"Violence has no place in America! Anyone who preaches violence
should be shot like a dog!"
Heard on KGO Radio, San Francisco in the 60's
What's going on? Ferguson and now Baltimore? A dead man, angry mobs, polarizing police in riot gear, tear gas, bricks, stones, looting and fire. Will violence never end?
Every generation since Cain killed Abel in cold blood, asked the same question: What is wrong with us? And how can we eradicate this violence and bring order? Every age has faced both the terror of violence and the aftermath of rampaging rage. What are we to do? And as a pastor I know I can not just offer ignorant irresponsible answers like, "Give Peace a Chance," or "Bomb 'Em All!"
As I was watching the drama play out on Baltimore's streets on-line, I went to my bookshelf and grabbed a book by Os Guinness called, "The Dust of Death." It is an expose of sixties philosophical thought and how it "Changed America Forever." In one chapter Os speaks on the political violence of the counterculture and how society used it as a weapon both to make a point and get what they wanted.
Things never really change.
He begins by asking this question: "Is violence Crisis or Catharsis?...One side sees violence as a crisis that breaks down the order and values they stand for; the other side sees it as a catharsis, the recreation of people repressed by cultures and governments." So is this violence a structural breakdown, a falling apart of human decency or is it a legitimate statement that begins the process setting people free from systemic oppression and societal manipulation?
Your perception depends largely on what side you are on - - who you are cheering for. Do you see the situation as the valiant cops quashing the vitriol of an angry mob? Or is it the marginalized and oppressed fighting back against their tyrannical oppressors? Violence is truly in the eye of the beholder!
Understanding violence is not as easy as you may think. In fact, Os Guinness points out that our non-Christian worldviews of today actually have no leverage to speak against it. In fact, in most materialist systems, violence is quite "normal." It just is. For instance he states there are three main streams of non-Christian thought and they all see violence as a "necessary" and even "legitimate" part of their ideology:
(1) Evolutionary Theory: he quotes a very influential humanist of his day named Konrad Lorenz who states, "In evolutionary thought, animal aggression is not destructive and diabolical but essential and life-preserving...human beings, in the same way, have aggressive instincts of animals without the necessary inhibitions." Violence is in our DNA. The solution for the evolutionary theorist is either firm state control (Marxism) or drugs. We are animals, as Darwin once said, "Red of tooth and Claw." Not much optimism there.
(2) Psychoanalytic Theory: Freud says every human must deal with the forces that cause repression. These forces are conflicting desires, "pleasure principle" vs. "reality principle." Because of this, violence is in the core of our make-up, a battle rages within ourselves. We have an innate tendency to aggression, so either we turn it inward and destroy ourselves or turn it outward and destroy others. He quotes Malcolm X which displays this inherent aggressive nature, "I'm nonviolent with those who are nonviolent with me. But when you drop that violence on me, then you've made me go insane, and I'm not responsible for what I do."
(3) Cultural Theory: The key idea with culture and politics in most every materialistic system is the idea of "struggle." As Mao Tse-tung once said, "Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun." Might makes right. Truth becomes the majority law which is then imposed on everyone else...often through the use of force.
So you see, without God intervening, violence is just a part of life. You better get used to it, or buy a bigger gun. Os Guinness quotes Albert Camus to sum up the normalcy of violence, "Men of action when they are without faith have never believed in anything else but action."
So what does Christianity have to say to counteract violence?
I could speak on this all day, but Os has a quote that I think sums up a well balanced and realistic take on violence: "No force that does not issue from justice (an attribute of God and his righteousness) and that is not restrained by justice can achieve justice. Some force is necessary...but any overreaction, even in the name of truth, crosses the line from force to violence again."
He gives some practicality: Following Christ is often lonely. "Sometimes Christians must have the courage to stand with the Establishment, speaking boldly to the radicals and pointing out the destructive and counterproductive nature of their violence. At other times they will stand as cobelligerents with the radicals in their outrage and just demands for redress. Christians are cobelligerent with either or both when either or both are right, but they are also fearless in their opposition to either or both when they are wrong."
One final statement: "Christians are not partisans; nor must they be prone to propaganda."
