December 31, 2015

A Commentary On Islamic Propoganda

My Muslim neighbours taught me the Great Big Muslim Lie

By Rich A Rosendahl -  December 19, 2015

Since 9/11 the world has changed and many of us along with it. Like most Americans I remember where I was, who I was with, and the raw emotions that seemed to pour from my soul as the towers fell. I also remember how those events gave birth to what may be the biggest and most dangerous lie of this generation and one that I once believed. The lie that says Muslims are our enemy. {Read Full Article Here}

I read this article given to me by a friend. Whether the author realizes it or not it is the product of an ecumenical push to see Islam accepted as peaceful and having studied Islam for the better part of a year I cannot let this post slide on this website without comment. You will need to go back and read the author's article first then read my commentary for my commentary to make sense. We need to determine what the enemy is before we can come to terms with it. This article is not helpful for doing that. 

Furthermore I have a 16 page paper concisely and accurately outlining what I learned from studying Islamic holy writing. The end result is damning for Islam. I'll give a copy to any that wish to read it via Facebook. Some people might need to friend me first to get it. I have no intent to publish it here because it will only solicit aggressive denunciations from those that have already bought into the deceptive ecumenicalism being propagated by not only an agenda driven media and al-Taqiyya influenced Islam but it is also being pushed by the non-discerning right within the Christian faith. Having said this...I present the commentary on the article.

A distinction needs to be made when we say Muslim just as we say Christian. There are self-described Christians/Muslims that often are not really Muslim based on the tenets of the true faith …and then there are true Muslims. As a true Christian will show the fruits of their faith in their actions, so too a Muslim. The former (self-described peaceful Muslims) are Kafir and considered infidel by true adherents of the true tenets outlined in the Qur’an, Hadith and Sira. The former are essentially Meccan Muslims and the latter Medinan (the inherently aggressive ones that adhere tightly to Islamic holy writ). The Medinan are closer and more accurate adherents to the Islamic holy writings and condescend all others. In theory Meccan Muslims are not Muslims. In terms of authority Meccan Muslims are essentially a caste below Medinan and are viewed as dogs and marginal Muslims at best.

The man/friend described as Mohamed in this article is either disillusioned by his religion, deceived by it or he is practicing al-Taqiyya until his belief system/political system (Sharia) gains equilibrium or trumps the socio-cultural norm he is living in. If he is not trying to convert all to Islam, and submitting to Sharia…he is not true Muslim based on the Qur'an and the Muhammadan example in the Hadith/Sira. There is no wiggle room in Islamic writing that I can find. The end result of one’s religious philosophy dictates one’s eventual actions. What we believe we think and what we think we act on. In Jesus' own words, it is not that which comes from without that corrupts a man, it is what comes from within. What we believe we act on and furthermore…what we believe we pass on to our children through our behaviors even if we don’t mean to. 

A peaceful disposition is not the end result of Sharia nor a mandate to convert all to Sharia which demands that people either convert, submit or be executed. So to say terrorism is the impact of a tiny majority is a misconstruction of the argument. Like Christians there are many that will walk the path to destruction and few who will find the gate. So too true Muslims. The principle behind this biblical statement holds true for Muslims. It’s telling us that the more demanding the tenets the fewer are those that can actually live up the demands of the true belief system. Christianity has Christ but Islam is a religion of works that is under-girded with pronounced violence. What options does a true Muslim have for salvation in their faith other than strict obedience or violence though jihad that litters their holy writ? I posit very little.

As for the Muslim’s prayers in this article…their prayers are tantamount to worthlessness for a Christian. A Christian realizes that a Muslim’s prayers are to an idol…probably a demon. There are no vacuums in the spiritual world. You either pray to the Lord or the demonic.

As for the visits to Muslim countries he does not state why he went other than missionary work. I suspect he might have been exposed to people predisposed to a friendliness to his faith and belief system to begin with. I also suspect (like Christians) many Muslims are fair-weather Muslims that are not commited to true Islam except for immediate political or economic gain. 

Please note I am always careful to denote and differentiate true adherents and fair-weather adherents. Once we enter into the "wishy-washy realm" or COEXIST and Interfaithism we enter a nebulous area of ecumenicalism that says all religions worship the same God under different names . We see this when we hear people say that Islam, Christianity and Judaism are all Abrahamic faiths. This is pure tripe and any Christian (or Jew) will tell you the same. It is New Age Interfaithism that believes we can all live under one universal religious spiritual umbrella. It is a philosophy that says we can massage core tenets and make them the same or compatible. Even many liberal Christians and politicians are starting to realize and understand this just isn’t true…it’s a pipe dream and pie-in-the-sky. Man is inherently depraved and incapable of good short of Christ. You cannot convert and acclimatize true Islam (or Judaism for the matter) without the Gospel itself. Islam is too confrontational and aggressive by its very nature otherwise.

