August 1, 2014

God Will Give You Much More Than You Can Handle

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. It comes from well-meaning but biblically errant people, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” My first reaction is usually to cringe. Then I feel the need to correct the misunderstanding if they keep it up and insist its true. Making this statement to people is usually a strategy for bolstering self-esteem and morale. It allows a person to encourage others that are struggling through something and to pull up their boot straps and continue onward. It is usually done by many as consolation and to comfort those that otherwise may fall farther into a funk or give up totally.

It gives those that would believe this lie strength to face another day but it is a false hope. I will be up front. I’ve gotten wise to this fallacy or well-meaning error. We want to believe God is all loving at all costs and thereby we believe that He would never do something to us to make us struggle based on our perception of what loving and benevolence is. The problem is that many people believe that not struggling and always being happy in this life is a sign of God’s blessing. Anything else is therefore perceived as God’s curse. The Prosperity Gospel and Health and Wealth preachers are exceptionally guilty of this but so are many people with a misunderstanding of the Bible.

Here is the rub. If we go through life thinking that each new day will bring only what we believe we can handle because God wouldn’t inundate us, we are going to be sorely let down and in for a very unpleasant surprise. The idea that God won’t give more than we can handle might be what people want to hear but it certainly isn’t the truth nor is this found anywhere in the Scriptures.

Truth is what saves us and truth is what will bring us to the Cross and the Gospel…which is what we really need in these situations. So here is the truth: God will nearly always give us more that we can handle and Scripture is chock full of examples of this fact.

So where did the errant belief that God would take it easy on us come from? I believe this lie finds its origin in a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ~ “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Nowhere in this verse does it say God won’t give you more than you can handle. The verse is speaking specifically of temptation(s) not the ordinary troubles and struggles of life. God will give you the ability to endure or escape temptations not life's struggles. The truth is that once we have reached our end and need to go beyond ourselves where we cannot push ourselves…these are the exact places God intervenes supernaturally somehow for His own glory. It is here that we see why God will allow insurmountable things into our lives that we cannot handle. It gives God a place to show his true power and glorious nature. As Paul said, in weakness, He is strong.

2 Corinthians 12:19 ~ “But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.”

As a matter of fact, it is exactly because Paul and others are pushed beyond their limits that they become such great examples of faith in Christianity. It showed that God acted on their behalf in grace and mercy. It is in this exact example of Paul and why he speaks of his overwhelming ordeal that we learn the exact truth which is both purposeful and useful for the Christian.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 ~ “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” 

Paul and his companions had been pushed well beyond their own strength(s) to endure anymore and they were at the point of death. They were therefore in the realm of God's grace. They did not despair even more and say, “Oh my! God won’t give us any more than we can handle!” No! They realized that God could indeed overburden them but they also knew in faith that He would deliver them. On this fact about God they placed their hope and did not despair. They didn’t place their hope in false platitudes like the lie we tell others today. They also turned to God in prayer. What they did not do is try to build up one another’s self-esteem with empty words. This is the diseased fruit of today's self-help mentality. They turned to the only One that could affect a positive change to their dire predicament. They turned to the Omnipotent God that was allowing them to be pushed beyond their limits because of the very fact that He was allowing the struggle to take place and He would provide the route of escape.

Only one question therefore remains: Why does He allow insurmountable struggles to come upon those He loves?

Simple. God cares about your eternity more than your present condition. He allows these things to come into our lives to strengthen our faith in Him and get us to realize that He is the only One we can turn to when all worldly hope is lost. Who will you look towards at your point of death?Although these look like the actions of an unloving or apathetic God, this again goes back to faulty human reasoning and the twisted way fallen men view God and His actions. It isn’t because God is sadistic and unloving but it is because He is loving that He allows our trials of this magnitude. So that is counter-intuitive you say? Perhaps for man it is counter-intuitive but in God’s reasoning it is needed and Paul already told us why. It was, “…to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” Paul is pointing to the supernatural goal line stand. This is all about eternity

The Lord pushes us over the edge of our abilities to deal with things specifically to show His glory when it comes time for Him to work through our faith in Him. A glory so great that it overcomes death and maintains us in eternity. Even when we are at the ragged edge. God really does become evident in our weakness because it shows it is nothing that we are doing and it’s all about Him. It also points us to prayer and when prayer begins to show that it works it increases faith even more. Then the floodgates of heaven open. This is the place of abundant faith and miracle. This is the place God is most prominently put on display in all His glory.

