Commentary On a Viral E-mail

What follows is the body of a controversial e-mail that a good friend and brother sent to me. If you think it looks familiar, check with Snopes, for a decidedly biased article about lots of related complaints. If you have lots of time, read the e-mail’s contents below. Otherwise, skip down to my commentary, which isn’t quite as long.

  In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked the Lord to spare the city if he could find 50 righteous people. God responded to Abraham’s plea “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all.”….Genesis 18:16-33

The movie “Corpus Christi “is due to be released this June to August. It is a disgusting film set to appear in America later this year which depicts Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals! As a play, this has already been in theaters for a while. It’s called “Corpus Christi” which means “The Body of Christ”. It’s a revolting mockery of our Lord. But we Christians can make a difference.

That’s why I am sending this e-mail to you. If you do send this around, we just might be able to prevent this film from being shown in Canada and America. Let’s stand for what we believe and stop the mockery of Jesus Christ our Savior. Where do we stand as Christians?
I am forwarding this to all I think will respect and appreciate being informed. Please help us prevent such offenses against our Lord. There is no petition to sign, no time limit, or minimum number of people to send this to…It will take you less than 2 minutes!

If you are not interested and do not have the 2 minutes it will take to do this, please don’t complain if God does not seem to have time for you. Imagine what would happen if this film were depicting Mohammad in the same way…the Islamic world would be in flames!! . Apparently, some regions in Europe have already successfully banned the film. All we need is a lot of prayer and a lot of E-mails.

JUST GET THE WORD OUT!

Will God be able to find at least 50 righteous people who are willing to express their concern and voice their opinion against this act of blasphemy?

God Bless You All.

If you want to be thoroughly confused, the actual film is a documentary titled, “Corpus Christi: Playing With Redemption.”
 The issue in my mind isn’t gullibly accepting unattributed e-mails, but condemning blasphemy in the most depraved—yes, I said depraved—elements of society, while Christendom practices blasphemy of the Holy Spirit by attributing to Him what is offensive to God. Even among the Evangelical churches, some “Spirit filled” individuals publicly exhibit hatred, sour attitudes, conflict, impatience, critical spirits, meanness, conceit and arrogance, to name just a few of our sins, much of which is done in our Lord’s Name. Is it any wonder that corrupt people do their best to offend God’s church?
 Before we condemn corrupt—and yes, I said corrupt—people, with their corrupt entertainments, we need to cleanse our own house of its own worldliness and corruption. I believe silence on this issue is not the same as approving it, but the more bitterly vociferous our objections, the more we confirm the world’s view of us as ignorant bigots. While we must hate the world system, we must love those trapped in it—a most delicate balance that Jesus pulled off perfectly. Can we truly learn from Him?
 Another great tragedy with this, “Corpus Christi,” is all the people suckered into paying money to behold it in its play form, and in its film documentary form. This is a disturbing commentary on both society’s messed up values, and the church’s failure to keep Jesus and His Word holy before the world’s scrutiny. Jesus made the blind see; now He needs to make His church see as well.

Public Enemy #1

How peaceful are they?

First, lets dismiss the gangsta rap group, Public Enemy, although their name gives an accurate picture of their value to society. History gives us a long list of people who were tagged with the label, “Public Enemy #1.” Back in the twentieth century that label belonged to gangsters and mafiosos. Today that dubious distinction is obsolete, replaced by the “most wanted” list that includes drug cartel kingpins, serial killers, and terrorists, both domestic and foreign.

All of that is consistent with the natural, human perspective, but there is something that the public perceives as an enemy that is more to be feared than all of the Ten Most Wanted combined. That public enemy is peace and quiet.

I tend to accuse young people of stimulation addiction, as so many of them live with earbuds permanently implanted, feeding a constant stream of loud, popular music, or video game audio into their consciousness. But young people aren’t alone in their addiction to constant stimulation. “Adults,” including myself, seek constant entertainment and news media saturation. My personal addiction is tech/military documentaries, movies and TV police procedurals. It seems I too am afraid of silence.

The prophet Elijah experienced the eternally existing One as a, “still, small voice,” and preachers admonish us to seek that sort of communication with God. Yet, how are we to hear His voice when our senses are constantly saturated with distractions?

We Christ-followers gripe about not hearing His voice, but do nothing about achieving the personal quietness necessary to hear our Lord and Savior. Even our corporate worship is often boisterous.

