Monday, August 25, 2008

Good Video

This video is old...but good. Watch the whole thing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Questions / Spiritual Warfare

A New-Think reader e-mailed me the following question.

It has been said in many different ways, even by Jerry Garcia that “the first days are hardest days don’t you worry anymore, cause when life looks like easy street there is danger at your door”….
So, does the Bible suggest that when you try to grow closer to God and walk with him, the “transition” days are much harder than even what you experience when you are walking in sin? Basically, does the Bible say anything to support this common idea of spiritual warfare? And if so, does it say anything about being “attacked” by the enemy as you try to walk closer to the Lord? Or is it just life and when you are trying to do right it just “feels” like an attack? I mean, change is hard in general….so is it a spiritual attack by the enemy to keep us far from our Father or is it just life? And how much control do we have as man over this type of situation?

You have asked a lot of questions, some of them very closely related. I will answer them all in a rambling manner, but not necessarily in the order they were asked.

Spiritual warfare is very real. Before I get into this, however, let me address two common errors Christian’s make when considering spiritual warfare. The first is placing too much emphasis on it. The second is basically ignoring it. Like seemingly everything else in the Christian life there is error to the left and to the right, and in order to stay on the narrow path one must stay constantly focused on Christ.

Yes, spiritual warfare is real and should be taken seriously. Ephesians 6:12 says,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Also Jesus (among others) drove demons out of people. Other times he simply healed people with no mention of demonic forces. Satan, demons, and the spiritual realm are real. Very real.

That being said, Christians are not to live in fear of evil spiritual forces. You are not possessed by Satan (as ALL unbelievers are), you are possessed by Jesus Christ. He bought you with his blood on the cross. Satan is a created being…like us. He is totally and completely under God’s thumb.

In 1st Peter we are told,

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers around the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

We can resist the devil only when we are spiritually alert and standing firm in the faith. This does not happen by accident, we must discipline ourselves with the daily reading of scripture, pray without ceasing in order to put on the full armor of God (see Ephesians chapter 12).

Do you and/or members of your family (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) have histories of mental illness, depression, suicide, addictions, pornography, physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, witchcraft, etc.? Patterns like this in families are often signs of generational curses (Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9). Upon salvation Jesus Christ sets the believer free from these curses. He is the ONLY hope to break these bondages and chains. You cannot do it yourself or for anyone else. Although someone in a family like this may be free in themselves, they still must suffer as they watch their unregenerate family members suffering under this curse. But it will also serve as a constant reminder to be evangelizing lost family members.

There is much more to be said about spiritual warfare (so go STUDY your bible), but the overarching theme is, Jesus has defeated death and the grave (and thus Satan). Satan has a lot of authority (as much as God has given him) in this world. The only hope of man in this spiritual battle is to be saved by grace through faith.

I mentioned 2 errors earlier. If you are someone who does not take spiritual warfare seriously enough, then some of what I have said may seem shocking and even unwelcome. Oh well…if you believe I am in error please let me know and be prepared to discuss.

Some folks (in fact some entire "Christian" denominations), however, want to blame everything bad that happens in their lives on the devil. That is just not the case. In fact, I would argue that most of the time we cause ourselves more trouble than Satan does. Some mistake the righteous judgment of God for an attack of the enemy. Here are some examples.

Are you a believer who is still beset by iniquity (repeated sins in your life)? If so, you are in disobedience. Christ set you free from these sins and you have left your first love and wandered back in to your previous ways. Are you living in a way that honors the Lord? Have you separated yourself from the world? Many folks (and I do mean many) claim to be Christians, but they act like the world, talk like the world, and live like the world. They go to church and say, “Oh Lord bless me”, but out of their mouths the rest of the week comes cursing, gossip, slander, and strife. They watch things on television that grieve the Holy Spirit. They are drunkards. They live with a spirit of fear and uncertainty. The Lord has called us to repent of these things. If you are a believer who is still living like this, then you should be MUCH more concerned with the judgment of God than the attack of Satan. He will have patience with you for a season, but he will eventually turn you over to your sins. If you do not feel convicted to repent of these things, you have reason to doubt that you are saved at all.

I can not think of anywhere in the bible where it implies that Satan is any more active on new believers than he is more mature believers (if you find something, let me know). In fact, if you search it seems that God places an extra special protection around new believers. All believers are set free from the bondage of sin upon salvation. All believers are told to put on the armor of God and beware of the enemy. All believers must be prepared for battle. A believer is expected to grow in the faith through constant and sober bible study, prayer, repentance, and obedience. The fact is, a lot of people, get baptized, go to church a few times a month, give Jesus lip service, and call it good enough. Such people are luke warm and the Lord will spit them out of his mouth.

I hope this answers your concerns. Be noble like the Berean’s and search the scriptures to make sure I am telling you the truth.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Yet Another Questions / Please Send Yours

New-Think reader, Theresa, asks:

I am wondering though what do you think about arranged marriages? How do you plan to insure your daughters and now son marry men and women of faith?

