I went to spend some time in prayer and decided to pick up the "Jesus Calling" devotional book, which I haven't actually looked at for about 3 months.  The first two sentences of the next reading I opened up to in the book said, "Learn to laugh at yourself more.  Refuse to take yourself or your circumstances so seriously."  I couldn't help but receive some of the Joy of the Lord after reading that, and it completely changed my attitude.

The devotional went on to say that God loves it when his children laugh.  Just like we get delight out of seeing our own children care-free, laughing, and enjoying life.  Our Father loves it when we are free enough to laugh because that means we are trusting in him rather than trying to control our circumstances.

God has quite a sense of humor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The High priority of Relationship

The question came up with a brother as to what is God's highest priority and what does he care about above all else.   An article by Heidi and Rolland Baker made the bold statement that Jesus only cares about relationship.  Article entitled Relationship in the Kingdom While I am not prepared to defend that assertion completely, I do believe that Jesus cares about relationship deeply.  It is difficult to discern what he cares about most - but I would state that much of what God prioritizes stems back to some form of relational connection between himself and Man.  This brother I was communicating with stated that God also cares about Truth, justice, righteousness, and destroying the devil.  I agree, but I also see the high priority of relationship woven throughout all these concepts as well.  This kind of an exchange, when it doesn't spiral into a debate, can be very healthy and constructive - helping us see more clearly and deepening our understanding of God and his heart.  We need each other's viewpoints to see the bigger picture.  Here are some of my thoughts about relationship that I shared with him.

Truth, Justice, righteousness, and destroying the devil all have restoration of relationship at their core. I see the heart of God expressed in his desire to form relationship with man upon his creation. I see a beautiful relationship enjoyed eternally between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit displayed in the way Jesus spoke about his relationship with Father and his dependence upon the Holy Spirit. I see sin breaking that fellowship between God and man, and then God restoring that relationship through Jesus' sacrifice.  Jesus tore the veil in two so we can enjoy fellowship/communion with him the way he intended in the garden of eden with Adam. I see God passionately pursuing relationship with a people through Abraham and the nation of Israel and then I see him grieved, many times in terms reserved for marriage(Hosea) when they were adulterous(another relational term). God loves to call people who know his heart friends, and he now calls us his friends, even calling us his bride and his children - all relational terms. I see love as the main thing since God IS Love - and Love's best expression occurs within mutual relationship. God's love for a rock is limited since it can't love him back freely. We have to ask, why did God create man if not because he desired relationship with him? Yes, God could have created robots who did everything he told them, but he desires those who will freely love him back. God does not need this love, but he enjoys it because of who he is.  God is love, and he chose to include us in the fellowship circle of love he has been enjoying for eternity within the Trinity.
Relationship in Truth
As God removes lies that the devil and the world has told us, usually about Him, we can enter deeper relationship with him. As we see Him more clearly, the tree of life, we learn to depend less upon the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We understand that the world doesn't need us to be "right" about everything, but it needs us to be more "alive". The world needs Christians who are able to share the indwelling life and love of Christ, the living water, not just tell them how wrong their behavior is. It's like telling a dog it is wrong to bark,  people are going to live out of their nature and they need to be shown a better way.  Yes, Jesus told people the truth, but he also lived it out relationally with his disciples. Personally, my desire is becoming to know Jesus more personally and deeply so that his life oozes out of my life - not just in words, but in actions and in truth.
It is interesting to note that the word "know" when Jesus' said, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free" is a relational term. The greek word for "know" is Ginosko, sometimes used as a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. When Matthew says, "Joseph knew not Mary"(Matt. 1:25), he was using the word Ginosko. When we come into a right relationship with Jesus, the truth, then we can really say we "know" the truth. We don't just know about Jesus, we actually know Jesus relationally. Don't take the analogy of intercourse too far, I only use it to illustrate the depth and richness of the Greek language, and the depth of what Jesus was saying in relational terms.
1 John 1:1 - "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life." John the apostle had a relationship with a real person, Jesus Christ,  he saw him, touched him, and lived life with him. We can have a similar relationship with him because he lives in us. We can commune with him, hear his voice, and speak to him in the same way.

Spiritual Truth is found in a person, Jesus Christ, not just an ideal.  Truth administered apart from a right relationship with God becomes dead, pharisaical religion. We are products of western thinking that values facts and research over anything spiritual or experiential.  We need both to know the truth accurately.
Relationship in Righteousness
Righteousness is not so much about doing all the "right" things, but is more about restoring a "right" relationship with God and this includes the removal of sin so we can see clearly and enjoy relationship with him again. In the parable of the prodigal son,  I love how the Father wrapped his arms around his son and loved him unconditionally, even though he had just come from the pig-pen. I realized at one point in my Christian life that I was just like the older brother, and all my righteousness was just filthy rags. True righteousness is relational because it can only be accomplished through abiding in Him. Those who abide in him will bear much fruit.  Those who don't abide in him(another relational term), can bear NO lasting fruit.  As Heidi and Rolland Baker say in the book There is always enough, "Fruitfulness flows from intimacy".

Relationship restored in destroying the works of the devil and justice
What the first Adam lost, the second Adam has paid the price to restore and has poured out his spirit into a people through whom he is destroying the works of the Devil. What was lost at the fall is being restored through the sons of God, filled with his heart and his spirit, in close relationship with him. As God administers justice and the works of satan are destroyed through a people who are in union with him, right relationship is restored throughout the earth and "the" Truth (Jesus Christ) is revealed.

As truth, righteousness, and life with God is lived out relationally, it moves from our head into our heart.  I believe some may have trouble with the concept of relationship because the church in general has done a poor job of being relational and is uncomfortable with it.  It is easier to give people a list of rules, offer them some self-help, throw in a few programs and bible studies, and call it Christianity.  Christianity without a relationship with Christ and his body is not really the Christian life at all,  it is just another religious system.