The 'roll' of the Holy Spirit

Last week I taught a class at our church's high school group about the role of the Holy Spirit and how to live life in the power of the Spirit. I have said before that I think it is very important for all believers to learn how to walk in the power of the Spirit. It was great afterwards as several high schoolers came up and thanked me and talked about how useful it was to learn about how God wants them to live lives of power, abundance, and fruitfulness.

Anyway, I had several pages of handouts that I gave the class with Scripture, illustrations, and such. After the class was over, all the boys in the class realized quickly that the handouts, rolled up all at once, made quite the firm object for hitting each other over the head. Guys were running everywhere, hitting each other over the heads with my handouts.

Watching it was pretty funny. One could draw a parallel between hitting each other in the heads with the handouts, and how we often use truth and doctrine in our lives, but that is for a person more clever than I am.


Kid humor

Alex: "Underpants are kind of like a t-shirt for your weiner."



I have been reading up on atheism a lot lately, and will continue to do so for some time. It is a growing and growing worldview that I am beginning to think many Christians, including myself, are ill-prepared to address. The arguments for and against the existence of God are complex, and although I have no doubt that the arguments for the existence of God are stronger than those against, there is much to learn.

As I was browsing an atheist website a few days ago, the author, who was very thorough and well-researched, cited a recent study that showed that 60% of all scientists deny the existence of God.

In one episode of "The Simpsons," Homer loses a bunch of money gambling on sports. The prognosticator on the TV says, "Well, I was right 48% of the time this season, which means that I was wrong 52% of the time." Homer, angry, tears up his betting slip and bellows, "Well why didn't you say that!!"

In my opinion, the more amazing side of that 60% number is that 40% of all scientists do not discount the existence of a god or ordering power of some kind. This by no means makes them theists, or even deists. What it does mean is that a large number of scientists see order and purpose of some kind in the world.

The scientific method begins with the goal of understanding the universe and its processes apart from any supernatural causation. That is, lightning comes from charged particles moving from cloud to ground (or the other way, I'm not sure), rather than from angry gods hurling judgment from the sky. Overall, I think that the scientific method is a good thing.

But it also infects bias into the personal judgment of many scientists. A number of 40% seems so high because every area of inquiry begins with a baseline "no supernatural" assumption. The fact that many are willing to admit seeing something past that assumption is telling.

If you were to talk to numerous teachers, and you found out that most every school taught kids to read by whole-word recognition rather than phonics, you might be inclined to believe that it was the established best way to teach reading to kids. But if another survey showed that 60% of all teachers believed that whole-word recognition was the best way to teach kids to read, and that 40% of all teachers believed that a phonics-based approach was the better way, than you could reasonably conclude that the case was not in fact closed at all.

Allison's observation

The other day Anne and Allison were in our bedroom. Allison found a feather from the quilt top on our bed. She held it up for Anne to see and said:

"Ewww, I found one of Daddy's nose hairs."


Thoughts on Hell

I was recently talking with a friend of mine about ministry. She was talking about how sad it can be when we meet people that do not know Jesus, and how heartbreaking it can be to know that without Jesus, people are separated from God. She asked me if it ever bothers me that there are very nice people that will end up in Hell, apart from God.

This is indeed one of the most difficult questions put before the Christian today. The idea of Hell is repugnant, as it should be. People should not be excited that they or others will spend eternity apart from God, the source of life and all good things. But just because we recoil from an idea or teaching does not affect whether or not it is true.

I thought that I would share with you my response to her. You see, it is my belief that God is totally just and righteous, no matter what happens to me or anyone else. I had two thoughts, one of which is not my own, and one that is.

My first response is actually an argument set forth by CS Lewis. He states that in recent history we have elevated the virture of kindness or 'niceness' to a level above other virtues which were elevated in other times and places. In our day and age, to be kind is more important than many other virtues, like discipline, or chastity, or generosity. That is why we recoil so strongly at the thought of a 'nice' person going to hell - it is an offense against a virtue we have elevated more highly than other virtues that are equally as important.

