Friday, January 15, 2021

Questions

 

A Word About Superstition - Chapter 36


1.  In what ways has my life (over the last year) been negatively impacted by superstition?

 

 2.  How is my faith informed by superstitious beliefs?

 

 3.  In what ways is my understanding of God correctly informed and free of superstition?

 

 4.  How is the Spirit working in me to increase my understanding of God and correct my misunderstandings?

 

 5.  What is God saying to me about this? 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Political Rant


My personal political rant:

I am no more embarrassed by any of our President’s words or actions than I am of the collective and individual actions and words of our elected members of the Senate and Congress, Governors, Mayors, and others.

• I am no more concerned about what happened at the Capital than I am about what happened in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Chicago or Dallas.

• I believe the vitriol and heated, frenzied conversations have been given wings to fly, have been approved of and advanced most completely by the media who bears the brunt of responsibility for the current nature of our public rhetoric.

• Unless or until the petulant, self-righteous, underworked and overpaid, lazy, arrogant, self-serving and faithless realize their privileged position as people blessed by the Lord Jesus Christ, we will continue to have these issues.

• The only answer is an individual brokenness before the Lord God Almighty, who may, maybe, just maybe, chose to move yet in a mighty way to save us from ourselves. (Isaiah 41:14)

• But I can’t honestly say He has any reason, motivation, or interest in saving those who turn their backs on Him...short of His love in Christ our Savior.

And so, with the sages of old, I declare:

Our only hope in life and death is that we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:7–8)




Your Sister May Not Be in Heaven...

 

Now that I have your attention, let's talk about truth versus fantasy. Our minds often utilize fantasy to protect us from our fears. A classic case of this is our continuing certainty as to whether or not someone resides in heaven.  Leaving aside, for the time being, theological discourse on resurrection, souls, pergatory and other such matters, Tozer deals with superstition's presence in the Christian faith in both this week's and next week's readings. 

Two things stood out for me in this week's reading. The first is the role of superstition in the Christian's life. Serving as a Pastor, I've pretty much heard it all - from the assumption that because we love our parents we know they are in heaven are reunited andare dancing with one another as husband and wife, or that our sister, our baby, our friend, whomever, in death has now received her wings, or even in more earthy matters where we assert "what goes around comes around."  Our faith, our conversations, our assumptions are all peppered with superstitions unsupported by scripture, sometimes even taught in our churches, our Sunday School classes, and even in our Seminaries. Scripture needs to speak clearly to that if we are to grow in our faith.  We MUST be willing to face the hard cold facts of what scripture teaches clearly, and what it leaves unanswered.

The other thing that stands out is Tozer's comment concerning our denial of superstition's role in our faith, that is, that the denial of its role leads to bigotry and anger. When our assumptions are attacked by others we tend to lean on our superstitions. We rely on those spurious assumptions about God's character or His intentions, those things about which we feel absolutely confident but which are misunderstood or which are speculative. We react angrily, judgmentally, self-righteously. We react this way, in part because we are unable to exposit the scripture sufficiently to make our case calmly. Our lack of confidence in our ability to do so erupts in anger and even violence. 

(I find this to be abundantly true in many of our contemporary American assumptions regarding God's role in the political scene.  Whether it is a Democratic "we need to provide for the weak and needy", a Republican "God helps those who help themselves", or a Libertarian "everyone should do what is right in their own eyes", we get caught up in the self-imposed confidence that God is on "our side." We wave the flag as if it represents or maybe used to represent, God's standard. We burn it to demonstrate God's displeasure. We ignore it as irrelevant.  And we tend to take scripture out of context to defend our particular position. Christian bigotry holds as full sway in radical right, radical left, and in-between movements.  

I have no idea where the superstitious type theologies involved in Touched by an Angel, or All Dogs Go to Heaven" or Promised Land" came from but I do know that they perfectly model the presence of superstition in our world today.  (Don't even get me started on Angels, Charlie's Angels, No Angels, Little Angels, Dominion, Vicar of Dibly, or any of the other godless, whore-mongering, winks at faith or the outright attacks on it.) They are used as examples in our pulpits by preachers who want to be relevant. They are a source of comfort for those who have significant questions but who don't want to take the time to carefully search scripture. And they help us feel good about our addiction to the television. Superstition is comingled with our faith whether we admit it or not.

Of course just as bad, as Tozer suggests, is the other end of the spectrum where faith is completely denied by some scientists and philosophers. Their arrogance is in their own self perceived abilities to understand that which is ultimately beyond our human capability. And trust is eroded in anything which can't be proven (for scientists) or reasoned (by philosophers).

This chapter is going to take some more work for me to process.  It's easy to see the problems in others and  in the broader culture, but I need to ask

  • What do I need to work on? 
  • What are the superstitions I need to address? 
  • What are the assumptions I tend to lean on? 

