Your Experiences Are Not God

experienceIt would be difficult to not appreciate and respect J. I. Packer for his contributions to God’s kingdom. I rarely read something from Packer that does not impact me. Today I read an article about Packer’s protest against the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster in 2002 over the issue of blessing same-sex unions. Of course homosexuality has been prevalent in the news lately and I’m sure that was the reason for the article, but his defense against a pro-homosexual interpretation of Scripture spoke to me as much more broad than the issue of homosexuality.

Packer argues that one way to mis-interpret Paul is to “let experience judge the Bible.” In the case of homosexuality (or other sinful sexual expressions), experience suggests that the behavior is fulfilling to some and as a result of these experiences, the Bible’s prohibition must be viewed as wrong. Packer goes on to say, “The Bible is meant to judge our experience rather than the other way around.”

Experience driven interpretation that has paved the way for many Christians to re-interpret the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality. Among those who have recently changed their views on homosexuality, many cite a close relative or friend who has come out as their reason for changing their views (i.e. David Gushee).

Unfortunately, it is not only in the affirmation of homosexuality that Christians allow their experiences to shape their interpretation of the texts. For instance, sex outside of marriage is clearly regarded as sin in the Bible, but rarely regarded so among those who profess Christ and are sexually active.

Anytime we begin the process of biblical interpretation with our experiences and then move to God’s word, we are in danger of re-interpreting the Bible according to our own desires rather than … Continue reading

The Preacher and Prayer

InPrayerSometime back a member of our church passed along a worn copy of E.M. Bounds’ book, Preacher and Prayer. Bounds is known for his emphases on prayer and his With Christ in the School of Prayer was one of the first books on prayer I ever read. As for the current book, it laid in my stack of “need to read” books for quite some time before I finally picked it up and I’m disappointed that I waited so long.

In short, Bounds expounds on the necessity of prayer in the life of the preacher (pastor) for himself and his people. This is not devotional reading, Bounds’ words and his numerous examples of other pastors from the past serve to challenge the pastor to be a man of much prayer. Where is the power for preaching? Prayer. Where is the power to serve your people? Prayer. Where will the compassion and care for your people be found? In the prayer closet. Bounds urges, “The preacher is commissioned to pray as well as preach. His mission is incomplete if he does not do both well.”

Writing in the early part of the twentieth century, Bounds was concerned that the cares of the age were robbing pastors of the time to pray, “In these days of hurry and bustle, of electricity and steam, men will not take time to pray.” Certainly if the technology of his day served to distract men from the duty to pray, the technology of today is an obstacle that must be overcome. “Short devotions are the bane of deep piety,” so we must redeem the time that we have. Our technology must be harnessed for good and not ill.

What are the obstacles to your prayer life? I have found that … Continue reading

Is Jesus Your Savior or Your Lord?

imageMuch ink has been spilt in the last twenty years or so over an issue known in theological circles as “the Lordship controversy” (See John MacArthur’s take here). In a nutshell, the issue comes down to the question of whether or not you can have Jesus as your Savior but not your Lord.

Since so much has been written about this issue and is readily available through a google search, I will not take the time to rehash the issue, only to write of God’s promises.

God is loving. He is much more loving and giving than we often give him credit for. He promises that he will finish the good work he started in us. When he saves us, he is not satisfied to leave us in our sin, his salvation includes our progressive sanctification as well as our regeneration, justification, and eventual glorification among other things. We must not miss the already but not yet aspects of our salvation in Christ.

When Jesus becomes our savior, he saves us immediately from the ultimate penalty of our sin. We are his children, we have been redeemed and adopted He also begins the process of saving us from the grip of sin in this life. Sin no longer has dominion over us once we belong to Christ, but the process of continually turning from our sin and looking more like Jesus (this is called sanctification) takes time. This process is called progressive sanctification–progressively looking more and more like Jesus.

There are human responsiblities to sanctification (“Do not quench the Spirit,” “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is,” “Put to death threfore what is earthly in you,” “Take up the whole armor of God,” “Stand firm,” etc…). Often … Continue reading

No, You Don’t Know How I Feel

Empathy CardEmpathy is the the feeling that you share in another person’s experiences, emotions, or feelings. During times of great loss or trouble, little is as comforting as an empathetic friend. When a young woman lost a child late in pregnancy, she was comforted by her mother who had also lost a child late in pregnancy. Cancer sufferers find solace in the presence of cancer survivors.

Empathy is impossible, however, if you have never experienced a particular situation. We feel sympathy toward a friend who is dealing with the alzheimer’s diagnosis of a parent, but unless we have experienced this situation personally we cannot really know how a person feels. Some of the most unintentionally uncaring words a person can utter during difficult times are, “I know how you feel,” if you really do not. It is for this reason that designer Emily McDowell, a cancer survivor, has created her own line of empathy cards (warning: some are a bit vulgar)–words from someone who has suffered to help those of us who haven’t have the right words to say.

We want to connect with those we love when they go to the “valley of the shadow,” but if we have not been there, we need not pretend that we have. The parent of a child struggling in school with Autism does not need your theories on how it can be “cured.” Unless you have experienced it, you do not know what depression feels like or how a person should feel about the suicide of their sibling.

Steps for connecting with those who hurt.

  • Be honest. Have you experienced their situation? Do you really know how this person feels? Its ok if you haven’t, just be honest about it. “I have no … Continue reading