Christian Ambition

This is a topic I’ve wanted to write about for awhile. I’m very hesitant to do so as I do not have my thoughts down entirely on it yet, but I figure that if I wait until I have them entirely figured out, that it’ll never come. Thus, I’m going to go on and share what I have and hope that it’s a blessing to some.

I have a book in my library by Hugh Hewitt called “In, But Not Of.” I recommend this book. This book is a guide to Christian ambition. He talks in the beginning about a man who wanted to be a general but never reached his goal and said that if his life was researched, one thing could be found. He did not want to be a general. Had he wanted to be one enough at least, he would have reached his goal.

I find it odd when Christians talk about this area. It seems that if I wanted to go out and become, say, an olympic runner and win the gold, that people would be cheering me on as I practiced. “Don’t give up! You can do it!” If I wanted to be a great novelist, they would tell me to write that great story in me. If I wanted to be a champion baseball player, they would tell me to be at the batting cages everyday.

When you want to be great in ministry though, step back. That’s pride!

Why?

If there is any area we should want to succeed in, it would be service to Christ.  What happened to the days when we encouraged people to change the world for Christ? Moody began his evangelistic career after hearing a preacher say that the world has not seen what one man on fire for God can do. (Actually though, I think they have. They saw it in Israel 2,000 years ago.)

Moody went out and performed much evangelism and today we have Moody Magazine and Moody Bible Institute. You can draw a line of evangelism from Moody to Billy Graham. Why? Because one person wanted to get out there and make a difference. They wanted to do the best that they could do.

My area is in apologetics. I’ll be blunt with you. I love reading Case for Christ and other books like that and thinking “I could do that someday.” When I watched the Case for Christ DVD with some friends, they asked me if I was going to be in Case for Christ 2. Is that a goal? Then what do I do? I be sure to hit the books and study!

If you wanted to be an Olympic runner, you would watch the world champion and learn to imitate him. If you want to be a great debater, you watch and listen to the great debaters. You read their books and listen to their material and watch their programs and you learn how to argue and you learn the facts well.

That has been a chief factor for me in ministry. I have heroes and I do try to imitate them. In fact, I think we all should. We all should have some role models we look up to. Friends who know me know that if I consider anyone my personal hero, it’s Ravi Zacharias. My preaching style is even similar to his as I speak with what I call a “silent passion.” My voice is not emphatic, but there is a passion behind it even if it’s a low tone.

When I was in High School, Pokemon was the big thing. Now I did watch the show a lot and when I saw the soundtrack, I thought I’d buy it to bring back some old memories. What are the themes about? About working hard and succeeding. About a kid with a dream who goes out to change the world.

I hear that and think, “What are we supposed to say in the church? I want to be mediocre for Christ! I want to be somewhat skilled at counseling!” No my friends. If we are going to do anything, is it not up to us to give it our best? Does Christ deserve anything less than the best of what we have to offer?

I have a quote that I’ve used from Nelson Mandela about how we are afraid to shine. We shouldn’t be. It is not our smallness that scares us but our greatness. Friends. We are great. We bear God’s image after all. Look at what Scripture says about us. Paul says we should judge cases for instance because we will judge angels. We are seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus. Scripture says some awesome things about our identity in Christ.

And imagine if we all had this? Imagine if we all had this drive to help each other out to be the best that we can be? Imagine how it would be if every time I was down, I had my friends coming alongside of me to help me and I did the same for them. (And I know they have helped me in the past and I hope I’ve helped them.)

I have recently had this come up more as I have a roommate now. I’d be going through my library and find a book I no longer needed or had a better version of or a copy of and I’d just go to him and give it to him. I’ve also told him my library is open to him any time. Why? His success is mine as well. I want him to be the best he can be and I’m sure he wants the same for me.

Friends. We can change the world. We just need to reclaim our identity. I fear too long the church has put a damper on ambition. The problem in our church though is not that our dreams are too big. They are too small. We need to have the attitude that we are the image-bearers of God and we are to live that way.

The Church and Evangelism

We’ve been talking lately about the modern day church and why it is not the way it should be. One problem that I’ve lately been considering that I honestly hadn’t before this year is that the church is seen often as the place of evangelism. If you want to get someone saved, you get them to church.

