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The Game with Minutes Laubach cover

The Game with Minutes (Free PDF)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (KJV)

16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Ever wonder “how to pray without ceasing”? I mean, the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, but how do you do this?

The Game with Minutes” is a devotional developed through 20th century missionary, Frank Laubach. Here, Frank encourages his readers to make a game of placing their minds and hearts on God every minute of every day, in order to walk a more spiritually-fulfilled life.

Download “The Game with Minutes” PDF

 

 

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A Guide to True Peace cover

A Guide to True Peace (Free PDF)

Upon first hearing about “A Guide to True Peace” and its influence upon one pastor A.B. Simpson, I did what I always do when seeking an older publication—I tried to find a free copy online. Though it has long been in the public domain, I was surprised I could only find a single rough scan of the 1815 edition. (There was originally an 1813 edition that underwent some refinements and emerged as the 1815 copy.)

Being that the scanned copy of the 1815 edition was rough, smudged and cut off in places, I felt compelled to send it out for transcription into this cleaner, digitized format. When the transcription came back, it too needed work, and so I was blessed with the opportunity to groom this edition line by line. An intimate process, to be sure!

Through this effort, I have come across several typographical errors and places where modern spelling conventions scream for correction, however I have chosen to leave most of these events untouched. These errors were not a result of the transcription process, but were actually found in the 1815 edition itself. My desire is to leave you with a very true copy of that edition, right down to the page separations and Roman numerals.

Having invested time into studying the work of A.B. Simpson, I recognize him as being a man who understood the character of our Creator better than most. If Simpson points to “A Guide to True Peace” as one of the most influential writings in his spiritual walk, you can be sure it offers priceless insight for you as well.

I hope you enjoy this 2017 resetting of “A Guide to True Peace.”

Download “A Guide to True Peace” PDF

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Matthew Schoenherr

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sovereignty of God

What Does the Book of Job Teach Us About the Sovereignty of God?

Our holy Father calls us back from the Fall into deeper relationship with Him. As in our natural relationships, part of growing in relationship with someone is gaining clear understanding into who they are; their character.

There are favorite tactics the Enemy employs to lead us astray. In the garden, He attacked God’s Word (Genesis 3:4, “You will surely not die..”) In Job 1:11, the Accuser admonishes God and accuses Job of fair-weather faith (“But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.”) Here, Satan attacks the character of both God and mankind.

Enemy rule

Framework for understanding God’s sovereignty in our earthly lives comes in the next lines. “Behold, all that he hath is in your power; only upon himself put not forth your hand.” In God’s sovereign position, He states the limitations to Satan; in this moment, Job is not to be touched. We also recognize Satan is the ruler of this world; allowed at the fall of Adam and Eve when sin entered creation. This is reinforced in the following scriptures:

  • 2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV) “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
  • Matthew 4:9 (KJV) “And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (How could Satan offer Jesus the kingdoms of the world if he did not control them? He couldn’t.)
  • John 12:31 (KJV) “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”
  • Ephesians 2:2 (KJV) “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:”
  • 1 John 5:19 (ESV) “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
  • Revelation 12:9 (KJV) “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

This completely refutes the common, errant belief that God is in control of everything. Indeed, the powers of darkness were given jurisdiction over this world through the lie of Satan and the selfishness of Adam and Eve when they took their eyes off God and placed them upon the fruit of this world (Genesis 3:16-19).

God is sovereign, yes, but He is not controlling every aspect of our lives. If God was in control of our lives, there would be

  • no reaping or sowing (Galatians 6:7-8),
  • no need for prayer (Matthew 6:6),
  • no one would be destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6),
  • the power of life and death would not be in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21), and
  • there would be no reason for you to be given authority (Matthew 28:18), a sword or the armor of God (Ephesians 6:13).

The belief that God is ordaining every attack in your life is false! Reaping and sowing in ignorance equates to people being “destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 5:6, Isaiah 5:13)

Did God give Satan permission to attack Job?

