Thursday, April 10, 2008

Last Post on this Site

Hah! Some of you thought I was finally going to shut up ... well, not so fast. In my attempts to better give you people access to the ... we'll just say "phenomenon" for lack of a better word ... that is Britt Mooney. I needed a way to get people more info on the book coming soon and my music projects. So go to the following site to check the blog and eventually see whole bunches of other stuff.


Friday, April 04, 2008

How I Read the Bible

Sorry its been a couple days ... busy in the life!

I wanted to continue on the theme of reading the Bible, giving some testimony to how I currently read and in the past have read. This is personal ... not meant in any way to be formulaic. If something rings true or convicts you, take that up with God. "Follow me as I follow Christ" and all that.

I was raised in a very Bible-reading fellowship, and I began memorizing scripture at a young age. My parents found this very conservative Methodist church that had a private school with tons of homework and a supposed high standard for their students (I was getting in trouble at the public school ... my teacher said it was because I was "bored" ... thanks, by the way). While said Christian school had its issues, I learned a lot about the Bible.

So by the time I more fully dedicated my life to Christ when I was a teenager, getting baptized and the whole nine, I was fairly educated in at least the basic Bible stories and that kind of thing. I was also quite the reader, so that helped (actually, the first thing I read silently to myself was the Bible, during a meeting where I had to be quiet ... my mom asked me, what are you doing? There's no pictures ... I told her I was reading without talking)

For a long time, though, my reading of scripture was haphazard, very spontaneous and sporadic. I might go through a week of reading pretty consistently then months of nothing on my own, outside of public meetings. I wasn't committed to much personal study, but admittedly, I was also fairly uncommitted to change.

At first, as I felt more conviction to read, I read mostly the New Testament (fairly common). I read the NT completely through several times, even all in one week once. I would read the same letters more than once, fully engrossed in the sweeping message of the letter and the individual details within. This was awesome, but it left my knowledge of the OT very deficient.

So I did something that changed it all around. I bought the Bible on CD (this was about 2000, and I didn't have anything so cool as a mp3 player or anything). I started just listening to stuff while working out or running, and when I listened to Leviticus on the way to Savannah, God showed me some awesome stuff about a book I found tedious and boring to read. God was also convicting me about my selfishness in self-entertainment ... He is still dealing with me about that. Books like Ezekiel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and others hit home and God just blew my mind as new revelations poured from these treasures.

This was still spontaneous, but I was devouring more and more, but a statement by an older minister (I think it was Tozer ...) on a sermon struck me. He said he read the Bible three times through a year. I don't know if I had ever read it straight through.

As I said before, part of God's conviction in my life was my general consumption of entertainment related material. I could read eight or nine Robert Jordan Wheel of Time novels (they're like 600-1000 pages long each) and not the whole Bible in the same amount of time? I could sit for hours and read a "fun book" but just read the Bible for a few minutes at a time ... okay, sometimes longer than that ... I was reading scripture in bigger chunks by then. This also challenged my sorry prayer life, but that's off subject here.

I got the Bible on mp3 and put it on my ipod ... now I was cooking. I found a chronological plan online at Yeah, the people look a little TBN, but hey, it was a good plan and I didn't want to spend big noney on a chronological Bible. I was really drawn to a chronological understanding of the Bible -- as a historian, I'm bit on historical context -- the Bible is organized by type and length of book or letter. To read in current order can be confusing. I started reading.

Oh, man, the discipline was difficult. I'd get way ahead, then way behind. We moved back to Atlanta in the middle, and all my discipline was shot. God helpled me, and my stubbornness worked myself back to catching up and finishing a chronological reading of the Bible. My eyes were opened to so many things ... I felt like a kid in the candy store.

Last year, it was my goal to do a chronological reading twice, the whole Bible in six months. I had to read so much at the end of the first year to catch up, I figured I could do it. I finished twice with time to spare, before Elisha was born in December.

This is all over and above other personal Bible studies for blog articles or my books.

Some drawbacks to this discipline:

Chronologically has taught me mountains of truth, but I am actually starting to forget the current order ... Kinda frustrating to know what something says but take a little longer than usual to find it.

The disciple should never get in the way of what God wants you to do. One morning I was listening to what I had to get through that day and God was trying to deal with me about something different. No joke, I turned the volume up to focus more on the Bible while God was talking to me. Once God was kind enough to help me see the idiocy of this, I forgot "the plan" and let Him say what He so lovingly wanted to say and apologized profusely.