Now if someone gets saved in church, as I did and as do several others, great. However, this is not the main purpose of the church. The purpose of the church is to build up and equip the saints so that they can go out with the gospel and be the ones to do the evangelism in the world outside of the church.

The problem is that this means the rest of us take our responsibility lightly. Why do I need to learn the fine points of the faith? The pastor knows that. Why do I need to know what the main point of Leviticus is? The pastor knows that. Give someone the gospel? Nah. Let’s just get them to church.

The problem is that you are called to do that. You are instructed to go out and make disciples. You do not see church invitations being given in the New Testament. In fact, when Paul talks about churches in 1 Cor. 14, the thought of someone coming in who is an unbeliever is seen as a “What if?” It’s not even seen as something common.

It’s also unfair on your pastor. Your pastor cannot take all the responsibility. I am in an apologetics ministry. I do enjoy what I do, but I also know it can be taxing when you are to answer every question and I do love it when I see other people being willing to learn how to answer those questions.

Your pastor should be glad to help you out, but what would probably please him the most would be if you learned how to help yourself out, and he’d be glad to get you started with some good teaching. If he isn’t, then you might want to consider finding yourself another pastor.

When we all take our responsibilities as Christians lightly, none of us win in the end. Church is a place for building up the saints and that is not done enough. Now I do know that unbelievers do come to church today so I always give an opportunity when I preach, but my main emphasis is not to the unbeliever. My main emphasis is to the believer. They are the ones here to be equipped.

We need sermons for believers today. We need them for people who need to know more of the truth. We also need them to go beyond just the applicational level. As I said in a Sunday School class, there is a lot more to the books of Joshua and Judges than just “obey God”, but for all you hear in a class today, you’d think that was it.

Such is a rant for another day. Today though, remember making disciples happens outside the church. Where? Go to the marketplace of ideas. Chat at work. Get on the internet. Talk to a classmate. Anything. You are to go out and make disciples. You are not to bring the people to you and then make them disciples.

The Problem of Conversion

I said yesterday that we would be looking more at the situation of the modern-day church. As I consider it, I think one of the main problems is with the concept of conversion. We are so excited in the church about going out and converting people to the truth. However, there is a problem I see with this.

Jesus did not call us to make converts. He called us to make disciples.

My accepting Christ as Lord and Savior as is usually termed took place when I was 11 and a half. I just heard the message for the first time in a Baptist church. In all my years in church, I had never heard about accepting Christ as Lord and Savior like that. It sounded like a good deal to me, so I took it immediately.

So what happened then?

Well, nothing.

Now I do believe I was saved then. However, the church didn’t do anything. I didn’t really tell anyone to be sure, but I don’t remember being asked to tell. In fact, I wasn’t even baptized until years later. (I’m hydrophobic, but I decided to face my fear despite in that time after my conversion I had had a steel rod strapped on my spine. I was baptized in a Methodist church that had a baptistry and went under far enough for it to count at least.)

I basically taught myself though. I read the Bible and the first time I read it all the way through, I think I was in 7th grade. Study though wasn’t really what I was doing at the time. It was just something I was doing. I did attend some Bible Study groups and I attended one for young men especially that really helped me in High School. As soon as I got the internet, instead of video games and other such things, I wanted to chat about Christianity.

Yet it wasn’t until I got to Bible College that I even learned about apologetics.

Sometimes I look back and wonder “Lord. Why did you let me go through all that time that I could have been training myself but instead, I wasn’t. Why couldn’t I have been told about this by someone in the church earlier?”

Then I think, maybe it was so I could get a passion for this.

We are not told to make converts. We are told to make disciples. Too often today in the church, we think we get them to cross the line and accept Christ as savior and lo and behold, our work is done.

Sadly, I’ll confess, I’ve been guilty of that.

This is why so many young people get excited about Christ in church but when they go off to college, they’re not ready and become atheists. Why? Because they only got emotion. I saw it happen several times even before my interest in apologetics. For personal reasons, I avoided overnight trips with the youth group, but I would see them go to these big weekend getaways and come back all excited about Christ. What happens one week later?

