Monday, September 18, 2006

Faith and Reason

All of us begin with beliefs that we have accepted from others. Not necessarily our parents, it could be our friends, our teachers, whatever. Everything that we base our lives on are inherantly irrational. If they were not irrational, we couldn't live. We cannot wait to do any action or believe anything until we are sure it is rational!And so if you believe in God or don't believe in God or are agnostic about God--whatever our first decisions about God were-- they were irrational. However, the distinct separation between reason and faith is also irrational. It was begun by thinkers in the enlightenment who wanted to separate religion out of their lives. Yes, they had some good reasons for that, but their conclusion-- that faith is a "leap" that is beyond reason-- has no basis in truth.Of course faith has reasons. Childhood faith might be irrational-- based on what others told us without checking it out ourselves. But as we grow older, we have doubts and questions and we start investigating what we believe. Perhaps not most people, but many. I believed in Jesus at 13. But when I went to Bible school, I found much of what people claimed about Jesus and the Bible to be irrational-- contradictory. So I had to investigate it myself. In the end, I have a faith that is slightly different from others, but it is a faith based upon reason.How can we know God? Not because we have some great power, but because God reveals himself to us personally. This is a personal experience, but you can't say that it isn't based on reason. Just because I saw the movie "Cars" and you didn't, and you haven't seen any ads for it, is it "reasonable" for you to deny that the movie exists? Or even to say, "There is no way for us to say that the movie exists or not" ? Of course not. I have an experience and you can either say "I'm not interested" or you can say "I'm going to check it out to see if it is true." Then you go on the internet and find out that there really IS a movie called "Cars". If someone says they have enough personal proof that God exists, you can either say "I'm not interested" or you can check it out for youself. Of course, you can't just go on the internet. The best way to find out is to pray and see if God answers. But even if you don't get the answer you are looking for, YOU CANNOT DENY THE RATIONALITY OF SOMEONE ELSE'S EXPERIENCE! To deny someone elses experience because you never had the experience, or you don't recognize their proofs for their experience is the height or irrationality. It smacks of pre-school arguments "No you didn't" "Yes I did"-- to argue about experience can never go beyond this. You can examine someone else's experience, if they are willing, to see if their experience might have another explanation than they thought, but it is their experience, and ultimately the rational response is to throw your hands up in the air and say, "I don't know. I wasn't there."Rationality is examining something after you believe it, and changing it if the new facts show something else. Irrationality is looking at facts and holding our hands over our eyes and ears and screaming, "I'm not listening!" And there is pleanty of both of these in the skepical and in the faith camps.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Measure of Success

I feel that it is really easy for the majority population, which is able to flex in our increasingly inflexible society, to demand such flexibility in others who may not be able to bend.

I have one gal that I'm working with. She has placed many interviews, has a lot of energy and is highly motivated to get a job. She's got some low-level skills as well. But her ADHD keeps her distracted, and her background with a felony prevents her from obtaining full-time work.

I have another gal who does great in an interview and is freqently hired. But her social skills over time are so low and her depression is so extreme that she is only able to work in any job-- usually entry level-- for a few months before she quits or is just not put on the schedule any more.

I have another guy who is bi-polar and has a history of drug use. It has taken many years, but he has finally gotten to a place where he won't just suddenly break into a sermon in the middle of any-sized gathering. But he has his good days and his bad. On his good days, he can work for hours. On his bad, he is unable to even listen to instructions.

Some folks can flex with our society to meet their standards. But the people I work with can't. It's not an excuse-- trust me, they have tried programs and jobs and other kinds of work. And it's not a matter of laziness or "getting up early in the morning." To have a job and to maintain minimum standards in our society is an increasingly complex group of tasks. You have to be part accountant, part manager, part slave, part techo-geek.

Yet what is our ancestral occupational background-- for all of us, for about 10, 000 years? Rural farmers. And though most of us have the ability and education to be more than that, some of us were born to be rural farmers. But rural farming isn't an option for us in the West anymore. For any of us. Isn't it interesting that in the U.S. today there are more people in prison than there are farmers? When we lost our farmers, where did they go? When we knocked farming out as an occupation, what happened to all those farmer's sons, who really coudn't do anything but work the land, flexing with nature's ebbs and flows, and dealing with only a few people a day, and taking a day off if they really weren't feeling well? They went on the street, they work in day labor, they became seriously mentally ill because they had the shame of being unproductive on top of being mentally unstable.

What I'm saying is that my population-- the "unproductive", bottom of the barrel folks, the folks who the church has truly ignored and called unspiritual out of ignorance, the truly Anawim-- they are the ones who can work, but need their work ethic recognized as equivalent to that of the Constantinian/Calvinist middle class. And the Christian ones, at least, should be given an opportunity by the church to work as they are able. No, they will not be successful in a capitalistic society built upon the premise of Calvinistic human depravity. They will not obtain a middle class standard of living in an economy that exalts the profit margin above all else. AND WHY SHOULD THEY BE? Why can't the church create a separate economy, one of mutual aid and supportive work, and let people do what they can?

This is my measure of success:
To give people honor because they serve God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, even if they are a social and an economic "failure" in the eyes of the world.
To grant people encouragement to love and good deeds, to sell their possessions and give to the poor, to preach the good news to the needy, to surrender all of their possessions to Jesus, even if that means they end the day bankrupt.
To train people in the way of Jesus, even if it means that they are no economic good to the world.
To encourage people to be educated in their work before the Lord, to build up God's kingdom and to love as if their heart would break, even if they never make a salary.

It is time for a new economy-- the economy of the kingdom of God.
Where people are not honored for their annual income as much as for their sincere, humble work before God.
Where people are given an opportunity to work for God in whatever way they are able, rather than what is economically feasible.
Where the full-time pastors, evangelists and bishops are given a piss-poor salary, so that others can work full time for the church at the same salary, acting in areas of service and hospitality.
Where people stop working for themselves and surrender their whole measure of production-- all their strength-- to the kingdom of God.
Where young people go into ministry because it is what God demands of them, rather than the salary they feel they deserve.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Discussion on Rape

Is it possible to love someone who rapes you?

Hero, why did you bring up this subject? What was your point?
Rape is the strongest way to devour someone. More than murder. It is a very intens topic. Forgivness is stronger than rape though, it lets go of the past and presents us with a new future. A rebirth if you will. This is a Christian group. I wanted to get us to talk about Forgivenss.
Okay, that makes sense.But Alex is not a believer. You can't expect her to forgive, or to want to forgive. And I think that if she tried to force herself to forgive, then she could do herself and others harm. Forgiveness isn't natural, it's a gift from God.Also, Jesus speaks of forgiveness in a couple differnt ways.1. Release from bitternessIf we hold bitterness against an event in the past, it does more damage to us than it does to our enemy. If we make the Christian choice to love our enemies, as Jesus commanded believers to, then releasing the bitterness is a minimum, and it is ultimately healthy. I think that's what you're talking about.2. Restoration of relationshipIf someone has sinned against us, and they repented of their sin, then we are required by Jesus to forgive them-- that is, to restore the relationship. But if they do not repent, or just make excuses for the evil they did, we do NOT have to forgive them, according to Jesus. Luke 17:3-4-- "If a brother sins, rebuke him; if he repents, forgive him." Matthew 18:15-17-- "If a brother sins against you, confront such a one privately. If they listen to you, you have won your brother. If they do not listen to you, bring one or two others... if they still do not listen to you, treat such a one as a tax collector." Basically, if they repent, get friendly again. If they don't, then keep away from them.Also, I have one more question. So Hero, why did you recommend to that kid that he retalliate against those who jumped him if you are all for forgiveness?-Steve
The situation is one that is current. He is still in Danger. So is His girfriend. I still belive in self defense. I mentioned that he should not instigate anything, but rather let God give him the strenghth if confronted. I can fight in a boxing ring without hating my opponent. Even if my opponent hates me.
I am sorry, but I think you need to be like Jesus consistantly, if you are a Christian.Jesus says that to harm another's life IS to hate them, and that this is the opposite of love-- Mark 3:4. And, as Alex described, when you defend yourself, you don't know what permanent damage you can cause. If we love them, the MINIMUM is to not harm them and to help them in their need.I am glad that Jesus chose not to believe in self-defense. And he told us to do the same:"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.""Whoever wants to save his life must lose it.""Love your enemies, do good to those who harm you, pray for those who despitefully use you.""For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." I Peter 2:20-24If Christians are to be like Jesus, it is specifically in the area of suffering like him and DOING NOTHING IN RETURN but allowing God to enact His justice in His own way.For the non-Christians reading this, Jesus' way is not for you, and I don't expect you to think it makes any sense. But for the Christians, Jesus' way of the cross is what we are all called to live by. Without exception. To live like Jesus in this way is enacting true faith. Anything less is unbelief.-Steve

I hope you don't take this wrong, but then is it your advice, would it be your advice, to some woman close to you, that if a man tries to rape her, not to try to fight back, to not try to stop him, to just lie there and take it?
-Solo sono una diva

Being a Christian isn't being passive. There is a difference between stopping someone and harming them. In our culture of excessively violent movies and television, we are trained that harming people is the only option available to us. There are other options. A good book on this subject--essays written by many people, including Carly Simon-- is What Would You Do? It talks about alternatives to violence when you are being personally threatened with violence.
Also, this is a perspective that cannot be understood without faith. The way of the cross is to lay down one's rights and life in order to allow God to accomplish His justice. It is what Jesus did-- and it is to a certain degree what MLK did. It does work.
The way of the cross is not looked at as an appropriate response to evil, because our society doesn't think that we should sacrifice ourselves for anything. That somehow, evil should be stopped without sacrifice. The whole point of Christianity is to have a group of people who are willingly sacrificing themselves in order that others might be saved. When- and where-ever Christianity loses that aspect, it is no longer the way of Jesus, but the way of the world.
Steve K.

