Thursday, September 21, 2017

Strategies of the Enemy: How to Counter & Defeat Satan

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. -1st John 2:15-17 (NLT)

We know as Christians that we have a friend, his name is Jesus. And we know as Christians that we have an enemy, and his name is Satan.  Jesus is Lord in heaven, all authority has been given to him, and Satan is the prince of the Earth, he won control of it when he successfully tempted Adam and Eve in the garden. 

So we face an ancient, deadly enemy. This enemy is at war with the human race, and seeks to destroy our souls.  Essentially Satan is a suicide bomber. Satan's fate is already sealed because of his rebellion against God.  Satan is going to outer darkness.  So Satan is like the suicide bomber, blowing himself up, and seeking to take as many with him as possible.  There is a malevolence here that staggers the imagination, but there it is. 

The world is at war with Christianity, and seeking to subvert it.  The church is essentially the forward front of Christ's expanding kingdom.  The chief General and strategist of this expansion of the church is the Lord Holy Spirit.  He is the strategist battling our enemy Satan. Our job as Christians is to go about holy sabotage efforts to the kingdom of Satan.  And Satan is attempting to subvert us, diminish us, discredit us, and destroy us.  

Satan has a framework of attacks he levies against us.  None of them are new, there is nothing new under the sun, these are the same attacks he's levied against humanity since the beginning of time.  Satan's chief weapons are temptations and lies.  Temptations essentially are lies, so really, lies, plain and simple, untruths, things that may appear true, but are not true.  

As Christians we must be shrewd, cunning, innocent, and brave.  Because we have an enemy, and he'll take any opening we give him.  Let's look at a few of the enemies tactics to destroy Christians, and Christian leaders, and see how Jesus helps us overcome these attacks, and counter them in His great power. 

1. Affair - Yes, the dreaded extra-marital affair.  That receptionist, that friend, that person on Facebook, and it always begins with tiny, miniscule compromises.  It's a bit exciting, so we toy with it.  We let it go on.  We make tiny little compromises in what we would normally do.  We enjoy how it makes us feel, and pretty soon small compromises give way to larger compromises.  And eventually your in bed with that person, wondering what has happened, and the flood gates of guilt descend.  The affair on husband or wife is of course the cornerstone of destruction.  It destroys trust, it will usually destroy the family, ending in divorce, and the children are crushed.  That of course isn't the end, especially in regard to those in ministry.  Believe me, what you've done in secret Satan will cry out from the roof tops.  Isn't it interesting how high profile Christian leaders think it will never come out, then it does.  And the ministry is ruined, they are forced to leave the church, and the family ends in divorce.  Disaster.  All from a few miniscule compromises, because it felt good to feel attractive.  And we entertained it, and toyed with it, when we should've slammed that door shut and walked away.  

Jesus helps us to counter this enemy attack through prayer, through swift action, and through a firm commitment to covenant with our husband or wife.  The solution is to flee that situation.  The solution is to build those boundaries.  The solution is to pray and ask God for a new revival in the marriage that will return it to normality, that of true love between husband and wife.  Amen. 

2. Pornography - No new tricks indeed.  Our enemy knows us too well I think.  Sex, especially for me as a man, and yes, you as a woman, is our weak point.  Time and again in the New Testament the lists of sins are given, and almost always first listed is: Sexual immorality.  Pornography is so destructive.  It decimates the mind.  Pornography as it's been studied, has a similar effect on the brain to cocaine, heroin and other drugs.  Simply astonishing.  And how destructive it is, because the human memory is quite interesting, those images can often be recalled for years after.  It's a door that once opened, is oh so hard to close.  

Yet Jesus can break every chain.  Yes, Jesus wants to break every chain.  So we must pray, and cry out to him, and beseech him in this area, and then get to work with whatever tools we have available to battle and defeat this sin in our lives.  Pornography destroys us, it destroys marriages, it destroys people and feeds the sex slave industry.  Defeat it in Christ.  

3. Going too Fast - Too much of a good thing? Oh yes, this can happen.  The enemy can get us rushing and rushing doing so many good things that we're beginning to subtly burn out.  Maybe we're doing great, we're living the dream baby, we're a pastor, we're rocking it, we're loving people and Christ is changing lives through ministry.  So Satan sees this, and attacks with a different tactic, he seeks to burn you out.  So many good things begin to pile up that they subtly begin to destroy.  The devotional life vanishes, the family and marriage take a back seat, the prayer life disappears, and pretty soon stress, depression, and exhaustion are piling on our back.  And then the door is open for Satan to bring up the mistress, or the Mr. the man or woman "who understands" everything we're going through.  Affair, end game.  It's really quite insidious.  Too much of too many good things can and will destroy us.  And it will destroy our ministry and our effectivness as well.  Don't be a workaholic. 

Christ saves us from this by giving us freedom to slow down.  Christ invites us to remove things from our schedule, to close down ministries that we can't maintain at our current level.  Christ invites us to slow down, and seek Him, and know peace. 

