Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Living Stones



Regardless of where we meet, we are ONE body. It is man that puts up walls, makes denominations, and segregates Christ.  To Paul's point, is Christ divided?

Aren't we living stones that are to be "joined" together?

  • The church is not a building.
  • The church is not an organization.
  • The church is not a denomination.

We need to lay aside our differences and come together as one body, with Christ as our head.

We each need to pick up our cross and follow Him; using our gifts and talents that He has poured into our lives for the benefit of each other, and in so doing, for the Kingdom.

We need a new mikvah, a new baptism into a life that is wholly devoted to Him (God, Father, Son, Spirit, Jehovah, Yahweh, The Great I am).

We need to be less focused on the sins of others and more focused on revealing Christ "in us." When we become more like Christ, people will be drawn to Him.

That is our purpose in life. And when we love each other, especially the widow and orphan (the lost, the lonely, and left behind); "the least of these," we show Him how much we truly love Him.

And when we come together with one-another and share our gifts and talents, we become a "body" - a church.  The hands touch, the eyes see, the arms reach, the feet pursue, the heart loves, the mouth blesses and we become healthy and whole - the way He intended.

If your gift is prayer, pray with all your might (night and day). If its giving, give till it hurts, then give some more. If it is loving others, then do so with tenderness and compassion.  If it is administration, organization and leadership, guide, care for and protect as a shepherd.  If it is sharing the Gospel, then tell "your story" of how God has done great and amazing things.

God is building a Kingdom and the time is now. Leave the work in the field and come follow Him.

Like the rich ruler, give away anything that gets in your way, and pick up your cross and come follow Him.

Like  Ezra, see the unfinished work in building the Kingdom, stone-by-living-stone, and find your spot in mending and filling the gap.

He doesn't want your properties, your sound systems, your stained glass or steeples.  He wants "YOU," all of you.

If you hear His voice today, don't harden your hearts, but come follow Him.

If there are differences between us, lay them down.  Instead, bind up the wounds of our neighbors and forgive endlessly.

Take a chisel to your hard heart and find the soft center within.

Let us assemble Christ here on earth, casting out that which has bound us and begin to live free. And, in so doing, we will shame the enemy and he will flee.

The time for the church is NOW. Let us come together as ONE people; no matter our nationality, tongue, or race.

Christ is coming soon, so let's stand united, shouting Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest!

Come Lord Jesus, come!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

So this is Christmas...

If Jesus where here in the flesh today, how do you think he would react to Christmas?

Would he be honored with all the manger scenes, Christmas trees, Santa Clauses and Black Friday super sales?

It's interesting to watch the various battles going on in the media and Times Square.





 
 
 

But is Christ truly honored with our tradition of Christmas?  Would he come into the malls and turn over the tables?  Would he rebuke Santa and tell him to pick up his tree and follow him? 

How did we ever get to the point of where Christmas has come?  Shopping and credit card debt, to the point that if someone doesn't get a present on December 25th they feel left out.  Even the day set aside to give Thanks is no longer sacred as the malls are now open while TV adds declare what are the latest idols we just MUST have this year.  Where is Christ in Christmas?  Oh sure, we put up a manager scene and go to church at midnight, but is that really what is desired?

It seems to me, that we have traded truth for tradition.  A Savior for a Santa.

What did Jesus have to say about the traditions of men?

One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating.  (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands, as required by their ancient traditions. Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)
 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”
Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, 
‘These people honor me with their lips,but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”
Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.  For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.” (Mark 7:1-13)
 Ouch, what other scorching words came by way of the prophet Isaiah?

Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.”  Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.”   “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”  says the Lord. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting—they are all sinful and false.  I want no more of your pious meetings.
 Did God ordain Christmas?  Double ouch!

Now let me be clear here.  I am not taking the route that some religious circles have taken, by calling everything "pagan" and saying we need to dump it all.  What I am doing is asking is: WWJD?
 
Besides being Savior of the world, he is Redeemer of all!  But what is redemption and how can we redeem Christmas?
 
First, Webster's defines the verb to redeem (the root of redemption) as:
 
re·deem transitive verb \ri-ˈdēm\                                             
 : to make (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) better or more acceptable: to exchange (something, such as a coupon or lottery ticket) for money, an award, etc.: to buy back (something, such as a stock or bond)


Certainly we recognize that Jesus came to redeem the souls of men from the world and sin...exchanging his life for ours on the cross.
 
But in his teaching ministry, he, time and again, would redeem people and the actions of men:
 
  • To the woman at the well, he taught that Messiah had come for all people and that true worship was in Spirit and in truth.
 