Preaching and Weakness

Knowing everyone is different, if your belief makes you happy, and makes sense to you, doesn't mean that you are right. Preaching is a sign of religious weakness, and also a lack of faith. If you feel you need to preach your beliefs on other people, you fear they would not know about unless they tell you. Shouldn't "god" be visible to people other than word of mouth?
Actions speaks louder than words, but when there is no action, people can only talk. I believe that people fighting about heaven and hell wouldn't exist if people didn't talk about it. All this carries on because out unquestionable presence on this earth.


First of all, I must confess, I am a preacher.
Nevertheless, I have seen what you mean-- people who are driven to preach at people who are not ready to hear. Frankly, I hate that. Preaching is only good when accomanied by WANTING to hear.
But preaching-- in and of itself-- is not a sign of religious weakness. Rather, I am a preacher despite my natural inclinations. I am frankly nervous to tell people about Jesus unless I am sure that they actually want to hear.
So I started a new church among a new people. This is how I get around your correct complaints:
My church is among the homeless and mentally ill. Our times are at least two and a half hours long. The first half hour to hour is just a meal. We have a meal with every meeting. If people just want to eat and leave, that's fine. But the meal comes first, so no one goes hungry. Then we have the service, which might include singing and might not, but we have a Bible study and prayer. But it is not a monologue. People can interrupt my preaching with comments or questions, if they like. Then people can stay afterwords and talk or hang out. In two of our services, we also offer clothes and showers for those who need them.
In this way, we are a church. And I am preaching. But no one has to listen if they don't want to. And we are not just speaking words, but going out to the people who need help and offering them what we have.
The main reason I preach is because Jesus told me to. He said so in his word and he gave me that calling personally. If I wasn't told to, I wouldn't. It certainly isn't usually culturally appropriate. But what Jesus told me to do is more important than what people tell me not to. This isn't a "religous weakness" on my part. It's religous obedience. And people may not like what I do. But they aren't the ones juding me-- Jesus is.


Nihilism-- the belief that there is no meaning to life and no spirit world-- is the most logical thing to believe in. Religions are contradictory and they all claim to be the one truth. Nihilism makes sense because it denies all of the contradiction. --Someone who's name I can't remember. This is a REALLY paraphrased summary of a pretty long post.

There are a spectrum of belief systems, and nihilism has the Occom's Razor advantage of being the simplist. It wipes away all the questions people have about a spirit world and about God and about the meaning of life in general-- except personally. In all metaphysical areas-- and frankly almost all ethical ones-- there can be no discussion between people. What anyone says about these subjects is ultimately correct for them, personally. Of course, we will have to throw out most science as well, because studies have shown that most studies are ultimately subjective-- including the original studies that showed that.
Nihilism is simple-- but so simple that no one wants to accept it. Nihilism questions all speculative truth, but without speculative truth there would be no law of gravity, no shuttles in space, no cell phones, etc. We gotta start somewhere, science says, so we begin with a theory that seems reasonable and then we go out and either prove or disprove it. Nihilism, as a belief system, has been around a long time-- not the longest, spiritism has that distinction-- and it has been discussed by people for longer than philosophy has been around. This gives it the distinction of being the most rejected belief system that has ever existed.
Why has Nihilism been rejected to such an amazing degree? First of all, because it doesn't meet people's inner need. Athiestic existentialism is simply giving a needed face lift to nihilism, because if people were going to believe in nothing, they still need to believe in SOMETHING, even if that something is only in their own personal experience. But most people aren't ready to deal with such logical hoops, and they need to believe that their life has some meaning. They need to believe that there really is justice, although they don't see it. They need to believe that there is still a chance for inner peace, although they don't experience it now. They need to believe that somehow there will be a time and a place where they will be secure, even though that doesn't exist now in what they currently experience. Frankly, nihilism doesn't meet most people where they are, it doesn't meet their needs.
Secondly, nihilism's simplicity is at first disarming, but after reflection it is simply unsatisfying. Frankly, the universe and our personal experience is more complex than nihilism will admit. There is much that is unexplained, and there is a universe-- possibly multiple universes-- of knowledge that humanity will never grasp. The human brain is finite, and yet nihilism implicitly claims that human knowledge is all that is significant to humans. Because we cannot "prove" God, therefore God must not be significant. Because we cannot fully grasp a spirit world, it must not exist. Because we cannot, as humanity, decide on a single meaning of life, therefore there must not be any.
It's kind of like the people who saw The Wall on LSD. Just because they couldn't understand any meaning, they assume that the writers and director of the Wall were on acid when they made it. Just because a minority of people cannot grasp any meaning, and others disagree on the meaning, it is a leap of logic to determine that there is NO meaning.
I would understand if someone explored a number of belief systems-- really understood and experienced them-- and then determined that there must not be any meaning after that. At least they explored some of the possibilities. But to say, a priori, "there is no meaning" without actually, honestly, exploring the possibilities of meaning is self-deception. This is not the scientific method. It is not critical analysis. It is just another religion. And it is a greater leap of faith than most religions out there. At least most religions are fairly existentialist-- it is based on a personal experience. But most nihilists are anti-existentialist, it is based on NOT having an experience. It may be trite, but it is true that if you look for nothing, you will certainly find what you were looking for.

Three Statments

Hey, Ive just started a philosophy course..and could do with some simulating responses, to these quotes...basically, i just want to know if you agree or disagree with them.'Tranquility is the most beautiful thing in the world''Most men are bad' (refering to mankind..not males)and'learn to obey and you will learn to command'give me any opinions!!! have fun thinking :D

I hope I'm not helping you cheat at school! :) The first statement is the basic Buddhist precept-- that all of our basic needs are met if we have peace within ourselves. Of course, we can have inner peace all we want, but that doesn't do children raped in Darfur any good. From my understanding, the most beautiful thing in the world is a whole complex of needs and desires in a community which is working together, including inner peace, but also meeting the main physical needs of people, security, joy, social interaction, and respect. As far as the second statement, it depends on what it means. If it means that every human is morally evil (like a Calvinist persepective), I disagree. But every human is born with only self-interest at heart. We have to become mature to learn to live according to other's interests, to treat others on the same level of humanity as ourselves. Most people haven't learned to do this. Does that mean that there are people who don't act in self interest? No. Acting in self interest, in my opinion (Kant disagrees) is not morally wrong. But acting ONLY in self interest, doing acts as if others are actually less significant than ourselves is what is evil. Not everyone does that. But in the end, I guess, we would have to determine what is "bad" or morally evil to determine if that statment is true or not. I also disagree with the third statment. Most slaves learn to obey because it is basic survival to do so. But in that obedience they do not learn to command others. However, for one who is good at commanding others, one of the prerequisites is to learn what it means to obey-- if you don't know how to obey, then you will never give good orders. But the way the statment is made, it is a logical fallacy.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Turn The Other Cheek?

As young Christians, we were always taught to "turn the other cheek". It is obvious that that may not have been the best advice. That philosophy has led to the removal of God from our schools, abortions as a method of birth control and the advice of the liberal doctrines. Does anyone else feel that as Christians that we are too passive? Thanks for your input.

1. "Turn the other cheek"--The context in which Jesus was speaking is in how to respond to authorities who are persecuting you. He is saying that we are to take the extreme passive response, not only accepting the evil persecution (receiving harm for doing right), but also inviting them to do more. Why? So that God would step in and remove the authority. This is what Jesus did in the cross-- he accepted the priest's and Sanhedrin's death sentence without a word so that they would be removed from power, which they were in 70AD. Jesus never said that we had to remain silent in the face of wrong-- just the opposite, actually. 2. God in schools I am personally pleased that teachers are supposedly no longer allowed to lead prayer in school. Students, according to the law, can lead prayer and pray-- never been a law against that. But when I was in school, I had teachers leading me in new age prayer and spiritual meditation. Of course, they still do that because the students often don't realize that it is "prayer." This is why my children are not in public school. Because I don't trust teachers to do religious, moral or social teaching to my children. And since public school is all about moral and social teaching-- thus religious as well-- then I want my kids to know what they believe and be able to defend it before they are attacked by another side. 3. This country This country (The US) is not, nor ever has been, Christian. If it were a "Christian" country then there would only be one God that people could worship, and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists would be marginalized. If it were a "Christian" country then more than 3 of the ten commandments would be enforced by law. It has always been that the majority of this nation has been Christian-- bad ones, but still superficially Christian-- and so that formed the kinds of things the republic enforced. However, it is becoming less Christian every day.And I'm happy about that, really. Only if the church is attacked will we see who are the hypocrites and who are the true faithful in Jesus. Let's make it clear what is secular and what is truly Christian. The bastardization of Christianity with government and military force that has existed for 1700 years should finally be put at an end. Hopefully, this will allow Christians to remember that their focus should be on following Jesus and not on trying to get the rest of their society to follow their cultural biases.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Jesus-Centered New Testament

