Monday, December 31, 2018

Are We Bored With Jesus?

Gold dust.  Angel feathers.  Smoke machines.  Jewels.  Fire tunnels.  People laying all over the floor.  "Sunday Experience" instead of "Sunday Worship."  Churches with names that don't sound like churches.  New revelation.  Progressive revelation.  Branding.  Logos.  Stage lighting.  Healing ministry.  Deliverance ministry.  Big time buildings.  Big time budgets.  Big time pastors.    

Have we in America become bored with Jesus?  

When did He manifest gold dust, or any other "heavenly" props?  When did He create "experiences" for His listeners?  When did He speak with any other label other than what the Old Testament had named the Messiah?  When He speak without the Old Testament as THE reference?  How did He succeed other than by word of mouth?  When did He have an event that singled out one area of ministry, and did only that, such as healing?  

For someone like Jesus, who did not have a "place to lay His head," He was far from big time anything.  His one worldly possession was gambled over by His executioners:  a tunic.  

We follow Jesus, but do we really FOLLOW Jesus?  Are we so spiritually immature and inattentive that the only way to get us to attend church Sunday after Sunday is to up the entertainment ante? 

Would we be bored if Jesus entered a church, sat down and started teaching us?  No lights, no camera, no action.  Just Jesus.  Just the Word. 

So, what do false teachers do? Look at these verses in Timothy about false teachers.  I have summarized them:  

A.  1 Timothy 1:3-7: don't allow people to teach false doctrines; they promote endless discussions, not advancing God's work; "The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." They engage in "meaningless talk;" want to teach, but don't know what they are talking about

B.  1 Tim. 1:18-20: "whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel"

C.  1 Tim. 6:3-5: does not agree to Jesus' teachings and God-centered teaching; "conceited"; no understanding; preoccupied with being controversial; all sorts of divisions occur; people constantly vying for power, who are not interested in truth but use the faith for "financial gain."

D.  2 Tim. 4:3-4: People don't want "sound doctrine;" listen to those teachers who tell them what they want to hear; don't want truth; "myths" are preferred

So, what do these verses have in common?  Where is the Word?  It seems that these folks want to talk about everything but the Word. The teachers want to be center stage stage and known for what they do. It may be in the name of Jesus, but Jesus is so far away from the ideas they teach that they have not noticed He's left the building.  

In A, false doctrines and a lot of spiritually empty talk rule the day.  Purity of heart, a clean conscience and a sincere faith are set aside, because that means the teacher is not the focal point but what they say.  When you compare what they are saying to the Word, the difference is obvious.  

In B, the Word is not the source of the doctrine.  In the previous verses, Paul uses the Law as a starting point of what is not considered godly behavior. He moves from the behavior to the ideas that allow such behavior to be allowed. 

In C, the Word is not considered to be the truth, and in their arrogance, these teachers are stuck on themselves, wanting others to listen to them with their wild claims.  Of course, in order to gain followers, one teacher's claims have to be more wild than the other teachers' claims, because power means money.  Truth?  Nah.  That's for losers.  Money, power, control.  That's the endgame here. 

In D, "sound doctrine" is boring. It doesn't appeal to our pride as followers and it doesn't appeal to the pride of the teachers. The word for "myths" is translated "fables" or "inventions."  Teachers just make up doctrine.  But because they are in positions of authority, people listen.  And because people listen, the teachers continue to make things up, because it keeps the people coming back and wanting more.  

When we are centered in the Word alone, pride isn't welcomed there.  The Word must be central:  "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16) 

It's not as fun as going out with youthful enthusiasm and seeking to heal everyone you encounter.  

It's not as exciting as going to a graveyard and raising the dead.

It's not as fun as watching others fall to the floor and lay there shaking.  

It's not as novel as having a prophetic puppet. 

It's not as overwhelming as a loud concert environment for worship. 

But the Word reins us in, and teaches us what God approves of and wants us to carry out into the world.  It shows error, and how to live righteously, so we can be true servants of God, not representing ourselves but representing Him alone.  The works consequently done are fruitful and not faddish; productive and not experiential, and ultimately bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

One last, sad thought: 10 years from now, when all these young followers of these disturbing trends  and self-centered teachers are adults and life hits them hard, the teachings that they have stood on will be sand. Their faith-houses will be washed away because they did not build their house on the Rock--Jesus and His words.    

Monday, December 24, 2018

One of My Favorite Christmas Carols

We all have a favorite Christmas carol.  I have several and it's hard to pick just one.  But with the state of the world, the pain and suffering, and the worrisome anger and hatred that plagues our country, one comes to mind. "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day" is based on a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  I present the poem:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Wow. He wrote it when our nation was being tried to its very soul: the Civil War. Longfellow wrote it on Christmas day in 1863.  

For America, this war had turned into a nightmare.  Divisions were everywhere: brother against brother, family against family, region against region, race against race.  Even churches divided against each other, over slavery and racial equality.  The number of wounded, dying and dead were overwhelming, and in the years to come, would come to be almost unbelievable to that generation.   

Was this a sentimental, "God is on our side" kind of poem that appears when major conflicts arise?  No, I don't think so.  Isaiah speaks of a Child to be born to us, in familiar words (thank you, Mr. Handel!):

"For a child is born to us, A son is given to us; And the government Is upon His shoulder; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." (9:6) 

A child--one of us.  A son--a member of the family.  But He is not just a precious child, and beloved son... He is the Ruler of the universe and of mankind.  Only He can promote a sustainable justice and mercy, due to who He is.  Who is He?
  • "Something wonderful, admirable, a miracle of God" who will "devise, guide, purpose"
  • "the strong" and "one true God" 
  • "the everlasting, perpetual" who is the "God of His people" 
  • "Ruler, keeper, governor" of "completeness, soundness, welfare, peace"  
Wow.  This is why, at the end of the poem, the bells, like the angels flying in the skies over the heads of the shepherds, could ring out such exuberant praise.  God has not vacated the throne of the universe, despite all the madness going on around us.  

