Rainy Day Blues

My roomie’s little kids were slumped on the couch watching cartoons, fighting and whining. Was the blustery, gray day outside just a coincidence?

Through my window I saw a slate gray sky, but I also saw the trees waving at the sky, almost as if they were dancing with joy. Maybe they knew something that the kids didn’t.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem the last time, crowds of admirers threw their cloaks and palm fronds down in front of His donkey, waving and welcoming him as if He were about to free them from their harsh, Roman occupiers. Here’s part of the story:

And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: ” ‘BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:36-40 NKJV)

Yet, mere days later those same admirers demanded that He be crucified.

Life is seldom as it appears; high above that depressing, gray overcast, mountains of blinding white cumulus clouds reached toward heaven. Sheets of rain fell to water the earth and complete the natural water cycle our Savior created to keep our planet beautiful and fruitful. The tragedy of His sacrifice redeemed us from slavery to the evil one, and His resurrection guaranteed us new, eternal life.

Despite the appearance of alleged evidence to the contrary, we have Jesus’ faithful promises to give us hope for a beautiful eternity with Him:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:2-4 NKJV)

As we face the blues of uncertain, and just plain lousy, circumstances, we must look past them to our Savior, the ultimate promise keeper.

Headlock

If you watch wrestling or action movies, you are familiar with the headlock, a choke hold by which one contestant wraps his arms or legs around the opponent’s neck, intending to partially or completely cut off circulation to the brain. The goal is to cause the opponent to loose or nearly loose consciousness. Usually, the poor trapped wrestler will end the hold by slapping the canvass before he or she passes out or dies.

Not being a wrestling fan, that’s the closest I can come to summarizing that choke hold. I do know that soldiers employ choke holds in hand-to-hand combat, even though there’s no canvass for the enemy to slap, to end the contest and save his or her life.

You don’t have to watch wrestling matches or action movies to witness headlocks. Whether or not you recognize his moves, our mortal enemy practices a headlock on his victims, a maneuver with which I am sadly familiar. Our enemy’s headlock allows him to lock us in a vicious cycle of alternately wanting to believe God’s promises, and doubting them because they don’t seem to make sense, or maybe because they seem too good to be true.

My mind, along with every other faculty of my person, as well as the rest of creation, was subjugated to the enemy’s purposes when we failed our Creator through disobedience. According to popular Christianity, once we are saved from sin’s curse through believing in Jesus and accepting His gospel (good news) of salvation through His shed blood, our heavenly destiny is sealed and that’s that. Many, maybe a majority of us, respond to God’s saving grace by planting our bums on a padded pew while the enemy locks our brains with complacency.

According to God’s Word, our salvation by grace through faith is just the opening volley of a spiritual war that will last throughout our mortal lives. By allowing the enemy to through a headlock on us, we fail to prepare ourselves for the rest of the strategies that the enemy has planned for us. We’ll be satisfied with weak, substandard spiritual lives that are more likely to immunize nonbelievers to conviction of sin rather preparing them to receive the gospel.

Romans 12 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, which rules out laziness or complacency and mandates spiritual, mental and emotional diligence for the rest of our lives.

When soldiers are in harms way, leaders tell them to keep their heads on a swivel so as not to fall into the enemy’s traps. So break out of that demonic headlock to be ready for anything the enemy has planned for you. How do you know when you’ve succeeded? Don’t worry; the enemy will let you know with a fresh barrage of demonic attacks. But if you’ve truly succeed in breaking free, you’ll be ready.

Tongues: Prayer or Pretension

The men’s prayer breakfast I attended Saturday included an Assembly of God pastor’s lesson on spiritual gifts, and most specifically, the gift of tongues, ie, spiritual utterances in a language unknown to the one doing the uttering. Lately God has been convicting me about my need for a more mature or complete devotional life. Does that mean “praying in tongues” as the Pentecostals urge? And make no mistake; Saturday morning included plenty of urging.

My personal position on the issue is as neutral as I can make it, with others’ extreme opinions ranging from, “unknown tongues are of the devil,” to, “you’re not saved unless you speak in tongues.” Rather than spouting my own opinions (if indeed I had any worth spouting) as holy writ, I adjure my Lord Jesus to reveal His truth to me in His own way and time.

Somewhere in my thousand-plus blog posts I related my own experiences with spiritual utterances, but since I’m not inclined to search for it, I’ll risk repeating myself:

Long ago, in a Bible campground far, far away, a young Christ-follower—I’ll call him Jim—sat in a Charismatic worship service. Jim earnestly sought God’s truth to shape his life into ever greater Christ-likeness. During the worship service, the speaker briefly expressed himself in an unknown language, but a spontaneous thought occurred to Jim in English as the leader spoke. Not much more than a second later, a man on the other side of the auditorium stood and said exactly, word-for-word, what Jim had thought … and that was that. Had Jim possessed a greater Scriptural understanding of the spiritual gift of tongues, he would have stood up to confirm the other guy’s interpretation.

