“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” (C. S. Lewis)
There are some thoughts that are so sublime, so lofty in scope and substance, we must keep reaching toward them in wonder. If we can grasp just a speck, a sliver of true understanding, we will be far better people for it. This particular quote by C.S. Lewis from “The Weight of Glory” is just the kind of vaunted ideal that set my heart aflame the first time I read and considered it.
Glory, what is it really? I think the best definition I have heard is that Glory is God’s beautiful heaviness that will be shared with us; we are the hidden immortals.
Immortals, kept from decay and deterioration, we will one day be shining like a star in the sky. When Jesus gave Peter, James and John a quick peek of his Glory on the mount of transfiguration it is said by Luke in 9:29, “his appearance was like a bolt of lightning.” Think on that. Stop, ponder it...we will share in it. That is why Lewis says, “There are no ordinary people...we joke with, work with, marry, snub everlasting splendors.” This is what he means - - the average Joe is not nor ever will be just average. He will be a person arrayed in lightning.
If that same average Joe was to reject the Gospel his immortality is to become a “horror.” Isaiah 66:24 says of him, “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
The greatness of Glory is juxtaposed against the ravages of condemnation. They both are possible states of existence maintained eternally for every individual who presently walks the earth.
As it is now, we see through a glass darkly.
If you are destined for Glory, someday you will walk upon this earth as a god. Both invincible, heavy, and beautiful. Charles Spurgeon once taught that when you have the strength of an immortal, you will be able to rip a tree from the soil, trunk and roots in all. If I saw you now as eternally you will be then I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off you. I would be held spellbound marveling at your splendor. However, if you are destined for wrath, and you could be seen today as you will be, my heart would be ripped apart in pity over your loathsome condition. Twisted and broken, an object of scorn.
If this is to be true, which the holy scriptures confirm, Lewis is right when he says we need to take each other much more seriously than we presently do. People in general, don’t seem to matter to each other. We casually cast each other off as either a nuisance or use them as a distraction to pass the boredom of the day. People have become to us irritants or play things. We fail to consider the enormity of what future possibilities we encounter daily with each person we meet.
But let heaven in and look with eyes opened to new possibilities. Daily we are given the unique opportunity to affect the future radiance of an immortal. Or maybe through kindness and care we can help a monster heading for the terrors of hell to awaken and be rescued from himself?
Do you believe Glory will really be this heavy? Or are you wasting precious time playing around with trivial matters that mean relatively nothing? Do you really believe you are walking among gods and monsters? Or just ordinary humans?
I heard the craziest thing from a pastor two weeks ago, he said the reason we stop and look at mirrors and play with selfies is because we want to catch a glimmer of the Glory that we will be. I think he’s right. My sister would accuse me of looking at my reflection in the car window, and she was right. Each time I look at me I see something more that can be, will be. An immortal. More than just a chiseled jaw, flawless skin, I see eternal possibilities. I love how 2 Corinthians 4:16 puts it, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
That inner self is the germ of immortality. Just a seed. That soon will die, sown perishable but raised imperishable, sown mortal but raised in immortality! I can’t wait. More than ordinary.
Will the real Zombies please stand up?
The bell-curve for zombie interest is trending on the downward slope. People have had their fill of watching these mindless monsters wander aimlessly through tv show after tv show and movie after movie with no purpose and no clear direction. It’s becoming boring. We all know the script, zombies are stupid and ravenously hungry for human flesh, biting down on a nice juicy tender muscle, licking spilled blood on a metal fence, because they need it and want nothing else in order to live - - no thinking at all, they exist to eat. Like cows in a green field, they offer no compelling reason to watch.
But for some reason, zombies still fascinate me. It isn’t the blood and gore that draws me in, it is the power of the zombie mob. Which human will keep their right mind and survive the mounting flood of the dead? The beauty of the apocalypse is that it brings out the best and worst in people, and it is always a tragedy when a kind thinking rational soul is bitten, joining forever the soulless zombie horde.
This same storyline is also playing out in the fabric of everyday life.
Look around, unthinking and persuasive mob-rule is everywhere. Like zombies, the popular consensus wants to stifle free thought. Daily the zombies encircle the regular guy, trying to convince them to join them, give up independence and personal convictions that are obtained through rational thinking, and follow the mindless crowd. Zombies never stop.
Even I once was part of the zombie mob. I was reminded of this last Saturday because St. Patrick’s Day weekend was in full swing - - it is one of those times when zombies come out in full force. Green beer is flowing and drunken kisses are expected to be shared in every major city and on many college campuses. After drinking one or two plastic cups of the Irish brew, every color of the racial spectrum miraculously turns kelly green. I know when I was in college, I was convinced that the blood of shamrocks and leprechauns flowed through me too. Join in, drink up, and have fun.
Some readers may call me a killjoy, telling me to lighten up, let us have our beer and enjoy. I have no problem if you want to party, drink and the kiss complete strangers, don’t get me wrong...all I am saying is that St. Patrick Day celebration is one of the clearest examples of how mob rule is at work. The man with face painted green and pint of Guinness in hand wonders, “Why wouldn’t everyone want to join us? I wish the whole world was Irish? Cheers!” There is this incredulous wonder at the person who does not want to join in, the zombie actually believes it is not rational for failure to join in with the virus of Irish intoxication.
