Category Archives: Spiritual Thoughts

Posts related to spiritual matters; Usually ideas proposed by other people such as authors or speakers, though I may throw an idea in every once in a while.

Always On the B-Team

When I was in high school, I played basketball and tennis. I wasn’t particularly good at either sport. There was a time when I was the best basketball player on the team, but during my freshman year I hurt my ankle and was out for a few weeks. After that, I just never seemed to get it back. Most of my friends made varsity our junior year, but I was still on JV. At our school, you were guaranteed to make varsity your senior year, regardless of how good you were. So I did get to play on varsity one year….if you consider sitting on the bench “playing.” I was always a B-team player.

The same was true of tennis. I didn’t even know I liked tennis until I watched my friends play our freshman year. I tried it out, and decided to play starting my sophomore year. I wasn’t great…I was a first time player among a ton of people who had played their whole life. I obviously played B-team. I didn’t even get to play my senior year, because there were already so many good players from younger grades, that I would have done nothing but travel with the team and cheered for them. They would have let me do that, but I decided it wasn’t for me.

When I was in high school, being on the B-team didn’t bother me that much. I figured sports didn’t really matter in the scheme of things. Now that I’m an adult and in the big world of work and adulthood, I’m starting to see that it’s totally possible to be on the B-team even when you’re no longer playing organized sports. I’ve come to realize lately that I’m on the B-team at work.

You see, I work at a software company as a web developer. I’ve been here 7 years, and it’s the only software development job I’ve ever had. I started here as a complete newbie, a total beginner. I had to learn a lot, and the company was gracious to pay me while I did so. I’m grateful for that. But now that I’ve been here for 7 years, I know that I am very valuable to the company…I can do things here that almost no one else knows how to do. It’s just something that happens when you’ve been somewhere this long. And the company knows that my value lies in doing those things. When they decide to start new development on exciting, cutting-edge projects, they don’t ask me to work on them. They give them to the other developers, the ones who were hired with more experience than I had when I started (but not necessarily more experience than I have now). They assign me to doing the rote, everyday, not-as-fun, and definitely not-as-exciting work.

What’s more, I’m starting to notice a pattern. These projects that the newer people are working on are getting wrapped up, and leadership moves the developers on to new projects right away. But what they just worked on ends up having some issues (we call them “bugs), and someone needs to go back and fix them. Since the others are already on new projects, guess who gets assigned to clean up the mess left behind….  Yep, you guessed it.  Me.  It’s happened on 4 projects over the past year.

So, I’ve come to realize lately that I’m still on the B-team. I’m the junior or senior who gets passed over for varsity, and is then told to wash the team uniforms and towels after the game. I won’t lie…it’s hard on my ego!

So what are my options?

Well, I could whine about it. (I do this a lot….)  I could complain about it to leadership, and hope something changes. I could leave and go somewhere where I’m more respected. I’m totally free to do any of these things.

Want to know what I’ve decided to do? I’ve decided to do nothing. I’m going to keep being the B-team player who gets assigned the jobs no one else wants. You know why? Because I believe that God can receive glory in that. If I will continue to do my job to the best of my ability – doing it as unto God (Col. 3:23) – God can use my seeming obscurity for great things…things I may not even realize are happening. That’s my hope.

David was a B-team brother who became a king. Most of the apostles were B-team nobodies that Jesus empowered to change the world. I keep reminding myself of this, and asking Him to use my B-team status for something great.


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My Favorite Bible Verse

Want to know what I think may be my favorite Bible verse?

Galatians 5:16

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

I know, I know. It’s kind of a weird verse to call favorite. I’m not sure that it’s really my absolute favorite verse…I mean, there’s so many other great verses to call favorite! But I definitely would say it’s in my top 3.

The reason is quite simple – I love how easy Paul says it is to get over sin. Just walk by the Spirit, and you won’t do sinful things.

