Rest

Jesus said, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV) While that is one of the first passages kids learn in Sunday school, it’s one of the last that we adults put into practice.

We normally think of those labors and burdens as related to our worldly concerns, like supporting our families or taking part in civic affairs. At least, that’s the way I’ve always thought of it. Today, however, an alternative application occurred to me that, though somewhat novel to me, is probably old hat to many of my brethren. But I’ll tell you my bright idea anyway.

I look at the stranglehold that the religious authorities held on the people of Jesus’ time. He said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:2-4 NKJV) To me that describes legalistic religion in all its forms, both then and now. Jesus also said concerning the religious authorities, in Matthew 15:7-9 “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”

One problem with legalism is, human traditions and rules become worldly burdens to those who are trying to please God through them. So it’s all the same; whether the works and burdens are worldly, or religious, they are not of God. Our Sabbath rest is the Lord Jesus Christ, who will give us rest for our souls.

No Limits

Black hole projecting
God’s immeasurable power
Unending joy

A YouTube video, THUNDERBOLTS OF THE GODS, purports to debunk the gravitational theory of matter. In case you’re curious, the gravitational theory supports such profound conclusions as the Big Bang. And the comprehensive new theory that explodes the Big Bang?

The Electrical Universe.

Since I completely understand that complex theory, and you no doubt need a third grade-level explanation, I’ll break it down into comprehensible bits for you. (I hope you caught the self-deprecating humor there.) Electrical Universe-boosters assert the existence of plasma* conduits throughout the universe. If you’ve ever seen a small plasma globe, or a massive lightning bolt, you have some idea of how a plasma conduit functions.

According to that theory, all that incomprehensible—dare I say, “infinite”— electric power surging throughout the universe generates equally incomprehensible magnetism, which holds the universe, and everything within the universe, together. To illustrate, try prying two five-pound rare earth magnets apart after they’ve crushed your hand to roughly paper thickness.

So, what does that have to do with this blog’s theme of bearing spiritual fruit? One word: Change. Or more precisely, and with considerably more than one word, constant change within the fields of theoretical physics and cosmology (not cosmetology) rule out any possibility of figuring out creation’s whys and wherefores; there’s just too much to know. In fact, we’ve hardly begun to decipher the DNA code that predetermines the purpose, design, and placement of every one of the billions of cells in our bodies. And if our DNA isn’t complex enough, the amoeba’s genome is 200 times more complex than ours.

Back in the olden days of gravitational theory, scientists of a certain pugnacious mindset ruled out God’s existence based on their all-inclusive explanations of the universe’s existence and function, which were based on theoretical physics. In short, their materialistic theories didn’t need a god, so why believe in one? But they still haven’t gotten around to explaining why He can’t exist.

Please note, I am not saying that proponents of the Electrical Universe Theory include God in their ideas, but the mere fact that it opens an entirely new field of investigation shows that our universe holds infinitely more secrets than science can ever explain, or even explore. Thus, my title: No Limits. And that also characterizes God. The Creator simply spoke the universe—all universes, if you happen to be a quantum physicist—into existence. Imagine what He could do if He put His back into a project.

* Plasma is a fourth state of matter distinct from solid, liquid or gas, and is present in stars and fusion reactors; a gas becomes a plasma when it is heated until the atoms lose all their electrons, leaving a highly electrified collection of nuclei and free electrons. Plasma is the most electrically conductive substance in the universe.

I’m a Prepper

Not a bad idea if you live in the LA basin.

Preparations for what many consider the inevitable, “SHTF,” scenario have grabbed a lot of attention lately. New businesses, both Internet-based and fixed locations, have sprung up to cater to the fearful folks’ survival needs. There’s even a new word for those who are trying to squirrel away a stash and an arsenal for that eventuality: Preppers. They used to be called, “survivalists,” but I suppose that’s now old hat.

SHTF situations aren’t at all new, as a certain infamous couple proved when they got booted out of their idyllic home many thousands of years ago. As if that wasn’t bad enough, one of their sons murdered the other early in their ordeal, proving the Law of Survival of the Fittest, though the phrase had to wait for coinage until 1864, when Herbert Spencer published his Principles in Biology.

As a matter of fact, I’ve made all the necessary preparations for a true, Armageddon-style disaster. I have plenty of water (God’s Holy Spirit), a great kit belt (truth), body armor (the breastplate of righteousness), combat boots (the preparation of the gospel of peace), armament (the helmet of salvation and the shield of faith), although I can always use more of that, and food and weaponry (God’s Word, the Sword of the Spirit).

