Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why Go to Church?

  If I've heard it once I've heard it a  thousand times; you don't have to  go to church to worship God.  This statement is usually made in response to a  question like 'Are you saved?', and isn't an answer to the question at all. If I ask 'Are you saved?' and your  response is 'You don't have to go to church', it's as nonsensical as if I had asked 'What color is my shirt' and you said 'It tastes like chicken'. It's a dodge; an evasive tactic to get around what was asked and at the same time  steer the conversation  towards whatever grievance the person has against some church somewhere or some pastor somewhere.  In fact,  just last week  a guy told me that God was actually against people going to church.  That was  just one  of  several weird  things he said all of which eventually led back to the  heart of the matter; he was mad at some preacher somewhere.
   Let me say this;  I don't blame you if you're mad at some preacher somewhere. I preach, and I pretty much stay irritated with myself.  But if you do as  some of my family have done and  stay away from church  for  multiple decades because this one guy  in this one place did this one thing, you're just being stupid.  Find another place, find another guy, and  wait for him to do some  completely different thing so that you can get mad all over again and stay home.  Go for it.  Take your ball and go home.  Pout.  We will all be impressed with your ability to not only get hurt and stay hurt because after all, that's hard to do. After all, you're  the only person that's ever been hurt or discouraged  or disappointed.  In fact, we would all be really impressed if you started a blog or website or something where you can tell everybody how  hurt you've been. Maybe you can find other bitter people and you can spend your 'worship time' blasting an making snide comments about people you used to pray for.
   I'm getting off topic.
   I won't argue that you can't read the Bible  by yourself at home,because obviously you can and you should. You can also pray by yourself at home and sing at home, and you  certainly should.  But the fact is  that God has instituted the gathering of believers together because  there are certain things that God wants done in all our lives that can  only happen when we assemble.  If you stay home, you will miss out on what God wants to do  in your life. Rather than listing all the  really swell reasons  you have for staying home, let me show you  a handful of reasons from the Bible  why you should go. Since we are all so self-obsessed,  I'll even leave out the ones where God benefits, and just focus on the ones that benefit you.
 1. Giving  I  figured I'd start out with the  one that is most likely to make people stop reading. There is  another post in the works that deals with giving, but the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 16 " Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.  Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store , as God hath prospered him , that there be no gatherings when I come."  One of the reasons you should go to church is so that you  can give away some of your money.  If you hold to the idea that  church isn't for you, then  you surely wouldn't be bothered if we showed up at your door with a collection plate, would you?  Somehow I suspect that you would.  The Bible is clear; God says get together  on the first day of the week and take up an offering.  If you want to skip that,  go right ahead, I'm not your dad.  But giving is fun, and  the work will get done either way.
  2. Growth .  The Bible says in Ephesians 4  "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" God desires  to grow you and to  use you to grow others. To accomplish this, God gave to the church people who can preach and teach the Bible so that  those people might  help perfect each other. As you 'worship God' in your deer stand or in your living room, or at the beach (these are all places that people  have assured me where they can worship God while avoiding the question) ask yourself this ; who are you edifying, and who is edifying you?  The concept implies that you have to be around other people to do it.  The local assembly is where you can  learn some Bible, where you can  have your iron sharpened by other iron, and where you can learn to tolerate people who are less mature and less spiritual than you. 
 3. Friendship  In Romans 16 , Paul names some names. " I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:  That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.  Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:  Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks , but also all the churches of the Gentiles.  Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.  Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.  Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.  Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord.  Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.  Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household.  Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.  Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.  Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.  Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them.  Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them."  All theology aside, if that group of people  had simply gotten saved and then lived a Lone Ranger Christianity, Paul never would have known them, and they never would have known each other.  They never would have known the joy of not only  ministering, but ministering and labouring together. I have my own list, and it includes not only people in both churches that I've been a part of, but street preachers all over the world.  If you don't have a list like this, you don't have any idea what you've been missing.  How are you supposed to bear one another's burdens if you don't know who one another are?
  That comes with it the risk that you'll be  hurt, or  swindled, or lied to or lied about. That's definitely a possibility. But everybody else you go to church with is also  taking that chance with you. So you MIGHT have a bad experience if you go, but you WILL  miss out if you stay away.  That's pretty easy math, I think.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Being Pretty