Some pastors preach if you believe God gave Satan permission to attack Job, you will believe God ordains all sickness, death and loss. Jesus clearly stated the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy and that He came to give life and life abundant (John 10:10). Believing God ordained all your sickness, the untimely death of a loved one, or other loss is certainly error. It sets you up for an estranged relationship with your Heavenly Father and a walk with no authority; just what the Enemy wants. However, the Bible teaches us the storms come to the wise and the foolish alike (Matthew 7:24-27). Your walk as a believer will not be trouble-free. Christ’s promise to us is for a peace that transcends all understanding if we keep our minds and hearts on Him (Philippians 4:7).

Yes, God lifted the hedge of protection around Job after drawing Satan’s attention to Job in the first place.

Does God test us?

If Satan rules this world and God is not to blame for our disease, losses and calamity, how do we reconcile the following verses?

  • Psalm 11:5 “The Lord tests the righteous,”
  • Proverbs 17:3 “The crucible is for silver, the furnace for gold and the Lord test hearts,”
  • Jeremiah 11:20, 20:12 “O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the hearts and minds,” and
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:4 “So we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”

In both examples where Satan petitions to attack Job, God not only pointed Job out in the first place but also set the guidelines for the trials. This is likely for a number of reasons, which may include:

  • God had faith in His servant,
  • God desired to see Job grow in his understanding and relationship with Him, and
  • God held divine intention for Job’s example to be immortalized in Scripture for the development of future believers.

The Father, in His sovereignty, places the limitations upon the attack. 1 Corinthians 10:13 states,

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Here, “temptation” is the same word as “test” in the Greek. If read with this understanding, it is not simply the test of temptation to our fleshly desires, but also the tests of a distracting and corrupting natural world, false understanding and tests through physical adversity and loss.

Are all tests and trials from Satan? No. This brings us back to reaping and sowing and false thinking. So not all tribulation is from the devil, but still, what about protection and Satan’s agency? Does God lower the hedge to test our hearts?

Doesn’t God promise to protect us?

So, how does this work? Does God actually employ or allow Satan to test us through trials? Does He remove protection around us to allow in these attacks? Yes, God even has made a covenant of protection with those who walk with him in Psalm 91. Surely this protection is not completely removed all at once, just as Job’s account illustrates (Job 1:10). Otherwise, Satan would sweep us all to the grave before we could grow one more moment in the Lord!

From betrayal by his brothers, false accusations and imprisonment, Joseph faced many attacks, but in each instance, he kept his eyes on the Lord. As he told his brothers, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

Do our chances for testing rise and fall with the righteousness of our walk? Adam and Eve were seduced in the garden. They possibly walked in the closest proximity with God of anyone until Christ and still fell to their own desires through a simple lie. If you live for the flesh, you will set your heart upon the flesh (Romans 8:5-17).

Even Christ suffered. He was tempted, accused, betrayed, beaten and crucified. He suffered hunger and weariness and grief. As Romans 8:17 states, “We suffer with Him in order that we may be glorified with Him.”

During his ordeal, Job did not see why God allowed his misfortune, however if we look at the result, he and his friends grew in their knowledge of God’s character as a result of Job’s trials. God is much more interested in your spiritual development than He is your material well-being.

Wasn’t it God that struck Job?

Was it “the fire of God” (Job 1:16) that burned up Job’s flocks and servants? No, God did not stretch forth His hand and burn up Job’s flocks in a lightning storm; Satan did. Well then, what about in Job 2:3 where God says Satan moved God against Job to “destroy him without cause.” Does Satan have influence over our Father? No. Just as with the crucifixion of our Lord, Satan blindly plays right into God’s plan here in Job. As God says, “Have you considered my servant, Job?” God draws Satan’s attention onto the subject of the next test. In Satan’s rabid distaste for humanity, he charges headlong after the bait and by the end of the story, Job has been magnified.

Is Satan a fool to participate in our downfall then?

