The Super-Glue Sin
“Out of my sight, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men; the severest of harsh words to perhaps his most ardent disciple, the same whom He called a “Rock. And then immediately Jesus said to Peter and the rest of his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. This whole incident reeks of the ingrained sin that sticks to our spirit like super-glue. We are all infected with it and can’t seem to dislodge it. When we think we have and say so to ourselves or others, it raises its ugly head with even greater strength. It’s a chameleon, fooling us with all the myriad of masks with which it manifests itself in who we are. We are seldom aware of its hiding in so many crevices of our being. But face it, PRIDE is our default nature, and the only way to get rid of it is to kill it! But if we kill it, we have to kill ourselves, because this is who we are. And this is precisely why Jesus said what He did, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it. Lose it, and you kill your noxious pride with it.
C.S. Lewis wrote in his classic, Mere Christianity, that “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind… It is the characteristic which predominates in the atheist mind and pulls the rest of us in their direction more than we are willing to admit, even though we say we believe in God and His Son with the fiercest resolve. It has been said that among professing Christians there are many practical atheists who while loudly claiming to know God, actually live as though they do not. Lewis goes on to say, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you…Pride is spiritual cancer; it eats the very possibility of love or contentment, or even common sense.
If Christ and His description of Christian character in the Scriptures are to be our mirror, do we really see ourselves in the reflection? If not, what is the most persistent, gnawing flaw which blemishes how we truly look? You can be assured our pride is right at the forefront. John Calvin wrote, “No one willingly yields to others, but each cherishes within himself a secret hope of being first.
God doesn’t pull any punches, nor does His Son, when they speak of the ruinous nature of pride and, apart from repentance, its inescapable path to destruction. Please read through Proverbs again watching this time for “pride, and do a word study of “pride in the New Testament, and you will see that the Lord never minces words when speaking of what becomes of a man or woman who will not slay their pride. It’s a deadly infection which must be lanced and cleansed before it destroys the whole person. Examine yourself and try to recognize what it looks like in you. If you are thorough and honest you will find it is not always what you may at first think. If on the other hand you would like to acquire humility, the first step is to realize where and how you are proud. It’s a big step. But nothing else can be done before taking it. If you think you are not conceited, it really means you are very conceited. This is the nature of the beast.
For each of us John the Baptist’s words are true: “He must increase and I must decrease. He will be infinitely merciful to our repeated failures. But He will not accept a deliberate compromise; for only as our self-affirming will recedes is there room for Him to fill our souls with Himself.
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Is Marriage Passè?
Is marriage passé? In a January 14, 2011 article Natalie Portman, unusually successful as both a child and adult actress, revealed her latest view on marriage. Apparently, many young women are taking her advice. Portman told a reporter that the reason she was drawn to her latest movie, “No Strings Attached, was because the main character whom she plays “was simply seeking a no-romance bed buddy as opposed to the whole nine yards. Portman said, “Emma (the main character) wants a relationship without the relationship. She just wants the sex. It’s unusual but funny. I love romantic comedies, but I’m tired of seeing girls who want to get married all the time and that’s all they’re interested in. I think there is a wider vision of how women can conduct their lives and what they want. Normally, I wouldn’t give a plug nickel for views on the institution of marriage from “experts like Natalie Portman. The problem is she is a “role model for many young girls and women who think emulating her will lead to happiness. The rapidly rising rate of suicide among teenage girls, the increasing failure of married and unmarried relationships, and an epidemic of emotionally scarred and broken people seems to point to a paucity of happiness in spite of piles of propaganda to the contrary.
It is worth noting that Portman displayed some values in her earlier acting career refusing to play parts where nudity or sex was expected, and turned down acting in films like Lolita, denouncing sex between young girls and adult men. Apparently, her life in acting has had an eroding influence on her once-held values. The Scripture verses above seem very passé, even glaringly offensive in present culture; a culture that has invaded even the church. Most turn a blind eye in this day and age to young people living together in the days, months, and years before marriage, and many more who never bother to “get to the altar.
