Restoring the Early Church, Reliance on Scripture, and Achieving Unity

Almost every individual who has had a significant impact on the kingdom since the time of Jesus has had a desire to restore the New Testament church; no group or individual has the corner on restoration although they might each use unique language to express this idea. We can look at the changes Luther made and notice that he did not go far enough. The same is true with every reformer. Even the people who planted the church you attend did not go far enough, and neither will we in our efforts to bring about God's will. What makes these church planters and reformers great was their ability to figure out how to live in the culture that surrounded them and share the good news of the kingdom in a relevant way. They did not isolate themselves from the culture, yet they refused to be conformed. In the end, we should be thankful that they allowed the Holy Spirit to transform them to impact their culture.

Unfortunately, our natural tendency as followers of Jesus and bodies of believers is to stray away from that simple church where the Jesus is the head. We seem to inevitably follow men, fall in love with methods that began with a purpose yet continue meaninglessly on, and develop doctrines that are viewed as essential but are not that significant. The upside to this is that we always have room to restore the early church practices and teachings in our generation. From our perspective, we have the advantage of building on and learning from two thousand years of reformers who have tried to move us in that direction. Unfortunately, we can see through a study of history that each generation have great omissions when it comes to restoring the early church. It is humbling to acknowledge that we will have great omissions of our own that are not obvious to us. But that does not mean we should give up on restoring the early church; it just means that we should not be prideful and believe we have established the perfect church without any useless methods or wrong doctrines. We need to serve Jesus to the best of our abilities, pass the church on to the next generation in a better state than when we joined it, and allow room for mistakes and grace along the way.

When looking at historical and modern-day reformers, we all too often have the tendency to copy a program, rip off a teaching, or model our lives after theirs. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, but we also need to realize that God made us the way we are to bring about his will in the time we are living. We need to mimic the reformers desire for unity and their passion, not their methods. They were made for and were living in a particular place and time. Their causes and efforts were significant, yet their methods are outdated because time has moved on and the conversation has changed.

We need to be willing to change yet hold firmly to a passion to have unity based on the authority of Scripture. That is easier to write than to actually implement because we frequently confuse our interpretations of Scripture with Scripture itself. We isolate ourselves with people who share our beliefs while ignoring and condemning those who disagree. This results in the development of pride and arrogance in our understanding of Scripture. It seems to be rare indeed to find a person that you can show Scripture to who will then go home, study that Scripture, and change their beliefs according to what the Bible said rather than what they had always been taught. But that is the type of people we need to be if we want to have any sort of unity. Whether you believe that God is still speaking today or whether he stopped interacting with us at the final swipe of the apostle John's quill, we can all agree that if the Bible says something, then we need to believe that teaching and change our lives to reflect it.

It seems amazingly easy to have unity with those who are loving and willing to transform their beliefs to the teachings of Scripture. It is impossible to have unity with those who base their beliefs on traditional doctrines, whether handed down through a written handbook or expressed through oral traditions. Even if we would agree with one another on every point at one time, we would be left with no no room for growth. In these types of situations, people will not be willing to reconsider their beliefs or examine an old thought that has been overlooked. They will go around believing what they were told and always read the Scripture in the light they were given.

The first thing to be tossed out the door in a system based on traditional doctrines is intellectual integrity. Intellectual integrity is thrown out for intellectual conformity. The end result becomes an environment of intellectual totalitarianism. God does not desire us to be identical twins; he wants us to be brothers and sisters. True spiritual unity happens when we are willing to submit ourselves to Jesus, the Spirit, and the written word of God to transform our minds and actions into who God intends for us to be. We don't need uniformity; we need unity!


Some quotes that inspired this post:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11 (ESV).

Probably the greatest hurdle which Centrist and Rightists among the Disciples will have to take in this eventual confrontation with the 'denominational world' is admission of the fact that their traditional presentation of 'the plea' is outmoded and that they do not have all the answers to the present ecumenical situation. Many of them have become enmeshed in controversies involving outworn shibboleths which had meaning in the day they were created, but some of which are a 'foreign language' now (James Deforest Murch, Christians Only: A History of the Restoration Movement, 366).

