Posted by: word4men | March 21, 2010

The God Question

Responding to Brian McLaren’s Question # 3: The God Question
By Bob. Filed in A New Kind of Christianity, Bible, Biblical Counseling, Brian McLaren |
A Conversation about Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity
Responding to Brian McLaren’s Question # 3: The God Question
Welcome: You’re reading “Part 5” of my blog series responding to Brian McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christianity (read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here). Many have engaged Brian’s thinking by focusing on a systematic theology response (visit here for a boatload of links). My focus is on pastoral theology or practical theology. As a pastor, counselor, and professor who equips the church for biblical counseling and spiritual formation, I’m asking: “What difference does our response to each question make for how we care like Christ (biblical counseling) and for how we live like Christ (spiritual formation)?”

Does the Bible Need Therapy?

Brian’s third question is the God question. Is God violent? He’s asking, “Why does God seem so violent and genocidal in many Bible passages?” “Is God incurable violent,” Brian asks (p. 20). In the asking, we see that for Brian, the Bible’s view of God needs to be cured. The Bible needs therapy. Now that’s a new slant on “biblical counseling”!

Some may argue, “Wait a minute, Bob. Brian’s only trying to cure our false images of God, not the Bible’s false images of God.”

I’m sorry, that’s simply not true. Using his idea of the Bible as a “library,” Brian is honest enough to state, “But I have to admit that there are problems in the Bible as library too. Real problems. Big problems” (p. 98). He says that as a serious reader of the Bible he’s uneasy because of “images of God that are also found in the Bible—violent images, cruel images, un-Christlike images” (p. 98). That’s Brian in his own words.

God in Brian’s Image

In biblical counseling and spiritual formation, we talk about what it means to be created in God’s image. In A New Kind of Christianity, Brian talks about what it means to create God in our image. That’s God in Brian’s image.

So how does Brian counsel and cure the God portrayed in the Bible? How does one do spiritual formation on the Bible’s God? How does Brian help the God of the Bible to become more Christlike?

Brian takes an evolutionary view of the Bible’s portrayal of God. “I begin to see how our ancestors’ images and understandings of God continually changed, evolved, and matured over the centuries. God, it seemed, kept initiating this evolution” (p. 99).

This entire section reminds me of the 1996 book God a Biography by Jack Miles who saw God in evolutionary terms. For Miles, God began his life as a socially-inept child, matured into a socially-awkward adolescent, and finally grew up relationally as he stumbled upon how to love—learning from the prophets how to relate!

To be fair, unlike Miles, McLaren is not saying that God grew up and got better. He is, however, claiming that the Bible’s portrayal of God grew up and got better. “Scripture faithfully reveals the evolution of our ancestors’ best attempts to communicate their successive best understandings of God. As human capacity grows to conceive of a higher and wiser view of God, each new vision is faithfully preserved in Scripture like fossils in layers of sediment” (p. 103).

God in Jesus’ Own Words: WDJS

Is this what God says anywhere in Scripture? Does Jesus anywhere indicate that He has a problem with the Old Testament view of God? Brian says he’s trying to properly honor Jesus as the ultimate revelation of God—as the living Word who teaches us the meaning of the written Word. Great. Show me the message. Show us where Jesus takes issue with anything written in the Old Testament about God. WDJS: What Does Jesus Say?

It seems like this is a case of everyone doing and believing what is right in their own eyes. Who gets the last word on the best view of God? When applied to God, this is the essence of idolatry—creating images of God in our own image.

God doesn’t need a bailout. He doesn’t need a “Personal Recovery Act.” The biblical presentation of God doesn’t need an Extreme Makeover! God doesn’t need new PR.

Practical Implication # 1: Our Image of God’s Holy Love

These issues are vital theologically and practically. In biblical/Christian counseling and spiritual formation, nothing is more important than our image of God. Jeremiah 2:5 explains that it is because of faulty, light-weight views of God that we commit spiritual adultery. Jeremiah 2:19-25 notes that when we lose our awe of God, we become attracted and addicted to false lovers of the soul. The very center of biblical counseling is a biblical understanding of Who God is.

In Soul Physicians, I explore the biblical image of God as a God of “holy love.” While our finite minds can never capture the infinite attributes of God, numerous biblical passages combine God’s holiness and His love as a way to communicate something of God’s perfection. Holy love communicates God’s transcendence—He is holy and far above us, sovereign and in control, King and Lord. Holy love also communicates God’s immanence—He is loving and near us, affectionate and caring, Father and Friend.

Brian seems to object to the “holy” side of God. Of course, the Old Testament repeatedly presents, in perfect harmony, God’s holy love. We can’t dissect God and pick and choose what aspects of His infinite, eternal being are acceptable to us. This is true not only because that would be the epitome of sinful arrogance, but also because God’s attributes aren’t dissectible. He’s not “holy” now, and “loving” later. In everything He ever does, His infinite being always works in perfect harmony. God is forever and always simultaneously holy and loving.

