So…..What's the Point?

Musings from a Fellow Struggler

Archive for the category “Assorted Stuff”

It’s About Time… Part 5 Look Out…It’s Happening

 

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I’m a bit of a news junkie and particularly interested in reading about events, ideologies, political pronouncements, social issues, environmental changes, the mainstream ecclesiastical ‘mood’ revealed in religious writings, sermons, books and the like that show movements away from orthodoxy and Biblical theology. Summing up what I’m reading nearly every day it seems the vice-grip of sin and lawlessness around the neck of kosmos is getting tighter and the hammer of God (not Thor) is about to fall as history bends to His inexorable will fulfilling a plan conceived in eternity; I just keep getting more and more excited.

I don’t welcome disasters, famines, wholesale destruction, disease or war but they are here and increasing in number and severity; as one politician recently put it: “the whole world is upside down”. If this is obvious to those outside the faith, how much more should it be to us who await His appearing? Indeed, it’s happening, all those things the prophets spoke of millennia ago, the very words of Jesus unfolding before us written in newspapers and displayed through visual media.

Christians feel the pressure of this vice grip as well. It is not unreasonable to think we in this country might endure persecution, rejection, hatred, and ridicule especially since these things are already happening. The truth is seen as a lie, lies seen as truth; light is darkness and darkness, light, evil is good and good is evil and so it goes. It is remarkable that since we stand for light, truth and goodness, we are by the world as dark, as liars and as evil; all other world religions are given a pass but Christianity is now widely considered a threat to an ordered and civilized society.

In stark contrast to the foreboding and increasing disintegration preceding His appearance the Lord tells us to “rejoice” as we witness it all coming to pass. This, of course, will make those of the world around us even more disgusted and angry because our joy reflects a disregard for a world under the dominion of sin and death and an expectation of a new creation wherein the rule of God is finally and forever established.

Indeed, the time has come at last…now, today, this moment, in this generation. Therefore, the words of Jesus about the times we’re in are critical, especially His repeated exhortation to watch. For example, consider Matt. 24:42:

 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

The verb ‘watch ’used here is in the present tense, imperative mood meaning a continuous watching with the command to do so now, this moment, no hesitation; i.e. DO IT NOW! The word γρηγορεῖτε itself means, among other things, to be alert, awake and alive.

This all might seem a bit passé since His people, us included, have been watching for over 2000 years. What is different in our time from past generations, however, is the globalization and causal interconnectedness between international governments, economies, and communication conditions absent to those who have gone before yet necessary to bring about the events foretold in the Bible.

Another difference is the increasingly global phenomenon of lawlessness and rebellion against all rule of law and authority. Again, this sort of thing has always been around here and there somewhere in the world, but never on this scale and with such severity. Jesus gives us a reference point namely “as it was in the days of Noah…”; the evil of which God described was ‘global’. Therefore, these ‘days’ we are in now are very much like, or perhaps identical to, what Noah faced and which brought about God’s judgment.

So, even though some of our Christian ancestors got their eschatological predictions wrong, they nevertheless were intently watching just as Jesus commanded. And now, given this global interconnectedness, the need for watchfulness in our generation is greater than ever before.

That this is the case is clear from Mark’s version of Matt. 24.

35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” Mark 13:35-37 (NKJV)

Twice the word “watch” (γρηγορεῖτε) is used in these verses. Such an emphasis shows the high probability that many followers of the Lord will succumb to slumbering, overcome by some sort of worldly stupor, their spiritual senses dulled or much worse, like those Peter wrote about, scoffing and saying “where is His coming…?” Familiarity with the epistles of the New Testament supports this assertion with repeated warnings and exhortations to stay vigilant.

Jesus Himself announces this suddenness and unpredictability of His coming not only in the Gospels but also in the Revelation.

15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” Revelation 16:15 (NKJV)

And similarly the glorified Lord speaks to a church that He pronounced as “dead”.

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. Revelation 3:1–3 (NKJV bold italics mine)

The particular meaning of “watch” as “being alive” (see above) directed to the “dead” congregation of Sardis is especially interesting here. That a church bearing the name of Christ should be in such a condition to be called ‘dead’ is sobering, indeed. The point is, becoming sleepy, complacent and careless is all too easy today and being watchful is difficult given the plenitude of distractions in the world. And by all indications, being watchful will become even more difficult as the vice grip tightens. It is certainly a time where none of us can “go it alone” nor a time where we tolerate church conduct or leadership that is anything but wholeheartedly committed to the ways of God. More to come next time.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s About Time… Part 3

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We are born into time…we die into eternity. God is the creator of time…”In the beginning God created…” He is therefore its Lord declaring that the sun, moon and stars are markers for seasons, times, signs, days and years (v15) and for determining festivals, feasts, celebrations or, in short, those “appointed times” when His people meet with Him.

We are creatures of time and have our own ways of marking it out like watches, clocks, and calendars to keep track of events and to establish special days. The Christian church, for example, has calendars recognizing certain days, months and seasons for celebrations, feasts and fasts. Easter and Christmas are two examples along with sacred events (for some traditions anyway) occurring at the time of the fall and spring equinox and winter/summer solstice. It is interesting to note that many Christian holidays were once pagan and ‘Christianized’ as Christianity grew in power and influence over societies.

In our time, the impact of the Christian calendar on societies understanding of time has all but been lost to the secularization culture and its own numerous ‘holidays’ that are nothing more than times dedicated to the god of mammon. Consider these calendar days: father’s day, mother’s day, valentine’s day, labor day, memorial day, grandmothers day, thanksgiving day and even Easter (i.e. the easter bunny) and Christmas (i.e. santa claus). No matter how we resist this conclusion, these holidays have one purpose and that is to separate us from our money by suggesting that having is the key to being; i.e. possessions equal existence. We are defined, and our value as human beings gauged by what we have and continue getting, how good of a consumer we are. So, while at one time Christianity transformed pagan observances into ones honoring God, now Christianity and it’s ‘times, seasons and festivals’ are transformed back into their original pagan orgies of consumption.

Our attitude towards time is encapsulated in the language we use. For example, we kill time (as if it were an impediment), waste time (as if there is an unlimited supply), mark time (as if we are in prison), keep track of time (as if we are lost without it), don’t have time (for this or that depending on our priorities) and finally, we spend time and buy time. These last two are especially interesting because they employ the language of currency. Buying time means we need more of it to accomplish, or avoid, something and willing to sacrifice something else to get it. Spending time means we think something, or someone, worthy of the minutes, hours, or days we might be lavishing on it, or them. As it turns out, the currency of time is far more valuable than money because getting wealth requires time. Just witness the amount of time people ‘spend’ pursuing wealth and then ‘buying more time’ to get more of it.

The flip side to buying and spending time in this godless culture is using this currency to advance the values and purposes of the kingdom of heaven. The point of all this is that God instructs us about time and how to properly use the time He gives us. As might be expected, His counsel runs counter to what we learn from the world so we are immediately confronted with a choice either to fritter it away or invest it with eternity in view. A particularly sobering verse in this passage from Ecclesiastes are the last words of chapter 3:15 (NKJV)

15    That which is has already been,

And what is to be has already been;

And God requires an account of what is past.

This last phrase hits home for, like with all monetary transactions, book keeping is required. What we have done with the time given us must be accounted for.  So if there remains any doubt as to the value of time, this should dispel it;  time’s Creator wants to know what we did with the years He gives us. Now, because the Maker of time knows best how to use it, we can ask Him this: “…teach us to number our days, that we might present to You a heart of wisdom”. (Psa. 90:12 NASB) More on this in part 4.

 

W. G. Ryzek

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s About Time… Part 2

 

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This phrase that God has put eternity into the hearts of men (Eccl. 3:11) is simply beautiful, mysterious, compelling, and awesome especially when juxtaposed to the morbid atheistic materialists and other antichrist philosophies claiming that only what which meets the eye is ‘real’, that any metaphysical claims are patently false and to be rejected as frivolous and irrational.

While many people seem to have bought into the “perception is reality” argument (what is real is only that information about the world we receive through the senses and interpreted by the mind), a nagging “what if” surfaces when questions like this are asked: If the materialistic atheists are right, how is it even possible that we can conceive of eternity in the first place when everything around us has a beginning and always ends? It is this nagging “what if they are wrong” following claims like “there is no life after death”, “there is not and can be no such thing as a God like the Jews and Christians claim” or the like that betrays, at least for those willing to admit it, the possibility there might be more to reality then they think. Arguing that such thoughts are ‘frivolous and irrational’ doesn’t explain their origin (they really need to read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason). But, to admit eternity into one’s thinking changes the whole game and puts people into a sometimes exceedingly uncomfortable position of having to consider what eternity has to do with them, personally.

