1Now the Spirit speaketh
expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith,
On occasion strange thoughts cross my mind. I suppose this happens to most all of us at one time or another. This time I was thinking how so many people think of their Christianity as a Superman costume. Consider how Superman, as long as he wears his big red "S" on his chest and his cape, is invulnerable. Nothing can touch him. You can shoot canons at him and he will hardly notice it. The Christian is the same way with his cloak of Christianity. No sin can touch him (or her); that is, in their mind, the consequences of their sin is beyond them whereas the "common man" will suffer forever for committing the same sin as does our Superman.
Superman is the great humanitarian. The moment he hears someone in need, he shucks his outer garments and hastens to the side (or under their feet if they're falling from a high building, which they usually are) of the unfortunate soul. The Christian, in a much more subtle way of course, is supposed to do the same thing.
Superman can fly. Well, according to many Christians there will be a day they will fly as well. They call that day "the Rapture." I won't delve any deeper into that subject other than to remind everyone that Superman is a fantasy.
You're in a mall or a super market (or a weakling market if that's where you shop). You're in the checkout line. It takes you a while to get through the line because the lady at the counter can't find her checkbook, her card won't accept, and there are several items she's purchasing that don't ring up the price she wants to pay. You have time on your hands. What to do to occupy the time? No problem, the store has graciously provided for just such an occurrence. On your left is a rack of reading material offering the sort of mind stimulation everyone enjoys. You can choose from the latest soap opera magazine that relates in fiction what the tabloids filling the racks afford, or you can purchase the tabloids themselves and learn all the things you should never know about anyone's private life.
On your right, right at your elbow, is a full rack of munchies to nibble on while you gather up the weekly mind dirt. What to choose for the satisfaction of the digestive pallet. Something nutritious because you're on a diet, and your blood sugar is running high. And while you're thinking about something to satisfy your hunger now, you think about how you might need something to keep you from getting hungry on the drive home. That's all of ten minutes you know. Three candy bars should do it.
Sound familiar? Have you ever noticed that it's not the newspaper that's available for reading? That's all the way at the front of the store, or in the rack outside the store. Not that the news is any better than the trash in the tabloids, but it's cheaper, and it at least will hold the latest baseball scores and the sale flyers that you're going to read anyway. And for nibblers, do you ever see anything with the slightest bit of healthiness to them in the racks at the counter? Couldn't they have some fruit, or some dried apples, or something else that wouldn't kill a laboratory rat (I tried to think of something that would be appropriate for such a rack, but I guess they don't bother to make such things).
Why do you suppose it's junk and trash that's provided to ease our discomfort? Of course it's because people will buy things that's conveniently placed for them during these times of wait: But why trash and junk food? 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2Tim 4:) 13But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2Tim 3:13)
That's what people want, and what they will buy and read. If people ate apples and read the Bible, then apples and Bibles would fill those racks. According to statistics most people in this country are Christians. But very few know the slightest thing about Jesus, nor do they care. They just like being Christians. It's to them like a small boy who doesn't like baseball, nor can he swing a bat to save his bacon, but he likes a Red Socks shirt, and wears it all the time. Christianity has become nothing more than a name tag to pin (not sew) on one's jacket.
Christians buy the junk food and the junk magazines just as much as does the world of the great unsaved. In fact, I dare say that if all those who claimed to be Christian refused to buy the junk at the counter the stores would put up something else, because it's the Christian who caters to the junk, the world often having better things to keep them occupied.
In church the other day the pastor-teacher said that if Christians got out and voted we could turn this nation around and such things as abortion and same-sex marriages wouldn't get voted in. I don't think he's aware that it's the Christians who are voting in these things, just like they're voting to allow such things in their pews and behind the pulpit.
The stores will offer us whatever we want to buy. It's the same at book stores, bars, restaurants, movies, and the drug dealer on the corner. They will provide whatever John Q Public is willing to buy. If the drug dealer couldn't sell his drugs because people were buying apples instead, he would become an apple peddler.
Whatever we're willing to buy is what will be sold. Do you know why the churches have gone from selling fear of the Lord to peddling the love of Jesus? What do you think has brought about the concept of once saved, always saved, and all it takes to be saved is a dip in the water? It's the same thing that causes the stores to offer tabloids and candy - that's what we're buying.
According to my Greek concordance a lie is an attempt to deceive, or to utter an untruth. And my dictionary tells me that a person who is gullible is a person who is easily deceived.
I don't think there's anyone who will openly state that they are a lar, or that they are easily deceived. However, I think there are very few of us who will not admit, at least to themselves, that they have lied sometime in their life (for myself I can't count the number of times I've lied, although at the time I was able to justify the lie), or that they have been deceived at one time or another.
I suspect that when we look back at the lies we've told we see how we had not set out to deceive anyone, but for one reason or another circumstances had changed thereby causing our ability or our desires to change as well. And because we no longer feel the same as we did when we made a statement, promise or contract, we no longer feel we should follow through with what we said we would do.
