Testimony – Amy

To my Precious Family at Living Water Church, 

For those of you that may not know me, I am currently serving as a worship leader and on the prayer team at church.

I wanted to share what God has been doing in my life with each of you today. 

Before I share my God story, I want to give all praise to Him.  It’s nothing about me, but His kindness and love towards me.  His obvious voice to me.  His way He spoke to me….like no other God could do…and to be obedient to that voice.  

Here is my God story: 

I have been on a journey over the past couple of months.  For those of you that know me and my relationship with the Lord, I always want to hear and be obedient to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to my heart.  I want to be listening and following His direction in my life.  

At the end of June, the Holy Spirit was beginning something in my life…that I was unaware of at the time.  My husband and I attended our dear friend son’s wedding in MN.  While packing for this trip, I put together a bag of different pairs of shoes to wear – around 4-5 pairs.  When I came back from our trip, I started to look for that bag of shoes.  I asked my husband and he said he didn’t remember loading that bag of shoes in the car.  Frantically, I called both of the hotels where we stayed and no one had turned them into the lost and found.  

 When I was meeting with my friend for prayer that next day, she said, “Amy, I have a word for you about your shoes.  The Lord is saying, you are not going to get your shoes back.  New shoes are in your future.  He has new shoes for your feet.  The old is gone and the new is here.” 

To explain, when a word is given about shoes, it talks and points to direction and where you are going to go for Him (your feet/direction) and His purposes for your life (mission trip, new ministry opportunities, stepping out of your comfort zone for kingdom work, new places or opportunities, etc.) 

After that word was given to me, the Lord began to present different areas of ministry for me to bless his name, speaking at Tapestry on Saturday morning, worship opportunities, and most recently, the Thursday morning Women’s Bible Study to lead in worship.  As you may or may not know, there is nothing that I would rather do than lead worship and honor my Lord and minister and bless others.   

Then in September, another dear friend that I pray with each week, she said “I believe that October is going to be a very significant month for you.”  The Holy Spirit began to give her acronyms for the name “October.”  

As I began to meditate and spend time asking the Holy Spirit to show me, these are a few of the words and thoughts He gave to me: 

The word October in Hebrew – means 8.  8 means new beginnings.  He also gave me words/acronyms for each letter of October: 

Opening / Closing, Call/ Timing/ Obvious,Obedience, /Bell (voice of God/ Breakthrough / Everything, Evolve/ Revelation. I knew that God was going to do an amazing thing.  For all these years that I prayed for my husband and his salvation, I really felt it was for him and his journey.  But, God knew better. 

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to attend another church with a dear friend.  I didn’t know anyone at this church.  We walked into the sanctuary, and my spirit was instantly ministered to.  As we were standing and worshiping, the worship leader stopped before she started the next song.  She pointed directly to my friend and I and said to us, “I am not sure who you both are or where you are coming from, but God is calling you for His destiny and purpose in your life.  As you both walked into the sanctuary, I saw a pillar of fire above each of your heads.  It is a fire and passion for worship.  The Lord is opening new doors and He is calling you into His destiny.”  Wow.  I was blown away.  I began to weep.  I knew instantly that word was from the Holy Spirit.  The worship leader didn’t know me.  I didn’t know her.  It was God’s voice.  During the greeting and fellowship break, I walked up to her and thanked her for her powerful word that morning. I told her that I was a worship leader and visiting today. She stopped and said, “You are a worship leader?  I need to pray for you.  Is it ok that I pray for you?  I said, yes.”  She began to pray and prophesy over me again and declared that God was opening doors and the purpose and the destiny for my life.”  That would have been enough to know that the Holy Spirit was trying to get my attention!  At the close of the service before singing our last worship song, she called us out again and asked for my friend and I to walk up to the front of the church.  She explained that she was going to begin to play and prophesy over us with her keyboard. She said to “just rest in His presence and to be obedient to what the Holy Spirit is leading to you to do.”  I just began to worship and praise the Lord.  I began to sing in tongues and a new song that the Lord gave to me.  My voice was anointed with His power and glory.  That time was so beautiful!  I began to weep and cry. I knew that the Holy Spirit was saying to me, “Amy, this is where I am calling you. This is where I want you to learn to worship me in a new way.  This is the door that I am opening and I am closing another.” 

For those of you that know me and my heart, I listen and follow what the Holy Spirit is telling me…even if it is hard to do…to take me out of my comfort zone. The words that he gave me for October…were for me and not my husband!  