If my wife and I had known each other as children


  My wife is  very pretty. I mean, we had 4 kids in  6 years, that's how pretty she is.  When she recently revealed that she had never changed a flat tire, I was amazed. I wondered how this was even possible since she has been driving for over two decades now.  She  told me that , when the flat occurred, there was always some guy that  would come along and be willing to do it for her.  Man, that must be nice.
  By comparison while my wife was not changing her own tires, I  have spent an inordinate amount of time on my back in the dark , looking up at mystifying engine parts in the pouring rain while an indifferent  cavalcade of humanity whizzed by mere inches from my feet in their  perfectly  functioning vehicles.  Perhaps one of them did occasionally cast an eye in my direction out of morbid curiosity as to what sort of trouble the poor chucklehead has gotten himself into this time.  Ah well, they  probably think , better him than me.  Not that I'm bitter.
  It's bad enough that attractive people  already  enjoy the advantage of being well..attractive.  Isn't it enough that people  naturally like you , and  naturally  want to date you, and if you're a woman, naturally want to  buy you stuff?  Isn't that enough of a leg up on the rest of us?  Apparently not.  If one is (as a man) tall, and  well-built and handsome, study after study has proven that doors open for you. The taller guy makes more money, and  usually is elected President over the shorter guy.   Attractive people tend to live longer and if you're an attractive woman , the world is unarguably your oyster. 
  We all know this  is true, but the  pretty people, amazingly, will argue with you over this.  As ridiculous as their arguments are, and  no matter how  unhinged from reality the discussion becomes, it's hard to stay mad at them because they are  just so pretty.
  The rest of us  do enjoy a couple of pretty substantial advantages over the 'pretties'.  One is that, because there are so many of us and so few of them,  occasionally one of them has to marry us.  It's just  statistically impossible to avoid it.  Sometimes the  gap between the  'pretties' and the  'not-so-muches' is so vast that everybody that sees them wonders "How in the world did he pull that off?' And yes, Danny, I'm thinking of you.  So we get the  advantage of having a  pretty mate, and the subsequent advantage of being left alone while everybody talks to our pretty mate.  For the misanthropic among us, that's quite a hefty win.
  Time also is the  great equalizer among the haves and have-nots.  It has been said that being born beautiful is like being born rich and getting poorer every day. The musclebound jock loses his hair, the homecoming queen  gains   weight.  Teeth fall out, eyes grow dim, and eventually they  have to live where the rest of us have been our entire lives.  That is an advantage.
  The real advantage however is in toughness.  Those of us whose lives have been defined by discomfort are better prepared for the ups and downs of life, especially the downs.  You can hit me as hard as you can , literally or metaphorically, and I will (eventually) get back up because life has been knocking me down since I could stand up.  Being a non-pretty has made me that way.  Being short  makes you learn to fight, and being  slightly homely makes you able to blend in the crowd. Nobody notices you because nobody really wants to look at you.  By extension, if the advantages of prettiness were ever stripped away by the circumstances of life ( maybe if the entire world went blind or something),  my money is on the have-nots.  If you're a pretty woman and you want a guy who wont crack and crumble and  cry like a sissy girl  when something goes wrong, marry an ugly guy. He's been dealing with hardship his entire life, and he'll make you look prettier by comparison.
  Don't just root for the underdog.  Go a step further, and root for the ugly, short, misanthropic, nearsighted underdog with a bad haircut.   We  have a surprising amount  going for us. We have pretty wives, the advantage of time, strength in numbers and a  hide thick enough to crack cinder blocks.  That's quite a combination.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Sufficiency of Jesus Christ