Unfortunately not. If his fiery darts often derail and distract the most dedicated Christians, imagine his success with those who are in the world and have not sought to be set apart from it. As illustrated in 1 Peter 5:8, Satan prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Every now and again, a Christian may resist the Enemy and win a victory, but as the Accuser, suffice it to say Satan already has a low opinion of our character. This is why it is so important for us to grow in our identity as sons and daughters, made in His image!

The Butterfly: A Map of Testing, Death and Rebirth

“But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:” (Job 12:7 KJV)

Consider the butterfly for a moment. In the cocoon, the caterpillar dies, its insides literally turning to soup. Over the next few weeks, a new creature is established. This new life is a completely different design, even down to what it will consume for fuel. During the butterfly’s birth, the cocoon itself serves a final purpose. If a butterfly is freed from its cocoon thereby avoiding the struggle to emerge, the fluid in its body will never be pushed into its wings to straighten them. Without the use of its wings, the butterfly cannot take flight and will die.

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Romans 1:20 KJV)

Could this not be an eye-catching clue from the Divine Artist who spoke the cosmos into existence and who paints in light and sound and consciousness? How are we to learn to live in faith if we never have our faith tested? If Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and He met with adversity (from Satan, nature and mankind,) can’t we expect to as well? Does not a seed have to die in order for a great tree to be born? Are we not called to die to self daily, in order to be grown up in Him?

Summary

Often we are guilty of thinking of ourselves and others as the bodies we wear, but Genesis is very clear: we were created in His image. We know from John 4:24, God is spirit. Then so we are too. The Father restores us to the full realization of our true, pre-Fallen identity through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without tests and adversity in our lives, what reason would we have to grow? With trial, we have the chance to press into Him and His Word (which He honors above all, Psalm 138:2,) through faith and belief in love. When faced with trial then, we keep our eyes on Him and His promises. Our natural minds will want to argue as we bump our heads on the ceiling of our faith but we are called to a higher faith. That faith works miracles, heals all sickness and overcomes death itself. As the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45,) Jesus has come to show us our true identity in the Father. He calls us away from the lies and distraction of the natural world and into life through union with the Holy Spirit.

In all things, we must remember the following truth from 55:9:

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

This is about where I’m landing for now on the sovereignty of God. I think there are still some holes in my understanding on this topic, so if you can help fill them in, I encourage you to comment below.

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References

Got Questions. Retrieved from http://www.gotquestions.org/amp/Satan-god-world.html

Got Questions. Retrieved from http://www.gotquestions.org/amp/God-allow-Satan-attack.html

Answers in Genesis. Retrieved from http://answersingenesis.org/is-god-real/the-creator-clearly-seen/

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salvation experience

My Salvation Experience

Like I said in my last video, God’s been working in my life something fierce.

So, following our first meeting, Scott and I have a couple more conversations. We made a commitment to keep the energy going, and so we started talking on the phone every Monday. I call him, we talk for an hour or more, and even those conversations were just awesome.

This man knows Scripture really well. Scott’s been a Christian for 25 years, and he’s been really active in his faith for the past 8 years. He’s had supernatural experiences in spirit. (Not that that’s any kind of benchmark, but… it is. In the Bible, it even says to seek the gifts. He’s actually experienced the gifts unlike most folks I know.)

We’re having these conversations and I eventually set up a time to go out and meet with him at his place. Again, it’s about 25-minute drive from me, so I head out there after the kids are in bed, and I arrive at his place about 9:00 p.m. Initially, we only thought I was going to be out there for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half.

I get to his place at 9:00 on the spot, and I don’t end up leaving there until 1:00 a.m. We just sat in his living room and talked the entire time. Really, it was him telling me more about his story and me telling him more about my journey. I had brought four books along just so I could show him all that I had been uncovering. I brought a Kriya yoga book, one of the books he had recommended to me (Jeanne Guyon,) a Saint Teresa of Avila book (Interior Castle,) and then a daily devotional that came to me as a Christmas gift through my wife. I presented my stuff, he presented his stuff, and it was just this awesome feast of sharing our spiritual journeys together.