Man is born wearing blinders. For those of you unfamiliar with blinders, they're what we put on horses (or used to in the days of horse-drawn wagons) so they can only look forward and not be distracted by anything that is not directly in front of their eyes. When we are told anything we view what we're told with some degree of suspicion. To not do so is to lay ourselves open to being deceived. And don't we know from many experiences that there are multitudes of voices in this world making great effort to deceive?
Those who are easily deceived are what we call gullible. Small children are gullible because they have not yet learned to mistrust. With maturity comes, or at least should come some degree of mistrust so we may avoid the deceptions and the outright lies of the serpent, and even our family and friends.
Eve was deceived in the garden by a serpent. Most of us would be cautious if a serpent spoke to us. But when it's friends, family and those we trust who say the same things the serpent might say, we tend to have our guard lowered a bit, exposing our gullibility. If we find that one person or another tends to be less than honest, or they lack integrity, we raise our guard when they tell us anything.
However, there is one person
who, no matter how many times they lie to us, we continue to trust
their words and to wear our blinders around them, even justifying their
lies and their deceitfulness.
What is a vow? In the Old Testament the word is used to mean "a promise" with the added proviso that when we make a promise that promise is to God, not just the person we're speaking to. The New Testament uses the word "promise" in place of "vow," although the meaning is the same. We think of a promise as something we make outside the bounds of daily living. By that I mean we think of a contract signed or at least the shaking of hands or some other method of binding our words to our actions. But the word promise in the Greek carries with it the idea of mere "assert, announce or assent" constituting a promise.
There used to be a phrase used often that has somehow fallen to the wayside. You would hear someone say "My word is my bond." This meant that if that person said something, they considered it a promise that they would fulfill. Today even a contract signed in blood is not considered binding if that person making the contract can figure some way out of their promise without having to pay the consequences.
When the Prodigal Son returned home he said to his father "I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight." The son recognized that his sin was not toward his father, but rather he had sinned against God. Our dealings with one another are dealings with God. When we do good to our fellow man, we are doing good to God. And when we hurt our fellow man, whoever that person might be, we are doing hurt to God. (Mat 25:40. also take a look at 12:50). In this same way our words are not spoken merely to one another, but they are to God. Jesus said: "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Mat 4:4). Jesus also said: "36But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." (Mat 12:36-37).
Above we saw how the word "Promises" carried with it the idea of mere assent. Just nodding one's head in agreement with what is spoken by someone else is the meaning of assent. "My word is my bond" carries with it the idea that the mere fact the words have been spoken means they are a promise. We see this in the way that a child will say: "But you promised!" when you had done no more than say "Maybe" to something that child had asked for. We also see this in the way we will search the Scriptures diligently and twist from them every possible word , made by any one to any one, and try to use them to force God to do what we want Him to by using those childish words "But you promised!" Yet, for ourselves, we will dismiss our own promises, even those made under oath, as something spoken under our breath, that is, of no consequence.
4When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. 6Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? (Eccles 5:)
Integrity is a word that means: "Honest, trustworthy." Trust is something that must be earned. The more you can count on a person doing what he or she says they will do, the more you can trust them. Integrity is a word we use to describe "What you see, is what you get." The word also carries with it "what you hear is what you get."
Anything less than honesty is a lie. And a person who speaks a lie is a liar. The Bible tells us this about liars:
27And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Rev 21:27; 22::15). And we have this from the Book of Revelation regarding the transparency of integrity. Give this some thought: 18And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. (Rev 21:18) Jasper stone? Here's what John has to say about Jasper for those of you looking for understanding: 2And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. (Rev 4:)
Today we do not see so clearly, and we think mud is clear water. Paul has this to say about our vision, both of God and of our own selves: 11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1Cor 13:12)
Jesus had much to say about hypocrites and hypocrisy. A hypocrite, according to my concordance and my dictionary means to "Dissemble (conceal true meaning), deceive, play act." And we know that someone who deceives is a liar, do we not?
I have known people who, at the drop of a hat, will dismiss any and all promises that they had made by merely stating "I changed my mind." Usually such a statement comes after I had fulfilled my part of the deal, and it was time for them to carry out their part. I'm sure you know people like this yourself. What do you think of them?
Solomon said: 4When thou vowest a vow unto God, [Remember, whatever we say to anyone is a vow unto God] defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. (Eccles. 5:)
Although Jesus said to call no man a fool (Mat 5:22), Solomon presented many scenarios whereby a person might discern for themselves if they are foolish. If we do that which a fool does, then we become a fool. And if we knowingly do what we know a fool to do, then we are that much more a fool. Solomon said that someone who vows a vow unto God, and does not fulfill that vow, is a fool.
Most (or at least some) of us came to the Lord when we were at our lowest point. That certainly applies to me. We cried out in despair for help. We promised anything and everything if only God would rescue us from the mess we had gotten ourselves in to (usually it was our own doing). But when the pressure was off, and God had done His part, we forgot about our promises and drifted away from Him. Very often those promises were made at our conversion and were read (or repeated) from a slip of paper, and involved a total surrender of our lives.
How are you doing at keeping your promises?
I began this piece by saying that there is someone who can lie to us over and over again and we never learn to mistrust that person or what they tell us. I also said that we are born wearing blinders, only seeing what we want to see. That person who's lies we consistently believe is not the devil. The devil only tells us what we want to hear. The one who lies constantly to us, and we always believe him, is our self.
