Some people claim to believe in Jesus, His life and teachings, but condense it to just “love thy neighbor”.

They portrait Jesus a softy ‘get-all-you-want-magic-genie’, ‘on-steroids-medic-on-demand’, ‘anti-religion’, ‘anti-theology’, ‘all-forgiving-no-matter-what’, and ‘live-as-you-please-D.Phil.’-type of character.

But, is that what the Bible shows us?

Jesus loved, and showed what love is in God’s eyes:

He was announced as one who’s mercy is on those who fear Him.
Jesus loved as He claimed the prophecy that described Him both as a preacher to the poor, a healer, a liberator, and the executor of God’s vengeance, one who loves justice.
Jesus loved, since early years, as He showed himself to be a remarkable theologian and Scriptures student.
Jesus loved by resisting sin and temptation standing on God’s commands.
Jesus loved through preaching and teaching; although for three years He went around teaching, preaching, healing, giving and being an example of kindness, one of His close friends summarized the purpose of Jesus’ whole ministry as “repent and believe in the gospel”.
Jesus showed love by being angry with those who made God’s temple of their own profit.
Jesus loved by having open arms, and narrow mind about how to experience God’s kingdom.
Jesus loved by speaking of men’s evil deeds and people being condemned for not believing in Him.
Some say He forgave the woman found in sin, but told her to sin no more.
Jesus loved the man at Bethesda by healing him and also telling him to sin no more.
Jesus loved the leper by healing him and then asking him to fulfill the religious requirements of the time.
Jesus loved us by upholding the validity and reliability of the Old Testament scriptures.
Jesus loved by affirming God’s protective boundaries for life.
Jesus fed physically thousands in two days, but provided himself as the spiritual eternal bread for millions upon millions –if they would believe in Him.
Jesus lovingly exposed one man’s heart problem by asking him to give all he had, but seemed to suggest to most other men to work hard, make wise investments and use them for God’s purposes.

Jesus loved so much that He gave Himself so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Nevertheless, Jesus is so much love, that He won’t force anyone to be with Him who does not want to. Therefore, anyone who does not believe, is by his own choice condemned already.

Jesus is love, apparently not in our own narrow selective definition, but in God’s supreme big-plan and perfect definition.


Bad pilgrims or good pilgrims? How does that affect my Thanksgiving today?

Thoughts with accent

For some reason it bothers me when I see people making comments and promoting the agenda that the Thanksgiving holiday celebration is a lie and that the truth rests on the fact, that what happened at the ‘first thanksgiving’ was the atrocious display of an abusive and barbarian blood-and-power-thirsty strategy of a group of settlers who came and stole the land, lives and privileges from the innocent, defenseless, indigenous group of people who inhabited America prior to the conquest.

But, What did really happen? What –if anything, could or should I do about it? Why does it bother me so much?

To start with the ‘what really happened’ question, after careful reading through the last few days about Thanksgiving, I am coming to the conclusion that, as in anything else, there is a variety of versions of ‘history’ that very likely have been in some degree ‘shaped’ by the…

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The Problem: I was kind of saddened as I watched last night the first episode of Preachers of L.A.” (Don’t judge me, I was just curious). My problem was not with the show necessarily; Is this what non-believers think all Christians and ministers are like? Is this supposed to somehow help others to positively consider what God has to offer? Maybe for some it will. The hardest part happened as I read some blogs and news forums that showed how one pastor criticized the t.v. show, another defended his position, and little-by-little, all parties (all of them Christians, mind you) became more and more hostile towards each other… as the world quietly but attentively observed the quarrel.

Earlier that day, I was saddened when reading a Facebook post from Mark Driscoll that read: “When it comes to abortion, the issue is not choice. The issue is murder. #10Commandments”. The status was not the problem, but the comments and arguments amongst participants (not Mark Driscoll himself). The harsh words between defenders of abortion, opponents of abortion, and anything in between; hard attacks and words from Christians to Christians. It made me wonder, how many people would come to Christ because of this back-and-forth ‘conversation’, and how many more would grow even more disillusioned of Christianity –and Jesus Christ, because of it

Similarly, last week I was heartbroken as I saw, on the one hand, a group of prominent Christian leaders to put together a conference called “Strange Fire”, aimed to “evaluates the doctrines, claims, and practices of the modern charismatic movement, and affirm the true Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.” –in many people’s words, to attack charismatic/Pentecostal beliefs. Of course, on the other hand, you had the Pentecostal/charismatics, who felt the need to defend themselves creating a blogosphere and cyber war camp where Christians of all angles met to lash out at each other…. And the world still carefully watching from their computer screens.

