November 22, 2015

Yoga Is A No-Go

Due to its extreme trendiness and popularity even in Christian circles, yoga has become a bit of an elephant in the room. I have gone round and round about its risk to people of the Faith but my pleas often fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. I have felt compelled to write on this issue. The premise is simple. Yoga is dangerous to the Christian. Yes, you're free to do yoga just as a Christian has liberty to do whatever they want but not everything is beneficial for the Christian (sure hope that sounds familiar....1 Corinthians 6:12).

The response when I say this is typical. "Andy, you're too legalistic, yoga is harmless as long as you mediate and pray to the God in the Bible."

My reply is always, "Really?"

I’ve had this conversation with many and some have become heated conversations. I have been told doing yoga for physical conditioning and exercise as a Christian is harmless. I am told, “You’re not getting into the spiritual aspects of yoga just stretching and doing the other physical aspects.” At first I would just let it go in an effort to get along. Go along to get along. As I thought about it though I realized something was amiss. God was very specific in the Old Testament when he said His people were not to engage in pagan practices, especially those with a spiritual element or aspect to them (Leviticus 18).

I will state outright that the mental/meditative aspect is by far the most dangerous part of yoga and is dancing on the edge of a razor. So how much does yoga provide a valid non-spiritual way for a Christian to get physical exercise as opposed to meditating and being at peace with the world and the universe via Hinduism?

First, some history. Yoga means ‘union’, and in Hindu philosophy the person who does yoga doe so to gain in self-control of their body AND mind. In Yoga, they are inextricably linked and should not be separated out. Can they be used to create union with God? No. They are to reach union with the Infinite who/which can be perceived variously.  A person that does not have a firm grip of their Bible intellectually are already in dangerous waters. This is at the core of even your basic yoga class. Although the recruit to a class may be reassured that the exercises are ‘non-religious’ and that a practitioners Christian God can be substituted with the other myriad of gods acceptable for the practice, it must be remembered that yoga still represents a Hindu (also Buddhist, Jainism) world-view.

As mentioned by some of yoga’s devout practitioners, yoga is not supposed to be a weekend warrior thing or a fad. It is an entire way of life...and therein lies its allure and danger. There is not just an outright adherence to a pagan religion and its practice but there is a clear danger of syncretism or blending of religions into a synergistic whole. Part Christian, part Hindu/Buddhist. Just like the picture above, the idea of mixing these two is as ludicrous. I figured by giving an image of the hodgepodge of spirituality, it would hit home better.

There is of course an allure to the physical and mental self-control that some of yoga’s practices can bring but will practitioners see when they’ve crossed the line spiritually? No, spiritual lines are often invisible. Only the Spirit of God can see that and once you’ve begun to push the Spirit out with the practices of yoga, the line will become much harder to distinguish. It is like building a firewall with wood.

Yoga presents the Christian with an alternative interpretation of the universe. The Adi Deva or the primary being is called Narayana. Adi means the beginning of creation and Deva means the one who shines. The perception of Deva is as one who illuminates. The collective perceptions of all the beings put together is called Adi Deva, which existed even before creation. Adi Deva is called Narayana or the abode of all beings. Just as all rivers empty into the ocean, all our energies and faculties empty themselves into this collective ocean of energy called Prana which is the life force that sustains this universe. Yoga presents the Christian with an alternate path to relief of the world’s pains and anxiety which is Christ. The universal collective that Christians are called to unite with is the Kingdom of God with Jesus Christ at center.

The basic Yoga Lotus position is a circle is made of thumb and forefinger. This symbol implies the unbroken unity of life in a never-ending circle of successive reincarnations. Just putting ourselves into these positions and practices opens a path to acceptance to them. Because we are dealing with the spiritual here the risk is magnified. There are no spiritual vacuums. You become the company you keep. You are not merging with a divine being when you do this in some mystical transcendental experience, you are merging with the demonic. The Christian worldview tells us clearly that if things are not of God, they are demonic and from the system of the world.

If we read Colossians 2 we get a pretty clear answer on how to deal with questionable practices that pertain to errant Christian practice, pagan practice or general non-Christian practices. Paul had to deal with the Colossian heresy (which was syncretism) and in so doing wrote a grocery list of things to be suspicious or wary of. Why does he do this? Paul tells us so that we do not “disqualify” ourselves. Disqualify ourselves form what?


Colossians 2:16-23 ~ “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Paul is telling us what these pagan and non-Christians practices really are. They are a subtle form of hedonistic pleasure and appeal to the flesh. There are better ways to exercise that pose a much lesser risk to the Christian then yoga folks. All these other religions are not divine in origin but rather demonic in origin. They are self-made or more specifically demonically influenced through our own flesh and desires. When we do things physically to reach some form of holiness or as Paul says, “severity to the body,” we are doing a work for salvation. Salvation is by grace alone.

How does the Hindu philosophy of yoga view the divine? It degrades the image of God. The Hanumanasana or monkey position in yoga is a degradation to the point of animism. Hanuman was the name of a powerful monkey chief who was the son of Anjana, the devoted friend and servant of Rama, the seventh incarnation of Vishnu. This in contrast with Colossians 2: 6-10 shows the main difference between the basically Hindu concept behind Yoga, and the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ.

Colossians 2:6-10 ~ “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority."

This is a direct shift towards pantheism (henotheism actually). It is comparing God to multiple gods and things in nature. It even shows God as an impersonal “It” at times with no personality which any Christian that reads his Bible can tell you is not true.

Be filled with Christ, not pagan nonsense which is in reality, demonic.

