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Faith and Trust Examined

15 May

I remember reading the story of a missionary who struggled with his explaining Jesus as God’s sacrificial lamb. The Lamb of God. The remote villagers could not relate to the imagery in any way. He then borrowed from their culture and told them Jesus was their sacrificial pig. The Pig of God. I know what some of you are thinking. Your mind is going the same place mine did when I first read it. God names swine among the unclean animals. Jesus used pigs in his story of the prodigal son to express the depths to which this son had gone in his depravity. How could a pig suggest the spotless life of Jesus being sacrificed for the sin of man? The thought of it sounds grossly sacrilegious, almost blasphemous. But in the culture the missionary was trying to reach, the substitution worked; he won their hearts to the Lord. I don’t know if over the decades they have changed their wording to conform with western civilization or not, but does it matter?

 I shared that story with you because recently I was challenged to look at a couple of other key Christian words/concepts in a new way: faith and trust. If you follow my blog, you may remember a blog on trust I posted two or three weeks ago. Since then, I have been watching a video series I recommend to you. The nine-part series called Christ Revealed was created by Dr. Patrick Gentempo. Each part is 1.5 to 2 hours long and consists of interviews and tours of primary sites where Jesus ministered. In the interviews we hear exciting testimonies and deep-thinker apologetics. It’s the latter that brought new ways for me to look at faith and trust.

 I have long stood on the side of the opinion that no one wins someone to the Lord by winning an argument. The series introduced me to several men who, on the contrary, eventually became ministers for Jesus after looking at all the evidence and deciding the Bible’s explanation best answered every objection. Now they also clarified that even with every argument resolved, they still could not align themselves with the Bible until they faced their biases, calling them what they are. When they accepted the possibility that a man was raised from the dead, then they could put their confidence in the Bible as God’s Word.

 One man changed his vocabulary. He said the meaning of faith has been weakened by phrases like “blind faith” and “leap of faith.” He speaks instead of the conviction of these things. And instead of trust, he speaks of confidence for the same reason: our culture has weakened the meaning. Confidence was defined as knowing that you know. It’s a phrase he uses with his students. They struggle and balk on a test—not because they don’t know the material—but because they don’t know that they know. When they reach that realization that they know and know that they know, the test—or their approach to it—becomes easy.

The conclusion for me is: the way to participate in God’s kingdom is simple enough for a child to understand and embrace and deep enough to convince the greatest critic.

I may follow the reasoning and shift my vocabulary a bit, but I won’t be trying to win arguments. That’s not me. But, I guess I would say the series strengthened my confidence. I think stopping the whispers of doubt will be easier knowing with confidence (knowing that I know) that God’s Word is true. I admit it’s quite a commitment to sit through approximately 18 hours of video, but you will surely find something that will make you glad you did. Watch it. Be encouraged by it. Share.

 

 

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Is America in the Bible?

10 Apr

My thinking on finding the United States in the Bible went something like this:
• If (I say if, not from doubt, but from logical argument structure) God sees the end from the beginning; and
• If God had a strong hand in forming this nation as we Christians claim; and
• If we can truly read today’s headlines in the Bible; then
• The United States should be able to be found in scripture.

Knowledge as we need it.
Now, I know God has not revealed everything. However, he has revealed through several writers what the end of days would be like. Jesus said he revealed such things for us to be able to recognize it when it begins to happen and be encouraged. Therefore, I still want to know how will this hemisphere, and the United States in particular, be a part of His story in the last days?

First logical place.
Over the years when reading the book of Revelations, I’ve kept an eye out for us. It made sense to me this great end-times prophecy would have something in there about us. The closest I found was the description of the fall of Babylon the Great. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon no longer exists as a city-state—hasn’t for thousands of years. It must be symbolic. The description in Revelation makes it out to be a world power. (see Revelation 18) The leader of all trade. Other nations relied on her and by her they enjoyed a measure of her great wealth. Sounds like the United States. But that is as far as it goes with me. It sounds like it could, possibly, maybe be speaking of the United States. A part of me says it doesn’t fit the rest of the passage and end times details.

Not where I expected to find it.
More recently I was reading the book of Daniel. The passage I’m focusing on is chapter 2 verses 31-45. In them, Daniel reveals King Nebuchadnezzar’s troubling dream and its meaning. He explained that the huge statue spoke of kingdoms—Nebuchadnezzar’s first and those that would follow. Biblical scholars since then have named three of them: Medes and Persians, Greek, and Roman.

The Roman empire is described as the legs of the statue, which are made of iron. And, of course, a fourth kingdom, the last one, is the Lord’s. It is depicted as a stone carved out of a mountain and cast down onto the feet of the statue, crushing and grinding the other kingdoms to dust. This new kingdom will reign forever.

The defining clue for me.
I noticed for the first time that there is a shift in pronouns. Authority in each kingdom referenced is singular. The authority is vested in one head in each of the first four kingdoms. But after the Roman empire, the authority is referred to as they. The feet and toes of the statue seem to speak of another form of ruling. It has the strength of iron, but it is mixed with the weakness of clay (verses 41-43). Drawing on God’s statement in Genesis that we are dust and to dust we will return, I see the clay speaks of humanity. (We the people.)

