Saturday, April 18, 2015

Zombie Day

It was Easter, and I was on facebook.  I scrolled to a post from a person I knew in high school, an open atheist.  Easter is the first "Zombie Day" according to her post.  I cannot remember if it was an article or not, and I never read it if it was, but it had me thinking.  Can the Christians call Easter a Zombie Day?

From what I can tell, the popular culture defines zombies as dead corpses who come back from the dead in all their decayed glory and roam around looking for brains.  So 1)dead corpses who 2) walk 3) still decayed who 4) seek out living brains.

I can affirm the dead corpse part of the answer.  Ephesians 2:1-3 is clear that "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."

The next part confirms the second section, we walk. Verses 4-7: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."  Praise God, I was dead and am now alive.

Now, am I still decayed? Romans 7:24-25: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."  So yes, although God has made me alive to holiness through Christ, I still have a part of me still attracted to sin.  Only when Christ returns will he give me a new body free from sin and decay.

Do I seek out other people's brains?  I suppose that would mean I have no brain to start with.  All I know is that I lived, then I died to the law, and now that I'm alive in Christ, my heart, soul, and mind all belong to Jesus. So my brain is not my own.  It belongs to my King.  And I do want to see people give their brains to Jesus.  It gets worse than that, I want to give him their souls and hearts, too.

So yeah, I guess I'm a zombie.  However, it's a resurrection from a life to which I would not return.  Jesus lived a perfect live and died the death I deserved so that I could live on his righteousness.  And one day, I will be a complete human because Christ will come back and complete the ones he saved.

During Spring Break, I had to work at the school and watch kids while their parents worked.  I played some YouTube videos.  One girl requested "God's Not Dead" as done by Newsboys/ DCTalk 2.0.  It's a great rocking song, but do the kids at CCS really believe that God is not dead.  Sure he's out there holding things together, but is Jesus really alive?  They want to go to heaven, but do they want Jesus to be Lord of their lives?  Praise God, he is alive.  I know because he sent Jesus.  Jesus is real and I want him to be my Lord.  I want the kids to want him as their Lord.  Maybe then they won't have spells of insult and unforgiveness.  They would love each other even when not happy with each other.  They would do what I say the first time I say it, not argue with things I say, and simply listen to me.

I don't know, but Jesus is truly alive which is good news for the sinner.  He can raise you up and make you whole.  Please show your kids the importance of letting him be their Lord. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Casting Sad Songs

Casting Crowns always baffles me.  They have such theologically rich songs and good tunes, but the radio plays their more depressing songs over and over again.  They are from Atlanta area so our stations play them all the time.  Sometimes I hear them and think "yay!"  Sometimes I think "Casting Crowns again?" and turn on a Skillet CD.

I still think they are great people and when I heard that Mark Hall had surgery for kidney cancer it was like I was praying for a friend.  He at least goes to church with women I do Bible study with.

We did a song in church today by Mark Hall called "Love Them Like Jesus."  Some people complain that praise and worship songs in church are too happy and don't deal with the real world like the Psalms do.  This song is for you guys.  It has one verse about a man leaving his wife and kid behind and another about a baby being stillborn.  Those parents have already painted the room and have the shower gifts.  It tells people who know them to "love them like Jesus."  It's heartwrenching and comfort at the same time.  It's like, yeah, God is wonderful and has a plan, but it's still alright to grieve even hopelessly at times.  Our hope is in Jesus, the high priest who experienced everything we had but never sinned.

Psalm 13 and 88 were not afraid to honestly express anger and frustration.  Psalm 73 is also a good one that points the the big picture of God in his temple.

I'm thinking, what are other good Christian songs that deal with grief?

It's been on the radio a while, but the Afters have a song called "Light up the Sky."  Apparently they wrote that album when a friend of theirs died.  The song is not very interesting to play, but the video will break your heart.  It shows a woman weakened by chemo and facing terminal cancer, another woman abandoned by her husband, and a man who lost his job.


It's like I've discovered this song that's been around for 5 years now for the first time.

There is also a terrible joke about a photon, or light particle that checked in at a hotel.  When asked if he needed help with his bags he said, "No, I'm traveling light."  With that, here is an excellent duet from Joel Hanson and Sara Groves called "Traveling light."


