Saturday, September 24, 2016

Angels & Demons

We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

My previous article may have raised a few eyebrows.

My contention then and now is that malignant spirits strive to maneuver and manipulate culture-shaping individuals and institutions. But this concept is foreign to folks—including  those who claim to have a supernatural worldview.  

Why is this?

One reason is our modern-Western presuppositions about how the world works are highly naturalistic or materialistic. Even Bible-believers tend to think of “spirits” and such as embarrassing relics of a bygone superstitious age.

Another cause for discomfort comes not from disbelief, but from misbelief. That is, the thinking of many regarding spiritual realities is shaped more by Hollywood than scripture.

As C.S. Lewis observes,

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.

Now, some may scoff at the idea that evil spirits are behind worldly systems and entities along the entire philosophical/geo-political spectrum Left to Right. Wouldn’t this pit demonic forces against each other?

Yes it would.

Haven’t you seen evil human beings fight one another for reasons all their own? I believe the same holds true for evil non-human beings.

Why assume that satanic forces are united in anything but hate? It makes sense that evil spirits lust for power and war for dominion over each other and all God’s creation. 

Finally, some simply cannot bear the thought that no earthly, coercive powers (not even their favorites) are fighting entirely on the side of the angels. Even so, this is likely the case.

In the end, dear reader, we’re exclusively obliged to Christ and His kingdom. So let’s lovingly, joyfully, and peacefully follow Him.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pawns & Presidents

Remember when Justice Antonin Scalia died? (It was waaay back in February.) There were actually people on the Left who celebrated his death. I recall reading all sorts of nasty comments.

I thought of this the other day as I read folks on the Right gleefully speaking of Hillary Clinton’s being sick. Obviously, neither the Left nor the Right has monopolized meanness.

What’s wrong with us that we delight in death and sickness?

As I was ruminating on these things another thought intruded: You should pray for Hillary.

So, I did. “Father, please heal Hillary Clinton physically and spiritually.”

Short.
Simple.
Sincere.

Another alien thought immediately presented itself: You should pray for Donald too.

So, I did. “Father, please make Donald Trump physically and spiritually whole.”

And God moved.

I’ve no way of knowing if anything happened (or will happen) with Hillary and Donald, but I know God responded to my prayers by changing my attitude.

You see, dear reader, I’ve never been a fan of either of these two people. It’s likely I never will be. But the animosity in my heart was suddenly gone; as though the Holy Spirit simply melted it all away.

What a glorious, light feeling!  

Suddenly I saw anew that these are two sinful, broken people savaging each other to the approbation of other sinful, broken people; all from within in a sinful, broken system.

The full reality is this: Hillary and Donald are pawns not saviors.

We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

I knew this already, but as we all know, there’s a difference between knowing and knowing.

I don’t presume to speak for anyone but myself, but I understand more clearly that my fight—the battle God is calling me to engage—isn’t against Hillary or Donald; but against the malignant spiritual forces maneuvering and manipulating them.

Hillary and Donald…neither has my vote. Both have my prayers.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Foray Into The Prophetic

I’m going to make some bold predictions.

Let me set the stage for you…

The campaign has been absolutely ferocious. Presidential candidates, _______ and _______, are unabashed serial liars and they have savaged each other to the best of their abilities.

Naturally both of them claim that this election is the most important election ever and if their opponent wins it may very well be the last election until the next one. In short, the survival of the nation probably depends solely upon them.

Of course, the overwhelming majority of Americans couldn’t be more disappointed. The lament heard everywhere is, “_______ and _______ are the best we can do?”

Minds are absolutely boggled.

Okay, the stage is set.

Now for mind-boggling prognostications…

First, many folks will vote for a party, not a politician. That is, they will vote for _______ or _______ based upon little or nothing more than the (D) or the (R) that appears beside the names. (They will do this top to bottom.)

Second, incredibly large groups will vote not as much for _______ but rather against _______.

The thinking goes something like this: I hate _______ less than I hate _______ so I’d better vote for _______ because I’d hate to waste my vote!

Third, much smaller but exceptionally LOUDER groups (let’s call these “true believers”) will vote for _______ or _______ because they are worshipfully (and I mean this literally) committed to them.

Among these are people—some who claim to be Christian—who sacrifice friendships and family members to the would-be gods of State.

That is, they lack the capacity to individuate themselves from _______ or _______. Thus, if a person (no matter who or how close) is less than supportive of _______ or _______, that person is now perceived as a traitor or personal enemy.

Fourth and climactically, I can tell you that _______ is going to win.

Mark it down.

_______ will be President of the United States.

“True believers” everywhere will either be ecstatic or eviscerated.

Maybe you’re thinking, “C’mon, Steve, fill in the blanks! Tell us who’s gonna win—Donald or Hillary?”

Oh, I’m not talking about 2016! (My prophetic gifts are much more powerful than this.) I’m talking about 2020. Try to keep up.

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before.
Nothing under the sun is truly new.
~Ecclesiastes 1:9

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Telling It Like It Isn’t

What was he thinking?

That’s what came to mind when I learned of Olympic swimmer, Ryan Lochte’s, infamous “over-exaggeration” concerning his being robbed in Rio.

In the newest issue of People, we read of Lochte:

"I feel bad that I have let people down. . . . I made things up," he says. "I didn't tell the truth. And that's on me. I messed up, and made a big mistake, and I'm sorry."

The cynical among us aver that he’s “sorry” only because his little lie cost him big money.

But maybe his sorrow is genuine. Maybe—for reasons unknown—he panicked, got caught up in things, and didn’t see a clear way out. Oh, what a tangled web we weave

The fact is we can’t know his heart and mind then or now.

