Belief in Unbelief

I have discussed before about how doubt is okay in certain circumstances. I was recently reminded of this topic while listening to one of my favorite songs (Jason Gray, For the First Time Again, and today I refer to the verse mentioned in the song and will get back to this later!), and it also reminded me of a conversation I had with me own mum a few years ago.

The verse I refer to is Mark 9:24: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

The man who said this to Jesus believed that Jesus could help, but he struggled with doubt. He just handled it in the correct manner. He asked God.

What if our doubt has to do with whether or not God is involved?

The Bible deals with this.

John, in 1 John 4:1, says “Dear Friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Did you know we are not supposed to have a blind faith? Many in the Western Church have been raised to “just believe and not ask questions.” This verse seems to declare otherwise. (Another is 1 Thessalonians 5:21)

Some people send out and/or forward e-mails that sound very inspirational or seem to raise awareness of some injustice or cause. This is the very reason Snopes.com (atheistic, as far as I know, but still quite trustworthy if you are concerned) was founded, to discover which stories are true and false. (Something I found ironic, my mom raised me to study things, and when I e-mailed her a link to something cool she asked forgiveness for not trusting me and checking Snopes! I had already checked it myself! This is the conversation I mentioned above) It is more than okay to look into these e-mails and reports.

As we get into the presidential election, we are going to be hearing many things from the candidates and their supporters both for and against each candidate. We have seen some of these stretch the truth pretty far in the past. We should check everything we hear about a candidate before choosing what to believe about them. It is just smart and an all-around good idea. If you believe we can trust everything every politician says, you need a little more help than I can offer!

Every time we meet for church or to study the Bible or for a fellowship event (concert, Promise Keepers, Women of Faith, leadership/missionary conferences, etcetera) we should approach each teaching with sound reason and a healthy dose of skepticism. I am not saying we doubt everything that is said, nor I am saying we should discount our knowledge of what each speaker has said before. For example, if you have attended the same church with the same pastor for years with solid teaching, you should be able to trust what the pastor says this Sunday, too. However, as many of my pastor friends have said over the years, we should follow along in our Bibles with every teaching to make sure there is no mistake! This is not questioning everything that is said, rather it is confirming truth or revealing mis-truthes and mistakes.

Similarly, whenever a new teacher comes along, a new theologian theologizes, or science proclaims new evidence of something, we should test the statements and information for validity and trustworthiness both with Scripture and logic. I am sorry if your feelings are hurt, but outside of Christianity all religions do not pass most tests. Even some spheres of Christianity (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [Mormons], Jehovah’s Witnesses, Westboro Baptist Church, some separate congregations within mainline churches, and many others) leave Scripture and logic behind. We must be careful.

This is why doubt is a good thing. This is why we can believe in God and His Church but show signs of disbelief. My mom sometimes regrets feeling like “a Doubting Thomas,” but when we are receiving teachings from a fallen world and those who may be false prophets (which can come from other religions and secular society) it can be wise to not believe everything.

If we continually seek our Lord, it becomes easier to know when it is Him speaking and when it is not. I teach the young men I mentor (and anyone else who listens) to test everything I say. They are not to accept everything I say as truth but make their faith their own. We do not always agree on every little thing, and that is okay. It is not okay when our unbelief gets in the way of our belief in God and our ability to love Him and other people.

Have some doubt, but as I said in the posts I referenced at the beginning of this one, make sure your doubt pushes you toward God and not away.

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 08/07/2011

After looking at the “black mark” of sin, how about a different look at blackness. The inspiration of this the poem today was several of the poems I wrote before it. I have several poems (before the writing of this poem and since) which were written in the middle of the night (I do not remember waking up … if I even did!) or while sitting around and day dreaming. In other words, I do not remember writing many poems! I would wake up in the morning with a new poem in my notebook, or be going over notes I just took in class and see a new poem on the page. Crazy stuff, huh?! This poem is really about God using me (any believer, really) in ways we do not understand.

Anywho, the poem:

blackout
daniel m  klem

i blackout as the Spirit moves
i move because of Him
anything that happens later is His
only He could produce results
when i come to
the work is done and i am new
if you look at it
you only see His mighty work

in all of eternity
i could only dream of doing this alone
thank You for Your wisdom
i love you

Taken from simple words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 146.

Black Mark

There is the belief among most Christians that since Adam and Eve all of humanity is under the curse of sin. Many argue that it is inherited through birth. Many others argue that it comes through our own decisions in life. Many others still do not care enough or feel they are not smart enough to grasp the concept; it is enough for them to know that the Bible says we are sinful (see Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20; Romans 3:9-12) and in need of a Savior.

