Category Archives: Spiritual Health

Musings on what it means to be a spiritually healthy person.

Are we willing to engage atheism?

Front Page Tough Questions

I just preached a message this week on the reasons we should believe in God, and as a result I’ve been watching some videos from some serious atheists to get their perspective.

There are some interesting thoughts out there, and I’m going to post here a collection of video clips and links to people who might be considered “militant atheists” or “New Atheists”—atheists on a mission to promote the cause of atheism.

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Why should I believe in God?

Front Page Tough Questions

Three kinds of people ask this question:

  1. Some people ask this question to pick a fight. They have made up their mind about their own belief in God, and they are trying to push my buttons. They want me to engage them in debate. Sometimes I do.
  2. Some people ask this question to put up a smoke screen. There is something about belief in God that scares them. They know they are leaning toward belief, but they are afraid of it and use this question as a smoke screen to redirect the conversation into something else. Usually, the smoke screen tactic leads to the debate tactic, but the motive was different.
  3. Some people ask this question because they are honestly interested to know the answer. I’m writing this post for them.

For those who want to know the answer to this question, it usually boils down to two other questions: Can a rational person like me believe in God? Should I today make the choice of faith today?

On Sunday, I dealt with the second of the two questions, but I didn’t get much time to deal with the first of the two, so I’m planning to post a few ideas to the first question here on my blog.

Can a Rational Person Believe in God?

I consider myself to be a rather rational person myself. In fact, I have often said that if God hadn’t grabbed my life as early as he did, I might never have come to him. I had a personally convicting experience about God when I was three, and that puts me in a very interesting place.

You see, I’ve often wondered about the level to which my upbringing has predisposed me toward a belief in God, and so I’ve personally wrestled with many different approaches to the question above. Can I as a rational person believe in God or is my belief entirely based on my upbringing?

Today, I feel very satisfied in my answer, and I’ll just share my own thinking with you.

However, I need to do it in a few different posts… Sorry about that. Stay tuned, I’m writing the first one now.

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Productivity: August 13, 2007

Front Page My Spiritual Life

Today’s Accomplishments

  • I mowed the lawn.
  • I read a chapter from
    Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time
  • I sent an email to Greg, Kyle, and Josh about our Four Guys and God meeting. (We are going to work through the 10 commandments in our discipleship).
  • I’ve taken a closer look at the ning.com social network creation site to see if that would work better than maintaining our own church website.
  • I processed a few emails.
  • I wrote three blog entries.
  • I printed mailing labels for 350 postcards and affixed them to the cards (Jen helped).
  • I invited some neighbors over for dinner.
  • I read the kids their bedtime story and got them in bed while Jen was at Bible Study
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Productivity: Week 1 Results (and self analysis)

Front Page Leadership My Spiritual Life

I spent last week doing a productivity experiment that was really just a project of tracking of what I wanted to accomplish and what I actually did accomplish. Though the experiment didn’t turn out the way I had wanted it to, I learned some things about myself, and in this post, I share what I’m hoping to do about it to become more productive in the future.

Here’s my productivity list for last Wednesday (July 24):

  • Read about internet marketing — 60 mins.
  • Blogged my Monday productivity — 15 mins.
  • Devotion and Prayer — 10 mins.
  • fix look of blog and add comments — 10 mins.
  • Completed survey for research project on church planters — 40 mins.
  • Lunch and playing with Charlie — 1.25 hrs.
  • Processing voicemail and cleaning out email Inbox (finally) — 3 hrs.
  • Phone calls throughout the afternoon — 30 mins.
  • Evening phone calls — 60 mins.

(I didn’t even get a list done for Thursday.)

Analysis of the week

At the end of last week and throughout the week, I determined that productivity for me isn’t something I can just willpower my way into. I’m generally a very active person mentally, and my tendency to be distracted means that I’m regularly failing to finish projects all the way. I didn’t even get all my daily blog entries written last week (and it’s already Wednesday of this week!)

All in all, I think it was a good experiment, and I hope that some of the more obvious things I’ve learned will help me be more productive.