God...who specifically backed is people up to the Red Sea while being run down by Pharaoh.

God...who specifically pitted David against a monstrous Goliath. 
God...who specifically gave Gideon 300 men to fight the Midianites.
God...who put Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a furnace they could've never survived on their own. 
God...who put Daniel in a lion's den with lions that Daniel couldn't control and eventually killed other people.
God...who allowed all humans except Enoch and Elijah to face death the unbeatable foe. Yet all have overcome this last foe. They have done so through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We as humanity have overcome due to our Advocate who died and rose again the third day in accord with Scripture.
Let’s face it folks. If we didn’t have unbearable circumstances in this life that threaten to sink our ships…where would the need for faith or God be? 

Absent, that’s where. 

Your struggles are essential to your faith because your faith is produced in the crucible of hardships you must endure. The heat of the crucible burns out the doubts that would have otherwise gained traction in an absence of suffering and faith

Without getting more than you can endure you are not forced to step out in faith. You are not learning to depend on God. You will not grow spiritually. We must see our obstacles in life as being placed there specifically by God for His purpose, not as impediments God left lying around to torment us. In the end we need to get to a place that keeps us in the crucible. A place where we could’ve never otherwise survived without God’s miraculous and supernatural intervention on a regular if not constant basis. 

To be able to stand in this heat requires supernatural faith. To have this type of faith we need to pour ourselves out as offerings to God so that we can make room for His Spirit to bolster and sustain our lives and push us from the mundane to the super-mundane. From ordinary to extraordinary.

In those crucible moments of truth, when we’re overcome with the need to alleviate or ease the pain we must accept that God will often offer us no easy way out. He might even turn up the heat of the furnace to get us to the place He wants us more quickly. Sometimes there just will not be a ladder out of the lions den to make life the way we want it to be. Perhaps that is because God doesn’t want our lives the way we want it to be? Perhaps it is because He wants our lives the way He wants it to be? The truth is that usually we want solutions to allay our pain. God wants us holy and pain may be the impetuous to get us there. Our solutions usually don’t bring us to God and holiness, they just bring us back to ourselves and temporary answers (therefore idols). God’s path or hardship usually solves problems permanently and bring us to Him. Therefore they bring us to holiness and life.

Perhaps we should stand longer in the fire of God’s sanctifying flame rather than always attempting to avoid it? Perhaps the fire will burn off our impurities?

Malachi 3:2-3 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.


July 30, 2014

Too Much Salt Ruins A Good Steak

There are two Greek words in the Bible (akatastasia and synchyseos) that surround one idea (confusion / mayhem) that should be taken into consideration when we discuss diversity or what the modern culture calls tolerance and what they consider acceptable nowadays. By understanding these words and how the modern world relates to them will allow us to better understand why today’s “diversity” and "tolerance" or the accepting of everything under the sun is actually a bad thing. 

The first word is ἀκαταστασία / akatastasia and it is found in James 3:16 and 1 Cor. 14:33.

1 Corinthians 14:33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

James 3:16 ~ “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”

In 1 Corinthians it is translated confusion and in James it is translated disorder. It is actually a compound Greek word formed from (a) meaning not, (kata) meaning down and (stasis) meaning stand/steady. Together it means "cannot remain steady". It literally means something is unstable or it is an instability brought on by disorder.

A nearly identical word is found in Acts 19:29.

Acts 19:29 ~ “The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia.”

The word confusion in Acts 19 is actually συγχύσεως / synchyseos and is often translated tumult or uproar and means to pour or mix together. When used in this context it means to trouble, stir up or agitate (people in particular). So at its root we see the idea of pouring different things together to the point that they can no longer be separated just like we saw the crowds in Acts 19 when they got a hold of Paul and his companions. Here is where this idea applies to us today.

Our society prides itself on multiculturalism and unity in our diversity. There are many cases where this interacting is a good thing. True diversity is indeed an asset to not only the Body of Christ but also our nation. One man’s weakness can be another man’s strength. Additionally, gasoline in the right environment can make a vehicle go but used incorrectly or with evil intent and it can be used to make a Molotov cocktail. Mixing and using differences can always be used to suit God’s good purposes. Just like anything else that the Devil can counterfeit, it can be used for destructive ends…even subtly. This is where the word diversity and confusion begin to fuse together and become almost indistinguishable. It takes a diversity of people mixed chaotically together to cause a confusing uproar.