It works the same way with political correctness. Last week my kids felt enormous pressure to leave their high school class with the rest of the students on March 14th to march against the proliferation of guns and the supposed negative influence of the NRA. Just because some Florida students are being used by our click-bait media circus to demand legislative action concerning complicated discussions on assault rifles, my kids are now expected to join in the unfettered emotion of the unthinking mob too. I know of one student who joined the march just to be nice and show support without having any idea what was actually being debated.
It doesn’t end, zombies will demand you join in with every cool cultural trend, every public LGBTQX, Black Lives Matter, and intersectional issue that floats down the river of tolerance. Zombies love thinking they are unique and courageous for standing on the popular bandwagon so they have decided to give each other awards, medals and pats on the back when they all begin thinking alike. And if you dare swim against the current, you are to be silenced and shamed. And God forbid if you ever say one nice thing about Donald Trump, that is clear cause for you to have your head and arm and leg bitten off. Zombies will bite! And they bite hard.
The greatest hoax of mob rule is when they sneer at authentic Christianity and Christians claiming that most adherents to "backward traditional religion" are “brainwashed and dangerous xenophobes who can’t think for themselves.” Cool trendy leaders who have left the Christian fold are the quickest to be bit by zombie-think. They believe they are the only ones who are actually “thinking for themselves” when in truth, they are once again following the undead horde. Zombies are always calling the kettle black.
Who are the real zombies wandering the earth, without purpose and clear direction? Who cannot tolerate non-compliance? Who wants to force people to think and behave just like them?
It isn’t the person with faith. It isn’t the man or women working hard and just wants to be left alone. It isn’t the mom who is trying to raise young kids at home. It is those who want you to join them in mindless social change...and if you don’t look out - - CHOMP!
One year ago I was invited by my brother Don to come to his church in West Virginny and be the preacher for "Revival Week". I never preached at a revival before, especially at an old baptist church that was nestled on the brown river banks of Little Fudge Creek. I was a city slicker, so in fear and trepidation I did my best to study up on a culture I really knew nothing about. I had nightmares for weeks about handling snakes!
So to get ready I researched every topic I could find on "How to have Revival." Revival by definition means to be restored to full strength, to be awakened and brought back to life. In church lingo, revival can mean many different things to many differenct denominations and traditions:
* Pentecostal Churches see revival as a unique miraculous outpouring work of the Holy Spirit. Tongues, healings and new prophetic messages are signs of great works of God happening in the midst of the congregation. So enthusiasm, emotion and "Holy Rolling" are sought after and hunted for. And if you can get gold specks to fall from the sky, revival has arrived!
* Evangelical Churches see revival as the supernatural spread of the gospel to the lost. An evangelist, like Billy Graham or Luis Palau, comes to town and declares the gospel seeking for new converts to Christ. Revival is when large numbers of the lost are persuaded to come into the fold of God. Revival work is both a work of God and the orchastrated and advertised work of man.
* Holiness and more contemplative churches see revival as the deepening of inner spirituality, where prayer and mystical union with Christ takes a more prominent role in the life of a Christian. Estatic experiences, visions, complete denial of the flesh are sought after, "New Light" shines upon the soul of a believer, and the beauty of God fills the heart and mind. Revival happens when people think about nothing else but God. It is a very individualistic experience. This type of revival was prominant in the early history of American Christianity. After preachers, like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards would speak, people would swoon and be caught up in heavinly trances for days, weeks and sometimes months. This kind of personal mystical union was a normal way of seeing a revived faith. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes his wife, "She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure. . . . She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have some one invisible always conversing with her." Sadly, New England territories who were the first to swoon after these experiences where also the first leave Christianity altogether.
* Market-Driven, Mega-Church, Prosperity Christianity sees revival as having "Your Best Life Now", as Joel Osteen would say. If you can "Name It and Claim It" and then have it come true for you, revival has occurred. Want a new house, a new car, a new job, a new spouse? Walk forward in confident faith believing and you will receive, and then be excited to rejoice in God's material blessing being showered upon you. Now that is my kind of revival! Too bad I live in Kent City, must mean I don't have enough faith?
So, after studying and thinking and praying on all these possiblities, I still was a little fuzzy about what revival actually was. I value authenticity and not contrived religion (That is why Joel Osteen and his plastic smile often find the bottom of my circular file in my office). I hate it when people try to conjure, like a magician, an experience just to feel something that is nothing more than shifting shadows and tingling skin. I have seen too many actors in my day who cry at church and then swear at home. Or fraternity brothers who took communion during mass on Sunday and got drunk and partied Monday through Saturday. What would real revival look like for them?
What does the Bible say about it?
Well, there is no direct mention of a large church revival or a list of definate evidences we must check for in the life of a community to definately say "God is at work!" The truth is, God works in a myriad of ways. Psalm 85:6 uses the word "revive" to describe a new condition of the soul, but it has more to do with God no longer being angry than it does the person experiencing some fresh exciting outworking of God's miraculous power.
But there is something I found in my study of 1 Peter that may offer one more insight on those who are seeking answers on how God revives a soul. I am not sure you will like it, in fact I find that very that few ever talk about. Listen to 1 Peter 4:12-13:
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you."
Did you listen closely to that language? You can receive God's blessing, where his glory comes to rest upon you and will be revealed in you! Now that sounds like revival to me. But what needs to happen for that to occur? Herein lies the problem, you won't like it:
- fiery trial
- sharing in Christ's sufferings
- being insulted for Christ's name
I hate that list! You mean if I am going to be blessed I need to suffer? Wait, hold on, stop the religious presses...this will not sell. No one will sign up for this. Fiery trial? You have got to be kidding me?