It seems to me that Jesus is the truth of God, as said in the gospels, while the rest of the New Testament is just commentary on the gospels. --Theophilos
Really, the gospels are just commentary on Jesus as well.-- Mark

My perspective on this is very similar to Th's but a bit nuanced. First, about the gospels. It is a modern perspective to say that the gospels are commentary on Jesus. Certainly, they have different perspectives and emphases, but are they really offering different Jesus'? The gospel writers were not intending to present "commentaries" on Jesus, but Jesus himself through their eyewitness acocunts. Just because a modern perspective sees the lack of objectivity, a post-modern persective understands that there is NO objective point of view. Every time we talk about something, no matter how thorough we try to present it, we are not presenting the thing itself, but our perspective on that thing. Does that mean that we are just providing commentary? If I collect a group of passages from the Bible about a particular subject, then I am inherently interpreting because I am selecting some scriptures, but not others. But am I commenting? No. A collection of tradition is the tradition, not a commentary on the tradition. Yes, the collection is interpreted just by being collected, but that does not make it any less the tradition. The gospels, as Luke says in his introduction, is a collection of traditions about Jesus. The writers, in their own way, were as objective as their culture required. But let's not put labels on the gospels, such as "commentary". So what about the epistles? They are certainly not attempting to make straightforward communication of the tradition of Jesus. The quotes of Jesus are rare, although they do imply dependence on the Jesus tradition quite often. But I think that different epistles are interacting with the Jesus tradition in different ways. Paul, for instance, is frequently interacting with the Jesus tradition-- interestingly enough, the Matthean tradition more often than the others-- but not only that. Paul makes frequent reference to the personal revelation he has received from Jesus as well. Thus, Paul's point of truth-reference is the apostolic Jesus tradition and his personal revelation, that is probably communicated pretty well by Luke in his three presentations of Jesus' appearance before Paul. But what Paul does in his letters is rarely commentary. Some of his most theological parts are placing the Jesus tradition and his personal revelation in his understanding of Old Testament theology. But most of it is simply applying the tradition to the context of the churches. The eschatalogical sections of Thessalonlians are probably him finishing his discipleship teaching that he was chased away from finishing. James, II Peter, and I John are the best examples of commentary on the Jesus tradition. They are actually sermons, but definately based on the Jesus tradition. Revelation has some commentary on Jesus tradition-- for instance, much of the outline of future events is based on the basic outline of Mark 13-- but it is primarily a "revelation" a communication from Jesus in the spirit world to the churches in Asia Minor in the first century. While it might make reference to the Jesus' tradition, it is clearly supposed to go beyond that tradition. It is more than a commentary. Hebrews would be a theological treatise on Jesus fulfilling the themes of the second temple Judaism cult. It is less a commentary on the Jesus tradition as an attempt to show the superiority of Jesus over ancient Judaism. My perspective on the epistles is that they are representatives of the earliest interpretations of Jesus. While there are some differences, the similarities are more striking. They are most significant because they give us windows on how we might interpret and apply Jesus in our context. Jesus is the center, the foundation, the truth and the life-- not Paul or the writer of Hebrews or John. But these first interpreters help us better understand how Jesus might interpret himself in a variety of contexts, and so they are guides to our understanding and application of Jesus.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Allah, the moon god?

This is my research on Allah:
Muslims may claim that Allah is the same God that Christians worship however, the term Allah is a purely Arabic term used in reference to an Arabian deity. In fact Allah was known to pre-Islamic Arabs. He was one of many deities that already existed in Mecca. The tribe into which Muhammad was born was particularly devoted to Allah, which was the moon god. It was represented by a black stone that was believed to have come down from heaven.
In Arabia the sun god was viewed as female, and the moon god was viewed as the male god. In pre-Islamic times, Allah the moon god, was married to the sun god and together they produced three goddesses called The Daughters of Allah. They were viewed as being at the top of the pantheon of Arabian deities, those 360 idols in the Kaaba, at Mecca. When Muhammad took control of Mecca, he destroyed all the idols in the Kaaba except the stone deity, Allah.
Do not ever accept Allah as just another name of the true and living God! -MT

While I find some of your research to be in agreement with my own, I strongly disagree about the origins of "Allah".
Allah is truly just another name for the God of the Bible, even as the names "God" and "Jehovah" are but translations of Hebrew words, even so, "Allah" is also just a translation of the Hebrew word for God, "Eloyah". And so Muslims are worshipping the same God as the Christians and the Jews. But this does not mean that Muslims are necessarily worshipping or serving God in the way God wants—even as it may be that anyone who names themselves a Christian or a Jew might be serving God in a way displeasing to God. However, it does not help communicating a truth to a Muslim by presupposing a lie. Let us set petty differences aside, and get to the heart of the matter—what is the best way to please the Ruler of the Heavens? I could pull out a lot of references on my side-- saying that "Allah" is rooted in the words "El" and "Eloah" in Hebrew-- and you can pull up a bunch of references on your side, all to no avail, as we would not convince the other.
But let's say that the name "Allah" WAS rooted in a moon god. To then claim that whatever use that word is used in worship is actually going to a moon god is what is called in linguistics a "root fallacy". To claim that something is now what it's source was is simply not true.
For instance, let's take the Hebrew word "El" for God. This word has a Canaanite origin and was used by many languages for a creator god who sired many children, including Baal. Baal, in that religion, became stronger than El, and El depended upon him for his war-making skills. El was also defeated by Baal. Is this the God of the OT? Of course not. Then why did they use that word? Because it was the best word they had to explain who God was. It's origin isn't perfect, but they re-defined who "El" was in their literature so they could understand who the "real" El is. So we use the same term today when we say "El Shaddai" or "Beth-el". We don't worry about it's root, because WE know what we mean.
So let's use the same logic for Muslims and Allah. They know what they mean and they explain it very clearly and in many different ways. They certainly do not mean a moon god of any kind, but they are clearly articulating an ultimate spiritual power , ruler of heaven and earth, whose greatest characteristic is mercy. We need to just believe them, and not get tripped up on the roots of words. Because any old ancient meaning of a word is not what it means today.
A similar kind of thinking goes on when some Christians oppose Christmas. They say that the original holiday on Dec 25th had pagan origins, therefore it is pagan. Of course, Christmas is just as pagan or Christian (or commercial) as how one celebrates it and what meanings one gives to it. Even so, "Allah" is an Arabic word-- let's let the Arabs define what it means, not us to whom Arabic is foreign, even if we have some knowledge of it.

Proof in the Qu'ran

Steven, I would like to like your article ("Is Islam Evil?"), but there no cited sources or proof text. Can you rewrite the article using the text from the Quran? --Avery Moore
Thank you for your suggestion. Here are some references. I can incorporate them into the article at a later time. -- Steve
Allah (ăl'ə, ä'lə) , [Arab.,=the God]. Derived from an old Semitic root refering to the Divine and used in the Canaanite El, the Mesopotamian ilu, and the biblical Elohim, the word Allah is used by all Arabic-speaking Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others. -- Columbia University Encyclopedia

Jesus, in the name of Isa, is metioned several times in the Koran, as both a prophet and a messenger, and as the son of Mary. Just like it is in Christianity, Mary is a virgin, but Jesus is created in her womb (Sura 3,42), in the same manner as God creates whatever he wants. But never is he depicted as the son of God (Sura 4,169) but is compared to Adam, the first man (Sura 3,52). Jesus and his mother Mary is made as a "a sign unto the worlds" (Sura 21,91). In the Koran Jesus is also called Messiah (Sura 3.40).-- Encyclopedia of the Orient

God! There is no god but he, the Living, the Selfsubsistent!Slumber seizes him not, neither sleep.To him belongs whatever is in the Heavens and whatsoever is in the Earth.Who is there that shall intercede with Him except by His will?He knows what is present with men and what shall befall them, nothing of His knowledge do they comprehend, save what He wills.His throne is as high as the Heavens and the Earth, and the keeping of them wearies Him not.And He is High, the Mighty One.-Sura 2:256

The Koran addresses the Jews and Christians by saying, "O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than God . . ." (Sura 3:64).The Koran finds commonality with Jews and Christians in the belief of strict monotheism, by which no prophet or saint is to be worshipped or venerated as divine alongside God.Muhammad is also told by the Koran to remind People of the Book that God alone is "our Sustainer and your Sustainer" (Sura 2:139). As such, there is no need for dispute between the Muslims and their fellow monotheists, says the Scripture.The Koran also attempts to fulfill its role as "The Reminder" by reminding Jews and Christians of their holy covenant with God, which among other things establishes belief and worship in God alone. The Koran confirms and praises the first Biblical covenant that says, "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in the heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them . . ." (Exodus 20:4–5). This same understanding surfaces many times in the Koran (Sura 4:48, for example).The Koran also shares the Biblical understanding of God as Creator of the universe (Sura 7:54), and reflects the same comprehension of God's sovereignty (Sura 6:59) as the Bible's insistence that everything is run by divine Will (Matthew 10:29–31). With this spirit of unity in theological belief, the Koran encourages healthy dialogue (29:46) and coexistence in the form of marriage and the sharing of meat (Sura 5:5). -The Koran for Dummies

