June 30, 2015

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged: Principles of Reciprocity Not Judgment

This statement seems so basic, especially for a Christian but it seems to be such a challenge for a Christian to articulate a response when confronted with it. It's a shame that I need to keep repeating myself about it too. What is it? It is the truncated and often misused...

“Judge not lest ye be judged..."

At the risk of repeating myself like a broken record over the last week, I present to Christians what should be obvious to most Christians but is not. I also present it to non-believers who constantly misuse it to gain the upper hand illogically in emotionally heated debates.

Matthew 7:1~ “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.

These verses are very troubling for most people. I'm not sure why...its usually ripped from its proper context. They have been perhaps the most misquoted verses in the Bible.

Most of us have been told thia by someone caught in their own sin or by a person supportive of sinful behavior, "Don't judge lest you be judged!" This really means: "Don't censor our sinful behavior unless you want someone to attack you personally. Shut up! It's just that simple, you have no right to make a moral character judgment!”

Let me state outright that a proper interpretation of this statement from Jesus is not condemning judgments or moral evaluations. In fact, in verse 6 (if people would take the time to read it) Jesus tells us that we must make judgments or discernment.

Matthew 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

The context here is not one of judgment or no-judgment, it is a context of hypocrisy. Jesus is telling us plainly that hypocrisy can reach its coils deeply into our relationships with others without us ever being aware of it. Jesus is saying that we will nearly always be harder on other people for little things than we are on ourselves for the big sins. Hence we read Matthew 7:3‘s:

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

It is the godly principle of reciprocity at work here in Jesus’ statement. Do unto others as you would have done unto you or as Matthew 7:2 states:

"For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you"

Jesus is telling us that we are to judge or discern but to do so…evenhandedly. As a matter of fact the Bible often tells us how to discern or judge by specifically telling us what is right or wrong either in the Law or in principle by the scenarios that unfold or the stories that are told in Scriptures. It is by using the Bible as our determiner of what is truth or not truth, right or wrong that we can even judge evenhandedly or as it is understood in terms of philosophy and morality…to judge objectively. By objective, I mean judging based on moral absolutes. Why? Because God is the only absolute or objective lawgiver and He is the Word of Scripture.

Judge according to God's standard set forth directly in the Bible. How’s that done? It is done with grace, love and mercy. James below essentially affirms again in Scripture exactly what Jesus stated in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:2, its just stated a different way.

James 2:13 ~ “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” 

The truth is that if we make no moral judgments, life would be a miserable confusing mess which is exactly what we are now seeing in the world culture. A culture that is subsequently contaminating the thinking in the Church too.

We often hear the statement as I said before, in a situation that condemns a sin or an evil. The “Judge not,” seems to imply: “Don't ever say something is wrong. It isn't up to you to judge or make that discernment.”

This is both wrong and dangerous biblically and philosophically.

The logical conclusion of such an attitude would be to treat good and evil alike and disregard a moral distinction thereby making both irrelevant. The person telling me not to judge would then have no more right to tell me that I was wrong when I make a judgment. Things would therefore become morally relative. With no moral absolutes, who is to convict me of my "wrongness"? This also means that everything is eventually permissible including pedophilia, incest, murder or cannibalism (as absurd as that seems). If things become morally relative the person telling me not to judge is then making a moral judgment on my right to judge. By their own measure they are breaking their own rule in their own measure of morality…thereby becoming the hypocrite they so greatly abhor.

The problem with people that state we are not to judge is that they think of right and wrong, not as matters of fact, but as matters of preference. This is philosophically incorrect. Properly understood morality/ethics says that there indeed has to be right and wrong. Again, if there is no God or absolute moral lawgiver everything becomes relative. Who can then say anything is wrong without an absolute measure of morality?

Answer: No one, logically not even courts.

The idea of moral obligation is true no matter what your religion. At this point it becomes an issue of logic not theology. You philosophically must appeal to an authority otherwise it is merely your “relative" opinion or a subjective truth. This is intellectually untenable.

This is pertinent today because of the gay marriage issue and the Christian resistance to it. We have all felt this pressure if we are truly Christians. So how do Christians still continue to judge biblically even when the law of the land (lex terrae) has turned against Christian morality and principle?

Jesus showed or told us the three ways.

(1)   We cannot and should not judge another if we areare in similar or worse sins. The Bible tells us which ones those are. Adultery, theft, homosexuality, idolatry, coveting, etc. The adulterer has no authority to approach a homosexual in judgment. Likewise the thief is in no place to criticize those that have material goods and don’t need them.

(2)    Our judgments must be tempered first with Scripture, secondarily mercy/grace and then with logic and sound reason when it comes to more difficult moral and ethical situations. Let’s admit outright there might not always be a clean and tidy way to remedy a sinful situation. Sin is messy and so are the lives destroyed by it.

When I say mercy/grace what I am saying is sometimes sin is so obvious in someone’s life nothing need be said. At other times, when minds and consciences are tainted by sin, a word of truth and clarity must be spoken, but in a gracious manner. Christians should never be screeching me-me's, abrasive, arrogant or a clanging gong like I’ve seen so many do including myself when I was spiritually immature.

(3)   Lastly, there are some people with which you will simply not be able to have a discussion with and here is where many Christians are hard pressed to use correct discernment and make the right decision on whom to engage. I suggest for many in society including government officials and judges…these are the dogs and swine mentioned in Matthew 7:6. 

These are the sinners that are lost totally in their sin and are unreachable by human means. By attempting to give them or persuade them with the Word, they will tear it to pieces or trample it underfoot like rabid animals. These people have abandon themselves to “vicious courses”. By trying to show someone their moral failings that are too far gone by human standards, we merely waste our breath when we really should’ve been shaking the dust from our feet.

We are called to judge or discern but we are not to be judgmental or condemnatory. We are not the ones with the ability to condemn. If it wasn’t for Christ dying for us we too would be in the same condemnation.

June 28, 2015

The Constitutional and Political Ramifications of Obergefell v. Hodges

Ramification #1:

As I said in quite a few Facebook posts...marriage and equality had nothing to do with the Federal Court’s interest in same-sex marriage. How two people relate to one another is none of the Fed's business. A government interest is limited to the heterosexual union because it is the only union that produces constituents. Each of us without exception exists through some form of a heterosexual union. Same-sex relationships do not produce offspring. In any free and functioning society, there is a government interest in encouraging as much procreation as possible. Its called a tax base or taxpayer. Without some form of heterosexuality even if it is only sperm and an egg, there is no reproduction of taxpayers. If we are to be logically consistent we need to take the reasoning down to this level. Yes, surrogates and/or adoption can be used to created gay families but where do we suppose those children come from? From under rocks?

