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About GandalfTheWise

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  1. A couple possible thoughts, but don't take either as definitive. 1. Not sure how accurate this is, but part of it was possibly simply a cultural "bargaining" type of thing as to how things were transacted. No, no sir, I couldn't possibly ask you for money in this time of grief, just bury your dead... No, no, I insist on paying... No, No, I cannot accept, but here's what's it's worth, but you really don't have to pay.... No, No, I insist on paying... I read something to this extent in a book somewhere, but cannot remember the details. The bottom line is that each side was "giving" something to the other instead of "buying and selling" but there was an expectation that the "gift" was to be given on both sides. 2. Another possibility is that Abraham refused to accept any financial gain from the peoples of the area much like he also didn't accept anything from the king of Sodom when Abraham, his household, and his allies went to rescue Lot.
  2. Spiritual Condition - Churches

    To some extent, it depends on the denomination of the church. Some denominations have started to come under the influence of those for whom the warm fuzzy symbolism of Christianity is the main point. Christian words such as "faith", "redemption", or even "God" are not used for their objective meaning (of something that God has actually done), they are used for their warm fuzzy emotional connotation. Faith becomes some sort of nebulous feeling we have that gives us purpose in life. Redemption is finding a way out of bad things that have happened. Even "God" becomes a word to describe our feeling toward the universe in general. Whatever meaning those words have for you is what is important, not having some objective meaning that most of us agree on. If it has meaning for you, that is what is important; not that it is actually real. Not every minister who stands in the pulpit and talks about faith is talking about trust and confidence in the actual Maker and Creator of everything. Some are using faith as a meaningless word that is more related to hope and optimism and feeling like we have purpose and meaning from some emotional experience that makes us feel better. My sense is that a number of seminaries are now dominated with this viewpoint. I've met pastors in these types of denominations. Some are born-again, decided God was calling them to ministry, went to seminary, became "educated" with this type of outlook on things, and spend a lifetime trying to balance the reality of what God has done against how they were educated. Some of them spend their lives trying to make a spiritual difference in people's lives where they are at. Others leave for other denominations. Other ministers are basically social activists who see the organization and symbolism of Christianity as a tool to instigate social change and teach some sort of vague spirituality based on trying to figure out what makes you feel like you have purpose and meaning in life. Some Christians have the view that all Christians should only belong to "Bible-believing" churches and denominations. Other Christians have the view that they are going to make a difference where they are at. They are actively fighting for the heart and souls of their denomination. They are Christians; they know God and are testifying to what He has done in their lives in a place where some people need to hear it. Some Christians do like the reverent and traditional type of worship of some denominations. Sadly, these are often the denominations where the "faith without needing a real God" type of view is often most prevalent. That's my take on it. It's not so much that churches are getting crazy. It's been an ongoing process where some denominations are slowly being "educated" into a form of "Christianity" that doesn't need God. Some Christians wash their hands of it and leave; others stick around to contend for the faith and refuse to give up. I've been in both situations at various times in my life. There are times you can make a difference; there are times you cannot. For me, the real fight is not over the particular details of each and every statement that is made. You can spend a lifetime arguing and getting lost in the details and accomplishing little. In these situations, I think that the real fight is over whether or not Christianity is about a real God Who has done real things in the world. When I am interacting with people like this, I try to focus on the reality of God and His acts that I've seen in my life. Getting into a discussion on details of the faith is usually useless because they have redefined most of the language away from objective meaning into emotional connotations. If I say "born-again", they hear "having had a meaningful spiritual experience of some sort". If I talk about science, they hear "to believe the Bible about science means that I have to believe that the earth is flat". If I talk about Christ's redeeming work, they hear "the symbolism of redemption is powerful and teaches us that we can change ourselves in positive ways." The reality is that the very language we usually use to talk about Christianity has been redefined away. We need to use normal everyday language and clearly describe what we've seen God do. As soon as they go into a "well good for you, it's good you have found meaning and purpose for your life" mode, it's time to force it back to a "no, this is real!" type of discussion. As soon as we get into an argument over each and every detail we disagree with, we are fighting the battle on their terms. When we are talking about what God has actually done in our lives and other people's lives, we are fighting the battle on our terms. I try to talk about answered prayers that I have seen and more object happenings I've observed. Tossing out Bible verses and theological jargon usually ends up not being very successful because they've been "educated" into seeing it in a subjectively emotional manner. I tell my story and what I've seen in everyday language that they cannot misunderstand or explain away. I let them see the fruit of the Spirit in my life and plainly talk about what God has done. To me, it's about giving testimony of what God has done and letting His Holy Spirit start convicting and drawing them to Him.
  3. Deception

