En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Posts Tagged ‘spirit’

Fit To Be Used by Ray C. Stedman

Posted by Scott on November 24, 2009

by Ray C. Stedman

2 Timothy 2:20-26

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).

Those with pure hearts are not sinless saints; they are not holier-than-thous who have never done anything wrong. They are not the kind of people who look down their noses at everyone else who gets into trouble. No, the word pure would be better translated “cleansed,” past tense–those with a cleansed heart, those who have already known what it is to be where you are. They do not put you down; they encourage you. They say, “I know how you feel. I’ve been there too, but God picked me up. I know what it means to lay hold of His great, forgiving love.” So one of the necessities of being used of God is that you keep company with those who are aiming in the same direction.

I had an occasion to spend a day at Vacaville Penitentiary. I had not been there before. It was a most remarkable experience to see Christian friends working in the prison as salt within a corrupt society. It was a rainy day, and no one was out in the yard. Everyone was in the halls, so it was like going into a high school that had just been let out for lunch. Among the inmates of that overcrowded prison, a Christian group is maintaining a testimony that is keeping that prison away from violence, acting as salt to preserve it in the midst of a very explosive situation.

In the chapel I sat next to a man who had been a murderer–a murderer several times. He had been one of the roughest, fiercest convicts in the prison system. He had stabbed several people while he was in prison, and he was a member of the gang that tried to rule the prison, a vicious loner who would not hesitate to take a human life. Yet God had reached him. Now he is the most gentle-spirited, gracious fellow, a teacher of the other prisoners, instructing them in the truth of God.

I met with others who had been rapists, murderers, and child abusers, men whose lives were changed, who were now listening to and rejoicing in the Scriptures. I asked the leader of the group what it was that most disappointed him in his work. Without hesitating he said, “it is those who are so dramatically changed here but who lose all they have gained when they get out”. I asked why that happened. “Because they go back to the same old crowd,” he said. We are not made to live alone. We are made to live with others; we need the support of others. Those who surround themselves with a non-Christian view of life and non-Christian friends are almost certain to go back at last into that way of thinking and living. So if we want to be used of God, the apostle urges us to seek the companionship of those of like mind.

Lord, grant me the strength to say no to the things I must and yes to the things that I should, that You may find me usable in Your hand, a vessel fit for the Master’s use.

For the complete message by the late Ray C. Stedman go to Ray Stedman.

Scott Bailey 2009

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Cry Out to God or Lose Heart!

Posted by Scott on February 26, 2009

Luke 18 Jesus was telling the disciples how to pray and not give up. Some other translations say “not lose heart” or “not faint”. Jesus was simply putting it to them “..we are to pray and not quit…be persistent in our prayer life.

Here is Jesus confronting the disciples and us with a vivid contrast and choice: Either we pray or give up, we are to move closer to God in prayer or we will faint…we have to choose one or the other. Learn to cry out to our heavenly Father, who we cannot see, but we know that He is always with us, or else we will lose heart.

Jesus is telling these hand picked men to move deeper in the heart of God, deeper into a meaningful relationship with our heavenly Father or they will lose heart and faint. We cannot stand up to the trials, the bending, the twisting, the uncertainties in life without crying out to “Abba Father”. Cry out like a little child does to his daddy…a little child does not always know what to say, but from a deep growning cry call on our God, who is faithful to listen and come to our side. Jesus tells us one key to the heart of God is persistent perpetual prayer…not demands, but persistent crys to the heart of God for His will to be done.

Remember, our heavenly Father has the heart of a daddy and the compassion of a daddy. He hears the crys of His children. Jesus tells us that the persistent prayer of one of His children stirs the heart of God…God is actively waiting on a cry from us many times before He acts on our behalf. He loves us too much not to come to act upon our crying out to Him.

This does not mean God gives us what we demand…He is our Father and will act according to His own will and plans. However, He will act. God our heavenly Father will never leave any of His children grieved and alone in a time of genuine need. He is our faithful Father in whom we can trust.  Will our Father let us go without a job for a while….yes.  Will He let a house or car be repossessed…yes.  Will He let death or sickness come into our lives…yes.  Will He let bills go unpaid…yes.  But He will not let any of this happen to us and have us go through it alone.  It is all about His greater purposes…not our fleeting circumstances that He is most concerned about and we need to understand the same and fight through the fear and disgust with our circumstances.

“God’s answer may be the squeeze of His hand on ours, the quiet comfort of a Father’s voice, the steady reassurance of a Father’s presence even though the woods around us are dark and echoing with fearsome night-sounds. If we listen, we will hear an immediate answering reassurance that the Father is with us and in His own time and way, He will lead us home to a place of light, warmth, and He will put us safely, comfortably in our beds.” -Ray C. Stedman

When Jesus comes will He find faith in us? Remember true prayer is not begging to a reluctant God! True prayer is confidence, trust and absolute faith in God. Prayer is thanking God instead of complaining to God for our ills. True prayer is the rejoicing, receiving, accepting of whatever God wills our life to be. Pray persistently to our Father who is listening.  “He is most glorified in us, when we are most satisifed in Him.” –John Piper.  Will we glorify Him by being satisfied in Him during our most trying times?

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A “Shift” in the Wrong Direction…The Shift…a critique!

Posted by Scott on January 21, 2009

The Shift is a book on a supposedly new awareness, a new reality, etc.  This shift as the book tells us that everything we see and experience is from a higher “Infinite Being is the all-encompassing consciousness from which the universe was created.”  I don’t mean to rain on The Shift parade, but it is all man-made “hog-wash”.  The only Infinite Being is the sovereign God, creator of this universe and beyond.  This Infinite Being was not thought up in human minds under some new consciousness, but God has always been from eternity past, still is, and always will be in eternities future.  The God Almighty is the only infinite being that is immeasurably awesome, inconceivably great, inexhaustible, endless, and greater than any preassigned finite value no matter how large.
The Shift tells us that it is the spiritual and creative awakening of humanity. This trans-formative movement has gained momentum in recent years to the point where, today, more than one in four adults (25%) have moved forward towards this new stage of cultural awareness. 2 John 1:5 “I am not writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning.  I ask that we love one another (believers), and this is love, that we walk in obedience to His commands.”  2 John 1: 9 “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teachings of Christ does not have God.”  So, there is no new stage or new awareness.  The things we have been taught from the beginning about Christ is to be carried forward to the end, not the new awareness or The Shift. 