Everyone has trouble with sin. Some people think they don’t, but they don’t realize they’re lying to themselves (“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8). Lying is a sin (9th commandment, if I’m correct). Lying to ourselves may be an even worse sin than lying to others, since there is a sense of pride in telling oneself that I am without sin. And pride is one of the seven deadly sins (I really don’t even know what the other 6 are….isn’t that a catholic thing? Sorry…I’m not catholic…).

My own struggle with sin has kept me from having the relationship with Christ that He wants to have. I walked the aisle and was baptized at 8 years old. I’m not sure that I was truly saved at that point – I understood what salvation was, to some degree, but I wonder if at that time salvation was not much more than a get-out-of-hell-free card. Then when I was 18, I went to a Bible camp with a friend, and although I wasn’t drawn to the charismatic tendencies of that camp, I was drawn to Jesus that week. I prayed, for myself, for true salvation one night, sitting in the back of the sanctuary of that little camp. Then I went home, and less than 2 weeks later, I was back to my old self. Sin, sin, sin.

But at least at this point, I believe the Spirit in me made me hate my sin. Because when I was in it, I wanted out. And for the last 15 years that has been a good description of my relationship with Christ. I go for short while, “walking by the Spirit,” then I go for a long while, “gratifying the desires of the flesh.” It’s not always  as bad as it sounds – there were times of hate, lust, and greed. Then there were other times of just selfish ambition, lying, and pride. But each of those times would be characterized as giving in to my sinful nature.

So that brings me back to why I love Galatians 5:16 so much. I’ve spent a lot of time reading books and articles on how to pull myself out of these sin-fests that have defined my existence so long, even during the time I consider myself to be a Christian. And they’re not short books either! Hundreds of pages devoted to actions I can take to get myself out of trouble, and how to avoid temptation to sin. And in the end, it was only 17 words that I needed to hear.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Walking is easy. The Spirit is already in me. All I need to do is follow it’s lead and the sinning will stop. Maybe not forever, but if I continue to walk by the Spirit, the sin won’t take control again. And that’s not just the life that Jesus wants for me….it’s the life I want for myself.

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Children of Promise

I recently took a series of surveys as an exercise assigned by my church, as a part of the new members’ class. One of those exercises was a spiritual gifts analysis, and as I already knew, I came out very strongly…I hate to say “gifted”…I’ll say “pre-disposed”…toward knowledge and truth and what the survey called “teaching.” In other words, I like learning new things from Scripture. And because of that, apparently I’d make a good teacher. I don’t know about that, but we’ll leave it as-is.

One of the downsides to being someone who revels in new knowledge and deep truths is that sometimes you tend to look for the depth in things when in reality the crux of that truth is as simple as can be. I think that describes me to the letter. Yet, as I continue to walk with the Lord, or maybe more appropriately described, as I begin to attempt to walk with the Lord a little closer, one of the things He is teaching me is the value of simplicity. And that truth was no less evident today than in days past (or is it passed? IDK…).

Today, my devotional reading was from Galatians 4, specifically versus 12 through 31. The goal of my reading was to identify the concerns of Paul, especially the illness he speaks of in verse 13. And while I followed the instructions (I’m a rule follower…), it was a different verse and a different theme that really popped out at me. In verses 21 through 31, Paul makes an analogy of Abraham’s sons and us as believers today. Here’s a general overview of what he says:

Abraham had 2 sons. One was from Hagar, a slave woman, and the other was from Sarah, his wife. The son from Hagar, Ishmael, was the son born when Abraham attempted to take matters into his own hands, after having already received the promise of a son through Sarah. The other son, Isaac, was the son born as a result of the promise of God. So Paul says that we, today, can be children of either son – children of slavery, like Ishmael, or children of promise, like Isaac.

And Paul tells the Galatians in verse 28, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”

If you study Galatians, you’ll see that they were struggling with a heresy called legalism, in which they attempted to earn the favor of God by following the Law of Moses (like being circumcised and participating in rituals). But Paul tells them, “Look, you were saved by grace through faith…what makes you think you should now live by Law? No, continue to live by faith!” And in the culmination of him telling them this, he says “C’mon! Don’t you realize that you are children of promise? Quit returning to slavery!”