It is here we see that there are types of melding that just shouldn’t take place. The reason they shouldn’t be mixed is because they cause chaos, not unity. They cause disunity and mayhem. It is the exact idea gleaned from 1 Corinthians 14:33 and the fact that God is not a God of confusion. By removing God from the equation, disorder and chaos reign. The absence of God’s presence allow it to happen. God Himself is order and maintains order. So to remove Him from any given situation is to produce disorder. The restraint of God’s grace is removed and the sin and evil of man enters in its place like a spiritual vacuum. This is exactly what we see in Acts 19. It is also what we see in Luke 21:9 which is the description of the destruction of the Temple in the End Times. It is idea in the word translated uprisings. In the End Times when people ignore or turn away from God…there will be more war, disorder and confusion. Chaos will reign.

Luke 21:9 ~ “When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

We saw the mingling of the Israelites with the original inhabitants of the Promised Land. This in turn led to the chosen people reverting back to pagan worship. We saw it also when Solomon married pagan wives. What we read in the Bible about the Canaanites and other people surrounding Israel were that they were workers of iniquity. They were not the friendly neighbors next door unless the next door neighbors were Satanists or purveyors of human sacrifice. 

These neighboring people also routinely attacked the Israelite people. In Numbers 25 and 31 we see the Israelites had joined with the Moabites and Midianites to commit fornication to idols. Here mixing wasn’t only bad…it had been forbidden. God eventually calls for destruction of the pagan people (and eventually His own people). When we see Solomon, we see a man that does the same. Unfortunately, he is the king of the entire nation of God's chosen people.

Another absolute must is that light should have nothing to do with darkness or truth with untruth or confusion ensues.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 ~ “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

The idea of being unequally yoked together means to be "joined in participation toward a common goal" by two disparate people. It is the idea of joining two things together that are spiritually incompatible. Not all religious fellowship is pleasing to God. It displeases God when fellowship involves the wrong people as we saw in the Old Testament. In the same vein, when joining two spiritual ideas together we should see the same incompatibility. Taken to the extreme we can see how even double-mindedness and incompatible thoughts are bad news (2 Cor 10:3-4). 

The same idea applies today when people pick and choose what they wish to adhere to or obey in the Bible. Murder is viewed as bad…except if it is in a mother’s womb and the mother doesn’t wish to bring the unborn child to term. Then in is called tolerance of that woman’s wishes and she is allowed to have her choice (See what I did there?). Love is viewed as good no matter how the people match up or whom they engage in relationships with. Homosexuality and mix-and-match gender relationships are okay with the culture even though the Bible calls them sexual immorality outside of heterosexual marriage (I did it again). Not all mixing is acceptable regardless of what a pluralistic sexually immoral society says.

Finally, we have the mixing and confusion caused by the mixing of word definitions as I just showed above. In our society…no one can be wrong. It is only acceptable or tolerant to allow everyone their viewpoint or opinion and society says that we have to accept all as valid truth claims. This is where mixing and matching of truths just does not work (neither in logic, nor in reality). Those bent on immorality will merely change word meanings to make their sin less sinister sounding or even try to make their sin sound good. Murder is now “pro-choice” and sexual immorality is now “alternative lifestyle”. Call it whatever you want…depravity is still depraved.

In any given context, only one truth can be true. It is an issue of agreement or disagreement of terms that allows the above twisting of language to take place. Our society in its push to get everyone’s opinions accepted has allowed all definitions of word meanings in these arenas. In formal logic it is called The Law of ID or The Law of Identity. The failure to adhere to this rudimentary logic causes a fallacy called an equivocation. That is to say, people try to use the same words/terms in the same discourse while having signify different senses or meanings–even though the different meanings are conventionally prescribed to that term. In our case for this post “love” means “immoral sexuality” and “abortion murders” are called a woman’s right to “chose”. This mixing of meanings causes, among other things, confusion and disorder. So…if this is what’s happening in our culture and worldwide and it is causing a tumult, is it of God?

Answer: No. So where is truth? I already told you, its in the Bible...and I didn't equivocate.

The truth is this folks....real truth is in the Bible. Anything that stands opposed to the truth of Scripture is not of God. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Start in the Scripture whenever in doubt and odds are you will end up with less confusion. Christians are not to mingle with those that perform deeds of wickedness.