    I disagree with the bolded statement "Deception is the single greatest threat to Christians". In my opinion, the single greatest threat to Christians is not consistently walking with God themselves. It is the time we spend in prayer, Bible reading, meditation, study, being with other Christians, and other such spiritual exercises that causes us to grow strong and mature. It is when we neglect those things that we become weak spiritually. Being deceived is one symptom of many of not walking closely with God. It is not so much a cause of spiritual weakness as one result of being spiritually weak. We do not avoid deception by spending our time looking for it to identify it. We avoid deception by knowing God so well that anything not from Him becomes obvious to us. This is a result of growing spiritually and walking closely with God. Another symptom of not walking closely with God is turning holiness and righteousness into a series of litmus tests we apply to our brothers and sisters. Instead of looking to actual fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control and similar things as listed in Gal 5) and changes in people's lives, we look at particular behaviors. Chew gum in church? They obviously are not serious about God. Clap in church? They are completely irreverent and lack respect for God. Read the wrong version of the Bible? They're on the road to serving Satan. Not go to church enough services per week? Falling away or not saved. The bottom line is that many Christians and churches create a man-made system of rules of so-called holiness that really amounts to "this is the way we do it and thanks be to God we're the only ones who do it right." If you don't sing the right songs in the right way with the right musical instruments, read the right version of the Bible, pray just the right way (no too loud and exuberantly nor too soft or timidly), act just right in church (not too dead and frozen but not too loud and emotional), avoid particular worldly influences, vote for the right political party, etc., then you are failing as a Christian, or most likely, you are not even a real Christian but just deceived that you are a Christian. Anyone disagree with that? They are obviously a wolf, false prophet, or completely sin-filled and deceived. I'll be completely blunt. Some Christians waste time on spiritual witch hunts focusing on seeking out every possible Satanic influence in the world and the church. Many of them seem to take the approach of, "when in doubt, throw it out" with regard to anything and everything that offends them. Time (that in my opinion) would be better spent learning more about God, how to walk with Him, and doing what He wants us to do is being wasted on reading newspapers to see how they correlate with Bible prophecy, internet conspiracy sites, and books that are obsessed with pointing out and cataloging every possible error and sin the authors can imagine. Opportunities that could be taken to learn from other Christians are instead viewed as opportunities to correct them and argue with them about how they are wrong. Frankly, these Christians are very much like Peter walking on the water (Matt 14:22-33). At first, he was focused on Jesus and became the only person other than Jesus to walk on water. Then he started to look around at the wind, waves, and sea and started to fear and sink. Some Christians seem to want to put their attention onto the wind, waves, and sea and worry about everything around them. At some point, if you are spending more time focusing on the wind, waves, and sea than focusing on Jesus, you will start to sink. Time that would be better spent advancing the Kingdom of God is instead spent on arguing who is greatest and most correct. To be blunt, the OP is completely focused on avoidance, not advancement. You can flee a thousand directions from a thousand bad things. However, you can only advance in one direction toward Jesus. Put your eyes on Jesus and look to follow Him. Of course, there will be trouble, sins, persecution, and testing around us in the world. However, we need to keep our focus on Him and help encourage our brothers and sisters to do the same. The more we focus and talk about the wind, waves, and sea around us, the more we draw our attention and their attention away from Jesus as well.
  4. Does the Holy Spirit laugh?

