Welcome to hot-seat, please sit down

Christian, let me put you on the hot-seat. Don’t worry, I’ll sit there with you. We can warm our buns together and talk about sensitive subjects.

It seems these days you can’t turn around with hearing someone decrying the shame of homosexuality, the evil of abortion, the wickedness of corrupt and dishonest politicians. From nearly every pulpit and Christian media outlet, we hear of pending doom, the unbearable wrath of God looming over society’s collective shoulder as it marches into hell.

Seriously, where do we get that??

Despite our pious followup of “grace” to this vehement condemnation, we hardly live out what Christ the embodiment of LOVE actually exemplified. Think with me.

We’ve heard it and likely said, “Hate the sin and love the sinner.” Is that anywhere in Scripture? NO! In fact, the closest we can get is re-wording Ephesians 6:12, which says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

What we wish it said, what we often act like it says, is, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood sinners, but against all the evil things they’re doing.

Or take, John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.”

What we seem to think this verse says, For God so loved those who believe in Him that He gave them eternal life. 

We act as if Jesus never met a homosexual or prostitute (think of the woman at the well). We seem to believe He didn’t know any corrupt politicians or evil government officials (think Roman soldier and Pilate and Herod). And maybe Jesus didn’t ever actually see a thief or a murderer (who hung on the cross next to Him?).

I challenge us who grew up in the protective boundary of the church, and who have the privilege and honor of reading the Bible whenever we desire and knowing Christ, God’s Word, personally – I challenge us to name one time when Jesus rebuked an obviously evil person.

The people Jesus spoke against most often in Scripture were those who not only thought they were good people, but from all outside standards, really were keeping the “whole law”. Except, to love their neighbor – the Samaritan, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the sinners. Christian – who do we most look like today?

Do we keep the whole law, behaving well and even performing outreach and being faithful to our spouses and being activists in our communities – but then, hold our neighbor at arm’s distance, telling them first of their sin and finally of the God who loves THE WORLD?

Another couple verses that often pop up in this delicate conversation are John 16:7-11, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Usually, I think, we read this as if the Holy Spirit is standing indignantly within us, slapping our wrists when we miss behave and giving us the authority to point out sin in the world. But I don’t think that’s what it means. Follow along to the next verse…

“…concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;” What is the sin that the Holy Spirit convicts of? It is the sin of unbelief. No other sin is unpardonable. Lay it along side that other verse we struggle over and worry about:

Luke 12:10 “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to deny what He says, namely that we must believe. What if we quit beginning our conversations with rebuke, and changed our public arguments to stop railing against the evils of society and simply pleaded with everyone to know the God who loves them and believe in Him?

“…concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father;” because Jesus became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. All righteousness anyone could ever need to perform has been taken care of, all that’s left is belief.

“…concerning judgement; because the ruler of this world is judged.” IT IS FINISHED. There remains no means by which to condemn anyone, except unbelief. So perhaps we’re wasting our breath by tackling all the blatant sins in the world. The only good thing that remains to be done is to believe in the fully sufficient righteousness of Jesus Christ.

And after all, “It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.” All of our indigence and law quoting is for naught. Jesus never quoted the law to an unbeliever. He merely and only loved them, and that drew them to Him, that they might believe and have eternal life.

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The Imprint of Virtue

With finite perspective, we usually only see either vice or virtue. Depending on which we angle of a person we first observe, often we form a fast opinion and relegate that person at least generally, or for a time, to a category: Good or bad.

When my husband has spent half of the weekend watching movies and droll TV shows, I feel disgust and a swelling sense of pride for my own productivity. While he is reclining, I can hardly seen any virtue. When we speak, my tone becomes snippy and condescending because I cannot manage to see all of the good things I know and love about him, while still entertaining my irritation at his vice.

Does that make sense?

Recently, I heard a marital counselor interviewed for tips on how to avoid conflict. The suggestion that struck close to home was this: When conflict is brewing, or I’m angry at my husband, I immediately try to think of his Christ-likeness. (paraphrased)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s an abundance of, “happiness everywhere, see the good in everything, pink glasses, rosy walkways, tolerant wimpy-ness,” to go around. I’m not just talking about finding the good in someone, but searching out their Christ-likeness. I promise it’s there, they were created in His image.