Opening/ Closing/Timing/Obedience and Obvious/Bell (voice of God)/ Everything/Revelation.  

The Lord is leading and guiding me to walk into a new door and I want to be obedient to His voice and direction. Words can’t even to begin to express what my heart is feeling at this time.  Excitement, sadness, and an overwhelming feeling of God’s love and kindness. I am so blessed and thankful to have been a part of a wonderful church family.  This church will always be my home and a very special part in my heart! May God continue to bless Living Water and fulfill His destiny and purpose.   

My prayer for each of you is that you continue to listen to His voice and allow Him to lead and guide you in the destiny and purpose that He has for you…even if it takes you out of your comfort zone and in places that are unfamiliar. When He leads you, he will give you everything that you need.  

This past week, I was able to have a wonderful conversation and share my heart with Pastor Isaac, Jenni and the worship leaders and team, in this new season ahead. I am excited for the new things that God has for each of us!

I know that He has Living Water in His hands.  Whenever God moves others out and on to other things for His purpose, he always restores and replaces with good or better than before. That is where my journey with Living Water Church began.  At the time, there were prayers being offered to bring worship musicians to Living Water Church.  The Lord took me from my previous church of 15+ years and to start a new season and journey here. What a journey that has been!  He has taught me so many things.  My relationship with Him has grown stronger, helped and prepared me for this next season! 

I ask for your blessing and release to go and allow the Lord to continue to work in each of our lives. Upon conversation with Pastor Isaac and Jenni, I will be done at Living Water Church at the end of November.    

I am so grateful for all that God has done through my time at Living Water.  

Blessings on your day.  

In His Love. 

Amen. 

Amy  

All Saints Day

In many ways I would make a great Anglican, at least in the classical sense. Anglicanism is a mix of the classic catholic (read pre-reformation) style of worship and prayer as well as classical Protestant theology surrounding the doctrines of faith and grace. I even made up my own joke to illustrate this VIA MEDIA (middle way), which unless you enjoy Church history, you may not appreciate. Here it goes.

What happens when you mix a German Lutheran with an Irish Catholic? You get an English Anglican! I am usually the only one cracking up when I tell this joke. Still, the Middle Way has been incredibly attractive to me. We might say (in Hegelian fashion) that the Thesis was catholic (read pre-reformation) doctrine, the Antithesis was Protestantism, but the Synthesis was Anglicanism. One can be a synthesis without having to attend a building with the name on it.

Evangelical Protestants, at least in Wisconsin, have complained about traditional churches ad nauseum. I am my own source on this. I have sat through the sermons and spoke with dozens of Pastors and even more Christians of this stripe. Sometimes I relate to their complaints, but other times those complaints are misdirected. Let’s not forget Jesus’ words on the speck and the plank here.

Every time I am preaching from the Scriptures on something that sounds a bit more liturgical, I have to remind everyone that this is found in the Bible! All Saints Day, and Reformation Day, afford us a moment to reflect again on the kind of event the Reformation was, and how, despite differences, Christians can still be one in Christ, regardless of their denomination.

The Reformation is still debated to this day. Was it a return to doctrinal purity? Or, was it a breach of Christian Unity? Was it inevitable? Is it still going on today or has it long ended? These questions are actually quite difficult to answer in simple ways. If Protestant you see it one way, if Catholic another, and it seems there is some grain of truth in both answers.

One of my Professors at Asbury, Kenneth Collins wrote a book critiquing Catholicism. The read is quite heady, but is worth it to those who can. Still, as much as his critique of Catholicism is real, he has also written prolifically that some of the greats in the Protestant tradition, would be correcting the ideas that modern day Protestants have. I remember distinctively sitting in one of his classes where he critiqued this novel idea that somehow, after forgiveness, God does not actually remember our sins. He challenged the class that this could not be the case.

Even more, on the Doctrine of Salvation, Evangelicals often maintain a simplistic understanding of the term. Some use it in such narrow categories that at least some churches think about it as the moment of deciding for Christ, and not as a process throughout life with distinctive moments.

I am highlighting my Professor’s thoughts to illustrate one thing. Whether, Catholic or Protestant, or some Middle Way, there is room to critique ourselves and see how well we truly hold up to Scripture and the early church. This thought is our reminder from the Reformation. Yet, with this in place, should this not allow us to remember the great Christians in both traditions in time’s past? Moreover, it is a reminder of all our imperfections, which should drive us to rest on God’s perfection.

