Friday, July 25, 2008


Proverbs 13:7

In a multitude of people is a king's honor,
But in the lack of people is the downfall of a prince.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Does the reputation of Christ suffer?

Does the reputation of Christ suffer when others see we aren't living a scriptural lifestyle?

“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

When we are scared or troubled by our inadequacies as Spirit-led Christians, maybe we need to hear the same message Paul said to Peter in Antioch here in Galatians 2:14:

“When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?’”

We cannot be in the business of using the law on anyone to arouse them in obeying God. We can rebuke that path to “forming obedience” as a subtle maker of slavery to sin because of fear and submission to a law out of a rejection (in part) of the sufficiency of the cross, that the devil has always used as a scheme to create frustrated believers.

Here's a mystery verse:

2 cor 13:8 "For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”

Because when we need grace we can still preach grace!

"Do we nullify, then, the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." rom 3:31


What is the vehicle by which we gain freedom from sin?

It’s faith, a faith that at no time includes a law except for the inner-man law of faith in Christ. We are set free to serve Christ when we are dead to all outer-man requirements. To review:

--By dying to sin, we are released from the law 7:6
--For apart from law, sin is dead 7:8
--Therefore do not let sin reign 6:12
--Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire 7:8
--For sin shall not be your master, for you are not under law, but under grace. 6:14

When we list the requirements for becoming like Christ, we make it harder for that believer to live in His miraculous power.

"You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen away from grace." gal 5:4

Looking forward to feedback!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What then is the purpose of the law?

Even to Christians, when they read the New Testament or the commandments of Jesus or the apostles, they think, "But, how? " "I'm not good enough," "I can't" "That's too hard," "I'll try," "I wish I could be like that" "I already do this I don't need to worry," "I won't." All of these are normal, but, sinful responses to the law. The law is designed to show us the need to abandon our efforts in a way that is trusting God to supply obedience, to supply righteousness.

What is the purpose of the law?

“The law was added so that the trespass might increase.” rom 5:20 This is contrary, then, to the goal of the Christian. Is it right to preach the law amongst Christians? I think so, but only if it does not but rarely leave out a concentrated explanation of what happened at the cross. It is advantageous for a Christian to be shown how to properly handle the word of God.

“But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 cor 3:14-17

Reading Moses (the Ten Commandments) without a Mediator increases confusion, increases the hardness of our hearts. But when we turn to the Spirit of God, we do not have that complication. That is why this covenant is better.

“We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, ...,--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God...” 1 tim 1:8-11 So the law is made for those who do not walk in fellowship with God.

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' "Do not steal,' 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." rom 13:8-10

"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." rom 8:2-4

The law was only a shadow, the inferior and now obsolete way of the reality and fullness which dwells in the person of Christ.

If I have to become something more in order to be seen as righteous in the eyes of God, that means that as a Spirit-led believer alone I am not good enough. The Mediator supplied through my faith isn’t sufficient. If there is a perceived insufficiency in faith in Christ to produce a Godly life, then there is a lack of trust for the work of the Holy Spirit.

Any list we might assert beyond “Christ crucified” for pursuing holiness, is a resurrection of the written code. The written code was nailed to the cross in Colossians 2:14 and declared what kills us spiritually in 2 Cor 3:6 and already fully met whether we understand it or not in Rom 8:4

We serve God in a completely new fashion. Before, the Jews tried to follow God’s will only by reading the commandments and then trying to obey them. But now, believers serve God’s will by reading the commandments and then knowing that they do not need to attempt to get out there and obey them (the law was our overseer to bring us to faith in Christ)--both because it is impossible for us to obey them, and because Christ already did, and He wants to credit His righteousness and His nature to us so that we don’t have to sweat it. So by faith we become obedient to the laws of God.

“So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” rom 7:4-6

When have you ever heard a Christian ask another Christian “So; tell me-- how has the law kept you from bearing fruit for God?” (The law in itself is not evil but rather good, but since sin dallies behind law we cannot use it.)

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” 1 cor 15:56

We do not move into victory so often because our eyes are upon the good standard, and therefore sin takes advantage of our desires. Our consciences are troubled! (“some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘you must... keep the law’” Acts 15:24) The law causes the focus to shift! From God, to ourselves! That’s sin evil accomplishment. And that is why His power is diminished and why our pride and lust increases. The way for them to put down sin is to recognize that Christ has made them obedient to the law by promise, by faith, and they need to claim that obedience in the Spirit.

Still with a desperate desire for input on this!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How do we walk in fellowship without law?

By faith! Faith is sufficient.

Can we have full fellowship with the Lord independent of any unobeyed command out of scripture?

Yes! Abraham was called righteous independent (and beforehand) of his obedience to (outer-man) circumcision, even though he was obedient in the flesh, later.

"Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!" rom 4:10

Here is a very important passage which describes how to consider righteousness in the eyes of God:

“Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.” rom 2:25-29

Verse 26 says that though a man is not obedient to any one law, because he has faith (i.e., he "keeps the law"), he is considered, he is seen through a lens as if he actually had been obedient to the law. How can this be so?

If we obey the greatest commandment, then there is nothing left in the law as undone. “...for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” rom 13:8 What is the greatest commandment? To love God in perfection and to love men in perfection. No man has loved God and men by this standard, except One man. Jesus obeyed the greatest commandment to perfection. When He did this He not only gained the credit for it for Himself but also credited us with that same accomplishment. So because of the transfer of credit at our salvation, we are seen unmovingly as obedient in perfection to every single commandment. We are also made over into that real-life image of perfection (works) because of salvation.

