Evil Is Evident; Hell Is Authentic; Prepare or Perish.

This title is not stated as a threat or with any glee.  It is written with trembling knees, a heart full of prayer and sincere desire that anyone reading it may find Life and NOT perish.  The title is simply the statement of three facts which I will address in three blogs.  Though Jesus spoke much more about the Kingdom of Heaven, we would be remiss if we skipped these subjects that He and the Bible address.

Fairy Tales
2021-03-27 WickedSome would like us to believe in fairy tales; happily ever after endings without consequences for wrong behavior.  Or at least, let’s provide some context which makes wrong choices understandable and tolerable since the villain had it so rough.  So Wicked becomes a Disney retelling of Sleeping Beauty that makes Maleficent an unfortunate victim of her circumstances.  Romulans actually are nice guys, just with slightly different means of expressing the same values as Federation members.  Natasha Romanoff (or Black Widow) had a rough childhood; fortunately, she falls in love with a good guy and joins the Avengers.  Severus Snape, the epitome of evil with black cape, boots and a penchant for scaring Potter’s goodniks, turns out to be working for Dumbledore all along.  Another black-robed villain, Darth Vader is given reasons for his turn to the dark side.  And the Terminator turns out to be a misunderstood robot who just needed reprogramming.  Don’t we all?

So in this alternate universe Hitler would be mistreated by his dad and abused by a Jewish teacher.  Stalin was a nice kid who just got involved with the wrong crowd, and Pol Pot was very poor and had to steal food to survive as a child.

Unfortunately, alternate “universes” do not exist (with no apologies to Stephen Hawking).  By definition, universe means ”the totality of known or supposed objects throughout space; the cosmos.”  There cannot be another “universe” that contains that totality; that is an absurdity for which there is not a grain of evidence except in the minds of Star Trek viewers like Hawking.

Not Innocent, Only Incompetent
2021-03-27 Not Innocent Just IncompetentWe are the product of choices we make throughout life, beginning with infancy when we want the blocks the other baby has.  Shortly after most children master “Mama,” most also learn “Mine!”  Children are not innocent; they are simply incompetent.  Given the power, the mass of them would eliminate any opposition with a flick of Potter’s wand and simply kill anyone that prevents them from getting their way.

You and I were like that!  We had to be taught that there were better things than getting our own way all the time.  Most of those lessons were learnt through experience, the best teacher, but hardly the kindest.

In The Great Divorce, C.S.Lewis illustrates these choices among those who refuse Heaven because of what they want.  From the dishonest intellectual to a greedy materialist; from a religious hypocrite to a self-deprecating egomaniac; from a mother who preferred to drag her child into hell rather than forfeit control to a tragedian who loved his own misery rather than accept joy that was offered.  “Better to reign in hell than serve in Heaven.” (Milton)

There are those who will choose their own way rather than God’s way even at the pain of death.  And from their choices will come every kind of evil from murdering unborn children to killing the elderly who no longer “contribute to society” to justifying what once were considered perverse lifestyles.  Like Lewis’ Ghosts they will couch their evil in beautiful sounding words like Social Security, Affordable Care, For The People, Toleration or Government Protection, but what they really want is selfish aggrandizement, physical comfort, control of others and power for themselves.

Can’t We All Just Be Nice?
2021-03-27 House on FireEvil is real and it does not go away just because we try to be “nice” to each other.  Real love is much harsher than the pablum pop psychology puts out today.  If a neighbor’s house is on fire, would we be “nice” and say, “Let’s not upset him; wait till it’s convenient to tell him?”  NO, the “loving thing” to do would be to bang on his door, disturb his “peace,” and warn him to get to safety!  So it is that if we fail to warn people of the reality of evil and its consequences, we are simply “nice neighbors” who do not care if our acquaintances die.

Trying to be nice to some people is like appeasement of Hitler just prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.  There was a madness sweeping Europe and the Fuhrer was simply its pawn.  This does not excuse him of the war’s atrocities, but remember he was as deceived as those he was deceiving (See 2 Timothy 3:12-13), an evil-doer going from bad to worse.

Paul had this to say to his protégé pastoring in Ephesus:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,  who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3)

And again some time later:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” (2 Timothy 3:1-9)

Children of the Day
2021-03-27 Children Of The DayWe are called to be light in a darkening world, salt to a rotting, tasteless culture (Matthew 5:13-16).  The times will become darker yet, as political leaders lie more, as religious conviction becomes labeled “Hate Speech,” as bureaucratic alignments for economic and national interests bring together enemies of Israel, as whole societies call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:8-30)

However, though evil is real and becomes more evident, we are called “to walk in the Light, even as He is in the light.” (1 John 1:5-9)  We must stand distinctly apart from liars and deceivers who say, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:13-15)  And we pray for the deceived that they may see the Truth (Ephesians 4:18-19)

The Children of the Day recorded this song back in 1979 based on 1 Thessalonians 5:5-9.
When your heart is dark and empty and new shadows start to fall;
When cluttered fears and sin are the writing on your wall;
Your confusion and your doubts are always lurking left and right,
Don’t try to drive the darkness out; you just turn on the light.

We’re the children of the light, and we’re the children of the day.
We need not always stumble in an ever darkening way.
Though the darkness will close in around with shadows everywhere,
Still Jesus Christ is in our life, the Light of the world is there.

Next week, , I will discuss what Jesus and the Apostles taught about hell.  It’s not pretty.

