Free Love

“They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 8:11

A social movement existed in the ’60s and ’70s called, “the Free Love Movement.” In fact, it was quite social indeed, producing rampant “social” diseases and unwed pregnancies, and millions of broken hearts. I know that because I would have liked to be part of it, but I’ve never been a candidate for the “World’s Greatest Lover” prize; I was way too shy to go after that one. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a true social movement like the feminist and civil rights movements, but simply flaunted promiscuous sexual practices that had always been hidden for the benefit of polite society.

Also strictly speaking, “free love,” as in sexual promiscuity, was never free. Besides the costs listed above, it enabled the HIV/AIDS virus to freely spread from Africa to the more developed nations, and then to expand at epidemic rates here.

But there is another kind of “free love” that is truly free, and oddly enough, the most costly of all loves.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

In case you’ve forgotten, the Son that Jesus spoke of is Jesus himself, the eternal Word of God made flesh. And to what did God give him over? Only the worst torture and death that both the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman occupiers could devise.  And why did Jesus have to suffer so? Because he was the only one who could fulfill for us the absolute righteousness that God requires, without which we have no hope for salvation.

In simple terms, Jesus traded his righteousness for our unrighteousness, then submitted to God’s wrath in payment for the guilt-debt we had accrued. He actually loves me, you, and all of humanity, that much.

Hard to believe, eh? That’s why God’s Holy Spirit gives us just a glimpse of our depraved condition (that’s called “conviction”), and enough of a faith-boost to think that, just maybe, his salvation is for you and me. Then, if you grab that hope and run the race he has set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2) throughout the New Testament, faithful to the end, his promise is yours … forever.

Screwtape on Marriage

Satan’s lies actually make sense to some people.

Screwtape’s warped philosophy on human marriage exhibits a circuitous “reasoning” typical of all his better temptations. If what follows seems confusing, it’s meant to. If you manage to read all the way to the end of his lecture, you’ll discover it’s all about competition.

The Enemy’s demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since our Father’s first great victory, we have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter, for the last few centuries, we have been closing up as a way of escape. We have done this through the poets and novelists by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually shortlived, experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding.

This idea is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy. The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into astronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition’.

If what you just read seems strikingly familiar, there’s good reason; it is the world’s way of thinking, which is the antithesis of God’s way for ultimate human fulfillment and happiness. Of course, that should not surprise anyone, as everything the world deems right and proper contradicts God’s design for us.

So if you want to know God’s way without delving into the Bible, just watch secular TV, read secular novels, watch secular movies and attend secular schools, and assume it’s all diametrically opposed to God’s best for us. That strategy is dangerous, however, as if you listen to a lie long enough it’ll seem true.

What’s with those “Gesis” brothers?

I had only known one of them, until this morning. My acquaintance with “Exe Gesis” began a few years ago when I learned the disquieting fact that English translations of God’s Word are slightly flawed. But for God’s Holy Spirit intervening with his spiritual understanding of the texts, we’d have no way of knowing God’s exact message.

My providential introduction to “Exe Gesis” has blessed me with God’s truth, while his step-brother, “Eise Gesis,” only seeks to make a point, often at the Scripture’s expense. Let me introduce you to both of them. What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? presents both “Gesis” brothers in clear, plain language that must make those high-powered Bible scholars blush. And to facilitate those who would rather listen than read, that page has a button that opens a really slick audio player in another browser tab.

If you take your faith seriously, you no doubt take your Savior seriously, and if that is the case, you find his word both a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105), and most importantly, the reason for your eternal hope. Use this opportunity to get to know “Exe.” He’s a friend that will never fail you.

C.S. Lewis on Prayer

TO DR. F. MORGAN ROBERTS: On Lewis’s own rules about prayer.
31 July 1954

I am certainly unfit to advise anyone else on the devotional life. My own rules are (1) To make sure that, wherever else they may be placed, the main prayers should not be put ‘last thing at night’. (2) To avoid introspection in prayer—I mean not to watch one’s own mind to see if it is in the right frame, but always to turn the attention outwards to God. (3) Never, never to try to generate an emotion by will power. (4) To pray without words when I am able, but to fall back on words when tired or otherwise below par. With renewed thanks. Perhaps you will sometimes pray for me?
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

Like Uncle Jack, who claimed to be unfit to give advice on prayer, I am possibly the least qualified to lecture anyone on how to pray, so this isn’t a how-to piece, or at least that isn’t my intention. I just want to share a couple of things that draw me closer to my Father.