Not only does the greatest commandment illustrate that it was more than just the laws of sacrifice that were satisfied by Jesus, but also the fact that the ‘law of Moses’ which is a usual name for the old covenant, includes not just the sacrifical laws but also the ten commandments. Jesus fulfilled all obligation to satisfy all law.

"Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why 'it was credited to him as righteousness.' The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness..." rom 4:20-24

Abraham's faith enacted righteousness. Completion of obedience in the work later on was not part of the enactment. Now, James talks about "works-righteousness." He seems to say to many ears that "there is a justification that comes by works." But, I still don't think I buy this. I think that the same connectedness that made Abraham seen as obedient as if by law, but really only and just by faith, is just as connected thinking reversely: His faith is made complete in what he did.

"A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly...." rom 2:28-29

The outward only, means nothing. Abraham's example of obedience when he was said to be "making his faith complete," was not absent of faith. The faith was always present in the completion of the works of righteousness, in his obedience to God. So: if faith was there, and works were there, which one really brings justification? The faith brings the credit, in the work. The work itself does not, but, the faith is made full, complete, when it is built-up and taken outwardly through not only what is inward but into everything we do outwardly. Faith is qualitative, and quantitative. Faith is always the conduit of righteousness. Works, themselves, aren't adding anything toward being righteous... they aren't adding anything, but they represent the faith-righteousness that is beneath them.

Verse 25 sums up, in my thinking, the way to know if what I do means anything to God:

"For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. " rom 2:25

See how faith is indomitable, here, in determining standing before God? So, yes, a man is blameless before God when he has faith and yet is still giving the appearance, in the reality of any matter, as being a sinner. I love how clearly He portrays grace in Jesus Christ even in the OT:

“The poor will see and be glad--you who seek God, may your hearts live! The Lord hears the needy and does not despise His captive people.” ps 69:32-33

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; he hears their cries and saves them.” Ps 145:18-19

There is only one law which determines our sanctificational state of being in fellowship with God: the law of faith. The Law of Spirit and Life Rom 8:2. The Law of Christ gal 6:2. Prospering with Christ and His deposited Life, is measured by how much we receive as believable the truth of Christ crucified, for when we love we are in harmony with God and dispensing our responsiibility to make disciples of all men and also obeying the commands we carry consciousness of.

When He comes again we will not be judged another time for sins; no, we will be judged according to the depth of our faith (because God sees the true value of a work), not sins of the outer man (the ten commandments). john 16:8-9

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.” james 2:12

What does the law do for us?

Beginning with point #3 on my list found here:

3) In Galatians, Paul wrote to help those becoming deceived. They were deceived about sanctification, equally as they were about salvation.

You can see in the passage below, Paul explicitly lists both salvation ("the Spirit") and sanctification ("attaining your goal" and "miracles") as what they are deceived about:

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” gal 3:1-5

Reading Galatians convinces me that it is Paul's critical teaching that a Christian be told that they are not required or obligated, for obeying any of God’s laws (once a Christian). And my reasoning is because of the purpose of the law.

What does law do for us?

The law, any law, produces slavery in us to the sinful nature, as opposed to slavery to the Holy Spirit. Sin always takes advantage in us Christians when a commandment is present. “But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.” rom 7:8-10

When commandments are preached, bondage to sin develops:

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. ... As it is, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. ... So I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. ... So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” rom 7:14, 17-18, 21-23, 25

How in the world can a Christian obey the following command: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” rom 6:11-12 ....

...than by counting themselves dead to all law?

“For apart from law, sin is dead.” rom 7:8

“the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” rom 8:7

“for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account where there is no law.” rom 5:13

“And where there is no law there is no transgression.” rom 4:15

Here is Paul’s direct answer for how to be free from the slavery of sin:

“For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” rom 6:14

We find the power to act dead to sinful desires when we are released from the stewardship of a commandment.

Assess the logic for me, please, please?

A New Series: Law vs. Grace

I'm trying to think about why the people of free grace stand up for the gospel. Why must they defend the gospel of faith alone in Christ alone? At this point they know the alternative is a departure, so that is good. They have knowledge because they have arrived at the right answer.

In my case, I was told that I had to be baptized in water, in order to be saved. Faith + baptism = salvation. I studied baptism, first. I figured out that it wasn't needed. But the scriptures started stressing in my reading, the importance of being saved by a faith that is alone, not including works. That was even better than protecting my salvation from the claim that baptism was necessary -- it meant I could protect it from any claim that came in the form of a commandment.

Now, I haven't shared all of this, with anyone, before. At least, I have with two people, but neither of them understood or accepted it. Actually, I shared it a bit at, but everyone ignored me. Then I took a free grace class, and I heard that we believe in the same manner: faith + nothing = salvation. Now, it is my chance to receive input from those who might understand me, for the first time.

Keep in mind as you are reading that I described a "free grace" salvation and sanctification, happening in super-Calvinistic ways. Talk about a mess, eh?? I have spent these few months trying to detox in the descriptions, believing now in free will. If I don't completely arrive, please, help me.

I have been told, that it is difficult to understand me. You will notice that I am... probably... a hermeneutical mess, but, if you take them as they are, I hope you will easily see that I use these passages in ways firmly gripped in their biblical context.

I was not trained by the Christian culture, not by commentaries or schooling, so I say things differently, I've been told, than what is usual.

In conclusion, because it is difficult for me to be understood, I am going to go out of order. I'm going to give you the conclusions, first, so that you understand why I am quoting these passages and what I am getting out of them, the point that I have come away with that I hope anyone else might clearly see, too. So, please don't assume that I started with an opinion or agenda, first, and then read that opinion into scripture next, because even though that is the order in this email, that is not what I have done.