Just a thought from Screwtape on this matter:

Are we to aim at cowardice-or at courage, with consequent pride?Well, I’m afraid it is no good trying to make him brave. Our research department has not yet discovered (though success is hourly expected) how to produce any virtue. This is a serious handicap. To be greatly and effectively wicked a man needs some virtue. What would Attila have been without his courage, or Shylock without self-denial as regards the flesh? But as we cannot supply these qualities ourselves, we can only use them as supplied by the Enemy-and this means leaving Him a kind of foothold in those men whom, otherwise, we have made most securely our own.

Hmmm… is finding that Christ-likess the key to broadening the foothold of God in their lives so that the love of Jesus can seep in?

For excellent expansion on this idea, read Kelley’s post here at She Loves Magazine

Not long after the incident at school I remember my son asking from the backseat, “Do those boys have God’s fingerprints on them, mom?” As we pulled into the driveway I assured him, “Yes, they are made in God’s image just like us.” “So, God loves them like he loves me and my sister?” I answered in the affirmative. “So I shouldn’t be mean back? I should forgive them and give them another chance?”

And there it was … acknowledging the image of God in others and letting that truth control how we seen them and respond to them. We don’t return evil for evil. We offer forgiveness and we believe everyone gets second chances (and then some) from a generous God. We try to see the humanity of those boys like our own, and how a loving God embraces us all.

Insights from a Demon

In the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy, I almost hesitate to write this post. But maybe it’s more appropriate than ever to question, “What is evil?”

They [humans] of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so. Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda. Uncle Screwtape from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

What causes us to revile death is the foreboding of the unknown. Let us rejoice that in Christ, even death is no mystery!

“For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Cor. 15:56-57

Another quick thought from Uncle Screwtape addresses something I hope dig into deeper later this year. This is the presence of beauty, the distinct fragrance of God’s love for us and His goodness toward all mankind, even in the most secular.

Even if we contrive to keep them ignorant of explicit religion, the incalculable winds of fantasy and music and poetry-the mere face of a girl, the song of a bird, or the sight of a horizon-are always blowing our whole structure away. They will not apply themselves steadily to worldly advancement, prudent connections, and the policy of safety first. So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to the earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date by politics or eugenics or “science” or psychology, or what not. Real worldliness is a work of time-assisted, of course, by pride, for we teach them to describe the creeping death as good sense or Maturity or Experience.

“Let us set our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him…” Heb. 12:2

God has dripped Heaven into our atmosphere. Even on the ugliest of our days, the sun still stretches its fingers over the horizon. Even in the face of our enemy, is the astounding creativity of our Perfect Creator. Yes, Heaven is not far from us. But, let us not be willing to stay here forever either. The greatest JOY will be seeing Jesus face to face.

(Screwtape is the demon in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters. The book is a collection of Screwtape’s advisory letters to his nephew, a young tempter.)

It feels good! To do, or not to do, remains the question.

If it feels good, do it. 

If it feels this good, it can’t be wrong!

“When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.

“When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. ‘I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,’ is how one interviewee put it.

“Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme: ‘I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.’”
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/13/opinion/if-it-feels-right.html?_r=0

Um. Wow.

Apparently, the consensus of this generation is that pleasure is the defining moral code. Wrong.

However, the other extreme, asceticism, is wrong too. Unfortunately, Christianity is often viewed as a moderately ascetic lifestyle. Christianity is considered a list of does and don’ts, and God is seen as the cosmic killjoy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love the way C.S. Lewis’ demon narrator says it in the book, The Screwtape Letters:

Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing desire for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.

 

What Does He have to do with You?

“When the humans disbelieve our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us we cannot make the materialists and skeptics.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

To the most reasonable mind, if there exists a God, there must necessarily exist a supernatural source of evil. And vice-versea. To believe in Satan, by consequence, and observation of the natural world, one must believe in a supernatural source of good. The war between these forces is evident in every waking moment.

  • a normally comforting mother screaming at her child
  • murder and law enforcement
  • generosity and desperate poverty

Humans only know one, good or evil, by its contrast to the other. So, for Satan to convince man that he has no Creator, no Advocate, no moral directive, no eternity, no Savior, no God, then he must simultaneously insinuate that he, himself, is a figment of a weak mind.