In fact, Just as I was writing this rant, I read a story about a Christian who didn’t tip the waiter, because of the waiter’s sexual orientation; “Thank you for your service, it was excellent. That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to GOD. [Slur] do not share in the wealth of GOD, and you will not share in ours,” the customer wrote.”

REALLY?? And that’s supposed to get the waiter to repent? I am sick and tired of Christians being Jesus’ mission’s worst enemy. Honestly, sometimes we seem to be ‘gifted’ in messing things up. Fighting, on TV, blogs, news forums and the media in general, as the world stares in disappointment and hopelessness. Isn’t there another way to work through our differences?…

What should we all do? What would Jesus want?

I understand we feel very passionately about what we believe –and we believe it to be a matter of life or death –spiritually and otherwise. However, aren’t we lacking a bit of wisdom and love in the way we approach public expression? Are we ‘judging‘ in a Biblical way?

I am not advocating for a watering down of the gospel message or condoning sinful behavior; sin is sin. If your conclusion is that homosexuality, divorce, unbelief, abortion, and preaching a false gospel/doctrine is a sin, fine! Believe it, preach it, and most important, live by it. However, let’s not ignore that lying, deceiving, hating, exaggerating to make others look bad, stealing, making ourselves God and taking His glory as ours, speaking harsh words to others, insulting, calling names, presumption and thinking we know it all, and are always right, thinking we understand the Bible better than others, and assuming others don’t read their Bibles or are not as serious scholars as we are, or are not honest seekers of the truth –or that they are not even saved true Christians because of how they act, it might be just as much a sin and damaging, as the ones we denounce. (I’ve been guilty of this myself).

We all Christians need to understand that just as damaging as sin is to humans eternal fate, so can be our unwise words and actions. You may think you are fighting or ‘exposing’ a false doctrine or erred teaching (call it baptism of the Holy Spirit, the end of the worldgiving to the poor, or even politics). Nevertheless, what if your interpretations are wrong? Hopefully being wrong wouldn’t make you any less of a Christian than the other person, just a confused one. So it may work the other way.

Remember that Paul wrote to the church of Corinth addressing problems of all kinds. Some were coming drunk to the Lord’s Supper, other was sleeping with his step-mother, others were suing each other, others had bad doctrine, abuses in the practice of gifts and all kinds of bad behavior. Although Paul didn’t condone their behavior, but rebuked it promptly, steering them to repentance, still Paul called them “Saints”. He didn’t seem to doubt their salvation. Their behavior was perhaps considered by Paul a result of ignorance and spiritual in-maturity, rather than evidence of ill intentions or false faith.

My hope: May we all extend the same grace to our fellow Christians (that is, whoever believes the scriptures are the Word of God and that anyone can be saved by grace through faith, by the resurrected Jesus who paid for our sins and gave us eternal life) independently of how different our views are in various secondary topics. May we all learn,  not to avoid controversy necessarily, but to be able to argue and interchange opinions in a way the outside world looking in says, “wow!, even when they disagree, they love each other in respect and kindness” (click for an example)That would get some positive attention! Exactly what Jesus would want.


Thought provoking encouraging facts about one of my favorite theo-historical topics: Revival.