One of the things that came out near the end of that conversation was this big question mark over me, however. He had told of his spiritual awakening, where somebody had witnessed to him during a party phase of his life, where he was killing lots of time splashing around the gutter. I had also had a splashing-around-the-gutter time in my life; pretty much my entire 20’s. That entire decade was just… yeah, a lot of going crazy. Having a good time, but going crazy and making a lot of dumb mistakes and bad choices. More on that later.

So, Scott was also in that low place in his life when he had somebody at work witness to him, and the witnessing… did something to him. He had said, “Oh, yeah, yeah. I’ll say the Salvation Prayer. Yeah, no problem. I’ll do it,” and then he hung up on the guy. Just being a turkey.

Over that next week, though, something began eating at him. And eating at him. And eating at him. Until finally—about a week or two later—he just melted down, went through the Salvation Prayer, renounced his sin-filled ways and he ended up committing his life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Right as soon as he finished with that prayer, Scott felt this massive unburdening; this big, uplifting, full of tears and elation, with these waves of love and light and…POW!

That’s when Scott turns to me and asks if I had ever experienced anything like that, and my answer was, “Well, not quite.” I’ve had a couple Christ experiences (which I haven’t shared with you yet,) but I hadn’t had that kind of dramatic awakening.

So, I left there with this big question mark like, “Shouldn’t I have this? Shouldn’t this be part of my journey? I would love to have a supernatural awakening.”

I’ve had some supernatural experiences in my past, but I never really… it wasn’t around salvation. I definitely hadn’t experienced what he had. I didn’t have the big “woosh.”

I went home and did a quick Google search on “salvation prayer”. Scott had already given me the recipe on the way out the door, but I wanted to see the recipe in print, compare notes and get a better sense for it. That night, I ended up going through the Salvation Prayer. I guess I was hoping there would be some sort of supernatural affirmation I had done it right.

One of the things that was different for me on the Salvation Prayer was the notion of turning my life over to Christ. Now, I had done pretty much everything BUT that, even with the Kriya yoga work. I had sought out Kriya yoga because I thought Christ meditated, and absolutely, I still believe he meditated, but the Kriya yoga path doesn’t involve Christ really. You can do the whole thing without Christ. Christ says, “The path is wide, but the way to the Father is through me. It’s a narrow gate.” (Actually, he said:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Matthew 7: 13-14

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6)

My experience of Kriya yoga said you can climb the wall to God without going through the gate, but the Bible teaches you’re not going to reach God without going through the narrow gate of Jesus Christ. I realized this was exactly what I had been doing. Through my meditative practice, I was trying to climb the wall to God, and I certainly wasn’t attempting that crossing through Jesus Christ.

So, why wasn’t I trying to cross through Jesus Christ?

I was born and raised Catholic. You’d think I would have this wonderful spiritual foundation. I did have a personal love for God; that’s true. Growing up, I was the only child I knew who would occasionally skip recess to go sit in the still silence of our empty cathedral and pray. But before I even graduated, I had a Jehovah’s Witness friend at work blow me out with some very good questions. She asked questions like, “If God is unconditional love, how could he let any of his children burn in eternal damnation? Why are their no women priests? Did you know the Catholic Church supports the pill? Why is it you have to go through the church to have a relationship with God?”

I was ill-prepared. I couldn’t answer. I wasn’t equipped to answer that barrage even after 12 years of Catholic schooling. Problem.

So, after that I pretty much went agnostic. I knew there was a God and I still talked with him, but Jesus eventually was reduced to a “good teacher” and that’s the way he stayed for over 20 years. To me, he became one of the master teachers the planet had seen. Yes, I believed in his resurrection. I believed in his miracles. I believed he was raised from the dead, but in my mind, we can do this too if we were to ever attain that spiritual height.

I don’t know how I had it all figured out my mind, but Jesus was not Lord.

I went through the Salvation Prayer. Where the Salvation Prayer says, “Jesus is Lord,” you take Jesus as your savior. You renounce all other paths, all other ways, and you zero in on Christ as that narrow gate through which you go.