There must be admission that the New Testament church has not yet been perfectly restored anywhere within the Restoration movement. The division into three bodies and the lack of complete unity within each of them are positive proof that the Disciples have yet much to learn about what it takes to realize the answer to Christ's prayer in John 17. Moderate persons are saying now that this situation calls for penitential prayer and the demonstration of sincere repentance. A new spirit of humilty must be born in those who would sit down with men in other communions and talk of the things of the kingdom. The guidance of the Holy Spirit must be sought in discovering a right approace to the modern ecumenical problem...Literally millions of Christians are willign to sit down in such mutuality of spirit today, but they will not tolerate a holier-than-thou attitude from a people who have manifestly fallen far short of perfection in their plea for and practice of unity (Murch, 366-367).

Brief Thoughts on Politics in Washington - Blue Dogs, Obama, and the Republicans

Obama should not be worried about the Blue Dogs. The Democratic Blue Dogs claim to be the center of American politics, but the center seems to always be the ones bought and paid for by Corporate America. Obama should be worried about all of us who voted Democrat for the first time (after a short lifetime of voting for the Republican candidate) because we thought he could make a difference. We voted for health care for all Americans. We voted for a halt to the corporate takeover of America. We voted for peace. We voted for the end of politics as usual in Washington.

Unfortunately, so far, all he has shown us is the same old politics as normal. I want an America that I can believe will have a better future and make the world better, not an America controlled by corporations, who profit off of war, health care, and friendly corporate laws. That's why I voted Obama, and he needs to show me that is what he is about if he wants to keep me voting Democrat.

And I don't think I am alone.

In the end, I would prefer Republican solutions over no solutions. Staying the same is not going to fix anything. Staying the same is not a solution in these circumstances.

And like many other Republicans, I became disillusioned with them, but I did not move into the Blue Dog camp. If they are claiming those of us who voted Democrat for our first time as their victory, they are sorely mistaken. Back in the 90s, it seemed that the Democrats only stood against issues while the Republicans had a plan. Now, it seems like the Republicans only stand against issues while the Democrats have a plan. We'll see if they actually have that plan. There is nothing like having power and control to show what you really believe. And the Blue Dogs just seem to believe in raising funds for their campaigns by making certain political stances.

McCain ran, at least in my area, on "vote against Obama." I don't want to vote against something; I want to vote for something! And with America, I don't want to be against something. I want to be for something!

A Different Approach to Taxes in Germany

Some rich Germans have formed an organization to ask their government to increase their taxes. Are these people nuts? Or just socially responsible?

Rich Germans demand higher taxes

I have heard the response lately that taxes are stealing. It's taking money from the wealthy to give to the poor. Jesus had the opportunity to describe them as such and did not categorize taxes as stealing. He just said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." This approach by the wealthy Germans throws that argument completely on its head. They want to be taxed.

Miracles, Mary, Perceptions, Getting Scared, and God's Plan for our Lives

Seeing an angel appear at the foot of my bed and speak to me would be terrifying. I’m a little paranoid and am scared to death of certain things. This year, while mowing, I encountered a garter snake and screamed like a grown man. I was riding my mower, noticed a snake crawling beside me, and screamed at the top of my lungs. I didn’t even know that I was scared of snakes, but I guess I am.

During my freshman year of college, I would go to bed before my roommate, Josh. He would stay up and watch Letterman, Conan O’Brien, or work on homework. I was usually in bed by 11. He had a tendency to leave the door unlocked. One night I woke up from someone tapping me on the shoulder. I rolled over, expecting it to be Josh, and looked to see what he wanted. What I saw was not Josh. Instead, I encountered a big, giant, scary mask staring me in the face and was greeted by a loud, “Boo!” I sat up in my bed and screamed at the top of my lungs. That night the two big 6’10” linemen - that’s the big guy position in football for those who don’t follow football – decided to sneak into all the unlocked rooms and scare people. As I was laying there in my bed, trying to calm my heart beat down, I could hear screams of fellow students previously asleep behind unlocked doors echo down the hallway.

Apparently Jesus’ mother Mary had a similar reaction to Gabriel, for Gabriel’s initial response to Mary was, “Do not be afraid.” Encountering an unexpected person in what is supposed to be a safe place would cause some fear. But Gabriel was there, not to terrify her, but to tell her that she had found favor with God and would be blessed by him.