Some historical facts about revivals in the last centuries (‘revival’ meaning not the special week long series of meetings at a local church but as the unusual awakening of interest in the things of God by believers and non-believers with effects that transcend local churches, communities, cities and even nations)

1. The First Great Awakening (1727 onwards) – Herrnhut, Wesley, Whitefield, Brainerd

  • 150 new Congregational churches began in a 20-year period
  • 30,000 were added to the church between 1740-1742
  • Moral results and changes were equably noticeable in society
  • Nine university colleges were established in the colonies
  • Early missionary desire began to emerge

2. The Second Great Awakening (1792 onwards) – Jonathan Edwards, James McGready, Camp Meetings

  • Began in a time of great spiritual and moral decline after the American Revolution and French Revolution, with the spread of Rationalism
  • The Methodists alone grew from around 72,000 at Wesley’s death in 1791 to almost 250,000 within 25 years
  • Missionary Societies and great missionary interest
  • Great movements among colleges in the USA
  • Up to 25,000 people at single camp meetings on the frontier

3. The Resurgence of 1830-1842 – Finney, Darby, Mueller, Moody, Student Movements, Missionary Outreach

  • Finney has a huge influence in the USA
  • Darby and Mueller have a large influence in Great Britain and Europe
  • Impact in Scandinavia, central Europe, South Africa, the Pacific Islands, India, Malabar, and Ceylon
  • D.L. Moody and the beginning of Crusade Evangelism
  • Thousands of volunteers for missionary work, especially among university students
  • Revival hit Japan in the early 1880’s, increasing the adult membership from 4,000 to 30,000 in five years (1883-1888). Also revivals reported in India, Africa, South Africa, Madagascar, Australia, Central and South America

4. Third Great Awakening (1857-1862) – Prayer Meetings, William Booth, Spurgeon

  • Businessmen’s Prayer meeting in New York with Jeremiah Lanphier
  • “Prayer Meeting Revival” – no great “names” leading it
  • 1 million converted in USA in one year
  • 1 million converted in Great Britain in one year
  • Worldwide impact

6. The Welsh and Worldwide Revival (1904-1910) Evan Roberts, Pentecostal Movement

  • Beginnings in South Africa, Australia, Japan; Spread worldwide with approximately 5 million converts
  • 100,000 converted in Wales in 6 months; crime rates brought down to almost nothing; police and law enforcement ‘out of work

Most historians and scholars agree about the two  common activities that seemingly sparked these outstanding waves of Christianity with tangible effects in society: Deep commitment to prayer across ages, denominations and interests, and systematic study of the Bible.

What if?
What would this type of revival look like here and today?
What would it take?

Imagine revival…


Sometimes Christianity is easier said than done. The ‘rubber’ is easy when we tweet the Bible verse, or propose to do this, or “from now on” not to do that, in order to please God. However the ‘meeting the road’ becomes a bit more complicated when it comes to applying those intentions to real practical daily life. Telling the truth is one of those areas I’ve been struggling with.

See, we know as Christians that we are to tell the truth always. In fact, we know that lying is an abomination and hated by God. It’s been said that there are “white lies” –mind you, this is said by people, never by God. But what to do when the hard truth can be, too hard? Too difficult to handle? Too politically incorrect?

With my kids: There are easy truthful answers to easy questions:

Q: “do you love me?; A:“yes”
Q: “does God still love me”; A: “Yes!”

But what about the questions to which answers I don’t know, or know to be completely, likely, or at least remotely, hard?:

Q: “Is it going to rain?”
Q: “will a tornado hit our neighborhood?”
Q: “will our sick pet survive the accident?
Q: “is my uncle Ben going to heaven?”

Do I give the ‘hopeful’ nice answer? (“yes, he is in heaven in spite of rejecting Christ”), or do I give the truth?: “the statistical chances of a tornado hitting our neighborhood –or our house, are so remote, that we don’t need to worry about it”. You may thing its funny or pathetic. However, this answer about the tornadoes is what I gave to my kids –perhaps in a moment of lack of judgment, and ever since, they freak out every time there is a little bit of rain in the forecast. Now I wonder if perhaps I should have said: “a tornado will never hit our neighborhood!”. And what if it does? What if the sick pet ends up dying? Will I then lose credibility in their eyes and doubt therefore that God loves them? What would the right answer be?

With adults and other believers: Let’s say that a friend of mine posts a Facebook status about a stranger making comments about how bad of a parent he is because he is feeding his kids with chips and soda and letting them run wild. He states, “Am I that bad of a parent?, I’m doing the best I can with all the stress of losing my house and all” To this, friends start commenting: “don’t listen to them, you are doing a great job”, or “you are a great parent!”, “you lost your house because we live in an unjust society”.