4. Crushed Devotional Life - If your studying to become a minister, like I am now, or your involved in ministry, and you don't think you need to pray or be engaged in daily devotionals, then you should quit right now and do something else.  I'm serious, you should quit. Because your just wasting everyone's time and money, and your going to burn out, destroy yourself, and have a useless ineffective Spirit-less ministry.  To be a pastor without prayer and devotions is to be nothing. Doubly nothing, nothing to God and nothing to those you serve.  So get real about prayer and devotions, it's 100% necessary or you will fail. Guaranteed.  

Jesus invites us to ask Him for help in this.  I struggled so hard with this because I go so fast, I'm so often on the computer, on the web, and I thought how could I possibly slow down and have enough discipline to read my Bible at night, and pray for an extended period, and pray in the morning and read a devotional book.  So I just prayed to God, look Lord I can't do this, so you'll have to make it possible.  After many petitions, it all became possible, and happens regularly now.  

5. Garbage of the Soul - Would Jesus pour garbage into his soul? I doubt it.  So why do we?  Why do we watch Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead?  Why do we go see movies like 50 Shades of Grey and It?  Why read trashy novels that would strange ideas into our minds?  We're called to purity, and as part of a wesleyan holiness movement I feel that it's doubly important for me to watch what I put into my soul.   

Clear it out!  That's what one of my professors told us about.  Her and her husband trashed the magazines, the music, and the novels, they got rid of the cable TV and got rid of the movies.  Holiness is what Christ calls us to.  I'm not trying to judge you, Christians can get really upset about this topic.  Maybe it's a soft spot for us, but we should address it. Jesus calls us to a higher standard, and if we're Christians in leadership, honestly, let's get real here. 

6. Lording It Over - Glorying in self leadership - A church leader, or a business leader, or any leader can quickly move from a humble biblical servant leader to a lord leader.  We're not called to lord it over those we serve.  Beginning to bully and lord it over our people is a recipe for pride, ego, and eventually the development of a babylonian self-based church.

It can start as a self-less project to glorify Christ, and pretty soon it can be a multi-campus mega church movement with my name plastered all over everything, Justin Steckbauer ministries, Justin Steckbauer's awesome preaching, God forbid, God forbid that I turn any church into a self-exalting babylon Justin worship experience.  What a nightmare!  But we see it all the time don't we?  Yes we do.

Are we building our own name brand?  Or are we building Christ's kingdom?  Are we in charge or is the Holy Spirit guiding our efforts?  Those are important questions to ask.  But Mark Driscoll is a good example of repentance in this area.  He built up his kingdom of churches in the Mars Hill network, and there were many problems, so he broke up the empire, left his role as it's king, and went to pastor a small church elsewhere.  The self-kingdom was dissolved.  Could we do the same in such circumstances? 

7. Pride - Pride comes before the fall. It's a well known proverb, but it also happens to be true.  I think we know this one pretty well. Cultivate humility in submission before God, on your knees, in prayer.  That is a humbling experience, make it daily. 

8. Doubting God's goodness - This is one of Satan's favorite tactics.  He's done it twice with two big names: Eve and Jesus. He dared to suggest to Eve that God was hiding some blessing from them when God had commanded Adam and Eve to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Satan suggested that Eve would become like god if she ate from it.  He put the lie into her mind that God wasn't really good or true.  Eve believed the lie.  When Jesus faced down Satan in the wilderness the third temptation Satan offered was to give the world to Jesus, and in this Satan attempted to call into question God's goodness in sending Jesus to the cross. 

When terrible things happen do we immediately ask: How can a good God allow this to happen?  Or do we dare to trust in God even when we don't understand why?  That is the question isn't it, can we have such radical faith and trust in our Lord that we know his goodness remains even in the face of terrible evil? Yes Jesus calls us to this great trust in God's character. 

9. Worldly Wisdom - We can start to rely on studies, and the latest research, instead of the word of God. We can start to rely on the cultural views more and more so, inch by inch, instead of the Bible.  And it's interesting how we can start educating ourselves into imbecility because we're no longer looking to the word, we're looking to social services research, to experts, to the latest research, and we've made biblical truth secondary.

The word of God is timeless and eternally true.  It doesn't change with the times or trends.  It doesn't need to be updated to please our culture.  It doesn't need to be redefined or added to or subtracted from.  It isn't wrong to seek wisdom in many places, but when the word becomes subservient to studies by experts, scientists, and academics, we're setting ourselves up for problems.  Very often those experts are the very same people who a priori have ruled out the Bible, Christianity, and even the existence of God.  We'd be wise to regard their research and data with a skeptical, discerning eye.  

10. Toying with Old Sins - We've put our old lives behind us, but the enemy will bring back old things we struggled with, and entice us, not to all out jump back in again, but the enemy invites us to begin to just lightly flirt with those old sins.  And that flirtation, as harmless as it may seem, begins to crack that door open, and over time... that old sin starts gaining power in the mind once again.  Keep that door locked, bolted, and if necessary pour cement in the entryway.