Finally I state this…the propaganda has completely inverted the truth of the situation and the Christian author of this article has foolishly bought into the misinformation 100%. The violent aspects of Islam are not the “outliers” as he stated. They are the outcome of the true philosophies of the Qur’an, Hadith and Siran tenets. The “outliers”, religious anomalies or deviations from the “norm” of Islamic holy writing and a Muhammadian worldview are those that are peaceful. Violence is the pattern and norm of Islam and has been wherever Islam has been dominant since its inception in the 7th century under its Islamic warlord Muhammad. Islam’s historical precedent has seen its philosophy spread at the point of a sword through its political arm…not the religious arm. Never forget Islam is dualistic as are its motives.

The author states that he hopes all tune out the political rhetoric but in truth it is the political arm of Islam that is the violent arm and every time we see violence it is an arm on an Islamic body that is…still the same body. It is disingenuous and it is still Islam…just a different appendage of it. 

Sadly, mostly what I read in this article is how the author feels and very little about the truth of what Islam's own holy writings say (or the Christian Bible for that matter). There is a lot of room to wiggle in ecumenicalism in-between these two philosophical gaps. As a matter of fact there is so much room we could include a majority of the other world religions also. 

That my friends is Universalism. 

Trying to find the commonalities in a religion is useful when applying Christian apologetics but the goal of apologetics is to sway people though logic and truth to your belief not merge your faith with theirs.

December 23, 2015

Divinity In Human Skin

In the very first speechless moments new parents gaze with fascination at the tiny ball wrapped in swaddling. They lovingly examine every inch of their newborn child's face. What we realize a parents is that nothing, and I mean nothing prepares us for the instant that we realize that this child is a miracle and the product of a blessed and sacred union. New birth astounds us. Here, tucked securely in our arms, is a brand-new member of the human race. Here is the future in flesh and a legacy we leave for the world long after our departing hour. Mostly I thanked God for the gift of their life.

So how much more miraculous is it when we think about birth this time of year and realize that God Himself descended from His throne and took on the form of a servant? He humbled Himself to take on the attribute of flesh and give his life as atonement for our failures in sin. He became human and lived His life as an example…He gave His life as a gift to all who would accept it. Furthermore He would arrive as a doomed and defenseless child. A doomed man destined to suffer even after surviving death threats His entire life. He would die at the exact moment decreed not by men but by God Himself….and not a moment sooner. 

I sit in awe and wonder of the fact that His divinity would fit in human skin and then I realize that it is His humility that allowed that fact and only that fact would allow it. It is the idea that in God’s economy, up is down and down is up. Less is more. Those the weep are blessed and God exalts those that lower themselves by choice. The last will be first and the first will be last. Then I rest my head and I fall asleep soundly…like a child held in the arms of a loving parent because I know that I am securely held like divinity wrapped in swaddling. I know that my well-being is assured.

December 22, 2015

The Faith of Misfit Believers

[As I do every year since 2010 I will re-post this article. Its hard to believe this is the sixth year. Ironically, every time I post it, it changes a little as I seem to add to it a little as the Lord continues to sanctify me. It seems to hit a familiar note with people and they always seem to like reading it before Christmas. It is long so buckle in for the ride...]

It is about the unlikelihood of our faith from a human perspective. But that isn't what it is really about is it? The human perspective? It is about God's perspective.

Some of the "heroes" of the Scripture read like a list of toys on the "Island of Misfit Toys" from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Misfits one and all from a worldly and secular perspective. The rejects of society, the rejects that the godless world doesn't want. I mean...good grief man! Look at what they did to Jesus. Even our Messiah Jesus Christ was ostracized by his own people who did not recognize Him as the Son of God. Rejected and sentenced deceitfully to death by crucifixion in the greatest miscarriage of justice the world has ever known.

We then have people like David standing in for King Moonracer who has a dysfunctional family an often times rebellious lot. There is also Abraham with his faith and faithlessness the equivalent of Hermey the Misfit Elf who lives a double life as a dentist and one of Santa's helpers. And of course we have the Apostle Paul who reminds me of the big bruiser "Bumble" (abominable snowman) who initially beats the living daylights out of mostly defenseless reindeer and has a thorn in the flesh. Paul who fell off his horse on the road to Damascus and bounced into the annals of Christianity as one of the greats in the Faith.  I could go on with the comparisons but I off we go into the land of misfit and rejected believers...

It is through God's eccentric lot that we truly see the glory and the power of God.