  We live in very curious times for the child of God. We live in  an  age in which  the body of Christ has taken on and absorbed the  philosophy of the world and put  great stock in the pronouncements of psychiatry and psychology. We live in an age in which your every twitch and glitch  has been  given an acronym and a diagnosis by Christ-rejecting pill-dispensing doctors. It's a dangerous age.
    Assuming that people have always  been people, and that since Adam walked out of the garden mankind has been plagued with heartaches and sorrow one cannot  help but ask questions about previous generations. How did the body of Christ get along before all this?  How did we  survive the Inquisition, and the Black death without  Valium?  How did Susanna Wesley raise over 20 children without Prozac? How did we survive the  fires of Nero without Abilify? Could it be that Christians  did the unthinkable? Could it be that they actually relied on God and  shunned  the vain babbling of the  witch-doctory of their day as unfit for a redeemed child of God?
  When  questions like this  get asked,  usually the reaction is  quite telling. People will defend  their dependencies.  People will say things like "You don't know what you're talking about." or "You don't know what it's like." or "You've never been through a storm like mine."  Be careful with your assumptions.  But truly,  life is full of tragedy and sorrow and I haven't  borne  one tenth of the  burdens some have borne.  That's not the point. My storm versus your storm isn't the point. My heartache versus  your heartache or my craziness versus your craziness isn't the point. The point is that Jesus Christ is sufficient for ALL our needs.
  The Bible says in Isaiah 61:1 that "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted , to proclaim liberty to the captives , and the opening of the prison to them that are bound ; " That means that Jesus Christ has a ministry  to crazy people, to  broken hearts and   sons of Adam  that are mangled and marred by sin. If you choose to  deaden yourself by whatever means, then you miss out on a chance for Jesus Christ himself to minister to you.
  We all have baggage, and we  all have issues, and we also all have a choice in how to deal with them.  You can  rely on the Lord, or you can rely on something else.  Jesus Christ is either sufficient for your storm, or he isn't. The Bible says in Colossians 2 "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.  For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.  And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:"   You are complete in him, which implies that , as simplistic and bumper-sticker-ish as it sounds, all you need is Jesus.  The world offers you a counterfeit in philosophy and vain deceit, and its a foolish  Christian who  trusts in the wisdom of this world when he can trust in the Author of  life itself.
  The Bible promises in Isaiah 26 "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." The New Testament  reminds us in 1 Cor 15 that "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." and commands us in Eph 4  to ".. henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk , in the vanity of their mind...".
  The weaknesses of your mind  and the frailties of your flesh and  the  storms of your life  provide an excellent opportunity for God to  minister to you and to show his strength through  your life.  that's why  2 Cor 5 says "Of such an one will I glory : yet of myself I will not glory , but in mine infirmities.  For though I would desire to glory , I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear , lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak , then am I strong.  "
  I have seen the ravages of modern psychiatry destroy the minds of people in my family. I have also seen the saints of God go through unspeakable, horrific circumstances with tears, and weeping, and the power of God on their life.  With  such clear contrasts available, it has always seemed so strange to me that the same crowd who would condemn me for seeking solace in a whiskey bottle for my troubles  would  seek solace for their troubles in a pill bottle.  I wouldn't go to  a lost person for  advice on  trouble with my spirit, so why would I  trust  an unregenerate  psychiatrist or psychologist or therapist to  help me with my problems, especially when Jesus Christ has promised that he would help me?  After all the Bible says in Galatians 2 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live ; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. "
  As a word of testimony, I can tell you , without hesitation that my mind is held together  with God's help and by God's word.   Outside of  God's upholding hand, and preserving grace, I am as crazy as a bedbug and would probably destroy my entire life with foolishness.  Knowing this, and knowing that  the world offers no real help forces me to rely on God, and  allows him to minister to me.  I don't write this as someone who has no issues. I write this as a redeemed sinner whom God has helped  beyond my ability to explain. I know a thing or two about this.
  In closing, let me say that if you are trusting in some sort of medicine to make it through the day emotionally or mentally, I'm not mad at you, and I don't consider you a lesser Christian. I  just think that you are missing out on a  glorious opportunity.  I'm not telling you to go  pour your  pills down the drain.  I am just asking you to take a long, hard look at what the word of God says, and   try to align your life to it.  It's completely  worth it.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Christians and the State