“I have great hope that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy [God].”

This morning in my quiet time, I digested a passage that I have read more than 100 times. Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth, his own home town and read from the book of Isaiah. There, He declared Himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah. The Jews were furious at this blasphemy and tried to push Jesus over a cliff. But, without a dramatic show, He simply passed through the crowd and left.

In Capernaum, He entered the synagogue again. Immediately, He was confronted by a man with an evil spirit. “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34)

The phrase, “What have you to do with us,” is a Greek idiom, similar to, “I will have nothing to do with you,” or, “Have nothing to do with us.”

In this tantrum, the demon screamed through the man, “I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God!” Wow. Talk about proof! You would think that in such a cosmic display of good and evil, everyone would have collapsed on their faces in worship of the Deliverer. However wonderful that would have been, it would also be insufficient, that would not accomplish salvation. Jesus doesn’t want mere acknowledgement, and Satan knows it.

Yes, salvation is found in believing in Jesus, the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). But, Christ came for so much more than that. Jesus wants us to love Him with all our heart, souls, minds and strength. Jesus wants everything to do with us. So Satan’s most vicious tactic is not to convince us that God does not exist, or that Jesus is not the Son of God, but to persuade us that God wants nothing to do with us, that relationship is impossible.

Jesus had to die and rise again in order to pay for our sins and restore our right relationship with God. Our God is personal and has everything to do with us! Praise the Lord!

Day One Review of “How Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior”

If God created everything, then He created evil. So, by that line of reasoning, I decided that God was responsible for evil, controlled it, and was in fact, both good and evil. He had to be responsible for the tragedy that was my life. And if He was responsible for all the suffering in my life, how could He possibly care about me? Since God didn’t care for me, I might as well serve His enemy. If God didn’t think I was good enough to save, why shouldn’t I serve His evil counter part? This evil counterpart is Satan, the god of this world. In my crippled thinking, I viewed Satan as God’s alter ego.

By the time you read that paragraph you’ve started Chapter 2 in Michael Leehan’s book How Satan’s Soldier Became God’s Warrior.  Pretty intense. I picked up this book after hearing Leehan interviewed by Janet Parshall. I confess, the sensationalism of Satanism was the driving force behind my interest in the book. That and the fact that what is a more appropriate topic for a blog about Predatory Lies, than a book that shows God’s defeat of the Father of Lies?

I expected a gripping story; and I wasn’t disappointed. However, I didn’t really expect to address the problem of pain and God’s role in human suffering. I didn’t think about how many decisions Leehan made prior to his final decision to serve Satan. There were tiny steps along the way that seemed harmless enough and unrelated. Things that culturally we might recognize as poor choices, but hardly map them into a progression toward the ultimate rebellion against God.

In truth, is there an “ultimate” rebellion, or is sin simply sin and separation from God simply separation from God? How different are you and I from Leehan in his darkest moments?

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.          Eph. 5:15-16

Another thing that piqued my interest in Leehan’s book is that he is “close to home” for me. Leehan’s story takes place mostly in Oklahoma. The church body that reached out to Leehan even as he plotted to murder their pator – is in my home town! So, let me also take this moment to put in a plug for Lifechurch.tv.  There’s a reason that the pastor, Craig Groschel, was on Satan’s hit list. Lifechurch.tv as well as the mobile phone app, YouVersion and their many other FREE resources are unparalleled.

 

 

How Do You Do Halloween?

At first I didn’t think I had any Halloween memories. I grew up in an evangelical Christian home, so we didn’t celebrate Halloween per-se. At least not after I was about 8. When I was really young, I remember dressing up like a Wuzzle. Do you remember them? It was a cartoon that never had its prime. The cute little characters were confused animals – always half of something and half something else. Probably the first signs of gender confusion.

 

One year, Mom made costumes for my sister and me. We were matching witches. Funny thing is, I think we actually wore those costumes to a church festival too! I only recall one other costume. I was Snoopy one year.