So what was the big blessing. You know it. Mary, being a virgin who was engaged, would become pregnant. Imagine the conversation between Joseph and Mary. “So Mary, you say that you are pregnant from the Holy Spirit? Sure.” As we see in the book of Matthew, he was going to divorce her over her pregnancy. It took an angel of the Lord to convince him not to. Now, he was left to decide whether Mary had some very good friends talented in special effects or whether the message from the angel was the real thing.

A lot of times, God’s blessings can be viewed either positively or negatively. Here was Mary, pregnant and a virgin. If she had a negative outlook on life, she would have said, “I can’t believe this. It ruins my wedding night. I was saving myself from Joseph, now he won’t even believe me that I am pregnant because I found favor with God. What kind of blessing is this anyway? Now, all my neighbors and friends will also think I’m a slut.” Even after Joseph received the message from an angel, I am sure the neighbors and friends still thought Mary was unfaithful. Who, in their right mind, would believe that God impregnated a woman?

But Mary did. Joseph did. Miracles are seldom seen by others as being miraculous, but those who experience them know what they are. We can sit around, be Mr. or Mrs. Negativity, and condemn all of the great miracles people believe that God has done in their lives. We can say miracles are no longer done because we don’t experience them, but that would be allowing our experience to speak rather than Scripture. A respected professor and minister in the non-instrumental churches of Christ made a comment to me this year: “We have made the mistake of saying miracles were gone with Apostles.” I know Lindsay and I have experienced tremendous blessings from God. The same with the church we are part of. People outside of God would just say that they were coincidences. I am baffled by how many “coincidences” Christians, who are willing to give their lives over to God, experience.

Jesus would be the result of Mary's sacrifice; a sacrifice she would view as a blessing. The king of the long-awaited Kingdom of God would finally come. The Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for and that the world needed. And this blessing would come through Mary, a woman who had her world rocked. She was pregnant before being married, Jesus' arrival would not be painless, and raising him would change her life. But in the process, her sacrificing her own rights allowed the world to be changed. That is an essential characteristic of those who are used by God; they have to be willing to be a sacrifice.

I think Mary’s story tells it best. She sacrificed her plans for her future for the sake of God’s plan for her. When we encounter God and allow him to direct our lives, that is usually what happens. We cannot go on living the way we have always lived if we want to be who God wants us to be. And that is true whether we have been following God our whole life or are just starting to take our first steps. God’s plans will crush our own plans, but that’s okay. When we allow that to happen, our lives, and our world is a better place. We have to realize that. God’s plan for our life is better than our own.

The Desert Cross, World War I, and the Justification of War

The Sojourners posted a great, brief article and a Colbert clip on the Desert Cross controversy.

How the Desert Cross once looked:

How it looks now:

I find it disturbing for a cross to be a war memorial, especially during WWI in which both sides claimed to on the God's side.

During WWI, an American preacher gave a passionate sermon in which he said, “ It is God who has summoned us to this war. It is his war we are fighting...the greatest in history—the holiest. It is in the profoundest and truest sense a Holy War....Yes, it is Christ, the king of Righteousness, who calls us to grapple in deadly strife with this unholy and blasphemous power [Germany].” The dilemma with a statement such as this is that “inscribed on the belts and helmets of the men fighting for this 'unholy and blasphemous power' was the slogan, 'Gott mit uns' (God [be] with us), and their greatest wartime motto, inscribed on scores of monuments to their dead, to be covered by the ruins of a second World War was, 'Fuer Gott und Vaterland' (for God and country). On whose side was God?” [1].

On whose side was God?