Which leads to the last thought and most dangerous about yoga. It is an attempt to empty one’s self mentally. Many will say you can meditate on the God of the Bible while practicing yoga but in truth, yoga is an attempt to empty one’s self completely through chants and mantras. Again, I will ask, when does a person spiritually know when that line begins to be crossed when the very practices we are practicing are an attempt to drive out the very Spirit that will allow us the discernment to know when we are crossing that line? The answer is that they will not know and at that point it will be too late. The trick isn’t to see how close we can get to these practice and still pull ourselves back…it is to avoid it completely.

Can you practices yoga and mediate on the God of the Bible. I suppose. Is it worth the risk flirting with the potential dangers involved? I don’t know, is it worth sprinting headlong to jump over a fire pit and risk tripping and falling into the fire when you can just as easily walk around it?

It’s a shame, Hinduism sort of tells us to turn inward to find the truth by emptying ourselves. Christianity tells us to turn outsides ourselves to find Christ and in so doing we are asked to be filled with Christ, not emptied. In Hinduism we supposedly gain by losing identity but in Christianity we gain our true created identity by absorbing the One who created us. We are not truly who we were created to be until we are completely filled…not emptied.

Another sad fact about yoga is that never once is sin mentioned. If sin is never mentioned then a remedy to it never needs mentioning either. Therefore, no Christ and no Gospel. So the enlightenment offered in Hinduism and yoga is therefore not really enlightenment at all but a darkening. If there is any light it is like shining light down a deep bottomless well of human depravity. Although the breathing exercises and meditation (upon Christ and his Word) are commendable we are unwise to open the door for the entry of a system that in Paul’s words, causes someone to lose connection with Christ Himself (Colossians 2).

November 13, 2015

Disappearing Into The Demonic Realm

The Day of Atonement...

There is a beautiful simplicity in the Scriptures. 

There are ideas and principles that, once they are revealed, should instill a sense of awe for all onlookers. Case-in-point: The Day of Atonement and the idea that justice prevails in the end according to a God-given plan. Those that repent, survive. Those that do not perish. Those that obey live to fight and believe another day, those that disobey are cursed and die a slow spiritual death each day until their final physical departure.

To what do I refer?

Nowadays it is called Yom Kippur by the Jewish people.In the Old Testament it is known as the Day of Atonement. It is central to the Jewish faith even though it is not practiced as it was in ancient times. Christians will be surprised to learn that, ideologically, it is central to the Christian faith also. Well, at least the idea of atonement is (through Jesus Christ).

It was outlined in Leviticus 16. Behind Leviticus 16 is a nefarious and sinister figure lurking in the realm of the wilderness. You see the Day of Atonement required a ram, a bull and two goats for sacrifice.

Leviticus 16:3-5 “This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

A ram to please God. A bull removed from its herd was sin offering for the high priest, in this case Aaron and his family. The bull sacrifice would restore the high priest to ritual purity. He could then enter the Holy of Holies in the temple. He could enter into God’s presence without risking instant death. The goats were a bit of a different story though.

Why two goats? Why not one?

Well, firstly the high priest would cast lots over the two goats (throw dice). With a sovereign God even  the result of the cast of the dice is God’s will. One of the goats would be sacrificed. It looks as if that goat would’ve got the shortest straw or the worst of it when we find out that the other goat would just be released to the desert wilderness to run wild. Such would not be the case though. Even though the second goat was not killed outright. Its life from that point on would most likely be one of deprivation and a slow excruciating death caused by the elements or attack of wild ravenous animals. Rather than a quick humane death,  the second would be subjected to torture and then death. This goat, would symbolically have the sins of God’s people laid upon it and it would carry the sins away from the camp of Israel into the wilderness. A sacrifice "of Azazel" or “for Azazel” (depending on how the Hebrew was interpreted).

Hold on to your hats, this is where the story really takes off.

Leviticus 16:8-10 ~ “And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

Azazel is an interesting word/construction in Hebrew.

The Hebrew term azazel עזאזל occurs four times in Leviticus 16 but nowhere else in the Bible. Many prefer to translate the term as a phrase, “The goat of departure or scapegoat.” Azazel appears to be a compound of `ez  aze or a goat (as strong), but masculine in plural and 'azal or to go away or disappear. A strong male (goat) that disappears (into the wilderness) for the sins of the people. Yet this word can also be interpreted as a proper noun or name as a counterpoint to Lord or Yahweh earlier in the passage. There is a suggestion that there are two spiritual entities being represented and subsequently contrasted in the two goats. There are extra-canonical sources (non-Biblical) that mention the goat for Azazel being led to a cliff and pushed over to die and never return (disappear).

We need to realize that the wilderness as mentioned in Scripture is often the embodiment of evil and the Devil (the Temptation of Christ in the wilderness by the Devil). If we bounce back to Leviticus 17 we see that, up until the time of Aaron and the writing of Leviticus, there had been wilderness sacrifices to “goat demons” in what amounted to a pagan and idolatrous practice. In other words, superstitious demon reverence. They were giving offerings to demon spirits to appease them just like pagan religions. Demons who deserved no acknowledgment or reverence.

Leviticus 17:1-7 states, "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them, this is the thing that the Lord has commanded. If any one of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp, and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it as a gift to the Lord in front of the tabernacle of the Lord, blood-guilt shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people. This is to the end that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice in the open field, that they may bring them to the Lord, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the Lord. And the priest shall throw the blood on the altar of the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting and burn the fat for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations."

So not only is the Day of Atonement that was created by God playing out in this sacrifice of the goats…it is also trumping and replacing the idolatrous practice of offering to the goat demon. God is actually taking the existing practice and assimilating it into something proper and good in worship of Him. God takes what people already know and appropriates it for Himself even when people are too dumb to realize their error. It is just another example of God working sovereignly and providentially in spiritually blind people’s lives and doing so to their benefit.

A goat would now, no longer be sent into the wilderness as a sacrifice to a foreign god (demon). The old pagan act of sending the live goat out into the wilderness which was seen as evil and unholy ground was now appropriated for Godly and Holy purposes. Ironically, a goat would now be sent with the sins of the people where they belonged symbolically. It would be sent to a place perceived as pagan, ungodly or evil….to the demonic or nefarious realm of the wilderness or desert.