On another occasion, Jim had attended an interfaith worship service and Bible study. Afterward, the group split unto smaller pockets of people to pray as the Spirit moved them. With eyes closed and hands joined in the circle, Jim felt let to pray. Apparently he prayed in English, as after the prayer session, and to Jim’s amazement, the small group, almost as one, told him how blessed and convicted they were by his prayer. The amazing part is that Jim had no idea what he had said. While this situation did not involve speaking in tongues per se, I believe God’s Holy Spirit spoke through him because of the effect it had on the listeners.

I have no desire to repeat the pro-and-con arguments regarding the Pentecostal experiences in today’s church. Plenty of web sites provide decidedly biased arguments for both sides of the issue. I do urge you, the reader, regardless of your opinions, to prayerfully continue seeking God’s truth on this, and every issue of life, always willing to change your cherished, long-held beliefs as God leads through His Word.

And remember; how you pray matters little, so long as you do it with contrition for your sins and sincerely seek His way.

IN SUPPORT OF FAITH

As I watch science-oriented presentations—yes, that’s spelled Y-o-u-T-u-b-e—I realize opinions based on faith and/or ignorance are worth what you pay for them … But, I detect a pattern in scientific research. Even the vaunted scientists are proved ignorant eventually.

That’s where faith comes in. Science-based ideas seem satisfying, until something new proves them obsolete. And that’s one of the bases for unchanging religion’s appeal. Regardless what your world view, acceptance or dismissal of ideas comes down to faith, because only God knows ALL the answers.

Be Careful of Exaggeration

The Shrinking Piano

In today’s Our Daily Bread, the author pointed out how our growth in Christ Jesus can be so gradual that it seems nonexistent. To make that excellent point she related a story about her son’s sudden realization that the piano keyboard seemed smaller than it had during two previous years’ recitals.

If that were true, I reasoned, the boy could not have grown appreciably over the two previous years and during the practice sessions for this final recital. Apparently the author had doctored the story’s facts to make her excellent point, which caused it to loose its impact on me.

From now on her words won’t seem as credible to me, even though she didn’t tell an outright lie. That fact sharply impacts my attitude about my own words, especially when relating details of Jesus’ work in my own life.

Opportunities to share my testimony are rare and precious, so my words must ring true.

My Mistake

While reading Our Daily Bread today, I did a double-take over the author’s prayer at the end. I read it as, “Lord God, we are the source of all that we have.” While that reflects the attitudes of many people, I knew it was wrong. So I read it more carefully the second time.

It actually read, “Lord God, You are the source of all that we have.”

Why did my first reading wave that red flag of error so frantically? Because I’m familiar enough with God’s Word to know a lie when I see it. Now, I’m certainly not a Bible scholar, but I don’t have to be in order to discern error. The Psalmist provided the needed counsel:

Psalms 119:9-11 NKJV How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. (10) With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! (11) Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.

I praise God for the infinite wisdom He provided in His Word!

The Deeper Side of Christmas

This morning no gifts beckoned me from under my Christmas tree. For one thing, the Christmas tree belongs to my room mate, and any gifts there belong to his two little kids. And the other reason no gifts awaited me is I’ve sort of outgrown the commercial side of, “the Holidays.”

I received my greatest Christmas gift ever forty-odd years ago when I accepted God’s gift to me, “For God so loved [you and me] (so much) that He gave His only Son after His own kind (the physical embodiment of His eternal Word), that anyone who believes (accepts and places his confidence) in Him should not perish (see perdition or destruction), but have (possess permanently) [Jesus’] eternal life.” There’s a mouthful that you can take to God’s heavenly bank.

Those who believe this promise, and many others we find in God’s revealed Word, will feel a level of joy like none other. But those for whom Christmas has morphed into, “the Holidays,” get to enjoy a warm family time … after a month of chasing the perfect presents around the shopping malls and big box stores … and worry about paying for all the excess over the other eleven months. Amazing how heavy those little pieces of plastic can get, isn’t it?

Now that the rush is over, maybe you can flop into your favorite chair and contemplate what Christmas means to God. Think of what it would feel like to give your own child as ransom for the captives who hate you, for the ungrateful multitudes who have killed your messengers, despoiled your home and reviled your name. Most of them would reject your beloved child and suffer the consequences, but you would receive and embrace those few who love and embrace him and the freedom he bought for them.

May the deeper meaning of Christmas bless you now and forever.

Accountability

The financial industry, and the government agencies that oversee it, pass stringent regulations to prevent profiteering. That is completely understandable, as our fallen human nature is rife with greed and avarice; many people will do anything for a buck, or a million of ’em

Profiteering, though, isn’t exclusive to the financial industry, or even the government bureaucracy. Religion has more than its share of greed and avarice, if not for material gain, then certainly for a reward in the afterlife. These days we hear of Muslim “holy warriors” blowing themselves up to take the infidels with them, all to gain the martyr’s status with its reward of seventy-two virgins—or so the story goes. Yet, there is are examples of religious opportunism far closer to home.

Christendom offers many examples of religious opportunism, from multimillion dollar televangelists to the small church’s big donor who expects to run the whole little show. I call them big cogs in little gears; they don’t mesh, and are proud of it.

