BILL’S BLOG ENTRY #47

“Who is the Holy Spirit?”

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BILL’S BLOG ENTRY #56

From “Discipleship and Discipline” by William H. Hicks, copyright March, 2005:
“We saw earlier in John 8 that “the truth shall make you free.” One aspect of that freedom is manifested once we have “gird(ed) our loins with truth), Ephesians 6: 14. Our loins are often a metaphor for our guts, the seat of our feelings, our passions. Knowing the truth allows us to control our feelings and emotions rather than the reverse, having our feelings and emotions control us. When we are free from the tyranny of our emotions, appetites and passions, we can put these to use in service to our Lord, rather than have them become obstacles to our faithful obedience to His Word. “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even in weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” Philippians 3: 18 – 19.””

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BILL’S BLOG ENTRY #55

From “Discipleship and Discipline” by William H. Hicks, copyright March, 2005:

“Paul gave Timothy insight and instruction into how “one ought to conduct himself in the household of God”, to put this “truth” into practice as would a disciple (in I Timothy 3: 15).  Paul encourages Timothy to be dedicated to truth, to be a “pillar and support of the truth.”  Paul describes how a disciple is a leader in the home, and in the church, the “household of God.”  Paul makes sure that Timothy understands that being a disciple is “work” that one must “desire to do” (I Timothy 3: 1).  Discipline is the consistent application of truth to one’s life.  Spiritual growth occurs only when one is dedicated to the truth; honesty is the predicate to growth.

A disciple’s personal life must be in order, manifesting that his relationship with the truth, with God, is in ‘good working order’.  Being dedicated to the truth- “Thy Word is truth” (John 17: 17), a disciple “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife; temperate; prudent; respectable; hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle; peaceable; free from the love of money; he must manage his own household well, be a good parent; as a leader in the household of God not a new convert, but one having been tested; he must have a good reputation with those outside the household; he must be honest; she must be dignified; self-controlled; not a gossiper and, he must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.””

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BILL’S BLOG ENTRY #54

From “Discipleship and Discipline” by William H. Hicks, copyright March, 2005:

““Nowadays, there is a lively, but entirely unoriginal debate about the claims Jesus made about Himself.  Was He/Is He really the Son of God, and thereby God Himself, “one with the Father”, as He claimed?  He said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  If these statements are true, that is, are actual facts, then Jesus in His person is the object and substance of worship.  “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”  (John 1:18).  God the Father is the unseen ‘that which lies at the basis of and agrees with that which we are able to see, hear, feel, smell, touch, know- that is, God the Son.  Jesus is the truth manifested- the made to be able to be perceived-, the veritable- the certain, the actual, the genuine, the authentic-, essence of God the Father.

Nicodemus, in John 3: 2, recognizes that Jesus’ works of power (signs) point towards His authority to teach the truth of God when he said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.”  Now, we know that Nicodemus had not grown in the faith to the point where he recognized that Jesus was God, one with the Father; however, Nicodemus did conclude from the facts before him that God was in Jesus if only insofar as His teaching was concerned.  Nicodemus was dedicated to the truth to the extent that he was willing to come to Jesus by night to be taught the truth of God; he did not yet recognize that Jesus Himself  was the truth.””

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BILL’S BLOG ENTRY #53

From “Discipleship and Discipline” by William H. Hicks, copyright March, 2005:

“Corporate worship is an essential aspect of our relationship to God because we are encouraged to “draw near to listen, rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools.”  When we attend church, the central aspects of the experience should be worship and praise.  Worship must entail and contain the Word of God going forward in such a way that disciples receive instruction on how to be a disciple.  This is crucial, critical, a must, so much so that it is my contention that there is no real corporate worship without the Word of God going forward.  In today’s “religious” environment, many “praise concerts” are held.  In this context, songs of “praise” are sung and offerings are lifted, but oftentimes the seeker leaves unfulfilled, or “unfilled” with the Word.  We leave entertained, feeling good but we know nothing more about God and His will for us.  We are unequipped to deal with the challenges the world will throw at us unless we get some Word into us.  We should enter the corporate worship experience with the aim to listen intently and intentionally towards applying what we hear to our daily walk with Him.