Ramification #2:

Same-sex marriage is only the beginning of philosophical demands for State (meaning Feds) recognition and approval of many other types of relationships. Others include polygamy, incest, bestiality, pedophilia, pederasty, etc. This will mark the sudden beginning of an even more sudden end for same-sex marriage. They will no longer be the judicial and cultural darlings of the media.

Ramification #3:

A move to force equality nearly always leads to inequality for someone else. There’s a movement that we are already seeing on Facebook and lunatic conspiracy sites that are calling for state laws that call for the abolition of marriage to undermine the Federal ruling. If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, it will set the precedent for abolishing marriage to avoid the need to perform same-sex marriage. Its called cutting one's nose off to spite one's face.

Far from getting the state out of the marriage business, it will invite the state to regulate all familial relationships, particularly those with children. Once the state doesn’t have to recognize your marriage, it is free to treat your spouse and children as strangers to you. Children become wards of the state. Tax codes change to penalize those that do not follow the cultural trend(s).

Ramification #4:

This thought adds to thought #3. The issue of Federal intrusion runs even deeper. We have now just invited the Federal government directly into our bedrooms (homes) and set a precedence through Federal law to allow Federal judges to intervene directly into our personal affairs. This Supreme Court ruling was never about homosexuality or marriage for the Fed court themselves (it was only about those issues for the pro-gay lobby and Christians). At a litigious or legal level it was about what "constitutes" or defines a "civil" right. That definition has just been changed. I've always said this was about postmodern deconstructing of language as are most Supreme Court rulings. The 10th Amendment has literally been undermined now. Everyone jumped on board because of the calls for "equality" and "justice" which I sort of understand. But to what end?

Ramification #5:

The Constitution has been undercut through legal precedence in the highest court in the land on June 26th, 2015. People's antipathy of religious faiths that opposed same-sex marriage literally blinded them to their own detriment. In an effort to kill a snake under their boot (religious resistance to same-sex marriage) they shot straight though their own foot to kill it. This was and always had been about Federal Government overreach as any State Government will tell you. Even the conservative justices didn't tell you this because in the end, this ruling benefits them too by extending their power at the Federal level. The Feds just usurped an enormous amount of power from the states and the individual constituent. This ruling now expands IRS practices and will massively allow the intrusive power of government directly into people's lives though precedents. Couldn't see the forest for the trees could we? It was right in front of everyone the whole time and no one could see it. Gay marriage is not the issue here, freedom of religion, thought, conscience and speech is.

Ramification #6:

Transgenderism, transsexualism and further gender confusion has now become part of this due to timing and cultural paradigm shift. Americans have not thought through the implications of same-sex marriage and how it is logically a big step (through the slippery slope) to erasing all sexual and gender distinctions in a system run by Positive Law. Everything including gender becomes morally relative. If we become legally sexless, the implications to families and definitions of family will be profound. There will be no more families because they will be impossible to define even for tax reasons. There’s already a push to eliminate sex identification at birth, which could mean removing sex distinctions on birth certificates. Some states have already moved towards “gender-less” restrooms under the guise of being non-discriminatory. This will seem logical because all gender identity non-discrimination laws already presume that everybody’s sex is something arbitrarily “assigned” to them at birth (Example: Bruce Jenner).

Ramification #7

Because of the blatant and major erosion of the 10th Amendment it will be open season for licensing or direct control of parents just like we’ve seen the government hand in school lunches, etc. Due to the possibility of infringement on the 10th Amendment and the abolition of sex distinctions and civil marriage we allow the Feds to gain control over deciding family decisions. What happens in court issues of of maternity or paternity if we go gender-less? It is the cultural understanding that children “belong” to communities (the State), not families. Anybody remember Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book It Takes A Village? She was dead serious about what she wrote in the book. Many others are on board with her line of thinking also. This ruling inevitably makes children into possessions invariably controlled by the State. For all my Christian missionary friends and Christian activists…this will increase the possibility and prevalence of State sanctioned human trafficking.

Ramification #8

This ruling puts the trajectory of Government onto a head-on collision with the Christian beliefs (and other faiths) and eventual undermining of the 1st Amendment. Please note I didn’t say abolition of the 1st amendment. That will never happen. The courts will just change the meaning of words until the words have no meaning in the Constitution. They’re already doing it now in this ruling. Catholic charities are closing some of their adoption services where same-sex marriage laws pressure them to reject their church’s teachings about marriage and family. Funding for Christian schools and colleges that refuse to get on board with the new pro-gay rulings will find themselves without funding or as the Solicitor General said in the preceding arguments leading up to the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, funding to Christian schools will become “an issue”. Additionally, as we have already seen with Christian bakeries...owners of businesses that serve the wedding industry are being forced to either scrap their consciences or shut their doors. Anti-discrimination lawsuits against churches that don’t perform same-sex marriages will undoubtedly be forthcoming.

Ramification #9:

If you think the bullying of business and churches is bad now….it most assuredly will escalate. As there is no longer a Christian majority to stand in the gaps and protect the little man. Anti-Christian belief has now been institutionalized. Expressing an opinion against institutionalized norms will solicit the wrath of the institution itself (Government) through legal means. It’s called hate speech, hate crimes, etc. Based on a statement by Justice Kennedy himself about the same-sex marriage ruling… any opposition to same-sex marriage was tantamount to animus or open hostility (violence). In other words, just saying the words in church will be considered hate crime.

Ramification #10:

It is my personal belief this is to be universal and worldwide. The United States of America is the trendsetter worldwide. The United States is already punishing countries and threatening to cut off aid if they don’t accept the LGBT agenda. This is imperialism at its worst and its being foisted right on the American people who disagree with the SCOTUS decision. Those that disagree are primarily Christian, Jewish and Muslim.

June 27, 2015

The Whole [Christian] Argument is Based on a Belief that Homosexuality is Wrong. Why Is It Wrong?

A day after the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage I had a friend who was pro-gay marriage ask the following valid (exceptionally so) question about my belief. It was an honest question about what he viewed as inequality and it deserved an honest heartfelt loving answer.