Practical Implication # 2: Spiritual Conversations and Scriptural Explorations—Trialogues

The heart of biblical/Christian counseling involvement beats around the concept of “trialogue.” In biblical counseling, we don’t preach at people (“directive” counseling). Nor do people come with all the answers that we simply draw out (“non-directive” counseling). Rather, in the personal ministry of the Word, we practice “collaborative” counseling. We not only dialogue, we trialogue. In every counseling situation, there are three parties: the counselor, the counselee, and the Divine Counselor through the Word of God and the Spirit of God. (See Spiritual Friends for literally 1,000s of examples of trialogues).

Of course, we can’t have a trialogue, only a dialogue, if every passage is up for grabs. A dialogue is the essence of secular therapy—two people exploring life together using the resources of human reason alone. By their very definition, pastoral counseling, biblical counseling, and Christian counseling involve two people exploring together from a shared reservoir of agreed upon theological principles and faith practices.

So picture what happens if we get to pick and choose what portraits of God we like.

“So, Evan, as you work through your grief, could we explore how David candidly lamented his losses in the Psalms?”

“Oh, sorry, Bob. I don’t believe that David got God right. We’d have to go to another passage where I think the view of God is highly enough evolved to apply to my life today.”

Now, we certainly could beneficially engage Evan in spiritual conversations regarding his beliefs about the Scriptures and God. Vital issues, indeed. Which is my point—unless and until we accept the Bible’s view of itself and of God, we’re doing “pre-counseling.” Or perhaps even evangelism or apologetics—all worthy ministries.

But can we do biblical counseling and personal discipleship when one or both parties dismiss the Bible’s view of God? Remember, we’re not talking about disagreements surrounding how to interpret passages that we believe are authoritative. We’re talking about the belief that the Bible does not present accurate images of God. Doesn’t such a belief preclude biblical discipleship? If not, what is the definition of “biblical” counseling and “biblical” discipleship?

The Rest of the Story

In our next post, we explore the Jesus question. Brian asks, “Who is Jesus and why is He important?” Nothing is more important. What does a biblical counseling perspective offer that can be essential in this ongoing conversation?

Join the Conversation

How could you do biblical counseling using Brian’s view of the Bible and of God?

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This is one of the biggest of questions. Where does a practical theologian (counselor, preacher, etc) recieve authority to work in their discipline under God. For me, the answer can only be from God through His word. It must both grant me the priviledge of counseling and comforting and give me the tools and ammunition to give real hope and comfort. What does the “liberal side of the emerging church” say.

Responding to Brian McLaren’s Question # 2: The Authority Question
By Bob. Filed in A New Kind of Christianity, Biblical Counseling, Brian McLaren, McLaren, Sufficiency of Scripture |
A Conversation about Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity
Responding to Brian McLaren’s Question # 2: The Authority Question
Welcome: You’re reading “Part 4” of my blog series responding to Brian McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christianity (read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here). Many have engaged Brian’s thinking by focusing on a systematic theology response (visit here for a boatload of links). My focus is on pastoral theology or practical theology. As a pastor, counselor, and professor who equips the church for biblical counseling and spiritual formation, I’m asking: “What difference does our response to each question make for how we care like Christ (biblical counseling) and for how we live like Christ (spiritual formation)?”

The Question of the Bible’s Sufficiency

Brian’s second question is the authority question. How should we understand the Bible? He’s asking, What is the Bible and what is it for? He feels a moral obligation to revisit how we view the Bible.

In defending his revisioning of Scripture, Brian again resorts to caricature. He speaks of preachers passionately decrying psychology because they see the only relevant biblical categories being disobedience and demon possession (p. 68). Well, many of us decry secular psychological assumptions that seek to understand the creature apart from the Creator. However, many of us have spent our lives developing a biblical psychology—a robust understanding of people, problems, and solutions derived from a Bible that we cherish as sufficient, authoritative, relevant, and profound. (See my Soul Physicians for one example.)

He says we’re steering our ship by wrestling with biblical passages in a simple “thou shalt not” way, and thus paralyzed in solving major life-and-death issues (p. 69). Well, many of us have been in the trenches wrestling with real people with real problem, thinking deeply with them about how God’s story intersects with their story. (See my Spiritual Friends for one example.)

Brian further claims that the Bible “offers us no clear categories for many of our most significant and vexing socioethical quandaries” (p. 68). Wow. Some of us talk about the sufficiency, authority, relevancy, and profundity of Scripture for biblical counseling and spiritual formation. Brian presents the insufficiency, incapacity, irrelevance, and shallowness of Scripture for life and ministry.