I also said I have lied more times than I can count. I try not to lie. I try to be an integrated person. And for the most part I think I do fairly well (far from perfect mind you). But somehow, the promises I have the most trouble keeping are those I want most to keep. But somehow, those promises I make, and make, to God; the promises that will benefit me the most as well, I just can not keep.
Have you ever watched a toddler on his or her first Easter Egg hunt? I suspect you have. It's so cute to watch as they explore everything that comes before them: Ants, snails, puppydog tails. You point to where an egg is in plain sight, but the child does not look at where you point but insists on exploring places that couldn't possibly conceal an egg. Eventually, out of pleasurable frustration, you take the egg in hand and present it to the child, only to discover that the child has no idea what you are holding nor what to do with it.
28And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? (Ex 16:)
And Jesus said:
17Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer ["Put up with, endure"] you? (Mat 17:)
And He said:
23Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. (Mat 23:)
You're probably wondering what this guy (meaning me) is getting at. I'm sure you don't consider yourself a Pharisee, nor that you are swallowing a camel while avoiding a bug. I have no doubt but that you can think of some people who do fit this category, but it certainly doesn't fit you.
I would like to present a challenge to you. Take a look at the sheet of paper that was handed to you when you joined the church you attend. I have little doubt but that on that paper there is something called Articles of Faith. If you belong to any of the Mainline traditional churches part of those Articles, those absolute essentials you accepted as your own beliefs included such things as the Virginity of Mary at the time of Jesus' birth; the Divinity of Jesus, and the Trinity. These you've heard of and accepted as fact from the first time you heard them mentioned. You never bothered to question these "facts" because you knew everyone in the world who were "true" Christians believed these articles of faith to be true. And, just maybe they are, it's not my point to dispute them. My challenge to you is to look in the Bible, any version, and find a shred of evidence that they are necessary beliefs to hold on to in order to be saved. If you look under a jot or a tittle and avoid the obvious you might find such a shred of evidence that supports this supposition. But whether or not Jesus was born of a virgin, or if Jesus is God, or if there is a Trinity is not the question being explored here. What I am asking is: Does the Bible say anywhere at all that believing these suppositions is required in order to be saved?
That, in case you're interested, is the gnat that gets in the eye of the theologian and the preachers of the Word. Now for the camel that's missed:
We, that is most Fundamental, Pentecostals, Evangelical, and Protestants in general (if there is any difference in these) believe that once a person is baptized, that is once they are "saved," they are always saved. They believe that we are not to worry about what is called works, or even about sin, because Jesus died to do away with all of that. We are taught that such thinking belongs to the Jews and their concept of religion that died at Calvary. Is there evidence of this? Certainly there is evidence to support this, and to support any other concept one wishes to believe in. There are even many verses supporting the belief that Jesus died to save all humanity, even Satan and his devilish angels. But I wouldn't want to stake my life on this evidence, nor on the conclusion that has been derived from this evidence.
My second challenge to you is this: Search the Scriptures and see if you can find anywhere that says we are to obey Jesus to the letter if we are to be saved. See if you can find any stipulations that must be followed in order to be saved. See if you can locate any passages that say our works, that is those works that we are told not to worry about, are going to be judged. My guess is, if you take this challenge seriously, that you will find this search to be a camel that's standing on your foot rather than the gnat it's preached to be.
Let's look again at the Words of Jesus as quoted above and see if there might be something we tend to miss in the reading of them: " and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." "And not to have left the others undone." Today we have reversed this and we say that what the Pharisees were doing is wrong, and we leave it at that, not looking at the fact that Jesus was not condemning the Pharisees for what they were doing, but what they were leaving out. Today we leave out the law, the works that will be judged, and concentrate on doing nothing toward our own salvation. Jesus said in this regard: 1Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Mat 23:1-3). If you have taken up my challenge to find the truth and see if you are wearing blinders, try and see if you can find a place where Jesus revoked these words and His disciples, which we are to be, no longer have to do as the Pharisees said we are to do.
If you find, after conducting this search, that is if you take up this challenge, you have had an egg thrust into your hands that you don't know what to do with: are you going to throw the egg away? Or are you going to see what the egg has to offer you?
It recently occurred to me (in fact just a couple minutes ago) how I used to think that since God didn't strike me down with lightning, or in some other way punish me, He must be condoning what I was doing. This was long before I realized there was Scripture that could be used to support such a failed belief, and that the churches were using this very same kind of backward thinking to protect the delicate conscience of its congregation. Of course as long as I believed I could do whatever I wanted to and still reap the rewards offered those who struggled to overcome their nasties I never worked to overcome them. Nor did I feel particularly guilty for doing them. But when I came to realize that even the slightest of these no-no's is an offence to God, I began to do away with them, even the smallest (as I view them) of the nasties. And once I began to cleanse myself of them, I could see they were wrong, and why they were wrong. I found that blindness (in this case) is a voluntary condition that remains as long as we feel darkness is a natural condition.
I now see the light. Does this light bring me any closer to overcoming my problem? Not really, I still struggle with it (them) as I always have. The difference is in that I do struggle, where I was complacent about them in the past.
