Trail Blazer Ministries
Base Camp for Life: A Spiritual Journey...

Who do I want to be: Intellectually and Morally Stagnant, or Virtuous?

10:02 PM
Someone asked me awhile back, “Who do you want to be?”
I responded, “Problem is, I'm battling that right now. I'm thinking of leaving a lot of what I held true behind me. This is my own issue, and personal struggle. The details of this struggle would fill a book, but the twitter version I guess would be, "Who is in control? God or me? I'd like to love the simple pleasures in life, and not be tied down to the future so much. Travel, enjoying just the moment with no destination in mind, just life in general. I've been that person, and want to be that guy.

During my trip to China in December of 2009, I read 3 chapters W. Jay Wood’s book Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous (Contours of Christian Philosophy)
These 3 chapters when really studied did more for my clarity of thinking than any book I’ve ever read.

Jay Wood on C.S. Lewis…Hideous Strength
“…His consuming desire to be accepted by others, to feel a part of the inner ring, the power elite, eventually leads him to his relationship with his wife and—most relevant to our discussion—his ability to think straight.”

The last 6 months I’ve been battling hard questions. “What if I remain Christian just to be accepted?”
It’s hard to think straight when our paradigm is challenged.
“If I reject Christianity, will this negatively affect my relationships?”
Christians are called to the Buddhist idea of “dissolution of the self”. Our bodies, our flesh are evil; the only good comes from the spiritual. We are called to hate evil. (Amos 5:15)
“If nothing we do apart from Christ is evil; what is this ‘self?’”

These questions have plagued me in the last six months, making me depressed. How can I reconcile my serious doubts, with criticisms coming from the Christian community saying I’m “selfish” and just wanting to follow my “fleshly desires?”

The Saint Thomas Aquinas (born ca. 1225; died
7 March 1274) writes, “Happiness is secured through virtue; it is a good attained by man's own will.” “The good of the intellect is truth, and falsehood is its evil.”
But opinion and suspicion can be about both truth and falsehood. So I had to weigh my opinions with what I really know. Truth is I wasn’t sure of what I really knew! I believe no walk of life is immune..need for careful and reasonable thinking.

So now I’m faced with the question, “Can I be intellectually and morally virtuous, and walk away from Christianity?”

Some Virtues:
Inquisitiveness
Teachableness
Love of truth
Intellectual Honesty
Tenacity of Belief (always searching for our beliefs)
Attentiveness
Persistence
Circumspection
Retentiveness
Power to Perceive
To Introspect
To Judge
To Analyze
To Synthesize (some are better able to detect patterns and regularities, to draw disparate facts into an organized whole)
Imparting knowledge
Clarity
Creativity
Persuasiveness
Administration
Organization
Foresight
Problem Solving

I can be morally vicious, or morally virtuous; the latter requires an unselfish pursuit of truth and belief. With this in mind I will try to be morally and intellectually virtuous as possible.
Sometimes emotions motivate intellectual activity. (I’m an emotional person)

From W. Jay Wood’s book, “Unresolved doubts leave us in an ‘uneasy’ and ‘irritated’ state that moves us to resolve our uneasiness by “fixing” (settling on) some belief.”

This uneasy state spurs us on an endless pursuit of the truth. For some odd reason this fact gives me peace. I can be irritated by some of my held beliefs, that’s what spurs me and all of us to avoid believing in what is false.

Many Christians tell me I must submit to the teachings of the church. (1 Peter 5:5) This passage mentions submitting to the elders, but not necessarily believing everything they tell me. Hebrews 13:17 tells Christians to obey their elders for they watch over our souls. Imagine if Martin Luther decided to follow Hebrews 13:17 literally. Without dissent, there can be no change.


Jesus talked about abundant life…the more I’ve thought about it, the more Jesus was not talking about Heaven and Hell. I’ll conclude with some Brian McLaren quotes that are quite controversial within the Christian dialogue.
"...many Hindus are willing to consider Jesus as a legitimate manifestation of the divine... many Buddhists see Jesus as one of humanity’s most enlightened people.... A shared reappraisal of Jesus’ message could provide a unique space or common ground for urgently needed religious dialogue—and it doesn’t seem an exaggeration to say that the future of our planet may depend on such dialogue. This reappraisal of Jesus’ message may be the only project capable of saving a number of religions."
––Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, p. 7

"I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts … rather than resolving the paradox via pronouncements on the eternal destiny of people more convinced by or loyal to other religions than ours, we simply move on … To help Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and everyone else experience life to the full in the way of Jesus (while learning it better myself), I would gladly become one of them (whoever they are), to whatever degree I can, to embrace them, to join them, to enter into their world without judgment but with saving love as mine has been entered by the Lord."
--Brian Mclaren
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Buddhism, Christianity and true peace

8:00 AM

In early December 2009 I had the chance to walk around the Forbidden City in Beijing. This trip in China made a lasting impact on me, and I've grown to understand myself, American culture and Chinese culture better.

The Manchu ancestors of the Qing imperial family followed a tradition of shamanistic practices based on their beliefs in supernatural forces. Over the centuries, those beliefs and practices were absorbed into the religions adopted from China: Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. This multiplicity of faiths led to a plethora of religious observances. The emperor attended all major sacrificial rites, while lesser ones were attended by officials representing him.

Over time, Buddhism became the primary religion of the Qing Dynasty. The Qing emperors supported the Yellow Hat sect of Esoteric Buddhism, an adherence which proved useful in diplomatic relations with Tibetan and Mongolian nobles. Esoteric Buddhism, besides providing the possibility of personal enlightenment, offered protection and preservation of the sovereign nation. The palace featured Buddhist altars in the private quarters of the emperor and empresses.

There is a lot a person can look up on the internet about the Forbidden City, including many pictures, information about the palaces, and the history. I won't go into all the detail of it's history and descriptions of palaces, but just a short overview of went on within it's gates.

A few facts:
1. The tradition of castrating male servants dates back over two thousand years. The Qing Dynasty started with 9000 eunuchs, reducing to about 1500 in 1908. Their testicles were mummified and stored in jars, to be buried with them after their death. Many eunuchs were harshly treated, or executed at whim. Corruption, power struggles and personal vendettas flourished.

2. Emperors were entitled to several wives and many concubines. (Qianlong had two official wives and 29 concubines). Concubines were well-educated women selected from the best Manchu families. Nightly, the Emperor would decide which concubine would visit him that evening. She would then be stripped, bathed and depilated before being carried to his chamber. The number of times a concubine was chosen secured her social standing.

I could go on and on about how the concubines killed each other, had affairs with eunuchs (they were called vegetarian affairs)and had the other concubines sons killed. It's ironic that this dark place called the Forbidden City had so many halls and palaces dedicated to Harmony. Here is a list of the palaces: Hall of Mental Cultivation, Palace of Earthly Tranquility, Palace of Heavenly Purity, Palace of Abstinence, Hall of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Preserving harmony, Hall of Imperial supremacy, Hall of Military Glory, Hall of Literary Brilliance, Imperial Garden, and Gate of Divine Prowess.

All these halls seemed to do nothing to really preserve peace. All this wealth, wisdom, and concubines reminds me of Solomon. The Biblical figure Solomon asked for wisdom, and because the Lord loved his request he was granted wealth and power. Unfortunately, this corrupted him and he took on 700 wives and 300 concubines. The Bible doesn't rebuke that he had that many wives, just that he started worshiping the gods of his wives and concubines.

Whether it was Solomon in all his glory, or the Emperors in all their glory; none were at peace. I enjoy reading Ecclesiastes, "All is Vanity, a chasing after the wind".