No, I don't think God is.
I was talking with a friend that will remain nameless, and he put it like this "Why are some people so on fire in their walk with Jesus? Because they have walked through the fire and found Jesus walking with them." If you look at all the other lists trying to describe what a revival is, much of it is based on contrived emotional experiences. And we all know how long emotions last? As long as the sun is shining - - but once the cloud comes - -the smile turns to a frown and we believe God has somehow left us.
But Peter says it is precisely in the cloud where we meet God.
When I look back on my life I have found over and over again it was suffering that revealed that which was genuine. Murry Potes, an elder at our church, died last year as he battled some of the worst cancer I ever saw a person battle. He said in the middle of his struggle, "I have never loved Jesus so much." My dad really came to Christ when he lost his job for acting Christian. The strongest married couples in our church are often the couples who almost got divorced and asked God to save them.
When I turned 40 I bought a journal to track my relationship with God. Hey, I figured that when a person turns 40 it means life is now heading downhill so I better figure this thing called life out. So in my quest for God I wrote this in the first few pages of my journal, "I want to know what it really, really means to have a relationship with you. It is a very nice thing to talk about; but to experience - - that is what I want." In other words I wanted revival.
Two pages later I have this written, "My dearest Father died."
A year later on my 41st birthday my entry reads, "You have carried me through the tough obstacles, the impossible obstacles - - and God, you have made me better for it. I know I am a desperately needy man. I know I don't pray like I should, nor do I serve others the way I should. My bible time is lacking. I watch far too much television, my joy isn't reflexisively turned toward you. And yet, there you are!"
What is revival? I am not sure I want to tell you. You wont like me for it. So have a good day.
"Man has lost faith in his own value when no infinitely valuable whole works through him."
Nietzche "Will to Power"
"The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'"
Sometimes it is difficult to go back home.
Naturally, there is always great joy when you are able to meet again with siblings, cousins, neices and nephews after months and years of being apart. There is nothing like seeing a familiar smiling face that has long been forgotten in the craziness of adult life; or being pleasantly suprised by a smell, sight, sound or taste that you took for commonplace as a kid. But always hiding behind these nostalgic memories lurks the cold clammy chill of melloncholly that can leave you feeling empty, longing for what "once was" and even dissappointed by "what is". It hurts to lose a loved one who can no longer share in your joy as he or she once did. Or feeeling the acute pain when you miss that hug from a parent or being able to talk to an old friend that is no more.
Death sure knows how to spoil a good reunion.
But maybe the most distressing thing of all is when the friends you once knew or familiy members you love have changed over time for the worst. MIsery often clings to the adult who made disasterous choices as a teenager. Sin is real, and your own family and friends are not immune from the long term fall-out from it.
This past trip home I was looking at some old yearbooks wondering about people I once knew. I asked my sister about a few of the names and faces - more often than not she would say, "Haven't you heard what happened? It is really sad." And then she would relay to me some trajedy or destructive life-style choice that has befallen them. After pointing to one very familiar face, she told me how a disasterous divorce left the person's children confused and conflicted. The result was that both kids decided to change their genders: The boy now wants to be a girl and the girl wants to be a boy. He has become she, and she a he. It is sad...
As we were talking, my niece, who works as an art teacher in a large suburban high school outside of Cleveland, turned to us and said, "Transgenderism is more common than ever. Just in my school alone, I have to deal with two or three cases of students wanting to change their names in each and every new class I get." She explained one extremely difficult case of how a girl in her drawing class wants to be called by her male name but not in front of her brother who shares a class with her. So my niece, who is the girl's teacher, must navigate the slippery pronouns, oh so carefully, so she doesn't upset the girl who wants to be a boy or the brother who is not yet aware that his sister is soon to become his brother.
The world is mad.
I asked my niece her opinion on why transgenderism is growing, and here is her take, "I think it is now trending. The person who once was ignored or went unnoticed in their natural gender is now cool in their new gender. In fact, the most popular kids in school are the ones who have changed genders." I asked do the kids really believe they are a different gender, or are they just trying to get attention? She waited a second and said, "Personally, I think they are confused. High School is competitive and to win you need to be unique, you have to have something no one else has, you need to get yourself noticed, and when a boy becomes a girl, believe me, it does the trick."
I had to stop on that a second. You have to be unique to be noticed. It reminded me of a book I read 15 years ago called "Shows About Nothing." The point of the book stressed that in America, "we have no other culture than popular culture." Hollywood, television and movies set the trends, and the trends now determine truth. The book goes on to say, "Hollywood promotes a debased, Nietzchean culture - the side of Nietzsche that values unrestrained creativity."
That is it! Unrestrained creativity - - we have reached the point where the wierdest and most non-traditional ideas and choices have become the most celebrated and desired. Not only does it get attention on-line, but it sets a person apart. The ultimate goal of pop-culture! The writer, Thomas Hibbs, says behind this cultural reality lies a very troubling world-view that he describes as "demonic anti-providence." We have thrown God out, and chaos has filled the very large hole he left behind. Niezsche wrote a book about this called "Beyond Good and Evil." Everyone decides what is right for them. And if everyone is right, no one is wrong.