So what does this have to do with the value of simplicity?

The phrase “children of promise” stood out to me, because I realized that I’ve added way too much depth to the definition of faith. To me, faith has been this complex thing that is one part belief in God, another part trusting Him (even the demons believe…so there must be more to faith than belief), and another part mystical spirituality that can’t be described in words. Because the Bible says that faith and works are not compatible, I always thought that faith had to be something completely abstract, or else it could be construed as something we did and therefore would be works. And our works are like filthy rags before Him, yet our faith pleases Him. So to me, faith was something deep that I couldn’t put into words.

Then, I studied Galatians.

In convincing the Galatians that they should refrain from legalism, Paul twice uses this word “promise.” In Galatians 3, he tells them that the promise God made to Abraham 400 some odd years before the Law was given still stood even when the Law was given (and still stands today!). And that promise was that Abraham would have a son (with Sarah), and that all nations (even the Galatians…even us today!) would be blessed through that bloodline. Of course, on this side of the cross, we know that blessing was Christ himself, a direct descendent of Abraham and his son Isaac. But at that time, it was simply a promise of a future blessing. And Abraham believed (faith!). And God credited it to him as righteousness.

The other time Paul uses the word promise is when he tells the Galatians that they are children of promise…which really means they are children of faith. Faith is really nothing more than taking a promise given you and saying with all sincerity, “I believe you will fulfill it.” When I was married, I promised my wife I would not cheat on her or beat on her, among other things. And she believed me. That’s faith. In the case of God’s promise…He promised to bless everyone in the world through His son, and anyone who believes Him can be said to have faith. And it is that faith that is credited to us as righteousness still today.

So faith is really quite simple. It is belief. It is trust. But it’s not mystical, and it’s not an action. It’s simply a decision to take God’s promise and say, “I believe you will fulfill it.” And as is often the case, simplicity is more beautiful than the depth of a thousand oceans.

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The Bible is Dangerous

I’m one of those weird people who actually enjoy listening to lectures. Not just any lectures, mind you, but things that interest me. I probably wouldn’t enjoy lectures over 19th century British poetry, or lectures over the social influences found in different world cultures. Those things sound pretty boring to me. But one thing that interests me greatly is theology, and anything related to the Bible. Lately I’ve been listening to lectures from Reformed Theological Seminary on iTunesU, specifically from a course called The History of Philosophy and Christian Thought. Doesn’t sound very interesting, does it?  Well, it’s actually not that bad.

One of the things that really baffles me as I listen to Dr. Frame talk about the philosophies projected by the early Church fathers is how so many of them totally misinterpret the Bible. Granted, not much time had passed since the New Testament had actually been adopted as God-inspired Scripture. But it’s not hard to see that some of these men clearly injected their own ideas, or perhaps worse, the ideas of Greek philosophy, into their theological arguments. For instance, the early Church father Origen speculated that salvation may be universal, and that even the devil may have a shot at redemption at some point in the future. Many of the early Church fathers proposed ideas that weakened Scripture or made Christ less significant. Most of these ideas are easily refuted under the light of ALL of Scripture.

Scriptural misinterpretation isn’t something that only affected the early Church. In fact, just this morning I read an article about a pastor in West Virginia who died after being bitten by a rattlesnake. And yes, he was handling the snake in a faith-proving church ritual.  The Scripture people use to justify this odd ritual is Mark 16:17-18:

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well. (Emphasis added)

If you read the whole article (I highly recommend that you do…it’s short), you also find out that this pastor’s father was also killed from a snake bite in a similar ceremony. So what we have here is a gross misinterpretation of Scripture, and an incredible failure to learn from past mistakes.

