The Ambiguities of our Faith

It’s a strange but true fact that we are often held captive by our culture. For example, in the West, we believe truth is usually black or white.

I was sitting in a lecture hall at Yale University, scratching my head, trying to decipher Dr. “Freddy” Wang’s accent. “Chinese is wery ahm-big-oo-us.”  Forty of us were there to learn Mandarin, courtesy of the Air Force. NSA would then train us to spy on the Chinese mainland. Anyway, after his lecture, we were laughing at Freddy’s repeated attempts to say, “Very ambiguous.”

Years later it dawned on me. In that phrase, our professor was sharing with us the wisdom of his ancient culture. We johnny-come-lately westerners are clueless about the oriental insight into the dynamics of ambiguities such as yin and yang.  Webster’s defines ambiguous as” having two or more possible meanings. In the West, we keep trying to force reality into “‘either…or,” a rather static view of the world and the Word.

English has many synonyms for ambiguous. Paradox is one. Dialectic is another. The dialectic method holds that two contrasting ideas (dualities) may be in tension with each other, to reconcile the two into one new meaning, called synthesis.  In simple terms it means life is not always “either… or.” Sometimes it is “both…and. Our Christian faith has such ambiguities. Not convinced? How do you answer these questions?

  • Is Jesus man or God?
  • Is God one or three?
  • Are we saved by God’s grace or by our faith?
  • Are we going to be judged by our faith or our works?
  • Is salvation a present or future reality?
  • Which testament portrays God’s true nature, the Old or the New?
  • Does God judge us in our sins or extend forgiveness?

Congratulations if you answered “both” to all seven. Paradoxes like these have sadly been the cause for dividing Christians for centuries. Often it’s because the western mind fails to grasp what the eastern mind does–reality is not always a one-edged thing. Sometimes it has two-edges, as we see in this passage, “God’s word is living and active, as sharp as a two-edged sword, dividing asunder soul and spirit, where joints and marrow join, for God’s word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions.” –Heb. 4:12.

Did you notice the five underlined pairs? They are dualities. I believe the inspired writer put them there purposely, to help us see truth often has two edges—two contrasting ideas in harmony with each other.  This insight helps us resolve so-called discrepancies found in Scripture. It also may help us reconcile doctrinal controversies.

Consider two passages, quoted by opposing sides of one such controversy. “I have written these things that you may know you have eternal life – 1 John 5: 13. “How can those who abandon their faith be brought back to repent?”-Heb. 6:4. It’s tempting for one who is zealous for his doctrinal position, to twist a text to make it agree with his view, or to manipulate one to disprove the other. But why not let God’s Word be His Word? ”Let God be true and every man a liar– Romans 3.4. We can solve the dilemma when we hold these two truths in tension with each other. We are not forced to choose one over the other.

Once on a long car trip, I sat between two pastors. Each of them was as dogmatic as the other, heatedly arguing Calvinism vs. Arminianism, proof texting their positions from Scripture. After many miles of this, I finally spoke up. “You know, I believe you are actually both right. But is it “right” to let your doctrinal views come between you as brothers?”

Many church splits have been caused by these kinds of disputes. How sad, when the inspired Word clearly states,  “Be in harmony; show love for one another; be united in spirit and agree with one mind”– Phil, 2.2.  Brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus the Messiah,[o] I urge all of you to be in agreement[p] and not to have divisions among you, so that you may be perfectly united in your understanding and opinions. –I Cor. 1.10

Paul is just following Jesus when he made this fervent prayer before his passion. ”Father, may they all be one, as you and I are one…may they have such perfect unity that the world will know you sent me.”–John 17.21-23.

Please add your comments. They keep us going. Thanks

 

United We Stand

Divided We Fall. Lincoln was so committed to the idea  of unity he went to war to keep America one nation under God. Along the way he freed an enslaved race. His ideal came from Jesus,  “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3: 23, 24).

Blind Spots. Are we Christians able to adjust our mirrors to see our glaring blind spot—the absurdity of rejoicing over being one nation, yet happily engaging in our own little ministries, while disregarding the work of our brethren?  From this we have many Continue reading

Our Vision

People sometimes ask why we have such a passion to see the body of Christ come together and become one in the Spirit of God. Years ago, this burden was placed on a mentor of mine, a humble pastor whom I loved—Leonard Evans.

The Lord visited him and told him the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit in the last century was for the purpose of realizing the prayer of Christ, “Father, may they be one, that the world may believe.” Everywhere he went he preached the love message of John 13: 34, 35, “Love one another as I have loved you that the world may recognize you are my disciples.”  His people got sick of his message. “Can’t you preach something else,” they complained.  But he could not.

My good friend, Leonard, died young, I believe of a broken heart. Not only was his message rejected by everyone, the church became more fragmented than ever.

