Help My Doubt

Faith seeking reason- Mark 9:24

Memorial Meditation

As a pastor, even though I know that God has made a way for eternal life, I have to admit that life on this side of eternity can be very confusing and painful.

Today I would like to talk about that painful confusion and share with you the experience of other man who questioned God but made it through.

Job may be the most famous man in Christian history that believers turn to for encouragement when life does not make sense. He was a good man who lost his family, farm and health in a very short period of time. He did not do anything wrong to deserve such violence and suffering but God allowed it to happen anyway. Job believed in God, but he very honest about his feelings when he said,

3 “May the day of my birth perish,
and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’
4 That day-may it turn to darkness;
may God above not care about it;
may no light shine upon it (Job 3:3-4)
.

God gave us a record of Job’s life experience to encourage all future sufferers in their day of pain. It is hard to understand when someone SUFFERS:

  • While living a wise and responsible life;
  • While they are still young;
  • While receiving the best medical treatment available.

God wants us to know that it is okay to get angry when we see or experience human suffering and pain. Just like Job, we can go ahead and say:

  • It would be better to have never been born!” It makes sense that those who are never born avoid many years of trouble and pain.
  • May God above not care for the day I was born.” Notice, however, that in his suffering, Job never turns his back on God.

Job survived his trouble because he trusted God even when he was angry and confused.

The Good News about Job is that there is a happy ending! After a time of suffering Job prayed again to God saying:

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know (Job 42:3).

During times of suffering and pain it is good to remember that there are things “too wonderful” for us to know. Only God can know:

  • how much trouble one person can handle;
  • how to handle the invisible work of a real and living Satan;
  • how to turn suffering into an ever greater blessing.

In the end God blessed Job by returning everything he had lost- and then some! And so it can be for those of us who suffer in this life.

God promises a happy ending for all who entrust their lives to Him! Today we know that peace with God is found only through faith in His Son Jesus. If you have not yet learned to pray like Job I encourage you to find a good bible and an adult Christian you can trust. Be honest about your feelings in prayer but be careful never to turn your back on God. If you have learned to pray like Job I encourage you to keep up the good work.  You’re going to be okay.

February 8, 2010 Posted by | Doubt, Sermons | Leave a comment

Atheist Conversations

While reviewing my links I realized that I had not visited Jim Henderson’s site in a while. When I went there I learned that he is closing his blog (http://conversationattheedge.com/).

In his final post he implied that he would be continuing his ministry with atheists at a site called “The Practicing Church” (http://thepracticingchurch.com/about/).

While I think the complaints that the emergent church brings up about the traditional church are valid I think this one goes too far. They state clearly that what we believe is a minor issue and servant behavior is a major issue.  Yet Jesus said, “the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent (John 6:29)”.  Belief is not a minor issue it is the major issue and, ironically, correct belief is also the remedy for the problems the emergent church folks hope to change.

I am removing my link to Jim Henderson and will not be promoting The Practicing Church’s version of the emergent church.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Doubt | 2 Comments

NotReligion.com

I have been hearing cool sound bites on the local Christian radio station from NotReligion.com and decided to check out the web site myself.

I like the way they present God’s word in simple words and an attractive format. Check out their page called, “Jesus Who?”, at http://www.notreligion.com/index.php/the-answer/The-Problem.html.

Its not about religion but about a relationship with God. So true.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Doubt, God | Leave a comment

Unbelievable

We are going through the Gospel of John in church together but we are actually watching clips from the Visual Bible DVD during worship. It was cool this week to watch the miracles of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread and also walking on water.

 

I said this about it in part of my sermon:

 

If you haven’t already heard, there are Bible teachers in very smart universities who believe the miracles of Jesus did not happen. Some believe the disciples made up these stories to try to keep Christianity alive many years later. Some believe that these stories are spiritual fairy tales which teach us to live moral and loving lives. Again, it has been hard for me personally to learn that there are so many different interpretations of Scripture because many times I didn’t know what to say.

 

Today I want to share with you a few truths that will help us to understand God’s word with certainty. First of all, John said that these miraculous stories are true history. Near the end of John’s Gospel he said this about Jesus’ miracles:

 

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31).

 

John wrote his gospel to help us believe that Jesus was more than a man.

 

  1. Jesus really did feed 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread. It is not a parable. He did not say, “Jesus is like a man who feeds 5000”. Either it really happened or the whole gospel is false.

 

  1. Jesus really did walk on water. There are other ways to add evidence for the history of Jesus but today I just want to notice that John wrote what he saw so that we might believe and “by believing we might have life in his name”.

 

True, it is hard to believe without being able to see, hear and touch Jesus for ourselves but He said it is better for now because we have his Holy Spirit who helps us more than He could in the flesh. We can know God- even more than we realize is possible- because we have His word and His Spirit.