It’s All About ME!

2021-03-20 Self MagazineSelf-help, self-improvement, self-actualization, self-worth, Self Magazine, self-love.  There is even a Self-Help Credit Union and books about self-massage.  And don’t even get started on seminars and classes one can take for any of these endeavors.  Oprah, Deepak, Covey, Maxwell, Robbins, Dr. Phil and a plethora of others make a fortune every year from our need to “find ourselves” . . . as if you cannot look in a mirror and say, “Oh, there I am.”

2021-03-20 Rain is WetThe first thing to recognize about the “self” phenomenon that began in the 1970s is this foolish idea that we need “to learn to love ourselves.”  That’s as absurd as “trying to figure out if I am a man or woman.”  Hey, follow the “science” and look in your pants.  This is like trying to figure out if the sun is bright or if rain is wet.  The sun IS bright by its nature; by the way it was created and what it was created to be.  The rain IS wet because it is made of water, and by definition you cannot use water in “dry-cleaning;” otherwise the cleaning would be wet-cleaning.

Just as the sun is bright and rain is wet, we love ourselves.  This first principle is in Ephesians 5:29.  You can no more hate yourself than the rain can be dry.  So how do we understand negative thoughts and self-deprecation we often encounter?  We are always of two minds, and the “self-love” gurus never seem to understand this.

If the Bible is correct, and I would (and do) stake my life on it, we need to reorient our thinking to correctly assess what we understand to be self-hate.  I love myself, but sometimes I do things that I know are not good for me or others.  (See Romans 7:15-20.)  And the more I love myself AND understand that the thing I do is not good for me, the more I will hate what I do.  Too much of our pop psychology from the 1960s on to the present time misreads this spite for what I do as spite for my self, demonstrating a lack of critical analysis skills.  It also shows a significant misconstruction of the human mind.  Many professional psychiatrists and psychologists now have been fed lies about self-hate and graduated with this misunderstanding.

2021-03-20 Me Me MeThe social and cultural revolution that occurred in the 1960s carried over into the 70s with what Tom Wolfe called the “Me Generation” that was focused on examining our own belly buttons to the point that we lost sight of what it was to be a person.  And it has not become any better for newer generations.  Stare at the sun long enough and you will not see it anymore.  Stare at your own reflection in a mirror and you will lose sight of what really matters . . . for yourself and for others.

The saddest part of this is that some of the “self-help” stuff is right.  If you read some blogs or scan the web about self-love, there are some excellent guidelines for caring for others or living at peace, eating better food or disavowing racism.  Do these things and, yes, you will find yourself happier, more fulfilled and living healthier and better than ever.  But the question comes, is being happy the ultimate goal of my life?  “People who are entirely wrapped up in themselves make pretty small packages.” (Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1942)

The key consideration is motive.  Why do we do the things we do?  The Son of Man did not come to do His own will, but the will of His Father who had sent Him. (John 6:38)  God does not look on outward appearances as we do (1 Samuel 16:7), but looks at our motives.  When I indulge in self-help because it is good for ME, my motive is sinful, even if the action is good.  Even action that is self-sacrificial or self-deprecating is nothing more than banging a gong if the motive is only for me. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)  Even writing a brilliant blog (🙄) is of no value to the Kingdom of God if all I want is more followers and accolades of readers.

Separating our “selves” from what we do is almost impossible for us.  The concept is easy enough to understand: consider when you look at a beautiful painting or the Grand Canyon; when you smell a delicious New England Boiled Dinner about ready to be served; when you feel the warmth of a loving embrace; when you hear a philharmonic orchestra play a Beethoven symphony perfectly.  In all of these occasions we are somehow transported “out of ourselves” to a point of delight without focus on us.  Ideally, this is how we should live!  Not as a Buddhist in “absorption into the infinite” nor in a state of impersonal nirvana, and certainly not with a focus on how much “I enjoy” this.

Rather, there is a position of satisfaction in savoring something without “self-consciousness.”  It is not a place of hating oneself or of putting oneself down; nor is it a place of exalting oneself, of loving and caring for yourself over concern for others.  It is simply NOT thinking about yourself.

There is also a place of discomfort where we are concerned for someone else, worried for another’s well-being, hopeful for something for someone besides ourselves.  This is also a field of UN-self-consiousness. 

So where does that leave us?  Always coming before the Creator with humility and repentance for being less than He created us to be.  C.S. Lewis commented somewhere that we are either repenting of a sin, contemplating a sin, or committing a sin, this being our constant habit.  It would seem rather dismal except that whenever we are in that place of repentance, God lifts us out of our “selves” and gives us joy for the moments that we are UN-self-conscious.  And this comes because of His grace to us, His unmerited favor that the Holy God of the universe lavishes on us who are so unholy.

2021-03-20 RainingSo give up reading on “how to be happy,” forget about “finding yourself,” or “realizing your potential.”  No need to “Run The World.”  Most of all, lose any misconception about a need to love yourself more or more perfectly.  You can no more improve on your love for yourself than you can make rain any wetter.

Instead focus on Him, on His Presence, on His purposes.  Learn to know Him, not as an abstract idea or philosophy, but know Him as a person.  Granted, an infinite and undefinable person, but He is here and He is not silent.  It is NOT all about me . . . or you.

Can’t Congress Find Anything MORE Stupid To Do????

