Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Reason and Revelation: Range (Part 4)

The Surprise of God

This is perhaps the greatest example from the scriptures of a man who's range was blown to pieces by God.
"Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, 'Get up, Peter, kill and eat!' But Peter said, 'By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.' Again a voice came to him a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.' This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky." (Acts 10:9-16)
What God was asking Peter to do was unthinkable to him. How could he disobey the law of Moses? How could he transgress the traditions of his elders? How could God be commanding him to do what he had grown up to believe was sinful? I tried to think of what an equivalent request might be for me. It would be as if God came to me in a dream and told me to start preaching the Book of Mormon. Personally, I don't believe that the Book of Mormon is divine but rather simply a fable or novel. How could I take up preaching a false gospel? This is akin to what God was asking Peter to do. The vision left Peter perplexed.
"Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon's house, appeared at the gate; and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.'" (Acts 10:17-20)
Instead of summarily dismissing the vision, Peter pondered what it might mean. A few days later, when he arrived at Cornelius' house, He understood what God was trying to tell him.
"As he talked with him, he entered and found many people assembled. And he said to them, 'You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for... I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.'" (Acts 10:27-29, 34-35)
All of a sudden, Peter understood. God was calling all men to repentance and reconciliation with God, not just the Jews. Where before, Peter would have never even consider going to a gentile with the gospel, now he is the first to bring them the good news. That day, Peter's range got expanded to include even the gentiles.

It is always good to have well thought out and reasoned beliefs and opinions, but we must always leave room for the "surprise" of God. We must always leave room in our range for what we don't understand; for what is beyond our present understanding. We must be willing to be taught and shown new things by God. We must be open to God "blowing" our minds and expanding our range. After all, the goal is not to form tightly crystallized ideas, but rather knowing God, and in that process, I am sure that we are going to find lots of surprises along the way.

David Robison

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Reason and Revelation: Range (Part 3)

Not too big, Not too little, but Just right

While our range can be helpful in keeping us from being distracted by "every wind of doctrine," it can also limit and hinder us from learning what God wants to teach us. There are many examples in the scriptures of people who's range actually kept them from the knowledge of God.
"For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks , Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)
It has always amazed me how Jesus could come to Earth and perform the miracles that He did and yet most people missed the importance of what was happening. Especially the Pharisees, who claimed to be waiting for the messiah, yet they failed to recognize Him when He came. I think in part, it was due to their limited range.

The Greeks sought wisdom and knowledge. Their range was limited to what they could know and understand. To them, the Cross was foolishness; it didn't make sense, it didn't seem logical. They had little use for revelation and were focused on what they could figure out themselves; what they could grasp with their own minds. The Jews, on the other hand, sought a sign. This was not because they were expecting a sign, but because they were closed to any revelation that did not fit into their understanding of religion. Any spiritual thing that did not come in a way that their religion expected they rejected, unless validated by special sign. This is why they asked Jesus, "The Jews then said to Him, 'What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?' Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:18-19) The truth is that they were not interested in a sign. Even when Jesus did provide the sign of His resurrection from the dead, they still would not believe. No matter what the sign, they were not willing to receive anything that was outside of their nice, comfortable, religion. Perhaps no where can this be more clearly seen than in the following scripture.
"On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, 'Get up and come forward!' And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, 'I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?' After looking around at them all, He said to him, 'Stretch out your hand!' And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus." (Luke 6:6-11)
What more of a miracle could they have asked for? Yet they rejected it simply because the miracle was done on the sabbath. They rejected Jesus and His ministry because He would not play according to their rules; because He didn't fit inside their "box".

Both the Jews and the Greeks had developed a range that was closed. They had no room in their range for what they could not understand or for what was different than their expectations. When we allow our range to become closed, then our range becomes the proverbial box into which we wish to place and keep God. A range is important, but we must always be open to the idea that our range is not the same as Jesus' range. We must always leave room for that which we do not know, what we cannot understand, and what we do not expect. We must always leave room for Jesus, and allow Him to break out of the box we so often love to put Him in. We must always remember what God spoke about Himself.
"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'" (Isaiah 55:8-9)
More to come... David Robison

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Don't call me Teacher: The Sermon

This is a message I preached on Oct 27, 2006 called "Don't Call Me Teacher." Is was the message that inspired my blog series by the same name. This message is about 23 minutes long.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Reason and Revelation: Range (Part 2)

Examine your range

We each have a range of what we both expect to be true and what we are willing to accept as being true. Each person's range may be different; some larger and some smaller. Different ranges can be thought of as concentric circles as pictured here. As the concentric circles increase in size, they correlate to a range that is larger and more inclusive than the encircled range. For example, when considering spiritual knowledge, these four ranges might be:

A: Knowledge and truth that can be ascertained and understood from the physical world.
B: Knowledge and truth that is directly taught by the scriptures.
C: Knowledge and truth that is not necessarily taught by the scriptures but neither is denied by the scriptures.
D: Knowledge and truth that is spiritual in nature, even if it is denied by the scriptures.