 

New Reality consciousness means to experience new vistas of awareness and new levels of creativity. It means following your heart to express your inner joy through making your own meaningful contribution towards the betterment of the world.   Colossians 2:8 tells us this, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”  “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.”  -John Piper  Also, what does God tell us about our hearts in Psalm 64:6b “…we have devised a perfect plan!  Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.”  We cannot trust the heart.  Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God!'”  Our hearts need to be examined often by God in order to remain pure at heart…Psalm 26:2 “Test me, O Lord and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” 

 

 

In “The Shift: The Revolution in Human Consciousness,” Owen Waters has woven together leading-edge cultural studies with his own discoveries about the human energy system in order to demonstrate that we are in the midst of the biggest cultural shift of all times.

 

 

This book demonstrates that the future of mankind is not just bright… it is brilliant!  Read Revelation and we will know that the future of mankind is anything but bright or brilliant.  The future for God’s people is very bright to perfect, but for unbelievers, the future is nothing but death, torment, and eternal damnation.  This is the reality of what is to come.  This tormenting future may be closer than all of us want to believe.  In Daniel we see that in the prophecy chapter 12 that the many dead will awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.  He further talks about the people that would go here and there seeking out to increase their knowledge.  The implications are as we have it today, people are meandering around all over seeking a new awareness, The Shift. 

Who should we ask for knowledge?  Ask our Lord, “Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I believe in your commands.” Psalm 119:66  It is not that we look within for great knowledge or awareness, but go to our Creator, our heavenly Father…He will give us knowledge and wisdom for each day.  Proverbs 1:7 “ The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
       but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” 

So, I will conclude that knowledge and wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord.  If we want knowledge we need to ask of our great Lord and He will supply us with all knowledge we can handle.  We do not need to make a mindless shift anywhere…stay with what is true from the old teachings.  God’s Word is never changing, always fresh today as it was yesterday.  I leave you with a reminder directly from God’s Word:

“Don’t be deceived , my dear brothers.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  -James 1:17

If you are looking for answers, looking for peace, looking for something far beyond what you have ever experienced, I encourage you to consider your life now.  As most people do not think they need a savior and certainly do not want anyone or anything being a lord over their life, however, the Bible tells us we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  A sinful act does not just have to be something that we have actually done, if we think it, Jesus tells us, we have committed a sin against God.  Any sin, even just one sin is punishable by death…our God is a “just” God.  However, Jesus came to this earth as God and as a man.  He voluntarily died a punishing death to atone for the sins of the saints.  This death gives us a way to God the Father forever.  The call is for each of us to fall on our knees in admittance of sin before a holy and pure God.  Ask for forgiveness of all your sins today admitting that you have been an enemy of God.  Tell Jesus you are not worthy of the salvation He offers, but you want it by His gracious will.  Ask Jesus to be the Lord of your life once and for all.   Receive by the power of the Holy Spirit a new life in Christ.  This life is not a posh easy life, but it is the greatest life.  This new life is one of hardships, sacrifices and obedience before our heavenly Father.  I warn you now that a life lived for Christ could cost you your physical life, it could cost you some of your friends, could cost you your job.  Are you willing to pay the price?  Are you willing to accept the cost of the only true life to live which is found in Christ Jesus?  I beg you to think on this hard today and if you sense a pricking in your soul, that could be the Holy Spirit drawing you in…do not resist this drawing of the Spirit, just obey and follow Him.

Scott Bailey 2009

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Coming Presidential Inaugural Makes Christ a Minister of Condemnation!

Posted by Scott on January 17, 2009

How Barack Obama Will Make Christ a Minister of Condemnation

 

(Author: John Piper)

At Barack Obama‘s request, tomorrow in the Lincoln Memorial, Gene Robinson, the first openly non-celibate homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church, will deliver the invocation for the inauguration kick-off.

This is tragic not mainly because Obama is willing to hold up the legitimacy of homosexual intercourse, but because he is willing to get behind the church endorsement of sexual intercourse between men.

It is one thing to say: Two men may legally have sex. It is another to say: The Christian church acted acceptably in blessing Robinson’s sex with men.

The implications of this are serious.

It means that Barack Obama is willing, not just to tolerate, but to feature a person and a viewpoint that makes the church a minister of damnation. Again, the tragedy here is not that many people in public life hold views (like atheism) that lead to damnation, but that Obama is making the church the minister of damnation.

The apostle Paul says,

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves , nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

What is Paul saying about things like adultery, greed, stealing, and homosexual practice? As J. I. Packer puts it, “They are ways of sin that, if not repented of and forsaken, will keep people out of God’s kingdom of salvation.” (Christianity Today, January 2003, p. 48).

In other words, to bless people in these sins, instead of offering them forgiveness and deliverance from them, is to minister damnation to them, not salvation.

The gospel, with its forgiveness and deliverance from homosexual practice, offers salvation. Gene Robinson, with his blessing and approval of homosexual practice, offers damnation. And he does it in the name of Christ.

It is as though Obama sought out a church which blessed stealing and adultery, and then chose its most well-known thief and adulterer, and asked him to pray.

One more time: The issue here is not that presidents may need to tolerate things they don’t approve of. The issue is this: In linking the Christian ministry to the approval of homosexual activity, Christ is made a minister of condemnation.

By John Piper

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The Pantheistic World View!

Posted by Scott on January 17, 2009

The Pantheistic World View
by David Clark

 

 

Pantheists’ views of reality have several common threads. Seven of these can be identified.

1. Oneness of reality. All pantheists agree that reality is one. This, of course, distinguishes them as pantheists. Though many modify this oneness in one way or another, in the final analysis, each panthe­ist believes that God (by whatever name he or it is called) is all that exists. (Perhaps the best example is Plotinus, who actually uses the word One to designate this unified ultimate reality. In this respect pantheism shares with naturalism the distinction of believing in only one form of reality. Naturalism, which says that Nature alone is real, affirms only one kind of reality, namely, the natural world described by scientific laws. Although many pantheists deny the reality of mat­ter, with naturalists they affirm the oneness of all things.)

A corollary to this central point is of great importance. Since God is the All, it follows that whatever is real will be found within his being. Therefore, and quite significantly, opposites like good and evil coalesce in God. Or, as pantheists more commonly put it, God is beyond good and evil. Additionally, it is asserted that God is beyond personality/impersonality, being/becoming, and finitude/infinitude. What it means to say God is “beyond” these concepts is an issue we shall raise again. For now, it is enough to recognize that affirming God as the All involves pantheists in saying that God swallows up every pair of conceptual opposites.

2. The independence of God. Pantheists generally assert that the highest reality is in no way dependent. Everything else depends on God; God depends on nothing. Typical of this point of view is Sarvepali Radhakrishnan’s claim that even if the world should pass away, God would remain unaffected. Further, God is in no way limit­ed by the world. The world and its creatures cannot force God’s hand in any way. In general terms, pantheism sides with theism in empha­sizing that God is impervious to outside influence. Both of these views reject various positions (such as Alfred North Whitehead’s pro­cess philosophy) that affirm a finite God who is dependent on cre­ation. In Christian theism, although God loves persons and chooses to answer their prayers, God’s creatures cannot dictate their will to God or force God to be other than he is. God can listen to his crea­tures and willingly act on their behalf, but he is clearly not dependent on the world he has created.