2021-03-13 DST AgainWell, it’s that time of the year again.  After a year of pandemics and elections, it is time for the US Congress to address one of the stupidest laws they have ever enacted!  And this is noted with full awareness of the ACA (aka Obamacare – “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”Nancy Pelosi, March 9. 2010).  This presupposes the For The People Act that centralizes elections, disenfranchises states and degrades the integrity of the elections by “the people” it supposedly is FOR.  It assumes you know about the $1,900,000,000.00 ($1.9 trillion) Covid Relief Package that has less than $1,900,000.00 ($1.9 billion) for covid relief, less than 1/10th of the bill.

Even with these boondoggles, the stupidest law the U.S. Congress has ever passed was the Daylight Saving Time Act of 1918!  Because of confusion over when states would adopt DST, it was codified into uniform compliance by the Uniform Time Act of 1966 (unless states wanted to opt out, which Arizona, Hawaii and half of Indiana did).  Now Daylight Saving Time begins with “Spring Forward” at 2am on the second Sunday of March every year.  When 2am hits, we are supposed to move our clocks forward to 3am, skipping that hour.  Standard Time resumes with “Fall Back” at 2am on the first Sunday of November.  When 2am hits, we try to reverse the damage by moving the clocks backward to 1am, repeating the 1am hour over again.  Then we do it all again in the spring.

Now, let’s up the absurdity!  This year, again, a group of congresspeople and senators have proposed the Sunshine Protection Act which would make Daylight Saving Time PERMANENT, so that we do not have to change our clocks every other season.  After all, if the government does not protect the Sunshine, who will!?  A reasonable person might ask, WHYYYYY!?  If you are going to get up an hour earlier every day of the year, why not just leave the clocks alone and go with the Greenwich Meridian Time standard that the US adopted in November of 1883 and was standardized to the world in 1884?

Two stories to illustrate the asininity of this idea:2021-03-13 Capital Grille Lounge
One is the apocryphal tale of why DST was ever adopted. 
It seems some congressmen were concerned about getting reelected and felt they needed something to show their constituents that they were not just sitting around the Capitol lounge and gym smoking stogies, drinking martinis and getting tax-payer funded massages, even though that is exactly what they were doing
One suggested, “Why don’t we vote to give everyone an extra hour every day?  You know, to work longer and pay higher taxes, but we could say it was so they could spend more time with their families.” 
Everyone jumped on the bandwagon immediately exclaiming “Capital idea!” until a freshman congressman, who was unschooled in the finer arts of making laws, noted, “But that would wear out in about two weeks when people would be going to bed at sunup and rising at sundown.”
After some substantial grumbling about mouthy young upstarts needing to learn their place, one of the elder statesmen said, “Well we can just subtract the extra hour from the morning and that way everyone will get the extra hour without confusing the clock-makers who would have to make 25 hour clocks. Besides I don’t have that many voting clock-makers in my district.” 
The measure passed with full bi-partisan support and was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson, who was busy planning to catch the Spanish Flu when he attended the League of Nations meeting the next year, and could not get reelected for a third term if he had slowed down the earth’s rotation to actually give everyone an extra hour.

The second story is a true one about a secretary I once knew in an office in which I worked.  Spring was on the horizon and we were discussing the coming change of the clocks.  I noted that, “If it is really so important to have an extra hour of daylight in the evening, why can’t we just start and quit work an hour earlier?” 
The secretary looked aghast!  “Oh, C.A., I have to get up at 6am to get here by 8 as it is.  I could never get up at 5am.”
The befuddlement in my brain was difficult to speak through, but I finally managed to say, “But you ARE getting up at 5am; you’re just calling it 6am for the summer!”

I would like to suggest an alternative proposal that we set our clocks BACK five hours!  That way we could all sleep in until noon and miss the rush hour traffic going to work, right?  This proposal makes the same sense as “permanentizing” DST year-round.

2021-03-13 Congressional GymAnd so the idiocy we call Daylight Saving Time (and that many people mispronounce as Daylight SavingS Time) may not be going away any time soon.  In fact, if our brilliant congresspeople have anything to say about it, DST might not go away ever!  Just think of how much we will protect the sunshine and the time we will save THAT WAY!  Now I wonder what they will do while smoking stogies, sipping martinis and getting massages.

History of Daylight Saving Time

An Aboriginal Mental Challenge: Can You Read Without Preconceptions?

2021-02-27 G.K.ChestertonG.K Chesterton is the source for today’s blog: a challenge to do some mental gymnastics to discover something we may have been missing.  In his 1925 philosophical tome, The Everlasting Man, the “prince of paradox” presents an interesting challenge: to read a Bible story from an aboriginal mindset.  You see, we have Christmas and Easter, jewelry and architecture, names of streets, cities and buildings and so many myriad additional references in our world to that unique man, Jesus, that it is difficult to imagine anyone anywhere in our global community that does not know something about Jesus.  And depending on the source of that something, our views of Jesus have been significantly shaped by the introductions we have been given, whether from a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, friend, enemy, or Christian/anti-Christian teaching.  And Chesterton contends that much of our view, even in the “Christian west” is significantly distorted.

So I wish to challenge you, as Chesterton has challenged me, to do some mental exercising.  Set your mind as though you have never heard of Jesus, a Christian church, or anything “christian.”  Pretend for this exercise that your only exposure to the divine has been the thunderous clouds that bring rain and frightening lightning; a starry sky at night and the warm and sometimes burning heat of the sun at day; the long graceful hop of a wallaby or neck of a giraffe; the worrisome growl of a bear or roar of a lion; a baby’s sweet coo and cry and the caress of your beloved.