I can just find myself heeding the advice of Hebrews 12 to throw off everything that hinders and run the race marked out for my by God.

And speaking of Joel Hanson, he has plenty of amazing songs that are just right for hurting people.


Jeremy Camp has helped me in grief.  Switchfoot has helped me in disappointment.  And whenever I think that I'm one step away from everything falling apart, I have to remind myself that I don't hold it all together anyway.  Jesus holds it together and there is no hope apart from him.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Two Rocks and God's Will

I keep thinking about a Charles Spurgeon sermon about the two rocks that gave Moses water in the wilderness.

On the first one, God told Moses to strike the rock with his staff.  He did and it gave water.  To Spurgeon, this first rock was Jesus.  We nailed him to a cross and he suffered God's wrath.  Because of that, his blood cleanses us and makes us part of his family.

On the second rock, God told Moses to only speak to the rock.  There was no need to beat it.  The first one was beaten once and for all.  Still Moses was so angry at the Israelites that he beat the rock anyway.  He disobeyed God, but God mercifully gave him water.  Then he banned Moses and Aaron from the earthly Promised Land.

To Spurgeon, that second rock is us.  Christ suffered and died for our sins.  His blood flows through his saved people and people only need to come to us in the Church to be revived by it.  Sadly, although God tells people to leave Christ's people alone, they still receive scars and martyrdom in Christ's name.  Even so, Christ's blood flows even faster in a land where people die for the Faith.  Onlookers notice that people would rather die than give up the richness they have in Christ and they come to know Jesus too.

I think of last Sunday's sermon about God's gift of free will to his people.  I had to really think of this, because although I'm a Calvinist, I do believe in free will.  God really did give it to us.  Nobody is going to be forced into the eternity that they come to when Christ returns.  People will either gladly live in God's presence forever, or they will suffer God's wrath forever but never be ashamed that they never gave their lives exclusively to Jesus.  God forces no one's hand even though he has to save us in order for us to willingly come to Christ.

There was a quote from CS Lewis about how God does not always get what he wants.  I love CS Lewis, and I see why he says that, but it's not right.  We know what God wants.  He wants people to live forever, free from sin, happy in Christ, obeying his rules.  We know this does not happen.  But we also know that God is almighty and could stop this.

But in his love and wisdom, God has a secret decree that will come to pass and in the end he will receive all the glory as the God who sent God the Son to take God's wrath on our behalf.  Either way, whatever God plans does come to pass and in Christ's completed kingdom, all people will obey him.  By then we will see the beauty of the journey God created for us and praise him for doing it just right.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Heart of Gnosticism

I write so I can remember.  I had a polemic streak a few years back and declared war against folks such as Rob Bell who denied the existence of hell and the need for repentance.  I still have that streak but I'm backed by people in the Reformed blogging community, and I have since moved on to charismatic leaders such as Joel Osteen who preach useless positivity because it never leads to the Gospel.  Or worldwide heads of the church who can't stop opening their mouths causing me to lose more respect for them.

Though confusing, I do find Irenaeus fascinating.  He's reviewed some of the more infamous heretics: Simon Magus, Marcion, the Ebionites.

Among these people are a man who based a whole cult following on his personality, an exegete who rejected all Judaism, the OT, the OT God, and only read the Gospel of Luke, and a group of Jews who insisted the Christians still need to follow the empty rituals that have already been fulfilled by Jesus and which no longer apply.

Does any of this happen today?  Yes, and sincere Christians still fall prey to it all.  Praise God for his salvation because without Christ, nobody has any hope.  There are more obvious heretics who seduce women, team up with Oprah, deny Christ as the only way to salvation from the Father's wrath, support a libertine lifestyle. 

Then there are people who I believe are sincere Christians but seem to think that simple Bible reading and prayer are not enough to have a satisfying relationship with God.  I can talk more openly about this, but Sarah Young of Jesus Calling is one such woman.  Sola Scriptura is not her thing.  She presents all her words as if they were directly from Jesus, thus making her work equal to Scripture.  She is mostly sound except for a few things.  But the more extreme examples of this are Jim Jones who believed he was Jesus, that David in Waco, TX who thought he was Christ, and who led many people to their deaths.