"Seek Allah's help with patient perseverance and prayer. It is indeed hard except for those who are humble." (Sura 2:45) "Oh you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer, for God is with those who patiently persevere." (Sura 2:153)

"Take alms from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it." (Sura 9 :103)

Sex Before Marriage

My girlfriend and I are planning on getting married and I’m a new Christian. So what’s so wrong with us being involved sexually? Is there something wrong with sex? --Mike
As a pastor, I have been involved in counselling many people before I marry them. And it has happened a number of times that people would go ahead and have intercourse because they were going to get married. I understand that, and the Bible has nothing to say against that, actually. However, it is just as likely that the couple decides after a bit that they weren't right for each other and then had a messy break-up. They didn't break up because of the sex, but the break up was messy because of the sex.
In our society that promotes "safe sex no matter what the cost" the ancient wisdom about sex is neglected. Sex is there not just for pleasure, but to create commitment. It is a physical act that creates a relational and emotional bond between two people. It is intense and powerful, and if we play loosely with it, we will end up in long-term depression and an inability to connect with other people, especially the opposite sex.
Sex is really meant to be between two people. The pleasure in sex actually increases if you continue having sexual activity with only one partner, as long as they are both concerned about the other's sexual and emotional needs. This is how we are made, this is one significant way that we have happiness in our lives.
So what's wrong with sex? Nothing. Sex is great, God made it and He made us sexual beings. And He also created us to be coupled-- to be with one partner who is concerned about our needs and does all he or she can to meet them. And he made us attracted to people who have different concepts of reality and love and emotion than we do, in order to increase that love. And He made us have children to test our love and to have it grow stronger in adversity. Sex is the foundation of human life and love. It is great.
But if we go against the principle of one partner-- if we get involved with sex before we are really ready to hook up with one person-- then our search for pleasure becomes a source of tremendous turmoil and sorrow and hatred and pain. This is what the Bible says, and this makes sense with what I have seen.

Is Islam Evil?

Many Christian teachers are speaking much about Islam. Some say that Islam is a terrible evil that God must destroy. Some declare that Islam is a religion similar to the Bible or Jesus. Both sides are exaggerating the truth, and it is our responsibility as Christians to make a decision about truth in accordance with mercy, not exaggerations that try to make our personal opinion. Below is the truth about Islam in relation to the teachings of the Bible.
Intellectually, Allah is the same as Eloyah
The word "Allah" is not the name of some moon god, but is the Arabic translation of the Hebrew word for God, "Eloyah", which comes from "Elohim," translated in modern translations, "God". There is less evidence that the word, "Allah" is blasphemous than the English word, "God". Also, when the Qur’an—the holy book of Muslims—and when Muslims themselves speak of Allah, they use the same description Christians and Jews do about Elohim—God is one, all-powerful, sovereign, forgiving, and merciful.
However, most Muslims limit God’s ability
Most Muslims do not emphasize what Jesus and the prophets emphasize—that God works through his people’s suffering, and that he gives his Spirit of power to those who ask. Most of the time, when speaking about God, they limit God’s ability to providence, or the moving of events in this world. They are unable to hear God or to ask for miracles from their devotion.
Father, we pray that you would give our Muslim friends the ability to understand you in fullness, and to worship you in Spirit and in Truth.
The Qur’an speaks higher of Jesus than Muhammad
The Qur’an says amazing things about Jesus. The Qur’an uses the name "Isa" for Jesus and says that he is the Messiah, the Word of God, and the receiver of God’s spirit. The Qur’an says that he was born of the virgin Mary, performed miracles, did no sin, that he died and was resurrected and that he would judge on the last day. However, the Qur’an, in speaking of Muhammad, says that he is a sinner, that he had performed no miracle, and that he be able to speak for no one on the last day.
However, most Muslims do not understand Jesus
Even though the Qur’an teaches all this about Jesus, most Muslims do not know this teaching. They just recognize Jesus as one of many prophets. And the Qur’an does not teach that Jesus’ death cleanses us from sin or that to have faith in God through Jesus is the only way of gaining God’s salvation.
Father, show our Muslim friends that salvation is only found in Jesus.
Islam is firm against idolatry
The subject of the majority of the Qur’an is opposition to worshipping false gods and idols. The most terrible sin in Islam is "shirk" which means the sharing of God’s majesty with another. The Qur’an often reads like a text from the Old Testament that denounces idolatry. It is a bold statement for the worship of the Most High God.
However, Islam judges some not participating in idolatry as guilty of shirk
The Qur’an denounces anyone who calls the Son as one with God, for that would be the sin of shirk. Many Muslims also denounce any representation of any prophet or symbolic representation of God as shirk. They would declare that anyone doing these things are heretics or apostates.
Father, teach our Muslim friends how to judge according to your word, not their own ideas.
The Qur’an speaks well of Christians and Jews
The Qur’an calls Jews and Christians "the people of the Book" and declare that they should not be treated as unbelievers. Rather, the Qur’an says that the Muslim should go to Christians and Jews to learn what is written in the Injeel (the words of Jesus) and the Tora (the words of Moses), as well as other prophets.
However, the Qur’an also speaks of enacting violence against unbelievers
Some Muslims have declared many Christians and Jews to be their enemies and unbelievers, and so should be counted among those whom the Qur’an says should be slain. Many Muslims teach that the Injeel and the Tora have been corrupted over the years and so are unworthy of being read. And a few believe that war should be declared against those who have opposed the truths of Muhammad they express. Before we judge Muslims for this, we must remember how many Christians support the killing of enemies, when their Lord commanded that they love their enemies.
Father, help both Muslims and Christians do good to one another and learn of the way of Jesus.
Muslims devote themselves to God many times daily
Most devote Muslims declare their loyalty to God many times a day, declaring him to be forgiving and merciful. They are faithful in their prayers, and they wish to show themselves as God’s servants. The word "islam" means "submission to God" and the word "muslim" means "one who is submitted." The whole purpose of being a Muslim is to devote ones whole life and community to God.
However, most Muslims act without regard to God’s ways
When it comes to everyday life, Muslims are as prone to follow their own desires as any other person. They will hate, gossip, lie and cheat in their everyday life—even as most Christians do.
Father, help us to live out your ways as well as speak your words. May we all have your Spirit to live your life.
Muslims give to the poor
Most devote Muslims separate 2.5% of what they earn specifically to the poor. This income is used to build orphanages and to help beggars in need. Although this sounds meager compared to a ten percent tithe, Muslims worldwide give a larger percentage of their income to the poor than Christians do worldwide.
However, most Muslims lack compassion in their giving
Muslims, however, lack the commands Christians do to give with compassion, love and without any self-interest. Many Muslims do give selflessly, especially through hospitality to strangers, but many more give out of their own self-interest and hopes of recognition. Jesus teaches that giving out of self-recognition would not be rewarded by God.
Father, through Jesus and the Spirit may your compassion rest upon our Muslim friends.
Conclusion: Is Islam evil? Not really—it is more incomplete than anything else. It does a fine job to teach pagans to worship the one true God, but it does not teach the ethical standards of Jesus, or show his example. Most Muslims are not evil, but they are misled. If they knew more about their own holy book, as well as the words of Jesus and Moses that the Qur’an affirms, they might know who the real Prophet and Savior is—Jesus. Let us pray for Muslims in our communities and around the world so that they could know the whole truth and that the truth would free them from oppression.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Can a good Muslim be a Good American?

Q. I received the following item as one of those "pass-along" email messages. My knee jerk reaction is to agree with it -- but my Christian sensibilities warn me to be very careful of prejudice and sweeping generalizations. What is your logical response? Can a good Muslim be a good American?I sent that question to a friend who worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years. The following is his reply:Theologically -- No, because his allegiance is to Allah, the moon god of Arabia.Religiously -- No, because no other religion is accepted by his Allah except Islam.Scripturally -- No, because his allegiance is to the five pillars of Islam and the Quran.Geographically -- No, because his allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day.Socially -- No, because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.Politically -- No, because he must submit to the mullah (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and Destruction of America, the great Satan.Domestically -- No, because he is instructed in the Quran to marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him.Intellectually -- No, because he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt.Philosophically -- No, because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran do not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.Spiritually -- No, because when we declare "one nation under God," the Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in the Quran's 99 excellent names. Therefore after much study and deliberation -- perhaps we should be very suspicious of all Muslims in this country. They obviously cannot be both "good" Muslims and good Americans. Call it what you wish -- it's still the truth. If you find yourself intellectually in agreement with the above statements, perhaps you will share this with your friends. The more who understand this, the better it will be for our country and our future. Pass it on Fellow Americans. The religious war is bigger than we know or understand.