The only other drawback is that I feel I have to do a back story everytime I share a scripture ... especially when my lesson gets me blank stares ... I know, it may just be that I'm boring. It's rare because God's general use for speaking in the Body is to encourage or to challenge, so the grace is there to relate what is needed, but sometimes God enjoys a good, "huh?"

I think I'll do three again for another year, if Ican successfully do this one, and I'm still around ... I can see, on the horizon, another type of reading God might be calling me to.

I'll let you know later what that might be.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Quick Funny

Been a little sobering this week ... Thought it time to share a great video from the 70's of Bill Cosby talking about his attempt at becoming a drummer. This was shared with me a couple weekends ago by good friends Kenny and Nicole. It is almost allotted ten minutes long ... but so worth it.

Watch video here.


Reading the Bible

I've read the scripture often in my life. That doesn't necessarily make me more spiritual, but I do have some experience, and therefore, perhaps some wisdom to share.

First, let me say that the Bible is an invaluable tool for being a true, mature disciple of Jesus Christ. It is useful for teaching and rebuke.

Second, the Bible cannot take the place of the Holy Spirit. The Bible works directly in conjuction with the Spirit. The two will always agree. God will never lead you opposite of the clear teaching of the scripture. The Bible will confirm the leading of the Spirit and the Spirit will confirm the truth of the Bible. Always.

Third, we must not worship the Bible or our own interpretation of it. While we may need to dig a little to understand what is said, those treasures will never contradict what is plainly taught. Many have been led astray by strict interpretation and deep liberal theology.

The Bible is a wealth of information about God (again, it is not God and not ever meant to replace Him or the Holy Spirit), His character, what is important to Him, practical ways to express your worship to Him. Without its dilligent study, therefore, we will be left quite immature.

I've heard the question asked recently: Should we require Christians to read it more? The question is valid. However, I believe the inference inherent within the question stems from an ignorant perspective.

If reading the scripture more would benefit the Christian, why not require them to do it more? The problem with some lies in the word "require", of course. We don't want to be seen as legalistic or "works oriented."

So we change the word to "encourage" instead of "require" and we feel a whole lot better about it (which, ironically, could be another type of legalism altogether).

But we're still kinda missing the point. The problem with requiring or encouraging people to read the Bible is this: we will only be casting pearls before swine if they're not willing to do what it says. If it is only an intellectual endeavor or a way to support a doctrine we already believe (which is many times the case), then we are only giving fuel to deception. Satan can quote the Bible verbatim, but I'm told not to listen to a word he says.

Another example is Jesus' parable about the two men building houses, one on a rock foundation and the other on the sand. Both men heard Jesus' words. The difference? The man with his house on a rock DID THEM. The other heard but did not do. And he fell. "And great was that fall."

To some Jesus is salvation, to others He is a stumbling block ... the difference? Who wants true transformation and who wants religious formulas?

I'm okay with Christians who just have no motivation to read. Sometimes it is an innocence or ignorance born of lack of experience, i.e., God hasn't spoken to them through the written word before, no fruit when He might, not sure of the Voice, etc. Many times it is a lack of conviction because God knows their hearts: they are resistant to change. And God witholds more revelation, conviction, or motivation out of His mercy and the inevitability of their response anyway. All they know is, "I don't feel like it," which to them is reason enough (they might even say spiritual phrases like "it's not on my heart" or have a theological basis for their choice).

So where I've come to is this. If you're not willing to read the Bible and really change, whatever that might mean to GOD, don't read it. That's my encouragement. If you're reading out of obligation or duty or intellectual curiosity, put it down. If you want transformation, read it and do it. There are countless parables and lessons from Christ to support that statement. If not, you're just setting yourself up for a fall.

And if we require/encourage people to read the scripture without first counting the cost, then we're the ones setting them up for failure and we will reap what we sow.


Random Thoughts

I believe in the necessity of a personal relationship with Christ. But equally necessary is a collective, communal relationship with Christ. The response to the question was, "Love God with all your heart and our neighbor as yourself." This is ONE commandment, not two. Christianity in isolation is not Christianity at all. You are, at best, keeping half a commandmnet, but you are actually breaking the whole commandment by refusing to fulfill it, thereby refusing the intent and the heart of all His commands. This invalidates even your "personal" relationship with God.

I think the greatest lie the modern Church has told is that the narrow way can be fun and easy. That's not the narrow way at all ... that's the broad way.