How could it be possible to carry forward sin?

Is it not as though God is condemning everyone for the fault of two?

Consider:

A woman does drugs for years. In a time of desperation, she has sex with a dealer to get her drugs, and this act led to pregnancy. The woman is so dependent on drugs that she continues abusing them throughout her pregnancy. Her baby is then born addicted to those drugs. The child did nothing wrong, but must suffer for the sins of the mother. It was passed along.

A man acquires AIDS through his promiscuity, but he does not realize it until he is married. He and his wife now have AIDS and then have a child. This child is also born with AIDS, again at no personal fault. It was passed along.

A single dad plays the lottery with the dream of making the life of his family better. He squanders his money on lottery tickets to the point of neglecting bills. He dies as his child comes of legal age. The child inherits the father’s debt and follows the example given and gambles to attempt to raise the money needed. The child did not create the financial mess. It was passed along … as well as the behavior that created the mess.

Is sin something that is genetically passed on? Quite frankly, I do not know. However, we can see evidence that a sinful nature is present early on in the way our children only think of themselves. Granted, they cannot help it too much. Children are born rather powerless to change their situation and require a lot of help.

A friend of mine shared a story a few years ago. His family runs a business making plastics. People have to help the system along and inspect the final product. Part of the process is to move some containers from one part of the machine to another, but they have to be careful to not touch them with their hands otherwise a black mark appears on the plastic. It is also possible that touching part of the machine that handles the plastics can cause each of the containers to get identical black marks. Another part of the process is for the inspectors to watch for damaged, misshapen, or tarnished items and pull them off the line. If they miss one, it ends up going out on the market where someone buys it, takes it home, and discovers the problem. The only way to remove the stain or fix the impurities is to go through the expensive and time-consuming process of cleaning the machine and sending the product back to be melted down, refined, and sent through the process again.

Our actions always have consequences. Sometimes they are good, and sometimes they are bad. Our ancestors took an action that they technically knew was bad. Ever since, we are all stained with a black mark. It is as though they took God’s creation, us, and handled it improperly. Their fingerprint stained us.

God, however, inspects every single one of us. He was not content to let us remain with that stain. He sent His Son to show just how rough the remaking process would be. He took the time and paid the price. His blood cleansed the dirt. Our part is to let Him work us through the furnace that removes that black mark we carry, to let Him reshape us in the image of His Son.

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 07/31/2011

Speaking of pride and building up yourself rather than the Church as a whole …

boast

daniel m  klem

you should not boast

in anything you do

or anything done by man

but boast in He who

died for a great cause

to save the lives of me and you

Taken from simple words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page  58.

Polluted Dreamers

Last week I looked at differences of beliefs between churches, denominations, cities, and what have you, and how it is our pride and misunderstanding which gets in the way of unity.

I may “get in trouble” with some those who come across my blog or with whom I regularly associate, but this week I am continuing the topic by looking at those who cause the trouble.

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written aboutlong ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them.

Jude 3-10

 As I mentioned last week, it is pride and misunderstandings which get in the way, but it is in individuals where it starts and then spreads. As Jude remarked, we were warned that people would infiltrate the Church. These people “change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

What does this look like?

Jude mentions sexual immorality. We definitely see this with all of the Catholic priests in trouble for abusing children, pastors having affairs, and the Church approving of the homosexual lifestyle. But this is not all there is.

We also see the change of grace through moral preaching. This also has a tendency to deny Jesus, but it is not universal. These teachings are based on “You can do anything and live a good life. Just try really hard. Do not worry about failing! After all, we are sinners!” I wish I could say this is a paraphrase to get the point across, but this is almost a direct quote from many different pulpits.

This carries over to the next point that “It does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.” This sounds great. There may even be truth in it, to a point (read C. S. Lewis’s works to see what I mean. I am not saying I agree, just pointing out a reference). However, Hitler sincerely believed the Germans were the new Arian race and far superior to all people. Stalin and Mao sincerely believed atheism was the way to go. Most people agree that they were sincerely wrong. Ask the dozens of millions of people who died under just the three men living out their sincere beliefs. According to this teaching, these three men are still on their way to heaven.

What about Jude’s line “those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire”? Many today are teaching “eternal does not always mean ‘forever’. Just look at some of God’s warnings in the Old Testament that His wrath would burn against Israel forever!” For starters, look at the context. Secondly, how come this may or may not apply to “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life“? We all must be wary of reading the Bible this way. There are people who will be FOREVER condemned to the Lake of Fire. I do not like. No one should, but it is there. It is true.

Many of the people who lead others astray make a fatal error.