Jesus faced violence head-on by submitting to it and forgiving those who hated him. Do you forgive or fight? Do you stay partisan, or seek justice? What if the family of the man who died was truly wronged? Will you listen or jump to conclusions based on what the people you like say?
Love requires listening. And honesty. And no more stupid, silly posters...they only incite more anger. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God!
What do you consider a swear word? One definition defines swearing or profanity as, "an offensive word" or "offensive language". It is also language "that is generally considered to be very impolite, rude or offensive."
Traditionally speaking, profanity has included specific words meant to shock by expressing anger or coolness in a coarse way. These are the kinds of words your mom would threaten to "wash your mouth out with soap" if she heard you say any one of them. So I learned to stay away from the "S" word, the "A" word, the "B" word, and never, ever, for any reason, say the dreaded "F" word.
People just knew intuitively these words were wrong. They were culturally 'verboten!'. But that was then, this is now - - and what was once considered offensive, impolite and rude has been morphing into acceptable over time.
The "F" word has gained clout and respect in most contemporary circles. Hey, if Bono uses it in his interviews, it must be O.K. because boy is he cool. The pro-"F" word people are urbane and very persuasive as they defend their defamatory language, "Dude, words are just symbols, groups of sounds linked together; and plus, why should I stop using a word just to keep some lame group of grumpy people happy?" Even Time magazine agrees.They published an article last year entitled, "Hell Yes! Swearing is good for you." The ending of the article says, "we’re going to go ahead and believe that people who swear are creative, beautiful, emotionally intelligent geniuses." I think that statement was tongue-in-check, but so what, it's still cool.
The old-fashioned foul-mouthed has been acquitted. They are now free to cuss to their hearts content in our brave new "verbally raw" world. Ask a rapper; without profanity, they would have nothing to say.
That does not mean profanity is no more; oh no, on the contrary our society has adopted and labeled a different kind of phrase as forbidden. While "Vulgarity" no longer offends,"Virtue" sure does. We must never condemn, but only embrace the mud that the rest of the pigs around us are wallowing in. And if someone tries to clean the pig-pen with some clean water and reasoned advice, society will quickly shout them down for pointing out the mud.
Virtue means moral excellence. As one writer defines it, "virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness." They are intended to raise the general standards of life, make people more civil, better.
But no more. Virtue has become profane.
Promoting virtue might make the vulgar feel bad. And any feeling of guilt or shame must be silenced; we must not allow exposure. Society demands freedom without cost, and enjoyment without admitting error. If you mention the obvious, like "people need to grow up," or "this behavior is foolish and absurd", even when people know you are right, they are now conditioned to be offended by your simple honesty. Virtue and common sense is the new profanity.
Case in point: (And I know I will be considered cruel and vulgar for mentioning this) Did you happen to watch the Bruce Jenner interview Friday? If you didn't, he "sort of" admitted on TV (Even though he is trying to be private about it?) that he is a she. It was odd in the sense that he said he always felt like a woman, but he still likes women, and yet he doesn't want to be considered a lesbian because he still is a man who has a female soul. Sound confusing? Well lets be honest, it is. And now his only wish is that people watching will take him serious.
As my wife and I watched his interview, we were both thinking the same thing. But our culture has conditioned us to stay silent, and keep our opinions to ourselves. You see, we both know that we should only share our opinions with each other and no one else because our evaluations are based on virtue. You see, the thought police is everywhere, and to them, virtue is vulgar.
But so what? Let me take a risk and share what I was thinking (So pardon my French): Bruce Jenner needs to grow up and quit being so self-absorbed. Yes his gender confusion is sad, but the way he addresses such a complicated topic also seems so silly; like a teenager wanting attention, he too wants to be popular. Lost and disregarded in his thinking are the old virtues that include humility, nobility, and dignity. All we seem to get out of Jenner is a 60 year old man/woman who can't wait to try on a new shade of fingernail polish while his step-daughter Kim Kardashian (Who arguably does not know what virtue is even if it hit her in the face) told him, "girl you gotta rock it if you are going to do this thing."
Have all the adults left the building? Or has vanity, conceit and "obtaining pleasure at all costs" become bold new categories of virtue? An online CNNMoney article writes, "In this unconditional and unquestioning way, the Kardashian and Jenner clans are defining what it means to be a family today. They may be superficial, but their support for Bruce is notable for its candid demonstration of acceptance."