When we come into the doors of Church on All Saints Day, let’s remember God’s grace through the Catholics, the Protestants, as well as the middle way, of Anglicanism. Both those who have died and those who are still alive on earth. This All Saints Day, let’s pray for real solutions to bringing the divided branches of Christianity back together. Whether it is achievable or not, the final result in heaven includes that unity for all who truly love the Lord. Therefore, until we reach that great City of God, we must always be striving forward to it in the City of this World.

3 General Books

When I am not reading for Theological and Philosophical purposes (writing, debate, or preaching) I like to keep learning in other areas as well. Today I just finished three books. I was reading them a chapter a day (albeit missing most weekends). Reading outside of my research area, is fun and relaxing and sometimes allows me to be better informed in other areas. Here are the three books.

  1. Retire Inspired, by Chris Hogan – This book is a great book if you need information on thinking about your retirement, regardless of your age. The author is connected with Dave Ramsey, and follows the same 7 Baby Steps, but then offers a whole lot more information on retiring well. A colleague gave this book to me. https://www.amazon.com/Retire-Inspired-Its-Financial-Number/dp/1937077810/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=retire+inspired&qid=1571945627&sr=8-1
  2. Women with Money, by Jean Chatzky – This book was an enjoyable read, albeit it was directed at the females. I found it at the library and thought it could contribute to the book by Chris Hogan above. I also thought it might help me understand my wife a bit better as well. This was a nicely written book, that highlights some social inequalities between male and female income in the same jobs, but also the differences between the way many females interact with money compared with males. There is plenty of information regarding buying a house, spending fun money, saving for retirement, and taking care of your parents later in their lives. https://www.amazon.com/Women-Money-Judgment-Free-Creating-Purposeful/dp/1538745380/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?crid=HMPSZAGSP9G0&keywords=her+money+jean+chatzky&qid=1571945664&sprefix=her+money+%2Caps%2C183&sr=8-1-fkmr0
  3. 168 Hours, by Laura Vanderkam – Laura, at the time of this writing, is a busy mother, wife, writer, and is highly involved in singing and planning choral based productions. This book is an evaluation of how we use our time. Laura writes to offer better ways of using our 168 hours in ways that please us and still get more done while not sacrificing family time. Laura recommends that we write down 100 dreams that we all have, both small and large. Personal, familial, religious, work, and more. Then, ask what are we doing to accomplish those great dreams of ours. Moreover, recommendation is to focus on our core competencies that will advance us in the areas that we most care about. We can always be stretched so thin, but when we evaluate what is stretching us, a lot of times these areas do not reflect our values. It is a worthwhile book to ponder how you use your time. One area that comes up again and again is how we use screens. Put them down and turn them off and you will have a lot more time!

https://www.amazon.com/168-Hours-Have-More-Think/dp/159184410X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=19S0N5RD11PK0&keywords=168+hours+by+laura+vanderkam&qid=1571945760&sprefix=168+hours%2Caps%2C272&sr=8-1

 

Augustine’s City of God – Book 1

I am reading through the great Augustine’s ‘great book,’ “The City of God.” It’s around 700 pages, and he wrote it over a 14 year period in his upper 50’s till he was 70. In his time, (early 400’s) Christians were being blamed for the sack of Rome. That somehow, this destruction of Rome was being placed on the Christian religion, is something Augustine shows great surprise at and offers a whole new way of thinking about events like these. Yet, even the Christians were surprised that this event could happen at all. Rome was going to stand forever, at least in many an ancient mind. He spends the first book (think a long chapter) of many, arguing that this could not be the case, and the blame needs to go elsewhere.

What is great about this book so far, is that we get to see what the introduction describes as the first Philosophy of History. Basically, a large angle lens that interprets all of history, and particularly the history of Rome’s fall with meaningful explanation. Augustine’s point is that the kind of religion that Christians follow, is one in which the people are challenged to holiness. They are challenged to live good lives, so much so that if everyone were really a Christian, Rome would not have been able to fall.

However, Augustine’s greater point is that the kingdom of God, which he calls the City of God, is distinct from the City of this World. Where the people of this world act in ways contrary to God’s goodness, it is only inevitable that society will devolve and become vulnerable. He spends time listing how even the non-Christians of Rome that found refuge in the churches, were spared their lives both the invaders. Augustine’s point, seems to be that the real God was able to protect those who came to him, even on the basis of pretense from them losing their lives.