Ephesians 5:11 ~ “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

In the end our attempts in evangelism to try and mingle the Word with the world to get our message out comes at a cost. The more we put the culture, science, worldly philosophies into our messages and sermons, the more we depend on the culture, science and worldly philosophies to convey our message. The truth is exclusive and it doesn’t need mixing. The Gospel worked fine for 2000 years. Do we really think it needs to change to adapt to the culture now? Every time we piggyback things into the Gospel to make it more pleasing to the world we only end up watering it down, or diverting attention from it. We end up showing people that the message of the Gospel is not quite enough. Like gold, sometimes things are most valuable when they are most pure. Like believers, sometimes when things are emptied of all their unnecessary filler, they are most useful. 

Sometimes…mixing too much salt can ruin a good steak.


July 28, 2014

In Their Own Words XI: The Universe Knew We Were Coming

[More in an ongoing series about the profoundly ironic theological 
or philosophical quotes scientists or those in academia make. ]

Freeman Dyson is a theoretical physicist and mathematician. It is apparent he is a rather clever man that is good with words too. He is known for his work in quantum electrodynamics, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering. Dyson stated in 2000 that he is a (non-denominational) Christian, and he has disagreed on numerous occasion with militant atheist Richard Dawkins criticizing Dawkins' understanding of evolution. Considering Dyson made the statement below 21 years before announcing he was Christian, it is not surprising be became one recently. It appears his mindset was already being swayed towards God in the 1970’s.
"…the universe is an unexpectedly hospitable place for living creatures to make their home in. Being a scientist, trained in the habits of thought and language of the twentieth century rather than the eighteenth, I do not claim that the architecture of the universe proves the existence of God. I claim only that the architecture of the universe is consistent with the hypothesis that mind plays an essential role in its functioning.... The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming” ~ Freeman Dyson- Disturbing the Universe, 1979, pp. 250-251.
Dyson states, “The Universe in some sense must have known that we were coming.” What is Dyson saying here? Simple. He is (ironically) making an anthropomorphism about the Universe. An anthropomorphism is the designation of human characteristics or behavior to an object. By doing this Dyson is saying there has to have been sentience or thought (i.e.: design) behind the complexity and balance of the Universe / Creation. By making this anthropomorphism Dyson is inadvertently (or purposely) referring to the common argument for the existence of God called the Anthropic Cosmological Principle here. 

In Greek the word ἄνθρωπος  / anthropos means man or human. Therefore this principles says that, based on the observations of the known physical universe, the very nature of the universe itself is compatible with human life or specifically suited to support mankind. The universe did not have to become the way it did to cater to human life but it seemingly in a supernatural way...has done exactly that. It is tailored to support conscious life in the form of man (anthropos)

In other words it is remarkable that that the universe's fundamental constants happen to fall within a mathematically improbable and impossibly narrow range thought to be compatible with life, our livesFrank Tipler a mathematical physicist / cosmologist and John Barrow a Reformed Christian and English cosmologist / theoretical physicist / mathematician affirmed a similar belief in their 1986 book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle.

According to the Anthropic Cosmological Principle, the Universe appears “fine-tuned”. It is “dialed in” in such a way that it is nearly impossible that the order that now exists in the universe couldn’t have possibly arose out of the chaos of the Big Bang. How suited is the universe for the existence of mankind?

The universe operates in accordance to exact physical laws. These physical laws allow man to calculate exact planetary orbits and exact properties of metals. These exact laws also allow us to predict when the moon will cause a solar eclipse. Strangely though science will concede that the universe has order but will not concede that it is design because design will require an intelligence that could design something as massive as the universe. It requires that they concede that there is a God.

It is a universe that is about 20 billion light-years in diameter. There are approximately 100-200 billion galaxies in the Universe (Lawton, 1981), and an estimated 25 sextillion stars or a 25 followed by 25 zeroes (25,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). The Milky Way galaxy alone contains over 100 billion stars. Traveling at the speed of light it would take 100,000 years to cross its diameter. Again, what is amazing is that all the matter in the universe this vast behaves in accordance to the same physical laws.

Our Sun gives off more energy in a single second than mankind has produced since the Creation. It also produces radiation, which can be deadly. Ironically, the Earth is located at exactly the correct distance from the Sun to receive the proper amount of heat and radiation to permit life on Earth. Conversely, if we were any closer to the Sun, human life could not survive because of the horrible heat and too much radiation. If the Earth were only 10 million miles closer, too much radiation and heat would kill life. If the Earth were only 10 million miles farther away too little heat would be hitting us and life would also die by freezing to death.