 

In these last days let us pray together that we might cling more tightly to Jesus Christ, who fed the 5,000, walked on water, who gives life to all who believe.

March 23, 2009 Posted by | Doubt | 1 Comment

The Sky is Falling

Have you gotten “the sky is falling” syndrome yet?

 

I spent some extra time studying Revelation last night because I found out that Tim LaHaye’s pre-trib rapture and one world government are not the only way to interpret scripture. There is a more optimistic interpretation based on Jesus’ victory at the cross and the early church’s boldness through persecution. I’m not convinced yet but I sure am looking for something more encouraging than singing “kum by ya” while clinging to a sinking ship.

Either way this country is feeling the wrath of God. We need to confess our greed, perversion and abortion or else we will go the way of ancient Israel. I’m convinced that God is leading his church into a lesson of “being content no longer in plenty but in want”. 

At the same time this might become the most exciting time of our life because it would tap into the natural masculine desire to protect, defend, provide and solve problems. If you’ve ever seen “The Incredibles” they capture the emasculation of the super-strong father perfectly when they put his fat and depressed frame into a tiny office cubicle. Office jobs are okay if we have an aggressive mission, like department of defense office personnel, but rubber stamping the status quo is like AIDS to the masculine soul. That’s why we Christian men need to remember our spiritual “battle” no matter where we are. We can fight and win the invisible cosmic war even when sweeping the floor.

 

March 12, 2009 Posted by | Doubt, God | 2 Comments

I copied this picture from another pastor who decided to quit blogging. I like what he had to say (http://mkperry.blogspot.com/).

I ended up using this space mostly to post my sermons and, while it helped my own doubts, I’m not sure anyone else was helped. It takes a lot of time in front of a computer and I believe Jesus wants us face-to-face with people as much as possible.

We are horrified when we hear of “internet romances” because we know it is impossible to have a real relationship online. Why do we think online ministry will be any different? My guess is that, for both romance and ministry, the illusion is very attractive.

January 7, 2008 Posted by | Doubt | 2 Comments

Jesus- “I AM” The Only Door

Summary: It is not often that you find a pastor in a small Pennsylvanian town who has also published a book but Rev. Harry Barrigar did. He wrote a book called, “Jesus the Great “I AM’” and it was based on a sermon series he preached which detailed the times that Jesus claimed to be God. It was an important message to remember back then and it is also today. I thought it would be great to remember that Jesus is God and celebrate what it means for Christmas this year. 

Understanding the Spiritual Door

If we can be honest with ourselves and with our neighbors we have to admit that God is not easy to explain. Jesus said (a) he is the door but he also said he is much more. He claimed (b) to be God and yet he also prayed to God. These things are hard to understand. We do want to explain as much as we can but also admit that there is a lot that we simply can not get into our tiny little brains.

Comparing God’s Call

Today I would like to compare the huge difference between God’s appearance to Moses as fire and God’s appearance to his disciples as Jesus. God’s appearance to Moses is rather big and scary but His appearance to his disciples is kind of small and modest. Someone might say that the two simply can not be the same God (or that both testimonies are false) but Jesus said they are the same God.

Comparing the Fire and Door

When we compare what God said in the book of Exodus we see a dramatic difference between the way he acted towards Moses and the way he acted in the gospel of John.

  • God the Fire.

After God called to Moses in the fire of the bush he said, Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground (Exodus 3:5). God called Moses over but he told him in no uncertain terms that he must stay at a distance and take off his shoes. God appeared as a holy fire and Moses was afraid. To be honest, God does not look much like Jesus here.

  • God the Door.

After Jesus called to John and the others “again” he said, I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture (John 10:9). Jesus did not say, “Do not come any closer”, but rather, “enter through me”. He didn’t say, “take off your sandals because you are standing on holy ground”, but rather, “come in and go out and find pasture”. God appeared as a human and John was not afraid. Again, to be honest, God in Jesus does not look much like God in the fire.

  • God the Fiery Door

If we use our imaginations I think we can see how God is both a fire and a door; He is a fiery door. Imagine the burning bush that Moses saw with the fire and God talking out of it; “God is a consuming fire”. Now imagine the sheep pen with a fence built in a circle and the single gate which opens and closes to let the sheep in and out; Jesus said, “I AM the gate”. Since both are true, now imagine that the burning bush is inside the sheep pen. Jesus acts like a fire door which keeps the fire contained inside a room. Just as God told Moses, “do not come any closer” to protect him from the holy fire so also does Jesus protect us by being “the door”. Jesus is God; He “is a consuming fire” and he is also “the door” and he invites us to come in.