  • To the woman caught in the act of adultery, he taught that no man has the right to judge another as we are all sinners in need of grace.
 
  • In the case of fasting, he taught that it wasn't to be for show (for others to see how pious you are) but a private and intimate communion with your God.
 
  • And in regards to the Sabbath, he taught that man wasn't made for the Sabbath, but that the Sabbath was made for man...to refresh and to renew and draw close to God.
 
Second, how do we redeem Christmas?
 
Recently in the news, it was reported that the Pope made some statements in regards to global capitalism/consumerism and was sorely attacked by some of it's staunchest advocates.  Some even went to the point of calling the Pope a Marxist.  Hmmm...would those same proponents have labeled the early church as such...

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.  A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Act 2:41-47)
 In the Pope's 84 page report, he writes...
 
"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"
 And elsewhere...
 "I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," he wrote.
Isn't that the commandment that Jesus identifies those that are truly his..

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”    (John 13:34-35)

Wasn't that the meaning of Christmas...
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
  • Glory to God in the highest, He is our Savior (Jesus in Hebrew is Yehoshua, meaning Yehovah is Salvation)
  • On earth, peace, good will toward men
 In short, love God and love your neighbor.  And how is that put into action?
... for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;   I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. ’Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?   When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40)

The trees are nice, the snowmen are cool, the balls of holly are festive and merry.

Presents
But there is a single mom that is struggling to pay the rent and her electricity will be cut off in a few days.  Can those be the presents of the season?

Home for the holidays
There are children in the foster care system that have been pulled from homes of abuse and neglect that would love to come "home" for Christmas.  A home that is safe and full of love.

Midnight Mass
There is coworker or neighbor that is struggling with addiction, and demons are filling their nights with terror.  Is there anyone that can put their arm around them and stay with them through the night, praying that grace and mercy brings them peace?

Christmas cards
There are women sold into the sex trade industry, and believers in distant lands that are persecuted; their homes burned, their families tortured.  Can we partner with relief organizations and send our gifts or talents across the seas to meet their needs and rescue their souls?

Christmas dinner
There is a homeless man on the corner of the street, can we give him a cool bottle of water, a sandwich, and a few minutes of our time to let him know that he has value?


Perhaps, instead of worrying if someone said Happy Holidays, rather than Merry Christmas or being offended if we can't put up a manger scene on government property, if we actually showed the love of Christ in a tangible way, more would be drawn unto him.

As I write this, I convict myself and must resolve in the new day and in the New Year, to be a doer and not just a hearer of the Word.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,  and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?  So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. (James 2:14-17)
Let us purpose together to redeem Christmas, and bring glory to God in the highest!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Soul Sleep - Let's drop the stones and talk





Type in the words, "Soul Sleep" into a Google search engine and you are not in want of blogs and webpage discussions ready to cast their stones at the humble soul that would dare question the "fact" that when we die, we either go straight to heaven or to hell.

Labels such as "heresy," and "false doctrine" are the norm while those that wander into this neighborhood, somewhere between Jerusalem and Jericho, are thrust into a category alongside Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons.

What ever happened to Paul's teaching to the church in Corinth:

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)

And again...
 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.   But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:8-12)
So, let's take a look at the theory of Soul Sleep and see if there are any merits. 
First, what is sleep?

Is it not both a state and a period of unconsciousness?  For example, if I lay upon my couch, hands clasped, eyes closed, thinking about the day or listening to music; if consciousness remains, I am not sleeping.  Again, should I enter my bed chamber in the dark of night, lay upon my bed with eyes shut, and while I toss and turn from the burdens of life or that late cup of coffee, if I am conscious and awake, sleep evades me (even though my body is resting).
Second, I would propose that the soul (nefesh/psyche) is not the Spirit (Ruach/Pneuma) and vice versa. They are, however, so closely intertwined in life, that the author of Hebrews declares that it is the Word of God that discerns the two:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
So let's begin with two examples of where Jesus speaks of death as sleep:
And they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue and saw a commotion, and people weeping and wailing loudly.   And when he entered, he said to them, “Why are you agitated and weeping? The child is not dead, but is sleeping.”   And they began laughing at him. But he sent them all out and took along the father and mother of the child, and those who were with him, and went in to where the child was.   And taking hold of the child’s hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”),   and immediately the girl stood up and began walking around (for she was twelve years old). And immediately they were utterly and completely astonished.   And he commanded them strictly that no one should learn of this, and said to give her something to eat. (Mark 5:38-43)
Certainly, those in the community did not understand what Jesus meant.  Why? Because they considered the death of the body to be a finality, whereas Jesus saw it as a temporary condition, for those that find their "life" in Him.