The misinterpretation of Scripture is the part that bothers me the most. Most Bible scholars question whether Mark 16:9-20 is even supposed to be a part of the Bible to begin with. The earliest copies of the Gospel of Mark don’t have these verses, and many of the later ones that do have them set them apart from the rest of the book. So it isn’t wise to set up a doctrine solely on this one passage (nor is it wise to set up any doctrine based on only one passage of Scripture). On top of that, even if you do consider these verses to be a part of Scripture, there is no imperative from Jesus to go and pick up snakes to prove your faith. As one article I read put it, “It is describing something that will occur, not commanding that something should occur.” For instance, in Acts 28 it describes Paul as getting bitten by a snake, and just shaking it off. Paul didn’t seek out a snake and say, “Look everyone! Look how much faith I have! I picked up this snake and got bit! And I’m not dead!” No, God protected Paul from any bad effects from the snake bite. That is the meaning of Mark 16:17-18 – that God can provide for and protect those who are serving Him.

So, what’s the big deal, you ask? Why can’t we just leave these people alone and let them continue to misinterpret Scripture and get bit. Isn’t this just God’s way of weeding out the idiots? Well, first of all, that’s a very unloving thing to say. I’m ashamed of you for asking such a question. But secondly, I think we have to consider how this mishandling of the words of the Bible affects the world around us. For instance, can you imagine what the world thinks when they see people like this pastor saying things like, “I am looking for a great time this Sunday…It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good ‘ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers.” This statement, within itself, would drive an English teacher crazy. But when it’s then followed by the death of the man who said it, it makes you question the God who supposedly fills these “sign believers.” And when that same pastor says, “I know it’s real; it is the power of God…If I didn’t do it, if I’d never gotten back involved, it’d be the same as denying the power and saying it was not real,” and then gets killed, it makes people question the power of God.

This mishandling of the Bible is a dangerous thing. Just ask the pastor who died from the snake bite. But it can be much, much worse. Consider those who follow the speculations of Origen and teach that, in the end, we’ll all be saved. How dangerous is that!?!? It promotes apathy by making people think they can do whatever they want. Heck…in the end, they’ll go to heaven anyway, right? We can’t allow things like this to happen. We may not be able to stop those who would pick up snakes to prove their faith, but we can outright deny that what they are doing is Biblical. And we can promote a healthy interpretation of Scripture that leads to sound doctrine. We can do this by:

  • Making true disciples – 1 Corinthians 2:14 says “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Unfortunately, we have non-Christian scholars influencing theological thought, and these people can’t understand the Bible to begin with, because they don’t have the Spirit of God within them. Instead, we should make true disciples who then lead us in our pursuit of truth.
  • Making well-trained disciples – In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul tells Timothy “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (emphasis added). The only way to know the Bible is to study the Bible. Proper Biblical interpretation doesn’t come overnight – it requires diligent study and training.
  • Teaching the WHOLE Word of God – Too many modern doctrines are based on small passages (to the exclusion of others). In other words, they fail to interpret Scripture with Scripture. If we consider all of Scripture when we read certain passages, our interpretations are less likely to have errors.
  • Relying somewhat on tradition, but not too much – There are those who have come before us who have diligently searched the Scriptures and have sought to know them well. We should consider their interpretations when we come across a passage that brings us trouble. This is where a good commentary comes in. On that same note, we should not over-rely on traditional interpretation, as this too leads to trouble. Consider the traditions of the Catholic church that sparked the Protestant Reformation.


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We’re Not Young

Browsing the inter-webs this morning, I came across a (relatively) new video released by Yahoo!’s SketchY Comedy Series, titled We’re Not Young. The video is actually a music video for a parody of the song We Are Young by a group called Fun. When I watched it for the first time, I chuckled a little. It’s not what I would call “fall out of your seat and roll on the floor while you wet yourself” funny, but it was…amusing.  After watching it, though, I felt like I should watch it again. There was something strange about the words that was drawing me in.  If you haven’t seen it, go ahead and watch it below. Be warned…it’s PG-13 material.