In other days and ages, kindness was less important in relation to other virtues than it is now. Other societies valued temperance and discipline more highly, for example. In Victorian England, the thought of a chaste person being in Hell would have offended them in the same way that we are offended by a kind person being in Hell. Nowadays we are more sexually 'liberated', and so this is not such an offense to us because our expectations are different. In reality, all the virtues are important, even if we elevate some above others for a time.

My second response occured to me as I was talking to her. Basically, a person is what we consider 'nice' mostly through circumstances beyond their control. Family background, random encounters with good influences and experiences, and a host of other factors go in to making someone 'nice'. By the same token, a 'mean' or 'evil' person is shaped in a major way by circumstances equally beyond his own control. Can a person control what type of family he is born into? Can a person control a random encounter with a molester at a young age? Can a person control the life or death of parents, or what type of education he will receive, or a host of other circumstances?

My point is that we are who we are largely because of forces beyond our control. We are judged on how we choose to respond to our circumstances, but particularly during childhood, those factors are far from our ability to choose. Who would choose the divorce of their parents? Who would choose to endure serious illness at a young age? Who would choose to be bullied and picked on?

I am not saying that all of our problems are someone else's fault, but simply that it is easier to grow up and be 'nice' or 'good' if the breaks fall our way. My parents stayed together and disciplined me when I needed it. This helps me as a person, but I can't count it to my credit that they did so. They were shaped by their environments in good and bad ways as well, by factors beyond their control, and likewise back through the generations. We are at the mercy of others all through our lives, and don't even know it.

So it is for everyone. So how then is it more just for God to condemn 'mean' or 'bad' people, if they are at the mercy of others, and then save the 'nice' or 'good' people who are equally at the mercy of others for much of their character? I believe the answer is, that it is NOT more just for God to do so.

And this speaks to the Bible, which teaches that all of us are born into sin, and of ourselves are unable to be saved and know God. This is where the work of Christ, the only life ever untouched by sin, saves us. Only the full and true emodiment of 'good' can save us from sin and separation from God. Jesus lived the perfect life not because of any circumstance, but because he came with the full power and person of God to live as a man.

That is truly just and righteous, not that God would judge us, condemning or saving us in relation to other humans that are so much the product of others, but rather that he would come from outside the picture and do the work of righteousness for us. It is our nature to silently condemn others by feeling morally superior to them. As long as someone has a little more apparent sin than we do, we feel justified in our own sin. "Surely I am not as bad as they are!" But that is not the standard by which God measures us; we are judged in relation to HIS holiness and righteousness, not our own or others'.

By identifying ourselves with Jesus, we are finally able to transcend all circumstance and stand before God confident that becasue of Jesus we found adequate for the Kingdom of God. In Jesus, no longer does anyone have to live one-up or one-down in relation to everyone else. Instead, we can finally live in a right relationship with our Creator, as we were meant to live.


Actually overheard

A conversation Anne overheard the kids having:

Allison: "There are two kinds of dam: one is where beavers live, and the other you say when you forget something."

Alex: "What was the song we made up about the two kinds of dam?"

Allison: "I don't remember."

Alex, singing: "Dam dam dam is the beaver dam...I can't remember the rest."

Campus happenings

We are at the time of year when, oddly, we are thinking about the end of the school year. Although it is still a few months off, now is when we think through how we will go about ending the year well and begin setting up for the fall.

At the moment, we are performing some overhaul on several of our ministries. We have been to the corners of the city this year, and where we have seen God's blessing is where we are investing our time. But each extant ministry has something that needs to be tweaked or adjusted toward maximum health and effectiveness.

For example, one of our ministries has a very strong church partnership. But the student involvement in Campus Crusade's retreats and conferences is non-existent. This requires that we work with the church leaders to help raise the profile of missions and conferences to the students involved on that campus. I am working with our staff team representative at that school to map out a course of action to do so.