Does my seeing the fallacy of such lifetime of thinking cleanse my conscience at all? No, in fact where I was conscience-free all that time, I am now rather conscience-stricken most of the time. There are times I feel like giving up and just calling myself a loser. I feel like resigning myself to the beliefs the church is trying so hard to get me to accept, that I'm ok just the way I am and that God loves me and can't see my "weaknesses" because of the blood of Jesus. I know that if I allowed myself to accept such thinking, I could do it, and I could again be conscience free, and that I could feel that I am ok without "working" my way to Heaven (as they think I'm doing). I've been there before, I know I could deceive myself again.
But I would rather struggle and feel poorly about myself, and hope to overcome, then I would to feel good in this life, while on the way to perdition.
Two things come to mind as I write this little "confession." The first thing that I think of is: Since I can see myself, and what I was doing because I have moved passed it to some degree (not overcome it by any means), does that mean those preachers (as well as the congregation who accepts what they hear) have not moved beyond their problems and habits? I should think if they had, they would work with all their might to see to it that their listeners also see the light as they have seen the light, and challenge their listeners to overcome their blindness.
The second thing I think of is: My blindness (in one area) led me to spend time in prison. I see how those in prison have the same blindness I had in that they feel they are acceptable as they are, just misunderstood by the law and the populous. I doubt anyone in the churches would agree with their thinking, but seeing as how I have been on both sides of the barbed wire fence, I can see how both the churches and the prisoners are of the same mind and the same justification.
I found that invalid thinking can lead to dire consequences and thereby dire punishment. I'm afraid that those in the churches will not have the opportunity to see how their thinking (and the instruction they have been receiving, that supports and promotes their invalid thinking) is leading them astray, and thereby have their eyes opened, until it is to late to correct their blindness of thinking. I've been struck by lightning, and lived to see the dangers of God's wrath, and that in this life. For that I am very grateful. How about you? Have you been struck by lightning? I hope so.
I discovered something the other day that caused me a lot of stress. I looked at the log of web page hits, and instead of the 150 to 600 hits a day that is normal for the slow summer, I saw I was getting 2,000 to 3,000 a day for three straight days. I felt a sense of panic because of this sudden raise in numbers, feeling a burden of heightened responsibility had been placed upon me. It was, I suspect, a bit like Moses must have felt when God told him he was to lead all those people into the Promised land.
Of course there's a world of difference between my situation and that of Moses. For one, no one is depending on me for anything. And for another I have no responsibility to anyone other than God and myself. I write what I see, and what I believe I've been given to write. And I state that no one should accept what I say as fact, but to research it for themselves to see if it holds any truth or not.
However, it's not my elevated and inappropriate feeling of responsibility that I'm concerned with here. That, as I said, if more in the realm of fantasy than anything else. But even though I have no responsibility in what I do, I haven't claimed to be the holder of truth, and I'm not standing behind a pulpit claiming to interpret the Words of God to a trusting congregation, it brings to my mind that there are people who do just that, they stand behind a pulpit and claim to have all truth.
As far as I can see, all those people who have chosen such an occupation (or "Calling" as they often refer to it) do not feel the compulsion to teach the people in their charge the Truth of God's Word. They're perfectly content to teach whatever doctrine the church they happen to belong to espouses. I can understand this being so with those (the congregation) who have entrusted their faith to the one who has taken it on themselves to be a leader of the Lord's flock. They are, and often remain, like children in Kindergarten, having nothing else by which to judge what they're being told. But why, I wonder, don't the pastors feel at least as much responsibility as I do for what they teach? I, in my opinion, am at the lowest end of the responsibility echelon. They are, and have taken it upon themselves to be, at the top end of God's chain of command so-to-speak. Shouldn't their stress level be higher than mine given their position?
I have witnessed some pastors who have seen the fallacy of what they are told they must preach. And though it appears there are few of these who have been given such an awareness who do so, there are those who come out of the system so they can teach what they believe. The problem is, as we see in the "non-denominational" churches, they merely form another denomination, build walls around the "new" doctrine they now teach, and refuse to let their congregation believe anything else.
You say you belong to a nondenominational church and you're not forced to believe anything? Hmmm, maybe you're right. Test it, tell them you don't agree with their articles of faith and prove me wrong.
Are you familiar with the story of the Pied Piper? The Pied Piper had, (apparently) no stricken conscience for having led an entire village of children to their death. He was just doing what he thought was fair and right. We see this in Hitler and Jim Jones and others of that ilk. The fact that many die and suffer at their hands does not faze them one bit. But these are warped and criminal minds. They are similar to the ones we expect to find behind our prison walls. Should it be so of someone who will lead maybe hundreds or even thousands to what they conceive as an eternity of fire and brimstone?
Don't you just hate it when you have to untangle a long rope or electric cord? It seems that no matter which way you wind the cord, it's the wrong way and it turns into a rat's nest. I suppose there's nothing that can bring me to my boiling point faster than a tangled cord.
My life often seems like that tangled cord. I somehow can not do what I know I must do, and I end up tangled in my own doings. I wonder if Jesus must have that same frustrated feeling when He tries to deal with me in His attempt to straighten out my life.