Lewis offered sound advice in his letter to Dr. Roberts, as far as it went. Step one requires some trimming and sorting of your chores. Like giving, prayer is easy to procrastinate until either it doesn’t happen, or it becomes relegated to left-overs. And no, God won’t punish you for giving him your left-overs, but he won’t bless you, either.

Step two requires some discipline, and lots of practice. In one way it’s similar to falling asleep; it won’t happen as long as you’re thinking about it. Lewis’ steps two and four are so closely related that they could be two, and two-a. To avoid monitoring your prayer style you must meditate on the pray-ee, not on the pray-er. You must not gage in any way your “success” in prayer. It’s not performance-based. Which takes us to the next step.

Step three is true of both emotions and methods. Though will-power in the context in which Lewis used it—the teeth-gritting, grunting effort of a weight lifter—is inappropriate, clearing the way for genuine emotional intercourse with your Father begins with the will to do it. And again, meditation on him figuratively ushers you into his presence. Once your mind is staid on him, you’d have to be a robot not to receive a groundswell of emotion.

As to his step four: Praying without words suggests to me Romans 8:26-27. My experience tells me that I must meditate on God—who he is and what he has done, both for the world and for me personally—before I begin unrolling my shopping list. God’s attributes alone are enough to blow your mind, and when you keep envisioning his nature more and more deeply, somehow your shopping list becomes trivial by comparison. Scripture is an integral part of this meditation, so keep a list of passages that you have found meaningful, especially those dealing with his (literally) awesome qualities and works.

Please forgive me; for not being a how-to piece, that’s a lot of how-tos. I never realized I had so much to say on the subject of prayer. Now I need to take my own advice, and Uncle Jack’s, as well.

Golden Age, or Age of Fool’s Gold—America’s Religious Decline

Fool's Gold glitters brighter than true gold.

Fool’s Gold glitters brighter than true gold.

America’s first two hundred years gave safety and security to God’s church. During this “Golden Age” of religious freedom, Our Constitution’s Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom from government-imposed religious conformity. For the first 170 of those years the church thrived; even non-church-goers respected the Bible and those who believed in it. Then a fundamental, three-pronged attack on those freedoms began, as sinister as the mythical
Neptune’s trident.

The First Prong

After World War II ended, German scientists emigrated in droves, scientists indoctrinated under Hitler’s nationalistic anti-Christian, anti-humanist establishment. I say anti-humanist because humanism was a liberal philosophy that encouraged academic freedom of thought and inquiry, but such freedoms weren’t Hitler’s cup of tea. Those scientists landed in government research, industry and academia, and while some of them adapted well to our Judeo-Christian culture base, others militantly held to their atheistic or pagan roots.

While historical humanism was liberal in the sense of tolerating other philosophies and embracing all freedoms, it has evolved toward atheistic secularism, carrying liberals along with it, and causing this prong to stab even deeper into our religious freedoms. As a philosophy, humanism tends to color all academic inquiry, including that of many religious schools. But it is also a religion, as it asserts a belief-system that elevates humanity to the sovereign throne of ultimate authority—in other words, God. As such, it tends to seek dominance, trying to become the piranha in the river of religions, and has virtually become our state religion.

The Second Prong

Half-way into the twentieth-century, we settled comfortably into our easy chairs, squarely in front of our new television sets. TV antennas sprouted from rooftops like tall weeds in a lawn. Commercials splashed products into our homes that many of us never would have imagined, and we bought them. TV entertainment soon became big business, and big business has a way of changing things. As the song lyrics go, “How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?” And our TV screens dropped “Paree” right into our laps. The TV networks’ programming gradually began challenging our customary standards of decency and propriety, which wasn’t hard to do. We gobbled it all right up, and never became sated with the glitz and glamour. In fact, we wanted it—we wanted it badly.