Do I go with the flow and say “you’re great, keep on doing what you’re doing!” or, do I address the fact that from my point of view, his overweight kids maybe at risk eating so unhealthy; that his kids are indeed out of control and need some boundaries and discipline; and that losing his house may have less to do with an unjust society and more to do with his unwise investments and decisions in the past? As a friend, I would want to help in his situation. In fact, I would hope my friends would call me up on areas they see I am failing and help me by pointing out my mistakes. It has happened, and I have and still appreciate that honesty. What would the right answer be?

With non-believers: A typical scenario would be when a very good person who happens to be a relative, a great friend, nice neighbor, involved citizen and concerned for the poor, is engaged and resolved to live a lifestyle that shows disobedience to clear Biblical principles and commands. Then they ask: “why can you accept, respect and support my lifestyle and personal decisions? Doesn’t God love me? Why not you?”. As Christians, do we do better by giving them a hug, inviting them to lunch and agreeing that God loves them (which is true) and expressing support for their lifestyles, and keeping “the relationship door open”? Or do we tell what we think to be the Biblical stand; that although God loves them, as He does anybody else, there are guidelines and consequences, and whatever else maybe appropriate to the situation? (along with the hug and lunch). Do we risk losing the relationship and being labeled as hater or judgmental or intolerant? If whatever words I utter, somehow misguide his perception and God’s view of the situation, and gives him a false confidence that ultimately can drive him to an eternal mistake –and painful consequences on earth, wouldn’t I be acting selfishly in not telling the truth? What would the right answer be?

Is telling the truth a relative subjective concept to be handled on a case-by-case basis?
Am I missing something?

 


Before we start the day with worries, doubts, fears or inadequacy; before we pray and ask God -and believe His answer to bless us, to help us with our work today, with patience while dealing with the kids,  to provide this months mortgage or for help in doing His will…

Before we start he day with bringing our ‘grocery list’ of petitions,

Let’s all remember, and believe -as a ‘done deal’, what happened at the moment we placed our faith in God and gave Him our lives. Our position before God changed immediately (Justification), right then and there:

Let’s remember and truly believe as a fact, that we went:

 

…what difference will it make?

 


Sometimes I wonder, how is it that we all Christians, being led and part of one unified body led by one Spirit –The Spirit of God, can take so diverse and often opposite positions on key issues? And the irony of all ironies is, we have such opposite views on the role of The Holy Spirit –our unifier.

Are some decisively wrong in their interpretations? or, is there perhaps a middle ground that unites us all, whether we see it or not?

My Background: I was born in a Catholic family. Soon after, as I grew up in a Catholic society, my parents became Christian (protestant evangelical) and thus I grew up as a Christian. In my teenage years, I turned to Catholicism and even pursued being a priest (yeah, imagine that!). Thankfully, my deep desires to one day be married and have kids, got enlightened and relieved by reading 1 Timothy 4  and then I understood that God really didn’t want me to give up on family, if I wanted to serve Him. Around my mid teens I was part of a Pentecostal church where I technically and officially accepted Jesus as my personal savior. Towards my 20’s, I joined and serve actively in a Charismatic church for a few years. Fast-forward a few years more and find me in United States listening to, reading, and sitting throughout the years under the teaching of, and somehow participating, in churches of all tendencies: Baptist, Traditional Anglican, Wesleyan, center, Reformed, and non-denominational –with all the flavors they come in.

As I read the Bible, research, compare, dig and have listened to multiple presentations and explanations of doctrines about the Holy Spirit, I can’t help but conclude that there are a lot of concepts that I just don’t see easily fitting with what the Bible clearly teaches. By that I mean, their interpretation seems to me to be ‘too forced’ to what an open minded non-biased neutral first time reader would understand. Furthermore, some practices and experiences were neither commanded in the Bible, nor shown in the lives of the church in Acts, The Apostles or Jesus. Although I am completely open to the possibility that my understanding could be wrong, and be corrected –and in many issues that has been the case, I tend to go with what the text seems to say plainly; I tend to think that God wouldn’t expect us to go through a complicated process and seminary degrees to understand His will. With all that said, and acknowledging that the Bible does leave open the possibility of the existence of anything from a soft or innocent misunderstanding, to hardcore false teaching and doctrines of demons, I want to focus on the common grounds.