Yes, as the article admits, they are superficial Kardashians - - but hey, at least they are accepting! Boy, they better be...or they may be accused of being judgmental? Don't you see? You can be caddy, vain, promiscuous, and sexually deviant, but you better not be intolerant! That, my friends, is our society's unpardonable sin. One spec of disapproval of another person's behavior is worse than saying the "F" word!
So to stamp out intolerance we must demonize virtue because virtue has standards. It sets limits. As a result, because we want things without limits, we must canonize vulgarity. So what then is the ultimate profanity? Purity. We have arrived in the land of Isaiah 5:20. Good is now evil, and evil is good.
Long live adolescence, because all the adults are gone! Anything goes....that is...as long as you rock it!
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
I was at a conference yesterday and an expert panelist said something that really caught my attention: Sloth breeds sadness.
He gave this illustration, "One time I played 11 straight hours of video games. After I was done I felt terrible for wasting so much of my time. That feeling of bitter loss is the result of sloth."
This really got me thinking, "Is laziness dangerous for your emotional health? Is sitting a few extra hours binge watching your latest Netflix fix bad for you? Do we take leisure too serious?"
I'm sure we do. And maybe sadness is intended to be our inward gauge to tell us when enough is enough? If that is true, the blues and early signs of depression may be given to me by God to wake me up so I will run from sloth? I never considered this before. In truth, I do see an awful lot of sad people walking out of movie theaters. I have seen many a downcast face sitting quietly on a comfy couch. I had a few sad college roommates who liked to skip class and sleep in. Sadness is a regular companion to the sedate.
How many times have you looked forward to a Saturday or Sunday afternoon because your favorite team was on; or you couldn't wait to watch those rented videos, and then you became really bummed because before you know it, it is 8:00 pm and you wonder what happened to your day?
The more I meditated on this the more I realized that sloth has also stopped me from embracing risk. It is easier to sit than to try. Sloth has made me the type of man who would rather watch a Turner Classic Movie, or another Twilight Zone episode than reaching out to my sad lonely friends who I know are also sitting around watching another installment of Mystery Science Theater.
I think sloth has even whispered negative thoughts of failure when I considered doing something grand. I have yet to begin writing that book I always wanted to. Sloth has ruined my initiative to learn new things. Sloth has stolen years off of my life.
Maybe I am just being too hard on myself, maybe I need to sit and veg while I think about this topic some more? No, darn it, no! I must speak truth, sloth is like a sickness in my bones always convincing me that "I can do what I want to get done tomorrow." My default mode is to err on the side of sloth. Sloth defined is "a reluctance to work or make an effort." My body has learned to hate making an effort. An object at rest stays at rest.
My wife was exhausted the other day so I decided to do something unusual; cook and let her sit. Usually I will tell myself I have been working all day, I need to rest, and then surf the internet on my iPad to decompress. But on this particular day I decided to shut off my electronics, cook the food, talk to my daughter as we set the table and poured the drinks. Surprisingly after I got up and exerted a little effort, I felt great.
Come to think of it, after I sit, instead of feeling refreshed, I often become more grumpy. I will even reach a point where I don't want to go to the table when the meal is ready because an object at rest...you know the rest.
Is sloth dangerous or am I making a mountain out of a molehill? I will probably feel better after I just sit down and chill out.
I am wearing a blue shirt.
"It shall not be so among you.
But whoever would be great among you must be your servant."
Are you ready for the "Catch Me if you Can" game to begin? What sort of game is this? It is the adult version of tag, where the political candidates who are running for office in 2016 try not to get tagged out. The last one standing wins.
It works like this: As candidates give their speeches, shake hands and kiss babies across our fruited plains, they must not let the pesky journalists and reporters tag them out. Our media is aggressive. Daily they are trying to dig up evidence of some past act of misconduct or malfeasance, or they try to trip up the candidates to say something incriminating, so they will be un-electable. If they can get someone to bow out of the race, that is considered a tag. Journalists of our day take pride in causing people to fail.
Politics, as they say, has become a blood sport.
But there is a good reason why we play the game so ferociously; corruption in politics is everywhere. Instead of running for office to serve, most candidates run for office to selfishly gain. People want power and riches, so naturally they are prone to corruption. If you can take money from foreign nations, hide incriminating emails, lie under oath to the American people, and get rich doing it, why not try it?
