Friday, February 17, 2017

The downside of Christian "help"

Today is my younger son's birthday. He is 27 years old and has battled many illnesses in his life. I, too, have battled illnesses and other issues. One of the types of continuous battles I have endured is the battle against Christian unhelpful advice.

Valentine's Day has just passed.

What Bible verses should I use for Valentine's Day, a day dedicated to friendship, to marriage, and to love?

I thought hard and long about this and I decided on the two verses below because it is my son's birthday and because I have experienced how false or imperfect love is often shown to those with sick children. I will add a nod to Valentine's Day, though. Since we're talking about love and friendship.

Marriage is another thing that Christians judge each other about. Christians who have been divorced after a five year marriage will attempt to give counsel to people who have been married for 30 years. Christians without sick children have attempted to counsel and judge the spirituality of Christians with sick children. Christians who insist on giving other Christians marriage or spiritual advice --whether on phone calls, or through emails, or in person should remember the following two verses.

The Bible states:

Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy. Proverbs 14:10
It also states:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, Phil 2:3
It is understandable that as a people zealous of good work, we all try to help each other. But, this need to help another by sharing our wisdom with them often rests on these foundations:
A) "The person to whom I am speaking does not know what I know."
B) "The person whom I am helping has never had the thought I am now having."
C) "The person to whom I am speaking has not spoken to God or heard from God and/or is not speaking to God about this problem."
D) "No one has ever told this person what I am now telling them."
E) "My desire to tell this person what is on my heart is solely from God and not from my own desire to meddle."
F) "If the person whom I am seeking to help will only do what I say, then all will be well."
This kind of reasoning shows that we esteem ourselves and our ideas more than we esteem others. Consider, Job's friends. They were spiritual people and most Christians nowadays are like them. They want to give an answer to another person and they believe they know. But Job's friends are better than modern Christians. Job's friends at least kept quiet for seven days.
Like Job, many Christians suddenly have to deal with forgiveness issues after their friends have decided to help them with advice.
The Christian "friend" does not realize this. Neither do they realize that their advice can be felt as disheartening  and can feel as if the "helper" is subtly bullying and hinting at them. It makes them feel unheard and preached at. Primarily, however, the "helper" has put the wounded, sick, or sad Christian in the position of feeling unlistened to. There is something so tiring about people not hearing one's heart. And the sad thing is that the Christian who is intent on "helping" her fellow Christian often never seems able to simply shut up.  This shows that it is often not God speaking but that we are dealing with a Christian who, like Job's friends, has a judgmental need to hammer her friend with her theological hammer.

Sometimes, we love others by simply acknowledging that we believe them and the words they have said about their lives.

Happy Valentine's Day, my sweet son and my kind, nonjudgmental and silent friends.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Two protective Psalms kids and adults should memorize

Two psalms that kids should memorize are Psalm 91 and psalm 121.

These are two protecting psalms and psalm 91 especially has a great reputation for saving people in and out of difficulties. This doesn't mean psalm 121 is a slouch. It has its own particular promises which I will get to. And it is easy for a child under 4 to memorize.

Psalm 91:

1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

There are many promises in Psalm 91, more than I will go into right now.
And I've already posted about this on my blog and in my book Blogging the Psalms. But for a quick refresher, consider verses 5 and 6. Those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High God are promised safety from evils that come in the night, from swift sudden deadly situations in the day, from plagues, and mass occult infections, and from any kind of destruction in the middle of the day. Those who have anxiety or nameless dread would do well to meditate on this psalm. Verse 3 promises to preserve the one who lives focused on and rooted in God from traps, snares, tricks, and other sneaky bait set by evil predatory people, and it promises freedom from pestilences everywhere.  In the Eastern Text, the phrase translated in the KJV as "noisome pestilence" is different and is "conspiratorial gossip." So, if you want to memorize and believe in that version, go for it!