  On the issue of  the Christian, and  the  role of government, I have friends on both ends of  the spectrum and  most points in between. I am probably going to leave out various important nuances in their positions, inadvertently constructing straw men. This is not my intent. but here goes.
  I have friends that consider themselves stateless libertarians or will even go so far as to call themselves anarchists.  Their position (perhaps oversimplified) is that liberty is a gift from God and that since governments tend to curtail liberty, the government cannot also be a gift from God. These anarchists will  say that ,scripturally, the kingdoms of this world are satanically run, and satanically owned.  The state, they would say, is the  very citadel of Satan, and as such  so  we owe it no  allegiance.  They would  point to the power grabs and abuses of  the state (regardless of who is in charge) as proof of this  malfeasance, and say that  government power is the enemy of humanity.  They  oppose the initiation of force against any individual, and since that's pretty much all government does is make people do things by force, they  must oppose the government.  That's one extreme.
  I also have friends that consider themselves  'minarchists'.  They hold that government is a necessary evil and  begrudgingly support some basic government functions as long as those functions support and protect their natural God-given rights.  I personally think that Thomas Jefferson would probably qualify as a minarchist.
  I have friends who consider themselves 'constitutionalists' and think that a person who opposes the  government opposes God.  There is  some pretty significant  scripture for this position. And rounding out the  spectrum, I have friends who cite Romans 13 as their proof text that whatever the  government says goes, and  we ought to be happy about it.  Pay your taxes with a smile on your face and thank God it isn't any worse.  There is a subset of this group that don't even vote, since, by their logic, a vote against an  incumbent is in itself an act of rebellion against the  power God has placed in your life.  That would be, in my estimation, the other end of the spectrum.
  Perhaps its an intellectual glitch of mine that I  can  experience a certain amount of sympathy for all these positions.  It's an issue I think about  quite a bit, as a public minister, and  by the time I get done  exploring this, you may be as confused as I am about what I think, but here goes:
  Governments are instituted by God. Scripture is clear on this, and the pattern,  in scripture appears that  bad government is a punishment for  a wicked populace.  Liberty is indeed a gift from god, and when that liberty is misused, that liberty is withdrawn. In the meantime, barring some sort of  national repentance, we are commanded to  submit ourselves unto every ordinance of man for the  gospel's sake.  The  world systems and world governance are at the moment, satanically controlled, but even under those conditions,  the Holy Spirit wrote to the churches to obey them and pray for the human  representatives. It's a complicated idea, with  tricky applications that must be universal to be of any use whatsoever. What in the world is a freedom-loving  person who wants to obey the scriptures  supposed to do?
  I wont be doing a blow-by blow dissertation of Romans 13, which was the original idea for this post.  I won't  claim, as some have, that Romans 13 is mistranslated, but rather that Romans 13 must be understood in light of other scriptures. I won't waste  one minute of your time ( at least not today) bogging down into  the nuances of what is and is not legitimate government.  Instead,  I want to  highlight three principles that should  help establish what exactly our attitude and actions should be as citizens of heaven who are, for the time being, stuck here.

The First Principle: Non-Distraction
  I think the  first principle that needs to be covered is the principle of non-distraction.  I am a stranger, and a sojourner here; a pilgrim and an alien.  As the old song  says "This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through". That doesn't relieve us from obligations to our fellow man, but you must understand that the world is horribly broken, and has been for quite some  time. Our emphasis has to be on the spiritual since our  ultimate accountability to God won't be based on whether we  got this ordinance  passed or this  law repealed; it will be based off of what we did  with the the  gospel of Jesus Christ. There is  no crown given out at the Judgement Seat of Christ for 'sticking it to the man'. Whether you live  in North Korea, or Hong Kong, or the United States, Jesus still saves, and long after the empires of the world have crumbled to dust, he will still be all that he claims to be.  Hundreds of thousands of Christians have  lived their entire lives under tyranny and have  fulfilled the Great Commission and  led very successful Christian lives despite never having owned an AK-47. We cannot lose our focus  squabbling over the things of this world. I could campaign to  dismantle the TSA and succeed, but if that's all I ever did and my neighbor never gets the gospel, I have wasted my  time. That's not a cop-out, that's a matter of keeping perspective, and keeping that principle in view will give us a  way to keep our perspective amidst the clamor of application..
  For example, let's say I'm opposed to taxation, which I am. Let's say  that I believe taxation to be theft, which I do. Let's say that I believe there to be  scant difference between the highwayman and the Congress, which I do. I do not gloss over that the state is stealing from me, but  the same state is stealing from  my co-worker who is lost.  My attitude should be that, as  abhorrent as the theft is, I may need to tolerate it for the bigger picture. In other words, it is  better to have had a portion of your income consistently and systematically stolen from you, than to rail against it and lose your testimony.  As  a reviewer of this post pointed out, life very rarely is an either/or scenario. If you can do both, then by all means proceed.
 
