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His Master's Voice
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Written by: C. W. Booth

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Why Do Christians Make Mistakes?

In many of the books and articles I have read over the past three years, some interesting statistics came to light. Whether these statistics are entirely precise or not is of less concern than the pattern they illumine.

  • The “average” senior pastor stays in the fulltime ministry but five years (some sources say eight years).
  • The “majority” of pastors are fired from any given church after only four years of service.
  • More than forty percent of fulltime foreign missionaries fail and withdraw from the ministry before their first tour of service is completed.
  • Seventy-five percent of Western youth from “Christian” homes leave the Christian faith before they graduate from college.
  • Half of all Christian marriages end in divorce.
  • The majority of all Christians have left, or will leave, a church membership at least once due to severe interpersonal conflict.
  • A significant majority of Christian couples will raise a child who never comes to faith in Christ.
  • The ordinary churchgoer will change secular professions five times or more.
  • Anti-depressant usage in the Christian church is as pervasive as it is in the unsaved community.
  • Almost every American Christian surveyed has reported regretting having voted into office one or more public officials who proved to be other than what had been claimed during the campaign.

Why do all Christians make mistakes which they later regret? And why is this true when they are all indwelt by the Holy Spirit?

My proposed answers are below:

  1. They are not prophets (1 Corinthians 12:29).
  2. They are as often as not mistaken in assuming a thought from their own heart was the inaudible voice of God [Note: no “word from the Lord” would ever be in error] (Jeremiah 23:16, 26).
  3. God intentionally conceals the future of every person because people are not supposed to know what comes next in their lives (Ecclesiastes 3:22, 6:12, 7:14, 10:14).
  4. They are not diligent in applying the decision-making wisdom principles found in God’s Word (1 Corinthians 6:5).
  5. At times they choose to sin instead of to be holy (Romans 6:16).
  6. They have not humbly asked God to bring about a desired outcome, or, they desire to spend the proceeds of the outcome on their own selfish pleasures instead of for God’s kingdom (James 4:2-3).
  7. God will cause things to go badly (He will bring about trials) regardless of all that we have done right because He desires to cause us to grow into maturity (James 1:2-4).

Making hard decisions that seem to have gone wrong and enduring grueling circumstances is normal. There are no supersaints who know the future or have a greater pipeline to God than do all other Christians.

God’s Holy Spirit leads us into holy behavior by bringing to our memory Scripture (assuming we have read the Bible), but He does not make every little decision for us. God expects us to walk in the Spirit, that is, to walk in righteous behavior. Doing so will still certainly bring us into trials, hardships, economic adversity, abuse by government, being defrauded by other Christians, and the suffering of persecutions.

There is no shame in having made a decision only to find it generates hardship, nor should it drive us to guilt and depression. Bad outcomes to decisions and unpleasant circumstances are from God. They are God’s will. They cause us to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. That is the ultimate spiritual good.

That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. (Isaiah 45:6-7)






Friday, July 09, 2010

Beguiled No Longer

A Phrase Study: “The Voice of the Lord” and “The Word of the Lord”

Introduction

In the past month I have studied in some depth the concept of how God communicates His will to the believers. Very often in Scripture His will is referred to as “the voice of the Lord” or “the word of the Lord.” But how is this voice and how are these words given to humanity?

Did God ever speak of giving His voice in any form other than an audible revelation to the prophets? What did God really mean by the expression, “the word of the Lord”?

Findings

After doing some research on these phrases, some of which is shown below, it became clear. God’s “voice” was always audible to prophets and was recorded in written form for everyone else. God’s “voice” does not come to every individual, nor is it found dynamically uttered in an inaudible fashion.

Moreover, there was an absolute lack of any kind of instruction as to how to hear God’s voice. Our Lord never instructed us to try to “hear” subtle internal messages from Him. His guidance to believers in all generations was, “Obey the prophetic Word of the Scriptures for they are My Word.”

God’s voice is not subtle. God’s voice cannot be accidentally missed. God’s voice is inescapable and powerful. God’s voice is His Word, and it thunders like a storm and booms like hurricane-driven breakers against a rocky New England coastline.

Taking one’s eyes off of the roaring Scriptures and to instead turn inward to seek a timid easily missed feeling or fleeting thought, and to bestow on that transient sensation the title of divinity, is to make an idol out of one’s brain and a god of one’s own imaginings (Jeremiah 23:16, 26). God’s true voice, His Word, His revealed will, is transformational, permanent, and rumbles across the spirit like a tornado.