One of the dilemmas of war is that every side believes they are on the morally righteous side. Albert Keim and Grant Stoltzfus, two prominent CO historians, wrote:
This view [just war] today the essence of the war ethic of most Christian groups. Implicitly, of course, it contains an alternative to war; if the war to be waged is an unjust war, the Christian alternative is not to participate. Unfortunately very few Christians through the centuries have rejected war on the grounds that it was unjust. Virtually all wars have been 'just' wars [2].
WWI, in the end, had no righteous winner. Americans were not quick to stand up and declare the war a just war although it was sold to them as such. Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes, a historian from Columbia University, noted that none of the stated reasons for entering the first world war were achieved. Americans had been sold a basket of lofty ideals that more resembled deception after the war. Prior to WWII, Barnes wrote:
We are all familiar enough with the myths that we believed in the first war. We were taught that our intervention was the only thing that could prevent Germany from conquering the world. We were informed that we were saving the world from further carnage and the rule of brute force. Finally, we were led to believe that we were fighting for noble ideals which would set up a new era in human civilization. On every point our experience in the first World War proved a tragic disappointment and disillusionment...By entering the first World War we did not save the world. We only made possible the smashing victory of the Allies which produced the fatal peace treaties...Not a single major ideal of wartime was realized [3].
This animosity toward war because of the false bag of goods sold during WWI crept up in the discussions prior to America entering WWII. The dominant thought against joining another war in Europe raged through America in the late 30s. Former President Hoover gave a statement in a speech on peace that was representative of the thoughts of many Americans in 1939 prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into WWII:
Last night I referred to the suffering of women and children in the Great War...For years it was my sole occupation to care for the homeless, the foodless, the frightened, and the helpless. I have witnessed their sufferings in twenty nations. And when one speaks to me of war, I do not see the glorious parade of troops marching to the tunes of gay music. I do not think of great statesmen planning and worrying in their chancelleries. Nor do I think of those dazzling chambers where the peacemakers of the world meet to settle the affairs of mankind. I see the faces of hungry, despaired, and terrorized women and children. These are the real victims of modern war. The violence of war is year by year falling more and more horribly upon the civilian populations. Starvation by blockade and killing from the air have become weapons of attack in modern war. At least they have become methods of reprisals. Put bluntly that means wholesale killing of women and children [4].
War had been revealed during WWI as a new beast in the modern age with advanced military technology. In war, especially with air warfare, women and children die. Bombs did not distinguish between the warrior and the civilian. Blockades caused advanced industrial societies to starve since much of their food needs to be imported. The victims of this starvation were not the military or government leaders; they would be first in line to receive food. “All over Europe it was the women and children who, weakened from scanty food supplies, died not in hundreds of thousands but in millions” [5]. The new weapons of war—bombing, blockading, and complete mobilization of industrial society—caused whole societies rather than just the men to become participants and victims in war [6].

In modern warfare, can any war be just?

[1] Quoted in Mennonite General Conference, Peace Problems Committee, The Churches and War, (Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1956), 16.

[2] Albert Keim and Grant Stoltzfus, The Politics of Conscience, Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1988, 19.

[3] Dr. Harry Elmer Barnes, Common Sense Neutrality, ed. Paul Comly French ( New York: Hastings House, 1939), 14-15.

[4] President Herbert Hoover, Common Sense Neutrality, ed. Paul Comly French ( New York: Hastings House, 1939), 110-111.

[5] Ibid, 111.

[6] Ibid, 111-113

Behavioral Science, Following God, and Sacrifice

Behavioral Science is the study of human behavior and what influences people to make the decisions they make. By understanding what makes people decide how they use their resources and what they do with their time, politicians, economists, marketing experts and their cohorts develop theories which translate into practices to try and mold us into what they want us to be. People usually make decisions based on three prevailing thoughts.

1. Will it help me in the present? We want instant gratification. A better future at the cost of the present is not worth a less comfortable present for a better future.

2.What is the chance of failure or have I experienced failure trying it in the past? Failures outweigh success and prevent many from moving.

3.Will it mean that I have to change? If I have to change, I don’t want to do it.

These prevailing thoughts that typically shape our decision making will cause us to make decisions that will inevitably lead to stagnation and death. And our natural tendencies will be exploited by those who want us to be what they want us to be.

When we make decisions, we need to not ask, “Will it help me in the present? What is the chance of failure? Or will it mean that I have to change?” Instead of letting our human tendencies dictate our decisions, what we need to ask is, “What does God want me to do?” God plans long-term, and sometimes his plan might not coincide with the worldly view of success. I might have to sacrifice today to be who he wants me to be tomorrow to bring about the changes that he wants to bring about. I need to realize that success is intimacy with God rather than bigger toys or more entertainment, although we might be blessed with those things. But we must realize that success will come with failures. We will have setbacks. And to continue to grow into the person that God wants, change is inevitable. We cannot be more of who he wants us to be and remain who we are. Those who do not continue to change their lives are on the way to spiritual death. We are either growing or dying. Life is about consistent change. And God is a God of change.

The Bible is a book of changes. In reading it, we get front row seats to see God attempt to shape people, nations, and churches into who he wants them to be. We see faithful people who follow him. We see villains who refuse his guidance only to follow their own desires. The truly faithful discarded the concerns of the moment, their worries about failure, and the human tendency to be hesitant about change, so that they could become who God wanted them to be.