I am actually quite disturbed about this article. Frankly, the very things that are being mentioned here would have to apply to a good follower of Jesus or a good Buddhist or any other religion.
A good follower of Jesus would submit to Jesus first, before any national or local government.
A good follower of Jesus will listen to the dictates of the Holy Spirit-- a voice coming from God that does not follow the dictates of any state.
A good follower of Jesus obeys the Scripture which says that we must worship one God alone, and obey him and submit to him before any man or government.
Does the Scripture tell us to submit to government? Yes, as long as it does not interfere with what we have been told by God to do. But our primary obedience is to God. This is exactly what the Quran says as well.
This kind of thinking-- that a good follower of a religion isn't a real patriot because they follow the dictates of another power-- is the kind of thinking that generated religious persecution from the very beginning. If you wish to promote such ideas against Muslims, just wait, the persecutors will soon be knocking at your door to ask you to bow to the god of the state instead of the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the basic principles of the United States is that we have the opportunity to abide by what religious dictates we wish. This is not a Scriptural idea-- the ten commandments tells the people of God to worship God alone and to not worship any idols. The United States determined not to persecute people because their religious ideas are different than ours, or Scriptures. This is right and good, for a secular government. This is how God rules the world-- he does not destroy nations for idolatry or worshipping other gods. Eventually, on the Final Day, he will, but not yet. Until then, we must recognize that vengeance belongs to God. And He will defend His own Name.
As for us, let us not stir fear of those who are fundamentally like us. A good Muslim is hospitable and kind to others. A good Muslim does all they can to assist those in need. A good Muslim never kills the innocent. A good Muslim prays daily and helps the poor. A good Muslim does not beat his wife-- no matter what people say about them. A good Muslim does what he can to be obedient to the laws of the nation he lives in. In these areas-- areas of good citizenship-- they are not so different than Christians.
If the government begins to persecute committed Muslims, then they will persecute committed Christians. Is that what we really want?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Am I Really A Christian?

Mark Wrote: Today I learned something. I was listening to an online sermon and I realized that I am not a real Christian. Sure, I said a prayer and asked Jesus to be my lord and savior, but does that mean He is the lord of my life? This sermon lead me to look into myself and showed me how worldly I am. I finally listened to Gods word given to us through Paul - Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! - (2 Cor. 13:5) and I was disgusted with myself. When I compare my faith to those of the New Testament or the Protestant Reformers or anyone who has suffered for Christ I feel shameful. How can I call myself a Christian when I embrace things God hates? Peace and love,Mark
Don't beat yourself up because you don't meet the standard of people when they were at their best. These people also had their worst times-- Peter denying Christ being the primary example. Jesus called him back to himself, and told him to repent, but Peter was never out of Christ. He was stumbling within Christ. Seeing that you have weaknesses doesn't mean that you aren't a "real Christian". Rather, it means that the Holy Spirit is calling you to a new level of holiness. Embrace that holiness and make it a part of yourself-- but never deny what Christ has already worked in and through you.
Steve K.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Discussion on War and the Bible

This was mentioned in another forum (on My Space): "When Jesus told us to "turn the other cheek" He was talking about the individual, not national. The idea of "just war" is seen all over the Bible, and punishment." I'm sorry, I don't remember who mentioned it, but I thought we could talk about it. While I agree that divine war-- not exactly "just" war as spoken of by Christians-- is in the OT, Jesus' and the apostles' ethic is clearly against Christian participation of war. They agreed that governments take part in war, but that Christians, being a part of a heavenly nation does not participate in it. This is why Paul said, "Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual rulers and authorities." and "The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but spiritual". Our war is on the spiritual reality, not the earthly one.Steve K.
We seek to be agents of reconciliation in all relationships, to practice love of enemies as taught by Christ, to be peacemakers in all situations. We view violence in its many different forms as contradictory to the new nature of the Christian. We believe that the evil and inhumane nature of violence is contrary to the gospel of love and peace. In times of national conscription or war, we believe we are called to give alternative service where possible. Alleviating suffering, reducing strife, and promoting justice are ways of demonstrating Christ's love.It is an error to say that God never supports a war. In a world filled with evil people, sometimes a war is necessary to prevent even greater evil. If Hitler had not been defeated by World War II, how many more millions of Jews would have been killed? If the Civil War had not been fought, how much longer would African Americans have had to suffer as slaves? We must all remember to base our beliefs of the Bible, not on our emotions (2 Timothy 3:16-17).Ecclesiastes 3:8 declares, There isa time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. In a world filled with sin, hatred, and evil (Romans 3:10-18), war is inevitable. Some wars are more just than others, but all wars are ultimately the result of sin. Christians should not desire war, but neither are Christians to oppose the government God has placed in authority over them (Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:17). The most important thing we can be doing in a time of war is to be praying for godly wisdom for our leaders, praying for the safety of our military, praying for quick resolution to the conflict. -Mark

We should be pure agents of reconciliation, not compromised ones.I am not saying that God never supports a war. Nor am I saying that we should oppose a government that is participating in a war. I am saying that Christians, if they are following Jesus, will never participate in a human war. Our task is much more effective. We are to focus exclusively on the war in the Spirit realm. Yes, Hitler was defeated on a fleshly level, but the Spirit of racism still exists. Slavery was technically ended, put the Spirit of arrogance over other races still exists. These wars could have been fought in the Spirit, and the outcome would have been much more effective. What has more power, human bombs or God's Spirit? What has more life changing force, armies or God's omnipotent power? What is the better outcome, the destruction of enemy forces (plus a percentage of civilians thrown in) or the repentance of the sinner? This is not naivete, this is faith in God's power which he has proven many times in the past.To participate in the death of our enemies makes us an enemy of God, and ready to be judged. As it was stated in ages past, "He who spills the blood of man shall of man have his blood shed." How will this cycle ever end? By the power of God's spirit. At times, vengeance and violence must be done. But the follower of Jesus gives that right over to God, surrendering to His power of vengeance, to His justice, which is infinately more than we can ever understand or accomplish with our hands. Leave it for God-- "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY, " says the Lord. BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:19-21Thus, it is not that war is an evil. It is just that if we take war into our own hands that it becomes evil. It is God's justice, it is God's authority to do violence. It is our responsibility before Jesus to "Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you, bless those who curse you..." And it is our responsibility to destroy the works of the evil one through the power of God, not by our own hands "Heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, preach the gospel." Steve K.

If the government reimplemented the draft and you were drafted would you go?but i agree peaceful resolutions should always be sought before military action.
I wouldn't need to go anywhere. In the U.S. anyone who disagrees with the use of arms as a conscientious objector need not ever take up arms. They can do work in the U.S. as a peaceful agent of service for two years instead. This has been the case since WWII. --Steve K.

I would agree partially with what was said about leaving the vengeance to God, but there are some issues I'm not sure about. First, Eph 6 in context doesn't imply pacifism but speaks simply of the cardinal difficulty of the Christian life: spritual battles. It gives the idea of armor because war was common and Christians should always be on the defensive (hence the armor, even the sword) against the tricks and schemes of the devil in their lives.Romans tends to be a bit stronger in the implication, specifically in the verse before where the Bible tells us "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." The inherent difficulty is the more vague language here in the "if it be possible" and "as much as lieth in you", meaning that there will be times where it is not possible, or where it does not lie in you. You could argue that logical opposites don't necessarily apply in Biblical doctrine, but seems to at least provide some perspective in this case.The reason vengeance is wrong is simply the motivation. Vengeance is not a condoned motivation for any action because vengeance seeks its own, no matter the law, rules, or people in its way. Vengeance views itself above the law. This is why vengeance cannot be in the hands of humans and must be in the hands of the Lord (the One Who wrote the law...).Governments are established as an authority over men to establish justice and maintain such things. We are to submit to our secular authority just as much as our religious authority because we are not above the law nor exempt from it. The law as it applies to salvation has been fulilled, but we cannot simply abolish it (Jesus Himself said that He didn't come to abolish, but to fulfill the law). If our government drafts us into a war, we should obey as much as possible. God uses war, and people in war, to accomplish His goals.I personally would say that a peaceful solution (as much as possible live peacably) should be seeked first, but if it came to the point of defense or no peaceful solution can be found, we cannot back down, we cannot hide, we must fight. Satan will use people, so we cannot hate people, we must hate the one who controls them, but that doesn't mean that we can spare all of them for if we do, we drop our defenses. That is my opinion, hopefully it doesn't inherently contradict itself or the Bible as far as the Lord has shown me. Ya'll have fun.
-Czar Chasm

[QUOTE]Czar ChasmWrote:Governments are established as an authority over men to establish justice and maintain such things. We are to submit to our secular authority just as much as our religious authority because we are not above the law nor exempt from it. The law as it applies to salvation has been fulilled, but we cannot simply abolish it (Jesus Himself said that He didn't come to abolish, but to fulfill the law). If our government drafts us into a war, we should obey as much as possible. God uses war, and people in war, to accomplish His goals.QUOTE]I don't want to respond to Ceaser's whole quote, but just this part. Even if you were to say that a draft is just submitting to the government, as it says in Rom 13, I have a couple issues with that:First, we have the example of the apostles in Acts 4 who refused to obey the established government because it disagreed with the expressed command of Jesus. Submission to government is not greater than submission to Jesus. And Jesus told us to love our enemies, and to bless them, not to kill them.Second, in the case of the U.S. and Canadian governments, even if you are drafted you can be a non-com. In fact, the U.S. govt has established with the Mennonites an opportunity for pacifist draftees to do work in the U.S., such as in hospitals, as firefighters, as forestry workers, etc. This is a legal and completely submissive to government way to obey Jesus, even if you are drafted. So the "submission to government" route doesn't work in the U.S. or Canada. If you believe that Jesus doesn't want you to kill anyone, no one can make you. Steve K.