    Three observations I've made over the years. 1. My observation is that it seems that there are just certain times and services where God (in His timing and sovereignty) seems to manifest His presence in a way that simply affects and changes people (either on an individual or corporate basis). I've seen people deeply changed and healed of things during these times. We are all unique. We respond differently emotionally to different things. I've seen people respond differently emotionally to being aware of God's presence. Some cry, some laugh (talking a joyful laughter here), some start praising, some go quiet in awe, some sing, some spontaneously raise their hands, some bend their knees and bow down. 2. Some people start mistaking the reactions themselves (crying, laughing, awe, praise, etc.) for God's presence and start seeking and overemphasizing the emotional reactions. Instead of simply accepting and rejoicing over those times where God (in His timing) does something in a profound way, they try to recreate those times themselves. 3. Much of the strife and quarreling I've observed comes from people who take a hard line of "None of this can possibly be from God; Renounce Satan NOW!!!!!!" interacting with people who went overboard and started seeking the reactions (and try to get everyone else on board). Christian love and patience and discernment is not exhibited by either side and they try to force everyone to take their side. Instead of looking at this through the lens of trying to discern how much of this is God, how much of this is overreaction and emotionalism, or how much of this might be occult and deception, some Christians sadly would rather stick to their opinions and split the church rather than have an honest and prayerful dialog together to determine how much of this is God's doing and how much is not. I've never been to any services involving the Toronto movement or such stuff. However, I can say that there have been a couple times I had people praying for me that I had laughter start welling up inside of me. Not like watching something funny or hearing a joke or sitting in a quiet solemn situation and thinking of something funny and trying not to laugh out loud, this was different. It was an overwhelming joyful peaceful feeling inside of me that came out as laughter. I've had this happen a handful of times. I've also had a handful of times where tears and weeping were what started welling up inside me. This was long before the Toronto movements or other such things. The first time it happened to me decades ago, I was wondering what in the world was going on, and immediately prayed a "okay God, it that you? or what?" prayer. Shortly thereafter, an older Christian that I had much respect for quietly made the statement that sometimes when God does something inside of us, we cannot help but react to Him in some way. The more profound and powerful the work, the more profound and powerful our reaction. I think that the bottom line is that all of us respond to what God does in our life differently. When we are walking with God, there are times He will simply do things inside of us or around us (in His timing) that will cause us to react in some way. We sometimes respond inappropriately by trying to deny that He did something; or we sometimes respond inappropriately by trying to recreate and relive that unique event; or we sometimes respond inappropriately by assuming that other Christians' walk with God needs to be identical to ours. Instead of just rejoicing, accepting the blessing, and making it one more step along our walk where God did something amazing, we put our eyes onto what God did rather than God Himself. Instead of just enjoying the gifts and blessings that He on occasion gives, we start to focus and obsess over them. If someone says they laugh sometimes when they feel God's presence strongly (and they seem spiritually sound on other matters), I have little reason to doubt them. If someone is laughing most of the time at most prayer meetings or plain starting to get extreme about it or telling others that they should be to, I question it.
  5. Accidentally sold my soul?

    In the book of Acts, those who had been involved with the occult were overwhelmed by the power of the Gospel (i.e. the authority believers have through Christ's redeeming work and the evident works of the Holy Spirit). Simon the sorcerer was amazed at what the apostles did in Samaria. Those in Ephesus burned all their books having to do with occult practices. As you say, you've noticed a life change. That is big. My impression is that it sounds like you are struggling with with not feeling "Christian" enough. I think most of us (probably nearly all of us) go through something like this where we want to "feel" more. We have doubts at times. Our emotions are not 100% spiritually aligned with God. We get distracted away from spiritual things. We want to feel closer to God, but it just doesn't seem to happen like we want to. My long term observation (40+ years as a Christian) of my life and others is that trust and confidence and closeness with God is something that is the result of consistently walking with Him. It is consistent prayer, Bible reading, meditation, study, being with other Christians, etc. that helps us grow spiritually. One result of this growth is that we simply get to know God more and more, our trust and confidence in Him grows more and more, and our feelings become more aligned with this. Over our life, as we see Him do stuff in our lives and other people's lives, our trust simply grows over the weeks, months, and years.
  6. Bible Trivia questions

    I'm thinking it was Jezebel that introduced Baal worship, so Ahab. EDIT[never mind. Saw it was already answered.]
  7. Perspective is an Interesting Thing