The second example is the story of Mary and Martha's brother, Lazarus:
He said these things, and after this he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going so that I can awaken him.”   So the disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will get well.”   (Now Jesus had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was speaking about real sleep.)   So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus has died,  and I am glad for your sake that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”  (John 11:11-15)
Again, like the community around the ruler of the synagogue's house, the disciples don't understand what Jesus means when He speaks of "sleep" as "death," even though He had just stated:
“This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, in order that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  (John 11:4)
What no one could understand was that life comes from the Spirit.  And those that die believing in Christ/Messiah, still live on, in Him.  He goes on to explain this to Martha:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live,   and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die forever. Do you believe this?”   She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who comes into the world.” (John 11:23-27)
How else do we explain what the Apostle Paul says to the church in Ephesus:

...and raised us together and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6)
 Are we physically seated there now?  By His Spirit, yes!  As the earlier verses reveal:

And you, although you were dead in your trespasses and sins,  in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience,  among whom also we all formerly lived in the desires of our flesh, doing the will of the flesh and of the mind, and we were children of wrath by nature, as also the rest of them were.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us,  and we being dead in trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved).  (Ephesians 2:1-5)
Which is a fulfillment of Ezekiel 36: 

And I will sprinkle on you pure water, and you will be clean from all of your uncleanness, and I will cleanse you from all of your idols.   And I will give a new heart to you, and a new spirit I will give into your inner parts, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh.   And I will give my spirit into your inner parts, and I will make it so that you will go in my rules, and my regulations you will remember, and you will do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
Our life and being exists, and is sustained "in Him" (see Acts 17:28).  As the scriptures declare, no longer I, but Christ lives within me (Galatians 2:20).  Thus, in death, like a baby in the womb, though there is no breath, nor awareness of what is happening on the outside, life is yet sustained and nurtured until the precise moment of delivery.  In this case, of new birth and eternal life in the resurrection of the living. 
Returning to the thought that our souls do not sleep at death (and await the coming resurrection), we are left with a few questions to ponder:
  1. If the soul departs at death, with what body does it enjoy the heavenlies...or experience the pain, fire, and suffering of hell?
  2. If we are sent to heaven when we die and return with Christ, why does he make us sleep in the dust at that time (Daniel 12:2), only to be raised with our old body, but a newer version?
  3. And if, perchance, we should be given a "temporary body" in the realms beyond the grave, wasn't the one we had in heaven better than the dusty one we return to?
Granted, some may not make the case that we are in a "real body" in heaven or hell, but are spirits with forms, like ghosts.  This again leads us to ponder:  Do those spirit bodies then have the capacity of senses such as sight, thirst, and nerve endings that feel heat and pain?
And what about what Paul writes in his second letter to the church in Corinth:
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.  We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.  For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies.  While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
(Note: I chose the NLT for both clarity and emphasis)
So, if we go to heaven where our permanent residences (glorified bodies) are located, why wouldn't we get to put them on?  And further, would He leave us "naked" as the NKJV states; as disembodied spirits?
Reformer William Tyndale, labeled as a heretic of his age by the Catholic Establishment, would challenge his opponents in the belief of Christian Mortalism or Soul Sleep, arguing:

And ye, in putting them [the departed souls] in heaven, hell and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection... And again, if the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good a case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?" (Tyndale, William (1530), An Answer to Sir Thomas More's Dialogue)
Jesus also appears to leave the disciples with a similar message before he departs:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3)
Are these buildings in heaven where we will one day live?  I would suggest, in light of Paul's teaching, that they are our new bodies; houses in heaven not made by human hands that are our permanent dwellings.  And we note, that when everything is ready, he will come (again) and gather us unto himself, that where he is, we may be also.  If we have been with him all this time, this statement is confusing.

Again, if we have been with him since death, and he comes back hallway, in a hidden rapture,  and our bodies rise, and then we go back to heaven for a wedding feast, did he just forget our bodies on earth? Does that thought align itself with Paul's message to the church in Corinth or Jesus' statement to the disciples?

 Turning to Matthew 22, we are told of an encounter Jesus has with the Sadducees. They have come to challenge his read of the law in light of his claim of a resurrection. 

