YEA THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY

Sometimes it occurs to me that in many ways the “valley of the shadow of death” that David was moved of the Spirit to record in the 23rd Psalm is a pretty good description of this world. We have many great experiences and there is so much beauty around us that we lose awareness sometimes of the reality that there is always only a step between ourselves and death. From my vantage point as a pastor of almost 43 years, this reality presses very close to my heart. A by product of ministry is that you know thousands of people. You also know a high percentage of them fairly well. You have wept with them, prayed with them, walked with them through trials, heard their stories, and had many of them share sorrows that very few others will ever know. From time to time someone asks me how we do what we do in ministry. The answer is in the next phrase of the Psalm, “For thou art with me.” Without the strong arms of the Lord, none of us could deal with this valley.
Two observations are helpful. It is only a shadow and a shadow can’t hurt you. God always has the last word and he will chase the shadows away in the glorious brightness of his presence, and in the coming glory of his Kingdom. Secondly, we will emerge on the other side of valley at the place where we have been heading all our lives and the former things will have passed away. Because of these things we keep singing in the shadows and celebrating the love and grace of our Lord who comforts us in our nights of weeping and provides us joy in the morning.

Dan Wooldridge

THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY

Why study the history of Christianity? There are at least two important reasons as to the importance of knowing the history of the church and of the Christian faith. The study should produce humility in the heart of the student. When you consider the struggle for truth that has occurred through the ages and the extremely high price that was paid by so many men and women, you realize what a privileged time that we live in. We live in a new axial age. The old axial age involved the opening of the world to new ideas and preceded the coming of Christ. Philosophy rose as a discipline and there was a world wide quest for truth. Today some are calling the time we live in the “information age”. The ideas of the ages are at our fingertips and research is readily available and only a click away. Because of this reality, rapid change can occur almost anywhere in the world especially among the young. Cultures that long repressed free thinking by their young people are virtually helpless to keep them from the information that is out there on the web. A case in point is the African pastor who wrote me an email to tell me that he regularly gathers his English speaking congregation to listen to my sermons off of our website. He wrote to thank me for helping to teach his people and himself more about the Word of God. Only God knows the possibilities that exist in such a world. Humility is also provided by the expanding of the mind to struggle with the great questions that challenged the church through the ages. When you see the pressures imposed upon the church from without, you can better understand where their ideas and practices came from. Harsh judgment is tempered by a greater understanding of the unique challenges of the geopolitical realities they endured. You begin to distinguish the difference between heresies and misguided thinking that is not scriptural in nature.
The other benefit is that you can see how heretics and heresies have continued to follow the same destructive paths in many forms through the centuries. For example, there was a man named Montanus who arose as a spiritual leader in the second century A. D., who began to say that the age of Jesus had passed and it was time to begin the age of the Spirit. He believed that the Spirit could lead him and others to write and say things that were equal in authority to what the apostles and others had written in the first century. He did not see the Scripture as a complete and final word. That same spirit pervades the abuses of radical Pentecostalism, Mormonism, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and an endless list of other false prophets and prophecies. It can be easily identified as another of Satan’s ploys to distort the gospel of Christ. The gift of discernment is greatly enhanced with a thorough knowledge of Christian history.

Dan Wooldridge

IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME COMING.

Having taken a vacation from posting on this blog, it is time to blog again. As Labor Day weekend approaches my mind is on the age old battle for truth. The truth is powerful and effective, but it must engage those who walk in darkness. We cannot sit safely in our churches and expect to win the battle for truth. Paul wrote about the “weapons of our warfare” in 2 Corinthians ten and verses four and five. He made clear that these weapons are WML, weapons of mass life. Weapons are no good if they never leave the arsenal. They are also not effective if we only sit and clean them. Our enemy is not people. Our enemy is the devil who has taken the souls of men prisoner and would like nothing more than to chain them in darkness forever. Jesus came to set people free. He has commissioned us to be his freedom fighters. He does not ask us to provide the power. The power is already in the gospel. He simply asks us to get out of the barracks, arm ourselves from the arsenal, and enter the fields of conflict. Don’t be afraid. He said he would be with us always.

Dan Wooldridge

AN UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE

According to a news report, there was an exam given at Ohio State University containing a question which indicated that Christians just are not as smart as atheists. Only a case of severe ignorance or amnesia could cause one to fail to note that the very discipline of scientific discovery arose from a Christian worldview. The deeply held conviction of Christians that the world was created by God in an orderly and designed fashion led naturally to the exploration of that design. An actual study was done to learn about the people with the highest registered I.Q. in the world and the results fly in the face of the current notion that “atheists are just smarter.” Of the ten highest ranking people whose intelligence has been measured, eight of them are theists, and six of the eight are Christians. How’s that for a statistic? Without meaning to do so the close minded professor has raised another question. Why are atheist so self absorbed? One of the more interesting observations that I have ever heard is that Christianity actually opens the mind. The Christian faith invites exploration and testing. God challenges us in the Scriptures to test and prove him. Believers didn’t bring this subject up, but don’t fall for the drivel that you cannot be intelligent and Christian. The facts just don’t even come close to suggesting such a thing.

Dan Wooldridge