Take for example “Today if you hear His voice…” from Hebrews 3:7. 15 and 4:7 referring back “in time” to David’s words in Psalm 95:7-11. It’s clear that the ‘today’ of Hebrews isn’t the same ‘time’ as it was for David since millennia have passed. Yet, from eternity’s perspective, the ‘today’ of David and the ‘today’ of the Hebrews mean the same for those hearing the words of God in their ‘time’. The same holds true for us: the time is Today because “…everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. That which is has been already and that which will be has already been…” (Eccl. 3:14-15 NASB, italics and bold mine). The future, the past and all the events contained therein are enfolded into now, Today and even though “…man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (Eccl. 3:11) all of us nevertheless have eternity placed in our hearts. The point is that all we really have of the time given us, whether past or future, is Today. Hearkening to His voice Today and believing what He says Today is to enter into His rest Today even though, for us still locked in time, the eternity of this ‘rest’ remains ‘not-yet’. To do otherwise is to die into an eternity where anything by rest awaits.

If it is the case, and I believe it is, that eternity is placed within the hearts of humankind, then it is a key ontological aspect of human existence; i.e. it is a facet of what it means to be created in the imago dei, the image of God. It is part of our nature to be aware of eternity even if we cannot understand or fathom it. While we are alive in time, the sheer beauty of creation, its vastness and immensity can trigger a consciousness of eternity while the prospect of dying can do the same. We are more than ever meets the eye and destined for more than we can ever imagine; Today, if we will hear His voice the truth of the matter will become clear. This view of human beings is vastly superior to that of a materialist who is forced to conclude we are merely beasts among other beasts who, at least for now, sit at the top of the food chain but, when dead, sit at the bottom as fertilizer. But, this view is more than just superior, it is true and we know it, or will know it, to be so because we have eternity in our hearts. It all depends on whether we are listening or not.

Its About Time…

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10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.
14 I know that whatever God does,
It shall be forever.
Nothing can be added to it,
And nothing taken from it.
God does it, that men should fear before Him.
15 That which is has already been,
And what is to be has already been;
And God requires an account of what is past. (Eccl. 3:1-15)

We are born into time…we die into eternity. Our natural existence is, therefore, temporal whereas our soul’s existence is eternal. The former we can understand, at least to a degree, but the latter remains unfathomable and this by divine decree (v 10). The immediacy of temporality occupies our attention while for many eternity remains on the periphery of consciousness. Because of its immediacy to experience, temporal existence deceives people into thinking time is all there is, its cessation the end of experience, and thus the end of existence. There is nothing beyond the grave except, well nothing. If time ends with death, then any meaning attached to temporality ends as well. Therefore, ultimately, existence is meaningless.

The immediacy and deceptiveness of time lies behind the incessant drive for immediate the self-gratification and narcissism that defines our present culture. Unfortunately, these viruses have infected many of God’s people, their leaders and their churches. The old adage that we cannot become too heavenly (i.e. eternally) minded lest we become of no earthly good is just plain foolishness and a subtle invitation to be more earthly than spiritual. The fact is that without an eternal perspective all we can be is earthly-minded which won’t, and can’t, help anyone; we are just as blind as those we think we’re leading to the light.

Multitudes of believers, both Jews and Gentiles, have learned, and continue to learn, that time is understood only by the embracing of eternity. Every one, the Preacher says, has ‘eternity’ in their hearts just as everyone possesses a soul, no matter what atheistic materialists say. However, it is the believer alone that knows this to be true. In other words, any meaning our lives have now is such because we have eternity in view. All else is merely vanity.

It has been observed by many that what we do now has eternal ramifications. It is like throwing a rock into a pond; the action (throwing the rock) sets off effects (ripples of water) that produce effects (usually unforeseen) far beyond the initial splash. Should we go about willy nilly doing this and that without regard for eternity, our actions will amount to little more than the vanity of which the Preacher speaks, the size of the splashing nor its effects any gauge of its value or meaning to eternity.

W.G. Ryzek

Storing Treasure, Speaking Treasure: A Sunday Meditation

 

With regard to godly living, Christianity emphasizes internal qualities rather than external observances but it might be the case we don’t take this distinction seriously enough. Why? Because changing our appearance is far easier than changing our character. Furthermore, it seems to me that the power of words and speech is sometimes overlooked in Christian conversation, whether amongst believers or unbelievers.

These two observations come together when treasures of the heart and speaking from the heart are considered and clearly show that what is said and the condition of the speaker’s heart are of great concern to our Lord. Consider these verses:

Matthew 6:19–21, 24 (NKJV)

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Luke 12:33–34 (NKJV)

33 Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 6:45 (NKJV)

45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

The fact of the matter is that whatever we are preoccupied with, whatever we value above all else, this is the treasure we seek and the “abundance” from which our speaking comes forth. So, if we listen closely to someone seeking treasures of the world, for example, we might discover their speech to be mainly incessant jabbering about a recent acquisition, a desire for some new bauble, a new strategy for accumulating more wealth and the like. The condition of their heart as covetous and envious when someone else has more than they or pride, arrogance and superiority when talking to those ‘beneath’ them will eventually surface.

If we change our obsession with material things (or anything else for that matter) into obsessing for spiritual treasure, our speaking would be very much like God’s: creative, eternal, graceful, merciful, loving, discerning, revealing and judging. In other words, speech that is like treasures of Light and Truth. To be sure, such speech might be rejected as foolishness, even subversive and dangerous, but that is not any of our concern.

At first sight ascribing to ourselves such power of speech might seem a bit presumptuous but looking at the Acts of the Apostles and what their ‘speaking’ accomplished, I don’t think so. Thousands converted at a time, hundreds of people healed, others raised from the dead, demons cast out, governments upbraided, and advancement of God’s kingdom throughout the pagan world.

Remember that the universe and existence began with words, language, ‘speaking’ through and sustained by the Word, our Lord Jesus. He said of Himself that the words He spoke were those of the Father. Since it is the case that the Spirit of Christ dwells within every believer the potential for all of us to speak the words God would have us say is ever present. If our hearts are filled with heavenly treasure, set on seeking His kingdom first above all else, then what we say can be treasure indeed to those listening to our speech.

Just think for a moment about all the conversations you hear every day, at work, home, play, through the media and so on. I daresay a vast majority of what you hear is mere prattling on about nonsensical and meaningless drivel or, in some cases, much worse, even diabolical. Hear these words of Jesus:

Matthew 12:35–37 (NKJV)

35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

That a record of everything I have said, am presently saying and that I will give an account of all those multitude of words is a sobering thought. For me anyway, I’m finding that a lot less talking and a more careful consideration of my words is in order along with a careful assessment of what, exactly, I’m storing up in heaven and in my heart.

 

Persecution Upside Down

 

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Questions about the morality and acceptability of homosexual, transgender, bisexual and lesbian life-styles is causing divisions within church institutions and amongst people who identify with Christianity. This much is obvious. What intrigues me is those who engage in and champion the cause of legitimizing and “Christianizing” these behaviors think of themselves as being ‘persecuted’ by those who believe these behaviors are immoral, unbiblical, and worthy of God’s wrath. This sort of thing has happened before. The Jews persecuted the early Christians and then, later on, Christians persecuted the Jews. The Roman state persecuted the Christians and later Christians persecuted people involved in what were once the official Roman ‘state’ religions. Then Christians persecuted other Christians for deviating from the ‘official’ doctrines promulgated by those in ecclesiastical power. Other examples are plentiful throughout history.

The point is this: the only real justification for crying ‘persecution’ amongst those calling themselves ‘Christians’ is if and only if Jesus Himself is the reason for the persecution. Being persecuted for being His disciple, believing Him to be the Incarnate Word, believing He is the One and only Savior against all other ‘pretenders’, believing that everything He said is true, and proclaiming these truths openly are examples of appropriate ‘reasons’.

Consider these verses from Matthew’s gospel:

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

And these from John:

20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
22 “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also.
24 “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.

Now, these words from both Matthew and John show a correlation, what we might call a dialectical relationship, between Jesus and His disciples regarding His person and the truth He embodied and proclaimed. In these verses, the correlation is persecution; i.e. because His Sonship and the words He spoke from the Father provoked persecution against Him, so shall it be amongst His followers. Furthermore, this correlation is stated in such a way that persecution because of Him should be expected; just saying His Name with praise and reverence is enough to provoke violence against his people in some parts of the world today and, I might add, with ever increasing frequency.

