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.

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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.

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.

Communion Sunday …

Communion Elements

Or as I prefer to call it, Communion Lord’s Day.

Please forgive me if this comes across as a rant; I assure you it isn’t, as you’ll see if you read to the end. And it’s not a passive-aggressive attack on a brother I love and respect, so please read this in the spirit with which it is intended.

Regarding what we call the day of the week we choose to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, call me a fundamentalist if you wish, but I don’t worship on a day devoted to the Sun god. I celebrate on the Lord’s Day, not Sunday. And every day we gather as the church we join in the communion of the saints, maybe not using the communion “elements,” but with fellowship in God’s Word and His Spirit.

And the “elements” are another bugaboo of mine; the first century church celebrated the Lord’s supper with unleavened bread, not with little cardboard wafers—okay, they’re not cardboard, but they might as well be. And the “wine” we Evangelicals serve as celebrating our Lord’s shed blood isn’t wine in the traditional sense, but grape juice. True, it’s “fruit of the vine,” but not the dilute, mildly fermented kind the Lord used during His Last Supper. But I tend to nit-pick.

My purpose here—believe it or not—is not to rail on today’s practice of the Lord’s Supper, but on a mistake our associate pastor made, and his thoughtless attempt to correct it. Though I have the greatest respect for him, he really put his foot in it this Lord’s Day. Yes, he was on the spot, as our lead Pastor couldn’t make it to preach today. No doubt I would have folded worse than he did, having to get creative to fill the void. But in so doing he forgot this was Communion Sunday, and dismissed the body without the Lord’s Supper service.

That wouldn’t have been so bad, just a waste of the communion elements, but he tried to save an unfortunate situation by having everyone grab the wafers and juice on the way out, without a time of reflection and, if needs be, confession and repentance. As I walked out of the auditorium I passed right by the good folks holding the elements and headed straight to the exit.

Here again, maybe I’m nit-picking, but I felt like the formality had taken over the Spirit on this one. I personally held conversations with two visitors before our meeting, and both were brothers looking for a church home. If I were in their place I wouldn’t be back, based on today’s unfortunate gaffe. But I will be back, because I love the family of God, and God’s word tells me:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)

So, because I call these folks my home church I must forgive the occasional mistake; Lord knows I’ve made more than enough for three people. And I must commend our associate pastor for his normally godly attitudes and practices. If only I had been as mature at his age.

If I were to focus only on the negatives, I would be grossly disregarding Hebrews 10:24, as well as the balance of Scripture. And that would be sin. Then I’d have to examine my conscience and repent before taking the Lord’s Supper, regardless what “elements” the leadership chooses to dispense on Communion Lord’s Day.

It’s Inevitable

King David got it right:

O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come. (Psalms 65:2 NKJV)

Expressed as a prayer to the One who hears prayer, King David named a universal truth, a spiritual law: All of humanity will one day stand before Jesus, the righteous Judge. We’ll have the opportunity to wave our good karma, to state all our religious works, to schmooze the all-knowing One, but He will ask only one question: What did you do with Me? That, of course, will be a rhetorical question, as He already knows the answer.

Will you rely on your good works?
But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NKJV)

Will you depend on your position as a pillar of the church?
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26-27 NKJV)

Will you stand before the righteous Judge and refuse to admit He even exists?
The fool has said in his heart,”There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good. (Psalms 53:1 NKJV)

I realize this won’t convince anyone, but it might just cause someone to pause and reconsider their dogmatic self-righteousness. All God asks of anyone is their openness. He’ll take it from there.

Remember What?

What’s inside YOUR noggin?

I’ve long wondered why I am the way I am. Did we go by alphabetical order in the memory recall and self-control line when I was created? Was it luck of the draw?

King David, by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, wrote: Psalms 33:14-15 NKJV From the place of His dwelling He looks On all the inhabitants of the earth; (15) He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

Often I forget about God’s sovereignty, His craftsmanship, His artistic ability. Years ago, like a thunder clap, I realized that God doesn’t make junk, that we aren’t trapped by our bad habits and corrupted self-image. By the Word of His mouth He fashioned my inner self, and He keeps track of all my works. He doesn’t ignore me and He most certainly hasn’t forgotten about me. Any lacking or loss of my faculties is due to sin corrupting His perfect creation.