We are protect from 99% of the deadly radiation from the Sun due to our distance from it and also because of our atmosphere. In particular, the Mesosphere that is about 12 miles above the earth contains ozone which filters out nearly all of the ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. Other particles also bombard the Earth from outer space at an extremely high speed, but most of these protons and electrons are reflected back into space because the Earth acts as a giant magnet that pushes the particles away allowing life.

The Earth is rotating on its axis at 1,000 miles per hour at the equator, and moving around the Sun at 70,000 miles per hour (approximately 19 miles per second). This rotation provides periods of light and darkness called night and day…just as described in the Bible. It is also necessary for sustaining life. If the Earth rotated much faster, cyclones would consume the Earth. If the Earth turned slower, the days and nights would be insanely hot or cold. 

Furthermore, the Earth’s orbital speed and tilt are “just right.” The Earth tilted on its axis allows for seasons. The Earth’s orbit is actually elliptical. This means that sometimes the Earth is closer to the Sun than at other times. In January, the Earth is closest to the Sun; in July, it is farthest away. When it is closer, the Earth “speeds up” to avoid being pulled into the Sun; when it is farther away, it “slows down,” so that it remains in a position in space that is “just right.”

What is even more remarkable is that, as the Earth moves in its orbit around the Sun, it departs from a straight line by only one-ninth of an inch every eighteen miles. If it departed by one-eighth of an inch, we would come so close to the Sun that we would be incinerated; if it departed by one-tenth of an inch, we would find ourselves so far from the Sun that we would all freeze to death (Science Digest, 1981, p. 89,124).

As I said before the Earth tilts on its axis at 23.5 degrees. If it were not tilted as it is, but instead sat straight up in its orbit around the Sun, there would be no change of seasons. The tropics would be vastly hotter perhaps uninhabitable, and the deserts would get bigger. That would happen because the equatorial portion of the Earth would be perpetually close to the Sun. In turn the Polar Regions would be farther way and colder permanently.

Then we have the Moon which is 240,000 miles away. The Moon's largest effect on us is on the movement of the oceans tides and currents not to mention weather too because of its effects on the oceans. Stationary bodies of water stagnate so the moon prevents this. Stagnant water would inevitably kill life. This therefore maintains the balance in the food chain of the world’s bodies of water. If the moon were moved only 40,000 miles the tidal changes would be monstrous. There were either be constant deadly tidal waves or not enough water movement. In addition about 75% of the Earth surface is water. This of course makes the hydrological cycle work properly.

Water worldwide is constantly evaporating and condensing. This therefore causes rain to fall on the Earth and perpetuates the weather we see all over the Earth. Cloud cover regulates temperature by reflecting (or not) radiation (heat) back into space. This is why deserts are so hot (no reflection) and rainy climates tend to be a little bit cooler. Without cloud cover our world would quickly become uninhabitable like Mars. If there were too much cloud cover the greenhouse effect would go exponential and we would be like Venus. It is ironic that the extreme examples of what we might become are our closest neighbors in space. One too close to the sun with too much cloud cover and one too far away with no clouds to speak of.

The atmosphere on Earth is perfectly maintained in its dilution and mixture of gases too. How? By the plant and animal kingdoms. Plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Animals depend upon the plants and trees for our oxygen supply. The balance of plants and animals is critical or both die. It in essence is a symbiotic relationship necessary for all life on Earth except for perhaps bacteria.

I could go on because the startling balance for life still has finer points to elaborate about, but you get the picture. I guess it’s all one big accident or one big case of luck that all this stuff would balance precariously on the thin edge of a razor so it works that it works perfectly. Is it statistically possible that it could’ve been possible without a Designer? Yes, I suppose it could but the odds of it happening and the amount of time it would’ve taken for all of this to happen by chance are statistically….impossible

Hugh Ross once calculate that there were 122 known constants necessarily for life. The chances that even two or three of these would align to work together, well, the odds of those happening boggle the mind of this rational man. The chance of all these constants accidentally popping up out of the chaos of the universe is 1 in 10 to the 138 power. That's a 1 with 138 zeroes behind it. 

Like I said, impossible.

So let us re-ask the question with one additional caveat. Is it possible? Yes. Is it plausible or probable? No. When we throw in the possibility that life could’ve actually arisen on our planet in the complexity that it has to produce self-conscious life that can even pose these questions of self-existence stretches the meaning of credible belief. Sometimes its easier to believe in God over the godless alternatives.

Well, you do the math, I’m not going to bother. It seems rather pointless. Pointless, just as radical atheist science claims the existence of life is. In reality they are claiming we are all one big pointless statistical accident. The numbers alone tell me otherwise, never mind common sense.