An important result of this stress on God’s independence surfaces in pantheists’ descriptions of God. Precisely because God is so magnificent, pantheists wish to avoid ascribing any characteristics to him. To define is to “finitize,” to make finite, to delimit. Even if we compliment God by ascribing to him what many take to be positive qualities like personhood or goodness, our concepts limit him. We have used our thinking and our logic to force God to be this way and not that way. But God cannot be so limited. He explodes all our puny concepts. Thus, pantheists typically avoid such descriptions altogeth­er, preferring rather to leave him or it nameless. This method of emphasizing God’s greatness and independence will become especial­ly relevant in later discussion.

3. God as impersonal. Although theists may agree with pantheists on God’s independence, the two positions differ significantly on the personhood of God. Is God personal or impersonal? Theists, of course, conceive God in personal terms. God is ultimately and maximally personal; humans are personal only in a derivative, finite, and trun­cated manner. Thus, God is far more than humanly personal; he is not merely personal as we experience personhood. Pantheists, howev­er, generally argue that personhood is simply another of those delim­iting concepts that reduce God to the level of our thought.

Additionally, personhood entails twoness, for to be personal is to be in relation to another person. (You cannot live personally by your­self, which is why solitary confinement is such a debilitating punish­ment.) Since pantheism militates against any form of duality, God must rise above personality into the impersonal. Many pantheists will use personal metaphors like Father to speak of God, and some will even allow for the worship of a personal God among unlearned people. But in the final analysis, the concept of personhood does not appropriately describe God.

4. Necessary creation. While pantheists and theists both speak of creation, they mean quite different things by that concept. When the­ists speak of creation, they mean that a personal God chose to bring other beings, his creatures, into existence. But pantheists view cre­ation as a necessary event that occurs because it is God’s very nature to do it. Creation is not freely chosen; it occurs by necessity. Indeed, if only persons can choose freely and God is not personal, then God could not freely choose to create. Remember Spinoza’s statement that God “exists from the necessity of its own nature alone and is deter­mined to action by itself alone.”( Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, ed. James Gutmann, based on the White-Sterling edi­tion, The Hafner Library of Classics (New York: Hafner, 1963), pt. 1, def. 7.) This Spinoza calls freedom, but he cannot mean the sort of freedom in which an intelligent being chooses among several options. God acts “freely” only in that cre­ation is not caused by something other than God. In reality, creation is necessary.

5. Creation out of God. In contrast to theists, who believe in cre­ation out of nothing (ex nihilo}, pantheists hold that creation is out of God (ex Deo). The universe (nature) is of the same substance as God. In fact, it is God. Whether it is spoken of as an emanation, a manifes­tation, or a dimension of God, the real world is not simply like God;

it is God.

6. The divinity of humans. Pantheists naturally argue that every aspect of finite existence is an expression or extension of the divine. As part of this finite reality, humans are manifestations of God. This idea finds its classic statement in the Hindu doctrine, tat tvam asi (“that art thou”). Commenting on this theme, Shankara notes that union with God is not something to be sought. It only needs to be realized since it is already true—it is “self-established.”( Shankara, The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana with the Commentary by Sankara, trans. George Thibaut, 2 parts (New York: Dover, 1962), 2.1.14; 1.1.)   Each person contains the spark of the divine.

7. The world as a lower level of reality. Though critics sometimes contend that pantheism claims the world does not exist, this does not apply to all pantheists. Some explicitly reject this conclusion. In some cases they state rather emphatically that the world is real. Generally, pantheists try to ascribe to the world at least a rudimenta­ry form of reality. For example, Radhakrishnan says that we must not infer the non-existence of the many from the higher existence of the One. At the same time, pantheists do affirm that the kind of reality they are talking about in reference to this world is at a lower level of being than the ultimate.

If the world has some sort of reality and it depends upon God, how does this differ from theism? Theists also assert that this world is dependent and yet real. The difference is that theists hold the world to be really different from God while pantheists do not. Though the­ists believe that creation is dependent, and in that sense a lower form of reality, they also affirm that the world is distinct from its creator. (The other possible position is held by deists, who, in contrast to both theists and pantheists, declare that the world is both distinct from and independent of its creator.) Pantheists believe that the world is neither independent of nor distinct from God.

8. Levels of reality as perceptual ignorance. Though pantheists often protest that this world is not completely denied, they also com­monly affirm that it is real only from a certain point of view. Spinoza tells us that the solution to Descartes’s perplexing mind-body prob­lem is that mind and body are the same reality viewed under different attributes. Idealistic Buddhists will say that the objects of this world are simply states of consciousness. Initially, Hindus like Shankara will not accept this interpretation. The world is real from a certain, lower point of view. One should not say the world is like the horns on a toad, entirely non-existent. Yet at the same time, Shankara tells us, the lower point of view is the perspective of ignorance.

We may summarize Shankara’s claims in this way: (1) reality is one beyond the multiplicity of everyday life, (2) yet empirical reality is not nothing, (3) empirical reality is real from a certain point of view, and yet (4) that point of view is ignorance compared to the greater truth of the union achieved through mystical insight. Despite protests, the effect of this set of beliefs appears to be that the world we live in each day is not, as such, real.

We turn now to relate these historic pantheistic themes to the claims made in the current manifestations of pantheism in the New Age movement. In what ways do New Agers promote these meta­physical ideas? Teaching about the unity and independence of God is omnipresent in New Age circles. The impersonal nature of the ulti­mate is emphasized by the Force of Star Wars. The little guru, Yoda, teaches us that the Force is within each of us, just as The Karate Kid informs us that ki is within. The divinity of each person is reinforced repeatedly. For example, Jack Underbill of Life Times magazine says, “You are God. Honest. I know your driver’s license says differently, but what does the DMV know?”( Quoted in Russell Chandler, Understanding the New Age (Waco: Word, 1988), p. 29.)

Since each of us is God, our innate human potential can solve world problems and holistic health can yield a higher degree of well-ness than ever before. Because of the connection with the divine, New Agers promote human potential for stress reduction, increased productivity, and personal transformation at weekend seminars and in corporate executive suites. The various elements of a “New Medicine” that taps inner energy sources are taught in several leading nursing and medical schools. The claim is that these can achieve a level of healing unavailable through traditional medical care.( See Douglas Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1986), pp. 57-91.) Both soul (through the human potential movement) and body (through the holistic health movement) can achieve impressive new heights of wellness through the recognition of the organic nature of reality. Clearly, the pantheistic world view lies behind many New Age claims.