The book instructs us to live fully:
Ecc 9:7-10

7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.

10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
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According to Alexa

12:57 PM
Alexa states trailblazerministries.blogspot.com is the 11,607,293rd most popular site on the net. Hmmm...Iggy's wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com site is 9,415,613st.
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Do You Love Gay People? - A Love Issue

1:38 PM

 

The comments are really revealing as to how blind and hateful some really are. Sadly many do not even realize how hateful their words are... when someone states:

We should love people the way God loves them; with truth, and pure love. There is gay people outthere who would be willing to change their lives and accept Jesus as their personal Savior. We as christians, cannot decide who will accept Jesus or who won't. Our duty is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our own testimony, and with Love. I have known gay people who repented and now are living a normal life (according to God's purpose). Believe me, God can still change people's lives. Let's pray for all those beautiful people (including gay people) who need Jesus as their personal Savior. Amen.


Sadly this is one of the more "loving" comments posted on the site. Yet, when a gay person hears a Christian say the word "change" they hear us saying they must clean up their lives before they come to Jesus! That is NOT the Gospel... We are saved by Grace, straight or gay.

The hate just keeps on coming proving the video over and over again as right on, yet as you can see they are blind to their own hate. It is time to stop hating and start loving... Will you take a stand for Unconditional Love?

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Hell does not exist, according to John Shelby Spong

1:18 PM
"Salvation is enhancing your humanity rather than rescuing you from it"



Aristotle.

"It has been handed down in mythical form from earliest times to posterity, that there are gods, and that the divine (Deity) compasses all nature. All beside this has been added, after the mythical style, for the purpose of persuading the multitude, and for the interests of the laws, and the advantage of the state."
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Ted Haggard is in the news again...

12:49 PM
Wed Nov 4, 9:39 pm ET


Here is the AP article
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Ted Haggard, who was dismissed from the megachurch he founded after a man alleged a cash-for-sex relationship with him, plans to lead people in worship again.

The pastor told The Gazette he is holding a "prayer meeting" Nov. 12 in his living room in Colorado Springs but said it would also be correct to call it a church.

Haggard says he has no goals of building something like New Life Church, which began with about 25 people in his basement in 1985 and grew to thousands of members.

Haggard resigned from the church in 2006 after a Denver man said Haggard paid him for sex.

The gathering Nov. 12 will include music, an offering to New Life Church and a talk from Haggard about the power of prayer.



I wonder what Ted Haggard will say next, after his obvious hypocrisy. I'm not saying this out of despite, Ted Haggard should be loved and forgived. I hope he won't continue preaching against the lifestyle of gays and drug use. Ted has been humbled, so as Christians, let's love and forgive his holding him accountable to his words and actions.
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Prince of Peace – God of War Pacism vs Just War Theory

9:09 PM
Thanks to Nathan, for reminding me of this video. Ryan already posted this, but it's worth reposting.

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Phillips, Craig & Dean - When God Ran - Live What do you think?

6:35 PM
What do you guys think?



Almighty God, the great I am
Immovable rock, omnipotent, powerful, awesome Lord
Victorious warrior, commanding King of Kings
Mighty conqueror, and the only time
the only time I ever saw Him run

CHORUS:
Was when He ran to me, He took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest, said “My son’s come home again”
Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice He said,
“Son do you know I still love you?”
He caught me by surprise when God ran

The day I left home I knew I’d broken His heart
And I wondered then if things could ever be the same
Then one night I remembered His love for me
And down that dusty road ahead I could see
It was the only time – it was the only time I ever saw Him run

And then He ran to me, He took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest, said “My son’s come home again”
Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice He said,
“Son do you know I still love you?”
He caught me by surprise as He brought me to my knees
When God ran – I saw Him run to me

BRIDGE:
I was so ashamed, all alone and so far away
But now I know He’s been waiting for this day

I saw Him run to me, He took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest, said “My son’s come home again”
Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice I felt His love for me again

He ran to me, He took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest, said “My son’s come home again”
Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice He said, “Son”, He called me Son
He said, “Son do you know I still love you?”
He ran to me and then I ran to Him
When God ran
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What Exactly Does it Mean to Believe?

9:56 PM
Thanks to Nathan for this well thought out response to my question:

"I think I'm going to order this book; a Christian philosophy prof recommended this to me. I'm struggling with the question, "What do we really know?" I know some things, but some important things in Christianity, I'm questioning whether I really believe them to be intellectually honest with myself."


What exactly does it mean to believe? The word "belief" has evolved over the years. In the 14th Century with Chaucer it meant "beloved." In the 1st Century, it meant something completely different. In Life of Flavious Josephus, he writes about confronting a rebel during the Jewish / Roman War. Josephus wanted to convince this rebel to stop the futile attempts of attacking the Roman Empire and look for other ways to achieve his desired results. Josephus told the rebel to “Repent and believe in me”. In Greek that is, “metanoesein kai pistos emoi genesesthai”. This is precisely the same exact greek phrase that Jesus uses, which even the most skeptical Jesus scholars would admit.

Josephus isn't simply saying repent and believe in me as some sort of mental excercise. He's more or less saying turn away from your methods of violence and follow my way. However, as a member of the Jewish aristocracy, and a pawn of the Roman Empire, he obviously had an agenda. Jesus call to repentance was certainly more, but certainly not less. The mental exercise is needed to initiate the process, but can't be expected to remain fixed, and isn't so much the point as following the way of Jesus. Imagine if the rebel told Josephus that, yes, he believed (with our current concept of belief), but didn't follow. He surely would have been put to death by the Roman Empire. The Gospel is trans formative not affirmative.

Belief will evolve as well as your doubt. But in my opinion as well as Jewish tradition, doubt is a spiritual practice that comes from God. But the secret is to continue to doubt the doubt and never be satisfied, always be maladjusted with your conclusions. Always leave room for discussion and uncertainty.

I think that doubt keeps us from putting God into a box, making Him/Her an idol, or a Rorschach test in our image. The desert Christian mystics used to call God "Nothing" as the word "God" was/is essentially a placeholder for a name of the Ineffable Being. We have no words to define the Divine.

One thing that I've been mulling over lately is I'm quite tired of Christianity. I love Jesus, and search for God, but I see Christians pushing Christianity over Jesus, which is in my mind complete idolatry and heresy...although they would call me a heretic.

totally random, but I was reading on how to make a Halloween for Jaxin, and I took a complete rabbit trail and wound up reading about the Magi (the Three Kings...where we get our word "Magic" from). They weren't Christian or even Jewish. They were Zoroastrian astrologers. In fact the greek uses the same word to describe a sorcerer in Acts. Yet they blessed Jesus. How many churches, (even myself) would be humble enough to receive a blessing from a self described Wiccan?

Here is something that CS Lewis wrote in "Mere Christianity" which is where I'm at.

""The world does not consist of 100 percent Christians and 100 percent non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: some of them are clergymen."
"There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand."
"There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position. And always, of course, there are a great many people who are just confused in mind and have a lot of inconsistent beliefs all jumbled up together. Consequently, it is not much use trying to make judgments about Christians and non-Christians in the mass."

The world needs Jesus, and less of Christianity piling up mental sets of certainties. The Muslim world is realizing this. Recently at an Islamic conference, the leader was talking about how Islam is going through now (with Shia and Sunni) what Christians and Catholics went through during the 100 years war. They said the only way we will make it through this without blowing each other up is to follow the teachings of the Prophet Isa...(Jesus).