Nothing. They’re back to “normal.”

These kids had an emotional high and when the emotion was gone, so was the commitment to Christ. Friends. If my commitment to Christ was based on my emotion, I would be in a lot of trouble. Now I am not anti-emotion. I do have emotions. I just don’t have strong emotions about matters of faith. I think I have passion, but not emotion.

Friends. Christ is not just Lord when we are feeling good and the world is great. Christ is Lord even when we are not. We are not called to serve Christ when we feel like it. We are called to serve Christ irregardless. If our destiny and our purpose in life changes constantly with our emotions, we are in for a world of trouble.

So thus, it could be that being one who was not discipled, I now see the importance of it.

We cannot get people to convert and then leave them there. They must be trained. If we don’t, we have the situation of the burned-over district. That was when Charles Finney came through with mass revivals and “altar calls.” Thousands of people came forward, but they had no root. In this district, there was high spiritual excitement, but no knowledge to go with it. Any shock that the Mormons and JWs both came from that area? Where were the people of knowledge then?!

Friends. Be ready to disciple. When new people come up and join the church, offer to teach them. There are sheep stealers posing at times in your church that belong to cults and are waiting to get new converts. Don’t you let them. In the Mormon church and the Kingdom Halls, I assure you they are training new members! While we should argue against the cults, we can learn a lot from their techniques! Dr. Walter Martin once said that the average JW can turn the average Christian into a doctrinal pretzel in 90 seconds or less. Sadly, I agree.

Why is this again? Because that Christian does not have knowledge. He only has emotion. Friends. When someone from the other side comes against you with hard arguments, it will not work to just develop a happy feeling. You should feel what is in accordance with reality. Not what denies reality. That also does not help the other person or surrounding people. It is only about you. That person is to be given an answer, not a feeling.

In fact, you need more than a feeling when you face the biggest critic you will meet. It is not going to be Frank Zindler or Richard Dawkins or any of these others out there that have been answered time and time again. The biggest critic you will usually face will be yourself. When that time comes, an emotion cannot win the day. Truth will.

Friends. Let us not neglect discipleship. It is what Christ called us to make. It requires hard work and dedication and sticking with some people, but it needs to be done. Find some people you can disciple. In many places I have been to, I have tried to find at least one or two that have a strong interest and train them up. Hopefully, they will train up others.

Readers of my blog know I have moved recently. Before I left though, a good friend of mine there was talking about doing a book study on Case for Christ. That is what I am talking about. You train one and it just spreads. The gospel is something to get excited about and it is something to train people up on.

And besides, Christ said to do it. It’s hard, but he’s your Lord, and you are to obey.

The Retreat of the Church

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the state of the church today. If you’re like me, you look at the modern church and you realize that something’s wrong. We’re not living our faith the way our forefathers did. The early church fathers died because they affirmed the Trinity. Most churchgoers don’t know the basics about i. You can find Phillips, Craig, and Dean selling in Christian music stores. You can find Tommy Tenney and T.D. Jakes. All of these are Oneness Pentecostals that deny the Trinity. I’ve even seen John Shelby Spong on sale. Ever read any of his stuff?

What has happened? Our church has become filled with emotionalism and people being moved entirely by feelings. Now I’m not against emotions and feelings, but too often today, we have the tail wagging the dog instead of the other way around. We are to be people of the truth. Not people that have the truth change based on our feelings.

Also, do we really live it? Do the teachings of Christ really play a key role in our lives? Do we bother to understand what is going on in a biblical text? I’ve spoken much about the concept of feeling led because I believe this is a key role. In fact, this kind of attitude is drawing us away from Scripture and focusing us on our experiences.

I think that unfortunately, the church retreated. My roommate here used the term just now when we were discussing this of non-overlapping Magisteria. It’d been one I’d thought of as well. If you don’t know, it comes from Stephen Jay Gould. He said that science would deal with facts of the real world, and religion would deal with emotions and feelings and that “less real” stuff.

In fact, we seem to have often divorced the life of the mind and the life of the heart. I know of a number of Christians who think that we shouldn’t think about our faith and that our minds are evil and need to be bypassed. Friends. This is not a Christian view of the intellect. Especially since God is the God of all truth and truth is an endeavor of the mind.