“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. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

It is through God's eccentric lot that we see the earth move and the sky catch fire. I sit in bemused amazement after reading the Bible and the stories of the societal rejects God picks to accomplish the amazing tasks we see in the Bible. He has continued to pick the same type of person when he picked you and I to be His disciples and to carry on the Good News. It is the very reason that he picked them (and us) to do His work too. Flawed vessels accomplishing great things in faith by the power of God. The very power that resurrected Christ from the grave.

"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord!” ~1 Corinthians 1:26-31

"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." ~2 Corinthians 4:6-7

It was once written by novelist Frederick Buechner that the absolute improbability of the Jewish and then subsequently the Christian faith succeeding based on its followers is astounding. It is exactly this reason though that brings all the glory to our holy God, our wondrous Savior, Jesus Christ.

In what other book besides the Bible would we read the story of the very first pair of people who would violate the only thing forbidden to them? They would eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

"And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” ~ Genesis 2:16-17

That God would select an old man in the middle of the desert where it had never rained before to build a boat the size of a modern-day aircraft carrier. This same man after having been afloat for months on a foul smelling cramped zoo on an inundated world would immediately proceed to plant a vineyard, hit the bottle and pass out stone cold drunk only to be looked upon naked by his son (or possibly violated) to his great embarrassment.

We would see Abraham the father of the nations have his faith accredited to him as righteousness. He would also leave his wife out to dry by basically giving her away to Pharaoh to protect his own skin...Sarah be damned. Very manly and chivalrous I must say [sarcasm intended].

"As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” ~Genesis 12:11-13

 Who could've imagined God would not pick Esau who was generally honest, capable, and a provider over the lying, duplicitous and conniving Jacob who was essentially a snake in the grass?

“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” ~Malachi 1:2-3

We see that God would pick the line of Judah for His Forever King Jesus to descend from, the same Judah that had a hand in throwing his brother in a well and then selling him into slavery. The same person that ended up sleeping with his daughter-in-law Tamar who he thought was a prostitute...two no-no's. "...but its not as bad as it seems, I only slept with her because she was a prostitute..." Ehhhh?

That God would invariably pick David as a King who would become the archetype of every king that would come after him until the advent of Jesus Christ to surpass him. The same David who was a known adulterer, murderer and for all intensive purposes a polygamist like his son would also be. He was man that really could not keep his house in order because he had been cursed by God for what he had done to Uriah the Hittite. This incident would drive him into exile from his very kingdom by his own son Absalom. David would also take a census of his military strength and not depend on the Lord in faith which would lead to the death of thousands.

Solomon who would be given the riches of a kingdom and wisdom from God that people would come from other lands to witness. Solomon who couldn't seem to put a clamp on what appeared to be a matrimonial obsessive-compulsive disorder. He also couldn't stop collecting horses, overtaxing his subjects and in the end allowed his nutty pagan wives to put a damper on things by introducing their false Gods and idols into the promised land. Solomon who was a perfect example of how a person can have wisdom but unless it is used is worthless.

Then we have Moses, who was a murder and was trying to outrun the homicide rap for clobbering a man on the noggin and killing him in Egypt. If it weren't for a twisted sense of honor he'd have also just as soon thrown his brother Aaron under the bus by letting Aaron go back in his stead to take the heat from the Egyptians.

We see the likes of Rahab whom the Jews well into the New Testament (Hebrews 11:31) viewed as a paragon of faith when she cooperated with the two spies from Shittim sent by Joshua. Rahab who was also a prostitute/harlot who literally lived in a hole in the wall of Jericho. After the walls fell, her and her family were the only survivors.

...and who could forget all those prophets of God both major and minor? The whole lot of which were probably nuttier than fruitcakes based on outward appearances. They wore camel hair shirts, leather belts, and ate bugs dipped in honey. Crazed disheveled men that screamed at the top of their lungs often times with spittle flying out of their mouths in the middle of the desert wilderness at everyone and no one in particular.

Of particular note in the Minor Prophets we should lightheartedly poke at Jonah, the most miserable excuse for a prophet ever seen. Jonah who, other than telling the Ninevites to repent, ended up serving God very little. The only other thing we learn from Jonah is how to serve as a bad example. Jonah, who after having be told to, "Arise, go to Nineveh" gets up and the opposite direction (180 degrees) towards Tarshish. He is a prophet that nearly gets an entire ship of mariners drowned because of his disobedience. A prophet that literally sounds as if he is chronically depressed throughout the book named after him. After telling the Ninevites to repent (and they actually do) he gets angry about it because he wants them to be destroyed. Instead of having mercy on them as God has done he still holds on to pent-up homicidal hostility. Instead he cares more about a vine that gave him shade after it has died. A man that clearly has his priorities mixed up.

