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The World, The Christ, and Us – Part 1

The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life…

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NKJV)

15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV)

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  (1 John 2:15-17 ASV)

15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world— 16 the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever. (1 John 2:15-17 HCSB)

15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17 KJV)

15Love not ye the world, nor the things in the world; if any one doth love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,  16because all that [is] in the world — the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the ostentation of the life — is not of the Father, but of the world,  17and the world doth pass away, and the desire of it, and he who is doing the will of God, he doth remain — to the age. (1 John 2:15-17 YLT)

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the des ires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

I looked this verse up in many translations that I would consider to be reliable and printed them here to reflect on.  I like the ESV translation, especially with regards to the first two of the three—“the desires of the flesh” and “the desires of the eyes”—but as I continue to mull over and meditate on this passage I think that “pride in possessions” falls a little short of what I think John is saying.  I’ll try to make more sense of that as I proceed.  First, though, I’d like to consider the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.

The lust (or the desires) of the flesh… these are physical appetites of the body.  It is important to understand that these may be God-given needs—such as food to feed the body, physical comfort (so that we may rest), and sex (both for pleasure and for pro-creation).  But as a result of Adam’s sin, and of our fallen and corrupt natures, these physical needs and appetites are distorted and out of balance.  We should be in control of our appetites.  But because of sin, they are most often in control of us.  We are slaves to food, alcohol (or other intoxicants), and to sexual passions, but God did not create man to be enslaved by these things.  He created these (some of them anyway) for man’s enjoyment, not his enslavement.  The enslavement to them is a result of sin, and results in further bondage to sin.

I understand the lust (or the desires) of the eyes pertain to those things that are external to our bodies.  The lust of the eyes is most often associated with covetousness.  Our eyes are seeking things to derive pleasure (or worth) from, although this is a certainly different from the sensual pleasure that comes from sex, food, or intoxicating substances that have a direct effect on our physical nature.  The pleasure that comes from gambling or winning the lottery, from buying a boat or a new car or a new house, or even some new clothes or jewelry is very real and can be very intense.  And most certainly there is an emotional aspect to the acquisition of such things, but it is obviously pleasure of a very different sort than would be had from a large meal, sexual intercourse, or an intoxicating substance.  It is a pleasure that is more oriented to the mind or, as our Christian forefathers centuries ago might say to the “affections” (or the heart) than it is to the body.

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Necrophilia and Narcissism (Take Two)

A couple of days ago I wrote a post entitled “Necrophilia and Narcissism”, and got a good response from someone who read that post.  I am always thankful when someone takes the time to leave a comment, and especially when they challenge me to think more deeply about what and why I believe.  I would like to take a minute and personally thank you, Daniel, for taking the time to comment and to challenge my position and assumptions.

I purposefully included a broad spectrum of vices and devices in that group.  Few would argue against death as the ultimate end of anger and violence, although some may not see the evident end of it in things like pornography and adultery.  To my mind, pornography and adultery are the same.  Jesus makes that clear in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28). But we don’t necessarily even have to look at someone lustfully with our eyes; it might be concealed in the dark thoughts of our mind where no one else can see but God.  And concerning the ends of adultery, the Proverbs are very clear that the end of adultery is death.

We know the same is true for alcohol and drugs, and that the word which is commonly translated as sorcery from the Greek in Galatians 5 in Paul’s list of “bad fruit” is from the Greek “pharmikea” from which we get “pharmacy” and “pharmaceuticals”.  The death sentence was also proclaimed on diviners and necromancers (i.e., those who communed with the dead for knowledge).  And I’m sure we all know someone who has been effected by death produced by drugs and or alcohol, whether by a drunk driver, overdose, or some other tragic consequence of their influence.  Surely, most of us have seen someone we know become someone we no longer knew at all as a result of drug or alcohol addiction.  I can speak from painful and personal experience to these things.  (And God has delivered me from many addictions, as well – cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, pornography, so again I have some experience with these things.)  The door to addiction is called pleasure, and that is what draws people into alcohol, drug, and sexual addictions.  But the Proverb is true that says: “One who wanders from the way of good sense will rest in the assembly of the dead. Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” (Proverbs 21:16-17)

Many will also admit that cigarettes cause cancer and that there is no life-giving benefit to smoking cigarettes.  Yet, I know many people–both friends and family–who despite knowing that there is no medical benefit and much evidence of the harm that smoking does to the body, still smoke.  Many of them have kids.  I would assume that they are at least somewhat aware that 20 or so times a day smoking *this* cigarette right here right now might cost them several years of life down the road with their kids and/or their grandchildren, but they do not feel compelled to stop.