We hate to have gaps in our understandings. We like to have everything, all our knowledge, line up like ducks in a shooting gallery. Empty spaces tend to make us feel incomplete, even inferior. Missing links are not permitted. Science is noted for drawing a stick-figure soldier to fill in the ranks.
I'm discovering that science is not the only field where stick figure fill-ins are being used to fill in the gaps. Those in the religious field are just as apt to bring out the child's crayon as is the scientist.
God said the Bible, the things of God, are unintelligible to the human mind. We can't use the same process to understand God's will, and God's way, as we use to develop and construct a rocket ship to the moon or even a paper clip. We see in the prophesies regarding Jesus how God in His Word will jump thousands of years between a jot and a tittle, or He will cause what's being said to make no sense at all. Consider the Book of Revelations. If we try to read Revelation with our human, literal understandings, the book sounds more like a child's version of a science fiction movie than it does a documentary of the future.
I think I can safely assume that you have either been to a zoo of some kind, or a wax museum, or some other establishment that presents a reasonable facsimile of people or animals. Consider if you will that you are going from display to display (or from cage to cage) in your perusal of the display before you. You study, in the case of a zoo, the apes, the lions, the peacocks and the tigers. Then when you come to the elephant station you find, instead of a two-ton pachyderm, a cardboard cutout of what might loosely be referred to as an imitation of what you expected to see. You ask the zookeeper what happened to the elephant. The zookeeper informs you that what you see is in fact an elephant, not a cardboard copy of an elephant. What do you do with this information? Do you store the explanation away in your reservoir of knowledge as fact? Or do you scratch your head and regard the zookeeper with a bit of suspicion? If you're like most of the Christians I've seen, you do not bother to pursue the question but instead accept what you've been told as fact, and assume that elephants are made out of paper and glue.
I have no doubt but that you do not see yourself a person who will fall into the category I've just portrayed. That's your view of yourself. My view is that you will very likely, not only accept what the zookeeper told you as fact, but you will search to find evidence to support the cardboard-elephant theory (in the realm of church doctrine I'm referring to of course). I suspect that if the zookeeper had not told you that the substitute was the real thing, you would have come that conclusion on your own.
Why do we humans accept the incredible as fact without investigating what we know can't be true? Because we don't like gaps in our understanding. Because of this feeble nature of ours we will allow a threadbare bridge that cannot possibly lend support to exist between our otherwise sound base of knowledge.
I discovered yesterday that a law had been passed recently involving something that perhaps millions of people do on a daily basis that has brought one man 20 years of government support. One day something is legal and announced to the world as so, the next day it's illegal and can cost a person dearly. I think we've come to expect this with the governments of the world. Look at Russia, China and other nations of the world. One day it's the death penalty for preaching the Bible, the next day it's an invited endeavor. And in the case of Russia for instance, it appears to me that open door is on its way to being closed once again.
When I was enjoying a visit to one of our local holding establishments there were people doing time with me who had been arrested for something that the mighty law makers had later deemed legal as an extracurricular activity. Did these people receive an early out and an apology for having been, as it was to become, illegally and unjustifiably incarcerated? Of course not, they were arrested when it was illegal to do what they had done. They had to do their time accordingly.
At one time it was customary and expected for every school class (at least most as far as I know) to say the Pledge of Allegiance and to say a prayer before school began. Now it is very possible that a teacher will be dismissed for even suggesting such a thing. And what about taking a Bible to school, or wearing a cross, or saying a personal prayer?
Things change, and we usually don't hear about that change until we've stepped in quicksand that used to be solid ground.
Imagine, as occurred in one town I used to live in, they were to take 2 two-way-streets, each going a different direction, and reverse the direction of these streets. Got the picture? How many accidents do you suppose such a judgement call caused? Now, to make the game even funner, consider that the law makers of that town decided that their decision wasn't what they wanted after all (perhaps one of the council members or the mayor moved and the new arrangement was inconvenient for him) and they decided to change the streets back to the way they were originally. Yep, that's what this city did. And, I find, that within this small village that I now reside they once again had to consider such a proposal, that of changing the direction of the streets, because someone who really needs the exercise doesn't want to drive their car the long way around (instead of walk two blocks) to the local post office. Just as an added consideration, besides the logic of such unreasonable thinking; consider the cost of uprooting and repositioning signs, remarking the streets, and correcting maps of the area. Just something we might think about because those we elect to do the thinking for us are unable to do so it seems.
When I was a kid they used to teach us in church that sin was sin and that God didn't like us to sin. I was told that if we sin Father-God would punish us and get us back in line, just as would our earthly father (see Heb 12:4-10). Now I hear that we needn't worry about sin because if we've been baptized God can't see our sin and He no longer cares about such trivialities.
In the world I find that more and more things are being taken off the forbidden list and added to the compulsory list. We have to check the list daily to see if our favorite sins and crimes are condoned or condemned. If we wait long enough our pet sin will be placed on the approved list. So if yours hasn't yet, just hang in there, it will be.
Some countries have added so many sins to their acceptable list that they found it necessary to make it a law that preaching against their approved sins is illegal and punishable by imprisonment. What a turn of events. Talk about culture shock! I wonder what a person who had been placed in suspended hibernation in the 50's would think if they were to be unthawed today. Consider what it will be like in ten more years.