This implies an obligation upon the “messenger” of God (Ecclesiastes 5: 6) to ensure that the Word is available and accessible to those who come to worship.  But we listeners/disciples are also obligated to come to the worship experience to “listen” and not to offer the “sacrifice of fools”.  A fool defined: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’. (Psalm 53: 1)  ”The sacrifice of fools is many empty words or promises to God what we are going to do in His service, insincere, empty and repetitive prayers and a self-centered motivation for giving.””

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BILL’S BLOG ENTRY #52

From “Discipleship and Discipline” by William H. Hicks copyright March, 2005:

“Ecclesiastes 5: 1 – 7 and Habakkuk 2: 20 provide insight into the approach disciples take towards corporate worship. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes says that we should guard our
steps AS WE GO to the House of the Lord. This implies that worship really starts BEFORE we arrive at the sanctuary.  If this is so, then it follows that there is no time in which a disciple is not in worship.  Our hearts and minds should be focused on communicating with God, preparing to receive a Word from the Lord long before we get to church.  “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go to the House of the Lord.”  I Corinthians 3: 16 – 17 identifies each disciple as a “temple  of God” in which the Spirit of God dwells and that the temple is “holy”.  God wants His disciples to approach ourselves as the temples in which He dwells.  Thus, we should strive to cleanse the temple of all evil thoughts, malicious
intentions and anything and everything that is anathema to and incompatible with the indwelling Spirit of God. Moreover, we should be prepared to manifest the presence of God as soon as our eyes open in the morning until we close them in repose in the
evening.  Remember that He blesses His beloved even when we are sleeping! (Psalm 127: 2)””

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BILL’S BLOG ENTRY #51

From “Discipleship and Discipline” by William H. Hicks, copyright March, 2005:

“THE DISCIPLINE OF WORSHIP

The English word “worship” was spelled originally, “worthship”, acknowledging the worth, the worthiness of the object of one’s adoration and praise.  There is herein the clear connotation that God is worthy to be worshipped; but what is worship?  How does one do it?  Worship is giving to the object of worship praise, adoration, thanks, honor and allegiance.  It is acknowledging the majesty and lordship of God, His power and His lovingkindness towards the worshipper, the debt owed to Him for His kind affection towards the worshipper.  A disciple recognizes that God is worthy of worship and he seeks to be one of those who worship God in spirit and in truth.

But wait; is not this same object of worship “seeking” worshipers?  This greek word for seeking is likened to the way a leopard in the wild that hasn’t eaten for five days stalks his prey.  It is a hungering, single-minded, concentrated, indefatigable, never-say-die, never give up focus that will end in the acquiring of the object of one’s seeking.  Thus, we observe that God is actively seeking for worshipers who will truthly worship Him- in spirit and in truth.  God is seeking those whose hearts yearn for Him and who understand that the truest form of worship is to put His Word into practice in their daily lives (“when neither in this mountain or in Jerusalem… but in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.”).  True disciples, disciples in actual fact, are those whose seeking after the Truth results in the truth being manifested in the way they walk- their lifestyles- which comes only by doing what their Teacher teaches: “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments (My Word).””

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BILL’S BLOG ENTRY #50

From “Discipleship and Discipline” by William H. Hicks, copyright March, 2005:

“A truth cannot always be accessed empirically.  Science can only aid one’s journey towards a fuller knowledge of who God is, and ultimately, can only provide a partial glimpse of the nature and character of God.  A disciple is a persistent, consistent seeker after God.  A disciple yearns and searches after any scrap of knowledge available about his God; yet, that yearning may leave him vulnerable to those who would take advantage of his searching spirit.  The followers of Jim Jones and David Cyrus come sadly to mind.  So where is the answer?  If God is only partially accessed by empirical pursuits, how then can a disciple gain greater, more intimate knowledge of God?

