Archives For Jesus

Just in case you didn’t catch yesterday’s post, I’m a fan of The Conjuring, a film based upon the work of real life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. The sequel to that film, The Conjuring 2, releases this Friday. I have partnered with Grace Hill Media to help publicize the movie’s release to the faith community. Following is a clip, “We Don’t Run From Fights.”

 

You may be on the fence with movies like this, or you may not be interested at all. It could be that you’re wondering is the the kind of film that a God-fearing believer should see? I would say yes–stretch yourself into something that makes you uncomfortable. I think that we do ourselves, and the world, a disservice when we depict evil as something less than evil in our media. Yes, the darkness is on display in the Conjuring films–but so is the light. The world can be a dark place, and spiritual warfare is very real, but the fact is that in a battle of God versus evil evil never wins. Never. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness is not able to overcome it. And as Christians we don’t back down from a fight–for greater is He is who is in us than he who is in the world.

Never forget that; Christ is greater.

Just Come

randomlychad  —  October 6, 2015 — Leave a comment

My wife and I participate in a small group study. Lately, we’ve been looking at how to share the Gospel. As a part of that process, I’ve been tasked with answering a couple of common objections:

The exclusivity of the message of Jesus, and the plethora of world religions. I may have bitten off more than I can chew here, but intend to give it the old college try.

The world as we see and experience certainly establishes a prima facie case against the existence of God. There is much suffering, atrocities, and evil. Why would a good God allow such things to transpire? On the other hand, there is much about this world which is beautiful, lovely, and sublime in way which surpasses our poor power to express it. There is an order to the universe, and a precision in the way in which it operates that certainly at the least implies design. Atheists will say that’s all it is, implied design. But according to Occam’s Razor, the simplest solution is often the correct one, e.g., the universe appears designed because it is designed. In other words, and in the words of C.S. Lewis, “if the universe were without meaning we should never have discovered that it was without meaning.”

Is it possible that both are true? That all we see around is designed, yet all is not as it should be? Pain, suffering, disease, and death certainly provide a strong argument for this. If this is so, is God to blame? Is He a cosmic sadist delighting in our struggles? Why would He go to such great lengths to create all of this only to seemingly remain hidden from His creation? Why does He allow us to flounder in the mire? Surely a loving Father would [fill in the blank]?

And there’s the rub: we’ve just gone over the line into idolatry, making a god in our image, instead of falling at the feet of the One Who is. Because the One Who is, while promising an ultimate end to evil, in the meantime chooses the much harder path of walking with His suffering creation in love. Rather than delivering us from every trial, He suffers along with us. Instead of answering our questions, our every objection, He gives Himself. This is not an answer that many are willing to hear.

So yes, the world is broken. We are broken, and our brokenness try to fill that void with whatever we think will sooth our savage breast: science, atheism, sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, education, what have you. We move from one thing to the next, never really assuaging the emptiness. And into this mess comes the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems an offer too good to be true; for how can it be free? This answer to our broken selves, this broken world? Because our experience is here, in the material plane, we know that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, that we get what we pay for… Thus it is that the word squeezes us into its mold. Because there’s always strings, right? And we don’t want to be anyone’s puppet. That is ultimately what it boils down to, really; every objection to the existence of God, while purporting to be philosophical, scientific, logical, is really about this: we don’t want to give up control. All else–the prima facie case the world presents–is but a smokescreen to an underlying condition of the heart the Bible terms “sin.”

Because God made us free, we are free to either accept, or reject, this fact. In essence, in shaking our fists at the sky we are saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, God, my mind is already made up.” And then we will come up with our reasons, our justifications, of why this is so. Why we are right, and Christians are wrong. Why we’re okay. This is nothing but confirmation bias. We’re right because we’re right. I’m okay, you’re okay. Now go away.

Meanwhile Jesus is saying, “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.”

And that is what the Gospel is all about: rest from our striving, our brokenness, our sin.

Come to Me, He says.

Come and lay your objections down, and take up the life you were made for. For His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Just come.

Author Frank Pretty was arguably the Left Behind of the 80s. His books, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness got nearly everyone reading about spiritual warfare. It was into this climate of heightened sensitivity that the late Edgar Whisenant emerged. Whisenant said that Jesus was definitely, positively, absolutely coming back on Rosh Hashannah 1988.

It was also the year I came to faith.

I didn’t know the books of the Bible from a shopping list. Although I was baptised as an infant, my family was so Protestant we didn’t bother going to church. In fact, I was so sheltered as a toddler that my only exposure to African American people was via television; I thought they were all called Sanford. In any, God wasn’t a part of my life in any discernable to me. I was an atheist by default.