Boys will be girls and girls will be boys. Even if science has evidence to prove the contrary, your personal feelings matter more! Reason falls dead at the feet of pop-culture's sword.
We have been debating gun violence for the last two weeks in America after the school shooting in Florida. Passions are running high, the students blame the NRA, the NRA blames the local cops and FBI, the FBI blames the lobbyists and the lobbyists blame the politicians, and the politicians blame the media, and the media blames Trump, and Trump blames Hillary. If everyone is right, we all are wrong. And the shooter, the one who actually pulled the trigger, is the only one truly innocent. "Hey, he was just 'trying to be noticed', he can't be faulted for using his 'unrestrained creativity.'"
I wonder, if we do not bring God back, and recognize the importance of his guiding hand of providence, what lies beyond the horizon? Will we stop at gender experimentation, or will we take our unrestrained creativity farther? How about changing our pigmentation? Will we want to marry animals? Will the poor demand the money and keys to the houses of the rich?
I wonder. . .will we want to kill our own children?
Maybe my melloncholly isn't just because I miss my family? I long for the world that made sense to me as a child. I miss the days when we called "demonic anti-providence" evil. But, oh well, now I must just grin and bear it.
My wife and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Switzerland back in 1996. It was a chance for us to take some much needed R & R because we just finished a 7 month teaching stint in the cold gray land of Russia. On one of our vacation days, we decided to take the 2:00 p.m. train from Bern to Geneva to see some of the beauty of the Swiss countryside. As we sat on the train we tried our best to blend in with the Swiss people who were busy living their lives, coming and going to work, shopping, and picking kids up from local schools. After living in Russia for awhile we learned how to put on a very stoic European demeanor so we wouldn’t stick out.
At one stop a group of 4 American High School girls jumped on our train. They must have been on vacation with their parents and they happened to sit right across the aisle from us. For the next 15 minutes they giggled, laughed, talked loudly and mocked almost everything and everyone they saw. You could see the general disgust on the faces of the Swiss people as they watched these arrogant young girls carry on.
The foursome didn’t know my wife and I were also Americans and I think they assumed we couldn’t understand their prattling on in their whiny valley-girl English. They complained about the food, they criticized the fashions, and they acted like they owned the world. For the first time I clearly saw what was meant by “ugly Americans.” These girls were spoiled and juvenile, and they probably had some very rich parents. It was the first time I wanted to apologize on behalf of all America.
When I read our headlines these days, it seems like our whole country, like these 4 girls, is turning spoiled and juvenile as well. Where have the adults gone? Now don't get me wrong, I love our country, I really do. It just seems like the people who write the news and push their cultural agenda, are no better than those four teenage girls, if not worse. At least the girls had an excuse, they were only 13 and 14.
Let me show you what I mean. I have listed five popular news stories that expose our culture of adolescent mediocrity. We are confident and arrogant about nothing. We celebrate things that shouldn’t be celebrated. We are incredibly impressed with ourselves..
(1) Californian lady who joined Hungary’s Olympic team can’t even ski, but still gets to compete. This is embarrassing.
(2) Overweight lady gets spotlighted role on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and we are to be impressed. What happened to models who actually were once pretty? Oh yeah, I shouldn’t talk about them because they don’t want to be objectified even though they wear string bikinis and are now modeling nude. This is childish.
(3) Male Olympic skier didn’t win a medal, but he did get to kiss his boyfriend. Why is this courageous? Why is this newsworthy? What ever happened to the Olympics being about athletes and not people trying to push their sexual agenda? This is sad.
(4) High School student becomes a leading voice for mocking the President and Congress on how they handle complicated policy. If I called out the President and called him stupid on national television as a High School student my dad would not congratulate me - - he would lock me up in my room until I learned respect. What High School student really understands the pressure of running a country? Such arrogance!
(5) A President who name calls other people via Twitter. Wow, it sounds like I am contradicting myself, by why does the President believe he needs to stoop so low and get involved in silly Twitter wars? I can’t imagine Lincoln, Washington, Churchill or Kennedy wallowing in the mud of our adolescent media fads. I know President Trump is trying to defend himself because the media slants everything, but I wish he wouldn’t give them so much fuel for their fire.
(6) Late night comics who believe they can mock the world and then make cogent comments about very serious issues. I hate the arrogance displayed by late night comics who always think they are the smartest people in the country. No humility...
Our country now exalts the average as special, and the silly as serious. We have no respect for the adult who actually thinks before they speak. Where are the true experts in anything that doesn’t include entertainment and sports? We have become a nation of adolescents.
In the 1982 movie The Scarlet Pimpernel, the French antagonist Chauvelin is bragging about how France has gotten rid of the Royal Family and the ruling aristocracy - - he is proud that the common peasant is going to take over the land. He says, “We shall execute our king instead, sir, and exalt our tailors.” And the Scarlet Pimpernel responds by saying, “More's the pity. Then your tailors will rule the land, and no one will make the clothes. So much for French fashion, and French politics.”
It seems instead of having the peasant rule our country, teenagers and fools now run everything. We have kicked out the adults and let the spoiled juveniles rule. Welcome to modern day America, 2018. “More’s the pity!”
Two days ago after a gunman senselessly killed 17 people at a Florida high school, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump “have blood on their hands” for passing a law last year that made it easier for people with mental illness to buy guns.