Habits die hard. Addictions, much harder. But are we to settle for less than God’s best for us? And His best for us is intimate communication with Himself. He made us for that purpose, and anything less promises only unfulfillment of God’s glorious promises, and frustration of our ultimate purpose.

Yes, but how?

How can we break our noise addiction? First, we must realize, and then confess, that it is quite real in our lives. Second, we must pray for God’s conviction, as to refuse to change makes it sin. Third, thank God for the infinite grace that He shows when we fail to seek His best for us. His love for us is unfathomable, and if we claim to love Him in return, yet willfully disobey Him, we reveal our hypocrisy. Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

Like all addictions, electronic media addiction is tough to crack. I don’t know of I could break its hold on me cold turkey, but I can try to cut down by substituting other activities that would strengthen me, rather than continuing to weaken myself by sitting mesmerized by Netflix and YouTube.

I want to honor God with my life, but I can’t do that by staying planted at home watching entertainment. Please pray for me, and the millions of other media-addicted Christians, for God to break us free, so we can love the lost to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

BAD COFFEE

Wipe that smile off your face, soldier! One gulp of G.I. coffee aught to do the trick.

Don’t ask me why, but last week at church I decided to forgo my usual cup of Sumatra coffee for some “popular brand” that the coffee folks also brew up. I hated it, not because it was objectively bad coffee, but because I was used to better (People actually drink that stuff?). Probably, if I were used to the brand that’s supposedly, “The best part of waking up” (God forbid!), the Sumatra blend would have tasted odd. So bad did it taste that I poured it out so I could refill my cup with what I really wanted. Sorry, coffee folks; if you had a coffee kitty I would have dropped in something extra.

Funny thing about a bad cup of coffee; you can’t make it good by adding a few drops of good coffee. You have to empty it completely and cleanse it before refilling it with the delicious brew.

Christians, what fills your cup? Worldly goals and entertainments? Self-gratification? Work? Envy? Gossip? Power plays? The New Testament gives us lists of behaviors that erode and sour our spirituality to the point that onlookers would never guess that we are different from those of the world.

Face it, brothers and sisters, we—the church of Jesus Christ—need revival … not to fill a few more seats or to add a few drops of sanctity to change our image from rigor mortis to that of born-again Bible thumpers, but to completely empty our cups of worldliness and carnality so God can fill us up with the fruit of His Spirit, and holiness, without the seeking of which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

That’s His holiness, not just more of our own churchianity.

I’m Not Dying

Oh sure, the world is quieter than it used to be. I glance down at my hands and they look like I forgot to iron them. I lack energy to get out of my own way. I have to be careful what I eat; everything I enjoy is off my diet and likely to come back to haunt me. I have CRS, but can’t remember what it means. People say these dreaded words to me: “Can I help you with that sir?”

But I’m not dying—I’m transitioning! And it’s about time; seventy years on this blue-and-green marble is long enough in my book. What about God’s Book, though?

God’s Word doesn’t tell me, “Let your light shine before men, until you get old, then hang up the spent lantern.” I can’t find the word, “retire,” anywhere in the Bible. Even the Levites, when they completed their twenty-five years of temple service, were assigned other duties.

No, my thinning skin should just allow Christ’s light within me to shine through all the brighter. These words of Jesus changed my life when I realized He was talking to me:

Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV “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.

Without the Christians who held up their light before me, I’d be a goner. And without me and millions of other Christ-followers holding up His light, the world is full of goners.

“Getting saved,” isn’t our final game play, it’s just the starting gun’s report, the kickoff, the tip off, throwing out the first ball, and there’s no timer on the game board. In fact, there’s no game board, ‘cause keeping score is God’s job, and notching our Bibles for every “decision for Christ” is pure presumption, an act of pride that should alert us to the probability that our motivation is not to glorify our heavenly Father, but to glorify ourselves.

Now I need to examine my own life’s priorities; is influencing others to live for God numero uno? Or do I just want to sit back and enjoy the view of others marching straight into perdition? If the second option is true of me … or you … we may as well be dying, ‘cause we’re no earthly good.

Give Me A Sign … or Else!

I confess to allowing myself to feel envious of other Christians when they receive obvious miracles in their lives. Don’t get me wrong; God has blessed me in uncountable ways, but many of those blessings are very subtle and easily missed. Other believers get the spectacular signs, while I just … live.

