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"If the Church's agenda is not The Kingdom agenda, it's the wrong agenda, no matter how good it looks or how successful it appears." ---- T. Allen Robburts +=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+ Shoulder To Shoulder #599 ---- 6/1/09 Title: "Has Culture Shaped Your Theology?"
My Dear Friend and Kingdom Crusader: I'm sending this again since, for some reason it either didn't ever arrive at my mailer's site, or it failed there to be processed. I know he did maintenance work on the site a couple of days ago, so perhaps there was a glitch. Today I greet you "on the road" as we travel to St. Paul, MN to see Sergey Johnson, one of our grandsons, graduate from high school. We had lunch Sunday with friends in Liberty, MO, ate supper at Famous Dave's Barbeque and spent the night in Des Moines, and are now on our way to St. Paul where we'll conclude the evening with a dinner cruise on the Mississippi with daughter, Cheri, and her family. Sergey graduates tomorrow night, and then we'll head to Viroqua, Reedsburg, and Watertown, Wisconsin (respectively) before turning south into Illinois Friday afternoon to spend the week-end with our youngest daughter and her family in Galesburg, IL. Jim pastors a new church in nearby Knoxville, named after John Knox. I'll also write to you next week from there before we head home. I hope you don't mind receiving these miscellaneous bits of information each week; this is a relatively new feature of my letters, and I know the articles make them much longer. However, I feel these are things of importance to the Body of Christ. So, for what they're worth, . . .
This 'n' That: + Think It's Not Happening In America? If you're one who still thinks that freedom of religious expression and freedom of assembly is unchallenged in America, take a look at http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=98895, an article telling another story of the liberal and secular agenda to strip religious influence from our society. This type of thing has been happening across America for the past forty years, and is on the increase. If, however, this had been Buddhism, Islam, Scientology, or some other non-Biblical religious gathering, it would have likely gone uncontested. There is no doubt that Judeo-Christian values, and Christianity particularly, is intentionally being targed with such harrassment and threats. This type of activity must be challenged and defeated . . . and the first place to start is not after the harrassment; it is in the ballot box by electing the right kind of people to local, regional, state, and national positions. It's another example of where the judicial system is making laws instead of simply enforcing and interpreting them. + Important News Reporting Sites From a Christian Perspective: For years I hesitated to subscribe to many of the conservative and/or evangelical Christian news sources because I questioned whether or not they would be accurate and
trustworthy. I felt they might simply be "soap box" rhetoric" sites. However, I'm finding them to be most helpful in knowing the truth about things going on that the liberal media either ignores, hides, or refuses to cover. So, let me commend to you these sites, and urge you to sign up for their e-mail service so you are always informed of important matters. www.wnd.com/ -- WorldNet Daily News www.onenewsnow.com -- One News Now from AFA. www.cnsnews.com -- Christian News Service. www.wallbuilders.org -- Great source on America's Christian heritage and contemporary issues. firstname.lastname@example.org -www.Religion_Today@crosswalkmail.com -www.humanevents.com -- news from a conservative political perspective www.breakpoint.org -- Several sources from Chuck Colson's ministry. In addition, there are other non-Christian sources such as www.foxnews.com + Join the Global Day of Prayer on 31 May 2009! On Pentecost Sunday 31 May 2009, Christians in 220 nations are uniting in prayer for the advance of God's Kingdom. Even in some of the most difficult places, like the south of Sudan and the war ravaged provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, believers will come together. http://www.globaldayofprayer.com/ + A Website For Older Folks Like Me: An American friend and Rhodes' Scholar, Hal Foster, whom Jo Ann and I met not long after moving to Ukraine in 2003 recently sent me the following website for the older generation. I've taken a very quick look at it, and even though I don't know enough yet to fully endorse it, what I did see was "fun". Take a look at http://granpajohn.com/. Apparently Grandpa John is a real person. Here's what he wrote in the accompanying e-mail ---"Hello. Thanks in advance for visiting GranpaJohn.com. I am 82 years old and live on a lake in the Japan Alps, Nagano Prefecture. www.GranpaJohn.com is the perfect website for people over 60 years old. It promises to be amusing, strange and interesting even to younger folks between 9 and 59 who have never seen the Burma Shave signs on Route 66 or heard phrases such as “keep your shirt on” or “the cat’s whiskers.” The main idea is to jump start the nostalgia mode of elderly people....to take them back to the music, jokes, commentaries of those good times and not-so-good times of the 1940s, 1950s, etc." + Ten Questions For Supreme Court Nominees: Someone has created