Some basic points that are the conclusion of reading upon the topic of law vs. grace:

1) In order to not sin we must be free from obligation to obey God.

2) Obligation produces a superficial obedience, which, when that obligation is removed, proves lawlessness.

3) In Galatians, Paul wrote to help those becoming deceived. They were deceived about sanctification, equally as they were about salvation.

4) The law in itself is not evil but rather good, but since sin dallies behind law we cannot use it.

These, I think, are pretty bold or uncommon conclusions. But I hope you will see as I have come to see, that they are the point of Paul's teachings on law and grace. I started studying this topic in 2002. In 2005, I wrote essentially what you are reading now and what is to come. I made a few adjustments in language for the sake of free will, but the boundaries for God's grace are the same in my mind now as they were back then.

Thanks for putting up with me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

An Anthem For Freedom

It is amazing to meet people who bear up under my mistakes, errors, and sins. Thank you, LORD, for these grace-filled lives!

Some people out there in the blogosphere think less of Free Grace Theology because they can see it when they make a wrong turn. I individually have made mistakes. What I am thankful for, is that it isn't the end of the story.

Here is an anthem for Free Grace. And everyone else from within or without that is also thankful for the amazing, restorative grace of God! The message of Christ crucified is revolutionary and indomitable!

(the lyrics on the scroll aren't quite right. You can view the correct lyrics, here) Enjoy!

Strong Personalities

A Quote:

"A strong personality needs stronger purification."

--Brian Kolodiejchuk, "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light"

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Culture of Religion: I Was Wrong

In the last post I was arrogant. I was a hypocrite too. I asked you to think about a new method but I asked it in a way that was not encouraging, patient, or most importantly, attempting to understand you at all.

It all went wrong when I assumed my beliefs were obviously correct. Honestly, I felt frustrated. I wondered, why would anyone not have thought of the things I have, or why would anyone do them differently?

That's really a good question to ask.

The story of Jimi and his evangelists in a small town in Utah show us that there is such a thing as religious culture. It is the normative way of thinking and dealing with religious issues. Every group has a different culture, or, ideological arrangement of dos and don'ts, and values and ethics, which they derive from scripture and lay upon scripture. The word of God is the inerrant truth. Most evangelicals believe this to be true. Next we could ask: What are our distinctives? Which scriptures do we put in which order of significance when it comes to social interaction?

Let's assume that instead of doing what I did, I took into consideration the culture of the groups I speak of. How would it have been different?

First of all, I never bothered to ask those for whom I wanted to share my idea, what their ideal is, and how they are trying to attain it by their choices.

Second, what passages are they looking at? Have they read the passages I am concentrating on?

Third, everyone including believers has a specific "pattern in human activity." Sometimes I want to think "how can it be true that Christians can do or think anything differently? We all adhere to the authority of scripture. Therefore there is no such thing as different, only right and wrong."

That is true, though I need to remember not everybody has heard all the scriptures of some matter, before. Sometimes they hear one principle, and apply it, before another. One man's order might be different than mine.

Forth, people hear things in different ways. In the last post the townspeople understood service before testimony, and testimony before scripture. There are taboos--things you should avoid--for every group.

I wonder what the culture is for the people of Free Grace?

One thing I've noticed is that many teachers of Free Grace concepts have emphasized the importance of never assuming to know another man's thoughts. This comes from a historical appreciation of how some theologians after Calvin have expanded the teaching, claiming they knew his mind in a matter where he actually had not spoken. Whether or not this is an accurate portrayl of historical Calvinism, it remains pertinent as a rule of conduct for the group. One can get farther if they refrain from speaking on the behalf of another.

I don't know all the in's and out's yet. But it's my job to find them out, and then change my way of doing things.

I desperately want to be better than I have been in the past. When I notice myself shaking my head in disbelief at the other guy's way of thinking and acting, it is an alarm to me that there is a gap in culture which needs my primary attention. I asked my husband to help point out why I had that nagging, guilty feeling.

I personally need to work on trying to remember that Calvinists are doing the best they can to obey the scriptures as they are convicted by them. I apologize for pretending like this is obvious, because it isn't. I will try to bridge the space between us, and then maybe I might be able to show them what I believe. Who knows? They might have a little something to teach me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Way: Respect

Here is a good definition of relational evangelism.

Here is a great article on maintaining the message of salvation in Christ while reaching and changing the minds of others.

Wouldn't it be great if everybody just listened to what we have to say? If you're one of those bible teachers who people just listen to everywhere he goes, that's something pretty neat. For the rest of us, reaching the point where a message can be carefully considered by its audience, requires that familiarity be established.

Maybe you once held the captive audience of others and have lost it. Maybe the reason why it was lost was your fault, or maybe it was a misunderstanding, or maybe it was their fault. Regardless, the trust can be, and must be, reestablished.

Jimi Pitts, a friend of mine who loves to present the gospel to Mormon people, has gone for several years to a big, famous annual pageant presented by the LDS church in the small Utah town of Manti. They would traditionally hand out tracts and talk to people gathered in the town for the event. The townsfolk did not take kindly to their presence, and one year they were not only harrassed and persecuted (as they'd been for several years running), but the police even handcuffed and arrested Jimi. It was plain the community felt threatened and outraged as these traditional Christians stuck to their practices and kept handing out the tracts--quite admirably, I must say. Of course, very few gave them a serious hearing.