I asked God about that, and while He didn’t answer me audibly, even in a “still, small voice,” He guided me to some words that Jesus spoke to the nit-picky religious experts of His time: Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ (Mark 8:11-12) And again: “’A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’ And He left them and departed.” (Matthew 16:4)

 

Have you ever been to Charismatic meetings where the evangelist coaches seekers to ask God for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit? If so, you know how he tells them to babble, and believe it is the gift of tongues. Years ago I fell under that sort of evangelist’s spell and walked away convinced that I had spoken in tongues, assuring me that I had been filled with the Spirit. Shortly afterward I discovered several Bible passages in 1 Corinthians 12-14, and you know what? None of them instructed me to actively seek the gift of tongues. Between those passages and what I’ve quoted above, I walked away from tongues feeling I had been deceived. After all, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.”

A number of times I’ve tried to share my testimony with skeptics. In response, they often demand proof, like miracles or other signs. How different is that from demanding a particular spiritual gift before we believe we have the gift of the Holy Spirit? Perhaps it’s just my lack of faith, but I typically just back down from such confrontations with some lame excuse like, “God doesn’t jump through hoops like a trained monkey.”

God Is Faithful, Always!

A trained monkey He isn’t, but faithful He is. Many years of fighting with God about the weak state of my faith has led me to a firm conviction; He loves me enough to withhold things I’ve wanted, that He knew would become barriers between Himself and me.

It’s sort of like Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” While God hasn’t exactly given me an abundance of revelations, He knows that miraculous sign gifts would work against His greater purpose for me. And my demanding a sign would place me firmly in the same league as the Pharisees and lawyers of Jesus’ time.

Truthfully, He’s given me one of the greatest signs of all: I have peace with performing no miracles, speaking in no unlearned tongues, and receiving no prophetic utterances. Instead, He has given me a longing to love others as He loves me, and I think that is quite enough.

The Fruit of the Spirit is …

One fruit, many nuances of flavor.

Sometimes I feel condemnation when I read God’s Word, because I fail to measure up. I realize what Romans 8:1-7 tells me, but the qualifier prevents me from easily claiming the passage and applying it to myself. It is a promise, “to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Can I claim to walk according to the Spirit? The problem is, I just don’t know. If I truly bore the Holy Spirit’s fruit, would I have any doubt?

According to Galatians 5:22-25, the foremost flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit, indeed, its very essence, is love. Where is my love? What does it look like? Loving those who love me is easy, but what of those who despise me and everything I stand for? Do I truly love them?

God’s word doesn’t tell me to feel loving toward such haters, but it does tell me to treat them well, to meet their needs, to show them grace, because that is the way Jesus treated His enemies. Do I go out of my way to show that sort of love to those who refuse to receive it? I don’t want to admit my honest answer to that question.

So, what about joy, the second flavor of the Spirit’s fruit? When I feel loved, or experience good fortune, I feel joy, and that’s only natural. But therein lies the problem; it is natural joy, and not joy from God’s Spirit. Is the joy I feel simply an emotional response to some favorable stimulus? If I don’t feel loved, but feel threatened, insecure, angry, inpatient, or doubtful, what of the Holy Spirit’s joy then? In the Holy Spirit’s context, joy must underlay all other emotions, whether negative or positive. In the flesh, that is impossible.

Like joy, the Holy Spirit’s peace must transcend all human emotions. This peace is not simply a lack of conflict, as the world defines it. The Holy Spirit’s peace comes from reconciliation with God. When I know that He no longer recognizes my sins, but has chosen to forget them completely, as if they never happened, peace overwhelms me, and all that inner conflict about falling short of His expectations just evaporates away. That’s the peace that defies understanding(Philippians 4:6-7).

Another flavor of the fruit of God’s Spirit is longsuffering, or patience, as the more contemporary versions translate it. Personally, I prefer the longer word, not because it’s longer, but because it paints a more vivid picture in my mind. Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:4, tells us that love, “suffers long,” and I love that idea; love is willing to suffer(endure, not passively, but passionately), and to keep on suffering indefinitely. God expresses that idea most strongly in Psalms 27:14, where He tells us twice to wait on the LORD.