Read with confidence and applied with wisdom, the Bible offers us categories for thinking about everything we need for daily life and godly living (2 Peter 1:3; Hebrews 4:12-16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 2:3-10). I’m baffled as I attempt to visualize a pastoral counseling session from Brian’s perspective of the Bible. In Spiritual Friends I offer 1,000s of sample “spiritual conversations” and “scriptural explorations” all based upon the sufficiency, authority, relevancy, and profundity of God’s Word. What would Brian offer (WWBO)?

WWBO: What Would Brian Offer?

Reading the three chapters in which Brian shares his view of Scripture, I felt like I was watching an episode of American Idol. If Simon Cowell was responding, he might have said, “Sorry, Brian, but that was a mess.” I could almost hear Randy Jackson saying, “Listen dude. Yo dawg. For me for you; I just didn’t get it. It was pitchy and karaoke.”

Brian’s Bible is filled with internal inconsistencies (p. 81) because his Bible is neither authoritative nor inspired (pp. 82-83). His Bible was never intended to provide answers to deep questions, but rather to stimulate conversations without any final direction (p. 92).

Why? Because for Brian the God of the Bible (using Job as an example) is “not the actual God necessarily, but the imagined God, the author’s best sense of God, the fictional character playing God for the sake of this dramatic work of art” (p. 94). Try telling that to the person in the midst of horrible life suffering. Try telling that to the person in need of empowered wisdom to break the chains of a besetting sin.

WWJS: What Would Jesus Say?

Brian sees the Bible through evolutionary lenses. In each generation, it was the current best attempt to conceptualize who God is, who we are, how we relate to God and to one another. We need to come to the Bible with more enlightened eyes, more evolved insight—according to Brian.

Brian also says that he wants us to return to the place where we look at the Bible through Jesus’ eyes. He says he is “a follower of Jesus and a devoted student of the Bible” (p. 83). Taking him at his word, I want us to ask together, “What would Jesus say?” Did Jesus see the Bible the way Brian sees it?

Jesus tells us that “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). In the midst of personal suffering, trials, and temptations, Jesus clung to and exhorted us to cling to the sufficient, authoritative, relevant, and profound Word of God.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18). In the midst of a sermon on personal, social ethics Jesus related Old Testament truth to daily life, in so doing teaching us to trust in the sufficiency, authority, relevancy, and profundity of Scripture for life, ministry, and relationships today.

Clearly, we can all misinterpret and misapply Scripture. No one should claim that their interpretation or application is inspired or inerrant. However, that’s infinitely different from claiming that the Bible itself is not inspired or inerrant. That’s why we must interpret and apply the Bible humbly in community. Humbly—but with confidence that God’s Word provides the wisdom we need to love God and others. Without that humble confidence in the sufficiency, authority, relevancy, and profundity of Scripture we have no basis for biblical counseling and spiritual formation.

The Rest of the Story

In our next post, we explore the God question. Brian asks, “Is God violent?” We respond to his response—through the lens of biblical counseling and spiritual formation.

Join the Conversation

What view of and use of the Bible do you follow as you minister God’s Word to hurting and hardened, suffering and sinning people?

Posted by: word4men | March 18, 2010

Robert Kelleman on McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity

Below is Robert Kelleman’s Respone to Brian McLaren’s latest book. McLaren’s first big boat rocking book was entitled A Generous Orthodoxy, which Mark Driscoll referred to as neither orthodox nor generous.
I must say, after reading most of Robert’s observations of his old acquaintance, he has again labeled his view falsely.
This is not new, it is actually the mainstream protestant doctrine of scripture for the last 100 years. Please read Robert’s observations and chime in on what you think…particularly if you have engaged with McLaren’s writing before.

A Conversation about Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity
Responding to Brian McLaren’s Question # 1: The Narrative Question
Welcome: You’re reading “Part 3” of my blog series responding to Brian McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christianity (read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). Many have engaged Brian’s thinking by focusing on a systematic theology response (visit here to see a boatload of links). My focus is on “pastoral theology” or “practical theology.” As a pastor, counselor, and professor who equips the church for biblical counseling and spiritual formation, I’m asking: “What difference does our response to each question make for how we care like Christ (biblical counseling) and for how we live like Christ (spiritual formation)?”

What’s the Big Idea?

Brian’s first question asks, What is the overarching story line of the Bible? He’s asking what are the deep problems that the original Christian story was trying to solve? What’s the big picture?

Brian claims that the traditional answer to these questions are radically informed by what he calls the Greco-Roman narrative, and thus in turn influenced by Platonic thought and Roman imperialism. That he doesn’t lend any historical support to this major contention is problematic. Much worse, however, is the straw man he fashions. One can’t even say it’s a caricature or a stereotype. That would imply that the version he presents as the traditional Christian meta-narrative is anywhere near what anyone actually teaches.