ten questions, most rather laborious, that all Supreme Court nominees should be asked. Go to http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=32010 to see the questions. + A Pro-Life Statement: I'm really not a major Facebook player . . . simply don't have the time . . . but, one of my daughters sent me the following link to an organization that I think can make a significant Pro-Life statement. What began last Feb 14th with one single person multiplied to over one million people by April, and currently stands at almost a million and a half members. Take a look at http://www.facebook.com/n/?group.php&gid=50871032969& mid=881acbG2866780eG2411725G6. If this interests you, sign up, and invite friends and family to do the same. It's a simple way of declaring your support for the sacredness of human life and the wellfare of the pre-born. The site will also provide access to helpful preaching, teaching, writing materials on the subject. + Majority of Americans Oppose Gay Marriage: Go to http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=32036 to read an article by Michelle Oddis in which she cites the most recent USA Today/Gallup poll showing that 57% of Americans oppose legalizing same sex marraige.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE? ---"Steering Wheel Time" is often my thinking and contemplating time, much to Jo Ann's consternation. She'd much rather talk about things than sit silently beside me while I drift off into my "thinking" world. Take yesterday, for example. The thought certainly has crossed her mind more than once in our fifty years of marriage that, for a preacher who is accustomed to talking often and endlessly, I sure don't say much when the two of us are cruising down the highway. I really do try, . . . but it seems that the things in my mind whir by almost as rapidly as the scenery. Yesterday was typical, I'm afraid. But, the thing on my mind was a subject of what I believe to be critical significance. It was a recurrence of thoughts I've had literally scores of times, especially since our third daughter began adopting five children from Russia (that was eighteen years ago). And, now we're on our way to see the youngest of the five graduate from high school. The fact that we've been involved in ministry internationally since 1995 has added to the pattern. And,
believe it or not, even my recent series on Revival has caused me to face the question again. Thanks to the kind but pointed comments of two long-time friends, my "theology of revival" was challenged . . . and, frankly, significantly dismantled. It started with a simple commentary showing me that while "revival" is repeatedly found in the Old Testament, it is never mentioned a single time in the New Testament. The thought occurred to me . . . "If revival is so important to the Church and is necessary for societal spiritual awakening, why didn't Jesus ever talk about it, or the other writers address it? If, then, revival is never mentioned in the New Testament, is my theology of revival all messed up?" The more I considered it, the more I realized that this particular subject was not the only one in which my theology may be suspect. For a guy who was born and raised in a conservative, Bible-believing home, under the influence of a strong Bible preaching pastor-father, a follower of Christ for 65 years, and who is the product of some of America's great Christian educational institutions, you'd think my theology would be pretty solid biblically. And, . . . it may be. But, . . . maybe not. Is it possible that culture has shaped my theology more than I want to admit?
WHY DO YOU BELIEVE IT? ---Perhaps even more important an issue than what I believe, is why I believe it. And, that's the point I want to get you to consider. I first considered this in 1956 when I sat in my Old Testament Survey class reading Dr. H. I. Hester's classic "The Heart of Hebrew History". My professor had the gall to ask his class why we believed what we did. He went on to declare that many of us in his class believed what we did simply because that's what our parents, pastor, or Sunday school teacher told us. That really rubbed me the wrong way, but I had to admit that perhaps he was right. At least it started me on a decades-long path of taking a hard and honest look at my theology and what had shaped my beliefs. It's an unsettling feeling to consider that your theology may be built too much on what others have told you to believe, rather than on God speaking from His Word by His Spirit directly to your heart. I'm happy to say that most of my theology hasn't changed, though some has. I am a fortunate man indeed to have been raised, nurtured, and taught by a man who believed the Bible . . . all of it . . . was God breathed, had no error of any kind in its original text, and was completely true and trustworthy in every area. Oh yes, there were a few areas where I found my beliefs challenged . . . and even changed in some cases. And, fortunately, I was not easily swayed by those few professors who weren't so convinced of scripture's inerrancy and who challenged some of the things I had been taught so diligently over the years. Most of those guys, in my opinion, had made the tragic mistake of letting culture interpret scripture rather than having scripture interpret culture. And, that's my point. Has culture shaped our theology?