I don't need to know it all when I know the everything.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Sounding Off 4.01.2008 Capitol Punishment

Obama made the following statement recently, if you haven't heard it already: " ... look, I've got two daughters. 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby." (emphasis mine)

Hmnnn ... Now, to be fair, he was talking about contraception in general, including abstinence education. But this was not just a problem of words, it is what the Democratic party believes about babies, especially "unwanted" babies. There are so many problems with this statement, I don't know where to begin, but I'm really not surprised. Obama is running for the candidacy of a party that, without any exception I know, is dedicated to supporting all unborn deaths already legal and pushing for even more liberty in killing babies. For any liberal friends of mine reading this, can we dig up one elected Democrat who is actually pro-life? I'll give you a dollar ... no make it two, if you can find one, but you'll have to declare those two dollars as income and the government will take half, so therefore the two dollars (John Cusack movie running through my head ... "I want my two dollars!")

Also, North Korea is not happy with the more conservative party leadership in South Korea (the new leadership isn't making nice little, "let's just be unified" statements at the expense of all common sense ... the new elected leadership is expressing their concern about nuclear weapons activity going on a few miles from their capital). So what does North Korea respond with? First, they've been firing off random missles into disputed waters with South Korea (in other words, they disagree with things like pesky UN agreements) AND they threaten to incinerate all of South Korea as a pre-emptive strike, just for questioning North Korea's right to have nuclear weapons (like that convinces us they should have them).

Oh, and by the way, who gave North Korea that nuclear technology? Oh, look, that's Bill Clinton. Hmnnn ... I wonder when Michael Moore will do a documentary or Jon Stewart a comedy bit on failed Clinton/Democratic policy? I'll give the first person to send me that DVD or that YouTube those same two dollars (half of which is bound to be taxed). I think my money's pretty safe.

On to a quick discussion of capital punishment.

Basically, capital punishment is the death penalty, the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime.

To be honest, I don't have a problem with the death penalty. I think it is biblical, first of all. Death is the first punishment God gives out (after the Garden of Eden AND after the flood). It was actually the first commandment given with a specific punishment, pre-Mosaic Law. If you murder another human being, you will be killed, and the blood is on your own hands.

In fact, looking through Leviticus and the Mosaic Law in general, it is interesting how many times the punishment of death is meted out and then the phrase, "and their blood shall be upon their own hands," is given. In other words, the state (a theocracy in this case, but in principle any state with ruling authority) has the right to execute as punishment and they possess no spiritual or moral guilt because of that act.

Again, we don't have much in the New Testament to go on here because they weren't interested in establishing a worldly government. But it seems clear to me that the state, as it speaks of in Romans, is still ordained by God to wield the sword of punishment for those who do wrong. That isn't taken away with the availability of the New Covenant in the earth. And not to mention the times that God Himself kills people in the New Testament for serious sins (Ananias and Saphira for "lying to the Holy Spirit," and Herod (the king of Judah) for receiving the praise of a god).

And if God is basically redemptive, and I completely believe that He is, then these actions, while seemingly hateful, are actually loving and redemptive. And they were. To look at Ananias and Saphira, the scripture clearly indicates that the fear of the Lord, a sobering thing necessary even in the New Covenant, came upon the whole assembly in Jerusalem, some 5 to 15 thousand people, and the Bible clearly infers this as a good thing, that it spurred them on to righteousness.

God does not enjoy the death of man, he says that clearly in Ezekiel, and neither should we. Can this be abused? Yes, as I've said many times lately, any proper and prudent discipline can be abused, but that does not invalidate the discipline, only the vessel, or in this case the state, using that discipline and its ordination correctly or not.

Now, I have to also say that I don't have a problem with NOT having the death penalty. You can seriously punish people without it, it seems to me. The only problem with those fighting to abolish the death penalty is that there is a lot of propoganda going on ... they twist characters and personalities to deem them corrected or changed or they drum up one story out of thousands where a man or woman was wrongly executed, usually telling the story in a very Crucible type setting, making the figure somewhat Christ-like in its imagery.

The best argument for looking at the death penalty and all punishment in America, generally, is the racial inequality in the sentencings, whether jail or execution. It is probably the best and strongest case for racism still existing in America, and it is so unconscious that most white people dismiss it out of hand. But it is there and very concerning, at least to a former hippie like me.