Around the 1800’s, we had Charles Finney coming through with mass revivals. People got an emotional charge, but unfortunately, they had no root. There will be more about this as we go on of course. However, I see this as an indication that emotionalism has taken a hold of the church.

One such area hit was the Burned-Over District of New York. There were several people who had a spiritual interest in things then, but they had no root. Two groups rose out of that area. One of them was the Mormons and the other was the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Where were the people there doing the discipling and training the people in truth?

When we read the great confession in Matthews 16, we read that the gates of Hell will not stand up against the church. Friends. Be sure that you know this. Gates are defensive tools. Hell is not to be taking the offensive in this fight. We are. We are to go out into battle with our weapons ready to fight the good fight and we are assured of victory!

So why aren’t we fighting?

I suppose we’ll get to discuss that together.

It’s A Whole New World

Greetings Readers! Have you missed me?! I really hope you have! I’ve missed getting to do the blog! I’ve got so many thoughts going on in my head I really don’t know necessarily how to begin. There are times that there are a thousand ideas and then there are none. For anyone reading this wondering what I’m talking about, I’ve just moved to a new city and a new state with an awesome friend of mine who is my roommate.

Things are going well. We just today got internet and basic cable and hallelujah, we have the CW. That means I get to watch Smallville tomorrow! Readers of my blog know that this is my TV obsession. Fortunately, I get off from work in time in order to watch it. (Yeah. I transferred from one location to another in my job so it was a simple process.)

My job has me in a position where from time to time I have to look at Driver’s Licenses and I see all these new places and roads mentioned on them that I haven’t seen here and it makes me think that there’s so much to explore. I also find it interesting that I’m sure most people assume that I have lived here a long time and I’m not the new person in town. Isn’t it amazing the assumptions we make at times?

I have been in awe when I stop to think about it. There is still some system shock. I haven’t slept in past 9 yet I don’t think, but I’m getting used to things here. I still find it amazing when I wake up in the morning and can see a little bit out of the window and after a few seconds my mind recollects and remembers, “Yes. That’s where you are.”

It’s just that this is a whole new world, but I realize my goal must remain the same. I must keep in mind why I am here. There are so many new experiences and things to go through.  It’s quite exciting to drive down the streets and realize that you are so far away from everything and this time, the battle is more dependent on you than ever.

Of course, my roommate helps out a lot with that. My roommate is an excellent friend of mine and we’ve already had a number of interesting adventures here unpacking. Ever tried to get a sofa up a very small staircase? It is nothing easy to do, and while we still had some help at the time, it took us about an hour to do it.

He’s a great guy though, and I think it’s been a real calming influence. The first time I moved out, I was a bit nervous for awhile, but I haven’t gone into any kind of, what I call, “panic state” at all. Now some of that might be because I’ve grown some over the years which I’m sure is true, but I think part of it is also the power of friendship.

My own stretching at this point has been interesting. My roommate is good at basic work involving tools around the house. I’m the type that would make Tim Taylor on Home Improvement look like a professional. I’ve been learning how to put things together though and use basic tools and been enjoying it. I took great delight in helping put together a new bookcase I got and then hanging up Smallville pictures. I was also the one who actually hooked up our TV and game systems. My roommate did the computer systems and did an excellent job of them.

I have been to the Seminary I plan to attend and I really hope to rock at Seminary. I understand I’m already well-familiar with the course material so as the admissions guy said, “I’m ahead of the game.” I suppose that’s the benefit of studying for years. It’s going to be a grand adventure though and I have a dream of walking across that stage and getting my Master’s. I think it’s been a long time since anyone in my family has.

Friends who read this blog. I see that several of you have been coming faithfully and that pleases me greatly. Before I left, I even found out about one of my secret readers who I didn’t even realize read the blog everyday. It was a great joy to hear such a thing. I know this blog isn’t really apologetics stuff tonight entirely, but I want you all to know where I’m at.

Pray for me please in this adventure. Pray for my roommate also. We’re both in this together after all. Pray that he and I both succeed on the paths we have chosen. Thank you for your continued prayers and reading the DeeperWaters blog.