So the candidate's number one goal is to try not to get tagged. They will even hire their own attack journalists and media spinners to keep other journalists off their scent. The more you can deflect attention and throw mud at your opponents, the quicker the other guy will get tagged. It's all about winning.
But in this game, we (the American people) all lose.
Wouldn't it be nice if candidates were in it only to serve people? What if each and every candidate took Jesus' words to heart?
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
What would this look like?
(1) For one, candidates would campaign on what they think is best, not what they think will get them elected. I would love to see a candidate stand up and say, "This is what I believe and if you don't like it - don't vote for me." It would be refreshing to elect someone who doesn't need the job, they just want to serve. Boy, in the last 8 years, how many politicians changed their views on marriage simply because it was popular?
(2) Secondly, candidates would not be afraid to admit their mistakes. Be honest. Most of the art of journalism these days is trying to catch politicians in lies. They are told, if you did something wrong don't get caught. "Plead the 5th, you will get off." And sadly, most do. It is as if getting caught is the true crime, but the crime itself is just a hazard of the job. What if a politician admitted a mistake, miscue instead of fighting it to the death? I know what you are thinking: they would be tagged out! And maybe that would be a good thing?
(3) Finally, candidates would confront their own party members when they are blood-sucking money from the average tax-payer. Instead of agreeing to pork and privileges, they should say "this bill is wrong." I know that some try. I know that some stand up. And I know most get lambasted by attack dogs when they do.
I guess I am only dreaming? Maybe Jesus was just too good for our world. Now I know why he was crucified!
Does 2 + 2 always equal 4?
It depends: are we talking normal math or governmental progressive math? Once again sports talk radio got me thinking. I know, I know, mixing sports, mental exertion and my brain can have quite unstable and explosive results; but sometimes I just cant stop it. Yesterday was one of those times.
An analyst for ESPN by the name of Amin Elhassan was openly criticizing the NBA draft and their ping-pong ball lottery. It is not that he has a personal dislike for using white celluloid spheres to determine lottery winners; rather, he hates how NBA teams will purposefully lose so they will have a better chance at the higher draft picks.
Under the current rules, only the top three picks are decided by the lottery, and the team with the worst record, or the team that holds the draft rights of the team with the worst record, has the best chance to obtain a higher draft pick.
Elhassan believes this system of selection is detrimental for the league because it rewards failure.
He made this very insightful statement, "I learned in business school that incentive and reward always influences the results. If you reward failure, you get more sloth and lack of drive which can poison your organization. If you reward hard work and initiative you will start attracting the type of player that already has a good work ethic and personal pride which leads to success. It seems to me the NBA is rewarding failure and that cannot be good for the sport!" The other commentators completely agreed with him.
In fact, they all reasoned that purposeful losing in the long run has never built a legacy for a team; and they pointed to the Minnesota Timberwolves as just one recent example of this. They haven't had a successful season since 2004 when Kevin Garnett won the league's MVP. In short, their recent track record of incentivizing failure made for both bad business and a frustrated fan base.
This is the stark and universal reality of human behavior and motivation: Rewarding failure will always result in more failure. It works like clockwork. I would call this a fundamental truth of life, wouldn't you? It is as basic as 2 +2. Unless, of course, governmental and progressive social experts get involved in the discussion; they have a nasty way of meddling in everyone's business and turning simple truth upon its head. Principles that are clear and obvious to the "regular guy" sports analyst, become lost in the hazy ideals of bleeding hearts and arrogant professors who think they are right because of their years of education, prestigious titles and multiple degrees.
Listening to years of progressive hubris and confident assurance in their ideals, has persuaded the majority of supposedly lesser mortals to vote for government assistance in the form of welfare, food stamps, subsidies for health care, free lunches, and a host of other government programs, It is believed these programs will help people to have a jump start to success. Meanwhile, back in the real world, logic vehemently disagrees, because fundamentals will never change.
2 + 2 will always equal 4.
Rewarding inactivity and mediocrity will only result in more inactivity and mediocrity. This is basic. If I get money for doing nothing why do anything?