At first the church resisted all that wanton entertainment and commercialism, but it soon became so mundane that we no longer raised an eyebrow to it. Of course, we’d never consider doing those things ourselves. But as we watched the soaps, quiz shows, musical extravaganzas and sports spectaculars, we began thinking of what that little screen delivered as the norm. “Why can’t I have a life like that?” we asked ourselves, and the little screen provided the answer … CREDIT! Of course, the other side of the credit coin is debt, and rather than owning our possessions, our possessions, and the bankers, owned us. But we were living like kings, so who cares?

The Third Prong

The guarantees that our nation’s Founding Fathers had intended as a safe haven for believers and non-believers alike backfired. Before long, the church became complacent in their security. The unity they had clung to for safety became unnecessary, so differences and squabbles, instead of being resolved as they usually had, produced division and schism. Old-line denominations split at the drop of a hymnal, with the new leaders’ idealism soon degrading into a new, staid conventionality. Church doctrines were engraved in stone and perched high atop ivory towers, never to be challenged until some new, charismatic leader, like the pied piper, drew away those who loved his music more than unity.

Televangelists try to compete with entertainment television’s glitz and glamour,with lavish sets and costumes, and their prosperity-gospel’s emphasis on worldly possessions as a demonstration of God’s

Giving by grace through faith? That is blatant corruption of the gospel.

obedience to their demands. And they’ve succeed in seducing many in the church who are gullible enough to support their kingly lifestyle with “faith-partnerships” and “Grace giving,” while neglecting the local church’s valid financial needs.

As materialism eroded the church’s charitable giving, the federal government’s new-liberalism gleefully stepped into the gap with programs to “improve” the poor’s lot in life. Whether or not the welfare-state was calculated to create a government-dependent class and a cottage industry of cheating the system, that is the effect it had.

Rather than looking upon the poor with love, we religious-types began looking down our noses at them, resenting the government support they received that our ever-increasing taxes funded. Simply put, we quit loving the poor, and anyone else who didn’t act, look, and smell like us. We couldn’t grasp the spiritual law that says, where love fails, God removes his Spirit.

We, like the Laodicean church of Revelation, are becoming neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and are in danger of being vomited out of God’s mouth. And we wonder why the church is impotent in today’s culture.

The church-age of fool’s gold is upon us, and only Holy Spirit-led revival will divert our course toward perdition. “Revival” requires a life that can be revived. It’s not about wholesale evangelism, but the church’s repentance. Right now, a remnant of faithful believers is praying passionately for that revival. Are you one of them? Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem? If you are not part of the solution, you must repent of the sin of complacency, in sackcloth and ashes if necessary. That means turning away from your material hoard, and the values that built it. It means changing your habits, your entertainments, your loves, from what the world dictates to what Christ died to give us. It means allowing, even seeking, brokenness of spirit, so God’s Holy Spirit can rebuild you, me, and the church, in Christ’s holy image.

If you and I fail in this charge, God will bring about the change he wants the hard way, by purging and purifying his church through persecution’s fire. The choice is ours.

Open Sez He

Okay, titling this piece after a quote from “Popeye The Sailor Meets Sindbad The Sailor” may seem somewhat frivolous, but there’s a method in my obvious madness.

Popeye is perpetually involved in the war between good and evil, but the only way he can win is to keep a can of spinach handy. Of course, you can see the spiritual parallel; we’re helpless against our enemy Satan without God’s Holy Spirit, but he doesn’t come in a can though some think getting his attention is formulaic.

Another Popeye parallel is his motto: “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.” That applies to us directly, as our pretenses never determine who or what we are. You can act religious all day every day, get to church first and leave last, and keep a sanctimonious frown tattooed on your face, but if you haven’t submitted to Jesus out of love and gratitude for what he did for you, it’s all a pretense.

The last parallel I have is a bit of a stretch; In the Sindbad cartoon, Popeye said, “Open sez me,” when he wanted entry to Sindbad’s treasure-cave.” God’s Holy Spirit says to us, “Open your heart and mind to me.” It’s possible to sincerely profess faith in Christ without ever opening up to him. Are you not sure if that describes you? Ask yourself if you open your heart to your pastor, your brethren, your family and friends, and even your enemies. Do you open your mind to God’s Word? True Christ-followers practice God’s love, giving themselves to others as Jesus gave himself to us.