The verses from Matthew’s record Jesus saying that all who are “persecuted for the sake of righteousness” are blessed. This means, among other things, that being persecuted for any other reasons than Jesus Himself, His Words or the righteousness He proclaimed and demanded isn’t really persecution at all. So, those living in sin, overtly practicing sin and demanding to be accepted while doing so, encouraging others to do the same, and demanding they not be criticized or censored because this constitutes ‘persecution’(along with its close cousin ‘intolerance’) is clearly a condition of unrighteousness.

Now some will say “But we are being persecuted this way because Jesus loves us and accepts us as we are, deviant lifestyles and all.” “Besides”, others say, “we are in love and expressing our love sexually, what can be wrong with that?” This is an appeal to a “lovey dovey Jesus”, a unbiblical Jesus who because of this so-called love is portrayed as having never spoken of moral obligation, sin, ‘holiness’, righteousness, judgment and obedience to God. It is sloppy agape writ large and anyone who dares question such a Jesus is obviously unloving, judgmental, and simply not in touch with 21st century theological progressivism, social and political correctness, and that much ballyhooed word ‘tolerant’.

Here’s the hard part: “speaking the truth in love…” As much as we might despise the promiscuity all around and the flagrant displays of idolatry in our culture, we are called to love those trapped by their own evil practices. Speaking the truth carries within its own structure the judgment of God; we don’t need to add anything.

The fact is that whenever sin is brought into the light of God’s truth four general responses are evoked: denial, hostility, indifference or repentance. Denouncing sin, resisting it, and remaining steadfast against those who encourage it is not persecution but faithful, uncompromised proclamation; i.e. “speaking the truth”. On the other hand, when anger and harm are leveled against those doing the proclaiming, that is persecution. The difference is clear. All true prophets in the Old Testament regarded the will and word of Yahweh above all else and, as Jesus points out, many paid for their commitment with their lives. It was the false prophet who culled favor with the wayward by speaking smooth words and assuring them that God was not angry with their conduct. And, more often than not, it was the false prophet that led the persecution against God’s truly appointed representatives.

 

What To Say to a Zombie If You Meet One

hello-zombie

I’ve heard death described as “just part of the natural order of things” like it’s all normal and therefore acceptable. Others act like death is a gross inconvenience, disrupting their grandiose schemes and must be met with elaborate attempts to squeeze just a few more days or years out of a life already wasted by consumption and unbridled hubris. Still others, as their last moments arrive, cower in fear, trembling before the great unknown that faces them, while some act arrogantly and defiantly thinking their bravado will ‘scare it away’.

I despise death in whatever form it takes because I know it isn’t supposed to be here. It is an aberration, an abnormality, a foreign invader, a much reviled interloper, but, most of all, an enemy. It came when sin entered His creation and indeed, thanatos reigns.

Unless you’re a Christian, that is. Believers know that death has no more sting for those born twice and that death, the last enemy, is swallowed up by life; not just any life, but eternal life, the very life of that God of the living whom we serve and worship. And because He is the God of the living, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are also eternally alive now, this very moment, along with all who have faith in He Who Speaks, the I AM, the Word Incarnate, the Alpha and Omega, He who was, is and is to come. We who name the Name of Jesus say to death “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” because “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

We must come to understand that there exists all around us a real ‘walking dead’ very much like those depicted in numerous zombie movies. They must be given the antidote, the only antidote, to this scourge of death inflicted upon mankind which is His death and then His resurrection, that grand finale to God’s plan that all who share in His death share also in His resurrection. It is here that death is turned on its head, no longer an ending but a beginning.

The message to these ‘walking dead’ is this: “You are already dead so finish the job and die to the self that cruelly and inexorably drives you ever deeper into sin. Exchange your death with His redemptive death and victorious resurrection through faith and join the countless millions who can say with Job that “though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”

The God Who Speaks-The God Who Listens

torah-at-sinai

One of the most remarkable stories in the Old Testament and, at the same time, one of most theologically charged, is that occasion when God ‘speaks’ to Israel from Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:5, 16 and 20:18-19, 22). This fearsomely impressive Voice set the God of Israel apart, way apart, from all the other gods of the land, those many dumb idols, unable to speak, listen or act.

One such theologically significant idea is this: that God has a voice and speaks to His creation in general and, in this case, Israel in particular, is an act of self-disclosure, or what we call ‘revelation’, a revealing that could not otherwise happen unless He chose to do so. This self-disclosure of the God Who Speaks shows He has something to say to all of us, all the time, and since it is He who speaks, every word is important, eternally so. He speaks to get our attention, invite us into a relationship with Him and elevate our creatureliness into that sublime existence defined by everlasting Life, Light and Love.

It is also a communication of intention, “I’m going to do this and that” indicating purposefulness, design and an inexorable will to accomplish all He promises. By listening to whatever His “this and that” is we take part in those eternal decrees established before the foundations of this world were ever laid. He desires that we find, fulfill, and consummate our destinies thereby accomplishing His eternally benevolent will for each of us.

Because the speaking God of Israel so frightened the people, Moses became God’s voice. Some regard him as the first of a long line of prophets sent by God to speak to Israel. Of course, the culmination of these prophetic ministries is Jesus, the Word Incarnate, God speaking to us as one of us; Hebrews 1:1-4 summarizes it well.

This fact is illustrated by an equally remarkable event paralleling the one at Sinai when Jesus was transfigured. In all the three accounts recorded in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28–36) the disciples are told to “listen to him.” And in each of these accounts the verb ‘hear’ or ‘listen’ (depending on the translation) is in the present tense, imperative mood which taken together means a command to hear Him now and keep on hearing Him. And, this Voice from ‘heaven’ is the same that spoke to Israel at Sinai thus linking the testaments together into a seamless whole, only now with the full force of His thundering self-disclosure and intentionality communicated by the Incarnation of Logos.

Furthermore, the verb  ἀκούετε (listen) means not just physically hearing sounds but hearing with understanding; it is the opposite of Jesus’ indictment that many, if not most of those following His ministry, had “ears but did not hear” what He was saying. Listening to the Voice is an inclination towards Him, an attentiveness to what He says, a patient anticipation that He will speak and a willingness to obey what He says. None of this is easily done these days what with the cacophony of voices demanding our attention and our own propensity to hear what we want to hear.

Thus, the question set before all of us is this: are we listening for and hearing the Voice of the God who speaks shown by our obedience or are we listening to the siren songs of the world only to end up shipwrecked on the rocks that seek our destruction?

The point, then, is this:

 

For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME” (Heb. 3:15)

© W.G. Ryzek 2014

 


 

Hey Bub! Whaddaya Looking At?- Part 5

an old man looking at something

Parts 1-4 of this series offer the first answer to the questions “what should we be looking at?” and “what should we be seeking after?”  In sum, we should be looking at and seeking after what is unseen because what we call ‘reality’ exists only because of what we can’t see. (Heb. 11:3) Seeing the unseen, therefore, reveals to all believers the ‘eternal weight of glory’ behind this otherwise unsubstantial, fleeting and temporal life. (2 Cor. 4:17-18) This is what it means to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) for it is only faith that gives us ‘healthy’ eyes to see the unseen, fill us with light and make us lights in a world overwhelmed by darkness.

The next few blogs give the second answer, namely that we must be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”. Doing so insures that what we look at and seek after make Him that singular Center around which our lives revolve. But, before we consider this second answer I think it necessary to digress a bit because Christmas Day is fast approaching.

Apparently, according to some polls I’ve seen, only about half of Americans think Christmas is uniquely religious while the other half see it as merely a cultural phenomenon. Even if this polling is only remotely accurate it indicates the darkness within our world is deep, far-reaching and increasing as human history draws closer to its completion. That Light has come into this dark world is part of the Christian message and  as far as this series is concerned means that being filled with light is to be like Jesus when He became flesh and dwelt among us.

It is worth noting that some applications of the word ‘light’ in the New Testament are not only meant to be antithetical to darkness (i.e. sin and evil) but also a counter to proto-gnosticism (via Platonism and neo-platonism) developing in the early 1st century Church (addressed in John’s gospel, 1st John and some of Paul’s letters)) and, later, full-blown Gnosticism fought against by the first post-apostolic church fathers leading to the Nicene council in AD 325. These philosophies generally agreed that the material world is evil (darkness) and all that is immaterial is good (light). Of course, such views ran counter to any notion of incarnation, God becoming ‘flesh’, and became the basis for heresies that denied the full deity of Jesus. That Light is an incarnate Person is unique to Christianity.