Jesus provides the answer during His conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.  “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true (in actual fact) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (John 4: 21, <st1:bcv_smarttag>23 – 24).  That which is true is a matter of fact; that which is truth is a matter of faith.””

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BILL’S BLOG ENTRY #49

From “Discipleship and Discipline” by William H. Hicks, copyright March, 2005:

“In I Kings 2: 3-4, King David charges his son, Solomon, soon to become king himself, in this way: “And keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel’.”  The terms ‘way’ and
‘walk’ are synonymous with how one lives. It is significant to note that walking before the Lord in truth is closely linked with the desire in one’s heart. “But who knows the heart of a man except the spirit of the man.”  <st1:bcv_smarttag>Matthew  22: 16 reveals that our Lord Jesus Christ was known to be dedicated to truth: “And they (Pharisees) sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, `Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to
any.”  How did the Pharisees come by this knowledge?  Recall that in John 3: 1 – 21, we read the account of the Lord’s encounter with the emissary of the Pharisees, Nicodemus.  Nicodemus’ opening salutation to Jesus states: “Rabbi (teacher of the truth), we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs (these empirically inexplicable works of power) that You do unless God is with him.””

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BILL’S BLOG ENTRY #46

This entry represents a break in the flow of releasing the book, “Discipleship and Discipline”, by William H. Hicks, copyright March, 2005. This entry is in response to a request from my friend, Dr. Leslie Petrovics, Budapest, Hungary, on the subject, “Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?”, an article in the NY Times, July 14, 2012, by Ross Douthat:

“CAN LIBERAL CHRISTIANITY BE SAVED? A REASONED (HOPEFULLY) RESPONSE

By William H. Hicks, BA, MPH, Elder, Living Stones Ministry Church of God

Chattanooga, TN

September 27, 2012

My long-distance friend, Dr. Leslie Petrovics, Budapest, Hungary and Mount Hermon classmate, 1967, referenced the article in the NY Times, July 15, 2012 by Ross Douthat, and solicited my views on the matter. First, I am humbled and honored that Dr. Petrovics would even consider my views as worth hearing.  I am pleased to offer to you, Les, the product of considerable thought on the subject. I hope you find this stimulating (at least).

In the book, “Discipleship and Discipline”, by William H. Hicks, copyright March, 2005, is written the following taken from the introduction:

“This book is written to challenge the church to be what it is meant to be: the greatest, single most potent change agent in the history of the world- past, present and future- because the church was made to change the hearts of men. The church has lost sight of its vision, if not of its mission. We are fragmented by denominations, by doctrinal infidelity, by stultifying institutional rictus and structural decay. Mega-churches proliferate and compete for numbers but do nothing to reach and teach the individual souls God says “all are mine.”(Ezekiel 18: 4) We are charged by Christ to have two (2) elements to our job description as disciples: we are to make disciples and we are to be His witnesses. The church is failing at making disciples, failing at teaching the professed followers of Christ “all that He has commanded us”. The church is fragmented, disjointed, at odds with itself and with His Word. It is failing to “equip the saints for the work of service”. The church lacks power because few are following His instructions on the imperative and method to make disciples. Consequently, witnessing has been relegated to attending church on Sunday at 11:00AM which remains the most segregated hour in America. We can do better. We must do better. Each of us who confess to be followers of Jesus Christ must first become His disciples and then we must apply the discipline of disciples to the making of other disciples and to our task as witnesses for Him. This book is a call to the church to assess itself, to “re-form” itself to conform more precisely to the change agent Jesus Christ called her into being to be.”