He lists some rather immoral practices that the invaders did during their sacking of Rome, such as rape young women who had dedicated their whole bodies to the Lord. And, as much as he answers questions Pastorally about these events, namely that the women are still pure in the Lord, despite this heinousness happening to them, he also offers a broader point which contrasts the false gods and their behaviors as well as the behaviors of those society looked up to, with the steadfastness of God’s people through trials like these.

Again, he is offering God’s people the edge, because of the City that they are a part of.

Why God? A Reflection on the Problem of Evil

“Why God?” This is the question that arises during times of sorrow and loss. I recently did the funeral for a cousin on my wife’s side of the family. She was only 32 and left two wonderful children at her passing. The funeral was in West Palm Beach, Florida. All around us were gated communities, with high HOA fees, and all the niceties that come with it. From the houses, to the grass, the air conditioning, and not to mention the awesome waterparks attached to various housing communities. The modern world has a way of causing us to forget about death. Well, at least until it comes close to us.

When death strikes, the pain unmasks our wealthy poverty. Grief is present and powerful. The relationship of daughter, mother, cousin, and more become so close that modernity itself comes to a crashing halt. What are we to say of suffering and God?

We cannot and should not blame suffering on the devil. This gives him too much power. Moreover, we cannot and should not blame all suffering on “sin,” although the Catholic Catechism is right to say that it acts like an air pollutant, and thus is part of the problem. Moreover, it does not ‘feel’ right to blame all suffering on God. We know he is good and just and merciful. So, how shall we answer the question of pain and suffering?

A quick aside. If you are in the middle of grief or suffering right now, philosophical answers tend not to go so far in the moment, even if they are true. I recommend, spending time with a friend or counselor to walk you through the pain.

The truth is that God is in some sense on the ‘hook’ for the suffering that we see in this world, because he set the world up to work and operate the way that it does. However, in another sense he is off the hook, because if he was going to create a good world, he has limitations on the kind of world that he can create in the first place. Perhaps a better way of saying this is that God could end all suffering right now if he was prepared to take away several of the most important and good attributes that this world has to offer in the first place. For instance:

  1. God could end all human evil, and hence the suffering that comes with it, if he took away free-will. Namely, he could have stopped Hitler’s action, he could stop the lies that happen in marriages, he could stop all the racism. However, for God free-will is a valuable and good thing, despite the consequences that it has for evil. Without free-will there would be no love, and hence there would be no Mother Teresa’s in this world or Ghandi’s etc. God considers the enshrining of free-will a greater good, that presupposes the possibility of incredible evil. If asked “why?” about a murder, the answer is that someone used their free-will to kill someone else. Free-will answers the question of human (moral) evil. But, what about the natural suffering in the world?
  2. God could end all suffering if he took away the natural laws that operate this world/universe. Remember, that the natural laws are things like gravity. With repeated experiments and observations scientists (and humans in general) have figured out the way much of the world works. Let’s use an example that is used in the Philosophy of Religion. It’s really simple; water. Water has the capacity to bring health to our bodies. One drink on a hot and dry day can greatly aid us. At the same time, water has the ‘power’ to drown us. Unless God is willing to change these properties in each circumstance we are in (and he is not willing in 99.9999999 (imagine seeing 9’s to infinity here) % of the time), then we will see the natural consequences that they bring. Namely, if we jump off of a building, we can know (that without a net or some other safety device) that we will crash into the pavement below in ways that destroy our bodies. Therefore, when we are asking “Why someone died?” we can simply answer by highlighting the natural circumstances of their condition or situation. So, in the case of a drowning, we can say that a given person drowned, “because water filled their lungs and they were unable to breath until they died.” The natural answer really is good enough here, as harsh as it may be sometimes.

Moreover, it would be a very strange world indeed if God did jump in to mess with the trillions and trillions of possible circumstances by changing the natural laws. Natural laws are a good thing. They help us to know that when we walk out of our houses in the morning, gravity won’t switch at random and we go up into space never to come back again. They help us to know and interact with the world that we live in.

Therefore, God sees that the natural laws are the very rules and tools for humanity to get to know the world. Having an orderly world means that we can use our reasoning in such a way as to make decisions. Without the natural laws, the concepts of free-will and reason (both of which God highly values) cannot exist in any strong or valid way.