That was a long answer, but I say read the book, and let me know what you think. Never end the search, and never underestimate the strength of community in wrestling with the doubts. It's often tough to find a "safe" place to express the questions, but you always have a safe non-judgmental ear in me. I'd also be curious to hear where exactly, if you can pinpoint it, do your doubts lie?
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Who is in control of our destiny....

4:04 PM
This conversation comes from a quote:
"The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins." - Bob Moawad

I said...
"I'm trying to understand, I'm at a point where I don't know if God is in control or me. Where does God fit it in with all of this?"
Jose said...
"You are a part of God just as God is a part of you. Who do you believe has control over your destiny?"

I responded...
"I know bad things happen to really positive people, and good things happen to energy vampires. I believe in the law of attraction to a point, a lot of opportunities come my because of my energy, but I don't believe I can control God, or "the divine" even though part of the Divine is in me. I'm struggling through this concept right now."

Jose replied...
"It's not so much as to control God than to have power through God.
Have you read Conversation with God? I believe these books could help you through this, through the questions and uncertainties. It might just make sense to you or it might not."

Nathan interjected...
"that's a fun conversation. to me posing the question as "Who do you believe has control over your destiny?" is like asking in between you and your wife, who has control of your marriage? Why does it need to be controlled? God appeals to our most basic human need...to be in relation...to love and be loved. The destiny of your marriage will be shaped... Read More by the perpetual reciprocating love you show each other. I see our lives and God in similar relation shaping our destiny. No one owns or controls the destiny, but the destiny is formed by the relation.
What do you think about your question?"

Jose replied to Nathan...
"Now I am saying, the reason why I posed such a question is because most people feel that there is an outer force in control over their lives. They leave everything up to that. Basically their destiny can follow multiple options of routes. I ask such a question because I want to know if people realize how much power resides within themselves. Nothing needs to be controlled, but then people have to take responsibility for their actions and not blame, rely on anyone but themselves.

You said: 'The destiny of your marriage will be shaped by the perpetual reciprocating love you show each other.'

Who is showing that love? Me, you, God, your wife? If you and your wife are reciprocating perpetual love for one another... then you are in control of your relationship. You choose to do so.

But then I say whatever we believe to be true, is true! :D"

My response to all this...
"How can we make the erroneous claim, 'whatever we believe to be true, is true?'"
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Resources? What links would you like on this Blog

8:54 PM
Hey guys, what are your favorite sites that I could link to on this blog?
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Signs you might be a fundamentalist.

11:23 PM


You might be a fundamentalist if...

• ...you think the earth is 6,000 years old
• ...you think Democrats are bad people
• ...you think environmentalists worship the earth
• ...you think God spoke in Elizabethan English
• ...you think everyone except your group/denomination are heretics
• ...you think the Bible teaches capital punishment
• ...you think the Bible teaches the right to bear arms
• ...you think the "Left Behind Series" is serious Bible study
• ...you think America was/is a Christian nation
• ...you expect to disappear in a rapture any day now
• ...you think most poor people are lazy
• ...James Dobson is your hero
• ...the only books you've read on opposing viewpoints are written by authors you agree with
• ...you think allowing homosexuals to marry will end civilization as we know it
• ...you think evolution is a plot from the devil
• ...you think "narrow path" is synonymous with "narrow mind"
• ...you think "the simplicity that is in Christ" means that all of the themes in Scripture can be understood by Forrest Gump
• ...you don't know how to explain the director of The Passion of the Christ being drunk and getting arrested
• ...you're afraid to buy sparkling cider because it looks like wine
• ...you can't admit that the water Jesus turned into wine might have been alcoholic, and that people might have gotten intoxicated from drinking it
• ...you think most natural disasters are a judgment from god
• ...you don't know how Christianity survived so long without your denomination
• ...you think the main point of higher education's is to convince you the bible is wrong
• ...you think that only Christians can glorify god
• ...you divide everything into two categories: "Christian" and "secular"
• ...four letter words make you more uncomfortable than malicious intent
• ...you think that a one-world currency will lead to the rapture, but you still try to convince everyone to stay away from a one world currency
• ...you think the gospel hasn't been preached unless an altar call was issued
• ...you think all Catholics are hell-bound
• ...you think two homosexuals living in a committed caring relationship are more sinful than jailing people indefinitely without charges or a trial or bombing the hell out of villages.
• ...you think promiscuous homosexuals are ruining the world, but will cut off your right arm to keep them from being able to commit to each other and be monogamous
• ...you actually think it's a GOOD thing that your pastor is uneducated
• ...you think if you don't have your morning devotions, you're day will inevitably be bad
• ...you think Jesus was white, and have never considered that he may have more closely resembled the look of what you consider to be "a terrorist"
• ...you'll take a bumbling Christian for president any day over someone more qualified
• ...you're pretty sure the four spiritual laws are in the Bible
• ...you are afraid of science, especially biologists and geneticists
• ...you are also afraid of gay people, pro-choice people, Arabs, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, anybody wearing a head scarf, anyone with a red dot or an ash spot on their forehead, blacks who live in the ghetto, immigrants, illegal aliens, Mexicans (by which you mean anyone who speaks Spanish no matter where they are from), liberals, ...
• ...you must keep your children away from all of the above
• ..."Christian values" means anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality. Period. It does not mean dignity, health care, job training, racial reconciliation, relief of poverty, justice, or mercy.
• ...you believe God would be pleased if Israel were to nuke all her neighbors
• ...when someone asks you how you are, you reply "blessed"
• ...you're afraid to use the word "lucky" because it comes from "Lucifer"
• ...You are sure Jesus is coming in 1980...1988...2000...2008...2012
• ...you think the world council of churches got together with the UN & invented global warming
• ...on Halloween, you turn out all the lights and pray for the heathen neighborhood children
• ...you think "Leave it to Beaver" and "The Andy Griffith Show" depict real life in America in the 1950s
• ...you think, "smile, Jesus loves you,” is a valid cure for depression
• ...you think that "pray for your leaders" means to pray that they become republican
• ...you repeat and believe without question every story you hear about a miracle happening in your church, but you have never seen one...even though you've been attending and involved for 20 years
• ...you think that every man of faith down through the centuries would have loved to have had the opportunity you have to be a part of your denomination
• ...you actually believe the FAA doesn't allow both a pilot and a co-pilot to be Christians in case the rapture happens
• ...you tithe 10% of your income to your church, but look the other way every time you see a beggar
• ...you have perfected the art of gossiping through prayer requests
• ...you have at some point owned an "in case of rapture..." bumper sticker, and you don't feel like the biggest moron in the world
• ...your definition of how long a "generation" is keeps changing
• ...too many sixes in a number makes you nervous
• ...you don't understand why everyone can't see the truths in the bible as clearly as you can
• ...you use the phrases "Lord Jesus" and "Lord God" in your prayers like they're commas and the word "just" in replace of "um"
• ...you don't think Obama is the anti-Christ, but you think he's a great example of how the anti-Christ will deceive the masses and rise to power so quickly
• ...your pastor wears mainly Hawaiian shirts in the pulpit, but your church is nowhere near Hawaii
• ...you regularly feel guilty about not having Christian bumper stickers on your car
• ...you believe that most people who have left your church have walked away from god, whether they are going to another church or not
• ...stories about “disappearing hitchhikers” make you cry instead of laugh
• ...you pastor has told your church about a team of scientists drilling into the earth in Siberia who drilled so far that they heard the screams of what sounded like "millions of people" suffering. This story sounds reasonable to you.
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The Hope Of Israel And The Resurrection.