The whole [Christian] argument is based on a belief that homosexuality is wrong. Why is it wrong? If God does hates homosexuality. What's the reason? 

He asked a extraordinarily insightful and important question. So much so I actually wrote a response to it because I love him as I love all people. I re-post it here on my blog. Every Christian better have an answer for this question or they have no right to stand opposed to homosexuality theologically or intellectually because they haven't even formulated their own arguments. This is intellectually disingenuous and frankly not very thought-out. We have an obligation and are commanded to have a defense for our faith and all the beliefs it entails. Some of the emotive knee-jerk reaction on Facebook from some of my "Christian" brethren about this ruling is breath-taking in its ignorance.

1 Peter 3:15 ~ “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

Acts 17:2 ~ “As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures”

Please keep in mind this was originally a response on Facebook.
When it comes to discussing our faith, Paul reasoned with them from Scriptures. The word reason here means “through said” or talk through things. He talked through his logic and reasoned with them aloud. In other words he used dialectic. Dialectic being the art of investigating or discussing the truth of ideas or opinions. It is also the inquiry into metaphysical paradoxes and their solutions (as here). I will do the same in this post in writing to answer the aforementioned question.  
My stance on this issue is based in the character of God as revealed in the Bible. If God is God, he would need to be omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, etc. If He is all knowing and all powerful it would stand to reason that he is also all-just or he by his nature couldn't actually be God. If he is these things (which logic dictates he needs to be), any text he inspires/tells people to write would therefore be inerrant and if he is all powerful the text would be preserved through that omnipotence. That text as best I can tell is the Bible because of how it accounts reality. 
This leads to your statement which is correct. The God of Christianity has said it is wrong. God actually views it as an abomination or a twisting of natural order (Romans 1). In Christian understanding God created the world (Genesis 1). He really has commanded certain things (no I don’t always know why including now). If He is truly perfect, I am morally obligated to do certain things and not to do others, because I view him as correct about what he has deemed moral or immoral. If he is perfectly just…he would know what is immoral or sin. Morality isn’t just in your mind. It’s real. When we fail to keep God’s commandments, we are morally guilty before Him and need His forgiveness. The problem isn’t just that we feel guilty; we really are guilty. I might not feel guilty because I have a seared conscience; but if I’ve broken God’s law, I am guilty.  
Today so many people think of right and wrong, not as matters of fact, but as matters of preference. This is philosophically incorrect. It is believed there is no objective truth only relative truth. This is also philosophically wrong. 2+2=4. That is an absolute. Morality/ethics says that there indeed has to be right and wrong. Your conscience tells you this. Who better to determine that than a perfectly just ethical being? The Christian God. Conversely, if there is no God, than every atheist I know is correct. In the absence of God everything becomes relative. The old saying in the book The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880) also becomes true: "If God does not exist, anything is permissible." This includes murder, cannibalism, rape, torture, etc. Who can then say anything is wrong without an absolute measure of morality? Answer: No one. Who defines normal? A flawed man/woman as in the case of the Supreme Court? That is still an imperfect judgment tainted by bias and presuppositions (and sin). 
In other words the idea of moral obligation is true no matter what your religion. Even the basis for the same-sex marriage decision was based in “cultural” ideas of “justice” and “equality” (which makes them culturally relative). The question becomes…what is your basis for morality? What is your benchmark? You philosophically must appeal to an authority otherwise it is merely your “relative" opinion or a subjective truth. This is intellectually untenable. Society has appealed to the court in lieu of no other authority to appeal to other than their own emotions. I appeal to an authority outside of myself and then use the logical syllogism I just gave above as justification for my position. which is the greater authority? As a Sikh, you know the answer to that question. 
Again, if no moral God, than no moral divine lawgiver, then there is no absolute moral law…only relativism. I am not trying to be a smart ass here Monty but this is basic Philosophy 101 (Aristotelian and Socratic). If a perfectly moral just judge does not exist, right and wrong do not exist either. My understanding is that that God is in the Bible and he has deemed any sexual immorality including adultery, bestiality, homosexuality, pedophilia and polygamy an abomination. God defines it, he had his reasons. 
If we want to be able to make moral judgement in society about what’s right or wrong, we’ve got to affirm that a God exists. But then the same question we essentially started with—“Who are you to say that homosexuality is wrong?”—can be put back to you: “Who are you to say that homosexuality is right?” What makes it equitable? What makes it inequitable? To what moral authority do you appeal to? The supreme court of men or to a perfect God? These educated justices have violated elementary rules of logic to arrive at a morally dubious conclusion. 
The question of the legitimacy of the homosexual lifestyle for me is therefore a question of what God has to say about it. If there is no God, then there is no right and wrong, and it doesn’t make any difference what lifestyle you choose—the “persecutor” of homosexuals is morally equivalent to the advocate of homosexuality. Lord of the Flies. Dog-Eat-Dog. 
But if God DOES exist, we can no longer just rely on our own opinions. We have to determine what God thinks on the issue. How do I determine the mind of God? I read the Bible. The Bible tells us that God forbids homosexual acts. It also says that marriage outside of a one man and one woman is therefore...wrong. This does not make me a "hater". It makes me obedient to the Christian Holy Bible. Besides, with no moral absolutes, who is to convict me of my "wrongness"? 
So, to offer a valid and logical Christian syllogism: 
(1) As Christians we are all obey God’s will(2) God’s will is shown in the Bible.(3) The Bible forbids homosexual behavior.
(4) Therefore, homosexual behavior is against God’s will. Said another way, it is wrong.

June 23, 2015

Frozen: Complacency of the Indifferent

Life has a way of layering itself in disappointments. Expectations unmet. Hopes shattered. Dreams foregone. I’ve learned to stop placing expectations, hopes and dreams in the things of this world or systems of this world. I’ve learned that the world will always let you down. Why? Because when we care for things more our level of expectations are that much higher for them.

If we have high expectations of outcomes...our outcomes always need to be lofty. We over build people expecting something equaling God...and we are inevitability let down. So when failure eventually arrives like the hour hand reaches 12 o’clock twice a day, so too trial will revisit us in our lives. You will face-plant into the ground regardless of whom you deal with or no matter the situation. The truth is you only want the best for those closest to you but it seems the letdowns are that much more painful when they are people you hold more dearly.