Dyson, Freeman, Disturbing the Universe, 1979, pp. 250-251.

Science Digest, p.89 [1]: Issue 124, January/February (1981)

July 26, 2014

Post Rock II: Teen Daze- Four More Years

In continuing this series of posts about music that puts me in a reflective mood for study I present the next on my list of favorites.  The truth is that I listen to this music at work too. It helps me chill and the Lord knows I need to turn it down a few notches. 

I realize that a lot of this music is used by stoners when they get high but that is their sin not mine. I have enough of my own. I don't use it for any purposes close to what they use it for (spacing out). I merely tend to relax and dwell more heartily on God when I hear this stuff. In particular Teen Daze's music takes me to a place that is akin to the beach at sunrise on a winter morning in childhood. I think some of their album art reflects that vibe.

It is definitely Post Rock and more along what is considered Shoegazing. Shoegaze is a sound that is typified by significant use of guitar effects, and indistinguishable vocal melodies that blend into the creative noise of the guitars. This album has an ethereal feel to it. Like many Post Rock and Shoegaze bands it also sort of has a retro feel too (the 60's and 70's). 

The video above is from Teen Daze's Four More Years. I've provided the video to the song Shine On, You Crazy White Cap. This song in particular has a Smashing Pumpkins feel from the Gish era. It tends to play visual tricks and is a bit dizzying at times. I suppose this is to play up the stoner appeal of the music but it is the best video I could find of this band that captured their quintessence.

July 23, 2014

A Matter of Worth and What Really Matters

What does it take to truly make one’s self humble? What does it take to make one’s self small? What does it take to truly die to self? I suggest many do not know, myself included. We know Jesus did it and we even intellectually assent to this fact, but can we in our sinful selves do the same? Do we know how to take an insult and not even feel the need to respond to it let alone get angry about it? Do we know how to understand our lack of meekness enough to realize that if someone does insult or demean us, that there is enough humility to not even take offense to the slight? Do we think too highly of ourselves that we believe the attacks or slights are not deserved or warranted? Do we value ourselves instead of others too much? I posit we all do to some extent. Some folks value themselves way too much. I suggest that I do and for this I repent almost daily and regret my sinful nature.

I perceive many of us have too much pride and too much sense of self-importance to allow a slight to slide and ignore it. It is in our very sinful nature to not be able to overlook a personal insult. It doesn’t matter if it comes from our parents, spouses, children, friends or even strangers. As a matter of fact, the slights sting more when they come from those we know because they know us better.

We think way too highly of ourselves. God gives us our value and God will defend our value in the eternal scale of things, we need not defend ourselves. God is also capable of defending Himself. He doesn’t necessarily need our help. Do we really need to perceive everything as a slight or transgression against us? I think not.

“Forgive us our trespasses,” comes first in the Lord’s Prayer. We then ask that others might not, “transgress against us.” The Lord praying this prayer in this order seems to be telling us to look inward for the change first before looking outward for the change when dealing with transgressions. Perhaps they were not even intended as slights. In other cases, slights directed our way could’ve possibly been solicited by our very own actions or transgression towards others as a retaliation. If we wish to reconcile relationships and overcome interpersonal strife or adversarial relationships it nearly always needs to begin with ourselves. 

The "you" really starts with me. The Lord knows (and now you do too) that this is the core of my biggest spiritual battle. I fail most profoundly here. It is here that I fully engage Romans 7 and it eviscerates me. The enemy in this instance is not Satan. The enemy here lies solely within. I am my own worst enemy. This is where the word of God pierces my heart most acutely.

I struggle horribly with this. I seem to have an inflated self-worth and in this way I am dangerously and sinfully idolatrous. I am idolatrous exactly because I often want revenge before I wish to forgive. Because I often feel the sting of an insult or a criticism before realizing I probably deserve it as a sinner. I really don’t deserve esteem from others…I make myself a god (little “g”). How? I assume my feelings which have been tainted by the fall and trigger my emotions (usually anger) are more important than obeying God. How am I not obeying? My first inclination is to not is to return fire. This is clearly disobedience, it is clearly sin.

I am not getting meek. I am not getting humble. I am not getting myself small enough. I am not making any attempt to serve and be a servant. Invariably, feel I deserve respect I am not getting and by getting angry about it and fighting back to try and get it I am attempting forcefully to get it. At times I am vehemently set on righting a perceived wrong. I don't just want respect (that I don't really deserve), I demand it. It is this very fact that tells me (and others) that I absolutely do not deserve it!