Psalm 121

1 (A Song of degrees.) I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Psalm 121 takes a more cosmic view of the universal salvation of God. Look at verse 6. We are promised that the sun will not smite us by day nor the moon by night. This might be a reference to when the Israelites travelled from Egypt and a cloud overshadowed them in the day to protect them from the sun's heat while a pillar of light lit their way at night. Like the Israelites, who were baptized with the same baptism as we are, we also are protected in Christ.  But on a purely speculative level, the psalm promises that --should the sun ever go supernova, or should the moon cause all kinds of moon-caused trouble (let's say tidal waves going berserk) the child of God will be protected because the Lord made heaven and earth. Yahweh is not like the Egyptian Gods who only supposedly ruled one area -- rivers, seas, livestock, flies, etc, the sun or the moon. The God of the Israelites ruled over everything in heaven and in the earth.

Moreover, He is able to preserve our soul, spirit, mind and body. He goes before us and after us for all time.


Sunday, February 05, 2017

A Little Yeast

I've been thinking of the following two verses:

Such persuasion does not come from the One who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. -- Galatians 5:8,9

And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. Mark 8:15

We Christians have to be careful of what and who we allow to speak into our lives. Whether those speakers are pastors, televangelists, prophets (Pharisees) or worldly media or politics (Herod)

A small example. Christians in the USA began to use the media to preach religion. This became the Christian media. Then they began using the Christian media to preach politics. At the same time, the conservative secular media (political, social, and racial issues) saw how good it would be to have Conservative Christians on their side so they took on some of the messages of the Christian media. A strange merging began.

This is where the idea of a little yeast affects the whole lump.

Sometimes I find myself listening to a radio station and I really can't figure out whether it's a Christian station or not. The DJs talk about politics and racial issues and who should be ruling the government so much that it feels as if the Christian radio has lost its TRUE MESSAGE. I understand businesses have to make money, and listeners like listening to people talk. But the dough of conservative Christianity has been taken over by the yeast of Herod. The gospel of the kingdom has given way to the human desire to have an earthly paradise.

The yeast of the Pharisees has already infiltrated Christianity these past 2000 years. Legalism has surpassed Grace in many respect. People preach the tree of the knowledge of good and evil more than they preach the tree of life. The pure simple gospel is very rarely preached without folks adding cultural accretions.

Although Christian Bible-believing progressives don't really have a radio station -- that I'm aware of-- we should also be careful of the yeast of Herod.  We also should be careful of how we preach the gospel and what yeast we put into it.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

God: Father, Creator, King

When Adam betrayed God, whom did he betray?

His Father
His Creator
His King
His Friend

Because of this quadruplee betrayal, the sons of man have had a skewed relationship with God.

Adam betrayed his father: the father relationship with God needs to be healed.
They cannot easily see and experience Him as their Father.  In fact, some religions may accept God as Creator but not as Father. The entire idea of God being a loving Father is anathema to them. And there are certain portions of Christianity --uber-Calvinism, for instance-- which declare that they have a loving Father God but which paint God as Someone who creates trouble for His Children. They are able to declare that God is a Father by making Him a very stern Father who micromanages disasters in the lives of His children for some good that only He understands. There are those also who love God but somehow feel rejected or orphaned or like the unfavored child.

Adam betrayed his creator and life-giver: the creator-creature relationship with God needs to be healed.
To be a creature means we owe our existence and allegiance to someone other than ourselves. In Revelation, Jesus says "I am the first and the last." He declares that all life came from Him. In ancient times, before time, Satan came right out and said, "I don't want to be ruled over." Satan knew he was created and at least acknowledged that. But atheistic modern man goes so far as to say there is no one who rules over them or over anything.

Adam betrayed his king: the relationship between subject and king needs to be healed..and man needs to understand which kingdom he should belong to.
God is King and Christ is Lord. The old word "lord" means "owner" and we see its meaning in such words as "landlord" or "lord of the manor." A king rules over a kingdom and a realm, and subjects follow the laws of the kingdom and the king they serve. However, many people don't like the idea of owing their place in the world to God or of obedience. Even among Christians, there are many who love Jesus their savior but do not obey Him as Lord. As people who belong to another kingdom, we must obey the laws of that kingdom....even when we are foreigners on earth. But many Christians indulge regularly in fornication, adultery, theft, lying, gossiping, etc: all actions forbidden by the king of the kingdom we belong to.
Adam betrayed his friend: friendship with God must be restored.
Those who cannot easily see God as a Friend often think God keeps secrets from them. But Jesus has told us, "I have called you friends" and throughout the Bible we read that God tells His heart to His friends. A good friend sticks closer than a brother, but we often think of God as being far away. A good friend is a True Companion whose examples we long to copy, but many do not want to imitate Christ and often imitate the habits of the world, their human friends, or the devil.