    FWIW, Here's my story. I became a Christian at age 12 and am now in my mid 50s. I spent decades being very active in many different ministries while having a FT job and being married and raising 3 kids. About 7 or 8 years ago, God put me on the sidelines. Every ministry opportunity dried up. I got a boss that wouldn't let me do anything worthwhile. Basically, everything I'd been throwing my energy into for decades disappeared. I first assumed attack of the enemy, unconfessed sin, a new direction in life via closed doors looking for new doors, etc. After a year or more of that, I started to shut down. Basically, it was God trying to get me to slow down, relax, and stop being busy doing stuff. Over the course of a couple years, God brought me to the point where I saw I'd been making my identity by what I was doing. I was measuring myself by being a good Christian, a good husband, a good father, a good employee, using my gifts and talents, and by how much fruit I was seeing in my life. I'd look in the mirror every morning shaving and thing to myself "Loser!" I felt like I was falling short of everything I had the potential of achieving spiritually in spite of how hard I was trying and how much time and effort I was putting in. The bottom line: 30 odd years of having been a Christian and I felt like I was at a loss of what to do next. God finally made it clear to me that I had no idea of *who* He created me to be. I had defined myself by what I was *doing*, not by who God wanted me to *be*. He slowly opened my eyes that He wanted my life to be about being the unique person He had created me to be; not running myself ragged checking off items on a spiritual todo list. As I started living my Christian life from the perspective of being who God made me to be, I found that ministry and other things started to flow naturally. He did some healing on some emotional and spiritual wounds and bondage that I never knew were there. Within a month or so, my wife and daughters were commenting on how different I seemed. In the past few years, I feel like I've been accomplishing more when I minister to people than I had in the previous decades. Some things I'd been working on for years have just started flowing easily and growing naturally. My spiritual walk with God is more comfortable and stronger than it had been before. The bottom line is that I changed my spiritual life from working at *doing* the giant spiritual todo list (that I was mostly making up for myself) and replaced it with *being* who God created me to be.
  8. family issues feeling alone in this

    I've known a few women that have suffered long term abuse and molestation as children. I've also read a number of testimonies of women in similar situations on forums such as this. The majority of them said that God used other people (in the form of Christian counselors, pastors, prayer partners, or other women who've been through this and been through a healing process themselves) to help with the healing. Emotional and spiritual wounds are every bit as real as physical wounds. Minor stuff, we can all toss on a bandaid ourselves and let it heal. Serious stuff, we might need to go to the ER and let someone with a lot more experience deal with it. Long term abuse is usually not something we can effectively deal with on our own; God will often use other people to come along side of us to be with us and help us. As God leads, He might very well start to work through other people. At some point, God might steer you toward an experienced pastor or a good Christian counselor. Our church has a few mature Christians trained in transformational prayer ministry (which is basically providing support to people as they pray about difficult things they are dealing with). A couple of the abused women I know reported that this was a big turning point in God starting to heal them. The main caveat I'd give is making sure that any people you are starting to work with are mature Christians who've helped other people in similar situations before. I've heard (some firsthand and others reading anonymously) of women (and a few men) who've been through some very toxic, harmful, and injurious situations over many years that God has emotionally and spiritually healed of the injuries they've received. Over time, I'm sure that your feelings toward your mother (and other members of your family) will be restored to what God wants them to be. It's something that will emerge over time as He heals and restores you. I don't think it's something to feel condemned or guilty about; it's a consequence of what you went through. Abuse affects our ability to feel things appropriately. It will take time for that to be healed and restored. Edit[I'd also emphasize that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is a change within us where we let go and are healed of things that have us in bondage regarding other people and what they've done to us. Reconciliation is a restoration of a relationship that depends on the other party actually having changed. If some who has hurt you in the past has not changed, they would potentially do it again. It is okay to stay away from those people or to put up appropriate boundaries to keep them at a safe distance. Forgiving someone doesn't mean you have to trust them. Trust is something that is built up over time due to consistent positive behavior over time.]
  9. Bible Trivia questions

    I'm blank on 34 and 35 as well.
  10. Was Hitler Alive after WWII?