Things I Learned

As a result, here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. Productivity for me will not happen without a list of daily goals. More specifically, as I looked at the list of things I actually did each day, I realized that though many of them were beneficial to my overall ministry, not many of them were essential or high priority items.

  2. Productivity for me will not happen in a “distractable” environment. My tendencies toward ADD make it very easy for me to follow mental rabbit trails. For example, reading my email through Gmail leads to me seeing news clips that interest me. Thinking that I can read the story in only a few seconds, I click on the link, but that story will have other links to more information, and before I know it, I’m deeply embedded in open Firefox tabs with a sense that I have to read them all before I can get back to answering that email.

  3. The mundane, mindless, routine tasks of ministry are the most dangerous for time-wasting because during those tasks, my brain is allowed to work overtime on discovering rabbit trails. For example, while my weekly sermon is being encoded and uploaded to the Internet Archive, I can do other things with the computer and that usually means frittering.

  4. The biggest thing I learned is that the most important tasks on my todo list create a kind of paralyzing guilt that hampers my productivity.

Let me explain that last point. I need to write a sermon every week for church on Sunday. I know that the process of writing a really good sermon takes me about 20 hours, but that I can create a pretty good sermon in only 8 hours. As a result, something very strange happens in my mind as the week moves on.

If I don’t get an early start on my message, I face a daily increasing level of stress as the week moves on. Because I feel so much pressure to get my message done, I feel guilty doing any other ministry. I don’t want to meet with people, I don’t want to make phone calls, and I don’t want to have any meetings because to do any of those things feels like I’m stealing from sermon prep time. If I do some ministry that isn’t sermon prep, I actually feel guilty and unproductive. However, if I put in a 4 hour block of time on my sermon, I feel the logistical pressure of needing to make phone calls, meet with people, and call meetings. So working on my sermon feels like stealing from other ministry.

My problem is that I have no internal sense of process. For me, everything is right now and nothing that should be done should wait to be done. As a result, I simply can never determine emotionally which ministry I should do right now. Make phone calls or work on sermon. Whichever I choose, I end up feeling guilty that I didn’t do the other one. I’ve been this way for long enough that I’ve grown to expect it and anticipate the guilty feeling even before I’ve made the choice and quite often the end result is that I do neither. I escape into family time, reading time, web browsing, email or mindless routine items.

I just spent about 15 minutes browsing the ‘Net to see if there were any blogs that addressed procrastination, but I’m back now!

Strategy for Going Forward

To answer my four learning points above, I’m suggesting this to myself and to you as a possible strategy:

  1. Set aside 4 hours each Monday for sermon prep without Internet access with a primary goal of getting draft sermon outlines done 2 weeks before the Sunday they are needed (I want to move this to 4 weeks before it’s needed).
  2. Use Sunday afternoon to do sermon podcast stuff until I can recruit someone else to do that for me.
  3. While the podcast is encoding/uploading on Sundays, I’ll make calls based on communication cards thus keeping me off the computer.
  4. Each day, I’ll make a list of things to accomplish and identify which ones can happen on the computer and how long those will take.
  5. BONUS: I don’t think I can make this happen because of the distractability thing, but I’d like to publish my daily todo list to the Internet so that I’ll be more accountable for how I spend my time.
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Productivity: July 23, 2007

Front Page Leadership My Spiritual Life

Here is my activity/productivity list for the day:

  • Devotional study of Psalm 116 (BI: Those who know God’s salvation respond with love.) — 30 minutes
  • Prayer bike ride through a new neighborhood — 60 minutes
  • Blog about my productivity experiment — 40 minutes
  • Work on processing audio for Sunday’s sermon — 25 minutes
  • Make lunch for kids and watch AFV with them — 60 minutes
  • Finishing sermon audio process and upload — 30 minutes
  • Reloaded home Email Server — 20 minutes
  • Converted a Simpsons video for my Palm Pilot — 10 minutes
  • Blogged my sermon — 10 minutes
  • Made dinner for the kids and watched a movie with them — 2.5 hours
  • Hanging out with Jen, working on miscellaneous household things for the rest of the evening.