8:10 AM
The credit goes to Terry Cropper for this article: Let me know what you guys think.

Under the Old Covenant men was separated from God because of his sin that started with Adam in the garden of Eden. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2). Because of mans sin condition sin offering for atonement had to be made (Exodus 29:36). These sacrifices were not taking sin away; they were covering sin for the forgiveness of the people.

During this Old Covenant era while man was separated, from God. Resurrection was promised to Israel (Isaiah 25:8; 26:19; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Hosea 13:14; Daniel 12), and it constituted "the hope of Israel" (Acts 26:6-9). This hope resided at the heart of the gospel preached to Israel (Acts 2:22-39; 4:1-2; 13:32-39; 23:6; 24:14-15). If death and Hades belonged to Judaism then one can understand the hope of resurrection.

In the process of revealing His plan for Israel resurrection God established a harvest seasons. The apostle Paul understood this concept for he writes. "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep ... For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming" (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22-23)

One of the most interesting studies in the Bible is that of the "first-fruits" and "the harvest" as it relates to Israel’s resurrection. Where did this idea of "first-fruits" harvest originate? God uses the analogy of the first-fruits and harvest particularly to illustrate aspects of His plan of salvation for Israel. "On the same general principle that the firstborn of man and beast belonged to the God of Israel and were to be devoted to Him (Nehemiah 10:35-39).

The first-fruits including the first grain to ripen each season, were to be brought as an offering to God. Every Israelite who possessed the means of agricultural productivity was under this obligation (Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Numbers 15:17-21; 18:12-13:). "Speak the to children of Israel, and say to them." When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your, behalf on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it (Leviticus 23:10-11).

The first-fruits were brought in a basket to the sanctuary and presented to the priest, who was to set the basked down before the altar. Leviticus 23:9-14 institutes the first-fruits offering. The people were to bring a sheaf of grain to the priest, who would wave it before the Lord. A burnt offering, a meal offering, and a drink offering were also required at that time. Deuteronomy 26:1-10 gives even more detail on the procedure of first-fruits.

In the New Testament, the first-fruits offering is mentioned seven times, always symbolically. Since Paul was a Israelite it would be only natural for him to have thought of (Christ as the first-fruits, Gk., aparche) because the day of Christ's resurrection was the second day of Passover week on which the first ripe sheaf of the harvest was offered to the Lord (Leviticus 23:10-11,15).

Paul also establishing another basic point. While Christ was the first-fruits of his people the saints were also significance of the "first ripe sheaf" Paul calls Epaenetus and the household of Stephanas “the first-fruits of Achaia” (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15). Paul also referred to the brethren as those "who have the first-fruits of the Spirit" (Romans 8: 23) His meaning is that, just as the first-fruits offering was the first portion of a larger harvest, these individuals were the first of a greater harvest to follow.

The resurrection began with the resurrection of Jesus. He opened the way. Then came the first-fruit of the gospel were representative of the harvest to come. In concept, first-fruits symbolizes God’s harvest of souls. This select group of Christians were purchased from the earth as a FIRST FRUITS offering (Act 20:28; Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Greek for purchased, means to go to the market. It is a picture of God coming to the earth, to select His FIRST FRUITS from the entire harvest. The first-fruits of the gospel, to whom God gave the earnest of the spirit, existed for the purpose of working out. Upon their acceptance to God depended the whole harvest (Romans 8:18-23)

The term "first-fruits" itself implies, the remainder of the harvest was about ripe. "First-fruits refers to the first portion of the harvest that is given to God. Most notably the first-fruits are: * The first to come in time * A pledge or hope of the greater harvest to follow.

According to the Law no grain was to be harvested at all until the first-fruits offering was brought to the Lord (Numbers 15:18,21; Leviticus 23:10, 11), The first-fruits sanctified the subsequent harvest. Every Jewish Christian understood this Old Testament concept.

The book of Revelation cannot be separated from the other books of the gospel. These first-fruit believers who died before the Parousia "the Finished work of Christ," did not go to the place of the dead Abraham's bosom or the Hadean realm Luke 16:19-31 but instead were under the altar. (Revelation 6:9). These first-fruit saints paved the way for the rest of the harvest.

This first resurrection is considered "blessed and holy" in Revelation 20:6 because of their intimate first-fruit relationship with the risen Christ. Their proximity to the Holy Place rendered them priest of God and the Messiah and they became part of that first century symbolic 1000 year reign of Christ.

The second important truth inherent in the first-fruits figure is the readiness of the harvest to be gathered as signified in the offering of the first-fruits. The act of reaping had already begun, as seen in the (acceptance or gathering of the 144,00) "first-fruits (Revelation 14:1-5).

After the destruction of Jerusalem and the (Temple) the way into the Heaven or the Holiest of all was now made OPEN (Hebrews 9:8). It was then that the first-fruits reached perfection, and were accepted of God.

The harvest was now ready to be cut and gathered in (Revelation 14:14-20). This is a two-fold harvest scene with verse 14-16 applying to the righteous, and verse 17-20 referring to the wicked. This same harvest judgment was prophesied by the prophet Joel (Joel 3:12-17).

The (righteous harvest) were the dead saints in Christ from the Old Covenant. These were people like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Job, Isaiah, and Daniel, etc, who died in faith, not of a time, still to come in our future. David demonstrated his faith and trust in God to delivered him from the depths of the grave. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave (Psalm 86:13 NIV).

Total fellowship to David was to be in the presence of God in the afterlife. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
The time for death to be abolished had arrived (2 Timothy 1:10). These "Old Covenant saints" were the rest of the harvest, the general resurrection. Knowing this, we can appreciate why God said: I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38).

The harvest, follows the ripening "perfecting and offering of the first-fruits." With the return of Christ and the destruction of temple, the way into God presence was now opened (Hebrew 9:8). The Hadean realm was emptied, and the Old Covenant saints, who were the harvest were gathered in the general resurrection in A.D.70. This is the second resurrection that John mentioned in the first part of verse 5 of chapter 20.

The charge by some that putting the resurrection in the past destroys faith is far removed from the truth in scripture. By putting the resurrection were it belongs in God’s scheme of redemption for Israel the believer today immediately enter into his eternal reward, in the heavenly’s.

One way to better understand the teaching of John's resurrection in Revelation 20:5 is to get a better grasp of the literary devices that are used by the writer to produce the desired results of the revelation he is seeking to unveil. One such device is chiasmas, which is a term that designates a literary figure or principle, which consist of "a placing crosswise" of words in a sentence or writing.

The term is used in rhetoric to designate an inversion of the order of words or phrases which are repeated or subsequently referred to in the sentence or writing.