This warped mentality has reached an all-time epidemic. Listen to this quote by Forbes magazine, "52 percent of U.S. households—more than half—now receive benefits from the government...some economists have long dreaded the day when the U.S. crossed the halfway mark because of all the implications for individual and fiscal responsibility. As Benjamin Franklin reportedly said, 'When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.'"
These numbers are not good for our country. Even though they seem to speak of the benevolence and kindness of our governmental leaders for the poor and disadvantaged - - the truth is, they are violating the fundamental reality of rewarding inactivity and mediocrity. It is not helping the poor, it is destroying initiative and personal pride. And it seems to punish those who are paying the boatload of the government's bills.
I will give you one more example of this: I know of a teacher that is incredibly kind and compassionate to the disadvantaged and "at risk" students in her class. She is the epitome of kind. And in her kindness she felt compelled to always call on the less industrious and ambitious first in order to try to motivate them to do better. So she would go out of her way to encourage and praise the children who habitually received bad grades and would not complete all their assignments. Even when they answered basic questions like 2 + 2, she acted like they won the NBA lottery,"Great job!"
Do you think this over-the-top encouragement helped them do better?
Not at all. But it did cause the good students to stop raising their hands in class and completing their homework on time. Since they weren't being rewarded and praised for excellence, they stopped trying. After a whole year of seeing her good students become disinterested and apathetic, she came up with an idea. She invented a system to reward those students who completed their homework all week or turned in excellent work. She gave them monopoly money so they could buy cool stuff at her class store at the end of each marking period.
If the students did all their homework, aced their tests, they could accumulate enough money to purchase a fancy set of markers, buy a sparkly notepad, or even get a giant stuffed gorilla. Ironically it worked! Incentive always motivates, even the "at risk" students worked harder than ever!
2 + 2 always equals 4, it is a fundamental. And reward always motivates!
So here is my point. Treat your vote like you would treat your children at home. Do you reward Johnny for sitting on the couch eating Hot Cheetos while Jimmy takes out the garbage and cuts the front yard grass? Of course not! Then don't reward the politicians who are lying to Johnny telling them they will bring equality back to the home. I know it isn't that easy, nor is the problem of helping the poor going to be cured overnight.
But don't let anyone lie to you: 2 + 2 will always equal 4!
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21)
Do fools grow on trees?
Like Patrick Star, do they live under heavy rocks and crawl out of their hiding places during full moons? Is being an idiot, moron or dolt more a matter of 'nature' or nurture'? In the book "Flowers for Algernon" there seems to be some hope that scientists one day will find a cure for imbecility. If they already did, does anybody know where I could buy it? I sure could use some.
On Thursday, as I was studiously doing research for Sunday's sermon, I happened to stumble upon what seems to be the origins for foolishness. How did I miss this before? Sure Romans is a dry and dusty old book, but who would have suspected that the secret of stupidity has been buried deep in its crinkly pages for the last 2,000 years? How has the rest of the world missed this? It is so straightforward, so clear, just listen:
Claiming to be wise, they became fools. (Romans 1:22)
There it is, in black and white! Paul is saying that foolishness is a matter of personal transformation. And the tragedy of it is that those who have undergone this moral metamorphosis are in a state of denial; fools can't see their own foolishness, or worse, they don't want to see it.
So how do people get here in the first place? How do so many human beings arrive on the shores of the Island of Stupid? The 3 stages of devolution are spelled out for us in Romans:
(1) God has made himself known: (1:19-21) The Father of Jesus Christ is daily declaring himself to the people of the world. The smile of a fat baby, the fragrant smell of violets on a spring afternoon, and the warm sun all display his creative genius. (Psalm 19) People know God did this. Oh sure they may argue for random coincidence, but intuitively they know the ecosystem that we live in is fine tuned to a perfect balance. Every time a green atheist argues to save the earth, they are admitting that relying on evolution's random selection process is an exercise in futility.
Did you know the theory of evolution cannot think? It is random, life devolves, bed hair will never look good. And if people really believed in evolution, they would not have any problem leaving their 2 and 3 year olds home alone for a week to fend for themselves. Let the strongest kid win! We all know toddlers and the world needs constant care-taking to sustain it because it has been designed to be cared for. God did this.
