March, 2014

Heaven is Real

One of the main characters on one of the television dramas I watch died unexpectedly in the last episode. It was all extremely sad. It wasn’t so much the death, but the complete inability of those who stay to handle it. The problem is that none of them believe in heaven. If there is nothing after this life, then why are we here?

I don’t struggle much with believing in the after life. This world is so beautifully complex that it is easy for me to conceive that it was created. If it was created, this was done by one so wonderful that this world is a dim reflection of all that He is. I find the redemption story truly marvelous, but completely believable. It’s easy to see, if you look at all, that man is sinful. Only one of the characters in the television show believed in heaven and believed that the deceased must be there  because he was a “good” man. The other, older characters knew better. He wasn’t “good” at all.

The biggest hurdle for most to a belief in heaven is a just reason for us to end up there. We don’t have to live many years before the basic evil of man is revealed. What is necessary is an understanding of the nature of God’s love and the beauty of His plan to make a way for us.

Many believe that it is naïve to expect a heaven. When finally convinced many remain naïve enough to think we will all just end up there. What’s necessary is enough courage to accept the truth of our sinfulness, the holiness of our God,  and enough faith to accept the love of our creator. For that we need something special. We Christians just call it grace.

I understand there is a movie coming out soon, “Heaven is Real” I  hope it’s real enough to convince people of the reality of heaven and honest enough to tell them how to get there.

 

Cooks, Prepare Your Kitchens

Today I decided that when I want to write a really ugly tweet back to a bully, I will post a recipe instead. Cooks, prepare your kitchens. Beth Moore

I’m not a particular fan of Beth Moore. I am not familiar with her teachings. I know lots of folks think she’s great. All I know is she is right on with today’s quote. If you spend any time on Facebook or Twitter, there are occasions when  you must fight the urge to blast someone. There is so much stupidity. Folks you know who are mean, disruptive and who have actively worked to destroy a church, cry about how mean Christians are. Folks say things online they would never say in “public.” They post videos that should come with an “R” rating.

People who complain about hypocrisy in church, probably don’t spend much time online. You have to wonder about the parents who post pictures of their kids every day. Are they overcompensating for their horrible parenting? What about the person who posts poetry about their spouse? They probably spend most of their time in family court.

I am convinced that most of the political posters don’t even vote. What about the people who play games all day and brag about the completion of each new level? Get a life, and a don’t mean a game life.

I know it can be difficult to accurately communicate online. Yesterday I thought it would be good to mimic the great C. S. Lewis by posting a letter from Screwtape. Most people thought I had just copied one of the letters from the book. I wanted to cry out. I wrote this.  Blame me if you don’t like it. Well, I guess I just did that.

In any case, I think Beth has a good idea. Instead of blasting stupidity, let’s just post recipes. I have a great sticky chicken recipe which you can expect to see soon. In the meantime, try to be an honest, non-hypocrite online. Please.

Screwtape Picks Up Pen Again

My dear Wormwood:

I pick up pen again to remind you of the vital nature of your mission and to give you some pointers for the successful completion thereof. The local church is the key to the enemy’s plan and we must work with great fervor to cripple and weaken it.

I rejoice with you in the lower numbers attending your target. However, I must remind you what our original enemy did with a mere twelve and one of which was one of ours. Keep them focused on numbers but remember quality above quantity should be our focus.

Don’t forget the importance of communicating. Keep them talking about each other and not talking to each other. Keep their talk trivial and dishonest. The last thing we want is for them to discover the power of honest vulnerable dialog.

I don’t hear your charges begging enough to be better fed. It is vital that they consider themselves underfed. Heaven forbid they should learn that they have the ability to feed themselves, or worse each other or the greatest problem that they should learn to do instead of just learn. “I wasn’t being fed” is still the favorite song I hear the former church attenders hum.

Some of your charges are quiet contributors to the cause. This will never work. It is important that your charges believe that the smallest contribution gives them the right to complete control over what is taught and done among them. We can have no widow’s mite among them.

I notice your charges tend to dress casually and comfortably when they gather. I don’t like this. I believe in “Sunday best.” It keeps the fools focused on the exterior and serves as a barrier to new members. Perhaps you could plant the idea of a “best dressed” competition for a Sunday real soon.

I am not at all pleased with the worship time at your target. There is not enough complaining about the music or the music leader. They seemed to be more focused on the object of worship than on the methods. We can’t have that.

There is a similar problem with the preacher. He uses scripture far too much and is way too friendly toward those who are seeking. We need him to spew a lot more hell fire and brimstone and a lot less forgiveness and grace. Remember they don’t really believe in hell so hell fire causes no problem for us. Love, grace, forgiveness and redemption, those are our real enemies.

I hear that your charges are planning some cooperative efforts with other gatherings of believers. This is the strongest evidence that your mission is in danger. Each target must believe that it possesses all the truth and that other targets are merely our tools. If they ever begin to network, we are doomed.

It is obvious that you have much work to do so I will leave you to it. Be diligent, discouraging and disruptive. Some of them are doing that themselves, but not enough. Back to work

Your favorite uncle,

Screwtape

 

 

No Condemnation

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Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. Romans 14:13

It seems to me that there is way too much judging going on. The most recognizable trait in Christians is “judgmentalism.” That’s just not right. We are supposed to be recognized by the love we show.