Then of course we need to look at God's chosen people as a whole. Of all the peoples or races he could have chosen to be His "Nation of Priests" and His holy people, he chose the Jews. As somebody once said, "The Jews who are just like everybody else only more so like everybody else". When they were religious, they were more religious than anybody else and when they were piously hypocritical they were so pious and hypocritical that the term for being too pious and hypocritical is to be "pharisaic". When they were secular, they were secular as if they'd invented being godless."

The people of the Covenant whom God said to them, "And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people" ~Leviticus 26:12. The very same line of descendants of Abraham whom God said, "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." ~Genesis 12:2-3.

These very people God was speaking His promises to would then apostatize and build idols to worship literally before the last of His commandments had left His mouth and had been delivered to them at the foot of Sinai. A stubborn and stiff-necked lot of misfits.

Jump forward to the New Testament and we have the thick-headed Peter who denies Christ not just once but three times even after denying to Jesus that he would deny Him. The same Peter who is the first to confess Jesus' true identity when Jesus asks him, "Who do you say that I am?" and Peter responds, "You are the Messiah, Son of the living God!" Then almost immediately needs to be yelled at when Jesus tells of his coming death and Peter resists. Jesus' response? "Get behind me Satan!" The bumbling disciple never seems to get it right the first time. Even after Jesus' Resurrection Peter could've waited to until the boat reached shore but impetuously decided to swim instead in his impatience.

Finally, I mention Paul. The great apostle Paul who wrote more books of the Bible that anyone else (13) thirteen, (14) fourteen if we included Hebrews. Paul the expounder of the faith...and a slayer of the brethren. Paul formally known as Saul. Yeah, that Paul.

The list from the Bible could continue for a while, Thomas, Gideon, etc. If we look forward two millennium we now have similar situations in our church. Young idealists decked out in jeans, piercings and tattoos, share the pews with conservative white collar "suits". Teenagers and occasionally spouses tuning out sermons that others are straining to hear from the back of the congregation over top the whine of their children or other's children. Recovered and reformed drug addicts preaching from the pulpits. Former criminals, adulterers, miscreants and generally immoral people that have now become champions of the Faith. Believers gather together methodically and move through a centuries old ritual synchronized as dancers doing a waltz. Other congregations construct close intimate communities and have little or no ritual but tend to migrate together with herd mentality like the social creation they were meant to be. They seem to exist in a perpetual state of koinonia/κοινωνία or fellowship.

I often shake my head in disbelief at what appears to be outward incongruities and the absurdity of it all...but this is the way God has made it and this is the way God wants it. God's power is made perfect in our weaknesses. It has been done by his measure, for His pleasure, by His standards and according to His timeline. The idea that all these misfits and societal rejects could fit together often times near perfectly defies conventional logic. We begin to understand how something this diverse and disparate could be this way when we go back to a simple request from the Son to the Father...

"....Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one." John 17:11

This is the only possible way something this diverse and chaotic could possibly work. It sometimes looks like a zoo put through a blender. When they all sing out of tune it produces a cacophony of sound equal to that of a train wreck carrying cymbals but this is exactly how God planned it and wants it. How else could all these disparate beings become one  in the One? Only in Jesus Christ could these dissimilar cast-offs from society pull this off in unity. We are all to be one in the One, Jesus Christ.

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also." ~John 15:16-20

I will wrap this with the thought about the Church. ekklesia / ἐκκλησία a feminine noun that means "the called-out ones." The bride of Christ. Christ's body. One must consider that more often than not, the world's rejects are God's chosen. He chooses them and "calls them out" specifically because they are the oddballs by the world's measure and because they are rejects of secular worldly society...myself included. We begin to realize that what God values and what people of this world value are two diametrically opposed things. The irony is that we do not stay rejects...oh, no, no!

We become indwelt by the Holy Spirit and we are made new. We become new creations. New like a rewrapped Christmas gift that the world didn't want. But because we come wrapped in the blood of the Lamb we are the perfect gift to the Father. Ironically, it is only through faith that we receive "the gift" of salvation given to us by the One the world rejected as a misfit also...and that gift we accept makes us acceptable to the Father. God works in a joint effort with us to make us more holy. Sure, we'll still be treated like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at a convention for nocturnal photosensitive animals by all the "normal" people. It is because they won't know how to deal with us so they will sit us off in a corner to make fun of us or stare at us warily to see if we implode or spontaneously combust. Who cares? My question is this: How many of them can say that they know Truth by name? Jesus. Jesus Christ. Mr. Jesus Christ to you mister!