When David wrote, “He fashions their hearts individually,” he referred to God placing within each individual a hunger for Himself, so regardless what we’ve done and where we are, all we have to do is reach out to Him.

Remember King David’s prayer: Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You. (Psalms 33:22 NKJV)

Hurry Up and Wait

“How can I help you, son, to feel more comfortable here?”

People in the military’s basic training always have drill instructors breathing down their necks, usually yelling. The poor recruits have to run wherever they go, and it’s never fast enough for the D.I.s.

When they reach their destination the D.I. yells at them to form up in ranks and files … and then wait for his good pleasure. That’s where the saying, “Hurry up and wait,” originated.

Hurry Up!

Since you found this on my blog, you already know I have a spiritual application in all this:

2 Corinthians 6:1-2 NKJV
(1) We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
(2) For He says: “IN AN ACCEPTABLE TIME I HAVE HEARD YOU, AND IN THE DAY OF SALVATION I HAVE HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

First, there’s the, “Hurry Up,” part. Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, who should have already been Christ-followers. Yet, he urges them to accept the Lord’s salvation.

If you are at all familiar with the Corinthian letters, you know it was a most worldly church. In fact, it was a church in name only, and many, if not most, of the attendees were nominal Christians, and were possibly even men and women of influence, or whatever served as the church board in those days. Trouble is, they influenced the church in the wrong direction.

To Receive, or Not to Receive …

I had thought that one could either receive, or not receive, God’s grace, but this passage plainly declares that one can receive God’s grace in vain. No Bible-believing Christ-follower would say that St. Paul was wrong, but many seem to ignore it.

The letter to the Hebrews issues us a challenge, and a warning:

Hebrews 2:1-3 NKJV
(1) Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
(2) For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
(3) how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

And Wait!

But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)

Okay, the above two passages may not be topically linked, but I think they go together nicely. Evildoers, i.e., those who are easily angered, wrathful and fretful, are evildoers, causing harm to themselves and others.

Waiting on the LORD means we are at His disposal, always available for His good pleasure, like a waiter or other servant. It also means we are willing to wait for Him to direct our lives, rather than running willy-nilly, trying to get things done for Him without His direction.

That Means Patience

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
(23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Patience is one of the hardest parts of the Spirit’s fruit to get right. Patience and meekness, or gentleness, closely pair under the heading of love, which is really the heart of all the qualities of the fruit of God’s Spirit.

The longer I live in Christ, and the closer I get to my Father, the more I realize just how far I have to travel for the fruit of God’s Spirit to be fully manifested in me. Like I said, patience is the hardest part.

Loose Something?

Lost is Found

Don’t we cling to our stuff, our lives, our lifestyles! Just try to get someone to change their eating habits—or any habits for that matter. Try to get a Chevy guy to switch to Ford. Try to get a Lakers’ fan to switch to the Celtics. We cling to what we have or do, and it’s, “My way or the highway.”

Not a Fun Subject

Our lives are much more than gasping for our next breath. They include everything about us. Think about it; when you die you loose far more than your next breath or heartbeat. You loose your hopes, dreams, aspirations, as well as all your stuff.

Does that sound morbid? If so, consider that our Creator put a sense of the eternal into mankind just so we’d strive for eternity with Him. That’s why Jesus’ words resonated so completely with His audience on that hillside:

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NKJV)

Jesus wasn’t talking about giving up some bad habits, although that might be warranted. He meant giving up the title deed to your entire life, the good and the bad.

Fresh, or Salty? Good Religion, or Bad?

Brackish water is an offense to the palate, just as a life that mixes religion with worldliness is an offense to Jesus’ Holy Spirit. Apostle James had a couple of choice things to say about that.

James 3:11-12 NKJV Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

James 1:26-27 NKJV If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

I have to ask myself, Am I fresh water, or brackish? What kind of spiritual fruit do I bear? What kind religion do I practice? Self-fulfilling, or other-centered? Do I join in praise to God while I have unconfessed sin in my life? Those are hard questions for me … and for you.

Christian, are you following Jesus, or your own whims? Are you lost to God, or to the world? Those are lifelong questions that we must answer daily, by the hour, or by the minute if needed.

Well? There’s no time like the present.