Consider with me, then, these New Testament passages that, when taken together, remind us of the enormous magnitude of the Incarnation.

Luke 2:25–32 (NKJV)

25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

29             “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,

According to Your word;

30             For my eyes have seen Your salvation

31             Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,

32             A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,

And the glory of Your people Israel.”

 

Among other things, this passage, based on older prophecies, shows that we Gentiles were included in God’s salvation plan all along, that together, both Jews and Gentiles, would make up the Church, the Body of Christ. We, like Simeon, have truly “seen the Light”.

 

John 1:1–14 (NKJV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

This profound passage unveils what transpired at His Incarnation, God becoming flesh, Light and Life ensconced in a human body for all to see from birth, through death to His resurrection and ascension.

John 8:12 (NKJV)

12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 12:35–36 (NKJV)

 

35 Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.

 

1 John 1:5–7 (NKJV)

 

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

 

Matthew 5:14–16 (NKJV)

 

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

These verses show that because He is the Light, we are lights in the world and, to the degree we “walk in in the light as He is in the light” we have continuous fellowship with Him and are effective at illuminating this world with truth.

Luke’s version of the lighted lamp gives us the relationship between being a lamp, the condition our eyes and what we ‘look at’ and what we ‘see’ which brings us back to the theme of this series laid out in parts 1-4.

 

Luke 11:33–36 (NKJV)

33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

 

I end this installment with a heartfelt Merry Christmas to all who follow this blog and to all who may come across it from time to time.

 

 © W.G. Ryzek 2013

Hey Bub! Whaddaya Looking At?- Part 4

 

 

an old man looking at something

This series has to do with what we look at, what we see and whether we are filled with darkness or light. The darkness of the world feels like a vice-grip that slowly but steadily increases pressure to squeeze out what remaining light that remains. It is necessary, then, for us to look at the proper things and see them for what they are.

Take this ‘holiday’ season, for example. People, both buyers and sellers, are frenetically preoccupied with the economic bottom line the Christmas shopping season portends, even more than in past years. It is mammon on steroids taking attention away from the Christ of Christmas in order to make itself the center of attention. Looking at, and seeing mammon so flagrantly, almost obscenely displayed (along with its many cohorts through the media and advertising) will squeeze us with spiritual pressure to “conform” to the world instead of being“transformed by the Spirit”. And, I’m convinced as the day of our Lord’s return approaches, all of this will only get worse making it even more important that we consider carefully what we are looking at, what we are seeing, and what we are seeking.

In response to the question posed in the first blog “what should we be looking at?” the first answer comes from Paul and his example of “looking at the unseen”. We find this in 2 Cor. 4-5 where Paul describes his ministry and is the wider context of chapter 4:16-18 which we touched on in the last blog.

 

2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (NKJV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

 

Looking at the unseen and not what we see naturally is one path to overcoming the blight that bombards our natural eyes every day and gaining the proper perspective on what we look at and what we seek after. Otherwise we end up seeing everything the way the unregenerate do and find ourselves in lockstep with them rather than that illustrious list of saints found in Heb. 12.

The sum and substance of what Paul is getting at in these verses is stated in 2 Cor. 5:7: “for we walk by faith, not by sight…” and is a testimony to the veracity of Heb. 11:1-6. We interpret our environment and make judgments about it according to what we see. Paul tells us that seeing naturally is to see only what is temporary, fleeting, and, in fact, unsubstantial; the world around us is like a vapor or a fog. The judgments we make about it then are usually wrong, or at best, shortsighted. By ‘looking at things unseen’ we come to perceive an inward daily renewal culminating in an eternal weight of glory no matter what appears to be the case to the natural eye.

Now, to the phrase “eternal weight of glory”. To begin with, no Christian is merely just what he or she appears to be. We are a new race of beings, an alien race in fact whose home is not this world. If we are seeing things properly, none of us should ever feel at home here but be continuously “looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb.11:10 NASB. Italics mine) Seeing believers this way insures a love and respect due such glorious beings.

Secondly, we are already substantial, weighty, heavy, thick, radiant, eternal beings. However, in our present form, this weight of glory cannot be fully revealed, contained or sustained but nevertheless, to the unsubstantial vapor that is the world around us, we are impenetrable and immovable filled with the glory of God that is His Spirit within us.

Thirdly, there is something going on inside us of which the world has no clue. While it is in a state of decay, we are continuously rejuvenated even if it looks like we are falling apart. From the context of his letter Paul is addressing a specific kind of decay namely suffering associated with his ministry.

The point here is we are not from this world anyway, we all have a mission to carry out, everything around us is temporal and decaying, and so we give ourselves over to preaching the gospel without any reservations. Why?  We are renewed, rejuvenated, restored, strengthened by supernatural power no matter if the natural man is under duress and even facing death. The suffering is temporary and will yield to eternity. So, we imitate Paul when we “look at things unseen…” and “know that if the earthly tent which our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Cor. 5:2 NASB)

Just like Jesus who Himself was the embodiment of an eternal weight of glory we are the light in this world of sad and pathetic disintegration, to hold back the darkness until that appointed time and the end of all things as we know them. Thus, we come full circle to what He said in Luke 11:33-36 and Matt. 5:13-16 and are reminded that the walk of faith of which Paul speaks depends on what we look at and how we see it.

Luke 11:33–36 (NKJV)

33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

 

Matthew 5:13–16 (NKJV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

All Prim and Proper: Clothing for the Well Dressed Christian- Putting on Christ

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Gal. 3:26-27  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

 Rom. 13:14    But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

 

I think it’s fairly clear that when Paul’s uses “putting on” and “putting off” his main concern is the moral and ethical conduct of his readers reflecting the new way of life appropriate for a Christian. This is especially clear in Eph. 4:20-32 and Col. 3:5-11.

Now, “putting on Christ” expands our focus to the union existing between the believer and the Lord Jesus. This union is the basis for, and necessary condition of, the very possibility of “putting off the old man” and “putting on the new man”. It is a new kind of existence expressed by a new kind of life-style and the reason the Christian life is a transformation into something totally new, not a reformation of something old.

It can be said that Jesus is the first New Man, the ‘first-born of many brethren’ (Rom. 8:28-30) because He is the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). Through His kenosis (self-emptying) and incarnation (Phil. 2:5-8) He became Godman (Gk, theanthropos) and, subsequent to His resurrection and glorification, He remains Godman forever. He is that Singularity, infinite, eternal, irresistible from which all creation springs and the Source of a new humanity. There is none like Him, nor can there ever be, and there is nothing in all of creation, old or new, that is like the Church of which we are a part.

There is, then, an everlasting connection between the nature of the ‘new man’ we ‘put on’ and Godman, the Lord Jesus Christ.(Rom.13:14) Baptism is the external ‘sign’ of being enfolded into, identifying with what Jesus did and Who He is by ‘dying’ to all that preceded this confession of faith, the life of the ‘old man’. (Gal. 3:27) Thus, the union of our redeemed existence with Godman is the ‘new man’ created in every believer and, collectively, in His Body, the Body of Christ in which each of us participates and contributes to the praise of His glory. This is what we are to “put on” and doing so is life eternal.

This imperative to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” takes on even greater significance given its context, one that is particularly àpropos for this time in history; indeed, “the night is far spent, the day is at hand.” (Rom. 13:12) There is a wedding soon to come and we are warned to be prepared for the event. Two parables of Jesus point to this. The first is found in Matt. 22:1-14 about the wedding feast with verses 11-12 pertinent to this discussion. One of the guests is confronted by the host for not being properly clothed and then taken away to anything but a party. Being properly clothed, then, is far more than a fashion statement but required for the events soon to come.

The second is found in Matt. 25:1-13 and addresses specifically the need for preparedness. Again, the focus is on a wedding and the participants advised to have their ‘lights on’ when the Bridegroom arrives. (see Rom. 13:11)

If you have been following this series, recall the first installment had to do with “putting on the armor of light”. Interestingly, that passage (Rom. 13:12) is in the same context as Rom. 13:14. Therefore, putting on the ‘armor of light’ and ‘putting on the Lord Jesus Christ’ go together and speak of being properly clothed and being adequately illuminated as the above parables suggest.