Analysis

According to my productivity experiment, here’s how my day broke down.

Personal

  • Prayer: 60 minutes
  • Bible: 30 minutes
  • Other Books: 0 minutes
  • Total: 1.5 hours

Family

  • Time with kids: 3.5 hours
  • Time with Jen: 2 hours
  • Total 5.5 hours

Mission

  • Direct contact: 1 person (15 minutes)
  • Spiritual conversation: 0
  • Strategic planning : 0
  • Total 15 minutes

Routine

  • Managing home: 20 minutes (fixed email server)
  • Managing church: 65 minutes (blogged Sunday’s sermon)
  • Total 1.5 hours

Wow! As I look at this list, I’m thinking “That’s how I’m starting my week long productivity experiment?” It doesn’t look very productive to me. I’m going to have to do better.

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How Productive Can I Be?

Front Page Leadership My Spiritual Life

I’m entering into a week of experimentation. I’m experimenting with myself to see how productive I can be.

Just yesterday, I preached a message on how we can actually find fulfillment in our pains and struggles, and I was thinking that something uncomfortable for me is the bearing down into a routine of productivity. Along those lines, I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how much I’m really capable of and whether or not I’m really capable of more than I usually accomplish in a week.

Therefore, I’m embarking on a contest with myself to see just how productive I can be for only one week. (I like short sprints better than long races, so I’m telling myself that it will just be for this one week.)

My plan is simple. I intend to write one blog post every day detailing what I did that day according to a few key productivity markers. I’ve chosen these “markers” to be the measurables by which I can attempt to see daily improvement. However, these are in rough form right now, so I’m sure they will change over the course of this week or any other week I do this experiment.

Productivity Markers:

Personal

  • How much time have I spent in prayer?
  • How much time have I spent reading the Bible?
  • How much time have I spent reading other books?

Family

  • How much time have I spent with my kids?
  • How much time have I spent with my wife?

Mission

  • How many people have I had direct, personal contact with?
  • How many people have I had a spiritual conversation with?
  • How much time have I invested in strategic planning for the church?

Routine

  • How much time have I invested in managing home details — and what did I accomplish?
  • How much time have I invested in managing church details — and what do I have to show for it?

Suggestions? What are some of your suggestions for how I should be measuring my productivity?

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Flying Disc Giveaway Success

Evangelism Front Page Lafayette Lafayette Community Church


find your center flying disc 2007

This week we executed a plan that I had been brewing since last year at this time.

You may already have read about our “Black Friday” Hot Chocolate Giveaway. On that day, we gave out nearly 500 mugs of hot chocolate or coffee to shoppers braving the local Wal-Mart on the day after Thanksgiving. Well, this week, we gave out flying discs to families at the fireworks show on Purdue’s campus on July 4. It was a blast, and it was a big success too.

The setup

At the top of this post, you can see the final design for the flying discs that we bought through <www.dollarimprint.com> for around 70 cents each once shipping was included. The design on the top is a gradual spiral (which looks really cool when the discs are flying) surrounded by the words “stop spinning, find your center, reach higher | southside church” our phone number, web address, and core value verbs are also printed on the top.

We ordered T-Shirts with a tye dyed look and a very similar logo design on the front and the back. Here’s a picture of what they look like.

Find Your Center T-Shirt Front
Find Your Center T-Shirt Back

The elements of the plan were simple and very much like the hot chocolate giveaway:

  • Give a free flying disc to every family out there until we ran out or it got dark.
  • Have two tables set up to take registrations for a free drawing to win an iPod shuffle or other prizes.
  • Have all our volunteers wearing matching T-Shirts.

I should soon have a picture of what the setup looked like.

How it went

In all, it was a very successful event. The volunteers had a lot of fun, the people who received the flying discs were very appreciative, and a large number of people signed our entry forms. I don’t have a final count yet of those who were willing to be added to our mailing list. It was so cool to look across the field of families waiting for the fireworks to start and to see hundreds of purple flying discs whizzing through the air all over the place. It was really exciting.