If God could use all these offbeat characters this should give us reassurance that He can certainly use us who are the same type of people. Rejects of the world. We will be purified, cleansed and made holy for use by God...all of us misfits together. For this we were made. For this we will be used. Hallelujah!


[All images in post from Rankin/Bass 1964]

December 18, 2015

The Annoying Prophet

The New Testament prophet is a source of fascination and interest for me as it is the nature of my calling. Of course I am not saying, “Thus saith the Lord”, but I am speaking the truth of Scripture to the best of the ability God has given me. I have found real prophets function as God’s mouthpieces for truth. They are probably better understood as truth speakers and exhorters of the brethren. Unfortunately, because man is sinful and prone to being reprobate, much of what God wants to say through His prophets is very divisive. God’s truth is not readily embraced by a world that hates Him. The trick of the prophet is to pursue the call without openly offending, becoming unbalanced in over-emphasis on emotion / experience over the authority of Scripture.

I have found that God’s messages will often counter popular trends in the Church and oppose widely accepted but errant modern beliefs. Most often though the prophet will not counter creeds and doctrine because they are biblical in origin. As a general rule, God’s people would rather believe in lies than in truth. For example, many Christians want to blame Satan when bad things happen instead of facing the truth about God’s sovereignty. Many Christians want to believe that Satan is the king of Hell instead of facing the fact that God is the One torturing His own creatures.

When you hear the term “prophecy”, you should think “special wisdom and insights from God.” The gift of prophecy is about much more than foretelling or forth-telling. When someone has the gift of prophecy, they receive an extra measure of insight from the Holy Spirit. Many real prophets sound harsh and negative in their messages. God hates rebellion, and His children are up to their necks in it. While Christians go around telling everyone to “speak the truth in love”, devoted prophets don’t have time for tiptoeing around. God opens their eyes to see how He feels about something, and then He commands them to communicate those feelings in verbal ways. When a real prophet receives a message from God, he or she can’t hold it in. Jeremiah describes the crisis well:

But if I say, “I will not mention His word or speak anymore in His Name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9)

Real prophets who are called to operate in very public ways often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place: They receive biting messages from an angry God which they really don’t want to say. I mean seriously, who wants to be the guy everyone hates for speaking the truth? But at the same time, if they don’t speak for God, they find themselves in Jeremiah’s bind. They are so intensely tormented on a soul level that they finally must speak just so they can breathe again.

So please, don’t envy prophets who God has called to publicly broadcast His messages. The real prophet’s experience isn’t anything like these self-aggrandizing buffoons you see in 3K suits on stage soaking up the applause of men while simultaneously flinging out ego-pleasing but errant predictions in the name of Jesus. Real prophecy doesn’t make you feel like someone just gave your flesh a nice massage. Real prophecy hits you on a soul level and the truths it uncovers often seem shocking and disturbing at first. Real prophets hit you with truth like a punch in the throat. Eventually you respond by either hungering for more of God or fuming with hate in response to the prophetic statement. Usually people attack the prophet directly (like Jeremiah).

The Holy Spirit is a sword which pierces into the hearts of men and drags their hidden motivations to light. In actuality it is the Spirit Who is the One speaking through the prophet. If you’re not already on good terms with Him, you aren’t going to like His messages or his messengers either.

If you are a true prophet you will appear divisive….not very loving.

Sorry, prophets by their nature are not very cuddly. I believe the words assaulted and assailable are more apropos to the prophet. Even if folks are on good terms with God, you might get pretty irritated at His prophets, because they have a way of making you feel exposed and embarrassed.

Prophecy and the New Testament prophet is really about receiving wisdom and insights from God. They are only concerned with what God’s current priorities for you are so that they can instruct you correctly. Only God sees the whole picture—the most a prophet ever receives are glimpses. To instruct you properly, a prophet must first get clear leading or “impression” from God. Maybe two people ask a prophet what God would have them do in the same sort of dilemma. The prophet might give two very different answers because he receives two very different responses from God.

When it comes to a prophet it is nearly never a case of… once people figure out that a prophet is receiving special insights from God, word spreads and soon people are trying to figure out a way to turn this person into some kind of Divine fortune teller. If a prophet is telling the truth, they will most likely be telling truths people don’t want to hear, not speaking things people do want to hear. The problem with most people is that they love to get quick and easy answers, and what’s easier than hearing God speak clearly through some human’s lips? But here is where we run into problems, for God is very jealous and He’s not a fan of you relying on some human messenger more than Him. You should be considering the Scripture along with the prophet to assure what the prophet says is aligned with God’s word. If not you are dealing with a false prophet.