(2) Mankind in general suppresses his witness (1:18) - - because they claimed wisdom for themselves: (1:22-23) Why don't people want to admit the existence of God? Two simple reasons: (1) They don't want anyone telling them what to do; (2) They don't want to admit need. If I admit that God exists, I am admitting that there is someone who is all-wise, all-powerful and all-seeing. This is scary...so in fear we suppress the truth of his excellence. Suppression means to push it down: we mock, use cynicism to distance (ie: think Bill Maher), and we ignore his obvious evidentiary clues. His footprint is everywhere.
(3) When you reject truth, lies are the only thing left. You have reached the bottom rung of the human ladder: Total independence from God.(1:22-31) Freedom is what we think we want, but it is brutal tyranny. Not only are we left to the whims of our wicked heart, "God gives us over"; but we become easy pickins for Satan and his hungry demons. Oh, I know you don't believe all that fairy tale stuff...that is because you are a suppressor. You know evil exists, you just have chosen to be a fool and you bury your head in the sand while people lie, cheat, steal and cut each other's heads off! There is only one rule for people who don't want to be ruled, "Might is Right!" Go ahead, shake your puny fist at God and fend for yourself - - but remember, you will be forever lost in the land of foolishness.
The results are devastating: (Romans 1:24-31)
- Fools will worship created things (idols). The statue they made they bow to - how dumb!
- Fools are lust driven...even going so far as being attracted to the same sex. Have you ever noticed, a man and a man cannot produce a baby?
- Fools hate. And they hate it when the obvious is pointed out, like the last statement. So they deflect by calling truth, hate.
- Fools want what others have.
- Fools abhor authority.
- Fools slander God.
And this passage in Romans ends by saying "Fools deserve to die."
Well, after my studies I am relieved to find out that fools aren't born foolish. It isn't a matter of 'nature' nor really even 'nurture', but of worship. In conclusion, I have designed a test for foolishness, it is only one little question:
Who do you want on the throne?
Only two choices, as C. S. Lewis puts it: "Thy Will Be Done" or "My Will Be Done." Which do you pick?
A friend is dying.
Life has not been kind to this dear man. His body over time has become a personal prison, a cage that is shut and locked. Modern medicine could only offer faint whispers of hope, a few illusive shadows of a better tomorrow, and nothing more.
However, in his long struggle, his faith remains. He clutches to a singular promise: The dead will rise again and live forever.
His conversation during this difficult time has been clear and pointed: How can a man know for sure if eternity is his? Can a person ever rest in the knowledge that they truly are a child of God? Is salvation a certainty or only a topic of after-dinner discussions for learned theologians?
In our current religious culture, topics concerning life after death, judgment seats, and eternal rewards seem trivial and speculative. As one modern writer quips, "eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now." So books on "having your best life now," "maximizing the moment", and "discovering the power within you" are flying off the shelves because they perfectly appeal to the candy coated appetite of consumer America. Meanwhile we put eternal realities on hold, because we are too busy chasing the glitter and sparkle of the stuff we want to have now!
I still believe the writer of Ecclesiastes was right, "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart."
Facing the truth that your body is wearing out is frightening. We hide the sick and dress up the dead. We celebrate youth. So we lift more weights, eat less gluten, suck in our cheeks, and flex in the mirror. But when it is your turn to lay in the hospital bed and watch fluid drip - - you begin to ask real questions. Life comes into focus and plastic religious slogans no longer work.
A friend is dying.
That means answers must be honest. He wants to know if you, as his pastor, really believe what you say. Pain will not put up with a poser. Sadly, most Christians these days are. That is why so few visit the sick.
But my friend needs answers, you need answers, your children need answers. I love how C. S. Lewis answers the question concerning eternity:
"We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky’, and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape’ from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no. Again, we are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it."
Heaven, resurrection and life eternal is "woven into our whole fabric." If there is not 'pie in the sky', who cares about the meal down here? What use is it if we enjoy a fancy dinner of eating for seventy to eighty years, and then like a mindless cow, go to the slaughterhouse of the grave left with nothing? Rather silly life of total futility isn't it; even if I look and act cool wearing an expensive suit while eating at the most exquisite restaurants?