The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him,  saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.  Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after  had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother.  Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh.   Last of all the woman died also.  Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”Jesus answered and said to them, You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.  For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.  But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,   ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”  And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. (Matthew 22:23-33)

Here we note that Jesus both reaffirms the resurrection and goes on to describe the glorified abodes of the saints in forms akin to the angels.  He doesn't say that we rise with the same bodies that were planted in the dust in Sheol/Hades.
 
John, in his first epistle seems to give us an Amen, declaring:

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
 
Paul also chimes in with his first letter to the church in Corinth, saying:

But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.  And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain.  But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. (1 Corinthians 15:35-37)

It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.   As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.  And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.  Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. (1 Corinthians 15:44-50)

So here again, it appears that the body of the righteous, placed into the ground at death, is not that which is raised. It also appears that we are not first spiritual, but natural. And that we will bear the image of Christ at His return.  The truly "dead," however, are raised (in the second resurrection - see 2 Timothy 4:1) "naked" in their old bodies, to be judged according to what they have done in the flesh. They do not have the Spirit of Christ, but the spirit of the prince of this world, and are sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:1-4).
So, if it is not the body of the saints that is sleeping and is raised, what is raised?

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. [or sleep through Jesus]
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend  from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16)
Are we to understand "those" and "the dead in Christ" to mean our bodies? That would seem incongruent with what we read in 1 Corinthians 15.  And if want is raised is not the body that was planted, then what is this seed of life?  Could it not be the soul of man? 

Certainly, we must agree that those that support the theory of Soul Sleep have valid points of discussion for their beliefs.  And even if we should still disagree, can we at least agree to disagree?

 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. (Philippians 3:15)
 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. (Revelations 22:12)

Amen! Come Lord Jesus!

For further reading on the subject, may I humbly recommend my new book:


In it, I explore what is the soul and delve into the scriptural challenges that the opponents of Soul Sleep state, make it null and void, to include:

2 Corinthians 5:6-8
Philippians 1:23
The Thief on the Cross
Abraham's Bosom
Sharing the truth in love! Come let us reason together...


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Root Cause Analysis


In the world of accident investigation, the professional investigator is always looking for a “root cause;” what one thing ultimately led to the chain of events resulting in the incident.

It sometimes makes us “feel better” if, and when, we address some of the cursory causes involved in an incident.  Fire the driver, lock up the criminal, write a new law, but if we don’t address the root cause, then we set ourselves up for repeated failure.  Just like the name indicates, if you only pull the tops off of the weeds in your garden, guess what?  Yep, the weeds will grow back again.  Put another way, sometimes if we look only at the surface, we miss an even greater threat that lies beneath.  Consider the ice berg.  While we may see a small chunk of ice floating on the surface, what lies beneath could easily have hidden, titanic dangers




 
 
Tragedy.  The very word causes the hairs on the backs of our necks to stand up.  Causes our stomachs to turn and we move about in our seat with uneasiness.  Pain and sorrow cry out for answers and those left with a void, beckon for action to prevent others from experiencing their agony and loss.

Columbine, Waco, the World Trade Center, Penn State abuses, Aurora movie theater, Gabrielle Giffords, mall shootings, Sandy Hook…what can be done?  Immediately the calls go out for gun control, security, military action, mental healthcare improvements, prisons, new laws and constitutional amendments.

But is there a root cause to our pain and sufferings?  An answer to our why’s?  I suggest there is.  And it is found among the pages of scripture.  For in our secular world we look only to our senses and human rationale for our explanations. 

In brazen acts of defiance, we have ignored God’s commands, His tenets and His will for our lives.  Like the very Israelites that had escaped their bondage in Egypt, how quickly we forget God’s miracles and His way, to seek our own. Over and over again, we, like Eve in the garden, ask ourselves…”Did God really say?” 

We have removed the Bible and prayer from the schoolhouse, while teenage pregnancy, drug use, suicide, and violence have filled the void.

In the name of freedom of speech, we have removed decency and morality from our TV programs, movies, radio stations, and now internet, and have flooded the screens, airwaves, broadband, and satellite signals with increasing levels of pornography, violence, filthy language and self-gratification.

Our children have lost their social skills, opting to text rather than call, all the while spending hours on end playing violent video games and being drawn into a virtual reality in their sleep deprived state of addiction.

Where once homosexuality was deemed a perversion, it is now heralded as the new civil right and those that believe that it remains the sin that was attached to the pride and selfish acts that God judged Sodom and Gomorrah for, are considered haters, bigots and out of touch.  No longer are two parents of opposite sex needed in our in-vitro baby mills where the "Modern Family," consists of two moms or two dads.