I believe here we see what was once evil and nefarious actions and events taken or usurped for God’s purposes. People often ask why God allows evil. In this story we see a case where evil or wicked practices work to God’s glory and advantage. We know that anything that works to His advantage works to the advantage or believers too.

In one of these goats we see a sacrifice that brings ritual purity and access to God. In the other goat was see the people’s sins sent to the demonic realm. We see a cleansing of the people and a separation from their own sins. In this entire scenario we see God’s true character and obvious sovereignty over even the evil in people's lives. From evil and suffering of men we see it turned on its head and instead mercy and grace put in its place. Only God can cause a complete reversal like this, a paradox like this. Only God could cause a paradigm shift this profound. To turn evil to good. To make our sin disappear.

With one goat sacrificed to bring purification and access to God and one goat sent to carry the people’s sins to the demonic domain, this annual ritual reinforced the identity of the true God and His mercy and holiness. It also eschewed the evil that was formerly involved. God brought forth good from bad.

It is therefore not ironic that when Jesus comes and dies on the cross for all of humanity’s sins, He will be crucified outside the city on the edge of the wilderness, the sphere of darkness and the demonic in the Jewish/Semitic minds of His day. This  of course will be a direct fulfillment of the shadow that was once played out with the scapegoat sent to the wilderness to die. 

So not only did God negate the formed pagan practices by the offering of the goats called for in Leviticus 16…he would do away with all sacrifices once and for all in the parallel sacrifice that was His Son’s death forever abrogating the need to atone for sin. Jesus Christ had did it once and for all and he had done it right in evils backyard.

Why did God do it in steps? Most likely so that man could see Him in the workings of this plan and so they could acclimate to these facts in their weakness. It really is remarkable that God would send sin packing right into a realm long seen and long feared as the harbinger of evil itself. He would use former symbolic gestures in a physical act of crucifixion to send sin to the very place it belonged.away from mankind into darkness. He boldly faced the darkness and the darkness cowered away from Him.

November 5, 2015

No Fear: Shaking A Puny Fist At The Sky

Everyone above 30 years old should probably remember the old existential slogan from the late 1990's clothing brand: No Fear. I am going to write on that topic or premise....sort of.

Okay, I am being slightly disingenuous here. The title should’ve been No Fear of God. In a word: Irreverence which means without due respect or veneration of God. No reverence. It is to be disrespectful and flippant towards something clearly greater than one's self. What we will find is that treating God in a casual manner is destructive and deadly.

I have always been one to keep a finger on the pulse of the culture. What I have heard often lately is one specific question:

Why are things so bad morally, ethically and in general?

These cultural conditions are in reality symptoms. More specifically signs. Signs and symptoms of what? They are symptoms of a spiritually sick nation that is already under judgment. What are the signs of a society afield of God?  Why is our society falling to pieces? Look around you to take stock of the world and then read on.

People that depart from God as the true source of life are like a solitary coal ejected from the fireplace by force. If they are not returned to the fireplace quickly, they first start a rogue fire and then quickly extinguish. Likewise, people’s hearts cool towards others until there is no internal warmth left. No desire to work as community and seek companionship. In the case of man being removed from God, it isn't God ejecting them but rather their choice to leave. 

This is further exacerbated by cellphones and computer gadgetry. This is what we see in society today. It’s not everywhere and everyone but the symptoms are are spreading like an pandemic. Just like the old bearded prophet that carried the sandwich sign proclaiming: "The End is Nigh", I say this often and I am often mocked and ridiculed for saying so. I am not saying the end is here. What I am saying is that America and the world at-large are on the wrong side of God.

Our culture and society’s condition is the end result of not fearing God. When I say lack of fear I mean there is no regard for God's Word or will. He nor His word are taken seriously anymore and it shows. It is literally the old adage come to life…there is nothing sacred anymore. It is sinful people shaking their puny fist at God. There is no desire to live a life which brings glory to God nor make any attempt to live a life aligned to Scripture. Please note I didn’t say no desire to live a “good” life. The issue therefore becomes one of what makes good “good”. Who defines it? Everyone lives by a standard. The question is, who supplies the standard, God or man. 

Who is would be more apt to provide a better standard, flawed men or perfect God. They resist being guided by Godly principles. Instead what guides them are a worldly set of principles. A life lived by selfish self-centered aims. This in turn leaves humanity in a state of inward inability. Isolated like a coal left from the fire, their hearts cool towards others until there is no internal warmth left. No desire to work as community. This is what we see in society today. It’s not everywhere but the condition is proliferating.

First, realize that there is a fear of God that doesn’t produce good results. This terrifying and paralyzing fear is likely the type of fear that comes to mind for many. This fear does not have a positive end. This fear is not what God is looking for. So what type of fear does God want? The Greek noun Φόβος / phobos can means “reverential fear” of God, “not a merely ‘fear’ of power and righteous retribution. It is actually a fear driven by a love for God and his will. It is a fear of displeasing God. This is the type of positive fear the Bible refers to. If people do not have this type of fear…they inevitably will get the other one that will be terrifying and paralyzing because the godless are always exposed to God’s wrath.

What does the Bible say are the signs of irreverence to God? Everything that comes out of their mouth is garbage. The words of their mouths are lies and deceit. Furthermore the Bible seems to focus a lot on the mouth and what comes out of it when discerning whether or not a person is debased or godless. Why? As Jesus said, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” ~ Matthew 15:11. What does eventually come out of a mouth that does not fear God is profanity and is usually inappropriately sexual in nature. Think: Unrefined and course.