Entering the Fiery Door

One must wonder, then, how we can enter the door to be saved without being burned to death. Remember, though, that when God spoke with Moses from within the fire the bush was not burned up (and neither was Moses). God can make us like the bush that touched the fire but was not destroyed. Those who “enter through” Jesus will enter into the fire and not be burned. Christmas is a reminder that Jesus was born so that “the door” to God might be opened. Before Jesus came the door was closed and next time he comes the door will be closed and locked forever. Just as we all go home every day and walk through the door to our house so also do we need to make a decision to enter the family of God. We can not open the door ourselves, only Jesus can, and he will if we humble ourselves and pray. I encourage you to enter through Jesus and enjoy peace with God this Christmas; again or for this very first time.

December 10, 2007 Posted by | Christmas, Doubt, Sermons | Leave a comment

After Modernity…What?

After Modernity…What?

Agenda for Theology

By Thomas Oden

 

Summary: Don’t let the terms “modernity” or “theology” turn you off. This is a book that explains “what’s the matter with people these days?” But more importantly, “what’s wrong with Christians today?” As a recovering liberal theologian Oden admits the honest errors of his past and presents a faithful path into the future. This is a humble reflection on the limits of theology and wise counsel for the future.    

Part I

The Courtship of Modernity

Interlude: Candid Talk with Old Co-Conspirators

Part II

The Critique of Criticism

Part III

The Liberation of Orthodoxy

  

Call me lazy but I offer only a sampling of my favorite quotes in summary:

 PROBLEM 

“We have seen the language of Christianity tamed by the civil religionists, neatly pruned by theological positivists, ‘dehistoricized’ by the existentialists, ‘deabsolutized’ by the process theologians, naturalized by behaviorists, sentimentalized by the situational ethicists, secularized by the ‘death of God’ partisans, politicized by social activists, and set free from all bonds by the sexual liberationists (p.24)”.  

“The shocker is not merely that I rode so many bandwagons, but that I thought I was doing Christian teaching a marvelous favor by it and at times considered this accommodation the very substance of the Christian teaching office (p.28)”.  

“Ministry will have to learn anew a skill that once was taken for granted but now has become long forgotten- the ability to distinguish between doctrinal truth and error (p. 34)”.  

“When a theologian forgets the distinction between heterodoxy and orthodoxy, it is roughly equivalent to a physician forgetting the difference between disease and health (p.59)”.  

“Doctrinal definition is as essential to the task of theology as identifying a phony dollar bill is to the job of a bank teller (p. 172)”. 

“In fact, a good case can be made that all the current heresies are essentially reformulations of the early ones familiar to the first five centuries (p. 158)”. 

“We have brushed under our ecumenical rugs so many ancient heresies that our rugs now bulge in the middle (p. 167)”.

 SOLUTION  

“The surest move I know toward postcritical consciousness consists in this simple maxim: Quit using ‘new’ and ‘change’ as magic words (p.42)”.  

“The one thing I have learned in hermeneutics which has changed everything is what I can only call ‘obedience to the text’- listening to the text itself instead of modern interpreters of it (p. 80)”.  

“On the same grounds there must be no punishment for heterodox teaching other than simply withholding the religious body’s approval or permission to preach (p. 171)”. 

“It is the winter season for rigorous Christian teaching. But it has been through many winters before (p. 198)”.

  

I was greatly helped by Dr. Oden’s insights into the problems of modern Bible teaching but what this book stopped short of detailing he accomplished in his later publication called “Rebirth of Orthodoxy”, which I highly recommend.

 

November 21, 2007 Posted by | Books I'm Reading, Doubt | 2 Comments

Preventive Medicine of Faith

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever

(Psalm 118:1).

Summary: We heard today that “God is good” and “His love endures forever”. To be honest we must face the reality that sometimes it feels like there may be exceptions to these rules. We know in our minds that “God is good; His love endures forever” but sometimes it feels like God is distant and His love is out of reach. Life is confusing and painful sometimes and we need to be ready to love one another through dark times. To use medical language I would like to suggest that one of the best ways God teaches us how to help is with “preventive medicine”.  

Diagnosis of Faith

God has given us His sacred Scriptures as “preventive medicine”. Simply by reading God’s word over and over again, and living out what He teaches us, we can be protect against all kinds of problems in this life. For example, Jane Doe has been divorced by her husband and clearly she is experiencing negative emotions over it. She is grieving and we know that her feelings are likely to change her physical health. If Mary (a) does not believe that God exists, much less care for her, she may get depressed and lose her appetite and she may not sleep well at night. Her health may fail to the point where she loses weight and feels tired and gets sick. Some people think faith in God is does no good in “real life” but even some medical doctors are starting to see that faith does help. If Mary (b) does believe that God is real and that “God is good; His love endures forever” then her mood may not go as low and her health could recover in due time.