Begin by beguiling your brain into thinking you have never received a Christmas gift or hunted an Easter egg or walked on Christchurch Avenue or stood in front of the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral.  You have never heard of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, David, Paul or John.  Equally, you have never heard of Aristotle, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad, Rama or Krishna or Zoroaster.   Add to that, you have never been concerned with politics, social structure or economics; no Communists, Conservatives, Democrats, Greens, Liberals, Republicans, Socialists, Tories or any other ideology for guidance of a nation.

This is a difficult mental exercise, but I encourage you, that it is not impossible.  Settle in your mind that you have never been taught anything about any god or history of creation, whether theism or atheistic evolution.  You have never worried about issues of government or society.  Your mind has been focused all these years on eating and drinking to stay alive and whatever day-to-day activities were required to survive, be at peace, avoid enemies and enjoy your time on earth.

Now, with this mindset, approach a new short book someone has brought you.  Its title is very short, just four letters, L-u-k-e.  If you can find it in its original formatting, without chapter and verse numbers, all the better.  (Chapters and verses were added centuries later to make research and memorization easier.)

However, it is available at a website where you can look up your language in which to read it.  If English is your native language, I encourage you to use the ESV noted in the website connection.  If another language is your “heart language,” feel free to try to find it under the ALL tab when you pull down the languages from the little arrow by the default version that opened.
So sorry, Mongolian is not on the list . . . yet.  But Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Tagalog and LOTS of others are there.
Any Gujariti readers here? 😉

2021-02-27 Biblegateway

Now that you have emptied your mind of any preconceptions about this little story, begin with Luke’s introduction to his narrative for his friend, Theophilus.  Read the short biography at a single sitting if you can; in your heart language it should not take much more than 90 to 120 minutes .  Remember, you have never heard of these people, Luke, Herod, Elizabeth, Martha or Jesus before.  Your entire impression of these people will come from your reading this for the first time!

You may want to have a pencil and paper handy, and note what you discover about some of the characters introduced to you for the first time.  Questions are sure to come up, as we begin with no information on the culture or history of these people and events; Why did He say THAT!?  Why did she do that!?  Why was He so rude?  Why did that confuse them?  Isn’t Jesus supposed to be meek and mild? Aha, you’ve slipped from the aboriginal mindset and are remembering something you’ve heard.  Try again! 😁

If you want to dialog about your questions, email me (capost3k@gmail.com) or comment here.  No guarantees I have any answers for you.  Either Tim Keller or Rick Warren wrote (but I cannot find the referemce), “When someone thinks he knows all the answers, you have to wonder if he knows all the questions.”   (Similar to a Confucius quote.)

Here’s to hoping you have a good week and discover who Jesus really is.
Enjoy Peter Hollen’s and Home Free’s a-capella performance of Amazing Grace.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”  C.S.Lewis

HOW Are You Praying FOR Your Enemies?

How do we pray FOR someone evil or with whom we thoroughly disagree?  This is an important corollary to Jesus’ command to love your enemies.  Matthew 25:44 tells us this and to “pray for those who persecute you.”  Now, don’t go all Pharisee on me and say, “It does not command me to pray for all my enemies, just those who persecute me!”

Let me summarize with a quote and then expand, so if you fully understand C.S.Lewis’ quote you can quit reading and do something more important.

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”  C.S.Lewis, The Weight of Glory

First, it is important to realize that person with whom you so thoroughly disagree is most likely deceived.  He or she does not realize they are not acting in their own best interests.  Like the phantoms in Lewis’ Great Divorce, there is something they want more than Heaven, not realizing Heaven would provide for them so much more than the meager trinkets to which they are clinging.  “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

These blinded individuals are to be pitied more than hated.  “Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13)  Once deceived, they encourage others to join in their destructive behavior (Proverbs 10:17), not realizing they are accumulating corruption and chains that bind them ever more tightly until one day they will have become so entangled there will not be any escape.  Like adding one tiny strand to a rope, each occurrence of mischief entwines layer by layer until they simply are beyond hope, but it is never for us to make that determination while they are still in the land of the living.

Secondly, Father’s heart is to do what is best for them.  That is right, the Creator loves your enemy and wants what is good for them!  2 Peter 3:9 affirms this in the New Testament as does Ezekiel 33:11 in the Old Testament.  The whole Bible is Father’s love letter to a world that chose to ignore His simple direction in the Garden of Eden, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

His intention, His heart was to give us each and all the very best with very little restriction.  But with Adam’s and Eve’s narrow and short-sighted choice, they brought disobedience, deception and death into the world.  And without His loving provision there would not be any hope for any of us.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only born Son . . .” (John 3:16). Notice, NOT that He loved those who would choose to obey Him; not that He loved people of a certain geography or genetic line; not that He loved the ones who would learn to abide in Him.  NO, He loved and loves the whole world!