Clever—or not-so clever—cartoon parallels aside, Christ will hold each of us accountable for our response to his total sacrifice for us. Are you a child of God through Christ Jesus, or just a pretender?

C.S. Lewis Asks, Do You Have Rats In Your Basement?

cartoon-rat

Honestly, this has little to do with rats or basements, as you’ve probably already guessed. But it has a lot to do with … well, I’ll let Uncle Jack clarify the issue:

We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.
From C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity

One concept that often confuses people is “sins” versus “sin.” Sins(plural form) are simply acts that are contrary to God’s expressed will, whether or not anybody sees you do them. Some clever preacher came up with a catchy phrase about the two kinds of sinful acts: “Sins of commission, and sins of omission,” but differentiating them isn’t always easy. Sins of omission often cause sins of commission because the sinner has neglected the necessary preparation to resist temptation. It’s the old “If I had done this, I wouldn’t have done that.”

Sin(singular form), however, isn’t just one sinful act. It’s the condition humans are born into ever since that fateful day when the first humans first tried to stick it to God. We’ve all seen “fails” videos, but that was the first, and the worst, fail of all. Can you imagine how Adam felt when he realized God wouldn’t accept his cop-out? I’d say it involved the world’s first, and worst, blush. Ever since then we’ve all tried to put one over on God, whether it’s trying to con him with our lame excuses, or simply ignoring him while alleging that he doesn’t exist.

Here’s a clue: your snubbing God doesn’t hurt his feelings. And you don’t have to be an atheist to snub God. Many who claim to be Christians routinely snub him, by refusing to take their feelings, their faults, and their failures to him in prayer.

And speaking—or writing—of prayer, there’s confusion about it, similar to the confusion about sin; prayer, and prayers, aren’t the same thing. “Saying ones prayers,” implies a deliberate, one-time or routine act of devotion to God. And that’s a great thing as far as it goes. But God said he wants us to “pray without ceasing.” Fortunately, he didn’t mean we have to constantly kneel beside our beds praying. It’s much more subtle than that. He meant we need to always see, think, and do things in a way that will allow us to go to him in prayer at any instant. It’s like walking with your loved one; you won’t always have things to say at any given moment, but just being with him or her comforts and affirms you. That’s what relationship is all about.

 

Warning, you may find this post offensive …

But only if you’re part of the problem.

God’s church has the bad habit of sweeping sensitive or distasteful issues under the tabu-rug. Such issues vary by denomination and congregation, but perhaps the most universally swept issue is pornography use.

A quick definition of Porn is: printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings. Usually, “printed or visual material” is interpreted as photographs or graphic images, but is that assumption realistic?

Years ago, I enjoyed reading thriller-type novels by such authors as Ludlum, Cussler, Patterson, King and Sheldon. And don’t get me started on the movies of the same genre. One common element in such fiction is vivid portrayals of violence and gore, usually motivated by “righteous” revenge. Brothers, “righteous” and “revenge” are oxymorons. The enemy of your soul places those stories before your eyes to elicit your sympathy, causing you to justify violent vengeance. Another common element of such fiction is erotic descriptions of sex and seduction. If you call yourself a Christian, you have no business placing such words and images before your eyes. Just because it isn’t technically porno doesn’t mean it’s okay.

And on the distaff side …

Ladies, stop poking your husbands if you read “steamy” romance novels, which are nothing less than verbal porn. You read them for the stories and not the sex? That’s like your husband’s claim of “reading” Playboy Magazine for the literary value alone. Ladies, those stories are nothing more than “cookie-cutter” literature, mass-produced to separate you from both your money and your morals.

Confession Time

Apostle Paul suffered from a physical “thorn in the flesh.” My biggest thorn in the flesh is my addiction to “soft porn.” Some would say, “Why, that’s not so bad; could be worse.”

Indeed it could, but it doesn’t have to be worse to stand between me and my Savior. Even though it may not cost my eternal salvation—note, I said “may not”—that garbage stunts my spiritual growth. By now I’ve realized that I’m stuck with my taste for “morality’s booze,” but by Christ’s righteous power it doesn’t have to rule my life.