The Second Principle: For the Lord's Sake
  But in the meantime I  do still have to live here and I do have to function under a  government that is increasingly  restrictive and hostile. It's a common mistake in Bible exposition to  quote only part of verse, but the oft cited "submit yourselves to every ordinance of man" isn't the whole verse, and it certainly isn't the  whole sentence. Looking at the whole sentence gives us our second principle.1 Peter 2:13-16 says "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.  For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:  As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God"  There are caveats and  qualifiers given for your obedience to wit; you are to do it, not for your own sake, but for the Lord's sake. Paul  in 1 Corinthians 9  goes into various  inconveniences and restrictions he put on his  own life "for the gospel's sake".  You are required to obey the government and treat it as if it  was performing it's legitimate functions if doing so gives you more opportunities to  put the gospel out. If obeying the government hinders the gospel , it seems clear to me that you are free to disobey, and the Acts 5:29 principle ("We ought to obey God rather than men.") comes into play.  Paul went to prison and  never once complained that he was wrongly imprisoned, even though he was.  He suffered, and suffered well, and that  put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.  Paul understood that his imprisonment enabled him to reach men with the gospel that couldn't be reached any other way, so he endured tyranny for the Lord's sake.
  Here is an application. I despise the TSA. I  believe them to be  wicked, and a violation of all that used to be America.  I have, on purpose avoided flying because of them. But soon I hope to be traveling to the Philippines to preach.  I will probably have to submit myself to their  degradation, but I do it not because I think they are right or legitimate; I do it for the Lord's sake, and for the gospel's sake. I honestly can't see any way around it. I  also  maintain that , as I  will  give an account  to how I handled it as his representative, they will give account for being perverts and horrible instruments of a corrupt  state.


The Third Principle: Prayer
  Moving on to another oft-half-quoted passage of scripture, we arrive at 1 Tim 2.  It is often said that we are to pray for those in power, but looking at the whole passage ,we see once again, conditions and caveats.  1 Tim 2:1-4 says "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;  Who will have all men to be saved , and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.".   I am not obligated to pray for Mr. Obama' drone warfare to succeed or for the continued inculcation  of socialism. I am supposed to pray specifically to God that Mr. Obama will leave me alone. Left alone, I  can live a  quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. Why would I want this?  According to  verse 4, I should want this so that the gospel can be put out!  There obviously are some other benefits to being free, but the main advantage of being free is not that I am free to do wrong, but that I am free to do  right!


 There are  obviously many facts to this, and I  don't purport to be  smart enough to explore them all, but let's take  these three principles and apply them to an extreme scenario.
  You are a Christian living in Nazi Germany  in the  the early 1940's. You are  commanded by the government to  turn in your Jewish  neighbors.  Are you obligated to obey? They are, after all, the government. If they take your neighbors and haul them off to  a death camp, they will probably never hear the gospel.  You are obligated by the gospel to disobey, and when the men  come with stick and guns to thump you in the head you will be suffering for righteousness sake.
  This same  Nazi  regime is taxing you to pay for the death camps.  I think you are justified in  hiding your income from them by any means  possible without lying, committing fraud or losing your testimony.   If you do any of these things, be aware that the men with  sticks and guns may come for you and put you in jail. You must weigh out if it is worth it and if you are going for the right reasons. If you must go to jail, go to jail for the gospel, not for tax evasion, but if a mugger  tells you to empty your wallet, you are under no obligation to tell them about the money hidden in your sock.
  You are  also allowed scripturally to  flee persecution if possible.  If Jesus' mom and stepdad can skip town to avoid  being killed by Herod, rest assured you can too.
  In the meantime you are to pray that God will  turn the hearts of the Nazi overlords  and  that they will leave you (and your neighbor ) alone so that you can continue to  get the gospel out.