On top of it all, I personally was able to get in some good conversations with at least 4 different families who were very interested in checking out one of our Sunday Gatherings. Who knows if they will actually make it this week, but I believe we really put our name out into the community in a positive way.

I’m really eager to hear more feedback from our volunteers and also from people who may visit our church because of this outreach. If I hear some good things (or criticisms) I’ll post them here. If you would like to chime in with your opinions please add your comment. I want to know what other people think about this kind of outreach. I especially hope that events like these let people in Lafayette know that there is a church around here that cares about them and is willing to invest in their lives in a way that makes their lives a little bit better (and a little more fun too).

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The Downhill King Slide

Explaining the Bible Front Page

In my last post in this category, I talked about the Cycle of Rebellion that plagued the nation of Israel beginning with the death of Joshua. Here’s a recap of what that cycle looks like:

  • The Jews forsake God and his laws for foreign gods and immorality.
  • God forsakes the Jews to foreign governments and oppression.
  • The people repent and return to God.
  • God rescues them.

Once God began to establish kings in Israel, the cycle shifted quite significantly… for the worse. In the new world of the kings, the cycle went more like this:

  • The king forsakes God and his laws.
  • The people don’t care.
  • Prophets arise to warn the king and the people.
  • No one cares

That cycle will continue until the day when God sends foreign powers to invade and destroy the nation of Israel. Here are the details.

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150?

Front Page Lafayette Prayer Requests

What an incredible day!

Last Sunday was our Grand Opening service as a church and I am excited to report that we had between 140-150 people there. We never got an accurate count, but this is how we came up with those numbers:

  • 24 Elementary School Kids
  • 6 Babies in the Nursery
  • 9 Children’s Ministry Workers
  • 100 Bulletins handed out (when we ran out)

I’ve tried to be conservative and stick with 140, but my wife is pressing me to say 150! and I’m usually the one who does the exaggerating!

If you want to hear the message I preached or watch the video, it will be posted here soon or you can get to it by visiting our church audio page.

God is bigger than we imagine.

My coach told me a couple of months ago, “Remember, Jeff, no one loves this church more than you and Jesus.”

I was getting kinda frustrated because of the number of people I had been trying to recruit and the slim number of people who were responding. He told me that to remind me that no one would care about the church like I do, but that Jesus cared about it more than even I did. That really helped to encourage me.

And Jesus does care about this church.

On March 18, we had our final preview service and I had the joy of preaching to a crowd of about 15 adults. The very next week, I had the privilege of preaching a message to a crowd of over 100. It was utterly mind-blowing to me!

If you were there on Sunday…

I just wanted to say that if you were there on Sunday, I am so grateful for you. You could have spent your Sunday morning in many different ways, but you chose to come out and be a part of our Grand Opening Event, and more than that, you chose to take a risk and see what God might be doing in this brand new ministry.

God has something really great in store for us, and I believe he wants us to experience it together, but that isn’t all. I think the biggest thing he has in store for us is for us to find our identity in the process of helping other people to discover how much God loves them.

We are just beginning a journey together. It will be a bumpy ride at times, but it will certainly be an adventure.

If you have been praying for us…

You also deserve a special thanks. There have been so many of you praying for us and supporting us financially, that I really am humbled. I’m afraid I will miss someone here, but I just think you all deserve thanks. You know why:

