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Archive for July, 2012

Don’t assume anything.

Journalists preparing news for publication are given the warning to verify their sources: “Check it out! If your mother says she loves you, check it out!”. While hopefully “mother’s story” checks out, the adage has its merits.

The Society for Professional Journalists espouses a Code of Ethics including the requirement that journalists: “Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.”  They’re warned to double-check sources, use more than one for the same article, and verify facts, all in order to make a strong case on evidence for what they’re about to publish. Readers rely on publications that insist on this level of accuracy, and lose faith quickly in those that don’t, and rightly so.

How important is that?

Should I apply those standards to important decisions I make?  How common is that?  The steady increase in the dissolution of marriages makes it questionable as to how much preparation is put into that decision, though the presence of many strong, godly marriages based on biblical principles stand out as being among those who do the appropriate work before making a life-changing “forever” decisions.

What about our priorities with regard to our walk with God, our connection to the eternal?  Most people have a concept that we’re not on earth for ever, that something happens after we die, and that we have options now as to how we can affect that.  How much planning is it worth?

What’s the risk?

In recent memory, a major news organization ran a story claiming documentation that proved the president in office at that time had falsely reported his military service. The “proof” was challenged and found to have been less than verifiable, at least in part because the written type more closely matched computer-based word processing (not available until many years after the document’s date) than the typewriters that were available at the time it would have been composed. The responsible staff resigned over the controversy, not because they were thought to have created a false report, but because of having failed to verify their sources for what they chose to report, and its resulting embarrassment and loss of credibility for the news organization.

The risk of failing to fully check out claims of Biblical doctrine in which one places their hopes of eternity with God are much greater than those of failing to check out an article before printing or broadcasting, don’t you agree? Yet, the prevailing wisdom on that matter often seems only as deep as looking around to see how many people are on the same doctrinal “boat” one is on, and feeling secure if there’s a crowd. “There must be safety in numbers” is the profoundly popular approach, even in the face of questions about the facts supporting one’s belief or for rejecting another belief system.

Many teachings of various churches today are based on assumptions that the experience and teachings of the early church were intended by God to only be valid through the writing of the New Testament, and were then to be replaced by other teachings.  That’s an enormous assumption to make. Is it valid?  Is it sufficient to disregard the fact that the early church experience, when people came to God, these believers received the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues, which occurred repeatedly in the Book of Acts?  Is it not significant that this is still alive and well among believers today who obey the original gospel message, and therefore it has not been  “replaced” at all?

How good are you?

When I finished John Grisham’s novel, The Confession, I noticed after the close of the book a note from Mr. Grisham, acknowledging that there could be technical errors,  but advising there was no need to write him and point them out.  The reason for the potential errors, Mr. Grisham stated was that he simply dislikes doing research to verify certain technical information relevant to the book he’s writing. With this approach, he will from time to time be able to expect an error or two. With his readership and quality in other aspects of his writing, he doesn’t have much to worry about — fans are going to read him anyway, because he’s that good.  The rest of us, better do our homework. 

The Word of God is our source for research when it comes to spiritual things. Is there just one source in the Bible to consider when talking about biblical salvation including speaking in tongues? Consider these references: 1) Isaiah 28:11, 2) Mark 16:17, 3) Acts 2: 4, Acts 10:44-46, 4) 1 Corinthians 14:18, 14:39.  Though there are others, these fall into four categories:  Old Testament (Isaiah) , Life and works of Jesus (Mark), Acts of the apostles (Acts), and writings of one of the founders of church, Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians).  That’s a good source of references to confirm the reality of this part of salvation.

I’ve found the simplest approach of doing due diligence in research is to focus on what the apostles said to do, and what they were recorded as actually doing, in the Bible in the Book of Acts. This is the most straightforward method of checking my sources to be sure I’m living, speaking and writing what is trustworthy.

The apostle Paul told a young man he trained for the ministry in his letter to him, “Take heed to thyself, and to thy doctrine…” 1 Timothy 4:15 (KJV).  It matters what we believe.

What do you think?  Have you had an experience with untrustworthy claims of  truth? Are you wary of claims of religious doctrine being verifiable vs. all-inclusive (“it’s all the same so why dig too deeply”)? Are you wondering how anyone can “know the truth”, as Jesus said we would do?  Feel free to share your comments.