As you may have guessed, my Survival Guide is God’s Word, with special emphasis on Ephesians 6:13-17 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The beauty of that survival plan is I don’t have to worry about buying guns and ammo. In fact, I’m not too concerned about brigands attacking my home and murdering me over a loaf of bread. Jesus said, And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28) That’s the kind of preparation the federal government can’t even buy, or keep you from buying.

So, fear God, not the Feds or violent death. What have you got to loose but a body with an expiration date?

Caution! Read the Label

Warning! May be addictive.

Yesterday I bought a jar of sunflower kernels (that’s the seeds without armor). As I hadn’t enjoyed such a treat in a very long time, and I went to the store hungry, I naturally bought the beckoning jar of golden pleasure. After enjoying a modest snack—I kid you not—I stopped today and read the label:

INGREDIENTS: SUNFLOWER KERNELS, SEA SALT, SUGAR, CORN STARCH, CONTAINS 1% OR LESS OF THE FOLLOWING: MONOSODIUM  GLUTAMATE, MALTODEXTRIN, SMOKED TORULA YEAST, DRIED CORN SYRUP, SPICE, GARLIC POWDER, ONION POWDER. (Emphasis mine)

I was aghast! Why would I want to take all that junk into my body? I thought I had read the label; it said, “Dry Roasted Sunflower Kernels (with sea salt),” but I hadn’t read the entire label.

So, I relearned a valuable life-lesson: Always read everything on the label.

You were “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14), and your Maker even provided a detailed label so you could know exactly what’s inside; it’s contained within our User’s Manuel. Of course, the Bible doesn’t tell us all the minute, physiological details of our composition, but it does reveal the really important stuff; you have a body, a soul, and a spirit, and each of those require certain things to prosper, or even to survive. For example, your body needs nutrition (preferably without all the garbage in those sunflower kernels), shelter, and hygiene. Your soul—including your mind, personality, temperament, and emotions—need to take on strong, positive character. Your human spirit is like bleached, white flower; it “tastes” great, but lacks anything to sustain life. God designed the human spirit to work in concert with his Holy Spirit, but that all ended when Man chose to disobey God’s clear command—his only command, by the way—and believe the serpent’s lie.

If you’re a Christ-follower, you already know all that, but did you know that your behavior and attitudes can shackle the Holy Spirit’s work in your life? If we subscribe to the “Stinkin’ Thinkin'” mentality, or refuse to cultivate spiritual fruit, we grieve God’s Spirit and open ourselves up to the unpleasant, even catastrophic, consequences.

Acts 17 tells the story of Thessalonian Jews dragging Jason and other believers into court with accusations of “turning the world upside down.” Are we still that church? Are we still making more than a subtle difference in our world? When did we, God’s church, loose that power? What compromise do we make that grieves God’s Spirit in our lives and churches?

The answer is easy: We have once again sold our souls to the enemy, trading the Way of Christ for playing church. We allow the world’s values and perversions into our homes by calling it, “entertainment.” We compromise our holiness to seem relevant, even cool, in our world. While all of these shortfalls are also true of me personally, this last one is true of me especially: We over-think our faith, trying to make it humanly reasonable, unable to believe what doesn’t make sense, living by sight, and not by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

If that indictment seems like no big thang, I even have to wonder if we are in Christ at all. If we’re okay with an impotent church, is it truly God’s church?

Caution! We need to carefully and completely read the Label God placed on us, then follow its instructions, not to the letter, as that is legalism, but by his Spirit. Only then will we complete Jesus’ Great Commission.

The ISIS Apocalypse (warning, graphic image)

Please forgive this horrible image, and remember that this is not a man, but the vestige of one who is now with his Savior. Rejoice for him, for his hope is now fully realized.

I received a long e-mail detailing the horrible atrocities that the hoodlums of the Islamic State are perpetrating against Christians in Iraq. I’ve seen graphic images of children without heads, and heard of the rape and pillage of Christian families. And my feelings go beyond outrage, to apprehension, and even fear. “How long before they take over our country, as they promise?”

That is my fleshly reaction to this evil that seems to be spreading, unchecked, but when I look to my Savior instead of such scare tactics, my response is quite different. Of course it’s easy for me to sit in this comfortable chair in front of my computer monitor, smack in the middle of one of America’s havens of freedom, and say I truly believe none of this Islamic State business is taking God by surprise. The truth is, God is not wringing his hands and desperately commissioning the West to step in and correct all the hideous wrongs. Rather, God is allowing this genocide to wake up his church, to open our eyes to the fact that we are not safe in this world, that our safety is spiritual, and that no matter what happens to our property, families or selves, he is always faithful. We are not to fear those who can kill us physically, but only him who controls our eternal destiny (Matthew 10:28).