We think trying harder will fix problems but in reality, the intensity and desire to fix often makes things drastically worse. The first rule of holes is: Once you're in them, stop digging. It turns into a neurosis of sorts. Instead I see the smart people loosening their grip. To survive I’ve seen people relinquish their expectations. To get along I’ve seen people waive their right to be offended. To help others in their suffering I’ve seen people give up their dreams. To help those disabled by sin and brokenness I’ve seen people pass by the easy path to the road less traveled. To right wrongs I’ve seen people forsake superficial and posturing love and wait on deeper, profounder mysterious love.

…and they do it with no expectation of reciprocity.

In these everyday surrenders of will and acts of selflessness…I see holy God. I see Jesus. The problem is, I see too little of it in self-described Christians and affluent American churches (even in myself). I’ve seen it half the time, half the time not. If it is there it is hidden from view. Perhaps the veiled nature of it is intentional. Perhaps it is humility…but I suspect not. The Bible tells us that charitable acts and behavior are not to be done to draw attention to one’s self in self-aggrandizing fake self-sacrifice. Still, I see a conspicuous absence of it because I purposely look for it where I would expect to find it…an often it just isn’t there to be seen.

This seems to suggest a few things to me. Those not surrendering have not reached that place or state of existence where expectations remain unmet and remain unattainable. They have not had hopes smashed against the rocks of a stormy life. They have not been required to forego their dreams to help others realize theirs. If any of these things had happened to them…I would be seeing more mercy in them. I would see more grace. I would see the grace of God in more people’s actions but I don’t. I see many whose hearts have grown cold. I see complacency bred by a sense of entitlement and expectations that have constantly been realized. I see dispositions that have become hardened to the world. I see the jaded end result of getting what you want, when you want it, where you want it. I see materially over-indulged people and they are spiritually starved.

I don’t see persecution. You know old adage, “The church was built on the blood of the martyrs.” This is sort of ironic coming from an institution that is often quick to jump on the “persecution complex” train. No, I tend to seem more of the opposite. If the early church was indeed built on the blood of the martyrs, then the modern church is deteriorating in the complacency of the indifferent. I am guilty of it to some extent too. What I will say is I am not as guilty of it as I’ve been in the past, but guilty. I suppose we are all on a continuum of sin guilt in this matter but lately it seems that too many are on the anchor side dragging down the entire church like ballast. It isn’t just a lack of charity and mercy either. It is the sum product of a cold heart. A cold heart formed by lack of the warmth provided by Scripture. The more people have removed themselves from the warmth of the word and communion with God the farther they have drifted from the fire of truth.

The church doesn’t necessarily need bad theology to gut it, it only needs a cold heart. As Revelation 3 said about the Laodicean church, it doesn’t even need to be a cold heart… it only needs to be lukewarm to be detrimental to the Church. Sometimes the enemy of good theology isn’t just bad theology…it ends up being little or no-theology at all. Many in church are becoming pseudo-theological or atheological. Not atheistic mind you but either partially theologically correct or against theology. They wish to talk about God but what they really talk about is a god not described in Scripture. They believe they speak of the real God but with no Scriptural support to go on they create a fallacious facsimile which is merely pieced together secondhand information. A “hand-me-down” God built from hearsay and heresy. The god built by an theological game of “passing it down the line”. A god built on godless gossip instead of the Gospel.

Yes, you read that correctly: Pseudo-theological, atheological or not theological at all. They’re merely in church for a feeling or emotion. They’re in it for what it does for them. Like accouterments. A fashion accessory. Doctrinal paraphernalia in appearance but devoid of Christ.  The end product? A cold heart devoid of Scripture or Scriptural truth. Like I said, atheological.

If these people had actually read Scripture and embodied it I would see the relinquishing of their expectations. I would see people who would be willing to waive their right to be offended. I would see people willing to give up their dreams. I would see people willing to forsake a superficial and posturing love and wait on deeper, profounder affections that come from the mysterious love or mercy and grace. Where are these people within the Church? I see so few. I often fear I am not one of them at times. It obviously begs the question: How much of the Church is really the Church? I suspect not much of it.

The absence of the Bible in people shows in both their thought and actions (or lack thereof). There is life and truth of Scripture. There is warmth of mercy and grace in Scripture. A kind-heartedness. A sincerity. A tenderness that is missing nowadays. In its place an unwillingness reluctance to act. A distance from both men and God. Many have had it too easy for too long and it isn’t just wearing at the edges of the church…its now disemboweling it.

It’s cutting out its heart. It is replacing a heart of flesh with heart of stone.

Matthew 24:10-12 ~ “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold”

I am seeing just the opposite of what God said the Spirit of God would do with the hearts of the people.

Ezekiel 11:19 ~ “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 36:26 ~ “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “

This also begs a question: Where is this heart of stone coming from? Honestly, I think we all know the answer to that question.

June 19, 2015

Proper Funeral Etiquette For The Ethically Challenged

Two days ago I watch the news to learn that nine church-going Christians are gunned down in cold-blood at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina by a unrepentant lunatic. 

Subsequently, today while leaving work I come upon a funeral procession in Pennsylvania, so I pulled over and said a silent prayer for the surviving family. As I pray I see what appears to be a 20-ish year old kid pull out of the green light that I am sitting at and literally cut the procession in half by driving into it and then proceeds to tailgate one of the mourners. If there was ever a quadruple face-palm moment for all of humanity, that was it. I could only shake my head in utter disbelief.

I'm not sure when or where...but something went seriously wrong over the last twenty or thirty years. In a generation of people that practically demand respect…they are hard-pressed to give any in return. People, mostly parents totally dropped the ball when it comes to proper funeral and funeral procession etiquette. We have raised a generation or two of disrespectful dimwits. The fact that I need to write this is frankly, quite sad. It is a sign of the times I suppose-and the times are evil.

The young are the guiltiest in my first-hand observations. This does not excuse the older generation's airheadedness and failure to educate the youth which I have also bore witness to. I have to assume that these people simply don't know any better because no one taught them. Hence my finger-point to the parents because part of learning respect for others is a responsibility of the parents to teach their children. My parents taught me to respect the dead and have a little commonsense. Apparently there is not a surplus of either of these to go around in society, there is a shortage of them.

So without further ado I present proper funeral etiquette for those too callous or ignorant to know any better.