  • That includes the guy who raped a 16 year old girl the day before he shipped off to Vietnam and left scars in her life so she never learned how to develop good relationships with men.
  • That includes the dad who, drunk again, hit his son so hard up the side of his head that he could no longer think straight in school and now has a hard time holding a job.
  • That includes Dr. Levatino (https://www.abortionprocedures.com/about-dr-levatino/) as he performed 1,200+ abortions of babies at every stage of development.
  • That includes a president who may be a misogynistic self-aggrandizing narcissist.
  • That includes a Speaker of the House who may have so little respect for the Constitution or Office of the President that she would tear up his SOTU speech on national view like a child throwing a tantrum.
  • That includes the idiot who drove 60mph up Nicholasville Road and killed a pedestrian.
  • That includes the drug addict who has made a thousand choices that were foolish.
  • That includes the pusher who sells him the drugs.

There is NO ONE excluded from the love that took Jesus to the cross.  “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:6-8)

  • That includes me!! And yes, that includes YOU!

So now, thirdly, my problem is to align my heart with Jesus’ and pray FOR my enemies the way Jesus would pray for them.  How would you pray for a coworker who spreads cruel information about you to prevent you from getting respect at work?  How would you pray for a wayward son who refuses to have anything to do with following Jesus?  How would you pray for a spouse who has walked away from faith and wounded you so deeply you do not know if you will ever recover?

Think of how Jesus prayed for his crucifiers while he was dying on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)  Some have said this is one of two prayers of Jesus to which Father said, “No.”  But Father’s answer is not our concern here.  What we need to examine is our hearts to see if we share Jesus’ desire for our enemies.

His Heart is broken for those you find too smelly, degraded or offensive to associate with.  He loves your enemy and makes His expectation of us very clear: “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

So now, how will you pray FOR your enemy?

 

 

Naked and Unashamed

In the Garden, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25)

We tend to infer from the conversation in Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve were somehow physically unable to see their nakedness.  However, from the Genesis 2:25 language and later understanding that we gain from Bible study, that is not likely the case.  Not so much blinded, but oblivious to what did not matter.

In the perfect environment without storms or snow or burning sun, what need was there for clothes with two people who lived in perfect harmony and love?  They tended the Garden and cared for the animals who were naked, and they had nothing to hide from each other, from the animals, or from God.

TemptationWhat was missing from their knowledge that they could gain from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?  God had made everything “good” day by day, and in the end “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)  They knew everything good that was in creation, naming the animals and working the soil to growing delicious food, eating fruit from perfect pear and apple trees.  Now look at the name of the Tree from which Satan tempted them to eat.  What could they learn?  Only evil!

There was something to learn; something which their eyes had not seen yet, in all the “good” that God had made.  But it was not something they would enjoy as much as Satan made it sound: “You will be like God!” (Genesis 3:5)

Don’t you wish you could go back to that setting and yell to Eve, Don’t do it!  It’s a trick!  It’s a lie!  It’s what Lucifer wants to be: like God (Isaiah 14:14), and since he has failed, he wants to pull you and Adam down, too!  He wants to spoil this perfect creation and make it as evil as he is! . . . But we were not there, and likely we would not have understood any better than Eve did.

So she ate and gave to Adam to eat, also, and suddenly they did see things they had not noticed before!  It was as if their eyes were opened for the first time since creation.  In an unconscious sense, they probably knew that they were naked before, but because it did not matter, it did not register in their cognition.  It simply was something they did not think about.  But now, their awareness of their failure to obey a simple command that only required them to trust the benevolent Creator who would visit them every evening brought into sharp focus that there was nothing they could hide!  And NOW they had something that they wanted to hide!

Adam and Eve3How the devil must have laughed and jumped with sadistic glee at the success of his deceit.  He grinned as he saw their futile attempts to sew fig leaves together.  He laughed as he heard the Creator coming to visit them in the Garden.  Because he was without understanding of God’s unbounded mind and ignorant of His eternal plan, he thought he had dealt a terrible blow to God.

Ever since, we have worn clothes.  Every society (with the exception of a few nudist nuts) has required some kind of cover for the body.  Add the mess that came after the flood with snows and rain and hail, and clothes became necessary for most of us most of the time just to survive the damaged environment.  But apart from protection from the weather, we have always worn clothes, and societies have developed complex systems of clothes to express rank and social importance.

Only in the marriage relationship is nudity acceptable (or under a doctor’s care, but that’s for another blog).  We usually marry at 20-30 years old and most of us have accumulated a lot of emotional baggage by then.  How do two flawed people with so many things in their past that they would prefer to hide, stand naked and unashamed?  And what about when we get out of shape or age begins to change how nice things looked on our wedding day?  Can we return to “naked and unashamed” or are we always going to hide until the end of days?

Gift of Sex.jpgIn The Gift of Sex by Penner and Penner, the authors make a case for marriage being a place of safety and exposure.  They note that sexuality is part of God’s plan, not a deviation from it.  “The Bible portrays sex as a symbol of the relationship between God and His people . . . The husband-wife sexual relationship is used throughout Scripture to symbolize the God-man relationship.”  They provide astute advice about body image and how to deal with body issues in a loving, mutually supportive and realistic context that removes the pressure from having to be a beauty-pageant winner or a world-class body builder.

The key of it is their perspective on mutual submission to the Lord of Life.  Jesus restores purity where there once was only shame and disgrace.  Like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24) He welcomes us into His family with open arms and forgiveness for all our past; such complete forgiveness as though the sin never happened!