Our courts are telling us that sin is now acceptable. Our churches are saying God no longer cares if we sin or not, or if He does care, He no longer presses the point. That's what we hear from our churches and our country. I wonder how much water such thinking will hold when it comes time for the Great White Throne judgement. Any ideas?
It seems as if the entire church world is waiting for Jesus. What does waiting for Jesus mean? Is it like waiting for a Christmas visit from Granma and Granpa? Is it like waiting for a dentist to call you in, or a principle to let you know what your next few weeks of school is going to be like? Maybe it's like waiting for the unborn child momma is carrying to become a newborn. Just what is meant, to be waiting for Jesus?
It seems to me that those who say they're waiting for Jesus are doing nothing more during that wait than talk about it. If I was waiting for a dentist I would be giving much thought to how well I had been taking care of my teeth the past year. If I was waiting for my principle to call me in you can bet I'd be reconsidering my behavior the past few hours. If I was waiting for that newborn to be born, I suspect I would be thinking of little else during that period, and all my time, attention and my actions would be directed toward that important moment.
How often have you said that you're waiting for Jesus? Give this some thought now: What are you doing while you're waiting for Jesus that you wouldn't be doing if you never even heard of Jesus?
How well do you keep New Year's Resolutions? Can you think of even one that you kept until the next time it was time to make a New Year's Resolution? I don't think I can think of a single time I kept mine for more than a few days, leastwise a year.
Why is it hard for us to keep our New Year's resolutions? Can it be that that a year is just too long a time to remember what we had resolved to do, or why we resolved to do it in the first place? How much harder it would be to keep such a resolution if we can't even remember the reason we made the resolution in the first place?
23And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 23:)
31I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. (1Cor 15:)
What if we were to renew our resolutions, not yearly, but daily?
Don't you just love fairy tales? I do. Here's one you might enjoy:
Wouldn't you know, upon arriving at the middle of the trestle, what does he hear but the warning scream of a locomotive whistle!
What to do? The hobo had but one alternative offered him, since his most reasonable option had been left on the hinder side of the ravine. The hobo, with one hand holding his haversack, clung to a cross tie and lowered himself over the edge of the trestle, becoming but an endangered dangle suspended over the deep ravine.
The train highballed its way (that mean it went fast) across the trestle, leaving our friend the hobo safe, but none too sound, swaying like a pendulum from the cross tie with one hand as his other hand clung tightly to his meager possessions.
Now all the hobo need but do is raise himself once again to the top of the trestle where he might once again tread his way to his destination. Only one problem existed for the hobo: He could not pull himself to the track with just his one free hand.
As luck would have it a hiker happened to pass by the trestle on his trek along the trail near the cliff of the ravine.
"Come help me!" yelled the hobo to the hiker.
"Are you crazy?" replied the hiker. "A train's liable to come when I'm on the track and I'd be in the same fix you're in. Just let go of your baggage and you'll be able to pull yourself up easily. You're strong enough."
"I can't let of my baggage," responded the hobo. "It contains all my earthly possessions. It holds my extra underwear, a sandwich, and a half an apple. I can't let it go or I'd have nothing at all in this world to call my own."
"But," said the hiker, "If you don't let go of your earthly possessions, there's no way by which you might be saved."
33So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:)
26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:)
21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. (John 14:)
Let's suppose for a moment that 40,000 preachers could be wrong. Let's imagine that Jesus really meant what He said, and He wants us to let go of all our excess baggage. What baggage do you have that you can't let go of that will keep you from being saved? For our hobo it was almost nothing, certainly nothing that couldn't be replaced, or that was actually even needed. For the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage it was their ego, their discontent with the "daily bread" (manna) that God provided for them. It was their resistance to being told what they had to do by one of their own people, Moses by name.
Perhaps for you it might be your house, your car, your golf game, your family, your presidency of the PTA, or it might be as little as your morning cup of coffee. What is it you refuse to let go of and justify your hanging on to it because you've been told that it's ok to possess, and to want more of what others in the world get to enjoy?
For the hobo it was a bandana full if nothing. For me it's this web site, my Bibles, and my bicycle. I also have habits I want to be rid of, but they have become so much a part of me they just won't let me be free of them, which I suspect will be my downfall. What is it for you? Have you given it much thought? Or are you content to hear the justifications preached from the pulpit that makes it unnecessary to consider such trivial things as letting go of excess baggage?