The text is color coded to help you in your understanding of this technique. At my blog.

http://newjerusalemcommunity.blogspot.com/

ANGEL CAME DOWN
20.1 A. And I saw an angel coming down from heaven
KEY OF NON-CITY OF GOD
B. having the keys of the abyss
(ENCIRCLER IN HAND)
C. and a great chain in his hand
22.2 IDENTITY AND FOUR NAME COUNT
D. And he laid hold of the dragon
the old serpent (so named in garden of Eden)
which is the devil
And Satan (so named in (1 Chr.21:1)
20:3 E. SATAN BOUND TO DECEIVE NATIONS NO MORE UNTIL END OF 1000YEAR REIGN
and he bound him a thousand years
and he cast him into the abyss and shut it
and sealed it over him that he should deceive the nations no more
until should be finished the 1000 years
and after these things must he be loosed a little while
20:4 F THEY FROM FIRST RESURRECTION SAT AND GAVE JUDGMENT
and I saw thrones and they say upon them and judgment was given to them
and the souls of them that had been beheaded
for the testimony of Jesus
and for the Word of God
and such as worshiped not the beast neither his image
and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand
G. WHO LIVED IN100 YEAR PERIOD
and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
20.5 G. WHO LIVED NOT IN 100 YEARS PERIOD
The rest of the dead did not live again until were finished the thousand years
F. THEY FROM FIRST RESURRECTION-JUDGMENT BASED ON IMPUTED
RIGHTEOUSNESS
this is the first resurrection
20.6 blessed and holy is the one
who has a part in the first resurrection
over these the second death has no power
they will be priest of God and of Christ.
and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
SATAN LOOSED TO DECEIVE NATIONS
20.7 E. When the thousand years are complete
Satan will be released
20.8 and will come out
to deceive the nations
IDENTITY AND CORNER COUNT OF NATIONS
20.8b D. which are in the four corners of the earth
Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war
the number of them is like the sand of the seashore
20.9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth
ENCIRCLEMENT OF CAMP
C. and surrounded the camp of the saints
O.T.CITY OF GOD
B. and the beloved city
FIRE CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN
A. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them
Chiasmus in Rev. 20, Verses 1-9 from the works of George R. Douglas, Jr. Esp/Bethesda,MD

If we are to understand the timing of the resurrection we must immerse ourselves in the first century Jewish understanding of the resurrection. What a difference it make when we read the Bible through their Jewish biblical concepts.
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White Man ~ Michael Gungor Band

11:22 PM



God is not a man
God is not a white man
God is not a man sitting on a cloud
God cannot be bought
God will not be boxed in
God will not be owned by religion
But God is love God is love
And He loves everyone God is love
God is love and He loves everyone
God is not a man
God is not an old man
God does not belong to Republicans
God is not a flag
Not even American
And God does not depend
On a government
But God is good God is good
And He loves everyone
Atheists and charlatans and
Communists and lesbians
And even old Pat Robertson oh
God He loves us all
Catholic or protestant
Terrorist or president
Everybody everybody love love
Love love love

Stop the hating please just stop
The hating now 'cause God is love
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Praying the Bible: Lectio Divina

11:36 AM
Though lectio divina is mostly practiced in the Roman Catholic tradition I see that there is great value in using it in daily readings. I have taken the liberty to write this in less a RCC view and more for every person.

Start out first with prayer: By inviting the Holy Spirit to come and teach us, we open ourselves to God and entrust all to Him and his guiding. This is not to be confused with emptying oneself as the “paganistic religions” teach, rather taking time to empty our “self” and allow God to speak to us. Any simple prayer will do.

Come Holy Ghost, fill the hearts and minds of the faithful you servant, and inflame them with the fire of Your divine love. Instruct my heart and renew my mind by Your Truth. Enter my innermost being and renew a right spirit in me.

Lectio: The next step is relaxing. By finding a place that does not allow distraction we can better concentrate on what God has for us. Some call this “quiet time” and is much the same thing. You may go as elaborate as using candles or incense or simply find a quite spot that will not have anything that might distract you from interacting with God.


There is not set “goal” in your reading. In fact a goal may interfere with what God is trying to accomplish and teach you. This sounds a bit counter productive, yet sometimes our agendas may interfere with God’s agenda for us. Simply find a passage you may feel lead to or if you do not “feel” lead, find a passage that interests you.


As you read prayerfully ask God to show you. Keep in mind the humility of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:30-31; who humbly was wrestling with the scripture and asked Phillip to explain it to him. We now have the Holy Spirit to teach us, so simply be open to what the Spirit may be saying.


Some may want to bring commentaries and other items to use as they read. Personally I see this as not needed but I am not opposed to their use. If you come to a verse or passage that you do not understand. Spend some time prayerfully asking God to reveal it to you. Do not be discouraged if you hear nothing from God. Feel free also move on and keep reading into material you already do understand, yet ask God if there may be something you are missing or that may add to your current understanding. You might be amazed that a verse you thought you had down comes alive a this point and you see it from a totally different view. Remember “lectio” is simply reading the text and attempting to understand what the writer is saying. Do not stress out if this seems hard at first, it does become easier over time.


Meditatio: I am amazed that some see this part as dangerous. I do agree, if you do this part God may dramatically change your life! Take time to read and re-read the passage you read. Visualize it and even read it out loud and “listen” to what God may be revealing to you. Consider the verse in perspective to the Church, family, your own person or even your enemies. Take time to consider the verses in terms of allegorical or metaphorical meanings and even historical views…. Even taking it literal is often great! The idea is letting the Holy Spirit draw you in deeper to understand what the writer was trying to say and convey.


Oratio: After a while pray again that God gives you the grace to be changed by the truth of what you read. Prayerfully ask this Truth to fully come into your very being and live it out in a practical sense.


Contemplatio: Give thanks that God will do as He promises and rest in that truth.


Collatio: If you know of others who are doing this, talk to them about what God has taught you. Also there is safety in talking to others to help guide us in understanding what we learned. Someone you know my already have learned or is learning what you were taught and you can encourage each other


Actio: Live what your have learned. Allow it to be your life and truth. It is God’s word and by it allow yourself to be lead.

Addo: Though I may be wrong I believe “Addo” means “to give” and that is the last step you should do. If lectio divina is something that helps you in your reading, pass it on or give it away to others.



For more info:

Since I sort of stole the name of this post from Tony Jones I will give him some credit.

Tony Jones has a great article out on praying the bible. He just did another post that gives a bit of more history to the steps I have written about.

I also found this site as an a great resource to start to understand lectio divina.



Enjoy!
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google ads...simple and effective

8:09 AM

Okay, I'm not going to get rich off the google ads on this blog, but let's continue to write good content. I'll promote it more, and soon we'll be over the $100 mark with the ads. This money can pay for anyone's coffee at Wild Joe's.

Look forward to all your wonderful posts in an array of different subjects.
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Sample Podcast...parody

1:00 PM
Let me know what you think! How's the music?
http://www.jesseahmann.com/samplepodcast.mp3
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The Good Christian...

12:20 PM
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Good Christian, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. The Good Christian yelled to the man, “Do you want to accept Jesus as your savior?” The man groaned… but gave no answer. “I said, do you want to accept Jesus as your savior?”

The man passed out from the pain he was in and due to loss of blood.
“Oh well, I would help you but first you must sit through my Chick Tracts and my let me walk you through the 4 spiritual laws… and…”

The man bled to death in front of him…

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?

Lord, help me to be a good neighbor and not just a good Christian...
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Pacifism vs. Just War Theory

3:44 PM
An old friend of mine recently brought this subject to my attention with an essay that discussed the film, Prince of Peace, God of War by John Campea. To get this conversation started, click here to download or watch it right here:




Now, if you've taken time to watch the film, you probably already have an opinion on this subject. I must confess, I am still searching for answers because I have heard plenty of good arguments on both sides of this issue. I wish I could post my friend Scott's rebuttal to this film but it is rather long (if you are on facebook, join the group Trail Blazer Ministries and add me as a friend, I have Scott's essay posted).