Sunday, April 6, 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

Man at His Best State is Altogether Vanity



 
The Burning of an Anabaptist by the  Church of Rome

(Note:  The original title to this post was 'The Big Something' until I discovered that was also the name of a rock band.  Who knew?  Among the other  considered titles was 'How to Main, Kill and Destroy" and "How to Shoot Your Own Wounded")


A few years back, a friend of mine started digging around in his Bible, and he found something.  This particular something flew directly in the face of everything he had been taught, and ran contrary to the position both of his denomination and of his church.  But there it was.  He couldn’t pretend he didn’t see it.  He kept looking, and found out that he wasn’t the only person that   believed this.  But it still was an unpopular position among his immediate ministry circle. Some would even call it a heresy.  So what is a guy supposed to do?
  He talked to his pastor about the ‘something’, but was unsatisfied by the answer. The ‘something’ was so obvious; he couldn’t believe he had missed it so long.  He kept looking, and kept digging.  He didn’t want to make waves, so he was very select in who he spoke to regarding this ‘something’.  I was one of the select few, and I disagreed with him. Sometimes loudly.  We hashed the issue, and its various sub issues back and forth over the next   couple of years, and the more he looked, the more convinced he became that there was ‘something’ there.
  His pastor was concerned that this heresy, with it’s various implications, would get a foothold in the church and cause a great disruption.  Such is the job of a shepherd.  He promised his pastor that, although he would continue his own private investigations, he wouldn’t share his findings with anybody outside of the people that already knew. As far as I know, he stuck to that.  His pastor recommended that he write his thoughts down.  The pastoral intent , I believe, was that once it was all written down and  out there for him to look at, the error in his ‘something’ would be obvious.  My friend began to dutifully take notes and write.
  From his continued research, he concluded that the common teaching regarding the ‘something’ was in error.  To stand by what he  now believed would  put him at odds, at least privately, with virtually everybody he fellowshipped with, both home and abroad. My friend is an excitable guy by nature, and he began to be very excited about this.  The implications of the ‘something’ began to   cause him to rethink some of his other theological assumptions.  That made him run even more contrary to his peers, and his long-suffering wife worried that his passion over this subject and its ancillaries would cause great division among the people they both knew and loved.  One day, he looked down at his notes and realized he had the makings of a book.  What’s a guy supposed to do?
  He wrote his book, and self-published it after enduring the scourging of his manuscript by friends of his in the ministry from across the country. I was also part of this scourging, and bled red ink all over my paper copy before returning it to him. We continued to disagree, though I tried to be not so loud about it.  I felt that eventually he would see his own error and I saw no point to make a return to his previous position any harder than it had to be. We all have goofy ideas now and then, and the less people know about them the better and easier it is to outlive them.
  Unfortunately, it got ugly after that.  The sentiment was while it was acceptable to have a doctrinal disagreement with your church leadership, it is open rebellion to publicize that disagreement. The sentiment was that such an open proclamation drew more attention to this issue than it deserved, and made it appear that he was disloyal to his pastor. People equated disagreement with disloyalty. I can honestly say that I don’t think he meant any of that.  But now it was out there in the big bad world, and various people felt the need to confront him over it.  Some esteemed ministry figures weighed in on the book. They wrote letters that were pointedly personal, and tried to make a connection between this book and some family issues that he was having.  He was accused of being subversive and an enemy of the truth.  Like I said, it was ugly.  He spent his evenings with his stomach in knots and his wife in tears.  Was the ‘something’ really that dangerous?
  I watched all this from afar, and tried to learn something from it.  What I had already learned was that it was very difficult to not get emotionally wrapped up in this issue. I learned that I am way more petty than I give myself credit for.  I saw, revealed in myself, great chasms of immaturity.   I found it difficult to disagree without being disagreeable and equally difficult to contend without being contentious. I backed away from the issue, and avoided the topic.  I even told somebody that I wouldn’t discuss this topic until I could discuss it like a grown-up, and I wasn’t even sure if that would ever happen.
  The end of the story was this; he pulled the book.  Keep in mind that he hasn’t changed his mind about his position; he simply decided that it wasn’t worth his wife’s tears and his pastor's blood pressure to continue publicly in this position.  I asked him if he had learned anything from all this, and his answer spoke volumes; “it’s better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
  Let me tell you what I learned from all this.  I learned that our ‘crowd’ who pride themselves on individuality and soul liberty are capable of just as much blind groupthink as anybody else.  We count ourselves as being the independent crowd yet when somebody displayed independence, we turned on him.  I learned that NOBODY handled this the way it should have been handled. I learned that personality is as much a factor in the ministry as truth, and those of us that claim we live by ‘faith not feelings’ get our feelings hurt surprisingly easy when somebody disagrees with us.  I unfortunately, didn’t learn anything that made me happy, just things that made me very sad.
  Knowing things like this, why would anybody in their right mind glory in their  church or their pastor or their denomination when they could glory in the  perfect Son of God and  his perfect  substitution death on the  cross? Why put your faith in people who apparently don't even know how to handle themselves when you could put your faith in Jesus Christ who always handles everything correctly?  Somebody once told me that they  didn't think I could ever disappoint them. They said this  despite the fact that I disappoint myself all time. The old songwriter was right when he said "The arm of flesh will fail you, you dare not trust your own".  The smartest guy you know is a fleshly idiot  if you catch him  on the right day.  The most spiritual man you know  is a big bag of dirt  who will not only do the unthinkable, but justify it under the right circumstances. We are  as grass, and we need God's help more than we have any idea.  Not just for the big things, or the big somethings; we need God's help not to devour each other with our reactions to things.  Maybe that was the good that came out of all that.  Maybe those of us that were willing to see  it needed to be reminded what a  bunch of chuckleheads we are. Maybe  people like me needed to be reminded that we are still people like me.
  Thank God for Jesus!