As a Church, I don't have a problem with supporting either side. Some of my pacifist friends might find that weird, but like I said, capital punishment is very supportable as redemptive by the scripture, Old and New Testament. To the degree that we, as Christians, want to enjoy the punishment and talk about people "deserving" it, well, we can get into some shady water with that one ... I mean don't we all deserve hell? We have to be careful what the attitude of our hearts is. But bringing someone, under the ordination of the state and after the evidence surely convicts, into conflict with their own mortality is actually quite compassionate. It reveals the spiritual truth that the penalty for sin is spiritual death.

But I don't have a problem with those who wish to show a different type of compassion and attempt to "longsuffer" with those that have committed those heinous crimes. Not sure how practical or even realistic, spiritually, it is, but I can't fault them for trying to love in this way. I can't support or condone the lying and exaggeration that occurs in that movement sometimes, but I feel many have a pure heart, motivated by something that "hopes all things and believes all things". Maybe it's a little utopian and silly, but sometimes that's the safest way to go, too.


Monday, March 31, 2008

Handing Them Over to Satan Part 4

To sum up, this was a serious offense, 1 Corinthians chapter 6 and 15, and other scriptures are very telling in relation to the seriousness of sexual sin. We don't need to go over them all here. As the compassionate people they were called to be, this assembly was called upon to love this man enough to exclude him from fellowship since his sin had excluded him from fellowship with the kingdom.

But there is a happy ending to this story. In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul decides that the sinful man has come back to repentance and should be fully restored as a brother. Now the place of the Church is to forgive and comfort him so he's not "swallowed up with much sorrow." By receiving him back again into fellowship, not keeping any records of wrong, they are loving him still, fulfilling the goal of his separation, to understand his sin and the assembly's pride.

In other words, it worked. This man's reaction was not, "what a bunch of condemning and judgmental people." Even if it were, it still would have been love, but we have this incredible testimony of repentance. He realized the seriousness of his sin, repented, and was fully restored.

I have to admit to never seeing this at all. While I've seen a rare instance of loving rebuke and removal of fellowship, I've never seen the situation where the person comes back repentant AND a fellowship loving enough to fully restore, both at once. I believe, as God builds His Church, that we will see the necessity of both the discipline and the restoration in the coming years. Let us love enough to do both.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Handing Them Over to Satan Part 3

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you." I Corinthians 5:9-13

Paul repeats something he's told them before (you repeat things you really want to teach .. especially when people aren't getting it). You cannot keep company with sexually immoral people. But he doesn't mean those in the world. If someone is not a part of the fellowship of the saints, then you're not to cut them off. To do so would require you to have no contact with the world at all, which isolates the Church and the very testimony of Christ.

But to fellowship intimately, in community, with those practicing serious sin, you are compromising the testimony of Christ, not enhancing it. Sinners will be sinners, though. To expect them to be something different is unrealistic. Christians are held to a higher standard. Paul gives the Corinthians a list of no-nos in verse 11 -- sexual immorality, covetousness, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness or extortion -- they were not to associate with those who claimed to be in Christ yet consistently practiced these sins ... struggling is one thing ... giving in is another.

So Paul makes a distinction: there are some who are outside the Church. Some who are outside.

Inside/outside what? A building? An organization? No, the Church, the Kingdom of God, fellowship, a community of faith, whatever kind of organic/spiritual collective expression of Christ you wanna call it. There was a definite line of demarcation in Corinth in some capacity, despite their many, many issues. Some are in, some are out.

And it is the Christian, the Christ-like, responsibility to judge those within, to measure who claim Christ against a standard of true repentance and righteousness.

Again, this is not pride but humility and obedience towards God and the sacred fellowship we are to have with one another and with Christ.

So, to "hand them over to Satan" means to hand them over to God's judgment, not your own, so that he may later be restored. By refusing fellowship, you don't know their hearts fully but their actions, so you are actually refraining from being God and fully judging. Apart from fellowship, this person is completely in God's hands, which is grace and kindness to that man in sin.

I have seen this handled a couple times in a correct way, but there are many difficulties. There are other fellowships that will gladly take another problem child to fill a pew and pay a tithe. Christian leaders from fellowships right next door to one another barely talk civilly, much less care enough about Christians in both fellowships to not "steal sheep" and keep abreast of problems like this.

Because of these problems, many don't deal with discipline at all, just hoping they'll get something "in the sermon" while their brother is on his way to death. Leaders feel helpless in such a system, so structured that it ironically entails much confusion and powerlessness.