God cannot reverse time and change what you did in the past.  He cannot restore your virginity; He cannot remove the marks left in your mind from rape or immoral behavior; He cannot go back to the Garden of Eden and remove the fruit from Adam’s and Eve’s hands.  What He can do is make you sexually pure again.  He can bring you into His garden of love, grace and forgiveness, and even though you know the difference between good and evil, He can guide you into discovering all that is not just good, but “very good,” again.  You can stand before Him and your spouse, “naked and unashamed.”

For additional understanding see Paul David Tripp’s article here: 10 Things You Should Know About Sex In a Broken World.

 

If Adam Had Not Sinned

“Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all peopleRomans 5:12

But what if Adam had not sinned?  Would that have guaranteed freedom from sin for the whole human race?  Would each of us been sinless for all eternity?  There are no clear answers to these questions, but here I posit some possible considerations.

TemptationAdam was made in the image of God, i.e. experiencing time, having personality, emotions, volition, intelligence, masculinity and femininity, i.e. a living soul.  But we know what happened: he ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which Eve gave to him when she was deceived.  The only tree in the Garden from which they were forbidden.  So why did God put that tree there in the first place?  He gave them everything that was good, “very good,” in fact.  Why mess it up with a tree that posed a potential problem?

God did not want automatons who had to serve Him because there was no other choice.  By creating man with volition, i.e. will that was free, He was creating someone with whom He could relate; someone with whom He could enjoy fellowship.  He did not, nor does He now, need us or our fellowship.  Existing as the Triune One, He already had and maintains perfect fellowship within Himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It is simply in His nature to share the love and holiness He enjoys, so here we are!  Created in His image, not as though He has hands and feet, but in our spirits sharing in a very small temporal way the grand and eternal characteristics that identify Him as God.

By creating man with volition, there always is a possibility of disobedience. (Keep this in mind.)  However, all Adam and Eve knew experientially was what was good.  The only thing they could learn from the forbidden tree was what was evil.  It all came down to trust, that experience God did not even know until He came to earth as the God-Man, Jesus, and had to trust His Father and the Holy Spirit in ways the Triune God had not experienced.

Garden of Eden ExpulsionWe know what happened to Adam and Eve, and each of us has experienced the inclination toward sin that originated with their disobedience.  We know to do good, but we find in ourselves an impotence to do it.  We know to avoid sin, but we find our sin nature pulls us inexorably into it.  We have no power to resist evil and do good within ourselves.  It is only through the redemption that Jesus provides that our once dead spirits are made alive by the Holy Spirit so that we no longer obey the world, the flesh nor the devil.  We are freed from sin’s power.

Back the original question: what if Adam had not sinned?  Imagine for a minute having parents who nurtured you perfectly, trained you in your growing years without unfruitful anger or selfishness, guided you with wisdom in making decisions until you were able to imitate them perfectly.  Imagine not being inclined to be selfish, yourself!  Seeing another child with a toy would not evoke jealousy or envy, because from birth you knew that if something was good for you, your parents would provide it.  Where would be the impetus to sin?  Why would you doubt the integrity of the God who walked with your parents and you every day and provided everything, not just good, but very good!?  Someone born into such a kingdom would be inclined to do the right thing, just as now we are bent to do the wrong thing.

However, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil would still be in Eden!  The tempter may have been vanquished with Adam’s and Eve’s obedience.  Perhaps the serpent, that liar and murderer, would not even have been allowed back into the Garden after Adam and Eve had children.  But the Tree would still be there  . . . and you and I would still have volition, free will.

Without the pull of someone evil trying to mess up our relationship with a loving God, we might never have touched that forbidden tree, as Eve would have taught us to obey.  Eating from the Tree of Life in the center of the Garden would have provided us with eternal life.  But free will would still be free.  Someone could decide to eat of that forbidden tree.  Through the thousands of years and billions of people on the earth, one of us may have decided to go our own way and try the forbidden fruit.

Satans fallINSANITY, we cry!  Of course.  All sin is insanity in one measure or another.  Why would someone inject dangerous chemicals into his arms at risk of death just for a good feeling that will pass?  Why would someone steal what is not his just to gain a very small and temporary advantage over another?  Why would someone lie to save a moment’s embarrassment?  Why would an angel try to steal God’s glory and make himself God!?  Yet, Lucifer, living in the presence of all the love and holiness of God that he could experience, made just that decision!

I suspect God, infinite in wisdom, would recognize a “problem child” before he became a problem and protect the rest of humanity and the rest of the universe from one sinner’s sin, but He would not stop the exercise of free will.  So someone, even after Adam’s and Eve’s passage into faithfulness, could still decide to try life without God’s guidance.  Any one of us could have still sinned in the Garden and our path would have taken us and our progeny on the same road that we are now on, thanks to Adam’s and Eve’s choice.

So we are now faced with that same choice Adam and Eve faced: Will we trust The God Who Is There or will we trust our own perceptions and doubts about His goodness?  What if Adam had not sinned?  We would still face this choice: to do life our own way or to do life His way.  Even though Adam sinned, it is still our choice, the same as if he had not sinned.

 

Baggage We Do Not Need To Carry

“Praise be to Yahweh, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” Psalm 68:19

Ecclesiastes1.jpgThe author of Ecclesiastes seems somewhat pessimistic at times in his short book.  He laments in chapter three that God places a heavy burden on mankind.  He goes on to suggest that humans and animals share the same fate of dying, and questions, Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (3:21)  This is a far cry from what Solomon’s dad penned in Psalm 68.

