Monthly Archives: May 2014

Self – the poorest of all deities

A San Diego Union cartoon featured the face of the late Maya Angelou.  As a crown over her head it had what was likely one of her favorite sayings:  “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”  Union Tribune, 5/29/14

In fact, anyone who ever put his feelings before God’s Word, has made a deity of himself.  The homosexual who knows what the Bible says against the lifestyle, but “thinks” it’s still acceptable, has made a deity of himself.  The moral person who considers Christ’s death on Calvary unnecessary for him since “he’s a good person” has made a deity of himself.

We do not need encouragement to “listen to yourself.”  We do it naturally, innately, viscerally.  We need to be warned “Never do that!”  For self makes the poorest of all deities, because it’s inflamed, swollen and marinated in the Satanic temptation to consider one’s self God’s equal.

Christ – never fails to “come and get us”

A father whose daughter was killed in the Plaza Towers Elementary school in Moore, Oklahoma, tornado, May 20, 2013, remembered through his tears that she had called and asked him to come and get her.  He either simply couldn’t—or didn’t.  He didn’t say:  it doesn’t matter.  Either way he lives with the haunting awareness of not answering her appeal.   Weather Channel 5/20/14, 4 pm program.

That’s tough:  to consider; to ignore; to endure; to forget; to forgive one’s self.

Yet, he need never feel guilt, for he committed no sin.  He will always feel sorry, for he made a mistake.  But…we all know, for we would replicate his response:  as long as he can remember, there will never be a day when he won’t feel guilty.

God promises believers:  he may not…he will not…always answer our prayers as requested.  But he will never fail to answer a sinner’s appeal for grace, as in, “God, be merciful and forgive my sins for Jesus’ sake.”  The Master will never fail to come to us when we ask his spiritual cleansing.  That promise makes a distinction between mistakes and sins.  All we can do after making a mistake is to learn never to make it again.  With forgiveness of sin, we learn that and, thank God, we gain the removal of what would otherwise separate us from God.

God – humanity fears, avoids and denies a Personal God – Part II

The previous blog emphasized Deepak Chopra’s certainty of a reunion with cosmic forces in the future but an uncertainty of his personal identity here and now.  The reason for both is his willingness to see any alternative to God in Christ as his hope.  Rejecting their absolute truth, Chopra has only an I HOPE left.

The eastern mystic also faces criticism from atheists.  The scholars regularly rip Chopra for the mysticism they rightly say explains nothing.  Then they—with no proof whatever—take refuge in Darwinian evolution which they say explains everything.

Chopra and atheist scholars are what you get when you try to explain humanity by mysticism or philosophy.  For, when any intellectual, as an expert in his own field, tries to explain God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit WITHOUT an in-depth knowledge of God’s Holy Bible, he inevitably becomes merely a philosopher.  And by the very definition, philosophy is all about possibilities and theories and suppositions, not about facts, evidence, and truth.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Proverbs 1:7 says.  “For the Lord gives wisdom,” Proverbs 2:6 says.  How the unbeliever wishes that weren’t true; how he wishes he could make it untrue.  But he can’t because it IS true.

Atheists don’t have the answers humans need because they explain everything by materialism, especially and necessarily by Darwinian evolution.  They disregard or marginalize God.  Chopra has no answer because he makes the mindless, mystical, impersonal universe his goal, and “oneness with it”—whatever that means—the basis of nirvana.

The evolutionist says Chopra considers himself his own deity.  Correct, but so do they by positing their baseless theories in place of the intelligent design of a Creator God whose wisdom extends so far past knowledge it will take eternity to explore it all.

It takes humility to accept God in Christ—a trait lacking in the unsaved intellectual.  He has too much confidence in his brain to think anyone can be smarter than he.  It also takes reason to accept God in Christ—a trait lacking in the unsaved mystic.  He has too much interest in the dream world of his fantasies to believe in a Rational God revealing himself through prophets, priests, kings and Jesus Christ.  For that revelation from the Personal God demands personal accountability from every individual on earth.

Most obviously in both mysticism and philosophy, individual accountability to, and personal relationship with God, doesn’t exist.  But how can God be a diaphanous idea meaning everything or nothing, when he everywhere in the Bible, and our lives, proclaims his Personhood?  And how can we be the individuals we certainly are, not the by-product of merciless chance, which could just as easily have made grizzly bears US, when God said he created us alone in his image?  At the very least God must be a human, not a breath of something; a human by design, not an accident waiting even now to become something else.  Which, by way, was Paul’s exact argument before Athenian philosophers and evolutionists—neither of which agreed with each other on what constituted deity or humanity.  As God’s offspring, the apostle preached, quoting Aratus, God couldn’t possibly be a stone idol.  He must at least be a human.  Which he had been in Jesus Christ, whose bodily resurrection guaranteed judgment for every human being before the Living God Acts 17:31.