Interesting points, but I have a question. I've always felt that good fought evil, and should destroy evil (could just be me). So, I'm throwing out a hypothetical: There is a small village of satanists who continually slaughter animals from a nearby Christian farmer and they also occasionally sacrifice their children. Now, a satanist could be saved (as could anyone). Obviously we could pray for the farmer and for the people, but at what point do we simply refrain from taking action? One could easily address the government for grievances (which is what should be done), but if you are against such violence, then addressing said government would be wrong. If this group is sacrificing children, it is a true evil. If we say they've been doing this for 100 years, passing on their corrupt teaching to the kids that do live, and so the process cycles, then what should be done. Now, let's avoid the whole origin and perpetuation of evil in this, but I personally would get to a point where a governmental body or even the church at some point would need to take action simply because we are allowing evil that we know of to continue.Now, this is a completely hypothetical and could possibly be a can of worms, but I wouldn't doubt to think that this is possible in today's world, especially in the thrid world countries where all sorts of evil runs amuck. I'm not trying to argue at this point, but I want to understand your view better (I haven't run into many mennonites). If you don't wanna answer no big, again I'm just curious. Thanks.
-Czar Chasm

I don't think it's a can of worms. It's a good question.In general, just because Jesus told us to love, this is not the same as not taking action against evil. There is a lot of action that we can do that falls short of harming others. For the most part, I think that we need to take action the way Jesus did:1. We need to pray for God's justice to be done2. We need to pray that the people would repent so that they could be forgiven.3. We need to tell people about their sins and the consequences of their sins4. We need to command the forces of Satan to be gone5. We can pray for certain people to be stopped or moved out by God's power (this isn't just words-- I've seen it in action)6. We can stand in the way of the sin to prevent it from happening7. We can sacrifice ourselves in order to save othersThere's other things we can do, but this is a quick list. In this specific instance, we can see the oppressers become sick by God's power to cause them to stop their evil. We could go to the people, invite them to our house, try to care for them, speak to them about the Lord. We could keep an eye on the house and if we see children going there, we can get involved-- even at the risk of our own lives! These are the kinds of things Jesus did, and he was successful-- in the long run. His mission seemed unsuccessful at first, but he was very successful, and evil was curbed overall. We just need to be loving and patient like God. Steve K.

Monday, August 07, 2006

You're Hired!

We have prayed that God should send out workers. God is now calling the workers he needs. He is calling you! These are the people God is looking for:
Those who trust in the Lord to provide their needs, even if their needs are not met for a time.
Those who do mercy to others, not just to the repentant, but to those who have the possibility of repenting.
Those who are directed by the word of Jesus and the Spirit.
Those who create a community which encourages discipleship.
Those who remain gentle when provoked—i.e. those who create trust in crisis.
Those who reveal the Lord in a tri-unity of action, attitude and word.
Those who confess and repent their own faults, especially reconciling with those whom they have done wrong.
Those who do not judge by appearances, but listen to find the hidden core of another.
Those who know that their wisdom does not rest in themselves, but they are dependant on the Lord for what little wisdom they have.
Those who know that if they fail to depend on the Lord, their leadership fails.
Those who are humble before those to whom one is giving hospitality or service.
Those who do not seek the world or worldly means to meet their goals in the Lord, but they are patient for the Lord’s timing.
Those who regularly wait in the presence of the Lord, listening to the Spirit.
Those willing and ready to do the lowest tasks joyfully, knowing that humility is the means of our exaltation.
Those not seeking titles or positions or authorities, but accepting responsibility when it is necessary and offered.
Those who will consistently pray for others in need, so guiding the Lord’s grace to them.
Those ready to use all resources at their disposal for the outcast, the needy and the seekers of God, so that they are known as generous.
Those who will do whatever whenever however, using whatever resources in order to draw other closer to the Lord.
Those who do not demand a salary, but will accept whatever the Lord offers—even if it is nothing—just in order to do the Lord’s work.
Those who will not give up on one who is soft toward the Lord for the sake of another, but will draw all toward unity in Christ.
Those who do not force the truth of God on anyone, but grant all the option of refusing to hear it.
Those who will create space for, opportunity for, and desire in others to listen to the Spirit.
Those who have experience of hard labor on earth and of hard rest in the Lord.
Those who will sacrifice their comfort, their well-being, their relationships, their possessions, their future in this world for the sake of God’s kingdom.
Anyone looking to apply for this job, you would be welcome at your local church.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Hey Steve,

How important is a persons words(what we say)? We are not supposed to lie, ofcorses. However, can we say something in jest? Example- I was wearing sunglasses the other day, for the first time, since I have been in Chicago. About a half dozen people or so, called me "Joe cool." So, I finally said to the last of the dozen or so people, 'I am just going to legally change my name to 'Joe Cool.' Biblically, we are justified by our words. So, am I obligated to change my name? Is their no room for levity? The spirit did tell me to repent of all the promises that I have not kept. So, what say you?
Words are very important, of course. The kind of speech we are to avoid is breaking promises, lies, cheating, dishonoring speech, using God's name in a purposeless way, and speech that glorifies sin.
But, as you say, what about joking? Well, we know that Jesus and Paul both used language as hyperbole-- exaggeration for effect-- and that was okay. Jesus was not actually encouraging us to cut off our hands or feet, although he used language that literally meant that. Rather he wanted us to know that sin is very serious and we should separate ourselves from anything that causes us to sin-- but not literally cut off body parts. Paul said of his opponents who taught the Gentiles to be circumcised, "I wish they would just cut it all off"-- i.e. be castrated. Did he mean that? Obviously not, it was humor and of a pretty sick kind really. Paul also said, "Among the Creteans, even one of their own said they are all foolish and liars." Of course, the joke was that if a Cretean said that all Createans were liars, then he was lying. It is an ancient joke that Paul was making reference to, but he did not mean to literally say that ALL Creteans were liars, even if he did make a racial slur.
So are jokes okay? As long as you are sure that everyone understood it not to be taken literally. The problem is that many jokes aren't understood-- especially if you are putting someone down in a joke. Many people don't think one is really joking, and, of course, many people when they make "jokes" like that aren't actually joking. It is most important that our jokes which concern promises and dishonor are absolutely known by everyone to be a joke. Then it's okay.
That's how come I try to make my jokes so over-the-top exaggeration that no one could possibly take it seriously. Also my jokes tend to be jokes about fact, rather than about promises or putting people down. So I would joke about "The sky is green" rather than joke "I'm going to give you a million dollars" or "Your face looks like it got in a car wreck." I do make jokes of the other two catagories, but, again, I joke so over the top no one takes it seriously.

Friday, May 12, 2006

How To Help The Homeless

A woman from Portland is seriously considering a coalition of churches in the area to assist the homeless. She didn't have many practical ideas, so this is my essay in response to her:

The heart of compassion in the United States sees the plight of the homeless. They know that God hears their cries, and feel that God is calling them to accomplish a work to assist these lowest of low, the poor and needy. What can we do? So many Christians have done so many works among the homeless, but the problem still remains. What can really be done to heal these people?

Who are the Homeless?
Before we can answer this question, we must first understand what homelessness is. Homelessness is not about not having a house. The real question is: what are the reasons the homeless can not obtain regular housing? Housing, of course, is not something one can solve in a short period of time. Housing is to be obtained on a monthly, daily basis—whether one pays rent or a mortgage. And so homelessness is not caused by any particular incident, such as the loss of a job. The basic issue of homelessness is not just poverty or addiction. Rather, it is an overall inability to function in our American economic system.
The requirements of an individual in the Western economic system is complex. One must have a variety of skills, including—multitasking, basic math, functional literacy, listening and communication abilities, control over one’s emotions, quick decision making, obedience to difficult employers and the energy to endure a forty-hour work week. Our ancestors were mostly subsistence farmers, and these skills, while helpful, were unnecessary for success in that agricultural system. However, if a person is born without ability in even one of these areas, that person is economically crippled for the rest of their lives. If someone has two or more of these areas missing in their lives, then they become economically destitute.
These are the homeless. At least one third of all homeless people have some sort of mental illness—whether diagnosed or not. Some are born with a mental illness, others have it developed over time. Many have been crippled from a young age because of experimenting with drugs or alcohol, which damaged not their intelligence, but their social and processing abilities. Many have experienced severe trauma—like child abuse or participation in a war—and so have been socially crippled.
But many have suffered such difficulties and yet pulled through economically. Some born with autism are functioning even on the professional level. Others with post traumatic stress syndrome have succeeded in amazing ways. Others who have abused themselves with drugs or alcohol have pulled through with economic success. Why have the homeless not pulled through to economic normalcy?
There are two other common characteristics of the homeless. One is that they have little or no support network. Their family rejected them, they have no real friends who are economically independent. Thus, when the many weaknesses in the floor of our economic system fell in on them, they had no one to pull them up. Without a social support network, we are all extremely vulnerable, and in some cases, helpless.
The other common characteristic of the homeless is shame. The homeless understand that, whether through their own fault or through some inner weakness, they have failed in their basic responsibility to society—to be productive. In our society, success is measured to what degree one achieved the American Dream—material security and plenty. But many may be considered full citizens without achieving such success. And citizenship—membership in our society—is determined by productivity. Having a full time job is productive. Raising children to adulthood is productive. Even doing volunteer work most of one’s week is productive, although not as productive as "real" work.
But the chronic homeless, due to their inability to function in our economic system, are disrespected. Our culture can approve of pornographers that make enough money to support themselves, but they cannot respect a persons whose only recourse is begging or dumpster diving—no matter how much work such occupations require. These are shamed in every measure possible. Not only are they dependent on others for their survival, they are given unreasonable demands in order to obtain the basics of their survival. They are mocked by the general populace and denigrated to their face by passersby. They are despised by their families and forgotten by their old friends. The more helpless are regularly beaten by suburban teenagers, looking for excitement. The homeless are the recipients of pity or scorn or a handout or apathy. But one thing they never receive is equality.
And so the homeless develop their own culture. A culture, it is true, that supports denial and false honor, but that is simply because they cannot endure more shame. It is a culture which is devoted to eradicating guilt and dishonor. Some chose the route of forgetting their lives and becoming an imaginary person through drugs or alcohol. Some pursue religion in their own individual, eccentric manner. Some bounce from community to community, attempting to find anyone who will accept them for who they are and not place too many demands on them. Some continually make attempts to re-enter the economic forces that they already failed in. Many of them fail again and again, causing their shame to deepen until unbearable. And so they return to their half-destroyed community, ready to escape their shame again, by any means possible.