My ‘beliefs’: I completely understand and agree that The Bible plainly teaches that Christians have the Holy Spirit. There are no degrees or levels of Christians, where the ‘better ones’ have a better version of the Holy Spirit –Christians 2.0?. No rank or preference, we Christians all do have and receive the Holy Spirit from God at the moment of conversion. We are sealed once and forever as children of God, and the Holy Spirit is that seal of promise of what is to come. No ‘tongues’ needed for salvation, no halfway salvation, we have the Holy Spirit indwelling in us forever. It’s what I gather from simply reading these passages: Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:25-32; Titus 3:4-7.

Nevertheless, when I read other passages, I can’t help but get the idea that some of our more Pentecostal/Charismatic brothers may be on to something as well, in spite of other areas we may not agree on.

When I read of Jesus in John 14-17-18, telling to His disciples, in the evening before the crucifixion, that The Holy Spirit dwelt “with” them (present tense at that time), and also He (the Holy Spirit) would be “in” them (some point in the future), I get the idea Jesus was talking about the same Holy Spirit but in two different ‘positions’ (“with” and “in”) in terms of the believer. Later after the resurrection and before the ascension, Jesus did a couple of interesting things: First, He breathed in them, and said “receive The Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). I guess it would be safe to say that before, the Holy Spirit was “with” them (outside?), but now the Holy Spirit is “in” them (inside, much like our conversion), fulfilling what He said earlier.

Later, right before leaving, Jesus tells them to “go and make disciples”.. but not yet. First they needed power to be witnesses, and then Jesus said “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come “upon” you…” (Acts 1:8). It sounds as if now He was referring to a third position, “upon”. Why would Jesus use three separate and distinct prepositions in referring to the Holy Spirit? Why would the Holy Spirit inspire the writers of the New Testament to use these distinct propositions to consistently describe similar experiences? If the preposition “with” (Greek g3306 μένω menō ‘para) describes the position of the Holy Spirit in relation to people before conversion; and “in” (Greek g1722 ἐν en: ‘in’) describes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for regeneration and sealing as evidence of salvation, would it be possible that “upon” (Greek g1909 ἐπί epi: upon, over, on) describes and additional empowerment or overflowing of the Holy Spirit specifically for the purposes of doing God’s work (making disciples, preaching, signs, wisdom), sometimes at conversion and sometimes soon after conversion as shown, not only once, but in some instances happening several times to the same person in the book of Acts?

Could this be what some people label ‘the Baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit’? Is it possible that many who don’t adhere to this doctrine, are indeed filled at times to do effectively the work of God? After all, God doesn’t care about the label anyway.

If we do get at conversion all the Holy Spirit we are ever going to get:
– What sense does Luke 11:13 make? Why would Christians –God’s children, ask for the Holy Spirit?
– Why is Peter mentioned to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” three separate times  and Paul a couple more, if they were not separate events? Wouldn’t it be redundant? (i.e. “Then Peter, the Christian, ….)
– Why is it a requirement for the deacons to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (like Stephen) if all Christians were supposed to be anyway?
– Why does Paul mention to be filled with the Spirit–if we already are?

Is there more? As John Piper suggested, something very visible happened at conversion –or shortly afterwards, in the book of Acts. It wasn’t just a prayer and a walk-down-the-aisle, there was more than that going on, to the point that Simon “saw” and wanted that power (Acts 8:15-19).

My conclusion:  I don’t suggest we all seek to speak in tongues and make people fall just by raising our hands and act crazy barking or having golden teeth (As seen on TV :)). However, if there is the possibility that there is an extra power from God –beyond salvation, to supernaturally enable us to be witnesses; to preach like Paul and Philip, maybe to see a prayer answered or miracle or two like Peter and John, to be a strong servant and bold defender of the Gospel like Stephen, I don’t think God would be upset with me for wanting so, and I definitely need it, no matter what the theological and doctrinal label might be.

What say you?