As I got older, I didn’t bother to investigate these things; I just accepted evolution as the process by which we all arrived here. There was no need for God. I was a ship in the night, adrift on the winds of time. My role models were: an emotionally distant absentee dad, a workaholic mom, and later a pot smoking psychologist. I share this as background to simply illustrate that my upbringing was entirely secular, and that when I came to faith I was for all intents and purposes a blank slate.

I believe things because I didn’t know better. Kenneth Copeland? Awesome! I can write a blank check with God! Kenneth Hagan? Same deal. Benny Hinn. Yep! TBN? Good stuff! In fact, at the church I went to one night I was surrounded by sweaty-faced elders, who prayed for me to receive the evidence of the initial indwelling (that’s tongues). I was all for it, because Hey! I wanted all of God I could have.

When it didn’t happen in the accepted time, one kindly gentlemen suggested that I “Start muttering. It’ll happen.” Sure, why not?

This is the ecclesiastical milieau into which I had come when Edgar Whisenant arrived on the scene with his assertions that Jesus was absolutely, positively, most assuredly coming back. What did I know? If somebody in the know said it why it must’ve been true. I didn’t yet know Jesus’s words that “No man knows the day or the hour.”

I wasn’t the only one left disillusioned when Christ didn’t come back. Scores of (naive) people:

Racked up credit card charges

Euthanized their pets

Gave in to gluttony

Because none it mattered anymore. Jesus was coming back, ans glory! We’re going to get new bodies, someone else will assume this debt, and we’ll see poor Fluffy again up yonder. A kind of quasi-Christian fatalism took hold. Nothing we do matters because Jesus.

A lot of people woke up disillusioned on Rosh Hashannah 1988. Up their eyeballs in debt, with dead pets…

One wouldn’t think that folks could be so naive, but the simple fact of the matter is that by and large there’s a great swath of Christians who didn’t then (and who don’t now) know their Bibles.

I was but one of them. And it has taken years upon years to eradicate the disillusionment and fatalism from my soul. God never has, nor will He ever, conform to our timetable.

Only He knows the day and the hour, and He’s not sharing. The question is: are we okay with that? Can we live with the tension of not knowing, or must we exert control? Because I think that’s what a lot of the “word faith” movement amounts to: trying to control very natural fears by manipulating God.

“All right, God, I said it. You better show up.” As if He cares about our reputations. It’s lunacy. He’ll destroy our puny reputations to create in us an ounce of humility. It’s not reputation He’s after, but rather character.

Holiness.

As Chesterton said, “Our Father is young. We have sinned and grown old.” He only seems capricious and distant because of the sheer amount of baggage and abject lack of perspective we bring to the relationship. He doesn’t owe us anything, and yet we demand–thinking somehow He owes answers, lives of ease and comfort. How quickly we forget this is the same God Who spared not His own Son.

There’s tension, and mystery, we must live in.

The question becomes:

Do we trust that Father knows best. Despite all the BS, trials, tribulations, stings, disappointments, betrayals, injustices…

When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?

Will He?

It’s up to us. God help us.

House of Cards has taken the traditional TV model by the lapels of its finely pressed suit and has given it a run for its money. It is the Game of Thrones of political drama. People subscribe to Netflix just for House of Cards.

There are numerous reasons for this. Chief among them are:

Kevin Spacey. There’s no doubting the man’s acting chops. He brings gravitas, strength, and ferocity to his portrayal of Frank Underwood.

Robin Wright. A similarly gifted actress, first seen in The Princess Bride, and easily Spacey’s equal in this.

David Fincher. Director, auteur, helmer of some of the most engrossing, if dark, movies in history: Se7en, The Social Network, Gone Girl, and others.

Not to mention that the show, while based upon an earlier British miniseries, is written by Washington insider Beau Willimon.

While that pedigree–the quality of the show’s writing, acting, production, and direction gets people in the door (so to speak)–lends the show a great deal of credibility, it’s not why I continue to watch. Sure, the quality of the performances got me hooked–no doubt. But I keep watching because it’s a human story.

It’s my story.

It’s your story.

Quite honestly, how many among us would be immune to the intoxicating allure of power continuously dangled in front of our noses? As the saying goes, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Within the construct of the the show, the catalyst which sets events in motion is a promise denied. Frank is promised an auspicious position, but is told things have changed. The sense of betrayal causes him (and his wife, Claire) to throw off all previous loyalties in pursuit of power. This, of course, leads to all manner of dark and dangerous places.