I will often stand there and say, “That person had no right to slight me that way!” Please understand I never once said that someone hammering me, beating up on me or wronging me was right or acceptable. In terms of right and wrong and justice, it probably is wrong. This may be true but for my walk with Christ and my salvation, my concern should not be with getting even or righting the wrong. That is not the issue. Justice and vengeance when required or needed is the Lord’s not mine.

The issue is this: Am I doing things to become more like Christ? Usually the answer for me is no. Did Jesus retaliate when He was wronged on His way to the Cross? No.

Luke 23:34 ~ “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”And they cast lots to divide his garments.”

Scripture is replete with examples that follow Jesus' lead here. To name but a few...

Leviticus 19:18 ~ “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Proverbs 20:22 ~ “Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you"

Matthew 5:38-42 ~ “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Romans 12:19 ~ “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Romans 12:21 ~ “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Once folks realize this, a paradigm shift is certain to happen in many people’s lives. I pray it is beginning to shift in mine as I have recently stumbled over this. It was lying in front of me the whole time. I never really thought about what it meant to be truly meek, truly humble and what it looked like to “get small” in my life. I struggle to this very moment with this issue.

It is a heart condition, not an intellectual understanding or attitude. It is an act of grace from God that allows me to have grace towards others when I am under sin and under satanic oppression. The very nature of becoming a true servant (which the Bible reinforces) drives me to get under others to lift them up. This is true of even a leader. It is especially true of a leader because it is a leader that needs to provide others with what they need to lead also. True leaders serve and are servant leaders…like Jesus. 

Yep, you got it! It's just like the old Police song from Sting, "I will turn your face to alabaster, when you find your  Servant is your Master." Understanding the true nature of a servant will change me like being turned to stone when it finally sinks in. The very nature of a servant is to get under others to lift them up and empower them. This obviously requires that a servant decrease their stature and status and humble themselves to make that happen. There is no other way allotted in God's Kingdom. To be able to help people in the trenches to get out of their trenches or help them fight in the trench, I need to get into the trenches with them. This requires dirty hands and worn-out shoe soles. It requires a heart change. Am I lifting up brothers and sisters or smashing them down like a subordinate with my actions and words? I have done too much smashing and not enough lifting up and often continue to do so in my sinful nature.

We really need to ask ourselves, “Is it worth starting a fight over?” It is the old adage come to light: "You need to pick and choose your battles". Nearly all of the battles I feel I need to wage to defend my “honor”, maintain “status” or preserve my “respect” are merely geared towards what happens in the “here and now”. How I respond tells me and all those observing exactly what kind of Chrisrian I really am. Am I the real deal or am I just a hypocritical idiot? Sadly, I fall towards the latter more than the former. I fall into the Devil's trap constantly

The truth is clear...honor, status and respect from humans only really matter in this world. A world filled with humans that are doing what? They are passing away. Some of these attributes which the world holds in such high regard only really matter in my world which is limited to the inside of my own skull (i.e.: ego). In reality I am trying to defend a house of cards on eroding beachhead on a windy day. Why not worry about the stuff that really matters and will last eternally? I am not as important as I believe I am. My importance and worth is given to me by Jesus Christ. Let Him defend me if need be. As for my actions, I just need to obey Him. 

Furthermore, to lay ourselves down to the attack of our enemy and not fight back effectively disarms our opponents like a sheep remaining silent as it is led to the slaughter. How? It invalidates the truth of their accusations by our neutrality in our own self-defense. It puts the onus of proof to prove that truth on the accuser. If it is a lie, they will be able to produce no truth to validate their point. Nearly all of us struggle with this because we have been taught since we are old enough to learn that we have "rights". Slaves do not have " rights". We either submit to one of two masters. We either submit to sin which tells us we have rights (which we dont), or we submit to Christ and forfeit them in an effort to follow Him to do His will! What's His will? To forgive other's their trespasses! In the end, God becomes our vindicator because He sees all, and knows all and will eventually judge all in perfect justice.

July 21, 2014

Unanswered Questions II: Your God Is No Match For Me

This is another installment in a series centering on specific questions raised in the Bible that are not given specific or explicit answers. They are not answered because they are rhetorical questions or they were not really intended to be answered. It is ironic that many do get answered albeit indirectly. In and of themselves they seem as if the answers should be obvious but the fact that they would need to be asked of someone says volumes about the people posing the question. This second post in the series shows us the arrogance and pretentiousness of Sennacherib and his men like Rabshakeh and the reaction of Lord’s reluctant servant Hezekiah. 