Tozer makes it clear, as we all know so well, scripture is the absolute final answer, not someone's assertion about scripture, not someone's interpretation of scripture, but the very Word of God.  Scripture interprets scripture. And this means spending more time in scripture than we spend talking about scripture, or hearing it preached, or assuming that our memory about it is sufficient. May God have mercy on us all.



Thursday, January 7, 2021

Questions

 Christian – Or Only a Student Christian     Chapter 35


1.  Is the Sunday School system in your local congregation focused more on memorization rather than learning? If so, to what extent and what could you do to enhance that system?


2.  What does understanding the difference between memorizing and learning teach me about my spiritual life (i.e. in what ways have I been memorizing rather than learning)?


3.  How does my moral life model the lessons I have learned from Scripture?


4.  How is my life obedient to the Word of God?  What areas do I still need to bring in to submission?


5.  What is God saying to me about this?   

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Catholic, Reformed, Anabaptist?

 

At the intersection of Catholic, Reformed, and Anabaptist thought is not just the issue of works righteousness, but of how faith and obedience intersect.

Tozer's thoughts in chapter 35 of  "The Size of the Soul: Principles of Revival and Spiritual Growth" address this very issue.  While Tozer has some clear and unfortunate anti-catholic prejudices, so too he discounts the nonsense of reformed thought which, based on "faith alone," has led to a casting aside of the works of faith which are a direct implication of faith.  And he seems to avoid the anabaptist tendency toward legalism in behavior. (While Tozer does not mention the issue of legalism in this week's chapter, we will do well to keep Christian legalism in mind as we reflect on the next two week's writings on superstition.)

Tozer focuses on the quintessential question - for anyone bold enough and honest enough to take that proverbial good, hard look in the mirror.  "Are we students of Christianity or are we Christians?" The student may know scripture well.  The student may be theologically conversant. The student may have occupied a pew their entire lives, have taught Sunday School, served on the church board, and may even know well the history of their particular "brand" of Christian faith. But they are related to the dog in Proverbs 26:11 which returns to its vomit, the fool who repeats his folly?" 2 Peter 2 describes these "springs without water and mists driven by a storm":  

Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, 
“A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”
 

These are difficult words to hear, much less to apply to ourselves. Yet if we do not see a turning from sin, if we cannot observe a growth in our obedience we dare not assume we love the One who said:

If you love me, keep my commands. [John 14:15]
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. [John 14:21]
and
Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  [John 14:23]
or
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do. [Ephesians 2:10]
 

We are saved through the faith which declares that Christ died to atone for our sins. Faith is the means of appropriating our salvation. And this faith is evidenced in the works of righteousness which we are thereby empowered to do. 

In Hebrews 11:6 we are told that "without faith it is impossible to please God". And what then follows is a list of actions taken by the saints which demonstrated their faith - Abel's provision of a better offering than Cain's, Noah's building of the Ark, Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac, Rahab's helping the spies... and so many more to which Scripture testifies, that it was this faith that allowed them to suffer the torture, the martyrdom, the accusations, and the persecution. Hebrews 11 is the Hall of Fame of those who faithfully executed the office of believer.  You can't be a person of faith who doesn't perform faithful acts. Period.

Works of faith, endurance in times of trial, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow are all an indication of our faith.  Christians aren't woe is me, doom and gloom, passive little creatures that experience all the ravages of the world and sit around commiserating with other pessimists. They are go getters. They are the embodiment of meekness (inner strength), the truth tellers, the do-gooders of the Word. They are eternally optimistic, giving thanks in all circumstances,  risk taking, praise giving, good works producing, God serving people.

So, as we near the end of this book, we must ask ourselves, how has Christ so been at work in me that I have been able to do all things?  How is He who is in me greater than he who is in the world? Are we merely hearers of the word or are we doers of the word?  Time for a serious spiritual check up! 

https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Spiritual_Check_Up

https://churchanswers.com/blog/10-questions-six-month-spiritual-checkup/ 

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2013/06/28/jeremiah-121-17-giving-myself-a-spiritual-check-up/

Friday, January 1, 2021

Visits to ThePopSalad

Feel free to leave a "hello" when you stop by.

A look at blog statistics (for those who like numbers):
December, 2020

Country-Number of visits*
United States-725
Russia-36
Bahamas-34
South Africa-23
Portugal-22
Ecuador-19
Thailand-15
United Arab Emirates-14
Germany-14
Singapore-13
Canada-12
Poland-8
France-7
Australia-6
Switzerland-5
United Kingdom-4
Netherlands-3
Bulgaria-2
India-2
Other-19

Country listed may be skewed by use of a VPN 

Numbers are "as reported" by Google Analytics

Questions

The New Birth Is a Mystery Chapter 34


1. My experience of salvation (coming to faith) was…

 

2. People who pointed the way to a personal relationship with Christ for me included:

 

3. How might I point the way for others to come to this saving understanding of God’s grace?

 

4. What are the barriers before me to point the way? How might I overcome them?

 

5.  What is God saying to me about this? 



Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Evidence, Circumstance, and Relevance...