Finding a Great Commentary

In reading Paul Wright's Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision, he encouraged students to not buy commentary series but to buy the best commentaries out there on each individual book. For the amount of money most students of the Bible have, it is prudent to make each purchase worthy of that money. I previously bought the Tyndale Bible Commentaries and some of the books are junk. Wright argued that the best writers usually never work together, and my experience has shown that to be right.

I was at a loss on how to discover what commentary was the best one for each book. Even my smart friends would not know what were the best commentaries outside of their specific fields. Then this morning, I randomly ran across a site through searching on the Tower of Babel, of all things, that answered this problem.

At Best Commentaries, they have the commentaries sorted by the book they address along with user ratings for each book. They can also be sorted by academic level: pastoral, technical, devotional, or special study.

Now the system is not flawless because it is based on user reviews and some unscrupulous commentator could get all of his friends to give him a good review like I did with Isaac's Jones Soda photo years back, which catapulted him into the top ten for weeks. And there is the hazard of people giving reviews who just like a guy but do not really know if his commentary is worthy of a good review.

I notice that Paul Kissling's Genesis (The College Press Niv Commentary. Old Testament Series) has no reviews.

Anyway, this site is a step in the right direction. It probably does not save me from emailing a few friends and asking for reliable commentaries, but it will help.

A Reason To Celebrate - The Falling Dollar Is Not All That Bad

Drudge keeps hyping the falling dollar as a bad thing. Bernanke is doing a bad job because of the declining dollar. (Can't we stick to him doing a bad job by being in bed with the banks.) I have trouble seeing how a declining dollar is bad. I even googled it to see what the negative ramifications were and couldn't really find any besides inflation. Inflation would be good for a debt-strapped country as long as income increases with inflation. That is what I like the most. My debt and the American government's debt will be relatively less if the dollar is worth less. That would also make my student loans worth less. Deflation, on the other hand, would be a nightmare making all of our debt worth relatively more.

20 Reasons Why a Falling Dollar Isn’t Necessarily a Bad Thing

I think Drudge wants me to think, "Ooh, the dollar is falling. That's bad. And Obama is bad because he is in charge." But nobody has explained why it is bad. Now I understand it would be bad if I was planning on buying all my Christmas toys from China this year like I do every year, planning a vacation to Europe, or going out to buy some luxury goods from abroad. Otherwise, the falling dollar seems like a good thing.

Ray Suarez interviewed two economists in 2004 about the falling dollar. They thought it was a good thing. In this case, I will concur with the experts.

So should Obama should be praised that he is making the dollar decline? Or do we just want to have the highest priced currency because we like to be on top? Personally, we need jobs and the dollar falling might make those foreign jobs come back. It would make our labor relatively cheaper compared to other nations.

How a Falling Dollar Affects the US and the Global Economy

So in the end, we should celebrate the falling dollar. I really don't see a down side unless you are addicted to BMWs and oil. Oh, oil.

An Examination of Spiritual Fasting

“Where are the people today who will respond to the call of Christ? Have we become so accustomed to ‘cheap grace’ that we instinctively shy away from more demanding calls to obedience? ‘Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross.’ Why has the giving of money, for example, been unquestionably recognized as an element in Christian devotion and fasting so disputed? Certainly we have as much, if not more, evidence from the Bible for fasting as we have for giving. Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money” (Foster, 54).

When I read through the Bible, I am amazed at the significance and the power of fasting. For some reason, that I cannot explain, prayer, when combined with fasting, produces tremendous results. It makes me wonder why we have forgotten this practice that we can see Moses, Paul, Elijah, Daniel, and Jesus exercised. Richard Foster, in his classic book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, pointed out that from 1861 to 1954 nobody published a single book in America on religious fasting (Foster, 47).

In an attempt at correction, we have overreacted to the abuses in the past and have decided to no longer fast. In the Middle Ages, fasting was extremely popular, mandatory in many circles, and people would show off their fasting prowess. The gaudiness of fasting was and still is overwhelming. Nobody wants an arrogant faster, so the pendulum swung back and we have avoided the external practice of fasting altogether. Some will say, "Nobody needs to fast anyway. It is not essential for us to be saved." But that misses the point. Fasting is not about being saved, it is about growing closer to God. Although fasting is gaining steam in the minds and practice of many Christians, I have yet to really see a church take hold of the practice and seek God's will for their church through it. I hope that will not be the case in a year.