Jesus Christ has set us free from all sin.  Sometimes we sit in the prison cell of sin and impure thinking, but maybe we don't realize that though we sit in the cell, the cell door is wide open.  Jesus breaks every chain.  He has set us free. Let us not return to the trough of sin as the dog returns to it's vomit.  So we are called to live in the Spirit, and to not gratify the desires of the flesh.  

In conclusion I'd refer you to Genesis chapter three and Matthew chapter four to read and study how Satan successfully tempted Adam and Eve, and how Satan unsuccessfully tempted Jesus Christ our glorious victorious savior.  Remember that Satan can and will appear as an angel of light, but if you know your Bible you'll be able to counter him.  

And here's a tip for "god-mode" style temptations that occurred when Satan failed to tempt Jesus: Satan will quote the Bible itself out of context to try to deceive.  So know your Bible in and out, cover to cover, understand how each book should be read, if it's history or letter or poetry or wisdom.  And put on the full armor of God that you may stand against every attack of the enemy.  We've got the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is, ding ding, the word of God itself.  Amazing!  We can stand against temptation.  It's a battle, this world is warfare.  But we can do this because Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior forever.  Amen! 
Related Posts:
  1. God's Design for Marriage: Defending the Biblical View
  2. The Future Destiny of Man: The New Heavens and the New Earth
  3. Are you Jaded with the Church? How to Resist Jaded
  4. Amazing Grace received through Faith: God's Faithfulness
  5. Five Intriguing Presentations by Christian Apologists
  6. Testimony: How I Met Jesus
  7. Everything is about Jesus: All Things To, For, and. By Christ
  8. Five Powerful Sermon Videos
  9. After Jesus, What's Next: 10 Guide Posts for Christian Living
  10. Biblical Christianity vs. Progressive Ideology

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Three Tough Questions to Ask Yourself as a Christian

I often wonder where my fellow believers stand, especially those who I stand along side of in the church. We live in a day and age where there is much compromise and strife within the church. The church as a body of believers is struggling to understand how to deal with culture. Some seek to embrace culture, and others seek to protest culture. There is an important balance to strike here. And it's clear that we need to be in this world, while at the same time we are not truly of this world. 

As Jesus said in John the 17th chapter, in His prayer to the Father for his disciples: "I have given them your word and the world has hated them,for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." -John 17:14-18

The whole Bible, cover to cover is the word of God, all of it.  How can I know if my brothers and sisters believe this?  There is a fairly simple litmus test to administer.  I'll preface by saying that you probably won't like it.  I don't like it.  No one enjoys "controversial" topics like these.  But it is a good way of knowing where someone stands; If someone stands more so with the Bible, or if someone stands more so with the cultural views of the world.  Its a pertinent concern of our day and age.  

Love, mercy, and gentleness are important in this process.  Anything good done in the wrong spirit can be become an evil.  If I have all the right views of scripture and have no love, I'm a useless pharisee and a spawn of hell.  Plain and simple.  But if I have only love and all the wrong views of scripture, and I reject God's word for my own opinions, I've become just as much a spawn of hell, if not more so.  Love and truth is in perfect balance in Christianity.  Though I would say that love is truth, and truth is love.  The Christian concept of love is a love baked together with truth, in essence a 'true love.'  The worldly love of the world then, is not love at all, but in fact harmful, veiled in nicety, inclusion, acceptance, and a totalitarian "no one must ever be offended" concept, which is of course not love at all, but something else entirely.  

Yet biblical love is essential, biblical love, mercy, and a pouring out of excessive, scandalous grace.  We have to be so careful to strike that balance.  It's so easy to become a mean spirited dogged judgmental pharisee when we fight for truth and speak truth on important issues of our day.  We have to be so careful that we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  Let me say that again, it's the biblical Pauline epistle formula for speaking truth, we are called to speak the truth in love.  And as Peter wrote, we are called to provide an answer, but to do this with gentleness and patience (1st Peter 3:15). 

To be truth speakers in a fallen culture, we must make sure, though in the right hand our sword is truth, in the left hand we carry the love that comes with a gentle spirit.  That is our goal and formula.

So we seek to help our brothers and sisters who have been misled by the viewpoints of the world, to hold biblical positions on key issues. This is a simple litmus test to see where our brothers and sisters are at.  

Question 1: What is your view on the authority of scripture?

Does the believer consider the scriptures as the guide of their opinions, and viewpoints, or do they hold their own viewpoints above the scriptures, and dictate their own views into the scriptures?  Are they willing to change what the Bible says to suit their own viewpoints?  This is the most crucial question, and obviously guides what their answers will be on the next two.

Question 2: Do you consider human life to be sacred, God given, including unborn life in the womb?  

Millions upon millions of unborn child have been slaughtered in our time.  It is a modern day genocide, a modern day child sacrifice, something like 57 million unborn children have died, and gone to Jesus, precious souls, who never had a chance to live, because they were removed for the purpose of convenience, or to prevent "emotional problems."  What a terrible thing!  It is the very inversion of the cross of Jesus Christ, Jesus died for us, abortion says, you die for me, for my convenience.  