The Knowledge of Mystical Consciousness

Most pantheisms depend on mystical experience as the primary mode of consciousness. Mystic insight provides access to the divine in a way qualitatively different from sensuous experience. Seven com­mon themes can be identified in this mystical mode of knowing.

1. The abandonment of the senses. Pantheism tends to turn away from knowledge that depends on the observations of the senses. Instead, pantheists often use a mystical epistemology. But even when they use a more rational way, pantheists warn that naive dependence on the senses can be misleading. Typical of mystical pantheists’ claims would be Shankara’s statement that since ignorance is due to dependence on the senses, Brahman is empirically unknowable. Those who write in modern times, Radhakrishnan particularly, do incorporate the validity of science, which obviously depends on sen­suous observation. At the same time, they believe that knowledge is inadequate if it is based only on the senses. Even though he believes that perception has a legitimate role, Radhakrishnan places it at a lower level than intuition.

2. Two levels of knowledge. In most pantheists the minimizing of sensuous knowledge leads to some sort of two-truth theory. This view affirms the correctness (at least initially) of two different modes of knowing, even though those two modes may ultimately lead to vastly different conclusions about the nature of reality. Very com­monly, pantheists will acknowledge a rudimentary adequacy of every­day knowledge and language. But intuitive knowledge must transcend this level. Generally the intuitive is described metaphorically as high­er knowledge; one rises above sensuous and logical knowledge to the heights of truth.

The higher levels of knowledge perform several functions. In gener­al, all the pantheists believe that the higher knowledge corrects the distortions of the lower. More specifically, Shankara uses the two-lev-els-of-truth idea to resolve apparent problems in the Hindu scriptures: difficulties arise when we suppose that contradictory statements in scripture operate at the same level, but in fact they do not. Radha­krishnan uses the two-truth theory to support his pluralism: all reli­gious doctrines, despite greater or lesser adequacy, point to the same God.

3. Knowledge by direct apprehension. Pantheists in general depend on a direct, first-hand grasp of reality. The lower levels of knowledge, which depend on the senses, give at best a knowledge based on logical steps. Since this knowledge must use logic to move from a sense experience to knowledge of the object of experience, it will always be indirect. But this lower knowledge gives way to a higher knowledge based on an immediate, direct, and intuitive experience. Even the rationalist Spinoza considers intuition the highest knowledge. Intuition depends on reason, but is “more potent” for it gives a knowledge that is clear, distinct, and perfect.( Spinoza, Ethics, pt. 5, prop. 36, scholium; props. 25, 28.) A claim more typical of mystical pantheists is one by Plotinus, that we may achieve a kind of knowing where knower and known are one. Here one knows the One by becoming the One.

4. The self-certifying nature of mystical intuition. Since some experiences mislead us, many philosophers are interested in whether we have warrant for accepting certain experiences as genuine. For example, we might check our own experiences against those of others to minimize the chance that we might be misled by an unknown illu­sion. But mystics do not accept any factors external to their experi­ences that could certify the genuineness of their intuitions. They believe the mystical intuition carries its own stamp of authenticity. To someone who has experienced the mystical union, external verifi­cation procedures are no more necessary than fins on a cat. As D. T. Suzuki says, a mystic who has experienced the highest knowledge can say with assurance, “I am the Ultimate Reality itself” and “I am absolute knower.”( D. T. Suzuki, “Zen: A Reply to Dr. Hu Shih,” in D. T. Suzuki, Studies in Zen (New York: Delta, 1955), p. 147)

5. The inadequacy of logic. Pantheistic epistemologies of various types typically give logic a preliminary validity at best. Logic always involves a division between A and not-A. But the unifying thrust of pantheism seeks to overcome this distinction at the ultimate level. Shankara surprises us by his admission that logic plays a vital role in knowledge. In fact, he argues that to insist on an absolute distinction between self and Brahman opposes true logic. At the same time, Brahman is clearly beyond logical distinctions. Plotinus says the same of the One. And Suzuki, in his desire to achieve shock effect, provides the most extreme example of this tendency when he says that Zen can “serenely go its own way without at all heeding . . . criticism” about logical contradictions.( D. T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1957), p. 49.)

6. The inadequacy of language. Pantheists generally agree that the self-certifying knowledge of direct union cannot be expressed in words. Language necessarily depends on the either/or of logic. Without A/non-A, language would not communicate content. If A = non-A, if black equals white and cat equals dog, what would The cat is black communicate? To accept the essential correctness of linguis­tic description is to acknowledge that the law of noncontradiction relates to reality. This they believe suggests that reality is made up of more than one thing, of A and non-A. This conclusion the pantheist cannot accept. So language is universally thought by mystical panthe­ists to be a distortion. Speaking of the holistic knowledge of the One, Plotinus reminds us, “we are forced to apply to the Supreme terms which strictly are ruled out.”( Plotinus, The Six Enneads, trans. Stephen MacKenna and B. S. Page, 6 vols. (Chicago and London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952), 6.9 [3, 10, 11]; 5.3 [13].)

7. The ineffability of mystical objects and intuition. The inadequa­cy of language leads to an important corollary, ineffability. Ineffability means that since linguistic description must break things into logical opposites, things that cannot be so broken must be indescribable. As Radhakrishnan explains, “God is too great for words to explain. He is like light, making things luminous but himself invisible.”( Sarvepali Radhakrishnan, An Idealist View of Life (London: Alien and Unwin, 1932), p. 97. ) When mystics, whether Western or Eastern, do use language, they often limit themselves to negative language. That is, though they will not say what God is, they may try to say what he is not.

To what degree are these themes reflected in New Age affirma­tions? New Age advocates commonly denigrate logical, conceptual, and empirical ways of knowing. Instead, they practically deify mysti­cal and intuitive knowledge. For example, Shirley MacLaine places the hero of a novel in an acupuncture session where the “doctor” says, “Now relax. . . . Let your mind go. Don’t evaluate and don’t let the left brain judge what you are thinking. Give your right brain more space. As a matter of fact, don’t think.” (Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light (Toronto: Bantam, 1985), p. 312.) Ironically, as this quote sug­gests, New Age proponents are fixated on the right brain/left brain research. The irony lies in the fact that the distination depends on the rational, left-brain methods of science. New Agers use the rational, left-brain distinction between left and right brains primarily to pro­mote holistic, immediate/ intuitive right-brain thought to the exclu­sion of dichotomistic left-brain thought.

Many New Agers also defend the self-certifying and ineffable char­acter of the higher consciousness. The author of The Aquarian Conspiracy, Marilyn Ferguson, says that you reach genuine knowl­edge “only when you get yourself out of the way. You have to be will­ing to have experiences and not have words for them.”( Interview with Chandler, Understanding, p. 38) When we shut down the analytical left brain, reach beyond the logic-chopping words inherent in all conceptuality, and open ourselves to Mind-at-Large, then the Higher Consciousness breaks in. For those who hope to apprehend true knowledge, this is the New Age party line.