 

God – humanity fears, avoids and denies a Personal God

Deepak Chopra, that multi-millionaire darling of the new age generation that seeks entertainment from religions nonsense, but no challenge from spiritual truth, continues to make headlines, hold conferences, write and sell books, debate with skeptics—while wondering who he really is.  Little wonder; as he told a packed auditorium at his center at Carlsbad’s Omni La Costa Resort and Spa, at “the highest level of consciousness…enlightened souls are at one with the universe.”  Not with the Person of God Almighty, mind you; the One whom we as persons should unite, but with the impersonal universe.  Why this fascination with the universe in eastern mysticism, a concept popular in America today, especially in the upper, educated classes; who have appointed themselves seekers after and authorities of true religious experience?  Why now, among so many, do we finalize human meaning in a dreary, out-of-the-body consciousness of some ethereal nexus with the universe?

Consider the very real possibility that we want religious jolts without personal accountability to a Personal God.  Since we can imagine a Universe made in our image, why would we desire a God who made us in his?  In God’s image he establishes all the rules and makes all the value judgments; in our image we determine what is acceptable thought, belief and behavior.

That’s the kind of person to whom Chopra appeals—someone like himself, who loves to be considered religious, (after all, it’s a source of gossip at the next cocktail party, without the nasty self-denial Jesus Christ demands.)  Religion at no cost—unless you pay the fancy enrollment fees for one of Chopra’s seminars.  With money to spare, the attendees see it as worth the price to be assured of contentment now and forever by such a famous man.  Glory, glory…behold the possibility…by their own effort they can establish a healthy balance within themselves and later with some blissful experience somewhere.

What Chopra says means everything, nothing, anything, something or whatever.  He offers sweet sounds echoing in hearts and minds empty from having evicted the Living God and his Christ—the consuming fire they don’t think exists because it interferes with their peace with a universe they can’t define but, by its very mystery, appeals to their sense of adventure.  They want a god by whatever name we give him, her, or it:  by whatever letter of the English alphabet A to Z, Athena to Zeus

Point of fact, however.  Chopra will never find personal identity while he insists on being united with and in harmony with the impersonal universe.  In the first place, it’s a very dangerous dimension, in which human beings cannot live; from which earthlings still live in danger from meteors or stars exploding; where oxygen to breathe doesn’t exist, air to breath doesn’t exist, water to drink doesn’t exist.  End Part One.  Next:  Chopra and the atheists.

 

Repentance – in act of dying

A few blogs ago revealed that the imminence of death doesn’t usually alter thinking or habits.  This blog reveals a pleasant exception to the rule.

It occurred the day notorious William—Captain-Kidd died in London.  As in America later, hangings in 18th century Great Britain drew large crowds.  Let’s face it, humanity in every age has been voyeurs, unable to resist any spectacle that promises to be violent, bloody, or both.  Consider the fascination freeway travelers have for wrecks along the road, the worse the crash, the more rubber screeching the better, until traffic is slowed or stopped.  To say nothing of our obsession with the NFL and NHL.

British spectacles naturally drew the underworld, giving pickpockets a chance to snatch watches, purses, scarves, etc. from those fixed on the scene before them.  Like that underworld, the infamous Kidd had been a buccaneer for years, sometimes with the unspoken support of English authorities.  He surrendered in 1699 on the promise of pardon, which was revoked.  To London he went in 1700 for trial.  In 1701 he was condemned to hanging.  The custom was to hang the prisoner at low tide “until three tides had washed over them.”  Boats jammed River Thames as people watched the infamous pirate die.  Across the River, others fixed their spyglasses on the site.  Since he had committed his depredations with the approval of high government officials, he hoped for a reprieve from them, knowing they had profited by his piratical excess.  They didn’t stain their sterling reputations by remitting his penalty, however.

As was customary, the party on the way to execution often drank liberally of the liquor passed to him by the crowd, Pirate Kidd no exception.  When he arrived at the site, he orated about his innocence by blaming others for his guilty condition.  Also, on this occasion, being difficult to hang by being thoroughly “inflamed with drink,” the executioner could hardly collar him with the rope.  And, while the hangman pleaded for a change of attitude, Kidd ignored him.  Then, when hanged, the rope broke and Kidd tumbled to the ground.  In those few seconds he apparently reconsidered the blame due for his blood-lust, his evil,  and his ill-gotten gain.