When you go to a funeral don’t dress like you’re going clubbing or down to the beach. No, jeans and sneakers are not proper attire (I don’t care if they’re new). Someone just lost a love one. Sloppy attire shows a complete indifference about people’s loss. The person in the casket won’t care but the one’s left behind will see you for the lunkhead that you are. They'll see you as being so obnoxious that you couldn’t even put on a black dress shirt, dark blouse or black dress.

Oh, that’s the next thing. Wear dark clothes unless the family requests otherwise. I don't care what the current cultural trend for being casual is. People are in mourning. Don’t wear clothes that will make people believe the circus just rolled into town. Save the cheery colors for a wedding or baptism (hint). Don’t dress like you just came from work either. Pantsuits scream, “I gotta to get back to work!” Conversely, uniforms are only appropriate for the military or civil service like police, firepeople and even EMTs. It is expected that one would wear those uniforms in a display of dignity at a funeral. Keep the McDonald’s or Jack’s Plumbing shirt at home. Also, no sandals, low cut shirts or miniskirts. Save the cleavage and your 15 inch guns for the bar. When in doubt think: "Respectful" not "pick-up joint".

Be on time and sign the guestbook. The family will know whom to thank for the respectful gesture. Unless you’re part of the immediate family (sons, daughters, parents) do not sit in the first two rows even if it seems like you are alienating the bereaved. Front rows are for immediate family.

Don’t start awkward conversations. If you do start a conversation, keep it short. Funerals are not the time or the place of a verbal dissertation. Hug people. Tell them you love them. Tell them you’ll be there for them. Don’t talk about how your kids are driving you batty or unrelated things in the news. Remember, there is a line behind you of other people there for the same reason you are. It is actually better to remain silent after giving your condolences rather than getting "chatty". Be there to listen but don’t do a lot of talking. 

Depending on the type of person and family you are paying your respects to you can of course quote Scripture. Frankly, I would just let the pastor do it from a lectern. Please realize these people don’t really want verbal platitudes at this time. They just lost someone they cared deeply for and they have probably heard Romans 8:28-30, Jeremiah 29:11 and 1 Thessalonians 4 nearly a hundred times since the passing of their loved one. These people don’t necessarily need a sermon. They need love and mercy in the form of a hug and a shoulder to cry on. Save the sermon for the pastor/minister, he's better at it and less inclined to stick his foot in his mouth.

Unless you have a hellion for a child, I do recommend children being brought to a funeral after the age of about 5 or 6. Children need to realize that death is an inevitable and natural part of life (I personally believe they removed death as a part of people's lives when they moved the graveyards away from the churches). If your child is a beast you might be well advised to get a babysitter for a few hours. If you are bringing a young child please understand that some might be less than tolerant of a 6 year old getting restless and crawling under chairs and hanging on inappropriate people.

Be aware that there might be a processional/recessional which is the casket being rolled in and then rolled out as part of the service. Adapt accordingly. Again, think "respectful" not, "How do I get out of here without banging into the casket?". Don’t try to get into the funeral or get out of it during those formalities....that would be just plain ignorant.

By all means, if it is an open casket, view the body even if it makes you uncomfortable. Someone in the family felt it was important enough for a funeral director to cosmetically prepare the body in this manner. Reciprocate with respect by walking up to the deceased and saying a prayer or meditating on their life. The immediate family might even join you.

We must remember that a funeral is a ceremony of value for those who mourn. It provides an opportunity for the survivors and others who share in the loss to express their love, respect, grief and appreciation for a life that has been lived. It provides a form of closure. It allows families to openly and realistically face the crisis a death presents. Through the funeral the bereaved take that first step toward adjustment to their loss. You who attend are part of that process and the bereaved will remember you for it. I know I did at my father’s funeral. I remember nearly everyone who showed up and I am appreciative of that fact.

As for the automotive procession (sometimes a horse and caisson) the following commonsense etiquette applies. Again, I am appalled that I even need to type this but based on today’s events, apparently I do.

A line (procession) of cars behind a Hearse, that have flags on their hood, high beams on and flashing 4-way indicators, means there is a family only minutes away from saying final goodbyes and putting a person they love six feet into the clay. Out of respect, pull over to the shoulder and stop even in the oncoming lane. Yes, you heard me correctly. Pull over even in the oncoming lane. No I don’t care if it's a two-lane highway. Do the right thing. If you cannot safely come to a stop at least slow down and give them a wide berth until the procession has passed. 

When a procession of cars behind a hearse enters an intersection whether it is controlled by police or not, the cars in the procession have the right of way until they are all through regardless of a changing color of the light. A decent respectful person is not to cut in or through the procession. Only a disrespectful mindless dolt does that. Wherever you’re going and whatever you have to do can wait a few more minutes. How would you feel if someone did this to a person you loved?

If on foot or walking, look in the general direction of the procession but don’t gawk or ogle the grievers. I've stared at the ground in the direction of the deceased. It’s appropriate for pedestrians to stop walking and face the hearse as the family goes by. If you are wearing a hat remove it until the procession has gone by. 

If you are at the grave site. Keep your mouth shut unless you are asked to speak. Silence is golden here. Final prays and/or benedictions are usually made at this time. Occasionally a personal remembrance. Families are saying goodbye at this point. Unless you are family, you shouldn’t really be saying anything. Just be there and ready to catch people when or if they fall.

Hope this helped. I’m sure I forgot stuff but I was so perturbed by the ignorance of the kid in Boyertown today I need to get these words to paper before I lost my mind in a fit of frustration due to people's idiocy. Truth is, if you are reading this, you are probably not the person that needed to read it anyway. It’s the knucklehead that cut-off the procession today in Boyertown that needs to read this. 

If you haven't talked to your kids or grand-kids about this stuff...perhaps you should?

May God have mercy on the family left behind. Come to mention it, may God have mercy on the families of those murdered in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina also.

June 16, 2015

Under The Flag of Abaddon: A List of False Teachers

False Teachers
False Prophets
False Christs

They present themselves as rescuers or rescue ships flying a flag of salvation but they are actually pirates flying false colors on their mast. They are waiting for their opportunity to board and pillage your spirituality and plunder your faith. They deliberately fly false flags as a Ruse de guerre or ruse of war. Spiritual Trojan horses. A deception to allow them to gain entry inside your defenses. Once inside they give you Hell (literally). They give no quarter.