The next year after these incidents, they tried something very different. The group was made aware of a poor single mother living in town, a Mormon lady with five children, who needed her house painted. In the group came with their brushes, rollers, tarps and paint that she got to pick out herself but the group paid for, as well as lots of hands and feet to do the job for her as a simple gift of love. Soon the word got out across the small Mormon community about what they'd done, and suddenly they were practically hailed as people who walked on water! Now it was as if they could do no wrong! Even though they continued to hand out tracts and talk to LDS passersby, they were now not only tolerated but in some cases even admired.

In the years to follow... the single mother became their friend, began to trust her kids to them for tending, and one of her daughters even, as Jimi reported, "got saved!" More than one county law enforcement officer later told Jimi with heartfelt apology, "We were wrong to do what we did to your group," and a good, open friendship has been formed with one of those officials in particular who is now open to their message.

This is an amazing example. This group has earned the right to carry around a persecution complex, because they truly were being treated unjustly by sharing their beliefs.... But they didn't do that. Instead, they were amazingly lowly and humble. They listened and obeyed the obvious requests by the town to stop offending them by that method.

So long as the town was being offended, nobody in it was listening to the message.

When the group changed their method, and respect and care was indeed received by the town, then various townspeople felt the freedom to be honest. Honest with the Word of God. Honest to confess their sins against, or in the presence of, the evangelists.

Which brings up another topic, on the sins belonging to those with whom we are sharing the message.

Is it a big deal when those whom we are sharing with, act poorly?

It shouldn't be, at least in my thinking.

First of all, which way is this ministry going, anyway?? -- Do I really believe they are ministering to me? Do I really believe in their message as true and something for me to receive? If so, then I should definitely care about the way in which they live their life as they hold their beliefs. But, I am afraid that this is merely my own excellent standard, my own conscious devotion to not hinder my message, that I innocently assign to them.

Second, should we be surprised that the deceived or the lost are having trouble treating us kindly? I mean, it would be nice, but....

If I am the one with the true message, then the ministry is from me to them, and, their poor example in my presence... is irrelevant.

Once again, the old Calvinist fruit-introspective tradition, lingers on. I want to nip that thing in the bud. It's like we're trying to prove to others they can't possibly be seen as righteous in Christ by faith, unless they are dragged through an endless assortment of any of 613 commandments.

In conclusion, unless you remain unconvinced that your ministry is true, I don't want to hear anything more about what the other guys are acting like. This is your ministry, not theirs.

I understand that it is truly unpleasant. And unfair. And a bad indication. And gross because at this point you and I are emotionally involved. I too went through a phase where I tried to get the other guy to clean up his act. I'll tell you: Perhaps I could get a man to clean up his act, but I might lose his soul. Which is more important? That he stop sinning, or that he believe the message? What will come out of my mouth?

With time I learned to pick up that cross, and bear it with the joy set before me in trusting God that He will help them to see. There is no freedom for them to confess and reconcile, if there is no grace being extended by me. In the relationship with our Heavenly Father, we can come boldly into the throneroom and stand and confess before the King. By that same Means we can do this with each other, too.

Sorry for the blatant condescending attitude on my part, above... That's not Christ-like of me. I feel like a mom who has been trying to keep her two kids from fighting over nonsense all day long... oh wait, I am and I did.... :)

These "sins" of the others oftentimes have a lot more to do with the culture of religion, which will be the next topic.

[1] I Love Mormons, by David L. Rowe, pp. 156-157. 2005, Baker Books.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Traditional Method

I don't want to speak poorly of the traditional method of evangelism. I do think it is profitable. I think some of us are fortunate to have it work. When it works, those who listen to us submit to the teachings we share.

However there is, in my opinion, a growing need for evangelicals to utilize a new method (I will post on next) of evangelism, especially in a scripture-soaked society as America is.

I apologize, many of my sources and ideas are borrowed from LDS-specific issues; that's simply a reflection of where I have put in more effort to revolutionize the method. I think the ideas below are fully applicable as principles for all kinds of evangelism, though. It shouldn't be too difficult to draw them out as you read, I think.

I hope you notice, as you read below, that the author utilizes a less common methodology in how he is about to introduce a new perspective to you, as he shares the content of that message:

A Traditional Way: The Doctrinal "Warrior Saint"

By now I was getting familiar with this pattern of contact, "discussion," recoil, and shutdown, having been at it for about three years. And by this point, that stabbing feeling I got, joined like a Siamese twin to a feeling of despair, had started to intensify beyond what I considered tolerable. Frankly, though, I just did not know what else to do but shake it off, suit up with my spiritual armor, and ready myself for yet another spin at the same jousting game.

So, like most other Utah ministers with whom I compared notes, I took some refuge in putting the best face on it while proceeding full steam ahead, staying the course, making another charge. The best face we put on turned out to be some form of makeover that left us traditional Christian "warrior saints" loking pretty noble at the end of the day. After all, we were just faithfully and honestly "preaching the truth," right? We were simply called to proclaim the gospel and leave the results to God, amen? We were powerless to keep our Mormon friends from thinking we were somehow attacking them instead of their doctrine, weren't we? (Uh, by the way, we were their friends, right?) We couldn't help it if "the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers" (2 Cor 4:4), could we? Ours was not to reason why but simply to keep on keeping on and suffering those battle wounds for the Lord. Wasn't all this the plain and simple truth of the matter?

Well, a lot was plain and simple back then, but not much of it was truthful. That one could enjoy friendship with Mormons and enjoy the title "Mormon Slayer" at the same time was patently disingenuous. Proceeding as if one could "bible bash" without raising defenses and coming across as attacking amounted to gross silliness as well as flat-out cluelessness about human communication. Acting like we who evangelized by trafficking in "what's wrong with Mormonism" and "evidence against Mormonism" were really "just preaching the truth" or "simply proclaiming the gospel" bordered on self-congratulatory delusionalism. To believe our proclamation style truly created no offense but "the offense of the cross" was an offense to the truth! Even if many we met were "blinded" by "the god of this world," it now seems to me that in order to help them we had to deal with a blindness of our own, a peculiar blindness to the sinewy, pulsating, dust-and-dreams, soulful reality of the Mormon people as first and most of all, people.