So those may be obvious.  But television?  Junk food and soda pop?  Coffee?  Too much sugar?  Pharmaceutical drugs?  These are things that our culture says are okay, right?  Even Jesus drank in moderation didn’t he?  There is a Proverb that reads, “Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.” (Proverbs 23:30-33) And another that says, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.” (Proverbs 31:4-5) These do not reflect the character of Christ at all, but they certainly reflect the character of many who love their alcohol today.

Now, in moderation, some things are fine.  I have children.  And I have appetites of my own.  I happen to like coffee a lot.  But if I drink too much of it and not enough water, it is bad for my body.  My body lets me know if I’m drinking too much coffee and not enough water.  And if I do it for a long period of time, it gets worse and worse.  I don’t have a problem with a bowl of ice cream or a couple cookies after dinner.  But if one of my kids wants to drink soda and snack on candy, cookies, and crackers before a meal, and then claim they are not hungry when it’s time to eat their vegetables, I know they are not getting the nutrition that they need.  And if this persists for days and weeks and months and years. . . well, there may be one more member of my family who dies at an early age because of obesity and diabetes.  If they never learn to develop healthy appetites and feed their bodies the nutrition that they need–and they never develop that necessary sense of moderation–well, the end of such is death.  That is just the simple truth.  The Apostle Paul writes in his epistle to the Philippians: “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19)

And the big problem with our American society today is it does not teach any sort of understanding of moderation or “delayed gratification” (or a true sense of self-sacrifice for that matter).  But rather it encourages a spirit of “I want it here, I want it now, I want it hot, and I shouldn’t have to wait for it or work for it.”  The family meal has almost vanished, and a real appreciation of food and nutrition is lacking in our society like never before.  But our heart-attitude toward food is really not specific to just food, but to almost everything in our society.  Speaking in admittedly sweeping and general terms, I think it is obvious that we are a people who have very little appreciation for anything, and who live with a sense of expectation.  Indeed, the basic marketing principle that underlies our whole consumer society is that “we deserve” all these things being sold to us.  The focus is entirely all on self and self-gratification.  Narcissism; the love of self.  But the Apostle writes to the church: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

And what of television?  Well, I guess we’ve agreed that pornography and violence produce death, but isn’t that 90 percent of what television sits on?  Most of the shows on TV (even most professional sports) package up some form of sex and violence, encouraging anger, dissension, and adultery all the while selling and reinforcing those primary principles of entitlement and instant (self) gratification.  Television like nothing else in the last 50 years has taught us to devalue everything around us, promoting sex and violence, and a continual discontentment with what we have–always telling us that to want more, to not be satisfied with what we have, whatever it may be–whether our home, our car, our job, our material possessions, our spouse, our children, our very lives. . . which ultimately means dissatisfaction and discontentment with God, our great provider of ALL things.  This is the basic message that television promotes and it is at enmity with God.

Now, please understand — I have not gone off the deep end.  I am not advocating the destruction of television sets and soda vending machines all across the land.  But I think it is good and necessary to point out that even those thinks that we accept as harmless to determine what sort of fruit they ultimately produce.   It is also good to examine our own hearts and our appetites to see if they are balanced.  And if they are not, to take steps to correct them.  As I said in the article, sometimes it is our appetite that is not healthy moreso than the thing we crave itself…. that “our voracious consumption of it only works to bring about death.”  “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:1-5)

Now the other important point of the post, and what I was really shooting for (but probably missed) was not just the Necrophilia, but perhaps more importantly, the Narcissism.  I think it is true that the vast majority of us are drawn to (or “consume”) perhaps one or more things that unchecked and unmoderated could contribute or bring about our demise, but it is usually pretty easy to see the effects of these things and to recognize when we are no longer in control of our appetites, but they in control of us.  The greater danger it seems to me is not the Necrophilia, but the Narcissism.  Even when it comes to own our Necrophiliac tendencies, our usual habit (at least mine anyway) is not to lament over our own Necrophiliac tendencies and to cry to the Lord for help, but to see them in others and wag our heads and make mouths at them (Psalm 22).  Isn’t this typically the beam in our own eye.  I’m sure it is in mine.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

And even when we do we lament and cry out, how much more often is it for our Necrophilia than our Narcissism?  How often is the condition of our heart truly more like the Pharisee than the Publican, whether we state it so or not?  That was the point that I really wanted to emphasize.