The Next Level

Tonight, I am going to blog about what’s going on in my life. Dear readers. This will be the last blog for a few days. Tomorrow, I disconnect the internet here and prepare to move on ahead to go to Seminary in another city. (Actually, another state even.) I will not deny I am anxious and excited and terrified and every other emotion that can be experienced.

I am remembering a sermon I heard in Bible College where the speaker said he was going to play a tune and he was going to ask us if we recognized it. I thought “Pssh. I hardly listen to music. How could I?” Lo and behold though, it was one I knew all too well. It was the music played when finishing a stage in the Original Super Mario Brothers. The preacher wanted to speak on how we need to go to the next level.

That’s what I’m doing, and I’ll say I’ve never been more anxious about a decision I think as I’ve never taken a step of such huge proportions. Name any kind of doubt or fear you can have. I am sure I have faced it. Everyone around me says “That’s normal”, but picture telling such to a guy on his wedding day who is nervous. It is good to hear, but it doesn’t necessarily make the nerves go away.

It gives me time to think about fear also. I see fear as a parasite of sorts. It sucks off of our emotions and tries to make things other than as they are. If we saw things as they are, including the God who is there, we would not be afraid. Unfortunately, fear changes our view of God as well.

Fear makes everything else that is wrong bigger and that which is true smaller. I notice this with every fear I have. The evidence that my fear is true is “huge.” However, the counter evidence is always small. When I come across it, it is always discounted then and along comes the bigger fear.

My theory is that if we could focus on that fear, we would see how small it really is. I like the approach taken by JKR in the Harry Potter series. The creatures called Boggarts are made to be shapeshifters and take on the form of whatever the person viewing them fears most. The answer is to picture them in a ridiculous position and shout “Ridiculous!” and watch them take that shape. Then, one laughs and the Boggart is defeated.

I like that for it shows fear has no definite shape on its own. I believe all fear is like that. It doesn’t have any sort of independent exist. It is like sin. Sin can only twist that which is good. Fear can only twist that which is true. I have to learn to keep that in mind. In stories I used to write as a kid, fear was always the final enemy I fought in them. I think that could point at a truth that I saw and maybe others see. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

I also deal with my family at this time. They’re not taking it well. They want to see it happen, but it’s just so difficult for them. My mother is especially in this case. Other mothers have told me about how it was for them. We all just need to adjust and in the end, we’ll all be stronger for it.

Dear readers. I don’t know what more to say at this point. I think I shall just close it. It could be I’m just all a jumble so not as lucid as I would normally hope I am. I just ask that you pray for me and my new roommate and my own family as this step takes place in my life. I look forward to writing again.

An Alternative To Hearing The Voice of God

I’ve lately been critiquing the modern emphasis on hearing the voice of God. My argument is simple. I do not deny that God can speak today. What I am arguing is that this is not normative. It is based largely on emotions and experiences as I believe, the texts that have been presented most for this position have been found wanting.
http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/2007/07/29/proverbs-35-6/

The above is a critique of a sermon I did on Proverbs 3:5-6 which led then to my stating my solution. I wrote the next day on the Way of Wisdom which can be found here:

http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/2007/07/30/the-way-of-wisdom/

If any of you are expecting some fancy URL terminology, it’s not from me. I know nothing about computers…

My stance is simple. I find it difficult to think that God gave us a great book on decision making called Proverbs and decided in NT times to suddenly make it be that he would make all of our decisions for us.

I think there are a number of factors that have contributed to this. My first thought is that the church abandoned rationality when Darwinian evolution rose up to challenge along with textual criticism from Germany and the Enlightenment thought as a whole. Rather than taking intellectual ground, the church largely switched to emotions, especially in such movements as the revivals of Charles Finney. Now granted, not all Christians did this, but enough did so to cause a loss.

When emotion becomes the source of truth, then it seems obvious that before too long, divine authority will be given to emotions. This is a dangerous game though as many of us are the types that our emotions simply run haywire and we could feel any way at any moment of the day.

I also think this is because frankly, we’ve become cowardly as a result. We don’t want to take steps unless we’re “sure” they’re the right ones. I ponder that it’s also possible we’re asking the wrong question on what’s the “Right thing to do” in some cases. It could be there are several right things to do.