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Last week, this blog addressed doing things now that we’ve thought about doing someday.  One area I described for myself as beginning to pursue is writing, and sharing thoughts through blogging and other social media. Getting something out there for others to read has certainly added to the desire to write.   An outlet for one’s creativity fuels more of the same.

I’ve also had the opportunity to “test the waters” by sharing in a writers’ forum with people who’ve been creating for public consumption much longer than I have. I’m beginning to see how other writers express themselves and how they deal with certain topics, including matters of faith. This is such a personal issue, and becomes inflammatory very quickly and easily, that it’s recommended by the best minds to leave it alone for the most part.  There is a distinction suggested, of course, between authors whose work is in the vein of, say, science fiction or historical romance, and those who write in a genre that would cast them as  “faith writers”.

After carefully weighing out what is appropriate for my postings, I’ve concluded that if I’m anything, I am a “faith writer”, though I hope what I produce is intriguing enough to be enjoyed by a wide range of readers. The novel that I am working on (my first) will certainly include a journey of faith: one that will take some unique twists. I guess in the essence, if I’m not at some level writing about this, then I feel I have nothing real to say. The brightest spark for writing comes in sharing truths directly from the scriptures that are not immediately obvious, and that challenge a second look at what for most people have been unquestioned ideas.

So, with that said, I share another dose of “thoughts to consider”:

There is a shelter – but how do you get in?

Wow, don’t we need a shelter nowadays? Things are getting totally extreme, from weather patterns to the new depths of depravity and violence that humans sink to.  Crimes against children continue to appall, as well as the determined threats against free nations from those who broadcast their desire and ability to destroy.

All throughout Biblical history, the idea of a shelter or a refuge has been plain. Always with the shelter, God provided it and made a way to get in, but there was also a choice to be made — an action to be taken — in order to do so. Consider these:

The Ark built by Noah, as God’s provision for the faithful in the destruction that was about to come to all the earth; it had to be built, it had to be entered. (Genesis chapter 6)

During the “death of the firstborn “plague in Egypt: The Israelites’ firstborn sons could escape, if a lamb was slain and the blood applied to the doorposts of their homes (Exodus chapter 4); if obeyed, the Angel of Death would pass over them (this event was the first Passover).

Rahab, a harlot who helped Israelite spies escape the city of Jericho when God was about to destroy it by their armies, was offered the plan to escape the destruction. But for her and her family to escape, the scarlet cord used to help the spies escape had to be tied in her window, and her family had to come inside the house and stay there. (Joshua 2, 6)

The Old Testament covenant provided an escape from the penalty of sin, but the choice had to be made to offer a sacrifice, an animal slain on an altar when sin had been committed. ( Exodus 29, Leviticus 4)

So, what about now?

The spotless Lamb of God — Jesus, God in flesh — became the sacrifice for the sins of all, shedding his blood for remission of sins; but, as with the doorpost in Egypt, the blood’s being shed isn’t sufficient without it’s being applied. He became our Passover Lamb, but how do we apply his sacrifice? (John 1:29, 1 Corinthians 5:7)

Jesus told his disciplines that repentance and remission of sins must be preached in his name. Repentance is being sorry for, and turning from sin; remission is forgiveness or pardon, even the total forgiving of a debt we otherwise are responsible for. The disciples responded by teaching that remission comes through repentance first, then baptism in his name (Jesus), bringing a promise that the obedient believer would receive his Spirit (the Holy Ghost). (Acts 2, 8, 10, 19)

What else does the Word say about getting into the shelter?

  • “so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death…”(Romans 6:3) It goes on to say that if “we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection…that henceforth we should not serve sin…Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him…” (Romans 6:4-8).  A lot rides on being baptized into Christ’s death, doesn’t it?
  • “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27) So we put on Christ by being baptized into him? Sounds that way.

Many today don’t observe this original command, but those who do find it brings with it the original power experienced by the early church.

Here’s where the “challenge” role comes in.  When you review your own experience in relation to this teaching, what do you see? Is it possible there’s a restlessness you’ve felt that there should be more, but you’ve not known where to look for any direction about it? I encourage further digging in the Word of God, especially in the record of the acts and teachings of the men he sent to proclaim his gospel message: the Book of Acts.