Click Here to open in the video in a separate window

You may have to watch it a couple of times to get all the words (I did…), but it’s pretty easy to get the theme of the song. It’s a depressing anthem for those in their 30s who don’t feel like they’ve reached the goals they thought they would by the time they got here. Of course, the song is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but if you really look at the lyrics, you can’t help but see a little truth:

  • My friends are all parents now
  • You know that college was 10 years ago, I know you’re trying to forget
  • Depression and anxiety has come on strong since thirty-three
  • Tonight, we’re not young. We’re all somewhere in our 30s, done nothing worthy, this ain’t fun.
  • I know that I’m fat, shut up about that. I guess I’ll do elliptical…
  • Gonna get our s*** together, be less distracted, Words with Friends
  • It’s time to get my prostate checked, I’m a nervous wreck, that’s not all…
  • I’ve got a drinking problem, I got a DUI
  • I’m really gonna start that book
  • Tonight, we are scared, so let’s just…uhh…uhh…OMG!

The biggest truth of all is that the song describes a lot of the people in my generation. The last line really sums it all up – we’re scared. Time keeps moving, we had to grow up. We keep telling ourselves that we’re going to get our stuff together. But we don’t. We keep telling ourselves that we’re going to start getting ahead financially. But we don’t. We keep telling ourselves that we’re going to jump on that elliptical and lose weight.  But we don’t.  And that can be really depressing! Especially if you live by the motto “you only live once!”  Sure, it sounds great when you try to justify doing something you wouldn’t normally do. Why not do it, if you only live once?  But what about the rest of the time? What about our daily routines? How are they affected by this You Only Live Once perspective?  It depresses us, that’s what it does!

In the end, I believe that the You Only Live Once perspective is a trick that Satan is using to ruin the lives of a lot of people. Even though the characters in the song were fictional, we all know people who fit the description of these people pretty well. Heck, I counted 10 or 12 things that described me pretty well (I did start a blog, after all…). And when we think of this life as all there is, we start thinking that we have to be successful in whatever little time we have left. And when we aren’t successful (or at least, what we think is successful), it depresses us.

Fortunately, this life isn’t all there is. Humanity was created to live forever. If you listen to this song and start realizing that you share a lot of the sentiments of the fictional characters – depression, fear, anxiety, because life isn’t going the way you thought it would by the time you hit your 30s – let me encourage you to check out a series of posts I wrote a long while back that talk about the eternal nature of humanity. The series is titled Heaven (click the link to start at the beginning). I think that, as you read through it, you’ll start seeing what the Bible means when it says that Christians are full of hope – a hope of a brighter future and a better life than the one we have now.


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Fight or Flight: A Christian Persecution Perspective

I’d like to preface this post by saying that I have almost never been truly persecuted for my faith. No one I know has really been persecuted for their faith, besides a few insults or maybe some dirty looks. I’ve seen plenty of insults toward Christians lately in the news – especially Kirk Cameron – but can we truly call this persecution? For anyone who undergoes real persecution (threats, torture, death) for their faith, I doubt seeing the puny insults Christians in America put up with makes them think we know what persecution really is. So, perhaps I have no ground on which to stand to talk about how people should act when they face persecution. All the same, this is the topic that has been placed in my lap today, and I feel led to write about it.

In preparing for this Sunday’s lesson for my 6th grade Sunday School class, I read through Acts 9, where it talks about the Apostle Paul’s conversion. Something that stood out to me as I read through the story, and as I thought about other passages where similar kinds of events occurred, is that Saul (as he was still known at that time) took flight when he was threatened with persecution. And not just once, but twice!  And it wasn’t just his decision, either. When he was still in Damascus, it was the church that sneaked him out of the city. And when he was in Jerusalem, it was “the brothers” who helped him escape to his hometown of Tarsus. I found this very interesting, because I tend to believe that, in the face of persecution, we must stand up and be willing to argue our stance, even in the face of death. But if that were the case, was the early church wrong to help believers escape persecution?