Excellent questions. First let’s define “arranged marriage”. Since New-Think is a blog for the masses we will go with the modern popular definition of arranged marriage.

Arranged-marriage: A marital union between a man and a woman in which the neither the bride nor the groom have authority in selection of the marriage partner.

This type of marriage is still prevalent today in some cultures. From a parental point of view some parts of it are obviously appealing. However, I reject this methodology as unpleasing to God.

One of the mandates God has given me as a father and head of my household is to train up my children. I, along with all earthly fathers, will be judged in this area on that great and horrible day.

There is one fundamental biblical concern that really settles the issue in my mind…I can probably come up with more if you want to press me on it.

Here it is. God is primarily concerned with what goes on in the hearts of men. For instance, Jesus tells us if we hate, we have committed murder in our hearts. If I, as a husband, look at a woman other than my wife in lust, then I am an adulterer.

If my child is not a believer, forcing them to marry a believer will not save them.

If my child is a believer, then the point of arranged marriage is largely irrelevant.

Either way, if they are only marrying a believer because I forced them to, I fail to see how this could be pleasing to a God who is primarily concerned with motives.

Here is the logic. IF you are truly a believer you desire to honor God in all areas of your life. God has commanded that believers not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. THEREFORE if you marry an unbeliever it does not honor God. In fact, it is sin.

NOTE: If you have already done this, don’t fret, you can be forgiven…but now you are suffering the consequences of being married to an unbeliever. Pray that God will have mercy on you and save your spouse. You are not permitted divorce for this reason.

Furthermore I do not imagine that a believer, living in the spirit (as opposed to the flesh) would even have the desire to marry an unbeliever. Why would you desire to marry someone who does not even acknowledge what you believe to be the entire purpose of life? I contend that if that is your desire you are either a very immature Christian, not a Christian at all, or totally bowing to the desires of your flesh without regard to the Word of God.

Giving my children a firm understanding of this principle is the first part of my strategy in regard to my children and marriage.

The second part is more of a contingency plan. No matter how well Michelle and I do as parents God has not guaranteed that they will all be saved or if they are saved that they will always walk according to his will. It is a general principle that they have a much greater likelihood to be saved…but it is not a promise.

For the unregenerate child, I suppose we will have to eventually (and begrudgingly) release them to themselves and their sins (once they are adults) in hopes that God will save them through the fire.

For the saved child who is living in the flesh and who desires to marry an unbeliever or someone claiming to be a believer but having major character flaws, I will simply withhold my blessing from the union. That does not mean they cannot marry. But it does mean Dad won't be walking you down the aisle and your family will not be at your wedding. Why would a Christian father walk down the aisle and give his daughter away to an unbeliever? Why would a Christian father bless his son’s marriage to a contentious, ungodly woman?

So I hope my point is clear. Will I actively arrange and force marriage upon my children? No. Will I exercise my responsibility to raise them up with a biblical worldview? Yes. Will I exercise my responsibility as their protector to guard them from unwise decisions in this area? You can bet your life on it.

Reader's Asking the Tough Questions / Ask Your Questions Now

New-Think received 2 new questions regarding Christianity yesterday. They will be answered in the order they were received.

Michelle asks: How much control do we have over our own lives? If God knows and predetermines everything, do I really have a choice in what I do?

Great question Michelle! I like the way you think! If you weren’t married, I would snatch you right up….oh, wait.

Anyway the answer to your question is that ultimately we have no control over our lives and we are God’s robots. No, not really, but that is the conclusion of a lot of folks who haven’t studied and thought deeply enough about this topic.

You have begun your questions with the assumption that God knows and predetermines everything. This assumption is totally in line with scripture therefore I will begin at this point to answer your question. No doubt there are many New-Think readers who will balk at this assumption. If so…speak up and we can discuss this at length.

Yes, you are accountable for what you do. Let’s take the account of Pharaoh during the time preceding the exodus. If you read Exodus 9:8-17 you will see that the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart then a few verses later he brings judgment upon Pharaoh for what he did while his heart was hardened. This passage is special because God tells us why he did it….he usually does not reveal his ends. In verse 16 the Lord says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” The Lord’s means are allowing the disobedience of Pharaoh. The Lord’s end is that he is glorified. In fact this is God’s primary purpose in everything he does. God’s primary purpose in all of human history is to glorify himself. He even does so in man’s disobedience.