They misunderstand how God works. This is not to say anyone can understand precisely how God works, but they tend to assume God does everything in ways we can and should understand. Therefore, miracles cannot work, because they go against the laws of nature. Jesus cannot be the only way to Heaven, because there is so much truth in the world. No one goes to or stays in Hell, because God could never harm His own Creation.

This is dangerous. This is prideful. This is eternally deadly.

They base their knowledge not primarily on what the Bible says, and many times not even tradition, but what “feels right” by their conscience. This is dangerous in that we do have a fallen nature. Just remember, Jonah did not think it felt right to save 100,000 people at Nineveh, but God still sent him to preach to and save them. Peter did not think it felt right that Jesus should die to save everyone, but Jesus still went and saved us.

Just so everyone knows, I am not calling all liberals or all Catholics or all Baptists or all Episcopalians or all whoevers bad Christians on their way to Hell. I would be just as guilty as those about whom this posting refers. I do not fully understand God’s grace, and He is more than capable of saving all those with whom I disagree and especially me.

These perversions and immorality Jude mentions are not necessarily sexual, but they can also include many of the things listed above.

What do you think? Am I way off base, or are many of the dissenters and distractors our leaders who allow pride and their own personal feelings to get in the way?

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 07/24/2011

It is time for a poem about getting along!

friends
daniel m  klem

my best Friend lives in heaven
but at the same time lives in me
He could live in you if you believe
that He died for your sins on a tree
understand that He loves everyone
even if they say something against He
who saved the souls of all mankind
and if they do not believe we are free
because my Friend knows all people
He wants to be friends with everybody
especially the people who talk against
He who came to help you and me

Taken from simple words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 110.

Denominational Cities

There are a lot of disagreements between the various denomination in the Church, and even between various congregations within those denominations. Some congregations are non-denominational, yet they can still be as unfriendly toward other churches.

During the Reformation, countries were divided by regions. Each region could choose to be Catholic, Lutheran, or whatever else was springing up at the time (predominantly Catholic or Lutheran). About a thousand years ago, during “The Great Schism” of the Church, Eastern Orthodox churches usually were not allowed in the Western part of what was left of the Roman Empire, and Roman Catholic churches usually were not allowed in the Eastern part.

It makes one wonder: Did the various cities squabble between each other during the time of the Apostles?

Did the Roman believers say to the Corinthian or Ephesian believers “You have too much focus on sex!”

Did the Galatians say to the Colossians “You follow too many rules!”

Did the Colossians reply to the Galatians “You are changing the gospel!”

It is a historical fact that all of the major Church Councils in the first millennium A.D. came together to resolve disputes between believers, with many disagreements based in different cities.

So, did the cities and regions bicker between each other while remaining somewhat united within each city (because we know many Jews attempted to disrupt the believers)?

I read an article a few months back about Buenos Aires pastors from across the denominational spectrum finding the need for city-wide unity between churches. There are still issues, but it does demonstrate that it is possible for a city to be unified in Christ.

The real issue, I think, is that there is a lack of proper communication. When two sides come together and each is certain of its own rightness and the wrongness of the other, that is not communication. That is two sides yelling at each other. With everyone yelling, nothing can be heard.

We need to get back to patience and active listening. We need to remember how to investigate and learn. We need a paradigm shift (change our thinking).

Instead of focusing on what is wrong with other denominations and churches, we should focus on what is right, where we agree. Should we try to preserve sound doctrine? Of course! However, we should not get up in arms over something as simple as a piano bench, nor should we write off others has heretics because some believe in infant baptism or only adult baptism. I will not tell you where I stand on the baptism issue (at least not now). However, if you cannot even associate with someone because of this belief while at the same time they disagree with your definition of speaking in tongues, get over yourself. If you cannot stand to be near someone who believes human free-will plays a bigger role than you think it does, get over yourself. If you think everyone who believes in pre-destination and election is too legalistic, but you yourself refuse to listen to secular music, get over yourself. All of these go both ways!

Our problem is not disagreements over doctrine or benches or paint or friendships. Our problem is actually two-fold:

1) Pride. We get in our own way.

2) Assumptions and misunderstandings. If a man has beer cans and bottles all around his house, you might assume he is a drunkard or partier. Later, you find out he goes around collecting cans and bottles for recycling and keeps one or two from each location. See how simple it can be to misjudge a situation? We often do this within the Church.

Remember, Jesus said “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

No wonder the church suffers! We do not even show ourselves love!

To be fair, though, too many people both in and out of the Church (at least in our Western culture) rarely take the time to learn why someone thinks a certain way or acts the way they do. People in and out of the Church want things their own way.

Perhaps we could be unified cities again if we could learn patience and how to get over ourselves …