The point is, then, that being a properly clothed Christian means ‘putting on the Lord Jesus Christ’. In other words, ‘putting on the new man’ supersedes, overcomes, and ‘kills’ the ‘old man’ thereby becoming successful at making “… no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts”. (Rom. 13:14)

© W.G. Ryzek 2013

 

All Prim and Proper: Clothing for the Well Dressed Christian- Putting on the New Man

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As with most theological and Biblical terms, varied opinions exist about what the ‘old man’ and the ‘new man’ are in Paul.  One simple way of understanding them is this: the ‘old man’ is you BC (before Christ) and the ‘new man’ is you AC (after Christ). However, in real life this distinction between BC and AC is not simply an either/or but more of a both/and. In other words, even though we are a ‘new Creation in Christ’ (AC) there yet remains much of the ‘old’ still in us to be transformed (BC).

Being the clever creatures we are, learning to ‘put on a show’ that meets the expectations of whatever Christian group we belong is relatively easy; we appear to be the real deal without ever really ‘putting off’ anything. But sooner or later, our true nature surfaces and we are exposed in spite of our best efforts at playing the part. But this sort of play acting doesn’t necessarily mean we aren’t really Christians; quite the contrary. Paul’s imperatives to “put off” and “put on” were written to Christians whose behavior was not always in keeping with their conversion. (see Eph. 4:20-32)

I have to say that, at least to me, it is quite astounding to read these letters of Paul and realize they were written to believers, some of whom were nasty, lustful, idolatrous, liars, cheats, drunks and otherwise despicable. And Paul calls them saints while they displayed these unseemly characteristics which were anything but ‘saintly’. This gives me hope that while I’m ‘putting on’ and ‘putting off’ I remain His child, not because of anything I have or lack, but because I’m already a new creation in Christ by grace through faith. My concern now is to become in everyday life what I already am because of Him. It is a life-long project to be sure. The good news is that, because of Jesus, we can truly be transformed into someone brand new and not just reformed into an ‘improved’ version of what really should be put to death.

So, like old, worn, ragged, dirty and useless clothes, we are to ‘put off’, ‘take off’, discard the old man and ‘put on’, dress up in brand new, fresh, radiant clothes befitting a child of a righteous and holy King. However, like old clothes we hate throwing away, the old man is not easily gotten rid of and resists all efforts at being cast off. Hence, a corollary to this ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on’ is language like “dying to self”, “crucifying the old man” and such.

One exercise that will help us is being reminded of what the ‘old man’ is really like. Paul helps us do this by describing what we are to “put off” in Eph.4:20-32 and Col 3:5-17.  Put simply, the ‘old man’ is everything about us associated with sin, the world, and the devil, all reeking of death and, therefore corrupt and decaying. In fact, in Eph.4:22 the verb “grows corrupt” is in the present tense meaning that he is growing corrupt now and will do so continuously.

Furthermore, this ever increasing corruption is by its very nature, destructive so everything the ‘old man’ touches is destroyed, itself included. It is an incredible description of sin that these days is rendered innocuous by churches remaining largely silent about what sin really is for fear of offending. But, I digress.

Now, in contrast to the old, corrupt man, we learn that the ‘new man’ we are to put on is created by God in “true righteousness and holiness.” The language here indicates the ‘new man’ was created both ‘by God’ and ‘like God’, two very important notions that stand over and against the ‘old man’ that is decaying and being destructive in the process. With regard to our being created ‘like God’ the ‘new man’ is righteous and holy, neither of which can be ascribed to fallen humanity and, therefore, attributes belonging to God alone as aspects of His essential beingness. As new creations, however, these attributes make up the ‘new man’ that God Himself creates when we are ‘born again’. (see Col. 3:10)

With regard to creation ‘by God’, Paul use of the genitive ‘of the truth’ (this phrase doesn’t appear in some translations) shows truth as the origin of righteousness and holiness, hence they are the real deal and not play acting mentioned earlier and/or religious self-righteousness by which men seek to justify themselves. James 1:18 provides a good summary of the matter: “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (NKJV)

So, what’s the point of all this? Whatever we were yesterday should no longer be the case today and whatever we are today should no longer be the case tomorrow. We should; no, we must be continuously putting off the old and putting on the new like changing clothes from day to day. What will gradually emerge is the true character of a Christian, namely righteousness and holiness created in truth that will radiate like an armor of light so much so there will be no denying we belong to, and are following, the Creator of light.

© W.G. Ryzek 2013

All Prim and Proper-Clothing for the Well Dressed Christian

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Over the years and with each new generation opinions about what to wear to church have proven controversial, from mildly so to downright antagonistic and have ranged from dressing-up in one’s Sunday’s best to extreme casual.

In fact, this issue was prominent during the Jesus Movement (late 60’s to early 70’s) when scores of hippies were saved and attended church in their less than conventional attire to which some churches took great exception and basically said “dress appropriately or leave”. And leave they did which gave rise to Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel where they were welcomed with open arms. We know the rest of the story, how Calvary Chapels are now almost as ubiquitous as Starbuck’s and still maintain a ‘come as you are’ philosophy, at least the one’s I’m familiar with.

The point is that focusing on externals as opposed to inward, spiritual transformation has always been an issue with Christians, as it was for the Jews of Jesus’ day, because it is easier to changes one’s clothes, hair-style, or hem-line than it is to change one’s life. There is, however, an appropriate Christian uniform we all should wear that displays character and action, virtuous living and fierce battle, taking the offensive while also defending what is right and just. It has nothing to do with outward appearances but everything to do with victorious Christian living.

A favorite phrase of Paul is “put off” and “put on” which, according to the Greek verbs, means ‘changing clothes’. The “putting off” is connected with evil, darkness or sinful behavior while “putting on” refers to Christian power, virtue and a changed life in Christ, or even Christ Himself. Consider the following verses that make this point:

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:51-53 italics mine NKJV)

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal. 3:26-27 italics mine NKJV)

“But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have herd Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:20-24 italics mine NKJV)

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph. 6:11 italics mine NKJV)

Echoing Eph. 6:11 a final striking example is Romans 13:12 (italics mine NKJV) where Paul tells us to “…cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (ὅπλα τοῦ φωτός) and will mark the beginning of a series on what the proper wardrobe for believers might look like.Romans 13:12 is one of several where Paul uses the word ‘armor’. Unlike Eph. 6 this reference to ‘armor of light’ hasn’t have been so widely commented on, probably because there isn’t much information in the passage itself about exactly what Paul meant. But there is enough in other passages to glean some wonderful ideas, so here we go.

First off, consider some observations about ‘armor’ itself. It needs to be forged, or sewn together depending in what it’s made of; it is used for both defense and offense; it provides protection; it identifies the wearer as one engaged, or about to be, in heated battle; it can be taken off and put back on; there is skill involved in its proper use, and, finally, it must be regularly maintained.

Of these facts about armor in general, it is the idea of armor being forged that catches my attention because forging armor made of light seems the exclusive domain of light’s Creator. It stands to reason, then, that this armor possesses an almost indescribable radiance and/or brightness (φωτεινός) very much like the radiance associated with the appearance of angels and, most dramatically, in the transfiguration of Jesus. One feature of this transfiguration noted by Mark is a profound radiance emanating from Him and that His clothes were whiter than any earthly ‘laundry’ could ever approximate together signifying purity, holiness and other-worldly transcendence.

It seems to me, then, that the terms ‘darkness” and ‘light” are not just metaphors, although they can be; I rather think they have a substantial structure that can, sometimes, be ‘felt’ directly by our senses in the natural world and most certainly by the demonic (see Matt. 8: 28-34).

So, for example, that light and darkness can be instantiated in the believer is evidenced by Eph. 5:8: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” Here we are to actualize what is already true about us further evidenced by Col. 1:12-13: “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,…” (NASB)

There is, then, something already ‘heavenly’ about us and it can, and should, be steadily increasing. This armor of light we can ‘put on’ is just one example.

More to come soon in this series.

© W.G.Ryzek 2013

American Idolatry (And the Whole World For That Matter)-Part 3: The Disappearance of Gratitude

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It seems to me that none of us can be truly grateful for anything if we think we deserve it in the first place. This is the devastating effect of pride, thinking we deserve whatever it is we have, or desire to have, and lies at the very core of thanklessness. In fact, a careful reading of Romans 1:20-23 shows that thanklessness, itself the result of rejecting what we already know about God, precedes idolatry and is one of the engines that drives it. In short, thanklessness, or ingratitude, is refusing to accept our absolute dependency upon God and failing to acknowledge His blessings. In its fullest and final form it is the denial of His existence altogether followed by the worship of something, anything other than the Creator.

For many people these days, questions like why evil exists alongside God’s supposed existence and why there is so much suffering in the world lead to a rejection of a creator God and once He is eliminated only creation itself remains as the single thing that really is. Darwinism, naturalism, scientism, materialism, rationalism and atheism are the ‘god’s’ worthy of humanities allegiance, or so say the ‘wise’ and enlightened ones among us (Rom. 1:22), so they are set up as idols in governments, universities and, now, even churches. Our culture might pride itself as having left behind the barbaric and backward idol worship of primitive tribes in far away places but an intellectual or ideological idol is just as much an idol as a carving placed on a stump and just as ‘foolish’ (Rom. 1:21).