This same sentiment was even shared by some big named celebrities who joined in the chorus - - one wrote, “We have to elect candidates that are not funded by the NRA in November. We have an opportunity to elect candidates who won’t allow kids to go to school and get shot. It is disgusting how many times this has happened and Republicans do nothing. You all have blood on your hands.”
Having blood on your hands sounds serious? What does it even mean?
Are the Republicans and Donald Trump to be held responsible for the lives of the 17 dead? Should they be sentenced with the severest punishment the law can muster? Who else has blood on their hands, and is blood guilt only designated for school shootings? Or are there other crimes that should fall under this category?
Well let’s do a little background. The first time this phrase was known to be coined was at least 500 years B.C. when the prophet Ezekiel was told to warn the nations about their standing before God, "Son of Man, speak unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked (sinning unbelievers), you shall surely die; and you do not give him warning, nor speak to stop the wicked (the unbeliever) from his wicked way (his religion that cannot save), to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at your hand (Ezekiel 3:17-18)."
So when someone is sinning and you have the opportunity to warn them and you don’t warn them about the judgement of God, you are guilty of their blood.
The Apostle Paul could say, "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men (Acts 20:26)." Paul was making reference to Ezekiel 3:17-19. Why? Why did Paul say that he was pure from the blood of all men? Notice the answer in Acts 20:20-21, "And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." The Apostle Paul went from house to house and told people about the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says in Acts 20:27, "For I have not hesitated to declare unto you all (everyone) the counsel of God." Paul did not step aside from his responsibility; that is why Paul could say, "I am innocent from the blood of all men (Acts 20:26)."
To sum up, Biblical blood guilt is specifically related to God’s eternal judgment on those who won’t repent for their personal sin and rebellion against God ... and it is not just reserved out for seemingly extreme crimes like a mass killing.
We need to be united when it comes to gun proliferation and mental health; but honestly, don’t you think the guy who pulled the trigger should shoulder most of the responsibility for killing the 17? Nah, that seems too logical - - even though the other million gun owners don’t go around spraying bullets because they are upset.
And why does it even have to be a mass killing for blood guilt to finally be invoked? In Ezekiel it seems like any sin that occurs involves blood guilt?
What about the 58 million babies who have been callously slaughtered in America’s abortion mills since Roe V. Wade was first decided? Who's taking responsibility for that? Or if there were no guns, is there still blood guilt for the murders that happen with baseball bats, knives, fists, bombs, runaway cars or opioid overdoses?
Jesus once taught in Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to the fire of hell.”
So it sounds like we should even level the condemnation of blood guilt on hatred? What about all the people who hate Donald Trump? What about all those who still hate Barak Obama? How much guilt is there? Who will own that? Sure seems like there is a lot blood to spread around?
Interesting enough, there is one time in history when people did own up for the blood they deserved. In Matthew 27:24-25 a group of people stood around a innocent man who they thought deserved to die. They were demanding for him to receive the death sentence for doing absolutely nothing wrong but being kind and good, and most of all telling the truth that he was sent by God to save the sick. Listen to what they said, “When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but that instead a riot was breaking out, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said.’You shall bear the responsibility.’ All the people answered,‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ So Pilate released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged and handed Him over to be crucified.”
This blood curse is the most serious one of all, the Son of God was murdered and his blood is on all of us. When 17 people die in a tragic school shooting everyone wants answers, they want to blame someone, they want justice, they want new laws to stop all the shootings, they want to take the guns away, while the whole time they are acting innocent. But when it comes to the death of Christ, very few own up to the fact that our sin is what sent an innocent man, the greatest man, God himself, to die on the cursed tree.
17 dead is not the problem. Guns are not the problem. The problem in the world lies deep in the heart of every person. We hate.
We hate God and his Son most of all.
He alone can cleanse our soul from sin, and sin needs to be cleansed because it is the active agent that is causing all the killing, murder, hatred and pain. Yes, there is blood guilt, and it is on all our hands because we refuse the real answer to sin which is repentance and turning to God through Christ.
Yes, 17 dead is a horrible tragedy. But Jesus says in Luke 13:1-5, “But unless you change your hearts and repent, you will be destroyed as they were!”
Does a person have Free-Will?
When I live for God is my “good work” something I should be proud of, take credit for, and boast about? Or am I like a computer that can’t do anything good until God triggers my cognitive processing ability and types in a new spiritual coding to get me to carry out proper Christian functions? How much of Free-Will is a part of faith?
This debate rages among Christians especially when it come to how a person views the Christian life after justification.
Do we make choices or does God move us to make those choices? And if God moves us to make the choice is it free? Are we rational men or deluded puppets thinking we are free?
This is where the Aorist Active Imperative verb tense helps to give us some answers. I think understanding this common grammatical verb structure that is used in many of the Biblical commands for believers will help us understand how a Christian and God cooperate together in the sanctification (“setting apart”) process.
First some definitions:
Aorist Tense: in the Greek language the Aorist tense indicates an undefined action in the past, which means that the verb is describing an event that happened in a single moment in time. It is referentially punctiliar, which means it is related to the context of the narrative pointing to some event in the past impacting the present.
Active Voice: this simply means the action of the verb it is describing is being performed by the subject. Something is being carried out.
Imperative Mood: this is the mood of command, it is used to order someone’s conduct. It is the proper response to what occurred before. It is the “must” in the “do.”