With a quick Google search on the Just War Theory, I found the site www.justwartheory.com which has a bunch of information that I found very hard to disagree with. This site has been helpful for me to understand that not all Just War Theorists are the same as Campea's film might suggest:

"Just war theory is not a settled doctrine. It is a field of critical ethical reflection. That's why there are as many just war theories as there are just war theorists. So, rather than allow traditionally accepted (yet highly contested) theoretical principles dictate what is required to justify the use of armed forces, let your first lesson in just war theory be one which you teach yourself in a simple introductory exercise of reflection: Start by thinking of a paradigm case or prime example from history which strikes you intuitively as being an instance of an ethically acceptable, or perhaps even laudable use of armed forces. And ask yourself what makes it so. If you can neither think of a single example in history, nor imagine any possible future instances of the justifiable use of arms, then you may be an absolute pacifist. If you cannot think of a single ethically condemnable act of warfare, and you "love the smell of napalm in the morning," then you may belong to the realpolitik camp. If you can think of some limited class of ethically condemnable instances or forms of warfare, and your head is swimming with great examples of ethically acceptable and even laudable warfare, then you may be a relatively hawkish just war theorist. If your head is swimming with historical examples of condemnable warfare, and you can think only of a relatively limited class of ethically acceptable instances, and few or no laudable ones, then you may be a relatively dovish just war theorist (like me). The theoretical task of the just war theorist is to figure out what sets the ethically acceptable and laudable examples apart from the rest."

I suspect we have one at least one of each of these (in relation to the above definitions) in our little Thursday morning study, which will no doubt lend to a lively discussion. My own personal leanings are proabably more towards the relatively dovish JWT. Blogger Ricky Carvel makes a statement about this film that coencides with Bruce's discussion last week on how different believers approach the bible,

"The most striking difference between the two sets of theologians was their point of reference. All the 'pacifist' theologians used Jesus as the basis of their position, all the 'just war' theologians used the Bible as their basis. This, once again, made me consider the way believers approach the bible - is the whole thing the equally valid Word of God, or is Jesus himself the Word of God and the bible merely the book that points to him?"

I feel that this subject is very important to understand in our current situation at home in America and in our exploits around the globe.
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April 10th Good Friday Service at Hope Lutheran

8:02 AM
The Bridger String Quartet will be playing at Hope Lutheran for Good Friday. We will be playing the Gabriel Faure Requiem op. 48. We will also play 3 movements from quartets by Mozart, Dvorak, and Haydn.
Admission is free and the performance begins at 7:00pm.
2152 West Graf • Bozeman, Montana 59718 (south on 19th, take a right at the blinking yellow light)

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Happy St. Patty's Day!

12:01 PM

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guinness, Statistics & Christianity: A St. Patrick's Day Meditation

By Richard Beck.

As a research psychologist I spend a great deal of my life teaching undergraduate and graduate statistics courses. Which I love. I rarely discuss statistics on this blog but there is so much I'd love to share with you about factor analysis, multiple regression, and One-Way Analysis of Variance.

But since it is Saint Patrick's Day I thought I'd share a story about statistics and Guinness beer and how my telling this story in class one day revealed an intriguing link between Guinness and Christianity.

If you don't know anything about Guinness beer know this: A lot of it is being consumed today. Guinness is, perhaps, the most recognizable beer in the world. And as the quintessentially Irish beer it is the drink of choice on St. Patrick's Day.

The connection between Guinness and statistics is this. In 1899 Young Lord Guinness wanted to bring scientific principles into the brewing business. Toward that end he hired a recent Oxford graduate, William Gosset. Gosset had a degree in chemistry and mathematics.

Now you might think that a mathematics degree would be wasted working at a brewery. But while working at Guinness Gosset developed one of the most frequently used statistical tools in use today: The t-test. I use t-tests all the time. My thesis students this year are using t-tests. It's a wonderful statistical tool.

The problem the t-test solved was this. To make beer you need yeast. Yeast, as a living and growing thing, was stored in jars in the Guinness brewery. Given that yeast is dynamically growing one never new how much yeast was in a given jar. Thus, the brewmasters would have to take a sample of yeast from a given jar and examine it under the microscope. Based upon this sample the brewmaster would try to estimate how much yeast was in the full jar. The problem Gosset solved was this: Just how accurate were the samples in estimating the contents of the jar? The t-test is the tool he developed that can help answer that question.

(The application in the social sciences is fairly straightforward. We want to study "the jar", otherwise known as the human species. But we only ever get to study a small sample of the human species, the people who visit our laboratories. Thus, once we study the behavior of this sample of people we are faced with Gosset's Guinness problem: How well does this sample estimate what is going on in the larger population/jar?)

Whenever I get to t-tests in a semester I tell Gosset's story. It helps break up the monotony of a statistics lecture. Well, one day I was telling this story in a class out on Dyess Airforce Base here in Abilene, TX. (I used to teach night classes out there.) After I told the Gosset story one of the airmen who had spent time in England and Ireland told the class this story:

Arthur Guinness was a Christian. And he was appalled and saddened about the toll Irish whiskey was having upon his countrymen. Thus, Mr. Guinness set about making a drink that was so heavy and filling (Guinness is a thick, stout beer) that his countrymen would drink less and more slowly and, thus, reduce drunkenness, intoxication and addiction.

I have no idea if this story is true (it is true that Guinness was a Christian). But I like it.

Guinness beer: One of the lesser known spiritual formation efforts Christianity has offered the world.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.
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Downtown Explosion

5:42 PM
Can anyone tell me how this morning we all missed hearing the firetrucks and other emergency vehicles that must have driven by Wild Joe's? I guess we were really into our discussion!

From what I've heard throughout the day and this evening, there are (thank God) no confirmed injuries, although one person is unaccounted for. And it looks like that part of downtown will be off limits for several days.

The story was on the homepage of the CNN site earlier today.
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The resurrection of the dead

5:29 AM
The resurrection of the dead

I have a few preterist friends who take the resurrection as a “spiritual” resurrection and that it already has taken place. They take this view in part by viewing that Jesus already returned “spiritually” in 70ad. I do consider myself as a partial preterist though I do not suppose that I fully understand the view so in part will not address the full preterist view directly. In the discussion though I want to look at what the Bible states specifically about the “bodily” resurrection as well as look at the early church fathers view on the topic.

I start my view in Genesis.

2:15 The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it. 2:16 Then the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, 2:17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.”


Now as the story continues we find that Eve is deceived and both Adam and Eve eat of the fruit and their eyes are opened and they begin to know both good and evil. At this point in Chapter 3 they are cast out of Eden before they can eat of the Tree of Life and become immortal. If they had eaten of the Tree of Life, then they could not have been redeemed.

3:22 And the Lord God said, “Now64 that the man has become like one of us,65 knowing66 good and evil, he must not be allowed67 to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

So man who could have eaten of the fruit of the Tree of Life and live forever, now will die. Most biblical scholars will point out that though man did not die physically, there was a spiritual death and separation from the Presence of God and the relationship that once was at that point now was severed. My understanding of the Preterist view is that they point out that Adam was not the first to “die” physically and that Able was the first to die physically. This is true yet what is overlooked is that Able was made in the “image” of Adam. The mortality that was now impressed on Adam was passed on to his son Able.

4:1 Now1 the man had marital relations with2 his wife Eve, and she became pregnant3 and gave birth to Cain. Then she said, “I have created4 a man just as the Lord did!”5

So instead of the dependence of the fact that Adam needed to die first man, does die as God states. Death does reign from Adam though he is not the first to die, death does take a human life and that being Able first born son of Adam.

Death begins its reign at Adam and Able is the first victim of death taking the mortal life of a human. To say that Adam needed to die first, misses that Death began in Adam and was passed on to Able. This does not mean that because Able died first, God was wrong in that the mortal body of man died the very day Adam ate of the fruit of good and evil.