But obviously, if the believer does not hold a high view of the scriptures, then the issue of abortion isn't really a biblical issue to them, it's a cultural issue, and the propaganda of the world may have influenced them to think of child sacrifice as women's health.  It's a good question to know where they stand regarding the scriptures.

Question 3: What is your position on marriage and homosexuality?

This is probably the most revealing of all three questions.  The cultural views on this issue are so dominant, so powerful, that only the most firm Christian, holding the highest view of the scriptures, built up within the deepest convictions regarding our faith is willing to stand up and firmly say that marriage as God designed it is between man and woman, and that the practice of homosexuality is sinful (Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:91st Timothy 1:10).

Yet we must always include the fact that homosexuality is not a special sin, and a person who practices homosexuality can repent of that sin, turn to Jesus Christ, and be born again, and made new.  Jesus forgives all. Let me repeat that: Jesus forgives all.  He transforms us into new people, though we may struggle with temptations in the world, He grants us the victory.  Repent and believe the good news is what Jesus said (Mark 1:15).  

I think people who struggle with homosexuality, with gender confusion and other issues should be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion.  I believe they should be invited to our churches, invited to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, and invited to have a change of mind, and embrace God's design for living.  They shouldn't be bombarded with marriage stuff I don't think, but they should know where we stand as the church on this issue.  

I recall early in my Christian walk I participated with a church in a storefront in downtown Wausau where I grew up.  The store front outreach was stationed right next to a gay bar.  And on Saturday nights the church, downtown mission church would be open on Saturday night, with coffee and conversations.  And several people caught in homosexuality would come over, be treated with love and dignity, and would be treated as friends.  They weren't judged, or condemned.  But they did know that the church's view on marriage and homosexuality was biblical.  Many of them began attending the church, and got saved.  Thank the Lord that this church didn't say "come and don't be changed, come and remain homosexual. Jesus wants you to be homosexual."  Instead they said, "Come on in, we love you, and we invite you to be transformed by the work of Jesus Christ."  I became friends with several of these wonderful men, and I know today they would say that they were so thankful that the church encouraged them to be changed by the love of Christ.  So I really worry when Christian leaders change their view on homosexuality, and change what the Bible says about homosexuality.  Because it's destructive to people who are caught in that sin.  I bet those Christian leaders feel really inclusive, tolerant, and "loving" by doing that.  I'm sure it made them popular with the culture.  But it's hurting people caught in very real snares of the world.  It's a tragedy when churches flip on gay marriage, because it hurts those they're trying to help.  

It's a constant issue of our day and age.  It's a constant conversation in our culture. Which is exactly why we should talk about it.  If we ignore such important issues we render ourselves irrelevant.  It's odd when Christians get mad at other Christians for talking about this issue.  It's not about causing controversy.  It's not.  It's about reaching out to the culture and sharing a counter-cultural message that will help people see that the church is a different way of life. We always complain about how much the church looks just like the world.  Well, then we need to engage on difficult issues and show that we offer a different, Jesus-centered way of life.  

So in conclusion, the three key questions of our day and age relate to the authority of the Bible in the life of a believer, the sacredness of human life, and God's design for marriage and family.  Those are the key issues of our day.  

I would just appeal to those who are struggling with these questions: Please friends, we are not trying to be mean or judgmental when raising these questions.  We're trying to rally people to the word of God, and what it truly says.  There is nothing wrong with picking up the Bible, checking out some key verses, and then adjusting our viewpoint on something.  There is no shame in that.  It's a biblical thing to do, that we test everything against the word of God and what it says in our wonderful book. I'd encourage you to take that journey if your struggling with these words.  Thank you.  I could always be wrong, the Bible is right, I could always be off base, test everything by the word of God.  It's above me, it describes things better than I ever could. Thanks, and God bless you today.  

Related Posts:
  1. God's Design for Marriage: Defending the Biblical View
  2. The Future Destiny of Man: The New Heavens and the New Earth
  3. Are you Jaded with the Church? How to Resist Jaded
  4. Amazing Grace received through Faith: God's Faithfulness
  5. Five Intriguing Presentations by Christian Apologists
  6. Testimony: How I Met Jesus
  7. Everything is about Jesus: All Things To, For, and. By Christ
  8. Five Powerful Sermon Videos
  9. After Jesus, What's Next: 10 Guide Posts for Christian Living
  10. Biblical Christianity vs. Progressive Ideology

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Quotations on Atheism: How Should We Answer Atheism?

Atheism is an interesting worldview.  It's absolutely unheard of in the history humanity until the last few hundred years.  But increasingly modern man is identifying as non-religious.  Though most would not consider themselves militant atheists, most would probably fain a lack of interest in religion and/or spirituality while affirming an atheistic material view of reality.  

As Christians, how do we counter atheism?  How do we counter materialism?  Let's look at a few quotations by influential Christian leaders from the past and present. 