A littler further reflection on Natural Evil

I myself think that natural evil does not make any sense. In the philosophical literature, moral evil is the kind of evil that humans do. I answered that above in a short paragraph on free-will. However, that is only one half of the equation about ‘evil.’ Very often we are asking questions that have no free-will attached to the apparent evil done. Examples of what are called ‘natural evil’ abound, such as, earthquakes, avalanches, tornadoes, tsunami’s, cancers, and much much more.

Why are these things taking place? Again, my answer is that these things are not actually “evil.” They just are. They are destructive for sure. They cause lots of pain and sorrow. No one will deny this. But, to call that “evil” seems to be attributing to a non-rational agent (let’s say an earthquake) moral power and capacities. However, natural events have no moral power whatsoever. They happen without intention or moral force. We cannot say, “That evil tsunami” because a tsunami is not evil. It is just a force that takes place in the ocean that impacts the land that humans and other living things abide.

Therefore, my answer to the question about the problem of evil is really that we only need answer the moral problem of evil. Once that question is answered with free-will, we simply need to understand that the natural laws are a prior good. Sure, they can cause much destruction, but ‘on the whole’ they set up the possibility of a better world than one without them. Again, if there are no natural laws, anything can happen at any time for no reason whatsoever, and that would be much more destructive than the world that we live in.

The universe that we live in, although set up by God, is set up for the good and long-range goals God has, such as giving people free-will, building an orderly universe, gifting human creatures with reasoning capabilities, and more. This means, that when events happen, God is not to blame in the sense that he did a given act in the moment. Instead, the moment can be explained in natural terms. Cancer takes lives. Lions eat antelope. Earthquakes hurt populations that build their societies near fault lines, etc.

Suffering and evil take place because the kind of things that make for learning, stability, love, and more are enshrined by free-will, natural laws, and the power of reason. These are great goods, which all the while allowing for great evil or destruction. We might say, for clarity purposes, that if God wants the incredibly important categories of free-will, natural-laws, and the powers of reason, there are certain possibilities that can always happen. Hence, suffering.

God and Time….and Services

Occasionally, one wonders about the length of our services. These prospective visitors, are making sure they will not be coming to a three hour marathon every Sunday. Here is my take on God, Time, and Services.

First, time is relative. In the book “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking, one learns that time is different depending on (1) where you are in the universe, (2) how far off the ground you are, and (3) how fast you are traveling. To give one example, if you could travel near the speed of light, you would not age as fast as someone on earth. We now know, there are no universal clocks. On earth we measure time based on earths turning (a day) and rotation around the sun (a year). This is not the same on Mars or Jupiter or in some other galaxy.

Second, God has no time. Therefore, his ‘ability’ to ‘move’ in a given length of service is the same. One does not get more of God, just because the services are longer. If you did, then perhaps we all should convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, because their services are long. 🙂

Third, most length of service discussions around the world are culturally driven. When I am in Honduras, I too preach for two hours. When I am here in Sun Prairie, I usually go for twenty five minutes.

Fourth, our length is an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. In this ‘time,’ we try not to ‘generate’ the work of God, but rather trust that God is working. There is a big difference between us ‘priming the pump’ and ‘controlling’ how we think God should work versus just letting God work, regardless of what response we see.

Fifth, the church of the first 1600 years relied not on the length, but on the Word of God in Scripture and the Grace of God in communion. If these two arenas were covered, then a legitimate Christian service had been held and God’s grace was received.

Sixth, I think it is an act of kindness, especially in our culture, to let people out ‘on time.’ It means we prayed throughout the week, trusted God in the song choices, sermon preparation, and Scripture texts. God ‘works’ methodically in the preparation process throughout the week, not just in spontaneous moments on Sunday.

Seventh, on a somewhat separate note, if you wanted to write a theological treatise on ‘God and Time’, you could. There is actually quite a large and heady discussion on “time” in academia if you happened to be interested in spending your earth’s rotations on it. 🙂

-Pastor Isaac

 

A Better Christianity from Classical Christianity

I was reading about a church leader named Ambrose in the late 300’s. Because of his work showing the reasonableness of Christianity, he was helpful in the conversion of one of the largest theological and philosophical minds in history, Saint Augustine. I so wish we can regain the reasonableness of classic Christianity that Ambrose offered Augustine. Therefore, I am offering a number of correctives for our world based upon the Church’s teaching through the ages.