In those days I was just not ready to recognize, let alone deal with, the blindness in my home court--what Jesus would call "the beam" in my own eye, which was steadily growing from telephone pole to sequoia proportions. I was not ready to face its implications. Why did I do this confrontational, warrior-mode evangelism with LDS people? Yes, for one thing it was all I knew, all I'd seen by way of modeling, and the way I'd been trained by both formal and informal mentors. But it seems to me there was something else lurking in the depths and driving this approach, something we traditional Christians didn't like to think about, something called fear. Mormons and other religious groups threaten us, in part simply because they are "other" and perhaps odd--"not us." I'm not sure why this should scare us, but sometimes it does. We revert to fight-or-flight reflexes, quite unlike Jesus, who was secure in the love of the Father for all people so that he was able to embrace with uncanny comfort the whole range of humanity, including Romans, Samaritans, Pharisees, prostitutes, and lepers. We would do well to cultivate that kind of security in the love of God for all people.

Oh, I could tell stories of the sad things I have done with the Word of God to the LDS. The people at the forum I hang out at, could tell them to you for me. I was all about apologetics and I just assumed that if I had enough scripture and research, the results would come about. I was disappointed. It took more than just the written answers, to achieve change. I, like the author of this book, started to sense the need for something more. I remember standing there in the bookstore, the dilemma over method happening right as I looked over which book about the LDS I would purchase next. I wrote about this crisis of methodology here. Somewhere at the LDS forum I confessed to them "this tender new perspective" was taking root in me and I devoted myself to nurturing it, shutting out voices from the "traditional method" camp, for a time in my life.

Here is an example of the "traditional method" I too started out with. In this specific case I published this blog entry out of frustration because our discussion in a thread was getting overheated, and I pushed them beyond their limit. The moderator broke in and deleted my post from the discussion. It was gone! I was angry about it (though I did feel guilty), so I "published" it elsewhere out of defiance. My pride got in the way. But they worked with me to work the issue out.

The next post will be Rowe's explanation of a new method.

[1] I Love Mormons, by David L. Rowe, pp. 17-18. 2005, Baker Books.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Persecution Complex

Ongoing, unresolved strife between two groups can develop a persecution complex.

The most extreme version of the phenomena goes a little like this, in my observation: It is thought of as validation of your mission (persecution for the sake of truth/Jesus Christ) when anything is done or said at any time to be critical or to slow the achievement of that mission... no matter how appropriate those goals may or may not truly be.

The problem with an explanation of "persecution" when strife occurs, is that it does not make good provision for reason. Perspectives by those outside the group is outlawed; only insiders are privileged to have their reasonings received by its members for general contemplation.

The theological discourse of Christian persecution has a long and paradoxical legacy: indeed, Christianity itself is founded upon an archetype of religio-political persecution, the execution of Jesus by the Romans. Certainly, the earliest Christians routinely equated Christian identity with suffering persecution, as the gospels and letters in the New Testament amply attest: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake," Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account" (Matthew 5.10-11). Meanwhile, in the Gospel of John, Jesus warns his students with these words: "Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you" (John 15.20). Decades before these gospels were written, the itinerant preacher and missionary Paul wrote to the fledgling Christian community in Corinth: "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12.10).

By the end of the second century, the north African church father Tertullian would link the Christian experience of persecution to the expansion of the church in what has over the centuries become a near-slogan of the Christian movement: "The blood of Christians is the seed [of the church]" (semen est sanguis Christianorum) (226-27). By the early fourth century, the tables had turned, and a writer like Lactantius could create a work like his On the Deaths of the Persecutors, in which he offers an almost gleeful portrait of the grotesque fates to which the persecutors had eventually succumbed. And by the post-Constantinian era of the fourth and fifth centuries, after Christianity had mastered the language of empire (Cameron), Christian imperial legislation effectively deployed the familiar image of formerly dominant pagans as the persecutors of Christians as a rationale for outlawing their religious practices (see Codex Theodosianus 16.10 [Pharr trans. 472-76]) while exuberant Christian monks justified anti-pagan acts of violence, such as breaking into the homes of prominent pagans and destroying the religious objects found therein, by recourse to the claim that they (the monks) were by definition without guilt since they acted as martyrs (witnesses) for Christ (Shenoute of Atripe; Gaddis).

What happens if the only ones allowed to reason over the propriety of a mission are the ones within the group? Any group has a customary pattern of thought, by definition. Therefore, it is blind to its own prejudices. That is why a group needs someone from the outside, someone who opposes them, to show them those prejudices (whatever those might be). In the case of an extreme persecution complex, that opportunity is never granted, and the group keeps making the same error after error until the damage done becomes so obvious that there is revolution from within the group itself. Or, the mission is abandoned out of disillusion and frustration from an apparent lack of progress.

And of course, the rift between the two groups grows larger.

Early on in the forming of new factions, it is important to deal swiftly to resolve bad emotions and language from the two sides.