Conclusion

Christians already have the prophetic Word of God in the form of the Scriptures; made more certain by the eyewitness testimonies of those who saw the events and to whom God literally spoke. There is nothing subtle or silent about God’s voice. It causes life transforming trembling and spiritual earthquakes wherever it thunders. It does not come via faint and silent sensations of the soul to only the spiritually sensitive, but to all believers in unmistakable written commandments, penned prophecies, and recorded revelations of the Scriptures.

"For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one I will look [with favor], to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

"Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived?”…"And when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. You said, 'Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives. Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer, then we will die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?’” (Deuteronomy 4:33, 5:23-26)

"The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.' The LORD said to me, 'They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' “(Deuteronomy 18:15-20)

For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased"-- and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

Addendum: Original Research in Summary Tables

Entire Bible
All Uses of the Phrase:
"Voice of the Lord"

Passage

Meaning

Exodus 15:26

God's commandments via the mouth of Moses

Deuteronomy 5:25

The literal audible and terrifying voice of God as heard by all the nation

Deuteronomy 8:20

Metaphor for the Law of Moses

Deuteronomy 13:18

Metaphor for the Law of Moses

Deuteronomy 15:5

Metaphor for the Law of Moses

Deuteronomy 18:16

The literal audible and terrifying voice of God as heard by all the nation

Deuteronomy 26:14

Metaphor for the Law of Moses

Joshua 5:6

Metaphor for the Law of Moses

1 Samuel 12:15

Metaphor for the Law of Moses

1 Samuel 15:19

God's commandments via the mouth of Samuel

1 Samuel 15:20

God's commandments via the mouth of Samuel

1 Samuel 15:22

God's commandments via the mouth of any prophet

1 Kings 20:36

God's commandments via the mouth of an anonymous prophet

2 Kings 18:12

Metaphor for the Law of Moses

Psalm 29:3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9

Poetically depicted as being God's power over nature

Psalm 106:25

God's commandments via the mouth of Moses

Isaiah 6:8

The literal audible and terrifying voice of God as heard by Isaiah

Isaiah 30:31

Poetically depicted as being God's power over Assyria

Isaiah 66:6

Poetically depicted as being God's power over Israel

Jeremiah 3:25

Metaphor for the Law of Moses

Jeremiah 7:28

God's commandments via the mouth of any prophet

Jeremiah 26:13

God's commandments via the mouth of any prophet

Jeremiah 42:6

God's commandments via the mouth of any prophet

Jeremiah 42:13

God's commandments via the mouth of any prophet

Jeremiah 43:4

God's commandments via the mouth of Jeremiah

Jeremiah 43:7

God's commandments via the mouth of Jeremiah

Jeremiah 44:23

God's commandments via the mouth of any prophet

Daniel 9:10

Metaphor for the Law of Moses

Micah 6:9

Metaphor for God's convicting influence toward obedience

Haggai 1:12

God's commandments via the mouth of Haggai

Acts 7:31

The literal audible and terrifying voice of God as heard by Moses

No hint can be found above from any passage of the Bible that the “voice of the Lord” is muted, inaudible, or available to everyone via some kind of internal sensed feelings. The presumption that “the voice of the Lord” is a sensed feeling is an artificial invention and is not revealed from God via His Word.

----

New Testament
Every NT Use of the Phrase:
"Word of the Lord"

Passage

Meaning

Luke 22:61

All the spoken words of Jesus while on earth

Acts 8:25

Metaphor for "the gospel"

Acts 11:16

All the spoken words of Jesus while on earth

Acts 12:24

Metaphor for "the gospel"

Acts 13:44

Metaphor for "the gospel"

Acts 13:48

Metaphor for "the gospel"

Acts 13:49

Metaphor for "the gospel"

Acts 15:35

Combination of the gospel and the spoken words of Jesus while on earth

Acts 15:36

Metaphor for "the gospel"

Acts 16:32

Metaphor for "the gospel"

Acts 19:10

Combination of the gospel and the spoken words of Jesus while on earth

Acts 19:20

Combination of the gospel and the spoken words of Jesus while on earth

1 Thessalonians 1:8

Combination of the gospel and the spoken words of Jesus while on earth

1 Thessalonians 4:15

Combination of the gospel and the spoken words of Jesus while on earth

2 Thessalonians 3:1

Metaphor for "the gospel"

1 Peter 1:25

Combination of the gospel and the spoken words of Jesus while on earth

New Testament Scriptures never define the “Word of the Lord” as private, unspoken, diminutive messages of sensations. That definition is an improper precept of men. A “Word of the Lord” is always the gospel message or the body of teachings literally spoken by Jesus while He was on earth.

“Of the 242 times the phrase ‘the word of the Lord’ occurs [in the Old Testament], the expression appears as a technical form for a communicable prophetic revelation 225 times.” (page 122, Integrative Theology, Lewis and Demarest).

