Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Don't Panic

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
(Psalms 46:10-11)

For the past week, our lives have been disrupted by serious events beyond our control. Like a car suddenly sliding on ice, we suddenly left our comfortable routine and careened through the week - helpless spectators, waiting anxiously to see how things would be resolved.

The only thing we could do was trust in God to bring us safely through according to His purposes to accomplish His plan for us.

But this is the blessed proving ground of faith... not that it proves anything to God, but that we see it ourselves. God delights to help the helpless.
(Isaiah 40:29-31) He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
Faith is trusting in God to do what He has promised. In Christ He promised us eternal abundant life. He said He would never leave us or forsake us. He says all things work together for good, to those who love God.

We forget. We trust in our own ability to steer around the obstacles of life. We believe that we can manage the traffic on our own. But in reality it is always beyond us. Even if we can see the road with perfect vision, we are completely blind about what the next second holds for us.
(Proverbs 3:5-6) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
One minute we are in distress. The next we are safely at our destination. God is working His plan.
(Psalms 107:28-31) Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses.
29 He calms the storm, So that its waves are still.
30 Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven.
31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!


Anonymous said...

If the Divine Plan is completely beyond the grasp of us humans, then there's no need to talk about a plan. Because in practice things just happen, like you state. Both believers and unbelievers just have to trust everything will be alright. We're not that different.

Why not focus on the things we have in common to promote mutual understanding? How's that for a belated 2010 resolution? Or does that go against your interests as a preacher of The One And Only Way?

- Harmen

Pastor D said...


I am very glad to hear from you!

I would hope you realize by now that I have no ill will toward you or the many billions of other people who disagree with me.

I'm all for mutual understanding, but I don't accept the idea that all views are equally valid. (Do you think I am wrong in this view?)

Anonymous said...

I know you don't intend to show ill will towards anybody. But not doing the better thing can also have a less positive outcome.

You can bridge many imaginary (political?) differences between people while still emphasizing the superiority of the Christian worldview. No need for relativism. But if you fail to bring unbelievers closer to God, then at least you brought them closer to believers, and vice versa.

My wish for 2010 is that preachers see unbelievers as opportunities instead of personifications of Evil to warn about or rage against from the (digital) pulpit.

Why not invite an (non-fanatical) unbeliever to church to explain what he/she stands for and have a civil dicussion about belief and unbelief? (no, I'm not inviting myself, although I could use a vacation)

- Harmen

Pastor D said...

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "not doing the better thing."

Since a blog is pretty much a forum for monologue, people who blog do so to express their own views. I know that's what I do. In fact, the title is "pastor d's thoughts."

Since there are gazillion "preachers" from every imaginable religious perspective, so it is hard to generalize. I don't know what preachers you listen to, but I know that I do not preach (nor do I believe) that "unbelievers are the personification of evil."

If you were here, I think we would have a great time together. If you attended our church, I think you would find the people warm and inviting without regard to your belief or unbelief.

Aren't you really arguing against a straw man? Aren't you setting up a sarcastic caricature of "a preacher of the One And Only Way?"

You should come and visit! And, in preparation for that, you should write to me directly at pastor@pastordenny.net.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm trying too hard to stir up debate. I was not talking specifically about you. But I've read enough of your posts to conclude that you too have succumbed to generalization, if you don't mind me saying so.

I just think it'd be a great idea for churches, mosques, etc. to invite people from "rival" groups they wouldn't otherwise talk with on a meaningful level. Same goes for some atheist/skeptic groups, which seem to believe all believers are nutjobs.

I might just do something with this idea... set up a matchmaking service of some kind. Basic dialogue, without the intention to convert or deconvert.

What do you think of this?

- Harmen

Pastor D said...

Harmen -

Prepared for the book?

I like the concept of religious and philosophical toleration and kindness.

In Baptist theology we have a doctrine of "soul liberty." It says that nobody can be forced to believe in or worship God against their will. (We believe that it is a supernatural matter that depends ultimately on God.)

Since the Baptists were often on the receiving end of persecution from state churches in Europe and North America, they were the strongest advocates for US Bill of Rights after the American Revolution.

The general idea was that everyone should be free to practice their religion and speak their mind and congregate with whomever they pleased. Nobody should be forced to support a state sponsored religion through their taxes. No religious group should be able to coerce people to join them or support them.

Freedom of Religion meant you were free to believe as your conscience guided you. Religious toleration meant that people could live side by side with people who had fundamental differences in belief.

Now, of course, we have a strong atheist lobby that has substituted "Freedom FROM Religion" for Freedom of Religion. Their premise is that they have a right to practice their unbelief without encountering any evidence of someone else's belief.

They have also replaced Religious Toleration with the doctrine of (post-modern) Tolerance - namely that unless you affirm that everyone's view is equally valid, you are guilty of hate speech and susceptible to legal prosecution that is ironically based on the same Bill of Rights that was originally intended to protect your freedom to believe according to your conscience.

Anyway, I believe everyone should be free to express their views and disagree with each other peacefully (and hopefully politely.)

But what I think bothers you is that part of my belief system is that I cannot genuinely care about people without also desiring to see them convert to my belief system. I can live and let live, but I cannot give up hope that people I know will come to the faith I enjoy. (e.g., I don't want to upset you so I won't tell you that you are in grave danger.)

For you and me this should not be too much of a problem. You do not want to convert me - and I don't believe that I can convert you by force.

But many religions (including several branches of Christianity) DO believe that legal and physical force CAN be used to convert people to their position. For example, if I put a knife to your throat and you decided that you would rather practice Islam than die - you would be a good enough Muslim. Christianity under the Roman Emperors was the same way. But biblical Christianity is a matter of personal belief - not of external practice.

So, you will not like it that I would like to see you converted to believe like I believe. But for me it is an integral part of caring for you or for anyone else.

The kind of group you envision has been the ideal of many ecumenical organizations for the past 200 years. But they are only successful with people who do not have very strong religious beliefs in any particular. "I'm OK, You're OK."

But for those of us who have strong religious convictions - who believe that these things are a matter of truth or error and life or death... the best we can do in such groups is debate. "I'm OK, You're a Heretic." :)

Beyond that, debating with people who disagree with me is not my calling anyway. I am about ministering the Bible to the people who believe as I do. With this I can be very specific - it is here in black and white.

In application and when talking about groups (atheists, theists, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) I do indeed generalize. But hopefully I will not demonize.

I would love to correspond with you more about this... but again, I would suggest e-mail over blog comments.

Anonymous said...

I understand that you can't "switch off" your desire to convert people. That's just authentic Christianity. A guest shouldn't have a problem with that.

"[D]ebating with people who disagree with me is not my calling anyway. I am about ministering the Bible to the people who believe as I do."
Yes, but inviting people who believe differently fits right in. The Bible is full of them after all, especially in the NT. And if your church wants to convert them... Know thy prey ;). I think everyone involved would profit from it.

I'd rather not e-mail, because like this medium. Though I agree this may not be the right place for lengthy debates. My intention was simply to raise a point. Feel free to ignore any of my comments.

- Harmen

Pastor D said...

I think you would find our various ministries more like your suggestion than you think.

Thanks for your comments. I trust you will write again.

Dave Denny

Anonymous said...

My comment comes late, but I just found your blog.
But, I just wanted to let you know that your posts on "Don't Panic" really ministered to me this evening.
Thank you for taking the time to write them and I thank God He led me to read it.
The Scriputres you posted spoke to me and were/are very timely.
God bless your efforts in ministering the Gospel to the lost and the saved.