You've undoubtedly noticed, if you've read much of my writings, that I often speak of the need to rid ourself of answers, and to concentrate on the questions. As I was writing on one of the short stories I noticed the word "quest." A quest, according to my dictionary, is: "The act of seeking something, a search." Someone on a quest is a person who has dedicated at least a portion of time and energy to finding something that is important to them. Marco Polo was on a quest to find a trade route to the Orient. Christopher Columbus was on a quest to locate a shorter route to what Marco Polo had found when he discovered the New World, America. Robert Peary was on a quest for the North Pole. Neil Armstrong was on a quest to walk on the moon. There have been many people who have undertaken great and profitable quests, but none of these have undertaken the quest that lies before us, which has the potential of bringing us much greater rewards than any of those mentioned above. Jesus said:
23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:)
20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:)
31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:)
Are you seeking to be free? What does Jesus mean by "free" do you suppose? Paul uses this same word translated a little differently. Here's what Paul says about freedom:
18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Rom 8:)
So then, those who desire truth are those who will also be given freedom, that is, they will be delivered. Are you wanting to be delivered? As I see it, deliverance is the first step to obtaining salvation and eternal life. But how do we obtain the truth that will set us free? Jesus said:
7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Mat 7:)
If we want something, we have to ask for it. We find this true for the forgiveness of sins as well, if we want forgiveness, we must ask for it (Luke 17:3-4; 1John 1:9; Mat 6:14-15).
Have you ever seen a small child who asks many questions like "what's this," but isn't really interested in knowing the answer to the questions? I'm quite sure you have. I'm afraid we are all guilty of this habit, even in our adulthood. How many times, as a for instance, have you said to someone as you ran past them in the opposite direction "Hi, how are you?" You weren't at all interested in hearing how they were, you were merely asking a question out of habit. Pilot is a prime example of this phenomena:
37Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. 38Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? (John 8:)
Ultimate truth stood before Pilot, and Pilot even bothered to ask him a question that could well have saved his soul. But he wasn't really interested in hearing the truth, nor was he willing to act upon the truth he would have been given.
How guilty are we of this same thing?
We all think we hold truth, and anyone who disagrees with us is lost and can not see the truth. Truth is not an answer, but a quest. A quest is not something we ever complete, but rather a series of stepping stones along the way to what we desire to find. For instance, those who have shot for the moon (literally), once they landed on the moon did not settle back and feel they had completed something great, but rather dreamed of, and sought to reach Mars or another far-off planet. Someone who is more than a person who merely has daydreams of doing something great does not settle on the great step they have already taken, but looks forward to the next great step.
The church is a place where those of little or no ambition can settle back in their rocking chair and imagine they have reached the ultimate, when they haven't even taken the first step. They are given all the answers before they even realized there were questions to be asked. The first part of the word "Question," is "Quest." A question is merely a step along the way of a journey to find truth. Those who settle for an answer, especially if they don't even bother to prove the answer, are not seeking truth, but confirmation that they are all they should be from those who suppose themselves to be all they pretend to be.
30Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. 31And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. 32And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. 33And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them. (Ezek 33:)
Does the above scenario sound familiar at all? Doesn't it sound exactly like our modern-day churches? Be honest now, doesn't it?
The people come to church, not as a member of the world, but as "my people," as "Christians." They come to hear the words, and they know they're the Words of the Lord, but they only hear, they don't do. Ezekiel was not an entertainer. Ezekiel was telling the people the cold, hard facts. If the people, those who were hearing but not doing, didn't start doing what they were hearing, they were going to be destroyed. Ezekiel, as were the other prophets of old, were preaching fire and brimstone, something shunned today. And even fire and brimstone was heard as entertainment.
2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2Tim 4:)
Paul is telling Timothy to preach the truth, to "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering." Now, I don't know about you, but it sounds to me like Paul is telling Timothy (and through Timothy all the preachers of all time) to give their hearers a fire and brimstone message. That's just me, you might find the words "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering" as soft words of eternal security as we hear from the pulpits and in song. How nice and comforting church is today. Kind of like listening to someone play on an instrument and sing a lovely song.
26Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. (John 6:)
In the days of Jesus, as it was when I was a child, there was very little entertainment. We didn't have several TVs blaring in every room day and night. We didn't have CD players blasting in our ears from I-Pods, stereos, cell phones and car speakers. We didn't have computers, video games and portable DVD players. If we were lucky once a month (when I lived in the city and not the farm) we got to take our quarter, which was our weekly allowance - if we did our chores, and watch a Saturday matinee movie. That was a real treat. Entertainment was few and far between. On the very rare occasion a carnival came to town, you can be sure we made every effort to collect returnable bottles, mow lawns and whatever else we could do to earn the money to see the clowns and the animals.
It hasn't been so very long ago that tent meetings were making the circuit. These tent meetings were quite nearly the same thing as a small carnival or a medicine show. They provided lots of entertainment, music, dance and song; and along with the entertainment there was a fire and brimstone sermon. But in those days, even a preacher telling you that you were going to go to hell was an enjoyable experience because it was something to do.
In the days of Jesus there was no two hours a day of radio, listened to by the power of a car battery that would likely go dead on you halfway through your favorite program. There were very few traveling carnivals (that I know of) and the chances are only the fairly wealthy could have afforded to attend such an event, if it did exist. The poor, those Jesus preached to, were left out of the entertainment world. They were so poor they couldn't even afford a used 13 inch screen TV or an 8 track tape player. Can you imagine a world without your TV or your automobile or MP3 player?
When a miracle worker came through town, you can be sure everyone who could possibly make it to the show was in attendance. Is it any wonder that Jesus had 5,000 people out in a mountainside, going for days without eating? They didn't want to leave the show or lose their seat (or the rock they were sitting on) just to go home for lunch. Did the people hear what Jesus was telling them? Yes, they heard the words, because the words Jesus spoke were kindly toward the poor and the lame and the blind. It was the rich, the well favored, and the intellectuals that did not like what Jesus had to say. And who can blame them?
