Combover Religion

A young fellow with whom I once worked teased me about my combover hair style. I should place “hair style” in quotes, which I just did, because I haven’t bothered with such vanities since my early ’40s. It’s not that I didn’t care about my appearance, it simply wouldn’t have done do any good. To make appreciable inroads on my graying hair and growing paunch, I would have been forced to pursue unthinkable means, such as dying my hair, and (shudder) exercising. I still have hair more or less covering my pate, but now it’s practically all white. And my paunch? Well, let’s not go there.

In titling this piece, “Combover Religion,” I’m not commenting on the brothers’ hair styles. Rather, my statement involves covering up the “bald spots” in our faith, experience, and behavior. Unlike my head of hair, we, the church, aren’t especially transparent about our shortcomings. This isn’t about our hidden sins, if there were such things; I’m talking about our faith-challenges. You know, our little disappointments with God and the brethren, our battles with excesses, and our inflated testimony.

Do you feel as though your brethren wouldn’t esteem you as highly if you revealed your personal glitches? If we were to go by that concern’s frequency, not a one of your faith-family could take exception to your crooked halo. (I could replace that twenty-three word sentence with, “nobody’s perfect,” but it wouldn’t be as colorful.) One foundational problem with most of our churches is, we fail to practice what Jesus preached.

Don’t get me wrong; not all churches are ruled by pretenders. In fact, the body with whom I fellowship consistently supports and helps those who aren’t the picture of personified sainthood. We aren’t perfect, and don’t expect perfection in anyone else. If the folks at your church come across as perfect, you need to find another place to fellowship, where the folks accept one another without “combovers.” To view all the “one another” passages in the church’s Instruction Book, click here.

C.S. Lewis on Christ Alone

Uncle Jack’s critics call him a universalist because of such statements as, “… we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” If that were the extent of his statement on the issue I would join his critics in trying to discredit him, but it’s not, and I won’t. To establish the full context of his statement, here is an excerpt from his, Mere Christianity:

Here is another thing that used to puzzle me. Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him. But in the meantime, if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is to remain outside yourself. Christians are Christ’s body, the organism through which He works. Every addition to that body enables Him to do more. If you want to help those outside you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them. Cutting off a man’s fingers would be an odd way of getting him to do more work.

The main Scriptural reason for criticizing Lewis’ statement above is Apostle Peter’s declaration recounted in Acts 3-4:12, “This One is the Stone counted worthless [despised] by you the builders, the One who has come to be into the Head of the Corner (Psa. 118:22); and there is salvation in no other One, for neither is there any other name under Heaven having been given among men by which we must be saved.” (LITV)

This brings us to the inevitable confrontation with that dreaded word: theology. Two main schools of thought exist among evangelical Christians: Calvinism, and Wesleyan-Arminianism. Please note the -ism behind each of those titles that mutates ideas into institutions. Over-simplified, Calvinists believe that God chose His children before creation, and somehow, those “elect” will hear the gospel of Christ and believe unto salvation; it’s, “sorry, Charlie,” for everyone else. The Wesleyan-Arminian (Holiness) school of thought declares that anyone who, by their own free will, hears Christ’s gospel, believes it, repents of his sin and bears the fruit of God’s Spirit, is one of God’s elect by His foreknowledge. Both views ignore or rationalize Bible passages that seem to support the opposing side.

I heartily agree with Lewis’ statement that, “God has not told us what His arrangements about (those who never heard the gospel) are.” Calvinists say they were never members of God’s elect, while Holiness people, at least on this issue, remain silent where the Bible is silent. With Lewis, I doubt that God will hold anyone responsible for their honest ignorance, but because of such passages as Acts 4:12, I can’t agree with his statement that we don’t need to know Him to be saved through Him.

Lewis aptly sums up his thoughts with, “If you want to help those outside you must add your own little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them.” I warn the doctrinal nitpickers that there are worse things than being mistaken about points of dogma. God will not hold anyone accountable for honest error, but the unloving, the judgemental, the zealots, are subject to the same judgement as they were in Jesus’ time. Just because they now call themselves, “Christians,” makes no difference at all.