  1. We need to affirm God’s love for all people and His desire that all be saved.
  2. We need to affirm the goodness of our reasoning powers. At times our reasoning is flawed, such as when we miscalculate something. But, our reasoning has classically been looked at as one of the major elements of being made in the image of God.
  3. We need to affirm the goodness of our physical bodies and stop divorcing physical and spiritual life in such broad ways.
  4. We need to affirm that there are good reasons to believe God exists, not just a blind leap of faith.
  5. We need to affirm that Scripture, Tradition, and Reason are all trump cards over experience. If someone has an experience and I have a sound reason, then I am closer to the truth.
  6. We need to affirm the freedom of the will. ‘Get-rich quick type’ gimmicks abound in various parts of Christianity and sometimes bring in the numbers. But we must seek lasting fruit that allows others their free choice and room for God to work too.
  7. We need to affirm that “anointed” preachers and teachers do not get an ‘automatically true’ pass in their teaching and preaching. We have always been told to discern everything.
  8. We need to affirm being true to God and his way over and against the endless use of the phrase, ‘be true to yourself.’ Check out N.T. Wrights book “After We Believe” for a more robust look at this concept.
  9. We need to affirm both commands and character development as a means to honoring God with our decisions.
  10. We need to affirm that God created the heavens and the earth. Classic Christian teaching has always affirmed “that” God created all things, but it has not affirmed “how” God created.
  11. We need to affirm that Christians have the right to believe what they think is true regarding the age of the earth and universe without feeling like they betrayed the Faith. Historic Christianity has not ruled on the age of the earth, and therefore we are allowed to search these questions out ourselves with and modern science.
  12. We need to affirm that the Bible is not to be read as the same genre in all its books. There are many genre’s and literary devices that control how various books are to be read (literally, historically, religiously, poetically, metaphorically, a mixture, etc).
  13. We need to affirm that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, but we should not give in to easy speculations regarding percentages of persons going to heaven or hell. This is God’s domain, and he knows who are seeking him across the world.
  14. We need to affirm the mission of the church to preach the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the means of salvation and put our efforts forward to bring the message to our neighbors and world.
  15. We need to affirm the real presence of Christ in communion. “How” or in “what way” Christ is present, has been long debated, but that He is present has been long held.
  16. We need to affirm the reality of sin. With all the attempts to psychologize sin away, we still should hold that sin separates us from a good and holy God. This is exactly why, for 2000 years the Church has been preaching the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Believing in Jesus overcomes the powers of sin.

There is much more to say…but I am sure that is enough to chew on for now.

Yours in Christ,

Isaac

Miracles

I am in a reading group with some UW Madison students regarding contemporary debates in the philosophy of religion. We are using a text edited by one of my former professors in seminary, which at some level reminds me of the quality I had in this professor. The subject from last week was on miracles.

Miracles by definition should not be expected to happen every day and in every situation. In fact, if they did, they would not be all that miraculous (please take time to think about this thought). If they happened all the time they would be part of the regular sequence of nature, or at least a regular interruption of nature that could be counted on. Sometimes, as a Pastor, I might sound like the bad guy for saying that miracles are irregular events. But, I think this is part of the heritage of our Christian teaching, and the hard work of being intellectually honest.

Moreover, every miraculous report should not be believed. I think the New Testament itself bears witness to discerning all things. The early church often had to deal with other religious groups that made regular and wild claims about supernatural things. Christians were warned to test everything.

One part I really enjoyed from the book reading had to with evaluating miraculous claims in other religions. Sometimes, especially from our non-believing friends, we are challenged as to how we accept our religion’s miracles but reject others. The reading from this week highlighted a couple things I think are worth mentioning. The authors are Charity Anderson and Alexander Pruss.

The first is that no rational persons, whichever religion they find themselves in should believe every miraculous report. My thought from this is that just because one religion or perhaps even several might have legitimate miraculous claims, in no ways means all of them do. This means, just because we believe that miracles do happen, does not mean we believe all or even most reports.

The second point however was interesting to me. Given the idea that a good God does exist, we would not be surprised if we found miraculous reports of his blessing across the world at times to aid a person in need. Thus, we would not have to dismiss all other miraculous reports just because they are not found in “our” religion.

The counter argument against miracles in this chapter (5) was offered by Arif Ahmed. The point he makes is that we need to take into account the unlikely nature of miracles in the first place. He follows an old line of thought from David Hume that given how unlikely they are we should rather believe just about any other explanation than that a miracle did in fact occur. Ahmed thinks this in relation to the Resurrection of Jesus as well. Basically, ignorance, deceit, hallucination etc. is just as believable than an actual resurrection given how unlikely a resurrection is in the first place.