"I believe it takes far more faith to be an atheist than to believe in God. Atheists believe that everything that exists (the entire universe with its billions of stars and planets) came from nothing and by nothing. Nobody x Nothing = Everything. That takes a lot of faith!" –Charlie H. Campbell

"Someone once said that if you sat a million monkeys at a million typewriters for a million years, one of them would eventually type out all of Hamlet by chance. But when we find the text of Hamlet, we don't wonder whether it came from chance and monkeys. Why then does the atheist use that incredibly improbable explanation for the universe? Clearly, because it is his only chance of remaining an atheist. At this point we need a psychological explanation of the atheist rather than a logical explanation of the universe." -Peter Kreeft 

"If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshiped." -Evelyn Underhill

"Atheism is a crutch for those who cannot bear the reality of God." -Tom Stoppard

“I am persuaded that men think there is no God because they wish there were none. They find it hard to believe in God, and to go on in sin, so they try to get an easy conscience by denying his existence.” –Charles Spurgeon

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say that there is no God.”
–Abraham Lincoln

“Everyone worships–even an atheist. He worships himself. When men reject God they worship false gods. That, of course, is what God forbids in the first commandment.” –John MacArthur

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.” –C. S. Lewis

"Still, even the most admirable of atheists is nothing more than a moral parasite, living his life based on borrowed ethics. This is why, when pressed, the atheist will often attempt to hide his lack of conviction in his own beliefs behind some poorly formulated utilitarianism, or argue that he acts out of altruistic self-interest. But this is only post-facto rationalization, not reason or rational behavior." -Vox Day

"Nobody talks so constantly about God as those who insist that there is no God." -Heywood Broun

Much of atheism in western civilization stems from naturalism, naturalism stems from darwinism.  Evolution of course is taught as undisputed fact, yet the theory is full of holes.  We would be wise to reexamine the reliability of this theory.  Yet maybe there is something greater in the backdrop. Perhaps we now live a society that thinks God is no longer necessary.  Or perhaps society thinks that Christianity has been tried, and was found judgmental and wanting.  

Yet I think western man is near a time in history when we may once again realize our need for God.  When the sheer empty meaninglessness of secular atheism has played itself out in the empty bottle, the Rx hangover, the morning breakfast after the one night stand of scientism, and the caving gaping hole in the chest that selfish self seeking living provides, there may yet be a shadow emanating off the wall of the broken trainspotting apartment complex, where a dazed half stupified post-modern man may look through the glass dimly and see... God.  

My Top Ten Favorite Christian Speakers to Listen to on YouTube

1. Ravi Zacharias - I've heard most of his messages, he generally gives pretty much the same message, but he's deep, he talks philosophy and apologetics with a central gospel focus. 

2. Frank Turek - straight forward jersey talk on Christian apologetics and cultural/political issues

3. Timothy Keller - His apologetics are excellent, but Tim Keller's description of complex overarching themes of scripture is really quite exceptional.

4. William Lane Craig - Intellectual, deep apologetics based on a solid framework of logic laced with cosmology, history, and scriptural references.

5. Ray Comfort - the evangelist never fails to urge us to reach people with the living gospel, true deliverance from sin. 

6. Voddie Baucham Jr - Voddie's focus on family, marriage, and scriptural authority are thought provoking and quite grounding for the mind. 

7. John Piper - always meaningful sermons focusing on the glory of God and how we are made to glorify Him and enjoy fellowship with God.

8. Greg Koukl - apologetics, science, and the reality of Christian worldview. 

9. Michael Ramsden - RZIM Christian apologist

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Messengers of Compassion: How does the concept of compassion play out in the Scriptures?

Let me preface this brief post by saying I of course can't speak for the messengers of compassion or the Salvation Army overall.  These are simply my viewpoints, and my opinions and they do not necessarily represent the views or positions of the Salvation Army.  

I'm part of a session at the college for officer's training in the Salvation Army called "The Messengers of Compassion."  Each session of "cadets" in the Salvation Army seminaries worldwide are given an official title, and flag.  I'm part of this group.  

At first I felt somewhat troubled by the title of my session, not exceedingly so, but I feel such a strong call toward truth, grace, and the gospels.  But what about compassion?  Compassion is in fact, a powerful concept in the holy scriptures.  Perhaps I hadn't fully understood the significance of compassion in Christ, the gospel, and my own life.

The gospels are full of verses where Jesus was moved to compassion for the people he served.  If compassion moved Jesus in His life so many times, if this fundamental emotion was to prime to God himself, shouldn't it be exceedingly prime to his servants?

It's an incredible honor I don't deserve.  And a massive, massive responsibility.  In fact, if it's true that God is real, and that heaven and hell are both real, and the souls of all humanity on Earth hang in the balance, then the responsibility of a pastor to carry the word is definitively the most important job ever.  Literally.