Much of science today operates in the "A" range. While not always the case in the past, much of science is involved in the pursuit of knowledge that does not require an acknowledgment of God. Science today seeks to describe the world without reference to God and, in many circles, the inclusion of God in the description of the world is considered "non-scientific". This is why many scientists and evolutionist summarily dismiss the idea of a creator God because it does not fit inside their range.

Many fundamentalist Christians operate with a "B" range. They are willing to receive truth that is (in their perception) clearly taught by the scriptures, but they are leery of experiences and revelation that cannot be traced back to a concrete scripture reference. Throughout history, revivals have often been accompanied by strange manifestations; manifestations not explicitly noted in the scriptures. Manifestations such as jerking, swaying, and falling out or, being "slain in the Spirit". People with a strict "B" range often have difficulty embracing revival because they are unable to relate the strange manifestations back to the scriptures.

My wife is a regional resource person for the Catch the Fire Ministries out of Toronto Canada. Over the past few years I have had the pleasure to meet many people associated with this ministry and the ongoing revival that is happening throughout the world. Many of the people I have met have been "C" range people. There is an openness to experiences and revelation that, while not directly taught by the scriptures, is not discounted or denied by the scriptures either. Sometimes, these experiences have lead to new and creative ministry styles that have proven to be effected, even if they are not directly demonstrated in the scriptures.

Finally, those whom we would title as "new agers" would be included with those who have a "D" range. People who have adopted a "D" range are willing to accept any spiritual truth, even truth that is directly denied by the scriptures. Such examples would include spiritualists, mediums, palm readers, fortunetellers, channelers, and the like. For them, the spirit realm is wide open and anything spiritual is to be embraced and accepted.

While there is nothing sacred about these four ranges, they are provided as an example to help us think about our range. While each of us may have a different range, it is important that we understand what our range is and to examine it before God to see if He might desire to change our range; to increase it or to decrease it.

As for me and my wife

My wife an I have different ranges. For me, I accept as truth everything taught by the scriptures ("B" range), I accept as possible those things not denied by the scriptures ("C" range), and I reject everything denounced and denied by the scriptures ("D" range). My wife, however, is more accepting of revelation and experiences that would fall in the "C" range. She is willing to accept as truth those teachings that have been effective in bearing good fruit in people's lives. While the lack of a strong biblical foundation may make me skeptical, for my wife the evidence of the power and fruitfulness of the teaching is a witness of the truth of that teaching.

So who is right and who is wrong? Neither, rather I believe that our differences are due to the different grace, anointing, and calling on our lives. One of my primary ministry callings is as a teacher. As such, I am very concerned about the precision of my teaching. On the other hand, my wife is called to a more personal ministry of the Kingdom of God to the lives of individual people. As such, she is highly concerned with the power and efficacy of the scriptures. To her, the power and capacity of the scriptures is more important that their precision. The point is, I believe that, in part, our different ranges are due to our different callings by God. One is not necessarily better than the other, nor is one to be judged by the other, they are simply different.

More to come... David Robison

Renewing Intimacy with God

This is a message I preached on January 15, 2005 on renewing our intimacy with God, especially through prayer. This message is about 27 minutes long.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

The Wind of the Spirit

This is a message I preached from 1 Corinthians 12 on the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. This message is about 29 minutes long.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

What is Truth

This is a message I preached on April 9th, 2006 where I discuss the question, "What is Truth?" At the end, I offered a challenge for people to "leave the pack" and to live for the truth. This message is about 24 minutes long.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reason and Revelation: Range (Part 1)

While our ethos is our starting point, our range is where we hope to end up; it encompasses what we hope and expect to learn. The term "range", as I am using it, is a mathematical term. In mathematics, a function takes a set of numbers, known as the "domain", and transforms them into a new set of numbers, know as the "range". While a typical function can transform numbers from the set of "real" numbers into the set of "real" numbers (also known as the codomain), the actual set of possible values for a specific function can be quite more restrictive. For example, the function that takes a real number and squares it can only return the set of positive real numbers. In this case the set of positive real numbers would be the range for the square function. If we input a number into the square function and get a negative number, we would not conclude that we learned something new about the square function, rather we would assume that there was something wrong with how we calculated the square. We would reject the negative number as a bad result simply because we know that it lies outside of the range of possible values for the square function.

The idea of a range can apply to more than just mathematics. For example, consider this picture. While this picture clearly seems to demonstrate water flowing uphill, few of us would take this picture as evidence that water can violate the immutable laws of gravity. Most of us would dismiss that idea out-of-hand and assume that the picture is some sort of trickery or optical illusion. We assume this because we know that "water flowing uphill" is outside the range of the law of gravity. No matter how many pictures we are shown that seem to depict water flowing uphill, few of us would ever be persuaded to even consider the idea that, even in some cases, water cannot defy the laws of gravity.