Kindness goes right along with the first four flavors combined in one sweet fruit of the Spirit. I think these five could be characterized under one label: grace, both God’s grace toward us and our grace toward those around us. Even if the fruit of God’s Spirit didn’t go any further, it would be the most beautiful of produce. But it does include more flavors, and each of the following four could stand alone under the category of Christlike character.

Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is God.” (Mark 10:18) Obviously, then, goodness is a “God thing.” Yet, the fruit of God’s Spirit includes goodness demonstrated in us. That fact, as much as any other, tells us that God must live within us if we are to bear His spiritual fruit.

In the same way as goodness, as God is faithful, we must be faithful as well if we are to bear His fruit. That means consistently being good to our word, truthful and honest. I’ll be the first to admit that such faithfulness is unnatural behavior for me, and is a tall order in this unfaithful, lying and dishonest world. Yet, we are not of this world, are we? (John 17:16)

The next flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit is gentleness. Am I wrong, or is each new characteristic becoming more challenging? God’s church has picked up the idea that we must stand militantly for our beliefs. After all, Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 9:33, “as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.'” So there you go; God told us to be as offensive as needed to get our point across. Right?

Wrong! Jesus is the Stone of stumbling and Rock of offense, not individual Christ-followers. If we are to bear the true fruit of God’s Spirit, we will behave with gentleness of spirit and mildness of disposition. In other words, meekness, just as Jesus did when he faced the kangaroo court of religious Jews.

But wait, it gets even harder; the last flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit is self-control. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have no natural self-control. But if it came naturally, it wouldn’t be from God, right? That means, at least for me, when I demonstrate self-control, as sitting at this keyboard for hours writing this stuff, I must be demonstrating the fruit of God’s Spirit. And the fact that you’ve sat reading this far demonstrates a good deal of supernatural self-control as well.

So that ends this particular list. I dealt with the fruit of God’s Spirit because the preceding few verses of this chapter reveal the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21), and I much prefer dealing with positives rather than negatives.

Remember, “against such things (the fruit of God’s Spirit) there is no law.” Oh, one other thing: Matthew 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.”

Tragic Reactions

San Bernardino Shooting Victims

Mention tragedy these days and most people’s thoughts go to San Bernardino. Reactions to that awful display of violence range from anger against Muslims to exploitation for various agendas.

Liberals have a hard time restraining their public rejoicing about the use of military-style firearms during that cowardly shooting spree. Managing straight faces, they moralize about the gun situation in our nation, proposing even more restrictions on their availability.

Racists see vindication for their hatred for anyone who seems different. Politicians are exploiting the situation for their own political ends.

Many Christians hope our nation will see Islam in its true colors, and pass controls on what their imams can teach. Little do they realize that infringements on one group’s religious freedom is like the camel and the tent; once his nose is inside, soon the tent is filled with camel.

Due to the love our Savior exemplified and commanded of us, much higher behavioral standards apply to Christians than to any other group in society. He told us not to judge others, lest we be judged for our own transgressions.

Oswald Chambers made a profound statement about judging that I must pass on:

Most of us are much sterner with others than we are in regard to ourselves; we make excuses for things in ourselves whilst we condemn in others things to which we are not naturally inclined.

I am not likely to walk into a meeting of coworkers and open fire on them with an AK-47, just as I did not take out my frustration and anger on my wife. Though I can be spiteful—a sin of which I must consistently repent—overt violence isn’t part of my temperament.

That being the case, I find “righteous” indignation an easy reaction to crimes of terror directed against civilian men, women and children. When a politician advocates deporting members of a particular religion because they may be radicalized, I self-righteously pump my fist in agreement, even though some “Christian” groups are similarly radicalized.

Whether or not such interdiction policies are consistent with the American ideal of freedom is irrelevant to God’s called-out ones, but our desire to implement such policies is terribly relevant. Our goal of furthering God’s kingdom must remain paramount, even in the face of terrorizing religious persecution. Jesus told us to love our enemies for good reason; only by so doing can God convict Christ-haters of their sin, and draw them to Himself.

C.S. Lewis, on Forgiveness of Sins

Topsy Turvy Church

This passage is from The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis. Though some may take exception to the idea that Christians aren’t automatically forgiven for all sins, he makes a very good Biblical point.