In the gospel of Mark it is recorded: "When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things." -Mark 6:34

The needs of the people near Jesus caused an emotional reaction in his soul, he felt the emotion of compassion and this spurred him to teach the people. Compassion triggered action.

Again in the gospel of Luke, chapter 7 Jesus was approached by a woman.  She had lost her husband, he died at some point in the past.  And she was carrying her first born and only son in her arms.  He was dead. And Jesus saw her.

It says: "When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." -Luke 7:13

Jesus was moved with compassion, and his compassion moved him to take action.  That's what being a Christ-follower is all about.  Our hearts are turned from stone cold darkness to soft warm flesh.  And when we see suffering instead of apathy, we're moved by compassion, to action.

If you combine the OT and NT there are 93 instances of the usage of various words for compassion in ancient Hebrew and Greek (Racham in Hebrew, 45 times, and Eleos in Greek, 26 instances.)

In the epistles, the letters to the early churches and church leaders we see instructions, specifically from the apostle Paul indicating that we must make use of compassion as a primary character trait in our new lives: "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience..." -Colossians 3:12

Out of the heart can come great evil, but for the regenerate believer out of the heart should come compassion amongst other key character assets. 

This compassion is evidenced in an outpouring of love for those in need.  It's such a cliche' thing to say, but it is true that actions speak louder than words.

The primary scripture verse linked with my session is Ephesians 4:32 which states: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."  

Amen to that.  Compassion is the emotional response we as Christians have to the suffering and despair of the world, that moves us to carry the gospel and meet human needs in the name of Jesus, without discrimination.

So I'm a messenger of compassion, and rightly so.  I'm not a messenger of law, judgment, or harshness.  That's what I looked for in Christians when I was an atheist.  I looked for hatred, because that's what I thought Christians were, haters.  But it was the love of people like Marion, the priest who visited me at my bedside when I was near death in the hospital.  And it was pastors like my pastor at New Day church who presented a gospel of total forgiveness, of total grace, that won me over.  

I realized that God didn't want to punish me.  God wanted to offer me forgiveness if I would receive His son Jesus Christ, and allow Jesus to transform my life into something better.  That's the essence of the gospel message, radical compassion to people who have lived in a dark, dank underworld of sin and human selfishness so long that they've gotten used to being treated like a hunk of meat, like something to be used and abused, they've become so cynical in darkness, that when selfless love wells up in the Christian, it's like a river that shatters the rocky surface of their soul and fills them with something as radical and transformative as hope. Hope, flowing out from pure compassion, compassion unmixed with anger or cruelty, a radical, excessive compassion laced with abundant grace, scandalous grace, grace that covers over terrible sin, washing it away completely in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ who has paid the debt for all our sin.  It's that gift, that passion of Christ Jesus on the cross, which in fact is the ultimate expression of the compassion of Jesus Christ, his willingness to go to the cross, because he was moved to compassion, to come on a rescue mission to save people who rebelled against him, to save them.  To save you and me.  Amazing.  

I'm honored to be a messenger of compassion, because ultimately it was the compassion of the messengers who came to me, that won me over to the love of Jesus. To do that with my life is the dream I could hardly dare to dream. I can't deserve it, but I will receive it, and God willing I will be found faithful in this journey of service to our living savior.  Amen. 

Additional Articles:
  1. The Return of Jesus Christ & the New Jerusalem
  2. What will the New Universe be like?
  3. Origin, Meaning, Morality, & Destiny: An atheist and a Christian on discuss Worldview
  4. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  5. Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider
  6. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics
  7. Believing in the Miraculous: The Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross
  8. Can you see through the illusion?
  9. Philosophy, Science, Logic, and History: Presentations on the Truth of Christianity from Multiple Disciplines
  10. No Evidence for God?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Sky walking Russian Kids and the Meaning of Life

Have you ever heard of those Russian kids who climb extremely high buildings and bridges, as well as equipment and videotape themselves at extreme heights?  Google it.  I've seen some of the videos, crazy stuff.  Have a look:

It's sort of an internet phenomenon. It's a bit dated now, but I came back to it recently out of pure curiousity  These kids live in small towns in Russia, with nothing to do, I assume.  So this is what they resort to... I can't help but wonder if lives like these are a result of a lack of understanding of purpose and meaning in life. 

I'm sure its entertaining, a rush.  I'm sure it's stimulating.  They're looking for adventure, joy, and excitement in their lives.  And they have none, so they turn to the very extreme of cheap thrills, risking life itself in defiance of all life's value. 

I understand the appeal of that, though many reading may not.  I understand putting it all on the line, and escaping death by a hair.  As twisted as it sounds, it was appealing to throw in the face of life itself by risking it in utter foolishness.  That is my spirit outside of Christ.  My cause is nothingness without the Savior.  My mission becomes death and darkness without Christ. So it is best to remain with Christ. 