Given these idols of humanities own making its no wonder that thanklessness is the result. To be thankful would be tantamount to admitting we are not the masters of our destiny after all, that Someone other than ourselves and the creation we occupy is the real Source of all things and alone worthy of allegiance.  I expect such an attitude from the unregenerate but when Christians become ungrateful something has gone radically wrong. Of all the people who inhabit this Creation, believers should be the most thankful of all. But Christians might still be tempted to think that God owes them something or that they deserve His sustaining power because of some intrinsic merit they have or because they are doing a series of good deeds.

The words ‘thankfulness, thankful and thanks” are translated from eucharistia (noun) and eucharisteo (verb) in the New Testament. You will notice that the root of these words is charis translated ‘grace’, a key idea in the Bible. So, giving thanks has to do with grace, with regard to both the worshipper and God.[1]To be a thankful person is to be grace-filled (i.e. thankful) in response to God’s grace; it is a well-spoken word given freely back to God whose abundant grace is witnessed everywhere around us and in us, freely given, no strings attached.

But, it is easy to give lip service to thankfulness, grace before meals, an occasional ‘thank you’ when an unusual blessing occurs, but a life-permeating, continuous sense of thankfulness is a bit more difficult, one that fully embraces the truth that we owe our very existence to God, that we are ‘here’ in the first place, living, breathing and were it not for God nothing would exist at all.

So, the point of all this all this is that being thankful, truly thankful, is contingent upon humility which seems in short supply these days given the arrogance and pomposity of far too many Christian leaders and the many who flock to hear them. Humility, in turn, depends on knowing and admitting full well that without Him we can neither be nor do anything that really matters. To think otherwise is to have already fallen into idolatry.


[1] Note that the word eucharist (i.e. the Lord’s Supper or Communion in some churches) comes from these terms.

 

© W.G. Ryzek 2013

American Idolatry (And the Whole World For That Matter)

 

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Removing impediments to spiritual growth is incumbent upon all believers, especially those kinds that turn out to be self-generated. An example is idolatry and this post marks the first of a series on the subject.

But why write about idolatry of all things? Because it occurred to me during a commercial about the show “American Idol” that our culture (Britain has its own version of this I think) is increasingly idolatrous and the program is paradigmatic of a much broader and endemic attitude, namely the desire to rise up from the anonymity of the ‘crowd’ and then be adored (or worshipped, so to speak) for having done so by those who themselves remain anonymous and ‘unknown’. It also occurred to me that just as Israel passed through idolatrous nations and was directed by Yahweh to ‘cleanse the land’, so the Christian church exists in the midst of idolaters and given the task convincing them of their sins and to return to God. Finally, it occurred to me (and this is the disconcerting part) that just as many people within the nation of Israel fell into the very idolatry it was called to eliminate, so have many Christians become idol worshipers  perhaps even unaware of it so ubiquitous are the idols that surround us.

But, exactly what is idolatry and what are its consequences? I think most of us have at least a vague idea about it, know that it’s bad and to be avoided, but this very vagueness inhibits us from detecting it in our lives and even denying we are capable of such a thing so complete is our devotion to God.  We begin with a remarkable passage from the Old Testament:

1       Not to us, O Lord, not to us,

But to Your name give glory

Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.

2         Why should the nations say,

“Where, now, is their God?”

3         But our God is in the heavens;

He does whatever He pleases.

4         Their idols are silver and gold,

The work of man’s hands.

5         They have mouths, but they cannot speak;

They have eyes, but they cannot see;

6         They have ears, but they cannot hear;

They have noses, but they cannot smell;

7         They have hands, but they cannot feel;

They have feet, but they cannot walk;

They cannot make a sound with their throat.

8         Those who make them will become like them,

Everyone who trusts in them. (Psalm 115:1–8 NASB95)

This passage describes idols as having mouths, eyes, ears, noses, hands, feet, and throats but are in fact mute, blind, deaf, unfeeling and motionless all tantamount to being lifeless and impotent. These are idols in their most primitive form, the kind usually associated with the barbaric and unsophisticated practices of isolated tribes in remote parts of the world.

However, idolatry is far more subtle than this.  First, placing anything before service and love to God and second, glorifying creation rather than the Creator, takes idolatry far beyond the backward and uneducated, but something all humanity, even amongst the most advanced cultures, is capable, and indeed, already guilty of as Romans makes clear.

Romans 1:20–23 (NASB95)

20   For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

21   For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22   Professing to be wise, they became fools,

23   and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures…

25   who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the

creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

The word ‘futile’ in v21 helps ‘get at’ the meaning of idolatry. Besides ‘futile’, it can also mean empty and/or nothingness and the word, ἐματαιώθησαν, is translated as “vain in their imaginations” in the KJV. The point is that vain imaginations or futile speculations are about ‘nothings’ characterized by emptiness. This doesn’t necessarily mean, but it can, that what we vainly imagination doesn’t exist (we can, for example, make a tangible idol) but the qualities, in this case spiritual ones, that we ascribe to them are vacuous, a substitution of an intrinsic knowledge of God for empty-headed anthropomorphisms and representations of animals and insects.

What I mean is: thinking we ever really create something is a mistake because there is only one Creator and what we make, imagine, build or ascribe attributes to is the manipulation of something that is already ‘there’; we don’t ‘create’ the raw material. This is why making an object or imagining a possibility and then worshipping it is an abomination; this is the essence of idolatry, worshipping creation and our manipulations of creation rather than the Creator.

Now we might wonder that if idols are in fact the products of vain and futile speculations and therefore ‘nothings’ representing ‘nothingness’, then what’s the harm? The ‘harm’, devastation in fact, is the belief, the conviction that they are something worthy of the faith and trust that is to be reserved only for God. And this is the offensive part of idolatry because it is the extension of the self into, or onto, some kind of alternative object, representation, lust or, in its crudest form, something we make with our own hands (but in every case a ‘substitution’) and then becoming a slave to that idol (Gal. 4:8-9). It is self inflicted slavery and once a slave there is no freedom, only bondage and servitude. Paul taught that demonic forces hid behind idols so that worshipping the idol was tantamount to serving a demon (1 Cor. 10:19-20). And what better way to distract someone from the reality of God then by substituting an image, an idea in His place and saying they are one and the same?

This substitution, or exchange, is powerfully presented by Paul in Romans 1:25 where he says that a ‘lie’ is exchanged for truth and ‘creation’ with the Creator and then worship and service turned upside down. We must note carefully that this ‘lie’ is not just one among many but is the lie indicated by Paul’s use of the definite article (οἵτινες μετήλλαξαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ ψεύδει……(Romans 1:25 (NA27). It is, in fact, the lie of Eden (“you shall be like God…”) now encompassing the entire human race that sprung from Adam. Thus, idolatry driven by pride is in fact the most basic manifestation of all sins.

Paul’s’ reference to worship and service sheds more light on the nature of idolatry. We glean from the various Greek and Hebrew words translated by the English ‘worship’ that, along with praise, worship is awe, reverence, adoration, and most importantly perhaps, obedient service to what is perceived and believed by the worshipper to be worthy of such obeisance. So, embracing the ‘lie’ is giving worship and service that belongs to the Creator to something or someone that is infinitely inferior but nevertheless elevated to the status of God Himself.

The idea of service is important because it indicates the ‘doing something’ part of worship. As pointed out earlier, to worship an idol is to become a slave to it and becoming a slave means serving and servicing the demands of the idol which is tantamount to serving the self bound by sin and self-deception. It is especially significant to know that the word for ‘service’ Paul uses (ἐλάτρευσαν) is used in the Septuagint and refers to the service, not of the regular worshipper, but rather of the priests standing before God. Since we are in fact ‘kings and priests’ to God, rendering this sacred service to something, or someone, other than God is not just grossly sinful but simply repulsive.