The thing is, and this is the show’s genius, who among us (though the particulars are different) hasn’t felt betrayed? Who hasn’t felt, like Frank, of casting off allegiances and getting what’s due us? While we deplore his actions, we gobble them up because he gives us a guilt-free means of vicariously living through him. So this is what it’s like, we ask ourselves? This is what it’s like to get what we (feel) we deserve.

Which proves–if we’re honest–that we all have an inner “Frank Underwood,” that black dog of our souls who:

Looks out for #1

Uses others to get what we want

Stops at nothing in pursuit of our ends

Which just shows our continuing need for Jesus, and the new life only he can give.

If we’ve hated in our hearts… He died for that.

If we’ve sought revenge… He died for that, too.

In short, if we’re human we’re flawed, marred by sin, in need of a Savior. The very one who, within the show, that Underwood denies is the one who can set us on the path to a true and lasting life. The presidency–power–is but a drop in the bucket in light of eternity.

Choose you this day. Who will you serve? Yourself, your inner “Frank,” or the One Who died that you might truly live?

The story of Ehud in Judges chapter three is a short, probably familiar, one. What follows is a poetic retelling of the events of that chapter.

After Othniel, all Israel sinned–
handed over into the hands of their enemies (again)
When 18 years had gone by,
with one voice they cried
(in wailings not to be denied):
Restore, renew, revive
Deliver us once more–
do not ignore our pleading
God had a plan:
Raising up Ehud, a left-handed man
Who by the word crafted a sword,
Strapping it to his right thigh
Eglon the king’s time was nigh
Bringing tribute to the king,
Ehud left, but returned again
With a word from the Lord
(sharper than the two-edged sword)
Locking the chamber, not knowing his danger,
Eglon arose with expectant ear
Not at all knowing his end drew near
Reaching over, with nary a swagger,
Ehud unleashed his mighty dagger
Plunging it into the belly of the king
In it went, past the hilt, sinking
Past layers of blubber
Eglon was done, his bell rung
And out of his belly came the dung
Falling upon the floor
Ehud escaped, the king’s servants
Waiting, anxious, outside the chamber door
After some time passed, and then some more
Unlocking the portal, upon entering
What did they see?
But the slumped Eglon, cooling upon the tile,
Blood and excrement mixt all the while
Whilst the Lord, through Ehud, gave the victory
10,000 Moabites slain, Israel now free

What I love about the Old Testament is that it is full of stories like this one. Stories of regular people used of God at just the right time. What I also love is that there are layers upon layers of meaning. For instance, the account here gives us enough to go on. Just as telling is what it doesn’t say. The events described have been going on for eighteen years. Likely, as Josephus says, this is not Ehud’s first rodeo; he has been there before. To be able to hide the sword as he does folks would have already had to know he was left handed (else his ruse wouldn’t have worked). Moreover, to get a private audience with the king he had to have been someone known, i.e. a trusted entity. Ehud was known to Eglon and his court.

Beyond the mere happenstance, the events themselves, scholars have used the phrase “types and shadows” to describe much of the Old Testament. Types of Christ, of sin, and shadows of things to come. For instance, in the story of Ehud, what is he called in verse five?

Deliverer.

Who else do we know by that name–deliverer? Jesus, of course.

In this passage, Ehud is a type of Christ. What does he do? In verse twenty-one, he puts to death Eglon–that is to say, sin. Eighteen years the Children of Israel lived under the oppressive yolk of Eglon, finally crying out to the Father. God raises up a deliverer to put an end to the oppression. Judgment came by way of an eighteen inch sword.

In Revelation 19:15, it is said of the Lord Jesus that “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (ESV)

The sword is also symbolic, for now in the church age God has put to death sin once and for all in the body of the Lord Jesus, e.g., He is our Ehud. Yet, we have to want to be free. Like the Children of Israel, we often turn away, cry out for deliverance.

God always answers. Now, however, instead of putting to death the enemy outside (for whom He call us to pray), He calls us to look inward–in a way handing us a blade called candor, asking us to plunge into our own bellies, our own hearts. To get to the freedom offered us in His grace we must take that painful look inside ourselves at the ugliness which often lay within, exposing it to the light. This is why Jesus counsels us to remove the log from our own eyes before we take our brothers and sisters to task for the specks in theirs.

What is God asking you to look at today? Are you avoiding it? Denying it? Do you want to be free? In light of verses 21-22 (“Ehud stretched out his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh and thrust it into his belly. The handle also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the refuse came out”), is there anywhere in your life where the sword called truth needs to penetrate that the filth may come out?