So, this carol, echoing out of the past, stills extols the glory of God.

We need to do so as well.

Merry Christmas, dear readers.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Satan's Logic, Part II

Satan is a master of deception, and those who follow him have bought into his lies.  We use the word "deception," or say that such false teachers and their followers are "deceived."

What does "deception" mean in Hebrew?  According to Vine's, its basic meaning is "deceit, deception, malice, falsehood."  Also in Vine's, Eliphaz in the book of Job, says, "Let him not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless, for he will get nothing in return." (15:31)

Let's go to the Greek.  The word means, "that which gives a false impression, whether by appearance, statement or influence, is said of riches...of sin..."  (Vine's)

Vine's cites 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 as indicative of the definition: "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved."

Vine's also cites Colossians 2:8:  "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy,which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces [or the basic principles] of this world rather than on Christ." (footnote from BibleGateway)

Other words cited by Vine's is "a bait, snare" "wandering (from the right path)" and "'self-deceit,' a sin against common sense," and "leading into error, to seduce."

Wow.  Let's summarize the meaning of deception:
  • lie
  • malice
  • worthless
  • false impression
  • "signs and wonders that serve the lie"
  • unwillingness to love the truth
  • human traditions of thought 
  • a bait
  • wandering away from the right path
  • self-deceit, ignoring common sense
  • "leading into error"
Why does deception work in the first place?  We look back today at the Nazi era and say, "How terrible.  The people were so deceived.  How could they believe Hitler?  He was so obviously evil!" Ah, hindsight.  But watch the films of his speeches carefully, as the camera scans the crowds, whether at a rally or at the Reichstag:  the people are utterly enthralled.  Swooning, screaming, Seig Heiling every few seconds...the enthusiasm comes through those black and whites images even today.

Why?  The simple answer is Hitler offered the German people what they wanted.  He explained the catastrophic loss of World War I.  He claimed the Communists and the Jews at home had  undermined the war effort at every turn, and thus were traitors, deserving severe punishment. He offered a nationalism that boasted the racial superiority of the German people to counter the degradation they felt after being blamed by the Allies for the war and then having to pay for it. He proposed a plan for a German that was pure, shiny and bright:  all inferiors would be removed, and Germany's borders would expand, allowing it to rightfully take its place as the world leader.  

In other words, Hitler appealed to the pride of the people.  

Pride is Satan's domain, and it is an open door that he slithers into and begins working to further his agenda of destruction.  He, as Jesus powerfully defined him, is a thief who comes in to "steal, kill, and destroy." If you want a simple definition of World War II, I can't think of a better one.  The theft,  murder and killing, and the destruction of that war left 58 million dead.  It also included industrialized murder on an unprecedented scale that still defies imagination.

Pride in human beings allows Satan to create a predatory pack that releases all the is evil in us.

Let's explore Jesus' definition of Satan a little further. I hike the mountains in my Idaho home, and see lots of evidence of drama going on when the sun goes down:  bones, fur, hooves scattered about or tucked under a thicket; a single small skull, sometimes with a small amount of fur still upon it; a single bone, long separated from its skeletal cohorts. 

Whoever took the animal (coyote, mainly, sometimes wolf or bear) had to first steal the prey away from its herd. Then to silence its screams and get to work, the predator killed it.  Then, in an orgy of feeding, the prey was dismembered, its bones left in chaos.

That is what he tries to do to us.

That is what he tries to do to the Word.

That is what he tries to do to the Son.  

Satan appeals to our pride to separate us from the truth of God.  God has revealed Himself in His Word and in His Son.  Both get targeted, questioned, dissected, reinterpreted, and redefined beyond all recognition.  Once unrecognizable, it's easy to discard the Word and the Son, for they have no longer have any meaning.  The truth is replaced with "your truth."  Biblical "bones" are scattered on  the hills of cultural irrelevancy.

Look at it this way.  You cannot deceive me if I pursue the truth with vigor and wherever it leads.  If I weigh the evidence, looks carefully and sets pride aside, then the lie will fall flat.  Whoa!  There is the key element: pride being set aside.  I can't be deceived if I am not trying to gain something from whatever is before me.

Lies work because the liar and the "liaree" equally want something.

If I tell you God wants you rich, and all you have to do is give me money, I am appealing to your pride that says you can gain wealth with little effort, and that God is all about you.  You are special as you follow my ministry.

If I tell you I have a new revelation, I appeal to your pride that you now have new or unique knowledge; you are superior to those who don't possess it.  You are special if you follow my teachings.

If I entertain you, all in the name of Jesus, I appeal to your pride that your church is progressive and cutting edge; that new is always better than old and that lots of people involved means God's blessings.  Don't bother with small.  Or simple. You are special because you belong to a happening church.

Feeling special is balm on an insecure heart; a heart that doesn't know the Father as deeply, and a heart that longs for something.  Satan loves that "something."  He will counterfeit it for he knows that that "something" is unbridled fellowship with the Father, Son and precious Spirit.

That "something" will be a lie, an error, ignoring common sense, and a rushing head long into something that is worthless.  Eventually, you will be left marred, angry, broken or deeply ensnared.  That is the point of Satan's logic: because in the word "believe," the word "lie" tucked in.

But in "believe," with a careful look, is the word, "live."  Take out the need to "be" in control, and take out the "e" (ego) and you find Jesus: He is our Immanuel, the One who is God with us, and who brought us His way, His truth and in His life.


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