What Brian’s addressing is the “CFR Narrative”—the Creation, Fall, Redemption story line of the Bible. One hardly recognizes it in Brian’s hands. I’ve authored two books on church history and studied church history for 25 years. I’ve never once read anyone’s view of the CFR Narrative that sounds the least bit like Brian’s straw man. In fact, let’s all agree. Brian, the Greco-Roman narrative is not Christian. You detest that view. So do I.

The CCFRC Narrative

Now that we’re in agreement with Brian that the Greco-Roman narrative fails the Christian test, let’s do what we came here to do. Let’s ask, “What difference does our response to the narrative question make for how we care like Christ (biblical counseling) and for how we live like Christ (spiritual formation)?”

The CFR narrative, as actually taught in historic Christianity, is really the CCFRC narrative.

*Community: The eternal community of Oneness shared by the Trinity.

*Creation: God’s original design of the universe and of the nature of human nature.

*Fall: Humanity’s fall into sin.

*Redemption: God’s solution to humanity’s problem—salvation in Christ.

*Consummation: Eternity future.

These five meta-narrative themes, plus two core questions about truth and ministry, provide us with life’s seven ultimate questions. By addressing these seven questions, we offer a biblical counseling and spiritual formation response to Brian’s narrative question.

Life’s Seven Ultimate Questions

In our post-modern generation shaped by relativism, even the Church is filled with differing views on the largest issues of life and ministry. The question that defines us more than any other is: “Upon what do we base our life and ministry?” Here are seven truths that must shape the way we see life and ministry. They teach us what makes biblical ministry truly biblical.

1. Question 1: “What is truth? Where do I find answers?”

Answer 1—The Word: “God’s Word is sufficient, authoritative, profound, and relevant.”

All that we need for life and godliness we find in Scripture (the written Word). In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (the Living Word). We live and breathe every nano-second not by bread alone, but by the Word of God. Therefore, in life and ministry every question is ultimately a God-question and every answer is fundamentally a God-answer.

2. Question 2: “Who is God?”

Answer 2—The Creator: “God is Trinitarian.”

God is not the “alone with the alone.” The God of the Universe is, always has been, and always will be Three-in-One, communitarian, Trinitarian. Before God created, He related. Thus God created us not out of need, but graciously from the overflow of infinite Trinitarian fellowship. Reality is relational because God is Trinitarian. Therefore, in life and ministry our purpose is to enjoy and glorify God as we combine Scripture and soul, truth and love.

3. Question 3: “Who am I”?

Answer 3—Creation: “We are created with dignity by God in the image of Christ.”

I am not an accident. I am fearfully and wonderfully made with the purpose of worshipful fellowship with the God of the universe and sacrificial one-another fellowship with my fellow human beings. Together we are to enjoy God by glorifying Him forever as we fulfill our calling as stewards of His universe. Therefore, in life and ministry our goal is to reflect increasingly the inner life of Christ.

4. Question 4: “What went wrong?”

Answer 4—The Fall: “We sinfully and foolishly choose god-substitutes over God.”

The only explanation for sin and suffering is humanity’s fall into rebellion initiated by Adam and Eve and continued to this day by every person who ever lived. We sinfully forsake and attempt to replace God because we have lost our awe of God and chosen to love false gods. Therefore, in life and ministry we must recognize and confess that our core problem is spiritual adultery.

5. Question 5: “Can we change? How do people change?”

Answer 5—Redemption: “We must apply our complete salvation to our daily sanctification.”

Our only hope for change is our acceptance by faith of God’s grace in Christ. Those who are new creations in Christ can change because they have already been changed. Justification (our new pardon), reconciliation (our new peace), regeneration (our new purity), and redemption (our new power) provide the four-fold basis for daily growth into the image of Christ. Therefore, in life and ministry our identity in Christ is foundational to our transformation in Christ.

6. Question 6—“Where am I headed? What is my destiny?”

Answer 6—Glorification: “Heaven is my final home.”

For those who enter into eternal relationship with God in Christ, our destiny is endless relationship and purpose—sacred communion within God’s holy and happy family. The biblical answer to the question of ultimate destiny ought to impact drastically how we live today—our future destiny impacts our present reality. Therefore, in life and ministry, reading the end of the story makes all the difference in how we respond to present suffering and how we overcome besetting sins.

7. Question 7—“Can I help? How can I help?”

Answer 7—Sanctification/Ministry: “We dispense God’s cure for the soul—grace.”