So why have we stopped fasting? I have compiled a list of reasons from Foster's book and a book by Dean Trune entitled The Path Toward Passion: Nine Disciplines That Connect Your Heart to God's.

Reasons that we have stopped fasting (taken from Foster and Trune):
  • “With the decline of the inward reality of the Christian faith, an increasing tendency to stress the only thing left, the outward form, developed. And whenever there is a form devoid of spiritual power, law will take over because law always carries with it a sense of security and manipulative power…Modern culture reacts strongly to these excesses and tends to confuse fasting with mortification” (Foster, 47).
  • We are taught by the medical world that fasting is unhealthy, so I will give this disclaimer. Consult your doctor before fasting.
  • We are not taught about fasting. It is a subject most churches are silent about.
  • If we would be honest with ourselves, we are addicted to food.
  • We are spiritually lazy.
John Wesley said, “Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it.” Yet Wesley turned around and would not ordain a Methodist minister who did not fast two days a week. We have the tendency to take a good practice and make it a law. When we do that - when we fast out of obligation rather than passion - we remove all the power from the practice. Fasting needs to not be about me receiving what I want but about God bringing about what he wants.

A biblical fast is for spiritual reasons. We might quit eating something for a period of time or remove something completely from our diet for health reasons; those actions, although fine, are not a biblical fast. A biblical fast is where we acknowledge our spiritual dependency and need for God through the physical action of abstaining from food.

Some Great Stories of the Power of Fasting

“The king of Britain called for a day of solemn prayer and fasting because of a threatened invasion by the French in 1756. On February 6 John Wesley recorded in his Journal, ‘The fast day was a glorious day, such as London has scarce seen since the Restoration. Every church in the city was more than full, and a solemn seriousness sat on every face. Surely God heareth prayer, and there will yet be a lengthening of our tranquility.’ In a footnote he wrote, ‘Humility was turned into national rejoicing for the threatened invasion by the French was averted’” (Foster, 50).

“In his book Shaping History through Prayer and Fasting, Derek Prince relates how God prompted him to organize a day of prayer and fasting in England after World War II. He had heard of Joseph Stalin’s plan to purge Russia by killing thousands of Jews. Many people in England joined Prince on a particular Thursday by praying for God to stop the plan to kill Jews. Two weeks later, to the day, God stopped the planned killings. Stalin had a heart attack and died” (Trune, 92)

Key Bible Verses on Fasting

Leviticus 23:26-32 – The Lord established a corporate fast for the Day of Atonement.

Deuteronomy 9:9 – When Moses received the Ten Commandments, he fasted for forty days without food and water. This fast needed supernatural intervention.

1 Kings 19:8 – Elijah fasted for forty days prior to encountering God and receiving news on who to anoint as king of Syria and Israel and the successor of his ministry.

2 Chronicles 20:1-23 – Jehosophat called Judah to fast for God’s protection in the invasion of the Moabites and the Ammonites.

Ezra 8:21-23 – Ezra’s group fasted because Ezra did not want to ask for the king’s help because he has told the king “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” The purpose of the fast was to humble themselves and seek a safe journey.

Esther 4:16-17 – Esther and all of the Jews that participated fasted for three days from food and water. This was a dire time for the Jews.

Psalm 35:11-14 – David “afflicted” himself with fasting when he was being verbally attacked by others.

Psalm 69:9-12 – David writes that fasting was to humble his soul and a result of mourning.

Isaiah 58 – True and false fasting. A true fast is not just abstaining from food but looking at bringing about God’s will to the world around us.

I will take a break from the Bible verses to share a ridiculous fast that an acquaintance of mine did. For Lent he gave up pop. We were out and he ordered a beer because he could not drink pop. He drank a lot more beer during Lent that year. What a ridiculous fast.

Daniel 10:3 – Daniel did a three week fast from delicacies, meat, wine, and anointing himself. This was induced by mourning and led to him having a vision.

Joel 2:12-17 – The Lord calls on His people to have a corporate fast to repent of their sins.

Zechariah 7:4-5 – We do not fast for ourselves but for God. A proper fast is a focus on God and his will.

Zechariah 8:19 – By the time this was written Israel had four regular fasts. The Lord said that the fasts should be “seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts.”