What are the needs of the homeless?
In looking to minister to the homeless, one would naturally ask what their needs are. Of course, the best way to discover their needs is to ask them. Too often have ignorant but well-meaning middle class Christians have determined how they are going to "minister to the homeless", or equally ignorant politicians make sounds about "solving" the homeless "problem." However, these lay ministers and politicians don’t have the first idea of what homelessness is really about. They create in their minds an idea of homelessness, fueled by the equally ignorant, judgmental-then-pity-filled media, and then create in their minds the solution to the problem that actually only exists in their minds.
If I had my preference, it would be law that every congressperson, judge, state senator, mayor, principal of any school over elementary, and church leader, before they took their office, would spend a week being homeless, led around by a homeless man, wearing the clothes one receives on the street. It would only be a taste of poverty and lowliness, but it might give them an idea of what the homeless deal with on a day to day basis.
However, since such a law can never be passed in our present system, the next best thing would be to ask and listen to homeless people. What do they say they need? What help do they really look for? Should one spend years interviewing hundreds of homeless folks, one might know what they really are seeking. Below are the results of the responses I received over ten years. It does not replace speaking with and understanding the homeless oneself, but the few insights I have collected are a step in the right direction:
For the first few months, in asking the homeless what they need, we would probably only get an answer about their physical needs. No, these are not their deepest needs, but until one has relationship with the homeless, they cannot trust us with the real answers. They will tell us that they need open access to bathrooms, because most bathrooms are closed to them and in an urban setting urinating in public is illegal. Perhaps they might tell you that in their area they have no access to free clothing. Or perhaps they will tell you that they need food given them before they go to work. Perhaps they will tell you that they have difficulty getting a shower, even once a week. Maybe they will mention how important it is for them to have foot care and that clean socks and healing lotion for their feet are like gold. If it is rainy or cold, they will tell you how hard it is to keep themselves warm and dry out on the street. They may say they need blankets or sleeping bags or tarps or tents. Some will be so bold as to ask for a motel room. All this is true, and necessary. All this we are told by God to provide. But benevolence is insufficient to provide ministry, true spirituality to the homeless. It is an excellent place to begin, and it meets the "felt" needs of the homeless. But there are deeper needs than these.
I have been told that the homeless need an opportunity to work. But their need is not for a forty-hour a week job, nor is it really for a few hours work. Most homeless can work and greatly desire work—this is one way to overcome their shame. However, most homeless also are unable to work every day, or, depending, even every other day. Some can’t do just any job, but their work has to avoid their issues or problems. Some can’t work with other people. Some can’t do heavy labor. Others have difficulty functioning in an office setting. Others cannot endure harsh-sounding commands. It all depends. So the work that would need to be offered is flexible work. Ideally, flexible work that would be available many days of the week, but didn’t actually depend on them to be there every day. This is difficult to achieve, but perhaps we might better understand why the derisive comment, "Just get a job" is so false. One homeless brother thought of a job bank that would request Christians to offer the homeless temporary work and there would be a place with chairs, a phone and a receptionist who might mediate between employers and potential laborers. Somewhat like a flexible day labor service, but the employer pays the laborers directly.
Other homeless expressed the need of a place to stay when ill, even if it’s just a stomach flu. Some homeless will often catch pneumonia or have broken bones, and it is almost impossible to heal on the street, forced to walk miles from meal to meal. If there was a place of rest where the homeless could heal, that would be wonderful
We are still in the arena of standard "homeless ministry"-- benevolence. However, there is a whole realm of things that the homeless value, that they might never express, except to those they consider their true friends. The homeless desperately need honor and respect from those who care for them. They need friendly social interaction. They need people to not treat them as dogs or as projects, but as good human beings. They need to be able to be free to call someone up just to talk, if they want, or to show up at someone’s house and not feel like they are an intrusion. They need to know that someone cares enough to pray for them and to listen to their real hopes and desires and not judge them for it. The homeless need friends, not who will selfishly take advantage of them, nor who will use them to cover up their guilt for being suburban. They need people who show them that they really care. The glue between benevolence and spiritual ministry is encouraging relationship.
Even more than this, the homeless need a community. A community of people who will be there to help when they are in desperate need. A community who will keep them accountable to limits that make sense to them, but will not shame them if they fail. A community that makes them feel like they belong, really belong. People who will be truly happy to see them.
The homeless need a place to worship. They are a truly spiritual people, and some know God better than those who have attended church all their lives. About one third of the homeless truly seek God and see Jesus as an essential part of their lives. They haven’t gone to church, perhaps, because they were outsiders to the church. So they need a place to worship where they don’t feel inadequate because they wear the "wrong" clothes or speak at the wrong time or use the wrong language or smoke out back. They need a Christian community that accepts them as they are, and still loves them enough to assist them when they see that they need to be more. They need a Christian community who will pray for both their felt needs and their real needs. A people of God who will not shame them for their inadequacies, but praise them for their accomplishments, no matter how small.
This is not a job for one person, or one couple. I know. I have been trying for ten years, with many to help serve, but few to offer the community support that was absolutely necessary. Love like this with a group that is so needy, so desperate, will suck you dry if you are on your own. But if there is a group of people who will love without judgement, then they might succeed in bringing two spiritually crippled groups to run in the grace of God’s light and love—both the homeless and the middle class who serve them.
But such a community could only succeed if it is not a greater-to-lesser relationship. If the homeless are not given input on decisions, then the effort will fail. If any leader establishes a new rule for every problem, the effort will fail. If the leadership loses patience with the needy, throws up their hands and say, "Won’t they every get better?" the effort will fail. If some Christians use their own cultural standards to point at other brothers or sisters and say, "They aren’t a good enough Christian," then the effort will fail. If the community fails to listen to the needs of the least, the weakest, of the community, then the effort will fail. If brothers or sisters who fall into sin, but they turn back and repent each time, aren’t forgiven for simply repenting, then the effort will fail. God must have much mercy on such a community.

What can churches do?
Honestly, I must say that such a community is what I have been attempting to establish for seven years. Anawim Christian Community is still ministering by God’s grace. If I were seeking support for my congregation, I would ask for workers who love and serve and listen—which is what I pray to God for. But such a community is not the only way churches can support the homeless. A coalition of churches can also support the homeless in the following ways:

Provide a network of homeless-friendly congregations
Create a list of churches that have an open-door, no shame policy for the homeless. Perhaps a list of Christian recovery groups could also be made. The churches who would be on this list are not just those that have a "homeless ministry." There are many who do benevolent work for the homeless, but the homeless are not welcome to visit their service. Or if the homeless did visit the service, they would be made immediately uncomfortable by the dress (or the gazes) of the congregation. Rather, a list should be made of churches that specifically welcome the homeless and make allowances for them, such as, in Portland, Liberation Street Church and Peace Mennonite Church (not to mention Anawim Christian Community).

Establish prayer/counseling centers for the lower class
Perhaps a center can be developed downtown, or near downtown that offers prayer and counseling for the needy and poor. Some coffee can be offered, and maybe a pot of soup, but the focus of the ministry would be to welcome and to spiritually serve those on the street. It wouldn’t be a shelter, but a quiet place to focus on God and Jesus in the way the needy one can understand.

Outreach to the homeless that do not have centers near them right now
In the Portland area, there are homeless in Troutdale and in Forest Park that do not have ministries assisting them. Creative thinkers could establish small ministries that might assist these folks.