Consider you have some extra money and want to donate it to a charity. Is there such a thing as “The right charity” to give it to, or could it be that there are several right charities that you can make a donation to? Are you going to be out of the will of God if you give to X instead of Y?

Also, consider marriage. I, being a male, definitely will be marrying a lady. Is there “the right one” out there? Probably not. Instead, there are several right ones and there’s also whether I’m going to be a “right one” for someone else. I suspect it is the same way with several other things. I don’t believe God makes a big a deal over those decisions as we do.

Now granted, there are some times when there is one right thing, but this is not in the same area. What religion do you choose? Well, you choose the one that is true, which is Christianity. Do you sleep with your significant other before you marry? No. Obviously not. Do you rob a bank to pay tuition? Obviously not either.

Friends. We have to take risks. We all know this and we all tell people to go ahead and take a chance at times, but then we think we have to wait for God to tell us what to do. In Acts, I do not see people playing it safe for Christ. Instead, I see them actively being able to take risks.

Lastly, we’ve come to a place where we despise rationality sadly. May this not be for you! Not all of us enjoy deep intellectual conversations, but let it never be said that Christianity is anti-intellectual.  I find it the only worldview that can really explain the existence of rationality and logic.

Friends. It’s time we return to our biblical basis. Emotions and experiences are good things, but they are the tail and not the dog. We cannot let these events be the decision criteria for us. Return to Scripture!

Acts and the Voice of God

The book of Acts is often cited to show the idea of hearing the voice of God as normative for Christian living today. Now I do think something should be granted. Acts is one of the unique periods in history from what I can tell. There are times when God begins a new thing and he confirms it by miracles. We have that in the Exodus, the prophets, and the ministry of Christ.

However, I looked through the book some today. I think the book probably covers a 30 year period. It should also be noted that when the Bible records someone’s life or a period of time, it records the highlights. We record the times Abraham talked to God. We do not need to record a day when Abraham sneezes.

So what did I find?

Acts 5-An angel encourages the disciples to keep speaking on Christ.

Acts8-The angel tells Philip to speak to the Ethiopian Eunuch.

Acts 9-The Damascus Road and the conversion of Paul

Acts 10-Cornelius told by an angel to send for Peter and Peter’s vision

Acts 11-Agabus prophecies a famine

Acts 12-Angel delivers Peter from prison

Acts 13-Paul and Barnabas told to go on a missionary journey

Acts 16-Verse 7 has the Spirit of Jesus preventing missionary activity in one area and then verse 9 has the Macedonian man appearing in a vision

Acts 18-The Lord tells Paul to take comfort for he has many in that city. (Which was Corinth.)

Acts 20-Holy Spirit warns Paul about Jerusalem. (Note that the text also says that through the Spirit they encouraged him not to go to Jerusalem while Paul is compelled by the Spirit.)

Acts 21-Agabus prophecies what will happen to Paul in Jerusalem

Acts 25-Paul has a vision about Rome

Acts 27-Paul told about how to save the lives of the men on the ship.

Notice some times though that this does not happen.

This does not happen when the replacement for Judas is sought.

It does not happen in Acts 6 when disciples are chosen

It does not happen at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15

It does not happen with the other two missionary journeys.

In fact, when I looked through tonight, I had to consider that the voice of God was kind of conspicuous. In fact, for the times that I see mentioned, that isn’t too often within a 30 year period.

I also found that they really didn’t have to to do with personal decision making. These were things told to get the early church started off. This was not something normative. I do believe there was supernatural direction some with the early church so the seeds could be planted, but as seen from the second and third missionary journeys, some free action on the part of the missionaries was allowed. Just go through and see how many decisions the people in Acts make.

Friends. I believe much has been examined in this idea. I hope soon to start looking at consequences I see of the idea and rest assured, I am not going to kick someone’s method out from under them without giving them something else to stand on.

Abraham and the Voice of God

Since I believe in examining the idea of hearing the voice of God, that I have looked at the verses, though if anyone has a new one and lets me know about it I’ll be glad to give my thoughts, I believe now it is time to go to stories. If there is one figure used as an example, it’s Abraham.

