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Profound…

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Last week I facilitated a SMART Recovery group for work. SMART is sort of like 12 step, except it’s based on cognitive, not spiritual, principles. Some people of faith might be offended by that, but I still think that the things SMART teaches are great…

Anyway – so there I am leading the group. I’m new, so it took a while for people to open up, but after about 20 minutes or so, things really got rolling, and there was some good discussion. Then, this one older guy with an amazing Z-Z Top style white beard says, “Addiction isn’t about what you do, it’s about how you think.” THAT was amazingly profound to me.

Basically, this guy was saying that for “addicts,” it really doesn’t matter what the drug of choice is, the reality is that the disease is in your brain, that the way to conquer the addiction is not by getting the harmful substances out of your body, but rather by getting the harmful thought processes out of your brain.

Then I thought of sin. Every sin starts with a thought. That’s why Jesus said things like, “If you look at a woman with lust, you’ve already committed adultery in your heart.” He wasn’t trying to heap extra guilt on us, He was trying to make us understand that it’s our THOUGHTS, far more than our actions, that really need to be rehabilitated! In another place he talked about how our words and actions proceed from within, from our heart.

We’re all of us addicted to sin – we’re compulsive in our sin – even when we would rather not sin, we sin anyway – even when we know the consequences will far outweigh the momentary benefit/pleasure the sin will afford – we’re addicted. However, the problem is not in our actions so much as it is in our thoughts. In the name of Jesus, let’s trust God, let’s put on “the mind of Christ,” let’s “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Let us seek for transformation FIRST in the realm of our thought-life, and then we’ll see transformation in our actions.

Written by jeffrossman

April 7, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Posted in Life, Theology

Confessions of a reluctant Pentecostal…

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I’ve been feeling a bit dissatisfied with the church I’ve been attending. I feel sort of bad for being dissatisfied, but there it is. I decided to begin visiting other churches. I totally don’t want to be a “church shopper,” but it is also important for me to find a church where I feel I connect with the Sunday service.

So, I visited a new church on Sunday. Faith Christian Church. There’s a few La Frontera peeps that attend there, and that was what really drew me. I had a hunch that this was a more Pentecostal church, but I wanted to visit and see for myself. So I did. It was. But it wasn’t a Wierd-a-costal church. It was pretty tame, actually, in comparison to many churches I’ve attended. There were a lot of things I really liked about the church. But on with the actual point of this post…

I am a reluctant Pentecostal. What that means for me is that from a theological perspective, I am pretty much squarely in the Pentecostal camp. But from a practical perspective, I am less Pentecostal. Put another way, I generally believe what other Pentecostals believe, but I generally don’t like what Pentecostalism looks like. Allow me to be categorical:

  1. Pentecostals can tend to think they’re better than non-Pentecostals: I believe that the Bible teaches a “second experience” of receiving the Holy Spirit (which Pentecostals call the Baptism into the Holy Spirit). I believe that this experience exists primarily to empower the believer for service in the Kingdom, and to deepen their experience of God. HOWEVER, I do not feel that those who have had this experience are somehow more spiritual than others, or have attained to some higher plane of godliness. I have known many Christians who, not claimining this particular experience, were far more godly and holy and committed to Christ and His Church than those who do claim the experience.
  2. Pentecostals sometimes lack restraint: I am all for freedom in worship. In fact, I feel most churches ought to be more free than they are! Those who gather to worship God shouldn’t feel out of place if they lift their hands, or kneel, or exhibit any other Biblical expression of worship. HOWEVER, many Pentecostals tend to take that freedom to an extreme, and they do bizarre things, or things that draw undue attention to themselves. They tend to take their freedom, and interpret it to mean “anything goes.” I feel worship ought to be free, but utterly reverent, and utterly within the bounds of Biblically defined expression.
  3. Pentecostals tend to be “experienced-based”: I feel it is important for Christians to have experiences in which they encounter God in meaningful ways. Our walk can become very lifeless and dry without those experiences. Usually an experienceless Christian life, is one that emphasizes theological truths. It is more rational, and intellectual.  However, the opposite of a “theology-based” life is equally as dangerous. “Spiritual” experiences, not backed by solid theological truth are, at best, suspect. I have been in a service where people were “passing the Holy Spirit around,” by touching each other. Sort of like “Holy Ghost tag.” This was seen as very spiritual, but to me it was the most ridiculous circus I had ever seen. Sadly, this “Holy Ghost tag” was only one of many ridiculous “spiritual” expressions going on in that service. It was a Pentecostal free-for-all, and not one thing that was happening in this service had any foundation in Scripture. I’m sure for those experiencing it, it was wonderful and profound, but was it really God??
  4. Pentecostals are all about the “blessing”: This is a tough one for me, but it has to be said. Pentecostals tend to be into the whole “Word of Faith”/”Health and Wealth” gospel thing. I’m not going to detail this theology, but suffice it to say that it basically teaches that God wants to “bless” you, and by “bless” they mean that God wants to give you lots of money and to spare you from experiencing sickness and disease. They contort scriptures and take them out of context in an attempt to show that God’s ultimate goal in your life is to “remove the curse,” which includes poverty, disease/sickness, broken relationships, etc. Practically it means that anything negative is “a curse,” and thus is to be rejected and prayed against. By way of example, a church I attended for awhile here in Tucson changed the words of a popular song that begins, “I am not skilled to understand,” to say, “Yes, I am skilled to understand.” Why? Because the former seemed to indicate weakness, it was negative, thus to confess it was sin. So they changed it. Stupid.
  5. Pentecostals are all about the “gifts”: This is probably better suited as a sub-category of the “experience-based” paragraph, but whatever. Since our understanding of the Baptism into the Holy Spirit is that it is given for the empowerment of the believer, we tend to emphasize the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. Those gifts are clearly supernatural (i.e. healing, prophecy, miracles, tongues, discerning of spirits, etc.), and thus are most easily understood to be the “power” we are to receive when baptized into the Spirit (Acts 1:8). Once again, I believe that every spiritually alive church ought to see these gifts in operation in their services or home meetings or whatever, but most don’t. HOWEVER, to emphasize the use of the gifts to the neglect of an emphasis on the fruit of the Spirit is very grave. One begins to feel that the Holy Spirit’s primary purpose in our lives is to empower us to do miraculous things, when in fact the scripture tells us that He is far more interested in bringing about the character and holiness of Christ in us. Just look at the chapter that follows the enumeration of those gifts in 1 Cor. 12. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1Cor. 13:1-3)