Is marriage passé today? Does it have any value in a “modern world? Or is God just the Grinch who stole Christmas in commanding that a man and a woman reserve sexual relations for marriage, and ought to honor the marriage bed by being faithful to one another? The prevalent spin of the world and its puffed-up “wisdom says God is hopelessly wrong. The blatant evidence of the wounded society in which we live and the scattered carcasses of individual lives, shattered relationships, and damaged children says He is right. It is not that God is throwing cold water on “fun, His purpose is to save what is lost; to heal and restore what is being destroyed; to inculcate what alone will result in happiness that lasts. Portman will live to rue the day she said, “I think you can find both men and women that are into non-emotional relationships, because you get hurt, and you don’t want to invest emotions in that way again; especially the day she is in love herself (emotionally, passionately; Is there any other kind?) and someone stomps on her heart because they now want an un-emotional relationship with her. Natalie, your philosophy simply doesn’t hold water and is not worth a cup of warm spit.
Marriage will never be passé for those who not only believe God, but discover the joy of walking in His commands. The individual glory of a man or a woman whom God calls into the covenant of marriage is discovered in the intimate happiness of that union and in bringing forth godly children. This is exactly what God declares in Malachi 2 and in many other passages of the Bible. Say what you will till the cows come home, His way produces gold and silver; Natalie Portman’s, filthy rags.
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Pain in Tuscon
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night.
The very public pain inflicted by one disturbed individual on so many in Tucson this past week is another opportunity to question the goodness of God and the nature of life in a world which God created and sustains. Most often the questioner is an atheist, a skeptic, a seeker, or one described in the Bible as an infant “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (Eph. 4:14) But then our observation and experience tells us that doubt is not unknown to those who do believe in the loving-kindness, justice, and goodness of God; the living God who is there. When pain and anguish for any reason pierces the threshold of our own dwelling, doubt follows, fighting for a foothold in the heart. It is not so much the fact that the Bible has withheld information from us that this world would be anything other than a spiritual and physical battlefield saturated with death, destruction, wounding; ambushes, retreats, and defeats sprinkled among the triumphs. It is more that we believed promises of protection, prosperity, blessing, and peace with our own “understanding of what it should look like for me and mine despite a fallen world. When our understanding is shaken by the entrance of pain, doubt will often rear its ugly head. It is not that God’s promises are not effectual for us in this life; we could not live without them, nor even see our way to heaven. But they must be viewed and understood in light of the purpose of this life and the ultimate goal of eternity.
In the early 1980’s a journalist asked the novelist Saul Bellow this question: “Mr. Bellow, you are a writer, and we are writers. What’s the difference between us? Bellow quickly answered, “As journalists, you are concerned with news of the day. As a novelist, I am concerned with news of eternity. I am afraid we are too much drawn to living life in the nature of the journalists. We see our life as “news of the day, not with the perspective of “news of eternity. People who cannot hear musical pitch and then recreate the same sound are sometimes called tone deaf. That is partially me. Many believers because of our sinful nature are too prone to be God-deaf or God’s Word-deaf and in the critical moment cannot remember His words. We too often prove with our thoughts, words, and actions that we do not know His Word nor see life through its lens. The promises of God for all practical purposes are sought after and valued for “the day, not “eternity. Abraham, the “father of what it means to live by faith, did not put his stake in this world, but was “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11: 9-10) If we live any differently, we will be rudely awakened when we discover the truth; “this world is not my home.
The one who lives as though this world is his home and the home of his treasure, will be blown around by every wind of tragedy, devastation, and sudden cataclysm that rocks his life, and will question “Why did God let this happen? Well, God did let it happen and in other cases brought it to pass, always with the perspective of eternity. He is well acquainted with pain and tragedy, suffering and tears, massacre and death, accidents and planned terror; He knows it not just because He is omniscient, but because He lived it in the flesh. God in the person of Jesus Christ was tempted and tested in every way that we are, yet without sin. In fact, He was crushed for our sin. (Hebrews 4:14-16) He is more than able to empathize with your circumstance, no matter the immediate source of your anguish and doubt.
There is an ordained time for this fallen world and there is an ordained time for your life. This is not heaven and was never intended to be. It is a spiritual and physical battlefield in which your pathway is now being forged leading to one of two destinations: heaven or hell. We may not fully grasp the plan and purposes of God in building faith in us, but that is what trust in Him is all about.