Now as we press on, we see that in the Jewish view there is no doubt they believed in a physical resurrection of the dead. In fact it is considered one of the 13 principles of the Jewish faith.

Click here to read the rest of the post.
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What is Satan? Who is our advesary?

10:41 AM
Somehow the search term "Clay pigeon blazer" generates this post alot of hits.
Are you looking for some clay pigeons? Here is are my favorites...Clay Pigeon

We will study the myths and biblical interpretations about Satan. Christianity has no one concrete answer, but we will do our best to uncover more knowledge of our main adversary.
On Thursday Feb 26th, 7:00am we will meet at Wild Joe's coffee and search Scripture to uncover truths.


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THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL SUBJECT IN CHRISTIANITY

4:52 PM
Recorded June 27th at Trinity Parish Episcopal Church in Seattle, The Reverend Doctor Stephen Sizer, from England, spoke to a small group consisting mostly of area clergy. His remarks related to his latest book, published by InterVarsity Press, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armegeddon?


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Rob Bell Likes His Art Chocolate and Ryan Likes His Thorny Bushes

10:17 AM
Rob Bell is a pretty cool dude. I loved reading his comments in this interview.

In relating Rob's thoughts on creation and art to my own personal interests, I found myself retorting a hearty "AMEN BROTHA!" while reading this interview. I have always been a sort of creative person and I love art. I also have seriously studied our natural world from the perspective of a Rangeland Management Specialist. I have spent a lifetime marveling the natural beauty of our setting in the mountains of Montana; I've spent weeks and months out in the prairies and hills of the Western US doing meticulous rangeland surveys for management purposes, monitoring, and Ecological Site Descriptions, or ESDs. The more time I spend studying the creative nature of our Creator, the more I realize the "beautiful poetry about a God who gets off on things just cause they are and that to me is central to any sort of living, breathing spirituality is going to be plenty of room for things that don’t have any purpose other than their own beauty, design and order." As Rob mentions the passage in Job where God is like, "HAVE YOU CONSIDERED THE STORK?," my education and experience points me to the question, "have you considered the graceful bluebunch wheatgrass? how about the lowly slender phlox? What purpose does the indian paintbrush flower serve other than looking pretty? How beautiful is the wood's rose?

If you all are not familiar with wood's rose, most Young Earth Creationists will scowl when they observe this plant. This plant is a self-serving contradiction to their philosophy of the fall of man. The low to mid-sized bush has beautiful red flowers that produce a fleshy, red, globose to ellipsoid fruit called rose "hips". The real kicker to this plant is that it has those "cursed" thorns! Ha! Sometimes the imagination of a YEC perplexes me... Last year at a Creation Science Conference held here in Bozeman by our local Grace Bible Church, a very educated looking man tried explaining to me the proof that he had that these thorns magicly appeared on these once beautiful flowers after Adam decided to piss God off. He pulled a very professional looking book off his table and illustrated the "hyper-evolution" of thorns that took place once the entire Creation was deemed "cursed." It was at this same conference that I sat through a lecture that described that our beautiful Montana hilly landscape is a result of "water gaps" that formed as the world wide flood waters of judgement subsided. With this narrow and twisted perspective that many Christians have about our natural world today, the intrinsic beauty around them is lost as they fit their worldview into a simple mis-interpretation of scriptures. That is pretty sad.

It was at this same conference at GBC that I tried passing out some free copies of "Beyond Creation Science." Of course, the people in charge of the book table did not want me and my censored books anywhere near their stash of doctrinally homogeneous material causing controversy. Nevertheless, I succeeded in placing about a half-dozen copies in the hands of respective truth-seekers.

Rob Bell says at the end of the interview, "I think you have to cry out to God and and asked to be delivered from a system. American culture in the year 2008 is an oppressive system. It tells you to just buy, to follow the rules and be happy. I think you have to ask whether or not you want to be delivered from the system because that’s what it is... People have to ask themselves questions about what they even want or desire. Because it all begins with a deep dissatisfaction of how things are. And we do not change without pain. So a person would have to be in enough pain and despair to say “I do not want to be a part of this anymore. God, please show me another way of understanding things.”

Just as Rob Bell's "My Sweet Lord" chocolate sculpture serves as a commentary on the church in America and as a brilliant and provocative piece of art, the unmistakable beauty and creativity found in a little thorny bush out in my Montana backyard can be just as provocative.
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How do you know what you know?

1:12 PM

Proverbs 18:13 "If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame."


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Bodily Resurrection: Wright, Alcorn, and more

12:52 PM
The current issue of Newsweek includes a commentary by Lisa Miller entitled "God's Miraculous Makeover." The piece discusses a renewed Christian interest in bodily resurrection, and is a worthwhile read.
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Bruce's Latest Christian/American History Chroncile Piece

6:04 PM
Requested by Ryan, here is the text of my latest letter to the editor in the Bozeman Chronicle.

=============================

Blake Dunlop (Jan. 17) argues that America “was substantively a Christian society” in the 1770s, and that colonial theocracies did not exist.

Let’s examine these claims.

In 1740, H.F. Uhden published “New England Theocracy,” one of many volumes documenting colonial theocracies. He speaks of the “Expulsion of Roger Williams,” the Baptist who “first contested” the “established theocracy” (of Massachusetts Bay Colony). From Williams forward, Baptists who lived in theocratic colonies were beaten, whipped, jailed, exiled, and had their children and lands confiscated — all by order of the theocratic state for practicing their faith convictions. Some Quakers were executed for their faith. Only members of the established church had citizenship rights.

What of religion in the revolutionary era? Baptists were yet jailed and beaten in Virginia and Massachusetts. Approximately 15 percent of Americans attended church. And while most of the nation’s founding fathers had religious beliefs of some kind, most were deists. Only one, Samuel Adams, professed orthodox Christian beliefs.

In the colonial era a “Christian society” was one in which proper beliefs were enforced by edict. American politicians of the late-18th century refined this concept, rejecting theocracy yet speaking of a nation providentially blessed and mystically guided by a Creator or Supreme Being. Many years later, in the 1950s, specific references to God were added to the Pledge of Allegiance, currency, and oaths of office recited by federal justices and judges.

In short, the evidence is indisputable that theocracies existed in the colonial era. But the question of a Christian society is more complicated. In terms of church attendance and public God language, today’s America is much more “Christian” than that of the 1770s and 1780s. And in regard to human rights, American society today is much more Christian than during the slavery and Jim Crow eras.

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Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

11:06 AM


We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
No, no!

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

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The End of Myth

9:59 AM
By Jonathan Brink:

I’d like to propose a question. What if the real provocative element of the emerging church is that it is the outcome of the end of myth? And with the end of myth comes the loss of traditional powers and the freedom and responsibility to become what Jesus invited us to be.

Tony Jones recently posted the provocative question, “Who Decides Orthodoxy?” At its heart is the question of authority, power, and even control. He proposes the following statement:

The Magisterium were those responsible for the traditions of the church, or essentially deciding orthodoxy. Wikipedia describes it this way:

    Magisterium is a “teaching authority, of the Roman Catholic Church”.

    The word is derived from Latin magisterium, which originally meant the office of a president, chief, director, superintendent, etc. (in particular, though rarely, the office of tutor or instructor of youth, tutorship, guardianship) or teaching, instruction, advice.

    “The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.”