People that do not fear God cannot act wisely or do “good”. That is either because they were not taught properly or rebelled and ignored what they were taught. They’re incapable of telling full truths because their own lies have even convinced them of their validity. They’re backbiting, slanderous and bitter. They’re violent and their behaviors and even their presence causes ruin and misery. They are self-aggrandizing and flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their own sin. This is often because most of those around them have the same sin…so it seems normal or status quo. Even when they rest from the day they plot evil for the next day and commit themselves to a courses of action that they know is wrong or unethical. This sounds an awful lot like Romans 3 but I drew it from Psalm 36. These truths came from a song written by David.

The godless seek great treasures and fame and with these comes turmoil and instability. We are surrounded by a society full of these people (Proverbs 15:16) and full of people that revere people that do the same. We’ve made heroes of fools and fools now run the world and influence the masses.

We see a similar society in Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament. It was the last book for a reason and most of it was God’s people. They had drifted away from the God of Scripture and it showed not only in their society and culture but even in their so-called “churches/synagogues”. If your priests and holy men are irreverent who are your spiritual leaders…what hope is there for your society. When you spiritual leaders swing wide of God’s word/will, a society deteriorates to nothing since it was God who was sustaining it.

In terms of a fear of God and a lack of it, Malachi 1-3 needs to be understood as a series of rebukes to the post-exilic people of Jerusalem. God has serious issues with the temple priests and their behavior. In Malachi 1 God is indicts the priesthood. Instead of living exemplary lives they were guilty of breaking the very Law they were charged to uphold. There was not fear of God in them. First and foremost they were treating their obligations and subsequently God, with utter contempt. This head and heart attitude pretty much formed their precepts and concept for behavior for and towards God. It tainted how their duties were performed for Him and towards Him. Inevitably it led to fearless and contemptuous behavior towards God. It showed that they were totally blind to their sin and others which didn’t allow them to realize they were irreverent to God.

They were offering blemished sacrifices. Levitical priests where raised and taught what was considered defective sacrifice but did so anyway and thereby did not fear/revere God. The priest where then naïve enough (or brazen enough) and so blinded that they asked, "How have we shown contempt for your name?” and “How have we defiled you?” They just didn’t get it, they were clueless just as our modern society is. It is like saying a builder doesn’t know how to hammer a nail. They had become so distant from God and His will that their sins had hardened their minds. They had gone insane.

What is the end result of this irreverence for them (an us today)? They recieve a stinging and convicting reproach. They are told Lord’s table is contemptible by their actions by bringing blind animals, when sacrificing crippled and diseased animals. The very holy places (churches) had been turned into a think of reproach. How many churches have now done this by openly accepting sin into their fold without expectation of a change? Homosexuality. Adultery. Avarice?

The Lord asks them if they think this is wrong and their answer should’ve been “yes”. We sadly see the depraved condition of their minds and hearts. These are animals that wouldn’t even have been offered to the governor in a banquet. We see the same today. When asked if people think they are good or good enough to get to heaven you will almost always hear a resounding yes. Sadly this cound’t be any farther form the truth.

So why wouldn’t God accept them?

Malachi implies that it would be better to shut the doors to the temple than to continue such worthless sacrifices. How does this reflect on today’s churches? Not well I would presume. God would no longer accept the offerings from their hands He was not pleased with them at all. If they couldn't serve Him with their full hearts He didn’t want any of their worship. That meant serving Him with fear and reverence. A reverence that expects that they would abide by His will, his statutes, His rules that he dictated for their benefit. God is either worthy of all our praise or none of it. Either put on your big boy/big girl pants and buck up or go home.

In Malachi 2 the priests are then are admonished harshly. So too we should expect an admonition not only individually but also at in the church today. If they did not listen [obey], and did not set their heart to honoring his name, God was going to send curses upon them. Just like then we see the same today. If the result of the irreverence and sin is already manifest, it is probable that the curse is already underway. By the time of Malachi God had already cursed them, because they had not set their heart to honor and fear God. He rebuked their descendants too. He literally and figuratively spread offal on their faces (term used to refer to the entrails and internal organs of a butchered animal) and they would be carried off with it (which we will eventually see in the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D.). In other words, their culture and nation collapsed and were scattered to the diaspora.

The Lord then reminds the priests because it is clear they are spiritually calloused, irreverent and filled with contempt for the Lord. He states that His covenant was a covenant of life and peace. He gave it to them and reverence and awe were expected in return. They have obviously failed to live up to the covenant. They took their privilege for granted. They were then cautioned against the perversion of their duties and their office. They were warned of their deviation from proper behavior and the probably end result.

What ensues is the apostasy of the nation’s spiritual and political leaders. In turn this had led others astray because they were following the bad example of their leaders. We see the same today. How often do we hear that because things are legal in the courts, they are socially acceptable…even though they are morally repugnant? How often do we hear the echoing question on the lips of otherwise good people, ”Why have things gotten so bad?” We hear it in the haunting statements of people almost daily, “We aren’t the nation we used to be.” People are correct. We are now a nation under judgment. We are a nation that treats God irreverently. We are a nation and a people that do not fear God.

November 3, 2015

In Their Own Words XXXVIII: An Eternal Universe Exists but An Eternal God Doesn’t

Let us admit outright that we are dwarfed by scale when we contemplate the universe as a whole. The earth we live on is considered a medium-sized planet orbiting an average star on one of the outer radial arms of an average galaxy. On this planet resides an ordinary race of people whose only outstanding characteristic is that they are, well, not very outstanding. They are sinful and painfully ordinary. Our galaxy is only one of millions of other galaxies in the known and observable universe. All these factors though have led extraordinarily to our healthy existence. The odds of which are… (if you’ll pardon the pun) astronomically small. In other words the chances of our existence were statistically impossible as even I will admit. That is...if you do not believe in God.

