Let My People Think

Posts tagged ‘faith’

Heart beliefs vs. religious indoctrination

Deaf Ears of ReligionWhen you come to really believe something, your entire heart buys into that belief. If there are any obstacles to believing something, they need to be impartially looked at, and properly addressed. If the object of your faith is truly trustworthy, and your doubts are removed in a way in which you personally believe, then you enter into a realm of faith where “everything is possible”. Literally, everything is a fluctuating field of quantum possibilities, waiting for you, the observer and the influencer, to enmesh your heart-level beliefs with it. That will invariably produce the intended result.

A subtle yet deadly enemy of faith is mind-level indoctrination. In Western churches, we are often offered a very superficial set of teachings (“doctrines”) to which we are required to intellectually assent. The payoffs of that superficial agreement to a set of metaphysical propositions are: a sense of social belonging with the group, a promise of getting on the good side of God, and avoiding immeasurable pain in the afterlife.

The reality of spiritual things in Christ

The Scriptures point us to the reality that is to be lived and experienced, and not merely memorized as a doctrine or quoted. Jesus is a living person who wants to communicate with us, the kingdom is vibrant and ever-present, and it’s up to us to break into this reality. More often than not, it’s a progress, and it may take a while to get there. It’s a mirror principle – we get close to God, he gets close to us. It’s like a dance – God only makes the steps which will keep him in sync with where we are.

We can’t just quote Scriptures, punctuating them with victorious amens, and then moving on to life as usual. As if merely quoting the Scripture will bring anyone any closer the reality that it points to. Case in point: “It’s no longer I, but Christ who lives in me”. I have heard this verse quoted dozens of times by people claiming it to be their reality, but I have met less than 10 people in my 22 years of being with Christ who reflected that in their everyday life. Actually, the number is closer to 5. I am not one of those people, either. I love this Scripture, it’s a wonderful summit to climb, but I am still on the way.

“Preacher talk” – a subtle but deadly faith-killer

Preacher teaching: 2 + 2 = 5One thing that I have less and less tolerance for is “preacher talk”. So many times I hear a lot of grandstanding coming from the elevated platform, and then I see time and again that a lot of those things are simply said because it just “preaches well”. Sometime it’s just sickening. And many don’t even realize how destructive that “preacher talk” effect is on one’s heart. You can’t fool the built-in BS detector that humans carry inside their hearts.

After a while, when there’s no sincerity and genuineness that connects the pulpit with real life, people tend to compartmentalize all of the insincere hallelujahs, amens, praise the lords, glory to gods, and all the rest of that religious vocabulary long ago emasculated of its real meaning into a little mental box whose label reads “Church talk. Relevant Sunday mornings only, inside steepled buildings. DO NOT try this at home”.

Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego saved from the blazing furnace: an example of unwavering faith, or a “sovereign” act of God?


Let’s consider the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (the pagan names by which Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah became known). You might want to re-read Daniel chapters 1-3 for this.

I will examine the test in a translation that’s literal and fairly faithful to the original. NKJV suffices in this instance. Please feel free to consult an interlinear for this, to verify with the original text (I have). We will be relying on the inspired original text for the correct understanding. I could have translated this hyper-literally from the original, but I want to make a point that what I am about to say can easily be established based on a literal English translation that’s true to the original like NKJV or YLT, using simple logic.

Daniel 3:1, 4-6 sets up the scene:
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
4 Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; 6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”

Daniel’s 3 friends, being true to their Jewish faith that forbade idol worship, didn’t comply. They immediately got reported to the king. Here’s king Nebuchadnezzar’s response:

Daniel 3:14-15
14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”

Translator’s additions are in italics, and are not part of the original text.

Please notice the two sets of conditional sentences in v. 15 stating two cause-and-effect scenarios:

King’s two “ifs”
1) If you worship – then nothing (literally, the text says nothing – meaning no consequences to the three youths)
2) If you do not worship – then you shall be cast immediately into the burning fiery furnace.

The king concludes his ultimatum with asking this sarcastic question: “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” The ball is now in the hands of the 3 faithful Hebrew young men.