It took a day or two for that to really sink in. I said the words the first night—and I meant it—but it was alien to me; the acceptance of Jesus Christ as God. I grew up around the Trinity, and I grew up around Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but somehow I hadn’t quite 100% agreed to it internally.

So I did the Salvation Prayer that night. Didn’t get the whoosh. There was no dramatic, “POW! You just entered some spiritual doorway.”

No woosh.

Yet there are experiences on YouTube where folks are talking about it, so I was feeling like, “Well, my guy had it. People on YouTube are having it. I didn’t get it. Hmm.”

Now, as it would just so happen, God had also placed another witness by me at my office. He’s a pastor, by trade. I went and talked with Tony. I said, “Tony, hey, have you ever had this salvation experience?” Tony said, “Yes.” (Everybody’s had this experience but me, apparently!)

Tony had a similar kind of story. Only instead of walking around with a really big grin on his face for a week and being filled with Christ’s love and affirmation, Tony was stricken by his sinful nature. He experienced that love, but a lot of his experience was anguish through the new awareness of his own sinful past. For the week after he answered an alter-call, he was wrecked emotionally. Sobbing every day, as he said.

So here I had two examples over the course of two days, and I still wasn’t getting the whoosh—the big emotional release. There was no spiritual release for me, so I did what you’re not supposed to do.

Now, I didn’t know this until it came to me later, but once you do the Salvation Prayer, you really should only do it once because—to do it two or three times like I did—it means you’re not having faith that God’s taken things over. You’ve renounced your past ways, you’ve confessed your sins, and you’ve given things over to Jesus, and now, you should be able to relax and rest for just a moment and let the Holy Spirit do his work. I wasn’t relaxing. Yeah, that’s not me, really, and I didn’t know that this was what I should’ve been doing.

Day two, I didn’t get my whoosh, but had received more validation that others have gotten the whoosh, and so I end up doing the Salvation Prayer again. I’m confessing more sins this time, and trying to give more of my heart, which that in and of itself is interesting. Through the past year’s meditation, I’ve been trying to remove myself, but bringing love—bringing myself up into a state of love for God—I was very weak at.

So day two comes and goes. No big whoosh. I’m a little crestfallen. I’m getting a little disappointed at this point. I’m like, “Lord, am I doing it right?”

The next day, Scott says, “Man, you should be… I’ve not really ran into a case where they haven’t had a big whoosh.” He said, “Well, maybe you need to witness to somebody else.” I said, “Alright, yeah, I’ll do that.” So I witnessed to a couple more people that day.

By the end of day three, I’m getting more resolve. I say, “Lord, I’m going to do this Salvation Prayer every day until you confirm that I’ve crossed over the door (that I’ve been accepted into the club essentially.)”

Right about then was when the message came to me (Did I read it? Or maybe Scott said something?) that you only say the Salvation Prayer once. The point is that you really need to have faith on the first pass and start diving into God’s Word, so I did more of that. I started diving into the Bible, which I had already started doing naturally.

Over the next couple weeks, I began to be consumed with a renewed starvation for God’s Word. I just needed to dig into the Bible more. I learned later the word is “regeneration.”

(By the way, by the third day I had renounced yoga. I had even renounced my Catholicism. I had renounced every other means possible where I had tried to climb the wall to God instead of going through the narrow gate of Jesus Christ.)

I didn’t get the whoosh, but it certainly was helping me get around to accepting the deity of Jesus Christ because that’s one place where I was super weak. I hadn’t done that yet. It was still a big question in my mind. I had spent so many years wondering if truly that was the case or if Jesus was human just like us and just had grown and evolved to the heights that he achieved. As I got deeper into God’s Word, I began accepting Jesus as the narrow gate, as the Lord and Savior, as the Triune God—not a created being, but as God.

Since then, things have been taking off, spiritually. I won’t go into everything here, but man, I’m on a track, kids. I’m on a track, and I’m looking forward to it. 2016 is going to be amazing. I’m already making plans to go out and start doing some street-side witnessing. That’s new to me. I’ve never done that before. I’ve never witnessed to anybody before, and now, I’m starting to do it on a weekly basis, and it’s really just me telling my story and sounding off where I’m at spiritually.