I believe God is giving grace to his beloved Christ-followers when we face persecution, and even execution, for his name’s sake. He cannot abandon us because he is Love personified, but he can and will allow whatever our hardened hearts require, in order to make them soft toward him.

Never think that Father God is made of stone, that he feels nothing for his suffering church. Good heavens! He gave his own beloved Son over to worse torture than ISIS, or any other Satanic force, can dish out, so we his enemies could be saved.

My prayer is first, that God will glorify himself through this time of tribulation, and second, that his suffering church will look to our Savior for his supernatural peace, and die with psalms of praise on our lips. We dare not submit to a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (1 Timothy 1:7-8).

So look up, for our Savior is drawing near, and pray for gratitude, and courage to face whatever God allows in our future.

C.S. Lewis on Why You Are You

The Brocken Spectre

Listen up, people! This one is important. I’m only posting this excerpt from Uncle Jack’s The Problem of Pain on the off-chance that even one person will read it, carefully. So, here goes:

[God's] signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul. I am considering not how, but why, He makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock. Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions. For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you—you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith. Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another’s. All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction. The Brocken spectre ‘looked to every man like his first love’, because she was a cheat. But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.

I’ve never seen this principle of individuality expressed so well: God is the Worker; heredity and environment are His tools. He loves our differences because He crafted them so carefully. “Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another’s.” You must not accept any other’s vision of your heavenly Father … Really! I never thought of that before. Didn’t He make our eyes, our perceptions, different? One of the Evangelical community’s great problems is we expect, even demand, that others see God as we do. Brethren! We are not clones! When God’s Spirit moves into your soul, He decides what about you He will change in the new creature that used to be you. You’ll still have the same name (and a New Name), face (but with His glory showing through), personality (unless you were a stinker), family (with the significant addition of your spiritual brethren), interests (unless they were ungodly), and job (unless calls you to another). You will, however, have an entirely new world view, resulting in an entirely new eternal destiny.

So, don’t worry about conforming to others’ expectations. Just be Christ to your world.

Faith Thoughts

Sometimes my mind gets locked into word-association games. Driving home from work, I listened to a song about faith, and began thinking of words related to its concept. I came up with belief, trust and confidence, and tried to relate them to faith, to discern their differences in meaning. First, they all flow from faith. The dictionary tells us belief is an idea or concept held to be true. It can be based on evidence, or not. Trust and confidence are closely related as the belief that something won’t let us down. That’s why we assume a rope won’t break when we’re dangling by it a thousand feet above jagged rocks.

After checking any number of dictionaries, the Biblical definition of faith is—wonder of wonders—far and away the best. “Now faith is the essence of things being hoped, the evidence of things not having been seen.” (Heb 11:1)

Faith is an abstract idea, rather like love. They both require actions to demonstrate their existence, and a source other than the person exercising them. Really, that’s not such a strange idea. Breathing uses muscles which require energy. That energy comes from the food we acquire, chew, swallow, digest and metabolize. And none of that will happen without the oxygen we breathe. It’s a “chicken or egg” conundrum, answerable only by attributing those actions to God’s special creation.

Jesus provided a prize example of faith’s purpose in Luke 17:5, when he and his students discussed forgiveness. They couldn’t see how it was possible to forgive someone 7 times a day, so they asked Jesus to increase their faith. They understood that Jesus was their source of faith, and they didn’t even have seminary diplomas.

But there’s another conundrum: To ask for faith, one must exercise faith. So where does one get that faith? The answer is in vs. 6: “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you.”

Okay, where do we get that mustard seed of faith? It’s part of our God-given, human nature, like our capacity for love and our human spirit, that God meant to give us spiritual vision. But we perverted all that when we sinned. Since we have warped spiritual vision, we search for tangible things in which to invest our faith, and find plenty of perversions to fill the bill. Only when God’s Spirit takes the scales from our eyes can we see the only worthy Object for our faith. At that point we must choose, whether to continue our quest for perverted substitutes, or to gaze at His beauty in wonderment, and place that mustard seed of faith in Him.

There begins a lifetime of choices between growing that faith, or killing it. Thanks to His Holy Spirit, Jesus’ disciples know which way to go … we just have to do it!

TRANSCENDENCE

This film tackles a … shall I say … transcendent theme, and at least from a materialistic world view, tackled it rather well. Johnny Depp and company made the futuristic scenario believable, and even evoked my sympathy for the god-like artificial being that Dr. Will Caster (Depp’s character) became.

Dr. Caster presented a lecture early in the film where an anti-technology activist in the audience asked a probing question, “So … you want to create a god? Your own god?”