Thank You

Jennifer Asinugo, Mike Atwell, Nellie Aujero, Alexandrina Balanean, Charlie & Lea Battleday, David & Carole Beckwith, Jim & Deb Cartwright, Brian & Melissa Chupich, Sonlife Community Church, James & Katheryn Cross, Herb & Paula Frost, Gloria Greene, Jodi Hanson, Gerald Hawthorne, Dorothy Herschelroath, Rynn Hill, Mark Jacobsen, Mike & Jill Kaminski, Rhonda Kerr, Gary Krebs, David & Stacy Laneve, Chuck & Amy Larish, Larry & Claudia Lasiter, Dan & Mary Martin, Mark & Linda Mikels, Keith & Marian Mikels, Sadie Mikels, Jason & Brooke Miller, Dr. & Mrs. Tom Miller, Marion Mockler, Tom & Chris Nalian, Rob & Chris Nelson, Mark & Amy Peterson, Stephen & Jill Puett, Ken & Cheryl Reynolds, Gary Rohrmayer, Dorothy Samorajski, Greg & Laura Shackleford, Jim & Wendy Sheely, Austin Smith, Jeff & Debbie Spencer, Lorraine Spencer, Joel & Becky Sutton, Josh & Valerie Thomas, Grant & Betty Tregay, Tommy & Bonnie Troup, Zack Turner, Mike & Tammie VanDeripe, Cindy & Rick Veith, Gloria Walker, Richard Wollard, Meadowland Community Church, Tim and Lisa Beavis, Bethany Baptist Church, Community Reformed Church, Tony Suitor, Kathy Abretske, Northwest Baptist Church, Irene Portokalis, Merrill Avenue Baptist Church, Hannis & Kim Thompson, First Assembly of God in Lafayette.

If I’ve forgotten someone, just send me a reminder email or post a comment, and I’ll put you on the list too.

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Report on our Final Preview Service

030 What's So Great About God? Front Page Lafayette Prayer Requests

Southside Church Directional Sign
Sunday was our final preview service! On the one hand, that really excites me because it means that months of preparation are finally coming to a culmination. On the other hand, it makes me nervous because now I can’t hid behind the “We’re still in preparation-mode” excuse. Also, I now have to get back into the mode of preparing weekly messages and worship services. I think it is going to be really hard work for a while. But I’m looking forward to it. It should be exciting.

Anyway, we had some really neat things happen Sunday and we learned some more good lessons.

Marketing

Because our Grand Opening is this coming Sunday (the 25th), we didn’t market last week as much as we had last month. I did send out a cool postcard to all those on our mailing list.

Here, you can see the postcard we mailed out.

Opening Soon Card Front

Opening Soon Card Back

 

Also, because of how long the signs took to put together last time, I had our signs professionally printed, and I set them up the day before. Here’s what one of them looked like.

Southside Church Directional Sign

 

Also, you might be interested to see the banner I set up on the corner of the school’s property.

Southside Church Sunday Banner

 

I got all the signs put up on Saturday including an additional banner on some columns in front of the school.

Also, on Saturday, Josh came over and helped me load up the truck so that we didn’t have to do any loading on Sunday morning. It made everything go so much more smoothly in the morning.

Morning Preparation

Because last month’s morning got off to a slow start, I asked everyone to be at our house at 8:30am this time. Everyone was there by 8:45 and we were able to pray together before loading up the truck.

Yes, I did say truck! This was our first day to use the truck, and it was also our first time using the equipment that came from Willowbrook Community Church. Their sound equipment is much more elaborate than what we had been using.

Somehow we did get a little delayed at our house. I think the prayer time took a little longer than I had thought it might, but that’s not a bad thing. Anyway, we got to the school at about 9:15, and then unloaded everything.

Attendance

Our total numbers weren’t much more than they have been for any of our other services, but something about it felt really good. It especially felt good because between last month’s service and this one, three members of our worship team stepped down. However, we made up the loss in numbers with quite a few new faces.

The coolest story of the morning was one family that was on their way to visit another church when they saw our signs and recalled our TV spots. So they decided to stop on in and check us out.

Here our numbers:

  • Children – 12
  • Adults – 20
  • Total Attendance – 32

Sermon

My morning message was entitled God Is Love and the best part of the message is when I took the “love passage” from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and asked people to consider substituting “God” for every instance of the word “love.” Here’s the verse from the NIV:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I then asked people to consider which of those promises was God’s promise to them for that morning. Try it yourself.

However, I failed to get my MP3 recorder set up properly, so I didn’t get a recording of the service. I’m kinda bummed by that, but what are you going to do?