For the sake of seeing the universal nature of the complex, here is a description of another group's pesecution complex... the LDS's:

As noted, the Mormons' identity as a "persecuted people" from early on in their history is very deeply felt. Its imprint leaves Mormons today thin-skinned, hypersensitive, and virtually expecting to be attacked. And let's be plain: the major body of attackers then and now has been perceived as Protestant Americans. So as we saw, we may typically expect a defensiveness that quickly throws walls up at even the slightest critical questioning of any aspect of their religion and culture. One classic manifestation of this complex is the insulated, fixed Mormon aversion to any form of what gets labeled "anti-Mormon literature"--books and pamphlets critical of their history or teachings or personal-journey stories of people who leave the LDS Church. Do any of this, or any joking or ridiculing, as you relate to a believing Mormon, and you can plan to lose an audience for the gospel right then and there. It will be seen as "one more attack."

They weren't the only ones, I had it too. I can testify of how blind I was to my errors, through believing I was suffering persecution. I still haven't delivered my mind from automatically assuming that every bad experience I have, means I am being persecuted for the sake of the truth. But you should have seen me when I first started hanging out with the LDS. As the extreme descriptions above illuminate, it was impossible for me to let the LDS who I was evangelizing, tell me how I was doing in evangelizing them. How I came across. How I was treating them. I feared the thought of listening and considering their reaction to the way I shared my message. I still don't understand what that fear was all about. But I'm glad I gave it up after a year or two... and I am even more glad that they gave me enough grace to stay long enough to have all those second chances. I eventually came around. Their goodness to me helped me wake from the trance of the persecution complex.

[1] Persecution Complexes, by Elizabeth A. Castelli, April 2008.

[2] I Love Mormons, by David L. Rowe, pg. 49. 2005, Baker Books.

Character Assassination

Do we like it when atheists tell us that they can't believe in Christ because the crusades killed a lot of people in His name?

Isn't it unpleasant when JWs and LDS tell us that the doctrine of the Trinity was decided as orthodoxy by majority opinion in a vote, instead of "the truth"?

We sin sometimes as Christians and we politely ask the watching world not to expect us to be perfect. We're still going to sin but righteousness comes by faith, anyway, not by what we do, which is quite reassuring and the strength of our very message!

Free grace just barely escaped from the clutches of error in evangelical Christianity. They take things too far to grant acceptance by actions instead of faith. They act as if there is no place for grace.

Do we need to be reminded of the mess made by Calvinism's license in character assassination?

This is a kind of trouble that we would be well without.

If free grace wants to lead the way in teaching others that we are made righteous by faith and that we have grace for when we make mistakes, then we will need to model it in the way we treat each other, first and foremost.

To say that we can judge a position as false by means of knowing of a few, specific sins of some of its members, is unfair and untrue. Outward behavior is not necessarily a reflection of an inward reality.

Let's concentrate: what is it that we are truly judged by? Disobedience to the law, or, not trusting in Jesus?

I believe focusing on the answer to this question will help us show our brothers how to find a clear conscience in this community.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Never the same again

She was farther than she had planned to go, and, as she approached a canyon, she was thinking she ought to turn back. Then, she heard something that chilled her blood and set her heart racing: the thundering roar of a cave lion--and a human scream. Ayla stopped, hearing her blood pounding in her ears. It had been so long since she had heard a human sound, yet she knew it was a human, and something else. She knew it was her kind of human.


Why had she decided to ride west that day? Why should she have been right there just when he screamed? She wasn't sure what significance he would have in her life, but she knew it would never be the same. She had seen the face of the Others.

--"The Valley of Horses," by Jean M. Auel

Mission Statement

One of my best friends Julie is going through an amazingly rich time of self-investment. In a class for believers, she has been asked to think upon her life history and the themes threading through it. What a fascinating little project! It got me to thinking of the major themes of my life. I have a "life-verse;" it is above as the banner across this blog site.

Below is a rough draft. I remember writing about the symbolism of the "fence" back in 2005 somewhere in a blog post... I'll have to look around for it later when I have more time.

I was a nobody, when Christ saved me. I had nothing going for me that was noteworthy. But Christ gave me hope, and gave me a rich inheritance. Now, I live in a home literally behind a white picket fence. I could prop my feet up. But I cannot forget where I came from. Not everybody lives behind a white picket fence like me. So I do what I can to stand alongside the unlovlies, the unlikelies, the down and out, and when I do I see that both I and them are magnifying our hope in the grace of God. I spend my inheritance in Christ, my reputation, my voice, my money, my time, to lift up the ones that have been left behind in the dust. I'm not afraid of the loss, because I see who I once was and who they once will be because of Jesus Christ, just like I am now. I am attracted to them, and to the surprise of some I can see how God is blessing them. And they also bless me! I love the scriptures, I believe in them and they burn like a fire deep within me, because they are our only source of righteousness: His grace. The more heavily grace becomes the only thing to hope in, the greater the glory He receives. I love to be in that place. Jesus Christ came to dwell in comfort with those who didn't deserve to be dwelled alongside in comfort. He calls us to be like Him, a living theophany of the invisible, immortal, all wise and HOLY God.

I encourage others to try this out too!

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Spiritual Pornography"

I'm trying to remember where it was along the way that I learned this term.... Was it the JWs? The LDS? Ahh yes, it was the International Church of Christ. This denomination was the reason why I started learning the scriptures. Somewhere on my way out of this system, I learned the phrase, "spiritual pornography." It is the idea that any critical teachings from those outside the group, are to be avoided in every way. They should not even attempt to be understood. Just throw it in the trash, literally, and don't even give a chance to what the other side is saying.

I think this serves as a powerful lesson even though the ICOC example is of course, extreme. I don't think it's a stretch to pull some principles from this phenomena, of marking and labeling outsiders. What are the people inside the group being told about those outside the group? That they don't communicate anything worthwhile? That what they point out is unthinkable? Are they being told that those on the outside are liars, unreliable, shape-shifters, biased, and bent on pillage and destruction?