But I can relate to this desire, before and after conversion. I used to rock climb at night.  I used to take a lot of risks.  I still do take risks, but different risks. Risks are important in a meaningful life.  But I used to take risks simply for the enjoyment of being risky.  There is something liberating in denying the value of your own life, for some reason.  Maybe it's the height of rebellion, though maybe, just maybe it boomerangs around to something more honest and profound: A declaration of the freedom of life in a world of rules, regulations, and subtle tyranny.  Or maybe it's not so much a reaction against tyranny, but a reaction against the systematized way the modern world is, charts, graphs, roadways, businesses, all lined up just so, and requiring a conformity that is just so.  And the human mind, made in the image of God, knowing it's made for liberty, and freedom, rejects this construct in it's various restricting forms.  

The modern world starves us of legitimate spiritual expression.  And it cuts us off from ourselves and from those around us, through screens and substances and prescriptions and to do lists.  So perhaps the young break free by dangling from massive objects, skyscrapers over looking cities full of half asleep people who can't see God in the shadows.  

I used to be the ultimate self destructive person.  I took enjoyment in slowly destroying myself through drug use.  I was lacking meaning in my life.  I had been told in the higher education institutions that life had no meaning, that all truth was relative, that my truth was up to me, and no one has the truth because there is no truth.  That led to despair, and meaninglessness.  But the self destruction I lived out was a natural consequence of the post-modernist garbage I was fed.

I'm here to tell you now: Post-modernism is a lie and moral relativism is a lie.  

It's garbage, total nonsense puked out by college professors who can't stand the idea of moral accountability.  But there is meaning in life.  And there is a real God out there who made this universe, and designed this structure of nature, space, oxygen, animals, plants and us.  It's so painfully obvious now that I think about it.  All this complexity, all this harmony, even with all the problems and evils of our world tell me that there is a God, but something went wrong in this universe. And what went wrong is you and me.  We've fled from God and tried to remake the world in our own confused image.  And it's led to meaninglessness and moral chaos.  It's led to pain and confusion in our hearts and souls.  We ache after something greater, our minds reach out for something beyond us, and when we realize one simple fact it all begins to make sense: We're the ones who are lost, confused, sad children who ran away from home and are now lost in the wilderness.  And we can't see right.  We don't understand.  We're afraid and hostile like a caveman on the streets of modern day LA.  

So if we can come to realize the reality of God, this is the key that opens the ancient doorway, on a new path, away from the ledge, away from the self destructive thrill seeking, away from chaos, and to a new road, a journey through a beautiful labyrinth that leads to a nazarene peasant, two thousands years ago, named Jesus Christ.  Yes, it's true.  

Related Posts:
  1. Twilight in the Dark City
  2. What is the matrix?
  3. Living in the Suburban Sprawl (Mountains beyond Mountains)
  4. Ancient Doorways in the Brickhouse: Fields of Green in your Dreams
  5. Depression & Meaninglessness: Where is God in the depths of sorrow?
  6. The Awe of Dreams & the Surreal
  7. Big Picture: The Solution to all the Problems of Earth
  8. What is the meaning of Life?
  9. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of God
  10. Daybreak: Examining the Problem of Pain

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Reflection on the Journey of Life: A Mysterious and Beautiful Christianity

The simple act of going for a walk can be such an engaging experience.  I need it actually, after the long day.  So many days are spent doing mindless tasks repetitively.  It's like my mind unleashes during the long night walks.  I wish I could do it more often.  But winter is coming.  And the nights will be cold.

It's beautiful out.  Darkness is beautiful.  The trees are beautiful.  The moments are often quite beautiful.  There is so much work to be done.  And so few to do it.  

Life is so mysterious.  There are so many paradoxes.  It's so easy to get sucked into the daily go, go, go.  And there are so many screens.  There are so many glowing screens that we all stare at.  What I wonder is really going on here?  How can I understand the world from my Christian worldview, through the Bible, which is in fact the truth about life?  

What's really happening out there?  Yes, out there, on the streets, in the world?  What does everything really mean?  I know what I've been told it all means.  But I was brought up into a naturalistic view of the world.  Now I realize and understand that materialism is a veil, it's not the truth about life.  Christianity is the truth about everything, I've come to know.  How does that impact literally everything?  Because assuming it's true, it does affect everything fundamentally.  

I can't put it in any box.  I can't get close enough to God.  We act like we can see God in his fullness now. But we can't.  Christ is given freely, the Spirit is given, but the fullness of the presence and dominion of God is shrouded.  So we live indirectly in the presence of God now, with the promise of the completeness of His presence later.  And a remade universe, a remade Earth.  One thing is certain: More will be revealed.  

It's a fight to remain in the truth.  The world has a lot of allurements.  At times, especially when frustrated or depressed, I can feel the call of it.  The call to do what feels good in the short term.  It's so powerful at times.  The temptations are real.  

The temptation hangs out there.  And it's like I'm starving in the desert, sun scorched skin, and a mouth as dry as the sierra desert.  That temptation looks so sweet, like a jug of fine swedish spring water.  Or a decadent cupcake.  Or a beautiful woman in her prime.  It's insanely alluring.  And I'm exhausted, physically, mentally, frustrated, half-awake, pessimistic, and I just want something, anything to feel good for just a moment.  But that temptation is a lie.  It is not water in the desert, it's poison in the desert.  It's a spiked waterhole, it's salt water to hasten my demise.  