I understand the concern that sin should not be ignored. It just seems to me that instead of screaming, “You’re a sinner.” or focusing on certain sins. We need to remind folks that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

We need to stop promoting the idea that as Christians we are sinless instead of forgiven. One of our problems is that it is not acceptable in church to admit struggles with sin. Wouldn’t we serve each other much more if we admitted our struggles and shared suggestions about how to overcome them?

Worst of all, we need to stop criticizing other churches. We all like to think we have all, or at least most, of the truth. But the truth is that we don’t. We are just not familiar enough with the practices of other Christians to criticize. There are a lot fewer things that are “essential” than we are willing to admit.

A garden is beautiful because of the variety of color and form. God has chosen to permit a variety of expressions of worship. As long as Jesus is proclaimed as Lord, and lives are changed through the miracle of grace, we should celebrate variety and our differences.

Some of the scariest words our Lord spoke are these: “”If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” Mark 9:42. Make sure you are making straight the path to Jesus and not putting blocks in the way of any one’s salvation.

 

You Can Do Nothing

4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. John 15

 

Last night I once again had a recurring dream. I am back in the Navy and having to pack out my locker. I guess I am being transferred or discharged. In addition to my uniforms, the locker is full of purchases that seemed wise and valuable when acquired, but are now obviously junk: things like cameras and radios that no longer work, things that seemed like a good idea at the time.

I don’t think we really believe that without Christ we can do nothing. In fact, I think we believe that we can do most things. It’s just the occasional challenge that requires His help. It’s thinking like that which leaves us with a locker full of stuff we don’t need. We need Christ for anything that is going to have any lasting, eternal significance. Frankly, nothing else matters.

Check out  your own locker, your treasure chest of accomplishments. What can you take with you? What really means something? I can assure you only the things you have done in Christ will last. You can toss everything else in the fire. The really sad thing isn’t that we have accumulated much that doesn’t matter; it’s that we have failed to store up much that does.

Today, let Christ do something through you that matters. Let Him create something that matters and that will last forever. Every thing else  you do today will burn away.

 

 

Encountering God – Rest

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30

Years ago Rose and I had friends that never seemed to stop. They were good Christian people whose lives were a blur of activity. They seemed to live on the edge of exhaustion. It made us weary just to be in their presence. It seemed they did much; but I’m not sure they accomplished anything.

One of the great benefits of encountering God is rest. Not rest in the sense of lack of activity for in a God encounter we get activated to carry out his will. Not rest in the sense of lack of challenge or conflict, because once we encounter God we begin to get his mind and his view on life. That motivates us to concern and battle. Not rest in the sense of being burden less. For to have the heart of God is to be heavily burdened for the loss.

It’s rest in the sense of rest secured. It’s a yoke, but it’s easy because He takes the hard part. It’s a load, but it’s light, because He does the heavy lifting. We are not created to be bumps on a log. He doesn’t take us to Himself for us to do nothing. There is work to do, but it’s meant to be done with a sense that it’s already accomplished.

Encountering God is challenging without being exhausting. It’s inspiring without a sense of futility. It’s motivating, but with a clear path. It’s awesome without being overwhelming.

Encounter Him and enter into His rest where there is a plan, a purpose and a peace.

 

Encountering God – Intimacy

I hope I never forget my first date with my wife. It was forty-five years ago and my memory isn’t what it once was. It’s a memory I never want to lose. It was so magical. We talked, a lot, we laughed and had a great time. I remember thinking this girl is pretty and funny and interesting, and most importantly, I think she might like me. For me, it was love at first sight, just like in the movies. I remember that I wanted to spend ever possible moment with this girl, for the rest of my life.

Encountering God is something like that. After I get over the fact that He is so awesome and that I am so unworthy of Him, I begin to get a glimmer that He might just like me. I think we overemphasize the universal nature of God’s love and forget the very personal nature of it. Sure He loves the world, but He loves me. He wants a relationship with me.

We begin to realize that encountering God is so much more than an obligation. It is something we seek and want like air and water. It is completely essential to life and completely satisfying of every need. It becomes something we never tire of. It never bores. It is an adventure that is eternal. We never completely understand how it is possible and we mourn for those who don’t have it or even understand it.

It’s life.

 

Encountering God – Recognition

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

The end of a God encounter is a change in us. The beginning is recognition of who we are and who God is. Too many attempt to have a spiritual transformation without a God encounter and, particularly, without the first step of recognition. This leads to all kinds of confusion.

Many have “accepted” Jesus without recognition. Unless we realize that we are sinners in need of a Savior, no real relationship with God is possible. Many see God as a valuable counselor, loving grand father, potent provider, or future landlord. God is all these things, but these are not the greatest relationship He desires with man.  Many see God as a loving creator who desires that none should perish. He is. They fail to acknowledge that without a miraculous change, they are doomed to perish.

God wants to restore us to the Eden relationship. He wants intimacy with us: the ability to enjoy His presence in quiet walks though the garden. For this to be possible, we must be pure enough to be in his Holy presence. This we can not do on our own. We need His grace to forgive us of our past and to allow us to be what we must to live in His presence.

Lord show us who you are. Shine your light on who we are. Use your power to make the changes necessary for us to be in eternal loving relationship.

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