The hangman stood by him as he was hoisted to the tree again, again pleading with him to seize the advantage God’s mercy had given him to repent and be saved.  To his delight, the man found the suddenly-sober Kidd more amenable to the suggestion.  Despite his rum-mind, atop the ladder Kidd “declared loudly that he ‘repented with all his heart, and dy’d in Christian love and charity with all the world’”.  1700, p. 323

But what of the MANY who don’t have the rope break, the chemicals fail, the electricity disrupted?  A second chance may save some from eternal death.  But don’t count on sinful mortals being that smart even if given the chance.

Waiting till death comes to repent of one’s mis-spent life defies the purpose Jesus gives for HIS life in us John 10:10.  It denies the opportunity of a resurrected life in a fallen world.

However, better at the last breath to seek God’s mercy than to die facing God’s justice.  Better a broken spirit at death than a bold unforgiven spirit beyond death.

 

Discipleship – enduring needs mental conviction; Crisis – rousing strength one didn’t ordinarily have; Fear – empowering action

In the battle of Perryville, Kentucky, October, 1862, wounded men were being evacuated while battle raged and artillery shells burst around the ambulance corps in the rear.  (Rebel artillery and infantrymen often overshot their targets, doing more damage behind the lines than to font-line troops.  Perryville was but one, and Gettysburg a notorious, example.  While infantry ducked behind the stone wall at the Angle, Meade’s headquarters suffered considerable blasting by rebel artillery.)

At Perryville four men carried a stretcher on which a grievously moaning, wounded, crying trooper writhed in pain.  While in transport, a rebel “shell burst close by”.  The carriers scattered leaving the wounded exposed to more harm.  But not for long.  When he found himself deserted, he raised to an elbow, still moaning, looked around and, instantly forgetting his pain, jumped to his feet, ran after, and soon passed, his carriers.  Behind the Guns, 39

 

The Perryville experience echoed that of the Indiana captain in the December, 1862, battle of Stones River.  So disabled by rheumatism he had to be helped when mounting his horse, he plodded slowly to the front.  Yet, when bullets flew, and young Federal soldiers led the retreat, who but that same captain would bolt from his horse and start running, soon catching and as instantly passing the younger men.  This Hallowed Ground, Bruce Catton, 193

In a crisis, children have been known to lift a car off a wounded parent.  Soldiers have found the strength to lift deadly ordnance on ships and carry it overboard; or man a machine gun torn loose from its moorings in a plane.  In death-threatened experiences, hardened sailors have sworn faith and made explicit vows to God Jonah 1:16.

But do not count on crises to empower persevering discipleship.  While they rouse power from emotion, from the release of adrenalin, when the crisis passes and emotion subsides, the person usually returns to his accustomed life.  Persevering discipleship comes from a mental decision to commit to Jesus Christ as LORD, GOD ALMIGHTY…whatever.  Only that resolve will keep one faithful to him when life, circumstances and troubles call one to quit.

Jesus – the Sacred name often invoked, but not in prayer

A San Diego Union columnist boasted of being the grandson of a preacher—and considered that relationship the reason he could use God’s name in vain while calling for the prohibition of Jesus Christ’s name in public meetings.  We can question how being a descendant of a preacher qualifies him to be God’s spokesman—especially to excise the name of God’s Son from public use.  He should read the Baptist’s flaming condemnation of Jews who claimed salvation by being Abraham’s children, not merely a preacher’s grandson Luke 3:7-9.

We can also question his demand that Christ’s name not be acknowledged in public meetings, even by those who devotedly believe him to be God’s Son.  God warns the whole world that every human being ever to live will bow before Jesus Christ on Judgment Day and confess him as LORD, Philippians 2-6-11.  That being foundational to Bible teaching, how could it ever be in God’s interest for preachers now to omit Christ’s name when praying at public functions?

We can further question why he wants to omit Christ’s name in public when the two most favorite swear words in public are God and Jesus Christ!  The columnist has certainly heard Jesus used as a profanity in public—without any qualm of conscience.  How then can he object to hearing the Sacred Name of Jesus used in public to bring God’s benefactions on humanity?  He twice called not mentioning Jesus in prayer being “polite”.  What does he call blasphemies of the Father and Son in public?

Any other religious leader is welcomed in American public life—Mary, Buddha, Mohammed—even Moses.  After all, they have a right to practice their faith wherever.  Yet, in this columnist’s darkened mind, the ONE NAME that assures God’s answer to prayer is the Only Name he doesn’t want spoken aloud in public.  America:  prepare for God’s Judgment!