There are probably a half-dozen such adjustments that we are making this winter/spring. Some, like the example given, are minor; others are more drastic. In each case we must proceed with care, wisdom, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to make changes that are useful and sensitive to the students.


They're not all home runs

For every great story that comes out of a ministry, there are probably twice as many dead-ends. A few weeks ago we finally launched a ministry at WSU-Vancouver, with four students showing up.

In the first week we spent the whole time showing them what we are all about - planting ministries of prayer, evangelism, discipleship, and sending on every campus in Portland, and training and equipping students to lead those ministries.

As we met with these four students, we began teaching them about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is my opinion, and the opinion of countless Campus Crusade staff before me, that this is the single most important doctrinal concept to understand and apply: that God has sent his Spirit to live in us and give us the power and ability to live a life in his will and to live a life that brings glory to him. What better news is there?

Anyway, the students were less than excited to go over this material. They had heard it before, although I am not sure if they understood it or not. But it is standard training that we would give to any student that would desire to lead one of our groups. Today I received this email:

"I have been praying and thinking about our discussion and CCC in general on campus over the past few days and wanted to let you know what I think. It seems I did not realize exactly how campus crusade interacted with clubs on campus as was obvious in our discussion on Monday. I understand that as a organization you want to have things structured the way you do, and I do not disagree morally with that style. Unfortunately it is not really the style I imagined for our club on campus and so I am going to have to split paths with you guys."

It seems that they were looking more for a "fellowship" on campus. Campus Crusade is looking to build a "missional community" there. Once they saw what we were asking, they apparently decided they did not have the time nor desire to commit to it.

And that is OK. When starting a ministry, nothing is more important than finding the right people, people who are aligned to the vision you are casting. Had we continued with these students, I believe all of us, staff and students, would have been frustrated at some point in the future.

I am encouraging them to go ahead and start the kind of group on campus that they were hoping we'd be. If they have a specific vision, maybe God will use them too. In the meantime, we are going to continue seeking other students who are on board with the missional community model of ministry.

Your prayers are appreciated.


What about Alex?

So we always have posts up now about the funny things Allison says. She seems to be going through a phase now where every word is comedy gold. But Alex is pretty funny too. Coyotes are a case in point.

Alex is both fascinated by and terrified of coyotes. They work their way into the strangest places in conversations, too.

A while ago we were driving through Portland when we saw a couple homeless people putting down their sleeping bags under a freeway overpass. Alex asked why they were going to sleep there. We explained to him that some people don't have houses, and do the best they can.

Alex thought about this for a while and then said, "Well, I can't believe they'd sleep outside like that. Do you know why?"

Me: "I don't know...uhh, coyotes?"

Alex, sitting forward in his car seat and raising his finger in the air: "That's what I'm talking about!"

Tonight we ate dinner at Costco, and Allison dropped her hotdog on the floor. Alex asked me what we do now that she dropped her dinner. I said that we could just leave it there and a coyote would come along later and eat it. Alex looked over at the huge garage doors that led out of the building and into the parking lot, and said, "There could be coyotes in here. They never shut those doors!"

One night Alex came down stairs from bed because he thought he heard a coyote in the house. This is not an uncommon occurence. But this night he noticed that the doors to the house were locked. With a huge sigh of relief, he asked if we locked the doors every night. When we said yes, he said, "Well good. Because a coyote can't unlock a door...can it?"


More from Allison

Recently I (Adam) have been helping Allison learn how to count to 20, and back from 10 to 1. The other day I asked Allison to count backward from 10. Her response:

"Only if you dance for me."


Allison's thoughts on Ace...

A couple weeks ago Adam and I were watching Ace Ventura, a personal favorite of ours from college. We left the video tape in the VCR because we rarely use our VCR anymore. The box for the video tape was sitting close by.

Later that week Allison wanted to watch 'a movie', as opposed to 'a CD'. I told her she could pick one and put it in the VCR. She went to put her movie in the VCR, and then returned to me saying...

"There's already a movie in there. You know, that movie of Daddy's where that boy does ballet."