I propose that culture clearly tries to impact what we believe, who we trust, and how we try to live. On the surface, that's a "no-brainer" . . . of course it does; we both know that. My point, however, is that culture affects our theology far more than we realize, and I'm afraid it does so in a destructive and negative way. As an example, let's look at the idea of The Kingdom of Heaven. Last week these two friends I mentioned a moment ago made comments that raised a question in my mind ---- "Is the fact that I've grown up in a Republic with a democratic form of government the reason I have such a superficial understanding of how a kingdom operates? Do I really grasp the awesome significance of the Kingdom of God . . . the authority of it, . . . the scope of it, . . . the majesty of it, . . . the profundity of it? You see, my friend, like it or not, much of our theology has been shaped not by the authority of scripture and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but instead by the respective cultures in which you and I live. It's that plain and simple. Perhaps you don't agree in your case. Then, let me pose these examples: + In feeding the hungry, many of us in western countries see it is either a suggestion or a much-resented obligation. In Sudan, Mozambique, or Kenya, it is seen as a divine command and act of compassion in which disobedience guarantees the death of millions. Which position is right? They cannot both be correct. + Here in America most of us openly acknowledge that lying is wrong and at least most Christians believe it is a sin, even if they sometimes practice it themselves. In Eastern Europe under the Soviet regime, lying is still looked on as a "white lie" at
worst and a "way of life" in most cases, necessary to survive. In Muslim countries, lying to an Infidel (anyone who is not Muslim) is not only totally acceptable, but is urged for the advance of Islam. There it is almost a necessity; here it is detested, particularly if you're the one who was lied to. Which position is right? They cannot both be correct. + In America where we have an abundance of clean water, juices, and carbonated beverages, a Christian drinking alcoholic beverages was rare fifty years ago; yet, in Europe beer and wine are as much a staple at mealtime as potatoes and cabbage. Even many pastors throughout Europe not only drink alcoholic beverages, but go to the taverns and publicly drink with fellow parishioners. + Throughout many western countries, including the U.S., going into debt is an acceptable alternative that enables us to get what we want but cannot afford. However, still in many Asian and African countries going in debt is rejected. Here, if we want it, we get it. There, if they can't afford it, they don't need it. + Generally speaking, condoning sin in the Church is not only expected, but often desired over the uncomfortable alternative of godly discipline. In countries like China, Middle Eastern countries, and others (especially those where the church is persecuted), letting blatant sin get by undisciplined is unthinkable. Who is right? + Those of us who are Americans are now enduring the onslaught that Western Europe succumbed to fifty or sixty years ago . . . that of rationalization, expediency, and being politically correct. Political Correctness is not a new phenomenon. Following the Second World War American citizens began listening to the socialistic and atheistic "liberal left". They began questioning and then denying and denouncing "absolutes", claiming that everything depends of the circumstances . . . in some cases it might be wrong, and other cases, maybe not. Over time drunkenness became a disease called alcoholism or alcohol dependency. A whore became a prostitute or a woman of the evening. Homosexuality became an alternative lifestyle. Crime became social misbehavior. Killing babies in the womb became the right to make a "choice". Gambling became an addiction instead of careless and selfish squandering of possessions. Responsibility was replaced by "rights". The famed Karl Menninger of the Menninger Clinic said it well in one of his books when he asked, "Whatever became of the word 'sin'?" He then proposed that if man would own up to his own sin, call it sin, and then confess it, 90% of the beds in psychiatric hospitals would be emptied in weeks. But, since sin isn't really sin anymore, . . . Well, . . . I think you get my point. It seems that culture has a lot to do with shaping what we believe. This is crucial, because we behave out of what we believe. If we really believe our "sins will find you out", we'll stop the sinning. If we listen to culture, though, we'll convince ourselves that we can get away with it and, if or when we do get caught, the punishment won't be particularly harsh.