Now I’m not a visual person. I rarely see anything when I close my eyes. Yet, over 25 years ago, while in prayer I saw something that changed my life. It was vivid and in living color.

The Vision: I saw a lovely young woman, dressed in white, like a bride, wandering alone and lost in a barren wilderness. Her beautiful gown was ripped, soiled and tattered. She was thirsty and frightened. Tears stained her face. Each step she took left a bloody footprint in the sand.

“Lord,” I asked. Who is this woman?”

“My bride,” He answered, my American bride.” I wept for her! I could not stop weeping but I felt the comfort of the Bridegroom weeping by my side as well.

Excited, I began preaching and sharing this message, but like my mentor, there was little receptivity to my message. I was puzzled, Why was this vision given to me?  Finally, after so much rejection, I got discouraged and put this call aside, thinking it was too impossible.

When I retired and was ready to take it easy, I met a woman with whom I shared this vision. Immediately she accepted it as from God and later she became my wife.

“You mustn’t give up. God wants you to continue on the path he put you on.” It was like a prophecy.

I cried out to God. “What can I do?”

“Intercede,” he said, “and prophesy! Call my lost bride back home that she may be restored to her former glory.  Weep with me. Woo her and win her back to her Bridegroom. There are many others that I’m calling as well. This is the hour of her restoration.”

We are committed to this holy vision, in part through prayer and in part through this blog The Horizontal Church.

Lord of Mercy and Grace, forgive us our divisions. Heal and restore us, we pray and bring us back into the unity of former days. Restore your church to her former glory and power. 

Profile of a Supernatural Church

While studying Acts in the Koine, I stumbled onto a significant pattern featuring a very special word found only in the book of Acts. [See Greek below]. The apostles used similar Greek words having the same sense.

ὁμοθυμαδόν  {homo–thoo-mad-on’}
1) with one mind 2) with one accord, 3) with one passion

Whenever Luke used this word, without fail, supernatural things happened. This is significant since it’s exactly what Jesus promised would happen if his disciples obeyed his command to love one another, i.e. the world would believe their testimony (John 13: 34, 35). Moreover, in his high priestly prayer, our Lord indicated the same outcome if they fulfilled his prayer to be one as he and the Father were one. (John 17: 21, 23). We find a third connection when homothumadon  is translated “in agreement.” This echoes Jesus’ promise of his special presence  in Matthew 18 when his church prays “in agreement” [Greek: symphonos  i.e. in harmony].

Scriptures: (KJV)

  1. Acts 1:14: They continued with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon] in prayer and supplication,
  2. Acts 2: 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν]
  3. Acts 2: 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν] in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
  4. Acts 4: 24: When they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, [ὁμοθυμαδόν] ,
  5. Acts 5: 12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν] in Solomon’s porch.
  6. Acts 8:6; And the people with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν] gave heed unto those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
  7. Acts 15:25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδόν], to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

Outcomes:

Acts 1: 14 The 120 received the baptism in the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:41  Apostles gave powerful testimony, church grew from 120 to 3120;

Acts 2: 46 Church earned the respect of unbelievers and God added greatly to their number.

Acts 4: 24 The whole place was shaken Holy Spirit gave them boldness to give testimonies;

Acts 5:12 Many signs and wonders, unsaved heard and received their testimony; church growth;

Acts 8:6 Samaritans witnessed miracles and gave heed to Philip’s testimony;

Acts 15: 25 Outpouring of financial blessing to needy Jerusalem church by church in Antioch.

Let’s Put Harmony into God’s House How is your church doing? Are we experiencing the supernatural? If not, it may be because we don’t take Jesus’ command “to love one another” to heart. Or maybe we are in disagreement and disunity, rather than agreement. When we put harmony into God’s house, the Holy Spirit smiles and blesses. When we don’t he grieves.

Please comment below. It encourages us in this mission to promote Christ’s command and see his prayer “May they be One” answered. Thanks.

Ever Been Locked Out of the Church?

Locked Out. One night I came to the church sanctuary to rehearse a song, but the door was locked. There was no bell, so I knocked and yelled. I peered through the heavy glass doors. Inside I could see folks rehearsing, but they couldn’t see or hear me. It was hard to believe I could be locked out of what we call God’s house, so I walked around the complex looking for an open door. They were all locked as well. Seeing people inside, I knocked and waved, but no one had a clue I was out there.   Continue reading

Christ’s Church: Living Stones or Scattered Rocks?

“You are Peter [Gr. Petros—stone], and on this rock [Gr. petra—huge rock] I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not withstand it.” (Matthew 16:18)

“You believers are living stones, being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood” (I Peter 2:5)

What is the church? Years ago the Lord called a dedicated young believer to “build my church.” Since there was a broken down chapel nearby, St. Francis rolled up his sleeves and went to work. Soon he was joined by many like-minded disciples. Francis came to realize his mistake. By church, Jesus didn’t mean Continue reading