A true prophets know better than to put words in God’s mouth, and they also know that God is going to discourage souls from relying on people instead of Him. It is vital for your own spiritual health that you learn how to be confident in the fact that God is leading you in your own life. Prophets that purposely call attention to themselves and refer to themselves as prophets are usually false. True prophets will be known and others will usually be the propagators of their notoriety. In other words, those that will self –refer and call themselves Prophet Such-and-such or Prophetess So-and-so are most often charlatans. 

For who among them has stood in the council (סוד, sôd) of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? [The LORD says] …“If they had stood in my council ( סוד, sôd), then they would have proclaimed my words to my people” ( Jeremiah 23:18-22 ).

What does it mean to “stand in the council of God"? Jeremiah elaborates: “to see and to hear his word … to pay attention to his word and listen .” The one essential test of a prophet— that preceded their ability to deliver a divine message— was that the prophet had to see and hear God in His council. When a prophet “stood in the council,” they had a direct encounter with God in His throne room and actually survived it w/o being consumed by His presence. Do you actually suppose most of the self-proclaimed prophets today would survive that encounter? Yeah, I didn't think so.

False prophets are ego driven, so they tend to call a lot of attention to themselves. They love to flash their titles and they love to brag about how humble they are because…well, they’re morons led of the powers of this fallen world. They just happen to be charismatic and flamboyant morons. Since they are drawing so much attention to themselves it is often harder to spot the real prophet who is becoming more rare and works to avoid drawing deliberate attention to themselves but rather to God who is the message. The truth is that the true prophet doesn’t need name-drop or solicit attention around because it is God speaking through them, but it is also God quickening the soul/souls of the one the prophecy must reach. The real prophet speaks with authority and that authority will be recognized for what it is by those that need to recognize it. His sheep know His voice.

A person also needs to realize that the idea of God speaking to you personally is very attractive but it is highly improbable. When you’re feeling crushed and down and a prophet comes out of the woodwork with a special “word” just for you, it’s very tempting to accept it as legitimate. We must never forget that things are done for God’s glory not the man's. God most often will communicate directly through the medium the New Testament often prescribes…the Scriptures. We’re to be as peaceful as doves…but also as shrewd as vipers or snakes.

The last indicator you’re are dealing with a prophet is that you might find the prophet’s style of leading extremely frustrating. He is not a leader per se but he is still leading you to the truth of God. God uses prophets to shine a light on the path of maturity and obedience so that you can then choose to go down that path with the Holy Spirit, not necessarily the prophet themselves. It is God Himself who guides you in life—the prophets He speaks to are just His instruments.

So yes, it is quite odd to have some stranger get a glimpse into our life. You must remember that God’s real prophets share His love for you and, like Him, they want your soul to thrive in His care. A prophets use the insights God gives them about you to get aligned with His view of you so that they can match yourself with Him. Prophets in no way should be pointing to themselves but towards God. The truth is that a prophet might receive a very specific revelation about you and never say anything about it to you, because God doesn’t want that information broadcast. 

A mature prophet will be able to distinguish this and know when it is proper or not proper to verbalize the knowledge or wisdom. The sign of a true immature prophet is often the opposite. They blurt out truths rather than temper them or hold them in reserve. All wisdom comes from God, and it must be used in accordance with His instructions therefore always base your discernment in Scripture and then prayer.

December 10, 2015

On The Job Training

So begins yet another page in an ever-shifting life tomorrow with the start of another new job. I primarily proclaim the Gospel but I also labor for pay to support my family and myself. The concept has Scriptural underpinnings.

Acts 18:1-4 ~ After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tent makers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Tent making for me is essentially a euphemism for doing some kind of work while in another culture to support yourself while also engaged in Kingdom work. I also see it as opportunities where the work is actually the ministry. Being in a workplace provides open doors through relationships developed for Kingdom growth and provides an income which sometimes is enough to sustain the worker.
Some of the positives I’ve considered over the years are as follows.

When work and ministry are mixed, less apparent ministry is accomplished. Only God knows the real impact of what is done, no matter what method is used. Working in a business in a culture foreign to the one that you have training and experience in is much harder than you think. If most attempts fail here, even more of them do somewhere else. Within families and workplaces reside some of the most challenging witnessing environments. If you can spread the truth of the Gospel in the workplace…you can do it anywhere.

Tent making also provides entry into lives that are hostile to the Gospel. It provides natural, sustained contact with non-believers in often tight-knit or restrictive environments. Sort of like Paul being chained to the Praetorian Guard. As Christians we literally get a captive audience at least for our behaviors…and sometimes for our speech. It consolidates both our evangelistic targets and a means of support. Finally and most importantly, if we truly behave as Christians should in these environments we set a good example (maybe even an appealing example) that legitimizes Scriptures claim of the authenticity of Jesus Christ and those who follow Him.