66From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. (John 6:)
When the message Jesus preached was no longer what the people wanted to hear, when He no longer tickled their ear but told them the cold, hard facts, they left off listening to Him. There is a principle that must be followed when entertaining the masses: You have to tell them what they already believe, and what they want to hear. Jesus, it appears, did not understand this principle. Or do you think perhaps there might be another reason He chose not to follow that principle?
When you're in the business of entertainment you have to tell them what they want to hear. You have to direct your "act" toward the people you're seeking to entertain. Let me give you a few examples of this principle in action. First of all we have a comedian in a bar frequented by sailors and Marines. The comedian for a joke wears an Army uniform and begins telling jokes deriding the Navy and the Marines. What kind of reception do you suppose this comedian will receive? Now we have another comedian (and this scenario is all too common in the world of entertainment today). This comedian is one who is popular on the family channels setting an example of what a father ought to be like. When he portrays the stereotypical well-healed father he is so clean he squeaks. Then on Saturday night he directs his humor to the drinking, bawdy crowd at a Los Vegas casino where even sailors blush to hear his ribald jocularities. What do you suppose would be the outcome if this comedian was to forget his place and begin telling family jokes in the casino, or using back-alley language on a live family program?
Now, let's bring this picture a little closer to home, that is, to the churches. I have heard a lot of preachers, especially lately. I have also been in the position to hear what is said of these preachers when the preaching is over and done with. What I find the people talk about is, not how much they learned about the Lord, or the Bible, or about themselves and what they must do to improve themselves (which is what I listen for). No, what the people talk about is how good a job the preacher did of entertaining them.
A preacher has to direct his sermon to the crowd, just as does that comedian in the above scenarios. For instance, let's say a Baptist preacher was to find himself preaching to a Oneness Pentecostal church. What if this preacher was to select his favorite Trinity sermon to present to this church body. What do you think the conversation would be after the sermon? How about if a lively youth-oriented preacher with his flashing psychedelic video shows and loud Trance music was to preach to an Orthodox Catholic monastery?
The entertainment must fit the audience. It's not the truth we seek, as seen in what God told Ezekiel. It's something to tickle our ears, that tells us that we don't have to listen to those preaching that we must change in order to please God.
And that, my friend, is entertainment.
When a baby is born into a family, it rules the nest. When the baby cries, everything stops in order to discover what is ailing him or her, and to appease the child. Every event, whether it be a business or social occasion, an exercise regime, or a religious function has to incorporate and attend to the needs and the wants of the baby.
As the child grows, less and less attention needs be directed toward appeasing the child as the child learns to care for his own needs and desires. That is the pattern of things in this world, and that is pretty well the pattern I grew up under. And to be sure, that is certainly the pattern my parents and grandparents found themselves in, as did their progenitors all the way back to Adam and Eve.
In my time, things began to change. Instead of the child being subservient to, and learn from, the parent and other adults, they found ways by which to rebel against the conventions of the adult world. Adults and adulthood were to be avoided rather than sought and prepared for. Instead of the child growing in capability and earnest desire to be self-sufficient, they strove to find ways to avoid responsibility, both toward themselves, and toward the society that they demanded continue to support and accept them the way they chose to become and to remain.
We have all heard of the "Snowball effect," but just in case that effect has effectively slipped past your awareness, I will give a brief explanation. A snowball, being ever so small, when once set on a course down a snow-covered mountainside, increases in size, and in velocity. If that snowball is not impeded in some way, it becomes a highly destructive avalanche that can obliterate everything in its path.
The efforts of the youth of the 50's, 60's and the 70's was not only left unabated, but instead it enveloped and brought to inclusion those who were given the position to quell our misdirected offspring and to mature the youth under their charge. Those in positions of responsibility did not only neglect their responsibility, they surrendered their own integrity and joined forces with the ever-intensifying movements of the day. Adults, those who had supposedly grown and matured in the intellectual and the common sense realms, found that engaging in the freedoms of the society drop-outs brought them pleasure, financial gain, and fleshly fulfilment. Over time there was no one left on the wall to sound the alarm indicating there was danger ahead for the world's societies because the watchman was too busy engaging in the activities he was to warn the citizens against.
Today those watchmen are essentially all in their graves, and the "children" of the rebellious age are in their 50's, 60's and 70's, no longer dressed in the garb of the hippy and the college rebels, but in business suits ruling over our government, our military, our economy, and our media. The ones who had never learned to control their own lusts, are now controlling the world, and advocating the "do your own thing" philosophy they grew up under, and shooting down anyone who feels compelled to be a watchman on the wall.
In the world this is to be expected. If there is going to be anything gone awry, it will, in the world. What is not to be expected is that the last remaining watchdog of moral rectitude, the church, should fall under the same ideology and condemnation as has the world it is to remain separate from. But what else could legitimately be expected when the leaders of our Spiritual institutions have grown up under the same regime as has the world, and are also in their 50's, 60's and 70's?
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