I chose the above words simply because they seemed to fit nicely together. They are indicative of the questions we will ask at the end of the week, so stay tuned...  

Tozer, in Chapter 34, talks about the "evidence "of faith, albeit indirectly.  He discusses people's approaches to evangelism and strange methods of convincing someone they must be saved since God wouldn't cast them out, as if it were a question of human logic. He almost alludes to the question of "notches" on the belt for those we have led to Christ. And comes to the conclusion that we are only pointing the way.

"No one can lead another to God.  All he can do is to lead the inquirer to the door of the kingdom and urge him onward...There faith must make its leap of pure trust into the arms of God crying with Job, 'though though slay me, yet will I trust in him'." (And yet might argue that we can lead people astray...)

We urge people to repent. We urge people to trust. We urge people to believe but that is all we can do. It is only the Spirit of God that can do the necessary work within them. "If the repentance is genuine and the faith is real, all human confidence will come crashing down and the humbled soul will be forced to make its leap of faith alone."

Those of us who have had that encounter with the Divine, don't doubt the genuineness of the event. There is an ongoing humble confidence that even though we fail to live up to His standards, He still loves us. Pointing the way is simply a reviewing, for others, of the road we took, the decisions we made, and hoping that our experience will be sufficiently compelling for them to seek that road.

The mystery of the new birth is exactly and forever that - A Mystery - enjoyed by the called, longed for by others, and simply denied by so many.  Ultimately it is God who chooses to whom and  when he will reveal himself.  Thanks be to God!

So, to what, or to whom, does your life point?



Saturday, December 26, 2020

Questions

It Is Essential That We Think Like God: Chapter 33


1. In what ways have I failed the Lord by not taking the time to thoroughly examine his word?


2. In what ways have I been blessed by an uncanny in breaking of the Holy Spirit to bring me illumination far beyond my own capabilities?


3. What does this say about my dependence upon the Holy Spirit?


4. What can I do to carry my share of the weight in the struggle for a more godly understanding of Scripture?


5.  What is God saying to me about this?


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

In the homestretch...

 

Just 10 chapters left...

The matter this week re: theological "truth" is brought home by a sermon recently preached by an "Arminian" minded local pastor whose church is growing in wonderful ways.  His commentary was on the word "election" in the scripture. He briefly defined "election" as "what we just had" (referring to the Nov political elections).  It's a choice we make, he said.  He then proceeded to refer to Calvinists as "blasphemers."  Not being a staunch Calvinist, I wasn't offended by the verbiage so much as the reality that he seems to misunderstand both Calvinism and the scriptural term for "election."

Tozer would suggest that irrespective of what theologians may say about predestination versus pre-determinism and the Sovereignity of God versus free will, we can be certain that, biblically, election refers to God's choice not ours.  This does not so much, necessarily, refer to predestination (though some may want to make that case) as it does to God's choosing to reveal himself, to express himself, his passion, and his desire to include us in his plan. Throughout scripture in "election", God makes the choice.

Accusations of "blasphemy"  do little to advance the kind of healthy discussions that may well help us more fully experience that conviction of the Holy Spirit that God provides us through His church (the body of Christ).  Pontifical accusations such as the one mentioned tend to place the person making them not in the category of confident or even well-informed, but of arrogant and self-righteous. What if God chooses to reveal himself so that we can respond? What if God does elect to create us even though he knows we will refuse to respond? Are we able to force God's mind to save us by something we do? Can we believe if we haven't first heard? All these are wonderful questions to be asking and to be contemplating.  If some of the greatest minds of the reformation seemed to be confused on the matter, do we see ourselves as being so independently wise as too have no need of others to help us more fully understand just how this gift of Salvation comes about? And can we simply be so thankful that, by whichever way we may have been included, we simply rest in the assurance that we are saved? Even that God chose to incarnate himself?

God calls us to a spirit of humility where we can correct one another and he admonishes us to do just that, to hold one another accountable, but it is intended to be in the bond of peace and in the spirit of love.

Tozer concludes the chapter with a powerful statement that:

There is no danger that we go seriously astray from the truth if we walk humbly, trust completely, search the scriptures daily, expect divine illumination and lean not on our own understanding. Most assuredly the Holy Spirit will take control of our minds and help us to think like God. Then will be fulfilled the Scripture which says, "But we have the mind of Christ." [ICorinthians 2:16]

Humility combined with meekness gives one the inner strength and conviction to leave in God's hands, that which rightly belongs to Him, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.   Thanks be to God!

Questions

  A Word About Superstition  - C hapter 36 1.   In what ways has my life (over the last year) been negatively impacted by superstition? ...