I’ve coined the phrase, “Soft porn makes soft Christians,” and I don’t want to be a soft Christian. I praise my Lord and Savior for opening my spiritual eyes to what I place before my physical eyes, allowing me to fully appreciate its ugliness. Any victory God is giving me hasn’t come easily; I still struggle with the temptation, but through my persistent supplication he is giving me victory over that particular tool of Satan.

The Bible never mentions pornography, but it does cover fornication quite well. Not the same thing? The Greek for “fornication” comes from the same root word (porneia) as our word, “pornography.” Below, find listed some of the Biblical passages dealing with fornication and lust:

1 John 2:16[Full Chapter]
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.

Matthew 5:32
But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Matthew 19:9
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

John 8:41
Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

Proverbs 11:6
The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.

Matthew 5:27
[ Lust ] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

1 Thessalonians 4:5
not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

2 Peter 2:10
and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,

If you feel condemnation for your use of porn, that’s just your enemy hitting you with the ol’ one-two. First, he stunts your spiritual growth, then he turns your God-given conviction into condemnation, gaining two victories for one sin. Pretty clever, eh? Resolve to accept and submit to God’s conviction, but tell your sneaky enemy, “Be gone, Satan!” By God’s redemptive power, Satan’s ploys are wasted on you.

 

Words of Christ in Red

Opinion-time, everyone. The bug bit me while I was studying Proverbs chapter eighteen—rather odd, as it contains no “words of Christ.” But that’s where it gets interesting; Jesus Christ is God’s eternal Word in the flesh, and he authored the verbal (both the ancient, oral tradition, and the written) Word of God from start to finish (John 1:1-18, 2 Timothy 3:16). In view of these facts, can any part of God’s verbal Word not be Jesus’ words? Highlighting Jesus’ words in the gospels implies that they are somehow more reliable or have more authority than the balance of Scripture, which is theologically unsound.

That said, I understand how novices in Bible-study might prefer “Red-Word” Bible editions, but I would also caution them against assigning those red words undue significance. There is a heresy that says Jesus’ words carry divine authority, but the rest were written by (sexist) men, most especially that male-chauvinist-pig, Paul.

To deny any part of God’s Word is to deny its Author, and we wouldn’t want to do that, would we?

Retrospective Christianity

Who would think that I, as into tech-stuff as I am, would pitch hindsight for our walk of faith?

David McCasland, of Our Daily Bread, suggests that, “God’s guidance in the past gives courage for the future.” And he supported his thesis with Jeremiah 6:13-20, where the prophet decried his people’s greed and false dealing, religious flippancy and lack of shame. He could have been addressing many in today’s church (but not me, of course).

Lest God would be forced to punish and overthrow them:

16 Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
    and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
    and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Does that mean we need to go back to the Mosaic Law and abide by all the statutes and ordinances? If you think so, you haven’t studied God’s New Covenant, delivered through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus’ blood freed us from the law’s tyranny so we could walk in newness of life—God’s divine life.

Does that mean we should walk in nostalgia, worshiping the “good old days?” Remember, longing for the past is the most curious sort of lust and idolatry, in that its hunger and thirst can never be quenched. Besides, it can make you unresponsive to today’s needs that God wants to address through you.

Living retrospectively means we learn from the past to prepare for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. And we have so many ways of doing that: Of course, the Bible is where we start, as it tells us of God’s historical dealings with his people through his commands, and his responses to their depravity. Then we must learn from past saints, both those who lived by faith under the Old Covenant, and those who lived by faith in Christ (not only canonized saints, but all those sanctified by faith in Jesus), who devoted their lives to rightly dividing the Word of truth. And finally we must learn from the faithful saints of today, the elders who have proved their spiritual zeal for their Savior.

Living retrospectively also means we must learn from our own victories and defeats, with joy in the hope of the ultimate victory that Jesus won for us at such great cost.

If that means we have to look back with blinders, like a race horse that tends to get distracted and stumble, put on those spiritual blinders so you will neither long for past depravity, nor submit to condemnation for what is already under Jesus’ blood.

In your retrospection, never live for the past. Learn from it.