The Religious Dimensions of Pantheistic Mysticism

The pantheists’ views of religious experience and of salvation fol­low closely their epistemology. The mystical experience that pantheists depend on to show that God is the all is the same experience that provides liberation from our most basic human dilemmas. In general, we can specify six common ideas about religious experience and sal­vation that pantheists share.

1. Knowledge is salvation. In the classic question of faith and rea­son, several positions have been proposed. For most theists, faith (that is, our trust in and relation to God) and reason (that is, our cognitive knowledge about God) are different. Some have said that faith and reasoning about God are mutually exclusive. Seren Kierkegaard and Karl Barth have taken this position. But many theists believe that they are mutually supportive. Pantheists generally hold that the two are the same; there is no substantive difference between faith (salva­tion) and reason (experiential knowledge). Salvation is knowledge, though this knowledge is intuitive, not rational. To be enlightened through mystical intuition or higher consciousness about the true reality of our oneness with God is in itself to be saved from our false experience of pain in the world.

2. Ignorance as the source of evil. If knowledge is salvation, the cause of the problems from which we are saved is our own ignorance. We languish far from our heavenly home because we do not realize our true identity. Oriental writers tie their view of reincarnation to this problem of ignorance. If we fail to realize our oneness with God, we suffer through the debilitating series of lives full of pain and sor­row. Enlightenment enables us to begin walking the path toward God. Through this ascent we can overcome the evil caused by ignorance. Similarly, Spinoza tells us that viewing God as a mysterious person who controls things by an omnipotent will leaves unexplained all the absurd and evil things that happen to us. This false view of God leads to spiritual blindness.

3. Salvation through human effort. Pantheists affirm various tech­niques for arriving at true knowledge, the mystical experience of enlightenment that is salvation. Generally, however, achieving higher consciousness involves human effort and discipline. Although Spinoza is unique among the pantheists we have discussed in his use of geometry to achieve knowledge, favorites in the East are yoga and other forms of meditation. Suzuki’s Zen Buddhism leaves nothing either to chance or to the will of a capricious personal God. Through the use of koan (those maddening mental puzzles that bring reason to a standstill) and zazen (sitting meditation) the Zen novice begins the journey toward enlightenment. The Vedanta Hindus usually permit the three avenues to salvation: meditation leading to intuitive con­sciousness, good works of service, and devotion to a personal God. But the latter two are given legitimate status only grudgingly; the real path to Brahman is mystical union. Here most emphatically can we theists depend on to show that God is the all is the same experience that provides liberation from our most basic human dilemmas. In general, we can specify six common ideas about religious experience and sal­vation that pantheists share.  Only through experience is that indescribable sweetness by which we rise above this world of pain and find union with God.

4. The mystical ascent. Pantheists often describe the path to salva­tion as an ascent. We have “fallen,” metaphorically speaking, and we need to rise again to our true oneness with God. Although this fall is sometimes given moral overtones, the pantheists’ use of the metaphor is not identical to the Judeo-Christian idea of a fall into sin. Instead of holding to a moral fall, pantheists teach a fall into igno­rance. Salvation reverses this fall, and for this reason the concept of an ascent into something higher (both a higher point of view episte-mologically and a higher reality metaphysically) dominates panthe­ists’ descriptions of salvation. In Plotinus the language of ascent is prominent, for he speaks most directly about the descent from God in his idea of emanation. Matter and this world are things that weigh us down. Through mystical devotion and ethical living we cast off this excess baggage like sailors throwing weight off their ship during a storm. Thus lightened, we move back up the ladder to Mind and finally to the One, our home.

This aspect of Plotinus finds parallels not only in the other panthe­ists who speak often of the higher and lower points of view, but also in many medieval Christian writers. We should note, however, that in the majority of cases, Christians speak of ascending to a personal union with God. The culminating stage of the Christian’s climb is the two-in-one union of personal love, not the absolute oneness of imper­sonal identity.

5. The peace of salvation. As with any religious philosophy, pan­theism claims to give a solution to life’s problems. This solution includes a sense of peace, tranquility, and repose. Although it is sometimes heavily philosophical, the whole point of pantheism is not philosophical in the traditional sense in that pantheists do not seek rational truth for its own sake. Pantheism’s goal is the religious sense of assurance, peace, and contact with God that religions seek.

Put another way, pantheists do not seek primarily to explain our experiences of the world and of evil; they seek instead to resolve our problems with evil. Consequently, each pantheist in this study ends his chain of thinking by promising a sense of peace and release from tension and worry. Even the rationalist Spinoza believed that knowl­edge brought the tranquility we need for living; he argued for a blessedness that he described as “constant and eternal love toward God.”( Spinoza, Ethics, pt. 5, prop. 36, scholium.) Similarly, each pantheist, no matter how philosophically ori­ented, finds the purpose of his philosophy fulfilled in this religious goal.

6. Pluralism of beliefs. The pantheistic emphasis on experiential knowledge leads very naturally to religious pluralism, a perspective that has gained a firm foothold in this century. Because pantheists deem our experience to be so important, they imply that the concepts we use to describe God, ourselves, and the world are correspondingly less important. Historically, Western pantheists have not generally followed this logic; they affirmed instead that differences in religious beliefs are important. Certainly Spinoza, at least, thought that certain concepts about God (say, the idea of miracles) were both philosophi­cally false and religiously dangerous. But Oriental pantheists do com­monly hold that differing religious beliefs can all be “true.” Suzuki’s Buddhism does not really accept any doctrine. Actually, he affirms that no religious doctrines are ultimately true. This is within the spir­it of the original Buddhist teaching.

Hinduism, however, most emphatically states that contradictory theoretical conceptions can be accepted as true. This all-embracing religious pluralism of Hinduism is at home in a modern world where the mood is characterized by the statement, “Your faith is good for you; mine is good for me.” The willingness within Hindu faith to accept alternative conceptions means that Hinduism includes pan­theism, polytheism, and even theism. In fact, scholars generally concede that Buddhism no longer survives in India, the land of its origin, because Hinduism’s inclusive nature simply swallowed up Buddhism’s distinctive teachings. Radhakrishnan, the modern Hindu, explicitly affirms this pluralism in his belief that various religions are all acceptable paths toward the religious goal of happiness and good­ness. Even though Westerners historically have been more exclusive, this aspect of Hinduism is increasingly becoming part of the domi­nant religious perspective of our time.