We say a great many things in church (and out of church too) without thinking of what we are saying. For instance, we say in the Creed “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” I had been saying it for several years before I asked myself why it was in the Creed. At first sight it seems hardly worth putting in. “If one is a Christian,” I thought, “of course one believes in the forgiveness of sins. It goes without saying.” But the people who compiled the Creed apparently thought that this was a part of our belief which we needed to be reminded of every time we went to church. And I have begun to see that, as far as I am concerned, they were right. To believe in the forgiveness of sins is not nearly so easy as I thought. Real belief in it is the sort of thing that very easily slips away if we don’t keep on polishing it up.

We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord’s Prayer; was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. No part of His teaching is clearer, and there are no exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t, we shall be forgiven none of our own.

The Scripture passage to which he referred is from Matthew 6:11-15. One could try to dispute Lewis’ conclusion, but the Lord was pretty clear about it. Maybe you will tell me that He was speaking at that moment from the Law Dispensation, since He hadn’t as yet performed His Redemptive Act.

I’m afraid that goose won’t fly, friend. As with the balance of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke from the only perspective he had, that of grace. Why would He speak from the Law’s perspective when He would, in a short time, fulfill the Law?

If you insist on the Law idea, what about First Corinthians’ love chapter? Remember all the awful things St. Paul did before he met Jesus? Loving forgiveness did not come naturally to that Pharisee. He had hated Christians and Gentiles, but he taught unconditional love to the Corinthian church.

Nope, if you harbor a grudge, refusing to love and forgive anyone, you can’t expect Jesus’ blood to cover your unconfessed sin. Otherwise, you’d be no better off than members of the Islamic State or the KKK. Is your grudge worth that?

Lord, Don’t Let Me Fall

Falling isn’t fun, whether it’s caused by clumsy feet or weak spiritual will. By God’s grace, however, the latter isn’t necessarily fatal. Psalms 37: 23-24 says, The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand. (NKJV)

Lots of people try to avoid sinning because they’re afraid of going to hell; they view God as the Heavenly Parole Officer, just waiting to slap the eternal cuffs onto their weak wrists. The Lord’s apostle John took a different view: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  (1 John 4:18 ESV) According to that powerful passage, we are not to fear God’s punishment. But how can be “perfected in love”? Verse nineteen gives us the answer to that key question. We love because he first loved us.  (4:19)

So then, loving God is automatic for Christians. Right? Wrong! Just because we’ve, “decided to follow Jesus,” doesn’t mean we know of God’s love in giving His Son over to ridicule, torture, and death to free us from the eternal penalty of our sin’s guilt. To know of God’s love we must at least begin to know God, and only His Holy Spirit, working through our ever-deepening understanding of His Word by prayer and meditation, can give us that knowledge. But heed Apostle Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 8:1, Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that all of us possess knowledge. This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. Some in the Corinthian church understood the liberty we have in Christ, but they were proud of that knowledge and ridiculed the “weaker brethren” without such understanding. Bible knowledge alone makes us no better than Satan’s minions. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!  (James 2:19)

While I’m not afraid of going to hell—praise God! Jesus took care of that—I am petrified of damaging my Savior’s holy name through my thoughtlessness and sin. When I pray, “Lord, don’t let me fall,” I’m deadly serious. I love my Lord and will not besmirch His name.

 

Be Careful What You Say

Thumper

Zack Locklear posted an excellent statement about Christians judging those of the world, and it describes a general principle to which all who claim Christ’s name must adhere: Jesus died to save sinners, not to condemn them (John 12:47-48). The most telling part of that passage is verse 48, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” Jesus’ statement here couldn’t be more clear; it tells who will be judged, and by what standard.

So, who will be judged? Not adulterers. Nor thieves. Nor liars. Nor murderers. Not even homosexuals or pedophiles. On the last day, God’s Word will judge all who reject Jesus and refuse to receive His words. All other sins are only symptoms of that damning sin.

But, what of those who claim to belong to God through our Lord Jesus Christ? Can they get away with sinning, “that grace may increase?” Apostle Paul emphatically answered (Romans 6), “May it never be!” Then, in Romans 8:29, the apostle wrote, “For those He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn of many brothers.” Predestination and eternal security controversies aside, those who prefer habitually sinning to seeking Christlikeness are not God’s chosen people.

Finally, Apostle Paul told us what attitude we are to display toward non-believers: Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:5-6) If you don’t have anything redemptive to say, don’t say anything at all (apologies to Disney’s Thumper character).