Yet based in simple inductive study and basic observation one could quickly conclude that that this whole vast construction exists specifically for our sake. It is called the Anthropic Principle or the Law of Human Existence. It is the principle that our existence in this universe is contingent upon a myriad of physical factors that must fall within a very narrow range for the ability for humans to survive at all in a hostile universe. If even a single variable were off by decimal places, even slightly, we would be obliterated or simply cease to exist. If the strong or weak nuclear forces were minutely off, the atoms that compose our reality would fly apart. If we were even a few thousand miles closer or farther way from the sun we would either freeze to death or burn to a cinder.

Surprisingly, atheist Stephen Hawking sums up this sentiment rather interestingly (but errantly and unbiblcially) in a quote from weekly German news magazine Der Spiegel.

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.” ~ Stephen Hawking [Der Spiegel, October 17, 1988]

We then have another comment about the existence of mankind and the universe from the same man that defies logic and commonsense.

“I believe the simplest explanation is, there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.” ~ Stephen Hawking [Curiostiy; TV series]

The irony is that it isn’t just hard to believe we exist…it’s impossible to believe. Too many circumstance speak to the improbability of our existence...yet we are here.

Hawking’s view is clearly a man-centered view (anthropic), not a God centered one (theocentric). It is ironic that the Anthropic point of view in actuality is a theological argument for the existence of God because of the need for Universe fine-tuning. The problem with Hawking’s view is that it is purely and only an anthropic view that totally wishes to push out God. The problem is that he also tries to discount God from an impossible scenario. Hawking omits the possibility of a Creation, God and anything powerful enough to have spoken reality into existence. A reality specifically geared to humanity which Hawking himself has admitted is special or exceptional in its improbability.

Furthermore things within his own statements beg multiple questions. He specifically states that man’s ability to comprehend these very facts that I state, makes them special. Well, what makes them special? Special implies a classification system. A classification system that lends itself to inductive thought and inductive study. Things obviously didn’t have to be this way. Reality is organized. Even chaos (to some extent) can be quantified and, well, compartmentalized and categorized. The Universe by its very nature is systemic and principles within the universe tend to be…ironically, universal. Physics that apply in my backyard mostly likely apply to stars at the edge of the Universe. The Universe’s physical characteristics are uniform and consistent from the atomic scale to the intergalactic scale.

Again I ask, special how? There needs to be a measuring stick or benchmark of special. Special to Hawking? Special compared to what? I believe exceptional might be a better adjective. Both of these are comparative words. I believe special in Hawking’s mind is the that they're special as opposed to nothing at all. A state of being that Hawking has worked hard not to believe (nothingness). You see, Hawking’s wants to believe the Universe has always existed in some form either through oscillating universes or an outright eternal universe even though background radiation in the Universe seems to refute that claim. If Hawking admits to initial nothingness he knows he violates a fundamental axiom of logic. That true "somethingness" cannot arise from "nothingness" (also known as the God Paradigm).

Hawking’s realizes just how precious human existence and human consciousness is and how special it is yet he attributes it to no exceptional source. Special and exceptional. In other words…unusual or not typical. Hawking’s is making comparative claims that these conditions for human and even Universe/Universal existence are not the norm. How would he know this? The truth is that he cannot without making himself Omniscient. Mr. Hawking’s is clearly making himself into an entity with godlike abilities that his physical condition clearly shows he does not possess. This is not surprising for a man whose overriding drive behind his theories is to disprove God and deny His existence. A motive and impetus so strong that it drives him to make contradictory or irrational statements.

Since he cannot truly know the extent of existence or a lack of it, deduction tells me that the only comparative point he has to make his statement is that he is implying it is miraculous that anything exists at all as opposed to nothing.

Furthermore, it is even more startling to him that human consciousness exists in addition to what appears to be an arbitrary and statistically improbable reality. Ontological existence of being as opposed to nothing and non-being…a start condition that Hawking’s has repeatedly tried to deny and disprove. Hawking’s has admitted that he wants the universe to have been eternal so that it discredits a need for God but admits it is improbable. So in making his statement that human consciousness is special he admits it is unusual and exceptional while simultaneously affirming a comparative start point that doesn’t seem physically feasible either by scientific or theological standards. 

It appears we have caught Mr. Hawking in a rather large philosophical contradiction or in his case he has perpetrated philosophia contra mundom.

All this to pose an ironic dichotomy in Hawking’s thinking.

Stephen Hawking wants a special eternal Universe with special human consciousness but simultaneously wants to deny a eternal God to have created it and sustain it. A desire so great that he has made assertive philosophical statements to affirm his position on  it. It is clear that an eternal God would be needed to create and sustain the universe because physical constants like entropy require a self-limiting Universe start condition and also point to an expiration date. 

So in effect, Hawking’s has made his belief and desire for ontological eternality publicly known (it is on record). Eternality...a concept firmly rooted in metaphysics...and a  characteristic that should philosophically be attributed to divinity not physicality in isolation  [I discount the idea of Temporalism because of its errant misunderstandings of God]. All these are concepts firmly planted in theology and metaphysics not science and physics. 

Theology and metaphysics. Two areas Hawking’s is clearly not an expert on nor should he be making assertive and dogmatic statements about. Two areas that he conceivable does not even acknowledge exist (an intrinsic bias then comes into play). Hawking’ expertise lies in science and physics not theology and metaphysics. It is therefore ironic that Stephen has made the Universe a god (a form of scientific pantheism) by saying it is in all likelihood eternal. 

My second point of contention with Stephen Hawking’s overreaching philosophical and metaphysical statements is when he says, “We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that I am extremely grateful.” I will say outright that his statement begs the question: Grateful to whom? I wish to sidestep this philosophically self-negating statement to dive into his other allusion of a "grand design".