Other than the “Health and Wealth” crap, I pretty much stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Pentecostals in their theology, but try to keep a little distance from them when it comes to the way I express my Pentecostal beliefs. I’ll visit this church again. However, though it bothers me to be this way, I am a bit wary as I go, and a little more sensitive to some of those things I have mentioned. I believe that God will lead me to the right church. And I know that whatever church He leads me to will be imperfect, and since I am very imperfect as well, I guess it will be a good match.

Written by jeffrossman

March 17, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Life, Theology

The Woman, the Child, and the Dragon

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So as I was writing what used to be the first part of this post (I have since erased it and started over), I realized that I was spending too much time on the periphery, instead of just getting to my point. So here it is…

The “off the beaten path” interpretation that I have arrived at is that Satan’s current activity may be different than what we commonly think. I believe that Satan’s activity is practically unchanged from what we observe in the book of Job. Let’s look:

1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”

A few things I want to point out from this passage. First – Satan has significant access to God here. Satan is actually standing in God’s presence, before His throne, having a conversation with Him (albeit wrought with tension and acerbity). Furthermore it is interesting to note that God seems to “cut to the chase” a bit with Satan. God pipes up and offers Job for Satan’s observation. Why? Because this is why Satan had come – to ACCUSE God’s people before Him. So God offers up His own candidate for Satan’s consideration. Satan says, “Oh, Job only serves you because you have hedged him in with success and blessing. Take all that away and he’ll curse You to Your face!” We know the rest of the story. But is this the only place where we see Satan doing this?

Zech. 3:1 – “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.”

Luke 22:31 – “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

There are other, less clear, examples of this, such as when Michael “contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses…”

Satan is given an unusual title in Revelation 12:10: The Accuser of our Brothers. When we view his activity in the scriptures mentioned above, this seems a very appropriate title. Satan accused Job of serving God only for the blessings he received. Satan accused the high priest before God. Satan asked for Peter’s soul, to sift it like wheat – obviously, Satan was asking God for Peter’s soul.

But is Satan still doing this? Does Satan go before God for you and me? Does Satan accuse US before our Father? I believe he does. Taking a futurist view of revelation, it seems that Satan will continue his role as “Accuser of the Brethren,” until he is “cast out,” and there is “no longer any place for them in heaven.” It is after this that Satan’s wrath is kindled because, “he knows his time is short.”

“But what about the cross? Didn’t Jesus overturn the power of Satan through His atoning death?” Yes, He did! However, even though Satan’s power was trumped by Christ’s victory on the cross, it doesn’t mean that Satan no longer has any influence in the world. It is obvious that he does! But for the child of God who has believed in Christ, Satan has no more power. Not only that, but when Satan comes to accuse us before the Judge of the Whole Earth, WE HAVE AN ATTORNEY!! Jesus Christ stands up and advocates for us. Satan attempts to bring unjust accusations against us before God, but Christ stands at our defense. This is what John meant when he said, “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Even when we sin, and Satan comes to say, “SEE! I told you that Jeff was a worthless wretch! I told you that if the opportunity to sin was placed in his path, he would fall headlong into it!!” It is then that my incredible Savior stands up to defend me. “Your Honor. My client is guilty of this charge. But his sentence was already carried out. I move for a dismissal.” Says the Judge, “Case dismissed.”

