Thursday, April 05, 2012
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Though I love to "consume" art... and am a glutton of it...
I find that I am really only at that place where I feel a religious experience, a relation to the Godhead, is when I am creating art. Either in my newfound love of watercolor, or in Asian style inking, in 3d computer building, or paper model design, I feel the presence of the rough scarred hands next to me. What draws me to consume other's art in painting, music, writing or sculpture is knowing that they too, consciously or not to them, are expressions of that same set of callous, nail crippled artist's hands.
When the idea arises that we are made in God's image, there are all the various arguments about language and spirit/soul divisions and civilization that most people use to divide us from the animals and plants in God's workmanship... but for me, its the creativity, the expressions of the freedom from the bonds of the hum-drum that express worship of the One whose ultimate expressive power is the very power of creation itself. Art is the place where we come the closest to "out of nothing, everything" that only God can truly achieve. Our great creative power displays His, our limitations in that creative power but insistence in trying magnify God's limitless and mighty power.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
May 4, 2010
Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) was one of the leading lights of the 18th Century revival, a protegé of Isaac Watts whose writing helped convert William Wilberforce.
Hear what Brother Doddridge has to say in his great work of devotion, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, as if he were writing to us here in the blogosphere. (His frame of reference is Christianity, but the implications of his wisdom go out to everyone.)
How does your mind stand affected toward those who differ from you in their religious feelings and practices? I do not say that Christian charity will require you to think every error harmless…. But to hate persons because we think they are mistaken, and to aggravate every difference in judgement or practice into a fatal and damnable error that destroys all Christian communion and love, is a symptom generally much worse than the evil it condemns.
Do you love the image of Christ in a person who thinks himself obliged in conscience to profess and worship in a manner different from yourself? More than this, can you love and honor that which is truly amiable and excellent in those in whom much is defective–in those in whom there is a mixture of bigotry and narrowness of spirit, which may lead them perhaps to slight or even to censure you? Can you love them as the disciples and servants of Christ who, through a mistaken zeal, may be ready to “cast out your name as evil” (Luke 6:22) and to warn others against you as a dangerous person?
To show such love, says Doddridge, is one of the great triumphs of the work of God in one’s life.
I aspire to showing it much more…
(The quotation is from David Lyle Jeffrey, ed., English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley, republished by Regent College Publishing.)
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Dear Pastor Michael:
How do you know it is from God and not your own voice? - Miss LAMMM
A very good question.
There are three principles that one must always use in hearing God's voice and knowing that it is him and not you.
1] The Eternal,
2] The Plan, and
3] The Word
1] The Eternal. God (Christ) is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and he is not a man that lies or the son of a man that needs to be sorry for what he has said, he speaks and he makes it happen just like he said (Numbers 23:1) What does that mean? If you hear God's voice in your head you must review it and study it. Faith is not blind and God is not after blind faith. He gives evidence. Hebrews Chapter 11 is all about knowing how God works by reviewing past performance. Use what you know about God to judge what you are hearing him say to you. He will not contradict himself. He will not ask you to do something that is contrary to his own ways and methods and will. Now, the next two are closely related to this first one.
2] The Plan. God has one plan... one will... That all things that breath and think come to know him and be known by him (Philippians 2:10; Romans 14:11; Isaiah 45:23). People are always worried about "What is God's will?" but that is simple... he told us... his will is that all people come to know him. Anything at all that God asks you to do, or any voice you hear that says it is God will ask only one thing of you... Do THIS (whatever this is) because it will bring more people to know Jesus. That is all. Period. God will not speak to you about what color of car to buy or what length of hair to wear. He will ask you to do things that are clearly for the growth of his kingdom.