A design implies a designer. If we piggyback this statement into the one we have already discussed we arrive at a rather peculiar conclusion. It isn’t just a design, it is a grand design or as other statements from Hawking’s have alluded to…special and exceptional. This is a lot of grandiloquent and superfluous language coming from a man who believes in an eternal but mundane Universe. A Universe he also has stated has a design (which implies a creator/designer behind it). 

So is Hawking’s being intellectually inconsistent and contradictory? If so, how many of his other beliefs and statements can become subject to these deductions? I’d have to say all of them. Can this man’s theories and conclusions be relied upon to explain reality? Can he be taken seriously at all? I posit that he cannot be taken seriously.

I’ll leave that to you to determine though. I personally have trouble taking anything he says seriously anymore based on these and other observations of him. As my father who was well driller used to say in his blue collar commonsense way, “People like him need to be taken with a grain of salt.” That is to say that anything he says should be considered something not completely true or right.

In a word: Dubious. This word best describes Hawking's assertions. 

Taken with a grain of salt. It was an old idea that things that were undesirable or inedible (hard to swallow) would be easier to swallow or stomach if you add a little salt to them. There might be something useful in what he says but most of it is just hard to digest and frankly, unpalatable.

October 27, 2015

Why Are So Many Christians Jerks?

Yes, the title stings and so it should. Christians are not perfect and some can often be intolerable to be around. I would include myself in the latter group at times as I am still a work in progress. But this particular stigma seems to haunt Christians disproportionately and most times...unfairly. So I would like to look at the those that often are the problem children of the Faith. The Christian brethren that most would agree give Christianity a black-eye. So yes, Christians being jerks is a Biblical principle. God thought enough about it to actually have Paul the Apostle write how-to manuals on how to diagnose the condition and deal with it. The two main diagnostic and treatment manuals were called First and Second Corinthians. 

Being a jerk. It happens today and it happened in the Bible. There was a reason letters and epistles were written to people that ended up in the Bible. Letters/Epistles were written to problem churches and people with problems or encountering problems. If folks weren’t having problems there wouldn’t have been need to write to them, would there?

So why is it that Christians are often the source of the problem rather than the remedy to it? I have to tell you that I often find non-Christian acquaintances easier to get on with than my fellow-believers. Why is it that so often the non-Christians seem nicer, more hard-working and even more honest than the Christians?

I admit that this fact/truth really does hurt. I could just blame this on the fact that some people were idiots before becoming Christian and all they did was bring some of their idiocy and boneheaded behavior over into the Faith but that would be too easy an escape hatch for this post. Even though it is true that some people can come into the faith and bring their atrocious habits with them as the letter to the Corinthians attests to, it is not getting at the core of the issue that Paul labors in depth to get explain to the Corinthian church throughout his letters to them (5 in all, 2 as canonized Scripture). No, there is much more going on here then just stubborn foolish people.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he was painfully aware that a person can still be Christian and manifest virtually no signs of it on the outside. They had shown spiritual abilities and manifest spiritual gifts but they had been severely divided among themselves. They had become harshly judgmental and frankly, they had become what many would consider...jerks (also hypocritical and Pharisaical). They had become complacent and conceited to the point of allowing sexual immorality into the church that even the pagan culture deemed inappropriate. They were failing on nearly all fronts: In their marriages, handling of money, legal issues – and even the practice of the Lord's Supper.

Paul was clear that he could not address them as spiritual, but as worldly. They were so much of the world and in the world that had he addressed them in a spiritual manner, it would’ve been lost on them and flew directly over their heads. 

Therein lies the problem. 

This is what gets at the heart of why some Christians can be such insufferable idiots and still be Christian. It is in this very dichotomy that we see how some who are actually Christian can bring such disrepute to the larger body of the Church. The Corinthians were supposed to have been followers and emulators of the purest Person who ever lived and many understood that fact, yet they “...acted like mere men”. 

They were not rising above the fleshly weaknesses of their very human sinful nature imputed to them by the first Adam. First and Second Corinthians patently demonstrates what an unpleasant bunch of people Christians can be when we have only marginally begun to experience the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. In our sin and our flesh we force out the work of the Spirit of God and allow the spirit of the world to rule our lives. We therefore become children of the Devil and tools for the spirit of this age even though we are saved. We learn here that a person can know Christ and still live in the spirit of the world which is sin.

Think about it for a second. There had to have been some in the Corinthian church that had been idolaters, adulterers,  homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, revilers and swindlers, etc. Why else would Paul have written down these specific sins unless word had either reached him that these types were in the church…or he had seen them for himself? Paul clarifies that, “…such were some of you.” They were expected to have changed if they were actually indwelt by the Spirit and still in the Church. So if these things are not working themselves out of the church then the Spirit is not being allowed into the hearts of people in the church as in the case of Corinth. 

I am sure there were many churches in Asia Minor that did not need Paul to write letters and epistles to them and they are the churches that were not having these particular problems as bad as Corinth. Corinthians were literally the pariahs of the ancient world inside and outside of the church. 

What we see in Corinth which had a lot of Christian "jerks" is an immature church. They were not necessarily a young church, just an immature one. We see it then and we see it now both in churches and individuals. A church and people that has not moved beyond the basics. Why? Most likely because they stayed firmly attached to the ways of the world instead of the ways of God's divine Word in Scripture. People and churches that remain of the world remain immature. They had chosen to remain the jerks they were before coming into the faith instead of taking on the new man that Christ offered them in the Gospel and becoming new creations...changed men and women. There is no way a true Christian of the faith can remain a jerk in perpetuity when indwelt by the Spirit of God. More Spirit, less world equals righteousness of Christ.

What we see in churches that were not written of in the Bible (but we should assume existed) is a more mature church that had gotten over some of the hiccups of an immature church. This comes from sound teaching from Scripture from Godly men. In both cases (immature and mature) we see a “work in progress”. It becomes an issue then of sanctification. 