Monday, March 31, 2014

UFO's and the Bible: Part 3: Who Are They?

 As we covered in the previous  two posts, the human race has been seeing  strange lights in the sky and  encounters with odd  beings for as long as recorded history.  It is only recently that the  popular imagination has rendered this 'whatevers' as intelligent visitors from another world. These visitors are assumed to be more intelligent than us, and certainly more evolved than us. But those of us that try to look at the world from a Biblical perspective, cannot subscribe to the 'little green men from Mars' theory.  The Bible is clear; the earth alone was made to be inhabited.  The God who made the earth intends to rule from here, and all of his creation come to worship him here.  Now we must address the  final question; if they aren't aliens, what are they?
  Keep in mind that the human race does not exist in a  vacuum. The Bible presents us with the  idea of an adversary; the devil. He was the "anointed cherub that covereth" and now he is the  "accuser of the brethren". Though not omniscient or omnipresent, he is proclaimed to be, in scripture, "the god of this world".  In Ephesians  6:12, our warfare  against the spiritual  forces is said to have its theatre of operations the  "high places". Furthermore, the devil is said  in Ephesians 2 to be the "prince of the power of the air".    These lights in the sky could very well be the  manifestations  of the one that the Bible  says  masquerades as an "angel of light".  Since Genesis chapter 3, his goal has been to  delude, confuse, and pervert men away from the service of God.  He uses  every trick in his arsenal, including bad doctrine and  anti-biblical philosophy to blind the  eyes and hearts of men and thusly deny God the worship that is his due.  It seems hardly surprising then that, among the  pile of bankrupt ideas of the New Age movement, we would find a reverence for these enlightened visitors that borders on worship.  This particular subset of New Age literature props up the narrative that a  warring, polluting self-destructive  humanity  needs the intervention of these space brothers who will then  usher humanity into a period of peace, prosperity, and universal brotherhood. None of this should surprise the  Bible believer who was warned of "seducing spirits" and "doctrines of devils".
  Much as  there are people who claim to  channel the spirits of the  dead, there are  New Age practitioners who claim to be able to relay messages from space men.  These messages, assuming they are genuine, are  revealing in themselves. You see, if these visitors are actually  enlightened beings further along the evolutionary trail than us, as they claim to be, then surely  they would have outgrown the  narrow-minded precepts of religious thought.  One would think they would give no more heed to the Bible than a modern man gives to cave drawings. But quite the opposite,these  beings seem  veritably obsessed with the person of Jesus Christ. Though odd behavior for an alien, it falls right into line with the  character of the one who claimed "I will be like the Most High."
  In the  book Alien Contact: The Messages they Bring by Bonnie Meyer  these visitors take credit for a great deal of God's work. "a UFO moved in the sky to Bethlehem and then placed itself by a star in the sky.  and also a UFO helped to part the Red Sea..by lasers...the UFO's were working for God...These UFO's provided the manna from heaven.  No, I'm not saying that God did not do this, but God worked through the UFO's to produce this.  Also , God used a laser to write  those things on the tablet, the commandments.  These UFO's also parted the Jordan river."
