Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Secret Life Weapon

Whatever you resist, persists -because it keeps your attention. You can't keep saying "I'm not going to lust" because all you remain thinking about is lust.

Instead REFOCUS on something else to defeat a temptation. Fully put your mind on a completely unrelated topic. Linger in a new thought field.

I find that worship music really helps, as does reciting key scriptures.

Read through a favourite passage of scripture.

Change your physical location.

Do something active.

Alerting a trusted friend that you are in a mental lockdown can really help too.

We need each other.

Stay Alert and Don't Give Up!

- g-ram

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Orthodoxy of Rob Bell

So this is a little awkward. I lost the address & name of the guy who wrote this. But I thought it was a very helpful, interesting read. So if that bothers you, then just pretend this never happened. :)

I told the USA TODAY reporter that Rob Bell’s newly released Love Wins is a fine book and that I basically agree with his theology. I knew that the book was being widely criticized for having crossed the theological bridge from evangelical orthodoxy into universalism. Not true, I told the reporter. Rob Bell is calling us away from a stingy orthodoxy to a generous orthodoxy.

Let me say it clearly: I am not a universalist. I believe hell as a condition in the afterlife is real, and that it will be occupied. I think Rob believes that too. But he is a creative communicator who likes to prod, and even tease us a bit theologically. Suppose, he likes to say, we go up to someone and tell them that God loves them and sent Jesus to die for their sins. Accept Jesus right now, we say, because if ten minutes from now you die without accepting this offer God will punish you forever in the fires of hell. What kind of God are we presenting to the person? Suppose we told someone that their human father has a wonderful gift for them, offered out of love for them—and then we add that, by the way, if they reject the gift that same father will torment them as long as they live. What would we think of such a father? Good question, I think.

If I were given the assignment of writing a careful theological essay on “The Eschatology of Rob Bell,” I would begin by laying out the basics of C. S. Lewis’s perspective on heaven and hell. Lewis held that we are created for a relationship with God as human beings who bear the divine image. When we rebel against God and commit ourselves to evil ways, we move further away from this positive relationship with God—and, thereby, further and further away from our humanity. Our ultimate destiny, then, if we do not change directions, is to cease to be human: we end up as monsters who have chosen to live in an outer darkness, removed from God and from other humans.

So, here is Rob Bell: people who refuse a “vital connection with the living God” are given over to a “kind of life [that] is less and less connected with God” (Love Wins, 66). And this is no mere theoretical state of affairs, “because it is absolutely vital that we acknowledge that love, grace and humanity can be rejected” (my italics)—and if so, “God gives us what we want, and if that’s hell, we can have it” (72).

And I certainly do believe that some folks choose that hell. The Hitler types. The man who kidnaps young girls and sells them into sexual slavery. They are well on their way to hell, to becoming inhuman monsters. To be sure, as the hymn rightly reminds us: “The vilest offender who truly believes/ that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” But for those who persist in their wicked ways, eternal separation is the natural outcome of all the choices they have made along the way.

In a book I wrote several years ago defending the basics of a Calvinist perspective, I told about an elderly rabbi friend who struck me as a very godly person. He would often write to tell me that he was praying for me and my family. When he died, I said, I held out the hope that when he saw Jesus he would acknowledge that it was Him all along, and that Jesus would welcome him into the heavenly realm.

Some folks zeroed in on that one story to condemn me as a heretic. I find their attitude puzzling. Maybe they think that folks like Rob Bell and me go too far in the direction of leniency, but what about folks who go in the other direction? I just received an angry email from someone who pulled a comment out of something I wrote a few years ago in Christianity Today. A prominent evangelical had criticized those of us who have been in a sustained dialogue with Catholics for giving the impression that a person can be saved without having the right theology about justification by faith. My response to that: of course a person can be saved without having the right theology of justification by faith. A straightforward question: Did Mother Teresa go to hell? My guess is that she was a little confused about justification by faith alone. If you think that means she went to hell, I have only one response: shame on you.

Why don’t folks who criticize Rob Bell for wanting to let too many people in also go after people like that who want to keep too many people out? Why are we rougher on salvific generosity than on salvific stinginess?

In August 2006, Newsweek did an extensive report on an interview with Billy Graham. Graham made it clear that he is still firmly confident that Jesus is the only way to salvation. When asked, though, about the destiny of “good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people,” Billy had this to say: “Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won’t … I don’t want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.”

Billy Graham is no universalist. But he has come to a theology of salvific generosity, a perspective that he combines with a passionate proclamation of the message that Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. For me—and I am convinced for Rob Bell—it doesn’t get any better than that!

- g-ram

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What's The Point of TRUTH?

What's the point of this mystical, unknowable thing called "truth"? Does it really matter? Is it enough to know it? Can you know it?