When you put all three together you can say that if a word is in the Aorist Active Imperative (AAM) tense, it means the action that the verb is describing is the result of something that happened in the past and it gives rise to the action that you are commanded to take in the present. The AAM means that the response is fitting for what happened before.
It is a direct response in the present that is related to that something that occurred in the context of the writing. In other words, the action you are commanded to take is a natural result of belief. Let me show you how it works in 1 Peter 1:22 and then 1 Peter 1:23 & 2:2-3.
1 Peter 1:22 - “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love (AAM) one another earnestly from a pure heart.” The movement of the verse is clear: The reader who is a Christian has “purified, or been made clean” and this certain reality is made evident by their “obedience to the truth” for the purpose of “brotherly love.” If all of this past work is actually true, the natural result is that you will “love” each other deeply from the heart in the present. If I have really been converted, been purified and made new, and I have shown a willingness to obey, especially the command to “love the brethren” than naturally I “have to start loving deeply” to prove that what happened in the past is really true.
My conversion must result in my action of love. The reality of the past action propels me to live accordingly. It is only fitting for me to love if I have been set apart to love.
So I ask the question again, do I love out of Free-Will, my own autonomous choice, or faith? The answer, confirmed by AAM, is Faith. If I really believe something is true, than I will respond to the truth of it. That is faith. How can I take any credit for acting in a way I know to be true?
Free-Will believes I have the right to obey or not to obey based on my choice and my choice alone. This is not born out of faith. In fact Free-Will says if I choose to love it isn’t because I believe I must, it is because I just wanted to. Free-Will pats itself on the back saying, “Hey, look at me, I didn’t have to love, but I chose to love, so aren’t I a great guy?”
Faith says, “Since I am a new creation I have no choice but to love.” This isn’t something to be proud of, this is the way it is meant to be. And now that I am a new creation I can finally live the way I have been designed.
Look at 1 Peter 1:23-2:2-3, it makes it even more clear: “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. . .Like newborn infants, long (AAM) for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation-- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
What happened in the past? You have been born again, that is a new reality. And this birth originated in the activating substance of the word. As a result, we must “Long for more of it.” If I really believe that I am made brand new by God’s word, this truth should compel me to want more of it. Not only that, it is fitting, or a must, that I want more of it.
The Free-Will person says it is simply a choice - to do or not to do, to read or not to read, that is the question? The Christian says it is a matter of faith. If I believe something to be true than the results must follow. If I sit on a chair out in the middle of a highway and I believe that the Semi-Truck heading my way “will” for sure “kill me” if I don’t move, I will naturally be compelled to move. It is a must, not a choice.
I cannot take credit for moving off the chair as if I did anything meritorious, I did what the past circumstances and my sure belief required. My response was fitting to my belief, not something praise-worthy of a great choice on my part.
AAM means I live by faith. I actually believe what God has done in the past is truly true, it is the way things are. And if I do believe this, “I will do” what naturally I must do to align myself properly with reality. Again, “it is fitting.”
In a way, as an autonomous being I am making an active choice - - but it is faith that compels me to make my choice. I like how Philippians 2:12-13 describes living by faith, “Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
God is working his salvation in me in three ways:
All three of those actions, started by the Spirit, are then joined with my active response to “work it out.” Listen to 2 Peter 1:2-5, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
This is not Free-Will, but sure and certain faith. I believe therefore I act. So when it comes to AAM, I must specifically obey because it is the only thing I can do if I really believe.
So let's go back to the original question: “Does a Christian have Free-Will?” A Christian has only a single choice, to believe or not to believe? When you don’t you are basically saying God is untrustworthy and what he said is true is not. Free-Will is a declaration of unbelief, not something to be proud of or praise worthy.
If what God says is true, I must behave in the fitting way. The more I believe the more I will “will and to do” according to his good pleasure.”
I blame this post, and my unstable mental condition, on my sister Gina.
I was a young impressionable lad when my dearest older sibling first showed me her creepy drawings. She had a pad of paper where she kept personal sketches of her favorite monsters. It contained Frankenstein, Dracula, Godzilla and the scariest one of all, the “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The Creature was a dangerous half-man, half-reptile that lived in the murky green waters of the deadly Amazon River in Brazil.
I asked her how she came up with such a hideous idea for a monster? She said she saw it on Saturday afternoon television fright show. She described for me how the monster would sneak out of the water and grab you if you were not careful. In the original movie, three people were killed and the beautiful starlet was almost dragged away never to be seen from again. But luckily, she was rescued by the dashing hero. So with wide eyes and her hand curved into a grabbing claw, my sister explained in spine tingling detail how all the Creature wanted was to bite your neck!
I was terrified, my sister's description did the trick. From that day forward I was always apprehensive to get too close to the water's edge of any river, lake or dark body of water - - you never know when or where the "Creature" might be lurking? It was a monster after all, and a monster was always something to fear precisely because a monster was a monster. Horror used to make sense when I was a boy.
But it is not that way anymore. The Creature that once struck fear in the heart of men and women everywhere has now become the hero. Instead of a monster to protect yourself against, the Creature has turned into a marginalized object to now pity, love and to protect. One of the top pictures that has been nominated to receive a number of the prestigious Oscars at the Academy Awards this year is a film entitled “The Shape of Water.” It is brave new telling of the story of the Creature - - no longer is it meant to be a horror story, it has turned into a tragic romance. Rave reviews are pouring in about it from the army of movie critics nationwide. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 92% rating:
“It is a movie about outsiders and the very human need to connect.”