Let me know what you think.  Have you wondered about the teachings of the original church and how they compare to modern-day teaching?  I’d love to hear your comments.

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With tomorrow being a national holiday, that surely sounds tempting: just a day to do whatever comes to mind, or nothing in particular.  I feel having a day with a plan like that once in a while is beneficial.

There’s another way of looking at whether or not we’re planning on doing anything tomorrow:  it’s the “I’m going to get to that…Tomorrow!” list. At this point in my life, I’ve seen several things die of old age on my “Tomorrow!”  list.  But a few crumbling remnants did make it over to “Oh, why not go ahead and try?”, and those that did made lasting impressions.

Like the time I decided for real that credit cards were crazy, and that I was about to be.  Mind you, that was no heroic thing.  It came after I totaled my less-than-one-year-old car, and began to look at my budget, spending plan, frantically scrawled figures, to see what I could afford.  Answer:  “NOTHING”.  Very disappointing.  A single mom, I’d been digging a hole deeper and deeper in credit card debt, thinking I’d get straight “Tomorrow!” I really couldn’t afford much of anything with real money.

I was directed toward the solid financial teaching/debt-lambasting of Dave Ramsey, who had gone bankrupt before learning financial principles.  Of all the good programs on getting out of debt, his communicated to desperate, debt-strapped people (already feeling like idiots), “You’re no dumber than I was, just don’t stay that way!”  The courage to try was imparted. So, with much prayer, and a plan for trimming a few non-essentials from our new budget, the cards were cut up, and I humbly went shopping for something closer to my reality-range. The progress hasn’t been perfect, but having greater balance has been golden. As long as that decision to stop and turn around was on the “Tomorrow!” list, though, I got no benefit from it — only mounting anxiety.

Another thing off the “Tomorrow!” list, is what I’m doing now:  Writing.  In my social work career, the opportunities to compose and collaborate on documents seemed among the most rewarding tasks I had. I grew to see it as more than an interesting sideline and more of a worthy pursuit.  How did I discover that?  By starting.

So you may be processing that last idea: “You found out by starting, and you started by finding out?  Huh?”  Let me explain.  I read someone’s blog I wanted to comment on, and to do so, had to sign up for the blog-hosting site (wordpress.com). When I did, I realized that writing a blog was in my power to do (and was free). That was exciting — and scary.  But the overriding sense was that I felt I had something to say.

The chance to read others’ blogs through Word Press showed me there were writers out there actually encouraging the writing of people they’d never met.  Who knew? Kristen Lamb‘s blog was of this sort, and by looking at the blogs of others who’d commented on her posts, I found several more with solid advice, and the ability to help growing writers learn.  They actually seemed to care whether I wrote that book that’s been on my “Tomorrow!” list so long.

So, my point? One of my favorite sayings is: “It’s easier to guide a vehicle in motion.” Duh, of course it is.  Yet how often have we looked at things we’ve dreamed of and thought, “I just don’t know if I could.  Maybe I’ll look into it…Tomorrow!” The way to know if it’s time to begin is: to begin — just take steps.  Baby steps are great.  With so much of the world’s knowledge at your fingertips (through internet on computer and smartphones, or even your good old neighborhood library), you have the ability to learn about your interest freely. Just begin to inquire: try, and see what can happen.

One more story.  When I retired a year ago, after 27 years as a social worker, I had some misgivings of “What next?”. I prayerfully asked that, and by the time retirement was official, I was deeply immersed in opening our church’s Christian School — our pastor’s vision, but an area I’d felt a connection to many years before.  Learning as we went, all involved were all amazed at the resources and support we found.

Looking back on this first year reminds me of this phrase from God’s word: “…the Lord working with them…” (Mark 16:20). It describes men who didn’t sit back and wonder if they should start, but began, and knew they weren’t working alone. The Lord worked with these apostles who were following his command to preach the gospel (detailed in the book of Acts), and he confirmed their word “with signs following”. 

Obviously there are seasons for things in our lives, but when there’s a tug to pursue a passion, even if your ability seems fragile, the doing something — moving it from the “Tomorrow!” list — is the only way to know what can happen. So, just don’t plan on doing anything “Tomorrow!”  See what you can start “Today!”

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