We all know about Abraham. He’s the one who was the friend of God. He is the father of the faithful. He is the centerpiece argument of Paul in defending justification by faith in Romans. He is the one whom the Jews claimed lineage from. Abraham is Exhibit A. Abraham is where the action is.

Now it cannot be denied that there were times in Abraham’s life when he did hear the voice of God. Note though that that doesn’t go against my view. My view is not that God can’t speak to us today. My view is that this is not to be seen as normative. In fact, I will argue that it wasn’t normative in the life of Abraham.

When we first meet Abraham, he is called out of his land and told to go to a strange land where he knows no one and leave all behind and he will be made into a great nation. Abraham does so, though he doesn’t leave all of his family behind. He takes his nephew Lot with him.

For one who is hearing the voice of God all the time, Abraham makes a lot of mistakes. Notice that he lies about his relationship with his wife, twice! Notice that when Abraham is given the promise of a child, he decides that he’s going to bring it about himself and sleeps with the servant Hagar.

At this point, you’d think if he was constantly hearing the voice of God, he would have been told, “Don’t do this Abraham! This is not the way!”Instead, Abraham makes the mistake and it’s one that costs him. If many biblical scholars are right, there is a 13 year gap in what happens. In other words, we have 13 years where God does not speak to Abraham.

Now some might argue for the silence of God. That is the problem though. The silence is the norm! It is the acting in a unique way that is the exception! Now I do believe in miracles and I do believe God can speak, but it is my belief that God likes to work through natural causes.

Why? Because God created a great working system in creation. He created it to handle things as they are and to constantly intervene would be to indicate that the creation isn’t really that good. The creation needs the constant maintenance of the designer. Now this is not going against providence. I do believe the creation exists because he exists. I don’t believe though that God has to do constant miracles to sustain it.

What’s my conclusion then? Abraham is a great man of faith, but I do not see him as valid for this position. Now if you want to argue against me, that’s fine. Again though, I want to be shown where my interpretation or exegesis is in error. An experience will not suffice to convince me.

The Still Small Voice

We’ve been talking lately about hearing the voice of God. As I consider, it seems most of the proof-texts I’ve heard have already been looked at and from my viewpoint, they’ve been found wanting. I would hope if others agree that they’ll take the time to consider the implications of that.

It means that a whole ideology has risen up and people have bought into it though it doesn’t even have remotely a biblical foundation. Now on some doctrines, there are texts that are hard to explain and you could look and see a reasonable way people come to those conclusions based on the text. With this one though, the evidence for it is nil and the evidence against it is great.

However, if there is one passage today that is used often as well, it’s Elijah’s hearing the still small voice. Let’s look at the text in 1 Kings 19.

11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

And somehow, a whole doctrine has come out of this.

First off, I’m not convinced this is a voice. Considering earth and fire already showed up, I’m more inclined to think this was a wind. I don’t think the text is definitive though. Let’s suppose it was a voice. My reply. “So what?”

Some of you might be shocked I said that.

Let’s look at some facts though. Elijah was not like the rest of us in one regard. He was a prophet who was supposed to hear from God. This was not the experience of Joe Israelite. In fact, if it was a regular thing for Elijah as well, one wonders why he would have ran and hid in a cave for so long.

One also wonders why he didn’t point to such an experience to the Israelites when facing Baal and telling them to listen for the voice of YHWH. The prophets never tell them to listen to an internal voice. They tell them to hear the Word of the Lord, but what they mean is the message that is being given through them.

Yet I have seen too often this passage being used. I’ve seen sermons where the whole point seems to be on how to hear the voice of God and why we need to from this passage. I have heard prayers where the pastor prays that we can all listen to the still small voice. If we use this kind of exegesis though, I wonder what it will be like when we have a dating service based on the method of Judges 21.

Friends. This idea isn’t biblical, and that we take texts of Scripture so lightly to form a doctrine I think really shows how lightly we take Scripture and serious interpretation of it. Now again, some of you will disagree. If you do, I say it again, show me the problem from Scripture. Show me how I exegeted this text wrong or show me another text. Experience won’t cut it.