Others don't discipline because Church discipline has been abused. Any discipline can be abused, but that doesn't invalidate truth or the dangers of just ignoring problems. Just because some guy beats his kids for the smallest thing does not mean I shouldn't discipline my son at all and just "let him be what he wants to be when he's ready." That is also far from biblical discipline and fraught with failure, another type of abuse (remember one of David's sons that raped his sister ... the scripture says David had never told him "no").

Still uncomfortable?

Okay, I'll try to find some time tomorrow to give you some balance!!


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Handing Them Over to Satan Part 2

Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

After making sure they understand the seriousness of this sin and the expectation of their response very clear (often times, the Greek language is much harsher than our English interpretation ... not a hard and fast rule, but generally true in these instances), Paul continues to address the boasting of the assembly.

As if he heard it handed down from the original twelve, Paul asks them a rhetorical question, "Don't you know that just a little yeast puffs up the whole loaf of bread?" Jesus dealt with the pride of the religious leaders of His day with the same metaphor.

Paul then begins to make inferences based on the initial Passover feast, which is truly defined as Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. (In the gospels, Jesus wasn't giving them something new called "communion", He was redefining a tradition that had been followed for literally hundreds of years, the Passover, that He was the lamb and the sacrifice that freed them from slavery to become God's people of promise; He was the New Covenant Himself)

Under the rules of the Old Law, the house was to be completely cleaned out of any leaven before the Passover. Not only could they not cook with it during Passover, they were restricted from having any leaven at all. This was to guard against temptation because anyone who ate any leaven over Passover week was to be "cut off from the congregation of Israel."

Are we seeing a pattern here?

By getting rid of their pride, their boasting in sin, they are able to become a "new lump", ready for fellowship with Christ. In verse 8, Paul concludes his Passover metaphor by telling them to purge not only the leaven of pride but malice and wickedness, leaving only the bread of sincerity and truth.

In other words, as Christ is representative of the Passover, get rid of pride, malice, and wickedness so you are able to participate of Christ in sincerity and truth. Pride, malice, and wickedness are not mutually exclusive here ... they are all outshoots of the same root of the flesh.

Despite what many now teach, it was pride to allow this level of unrepentant sin to continue in the fellowship, namely the sin of sexual immorality. Many today would say it is pride or judgmental to deal with other's sexual behavior. Paul is adamant that the opposite is true.

This means that sexual immorality, while it may be behind closed doors, is not private, according to the Bible, among the fellowship of saints.

Think about it. If we are the Body of Christ, connected through community, true faith, and (more importantly) the seal of the Holy Spirit, then there can be no private sin. If one brings sin, especially serious sin like sexual immorality, into the community of faith, it spiritually affects the whole community in ways we do not understand, and maybe not supposed to. But the principle is true just the same, and I guarantee we will see the fruit of it.

More to come in the conclusion ...


Quotes of the Week 3.27.2008

Finished Jesus Among Other Gods by Zacharias. Actually, it finished better than it started. I'll share some quotes here.

The difference between name-calling and calling one by name is world-views apart. ... we see that the difference between a silent world and one in which God has spoken is the dramatic line of division between the theist and the naturalist.

The mockery and ridicule in the Scopes trial was not the mockery of an intellectual over a lunatic. It was the mockery of the voice of man over the voice of God.
In the first garden, God spoke, and humanity denied that He had. Humanism was born, and man became the source of meaning.

Common sense tells us that we cannot live without a moral law. But how does one generate a moral law if God has not spoken? The only answer is to arrange a morality of one's own design that, though mystical and transcendent, is attainable by one's own efforts. This way we appeal to our spiritual bent and at the same time incorporate our self at the center. If we can be good without God but retain a religiosity, we win both the secular and the sacred.

When God sent the plagues upon Egypt in the Old Testament, they were designed to show that He alone was supreme over the objects they had deified (rivers, planets, creatures, magic, and so on) and that there was no other like Him. Nature, humanity, and every other entity or quantity is distinct from God. We cannot try to eliminate that distinction with impunity. From pantheism to the worship of nature, the temptation of the desert is still with us today, to have religion without God.

When the missionary John Paton arrived in the New Hebrides in the mid-1800's, he began translation on the New Testament. He did not know how to illustrate the word BELIEVE. Finally, when he leaned completely on a chair in such a way that his whole weight was on it, the concept of trust emerged. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever throws his whole weight on Him, will not perish but have eternal life."

Perhaps if our naturalists would stop looking only for a gardener, they might be surprised at who they would find, or should I say, at who finds them. They might actually hear Him call them by name also and might truly understand the gardens and the deserts of this world for the first time.