 

Back in the good old days, most kids wore cute or at least identifiable costumes. Last year, my husband’s company had a Halloween party and we went shopping to find a benign costume. Impossible! Most of the costumes – both children’s and adult’s – were so bloodied and mangled that I couldn’t tell the difference between the werewolf and the skeleton.

 

As I grew up, I remember my parents reaching a crisis of conviction. However it was originally intended, Halloween has become the day for celebrating everything that is NOT good, pure, wholesome, loving, faithful, true and righteous (the things the Bible tells us to dwell on.) In good conscience, my parents believed that they couldn’t dress their kids up and parade around the streets condoning the celebration of evil and gore.

 

I was hardly disappointed. Many of my friends’ parents came to the same conclusion. Numerous churches stepped in to fill the gap. We had 10 or more churches to choose from for creative Fall Festivals. Lucky for us kids, some of them were scheduled on different weekends, so we collected candy on more than one night.

 

One year, we went to the Nazarene church. Kids were instructed to come dressed up as a Bible character. I was Mary the mother of Jesus. Such simple costumes: I just wrapped up in a sheet, draped another one over my head and Ta-da! I was getting close to believing I was too old for Halloween, so halfway through the night I hid behind the giant cardboard set and loaded little kids’ fishing lines with candy and gum.

 

Most of the Halloweens that I remember are clustered around the ages of 10 and 12. One year, we stayed home and Mom showed off her creative genius. She set up a treasure hunt, by hiding one big prize and then numerous clues, each leading to the next one. She wrote her clues in lemon juice on 3×5 cards. When we held the cards over a light bulb, the writing magically appeared and we continued our quest.

 

The next event of the evening was rescuing the Hershey’s kiss. Mom planted a kiss on top of a packed cup of flour. Each kid took turns slicing through the pile of flour with a sharp knife. Sooner or later the flour would collapse with the final cut and the kiss would sink into the fluffy white powder. The lucky kid got to bury her face in the white mess and retrieve her Hershey’s kiss.

 

Dad was not MIA for these holiday memories. He was in charge of pumpkin painting or carving. Depending on our age, we were allowed to decorate our pumpkins with paint pens or wield a carving knife under close supervision.

 

Two years in a row, Dad’s company hosted a pumpkin carving competition. The first time was a collaborative effort. In Perry, a small town of 5000 people, Ditch Witch’s water tower was the undisputed landmark. We created a tower with an old wrapping paper roll and painted our pumpkin to resemble the top of the water tower. We won a category that year, though I don’t remember what it was.

 

The next year, each of us girls decided to try our own creations. Jennifer is our family artist. Her skills are unrivaled. In Stillwater, OK, the nearest “real” town, there is an iconic restaurant called Eskimo Joe’s. Jennifer carved the restaurant’s mascot into her pumpkin with remarkable accuracy. My bumble bee was cute, but there was no contest.

 

A few times I have heard my peers, old enough to have our own kids now, state that they would never consider depriving their children of the fun of trick-or-treating. What’s the harm, they ask, in dressing up as a goblin?

 

There are numerous sources of information about the intent of Halloween. There are just as many interpretations and opinions. If you’re a Christian, where do you fall on the issue? If you’re not, what are your thoughts about the holiday in general?

 

A reference source of interest:

Jill Martin Rische

How to Remember 9/11

Oh Dearest Friends,

I am struggling this week with how to treat the anniversary of September 11, 2001. Undoubtedly, flags will flutter at half-mast, comic strips will cease to strike at funny bones, somber expressions will roll across faces with the simple word, “remember.” And it’s not that I don’t remember, but I wonder if we don’t begin to trivialize the day’s significance with our dramatic television and radio replays. Does it seem to you that each year, each public medium tries to surpass what they did last year, or trump the emotional display put on by another venue?

So, this week I am not going to draw concentric circles around 9/11, deepening sadness and calling for patriotism.  September 11 was sad and Americans should be the most patriotic people on earth. But the day is past, we have a future to pursue and an obligation to tell everyone about Jesus.

That brings me to a compelling article written by John Piper. If you have ever entertained the idea or the question: Where was God on 9/11, then you MUST read this article.

WHY I DO NOT SAY, “GOD DID NOT CAUSE THE CALAMITY, BUT HE CAN USE IT FOR GOOD”