Note:  this article, nearly as written here, was sent to the San Diego Union Tribune for publication, but wasn’t accepted.  Your feedback would be welcome.

Retreat – not in the Bible’s vocabulary

President Thomas Jefferson’s instructions to Captains Lewis and Clark included their right to calculate when the degree of danger faced demanded a retreat.  The possibilities included the limited number of men in the Corps of Discovery facing a far superior number of hostile’s.  As at Gettysburg, Confederates penetrated yards beyond The Angle because they put more troops THERE than the Federals HAD.  With no equal pressure against the whole Federal line, reserves quickly closed the breakthrough and stopped General Pickett’s charge.  Jefferson valued the men of the Corps more than information gained.  He felt that any intelligence returned to him would assure greater success in future explorations.  The Captains were therefore to “err on the side of your safety.”  Lewis & Clark:  Journey to Another America, 226-228

In his commission, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:45-49, Acts 1:18—one commission stated in different words—Jesus gave neither authority to retreat from his goal nor to restrict its dimensions.  He sent the apostles to reach all individuals in all nations with his offer of peace with God through forgiveness of sins secured by his own sacrifice at Calvary and empowered by his personal bodily resurrection.

Not in that sense alone, but at least in that sense, Jesus differed from Jefferson’s view of his men.  Where he wanted them back, even if it meant failure to finish their task, Jesus considered the life of individual Christians secondary to the success of their endeavor.  Paul understood the principle involved.  When friends in Caesarea watched Agabus tie his own hands and feet with Paul’s belt—a prediction of Paul’s future if he continued to Jerusalem—they all “pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem” Acts 21:12.  Do the logical thing, Paul.  Avoid the danger by remaining out of harm’s way.  Find other places to preach.  God has too much work for you to jeopardize your life now.  Only to hear him reply, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” Acts 21:13.

How could Jefferson put the lives of his Corps first while Jesus put the cause his people represented first?  One reason is that the success of the Corps demanded the survival of the men, however much or little information they accumulated.  Whereas the success of Christianity is guaranteed by the message Christians preach, whatever happens to them.

A second reason is that Jesus conquered death for himself and for every believer.  How then can any threat of death deter us from Christ’s commission?  As Paul said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21.

A third, and seminal reason, is the difference in resource.  The Captains could conceivably die one by one, or together.  Whoever succeeded them—and they were authorized to determine a line of succession—would bear the responsibility of returning survivors to safety.  As Jesus made clear in his commission, the Holy Spirit—the Someone exactly like Jesus and God—would oversee the work of evangelism.  Should any Christian, or any generations of Christians, die, the Holy Spirit continued Christ’s work until Jesus himself returned in Glory.

We find, today, however, any number of instances where Christians have, without Christ’s permission, and clearly against his orders, retreated to positions of greater safety in a culture demanding diversity, not singularity, in religious faith.  Consider a few instances:  no longer believing it’s necessary to believe Jesus was born of a virgin; that he performed miracles; that he died as our substitute; that he rose bodily on the third day.  Each of these essential beliefs in Jesus Christ has been minimized or eliminated in not a few apparently-Bible churches.  That must stop at once.  The break in the lines has to be closed and God’s troops must advance to the forward positions he established and we abandoned.

A suggestion:  to show society that we have had enough of retreating inside our worship services and bible study groups; enough of backtracking from the proclamation of Jesus as the only way to God.  Why can’t we organize a consortium of Christ-honoring businessmen, professionals, athletes, etc. who will create and pay for a series of articles to be run on TV or in major newspapers to proclaim Christianity as Christ established it and to re-establish the goal of Christians in the image of Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:45-49 and Acts 1:8?