Whether true believers or not, it is always dangerous to feel like you have a link to divine inspiration that no one else has.  This is the heart of Gnosticism.  Even from well-meaning people, it can leave a hole in people that would not be there had they simply sought out Christ in his word.

I know what it's like to feel lost and that God isn't giving you all the answers.  I know the temptation to seek people who have easier answers.  I remember going to a healing ministry in Augusta when mom had cancer and feeling like I did not have enough faith because she still died.  I still get tired of people who preach that we can demand anything from God.  I remember seeking the easy answers only to be disappointed and then remembering that God is sovereign.  He has all the answers and all the good endings but we still aren't there yet.  And it's his pleasure to share with us the journey of his renewing the earth that he sees, and I realize how unworthy I am to even have a part in that.

But whether I get confused or somebody else, the fact is, Jesus alone is our salvation.  He speaks to us in the Bible.  And he gives a support group called the church that celebrates Easter every Sunday.  We can approach him directly without an intercessor since he is that intercessor.  And sometimes you writhe in agony when you can't understand something.  Just the same, God's Holy Spirit uses hard times to shape you into something that gives Him glory.  In the long run, it's painful, but beautiful and is worth not getting lost in short cuts.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Irenaeus

I started reading "Against All Heresies" by Irenaeus again.  I stopped for a while because Gnostic systems are so complicated.  It's a bad soap opera.  This deity is married to this other deity and their offspring generated another offspring, and this woman got cast out of heaven by being to close to another Jesus.  It's too confusing.

One strange idea is that God the father is actually an offspring of Sophia but does not remember that.  He is the Demiurge who is the God of the Old Testament.  Meanwhile, Jesus is his father, but Sophia came out of the Pleroma of gods because she got to close to him and produced the Demiurge.

This all comes from people who still do not want to believe that God the Father and God the Son are the same God.  They want to think of Jesus as a marshmallow who is everyone's buddy, not the God of creation who also has wrath.

So I will no longer comment on all that.  But all the confusion has one thing in common: God reveals secret things to some people and they get a higher echelon in his kingdom.  Somehow they have to do something to tap into this knowledge.  In that time, they had to somehow get in touch with Sophia.  Does this happen today?  Does it sneak into the true church?  Yes it does.  It has not died down.  We still have people telling other people that they have to tap into tongue speaking or prophesy to receive the Holy Spirit's baptism when the Bible says you just need to become a Christian.  Leaders tell people that they need to do a certain thing to be higher in God's kingdom when Jesus clearly says that all his saved people are on the same level and counted as brothers and sisters of Jesus.  How much higher can that get?  We have Jesus as our brother.  We don't need anything higher.

But in this way men seduce people, promise quick answers, better wealth, and cause them to look into themselves when they need to go far from themselves and see what God says openly in his Bible. 

The moral: this attitude creeps into all Christian lives to deceive them away from trusting in anyone other than Jesus for their salvation.  Do not fall for it.  Trust in Jesus and realize that you need nothing if you have him.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Cr-ISIS

Apparently yesterday or this week, President Obama compared the ISIS antics to the church's antics in the Crusades.  Taking advantage of America's lack of education, the Pres wants his followers to believe that Islam and Christianity are the same and that we are both violent and peaceful.

Here is the truth behind the statement.  W. Robert Godfrey says it best: "The Bible can be a dangerous book if misused and abused. In the history of the church, the misunderstanding of the Bible has led to many serious problems, ranging from false doctrine to legalistic customs and misdirected lives. One of the most blatant examples of this is the Crusades: a series of wars led by Europeans in the name of Christ against Islamic states in the Near East during the Middle Ages."

First of all, the Muslims did take over Jerusalem and moved on towards Constantinople and other fine symbols of Christianity at the time.  They used violence, killed people, and usurped their land.

The Roman Empire had fallen apart and the only thing really holding people together was the Pope.  He became greater in political power and wanted to defend his folks against the Muslims, quite possibly even take back Jerusalem and Constantinople.

Using the conquest of Canaan as support, and depending on the lack of Biblical education at the time, people began to believe that God wanted the Christians to take up arms and defend her folks with a full-scale war.

Never mind passages such as Ephesians 6 that declare that our battle is not against "flesh and blood but... against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."  They had not learned that Israel was a concrete picture of the greater war with Satan and sin that Christ won with the cross.  With Christ here, and the temple gone, there is no more need for God's people to use force to conquer the kingdom.