Here is a sad truth: so many people who claim to know truth sense that truth is being attacked. Truth is at risk. Truth must be defended at all costs. It is a moral issue. It is an ethical issue. This is the truth and without me it might just be lost. The truth needs me to protect it. Without me it won't be safe and it might just somehow stop to exist.

Jesus is the Way, the TRUTH and the life. He is not a system of belief. He is not a list of tenets that it is to be debated and doctrinalized. He called himself the truth. Truth is not a fight. The truth is someone and something that we have a relationship with. The truth is to be experienced, enjoyed, & acted upon, not merely defended. It is harder to live it than to defend it. It is more powerful to live it than to defend it.

Jesus is the way, the answer, the direction, the path. He is the truth, he is honesty, he is revelation, he is a secret revealed, a mystery uncovered. And all of these things lead us into life and not just a meager existence but life abundant.

To find real life is to discover the truth. Now once you have discovered the truth you must stay in it, live in it, walk in it, delight in it. The truth is freedom. The truth is grace. The truth is the life that we long for, fight for and would die for.

The truth is Jesus. Get to know the truth.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Prayer 03: Praying Like Jesus Prayed Follow Up

Praying Like Jesus Prayed Week 3
Describe your daily conversations with God. What types of things do you regularly pray for?

"This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'
Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

Did you grow up knowing the Lord’s Prayer? Was it something you simply recited out of memory or did it have meaning for you? Explain.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
Why do we tend to put our priorities over God’s when we pray? What are some ways we can make our priorities the same as Gods? 

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

Share with the group some of the needs you currently have in your life. Ask them to help you pray for those needs.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (NIV)

Describe how God’s forgiveness has changed your life.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

Share with your group some of the temptations you struggle with. How can your group help you fight these battles?

Final Thought: With your group pray the Lord’s Prayer together. Do not simply recite the prayer, but pray it with true meaning. Then finally, pray for the needs of your group that were mentioned earlier.

For Further Study
To use this resource, simply select one or two questions from each category below that you think will help your group discussion. Alternatively, you can use these questions and scriptures in your own personal devotions during the week.
•    What is the best answer to prayer you have ever received? How did that answer to prayer affect your relationship with God.
Read Matthew 7:7-12
•    What did Jesus say will happen if we bring our requests to Him? (7:7)
•    What happens when we seek in Christ’s name? (7:7)
•    According to Jesus, what is the result for those who "knock" on God’s door? (7:7)
•    How do loving parents respond to a child’s request for bread? (7:9)
•    How do loving parents respond to a child’s request for fish? (7:10)
•    What is true about the character of even the best human parent? (7:11)
•    What is the likelihood of God giving His praying children what they need? (7:11)
•    How are we to treat others? (7:12)

Why is the command to treat others as you want to be treated so significant? (7:12)
•    What do you tend to pray for most?
•    For what are you most reluctant to pray? Why?
•    If earthly parents generally attempt to care for their children, what can you conclude about God in how he loves us?
What specific request in your life is currently weighing on you most in your life? Share that request with your group and commit to pray for that request each day this week.

Here are some suggestions you may want to use for your time with God this week:

Day 1- Read the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and then spend time sincerely praying it to God. Ask Him to help make that prayer a daily part of your life.

Day 2- Pray that God will help you make His priorities your own. Ask Him what His will is for your life today. Read Matthew 6:33.

Day 3- Spend time praying for your needs and the needs of your group, friends and family. Read Philippians 4:19.

Day 4- Spend time with God confessing those sins in your life that you have yet to confess. Pray that God will help strengthen you in handling the temptations you currently have. Read 1 John 1:9 and 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Day 5- Thank God for all He has shown you during the Prayer series. Read Matthew 6:5-8.

Feeling more prepared to live the battle? Don't let your guard down and stand firm then. Don't Give Up!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Life Support or Death Extension?

Life and death. Sounds urgent.

What is living and what is dying? At what point does living become dying? Beginning life, nurturing it, preserving it, prolonging it, stretching it; all of these things have been floating about in my mind of late. When sickness comes and we apply our health practices we need to know for sure what we are really doing. Have we extended life or have we extended death?

So I was reading stuff and I came across this statement:
A building can become an artificial life support system 
that keeps a church alive 
even though it died long ago. 


So as a church then you really need to answer and know the answer to the questions:

What's your essence? 
What are you about? 
What defines you? 

If you don't, then how will you know if you are alive? All the energy, excitement and longing of the beginning days turns into the contentment and the feelings that we have arrived when the permanent church building arrives. 

When you say "church", what do you mean?

Is it the congregation?
Is it a dynamic leader?
Is it a long-serving staff?
Is it a combination of the staff and the building?
Is it the building itself?