I must always remember and consider that most countries do not pay enough in wages to sustain a worker. Though you can make adjustments for a while, eventually you will need more funds than local jobs will provide. It usually requires getting a second or even third job which removes a parent or child almost completely from a Godly loving environment. God still blesses me enough in this country so that I do not need to scrounge and suffer like those in third-world situations (yet).

I must always consider that at an employer I may be asked to do more than I believe I myself can do. Although this is a source of great stress…it also is a good gauge to see just how far I can push myself and it is also a good barometer of my true capabilities. Not only that…I usually get paid for it unless of course I am salaries exempt.

Finally, I now realize in middle age that the real pursuit I am undertaking is one of obedience to what God is leading me to do. If God is leading me clearly to undertake a non-traditional ministry path using business or employment as the medium and the catalyst.

Paul’s ministry model is my ministry model is appears. I have given this example about Paul much thought. Paul’s literally implemented an amazing pioneering strategy when we carefully correlate his letters with Luke’s account in Acts. Paul did not use his craft to get work nor even primarily for financial support. He did it primarily with the idea in mind that he was (1) a representative of the Kingdom. (2) He viewed his work environment as an evangelistic arena an (3) Through God’s blessing he was allowed to support himself and essentially spread the Gospel and be paid to do it. Mostly through is dissertation and talks but also through his Christian behavior.

We need not slavishly imitate Paul. But certainly it is folly to proceed without careful consideration of what he did and why. No tent maker or missionary in our era has begun to reproduce what Paul did in so short a time with so limited resources. The truth is this. Being a tent maker in today’s world needs more than a good academic preparation. It really does need experience witnessing in the workplace. The person who goes to a Christian high school, a Christian college and then seminary is usually poorly prepared for tent making in a predominantly secular world. 

Probably, the best training place is now a secular workplace that has a modicum of legal protection for most people. We must never forget that employers and workplaces are essentially a microcosm of a multicultural, spiritually hostile world. It is a mission field ideal for in-service training for some of the most diverse and sometimes hostile people we will ever come in contact with…and we will be paid by the Lord to do so. That to me sounds like a good deal. It sounds like on the job training.

December 4, 2015

Queen of Heaven: The Errant Veneration of Mary

To my friends who pray to Mary or say I can or even should...I staunchly disavow those statements and offer this Biblical rebuttal.

The issue is often framed as if Mary is somehow superior to Jesus being His parent. Mary, as the Mother of God (note the capitalized proper noun). Because Mary gave birth to Jesus it sometimes causes people to make the fallacious move from esteem to reverence and then from reverence to prayer and worship (often referred to as veneration in a form of religious circumlocution). The Catholic Church's error is seeing Mary in any way similar or even greater than Christ. 

At the root of this error we see the the formulators of Marian dogmas go wrong at the point where they depart from Scripture. The Gospel writers were very careful concerning Mary. Great restraint and very specific language was used when dealing with her so not to mislead people. Mary was merely a human woman, not divine, nor special in her selection as Jesus' earthly mother. As a matter of fact, God chose her due to her exceptional mundane and ordinary nature. She even realized as much as illustrated in some of her replies.

Luke 1:28-30 ~ And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.  The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.

Far from knowing what was going on, she was totally perplexed to what was transpiring. The word translated "favor" means to "receive grace". Mary received grace from God having been the mother of Jesus. The Catholic church will have us believe that Mary was chosen by God to bear his Son because of something righteous in Mary herself. In this passage Gabriel makes it clear, however, that Mary was chosen by God as an act of grace. It had nothing to do with anything particular in Mary. Like the Israelite people before her and the Christians after her, she was chosen by God's grace alone.

Luke 1:38 ~ Mary answered [Gabriel], “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.”

Here we see Mary is not an active player at this point but rather a passive participant and receiver of God's grace (as we all are) incorporated into the narrative by a divine act of grace according to a sovereign plan.

So why is Mary put on a pedestal when the Bible is clear that prayer should only be directed to God? I suggest that it was her physical proximity to Jesus as His earthly mother, nothing more. Mary being only a flawed human sinner makes it reprehensible to pray to her just as it is reprehensible to pray to the saints. When people pray to her today they are praying to a dead woman, nothing more.

Why is this wrong? I give three primary Scriptural reasons.