David was a man who knew his God, from the times he sat on a hillside watching Jesse’s sheep and worshiping Him in the solitude of the lonely hills to when God delivered Goliath into his hands.  Even so, with a list of failures and missed cues from God, he still found refuge in God’s faithfulness to “daily bear our burdens.”

Baggage1We all tend to tote weights that God would prefer to bear on our behalf.  A dear friend has a heavy bag that is carried everywhere as if her life depended on it.  In her own words she told me that she has to walk slowly and stooped because of its weight.  However, Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:30)  So we must ask ourselves whose burden we are carrying.

Consider if that purse was snatched from her by a thief (God forbid!).  But she would not die from its loss.  She would still have food to eat, a place to sleep, and clothes to wear.  She would still have a family that loves her and would help recover the important things that were taken, believers who would gather round and try to help.

Baggage 2.jpgWe must unburden ourselves of this kind of baggage, and metaphorically release other weights we carry.  Hebrews’ author instructs us: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (12:1-2)

I am learning to travel light, carrying the truly essentials: my driver’s license, a few dollars cash (usually not more than $20), a pen and pencil, my house and car keys, a comb and handkerchief, a day’s supply of meds, a small notepad and my phone.  Think very carefully about adding anything to this list.  We need to be ready when Jesus returns, and bags of “stuff” only slow us down and make us stoop.  We all carry many other weights that are not of God’s choosing, and would be healthier and happier without them, if we could let our Lord carry them.

There was a time I was afraid to throw something away because I would have to go and buy one when I needed it, which usually seemed to be as soon as I threw it away!  Then I realized that was specifically God’s plan!  Because in getting rid of stuff, He leads us into new relationships where we can get what we need when we need it, but not before.  He wants us to build trust, and this is one way He does it.

BaggageBeyond material things we carry with us, there is a lot of baggage in the unseen world of the Spirit that slows us down and hinders us from letting God work through us.  Habitual sin fills the heart with “stuff” that holds us back from what God wants to accomplish.  Pride often blocks the avenues through which God would like to pour blessings on others.  Selfishness keeps us from carrying each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).  Unbiblical priorities rob us of energy that should be given to bringing our world closer to God, and instead we let opportunities slip through our hands.  Deafening noise from iPods, music-streaming services, or on our TVs keeps us from hearing the whispers of His Spirit (see October 2, 2016).  Even religion, when practiced for its own sake, can keep us from following Jesus, and blind us to His scandalous love for us.

The unburdening begins with practicing God’s Presence (August 27, 2017).  Recognize that He is always with you, even when you do not want Him to be!  Become aware that there are Eyes watching what our eyes see, Ears listening to what we are hearing, a Mind that understands our weakness but does not intend to leave us in that pitiful shape.  And begin to “cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

And remember, “This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)  Not at all!  He sets us free from burdens!!  We do not have to carry all that baggage anymore.

 

Tracks in the Trackless Sea

I have often wondered how God will balance judgment and mercy for us when we have done so many things so badly.  This is not about “falling short” or just making mistakes.  This is about evil in the world . . . and in our hearts.

Sour Grapes
Sour Grapes

Jeremiah spelled out some comfort for dads and moms who have messed up: In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.”  (Jeremiah 31:29-30)  Ezekiel some 50 years later expanded on this theme concluding, “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?  As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die  . . . Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:2-32)

Yet it was this same Ezekiel who warned,If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”  (Ezekiel 3:18)

The biggest interest I have had over this passage is the ripple effect.  When you throw a stone in a pond, you see how it ripples out.  When a boat makes a “track” of wakes in the sea it spreads out a long way from the narrow passage of the craft.  Our actions are like the boat traversing the ocean.  Behind us we leave “tracks” not only in the lives of those closest to our engine, but spreading out for some time and some distance.

When I think of the times I failed to do the right thing for different people God brought across my path, I not only hurt them, but those who they then failed as a result of my failure to help them be what God wanted them to be.  Like a wake traveling out from the motor of my boat, my sins affected many others whom I never met.

In the same way, when I did what was right to different people who came under my influence, the “tracks” of my faithfulness spread out to others whom they were then equipped better to help.

Tracks in the Sea
How long do the tracks in the trackless seas of our lives go on? This thought came to me as I watched the boats racing across the Adriatic Sea between Croatia and Italy.  The wakes spread out behind each watercraft; wide and long if it was a catamaran or ferry; narrow and slight if it was a dingy or sailboat.  And eventually the tracks were gone.  Lost again in the trackless sea.  There are those whose tracks are longer lasting and effective for generations, whether they be Friedrich Nietzsches or A.B.Simpsons, Pharoahs or Moseses.  And there are those of us who are small skiffs whose wakes will only affect a few blog readers.

So there is that relief for those of us who have spread “tracks” of sin; the effects will not go on forever; there will come a time when each one must give account for his/her own actions and reactions to what we did.  And the blessing will only go so far as well.  Each generation must take up the responsibility to renew the “tracks,” creating new wakes behind each one, to extend the good things we may have done.

Only One knows the answer to how far our “tracks” will influence others, and He has promised to be merciful.  Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die.” (Ezekiel 33:13-15)

This is simply to affirm that 1) Only God can judge such matters.  2) He will judge, but not according to our standards. 3) He longs to be merciful if we only repent.  This is at once the easiest and hardest thing in the world to do.  Faith in Jesus is so simple a child can exercise it and find love and favor in God’s eyes.  Yet it requires giving up everything I want in every way I want it, doing life His way, not mine.  But once surrendered, He gives SOOOO much better in return.