Grace is God’s prescription for our disgrace—the disgrace of sin and the disgrace of suffering. Grace is God’s medicine of choice for our sinful and suffering world. God calls us to be dispensers of His grace which sustains and heals us in our suffering, which reconciles and guides us in our sin, and which moves us toward sanctification in Christ. Therefore, in life and ministry we must be dispensers of grace.

The Life of the Soul through the Lens of the Scriptures

These seven biblical categories are essential for seeing the life of the soul through the lens of the Scriptures. The biblical meta-narrative is absolutely vital because these relevant biblical categories address life’s seven ultimate questions that every honest person asks.

Rather than being some Greco-Roman invention based upon some contrived Platonic and imperialistic concepts, the biblical CCFRC Narrative offers God’s authoritative wisdom for how we minister to one another for His glory. Omit these and we have no “practical theology,” no “pastoral theology.” That’s what we lose if we accept Brian’s straw man attack on the historic CFR Narrative.

The Rest of the Story

In our next post, we’ll respond to Brian’s second question, the authority question: How should the Bible be understood? We’ll ask that question through the lens of biblical counseling and spiritual formation.

Join the Conversation

What is the Bible’s meta-narrative and what difference does it make in real life?

Posted by: word4men | January 8, 2010

A Heritage

A WalkI spent a few hours yesterday with a wonderful family. The father passed away at the age of 86. A successful medical practitioner, well known in our area even though he hadn’t practiced his profession for several years.
His son and two of his grandkids were in that old practice.
He was active in his church. A lay leader in the national organization and locally.
He was generous to a fault. Many family members and friends had borrowed money to establish businesses all over our local area which are parts of the greater community even now…he forgave many of the debts even though they could be repayed.
What effected me was the way that within 1 hour of his peaceful death no less than two dozen family members and friends were in the house fixing coffee, bringing food, spending time sitting by his body with his widow/wife of 63 years.
I teared up as I watched and took part in the families reaction to grief. I realized that this was a wonderful family and community that a good man had helped to construct and now his family was benefitting from it. I thought of several of my patients who either have no family or have dysfunctional family (meaning that in some really bad ways) or some really evil families and communities. I also realized that at the age of 44, I am not sure I have anything close to what I watched. If my dear wife were to predecease me, there is a very good chance I would be alone.
This gentleman had left a heritage that will stick with his family and friends and will support his widow in her grief and the rest of her life.
What is my heritage? His faith has been translated to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I fear mine will not out last my lifetime…same God, and savior.
I asked God for such a heritage…Then I stopped, sobbed a little and asked that He would make me a man who could leave such a heritage whether it was God’s will to give it to me or not.
Are you, in particular, you men (married or not at this point) living in such a way that God will leave you a heritage of children or friends that have benefitted from your living a Godly and gracious life. Do you put your investments of time, emotion and money to reap lasting dividends? Do you just hope to have a few minutes of comfort or pleasure or a new “toy” or experience and give no thought to what happens when the worms are eating your flesh and you are waiting to recieve God’s judgement?
As for me, I will work to and pray to and study to and apply myself to leave something that God may use for generations to come. I am sick of living only for the here and now.

Posted by: word4men | November 6, 2009

The Cup

As I consider my sins…those secret and those public… my spiritual slothe in feeding my soul and those charged to me…of confronting those dear lost people I know with Jesus and this beautiful Gospel of the God who sought out and died in His people’s place, I am broken and reminded of my everpresent need for His Grace. Can I bear the cup? No. Jesus bore the cup. Who killed Jesus? I killed Jesus.

Posted by: word4men | October 25, 2009

Consider Yourself Dead

20Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast;
21these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
22Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus.
23And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24″Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
25″He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.
26″If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