First, praying to Mary contravenes the example of the apostles in the New Testament. The New Testament is packed with the prayers of God’s inspired leaders that modern Catholics pray to but never once did they themselves pray to anyone but God including Jesus Himself. When we move on to the early church fathers we see more of the same…except from heretics. Never once does anyone in the Scripture pray to Mary or ask Mary to intercede for them. Mary wasn’t even viewed as the “God-bearer” until the 3rd century and that is according to the Catholic church’s own history.

When Paul prays for his friends at Ephesus he requests that the Father might, “…strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3: 14-21). Paul is articulate enough to mention all three Persons of the Trinity in that prayer. Mary does not arise there because Paul is being completely consistent with the whole New Testament view.

The second reason to not pray to Mary is because it contradicts the attitude, mentality and humility of Mary herself. Mary was specifically selected to be the mother of Jesus because she was specifically such and ordinary Jew of her day that was of childbearing age. If we look at Mary’s Magnificat or song/prayer of praise in Luke 1 we do see that she was a well-learned Jewess though as it is clear she knew her Scripture and her history. If the pray is analyzed closely it shows reference to both Old Testament Scripture and history.

Regardless, we can easily point to her modesty and her dependence upon the God and Jesus in her life. Her obedience and her discretion even as Jesus’ mother is exemplary. There are some very clear passages of her speech in Luke 1 that clearly show Mary to be an ordinary human not worthy of prayer or worship and it comes in her own words of the Magnificat.

Luke 1:47-48 ~ “...and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.”

In one verse Mary refers to Jesus as God yet he took the humble estate of humanity. She refers to Him as Savior and denotes herself as His servant. Hardly a person of equality with Jesus worthy of prayer. Far from being associated with God’s saving actions, Mary identifies herself among humanity in need of Jesus’ saving grace. Although highly favored and called blessed…this does not even remotely equate to divinity nor should it be construed as much. The truth is, based on what we know about Mary from Scripture…she probably would’ve recoiled in horror at the thought of what the Catholic Church is doing with her. To claim anything other than being Jesus’ physical mother, is to make claims beyond Scripture and therefore they are heretical.

Lastly, I will state this and then be on my merry way (see what I did there?). This last point is the most important and the reason I hold this Catholic dogma in such contempt. Praying to Mary undermines the Gospel. It assumes something or someone other than Jesus Christ/God is worthy of prayer ad worship. It trivializes the truth of the Incarnation. Let us be honest… the whole point of God taking our form and living among us was that in Jesus Christ we were given the one true Mediator between God and humanity that came in the flesh. To say Mary can do this too is to say what Jesus did on the Cross wasn’t’ enough. It says Jesus didn’t do enough…even after He said, “Tetelesti” or “It is finished”.

Let me be clear…there is need of none other than Christ.

Jesus is the one we can go to directly. That is why the Temple veil was torn from top to bottom. From that point onward we have a hearing at the very throne of God.

Hebrews 7:25 ~ “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost[a] those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Our access is now immediate through Christ. He is the only Mediator that we will ever need.

1 Timothy 2:5 ~ “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

The only way we could arrive at any other conclusion is to depart from the truth of Scripture.

November 29, 2015

Bible Helpings I: The Egyptian Oliver Twist

There are times I just don't like writing a long post but something in my studies sparks a passing thought or stimulates a neuron patch that I can't quiet. I will post these ideas or thoughts in an ongoing series of brief posts starting with this one. This is the stuff that usually ends up on Facebook instead of SoulJournaler.

Like a secondary helping of mom's beef stew, theses tidbits will be biblical, hearty and spiritually nourishing but not overly time-consuming and will probably not come as long main course. As such I will be calling this ongoing series Biblical Helpings. Obviously anything from the Bible is helpful. It just seemed to make sense to call the series what I did. On to the first helping...

In modern stories people destined for greatness rarely start off privileged. They are dropped off at the doorstep of an orphanage or abandoned in the rain. This literary vehicle goes back to ancient stories, where writers use the abandoned child theme to identify a character that rises from obscurity to privileged hero status. It’s found in the biblical account of Moses’ birth. But is that really the story of Moses? I suggest it isn't quite that simple.

Moses stands out against the stories of the ancient cultures because he isn’t promoted like their chosen figures, but saved and demoted to poverty so that he can lead others to salvation. He is the new archetype of the chosen hero, the Christian hero, one who is promoted only for the benefit of others. He is a type of Christ. Over and against the stories of worldly kingdoms, Moses’ story articulates God’s remarkable work for His kingdom through Moses by taking him on a roller coaster first from poverty, then to Pharaoh's court, then back to poverty then to spiritual richness and relationship with God. Wle see the same in Jesus' humble origins, rise to ministry, death in crucifixion and then Resurrection to glory.

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).
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