Regardless the arena or the scale, fallen humanity loves to opt out of accountability. We fancy ourselves as our own authority—even as we give lip-service to our devotion to God.

A less obvious, though far more common, religious opportunism is taking Apostle Paul’s inspired words out of their Scriptural context. When the apostle wrote of our liberty in Jesus, he did not mean to suggest that we could get away with taking God’s grace for granted, as many so easily do.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NKJV
(12) For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
(13) But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “PUT AWAY FROM YOURSELVES THE EVIL PERSON.”

Those who use Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10 to justify an opulent lifestyle are just as guilty of misusing Scripture as Muslim martyrs, and their judgment is just as sure. Some of us have the gift of earning wealth, but forget about Jesus’ words regarding treasure in heaven.

Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV
(19) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
(20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
(21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What we begin as a, “rainy-day fund,” takes on a life of its own, ruling us with a dictator’s iron gauntlet or hob-nail boot. You’re right, I didn’t mention spiritual or moral responsibility, but your treasure’s location speaks to those as well.

Atheists balk at accepting God’s existence either because some “Christian” demonstrated unchristian behavior toward them, or because if they did they would have to be accountable to Him. Why can’t God’s church see that principle just as clearly?

Commentary On a Viral E-mail

What follows is the body of a controversial e-mail that a good friend and brother sent to me. If you think it looks familiar, check with Snopes, for a decidedly biased article about lots of related complaints. If you have lots of time, read the e-mail’s contents below. Otherwise, skip down to my commentary, which isn’t quite as long.

  In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked the Lord to spare the city if he could find 50 righteous people. God responded to Abraham’s plea “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all.”….Genesis 18:16-33

The movie “Corpus Christi “is due to be released this June to August. It is a disgusting film set to appear in America later this year which depicts Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals! As a play, this has already been in theaters for a while. It’s called “Corpus Christi” which means “The Body of Christ”. It’s a revolting mockery of our Lord. But we Christians can make a difference.

That’s why I am sending this e-mail to you. If you do send this around, we just might be able to prevent this film from being shown in Canada and America. Let’s stand for what we believe and stop the mockery of Jesus Christ our Savior. Where do we stand as Christians?
I am forwarding this to all I think will respect and appreciate being informed. Please help us prevent such offenses against our Lord. There is no petition to sign, no time limit, or minimum number of people to send this to…It will take you less than 2 minutes!

If you are not interested and do not have the 2 minutes it will take to do this, please don’t complain if God does not seem to have time for you. Imagine what would happen if this film were depicting Mohammad in the same way…the Islamic world would be in flames!! . Apparently, some regions in Europe have already successfully banned the film. All we need is a lot of prayer and a lot of E-mails.

JUST GET THE WORD OUT!

Will God be able to find at least 50 righteous people who are willing to express their concern and voice their opinion against this act of blasphemy?

God Bless You All.

If you want to be thoroughly confused, the actual film is a documentary titled, “Corpus Christi: Playing With Redemption.”
 The issue in my mind isn’t gullibly accepting unattributed e-mails, but condemning blasphemy in the most depraved—yes, I said depraved—elements of society, while Christendom practices blasphemy of the Holy Spirit by attributing to Him what is offensive to God. Even among the Evangelical churches, some “Spirit filled” individuals publicly exhibit hatred, sour attitudes, conflict, impatience, critical spirits, meanness, conceit and arrogance, to name just a few of our sins, much of which is done in our Lord’s Name. Is it any wonder that corrupt people do their best to offend God’s church?
 Before we condemn corrupt—and yes, I said corrupt—people, with their corrupt entertainments, we need to cleanse our own house of its own worldliness and corruption. I believe silence on this issue is not the same as approving it, but the more bitterly vociferous our objections, the more we confirm the world’s view of us as ignorant bigots. While we must hate the world system, we must love those trapped in it—a most delicate balance that Jesus pulled off perfectly. Can we truly learn from Him?
 Another great tragedy with this, “Corpus Christi,” is all the people suckered into paying money to behold it in its play form, and in its film documentary form. This is a disturbing commentary on both society’s messed up values, and the church’s failure to keep Jesus and His Word holy before the world’s scrutiny. Jesus made the blind see; now He needs to make His church see as well.

No Limit

If this title were to suggest to you a rap by Usher you likely wouldn’t be reading this blog post … so fergetaboutit. Not that rap-fans can’t be Christ-followers, but, just sayin’ …

There’s another use for, “No Limit,” and that’s from—drum roll please—the Bible!

My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness And Your salvation all the day, For I do not know their limits. (Psalms 71:15 NKJV)

One rock-solid fact of life is you can’t overstate God, His righteousness, or the wonder of His salvation. Nobody ever had praise down like King David, yet even he ran out of adjectives with which to glorify God.

Not that God needs our praises to feed His ego, but as His creation, our purpose, our destiny, is to lift up holy hands in praise to Him, to magnify His perfection, His holiness, His love. In short, everything about Him is worthy of our praise. If only we knew the half of His glory we would spend eternity declaring it.

So tear down that Pentecostal or Calvinistic box you’ve built around our eternal, infinite God! There’s no limit to His praiseworthyness.