So, wrapping it up. Satan still has access to God to Accuse the Brothers before Him day and night. At the end of the age, Satan will be cast out of heaven, having no place anymore to accuse God’s children, and he will be enraged by this. It is at this time that he will unleash his wrath upon the world, and the traditional idea of “the Great Tribulation” will begin. However, nowhere in Revelation is the “seven-year tribulation” idea propogated – that comes from a misinterpretation of a prophecy in Daniel. This tribulation lasts 3 1/2 years. Or 1260 days. Or “a time, times, and half a time.” Neither will the saints be “spared” from this time, at least not by a rapture. God promises to sustain the saints through this time, to protect them and nourish them “in a place prepared for them in the wilderness.” But Satan will seek to destroy them. He will pursue them and persecute them. It will be an aweful time for the saints. But Christ will triumph, and the tribulation the saints experience will be transformed into eternal glory. Satan will be bound for 1,000 years, and the saints will rule the earth with Christ, God will make His dwelling with man. Satan will be loosed for a short time, there will be a war, God will win, the end.

Written by jeffrossman

November 13, 2008 at 5:42 pm

Posted in Theology

Don’t paint yourself into a corner…

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I’ve just spent a good deal of my lunch break reading about “Kingdom Now,” theology. I could sit here and explain it, but I don’t want to, and it would sort of defeat the purpose of this post…

I found my way to a website that places Kingdom Now theology and Dispensationalist theology (as well as a few others) side by side. What I found was that I agreed and disagreed with various points from both theological systems. It helped reinforce to me what I have known for a long time…ALL theological systems are broken, incomplete, myopic.

I find that when anyone buys wholesale into any theological system, they seem to forego the freedom to think for themselves anymore. The possibility of any idea being true, which lies outside the scope of their “system,” becomes unthinkable, even blasphemous! These people begin to interpret the scriptures through the lens of their particular theological leanings, as opposed to taking the scriptures for what they say. Passages that seem to contradict their “system” are scrutinized and studied until an acceptible reason can be found as to why they in fact SUPPORT the system which they so clearly seem to oppose…

I have Pentecostal leanings, Calvinistic leanings, Dispensationalist leanings, Kingdom Now leanings, Oneness AND Trinitarian leanings…I have leanings that don’t fit into any category! So should I choose to lock myself into a system just because I agree with it 80%, whereas the other systems I agree with only 10%. NO! I believe what I believe based on my understanding of scripture, which is always evolving and growing. I can’t see myself ever being painted into a theological corner, either by my own doing, or someone else.

That’s all, just letting off some steam…

Written by jeffrossman

November 12, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Theology

Off the beaten path

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So, I’ve got a theological proposition for all of you Christians out there who may be interested. It’s sort of radical; it’s off the beaten path, not quite mainstream – but I think I may be on to something. It will most likely take a few posts to get it all out.

The passage in question comes from Revelation 12. Now there are significant interpretive issues with Revelation in general, even more so with this particular passage, so I understand that it can be difficult to argue ANY theological point from this book of the Bible. Due to its highly apocalyptic/prophetic/symbolic nature, it can be difficult (maybe impossible) to set down an interpretation that cannot be refuted. Maybe some of you will step up and provide other viewpoints. One simple request – use scripture to support your views.

Let’s dig in…

The Woman, the Child, and the Dragon

These three characters are the focal point of this chapter. Now each of these characters appear as as SIGNS IN HEAVEN, which means that they represent some truth or reality in symbolic form. The difficulty in interpreting the true meaning of these three characters, is that John only tells us what one of these characters represents: the Dragon is Satan (cf. verse 9). As for the identity of the Woman and the Child, we are left only to speculate, or better, to make “educated guesses” drawn from context, and from scripture as a whole.

The point of this particular study is not so much to determine the identity of these characters, as to point out that the common/traditional interpretations of this passage are severely lacking in continuity. Allow me to explain…

5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

Okay, so the most common interpretation is this: The Woman is ISRAEL, the Child is CHRIST, the Dragon is SATAN. Furthermore, I will list out the common interpretations of the above three verses, with emphasis on their chronological placement…

verse 5 – 2,000 years ago ISRAEL “gives birth” to CHRIST. SATAN is poised to destroy CHRIST the moment He is born (perhaps a reference to Herod’s mandate to massacre all the infants in the region). The Child (CHRIST) is caught up to God – the ascension?? Possibly it is simply symbolic of divine protection.

verse 6 – ISRAEL is hidden from SATAN in the wilderness during the tribulation, apparently to protect them from the horrors of the tribulation. Most likely this “prepared place” is Petra.

verse 7 – Some time before Eden, God declared war on SATAN because he attempted to usurp God’s power. Michael and his angels fight against Satan and his angels. Satan loses, is cast down with 1/3 of heaven’s angels.

If you were paying attention, then you saw the same discrepancies I saw. Only when removed from their context and observed alone do they seem to support the various doctrines they are used for. But placed within their context, the above interpretations seem disjointed & confused. It simply seems impossible that in the span of three verses, which, on the surface, seem to be progressing a coherent and chronologically successive story line, could be representative of prophetically significant, but utterly unrelated and temporally dissonant events.

Well, there’s the teaser anyway. More to come. Feel free to argue with me.

Written by jeffrossman

October 13, 2008 at 4:19 pm