Yeah. This has been a big time for me, guys. I’ve got plenty more to talk about. I’m re-shifting my entire web practice to serve only Christian churches and faith-based organizations who point others towards God. If you don’t face others towards God, I’m not helping you with your web work anymore unless you are an existing client.

I can’t repay him enough. There’s nothing I can do. My best deeds are as filthy rags before of his holiness. There’s nothing I can do to repay him enough for the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ. There’s nothing I can do.

Hope this is helping somebody out there. Let me know. Sound off in the comments. More soon.

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P.S. A couple weeks later I was sitting in church when I would have my question about my salvation experience answered. The pastor said that sometimes our salvation experiences are dramatic, yes, but oftentimes the experience is tender. Regardless of how God brings you in, you will know if you have genuinely converted if you enter a period of regeneration following your confession and commitment.

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Contemplative prayer

I Meet a Brother in Contemplative Prayer

Okay, wow. It’s been a couple months since I last left a video. Where do I start? It has been such an amazing journey at this point. I would say I can’t even tell you, but I’m going to try to do it anyways.

So..

There’s this weight bench, right? It’s kind of a big thing.. pulleys.. and it’s got 200 lbs worth of plates over here.. you’ve got the bench press.. you’ve got a leg press. It’s one BIG unit. It’s been down in our basement. Well, we had our basement flood last summer. That ended up with us getting all new flooring, all across the entire basement which was—thank you Lord—that was fantastic. It was a little bit of work on our part, little bit of money on our part, but essentially, we got our basement re-floored and painted.

 

Wonderful. A blessing, truly.

As all of that was happening, we ended up trying to get rid of this weight bench. I hadn’t used it in over a year (since I began my meditation practice, really, and then I was doing free-weights prior to that.) The thing sat there in the basement, in pieces, for months. I had put out a couple ads on Craigslist, and—nothing.

It wasn’t moving.

I would get phone calls. They’d say, “Oh yeah, it sounds great.” If I was lucky enough I would get a phone call again, and they would say, “Well no, I’m not going to come out. Thanks, I’ve found another one cheaper,” or whatever. I had dropped the price already, which I thought was pretty reasonable. This bench was a $700-$800 unit, retail. I was selling it for $100 bucks. Finally—after some time—my wife says, “Why don’t I see if I can run it through my channels, and maybe we can still get rid of it?” I said, “Great, go ahead.”

Sure enough, we get somebody who wants to buy the bench for her husband. We make arrangements for them to come pick it up. Just an interesting side-note, these people go to our same church on Sundays. That was kind of a weird coincidence. (But, we don’t believe in coincidences, right?)

So they come over, and as they’re hauling it away there’s a concern that maybe they don’t have all of the pieces, or maybe when they do get it home they won’t be able to get it all set up properly. I’m like, “Alright, well, absolutely. Here’s my number. If you can not get it set up properly, give me a call. I’ll come out to your place (a 20 to 25 minute drive) and I will help you put it together.”

A couple days go by. I finally get the text saying, “Yeah, I think there are bolts missing.” I’m like, “All right. Where are the bolts missing?” The husband described the place that we thought maybe bolts were missing. I looked up the operations manual, found the size of the bolts, went to Home Depot, bought the bolts, and then coordinated with him to drive out during a weekday, and help him put this thing together.

In the process of all that I had given him a call at one point. His voicemail said, “Hey, this is Scott, and oh, by the way, this is also the home of Inner City Ministries.” I said, “Well, that’s kind of interesting. I like to talk about God. I’ll file that away. Maybe I’ll ask him about it.”

I’m out at his place now. We’re in his pole barn, setting up this weight-bench. We’re just talking chit-chat. He’s very personable. I ask him, “So, what’s Inner City Ministries about? What’s this ministry thing I heard on your voicemail?” We start talking. He’s telling me that he goes out into the street and witnesses to others about Jesus Christ. I’m like, “Wow, that’s great. That’s awesome. I love that.”