John 12:20-26

Last night I was reading a biography of Curtis LeMay, the much misuderstood Air Force General of WW2 and Cold War fame. I challenge folks to read about him from people other than those of the Vietnam and 60’s period. A very interesting man who was very much anti his stereotype.
I read where he gave a scared officer in his bomber group in early WW2 Britain some personal advice
“Nutter, you are probably going to get killed, so it’s best to accept it. You’ll get along much better.”
I guess many men have given similar advice. Maybe the writers of “12 O’Clock High” took this directly from LeMay or maybe many commanders at that time in 8th Air Force (the US strategic bomber force in Europe) may have given it as the more flamboyant General Savage (Gregory Peck). But, it does sound remarkably like the sermon my pastor (Ken Hardin, Grace Community Baptist Church, Monks Corner, SC) gave this morning.
The language of death is one the Bible uses over and over again…mainly to express bad things. But here, in John 12:24-25 Jesus uses it in a paradoxical fashion. He tells us that if we hate our lives we will save it. If we love our lives here on Earth more than God, we will lose it. Paul tells us to “consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to Christ” (Romans 6:11). Or “”I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians (2:20).
In a very real sense, we who have been called to God through Christ into the church must die. Our desires for material things, safety, comfort, power in the world must die. For we have died in Christ.
As General Savage and General LeMay (then LTC LeMay) said, to them the only thing that mattered was putting bombs on target so as to end the war quicker…therefore consider yourself dead already. Christians, are already dead to this world. We are to have but one goal and ambition, serve Christ, glorify the Godhead by relying upon HIM  and living for Him, in Him.
I must admit, even this very weekend, I recieved a couple of affronts and took them very personally. One had to do with money (it really did hurt and wasn’t my fault…lets just say no groceries were bought this weekend) and one loved one selfishly assaulted another with their words…which lacked any understanding.  But, that is what we should expect. Everyone has those problems…as a Christian, I should expect far more for HIS sake (the 2d was partially so). But what seperates (or shouldseperate) believers from others. We do not take our suffering as against us, but as against the one who loves us and we know there is purpose…God’s glory in our suffering. He is served. I haven’t fully embraced this teaching, but I know it is true. Please pray for me, and I will pray for you that we will ultimately love God more than our earthly lives and will in effect die to sin and live with Christ.

Posted by: word4men | September 1, 2009

A Refuge

germany-schwabishe-alb_~DJH49080This is the devotion I delivered to an Interdisciplinary Group meeting in Atlanta during my corporate training.  Just posting it as I promised.
A Refuge
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. [a]
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Psalm 91:1-4

We live busy stressful lives. Children to school or daycare; fight metro traffic; help Mom and Dad or worry about Mom and Dad if they live a couple of hours away; a thousand and one bills to keep track of just to live our modern lives; the yard needs mowed and there just isn’t any daylight; spouse needs time…what time? Did I mention the kids are back in school and I just had to spend way too much money for the right sneakers and new clothes…they just grow or grow fickle way too fast…not to mention they ultra-specific school supply lists. The in-box of life seems to keep refilling and the out-box, well it isn’t filling nearly so fast…too many things that just don’t get finished. And then there are strained relationships that I just can’t seem to get reconciled.
And that is live.
Oh, did I mention that we work in hospice. None of our patients actually get better. They all are preparing to die. All of their loved ones are dealing with a volatile cocktail of emotions, and oft times we do also.
And that is life…it seems to be battling against us from start to finish.
But there is a place. It is rather similar for many and different for everyone. It maybe alone in the mountains looking down on the landscape, just you and your thoughts. It maybe dinner with an old friend, who knows you as no other. When you finally get an evening alone with your spouse or companion. It maybe a closet where you can just cry out, pray, meditate.
This place is your refuge. It is where you can feel safe and be recharged. We all need that place…all of us in this modern world (3d world subsistence farmers need it too!). But our lives in the good old USA, we are doing… and doing. Sawing wood and never sharpening the saw. I hope you have a refuge and fortress where you are safe, a place to dump some of the stress and mourning that we absorb. A place where you are fed and can renew you soul.
This is in some ways a bland blog…I learned how to do this from a CPE friend, Karen Humbert, who is now the rector of a ECUSA (Episcopal) congregation in Huntington, WV…this free flow liturgy as she would call it I think. It seemed to hit a few of the folks I gave it to in Atlanta, but being in a secular environment and not knowing all the members of the group, I did it bland. The SALT I would add to it is simply this- Each human beings’ true refuge is the Triune God of the Bible. One who loves His people so that He would sacrifice His own Son (a very real part of Himself) to wipe their sins from the record. But hates the sin that destroys us and dishonors Him so much that the Son had to die in place of sinners. Your place. Put your trust for this life and the next in the Son, Jesus Christ. Acknowledge Him as the LORD of the Universe and the Savior of Creation seemingly lost in sin. Know Him, Love Him.

Posted by: word4men | August 29, 2009

Wisdom on Tax money’s by Davy Crockett.

  • I have no idea about the about this website juntosociety.com. So please don’t think I endorse them, I don’t know of them, but their site had the best rendition of this great story about an American hero and his views on taxation and government spending…David Crockett. Crockett was a mythical hunter, Indian fighter, Concrockettgressman and a soldier of America’s Manifest Destiny at the Alamo. He was also an advocate for the American Indian against his political mentor Andrew Jackson and came to be haunted by much of his Indian fighting.
    I read this story as part of a MA History Readings in US History class at Murray State (KY) soon after I left the Army in 1991. My professor was Dr. Burt Folsom who is now at Hillsdale College and is a frequent guest at think tanks and occasionally on CSPAN. This story and Dr. Folsom’s other assignments has been formative in my thinking on money and the role of government. I hope you enjoy.