I titled this post Fight or Flight, obviously referring to the physiological phenomenon where an organism either fights or flees a perceived attack. My first college degree was in psychology, so I know I’m using the phrase inaccurately.  The true “fight or flight response” is a physical and automatic phenomenon, not a thought-out choice, like whether to stand up to persecution, or whether to run away. But the outcome is still the same – one chooses to either stand up against the attack or run away. And because it is a thought-out choice, our actions can be judged as right or wrong. As I mentioned previously, if asked a year ago whether running from persecution was wrong, I probably would have said “yes.”  After today’s reading (and some previous readings), I wasn’t so sure. So I did some research…

The first major truth I found was that persecution is normal in the life of a Christian. In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul told Timothy “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” We should come to expect persecution in some form if we are living a godly life in a world full of ungodliness. Jesus tells us in John 15:18-19 that we are going to be hated, simply because we don’t belong to the world: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

The second major truth I found was that persecution is to be considered a good thing (seriously??). James 1:2-3 states “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” He goes on to say that this developed perseverance and endurance leads to maturity in Christ.

The third major truth I found was that we are commanded to tell the world about Jesus, and forbidden to deny Him. Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” This tells me that we don’t have the luxury of fleeing persecution if we instead have the opportunity to acknowledge Jesus before men. Our actions of fleeing without proclaiming the Gospel make a statement: we value our lives more than we value Jesus.  It’s important to note, though, that in both cases in Acts 9, where Paul flees persecution, he had already been preaching the name of Jesus. In fact, it was because of his acknowledgment of Jesus that he was being persecuted. So perhaps this truth doesn’t apply here.

The fourth major truth I found was that we are commanded to be prepared to defend our faith. Peter writes to believers to “…always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15). This idea of being prepared for defending yourself (not physically…) brings with it the necessity of understanding that, once we follow Jesus, we could be called to suffer extreme persecution, including death.  One article on martyrdom uses a good analogy:

Those enlisting in the armed services should do so with the understanding that they may be called into battle and may be called upon to die in the service of their country. This is (or should be) the mindset of everyone who joins the military. Clearly not all enlisted men and women die in the service of their country, and not all are even called into battle. Despite this, they are trained daily to be prepared for battle. The same goes for the Christian. We are in a state of ‘warfare’ (Ephesians 6:12-20), and our Lord may call upon any of us to witness and even be martyred for our faith. Thus we must be prepared!

These truths point to the fact that we must expect persecution, and not allow the threat of persecution to hinder our witness. That said, what about the multiple stories in the early church of disciples fleeing for their lives?  (see Acts 8:1, Acts 9:20-25, Acts 9:26-30, Acts 14:3-7, Acts 17 – fleeing Thessalonica and Berea) Even Jesus told his disciples “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.” (Matthew 10:23). How do we fit these two seemingly contradictory approaches to persecution together?

I’ve decided that, as with most things in the Christian life, it comes down to motive. In every case I read, the disciples that fled were doing so after having met every standard I listed above. They preached Jesus in the public arena, knowing full well that persecution was coming. They didn’t stop preaching just because they were threatened, nor did they ever deny Him. They simply fled in hopes of fighting another day.  The wrong motives when it comes to persecution would be:

  • Not fleeing, in hopes of becoming a martyr and therefore receiving the glory that is due only to Christ.
  • Not fighting, because you value your life more than you value Christ.

I honestly can’t say that I would not flee for fear of my life if I were in that situation. I know some wonderful Christians who have publicly said that they could stand up and have courage in that situation, but I don’t know that I could. My only hope is that God would grant me the grace to handle the situation if the need ever does arise. And in the mean time, I will take comfort in knowing that, as long as I never deny Jesus, and as long as I don’t value my own life more than I value my relationship with Him, God is cool with me fleeing in order to fight another day.

How about you? Have you ever experienced persecution for your faith?  If so, how did you handle it?  If not, how do you think you would handle extreme persecution?

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There’s a Fine Line… (8/30/2011)

Here I go again with a series.  Oh well, what can I say? I just love me a good series…  This series – titled “There’s a Fine Line…” – is probably going to be spread out. I may not write another post in this series for a while. But several of these topics have been on my mind lately, and I can’t help but think there’s a lesson in here somewhere.