C.S. Lewis on Effort

Uncle Jack has always had a way of eliciting controversy; religious liberals accuse him of being too conservative, and religious conservatives accuse him of being too liberal. He brings out the extreme range of opinion among Christians. While I disagree with him on some theological points, I’ve found much more agreement with his Scripture applications. His statement on effort, from Words to Live By, is a case in point.

Many things—such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly—are done worst when we try hardest to do them.

So true, but Lewis didn’t mention the self-control required to do those things without trying.

Did I hear you say, “That’s nuts!”? Well, it’s not nuts. The only way to develop positive behaviors so you do them automatically is by developing the appropriate habits, and that takes self-control.

What motivates those positive habit formations? God’s Holy Spirit, working through frequent exposure to, study of, and meditation on his Word. That is the very first godly habit, and all the others flow from it. When God opens your eyes to the awful wonder of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for your sins, and the depth of his love for you—personally—that motivated him to submit to that torture, you will want to let him speak to you through his Word. God will show you that he is love, and as Jesus demonstrated his love by dying on the cross for you, so you will want to demonstrate your love for him by crucifying your own desires for self-gratification, and obeying him even when you don’t feel like it.

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.

To Arms! To Arms!

Meet AK 47, the insurgents’ weapon of choice.

Conservative news sources say our government is threatening our rights, to the extent that millions of U.S. residents are “prepping” for the “SHTF” scenario. God speed, rugged individualists.

I guess Preppers are the same folks who used to be called, “survivalists,” but now many more people are arming themselves, hoarding provisions, and fortifying their homes against looters, even if some of those looters are wearing the uniform of the very government that is supposed to protect the people.

The elitist news media—that’s most broadcast news sources—paints those who might be willing to fight for our Constitution as pillaging brutes, and all the Kool-Aid-drinking lemmings accept that sort of lie without question. So “we the people” allow the powers that be to pass punitive executive orders and legislation to keep the folks in line.

As Apostle Paul said, “I speak as a fool.” The above paragraphs present the extreme right end of the conservative spectrum, but as Christ-followers, our role is not to take up arms. If we will obey Christ’s Great Commandments, which Apostle James calls, “the perfect law of liberty,” we must submit to the corrupt authorities and endure persecution with patience and love. Such spiritual guns and bullets will be far more effective than trying to kill government enforcers. I pray that God’s church will grasp our peace in Christ and never let it go, regardless how much suffering we must endure. Jesus said we must be salt of the earth, which serves as both a flavor enhancer and a preservative.

Jesus said, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.(Matthew 5:16) Wherever persecution reigns, God’s church spreads, and when that happens here, the remnant will shine with God’s eternal glory, bringing the abundant sheaves into His eternal storehouse. Praise God for His marvelous wisdom!

As for our God-given rights, I’d like to see the Biblical basis for our constitutionally guaranteed rights. The only God-given right I know is our right, as His children, to expect Him to be true to Himself and His promises. I’m plum tickled pink with that, and don’t expect any more. When our entitlements go belly up, the church will have to start taking care of its own. If it doesn’t, it’s not God’s church.

What a shame, that the LDS religion holds the standard for charitable giving higher than God’s church cares to match? The trouble with that religion, though, is such giving is mandated as brownie-points toward edification to godhood. But that’s human nature; fallen man gives so that he may get back. Whether it’s karma, God-brownie points, altruism, grudging responsibility or tax deductions, we want to know, “What’s in it for me,” before we part with our ungodly manna. I call it ungodly because we grasp God’s provisions near to our hard hearts out of love for money and the stuff it will buy, when we should consider everything we have holy unto the Lord, out of love for Him. When I say, “we,” I mean God’s church at large.

I personally don’t believe God requires us to tithe under the New Covenant of grace. What He does require, though, is far more than a simple tithe of our income. To obey God, Christ-followers must give of our earthly resources sacrificially, according to the principles Jesus laid out during the Sermon on the Mount. For every point of law He mentioned, He upped the ante. But the standards Jesus laid out are not required for salvation; they follow salvation, as the fruit of God’s Spirit that believers will bear.