Jesus Christ embodied a personal relationship, direct with God. People desire, in my view, require this “propinquity”. (John 1: 12 – 13). The church/Christianity largely has failed to be truthful/faithful to its original “raison d’etre” and this failure is reflected in its “lack of success” by worldly measures, i.e., declining attendance, fewer “devotees”. In America, politics has “over-ruled” doctrinal fidelity. “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”. This is not limited to America. “Church Closes Food Bank Because It Attracts Poor People!”, an article in the Ottowa Citizen, Sept 1, 2011: “Winnipeg: A busy church food bank, known for offering warm drinks and snacks to its regulars, has announced its closing because it is attracting too many poor people. “‘It’s attracting a lot of street people that make it uncomfortable,’ said Charlotte Prossen, Unity Truth Centre minister Thursday, ‘It’s creating social unrest in the church’. “‘A food bank is a social service and that is not who we are.“ Ms. Prossen said the program is being cancelled to focus on more church-specific activities. The church’s board of trustees made the decision to cancel the bimonthly food bank after receiving an e-mail from a sister church in Victoria. ‘Most clients of food banks have not yet come to a sense of personal responsibility in life. They are still in denial, blame or seeing the world as owing them,’ wrote Rev. David Durksen of the Unity Church of Victoria.

Douthat writes that the church “is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.” He further states, “The most successful Christian bodies have often been politically conservative but theologically shallow, preaching a gospel of health and wealth rather than the full New Testament message.” If we take this as Douthat’s definition of ‘liberal Christianity’, my questions are: does this (Christianity) really exist? And if so, is it worth saving? Recently, I preached a sermon entitled, “Straight Talk About the So-called ‘Prosperity Gospel’”. During that homily, I stated, “I have been concerned about the disciples being led astray by the so-called “prosperity gospel” which teaches that one’s “abundant life” on earth is tied to the “amount” of faith one has and that that same faith and abundance is manifested in material and/or physical wellbeing. According to some of the proponents/teachers of this “gospel”, one’s faith can be measured by the NUMBER of Rolls Royce autos they possess or the NUMBER of houses they own or the NUMBER of members that attend their church (NOT INCLUDING THE INFLUENTIAL ONES!) or the NUMBER of square feet their sanctuary covers (not including the acreage on which the facility rests!) or HOW LARGE their annual budget is or how few (IF ANY) days they have been ill. Rarely, if ever, do you hear them talking about the NUMBER OF CHANGED LIVES they can give account for, largely because this is very difficult to measure. In order to do so, you would have to trace the impact of their teaching on the QUALITY (not QUANTITY) of their adherents’ lives OVER TIME.” Church attendance figures are NOT CHRIST’S STANDARD/MEASURE OF SUCCESS. I agree (in part) with Douthat, when he says, “The defining idea of liberal Christianity- that faith should spur social reform as well as personal conversion- has been an immensely positive force in our national life. No one should wish for its extinction, or for a world where Christianity becomes the exclusive property of the political right.” Where we diverge- and maybe only slightly- is that I believe personal conversion is the SOURCE of social reform, not its companion.  Douthat references “liberal Protestant scholar Gary Dorrien” who, he says, “points out (that) the Christianity that animated causes such as the Social Gospel and the Civil Rights Movement was much more dogmatic (doctrinally sound? True?) than present-day liberal faith. Its leaders had a “deep grounding in Bible study, family devotions, personal prayer and worship” Douthat posits that “They argued for progressive reform in the context of a “personal transcendent God..the divinity of Christ, the need for personal redemption and the importance of Christian missions.” These characteristics of ‘liberal Christianity’ point backwards to a personal relationship with God, which was central to the gospel (Then He said to them all, “ If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”—Luke 9: 23) and to the Apostle Paul’s teachings.

I had the distinct pleasure of hearing a seminar presented by Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize winning author (History) for his work, “Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 (Simon & Schuster: 1988). After his remarks, I asked Mr. Branch this question: “Do you think/believe that the Black church can become again the crucible of moral and theological leadership that produced Dr. King?” Mr. Branch’s reply was, “I honestly don’t know”. Can ‘liberal’ Christianity be saved? Only if Christianity as a sending (Romans 10: 15) and the individuals in churches in particular and as a whole, return to their roots, to its mission, its stated reason for being, that is, “to make disciples”. Unless and until the church re-focuses on its Master and fosters, encourages, promotes and teaches towards implementation His principles, it will continue to become irrelevant in the lives of the individual souls God says “all are mine.””

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