Each day, crosses are taken down, nativity displays prohibited, teachers, politicians and actors mocked and chastised for their beliefs.  Christmas trees have become holiday trees and military chaplains have been told, not only that they must perform gay marriage ceremonies, but that they may not pray in the name of Jesus as the Bible dictates.

In the wake of collapsing towers we have shaken angry fists and have vowed to rebuild, bigger and better than the tower of Babel.

Finally, we wail at the untimely death of our family members and young while thousands of voiceless and innocent victims are slaughtered each year in the holocaust of "choice".

So if we remove the guns, will all the violence stop?  Will new synthetic pharmaceuticals be the answer to our insanity and violence?  How about prenatal testing and designer abortions to empower us, like Hitler, to only allow those "healthy" and "perfect" babies to be born?

It is interesting to note that the Bible says: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."  But, we as a modern society, look only at the natural and discard the supernatural.  As horrific acts of face eating and growling make the news in Miami Beach, we quickly attribute the behavior to illicit drugs; even after a coroner's drug toxicology report finds no such traces.  And even if these chemical agents, acting cunningly on our brains are present, suppressing the individual's awareness of their hideous behavior, what is the evil force behind their actions?  The Bible again tells us that if we continue to deny the true God and, instead, choose the aforementioned lifestyles and behaviors that He will give us over to "reprobate minds".  Dictionary.com defines this word "reprobate" as depraved, unprincipled or wicked.

It is likewise interesting to note that while the Bible speaks of demons from Deuteronomy to Revelation, there is scarcely a pulpit that spends any great deal of time speaking of this supernatural influence in our world and daily lives.  While our great adversary, Satan, is certainly given much credit, these legions of evil, disembodied spirits, present in this form since the flood of Noah, are so often discounted in the natural, with explanations ranging from the aforementioned "bad trip" to mental illness and insanity.  Jesus even attributed many health infirmities in the natural, from blindness, paralysis to full epileptic seizures to demonic "possession" calling for us to pray and fast and thus beckoning the mighty hand of God against these forces.  Think teen cutting is a new phenomenon? Think again, as the demon possessed man in the Gospel of Mark would howl and cut himself with sharp stones.  These dark forces are not limited to just adults as both boys and girls were described as being overtaken by demons.  Even Mary Magdalene was described as having been healed of seven demons.

No, but we would rather define our behaviors in the name of science and medicine wielding diagnoses from the bible of psychiatry known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or DSM. From multiple personalities, schizophrenia, bipolar extremes, and the voices in our heads, it gives us comfort to know that we can "treat" these illnesses and afflictions with high powered antidepressants, narcotics and other mind and mood altering chemicals.

As we treat the symptoms of our fallen and sin-filled world, with medicine, governmental controls, prison and excuses, we have overlooked the very remedy that will reach past the surface, beyond the visible weeds, and actually attack the root of evil, and the source of our sorrows and pain.  And what is that remedy?  It comes from the Bible, the second book of Chronicles, the seventh chapter and the fourteenth verse:  "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

We have lost our Father's protection.  And as we thumb our nose at God and justify our sins, passing laws to make them legal, we hear the faithless demand: "where is your God?"  or "How could a loving deity allow this?".

It is our choice.  The proverbial definition of craziness is doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results.  Listen to the counsel this God gave to Cain before he murdered his brother Abel:  "And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it. And Cain said to his brother, Let us go out to the field. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.”

Jesus, himself, observed the heart and intent of man, and said: "You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’”

Do we truly want to end the craziness?  Then let's get on our knees like the Prophet Daniel, humble ourselves, and pray that God will dispatch His angels to fight the spiritual battles we cannot see or understand.  Then...just maybe...He will hear from heaven, forgive us our sin, and heal our land.

 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Consider the Clouds

As I sat outside one Easter morning, I looked up and considered the clouds...

Genesis 9:13
I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.



Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.



And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever.” So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.


Exodus 19:16
Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.



And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.





Exodus 24:16
Now the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.



Exodus 40:34
Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.


Psalm 68:4
Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name YAH, And rejoice before Him.



Psalm 97:2
Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.


Psalm 104:3
He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters, Who makes the clouds His chariot, Who walks on the wings of the wind,


Jeremiah 4:13
“Behold, he shall come up like clouds, And his chariots like a whirlwind. His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are plundered!”



“I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him


Matthew 24:30
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Mark 14:62
Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”


Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.


Revelation 1:7
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.


Luke 21:28

28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”