3] The Word. Since God is the same every time, his Word is the same every time (Psalm 119:89 and 2 Timothy 3:16). If a voice tells you it is God speaking to you: Listen to what it says and study it, know it inside and outside: "Don't believe every spirit! but test them!" (1 John 4:1) What is the standard to test them by? The word of God. No voice of God or his angles will EVER contradict the Bible. That means you have to KNOW the bible... not the traditions of the Church. You have to hear what God is saying in the Bible first, not the opinions of others, and then see if the voice speaking to you is the same voice. When all the sheep are mixed together, the owners will call them and all the sheep will go to the right owner. When we know Jesus, we will hear HIS voice as different than all the others out there (John 10:27) but if we only SAY we know Jesus and we don't really spend time with him and his words, then any voice can come along and we will follow it.
That's my plan for understanding if a voice I hear is God's voice.
MOST of the time - the voices are NOT God's voice!
But oh - great day when it is!
Then.. sometimes... I test the voice even further... like Gidion (Judges 6) who asked God to show some signs that this voice really was from Him. This is not doubt saying "I don't believe you," this is faith saying, "I would like to believe you but I want to make sure it is you." When I came to Taiwan, I asked God if he was asking me to come, then he should show me three signs. I even told him what the three should be! I said, first cure my allergy to fish, second make Sandy want to come, and third find us jobs here BEFORE we come AND find people to take over our jobs in America BEFORE we leave.
God cured my allergy to fish immediately. I still get a sore throat and sometimes my eyes swell, but a month before I asked this, I would stop breathing if I ate fish.
Then Sandy, who hated the idea of moving anywhere at all, much less to an Asian country, fell in love with Taiwan and heard God too.
Then she had the right man apply to her job and get it, and I had the right guy apply for my job and get it.
Now some may say this is all coincidence. Sure. It may be. But people are convicted of crimes by "a preponderance of the evidence." All that means is that when there are too many coincidences then you have to assume that it is NOT a coincidence.
When you hear God speak... there will be too many coincidences for it to be a mistake... there will be too much evidence in his WORD for it to be uncertain. It will still be weird and hard for other people to understand... but you will understand it and there will be little doubt.
He will never tell you WHY he is asking you to do this until you obey him and do it. DON'T make that the reason that you obey him. Use the principles above for the reason you obey... just realize that he reason he is asking is not given to you until you obey. That's okay. What's more important is that the things he is asking you to do WILL be in agreement with his Word and with his past performance. It may be dangerous... it may be no fun... but it will always agree with the three principles - if you know them, you don't NEED the reason why he is asking. He does this to get perfect obedience rather than assisted obedience. If we know the reason he is asking, we may try to do things "a better way" than he has asked us to do it. We think we know better how to get to the goal than he does. But if we don't know the reason, we can only do what he asks. Just like a starship captain or a doctor in the Emergency Room... he knows, the people who obey just need to follow him, later they will see why.
Hope this helps with whatever it is you are hearing Him say.
Monday, January 11, 2010
So, do you say Twenty-Ten or do you say Two thousand and ten? Me? I say Twenty-Ten because it sounds all Sci-Fi and such. I expect my personal rocket pack and ray gun any day now. My application to live on Mars is in the mail.
I feel cheated.
When I was 12, all this cool stuff was to happen by 2010. Oh the possibilities we knew! We were sure that man would never leave the surface of the Moon and that the outer planets would be the frontier of our middle ages. Though we did get some cool Sci-Fi predictions, and some of them better than we had imagined (internet, laptops, PDAs, DVDs and digital cameras), the "future" has been mostly a disappointment. Why? not because of what IS but because of what COULD HAVE BEEN and is not.
It is the way I feel about 2009. I had great plans for 2009. Really, grand plans. There were plans to video some events going on in missions in Taiwan to send back home; plans to build up the campus presence of our Bible studies; and plans to make our presence even more known among the locals...
...all pushed out of the way for kidney stones. No kidding. A year of hospital visits and doctor shopping, a year of constant flank pain and frustration. Amazing how selfish and inward looking we become when there is pain involved. An 8cm rock in my side pushed away ALL my plans for a full year.
The dreams of 2010 to my 12 year old eyes may have been pushed away by the economy or by the wrong guy in office or by the apathy of the people... but that does not mean the people wont be sipping around in jet packs and shooting ray guns in my lifetime!