Pope Urban II in 1095 began campaigning to stop the Muslims.  He offered spiritual rewards, full forgiveness of sins, and escape from Purgatory if men would do their spiritual duty to fight the infidels.

There is no mention that Christ already has completely forgiven sins for his people and there is no need to do anything to earn the forgiveness they already have.  There is no mention that Christ took a complete punishment for his people's sins so that they don't have to receive more punishment for sins committed later, negating the need for Purgatory.  There was no reminder that Christ told Peter to put away his sword when he cut of a servant's ear as Jesus was being arrested.

And as a result, men fought against the Muslims to regain Jerusalem.  And this war took them to Constantinople.  And they brought along men less concerned about God and more concerned about gold and glory.  Sometimes they fought the Eastern Orthodoxers.  Sometimes they raped and pillaged.  It is one of Christianity's most embarrassing mistakes, and no doubt the Muslims did learn many tactics from these Crusades that carry over into their Jihads today.

So yes, professing Christians, whether sincere or not, have committed horrifying atrocities in Christ's name from the Crusades to the KKK.

But we must also remember the greater horror done by Atheist mythology that sprang from Darwin's ideas.  Eugenics began, the Holocaust took place, Planned Parenthood arose to prevent the poor black people from populating the earth.  Slavery took and all time high.  Sadly, Christians were just as gullible to Darwin and his ideas and went right along with it.  However, all atrocities began when people began to look to themselves to save the world and not to the Lord who had already saved the world.

There is also the fact that all people on earth are born as enemies to God.  The ones he saved are here because God drew them to Christ who gave up his life and gave them his.  Afterwards, these people still sin, have misunderstandings, get mad, say stupid things, and people suffer for generations to come.

But at the heart of it, it is like that football player said when the Ferguson protests happened, "We don't have a skin problem, we have a sin problem."

Obama is that first grader who tattles on his friends when he does the same things.  There has been no President more supportive of slaughtering innocent children who happen to be conceived at the wrong time and who hates the pro-lifers who want to provide women with their true choices that will lead to both life and them not being stuck in poverty raising an unexpected child.

Yes, Christians need to defend their country, but again, we do it with prayer, evangelism, and sometimes even martyrdom.  Sometimes they may need to take up arms for self-defense but it should only be to defend life, not kill more of it.  And the state bears the right for the sword, not the church.

And despite what anybody has done in history, saved or unsaved, Christ is still perfect, and we still need to look to him for our salvation and stop dividing ourselves one against the other.  Maybe one day our President will see that.  By then, let us try to make peace with our neighbors and continue to defend truth and human life.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Put Another Nickle in

The Lord willing, I will start leading music in the summer at CCS's after school program/ summer camp.  I'm up to the challenge but also wondering where to start.

I have two friends who write songs for children.  When I was still a youth pastor and Googled "Catechism" I found a website for a woman who wrote songs for WSC questions.  Then, in 2012 I had remembered that someone at Refuge had told me that she went to a Reformed Presbyterian church in Covington.  Years after she told me that, I remembered, looked it up online, and started going to the Sunday evening service.  Turns out the same woman who writes the WSC songs is the pastor's wife and a now good friend of mine.  Judy gave me some of her albums and some of those songs may come into play.

I also grew up listening to this song called "Simeon's Lullaby" by the woman duo, Wendy and Mary.  One time my parents played it for a church we went to, and the bulletin said that they were friends of us.  That would be like saying we were friends with Simon and Garfunkel.  But thanks to facebook, Mary is a friend of mine these days.  Between her and Judy, there are plenty of plans I can follow in leading children in music.

My favorite growing up, however, is still Psalty the Blue Song Book.  A blue book with a face who sings songs with kids about Jesus.  I still sing "Amen, Praise the Lord," and the "Butterfly Song" from time to time.  He has so many catchy Scripture songs that have motions and dances and pictures.

I mentioned some of my ideas and heard that last year when someone lead music, the favorite song was "Locomotion."  So now I'm also listening to old songs like "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed."  How can I get a good mix of songs with good theology and just for fun songs and be fun but informative?  If any people I mention in this post read this, what would you recommend?  At least I have until after Memorial Day to figure it out.