If you’re walking just a hair’s breadth inside your idea of God’s requirements for salvation, or if you’re trusting in worldly weapons and wealth for survival, you’ve got it all wrong. Obviously, you’ve neglected to don the only armament that matters eternally: the Whole Armor of God. So, TO ARMS, God-style!

Where’s the Fire?

How often have you asked that question (of no one in particular) when others have roared past on the highway? If given the opportunity to answer, those speedy drivers would provide a variety of excuses for their haste, but I’m reasonably confident that, “I’m going to a fire,” would not be one of them.

I wish they were speeding to the fire, the same fire that descended upon one hundred twenty of Jesus’ disciples who waited in Jerusalem as he had ordered. Their obedience brought about the greatest, most powerful fire of all ages.

Acts 2:1-4 LEB And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in the same place. (2) And suddenly a sound like a violent rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. (3) And divided tongues like fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. (4) And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability to speak out.

Pentecost is not a singularly Christian event. What we call Pentecost originated as the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot, when the Jews celebrate God’s giving the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Our Pentecost, however, commemorates a different law-giving, under the New Covenant of God’s grace.

Everyone knows the story about Jesus’ exchange with the lawyer who asked Him how to inherit eternal life.

Luke 10:26-28 NKJV [Jesus] said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” (27) So he answered and said, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND,’ and ‘YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'” (28) And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

Everyone back then agreed with the first part of Jesus’ answer, but ranking the second with the first was far less common, and shows that this particular lawyer was on the right track. When asked to define, “neighbor,” a typical lawyerish response, Jesus presented His parable of the good Samaritan.

Luke 10:30-37 NKJV Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (31) Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. (32) Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. (33) But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. (34) So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (35) On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ (36) So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” (37) And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Obviously, Jesus felt quite strongly about His Law of Love. Apostle Paul referred to that New Covenant as the “Law of Christ.” And perhaps his closest disciple, John, wrote a lot about love’s necessity in the Christian life.

1 John 4:7-13 NKJV Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (8) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (9) In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. (10) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (12) No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. (13) By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

And that brings us right back to God’s Holy Spirit. Many people ask, “How can I know that I’m filled with the Holy Spirit?” Though some denominations teach that speaking in other, unlearned languages is the necessary evidence for that, God’s Word says otherwise. Without going into an exhaustive treatment of “tongues,” I will point the inquirer back to 1 John 4:12-13 above. Love is not a passive feeling, as “being in love.” The only requirement for that is a bellyache, chest pain and shortness of breath whenever you think of your, “loved one.” Or you might be having a heart attack. Christ’s love, however, demands action, and those who know His love will show it by loving even their enemies. That selfless, unconditional love is how God’s Holy Spirit set fire to the world.

So, do you drive like you’re going to a fire, or do you live like you’re on fire with Jesus’ love? Remember His command, “Go and do likewise.”

Isaiah 55:6 Conviction

A New Day

This morning Pastor Luke preached on Jesus’ parable of the ten servants, where their master gave them each one mina, which is thought to be about three-months’ wages, or about $3,800 in today’s economy. That was enough to invest profitably. You know the story of three of those servants; when their master returned, one servant handed him $38,000, one handed him $19,000, but the last servant gave him the original $3,800. You know how that went over with their master. The moral is, “For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” (verse 26)

Though many truths reside in that one parable, the one that applied to me was, no one has nothing, so God demands from each of us, regardless how poor we claim to be, some demonstration of our stewardship of His blessings. To say we have nothing to give back to God insults Him terribly, as at very least He gave us His Son Jesus to bear our sin-guilt upon Calvary’s cross. We live because Jesus died in our place, so we owe Him our very lives—that includes all that our lives produce. Yet, even though He is entitled to our all, He asks only that we show faithful stewardship of our lives, which is to love as He loves us.

That message convicted me of my laxness in bearing the fruit of what He planted within me—and that’s even this blog’s theme. But when Pastor Luke provided an opportunity to respond to God’s conviction, I sat still, putting off the business I need to conduct with my Lord.