IS IT TRUE TO SCRIPTURE? ---Sometimes when I would pressure my mother and frustrate her with repeated queries, she would say, "Now, don't provoke me!" I knew it was time to shut up. However, I confess to you that at this moment I deeply desire to provoke you . . . provoke you to take a good hard look at what you believe, and discern whether or not it has been tainted by the culture of where you are. Keep in mind that "culture" is made up of environment, natural conditions, political systems, educational institution, AND religious . . . including your denominational upbringing, training centers, headquarters, leadership, etc. This reality raises a disturbing question . . . "Is what I believe based exclusively on God's Word, or has it been molded by non-biblical influences from my culture?" Let me ask you the following sample questions, and you decide to what degree your theology is shaped by culture and what degree by God's Word. It's very important that you be totally honest with yourself. It's not a pass or fail test, I don't want to know the answers, and God already does. So, why deceive yourself? Here we go: + To what extent do I believe God desires to heal people today? + Is my belief about global missions and evangelism determined by what the Bible says or by what my denominational group teaches? + Are my beliefs about spiritual gifts based on what the Bible teaches or on my denomination's stance or what others have written?
+ To what extent does my daily life demonstrate a biblical lifestyle, and to what extent does it demonstrate the trends of society? + What do my values reveal to others ---- spiritual values based on God's Word, or material values dictated by the social climate? + Is my sense of right and wrong determined by what I know the Bible says, or what others tell me? + When I think of the church, do I think of it as a place to attend, or as a lifestyle movement of ministry? + When I pray, do I do it more for show, or out of confidence in God? + Which do my actions reveal the most ---- Christian character, or worldly pressure of my peers? + When I think of ministry, do I think of a task or project, or do I think of an opportunity of service or relationship? + Does my attitude toward the nation of Israel represent the position of the Bible, or the position of Western secularists and Middle Eastern enemies? + Which is most important to me ---- building the church, or building the kingdom? (They're not the same thing, as we will see in days ahead.) + Is my relationship within my denomination and peers that of a servant, or of a person trying to climb the ladder of rank and fame? + When I change churches, do I do so because of God's clear call, or because it will advance my future ministry? + Does my family life represent the "family first" model of the Bible, or the "ministry first" of others' expectations? + Am I willing and prepared to make any necessary changes, or will I continue traveling the road of compromise?
FINALLY: We come to the end of today's letter with my strong feeling that I've been unable to fully articulate its theme and the key significance of the question . . . "Has Culture Shaped Your Theology?". Do you believe what you do out of expediency, because of tradition, or because you know it to be true and completely verifiable in scripture? With great sorrow I must conclude that I feel much of the western church's theology has been shaped and molded into something that is very different from the Bible. Not only has our theology been perverted in many areas, but even our actions and shape are almost unrecognizable to what the early Church looked like. When Jesus was confronted about why His disciples violated tradition for the sake of convenience when they ate food without first going through the washing ceremony. He countered by declaring, "You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition." To them, it was more important to be culturally and religiously relevant than to be spiritually obedient (See Mark 7). I wonder what you and I would look like if we simply turned our backs and walked away from anything and everything in our beliefs and practices that could not absolutely be validated by God's Word. We might lose some friends, but being free from compromise would be life changing. In His Bond, By His Grace, and For His Kingdom, Bob Tolliver -- Romans 1:11 Copyright June, 2009 Life Unlimited Ministries email@example.com
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REMEMBER ---- "Service before the Cross is what man can do for God; service after the Cross is what God can do through a man" ---- T. Allen Robburts It's our desire to provide you links to helpful resources. However, the contents of these sites do not necessarily represent the views we personally hold. These are sites we have found helpful in the past for various topics, and want you to know about them. Use at your own discretion. Websites Crucial For Today:
Consider these special websites that are particularly important in light of world conditions.
Resources and News from balanced and Family Friendly Perspectives:
www.onenewsnow.com -- an excellent news website giving you more thorough news reporting. www.cnsnews.com for daily world news without a liberal, godless bias. http://www.wnd.com/ -- an excellent news website for news from a family-friendly Christian perspective containing news the liberal media will never report. http://www.leadershipletters.com/ -- an outstanding resource for anyone wanting to become or help raise up a great leader. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page -- excellent on-line encyclopedia on almost every topic, usually unbiased. http://prayercentral.net/baghdad/today -- to pray for troops in Iraq. www.wallbuilders.org -- Tools for understanding and responding to America's moral decay.