Sanctification is part of the healthy normal process of being a Christian and a Church’s or individual's growth. There will always be grumblers and the trouble-makers in a Church just as there are all different levels of maturity and growth…in a "normal" sinful family. As a matter of fact, no church can possibly be completely pure. No church can ever assume it has no areas for needed growth. The long and short of it? There will always be Corinthians among the brethren. There will always be Christians that are jerks. It is an issue of maturity in the Faith which in reality is an issue of sanctification of the individual and growth in Christ.

Same goes for issues like Christian hypocrites. Most often hypocritical Christians are immature Christians. They are Christians trying to live up to, or have us live up to a standard of works that are not achievable even for themselves. Firstly, any Christian that is a believer in grace and works is an immature one that does not understand what method man is truly saved from his sin. Man is saved by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8). 

When Christians hold others to a certain level of works or a need to attain something, they are going outside what is being asked for by Scripture. This is Biblical illiteracy, this is also Biblical immaturity. This hypocrisy becomes exceptionally obvious when the standard is only a one-way street away from the one casting unfair judgment. It is where a "self-described" Christian expects things of others but does not have enough insight and tact to see they themselves lack in the same areas. 

This makes all Christians look like jerks.

Conversely, we also must understand that churches like families are always untidy and a little rough around the edges. We need to realize that while you walk this earth and breath, there is always room for improvement. To assume that everyone in a church is perfect or should be actually demeans Christ because it assumes a person can be perfect before being glorified in Christ and that is just not possible in this life even in the best church. 

No...churches are disciple making facilities, not perfect Christ making facilities. Additionally, we must never forget that by judging others as jerks or idiot Christians, we too will be measured against the standard of Christ and none of us can measure up to that standard either. It is better to have grace in those situations and instead of passing harsh judgment. We need to get  alongside of them and help those people along in the correct direction as Paul did. 

So in short, the reason some Christians can be such jerks is because they themselves don't have enough Christ in them. They have not read and understood Scriptures properly. Because of this their growth as been stunted or halted completely. As such, they are not as Christian as they should be or could be. They then appear to the world and others in the jerkish. This is due to their immature un-Christlike behaviors.

October 23, 2015

Tools In The Toolbox V: Church Host or Church Parasite?

The fifth in a continuing series about things a person of God can add to their relational repertoire to properly help themselves and others in the church.

The question in business and other organizations is often asked this way: Are you a giver or are you a taker? Everyone knows that there are some who exist solely to be parasitic. They are there only to leech off of the system. There are parasites...but then there are hosts also. Conversely, there are the opposite. There are those who are there to give of themselves and are critical to the support of an organization. They make it work. That is what we deal with in the post today.

How many of them are actively involved in service, and how many are “ecclesiastical consumers”?

This is a peculiar pair of questions. Why would active service to a church be important if our belief system is not a religion of works? Why would it matter if people are just shopping around for a church that suits them? The answer lies in the question I just asked. Why would it matter if someone shops around for a church that suits them? This question centers on the consumer. It makes what the consumer wants the most important thing. It makes the person that should be worshiping the center of self-worship. Churches and “ecclesiastical” environments run and function best on those that do not focus primarily on self. They function best when those in the service of the Body are looking towards others.

It’s about giving service, not receiving it. If one is focused on what the Church best does for them…they have totally missed the underlying point of even going to the church (or any church for that matter). I believe this is why Paul Tripp has posed this question. When we are focused on others we are facing the very people Christ called us to Christianity for. Those that are either in need or are totally lost.  By facing others with the truth we offer a fighting chance in an otherwise insurmountable spiritual war. By going to others with the Gospel we give them hope. If we turn inward and focus on ourselves we often get caught or lost in our own miseries.

It is much too easy when we’re too tuned into ourselves to see trivial things in our lives and blow them out of proportion. We make mountains out of molehills and instead of worrying about the immediate necessary concerns we focus on a myriad of things that don’t matter. We end up seeing the extraneous nonsense instead of seeing the needs of those that are desperate. The ones to whom our attention would make the most sense. When we center on others we are not giving ourselves time to dwell on our own issues and that is often a good thing.

These are wise words not just for young or new pastors. These are words for all Christians. To show immediate concern for others over ourselves we best show our love for those people. To show an immediate concern for what we want shows people that we are myopic and selfish. Self-serving and self-aggrandizing people is exactly what is wrong not only in the church but society at-large. Call it what you will, it’s annoying as all get-out. You see it in the people who insist on making private cellphone conversations public. I could care less about your shopping trip to the Promenade and the Outlets and the great deals you got on clothes and jewelry. The pretentiousness is fatigue inducing. It shows that most often people want a Lord that will grant salvation but not a Lord that rules in their lives. We desire a Lord that does something for us but not One that we should to do something for.

We see it in the media whores and notoriety pimps who constantly feel the need to put their face in front of a camera. Always hustling to angle for another attention-grabbing stunt. What’s worse is there are plenty of these types right within the Body of Christ. I would normally say that it is best just to ignore these types of people and the problem solves itself but in the church this is the worst thing to do. You don’t want this notoriety in the church with this type of sin. It is way too reminiscent of the disrepute and dishonor brought upon the Corinthian church when there were reports of immorality (1 Corinthians 5) that not even pagans tolerated and at the root of all of their sins…a deep seated arrogance (1 Corinthians 4:18).

In Corinth we get at the heart of what Paul Tripp is asking. Is your arrogance trumping your commonsense? Is what you think is most important, the most important thing? Are you making what you think is most important the paramount deciding factor in your piety and Christian behavior? If so…you have effectively made yourself and your needs an idol that are flaunting themselves in God’s face. You have effectively placed yourself directly outside of God’s will. Thumbing you nose at God. 

Bad idea.

A bad place for anyone to be, especially a Christian.