Referring back to Psa. 115 we learn that since idolatry in whatever form it takes is a substitution for God, believed in and trusted as though it were God, the only antidote is believing and trusting in God Himself. Trusting in God is (at least in part) acknowledging that He is the only one deserving of such trust, capable of honoring the trust given and whose demands are worthy of any regard; our God, after all, “is in the heavens and He does whatever He pleases.” (Psa. 115:3)

At the very least this means abandoning any regard to self, selfish ambition or self-sufficiency because serving (or submitting to) an idol brings about a relationship whose parameters we determine since it is of our own making. And whatever it is we think, or hope, the idol will do for us is also of our own making, a very convenient arrangement but in the end merely self, self-sufficiency and self-exaltation projected onto a vainly imagined external reality. Believing in and trusting God on the other hand is a relationship that begins and ends with God, not us; i.e. God comes to us before we can ever come to Him. The parameters of the relationship are established by Him, never arbitrary or hidden from us, and are permanent. More on all of this next time.

By the way, those following this blog have probably noticed no posts have been made for some time. If you have ‘stuck with me”, thanks. Circumstances made it difficult to write but seem to have cleared up so more posts are forthcoming.

 

 

 

© W.G. Ryzek 2012

The Perils of Thinking Alike

 

All the talk about embracing diversity we hear these days is really a bit deceptive. The reason is because embracing diversity requires tolerance and, although not always explicitly stated, everyone must be tolerant if the whole thing is going to work.  So, the game is on to get us to think the same way about tolerance usually by people in positions of power over us, that should we disagree with them they become quite intolerant.  One very effective tactic is what I call “definition mongering” done by and through the media and through legislation where the meanings or applications of certain words are manipulated to achieve a desired result, usually unpleasant.

We are told, then, that being tolerant means, among other things, that we acknowledge and respect other points of view no matter how crazy they might be. The danger is that while we can ignore a madman’s outburst should he end up persuading enough people to think wrongly about the same thing and then call it truth, he really has something going. And where no standard exists to measure truth and falsehood, like in our culture now, all sorts of ideologies and movements spring up and we are told to be tolerant of them all.

However, the really deceptive thing going on is not about tolerating diversity per se but defining diversity a certain way, namely that everyone’s perception of reality is equally valid and therefore equally true and then getting as many as possible to agree with this definition. What we end up with is a homogenous, amorphous glob of nonsense we are told must be tolerated. The penalty for non-compliance is to be ostracized and marginalized for being intolerant by those who refuse to tolerate the intolerant, a glaring contradiction by those preaching about the virtues of toleration! This is an example of the ‘glob of nonsense” I mentioned earlier.

What seems to be the case is that behind all this rhetoric about tolerance and diversity is an inexorable push towards conformity; when a society starts thinking alike, especially about what truth and virtuous living are, it is much easier to control. Hence Paul’s imperative to the Roman’s that they not “conform to this world” but rather be “transformed by the renewing” of their minds is especially significant given what’s going on around us. It is most certainly the case that what Paul means by “conform” has to do with thinking a certain way, not merely external conformity as some emphasize. In other words, “don’t think like the world does” but let your minds be renewed so you think God’s way. Thinking that being tolerant of everything that passes itself off as truth just because being tolerant of diversity is the accepted social norm is precisely the kind of thinking Paul would have us reject.

Conformity is accompanied by compromise (depends on it, in fact) which is, among other things, a loss of the ability to be self-critical. What I mean is this: if you or I, or enough people in any given group, like a church, have no interest in examining decisions, weighing convictions, assessing actions, or following God’s plan, then individuals or the whole group will have compromised their uniqueness and become a microcosm of the formless homogeneity that is our culture. This is where we find ourselves as Christians these days. When weighed against what are essentially absolutes, namely God and His expectations of us, it is impossible to be tolerant of all diverse points-of-view, especially those contrary to God’s Word and Will unless, of course, we conform to and compromise with the world; then not only is it possible, but very easy to do.

Now some of you might be thinking that we Christians have to think alike, agreeing on essential Christian doctrines, for example and be tolerant of each other’s differences and you are right. But agreeing on essential Christian doctrine is agreeing to a set of truths that have come to us from the outside, so to speak. That is, unlike cultural standards or ‘truth’, they are not the products of our own making but come from a Source other than ourselves. The point here is that the only way unanimity of thought can exist together with diversity and tolerance is when an outside unifying force between people establishes a common ground all can experience and the only possible instance of this is the Body of Christ, the Church, the “one body, many members” concept taught by Paul.

As distasteful as it might sound to contemporary society, it really is “the Church, the Body of Christ against the world” (we are at war, remember) regarding truth, what it is, where it comes from, how we are to respond to it and how we are to live before God and others. And neither truth nor the meaning of virtuous living is decided by consensus amongst unregenerate humankind. What they can decide is to exert a constant pressure on the populace to conform through compromise under the guise of tolerance and/or diversity. And what Christians can expect is increasing intolerance from the world as we expose the subtle and deceptive redefining of words that leads to such dangerous doctrines like “tolerating diversity must be the standard of a civilized society”. Should Christians buy into this addle-brained doctrine, and “fall into place” alongside their worldly and religious counterparts, then any hope of effectively preaching the Gospel is lost to conformity and compromise.  But at least they will be popular among their peers which, by the way, seems to be very important to many Christian leaders.

 

© 2012 W.G. Ryzek PhD

 

 

On the Meaning of Mercy-Concluding Thoughts, Part 2

 

 

 

Longsuffering (patience), mercy, forgiveness, compassion; we have been the beneficiaries of these and much more from God and now they are to be reciprocated to others. Doing so requires a kind of openness, a vulnerability through which their experiences can be felt and through which mercy and all it means can be given. Jesus during His earthly ministry was so open to others and to God that people connected to the Father through Him, His body, His words, His actions. “He that sees me sees the Father” Jesus said and “the words I speak are not my own but His who sent me”; “whatever He (the Father) does, the Son does in like manner”.

But what is it that makes this kind of openness so difficult for us, that resists reciprocation and instead judges and condemns, that keeps us from being touched by the infirmities of others, or perhaps worst of all, ignores the pain of others trapped in sin and bound by the Enemy, including even our own brothers and sisters in Christ?

Ego-pride and spiritual pride I think is the answer. Both are instances of the same pride that made Lucifer become Satan and now, since the fall, the same that compels us to think more highly of ourselves than we should (thus making others lower than us) and resist God at every turn by insisting on having our own way. Instead of being open, then, we remain closed or, if we do respond to God and others, it is more often than not ‘on our own terms’ so to speak; i.e. we decide how open to be and when.

Because of this we might find ourselves in seemingly unbearable relationships with certain people, so that pride shows itself and we begin seeing ourselves as He sees us; the unbearable ‘other person’ is replaced by the unbearable ‘me’. So Jesus invites us to ‘learn from Him’ because He is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29) and Paul helps us when he describes in one of the most remarkable passages in the New Testament the kenosis, the self-emptying of Christ, that preceded His incarnation and ended in His death after “he humbled himself and became obedient to the to the point of death, even the death of the cross”. (Phil. 2:5-8) Paul exhorts us to have this same “mind” or attitude that Jesus displayed, a tall order indeed.

The Greek word for “lowly” in Matthew and “humbled” in Philippians and other references to humility in the New Testament are derived primarily from tapeinoo. In Luke 18:13-14 and the parable that marked the beginning of this series humility is powerfully displayed by the Publican and Jesus says concerning his attitude “I tell you, this man (the Publican) went to his house justified rather than the other (the Pharisee); for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14 parenthesis mine)

The many verses that speak of humility have important nuances that our English translations do their best to capture. For instance, when used as an adjective, humility describes something that is, or should be, true about us. When used as a verb humility entails first a choice and then a decision. As a choice, humility is one option among others, say arrogance, or pride, or hardness of heart and a decision for humility eliminates the other options. Humility, therefore, can be decided for or against resulting in a certain set of personal characteristics and a certain mind-set; i.e. your character is such and such because you think a certain way, ideally with lowliness of mind, for example. (see Phil 2:3 where ‘lowliness’ is from the root word tapeinoo)

True humility is not an inward, self analytical morbid assessment of our faults, a state of mental depression, or a lack of self-esteem. Neither is it an outward comparison of us to others as if either were a reliable standard of measurement. Real humility begins by looking upward, towards heaven, and drawing near into the Presence where we see the Lamb of God. In His Presence humility is realizing, believing and acting according to the truth that without Him, apart from Him we are nothing and can do nothing that really counts, that has eternal ramifications. In fact, humility is such a disregard for self it’s not even something we notice. We can notice its absence, however like “wow, I’m really humble today” or “so and so is sure proud, I’m glad I’m not that way.”

But pride is so subtle and so part of our very existence that many of the texts concerning humility suggest, along with humbling ourselves, that we must also decide to allow ourselves to be humbled; it’s this choice and decision that has to do with circumstances God brings our way, like the unbearable relationships mentioned earlier. James 4:7-17 and 1 Peter 5:1-9 (these should be read to “get the point” here) show a remarkable similarity about allowing God’s way with us to foster the kind of humility so critical for mercy to be reciprocated to others.