I may find myself in the desert like Jesus in ministry, in the Christian life.  Let us not forget that it was the Spirit who led Jesus into the desert.  It was a time of testing that would end with angels gathered around to tend to his wounds.  

The temptation in the desert is offered as a permanent stay in the desert, disguised as a temporary escape.   

Let's continue.

Rebuilding a broken empire (myself) is in fact quite difficult.  But I have help.  The struggles are very visceral and real.  Life becomes very real on this journey.  It's too real.  The best way to describe it is that it's like the gnashing of teeth.  It's like gritting my teeth, grinding them hard, when they shouldn't be grinding at all, just to get through everyday.  Everyday... oi vey, full of awkward moments, difficult decisions, tense situations where I could just crawl out of my skin.  It's very tough.  Too many moments I feel filled with a sense of discouragement. Perhaps more so, a sense that things won't work out as I want them to.  Which happens to be true, they won't work out how I want them to, they'll work out how God wants them to. 

Yet a general sense of discomfort haunts me through life, a sense of unease.  Discomfort with life I suppose is what it is, with how things go everyday, discomfort with society, media, and the crumbling culture around me.  

Better strap on the armor of God, because it ain't gonna get any easier!  The darkness descends.  The dark rift.  We live in a time in history when western man turns away from God.  We live in a time of corruption, starvation, human trafficking, unborn child sacrifice, and utter confusion.  Things seem to be falling apart don't they?  But often in history, when things seem to be falling apart, they are actually coming together. 

I sat in the home of a retired minister, asking her about her copy of the works of Josephus.  She said that she doesn't envy the difficult times that are ahead for my generation.  I thought for a few moments, and I said,"Well, maybe we're made for the times we're in."

I'm not the first to say that, but I think it remains true today.  I find myself in times of discomfort, it's true, yet I also find myself in times of great encouragement.  And I find myself caught on fire with the very Spirit of God.  You see he has built me up, and made me new. The broken kingdom that was my soul is come back to life.  

I've entered a new phase of my life now, and it's come with many changes, good and bad. But my faith has grown a great deal.  I expect that God will get me through all that I encounter.  And there is the feeling of being held up above the fray in many ways, in my soul and in my heart.  God makes the impossible, possible.  That's not a pithy idiom to me, but a fact of life.  There is great depth to that statement that we can miss if we toss it aside too quickly as a cheesy remark.

Whatever your facing in your life, I'll hope you'll be encouraged in that God makes the impossible, possible.  I hope you'll take time for quiet reflection in your own life, to walk the dark streets, or doing the day, and reflect on the glories of God's greatness in your life.  

Think about the world, and think about what it means that God is behind everything.  Think about how Christianity changes your view of the world.  Because it does impact everything.  It really does.  I'm amazed at that simple fact.  

His impact on us personally though, is perhaps more provocative than comprehending his evidences in the natural world.  He has put to work a comprehensive process in my life which is quite startling.  He has saved me, justified me by the blood of Jesus.  That's the first big move.  Second he gets me clean from all the drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, lustful thoughts, over-eating, and anxieties of the past.  Next he puts me to work in the world, in a good job.  Then he puts me into college, and brings me through magna cum laude.  

Then He brings a sacred realization, what we in the holiness movements call "second blessing."  We realize as William Booth did: "God must have all there is of me."  God must not have simply 80% or 92% or 99.4%, but 100% of who we are.  

God then implores us to say "no" to sin.  

God then implores us to say "yes" to holiness.

Next God called me to full time ministry.  Called, and consecrated, meaning entirely given over to the calling He places upon us.  

What amazing transformations and challenges are ahead on this journey?  I'm really excited to find out.  Fundamentally though whatever happens, I'll never forget, God is good.  He gives and He takes away, so blessed is His name.  

People need Jesus, so I better tell them, if I'm not too much of a coward to do that. I'm so afraid. But I also believe. And I'm learning to be bold. But what about those others? The only thing worse than fear or cowardice would be to not even care about the lost souls out there... Don't be afraid to care.  And don't be afraid to look like a fool; If that's possible.  

I've seen broken souls transformed, like my own.  In this short time, to watch so many people changed, to watch so many people grow, and to watch so many things changed based on prayers I've personally prayed, it says to me: Wow!  This is astonishing, and I don't deserve it.  So I better get to it. 

Related Posts:
  1. Be Ready to Give an Answer for the Hope You Have
  2. How to trigger a Great Awakening
  3. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of the Architect of Reality
  4. What is the will of God?
  5. Am I called to Ministry? How can I know?
  6. The Stairway to Heaven
  7. Depression & Meaninglessness: Where is God in the depths of despair?
  8. Ten Years in the Desert, Two Years in the Wilderness
  9. A Vital Spiritual Experience
  10. Be a Man