He turns the table then, and asks me where I’m at spiritually. I said, “Yeah, I’ve been going through this spiritual awakening lately. I’m reading things like John Main and doing some Eastern meditation.. reading some St. Teresa of Avila..” and he goes, “What? St. Teresa? You’re the only Christian that I’ve heard of who’s even heard of St. Teresa. What do you know?” I said, “Oh, I love her stuff talking about contemplative prayer, the seven mansions of the spirit, and just that evolution towards God, and going within.” He’s says, “Yeah, that’s right, that’s it.”

What ends up happening next? We have this great sharing of spiritual journeys, and he’s got an amazing story. I’ll let him tell it at some point in the future. I’m not going to steal that thunder.

(It was funny though. I had the suspicion on the drive out to his place like, “Lord, I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be interesting if this guy turns out to be a lifelong friend?” It was an odd thought that crossed the mental landscape and away it went.)

So, by the time we got done talking, both of us had gotten near tears once or twice. It was just an amazing, amazing experience. I drove away shaking because of the evidence of God in my life during that conversation. It was wonderful. I just thought, “Wow God, you are the Great Orchestrator. The way that weight bench sat in my basement for so long, and then finally moved with this family. The issues, and the voice mail, and just the layers of things that had to stack up on top of each other—the thin threads that led me to having this conversation. It’s just amazing.”

It was amazing to me.

Oh, but there’s more. I’m going to stop here though. I have more to tell you about. This story gets even deeper. In my next post, I’ll be talking about regeneration, salvation—all sorts of stuff—you know, like renouncing yoga. Stay tuned.

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Cain killed Abel with a rock billboard

Cain killed Abel with a rock. It’s a heart problem; not a gun problem.

A billboard reads “Cain killed Abel with a rock. It’s a heart problem; not a gun problem. Jeremiah 17:9” I first shared this graphic on Facebook on October 3, 2015, after yet another school shooting. What came next was a brief but emotionally-charged conversation over gun control. A polarizing issue; some folks clamor for it while some reject the idea outright.

I say the gun, the bomb, the sword—they’re all just inanimate things with no minds or ill-will of their own. The issue is the intent behind their invention, continued production and use. If there was a true respect for life in humanity, there would be no need or desire for these things to even exist.

Therein lies the “heart problem”.

As I’ve entered a period of regeneration in my Christian walk, I’ve been getting clear on God’s guidance in regards to the hot topics that face our fallen world today. One of the ways I have been doing this has been by plugging into learned teachers of the Christian faith like Greg Bahnsen, Joel McDurmon of American Vision and Jeff Durbin of Apologia Church.

Since I’ve begun voraciously listening to the Apologia Church crew via their Apologia Radio broadcast, I’ve stumbled over a troubling pro-gun, anti-legislation stance that isn’t sitting well with me. I normally really respect the apologetic training and message these folks are producing. Their work has been vital in helping me clarify what I believe and why I believe it. Still, this “biblical” slant on the right to bear arms feels out of place when held up next to what is usually spot-on biblical interpretation. In his October 2015 argument against additional gun legislation, Pastor Jeff returns to one of his primary influencers, Dr. Greg Bahnsen.

During a landmark debate against Dr. James Atwood over the issue of gun control, Dr. Bahnsen attempted to illustrate God’s will for us to protect ourselves according to Scripture. The examples he gives are the following:

Exodus 22:2 – Killing a thief found breaking and entering.
While lethal force is not actually condoned by God here, this passage provides legal advice depending upon whether the thief breaks in during the night or by day.

Judges 15 – The story of Samson killing many Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.
This revenge story seems to be an account of God’s justice being meted out upon the Philistines through Samson’s berserker rage.

Nehemiah 4 – The builders of the wall armed themselves.
A historical account of the steps Nehemiah’s men took to protect themselves as they worked on the wall; not a call to arms by God. Though Nehemiah trusted God would support their efforts, he and his men were still worldly enough to hold fast to their weapons.