Death – coming not altering life-habits

Doc Holliday spent his final days in a hotel in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  His diet had long included alcohol, which did nothing to minimize the effects of the tuberculosis consuming his body.  Nor did his habit change in Glenwood.  Each morning bellhops carried breakfast to his room—a bottle of whiskey—a service he rewarded with a generous dollar tip. #Last Gunfight, 300. While we think imminent death would automatically change a person’s thinking or alter his habits; automatically turn his thoughts to God; automatically make him regret his sins, we’d be wrong on all counts. We can’t know for sure, but their refusal to change may include a fear the subject rouses.  Knowing they’re not ready to meet God, by ignoring their mortality people think to postpone their rendezvous even AFTER death.  Or maybe they think they will naturally go to heaven, having paid for their sins by dying.  That’s the Jewish view.  After all, repeated surveys have shown that, while we’re not sure so-and-so is going to Heaven, we’re confident we are. Maybe they hope God will be merciful to them even if they haven’t been to others.  After all, isn’t it his job to forgive?  Or maybe they’re counting on God remembering them in death even though they’ve forgotten him in life.  After all, wouldn’t he send only the worst kind of person to hell—not someone who simply left him alone and didn’t seek any favors?  Or whatever other reason exists why people don’t change their self-focused obsession even when death is in the city; even when it’s in the neighborhood; even when it’s outside our house; even when it’s KNOCKING on our door, calling OUR name. The fact is, we’re hopelessly stupid if we don’t let even approaching death excite repentance of sin and pleading for God’s grace.  True, death-bed repentance hardly fulfills the purpose of Christ’s magnificent FULL life he gives believers over a life-time John 10:10.  But what possibly could be worse than dying impenitent?  Than dying without a personal relationship with God Almighty, the Consuming Fire Hebrews 12:29?  For what will we do when we have left a world to which we no longer have relevance and entered a world for which we have made no preparation?

Forgiveness – desire and seek it

Ground fire downed a Japanese torpedo bomber in their attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.  The American Navy salvaged the plane long ago, but a crew excavating in the Harbor April, 2011, unearthed a skull that could well be all that remains of one crewman.  San Diego Union Tribune, July 20/23, 2011

Forensics may have been able to identify the man.  They may have been able to find his family in Japan.  What may never be known is whether the crew dropped their lethal pay load before being shot from the sky.

The Past.  Some love to study it.  Others abhor it so they can enjoy the existential instant.  Many refuse to consider it relevant since they think only the future is important.  But the past can never be avoided.  It keeps coming back, in sometime strange and often in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.

Which is the single most important reason forgiveness of sins is so essential.  NO ONE wants to have unforgiven sins recalled at judgment as angels open the books.

Sam Walton employed an ESP system of accounting when his retail chain consisted of 20 stores.  Each month he and his accountant balanced, then closed, the books.  Should they fail to balance, they nevertheless closed them, stating the difference between debit and credit as an ESP:  ERROR SOME PLACE.

NO ESP exists at judgment.  Either Jesus has previously forgiven our every sin, or ALL of them, none exempted, stand as our accusers, every unforgiven wickedness detailed in all its horror.  That warns us that forgiveness doesn’t just somehow happen, nor is it found JUST SOMEWHERE.  When American singer Carol King heard that Amy Winehouse died, she said, “I just really hope that she’s found peace now wherever she is.”  San Diego Union Tribune, 7/25/11  As if peace is found WHEREVER.

Think what King said…that Amy would find peace in the next world…though she hadn’t found it in this one:  with which she had been familiar; friends in high places; lackeys at her command; money to waste; servants for every need; worldwide fame; columnists and op/eds seeking her views; where she made her own rules and everyone adjusted to her; her every opinion a ton.

How can she find peace in the next world:  to which she was likely a complete stranger; facing the Everlasting God who had been but a word, not a Person; where her opinions don’t weigh even an ounce; where God makes the rules and no human thought exists, let alone intrudes or contests or prevails?  She is to find peace THERE, WHEREVER she is…with no advantage at all…when she didn’t find it HERE, with every advantage?

People will always react viscerally to death.  “Oh, so and so died…poor thing…I hope she’s better off now.”  Christians must think rationally so they can use the occasion to teach.  Because many Amy’s are in our future:  without her wealth or talent or fame, but with her obscene search for meaning in what never satisfies.  Indeed, obsessed with pursuing every lie that secular humanism and scientific and scholastic intellectualism tells, the spiritually illiterate never cease looking.

In the middle 1800’s, young New England men, descendants of mighty Puritan ancestors, grew disillusioned with life.  And in their disillusionment turned to…social causes such as abolition, cults such as Mormonism and personal causes such as vegetarianism.  Substitute ecumenicity for the cults—though they continue to attract millions; and environmentalism for vegetarianism—though vegetarians continue to make a religion of food; and animal rights for abolition—and you have many 21st century Americans, lost in luxury, possessions and obsessed with beauty, pleasures, extending life…and unanchored and adrift in their misguided search for God’s purpose for them.  That’s America today.

But here is our nation’s one and only hope:  “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting man’s sins against them.”  And here is God’s charge to Christians:  “…he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf:  be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”  II Corinthians 5:19-21.

THAT is our primary role as prophets, laymen, pastors, administrators and counselors.  God has intentionally equipped us to REACH the lost.  We fail Christianity’s most basic purpose if we put ANY other effort as first and most important in church life.