From Pharaohs perspective, he had a choice to make. In fact in other similar passages it says, “Pharaoh hardened his heart.” So did the Lord harden his heart or did Pharaoh do it? The answer is yes. Both.
This makes sense only when you view humans as the means to God’s ends. Take prayer for instance. The great scientist, mathematician, and Christian, Blaise Pascal has said of prayer, “Prayer is God’s bestowal upon human beings of the dignity of causality.” You see it is only hard to understand how God can be in control and man can still be accountable for his actions if you assume that everything works the way you see it working in the natural world. The bible tells us our prayer is effective. Jesus even said that the reason we don’t have a lot of things is that we do not ask for them. God uses our prayer to bring our needs before himself. Could he do it without our prayer…YES. But, he has chosen to enter into communion with man. That is why prayer is so important, it is where natural man TRULY interfaces with a supernatural God. And it is only this way because that is the way God designed prayer. People who don’t think prayer is important do not grasp this fact. A Christian, praying in good faith, is serving as the conduit between the supernatural world and the natural world. AMAZING!
The fact that he knows what we will pray before we pray it does not contradict the effectiveness of our prayers. God is in control and he is using us as means to his ends. The same principle applies to missions. If God is in control and preordains all things as scripture says he does, then why bother telling others about Christ? God will save whom he will save, right? Well, for one thing, the same God who claims to preordain everything told us to go forth and make disciples of all nations. You can either claim the bible is internally contradictory and reject it, or you can confess, as Job did,

1 Then Job replied to the LORD :
2 "I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes."

The Lord’s ways are high, oh so high, above man’s. The Lord’s knowledge and wisdom are high, oh so high, above man’s. We must take the Lord at his word and confess, God you are in control AND I am accountable for my actions.

I have not exhausted this topic..not even close…if you have more questions, please ask.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Objections to Christianity...Please Send Your Objections/Question

Here is the first question I received.

Since there is so much evil in the world how can a good "god" be in control. If god exists, he is either not "almighty" or he is a monster.

Here is the reply.

This is not a new objection to Christianity or to theism in general. It is popularly know as The Problem of Evil.

Volumes have been written and said about the problem of evil. In fact, there exists today a philosophical consensus that the objection has been disproved as a logical attack against theism. That being said, this has not yet trickled down to the popular culture or into the layman’s understanding….so I will say a few things about it here on New-Think.

Most people’s objections to the existence of evil are emotional rather than logical. How can a good God allow the rape of little children?…This is not a logic based objection, rather an emotional one. How can a good God have allowed the holocaust?

I submit that we do not sit in a position to be able to pass such judgments on God. Using the Christian presupposition, God knows the end of all things. How can we then sit in judgment on the means he uses to his ends if we do not know the ends?

Here’s an illustration: Suppose I can see into the future. I know that at 4 o’clock tomorrow afternoon you will be struck by a car at the corner of 5th and Vine. My first plan is to meet you at 3:59 at the corner of 5th and Vine and try to persuade you to leave the area immediately. Since I can see into the future I know you will laugh at me and ignore me if I approach you like this. So instead I grab you and drag you down the sidewalk for 100 feet and at 4:01 I let you go. You may think I am crazy and you will probably call the cops. Had you known my motives, however, you would be grateful. You only saw the mean, not the end.

I admit this illustration only works if you presuppose the existence of God. Something I realize an atheist is not about to do (at least consciously…they/you do it all the time in daily life though). So let’s have a look at the presuppositions of atheism.

If there is no God then there are no moral absolutes (good or evil). So really, it is absurd for an atheist to bring up the problem of evil….since in the atheist worldview there is no such thing as objective evil. True, you may say you do not like it when children are raped. But on what basis can you say that it is “evil”? Sure you didn’t like Hitler, but what objective standard can’t you point to that shows you are better than him? Just because you don’t like something or even a lot of people don’t like something doesn’t make it evil. Hardly anyone likes root canals, but they are not evil. Hitler presupposed that Jews were subhuman and that exterminating them would bring us to a glorious future. Imagine a pack of wild dogs was roaming your town devouring who they could…that is how Hitler saw the Jews. Based upon those presuppositions the holocaust was good. So you see, without an objective standard anyone can define good or evil as he or she pleases AND (this is the important part) no one is any more correct or incorrect than anyone else in their assertions.

When non-theists talk about good and/or evil they are shooting themselves in the feet and showing their own ignorance since they have to borrow a theistic frame of reference in order to even come up with an objection to theism. How embarrassing for them.

Submit Your Questions...This Means YOU!

Are you a skeptic, agnostic or athiest? Are you a Christian with unanswered questions? Do you find hard or impossible intellectual or emotional obstacles that prevent your from believing in the Christian God? Please submit your questions!

Also, if you would like to attempt to throw down a challenge in this arena that you think cannot be overcome...go for it.

I will attempt to answer all questions and/or assertions submitted. Thanks for playing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

School Pictures

Michelle and the kids have recently started school for the year....not that we ever fully quit. Here are our annual "school photos".

Friday, August 1, 2008

Transcendent Skateboarding

I remember where I was when this happened. Without a doubt one of the most beautiful skateboarding moments EVER.

Before his final run- the last run of the event- Bob Burnquist was sitting in second place behind two-time defending champion Bucky Lasek. Burnquist produced a flawless run, including multiple tricks that had never been seen before, and as a result, were unnamed. During the run, commentator Tony Hawk went hoarse and nearly lost his voice while screaming in disbelief. Burnquist was rewarded with a 98, the highest score ever given in skateboard vert.

Even if you are not into skating...this truly transcends the genre. Enjoy.

Funny Video Friday