And then you have to consider the 'what if?' What if I choose to ignore all the scriptural warnings and then they prove to be true? What if they are worse than I anything I could ever imagine? People are not smart because they choose to ignore what they cannot see. People are not brilliant because they can smugly sneer at death while thumbing their nose at what lies beyond.
The wise consider all the options. Wisdom especially listens to the words of the man who has faced death and survived. That man is Jesus.
A friend is dying...and he is wise. He is clinging to Jesus! Are you?
Jesus' last words on the cross have echoed across the collective psyche of the church for thousands of years:
"IT IS FINISHED!"
Have you ever wondered to yourself, "What is finished?" Though this phrase is catchy, I know many people would like some specifics. At least I know I did for a real long time. There are a number of ways to answer this:
(1) It could be that he was talking about how his life on earth had expired, his body was broken, and his first appearance on the stage of the history as a man was over. Physically he was finished. This is true, but I think Jesus was discussing something deeper with this statement.
(2) He came to obey his Father, he was sent to perform his will. After he fully and completely carried out his duty, he was finished. His Father's mission was accomplished. This also is true, but I believe there is one more important issue on the mind of Jesus when he said this.
(3) Payment for our sin to satisfy the justice of God was utterly fulfilled. Every last drop of punishment and wrath that was meant for us was spent on Jesus. No more suffering to complete sin's payment was ever needed again; the cup of condemnation had been drunk down to the very bottom of the wine glass, it was finished. Justice was served. God's anger was exhausted. Peace was achieved.
Any sapient person who grasps the reality of this last point should feel tremendous. Gratitude is a given. Jesus voluntarily paid for you! Hell, humiliation and separation from the life of God eternally is never to be feared again. Psalms 103:12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." This is quite a statement. Try catching the west sometime. The more you drive west the more you find the west is just as far away as when you first began.
I feel freedom. No longer do I have to perform to please God. He already is satisfied, he spent the totality of his anger on his Son, so he has nothing left for me but open arms. Even if I choose not to go to church on Sunday, put money in the offering, pray the rosary, take a pilgrimage to the Villa Della Rosa in Rome, watch Charleston Heston on the "Ten Commandments" for Easter, or I forget to wear my Sunday's best tie - - never again do I stand condemned. Romans 8:1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
Do you still condemn yourself during the day?
There is a silly pop-psychology, catchy cultural phrase that drives me crazy when Christians use it: "You need to learn to forgive yourself." Why? Are you a greater judge than Jesus? He already forgave you! If you can't forgive yourself does that mean you have more of a right to hold yourself guilty then God the Father in heaven does? And if you say yes, you must be more just and righteous than he is? God is done condemning, his wrath was extinguished on the cross, so why aren't you done condemning? (And this goes for your non-forgiveness toward other people too. If Jesus forgave them, who are you to hold a grudge? Who died and made you God?)
Well it all depends on whether or not God's anger was fully paid for? I think some people aren't quite sure if God is done condemning? I know people who claim to be Christian, but still really fear God because they never think they do enough to please him. They believe Jesus died, but they wonder if they need to help him out by continually doing more good things to stay on the good side of God? Is God really, and I mean really, satisfied with his Son's payment?
I like to ask it like this: “Is there any verifiable proof I am no longer under the condemnation of a Holy God? Has God provided any concrete validation that his wrath has been satisfied by Jesus’ death? Or is that it - Jesus died - never to be heard from again?"
In our own everyday world, if I pay for something, I usually am given a receipt to prove my payment has been accepted. When I buy admission to a play, movie or ball game, I am handed a ticket at the counter to show “proof of sale.” Even when I applied for college at the University of Dayton, I was sent a formal notification from the President that I was accepted.
Is there anything tangible like a receipt, ticket or letter, something I can touch or see, that proves Jesus’ payment was enough? I love what one writer says about the person of God, “While man preaches with words, God preaches with acts and deeds.” If that is true, what action or deed has he performed to shout to the world that the cross totally satisfied the anger of God?
Well, there is something, it is rather strange. The deed that God displayed still makes no sense to me...
Just listen to how Mark's gospel describes it: "As the women entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 'Don't be alarmed,' he said. 'You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He is risen!'"
