Archive for October, 2006

If you don’t think blogs can have much influence in our society (“full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”), Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost begs to differ (so do I!). His article is called “The 5/150 Principle.” Joe even makes reference to Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point (which is a plus as far as I’m concerned).

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Maybe this has happened to you. You’re talking with someone about Christianity and all of a sudden, they ask you a question you weren’t prepared for at all. “Did Mary ever to spank Jesus?” “Why don’t Catholics eat meat on Fridays?” “When he was on earth, did Jesus know about molecular biology?” “What does the Bible say about tatoos?” “If a baby dies and goes to heaven, will he or she stay that age for all of eternity?” The list could go on and on!

Assuming the question is an honest one (and not a smokescreen), how should we respond? We most definitely should not try to bloviate our way through an answer (which would probably turn out to be wrong anyway). If we don’t know the answer, or if we’ve never thought about it before, we should simply say so. It’s a lot better to give someone a good answer – even if it isn’t immediate – than to give an answer that’s wrong and could even be harmful. Just say, “That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer to it, but I’ll get back to you with an answer.” In my experience, the person asking the question will respect you a lot more if you say you don’t know rather than pretending you do because your pride won’t let you not know the answer to every conceivable question.

In short, if you don’t know, say so. By doing that, you may have earned another hearing from the one who asked the question in the first place.

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John Humphrys has written a book – Beyond Words: How Language Reveals the Way We Live Now – in which he argues that we should take our language far more seriously than we do presently and calls for a return to more formal language. He says, “If we are careless with our language then we are careless with our world.” I couldn’t agree more. I haven’t read the book, but it sounds quite interesting.

We followers of Jesus Christ seem to get careless with our language, too. “Christianese” is just one example. We might ask someone we presume is not a believer if they are “washed in the blood of the Lamb?” We (as Christians) know what we mean by that, but non-Christians don’t. Therefore, when we’re speaking with those who don’t know Christ, we need be careful with our language. But I think we need to be careful when we speak to each other, too. We say “God told me…,” but I’m not certain that what we’re saying and what we understand are necessarily the same thing. Is someone saying that God actually spoke to them in an audible voice, or are they saying that a thought, idea, or impulse popped into their head that they attribute to God? (or something else altogether?) I agree with Humphrys that we need to be more careful with our language.

One phrase I could live without ever hearing again is “I don’t want to lie” (or its variation, “I’m not gonna’ lie”). I’m glad you don’t want to tell a lie, but the assumption all the rest of us have is that when you make a statement, you’re telling the truth. Therefore, announcing to the world that you’re not going to lie is completely unnecessary. Not only that, it makes me wonder – since you have to preface your statement – if you make a habit of not telling the truth? My guess is that someone who says that is simply lazy with their language and repeating a phrase that’s become vogue.

Be careful out there!

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Sometimes we ask the wrong questions.

When things go wrong in our life, or get tough for us, we often ask “How did I get into this mess and what can I do to get myself out,” or “How quickly can I solve this problem,” or “Why did this happen to me?”

As tempted as we may be to pose these questions, the best question is “How can God be glorified in this situation?” That changes our perspective. “The sorest afflictions,” said Brother Lawrence, “never appear to be intolerable, except when we see them in the wrong light.” If we see our trials in light of how God may be glorified through them, we’ll see things in the proper light.

Three episodes in the life of Jesus illustrate this principle. In John 9, the disciples of Jesus asked about a man born blind -“who sinned, this man or his parents?” (9:2). Jesus told them that they had missed the point entirely. He said, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (9:3), or that God might be glorified in him. In John 11, Jesus stated that the sickness and subsequent death of Lazarus was “for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (11:4). The turning point of John’s gospel is the twelfth chapter because it’s here that Jesus’ ministry moves from public to private. He begins to talk more and more of His upcoming death. In 12:27-28, He said, “Now My soul has become troubled, and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Jesus understood that the right question is “How can God be glorified in this situation?”

J. Hudson Taylor said, “I know He tries me only to increase my faith, and that is all in love. Well, if He is glorified, I am content.”

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Give us today our daily bread.

“By this petition we ask generally all the things that are necessary to the indigence of our body under the elements of the world, not only concerning food and clothing, but all that which God knows to be useful to us, in order that we may eat our bread in peace. With these words (to say it briefly) we recommend ourselves to the providence of the Lord and entrust ourselves to his solicitude, in order that he may nourish us, maintain us, and preserve us. For this good Father does not regard it as unworthy to receive even our bodies in his custody and care, this in order to exercise our trust in him by means of these light and small things, so that we expect from him all our necessities, even to the last crumb of bread and one drop of water. now, as to asking our ‘daily’ bread and for ‘today,’ it means that we must not wish of it except what is necessary for our necessity and for living day by day. And we must have this trust that, when our Father shall have nourished us today, he will not fail us tomorrow either. Whatever abundance we may have at present, it is fit always to ask our daily bread, acknowledging that all actual possessions are nothing, except in so far as the Lord, by the infusion of his blessing on them, makes them prosper and come to profit, acknowledging also that the actual possessions that are in our hands are not ours except in so far as he dispenses to us their use at every hour, and distributes to us a portion of them. As to our calling this bread ‘ours,’ the goodness of God appears to be even greater; for that goodness makes to be ours that which was by no right due to us. Finally, our asking that it be given us signifies unto us that is a simple and free gift of God, from whatever source that bread may come, even though it seems to have been acquired by our industry.” (Instruction in Faith, p. 62)

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Thy will be done as in heaven so also on earth.

“By this petition we ask that altogether as it is done in heaven, so alos on earth he may rule and guide everything according to his good will, leading all things to such issue as shall seem good to him, and subjecting all wills to himself. And by asking that, we implicitly renounce all our desires, resigning and promising to the Lord all that which there is of affections in us, praying him to lead things not according to our wish, but as he knows it to be well for us. And even we ask that he not only make vain and of no effect those desires of ours that are contrary to his will, but even more that he create in us new spirits and new hearts, extinguishing and annihilating ours, so that no movement of greed may arise in us, but only a pure consent to his will. In brief, that we wish nothing from ourselves, but that his Spirit may will in us, through whose inspiration we may learn to love all things pleasing him and to hate and to detest all that which displeases him.” (Instruction in Faith, p. 61)

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Thy reign come.

“The reign of God is God guiding and governing his own by his Holy Spirit, in order to manifest in all their works the riches of his goodness and mercy, and, on the contrary, ruining and confounding the reprobate who are unwilling to be subject to his domination and prostrate their cursed arrogance, in order that they may clearly appear that there is no power that can resist his might. We pray, therefore, that God’s reign may come, that is to say, that the Lord may from day to day multiply the number of his faithful believers who celebrate his glory in all their works, and that he may continually spread on them more largely the affluence of his graces, whereby he may live and reign in them more and more, until, having perfectly conjoined to himself, he may fill them wholly. Similarly we ask that from day to day he may through new growths spread his light and enlighten his truth, so that Satan and the lies and the darkness of his reign may be dissipated and abolished. When we pray thus: ‘my the kingdom of God come,’ we desire also that it may finally be perfect and accomplished, that is to say, in the revelation of his judgment, in which day he alone will be extolled and will be all things in all people after having gathered and received his own glory and having demolished and completely overthrown the reign of Satan.” (Instruction in Faith, pp. 60-61)

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