Resources on Middle East, Israel, Bible Prophecy:
http://www.aish.com/search/article_search_results.asp?article_author=Rabbi+Ken+Spiro&title_text=&date_amount=&date_option=year -- one of the most COMPREHENSIVE HISTORIES of Israel I've ever seen, written from a Jewish Perspective. A Profound resource for those interested. www.bible411.com/nationofmiracles/index.htm -- excellent website on Israel http://favorminded.com/pray/3300israel.html -- excellent website on Israel www.sidroth.org -- excellent website on Israel, especially evidences of God's supernatural intervention www.hallindsey.org -- current events as relating to Bible prophecy www.christiantrumpetsounding.com -- excellent source of articles on Israel and Bible prophecy and other topics www.levitt.com -- strategic newsletter, reports, resources, particularly on Bible Prophecy www.jewishsoftware.com excellent Jewish sources on Hebrew language, Jewish history, beliefs, practices. http://www.4922trust.org/ -- an excellent site on Christian relationship to Israel. http://www.ajhs.org/ American Jewish historical society. www.israeltoday.co.il Israel today news and resources. www.jpost.com Jerusalem Post newspaper. www.jewishvoice.com Jonathan Burness ministry with excellent info and resources www.jerusalemconnection.org good Jewish culture/beliefs source www.favorminded.com good source for those supporting Israel www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org exceptional sour of information on Israel, ancient and modern www.aish.com comprehensive site on Jewish history including famed "Crash Course In Jewish History" www.israelimages.com hundreds of excellent photos, old and new, of Israel and her people. www.jerusalemshots.com/en another great source of pictures. www.technorati.com/tag/antisemitism a sobering source of anti-Semitic photos. www.yadvashem.org martyrs and heroes of the Holocaust www.favorminded.org excellent historic and contemporary information on Israel
Helpful General Resources
www.biblos.com -- EXCELLENT Bible study tools and resources. www.bibletraining.com -- EXCELLENT pastoral training global opportunity source. www.dota.net -- AMAZING Bible training materials via PDF downloads and radio programs in several languages. http://www.impactapologetics.com/default.asp?cookiecheck=yes& -- Great source for information on Christian apologetics. www.sermonindex.net for access to over 3900 downloadable audio sermons. Exceptional site. www.bible.christianity.com an excellent general source for quality Bible study tools and other things. Links to other great sites. www.illustramedia.com a great site for video on creation and evolution. www.livinit.org a super source for Christian extreme sports witness to youth www.creationscience.net an excellent source for dealing with evolution and creation www.crosstv.com a great site for video on creation, evolution, and apologetics www.onechurchsource.com a good site with links for many resources. www.biblemaster.com for great Bible resources and downloads. Exceptional site. www.e-sword.net ---- one of the best free download Bible study sites I've ever seen! http://www.discipleshipdirect.com/ for new and fresh evangelism & discipleship materials. www.multilanguage.com -- a great source for resources for language ministries. http://www.answersingenesis.org/ ---- one of the best Creation websites I've ever seen. http://frangipane.org ---- for excellent brief words of encouragement from one of America's premier evangelical writers/thinkers. www.worldprayerteam.org ---- A world-wide network for praying together. www.watchword.org ---- excellent resources on revival, prayer, missions. www.waymakers.org ---- resources on prayer, evangelism, etc. www.missionvisionnetwork.org ---- resources on prayer & missions www.global-prayer-digest.org ---- resources on world-wide prayer http://www.nppn.org ---- "National Pastors' Prayer Network" newsletter. ~ email: email@example.com. Register your PPG: http://www.nppn.org/ppg/ .
www.LifeAction.org ---- "Life Action Outreach".
Valuable Resources on Islam: http://khanepedar.com ---- a NEW evangelistic website for Muslims. Please share this with others, especially those who know Muslims or have a ministry to Muslims.
www.muslimjourneytohope.org filled with testimonies and resources. http://bibleprobe.com/islamapostates.htm ---- fantastic website on ISLAM (amazing testimonies and excellent resources) www.johnankerburg.org ---- excellent resources of facts, testimonies, and tools http://cbw.strang.com/c.cgi?ProdID=8847&Source=CNSITE www.elam.com ---- source of testimonies and resources www.ethnicharvest.org ---- resources www.answeringislam.de/main/farsi ---- resources www.persianchristianity.com ---www.farsibible.org ---- Bibles
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