    FWIW: History Channel is about to start season 3 of "Hunting Hitler". Basically, it's a piecing together of lots of recently unclassified gov't documents from various sources around the world. I normally don't watch stuff like this, but a couple years ago I had the flu, didn't feel like doing anything, was laying on the couch channel surfing, caught a marathon of it, and ending up watching most of the first season. As presented (big assumption there!), it seemed feasible. It basically laid out a plausible scenario for a short flight out of Berlin to Nazi-held Denmark, a longer flight to Franco-controlled Spain, a U-Boat trip from Spain via the Canary Islands to Argentina, and then into a network of rich Nazi supporting families. It is a historical fact that many high ranking Nazis did end up in South America and there was a strong German presence in various locations in South America. The late 40s and 50s were not at all like today technology wise, especially in the chaos at the end of the war. You could disappear off the grid much easier in those days, especially with a lot of money and infrastructure which the Nazis did have in South America. I've now watched season two and will probably watch season 3 since my interest is piqued. My original feeling was completely dismissing all of this as CT, but I've revised my opinion to the feasible category. Of course, the analyst in me wonders how cherry-picked the presented information is. Given enough unverified reports and rumors, you can easily grab enough random details to produce feasible theories. They might not be doing anything more than reconfirming a Nazi presence in various places in the world that we already knew about, but I am finding that interesting as I used to read quite a bit about WWII. I'm finding learning about their economic and political reach in various places in the world interesting.
  11. Luke 11:46 and 53-54 are verses that have been convicting to me in the past, as well as verses that I always go back to remind myself of. Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. Luke 11:46 NIV The Greek gives a very strong sense of "You ask them to do the impossible and then sit back and don't do a single thing to help!!!!". One thing that English misses is that the Greek word for "woe" is οὐαὶ. You can really get into saying it and make it sound pretty intense. Ooh-Ahhhh-eeeeee!! (Jesus was probably speaking Aramaic, but I like how the Greek word sounds. ) I tend to read verse 46 as "and (what do I have to say) to you teachers of the law? <long pause> OOHH-AHHHH-EEEE!!" Not claiming any inspiration for that paraphrase but it just seems to fit to me. (FYI, there is also debate about the pronunciation of ancient Greek among the scholars. It might be oooooh-ehhhhhhh.) 53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54 waiting to catch him in something he might say. Luke 11:53-54 NIV In verse 54, the English translations miss an interesting aspect of the Greek words. The words used are related to lying in wait like a hunter stalking prey or in an ambush. It's interesting that the same base Greek word is used a number of times in Psalm 10 (in the Septuagint version) regarding those who lie in wait to attack others. This is not just an intellectual looking for errors to point out but something more emotional, angry, and malicious. The point was not to dialog and learn, but to accuse and do as much damage as possible. Many years ago, verse 46 struck me very hard that it was a lot easier for me to point out people's sins, errors, problems with churches, problems with this and that, than it was for me to actually help do something about it. I had to ask myself if constantly pointing out everything I saw wrong with anything and everything was actually helping, or if I was basically being like the teachers of law and just piling extra burdens on people. Today, I always try to make sure that anything I say to someone is not adding extra burdens of guilt, condemnation, or confusion; but is instead helping to lift burdens and help them move forward in a healthy spiritual direction. I use verses 53 and 54 as an attitude check when I start getting into heated debates. As soon as I find myself looking to do "gotcha" types of questions merely to find something wrong to complain about or put someone in their place or to shut them up, I know my attitude has gotten bad. If I cannot sit back calmly with a positive attitude to dialog, learn, encourage, and instruct, but instead am starting to look to fire a barrage of questions designed to put someone in their place, or prove that they are wrong, or whatever that is ultimately designed to fight with them and beat them at it, I realize that something is likely wrong with my attitude and I'll probably just be throwing fuel onto a fire or potentially burning bridges instead of letting my words help, heal, and advance God's Kingdom. On a site like Worthy, before I post, I try to remember to ask myself if I am adding to someone's burdens or helping to reduce their burdens? Am I looking to dialog and learn from another believer respecting them as God's child, or if I am looking to put them in their place as I see it? Ultimately, if my words do not encourage and point people toward Jesus, toward walking closer with God, toward becoming the unique person God created them to be, toward doing for them what God wants me to do for them and with the tone and attitude that He wants me to have toward them, I'm not much better than those Jesus said οὐαὶ to.
  12. Bible Trivia questions

  13. Disillusionment

    Are you limiting yourself to a particular denomination or range of denominations? My sense is that while there is some variation between congregations within a particular denomination, they typically share a lot of common characteristics. Could part of what you've seen could be attributed to that? A deeper question is who has God made you to be? I spent about the first 30 or so years of my Christian walk making my identity the gifts and talents I had as well as the ministries I was involved with. I was often frustrated and felt like I just needed to find my "call" and the right ministry to be involved with or to start on my own. It wasn't until a few years ago that God started working on me to see the Christian life as "being" who He wanted me to be than "doing" the right activities. I found that as I focused on being who He made me to be and walking more closely with Him as that unique person that activities and ministries seemed to come much more naturally to me. Instead of laboring hard to try to see results and find the right thing to do, it was like I could just watch God do stuff and see things naturally happen. A lot of the stress I had about trying to find what I thought I needed to be doing disappeared.
  14. Bible Trivia questions

    In an obscure verse that I have no clue why I remember, the Lord also named this same king Jedediah (sp?).
  15. Xtreme Bible trivia is back in chat

    Many thanks to ayin jade for the work being put in to make this happen.