When the view is unclear, when the essence is removed will you know? I am sure some people will sense it but will it be identified? Or will the building's readiness to serve blur the absence of essence? If it does blur, will you forget the essence and just apply artificial supports to a non-life sustaining body?

Will you, by your efforts, be supporting life or extending death?


Monday, March 7, 2011

Prayer 02: Why Didn't God Answer My Prayer? Follow Up

Why Didn’t God Answer My Prayer? Week 2
What is something you are currently praying for that God has apparently not yet answered? How have you handled this prayer not being answered?

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have r eceived it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
Mark 11:24-25 (NIV)


Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7 (NIV)

•    The previous two verses would seem to indicate relationships with others have some affect on our prayers. What do you think the connection might be? Has your ability to pray ever been affected by your relationships?
•    Discuss a time when God said “no” or “not now” to a request. Did you understand the reason for His answer then? Do you understand it now?
•    Do you think there will be answers you may never understand? If so, how does that make you feel?
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives..
James 4:3 (NIV)
Describe a time when you prayed for something but your motives may have been less than pure. How did God respond to your prayers?

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord...
James 1:6-7 (NIV)

•    How would you rate the degree of faith you currently have in God’s ability to answer prayers: High, low or in between? Why?
•    What are some ways you’ve seen God work in others lives to build up their confidence and trust in Him? Have you experienced that in your own life? If so, how?

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.
1 John 5:14-15 (NIV) 

Final Thought: With your group pray for any requests that may have left you feeling confused, uncertain or even unheard. Be open and honest with God. He can handle it. Ask Him to help you examine your heart, your motives and your faith. Ask Him for a willingness to hear whatever His answer, whatever it may be, and to trust in His goodness and His wisdom.

For Further Study
To use this resource, simply select one or two questions from each category below that you think will help your discussion. Alternatively, you can use these questions and Scriptures in your own personal devotions during the week.
•    If you could ask God for anything, what would it be? Explain why you would ask for it.
Read Mark 11:20-26
•    How did Jesus use this, seemingly insignificant event as an opportunity to teach the disciples? (11:22)
•    On what do answers to prayer depend? (11:22-25) 
•    What truth did Jesus illustrate with the withered fig tree? (11:23-24) 
•    What promise did Jesus offer regarding answers to prayers? (11:24) 
•    What can stand in the way of God’s forgiveness? (11:25) 
•    How can holding a grudge affect the way God answers prayer? (11:25) 
•    How is some unanswered prayer accounted for? (11:25) Reflect
•    What does this passage say about the relationship between faith and forgiveness?

When do you find it most difficult for you to forgive others?
Has this passage challenged you to reexamine your faith in your conversations with God?
•    What is one specific request that you could pray for each day for the next week? Share with the group how they can be praying with you.

Here are some suggestions you may want to use for your time with God this week:

Day 1—Pray for your unanswered requests. Have an honest conversation with God as to why these requests have yet to be answered. Read John 9:31

Day 2—Spend time praying for those in your life you may have grudges against. Ask God to soften your heart to those people and work toward reconciliation. Read 1 Peter 3:7

Day 3—Have an honest conversation with God about the current state of your faith. Pray that he will strengthen your faith. Read James 1:6-7 and Matt. 9:29- 30.

Day 4—Seek God’s will for your life. Not only ask God for His will, but also take time to listen for His response. Read 1 John 5:14-15 and Luke 22:42-43

Day 5—Thank God for the prayers you know He has answered in your life. Pray for those unanswered prayers that may have been mentioned by your group. Read Colossians 1:12, 1 Chronicles 16:8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Remember it is about the earnest pursuit not the ability to get through questions. What are you learning?  Do you sense greater closeness as you strive to stay in contact?


Friday, March 4, 2011

Looking At Porn? You Are Not Alone.

This quiet, secret elephant in the room will scare the pants back on you. Do you have any idea how pervasive, powerful, and pertinent this whole porn predicament really is?

Stuff that will blow you away. Go check out some porn stats. This is not a little deal.

Click Here


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wanna Get A Little Crazy!?!

Have you ever met someone that you genuinely thought was a little crazy? Not like, "she likes four sugars in her cup of coffee," crazy. More like, "he believes that he is a koala and that his bicycle is made of eucalyptus," crazy.

There are times when people will think that you're crazy for living your life the way God says. Here's an example. Jesus talked about selling some of your stuff to be able to give to poor people, and some people might think that's a little crazy. Here's what Jesus said.

Luke 12:33-34 (New Living Translation)

33 "Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. 34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Living the way Jesus did, means putting value on treasure in heaven and not stuff we have right now. And that can be hard--and it can be a little crazy. So be crazy!

- g-ram