  Furthermore, these beings when they communicate  manifest many of the same characteristics  of a poltergeist  with  the occult phenomena that typically surround a haunting or a  possession.  Strange noises , unexplained marks, lost time,  television or radio interference are all hallmarks of a poltergeist and also accompany a visitation or an 'abduction'.  Frankly, these abduction stories are not for the faint of heart. They often involve torture, and  only  appear to happen to the unsaved.  One doesn't have to read far into the  alien abduction to see that, as Dave Hunt quipped " The same people in charge of haunted houses are in charge of flying saucers."
  A recent theme that has surfaced is the  idea of alien-human breeding program.  This isn't particularly 'recent' though, as the same  stunt was pulled  back in Genesis 6. As usual, your Bible runs decades ahead of current events. Missler and Eastman, in their book  Alien Abductions write "A recurring theme in the abduction scenario is the delivery of detailed messages to abductees . The messages delivered  to abductees are typically done by  telepathic (mind to mind) conversations..In some cases, abductees report being shown scenes or messages on large screens within the alien craft. These messages are usually horrific  prophetic scenarios about impending cataclysmic events on earth and the destruction of Earth due to  environmental degradation.  In some cases overt religious messages are given to abductees. These messages can include the notion that he aliens are our creators, that they are trying to  advance our evolution through these breeding programs, and that mankind must unify- with their assistance- into a system  of global governance and religion in order to survive the future cataclysms."
  Dr. Jacques Valee wrote in Confrontations ; "The medical examination to which abductees are said to be subjected , often accompanied by sadistic sexual manipulation, is reminiscent of the medieval tales of encounters with demons.  It makes no sense in a sophisticated or technical framework; any intelligent being  equipped with the  scientific marvels  that UFOs posses would be in a position  to achieve any of these alleged scientific objectives in a shorter time and with fewer risks."
  John Ankenberg and John Weldon ask  the obvious question in their book The Facts on UFOs and Other Supernatural Phenomena.  "Further , in light of the messages given by the UFO entities, how credible is it to think that literally thousands of genuine extraterrestrials would fly millions or billions of light years simply to teach new Age philosophy, deny Christianity, and support the occult?  And why would the entities actually possess and inhabit people ( as in Walk-ins and channeling) just like demons do if they were really advanced extraterrestrials?  Why would they consistently lie about things which we know are true,  and why would they purposefully deceive their contacts?"
   As the final  nail in the coffin, I  give you a quote from the esteemed Carl Sagan, who, though an  opponent of Biblical  Christianity  his entire life, became a Bible believer on December 20th, 1996.  In his work Intelligent Life in the Universe, Dr. Sagan asked "What might an  advanced extraterrestrial civilization want from us?  One of the primary  motivations for the exploration of the New World  was to  convert the inhabitants to Christianity -peacefully if possible-forcefully if necessary. Can we exclude the possibility of an extraterrestrial evangelism?"


Note:  Anyone interested in  a more detailed coverage of this topic should read this.  It's the least I can do after  'borrowing' his  graphic.