Patriotism

 

Not Yours To Give

Col. David Crockett
US Representative from Tennessee

Originally published in “The Life of Colonel David Crockett,”
by Edward Sylvester Ellis.

One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:

“Mr. Speaker–I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.

“Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”

He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.

Later, when asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett gave this explanation:

“Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. In spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made houseless, and, besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on. The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them. The next morning a bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done.

“The next summer, when it began to be time to think about election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there, but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up. When riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more of a stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the fence. As he came up, I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as I thought, rather coldly.

“I began: ‘Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called
candidates, and—

“Yes I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine, I shall not vote for you again.”

“This was a sockdolager…I begged him to tell me what was the matter.

Well, Colonel, it is hardly worthwhile to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the constituent to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intend by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what, but for my rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest.
But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.’

” ‘I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake about it, for I do not remember that I gave any vote last winter upon any constitutional question.’

“ ‘No, Colonel, there’s no mistake. Though I live in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all the proceedings of Congress. My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?

Well, my friend; I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing Treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did.’

It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week’s pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life.‘ “The congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving by giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.

” ‘So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you.’

“I tell you I felt streaked. I saw if I should have opposition, and this man should go to talking, he would set others to talking, and in that district I was a gone fawn-skin. I could not answer him, and the fact is, I was so fully convinced that he was right, I did not want to. But I must satisfy him, and I said to him:

Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head when you said I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it fully. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said here at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head into the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.’

“He laughingly replied; ‘Yes, Colonel, you have sworn to that once before, but I will trust you again upon one condition. You say that you are convinced that your vote was wrong. Your acknowledgment of it will do more good than beating you for it. If, as you go around the district, you will tell people about this vote, and that you are satisfied it was wrong, I will not only vote for you, but will do what I can to keep down opposition, and, perhaps, I may exert some little influence in that way.’

If I don’t, said I, ‘I wish I may be shot; and to convince you that I am in earnest in what I say I will come back this way in a week or ten days, and if you will get up a gathering of the people, I will make a speech to them. Get up a barbecue, and I will pay for it.’

No, Colonel, we are not rich people in this section, but we have plenty of provisions to contribute for a barbecue, and some to spare for those who have none. The push of crops will be over in a few days, and we can then afford a day for a barbecue. This is Thursday; I will see to getting it up on Saturday week. Come to my house on Friday, and we will go together, and I promise you a very respectable crowd to see and hear you.

” ‘Well, I will be here. But one thing more before I say good-bye. I must know your name.

” ‘My name is Bunce.’

” ‘Not Horatio Bunce?’

” ‘Yes.’

” ‘Well, Mr. Bunce, I never saw you before, though you say you have seen me, but I know you very well. I am glad I have met you, and very proud that I may hope to have you for my friend.’

“It was one of the luckiest hits of my life that I met him. He mingled but little with the public, but was widely known for his remarkable intelligence and incorruptible integrity,  and for a heart brimful and running over with kindness and benevolence, which showed themselves not only in words but in acts. He was the oracle of the whole country around him, and his fame had extended far beyond the circle of his immediate acquaintance. Though I had never met him, before, I had heard much of him, and but for this meeting it is very likely I should have had opposition, and had been beaten. One thing is very certain, no man could now stand up in that district under such a vote.

“At the appointed time I was at his house, having told our conversation to every crowd I had met, and to every man I stayed all night with, and I found that it gave the people an interest and a confidence in me stronger than I had ever seen manifested before.

“Though I was considerably fatigued when I reached his house, and, under ordinary circumstances, should have gone early to bed, I kept him up until midnight, talking about the principles and affairs of government, and got more real, true knowledge of them than I had got all my life before.

“I have known and seen much of him since, for I respect him – no, that is not the word – I reverence and love him more than any living man, and I go to see him two or three times every year; and I will tell you, sir, if every one who professes to be a Christian lived and acted and enjoyed it as he does, the religion of Christ would take the world by storm.

“But to return to my story. The next morning we went to the barbecue, and, to my surprise, found about a thousand men there. I met a good many whom I had not known before, and they and my friend introduced me around until I had got pretty well acquainted – at least, they all knew me.

“In due time notice was given that I would speak to them. They gathered up around a stand that had been erected. I opened my speech by saying:

Fellow-citizens – I present myself before you today feeling like a new man. My eyes have lately been opened to truths which ignorance or prejudice, or both, had heretofore hidden from my view. I feel that I can today offer you the ability to render you more valuable service than I have ever been able to render before. I am here today more for the purpose of acknowledging my error than to seek your votes. That I should make this acknowledgment is due to myself as well as to you. Whether you will vote for me is a matter for your consideration only.