To which Dr. Caster, echoing atheists throughout history, answered, “That’s a very good question. Isn’t that what man has always done?”

That is a very insightful answer, as in a way it is true. Man, left to his own devices, naturally creates his own gods; the history of religion attests to that fact. And that is why God, in Christ Jesus, intervened in our history to save us from ourselves. In TRANSCENDENCE, Dr. Caster tried to do the same thing through technology. One could say it would be the high-tech version of the Tower of Babel.

This film echoed another atheistic view as well; the town’s people, and many others who bused and drove in, submitted to the computer’s “networking” them, allowing themselves to become automatons. Non-believers in Christ view our discipleship in the same way, if they have any thoughts on the subject at all. I would that God did control us in that way, but he has always refused to invade our personal volition, which is one of the chief attributes he shared with us at creation.

TRANSCENDENCE is a great bit of futuristic entertainment, and I recommend it to Christ-followers who are well-grounded in their faith. For anyone wavering on the brink of that solid rock who is Christ, however, it could stimulate the wrong kind of speculation. Remember, we must take human wisdom, and most especially human entertainment, with great quantities of salt.

Bringing Psalm 42 Home

Psalm 42 speaks to me today as balm to my depressed soul. It doesn’t counter this depression, but encourages me in it.

Depression always looks for a scapegoat, and as I refuse to allow my depression to place the blame on my faithful God and Savior, it falls on me by default. Why would I tend to blame God? Because for years I’ve begged him to motivate me, to grow me up into a true man, ie., a Christlike man, but I still wallow in my passive depression, unable to move against this mess I’ve created around me.

I’m talking about a literal mess, as interpersonal relationships evade me at present. I look around this apartment and see tons of stuff closing in on me, chores that I haven’t done, my body settling out of condition, and words not writing themselves (even though I now type away).

Is God not strong enough to overcome my lack of will? I know better than that! Does he not love me as his word leads me to believe? That cannot be, as I know his love experientially.

That leaves just one possible explanation; my loving, faithful, gracious Lord is working in the background, unseen and unfelt, and in his perfect timing this will all make sense to me.

Psalm 42 has two very similar verses that directly minister to me:

42:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.

42:11 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, my God.

God is who he is, and I shall yet praise him.

Proper Child Rearing

Proper child rearing? I’m sure they had good reason, but what happens when she needs a diaper changed?

Uh … yeah. “Proper Child Rearing,” if you’re Father God, ’cause he’s the only one who ever got it right, but look what happened to his first two kids. What does that make our chances of raising perfect little angels?

If you don’t yet have kids, get over the idea of being perfect parents or having perfect kids. It ain’t gonna happen! And if you currently have, or have had kids, you already know perfection is an impossible dream. All you can do is your best, and your best will be good enough if you understand Bible passages like Ephesians 6:4 and the fathers enrage not your children but train them up affixed in the Lord’s discipline and admonition. The Lord’s discipline means according to Biblical principles, and the Lord’s admonition means correction by his words. And all that means you have to know God’s word.

Thing is, even if you could do a perfect job you can’t make their decisions for them; you can only prepare them to make their own decisions. They will make mistakes, even stupid ones, and you will scratch your head wondering what happened to all that lovely Scripture you fed them. It’s still in those brilliant memory-banks, but regardless how you try, you can’t digest and internalize it for them.

This is where example comes in: You tell them stuff and they think, “Fine, show me what you’re talking about.” So they test you to see if you will practice what you preach. If you say, “Don’t hit,” but you slap them in anger, they think, “So much for that rule.” If you tell them, “Don’t gossip,” but you talk about other people’s problems … Well? Violating that principle will certainly cause them to dismiss everything you say.

Did you catch my drift here? To keep from confusing and exasperating your kids you will have to change. To have any chance of raising godly kids, you will have to model godliness.

Keep in mind, though, that living a good example does not guarantee their following it. Your ultimate example will be how you respond to their screwing up their lives. So, should you tenderly welcome them back into the fold if they’ve gone out and become alcoholics or dopers, or begat children, or robbed a convenience store, but refuse to repent? NO WAY! There’s a reason the pros who deal with such things call that, “enabling.” If you want to provide a godly example, remember how God responded when the children of Israel refused to honor him; he removed his protection from them and allowed their enemies to take them into captivity. And do you remember the outcome? Eventually they repented and he welcomed them back into his graces. And do you remember how many times they went through that cycle of apostasy and repentance? I don’t, but I do remember that he forgave them every time they truly repented. That’s how much he loved them, and that’s how much he loves us!

God’s grace is sufficient, even for us failures.