That’s where Isaiah 55:6 comes in. I found it when I opened my Verse of the Day feed from BibleGateway, and it goes like this: Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near. As soon as I saw it I thought of my bum planted firmly on Cornerstone church’s padded pew. So, this is the lesson I learned: Whenever you or I feel conviction from God, we need to open up our accounts for His examination. Where repentance is due, we must do it with humble sincerity. Where restitution is due, we must pay back what we owe. Where confession and forgiveness is needed, we must confess our sin to those we sinned against and beg their forgiveness. But we can’t take care of divine business on our own. We need God’s help to humble ourselves and do what He asks. That is what Isaiah meant by, Call upon Him while He is near.

Father, I call upon you right now, asking for the strength, the grace, the humility, to act on the wisdom you showed me today. And I ask this in the authority of Jesus’ precious name.

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.

He Did It!

1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Of course, you’ve read this passage before, as I have, but this time it called out to me. God’s promises are real! I know that because 1 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us,” and God’s Word never fails, any more than He can fail. When God says, “… to the glory of God through us,” He is telling us that we bring glory to Him by believing and living out His promises. That’s all I want to do, all I was born to do. Anything less and I will have lived in vain, despite all the wonderful (yeah, right!) things I’ve done.

Even as a young Catholic I knew God’s Word was true, and The Truth, just as Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me,” singular, exclusive, absolute. And sixty-eight years of life haven’t changed my certainty of that eternal fact. “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

Nuts! (politely speaking) to all the naysayers and nitpicking “brethren,” who strain at a gnat, just to swallow a camel. Who cares whether I’m a Calvinist or Wesleyan/Arminian, or a pre, post, or pan millennialist? Jesus died for me, and I love Him for it.

The Lie’s Silver Lining

Funny, isn’t it, how so many lawyers want to be known as results-getters, but never admit to lying.

Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Some folks couldn’t lie their way out of a paper bag, but I don’t suffer from that malady. When I lived in and for the flesh, I “lied when the truth sounded better,” which was one of my mother’s homespun expressions. Even after I began allowing God to change me, lies came too easily. Oh, they weren’t whoppers, but they still weren’t the truth. Old habits die hard, but over my years of growing in Christ, lying has become ever more repugnant to me, until today those temptations to lie are about as influential to my behavior as are temptations to steal or murder.

Even in today’s church, expediency too often holds sway over truth. In that sense, Satan’s other name is, “Expediency.” Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

So, you’re probably asking, “What’s this ‘silver lining’ in your title?” The fact that the gospel’s enemies must lie to oppose it, proves it’s truth. In fact, lies prove lots of things, such as the character of the one speaking them. The news media’s lies, misrepresentations and innuendos, are a great illustration of that. Take, for example, the almost comical way Soledad O’Brien talks over Allen West, trying to fluster him in this video. It proves that “progressives” must lie to get their point across, just as their communist brethren so often do.

 “Progressives,” my eye!

The “progressive” entertainment and news medias busily prove my point with their unbalanced presentations of any scenario involving Christians, and especially preachers. How often have you heard the Network News mention a perpetrator’s day-job that has nothing to do with the alleged crime? Unless, of course, the perp’s day job is preaching in an evangelical church. News programmers defend their biased reporting by insisting that such knowledge is in the public interest. Right! It’s in their own interest to sully the church’s reputation whenever possible.

Then, there’s the popular entertainment media, of which the network news media is a de facto member, that consistently portrays homosexual characters as well-adjusted, fun-loving, everyday folks, often in committed, lifelong relationships that really should, after all, be considered legal marriages. And how do these same media moguls portray Christians? On the rare occasion when the scenario mandates a Christian character, they portray him as a mindless, wild-eyed, assault rifle-carrying fundamentalist, or a complete idiot, or both. Anyone who is not a media-engorged idiot would see such portrayals as the transparent lies that they are.

If God were not the beneficent, loving Creator that the Bible reveals to us, how long would He allow such slander to go on? Does the phrase, “Give us enough rope to hang ourselves,” ring a bell? Our Creator God did just that when He gave Man free will. With that “rope,” we can either hang ourselves eternally, or grab hold of it and allow Jesus to pull us out of sin’s quicksand. The choice is ours, and I’ve already decided where I want to spend eternity. Have you?