Lessons Learned

During our debrief lunch following the service, we discussed some lessons learned for the next time. Here they are:

  • We need to get some extra equipment
    • 1/8″ stereo mini plug cable
    • 3 Speakon cables (2×25′ and 1×50′)
    • smaller box for AV cables that can fit in the cabinet
    • a mobile cart for our computer and projector so we don’t have to use the microwave stand from the cafeteria.
    • Latex Gloves for the Nursery
    • a hand truck / dolly for getting stuff off the truck better.
    • Trough or cooler with ice for water bottles
    • Bread bags for people to take the donated bread home
    • More water bottles
  • We need to darken the room (the screen was getting washed out by the light coming in the back windows)
  • We need to make up some cards for nursery workers to easily communicate to parents what happened with their kids (what snacks they got, if they took a nap, if their diaper was changed).

Well, that’s about it. Next week is our Grand Opening. I’ll write another post on our plans for that.

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Angels, Demons, and Scientific Method

Front Page Tough Questions

Some time ago, I began a blogosphere conversation over with Rob at Casual Musings. The conversation has centered on the relationship of Science and Faith. His post is here, my response is in the comments there and also here.

In his most recent comment, he posed some more questions to me. His main issue boiled down to this:

In an age where the scientific method forms the basis for our worldview, what should the Christian position be considering especially the Biblical descriptions of angelic and demonic activity in the world?

Specifically, he addressed these questions:

  • Can demons influence the scientific process?
  • Are demonic forces still at work in cases of psychological and other illness?
  • Why has science consistently pushed God out of the question?

I want to address these with an analogy.

The Man Behind the Curtain

If you have read the book or seen the play/movie The Wizard of Oz, you know that at the end of the book, the all powerful wizard is shown to be simply a man behind a curtain pulling ropes, throwing switches and speaking into a microphone.

Now picture yourself in the position of an observer in the room who sees the gigantic floating head, the booming voice, the smoke and effects, but this time, instead of a black curtain, there is a sealed, steel box behind the head.

As an observer, you have three possible conclusions to make.

  1. The head is exactly as it appears. It is what it is, and there is nothing more to it than that.
  2. At some point in the past, someone built this head, attached it to a computer program, and let it run.
  3. There is a man in the box who is controlling the head.

In this analogy, the head refers to the universe around us that we can see and observe, and the man in the box is God. Therefore, position 1 is the position of the atheist. There isn’t anything other than the head. Position 2 is the position of the deist. Someone put this all in place, but now it manages itself. Position 3 is the theist. There is a God who is actively involved in what we see.

Ancient people presupposed that #3 was true because they had no other explanation. Whether they knew God or not, they presupposed there was a God who was operating the world. More precisely, most ancient people thought that every phenomenon observed in the world was actually controlled by a different divine being. That there would be only one Almighty God who was over all phenomena was a uniquely Hebrew concept.

Anyway, the process of scientific inquiry started with the presupposition that there was, so to speak, a man in the box, and the earliest scientists wanted to learn more about the man in the box by trying to figure out how he was doing what he was doing. The biggest problem, of course, was that the box was closed up tight with no seams, windows, or doors. There were only ropes and wires along with the occasional message that people claimed came from within the box.

Scientific investigation, then started with the head. As scientists investigated the head, they began to notice the ropes that led from different parts of the head back to the box. They watched closely, and they saw that everytime one rope moved, so did the eyes. Rejoicing, they gave that rope a name (R1) and developed a theory that whenever R1 moved up and down, so did the eyes. Some scientists were even able to build a ladder, climb on the box, and figure out that they too could move R1 up and down. Amazingly, when they moved it, so did the eyes. Their theory was confirmed.

Along with better technology, more detailed theories were developed, and patterns became evident. Mathematical formulas were increasingly able to predict how and when the head would move, and eventually, scientists began to feel that because everything was so predictable, there couldn’t be a person in the box. Some believed it was a computer, but most began to feel that somehow the head was self-sustaining.

This is the progression of science in our world. With more and more of the world proving to be predictable, the proposition that a rational being was behind it all became unnecessary, and God went from being in a box to being nowhere at all.

Science needs no God

Science lost God because it doesn’t need him.