Of course there is much to reply to Ahmed with, such as the kind of evidence given for the resurrection makes it rational to hold to until a better explanation surfaces. Moreover, the discussion on background beliefs is important as well. If there is a God, miracles are possible. If there is no God, then Ahmed seems right, that there are none. Thus, we come back to the question about God’s existence.

https://www.amazon.com/Contemporary-Debates-Philosophy-Religion-Peterson/dp/1119028450/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=contemporary+debates+in+the+philosophy+of+religion&qid=1563994889&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Refreshing Faith

I had a great conversation with two newer young (recently married) people after Church on Sunday. Given my sermon I figured I would get some interesting feedback. What I found in these two was a couple hungry for the truth and deeply in love with their Savior! These two recent converts to The Faith, demonstrated how they are on the front lines of several major forces that work to contravene both the truth of our bodies but also the truth of Jesus Christ. I could not have been more encouraged as they demonstrated their resolve to love people while not giving up the Scriptural truth!

Moreover, they mentioned how they were spending some time with Jehovah’s Witnesses (from here on JW’s) and they really wanted to show them that Jesus is truly God (something JW’s deny). One thing JW’s (and other cult-like groups) do is they have their position handed to them, and then they go on into the Bible (their own fairly changed translation of the Bible) to confirm their already formed beliefs. It is easy to walk into the pages of the Bible and pick verses that already agree with us. But, as Christians we are supposed to take a different route (a more fully human and honest route). We go on into the Bible and begin to form our beliefs from its content and not the other way around. We are not supposed to be building grand echo chambers, but rather a vibrant relationship with God formed on Truth.

Well, enough said there. I was greatly encouraged Sunday (and I have not even mentioned the Baptism’s!!). Let’s be praying for young people like those baptized and those I chatted with to be powerful light bearers in our sometimes dim lit society.

Communion, Children, Leftovers

The Bible does not tell us at what age children can take communion. Thus, churches can work out their own policies as to “when” they are allowed. Here at LWC we let the families choose. If the family desires for their child to have communion with them, even at very young ages, then they should. If the family desires their child to reach a certain ‘age,’ then they should follow their convictions too.

For me personally, I recognize that God’s grace is available to children even if they do not understand everything about the ‘meal’ (read ‘sacrament’). In fact, likely not one of us understands exhaustively this meal. But, that does not deter us from coming forward. What the Bible does make clear is that we should take part in this meal until Christ comes again (1 Corinthians 11:26). We should remember (re-present) the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 22:19). Moreover, we should make sure that wealth/class/other (read ‘social division’) distinctions are dissolved during this meal (1 Corinthians 11:17-22). Finally, we should recognize the body of our Lord in this meal (whether literally, symbolically, pre-figural, or cosmically in the church) (1 Corinthians 11:27-32, Matthew 26:26-29).

Given my own convictions on the ‘meal’ are quite classic (read sacramental), I don’t like tossing the ‘leftovers.’ Thus, when some young people in the congregation have asked if they could consume the leftover bread and juice, I have given them the freedom to do so. From here on out, it will be done in the Narthex, rather than on the Altar (platform), but I find allowing this very beneficial. For one, there is joy and excitement from these young people over ‘the meal.’ The church has a role to train ‘desires’ to receive something of the Lord’s in a positive way.

One quick story to close. A Lutheran Pastor, Pastor Meyer, told me this years ago. In their tradition they also viewed the meal as a sacrament. Moreover, they used wine (not grape juice). Well, the Pastor’s were required to finish the rest of the wine after the church service. Some were getting tipsy because they poured too much for the congregation and had quite a bit to finish later. What should they do?

At first, they thought they could just pour the leftover wine down the drain. However, that felt too…well…dirty for the sacrament. Then, they decided that the leftover wine would be taken outside and poured out on the ground. A sort of ‘from the ground the grapes brought forth the wine, and to the ground the wine went back into’ motif. However, this was not always exciting in the north where temperatures in the winter can be bitter cold. So, the denomination created a spicket in their buildings that the Pastor can pour the wine into which empties outside on the ground without them ever having to go outside. To say the least, that is interesting. 

For now, we will stick to consuming the leftovers.

-Pastor Isaac