Absurd...but I believe it with all of my soul. Truth is, Christianity stands or falls on this one simple claim. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is God's proof of purchase, it is our anchor for the soul. When it comes to paying for sin, the resurrection proves "It is Finished!" Paul says this, and listen close, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith...if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:14 & 17)
Do you believe this logical absurdity? If the answer is no, then how do you know your sins are actually considered fully paid for by God? Are you willing to enter eternity without a ticket?
I don't recommend it.
It's all Rick Dolphin's fault, and I'm mad!
He has been asking me for a while to buy the book, "Trust Me I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator." I finally downloaded it to my iPad, so now he can get off my back! Also, I just realized that after reading a little of this book, he is subtly trying to tell me I am a gullible sucker. I like to think that I am a very self-aware guy, not easily fooled, a person with a good head on his shoulders.
And then I started reading that stupid book, and I found out just how wrong I was.
It is a blue-print on how the media world fools do-gooder people like me; boy does it have me pegged. I am a sitting duck for manipulation. At first, the book was a slow read, tediously detailing the way every day news is created. We naively think the headlines are formed from objective truth seekers, journalists with pure motives and a deep desire to make the world a better place.
The real truth is, our news and top media headlines are derived from a wide-open sewer pipe collecting any poopy story that will capture people's attention, regardless if it based on fact or not. One provocative tweet by some unnamed source can send an avalanche of sludge across the cyber universe in a matter of minutes...and you and I are the unsuspecting ones on the other end of the newsfeed ready to choke down any mindless crapola thrown at us.
And then I read the chapter: "Tactic #3: Give Them What Spreads, Not What's Good"
This title says it all, popular news behaves like a nasty virus -- it moves from host to host with no regards to accuracy or honesty. All that matters is if it gets your attention. Hype is enough. As the chapter begins, "If it doesn't spread, it's dead."
And what causes information to spread? The answer is obvious, and it will shake you to your bones:
"The most powerful predictor of what spreads online is anger!"
Anger stirs you up, and then you have to spread it. This book goes on to say, "The angrier an article makes the reader, the better...anger triggers a desire to act...No marketer will ever push something with the stink of reasonableness, complexity or mixed emotions." See, how it works? Anger is designed to hook you in, and let me tell you, it works every time. It is brutish, born in the soil of sheer passion, no intellectual rigor required. Actually, logic and reason weaken the virus and keep it from spreading -- so the dumber the news and more in your face it is, the better!
So how do media manipulators arouse animal anger in us? Easy...
1) Push ideas to the extremes in order to pit people against each other.
2) Start every article with a loaded question.
3) Present everything as a crisis.
Let me show you how this works. It takes one tiny little question to start a fire storm...
"Are most Born-Again Christians Homophobic?"
Just by asking this question it implies they are. If you are Born-Again your anger will be aroused because you will feel attacked, and then you will naturally want to defend yourself. If you are not Born-Again you will feel that our world is being threatened by this dangerous and radical group of haters called Born-Again Christians. (Ironically Born-Again believers are some of the nicest and least violent people you will ever meet).
Headlines are designed to paint guilt before innocence is proven.
Who cares if homophobia is really something to worry about, or if it even exists at all. Seriously, when was the last time you ever lost sleep over overt homophobia? For the most part, the manipulators trolling our media outlets don't even care if homophobia is a real threat as much as just wanting people to rage from reading the headlines of their article.
If they get you angry they accomplished their goal. Divide and polarize to move the ratings needle up another notch. The angrier people get, the more money advertisers make; more hits generate interest which brings in the cash. Media moguls are making tremendous amounts of money off of our gullibility. Sad, isn't it?
Here are a few more inflammatory headlines...
* Is sugar toxic?
* Is racism on the rise in your local police department?
* Are most white Baptist preachers anti-women?
* Are all Indiana legislators against people in the LGBT community?
Divide, polarize, presume, assume, smear, point fingers, and then sit back and watch the fireworks. I will admit, their tactics really work on me; I have been known to explode a time or two on different occasions.
So what do we do to combat our natural born anger and fury? Ask yourself when looking at any given article, "Who does this writer want me to hate after reading this? What is making me so angry?" Next, pause and take a deep breath. And then sing as my Grandmother use to sing, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!" And quit being so gullible!
Oh yeah, one more thing, Rick Dolphin knows what he is doing when he is typing on-line...so you better watch out!