“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; the angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
(1st verse of African-American Spiritual of unknown author or date)
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Today is Epiphany with a Promise
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.
Today, January 6th, is the traditional date of Epiphany which has been celebrated in the church since the Third Century. Its theme has primarily been the visit of the first Gentiles to Jesus, the Magi from the East, who were led by the Sovereign God and a mysterious star to come and worship him. The word Epiphany means to show, reveal, appear; that is, the revelation of God in the flesh, of Jesus, to the world. For the believing church, Epiphany is a reminder of her responsibility to declare who Jesus is to the whole world. Not unlike other people in the Bible who are historically recorded as having seen the Savior and whose lives were eternally transformed by Him, these Magi are never mentioned again in the Bible. Where did they come from; why were they looking for His sign in the night skies; what did they do when they returned to their homes? Likewise, we do not know what happened to the shepherds who witnessed the glorious display in the skies over their fields near Bethlehem, and came to worship the baby Jesus in the stable and believed all they saw and heard. There is so much we do not know, even today in a world of modern technology and worldwide communication. We really do not know what God is doing in many corners of our world. We do not know the number or the names of those serving and worshipping Him and His Son in every nation. We too often forget the “Elijah principle. Elijah at one time believed that he was the only one in his country who worshipped and served the One true God. The Lord educated his ignorance, revealing to Elijah that there were actually over 7,000 followers of God in his little country whom he did not know existed.
None of us know for sure where the Magi (wise men, scholars, astronomers, counselors to kings) came from. But an educated guess that carries the most significant weight is that they were descended from the Magi, of whom Daniel was chief in Babylon and its empire which at various times was the empire of the ancient Babylonians, Medes and Persians. The godly Daniel, appointed Chief of the Magi (Daniel 4:9), became the 2nd in charge of Babylon after the King (Daniel 2:48-49). Daniel served in this capacity for a succession of at least four Kings, and because of his godly example and witness must have led many fellow Magi and other citizens to worship the true God. The Scriptures tell us that God continues his covenant to children’s children and to a thousand generations of those who love Him and obey His commands. I believe the Magi who traveled far to bring gifts and to worship King Jesus, descended from godly wise men who served with Daniel. Not too many years ago I traveled in South India. The Province of Kerala is near the southern most point of the country. Today it is reportedly the most Christian province in all of pagan India. While on one of her beaches I was approached by an Indian man who was with the Gideons International who wanted to witness to me about the Lord Jesus. I did not expect that of all things in India where the West continues to send missionaries. Traditionally, it is believed that the Apostle Thomas was the first Christian missionary to India and that he planted churches in the area which is today the Province of Kerala. Who knows whether some of those believers living there today are descended over many centuries from Thomas’ converts?
Even now we do not know all that God is constantly about in His world. Most of it is simply never reported. The church is growing exponentially in China, Indonesia, the Southern Hemisphere, in places where it is persecuted and underground, but impossible to wipe out. “The blood of the martyrs is the seedbed of the church. We often believe from what we hear and see from the unbelieving and ignorant media that the church is dwindling, believers are a struggling few, and paganism is taking over everywhere. But I believe in the Principle of Elijah; that there are possibly 7,000 times more Christians than we know. God is prospering the remarkable growth of His church in a way that “flies under the world’s radar. The covenant of God’s grace to successive generations of believers is not abrogated. May Epiphany remind you again of your responsibility to declare Jesus and the Good News to the world, beginning with your own children, your wider family, the community in which you live and work, and to the farthest corners of the world. Christian parent!. . . Leave an eternal legacy by discipling your own children into a committed relationship to Jesus Christ, that they might do the same with their children and grandchildren. Earnestly carry out your responsibility in seeing your own seed walk in Christ and in step with the Holy Spirit to a thousand generations! God calls you to it and backs it up with a promise. He is faithful. Will you be?
“Those who His gracious covenant keep The Lord will ever bless; Their children’s children shall rejoice to see His righteousness.
(5th verse of Psalm 103:13-18 from The Psalter, 1912)
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