My motivation in the post was not to condemn everyone who has an addiction–be it to coffee, soda, sugar, and/or fast food. . . or anger, adultery, alcohol, and/or drugs.  I think there is actually a positive aspect in that addictions (and their consequences), when they become strongholds, can sometimes drive us to our knees so that we cry out to our Sovereign Lord for mercy.  Often the corruption of our lusts and desires and our complete helplessness to break free of them reveal our great need for a Savior, which is the place we really all need to come to if we are to be born again (John 3:1-15).

But when it comes to Narcissistic self-love and pride, I think it must be exceedingly rare that we are driven to God in despair for that.  It is the Narcissistic tendency rather than the Necrophiliac one that poses far greater danger because it masks the inner decay and the decomposition of the soul.  The Narcissistic tendency wants to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil not so much because we really want to be like God, but because like the serpent, we desire to sit in His throne.  And the Necrophiliac tendency wants to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, in spite of the fact that God has told us that to do so will bring death.

It is not that one tendency is “better” than the other, and both are dangerous to the life of the soul.  But I do think that the one is a bit more honest and obvious in both its effect and its assessment, and if for no other reason than that, it may serve to bring one to the Cross, recognizing the significance and the need for a Savior.  And yet, for those of us bound up by either one, the only hope of escape that we have is Christ, and that the God of all grace would mercifully open our eyes to the depths of our own depravity and reveal to us this great need for deliverance, for redemption. . . for Christ.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:1-15)

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Necrophilia and Narcissism

Two terms that evoke strong reactions.  One speaks of the disgusting “love” of the dead.  The other speaks of the disgusting “love” of the self.

Necrophilia. . .

Cigarettes.  Alcohol.  Sugar.  Artificial sweeteners.  Coffee.  Soda.  Gossip.  Pornography.  Adultery.  Anger.  Sex.  Violence.  Television.

Why are we so drawn to death?  So much of what we really desire, what we are motivated to obtain and to “enjoy”–that is, what we feed on to satisfy whatever it is we must be hungering for since that is what we consume–is not only unhealthy (or perhaps our appetite for it is not), but our voracious consumption of it only works to bring about death.  Death.  How much time and money do we spend feeding our bodies, our minds, and our souls that which produces no life, but in fact quite the opposite?  Who wants to answer this question honestly?

How much of what we feed our bodies, our minds, and our souls produces and sustains life?  Do we long for healthy foods to feed our bodies, or pursue vigorous activities and exercise?  Or do we prefer junk food, candy, fast food, cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs?  Instead of dumb bells or a pair of hiking boots, do we prefer a TV remote or a video game controller?

Do we feed our minds good books, Scripture, seek quiet time for meditating and reflecting on what we’re learning?  Do we seek opportunities to put what we know to use, to teach others, and to benefit those around us with what we have learned or been gifted with?  Or do we prefer to entertain ourselves with constant, mindless noise–whether it be music or television or video games?  Do we spend our time putting useful things into our mind, or do we just fill it with so much junk?

And do we spend time daily on our knees in prayer, bringing our needs before the Lord, seeking His provision in our life?  Do we read the Scriptures as if they are the very words of life, wrestling with them and begging God for understanding. . . or if understanding, begging for help with application?  Are we thanking God for all the things He is bringing about in our life, even the trials that strengthen our faith, and the afflictions that destroy our foolish pride?  Do we spend time helping others, ministering to them and meeting their needs?  And do we practice forgiveness when the Lord challenges us to live and to love as He did, sacrificially?  Or do we give ourselves to anger and a vengeful spirit?  Or to gossip, seeking the sin in others?  Or perhaps entertain lustful thoughts, hiding the adulterous hearts that beat within our breast?  Do we put unclean things before our eyes, and erect idols where only God should live?

And lest you think yourself somehow elevated because some of the most obvious entrees above are not a vice to you, then consider the second option. . .

Naricissism.