2 Peter 2:1-3 ~ "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

I'm naming names today. No more dancing around this subject. If I don't name names I am complicit in the misleading of God's people that are in the midst of rapacious pirates. So hold on to your hats. This is going to get mighty uncomfortable for some folks. I write in the spirit of the Book of Jude when it speaks of false teaching.

Jude 3-4 ~ I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

I have recently started preaching/teaching again and the questions of who's who and what's what have again arisen. I've chosen to make a comprehensive list to acknowledge where I stand. As a teacher who should have discernment I would be remiss if I did not do what I have done here. It truly pains me to have to do this but when people start asking me what I think of Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn, it is time for me to open my mouth. What I do here I am commanded to do as a true follower of Jesus and Scripture.

1 John 4:1 ~ Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Everything I say in this post is said in love. I write here because I am feeling an increased sense of urgency to tell the truth when it comes to determining possible spiritual harm. I am concerned with whether or not what the following people preach affects people’s view of salvation. The two questions I ask myself when approaching these people are: 
(1) Would I use them myself as a source of truth in determining what the Bible truly says? 
(2) Can what they teach or expound possibly interfere with the message of the Gospel and what constitutes the correct behavior or actions that will lead to true repentance and salvation through the Gospel? Discerning this second question at times is not clear-cut.
In an age when people are culturally allowed to redefine love, race, sexual preference and even gender, I am beginning to see a determined attempt to also redefine Christianity to more "tolerable" forms. Even those in the Church are trying to scale back the demands of Scripture by putting it on the measuring table of modern culture. Whatever prohibitions or commandments don’t fit they hack it off and relegate them to the “optional” category. It becomes an issue of “should” not “shall”. When they do this they effectively amputate the Gospel invalidating it because what ends up coming out of their mouths is then a twisted unbiblical lie. They therefore make it "doctrines of demons". 

1 John 4:1-6 ~ "Beloved, do not believe every spirit (those claiming to speak by the spirit), but test the spirits, whether they are of god; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the spirit of god: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of god, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of god (i.e. The Gospel). And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of god, little children, and have overcome them, because he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of god. He who knows god hears us; he who is not of god does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." 

So what is true teaching and not false? True teaching is teaching that aligns itself with Scripture either literally or in principle. Therefore those that do no align with Scripture, are not true teachers. They are then false teachers. Any time a person’s words or actions contradict or go against what the Bible says, alludes to or illustrates, they are no longer speaking for God. Having clarified this, there is a difference between inadvertent error and deliberate habitual deception

Let's be honest, even good people make occasional mistakes. I believe many if not all true teachers of the Word have made mistakes in their teaching or preaching at one time or another. I know I have. True teachers, when they are in error will accept correction or rebuke depending on the severity of the error. They will also be quick to right the wrong and provide the truth.

On the other hand, habitual rebellion against the truths of Scripture in a consistent pattern constitutes what the Bible refers to as false prophets or false teachers (1 John 3:9-10). Therein lies the distinction between the two. We need only listen to the words that come from the people themselves to make this discernment. It is the careless or Bible illiterate that don't base their discernment in Scripture that will fall victim to these bandits. Conversely, no sensible person will declare a teacher false as such after only one mistake appears. That is not discernment, that is pharisaical judgment. But when it becomes a pattern? Well, that is a different story altogether. At that point I am to identify bad teaching  as such and I should be able to explain why it is wrong in a way that is understandable. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was noted as having said the following about spiritual discernment.
"Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right." —Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Those that know me know I did not come to these conclusions lightly or accidentally. I am quite aware that if I malign God's true anointed I am under stiff penalty myself and will bring judgment on myself. I've done my homework with these people. I am not just pulling these names from whack-job legalistic websites. I am labeling these people because they are dangerous as Hell. They’re dangerous as Hell because their teachings are accelerating peoples trek to condemnation if people treat their words as Gospel truth.

I've also included some people that have effectively disqualified themselves from ministry due to their behavior (1 Timothy 3, Titus, etc.). Yes, people can still learn through other people's bad behavior (children). These behaviors should also be considered teaching because people that observe them can learn by example. Yes, some of these people may have repented and apologized for their wrong-doing (Swaggart, Driscoll) but we must then take the sum content of their character into account. Forgive them? Yes, absolutely! Forget the error and give them a pass? No way! The line becomes blurred at this point and one needs to ask themselves: Is it worth the risk of defaming Jesus' name? Since men's hearts are deceitfully wicked and none are righteous of their own accord...I say no.

There is enough false teaching or departure from Scripture in the teachings of these people or organizations that it warrants mentioning them. I would be remiss if some's salvation was jeopardized because I didn’t call out the vipers, hyenas and jackals and identify them as deceivers or liars. I mention these because they are the most visible and pose the greatest risk to the Body of Christ due to their popularity and the reach of their “ministries”. I have personally either read their work, heard them speak or have seen video of them. If there was even a question in my mind about the validity of their ministry....I post them here today. Mind you, these are just the tip of the iceberg. I will defend this discernment with source material matched to Scripture if I need to because explaining why all of these people are false teachers would make this post a book.