Matthew 4:4 – During Jesus’ forty day fast, he answered Satan and said that his food is not the food of this world but “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Matthew 6:16-18 – Jesus’ teaching on fasting. He used the phrase “When you fast.” Fasting is not to be done for public accolades but for worship of God.

Matthew 9:14-15 – Jesus says that his disciples will fast when he is gone.

Luke 2:36-38 – Anna worshiped with fasting.

Luke 4:1-13 – Jesus fasted from food for forty days and was tempted during his fast.

Luke 18:9-14 – It was common for the Pharisees to fast twice a week. This is not a condemnation of the fasting but of the Pharisee showing off his spiritual practices.

John 4:31-38 – To do God’s will and accomplish his work was Jesus’ food. We need to have the same attitude.

Acts 9:9 – Paul did a total fast after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Acts 13:2-3 – They church at Antioch fasted and were told to send out Barnabas and Paul.

Acts 14:23 – Paul and Barnabas committed the elders to the Lord with prayer and fasting.

Colossians 1:15-20 – This verse does not mention fasting, but a fast is a recognition that there is a spiritual reality and God is in control. In a fast, we feed, not on food for our body, but on food for our soul.

Some Practical Tips on Fasting

Consult your doctor and see if it will kill you.

Start light. If you’ve never fasted just do lunch and supper one day and drink juices while fasting.

Then after a few weeks, move on to a complete food fast for a day. All you drink is water.

After, that you can decide what it is you are being tugged to. Should you fast once a day every week for a few years? Should you go on and try an extended fast?

Remember you won’t start starving, as long as you are healthy, until about 21 days into a fast. The first three days of an extended fast are the worst. The body is cleansing. Experts say to start eating again once you start to feel hunger pangs after 21 days.

If you think I missed a key verse or you have a great testimony concerning fasting, please share in the comments.

Quotes on Community

I found a page with a lot of great quotes on Christian community. It took me a while to find a good site, so I thought I would post it here.

The Importance of Intentional Community

Using Potholes Search - How to Create Your own Search Engine in Firefox and IE8

Follow these easy steps and you can be searching all the time using the Potholes search from the convenience of your browser no matter where you are on the internet.

Pothole Search is a Google search engine that searches the entire web, not just my site. It is just like searching Google. I will get paid for searches through it by Google. So if you want to search Google but have some of the search proceeds go to the lovely author of Potholes, then follow these easy steps. If you want, you can slightly tweak these steps to do the same for search engines on your own sites.

In Firefox:

1) Add The Add to Search Bar extension.

2) On this page, right click on the empty search box in the top right and select "add to search bar." Name it whatever you want.

3) Click on the tiny arrow next to the search icon, select "manage search engines", and move "Pothole search" to up to the top.

That's it! Life is good.

In IE8:

1) Go to IE's AddOn Gallery:

2) Paste this in the URL:

3) Put whatever you want in the Name. I used Pothole Search.

4) Click "Install Search Provider" and you are done.

That's it. Life is still good.

Article On Leadership - Economist on Intel and Andrew Grove - Changing Established Churces to Be Focused Outwardly

This article deals with being a great leader and Andrew Grove's thoughts on how the government not allowing companies to fail is a bad thing in the long run.

Paranoid Survivor: Andrew Grove, the former boss of Intel, believes other fields can learn from the chipmaking industry that he helped bring into being.
"Computer firms come and go all the time, such is the pace of innovation in the industry. Yet for some reason this healthy attitude towards creative destruction is not shared by other industries."

"Every company will face a confluence of internal and external forces, often unanticipated, that will conspire to make an existing business strategy unviable."

"He launched the “Intel Inside” campaign, which marketed microprocessor chips directly to consumers, starting in 1991. This incensed his rivals and his immediate customers, the computer-makers, but the strong demand for Intel’s new Pentium chip showed that the strategy had worked."