Maybe you think well of yourself because you have healthier appetites, and so you esteem yourself as being somehow better than those whose appetites seem to lead toward destruction.  Maybe in your own secret and subtle way, you pray quietly to yourself like that Pharisee, “Lord I thank you that you have not made me like these other men. . . even like this tax collector.”  Maybe you have deceived yourself, forgetting your unworthiness before the King.  Perhaps you have fallen asleep and forgotten that neither you nor your appetites are healthy, and that you are a sinner still in need of grace.  For our Lord said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Be careful you are not thanking Him that you are not like the Necrophiliac.

I don’t know if the old American Puritan Thomas Sheperd wrote these words or if Alexander Whyte penned them in his appreciation for Shepard, but I thought they reveal much of the human heart:

‘There is no difference. I am as you are, and you are as I am. Just try the thing yourselves. Just begin to love God with all your heart, and you will soon see that the more you try to do that the less will you feel satisfied that you succeed. And, in like manner, when you begin to love your neighbour as yourself you will begin to get a lesson with a vengeance in the spiritual life. Just try to rejoice in all your neighbour’s well-being as much as you rejoice in your own. Just try to relish and enjoy all other men’s praises of your neighbour as you relish and enjoy all other men’s praises of yourself. Just try to take delight in all your neighbour’s rewards, promotions, prosperities as you take delight in your own. And go on trying to do that toward all men around you, friend and foe, and you will get a lesson in the infinite and exquisite holiness and spirituality of God’s law of love, and at the same time a lesson in the abominable and unspeakable corruptions of your own heart that will make you wiser in all these matters than all your teachers.’

Necrophiliac.  Narcissist.  It is tempting to say that most of us are one or the other, but I do not think that is true.  I think there is a danger that most of us are both, although we may have certain tendencies to lean more toward one or the other.  Both are self-consuming.  And though means and motives may differ, both are self-absorbed and leave very little by way of fruit to offer others.

Christ was raised up from the dead.  He did not remain in the grave; He was raised up and is at the right hand of the Father.  If you are a Christian, you do not worship a dead man.  Therefore, if we love Him we must leave our Necrophilia.  At the same time, “By this we know love, that He laid His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”  We must not be so in love with our own lives that we hold on to them and value them more than we value the lives of others.  We must also come to Him understanding that our own lives are worthless, and that He is the true life.  Therefore, if we love Him, we must reject our Narcissism.  In Christ, we are called to love sacrificially, to give our lives for the sake of another without loving those things that bring about death.

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Thoughts on the Rapture

The more I think about “the Rapture”, the more convinced I am that it has already happened.

And that it is happening right now.

And that it will continue to happen.

It happened when the Holy Spirit visited the believers in Jerusalem.  And it has been happening ever since.  The “rapture” is the calling out of the believers from the world.  That is what it is and what it means.  It’s what occurs to the “called-out” ones.  It’s not people floating up toward heaven in their earthly bodies, but it is the spiritual ascent of a once earthbound nature ascending meet the Lord in glory.  Even now, the Lord Jesus Christ is breaking forth from the clouds on the white horse, wielding the Sword of the Spirit and claiming His own out of the world.  Even now, judgment is being pronounced and some are being called out.

What happens in the Rapture?  The world loses its hold.  It loses its appeal… loses its grip on some poor sinner’s soul.

The rapture happened to the early church, and has continued to happen since its formation as the Spirit has continued through history to call men out of darkness for His good pleasure.  It is happening right now.  And it will continue to happen.

But not only is this true for the church, it is true as well for the individual. . .

What happened to me?

I was raptured.

I was a vile and worthless sinner who justified himself.  I didn’t believe in sin. . . the worst that I would confess was maybe a couple of bad habits.  Because I saw no sin in me or in the rest of the world (I was totally in denial of this doctrine) I saw no need of a Savior.  I didn’t imagine myself needing to be saved by anyone from anything for any reason.  I was depraved and liked the way I was.  I liked the the alcohol and the cigarettes and the other indulgences I partook of.  I saw nothing wrong with any of that.  I was totally content to live for my own self and for my own self-pleasure.  Though I had gone from an atheist to someone that thought they knew much about God, and loved Him, the truth is I hated Him.  I would not read His word.  I hated Christianity with a passion.  I fancied myself enlightened and thought Christians narrow-minded and ignorant.  I mocked them and rejected Jesus as “the Savior” and the “only way”.  But then one day because of His great mercy, God opened my eyes.  He gave me a new heart.  He convicted me of sin and showed me how great my need for a Savior really was.  And it began that day.  I was raptured.  I was called out of this world.

What is happening to me?