The False Teachers/Prophets
E A Adeboye, Stephen Anderson, Herbert Armstrong, Karen Armstrong, Matthew Ashimolowo, John Avanzini, Karl Barth, Jay Bakker, Jim Bakker, Rob Bell, Todd Bentley, Marcus Borg, William M. Branham, Barbie Breathitt, Rodney Browne, Emil Brunner, Rudolf Bultmann, Juanita Bynum, Christine Caine, Paul Cain, Harold Camping, Tony Campolo, Charles Capps, John Caputo, Morris Cerullo, Shaine Clairborne, Kim Clement, Kenneth/Gloria Copeland, Paul and Jan Crouch, John Crowder, Creflo Dollar, Mark Driscoll, Jesse Duplantis, Bart Ehrman, Steve Furtick, W.V. Grant, Stanley Grenz, Ted Haggard, John Hagee, Kenneth Hagin, Bill Hamon, Christian Harfouche, Marilyn Hickey, Hillsong Church, Benny Hinn, TD Jakes, Leroy Jenkins, Bernard Jordan, Tenitope Bolegun Joshua, Rick Joyner, E.W. Kenyon, Dan Kimball, Eddie Long, Brennan Manning, Scot McKnight, Brian McLaren, Joyce Meyer, Donald Miller, Steve Munsey, Mike Murdock, Myles Munroe, Arnold Murray, Joel & Victoria Osteen, Chris Oyakhilome, David Oyedepo, Doug Pagitt, Rod Parsley, Norman Vincent Peale, Peter Popoff, Fred Price, Joseph Prince, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, the Roman Catholic Church, Jerry Savelle, Robert Schuller, The Jesus Seminar, John Shelby Spong, Jimmy Swaggart, Leonard Sweet, Leroy Thompson, Robb Thompson, Phyllis Tickle, Paul Tillich, Robert Tilton, Westboro Baptist Church, Ellen G. White, Paula White, Randy White, Dallas Willard, Bruce Wilkinson/Prayer of Jabez, Jeremiah Wright, Ed Young, Sarah Young/Jesus Calling, William Young/The Shack, Zig Ziglar
Although those next on the list are not near as detrimental as the previous list of people, they should be approached with extreme caution. The following have some things to offer the church at-large but there is often plenty of error mixed in. This makes them risky at best, heretics at worst. Sometimes what the following actually believe is difficult to pin down (example: R. Warren and Christlam, B. Hybels and Homosexuality). I believe some of them are sincere but misguided. A person can be sincere and still be dreadfully wrong. I believe with some of these people it is more an issue of misguided theological understanding than deliberate misleading of people like the list above. Error is still error though.

The Disputable Teachers
Mark Batterson, John Bevere, John Eldredge, Bill Hybels, Peter Kreeft, Max Lucado, Beth Moore, Erwin McManus, John Ortberg, Rick Warren, N.T. Wright, Philip Yancey
The Hard To Categorize Teachers

Here I deal with “hard to categorize” teachers. These are the ones I am not willing to throw under the bus or throw the baby out with the bathwater. This includes the likes of Billy Graham, Tim Keller and John Stott. Yes, I am aware of the accusations towards Graham due to his Inclusivist / Universalist statements. I am not discounting them but what I am seeing in those statements is a desire to attempt to try and save as many of the lost as possible. Unfortunately, in an attempt to do so I see a man caught up in the emotions of the moment when he made certain statements (perhaps I am just in denial?). Other than those select moments, I see a man who has given nearly eight decades of his life to preach the True Gospel. Likewise, I believe Tim Keller has much to offer the Body of Christ but at times in the past has chased rabbits towards Contemplative Spirituality, and what amounts to eastern mysticism. He also sometimes clings a little too tightly to the Social aspect of the Gospel. While we’re at it, I find John Stott’s Annihilationist views, Ravi Zacharias’ (RZIM) support of Joyce Meyers, John Piper’s camaraderie with Rick Warren, Norman Geisler's Amyraldist views and William Lane Craig's Molinist views that border on Open Theism 
awkward to say the least. Do these positions make these people false teachers. I doubt it...but you decide for yourself. I merely present the information so that you do not make uninformed decisions.

Finally, I deal with the 800 lb. gorilla in the room with Evangelical Christianity. A gorilla called Dispensationalism. Quite a few fit loosely under this banner including the well respected teacher Dr. John MacArthur. This topic must be dealt with because the Dispensationalist undercurrent in Evangelical Christianity is pervasive and inescapable. I personally have read and interpreted the original Greek passages that deal with the idea of the Rapture (especially 1 Thessalonians 4) and have found that I do not agree 100% with Dispensationalist interpretation of the Greek even though the premise remains plausible (if not probable). It’s not necessarily the Dispensationalist view that makes me place the next few names on this list. It is the unnecessary paranoia and sensationalism the following people drum up that is disconcerting. If I group these men in even loosely with John MacArthur it is an unfair comparison. I’m talking about...
Jack Van Impe, Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins, Hal Lindsey, Grant R. Jeffrey, etc. 
To me, these men believing in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture and the things leading up to it isn't a direct issue of salvation although it might affect how one lives out their lives in the end. It’s an issue of how they believe. All of them focused way too much on end-times eschatology and not enough on Jesus. Do I find Jack and Rexella Van Impe odd? Yes I do. Van Impe focuses way too much on insignificant non-salvation things like Y2K (remember that?). I am also concerned with the avarice of LaHaye/Jenkins and the empire they built on a book series written over a span of 16 books. To me this looks like fleecing. Furthermore, Hal Lindsey’s endless speculations about the identity of the Antichrist and exact time of the Rapture is also grating. To say it’s false is too much of a reach for me, sorry. The only time a Dispensationalist becomes an issue for me is when it goes to the extreme of John Hagee who makes a claim of two distinct covenants for Christians and Jews. That is rank heresy.

The truth is that if we don't clean up our own ranks within Christianity it will be our own fault when the unbelieving world demonizes all of us categorically and unfairly. A majority of the people in the first list I wish not to be associated with at all because frankly, they're probably not even Christians. If they are, they're painfully misguided. I often get maligned because of their stupidity. I am often unjustly compared to them simply because they refer to themselves as Christian. I end up getting the brunt of the backlash and need to do damage control at the street-level because of what they do on television and in media. What is worse is that some of these people are likely led by demonic forces.

Moving Forward, We Look Back

To wrap up I present to you Anglican Bishop J.C. Ryle. He actually made a really good checklist in modern terms based on Biblical principles for analyzing false teachers and their followers. This list is more telling of the followers of the false teacher than the false teacher themselves. Please note these were written over a century ago:
1. There is an undeniable zeal in some teachers of error–their “earnestness” makes many people think they must be right.  
2. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge–many think that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe to listen to. 
3. There is a general tendency to completely free and independent thinking today–many like to prove their independence of judgment by believing the newest ideas, which are nothing but novelties. 
4. There is a wide-spread desire to appear kind, loving, and open-minded–many seem half-ashamed to say that anybody can be wrong or is a false teacher. 
5. There is always a portion of half-truth taught by modern false teachers–they are always using scriptural words and phrases, but with unscriptural meaning.  
6. There is a public craving for a more sensational and entertaining worship–people are impatient with the more inward and invisible work of God within the hearts of men. 
7. There is a superficial readiness all around to believe anyone who talks cleverly, lovingly and earnestly, forgetting that Satan often masquerades himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).  
8. There is a wide-spread ignorance among professing Christians–every heretic who speaks well is surely believed, and anyone who doubts him is called narrow-minded and unloving.