“I went on to tell them about the fire and my vote for the appropriation and then told them why I was satisfied it was wrong. I closed by saying:

And now, fellow-citizens, it remains only for me to tell you that the most of the speech you have listened to with so much interest was simply a repetition of the arguments by which your neighbor, Mr. Bunce, convinced me of my error.

It is the best speech I ever made in my life, but he is entitled to the
credit for it. And now I hope he is satisfied with his convert and that he will get up here and tell you so.’

“He came upon the stand and said:

Fellow-citizens – It affords me great pleasure to comply with the request of Colonel Crockett. I have always considered him a thoroughly honest man, and I am satisfied that he will faithfully perform all that he has promised you today.’

“He went down, and there went up from that crowd such a shout for Davy Crockett as his name never called forth before.

“I am not much given to tears, but I was taken with a choking then and felt some big drops rolling down my cheeks. And I tell you now that the remembrance of those few words spoken by such a man, and the honest, hearty shout they produced, is worth more to me than all the honors I have received and all the reputation I have ever made, or ever shall make, as a member of Congress.

“Now, sir,” concluded Crockett, “you know why I made that speech yesterday.

“There is one thing now to which I will call your attention. You remember that I proposed to give a week’s pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men – men who think nothing of spending a week’s pay, or a dozen of them, for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Some of those same men made beautiful speeches upon the great debt of gratitude which the country owed the deceased–a debt which could not be paid by money–and the insignificance and worthlessness of money, particularly so insignificant a sum as $10,000,  when weighed against the honor of the nation. Yet not one of them responded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it.”

 

Posted by: word4men | August 24, 2009

Will the Lord Indeed Appear

What am I, and where am I?
Strange myself and paths appear;sunrise fan
Scarce can lift a thought on high,
Or drop one heart feeling tear.
Yet I feel I’m not at home,
But know not which way to move:
Lest I farther yet should roam
From my blessed love.
Some small glimmering light I have,
Yet too dark to see my way;
Jesus’ presence still I crave;
When, O when will it be day?
Is the evening time at hand?
Will it then indeed be light?
Will the sun its beams extend,
To chase away the night ?
Will the Lord indeed appear,
Give me light and joy and rest,
Drive away my gloomy fear,
Draw me to his lovely breast?
Then his love is rich and free;
Jesus, let me feel its power,
And my soul will cling to thee,
Love and praise thee and adore.
© 2005 Red Mountain Music
http://www.redmountainmusic.com

Posted by: word4men | August 19, 2009

He Is My Refuge and My Fortress

Stirling Castle

 

He is my refuge and my fortress
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler[a]
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
I don’t know exactly why, but two weeks ago, I began to contemplate Psalm 91. I really don’t know why. It came to me by what in my mind was sheer coincidence. I remember the next 2 verses talking about though you are in battle and men are falling all about you God will keep you (A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.) being quoted to the old man dying (supposedly) in the middle of the Sean Thornton/Red Will Danaher melee at the end of The Quiet Man. I had heard on a Biography Channel show about Jimmy Stewart that his father gave him a new Bible with the 91st marked for him when he went to Europe to fly B-17’s over Europe. But I can’t say I had a personal experience with the Psalm…I had with several…115, 40, 31, 103, 95. Well, in personal devotion and corporate worship, I have really gotten into many Psalms, but not 91. I don’t know why not, but I haven’t.
Then, as I said it came to me…well on second thought, not out of the blue, but through the Bible study our church is doing on Psalm 119. Psalm 119:114 speaks about God and His word being a “hiding place and shield.” It got to me. I cross referenced to Psalm 91. Hmmm. Last week when training in Atlanta I was asked to give a devotion for an IDT meeting (all the different care givers discuss the patients together), and of course I worked from the first 6 verses of Psalm 91. I will post that for you all a bit later. But Hospice folks, indeed all healthcare pros need a hiding place. A safe place to dump emotions they absorb from being exposed to the suffering they deal in and their own emotions and stresses. Indeed, everyone needs a refuge.
Today I met a lady on my first visit in God’s new ministry for me. We were bringing in both her mother and husband to the system. But on the way the nurse doing the initial interview called and said the mother may be dying in hours so we sped up. Needless to say, I spent most of my day with that family. The daughter/wife who is the main caregiver for both ailing patients needed a refuge. What better than Psalm 91. Just a short prayer with a lady beginning to grieve an imminent loss. Then a short talk with a non-responsive lady. The reading of a Psalm (yes 91) and telling her it was OK. Her daughter had a refuge and a fortress. Someone that would keep her from the snares and pestilence of hopelessness. It was as if I had never been away from the ministry of healthcare chaplaincy. It was home. It is home. Praise be to God who knows the desires of our hearts when even we don’t.
Find your Refuge, your Fortress. They are actually a person…a God. Jesus Christ.
Stirling CastleStirling Castle

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