I am being raptured.

I find that since that day, there has been a lot of change taking place.  Some things happened quickly, almost instantaneously.  Some things have taken some time.  But over time, I have found that I don’t want to listen to certain kinds of music that want to glory in the world and the flesh, that boast in man and all the sin that dwells in the domain of darkness.  I do not want to watch scary movies I once enjoyed.  I do not even want to go to video stores for all the grotesque or lewd movie cases.  I really don’t care to watch tv shows or movies that are blatantly opposed to Scripture.  I have a hard time with so many movies because they are all about willfully desecrating the commandments (you shall not kill and you shall not commit adultery takes out about 95 percent of Hollywood’s options right there).  I am not interested in “the news”, or politics, or political discussion.  I don’t spend several hours during the week or on the weekend watching sports.  I don’t want to go play pool and hang out at a bar.  I don’t want to drink or smoke cigarettes (or anything else).  I don’t want “a buzz”.  I don’t want to go to concerts or spend hours talking about sports and other meaningless stuff.  I don’t even enjoy riding in a car with coworkers on the way to a restaurant when they are listening to God-abominating music or engaging in crude conversations.

I want to talk about God!  Nothing makes me happier than spending time with my brothers and sisters in the faith, sharing with them, meeting needs, talking about the things of God, glorifying Him in word and deed, studying the Scriptures, and praying and giving thanks to God for everything I can see Him doing, sharing with my wife and my children the glory of God.  “What is wrong with me?” the world would ask. I’m being raptured!  I’m being called out of this world.

And the more I ask “What is right with this world!?” the more it asks, “What is wrong with him!?”

What is going to happen?

I will be raptured!

I am not getting any younger.  The days of my youth are behind me and the grass is already beginning to wither, the flower beginning to fade.  Where once there was a proud (or shall I say vain) crown of locks, there is only skin.  The whiskers of my beard grow whiter by the month.  The aches and pains in my body increase, and I know that at some point I will probably get sick and die, unless the Lord sees fit to call me out suddenly.  But one way or the other, one day I will no longer be in this body or this world. . . but I will dwell with the Lord in glory forever.  The thoughts of this world will fade away, and the thought of me in this world will fade just as quickly.  Here I am but a vapor.  But on that Day I will be with Christ forever.  I will be raptured!  I will be forever called out!

Oh, take me, Lord.  Rapture my soul.  But before you take me out of this world completely, take this world out of me and let me shine as a light for your glory.  Just for a little while.  May it please You, my King, to glorify Yourself through me.

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The Shack or the Outhouse – Take Two

If you read my previous post, The Shack or the Outhouse, you know I already had misgivings about this book. What little I knew about it when my received it as a gift in the mail was enough already to raise a flag on my discernment meter. As I began to look into a bit more, my concern only grew.

Well, the number of five star reviews for this book just continue to pour in for “The Shack”. There are now over 770 review posted on Amazon for this doctrinally deficient work of fiction. I finally broke down and posted a 1-star review on Amazon, which I realize may not be entirely fair since I have not read the book. I *have* flipped through it and read enough in it to know I’m really not interested in devoting the time it would take to read it all the way through when I have so many other books on my list right now that seem to honor and glorify the God of the Bible so much more. But I went ahead and posted this review, which is really less a review than a word of caution to anyone who might be reading through the reviews trying to decide whether it’s a book they want to order. So, here it is. As always, your comments are welcome, invited, but rarely forthcoming. ;~)

Amazon Review: The Shack or The Outhouse?

Several people seem to have really enjoyed this book. Personally, I prefer the God of the Bible. It is not surprising, though, that so many people will gladly accept someone else’s idea of a God that is all love and no wrath. It’s also not too surprising that most of the real defenders of the faith here have been attacked by the people who have fallen in love with this god of The Shack rather than the Lord of the Harvest.

Here’s a passage of scripture taken from Second Thessalonians. Take especial note of 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12:

2Th 2:7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.
2Th 2:8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;
2Th 2:9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,
2Th 2:10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.
2Th 2:11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false,
2Th 2:12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
2Th 2:13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

Those who reject the true gospel of Jesus Christ–the gospel of sin, repentance, and salvation–will look for alternates wherever they can find them. For many who want the warm comfort of salvation (like a cup of hot cocoa) without the excruciating torment required of the sinner (that is *true* repentance), then something of this sort of Christianity-like-lite can be very appealing. But God’s word is very explicit that for those who would prefer delusion to the way of eternal life, God Himself will send them a delusion. It is similar to the way that God hardened Pharoah’s heart after Pharoah repeatedly insisted on hardening it himself against God’s word and His will initially as Moses pleaded for His people.