Here is a good article from the Gospel Coalition as further reading: 7 Traits of False Teachers

June 12, 2015

Battle-Hardened Biblical Phalanx

The world is currently a maelstrom swirling around me. I am trying to keep my head low and not get hit at this point. It feels as if someone threw a rock at a wasp nest that I just happened to be standing under and I am now trying to avoid being mercilessly stung. Frankly, it is scary stuff. I know it’s in God’s hands but that hasn’t been a real comforting place lately as He has seen fit to burn off a lot of dross in my life. The burn-off has left me seared and in pain. Sometimes, just sometimes, the center of God’s will is in the fire where he can clearly been seen plucking you out…to His glory.

Please bear witness to that fact now.

Everything is in disarray in life. Work, relationships, you name it. Even the church I’ve been preaching and teaching at is under direct spiritual assault. They are in danger of losing their lease to stay in the building they’ve managed to tenuously hold on to for 10 years. This is an unprecedented tidal wave of attack. Some of the front-line is collapsing and I fear I/we might be flanked and consumed anyway.

So… today watch an enormous amount of my coworkers get laid-off around me this week I realize (once again) that we are all only one decision away from sudden-death and finality. I have to admit this is the most severe and decimating layoff I have ever seen at any employer. I’ve been through my share of them on both sides. At times they all seemed to be based on capriciousness and whimsy but as I observe the proceedings I realize every decision was painstakingly made by the owners. At this point they are trying to right a severely listing ship that is in danger of capsizing. It has become a stratagem of survival for what remains. Damn the torpedoes we're moving ahead with what is left onboard. The industry we work within has fallen on hard times and those hard times are being passed down the supply chain to vendors. Not only is our company struggling, the whole aviation industry is in a downward death spiral and they cannot currently pull the nose up and level off. The ground is quickly coming up to meet the diving corporation.

The question in these situations is always the same: Did I do anything that warranted mention that will save me from termination? The same is true for those that are let go and those that are spared the "polite firing". Was there anything I did in my tenure that warranted merit? Perhaps in my work situation there might have been but I realize, in God’s view of my sin, no, there is no merit. It is only the work of Christ on the Cross that warrants mentioning and bears repeating. As for our deeds…they are a sum total of the work that God does in us. Either that or they are a complete lack of God working in us if we are unrepentant sinners.

So I sit and wonder as I watch people file out of the building one by one: Why them and not me? Then it occurs to me it is the sovereignty and divine acts of God that make the world go around. His decision, not mine.  His decision, not my employers. My employers are only fulfilling God’s will as conduits of secondary cause.  I see the coincidence of man’s will or decisions aligning with God for whatever reasons God has planned (Genesis 50:20).

I also realize that I have absolutely no control over how this all shakes out. I then encounter the humility of submission to the will of the Father. I encounter a non-divine kenosis or self-emptying as described in Philippians 2:5-11. I realize that even if it is my time to make the walk of shame and employment death out the door in the next few days, it’s better to suffer a little now than to suffer forever thereafter. It is in our inability to carry ourselves that God does the heavy lifting. It is in the forfeiture of our rights that God appears to strengthen our faith. It's what He must do because we cannot do anything to help ourselves. We are spiritual invalids.

Even with stronger faith it is an intimidating place. I don’t need to believe God exists, I know He does. But the truth of how much I believe He exists resides in how much I will trust Him in these unstable situations and uncertain times. It’s like saying you love and trust your children only to hover over them constantly not allowing them to live their own lives. My mind says God is there but to not trust this situation will turn out for my best interest says just the opposite through my actions. It is here I realize I run smack dab into Paul’s conundrum of Romans 7. I delight in God but my flesh is weak. It also occurs to me that I’ve been placed directly in this maelstrom intentionally. Not by the Devil either…but by God. Perhaps not placed here but I’ve been allowed, through my own will and actions to walk into the heart of the storm. I've ventured directly into the center of the enemy lines...because that is exactly where God wants me.

Like Daniel, I am not saved from the lion’s den, I am saved in the lion’s den. I am not saved from the cross but by it. Saved from death by death and Resurrection. Forging steel with heat and a hammer looks as if the elements used to do it will destroy the metal when in reality it augments and strengthens it. To strengthen a muscle one must first tear it down and traumatize it. For a human to learn and grow, they must inevitably experience pain and discomfort. Since the Fall, it is the way the world works. It is the path of sanctification.

Genesis 3:17-19 ~ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

John 16:33 ~ “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

2 Timothy 3:12 ~ “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted….”

James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Since the beginning God warned us things would be difficult. It is here I have another revelation. If pain and toil are the normal state, then peace and prosperity are the exception. If they are the exception, then the peaceful non-tempering periods are divine acts of mercy and grace not to be taken for granted. Instead of focusing on the maelstrom when it swirls I should be giving thanks for the times of peace as they arrive. This is exactly what the Bible tells us to do too. Peace, mercy and tranquility are gifts of grace from God to us wretched sinners that deserve torment and death for our sin. In other words, in a fallen world, paradise and perfection are not the normal state of affairs. Quite the opposite really. The world is deliberately difficult for the true believer specifically so it drives them to the only one that will carry the burden we cannot. God.

Isaiah 43:2 ~ “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Please note it says when you walk through the fire, not if. Please note it says you will not be consumed either, you will not be destroyed by your trial. It even says you will not be burned, you will not be permanently disfigured. You WILL be changed though. You will be changed in matters of faith. You will be tested. Sorely tested at times as I can attest to
(as can others). It must be understood that any reliable tool or weapon of warfare that we trust and depend on in the heat of battle needs to be battle-tested for failure so it doesn't fail when it is needed most...in a pitched battle. Why would it be any different for the church if the church is Gods proven and chosen method to wage war against the powers and principalities of this world? The church...made up of people like you and I.

We are the tempered spear point of the Body of Christ. Honed to a razors edge through the sharpening of the word of God. We are prepared for every spiritual battle that lay before us. It is no accident, it is vigilance of an eternal God for our benefit. God wants battle-hardened veterans to lead the charge against the opposing forces. Spiritual blades are made useful by abrasion. He is conditioning us to win the war that lays before us in this sinful world. Like I’ve said, this isn’t chastisement so much as it is battle-hardening. Let us now lift our spears, shields and swords in a Christian phalanx and drive the enemy back from which it came...Hell and the dark corners of this world.
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