For over two hundred years our Constitution has been the authority and strength of our nation. It has survived many attacks including a Civil War and two world wars. Any proposed or passed law that contradicts it, gets thrown out as unconstitutional. Somehow—whether you want to give credit to God in the effort or not—a few men gathered in 1785 and wrote out an ironclad document that created a government (authority) of, by and for the people.

However, 1973 introduced a crack in its system. Many adopted the argument that the Constitution is a piece of paper, outdated in its thinking. The framers could not have foreseen the huge advances of science and industry. It is archaic and only a guide. Authority shifted from iron to majority whims. Instead of being the document created to give strength and protection, it is now being used against the values and guiding light that once led us.

The fit.
Daniel explains how the strength of the authority that follows the Roman empire is weakened by the clay which doesn’t bond with the iron. It forms the feet and toes with the iron, but in the end it doesn’t stay true to the purpose. It breaks away from the iron.

Several other nations followed our example and formed constitutional governments. They are facing the same kinds of struggles. Perhaps, the toes speak of the all nations who have aligned with us and formed the battle lines of the 1950s and 1960s in the Cold War between freedom versus communism. Maybe. But this I am sure of: we the people created a nation with ironclad authority, but we the people are grasping at controlling that authority now. The clay is separating from the iron.

America will fall. It’s inevitable. I don’t know when or how. Cracks have already formed. Mankind’s attempt to prove no need for God will be ground to bits by the stone—already carved from the mountain—when it crashes down. A new kingdom—a heavenly one that will reign forever—will rise. And as Paul wrote, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord.

But there is hope.
If the end of Daniel’s interpretation is not hope enough for you, if you want America to continue to be the land of opportunity and not the dust at the bottom of the fallen statue, there may be time left for that. Unfortunately, this blog has already gone too long. Will you stay with me one more blog as I wrap this up?

Will be back next week

26 Dec

We interrupt the regularly scheduled blog with this very important event. https://www.facebook.com/linda.ervin.56/videos/10155683443811201/

The Banner of Freedom

3 Jul

I am posting a blog one day early this week. I hope to get ahead of the holiday festivities and fireworks to trigger deeper thoughts about why we celebrate this day.

Examine the flag as you never have before. The original prototype was not a printed design on a single piece of cloth like the ones we put out on our homes today. Thirteen stripes of alternating red and white sewn together symbolized much more than the thirteen colonies. It told of thirteen regional self-interests that were willing to compromise to promote freedoms and the common good. What they were proposing would no doubt face incredible opposition with little chance for a good outcome. But they were resolved to try.

The field of blue reminded them that they were a new concept—a wild experiment—in the family of nations in the world. They took their success or failure seriously. Looking into the future, they saw what impact their experiment could have world-wide.

Each star stitched onto the blue field represented an act of covenant. Individually, each state then and to this day has signed a social and moral contract to preserve and protect the original purpose and one another. Any attack against freedom in one state was against the whole.

Less than ninety years after the U.S. Constitution was signed, the definition of freedom and to whom it applied was tested. The Civil War claimed more deaths than all other wars we have been in combined. It succeeded in ending many aspects of the greatest blight and contradiction of our nation’s history.

While it expanded who qualified for freedom, it failed to give us a good working definition for freedom. The political strife we find ourselves facing in our nation today with progressives wrestling conservatives has its roots in the struggle our Founders fought over. This July 4th I call us to find a definition in our hearts that acknowledges freedom also requires self-limiting barriers. Total individualism is a failed stitch in the flag flying proudly above us that will unravel the whole.

And enjoy all the freedom expressed millenniums ago: there’s no law against doing good.

What if Christianity began with today’s American churches?

9 May

Have you ever played the “What if…” game? Perhaps in the solitude of your thoughts? Well, here goes. What if the church in America were responsible for launching Christianity for the first time? Send me your thoughts and I will post them here. I can even post them anonymously, if you want. You can write your ideas in the comment section or send me an email at charley.charleshuff@gmail.com.

Be creative. Have some fun with this. I want to hear what you think before I share my thoughts.

I limit your imaginations only by asking you think of the American church as a whole, not just your own congregation. Beyond that, you can place the church back 2000 plus years or leave it in the current era.

How does the American church spread the gospel? Will it be effective? How do you think it would take hold? What obstacles does the church face? How does it overcome? What persecutions will it face? Where will the church be in 100 years?

Feel free to answer any other questions you might think of.

Ready? Set? Go!

Remembering What Resurrection Sunday Is

15 Apr

I confess. All the years I have spent “up north” and have passed through the changes is worship music, my favorites are irrevocably Southern Gospel–especially good quartets.

Recently a video clip popped up on my screen as something I might enjoy. I want to share it with you as my Happy Easter greeting. It has extra meaning for me as I listened to so many of the singers captured in this video when I was young and still in southern Illinois. And, most of them are now on the other side of the lyrics. They have transitioned from having hope for being reunited with loved ones to standing with them in the Lord’s presence.

I hope you enjoy this and remember Easter is more accurately called Resurrection Sunday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSE5PuX63vc

And, if you liked that one, I’m sure you will love this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5740m6F6kg

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Source of Problems

11 Mar

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