"Dr Grove, however, insists that it was his experience at City College, where talent and hard work were rewarded and where students challenged their professors without concern for rank, that impressed upon him the value of meritocracy....The meritocratic culture he created at Intel then helped it attract the best talent in the industry."
This last point stuck with me the most. Churches tend to develop a culture that rewards those who have been there the longest and who give the most money. That would go completely against the approach that Grove took to make Intel successful. A healthy church is one that takes any good idea no matter where it came from and allows gifting to decide who gets to serve rather than seniority or time at the church. This is why church plants grow faster than established churches. An established church will already have all the "prominent" positions filled and will already know who they listen to as their idea people. If you aren't in the circle of the prominent or one of the reputable idea people, you will be ignored. They will gladly plug you into one of their cookie cutter ministries, but you better fit the mold. An open church, which most church plants are naturally, allows those with gifting to serve and implements any new idea that is useful in reaching out. Established churches need to figure out how to open things up and allow God, through the people He has gifted, to lead rather than allow the Old Boys' Club to continue on.

In pointing out that Intel became successful when it started marketing to the end consumer rather than marketing to computer manufacturers who actually made the decision to put the chips in computers, I was struck at the difference between a church that "does church" for those already in the pews compared to a church that is willing to do whatever it takes to share the Gospel to all. The former approach always leads to stagnation and death if not changed. The latter leads to life and vitality. Although you might lose some of the Christians who do not want to reach out along the way, a church that is focused on outreach will always be blessed more than an inwardly-focused church.

There might be problems in the immediate future when an established church changes focus, but change is necessary if we want to see the trend of dying churches stopped and enter into an era of vibrant local churches throughout the communities around us. It's either change or remain stagnant and die. Many are in churches that face this decision, and it is not an easy decision to make. People who have been catered to, have always heard the messages they wanted to hear on their pet doctrines that would not challenge them, and have controlled what is done in the church do not take kindly to a church changing its focus from pleasing the pew sitters to loving the community. The key is letting God control what we do rather than any person in the pew, no matter how much they have paid for that seat. It's His Church; it's His mission; He will provide what we need to fulfill that task if we are open to Him, His changes, and His will.

We Don't Rob God, We Rob Ourselves

We don’t rob God of anything when we don’t do His will. He does not need us to do His will. God does not sit around and wonder how He is going to get His will done. He does not sit up in heaven saying that He needs Regan to be faithful or else He cannot achieve what He wants. No, He lives in our hearts trying to guide us to do His will because He knows that His will is what is best for our lives. We only rob ourselves when we live selfishly outside of God’s will. God has blessings in store for us. He has a great life planned for us. When we live outside of His will, we rob ourselves of that blessing.

I can go on living life the way I want and I will receive what I deserve through my own merits. For some of us that might not be much; for others, they can earn the possessions of this world and live the high life. Or I can live life as a child of the King and get what I do not deserve because of His merits. When I realize that I am His child and He wants to take care of me like I want to take care of my children, then I will want to please Him like a child wants to please their mom and dad. His love is amazing. And his grace is also amazing.

Religion, including Jesus’ Church, has a tendency to be pulled toward a culture of ungrace. One in which you need to appear perfect in order to serve in any meaningful capacity; a culture where we will hold your mistakes against you until you die. The place that should have the most grace in whole world has morphed into a place where sinners – but only those who are caught – are spiritually shot and killed. Is that really what God intended His family to be like? My children make mistakes and they screw up just like I do as a child of my parents, but my parents still accept me as their own. We all make mistakes, but God still accepts each of us as His own. It is sometimes difficult for people to realize this because we are surrounded by so many dysfunctional homes where a parents’ love has to be earned rather than it being freely given. But God freely gives.

So when we come to a warning in the Bible to not behave in a certain way, it is not a command from a god that does not have our best interests at heart. It is a command from a loving Father who wants us to be all that He intends for us to be. I don’t know what God has in store for everyone that reads this. He might want someone to change their community by helping the poor in incredible ways. He might want you to invest your life investing in children so that they can reach their God-given potential. He might have a widow in mind for you to give love and friendship to. He might intend for you to be a silent prayer warrior empowering all of the ministries around you.

But know that God has a greatness in store for each of us. What parent does not want their children to be great? He has a plan for each one of us. However, we need to make sure that we allow God to define what greatness is rather than swallow the definition this world shoves into our mind through commercials, entertainment, and those who have yet to realize God’s purpose for their life. The world tells me that greatness is wealth and power. God tells me that greatness is humility and love. Some, including myself on bad days, will look at the wealthy and powerful and say that they have greatness and will strive to have greatness the world’s way. But that path will only lead to a temporary greatness, a greatness that will lead to a dead end.

We need to surrender ourselves to our loving Father and let Him shape us into the greatness He wants us to be. That is a greatness that will last.