How does the New Age movement today display these ideas? Salvation from the suffering of reincarnation and the pain caused by ignorance are common pantheistic themes. These find expression in the writings of typical New Age proponents. That ignorance causes pain and requires a change in consciousness is a primary theme of the many seminars that promote the new awareness necessary for enlightenment. Famous examples include the est training sessions of Werner Erhard (he now has a new group called Forum) and the Esalen Institute in California. The Esalen Institute has attracted a number of famous psychologists, including Carl Rogers, Rollo May, and Abraham Maslow. These seminars preach the same message: you are ignorant of your true divinity, so gain a new perception through (insert one of a number of techniques here) and experience a trans­formed personal consciousness.

 

 

Pantheism’s Self-Defeating Character

Pantheism’s analysis of our individual experience of the world brings up a final point: pantheism is unaffirmable and self-defeating. The principle of self-defeat comes into play whenever a statement does something that it affirms cannot be done. Though it can be uttered or said, such a statement cannot be affirmed meaningfully because of its self-destructive character. The statement is philosophi­cally suspect, for it tries to do something that it says cannot be done. If the sentence were meaningful, it would destroy itself. Therefore, it is unaffirmable.

A well-known example of this problem is found in our own centu­ry. Philosophers known as logical positivists developed what they called the Verification Principle. This axiom of positivist thinking stated that only two kinds of statements could count as meaningful:

definitions and facts, with facts defined as statements that are empiri­cally verifiable. On this criterion, logical positivism considered state­ments about theological, ethical, or esthetic realities meaningless because they were neither definitional nor factually verifiable. But here is the catch: the Verification Principle is self-defeating for it is neither a definition nor a fact. If the Verification Principle were some­how correct, it would be meaningless on its own criterion. The his­toric collapse of the positivists’ agenda shows the power of this prin­ciple of self-defeat.

This principle makes it difficult to affirm pantheism meaningfully. A pantheist usually claims that he was once blind, lost in ignorance due to the dominance of the logical, empirical view of things. But now he has regained his sight, the ability to see the truth that only God exists and that the finite perspective of sensuous observation is essentially misleading. He is saying, in effect, “I came to realize that I don’t exist. I came to see that I was always God.” This raises an appropriate question: Who is talking? What does I refer to in these sentences?

Several possibilities confront us. Perhaps I in this statement refers to a finite individual. The pantheist is speaking from a limited per­spective as an individual person. But in this case, his statement is self-defeating. He is saying, “I am telling you that I don’t exist.” What sense can we make of that? If someone exists to tell us this, the state­ment must be false. If the statement is true, there could be no speaker to utter it. If I means a finite individual, then the pantheist’s affirma­tion declares that he does not exist as such, and in this way he pulls that rug out from under his statement.

To evade this glaring problem, he could claim that I in this state­ment is God. He is speaking from the ultimate point of view. But although this alternative solves the problem of self-defeat, it raises two more pressing questions. First, why is he trying to express this to me? Presumably, I do not exist either. But he is treating me as a real entity by recognizing my presence and responding to my questions. Second, how is it that the infinite mind of God was once deceived and has now come to see the truth? This implies both that God’s understanding was once wrong and that it changes through time. If / denotes the ultimate being God, then the pantheists’ statement implies that God is a limited being, not infinite, as pantheists claim.

The rational pressure these problems create puts stress on panthe­ism’s view of the reality of the finite individual’s perspective. For example, Shankara says that the lower perspective of the sensuous realm is true. In that perspective, my individual existence is real and God is personal. But from the higher perspective, my individual exis­tence is not real, and God is beyond personhood. Both viewpoints, he says, are true. Yet from the higher perspective, the lower point of view confuses a coiled rope with a snake. In other words, we assume, the lower perspective is not really true. Yet here is the pantheist, writing as a finite individual to convince us in our finite perspectives that finite egos are part of that coiled-rope point of view.

So which is it? Do pantheists speak from the finite, individual per­spective of empirical egos or not? If they do, it appears that the state­ments they utter concerning the unreality of their own finite exis­tence self-destruct. If they do not and if they claim instead to speak from God’s ultimate perspective, it seems that they are introducing into God hefty doses of fallibility and mutability. Shankara paints himself into a corner. Mutism, the refusal to say anything, would be better. But that, too, has problems, as we shall see in chapter 8. In a word, the noble desire to compliment God as the All negates the very reality of the one who compliments. God therefore cannot get com­plimented at all. This dilemma, it appears, is a powerful challenge to the coherence of the pantheistic philosophy.

Personal existence may have some reality in modified forms of pantheism. As our descriptive survey revealed, not all pantheists call the world absolute nothingness. They have various means for ascrib­ing some sort of limited reality to individual persons. One would run roughshod over the pantheists’ actual beliefs by considering only the extreme illusionist view of the world. But we can state the objection in another way to incorporate this fact: to the degree that the perspec­tive of the experiencing/thinking person as an individual is claimed to be part of an illusion, pantheism is self-defeating. If the finite point of view is admitted, then the self-defeat is mitigated. However, to the degree that the pantheist admits the reality of the individual experi­encing/thinking person he abandons his fundamental pantheistic premises and moderates in a theistic direction.

As a response, a pantheist might try to maintain his own existence just long enough to assert that he does not exist. But if he does this, we can only think that it is somehow ad hoc and unfair to exempt that one statement from the broader premises of his philosophy. This reminds us of the psychological determinists, who exempt their own rational choices that lead them to accept their deterministic theory from the general principles of that theory. The ad hoc nature of these self-licensed exceptions to the rule reveals basic conceptual flaws that, in our view, can be corrected only by major structural changes. In pantheism’s case, this means the affirmation of the real existence of the person who affirms a world view. It means a modification in the direction of theism.

Conclusion

Discussion of pantheistic metaphysics has revolved around the pantheists’ persistent resistance to the predication of concepts to God. Pantheists have claimed that using concepts to describe God both divides what is unified and limits what is infinite. Concepts are always defined in terms of opposites. We know black because it is the opposite of white and good because it is the opposite of evil. So using concepts for description always divides unity and entails that what is so described is limited to only one of the two concepts. Therefore, if God is personal, then he is not impersonal, and there is something that he is not.

This fundamental pantheistic urge arises from noble motives. But it also entails certain consequences that cannot be ignored. Some of these create problems internally in that they run up against the tests of consistency and coherence. If we cannot describe God at all, then the word God loses any intelligible meaning. If we cannot describe God as personal, then creation is necessary, and he must create.

Other consequences concern external problems in that they run into the criteria of comprehensiveness and congruence. If God alone exists, how do we explain the vast wealth of experience had by every person alive that apparently leads us to believe that selves, others, and the real world actually exist? And if God alone exists, how could we ever affirm his existence from our individual, presumably nonreal point of view? Judgment then, says that these rational tensions make pantheistic metaphysics, despite its positive contributions and noble motivations, a poor choice if we are seeking the world view that best explains the total experience of our lives.