When applied to learning, we all have a range of information that we expect to learn. When faced with information that falls outside of that range, we either must adjust our expectations or the things we are willing to consider to be true, or we must reject the new information as simply being in error. This idea of a range can easily seen in the debate between creation and evolution. If an evolutionist receives new information that could indicated an intelligent creator, rather than accepting the idea of a creator, the evolutionist sets out to rethink the new information and to find new ways of relating it back to their evolutionist understanding. The same is true for those who are creationist. When faced with new information that lies outside of their range of acceptable knowledge, they either reject the new knowledge as being in error, or construct new theories and/or reasoning to draw that new knowledge back into their acceptable range of understanding.

The Benefit

We all have our ranges of what we are willing to accept as true. When applied to our search to know and understand God, our range can help us and keep us from ending up "in the weeds." It can keep us from chasing every "bunny trail" and from being easily distracted away from the things that matter the most. For an example, consider when Jesus said:
"Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matthew 24:23-27)
If others come and claim to be the Christ, we don't need to worry or even give consideration to such claims. We know that such claims fall outside of the range of possibilities that Jesus has set down for us. We don't need to think about it or investigate their claims. Such claims are outside the range that Jesus taught us and can be summarily dismissed. Consider also what Paul taught,
"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!" (Galatians 1:6-9)
If someone claims to have received some revelation and brings forth a teaching that is contrary to the Gospel we have received, we need to pay them any attention. Any teaching or revelation that contradicts the Gospel has to be false because it lies outside of the range of knowledge set forth by the original gospel writers, in this case, Paul. We don't need to spend a lot of time thinking about it or worrying about what it might mean if such a new gospel is true, instead we can simply discount such a teaching as false and move on. While some might count this as being closed minded, it is also safe and enables us to move through life without being "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting." (Ephesians 4:14 NKJV)

More to come... David Robison

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Reason and Revelation: Ethos (Part 4)

The Proof

Jesus told a parable to describe the two foundations we can build for our lives.
"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." (Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV)
Notice carefully what differentiated the two men: they both heard the word but only one did the word. It is not enough to hear and know God's word, it is not enough to believe God's word, but it is essential to do God's word for it to have an effect in our lives. A foundation is not what you know, it is what you do.

How do you judge the quality of one's foundation? You examine their behavior. If they are living a godly, Christ-like life, then they have a solid foundation built upon the rock that is Jesus. If, however, they are living like the world, then their claims of a Christian foundation are empty. The same is true with our ethos. We can claim to have Biblical and godly values, ethics, and understanding, but if we are living according to the ways of the world, then we are merely deceiving ourselves. We can claim ourselves to be one way, but the truth of our ethos is born out by our behavior.
"To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed." (Titus 1:15-2:1)
Our ethos is shown by our behavior. We can confess one thing, but our behavior shows what and who we are in truth. We must not be like the church at Laodicea, who thought they were rich but in reality were poor.
"Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see." (Revelation 3:17-18)
We should judge ourselves to determine the source and quality of our ethos; our core beliefs, values, and knowledge. If we are found wanting, then we must go to Jesus to have Him remake our ethos, we should be willing to exchange our old ethos for one the is Christ centered and built upon the Word of God.

David Robison

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Reason and Revelation: Ethos (Part 3)


"Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) What is the "it" that Solomon is referring to? It is the set of core beliefs, values, and knowledge imparted to a child by his or her parents. Parents are the primary influencers of a person's ethos. So powerful is this early impartation of values, beliefs, and knowledge, that it is the basis from which life long patterns and lifestyles are formed and persist. It is a parent's job to indoctrinate and inculcate their children in the ways of God. We cannot afford to let them drift, assuming some day they will choose for themselves. We are to be their teachers and guides to instruct them to hold fast to the Lord. "For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him." (Genesis 18:19) For good or for evil, parents have a life long influence upon their children. Therefore we must take great care over the values, beliefs, and knowledge that we pass on to them.

"Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering." (Luke 11:52) Part of our ethos comes from those who have taught us. For example, those who have grown up under teaching from conservative Christian leaders most often have developed a more conservative ethos than those who have received more liberal Christian teachings. The problem with the Hebrew lawyers in Jesus' day was that they had ceased to teach a Biblical view of God and instead taught a message of conformity; conformity to their ways and traditions rather than the way of God. It wasn't that they had taken away knowledge, but rather the "key" of knowledge. James cautions us, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." (James 3:1) As teachers, we should take care to avoid teaching as doctrine our own personal views or "pet" beliefs about the scriptures and the Kingdom of God. We must always strive to teach the full Word and counsel of God.

"Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'" (1 Corinthians 15:33) Our core values, beliefs, and understanding are influenced to a great extent by the company we keep. The Greek word translated "morals" is the word "ethos". While our parents may instill in us a godly ethos, if we later choose to associate with "bad company", our good ethos will become corrupted by the ethos of those we associate with. It is important that we choose our friends wisely. If we are friends with the world (and those in the world) then we will, over time, begin to adopt their ethos. However, if we center our relationships around those who love our Lord, then our godly ethos will be strengthened and built up by those around us. This is why Solomon counsels us, "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray." (Proverbs 12:26)

More to come... David Robison

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