It really came down to this kind of reasoning:

  1. There are many unseen forces.
  2. Each year, more of those forces are shown to be predictable on their own and malleable by technology.
  3. We have zero direct evidence of the spiritual world outside our perception of unseen forces.
  4. Therefore, we will proceed as if there is no distinction between “spiritual” and “natural” forces and see how far we get.

To date, 100% of the forces that we understand are predictable and malleable according to various mathematical formulas, and the number of forces we don’t understand is dwindling fast.

That’s how we got to where we are today with many scientists simply saying, “We no longer need to assume there is a God behind it all. Whether there is or isn’t doesn’t matter to the scientific process. Every observable effect we have found, has an observable cause.” Scientists are convinced that the belief in God will not help the process. Instead, the belief in God might hinder the process because someone might come upon an unseen force (say, the nuclear “strong force”) and simply credit that one to God without investigating it. Therefore, in order for science to keep moving forward, all scientists have to uphold operational atheism or deism which means that they assume the process they are observing is running all by itself.

Now, a person can be a believer in God and also be a scientist, but the presupposition to all science is that some observed phenomenon is not under the control of a capricious being but under the control of a predictable, rational God.

This is where modern science is directly opposed to some of the ways the Bible represents the activity of demons and angels. It’s very easy for us to say that God is rational, predictable, and in control, but what about the Bible’s claims regarding the capricious activity of demons?

Are demons still at work today?

Demons and Psychology

Jesus was apparently known more for casting out demons than he was for healing the sick. People would be brought to him with symptoms similar to epilepsy, dementia, retardation, or other mental defect, and his diagnosis was consistently that a demon needed to be cast out. He never once diagnosed a person with a mental illness.

However, if you pay attention, Jesus never “diagnosed” anyone. He always accepted their own self-diagnosis and then healed them according to their faith or the faith of the person who brought the issue to Jesus. You see this repeatedly in the gospels, and there is only one exception.

The exception is found in Mark 5:6-13

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. — Mark 5:6-13

In this passage, Jesus has a conversation with the evil spirits that reside in this man!

With all the other biblical instances of demonic oppression, you see demonic behavior that can (relatively) easily be explained from the perspective of Western medicine, but with this one, we see a description of an unpredictable, powerful, and personal intelligence that Jesus calls an evil spirit. Western medicine might describe this as a psychotic individual, but Jesus proves it to be the result of evil spirits when he sends them into a herd of pigs who then run off and drown themselves.

So how do we reconcile Western scientific thinking with the biblical worldview of spiritual forces at work in our world?

My own approach is the combination of a few core beliefs:

  • God is completely in charge of Creation and he is logical, orderly, and unchanging with regard to the way he created it and continues to sustain it.
  • Humans, angels, and demons are given a mind similar to God’s own that is capable of imagining the possible and thereby causing action that may be unpredictable.
  • The mind and activity of spiritual beings is ultimately under the control of God himself such that they are limited to do only what he allows them to do.
  • Humans, being both spiritual and physical, have an interplay of spirit and body that is far more complex and profound than we yet understand.

In the medical world, I believe that what the Bible describes as demon-possession or demonic oppression is the simple fact of God allowing an evil spirit to physically damage the brain or body chemistry of a person to create the symptoms of epilepsy, depression, etc. It could be that God allows the demon to also continually remain with the person such that the body is incapable of healing itself and the symptoms persist.

In Jesus’ day, there were no pharmaceutical or surgical cures, but in fact, most pharmaceutical “cures” are really only able to alleviate symptoms and not really provide a cure. In addition, many surgical cures work only by removing the part of the body that is the focal point of the problem. When Jesus cast out a demon, he was able to completely heal the person and eliminate the potential for the illness to return.

Therefore, it is quite possible from a biblical perspective that demons are involved in mental illnesses today and that our medicine is simply treating the symptoms without treating the spiritual source.

Modern medicine is beginning to understand that there really is more to patient care than drugs and surgery. The soul is becoming much more of a focal point for treating illness today. Other cultures have done “holistic” medicine like this for centuries with quite positive results.