Having said that…

Lochte’s losing four major endorsements (Speedo, Ralph Lauren, Airweave and Gentle Hair Removal) raises another question.

Isn’t it strange how lying costs some people (Olympians) more than others (politicians)?

I suppose the lowest of expectations pertaining to all things political is understandable. But still…we withdraw endorsements from the liars who would entertain us but not from the ones who would rule us?

Our moral outrage is a bit wonky.

Even so, nobody likes being lied to. Some people actually prefer lies to truths.

But Jesus calls us to follow a different path. He wants us to walk with Him in the Way of integrity. He teaches His followers: “All you need to say is simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).

We don’t need to lie or pretend or manipulate. We don’t need to try to impress or play word games—just speak the truth forthrightly and lovingly.

Jesus says,

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 

What are you full of today? Careful now…your mouth will tell on you. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Fortification vs. Domination

A couple of years ago best-selling author, Philip Yancey, remarked that when it comes to matters of church and culture, many Christians fall within two rather disparate categories: Those who favor fortification and those who prefer domination.

It occurred to me that these two camps are captured quite nicely in two hymns, each of which—interestingly enough—is based upon experiences of the United States’ Civil War.

The first reads:
See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on;
Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone!

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”1

The other declares:
I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel,
"As ye deal with My contemners so with you My grace shall deal,"
Let the Hero born of woman crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on

Glory! Glory ! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah
Glory! Glory ! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on2

Can you hear fortifiers anxiously singing their tune and dominators bellowing theirs?

To be sure, there are sincere Bible-believers in both camps. But whereas the fortifier tends to withdraw from non-believers, the dominator seeks to vanquish them. The one eschews contamination and the other embraces coercion.

In other words, the fortifier has only Christian friends and the dominator has only non-Christian enemies.

But there’s a third Way.  

Jesus says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

That is to say, the Christ-follower needn’t fear or force other people. Rather, he or she is called to walk with God, empowered by love. No cloistering. No clobbering.

Do you want to be more like Jesus?

Well…He’s the sinner’s best friend. That’s good news for folks like us! So let’s broadcast it in word and deed—as best we can—every day. 

___________________________
1“Hold The Fort,” by Philip P. Bliss 

2“The Battle Hymn of The Republic,” by Julia Ward Howe

Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympic Witnesses

We both know that our identity is in Christ, and we’re thankful for this opportunity to be able to dive . . . It’s been an absolutely thrilling moment for us. . . . If something went great, I was happy. If something didn’t go great, I could still find joy . . . God’s given us a cool opportunity, and I’m glad I could come away with an Olympic silver medal in my first-ever event.
~David Boudia and Steele Johnson (silver medalists in synchronized diving)

Isn’t it encouraging when world-class athletes on a world-wide stage glorify and enjoy the Lord? Do you suppose Jesus grinned when they boldly and profoundly claimed that their identities were in Him, not in swimming or medaling? (I’d imagine He thought: “Well done, boys.”)

Long ago two other young men faced judges very different from those found at Olympic Games. Their cruel judges threatened them with torture and even death if they ever again spoke of Jesus Christ. But Peter and John answered the Sanhedrin,

Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20).

Oh, how this must have thrilled the heart of God!

Now, this may surprise you but I have something in common with these Olympians and Apostles—and so do you: Jesus calls and enables us to be His witnesses.

When it comes to witnessing we tend to think in terms of doing, not being. That is, we often think of witnessing as something we do from time-to-time. But Jesus calls us to not only do but also to be.

We are to be witnesses.

This means we are to consistently think, speak, and act according to His Way. Like the Olympians said, it’s not just something we do, it’s who we are.

There’s no one I’d rather be. How about you?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Surrogates For Jesus

You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;
And you shall be witnesses unto Me . . .
(Acts 1:8)

Last week I determined to go on a media “fast” regarding all things political—Stephen Colbert my only exception. (I mean…let’s be reasonable.)

And let me tell you: The cleanse feels pretty good.

If you’re like me—and it’s hard to imagine you’re not—it’s quite easy to get sucked into or wrapped up in whatever happens to be CNN’s or Facebook’s flavor of the day.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to be informed. However, obsessively thinking about politics or whatever the news is entertaining informing us with can be, at least in my experience, counterproductive.

Shouldn’t we want our thoughts and worldview to be shaped and developed more by Jesus Christ, than Wolf Blitzer? (If this offends you, please do not hesitate to substitute Wolf with FOX.)

Two things come immediately to mind as to why we should desire this.

First, Jesus is more knowledgeable, wise, powerful, and loving than anyone else. If we truly want to understand ourselves and the world in which we live, why wouldn’t we learn from Him?

Second, we are to be His witnesses.

The force of witnessing was impressed upon me a couple of weeks ago.

While enjoying coffee and a donut, I rather disinterestedly watched a morning show on TV. An actor I don’t know was talking about a show I don’t watch. (Yes, I’m that plugged in.)

But suddenly the interview shifted.

It seems the actor is a surrogate for a well-known political candidate. With pride and enthusiasm he began to tell the politician’s story. He was winsome and articulate. He was no longer interested in talking about anything or anyone else. He only wanted to talk about the life and philosophy of the one for whom he is a surrogate.

After he finished I mused: What if more of us were like this guy—happy and eager to share Christ’s story and His ideas. 

You see, dear reader, Christ’s life is the greatest life. His ideas are the best. There’s no one better to follow. So let’s unashamedly pledge ourselves to Him and His Way. In other words, let’s be passionate surrogates for Jesus.