 

See his book, “Apologetics in the New Age.”

Email Dr. C. Matthew McMahon (Curriculum Vitae and Bio):  © A Puritan’s Mind, All Rights Reserved, 1998-2008

Scott Bailey 2009

 

 

 

 
 

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Disturbing Words From Christian’s!

Posted by Scott on January 13, 2009

I was just wondering a few things as I have read over the past few days Christians, Pastors, and others using certain words a great deal that I wonder if they have the same meaning or really if the onces using them even understands the meanings?  I read a status from a pastor the other day and I quote:  “He…is so lucky to be alive and serving a freaking great God”  I am not trying to be legalistic, trust me in that, but I expect this kind of word use or terminology from people in the casual congregation or new believers that have not been around the Word of God much…for baby Christian’s this would be a normal thing and over time God will purge from them that which takes away His holiness from their mouths…He is still purging my mouth and most likely will until He takes me on to be with Him, but I am learning.  Now,  for a pastor who is speaking to 4000 to 7000 people each week, come on.  Let’s take a look at these two words…we could look at many words and people will argue I am being legalistic, but really on the scheme of things words are serious…God made sure His Words were accurate in the Bible…we should make sure ours are right too.  This is all taken in consideration of each of us making a mistake now and then…that is a given, but for it to be the daily norm…we have no excuses.

1. Lucky: is this equal to “blessed
2. Freaking: is this equal to “awesome

Lucky means happening by chance. Does a Christian’s life operate by chance or providence?
Blessed means bringing great pleasure or contentment to, held in favor by God, held in reverence for…  Are we as Believers blessed by God…does He give us pleasures, contentment, does He favor His own, and expect our reverence for Him in this?  I think so.  So, let’s say so!

freaking “you need to google this for yourself…I cannot repeat here the meaning…it is another “F***” word used as a very negative cuss word…also negatively used as “frigging” which is the same meaning as the “F***” word.   Use the Mariam-Webster dictionary online and put in “freaking”. This word certainly should not be used in context with a holy God….pick a better word with a positive meaning when in context with describing our God.  I don’t even allow my kids to say this once I figured out the true meaning behind it.
awesome means inspiring, tribute to, terrific, extraordinary.  Is our God an awesome, extraodinary, terrific, inspiring God? I do believe the word “awesome” is far better fit here.

I just found these two words in context with Christian’s conversations interesting and then the amount of their use in the Christian conversations over time became disturbing to me. So, I wanted to check it out and if we put the words meanings into context with a holy God is it really was a good fit? My conclusion is they don’t work at all. As Believers, the lost world listens to what we say just as much as what we do…contrary to many’s belief. They do listen and will put this back in our faces when times get tough not to mention the dishonor it brings to our God. I am not innocent in this either and have had to constrain my use of certain words and I am still working on a few as well…hard for a hard-headed man to correct sometimes.  So, we need to make sure we as Believers raise the bar on our vocabulary and how we talk to our audience.  Let’s help those we are ministering to raise the level of their vocabulary and words…help them to understand the meaning of bigger and/or better words.  Don’t move down to a lower level just so you can communicate with them in other words using “gutter talk” in order to communicate, raise them up in love to a higher level…bring their language up higher than the world’s standard.   This is not easy, but God will honor your efforts to do so.  Honor God in words and deeds today.

Later, I will post a 3 part series on a further disturbing trend within many Evangelicals dialogue in churches that consider themselves evangelical today.  Stay tuned.

Pressin on in Christ,
Scott

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Our Sovereign God is exceedingly and abundantly powerful!

Posted by Scott on January 12, 2009

Ephesians 3:20-21 is a doxology Paul places in this letter to the Ephesians.  A doxology you might ask is a praise or glory given to Almighty God.  Every prayer should have a doxology if not entire prayers most of the time.  Think about our prayers for a minute.  How much time do we honestly spend in praise and glorifying our God compared to the amount of time we spend asking for something.  It is absolutely amazing the time spent in “asking”.

Of course, God wants us to come to Him and ask.  He already knows what we will ask for, but He still wants that open line of communication with us to ask for anything in accordance with His will.  As true Believers we should have in mind that which God wants not really what we want in the flesh.  In taking a closer look at this doxology at the end of chapter 3 from Paul to the Ephesians we find out much more than we might imgaine.

When we ask or confirm something of God, in accordance with what we believe He wants for us, it would be good to do so with this mindset: 

1. God has the power to do whatever He wants to do…He is our Sovereign Lord.

2. God can produce, make, or fashion in us whatever He desires…He is our Sovereign Lord.

3. God can go far beyond in delivering what we have ask or begged for.  He can go exceedingly, unthinkably far beyond anything we can even dream up or think in our minds.  Think of asking in these terms:  desiring, craving, begging, calling out for that which God has placed on our hearts to ask for…He is our Sovereign Lord.

4. God does this in accordance with His power, His unending ability that He has put on display within our lives..He is our Sovereign Lord.

5. God’s exceeding abundance is a great reflection of His inexhaustible fullness of mercy and grace.  The “well” can never be overdrawn.  The “well” of God’s grace and mercy will never go dry.  We are always welcome at this “well”.  Remember Psalm 81:10 “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it with good things.” (NLT)  He is our Sovereign Lord.

6. God’s power is all-sufficient and almightly powerful that He has saved each of us as Believers.  This same power (awesome ability) is the power that was able to take a spiritually dead bag of bones like me and bring it to Himself in salvation.  No one has this kind of power except God…no one!  He is our Sovereign Lord.

7. God is looking for excellencies and praises  to be ascribed towards Him in our prayers…He is our Sovereign Lord.

8. God provided us with a mediator in Jesus Christ His Son…He is our Sovereign Lord.

9. All of the praises and glories that we garble towards God goes through the hand of Jesus Christ our great mediator (high priest)…He is our Sovereign Lord. 

10. All of graces, mercies, and gifts that come to us from our heavenly Father comes through that same hand of Jesus Christ our Lord…He is our Sovereign Lord. 

So, this is how I offer up this doxology personally for me this morning:

“Finally, O Sovereign God, who has the awesome ability to produce unthinkably far beyond what I have desired or begged for or can even fathom in my small mind to ask for, according to Your great power that is constantly on display in my life daily, it is to You, my Almighty God that all the honors and glory and praises through my perfect Lord Jesus Christ be lifted up and may they be lifted up from every generation for ever and ever! AMEN.”

Just remember while praying to give God the praise and glory for your life today…He is our Sovereign Lord.

Scott Bailey (c) 2009

References: 

-Matthew Henry Commentaries

-Logos Strong’s Lexicon Greek guide

-NIV Bible, NLT Bible, KJV Bible, & NASB Bible

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A New Year 2009 Vision For You!