However Jesus has told us.
"Call God Abba."
"I have called you friends"

Jesus came to restore our life, to preach the kingdom, to make us all kings, priests, prophets, children and friends of God.

It is a great gift and a great restoration.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Two Mysteries: Godliness versus Lawlessness

According to the Bible, most humans have it wrong about what godliness really is.

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:16

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. John 16: 7-11

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but the one who now restrains it will continue until he is taken out of the way. 2 Thess 2:7

John 16:7-11 explains the mystery. But it's not a mystery that the carnal mind can fully grasp. The verse tells us that the prince of this world is already judged. What does that mean when we see Satan apparently running loose in the world? Among other meanings, the largest is that Jesus' sacrificial atoning death brought final condemnation and judgment onto Satan. The Holy Spirit's Work within the believer will prove to the world that Satan has been judged.

And yet, it looks to the world that lawlessness is in control. In fact, the world wants lawlessness and wants a king of lawlessness. Lawlessness will continue until it be taken away by God. But lawlessness must have its day.

I suspect the mystery of lawlessness will also have a satanic counterpoint to 1 Timothy 3:16. The Man of lawlessness will be manifested in the flesh, judged by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken down to hell.

The thing to remember is that the restrainer is a mystery and is supernatural. Who knows what it is? It is not limited to a specific time or culture. There is a mystery of godliness which is eternal and there has been the mystery of lawlessness for ages. And there has been a restraining of lawlessness for ages. We know what the mystery of godliness is because we have a verse that explains it: Christ. 1 Timothy 3:16. But we don't have a verse explaining the mystery of lawlessness.
No one government or law has ever been able to restrain lawlessness, but over the years some spiritual restrainer has held lawlessness in check. Lawlessness has not ended. It has yet to end. But it won't end without going out with a big bang. So lawlessness has to have its full fruition. That is one of the reasons why the restrainer stops restraining it in the last days and allows lawlessness to go on full blast. So the mystery of lawlessness and the Man of lawlessness will work together on the earth in the last days.
As Christians, what we can do now is allow the Holy Spirit to use us to show the world the mystery of godliness.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Poem: World Weary

The sun itself is filtered
through clouds
then wafting green leaves
window blinds
short-sighted eyes.
We live in shadows
because we cannot endure unapproachable light 
And some of us know that we live in shadows.
Others mistake the shadows for true light
and call themselves visionaries.

The artistic vision filters too.
A blinding flame
quickly unveils itself
like a flasher on a subway train
speeding through a dark tunnel.
We grasp what little spark we can reach
of the still-flickering idea.
Even so, it dims 
as it passes 
from spirit to mind
and from mind to the creating hand:
words and 
images and 
the elements of storytelling must be used.

Then, the work finished,
is filtered even more
in the mind
then the heart of the reader;
they believe they have caught the flame of our idea
but it is pale fire.

We must accept this:
The world is full of declension.
In this world, 
Everything bright is dimmed.
Everything filters down.

I am weary of all these shadows
of making them
of trying to see the light beyond them.

I am weary of these filters.
Oh to see the  clear sun
without blinking.
To see the heart and soul and joy and pain of another.
To spiritually, emotionally, intellectually
grasp the artistic vision
to perfect it
that all may read it
and understand it
and feel it perfectly.

To see God in all His brightness
the true brightness
from which all bright souls
and bright visions
and bright sunshines come

Monday, August 08, 2016

Poem: That Other World

I have lived long

in that other world


Not in this

Not in the one I should have


But in that other other

world of bright meaning

heart's ease

overflowing affection

and precious and beautiful loves


I'm old now

That world

must go


And this, too,

the world that has failed me

and I it.


It will fade soon enough

already has begun.

And I will fade away from it.

For I'm old now


And the only world that matters

is that other one

The world

I only half-walked in

only half-inhabited


that afterlife

that soon

one day

will be all my life

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