Luke 11:21 – “When a strong man, fully armed, keeps his palace; his goods are in peace.”
When taken in full context, this reads a bit differently. The text goes on to say, “But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.” The exegesis here is a reference to Satan being overcome by Christ and being “plundered” of his stolen souls. If anything, Christ is pointing to Satan’s error by trusting in his own power; not telling us we should go out and follow Satan’s self-reliant example.

Luke 22:36 – Where Jesus told His disciples to buy a sword.
Here Jesus is setting the stage for one of his last lessons before his death. Christ does not condone the use of the sword. This is evident when he admonishes the overzealous apostle for cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant (Luke 22:49-51). Just as certainly as he understands his anointing for burial (Matthew 26:12) and foretells his betrayal (Luke 22:22-23), he obviously foresees the lesson of the sword. This is why he orders the apostles to produce a sword, even if they must sell their cloak and buy one (Luke 22:36). When they offer two, his response is, “It is enough.”

So, I don’t agree with Bahnsen and I don’t agree with Durbin and company. I don’t believe God ever redacted that pesky sixth commandment “Thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17). When the Israelites were led out of Egypt, did you ever notice it was God that doled out the justice? Not once was an Israelite citizen commanded to pick up a weapon and smite their enemy. I believe Scripture when I read:

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. (1 John 3:11-15)

If we stop a moment and mentally follow the time-tested litmus test of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do), I hope it becomes obvious to us Christ wouldn’t be walking the Earth today carrying a concealed pistol. And if we truly believe he is the Truth, the Way and the Life, we know it is his example we are to chase and emulate; not an apostle’s, not Nehemiah’s, not Samson’s, nor that of anyone standing behind a microphone today.

Christ’s example to us was one of shocking love and meek sacrifice to sinners; not self-defense or self-reliance. Even as he prayed in the garden, his words were “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) If it is God’s will you be attacked in the dead of night, may I offer what is likely to be a grossly unpopular response to this?

God has allowed this to happen.

If we truly believe in God’s omniscience and omnipotence, that not a molecule in the universe is out of place; and if we truly believe in his protection and plan for us, we cannot doubt that either

  1. we will be spared of any wrongdoing through the most elegant, divinely-orchestrated serendipity, or that
  2. God intends to use our purgation in a redemptive, meaningful way, or finally
  3. we’ve earned God’s wrath.

Lest we forget, we are not our own but his alone.

So, is deeper legislation the answer? Well, from a world-centered point of view, it may be a step in the right direction (depending upon the legislation, of course.) Through ensuring the right to bear arms, the founding fathers intended to keep a level playing field between the people and a wayward government or invading force. There is no way they could have foreseen the advances in warfare, technology and moral decline we’ve come to enjoy today. Still, this is man’s self-made law; not God’s.

So, is legislation the answer? It’s an aspirin to a headache. It treats the symptom, but it does little to address the underlying cause.

Yes, I agree tougher controls and legislation are needed in the short-term. Curiously, I’ve seen folks in this discussion make the leap to compare men and their guns with women and abortions (which is ennobled as ‘health care’).

(Retrieved from http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/uncategorized/epic-response-to-treating-abortion-like-gun-control.)
(Retrieved from http://www.thefederalistpapers.org/uncategorized/epic-response-to-treating-abortion-like-gun-control.)

There have been over 54,000,000 abortions in the US since it was legalized 1973. (For perspective, the WWII Holocaust killed over 11,000,000.) While gun control is definitely an issue, crazed assault weapon owners haven’t even scratched the paint in taking this many innocent lives.

I see both issues as ‘heart’ issues. Both gun control and abortion could be removed from the table completely if humanity’s heart was in the right place. The fact we mass-produce killing machines and glamorize violence in our entertainment and media is indicative of the same heart sickness we suffer when we fail to recognize the value of human life in utero.

If we, as God’s people, held a true respect for life, guns and other instruments of warfare would be reduced to relics in a museum; dusty reminders of a medieval mindset that took way too long to dry up and blow away.

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This conversation on self-defense and violence is continued in the post Christian Martial Arts? The Biblical Case Against Self-Defense.

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