A rock in my side may have pushed away the plans of 2009... but that does not mean that 2010 is a wash! I can't wait to see what happens. Perhaps God's schedule is right on time.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I have a new Dog! He is Stewart the Wonder Dog! He is a young Shiba Inu pup. He was rescued off the streets of Kaohsiung by a volunteer group called BARK. He was furless from scabees and nearly deaf from ear parasites. Now he is healthy, wealthy and wise and living in my house. In just a few days we were the best of friends and he is my shadow in all endeavors. Even the clerks and the local 7-11 know his name and welcome him into the store. The local computer shop even lets him into their store and they "baby sit" him while I shop. There is a lot of love in a dog... and there is even more in a rescued dog. He was clearly someone's dog at some point because he knew things about house living and riding a motorcycle (which he cannot get enough of). But he was homeless for a long time. Many people will get a puppy because they are cute, but after a year, they lose interest and will just turn them out into the streets. Shibas are known as wanderers so Stew wandered off and got lost for at least 6 months to a year judging from his illnesses. Go out an rescue your own homeless dog or cat today! Get them cared for and spay or neutered. Show them that they have a home and that they are loved... and they will return that love 100s of times over. They may just make you into a happier and more merry person as well!
We are now 5 weeks into leading the English Worship Service. Some of you know about Pastor SS and the small town he ministers to. Pastor SS came to me recently with a dream of his to have an English Worship service. In his mind, there were enough foreigners in the area now to justify it, and he hoped some of his youth group would attend as well. He asked me to lead it. I was hesitant at first… I didn't really come here to lead an English worship for foreigners.
On our first Sunday we had around 30 people, half foreign and half locals Hakka youth and young adults. The local colleges and English cram schools supplied the foreigners. Local interest was better than I had imagined. We average about 20 to 25 each Sunday and new faces show up all the time. Because of the nature of college students, their research, and their part time jobs, we don't see them as regularly as we would like, but none of them have been one-time-only visitors! We have even had a few Hakka and Taiwanese state that this was becoming their primary worship time because they appreciated the message being preached there.
Our little congregation has been praying for Mr. R for a few months now. Mr. R is a Hakka man that has some strong anger issues and depression that have caused him a great deal of sorrow in his life and forced him into deeper and deeper isolation. He once came to my house, where I shared the Gospel with him and he pretty firmly rejected it because Buddha would just "give him what he wants," rather than having to "serve" Jesus. Mr. R stopped coming to the house even though he often asked about me when he saw friends.
Last week a friend informed me that Mr. R has been hospitalized in another town for his deepening mental illness. Ms. T, a devoted Hakka believer some of you may know, took a group of four Taiwanese Christians, including herself, up to see Mr. R. She drove the hour and a half to take some folks to see a guy that is not really all that lovable and who had shown them a lot of anger and rejection.
While visiting Mr. R in his hospital room, Ms. T took the opportunity to share the Gospel message with him again. This time things were different. This time Mr. R knew of his own sinfulness, the pain that it had caused him and his family. This time Mr. R had a few weeks of the Holy Spirit reminding him of the things he had heard from Mr. E and Michael and others. This time Mr. R prayed to receive Jesus Christ into his heart.
The man in the next bed over also prayed to receive Jesus into his heart!
Mr. R says he will be joining us now in Bible Study and Worship, just as soon as he comes home. Ms. T did some discipling too, telling him to listen to the Doctors and continue his medications and counseling, and that we would be there to help him.
Pray for Mr. R and his hospital roommate as they face their own issues… and give thanks that they do not have to face them alone now. Give thanks that they can now face them with a new life in Christ.
Pray for Ms. T and give thanks for her boldness to share. Praise the Lord that we are seeing people like Ms. T and Mr. E… just as we have always hoped… Taiwanese Christians sharing Jesus with Taiwanese in their own language and with their own culture but with the full life of Jesus guiding them.
Pray for our new English speaking congregation as they grow and learn to be a family in Christ, serving their community and sharing Jesus.
Michael & Sandy Haggard