We live in a time (and perhaps it has always been this way, I don’t know) when people want a quick-fix, an easy solution, and above all something they can feel GOOD about. Whether it is prosperity gospel in its variety of forms, books like this, or any of the myriad man-centered spin-systems out there (Tolle/Winfrey for example), true gospel Christianity is just not real popular. That’s because it does not, will not, has not, and never will elevate man above anything other than utterly depraved and corrupt in sin, and badly (if not blindly) in need of a Savior. Anyone who professes Christ that ever forgets this should question both their sanity and their salvation.

I don’t care how many people claim that this is a life changing book, I *seriously* doubt that is true for any of them boasting this claim on some book’s behalf. I think it is much more likely that someone reading this book would NOT change because they would have the false assurance that God is just so wonderful and loving that they could continue on in whatever messed up manner they might be in when they arrived at The Shack. I doubt anyone has given up a lifelong addiction to drugs, or alcohol, pornography, or any other form of idol-worship or sin as a result of reading this book. I wonder how many people staking that claim actually changed anything at all about their lifestyle besides discussing the book in some conversations and sending free copies to other people they know.

In short, I would be very surprised if ANYONE has made the radical life changes that I have witnessed first-hand in the lives of someone who has experienced a true conversion to Christ. Why is that? Because that kind of change only occurs when a person truly repents of their sin and believes in Christ as their Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit can bring about true and lasting change in a believer’s life, but He only operates in those who believe and accept the real gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m sure this will invite some anger among some who have read this book and believe it changed their lives just because it made them feel better about themselves or about their idea of God; that is, a warm and loving God. However, though God is indeed loving He is also just; and is as much a God of wrath as of love. Many are willing to love God for His love as long as they do not have to fear Him for His wrath. But to only accept the love of God as good, and reject the wrath of God–which is also good, actually even perfect–is to misunderstand Him and His plan for salvation altogether. You won’t get it.

If you want to know what God is really like, read the Bible. Not some work of fiction by an author that has put his words into God’s mouth, but the 66 books of Scripture written down by people whom God chose to put His words in theirs. There is a big difference.

May the Lord bless you, keep you, and guide you into all Truth. In Jesus Name, amen.

Simple Mann

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Thoughts on Pyromaniacs' Church and Politics

I enjoy reading Phil Johnson at the Pyromaniacs Blog Site. Today’s blog entry, entitled “An Addendum on the Church and Politics”, is the latest in a series of blog articles discussing the mixing of faith with politics, and I think he rightly points out the dangers involved and inherent when these two get too intimate. Here’s how his latest entry starts off:

One of the greatest dangers of the political activism of the so-called “religious right” is this: It fosters a tendency to make enemies out of people who are supposed to be our mission-field, even while we’re forming political alliances with Pharisees and false teachers.

To hear some Christians today talk, you might think that rampant sins like homosexuality and abortion in America could be solved by legislation. A hundred years ago, the pet issue was prohibition, and mainstream evangelicalism embraced the notion that outlawing liquor would solve the problem of drunkenness forever in America. It was a waste of time and energy, and it was an unhealthy diversion for evangelicals and fundamentalists during an era when the truth was under siege within the church. Lobbying for laws to change the behavior of worldly people was the last project evangelicals needed to make their prime mission in the early 20th century. Just like today. Remember Galatians 2:21: “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” And Galatians 3:21: “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.”

I remember reading an Amazon a couple of reviews several years ago for the book “Blinded By Might” written by two co-founders of the moral majority, Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson (no relation to Dr. James Dobson). The reviews really got me to thinking about the way “faith” was being used to manipulate people, and damaging the cause of Christ in the process. The first reviewer’s name is Gregory A. Boyd, and this is what he had to say in his review:

What a GREAT book! I wish every evangelical Christian would read this book. If only Amazon had a 10 star rating!

Though people constantly tried to get him to do otherwise, Jesus never allow himself to be co-opted into the politics of this world. He rather testified to the truth that he was about an entirely different kingdom by letting himself be killed by the politics of this world! Never once did he enter into the politically charged atmosphere of his day by even commenting on the relative merits or vices of the Roman leaders. His mission was about something unrelated to what these leaders did or did not do.