God calls us to Himself. God calls us to our calling. God calls us to His Church. The actual ministry He calls us into is also at His discretion. It would be a substantial indiscretion to ignore the possibility that the Lord wants us in places we don’t wish to be. As a matter of fact, it will often be in places we hate or are the most uncomfortable in that we will often find God’s will. Said another way, God don’t always want us happy. Happy does not equate to righteousness. A better indicator of one’s status in God’s eyes is often the level to which we stoop to serve others. That’s because in submitting ourselves to service we best emulate and have the mind of Christ. We therefore become a carbon-copy of Jesus who Himself was non-descript in human form.

Isaiah 53:2-3 ~ “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

When emulating and serving others, we in reality are serving Christ. In serving Him we are obeying Him. Therein lies our righteousness. It is us residing in Him. Righteousness therefore salvation is in Him. Our service is just an outcropping of the fruit of said relationship. Lower is better. Lower is the mind of God. Humility is pleasing to God. Exalting and our lifting up is God’s job, not ours. It is better we remain humble and ready to serve rather than lofty and useless. The higher you strive the farther the fall to the ground when you fail. If you have always kept our feet planted firmly on the ground, the probabilities of crashing and burning are greatly diminished.

In the end it looks like this: Those that minister out of or for the desire of their own hearts, are ministers of the Devil, nothing more.

October 17, 2015

Christian Manifesto VIII: Good and Pleasing to God

Declaration VIII: God's Will Is Paramount

I care about what God cares about. What is important to God is important to me. If things please God that means they are holy and righteous. These are the things I care about. I believe I need to align my thinking and therefore my life to God if I expect anything positive to come out of this life. Although my sin will often lead me astray down paths I don’t wish to go, I still have a heart for God. Because my sin will often lead me astray in error I will appear I am being hypocritical, I am in reality succumbing to the flesh and the evil it breeds even in a believer.

1 Timothy 2:1-3 ~ “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.”

Paul urges Timothy that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people. Even for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Paul realizes that the welfare of a nation, a community a family and individual rests first upon God Himself which is the One we petition and pray to. Secondly, the act of petitioning and prayer puts in direct communication with God in a personal manner. This is something that a person walking away from God is not doing. They have no relationship with God. Many of the verse of the Bible that mention pleasing God have to do with the direct obedient relationship to God. Not because he is a demanding ogre but because God knows what is best for the one’s He creates.

The things that God desires of man, the things that make man more like Him are all over the verse that speak to pleasing God. The characteristics reads like the what’s what of righteousness and blamelessness: sacrifice, service, bearing fruit, good work, prayers, petition, thanksgiving and on they go. The focus of one’s mind determines the direction of their walk. The direction of one’s walk determines their destination. The destination can be an immediate destination and a long-term one. Thoughts and actions get you where you are going in the immediate sense and they will determine your end in judgment also. Will you do things morally and ethically correct in accord with Scripture or will you fall away from what you were created for by God which was originally holiness?

Pleasing God comes down to a set of decisions. Some will be easy but others will be excruciating.

Too many times people are content doing whatever they want to do. They do what is right in their own eyes and disregard not only God but also the prosperity of others. We saw the same in the time of the Judges in the Bible. This happened because there was no godly leadership. Not in society and by implication, not in homes either. People had turned their backs to God. In so doing the leadership roles and seats of power that should’ve been filled by godly people were abdicated and empty. Empty like the moral bank accounts of the people in the time of Judges and apparently today also.

We see the lack of godly leadership in today in the racial and economic division, injustice, widespread sexual immorality and in the ethical ambiguity. The people that we do have to choose from as candidates in leadership elections are people with multiple divorces, multiple abortions, Hollywood ideologues, feminists, homosexuals, criminals, etc. They have religious convictions and morality as porous as their morality. We then wonder why these same people have distorted morals and ethics that put them in direct opposition to the bible believing, God-obedient Christian and their value system. We cannot active do things to help them see their error but we can indirectly pray for them in intercession.

Judges 17:6 ~ “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Instead of good leadership that breeds continuity and unity we see just the opposite in society. We live in a society of selfish people, rude behavior and crude sexual images. Here in the Northeast and I-95 corridor, the frantic pace nearly forces us to overlook and bypass our neighbors in favor of manic work schedules and life flow. Epidemic consumerism and materialism are the hallmarks of today’s culture. Racism, classism, feminism and gender confusion, crime and fear seem to reign. Yet, at the same time I must acknowledge that I do not often pray for those that darken the counsel of good leadership. I do not pray for upright thinking in leadership and society in general near as much as I should. I suggest that many of us don’t or things would be different in society, don’t you think?

The discontinuity of unrighteous man vying for control of the world system destroys individual relationships, families and societies. That is why the divorce rate is astronomical and it is an “every man for themselves” mentality in society today. Had people stayed close to the principles of the Bible we would be a well-founded community and families would more likely stay together. As they say, families that pray together, stay together. Things would not be perfect because we like in a fallen world but they certainly would not be as dysfunctional and messed up as they are now. The Bible, Jesus and the Gospel should sit at the center of all lives as a foundation stone of a righteous upright life.

Our job as Christians is to pray to rectify this situation just as it was in Paul’s day. There have always been corrupt leaders such as Antiochus Epiphanes IV, Nero, Caligula, Hitler, Saddam Hussein. We should always be praying as Christians and believers in the One True God that God that the evil of these men be stifled and limited. Whenever and wherever possible, we should pray that they be brought to a genuine faith in God. By being brought to a true faith…these men wouldn’t have been murderous tyrants.

Where there has been no fear of God, there has been little or no wisdom. We need to pray that God causes a revival and a turn back to godly ways or we will continue to meander down a path to national destruction. This is pleasing to God.

Romans 12:1 ~ Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

2 Corinthians 5:9 ~ “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”

Galatians 1:10 ~ For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
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