Now, let’s look at their response to the king.

The blindness of being judgmental, and the power of personal presence

Scent of a woman

A couple of weeks ago, I watched an old classic “Scent of a Woman”, starring Al Pacino and Chris O’Donnell. It’s about a blind man, retired Lt. Colonel Frank Slade, who is not only physically blind, but is also blind to a lot of things in life. He spends a weekend with his young guide Charlie Simms, a young college kid. Although his physical blindness remained, that experience amazingly completely changed the surly Colonel’s outlook on life, and he began to see things in life he previously couldn’t.

This movie is one of the most masterful and powerful artistic illustrations of the ability to change people’s life through the power of personal presence.

The way we grow up and mature as humans is by forming judgments about the world. We observe the world around us, but we are not merely neutral observers. Depending on whether certain experiences are perceived as pleasurable or traumatic, harmful or beneficial, we assign different emotional values to an array of events and experiences. Also, depending on our upbringing, we adopt large portions of the worldview of our family – parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.

Inner transformation through the power of personal presence

Good Will Hunting“Good Will Hunting” is amazing movie in all regards. Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon, is an troubled young man with a photographic memory and an IQ off the charts. He couldn’t get in on a good education, so he was working as a janitor. No one was really interested in him, except for a few of his buddies. He was basically a nobody from everyone’s perspective, just another kid who always got himself into trouble.

Almost accidentally, his amazing intellect gets discovered. Suddenly, any people wanted to get on the same train with Will. Dr. Lambeau, an ambitious math professor who wanted to make a name for himself by exploiting the young man’s math prowess. An government organization that wanted Will to crack enemy code. Suddenly, everyone wanted Will for what he could do for them. And yet, no one wanted him for who he was. Except for his new girlfriend, and his new shrink, Sean Maguire, played by the magnificent Robin Williams. Sean saw Will for who he was – a wounded, guilt-ridden young man who was hiding behind a facade of sarcasm and authority-flouting. He saw a good Will Hunting in that boy.


Corners of Jesus’ garment

Woman with the issue of blood touching the tassels on Jesus' garment

Ancient Jewish history and culture is very relevant to our interpretation of the Scriptures, particularly Old Testament, the Gospels, Hebrew Epistles, and the book of Revelation (i.e., non-Pauline writings).

Jewish history and culture holds contextual cues to understanding many of the above passages. And yet, you don’t need to go much beyond the Bible to relate to it. Let’s just take one example.

In ancient Israel, men tied tassels (tzitzit) on edges of their outer garments (which evolved into prayer shawls, or tallit).

Numbers 15:37-41 prescribes this to Israel:


Disobedience or unbelief?

Romans 10:21
21 But to Israel he says:
“All day long I have stretched out My hands
To a disobedient and contrary people.”

in Rom 10:21 the word that is translated “disobedient” is actually ἀπειθέω (G544) – apeitheo, or “unpersuadable”, or “one who won’t allow self to be persuaded”, “one refusing or withholding belief”, etc. This adjective comes from the verb πείθω (G3922) – peitho – to be persuaded. The noun “πίστις” (G4102) – pistis – “faith” – is actually derived from the latter verb.


Faith of God

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. […]

In Gal 5:22 πίστις (G4102) – “pistis”, or faith (you can call it “faithfulness” as long as you understand that it’s the same exact word that’s translated “faith” just about everywhere else) is listed as the fruit of the spirit.  So is love, joy, peace, etc.  All those things are what my spirit produces as fruit.  Meaning the Christ-kind-of faith faculty is there, and if exercised correctly, is able to produce in no worse a way that the faith of Christ himself produced when he walked on this Earth.


Protection from persecution


Persecution and harm resulting from persecution aren’t the same thing.

Let’s consider a question that might be asked in the following format (which is fairly typical for this sort of question):

If you are a Christian in a work camp in North Korea and you read the protection scriptures it might seem that they are not true.

Here’s an analogous question:

If you are a Christian hospitalized with a life-threatening desease and you read the healing scriptures it might seem that they are not true.


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