Demons and Science

If demons are allowed to be at work messing with people’s heads, and according to the Bible, they have at times been given such authority, then are they also allowed to mess with people’s conclusions about the physical world?

The answer is a clear Yes. However, I think there is only one way demons have been allowed to influence conclusions. It is clear to me that Satan and his demons have achieved all they need to achieve by simply convincing people that the assumption of God is detrimental to the scientific process. Once we got to that point in scientific inquiry, it was a small leap for science to begin to follow the principles of naturalism which says, “we assume nothing but the natural world.” Then of course, there was no difficulty for many to simply say, “There is no God,” or more accurately for many, “I don’t care if there is or isn’t a God.”

Therefore, with that kind of victory already won, I don’t think Satan really needs to do much more in the scientific world. Romans 1 is clear that once a person has rejected God as Creator, their hearts are hardened and no amount of discovery in the natural world will ever bring them to later accept God as Creator.

Therefore, I don’t think demons are actively involved in the scientific process any further than to consistently reinforce the principle of naturalism.

Conclusion

Rob concludes his post with this paragraph:

My thinking is that there is a kingdom of deceivers who will use all available means, including science, to keep people from God. Man’s unaided rational capacities, certainly unregenerate man, are not capable of sifting the lies out of the truth, even with the scientific method — at least this is what I strongly suspect. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to arrive at “true truth,” to use a term of Francis Schaeffer. My posts to date have dealt more with a historical report with some interpretation on my part, but this debate cannot end until we answer the question, “What does the Bible say about this?” All the reasoning in the world is useless if we don’t find the answer to that question.

It’s certainly an interesting thought that demonic forces might be at work to keep us away from a knowledge of the world that might point us to God, but I think the Bible clearly says we humans don’t need any help there.

But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. — Romans 1:18-22 NLT

Or in the NIV

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools — Romans 1:18-22

My point is that our own human propensity to reject God’s power over us is the very thing that has darkened our hearts to see him through his Creation. This passage seems to indicate that there is nothing in this darkening of the hearts that prevents people from understanding the world as it is. Instead, this darkness seems to exist mostly in causing our thoughts to be “futile” (not having eternal significance) and “foolish” unaware of the fuller truth of the world as God’s Creation.

I have no doubt that science is as predictable as the orderly world God Created and that Satan has better things to do with his limited time than tweak with experimental results on the level of consistency those experiments seem to show. I have no doubt that demons are still active in the world, but I have better things to do with my limited time than to try to identify which events are “demonic” and which are “natural.”

The bottom line is that I trust the scientific method to give us humans truth about the operations of creation because I believe in an orderly, rational creative God.

Nevertheless, underneath it all, behind it all, through it all, in some unseen place we cannot visit yet, there is an unseen God who though his creation is predictable and orderly still deeply desires to have unpredictable relationships with people.

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Switch To Sunday Morning

Lafayette Prayer Requests

Two weeks ago, we switched our weekly gatherings to Sunday morning instead of Sunday night. There was one major motivating reason for doing so. As we move toward our public launch, we need to feel a strong sense of building momentum, and we just weren’t able to do that with the low attendance we had on Sunday nights.

I’m not sure why it was such a struggle to get people to come to our house for a meeting on Sunday night, but Sunday morning seems to work out a lot better. We now gather for breakfast followed by a time of worship songs and interactive teaching, and for the past two weeks we have had pretty good attendance.

Another benefit has been that we are able to have a second meeting each week to focus on planning. For some reason, having two weekly evening meetings also seemed like a hardship, but now, having the morning gathering on Sunday, we can have another meeting to focus more on the planning end of things.

I’ve been feeling pretty good about it all.

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Calvinism v. Arminianism

Front Page Tough Questions

Warning… you might consider this post to be flamebait. You have been warned.

Recently, Nathan a church planting friend of mine sent me a link to a very interesting site.

The site is called Calvinist Gadfly and located there is a video post of a quartet at Pensacola Christian College singing the virtues of human free will. Here’s the link.

Watch the video if you have a chance and then read a few of the comments. Continue reading

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