 Preventive History

In Psalm 118 we hear that, “God is good; His love endures forever”. Those beliefs are incredibly protective and preventive in this life but only if they are true. The psalm writer goes on to testify as to why these statements are true. He appeals to history by saying, 2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever (Psalm 118:2-3).”
When the Hebrews sang this song together in worship they would have been recalling all the old crises of history when God proved Himself to be faithful in love. To say (a), “Israel” is to call to memory God’s faithfulness to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; especially Jacob who wrestled with God and was given the name “Israel” and gave birth to the 12 tribes of Israel. To say (b), “Aaron” is to call to memory God’s faithfulness to Moses and his brother Aaron; especially the great miracles of the Exodus and the God’s mercy after Aaron made the Golden Calf when Moses was getting the 10 Commandments. The claim that “God is good; his love endures forever” is true because the history of God’s love and faithfulness as recorded in Scripture is true.

Prevention Today

There is a problem with “preventive medicine” in many churches today. Faith and mood and health are poor in many churches today because Christian history is being attacked. Some pastors are saying that “God is good; his love endures forever” but they are also saying that (a) the history in Genesis is not true. For example, I was reading an article this week about those boring genealogies in Scripture. The Bible says that Jesus’ family line can be proven to run all the way back to David, which can be traced back to Abraham, which can be traced all the way back to Adam. However, if a pastor says that the history of Adam in Genesis isn’t true then our faith in the rest of the Bible’s history is in doubt too. Israel can only say, “God is good; His love endures forever” if the history of Adam and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is true. Some pastors are also saying that “God is good; his love endures forever” but, in the same breath, that (b) the history of Exodus is not true. There are Bible commentaries that we can buy in Christian bookstores that actually try to explain Moses’ parting of the Red Sea as a natural disaster. I have read some scientists who claim that all the miracles in the Bible can be explained by laws of nature. Think of what this does to a person’s faith. The Bible says that Jesus walked on water, healed the blind and rose from the dead. If we believe that Moses did not lead Israel through the Red Sea because of the miraculous power of God then our faith in Jesus’ resurrection and our own life after death is in doubt too! Israel and Aaron can only say, “God is good; His love endures forever” if the history in Genesis and Exodus is true.

Prognosis of Faith

Preventing mood problems and health problems can be done by believing the history of God’s salvation. We need to read the Bible over and over again and resist those who would weaken our faith in God’s Word. All of us, when hurt by life’s troubles, will do much better if we believe like Israel and Aaron did, that “God (really) is good; his love (truly) endures forever”.

October 29, 2007 Posted by | Doubt, Sermons | 3 Comments

Taught to Hope

Summary: The apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the church in Rome that, Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4). Basically, the Bible was written to give us hope for ourselves and hope to share with the world. Sometimes seeing hope in the Old Testament (e.g. Exodus 32-33) is not easy to do.  

At our Bible Study last Wednesday we were all talking about how many times Christians will struggle with feelings. It is the age-old problem of knowing that God is a loving God but feeling like He might not love us anymore. Our minds can tell us one thing but our hearts can tell us another.  

  • The encouragement of the history in the book called Exodus is in knowing that although some of these Israelites got to see God send miraculous plagues on Pharaoh then lead them out of slavery in Egypt by a pillar of fire, and yet when they got to the Red Sea they complained about God. That should be an encouragement to those of us who know that we complain too much about the good life God has given us too. Remember, God punished Israel but He did not send them back into slavery, so He may discipline us too but He will not send us back into our slavery to sin.  

  • Even more so, the encouragement of Exodus is knowing that while some of those sinful Israelites went on to see God split the Red Sea open so they could cross on dry ground and drown their enemies as they attacked from behind, He also fed them manna in the desert for 40 years while their shoes did not wear out, and He spoke out loud to them from Mt. Sinai for all to hear; but when Moses went up to pray they made a “holy Cow” out of gold and worshipped it! That should be an incredible encouragement to those of us who know how quickly we can become weak and fall into the temptation of doing something we know very well is wrong. Again, God punished many of them but He did not totally destroy them as they deserved (and He intended; Read 32:10) but in mercy God let His presence remain with them still.

 Truely, Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4).

God is a merciful God who listens to the prayers of those who love Him. Moses told us of the hope that would come through (1) God, the Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Paul told us of hope that came through (2) Jesus Christ, God’s only Son; and we can tell others of the hope that we now have through the power of God’s (3) Holy Spirit living in those who believe.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

August 27, 2007 Posted by | Doubt, God | Leave a comment