Along similar lines, Paul reminds Christians to be followers of their heavenly Lord and not “to be occupied with civilian affairs” (2 Tim 2:4). And the author of Hebrews reminds Christians they are “aliens” in this world because they are “citizens of heaven.” When we follow the example of Jesus and live THIS calling out, we have a power to change lives and affect the world that is not of this world. We win the world back for God, one soul at a time.

Many, if not most, contemporary evangelicals have completely missed this. They sincerely believe that the battle is to be fought and won in the arena of earthly politics. Here is where Thomas and Dobson make their contribution. They “hit it out of the park”! These authorsl point out that evangelicals have come to do what Jesus never did, and what the Bible forbids us to do. We have waged war with “flesh and blood,” forgetting that our real battle is “against principalities and powers” (Eph 6). We have spent our time and energy futily trying to tweak the world’s hopelessly corrupt system — and feeling very proud with little (temporary) gains — instead of living our call to be ambassadors of an entirely different, counter-cultural, kingdom. In the process, we have damaged our reputation to the unbelieving world and diluted our kingdom authority. We have been corrupted by the desire for political might.

With the wisdom of experience and the skill of seasoned writers, Thomas and Dobson expose this for the deception that it is. In so doing, they remind us that “though we are IN the world, we are not OF the world.” “We do not wage war as the world does.” Our weapons are person-to-person love, prayer, fasting, self-sacrifice and faith.

The second reviewer’s name is Henry A. Walker, and this is what he had to say in his review:

Like the disciples of old, the former members (Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson) of the Moral Majority for a long while were not only “blinded by might,” but were also blind to the deep spiritual import of Christ’s message and mission- that His kingdom is NOT of this world. The authors have now applied spiritual eyesalve– for spiritual things are spirtually discerned. They have revealed the not-so-honest ploys of the Moral Majority (MM) and Christian Coalition (CC). They have shown clearly and upon bliblical principles that spiritual methods are simply incompatible with much of the political process. No matter how right religious organizations may be, you don’t force feed the message or the conduct. No matter how lofty or ideal the goal, the end does not always justify the means. Moreover, while displaying a form of godliness, we deny God’s power in our lives when we use the methodology of politics and seek the hand of government. Christ said clearly, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.” Obviously, Christians have not lifted up Christ in their personal lives to the point where they would lack the urge to seek political laws, mandates or amendments to “win” over others- to have others do good. Good religion is not politicking or lawmaking. Good religion is feeding the hungry, giving to the poor, and taking care of the orphans and widows. As taken from scripture and quoted by Cal Thomas in the book, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit says the Lord of hosts.”

Those reviews set me to thinking about the negative effects that the relationship between the “religious establishment” (for lack of a better term) and the government have had on the Christian faith. The relationship (which I would hardly call a marriage, more like an adulterous affair) placed a greater emphasis on the body politic for a means of change than it did on the body of Christ. And while it may have been great for some politicians–being able to play the faith card to win a larger percentage of the vote–it has been terrible for the church.

Please understand, I am not suggesting that as Christians we should abandon the arena of politics altogether any more than I would ever suggest a politician abandon their faith (if indeed they have any). What I am saying, though, is that by attempting to “play the political game” the same way everyone else plays it, we have undermined the value of our faith and we have tarnished its image in the eyes of many. It is not a problem with Christ or even with His church, but with the impersonal and amoral machinery that is the political process in this country right now.

I do think our faith in Christ should shape our worldview and should guide us as we vote or serve in public office. However, I also think that we should be more discerning when certain candidates or platforms are attempting to manipulate a large portion of the voting population, and making promises that will never be delivered. “Oh, c’mon honey,” says the shrewd old man Congress. “It’s only a little sin and for a little while. Once that other paperwork gets signed and pushed through, I’ll devote myself to you and you alone. We’ll get married and make it all proper. I’ve just got some other commitments right now. You understand. Trust me. Now let’s lie together for just a little while…”

As the reviewers aptly pointed out, Jesus did not concern himself with a political reformation when He lived and taught the Apostles. There is no doubt that there were all kinds of problems in the society that He chose to inhabit–drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, tax collectors, indigents, and the like. Virtually every problem that exists in our society today existed in the society He lived and taught in 2000 years ago. Yet Jesus did not seek political reform–not in the least. Jesus sought the reformation of the heart and soul. He didn’t try to get fix the problems of prostitution corrupted tax official by appealing to the authorities and seeking legislative changes. If He had, He probably would have been much more popular among the Pharisees.