Encourage ministers to the homeless
Perhaps a multi-church coalition could find ways to support the ministers that already are there, giving their all for the needy. Many believers are already at their limit, giving all they can for the homeless, poor and mentally ill. But they have few to encourage them, to be their in their times of need, to understand their daily concerns, to pray for them at all times, to support them in spiritual warfare. A group that would support the ministers of the homeless would be supporting the homeless in a powerful way.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Seven Most Important Decisions Of Your Life

What are the most important decisions of your life: Who do I marry? What lifestyle do I choose? How do I respond to crises in my life? Who is my core community?
But these decisions aren’t as important as the decisions you make before God. God has more power to change your life than a spouse or crises. These seven decisions will change your life for the better as nothing else will. If you make these decisions, it will help you make the other, less important decisions, and make living with them easier to bear.
Decide To be Devoted to God
"You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and all of your strength."
Not: to believe in God; to worship God on Sundays
But to: Honor God with your every breath, every movement and thought. Surrendering to God all that you are, and relying on Him to be your strength.
Decide To Commit Yourself to Jesus as Lord
"Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?"
Not: To believe in Jesus, to pray the "sinner’s prayer"
But to: Recognize Jesus as your king, even if no one else follows him; To obey his law, to submit to his commands, to be his servant.
Decide To Join a Group of Followers of Jesus
"Be devoted to encouraging one another to love and good deeds."
Not: To be a member of a church; decide where I go on Sunday mornings
But to: Seek a group of people who love Jesus with their whole lives who you will share your life with and talk to each other about how you can all better love God and follow Jesus.
Decide To Live as Jesus Lived
"I have given you an example that you should do as I did."
Not: To be nice; to see yourself as better than others
But to: Be Jesus’ representative in every situation; pray as He would pray; love as He would love; serve as He would serve.
Decide To Seek Out the Spirit’s Work Through You
"The Father will give the Holy Spirit to whoever keeps asking."
Not: To get a positive spiritual experience; To receive a miracle
But to: Continually seek the Holy Spirit to do powerful works for the sake of others; Pray for the Spirit daily to work through you and strengthen you.
Decide To Love Those You Dislike
"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you."
Not: To be sickly sweet to those who irritate you; To forget the mistakes of others
But to: Forgive what you remember; help the needy who have harmed you; assist everyone who has need, without exception
Decide To Surrender Yourself for the Sake of Others
"If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me."
Not: To complain about how much you have "sacrificed"; to get honor for the work you’ve done
But to: Set aside yourself—your family, your friends, your honor, your loves, your preferences, your irritations, your health, your desires, your hopes, even your very life—for the sake of Jesus and those who need you.
If you have already made all of these decisions, then the rest of your life is simply deepening your decisions, and applying these decisions to more and more of your life.
Don’t Give Yourself Just Part Of A Christian Life—Decide to Do It ALL

Monday, March 13, 2006

Faith and Knowledge

Gordon Smith asks: "At what point does faith and knowledge meet? "
Faith is a kind of knowledge. People sometimes get confused about this since a famous philosopher talked about a "leap of faith." Suddenly, faith is something to be believed without facts, without evidence. But no faith works that way.

When we get on an airplane for the first time, we may not have studied all the statistics proving the safety of air flight, nor would we have examined the plane itself for it's soundness. However, we know of and personally know of many people who did fly in airplanes and had no question about their safety. And we have heard of literally thousands, perhaps millions of people who take airplane flights, and so we have a certain amount of knowledge that air travel is safe.

Nevertheless, when we climb on any airplane and wait for it to fly, it is an act of faith. We know that there is a possibility of the airplane crashing. And though it may be unlikely, we know that this airplane we are on could be one of the few that have serious problems. That could make us nervous, even jittery. But we climb on that plane, and act on our faith. It is a faith based on some knowledge, but it is still faith.

This is how it is with us and God as well. God asks us to do things or requests that we believe certain things about him. Do we just take it because the Bible says so? No-- what we believe about God in some way fits with our experience of life. And we have heard others who have similar beliefs in God and how those beliefs have formed their lives for the better.

God recognizes this and supports the knowledge that confirms our faith. This is why God tells us to "remember" so often in Scripture. We need to remember what God has done for us already, because that-- more than any passage in Scripture-- is the basis of our faith. The children of Israel weren't asked to just believe on God based on nothing-- they had the crossing of the Red Sea to base their faith on. We, as Christians, aren't asked to believe in a God we don't understand, but a God who loved us so much that he surrendered his Son to die on the cross for us. The cross was real. Our experiences of God in our lives are real. They are the knowledge on which we build our faith.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Pastoral ministry

These are questions given me by someone interviewing me for a class.

Why are you a pastor? What led you to your sense of being "called" into pastoral ministry?

Because I have been a Jesus freak for a long time, some folks assumed that I would try to be a pastor. I always told them that I couldn't be a pastor because I was too rude and forthright in speech to be a good pastor. No one would want to come to my church! I actually trained to be a missionary.
In 1997, God spoke to me to quit my job and to work full time in ministry among the homeless some of us had already begun. Diane and I started Anawim ministry full time in Peace Mennonite Church, which was a ministry to the homeless community in Gresham. We did some counseling, a bit of teaching and food ministry, as well as referrals. After about a year or so, Peace, as a church, determined that they didn't want to participate with Anawim any more. So we had a choice, we could either stop what God had called us to do, or we could begin our own congregation. So instead of Anawim being an outreach of Peace, it became it's own congregation and we worked as a church plant. At that point I became the de-facto pastor-- Diane didn't want it.
So, in a sense, I never had a call to be a pastor. I had a call to do ministry, to teach, to assist the homeless and the mentally ill. I also have a call to write and to pray. But I would be doing this whether I was a pastor or not. I am not sure if I am a good pastor. I certainly still am of the opinion that I am not a good pastor for those of middle class culture. But I am doing what God wants me to do.

What are some of your personal and professional values in pastoral ministry? What is important to you?

I actually have a long list. These are the people God is looking for:

 Those who trust in the Lord to provide their needs, even if their needs are not met for a time.

-Those who will give up on the American dream, but be content with what God has given them.

 Those who do mercy to others, not just to the repentant, but to those who have the possibility of repenting.

 Those who are directed by the word of Jesus and the Spirit.

 Those who create a community which encourages discipleship.

 Those who remain gentle when provoked—i.e. those who create trust in crisis.

 Those who reveal the Lord in a tri-unity of action, attitude and word.

 Those who confess and repent their own faults, especially reconciling with those whom they have done wrong.

 Those who do not judge by appearances, but listen to find the hidden core of another.

 Those who know that their wisdom does not rest in themselves, but they are dependant on the Lord for what little wisdom they have.

 Those who know that if they fail to depend on the Lord, their leadership fails.

 Those who are humble before those to whom one is giving hospitality or service.

 Those who do not seek the world or worldly means to meet their goals in the Lord, but they are patient for the Lord’s timing.

 Those who regularly wait in the presence of the Lord, listening to the Spirit.

 Those willing and ready to do the lowest tasks joyfully, knowing that humility is the means of our exaltation.

 Those not seeking titles or positions or authorities, but accepting responsibility when it is necessary and offered.

 Those who will consistently pray for others in need, so guiding the Lord’s grace to them.

 Those ready to use all resources at their disposal for the outcast, the needy and the seekers of God, so that they are known as generous.

 Those who will do whatever whenever however, using whatever resources in order to draw other closer to the Lord.

 Those who do not demand a salary, but will accept whatever the Lord offers—even if it is nothing—just in order to do the Lord’s work.

 Those who will not give up on one who is soft toward the Lord for the sake of another, but will draw all toward unity in Christ.

 Those who do not force the truth of God on anyone, but grant all the option of refusing to hear it.

 Those who will create space for, opportunity for, and desire in others to listen to the Spirit.

 Those who have experience of hard labor on earth and of hard rest in the Lord.

 Those who will sacrifice their comfort, their well-being, their relationships, their possessions, their future in this world for the sake of God’s kingdom.

While this isn't the normal definition of a "pastor", I believe that the Lord is calling people with these commitments to be in ministry, no matter what their profession.

What is one of the more difficult specific pastoral situations you have faced?

In broad terms, what do you most enjoy about being a pastor? What do you find most difficult?
(Just to let you know, all of the following is my personal experience)
It is hard to stand up to someone who is threatening to beat you, fists in your face, and not give in to anger, or give up on protecting others.
It is hard to see people give up on the Lord for their own gods that have destroyed their lives up until that point.
It is hard to tell people what you know they don't want to hear, and then be blamed because they didn't like the message.
It is hard to study for a week, a month or a year on a subject, and then be told that you don't know what you're talking about.
It is hard to be called a heretic for standing with what Jesus says.
It is hard to rarely have a moment of quiet for yourself.
It is hard to hardly have time to talk to your wife, to be mentally exhausted all the time, to go to bed each night, with your body feeling like you have been beaten.

It is great when you see people making decisions for God based on one of your teachings.
It is great to get the opportunity to baptize someone.
It is great to see dozens of people show up just because they wanted to hear you teach God's word.
It is great to have someone who you think is ignorant-- because they are mentally ill, for instance-- teach you something that you never would have thought of yourself.
It is great to have the opportunity to "set appointments" to pray and to study God's word, and no one will tell you that you aren't doing anything important.
It is great to share God's love with people all the time, every day, through both action and word.
It is great to have the opportunity to do just what God wants you to do, when He tells you to do it.

But probably my most favorite part of being in this ministry is seeing the Spirit work through me, because I am too ignorant, too weak, too tired, too impatient to do it right. So when it happens just right, I know that it's God working through me! That's the best!