“The film’s huge heart and good intentions are always on display.”
“On paper it sounds indigestible, but on screen it is pure magic.”
Why does it sound indigestible? Because the plot is ludicrous. It has the half-man, half-reptile Creature falling in love with a mute woman who is hiding him in her bathtub next door to a gay man as they run from the evil Christian. That is why it sounds so strange. The Creature is not a killer, he is now a star-crossed lover! Life isn't as easy to understand as it was when I was a boy, it seems that now I am an adult everything has been turned upside down. Life is now about celebrating differences, exalting strangeness, and experimenting with forbidden love even if a person looks like a clammy alligator. It is as if there is more beauty and purity in the strange and bizarre love affair than oh, you know, a common, boring, ordinary one involving a man and a woman for life. How restrictive and repressive!
Listen to what one very reasonable reviewer writes about it in the National Review, “But what, exactly, does a mute Mexican immigrant janitoress, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins, wasting the genius she displayed in Maudie), have to do with the black struggle against Jim Crow? How does her romance with an amphibious monster, captured for government experimentation during the Cold War, express the thwarted desires of U.S. citizens whose ancestors were oppressed? Why is her protective co-worker a sassy and stoic black woman (Octavia Spencer) with a Stepin Fetchit husband? Why is her best friend a gay artist (Richard Jenkins) who is scared of expressing his own sexuality? Why does her nemesis, a security official at the science lab (Michael Shannon), stand in for white supremacist bigotry?”
You see, the producer of the film, Guillermo Del Toro, took a good ole fashioned scary Saturday afternoon fright story and turned it into another politically correct sappy love story and social commentary telling us how we must think - - remember, you must never forget about the marginalized and forgotten! In fact, the weird and the strange is to be celebrated, extreme diversity has become the new normal.
I find it interesting what Rex Reed says about this movie, “Here I am again, out on a limb with a saw in my hand. I’ve been here before, but never have I disagreed with quite so many colleagues (including a few I actually respect) about the same movie. But as the year draws to a close, I remain aghast at the way critics have not only embraced but slobbered over The Shape of Water.”
He continues, “The Amphibian Man is understandably menacing to anyone who comes near it, but Eliza, who empathizes with the misery of hatred and persecution, offers compassion and tenderness in the form of hard-boiled eggs. Romance blossoms. She is happy to be with him because he is non-judgmental...The whole movie is off the wall, but when Eliza strips naked and crawls into the bathtub to surrender her virginity to the creature, it really loses its hinges. ‘Never trust a man,’ says fellow toilet scrubber Octavia Spencer after she sees the Amphibian Man’s metallic fish costume, ‘even if he looks flat down there.’”
It is interesting to me how Rex Reed says he feels like he is out on a limb. Why? Because he dares to criticize a story that has a politically motivated message. He dares to go against the consensus. He dares to point out and say that the idea of a woman engaging in a sexual relationship with an animal man is ‘off the wall.’ You can't judge a person's sexual proclivities these days! Next time you see your friend swimming with a fish, you better not judge!
I remember when a good scary creature was just that, a good scary creature. Now he is the one who is misunderstood, marginalized and woefully mistreated. And guess whose fault it is? I blame my sister Gina!
“It's better to stay outside on the roof of your house than to live inside with a nagging wife.”
Proverbs 25:24 is not a verse I have ever used in a wedding ceremony, but many times I really wanted to. There are those moments when things need to be said that are true but you dare not say them because you know just by saying them it will probably make matters worse and it will land you into a world of trouble. And one of the most dangerous things a husband could ever say to his wife is “Stop nagging me!”
That is why this verse suggests, instead of fanning the flames of marital discord, just go sit on the corner of the roof - - you will be able to hide and catch your breath up there, while your wife, who can’t find you, hopefully has time to cool off and comes to her senses.
This is why I am convinced so many men in our church hunt. It is surprising how some of the most non-feeling and stoic beard wearing brutes will shed a tear and wax eloquent about their love of hunting: “Even If I don’t shoot anything I can still bask in the wonder of nature, the peaceful quiet of the woods, I can clear my mind while sitting in a tree blind watching a majestic black hawk soar through the peerless blue sky, I can enjoy the soothing tranquility of a nearby bubbling brook, and I can even meet with God in ways I can not at home.” Translation...my wife drives me crazy with her nagging.
Many of you may not agree with that last paragraph, especially if you are a wife that has a lazy husband and you like to get things done - but I have been hunting a few times and in my humble opinion, it can be as exciting as watching paint dry. Sitting alone in the cold is not the most exciting to do, but let’s face it, it sure beats getting nagged. I have a sneaky suspicion that if some of those men couldn’t go hunting, they would still rather watch paint dry than be a home.
So what is my point? It is a very simple - I believe in the same way nagging words from your wife make you want to run and hide away, nagging words from “Social Justice Warriors”, “Self-Impressed Progressives” and the passionate band of “Religious Crusaders and Regulators” inside and outside the church is not helping unite us as much as they think they are.