The fact of the matter is that Jesus didn’t sidle up to the Pharisees. He took pity on the lost souls who obviously could not live beneath the weight of the law–who were crushed by it, condemned by it. Yet the lawgivers in His own society, those are the ones he rebuked and repudiated, time and time again. And instead of offering condemnation to the most obvious of sinner, he extended grace and provided conversion, even to prostitutes, lepers, and tax collectors–basically, the most reviled of His society. He didn’t try to change the nature of the world to eliminate those sins; He changed the nature of the person’s heart to eliminate them. Change that does not come from the inside-out is meaningless. That is the entire reason that the “law” of the Jews failed to save any. Paul, himself a Pharisee, attested to that. The only power the law had was to damn souls to Hell, and to point to the absolute need of a Savior. And only the power that could free them from their bondage of sin and eternal damnation came from the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Not all are saved. Not all will be saved. God’s word is actually quite clear on that. It doesn’t matter what laws are passed, or what measures are taken to eliminate sin from society. It may be pressed down at one point, but it will bubble up again somewhere else. Without the power of the Holy Spirit working in a believer’s life, the power of sin will not only exist but prevail wherever men and women gather. To think otherwise may be optimistic, but it certainly is not biblical.

This is not to suggest that we should have no laws, but the point is that no amount of legislation will ever turn a person’s heart. There is no power in any law of man to save him or make him righteous. We cannot rely on the law to save our society from sinful deeds and corruption. The only hope we have is Jesus Christ, and if we (as Christians) are devoting all or most of our time to the political process to try to bring about change, we are working in our own strength to try to change the world instead of allowing the power of the gospel to work to change the hearts whom He has called. Our efforts are ineffectual. We cannot evangelize through stricter legislation any more effectively than the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked so strongly!

True and last changing can only be wrought by the power of the Spirit working from the inside out. I lived life as a sinner for 27 years before the conversion took place in my life. I am still a sinner, although glory be to God not nearly to the extent that I was all those wretched years. It is only through Christ that I may stand justified before God. Him and Him alone. But the type of change so many religious groups are seeking to bring about by applying pressure through government–to influence change from the outside-in is not only doomed to fail (as history demonstrates over and over again), it is also counterproductive to the mission field.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” (Luke 10:2-4)

Jesus sent His disciples directly to the mission field. He did not send them to go reason with the Pharisees and to see what they might be able to do help their cause by enforcing stricter legislation. He didn’t send them off with bags of money to go and influence lobbyists. In fact, he made sure that they took no money with them. How completely antithetical is this approach to what is taking place today by religious groups in Washington? And we wonder why our culture is swallowing up the Christian? We have lost our ability to think outside our culture and to rely on the Holy Spirit. We have become so immersed in our culture that we no longer live “separate, set apart”–which is what the term “holiness” originally meant.

In a certain sense, our culture is a lot like our children. We should lead by example, and allow for growth and maturity through the normal process of learning and making mistakes. Our example should be humility and true righteousness in Christ, not arrogance and self-righteousness. Who, as a parent, refuses to let their child touch anything, do anything, say anything, eat anything, etc., that might harm them or cause them embarrassment? Or even worse, might embarrass the parent? Not a very good parent in my estimation. As we grow as children, we learn by making mistakes. We say and do the wrong things. We suffer consequences. We mess up and break things. Sometimes we break a heart. Sometimes our own is broken. But God uses those things to teach us and grow us.

We cannot remove every possible risk from our environment so that our children never get hurt, any more than we can remove every possible temptation so that our society never sins. It’s going to happen. And if you really trust in God’s sovereignty, you can even allow for the fact that it is good that it does. I know I can speak from my own personal experience as a corrupted sinner for years and years, that clearly I know God’s goodness and His righteousness, perhaps no better than when contrasted with my own sinful nature. Not that I would suggest that anyone pursue sin to better know and appreciate God’s righteousness, for as the Apostle Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:1-3)

Anyway, these are just my thoughts and opinions. I am not saying they are right or wrong, but I thought I would share them here from my heart. If you have any thoughts or opinions you would like to share on this topic, please feel free to leave your comments.

Peace & Blessings,

Simple Mann

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