2 Kings 18:35-36 ~ “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’” But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king's command was, “Do not answer him.”

Archaeological inscriptions concerning Sennacherib claim that he conquered 46 strong-cities of Hezekiah including  many non-descript villages. In preparation for his siege of Jerusalem the Assyrian king set up his headquarters at Lachish. Hezekiah fearing the worst and not trusting in God joined an alliance with Phoenicia, Philistia, and Egypt to resist Assyria. He eventually admits directly to Sennacherib that this was a mistake. Hezekiah offers to pay ransom to Sennacherib to avoid a siege. Sennacherib demands so much treasure that Hezekiah must strip the palace and temple that the king had overlaid to glorify Yahweh. This is like a smack in God’s face twice. First he does not trust in God to defend him, then he robs from God to pay a mere human king.

Sennacherib accepted the ransom but continued to his goal of taking Jerusalem. Rabshakeh who was commander of the Assyrian army meets with three of Hezekiah officials to negotiate outside of Jerusalem. Rabshakeh assumes that Hezekiah even attempting to negotiate was trusting in his Egyptian alliance. Rabshakeh assumes that Hezekiah’s/Judah's God was no better than those of the other nations. He arrogantly asserts that even if the Assyrians provided 2,000 horses for Hezekiah, perhaps what Egypt might have contributed, Judah could not win.

However the Assyrians wanted all the people to know that surrender would be better than resistance. To resist would be catastrophic for Judah. The commander's allusion to the powerlessness Samaria god’s above would be especially menacing since many in Israel had worshipped Yahweh albeit in syncretism.

So what we have is the writer recording this lengthy exchange in Kings because it shows the central issues Judah faced and the central issue Christians today are faced with when challenged by the world to choose between what man says is proper like abortion, evolution and homosexuality and what the Bible or God says is proper like no abortion, creationism and sexual morality in marriage.

Should man trust in God/Yahweh or in man or manmade alliances based in humanism? At the heart is Satan or the world system challenging God's authority and this is always a losing proposition. God is sovereign and omnipotent. God always reigns and therefore wins in these situations.

Hezekiah sensing the extraordinary arrogance and affront to God knows a response will only further provoke Rabshakeh’s bravado. He opts to remain silent and tells his people to be silent also. Here we see a deliberate provoking and the best response to a provocation is silence. King Hezekiah knew this and made it so. Not only is Rabshakeh provoking King Hezekiah here, he is also mocking and provoking God.

God will not be mocked and justice will eventually be served. We see this today in the open rebellion of secular man against God and atheists proclaiming God does not exist. It is pure foolishness since only the foolish man declares there is no God. People in this day and age assume that God’s silence is either His inability to act, apathy towards sin or the possibility of His non-existence. They will be sadly and sorely mistaken when His wrath and judgment come on them.

As we know from the Bible, Hezekiah repented and Micah boldly predicted Jerusalem’s miraculous survival by divine means. We see in 2 Kings 19:35 that: “…it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” The siege army is struck with a plague of an unknown sort and origin and appear to have been decimated. The Lord was true to His word delivered by Isaiah:

“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David." 2 Kings 19:32-34

Hezekiah’s response in this situation is critical and should be noted by all Christians. When confronted with insurmountable circumstances from the human viewpoint…he prays, laments/mourns and humbles himself before God asking for God’s guidance and help…and God responds in a dramatic manner. Although there are no guarantees that God will act on our behalf in a dramatic manner, this story should at least encourage us to at least do the same as Hezekiah. What is certain is that not humbling ourselves and repenting before God will not have a positive effect. We need only look at the Assyrians.  It behooves us to be like Christ and humble ourselves to the will of God.

What happens next is clearly the work of God.

2 Kings 19:35-37 ~ “And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

So the answer to Sennacherib's rhetorical question is this: God will not be mocked. Sennacherib and his men's arrogance cost them dearly. Sennacherib like many before him and many after would then fade into the dust of antiquity. He would leave little more than a footnote in history in the form of a few relief cuts and an archaeological artifact known as the Sennacherib/Taylor Prism. It contained the annals of Sennacherib that are a supposed account of his military exploits against Judah. Accounts on a dusty old stone that were little more than embellishments and lies as opposed to the truth of Scripture. As for Rabshakeh, well, he is only mentioned in Scripture. one would've ever known he existed.
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