Posted by Scott on January 10, 2009

“May the living God, who is the portion and rest of the saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving Him and delighting in Him may be the work of our lives.” -Richard Baxter (late 1600’s)

I pray that anyone really serious about living before our heavenly Father in a holy manner will take this prayer to heart by Richard Baxter. His desire for a holy life before God was so strong it is expressed deeply in that prayer. Matthew Henry put it like this, “The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.” In other words, there is no better way to gain victory over sin long-term than to develop a distaste for sin, because of “the superior satisfaction in God”. This requires daily mortification of our sins…kill the sin in our lives anyway the Spirit gives us strength to do so. May this be the Christian’s true work…the true business of our life.

John Piper puts it this way, “God remains gloriously all-satisfying. The human heart remains a ceaseless factory of desires. Sin remains powerfully and suicidally appealing…Feast on God.” “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8.   The hope and prayer for this new year is that each of us will find ourselves desiring God more and more each day. Desiring a rich and joyful relationship with Him that surpasses all that we have ever heard or read to this time in our lives. Can we take an old foundational creed and adjust it or tweek it just a bit (from John Piper’s book “Desiring God”).

“The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.”

May we each enjoy in our Lord beyond the scope of our thoughts, prayers and dreams in 2009.

Pressing on in Christ,
Scott B.

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Swords Are for Killing!

Posted by Scott on January 7, 2009

Swords Are for Killing
 By: John Piper

In New Testament times swords were not for digging, shaving, or whittling. They were for killing. The only reason Peter cut off Malchus’s ear was that he missed (John 18:10).

But Herod didn’t miss: “He killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:2).

Many saints have felt the full force of the sword: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword” (Hebrews 11:37). So it was and will be: “If anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain” (Revelation 13:10).

That’s what swords are for. So when Paul calls the word of God the “sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17, he is serious—something must be put to death. And it is not people. Christians don’t kill people to spread our faith; we die to spread our faith.

The link in Paul’s mind is given in Romans 8:13.

If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

The word of God is the sword of the Spirit. The Sword is for putting to death. And by the Spirit we put to death our sinful deeds. So I conclude that the way we kill our sins is with the Spirit’s sword, the word of God.

All temptations to sin have power by lying. The are “deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22). They tell us that the pleasure of the sin is worth it. The killing blow against these lies is the power of God’s truth. Hence the sword of the Spirit, God’s word, is the weapon to use.

As John Owen said, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” That is what swords are for, especially the Bible.

www.DesiringGod.com

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Preaching the True Gospel!

Posted by Scott on January 7, 2009

Paul Washer Preaches the True Gospel in Americus, Georgia

I’ve heard the man preach on the internet. I’ve heard clips of his preaching on the radio. But it is quite a different experience to hear Paul Washer preach live and in person.

Americus is a small town in west central Georgia that I truly believe is being prepared for an incredible move of God. Last year, Ray Comfort and his ministry team of Kirk Cameron, Todd Friel, and Emeal Zwayne were here in Americus at Central Baptist Church for Transformed. Many believers were awakened to the truth of biblical evangelism. What is amazing to me about Ray’s ministry is that it is incredibly simple, yet incredibly profound. He teaches the church to share the Gospel biblically, using the Law before the Gospel, as Jesus did. Discovering that this truth has only recently disappeared from the teaching of the modern church is quite eye-opening, in that it opens the eyes to the terrible results of the natural result of the neglect of the teaching of the Law…”seeker” sensitive, carnal, and ultimately false churches. That’s where Paul Washer picks up.

Brother Paul was invited to the historic Rylander Theatre here in Americus, preached the true Gospel, and revealed the tragic results of the errors of the church….to the shock and awe of a couple hundred students and adults. One ironic thing is this: The theatre that he preached in was built during a time when his preaching would have been quite ordinary….that is, before the church departed from the truth and began catering to itching ears.

I had every intention of interviewing a few of the students who attended for Way of the Master Radio, choosing two or three before the event to ask questions before and after the event. So before, I had three interviewed with appointments to meet them again after the preaching. But it never happened…..

I’ve listened to tons of sermons, been in hundreds of church services, and saw who knows how many preachers preach. All were ordinary compared to this one. I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced the power of God on a man as when Paul Washer preached here in Americus.

A band played for about 45 minutes or so, then Brother Paul came to the stage to preach. His prayer was that of a broken man, weeping over the dry, dead bones in the audience. I had the privilege of joining a few others before he preached to pray over him, and I can say that his brokenness was genuine. Paul Washer is a man who is passionate for the glory of God, and broken for the conditions of the Church of his Lord Jesus.

So Paul preached. For an hour and eleven minutes. Almost no one moved, and no one had any idea that his preaching exceeded the traditional thirty minutes. His sermon shocked the congregation. Bewildered would be a better word. Yes, this modern-day prophet spoke the truth of the condition of the church today….and the people were bewildered when he was done. The power of God had descended on the Rylander Theatre, and the people had no idea what to do.

Back to the radio interviews…the second part never happened. Paul preached, he prayed, and he walked off the stage. Silence descended upon the theatre. You could hear a pin drop. A person or two coughed, breaking the silence for a couple of seconds. After a few moments, counselors who were ready to attend to those “responding to the invitation” slowly shuffled from among the disorientated congregation to the front, many themselves not knowing what had just happened. Nobody said a word. Someone got on the stage and attempted to get people to come forward. No one moved. People who had never seen the power of God had witnessed it, and they didn’t have a clue how to respond. After at least five minutes of silence and bewilderment, it was apparent to me that God had plans that did not involve interviews….

I don’t know if anyone came to the front. It didn’t matter. God had descended in power, and He had done work in many hearts, I pray. God glorified Himself through brother Paul’s preaching. I am quite certain that many were gnashing their teeth. I am also quite certain that there will be more to the story in coming days.

Saturday morning, it was a great privilege to be invited join my friends Chase Ostrander and Gary Gill to have breakfast with Paul, his two sons, and his Peruvian missionary friend. What an honor it was to spend time with this man of God.

The sermon brother Paul preached was not recorded by the Rylander….but I was able to record a “bootleg” on my digital recorder (something I first learned to do at rock concerts before I was saved). You can download and listen to it below…legally, of course.

Download the sermon now, and please pray for this little town of Americus and the surrounding communities. There are a few pastors here who are preaching these truths, and some at the cost of their pulpits. Paul Washer left us with one statement that I will never forget…

Church history demonstrates that when preachers begin to see the errors of the church, and begin to proclaim against it, it is nearly always a precursor to either national catastrophe or intense persecution of the church. (paraphrased as I remembered it)

May God embolden us to continue to proclaim boldly, and prepare us to endure the persecution that is to come!

–MJ

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