It is noteworthy that 1 Peter 5:5 tells us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. The point is that humility is difficult to attain especially for us living in a society where self aggrandizement is highly regarded, almost a necessity for success, at least as its defined by the world. In fact, humility is often viewed as weakness to those whose pride knows no bounds. But, true humility is not weakness but enormous strength of character, supernatural strength even, formed in us by the Word who emptied Himself and became one of us. It is within the apparent weakness of humility that the strength of His grace is experienced. Hence we are sustained not by our pride and arrogance but by God and His merciful grace alone. So, in this same verse, Peter tells us we to be “clothed with humility”, a remarkable image.

The concept of “clothing” or “putting on” the Christian virtues is a common in the New Testament (see Rom. 13:12, 14; Eph. 6:11, 14; Col. 3:12, 14; 1 Thess. 5:8). However, Peter uses a verb ἐγκομβόομαι (enkomboomai, put on, tie around) that is found only here in the New Testament and since I’m convinced that every word in the Bible is there by design it set me to thinking. What came to my mind is this: Peter’s memory of Jesus washing the disciples feet as an example of humility perhaps compels him to use a unique word encouraging us to be “girded” with humility and prepared to serve others just as the Lord of Glory did. Some think this verb refers to what a slave would put on before serving. But, whatever its exact meaning, it is more than an encouragement; the verb is in the imperative mood which signifies a command, not an option. Coming from Peter this makes sense because the Lord repeatedly rebuked him for displays of pride we can all relate to and he would certainly acknowledge that humility is indispensable for relating to God, to God’s people and to the world around us. And for us engaged with this series, humility is indispensable to the administration of mercy.

Well, unless the Lord indicates otherwise, this entry will probably be the last in this series “On the Meaning of Mercy”. There is so much more to be said but you, the reader, can take this small beginning and add your own insights as you serve in the Presence of God and before our merciful High Priest.  But whatever the case, be so open to God and others that mercy flows to and through you so that the circle we spoke of in the last installment remains unbroken.

 

© W.G. Ryzek PhD

Push Back

The harder Christians push back against issues like abortion and homosexuality (along with worldliness in general) the more intense the hatred and loathing of Christianity will become. That the Christian faith is the only true faith is proven by the increasing intolerance towards it while other almost barbarian religions are tolerated more and more. This will make it increasingly difficult to be a ‘closet’ Christian. We will either have to openly confess our faith in Christ or live a lie, both alternatives having eternal consequences.

I take some comfort from all this knowing that it’s always been this way for the Church of Christ somewhere in the world. We in America are fortunate to have enjoyed a long period of relative quiet with regard to persecution but I think those days are ending, and soon. I must emphasize strongly that the persecution of which I speak is for the sake of Jesus and because of our loyalty to Him, not some bizarre, out in left field (like snake handling) activity or off the wall prediction of the world’s end that heaps ridicule on, but not hatred of, Christians. In other words, sometimes what we think is persecution is merely people reacting to our stupidity and unpreparedness to deal with their questions or hypocritical living by talking about Jesus but not living for Him.

I’m not being a calamity howler; quite the contrary since I believe persecution brings about a strengthening and expansion of the Church by empowering its people through the Holy Spirit to stand strong in the face of adversity, exhibit God’s power to undo the works of the Enemy, and live holy lives in the presence of an increasingly dark world. Persecution galvanizes Christians and unifies us against a common foe and reduces our unnecessarily complicated lives to the simplicity of “…for me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Well, this sort of talk is nothing new. There are many voices these days warning us to be prepared, to stand fast and give an account of our faith to all who will listen. As I’ve said before in another blog, the Church of Jesus is at war and has been since Pentecost. It is a war of words, of ideas, of truth over lies, of light overcoming darkness. In other parts of the world it is all that along with guns, torture and martyrdom thrown in. The question is whether we will push back when the time comes in our little part of the world or just keep silent and get pushed around. Anesthetized is the word, a numbness, a dullness, like being filled with novocain, this is what a Christian becomes if they allow an anti-Christ culture to bully them into submission. Not much chance of push back from these people.

If you don’t feel strong enough to endure this kind of battle you are in a great place because by ourselves none of us is up to the task. Push back anyway and know that “… in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  All you need to do is push and the strength of the Lord does the rest.

Trench Warfare

Trench warfare, militant church. spiritual warfare, spiritual weapons, armor of God, fighting the good fight.  These and other terms depict  Christ’s Church as anything but passive or nicey nice.

There was a time in her history that the Christian church acted militarily to subdue its perceived enemies and acted on the assumption of God’s blessing for conquering His enemies. This came about from the sometimes unfortunate alliance of church and state where political and power agendas could be easily disguised as spiritual. And, given the power of the state with its standing armies the church could accomplish its ends without appearing sullied. Thus, so-called Christian imperialism was born and remains a source of contention, embarrassment, and cause for timidity for many churches and Christians to this day. However, the point here is simple- that in spite of past misconduct, the Church as the Body of Christ has always been called to battle, to fight the good fight, to die for the faith if necessary. By so doing it continues what Jesus started, a ministry of trench warfare, a messy foray into the depths of humanities propensity for both blatantly obvious and subtly enlightened evil. So, every local church, at least in my opinion, has a trench it is supposed to be fighting in for the cause of Christ and the advancement of the kingdom.

Now, I cannot say what specific trenches might be for specific churches. Each church is unique, its members placed by the Holy Spirit in that Body and no other which itself is cause for wonderment. The people in a church (I mean, of course, a Christ centered, Bible based congregation) might think they are there by choice or accident and the leadership might think they are there because of their ingenious programs.  But, the fact is, they are Christ’s people, saved by His blood, given gifts and placed there by the always mysterious machinations of His Spirit.

And I must emphasize it is trench warfare, it is a place where sin and evil is met head-on so to speak. We must think of ourselves as warriors, as aggressors against the Enemy and learn that behind every physical manifestation of evil and sin there are spiritual powers that cannot be overcome by anything other than spiritual weaponry.

So, the church and its leaders must set out to discover that trench they are to fight in, prepare themselves for battle, and then go on the offensive in the Name of Jesus.  Not any easy task, any of it really. Scary in fact because such adventures are usually into unknown territory but herein lies the secret of success. Any successful offensive is only brought about by the Lord Himself. What He asks of us is that we yield to Him so that we become His hands, feet, eyes, ears and mouth. He does the ministry, not us.  That is, if we lose sight that it is His ministry, His power, His cause, His Spirit by which we fight, I seriously doubt any of us will every engage in trench warfare. We will always have a shortcoming, a flaw, a secret sin, a less than dedicated heart that stand in the way of our full effectiveness; it might even the reason we don’t get involved in the first place. Or maybe we think ourselves to powerless, too old, to uneducated, to ill trained, to busy, to something to ever get involved in something like trench warfare. The fact is, however, that like it or not every one of us is in a fight; the difference between us is whether we simply find a hiding place in the trenches or whether we take up arms and fight back.

I have also noticed that given all the resistance to Christianity we might become apologetic for our beliefs rather than overwhelmingly confident we hold the truth about the ways things have been, the way things are, and the way things will be. I refer you to an earlier blog “Truth…What Truth?” for a discussion about this. The point is when you and I take a stand, it is a stand against something and for something.  Standing for the truth identifies who we are, standing against all untruth reveals the power that is ours through Him.

The upshot is that success or defeat in the trenches depends on whether we are led and empowered by His Spirit or whether we are pursuing our own agendas and empowered only by the flesh. Our lives will be a witness to which one of these options we choose.

I Had An Accident!

Its been a rather long time since I’ve posted anything so for those of you that read these blogs an explanation is due.

I had an accident Nov 21, 2011 and ended up in ICU for three days. I still have no memory of what happened but I somehow fell and sustained a skull fracture along with some other persistent ailments. I haven’t been able to work since because of these problems and having no insurance of any kind my wife and I are struggling along.  Thank God for our kids who have stepped up to the plate to help us out.

At any rate, the accident has taken a toll on me physically and even mentally. I’ve noticed a bit of a slowdown when processing information. And I’ve learned that injuries such as mine hasten dementia and Alzheimer’s. I haven’t felt like writing but the last few days its been different; I’m feeling the itch again! So, I’d better get with it before mental oblivion sets in and I can’t remember anything anymore.

Those that do read this blog I ask that you pray for me and my family that we get through these difficult financial and physically taxing times.

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