I originally started this blog with the intention of writing about the things God is teaching me on a daily basis. Unfortunately, in the busy-ness of life, it’s kind of gotten away from me. I have strayed a little (okay…a lot) from writing about those daily lessons, and I have suffered for it.  But lately, like I said above, I’ve had some things on my mind, and I can’t help but think they are more than just passing thoughts. There’s a reason I can’t get away from them. So I’m going to write, with the hope that I can get better about writing more frequently.

Today’s topic:

There’s a Fine Line…Between New Revelation and the Leading of the Holy Spirit

Not too long ago, I read about some comments made by pastor and author Mark Driscoll. He said that he “see[s] things…”  He has visions, he sees things vividly, like on a TV screen. The examples he gave were all visions of things happening in other people’s lives, mostly during counseling sessions – child molestation, adultery, domestic violence. He said he saw these things happening in front of him, like he was watching a movie, and he related these things back to the people he saw in them. The article I was reading was severely criticizing Driscoll, first for erroneously claiming a spiritual gift of discernment, second for claiming a “signs” gift that is common to Charismatics (though Driscoll claims to not be Charismatic), and finally, for being so explicit in his description of his visions, especially the vision of adultery.  Now, Driscoll has a reputation for being a little…crass.  He has no problem talking about explicit sexual activities to his congregation on Sunday mornings (or so I’ve heard…I’ve not witnessed this first hand, I’ve only read about it). But the thing that got my attention was that Driscoll is claiming that God is showing Him things – specific things, about specific people – thus, the Lord is giving Driscoll new revelation. Obviously this isn’t universal revelation – for the whole church – but unique and special revelation.  And everything in me, and everything I know about the Bible, tells me that this is wrong.

But then I start thinking about things…

A few years ago, I was a middle school science teacher.  I didn’t like it. It wasn’t that I didn’t like working with the kids – they were the best part of the job!  But standing up talking all day (teaching), and being responsible for the behavior of 30 teenagers (who are as irresponsible as human beings can be…), was a little too much for an introvert like me.  The job is difficult for everybody, but for me, it was unbearable. I felt like I was aging faster than my years, solely because of stress.  So I started back to school, hoping to become a Software Developer. I worked hard in my classes, and I was slated to graduate in December of 2009. The problem came when I realized that I was going to graduate in December, yet the next school year (the public school I taught at) started in August. I knew I would want to find a developer job when I graduated, but I would already be half way through the school year where I was teaching. I wasn’t the kind of person who would quit in the middle of the year and leave my students hanging.  On top of all this, my wife and I really wanted her to be able to stay home with our daughter (thus the reason I chose a well-paying career in software). So my wife and I talked about it, and we prayed about it. We begged God to show us (literally, physically show us…through a sign or something) what we should do.  It wasn’t likely that I would get a developer job before I graduated, but if I quit my teaching job in the summer, that would leave almost 6 months without me working. And my wife was going to quit, too, so we were about to start swimming up that proverbial creek with no paddle. We wanted a sign that God would take care of us.

No sign came.

But after much prayer and meditation on it, we decided that it would be a bold act of faith to quit our jobs and just trust God to provide for us. We felt a peace about it, and we told ourselves that it was the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the question – what is the difference between what we did and what Mark Driscoll did?  Mark Driscoll claimed that the Holy Spirit gave him visions. We were claiming that the Holy Spirit was leading us to make a leap of faith. Both of us are claiming to be communicated to by the Holy Spirit.  Are we both wrong?  Is there a such thing as “the leading of the Holy Spirit?”  If I don’t believe that God gives new revelation, such as “holy” visions, is it hypocritical of me to believe that He communicates with me in leading me this way or that?

Right now, I stand on this fine line, believing that the Holy Spirit does lead us.  How He does this, I can’t say. It’s scary, because if we go based on feelings (or intuition), we’re bound to screw up. I am also a strong cessationist, believing that the so-called “signs gifts”, or today called the Charismatic gifts (i.e., tongues, word of knowledge – including visions, etc.), are no longer given to believers. So where does the “leading” of the Spirit end and the beginning of new revelation begin?

Seriously, I want your feedback…  Comment away!

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