We do not know how long the effects of our lives will last, and eventually the sea will forget our “tracks” but we should still leave the best that we can behind us in this trackless sea.

 

The Choice of Ways So Small, The Event So Great

When I was a child the Good News of the Gospel was usually couched in fear that if you did not “get right with God” you would go to hell; basically, cosmic fire insurance.  We were told in no uncertain terms that we must repent of our sin, which seemed to mean to confess it to God (fortunately not to anyone else!) and He would forgive the bad stuff we had done.  Not very good for Good News.

These days the word “repentance” is hardly ever uttered from pulpits in America, so much so that I do not recall the last time I heard it in a meeting of the church.  (This does not mean it was not discussed; I may have missed it or be forgetting a sermon or two.)  The focus appears to be on the wonderful plan God has for your life and surrendering your will to His.  Just figure out what God wants you to do and allow Him to work it out through you.  Mostly this seems to come from one Dr. Z. Hodges of Dallas Theological Seminary who wrote in the 1970s:

“One of the most striking facts about the doctrine of repentance in the Bible is that this doctrine is totally absent from John’s gospel. There is not even so much as one reference to it in John’s twenty-one chapters… Since John’s Gospel omits the message of repentance, are we to conclude that its gospel is not the biblical gospel after all? The very idea carries its own refutation. The fourth evangelist explicitly claims to be doing evangelism (John 20:30-31). It is not the theology of the gospel of John that is deficient; it is the theology found in lordship salvation.”

This sounds all well and good, but the fact that John’s gospel does not mention “repentance” is hardly justification for eliminating this doctrine of historic Christianity.  In fact several points of reasoning show this “theology in lordship salvation” is erroneous and at times downright dangerous.  The result is people who attend church, sing the worship songs and lead in prayer, and then promptly go out and live as though God was not aware of them; at least, they certainly seem unaware of Him!

Repentance means “turning away.”  Plain and simple, it means stop doing what you are doing that is displeasing to God.  It is more than just accepting another plan; it is more than just remorse (Hebrews 12:15-17); it is more than just regret (Matthew 27:3-5).  This is not an attempt to bring back “fire insurance” salvation, but to balance the idea of Jesus’ lordship with the fact that we cannot honor Him as Lord and behave the way we did before.  We must be willing as C.S. Lewis says to go back to where we first left the path.  “Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.  If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

First, the Gospel of John is not the only book the apostle wrote.  Repentance is featured heavily in the Revelation where five of the seven churches of Asia are told to repent.  Ephesus (2:5), Pergamum (2:16), Thyatira (2:22), Sardis (3:3) and Laodicea (3:19) are each issued dire warnings if they refuse to repent.  Refusal to repent is justification for severe judgment in Revelation 9:20-21 and 16:9-11 for those outside the Church.

Further, in John’s letters, although the word “repentance” is again missing, its concept is not.  He goes so far as to say, “the one who makes a practice of sinning is of the devil,” and that one who is born of God “cannot keep on sinning.” (1 John 3:4-10)  Not abiding in the teaching of Christ is paramount to not having God at all! (2 John 9; 3 John 11)  The same can be said of John’s Gospel.  Just read John 3 and try to understand being born again without the repentance clearly called for in 3:16-21!

Furthermore, the argument from absence of “repentance” in John’s gospel is a logical fallacy based on an argument from ignorance, similar in informal logic to the argument from silence.  The Apostle John also never mentions God’s grace in the gospel.  Are we to conclude that we should avoid teaching about grace because of its absence from one book?   One could just as easily contend that because the word “love” does not appear in the Acts of the Apostles, it must not matter to fulfilling the Great Commission.

Lastly, the Gospel of John is one of 66 books in the mini-library that is the Bible (see January 25, 2015).  It is not difficult to do a word search for various words of significance to our relationship with God and find several books that do not mention any of them: justification, sanctification, love, grace, peace, joy, etc.  Our understanding of these themes must be developed based on the “whole counsel” (1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21) of the Scriptures.

The Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and yes, even Jesus all began their service to the Kingdom with calls to repentance (Matthew 4:17).  Jesus said, “there will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who do not need repentance.” (Luke 15:7)

Biblically, “repentance” that does not result in a change of direction is clearly not repentance.  John the Baptist commanded his listeners to behave in a way that showed they had repented (Luke 3:10-14)  It is not just a change of mind, but a change of mind that results in a change of action.  We will behave according to what we really believe. (See April 19, 2015, Do You Agree or Do You Believe?)

This is not written smugly as though I have found an answer to sin and if you do not, you can go to . . .; God help me if I ever forget the pit from which he brought me.  My heart is for you, dear reader, that you will find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16), strength from Outside yourself to be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2) that will result in a change of heart so that you will be able to worship Jesus as Lord without faking it (Acts 8:20-23).

Nearly they stood who fall;
Themselves as they look back
See always in the track
The one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve
Of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve
Might have been saved.

Nearly they fell who stand,
And with cold after fear
Look back to see how near
They grazed the sirens’ land.
Wondering what subtle fate,
By threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great
Should thus entwine.

Therefore oh, man, have fear
Lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue
The road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair’s
Breadth past the hair-breadth border
Which, being once crossed forever unawares,
Denies return.
the Guide in Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S.Lewis