I always thought that if I truly had the truth, then I am confident and free to review the opinions of anyone's critical suggestions. After all, if I am right, then no matter what I read, my beliefs will always shine bright in their presence. So what is there to fear? There is nothing the other side can really do to harm my message. Now if I was unsure that I had the truth, then I would indeed worry about the damage those on the outside could do to stop my message. It becomes clear how a man truly thinks about his religion when you observe the way in which he shares it.

contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.
philippians 1:27-28

Indeed, for me as I became more and more confident that I was "right," communication with those on the outside became more and more important to me. God was showing me that I was in a position to minister. Who else can help those on the outside to deal with my message, more than I? As I have said in times passed, I am an absolutist who behaves like a relativist. More or less, you get the point. I want utilize respect and listening skills so that there is real communication and compassion to help the outsider to feel free to become an insider.

The more negative labeling I do of the other side, warranted or not, the more obstacle I build from letting them become more like me.

In conclusion, there is double the reason to not speak poorly of the outsiders, those who oppose your message. One, because it creates an obstacle in the ministry of recovering them to orthodoxy, and two, it invalidates the unspoken testimony that you truly have figured out what is right.

And, of course, those labels usually are not warranted, once you get to know what they are really saying and what they are really thinking. That's just the way perceptions work.

Monday, July 07, 2008


It's always amazing to think how God can enable a housewife to share his love. There isn't a lot of wiggle-room. I'm a woman and I've got three young kids so the momentum to even get out of the house is rare... and still I pray for opportunities.

It's funny how you get going and forget about your prayers until you're in the midst of realizing them.

My daughter Liz had an appointment last Tuesday and as my children and I were doing a follow up drop-in for lab work an elderly man and his wife waited patiently for me so that they could get into their pickup. The man came by and smiled at the baby, and said while admiring his baby-feet "Aren't these little ones so amazing? It's a tragedy we live in an age where it's become so easy to get an abortion." I acknowledged his sentiments, and he said "It is apparent to me that the return of the LORD is very near. I think you know what I am talking about." He was wearing a baseball cap that said "Are you going to heaven?" with a fish and "Jesus" written in it. I told him how much I appreciated his discussion and especially his example of sharing the good news. I mentioned that I had nearly run out of tracts, and he said, "Here, you can have some of mine."

He opened up the driver side and in the pocket of the door was a whole variety of tracts he kept on hand. "Wow!" I said, "That's such a good idea. And I can see you've got tracts in your shirt pocket. I recently was told by a man at my church that to get serving God in sharing the gospel I needed to get a 'tract rack,' meaning a pocket-protector device for holding them in a shirt pocket. But since I don't wear those kinds of shirts, I don't have a spot for a 'tract rack.' That's such a great substitution!"

We parted ways and when I got home I Iooked through all the stuff he gave me. There was a decent tract that shared the gospel, a tract on warfare prayer, on lust, another something in Spanish and two others in Chinese, a gospel tract for satan worshipers, and most interestingly two tracts on the hidden alliance between newer versions of the bible and the New Age movement.

"New Age Bible Versions," by Gail Riplinger

According to these, only the King James Version has not been tainted by error. One tract was a verse-by-verse comparison of the King James to the New King James. I found that some of the quotes of the NKJV in the chart were not even accurately presented because they were cut short. All the rest were changes because those passages were quotes in parables and therefore the deity or holiness of God does not apply. I thought the NKJV came out on top, instead of falling short, as these tracts were claiming.

That's okay. I don't need to prove this man wrong or change his mind about anything. He gave me his card with his number and address and invited my husband and I to come to his house for dinner anytime. I would love, the LORD willing, to confirm his good faith toward me when he put his own opinions secondary to what is truly important.

On Friday that same child of mine turned out to have a UTI. It was a holiday as you know so our usual pharmacy was closed and I went to another. There was a young man who took about twenty minutes to do the data entry at the register. I noticed he wore a "CTR" ring, which stands for "Choose The Right." I don't know a whole lot about those who wear it but I knew he was LDS (Mormon) and guessed he probably recently went on a mission.

I asked, "Did you go on a mission?"
"Yeah," he was a bit surprised.
"Where did you go to?"
He smiled, and admitted, "Utah." I smiled too.

I ran out of things to say, and of course with my newly walking baby boy I had plenty of reasons for my thoughts to be elsewhere. I sat for awhile. I thought to myself how frustrated I was. Here I am, so interested in getting to know LDS and have a meaningful, productive encounter with them and now... I don't even know what to say to this person? Come on! I prayed for a minute.

He was nice and said, "Boy, that little guy just wants to get up and go." I said yeah. Sat for a couple more minutes and thought. I stood up again and said "You know some people are natural missionaries. They just have a gift. You seem like you're one of those kinds, I bet you gave as much into it as you got back out of it."

He didn't know what to say to that except to acknowledge it. He seemed a little confused but interested and started again asking, "So... where are you from, have you been to Utah?"

"I lived there," I answered, "I grew up there. My mom became LDS and then later on she became inactive." I didn't say anything for another minute or two, building my courage, and then said, "Actually, I'm evangelical, but, I don't want to scare you by mentioning it. I've learned the hard way how horrible it can be to 'bible bash.'"

"Ohh, yeah!" he said, "That just makes everything worse."

"I agree. I mean, people from my kind of church travel down to Utah to picket during Hinkley's funeral. There's a better way to express yourself than that. I regret that sort of stuff."