In many ways, the Magisterium enjoyed tremendous power. They were the holders of orthodoxy or truth, which is a rather profound responsibility. They were THE authority of the church for the people. The historical reasoning for the Magisterium was the necessity of protecting church doctrine in response to gnosticism. Someone has to hold the discernment of truth.

But with that role came the adulterated power of myth. The adage, “absolute power corrupts absolutely” became true. Truth is fueled by information, and the Magisterium controlled the information. And if an idea can control people, why not use it. (And I am in no way suggesting that every Pope or bishop abused the power given. But history clearly reveals some did. Pope Leo X’s indulgences, their response to Galileo’s discoveries, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and even our century’s priestly molestations. Sadly, the bad Popes happened.)

The power of myth is essentially this: If I control truth, and you want to know truth, you need me. And if you need me, I can tell you what to think, how to act, and even where to give your money. I can even create visions of a hell that exists when you don’t follow me. I can in essence control you through fear. And when the cost is your soul, the weight gets increased exponentially. And worse, I don’t need to be right. I just need you to believe I’m right.

Over time, this truth that I have told you becomes established truth, meaning a large group of people buy into it. It becomes tradition and even myth. The stories becomes larger than their original ideas. And in an era that relies on tradition and even myth, stepping outside of it becomes a ticket to excommunication, torture, and even death.

(click here to read the entire article)

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"The Great Emergence"

9:03 PM


This book has had profound implications on my understanding of what we got ourselves involved in here at Trailblazer Ministries in Bozeman, Montana. I find myself in a great group composed of truth-seekers and mavericks that embrace a forward style of thinking coupled with a broader understanding of our past. This did not happen by accident. As I look back at my own personal journey to how I have arrived with such a group in a college town in Montana, I notice that my own story parallels what Phyllis Tickle says is happening all over the world. Without even knowing it, people everywhere have been exploring the same conclusions as I have. Tickle observes that movements like this occur in Christianity every 500 years or so, “a semi-millennial rummage sale,” and I feel honored to have been lucky enough to find myself in such a time of transformation.


The transformation she speaks of has not come about suddenly. She gives us a “Google Earth” view of history over the last couple centuries that primed us for what is happening today. By the way, my usage of Google Earth as an example of Tickle’s approach is indicative of the age of information that has brought us together in Bozeman. Just as we came together through networking and seeking answers using our computers, Tickle says this technology enables us and the priesthood of all believers in ways the Reformation could have never envisioned, “…To the extent that faith can be formed or dissuaded by the contents of the mind as well as those of the heart, then such license has huge implications for the Great Emergence and for what it will decide to do about factuality in a wiki world.” I start off by acknowledging this as one of Tickle’s points because if it were not for email and the internet, our group may have not found the means by which to form and the seeds of the Great Emergence may have been much slower to grow in our area. As with the rise of Protestantism and the influence of Gutenberg, “which would be impossible to overstate the importance of the printing press in 1440… that made Holy Writ more or less available to everyone, thereby enabling sola scriptura and the priesthood of all believers,” it is absolutely analogous to the central importance of the World Wide Web to the Great Emergence. In the post-Protestant era, Christians have slowly been gaining the tools by which to share ideas and communicate efficiently in this present age where the divisiveness of denominationalism has kept us separated since the printing press first placed the bible in the hands of believers.


In this book, she lays out the gradual steps that have brought us to this Great Emergence that we see happening today. From the Reformation five hundred years ago, she covers the history of events, conflicts, and teachers that have continued to withered away Luther’s principle of ‘sola scriptura, scriptura sola’ as “having been little more than the creation of a paper pope in place of a flesh and blood one.” These events always leave us with a common question, “Where now is the authority?” From the unlikely influences and effects of Copernicus, Darwin, Faraday, Freud, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Marx, to the advent of television, radio, and the automobile, the marginalization of grandma, the role of Rosie the Riveter, Alcoholics Anonymous and the Drug Age, one question always arose, “Was the Church capable of being wrong? Yes. It was that simple and that devastating.”


As the church enters another inevitable period of social/political/economic/intellectual/cultural shift, the overarching question of “Where now is our authority?” is the same now as in previous semi-millennial rummage sales of the Church. Tickle illustrates how four different categories of Christianity will be affected by this current time of upheaval (the Liturgicals, the Social Justice Christians, the Conservatives, and the Renewalists) and how the Emerging Church sprouts out from the middle of all these influences. “The whole progression from distinct corners to a gathering center was precisely and exactly what sociologists and observers of religion had predicted would happen. The fact that the emerging pattern was following a predictable trajectory did not at first seem to inform most established churches and their governing bodies, however. What they saw, by and large and only at first, was a generational issue: the young were leaving as the young always do, as the boomers had done and the Gen-Xers after them.” Tickle continues to say that this dramatic change from the inherited church is perceived as a threat to the status quo, primarily because it is, and the backlash to this movement will help to form the shape of the Emerging Church.


In answer then to the overarching question that is asked whenever the authority of the church is questioned, the emergent Christian will sometimes choose to say, “…either ‘in Scripture’ or ‘in the Community.’ More often though, he or she will run the two together and respond, ‘in Scripture and the Community.’” “…The end result of this understanding of dynamic structure is the realization that no one of the member parts or connecting networks has the whole or entire ‘truth’ of anything, either as such and/or when independent of the others. Each is only a single working piece of what is evolving and is sustainable so long as the interconnectivity of the whole remains intact.”


This is a beautiful illustration of what is to come from a more holistic Christianity. She concludes that Christianity will evolve into “something far more Jewish, more paradoxical, more narrative, and more mystical than anything the Church has had for the last seventeen or eighteen hundred years.” As for her saying that it will evolve into something more Jewish, I think she means coming into a clearer realization of the Judaism in which Jesus lived, focusing on the context of the narrative that we find in the New Testament. In a recent interview, Andrew Perriman draws this conclusion, “It seems to me that most of the change that we see taking place is driven not by theological reflection but by something much more instinctual, much more pragmatic, which then dresses itself in whatever theological categories are to hand.” Tickle’s focus with this book was pointing out the natural, instinctual, and pragmatic changes taking place but the changes through theological reflection that Perriman points out in his books are equally important, I feel. Personally, my first conflict with the inherited church came through reading about how preterism impacts the debate on Genesis and Revelation in Tim Martin (our neighbor and friend in Whitehall, MT) and Jeffrey Vaughn’s Beyond Creation Science. Various forms of preterism seem to be a common thread in the teachings of many of the leading teachers in the Great Emergence and I feel that preterism will be synonymous with this movement and this may have been something that Phyllis Tickle has overlooked in this book.


Tickle has done Christendom a great service with “The Great Emergence.” I like how she makes things make sense. I have agreed with some of the emerging Church’s critics in the past that it is like trying to nail jello to the wall in figuring out what emerging Christians actually believe. What we are left with from Tickle’s book is a complete awareness of the conversation, the wrestling, the journey, or the transformation that is taking place right before our eyes. What blows my mind is that I (or we) have found myself here in this conversation having no idea how I got here (a victim of circumstance perhaps), but Tickle shows exactly how this happened from her top-down perspective.


“The duty, the challenge, the joy and excitement of the Church and for the Christians who compose her, then, is in discovering what it means to believe that the kingdom of God is within one and in understanding that one is thereby a pulsating, vibrating bit in a much grander network. Neither established human authority nor scholarly or priestly discernment alone can lead, because, being human, both are trapped in space/time and thereby prevented from a perspective of total understanding. Rather, it is how the message runs back and forth, over and about, the hubs of the network that it is tried and amended and tempered into wisdom and right action for effecting the Father’s will.”


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