As a pastor I have seen how, like a dripping faucet (Proverbs 27:15), nagging slowly erodes unity. I believe it is comprised of four ingredients:
So what is a husband to do? Get out of there. In a middle eastern city where there are no woods or deer blinds to hide or garages to work on your car engine alone, the only place for the man to go is up on the roof. It reminds me of the James Taylor song “Up on the Roof”:
“When this old world starts a getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I'll climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof, it's peaceful as can be
And there the world below don't bother me, no, no”
Nagging also occurs in a society when one group of people - formed by race, gender, economic standing, political persuasion - see another group of people as society’s problem or solution to the problem. Just like the nagging wife they have determined what needs to be done from their vantage point and they then shout about it wanting the other side to fix it! They stand back like an angry wife with their arms crossed and fingers pointed, waiting for change with a look of contempt and air of superiority.
And when things don’t get solved the way the first group wants it to be solved, or it’s taking too long, they start nagging all the more. Louder and louder. And the louder it gets, the more the second group wants to run and hide up on the roof or out in the woods. Personally speaking, I want to get a tiny house and live hundreds of miles away.
Nagging is fast becoming the American pastime, it seems to be coming from all corners, everywhere you turn someone is offended and something needs to be done about it. Go to a conference on the Bible, or a parent teacher conference, or a Hollywood Awards Show and you can subtly hear the nagging. It is not that the group who is getting nagged doesn’t care, it just becomes too much and they need a place to hide from it all.
I guess the bigger question is this, “How do you tell your wife she is a nag?” You don’t, you just go back to your corner on the roof and shut up. And when you think you can handle it you re-engage. It is the most rational thing to do.
Does advertising create desire or reflect desire?
Do I want to eat a hamburger because I’m hungry, or because I saw a 30 second slow motion video of a sizzling ½ pound beef patty sitting pretty under a slice of melting cheddar cheese as a golden brown bun nestles itself snugly over top, and then the warm, soft burger is picked up by a gorgeous blond haired model who is scantily clad and then she opens wide her mouth, licks her lips and takes a bite with delight?
When it comes to advertising, am I a hunter or am I being hunted?
I believe all of us are being hunted and socially conditioned through what we watch and hear so we will all think alike and act accordingly. Advertisers are paid to go fishing for us like experts, they know how to generate appetite and then they seduce us into believing they have the solution for our hunger.
It is all calculated and designed. It is a science. Companies pay millions for the advertiser’s expertise, and they pay these millions because they know they will make tens of millions off of our gullible little hungry hearts.
But nowadays someone else is paying for the advertising hunters to bait and catch you. Yes, this new group wants your money, everyone wants your money, but they also want to control the heart and mind of your kids. And advertising is being used as a powerful tool to condition and teach more than simply to arouse desire about a product.
Let me show you what I mean. During the big game on Sunday, a bowl that is super, a number of advertisements were selling political correctness and the coolness of accepting a gender nuetral lifestyle. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese featured an ad where interracial couples, gay couples, white and black families where all enjoying a spoonful of the orange pasta meal.
Here is the ad’s copy, “You showed us thousands of way to family...there is no one right way to family. Family how you family.”
Why does a company that sells cheap food in a box feel the need to tell all of us what a family is? Whatever happened to a simple, “Eat our food, it is cheap”? Oh no, now all viewers must adopt a political worldview that is the only cool and right way to view the world.
A T-mobile advertisement panned over a group of babies, both boys and girls of all different races, who don’t even know what a cell phone is, and did camera close-ups as a voice said, “You come with open minds and the instincts that we are equal. Some people may see your differences and be threatened by them. But you are unstoppable ... You'll love who you want. You'll demand fair and equal pay. You will be heard, not dismissed. Change starts now."
Huh? Really? All that for a phone? “You are unstoppable…” What does that even mean?
And then, of course, Coke had to say something. 60 seconds of anyone and everyone, the text of the copy says, “There's a Coke for he and she and her and me and them. There's a different Coke for all of us ... We all have different looks and loves and likes and dislikes too. But there's a Coke for we and us and there's a Coke for you."
Advertisers call this sort of talk as branding. They want to communicate an ethos about their company, a trustworthiness you can count on. Why do I need to count on Coke? I pick my cell phone service by cost and range, not if my money is going to a transgendered secretary that is practicing Islam.
What is going on? I believe someone or a movement of someones wants to change the viewer’s minds and values. We are all now participating in a giant social engineering project that is disguised as innocent 30 second commercials selling products. Psalm 2:1-3 says something very interesting:
“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. Let us break their chains, they say, and throw off their fetters.”
The world wants freedom from God and his authority. They want to “love who they want to love,” they want to be called whatever they want, “a he and she and her and me and them.” They want freedom from labels and traditions and they don’t want to be stopped, “break off those chains” because I am “unstoppable.” Even today I read that New Jersey no longer has a Father-Daughter dance because it may violate “Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Student Guidelines.”
Nonconformity, political correctness, and tolerance is not something out there on the fringes of society being discussed in the liberal college classroom anymore. It isn’t just being written about in psychology journals or written about in New York Times editorials. This anti-traditional family garbage is now being pumped into the living room of your home through macaroni-n-cheese commercials. In Ephesians, Satan is called “The Prince of the Power of Air”, the one who is now at work in the hearts of the disobedient. Well he is good at reaching people everywhere. And now he is trying to get all of us to break off those chains, and television is actively helping in his cause.
Some of you probably think I am a conspiracy nut? I have lost my ability to reason and now I am adrift in a mindless paranoia? But think about it, a macaroni-n-cheese commercial is telling me what a family is? This ideological mumbo-jumbo is everywhere, can’t I ever just be left alone?