My order was done and I was almost afraid of looking at him again because I had taken him into this sticky conversation but I thought I'd try to catch an expression in the last moment before I left. He looked directly at me with appreciation, like he was touched. It would have been great if I could have left him a tract saying that it briefly explains what I believe, admitting to him that I am sure he has studied how salvation happens but he could review for himself what I believe and see if it is very different after all. Maybe leave a phone number on it for follow up. But, I didn't get that far.

I love meeting new people and seeing God at work. I just take awe in God that my life has gone forth in procession before, and met by my own personal passion of, what some call "the cults."

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Evangelism Success

The five day kids' club I hosted with the help of Child Evangelism Fellowship went great.
We had a total of 23 kids register in the five days, though there were some babies and teenagers who hung out here too. It was less than when I did it three summers ago, at that time a total of 34. But, this year there were three children who received Jesus Christ as their Savior!! Praise God!
I had talked with Pastor Greg about going on a mission trip to Rwanda and he disapproved the idea at that time, but my reaction was not dissuaded, because I knew God would have me go where He desired to use me. An hour later, Betty from CEF called saying "I had two homes back out of hosting at the last minute. Can you do it?"
I was tremendously blessed. I think we didn't get as many kids this year because I couldn't bait them with swimming time in a pool. But the kids pleaded with all sweetness for me to help them make a water slide off the playset. So I searched high and low through the garage and gave them my precious foam camping mattress. As I put it under the landing spot, I said "Well, you get it because I love you so much. But - who loves you more than I do??" They answered, and I said, "How do you know He loves you??"
Deena, a mother in the neighborhood, came and stayed with me in the house while they had their hour of gospel play. It was so neat to have her because I had many Spanish-speaking children here and when they scraped a knee she would comfort them in their language and send them on their way. I was awestruck. I need to learn this language!
Four or five years ago my husband and I made a deal with a developer so that they could build a house on the lot behind us. It was a deal I was not pleased with, but, I prayed about it asking God "let it be for your sake." God could not have answered it in a more numerous fashion. "Mom," "Dad," eight children, and three of those eight children having at least one child of their own, moved into that four-bedroom house. It is one of those traditional Mexican families. And all of the children under the age of twelve came to hear the gospel that week. Praise God! Just think, if one person receives the gospel, that whole house will hear about it! And they are such sweet neighbors. God is good!
I had the pleasure of meeting again with another neighbor who is a believer and was suffering a terrible addiction for several years, but, she finally gave it up, for good! That was very neat to hear. I want to encourage her faith to take off.
Well, our pool finally made it out and got set up. It seems the word has spread quickly amongst the kids of the neighborhood. Today and yesterday they have been hovering on the other side of the fence, and I go to them and say, "come." After two days of taking care of their nutritional, towel, and taking-turns with the floaty -- needs, God has given me a plan for how to not lose patience and use this for His glory. Almost all of these kids came for the kids' club, they either have put their faith in Jesus or at least have heard some kind of good news before. I know CEF is praying for follow-up. But that's really my job.
I've decided the theme to turn these babies into disciples of Jesus Christ will be: "Give God's Love Away." We will be spending time thinking about how much God loves us, and how much joy it gives us to think about it. By means of that joy our time spent in the pool will be time spent thinking of others with love and generosity.
There was only one low-point in the whole evangelism kids' club week. It was at the very end. The team trainer for the teenagers, who stays with them while they actually do the work of talking to the kids, he said a few interesting things to me as they were wrapping up. I guess it doesn't matter, I'll never know for sure what he was trying to say anyway. But as a parting gift he gave me a book teaching Christians how to evangelize. It heavily quoted RC Sproul. It was praised on the back by no less than Ray Comfort. I immediately commented to him and of course I was greatful but said, "ohh, I am not a believer of the kinds of things Ray Comfort teaches."
I want to check with Betty, because I don't think the gospel she believes in, the gospel CEF uses, is the kind this person gave me in this text -- the kind that preaches you must show others they are a sinner by the Ten Commandments in order to convince them to receive Jesus.
Ben called me down at the end of one day and said, "You need to see this."
The usual crew had gotten out their chalk and wrote across the front "Today is the last day of kids' club!" They went nuts, going on around the side of the house and even into the street, all because they got a crazy idea on their own and went for it.

Just in case there was any doubt on behalf of any of the neighbors for miles around, I'm sure they know what I believe now. :)
"The kids' club is totally awesome because it is in Michele's house."
"Limo to Jesus" -- out of the mouths of babes, thou has perfected praise

Am I not blessed? I hope you are all blessed.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Did John the Baptist lose his salvation?

And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written:

‘ Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’

“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
matt 11:2-11

John the Baptist lost his assurance that Jesus was the Lamb of God. At one time, he was confident.

John the Baptist preached about the "Coming One" before His arrival. John preached that this One would baptize with Holy Spirit and with fire, that He would cleanse the threshing floor. Next, he said to Jesus when he met Him in the Jordan River: "I need to be baptized by You, and You are coming to me?" (matt 3:11-14) Therefore John must have believed, at that time, that Jesus was the Coming One.

John the Baptist bore witness that Jesus was the One for whom he had been preparing the way:

And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
john 1:32-34

In his moment of weakness look how Jesus defends John. “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? Yes... and more." I see how the LORD confirmed him, ironically when he was in the midst of the deepest confusion.

Can this be a comfort to anyone we know today in our world? Have any of us been pleased at one time to walk with the LORD and especially to suffer according to His will, and then, while there in the darkness, in the futility, in the loneliness... confusion and doubt and even bitterness become a constant struggle?

But God's salvation is bigger than our doubts. And He loves us when we suffer for Him, even when we suffer in the form of receiving circumstances that cause us to be unsure of Jesus.

John's example is of great comfort to me.

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light
by Brian Kolodiejchuk

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