----

Below are summative miscellaneous findings regarding definitional or instructive Scripture on hearing unspoken voices or feeling divine sensations.

Miscellaneous Findings

Pro-Mystic

Passage

Passages defining the "voice of God" as inaudible sensations

None

New Testament passages defining the "Word of God" as personalized messages from God

None

Passages teaching believers how to hear God's inaudible and hard-to-sense voice for themselves

None

Passages which indicate every believer has some form of prophetic gift

None

Passages which encourage every believer to hear a personalized utterance from God

None

Con-Mystic

Passage

Passages which discourage every believer from seeking to hear an utterance from God

Jeremiah 23:16, 26

Passages which state not all believers have the prophetic gift

1 Corinthians 12:29

“Then there are the multitudes of Christian devotional writers who imagine there is ‘deeper’ spirituality in worshipping a God beyond doctrinal or propositional information. In these movements discursive thought (including careful exegesis and doctrinal formulation) tends to become the archenemy of mystical or spiritual experience of God.” (page 260, Integrative Theology, Lewis and Demarest)

While it is understandable that Christians today would like to be the same as Paul, hearing the Holy Spirit talk in words and being given audible instructions from Him, they forget that Paul was both an apostle and prophet. Further, Paul says he was the last person appointed to be an apostle; one who was made an apostle outside the designated time limits of the three years during which Jesus commissioned apostles (1 Corinthians 15:8). Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they?

Let no one keep [beguiling] you of your prize by…taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:18a)






Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reconciliation: The Cost of Forgiveness

“When you grant forgiveness, should you expect anything in return from your brother or sister in Christ? Absolutely. Forgiveness is not granted unconditionally. Forgiveness obligates the grantor and the grantee to a full restoration of fellowship in Christ. Anything less than a completely restored relationship of grace, conversant in all the things of God, is not genuine forgiveness and the continuation of hatred, anger, and bitterness are self-evident in the one who refrains from fellowship.”

Quoted from: http://thefaithfulword.org/2008januaryblogarchives.html#9






Tuesday, July 27, 2010

If I Should Die Right Now…

The antagonist is dying while a rain washes away his grime (and symbolically his sins). He recounts his lament that the amazing things he has experienced in his short life will all be utterly lost from human memory when death claims him momentarily. His tears are obscured in the rain…

My wife brought home the sci-fi classic, Bladerunner: The Final Cut, the other day from the public library. In it there is a scene played out, as summarized above. That scene intentionally echoes sentiments from Ecclesiastes. Both the movie and the Hebrew poem have always made me think of what, if anything, will be lost when I die.

Invariably my mind goes to trivialities, like the stone-carved dragon I bought for my wife the first time I went to Singapore; the story and mild drama of its acquisition will be forever lost. In my tackle-boxes are some well worn fishing lures, each with its own treasure-trove of vignettes and memories, virtually none of which are known to others and are certain to remain secret forever.

Of greater sadness to me are more eternally weighted losses. In my mind are uncounted sermons that I have been dying to write and deliver but to which I have never given voice or put into the computer. On my PC are dozens of articles and book reviews that have not yet been edited for the internet. The corner of my desk holds a printed copy of my manuscript on evangelizing Jehovah’s Witnesses for which I have yet to locate a willing publishing house (in it is a chart that maps the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ plan of salvation against the biblical plan of salvation). Beside my desk are six thick file folders loaded with biblical research project ideas for which I have yet to even think about planning to allocate study time. All this will be lost when I die.

Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts to the church as He desires. Jesus tells us that the Father numbers the hairs on our heads along with the days of our short lives. God is sovereign and will bring about all He has planned. God will complete His holy plans whether I am here or not. But He did place me here to do good for Him. Everything that I have done, or wanted to do in this life is ultimately destined for the refiner’s test-of-fire anyway. My fishing lures will go up in smoke along with my unfinished writings and file folders thick with good, but incomplete, intentions.

So what remains? Those teaching moments that helped others to love and serve God will hopefully remain. My fishing memories have no eternal value, so why lament their loss? The book itself has not been of value to anyone in its un-circulated form, so why fret over its extinction? Whereas, the evangelistic meetings with the various Jehovah’s Witnesses may, perhaps, yet yield fruit for the Kingdom.

What has been done in the employ of the King of kings for His good and for His Kingdom’s benefit will last. The rest is dross comprised of selfishness and does not deserve lamentation.

However long I have left, and few know their own future just as I do not know, must be used all the better. Not to make secret personal memories or to pursue selfish pleasures that will fade away with me, but to build up the faith and love of the church at large. That is where true eternal value lies: bringing the knowledge of Christ to others.

Heaven rejoices more over one sinner who repents than over 99 persons who need no repentance, and it is that rejoicing that will be eternally remembered.


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